A while back, Rob was bitten; not by a radioactive spider but by an idea to post a weekly article about a few songs that he really likes. There are so many possibilities that the series could go on forever, and so Saturday Jams was born.
It’s been a little while since I hit the keys looking to post Saturday Jams; in fact, I’m almost certain it’s been over a year. Times of late have been turned upside-down in the Clan Ross household as a project to remodel the downstairs bathroom went from a pie-in-the-sky single weekend to a multi-week project involving all the snags and complications that Murphy’s Law has been willing to throw at us. Still persistent, ever intrepid, we now surge forward full steam with the project, as yesterday we laid the subfloor, screwed up sheetrock, did some taping and mudding, and made plans to hide the fact that the corner for the shower is nowhere near square.
So this morning I have been inspired to diversion, and as I have long believed there are few better diversions than writing. The truth is, Saturday Jams has been held up by a lack of time to brainstorm and research the list of musical topics I have at hand, but today I have a few fresh gems that have turned up as if by magic, as though the Universe is pushing me — exhorting me — to get back to writing sweetly phrased copy about all the lovely music the world isn’t trying to shovel down your throat!
And as the remodeling carries on, in the spirit of remodeling, I figure it’s good to talk about taking something old and turning it into something new. It’s a curse for all budding musicians out there that most of them out there start out not knowing how to make their own songs. You pick up an instrument, and you learn to play it bit by bit, either on your own or with friends, or by taking lessons. All of these are good things, although I feel that learning to read traditional sheet music at the beginning of instruction can cripple your ability to improvise. A lot of great musicians learn to play by ear!
So as beginners, most musicians play the songs they already know, and although some get together specifically to form cover bands, most of them don’t plan to get famous playing covers. The Interwebs strike again, however, to say that the old paradigm is not the new. YouTube spreads hot covers like crazy, and the next thing you know, that post on Facebook that some middle-aged friend just thinks is cool to share is actually a type of commentary on how the old structures have been broken down and they refuse to admit it.
Commercial music is mostly bunk anymore, I say, and even those artists like to use the old songs to make new.
On the other hand, Steve’n’Seagulls is a band from Finland (I think) that looks like Appalachia and plays some of the best songs in a way that makes them fresh again. Every member of this band is infested with rhythm, and they feature the tightest folk instrumentation I have ever seen, enthusiastically playing the most out-of-character songs, which is a recipe for awesomeness.
Then, hailing from the luscious, surfable shores of Croatia (okay, maybe not the shores — I don’t know, but I had to mention them) are cellists Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, who seem to play whatever the heck they want and rock off the roof with it. They are known as 2CELLOS and their website states that “2CELLOS have no limits when it comes to performing live and are equally as impressive when playing Bach and Vivaldi as they are when rocking out AC/DC.”
They provide effortless proof with a segue from Rossini to Iron Maiden. You’re gonna love this:
. . . indubitably, a tutorial on how to destroy a cello bow; one wonders how much of their budget is dedicated to replacing them.
Understand that I just want to post one video per artist, and if you like them you can click through to their website or hit YouTube to find more. Or, you can do what I do: watch the first one and keep clicking on another at the end until you realize you’ve just watched about a dozen different artists already; this is how I discover them. But each time I put a video on this page, it’s because it’s possibly more awesome than the video I had picked out before, but I was tempted into watching another.
Does that make me a sucker?
The final piece, a push to get off the page but not a decision made in haste, features Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro playing a Beatles cover. It’s not a “fun” video like the other two, but that doesn’t mean this guy’s talent didn’t blow me away, and he has published 13 albums since 2002. It makes me wish I had the time to pull my ukulele down from the wall more often:
I’ve got to make the time, that’s all there is to it.
As I finish this, I realize that this isn’t the first Saturday Jams to feature cover songs; almost two years ago I published How to re-make it in the Biz. If you need more tunes for your fix, there’s a couple more videos for you there.
Just remember that when it comes to making music, the only limitations are in the mind — no instrument, no song, no note is sacred. Truth is related by the artist who just serves it up in their own voice, with their own hands and the instrument in them.
Now I must go work on my bathroom — before and after photos yet to come.
