Music Monday: When Your Instruments Get Stolen…

This video is reason alone to fall in love with this brand new New York band — Atomic Tom — who recorded their first album in an apartment-turned-music studio until the endeavor got shut down by the police for loudness. They finished their record, but then their instruments were stolen this month. Watch this video, and then tell me you wouldn’t have loved to have been on this subway . . .

Music Monday: Shine On

My favorite song, when I was three, was called Shine On. I learned it in the children’s program in church. I really loved to sing it out, especially the line, “Shine on, shine on bright and clear!”
Childhood Photo - Me at 3.
They must have noticed my passion because one day the music leader invited me to come to the front and sing it to all the kids. I was definitely up for the task. She carried me on her right hip with one arm supporting me (can you believe I remember this?). She held a microphone to my mouth with her other hand — although it’s possible I just imagined that microphone into a false memory — and I sang to everyone that they should definitely shine on.

To be truthful, I think I was singing to them that I, myself would continue to shine on.
Me at 3.

Anyway, the Kooks have given me a modern, updated song to Shine On to. And my new song makes me feel at least as happy. Have a listen . . .

Music Monday: Charlie’s Unpredictable Rhythms

My Dance Background & Unpredictability

(the darkest blue legs in the middle of the stage are mine. Freshman year. 1980’s dancewear scariness)

I got lucky when my family moved to Michigan. There was a middle school that was part of the Michigan “Magnet” program. Abbot Middle School had a music-dance-theatre emphasis and even though my local school sat just down the street from where I lived, I took a bus to Abbot Middle School so I could get dance and vocal training and experience.

I had been choreographing dance pieces for fun since I was a young kid, but it was at this school that I got to choreograph on assignment and perform my numbers for other people. I also got to see other the other kids’ pieces. That is where I realized I had an intuitive sense for dance choreography, at least in one aspect — an aspect I realized was not a natural instinct for everyone: predictability. Or, rather, being unpredictable.

The other dancers in my class always repeated each 1-2 count movement on the other side of their body for counts 3-4, and then repeated the sequence a second time.

Right then left — again — right then left. (snore).

I preferred to keep the audience on constant alert so they would never know what I was doing next. Sometimes I would repeat a movement for three counts, but then do something totally unexpected on count four. I would often run a sequence beyond or just short of the standard 1-4 count or 1-8 count rhythm.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

I like the unpredictable and it’s the unpredictable, constantly changing guitar of John Frusciante that most stirs me in the song, Especially in Michigan, on the Stadium Arcadium album, which I blogged about a while back. I also mentioned the song, Charlie, in that original blog post. Charlie — a song about imagination and anything that happens to be your own personal inspiration — has the most unusual, unpredictable, tricky and complicated rhythm.

the Tricky and Complicated Rhythms of Charlie

First off, a disclaimer: I learned to count music for piano, singing, and dance. It’s been years, though, since I’ve had to count music and I’ll be honest — I don’t remember how it all works anymore. In the last fifteen years, the only motivation I’ve had to count music is to figure out how to count the musical timing of this song, Charlie, because it’s so unconventional.

To start with, there seems to be a regular 4-count rhythm for Anthony Kiedis’s lyrics, for the bridge and the chorus, and for the end of the song. As far as I can tell, Flea’s bass timing seems to be a 4-count, as well.

But Frusciante’s guitar goes nuts, playing its own rhythm. And somehow, while his guitar rhythm is totally different from every other part in the song during the verses and the beginning (I can’t even count his guitar parts because the rhythm seems to change mid-sequence), the song is somehow cohesive.

At the same time, Chad’s drum beat, while more conventional than Frusciante’s guitar, sparks its own surprise on every other fourth count. He drums a beat on the 2nd count, plus every other 4th. What about that missing 4th count interval? Chad hits it an eighth of a count later, every other time. Basically, he uses an even-note syncopated rhythm except for every other 4th beat, where he switches to an off-beat syncopation.

