Songs of the Year—1998 The Next Big Thing

Songs of the Year: “Give Me Daughters”, Jonathan FireEater; “Underground”, Ben Folds Five

Runners up: “Torn”, Natalie Imbruglia; “St. Louise is Listening”, Soul Coughing

Honorable Mentions: “Doo Wop”, Lauryn Hill; “The Rockerfeller Skank,” Fatboy Slim

1998 was the year that alt-rock died. I swear it. Later, it was reincarnated as “Indie”, but the death throes had started the year before. Pearl Jam and 311 (!) released live albums; Green Day went soft with “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” and Matchbox 20 acquired yet more fans. It was soon to be Jay-Z’s world and I was merely living in it.

In the year that Alanis finally thanked India, when Shaniah Twain was kept from conquering the world by Celine Dion and Cher and while we all started to endure an overwhelming onslaught of boybands and young R&B performers (Aaliyah, Destiny’s Child, Brandy and Monica), I started to stop listening to the radio.

No Lisa Loeb, for sure

What a terrible year for music—one that anticipated worse years to come. The top three singles? Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, Cher’s “Believe”, and Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. Napster couldn’t be deployed soon enough. Radio was dying or dead. I was in the dishroom, or behind a bar, or carrying trays of lobsters to tables begging for the radio to be turned off.

When I wasn’t playing bad cover songs or trying terribly hard to put together a band that sounded like Guster, I was probably in a classroom or a dishroom. In abandoning the radio, the Rhythm Guitarist and I entered a seemingly endless search for the next big thing. If we were still playing cassettes, we would have worn out Guster’s Goldfly and Soul Coughing’s Irresistible Bliss. But we weren’t. We had CDs. If you’re careful, they play forever.

The year was short on big things. What was I listening to? I loved the Ben Folds Five live album Naked Baby Photos, was slightly disappointed in Soul Coughing’s last album El Oso, Cake’s immensely disappointing Prolonging the Magic, and the wildly successful and only sometimes cloying You’ve Come a Long Way Baby by Fat Boy Slim. I wasn’t cool enough to know about Bright Eyes’ Letting Off the Happiness (which I wouldn’t hear for four years).

I was cool enough to have the short release Tremble Under Boom Lights by the soon-to-implode Jonathan FireEater. The nearly incomprehensible lyrics on the lead track “Give Me Daughters” detracted nothing from the distanced B3 organ, the throaty and deep voice of the vocalist, and the gritty dirt of the recording. The song structure is loose, but repetitive enough to be memorable.

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Thanksgiving Songs?

Not me, exactly

Yeah, Yeah. This is a re-post. Sue me. I’m busy flying home to Maine to eat too much and fall asleep with toddlers bouncing around me.

 

As we move into the end of November, we approach one of the most complex, over-determined, and potentially disappointing times of the year. The holiday season. What other period packs three major holidays, constant excuses for indulgences of all kinds, and some of the most memorable and execrable music of the year into 45 days?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a total curmudgeon or a Grinch. (Well, I may be a little bit of a Grinch. But I am not a Scrooge.)  There are things I completely adore about the holiday season.  Reuniting with family and friends is nice (even if at times stressful). Eating and drinking too much is not hard for me. But there are a few things about this time of year that drive me crazy.

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Mash-up Repost: Bands with numbers in their name from the Nineties

numbersSo, my brother wrote this post a bit back and I have been thinking about it. I wrote a response. Both generated some debate, so for the first time, I have mashed two of our posts into one terrible Frankensteinian beast. Any ideas for bands we’ve missed or explanations for the phenomenon?

Here’s my brother’s bit to begin:

It occurred to me the other night that there were a lot of  bands with numbers in them from the Nineties. I think  Seven Mary Three was the best. I came to this conclusion after a long conversation with an elementary school friend last week  with whom I enjoyed many of these songs. The football game was not very exciting because the Patriots were like seven touchdowns ahead. I decided to have a mixed drink and this turned into why Seven Mary Three was a better band than Third Eye Blind.  We had to first determine which bands were up for consideration. For instance was 311 up for the best band with numbers in it from the Nineties?

