Waking Ear

We have a pact, you and I. I write down what song I had in my head when I woke up in the morning. And, maybe, why. You click on "What's in your waking ear?" and tell me what's in your head right now. We discover new music and maybe learn something about how our minds work. Yeah?

Friday, August 29, 2003

Beyonce Knowles/"Crazy in Love" -- Entering its second week at the top of the Wake-ly Top 40, especially after I saw that Pepsi commercial 18 million times last night during MTV's Video Music Awards.

Speaking of, Perpetua has the full recap. My thoughts on last night's show:

a) I missed the opening monologue, so I could be wrong, but from what I saw Chris Rock was hugely disappointing. I only witnessed two good jokes, and when Rock had to stall toward the end of the show, he came up lame with a joke about how MTV's Cribs is really just people showing off their stuff. Well, yes.

b) Beyonce is 100 percent fantastic and had the night's greatest performance. Which wasn't that hard to do.

c) Snoop Dogg makes everything better. He blew 50 Cent out of the water. Only slip: when that heckler came up and stole the mic when Snoop and Adam Sandler were doing their "izzle" shtick, Snoop should've encouraged him to read the teleprompter and present the award. Instead, he seemed taken aback and mumbled something about moving along, "nephew."

d) Eminem's puppet thing sucked, and if he had any sense of humor the skit would've had Triumph in it, preferably humping his leg in a show of affection. I have the whole thing mapped out in my head, and it's hilarious.

e) Speaking of, the Crank Yankers were terrible.

f) I have never been so happy to see Method Man. Ditto for Dave Navarro.

g) Of course Johnny Cash should've won "Video of the Year." But he'll get the Grammy, so don't worry about it. You still got the pleasure of seeing a work of art, and that's all he wanted.

h) Good Charlotte is not, as Chris Rock said, "more like mediocre Green Day." Good Charlotte < Blink 182 < the Offspring < Green Day < NOFX.

i) Jack Black, regrettably, is done. Justin Timberlake is just beginning his reign. He is cooler than bubblegum.

j) I want Missy to gain some weight.

k) I want Kelly Osbourne to go away.

l) It's really too bad Duran Duran's Lifetime Achievement video package didn't work.

m) It was really neat to put Outkast with Iggy Pop. I hate the "the album drops Sept. 23" thing, but Outkast should never, ever be classy, so it's OK. Iggy seemed to be having a good time.

n) Xtina looks so much better now.

o) I didn't see the Madonna kisses, and I don't feel like I missed anything.

p) Stick a fork in Nelly. I'm not saying he's done. Just stick a fork in him.

q) Why would Jimmy Fallon keep insisting he's straight? It would be so much better if he was proud to be a Queer Eye guy.

r) Is it just me or have the MTV Movie Awards become much better than the VMAs? When did it happen?

s) Am I too old? This just doesn't seem as fun as it was in the old days. There hasn't even been a Triumph moment to talk about this year. The Madonna kisses were un-shocking. Eminem's puppet thing was dull. Beyonce looked cool coming down from the ceiling, but that was it.

t) Only one California joke (unless Rock tackled it in the opening monologue). Ben Stiller announced that Cruz Bustamante had won some award he was presenting.

u) I mean, remember Howard Stern's "Fartman?" Remember when everyone used to be insanely drunk for this thing? Now Snoop's shooing people offstage.

v) Only profanity to make it past the censors: Fred Durst's middle finger to Chris Rock.

w) That rock comeback thing fizzled quick. White Stripes win nothing. I bet the Strokes don't even get nominated next year.

x) If Adam Sandler gains more weight, he could be fat-funny instead of just angry-funny.

y) When Run-DMC came out, a bunch of crowd members in the front held up Adidas shoes. It didn't feel right at all.

and finally, z) Lars Ulrich is so old.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Led Zeppelin/"Immigrant Song" -- Wilco was covering this for a while. They had a roadie sing it.

It makes me want to get How the West Was Won. People are raving about it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Dizzee Rascal/"Jezebel" -- Bleak. Dizzee is the perfect antidote to Chingy. The story I've linked over there has the brains to identify him with Slick Rick, which hadn't occurred to me, but maybe I'm behind.

