Category Archives: Music

Song of the Day #11 – The Swell Season

Today’s song is “Falling Slowly”, by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who collectively perform as The Swell Season. This song was originally released by Hansard’s band, the Frames, but it really took off after appearing in the 2006 film Once. By the way, if you haven’t seen Once, head to your nearest video outlet, online or off, and treat yourself to a copy. You won’t be disappointed – it’s one of the few movies I had to see twice in a row, with a fantastic soundtrack to boot. The video below combines “Falling Slowly” with scene’s from Once.

Song of the Day #9 – Kimya Dawson

Quirky doesn’t begin to describe today’s song, which is “I Like Giants” by Kimya Dawson. It’s one of those songs you’re either going to love or hate. I fell in love with it after about 5 seconds. I also love the lyrics, which I’ve reproduced below. An amateur artist named Natalie created this video entirely using MS Paint, which is an accomplishment in and of itself. I think the simple kid-like animation style fits the song perfectly. Enjoy…

I Like Giants by Kimya Dawson

When I go for a drive I like to pull off to the side
Of the road, turn out the lights, get out and look up at the sky
And I do this to remind me that I’m really, really tiny
In the grand scheme of things and sometimes this terrifies me

But it’s only really scary cause it makes me feel serene
In a way I never thought I’d be because I’ve never been
So grounded, and so humbled, and so one with everything
I am grounded, I am humbled, I am one with everything

Rock and roll is fun but if you ever hear someone
Say you are huge, look at the moon, look at the stars, look at the sun
Look at the ocean and the desert and the mountains and the sky
Say I am just a speck of dust inside a giant’s eye
I am just a speck of dust inside a giant’s eye

When I saw Geneviève I really liked it when she said
What she said about the giant and the lemmings on the cliff
She said ‘I like giants
Especially girl giants
Cause all girls feel too big sometimes
Regardless of their size’

When I go for a drive I like to pull off to the side
Of the road and run and jump into the ocean in my clothes
*I’m smaller than a poppyseed inside a great big bowl
And the ocean is a giant that can swallow me whole

So I swim for all salvation and I swim to save my soul
But my soul is just a whisper trapped inside a tornado
So I flip to my back and I float and I sing
I am grounded, I am humbled, I am one with everything
I am grounded, I am humbled, I am one with everything

So I talked to Geneviève and almost cried when she said
That the giant on the cliff wished that she was dead
And the lemmings on the cliff wished that they were dead
So the giant told the lemmings why they ought to live instead

When she thought up all those reasons that they ought to live instead
It made her reconsider all the sad thoughts in her head
So thank you Geneviève, cause you take what is in your head
you make things that are so beautiful and share them with your friends

We all become important when we realize our goal
Should be to figure out our role within the context of the whole
And yeah, rock and roll is fun, but if you ever hear someone
Say you are huge, look at the moon, look at the stars, look at the sun
Look at the ocean and the desert and the mountains and the sky

Say I am just a speck of dust inside a giant’s eye
I am just a speck of dust inside a giant’s eye
I am just a speck of dust inside a giant’s eye
And I don’t wanna make her cry
Cause I like giants

Song of the Day #8 – Jorma Kaukonen

Today’s song of the day is “I Am the Light of This World”, written by legendary bluesman Reverend Gary Davis and reinterpreted here by guitar virtuoso Jorma Kaukonen, of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna fame. I like the way Jorma has consistently woven elements of blues, rock and folk into his music, while adding his own unique perspective.

And here’s a rare recording of Gary Davis performing his original version:

Song of the Day #6 – Cat Power

Today’s song is a ballad by Cat Power (performing name of Atlanta singer/songwriter Chan Marshall) called “Lived in Bars”. This song seems to be about Marshall’s well publicized struggles with alcoholism. You can hear the pain in her voice – it’s sad and raw and honest and beautiful, all at the same time. There’s a nice tempo change near the end where the mood turns from melancholy to mildly upbeat, which, I think, mirrors her real life recovery.

Song of the Day #4 – Iron and Wine

Today’s song of the day is by Iron and Wine. The song is called “Passing Afternoon” and it’s one of my favorites. Iron and Wine is the performing and recording name of singer/songwriter Sam Beam, who had an interesting path into the music business. He was a professor of film at the University of Miami who, for several years, made and distributed demos to his circle of friends. Eventually, his home-made recordings found their way to an executive at Sub-Pop records who offered him a recording contract. Since then, he’s released five records and his music has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows.

