Saturday, October 3, 2009


In honor of hand-claps: we tried our best picking authentic claps and not synth-generated ones.


Acid House Kings - "Do What You Wanna Do" (2005)
What I dig about this is that aside from the sleigh bells, handclaps are the primary source of percussion. The bass melody is a poor man's Peter Hook for sure. Tied with The Charade for Best Swedish Band You've Never Heard Of.

Feist - "1234" (2007)
For the record, I was a fan waaay before the ipod commercial! Finger snaps too - bonus! In terms of instrumentation, she throws in everything but the kitchen sink... is that a banjo I hear?

Lykke Li - "I'm Good, I'm Gone" (2008)
There's something sinister and frantic about the loping beat, but it's an irresistible head-nodder.

Rilo Kiley - "Frug" (1999)
Only a handclap intro but this song sparked my love for Jenny Lewis and RK. Saw the video on 120 Minutes - MTV playing videos... who da thunk?

Some Girls - "The Getaway" (2003)
If a handclap subcategory existed, then this would belong under "Golf Claps." Written by the underrated Freda Love, whose unorthodox drumming is quite the delight.


Arcade Fire - "Rebellion (Lies)" (2004)
Blink and you'll miss this single hand-clap that occurs around 3:20.

Elastica - "Connection" (1994)
Great way to wrap up the song with a single string of quick-two-timed hand-claps.

Little Ones - "Lovers Who Uncover" (2006)
Gotta love this little gem's burst of hey-yo's accompanied by of course, hand-claps.

Rilo Kiley - "With Arms Outstretched" (2002)
These hand-claps are nothing to write home about but I do like the sing-a-long and clap-a-long ending.

George Michael - "Faith" (1987)
He even used finger snaps in this song - now that's impressive.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

I don’t know why putting this list together was more difficult than it was. It should have been fairly simple but my Guilty Pleasures list has been in flux for the past few months. There was really no criteria but I ended up eschewing 80s one-hit wonders, hip-hop and "oldies" and for some reason, my list is 90s heavy. In the end, the consensus was that the artist name alone had to elicit some degree of embarrassment and shame in us. Here you have it.


Alanis Morissette - "Head Over Feet" (1995)
I hated "You Oughta Know." And there was that one year at Chinese Youth Camp where you couldn't walk 10 feet without hearing little girls singing "Ironic" in every hallway. This is, however, her finest hour. Showing considerable restraint, she reigns in her weird, (normally) annoying vocal tics and gives us a simple, honest love song. The rest is forgiven.

Song: Great choice and actually the only Alanis song that I like (i particularly like the ending with her random LaLas and showing off her harmonica skills)

Gwyneth Paltrow & Huey Lewis - "Cruisin" (2000)
The guilty pleasurelessness of this song is directly correlated to how obnoxious you find Mrs. Coldplay. By GOOP's mere existence, this song automatically shoots to the top of the GP list. To paraphrase Lewis Black: "If you have a vision of how you want to live your life, and you go onto GOOP and Gwyneth's lifestyle guidance is the vision you had? Kill yourself." In all fairness, her voice is surprisingly pretty great here, and a fine match to Huey Lewis's grizzled croon. Light, clear... in a sense, it's exactly how you'd figure an Ice Princess would sound. The drum machine is corny as all get-out.

Jimmy Ray - "Are You Jimmy Ray?" (1997)
Let's face it - everything about this song is retarded. The lyrics: who are all these Rays people are mistaking him for? Where are the REAL Rays? Fay Wray! Billy Ray! 1/2 of Harlem Heat, Stevie Ray! The video: bikini-clad girls wearing viking helmets and playing double dutch outside a trailer. But looking like the bastard child of Elvis, Brian Setzer, and BrĂ¼no, Jimmy Ray's rascally strut inconceivably turns the song into a catchy showpiece. For the longest time, I thought he sang "with Aretha" instead of "with a reaper," as if he had some celebrated kinship with the Queen of Soul.

Song: I agree it's catchy. Reminds me of Cornershop's "Brimful of Asha" for some reason.
Video: extremely random. No other video features a RV except maybe Radiohead's Street Spirit".

