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Top 5 “smells like ’94”

Next up on the time travel calendar: it was 20 years ago today this year.

In lieu of a Top 5 albums, a Top 5 quintessential sounds of 1994.  I wouldn’t say these examples sound “dated” per se; more so that a few notes ought to instantly transport listeners back exactly two decades.

Enjoy the trip!

5. smells like…Grade 8 dance
Boyz II Men, On Bended Knee

No vocal group did a better job at helping boys dance arm-length apart from their middle school crushes!


4. smells like…Unplugged
Nirvana, The Man Who Sold the World

Other groups did the unplugged routine first, others had arguably superior performances.  None anywhere near as iconic as the Nirvana set.


3. smells like…Woodstock
Green Day, When I Come Around

20 years later, I still have next to no idea what Billy Joe is singing in the verses.  I also might hesitate before putting what appears to be a divot of grass in my mouth; perhaps that’s why they put on a much better live show!


2. smells like…Britpop
Blur, Parklife

The middle years of the decade were also a golden age for music from across the pond.


1. smells like…Some of the best music of all-time.
Jeff Buckley, Grace

Oh who am I kidding, I can’t not do a Top 5 Albums!  Too many 1994 honourable mentions to mention, here goes:
5) Grace
4) Parklife
3) Day For Night
2) Twice Removed
1) The blue album


Albums by Suede & Soundgarden are celebrating their vicennial on the blog this week, enjoy!

Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady (1963)

[Album 359/1001]220px-Mingus_Black_Saint

The UK Office is brilliant.

That being said, at first glance, it is nearly unwatchable.

How so?  The many, many, cringe-worthy moments, mostly provided by Ricky Gervais’s character, the obnoxious David Brent.

On the first run through, viewers will likely wince at his antics.  It’s upon repeated viewings that viewers are more likely to appreciate the craft of the show.  There’s still the harshness but it’s softened by the more appealing personalities & the enjoyable dialogue among the rest of the ensemble.

I suppose my advice for maximum Mingus appreciation here is the same: don’t give up after a single perusal.

The preliminary run through may be harsh.  Growling low notes abound and if you’re looking for Stan Getz-esque velvet-y saxophone, I’m afraid it ain’t here!

However, much like a well crafted Office episode set in Slough (or Scranton if you will), I’m left wanting more and each re-listen has been increasingly satisfying.

When I reviewed Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, I argued there’s decadence in dissonance & that certainly applies here.  Just like Stephen Malkmus & Isaac Brock often balance on a similar tightrope with their vocal performances, the 11-piece band does a fine job of walking that fine line between intriguing & irritating.

The (well crafted) Black Saint and The Sinner Lady: sit back & enjoy its wonderful (if initially wince-inducing) layers.

Top 5 Holiday TV Episodes

Album related?  Not even remotely!

But ’tis the season for Christmas specials and I thought I’d join the fun.

By calling it ‘holiday’ – that leaves the door wide open for Frank Costanza to make an appearance!


5. Community, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” Season 2 Episode 11
There are funnier community episodes (see #1!) but few TV shows have ever been as creative.  Season 1’s Christmas episode is equally deserving but bonus marks had to be given to this entirely stop-motion adventure.


4. The Office, “A Benihana Christmas” Season 3 Episode 10/11
A toss up between this one or the Christmas episode from season 2.  In another difficult tie-breaker, the advantage goes to the episode where Dwight graphically advises strangers how to prepare a goose!


3. Arrested Development, “Afternoon Delight” Season 2 Episode 6
Only #3, Come on!


2. Seinfeld, “The Strike” Season 9 Episode 10
There just couldn’t be a list without a Festivus for the Rest of Us!


1. Community, “Regional Holiday Music” Season 3 Episode 10
If you like Glee, you may enjoy this episode.  If you loathe Glee, you’ll love this.  Enjoy!

Phil Spector – A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (1963)

[Album 358/1001]220px-Album_A_Christmas_Gift_For_You_From_Philles_Records_cover

I’ll admit it: I love Keanu Reeves.

Yes that Keanu Reeves.

The one who loudly exclaimed, “my name’s Johnny Utah!” in Point Break and confidently proclaimed “I know Kung Fu” in The Matrix.

I’m teased relentlessly when I confess my Reeves reverence, heckled by nay-sayers that toss around adjectives like ‘wooden’ and phrases like ‘can’t act’ when describing his craft.  To them, I counter with something as relevant yet rhyming as ‘don’t hate, appreciate’ or I simply tune them out!

My faith in him was rewarded when tales of his off-screen generosity & humility started to emerge.

Sometimes the more you know about a celebrity, the better.

Phil Spector is not Keanu Reeves.

Instead, he falls under the ‘less you know, the better’ category.

Yet even when focusing exclusively on his body of work, his lone Beatle production, Let it Be, is likely my least favourite in their catalogue.  Not being a real audiophile, I’ve never fully understood his musical legacy.  Admittedly, in cases like this one, it’s tough to separate the artist from the art (especially when the artist name also creeps into the album name).

Whhen I changed my Chinese Democracy track info to be categorized under ‘Axl Rose’ instead of ‘GNR’, my listening experience improved.  Same favourable outcome here when I approached these songs as ‘Ronnettes’ or ‘Crystals’ tunes as opposed to being credited to the producer.

I don’t know if any of the tracks would be considered the definitive versions of a given carol but as a package it works well.

The arrangements are festive and with the right lens, there’s plenty to enjoy.

What I suggest: transfer tracks 1-12 to an unlabelled CD, focus on the performers & their performances, and voilà, you’ve got another dozen good tracks in the holiday rotation.