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The Table: Moving Out and (Not Quite) Moving On

“Circle of Life”, The Lion King. My daughter doesn’t really like to eat. In order to entice her, I show her videos on youtube. She loves this song. It takes me back to my freshman year of high school when my girlfriend at the time was obsessed with Disney. We went to see this movie on opening weekend and I secretly loathed her for it. But now, every time I see Simba raised up in front of his father, I come near to tears. That I start this post with this song and memory will make sense, I promise

As my brother may have mentioned in an earlier post, I haven’t been posting as much for a few reasons. One is that I have gotten steadily busier with work; the other is that, after living in an apartment for a year (only after giving up a house we lived in for four years to move downtown in our adopted home city), we realized that even the spacious 1500 square feet was too little room for two toddlers and two organizationally challenged adults.

So, we house-shopped, made some offers, lost some houses and finally closed a few weeks ago. After some horrors, we moved last Friday. I took the kids to daycare, cleaned out the old apartment and took them home to our new house.

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Songs for Teachers

My brother recently wrote about his struggles in working with middle school students. He and I talk a lot about education (even though we come at the topic from very different perspectives) and I have tried to commiserate with him, but I know that he has one of the hardest jobs in the world. Now, this post isn’t just an excuse to ramble on and list some of my favorite songs about teachers, but it is a recognition of the important connection between music and education as well as the critical work that teachers do.

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Albums of (My!) Year

dirty-three-toward-the-low-sun-review-e1329085762752(My brother and I without really planning it authored three year-in-review posts. We apologize for piling on with the rest of the (un)-civilized world.)

I have mentioned earlier my distrust for lists and the way that they distort issues of judgment (something that on its own has issues). See, for instance, the recent “50 Best Rap Songs” offered up by Rolling Stone.  (It unfairly emphasizes older and ‘original’ rappers—for the most part not on aesthetic grounds I suspect, but rather because the polled ‘experts’ both suffer from age-laden nostalgia and from the critic-typical desire to seem authoritative by tracing things back to their origins.)

The act of publishing such nonsense is of course intentionally provocative: it invites dispute, debate and engagement with the topic. And, even such a purposeful misrepresentation of the ‘quality’ relations among various artists or examples of the artists can have the salutary effect of forcing critics and their audiences to develop ad hoc if not more evolved standards for making such decisions.

At the end, however, listing is arbitrary at some fundamental level. But, of course, arbitrariness can be quite fulfilling on its own. So, I am ending the year with a list that is doubly arbitrary. Here is a list, from worst to best, of the albums I bought in 2012. The album did not have to be issued in 2012. Nope, this is purely about whatever I acquired and how I feel about it.

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Taking Up the Numbers Challenge Again

So, my brother’s recent post about bands with numbers in their names originated not just from a conversation he had with a childhood friend, but also from some riffing that he and I did on the subject. Yes, as the commenter Jake keenly observed, my brother left far too many bands out of consideration. And, as my brother insisted, this is not accidental: he really just wanted to (1) denigrate Third Eye Blind while (2) defending an under-remembered and muscular-sounding band named Seven Mary Three.

The list below will be going through “Changes” too

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Thanksgiving Songs ?

Not me, exactly

As we move into the end of November, we approach one of the most complex, over-determined, and potentially disappointing times of the year. The holiday season. What other period packs three major holidays, constant excuses for indulgences of all kinds, and some of the most memorable and execrable music of the year into 45 days?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a total curmudgeon or a Grinch. (Well, I may be a little bit of a Grinch. But I am not a Scrooge.)  There are things I completely adore about the holiday season.  Reuniting with family and friends is nice (even if at times stressful). Eating and drinking too much is not hard for me. But there are a few things about this time of year that drive me crazy.

Continue reading