Here is Iron and Wine’s “Passing Afternoon” from my own video called “Airport Reunion”.

And here’s a bonus video of Iron and Wine performing “Dead Man’s Will” live at a record store in San Francisco.

Song of the Day #3 -Billy Bragg & Wilco

Today’s song of the day was written by a great American songwriter who died over 50 years ago. “One by One” by Woody Guthrie is a wistful meditation on growing old and lost love. The version of the song I’d like you to hear features a collaboration between two great artists: legendary British folksinger Billy Bragg and Chicago indie rockers Wilco, who released this song as part of a Woody Guthrie tribute record called “Mermaid Avenue”. The lyrics are poignant and haunting – I’ve included them below the video.

One by One by Woody Guthrie

One by one the teardrops fall as I write to you
One by one my words come falling on the page
One by one my dreams are fading in the twilight
One by one my schemes are failing fast away

One by one the flowers fade here in my garden
One by one the leaves are falling from the trees
One by one my hopes are vanished in the clouds dear
One by one like snowflakes melting in the breeze

One by one my hair is turning grey
One by one my dreams are fading fast away
One by one I read your letters over
One by one I lay them all away

One by one the days are slipping up behind you
One by one the sweetest days of life go by
One by one the moments stealing up behind you
One by one she’ll come and find not you or I

One by one I hear the soft words that you whispered
One by one I feel your kisses soft and sweet
One by one I hope you’ll say the words to marry
One by one to one by one forever be

Song of the Day #2 – Cat Stevens

Last weekend I watched Harold and Maude with my family (I think it was my third or fourth time seeing it). It’s a quirky, funny, touching, amazing dark comedy that everyone should see. it was made nearly 40 years ago (1971) and it still holds up very well today.  The “Harold and Maude” soundtrack features original music by Cat Stevens, including today’s song of the day: “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”:

Here’s a bonus video of a group of talented fifth graders in New York City performing the same song:

Song of the Day #1 – Samantha Crain

I’m starting a new feature today, in which I will post a video of a great song every day. Today’s selection is “Songs in the Night” by Samantha Crain, a talented young singer/songwriter from Shawnee, OK. This video is a short documentary profile of Samantha and her band. It was filmed at the SXSW festival and features excerpts of three of her songs. As such, it’s a nice little sampler of Samantha’s music.

Concert Review: Two Guitar Phenoms From East and West

Last night Kimberly, Maya and I had the privilege of seeing Trace Bundy perform live with his special guest, Korean guitar prodigy Sungha Jung. This was my first time at The Triple Door and it’s one of coolest venues in Seattle. It has a nightclub style layout with an in-house Asian restaurant. Your party sits at a table or booth facing the stage. It’s a fairly intimate room and there’s not a bad seat in the house. We had a nice dinner while waiting for the show to start. Maybe I’m just getting old but it was a refreshing change from the usual concert venue where you have to jockey for position in front of the stage and stand for hours waiting for the opening act. It’s family friendly too with a lot of all-ages shows. I’m definitely going back.

The opening act was Korean guitar wunderkind Sungha Jung. Check out this video to see just a small sample of what this kid can do:

This was Sungha’s first trip to the U.S. and it was great to see a 12 year old kid with such poise and technical ability.

Trace Bundy, the headliner, is known for his innovative playing, featuring double handed string tapping, drumming on the guitar body, multiple custom capos, loops and other effects, eclectic song choice and some amazing fingerstyle playing. It’s hard to describe what a Trace Bundy performance is like – you have to see it to believe it. Here’s a little taste:

I’ve been watching Trace’s youtube videos for a while now but this was my first time seeing him perform live and I was really impressed. He has a great sense of humor and puts on a very unique, entertaining show. If you have a chance to see him perform live, don’t miss it – you won’t be disappointed.

At the end of the night both artists came out to mingle with the crowd and Sungha was kind enough to pose for this picture with Maya:

As you can tell from Maya’s smile, we had a great evening.

