Category Archives: Plugs and Shoutouts

Things I like that I think others would like too.

Study

I’ve never been one for lyricless music.  The words to a song are more important to me than the actual music.  Often the first thing I connect with when looking for new music is a phrase or word that seems to say something I like.  And I realize I’m not unique in this respect, I just put it out there as background so I can talk about The Octopus Project.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge eMusic fan; the fifteenth of every month is just a great day because that’s when I get to dig through eMusic and see what new albums and bands I can find.  Several months ago, on a friends recommendation, I downloaded The Octopus Project’s “One Ten Hundred Thousand Million” and it kinda sat in the background of my iPod for a few months.  In the meantime, my main job got downsized out from under me, I scrambled and ended up with a new job that gave me some free time and actively encouraged me to study.

What I find is that when I’m studying, I can’t have lyrics.  They just distract me.  And, no offense to any fans out there, but classical and most jazz puts me to sleep.  So I went back to dance music.  I dug up some old Groove Armada and club mixes I had laying around and they worked for a while.  But I wanted something new, something I hadn’t already heard a thousand times.  Which brings us back to TOP and their music.  I started somewhat slowly, adding the track “The Adjuster” to my study mix and letting it soak into my brain stem and it just hasn’t left yet.

Last month, when my eMusic account was refreshed, I picked up “Hello, Avalanche.”  If possible, I like it more than I do the previous album.  The track “Truck” especially is just infectious in its joyousness and I have been known to loop it so that it plays several times in a row.  I’ve set 2006’s “The House of Apples and Eyeballs” for this month’s downloads.  But that’s next month.

In the meantime, here’s the video for “Truck.”  Enjoy.

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Filed under All the Baby's Linkage, Plugs and Shoutouts, Punk Rock Saved My Life

Songbird

While it isn’t quite ready for prime time, Songbird is an excellent music player with the potential to be a one stop music application.

The biggest thing that differentiates Songbird from other library managers like iTunes is the built in browser. Based on the Mozilla engine, the browser works just like any other, only that when you surf to a music site, Songbird automatically searches the site for .mp3 files that can be downloaded and arranges them in a window at the bottom of the screen. This makes reading music blogs a whole lot cooler as you can immediately download the file you are reading about (if it has been posted to the site). Legal issues aside, it is a great way to find new music.

The initial download comes with a few bookmarks preloaded; there are a ton of music sites and blogs that are greatly enhanced by viewing them through Songbird. Some of my favorites are Muxtape, eMusic, and Gumdrop.

Songbird also recently added their own version of Coverflow, letting users scroll through their library by album cover, much like in iTunes. While this is very cool, there are still some issues – like getting all the album art – that need to be worked out.

Hopefully, too, future versions will add video support and better integration with the major music shopping sites as well as podcast management. For now though, Songbird is a decent player and library manager but it is not quite a replacement for iTunes. Yet.

*I’ve written about Songbird before, here.

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Filed under Attack of the Robot Monsters, Plugs and Shoutouts, Toad Web

Flash Post 3

Casino Royale = good movie, great Bond movie.  Very close to original story with only details changed to bring it up to date.  Fun and entertaining.  Recommended.

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Filed under Brando Said It Best, Plugs and Shoutouts

TED

A while back my friend the One Man blogged about the TED Conference.  This is just a quick note to say thanks.

I’ve been taking the time to watch just a single presentation per day, but it is among the best twenty minutes of my day every time.

The TED Conference is, essentially, to paraphrase the One Man, smart people talking about cool stuff.  Go check it out.

Word Count – Really, really far behind.

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Decoder Ring Theater’s Black Jack Justice

Just a quick plug today as I have far too many things to do, like prepping for my classes starting again, to be taking up too much time with blog posts.

Right, uh, so…

Decoder Ring Theater’s Black Jack Justice is just a hell of a lot of fun. The actors involved put on a show that could have come straight out of the nineteen-thirties. And that’s not a slam on their production values. It’s meant as a compliment to the strength of their dialogue and sound effects. The stories center on a private eye and his girl sidekick as they solve mysteries each and every episode. The patter is spot-on, along with the his and her point of views that simultaneously compliment and insult each other.

Now, these are not serious stories; they’re pulp, and the campiest kind of pulp, but they’re so much fun. I have been listening through a podcast feed I subscribed to at podiobooks.com (click here for the list of things I’m listening to at the moment) and have had a grin on my face through each and every episode.

