She like, "Why you don't buy me Reeboks no more?"

Today's album is another one of my rare forays into hip-hop. It's The Blueprint by Jay-Z which I was deemed worthy of only a couple years ago. See, there's a whole long story to this album that I'm not sure I have the energy to go into entirely. We'll begin at the beginning, though.

When my Josh and I lived in California, he shared a cabin with my friend Brett that was located just off my back door. It was great fun and led to much "borrowing" of beers at all hours of the night. Most days, however, I was heading off to work just as Josh was taking a shower. Now, he loves to rock out in the shower and he had a CD player just for that purpose. So many afternoons as I was walking to my car, I would hear Josh serenading the neighborhood with the dulcet tones of Mr. Z and his stories of hustlin'. Here's a little visual in case you're having trouble imagining the scene:

For a couple of years, all I heard of The Blueprint were the snippets of Josh's renditions I caught on the way to my car. Then a couple of years ago, The Grey Album was released, featuring The Beatles music I loved and the Jay-Z rhymes Josh adored. It was a, "Hey you got peanut butter in my chocolate!" moment if there ever was one.

After expressing some interest in hearing more Jay-Z, Josh decided my best next step would be The Blueprint. He gave me a copy and I've listened to it a few times since then. I can't say it's my favorite but I do bust it out when I want to feel like a pimp (which is more often than one might expect). Somehow, though, the album doesn't sound right if there isn't someone singing along in the shower.

Would you like some meatballs with that?

You Are the Swedish Chef

"Bork! Bork! Bork!"
Your happy and energetic - with borderline manic tendencies.
No one really gets you. And frankly, you don't even get you.
But, you sure can whip up a great chocolate mousse
The Muppet Personality Test

I don't usually do personality tests but one about the muppets was too hard to resist. It was a very close decision between the chef and Fozzie Bear. What do you think?


Crossed that old Red River and this is what I saw

I know it's Monday but today's album is Bluegrass Sunday - Live From The Comet featuring various unnamed artists. The Comet is a local bar around here that straddles that fine line between being a nice hangout and maybe being a little too cool for its own good. They have good beer and excellent burritos, though, so I'll forgive them.

On Sunday nights they feature live bluegrass music from a rotating group of musicians. I don't know anything more than that because I always work Sunday nights so I've never been. My friend Steve gave me this album - he used to live just down the street from The Comet. It's pleasant bluegrass but that's all I can really tell you. Oooh, my first mystery album!


You always look so disappointed when I take my stockings off

When I saw Elvis Costello play in Dayton in July, a thought crossed my mind as I stood there grinning. There is almost no place I'd rather be than an Elvis Costello concert. Seriously, even when he's playing "Pump It Up" I'm totally in my happy place. It's such a nice feeling. Crazy, yes, but nice.

Any song from Blood and Chocolate makes me pretty happy, too. As we learned from Shawn yesterday, it was released in 1986 six months after King of America. Taken together that makes 1986 probably my favorite year in Elvis' career. Both are excellent albums.

I didn't really love Blood and Chocolate until I got older, though. I bought a copy on vinyl when I was about 15 and gave it a couple of listens, but nothing stuck. Blood and Chocolate is all about the frustrations of leaving your 20's behind. It's about getting burned once and still being stupid enough to get burned again. It's about thinking you're old enough to have seen everything and finding out that's not true. It's an angry, funny and slightly pornographic album which doesn't always translate well for the 15-year-old listener and that's why I love it.

When Elvis toured in 2002, he performed quite a few tunes from the album, including "I Want You" and "Poor Napoleon." Hearing those tunes live made me go back and check out the whole album again. That's when I discovered what I'd missed as a teenager. So if you're not a teenager, it might be a good idea to find a copy of Blood and Chocolate. Maybe its sad, frustrated songs will put you in a happy place, too.


Speaking of happy places, I bought the new albums from The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys over the weekend and I'm loving both immensely. It's so nice to hear something a little different from The Strokes. They're starting to sound like they might have a long career ahead of them after everyone (including me) wanted to write them off as another trust fund garage band flash in the pan.

We're still waiting to see if Arctic Monkeys are a flash in the pan, but right now I don't care. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not is a great album. It has funny, earthy lyrics like the best stuff from The Streets with punk riffs that makes Fanz Ferdinand look like pussies. Also, "Riot Van" is the prettiest song I've heard about running from the police. What more could you want?


