Writing

Where this Monkey Stands

What I’m for:

  • Hard work
  • Surfing
  • Kindness
  • Music
  • Good television
  • Real breasts (size be damned)
  • Guitar
  • Patience (even though it is a struggle all the time)
  • Sunshine
  • Dogs (especially Southern rescue mix dogs)
  • Leaf peeping
  • Spotify (for music selection)
  • Tipping
  • Did I mention surfing?
  • Surfing in case I didn’t mention it

What I’m against

  • Organized religion
  • People who cut in line
  • People who don’t hold doors
  • People who don’t clean up after their dogs
  • People who don’t walk their dogs
  • Fast food ( 95% of the time)
  • Fake breasts (chicken or otherwise, see above)
  • Coffee with sugar
  • Country music
  • People from the Northeast who wear cowboy hats and/or boots (see previous)
  • Flourescent lights
  • The Northern Lights (more like the Aurora Boring-alis, am I right guys?)
  • Reality TV shows (unless about surfing)
  • Spotify (for poor artist compensation)
  • Best-of-the-year album lists that trade coolness for listenability (Pitchfork can you hear me?)
  • Ads on YouTube that you can’t skip after 5 seconds
  • ESPN
  • Greyhound racing
  • Greyhound busing
  • 24 hour news network
  • Local news
  • OK, pretty much any televised news unless there is an actual emergency taking place
  • No, a 6″ snowstorm is not an emergency
Uncategorized

Gloomy Thursday (The Grumpiest Monkey’s Breakup Song of the Week)

Let’s face it — breakups make for bad times, but really good music.

There are so many great breakup songs out there that your humble Monkey narrator is feeling compelled to set aside some time each week to share some of his favorites with you.

We’ll start the series with this depressingly lovely gem from the Civil Wars.

As anyone who has been in a relationship that has proved to be both loving and toxic can attest, love can often be like poison and wine. 

Music

My Top Musical Discoveries of 2012 Thus Far…Or Where Were You When Dubstep Met Kung Fu?

Let’s face it–not all of us can raid the record stores every Tuesday looking for the hottest new releases, nor can we absorb every new album that we hear right away and judge for ourselves whether it is worthy of a top 10 list.

Sometimes we miss a great album when it first comes out only to discover it six months down the line, or stumble across a lost classic that immediately grabs us and becomes part of our everyday listening routine.

So I guess what your humble Monkey is saying is that the following list may not technically qualify as a “best of” list for releases in the calendar year 2012, but a list of the good stuff I have come across this year thus far.

1. The Lumineers, “The Lumineers”

Your Monkey is so glad to see this band’s debut album sitting close to the top of the listening charts on both Rhapsody and Spotify. (Not so glad, however, to have both of their Boston-area concerts sold out before he even knew they were coming).

But this band deserves all the success and respect that they are getting. They crafted an amazing album of American folk music that is timeless and uplifting.

Like Mumford & Sons’ “Sigh No More”, the Lumineers’ self titled debut has enough variety between the songs that they never get repetitive, and yet they all tie together nicely.

To be honest, the one song that clogs up an otherwise superb album is the aptly titled “Slow it Down,” which is the slowest and longest track smack dab in the center of the album. If they had taken a few minutes off of that song and added them to the first track, “Flowers in Your Hair,” we might be talking a Mona Lisa-esque masterpiece.

But enough splitting hairs. Here is an amazing rendition of “Submarines,” the third track on their debut.

2. Plan B — The Defamation of Strickland Banks

Is it a bad sign that the best soul albums that your Monkey has heard over the past few years have all come from white British artists?

Like Amy Winehouse’s powerful debut “Back in Black” called to mind the best of the Supremes, Plan B’s “Defamation of Strickland Banks” has this Monkey thinking back to Marvin Gaye.

But even though it comes from an unexpected source, Plan B’s smooth soulful falsetto, great storytelling and tasteful blend of straight soul and rap/soul hybrid songs make this 2010 album a must listen.

