Tag Archives: music

Friday night music: the sultry sounds of Sophisti-pop

Wait, what is sophisti-pop, you ask? Let me let Wikipedia explain:

Sophisti-pop is a subgenre of pop music which developed out of the new wave movement in the UK during the mid 1980s. The term has been applied retrospectively to describe acts who blended elements of jazz, soul, and pop with lavish production. Music so classified often made extensive use of electronic keyboards, synthesizers and polished arrangements. Artists also utilized cutting-edge studio technology and perfectionist recording methods.The genre has been described as mellow, romantic, and atmospheric.

Sounds right. Sophisti-pop was made by artists like ABC, Aztec Camera, Bryan Ferry, Haircut One Hundred, Joe Jackson, Prefab Sprout, Simply Red and Spandau Ballet. Add to that list three of my favorite: The Style Council, Sade and Everything but the Girl (EBTG).

EBTG captured the genre recently when they wrote: “We were a band who listened to Chet Baker but also Buzzcocks, who loved Getz-Gilberto but also The Doors, whose lyrics were intimate but also political”.  The same could be said for many of the bands listed above.

If you want to know what was some of the best of it, check out the 10 of the Best Sophisti-Pop albums. If you’re a Spotify user, they have an entire section devoted to that sound. Also EBTG put together their Complete Discography 1982-2005 on Spotify.  They have a new album coming out soon: meanwhile go back in time and listen to what you may have missed.

Finally, here’s a song I’ve listened to a million billion times since it came out. A great song for walking alone at night in the rain:

 

Spotify helps makes the holidays more festive. Take advantage of it.

When I was younger, I loved listening to Christmas music all through the holiday season. This was hard in the days of radio only music, since they often stopping playing Christmas tunes once Christmas day was done. To keep it going, I could play my own records/tapes/CDs, but they get old after a time. (Except for the music for Charlie Brown’s Christmas: that never gets old.)

All that is to say that Spotify solves the problems I used to have. They have LOTS of Christmas music, and you can listen to it all you want. You can even listen to it in July. (That’s too long for me, but you do you.) Not only do they have lots of songs, but they have plenty of playlists. You can even make your own playlist. That way you can list to the type of Christmas you want, when you want it.

Happy holidays to you. Keep it festive with Christmas music, be it from the radio, your own collection, or Spotify. Joyeux Noel.

Big hair, don’t care: more good links on the best decade, the 1980s


The 80s come back in vogue from time to time, such as when current works like Stranger Things delve into it.  Mostly the decade is seen historically. That’s fine. It was a good decade, at least for me, and I love to think and write on it. One of the great things about having your own blog is you can write what you want about whatever you want. 🙂 So here’s more things on that era that I found worth reading lately…

Much of the music of the early 80s started at the end of the 70s.  Take the music of bands like Talking Heads. Or the Ramones. Speaking of them, here’s some great bootleg footage of the Ramones in concert before the person filming it got caught!

As for other artists of that time, here’s a good piece on Blondie.  Like  punk and new wave, another trend of the time was Blitz.  This piece covers the Blitz era and all the music that was associated with it. Moving from the English music scene to Canada, here’s something on Rebecca Jenkins, an artist and musician who was involved with so many other performers I loved at the time, from Jane Siberry, to Holly Cole, to the incomparable Mary Margaret O’Hara.

Another incomparable artist from the time is Richard Grant. I will never forget him for his great turn in the film “Withnail and I” back in the 80s. Nowadays he has suffered a great loss but still keeps going and is inspirational on twitter and elsewhere. This is a good piece to catch up on him: Richard E Grant on grief fame and life without a filter.

Finally, gone but not forgotten, here’s a fine piece on Ruth Polsky Who Shaped New York’s Music Scene in that era. Recommended.

