Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Random Top Ten!!
Top Ten Police Songs
10. Can’t Stand Losing You
I like how this song both gently mocks and takes seriously the archetype of the breakup song.
9. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Buoyant and joyful, and a great evocation of the feeling of falling in love.
8. Murder by Numbers
The Police do a dark, jazz thing about the business of murder. Wonderfully archetypical.
7. Walking on the Moon
One of the all-time great bass lines.
Best song about a hooker ever?
5. Bring on the Night
That rolling guitar figure just pushes my buttons, not sure why. And I really don’t like reggae!
4. King of Pain
A great lyric and a wonderful way of setting a mood, with that ticking clock intro.
3. Every Breath You Take
Up there with Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA as one of pop music’s all-time most misinterpreted songs. But in the end it’s that stepwise guitar figure that makes the song immortal.
2. Message in a Bottle
A taut little three-act story of a song anchored by a great riff.
1. Synchronicity II
“Many miles away, there’s a shadow on the door, of a cottage on the shore, of a dark, Scottish lake.” A top ten lyric for me.
One of the cool things about working in the city is that performances are happening all around, all the time. And today, in the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center, where I work, Diana Krall did a quick six-song set to promote her new album, Quiet Nights. Now, the acustics in the Winter Garden are pretty horrendous, and I was standing at the back of a big group of people, pretty far from the stage. Still, I got to hear one of the preeminent jazz singers of our time sing for free while I took a half hour break.
That's pretty cool.
Monday, March 30, 2009
In ranking (nearly) all of U2's songs, my original plan was to post on ten songs at a time. But then I realized that I've posted on every song in every album already. And the whole exercise began to feel pretty stale. So - no more song reviews; just the list. Here's how I rank (nearly) all U2 songs. (I haven't slotted the songs from No Line on the Horizon into this yet, as they are too fresh.)
