Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

I was going to file this under Best Video Ever, but I decided that Tucker deserves his own spot on the TAT list. The YouTube description of this video says: “Tucker, our one and a half year old Schnoodle, plays the piano and sings along at least 3 or 4 times every day. In spite of all of his practicing, he really isn’t getting any better at it.” but I have to disagree. I have a BA in music and this dog is better than me at both singing and playing the piano.

TUCKER FTW! I’m tempted to end this entire site right here because let’s face it: it doesn’t get much more totally awesome than that.

ShwaBAM!

Okay people. Here we are, finally on the threshold of breaking into the double digits, and it’s time to get excited, because I’m about to crank it up to a whole new level of awesome. For this monumental post, I’m going to take you on a whirlwind journey…

To the past.

It was an uncommonly warm fall day in October 2010 – score one for global warming! – and I found myself immersed in the great time-sucking wonder that is YouTube. Flipping through my subscriptions I saw a new video posted by one of my favorite channels. I watched it 3 or 4 times, marveling at how simultaneously funny, adorable, silly, sweet and downright awesome it was, then went back for the 400th time and rewatched all of their other videos. While doing so I found myself thinking: DAMN, this is TOTALLY AWESOME. I wish I had a forum in which to express how TOTALLY FREAKING AWESOME this is. If only I had a space in which to publicly geek out about this and all the other TOTALLY AWESOME things I come across on a daily basis…

And thus, a blog was born. And it was totally awesome.

That channel belonged to a fabulous duo of ladies who go by Powerfox and Ponymane, also known as Jackie Tohn (Powerfox) and Jes Hudak (Ponymane). Yes, Jes Hudak of the best albums of 2010, this phenomenal video, and my constant yammering about how totally awesome she is. Anyway, Powerfox and Ponymane are two hilarious, gorgeous and extraordinarily talented singer-songwriters, both of whom have – as Ron Swanson would say – stared into the eye of Satan’s butthole, and taken on the tempest of woe that is American Idol.

I suppose that this is the point at which I admit that while I generally only watch scripted television as a rule, I do make one major exception, and that is American Idol. Why? Because despite what haters who want to hate might say, it is totally awesome. Granted, sometimes on Idol TPTB and/or the American public make frustratingly bad decisions. For instance, Jes Hudak made it past the auditions and was cut in the group rounds in Hollywood back in season 5, though she was never shown (I would know, I watched that season particularly closely – yeeeah POREH). Jackie Tohn made it all the way through to the voting rounds in season 8 but fell victim to the uberdumb Top 36 format and never really got a proper chance. But it’s just as well because if they had made it, we wouldn’t have Powerfox and Ponymane!

I first came across Powerfox and Ponymane last winter when they began to create weekly videos during the final Idol rounds in which they mirrored the themes of the week with their own fabulous renditions of pop songs. In doing so they ended up putting the actual Idol contestants to shame because – with the exception of the endlessly awesome Siobhan Magnus – Power and Pony were more entertaining and better singers than any of them. Yep, I said it. Judge for yourself:

American Idol Season 9 Winner Lee DeWyze, Inspirational Songs:

Powerfox and Ponymane, Inspirational Songs:

No, okay, sorry, I’m not going to hate, this blog is a hater-free zone! Instead let’s focus on PnP and some of their other standouts from the Idol weeks, like Elvis Week:

Sinatra Week:

Shania Twain Week: (or not)

Judges’ Choice Week:

and they already kicked off the new season last week with a fabtastic tribute to the new judges:

Some of their best stuff has been outside of Idol though, like these:

Raise your hand if you’re in wuv! Oh look, my hand is in the air!

So there she is, the big 1-0, and I am SO beyond psyched to finally, officially shout to the world that

POWERFOX AND PONYMANE ARE TOTALLY AWESOME

ShwaBAAAAM!

Humptracks 1/12/11

Posted: January 12, 2011 in Music

Happy Wednesday! Check back later today for a new addition to the totally awesome things (or TATs if you will) list. Trust me, you won’t want to miss it.

HumpTracks 1/5/11

Posted: January 5, 2011 in Music

Oh hello there and welcome to HumpTracks; bringing you a new selection of tunes every Wednesday to help you over the hump. I’ll be breaking out all sorts of music for yall, spanning genres and generations. The only criteria? You guessed it: it must be TOTALLY AWESOME. So without further ado, here’s this week’s offering:

Oh yeah, also, SHWABAM!

Hello and welcome to another very special edition of Things that are Totally Awesome. We’re going to take a break from the list (Don’t freak out! We will get back to it soon, I promise!) to look at some of my favorite albums of 2010. Whether you’re in the market for Chirstmas present ideas, trying to decide what to do with that iTunes gift certifcate you got for Hanukkah, or just a big ol’ music nerdface like me, the following is for you!

Oh, before you say anything, yeah this list is weighted heavily in favor of the x-chromosomes. I really didn’t do it intentionally, or as an expression of my raging man-hating feminism, I just think the lady musicians turned it out this year.