If you’re a fan of radio dramas, gumshoes, girl detectives, camp, pulp, or any combination thereof, you should definitely check out Decoder Ring Theater.

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Another Quick Book Post

Last night I finally got my copy of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City: Local Heroes and it was definitely worth the wait. 

This series of graphic novels is a brilliant post-modern look at superheroes and how interactions with ordinary citizens might happen were they real.  This book is a collection of un-related stories all set in Astro City and, as usual, the stories are poignant and real, focusing on human interactions and relationships, even while the setting is exploding into the realm of the fantastic.

Hopefully we won’t have to wait quite so long for the next installment, but, no matter how long it takes, I’ll be looking forward to it.

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Covered

Coldplay is one of those bands that I thought were promising, but I just did not have the time to check them out when they were rising.  Now, they are a big, established, million selling rockband and I still have not had time to check them out beyond the occasional song or two.

Much to my chagrin, I first heard the song “Yellow” at karaoke.  When I asked who originally sang the song, my friends looked at me like I had gone slightly stupid and said “Coldplay”.  I had just enough sense not to say “Coldplay who?”

(Unfortunately, this is not the first time something like this has happened to me.  I was never a fan of Oasis, especially after seeing them live at the Fuji Rock festival some years ago, where they were rude to their audience, and, not especially good live.  Then, at some random karaoke night, everyone got up on their feet to sing the song “Stand by Me”* together and I was the only one who did not know the song.  To this day, I still perfer the horrible, off-key, drunken version that my friends perform to the horrible, off-key, drunken version on the album.)

So, everyone loves the song “Yellow” at the moment.  And you know, I can not stand to be left out of the loop.  Thanks to the beauty of iTunes, I was up to speed in near record time.  And I was not too impressed to be honest.  I really liked the lyrics, but everything else was just, kind of, blah.

On the exact and total opposite of the spectrum is an artist I have admired for years, Aimee Mann.  Recently, I got her album “Lost in Space”.  This is a fantastic album and I recommend it to anyone who likes intelligent, beautifully sung music.  This disc, however, I did not buy through the magic of iTunes, and the reason is simple:  Most U.S. or U.K. rock albums released in Japan have extra tracks.  Live songs or covers or demos or whatever.  I do not know why this is, only that it means that trips to the record store have not been completely phased out of my life.

Of course, the first thing I did when I got home was rip the album tracks into my iPod. 

But anyway, when I am driving, and listening to music, I use the shuffle functions.  For a variety of possible reasons that are, undoubtedly, a topic for another post, my attention span is no longer what it used to be, and I find it difficult to listen to a full album. 

One of Aimee Mann’s songs left the speakers of my car stereo and lodged itself into my brain.  It is a beautiful, haunting song called, wait for it, “The Scientist”.

So, as some of you may have figured out by now, this beautiful, incredible song is a cover.  Of a Coldplay song.

Cool.

Covers are one of the single best things about modern music culture, in my ever-so-humble opinion.  Whether it be a complete re-interpretation, like Bono’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” or if it is a very faithful to the original remake, like John Cale’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, they are all fantastic.

I collect them.

At the moment, my music collection boasts 14 different versions of the afore-mentioned “Hallelujah”, 10 versions of the traditional Irish song, “Whiskey in the Jar”, 4 versions of Nick Cave’s “The Ship Song”, and one or two versions of, well, lots of things.

(A full half of the collection are covers of non-punk songs by punk artists.  Again, they run the gamut from Social Distortion’s “Ring of Fire” to NOFX’s “Vincent”; again, it is a topic for another post.)

Last night, out of a combination of curiosity, boredom, and procrastination, I ran a Google search on “The Scientist” and found that it has been covered a few times, mainly by people neither iTunes nor I had never heard of.  Hidden amongst those, however, was a version by Johnette Napolitano, of Concrete Blonde, and Danny Lohner, recorded for the Wicker Park soundtrack a couple of years ago.  While I do not like it as much as the Aimee Mann version, it is still a very good version, made all the better that it was Johnette who recorded it.

(Although I am a lapsed fan, Concrete Blonde was one of the bands whose CDs were rarely, if ever, out of my CD player during my university years.)

Anyway, the point of all this is that, Aimee Mann has done a version of Coldplay’s “The Scientist”, which you should do yourself the favor of checking out as soon as you can.

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Filed under Left From Seattle, Plugs and Shoutouts, Punk Rock Saved My Life, True Thoughts on True Life