Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"But we don't say that anymore, for the rest, for the rest of the night. We won't say that anymore for the rest of the night. But I won't be no runaway, 'cause I won't run. No, I won't be no runaway..." ~the national

Warning: This is a music post. About The National. If you haven't listened to them, you may get bored reading this. But you should give them a listen. More than one listen, because they're one of those bands whose music you will not appreciate the first time around. Or the second time around. I think those are the best kinds of bands. The sheer greatness of the music will slowly sneak up on you until you find yourself listening to the same song for the fiftieth time, surprised to find tears streaming down your face. It's funny; some of my favorite songs of theirs are ones that I used to skip when they came up. For example, "Driver Surprise Me." When I finally started listening to it, it knocked me over. The violin part just kills me.

They have a new album coming out this spring. I've been listening to them a lot lately, especially their new songs, and I have to say that I am more excited about this new release than I've been for any other new release I can remember. They have lots of unreleased new songs that they've been playing over the past year or so, and I can't wait to see what makes the cut. I really hope "The Runaway" or "Karamazov" or whatever they're calling it these days is on the album. I was there the first time it was played in concert (I recorded it), and I think it's gorgeous. I also want to see "Blood Buzz Ohio" and "England" and "Vanderlylle Cry Baby" on there. And I can't wait to listen to the songs that we haven't heard yet. I am SO excited.

I'm also excited to see them tour the new album. Thanks to my great mom who managed to snag a ticket in the presale for me (she tries so hard for me), I'll be seeing them at Radio City Music Hall. I don't have a great seat and I'll be alone, but being there will be enough. Although I must say that I greatly prefer GA concerts to ones with assigned seats. I like having control over where I sit/stand, rather than leaving my fate up to the whims of TicketBastard. When I saw The National at Central Park, I got in line 8 hours before the concert began, was the first person in line, and therefore got the best spot (dead center, front row, directly in front of the stage). That was one of the best concerts I've been to. I could not believe how amazing the setlist was. And look how close I got to Matt:
Hee. That was during "Mr. November," which is an incredible song to see performed live. And for some reason I also love this picture I took at the concert:

I also love this one (click on it for the bigger version):
Anyway, I'm still excited for Radio City. And for the new album. Because they're brilliant.

I want to just keep reading these blurbs about The National from The Stylus Decade; Alligator and Boxer were both on their list of the top albums of the decade. Here's what they say:
51. The National
Beggars Banquet, 2005

A telegram from midnight of the 21st century, recorded in the long shadows of 2004’s “Armageddon election,” these deceptively small snapshots tell a bigger story. As rock music slumped through middle age “Alligator” felt like an affirmation and a eulogy for the energy and optimism that had sustained it since the mid fifties. The characters Matt Berninger allusively sketches are little men – and they are always men – under enormous pressure. Different songs enact different reactions from the “fuck me and make a drink” desperate lust of “Karen” through the brooding nostalgia of “Daughters of the Soho Riots” and the denial and finally despair essayed in “Baby We’ll Be Fine”; never has a song with such a title been so ironic. The song’s anti-hero details the mundane strains of his life in nightmarish detail before collapsing in on himself with the line, "I don’t know how to do this… I’m so sorry for everything.”

Rock bands don’t apologise, it’s not in their nature, but the world has become so much harder. The National sound like the previous years’ garage rock revivalists beaten down by the sheer grey weight of life itself. The slower songs have a rich warmth to them, sympathetic strings sweetening the sorrow. When they come out on the attack it is not with the petulant passions of adolescence but the suicidal swagger of men with nothing to lose. The protagonists of “All The Wine" and “Lit Up” are pretty much beat, but they sure as fuck aren’t going down without a fight. It’s defeat, but a glorious one. And there, at the end is “Mr November”. Whilst a couple of years later the band would authorize “Mr November” T-shirts emblazoned with the face of Barack Obama it seems more likely the song is loosely inspired by John Kerry; the sixties fossil, once the hero now forced to admit he doesn’t quite know what to do. The sound is like a battle raging in thick fog; opaque violence. Though their side would eventually win through this is the sound of the optimistic, utopian spirit of rock under fire.

