who is it / what is it

{Just dropping in to say that my posts in the next few weeks might be limited, due to that aforementioned trip to AMSTERDAM!}

Lately, things have been busy and I’ve been filling up the remaining spare moments vigorously digesting the Talking Heads discography. I’m kind of embarrassed to say that my prior knowledge of this band was limited to the two records we have (Speaking in Tongues and Little Creatures)—both of which are awesome—and an old DVD of True Stories that I’ve owned for almost 15 years and maybe watched once. But recently when I went home, I found a copy of Talking Heads: 77 and could.not.stop. listening to it. It’s just so funky fresh.

I swear, there’s nothing better than diving into a band’s repertoire and the excitement of knowing that there’s still SO MUCH GOOD MUSIC I haven’t listened to yet. Sometimes things get hectic, and for a few hours or days I forget about whatever music or movie or nerdy obsession I have going on at the moment, and then I’ll leave work and suddenly remember those videos I have queued up and the albums I need to find, and I get SO PUMPED. This is one of those times: a blissful discovery phase.

03IRWIN-superJumbo

Even though it’s showing the night before we leave for Europe, I really want to go to this upcoming screening of Stop Making Sense. I’m trying not to spoil too much of it, but did watch the below video which only confirmed the fact that I need to see this film:

How can one band be so cool?

Another instant obsession

I’ve had some seriously stressful weeks latelythe kind that involve skipping lunch and sleepless nights and life evaluationbut just as everything was coming to a head, I stumbled upon an amazing artist whose music that instantly made me feel better about…everything.

Crazy how something as simple as a song can do that: just make you step back for a second and take a deep breath and enjoy life. This guy, Kishi Bashi, creates otherworldly sounds with his voice and violin, and here is a beautiful video of one of my current favorites:

If you are intrigued, do yourself a favor and watch/listen to some more: It All Began With A BurstBright Whites. These songs are great on the album (which I almost immediately downloaded), but watching him perform them live is even better. I hope I get to see him in concert at some point!

For the record, he also just seems like a really cool guy. His YouTube account is mostly short random videos like this which have less views than our high school pit videos (how?!), along with a couple incredibly well-produced videos of his songs.

I’m an instant fan. 

Outside Lands, continued

And now, the rest of my Outside Lands experience.

I’ll be honest, I can’t do music festivals like some people can. No way I can spend all day in the presence of that many people, especially in the bitter windy cold of Golden Gate Park in August. This list says it pretty well (for #14, how about: the only drug you’ll consider taking is Xanax).

But when it comes down to it, I heard lots of awesome music, and that’s all that really matters.

Nikki’s Non-Paul Highlights:
Rhye. This band automatically gets cool points because our friend Jake from UCLA plays drums with them! Check out the sweet slow jam “It’s Over” from their set. At the end, Jake ran into the crowd to hug his girlfriend, awwwww.
Jurassic 5. This was Alex’s equivalent of Paul McCartney (well, actually D’Angelo was, but since he dropped out, Jurassic 5 was the next best). I’m still working on my hip hop appreciation, but I feel like J5 is a good place to start (I’m a fan of “positive” hip hop, haha). I let Alex be the judge of which video I should post: “Quality Control
The Head and the Heart. This folky goodness was the perfect way to round out our Day 2. We listened to them while sprawled out on a blanket at the edge of the Sutro Stage grounds. I especially liked “Lost in my Mind.”
Hall & Oates. What can I say, “You Make My Dreams” = biggest dance party ever

But…my other favorite show of the weekend was, punnily enough, Vampire Weekend. I’ve loved their music for a long time but am an even bigger fan after finally seeing them live. Also, I have to admit that I have a fangirly crush on Ezra Koenig (it’s the hair flip, I tell you!).

 

It’s pretty impossible to say which songs were my favorite…”Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” because Alex learned it on guitar? “Step” because of the bay area shoutout? “Diane Young” because it’s so fun to dance to? They were all awesome, and I will DEFINITELY see them next time they’re in town.

