Wednesday, June 30, 2010

35 - "Heaven & Hot Rods," Stone Temple Pilots



The first band to 3-peat on this list, Stone Temple Pilots are back with "Heaven & Hot Rods." There's a reason STP are on this list a lot, and all of their songs are from the "No. 4" album - they're a great band and that album is awesome.

They first appeared at number 47 with "I Got You" and more recently at 39 with "MC5."

This is another example of a song that goes well being played fast and loud.

36 - "Black Math," The White Stripes



This would be the kind of timing that I have. I post a review of the White Stripes dvd and the very next entry in the Top 50 countdown of the most-played songs on my iTunes is from the White Stripes. So, if you liked the White Stripes review, you'll love this blog. If not, ehhh....

As I explained when I first started this list, this isn't a collection of my favorite songs. It's just the 50 songs I listen to the most. This song caught my attention when I first heard it and I listened to it more than any other song from their "Elephant" album.

It's one of those songs that has a lot of noise in it and you can turn up the volume and have fun with it. I'm a simple man. That's about all it takes to entertain me.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Under Great White Northern Lights review

I became a White Stripes fan when I was in the tenth grade. They had just hit the scene with their first major-label single “Fell in Love with a Girl,” and it really caught my attention. The song was so different than anything I had heard up to that point, coupled with the awesome video, and 15-year-old Chris Slater was hooked. Their next single “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” proved that they had substance and weren’t just a one-hit wonder, and I was even more enthralled by this two-piece Detroit rock outfit.

The White Stripes are an odd band. When they initially hit the scene, Jack and Meg White were portrayed as a brother and sister who played music together. It has since been revealed that was not the case; they were actually married at one point. I don’t remember exactly where the interview took place - I’m thinking Rolling Stone - but Jack gave the reason for the deception as being that people would analyze the song lyrics too much if it were revealed that they were married and then divorced.

Fans of the group have not let the sibling/marriage thing stand in the way of enjoying their music, as the White Stripes have consistently produced some of the best music of the last decade. Their last four albums, “White Blood Cells,” “Elephant,” “Get Behind Me Satan,” and “Icky Thump” have all been critically lauded and won Grammys.

[Click to Listen: "Fell in Love with a Girl" - "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" - "Seven Nation Army" - "Hardest Button to Button" - "Icky Thump"]

I first heard about the “Under Great White Northern Lights” dvd sometime in the summer of 2009. It seemed like an interesting concept - the band had never toured Canada, so they decided to do an extensive tour and make a documentary out of it. I read a few pieces about it and, honestly, largely forgot about it shortly thereafter. I filed it into my “Cool, but not a priority” file in my head, which is overloaded with so much random crap.

It wasn’t until early 2010 that I thought about “Under Great White Northern Lights” again. I was checking my twitter account at work, when I came across a tweet from a teenage girl from London. I honestly can’t tell you how I first stumbled across her profile, but I have been following Georgia, aka @spirtwasteland, for about a year now. She had just started her own blog and her first entry was a review of the White Stripes dvd. She really enjoyed it and her words piqued my interest in the disk.

I eventually bought it and, after letting it set in my room for a few weeks, watched it. I’ll tell you what I liked about it, what I didn’t like, and I’ll also discuss my thoughts on the ending [SPOILER ALERT].

The thing I liked the most about this dvd was the concert footage. Several full-length songs are played from their various concerts around the Canadian provinces. The White Stripes have a very good live show - energetic, and full of spirit. You can tell that they enjoy playing their music in front of a crowd. Some notable songs from the set include “Icky Thump,” “Blue Orchid,” “Little Ghost,” a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” and a blues-y version of “Fell in Love with a Girl.”

One of the more unique things the band did was play a series of what they referred to as “side shows.” They would have their standard concert at night, but during the day they would pick a random spot and play an impromptu concert. They played acoustic shows on a bus and in a bar. They played electric shows anywhere ranging from a classroom, to a boat, to a bowling alley. That was really unique and you could see that they had a lot of fun with these shows. There weren’t as many people in the crowds, so they encouraged audience participation and seemed to really be relaxed.