With her fog, her amphetamine and her pearls

I consider myself a student of popular music. As a student I feel it is important to build a basic musical library of all the "great books" as it were. And if the best albums list of about everybody in the world is any measure, that means I absolutely had to buy Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan.

Dylan's 1966 album is widely considered a masterwork and contends with 1965's Highway 61 Revisited (which I also own) as his best album ever. That's all nice, but I really don't get Bob.

It's nice music and his voice doesn't bother me as much as it does some people. I can admire the groundbreaking style of his lyrics, but that harmonica does grate on my nerves sometimes. Mostly, though, I just don't feel much. People talk about how his songs make than cry but to me he just comes off as cold. Dylan's songs performed by other people make me cry.

I probably end up studying the great albums too much in an effort to figure out what makes them great. Maybe if I stopped thinking so hard they would feel more emotional. Maybe, I just don't have the memories tied to a place, time and era that others have with the great albums of the 60's.

Here's to all the people with nothing to do on a Saturday night

At 7:17 p.m., I received the following email from Shawn:

Okay...pretty much one of your top Elvis Costello albums, 'Blood and Chocolate'. The song is...tah dah...'I Want You'. Run time 6:39. Released Sept. 9, 1986. (Re-released in 1995). Unless you're looking for the single release...which was Nov. 7, 1986 on a 7 inch and a 12 inch. Declan MacManus did the composing on the album and his good friend Napolean Dynamite did some vocals and guitar. This has hurt my brain...I knew where the lyrics came from off the top of me head (I was alive then remember)...but the rest has taken some digging around. If I am the lucky winner, I would like "Everytime We Touch" by Cascada because a)that's one hot looking babe and b)it would cause you untold pain to push the purchase button. I'm not totally heartless though. I would take any lovely song, by any lovely artist you chose.

So Shawn is the first official winner of the first official Sad and British trivia contest. Congratulations! Blood and Chocolate is coming up soon on Declan so you'll all get to hear more about it then.

I had big fun with the contest so I'll probably do another one again soon. I'll try to do them at different times on different days so everyone has a chance. Or Shawn could just win them all because he has nothing better to do - we'll see.

Anyway, Shawn, your sexy girl song is on its way.

Who wants a free song?

I got an idea for a trivia contest today so I think I'm going to try it out. The problem with trivia in the age of Google is almost anything can be discovered with a few clicks of the mouse. So I guess this will end up being a research contest. Either way, it might be fun. We'll see...

So here's how it works. I'll post a question (or series of questions) and the first person who responds with the right answer will win a free song from iTunes. Yes, nothing is too much for my readers as long as it doesn't cost more than 99 cents. There are three rules:

(1) All replies must be sent to sadandbritish@gmail.com. Some of you have other email addresses for me but this is the official contest email. I will ignore everything else.

(2) Your answer MUST include the title and artist of the iTunes song you wish to receive. The song must be available on iTunes. I am lazy and if I can't find it, I'll just move to the next reply.

(3) The winner will be the person who replies first with the correct answer(s). Of course, it's my contest so I hold final judgment over what the "correct" answers are. I'm not trying to be tricky, though. Just answer the questions.

If things work out well this time, I'll do some trivia every month or so. Let me know what you think of the whole thing so I know whether it's worth my time (and dollar) to keep it up. I'll try to post ASAP when I have a winner so your efforts won't be in vain.

So let's go.

Do you see that tagline at the top of my blog? It says "Since when were you so generous and inarticulate?" if you can't. That's a lyric from a song. What I want to know is:

What is the name of the song and who originally recorded it?
What is the name of the album it was first released on?
What year was the album released?
What is the running time of the song?
What pseudonym did the artist use for songwriting credits on the album?

O.k., that's it. Answer the five questions and tell me what song you want if you win. Remember to send answers to sadandbritish@gmail.com.

Rock on!


I gotta first in physics so I ought to know if your fries are for here or to go

The whole reason I decided to listen to my iPod by album title instead of artist's name was so I wouldn't have vast chunks of the same person to try and write about every day. Billy Bragg and his love for B's is doing his best to ruin that for me. Damn you Billy!

