Friday, December 17, 2010

new(ish) blog

Hello there!

This is just a music blog, but I have lots of other interests! So I've started writing in this blog. It's more personal and will cover many topics: music, politics, feminism, random things that happen to me, you know the drill.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Music

I am not a big fan of Christmas music. I don't like that, after Thanksgiving, I can't go anywhere without hearing it constantly. There are several reasons for this.

1. It is obnoxious to hear the same songs over and over again. By the time the actual holiday comes around, I don't want to listen to any of the festive melodies that are supposed to fill me with unbridled holiday joy.
2. It's totally exclusionary to anyone who isn't a Christian. I was raised Christian, but now I identify as more of an agnostic. So I only feel a fraction of the annoyance that people of other religions and/or other atheiests/agnostics/whatever feel when they hear that shit piping through every speaker everywhere. It's not necessarily offensive, especially the music itself, but it is a little dumb.*

But besides that, a lot of Christmas music is just kind of ... terrible!

Take Jingle Bell Rock, for instance. Check out these nonsensical lyrics: "Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock. Jingle bells swing and jingle bells ring. Snowing and blowing up bushels of fun. Now the jingle hop has begun."

Excuse me? Are there people out there who love nothing more than to DANCE to the sound of JINGLE BELLS?

Oh, and then there's this gem...

Don't even get me STARTED on "The Christmas Shoes." I hate this fucking song more than I hate almost any other song. I hate this fucking song more than I hate a lot of things, actually. I remember when it came out, and people LOVED it! Something about poverty and fatally ill mothers really brings out the Christmas spirit in some folks, I guess.

I was singing the chorus of this song to a couple friends who'd never heard it before (lucky bitches) the other day. They were laughing the whole way, and then - wait for it - there's that line at the end: "I want her to look beautiful if Momma meets Jesus tonight."

WHAT?! There's that Jesus, sneakin' in! I guess it would be quite a birthday present for him to see Momma in her snazzy new shoes.

The types of Christmas songs I like the most are old religious hymns, which I know seems weird considering what I said earlier about not being a Christian anymore and shit. It's not that I want these hymns blasting at Target. I wish there was no holiday music played at Target ever (unless it's "Monster Mash"). Hymns are just better written, and they actually make sense, considering that Christmas is actually a religious holiday.

Secular Christmas songs that are mainly about shopping and having fun kind of suck. They usually feature some kind of wild sax solo (also a personal annoyance, but I'll stop complaining). Sometimes they're just a regular song that uses the word "Christmas" and therefore guarantees the artist extra royalties every December (I'm looking at you, Mariah Carey).

There are a few exceptions to my secular Christmas song hatred, and all of those exceptions were written by former Beatles.

What's worse than a modern secular Christmas song?

A modern Christian Christmas song!

Despite my love for Clay Aiken, I HATE THIS SONG!!!! (He didn't write it at least, so he's still golden in my book).

I think this song is only thought of as Christmas-appropriate because it refers to Jesus as a baby. Other than that it's basically just "JESUS IS SO AWESOME!!!!" over and over again. I hate this song's lyrics, although I have to admit it is pretty. Maybe that's just because I'm listening to Clay Aiken sing it right now.

So, without further ado, I'm going to talk about some Christmas songs I actually DO like!

"O Holy Night"

Obviously this song is just fucking beautiful. And epic. But I love it because of the memories attached. See, when I was a kid, there was this guy who sang this song at Christmas Eve church every year. He would stand in the choir loft and just sing it a capella, and man was that lovely. It was not unlike this video; this particular church member had an operatic style similar to Josh Groban.

I also love "Silent Night," as many people do. It's the song that we would sing as we lit our candles and stood there in the darkness, faces aglow by the light of the tiny flames. Again, church memories. I grew up Methodist; we like to sing. (Christmas Eve is about the only time when I really enjoy church. Something about all that ritual, and remembering my childhood.)

Bright Eyes has a whole album of Christmas songs (appropriately called A Christmas Album, released 2002) and I really enjoy it. Want to combine your love for sadsack indie rockers with holiday spirit? This album is a must-listen!

And, finally...

I played clarinet in high school, and every year at our Christmas concert, our Wind Ensemble would don Santa hats and bust this out as our last number. This is the same arrangement we played. Good times!

So there you have it. Christmas music sucks! Happy winter solstice everyone! God bless us, every one!

*Nothing's more annoying than the privileged complaining about discrimination towards whatever privileged group they may be a member of. See: white people calling tanning taxes racist, and American Christians getting all pissy when someone suggests that it might be better to put the label 'holiday' on something than 'Christmas.' /endrant

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

new music tuesday

Shameless self-promotion:

Here's my (and several other Life & Arts desk writers') mini-review of the new Kanye West album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Spoiler alert: it's amazing, and if you don't have it already, you really should.

I also wrote a review of the new Robyn album, Body Talk Pt. 3. You can read that here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

time to set it off

Hey y'all, there's a new Girl Talk album!

