Monday, October 31, 2011

"The Children of the Night, What Music They Make" -
10 of My Favorite Halloween Songs

Several years back I made an annual series of mix tapes for friends around this time of year, gathering ghoulish delights and ghastly tunes into a bubbling cauldron of Halloween music I called Altogether Ooky, in honor of one of my all-time favorite TV shows, The Addams Family.  One day, I will lay out for you the irrefutable arguments as to why The Addams Family was leaps and bounds better than The Munsters (I hear the naysayers gnashing their teeth already!), but for now I share with you ten terrifying tricks and treats - some of my favorite Halloween songs.  Listen, if you dare....MUAHAHAHAHAHA!
1. The Birthday Party - "Release The Bats"

2. HorrorPops - "Ghouls"

Horrorpops - Ghouls by xMalicexKittyx

3. Landscape - "Norman Bates"

4. The Fuzztones - "The Witch"

5. Screaming Tribesmen - "Date With A Vampyre"

6. Persian Claws - "Ghostified"

7. The Fleshtones - "I Was A Teenage Zombie"

8. The Misfits - "Vampira"

9. Social Distortion - "Mommy's Little Monster"

10. Siouxsie & the Banshees - "Halloween"

Obviously, there were many great tunes I left off the list (hell, you could pull a decent list of ten from The Misfits alone!), so now it's your turn. What are some of your favorites?

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let's Knife!

Baltimore is quickly surpassing Philly as my favorite destination if I must travel to see a band. Of course, I'd love to see more bands come to Lancaster. Some do, but the trade off we make here in south central PA is that Harrisburg, Philly, Baltimore, New Jersey and - in a pinch - NYC are all within easy access. As a result, the pickin's are pretty good around here when it comes to shows - you've surely gathered that from earlier posts!

Last night I was back in what seems to be the general go-to place in Baltimore, The Ottobar, to see the awesome Shonen Knife, who are currently on their 30th anniversary tour.  What a great night of music it was:  three opening bands plus Shonen Knife, and only ten bucks to get in - wot a bargain!

Now, history dictates that once you go past two opening acts you're getting into questionable territory as far as band quality, especially when all of the openers are local bands.  Baltimore, however, has a pretty decent scene going these days, and in last night's case the rule did not apply.  The openers were great - not a clinker in the lineup!

I admit to going out on a limb saying that about The Degenerettes, who were up first, only because by the time we arrived we really only caught the last two and a half songs of their set - not really enough to make a true assessment, but what we heard was very good.

I can say without reservation, however, that the next band, Plurals, were outstanding! With five band members perched on the not-so-roomy Ottobar stage, Plurals blasted out a nifty set of originals and one cover (of sorts): in the midst of their poppy-punky wall of sound, I caught myself realizing I recognized some lyrics but couldn't place them at first.  It took another cycle through the verse before I realized I was hearing the words to The English Beat's "Save It For Later," or at the very least a close approximation.  The one drawback to Plurals' set was that the vocals were mixed a bit too low. Still, this is a band I want to hear more of.  Couldn't find a website for them (with a name like Plurals, Google doesn't help much; searching "Plurals band" leads me to a similarly named trio from Lansing, MI) and their Facebook page is not a band page but rather a regular profile. 

The Quarantines
The final opening act was The Quarantines, an excellent pop-punk trio with a curious tendency to sing about robots.  Their set was loud, rockin' fun, and they were clearly the most polished of the opening acts.  I am kicking my self today for not picking up their record at the merch table last night!  Great stuff.  The Quarantines are a band I think we'll all be hearing more of in the future.

Shonen Knife
A little before 11:00, Shonen Knife hit the stage, opening with an enthusiastic Japanese-language version of Cheap Trick's standard set-opener, "Hello There" (here redone as "Konichiwa").  Over the next forty-five minutes or so, they treated us to a sampling of their best tunes. "Devil House," "ESP," "I Am A Cat," "Super Group," "Redd Kross" and more were greeted with knowing cheers from the crowd, and the girls seemed to be having a blast onstage.  After a searing run-through of "Antonio Baka Guy," Shonen Knife left the stage and left the crowd chanting their name and begging for more.

