Renewing My Fitbit Vows (part 4 of 10)

OK, fact #1–I am overweight and badly need to lose many, many pounds. Fact #2–I love numbers. This combination of facts led me to purchasing a Fitbit a little more than a year ago. Before I did, I thought the concept of “wearable tech” was a stupid fad. However, my record of exercising has been spotty at best, and the idea of hitting a number on a daily basis appealed to me. Over the next twelve months, my Fitbit has pushed me to hit daily goals on a fairly regular basis. I even upped my thresholds from 10,000 steps to 11,000 steps and 5.0 miles to 5.5 miles daily. I was regularly hitting my exercise goals 5 to 6 times a week and even had 25+ day streaks on three occasions. My cardiac procedure in early April set me back a bit with the hospital time and the recovery, but I think I’m back in business, as yesterday was the fifth consecutive day I hit both step and mile goals.

I know the Fitbit and other wearable tech is not for everyone, but if you’re on the fence, I highly recommend it. There’s nothing more motivating to me than sitting on the couch at night, ready to veg in front of the TV, but looking at your step counter and seeing you’ve done fewer than 5,000 steps is a real call to action. Particularly if you add friends and family to your Friend list. It’s the reason I’d suggest Fitbit over the other wearable tech options–it has the biggest base of current members, so you can add people and then compete against them to see who can get the most steps in a day, work week, or weekend. So when I am nowhere near my goal, it pushes me because I want to do better than others and I am sure they are looking at my lack of activity and judging (which logically, I am sure no one is doing–but leave me to my self-centered paranoia, OK?)

Now the Fitbit isn’t perfect–for example, if the arm that the device is located on is locked, the steps don’t count. So if you are pushing a grocery cart around a store, it will not give you credit for your steps. You have to be moving arms and legs to increase the counter. So in my cart example, there are two workarounds. Push the cart with one hand while continuing to swing the other arm–don’t worry,  it doesn’t make you look like an idiot to all the other shoppers (actually, it does). It also makes steering the cart a bit of an adventure. That’s why the second solution, put the tracker in your pocket, a better workaround. This also works in other armlock situations, like riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill (if you plan on holding the heart sensors for any length of time). Speaking of heart sensors, my Fitbit model does not include a heart monitor in it–that was the next model up. However, I heard from a cardiologist that he does not recommend getting an exercise tracker with heart monitor–he thinks people obsess too much about the pulse numbers. He did like the idea of an exercise tracker–so if you want to get onto the wearable tech craze–save yourself some money and get a model without heart rate checking. And let me know if you do–we can be Fitbit friends!

On to part 4 of my 100 favorite songs list. There are links to parts 1-3 at the end, but now that I’m walking more again, let’s look at the next 10 songs that come up when I listen to my top 100 playlist:

  • Welcome to the Terrordome–Public Enemy
  • Around the Dial–The Kinks
  • Eminence Front–The Who
  • Scar Tissue–Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Set Adrift on Memory Bliss–P.M. Dawn
  • Floating Vibes–Surfer Blood
  • You Can Call Me Al–Paul Simon
  • Invisible Sun–The Police
  • Your Love–The Outfield
  • New Year’s Day–U2

I will admit being late to appreciated the genius that is Public Enemy. I first heard them as part of the Do the Right Thing soundtrack. It was already a powerful film, but I got to see an advanced screening of it introduced by Spike Lee while I was at MIT. Of course, I was disappointed at how the Larry Bird Celtic jersey was used in the film, but the movie blew me away. A big part of that was “Fight the Power.” One can argue that with songs like it and “911 Is a Joke,” Public Enemy was the most effective act to fix popular music and politics since the protest singers of the late 60’s. However, the Public Enemy song I enjoy the most was a different release from Fear of a Black Planet–“Welcome to the Terrordome.” All of their songs have such raw power and anger behind the lyrics, and this one is no different. I know that Flavor Flav has become a punchline in recent years, but his work on “Welcome to the Terrordome specifically and all of Public Enemy’s work in total is amazing.

As I said when I first started talking about my 100 list, I refused to place artificial constraints like one song per artist on the list, and a few artists have more than one song from the same album. One such album is Give The People What They Want by the Kinks. I remember my older sister listening to the cassette tape of the album all the time when she got a boom box for Christmas along with it, Working Class Dog, Escape, and Candy-O. I enjoyed all four albums, but the Kinks release was the best. A second song from the album cracks my top 10, but “Around the Dial” has always been a favorite, right from its radio-tuning opening. I’d argue that the message of the song–the corporatizing of radio stations–is more apt today in the Clear Channel era than it was at time of its release, although to make it more timely, we’d have to change the lyric “FM, AM, where are you?” to “FM, XM, where are you?” as you only find political, religious, and sports zealots on AM these days.

After two Who songs in the previous group of 10, they are right back with a third entry on my list. There were almost two versions of this song on the list, as a member of Sons of Sam Horn shared with us a mashup of “Eminence Front” and “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like That)” by Digable Planets. He called it “Cool Front” and it’s an amazing combination of two distinctly different tunes. I would recommend it, but I know it’s unavailable and I shouldn’t share it for copyright reasons. The Red Hot Chili Peppers then make their first, and only, appearance on the list with “Scar Tissue,” which like many songs by the Peppers effectively mixes rock and mourning.

Remember cass-singles? When I was carless in graduate school, I rode with a friend from Bloomington, Indiana to Tampa, Florida for holiday break. Three of those cass-singles dominated our listening time during the trip–“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature, and “Set Adrift in Memory Bliss” by P.M. Dawn. The new age-i-ness of the song always drew me in, although the song was almost permanently ruined by the parody of it done in Fear of a Black Hat. By the way, if you haven’t seen the film, I cannot recommend it enough–it’s a rap version of This Is Spinal Tap, but it really nails the different song styles, the gangster culture, and more. The soundtrack is top notch and the parody/homage to the NWA Detroit situation portrayed in Straight Outta Compton is dead on. It’s a hard movie to find, but worth the effort.