(Image from the piece on Blitz)

Great advice for anyone from 6 to 66, from Nick Cave (be foolish and be basic)

So someone named Chris wrote to Nick Cave and asked, “I’m 62 years old and decided to learn how to play guitar. Rock guitar. Is such an endeavour a fool’s errand for someone of my age?” To which he replied “Yes… AND…”. I think anyone considering starting something new should read it. (It can be found here: Nick Cave – The Red Hand Files – Issue #210 – I’m 62 years old and decided.) It reminds you that you can suck and you may be too old (or too short, tall, thin, fat, shy, awkward, etc.) but that good things can come out of it if you keep at it.

Reading it, I was reminded of the classic three chord recommendation: learn three chords and form a band! Why not? If this got you thinking hey maybe I should learn to play the guitar, then you might find this useful: Guitar card cheat sheet. Start with E. 🙂

BTW, I think the advice “learn the basics” and then get out there and make something is good for any creative endeavour, be it drawing or making a web page. Don’t try to learn a lot at first. Learn enough to get started and go from there.

P.S. I think “Yes….AND…” is a great way to answer things. It acknowledges the concerns someone might have while opening them up to possibilities they might not have considered or appreciated.

(More on three chords and form a band, here (and where I got the image from))

 

The PO-80 Record Factory Kit from Teenage Engineering is very cool

The smart folks at Teenage Engineering have produced another cool product. As Yanko Design explains….

The PO-80 Record Factory Kit is a record cutter that engraves audio onto 5″ vinyl discs, giving kids the ability to record their own LPs the old-fashioned way, quite like how millennials made mixtapes and burned their own CDs. The Record Factory, created in collaboration with Yuri Suzuki, lets you engrave and playback 5″ discs with an ultra-analog lo-fi sound. This isn’t studio-grade equipment, after all, but it does add a creamy muffled, effect to your audio that totally sounds like the 40s and 50s in a nutshell.

Love it! For more on the PO-80, see these write ups in Yanko Design and the Awesomer.com.

(Image link to Yanko Design)

Should we give up streaming and go back to CDs and DVDs?

Did you know you can still get DVDs from Netflix? Well according to this, you still can! And maybe you should.

I’ve been thinking about it recently for a number of reasons. One is the number of streaming services I pay for that I barely use. Sure I like the idea of being able to watch any movie at the drop of a hat. But do I….really? No, I do not. It’s a waste of money for the idea of instant gratification.

Second, streaming services may be making us less likely to hear and experience new things. I thought of that reading this piece in the Guardian. I find that happens to me with Spotify: it is trying so hard to match me with music that aligns with my taste that I get stuck in a rut. In some ways streaming is a gilded cage.

That’s why we should heed what Clive Thompson says and rewild our imagination. It’s more work, but more rewarding.

So get out your DVD player and order some movies or DVDs and watch something you’ve always wanted to but never seem to because it is not available online. You can even order a DVD player for cheap, here.

 

Got to get this into your life! The new special edition of Revolver

Yep, just like some of the later Beatles records, Revolver is getting remixed and maximized, with 64 tracks of goodness for you to purchase or stream. You can read about this new special edition of that great recording here: ANNOUNCING REVOLVER SPECIAL EDITIONS (news), The Beatles.

I’m a huge fan of Revolver: it may be second only to Abbey Road for me if I were to list my favourite Beatle records. It’s all killer, no filler. Get it into your life! 🙂

It’s Labour Day. Put away that computer and make something creative

It’s Labour Day. Take a well earned break from your work. Perhaps you plan to relax and take it easy. That’s a good choice. If you are itching to be more active, though, why not do something creative?

If you are looking to make something, the Washington Post has a section on beginner diy projects.

Perhaps you always wanted to learn to paint? If so, Domestika has this creative watercolor sketching for beginner course.

If you have already started painting and you want to improve your skills, these
YouTube videos by Ian Roberts on Mastering Compostion are good. Likewise, if you can go to the artistsnetwork.com and get guides like this: how to thin acrylic paint and more.

Another source of education is My Modern Met Tutorials.

