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?

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

"California Stars" Billy Bragg and Wilco

I requested this song from Cheryl Waters during her epic 8 hour radio show last friday. I requested it at around 9:00 a.m. and she finally played it at 1:00 p.m. She told me that she wanted to keep me listening. It seemed kinda flirty and fun. I loved it. I thought I was a part of her show...or something. I really can't believe that I listen to KEXP as much as I do. I spent about 6 months teasing my friends because they seemed obsessed with that station. I think that a couple of them were preparing to drop on their knees for some of those DJs. Well, not that far, but they definitely liked them a lot. Now I find myself in their position. I just can't get enough of a radio station with few commercials and not too many repeated songs. It's like listening to a mix tape that someone made for me. It really is enjoyable. And yes, I am willing to drop to the knees for some of them now...

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

“Get Low”/ Lil' John and the Eastside Boyz

Ahh, another remnant from our Cali trip. Phant tried to bet me before we left — but I declined, as I hate to take my boyfriend’s money — that Dirrrty South rap, sometimes referred to as crunk music, would be on every station in L.A.

Pish tosh, I said. This is West Coast! Home of Tupac!

I had high hopes for my homeland, but alas, Get Low was EVERYWHERE, as it has been in Dallas for several months, and as it is no doubt currently sweeping across the USA. If we didn’t hear “Get Low,” then it was Youngbloodz' "Damn!", a simple little song that warns you over and over again "Don't start no stuff, won't be no stuff" and "If you don't give a damn, don't throw it up."

DJs on Power 106 (longtime L.A. rap station) kept proclaiming how they needed to take back the West Coast.

Yeah, someday. “Get Low," is catchy -- especially the “skeet skeet skeet skeet” part -- and you don't really notice its insanely degrading lyrics. (Anyone for some "tig ol' bitties"?) Most hip-hop isn't about loving and respecting women anyway...

Monday, December 29, 2003

Mariah Carey/"All I Want for Christmas Is You" -- I only began to appreciate this 1994 classic on about Day Three of my endless drive around Southern California last week with Girlfriend. It was then that I noticed that Spectorian wash of bells and voices rising up like a fountain above the Xmas dredge. Every time we tuned to yet another radio station and found this song, we kept it there. It even outlasted Kelis' "Milkshake," proving once again that Clear Channel can play anything out.

"All I Want" sounded even more spectacular up against Ms. Carey's weighty, screeching "O Holy Night." When we look back at where she went wrong, we'll wish she never had the range that made her so famous. It turned out, in the long run, that her pouty, flirty voice sounded better as an alto.

Friday, December 19, 2003

I've never been a huge fan of lists. Sure, I like the whole "Top Five" meme in High Fidelity as an archetype of the music geek. And I've had some fun discussions ranking bands and albums and singles (most memorably during a late-night drive from Dallas to 'Bama with my fellow Waking Ear bloggers).

But it's frustrating to me to be so definitive. I always have the sinking feeling that I'm forgetting something. I start to question my own tastes: "Will this record really mean anything a year from now? A decade from now?" Those questions lead me, inevitably, to the conclusion that the exercise is futile. Favorites or "bests" are constantly morphing and evolving things, and it seems kind of silly to take a snapshot of something that will only embarrass me later. Which is normally why I only do lists when I'm drunk.

I was talking to Schmubb the other night about why I'm not particularly fond of philosophy. The reasons are similar: there's no answer. Philosophical frameworks are built to be torn down. Schmubb's contention (I always hate to crystallize his arguments, because I'm almost always slightly off, but I think this was his contention) was that it's the exercise that matters. Questioning and debating endlessly with no conclusion in sight is not the pointless activity I make it out to be, he says. The conclusion is not the point; the perspective reaped from all that blabbing is good for you.

He's probably right, and I'd be kidding myself if I said I didn't find something educational (and entertaining) about a good argument. But the value, to me, ends there. I'm ultimately more comfortable with the idea that there is no right answer, that things happen because they do, that the world spins because of things we can't explain and people are the way they are because of a bezillion little points along a timeline that can't be built into a coherent system. Chaos leads to drama, and drama is much more interesting than knowing how the story's going to end.

The year-end lists (most anticipated: the Inskeep chronicles) are all wrong, and they're all spot-on. Some will gleefully pick them apart, which will be fun. But ultimately, I hope they make people pick up records they'll love. That would be a great conclusion.