The first time I plugged Boy in da Corner in, I knew it would be an adjustment. My ear couldn't quite swallow it. It just heard random glitches and drums. It took a while before my brain could rearrange itself to find where the songs were cohesive, to make some sort of sense of it. I feel like my world just expanded.

Perpetua is offering a live version of the Strokes' "12:51." He thinks it sounds like U2, but I think it sounds like Weezer. Not necessarily in a bad way. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Dizzee Rascal/"Stop Dat" -- This shit is hard, like Straight Outta Compton hard, and that raw and gaping and gaped-mouthed. I like to bump it in my car, so that the bass jumps through my legs.

Sometimes I play things loud in my car just to see if someone else will recognize it. Like someone in the car next to me will roll down the window and say, "Hey, Dizzee!" Um, hasn't happened yet. Not even with the Badu single, which, despite my prediction, seems to be getting some airplay here in her hometown.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Dave Matthews Band/"Tripping Billies" -- I'm sorry. I don't know how it get in here, either. I mean, there's even Dave Matthews songs I like. But not this.

My good friend Hiney was in town over the weekend as part of a cross-country road trip with his lovely girlfriend, Jen. Some debauchery took place. I apparently danced and dropped my pants after encouragement from people who took advantage of my inebriation. I'm very embarrassed. I try never to dance in front of others.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Beyonce Knowles/"Crazy in Love" -- The best part is that bridge right before the last onslaught of the chorus. She's fooling herself. She's watching herself do this, and she can't believe it.

Y'all have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Richard Marx/"Hold on to the Nights" -- I've been thinking lately about the under-appreciated genius of Richard Marx. Not a great lyricist, which kept him out of the headier singer/songwriter camp. But as a pop musician? Yes.

Let's do a quick runthrough of the hits only, which would leave out gems such as 1991's "I Get No Sleep," from Rush Street.

Exhibit (a): "Don't Mean Nothing," a hook-laden, sleazy take on mind-numbing Hollywood business from the self-titled 1987 debut. This could be the unofficial theme song of the Schwarzenegger campaign. The blues-ish riff spins round and never goes anywhere, from vocals to guitar to vocals. More than the ballads, the song shows Marx's great range and delivery; the swagger in "sign it on the dotted li-eeeene sounds wheezy because he's a fake tough.

Exhibits (b) and (c): "Hold on to the Nights," "Endless Summer Nights": Also from Richard Marx, these ballads are the cream atop adult-contemporary balladry's milk because of two things. One, that combination of raspiness and youthfulness in Marx's voice, pained and hopeful at the same time, not having given up despite the anguish of memory. Two, the evocation of memorable nights, which are a different sort than daytime memories, more intimate, more fleeting. "Summer" also has that bad-ass sax solo going for it, right after the begging-on-the-knees bridge.

Exhibit (d): "Angelia" was the true love song off 1989's Repeat Offender, not the clonish "Right Here Waiting," which should've been loaned to latter-day Bryan Adams. The story of a troubled, lost love is mid-tempo, but there's this antsy bass underneath, restless. And the sax is important here, too, even moreso than in "Summer," where it's just about being a solo. Here it's an extension of Marx's vocals, gritty and squinting, crying out for love to return.

Exhibit (e): With its children's-choir chorus, "Children of the Night," also from Offender heavily risks being self-indulgent. It's saved at the end, when Marx gets slightly psychedelic, bleeding out the "aaaaaahs" into a swirling mix of horns and strings.

And finally, exhibit (f): "Keep Coming Back," Marx's finest moment, from Rush Street. A street-smart R&B ballad notable for Luther Vandross' backing vocals, the song achieved a level of sophistication -- it's called "the blues" -- that Marx hadn't been able to reclaim since his first single. Vandross seems to push Marx toward the soul his vocal chords have been craving, steering him toward falsetto "ooohs" that trail up into the vapor.

I was unimpressed with "Now and Forever," the only hit from 1993's Paid Vacation, and didn't buy that album. Marx has recorded two more LPs since then, but he's now more of a songwriter than a performer and recording artist, having written and produced for 'N Sync and Kenny Rogers.

But looking back -- damn, some great tunes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Kiki Dee & Elton John/"Don't Go Breaking My Heart" -- Chelle and I are planning to use this song as the follow-up to our scorching karaoke rendition of Human League's "Don't You Want Me?" The Dee/John duet, though, is slightly out of my range, so I think I'm going to have to whip out some falsetto about half the time, which should make it interesting -- or terrible. But I'll be drunk, so it won't matter.

