Archive | November, 2011

For The Beginning of The Holiday Season

28 Nov

Santa took advantage of the great deals

Merry Christmas? Not quite. It certainly seems like it though. If it seems that Christmas is mentioned earlier and earlier every year, it is because it is. This is especially true this holiday season. Retailers just couldn’t unpack the holiday decorations fast enough. FINALLY (exhale) we all stuffed ourselves during Thanksgiving and the stores opened during the night for Black Friday discount sales. If you need any proof why retailers wanted Black Friday, the unofficial start of the holiday season, to come as fast as possible, the only statistic you need to peek at is $52.4 billion. That is how much money was spent this holiday weekend. Merry Christmas indeed to America’s struggling economy. Sustained consumer spending is good. It makes up around 70 percent of our economy. We need to go out there and spend our cash. I’m not advocating profligate spending, but hoarding cash only hurts the already hurting economy. This is why holiday shopping couldn’t come soon enough. Black Friday has passed and we have now progressed to Cyber Monday/Week (where discounted items are available online). So many deals. Man, I wish I played video games because I would totally buy a PS3 for $200. Maybe I will take advantage of some music deals.

Hey, I have a special Christmas-related Cyber Monday music post for you all tonight. To kick off the holiday season I want to share my favorite Christmas song with all of you festive readers. I really have my pick of the litter with Christmas songs. You know there are a lot of versions of Christmas songs when a radio station (106.7 on Long Island) can play Christmas music straight from the end of Thanksgiving to Christmas ad nauseum. It is my mother’s favorite station every holiday season.

“Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” is an enduring classic; the zenith of novelty Christmas songs, in my opinion. It is zany, light-hearted (well not for Grandma) and downright humorous. It is a perfect Christmas joke. Everyone may be singing Jingle Bells and Silent Night, but I will be rocking out to the Randy Brooks written classic, made famous by Dr. Elmo and Patsy Trigg Shropshire in 1979.

So what is it about this song? Is it the country folk easiness of the melody, the allegiance to grandpa, or the witty lines “They should never give a license, To a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves?” It is all of the elements I’d say. And all things considered, it is a Christmas sing-along for the whole family. But watch out grandma and don’t drink too much eggnog.

Hudson Mohawke – FUSE

27 Nov

Keep this on the down low.

Sorry about last week’s post, but never mind that. I have to make this terse. I apparently have something that the government wants and am on the run for my own dear life. I honestly don’t even know what it’s about, but I have 27 dead federal agents in my house after what can only be described as Home Alone 5, and am going into hiding in the morning.

I do however have time to review a song.

Let’s see here. After a great deal of magic one night, a good friend of mine played “FUSE” by Hudson Mohawke. My mind proceeded to be short-circuited by rainbows, or something of the sort.

It starts out with light clapping and an ethereal neon flute. It boldly wastes no time as it drops into some ridiculously nice hip-hop. Grandiose as all hell, the corny preset brass in the background and the vocal “doo-wop’s” are so over the top that the song almost comes off as a joke.

It doesn’t move forward at all really. After the second verse, another vocal sample is introduced, which I honestly cannot place for the life of me, its purpose unknown to me as well. But the song picks up the beat immediately afterwards. It feels like a glorious transformation is about to take place, like the song got into a fight with the high speed drum and bass genre and is about to lose.

But lo and behold it actually wins and again we are graced with the same instrumental chorus. Just as it is getting old and you begin to notice how slow it actually is, a child whispers something and the song ends. If you aren’t confused, then you aren’t getting it.

Gotta go, snipers.

&)

-oko

P.S. The government is after my delusions of grandeur.

Happy Thanksgiving! The Alice Tradition

24 Nov

Good morning readers. Today, as if anyone really needs a reminder, is Thanksgiving, and I sincerely hope that you all have a comfortable home and family/friends to share the gluttonous holiday with.

Thanksgiving is indeed marked by a voraciousness unlike any other holiday.The food is an obvious component. The plentiful quantity of food and the sleepy combination of tryptophan, stuffing and sweet potato, can make any dieter come out of their shells for one night. Then, after consuming a vast quantity of food, it has now become a quasi-tradition to take advantage of Black Friday deals at major retailers by braving other stuffed souls also looking to get a great deal on a television.

And isn’t it all wonderful. Seriously? I think it is excellent. But while we are celebrating the holiday, please do think of those not in a comfortable situation. Take your spare time to volunteer at a soup kitchen. And, if you simply cannot, donate some money to the cause. Be thankful for your situation, but also cognizant of the needy.