Bloke on Bloke is a collection of b-sides and extras from his 1996 album William Bloke. At seven tracks it meets my minimum as a full album (I really think an EP should have no more than 5 tracks, but those are my own fickle rules). The more I listen to it, the more I love William Bloke and this little collection is a nice addition.

But really, I have a hard time thinking that many of you are big fans of William Bloke and are looking to add to your collections. This is probably another album best left to the big Billy Bragg geeks like me.

If you really want to check it out, though, get "The Boy Done Good" or "Rule Nor Reason" or big Smiths fan might like the cover of "Never Had No One Ever."


My kind of love is an ugly love, but it's real and it lasts a long, long time

I've written about Blinking Lights and Other Revelations by Eels before as they made my top ten albums list last year. See, it's right here.

I don't really have a lot to add to that except I'm not sure the album is as sad as I once thought. Pessimistic is probably the more appropriate word. There are rewards to be had in listening to Blinking Lights but you have to be in the right mindset. Just consider yourself warned.


Don't waste your time on me, you're already the voice inside my head

Thanks for all the thoughtful condolences. I just got back from my grandmother's funeral and it was sad and heartwarming and a nice chance to see everyone - like most funerals. She loved music, though, so it's time I got on to my next album.


I've always considered Blink 182 my musical equivalent of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I know they're not good for me, but I love them anyway. They have no nutritional value but that's not the point. Blink 182 always makes me want to drive recklessly and break stuff and even if I don't do those things, feeling like I might is pretty nice.

So I was as shocked as anybody when I bought their self-titled 2003 album only to discover they were getting all grown up on me. The fourth track ("Violence") starts with a woman reading a sappy love letter and I'm on the edge of my seat waiting for the inevitable fart joke. But it never comes.

It never comes. The letter ends and another heartfelt song starts up.

I wanted my fart joke!

This was Blink's last studio album before their current "hiatus" and I don't think it's a surprise. It's nice to try and be serious, but when you've made you're living off of singing about never growing up it's a little late to change things.

The album itself isn't bad. "I Miss You" and guest vocals from Robert Smith of The Cure on "All of This" make for some great tunes. Sometimes the sincerity can be overwhelming, though. Yes we get it, you're all grown up and want to make a statement about the complexity of life.

But sometimes all you want is music with fart jokes that makes you feel like a 15-year-old boy.


Please don't let me fear anything I cannot explain

My grandmother died yesterday.

I've spent the last 24 hours trying to think of what I wanted to write. In the process, I've come to the conclusion that the more someone means to you, the more impossible it seems to even begin to sum up those feelings with something as simple as words. There are feelings and lots and lots of memories, but to write them down makes them seem too one-dimensional. But I guess that's all we're left with.

My grandmother was what most people would call "a character." If you knew her for more than five minutes, she told you a story. Often it was one of the dozens of tales that she trotted out regularly as if she had some old book memorized. To you, however, the story would be new and fascinating, perhaps even a little more than you really wanted to know. This is why my grandma liked meeting new people. They hadn't heard her stories.

It's also why I liked introducing my grandmother to new people. They could listen to her old stories instead of me.

My roommates in college were big fans of my grandma's stories. She used to come to Columbia for checkups and then we were all off to her favorite restaurant - Taco Bell. None of her old lady friends could stomach greasy tacos, but she loved them. Soon my roommates had renamed her "Taco Grandma" or the more streetwise "Taco G." All she could do was smile and confirm that, yes, she "really did love them tacos."

The thing that I'll always remember about my grandmother was her endless sense of wonder. She loved to travel and would try about anything once. I took her to Washington DC during my senior year in high school and she spent 9/11 watching TV in my apartment in California while she was out for a visit. Every trip was the best she'd ever had and she was always up for another.

When I was in college and stressed out, I would call her at the last minute and ask if we could go down to her cabin on the Lake of the Ozarks for the weekend. She always said yes, and we'd pack up a few things and head into the woods. She'd pick up dead branches on the shore and I'd try to fish. They were quiet weekends and nothing much ever happened, but they were the perfect escape from college life. Sometimes you just need a hug and a cup of tea.

My grandmother's life had slowly slipped away to Alzheimer's in the last couple years. Her best days were undoubtedly behind her and to some extent it's a relief that she's gone to a calmer place. I'm left with some great memories and a collection of old stories that I've heard too many times to ever forget. That's a pretty great gift.