This week I’m trying something new by taking a page from Juls the Indecisive Eejit and writing a newsletter-style format. If it works out, I may make it a weekly feature using material that I aggregate throughout the week – effortless sharing at its best. If you want to be part of the process, feel free to drop some feedback in the comment stream so I know . . . you know – whether you care, what works, what doesn’t, etc.
You may remember that I took Tuesday off to interview for a job; it was for a position as a railroad carman for BNSF railroad, who runs all the rails in the United States west of the Mississippi. In fact, I felt like I bombed that interview and I must have been on to something, because the very next day I received an email saying that I was not selected to go forward with the hiring process.
I always felt that it was cold and impersonal to replace a face-to-face interview with the personality tests that you see a lot of employers using nowadays; the moment they started doing this (I remember as far back as the late 90’s, when Blockbuster video started using computer kiosks for hiring,) the chance that I would be able to choose my employer began to slide downward. They emphasize teamwork and minimize risk, which sounds like a good thing on the face of it; but they also shut out introverts and individualistic workers who are able to work on their own at a faster pace than in a team, where they tend to get a lot less done and must rely on others for success. I’m pretty flexible, though, and I’ve learned how to answer these tests. In fact, I just laid out the secret for you.
How much colder is it, then, to have prospective employees sit in front of three people; two of them asking the very same questions that were already answered on the test I took online, while the third one typed away at a laptop. The pace was fairly easy, but my mind was blank. It may be the first time I’ve ever suffered from test anxiety. They asked me the same questions I had already answered, and I experienced the most epic fail.
So say goodbye to face-to-face interviews! Because where I thought I was being given a chance to talk about my experiences at my current job and my expectations for the job for which I was applying, all I got was an online test streamed directly through analog devices; and in the face of this ironic and anachronistic melding of paradigms old and new, I floundered for purchase and was washed out to sea.
For a moment I felt like I was being rained on. Again. I felt like my whole life was this same story of rejection. (See Daily Tanka 2014.05.21)
I realized that these hiring practices, and this specific incident, were closing doors to me forever. (See Oh, The Places I’d Go!)
Then I realized the next day that a great weight had lifted; this was one less complication in my life, one less thing to manage – one loose end tied up for good. Not having any tension between the job I held and the job I desired, I was free to realize that in spite of the few (albeit strong) reservations I have about remaining at my current place of employment I am rather quite happy (See Daily Tanka 2014.05.22) and now my most immediate concern is something quite exciting indeed: Clan Ross’ Summer Surf Adventure. Two weeks driving to the Pacific coast. Seattle. Portland. Surfing in Seaside, Oregon!
I’ll gladly take my time doing that, and then I’ll find my footing and forge a new path forward. (See Daily Tanka 2014.05.23)
Current Conditions –>
You may have noticed that I’ve switched from haiku to tanka for my daily “status update”. I indicated earlier that I burned out on haiku, and I think it’s because I can’t force myself to write in so short a form without inspiration – that “haiku moment”. When the right image comes along, that helps; and when something just strikes you, that’s perfect; but the tiniest inspirations are like motes of dust and can be a little tough to catch on a daily basis, so the tanka format gives me a little more room to breathe, and presents a new challenge: the turning phrase of the third line, much as the human body’s core muscles links the upper and lower body, serves as a link between the upper lines and lower lines, creating two complementary yet contrasting poetic statements that when worked correctly will provide a clever sort of juxtaposition. In fact, the original creation of haiku was an exercise that focused on the first portion of tanka, the kaminoku. If you’re interested, you can read more about Tanka on Wikipedia or take a look at A Quick Start Guide to Writing Tanka @ Tanka Online.
Recently the site has taken on a new theme and a new look, and I’m still trying to find time to get all the little knobs and dials set right. Since I’m no longer using the ubiquitous Twenty Fourteen theme, the featured image barely comes into play, and it’s possible that those are generated for the thumbnails from images in the respective posts. If this bears out then I might stop using single images to serve as a visual cue to what type of post I’m writing. As always, if you experience any thoughts or feelings about the site’s look, feel, and utility, you are more than welcome to chime in; I will take all input into consideration – I create the site, but you actually use it!
