A Musical Education

After having to listen to a lot of Raffi and Music Together on our road trip, I was pleased to find three new (to me) CDs from LaLa when I got home: Ghostface Killah, A Tribe Called Quest, and Tripping Daisy. Add that to the Drive-by Truckers and White Stripes I got before leaving, and I’ve got some good stuff to listen to for a while.
Last night, we went to the Nottaway Nights concert, this time featuring Bill Kirchen. We took Ellie, Max, and Ellie’s friend Claire, and they got a good musical education. They classified his music as “Roots Rock,” but that sounds limiting. He was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 2002, but again, it hardly tells what he played. He was really amazing with his guitar. At one point, he played guitar riffs (and these are just the ones I can remember), consecutively, from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, The Sex Pistols, and Jimi Hendrix, the latter played with the guitar behind his head. It was pretty darned cool, and everyone had a blast. It’s amazing that the park puts these shows on for free.
After the concert, we got back in the car and listened to a little A Tribe Called Quest (“Scenario,” “Can I Kick It?”) to round out the evening’s educational experience. Just because they’re kids doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate good music.

La La again

Revisiting the La La CD trading service, since I’ve been doing it for a couple of weeks now. I gotta say, it’s very cool. I’ve traded away 9 CDs I either didn’t want any more, or was kinda tired of (who knew that someone out there actually wanted Air Supply’s Greatest Hits Live?), and in return I’ve received 5 CDs I wanted to listen to, and there are 5 more on the way. 3 of the 5 had liner notes too, which aren’t required, but nice to have. I’ve even gotten some fairly recent releases too. The latest White Stripes and Franz Ferdinand, and the latest release from Ghostface Killah, which just came out this spring. Of course, with all these people sending me CDs, I’m back “in the red,” and probably won’t get any more sent my way till someone else requests another one of mine. Now wait, scratch that. While I was typing this, someone requested one more of mine, so I’m back in yellow. Nice. One thing I’ll have to revisit though: Apparently one of the CDs I sent hasn’t arrived yet, and it’s been almost two weeks since I sent it. Maybe that’s one I forgot to include the extra postage (for the liner notes) on, I’m not sure, but the guy says he hasn’t gotten it yet. I’m not sure what’ll happen. It should either get returned to LaLa HQ, where they will try to send it on to him, or else maybe he will get a “Postage Due” notice. Still, it seems strange that it’s the only one to not get there yet.
All told, I’ll have gotten 10 CDs for about the same price as one new one would cost me. If you like music, you’ve got to get in on this. Send me an email, and I’ll send you an invite to join. Maybe you’ll even get one of my CDs.
Update: Apparently the missing CD arrived on Friday, and the receiver finally marked it as such, so my karma is intact. Still strange that it took so long though.

LaLa review

I wrote recently that I was trying out a new service called LaLa.com. It’s a music trading service. You list CDs you have, and ones you want. The service works in the background to determine if other people want your CDs, at which point you can say whether you want to get rid of it, and send it to the other person, or you can choose to keep it. They send you a package of 5 envelopes with $0.63 stamps (the cost of a 2 oz. envelope, which is about what the CD weighs), and 5 plastic CD covers to protect the CD. When you run out, you just request more (as I have). LaLa almost immediately connected me with users who had “Mezmerize” by System of A Down, and “American Idiot” by Green Day, and later, “Late Registration” by Kanye West. For each CD you receive, you pay $1 to LaLa and $0.49 for shipping (they’re losing money on the shipping, as noted before, it costs $0.63, not including the envelope and case costs). They promise to pay $0.20 to the artist for each of their CDs you trade.
I started this last Friday. Mezmerize arrived at my door on Wednesday, and American Idiot yesterday. I’ve sent out 5 CDs myself, and I’ve taken to including the liner notes, even though it’s not required. It seems silly to leave them out, what are you going to do with them without the CD? There’s some concern that it increases the weight enough to require more postage, but it seems the liner notes have to be pretty lengthy for that to apply. I got liner notes with Mezmerize but not American Idiot. I’m liking both CDs so far, and I’m definitely glad to get some new music.
The service weighs your “karma” by evaluating how many CDs you have shipped and received. Receive a lot of CDs while not sending many out, and they will stop sending you CDs until you start sending them out. I’m in the green now, having sent 5 and received 3, but it can be tough if you don’t have CDs anyone wants. I’ve got several fairly new CDs listed too, and it’s not surprising that I’m not getting them yet. The ones I am getting are at least from last year. Since I haven’t bought any new CDs in a while, the ones I am sending out are even older than that.
Overall, I’m happy with the service so far. I do wish I could get some newer CDs, but I guess you have to wait for other people to buy them first. And send those liner notes people!

