Music Monday: Covering The Band

A new post!  After a summer of silence!  I hope you’re all as excited as I am.  I have a lot to share and a lot of questions I’d love to have feedback on but for today, let’s just rock out to some solid summer jams.

As any casual reader of this blog knows, I love The AV Club – it’s my go-to online destination for quality cultural analysis and just plain fun reading.  One of the greatest things they do during the summer is their AV Club Undercover series, where they have great current bands created stunning, interesting covers of classic songs in a wide variety of genres.  It’s an incredible series and always manages to dominate my musical selections during the summer months.

A few weeks ago, they featured a cover of The Band’s The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, a personal favorite, covers by a trio of fantastic voices – Glen Hansard from The Swell Season with his pals Lisa Hannigan and John Smith.  It’s one of those songs that has snuck up on me in the past few days – I thought it was enjoyable on first listen but I’m finding myself hitting repeat more and more often as the dog days of summer continue to roll by.  It’s the perfect song for sitting out on your porch on a hot night with nothing but a cold beer and your thoughts – something I’ve been doing a lot of lately.

AV Club Undercover: The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Friday Frivolity: The Sound of (Donna) Summer Weekends

It has been a rough month or so for music lovers.  It feels like every other day, my Twitter feed explodes with rumors or, more often than not, sad truths about another icon of American music passing away.  As evidenced by my Music Monday posts, I develop very strong connections to the music in my life and each time another beloved singer is gone, it often hits me harder than I would expect.

As we’re about to embark on another weekend (though with being laid off, the weekdays and weekends seem to blend together), it’s hard not to think about Donna Summer.  Her music was always the sound of summer weekends (no pun intended, for once) and being young and wild and free.  And even though my weekend plans are less “bad girls hit the town” and more “taking advantage of the busy tourist season to make some extra dough“, I’ll be cranking Donna Summer all weekend long.

Music Monday: The Beatles’ Revolver

Like most twenty-somethings with a television set, I’m a huge fan of Mad MenThere’s really nothing to not like about the series – it has a cast full of handsome men wearing well-tailored suits, there’s copious day drinking, plenty of workplace coitus and it’s the best written drama on television right now.  I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.

While I have some opinions on last night’s episode (was the return of Betty Draper Francis unnecessary – discuss amongst yourselves), I’ve still been obsessing on the episode from two weeks past, where the creative types at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce are working on a campaign that’s a spin on A Hard Day’s Night.  The clients want something Beatles-esque to tap into the ever-growing Beatles fervor of the 1960s.  While (my imaginary television boyfriend) Stan Rizzo suggests The Zombies, Don Draper decides to defer to his young new wife, Megan, who bring him the latest Beatles album to listen to.  That album is Revolver, one of the group’s most pivotal releases.

I remember the first time I consciously sought out a Beatles album.  I don’t remember the first time I heard a Beatles song or even talked to my parents about them but when I was 12 years old, we were gearing up for a family road trip and Post-Collegiate Dad took me on a late night trip to a local bookstore that also sold used cassettes and records.  I had told him that I really wanted a “new to me” Beatles album to listen to in my new Walkman for the trip.  After searching through what felt like hundreds of Beatles tapes, I settled on Magical Mystery TourI was instantly hooked – I don’t think I listened to anything but that tape on the two-day drive.  That following Christmas, I received a vinyl copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and I was officially obsessed.  I thought they would be my favorite band of all time.

Of course, that isn’t exactly how it played out.  Like many a teenager before me, I soon traded in my Beatles favorites for newly acquired re-releases of Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street.  High school brought with it The Doors and my first experiences with Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.  By the time I reached college, my favorite album from the 1960s was not from the Beatles but rather, The Velvet Underground & Nico The Beatles became this band that I appreciated but who felt out of place in my adult music collection, until two weeks ago.

