Mikey’s Playlist Mashup

It’s funny how we learn about new music today in the digital world. I haven’t quite turned in my music journalism card yet, so I receive many pitches for new and established artists. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a music publicist–so I won’t pimp my own artists in this spot. So besides those press releases, I hear about new artists through my clients, through other taste makers like Val’s List and Bob Lefsetz and Kings of A&R. I hear about great music from trusted friends. I hear stuff from colleagues repping cool new acts. I hear songs on TV shows or in movies, or on the radio through bumper music (but almost never from the actual radio anymore). And occasionally from online radio stations. That’s it. It’s amazing how music will find its way into our ears and onto our hard drives now. And speaking of that, I had better purge my iTunes a bit before my PC explodes. Meanwhile, here are some things I’m listening to that you should check out if you feel so inclined.

“Skeleton” by The Good Natured–If you’re a fan of synth-driven ’80′s pop, this title track to the British group’s 2011 EP will take you back to those days a bit, while sounding like it could work on today’s Top 40 radio–whatever that may be. I found this group through a pitch from their publicist, who is pimping their new single, “Video Voyeur.” Now, that video will surely take you back to the early MTV days.

“Celebrate Tonight” by Allen Stone–One of my clients opened for this kid, who really came out of nowhere. He’s a scrawny Seattle-bred white kid with an old school R&B soul. Kind of like Daryl Hall, who took Stone in for a “Live from Daryl’s House” session that literally gives me goosebumps when I see and hear it. The best part is seeing the unbridled joy on Stone’s face as Daryl plays along and sings with him.

“Show and Tell” by Sugar & The Hi-Lows–Nashville singer/songwriters Trent Dabbs and Amy Stroup collaborate here for some pure magic–beautiful melody, arrangement, and a soaring yet lo-fi harmony drenched chorus. It also has a mild ’70′s vibe ala Josh Rouse’s 1972 album (sorry, I have a penchant for music from past decades!).

“Almost Blue” by Joseph Arthur–This guy’s music follows me around, and it’s sheer brilliance. And this past week he released a new double album on his website, available for free download (though there is no way I’m not hitting the “donate” button–I want Joseph Arthur to make music until he’s 80).

“Sweetheart Like You” by World Party–Their new Arkeology set (releasing next Tuesday April 10) is 70 tracks deep and features old songs, new songs, covers, live recordings and more. The World Party fan in your life just has to have this. This song is a Bob Dylan cover that singer Karl Wallinger spins his own way, and it winds up sounding like it jumped off of The New Radicals’ only (and genius) album from 1998.

“Drumming Song” by Florence + The Machine–There is something purely intoxicating about Florence + the Machine, and this song embodies that desire to get drunk with her voice and music, as well as the booming percussion. That said, you just have to check out this acoustic video from KEXP–there is no auto-tune, no slick production–mostly Florence’s positively sick vocals out front.

“Please Stay Strong” by Stolen Silver–I guess it’s okay for me to talk about a band put together with members from a former client band of mine? Well, I just did. These guys have an incredible acoustically driven, harmony-rich sound with some killer songs.

“Forget the Diamonds” by Dave McGraw and Mandy Fer–Just like Sugar & The Hi-Lows above, this duo makes magic together. It’s Americana, yet really it’s just haunting and melodic music that you will find really hard to stop listening to.

“Wine Dark Sea” by Daniel Tashian–Tashian is one of those under-the-radar Nashville cats who I’m certain writes insanely sweet melodies in his sleep. The front man for The Silver Seas steps aside with a solo project here, but it’s really an extension of his band, and something that will tide this big fan over until the next Seas release.

Okay, so I just realized that I could do this all day. But maybe I should save it and do this more often. What do you think? Hit me up here, or on Facebook or Twitter. And thanks for hanging out in my music room for a bit.

Your 2011 St. Patrick’s Day Playlist

Ah, St. Patrick’s Day, where everyone is Irish for a day. March seems to be full of days like that, since Fat Tuesday is the day where everyone is Catholic for a day.

Since we know many of you will be getting a full-fledged drink on this St. Paddy’s Day, especially since it is also the first day of the NCAA tournament, we have provided a small list of songs about drinking, the effects of drinking, and the vow that many of you will make the following morning. Think of it as the bender that you never took; we love booze as much as the next guys, but sometimes those things are better lived vicariously.

“It’s Time to Party,” Andrew W.K.