Third Eye Blind - "Never Let You Go" (1999)
In 3eb's heyday, was there anyone more douche-y than Stephan Jenkins? The Sugar Ray guy, perhaps? The falsetto singing is somewhat tolerable, but the spoken word part at the end is utter nonsense. God help me, I like it anyway.

Song: I really wish you had chosen “Semi-charmed Life” but I guess it’s better than “How’s It Going To Be”. Was he really married to Charlize?

Wilson Phillips - "You're In Love" (1990)
I feel compelled to turn in my man-card for revealing this, but dammit, their entire debut album (I had it on cassette) is a guilty pleasure. Their voices worked well together and they were just so puppy dog-eager and enthusiastic, rooting for them was easy! And I had a crush on Chynna.

Song: If you had a gun to my head and asked me to choose a fave WP song - I'd pick either “Release Me” or “Impulsive” (I can't believe I came up with two). And I guess I’ll go with Wendy then.


Aqua - “Barbie girl” (1997)
This is so painful for me to include. I use to own the 12” version of this but I’m not actually sure if we (Ting and I) ever played it at any of our parties.

Lou Bega - “Mambo No. 5” (1999)
This came song came in I believe at the tail end of the “Swing Revival” (see: Brian Setzer, Big Bad VooDoo Daddy, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Squirrel Nut Zippers). But this song actually reminds me more from the likes of Us3’s“Cantaloop”, Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” and Lucas’ “Lucas with the Lid Off”.

Paris Hilton - “Stars Are Blind” (2006)
Yes I did go there and yes, I’m obviously a sucker for reggae beats.

Ace of Base - “The Sign” (1993)
1994 was filled with other guilty pleasures but I went with the original that spawned a decade full of 90s hi-NRG techno songs (see other groups with female vocals with random dude’s ‘rapping’: Real McCoy, LaBouche, etc). This song also flashes me back to LoveBoat along with Enigma’s “Return to Innocence” and Inner Circle’s “Sweat”.

Sugar Ray - “Someday” (1999)
Sad to say but this may not be the only Sugar Ray song that I like (Fly, Falls Apart, When it’s Over, Spinning Away cover). This one has definitely has a nice easy breezy quality to it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cover 2 (Vol. 1)

Here are some of the “better” Covers that we’ve come across. We’ll try to periodically go through a few batches that stand-out to us.


The Corrs - "When The Stars Go Blue" ft. Bono (2002) [Ryan Adams 2001]

OK, I'll admit I'm a big softie because Andrea Corr and Bono dancing is a major reason why I like this cover. But to be clear, I prefer the VH1 Live In Dublin version, not the link above.

Franz Ferdinand - "All My Friends" (2007) [LCD Soundsystem 2007]

Though it sounds like a New Order homage for the most part, the last 30 seconds go haywire, Franz Ferdinand-style.

Girls Against Boys - "She's Lost Control" (1995) [Joy Division 1979]

In a word: HEAVY. If the original was a hospital - clinical, sterile - then the GVSB version would be a strip club. The drums kick hard, the guitars are like nails on a chalkboard - the whole thing is (don't know if I'm using the term correctly) a hot mess. GVSB flip the lyrics around somewhat, and Scott McCloud comes up with this line @ 1:37 mark: "and you turn around and took me by the hand, she said... uh!" which then leads into the main melody... so cool.

Ted Leo - "Since U Been Gone/Maps" (2005) [Kelly Clarkson 2004 & YYYs 2003]

After living in Taiwan for several years, I remember coming back to the US and hearing the original for the first time, pleasantly surpised that it was the work of an American Idol. Leave it to wiki to school me on exactly why these 2 songs mash together so nicely: the transition... of course! Leo's hard and fast strumming is a welcome change to the YYYs' slower, gentler acoustic version, and the "Wait, they don't love you like I love you" lyric is an absolute classic.

The Vandals - "So Long, Farewell" (1998) [Rodgers and Hammerstein 1959]

Pretty straightforward pop-punk cover of the original that loses none of its charm in the translation. Dave Quackenbush totally nails the "Goodbyyyyyyye." Creative fan-made (?) video.


