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Burning Love! – What I’ve Been Doing 7 Aug 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Aug 7th, 2012 by Dan

Casa de mi Padre - Movie Poster

Just a ridiculous movie… (Photo by nxusco)

It was a long week, but also a fun one. I got to see some dear friends of mine and their awesome new house, so I’d say it was a total win.

Movies

Casa de mi padre – I was expecting a telenovela parody and a silly comedy, but I wasn’t expecting Ferrell to translate his entire schtick to Spanish. It was pretty much exactly that. Best joke payoff was the silent cigarette rolling one going on in the background the entire time. It seemed like everyone had a great time making this too.

TV

The League – I’m surprised at how many S2 episodes of this I missed. Really enjoy this show.

Burning Love – You know what? I think watching the Bachelor(ette) has actually been useful solely because it makes this parody that much funnier. It’s brilliant how well it captures the aesthetics of the genre. Just perfect.

Episode 4 features a favorite actor of mine, Kristen Bell. Naturally I think it’s fantastic and I just had to embed it:

Definitely watch these. They’re hilarious.

Breaking Bad – The cathartic fight between Jesse and Walt at the end of “Down” was just amazing. I’m starting to see why everyone thinks this is one of the greatest shows on TV.

Music

Had some April Smith stuck in my head. Enjoy:

Books

1Q84 – Finally finished the epic. Murakami is an absolute pro at surreal, weird imagery. I love how he touched on all kinds of weird themes from his old book too. Reading a lot by the same author helps you spot a lot about their personality…Anyway, if you like everything to be neat and tidy when you finish reading a book, no, this isn’t for you. If you want to go along for the ride…pick this up. I’d warn first-time Murakami readers to start with another one of his books instead. This is a bit daunting if you don’t know what to expect.

Video Games

Max Payne 3 – Finished the main campaign. Gritty and rough and just violent and ugly. I ignored the execution stuff because I found it distasteful, but this is an ugly game, like all Rockstar joints. It’s just brutal and mean and vicious. I take that as the right thing to do since it deters glamorization, but I wonder if people still think of the stuff in this game as “cool”. The execution stuff doesn’t help that. That’s definitely glamorizing.

Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion – Big game with Min that I thought I was gonna lose for a while. Lots of fun.

Spelunky – Guys…I finally made it to the City of Gold. I’d never made it there before! So proud of myself. Of course I immediately died, but I’ll make it there before. Next stop: Hell!

2011 in Music [F]
Jan 3rd, 2012 by Dan

last.fm t-shirt

Thanks to last.fm, I can tell you what my personal favorite music of 2011 has been!

Top 10 Artists of 2011

1. The Beatles (1,156)

I’d say the number of tracks in my collection that are by The Beatles or by the Rx Bandits far outweighs the number of other tracks. It’s not a coincidence, since I love both bands, but I don’t think you’ll see these positions change much in the future.

2. RX Bandits (571)

The Bandits split up this year. It’s tragic, but that concert was amazing and I’ll always love their music.

3. Jonathan Coulton (343)

Coulton’s new release sparked way more interest in his work than I’d had last year. Adding in the band allowed his music to grow in a great way.

4. Arctic Monkeys (328)

The Monkeys are a pretty solid band and I got to see them live for the first time in 2011. Their new tracks are pretty solid, especially “Black Treacle”

5. Sambo Master (277)

I’ve written thousands of words about why I love this J-Rock band. They’ve got so much energy and emotion in their lyrics (that I can’t even understand!) and their place on this list is well-earned.

6. Kanye West (185)

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was an incredible album. It got lots of playtime throughout the year, but the final push that put it above OK Go happened as a result of the Giant Bombcast and their obsession with “Power”. I literally listened gave Kanye the listens he needed to get #6 in the last two days of the year.

7. OK Go (184)

OK Go is just a solid rock band. They’ve got great lyrics, great hooks, and they’re always great fun to listen to.

8. Rita Indiana & Los Misterios (172)

I ran into this fantastic merengue band thanks to Alt Latino. Rita makes merengue even more frantic and fun than you remember it being and I love her for it.