148. 4th Of July
147. Alex Descends Into Hell For A Bottle Of Milk/Korova 1
146. Love Comes Tumbling
145. Two Hearts Beat As One
144. Deep In The Heart
143. The Three Sunrises
142. The Ocean
141. Spanish Eyes
140. The Refugee
138. Elvis Presley And America
137. Drowning Man
136. Wave Of Sorrow (Birdland)
134. The Playboy Mansion
132. I Threw A Brick Through A Window
131. North And South Of The River
129. Like A Song...
128. Lady With The Spinning Head
127. With A Shout
126. Trash, Trampoline And The Party Girl
124. I Fall Down
123. Your Blue Room
121. Falling At Your Feet
120. Walk To The Water
119. Fast Cars
117. Luminous Times (Hold On To Love)
116. Stranger In A Strange Land
115. A Room At The Heartbreak Hotel
114. Summer Rain
113. She's A Mystery To Me
112. If You Wear That Velvet Dress
111. Red Light
109. Dirty Day
107. Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car
105. Indian Summer Sky
104. Some Days Are Better Than Others
103. Sweetest Thing
100. Another Time, Another Place
99. Love And Peace Or Else
97. Is That All?
96. I Trip Thorugh Your Wires
95. Peace On Earth
94. The Ground Beneath Her Feet
93. Last Night On Earth
91. New York
90. An Cat Dubh / Into The Heart
89. God Part II
88. A Man And A Woman
87. Wild Honey
86. Stories For Boys
85. Two Shots Of Happy, One Shot Of Sad
84. Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around The World
82. A Celebration/A Day Without Me
81. If God Will Send His Angels
80. Crumbs From Your Table
78. Get On Your Boots
77. Out Of Control
76. Shadows And Tall Trees
75. Staring At The Sun
74. Mothers Of The Disappeared
73. 11 O'Clock Tick Tock
72. Hawkmoon 269
71. Miracle Drug
70. Silver And Gold
69. A Sort Of Homecoming
68. When Love Comes To Town
65. So Cruel
64. Angel of Harlem
62. Electrical Storm
60. In A Little While
59. In God's Country
58. Mysterious Ways
57. The Electric Co.
56. I Will Follow
54. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
53. The First Time
52. Even Better Than The Real Thing
51. Van Diemen's Land
50. Until The End Of The World
48. Slow Dancing
47. Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of
46. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
45. The Hands That Built America
44. Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
42. The Wanderer
41. One Step Closer
40. Do You Feel Loved
38. All Because Of You
37. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
36. Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
35. Red Hill Mining Town
34. With Or Without You
31. One Tree Hill
30. Bullet The Blue Sky
29. Love Rescue Me
28. The Unforgettable Fire
25. Original Of The Species
24. Zoo Station
23. Running To Stand Still
22. The Fly
20. New Year's Day
19. Wake Up Dead Man
18. Miss Sarajevo
17. Window In The Skies
16. When I Look At The World
15. Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
14. Love Is Blindness
12. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
11. City Of Blinding Lights
10. All I Want Is You
7. Beautiful Day
6. Sunday Bloody Sunday
3. Walk On
1. Where The Streets Have No Name
Friday, March 27, 2009
1. "Dice are Rolling" - Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice - Evita (Original Broadway Cast)
Evita's moment of triumph, as she convinces her husband to take power.
2. "Nobody Needs to Know" - Jason Robert Brown - The Last Five Years (Original Cast Recording)
A great example of a slow-burn song that build and builds slowly but surely over its length. Nicely dramatic.
3. "A Call to Arms" - James Horner - Glory
A simply glorious score - has the Harlem Boys Choir ever been put to more effective use?
4. "Part of Your World (Reprise)" - Alan Menken and Howard Ashman - The Little Mermaid (Original Broadway Cast)
As much as I love the Broadway Beauty and the Beast score, I never really got into this one.
5. "Bulldog of Bermen" - Thomas Newman - Cinderella Man
And as much as I love Newman, I've never really fallen in love with this score.
6. "Mornin', Lawyer, Lookin' for Somebody?" - George Gershwin - Porgy and Bess
A plot-moving scene. As much as I love P&B, the recitative scenes have never done much for me.
7. "Sheer Perfection" - Alan Menken and Time Rice - King David
A beautiful oratorio that I really wish had taken off into a full stage version. This is a sweet, slightly resigned little ballad - very classic Menken-sounding.
8. "If I Can't Love Her" - Alan Menken and Tim Rice - Beauty and the Beast (Original Broadway Cast)
There we go. My favorite Menken song.
9. "100 Years" - Five for Fighting
Got this for the wife. Not my cuppa.
10. "Jesse James" - Bruce Springsteen - The Seeger Sessions
A wonderful rave-up of a song.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Weren't Juliet and Ben a couple in New Otherton? and if so, doesn't that mean that Adult Ben remembered the mechanic from when he was a kid when she came to the island? And isn't that a little creepy?
- Chris Meloni is as good as legend would have it as the bat-shit crazy camp cook. He hedges the performance not one bit, committing fully to the character's unhinged lunacy.
- The kids. By and large, they cast very well, and elicited great, non-grating or show performances from the campers.
- Jeneane Garofolo and David Hyde-Pierce, who not only have surprisingly good chemistry, but nail the balance the film calls for between parody and sincerity.
Three things I did not like about Wet Hot American Summer:
- How unevenly the cast and film nailed that balance. WHAS isn't an out and out parody the way Airplane was, but it's not just a goofy comedy film set in the 80s either. It's a very schizophrenic mix of parody and original absurdist humor, and while at times that mix worked great, at other times it felt very disjointed.
- That they filmed (per the bonus features) and didn't use the 10-years later flash-forward reunion. That looked funny.
- The comedy. Not really. It was very funny. But I couldn't help but feeling throughout that it should have been funnier.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Given that U2 will be doing stadiums in the Fall I am more optimistic than I expected to be about getting tickets. And as I've been thinking about the tour, I've been trying to predict what songs will make the cut this go-round. So, assuming that they stick to the Vertigo model and do 16 or so songs and then a six-song encore, what will we hear?
From the new album
The four songs they have already played live during the promotional tour are gimmes:
- Get On Your Boots
- I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
From the new album, I'd also expect to hear:
- No Line on the Horizon (I'm going to peg this as the opener, a la the ZOO TV tour opening with "Zoo Station")
- Moment of Surrender (the requisite ballad)
- Unknown Caller
That leaves 15.
From How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, I'd expect them to keep:
- All Because of You
- City of Blinding Lights
That leaves 12.
From All That You Can't Leave Behind, I'd expect them to keep:
- Beautiful Day
That leaves 11.