I don't understand why I sleep all day

I'll admit it. I loved the video for "No Rain." Who could resist that beautiful green hillside with the bee girl dancing around? And like many, I felt slightly ripped off when I bought the self-titled Blind Melon album in 1992. The bee girl stood alone.

Nothing else on the album sounded even remotely like "No Rain." With the advent of the interweb, this kind of bait and switch is a little harder to get away with, but in those days you had to take a single on faith. The only thing that kept me from turning on Blind Melon is that I happened to really like the sound that sounded nothing like "No Rain."

I have a hard time describing that other sound. The rhythm guitar sound completely changed the way I thought about my own playing at the time. It was a huge influence. Maybe it's Alice in Chains meets Phish without all the jam bandiness.

Blind Melon is a nice album, but maybe a little long. It feels like it needs an edit. I think they could have gotten away with 11 songs instead of 13. "Tones of Home" and "Sleepyhouse" are also great tunes but I guess "No Rain" will always be Blind Melon's legacy. Their lead singer, Shannon Hoon, died of a drug overdose in 1995 so they never really had a chance to top it. There are worse songs to be known for, though.

I was caught in between all you wish for and all you need

Lately, I've been getting a lot of hits from people looking for some song or another that was played on the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy. I can't blame them. I'm a huge of the show and after almost every episode I find myself googling lyrics to figure out the name of a song that was played.

The last two episodes have had especially good music. Everyone I know who watches the show has been asking about the last song they played on episode 15 ("Break On Through"). The song's called "Scratch" by Kendall Payne. I know nothing about her, but I love the song. I might have to check out more from her.

Last week's episode ("It's The End Of The World") had a great song, too. As it was playing, I heard Chris Martin and wondered if this was some new Coldplay tune. Then I thought I heard Michael Stipe and I was all sorts of confused. It turns out Stipe and Martin recorded a song written by Joseph Arthur called "In The Sun" to raise money for Hurricane Katrina relief. It's really beautiful and the money goes to a good cause so go here or to iTunes and get it. Now!

In other news, the Grammys are on tonight and I could really care less. It's just going to be sad if Mariah Carey picks up a bunch of awards. When did she become the poplar underdog? I've been waiting for that chick's downfall for years and now she's the critics' favorite? Whatever. I have no idea how they vote on the Grammys but it's obviously wrong.


We once walked out on the beach and once I almost touched your hand

Today Declan has popped up with Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World. According to Mr. Amazon, it was released on July 24, 2001, but I can't remember if I bought it in 2001 or 2002. What I do remember, though, is coming into work and telling Josh and Shawn that it "was good in an '80s sort of way."

That garnered a lot of laughs, but it was the only way I could describe the album. Little did I know that in just a couple years, "good in an '80s sort of way" would become its very own genre. I guess we have The Killers to thank for that.

Bleed American isn't really Killers '80s. It's more Mellencamp meets Poison meets Tiffany. It's like the '80s all mixed up together. It's an '80s fondue. Seriously.


Did you think I was going to hang myself for littering?

It's been a big movie weekend here in Sad & British land. I had a bunch of films filling up my Tivo so it was time to get through them. I still have The Quiet American, Million Dollar Baby and American History X waiting for viewing, but those sad movies take a little more energy (or more wine) than I'm willing to invest right now. Here's what I have seen, though:
  • The Ladykillers - I love Tom Hanks in this movie but that's about it. After this and Intolerable Cruelty I'm beginning to wondering if the Coen brothers might be losing it.
  • Mean Girls - I loved it! People had been telling me for ages how good it was. It's like the perfect high school movie.
  • Cheaper By The Dozen - I watched the 2003 remake mostly so I could see fellow Okemos High School class of '95 alum Tom Welling. I never watch Smallville so I though I should see him act in something. Anyway, the whole movie was better than I expected (but I wasn't expecting much). Family comedies always make me sappy.
  • Grizzly Man - The Discovery channel premiered Werner Herzog's documentary about Timothy Treadwell this weekend. He was the dude who hung out in Alaska and then got eaten by a bear. One word - CRAZY! Treadwell was nuts. I kept trying to see his inner struggle that the movie tried to describe but I just couldn't get past what a weirdo he was.
  • Alice's Restaurant - My parents saw this movie on their first date in 1969 so when I saw it was going to be on TV, I had to fire up the old Tivo. It takes about an hour for the plot to get going and then the last half hour is spent documenting a hippie dystopia so there's not much time left for an actual movie. It's sort of a classic 60's movie with a fair amount of dirty hippie sex. Man, those hippies sure were dirty. It's nice they all live in Nevada County now where we can keep an eye on them.