If you fantasize about going to art school but can’t imagine how you could pay for it, read this: Don’t Want to Pay for Art School? Here’s a Streamlined Syllabus for Getting your MFA.

If you want to do something musical instead, check out patatap, a fun way to make noises and visuals with your keyboard.

Finally, if writing is your thing, you can start a blog here at WordPress. If you want more people to read you though, consider writing for a larger audience and see if they will still take first person articles at The Globe and Mail.

There’s lots of ways to be creative. Have fun!

(Sunday) Night Music (one of the best music shows you never saw)

In the late 80s, Lorne Michaels (of SNL fame) produced this show called “Night Music” that was seen in Canada as well as elsewhere. For a show that only ran from 1988-1990, it featured a wealth of musicians. (You can see the list here.)

One of my favorite episodes was #208 which featured Sting and Mary Margaret O’Hara as well as many other fine musicians. If you have 40 minutes, you can see it here:

What I like about that episode, like most episodes, is that you get a wide range of musicians, old and new, all doing challenging or interesting music. You didn’t just see the latest artists performing their hits. You didn’t just see one style of music. You never knew what to expect, other than it would be good.

So check out that video while you can. I’ve posted Night Music videos before and they get pulled sooner or later. See it while you can, and see why it was so good.

Friday Night Music with the Psychedelic Furs and….Maroon 5?

I find it fascinating when ideas reoccur in music videos. Take these two. First up is “Heaven” by the Psychedelic Furs.

Next up, “Girl Like You” by Maroon 5, some years – decades – later.

Both use a similar style, where the camera seems to revolve around the singer, allowing for lots of motion even while the singer remains in one place. It’s effective in giving the video life. It’s also interesting to see it revisited after all this time in the latter video.

Of course, there are other things that give the video action. In “Heaven”, there is literally a downpour of water! While in “Girl Like You’, there is the effect of many women appearing behind Levine as he sings.

Anyway, both effective videos. I am loathe to post music videos these days: so many times the music companies will yank the videos and leave my blog posts looking poorly. Perhaps these ones, because they have been there for some time, won’t be removed.

P.S. It’s an impressive pantheon of women appearing in the Maroon 5 video, ranging from performers to athletes to activists. You can get the details on who they are, here.

P.S.S. Here’s a different version of “Girl Like You” which I like even more.

Four more on McCartney, who is 80 this year

Paul is 80 this year, and a good year he’s been having. People are writing pieces filled with praise. He had a big show at Glastonbury with his buds. Not bad for an octogenarian.

It’s been a long and winding road from the early days of the Beatles to now. Some argue that serendipity had a big part to play in Paul and the Beatles’ Success. I’ll let you read that and be the judge. I think it had a small part.

Finally, think of your favorite McCartney song. Then dive into this and see what others famous and less famous picked as theirs: People’s favorite McCartney song. I was surprised by the frequency of Martha My Dear and Temporary Secretary. I was also surprised that Band on the Run was only picked by one person. Read it and be surprised in your own way.

 

 

The elusive spotlight (being a pop star as a career)


Pop stars have unique careers. For some of them, it can be like being an athlete: you do it while you are young and then you are done. That what came across to me in this piece: ‘That’s it? It’s over? I was 30. What a brutal business’: pop stars on life after the spotlight moves on | Music | The Guardian.

Then there are some artists — not as many — who go on and on and whose careers shift and they become more akin to academics (e.g, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen).

What happens after the spotlight shifts depends on the artist. Read the article and see.

It’s an interesting career, to say the least. All the power in the world to those that can make a go of it.

On the Smiths and those album covers

The Smith’s were (are?) great for many reasons. One reason in particular was their album covers. Looks like the folks at NME agree, because they put together

an exhaustive guide to each and everyone of their 27 single and album releases’ sleeves, and what they mean

You can find here. Fans of the band will enjoy that. I did.

Speaking of the Smiths, this piece by Doug Coupland, Morrissey will never be cancelled is worth a read.