If you’re not a huge fan of the White Stripes, you might not realize how eclectic their music is. “Under Great White Northern Lights” helps showcase that, as they play several different types of songs. They can rock out. They can play trippy keyboard segments. They can disrupt your senses with distortion. And, then they can pull out an acoustic guitar and play a mellow, folk song. It’s not fair to pigeonhole the White Stripes as having one certain sound. They’re one of the most diverse bands out there today.

With that said, though, there were a few issues I had with this dvd.

If you’re new to the White Stripes and are watching this hoping to get some insight into the history of the group or an understanding of Jack and Meg’s relationship, you’re watching the wrong dvd. In the interview that plays throughout the disk, Jack brings up the brother/sister aspect once. He doesn’t discuss the marriage aspect or really any details about that whole situation. Jack discusses a lot about how he writes songs and what goes into his live shows, which is pretty cool. But, if you’re looking for “the dirt” regarding the band, you’re not going to find it here.

At one point during the interview, Jack mentions that the favorite thing he’s ever had written about the band was that they are simultaneously the fakest and most real band around. He was talking about how they have their fake presentation - the red outfits, the back story, etc… and the real aspect was how good they are as musicians. As I mentioned, I enjoy the musical performances a lot. I am not a huge fan of how hard they tried to be “weird” or “different” on the dvd. During the interview with Jack and Meg, there is a guy laying on a bed behind them. He’s acting like he’s asleep. I thought that was weird, but dismissed it. Then, it turns out the guy on the bed, behind them, is actually the guy interviewing them!

That aspect of the dvd just came off as too forced, too contrived. It hurt the presentation a little bit, in my eyes.

One of the most-talked about parts of the dvd is the ending. Jack and Meg are sitting at a piano. Jack is playing “White Moon.” Near the end of the song, Meg starts crying a little bit. Then, she starts crying a lot. In a touching moment, after Jack finishes the song he looks at Meg for a second before putting his arm around her. They hug each other, and “Under Great White Northern Lights” ends with the two embracing.

Perhaps the reason this scene is so emotional is because there isn’t a lot of contact between the two during the entire dvd. Sure, they talk to each other, and there’s a connection between them on the stage. But, if you knew nothing about them and watched this dvd, you would have no idea that they used to be married. The scene hits you so hard because there’s nothing building up to it. If you listen to the lyrics, it’s a pretty deep song. It obviously affected Meg in some way. Did Jack write it about her? About them? The ending leaves it open.

Despite the awkwardness of the interview scene, this is a solid dvd. Great music scenes. Interesting insight into what makes their music tick. Emotional ending. Bottom line, if you like the White Stripes, buy this dvd. If you’re intrigued by the White Stripes, buy this dvd. If you don’t like the White Stripes, well, I guess you’ll need to find something else to watch.

Friday, June 18, 2010

June 18; interesting day

June 18, 2010.

Today has been an interesting day. It's been an interesting summer so far, but that's another series of stories for another day.

For those people who weren't alerted by Facebook, today is my best friend's birthday. Best friend in this case being Kelly Goodrich. Speaking of Facebook, I got home from work shortly after midnight on Thursday, so it was technically June 18. Since I live with Kelly, I went to her room and wished her a happy birthday. I then pulled out my phone to see that Facebook had sent me a reminder that it was her birthday.

This September will mark 9 years that I have known Kelly. Isn't that crazy?

The remake of the original "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie earlier this year got myself and Kelly talking about the original series. She is a big fan, while I haven't seen any of them. I was an awkward kid, prone to nightmares, so I didn't watch many scary movies. But, now, I've started realizing that I enjoy the horror genre.

So, her birthday present was also a gift for me - a box set of the first 8 "Elm Street" movies. From the original, all the way to 2003's "Freddy vs Jason." She's excited for the nostalgia; I'm excited to see them for the first time.

We have this weird tradition of buying each other a CD for our birthdays. We did that when we were younger, and it's stuck. So, I got her the Them Crooked Vultures disk. They're a pretty cool band, a "super group," consisting of Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin). Click here to read a review by Joe Carowick, from a Dec. 2009 issue of The Concordian, Concord's student newspaper.