The Osaka Ramones!
After a few moments they returned, but now they were dressed in leather jackets and jeans.  No longer Shonen Knife, they were now in full character as The Osaka Ramones (a name they played under for a Ramones tribute concert many years back, and also the title of their newest CD in tribute to the Ramones.  Legend has it that Joey Ramone himself would always refer to Shonen Knife as "The Osaka Ramones").  With bassist Ritsuko Taneda playing the Dee Dee Ramone role, counting off each song "1-2-3-4" in quick succession, they ran through "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Beat On The Brat," "The KKK Took My Baby Away," "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," "I Wanna Be Sedated," and "Pinhead" before closing with "Rock & Roll High School."  All the while, the crowd pogo'd and sang along.  Somewhere, Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee were smiling.

It was a stellar night, start to finish, and I highly recommend seeing any of these bands if you get the chance.  Shonen Knife, of course, was much fun, but it was nice to be so pleasantly surprised by Plurals and The Quarantines as well.  As usual, additional pics will be up on our Facebook page later today.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Catching Up and Coming Soon

As you may have noticed, it's been a bit busy around the ol' blog in recent weeks.  There have been a number of very cool out-of-the-norm posts up lately, and I wanted to take a moment to highlight them to be sure you didn't miss anything - or in a few cases remind you that your participation is welcomed and encouraged!

First of all, today is the day the episode of The Lancast on which I am honored to be the guest goes live!  You can read all about it here: Talk Talk.  You can listen to the podcast by clicking this button:

I hope you will enjoy the conversation.

Over the past two weeks I have presented both a mystery and a challenge to you all.  The mystery involves two mp3s I found in my collection which had no identifying information on them, and I asked for your help in figuring out who/what they were.  One of the two was quickly ID'd (thanks, Jeff!) as "Tiger Tiger" by Scruffy The Cat; the other remains unidentified.  Can you help?  Oh please can you help? Really, you have no idea how much this is driving me batty! You can find all the info here: HELP! Identitfy These Songs!

The challenge I presented to you on Saturday, and I'd like to keep rolling throughout the month.  If you are on Spotify, you are challenged to come up with your own Frankenstein Playlist and share it with us all! What is a Frankenstein Playlist, you ask?  Read all about it here: Spotify vs. Frankenstein. You'll see there are already a couple very cool playlists shared in the comments section.  Looking forward to seeing what diabolical creations you mad scientists come up with!

Mike Essington, a/k/a Mike E. from the blog Strange Reaction, has written a fantastic book called Last One To Die.  I cannot recommend this one highly enough, folks - simply a must read!  Please check out my review of the book and find out where you can get yourself a copy here: Recommended Reading: Last One to Die.

There is also change afoot around these parts.  Assiduous readers have already noted that the long-time New Wave for the New Week series of posts has been put on hiatus.  After two and a half years, I've just gotten a bit burned out on them.  But I will leave it up to you - do you want me to continue the series or have you gotten burned out as well?  There is a poll in the upper left corner of the blog where you can vote "yes" or "no" to more NW4NW posts.  Voting ends 10/31.

I'm also going to begin sharing with you my journey through NaNoWriMo.  NaNoWriMo is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month, a challenge put forth throughout the month of November to write a 50,000-word novel from scratch.  I've been looking for ways to create some accountability for my writing, and as you'll hear me discuss on The Lancast, there's a story that has been floating around in my head demanding to be written.  So, with the support of my local writing group, I am diving in.  What am I nuts?

Finally, I'm considering some aesthetic changes to the blog itself.  I think it's time to spruce things up around here. Change the layout, maybe create a new homepage, link to some of the other things I'm doing online, etc.  Your feedback on these things is greatly appreciated, whether here in the comments, on the Facebook Page or on Twitter.