Girl Talk is the musical equivalent of what I like to call iTunes Syndrome. This refers to a phenomenon in which, due to our ADHD lifestyle and technology that allows us to store months worth of music on an object the size of a postage stamp, we never listen to a song all the way through.

You know what I mean. You're driving around in your car with a friend, and by the time whatever you're listening to hits the 2-minute mark, you hit the 'NEXT' button.

Well, Girl Talk takes iTunes Syndrome to a whole new level. Gregg Gillis (the man behind the music) mashes up dozens of songs in one track to create a fast-paced, surprising, fun dance tune. The songs he chooses range from 1960s girl-group pop to gangsta rap, but the unifying factor is their popularity. Gillis is clearly a Top 40 enthusiast, a lover of pop culture.

Looking at what's popular is really interesting, especially if you think about it on a deeper level than just "Oh, there's Ke$ha again with another one of her party anthems! How annoying." Popularity has implications that extend further than merely 'what the kids are listening to these days.' Possessing the technology and the wealth of music knowledge that Gillis clearly does makes for something of a case study in society. What do we like? Why do we like it? What happens when we put two different things that we like together?

(Take, for example, Girl Talk's "Smash Your Head," in which he famously combines Biggie Smalls' "Juicy" and Elton John's "Tiny Dancer.")

If you're curious about what songs you're hearing when you listen to a Girl Talk album, someone has made a website that tells you exactly that:

He's put out five albums and two EPs. All of the albums are now available for free download on his record label's website.

Girl Talk also presents questions about how we think about intellectual property and copyrights. He samples songs without permission, which is basically a lawsuit waiting to happen, yet he's still making music. I think this suggests that people recognize his work as art in its own right, despite its complete dependence on others' art for its existence.

It's post-modern as hell, and I love it. Whether you're just dancing at a party (because Girl Talk is THE BEST party music - there's something for everyone) or recontextualizing the music you love, Girl Talk rocks.

Enjoy the new album, I know I will!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Songs That Kill Me

One winter break, I was visiting my boyfriend at his parents' house. He thinks this is one of the best love songs of all time (and I have to agree), so he put it on the stereo. We ended up slow-dancing in the kitchen. A really lovely moment that I always remember when I listen to this gem.

"If you should ever leave me - though life would still go on, believe me - the world could show nothing to me, so what good would living do me? God only knows what I'd be without you."

Such a beautiful song, there's really not much to say about it. There are few pieces of music that are just truly perfect, and I really think this is one of them.

Paul McCartney said "'God Only Knows' is one of the few songs that reduces me to tears every time I hear it. It's really just a love song, but it's brilliantly done. It shows the genius of Brian. "I've actually performed it with him and I'm afraid to say that during the sound check I broke down. It was just too much to stand there singing this song that does my head in and to stand there singing it with Brian."

This song has lots of really lovely harmonies just like "God Only Knows." I love how Paul has that sort of walking part at the end of each line in the verse. And that impassioned bridge section where John sings along just breaks my heart every time.

I really have a soft spot for early Beatles. This video has choked me up every time I've seen it, ever since I first watched the anthology in 8th grade.

I went through a phase a few months ago where I listened to this song like three times a day. The arrangement is just so wonderful. I think the lyrics really speak to truth, too. Carole King was a teenager when she wrote this song, and this is a very typical worry of a teenage girl. If I give myself to you now, will you still love me tomorrow?

Look! The first song on this list that's not from last century! I've been really into Mumford & Sons lately. All their songs are so epic! There is so much emotion in the lyrics and the way he sings them. You've gotta really reach down to the most painful parts of your intimate past to write music like this. "Tell me now where was my fault in loving you with my whole heart."

That's all for now, kids. I hope you like these songs, even though most of them are golden oldies. That's seriously what I listen to most of the time!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election 2010

Yay, America!

We now have ZERO black senators.

Oklahoma passed a law with 70% support outlawing Sharia law - Islamic law - something that is not a threat whatsoever here in OK, and only furthers Islamophobia while discouraging international business from taking place here. Wonderful!

Oh yeah, and my home state of Wisconsin replaced the wonderful, smart, progressive Russ Feingold with a man who believes sun spots cause global warming and doesn't believe the election was about "details."

I'm just tired. I've spent the past two days on the South Oval blowing a kazoo and talking about abortion. And now this.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I was a punk rocker. I wore my boyfriend's badass punk jacket, some fake tats (that's "LIVE FAST DIE FUN" on my chest, and "fuck you"/"fuck me" on either side of my neck, and "hard luck" on my knuckles, as an homage to my girl Jerri Blank), leopard print leggings with fishnets over them, sexy makeup, purple ratty hair, and my badass old Chucks.

That top picture is of me getting my groove on with my friend Kyle Lyle Caldwell. He was supposed to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer; his costume is really just a bunch of my everyday clothes. So he was kind of "Annika on a typical Thursday" for Halloween.

I love this holiday, there's no necessity to be with one's family or buy gifts for anyone. You just dress crazy, drink a lot, and dance. Hedonism!!

As for now, I'm about to finish up some homework and continue my Halloween celebrations with a Hosty show at the Deli. Goodnight Halloweenies!