Unrescuable Schizo feature: Check out our FAVORITE 30 SONGS OF THE 2000S.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Top Soundtracks that Rock My World

submitted by Deena

We've all done it--bought a soundtrack because of "that one song" that was unavailable anywhere else, and then been thoroughly disappointed with the rest of the album. I see many of those soundtracks in the dollar bin at the local record Exchange. Here are 7 soundtracks (in no particular order) that I would never sell back:

Dazed and Confused, 1993
Forget the Time Life Collection of Classic Rock, get this instead

Favorite songs--"Cherry Bomb," The Runaways; "Low Rider," War

Judgment Night, 1993
Rap-rock did exist before Limp Bizkit, and it was good

Favorite songs--"Just Another Victim," Helmet/House of Pain; "Judgement Night," Biohazard/Onyx

Singles, 1992
Leave it to Cameron Crowe to give us the Seattle sound at its best

Favorite songs--"State of Love and Trust," Pearl Jam; "Dyslexic Heart," Paul Westerberg

Reality Bites, 1994
The soundtrack completely outshined the movie

Favorite songs--"Stay (I Missed You)," Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories; "Tempted (94)," Squeeze

Moulin Rouge, 2001
Classic pop songs with a beautiful postmodern twist

Favorite songs--"Lady Marmalade," Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, and Pink; "El Tango De Roxanne," Ewan McGregor, Jose Feliciano, and Jacek Koman

Trainspotting, 1996
Even the soundtrack sequel was as good as the first

Favorite songs--"Atomic," Sleeper; "Temptation," New Order

Studio 54, 1998
An amazing compilation of disco tunes

Favorite songs--
"Knock on Wood," Mary Griffin; "Wishing on a Star," Rose Royce

Monday, February 25, 2008

St. Vincent at the Warhol

CONCERT REVIEW: St. Vincent w/ Foreign Born
February 25, 2008
The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh

"It's good to be here at the Dandy Warhols Museum," joked Annie Clark in her deadpan style. "It's strange that a mid-'90s alternative rock band would have a museum. It seems too soon, is all."

Clark brought her St. Vincent outfit to the Warhol, and they played most of her debut album Marry Me, opening with her best song in my estimation, "Now, Now." The quirky songs were sufficiently quirky, with Clark switching between a regular mic and one that distorted her vocals (which came in especially handy on "Paris is Burning"), and the loud, rocking songs were sufficiently loud and rocking, with Clark spastically jerking away at the strings on her guitar while her three bandmates played electric violin, clarinet, bass, drums, melodica and bells.

The Warhol is an unusual indie rock venue because its theater-style seating encourages patrons to sit still and be quiet (Vampire Weekend had to beg the crowd to stand up and be energetic when they played here two weeks ago.) But Clark seemed quite at home, eagerly stopping several times to tell jokes or pass along stories from the road. It's been so long since I saw a show where the artist chose to chat up the audience, I'd forgotten how enjoyable that can be.

Openers Foreign Born were easy on the ears, with a pleasant style that was part spacey, part jam band, part sensitive acoustic folk rock. "Union Hall" was the song that stood out most. Their music is worth tracking down. But tonight was all about St. Vincent, and I feel bad that I've only recently come to the St. Vincent party. I've missed out, for sure.

MP3: St. Vincent - Now, Now

Friday, February 22, 2008

Flight of the Conchords' Grammy-Winning...EP?

submitted by Deena

One Grammy category Scott probably doesn't do predictions for is the Best Comedy Album. This is likely because there's often not much to give a crap about in this category.

I've now finally caught up with all the Grammy hubbub and discovered that someone I did give a crap about won Best Comedy Album--Flight of the Conchords.

Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie round out the group who touts themselves as "Formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo." FOTC produces hilariously funny pop/folk/parody music that takes me back to my days of Weird Al uber fandom (can I just say that sometimes I think Scott and I are on the same wavelength with our posts?)--only Weird Al never got his own HBO series (though UHF did kick ass).

