Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Happiest music ever

Ok, I have a confession to make: I have been listening to the Hairspray soundtrack pretty much nonstop all month. I saw the movie on a lark thinking it would be a cute Friday night diversion and absolutely fell in love with its delightful camp, beautifully retro visuals and infectious happiness.

After seeing the movie twice in the theater, I finally broke down and bought the soundtrack and it's been in rotation in my life ever since. (It doesn't hurt that breakout star Nikki Blonsky is flawless in the lead role and her voice is SO strong and warm and full of character.)

You absolutely can't listen to this soundtrack without getting happier than when you started. Even the trailer makes me happy!

Here's a favorite song from the soundtrack, "Welcome to the 60s" (I absolutely cannot hear John Travolta singing "I'm the cutest chickie that you ever did see" without smiling):

It's not hip, it's not indie, it's not cutting-edge. But it's irresistible! And remember the mantra of this blog: No snobbery allowed.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The best mix tape I ever made

One spring night back when I was in college in Ohio, I got nostalgic for a lazy summer evening on the lake back home, and I sat down and made a mix tape to transport me there musically. It turned out to be the best mix tape I ever made, one I still take out and listen to many times every summer, even though I now live on the lake back home and there are plenty of lazy summer evenings to go around.

But in case anyone else is nostalgic to spend time on a porch swing in the twinkling night of a Wisconsin summer, here is the track listing for the Stardust and Fireflies mix:

Side 1: (Remember, this is a tape)
* Paper Moon by James Taylor (found on the A League of Their Own soundtrack)
* I'm Beginning to See the Light by Ella Fitzgerald
* Crazy Love by Van Morrison
* Summer, Highland Falls (Live) by Billy Joel (from Songs from the Attic)
* The Wind by Cat Stevens
* Dream a Little Dream of Me by Cass Elliot (of the Mamas and the Papas)
* Love's Recovery (Live) by the Indigo Girls (from 1200 Curfews)
* Summer Song by Greg Greenway (local Boston troubadour)
* Warm Love by Van Morrison
* Jim by Billie Holiday
* Pig by Dave Matthews Band
* Two Sleepy People by Art Garfunkel (also on the A League of Their Own sndtk.)

Side 2:
* Nightswimming by R.E.M.
* Bridge Over Troubled Water by Aretha Franklin
* In Another Life by Semisonic
* I Didn't Know What Time It Was by James Taylor (A League of Their Own again)
* Romance in the Dark by Billie Holiday
* Into the Mystic by Van Morrison
* Moonshadow by Cat Stevens
* Mystery by the Indigo Girls
* St. Judy's Comet by Paul Simon
* Someday We'll Be Together by the Supremes
* Pink Moon by Nick Drake

The tape is dated 4.22.00. But trust me, it's actually timeless. Happy summer 2007!

You provide the rhythm and I'll provide the soul

The newest Over the Rhine album, called The Trumpet Child, is currently streaming free of charge over at AOL Music.

If you haven't heard Over the Rhine yet, you're in for a treat. I have been a fan since college, when an ex introduced me to the husband-and-wife duo out of Ohio. I immediately loved them on the strength of Karin Bergquist's voice alone - lusty, full, and charming. The fact that they write consistently likeable songs as well is just icing on the cake.

Their style is an eclectic mix of pop, jazz, blues, Americana and cabaret. The first song on the new album sounds like a lost Tom Waits track - in fact, most of the album has a sort of Waits-ian appeal to it.

If you like what you hear, check out their MySpace page for a tour schedule, their official Web site and then have fun combing through their extensive discography.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

JPP Review: John Mayer, Continuum

First paragraph of the latest Just Press Play review:

"Since his debut album, Room for Squares, took the top 40 charts by storm in 2002, John Mayer has been working to convince us that he’s not a pre-packaged teeny bopper heartthrob, but rather an accomplished blues musician, singer-songwriter and all-around student of music. He made strides toward this goal with his sophomore release Heavier Things, but with Continuum, his third studio album to date, Mayer fully accomplishes that goal. He establishes himself as a musical genius and there is no looking back..."

For the rest, go here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Under the Covers

It's an excellent week for interesting cover songs. I don't know what it is, but there's something fascinating about hearing musicians reinterpret songs they've admired.

First and foremost there's the highly-anticipated compilation Guilt by Association where uber-indie rockers cover their guilty pleasures. I am absolutely enthralled with Petra Haden's a capella cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'." Check it out at the album's MySpace page, along with two other tracks. There's a release date of Sept. 4 - I can't wait!

Then check these Yahoo! videos, where pop stars cover other pop stars' pop songs. Some of them are a bit safe, but I particularly enjoyed Natasha Bedingfield's cover of Maroon5's "This Love" - I have always loved the song and I like the stripped-down down of just Bedingfield's jazzy voice and an acoustic guitar.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

JPP Review: Ryan Adams, "Gold"

Just filed a new review over Just Press Play and have gotten some very positive feedback already. Loyal LTF readers already know about this album, but for those of you who would like a more in-depth examination of the genius of Gold will want to head on over and check it out.

As usual, here's the first paragraph:

Ryan Adams has worked hard to cultivate his reputation as the new “bad boy” of rock. But to listen to his 2001 release, Gold, he sounds more like a careful student of classic rock, a pedagogue of a truly golden era of rock music. Gold is the equivalent of his Master’s thesis in classic rock. The fact that it earned him as much acclaim as it did is a testament to his ability to learn the lessons of rock music’s past, and reconstitute them into something timelessly appealing.

For the rest, go here.

Here's a very cool, laid-back acoustic version of the first track, "New York, New York" recorded in Jamaica:

And here "Firecracker" gts the same Jamaican treatment:

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Stay Humble

Nashville singer/songwriter Tyler James hasn't released his debut album yet, so now is a great time to start loving him, while you can still see him in tiny, intimate college venues.

I mean, seriously, check out his list of influences:

"bob dylan, paul simon, paul mccartney, joni mitchell, rainer marie rilke, nick drake, neil young, tom waits, the band, woody allen, jaoa gilberto, bill withers, randy newman, david bowie, mark kozelek, wilco, beck, four tet, jesus christ"

Does it get any better than that? Not in my opinion.

Visit his MySpace page. Or better yet, watch this excellent short film that follows him on tour and chronicles a day in the life of a Nashville singer/songwriter who is working on his first album. The song is "Stay Humble." And I love it.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

TV on the Playlist

It's time for a new LTF playlist (at right.) This one's called TV on the Playlist, because it was inspired by my newfound love of the ABC ensemble drama Brothers & Sisters. The soundtrack is mostly mellow and acoustic, very heavy on the album closers. To round it out, I've included some songs from a former television love of mine, ABC's spy drama Alias, using the logic that many of the people who used to work on Alias now work on Brothers & Sisters.

Artists include Chantal Kreviazuk, Depeche Mode, Lucinda Williams, Nina Simone, Ray LaMontagne, and Jonny Lang, among many others. So flip through and find something new to love!

(And if you're curious, ABC airs Brothers & Sisters at 10/9C on Sunday nights or you can watch a few episodes on demand on their Web site. Check it out!)