Category Archives: Music

Happy New Year, everybody

Happy New Year, everybody.

It’s a new year, which means that it’s January and you are now the farthest away from next (insert seasonal holiday that you may or may not celebrate here) that you’ll ever be. I say this, thankfully, with all of the decorations and lights neatly stowed away in the attic.

On another note, this new Oprah network is pretty interesting. Didn’t grow up watching Oprah. A lot of behind the scenes stuff, revelations of her foul mouth and inability to operate her own blender, but I think what I find most interesting is the jay-z master class interview show preview.

The issue of chasing what’s popular at the moment, versus what is real. The concept of hip-hop evolving past the niche, and sustaining it as the artists mature as a cultural force that jay-z suggested may have done more for race relations than ….

Well, at least, he mentioned Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m not quite sure what he meant, and I hate to put words in the master rapper’s mouth, but … I found that feeling interesting.

There was a soundbite or two from Oprah about why Jay-z was picked as a subject for this master class episode or whatever it was, I wasn’t paying it my full attention as i was busy with this sim city deluxe game I’m hooked on.

Anyway, maybe I know way too much about Oprah now, but it’s as if she was attempting to justify the selection of jay-z as one being at the top of their game, with a unique experience that epitomizes American life (the stated theme of the guests of the master class series program). She said something to the effect of: He speaks to a large audience and even if you don’t listen to hip hop, you have to appreciate that his popularity is based on the fact that his message is received by so many who feel the same way.

Did anybody else see this? Thoughts? Resolutions? Answer below in the comments.

I was surprised when later, a commercial advertised that Diane Sawyer would be the first subject of the masterclass series premiere. What? Has she ever been on the cover of Rolling Stone?

Perhaps Jack Pendarvis said it best in the latest issue of the Oxford American (12th Annual Southern Music Issue) …

“Everyone knows that music is better than writing. … Even ‘bad music’ is better than ‘good’ writing. … There are no facts in music. Music is like this: ‘Dee doodle doodle dee dee dee.’ Writing is like this: ‘Blah blah blah, there is this amount of oats in a typical bin of oats.’”

Roots keep your spirits up and over

On the title track of the new legendary Roots crew record How I Got Over, lead rapper Black Thought and guest mc Dice Raw sings — yes, sings — one of the most infectious and socially conscious choruses I’ve heard all year.

Out in the streets, where I grew up (How I got over)
The first thing they teach you is not to give a f- (How I got over)
That type of thinking will get you nowhere (somebody, somewhere)
Someone has to care

How you get over? Are we “running out of time out here”? The struggle is alive and well and the Next Movement is back to remind us of it with a 42-minute album that will keep your head checkin’ it and your soul questionin’.

But you’ll keep coming back to this title track, about these damn cold streets, where “every man is for himself” and this “warzone” — this endless war on our poor. “Where no body cares about you, only thing you’ve got is God.” After hearing it, you’ll be thankful for someone to worry about you.

With featured guests like Monsters of Folk, John Legend and Joanna Newsome, The Roots prove they’re more than just another late night house band — they’re great collaborators, making something more powerful than any one of them solo.

On “Dear God 2.0,” they loop Jim James and make a weak song shine — with a slower delivery and some rare-for-their-genre self introspection.

On “Right On,” Joanna Newsome gets “we should shine a light on” stuck in your head and it makes you want to go out and change the world.

On “Walk Alone,” Black Thought gets his “Charlie Parker on” and sing the blues.

And they’re still doing what they do best: keeping it positive with tracks like “Hustla” and “The Fire” and “rising out of the flames like a Phoenix,” like in “Doin’ it Again.”

Face it — I keep doing it well.
Doin’ it sans assistance
Just do it yourself
Doin’ it below the radar, we doin’ it stealth
Doin’ it again for Illadelph, yo who else?

These are songs that leave you proud to have overcome. That give you comfort for being among those who got over. You’ll be celebrating — and cerebrating — “The Fire.”

There’s something in your heart
And it’s in your eyes. It’s the fire. Inside ya.
Let it burn
You don’t say good luck.
You say don’t give up.

Word. You’ll be playing it again.