* * *

To celebrate her birthday (or, just because we were hungry...), we headed out to Taco Bell. While there, we ran into Lindsey Mullins, former Advisor to The Concordian. She's not coming back to Concord in the fall. She's the second Communication Arts professor not coming back. Will I be here to see what my department at Concord looks like in the fall? It depends on how my summer goes, which I'll blog about soon.

Anyway, I think this was the first time I had seen her since December. We'd talked on Facebook a few times in the spring, but I'm pretty sure this was the first face-to-face meeting we'd had since I handed her a hastily-thrown-together "portfolio" of what I wrote that semester on the newspaper staff. It was for a grade, some sort of final project thing. I should have sent her a link to this blog instead, would have been a lot less clutter.

This may seem weird, but the first thing I noticed was that I'm taller than her. Most of our time together was spent in either her office or the newspaper office, and I guess we were always sitting down or something. I never noticed that over the last 2 1/2 years, and it caught me off guard for a second. The list of people I'm taller than is very short. See what I did there?

She seemed optimistic about her future, which was cool. I hope she lands on her feet, as she has a lot to offer as a teacher. It was honestly a little bit of a rough start for her, but I saw her progress over the last 3 school years into a pretty good college professor.

We've had a somewhat rocky relationship over those last 3 years. I genuinely like her, and I'm confident she would say the same about me. We've just had differing opinions about how to run a college newspaper.

If everybody agrees with each other, that's a problem. One of the good things about Mullins and myself is that we weren't afraid to disagree with each other and question the other. It helped promote creativity and got different viewpoints out there. That's not to say it always worked well...

A good example of that would be back when I was Editor-in-Chief of the paper and she would call me up and ask me why I did something, either with page design or something I wrote. I would explain why and we both got a new viewpoint out of it.

A bad example was one time in early 2008 when communication broke down and we just started arguing in the middle of a staff meeting. She thought a certain story was important and I didn't. It went something like this - "Let's write about this." "That's not important, we don't need to do that." "Yes, it is." "No, it's not." "We're going to do it." "No, we're not." That went on for about 45 seconds, in a room full of about 12 people.

That's one thing that I think has been missing from the newspaper staff for the last 2 years. No, not the dumb arguments, the contrasting opinions.

* * *

Kelly and I got home from Taco Bell and as we were walking to our apartment, we ran into an old lady that we hadn't seen for several months. She's had a lot of health problems and had been in-and-out of the hospital several times since we moved in there. The health problems were still there, as she basically asked us to keep an eye on her.

We hung out in the apartment for a little bit, and then it was time for Kelly to go to work. Yeah, I know, work on her birthday. But, she has to make a living somehow...

I was blocking her car in, so I had to go down with her and move my car. As we're walking through our garage, we see that old lady wandering around. I go to my car and Kelly talks to her for a second. The two of them then come out and Kelly asks me if I can call an ambulance. She couldn't remember where she lived and was at least cognitive enough to realize that was a problem.

I called 911 and waited with her while Kelly went to work. We were waiting outside, when she suddenly remembered where her apartment was and wanted to go there. I was telling her that we should wait outside, as that's where the ambulance was going to be, when I heard a fire truck pull up to the front of the apartment. She went off to her apartment while I went to the fire truck. I showed them where she was and went back to my car, only to see an ambulance waiting there. The ambulance was waiting where I told them we would be, while the fire truck went to the opposite side of the apartment complex. I got the ambulance pointed to where she was and they went about their business.

I don't know what happened after that, as I left. As we were waiting for the ambulance, she kept saying to me that she didn't understand what was going on, but then at one point said that she thought she might be having a stroke.

I guess I'll find out what's going on in the next day or two. If anybody's interested, I'll post an update.

* * *

But, yeah, it's been an interesting June 18.

As a warning, I import my blogs into Facebook and just tag random people sometimes. So, if that's why you're reading this, that's why - nothing special, just random.

37 - "Yellow," Coldplay



When I first compiled the list of the top 50 most-played songs on my computer's iTunes, I showed it to Kelly. I asked her questions about it, "What are your favorite songs," "Which ones do you not like," etc...

I also asked her the question, "Which songs did you not expect to see on this list?" Her response was #32 and #37. You'll see what #32 is soon enough, but #37 is Coldplay's first hit, "Yellow."