On Mad Men, Megan gives Don a copy of the newly-released Revolver, imploring him to listen to the last track first.  That track – Tomorrow Never Knows” – marks the Beatles first real break away from their old sound and the expansion of pop music into psychedelia.  After hearing the LSD-inspired track close out the episode (spoiler alert: it wasn’t to Don Draper’s tastes), I decided to download Revolver and give it a second chance.  It never resonated much with me in my youth, outside of the delightful silliness of “Yellow Submarine” and the serene sadness of “Eleanor Rigby“.  Maybe it’s just indicative of my youthful naivete or a reflection of where I am in my life right now, but this time around, I listened to Revolver straight through four or five times in the span of two days.  Unlike Don, the shifting sound of The Beatles and the expansion of their music into deeper psychological themes is exactly what I need to hear right now.

Given that I’ve been immersed in the album for the last two weeks, it was hard to pick the perfect song for Music Monday, so I’ve decided that, given my lack of regular music posts in the last month, I’d just give in and choose two songs.  Both represent the best of Revolver to me – rollicking guitar medleys, the introduction of brass into the backing sound, and lyrics that speak to our expanding consciousness and the need to make and break connections with others and the world around us.

And Your Bird Can Sing

Got To Get You Into My Life

Music Monday: Alabama Shakes

Happy Monday!  I’m sure there are those of you who have today off but for those, like me, who are stuck back in the office despite the beautiful weather, I feel your pain.  Quite literally, actually, as I spent some significant time in the sun this weekend and my poor ivory skin, despite SPF 175, just cannot hold up against the rays of global warming.

Although I am wishing that today was a holiday and I could spend it laying in the grass day-drinking somewhere, I’m pretty psyched this morning as my guest post for Post-Grad Learning is live!  PGL is a great blog and it’s such a great feeling to be able to be a part of their world.  Be sure to head over RIGHT NOW to check out my five reasons why everyone should be fired from a job at least once:

Why Everyone Should Be Fired Once

Oh, hey, welcome back!  Hope you enjoyed that.  It was fun to write and I believe it to be true.

Back to the important task of Music Monday – the music!  I wanted to do a blog post on Alabama Shakes a couple weeks ago but was distracted by some other music that was dominating my iPod and now the band has completely blown up!  Following a strong showing at SXSW, Alabama Shakes has been everywhere, selling out shows at hip venues and popping up on every music blog that matters.  Hell, they’ve booked Letterman for this week, so expect your parents to start asking if you’ve heard about them.

I love their Southern blues rock sound and I love the grit and power that comes across on every track.  This is a big week for me – I’m wrapping up my grad school applications and getting ready for two huge weekends coming up and I need to stay amped and motivated.  Alabama Shakes’ first full-length album, Boys and Girls, is perfect for getting excited and feeling like I can foot-stomp my way to kicking ass and handling my business.  Enjoy the video of their first single, Hold On, below and be sure to check out the stream of their album.

Full Stream of Boys & Girls at NPR

Music Monday: Of Monsters and Men

I’m sure I say this every Monday but I can’t believe it’s the start of another week.  This weekend absolutely flew by, between housewarming parties (I’m sure there’s a post about real estate envy that will come from that one…), March Madness (I only watch basketball when forced but it can be pretty entertaining), some exceptionally fine dining, and the return of Mad Men, leaving me feeling a little lagged this morning.

Luckily, I’ve hit upon the perfect musical concoction to soothe my slightly-battered body and soul – My Head is An Animal, from Of Monsters and Men.  I’ve been a fan of OMAM since Little Talks hit the Interwebs last year but now the good folks at NPR have the Icelandic group’s debut album.  To borrow from NPR’s apt description of the band’s sound, I’m finding their “wide-eyed, openhearted exuberance” the perfect antidote to a hectic, trying weekend.

First Listen – Of Monsters and Men, “My Heart is An Animal”

Do you have a favorite track?  Finding the band overhyped or underappreciated?  Depressed to learn their DC concert is already sold out (that might just be me…)  Share your thoughts in the comments!

