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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Presidents of the United States of America - "Kitty"

As a kid I only owned a few albums that I listened to over and over. Sixteen Stone by Bush, Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette, the Dangerous Minds soundtrack, and the self-titled debut by The Presidents of the United States of America. The Presidents are an interesting group. They are a trio who write pop songs about animals and cars. The song being highlighted today epitomizes their songwriting style. 

"Kitty" is a song about, well, you guessed it, a cat. It's a stray cat who's looking for a place to stay and for someone to give it some loving. Unfortunately, like most cats, it becomes unsatisfied and attacks the hand that pets it.

This song stirs up some wonderful childhood memories because it reminds me of a great dog: my friend Ben's dog, Jenny. This song opens up with the group meowing. Every single time we would listen to this song, Jenny would think a real cat was in the room and start barking at the speakers. Here's to you, Jenny.  I hope you're out there somewhere enjoying this song.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

"The Night Santa Went Crazy" - Weird Al Yankovich

Weird Al is the quintessential parody artist. A career spanning over 30 years, longer than most of the artists he has parodied, Weird Al has achieved notoriety out of an accordion and the ability to hilariously parody any genre, as well as write his own original songs. When trying to pick a song from his vast catalog, I had to think long and hard. The easy choice would have been "Amish Paradise", which was his biggest hit, but I strayed from his hits to go with my personal favorite song, "The Night Santa Went Crazy".

"The Night Santa Went Crazy" is a parody of "Black Gold" by Soul Asylum with a touch of "Mama, I'm Coming Home" by Ozzy Osbourne. It tells the tale of Santa snapping and going on a murdering spree. Weird Al states that after all these years Santa realizes he has gotten the raw deal and can no longer withstand Christmas. He goes on to murder elves and reindeer and is eventually captured by the FBI and imprisoned for 700 years.

I have always loved this song ever since I was a little kid and to this very day I still get a great big smile on my face when it comes on. So, what is your favorite Weird Al song?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

"Fear of the Dark" by Iron Maiden

Ever since I was a little child I have had a fear of the dark. Fear of the dark is one of the most common fears to present itself to mankind. It is easy to understand why people have this fear. Darkness causes mankind to no longer be able to see. Even rooms and places in which we have been thousands of times in our life lose their sense once the darkness comes. Our eyes play tricks on us and we envision creatures that go bump in the night.

This song is about that phobia. Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden, tells a tale of a man who walks by himself as the lights start to dim and darkness closes in all around him. As the world gets dark he start to see horror movie figures and folklore characters in the flickering shadows.

"Fear of the Dark" is one of Iron Maiden's longer songs and is constantly switching up pace and heaviness. It is a fan favorite and an absolute favorite of mine.

Friday, May 2, 2014

"What have you been listening to?"

I always felt that this was a strange question. To people who know me, I'm The Music Guy. In an effort to spark conversation, people often ask me what I've been listening to. Well, I go through music phases like I imagine everyone else does, but not all that often. I like switch it up so I don't get bored. There's nothing worse than overplaying a song, album, band, to the point where you lose sight of what drew you to them in the first place. So when I'm asked what I've been listening to, I'm usually stumped. I feel like I failed a classic interview question (What are your strengths? How would you help this company grow? Why you?). How do I answer this question without fabricating a playlist that I probably haven't been exclusively listening to?

I panic, I stutter, I spit out the first band name that comes to mind. The Afghan Whigs. They recently released their first studio album in 16 years, entitled Do to the Beast, and it is quite an effort. They have had the benefit of skipping the worst decade of music in the modern era, otherwise known as the '00s, and were able to pick up right where they left off with their unique brand of '90s rock. They have somehow managed to create an extremely '90s sounding record in the year 2014 without sounding the least bit dated. It's somewhat of an anomaly in the sense that it actually works. I will go as far as saying it's actually necessary. Many bands reunite just for the sake of reuniting and for an easy paycheck. Not the Whigs though. No, they reunited because frontman Greg Dulli still had more to say. He still had a sound he wanted to project, and the Whigs are the necessary outfit for him to do so. While this album may not live up to the high standards they have set for themselves with prior masterpieces such as Gentlemen and Black Love, it certainly sets its own precedent for reunion albums. The first single, "Algiers", is easily towards the top of my "Best Songs of 2014 Thus Far, Even Though There Haven't Been That Many Great Songs Released in 2014 Thus Far" list, "The Lottery" recalls the intro to "John the Baptist" but soon becomes its own song and rocks hard, and "These Sticks" closes out the album in the traditional Afghan Whigs album-closer style, starting out slow and constantly building until it reaches a hard hitting climax.

If you asked me four years ago what I've been listening to, I might have said The Stone Roses. When I first started listening to their self-titled classic, I had to listen to it at least twice a month or else I'd have gone insane. It's what I craved. If you asked me two years ago what I've been listening to, I might have said Clockwork Angels by Rush. It came out in 2012 and turned out to be their best album since 1982 (Signals). I went through a phase where I listened to nothing on my iPod but that one album for roughly a month straight. And if you asked me at any point over the past six months what I've been listening to, my answer would have been (and will continue to be for the foreseeable future), aside from The Afghan Whigs, which was a panic answer, Seventh Wonder. Since discovering them, I've listened to them more than any other band. They have yet to grow stale on me. I finish one album and immediately start another one of theirs. I finish that one and I immediately start the third one. I finish that and go right back to the first! It's becoming a bit of a sickness and I need to get back to the point where when someone starts conversation with me ("Hey Steve! What's up? Great weather, huh? So what have you been listening to lately?") I immediately tell them "Hey, yeah, not really sure what I've been listening to. I'm kind of just listening to everything - Funkadelic, Pavement, The Velvet Underground, Dylan - ya know, a mixture of everything I like." Variety is the spice of life. Cliche or not (it is), it's true, especially for music.

So, what have you been listening to?