Or even more if Keanu’s band ever gets around to making that Christmas album…

Top 5 11/22/63 Song References

If this year on the blog is going to be about time travel, might as well go for soda start with a nod to the 2nd finest time travel adventure in recent memory:

Stephen King’s brilliant, and surprisingly moving, 11/22/63.

As I continue to check out music released 51 years ago, here are my Top 5 lyrical references to that fateful November day.


5. Sheryl Crow, Run Baby Run
“She was born in November 1963, The day Aldous Huxley died.”

Farah Fawcett passed away in late June 2009.  You might have missed it however as an entertainer named Michael Jackson died later that same day.

Aldous Huxley fans can relate, as he shares a date of death with C.S. Lewis and of course…


4. The Police, Born in the 50s
“My mother cried, When President Kennedy died”

Not the strongest song in their catalogue but a fine Police ditty all the same.  And speaking of The Police…


3. Tori Amos, Jackie’s Strength
“A Bouvier till her wedding day, Shots rang out, The Police Came”

Easily the prettiest of the quintet listed here.



2. The Postal Service, Sleeping In

“Last week I had the strangest dream, Where everything was exactly how it seemed, Where there was never any mystery of who shot John F. Kennedy”
Perhaps not as consistent a musical project as Death Cab For Cutie but The Postal Service had the better singles.  This one, for example.
1. Guns N’ Roses, Civil War
“And in my first memories, They shot Kennedy”
Not everyone likes the Use Your Illusions but few complain about II‘s opener, especially its terrific 2nd verse.
A pair of 1963 reviews are on deck for the week, enjoy!


357 down, 644 albums and 7 years to go!

My third fiscal year (I started the project on December 1st, 2011) has come to an end. Despite slowing down a fair bit in year #3, I’m still ahead of the semi-rigorous 100 albums/year pace!


The progress thus far:

# of albums Completed so far Completed %
23 15 65.2%
151 47 31.1%
279 85 30.5%
210 64 30.5%
239 97 40.6%
99 49 49.5%
1001 357 35.7%


As was the case for my first & second year-in-review posts (ain’t no party like a fiscal new years party), it’s time for a quick summary of my favourites from the past 365 days.

The Top Songs & Albums of Year 3:

Album – Sarah Vaughan, At Mister Kelly’s (1958)
Song – The Louvin’ Brothers, In the Pines (1956)

Album – The Who, The Who Sell Out (1967)
Song – Fairport Convention, Come All Ye (1969)

Album – Carole King, Tapestry (1971)
Song – Fleetwood Mac, The Chain (1977)

Album – The Jam, Sound Affects (1980)
Song – The Pretenders, Lovers of Today (1980)

Album – Teenage Fanclub, Bandwagonesque (1991)
Song – Hole, Boys on the Radio (1998)

Album – Eminem, Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
Song – Elliott Smith, Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud (2000)

To begin Year 4/10, a bit of time travel.

The vision is to spend a week in a given year, with a Top 5 and a couple reviews at each stop along the way, enjoy!

me, weezer, and the space time continuum [5/5]

[Part 1/5]

[Part 2/5]

[Part 3/5]

[Part 4/5]

[Part 5/5]


The Space Time Continuum

With the “Rivers doesn’t care” theory defeated, I was left searching again for answers to the great 21st Century question: what the expletive happened to weezer???  They used to be so good!  What kind of a sick, twisted, parallel universe do we live in where weezer’s now releasing stuff like…wait, that’s it!

Sometimes the most implausible explanation is the only one that makes any sense.

For my contribution to the ‘what happened to weezer’ conundrum, naturally, it all starts with Back to the Future II.

A quick summary of the complicated Back to the Future II plot:
– Marty & Doc travel from the year 1985 to the year 2015.
– While they were in the future, Grandpa Biff steals their time machine, takes a Sports almanac from 2015 to his teenage self in 1955. His whole journey unnoticed by Marty & Doc, Grandpa Biff returns the time machine to 2015.
– 1955 Teenage Biff eventually makes a fortune gambling (as with the almanac, he knows the outcomes of every major sporting event)
– When Marty & Doc return to 1985, it is an alternate, Hell-ish reality where Biff is a powerful figure and married to Marty’s mom
– Doc & Marty realize they have to return to 1955, intercept the Sports Almanac before Biff can start gambling, thus returning the passage of time to its proper path.

Far-fetched? Delightfully.

But this disruption of the space time continuum has become the only logical explanation for weezer’s bizarre descent in the 2000s & their brilliant, not to mention suspiciously non-linear, recovery in 2014.


What I suggest

Somewhere between 2002’s Maladroit and 2005’s Make Believe, a critical event occurred.

Whatever the event was, and I have no suggestions for what it might have been (because THAT would be crazy), it may have seemed innocuous at the time.

The repercussions of this event however, were severe, causing a tangent in the Space Time Continuum, creating an alternate, parallel reality where weezer was intermittently brilliant but mostly infuriating.

SOMEHOW (and as you can see, this theory has no holes whatsoever) this tangent in the Space Time Continuum was discovered by someone at some time after the disastrous Raditude/Hurley combo but before the release of Everything Will Be Alright in the End.

At which point this mystery someone hopped in a DeLorean, travelled back in time, stopped this seemingly insignificant event from happening somewhere between 2002-2005, thus returning weezer to their proper career trajectory and putting an end to this alternate reality with an inferior weezer.

It’s almost too easy.

How else could you explain Everything Will Be Alright in the End, a record that pays tribute to the band’s past glory while still moving forward in a positive direction that seemed unattainable until this year?


And in the end

Words cannot express how nice it is to love =w= again.

Will it last? Nothing lasts forever, even cold November Rain (and mercifully, Movember moustaches) but I’ll enjoy this weezerenaissance for as long as it does.



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