Hope to hear from all of you!

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Spotify vs. Frankenstein

It took me awhile, but I'm now hooked on Spotify.  The social music sharing site is a fantastic way to discover new music by trading playlists with friends, and if you don't mind a few ads you can join the fun for free.  You're not on Spotify yet?  You can only join via invitation, but invitations are easily enough had. Ask around on Facebook or Twitter; someone is bound to have an extra invite or two to pass along.  If not, don't fret: Google is your friend! This particular post, however, is geared for those of you already on Spotify. 

Years back, when friends and I were trading mix tapes and later, mix CDs, there was something called a Frankenstein Mix.  Frankenstein Mixes earned their name because they were assembled out of assorted, potentially mismatched pieces of your music collection.  Those of us who were earnest mix makers know that the art of a good mix lay in getting all the music to flow well from one song to the next.  Frankenstein Mixes were a different beast.  You and your friends agreed upon a specific set of rules that must be followed, regardless of whether the mix flowed well or not.  In fact, somewhat jarring juxtapositions were expected and celebrated.

With Halloween approaching, I thought it an appropriate time to resurrect the Frankenstein Mix, but in the modern era of all digital music.  Rather than trading mix tapes or CDs, I challenge you to a trade of Frankenstein Playlists!  Do you think you're up to it?  All you need to do is set up a 20-song playlist on your Spotify page, such that each song corresponds to the 20 "rules" below.  The rules are open to interpretation - whatever you read into it is fair game.  Once you've completed your playlist, come back here and post a link to your creation in the comments section below (right click your playlist's title and choose "Copy Spotify URI," which you can then paste in your comment here), so that we can all listen.  Comments and conversation about one another's playlists is also welcome and encouraged!  Your 20 songs should be chosen as follows:

1. A song under 1 minute in length.
2. A song from last physical album or CD you purchased.
3. A blues: not a necessarily a blues record but a song that is labeled (something) blues.
4. A song that gets you going and makes you feel good.
5. A song that reminds you of your 1st relationship.
6. A song in a language you don't speak.
7. A song from a favorite band/artist.
8. A song from an artist or band that you otherwise don't like, but you like this one song.
9. A lullaby.
10. A favorite song from a genre/style you usually don't like.
11. A Beatlesque song.
12. A song from the year you graduated high school.
13. A song from an artist that you are embarrassed to admit you like
14. Whatever it is, it has to be funky.
15. A song for those quiet rainy days.
16. Song title asks a question.
17. Song title answers the question asked by song #16.
18. A song with "sun" in title, or that reminds you of summer.
19. Your favourite Elvis song.
20. An instrumental.
Playlist Title = a favorite movie quote.

Here is my entry: Well?...We're Waiting...

Hoping that many of you will join in, and we all get to discover some music we might not have heard otherwise! 

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Talk Talk

I am pleased to announce that I will be appearing as a guest on The Lancast this coming Monday, October 17th. Mark your calendars!

The Lancast, regularly hosted these days by David Moulton and Keith Slesser, is a weekly podcast focused on the local Lancaster Community and its surroundings.  Guests are brought on from the area to discuss anything from current events affecting the region to specific subjects regarding the ways that week's guest  is interacting with the larger community.  Local musicians, artists, business owners and celebrities have shared The Lancast's guest seat with community leaders, activists and politicians over the roughly two-year history of the show.  Moulton has been the steady figure throughout the podcast's lifespan, originally co-hosting with Neil Hershey in the show's earliest incarnation as Beards Over Babies, then joined by Daniel Klotz as the show transitioned into its current format.  Klotz stepped down as co-host recently, replaced by Slesser in June of this year.   Each hosting team has maintained the same successful approach, however: an informal 30-minute conversation, not unlike sitting around a local coffee shop and talking about the doings in our area with a couple old friends.

