Archive for the music Category

Latest Dilemma

Posted in library stuff, music, rambling on 24 May 08 by mikevc

So, here is my dilemma. Next weekend is the event that I have spent the last year and a half working toward as Chief of Central Services: the reopening of the Central Library in Houston. It is going to be a big deal and a lot of fun. There will be authors, music, food, puppets, dancing, games (video and other), books, and fun (again). I would encourage folks to attend.

It just so happens that the night before the celebration, the Old 97’s are coming to town. I have been a fan of them as long as I have known my wife (I know this is odd and seemingly random but I remember first discovering them the day before our first date (November 1997)). It was the 97’s who turned me on to Bloodshot Records and the whole alt-country thing of the late 90s, which opened a whole world of music I did not know existed at the time. In the past ten years or so, they have come to town numerous times but something has always prevented me from attending.   In most cases, I was out of town when they were here.  They are rumoured to be a great live band. I will grant that their latest release is good but not as great (to my ears) as their early stuff and they have strayed a bit from the country twang that was so endearing in their earliest releases (AND some members moved from Texas to Los Angeles (Booo!!)) but they remain a solid band and I still would like to catch their show.

Now, knowing that next weekend is realistically the biggest moment in my career (also 10 years), should I attend a show the night before? Part of me says I should since I will be so nervous I will be unable to sleep anyway and a great show will calm my nerves and take my mind off of the big event. Another (more sensible?) part says I shouldn’t because I will be exhausted and I need to be able to be in a great mood as I welcome thousands to the library.

So, what should I do?

It occurs to me that things must be going fairly well life-wise if this is the most serious problem I am facing.

I hate to admit it but…

Posted in music on 20 May 08 by mikevc

I am a big fan of Weezer. I have been since 1994 when I first heard the opening arpeggios-into-power-chords of “My Name is Jonas” on their eponymous debut (now known as the Blue Album) on my beloved yellow Sony Sports Walkman cassette player (which incidentally lasted longer than any MP3 player I have ever owned).  “Surfwax America” and “In the Garage” further solidified my loyalty to that first album, which was a staple of my running albums back when I did five miles a day.  Since then, Rivers and crew have put out some high quality albums but nothing that matched that first album.  Here’s hoping their eponymous new album (The Red Album) reaches those heights and maybe even inspires me to run again.

Check Out My Muxtape

Posted in music, web fun on 18 April 08 by mikevc

http://mvancamp.muxtape.com

I know I broke the cardinal rule of compilation makin’ by putting the same band on twice but I figure I can bend the rules a bit as I age.

If you have a muxtape, let me know; I’ll check it out.

Great Music…Free Downloads!

Posted in music on 9 April 08 by mikevc

I loved what Radiohead did in releasing their album as a download for whatever the user wanted to pay. The main problem I had with the whole thing is I happen to find Radiohead’s music vastly overrated and insincere. I did download In Rainbows for a nominal fee several months ago. As I suspected, I did not enjoy it and have rarley listened to it since then. But, I love the idea of making music available and asking folks to pay what it is worth to them. In that vein, I want to point folks to two great bands who have done the same type of thing recently.

Glossary, a band who I had never heard of until last week, has released their latest album The Better Angels of Our Nature as a free download on their web page.  I was directed to their site from a trusted music blog and I have not been let down.  I downloaded the album free of charge earlier this week and it has been in very heavy rotation in my iTunes and has inspired me to investigate previous releases.  Before I do that, I will definitely purchase one of their handmade copies of the CD to help support the band.   I could go on and try dancing about architecture (Zappa? Costello? anyone?) in describing their music but instead I will encourage folks to just go and download a song or the entire album and experience it yourself.

The second band I discovered that had done this is the Dexateens with their new release Lost and Found. This is a band I had heard of but with a limited music budget have never been quite inspired to purchase their music.  Well, thanks to their free download, I am becoming a fan.  In fact, in addition to the new R.E.M. album (I am as amazed as anyone that I am listening to this given that I have not purchased a R.E.M. album since Green soured me on them in the late ’80s; but this is a really good album), these two freely downloaded albums are all I have been listening to for days.  The cool thing about the Dexateens site is you can donate money either when downloading or after.  I am a big fan of the pay after download model, where I can pay an artist based on how good I find an album and, thus, how much I will listen to it.  As I have said before, I could see paying two or three times the cost of a CD to artists I listen to over and over again (I believe I have used the example of The Drive-By Truckers in the past) and paying much less to ones I listen to less or shelve after a few listens.  Anyway, I will be donating my fair share to the Dexateens.