I mentioned Sons of Sam Horn earlier, and for those that don’t know, it is a online community devoted to fans of the Boston Red Sox. However, the site is not limited to baseball talk or even just sports. The site has many members knowledgeable about a number of different topics, and thanks to some, I have received some great new music recommendations. It was on the site that I learned about an indie band named Surfer Blood. Looking at the name, I would have assumed they were some sort of heavy metal group, but their sound is more pop, more surf music than blood music. I’ve become a big fan, owning all three of their albums as well as their EP. I can listen to their music at any time, but “Floating Vibes” from their first album is still my favorite.

The list has multiple Simon & Garfunkel songs, but it also has a solo song from Paul Simon. Almost anything from Graceland could have made the list, but I chose the hit, “You Can Call Me Al” (with “Boy in the Bubble” being a close runner-up). Another 80’s group that could have had numerous songs on the list, but just got one, was the Police. I love their hits, but I seem to gravitate toward their odd, darker songs like “Invisible Sun” and “King of Pain.” I’d probably put “Synchronicity II” in that category as well. But the dystopian world presented in “Invisible Sun” takes it to the top for me.

The last two songs in this batch are also 80’s entries, and from opposite bands for a number of reasons. Most guys I know that went to high school in the 80’s loved the Outfield’s album Play Deep and their hit song “Your Love.” Unfortunately for the band, most guys I know did not buy any of their subsequent albums. However, their big hit has had a bit of a resurgence recently, as the Patriots play it in their stadium and the song was part of the soundtrack for Rock Band 4. That game also is the first game of its type to have U2 songs in it. Unfortunately, you can’t play “New Year’s Day” yet, but “Sunday Bloody Sunday” from the same album is available. This is the only U2 song on the top 100, a surprisingly small number, but when you’re this limited, you have to make some tough choices. Sorry “Grace”!

If you want to read any of the earlier parts of this series, the links are below:

In Some Particular Order (part 1 of 10)

Mission Entirely Possible (part 2 of 10)

Self Tributes, and the Reason for the Star Wars Season (part 3 of 10)

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The Elliptical Fallacy

The gym is great and all, but there’s nothing like taking your hard work outdoors. So we decided that an incredibly hot and humid Sunday would be a perfect day to go on a family hike at Sleeping Giant State Park. Normally, we take the nice-and-easy trail to the tower at the top of the mountain, but the last time we went, the twins split off and found a path that traveled by some stone arches, a scenic valley, and wound along a stream before coming out in the parking lot. So we decided to mix things up and try the route. Now my kids did warn me that it was a bit more challenging than the normal flat path, but why should I worry? I’ve been going to the gym regularly, doing 3+ miles on the elliptical, even setting it on steep settings. So I should be fine, right? Well, the soaked shirt I was sporting 30 minutes into the hike would indicate otherwise, although the extreme heat and humidity probably had something to do with it as well.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

4+ mile hike to commemorate Red Sox victories #41-42 of the 2012 season

  • Church of the Poison Mind–Culture Club
  • Cigarette–Ben Folds Five
  • Cinderella–The Cheetah Girls
  • Cinderella–Play
  • Cinema–Yes
  • Cinnamon Girl–Prince
  • Circle–Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
  • Circle–Flyleaf
  • Circle Dream–10,000 Maniacs
  • Circle of Fire–Sam Phillips
  • Circle of Friends–Better Than Ezra
  • Circle of Life–Lion King Cast
  • Circle of Life–Disney Channel Circle of Stars
  • Circle of Life–Ronan Keating
  • Circles and X’s–Lucinda Williams
  • Cities–Talking Heads
  • City–Hollywood Undead
  • City Lights–Rick Trevino
  • City Love–John Mayer
  • City of Angels–10,000 Maniacs
  • City of Blinding Lights–U2
  • City of Delusion–Muse
  • City of Dreams–Talking Heads
  • City of Love–Yes

So the previous list closed with the “Chruch…” of my kid’s pop music generation (courtesy of Cobra Starship), and this list opened with the “Church…” of my generation, Culture Club’s “Church of the Poison Mind”. (Shouldn’t it be “Poisoned”?) That was followed by a great Ben Folds Five number from their amazing Whatever and Ever Amen. Now I’m sure everyone is particularly interested in which version of “Cinderella” I prefer–the Play version or the Cheetah Girls. (I believe the Play version came first then the Cheetah Girls). My answer is that I do not have a favorite among the two (that’s a nice political way of putting it, right?)  Today’s list had early and late Yes songs, both from their 90125 album–“Cinema” and “City of Love”.

Prince’s “Cinnamon Girl” is completely unrelated to the Neil Young song, so it makes me wonder why use that title a second time. Reading about the song on wikipedia, it apparently had a highly controversial video attached because Prince had the gall to suggest that we treated US-based Muslims shabbily post 9/11. The next set of songs all fit within the same “Circle…”, and interestingly enough, the first four “Circle…” songs are performed by female-fronted bands or solo artists. My least favorite of the batch is the 10,000 Maniacs number “Circle Dream”. My wife always argues that I’m too hard on the song, but I just find the repetition of “I dreamed of a circle…” so tiring, particularly when compared to the rest of the album. The first “Circle…” number sung by a male comes from the family favorite soundtrack to Empire Records. I then got to hear three different versions of the “Circle of Life”, but none were the original from the film–I got the Broadway version and two from the Disney compilations. Just as women started the “Circle..”, they closed it as well, as Lucinda Williams provided an excellent topper to the theme.

After the circle theme, things took an urban turn with nine “City…” themed songs to close the list (and it’s not an exhaustive list, as my next list will continue with “City of…” songs). Two of the songs are two of my favorite Talking Heads selections. “Cities” comes from Fear of Music, an album I used to listen to every night the summer after my senior year, and the only Talking Heads release I owned as an LP. Meanwhile, “City of Dreams” is one of my favorite songs of all time (not just Talking Heads) and I think it’s one of the greatest closing credits songs in film history when used at the end of True Stories.

After disappointing me with “Circle Dream”, 10,0o0 Maniacs comes back strong with their brutal condemnation of Los Angeles, “City of Angels”. As they describe it, that’s not a city I’d want to visit, a theme shared by “City of Blinding Lights” by U2.