When David approached me about being a guest on The Lancast, I was at once flattered and befuddled - what on Earth would they want me to talk about?  As long-time readers of mine might imagine, my demons kicked in big time, screaming at me that I would be a terrible guest and probably make a fool of myself.  But the honor of being invited to appear was too great to let my demons steal the experience from me, and last Wednesday evening I found myself sitting at a table at Winding Way Books, a fantastic used book shop on West Chestnut Street which donates makeshift studio space to The Lancast, with David Moulton and Becky Svendson (who has taken on guest hosting duties while Keith celebrates the birth of his first child), having a great time recording the episode which will go live Monday.

Over the course of roughly half an hour we talked about this blog and and the reasons for its creation; how it has helped me continue to hone my writing and work through my own personal challenges; and why music came to be such a big part of this blog and my life in general.  David and Becky were fantastic interviewers.  They asked insightful questions that gave me the ability to answer without, I hope, rambling on too wildly, and made me feel comfortable by seeming to be truly interested in what I had to say.  No great problems of the world were solved or mysteries of life answered, but we had a great conversation that you just may find interesting.

If you don't already subscribe to The Lancast, you should, especially if you live in or around the Lancaster area.  Those of you who are not from around here will find fascinating topics and conversations too, as well as getting a glimpse of how things are here in South-Central PA.

My great thanks again to David and Becky for having me on the show.  The link will go live Monday, October 17:

In the meantime, for your listening pleasure, the song from which I borrowed this post's title, "Talk Talk" by The Music Machine:

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

HELP! Identitfy These Songs!

Been going through the slow process of cleaning up my database of mp3s - you know, making sure each is correctly tagged with the right name, artist, year, album, track number, etc.  At present there are over 26,000 mp3s on my music drive, and I am one who enjoys putting the whole collection on shuffle and letting the music play!  But it drives me and my OCD nuts when even one of them turns up mislabelled or with certain info missing.  Some folks I know care little about that - I often wish I had that luxury.  No, I'm one who makes sure there is the right album art, all the tags are there and correct; hell, I use a nifty free program called MP3Gain to make sure every mp3 plays at the roughly the same volume!

Simultaneously, I am diligently digitizing boxes of analog cassette tapes.  I have an old TEAC tape deck hooked up to the computer and use TerraTec Sound Rescue to record and Audacity to edit and/or clean up the recordings and split them into individual tracks.  Sounds like a major process, I know, but I've got the system down now to a science, and can digitize about half a dozen cassettes in a day's time if I wish to.  It's been neat to dig up mixes that I haven't heard in years and breathe new life into them this way - and add them to the ever-growing music drive.

As you might imagine, I have always been pretty meticulous in labeling my cassettes, just as I am now in the era of digital music.  But I recently came across one tape where the original insert card was missing.  Excited for the mystery, I popped the tape in and went to work identifying its contents.  Turns out it was a tape of my friend Lara's radio show from college.

Most of what she played on this tape I was able to identify, either because I knew the song well already, or by typing a few lyrics into Google.  Better yet, there is a fantastic iPhone app I use called SoundHound which actually listens to a song and returns its title, artist, album, etc. - so long as it has that song in its huge database.

However, two songs remained unidentified, even after SoundHound took a stab at them.  As luck would have it, Lara and I are connected through Facebook (isn't everybody anymore?), so I sent a message off to her with the two songs attached and asked her if she could identify them for me.  She replied that she had instantly remembered both songs, but had not heard either in years and sadly could not remember what they were or who did them.

So, I turn to you, dear readers, hoping someone among you will recognize these tracks and be able to solve the mystery - what are the titles, and who are the artists?  Better still, on what albums can they be found?  I can  tell you that the recording dates from around 1988-89ish, and the songs would have been fairly current then.

mystery song #1

mystery song #2

If you can identify these songs, you will be doing me a huge favor - probably more so than you know.  It drives me freaking batty to have these unidentified tracks in my collection!  Please leave your answers in the comments section below, and thank you in advance for your help!