According to the British rock press, Plan B came up as a rapper who wrote about the same frustrated British youth that were behind much of last year’s rioting. The word on the street is that he is planning to return to those roots his next album, the soundtrack to the movie “Ill Manors”, due to be released this month.

(Though again, to be honest, the first single from that new album, “Deepest Shame,” seems a little disappointing. More like watered down r&b than anything else).

But forget about the new album, let’s celebrate the last one.

Dig on this track, which is a good representation of Plan B’s excellent ability to blend rap and soul into one smooth mix.

3. Bassnectar — “Divergent Spectrum”

OK, your Monkey will be the first to admit that he is one of the last primate bloggers to jump on the dubstep bandwagon.

This most recent monkey-music love affair began with the downloading of a few Skrillex tracks, and continued with the discovery of Bassnectar.

Bassnectar is the performing name of DJ and Producer Lorin Ashton (thanks, Wikipedia). His music consists of the high intensity soundscapes that you’ve come to expect from the dubstep genre, but Bassnectar distinguishes himself by being super prolific, making a lot of great sounding noise, and just coming off as a really cool guy.

His Facebook posts are very down to earth, he takes a moment in the middle of each show to take a picture of himself with the audience, and he just seems to be happy with making music, playing shows and discovering the joys of coffee-flavored coconut water.

Compare this easygoing nature to the ridiculously morose look that Radiohead’s Thom Yorke wears during the entire documentary “Meeting People is Easy” and you’ll find yourself liking Bassnectar more and more.

“Divergent Spectrum” is a 2011 album that includes, among other things, a remix of the Gogol Bordella song “Immigraniada” and a remix of the increasingly popular Ellie Goulding dance track “Lights.”

Here is a decidedly non-official video for the “Immigraniada” remix that matches Bassnectar’s remix with classic kung fu footage.

Kung fu and dubstep? It’s like someone sawed open your Monkey’s head and saw exactly what was going on inside.

Uncategorized

Lesser Known Bands of the 1980s

Sure, everyone is familiar with the big musical stars of the 1980s.

Acts like Michael Jackson and Madonna and Cyndi Lauper ruled the charts, while other bands like Devo and Flock of Seagulls will forever have a place in popular culture.

But what about some of the lesser known bands of the 1980s? Don’t they deserve a little recognition, too?

In an effort to share the musical wealth, here are some of my favorite bands and artists from the 1980s that have gone unappreciated and largely ignored.

Hopefully, this list will be the first step towards bringing them back into the spotlight.

  • Empty House
  • Men at Rest
  • The Stop-Stops
  • A-Hem
  • Billy False Object of Worship
  • Peter Excetera
  • Echo and the Easter Bunnymen
  • Kenny Froggins
  • The Commodore 64s
  • Hall and Goats
  • Mrs. Mister
  • The Pointer Boys
  • The Pet Shop Sisters
  • 38 Regular
  • Orangarama
  • Corporate Culture Club
  • Day Ranger
  • An Incredibly Loud Peaceful Assembly
  • ZZ Bottoms
  • Sheena Weston
  • Ram Jelly
  • Huey Lewis and the Traffic
  • The Thompson Stepbrothers
  • Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Comes Back with Some Nice Souvenirs and a Few Good Stories
Music, Podcasts, Uncategorized

Five Top Singles of 2011 That I Downloaded for Free (Legally, Too!)

Your humble Monkey spends a lot of time at work listening to music.

Since his addled brain needs constant stimulation, he is always seeking out new bands to listen to.

He currently subscribes to two different Song of the Day podcasts (Thank you very much KEXP and 89.3 the Current), and the following videos represent some of the best free songs that he has heard this year.

If not for these radio stations and artists giving away something for nothing, your Monkey may never have discovered these songs.

As an added bonus, you probably won’t find many of these on most critics’ top 10 lists, so perhaps you will find something here that you might have otherwise missed.

Editor’s note: Please, dear friends, do not think that all the free songs that come your Monkey’s way are as good as these gems. Your Monkey has had to kiss a LOT of frogs to find these princes and princesses. 