41. The National
Beggars Banquet, 2007

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” as Henry David Thoreau put it, and that counts even if, in the words of The National’s Matt Berninger, “You’re young, you’re middle class/They say it doesn’t matter.” Boxer is a quiet, desperate album, one with solemn piano chords, Berninger’s creamy baritone, and dark apartment corners and dimly lit city streets. But, as Thoreau knows, “What is called resignation is confirmed desperation,” and The National’s mannered domestic drama veils — thinly — a throbbing heart thumping terribly and gushing blood through a body desperate to believe itself to be still alive. The popular fantasy of youth is the impassioned cris des coeur of On the Road and Born to Run, but its real face is revealed in this album’s miserable little byways. “Turn the light out, say good night, no thinking for a little while,” Berninger promises — or pleads — on the opener, “Fake Empire.” “Let’s not try to figure out everything at once”: This is a record not of restless adolescence but instead about what comes after. Boxer aches with loneliness; the subdued sadness of being “mistaken for strangers by your old friends/When you pass them at night beneath the silvery, silvery Citibank lights.”

This record shares little with the abrasive origins of indie rock, and one could drily observe that in 2007, after the genre had lived through its Garden State/“The O.C.”-fueled explosion, its core audience had grown up a bit and grown weary of prickliness, and that maybe, growing older, they had begun to accumulate a preference for adult responsibility over adolescent impetuousness. It’s better, though, to take The National on its own terms. Allowing Boxer to transcend its stink of middle class privilege, its scenes of young go-getters “showered and blue-blazered,” permits the listener to penetrate the record’s emotional heart.

And true, all the introspection could be dull were it not for the music’s determination to unearth these emotions. This is, after all, an album with a rhythm section as memorable as its melodies: propulsive drumming that thrums on like that small spark still flickering away inside every dull-eyed office drone. And if all that spark is saying is, “I want to hurry home to you, put on a slow dumb show for you, and crack you up,” then that brilliant dumb show of humanity is better than all the tramps born to run. Boxer is, in the end, as desperate as it is quiet, and a living dog is better than a dead lion.
There are some great, beautiful, thoughts in there. I wish I could express myself so clearly and eloquently. I love The National, and it's wonderful to see someone else put my thoughts into words. These two albums would be on my Top 10 List of the Decade.
I'll try and put together a playlist of some of their new songs sometime soon and post it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears, while we all sup sorrow with the poor. There's a song that will linger forever in our ears, Oh, hard times come again no more."~stephen foster

On Tuesday, Lauren and I went to a Jonathan Ferris reading. His newest book seems depressing and funny and I really want to read it. I have such a long list of books that I need to read. I got him to sign Then We Came to the End for me. Before the reading began, we were fawning over him from our second row seats, and then his wife came and sat directly in front of us. Holding their infant. It crushed our dreams.

I saw the Broadway production of Present Laughter today. Nic had comps. First they put us in the third row (dead center), and then after the first intermission they moved us to the first row (where we stayed for the next two acts). Our seats were perfect. The play was okay. I must repeat (for I've said it before) that I am not a huge Noel Coward fan at all. This was the third play of his I've seen, and for some reason, they never manage to fully engage me, even though the production values have generally been stellar. I apologize to those who love his work (and I know there are many who love his work). I can't really even explain my feelings. But Present Laughter was actually my favorite Coward play out of the three that I've seen. That is because of Victor Garber. I love Victor Garber. I actually tore his ticket and gave him his Playbill when I ushered at Circle Mirror Transformation and was starstruck (but he was very polite and kind). He's such a talented actor, and it was wonderful to see him onstage (and with such a good view; I could see the beads of sweat on his face!). He completely embodied his character. I started to see more depth to Coward's work than I have before because of Garber's wonderfully layered performance. The New York Times gave the play a rave because of Garber, and I can see why. If I enjoyed Coward, I would have given it a rave as well.