Radiohead – “Nobody Does it Better” (circa 1995) [made famous by Carly Simon 1977]

I actually prefer this version linked than the MTV version which actually shows them performing. But not sure if I prefer this cover over Anna Faris’ version in Lost in Translation.

Ben Fold – “Such Great Heights” (2006) [The Postal Service 2003]

Ben occasionally lags a little on the vocals but I guess he has to catch his breath sometime. I like the arpeggios and the “Macarena” is definitely a bonus. There’s also a decent cover by Rilo Kiley but I can’t tell whether Blake Sennett or Jenny Lewis is singing.

We are Scientists – “Hoppipolla” (circa 2006) [Sigur Ros 2005]

Singing in Icelandic and Hopelandic is no easy feat. Props to Keith Murray for his mimicry or hey, maybe he’s always been familiar with Icelandic. I prefer the live BBC version than the one I have linked. The one linked sounds a little “too clean” as compared to the version that I have which has some imperfections that I appreciate.

The Spinto Band – “I Think We’re Alone Now” (2006) [made famous by Tiffany 1987]

A very-underrated band (which gives me an idea of another post) – see: “Oh, Mandy”. Interesting video: it appears as if they were performing at a wedding. I like how one of the band members has to stand over and play the piano part while the actual guy in front of the piano has to sit there and just watch him. Clever drumming.

Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett) – “This Modern Love” (circa 2005) [Bloc Party 2005]

When I first saw this, I was totally blown away by what he did with looping and still am. Owen bears an uncanny resemblance to Matthew Modine (see Gross Anatomy).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

He Said, She Said

I wanted to include Weezer’s “I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams” and the Lost Patrol’s “Alright” but they simply don’t apply to the rules. Nor do any songs by the Raveonettes or Mates of State. And this has to be the first time I sat down with all the songs and took another listen to the actual lyrics (I’m actually looking at individual lines and not necessarily how everything pieces together – which doesn’t make sense, I know).


Crooked Fingers - "Call To Love" (2005) [with Lara Meyerratken]
Like Matt Sharp, Eric Bachmann is not the purest singer in the world, so he knows to surround himself with ladies who can pretty things up, and Meyerratken's contributions on Dignity and Shame are superb. Her first verse is colorfully direct and awesome (great lyrics in general though):

It's true I heard a birdy say your name
But I'm a straight-talk woman, got no time for games
Don't need my heart kicked around the block no more

u may be a smooth-talking daddy, but I've heard it all before

Jason Collett - "Hangover Days" (2005) [with Emily Haines]
Anything with Emily Haines is gold, so the fetching bass line just adds to this song's luster. It's rare to find bass parts that stay continually interesting throughout, but there's a real sense of whimsy that, even as the notes fade, I begin to miss already. Totally agree with Hobag's "vacationing in Mexico" description. If you like pina coladas...!

The Jesus & Mary Chain - "Sometimes Always" (1994) [with Hope Sandoval]
As far as I'm concerned, THE archetype for the he said/she said genre. Great contrast between the 2 leads: Reid's conversational style and Sandoval's melancholy cooing. Though the song is rather upbeat in pace, there's a certain gloominess in both voices that make them a perfect match. She HAD to take him back... who else could stand them?

The Postal Service - "Nothing Better" (2003) [Ben Gibbard & Jen Wood]

Props to Jen Wood for a fantastic vocal showing on record, but I saw this performed live at The Parish in Austin with Gibbard and Jenny Lewis struttin' around onstage like a modern-day Travolta and Newton-John that totally ruled. I do think that Wood's voice, pretty but sharp and straightforward - as opposed to Lewis's lush, romantic pipes - suits the song better. Nice imagery, with my faves being:

And I will block the door like a goalie tending the net
In the third quarter of a tie game rivalry

I've made charts and graphs that should finally make it clear
Prepared a lecture on why I had to leave

Stars - "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" (2005)
I forgot about this song until Hobag brought it up and was all set to use Smashing Pumpkins' "...Said Sadly" with James Iha and Nina Gordon (super-underrated), but in the end felt Iha's elementary school lyrics really hurt it. "Your Ex-Lover..." on the other hand, with its strings, whispered "live through this" refrain, and guitar-driven ending is dramatic without crushing the story they're telling. They will attempt to repeat the formula on 2007's "Personal." Quite apt that Millan sings about being porcelain since that's how I'd describe her singing: bright and pristine.


