Thursday, March 31, 2011

Doug Spata's iPod - 2011

I thought I'd keep up the tradition and make another playlist of what I've been listening to recently.  If you've read my other playlist posts, you'll remember that I use my iPod mostly when I'm running, so I tend not to have songs with slow tempos or songs that change tempos.

I used to set it to shuffle and take my bike out to the park, but I haven't done that since my accident. I'm still recovering, but I've decided to stay closer to the ground at slower speeds and take up running instead of biking.  Anyhoo, here's what I've been listening to:

1. Tell 'Em, Sleigh Bells.
My new favorite band. It's just two people making all that noise and their album is a brief, searing, 32 minutes of awesome. I like a lot of their songs, but this one is my favorite.  In fact, I appropriated their use of a power drill as a musical instrument in one of my new pieces, to be published and recorded by Alfred Publishing in the Fall.


2. Boy, Ra Ra Riot.
I love the propulsive bassline and the 'cello/violin duet in this one. That might be a viola, though – it's hard to tell.  This video was made at the 2010 Bumbershoot Arts Festival in Seattle. I've been to Bumbershoot twice and highly recommend it. Just get in a line and be surprised at what you see.

3. Oh No, Marina and the Diamonds
If you like Florence + The Machine you'll likely enjoy Marina and the Diamonds. Marina looks like a former Disney pop star but her lyrics are sharp as razors and her voice has a surprising urgency.  I was torn between including this song and the frank, confessional "I Am Not a Robot," but "Oh No" has video. But it's not a great video. I don't think the comic book style and Marina's glossy look match up well at all with the tough, introspective lyrics.

4. I Don't Mind It, Screaming Females
An aptly-named band!  Lead singer Marissa Paternoster has a great voice and it blends well with her distorted guitar riffs and the fantastic thumping bassline in this song. This is a great song to run to.


5. Crash Years, The New Pornographers
Yet another strong female singer, this time backed by a more elaborate, colorful ensemble.  And a great whistling interlude.  I also enjoy this video, which is an homage to the opening of the 1964 French film "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."


6. When the Child Awakes, Mount Righteous
This large group consists of a tuba, marching percussion, and one guitar. And everyone sings.  All their songs sound like campfire sing-alongs and have wonderful melodies. I love the earnest enthusiasm that goes into their music.  And that little “whooooooop!” after each chorus.

7. Seperate, The Thermals
A great bass line, cutting guitar, and hand claps.  What more could you ask for?  Oh yeah – lacerating lyrics in one of the best angry breakup songs of the year. “Separate we are finally whole.”  Ouch!  It stings!

8. Rocket, Goldfrapp
Guilty pleasure time. I tried hard to hate this song, but it’s so ridiculously catchy that I just gave in. This song could have come straight off an Olivia Newton-John album from 1981.  Just enjoy those soft synths and let the awesome wash over you.

9. Heads Will Roll, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
This song has a great attitude and swagger. And a weird video. The werewolf in red shoes dancing on a light-up floor is an obvious reference to Thriller-era Michael Jackson, and then it gets gruesome.  The video actually reminds me of one I posted last year for Passion Pit's "Little Secrets."

10. Answer To Yourself, The Soft Pack
This song is like a self-help book set to music, giving empowering advice to a great tune and roaring guitars. It's nice to be reassured every once in a while.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Oscars 2010: Post-Mortem

Another Oscar Night has come and gone and the final score this year is Doug: 10, Oscar: 9.  I knew I couldn't beat last year's score and I'm just happy to get over 50%.  Here's how it turned out - I emboldened the categories that I picked correctly:

Best Picture: The King's Speech
Best Director: Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Best Original Screenplay: the King's Speech
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network
Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Best Cinematography: Inception
Best Editing: The Social Network
Best Score: The Social Network
Best Song: Toy Story 3
Best Art Direction: Alice In Wonderland
Best Costumes: Alice In Wonderland
Best Makeup: The Wolfman
Best Visual Effects: Inception
Best Sound: Inception
Best Sound Effects Editing: Inception

I thought the show was okay. Anne Hathaway was great and kept it fun and relatable, but James Franco was a little wooden.  I suspect that he does better when he's not reading his lines from a teleprompter.

Things that were good about the show:
1. Lots of surprises. Tom Hooper winning Best Director? Alice In Wonderland taking more than anyone expected? Randy Newman gets Best Song? These are the things that keep Oscar Night interesting.

2. The sets were nice.

3. With a few exceptions, they kept things moving. Kirk Douglas and Billy Crystal were allowed to indulge themselves way too much and each brought the show to a screeching halt, but otherwise, things were very smooth.

4. They finally took my advice and didn't mic the audience during the "In Memoriam" segment!  There's nothing more tacky than the applause-o-meter popularity contest we usually get.

5. People looked good. There were no "what was she wearing" moments, but then again, those often make things interesting too.

Things that were bad about the show:
1. If this was supposed to be the "young and hip" Oscars, you wouldn't know it.  Young audiences don't want to hear about movies that are over 10 years old. They don't care about Oscar history. They don't want to learn about the first Oscar broadcast in 1953. And they don't want to look at the presenters and ask "Who?"

2. The writing was awful. Even by award show standards.  The intros, forced banter, and witticisms were uniformly strained, stale, and flat.

3. No great acceptance speeches. Colin Firth was sweet, Tom Hooper had a nice story to tell, and Randy Newman was kind of funny, but no one had a standout speech.

4. My advice is that if you're going to have two co-hosts, they should be as different as possible.  I'd like to see Steve Martin's jaded, sarcastic persona paired with Anne Hathaway's  earnest "Golly, I can't believe I'm here" energy.  That would make an interesting dynamic.

So: not my best year, but definitely not my worst.  I enjoyed writing these posts and I'll go back to writing about music now, but come back next February and we'll do it all again for the 84th Academy Awards.  Thanks for reading!