As much as I love the music of FOTC, I was disappointed to learn that the "album" that won the Grammy wasn't even an album at all--it was a 5-song EP. I kind of thought that wasn't right, for two reasons:

  1. An EP is not an album, or at least not in my estimation.
  2. FOTC absolutely has enough material to make a fantastic full-length album. Each episode of their TV series has two or three songs featured in it, and most of them are stand-alone funny.
And now I will post the videos (taken from the HBO series) for two of the many songs that Flight of the Conchords should put on a full-length album...

YouTube: Flight of the Conchords - Bowie's in Space

YouTube: Flight of the Conchords - Inner City Pressure

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The complete Weird Al Yankovic catalog reviewed

Posted by Scott

When I was growing up I was a huge "Weird Al" Yankovic fan. I had every one of his cassette tapes(!) I'm not nearly as rabid a fan now, but I'm still excited when he puts out new music. This man has an awesome 18-year catalogue that few artists can match. So I've decided it's time for a review of the complete Weird Al discography. Every original album, rated from 1 to 5 stars, presented in order from best to worst.

It's Al's Sgt. Pepper. One of the best albums of the '90s, period. Smells Like Nirvana was the best song he ever recorded. The original songs are genius: the hilarious acoustic ballad You Don't Love Me Anymore, the well-written rocker When I Was Your Age, and Trigger Happy, a surf-pop song sarcastically celebrating the right to bear arms. Throw in timely parodies of MC Hammer, New Kids on the Block, Milli Vanilli, and Gerardo, and you have a near-perfect album.

This album is notable because it was an absolute disaster on the charts, almost ending Al's career. But strangely it's one of his best works. The parodies are flawless - Living With a Hernia, Addicted to Spuds, Here's Johnny, and Toothless People. And the originals are not bad either. Dog Eat Dog is an appealing song done in the style of Talking Heads; the title track might be Al's best polka medley ever; Good Enough For Now is a funny country song; Christmas at Ground Zero is hilarious for the juxtaposition of a festive melody with apocalyptic lyrics.

UHF (1989)
This one is fun because it's a soundtrack, so it features bits from the movie inserted between songs. Three great parodies of '80s hits - Isle Thing (Wild Thing by Tone Loc), Spam (Stand by REM), and She Drives Like Crazy (She Drives Me Crazy by Fine Young Cannibals.) One notable original - The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.

Of all the parodies Al has done, It's All About the Pentiums might be the one that sounds most like the original song (the rock remix of Puff Daddy's It's All About the Benjamins.) It's spot-on, with smart lyrics about computers. Truck Drivin' Song, a tale about a cross-dressing truck driver, is just plain stupid, but Albuquerque, a 12-minute nonsensical original, is excellent.

More top-notch parodies - Fat, Lasagna, I Think I'm a Clone Now (Al was way ahead of his time on that one), Alimony, and This Song's Just Six Words Long, a clever takeoff of George Harrison's Got My Mind Set on You. I also love the 47-second Beastie Boys ode, Twister. You Make Me and Melanie are notable originals.

The best parody on this album, and one I didn't like at first, is "Confessions Part III." Al nails all of Usher's vocal idiosyncrasies. "Dont Download This Song" is a brilliant "We Are the World" takeoff - with a choir and fake strings, Al sings bombastically about the evils of downloading. "Trapped in the Drive Thru" is an 11-minute parody of R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet." And "Pancreas" is a silly original that is great because of the way it mimics the Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys style.

Highlights - the Devo-esque title track, Like a Surgeon, and Yoda, a parody of the Kinks' Lola, which became a concert staple for years. Also notable here is Yankovic's first great original song, a doo-wop song called One More Minute. A classic moment from that video is Al's head in the middle of the screen, while toilets revolve around him in a circle, as he sings, "I'd rather clean all the bathrooms in Grand Central Station with my tongue than spend one more minute with you."