The Blood Arm – "Do I Have Your Attention?" (2007) [with Anais]
I think I originally heard this off of Cloverfield with just the lead singer singing. But now check out the duet – with Anais singing in French and wha-la! It’s now 100x better. Actually, it’s the piano that drives this song.

Lush – "Ciao!" (1996) [with Jarvis Cocker]
I love it: Hate is in the air! From the album Lovelife, which also featured the Matt Sharp-referenced “Ladykillers” and the bouncy “500”. I like the way Miki sings this song, with such conviction. You get a feeling she really hates this bastard (oh snap). Check out how she sings:

Well, I've felt better since I slammed that door
You always cramped my style, I never noticed before

It's been a non-stop party since I flew the coop

can't believe I fell for such a loser like you

Good luck, mister, do you think I care?
Since you've been gone the offers have been everywhere

I've got a million guys just lining up for me
I've turned a corner, boy, my life is ecstasy, well

By the way, is that a harmonica or an accordion? I say harmonica but not entirely sure. And here's an old clip of Miki B
erenyi showing she's got some stage presence.

Jesus and Mary Chain – "Sometimes Always" (1994) [with Hope Sandoval]
Hmm, Jim Reid sounds kinda like J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr on this song. When this originally song came out (I was a freshman in Austin – was I listening to K-NACK? can’t seem to remember), but I think I was more familiar with Mazzy Star with “Fade into You”, “Halah”, “Flowers in December”. Their songs can only be described as lazy but I mean that in a good way. But anyways, here in the end, the guy gets the break, but not always…keep reading.

Postal Service – "Nothing Better" (2003) [Ben Gibbard and Jen Wood]
I’ll be the first to say again that I typically don’t listen to the lyrics in a song. But now thinking back, Gibbard wrote 2 memorable opening lines to 2 great songs on Give Up:

Will someone please call a surgeon
Who can crack my ribs

And repair this broken heart

I am thinking it's a sign
That the freckles in our eyes

Are mirror images and when we kiss

They're perfectly aligned

Ok wait a minute, maybe it’s a little too saccharine. But anyways, this time the girl (Jen Wood, not to be confused with Jenny Lewis) gets the last laugh in the end.

Stars – "Your Ex-Lover is Dead" (2005)
When coming up with this list initially, I had it ranked as the weakest but now I think it stands out alone. I like how they sing about a moment they are physically sharing together but they are really internalizing their thoughts or actually externalizing since they are singing, wait...nevermind. I really like the way Amy sings her first line: This scar is a fleck on my porcelain skin. In the end, when the guitars kick in and then the two sing: There's one thing I have to say so I'll be brave - really adds weight to what they finally have to say to each other. I really see it as a happy ending, because at least the feeling is mutual, so no one gets hurt in the end, right? Their video was shot with a nod towards Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Tally of the winners:
Nathaniel vs Anais: ?
Jarvis vs Miki: Miki by a landslide
Jim vs Hope: Jim by default because Hope is so meek
Ben vs Jen: Jen rocks
Torquil vs Amy: even stevens

Honorable Mention:
Positive K - "I Got a Man"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

2:30 and Counting...

After going through our playlists, we realized that there are a lot of songs less than 2:30 or less than 3:00 for that matter (hence narrowing it down to 2:30). But yes, there will be a lot of glaring omissions, especially on my part (i.e. me not including Elastica's "Connection" or "Stutter").


Elastica - "Connection" (1994) [2:20]
The beginning sounds almost robotic in a way... I dig the little "dvuuu" sound effects starting at the 20 second mark - it sounds like the Death Star powering up. I'm a huge Justine Frischmann fan because she just oozes bravado. Her singing has real character and that's rare (though her mystique has been knocked down a few notches after finding out she now lives in Colorado and married an American... booo). This song is also going on my Best Music Video list. Their self-titled record is littered with awesome <2:30 songs.

