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Putting 'Friday' to Rest

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack March 23, 2011 07:18 PM

Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” and all jokes pertaining to it, died Wednesday. It was three weeks old.

It is survived by its parents, the Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling” and Usher’s “OMG.”

“We are shocked and saddened that this song was deemed too ubiquitous and offensive to even continue to joke about,” said the parents, reached on Laserdisc. “It should’ve been us.”

“Friday” passed away shortly after 12 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, after a joke about the song was literally yawned out by an infant. The song then decided that it could not continue living, its parents confirmed.

Memorial services will be held on The Wendy Williams Show for the next seven months. In memoriam, it will act as the show’s theme song, entirely unironically.

“Friday’s” highlights include being played at a college party once by mistake, when the guy who was hosting left his laptop temporarily to use the bathroom and a rogue friend thought it would be funny to plug his iPod into the aux-in port. It wasn’t.

A four-year-old in Flint, Mich. also dubbed it “pretty good” last Tuesday before changing the channel and falling asleep in her mom’s Chrysler Town & Country.

En lieu of flowers, donations can be made to iTunes in the name of The Beatles, that new Arcade Fire album, or that weird indie rock band that you loved when you saw them in concert that one night but didn’t buy their album, even though they’re now eating Saltine and mustard sandwiches for dinner and working at The Home Depot when they’re not touring.

It’s where your money should’ve been going to begin with.

Today's Soundtrack: Little Comets - Friday Don't Need It

Top 100 Songs of 2010: 70-61

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack February 2, 2011 07:39 PM

70 - Passion Pit - Tonight, Tonight (Smashing Pumpkins cover)

I conducted an informal poll on this original song a few months back and found out that this might be one of those niche things that secretly unites our nation: If someone explicitly remembers “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins, he or she is almost assured to have positive feelings about it.

Really. Ask some friends how they feel about this song. They’ll all respond like this band’s bassist bought them lunch at some point for no discernible reason. (“Aw! That song was really nice!”) For some reason, we banded together as one—a nation holding hands and sharing the same 72 oz. Slurpee—and decided we could all get past Billy Corgan’s voice and like this song as a country. This is the Shaquille O’Neal of stirring rock songs.

I’m glad we decided to do that and no one has asked questions. It must’ve been the strings.

69 - Sarah Jaffe - Perfect Plan

This song wouldn’t be on this list if she didn’t get Ronaldinho to play the kickdrum.

68 - Rocky Votolato - Red River

How some people used to write patriotic songs:

“And you'll be sorry that you messed with the U-S-of-A.
'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass.
It's the American way.”

--Toby Keith, 2002. (This song was #25 on the Hot 100. I don’t know what to say to that.)

How people now tend to write patriotic songs:

“This is what life feels like on the ground
I had a brother who was stationed up in Northern Hill Country
You know he never really came home ...

A black Levis jacket knocking them beers back on the bank of that river
Underneath September skies inside the U.S. border
He made his peace there—just after his boots filled up with water”

--Rocky Votolato, 2010.

We’ve progressed!

Please, lord, tell me we’ve progressed.

67 - Javier Dunn - Animal (Miike Snow cover)

This is one of those situations where someone has written genuine, heartfelt lyrics about deep depression/a lost love one/a girlfriend that wound up being a serial killer and tries to mask it with synths and a great hook.

Gotcha now, Miike Snow! Can’t hide your good lyrics in a club song anymore. Javier Dunn made your song all pretty-like.

Good luck, man. Last time this happened it was “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. And that Cee-Lo Green guy was never heard from again.

66 - Gobble Gobble - Lawn Knives

Know what’s funny? The ground used to have places with grass on it. You could walk on it with shoes on and not get wet.

No, really. This is how it used to be.

65 - Meligrove Band - Bones Attack!!!

“Bones Attack!!!” is a perfect example of a new subgenre called Triumph Music, which is music that sounds like it should be accompanying a pivotal, uplifting part of an indie movie. But, since it usually isn’t, it serves an entirely separate purpose as the penultimate background noise for menial tasks.

It’s the ideal accompaniment to your day if you’re looking for music that will make you feel really good about the fact that you know how to use a toaster.

Put this song on and do your laundry. You will have done the bejesus out of your laundry.

64 - Ben Folds & Nick Hornby - From Above

It’s too bad Ben Folds didn’t come along with us to be one of those era-defining songwriters for anyone under 50. No, not a “stuffed cabbage is the darling of the laundromat”-era Bob Dylan-type. I’m not sure we need a songwriter to explain current events to us anymore because I’m not sure we’d listen.

Ben Folds was already doing very good job of describing exactly the experiences we were going through and exactly how we were going through them.

He got so good at this that it, frankly, started to piss some reviewers off at all of those music reviewing websites. They complained about things he couldn’t change (he played piano! His voice was really different than the guy from The National!), he took it to heart, and he has now spent his last three albums writing about how much he hates bloggers and fat women at Wal-Mart.

Don’t we all.

This kind of behavior is apparently completely prohibitive to a lifestyle in which one might also write a great lyric. Like, say, “Well, I see some old friends sort of die or just turn into whatever must’ve been inside them.” Which is now at least a little ironic, I’d say, given the information we have now.

So he called on Nick Hornby to fix things for him, get him back on the right track. Some things really hit on a pop-level. Like From Above. That’s why it’s here. But they don’t connect in any other way.

There are some demos kicking around on very old, burned CDs here that show a guy struggling to figure out why things work. They’re all hastily recorded and tapes of taped-over tapes, but they show real time and experience and, in turn, value. Maybe he’ll get back to that eventually.

63 - Nathaniel Rateliff - Laughing

But maybe it’s no longer the role of musicians to tell us exactly how it is at any given time. Maybe that’s what Louis C.K. is for. It was in 2010, at least.

62 - Zeus - Marching Through Your Head

Best development in music this year: There are bands using all of the fun parts of Blood, Sweat and Tears (horns, developed harmonies), but they’re not comprised of kids who just got out of college and have a hole in their lives where their a capella group and/or marching band used to be.

They’re actually capable of being subtle. And being very rock and roll.

Exhibit A:

61 - Fyfe Dangerously - When You Walk in the Room

If you listen closely, you can hear every British 16-year-old picking up his guitar, wanting to be this guy.

Top 100 Songs of 2010: 80-71

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack January 6, 2011 03:55 PM

NOTE: Songs 100-91 are located here.
Songs 90-81 are located here.

80 - Ray LaMontagne - Beg Steal or Borrow

We’re going to be talking a lot about pop music today. It’s the New Year and you should be reminded that Top-40 stations in this still infantile decade are mostly doing a public service: They are America’s splash of ice water after forcing yourself to listen to talk radio for more than ten minutes.

God bless you, Beyonce. You’ve saved us all. In so many ways.

Anyways, Ray LaMontagne finagled his way onto some Top-40 stations this year. Not sure how it happened. He probably convinced a Viacom rep that he was James Taylor, but that he had a Cat Stevens-like conversion and became a Mennonite.

In a utopian future, I feel like this is the new elevator music. It’s what they’ll play at CVS while you buy gold-encrusted future shampoo and flying car polish and try to talk yourself out of spending three dollars on the bag of Riesens that’s been sitting there since 1997.

79 - Fresh & Onlys - Waterfall

“You and I know from the radio that the radio never lies / and the radio said that the TV’s dead ... but the TV said you can’t believe everything you hear.”

I just read that Boston Herald sports columnist Steve Buckley came out of the closet. It’s very, very early as I’m typing this, so pardon me if this reaction is too visceral or too sweeping.

But, damn, I’m proud of this guy.

I don’t want to extrapolate too long-windedly here, but I spent a lot of time being a very bad reporter at Red Sox games for the Globe last year. I was horrendous, just bumbling from place to place for hours on end. I’m pretty sure John Smoltz thought I was a lost puppy. This would explain so many things.

I do a lot of pro sports reporting, still, but there’s really no place like a Red Sox press room. And I mean that in every pejorative, shady way you read it. Maybe it ages very well and you develop a palette for it, like foie gras or something. I doubt it.

But, if it does, Steve Buckley is in that place. He makes that area work. He is a gem of an adult in a Boston sports media sphere that is filled to the brim with six-year-olds with hurt feelings and giant heads.

Again, this is probably the hour, but I’m spending actual, human minutes that were given to me to be on this Earth to go through the Herald’s comments section tonight. (I know. Email me and I’ll give you the address where you can send me my medal.)

The response is overwhelmingly positive. How couldn’t it be? This is a heartfelt, emotional story coming from a guy who generally knows how to craft such things. Here’s a paragraph that shouldn’t have to be written, but he does it with remarkable grace.