This selection of music proved too difficult to rank due to sheer total awesomeness, therefore I’ll present them in categories:

Noteworthy Newbies – The best of the year’s freshman LPs

1. Daphne Willis: What to Say (2/9/10)

Genre: blues-y folk, singer-songwriter vibe

Daphne Willis is a ridiculously talented and versatile musician. This first full-length album showcases Daphne’s musical prowess, smooth-as-honey vocals and masterful lyrical flow. With a variety of extremely catchy tunes it’s hard not to fall in love. Bonus: As of now she’s still more-or-less under the radar, but mark my words, girlfriend is going places, and if you get on the train now you get the satisfaction of knowing you liked her before she got big!

Obligatory YouTube video: Watch Daphne sing one of my favorite tracks off the album!

2. Megan McCormick: Honest Words (8/17/10)

Genre: a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n roll

This album is simply gorgeous. Megan McCormick’s style has definite roots in Nashville country but with a kind of Heart-like rock edge. Her lyrics demonstrate a raw vulnerability and poignant storytelling ability that are as beautiful as the music itself. I’ve been listening to this album over and over for months and it still gives me goosebumps.

Bonus: I just read that this album has been given the thumbs up by Oprah. So ya know…

Obligatory YouTube video: Here’s a taste of one of her slower country tracks.

Enticing EPs – Some promising tastes from my favorite up-and-comers

3. Bess Rogers: Bess Rogers presents Bess Rogers (9/21/10)

Genre: indie pop/rock with an attitude

I came across Bess a few years back through a hilarious podcast she’d been doing with Jenny Owen Youngs, and I’ve always been a big fan. Bess is quite a talented musician and also (as you might have gleaned from the EP title) a pretty cool chick with a great sense of humor. She also happens to be a regular member of Ingrid Michaelson’s band, and some of the tracks on this EP – especially What We Want – really show Ingrid’s influence, which is all the more totally awesome.

Obligatory YouTube video: Check out Bess singing one of the tracks off the album. And being supercute per usual.

4. Jes Hudak – National Holiday (1/17/10)

Genre: poppity pop pop pop

I don’t really know where to start except to say that OH MY GOD I love Jes Hudak. Within this 5 song EP Jes covers a lot of bases; from pop rock to indie spunk to balladry both sweet and haunting, and she does it all beautifully. She has a swoon-worthy voice and oh yeah did I mention she also plays the KEYTAR? Baller. Jes also happens to be one half of a musical-comedy duo so totally awesome they were actually part of the inspiration behind this site. But that’s a story for another day.

Obligatory YouTube video: Check out Jes’ YouTube site for tons of sweet vids. This one’s real cute: (singing starts at :36)

Terrific Twosomes – The best in this year’s duo projects

5. Court Yard Hounds: Court Yard Hounds (4/30/10)

Genre: Country with a folk-rock flavor and crazy beautiful harmonies

In this, their first album as a duo, sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire (aka 2/3 of the Dixie Chicks) prove that even though they usually stand behind Natalie Maines, they are incredibly talented musicians in their own rights. This album is very different from your typical Chicks album; it includes the trademark harmoniousness, masterclass instrumentals and emotional/political lyrics, but with a softer, more introspective tone.

Obligatory YouTube video: Watch the gals talk about the new project in their own words!

6. The Weepies: Be My Thrill (8/24/10)

Genre: folk-pop, soundtrack for sunny days, puppy wresting, and blowing bubbles

If you don’t know The Weepies, Deb Talan and Steve Tannen are a couple of indie artists who met, fell in wuv and started making music together. As a result, their music has always been very sweet and wuv-y. Now married with babies, their latest outing is, if possible, even cheerier than the ones before. There are also some welcome departures from their usual style which keep it interesting. Music that’s as cute as this can sometimes become grating, but this is so genuine and so heartfelt that it’ll make you, well, believe in wuv!

Obligatory YouTube video: This music video for the title track puts the aww in awesome.

Cool Cover Albums – Artists who took other people’s music and made it more awesome

7. Cyndi Lauper – Memphis Blues (6/22/10)

Genre: BLUES! Like, fo reals blues!

When I heard that Cyndi Lauper was recording an album of traditional blues covers with the help of all-star blues musicians like Johnny Lang and B.B. King, I suppose you could say I was pretty excited about it. I love me some true bluesy blues, and if you haven’t heard, Cyndi Lauper is kiiiind of a killer BAMF. But when the album finally came out I was left looking for my socks, because they had been KNOCKED OFF. I don’t know what else to say except go and get this album now, and Cyndi Lauper is GOD.

Obligatory YouTube Video: Here’s a pretty rockin live performance she did on The Celebrity Apprentice.

8.The Bird and the Bee: Interpreting the Masters, Vol 1 (A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates) (3/23/10)

Genre: Synthpop for hipsters and indie kids

Like I’ve said before, synthpop is not for everyone, but if you’re into that sort of thing, The Bird and the Bee will have you at “Will you be by f***ing boyfriend?” Inara George is a compelling vocalist and Greg Kurstin is a fabulous musician and producer, and together they make music that is gorgeous, fun and smart. This album, comprised entirely of re-imagined Hall and Oates hits, is no exception. They completely tear down and rebuild each of these well-known songs in a manner which is both respectful and playful.