The best song is Frank's 2000" TV, an original that shows off Al's production skills, with several of his voices layered on top of each other throughout the song. Billy Ray Cyrus, Chili Peppers, and Aerosmith parodies are ho-hum.

This was one of Al's most successful releases due to the smash Amish Paradise, one of his best songs ever. But the originals on this CD are awful. Callin' in Sick, I Remember Larry and I'm So Sick of You aren't the slightest bit funny. The TLC parody Phony Calls is pretty boring too, though it does feature Moe from the Simpsons.

Lame parodies by Eminem, Nelly, Avril Lavigne and Billy Joel. The most intriguing song here is "Bob," a creative Dylan imitation in which Al's lyrics are composed entirely of palindromes.

IN 3-D (1984)
Eat It and I Lost on Jeopardy are the only highlights here. The Survivor and Men Without Hats parodies are vaguely interesting.

No decent original songs on this one, but the parodies are ok - Ricky, I Love Rocky Road, Another One Rides the Bus.

Unreleased track, 2006:
MP3: Weird Al Yankovic - You're Pitiful

Friday, February 15, 2008

American Idol Gripes and Predictions

submitted by Deena

Well, the top 24 contestants have been selected for season 7 of American Idol. But there is an element missing from this season--the AI nerd. Every year, among the finely-polished and poised young adults lurked a totally dorky, completely endearing misfit of a contestant. Last year it was heavy-set, spectacled Chris Sligh, the year before we had Kevin Covais aka Chicken Little, or my personal nerd crush, Clay Aiken from Season 2.

Unfortunately, this year we saw the nerd populus turned away. Already a favorite among watchers, Kyle Ensley (above) was sent packing when the final cuts were made, despite an emotional protest from Simon. What contestant will step up to the plate now and tug on the dork heartstrings of veiwers? Will it be this guy?

Which brings me to another gripe--if these people were worthy enough to make it to the top 24, why do I not even remember seeing half of them during the audition city programs?

At any rate, I'll probably change my mind as the show progresses, but my personal pick for "contestant to watch" is 18-year-old Danny Noriega, whose fresh voice, excellent stage presence, and control of the microphone make him quite a nice package.

Don't let me down, Danny! If not him, hopefully someone will make the show worth watching this season...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

You're a vegetable, you're a vegetable

Today is a huge day. The 25th Anniversary special edition of Thriller hits stores. No matter how badly Michael Jackson ruins his personal life, no matter how many babies he dangles, no one can take Thriller away from him. It is a near-flawless recording from an artist who was at his creative and commercial peak. Thirty-seven weeks at #1, 80 weeks in the top ten, 46 million copies sold worldwide, 77% of its songs (7 of 9) reaching the top ten. These are numbers we'll never see again.

What's amazing about the best-selling album of all-time is that it has several songs which are underestimated. With all the focus on the epic singles "Thriller," "Beat It," and "Billie Jean," people forget about the other gems. I love the soulful vocals of "Human Nature." The disco-ish groove of "P.Y.T." The smarmy attitude of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," like when Michael sings, "If you can't feed your baby/Then don't have a baby/And don't think maybe/If you can't feed your baby!"

I listen to Thriller and revel in just how normal Michael was at the time. This was the classic album of my childhood. The 25th anniversary edition contains bonus tracks and remixes, but the new material is really irrelevant. Thriller stands on its own. It's exciting that a whole new generation will get to hear this album for the first time.

MP3: Michael Jackson - Billie Jean 2008 Kanye West remix

Monday, February 11, 2008

Modern Rock Misses You, Danny Elfman (or at least I do)

submitted by Deena

With all Scott's recent talk of Panic(!) at the Disco, I thought I'd keep it going with an entry of my own. What a letdown to hear that their upcoming album, Pretty. Odd., was originally going to be produced by Danny Elfman, who was dropped after the band decided to re-write the entire album, saying it sounded too much like a film score.