Unlike a lot of experimental or unusual songs, Charlie still has a great hook, so it’s unique qualities don’t sacrifice its ability to implant its melody into your psyche, or to capture a wide audience. It’s an absolutely captivating song from a band that, I still insist, is one of the most talented bands of all time. And totally unpredictable in the most endearing way.

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Ella Publishing Co. has nominated me as one of the nine Most Influential Scrapbookers of 2010. You can learn more about this award, the nominees, and the blog tour at or

Please help me honor my fellow nominees by visiting their blogs throughout the week. You could win one of 100 cool prizes! Click below to say hello to today’s spotlighted bloggers.

First to the Ella website…

and then to the blog of the first highlighted nominee…

Music Monday: Can’t Stop — Addicted to the Shindig

Photo by Mohsen Masoumi

Do you have any songs that define your personality or the way you view and live life? I’m sure some of us have a few, but Can’t Stop by the Chili Peppers — or at least my interpretation of it — is the big one for me.

A few of the lyrics that stick out are…

“Choose not a life of imitation”

“This life is more than just a read thru”

“Complete the motion if you stumble”

“Knock out but boy you better come to
Don’t die you know the truth is some do
Go write your message on the pavement
Burnin’ so bright I wonder what the wave meant”

“The world I love
The tears I drop
To be part of
The wave can’t stop
Ever wonder if it’s all for you
The world I love
The trains I hop
To be part of
The wave can’t stop
Come and tell me when it’s time to”

I’m not a huge fan of music videos because of the way they replace my own mental images for a song. But I love the Can’t Stop video by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a display of who they are to the core: passionate people who dive into life but don’t take it too seriously. At all.

The visuals — the use of light, color, contrast, and movement — are amazing. They are all based on the One Minute Sculptures by Erwin Wurm.

What song resonates with the way you feel about life in general, or your life specifically?

Music Monday: New Music Love – Josh Ritter

I have a new musical love, thanks to Izzy. He saw one of Josh Ritter’s cd’s at Starbucks and got curious because it boasted NPR’s recommendation. If NPR loves something, we’re pretty likely to love it, too. Our tastes and NPR’s tastes run similar that way.

So, with the recommendation of NPR giving us some hope, I put Josh Ritter into the search field of my Rhapsody app. It was immediate love for both Izzy and me. They say his style is Americana. That’s a new genre term for me, but I get that his influence is folk, and after hearing him I think I understand the Americana label, especially after listening to this beautiful song…

The Temptation of Adam

If this was the Cold War we could keep each other warm
I said on the first occasion that I met Marie
We were crawling through the hatch that was the missile silo door
And I don’t think that she really thought that much of me

I never had to learn to love her like I learned to love the Bomb
She just came along and started to ignore me
But as we waited for the Big One
I started singing her my songs
And I think she started feeling something for me

We passed the time with crosswords that she thought to bring inside
What five letters spell “apocalypse” she asked me
I won her over saying “W.W.I.I.I.”
She smiled and we both knew that she’d misjudged me

(For the rest of the lyrics click here)

Girl In The War

. . . Is another story-telling folk song where Ritter pulls biblical characters into the story and works a lot of wordplay into the song. I wish I could say I fully understand it. I don’t really get it. All I know is it’s beautiful.


There’s one that takes me back to my earlier years. Ritter was a child of the 70’s like I was and this song — to me — sounds like the Partridge Family meets Pink Floyd. I bet you never thought a combination of those two bands was possible. I can only find live versions, so this recording isn’t as good as his studio version . . .

Change Of Time

But if you prefer the softer folksy style, here’s another really moving, beautiful one. It gives me chills. The old American patriotic drum beat rolls in partway through and then the music continues to build toward a higher and higher climax. Have a listen…

Music Monday: Word Play Through Metaphor & Imagery

I’m diving back into novel-writing mode again. I was there between August and November of last year, especially the entire month of November. After that I resurfaced to focus on some other things and to walk away from my November novel so that when I returned, I would be able to evaluate its first draft with more objectivity.