Jeff Koons, skiffle, and other things You may find interesting about art, May 2022

How to: If you want to make cartoons & comics but you have no idea where to start!, read that. If you want to draw a head, read How to draw a head: A complete guide. If you want some good books on art, there is this, 16 Best Books for Learning to Paint of 2022 and this Top 10 Best Books on Painting. Click these links if you want to draw fabric or draw glass. If you want to go to OCAD and study art, click on this or this.

Artists: if you want to read about artists, here some pieces on Jeff Koons, Marcel Duchamp, Keith Haring, James Castle‚ Richard Serra and Jeff Koons again.

Thinking: if you like to think about art, then you might want to read, is my art good enough, What Does It Really Mean to Make Art?, When art transports us where do we actually go? and 24 Hours in the Creative Life.

Music: if you prefer music over the visual arts, here’s some good stuff: Guitarist Randy Bachman Demystifies the Magical Opening Chord of The Beatles‚ Hard Day’s Night. Speaking of the Beatles, here’s a piece on Skiffle. And if that inspires you: How to Play Guitar Without Learning How to Play Guitar.

Writing: if your thing is writing, here’s a piece on Essay writing. This was fun: a defense of the em-dash. This may discourage you: No one will read your book. This may encourage you: Dagny Carlsson Centenarian Blogger Dies at 109.

P.S. The good rules you see above are from that link to Swiss Miss.

For the musician/gamer in your life: NES-SY37 Synthesizer

How cool is that? A synthesizer that steals design elements from Nintendo. Brilliant! More on it, here: Love Hulten NES-SY37 Synthesizer | Uncrate.

What is a prelude? (and more ways to learn about classical music…)

Then consider going to this blog. Here’s the piece there discussing: What is a Prelude? After you read that,  scroll to the very bottom of the post, where you will see they also have introductions to minuets, cantatas, operettas and more.

Saturday afternoons are a good time to learn such things. Then find some music to listen to.

Thinking of moving from Spotify to another service?

If you are thinking of moving from Spotify but you don’t want to because you have all these great playlists, then you might want to consider the site TuneMyMusic.com . It’s a service to help you do just that. I haven’t tried it yet but it could be just the thing if you are thinking of going from Spotify to Apple Music or Tidal or one of the other music streaming services.

Thanks to Navneet Alang for point it out.

Cool Christmas gifts: the Orba

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For someone in your life that likes to make music, this could be just the gift for them. As the website explains:

Orba is a handheld synth, looper, and MIDI controller that lets anyone make music immediately. With Orba’s integrated looper you can layer Drum, Bass, Chord, and Lead parts to create beats and songs on the fly. Play through the built-in speaker or use the ⅛” jack to connect headphones or amplifiers. Pair wirelessly to the Orba app to customize your instrument and share your creations with friends.

I thought it was cool, especially for people who love to be on the go but also love to make music all the time.

What do Kent Monkman and Christopher Pratt have in common? (or what I find interesting in art, November 2021)

Well besides being Canadian artists, they are both featured in this post! 🙂

In addition to those great artists, here are other things I’ve found interesting in art recently.

Artists: Here’s a strong story: Julie Green Artist Who Memorialized Inmate’s Last Suppers Dies at 60 . I was really struck by this piece about her. She did important art and it’s well worth reading about her and her work. More on that here: Dish by Dish Art of Last Meals.

This was an amazing story: Art Enthusiast Spots Long-Lost Sculpture by Black Folk Artist in Missouri Front Yard. I liked this story:  The Gilded Age painter devoted to scenes of every-day life around him. Also this one was good:  A TikTok Subway Artist Finds His Way to the Lower East Side

This made me sad: Bernini Bust of a Woman He Abused Exhibited Alongside Photographs of Survivors . I have always been a fan of Bernini. That he was brutally cruel to Costanza Buonarelli (the woman who was the victim) is not something I can ever reconcile with how much I love his work.

This is a good little piece on a work by  KENT MONKMAN: “DANDY”. And here is a great study of how Christopher Pratt created one of my favorite works: Pedestrian Tunnel”.