Dipping into the U2 live staples, expect the following to remain in the setlist; the songs fans would revolt upon not hearing and that the band can't seem to give up:
- Where the Streets Have No Name
- Bullet the Blue Sky
- New Year's Day
- Sunday Bloody Sunday
- Pride (In the Name of Love)
- Mysterious Ways
That leaves 4.
Expect them to dig out an oldie they haven't played in a long time, like they did last tour. I'm guessing it will be Out of Control.
That leaves 3.
Expect them to go back a tour or two and pull out a live favorite or two they don't have to relearn.
- Until the End of the World
- The Fly
The Saints Are Coming cover? They already learned it and it's a left-field choice.
So - my projected set list- in order of how I think it will unfold?
No Line on the Horizon
Get On Your Boots
Moment of Surrender
I'll Go Crazy if I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
Out of Control
Until the End of the World
The Saints Are Coming
New Years Day
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Bullet the Blue Sky
Where the Streets Have No Name
City of Blinding Lights
Pride (in the Name of Love)
All Because of You
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
"Part of the joy of watching a theatrical repertory company is seeing the actors play a variety of parts. Television especially is our national repertory theater and seeing a variety of performances from a single actor is part of the pleasure it gives us."
That's from the #21st installment of Tom Stempel's "Understanding Screenwriting" series over at The House Next Door. That you should be reading both the blog and this series there goes without saying. But I just loved this particular quote, and how it encapsulated the joy i get when I see an actor from one shoe pop up on another show.
I always thought I did. But in recent years, I've wondered more and more. Not if I like it at all - I do - but if I'm really a fan. I can't decide. Maybe you can. The evidence.
- As a kid I read Lloyd Alexander's Prydain series at least three times.
- I've never read the Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit and The Fellowship, and the beginning of The Two Towers, yes. But not any more. Nor do I particularly want to.
- I read in high school the first two Shannara trilogies, and loved them.
- In college I tried (twice) to get into The Eye of the World, the first book in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, reading hundreds of pages. Never happened, and I never finished it.
- I've seen all three Lord of the Rings films multiple times, and love them dearly.
- I am now reading George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I am loving it, much to my surprise. I expected to not really like it enough to invest time in such a massive series (I only picked it up because news of the HBO series intrigued me), but was rapidly sucked in.
- I played D&D sporadically in high school and college, but never that regularly.
- Stephen King is my favorite author.
- I read comic books (but find explicitly "fantasy" comics boring).
- I am a fair-to-middling Star Wars nerd, and have read a good dozen or so of the novels.
- Apart from what I listed above, I don't know that I've ever read any other fantasy novels.
So - what say you?
Friday, March 20, 2009
So according to iTunes, these are the 10 songs I have played most often over the past year and a half.
10. Spirit on the Water, Bob Dylan - 29 plays
When I got Modern Times I listened to it a lot. This is the second track, and since I will often listen to an album and not finish it, this ends up pretty high.
9. Hoop de Doo, The Wiggles - 30 plays
The kids have a bunch of CDs in iTunes, and thew Wiggles CD is a favorite.
8. Open Spaces - Johnny Greenwood - 30 plays
The opening track to Greenwood's score for There Will Be Blood, which makes great "tune out the office" music.
7. Thunder on the Mountain, Bob Dylan - 30 plays
The first song on Modern Times
6. Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car - The Wiggles - 31 plays
The first song on that CD.
5. Imagine - Jordis Unga - 31 plays
The Wife and I both love this version, so it gets a lot of play.
4. Central Park, New York, The Wiggles - 32 plays
Not really sure why this is higher than some of the other Wiggle songs.
3. Jingle Bells, Ella Fitzgerald - 33 plays
A Christmas favorite that the girls and I like a lot.
2. Over the Rainbow - Wonderful World, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - 35 plays
This is likely the Wife's favorite song, so it appears on most of her playlists.
1. Get On Your Boots, U2 - 36 plays
I got the single weeks before the album, so it got a lot of play.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I've been watching the new animated Clone Wars series and have been pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy it. Part of this is just the sheer fun of seeing those many glorious Clone War battles that Obi-Wan hinted at 32 years ago. But an even bigger part is the sheer quality of the action. See, as a big Marvel fan I was very excited when the company first started rolling out animated movies on DVD a few years back. I mean, an animated Ultimates film sounded just brilliant. But the animation itself, when unveiled, was clumsy and non-compelling, and not much better than the animation in those old 90s Marvel X-Men and Spider-Man series. Limited and not good to look at.