"It is only 'a dopey and transparently political act' to list Liz Phair at number if you think politics are stupid, or somehow spoil aesthetics or experience or prose. If you do, you are a practitioner of Unchecked Penisism." -- Sasha Frere-Jones

Top Waking Ears of 2003:

10) Kanye West/"Through the Wire" -- Look out, 'Ptunes.
9) The Darkness/"I Believe in a Thing Called Love" -- Yes, it is all a joke. But good parodies are done by good artists. This could go on forever.
8) Dangermouse and Jemini/"The Only One" -- Like a "Crazy in Love" and "Through the Wire" mash-up. Speaking of...
7) Pharrell Williams vs. Gangstarr vs. DJ Demasiado/"Frontin' My Steeze" -- This is my list. I can do what I want. Paz rocked the shit out of this. Bring on the Joni Mitchell.
6) Pleasure feat. Justine Frischmann/"Don't Look the Other Way" -- Someday Ms. Frischmann will rise again and render her judgment. German looks so good on her.
5) Dwight Yoakam/"The Back of Your Hand" -- Written by a H!ITG actor, it protests too much: "But no one knows you like I do!" Emotional ambiguity is so much more unnerving than decisiveness.
4) Andre 3000/"Hey Ya" -- What's brilliant is how the whole thing gets recontextualized in the album, and suddenly you realize it's sad. Props to Badger for discovering this first.
3) Beyonce Knowles/"Crazy In Love" -- Everybody loves the horns and the Jigga. But I remain steadfast that only Beyonce could've done this song right.
2) The White Stripes/"Seven Nation Army" -- This site got the most hits it's ever received (wasn't a high bar, but still) when I printed my version of the lyrics right after the song starting appearing on the peer2peers. I think any backlash we've seen has been halfhearted; there are still too many songs to be written. I like Jack's odds.
1) Cat Power/"He War" -- Yeah, and You Are Free is my album of the year, too, but I'm not even going to get into that. Rock'n'roll used to be about abandon, which is why this woman should scare the shit out of people.

Girlfriend and I go to Cali next week for the holidays. Schmubb will be in 'Bama, and, as Chelle mentioned, she'll be away as well. So if we don't see you next week (and we may), have a good whatever-you-celebrate.

Thursday, December 18, 2003


Strange that I just pulled this song off the shelf the other day (after a long sabbatical of not listening) and this morning the radio station I listen to at work played it...

But this is not what is on my mind today. The Golden Globe nominations are on my mind. I'm, admittedly, a freak when it comes to movie awards. I have a need within to watch all nominated movies and guess who will win, who won't, why. It's a game I've played for quite a few years - since I was a wee one.

Basically, I have a lot of catching up to do. I suspect to spend much of the holidays watching movies and that delights me.

So, check out the noms and give your opinion - who are you rooting for?

I've yet to see three of the five Best Drama Pics - but a fav is already LOTR. I've seen four of the five Best Comedy Pics and the front runner for me is Finding Nemo, but I bet Big Fish will win out in the end (once I see it).

What about you?
(and as a side note, could we please have some more noms for the great actors in Six Feet Under?? Nate and David kick President Bartlet's ass any day!)

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

"Mogwai Fear Satan"/Mogwai

So Bri-ness, Chelle, our friend Tad and I went to see this movie last night. First off...it was amazing. I am extremely biased because I am a geek and love this sort of crap. But during some of those epic battle scenes that they have going on I began to think about this song by Mogwai. I have alot of associations with this song, but I still believe that it could be set against a 20 minute battle and it would fit perfectly. Ups and downs. Climaxes and slopes. It is the perfect epic battle song.

As I write this I am beginning to think of all the Scottish bands that have become popular over the last 10 years. I mean, were there any popular Scottish bands in the eighties? In the 90's and "ots" you have "Belle and Sebastian", "Mogwai", "McClusky, "Travis", and I'm sure a bunch I'm forgetting. Can we count Interpol? Or are they going more for the London Soho look. Let's see if we can think of a few, shall we? It would be like an epic adventure full of good, evil, and even the smallest of people can change the course of time...

Monday, December 15, 2003

Late post today. It's been busy.

I was thinking this morning about the first tape I ever bought: Starship's No Protection. C'mon, I was like 9 years old, and I didn't have older siblings to help. Give me a break.

Anyway, I listened to that tape a lot. It was my only tape, really. I still know "Set the Night to Music" and "It's Not Over ('Til It's Over)" by heart. But I was looking over the tracklist at AMG and was surprised that I couldn't remember the non-singles (some would call them "filler") that rounded out the album.

(The AMG reviewer, incidentally, wrote an astoundingly glowing review of No Protection. I'm all for underappreciated pop music, but come on. This one does not deserve this kind of praise: "As far as techno-rock goes, No Protection is a classic of the genre." Shame on you, Joe Viglione, wherever you are.)

Anyway, when the tracklist of No Protection failed to stir up my memory, I felt kind of sad. Here was an -- admittedly bad -- album that I had cherished as a kid, and I couldn't remember a lick of it. So tonight I'm digging out my box of cassettes and subjecting myself to No Projection one more time. Slick, this one's for you, you crazy minx.

Friday, December 12, 2003

I had a professor in college who used to go off on tangents. To get back on point, he'd use this phrase: "And yet. And yet." And then he'd get back to whatever he was talking about. I have found this to be a useful device.

I love the Stills' "Still in Love Song." I just realized that the song title contains the name of the band. And yet. And yet.

The song will forever be etched in my brain thanks to that little part where the bass bumps up the scale just as the vocalist is trailing off. AMG tells me that that vocalists' name is Tim Fletcher, which is an extraordinarily bland name. Which fits.

