Random Five: Covering Elvis August 11, 2011Posted by Matt in Random Five.
Tags: Dead Kennedys, Dwight Yoakam, Elvis cover songs, Elvis Week, John Cale, Nick Cave, Pearl Jam
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Those of you not living in the Memphis area may not realize it, but this week marks one of the most important ones on the city calendar: Elvis Week. Yes, this time commemorates that day in 1977 when the King passed from this world and into the great nether beyond.
Admittedly, I’m not a big Elvis fan. I mean, I’ve lived here for more than seven years and have yet to visit the Mecca of Elvis fans, Graceland, but despite my ambivalence to his mountains of recorded music, I do appreciate his role in the formation of rock music and have enjoyed several covers of his songs over the years. So, in honor of Elvis Week, today’s Random Five will celebrate a few of these renditions of his songs.
5. Dead Kennedys – Viva Las Vegas
Nihilistic 70’s punk rock and Elvis might seem like a strange combination, and it is, but in this instance they make a pretty cool version of a classic song.
4. Nick Cave – In the Ghetto
Nick Cave is a weird dude and that characteristic has surely aided him in making some memorable and unique tunes over the years. This haunting version of an Elvis hit is no exception.
3. Dwight Yoakam – Suspicious Minds
Yoakam has made a successful career out of reintroducing the world to a honky tonk sound forgotten in today’s slickly produced world of country music. So, with an eye always on an earlier era, he is an excellent choice to respectfully take on an Elvis number.
2. John Cale – Heartbreak Hotel
Cale came to fame as a founder of the experimental rock band, The Velvet Underground, and his career has long been one that challenged listeners to move beyond the mundane confines of popular music. “Heartbreak Hotel” is just one piece in a long line of artistic triumphs.
1. Pearl Jam – Can’t Help Falling in Love
I had the good fortune of being present at a Memphis PJ show, back in 2000, when they blew the top off the Pyramid with this incredible version. Starting off slow and soft, its unexpectedly sudden dynamic change to a punk rock blast brought the house down. Pearl Jam rocks.
So, those are five of my favorite Elvis covers. What would you add to the list?
Random Five: Upcoming Music Releases January 13, 2011Posted by Matt in Random Five.
Tags: 2011, Bright Eyes, drive-by truckers, J Mascis, Okkervil River, The Decemberists, upcoming album releases
You all know that I collect a good deal of music each year, including some 50 new albums in 2010 of a wide variety of genres, so I always look with interest at the upcoming album releases. According to Metacritic, here are five albums with release dates over the next few months that I am particularly looking forward to.
5. Jan 18: The Decemberists – The King is Dead
The Decemberists last two releases were huge, bombastic concept albums with a myriad of instruments and a storylines meant to hold the works together, and both of them were largely successful in my opinion. I’ve streamed their latest, The King is Dead, on NPR and really enjoyed it. This album is similar to their earlier releases, in that it is an excellent collection of individual songs rather than a longrunning tale, in which the individual parts make little sense apart from each other. This one is a definite winner from the hyper-literate band.
4. Feb 15: Bright Eyes – The People’s Key
I’ve been a big fan of Coner Oberst’s quavering voice since I first heard him several years ago and I have always been quick to pick up his works, whether they be solo or through Bright Eyes. I look forward to seeing the direction he takes the band in this time.
3. Feb 15: Drive-By Truckers – Go-Go Boots
It goes without saying for semi-regular readers of this blog that I love the Drive-By Truckers. They are probably my favorite band of the past decade and every release is met with a huge sense of anticipation from me. This one is, of course, no different. I’ve heard a few of the new songs and they are great. Later on this month I’m planning on traveling over to Oxford with some friends to catch them and I’m sure I’ll have an even better idea of what to expect from the new release after that.
2. Mar 15: J Mascis – Several Shades of Why
Dinosaur Jr.’s guitarist/singer has been a force in indie/alternative music for more than two decades and I expect more of what he does best on this latest work – loud, fuzzy guitars and his trademark groaning vocals. It’ll be a must-hear.
1. May 10: Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
I’ve been a big fan of Austin’s Okkervil River ever since I first heard their 2007 release, The Stage Names, and 2008’s The Stand Ins continued their tradition of greatness. I expect this one to again shine in the intelligent, quirky manner that their past works have.
These releases have dates that will most likely hold firm, but there are several more upcoming albums that are expected in the next few months. Here are a few of those that I am particularly interested in:
Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee
Sure, they may be getting a little old for their shtick, but come on they’re still the Beastie Boys!