9. Sondre Lerche (163)

Everyone’s favorite Norwegian crooner. I like this guy because he’s got a clean

10. Janelle Monáe (161)

Janelle gets funkier than any human has any right to. Her latest, The ArchAndroid, was so well put together that I’m on the edge of my seat to see what she does next. A definite can’t miss.

11. Vampire Weekend (154)

I think these listens were front-ended on 2011. Not that I dislike VW now, but I can’t remember listening to their stuff all that much in recent months. I like busting out Contra in the cold winter to warm me up, but it’s been a mild one so far.

12. The Civil Wars (133)

Joy Williams and John Paul White have one of the most incredible duos I’ve ever been lucky enough to listen to. Their voices just go so well together and have this longing quality that is surprising considering they’re both happily married…to other people.

13. Alex Cuba (132)

This Cuban-Canadian crooner makes pretty chill, easy listening Spanish music that I can’t get enough of.

14. Keiichi Suzuki, Hirokazu Tanaka, Hiroshi Kanazu, Toshiyuki Ueno (127)

This would be the staff behind the music of Mother games. I picked up the soundtracks to the second and third game, but they’re so massive that this team rose quickly.

15. Wild Flag (123)

One of my favorite new bands of the past year, I still remember queuing for two hours (to no avail) on Record Store Day for a chance at their single. Their album turned out fantastically (easily one of the best of 2011) and seeing them live was awesome.

Top Tracks of 2011

1. Rita Indiana & Los Misterios – “El juidero” (27)

My go-to track for merengue that makes my legs want to move. “El juidero” was just fantastic and I remember putting it on all the time just to get my heartbeat up.

2. RX Bandits – “…And The Battle Begun” (25)

I have so many versions of the tracks on …And the Battle Begun that I listen to with such regularity that this song not appearing on this list would be weird.

3. RX Bandits – “Only For The Night” (24)

My favorite song makes the list? Shocker!

4. April Smith and The Great Picture Show – “Colors”, The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger – “Jardin du Luxembourg”, & The Book of Mormon Cast – “All-American Prophet” (22)

April Smith is awesome, we already know that, but I also fell in love with Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl’s little duo thanks to NPR. We also can’t forget how awesome The Book of Mormon‘s soundtrack is. Great stuff.

7. Wild Flag – “Glass Tambourine” & Jonathan Coulton – “Nemeses (Featuring John Roderick)” (21)

The first single of both band’s discs from this year got lots of listens from me in anticipation of the full tracks.

9. RX Bandits – “Decrescendo”, The Beatles – “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”, Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich+Fussible – “I Count the Ways”, & Wild Flag – “Future Crimes” (19)

“Decrescendo” closes off a bunch of Rx Bandits recordings I own. “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” is my favorite part of the Abbey Road medley. “I Count the Ways” is my second favorite Nortec song on that album. “Future Crimes” is the other single from Wild Flag released before their debut album.

13. The Beatles – “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, Barenaked Ladies – “Enid”, & OK Go – “WTF?” (17)

I listen to “Enid” a lot. Mostly when I’m mad at a girl, but sometimes just to get the heartbeat up. “WTF?” is not my favorite songs on OK Go’s new album, but it was their first single and it was free. “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” is one of The Beatles’ late, weirder songs, but man do I love it. So creepy and weird and awesome.

April Smith Covers “Bottoms Up” by Trey Songz [F/ER]
Feb 15th, 2011 by Dan

Great cover of “Bottoms Up” by the always fantastic April Smith.

September: April Smith and the Great Date [Fukubukuro]
Jan 10th, 2011 by Dan

Risky.

I’d seen The Girl twice before. Once at an Orioles game, where we chatted more than we watched baseball. She was a friend of a friend and I didn’t expect to see her again. The next time I saw her was at my own house, during my housewarming party. The friend I knew brought her along with him. While her stay at the party lasted until the next afternoon, I would have still been reluctant to say that I really knew her, yet I had invited her out to see a band.