So, check ’em out and see what you think.  And, here’s to hoping many more musicians and bands go this avenue for releasing their music.

From Fleas to Buffalos

Posted in music, rambling, web tools, weirdness on 14 February 08 by mikevc

For those who are not familiar with Last.fm, it is a really cool social networking music site where friends can see what people are listening to and make recommendation to them, get info about bands, etc. Anyway, I love to think I have individualistic andred_logo.jpg unpredictable taste in music. However, a while back, a user on last.fm friended me because he had seen that I was listening to Cactus World News. Whenever I log on to last.fm, it lists what my friends have listened to most recently. It is uncanny how many times what this guy has listened to mirrors what I have listened to (usually away from the computer so there is clearly no case of copying). As an example:

I wrote a while ago about my growing ukulele obsession. In that post I mentioned the Flea ukulele. This lead me to go to Dane Zane’s, the former singer of the Del Fuegos and current children’s singer, Web site to find out about his limited edition DZ Flea Ukuleles. As I was there, I was reminded of his role in the Del Fuegos. I then went to iTunes to listen to someonlye.jpg old Del Fuegos while reading an entry on them in Wikipedia. There I saw a mention of the Juliana Hatfield Three and their song “My Sister” which mentions the Del Fuegos. This lead me back to iTunes and Amazon to listen to some old Juliana Hatfield and Blake Babies songs. I listened to the 30 second bits from several albums and was reminded in particular of how much I likes Only Everything and wished I could hear the whole thing. This thought letme.jpgbrought me to another Boston band that I listened to heavily in the early 90s, Buffalo Tom. So, I went in to iTunes and listened to the snippets of tracks from several albums but mostly from Let Me Come Over and Big Red Letter Day. I began to regret that I no longer had these songs to listen to. A few minutes later, I go to last.fm and discover that my friend has not only been listening to Buffalo Tom, but the exact two albums I was just pining for. It struck me as a weird coincidence that this guy is listening to the exact albums (both over ten years old) that I am suddenly feeling nostalgic for–as a result of a convoluted process–for the first time in years.

So, I post this for no real purpose other than to note I am not as unique as I like to think…as if Amazon.com’s “other people who bought x also bought…” feature hadn’t taught me that years ago.

Uke Rock and Ukes Rock!

Posted in music on 14 February 08 by mikevc

fluke.jpgOn a whim a while ago, I acquired a ukulele (a nice black concert Fluke that I am trading (w/ an old 512 MB MP3 player) for a tenor Fluke) via craigslist from a guy who was looking to trade it for an MP3 player and $20. I only played it sporadically until I picked it up about a three weeks ago and fell in with love it. It is a simple little instrument to play if you just strum chords. Jonah and I looked up songs on the computer and played and sang them for quite a while last Friday. I stayed up later and discovered it can become quite a complex instrument as well. No matter what I play (or attempt to play), it is the most relaxing, low stress, and sheer fun musical instrument I have played.

Anyway, I started to do some research on the ukulele and discovered there is a thriving ukulele culture worldwide right now. Eddie Vedder has written several songs for uke and Stephen Merrit (of Magnetic Fields) apparently writes on uke and plays almost exlusively ukulele at shows. Everyone knows of George Harrison’s love of the ukulele and even Boss Springsteen has been playing them live. Also, there are thousands of YouTube videos of folks playing virtually any song you can imagine on ukuleles. Before deciding that I needed a tenor ukulele, I watched several of these to get a feel for the difference in sound between all the C-tuned uke sizes (soprano, concert, and tenor). There are some really great videos out there but this one from “Max the Ukulele Punk Rocker” in Japan is my favorite. It doesn’t feature great uke playing or a great song but I love the big toe-keyboard action:

flea-icon.giffluke-icon.gifIf anyone is interested in taking up the Uke, I advise looking into a Fluke or a Flea. These are indestructible, have great intonation, and are very attractive instruments at a modest price (and even better if you can get one through a trade (I have worked out trades on craigslist and Flea Market Music for my two ukes, which has meant virtually no cost other than shipping)).

Also, check out this article from 2006 that ran in our local paper here in Houston.

Why? Because the banjo and mandolin just weren’t quite goofy/dorky enough for me.