Elliott Smith - "Somebody That I Used To Know" (2000) [2:09]
I generally steer clear of acoustic, folk-y crap (I'm looking at you, Fleet Foxes!), but this features some nimble string-plucking by Smith and while it starts off gently, it eventually develops an unusual urgen
cy. I wonder if he could play both lead and rhythm parts like Lindsey Buckingham's live version of "Big Love."

The Go! Team - "Hold Yr Terror Close" (2004) [2:21]
I used 2 words to describe this song in my old blog that bears repeating: delicate and winning. It's so childlike it's practically a lullaby. It also sports a fine collection of lyrics, even if I don't understand the meaning of it all. "Why should we all be alone?" "But wait until tomorrow morning, learning to be you is what hurts most. Close your eyes and hold yr terror close." I want to hold Chi Fukami Taylor's hand when I hear this song, but not in any kind of romantic way... honest!

Of Montreal - "My British Tour Diary" (2004) [2:19]
Nice energy, simple lyrics, catchy melody... borders on being twee but not quite. Really captures all
the elements of a great short song - just this refreshing burst of music. Ending seems out of place, like an entirely different song. A Bizarro version of Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out," if you will.

The Pipettes - "The Burning Ambition Of The Early Diuretics" (2006) [1:48]
The angelic cascade of "love love love love"s. 'Nuff said. Debut album also a <2:30 gold mine.

Architecture In Helsinki - "Wishbone"
The Like Young - "Even If It's Getting Late"
Neko Case - "Tightly" (great lyric: "don't you try and stop me, I cling tightly to this life")
Spoon - "Anything You Want"
Wheat - "Slow Fade"


Rancid - "Time Bomb" (1995) [2:24]
By far my favorite Rancid song and part of the punk-ska revival of the 90s including the Offspring (do they count?) For some reason, I can't think of "Timebomb" without thinking of Buck-O-Nine's
one hit wonder "My Town".

Hot Hot Heat - "Goodnight Goodnight" (2005) [2:12]
Catchy tune I believe I caught from Seattle's the end 107.7 on-line a few years back. Now that I'm stuck in LA - I do or did have the luxury of listening to indie 103.1 here before they unfortunately shut down (the economy spares no one).

The Smiths - "Girlfriend in a Coma" (1987) [2:02]
Though my favorite Smiths song would have to be "Ask", I've always enjoyed this little diddy as well. There's a clever juxtaposition of what the Moz is actually singing and the feathery, airy touch of Marr's guitar playing.

Death Cab for Cutie - "Sound of Settling" (2004) [2:12]
I'll be the first to tell you that I know very little about this band other than they are from A. from the Pacific NW B. They have been around for a while and have a loyal fan base C. They blew up when the Pacey character from Dawson's Creek, I mean the guy from the OC started to reference them (A, B, C also applies to The Shins, except substitute him with Natalie Portman in Garden State) D. Transatlanticism was their "break-through" album E. There are still a lot of people wondering if there is going to be another Postal Service album and F. A currently malnourished-looking Ben Gibbard is engaged to s-t's lady love Zooey Deschanel.

Weezer - "Why Bother?" (1996) [2:08]
Ok this is where Weezer went wrong in terms of selling Pinkerton to the mass appeal back in '96. I personally believe (a la Miss Teen USA 2007) that "Why Bother?" should have been the first single released, not "El Scorcho". So if we follow Blue album's suite: "Undone", "Buddy Holly" and "Say it Ain't So"; the release order should have then been: "Why Bother?" then "The Good Life" then "El Scorcho". "El Scorcho" is slow, a little quirky and a drunken sing-along just like "Say it Ain't So" but they thought that El Scorcho's tempo and feel were more in tune with "Undone" and wanted to capitalize on the same success of "Undone". But that's where I disagree; "Why Bother?" was a slam dunk, college radio friendly, pure pop perfection that would have propelled this band to to the top and earned the credit they deserve at that moment in time and not 4-5 years later as a cult hit. By then it was too late, 1/2 of the creative team had already left (see: Matt Sharp) and they have only been a former shadow of themselves since.