Dr Dre’s Christmas Glaze!

It’s the moment (none of) you have been eagerly discussing and speculating about–I am going to catch up on a number of of exercise days by lumping a number of songs together–normally I wouldn’t do this, but the overwhelming majority of songs are “Christmas…” songs (great for working out!) and there really isn’t much to say about a dozen variations on “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”

The Week of 9, 2012

4 miles of walking to commemorate Red Sox victories #39 and #40 of the 2012 season plus several gym sessions

  • Chorale–Richard Thompson + Danny Thompson
  • Chow Down–The Lion King Cast
  • Christ for President–Billy Bragg & Wilco
  • Christian’s Inferno–Green Day
  • Christie Lee–Billy Joel
  • Christine Sixteen–Gin Blossoms
  • Christmas–Blues Traveler
  • Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)–U2
  • Christmas All Over Again–Tom Petty
  • Christmas At 22 (featuring Laura Borucki)–The Wonder Years
  • Christmas Bells–the Rent cast
  • Christmas Canon–The Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  • Christmas Day–Dido
  • Christmas Don’t Be Late (Chipmunk Song)–Powder
  • Christmas Eve Montage–RJD2
  • Christmas Eve Without You–Glee Cast
  • Christmas Everyday–The Temptations
  • Christmas in Hollis–Run D.M.C.
  • Christmas in Hollis–Run D.M.C.
  • Christmas in the City–Mary J. Blige
  • Christmas Is–Run D.M.C.
  • Christmas Is All in the Heart–Steven Curtis Chapman
  • Christmas Is Coming–Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • Christmas Is My Favorite Time of the Year–Kenny Rogers
  • Christmas Is Now Drawing Near at Hand–Stevie Winwood
  • Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You–SR-71
  • Christmas Pics–Barenaked Ladies
  • The Christmas Song–Christina Aguilera
  • Christmas Song–Dave Mathews & Tim Reynolds
  • Christmas Song–Dave Mathews Band
  • The Christmas Song–Hootie & The Blowfish
  • The Christmas Song–Luther Vandross
  • The Christmas Song–The Nylons
  • The Christmas Song–Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)–Celine Dion
  • The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)–John Denver
  • The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)–Martina McBride
  • Christmas Time–Smashing Pumpkins
  • Christmas Time Again–Extreme
  • Christmas Time Is Here–Toni Braxton
  • Christmas Time Is Here–Dianne Reeves
  • Christmas Time Is Here–Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • Christmas Time Is Here–Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • A Christmas To Remember–Amy Grant, Beverly Darnall, Christopher Eaton
  • Christmas Wish–Stacie Orrico
  • Christmas Wrapping–Glee Cast
  • Christmastime (Oh Yeah)–Barenaked Ladies
  • Christmastime Is Here–Sixpence None the Richer
  • The Chronic (Intro)–Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg & Colin Wolfe
  • Chronomentrophobia–Andre 3000
  • Chump–Green Day
  • The Church of Hot Addiction–Cobra Starship
  • The Church of Hot Addiction–Cobra Starship

It’s not all Christmas, all the time–there’s a handful of songs at the beginning and end of the list that fall out of the category. The starting song was a reminder of my messed-up “fun fact” from yesterday, as I got another Richard Thompson and Danny Thompson collaboration. With a title like “Chorale”, you’d think it was from a Broadway show, so it served as a bit of a harbinger for the next song, which comes from the Broadway version of The Lion King. 

Before we get into a whole bunch of songs celebrating his birthday, Christ gets a little political love from Billy Bragg & Wilco, who suggest Christ should run for president. I’m assuming he’d have to run as an Independent, as his “actually helping the poor and not bombing the country’s enemies” would run counter to the Christian Right’s platforms and Christ seems like a man of action which wouldn’t jive well with the Left either. But the song does give me a chance to once again implore you to get any of the Mermaid Avenue releases. The song was the first of four to name someone in their title, as it led to a Green Day song about “Christian…”, a Billy Joel song about “Christie Lee” (it must be tough to have a song in your musical catalogue that you wrote about a love, only to have that love go bad. Does the song become unplayable?), and then the Gin Blossom’s excellent cover of “Christine Sixteen”.

But then the multi-day run of Christmas songs began. The first three songs come from my favorite series of holiday albums, the Very Special Christmas series. I loved the first few, as it was current artists giving their spin on classics or new songs (like the Blues Traveler, U2, and Tom Petty selections that start this run), but I haven’t given volume 7 a listen as it seems like a collection of Disney/Kids Bop artists. That may not be fair–after all, they’re just looking to support the Special Olympics as well. But it will be hard to top that first album (which produced the U2 track) and the second (Tom Petty). The Wonder Years song is a recent addition (post holiday 2011), so I haven’t given it a listen yet. I had never heard the Rent song until recently–we rotate who gets to pick the films for family movie night, and my youngest recently chose the film version of Rent. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and I did find the Christmas scenes moving.

It’s strange that I own as many Christmas CDs as I do, and do not own a single Trans-Siberian Orchestra release (this track is from a compilation). It seems like in recent year, TSO (do people use that acronym?) is the go-to group for holiday tunes–probably because the instrumental pieces are good background music as you’re doing something else. The Dido song would also do a nice job filling that role of unobtrusive tunes. Powder did an excellent job covering the Chipmunk’s signature song, although it wasn’t grouped with the originals because when the Chipmunks perform the song they get the main title and the “Christmas…” portion is the parenthetical, but for Powder the two were reversed. The “Christmas Eve Montage” number comes from my favorite Christmas/not Christmas movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, a film my youngest has grabbed and completely run with. She’s also the Glee fanatic, as mentioned before, but I did enjoy their cover of “Christmas Wrapping”, but it makes me sad that I don’t own the original version by the Waitresses.

Nice run of The Temptations and Mary J Blige surrounding three tracks from Run D.M.C., including “Christmas in Hollis”, a favorite new Christmas classic for me, particularly for the line “But I never steal from Santa, cuz that ain’t right…” which seems to indicate that stealing from others is a-OK. I think Run D.M.C. was the first repeat artist in the Very Special Christmas series, as they came right back for Volume 2 with another great new holiday number that probably gets overlooked because of just how awesome “Christmas in Hollis” is.

