I love NPR music’s First Listen series, but their media player is an unholy nightmare. When you click to listen to a song or podcast, a godforsaken, commercial-laden new window pops up. No matter what. You can’t even right click and tell it to open in a new tab. I mean, c’mon. I know we’re dealing with a certified first-world problem here, but the whole exercise makes listening to individual songs way less attractive than if they were simply embedded in the page you started on.
My griping ends there though, because there’s a fantastic side effect at work — you actually listen to entire albums. Like, all the way through. I dunno about you, but I’m terrible about skipping around when I’m excited to hear a new album. I try the first song for a bit, then invariably skip to the songs that have already made their way on the Internet, forming a first impression that the band totally didn’t intend when they set the track order. NPR First Listen gives me the chance to hear albums early and unknowingly encourages me to listen the right way. How great is that? Just one of a zillion reasons to contribute to your local public media station, no matter how excruciatingly boring and awkward its pledge drive may be.
While VSQ boasts a killer catalog, I’ve yet to find a song to depose Brad Mehldau’s version of “Exit Music (For A Film),” the current king of instrumental cover music mountain. But to be fair, that’s a tough throne to topple. My attachment to “Exit Music” runs waaaaay deep. Why so deep? Because never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
I recently spent an entire afternoon gorging myself on Vitamin String Quartet. Ever heard ’em? You might have without even realizing it. Their classical interpretations of rock and pop songs have been featured on TV shows like The Vampire Diaries, So You Think You Can Dance and Gossip Girl. Don’t watch any of those shows? Well, do you live in Concord, NH? If you did, you’d probably have heard them anyway, as a radio station there played Vitamin String Quartet 24 hours a day this past spring and summer. That’s right, 6 months of one group.
You may be asking yourself, “How is that even possible?”
I don’t watch nearly enough Portlandia. I’ve seen a few clips, and have savored the sumptuous absurdity of each one — this scene at a dog park is a beginner’s favorite — but I haven’t yet Netflix’d the series from start to finish. I feel a little shame in admitting this, given that Mrs. YHT and I visited Portland last year and had the chance to experience some of its cultural quirks up close. (I also got to experience some of its record stores up close, and came back with a backpack haphazardly stuffed with 45s. Fortunately, it managed to fit far enough under the seat in front of me on the plane that the flight attendant didn’t make me squish the records any closer together.)
We loved the city pretty much instantly, and I remember resolving to dive into Portlandia ASAP. Unfortunately I haven’t followed through, BUT I MEAN IT THIS TIME, and I have the segment above to thank.
I have to admit that I haven’t been totally up front with you. Here I am, posting 3 or 4 times a week, talking about serious things like Apartheid-era South Africa and behavioral music therapy, yet what do I turn around and listen to on the weekends?
Yup. “Call Me Maybe.”
I absolutely love “Call Me Maybe.” Have for a hot minute. I’ve listened to a zillion remixes and mashups, smiled ear-to-ear while watching the Jimmy Fallon classroom instruments version, and I may or may not have bought a screen-printed “Call Me Maybe” shirt while in Chincoteague, VA a few weekends ago. Oh, and there are unconfirmed reports that I sang the chorus to the Eastern European cashier of a McDonald’s in Ocean City, MD this past weekend.
THE POINT IS that “Call Me Maybe” is an addiction I’ve yet to kick, and discovering the mashup below — which pairs the song with PSY’s “Gangnam Style” — is not going to help matters.
Way back when this here blog was in its infancy, I offered a podcast recommendation — my only one to date — for Uhh Yeah Dude, an hour-long comedic show that I’ve found to be wildly addicting. Part of the pull has to do with the two hosts’ conversational idiosyncrasies. Emphasizing the wrong syllables of words and names is big (just ask Lady GuhGAH), as is giving out Jonathan’s actual cell phone number whenever he says something that could be construed as offensive. But my favorite quirk of all pops up when a train of thought has reached its absurd terminus, and laughter or ridiculousness renders the two hosts speechless. In those moments, either Seth or Jonathan will often squeeze out a beleaguered…
“I can’t. I just… I can’t.”
It’s their way of waving the white flag when something is just too much. This rhetorical device never fails to make me smile, because being happily overwhelmed — whether it’s by laughter, joy, relief or something else entirely — is one of the best sensations a person can have, and it just so happens to be the way my brain reacts when I watch The Trillions.
Some Tuesdays are just too flippin’ sweet. When too many records I’m excited about get released in one day, I don’t know what to do — I get all overwhelmed and can’t figure out where to look or what to listen to. Come to think of it, the same thing happens when I walk into a sports bar. Hm…
This past Tuesday was one of those loaded release days, and because I haven’t done a Read It Later Roulette post in a while (Pocket had the nerve to change Read It Later’s name and ruin the gimmick), I thought I’d change things up and spend a few turns bouncing from one release to the next in the inaugural game of Release Day Roulette.
If there was an Annoying Cliché Hall of Fame, “You can’t tell a book by its cover” would be among its most vaunted honorees. To my ears, the sound it makes when someone actually says it aloud is nothing short of cringe-worthy. The worst part is that it means well — the notion that you should reserve judgement until you’ve had the opportunity to get to know someone or something is top-notch advice…
…and that’s what makes periodically proving it wrong so damn satisfying.
Would you punch me in the face if I started yet another post by bragging about a weekend beach trip? Go ahead… I deserve it
On Friday evening, Mrs. YHT and I absconded to Nags Head, NC, where a few friends had rented a cozy little cottage — the kind that has gently warped floorboards and makes you feel like life is much simpler than you regularly perceive it to be. After a late night Michael Jackson/Girl Talk dance party and a Saturday afternoon spent battling a windy beach and the most violent non-hurricane ocean conditions I can remember seeing in the Outer Banks, we settled in for a low-key game night.
OK, so “low-key” probably isn’t the right word to use when you’re playing Cards Against Humanity. This was my second time playing the game, which can best be described as Apples to Apples‘ louder, hilariously evil twin. Here’s how it works: when it’s your turn, you draw a black prompt card, on which an incomplete sentence is printed. The rest of the players try complete that sentence with one of their white cards, on which appear a variety of (often offensive) phrases, and you get to pick the one you like best. A quick example, using actual cards from the game…
“The class field trip was completely ruined by ______.”
“Racially-biased SAT questions”
“Another goddamn vampire movie”
“Waking up half naked in a Denny’s parking lot”
(For the record, I’d probably choose “Sarah Palin,” with “Another goddamn vampire movie” coming in a close second.)
The whole thing is a fascinating exercise in subjectivity and context. Black cards establish the parameters, white cards provide evocative specificity, and each player’s unique bias acts as a bridge between the two. Together, all three work hand-in-hand to form a complete and meaningful thought — I swear it’s funnier than I’m making it sound — and strangely enough, thinking about this process helped me understand why I love Cat Power’s new song “Manhattan” so much.