The Cranberries - "Salvation"
The Strokes - "12:51" (check out their Tron-esque video)
Smashing Pumpkins - "Bye June"
The Go Team - "Hold Yr Terror Close" (I enjoyed their Coachella 2006 performance)
Vampire Weekend - "A-Punk"

Friday, February 20, 2009

80s Female Vocals


The Bangles - "I'll Set You Free" (1988)
Perhaps it was the allure of Susanna Hoffs, but the Bangles are pretty much the definitive 80s band for me. I picked this over their big-time hits because there's a little more goin' on... the vocal harmonies, the squiggly guitar solo, and the "ad-libbing" Susanna does to close out the song.

The Go-Go's - "Our Lips Are Sealed" (1981)
Our Lips Are Sealed vs Head Over Heels. ¿Quien as mas macho? My favorite part of either song is 0:23 into HOH where Belinda Carlisle snarls the "I" in "I must be losin' it." Both have fantastic bass lines. HOH has the super-catchy keyboard intro (the solo is a tad lame though), but ultimately I find the melody too sugar-y, much like the Bangles' "Manic Monday." Then there are the bridges - OLAS has the bass + Jane Wiedlin while HOH has the bass + hand claps. I'm going with Jane. The Fun Boy Three cover is nice too.

Heart - "These Dreams" (1985)
I much prefer 80s Heart to classic rock Heart. I really like the several moments during the song where Ann Wilson sings the harmony vocal BEFORE Nancy Wilson comes in with the lead vocal (usually it's the other way around, yeah?).

Joan Jett - "Bad Reputation" (1980)
Compared to the other songs on this list, this one is a relatively recent discovery, as the theme song for the dearly-departed Freaks & Geeks. Joan Jett has an iconic voice, powerful and gritty yet sexy. I love the staccato drums and hope to Rock Band it someday.

Scandal - "The Warrior" (1984)
I have fond memories of this old school Charles Barkley highlight video. I wish I could pull off singing this at karaoke.

Honorable mentions:
The Pretenders - "Back On The Chain Gang"; reminds me of Larry Fishburne & co in Cadence. BTW, I don't know why I like that movie.
Blondie - "Tide Is High"


Scandal (Patty Smyth) - "Goodbye to You" (1982)
Suprisingly, I actually came across the song only recently. I think a common thread shared amongst all the songs in this group are all the catchy bass lines, except maybe "Only You'.

The Go-Go's - "Head over Heels" (1984)
Originally I went with my long time favorite "Vacation" but this is a 'spite' pick against Shao-tai since he thinks "Our Lips are Sealed" is more worthy than "Head over Heels". How can you beat the catchy piano intro and the irresistable bass break-down. However I can do without Belinda's 80s dancing in the video. She redeems herself in another video (see below).

Yazoo - "Only You" (1982)
I can't recall if this was part of a group of "slow songs" that were played at Chinese Youth Camp over the summers along with the slow version of Alphaville's "Forever Young", Chris De Burgh's "Lady in Red", etc. The only other tidbit I can share was a cover of this by the Flying Pickets made it as the end song of Wong Kar-Wai's "Fallen Angels" (US Version).

Belinda Carlisle - "Mad about You" (1986)
Props to Belinda for her continued success in her Solo career. She's pretty breathtaking in this video. I think I even owned a pair of those 80s shades that she wears.

The Pretenders - "Don't Get Me Wrong" (1986)
Don't worry, I will find a place to include "Back in the Chain Gang". Simply catchy: the jangly bass and Chrissie Hynde's playful vocals. Lily Allen's cover isn't too shabby either.

Honorable Mentions:
The Bangles - "Eternal Flame", "Manic Monday"
Blondie - "Tide is High"
Heart - "Alone" (I don't watch American Idol, I swear I don't, but I did see an impressive clip of Carrie Underwood singing this)
Fleetwood Mac - "Everywhere" (Check out Vampire Weekend's decent cover)
Pat Benatar - "We Belong"
Swing Out Sister - "Breakout"