End of Post Disclaimer: None of these videos are mine. I knew I could count on YouTube for providing clips of every single performance I wanted to share.
PS – Have you ever seen so many iPhones in your life? I mean seriously. #ourgeneration #bayarea 

Song of the night (and rest of the week, too)

This is the last song that plays on the last episode of Freaks and Geeks (which, by the way, is an amazing show – why was it cancelled??). I was already feeling all the feels because of everything that happens in the last episode, then they went ahead and played this song and I just melted.

 

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung,
Would you hear my voice come thru the music,
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they’re better left unsung.
I don’t know, don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again,
Let it be known there is a fountain,
That was not made by the hands of men.

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

You who choose, to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone,
If you should stand then who’s to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home.

Fun fact: I literally live two blocks away from the Grateful Dead house and the heart of Haight Ashbury, and incredibly, I sometimes forget it. Now that the evenings are lighter and it’s finally getting to the point where I don’t have to bundle up in a gigantic coat and scarf every day, I want to spend more time out in the neighborhood, exploring the streets that made me fall in love with San Francisco in the first place.

Another fun fact: when I was a baby, one of my first “stuffed animals” was a plush Jerry Garcia doll, courtesy of my Uncle Bill (a close family friend). Does that automatically make me the coolest baby ever? I still have that doll somewhere….

So this is what the volume knob’s for

Last weekend I finally made it to the Fillmore, a venue I’ve been wanting to go to for years (it didn’t disappoint: walls filled with vintage concert posters = I was in heaven!). I went with 4 friends to see the Mountain Goats, and left the show an enthusiastic fan.

.

I’ll go ahead and admit it right now, the first 5 minutes of the Mountain Goats’ set made me cry. John Darnielle began the show by paying homage to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that happened earlier that day. He questioned what someone like himself, a musician, could do to honor those children who will miss out on a lifetime of music and memories, and concluded that the best thing to do is play louder and more passionately than ever. He then opened with White Cedar:

Like a star come down to walk the Earth in radiant array.
I saw the light of my spirit descend the other day.
I was standing the bus stop on North East 33rd,
When I got the word.
I will be made a new creature,
One bright day.

I don’t have to be afraid.
Speed that day on it’s way.
And you can’t tell me what my spirit tells me isn’t true, can you?

Woke up on lockdown one more time,
My visions won’t ever learn.
But I see the light that much clearer,
Every time I return.
Forge my armor in the old fire.
My spirit sings loud and clear,
Even in here.

I’ll be reborn someday, someday,
If I wait long enough.

I don’t have to be afraid.
I don’t wanna be afraid.
And you can’t tell me what my spirit tells me isn’t true, can you?

The show was a wonderful mix of rockin’ anthems and beautifully exposed lyrics: a great chance for a newcomer like me to get acquainted with the extensive Mountain Goats catalog (did I mention how amazingly devoted tMG fans are? what an awesome crowd!). Also, John Darnielle is an excellent frontman. I loved his stories and perfectly timed punchlines. The show made me laugh, cry, and dance…what more could you ask for?

Some newfound favorites:
*San Bernardino – I love songs about places. Which is perfect, because there are tons of Mountain Goats songs about cities, towns, and driving. Yesssss.
*This Year – I listen to this at least once a day; lately it’s been more like 5 times a day.
*Cry for Judas
*Love Love Love

Shoutout to my friend Lauren for introducing me to this band! I hope this post will introduce a few more people to the awesomeness that is the Mountain Goats. :)

Music for the week

Current favorites:

I Cried Like A Silly Boy / DeVotchKa. Heard this song in I Love You, Phillip Morris (good movie, as long as you don’t mind Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor getting it on) and immediately had to download it. DeVotchKa also did music for Little Miss Sunshine, which is an all-time fave.