New STP worth the wait

To be honest, I thought I was listening to a dud when I first popped in the new Stone Temple Pilots, their first record in nine years — and the first one I’ve picked up since 1996′s Tiny Music .. Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop.

A lot can happen in 14 years, and I’m sad to report that there is no powerhouse well-written single like “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart” or “Vaseline” on the new record.

There’s a lot of what you’d expect, though — some crunchy, roarin’ rock songs from two brothers and a recovering rock star.

The disc opens with “Between the Lines,” with Scott Weiland belting:

“I like it when you talk about love
You always were my favorite drug.
Even when we used to take drugs.”

I bet you’ll be hearing a few of the more infectious cuts off this record on your mainstream radio, including the first single “Between the Lines.” The video of which, found on their website, features what you’d expect of the band made famous by MTV: An attractive model who keeps putting on her clothes and an aging Weiland withering and waltzing to the music.

Other radio-worthy gems: “Hickory Dichotomy,” “Cinnamon,” and “Maver,” the last of which closes out the disc and is a song that has it all — including ponies and pendejos — and the ever-important question, “How many nights did you make it without it?”

Of course, it wouldn’t be a STP record if there weren’t some pretty ridiculous songs thrown in the mix. For instance, “Dare if you Dare” must be one of the lamest songs I’ve ever heard. Ever. I won’t even dignify “Bag Man” with my criticism, let’s just pretend that track was never pressed.

All in all, I’m glad the band that got me through junior high alive and emotionally accessible is back at it again. It’s good to hear old friends again, even if on “First Kiss on Mars” someone sounds a  little too much like Bowie, in a stab at a radio-friendly summer love song complete with “super magic robots” and a free “solar system.”

If the album were to hinge on one thought, it’d be a line from the second track “Take a Load Off,” an otherwise boring song: “Could our shattered past just set us free?”

Here’s hoping that Weiland stays in the studio and out of the jailhouse.

Buy the deluxe edition. The live material and the added cut “Samba Nova” is worth the extra scratch.

Like in “12 Gracious Melodies” on Purple Weiland takes the opportunity to croon on the bonus track:

“You can always buy a new lie
When yours is finally over
Either way you’ll find a new life
When yours is finally over.”

In defense of Lady Gaga

The world needs Lady Gaga. That’s why she’s selling more albums than all the artists I usually listen to. And her tour? It’s the hottest ticket this summer.

OK OK OK, before we go any further, the obligatory disclaimer: She ain’t doin’ nuthin new. See Elton John, Madonna, Cher plus countless others who arguably have done it better. But, they did it then. This is now.

I mean, seriously. We have a disaster fustercluck in the Gulf. We have a liberal president who all my extremist wacko relatives hate — passionately — yet, we’re still entangled in two endless wars, the economy’s still  a flatliner, and all we got is some minor gains in the student loan and debit card rackets. Social security? Still broken, we won’t see any of it. And we have a fustercluck in the gulf. And tar balls in Galveston! And we’re all oil-guzzling accessories to it, one could argue, or …

We can listen to Lady Gaga, singing:

“Sorry I can’t hear you I’m kinda busy.

Stop calling, stop calling, I don’t want to think anymore.
I left my head and my heart on the dance floor.”

Play that “Telephone” track, and like — heh — who cares if John Cornyn’s about to throw a hissy-fit on the senate floor over Elena Kagan, lowering himself to Orrin Hatch’s level. I mean, I’m kinda busy.

On “Dance in the Dark,” she advises:

Find your freedom in the music.
Find your Jesus. Find your Cupid.

Nevermind Rick Perry. Maybe “Monster” applies:

“He ate my heart.
He ay-eight-hate my heart
That boy is a monster.”

At least, the last poll I saw, reported Bill White’s neck and neck. Hope, you see, is on the horizon, see: “So Happy I Could Die.”

“Happy in the club with a bottle of red wine
stars in our eyes because we’re having a good time”

She could reveal more with her lyrics, and less with her costumes. Well, i guess you can’t have it all.

Freedom flashing with Tom Petty

On “First Flash of Freedom,” the first of two download tracks released to fans who bought tickets for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ latest tour, the band indulges itself for a minute and a quarter before Petty pipes in with the opening lyrics.