Tomorrow Nic, Lauren and I are going to the Brooklyn Museum to see the exhibit Who Shot Rock & Roll. I'm excited. We've been meaning to see it for a long time.

I've been watching my Brothers & Sisters DVDs from the beginning, and it's nice to return to the first season because I loved it so much. The pilot sets up the series perfectly. I love Sarah (my favorite character) in season one. I love the tension between Kitty and Nora.

How amazing was the final Conan?? What a classy guy. I refuse to watch Leno now. I've always preferred Conan, anyway.

Last night was a good TV night. There were some great Hope for Haiti performances. Here are my favorites:

Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris did a surprisingly good version of the oft-covered "Hallelujah":

Bruce sang a simple yet beautiful "We Shall Overcome":

Mary J. Blige's "Hard Times" was also stellar:

Jay-Z, Bono, The Edge, and Rihanna debuted "Stranded":

You can buy the album of all the performances here. Of course proceeds go to the relief efforts.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"I know you'll help us when you're feeling better, and we realize that it might not be for a long, long time. But we're willing to wait on you, we believe in everything that you can do, if you could only lay down your mind. I want you to try to help yourself.
Take the time to take apart each brick that sits outside your heart, and look around you, there's people everywhere. And though they don't always show it, they're just as scared, and we'd be more prepared if you just pulled on through. I want you to try to help yourself." ~sad brad smith

Because the Golden Globes got me revved up for the Oscars (scroll down for my Golden Globes post), I've been listening to songs eligible for the 2010 Oscar for Best Song, so here are four of my favorites. I'd like to add "Petey's Song" from Fantastic Mr. Fox, but I don't have the soundtrack. Oh well.

"Help Yourself" - by Sad Brad Smith - from Up in the Air
"The Weary Kind" - by Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett - from Crazy Heart
"Winter" - by U2 - from Brothers
"(I Want To) Come Home" - Paul McCartney - from Everybody's Fine


Get Your Own Player!

"And this ain’t no place for the weary kind. And this ain’t no place to lose your mind. And this ain’t no place to fall behind. Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try." ~ryan bingham & t-bone burnett

My Golden Globes thoughts:


* JEFF BRIDGES, Jeff Bridges, Jeff Bridges. I was afraid he wouldn't win because not many people have seen Crazy Heart (but I have!). Luckily he did win. And gave such a classy speech. I loved his heartfelt thanks to his stand-in. Who thanks their stand-in?! He just seems like such a good guy. And he gave a great performance in Crazy Heart. So I was very happy.

* Sandra Bullock. I actually think Carey Mulligan was more deserving in that category, but I was still happy to see Sandra win. At least Meryl Streep didn't win for It's Complicated. It was bad enough that she won in the musical/comedy category over Marion Cotillard. I like Sandra Bullock, I think she's a very good actress, and I'm glad to see her being recognized. And I loved her in The Blind Side.

* Michael C. Hall. He should have won a Golden Globe a long time ago for Six Feet Under. Even though this award was for Dexter, I was glad to see him recognized.

* "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart winning Best Song. I love T-Bone Burnett. Love him. So I was happy for him. And I love that song. Although I'm still peeved that Sad Brad Smith wasn't even nominated (for "Help Yourself" from Up in the Air).

* Grey Gardens! And Drew Barrymore! I love Grey Gardens. And I love Drew Barrymore. So glad that it won Best Miniseries/TV Movie and she won Best Actress for it.

Hmmmm.....I can't think of any other winners that I was thrilled about. Of course I was extremely excited to see some of the presenters. Lauren Graham! Kristen Bell! Zachary Levi! Nicole thought it was hilarious that I knew in advance with whom Lauren was presenting, what award she was presenting, and when it would appear in the telecast.