Never Going Back Again / Fleetwood Mac. Just can’t stop listening! This is one of those songs that makes me want to pick up the guitar and pretend to be a musician. :P

Country Roads / John Denver. This was stuck in my head all last weekend, and I wouldn’t stop singing it as Alex and I drove around Tuolumne County to and from the cabin. Except I could only remember half of the chorus, so I’d always stop at “West Virginiaaaaaaa…”

Leaving on a Jet Plane / Peter, Paul, & Mary. Another John Denver song. I was listening to this on YouTube, and happened to read one of the comments from a Vietnam vet: he said this was the song that was playing as he walked away from his parents at the airport to catch the plane that would take him to Vietnam. After reading that and listening to the song again, I honestly felt like I was going to cry right there in the Google shuttle. So then I made a mix inspired by songs like this, that way I could listen to it all the time and get all emotional that I didn’t get to live through the 60s (story of my life).

___________________________________________________________________________

 

While we’re kind of on the topic, did I mention how much I love 8tracks? I love being able to search for a playlist by theme or mood, and that the playlists are put together by actual people, not generated by algorithms.

I think this is somehow related to my obsession with autobiographies: to me it’s less about the actual story/songs; instead, it’s the personal touch that makes an autobiography better than a biography that just spews facts, and a handcrafted mix better than Pandora. I guess I just like hearing first-hand what events and music can shape a person’s life. It’s all story-telling, but through different mediums. :)

A while ago, I made a high school playlist for fun, and realized I could pinpoint exact memories associated with each song (pep band on Friday nights, driving to the movies with drumline friends, getting ready in the morning and watching music videos on VH1). Listeners won’t necessarily know that, but somehow it just makes the experience a little more rewarding when you create a mix like that to share with others. Maybe it’ll bring back memories for them too.

Anyway, long story short – check out 8tracks and let me know if you make an account so I can listen to your mixes. :)

Gimme some good ol’ American music

I’ve been keeping a list of music that I’ve been obsessing over recently – whether it’s new stuff on the radio or classic albums revisited – and after putting them all in one list, I am noticing a distinct Americana theme going on. I must be going through one of those summery, itching-to-hit-the-road phases or something…anyway, as a result, I offer you some music to listen to!
.
Two albums I want to highlight:
.
.
Born & Raised. John Mayer. This new album is much more ‘down home’ than the John Mayer I’m used to listening to, and I love it. Upcoming road trip to Utah = you better bet I’ll be listening to this on the way. A couple favorites: Age of Worry and Speak for Me. Also, how great is the cover art? It seriously looks like it belongs on a record album, next to CSNY and Buffalo Springfield.
.
.
And the Hits Just Keep On Comin’. Mike Nesmith. Funny album name, especially because no one really knows any of the songs on this album (except for “Different Drum” which Linda Ronstadt made famous). Nevertheless, I went through a phase where I listened to this album every day, strumming along on guitar and pretending to be a country singer. This isn’t really your typical country, though. It’s just Mike and a pedal steel guitar, singing really exposed lyrics with big words and kind of cerebral themes. Great to listen to if you’re feeling introspective and kind of lonely, haha. I remember really loving the liner notes written by Nez, but can’t find them online. :(
Favorite tracks: Two Different Roads and Keep On.
.
And to round it off, here are some songs I’ve been digging A LOT lately:
Wildflowers. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Such a perfect sunny weekend song.
I Won’t Give Up. Jason Mraz. Ohhh my heart.
Man on Fire. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. Makes me want to embark on a road trip riiiiight….NOW.
Some Nights. Fun. How epic is this music video? (The song starts about a minute in)
Happy summer!
.

