Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley died on 29 May 1997. On that day, I was 14, he was 30. I remember hearing about it on MTV news, much like the passing of Kurt Cobain, and like Cobain, I knew of the man, but had no connection or understanding of his life or work at the time of his death. The news was memorably upsetting mostly because of the way he died; drowning in the shallows of the Wolf River in Memphis, while a friend stood on the banks, helpless, just a few feet away. It is believed his body was pulled under by an intense current caused by a passing boat, one where even the strongest of swimmers wouldn't have stood a chance of survival. The world lost something incredibly talented and beautiful that day.

It wouldn't be until about a year later, while I was cleaning my room on a warm day, windows open and the breeze causing my curtains to billow, carrying the sound of National Public Radio throughout the house, when I would finally be introduced to the sounds that would change music for me forever. That day I was more concerned with the radio acting as company during my tasks but it was then that I heard the song, the voice more specifically, which stopped me in my tracks. The sound which poured from my speakers that day was unlike anything I had heard before. The most impassioned, spine tingling-ly beautiful voice accompanied the tune. Then his name popped into my head for the first time since reports of his death. Just like that I had found a piece to the puzzle I didn't even know was missing. THIS was Jeff Buckley. It just had to be. I don't know how I knew but I was certain before the announcer could confirm this as fact. This became my first and official introduction to one of the most virtuosic and soulful musicians I would, and likely will, ever hear.

Always enamored with music and the people who created it, it took no time at all before I procured a copy of Jeff's debut album, Grace. I wore that album out yet never tired of those 10 tracks and it is, to this day one of my all time favorite pieces of music to listen to. Without intending to, I taught myself to be a better singer by listening along to his advanced vocalizations, soaring from rich tenor to the highest heights of falsetto without coming off as campy or overdone. His voice was a true gift and I've never heard another quite like it. Jeff was born to make beautiful music and did so with apparent ease and, well, grace.

You may be taken aback by his stunning good looks but Jeff likely took all that with a grain of salt. He had an extreme beauty both inside and out, a true artist and something of an amateur comedian. Whether you listen to and love him or are newly introduced to Jeff's work, the experience cannot be complete until you hear live recordings including his stage banter. He was a master of impressions and off the cuff improvisation and the only thing that saddens me about listening to the recordings is that we will never hear any new jokes or experience the goofball antics that could and undoubtedly would take place with any given Jeff Buckley performance.

It's really hard, near impossible for me to pick a favorite track of his to share. Unfortunately, what video exists of him is limited as he passed before reaching the height of his stardom. A few music videos were created to accompany Grace, the only full length studio album that was released during his lifetime. Of that album, I tend to lean toward "So Real" as my favorite track, likely because of the hard to ignore passion that exudes from his voice while singing a phrase as simple as "I'm afraid".

See for yourself:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pee-wee's Playhouse

I don't care what anyone says about Paul Reubens. I love him. To me, he will always be Pee-wee and Pee-wee will always be a HUGE part of my childhood memories. I watched this show religiously and even had my own miniature playhouse, complete with a Cowboy Curtis, Miss Yvonne, Chairry, Pterri, Magic Screen and the rest of the gang. I can thank my mom for introducing me to "Playhouse" as I think she enjoyed watching it almost as much as I did.

Why don't they make children's television like this anymore?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dr. Dog

Dr. Dog are easily my favorite band, their sound is amazing, THEY ARE AMAZING. I know, I am like so prolific right now. The reason I bring them up AGAIN is because I seeing them AGAIN, tonight at a sold out show in a bowling alley in Brooklyn. I have no idea what to expect except that I will fight my way tooth and nail to the front because, well, because I haven't really thought this part out all the way just yet. Maybe I am planning on climbing on stage and maniacally bopping along with the rest of the band during their set, or maybe I'll get saucy and be that asshole who shouts in between every song: WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOO! or Play "Say Something!", "SAAAAAAAAAAAAY SOMETHING!" as though they don't know the names to their own damn songs and don't have a perfectly stellar set-list already figured out and really lady? just save your breath because no one enjoys your shrill banshee scream not to mention that nobody paid good money to hear your big mouth, so shut it.