* JANE LYNCH WAS SNUBBED. BIG TIME. Seriously. She is the best thing about Glee by far. She is absolutely brilliant in it. I've read some reports and I'm not the only person who believes she was snubbed, which is some consolation, but not much. Hopefully she'll win an Emmy instead.

* AVATAR?! I actually didn't see Avatar, but the fact that Nicole was so angry she was ready to destroy my TV is proof enough for me that it should not have won best director and best picture (I trust her judgment). Everything I've read about it indicates that it is NOT the best picture of the year. Best Picture should have been Up in the Air, which steadily grew on me the more I thought about it after seeing it. And I wanted James Cameron's ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, to win best director (for The Hurt Locker). In his speech he even said he thought she would win. She's won the season's other awards for best director, and hopefully she still manages to win the Oscar.

Anyway, those are my strong feelings. Everything else I was kind of 'meh' about. I wanted 500 Days of Summer to win Best Musical/Comedy, but I liked The Hangover so I wasn't too disappointed that it won. I don't think Robert Downey Jr. should have won Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy, but I like him so I wasn't too disappointed.

It was a fun evening overall. Nic and I had TONS of food; it looked like we were having a big party when it was just the two of us. We ate a lot and drank a lot. And screamed a few times. It was a good time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"She could pull the sunlight through me, oh, coming down into Miami, Miami." ~counting crows

Sorry, I know I already posted once tonight (scroll down), but I'm on a roll. I really want to share this, because it's one of the reasons I love Counting Crows. They can take a song (whether it be one that they wrote or a cover) and make it sound like a completely different song. And they do it all the time. I posted an acoustic video of "Miami" in my last post. So now I'm going to illustrate how different that song can sound depending on the night. They can play the original electric version from Hard Candy. And I absolutely love it. Here's an example; it's from Pinkpop 2003. I think it's amazing. My favorite part of this version is "The summer's gone, and so are we...", when they really kick it up a notch. There's so much energy.

Now here's another acoustic version of it, from AbsoluteRadio. It has such a different tone to it; it's so much more melancholy.

AD wrote the song while Counting Crows were touring with Live, after waiting at the Miami Airport for his girlfriend to arrive from Japan (where she had been working). He was excited to see her, but at the same time he knew he would end up screwing it up and leaving her. They mostly play the acoustic version in concert now (not always, but mostly). I think the tone demonstrates maturity on his part; it seems more reflective. I've heard both live and I can't decide which I prefer. I love them both. And I'm sure I'll listen to tons of different live recordings of the song while I am in Miami.
"It looks like darkness to me, drifting down into Miami." ~counting crows

I have stable internet now! The technician came yesterday and spent over an hour here, much of that time on a ladder outside the building fiddling with the cable box as I stood below him, watched helplessly, hoped he didn't fall, and froze. It was a big ordeal, but now I'm happy.

What to talk about? Hm, how about some excitement? I'm going to Miami in February! My friend Lauren and I decided that we were sick of the cold, so we looked at places in Florida and found a good deal during our week-long break from school. I have not gotten Counting Crows' "Miami" out of my head since we booked the trip (well, every once in a while Will Smith's song pops in). Lauren said we'll be just like Rory and Paris on spring break (we're both obsessed with Gilmore Girls). I love that episode. And I'm sure we will be like Paris and Rory. We plan on sitting on the beach and reading all day (we both love reading). But instead of watching The Power of Myth at night, we'll probably watch our Gilmore Girls or Chuck DVDs. I got her hooked on Chuck. The prospect of this vacation is helping me survive winter in New York.

And now it's time for a videospam. If you watch any, watch the very last one.
First of all, I don't think I've really written about Parenthood here much. But I'm really excited for it. Check out this promo:

And here's some music. A long time ago I uploaded "A Long December" from Counting Crows' Abbey Road Sessions, and someone requested the other songs they played on the show. So I uploaded those as well and will share them here. But "A Long December" is the best. Somehow AD's illness enhances that song, but I don't think it does much for the others. But watch the dialogue one, because that's interesting. I love their perspectives on bootlegs.