I'd like any suggestions for other duets we might try in the future. Only requirement -- it's gotta be up-tempo. No "Up Where We Belong" type-stuff -- we want to rock the joint. And it's gotta be a big enough hit to be included on your standard karaoke list. Otherwise, we'd most assuredly be performing Postal Service's "Nothing Better."

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Outkast/"Hey Ya" -- I know this has been discussed before elsewhere, but damn! Andre 3000 must have been listening to the Pixies. There's no other way to explain this, and the possibilities for Speakerboxx just keep getting more promising.

It should also be noted that another hip-hop pioneer, Ms. Badu, is getting close to a release date. Unlike "Hey Ya," "Danger" won't get a lick of airplay because there's no hook. But it's inspired and nuts, like splattering paint on the wall in a calculated mess.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Animal Collective/"Native Belle" -- This album reminds me of the little woodland world Thom Yorke visits in the "There There" video. There's a scene in there when he peeks in on a little bunny wedding. Little creepy bunnies.

I imagine "Native Belle" as the reception for that wedding. The bunnies are signing a love song, the squirrels are pounding on shit, there's probably a racoon chomping on something. It's as if Alvin and the Chipmunks discovered some African tribal music.

Dwight Yoakam was terrific, by the way. The last 45 minutes or so was a pure greatest-hits set, from "Honky Tonk Man" to "Fast As You." But I really enjoyed the covers, from "I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow" to Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" to Waylon Jennings' "Stop the World And Let Me Off" to Jimmie Dale Gilmore's "Dallas."

Friday, August 15, 2003

Cat Power/"Evolution" -- The pubes don't bother me. Not sure why hair is causing such a ruckus.

Busy day. We'll see you next week.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

The Apes/"Aboard the Ark" -- I've had a bunch of old songs in my entries this week because I haven't been able to wrap my head around this album. It's a grower, for sure -- you have to get past the organ and Moog, which blare on incessantly. And vocalist Paul Weil sounds not unlike Marilyn Manson. But there's method here, and quite a bit of madness, one of those weird little albums you can tuck away and occasionally pick out of your CD wallet, thinking, "I wonder if this is still as strange as it was when I first heard it." It will be.

Babies havin' babies. Ah well. At least I can still dream of Ms. Furtado's new album.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Bel Biv Devoe/"Poison" -- Too bad they didn't age well. This was the jam.

I have a few pictures to document Chelle's 25th birthday party up for viewing now. Girlfriend took the camera with her when she went home, so I unfortunately can't illustrate Chelle's drunken state after the shots you see her taking with me and Schmubb.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Vanessa Williams/"Comfort Zone" -- My waking ear this morning was strangely appropriate -- we've had rainstorms the past couple of days, leaving the weather abnormally cool. The high is supposed to be in the mid-80s today. It might as well be October. (It's all relative -- Dallas is hot, y'all.)

I'm hardly the first to report this, but Paul Cox has resurfaced with God's Audio/Visual Aid, which looks pretty and features plenty of that old Rub-ish cynicism. Adjust your bookmarks accordingly.

The Austin City Limits Festival has finally released its schedule, and it couldn't be more perfect. I've worried about missing some of the great bands on the lineup, but it looks as if I won't have to. Here's my plan, and if there's somebody I'm leaving out that I should see, let me know:

Day One
12:15 p.m. -- The Damnations
1 p.m. -- Cody Chesnutt
3 p.m. -- Liz Phair
4 p.m. -- Julieta Venegas
5 p.m. -- The Mavericks
8 p.m. -- Spoon
8:45 p.m. -- Dwight Yoakam

Day Two
12:15 p.m. -- The Dandy Warhols
1 p.m. -- Old 97s
2 p.m. -- Drive By Truckers
3 p.m. -- Los Lobos
4 p.m. -- North Mississippi All-Stars
6 p.m. -- Bright Eyes
7 p.m. -- Steve Earle & The Dukes
8 p.m. -- Cafe Tacuba

Day Three
12 p.m. -- Kings of Leon
12:30 p.m. -- The Shins
2:30 p.m. -- Lucinda Williams
3:30 p.m. -- Polyphonic Spree
4:30 p.m. -- Yo La Tengo
6:30 p.m. -- Ween
7:45 p.m. -- Beth Orton
8:30 p.m. -- REM

Monday, August 11, 2003

White Zombie/"Thunder Kiss '65" -- Busy day today. Come back and see me tomorrow, perhaps?