How-to: I’ve been doing some drawing and watercolor these days. I’ve moved on from being a frustrated artists to actually making some basic art. This is a good tool for that: Free Interactive 3D Model for Drawing Figures Dynamic Poses and More Online Drawing Mannequin.

Relatedly, I found these useful. Here’s some good tips so you can get Better at Drawing. This helped: Learn how to draw a face in 8 easy steps: Beginners. So did this:  Draw a Self-Portrait. As did this: Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Basic Body Proportions .

I’ve been interested in multimedia, so I was into this: Using Acrylics in Collage, and this: How to Adhere Paper to Canvas, and also this: The Best Paint To Use For A Beautiful Collage Painting.

Music:  most of my art interest is visual, but I also like these music links:  Guitar Trainer by Acoustro, and The Complete Beginner Saxophone Course, 
and this 5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Bach.

Finally: this looks like a good book: Your Art Will Save Your Life

(Image is a link to the piece on Pratt.)

Friday Night Music: Paris Match (Style Council with Tracey Thorn vocals)

If you are a fan of the Style Council, as I am, I highly recommend this: Long Hot Summers: The Story of The Style Council (2020) | SHOWTIME

It’s an excellent review of the career of the musicians that made up the band, and a fine reminder of how great they were.

While there were many people interviewed for it, Tracey Thorn didn’t appear, sadly. I would have loved to hear more about how she crossed paths and became a Councillor for a time.

Watch the documentary: you’ll be glad you did. Meanwhile, check this out:

On the historic smashed guitar of Paul Simonon of the Clash

From small moments of frustration, history is made.  As the Guardian explains:

The guitar was last played on stage at the Palladium in New York on 20 September 1979. Frustrated at the stiffness of the audience, Simonon raised his guitar like a giant axe, turned his back to singer Joe Strummer, and brought it crashing down.

That moment was captured on film, made into part of the cover for the band’s London Calling record, and the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

For more details, see: Bass guitar smashed at Clash gig to join relics at Museum of London | The Clash | The Guardian

(Image via GuitarWorld)

More on New York in the 80s


Here on my blog I like to write about one of my favourite places (NYC) and my favorite eras (the 80s). So I am happy to highlight this piece on an exhibit on the music of New York at time: New York, New Music: how the city became a hotbed for music in the 80s | Music | The Guardian.

New York then was a hotbed not only for music, but for art. After almost dying in the 60s and 70s, it started it’s Phoenix rebirth in the 80s. I was happy to be a part of it, and I often like to highlight it. That Guardian piece does a good job of capturing the place and the time.

(Photo by Bryan G. on Unsplash.  I don’t think it is of the 80s, but it is a photo of the Lower East Side and it is reminiscent of it.)

Blue, the classic from Joni Mitchell, turned 50


Joni Mitchell’s great album, Blue, turned 50 this year. To celebrate, there’s been a number of good pieces done on it, including this superb one from the Times: Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ at 50 – The New York Times.

If you are a huge fan or just curious to know more about the album, I recommend this: Hear Demos & Outtakes of Joni Mitchell’s Blue on the 50th Anniversary of the Classic Album | Open Culture

Of course, you can also check out the Wikipedia entry too.

Finally, Carey is one off my favorite pieces on the album and one of my all time favorite songs. So I loved reading this piece on the inspiration of that song (and California, too): When Joni Mitchell Met Cary Raditz, Her ‘Mean Old Daddy’ – WSJ

 

Peter Jackson has Peter Jackson’d Get Back


When I first heard that Peter Jackson was going to remake “Get Back”, I was excited. I believe that he was going to find the happiness and joy in the making of the original film. Then sneak peaks of his work started to come out confirming this, and I was very excited indeed.

Unfortunately the pandemic hit before the film could be released and then the focus changed. As this piece explains, it is no longer going to be a feature film for general distribution. Rather it is going to be a three part feature only on Disney+.