“On our first flash of freedom
I called out your name
love it is hard like an overdue train
we felt so much more than our hearts could explain”

Now, compare those lines with the opening lines sung by Jim Morrison in The Doors’ “Waiting for the Sun.” I have taken the liberty to bold the identical words.

“At first flash of Eden, we race down to the sea
standing there on Freedom‘s Shore
waiting for the sun”

Is this a coincidence?

Could Petty and Mike Cambell, the song’s composers, be paying homage to the great Doors anthem?

Morrison asks, “Can you feel it now that spring has come? And it’s time to live in the scattered sun…” while Petty is more interested in “A fistful of glory; a suitcase of sin / The rain which you dream in / When you count to ten.”

“First Flash of Freedom” clocks in at almost seven minutes, and being the first cut of the Heartbreakers’ new record that was released, it was a clear sign to fans and the critics that their new album Mojo is an exercise in self-indulgence and a good study of several jam genres.

On “Don’t Pull Me Over,” what some critics have called a cheesy Rastafarian ripoff, Petty actually sings “(it) should be legalized.”

“When the moonlight turns to blue light
makes me so afraid
let me go, leave me alone
until I’m warm and safe”

Sure — it’s cheesy, but you’ll be rockin’ your head at the riff at the concert.

And “Candy?” I think it’s a track written with the sole purpose of allowing Petty to flex his drawl, and sing about “turnip greens” — previously uncharted territory for Petty and his southern jam band — which he pronounces “toynup grayns.”

Mojo wasn’t penned for the radio — it was penned for the road, for a summer tour that stops in Houston in September. It was supposed to stop here in May, in The Woodlands, but the record wasn’t released on time which pushed back several tour dates and which means that the Houston audience gets to see ZZ-Top open instead of previously scheduled Joe Crocker.

Mojo was released June 15, and it’s the band’s first album in 8 years since 2002′s The Last DJ.

He puts the best song he’s penned since “Square One,” from his 2006 solo effort Highway Companion, in the second-to-last spot on the record. “Something Good Coming” will strike a nerve.

“And I’m an honest man
work’s all I know
you take that away
don’t know where to go

and I know that look that’s on your face
there’s somethin’ lucky about this place
there’s somethin’ good comin’
for you and me
somethin’ good comin’
there has to be”

More songs you won’t be hearing at the wedding

The following were rejected by our careful vetting process, usually consisting of a harsh glare given by someone toward someone when someone would suggest one of the following …

The Only One – The American Analog Set
Brandy Alexander – Feist
Can’t Afford to Do It – Odetta
Don’t Forget Me – Neko Case
I’m Your Man – Leonard Cohen
My Blue Heaven – Frank Sinatra
Help I’m Alive – Metric
You Were Made for ME – Sam Cooke
Blue Eyes – Elton John
An Acceptable Level of Ecstasy (The Wedding Song) – Lyle Lovett
Remedy – Black Crowes
The Cause of it All – Roy Orbison
I’m glad YOu’re Mine – Al green
Joan Osborne – Cathedrals
My Only Offer – Mates of State
Valerie – The zutons
Sunshine of Your Love – Ella Fitzgerald

We’ll even let them eat cake

Sweet Tooth, 2800 Avenue K in Rosenberg, has been contracted as the official bakery of the Kovar-Moeller wedding. A Yahoo Reviews page is the closest thing they have to a web site. Hmmmm….

Kim and I had a chance to drop by their offices recently for a cake testing and they made two giant cakes for us to sample and showed us a portfolio of their work.

I hate to spoil the cake before it’s baked, so I think all I’m allowed to say is that Kim’s will be white and mine will be chocolate.

I was really impressed with the owner’s cake portfolio and professionalism and look forward to the masterpiece her staff will be creating for our special day.

We took home a lot of cake after our tasting at Sweet Tooth.

We took home a lot of cake after our tasting at Sweet Tooth.

Also, songs that were rejected today for consideration for the wedding reception playlist:

  • Table and Chairs – Andrew Bird
  • Waltz #2 – Elliott Smith
  • Sugar Magnolia – Grateful Dead
  • Flowers and Liquor – Hayes Carll
  • Burn the Honeysuckle – The Gourds
  • Voodoo Chile – Jimi Hendrix