Having read it through a week ago, I am happy to say that this novel’s first draft is more complete than I thought it would be and I think it has some decent potential. Now my job is to whistle the details into line so they’re consistent throughout, to tie up a couple ends that I left loose, and to flesh out the story, especially so the reader can believe the motivation driving the characters’ actions, words, and choices. I also need to do some research on a number of subjects that turn the story.
One thing that surprised me when I started writing fiction is that I can often listen to music while writing. And I’m talking about music with lyrics. It turns out good lyrics move me to write. There are two lines from two songs in particular that stick with me because the imagery and the metaphorical verbs and nouns are so potent they communicate an entire story with just a handful of words. Check it out:

From The Killers — When You Were Young:

We’re burning down the highway skyline
On the back of a hurricane that started turning
When you were young

From Red Hot Chili Peppers — Scar Tissue:

(Right now my very favorite song lyric)

Falling all over myself
To lick your heart
And taste your health

The verb choices and the imagery of this one . . . it’s so desperate. It’s physical, intimate, even sensual.
Both sets of lyrics are intense. Both share a story of their lovers’ histories. So much story there from three short lines.

I’m not at the point of laboring over the exact words in my novel yet. I’m still working the plot and the character development, and carving the pieces so they fit together. But the complicated layers of music from bands like the Chili Peppers stirs my emotions into the frenzy that I need for novel-writing. And catching the brilliant word play during my sit-back-and-breathe moments motivates me to work toward that stage where I’ll get to fiddle with the words.

First Concert: A Rite Of Passage

I took my oldest son to his first concert last weekend. I’m raising him to be cooler than me, since I was sixteen before I went to my first concert and he’s only twelve. So if he doesn’t end up beating my own level of coolness, then I’ll just have to throw up my hands. What more can I do?

So far he seems to be effectively rolling his way toward said coolness, as some of the teens next to us helped him and his best friend work their way up to the very front of the packed standing-only theater. He also got a shout-out in this Phoenix New Times article about how perfect Owl City’s music is for tweens since it’s so squeaky clean.

Lucky Boy

Blake has been a fan of the band, Owl City, for a while and when he saw they were coming to Tempe, he jumped on the pre-sale opportunity and bought his own ticket. The dude lucked out. Pre-sale tickets were only $15 but they quickly jumped up in price and then the concert sold out.

Not only was it the least expensive concert I’ve ever been to, it was the biggest one I’ve seen at the Tempe Marquee and gave me the impression that Owl City is already poised to upgrade to bigger venues. He had two opening bands. Not one. Two, equaling three hours of music. That was a first for me.

Lights + Male Audience = Numerous Massive Crushes

One of the opening bands was Lights. Have you seen the girl who, apparently, is Lights? She’ll make any boy believe he’s been to the best concert in the world, especially if they’re gamers like she is. She is an adorable girl (I can’t believe I’m old enough to be calling a musician a “girl”) and fun to watch. She got a number of marriage proposals shouted to and thrown at her (in the form of a t-shirt) from the audience.

Yep. Blake and his friend enjoyed Lights. A lot.

Blake’s $15 paid for more than just three bands in three hours. I can’t leave out Owl City’s choreographed light show, which was surprisingly flashy — not that I’m a big fan of that kind of thing but I suppose if you like synthpop then you might be. It was about ten times bigger than the other concerts I’ve attended at the Marquee.

Let me just say that Blake was thrilled with the experience. And while it’s not my personal favorite style of music, it was a lot of fun and continues to fuel some good conversation and bonding with my boy.

Music Monday: Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds – Cornbread

Have you heard this Dave Matthews song? Have you heard this live version of it? It’s one of my favorites, but it’s not particularly…ummm…mainstream. You might think it’s weird.
The banjo-style guitar playing — both Tim Reynold’s accoustic and Matthew’s electric — it’s human brilliance on display.

You’ll have to take off any conservative hats you might be wearing and just relax and enjoy (and don’t let Matthews’s crazy-sounding introduction freak you out). Because this is insane but so amazing (and totally fun). . .

Did you check out his feet?

This live version makes me so happy. It’s my favorite of all of Matthews’s songs.