Without a doubt, I was being oversensitive, but I take my music and my recommendations (too) seriously. I was taking my date to see a girl-led, 1920s-style band playing music I guarantee she’s never heard before and whose musical tastes were described to me as rap/hip hop or country. New relationships are fragile creatures. Who knows what kinds of conclusions she might draw about me based on what April Smith’s live show was like. I’d never seen her live before, myself. She could very well practice human sacrifice each night. My point is that I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

You may also remember that it was only months before during a concert I had experienced turbulence with another girl, but I had confidence in this show. I’d been listening to her CD for about two weeks and I was absolutely floored by her voice. It reminds you that in this world of auto-tune and pop princesses there are still legitimately powerful and unique female voices in music. April Smith isn’t about vocal trickery, she’s about vocal force.

We went to dinner at a pizza place in DC. I’d been there before on other dates with other girls and I knew they made solid sangria and a decent pizza. The Girl turned out to be an extremely picky and selective eater, which made pizza ordering difficult. Let me tell you, picky and selective does not inspire much confidence in me that she’ll be receptive to the brand new musical experience I was about to take her to.

I’ve realized this year that adventurous, receptive personalities are attractive to me. There’s a part of me that gets tired and bored of the familiar. Not so much so that I can’t appreciate it, but enough that I crave something new. It’s why I’ve been seeking different and disparate musical influences throughout the whole year and also why I stopped boycotting hip hop. It’s not really a deal breaker for me, certainly not on the first date, but I don’t know that I would be able to handle someone who stubbornly resisted change.

Sure, it’s human to be anxious and a little reluctant. I get that, but I’m just not afraid of it. That or maybe I just like an audience. The whole time I was eating bizarre foods I’d never heard of in Japan, I relished in the reactions of my fellow tour goers. If I could manage to freak them out with my food then I felt I had succeeded. Likewise, when we took the train to a part of town that neither of us had ever been, I was feeding off of The Girl’s inherent unease at being in a part of DC she’d never seen.

The venue was about as perfect as it gets. DC9 is a tiny, two-storey affair in NW DC (according to the street names) with plenty on tap and a stage upstairs. The Girl and I knocked a few back waiting for the opening act to finish her thing. I normally like to hear what the opener is like, but tonight I wanted to get to know The Girl a little better.

I think what I love most about April Smith is that she’s got a real personality that shines through her music. Whether she’s rebuking a jilted lover in “Stop Wondering”, stepping up to a rival in “Dixie Boy”, or singing about her long-distance love in “Colors”, she seems to avoid most of the tropes and lyrical cliches. I guess you’d have to be pretty quirky to settle on a 1920s sound for your band.

To my benefit, DC9 was packed enough that there wasn’t enough space for too much dancing. I can move, if forced, but dancing is neither my forte nor a favored activity of mine. Nevertheless, I held The Girl close and we swayed to the music. Her apprehension faded away the more she listened. My hunch was correct.

It was a Thursday and we both had to work the next day. When you combine that with the train schedule deadline, we didn’t have much time to linger after the show. The Girl was headed in the opposite direction that I was, but I waited with her until her train showed up. It would be so much more poetic if we truly did part ways that night, but I saw her twice more before we broke things off. On the train ride home I thought of the good night I had, excited for things that would never happen. Oh well, I still got to see a killer show.

April Smith & the Great Picture Show at Millennium Stage

My 2010 in Music [Feedback]
Dec 31st, 2010 by Dan

last.fm t-shirt

Thanks to last.fm, I can tell you what my personal favorite music of 2010 has been!

Top 10 Artists of 2010

1. The Beatles (989 listens)

The re-release of the entire catalog reinvigorated my love for The Beatles as I more thoroughly explored their catalog and loved songs I’d never realized were by the Fab Four. Heaping praise on The Beatles is almost ridiculous, so I’ll leave it at that.

2. April Smith and The Great Picture Show (385)

This one doesn’t make as much sense to me. I think there might be some miscounting by one of my tagging services, but, regardless, I’ve loved April Smith since the first time I heard her singing “Terrible Things” on All Songs Considered. She was absolutely my breakout sensation of this year. There will be more on her in the New Year…

3. Rx Bandits (370)

“We get it, Dan. You love the Bandits, even though almost no one on earth has heard of them…”

4. Arctic Monkeys (295)

Kees van Dijkhuizen’s fantastic Youtube video Cinema 2009 featured “Crying Lightning” and I was hooked. Then I gave Favourite Worst Nightmare and I knew that these kids from Sheffield really knew what they were doing. We’ll see if 2011 will bring a new album.