But during this same period, I have read sobering stories about people who came undone, killing themselves after being outed. These tragic events helped guide me to the belief that if more people are able to be honest about who they are, ultimately fewer people will feel such devastating pressure.

There are those commenters, however, that worry for the sake of the players in the locker room. These poor players! How can this now outed gay man ever conduct himself properly around these semi-naked, mostly-fat, mostly rude baseball players?

This has been planted in their heads by the same bigoted talking heads that harbored the same anachronistic thought process that would’ve kept women out of the locker room 20 years ago. Then we wouldn’t have had, say, Jackie MacMullan, who is one of the best sportswriters this city has ever had.

I’m sure those millionaires will grow to be fine with it. If not, they’ll eventually grow up, but they probably won’t be as brave as Buck was when he hit ‘send’ on his story.

78 - Menomena - Tithe

This song is capable of giving me the chills.

77 - Uffie - Neuneu

Let’s talk about Ke$ha.

Please, don’t recoil in horror immediately. This isn’t the unedited script of The Last Airbender. You’re okay. And you’re with Ke$ha, remember. You just have to hate her out loud. It’s weird to admit that, but you are.

From all that I’ve read about Ke$ha, she completely sucks as a person. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I’ve read too many interviews at this point, and every interviewer secretly wants to shove her in a bag and sell her to the Chinese. It burns through the page like holy water in a Dan Brown novel. Features in Complex (this month) and Rolling Stone (over the summer) include some variation of this sentence:

“She very clearly slept her way to the top, as evidenced by this oft-repeated story about her vomiting in Paris Hilton’s closet (really), and—don’t tell her I said this—she smells like a BLT, but she’s really smart. Fifteen-hundred on the SAT!”

So I tried to like her. I failed. It happens.

She might be good for music anyway.

Look, “Tik Tok” did some interesting things for a pop song.

It starts off with an 8-bit synthesizer. It eventually uses it like a sample, but doesn’t just repeat it over and over again like an Usher song. It has a dynamic bridge. It does things musically, on purpose.

It’s going to make it so people can find out about artists who have been doing this for a while—but focus more on the music-making than the closet-vomiting. Uffie, for example, exists in this capacity.

76 - Love in Stockholm - The Tally

Call me dumb, maybe a little soft, or slightly weakly willed, but I don’t truly understand the appeal of local music.

In fact, let’s back up: Just call me “cotton ball brains.” That seems to encompass all of those things. Call me that. That sounds like a cool nickname.

Sorry. We were talking about local music. What I’m trying to say is that it’s bad. Almost always objectively bad.

Sure, I could go to the converted basement of a guy named Dan and hear some 19-year-old sing about why his dad doesn’t love him while a bunch of girls with headbands on nod in agreement and drink Poland Springs vodka. This how I could spend my Saturdays.

Or! Or I could punch all of my teeth out one-by-one with a bandsaw.

These two things, stacked right there next to each other, are both valid options.

So local music is a usually infuriating, always trying, and a sometimes physically painful waste of time.

Until you see Love in Stockholm.

Someone willed me to see them with some Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You-level Kennedian rhetoric on Halloween night this year. She should receive an award.

“They sound like Maroon 5 if they had any edge or character whatsoever,” she said.

Deep down, isn’t that what everyone secretly wants out of a band? For them to sound like Maroon 5, if Maroon 5 liked dirty guitar solos and if anyone in Maroon 5 ever had a real problem that needed to be dealt with and possibly couldn’t be fixed?

The answer is yes. That’s all you want.

They played Sgt. Peppers in its entirety that night because they were dressed like the Beatles, so why not? Also, they completely destroyed it.

Listen to Ol’ Cotton Ball Brains on this one. This is Boston’s best right now.

75 - I guess I should put something by the Black Keys here

Why did this album, of all Black Keys albums, wind up being the one that blew up? I like it and all. I sound like I'm in a Tennessee garage taping a show for the Discovery channel. I know that's what they were going for. This band wrote "Grown So Ugly" previously, which is almost perfect. Why now? Is it the album cover?

If it's the album cover, I totally understand.

74 - The Script - Breakeven

Hey, I told you there was a lot of pop music today. The best summer melody in a very long time. Plus, how many Top-40 songs do you know that start with a lyric like this?

“I’m still alive, but I’m barely breathing / I’m just praying to a God that I don’t believe in.”

This is coming in a year wherein a top-10 hit had these lyrics in the chorus:

“Baby got some boobies like wow-wow-wow.”

He also lifted the entire chorus from Homer Simpson and won’t admit to it.

It’s impossible to see where music is going. Because it’s not going in one direction.

73 - Ryan Adams - Happy Birthday

It is increasingly hard to write about Ryan Adams without sounding like Ryan Adams. I guess that’s what happens when you listen to this much Ryan Adams.

If I had my way, this song would be ranked somewhere much higher, maybe in the teens. But that would be unfair to you. You might think I’m weird, today, having no experience with Ryan’s work. I would understand that. So he’s here, dawdling in the back amongst Uffie and a one-hit wonder, where he’ll be until everybody else figures out what he’s been trying to say for the last ten years.

What he’s been trying to say is, hey, everybody, I’m completely brilliant and I’m not just saying that.

Ryan Adams has become the greatest connector amongst friends, a conduit for consistent relationship upkeep, the stickum powder that is life’s Danny Woodhead hands.

I’ve gone months without talking to specific people and then it happens—he’ll come out with a new album or a song or project and we’ll reconvene. We’ll all dissect and dissect.

It seems like sort of stupid behavior—to just pick apart one person like this with great admiration. The closest comparison that makes even the slightest sense is a less hairy Bruce Springsteen or Elvis Costello without all of the nice hats. Hundreds rally behind these people and I mostly don’t understand it.

But even that’s unfair. No one rallies behind Ryan Adams because he’s the most energetic entertainer in the world.

We rally behind him because he’s the most transparent person in the world. We all want to see what’s going to go on in our lives next.

We all discover little bits and pieces at our own pace. There’s just too much material. Sometimes months will go by and nothing, then we find something and it makes a little sense of everything at the time. A friend will figure out Gold as I start to get what he’s saying in Destroyer. It makes us all feel very smart, very official. We’re all wearing very nice suits as we talk about this over the phone.

This must be, we all say, how the profoundly dumb feel about Jimmy Buffett.

We get very attached to a part in an album that rings particularly true or funny or singular and it reveals a little about ourselves. This happened to me with “You Will Always Be The Same” right before III/IV came out in December.

Then III/IV had “Happy Birthday.” It contains these lyrics. I think they’re brilliant. Other friends think they’re a little insane. They’ll come around eventually and call me about it.

“I told everybody I was late, but I was hiding in the back. Hiding in the back, my hands would shake. Happy birthday, I’m your birthday cake and I’m lit.”

But they’re still listening to it. Because Ryan Adams writes hooks by mistake.

72 - Various remixes of the Yo Gabba Gabba theme song

It's funny because you thought I was kidding.

71 - Hungry Kids of Hungary - Wristwatch

Australia. Again.

(Note: Slightly not safe for work language.)

Top 100 Songs of 2010: 90-81

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack December 31, 2010 02:28 PM

NOTE: Songs 100-91 are located here. We're also having trouble embedding video. It's very confusing. We're working on it.

90 - Passenger (Feat. Boy & Bear) - Shape of Love

Australia is gaining on us considerably. Passenger is writing twangy alt-country songs better than anyone in Nashville. And Newstopia is doing fake news better than anyone in this country ever has. They’re also better at explaining the electoral college than any news outlet here.

Don’t worry. Shows this good get cancelled in Australia, too.

89 - The Grand Spectacular - Being a D**khead’s Cool

(Note: Sort of not safe for work language.)

We should take it as the greatest compliment, as a society, that novelty songs are now so good that they’re completely indistinguishable from good pop songs.

I listen to this thing in earnest. It’s a straight up American Idol audition in the car when the chorus rolls through on this song. I think this band would be happy with that, too.

There’s a lot to be said about hipsters this year. We’ll get to it eventually. Arcade Fire is on this list, anyway. We’re going to need to explain that one away. Until then, here's NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams making fun of them. With gravitas. Enjoy:

“I think the media story of the year, in 2010, was the NYT’s discovery of Brooklyn. Once a day, there’s a story about all the riches offered in that borough. There are young men and women wearing ironic glass frames on the streets. There are open air markets, like trading posts in the early Chippewa tribe, where you can make beads at home and then trade them for someone to come over and start a small fire in your apartment that you share with nine others. Artisinal cheeses. For sale, on the streets of an entire American borough ... They are making grilled cheese sandwiches in the streets. There are roving wagons that will make you a – Brooklyn. Yes….it’s just a fantastic … it’s like Marrakesh over there.”