The next batch of six songs contains mostly innocuous numbers that again serve as excellent background music for Christmas parties and gatherings, including the first of four appearances on the list from the Vince Guaraldi Trio, the composer and group responsible for the instrumental score for the Charlie Brown Christmas special, including the great original number “Christmas Time Is Here”, which is covered later by a few artists, including Toni Braxton and Sixpence None The Richer. One of the more rocking Christmas songs is in this section, the SR-71 cover o f Billy Squier’s “Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You”.

Then we get our run of Mel Torme’s classic song. Now when I edit lines of books, it’s important to have a style guide in order to maintain consistency. Clearly Christmas songs could benefit from this as well. There’s three different titling styles for this song alone, as some use the parenthetical, some do not, and for some reason Dave Mathews is not a fan of the definite article as a title opener (I guess that is consistent with his band name at least). I didn’t realize I had two versions of his cover of the song and wasn’t paying complete attention while I was exercising to it, so at one point I thought he had done an 8-minute version of the song, which seemed a bit excessive. I think the Hootie version is my favorite cover of the song.

After all these Christmas songs, I knew whatever followed was probably going to be a bit jarring, and having Dr. Dre’s opening track from The Chronic is about as jarring as you’re going to get, and it served as a perfect way to move on from the Holiday run. Andre 3000 stayed in thematic line with Dre, and then I got a little punky with Green Day’s second appearance on the list (both non-holiday related) before closing with two copies of the Starship Cobra hit.

Celebrating My Musical Moralist

For the most part, I am trying to keep my bonus Red Sox walks exactly that–bonus exercise. So when I go to the gym each day, I don’t want the time I spend doing cardio to double up as the commemorative walks as well. So today I needed to pull double duty and get out and walk and go to the gym. It feels great to do both when I have the time (and right now time is something I have in abundance), but it leads to a large list of songs to discuss…

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

4+ mile neighborhood walk to commemorate Red Sox victories #37 and #38 of the 2012 season

  • Cars–Gary Numan
  • Cartwheels–Reindeer Section
  • A Case of You–Joni Mitchell
  • A Case of You–Prince
  • Casey Jones–The Grateful Dead
  • Casey Jones–The Grateful Dead
  • Cassie–Flyleaf
  • Cast No Shadow–Oasis
  • Cat Like Thief–Box Car Racer
  • Cat’s In The Cupboard–Pete Townsend
  • The Catalyst–Linkin Park
  • Catch Hell Blues–The White Stripes
  • Catch My Fall–Billy Idol
  • Catcher in the Rye–Guns N’ Roses
  • Catching On Fire–They Might Be Giants
  • Catfish–Bob Dylan
  • Catholic Pagans–Surfer Blood
  • Caught By The River–The Doves
  • Caught By The River–The Doves
  • ‘Cause Cheap is How I Feel–Cowboy Junkies
  • Cautious Man–Bruce Springsteen
  • The Cave–Mumford & Sons

If you asked me to name a quintessential 80’s song, “Cars” has to be a strong candidate, or at least would have been for me until I just found out it was released in August of 1979. So that would have disqualified the song from being an answer and made me look foolish for even considering it as a choice, so I’m glad we never had that conversation.  I guess I could argue that the song, like car models, came out late in the previous year in order to make buyers/listeners feel like they were on the cutting edge. Perhaps it’s best to move on to the next song, another OC soundtrack selection. It’s a favorite of mine, but not one that got me into a new group, as I guess the Reindeer Section were not going to be a full-time act. Next up is an old original-and-cover combo, but the pairing of Joni Mitchell and Prince was certainly unique and worth my time.

I was just thinking about when I was young and used to object to songs that had the wrong message in them. Now that could pretty much wipe out half of all music to me, as sex, cheating, drugs, etc. are all open season, but I am talking about a time when I was really young and subtlety was generally lost on me. The song had to really hit you on the head for me to understand. As a result, three songs really bothered me back then, starting with the Grateful Dead’s cautionary tale “Casey Jones” (how much clearer can ‘Driving that train, high on cocaine’ be?) As an FYI, the other two were Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman # 12 & #25, which I was sure was about smoking pot (and may be more  concerning the literal meaning of stoned), and the Carpenters’ “Top Of the World”, and I’m sure this one takes some explaining, but when Karen sang of being ‘on top of the world, looking down on creation’, my young Catholic mind thought she was equating herself with God and I knew that was wrong. Those were the three biggest offenders in my mind. “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones? They were right, it did taste so good–particularly on oatmeal!

Flyleaf led into my first Oasis song from their incredible (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? album. I was not an Oasis fan when I started watching Lost back in 2004, so I didn’t initially get the Oasis/Driveshaft links that I get now. Box Car Racer is a Blink-182 spinoff band my son loves, but if I met them, I’d have to chastise what I think is their poor syntax. I believe they need a hyphen in the title “Cat Like Thief” between the first two words unless they are expressing the affection their feline has for a burglar. The Pete Townsend song is from his Empty Glass album, a particular favorite of my wife, and the Linkin Park song is from one of my son’s albums. I like the band, but I’m finding that a number of their songs are bleeding together in my opinion. I was able to push myself on the walk thanks to the rocking efforts of the White Stripes, Billy Idol, and Guns N’ Roses.