With a whopping three songs about partying on his debut album, Andrew W.K. will forever remain our master of ceremonies when it comes to partying. Until we saw the grammar-challenged lyric video, though, we didn’t know this song made a reference to a money shot. Yikes.

“Have a Drink on Me,” AC/DC

The night is young. Everyone is flush with cash and feeling generous. Try and remember this moment when 1:30 rolls around and you’re buying Natural Light pounders. For now, though, you’re living on the top shelf.

To read the rest of the St. Patrick’s Day playlist, click here.

Like the song in the iPad commercial? Check these out…

The song is called “There Goes My Love” by The Blue Van, a Danish blues-rock van. The commercial has been all over the airwaves lately, but if you’ve been living under a rock (or are just really good with the 30-second skip button on your DVR remote), take a listen:

The song is from the band’s third album, Man Up. I reviewed their first two efforts, The Art of Rolling and Dear Independence and enjoyed them both. Here are a few highlights from their first two releases:

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iTunes Tips & Tricks: “Neglected Favorites”

If you’re like me and feel sometimes that your music collection is a little too vast, here’s a little trick that I learned not too long ago. I have 4000+ 4- and 5-star rated songs, and I realized that there were some personal favorites that I wasn’t hearing on a regular basis. (For all it’s features, iTunes doesn’t do the greatest job of shuffling through big playlists.)

Using iTunes’ “Smart Playlist” feature, I was able to create playlists of songs that I haven’t heard in some time (six months, a year, whatever).

1. Go to File > New Smart Playlist
2. In the first two drop-down boxes, choose “Rating” and “in the range.”
3. Choose 4 to 5 stars (or 3 to 5, if you like).
4. Hit the plus sign to the right to add a criterion.
5. Choose “Last Played” and “is not in the last” 6 “months” (or 9 months or whatever span you like).
6. Hit OK
7. Rename playlist “Neglected Favorites” (or whatever you like)

You can also add other criteria, like genre, artist or whatever.

So now you have a playlist of all of your top rated songs that you haven’t heard in the last six months. Once you start this playlist, songs will start to disappear when they’re played. As time wears on, new songs (that haven’t been played on your iTunes or iPod in the last six months) will begin to appear.

iTunes won’t let you forget a song!

Mix Disc Monday: I hate myself for loving this song

Guilty pleasures. We all have them. Actually, I never had any until recently, because I figured that if I didn’t feel any shame about liking a song, then it wasn’t a guilty pleasure. Ah, what a naïve child I once was. I surely should have known that music would turn on me and become something I didn’t like, and then that something I didn’t like would create something I liked (ahem, “I Want It That Way”).

So I was inspired to reexamine my CD collection and cast a hairy eye at which songs have not exactly held their own against Father Time. I still like all of the songs on this list, mind you; let’s just say I have since come around to understanding why others may disagree with me.

I Beg Your Pardon,” Kon Kan (Move to Move)
I think the laconic vocal is what hooked me, as opposed to some over-sampled tenor like Dino or Paul “Boom Boom, Let’s Go Back to My Room” Lekakis. I remember, as early as the following year, someone played that song at our local college dance bar, and as people were leaving, they were mock-imitating the keyboard riff. Not much of shelf life for this one.

Strawberry Fields Forever,” Candy Flip (Madstock…)
It must have been the use of “Funky Drummer” in a cover version of one of my all-time favorite songs. That clearly blinded me to the breathier than breathy vocal, the impossibly slow BPM, and, well, pretty much everything else about it.

Hello,” The Beloved (Happiness)
It’s a List Song, which is always a bad sign. When the choruses consist of the names of celebrities, followed by “Hello, hello, hello, hello,” you should know straight away that you are not dealing with a band that’s going to change the world. Especially when two of the celebrities paired together are Willy Wonka and William Tell. In the interest of full disclosure, I have granted a full List Song pardon to Simple Minds’ “Up on the Catwalk,” because the drums are just too damn cool.

Hella Good,” No Doubt (Rock Steady)
I was very, very late to the No Doubt party, and then as soon as I started to like them, they started falling apart. The individual tracks to this intrigue me – I can totally envision Arthur Baker working his mid-‘80s mojo on it – but truth be told, there isn’t much of a song here.

View the rest of the list after the jump.