Because I find myself not liking the Stills. Fletcher's voice is too sanguine -- Brit-pop Travis sanguine. The notes and beats hit a little too perfectly. That bass line in "Still in Love Song" should not be that expertly timed. It's unnerving. It's like when you talk to a Mormon and they're just too happy to be Mormon.

And yet. And yet. I can't help but like the Stills, even if they were late to the Interpol party and have an uncanny ability to write hooks that belong on one of the Clear Channel "Edge" stations. Here's why: every once in a while, a guitar plays out of tune. Affectionately, for the Cure. That's all I needed. Thank you, Stills.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

"So Says I"/ The Shins
Mine is more of a Waking Line today...throughout the course of my sleep last night, I kept waking up with one line from this song in my ear:
"Tell Sir Thomas More we've got another failed attempt..."

There are a number of topics that could come from this, but as I drove to work this morning what stands out in my mind is how I can listen to this song, and this entire album, and have no idea what is being said half the time. Still, I enjoy it tremendously. Trying to figure it out the words without looking at the liner notes...it's like a game. I find in most cases, I'm waaaay off the mark, but then I have a good laugh at myself.

As has been stated before, I'm not very good at deciphering lyrics, especially when it comes to The Shins. So when my ear picks up a line such as this one, it holds on to it with all its might - careful not to lose it among the rest of the lyrics.

Unfortunately, waking up to the same line of a song over and over is not always the best of times, esp when I know if I could just figure out the rest of the line, I'd sleep soundly the rest of the evening. But there's no way my tired arse is going to get up on a cold Dec. night to look at the liner notes - one day I may be tormented enough, but not quite yet. So until then, Sir Thomas More is going to keep popping in until morning.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

"Les Os"/The Unicorns

This is the hardest band that I have tried to conquer in a long time. I feel that with some music it is just that, a conquest. I love Radiohead, but let's face it, we had to fully attack "Hail to the Thief".

The Unicorns deliver a sound that is unique and hard to listen to at times. Certainly it is poppy but it can be hard to sing along to like your typical catchy song. I really enjoy these guys though in the long run. They sound like they had a really good time in the recording studio, which is something I really appreciate. Something I always loved about Pavement and the Silver Jews and something that I find absent from Radiohead and Wilco.

I hope my rambling prose doesn't offend those lovely eyes of all y'all.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

“Slow Jams” /Kanye West feat. Twista and Jaime Foxx.

Yes, that Jaime Foxx. He’s funny, but did you know he could sing like a mo-fo too?

Before I go any further, I must tell Phant thanks for letting me post. You rule. (baby.) And, as another preface, my post will not sound as intricate and pretty as his normally do, because at the heart of all of this, I really don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

All I can say is, while not my Waking Ear, “Slow Jams” is the R&B ballad of the year. It has old-school nostalgia —“You want some Ready for the World? Some New Edition?”— combined with this slammin’ beat, and a high, chirpy sample of a female singing “It’s gonna be, it’s gonna be,” over and over again. None of that fluffy J.Lo-Ashanti-Kelly-Rowland-and-Nellie-female-vocal crap.

I wish I knew where the sample came from. Any guesses, anyone?

I’ll try to post an MP3 later.

Monday, December 08, 2003

The judgment is rendered. Waking Ear gets a stay of execution, but it will change its ways.

I'm going to invite Girlfriend, Chelle and Schmubb to post once a week. I expect to keep the site running on a one-post-a-day schedule. I'll post on Mondays and Fridays. Girlfried posts Tuesdays, Schmubb Wednesdays and Chelle Thursdays, so mark your calendars appropriately.

With the change, I'm dropping the mandatory Waking Ear, song-a-day format. We can still do that style, but I'd like to branch out and try different things, too. Oh, and we'll try to accommodate Thomas' requests for more pictures of Schmubb.

Thanks for sticking with me through the head-scratching.

Monday, December 01, 2003

The Darkness -- "Growing On Me" -- OK, yeah, so, sorry about the meltdown.

I'm going to make you a promise, and you know what that's worth. Next Monday, I'll have figured out what I want to do with this site. Here's the options:

a) Shut it down. Work is ridiculous right now, and I can't realistically promise to post every day. I don't think the site works without an everyday post, so fuck it, thanks for the memories, and we move on.

b) Go with the whole posting-by-committee thing. Over the last year-plus-change, readers have enjoyed getting to know my friends Schmubb, Chelle and the lovely Girlfriend, among others. (Chelle is also lovely, of course. So is Schmubb.) I could let them post when I'm busy.

c) Try an entirely new format. I have a confession to make. Sometimes I don't have a song in my head in the morning. Often I do, but not every day. So sometimes the song in my head is from later in the day. Why even worry about what the song in my head is? We're here to talk about music. Maybe there's another way to do it.

d) This is where you put your suggestion.

Let's regroup on Monday. I promise to come up with an answer by then, or at least a proper goodbye.


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