88 - The Heligoats - Goodness Gracious

Chris Otepka’s band used to be a four-piece called The Heligoats. He now tours the country by himself and usually tells the audience that his band is out back in a van too nervous to get on stage. If that’s not enough reason to listen to him, I don’t know what is.

87 - Mt. Desolation - State of Our Affairs

I just wanted to remind you all that the earthquake in Port-au-Prince happened in 2010. I don’t want to do it in that awful way one of your friends might, so I’m giving you a head’s up. You will go out tonight, on the penultimate day of I-Can’t-Believe-That-Was-This-Year conversation, and have to defend yourself from this line of questioning.

Friend: “You thought the earthquake was years ago but believed Balloon Boy happened in August?”

You: “Yep, sure did. Had to look it up and everything.”

Ex-Friend: “Here is a ball peen hammer. Go do something so terrible to yourself that everyone at this party is arrested.”

Sure, go ahead and bemoan the state of media literacy in this country for a second. But you’re going to go through this exact situation tonight, whether you like it or not. All you can do is hope it’s too loud wherever you are to get caught.

Oh, and here’s a protip: Remember the Olympics? The 2010 Olympics? Yep. Me neither.

86 - Gepe - Por La Ventana

Oh! And the Chilean miners, too! Remember to pour one out at your party tonight for every brave soul who died in that horrible tragedy.

Wait, that’s right: Nobody died in that. They completely dominated that task. Thirty-three for thirty-three. If Chilean Miner Rescue was an X-Box game, they weren’t playing it on easy. They were playing it on broken.

This was, in fact, the best news story in years and it will be impossible to explain to anyone who was born after 2004 when it’s brought up in passing in 15 years.

Future 20-year-old: “Hold on. Thirty-three miners were trapped in a mine, there was elaborate news coverage anyone could follow even though this wasn’t in the United States, there were awesome infographics, all of the petty, gossipy intrigue was limited to one miner and an affair, we got just about one inspirational story per day, then all of them were rescued by way of groundbreaking technology, and all of them were in good health, so much so that one of the miners went on David Letterman to sing an Elvis song, like, two weeks later?”

You: “Yes.”

Future 20-year-old: “You’re telling me it wasn’t a celebrity drowning a puppy and it was on the news?”

You: “Yes.”

Future 20-year-old: “Don’t believe it.”

Anyway, this song is not about the Chilean miners. I didn’t even know Gepe was Chilean until I looked it up. He just writes catchy songs in Spanish, as far as I know. Let’s see if Google Translate gives us ambiguous enough lyrics to relate this to the mining incident:

“Radio says it sounds like a song now Life is like life in many ways can change now”

...Close enough.

85 - Cave Singers - Swim Club

Award for the best accidental club or conference 2010 goes to James Ward of South Orange, N.J.

Boring 2010 sprang to life when Mr. Ward heard that an event called the Interesting Conference had been canceled, and he sent out a joke tweet about the need to have a Boring Conference instead. He was taken aback when dozens of people responded enthusiastically.

Soon, he was hatching plans for the first-ever meet-up of the like-mindedly mundane. The first 50 tickets for Boring 2010 sold in seven minutes.

"I guess the joke is on me," said the laid-back Mr. Ward. "I've created this trap and there's no way out."

Proceedings at the sell-out event were kicked off by Mr. Ward himself, who discussed his tie collection at great length, accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation.

84 - Family of the Year - Hero

Hasn’t your year just consisted of you singing “We can whisper things—secrets from our American dreams” while slowly being pushed towards your closet, which now has nothing in it and has at some point been vandalized?

83 - Matthew and the Atlas - Deadwood

The lead singer of this band, Matt Hegarty, is my favorite kind of musician. This guy should be chopping wood, or something. Or maybe beating up that guy who is saying horrible things to women in a high-pitched voice at the other end of the bar. He doesn’t look or sound like someone who would even be talking if he wasn’t singing. But when he does sing, he has the raspy, authoritative voice of someone who has killed a man with his bare hands before, possibly lost his wife to scarlet fever in 1893 and fought in a colonial war in which his side lost—but he refuses to talk about any of it.

Unless! Unless, of course, he’s in a bar not far from his hometown singing about it.

82 - Delafé y Las Flores Azules - Espiritu Santo

Check out all of these people walking around happily in the sun. I wonder what that’s like—the sun thing?

It’s been a long time, so correct me if I’m wrong—but we always sing songs in Spanish in the street when it’s tee-shirt weather, right? When the snow melts around the folding chair that is currently my parking space, don’t I automatically get good at the trombone?

Yes. I think that’s how it works.

81 - Bombay Bicycle Club - Ivy & Gold

Admit it: You just want to see more Newstopia.

Top 100 Songs of 2010: 100-91

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack December 29, 2010 12:00 PM

100 - Saigon - Get Busy

Well, we’re here. We made it, somehow. We said it this time last year: “You and me and this $5,000 Blockbuster gift card, we’re going to make it to the end of the year, somehow, even if we have to move to North Carolina to rent Idol Hands."

And we were right. Blockbuster and you and I all survived into this new year. Blockbuster even got an ode.

All we got were these 100 very good songs.

Here are the rules, very basically:

- Each song had to be released in some form in 2010, whether it be on an album, as a single, on the official Marmaduke soundtrack, on a tape taped off of a tape off of your sister’s tape, on an episode of Glee, on an episode of Dog: The Bounty Hunter, or bedazzled and covered in old hair and sent to my doorstep on Christmas Eve.

- Thanks for the present, Joan Rivers.

- No artist or band can be repeated. Those with more than one great song will have both songs listed next to their spot on the list, will probably be bumped up higher on the list, and will be showered in hugs.

- There’s going to be large gaps between rap songs on this. We don’t know why this happened.

- Free Weezy.

We're just wasting precious, precious 2010 seconds at this point. So let's Get Busy.

(Note: Not safe for work lyrics.)

99a. - The Pack A.D. - Everyone Looks Like Everyone
99b. - Teletextile - What If I?
99c. - Laura Marling - Man Sings About Romance
99d. - Amy Seeley - Mile Marker
99e. - Horse Feathers - Drain You (Nirvana cover)
99f. - Jessica Lea Mayfield - Our Hearts
99g. - RTP - All That’s Left (RAC Mix)

Look, we have a problem here. I’m generally averse to lists. They make me antsy. For two reasons:

1) I used the web journalism term du jour Listicle—a combo word for list/article—when talking to an uncle at Christmas dinner about what I do for a living.

“Trust me, I’ve done a lot of listicles.”

This conversation turned very quickly. And,

2) We’ll let The Long Winters’ lead singer/Seattle Weekly columnist John Roderick (who we’ll get to in the 60s of this list) tell you the better reason:

1. Ranking things in order of how much you like them is a coping strategy of 9-year-old girls. I know people like to make top-10 lists because they're fun and easy, and people like to read them for the same reason, but that's Entertainment Tonight reasoning. Year-end top-10 lists are the unicorn stickers and glitter pens of music writing.

Sure, he uses this logic to eventually get to these two sentences consecutively later in the article: “They can't keep you from buying a bad album every once in a while, and they can't ensure that you won't miss out on something great. We're all alone in the world and then we die.”

Nihilism aside, he’s right. It’s completely ridiculous to narrow down to a finite list of 100 songs created this year and slap superlatives on them. It’s a stupid exercise practiced by the stupid to share stupid with stupid.

So I’ve come up with a solution: I’ve made it six songs longer! Longer than that, even, if you count bands with two songs on the list! Completely fair now, I think!

Also, we’re all alone in the world and then we die.

98 - BRONZE - Horses

Pick ‘Em: Most poetic use of sample to begin a rock song in the last five years. Lines set Dec. 29, 12 p.m.; subject to change with knowledge of Brett Favre’s status for this game, as he’s wont to ruin just about anything.

10:1 - Stars - Your Ex-Lover is Dead

“When there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.”

5:1 - BRONZE - Horses

"We are now approaching lunar sunrise and, for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the Earth.
And the Earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light.”

EVEN - Passion Pit - Better Things

“That was our fifth song and I hope you enjoyed it. Now this will be our best song that you have ever heard. The dirtbike’s going on stage. Thank you.”

97 - The Silver Seas - The Best Things in Life

Did I leave this spot open because I knew I’d find a pop song I really enjoy at the last second?

No. That would be totally irresponsible.

96 - Jonsi - Go Do

I’m wondering, watching all these videos from Iceland—from Jónsi, or from Jónsi’s day job as Sigur Rós’s frontman—if we could shoot any piece of film there and make it look gorgeous.

If we shot Sex and the City 3 there, what would happen? Say we decked all of the extras out in hand-me-down Ed Hardy shirts covered in blood and shoelace caps and dressed Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica-Parker, and the other two in something similar—like, for example, exactly what they were wearing in those last two movies.

