It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks

I hoped Declan would let me leave 2005 behind with some happy tunes. Alas, that was not to be. He left me with good tunes, but necessarily happy ones.

American IV: The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash is probably best known for its cover of "Hurt". The video for the song was nominated for all sorts of awards, and it makes me cry every time. The rest of the album doesn't really cheer up from there.

American IV is filled with covers of songs that might have made Cash a caricature. He makes songs like "Personal Jesus" and "Desperado" his own, though. They never sound like a gimmick.

So that's my prayer for 2006. Let's all work harder to make things our own and avoid gimmicks. That's as good a resolution as anything else.


I'm bored with the same old lines

I haven't been writing very long posts lately but Declan seems to be in a bit of a slump. All the albums he's been giving me have been pretty mediocre. I need something awesome to come up and give me a kick in the pants. Unfortunately, today's album isn't it.

American Hi-Fi
by (you guessed it) American Hi-Fi was a total impulse buy. It might as well have been a tin of Altoids or new pair of socks. I heard "Flavor of the Weak" once on Mtv and found the album on sale at Target for $8. That's all it took.

I wasn't expecting anything life changing in the album. I was merely hoping for some fun punky power pop a la Blink 182. I got neither. The whole thing is full of sappy self-important tunes (with the exception of the still delightful "Flavor of the Week"). You can imagine how thrilled I was to see them open for Elvis Costello on his 2002 tour. I got to see them three times. A freakin' dream come true.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed your time in the sun, American Hi-Fi because I doubt you're long for this iPod. I have more mediocre music waiting to take your place.


Had seven good years 'till I noticed they were looking at me

Hey Everybody!

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and got all the presents you wanted. I am the proud new owner of an iPod Shuffle which I will use at the gym without the constant fear of dropping or stepping that haunts me when I take Declan there. Does the shuffle have a name? Why yes, his name is Sheldon and he's full of rockin' tunes.

So on to today's music...

I'm a sucker for soundtracks. I sit at the movies and listen to all the good music and I have to rush out and buy the soundtrack.

But somehow when I sit in my living room listening to my new purchase, it just sounds like a random collection of songs.

Today's album is no different. American Beauty: Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack seemed like a good idea at the time. It does have a couple of really nice songs, but it fails to conjure up images of midlife crises and teenage temptresses. Maybe that's not such a bad thing.


There's got to be a hero somewhere

Today's album: America Town by Five For Fighting.

Why: Yeah, I don't know either.

Verdict: I've already taken it off Declan's playlist (I had to make room for Illinois). Mostly it just
makes me feel boring.


So you think that you have seen her when you're lying in between her

I sometimes feel like there are too many tribute albums out there. You know, (insert hot new bands here) plays the music of (insert old, beloved musician here). When I stumbled upon today's album, Almost You: The Songs of Elvis Costello, at the library a few months ago, I still had to check it out.

My biggest complaint about tribute albums is they tend to be too reverential. In an effort to pay homage the artist, bands start to sound exactly like them. If I wanted to listen to the original, I would. So the best thing about Almost You is that the musicians take a few risks. They aren't afraid to slow things down or speed them up. There are steel guitars where there used to be acoustics and acoustics where there were electrics. Best of all, by having a little fun with the music, the artists show how versatile Elvis Costello's songs truly are. That's the best tribute of all.


I'm a birthday candle in a circle of black girls

Today's album is easy. I listen to it all the time. If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I love The National. In fact, their most recent album tops my list of best albums of the year. So what are the other nine, you might ask? Here they are:

Alligator - The National: Great nighttime listening as you drive through a city. The lyrics really do it for me here. They have a subtle humor and swagger that I can't resist.

I'm Wide Awake It's Morning/Digital Ash in a Digital Urn - Bright Eyes: These two albums were released in the same day and I really can't decide which one I like better. It's Morning is very folky and sweet but Digital Ash has some great songs that shouldn't be overlooked. Ever since my road trip this summer, it reminds me of driving around Fargo at night.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: I turned around on these guys in a big way this year. I didn't believe the hype until I saw them in concert. It's the best album I've ever owned that has completely unintelligible lyrics.

Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947 - Michael Penn: A "concept" album where the theme doesn't overshadow the music. Michael Penn is so underrated these days. "Walter Reed" is one of my favorite songs of the year.

Make Believe - Weezer: Old Weezer is back! A little less emo and a little more rockin' this album was perfect this summer. It gives me hope for their future.

Twin Cinema - The New Pornographers: Pop deliciousness. I've always sort of ignored The New Pornographers. Not anymore.

Plans - Death Cab For Cutie: In lieu of a new Postal Service album this year, I had to content myself with this album. "Marching Bands of Manhattan" is really nice and some of the whininess can be overlooked.

Picaresque - Decemberists: By far my favorite album title of the year. It reminds me of my high school literature class! I always call the Decemberists pirate rock and Picaresque takes a journey through time as you meet people like Eli the barrow boy. Definitely not for everyone.

This Bird Has Flown - Various Artists: Indie rockers like Ben Lee, Sufjan Stevens and Low do a track by track tribute to The Beatles' 1965 album Rubber Soul. They should keep it up! I'd love to hear what they'd do with Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's, too.

Blinking Lights and Other Revelations - Eels: A sad, sad album. So sad, in fact, they needed two discs. If you can make it through, though, there are rewards to be had.


I took my better nature out, drowned it in the babbling stream, took the blossom of my youth and blew it all to smithereens

I should really be excited as Declan followed his natural instincts today and offered up the first Elvis Costello album of my listening journey. Unfortunately, All This Useless Beauty is not really up there on my list on favorite EC albums. It feels like all his righteous anger has been replaced with a world-weary exhaustion. I like angry! I do, however, like the album a lot more nowadays than I did when it was released on May 14, 1996. Maybe I, too, am a little less angry and a little more exhausted. Here's the breakdown:

Woo-hoo, Angry!
Little Atoms
It's Time
You Bowed Down
Shallow Grave

Eh, whatever.
Complicated Shadows
Distorted Angel
Starting To Come To Me

Why are you so tired Elvis?
All This useless Beauty
The Other End Of The Telescope
Why Can't A Man Stand Alone?
Poor Fractured Atlas
I Want To Vanish


Living to get his freak on

I always had Fastball pegged as one of my radio bands. You know, those bands whose songs you flip away from when they come on the radio, but you're also pretty sure you're not going to buy their album. I also include Smashing Pumpkins, Soul Asylum and the Goo Goo Dolls in that category.

I was at the library a couple months ago, though, and I stumbled across the 1998 Fastball album All The Pain Money Can Buy. While it's not their only album, it might as well be. It has both their big singles "The Way" and "Out of my Head." I remember both songs fondly from the radio and they still sound great today. The rest of the album is far from filler. There are some good tune there. I just wished I loved them more. After going through the whole album, I think I'll keep Fastball as a radio band.


Isn't that the name of a box?

I read something a couple weeks ago (Rolling Stone maybe?) about this web site, but it was Carrie's insistence that I check it out that finally got me to discover the coolest thing ever.

Go to pandora.com. Seriously, go right now. It's sort of like internet radio meets Tivo. You tell it what you like and it plays similar music. It's so much fun. Right now, my station thinks I like folky stuff a little more than I really do, but we'll get that straightened out.

The other fun tool is pandora will tell you why its playing a certain song. It took all of about five minutes for it to figure out that I like "dynamic male vocals" (I think that means guys who yell). I've never listened to internet radio much but I can see this getting addictive.

Here's my story from the U2 concert. Right before the opening band started (The horrible Institute, featuring Gavin Rossdale from Bush and some guy who used to be in Helmet. They sound exactly like you imagine.) some crazy blonde woman and her husband pushed their way through the crowd. She was trying that ploy where you pretend you're looking for your friends who are up front somewhere, but then they just stopped beside Sarah and me.

The crowd around us was a little peeved. We'd all bonded and these interlopers were ruining are little bit of heaven. I was o.k. with them (they weren't in front of me after all) until Gavin walked out onto the runway that juts out from the stage. After he went by, the woman says to her husband, "I can't believe Bono is going to be that close!"