Blakroc – Blakroc 2
The collaboration of blues/rock duo The Black Keys with various hip-hop artists worked fairly well on their initial release, so I look forward to seeing what they have in store for us this time.
Jay-Z/Kanye West – Watch the Throne
I don’t know anything about this other than the fact that Jay-Z and Kanye will be working together. Awesome.
R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now
I’ve been a fan of R.E.M. for a very long time and it was nice to see them return to form on 2008’s Accelerate. Hopefully they’ll keep the momentum going on this latest work.
Fleet Foxes – TBA
There were few things more soothing than the harmonies on their self-titled 2009 release.
My Morning Jacket – TBA
I’ve loved MMJ for years and their last work, 2008’s Evil Urges, totally blew me away, so I’m sure this will become a staple for me as well.
Outkast – TBA
Nobody knows if this will actually happen, but after Big Boi’s solo work in 2010, I’m more pumped than ever to hear what these guys from the ATL have in store for us.
Radiohead – TBA
Every Radiohead release is an event of which you must be a part.
Wilco – TBA
Over the last 15 years or so, Jeff Tweedy’s band has proven themselves to be among the greatest working today.
Amy Winehouse – TBA
Please? Please don’t kill yourself and please do treat us to your soulful voice again…
What are you looking forward to?
Random Five: Worst Christmas Songs December 7, 2010Posted by Matt in Random Five.
Tags: Celine Dion, Christmas Shoes, Do They Know It's Christmas, Do You Hear What I Hear, Feliz Navidad, O Holy Night, Wonderful Christmastime, worst Christmas songs
One of the characteristics that separates Christmas from the other holidays on our calendar is the vast assortment of music recorded to commemorate the day. Sometimes the songs are great and go down in history as true testaments of the times, but today I want to take a look at the worst of the worst. What Christmas songs, whether old or new, can you not stand in the least?
My top (or should it be bottom) five are as follows:
5. Do You Hear What I Hear
With talking lambs and strange imagery, this song is like a Christmas acid trip gone bad and the terrible similes (“A tale as big as a kite”) make me cringe every time.
4. Wonderful Christmastime
So annoying it almost negates everything Paul McCartney did with the Beatles.
3. O Holy Night
Yeah, I know everybody is supposed to love this song, but the endless runs and increasingly higher notes make my skin crawl.
2. Christmas Shoes
It’s a dumb, emotionally manipulative song that makes me want to put the Christmas shoes on and kick the kid’s dying mother in the head.
1. Do They Know It’s Christmas?
A song about kids in Africa that don’t know about Christmas with lines like, “Thank God it’s them instead of you.” Yeah, real classy.
And as an added bonus that might make you gouge out your ear drums with an icepick…
What are your least favorite Christmas songs?
Random Five: Drive-By Truckers September 16, 2010Posted by Matt in Random Five.
Tags: best songs, Brighter Than Creation's Dark, concert, Decoration Day, drive-by truckers, Memphis, Southern Rock Opera, The Big To-Do, The Dirty South
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It’s no secret to anyone who has been reading the various iterations of this blog over the past 5 years that I’m a huge fan of the Drive-By Truckers, and have been for the better part of a decade. I’ve long praised their dark tales of life in the American South, while collecting all of their recordings and seeing them perform live five times or so. I had a chance to catch them earlier this year at the Beale Street Music Festival, which was fine, but due to time constraints, it was a bit more condensed than other times – particularly when compared to the incredible 3.5 hour monstrosity I was able to witness a few years ago. Well, tomorrow night I’ll have the opportunity to see them again on their latest trip through Memphis and I must say that I’m already near bursting with excitement. Their live shows are so energetic and insane, so loud and jarring that they blow nearly everyone else completely away. When you have the chance, make sure you go see them.
That being the case, I thought I would give you my five favorite DBT albums today. Let me know what you think.
5. Brighter Than Creation’s Dark
2008’s Brighter is probably the most country music-oriented album in their catalog, with some tunes (“Lisa’s Birthday”) displaying a full blast of that old school country style. This one also marks, for better or worse, the first album with Shonna Tucker, the replacement for the great Jason Isbell, on bass.
4. The Big To-Do
DBT’s most recent release takes a step back into the more hard-edged southern rock stylings of their earlier albums, a genre that seems to work best for them. With the exception of a few songs written by Shonna that I don’t really care for, it is a very good album, particularly on the heavy riff of “Drag the Lake Charlie” and Patterson Hood’s “The Fourth Night of My Drinking.” This was also their highest charting album to date, coming in at #22 on the US charts.