When we got the film back from the Ritz Camera in Reykjavic, would this look like a montage in a Pixar movie? Given Jónsi’s track record—between this video and Sigur Rós’s Glosoli, the best music video ever made—I’d say yes, probably.

95 - Gotye - Eyes Wide Open

From The Guardian: “Gotye (pronounced "Gaultier", as in French designer Jean Paul) is a 27-year-old singer-songwriter/producer born in Bruges, Belgium, but living in Melbourne ... He’s a techno magpie who creates new songs out of snippets of crackly old second-hand vinyl, cassettes, VHS tapes and MP3s - Elvis albums, '80s pop compilations, Herb Alpert brass constructions, hip hop beats, Gregorian chants - together with a smattering of live instruments. The trove of ancient music is the legacy of his former neighbour, an old woman who passed away back in 2000 and whose late husband hoarded dusty platters. Gotye chops and dices said relics with psychotic finesse in his home studio.

If I told you I tried not to like this song because I thought it was too poppy, would you believe me?

94 - The Kissaway Trail - New Year

Some resolutions:

- Pants. More often than not, pants.

- Check out that Seinfeld show everyone’s been talking about.

- Take your grandmother’s advice: Don’t give Glenn Beck the attention he’s looking for and he’ll probably just go away, no matter how many times he tries to jab you in the ear with his yardstick.

- Hands to yourself at the YMCA.

- More Danish bands. More danishes.

93 - The Fling - Wanderingfoot

Things with no discernible start or ending:

- Money falling from the Red Sox’s money tree this offseason. Not that there’s anything wrong with that whatsoever. I’m thinking we should sign Andy Pettitte to the baseball’s biggest contract as backup Wally just to see if we can pull it off.

- This run of Hyundai commercials with hyper-annoying Pomplamoose jingles as background music. Could be worse. Could be the chicken dance. That’s the only way it could be worse.

- Weeks in a row where I’m forced to say, “Is a tiny Shaquille O’Neal available in a Tamagotchi and/or Polly Pocket-like form for use at private parties or other social events?” He’s already the best athlete/public figure this city has ever had in terms of embracing his role in the city. Just throwing this out there: Is this guy the best celebrity we’ve ever had? He’s not just rolling his baby down the street in sunglasses with his wife. He conducted the Pops by surprise last week. If Matt Damon did that, Boston would collectively get pregnant immediately. And,

- This song.

92 - Phosphorescent - It’s Hard to Be Humble (When You’re From Alabama)

So this is where David Letterman is so impressed by a performance that he tells the band to “leave a card.”

There’s some kink in this song and I’m not sure what it is. The lead singer sounds like an itchy Buddy Holly who is always stuck in a long, dark hallway. That scared me away from it.

I’m wrong.

When David Letterman likes a band, it’s a subjective truth. America will like that band. I will catch up.

David Letterman excitedly applauding his musical guest is like Roger Ebert enthusiastically recommending a movie or Mike Vick doling out life advice: See that movie, and do the exact opposite of that advice.

Conan is the same way. Watch him gush over Regina Spektor a couple of years before she helped you hum your way through every one of your Starbucks transactions.

91 - Jason Collett - Love Is A Dirty Word / Lake Superior

This would be an ideal place to bring up the fact that gay rights took an almost incalculable leap this year. I could bring up how America’s funniest sitcom couple—even to consensus straight people—might be a gay couple on ABC’s Modern Family. I could talk about how Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed to the protestations of only the ornery. I could mention how the Westboro Baptist Church went to protest the Laramie Project in this state twice this year and, each time, their hatebus drove away in embarrassment without ever getting a chance to stop.

But I’d rather just talk about how glad I am that Dan Savage is very famous now.

He’s a columnist at The Stranger in Seattle. He started the It Gets Better campaign, which implores high school students—gay or not—to pass on suicide brought on by bullying. His cause even got adopted by Dr. Phil. That’s how in-line with public opinion this dude has become.

And this is good. Because he’s capable of paragraphs like this:

My dear old Catholic ma came to visit me from Chicago recently—for a whole week. Mom stayed with me at my new apartment, where she got to meet my new boyfriend, which went something like this: "Isn't he a little young?" "He's 24." "Well, he doesn't look 24." "You got me, Mom. He's 12 years old. I'm the president of NAMBLA. I met him at Baskin-Robbins. I'm going to jail for this. But before I do, I'll sponsor him at his confirmation, okay?"

And if you want to cry, you can read this.

A Desperate Favor for Some Anti-LeBron Flavor

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack December 2, 2010 03:10 PM

I’ve lived in the Greater Boston Area for a while now. I don’t ask for too much from its residents. I pay my parking tickets. I practice the yoga instructions on the back of them, mostly nude and always in the middle of busy intersections. (Hey, it’s Cambridge!) I even give gifts, like $1,000 wads of rubber-banded cash, to city councilors who deserve recognition for clearly dominating Movember’s beard-growing side-contest.

We employ the greatest brains in the world. Those brains also appear to have the greatest amount of time on their hands. We’ve finagled scientists who have created a robot that can both scale the harshest terrain and, also, ruin any dreams you may have for the rest of your life. We have Harvard law students who are trying to make sure those robots never get the privilege to turn you into the Brett Favre of your local airport security checkpoint.

I don’t ask for many favors from you folks. I try to save them for special occasions, like when one of my ideas needs your brain for a necessary societal advancement, or when one of you is in front of me at Falafel Palace and I’m really hungry.

Today, I’m asking you for that favor.

We need Tommy Heinsohn cloned. We need it done by tonight.

Look, I know this is a tall task. We’re not totally there yet on human cloning, I know. But we’ve already pulled off goats and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and all I’m asking for is a mouth, one eyeball and three-quarters of a brain.

Otherwise, how is America going to know that we’re all on the same page when LeBron visits Cleveland tonight if it doesn't have the increasingly jaded Celtics color analyst telling us that our overreaction is completely justified?

It’s one of those rare, unifying American moments of the 21st century. Regardless of political affiliation or religious beliefs, all of America is coming together to hold hands, share a Coke and spew vile, impossibly disgusting, and ultimately very creative insults at one human being tonight. Some of the loudest boos ever recorded are going to start raining down on one person and America will live in beautiful, peaceful harmony once again.

That is, of course, until some Cavs fan invariably throws an empty Sprite bottle onto the court and TNT announcers have to turn up their mock outrage to 11. It’ll embarrass us all and take us out of the moment. It will be the worst “Oh Jesus, I didn’t mean to put Megadeth on this playlist of sexy R&B songs before making out with the girlfriend” moment of this entire decade.

ESPN, remember, immediately spun Ron Artest's jaunt into the stands and punch-out of random, innocent fans as "a disgusting display by these Detroit fans." Imagine the furor if someone so much as blows beautiful, flowing bubbles onto the court of Quicken Loans Arena tonight accompanied by a well-timed F-bomb. It will be a gorgeous work of art at the time. And it will be recounted as a terrorist attack on all future SportsCenters.

But this unnecessary guilt doesn’t need to happen. Not if we can clone Tommy Heinsohn by tonight.

Look, we know we can’t get this very busy gentleman to make it to Cleveland in the next few hours. He has to watch Wheel of Fortune and the Lottery before falling asleep on his recliner. It’s a very busy evening. But if we can pull off a quick, partial cloning, he’ll never know what hit him.

Maybe he can whip out some of the old classics, like:

“(LeBron) should go home to his wife. Because nobody here loves him.”

“Give me a break, crybaby.”

“This is stupid! NBA: It’s Stupid!”

At the very least, though, every American won’t jointly feel that inevitable emotional comedown while watching this game tonight.

Here’s the deal: I’ll handle the shipping (FedEx has great rates on genetically engineered announcer clones) and the process of getting our mouth-eyeball-brain mutant on TV tonight.

Look, I’ll dress up like Princess Leia, or whatever, and bring over some pizza. You just make sure it exists. Okay, best brains of Boston? That generally seems to do the trick for you guys.

If it doesn’t, check out this quote from Cleveland guard Mo Williams, via Globe NBA writer Gary Washburn’s Twitter.

"It's no secret. Everybody in the world is with us."

That’s right, America will be more put-together tonight than it has in years. It's all gussied up, it's wearing a suit, and it's ready to drop some dirty words. It’s on you and Tommy Heinsohn to make sure it doesn't get ruined by a bad soundtrack.

Today's Soundtrack: D'Angelo - How Does It Feel?

Megadeth - Holy Wars... The Punishment Due (NOTE: Don't actually listen to this song.)

Nevermore Loko: We'd Miss You If We Didn't Forget About You Already

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack November 19, 2010 01:58 PM

Well, there goes my ham gravy.