Now it has become a semi-tradition here at the Music Court to profile one particular song every Thanksgiving. The words “song and Thanksgiving” should give the song away. Seriously, this particular song gets its most plays on Thanksgiving, because, well, it was over 40 Thanksgiving’s ago that Arlo Guthrie and his friend went to go visit Alice at the restaurant, not that Alice’s Restaurant is the name of the restaurant, no, it’s just the name of the song!

The perilous tale of Alice’s Restaurant has become as much of a Thanksgiving staple as canned yams. It, keeping with the theme of gluttony, is a whopping 16 minutes long, and, if you have some time to yourself prior to watching the parade in 15 minutes, I suggest you listen to it once through.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! Oh, and make sure to take out your garbage!

Ron Pope at Dominion – A Sunday Sojourn

22 Nov

I am going briefly atone for all of the times I have disparaged my smart phone (generally for being to slow with internet connection). It permits me to write Music Court posts on the train going to work, and I must thank it for that.

It has been a busy last few days for all Music Court writers. Since Thanksgiving break is right around the corner, this is unsurprising. Trust me. If I could, I would write more and more. Luckily, Peepirate and Okocim have been able to provide cogent posts on a consistent basis. I am thankful for that.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, this photo perfectly portrays my usual Fall Sunday.

Accurate Portrayal

And, yes, while I do enjoy watching my fair share of football (fantasy football implications), because of the mediocre play of the NY Jets (and the fact that they rarely play on Sunday afternoons it seems), the entire act has become slightly trite. That’s why it was enjoyable to change it up this past Sunday.

Rebecca (my girlfriend) and I visited my stressed first year medschool buddy Josh and his girlfriend Amanda (both of Music Court fame) in Greenwich village. It was a rare opportunity to see the duo, what with Amanda still in her senior year at Binghamton and Josh buried up to his neck  in medical terms and practices. Our city pursuit? The Ron Pope concert at Dominion on Lafeyette.

I love small bar/venues. There is a cozy intimacy that spawns from the dim-lit bar, low cushioned seats, and open concert floor. It is particularly exquisite when the space is not cramped. Luckily, the venue took on this well balanced flavor on Sunday night, and, because of space, the sound remained vibrant and decently mixed through the night. If it wasn’t for some dude consistently ripping violent, odorous, mexican-food farts throughout our stay, the venue would have only taken on the aroma of yeast, hops, and cologne, like that of an uppity bar, and that would have been just fine.

Ron Pope came on after two singer/songwriter opening acts. But while these acts filled the same broad genre, it is important to cite their differences. Let me premise this opening act review by assuring you that they are both worth a listen.

Alexis Babini
 
Alexis Babini does not like being compared with John Mayer. At least that’s what he told the Dominion crowd in the middle of his setlist. An iTunes review labeled him as a Mayer-like artist. Don’t worry, Mr. Babini. I have no intention of comparing you to John Mayer. I actually think that label is wrong. Babini, a 24-year-old musician from New York, fits comfortably into the singer-songwriter genre, yes, and while that can make him like Mayer, his distinct pleasant vocal and acoustic flavoring, makes him different.
 
 
Babini, proficient in guitar and piano, fits the mold of a Joshua Radin/Joshua James folk musician, with catchy, head-bopping, creative rhythms. His music is accessible and it evoked smiles from the crowd. I think that was the most important aspect of his performance. I must admit that after he tackled his first few songs, Amanda turned to our group and exclaimed, “He sounds like Paul Simon,” and pretty much right after that Babini sampled “Cecilia.” We exchanged glances and started to hysterically laugh. Credit to Amanda. He elicited smiles from the crowd and even engendered a call-and-response sing-along in his song “Smoke.”
 
 
This song implanted itself in my mind for later usage. Before I began writing this post, I found myself humming the chorus. That’s an excellent thing that Babini has going for him. His music is infectious. This is similar to his co-opening act who I will look at…now!
 
 
 

Zach Berkman fits a different singer-songwriter profile than Babini. His voice is different and his rhythms more staccato. He too plays melodious, radio-ready pieces, and he is also guitar/piano proficient. Berkman’s creativity oozed through his set-list. His riffs were original and neat and his acoustic sound resonated.