3. Decoration Day
This 2003 release was the first DBT album I bought and it was a great one to start with, it’s overriding themes of family and death fitting perfectly into the canon. Though the rocking “Sinkhole” is still a concert favorite, Jason Isbell is the real hero on this album, contributing perhaps two of their best songs, “Outfit” and “Decoration Day.”
2. The Dirty South
The follow-up to Decoration Day showed the Truckers delving even farther into the dark nature of life in the South, with more songs about death, family, and lovelorn tragedies. “Puttin’ People on the Moon” is a particularly damning take on NASA’s presence in Huntsville, Alabama, and it’s effect on the people of the region and “Where the Devil Don’t Say” is an excellent concert rocker, but again it is Isbell’s heartsick album closer “God**** Lonely Love” that rules this one.
1. Southern Rock Opera
There are few, if any, albums in the history of Southern Rock that encapsulate life in Dixie the way this one does. When Hood sings of the “duality of the Southern Thing” it makes sense, the good and bad of the South holding separate portions on the scales of life. This album, though, belongs to lead guitarist and co-founder (along with Hood) Mike Cooley, who contributes my all-time favorite DBT song, “Zip City.” It’s really a great album, one of my favorites of the entire decade and I would strongly urge all of you to check it out.
In case you don’t want to buy full albums, I have also decided to give you a bonus with today’s random five: A must-have DBT playlist of 20 songs that you should hear given in album order.
18 Wheels of Love (from Gangstabilly)
Why Henry Drinks (from Gangstabilly)
The Company I Keep (from Pizza Deliverance)
Love Like This (from Pizza Deliverance)
The Southern Thing (from Southern Rock Opera)
Zip City (from Southern Rock Opera)
Let There Be Rock (from Southern Rock Opera)
Guitar Man Upstairs (from Southern Rock Opera)
The Deeper In (from Decoration Day)
Sink Hole (from Decoration Day)
Outfit (from Decoration Day)
Where the Devil Don’t Stay (from The Dirty South)
Puttin’ People on the Moon (from The Dirty South)
God**** Lonely Love (from The Dirty South)
Aftermath USA (from A Blessing and a Curse)
The Righteous Path (from Brighter than Creation’s Dark)
A Ghost to Most (from Brighter than Creation’s Dark)
The Fourth Night of My Drinking (from The Big To-Do)
Drag the Lake Charlie (from The Big To-Do)
Birthday Boy (from The Big To-Do)
Random Five: Obama’s Speech September 1, 2010Posted by Matt in Random Five.
Tags: Iraq speech, President Obama
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I missed President Obama’s speech last night but, from what I heard it sounds as though it was somewhat meandering and uninspired. While I hate to hear that, I thought that now would be a good time to give our President some ideas about ways to make his next prime time address a bit more fun. So, here are five things that would make President Obama’s speech more exciting.
5. Bite the head off a live bat.
4. Do the entire speech in auto-tune.
3. Announce that he is joining the cast of Dancing with the Stars to provide a political counter weight to Bristol Palin and because he can’t stand David Hasselhoff.
2. Announce that he has recruited The Expendables to win the war in Afghanistan.
1. Come out for the speech dressed as DJ Lance Rock.
What do you think? What should Obama do to spice up his speeches?
Random Five: Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies July 8, 2010Posted by Matt in Random Five.
Tags: action movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Predator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Terminator, top 5, Total Recall, True Lies
In the Memphis area, and much of the rest of the country, we have been undergoing quite the month-long heat wave, with temperatures in the high 90’s, heat indices in the triple digits, and no reason whatsoever to be outside. That being the case, you would probably make the assumption that the summer movie season would be more lucrative than usual as people look for more air conditioned entertainment options, but this year’s sequel and remake-laden season has proven (with the exception of Toy Story 3 and, to a lesser extent, Iron Man 2) to be uninspired at best.
This weekend, though, a new hope enters your local multiplex: Predators. Yes, I realize that all past sequels of the 1980’s classic have proven to be terrible, but this one holds more promise than all others, boasting a cast that includes Adrien Brody, Lawrence Fishburne, and Topher Grace, and producer Robert Rodriguez, the guy responsible for great relatively recent works like Sin City, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Desperado, and From Dusk Till Dawn. So, the release of this film caused me to start thinking about the original Predator, which then led me to consider the works of the film’s star, and perhaps the greatest action movie star of all-time, Arnold Schwarzenegger. So, today’s top five list is dedicated to my five favorite movies by Schwarzenegger, with an added bonus of what may be his worst cinematic endeavor.