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Flashback Friday #1 – Greetings To The New Feature

No one asked for it, but here it is, anyway: a new feature on ESDMusic which, hopefully, will become a regular reason for you to visit the site…provided, of course, that we can come up with enough material to maintain it. But, frankly, when you hear the premise, I think you’ll agree that with all of the music geeks we’ve got around here, that shouldn’t be an issue…

Borrowing on the same general concept as Bullz-Eye’s Mix Disc Monday, Flashback Friday will allow our writers to venture into the depths of their possibly-embarrassing personal histories by pulling out old mix tapes and writing about them. In theory, this should reveal a lot about where we were musically at the time we made the tapes; in reality, however, it may just indicate how limited our budget was at the time…or, at least, that’s what this tape of mine shows.

That’s right, as the person who came up with this idea, it’s only fair that I get the ball rolling, and lemme tell ya: I was attending Averett College in Danville, VA (go, Cougars!), and it was a real rarity for me to buy anything that wasn’t on its second or third markdown in the cut-out bin…and, believe me, you can tell.

Title: Greetings from Averett, Vol. 2
Date of creation: late March 1991 (approximate)

Side 1:

“Main Title / Rebel Blockade Runner,” John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra (Star Wars: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

I’ve always been of the mind that every mix needs to start off with something witty, clever, funny, or just, y’know, something memorable. Given that this was 1991 and we were on what would turn out to be a 16-year drought between new “Star Wars” films, beginning the tape with the familiar main titles from the original flick – now known as “Star Wars: A New Hope” – certainly qualified. Unfortunately, the title theme segues directly into another track, ”Rebel Blockade Runner,” and as a result, the whole thing ends up going on longer than most normal people would ever maintain interest. I mean, I love that soundtrack, and even *I* started to get bored. By the way, while I’ve attributed this to the actual “Star Wars” soundtrack, given my budget, I have to believe that this was much more likely taken from an el-cheapo recording done by, say, the Generic Philharmonic Orchestra…which means it’s almost certainly not John Williams conducting but, probably, his non-union Mexican equivalent. (Juan Williams?)

“Losing My Religion,” R.E.M. (Out of Time)

This is the track on Side 1 which most definitively dates the tape for me. As noted, I was a man with limited funds, and most of my purchases were CDs and cassettes that I’d rescued from the cut-out bin at the record chain in the local mall, but I sucked it up and bought Out of Time on its first day of release. I still remember writing a review for the Averett College newspaper, The Chanticleer, and declaring that this song’s lyrics sounded like a parody of the band’s style. (“I think I thought I saw you try” is the one that leaps immediately to mind.) I must’ve made this tape within a day or two of the album’s release and only known this song; otherwise, I almost certainly would’ve put “Texarkana,” “Near Wild Heaven,” or “Shiny Happy People” on here instead.

“This Is the World Calling,” Bob Geldof (Deep in the Heart of Nowhere)

Wow, did this album get reamed when it was first released. I’m sure Bob didn’t expect much else, though; after you’ve been held up as the pop star who fed the world, you ought to know that the press is going to tear your next LP a new center hole. Yeah, that’s right, Geldof’s fallible. So what? And, anyway, Deep in the Heart of Nowhere wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone said; it just wasn’t as good as, say, your average Boomtown Rats album. I still say the first half of the album is pretty damned good, and this song, which leads off the record, is definitely a highlight.

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Mix Disc Monday: When the postman don’t call on Valentine’s Day

Quick show of hands: does anyone really like Valentine’s Day? For single people, it’s an unpleasant reminder that you’re single (and therefore, in the eyes of the good people at Hallmark Cards, a loser). For couples, it’s yet another obligation to go out and do something special for your sweetie, despite the fact that you’ve already done that at Christmas, your anniversary, Mother’s/Father’s Day, his or her birthday and, if you really go overboard, your date-iversary as well. Enough already.

While everyone at Bullz-Eye is either happily married or happily involved (except for our fearless leader, who is happily neither), we see both sides of this dilemma, and have assembled a mix disc for the lovers and another for the fighters. There’s plenty of joy and pain (but not sunshine and rain) to go around. Dig in.

Mix One: Ain’t Love Grand

Ah, love. Love rules. It’s a scientific fact that when you’re in love, the sun shines a little bit brighter, people are nicer, and your car gets better gas mileage. People in love, according to a song by the Feeling, get special treatment. They know of what they speak. And yet, so few truly great songs have been written about the subject. For every “We’ve Only Just Begun,” there are ten songs like “Everything I Do (I Do It for You).” Because of that, this is officially declared a Bryan Adams-free zone. Feel better already, don’t you?