The dozens of cases of Four Loko I had bought to make this Thanksgiving a Thursday that my family will never forget are—as of today—officially contraband. And now I’m reconsidering my decision to use this as the most never-endingly intoxicating meat slather since Bristol Palin’s last performance and subsequent miracle run on Dancing With The Stars.

Sure, I have no idea what that last sentence means. And it’s not technically illegal to drink this stuff, merely to sell it. But the Massachusetts legislature has spoken loud and clear: I should not be using this drink as a gravy in order to get my uncle to unknowingly say something disgusting about Flo from those Progressive commercials.

At least I think that’s what would’ve happened. But I don’t know. And I don’t know because I have never tried Four Loko in my life.

I’m a young man. I sometimes do young man things. I open jars that are welded shut for the perilously weak. I’m in the NFL. I help the woefully old understand new computer lingo (“BRB,” “ROTFL,” “MAYONNAISEMAYONNAISEMAYONNAISE”) to make sure they can communicate with their grandchildren the only way teenagers in captivity know how—solely in acronyms.

And I also attend parties where people drink alcohol with their mouths.

These are usually well-planned, garish affairs. Upstanding citizens. Lots of sweaters. Some wool-panted jazz at a medium volume. Let’s say Dave Brubeck.

In fact, let’s set the mood.

(Today’s Soundtrack: Dave Brubeck - Take Five)

Oh, that’s nice.

So everyone’s standing around, talking about foreign policy or something, I’m sure, over this music. That’s when, invariably, someone kind of staggers in through a backdoor who looks like he’s spent most of the day licking the conveyor belt at a Benjamin Moore quality assurance factory. He’s tired. He’s wearing a torn windbreaker that appears to be an Osh Kosh B’Gosh boys XL. No one claims him as his or her friend, but he seems to know everyone’s name.

He is plastered. He is smelly. He is insufferable.

He is exactly kind of person that I’ve seen drinking Four Loko.

The girl who stole a friend’s half-eaten, oversized Disney World lollipop on Halloween because she was entranced by the colors. The guy who had to be forcefully removed because he was telling us he could juggle knives and that he’d like to show us.

The glassy-eyed sort of people that every generation has readily avoided since the beginning of time? These are the people drinking Four Loko.

I have no opinion about this law. I know that’s not allowed nowadays, here in The Media, but I’m completely ambivalent to the ban of this drink.

I understand both sides. I know that there’s precedent for this sort of thing. We had to euthanize Joe Camel to save the children, so killing a drink that looks like a boozy Capri Sun doesn’t seem all that different. I also understand that it’s simply too painstaking to blacklist every fad that is clearly a menace to society. Snooki would’ve been quarantined in her tanning booth months ago.

But I don’t care because it’s never going to affect me.

Yesterday, I saw a post from an acquaintance on Facebook. In his profile picture, he’s giving the finger to a painting of a man that appears to be a bank robber but is probably a very serious and important artist. Oh, and he loves drugs.

He bought three dozen cans of Four Loko yesterday. He told us on Facebook. This surprised no one.

In the articles I’ve seen criticizing this drink, the most common complaint is that this beverage tastes like candy. I’m almost positive that this guy who bought 30-plus Four Lokos yesterday didn’t do it because 7-11 was out of Pop Rocks.

Maybe, perhaps, we should stop fetishizing a palette for beer as a steppingstone to adulthood? But, no, that would cost too much money. That would ruin the commercials in our football games. You’re right.

So ban my ham gravy at the least opportune time, Massachusetts state government. Looks like my family is going to have to sit through another Lions game stone-cold sober again. It doesn’t seem possible, but we survive it every year, somehow.

And until our final shipments expire, the Commonwealth has nothing to worry about. Unless you or your kid is a reporter at the Boston Globe, he or she will probably never touch Four Loko.

Conan's Debut? Our Maroon Landing

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack November 9, 2010 01:31 PM

I was kind of onto something last night—manically pounding away at a keyboard from 11 to midnight, watching the debut of Conan—about how Conan has back-channeled his way to becoming the non-partisan voice of our generation.

It went something like this: He is America’s Patron Saint of Lowered Expectations, standing up on principle and coming through with more celebrity and social capital than ever. He will, by himself, allow this generation to persevere in the face of recession and the risk of caving to lowest-common-denominator TV, one ultra-classy Masturbating Bear sketch at a time, forever and ever, amen.

Then I woke up to find out that The Talk Show Host (as a concept) is allegedly dead. Even if the Talk Show Host isn’t dead, Matthew Gilbert thinks Conan’s career is. He’s not hip; he’s just “meh.”

This is too bad, of course, because I found last night’s show to be really, really funny.

I should qualify this. I’m one of those horrible people at parties who simply does not allow you to like the movie Grown Ups. I’m not proud of this, but you will wonder why you’re alive after you’ve pledged your support of that movie to me.

They make a peeing-in-the-pool joke, people. Come on.

So in this situation, I’m that guy, yes.

Therefore, I can say with a tinge of annoying authority that there is nothing unfunny about someone asking Conan for sweet and sour sauce and him retrieving seven forks. Nothing.

David Sims of the rarely wrong A.V. Club puts it best.

I'm sure O'Brien is going to get some flak for basically sticking to his old format (monologue; desk; couch; two guests; a musical act; Andy Richter), instead of really playing around with the late night format now that he's fully in control of his show. ... But I think looking to Conan O'Brien to come up with something drastically new is misguided ... It feels like what Conan wants to do is host a really great late night show in the classic format, and that's what he gets to do here.”

Or maybe I’m tremendously out of touch with my entire generation. That’s possible. Maybe I trust Conan too much because I grew up with him and just laugh at anything he says, not realizing it’s out of pity.

Maybe I’m allowing myself to get caught up in any major cultural event that’s a positive cultural event, for once, and maybe that’s just me.

These are all things I was seriously considering until 11:02 last night, when I got a text from a friend that just said this:

“This is my moon landing.”

We’ve completely lowered our expectations, sure—and so has Conan—but at least he has us laughing about it again.

Today's Soundtrack: R.E.M. - Man on the Moon

Tom Brady: Have We Done Him Wrong?

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack October 21, 2010 08:00 AM

I’m a New York Giants fan. We’ve been rooting for Eli Manning for a few years now. This is like having a very sleepy child who sometimes forgets to put on pants and doesn’t realize this until he has gotten to school. We are desperately proud of him whenever he does something that whiffs of mediocrity.

When he won us that Super Bowl, it was like he came home from the art class he had been failing with something that looked like a previously undiscovered Van Gogh. It’s not that we didn’t think he could do it—it’s that we knew he couldn’t do it. It was a statistical impossibility. We had previously been proud that he knew what a paintbrush even was. Now, we have to lug this damn wall-sized mural into the trunk of our station wagon—half-dazed, still, looking at the intricacies, glaring at his uplifting use of warm colors—and drag it to auction.

It’s been over two years now and Eli hasn’t left the back of the car. It’s become clear he has no idea what, exactly, he has done right.

Eli Manning sells watches now. Watches and cell phones and Toyotas and shoes—all very expensive endorsement deals he got for playing somewhere between four and 12 very good quarters of football one year. I don’t think I could ever buy a watch Eli Manning was selling. I still live in a world where I’m not entirely certain that Eli Manning knows how to read an analog clock, let alone an offensive playbook complex enough to win the NFC East.

Glad we got that out of the way.

Why aren’t you people obsessed with Tom Brady?

Look, I know the perils of sports idolization and worship. It’s generally – check that; make it almost always – an unfathomably bad idea. Even the “good ones” end up driving their Escalades off a cliff while evading arrest.

But, really, you people should be bidding on Tom Brady’s illegally-obtained, auctioned-off hair just for the chance to smell it.

Creepy? Yes. Necessary? Probably.

Let’s lay this out in black and white, stripping names and leaving only the attributes. In the NFL, in 2010, there is a team that is 4-1 with a receiving corps/backfield that is, without exaggeration, a collection of mostly stumpy, 5-foot-8, undrafted white guys. And the defense is—to put this delicately—ill-regarded.

You people should be laminating every used napkin that this man drops at a buffet table.

Tom Brady resurrected Deion Branch’s career this week and he did it with no help from Deion Branch. This took place solely through the power of friendship.

If Tom Brady’s best friend was an unvaccinated feral cat on Sunday, Rabies Moss would’ve gone for at least 75 yards receiving and two scores before collecting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for collapsing into a ball in the endzone and batting feverishly at a pylon.

How can you people not be on the brink of institutionalization because of how much you appreciate this guy?

I think I know where some of the appreciation malaise came from.

