Thursday, July 28, 2011

Making It Up As I Go.

As if I weren't thoroughly ensconced in Nerd Culture, this past winter, I decided to educate myself as to the ways of the last living Timelord.

I am now all caught up on the new series of Doctor Who, and am in that excruciating break before this season resumes in September.*

Please start watching it. I will watch it with you!

I'll serve popcorn! And tea! And fish fingers and custard!

I won't go too far into this fantastic show, but I will say I ran around for hours trying to figure out how to procure a discontinued colour of nail polish that the most recent companion wore in an episode this season. At least I wasn't alone. (I found a dusty bottle in a Mongolian manicure salon in Toronto.) The stories find their ways into my everyday, an experience not new to most nerdy nerlingers.

(Thank you, Whatyawant for the pic - nice work!)

*Correction: it starts up again August 27th, at least on BBC America.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

5/365.

High quality. Clever. Geeky. Beardy.

Jonathan Coulton.

Coulton was the man who quit his soul-sucking code monkey job (while his wife was pregnant with their first child, might I add) and challenged himself to write, record, and release a song a week for 52 weeks. He succeeded, and called the 4-album compilation "Thing a Week." Some songs are hittier than missier but the good ones are oh so good.

He leans on geek culture, from video games to zombies, and from robot wars to bacteria. On top of that subject matter, he's a fantastic writer who uses clever lyrics and complex (certainly complex for pop, anyway,) music, backed up with his ex-Whiffenpoof pipes.

He writes his silly songs, but also writes sweet songs about his family and, in the case of today's choice, the dark realities of life in the suburbs.



I've seen Coulton play live twice now, and I hope to see him again soon. He usually tours with Paul and Storm, a nerdy and talented duo with killer harmonies. If you get a chance, drop the ca. $30 in order to see a wall of nerds singing along to the theme song of the first Portal, of course, penned by Coulton.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sad Days.

I reeled for a moment when I heard that Amy Winehouse had died. It took my breath away. I can't say I'm surprised; I did fear this would happen. A lot of us did. (And to be fair, it's early yet - I haven't heard if this was drug- or mental health-related. It may not have been.)

This is a day after the nightmare stories started pouring in from Norway. I spent quite a bit of time this morning reading about that terror, my over-developed empathetic instinct making me well up time and time again.

I got home, sad on top of sad (on my sister's birthday, no less) and my brother-in-law cited someone on Facebook, saying, "a day after massacres in Norway, all everyone's talking about is Amy Winehouse," and the like. Schnarr, schnarr.

This is a bullshit, hater thing to say. Making someone feel guilty over their grief is a horrible thing to do. Grief is not rational - it's a natural reaction to a personal loss. Because I feel sad because a huge musical talent is dead doesn't make it less sad that a madman went on a spree in Scandinavia.

Maybe it's an apples and oranges situation, or maybe it's simply not. I don't want to think about it right now.

Friday, July 22, 2011

4/365.

I don't care. I like it.

Ke$ha (and yes, I hate writing her GD name that way) may be a vapid club tramp, but damn, she has put out some catchy music in the last couple of years. Plus, using Van der Beek as a prop in a video is always killer in my books.

I kinda liked "Tik Tok" because of that catchiness, but it was because of this kick-ass ASL interpretation that I really fell hard.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Anachronism Submissions?

I recently completed a long solo road trip and at the top of every hour I would pause my ipod to listen to the CBC news on Radio One. Hour by hour, I got the updates on the whole phone-hacking debacle in the UK. When I heard that News of the World was shut, I uttered a little, "woah," to myself.

Ruminating on the closure made me think of the Beatles, of course. If you remember back to Abbey Road and the wicked side-B medley of shorter songs, "Polythene Pam" is an up-tempo song about a kinky girl in kinky garb. "She's the kind of a girl that makes the News of the World," John tells us. Not anymore, Pam - you'll have to settle for being a Sunshine Girl.

It also made me think of another Beatles' lyric rendered outdated by, well, the passage of time. "Back in the USSR" is riddled with anachronisms now. No, people still play balalaikas, but Ukraine and Georgia are now independent countries, and, of course, the USSR is no more, no thanks to Ukraine and Georgia... Pfft!

Can we think of anymore? Other than references to names like Messrs Wilson and Heath and so on?

At least "Her Majesty" is still current!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

3/365.