They They Might Be Giants song is one of their quick numbers from the “Fingertips” section of the Apollo 18 album. There was certainly a flavor to the closing of the list that my wife would enjoy, as she has always been the family’s biggest fan of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and the Cowboy Junkies, but her current interest (or I may go so far as to say obsession is Mumford & Sons. Their CD is being worn out in the car and she has finally learned that youtube can be used for band videos and live performances. When I played for her the Ray Davies and Mumford & Sons collaboration from the former’s recent See My Friends album, the joy in her face was evident. The remaining songs were favorites of mine, with a Surfer Blood selection from their first album and two versions of the Doves’ “Caught By The River” (we own it on both an OC soundtrack and an MTV compilation album)

3 miles on the elliptical plus upper-arm weight work at the gym

  • Cave In–Owl City
  • Cecilia–Simon & Garfunkel
  • Cecilia–Simon & Garfunkel
  • Cecilia Ann–The Pixies
  • Cedars of Lebanon–U2
  • Celebrate Me Home–Kenny Loggins
  • Celebration–They Might Be Giants
  • Celebration Day–Led Zeppelin
  • Celebration Day–Led Zeppelin
  • Celebration of the Lizard–The Doors
  • Celebrity–Barenaked Ladies
  • Celebrity Skin–Hole
  • Cell Block Tango–Music from the film Chicago
  • Cell Block Tango–Music from the film Chicago
  • Cell Block Tango–Music from the film Chicago

Gym time began with the techno pop of Owl City. While it’s not the catchy hook of “Fireflies”, it’s still a fun song to both listen to in stationary mode or while working out. I got to hear two copies of “Cecilia”, which I think is the biggest Simon & Garfunkel song to not make the Concert in Central Park. It did however, get a nice mention in an episode of How I Met Your Mother a few years back, complete with a visual aid to the gag. (I will not spoil it for those who haven’t seen it). I guess the Pixies felt like it wasn’t enough for there to be a song celebrating girls named Cecilia, they wanted to be a bit more specific with their tribute to gals with the moniker “Cecilia Ann”. I think I’ve mentioned before that I haven’t given a close enough listen to U2’s newest album, so I wasn’t familiar at all with “Cedars of Lebanon”, the album’s closing tracks.

Time to celebrate! (Not that I have good news yet, I’m just to the four “Celebration…” songs on my list!) The first is by decades the most recent, and the one I like listening to the most from old friends They Might Be Giants. I also have studio and live versions of Led Zeppelin’s song, and apparently the Doors track was a previously unreleased number from the group, although it’s nice to see our friend the Lizard get his proper celebratory due, particularly as he makes his film debut in The Amazing Spiderman, out today in theaters. (Of course my daughter saw it at midnight and loved it!)  I heard two songs that cover the pitfalls of fame, with Barenaked Ladies singing about how amazing it would be to be famous and Hole covering the darker side of it all. My last three songs were from the film adaptation of the musical Chicago. Now I don’t want to get your hopes up if you haven’t seen it–it’s not like Mama Mia, only with the songs of Peter Cetera and Chicago. It’s a musical about jail, fame, and jazz. It’s supposed to be a great film (it won the Oscar for Best Picture), but to date I have had no interest in seeing it.

 

Cheerful songs about bullets and burning

The weekend is here! (Which, truth be told, is not that different from the rest of the week when you’re not working. Actually, I prefer the rest of the week because there’s a chance a company could call me about a job interview during the Monday-Friday time frame, something that’s highly unlikely during the weekend, as those hard-working heroes of human resources certainly deserve the time off on Saturday and Sunday [sorry for the sucking up, you never know who’s reading this]. Well, that’s enough wallowing, let’s get to some exercising and music!)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

2.5 miles on the elliptical machine plus upper-body weight work at the gym

  • Built for the Future–The Fixx
  • Built to Last–Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Bull in a China Shop–Barenaked Ladies
  • Bullet the Blue Sky–U2
  • Bullet the Blue Sky–U2
  • Bulletproof–La Roux
  • Bulletproof Heart–My Chemical Romance
  • Burn–Deep Purple
  • Burn Away–Foo Fighters
  • Burn Down This Town–Rosanne Cash
  • Burn in My Light–Mercy Drive
  • Burn it Down–Avenged Sevenfold
  • Burn the House Down–Scars on 45
  • Burned (Kane)–WWE
  • Burnin’ Up–The Jonas Brothers

The thing about today’s two lists is that they started so constructive and promising–we were talking about building things. Both the Fixx and Tom Petty were on the same track–after all, if you want to build things for the future, you need to build something to last. But then things took a turn for the destructive with “Bull in a China Shop” that did not let up for the rest of either exercise period. Bull in a China Shop is one of those metaphors that only works in the poetic sense these days, as there aren’t many shops that specialize in china to my knowledge.

The violence moves from bulls to bullets, starting with studio and live versions of a U2 song that’s (this is sure to surprise you) highly political. La Roux’s “Bulletproof” follows. This was a group that my youngest daughter enjoys, but I will admit that when I first heard the song and saw the lead singer, I thought that she was actually male. However, I do find the song infectious and it’s easy to dance to (although my children would prefer that I didn’t, which only makes me want to do it more, particularly in from of their friends–yep, I’m that kind of dad). My Chemical Romance (which is one of the coolest band names ever) has the right idea–with all these literal and metaphorical bullets flying around, it’s smart to protect yourself with a “Bulletproof Heart”. Of course, their timing isn’t great as the bullets die down and the fires start, which might still put their heart in danger.

Things start off simple and slow, as Deep Purple looks to just “Burn”, while the Foo Fighters point out that there’s consequences to the flames with “Burn Away”. Rosanne Cash decides to stop beating around the bush (burning around the bush?) and ratchet up the destruction with “Burn This Town Down”. It seems a little much, doesn’t it? I’m not one to advocate violence, but if you really want to get someone back, wouldn’t burning their house down be enough (something Scars on 45 seem to be willing to settle on)? Do you have to take out the entire town?

“Burn in My Light”, one of my favorite WWE entrance themes, is an older Randy Orton number. His new one, “Voices”, is pretty good as well–Orton tends to get good themes, ones my kids like as well.  Two songs later, I got one of the more iconic and enduring WWE themes of the past 15 years, the instrumental Kane theme “Burned”. (As a side note, I loved meeting and working with all the WWE superstars during my years in the company, but Kane was one of my favorite people in the organization.) The last three Burn songs come courtesy of artists representing three distinct genres with Avenged Sevenfold, Scars on 45, and the Jonas Brothers.