ESPN columnist Bill Simmons (né “The Boston Sports Guy,” thus the authority) spent some podcast time in the first few weeks of the season implying that Brady was in ill-repute with New Englanders. He talked of the dreaded “some people back home” and their belief that Brady’s long hair was a sign that he had gone soft and lost his must-win tenacity. He said, in so many words, that those people back home might not want to root for a pretty-boy who has it all and wants fame over wins. He said those people back home might want him gone.

But let's be real: It’s probably just Bill Simmons overcompensating for the fact that he now lives in The Land of Flowing Locks (Los Angeles) himself.

I say this not to belittle Bill Simmons in any way. I find him relaxing, in italics like that, like four Enya albums playing one on top of another, all at the same time.

And his idea, if correct, would be a logical explanation. Who wants to root for the alpha male, the literal varsity quarterback, the Hummer H3 pulling into the only available space in life’s Walgreen’s parking lot? No one.

And that’s exactly why you should be bribing Tom Brady’s landscape company with unmarked bills for unfettered access to clippings from his lawn’s begonias.

Disregard the well-primped mane, the awards and championships, and the hot wife and her dagger eyes for a few seconds. Tom Brady is the everyman and you only need to look at that car accident a few weeks ago to know it.

First of all, he drives an Audi. One of your uncles drives an Audi. This is a fact of life.

And did you see him in those pictures? It is impossible to fake genuine concern at 5 a.m. He was sincerely worried and stuck around until the whole mess got sorted out, despite knowing what kind of media attention this would bring over the course of the next week.

This actively betrayed NFL policy, which explicitly directs all players to “flee any possible legal trouble in your league-assigned Escalade, preferably while throwing diamonds at any potential victims. Watch out for those cliffs, though. Those things’ll jump right out at you.”

(Nope, we’re never letting this one go, Junior.)

And have you seen his draft combine video from 2000? Tom fully embraced the frump. He doesn’t look like John Elway. Hell, he doesn’t look like Jon Kitna. He does, however, look kind of like Oprah in The Color Purple.

You could argue that Tom Brady was every woman. Before your very eyes, he has become the everyman.

Tom Brady does not default to dreamboat. He works pretty hard at it. I’m not sure he defaults to being the best quarterback in the league, either, but he’s worked pretty hard at getting back to that level after tearing his ACL and MCL less than two years ago.

Tell me why you people haven’t worked out a surefire Top 40 hit that’s a mnemonic device for his social security number yet?

It’s Thursday and already everyone has forgotten. Four days ago, Tom Brady marched down the field again, non-chalantly—smoking a cigarette, probably, and reading Entertainment Weekly—and won a game for your team when you needed him to in overtime. Down ten in the 4th quarter, he actually did this three times, and he did it against a top-5 team in the NFL.

But who’s counting, right? Certainly not New England. Not appropriately, at least.

Of course, if you don’t want him, I know 31 teams that would love to have him. There’s one team in particular that would gladly offer a replacement. He’s won a Super Bowl, he’s covered head-to-toe in watches, he's pantsless and he's stuck in the back of a station wagon.

You know what? Just take the station wagon.

Today's Soundtrack: Le Reno Amps - How You Did Me Wrong

Soundtrack: Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack October 13, 2010 05:16 PM

Out of this previously terrible Chilean miner event, we’ve been handed some newspaper poetry, little pieces of would-be novels that would be if they weren’t real.

There are stories of found-out mistresses and marriages rekindled. (“While underground, Mr. Rojas decided to remarry his wife,” a New York Times infographic reads.)

There were 19-year-olds who had to be taken away wrapped in blankets; 63-year-olds with bad lungs who walked away from the rescue tunnel, waving.

Yep, we got weird, sports-obsessed, barely-on-the-borderline-of-cultural-sensitivity graphics from CNN that display a countdown and a rescued-miner counter. But CNN also gave us quotes like this:

British tabloid The Sun dubbed (miner Mario Sepulveda) "Super Mario," and repeated claims that he was the "joker of the pack" who had "earlier asked rescuers to send down a blow-up doll for his colleagues."

The Big Picture gave us pictures like this:

But not much can top this.

"This hell is killing me. I try to be strong but when I sleep, suddenly I dream we are in an oven and when I wake I find myself in this eternal darkness that wears you down day by day. I will be strong for you all until the end."

Victor Segovia, who wrote that, got out of the mine this afternoon.

Today's Soundtrack: The Bloodsugars – The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Noisy Stories About Home, Pt. III

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack September 29, 2010 11:57 AM

Noisy Stories About Home is a project for Today’s Soundtrack where we’re collecting little vignettes or unbelievable stories or scenes or love letters to parts of the Greater Boston Area that people who are good with words think are unique to living here. We’ve assembled Boston’s best and most acclaimed music bloggers to tell you some of these stories.

The very loose thread here is setting -- we inevitably tie places or events that a lot of folks around Boston might visit everyday to a very specific song or album or band. In that way, we make it our own. Contributors were told that they could take any form they wanted with that. Here are their attempts to try to stretch and max that out, while telling you about some catchy songs in the process.

Today's post is the last installment. We'll probably do this again sometime.


Noisy Stories About Home, Pt. II

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack September 28, 2010 12:47 PM

Noisy Stories About Home is a project for Today’s Soundtrack where we’re collecting little vignettes or unbelievable stories or scenes or love letters to parts of the Greater Boston Area that people who are good with words think are unique to living here. We’ve assembled Boston’s best and most acclaimed music bloggers to tell you some of these stories.

The very loose thread here is setting -- we inevitably tie places or events that a lot of folks around Boston might visit everyday to a very specific song or album or band. In that way, we make it our own. Contributors were told that they could take any form they wanted with that. Here are their attempts to try to stretch and max that out, while telling you about some catchy songs in the process.

Today's theme, apparently, is Great Scott.


Noisy Stories About Home, Pt. I

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack September 27, 2010 04:09 PM

So you’re walking down Comm. Ave and you see a stoop. It’s covered in glitter or a smashed watermelon or feral cats or most of your neighbors' clothing. Or, hopefully, all of those things.

You’re thinking there’s probably a story here.

You might walk by these places in the city everyday. Some Bostonians can’t walk by these same places without immediately thinking of a specific song or album or musical moment. And anytime they hear that song, it instantly transports them to that place. This freaks them out to no end.

These are a few of those stories.

Noisy Stories About Home is a project for Today’s Soundtrack where we’re collecting little vignettes or unbelievable stories or scenes or love letters to parts of the Greater Boston Area that people who are good with words think are unique to living here. We’ve assembled Boston’s best and most acclaimed music bloggers to tell you some of these stories.

At best, these are hyper-aware travel pieces about Boston from those who are too emotionally attached to this place to be subjective about it.

At worst, it’s a way to tell a bunch of freshman college students all of the places they’re going to be dragged against their will over the next four years, then wind up being nostalgic about the whole situation in the end.

The very loose thread here is setting -- we inevitably tie places or events that a lot of folks around Boston might visit everyday to a very specific song or album or band. In that way, we make it our own. Contributors were told that they could take any form they wanted with that. Here are their attempts to try to stretch and max that out, while telling you about some catchy songs in the process.


Soundtrack: We're Leveling, Not Lunatics

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack September 20, 2010 05:28 PM

The recession has been over for a long while, apparently. The recession is over, and it was Paris Hilton’s cocaine all along.

There’s one of those email forwards going around that isn’t racist enough to be appropriately popular. So maybe you haven’t seen it. It’s Hugo Chavez leaning into Vladimir Putin, and he's saying this: “What’s the difference between Americans and yogurt? If you leave yogurt alone for 200 years, it’ll grow a culture.”

And I laugh a little at it, but I’m not sure how true it is anymore. Seems like everything was going fine -- we were the mass-market boundary-pushing, brainstorm capital of the world, but then we ran out of money.

Actually, make that this: We are the mass-market boundary-pushing, brainstorm capital of the world, even still, and we ran out of money.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman who was awarded with two perfectly catchy hit singles by a knowing Hollywood songwriter wore a dress entirely made of raw meat to an awards show.

Instead of going through the prescribed forms of media disgust, almost everyone ignored her.

But some didn’t. Some asked if it was itchy. Some asked, “Can we have some?”

Finally, we are leveling.

We pushed the boundaries in one direction and we ran out of money on the other, but that became too exhausting.

It was Paris Hilton’s cocaine, but we’re through with disgust. She’s a lunatic, lunatic, lunatic, and now we’re wondering, “Hey, is everything all right?”

I’m not an economist, but I can tell you, finally: We are leveling.

Ignore the fringe, of course. Because a few thousand young people are going to D.C. in a couple of weeks, and their primary concern is to pick up the trash behind them.

"What’s the difference between Americans and yogurt? One's tasty fermented milk; the other tends to be pretty polite."

