My Favorite Christmas Song

A lot of people like a lot of Christmas music. I don’t. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have some favorites, though.

My very favorite holiday tune, and the first one I can ever remember, is Darlene Love’s take on Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). The original is still a transcendent, hair raising recording over 50 years later.

Credit must also go to Phil Specter’s wall of sound production and the bouncy rhythm section that makes the song just go, go, go. It seems to accelerate as it unfolds, bursting with an energy most holiday songs would wilt under. It’s a joy to hear every single year.

However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a couple examples of Love’s annual Late Show appearances, where she’s performed the song since 1986.

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The Best Music From Fallout

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We’re in the final stretch, guys. Fallout 4 will arrive in just three days. The hype train is barreling full steam ahead, and I don’t mind feeling caught up. The last two games in the series are easily the most played in my adult life. Also, have you seen that launch trailer?

The above screenshot is from my last play through of Fallout: New Vegas. My character is a hard-nosed woman named Scotch, who often travels with a flying eyebot and a cowgirl who chugs whiskey. I’ve got 234 hours logged, according to Steam, and I’d be happy to double that if there weren’t so many other great games to play.

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Atlas Sound – Quarantined

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I am waiting to be…  changed

Bradford Cox is one of the only musicians working today who I feel, despite fronting a popular band and receiving wide acclaim, is less than fully recognized for his true genius.  My snobbier friends write off Deerhunter as indie/pitchfork ‘core’ while casual fans aren’t often bothered to delve into his often exquisite solo work as Atlas Sound, both on record and (more importantly) in the cornucopia of material he’s released free of charge over the years.

Debut Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, source of Quarantined.

My favorite pieces often combine a sharp nostalgic eye for the detail of pop songcraft with an otherworldly timbre.  On paper they’d make any head nod while in practice they alternately embrace and repel through a veiled fog.  Some display a truly off-kilter sense of place and time, pairing Phil Spector rhythms and shoegaze instrumentaion with lyrics about the inner terror of isolation and the damaged longing for freedom through metamorphosis.  For instance.

He’s covered Unchained Melody (seriously, listen) and recorded drone epics about tripping nuts all weekend with equal devotion and care. Cox most recently dropped a three hour, four volume slab of unreleased treasure on fans just because. Because he was neglecting his freebie-filled blog while touring and releasing multiple items with his main band? We certainly weren’t owed more; he is simply that prodigious and generous an artist.

After the dreamy debut masterpiece Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (from which Quarantined sprang) and slightly more straightforward follow up Logos, and a two year break, Atlas Sound is about to treat us all to another official LP of celestial pop on November 8 with Parallax. Check the artwork below for a bit of weird fun and to listen to advance single Terra Incognita. While you’re there, click on a window in the far right building to hear a bonus ditty I won’t spoil here. You’ll know it when you find it.

Also, another special pre-release “leak” of which I’ve grown fond: Te Amo (right-click and ‘save as’ to keep the mp3).

[while you wait get the Let The Blind… 2LP at Insound, or Amazon – there’s a full bonus EP of equally worthy music included and like other 4ad releases the packaging is gorgeous]

Guilty Not Guilty 4

Bobby Vinton had a string of hits in the mid 20th century, most famous of all being Blue Velvet, of course – known to my generation as the centerpiece of David Lynch‘s classic film of the same name.  But it’s this liquid pop diamond that eternally commands my rapt attention without fail.

Those listening right now may find a mysterious familiarity – a feeling of deja vu, despite never listening to Mr. Vinton previously.  That’s because Röyksopp submerged a sample of this tune in So Easy, creating the melodic backbone for the opening track on their acclaimed 2001 LP, Melody A.M. So give them both a listen, and appreciate the Norwegian duo’s classic pop acuity.

For my mother.

My mother’s been in the hospital for a few days now.  Nothing catastrophic or life-threatening, thankfully; she’s doing relatively well at the moment but has more procedures and tests coming up and has been stuck in a room on the 4th floor for days.  So I’ve got a little tribute, her self-proclaimed favorite song ever:  The Righteous Brothers‘ eternal You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.  I don’t know if anyone could enjoy it as much as my mother does, though, but try if you’d like!

[regular posting will resume shortly]

Nancy and Lee Again

Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood comprised one of the most inimitable duos in pop music history. Nancy’s wise-beyond-her-years little girl voice serves as a perfect foil to Lee’s grizzled-but-tender cowboy delivery in a perfectly balanced duet of sweetness and spice. Hazlewood’s still-relevatory electro-tweaked countrified pop constructions take the entire production to the next level in this slice of coed harmonic bliss, hot and fresh after four decades.

Nancy and Lee

Their second release, Nancy & Lee Again, may not contain the iconic Some Velvet Morning (expertly covered by Slowdive) or their superb take on The Righteous BrothersYou’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, but it’s the superior record to my ears. Here’s that cover:

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The near epic Arkansas Coal (Suite) kicks off the set in dusky mysterious tones and quickly builds through an emotionally swerving narrative toward an anthemic horn blasted finale.

Mid-album highlight Down From Dover (prominently sampled by The Go! Team) is possibly the best showcase for Sinatra’s voice, a raggedly heartfelt turn which may surprise those who know her as a too-cool chanteuse from These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ or Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down). Capped off by the deliciously playful conversation of Got It Together Again, we’re privy to these final words:

Nancy: “I wish everybody would be quiet, and nice.”
Lee: “Yeah, and don’t throw rocks.”
“Yeah.”
“And don’t shoot guns.”
“Right.”
“And come home safe.”
“Right”
“Because we miss ya.”

This intimate exchange gives me a chill right down my spine. It’s exemplary of the whole album, an experience not unlike listening in on two sweetly adoring old friends as they sing like they’re the only ones who can hear, only for each other. We’re just lucky it was caught on tape.

[pick this right up on original vinyl at amazon (!!! yes!!!) or get it digitally via 7digital, as it’s not issued on CD. or you can get the excellent Fairy Tales & Fantasies collection, compiling almost every good track they recorded]

Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin

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Billie Holiday is a true-blue goddess. This is not debatable opinion; it is straight fact. Her interpretations and originals are some of the most enduring recordings in modern popular music. Her voice lacerates soul and body alike and has been known, on occasion, to reduce grown men to tears. Her spirit is defiantly eternal.

Her final recorded work is Lady in Satin.

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