Although Ryan Ross, lyricist and guitarist for P@TD (pictured right--isn't he cute?), is a self-proclaimed Elfman fan, it seems like these kids don't even realize that his roots aren't in film.

In fact, Elfman's past work with Oingo Boingo would have made him a great candidate to work with the Panic boys. Both groups share the common ground of a fusion of genres like pop, electronica, dance, and rock as well as a love for creativity in instrumentation on their albums. It seemed like a great match.

Maybe I'm just bitter becuase I desperately want to see Danny Elfman venture back into the pop/modern rock scene, but the whole fiasco just seems strange to me. Panic passed up the opportunity to work with their idol and essentially discredited Elfman as anything other than a film composer.

So who DID Panic pick to produce the album? Rob Mathes, songwriter, arranger, and producer, who is widely known for his yearly Christmas concerts, which have spawned 2 PBS television specials. Snore.

But for all my complaining, I still can't manage to dislike the pre-release single, "Nine in the Afternoon," which has--dare I say it--a very Beatlesque quality. I'm still going to hold out hope that the boys bring Danny back into the picture at some point when they're ready to write their big film score...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Live Blogging the 2008 Grammy Awards

Tonight the Grammy Awards turn 50, and I'll be here to blog about it live, starting at 6pm EST with the pre-show. Check back soon!

6:07 p.m.
I'm watching E!'s pre-show coverage. The first sign that the Grammys continue to lose stature is that, for the first time in memory, neither MTV nor VH1 are running a pre-show, choosing instead to ignore the festivities.

Not much is going on yet, but I see from E!'s news crawl that New Kids on the Block are NOT getting back together, despite widespread reports from last week. How dare they get everyone's hopes up!

Only about a dozen Grammys are given out during the broadcast tonight. The other 100 are awarded now, between 6 and 8 pm. I've never understood why the pre-shows don't televise some of these awards. It would be more interesting than watching illiterate supermodels interviewing disinterested musicians on the red carpet.

6:20 p.m.
Some chick I've never heard of named Guiliana Rancic is interviewing Plain White Ts, and the real Delilah is there in person! Tom Higgenson tells the story of how he told Delilah he would write a song for her, and it would make the band famous, and she would be his date for the Grammys. How bout that, dreams do come true. The man is a psychic - someone gets his picks for tomorrow's Powerball.

I'm waiting for grammy.com to start posting the list of early Grammy winners, and it hasn't happened yet. Every year this happens, and I get infuriated and wonder who are the idiots running that site.

6:27 p.m.

Guiliana is interviewing Natasha Bedingfield, who has gone with the Marilyn Monroe look. I'm actually impressed with Guiliana - she seems to know her stuff. She throws it to some hip hop dude named Sal, who has an extremely uncomfortable conversation with hard rock act Tool. He claims to be a fan of theirs "from back in the day." Right. I don't think they believed him. Then they cut to a shot of Fantasia arriving. She has shaved half her head. Nice!

6:41 p.m.
Now Guiliana is interviewing some actress. Who cares. Sal is interviewing fans, because there's no one else to talk to. This is lame, even by pre-show standards.

6:45 p.m.
Panic at the Disco drop by. They've stopped wearing makeup - apparently they're going for the rugged, Killers-type look now. Didn't they see how that failed for the Killers? There's potential for an informative interview here, if Giuliana would ask about Panic's new record, but instead she asks about groupies, and keeps repeating how "hot" they look. Then she boots them out to make way for Miley Cyrus, causing a Panic member to exclaim, "We always get stuck with more famous people behind us!"

6:50 p.m.
Giuliana asks Akon if he likes nice girls or "fun, freaky chicks." We never got these kind of insights back in the days when Kurt Loder was asking the questions. (He said nice girls, by the way. Does anyone believe that?)