I have yet to decide on how I'm going to embarrass myself. The only thing to be certain of is that I will.

Everything I read about Dr. Dog likes to say they sound a lot like the Beatles. And they do. Not JUST like the Beatles though, I hear some Beach Boys and Dylan in there as well and just to be clear, people get all caught up in bands needing to get their "own sound" or whatever. I think that’s total hogwash. We are all inspired by the works of those we admire, so not to confuse the issue, Dr. Dog may sing luscious harmonies that could make Paul McCartney weak in the knees, but these guys are nobody's band but their own. And it's not like the Beatles weren't influenced by others. Lest we forget, I count Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Bo Diddley ALL as significant inspirations especially for their early sound, just to name a few.

So while I get ready to fan-girl out tonight, I wanted to share this video I found while scouring footage of Dr. Dog on YouTube. I had never heard "I'm In The Light" until I saw this in-studio performance captured by Paste Magazine in 2008. WOW. That's all I can really say. I love all things "Dog" related and I have basically worn out all the recordings I have of them. I was beginning to wonder if anything else could live up to what I already know and love. And then I heard this song. It's beyond beautiful and I am LOVING their use of found instrumentation, especially the vocal vibrato/distortion tubes.

I've skipped right over impressed to completely and totally in AWE of this band.

I. Just. Love. Them.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Trouble With Ms. Jolie

Oh, Angie. You are in the news again (have you ever left?) and this time the poo is being flung all over your pretty face. Not that you are a stranger to this kind of thing but this might be just the kind of veritable shitstorm that you have worked so tirelessly to avoid these past few years. And girl, I don't know how you did it. What with out-and-out stealing a hugely famous woman's husband and in the front and center of the public eye no less. I guess adopting a small army of children and doing a ton of charitable work can make anyone come out smelling like a rose. And that's great, what you've done is great, the problem I have is the way you went about it. I think even you may be in over your head now.

I don't know about you, but I can remember when Ms. Jolie was anything but revered for her saintliness. Remember the brother on sister open mouthed kiss at the Oscars? Not really as big a deal as it was made out to be but WEIRD, right? Remember when she and then hubby B-Bob showed up to a red carpet event boasting how they had ravaged each other in the limo on the way over? C'mon people, gag with me now. Remember how she wore that creepy old turtle's dried blood as a necklace and she wouldn't let anyone touch it because it was just soooooooo symbolic? Yeah, even I was lost with that one and I pride myself on being left of center.

I began my Angie love affair after I first viewed Hackers sometime in the mid-90's which basically changed my outlook on physical human perfection. I'll admit she overpowered my senses like she does most everyone else and I'm not proud to say that I would often attempt to measure myself against her standard of beauty however destructive and altogether upsetting that proved to be. Unlike most hormonal teens I didn't want her so much as I wanted to be her. The face, the eyes, the lips, the rail thin yet curvy figure. What sort of devil-made deal did this bitch sign to get her hands on the full package? That's how it seemed anyway. Then I realized: The devil ain't no fool.

this thumbs for you! (because seriously, I don't want it)

All I'm trying to say is that Angelina is, as well as the rest of us, flawed. Perhaps not in the exact same ways that we are, but maybe just so. Look, even Megan Fox has a clubbed thumb (which is likely the least of her problems), but let us not overlook these imperfections since we all need to be reminded that even the most "blessed" aren't always without defect. However, Angie's issues seem to be mostly internal, since people seem to be most off put by her current "holier than thou" persona. As I said before, I think her message is a good one, my problem is with the delivery. I mean, I'm not fooled. She reeks of crazy. I can say this with conviction because I too, am crazy, and I can recognize a sister in psycho anywhere. She seems to be collecting children with such rapidity that it makes me wonder if she feels the need to go overboard in this way to negate her past missteps. It does seem awfully calculated, no?

Sort of like the way she is posing on these magazines:

mmmmmmmmmm, fingers taste GOOD!