La la

An interesting new music service went public today. It’s called Lala.com, and I’ve been testing it for a while now. It’s a pretty simple concept. You list the CDs you have, and the ones you want. Lala connects you with people who have a CD you want, or want a CD you have. You pay $1 for the transaction, and $0.49 for shipping on CDs you request. You only get billed monthly, so you won’t have a bunch of $1.49 charges.
I’ve only been playing with it a little while, and I really need to add more of my CDs on there. There are a ton of users though, and you should be able to get stuff you want relatively quickly. After you sign up, they send you cases and prepaid envelopes for you to ship CDs (you don’t send the liner notes or cases). I’m about to send out my first CD today, and hopefully one that I requested will come up soon. As a result, I’m taking recommendations for music, old or new, that you like, and think I might like. Here’s my list so far:
Mezmerize by System Of A Down
Fishscale by Ghostface Killah
American Idiot by Green Day
Broken Boy Soldiers by The Raconteurs
Late Registration by Kanye West
The Hardest Way To Make A Living by The Streets
St. Elsewhere by Gnarls Barkley
Pearl Jam by Pearl Jam
The Dirty South by Drive-By Truckers
A Blessing And A Curse by Drive-By Truckers
You Could Have It So Much Better by Franz Ferdinand
One Way Ticket To Hell… And Back by The Darkness
Send me your recommendations. And try out Lala. It’s open to the public now, and even if you can’t get in for whatever reason, I have invites to share.
Update: I just got a note that someone is sending “American Idiot” my way. Cool! I’ll re-review the service when it comes in.
Update 2: Aaron W. requested my copy of Franz Ferdinand’s debut CD, so I’m sending that out tonight. Trading is good.
Update 3: Woohoo! “Mezmerize” is on its way to me too! I’m liking this thing already.

Seldom Scene

Busy times are ahead.  Tonight we’re off to try to see a free concert at the park near our house, featuring “The Seldom Scene,” a fun bluegrass band.  This Saturday, we’re going to see Spamalot downtown, and hopefully have a nice dinner away from Ellie while we’re at it.  Plus, we’ve got yet another picnic on Sunday.
My baseball team just learned our playoff schedule.  This week is our last regular spring game, next week the playoffs start, and we have morning games on both Saturday and Sunday for two straight weeks.  It’s going to be rough on the pitchers for sure, but luckily, with all the games happening in the morning, I should be able to play a lot, assuming we keep winning!
On Father’s Day, I long ago secured tickets to the Yankees-Nationals game.  I will be rooting for the Yankees, but I’m looking forward to seeing the Nats while they are still intact. 
For the Fourth of July, airfare permitting, we’re heading over to Chicago to meet up with some friends we haven’t seen in a while, and just to get out of Washington to somewhere other than Michigan for a change.  Should be a good time
It’s good to be busy sometimes, and thankfully, other than the airfare to Chicago, this is one of those times.

Freebird!

Actually, Freetar!  This guy is trying to create a FREE PC game that mimics previously mentioned Guitar Hero.  Right now, he seems to have a decent version of the editor created, and a demo video to show it.  In theory, this means I could buy my own copy of Guitar Hero, plus a controller adapter, and rock out to it on my computer. 
Seriously, this can not get here fast enough.  Awesome dude!

Guitar Hero II preview

IGN has a preview of the upcoming sequel, Guitar Hero II.  Guitar Hero makes me wish I owned a Playstation 2, the first game to do that.  I sold my original Playstation and my previously owned Dreamcast a long time ago, and didn’t really miss them all that much.  I enjoyed playing Jet Grind Radio for Dreamcast, as well as the Bass Fishing, even though I didn’t have the controller, but other than that, the games were a lot of stuff that I played before, and I got bored with them pretty easily.
Guitar Hero takes the premise of Dance Dance Revolution (press the corresponding icons on the mat as they flash by on the screen, presumably in a rhythm) and takes it up a notch in coolness (or dorkiness, depending on your viewpoint).  The game comes with a guitar shaped controller with 5 fret buttons, a strumming control, and a whammy bar.  As the “notes” go by on the screen, you have to press the right fret button while strumming, and get points for keeping the beat.  As you go, you get sweet powerups that let you rock out.  As an amateur air guitarist (you should see me rock the grass trimmer when I mow the lawn while listening to my iPod), this game is totally right up my alley.  Unfortunately, even with the PS2 price dropping to $130 ($100 used), Guitar Hero still costs $70, and a $200 cost for one game is more than a bit steep.  I guess I’ll just have to keep rocking the weed whacker…

Dancin’ in the Streets

A special musical edition here on Friday. First up, did you know that Martha Reeves (“Dancin’ in the Streets”, “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave”) of Martha and the Vandellas is now a member of Detroit’s City Council? While she ran on a platform of ending cuts to fire and police departments, she also wants to know “Why is there no statue of Aretha Franklin?”
And today’s Coverville (also not to be missed on this episode: Menudo doing a “Xanadu” cover in Spanish!) brought this to my attention: Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” was actually a cover of Claude Francois’ “Comme D’Habitute.” The lyrics were totally changed though, and if you look at the literal translation versus Frank’s lyrics, you see it’s a totally different song. Very interesting.
I’m off to the curling Funspiel here in a bit. Don’t forget you can follow along online.