7:00 p.m.
Sweet little Taylor Swift shows up. Holy crap, she's skinny. She makes Calista Flockhart look like Nell Carter. Insightful revelation from Taylor, regarding her recent birthday: "18 is pretty much the same as 17."

7:07 p.m.
The E! news crawl informs us that the nation of Israel is 60 years old. That means the Grammys are only ten years younger than Israel. Israel!

The dudes in Daughtry are doing the Soulja Boy dance. They're going to regret that when they see it on YouTube.

7:12 p.m.
Obama beats Clinton! Barack Obama has won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word album, beating Bill Clinton. Surely, this will provide enough momentum to carry him to the Democratic presidential nomination.

7:15 p.m.
Paramore are here, and Sal says that singer Hayley Williams has a "voice like a battle axe". Does that make the slightest bit of sense?

7:18 p.m.
I've been scouring the depths of the Internet and I've found some early Grammy results. Amy Winehouse, whom I predicted to win 5 awards, has already taken two, Pop Vocal Album and Female Pop Performance. That makes me 2 for 2! Her producer, Mark Ronson, upset Timbaland for Producer of the Year.

Fergie has arrived, wearing a bright yellow dress with massive cleavage. The last time I posted a Fergie picture, my site traffic increased tenfold, thanks to Google image searches, so here we go again:

7:31 p.m.

Sal is interviewing Wilco. Jeff Tweedy recalls a time when P. Diddy mistook him for an usher at an awards ceremony. Yeah, I could see that.

7:38 p.m.
Giuliana asks Jay-Z how "the Big B" is. Henceforth, Beyonce shall always be referred to as "the Big B." Next, she asks Ludacris what he likes in a woman, and he oddly goes off about open-toed shoes, saying, "The foot game has to be good."

7:50 p.m.
It's time to look forward to tonight. I'm most interested to see what Kanye West does. There are rumors he's going to perform "Hey Mama," in honor of his mom, who died tragically last year. Will Kanye rush the stage if he doesn't win?

8:01 p.m.
Alicia Keys is opening the show, doing a virtual duet with Frank Sinatra. Not a bad way to start the show. But I hope they don't spend too much time celebrating the past.

Grammy.com STILL hasn't posted a list of early winners. I have no idea how my predicted winners are faring.

8:05 p.m.
Carrie Underwood is playing "Before He Cheats." When I reviewed her debut album, I made a point to note how un-authentic this song is. This kind of in-your-face attitude is not Carrie. It's more Gretchen Wilson. Carrie is wearing leather and trying to seem tough. I'm not buying it. But hey, at least she's one of the few American Idols who hasn't gotten dropped by her record label yet.

8:09 p.m.
It's a Prince sighting! He presents Best Female R&B Performance. No surprise, it goes to Alicia Keys.

8:17 p.m.
Wow, the original members of Morris Day & The Time are performing "Jungle Love!" Jimmy Jam is rocking the keytar. That was one of my favorite songs of the '80s. I remember as a kid being stunned that it only reached #26. Rihanna joins The Time for "Umbrella." Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I'm not fond of this recent award show trend of artist collaborations. I'd just rather see the original artists perform their own songs as intended.

Next, Rihanna goes into "Don't Stop the Music," which includes that "Mama say mama sa mama cu sa" refrain from Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'." Oh yes, it's all about Michael Jackson. Remember, kids, the 25th anniversary edition of Thriller comes out on Tuesday!

8:25 p.m.
Tom Hanks introduces a Beatles tribute. Don't they do a Beatles tribute every year? Snooze. There are kids on stage singing "Let it Be." Please make it stop!

MTV.com finally posts a list of Grammy winners to this point. So far, my picks are 9 for 13.

8:46 p.m.
The Daft Punk pyramid is on stage, but sadly, they're not in it. Kanye performs "Stronger" wearing glow-in-the-dark sunglasses. Wait, the pyramid has opened, and Daft Punk are inside! Nice.

The song ends and, as expected, Kanye moves into "Hey Mama." His performance is terrific - understated and sweet.