It doesn't push many boundaries and it's not as funny. It's also probably the truth about this coming generation.

There’s a little sample in this song. Maybe it was written by this band. Maybe it’s lodged deep somewhere in the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Maybe it’s by some hippie I’d never get along with. I can’t find its origin, but it sounds authoritative. It should be.

Brothers and sisters, sometimes you feel like you can't succeed, and I’m here to tell you that you're probably right.

But if you stay strong, everything will be all right.

Today's Soundtrack: Margot & the Nuclear So and So's - Lunatic, Lunatic, Lunatic

9/11: Does This Mean We've Moved On?

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack September 11, 2010 02:59 PM

A few weeks after 9/11, there was that sort of pubescent time period where we were all still scared, walking around in a daze, hearing stories of people actually helping strangers on the street, for some reason. I was 13, and I remember asking every authority figure imaginable this exact question:

“When is everything going to be totally back to normal?”

Well, I don’t know exactly when it happened. But it just may have happened.

We still have idiots, yes -- people trying to capitalize on a tragedy to make a cheap, misguided political point.

But here we are, on the nine-year anniversary 9/11, and do you know what’s going to fill a 1,200-person theatre 30 blocks from Ground Zero tonight?

Professional wrestling.

Assuming the dynamics of pro wrestling haven’t changed from when I last watched it, several 250-pound men from New Jersey (presumably) will be hitting each other in the head with large bouquets of barbed wire in memoriam.

Ten blocks north of there, a nice orchestral indie pop band called Airborne Toxic Event will churn out hooks until you forget what day it is, and no one will think twice about their name.

Does this mean we’ve moved on?

Today's Soundtrack: Airborne Toxic Event - Does This Mean We’re Moving On?

'Back to Future': Flying cars, burning Koran?

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack September 8, 2010 04:16 PM

In the movie "Back to the Future II" there was a sendup of a USA Today of the future. After this crazy week, we wanted to show you the photo of the prop newspaper and see how it has held up.

It’s become famous for being prophetic in a lot of ways. It predicts a sport called Slamball, which exists, sort of, in the way that things cancelled by SpikeTV exist. The Cubs also play against a Florida baseball team that didn’t yet exist in what appears to be a 9-game World Series in 2015.

They got a lot wrong, too. It predicts Princess Diana becoming Queen Diana, an arugula-like infatuation with kelp, and -- most ridiculously -- that the Cubs would actually win that World Series by 2015. Take deep breaths, folks -- it’s clearly science fiction.

But we have to admire the rosy vision of the future that this presents, where we’re constantly infatuated by what science has brought us and we’re happily stuck in the diplomacy tourism that comes with relatively peaceful times.

So let’s look at three stories from today to see how we’re doing fulfilling 1989’s utopian vision of us.

1) WOBURN, Mass.—The company developing the world's first "flying car" announced on Wednesday that low-volume production of the hybrid vehicle will take off in Massachusetts, perhaps by the end of next year.


2) Some folks regard the iPad as an entertainment device, a tablet computer from Apple Inc. that's great for watching videos or playing games, but now a venerable Boston company is launching an app that looks to re-purpose the iPad into an educational tool that can help young students to do math and learn algebra.

This leans toward kids-who-make-use-of-their-pocket-protector-level nerdy, but it’s still certainly the future.

3) GAINESVILLE, Fla.—The leader of a small Florida church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy said Wednesday he was determined to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11, despite pressure from the White House, religious leaders and others to call it off.

I said a newspaper from today, not from the Crusades.


Today’s Soundtrack: Icarus Himself - Digging Holes

Soundtrack: Missing Accomplished

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack August 31, 2010 05:53 PM

I remember watching the first bombings from my room in the black-and-white sort of way teenagers view war. It was March 19th, 2003, and Peter Jennings had cut into programming to update us on the war, thinking this was going to happen every night. We were going to hear about the capture and cathartic justice of this set, finite enemy until that enemy did not exist anymore.

My brother had blown out the candles to his 18th birthday cake at home a few hours beforehand. I wouldn’t remember it, otherwise. It wasn’t an event like 9/11 was an era-defining cultural event. Or like Michael Jackson’s death was, oddly enough. You probably don’t remember the date that the Iraq War started, and I wouldn’t either unless it was my brother’s 18th birthday and we weren’t so tremendously inept.

All of a sudden, he was 18 and I was next. We were two children who had both accidentally ruined trash barrels by throwing still-lit matches into them on entirely separate occasions.

On paper, we were prime draft bait. In reality, I often wondered why I was even given opposable thumbs.

But I wasn’t drafted. The nightly reports of bombings -- cutting into sitcoms and football games to remind us how gruesome seven years of war can be -- did not take place. The enemy was not, in the end, easy to pinpoint, let alone bring to dramatic, public justice.

A couple of friends got shipped away voluntarily instead, and I went off to college to watch arthouse films that I only pretended to understand. The war faded away into the background, and we focused on Michael Jackson, mostly, as we waited for everyone to come home.

Then almost every young person I know voted for a man who said he’d pull all of our friends out of that country because the war -- in teenage, black-and-white terms -- wasn’t working anymore.

When he finally did it today, nobody said anything.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend from high school who had been deployed to Baghdad and Germany started chatting with me on Facebook. He was back in the United States, finally, figuring himself out. But he said it felt foreign. He’s in his early-20s, and when his time is up sometime in the next couple of years, he’s probably moving back to Germany. He tried to articulate this to me: He didn’t become an adult in the United States, so why stay here?

I didn’t understand.

Today's Soundtrack: Ben Folds Five - Missing the War
Morning Benders - Waiting for a War

Soundtrack: (Expletive Deleted)

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack August 22, 2010 03:41 PM

Does it count as the song of the summer if we can’t even print what it’s called?

Cee-Lo Green, the lead singer of Gnarls Barkley, released a soul-pop ballad on Youtube yesterday that you both can’t stop singing and, also, can’t sing in public. Anywhere. Therein lies the problem.

So how is this trusty ol’ newspaper website going to present this information to you?

Well, the walker-wielders at the Wall Street Journal have given it a shot.

“There’s no way around the vulgar phrase. Though it’s possible it could be bleeped or edited out, everyone who hears the song will fill in the blank as Cee-Lo curses out a girl who left him for a richer man.”

It’s called “F--- You.” There, we said it. And we had to. Because it’s very, very good.

So good, in fact, that it’s going to make for a very well-paid producer at the Grammy’s, someone who will have his or her hand trained on the bleep button all night like a really vulgar game of Bop It. Because it’s going to win a Grammy or two.



Today's Soundtrack: Seven More Things College Students Don't Need

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack August 19, 2010 04:00 PM

1) This poster:

Trust me. Your roommate already has it. He doesn't know what it means, either.

2) Or this one:

We get it. You like weed and you hate your parents. One love, one heart, one bassline for eterntity, etc.

I recommend this one instead:

It's probably much cheaper.

3) A third microwave.

No matter what happens -- no matter how much communicating you do with a future roommate -- you’re going to have a ludicrous amount of some random home appliance.

Trust me on this one: Unless you’re prepared to sacrifice one of these things by shoving some tinfoil in it and dropping it off a roof tied to an extension cord, it’s better to be woefully unprepared than to have a hilarious excess of Cuisinart hand-me-downs. You’ll do considerably better with the ladies if your room is outfitted more like Survivorman than that very creepy evangelical Christian guy from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

4) A seeing-eye dog that is not actually a seeing-eye dog.

Totally insensitive.

5) Your entire freshman year of college.

You’re just going to pretend like it didn’t happen anyway.

6) Self-esteem.

Check out, for example, this New York Times story from last month -- one of a preponderance of the same ilk -- that wonders why, oh why these lazy-assed new graduates won’t just immediately become plumbers if they can’t find a job in their field, for God’s sake.

“You maneuvered and you did not worry what the maneuvering would lead to,” the father said. “You knew it would lead to something good.”

He then turned his phonograph back up to a reasonable volume and angrily took two puffs from his tobacco pipe.

That last part didn’t happen.

Regardless, his son won’t become an associate claims adjuster or a cat groomer or a busty, desperate, blonde secretary because it has nothing to do with his college degree, and this dad’s generation just doesn’t understand it.


Soundtrack: Money, and Maybe a Tinge of Sympathy, Is What They Want

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack August 17, 2010 03:52 PM

I’m sure you're devastated to hear the news that ticket scalpers around Fenway are having a tough go of it nowadays. Darnell McDonald and Scott Atchison’s attempt to become the Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber of NESN have -- earmuff your kids here, folks; this could be a shocker -- surprisingly fell flat.

But there is good news, everybody: These scalpers don’t work for the FDA.