1. Austra “The Beat and the Pulse”

This Toronto-basedgroup makes some great atmospheric music that is part dance, part industrial gothic and part electropop.

This video is a little on the explicit side, so if you are offended by blurred nudity and webbed appendages you may want to proceed with caution. This is the “clean” version, too. For purists, the explicit version can be found with a pretty quick web search. That version apparently does not lend itself to embedding on blogs written by Monkeys.

Before you think your Monkey is just a typical male having a knee jerk reaction to a little female skin, you should know he fell in love with the audio version of this song long before he ever saw the video.

2. Fistful of Mercy “Fistful of Mercy”

This indie pop supergroup of sorts features Dhani Harrison (son of George), Ben Harper and Joseph Arthur.  This song features great chord progressions and wonderful harmonies, and this video does an awesome job of bringing together all the parts to make a whole.

3. Polica “Wandering Star”

This song is immediately striking, and this live radio performance is utterly unforgettable. Do not hate the voice altering vocoder, my friends, it can be put to good use. And for god sakes, let’s talk about the double drums for a second. They give you the chills. At least they should give you the chills. If they don’t, you may be a Blade Runner-esque replicant unaware of your own wretched artificial existance.

4. John Grant “Marz”

This song proves that lyrics don’t mean all that much when there is emotion and melody behind them. A melancholy piano backdrop accompanies a series of apparently nonsensical words and the effect is sad and bittersweet.  Here is a cool enhanced performance from the Later with Jools Holland show.

5. PJ Harvey “The Last Living Rose”

Ok, so PJ Harvey might be a little more of a household name than some of the others on this list, and her album “Let England Shake” is certainly well represented on top 10 lists this year. But this song is just too damn good to leave off the list, and your Monkey may never have fallen in love with it if he hadn’t gotten it as a free download.

Music, Uncategorized

Best Music of 2010 so far

In very few words, here is what your Monkey thinks are the top candidates for album of the year thus far…

  1. Mumford & Sons — “Sigh No More” (a sweeping, swelling and moving reinterpretation of English folk)
  2. Sleigh Bells — “Treats” (overmodulated electro noise that is super sweet, like a sugar-coated punch in the face)
  3. Midlake — “The Courage of Others” (melodic, melancholy, and medieval)
  4. Phosphorescent — “Here’s To talking It Easy” (golden, sunkissed acoustic rock with surprising variety and depth)

And the top single of the year thus far…

Bloodbuzz Ohio by the National (A melodic lament framed my shimmering waterfalls of snare drum percussion. Really?!)

And the best audiobook heard thus far (admittedly this list is not based on extensive listening)

War by Sebastian Junger — a gritty look at war that neither glamorizes it nor downplays its more exciting moments. Junger does an amazing job of describing the chaos of war, the randomness of death, and the frustrating tedium of waiting for the next battle to start.

Check this stuff out already.

Music, Work

OK Amazon, you win this round with your $5 albums

Since he works in direct marketing, your Monkey likes to flatter himself and believe that he is smarter than the average bear (or monkey, for that matter) when it comes to identifying and resisting the various direct marketing tricks that companies use to drive sales and boost their profits.

No, your Monkey is not impressed when he is watching a commercial that shows the price being slashed not once, not twice, but thrice. (The truth is that the final price will always represent the profit the company is hoping to make on the product, so you’re never really getting a deal. They’re just inflating the price to make it seem like a discount).

That being said, Amazon.com has won the latest round by wooing your Monkey with a campaign promising $5 Mp3 album downloads.

The price is right, the selection is good, and they managed to get the message into enough places online that your Monkey couldn’t help but notice.

And then he couldn’t help but buy.

For those of you keeping score at home, it’s:

Amazon 1

Monkey 0

Oh well. Better to spend $5 on a Bat for Lashes album (her 2007 debut “Fur and Gold”), then $15 on a Save a Blade automatic blade sharpener that doesn’t work at all (and never has).

Here is a little Bat for Lashes.