Covering The Beatles: "Abbey Road" medley (with some good dialogue)


Washington Square

Dialogue between songs

And A Long December again, just because it's really good:

Finally, not from Abbey Road, but just because it's in my head and it's wonderful. An acoustic version of Miami. Trust me, watch this one; it's gorgeous. I've been at many concerts where they played this version, and I love how totally different it sounds from the album version.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Six o'clock, time clocks make a way again. It's twilight, it's darkening, it's winter in New York. Moments like these don't come so easily to you, do they?" ~meghan coffee

I'm sorry for my lack of posting. It will be explained below in this recap. And I am definitely making up for it here, so settle in for a long post.

For Christmas I went out to Colorado to see my parents. It was definitely a white Christmas; there was tons of snow. The house was beautifully decorated, complete with a ridiculously tall Christmas tree that I was glad they got before I arrived (because it sounded like quite an ordeal). I only went skiing two days while I was out there. All my family members have season passes at the local ski slope. Two days was enough for me, although I did enjoy it. It's a nice mountain and there was great snow. I was content to spend the rest of my days there relaxing. My parents don't understand my happiness at doing nothing and being still and staying home. They always want to be out exploring, but I guess that gene missed me; I feel bad about it, but I can't help it. They're all outdoorsy and like watching sports and I'm a city girl who loves theater and movies and music and just staying in. They're probably wondering how they ended up with me. For the most part they put up with me being a bump on a log. I needed to do that. They don't understand what my work is like and why I needed a break from doing anything. Anyway, I enjoyed being out there and seeing them and getting to relax.
The outside of the house:

Skiing with my brother:
I was supposed to come home to New York on Saturday, January 2nd. Due to mechanical problems (this has happened to me BOTH times I've traveled to Colorado), one of my planes was delayed and I missed my connection. So I ended up spending that night in Phoenix. They put me up in a nice hotel room, which somewhat mollified the situation, even though I was not thrilled that I had to spend the entire day (and part of the next day) in the Phoenix airport.
Phoenix (my hotel room and the view from my balcony):

It was in the 70's in Phoenix, so on Sunday morning i sat out on my balcony in a t-shirt and got some sun. That was lovely. I finally arrived home on Sunday night and had to prepare for school the next day. I hardly got any sleep (being on mountain time screwed me up). Oh, and I came home on Sunday to discover that I had no internet connection. I've been without it for a week. But it magically began working again today!

It was not easy to come back to school. Things have been crazy. Of course. This weekend my friends Kim and Elizabeth came to stay with me, and it was good to see them. Last week I briefly got to see my cousin and my aunt who were visiting from Maine. I also saw Nicole (we saw a screening of Leap Year). Check out what she brought me:
How cool is my best friend?? Six Feet Under and Chuck were my Christmas present, and the rest she picked up at a Blockbuster sale for me for a total of $15. I was thrilled. Now if only I could find time to watch all of them!

And check out all the cool Christmas cards I received this year. I love them.
I saw Finian's Rainbow on Broadway today. It's closing next Sunday, and I needed to see it before it closes because I've heard such wonderful things about it and it got fabulous reviews. I was so glad I caught it. It's a beautiful, lovely production. It's a feel-good, fanciful show with a gorgeous score and an extremely talented cast. It's a shame it's closing. Jim Norton is in it and I'm a big fan of his (I was so glad he won the Tony for The Seafarer). He was so nice to me at the stage door, too. Cheyenne Jackson was another highlight for me. I love him. I loved him in Xanadu and I loved him in Finian's Rainbow. He's just so charming. Here we are (he was also very nice):
So I've been busy.

Finally: CHUCK returns tonight! It's two new episodes tonight and one new episode tomorrow (it's regular night is Monday). You have no idea how excited I am. This is my favorite show. I've been happy to see NBC promoting it pretty well. Check out their cool board in Times Square:
Start watching it if you don't already. It's awesome. I promise.