June 13, 2012

2+ mile neighborhood walk to commemorate Red Sox victory #30 of the 2012 season

  • Burning Down The House–The Talking Heads
  • Burning Down The House–The Talking Heads
  • Burning Down The House–The Talking Heads
  • Burning Down The House [live]–The Talking Heads
  • Burning Down The House–The Talking Heads
  • Burning In The Skies–Linkin Park
  • Burning Love–Elvis Presley
  • Burning Up–Glee Cast
  • Burnout–Green Day
  • Burns Supper–Richard Thompson
  • Burnt By The Sky–David Byrne
  • Bury Me–Guster
  • Bushfire–The B-52’s

For almost the entire first mile of my walking tour, I got to hear the Talking Heads’ only Top-10 hit, “Burning Down the House”, five times, four studio originals and a live version (the four studio copies come from the original album, a greatest hits collection, a hits of 1983 compilation, and the soundtrack to 13 Going on 30). I remember when the song first came out (I heard it often because I got most of my music from radio, including American Top 40), I kind of liked it, but it wasn’t till I decided to get into the Talking Heads (to impress a girl) that I really gave the song my attention. I must say that I enjoy the live, Stop Making Sense, version better than the original, as it’s a more driving, rocking take on the song.

Linkin Park takes the burning to the air, but ironically, I could have had a second Linkin Park “Burn…” song if I had their latest single, as “Burn It Down” has been on the radio recently, and has been featured as the musical accompaniment to some highlight packages on ESPN. I always thought the Elvis Presley song was called “Hunka Hunka Burning Love”, but it’s just the last two words. When I saw that Glee had a song titled “Burning Up” that I would hear soon, I assumed at first it was a cover of the Jonas Brothers song I’d heard earlier, but it was in fact a Madonna cover, and I can now tell the difference as Madonna’s version features the proper spelling of “burning”, including the ending ‘g’. I’m not sure how much it will help me, as I’m unlikely to listen to either song willingly.

The list ends strongly for me, starting with a Green Day track from Dookie, and then running into my wife’s favorite artist (non-Elvis Costello division) Richard Thompson. I actually saw him in concert with her in Bloomington, Indiana, but it probably was wasted on me, as I don’t remember which songs he performed, save a rousing cover of “Oops! I Did It Again”. I will say that not knowing the specific songs did not blind me to the amazing virtuoso skill he has with the guitar. If I hadn’t heard enough of his voice with the five renditions of “Burning Down the House”, I got one more “burn” track from Mr. Byrne (ahh, homonyms!) before the fires finally burned out–or so I thought–as after the Guster song “Buried” (keeping with the violence I guess), things flamed up one last time with the B-52’s giving me a “Bushfire”, a song that inspired me to listen to Cosmic Thing in its entirety tonight.

 

Listening to a musical 45 (songs, not a song)

Well, I told you in my last column that I had been walking, and that I’d just fallen behind in the blogging side of the equation. As I went to the gym on Saturday, I did a count of the songs that I’d listened to over the past week, and was shocked that it was 45, representing 8 miles of walking (which still puts me two Red Sox victories behind the pace, but that will be taken care of by midweek. So I could have engineered 4 mini-posts or one mega-post.  As you will see from the following list, I went big, partially due to the cool symbolism of the number 45.

June 5-8, 2012

8+ miles to commemorate Red Sox victories #24-#27 of the 2012 season

  • Breathe–Taylor Swift
  • Breathe–U2
  • Breathe [2AM]–Anna Nalick
  • Breathe Me–Sia
  • Breathing–Yellowcard
  • Breed–Nirvana
  • Breed [live]–Nirvana
  • Brian Wilson [live]–Barenaked Ladies
  • Brian Wilson–Barenaked Ladies
  • Brian Wilson [live]–Barenaked Ladies
  • Brick–Ben Folds Five
  • Brick By Boring Brick–Paramore
  • Brick By Brick–Train
  • Bricks–Rise Against
  • The Bride–Dirty Projectors
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water–Simon & Garfunkel
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water–Simon & Garfunkel
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water [live]–Simon & Garfunkel
  • Bright As Yellow–The Innocence Mission
  • Bright Red–Laurie Anderson
  • Brighter–Paramore
  • Brilliant Disguise–Bruce Springsteen
  • Brilliant Disguise–Elvis Costello
  • Brilliant Mistake–Elvis Costello
  • Brilliant Mistake–Elvis Costello
  • Bring It (Snakes on a Plane)–Cobra Starship
  • Bring It On Home–Led Zeppelin
  • Bring In On Home To Me–Sam Cooke
  • Bring Me To Life–Evanescence
  • Bring On The Dancing Horses–Echo & The Bunnymen
  • Bring On The Dancing Horses–Echo & The Bunnymen
  • Bring On The Night–The Police
  • Bring Tha Noise–Public Enemy
  • Bring The Noise–Public Enemy
  • The Broad Majestic Shannon–The Pogues
  • Broadway–Old 97’s
  • Broke In Two–They Might Be Giants
  • Broken–Elvis Costello
  • Broken [home demo]–Elvis Costello
  • Broken Bicycles/Junk–Anne Sofie von Otter and Elvis Costello
  • Broken Glass-Cyndi Lauper
  • Broken Man–Boys Like Girls
  • Broken Mirrors–Rise Against
  • The Brokenhearted–Bruce Springsteen
  • Brompton Cocktail–Avenged Sevenfold

The massive catch-up entry starts with pop country star Taylor Swift. I find it a bit funny that Swift is categorized as country, when to me she’s pure pop, just with a southern accent. My second “Breathe” song comes from U2’s most recent album release, No Line On The Horizon. There’s supposed to be a new U2 album, the follow-up to No Line, coming out this year, and with Danger Mouse the producer, I’m very excited to hear it. The Anna Nalick song is one I don’t really know, but that’s the consequences of not listening to current pop radio. For fans of the HBO series Six Feet Under, the song “Breathe Me” played during the series finale of Claire driving to New York intercut with the fates of each major character. I always thought it was one of the better and more emotional sequences to ever end a show, and it convinced me to buy the song.

Yellowcard apparently falls into a genre known as pop punk, and it’s a style I’m getting to know well, as it has become a favorite of my son. Other than the super obvious first choice, “Breed” may be my favorite song from Nevermind, so I certainly enjoyed hearing both the studio and live versions of the track. I loved when 2K sports used the song as part of their ad campaign for their baseball video game–any time a song like that is getting played for the general public is a great thing.