Obligatory YouTube video: This was hard, the live shows don’t really do them justice, but here you get a taste of a bunch of stuff. Also, oh herro Jes Hudak @ :33, :49 and 1:13!

Awesome Awesomemongers – Folks whom this blog has already established to be TOTALLY AWESOME

9. Rosie Burgess Trio: Leap (10/15/10)

Genre: somewhere between the Be Good Tanyas, the Barenaked Ladies and ani difranco

Remember these crazy Aussies?? They were #1 on the awesomeness list, so I won’t say too much about them, but ever since I found them last month this album has been playing nonstop on my iPod and it’s entirely wonderful. Rosie and co. truly are spectacular musicians. This album in particular offers up plenty of fun uptempo songs to get your blood pumping and also some really lovely lullaby-worthy slow songs. And if you’re wondering whether the Aussie accents get less awesome after a time: Nope, no they don’t.

Obligatory YouTube video: Here’s a cover, a version of which can also be found on the album. Hold on to your socks.

10.Lights: Lights Acoustic (7/20/10)

Genre: on the chill singer-songwriter end of acoustic pop

This is the most recent find of mine on this list! I just discovered Lights last week while researching contemporary keytarists, but apparently she’s a big deal in her native land of Canada. I’m actually a little bit obsessed with her synthpop stuff, it’s kind of delicious if you can stomach that sort of music, but I was also way impressed with this EP of stripped down versions of the songs from her last album. I think it’s pretty brave for a highly synthesized artist like that to go au naturel, and she can totally pull it off!

Obligatory YouTube video: Okay Lights is ALL about her YouTube site if you’re interested in more videos. Here’s Saviour: (with a u… ya know… because she’s Canadian…)

So there they are, the top ten. Agree? I mean, if not that’s cool too, make your own list!

SHWABAM.

#1: The Rosie Burgess Trio

Posted: November 13, 2010 in Music

Alright, time to kick this shit off! First on our list of things that are totally awesome: (drumroll pleeeeease!)

The Rosie Burgess Trio!

From left to right: Sam Lohs (drums, vocals, ukuleles) Rosie Burgess (guitars, vocals, harmonica, ukuleles) and Sophie Kinston (electric violin)

Now, I don’t blind date – never have, not my style – but I imagine that the process I go through looking for new music is not unlike the blind dating process, and whenever I find really great new music, I always make a mental note so that one day down the line – when we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary or making a toast at our kids wedding – we can reminisce about that first time we met. The Rosie Burgess Trio and I met on a cold November day. I was sitting in a coffee shop with my posse; the grad student in English lit and the freelance film director. To my right the former is wading through obnoxiously dense analytical writing in an effort to make sense of some classic (read: convoluted and boring) poetry, while across the table, the later is editing a film script while attempting to write an email in Italian. I’ve decided that I am on a mission to find some totally awesome new music. I keep a long list of names of artists who I’ve read about or who have been recommended to me and from time to time I pull that list out and start trying them out, one by one. So here I am in a speed dating frenzy, and most of these folks across the table from me are just kind of bleh. I mean a few are nice but not really my type, one is really instrumentally attractive but the voice is so irritating it’s actually comical, and one is super attractive with a really pleasant voice, but the lyrics are so cliche and uninspired it just ruins it. And then there was Rosie.

I clicked on the first song on the playlist, which happened to be Best Dress off of their 2008 album Wait for the World. The first 13 seconds feature a delicious instrumental intro complete with gorgeous, quirky instrumentation and the kind of sweet syncopated beat that makes you want to start dancing in your car even if you’ve never heard the song before. So, the 14 second mark rolls around and the singing is about to start, and let me tell you, I got nervous. I’m sitting here across from these ladies and I really want to like them and I’m just thinking PLEASE don’t let the vocals ruin it… and you know what? The vocals are really nice. And guess what else? The lyrics are pretty great too. Oh and wait, what’s that on top of everything else? Adorable Australian Accents?? This is looking like the start of a beautiful relationship.

I went on to listen to everything else on their MySpace page while perusing their page and you know what’s cool about them? EVERYTHING. First of all, they’re big animal rights activists, which, as a vegan for going on 9 years now, I think is pretty cool. And even if I weren’t a vegan, I like when a band stands for something, it makes me want to support them by buying their album. Also their list of musical influences includes a lot of my all-time favorites, like Dar Williams, Ani Difranco, Damien Rice, Barenaked Ladies, and The Be Good Tanyas.

Then I plug them into YouTube and find this super adorable music video for Stackhat:

Wait, you mean you don’t know what a Stackhat is? How embarrassing for you. They were only like, the trendiest bike helmets ever in Australia in the 80’s…

So anyway, there you are, the Rosie Burgess Trio. TOTALLY AWESOME. I hope you’ll check ’em out and maybe support them and buy their album, or go see them in concert if you live in Australia!

Shwabam!