“Let me ask you something,’’ (a scalper) says. “If you owned a store, and you sold milk, and all your milk was about to go bad, and everyone held out until the last minute to buy your milk, and you dropped the price, what would happen?’’

He doesn’t wait for an answer. He explains that no one would be willing to buy milk at full price. The integrity of the product would be compromised.

Know what else compromises the integrity of milk? Pretty much anything.

With that said, I’ve never met quite as many upstanding, showered, genuinely cleanly gentleman as when I tried to scalp tickets during the Sox’s 2007 pennant run.


Soundtrack: In Defense of a Former Pushover

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack August 11, 2010 06:07 PM

Google CEO Eric Schmidt (or, as you may know him, the Wizard of Oz of the Internet) scared the ironed, woolen pants off of some First Amendment lawyer-y types this week when he said this:

The only way to manage this is true transparency and no anonymity. In a world of asynchronous threats, it is too dangerous for there not to be some way to identify you. We need a [verified] name service for people. Governments will demand it.

Then this:

Privacy is incredibly important. Privacy is not the same thing as anonymity. It's very important that Google and everyone else respects people's privacy. People have a right to privacy; it's natural; it's normal.

Ooph. Looks like my days of photoshopping Alex Rodriguez’s face into pictures that were considered illegal until the late-1960s are over.

But what if we already have a seamless instrument to narrow down the job title of anyone posting a comment on the Internet? And what if it’s something as trivial as the comments section of the current story of the moment?

Yep, it’s the one you think it is: Jet Blue’s swearing, swilling, sliding, and invariably arrested flight attendant Steven Slater.


Soundtrack: Weezer, We Wanna Go Back to the Good Life

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack August 6, 2010 03:09 PM

My dearest Weezer,

We both know we have a history. We don’t need to go too heavily into detail, but the last time I heard from you, you made a record that sounded like someone let loose a pre-fight UFC fighter with a machete into my cochlea.

I don’t know if you know this, but I responded by using copies of “Raditude” ($2.98 on Amazon, everybody!) as projectiles, throwing them at stray hipsters outside of my apartment to get them back to their studio spaces in the basement of Twin Donuts in Allston. (Yelling “Shoo!” and “Free Animal Collective show and 1980s cardigans roughly two miles away from my apartment in any direction!” stopped working after a while.)

But let’s not dwell on the past, baby girls. It’s time to kiss and make up.

I write to you offering a truce.

Your new album, Hurley, was assigned a release date yesterday. It’s coming out September 14th, and your lead singer, Rivers Cuomo, says, “There’s definitely going to be more raw rock energy on this one.”

Let’s quote the AV Club’s Alex Birko’s reaction to that idea:

“Like Pinkerton? We liked Pinkerton, just make another one like that.“



Soundtrack: ESPN's Coverage Fit for a King

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack July 28, 2010 03:14 PM

Last night, ESPN reporter Arash Markazi posted a very lurid, detailed account of a night out with LeBron James on ESPN.com, replete with naked nightclub biddies, lots of alcohol, and Big Baby Davis walking by in disgust.

It includes this exchange from the Willy Wonka of Feminist Hell:

About a dozen security guards, moving their flash lights, direct us to a roped off section on the dance floor of Tao next to a couple of apparently nude women in a bathtub full of water and rose petals ... James, who can hardly see the flying figure through his tinted glasses, almost gets kicked in the head on the waiter's last trip down. He looks at the girls around him and says, "I wish they'd have one of these girls with no panties do that instead of the guy."

So LeBron James does not come off as a tremendous person.

That's not the story.

The story is that ESPN pulled the whole post immediately. Now, as alternative sports media like Deadspin.com and Twitter are abuzz with this story, ESPN and all of its columnists and writers on Twitter are conspicuously silent.

Mind you, Markazi is a very reputable journalist, who has broken stories about USC recruiting violations, covered a few Stanley Cups, and profiled everyone from Wayne Gretzky to Ron Artest to Vince McMahon for Sports Illustrated. It’s possible he got the whole thing wrong. But it’s not probable.

So why did ESPN pull the plug on a story that could out LeBron as a terrible human being? The prevailing belief is that ESPN, which invested $7.6 billion on NBA television rights in 2007, is sacrificing its journalistic integrity to keep in good standing with its investment.

And as of mid-afternoon on Wednesday, ESPN has no comment.

Boston.com has the world’s best resource for anything involving journalistic ethics: Mark Leccese, the founder of the Globe’s Gatekeeper blog. He’s an ombudsman for those with a sense of humor or those in love with Adrian Beltre’s glovework. His last article, for example, is titled, "How to figure out who's really a journalist."

So, yes, he’s the perfect person to ask.

We presented him the article this afternoon, along with some questions. Here’s his reaction:


Soundtrack: OMG, Mr. President

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack July 27, 2010 06:05 PM

It was revealed today that President Obama will appear on The View on Thursday. The show has already been taped, and Today’s Soundtrack (calling on our inner Art Buchwald) has, ahem, "exclusive access'' to the transcript.

The View Co-Host 1: (Loud droning noise resembling the phrase, “Hi. Welcome. Have a seat, Mr. President.”)

President Obama: Thank you. I’m happy to be here. I haven’t had a chance to watch your show, but I hear it is very popular.


President Obama: Ha-ha, Whoopi. I don’t think I can comment on that.


The View Co-Host 4: (Loud droning noise followed by sounds of host digging under desk. Host reveals moisturizer.)

President Obama: No thanks. I’m, uh -- I’m all set.

The View Co-Host 4: (The View co-host applies moisturizer to any of the President’s visibly exposed hands and body parts.)

President Obama: Um, thank you.

The View Co-Host 4: (Loud droning noise followed by sounds of host digging under desk. Host reveals pet expert with a cockatoo on his shoulder and two crates filled with dangerous animals.)

President Obama: Woah, woah. Is that an anaconda and an adult bobcat?

Pet Expert: Yes. The bobcat hasn’t been vaccinated and the scorpion still has its stinger.

Requisite Republican Co-Host Pretending to Ask Serious Question About the Issues: Sir, I’ve been playing along, half-laughing at your jokes here. But, seriously, I am troubled by your presence. I’m wearing my serious mascara, Mr. President. I must ask what every single person who made origami swans instead of paying attention in political science class is thinking: Why didn’t you go a mile under the ocean and seal the oil pipeline with your mouth?

President Obama: Are you serious?

Requisite Republican Co-Host Pretending to Ask Serious Question About the Issues: Of course.

President Obama: Have you been near a human mouth before?

Barbara Walters: Let’s cut to a clip of Charlie St. Cloud featuring Zac Efron.

President Obama: Why?

(Cuts to two-minute clip from Charlie St. Cloud, in which the female protagonist tearily screams, “WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME, CHARLIE ST. CLOUD?”)

Audience: (Wild applause.)

(Fades to home invasion commercial.)

Today’s Soundtrack: Ida Maria - Oh My God

Hey, look, an awesome song from a very talented woman who chose not to be completely objectified.

Interview: Clem Snide

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack July 17, 2010 01:53 PM

The best part about listening to Clem Snide is that you learn a little bit about human beings each time you listen to them.

You have to trick your brain into ignoring the crafty melodies, but you eventually get used to it. And then you get rewarded -- little, clever proverbs-for-limited-audiences like this:

“Those who are the most afraid say courage is a sin / and we are just bracing for the impact by loosening our limbs.”

Lead singer Eef Barzelay is so lyrically honest that it’s almost like he knows something about being alive that we don’t know.

So, as Clem Snide comes through Boston tonight (at The Middle East Upstairs) and Northampton tomorrow (at Iron Horse Music Hall), we decided to talk to him about it.

Clem Snide formed in Boston 17 years ago. They’ve been almost universally critically-adored the entire time, they provided a theme song to a popular NBC dramedy (“Ed,” for the curious), and were the only band to provide value to a Christina Aguilera song by covering it. They also released some of the best albums of the last decade.

Eef lived in Charlestown and it sucked. He’s quick to point out that it wasn’t the area. It was him and depression and papermaking equipment. But just because he’s talking to Boston.Com doesn’t mean he needs to tell us how great the Duckboats are. Just because he has a nice melody doesn’t mean he has to sing about how lovely his girlfriend’s face is. And that’s why he’s so good at what he does.


About the author

Ben Collins can't help but search beyond Feist for the zeitgeist of Today's Soundtrack, his pick of a song or songs capturing the mood or events of the moment. His musical tastes vary from Strawberry Fields to The Magnetic Fields, from Low to Skee-Lo. A North Shore native, Ben has worked at The Boston Globe and Spin and is an Emerson grad. Make your own nominations to him at ben.t.collins@comcast.net or on Twitter @globesoundtrack. More »

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