The Mix 2005

The mix is done. It should be in the mail to those who requested it as we speak. For those who didn’t request it, I did a lot of research and found that a lot of the music was available in one form or another for free! Here’s the track list, fully linked to artist websites, including MP3 downloads where available, and albums from Amazon.com.

VerbalCome Clean from The Name We Sell Now: My cousin’s band. He’ll hate the fact that I picked the only song that has words (they’re an instrumental band, naming it Verbal is ironic).
Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #2 (Laika) from Funeral (2005 Grammy nominee!): Laika was the first living creature sent into space, and she never made it back.
The Go! Team – Bottle Rocket from Thunder, Lightning, Strike: I like their pep rally beats better than Gwen Stefani. This my shit.
MC FrontalotMessage No. 419 from Nerdcore Rising: Geeks rapping about Nigerian scammers. Can’t beat that.
MIA – Galang (video) from Arular: She wowed the crowd at the SXSW Festival, and they cried for an encore, but she had just done her whole album. She’ll be back with more after this great debut.
Danger DoomSofa King from The Mouse and The Mask: MF Doom and DJ Dangermouse. This year’s great collaboration.
BlackaliciousPowers from The Craft: I don’t know how Blackalicious hasn’t blown up yet. They’ve got some great tracks on this record, definitely pick it up.
Kaiser ChiefsI Predict A Riot from Employment: Indie meets Britpop.
System of a Down – B.Y.O.B. from Mezmerize: I told you there was a metal song on here. Good stuff.
The National – Abel (video) from Alligator: Brooklyn in the house. These guys are going to be big too.
The Hold SteadyYour Little Hoodrat Friend from Separation Sunday: The singer’s voice isn’t for everyone, heck, he’s barely doing what you could call singing. But it’s catchy somehow, sort of like the band Cake, in some roundabout way.
The New PornographersTwin Cinema from Twin Cinema: You can’t get a good feel for this band with just one song, they have a bunch of different vocalists, but this one is a good one.
The Decemberists – 16 Military Wives (video) from Picaresque: The video was especially amusing to me, because Lisa was in Model UN back in the day.
Of Montreal – Forecast Fascist Future from The Sunlandic Twins: My cousin’s band opened for these guys in early 2004. They use the word “sanguinary” in this song, so props to anyone that can do that.
Harvey Danger – Little Round Mirrors from Little by Little (full album download!): Heard them first on KEXP’s podcast and really liked this song. Then I found out that they had that song a while back “Flagpole Sitta” (“I’m not sick but I’m not well, And I’m so hot cause I’m in hell… Been around the world and found
That only stupid people are breeding”, etc.). This could be their comeback from one-hit wonder status.
Sufjan Stevens – John Wayne Gacy, Jr. from Illinois: Sufjan is amazing. Illinois is the second of his “50 states” effort, to do an album about each of the 50 states. There are a lot of good songs on the album that I could pick out, but I liked this one. It almost makes you feel sorry for serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
Iron and Wine/Calexico – He Lays in the Reins from In The Reins: Somehow the Spanish opera singer seems right at home in this song.
Spoon – I Summon You (demo version MP3) from Gimme Fiction: Stephen King picks it as his favorite single of the year, and I tend to agree.

Another Late Night

Lisa’s been sleeping on my side of the bed lately, because her shoulder has been hurting, and her theory is that it’s because we sometimes bring Ellie to bed with us if she wakes up at night, and she lies on that shoulder to face Ellie. For me, this means that I’ve actually been getting up when the alarm goes off, because it’s on the other side of the bed now, and I can’t just hit snooze. Yeah, I know, I should just move the clock… But it’s actually kinda nice to get up and not be rushed.
The downside is that we had another late night of curling last night. I got home and was able to have dinner, play with Ellie, and give her a bath before I had to head out to the curling club. Our game started about 9:15, and we actually moved pretty quickly. We gave up a point in the first end, on an unfortunate “pick” (when the rock picks up something, a piece of fuzz, or a weird spot of ice, it can “pick”, or change direction very suddenly, screwing up your shot). But after that we took two in the second end, and kept the pressure on the other team, stealing points in each of the next 4 ends. The other skip was pretty frustrated, so he called it after only 6 ends. That mercifully allowed me to crawl into bed just before midnight.
I’m printing out CD covers for the mix as we speak, so they should get in the mail soon. It might not be quite in time for Christmas, but I will do my best.