Maybe I've just been spoiled by Disney and Pixar. They don't (aside from the brilliant Incredibles) really do action/super-hero movies, but the action scenes they do do are always wonderfully kinetic and realized. Think of the final scene in the original Toy Story. Or the door-chase in Monster's Inc. Or even the fights in Pocohontas. That level of sophistication delivered to a Captain America film would be just a great thing. But that's not what we got.
But it is what Lucas is delivering on Clone Wars. The first episode I saw was the Yoda ep, and the quality of the action scenes was just great. And with each episode I've seen that level is being upheld. It's fun, engaging, and thrilling Star Wars action. And for that, I thank Lucas.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Random Top Ten!!!
Top Ten Mandy Patinkin Songs
10. "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"
This is for me the archetypal Patink performance. Start off slow and build to an impassioned, slightly manic finish.
9. "If I Loved You"
Here, he takes this model and expands on it. Just when you think he's done he comes back with a final, bellowed, gorgeous repeat of the final verse.
8. "Color and Light"
The "blue-red-blue-red" sequence is a tour de force. Who else could convey pointillism so well musically?
7. "Loving You"
A delicate, haunting rendition of this slow, sorrowfully happy song from Passion.
6. "Over the Rainbow"
Is this the greatest song ever? It might be.
5. "I Wish I Could Forget You"
Listen to his deep register here. Puts the lie to the notion that all he;s got going is that falsetto tone.
4. "Oh What a Circus"
The original recipe, and his introduction to the theater world. What an entrance.
3. "Finishing the Hat"
A more convincing expression of the miracle of the artistic process has never been sung.
2. "Casey Medley"
A seamless joining of "Casey," Randy Newman's "Marie," and Charles Strouse's achingly beautiful "Once Upon a Time." Probably my all-time favorite medley.
1. "Lesson #8"
Makes the hairs on my arm stand up, every damn time.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I'm watching War Games currently, a movie I haven't seen in many years. I may have seen this film in the theaters when it was originally released in 1983, when I would have been nine years old. I had forgotten what a good little movie it is - how good Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy are (and how cute Ally Sheedy is!) as the naive teens at the center of the plot; how suspenseful that last sequence really is; how good Dabney Coleman is doing his Dabney Coleman thing.
I usually don't do this, but I didn't really want to watch this twice on rental, so I've been watching with the commentary on (I usually only listen to commentaries after seeing the movie fresh), and have been entertained by how candid the commentators (director John Badham and writers Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes) are about the film. It gets almost comical as they point out fudge after fudge after fudge. No, they probably wouldn't have bothered to remove the chairs from the missile command rooms after the computers took over. No, computers in high schools in 1983 would not have been linked to modems. No, the speech replicator that lets Joshua talk didn't exist, nor would it certainly have worked on non-speakered computers! No, NORAD isn't that big. No, NORAD wouldn't have had tour groups randomly passing through.
The excuse for almost all of these cheats is that they are needed for tension and that the movie is better for them. Especially that computer voice thing. Which sounds on the surface like a cop out. But isn't. After all, the movie does work, even if a small part of you is wondering where the speaker is. And that's what, in the end, matters.
This is a great commentary, both for this fun frankness and for the structural details they note and talk about. Like the idea that sometimes in a script you want the audience behind, not totally clear on what's happening (like during most of that opening sequence in the missile command bunker), while at others you want the audience ahead of your characters (like when we know, but Broderick and Sheedy don't, that the game they are playing is having real-world effects). And they have obvious affection for the film and the kids (if less so for Dabney Coleman, who they hint at being difficult to work with, even as they admit that his ideas helped the film).
Commentaries can be very hit-or-miss. This is a palpable hit.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
- The design - costumes, sets, props - all worked seamlessly to evoke a very specific time and place. Even the architecture - the split-level house, the big, open windows, all very specific to that era. And the way they got the ice storm itself, and its effects, on screen was brilliant - I assumed they filmed in a real ice storm, but it was apparently Spring when they filmed!