8:56 p.m.

Love wins the award for Best Soundtrack. Ringo and Sir George Martin accept the award. I haven't seen George in a while. He's not looking so good these days.

9:05 p.m.
Tina Turner is here to re-create her Grammy moment from 1984, when she brought down the house with "What's Love Got to Do With It." She's wearing an absurdly tight, bright silver Catwoman suit that a woman her age (or any age) should not wear. She duets with The Big B on "Proud Mary."

9:14 p.m.
It's Song of the Year, and it goes to Amy Winehouse. This is big - it means my forecast of an Amy Winehouse near-sweep is looking more and more likely. I'm going to gloat big time if this happens, because no one else predicted it.

9:30 p.m.
Brad Paisley is the evening's country representative, but instead of playing "Online," he plays the cheesy "I'd Like to Check You for Ticks." Boo.

9:50 p.m.
I'm still here... things have been rather unexciting for the past several minutes. There was a big gospel performance, which was alright, but showcasing these niche genres is the reason this show runs 3 and a half hours. I could easily cut it down to 2 hours.

Kanye won Best Rap Album, and noted in his acceptance speech that if Amy Winehouse beats him for Album of the Year, it's ok because she deserves it too. I'm dying to see how it plays out.

9:56 p.m.
Feist plays "1,2,3,4." Instead of going for big and bombastic, like when she played Letterman, she played a stripped-down version. It didn't really excite me, but I understand why she wanted to change it up.

10:12 p.m.
Alicia Keys is back to sing "No One." John Mayer comes out to offer a guitar solo. Another high point in a show that has been more entertaining than I expected.

10:17 p.m.
Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics - has anyone seen him in the last 20 years? - is on stage with Ringo Starr to present Best Country Album. Vince Gill surprises no one by winning the award, then surprises everyone by delivering the hardest-hitting barb of the night: "I just got an award given to me by a Beatle. Have you had that happen yet, Kanye?"

10:28 p.m.

Herbie Hancock and an orchestra are performing Gershwin. Normally I might be bored by this, but I'm finding it to be excellent laundry-folding music.

Next, Taylor Swift presents Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, and it deservedly goes to Rihanna and Jay-Z for "Umbrella." Kanye doesn't rush the stage.

10:41 p.m.
We're off to London for Winehouse's satellite performance. She looks skeezy and kind of high, but that's normal. I'm glad she's not playing "Rehab." That would've been awkward. She opts for "You Know I'm No Good," which is a more lively song anyway. Normally, she's a statue on stage, but she's actually dancing more than I've ever seen. Oops, I spoke too soon. Now she's singing "Rehab." She should've stuck with the first song.

By the way, what time is it in London now... like 4 am?

10:49 p.m.
Here comes Record of the Year... Rehab beats Umbrella! Amy still looks like she's on drugs as she struggles through an acceptance speech.

11:05 p.m.
Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli are singing Pavarotti. Time to fold some more laundry...

11:13 p.m.
Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis are not only still alive, but alert enough to perform at the Grammys. Jerry Lee is barely able to mumble though "Great Balls of Fire." Kinda sad.

11:28 p.m.
All that's left is Album of the Year. Will it be Kanye or Amy?

Quincy Jones announces that the award goes to... Herbie Hancock?! You've got to be kidding.

Once again the Grammys have shown they are hopelessly out of touch with reality. I don't care how good that album was. There is no way in hell it should've won this award. There's no way it should even have been nominated.

Echoes of Steely Dan beating Eminem and Jethro Tull beating Metallica are ringing in my ears. A horribly bitter way to end what was mostly a good evening.

11:30 p.m.
So, it turns out that I went 13 for 19 (68%) with my predictions, my 7th straight year at better than 50%. I can take credit for being one of the few people on the planet who did not think Kanye West would take Album of the Year... but I had Hancock at 100-to-1 to win, so I can't claim to be too much of an expert just yet.

Until next year...