When you need a chill, easy-going, relaxing song to listen to, "Yellow" is a good one to listen to. It puts me in a good mood, and that's a great quality for a song to have.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

38 - "King Nothing," Metallica



A lot of people hate Metallica from the '90s. They hate their self-titled "Black Album," they hate "Load," and they hate "Re-Load." Why? Because it's mainstream, it's not as thrash, it's too slow, etc... I actually prefer this era of Metallica. While I can enjoy some of their thrash-metal roots from the '80s, I will gladly take their slower, more melodic music any day.

That's the case with this song, "King Nothing." It's a good, solid track. It's heavy enough to still be cool, but it still has a radio-friendly sound to it. I know I'll probably lose some "cool points" here, but I don't mind listening to radio-friendly music. I don't always dig deep to find the best unsigned indie band. I will listen to music on the radio and I usually like it.

If you take a look at the album cover, which is the background in the video embedded above, you'll notice it's similar to the background of my twitter page - http://twitter.com/chris_slater. To see the explanation for it, click here to read a blog from last year where I discussed it. If you read that blog, you'll find a link to a bloody picture of my toe. Don't worry, it's not too bad...

There are a few more songs from Metallica still to come. They peak at #5 on the list.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Today's Celebrity-Obsessed Culture

It was recently announced that Megan Fox will not be in the latest Transformers movie. The first 2 installments in the big-screen adaptation of the '80s cartoon have been summer blockbusters, with fans of that genre asking for more.

Why is Megan Fox not going to be in T3? That's not really the point of this post, but it's something along the lines of disagreements with the director & "diva-ish" behavior. Also, for the record, I'd like to state that I'm not a fan of the Transformer movies. Explosions just for the sake of explosions and too many corny jokes. Not for me.

Why is this Megan Fox information pertinent? (Aside from the fact that it gives me an excuse to link to pictures of her from this year's Maxim Hot 100 list). It's news. A major star of one of the biggest movie franchises not returning for the 3rd installment is news.

Do you know what's not news? Most of what's presented as news.

Let me give you a history lesson. Until the last decade (the "Aughts" as people have tried to name it) news wasn't constant. There was a daily or weekly newspaper. There was a morning, noon, and nightly newscast. That was your news for the day. Depending on your work or school schedule, you usually missed 1 or 2 of the newscasts. And, of course, there were your Sunday political shows, and your Good Morning America and the like. But, you get where I'm going with this.

It started slowly in the late '90s, as cable started to become the more popular television viewing option. Cable news channels started airing pretty much 24/7 content information. And, with that they realized something - "We have a lot of time to fill and the top stories get boring after a while."

That led to Entertainment News becoming a viable option. It had always been there, people have always wanted to know about celebrities and movies and gossip and whatnot. Now, it was just there a lot more and featured more prominently.

In addition to a constant news bombardment, the Aughts are likely going to be best remembered for the proliferation of entertainment blogs and increased "paparazzi" presence.

Thanks to people like Perez Hilton and Harvey Levin, perezhilton.com & tmz.com are popular attractions for all things "celebrity."

What's the downside to sites like those? For the most part, there's not a lot of interesting content there. Well, most of it's interesting in the context of "I have nothing else to do, I'll check out TMZ."

The problem with that is that it's changing the culture on what is a celebrity. Mischa Barton hasn't done anything of interest with her acting career in roughly 6 years. So, why is the fact that she was photographed at a Starbucks posted on their site? They needed content to fill their pages. What does this tell people? That Mischa Barton is still interesting, and therefore still a celebrity, despite the fact that she has done nothing for the better part of the last decade and the current one.

Why are Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag still popular? Because "Speidi" are featured regularly on TMZ. Aside from that, they have no career. And, that is sending the message to people that they are still important, when they really should not be perceived as such.

Why are the many mistresses of Tiger Woods still in the public eye? What have they done... besides Tiger Woods? Answer: nothing, except enter the public lexicon for a while. The gossip sites decided they needed content, so they are kept in the public lexicon.

I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but a result of this constant proliferation of entertainment news is that celebrities will no longer disappear after their careers begin to fade.

We won't have any more Corey Haims or Feldmans. Neil Patrick Harris never would have had that 10-year dormant span between "Doogie Howser" and "How I Met Your Mother." People just won't go away, as long as these sites think they're interesting.