While that was a statement that ran through more than one person's mind that night, she might have been the only person that close to Bono who actually pronounced his name incorrectly. She said it like he might be married to Cher or something. It just blew my mind. In this day and age when U2 and/or Bono seem to be on tv every five minutes, you don't know how to say the guy's name? You went to the trouble of securing floor tickets to their concert and you can't say Bono? Insane!

Oh, you look so beautiful tonight

The U2 show was great and my short trip to Cleveland turned out to be a lot of fun. I might write more later, but here are a couple links from the Plain Dealer you should check out:

U2 review

Concert photos


All I need is a pint a day

I've been waiting to post more albums in the hope that Jeff would grace me with my first truly British comment. See, he's on vacation in merry old England and has popped into one of those internet cafes now and then. Alas, no comment yet, so I'll have to move on.

But today's album is pretty fitting, too. It's Sir Paul's 1990 greatest hits compilation All The Best. I got this album when I was at the height of my Beatles love affair and it was shoved into the tape deck on many a family road trip. Sure, some of it is pretty sappy. I had trouble getting through "With a Little Luck" and "Silly Love Songs" but I have a HUGE soft spot for "No More Lonely Nights." Even the endless guitar solo makes my heart melt a little.

I guess my favorite thing about All The Best might be the inclusion of some great less well known songs "C Moon" and "Junior's Farm" are two that spring to mind. It also includes both of Paul's duets with black artists. It's fun to hear him try to be soulful with Stevie Wonder on "Ebony and Ivory" and "Say Say Say" is about the most awesome song ever. Oh Michael, why did you ever change?

This is an album for anyone who likes their 80's music with power chords and sappy lyrics instead of synthesizers and moaning (although, there's a nice sprinkling of the synths on here, too).


Slow down my bleeding heart

Nine years after I bought my first U2 album, I bought my second one. It was today's selection, All That You Can't Leave Behind (released October 31, 2000 according to Mr. Amazon). I probably wouldn't have even made it to a second album if it hadn't been for my friend Josh and his constant insistence that U2 is the best band on the face of the Earth.

I guess I had to see what all the fuss was about.

All That You Can't Leave Behind was on pretty heavy rotation for me through all of 2001. I have distinct little memories for each song that I won't bore you with. What surprises me the most, though, is how different they all are. At this point it's not so much an album to me as a memory book that I can break out at any time. It's nice.

I should also add that I'm going to be seeing U2 in concert on Saturday. My friend Sarah and I are driving up to Cleveland where she managed to procure floor seats for their show. Jeff and Josh, I'll be sure to tell Bono "hi" for you!


All the papers lied tonight

Oh man, today's album is All of This and Nothing, a greatest hits collection by the Psychedelic Furs and it's making me feel all 80's. I want to put lots of stuff in my hair to make it all spiky or wavy or something and I'm suddenly overwhelmed by the sensation that there has never been a more beautiful instrument than the synthesizer.

I have to be honest here, though. I bought this album in the summer of 1999 when that Nissan commercial with "How Soon is Now?" was all over the airwaves and I was absolutely sure it was a Psychedelic Furs song (sorry Smiths). I had dial-up internet and lived in Iowa at the time so it was difficult to double check such assumptions. Imagine my confusion when I couldn't find the song anywhere on the Furs album. I thought it was the worst greatest hits collection ever.

Later, the summer of '99 became known as the summer Eileen bought both the Psychedelic Furs and Smiths greatest hits.

All was not lost, however. "The Ghost in You" and "Pretty in Pink" are still pretty nice tunes. I'm not sure I needed a whole album of Furs songs, though. Richard Butler kind of weirds me out.


Have you got me in your bleeding heart file next to lady luck?

I discovered Canadian folkie Sarah Harmer at a listening station in a Barnes and Noble. Yeah, I'm hardcore. I bought her 2000 album You Were Here and I loved it for being sweet and romantic and a little bit angry all at the same time.

Today's album, though, is her 2004 release All of Our Names. It's not as angry, more melancholy. I like it better when Sarah's a little bit angry. I feel the same about Kathleen Edwards. "Greeting Card Aisle" is about as angry as she gets, which is why it's my favorite song on the album. Overall, the whole thing is decent but I think she's done better. She already has a new album out in Canada that's being released stateside in February, so it looks like I won't have to wait long for something else.