Tammany Hall: A Band You Should Know But Probably Don’t

Israel and I discovered this indie band, Tammany Hall NYC, eight years ago in 2002 when HBO used Wait For You (a remix of their song, Wait For Jane) as a promotion piece. Since then THNYC has continued to score movie soundtracks and spots on popular television, like on the t.v. series, Scrubs. Why the band has not crawl its way out of music indie-land is a mystery to me.

Maybe the band hasn’t found the right producer. Maybe they just don’t have what it takes to get out in the front. Maybe they experimented with style too much in the beginning for people to get a handle on who they are. Whatever the reason, they are a hardly known band for all of their success. Pandora Radio doesn’t have a clue of their existence and you can only find a few of their songs on YouTube.

Here’s the popular Scrubs version of Cindy, along with some of the lyrics:

you loved me with your eyes
you help me with your voice
You listen when my voice was void of sound
You touch me with your laugh
You show me to my smile, and you
You save me with your kiss before I drown

I love their acoustic sound, which is both soft and hard at the same time. Unlike many of the California bands I’ve talked about here, THNYC has cool-toned New England urban sound with the more introspective, intelligent, and symbolic lyrics you might expect from a group that comes from the well-educated northeast coast.

Brilliant Lyrics

Here’s what I’m talking about…below are lyrics from the last part of Back In the Bottle. This is a serious take-your-breath-away song for me, with the climax and the following lyrics all crashing together at the same time. Go ahead and play the video just underneath them…

back in the bottle again.
what the f**k’s out there? like i care. what am i needing?
why am i leading myself on this game of stalemate solitaire?
can’t start again. can’t land a 10.
must be “spade” cause my heart is beaten, captain,
but you play the cards you’re played.
years have passed. with each year, i’m wearing down the glass.
if my ship sails, let the breezes blow me back to better jails.
there must be another sea, but that’s a mental mutiny.

and that’s not me. that’s not me,
but the glass is cracked and i think i’m going down.
it’s not me. it’s not me
to wash away the world that’s whirling round.
i can’t breathe anymore.

I can’t stop sharing their songs. If there were more of my favorites available I’d post them, too. Instead I’ll stop at three. The next song, Someone, is one Israel Israel likes to play for me on the guitar while I attempt at singing it. (Note: one explicit lyric is slightly obvious in this one. Just wanted to let you know ahead of time if you don’t want it reaching the ears of your little kiddies).

and some may run. and some know fear.
and some wade in a while and let the murky waters clear.
and some just smile.

someone makes love. love makes someone.
someone gives love. someone takes none.
and some may pass. and some may hold.
and some grow ageless while their body’s growing old.
and they just smile. they just smile.

Music Monday: Love Songs, The Non-Cheesy Kind

On Valentine’s Day my guy got all sweet on me and started a Love Songs station on Pandora for the drive to our Ethiopian vegan dinner at Cafe Lalibela. I swooned at the first song by Journey, until I accidentally hit the skip button — a fatal move for that station because the songs that followed were of the abhorrently cheesy Boyz II Men style. I couldn’t handle that.

Here are a handful of the non-cheesy and non-traditional love songs that I would want on my romantic play list:

I Will Follow You Into The Dark
by Death Cab For Cutie
Let’s start with a buck-the-system, non-traditional, but very sweet song with a beautiful acoustic beginning…

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by Guster
What happens when love outrun its initial fascination phase? The reality — the reality of life and the reality of the imperfect partners — is digging its claws into the relationship that Guster sings about In Careful. The singer reaches for his imperfect, struggling lover with his stable, secure, and accepting love, hoping to bring her “Back where I can find you, to crawl inside you…”

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by Regina Spektor
I know you know the next song, but how can I leave it off the list when it so successfully communicates the drama and the passion of every unacknowledged love that has to end before its time?

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Hard To Concentrate
by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Sweet tastes sweeter when you don’t expect it. Here’s a band of musicians who are reckless and wild but when one of them is ready to settle down and start a family with his girl, the Chili Peppers can be very, very sweet…

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by Red Hot Chili Peppers
As far as I’ve read, Anthony Kiedis has never divulged the exact meaning for and the story behind this song, but I think sometimes the mystery behind the sorrow is better than knowing the story…