To take this post full circle, Megan Fox never has to do anything of substance in her career again. She was in two huge summer blockbusters and is hot - that's enough for TMZ to track her every move.

What effects will this have going forward? It's really too early to tell. In today's 24/7 media world, it is easier than ever to become a celebrity. And because these sites and channels need content to fill their 24/7 news blocks, these people will remain celebrities long after their relevance fades.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

39 - "MC5," Stone Temple Pilots



Stone Temple Pilots is the first band to make a repeat appearance in the list of the Top 50 most-played songs on my computer's iTunes. They first checked in at #47 with "I Got You." I'm actually kind of surprised that STP has 6 songs in my list, peaking at #18. I'm even more surprised that they're all from the same album. To see the entire list so far, click on the "Top 50" tag at the bottom of this entry.

"MC5" is one of those songs where you crank up the volume, close your eyes, and let your troubles go away for a couple minutes. That's why this song - and a lot of other STP tracks - are on the list. It's good to just rock out every now and then, and STP allows you the opportunity to do just that.

Another thing I really like about "MC5" is that the vocals are so smooth. While the guitars and drums are going everywhere, Scott Weiland's voice is somewhat calm and chill. The differences in the instruments and the vocals give the song a nice vibe that I like.

We'll see STP again in a couple days, as they occupy the #35 spot in the list, making them the first band to 3-peat in the list. For trivia, the first band to 4-peat on the list is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We won't see them again in the list until #34.

I feel better...

Before


After

Monday, June 7, 2010

40 - "Hitchin' A Ride," Green Day



I like Green Day. They've turned into the "cool band that everybody loves to hate" since American Idiot came out back in 2004. But, before that, Green Day was cool. And, I still think they are. Personally, I think American Idiot was the best album of the last 10 years. Rolling Stone magazine slightly disagreed with me, as they placed it at #22 on their list of the 100 greatest albums of the last decade.

This song isn't from American Idiot. But, it's still good. "Hitchin' A Ride" is a cool song to rock out to. And, I did that to this song quite a bit.

This is the first of 3 songs on the list. Both are in the Top 15. So, you won't be seeing Green Day in the list for a while. And, despite how much I just went on about American Idiot being awesome, none of the songs on this list are from that album...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

It's almost summer.

It's almost summer. It's finally starting to feel like it. Before, I kept seeing the nice weather and wondering how long it was going to last. Now, it's finally sinking in that the sun is going to shine for a while. I'm not complaining.

I'm in a weird mood. I've been like this for a while now. I'm not sure how to describe it. I think I'm frustrated. Frustrated with myself for the failures that I've had in my life. I feel as though I'm not where I should be at this stage in my life and it's all because I've been lazy and complacent.

It's been bothering me lately. I haven't had a proper way to vent and it's been building up. It's just kind of made me angry all the time. I think I've done a good job of not showing it, well, for the most part. Kelly has been telling me lately that I've been moody and snapping at her a lot.

I'm not proud of that. I don't like that the only place I can show how angry I am is when I'm around the only person I don't want to be angry around.

I'm trying to make some positive changes in my life. I've been looking for a job. A real job. A career job.

I applied for a position with the Bluefield Daily Telegraph about a month ago, but I didn't get it. A couple days ago, I put in an application with my old hometown newspaper, The Jackson Herald. There was an open position for a sports writer, so I figured why not?

I haven't really thought through the ramifications of if I get the job or not. Ripley, where the Herald operates out of, is two hours away from here. I'm not really holding out hope that I get the job. I'm just kind of seeing what happens.

Friday, June 4, 2010

41 - "The Jene Genie," David Bowie



David Bowie is an artist that took me a while to realize I enjoyed his music. He has always been a favorite of Kelly's for years. I used to make fun of her for liking him, before I realized I like him too.

Honestly, Bowie has a lot of songs better than this one, but it's one of those songs that comes on and you bounce your head along to the beat. It's good road-trip music, and I listened to it a lot while driving down the road.

This is David Bowie's first of two appearances on this list.

Interesting Bowie trivia - he is credited with inventing and popularizing the mullet.