In other words, Jackson is going to do to Get Back what he did with The Hobbit: stretch it out and over do it. I think that will be a shame. I am sure some fans will love it, and seeing the extra material will be good, but I also think it will be flabby and overdone. Just like The Hobbit.

Maybe I am too pessimistic. Maybe it will be great. We shall soon see.

(Image: link to IndieWire.com)

On the new Grado x series of headphones

Fans of Grado should know that they have upgraded their Prestige line. For example, those of you who may have had their SR125e may want tto upgrade to the new SR125x. I know, the e series is great and you may never want to give them up. But check this out regardless:  Grado Labs – SR125x.

They have upgrades from the SR60 to the SR325. Whether you have the 125s or the 325s or even the 60s — all great — you can consider moving up in terms of quality, even if it is just going from the SR60e to the SR60x. So gift your old cans to someone younger who can gain a new appreciation of music and sound through a good set of headphones, then head over to their website and upgrade yourself.

(Image from the Grado site. No sponsorship here: I just think they make a great product).

 

What I am interested in: music (lots of great links)

One of my regrets in life is I never learned how to play music. So I kept a bunch of links for me and anyone who wants to try:

If you don’t want to learn how to make music, here are some other interesting music links:

(Photo by Simon Noh on Unsplash)

More goodness from the 80s

David Salle painting

Here at this blog I will always share my love of the 1980s.

First up, here is a great piece in the New Yorker on a recent Whitney art show which highlighted the Joy of Eighties Art. It’s begins great:

Starting in the late nineteen-seventies, young American artists plunged, pell-mell, into making figurative paintings. That seemed ridiculously backward by the lights of the time’s reigning vanguards of flinty post-minimalism, cagey conceptualism, and chaste abstraction. The affront was part of the appeal. As with contemporaneous punk music, sheer nerve rocketed impudent twentysomethings to stardom on New York’s downtown scene. The powerful excitement of that moment has been languishing in a blind spot of recent art history, but “Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s,” at the Whitney, a show of works by thirty-seven artists from the museum’s collection, comes to the rescue. Some of the names are famous: Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Eric Fischl, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring.

I loved reading every word of that. A great review.

Other 80s things I found recently is this here ode to a great album of the the early 1980s: Rattlesnakes from Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.

Saxophones don’t feature on that recording, but they did on many other great recordings of the 1980s. Gradually they died off. Here’s a good piece exploring that.

If you still have music from that era, chances are some of it is on a cassette tape, which was big then. If you suddenly have the urge to listen to that, you can, with this player (shown below at Uncrate.com). It’s not the original Walkman, but in some ways it’s better.

cassette player

Rock on.

(Top image is David Salle’s “Sextant in Dogtown” (1987).Courtesy David Salle / VAGA, NY. Linked to in the article. Bottom image is from the uncrate.com article)

Not 1 but 2 good pieces on the eve of McCartney 3

Paul McCartney

Here’s two good pieces on Paul McCartney on the eve of his latest album, “McCartney 3”.

The first one is an interview with him. Among other things, it shows the difficulty of him doing interviews, since it’s hard for him to add anything new (he still manages to do so): Paul McCartney Is Still Trying to Figure Out Love – The New York Times

While the New York Times piece is really good, this piece is great: 64 Reasons To Celebrate Paul McCartney – The Ruffian.

I have always been a fan of McCartney, but this second piece made me a greater fan. I’ve read it a few times, and even though it is long, I look forward to reading it again. It really does do a fantastic job of highlighting what a great artist Paul really is and addresses some of the many criticisms of him over the years. McCartney has been pinned down over the years both by some bad musical choices and by some (unfair?) musical criticism.  One thing I liked about the second piece is how it nicely rebuffs some of that (e.g. “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, “Another Day”). Highly recommended that piece, but both are worth a read.