“You’re the Best Thing,” The Style Council (My Ever Changing Moods)
Shameless homer pick, this one. My wife and I danced to this at our wedding.

“La La Love You,” The Pixies (Doolittle)
Because there aren’t enough love songs with monster drum tracks that have someone shouting “Shake your butt!” in the background.

“(They Long to Be) Close to You,” The Carpenters (Close to You)
Okay, so the bit about sprinkling moon dust is pretty silly. But this is one of the greatest melodies in the history of pop. Period.

“Here, There and Everywhere,” The Beatles (Revolver)
Picking one Beatles love song is like choosing to keep only three toes on each foot. My apologies to “Michelle,” “Something” and “And I Love Her,” among others.

To see the rest of Mix One, click here.

Mix Two: Love Bites

If love is supposedly the most wonderful thing in the world, then why the hell does it hurt so much? There’s an old saying that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Try telling that to someone who has just loved and lost. From invincible to unlovable in seconds flat, nothing will make you feel as unworthy as a failed relationship, especially when it’s capped with a crushing one-liner like “I like everything about my life except my relationship with you.” My college girlfriend actually said that to me, no joke. And in return, I sang a number of these songs to her.

“House of Love,” Squeeze (Play)
I nearly put “Wicked and Cruel” in here instead – indeed, Play is pretty much one giant Dear Jane letter – but this song wins out for a laundry list of one-liners. “She was full of lies and boredom, it came as no surprise that she would cheat,” “I wasn’t Shakespeare, it’s simple / Did she expect me to kiss her feet,” and then the chorus hits: “We seemed the best of friends, life had just begun / But on the roof, a tile began to slip / The house of love caved in, and that was it.”

“I Believe She’s Lying,” Jon Brion (Meaningless)
Like Play, Meaningless has several candidates for this list, but I’m choosing “I Believe She’s Lying” for delivering the killer lyric with an even more killer drum track. “As soon as we’re committing, we’re admitting our mistake / So of course it’s only fitting, that the course we’re going to take is drawn / And whereupon, I’m slamming on the brakes.” You’ve all done it, and you can’t undo it. It’s the only way you learn.

“Say Anything,” Aimee Mann (Whatever)
It makes sense to put Brion and Mann back to back, since they used to date and he produced her first three solo records (plus she co-wrote the lyrics to “I Believe She’s Lying”). Was she talking about him when she said, “If you were everything you say, things would be different today / I would be happy to believe / But I’d have to be much more naive”?

“Good Luck,” Basement Jaxx w/ Lisa Kekaula (Kish Kash)
The flip side to “Ice Cream.” It’s angry, defiant, and there isn’t a woman alive who doesn’t love this song. “Good luck in your new bed / Enjoy your nightmares, honey, while you’re resting your head.” And hot DAMN, can Kekaula sing.

To see the rest of Mix Two, click here.

Mix Disc Monday: A holi-holi-ho, and a holi-holi-hey, another holiday

While we find it downright creepy that radio stations are flipping to all-Christmas-music playlists before Thanksgiving, it doesn’t diminish our love of Christmas pop. This list could easily stretch out to 30 tracks, but we will stick to the 15-song limit, if only to make it easier to justify our glaring omissions. We’re leaving off album titles because these songs are available on about 60 compilations each.

“Fairytale of New York,” the Pogues w/ Kirsty MacColl
May as well start with the best of the bunch, and you have to love the opening lyric: “It was Christmas Eve, babe / In the drunk tank.” The story is terribly depressing, full of dashed hopes, bitterness and drugs. But seldom has such ugliness sounded so pretty.

“Christmas Wrapping,” the Waitresses
Patty Donahue is one of the most underrated singers ever, and just try not to whistle along when the sax line comes in.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” Band Aid
Where “We Are the World” was self-congratulatory, we’re-rich-and-that-makes-us-better-people nonsense, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure’s plea for assistance is heartbreaking and relentless. If you want to make your mix really special, hunt down the 12” mix, which features a bonzo drum break from Phil Collins and the stars of 1984 (Bananarama, Big Country) wishing you a happy Christmas.

“Christmas Day,” Squeeze
“Bands Reunited” need to take another crack at getting Squeeze back together. Glenn and Chris’ solo records are nice and all, but neither one of them is writing “Another Nail for My Heart” by themselves.

“December Will Be Magic Again,” Kate Bush
Filled with every ounce of pomp that you would expect from a Kate Bush Christmas song.