Friday Frivolity: Nerd Nostalgia, Schoolhouse Rock Edition

Alternately titled:  How I Spent Thursday Night Drunk With My Schoolteacher-To-Be Best Friend Watching Schoolhouse Rock YouTube Videos

I’m a simple creature.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy.  A roof over my head, clean clothes on my back, and warm food on my table.  Throw in a case of Miller High Life and wireless Internet access and I will become downright gleeful.  Last night started innocently enough – a few girls gathered together for dinner, catching up, and gossip.  But then…everything changed.

Remember D.A.R.E.?  Of course you do!  D.A.R.E. is famous for keeping almost no middle class suburban white kids off of drugs but giving us all really cool retro shirts to wear ironically when we were smoking up behind the tennis courts during our off period (Mom, I swear, it was only the other kids, I was there to study!)   Apparently, D.A.R.E. is still alive and kicking (because in all seriousness, they do good work, especially the drug dogs they bring to school when you graduate), so my STBBF was kind enough to share this jaunty tune that her students are currently learning to perform for their D.A.R.E. graduation.  Warning:  Listening will cause major earworm.  NOT A JOKE.

Once we listened to this song like five times – and warned each other to “check our attitudes at the door” – it was a YouTube nostalgia fest.  After brief detours with Rappin’ Rabbit and The Hippo Song (one of us grew up with a weirdly musical religious aunt), it was time to bring out the big guns – SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!  My passion for Schoolhouse Rock cannot be overstated.  We own the VHS set at home and I still love to pull them out and watch them en masse when I’m visiting the PCParentals.  I have very fond memories of catching the clips during Saturday morning cartoons, implementing them into my stash of babysitting tricks, and playing tracks off the dope cover album when I was a college DJ.

The genius of Schoolhouse Rock is that it exists perfectly at the intersection of sincerity and camp.  The content is legitimately educational, unlike so many contemporary offerings, and there’s an earnest enthusiasm that never quite feels hokey, because each song’s story is sublimely silly in its own right.  While I always had a personal preference for the grammar and history series, even the math and science songs had a way of making me want to laugh at it and with it, all at the same time.

So, in honor of this most frivolous Friday, please enjoy my top ten favorite Schoolhouse Rock videos (in no particular order).

Sufferin’ ’til Suffrage

I like to think that my feminism really grew out of watching this over and over again.  Also, how fantastic is that girl’s ponytail?  SUPER FANTASTIC.

Three Is A Magic Number

I am not ashamed to admit that I still use this to do multiplication in my head!

The Tale of Mr. Morton

Not only is this story incredibly sweet (Mr. Morton was lonely…Mr. Morton was), but another great feminist-inspiring song – spoiler alert, the woman proposes!

Interplanet Janet

“A solar system Ms. from a future world” is just the catchiest damned lyric.  This has a 89% chance of being my Halloween costume this year.

Elbow Room

It was a toss-up between this and The Shot Heard Round the World, but is there a better song that illustrates Manifest Destiny?  It’s also a PostCollegiate Family Favorite – we often sing it when we’re cramped in small spaces together.

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly (Get Your Adverbs Here)

Everyone is always raving about Conjunction Junction but honestly, this is the Grammar Song that just gets stuck in my head whenever I think about adverbs – which is probably more than any reasonable person should.

Electricity, Electricity!

A little dare – go switch your lights off and then on again.  Did you just sing the chorus to yourself?  Of course you did.  Don’t be ashamed.

Dollars and Sense

Okay, so I clearly did not learn Becky Sue’s money lessons very well (as evidenced by my inability to stick to a budget) but this is like the most charming song about currency that has ever existed.

Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla

Thanks to STBBF for reminding me how awesome this song is – saying all those nouns over and over CAN wear you down!

Mother Necessity

This song comes in hand whenever I’m watching Jeopardy and there’s a category on inventors. 

Okay and one more bonus video, because, come on, it’s the golden standard of Schoolhouse Rock videos:

I’m Just A Bill

It’s a classic for a reason, folks.  And it’s adorably old-fashioned as it features a Congress that used to actually DO things like enact laws!