P.S. Since I am banging on about him, my two cents on McCartney from the late 60s to the late 70s is that the Beatles were originally Lennon’s band, but as time past, McCartney grew and started to dominate the Beatles more. Meanwhile Harrison also came into his own. At one late point Lennon tried to come up with an arrangement of how they would allocate songs on the future albums (I think 4 for John, 4 for Paul, 2 for George, and 1 for Ringo), but I think things were too far gone by then. They were too big for the band. That’s too bad (what an understatement). If you go through their musical output of the 70s and picked out the best songs of all of them and made 3 or 4 albums, they would have been great albums (just think of taking the best of Imagine + All Things Must Past + Band on the Run, for example). Plus if they were together they would have pushed each other to do more great things.

I’m not sure how well they would have done past then. The birth of hip hop, punk and new wave might have washed them aside. Or they could have become frozen in amber, like some other big bands of that era. (Look at a Rolling Stones concert play list some time.)  Then again, McCartney teamed up with Elvis Costello and made fine music, so they could have turned out to stay great.

Regardless of alternative histories, McCartney went on to make his own timeline  as a creative artist. Here’s to the success of McCartney III and perhaps IV one day as well.

On being moderately gifted, and the pain and pleasure that brings


This piece by Austin Kleon on being moderately gifted got me re-thinking this idea he discusses.

I say re-thinking because it is something I have thought about since I was a young man. Back then I was getting into  jazz (as one does) and someone told me: the problem with being a jazz musician is your new album is always competing with the albums of Armstrong and Fitzgerald and Davis and Coltrane and Simone. People putting out pop music don’t have to worry about that. It’s tough to be moderately gifted in jazz, I thought, for you are always competing with the best. But in pop music, you are usually competing with the now. There’s more room to get by being moderately gifted. (Especially in the era I grew up when three chords was all you needed.)

If you have a creative spirit but moderate talents, it is easy to get dispirited and put your tools away. You will never be great you say, why bother? But I think the answer comes from looking at pop music. You may never be great, but you can enjoy putting in play whatever talent you do have. Maybe you can only paint flowers, or knit scarfs, or bake brownies. Do it with gusto! Do it like a punk rocker pounding away on his guitar with the 3 chords he knows! You might never be great, but in the moment, you are living large and the audience at the time is loving it. That’s enough. And enough is as good as a feast.

Perhaps you will go on to greatness. Whether you do or not, shine on as brightly as you can. Not all of us can be the sun, but sometimes being a campfire is fine.

The perfect headphones for working at home may be these Grado’s GW100 Wireless Headphones. Here’s why…

If you are in the market for headphones and you work by yourself at home, consider the GW100 from Grado. If you need convincing, read this rave review in Forbes. Working in a space with others isn’t great with them because they are open back (i.e. others can hear the sound). But WFH alone, these would be perfect. Sure, you can also go with the wired versions that Grado makes. They are also great. Even the lower end models are excellent. However, the wireless is a great feature, especially if you want to move around some or want to avoid yet another wire to deal with. 

In Canada, you can get the GW100 and so many more at Bay Bloor radio.

 

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The Vocal Ranges of the Greatest Singers*

Ok, this is fun: The Vocal Ranges of the Greatest Singers*.

You really want to check out the site using your desktop: you don’t get to appreciate the site as well on your phone.

I found some of it surprising, though not all of it. Barry White is obviously well represented in the low end, and Mariah Carey is well represented in the high end. And while some singers don’t perform in a wide range, that’s no reflection on their singing ability (ahem, Aretha).

I also added an asterisk because people familiar with singers from the opera world would argue that all these pop singers are not truly the greatest.

But like I said, it’s just fun. Enjoy.

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Friday Night Music: Larkin Poe cover the classic ZZ Top song, “Sharp Dressed Man”

via Larkin Poe | ZZ Top Cover (“Sharp Dressed Man”) – YouTube

Via Paul Krugman’s newsletter. Not surprising, really.