One Day Too Late

Posted in music on 12 February 08 by mikevc

I just discovered that if I had planned to arrive for my library conference in Minneapolis one day earlier, I would have been able to catch Gary Louris (one of the (or THE) brilliant songwriters behind The Jayhawks and Golden Smog) performing to his hometown crowd.  D’oh!!  They really should mention these things in conference programs.

Extremely Productive Weekend and Plans for More in the Future

Posted in baseball, bluegrass, goals, music on 22 January 08 by mikevc

This past weekend I had a three day weekend off from work. Jonah and I had plans to join his Tiger Scout group camping at Brazos Bend State Park with the gators. However, rain and 28 degree nighttime lows helped us rethink that. So, with three days in front of me what did I get accomplished. Rather a lot I think. Here is my list:

  1. Finally got the mandolin chord “chop” down to a point where I can comfortably play along with most bluegrass songs.
  2. Finished two good books on the state of the Democratic Party and how to fix it.
  3. Made plans for attending College Classic at Minute Maid Park.
  4. Most importantly, finished Super Mario Galaxy, which for my money is the best Mario game yet.

So, I notice this list is slightly self-centered. I am setting myself a goal that for every day I have off from here on out, I accomplish at least two things that benefit others (specifically, my family) and not just me (although Jonah and Toby did love playing SGM I am exempting video game from this).

Oh, Happy Day! Good Music is Coming Soon to My DAP

Posted in music on 18 January 08 by mikevc

marah.jpgToday at lunch, I was reading the dreadful Houston Press and discovered that the two greatest rock bands currently making music both have new albums this month. First is Marah who I discovered–oddly enough–via a back page article by Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly. I think I will cave and use some of my Amazon.com gift certificate fundage to purchase. This would have me the juvenile music nerd in me in an ecstatic mood if it were the only thing I discovered. However, there was far bigger news a few pages away.

dbt.jpgSecond, and more important, was the discovery that the Drive-By Truckers, who are the single best rock band this country has produced in the last couple of decades (this is not a hyperbole; listen to any of their albums since Southern Rock Opera and you too will be convinced of this objective truth) have a new album coming out in a few days. Anyway, the reason I post (aside from my excitement) is that I saw that New West Record was selling four of the songs from the new DBT record as an EP on iTunes. Normally, I would cringe at this kind of thing: a record company trying to sell songs on an album twice, which is what will happen now that I bought the EP and will buy the album when it comes out this coming Tuesday. However, I am more than willing to do this for a band or music I truly like.

In an article in Wired, Thom Yorke discussed the idea that folks should be allowed to determine what to pay for music based on what it is worth to them. As everyone knows, he put his money where his mouth was when Radiohead released In Rainbows on their website to folks who could pay what they wanted. I, not a Radiohead devotee by any means (I have never felt the need to buy a Radiohead album in the past), paid three dollars for the album and–even paying that–mostly because I just respected them for releasing their album this way. Well, I have listened to that album a few times and have gotten roughly what I paid for. With a band like DBT, I have no problem paying $4 for an EP and then $10 for nearly 20 songs because the amount of enjoyment I have received from their previous albums (judged by how often I listen) is in the hundreds if not thousands. So, basically, I post this to ruminate on the comparitive value of music and other entertainment and to say if you haven’t listened to DBT, do yourself a favor and remedy that situation.

Aging Music Fan

Posted in music, rambling on 28 December 07 by mikevc

It occurred me over the holidays as I heard a reference to being “almost 24” by one of my favorite new artists that much of the music I am listening to is now being made by folks much younger than me.  This struck me as odd and a wee bit depressing for some reason.  I am not sure why.

So, in order to comfort myself, I have decided on looking at it a different way.  Instead of looking at one artist, I am going to consider the four or five artists I listen to in heavy rotation at any given moment to see if I am registering too young in my listening habits.

For example, here are the main folks I am listening too now:

  • Fionn Regan (Age: 26)
  • Neko Case (Age: 37 – really?)
  • Langhorne Slim (Age: 27)
  • Richard Thompson (Age: 58)
  • The Avett Brothers (Average age: 29)

So, if I figure an average I come up with 35.4 as the age of my heavily listened to current artists right now.  Whew, I barely got in under the wire on that one (I am 35.2). I owe a big thanks to Richard Thompson.  If he wasn’t in my rotation the average age would be 29.75 and I would be…What?  I am not quite sure.