Record store finds

Last weekend our local record store Freakbeat Records had a massive sale, and I picked up some serious goods. For $5 I got the film Shine A Light (AWESOME live footage of the Rolling Stones, directed by Martin Scorsese), and for another $5 I got an LP of Ustad Vilayat Khan-Sahib and Imrat Khan-Sahib, circa 1967:


Brief(?) explanation of why this is so important to me: Vilayat Khan is one of the greatest sitarists in history, part of a musical dynasty that dates back to the 16th century (he is also my sitar teacher’s father, so in a way I am a very small branch of this incredible gharana whose members I have nothing but the greatest respect for). Vilayat Khan-Sahib’s brother Imrat Khan is one of the last great masters of surbahar, or bass sitar, an instrument that has largely died out in the past few decades. It’s already hard to find decent recordings of surbahar, which is a fascinating instrument to me…but it’s even harder to find recordings of Vilayat and Imrat Khan playing together, because they had a huge falling out and didn’t speak to each other for years. So not only is it a rare recording, it’s even more rare on vinyl (I’ve looked it up and found a few CD versions and downloads, but only two LPs on eBay, selling for about $50). Thanks to Freakbeat, I got it for 5 bucks, and who knows if I ever would have found it again!

Some videos:


Vilayat Khan (center) and Hidayat Khan performing Rageshree. So fun to watch Vijay Ghate, I love his expressions! Also, this is the rag I’m currently learning, so I was really excited to find this. :)

Imrat Khan, surbahar. Video quality isn’t that great, but a beautiful performance!

I like Tchaikovsky

Sorry for the sparse/short entries recently! I’ve come across so many things I want to write about, but never seem to have the time to actually put together a post. This one’s been waiting unfinished for a while, so I thought I’d share it before this blog becomes totally extinct:

I don’t know where I obtained this record, but last time I was home I decided to put it on and rock out to good ol Pyotr. It’s such an irrelevant album cover, but the music is totally legit. And I’m not gonna lie, I really want that chick’s sweatshirt.

I recently found myself walking under the arches of Royce Hall while listening to the 1812 Overture (not the crazy-dramatic-fireworky ending, but the very beginning, which is hauntingly majestic in contrast). The combination of my surroundings and the music was strangely emotional. I felt like I should have been walking in slow-mo as if in a movie, the scene where the college grad is about to embark on the next great chapter of her life and is surveying her home for the past four years one last time. Very surreal.

Listen to it here.

I feel more like a music major every day

My current obsession is in the form of a song. More specifically, it’s the 3-minute introduction to Tchaikovsky’s 1st piano concerto. I really can’t find words to describe it, but about 2 and a half minutes in, I feel like the strings are gripping my heart and pulling me up into the heavens, haha. Meanwhile the piano is pounding away…it’s such a great contrast. Tchaikovsky is the man. I started to get really into his music after listening to the 6th Symphony on a record I found at home. Everyone is familiar with his ballet works, but there is so much more amazing stuff to be heard.

Nowadays my YouTube usage has been geared toward finding performances of classical pieces that I love. Am I a nerd? Answer: very yes. I also got a $15 itunes gift card for Christmas, and what do I spend it on? A whooooole bunch of classical music. Anyway, here are some of my favorites:

*Adagio for Strings – Barber. It’s so powerful…so sad. A thousand images could be put to this piece.
*Pavane Pour Une Enfant Defunte – Ravel. It was originally for piano and then made into an orchestral work, but I love this version.
*Symphony No. 5, Mvt. 4 – Beethoven. Listening to this is pretty exhausting, haha. It might sound crazy, but this ending reminds me of the final push in a drum corps closer; it has just as much energy and I bet performing it gives the same amazing rush.
*Andante Cantabile – Tchaikovsky. Seriously, sometimes I think there is nothing more beautiful than the sound of cello.
*Piano Concerto No. 20 K466 – Mozart. Not gonna lie, whenever I hear this I think of Salieri being wheeled through the asylum at the end of Amadeus…nevertheless, it makes me really happy. I love Mozart.

[Side note: I’ve had that Mozart-in-aviators picture saved for at least 2 years, and have just been waiting for a reason to post it. The day has finally come!]