Like Babini, Berkman, originally of Illinois, has had his songs used by TV shows (no surprise for both as they play excellent teenager-friendly, drama, television music). His strength, as displayed in the song above, is his powerful voice, high, but also expressing a full range.

While I had little difficulty placing Babini’s sultry voice, I had to search through my brain to think of a comparison for Berkman. I thought of two, one during, and one after the show. Berkman has a twang to his voice like Brett Dennen, but a true similarity, especially with the above song, to Eric Hutchinson (listen to “Okay, It’s Alright With Me”). While Hutchinson has more of Michael Buble’s rat-pack croon, I feel that Berkman can fit into this category. And, I believe he is most effective there. “Hero” is an excellent song.

Ron Pope
We move on to the headliner, Ron Pope. Pope, originally of the Greenwich village scene, is a consummate musician, one who maintains the rare ability to musically multitask. Pope can sing a delicate, heartfelt ballad, and then rip out a guitar solo (like he did with a mid-show “Little Wing” tribute – see below) just to keep you honest. I both enjoy and respect musicians who have this ability. Pope, who hid his face behind what looked like a no-shave-for-November bushy beard, played an excellent show that displayed these varieties of style. His pop/blues superiority was respected by a crowd of around 50-100 that sang along with his lyric and gyrated with his guitar.
 
I went into this show not knowing much about Pope. Amanda and Josh both enoy his music and I first heard of him when Josh played me a song or two several months ago. I enjoy going into concerts with no expectations. If I do not know what a person sounds like, I can make an unbiased judgment on their music. I must say I was quite impressed by the five-piece band. They balanced the variety quite well.
 
 
“A Drop in the Ocean,” which was co-written by Zach Berkman, was one of the most popular songs of the night, and it demonstrates Pope’s intimate side. The song is a slow, powerful ballad, that is carried by his voice. Without Pope’s croon, the song could easily fall into the hackneyed category. But it rides the line well and remains an enjoyable and authentic piece.
 
 
Yeah, he can also rock the hell out. If I take away anything from his performance it will be an envy of his rock diversity. It is impressive and wonderfully executed.
 
Pope had Berkman and Babini join him on stage (as well as some other friends) for a joint performance of Neil Young’s “Hopeless” to conclude the show. The resulting sing along was tasteful and wonderfully loud. There was a smile on the faces of everyone on stage, especially a grinning Pope, who soared high above everyone standing on a piano stool, screaming “Helpless” at the top of his lungs with the appreciative crowd.

Warning: Not for Children

18 Nov

There’s going to be a slight tangent tonight.  Instead of my usual spiel about music and attempting to place it in some sort of musical metaphor, I’m going to talk about bits.  More specifically, I’m going to talk about my favorite men (not a sexist term because this list is solely men) of comedy and hope benevolent editor Matt Coleman is cool with it.

3. My newest addition to this list, Daniel Tosh, wasn’t at all like I expected him to be.  Having seen “Mind of Mencia” and “The Sarah Silverman Show,” it seemed to me that Tosh. O (and its host) would do what all the other Comedy Central shows had done: try so hard to be funny that they forget how to do it.  But that isn’t the case at all.  Tosh’s standup combines two of my favorite things: politically incorrect humor and witty observation.  At no point can Tosh be considered politically correct because his comedy delves straight into the realm of insulting and yet, he doesn’t spit out insults for insults sake.  His incorrect jokes are normally grounded in witty observation which is what makes them so damn funny.

2.  Bill Hicks is a paradox, sort of like a warrior poet influenced by both the beautiful and brutal.  On hand hand, Bill was one of the greatest political satirists of all time, looking at political topics, consumerism and culture through the most cynical of views.  His ranting and raving as if his blood was boiling is stuff of legends.  And yet his message, which emerges out of the flames, is the exact opposite of his act.  Whereas his act is chaotic, almost violent, directed at things he views as violent, stupid and unauthentic, his message was one of compassion, lashing into such topics as war with such ferocity you might think he was fighting one.  He espoused freedom from oppression, doing the right thing so I say that  Bill Hicks was just as much a philosopher as comedian, his great treatises not bound volumes but comedy… with some dick jokes thrown in.

1.  The funniest man I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, hands down, is George Carlin.  Like Hicks, Carlin explored topics outside of the mainstream and critiqued things such as the political system, religion and corporations and yet whereas that is mostly what Hicks did, Carlin also provided witty observations on both language and psychology.  But I can’t really explain just how funny this man is you will just have to see for yourself.

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