Thanks to our extensive collection of Barenaked Ladies albums, I got to hear “Brian Wilson” three times. It’s one of the rare songs that the live version seems to be more famous than the studio cut (as the live version is on the greatest hits collection we own), so I heard the song live, studio, live. I was looking up the discography of BNL when writing this entry and I was surprised to learn that they’ve only had one top 10 hit in the US (“One Week”), and only one other top 40 hit. Their music is so good? What is wrong with people?

After hearing “Brian Wilson”, a song about a man dealing with depression, three times, I sure needed a pick-me-up, and boy did Ben Fold’s “Brick” really deliver. Don’t get me wrong, I love “Brick”, particularly for the fact that it deals with a difficult issue in a sensitive manner, but that the song directly led me to purchase Whatever and Ever Amen. And my wife and I absolutely love that album. But it is a real bring down of a song and you need to be in the right mood to listen to it. It also is the only “single brick” song on my list, as the next three songs deal with multiple building blocks. Train is more interested than Paramore in masonry I guess, as they go brick by brick without editorializing that said bricks are “boring”. Meanwhile, Rise Against doesn’t believe in taking things one at a time, so they just go for all the “Bricks” at once. My load of bricks ended with a Dirty Projector’s song “Bride.”

Just as I recently had to hear a classic Simon & Garfunkel song “The Boxer” three times, I got it again, this time with three copies of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, two studio and then one from the classic Central Park show. I once read years ago that Paul Simon originally wrote it as a two-verse song, and that the third verse, the “Sail on, Silvergirl” verse, was added later. That final verse is nowhere near as strong as the first two entries, and while it would have been a shorter song, Simon maybe should have stuck with his original version.

A pair of primary colors follow in their “bright” form. First, I got yellow from the Empire Records soundtrack in the form of “Bright As Yellow” by the Innocence Mission, a fun alternative song from an awesome soundtrack. I tend to overlook some of the other tracks on the album because of my undying love of “Free” and “‘Til I Hear It From You” but everything is on the album is worth listening to over and over again. The red entry is part of a bizarre number from Laurie Anderson, “Bright Red”. Listening to her music leaves me with a “what the hell did I just hear?” feeling, and this song was no exception. Just as Paramore joined the brick brigade, they also wanted in on bright, with their song “Brighter”. It’s too bad they couldn’t add the color blue to their title, which would have given me all three primary colors. While they don’t have a color in their title, they do try to top the other songs by going superlative, and “brighter” than “bright”.

It’s not that I don’t love Elvis Costello, I just don’t feel as passionately about his work as my wife. I have, however, noticed that if he’s singing a “Brilliant…” song, I am definitely on board. The first of these is his cover of “Brilliant Disguise” by Bruce Spingsteen, a song that came off the first Bruce CD I ever purchased, Tunnel of Love. I always liked the Boss’s version of the song, but I actually enjoy Elvis’s cover even more. He makes the song more mournful than the original. I also really like the Elvis original “Brilliant Mistake”, which I got to hear two times. It does remind me of a funny story. When the computer book company I worked for in the 90’s was originally purchased by Pearson, they had a consultant come in to discuss future direction. As I sat with her and told her of our publication plans, she kept saying “brilliant”. I thought she was really impressed by what I was saying–after all, “brilliant” is such a superlative term. I later found out she was saying it like I might say “ok” when hearing a long presentation. My ego, after being so pumped up, was popped like a child’s balloon.

After the Elvis section, the list began to zig and zag a bit, starting with a band my kids love, Cobra Starship. That’s probably not fair, to pass them off on my kids, where I enjoy them as well, but if you don’t think they’re cool, I can say “oh, they’re a band for my kids.” The new of Cobra Starship gave way to a couple of classic acts, first the hard rock of Led Zeppelin and then the classic soul of Sam Cooke. Both come from me, and I’ve got to say I tend to listen to the Sam Cooke music more out of the two. Then I got one of my youngest daughter’s favorite acts, Evanescence, contributing their biggest hit ever, “Bring Me To Life”, followed by two copies of the song that introduced me to Echo & The Bunnymen. The first copy came from an album I owned first on cassette and then replaced with CD, the soundtrack to Pretty in Pink. My interest in Echo was always limited to that song and their cover of “People Are Strange” from the Lost Boys soundtrack, but I recently added two of their albums thanks to my local library.

The Police’s “Bring On the Night” came next and this song was one I always associated more with Sting (as he named his live solo album this) than the Police. I love the two versions of the Public Enemy song, both Public Enemy on their own and with Anthrax. The pure Public Enemy version talks about “…The Noise” in the title, while the Anthrax collaboration is “Bring Tha Noise” so I have to wonder about the bad grammatical influence Anthrax had on Chuck D and his mates. It’s odd hearing “The Broad Majestic Shannon” as it was always a special song my wife sang to our youngest daughter at bedtime when she was young, so I identify the song more with her than the official version. Speaking of my youngest daughter, she’s such a big fan of musical theater that I need to take her to Broadway some day to see a show, but if that doesn’t work out, I can always play the Old 97’s song for her. I don’t think she’d find it to be remotely the same, however.

I believe we have more They Might Be Giants songs than any other musical act (if not, they are definitely in the top 2-3), but it feels like awhile since they’ve made an appearance on this list. “Broke in Two” comes from The Spine, an album that gets lost in the shuffle for me, as it’s not as beloved as the group’s early work, different like the children’s albums, or in the rotation like the last two albums. It’s unfortunate and it calls for an entire album listen sooner than later. After raving earlier about Elvis Costello’s “Brilliant…” songs, I get three more by him (well two by him and one where he’s like the supporting actor for an Annie Sofie von Otter. Of the three, Annie’s song is the one I enjoyed the most. I really enjoyed the Cyndi Lauper song “Broken Glass”, which was one I really hadn’t heard because I’ve given her third album, Hat Full of Stars, short shrift (well, technically, it’s her fourth album, but I got a three pack of Lauper CDs from work, and Lauper’s third album, A Night To Remember, was not included in the pack–so that album is really getting the short shrift from me.