5. Sambomaster (268)

“Shut up about Sambomaster already, Dan.”

6. The Zutons (179)

A fine band whose plays came mostly because I made “Put A Little Aside” the anthem for visiting a girl I was quite taken with. It’s a song about a guy having an affair, so I’m proving that we really only hear what we want to out of our favorite songs.

7. Jonathan Coulton (177)

Everyone’s favorite nerdy singer of songs about robots, monkeys, zombies, and evil geniuses continues to get tons of plays from me. Great stuff.

8 Glee Cast (165)

No comment.

9. Lucky Boys Confusion (163)

An old staple that will never get old. Too bad they broke up.

10. Girl Talk (147)

Talk about making a fast impression. With only two months of the year to make an impact, Girl Talk still finds itself in my top ten. Props.

Top Tracks of 2010

1. Felicia Day – “Penny’s Song” (88 listens)

Whoa, really? Wow. Didn’t realize I loved this song that much. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is one of my favorite musicals, but “Penny’s Song” isn’t really my favorite track from the movie. Oh well, I’m still happy to see this top the list.

2. Glee Cast (featuring Kristin Chenowith) – “Fire” (79)

I love this song. I’m just barely not embarrassed to admit it.

3. Sambomaster – “Ohベイビー” (70)

More Sambomaster love.

4. Stars – “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” (68)

Another song I wouldn’t have heard if I never listened to All Songs Considered. Their episode on break-up songs featured this track by Stars and it blew me away. Always makes me think of Ashley. Nearly makes me cry plenty of times. This song is brutal and awesome at the same time.

5. Glee Cast (featuring Kristin Chenowith) – “One Less Bell to Answer/A House Is Not a Home” (65)

Kristin Chenowith’s voice is amazing.

6. Rx Bandits – “Mientras La Veo Soñar” (60)

A great song on a great 2009 album.

7. Lucky Boys Confusion – “Not About Debra” and April Smith and the Great Picture Show “Wow and Flutter” (58)

Probably my favorite song by LBC and one of April Smith’s best. Smith currently uses “Wow and Flutter” as the last song in her set and the band all plays fantastic solos. Love both of these songs.

9. The Zutons – “Oh Stacey (Look What You’ve Done!)” (55)

It’s weird to have this so high when I love at least four or five Zutons songs more than this one. Guess that’s how it goes when you do a lot of random shuffling.

10. April Smith and The Great Picture Show – “Drop Dead Gorgeous” (54)

Brilliant song, because, really, “If you’re just drop dead gorgeous, you should just drop dead”

April Smith And The Great Picture Show in DC [Feedback]
Sep 3rd, 2010 by Dan

April Smith

At the age of 24 I fear that I’m approaching an age too old for going to the shows of bands I love. With that in mind, I’ve resolved to catch as many as I can over the next year or so before I become the creepy old guy in the back who can actually drink.

Last night I went to see April Smith And The Great Picture Show, a fantastic band with a sharp 1920s and 1930s sound that I heard about on All Songs Considered on NPR. The moment I heard April’s powerful voice singing in the podcast I knew that I had to see her live. She did not disappoint.

The band has one CD out right now, Songs For A Sinking Ship, so their set was pretty much an album show, but played out of order. It was very reminiscent of the NPR show I’ve embedded below. April’s voice was just as impressive as always and her wit and humor was well-received by the packed bar crowd at DC9, a cozy little bar off of 9th and U in the District.Would I see April Smith again? In a heartbeat. The voice she’s got hidden behind that petite frame is just miles and miles beyond what I’m used to hearing on the radio and I love the attitude and charm April and the Great Picture Show just exude. April, herself, plays guitar on some songs along with the tambourine and her band consists of a bassist (double bass, not a bass guitar), drummer, keyboardist, and a guy who alternates between accordion, ukulele, and guitar. They showed up last night all decked out in 1920s gear, complete with skinny ties, suspenders, and newsies hats and they rocked the socks off of everyone there, even my date who had never heard of April Smith before that night.

Go and buy Songs For A Sinking Ship now. You won’t regret it.

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