5. True Lies (1994)
I actually haven’t seen this James Cameron/Schwarzenegger vehicle in a long time, maybe not even since I was a teenager, but I recall liking it. In the movie Schwarzenegger plays an international spy who leads an unassuming home life with his wife, Jamie Lee Curtis, who does not realize what her husband does for a living. They both proceed to be pulled into an adventure fighting Arab terrorists and so on and so forth. From what I remember, it is a fun action flick that isn’t a total waste of time.
4. Total Recall (1990)
Based on a story by Phillip K. Dick, this Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Basic Instinct) directed film was one of the more interesting sci-fi movies of its time. Schwarzenegger’s character goes to have a Mars vacation memory implanted in his brain, but the complicated story takes more twists and turns as he discovers that he actually is a secret agent whose true memories have been previously replaced. I haven’t seen this film in a very long time, but I liked it years ago, so it makes the list.
3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
In its day, Terminator 2 was the ultimate action film, a James Cameron-helmed marvel of special effects and action that was huger than anything that had ever been released. It was the quintessential big budget blockbuster of the early ‘90s and we lined up to see it. This time around Schwarzenegger reprises his role as a Terminator, though this time a good one, who is sent to the past to protect Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her son, the future messiah of the human race, John Connor (Edward Furlong), from the latest model of Terminator, played by Robert Patrick. I haven’t seen this in a long time, but I feel pretty certain that it will hold up, even after almost 20 years since its release.
2. Predator (1987)
I don’t know if there has ever been another film that starred two future governors (Schwarzenegger and Jessie Ventura), giving this 1980’s classic another distinction to further its inherent awesomeness. In the movie, a team of commandoes is on a mission in a Central American jungle when they come upon a murderous, invisible alien who picks them off one by one, leaving Arnold alone to fight it off. If you ever want to see a great action movie, this is one to put on the list – very, very cool.
1. The Terminator (1984)
This James Cameron-helmed film showcases Arnold at his best as a silent killing machine sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). At the same time, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) is also sent back to stop him. The ensuing film is one of the best action classics of the era and perhaps even one of the best movies of the decade. I caught some of The Terminator just the other night on AMC and believe me, it’s still awesome after all of these years.
Along with his better film choices, I was pondering another question about Arnold’s career: What was his worst movie?
In my eyes, this is a pretty easy choice. Though Commando is an undeniably bad movie, it has some degree of 80’s charm, leaving one movie as his absolute worst: Batman & Robin. He, along with George Clooney (who I generally love), effectively killed a hugely successful franchise in the ugliest way possible. It is possibly the most terrible movie I have ever seen.
What do you think? What should have been in the top 5? Is there another movie that should be considered as his worst?
Random Five: When Oscar is Wrong March 4, 2010Posted by Matt in movies, Random Five.
Tags: Academy Awards, Best Picture, Brokeback Mountain, fargo, Goodfellas, L.A. Confidential, Pulp Fiction, wrong choices
I have had an interest in the Academy Awards, especially the Best Picture winners, for probably about 20 years – ever since I was a young teenager whose cinematic tastes were starting to mature. Over that time, I think I’ve seen all of the Best Picture winners and most of the nominees, and there is one thing that has often been apparent to me – sometimes, the Academy gets it wrong. Yes, even with all of their wisdom and power and prestige, there are occasions when the Academy voters mess up and give the award to a film that is undeserving (at least in my eyes) when compared to its competitors. Today’s list is dedicated to those films from the past 20 years that were nominated, but lost to a lesser film. As always, let me know what you think.
5. Goodfellas (1990)
One of three times that a deserving Martin Scorsese was wrongly defeated, Goodfellas was the best gangster movie since the first Godfathers, both of which did win Best Picture. Winner Dances with Wolves is not a bad movie by any means, but it certainly is not on the same level.
4. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Tarantino’s magnum opus was not just the best film of 1994, it was quite possibly the best of the entire decade. It is a cultural milestone, albeit one that is full of dark humor, graphic violence and string after string of obscenity-laced dialogue. And what beat it? Forrest Gump. Ugh.
3. Fargo (1996)
It took twelve years after the release of this, possibly their best film, for the Cohen brothers to finally bring home the Best Picture Prize and that’s a real travesty. Sure, I don’t remember The English Patient that well, but come on, it’s Fargo!
2. L.A. Confidential (1997)
L.A. Confidential is a great film that deserves tons of praise, but in all honesty, this pick is driven more by my dislike for James Cameron’s last 3 hour epic, the incredibly overrated Titanic. That being said, L.A. wins by default.
1. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Say what you will, but Brokeback Mountain is one of the most important and best films of the past decade. Sure, it carried some controversy with it, but great works usually do and the Academy utterly failed when they went with the safe choice, Crash (which isn’t a bad movie, just forgettable), over the right one.
And one more thought – if Avatar wins this year, you can add it to the list as well.
What do you think? When do you think the Academy got it wrong?
Random Five: Winter Olympic Sports February 22, 2010Posted by Matt in Random Five.
Tags: new Olympic sports, Winter Olympics
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Some might make the argument that there are already too many Winter Olympic sports between the speed skating, skiing, figure skating, bobsledding, and a virtual cornucopia of others, all of which fill the 17 days of the Games with thrills and excitement and controversy, but which can also become a bit wearing for the casual sports fan. Maybe it is time they spiced things up a bit…
So, for today’s random five, I’ve chosen some new sports that the Winter Olympic officials may want to consider for 2014. Let me know what you think.
5. Tauntaun racing – Not only would the race be exciting, but if a rider got separated from the pack and night was approaching, they kill their steed and crawl inside it to keep warm.
4. Ice jumping – The earth is warming and polar ice caps are breaking up, but why not make the best of it? In this event, the athletes would have to jump from one floating piece of ice to another to try and make it to the finish line.
3. Survival – Forget Survivor. Drop a bunch of Olympic athletes into the desolate frozen tundra, tell them where to find the finish line, and give them one week. Should points be added or subtracted for resorting to cannibalism?
2. Polar Bear Wrestling – The sport to separate the men from the boys. If you can wrestle a polar bear into submission then you’ve really earned your gold medal.
1. Kick the Penguin – Sure, everybody knows penguins are cute and cuddly, but have you ever wondered how far a small one would fly if you kicked it? This is where we can find out.
What would you add to the list?
Random Five: Personal Theme Songs January 25, 2010Posted by Matt in Random Five.
Tags: Geto Boys, office, theme music
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I was an avid follower of pro wrestling back in the 90’s when I was in college and I was always fascinated with the theme songs of the different wrestlers. Any time someone emerged from the mysterious and hidden back of the arena, their song would play over the loudspeakers, announcing their presence to the crowd. It’s quite an effective tool for announcing the grand entrance of each wrestler because everyone knows who matches up with the different tunes.
But, I thought to myself, why should this be confined to the sporting (or “sports entertainment”) world? Why can I not have a theme song for when I go to a meeting at work or when I walk down the hall to my office? So this led me to the next question: what should my theme song be?
After about 5 minutes of self-reflection and research, I came up with this list of five songs that I think would be cool to play upon my entrance. These selections are based more on their sound than on their lyrical content (that would take a little more time and research), so don’t make too many assumptions.
5. The Black Keys – When the Lights Go Out
4. Jay-Z – 99 Problems
3. Public Enemy – Fight the Power
2. Rage Against the Machine – Bulls on Parade
And the ultimate song for entering the office:
1. Geto Boys – Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster
What would be your theme song?
Random Five: A 1980′s Childhood January 13, 2010Posted by Matt in movies, Random Five.
Tags: 1980's movies, Back to the Future, E.T., family entertainment, Ghostbusters, PG rated, Return of the Jedi, The Karate Kid
They don’t make movies like they used to.
My oldest daughter is 7 years old, an age that I reached way back in 1984, smack in the middle of those nostalgia-inducing years of the 80’s. A few days ago I was thinking about the movies that were released during my childhood in the early 80’s and comparing them to those marketed toward kids today, and I realized just how much better they really were. It’s downright incredible when you actually look at it.
Probably one of the major reasons for this change is the lack of PG rated movies today as compared to 25 years ago. In today’s market, the choice rating for films is PG-13, making them generally not age appropriate for young children. In the 1980’s, PG rated films might be a bit risqué, but they were usually still acceptable.
So, for today’s random five I thought we could take a look back in time at those great motion pictures of the 1980’s and five in particular that I recall from those years when I was around the ages of my two daughters (4 and 7).
5. Back to the Future
In 1985 I was in 3rd grade and everybody wanted a DeLorean. This was the reason why.
4. The Karate Kid
Come on, you know you tried to do the Crane Kick.
Great cast in a movie that is still funny. Oh, and you’re welcome for getting the theme song stuck in your head.
2. Return of the Jedi
When I was 6 years old Ewoks were awesome. It may be the weakest of the original trilogy, but it’s still far better than the later films.
I saw this movie in the theater back when I was 5 or so years old and love it to this day. Admit it, the words “E.T. phone home” still get to you.
Thoughts? Do you agree that the 1980’s were a golden time for family entertainment?