- The acting - Both the parents and the kids were all very well-drawn by the cast, with Christina Ricci in particular doing a fine job of portraying that fine line between girl and woman.
- The score - a very effective use of minimal music, so that the music that is there works very effectively. I'm a film music fan, and usually prefer more music, but this worked.
Three things I did not like about The Ice Storm.
- Elijah Wood getting electrocuted. In a film that so diligently avoided plot machinations, and was so focused on the small and sublime, the sudden jump to such an immense tragedy was off-putting and took me out of the movie.
- That the Sigourney Weaver and Jamey Sheridan characters got so relatively little focus. I felt as if we knew the Kevin Kline and Joan Allen characters much better, but didn't feel that was really the intention.
- The preacher character. It felt as if something got left on the cutting room floor there.
Monday, March 02, 2009
1. "No Line on the Horizon"
An excellent opener. U2 has for a while no been opening their albums with the first single, meaning that the new album's sound and feel has been introduced by a more radio-friendly song ("Beautiful Day," "Vertigo," "Discotheque"). Here, they revert to the Joshua Tree/Achtung Baby gambit of opening the album with a bit of a more challenging cut that more clearly lays out the album's sonic blueprint. I love how the driving two-chord guitar figure in the verses modulates down; it's a great mood setter, and I love how that insistent beats yields at the verses to a more open sound. And that "No, no line on the horizon" melody is a great bit of spare hook writing.
Every U2 album, it seems, has a song that at least nods to the "classic" U2 sound - ringing, helicopter guitars, driving bass and drums, impassioned vocals - and this is NLOTH's. I don't at this stage think this is going to crack the pantheon of favorite U2 songs, but it's a fine example of its type.
3. "Moment of Surrender"
The album's big ballad. Every U2 album has one, and this is one of the greats, no "One," but close. I absolutely am enchanted by the way Bono enters into it with a big bellow at the absolute top of his range - completely counter-intuitive, and very effective. There are some very nice gospel harmonies working here as well on the chorus, and the very churchy organ does a lot of work in the background to tie the song together.
4. "Unknown Caller"
There's a moment late in this song when the chords rise up step-wise and a regal french horn chimes in with a beautiful, uplifting quick burst of sound. 30 years in and U2 can still pull off the new. Some have called Bono's use of cell phone metaphors cheesy, but I think they work perfectly in the context of the song.
5. "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight"
A concentrated burst of pop power. The bouncy, up and down feel of the verses is just infectious, and I love the irrelevant feel to the lyrics. A more mature, successful attempt at what they tried with "The Sweetest Thing."
6. "Get On Your Boots"
Makes much more sense in the context of the album than it does as a single, kind of like "The Fly" did, even if it's less lasting and serious than that critical Achtung Baby track. The verses may be kind of forgettable, all Elvis Costello pastiche, but that chorus is inspired, with a sly chord progression that gives it the faintest hint of Middle Eastern exoticness.
7. "Stand Up Comedy"
A bounce-up-in-your-seat bit of mildly funky rock, kind of as if the Red Hot Chili Peppers tried to do a U2 song. "Stop trying to help God across the street like a little old lady" is a classic Bono song. U2 have tried songs with this kind of swaggering attitude before, but never as successfully.
8. "FEZ - Being Born"
The one song that could have worked on Zooropa, what with the ambient, clicks-and-whirrs opener that yields to a minor-key urgent U2 rock song. Some unidentifiable part of me absolutely loves the way that we hear the "Let me in the sound" refrain from "Get On Your Boots" echoed here as if its drifting in from another room.
9. "White As Snow"
I'm a big fan of taking classic melodies and recontextualizing them in rock songs, so I love this quiet, weary ballad, which takes the form of the melody from "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and repurposes it quite beautifully. The delicate, almost reluctant guitar lines are exquisite.
One more big U2 rocker before the familiar hushed close. Big, meaty guitar and chiming piano lines mark this as U2 even as Bono's near-rapped vocals mark it as a detour. Those staccato verses shouldn't work, but they do. And the big-leap "These DAYS" of the chorus are just classic Bono.
11. "Cedars of Lebanon"
It's no "Love Is Blindness," but that old U2 trick of ending on a melancholy, subdued, somewhat pessimistic note still works well. It's that almost jazz-like drum beat that makes the song for me - this is musically more of a successor to "Please" than anything else.