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Friday Night Music: Stevie Wonder – Uptight (Everything’s Alright)

Great footage of a very young Stevie Wonder performing this classic:  Uptight (Everything’s Alright) (1965) HD 0815007 – YouTube

One thing for sure, Stevie Wonder is much more than an average guy. Enjoy.

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Friday night music: Jimmy Fallon, the Original Hamilton Cast & The Roots Sing “Helpless” (At-Home Instruments)

Pure joy.

via Jimmy Fallon, the Original Hamilton Cast & The Roots Sing “Helpless” (At-Home Instruments) – YouTube

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On the death of happy chords

This is a fascinating piece on how some chords

  • are perceived as happy
  • are dying out

I think people with more musical knowledge than I can assess how true this all is. But it is interesting nonetheless.

See: ‘Happy’ chords are dying out, study reveals – Classic FM

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My favourite Friday Night Christmas Music links….

…are here!

Years ago (2011, 2012) I used to post music links every Friday night (as well as other days and nights). On December, I would focus on Christmas music. These are some of my favourites.

Enjoy! And joy to the world….

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Very cool: Gregorian Chant Music Generator!

A very cool site that allows you to mess around with Gregorian chant music in all kinds of ways. Fun! And also great if you want to have it playing while you work Gregorian Voices • Relaxing Music Generator

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Why Play a Music CD? Lots of reasons….


I really liked a recent article about Ben Sisario, the New York Times reporter who covers the music industry. He is talking about what he uses to listen to music, and this quote jumped out at me, especially the part I put in bold.

(I) try to keep an eye on all the major platforms out there, which means regularly poking around on about a dozen apps. My go-to sources are Spotify, SoundCloud, Bandcamp and Mixcloud, which has excellent D.J.-style mixes and to me feels more human than most.

At home I have a Sonos Play:5 speaker, which plays streaming music and podcasts, and is a piece of cake to use. I also have Google Chromecast Audio, a little plug-in device (now discontinued) that allows me to send high-fidelity streams to my stereo. It sounds better that way, but it’s not nearly as easy to use as the Sonos.

To be honest, my preferred way to listen to music is on CD, as unfashionable as that might be. You push a button, the music plays, and then it’s over — no ads, no privacy terrors, no algorithms!

Like Ben, I started to listen to music on CDs again too. For a number of reasons:

    1. I have some great old CDs from labels like Deutsche Grammphon that I am never going to download again and which I don’t even want to listen to on Spotify.
    2. I find it satisfying to put on a CD, listen to it, and then it be over. I don’t want to listen to an infinite playlist all the time.
    3. I always worry that some day services like Spotify will simply trim their catalog and I will never be able to listen to that music easily again. For music I love, I want to own it outright.
    4. I worry about how what I listen to on Spotify is constantly fed into their analytic software – what people like to call their algorithm – to determine what I want to listen to. Some times I just want to listen to music in a different direction. I don’t want Spotify to start suggesting new music based on a whim.
    5. I don’t want Spotify or others to know everything about my listening choices. I think we all need a stealth mode for any services we use online.

I still love Spotify, but I don’t want to depend on Spotify to enjoy music.

That’s my two cents. For more on Ben, see: Why Play a Music CD? ‘No Ads, No Privacy Terrors, No Algorithms’ – The New York Times

Silent Night is supposed to be performed on Christmas Eve, and other interesting things about the 200 year old carol

As Silent Night turns 200 this year, the CBC has come up with a great piece on the history of this famous carol, which you can read here:
www.cbc.ca/amp/1.4950242

On “River”, the sad Joni Mitchell song that became a Christmas classic

A fine and detailed study on Mitchell’s great song from her masterpiece album, “Blue”: www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/2018/12/07/how-thoroughly-depressing-joni-mitchell-song-became-blue-christmas-classic/

My impression reading it was that there were no sad or melancholy Christmas songs before it, but “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Blue Christmas” are two that immediately come to mind. And later on songs like “Last Christmas” have shown that the holidays can be sometimes difficult.

Read the piece though. Lots of good commentary by great singers who have covered it, as well as what it really means.