Music my wife and children brought into our household collection closed the list, with the first selection coming from Boys Like Girls, an act primarily liked by my girls. Now all of my kids love Rise Against, and it’s a band my wife and I both enjoy listening to know, so that was an excellent reverse osmosis musical effect. (I think the musical education has generally traveled in  the opposite direction with the two of us exposing our kids to different styles of music.)  While I spoke earlier of buying Bruce Springsteen albums, make no mistake–my wife is the truer and deeper fan of the boss. I did purchase The Promise, the recent album that produced “The Brokenhearted”, but it was a Christmas present for her. After such a long and diverse collection of music, it is always nice to kick back and relax with a cocktail, although the Avenged Sevenfold song is many things, relaxing is probably not the best term to describe it.

 

Who does Michael Jackson better, Fall Out Boy or Fergie?

Before I get things rolling here, I’d like to ask for a moment of silence for Starburns…his name is Alex! (For those confused by the reference, Community killed it  again tonight with an awesome Law & Order parody that dropped character development for a series of jokes that killed it, with a great Wire reference thrown in as well. It was nice to laugh after a tough day, but at least I had a third straight day of double exercise, and tomorrow is going to be a fourth straight day. Go Sox!

April 26, 2012

2-mile walk to commemorate Red Sox Victory #7 of the 2012 season

  • Beast and the Harlot–Avenged Sevenfold
  • The Beast in Me–Nick Lowe
  • Beast of Burden–The Rolling Stones
  • The Beat–Elvis Costello
  • The Beat [Live]–Elvis Costello
  • The Beat–Elvis Costello
  • Beat It–Fall Out Boy featuring John Mayer
  • Beat It–Michael Jackson
  • Beat It–Michael Jackson
  • Beat It 2008–Michael Jackson featuring Fergie
  • Beat the Retreat–June Tabor

It was a bit cold and windy for my outside walk, so to hear something by Avenged Sevenfold was a great was to push me right away. A7X is not a band I listen to often, but they are pretty entertaining when I’m in the right mood. So I was happy with the first of my “Beast…” trilogy. The middle section is a Nick Lowe contribution to the Sopranos soundtrack, and it’s like a treat as I don’t recollect hearing it before, and I enjoyed the song. I have, of course, heard “Beast of Burden” many times, and the Stones deliver as always.

The next seven entries on the list are only two songs, starting with three different versions of “The Beat” by Elvis Costello. Then I got four versions of the Michael Jackson classic, “Beat It”. Ironically, the first version is not by the King of Pop, but instead Fall Out Boy, with John Meyer trying to fill the drug-addled shoes of Eddie Van Halen. I like covers that bring something new to a classic song, but this one felt like a tribute band more than an artist giving a new rendition. The next two versions were two copies of the original before my last “Beat It” being the 2008 update of the song, which once again, didn’t feel like anything special, just Fergie taking some of Michael’s lines so it was more of an alternating duet than collaborative. I wondered if this was because it was released after Michael had died, but the album came out in 2008 (the 25th anniversary of Thriller) and Jackson passed in 2009, so it was just his career that was dead.

The last song of my walk was a cover that I enjoyed a bit more, with June Tabor giving her spin on Richard Thompson for the title track of the tribute compilation.

3.61 miles on the elliptical at the gym

  • Beat the Retreat–Richard Thompson
  • Beat the Retreat [Live]–Richard Thomspn
  • Beat the Time–Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
  • Beatbox (Diversion One)–The Art of Noise
  • Beaten to The Punch–Elvis Costello
  • Beating Around The Bush–AC/DC
  • Beatnik Beach–The Go-Go’s
  • Beats to the Rhyme–Run D.M.C.
  • Beautiful–Barenaked Ladies
  • Beautiful–Christina Aguilera
  • Beautiful–Glee Cast
  • Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)–John Lennon
  • Beautiful Bride–Flyleaf
  • Beautiful Day–U2
  • Beautiful Disaster [Live]–Kelly Clarkson

After closing my walk with the cover, I get to open gym time with studio and live versions of “Beat the Retreat” by the original artist, Richard Thompson. Mrs. Paul Simon’s group follows before we get to one of those “Why did I buy this CD again” songs. The Art of Noise CD was a college purchase that was probably driven by either “Paranomia” or  the “Peter Gunn Theme”. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy the Art of Music, but when I do hear on of their songs, a little goes a long way, particularly when you consider the length of some of their songs (“Beatbox” clocks in at longer than eight and a half minutes).

From the “didn’t see that coming” file, I got another Elvis Costello song, then my pizza group, AC/DC returned. Now I enjoy the Go Go’s a great deal; I even saw them in concert in college, although the only album of theirs I own is their greatest hits, and I’m pretty content with just the one album (1 Mind on the Simple Minds scale). However, of all their tracks on that compilation, “Beatnik Beach” is my least favorite. I just feel they were trying for something and didn’t quire hit the mark with the song.

Like the Go Go’s, another “greatest hits only” act for me is Run D.M.C. I love their music–they were my second-ever rap group (I do remember being obsessed with “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang back in 1980 to the point where I’d constantly be singing/chanting the lyrics to myself, event getting a fellow 5th grader to once chastise me “enough already!”) I had no follow-up with the Sugarhill Gang, never buying an album, cassette, or single. But once I heard “Walk this Way” by Run D.M.C., I had to own the album, and I remember wearing out my cassette copy of Raising Hell. I finally got them on CD (their greatest hits), allowing me to explore other tracks from different periods of their career.

The Barenaked Ladies song “Beautiful” is a different than the more famous Christina Aguilera version. The BNL song is a serenade to a loved one, while the latter is a truly moving song for female self-image, even when Glee does it. It’s sad hearing the John Lennon tribute to his son as it makes me realize that the boy lost his father at too early an age, a pain I understand. The “Beautiful…” festival continued with Flyleaf and then U2, although that song still makes me think of the countdown to Triple H’s return from injury at the Royal Rumble years ago. I closed with the inaugural winner of American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, singing one of her infectious pop numbers that show she was the right choice all those years ago. I just hope she never tries to cover “Beat It”.