“Christmastime,” Aimee Mann & Michael Penn
Mann just did a version of this on her latest Christmas album, but the duet with hubby Penn (it originally appeared on Just Say Noel) is the one to look for.

“O Come All Ye Faithful,” Twisted Sister
Yes, I scoffed at the idea too, until I realized how much it fit the arrangement for “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” the band’s big hit. At that point, I couldn’t stop laughing.

“Thanks for Christmas,” XTC
Brainiac Andy Partridge keeps it simple and sweet, for a change. Funny to think this is the man that would write “Dear God” a few years later.

“Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,” the Cast of “South Park”
Not to be played in front of the kids, unless you’re okay with them singing, “Jews, play stupid games / Jews, that’s why they’re lame.”

“Donde Esta Santa Claus?,” Guster
Even the Jewish kids get in on the hot Santa action.

“Twelve Days of Christmas,” Bob & Doug McKenzie
Heh heh, drunks are funny.

“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/Medley,” Barenaked Ladies w/ Sarah McLachlan
As long as you have this, you can skip BNL’s Christmas album entirely. And Sarah McLachlan makes everything better, doesn’t she? She’s like caramel sauce: sweet and delicious.

“Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight),” the Ramones
You know that Joey Ramone was Jewish, right? Just making sure.

“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” Whirling Dervishes
It’s far too short, covering only the first two verses and a few choice one-liners, but it’s still tons of fun. This one will probably require a trip to Half or eBay, sorry.

“Blue Christmas,” Collective Soul
One of my wife’s all-time favorites, which is saying something since Collective Soul is otherwise verboten in the Medsker household. But their Elvis-style rave-up of “Blue Christmas” is truly special.

Get to Know: Regina Spektor

Russian-born Regina Spektor makes quirky, piano-driven music for the hipster set. She scored a minor hit this year with “Fidelity” from Begin to Hope, her fourth full-length release, but her catalog features several great songs. Where possible, I included links to a live performance or the proper video for each song (hosted by YouTube). I also included links to iTunes and/or Amazon for convenient purchase. Let’s get to know Regina Spektor.

“Fidelity” – Begin to Hope

This song is insanely catchy, from the lovely melody to the creative chorus. It’s one of the few of her songs that doesn’t feature the piano, but it works nonetheless.
iTunes | Amazon

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U2: 18 Singles (an alternate tracklist)

As I recently reviewed U2’s 18 Singles – a collection hoping to tap into the kind of success that The Beatles 1 had a few years ago – it occurred to me that I could put together a better 18-song playlist. Remember, I’m going for the band’s hits; so bigger in this case is probably better.

First, I must identify the “must-haves.” Here is my list: “Angel of Harlem,” “Beautiful Day,” “Desire,” “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Mysterious Ways,” “One,” “Pride (In The Name of Love),” “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “With or Without You.” These are the band’s signature songs. (Only “Angel of Harlem” was excluded from 18 Singles.)

Now, I need to identify the best of the rest: “All I Want Is You,” “Bad,” “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me,” “I Will Follow,” “New Year’s Day,” “Sweetest Thing” and “Vertigo.” Are there better songs not yet mentioned? Probably, but you’d be hard-pressed to find something bigger or more popular.

That leaves room for one song. Regrettably, I’m only choosing amongst the singles, so personal favorites like “In a Little While,” “Hawkmoon 269,” “So Cruel” or “A Sort of Homecoming” do not qualify. Nor does “Flower Child,” an All That You Can’t Leave Behind castoff that I’m utterly convinced would be a huge hit for the band if they would only release it as a single.

Looking at the list of the band’s singles, “Discotheque,” “Staring at the Sun,” “Numb” and “Stay (Farwaway, So Close!)” jump out. Of the four, the last two didn’t chart as well as the first two, so the final spot goes to either “Discotheque” or “Staring at the Sun.” Listening to each as I keep my criteria in mind, I can envision the band opening a concert with “Discotheque.” “Staring at the Sun”? Not so much.

So here’s the final 18-song tracklist, in chronological order:

1. I Will Follow
2. New Year’s Day
3. Sunday Bloody Sunday
4. Pride (In the Name of Love)
5. Bad
6. Where the Streets Have No Name
7. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
8. With or Without You
9. Desire
10. Angel of Harlem
11. All I Want Is You
12. Mysterious Ways
13. One
14. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
15. Discotheque
16. Sweetest Thing
17. Beautiful Day
18. Vertigo

How’s it look?

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