Whatever though, I don't hate her. I kind of feel sorry for her actually. It must be quite a life to live when you are known as the world's most famous home wrecker. Even I was Team Aniston after that debacle. That being said, I miss the old Angie, with the bloodletting and devil-may-care 'tude. Now it seems like the only baddassery she puts out is on the screen and for her, that never-ending role is beyond tired. See: Gone In 60 Seconds, Tomb Raider (the first one), Tomb Raider (the other one), Taking Lives, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Wanted, etc…

She can still bring goodwill toward men and promote peace to the war-torn, I'm all for it. I just wish she didn't come off as so affected and soul-less while doing it.

Come to think of it, she's always seemed sort of taken with herself. Can you blame her?

[Psst! The answer is: YES]

R.I.P. to my favorite Angie era

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Deeply Disturbed Darling

DEXTER. I'm talking about Dexter people. Please tell me you watch this show and DO NOT tell me that you don't watch it because you can't afford Showtime because I'm as cheap as a dollar store christmas card but even I decided we had to spring for the movie package because I couldn't be without "America's Favorite Serial Killer". That tagline makes the show sound worse than it actually is. Actually, it makes it sounds both better AND worse because, let this be said now, the show is no pleasant stroll through the park. There is often very violent, visceral, gut churning subject matter not to mention imagery but good LORD if that doesn't make it one of the most original and well written shows out there. Hell, how many cable shows get picked up by a network to run the show in syndication just after the first season wraps? I don't actually know the answer to that question but what I CAN tell you is that CBS picked up Dexter to repeat it's amazing first season the summer after it originally aired and I'm pretty sure that doing so secured a whole new set of eyes for the show. Because it's awesome.

Four seasons in all and Dexter has rarely left an opportunity open for disappointment. Yeah, the 3rd season lost my interest just a bit but that was mostly due to the fact that everything had become so convoluted at that point and the big shocks of Seasons One and Two just weren't there anymore. Well well well, my comrades in skepticism, you will be pleased to know (if you don't already) that Dexter BA-RAWGHT it this season. Who knew that "domestic" Dexter would get himself in more trouble than ever before? John Lithgow as the Trinity Killer (more like Quad Killer after last episode's revelation) has added an amazing degree of crazy to the mix. Lundy dies, I mean SERIOUSLY? Can Deb even begin to catch a break romantically? Girl is doomed. The biggest thorn in my side, and has been the same since about Season Two when she started to get an attitude (and possible reconstructive facial) adjustment, is Rita; Dexter's dopey, doting, ever-so annoying wifey poo.

She WAS perfect for him in Season One, allowing him to go about his killing in peace with few questions asked along the way. Then she seemed to get a full on make-over (botox and 50's housewife chic, oh my!) in Season Two and went from the sweet and understanding, good natured, if not a complete doormat Rita, to supreme holder of the bitch-face Rita, and in some regards, rightly so. So, Dexter had his tryst with Lila. It was a bad call on all counts. He took care of that problem though, didn't he? I have no sympathy for a cheat, but even I had a hard time begrudging Dexter after that one. Rita got all know-it-all and pushy and made Dexter join NA even though no one in their right mind would ever mistake Dexter for a heroin addict. Rita just, well, really sucked and this season she took suck to a whole new level. But Dexter loves her and the kids and if she's cool with Dex then I guess she doesn’t need to meet the inside of industrial strength plastic wrap just yet.

Dexter is the perfect good guy's bad guy. Trust me, you want this killer on your team. He has a soft spot for kids, likely because he was left soaking in 2 inches of his mother's blood for 2 days as a toddler. See? He's got issues just like the rest of us. His tend to lean toward the extreme and horrifyingly tragic than most of us have been exposed to but pobody's nerfect. Dexter is more than just cunning as a killer, he is downright genius. The man passed up a medical license to work in forensics as a blood spatter specialist because it's his passion NOT because he doesn’t have the brains for biology.

Dexter is also the owner of the best theme music/opening titles on television. But don't take my word for it. You be the judge…