Book Review: Guitar Man

The full title of this book is “Guitar Man – A Six String Odyssey, or, You Love That Guitar More Than You Love Me”. It’s the autobiographical tale of a Brit named Will Hodgkinson, who takes up the guitar in his mid-thirties. The interesting twist here is that the author sets himself a goal of performing in public within six months. That would be a bold move for anyone, but especially so for a guy with a job, a wife, a couple of kids, no prior musical experience and a self-proclaimed lack of talent. He has a few factors on his side, however: a long held dream, a few eccentric and marginally musical friends, and a long-suffering but ultimately supportive wife.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the first chapter:

The golden light of creation was shining. Harmony filled the world. I closed my eyes and let the guitar resonate with the sweet vibrations of eternity.

“STOP IT! I can’t stand that guitar. It’s driving me crazy!”

I was getting used to that reaction from my wife. It seemed that my every rendition of the chorus of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones was like a needle piercing the nerve endings of her brain. But it wasn’t [my wife] who was complaining. It was our three-year-old son Otto.

“I don’t want you to play your guitar any more”, he cried, sticking his fingers in his ears. “I don’t like it. It’s horrible.”

I had only had the guitar for two weeks…and my family were already rebelling against any attempts to bring a bit of musical provenance into their lives. But I had set myself a task which, having been foolish enough to boast about, there was no getting out of: to perform before an audience in six months’ time. This was before I had picked up a guitar, when the idea still sounded fun; a way of forcing myself into doing something I had only talked of for the last two decades. The possibilities of life are infinite, limitless and exciting before you start attempting to do something. But as soon as you apply yourself to learning a new skill, you are confronted with the severity of your limitations.

So begins a journey of both musical education and self discovery. At times it becomes a sort of musical travelogue. Hodgkinson’s quest takes him to some interesting places, including London’s famous guitar mecca Denmark Street, and a trip to the deep south to explore the roots of American blues. He meets a few famous musicians along the way, including Johnny Marr, Roger McGuinn, Cat Power, P.J. Harvey and others.

I enjoyed this book. If you’re interested in playing guitar or the history of rock and roll, I think you’ll enjoy it too.

Twenty Great Songs

A friend recently made me a CD with a sampling of her favorite songs. In attempting to reciprocate, I faced the daunting task of distilling my favorite music into 20 or so tracks. I started by acknowledging there is no such thing as “best” in music or art, which is why I’m calling this list “Twenty Great Songs” and not “The Twenty Greatest Songs” (I’m pompous, but not that pompous).

So this morning I rummaged around my CD collection and iTunes, trying to come up with just the right blend of new and old, mainstream and indie, classic and cutting edge. Each artist is limited to one place on the list. Here’s the result, in no particular order:

  1. “Three County Highway”, Indigo Girls, Despite Our Differences
  2. “In the End”, Linkin Park, Hybrid Theory
  3. “Crazy Mary”, Pearl Jam, Sweet Relief
  4. “Phantom Limb”, The Shins, Wincing the Night Away
  5. “Hurt”, Johnny Cash, The Man Comes Around
  6. “Let’s Get It Started”, Black Eyed Peas, Let’s Get it Started
  7. “Karma Police”, Radiohead, Amnesiac
  8. “Hey Ya”, Outcast, Speakerboxxx
  9. “Old Pigweed”, Mark Knopfler, The Ragpicker’s Dream
  10. “When You Were Young”, The Killers, Sam’s Town
  11. “Stratford-on-Guy”, Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville
  12. “Reelin In the Years”, Steely Dan, Can’t Buy a Thrill
  13. “For the Widowers in Paradise”, Sufjan Stevens, Greetings From Michigan
  14. “Meanwhile, Rick James”, Cake, Comfort Eagle
  15. “Weightless”, Nada Surf, Lucky
  16. “When Your Mind’s Made Up”, Glen Hansard, “Once” Soundtrack
  17. “Careful”, Guster, Keep It Together
  18. “Where to Now St. Peter”, Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection
  19. “Passing Afternoon”, Iron & Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days
  20. “Box of Rain”, Grateful Dead, American Beauty

Scanning this list, I see that I’m a sucker for ballads and I have a decided preference for indie artists. Some readers may wonder where, in god’s name, are the Beatles? All I can say in my defense is a) you try picking just one Beatles song, and b) if you ask me tomorrow, you’ll probably get a completely different list.

Please feel free to add your favorite songs in the comment section below. Now I have go burn a disk or three…