My best memories of Adele are lying lazily on the floor of my good friend T's family summer cottage on a lake in Ontario while the album 19 plays. This year, her aptly-titled 21 was released and it continues to awe me. She said in interviews that the American South inspired a lot of arrangements on this newest album, and today's choice for 3/365 is a great example of what she does with that influence.


"Rumour Has It" has so much going for it: powerful, dead-on vocals that navigate intricate intervals; hand claps with a brutal drum beat; dense, harmonized backup singers; and an out-of-nowhere haunting bridge, complete with "we're not worthy" acrobatics. (Every time I hear the bridge, I'm still not sure that I like it because of the incongruous loss of that driving beat, but when it connects back to the song with cascading piano and a capella backup vocals, I'm back on board.)

Listen to Adele and you'll thank me.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

2/365.

I suspect songs that I will discuss in this series will be intimately attached to my ukulele. I played Joel Plaskett's "Through and Through and Through" with a friend at my uke jam last summer, and it was a highlight of my time with the group.

This song plays like a stripped-down rocker. An almost-acoustic version of a much shreddier song.



The line, "You're a wrecking ball in a summer dress" is genius, genius, genius. We all want to write lyrics like that. Plaskett has an amazing ability to elicit breathless "oh, my!" moments from his lyrics, and instils a healthy dose of playfulness.

I also love Plaskett's use of his backup singers. These ladies are headliners in their own rights, and you can hear in their voices that they match Plaskett very well - that is, they don't sound like all the other singers out there. I love that he uses these ladies a lot on this entire triple album, and a lot of the time, they sing in unison, a very unique choice for two female backup artists.

A friend once suggested that Plaskett doesn't have a very good singing voice. She said it sounded like he was straining to sing higher than he should. I think that's just the quality of his voice. He's got amazing tonality, or whatever is the proper terminology for one who is able to sing in tune. Even the sweetest songs sorta sound like screamin' rockers; "Natural Disaster," for example.

Friday, July 15, 2011

1/365.

Shall I introduce a series? Sure.

I want to discuss music. Songs. Mostly pop, probably.

My sister says she doesn't really listen to music, and when she does, she sticks to the 80s. I rarely stop listening to music. (I must admit that my music listening has dropped drastically since moving to PEI from Toronto. In TO, I could easily spend 2-3 hours a day walking or on transit with time and ear-holes to fill, but on PEI one rarely walks for anything but exercise, unless you live downtown.)

Anyhow, I just think there's too much good music to stop listening. I'm not bloodthirsty for new music. I'm happy to hear the same old gems over and over.

Hence my choice for 1/365: "Wings of a Dove" by Madness, parenthetically titled (A Celebratory Song). How can you go wrong with a parenthetical title like that?


"Look up at the rooftops, when you're walking 'round/Don't think for a moment of looking down," while steel pans pling away? Choirs? Yes, please.

Why can't more bands today use steel pans?

Madness was a killer band that found success in the early 80s. They had a lot of personnel, a lot of back-beats and brass. I love their extreme musicality which can be almost forgotten behind their flippin' cheeriness. I encourage you to explore their catalogue. You will recognize at least two of their big hits: Our House, and One Step Beyond.

In my fantasy ukulele orchestra, we come up with a wicked arrangement of Wings of a Dove to shock the pants off our stadiums full of fans.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Spinning A Yarn.

My mother, with whom I once again live, told me I wasn't allowed to go to MacAusland's Woolen Mill in Bloomfield, PEI, because every time I go I bring back $60 worth of yarn and barely get through a quarter of it.

Now, to be fair, that is 100% true. I have enough MacAusland's DK in a gorgeous heathered purple to do a sweater and the skeins aren't even balled off yet.

Unfortunately, my mother may poop her pants when she sees the dimensions of the box of yarn I'm going to be getting out of storage next week. It has about 10 skeins of MacAusland's DK, about a dozen factory-made regular worsted, a couple of skeins of sock yarn (a weight which is both embarrassingly and tantalizingly called "fingering"), and lots of beautiful samples that I inherited from a professional knitter friend. The box is about 3'x2'x2' and heavy, and I'm in deep trouble.

It is enough yarn to do about 20 pairs of mitts and 3 sets of knit dolls of every character in The Sound the Music. Including Rolf and the Mother Superior.

Happily, I can throw her small bunker of quilting cotton back in her face if she gets too tsk-y.