I also listened to an album today. It was Billie Holiday's Greatest Hits by, you guessed it, Billie Holiday. I own some albums mostly because I consider them intrinsic to a basic musical education and this is one of them. Billie's not my favorite jazz era singer, that distinction belongs to Ella Fitzgerald. But her voice and the songs she made famous play such a role in all the music that follows that it's impossible to ignore. Listening to her is like taking a great books course in school. It's a great building block.


That's the trip where I bought The Streets' first album

Shawn and I are probably the only people reading his San Francisco 3 electronic comic book, but I'm still finding it endlessly funny. One question, though, how come I have to wear a cape and mask while Shawn and Josh look (relatively) normal?

I just really liked his latest update and I wanted to share it with everyone. You can read more here.


My dreams were full of strange ideas

So Benecio is back up and running again. They had to replace some sensor in the ignition switch so the doesn't keep thinking that I'm trying to steal it. It only cost $700 - you know, money that you find in your couch cushions. At least I got a car wash out of it, too.

I got to listen to my latest album yesterday as I was walking to the store. It wasn't too rainy and I finally found a secret back way out of my apartment complex. Billy Bragg always makes me feel better anyway.

If Billy Bragg likes anything, it's making albums with the letter "B" in the title. Bill's Bargains is already the second of his albums in the B's and not the last.

Bill's Bargains is actually the most recent of the several official live bootlegs he's released over the years. It's taken from live performances on October 15 and 16, 2001 in Australia and features just Billy by himself. I've never seen him perform without a band so this is kind of a treat. Maybe I'll actually get to see it for myself someday.

The performance is a collection of classic Billy songs, including a version of "A New England" that features the extra verse from Kirsty MacColl's version. It was a nice tribute after her December 2000 death. It doesn't feature any of the between song banter that makes his concerts so fun. I wish they'd left some of that in.

Really, though, you have to be a giant Billy Bragg freak to truly enjoy this album. Stick to the studio albums if you're interested in finding out what he's all about. Leave the live stuff to the professionals.


Kiss and ride on the CTA

Benecio is still out of commission. It's a long story, but it seems that whatever is wrong with him is no longer wrong. But now they need it to be wrong so they can figure out what to fix. Jeff has taken to calling him Benecio Del Crapo and I'm finding harder to disagree. Tomorrow I might actually have to walk to the store. What has the world come to?!

I must keep working my way through albums, though, so today I have a little Wilco to uplift me. It's their 1996 double album, Being There. I bought Being There when I was in college and liked it o.k. In fact, "Misunderstood" is perhaps my all-time favorite Wilco song. But I've also found, that like a fine wine, this album got better with age.

I think I enjoy Being There more now that I'm a little older. There's a melancholy bubbling under all the songs that I don't think I really appreciated when I was 19. Now, I know exactly what Jeff Tweedy's talking about. The aging has helped the band, too. Hearing this album in the context of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born provides a clearer picture of where the band was headed. There's still a lot of country in Being There but there's also a big hint of the noise and feedback to come.

Still, I like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot better, but this is probably my second favorite Wilco album. Things fall apart a little at the end of the second CD and that always leaves me feeling less than satisfied. There's some great stuff on here, though, and it deserves to be dusted off and listened to.


I've never been a big person for rock festivals, but I have a huge urge to go to Bonnaroo this year. I've heard great things about it in the past and this year they have a bunch of bands I'd love to see. Less jamming, more rocking. They just announced some of the artists today and you can see the list here, but some of the highlights (for me) include:

Radiohead (probably the band I most want to see play live)
Elvis Costello (of course)
Death Cab For Cutie
Bright Eyes
Cat Power
Andrew Bird
My Morning Jacket (although, I'm still not sure about them)
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

So what do you say? Anyone want to go to Bonnaroo?