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Dwight Yoakam/"An Exception to the Rule" -- I know, I said no more. But "An Exception to the Rule" is an exception to the rule, because Chelle's birthday is this weekend.

There's not really an underlying message here, though I do think the lyrics are cool. It's just a pretty song by a guy Chelle and I like and are going to see weekend after this. It's one of the things just Chelle and I share, since nobody else wants to admit Dwight's genius.

I'm getting a rare case of writer's block talking about this, so let me just say: Chelle is very special to me, and I'm very lucky to have her around. Happy birthday.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Guided By Voices/"The Best of Jill Hives" -- Earthquake Glue is the follow-up I wanted after Isolation Drills, still soaring and swooping but with a hint of melancholy (and some infinite sadness). "Jill Hives" is Pollard's best song since "Glad Girls," at least.

Madonna's spiritual adviser aids Missy Elliott on the set of their Gap commercial. We could all use a little red string now and then.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Eminem/"Cleanin Out My Closet" -- Someday I will investigate Eminem. Long after the hype is over, when he's still, probably, making some good music but just isn't pushing so many millions of records, maybe producing a little bit, I'll borrow somebody's old Marshall Mathers LP and discover its brilliance and wonder why I didn't listen to it sooner.

But then I'll remember how hideous I found his anti-gay and anti-woman rhetoric. I just couldn't stomach giving my tacit approval for such garbage with my financial vote, the same way I never bought a Death Row record. I'm not saying I've never bought anything that had lyrics I found offensive. I have. But I try not to. I try to steal from them, later, when they're not looking.

It's such a rough thing to know that there's some good music going on and stay away from it because it has an ugly side. This is my balance. I wish more of the joyful music critics who glorified Eminem had had some kind of balance, too.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Les Savy Fav/"Our Coastal Hymn" (live) -- I was surprised at how different The Cat and the Cobra was from 3/5, the first Les Savy Fav album I bought. The latter is so arty, and meter-funky, and Cat is much more traditional, relatively speaking. I'm OK with this, I'm just saying.

There's a few of us guest-blogging over at Perpetua's home this week. I'd like to come up with some unusual items for download, so we'll see how creative I can get.

Inskeep's all about the Launchcast, but I'm all about Launch videos. I set up my own MTV over the weekend, putting my laptop next to the TV and streaming the videos via my wireless network. It got a little repetitive, just because I need to train it more, but I did see REM's "Everybody Hurts" and Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" for the first time in a million years, so it was well worth it. Only other complaint -- it makes you click a link after like 10 videos to say you want to keep playing. Boo.

Friday, August 01, 2003

50 Cent feat. Eminem/"Patiently Waiting" -- 50 Cent's live show still needs work. I don't understand this practice of rapping over your own prerecorded vocals. Is it that hard to take the vocals out of the mix, Mr. DJ? Since 50 is shouting, his voice is about an octave higher than his voice on record, and doesn't sound half as cool. So you're constantly reminded that you'd rather be listening to his CD. And the higher register doesn't really jibe with his mumbling delivery.

Still, 50's show at the House of Vodka showed marked improvements from the first time I saw him at the much seedier Dallas Convention Center. He's downsized the number of posse members with mics, which makes it much easier to distinguish his voice. And he took some time for stage banter, a must for a guy who depends on charisma for his success.

It's been hip-hop week at the Ear, except for Elliott Smith. Nah, he's kinda hip-hop. Don't worry, I still love my indie rock, too. I've been downloading all of the 'Fork's "cool albums you haven't heard" selections from this week for sampling, so maybe a few will pop up next week. I'm also waiting with bated breath for the new looks of Pitchfork and The Mighty Rub.

Oh, I almost forgot -- frequent Ear comments contributor Uus has been without Internet access because of a move, but he wanted you all to know that he has a 30-gigabyte iPod, nanny nanny boo boo.

May your weekends be filled with interesting sounds.


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