Also, I’m planning to change up the surfboard social media icons as soon as I have a chance; While the Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest ones work for me, I have to wonder whether Spotify is a good choice for the fourth. I’m going to take that one out for the time being because I haven’t been able to figure out if people can access a playlist without an account, let alone single tracks; plus there’s some controversy surrounding Spotify and I haven’t been curating much content through Spotify. In fact, I just got around to pinning more stuff in the past week. I’m seriously considering doing a Youtube surfboard and making some playlists of different surf videos and muppet videos; just some different stuff to build a presence and start curating interesting content in that area. For the moment, I think that might be a little more useful. In terms of music, I think Soundcloud might be a better option.
What do you think, would you consider Soundcloud as a viable option for curating audio content? Is there something better that doesn’t cost money? Something that’s more accessible? Can you think of any other services that might be of interest to us? Let us know about that in the comments.
I’m looking forward to reviewing a CD of surf music that was recently recorded by a local garage band in Spokane, Washington. When I get my hands on the tunes I’m going to give it a listen (or ten) and then do a full write-up, so stay tuned for that – I have a feeling it’s going to be awesome!
Favorited Tweets of the Week –>
I’m not knocking anyone who favorites all the retweets they get, but I tend to reserve my own retweets for things that I find really interesting for one reason or another, and I do that for one reason: you can list it. On Twitter, we have this link on our profile page that shows how many tweets we have favorited all time; the @robssurfreport count currently stands at 101. I have a few from the recent past, and this goes back more than a week, but moving forward I’ll find more favorites to share. At any rate, most of these tweets speak for themselves, so I’ll keep the commentary to a minimum:
"My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." ~Dalai Lama #quotes
Like I said, I’ve started curating content on Pinterest in a fandangled process the kids are calling “pinning”. I’ve started doing this in fits and bursts, and I really need to clean up my pinboard selection. A lot of my recent pins have been in the category of fitness because of my drive to be as fit as possible for surfing, but here’s an overall selection of recent pins. If you’re doing the Pinterest, follow my boards to get my pins in your feed!
For the fitness-conscious: I found the site neilarey.com a while back with this Jedi workout, but upon further exploration it turns out that there are tons of unique workouts there that can be filtered by workout type and body area focus; as well as challenges, programs, tips, recipes, and more.
Great commentary on personal motivation in the form of an Oatmeal comic (once you click through, beware the F-word.)
I’ve been experimenting with chia pudding recently; I’ve figured out a thicker, custardy consistency can be obtained by increasing the chia to 1/3 cup.
If you’re out there pinning, in addition to following Rob’s Surf Report (hint hint) make sure you send us any cool pins we might want to pin to our own boards. 🙂
Featured Blog –>
This week’s featured blog is a new addition to my must-read list. TK from Chapter TK was the guest on the premier episode of The Kenny & Kylie Show podcast, and so I jaunted over to check it out. She writes mostly long-form posts about “the ins and outs of society”. According to TK’s About page:
Society is always evolving and we can choose to help guide it or just roll with the punches. No good change just happens. It requires the thought and action of the masses. TK aims to foster healthy, civil discussion on some of today’s most controversial topics as well as issues that people rarely consider.
The most striking thing about Chapter TK, in contrast to many blogs that I follow, is that her posts tend to inspire me to write inordinately long comments that could probably stand as posts of their own; this is a testament to the thought-provoking power of TK’s musings. This blog is most definitely an enriching addition to anyone’s reader feed; this blog comes highly recommended.
This week’s song was one I discovered on this post @ The Indecisive Eejit. Fireflies by Owl City is a really pleasant song that speaks of me the magic of nature at night. I’d never heard of either group or song before, but my wife has; “It’s a little poppy,” Mme. Ross says, uncritically; to which I respond, “well isn’t everything nowadays?” There’s nothing wrong with pop in general, especially since there’s no accounting for taste in music and oh yeah — pop is the new rock. Any way you look at it, you’re still picking your battles. This is a great song.
The video, however, is the cake; or maybe I just say that because I am such a visual person. Standing here, watching it again while dancing with my daughter, I note that the imagery consists largely of Toys of Great Distinction — oldies but goodies, that multiple generations can appreciate as toys from their own youth. There’s tube televisions, a globe of the Earth, and he’s even playing the song on an older electric organ. It’s a throwback to days of our youth, when everything seemed so magical and life moved at a snail’s pace.
I’d like to make myself believe
that Planet Earth turns slowly
As we get older and the world develops apace, that pace seems to get faster and faster. A year goes by in a heartbeat, it would seem, and the things that were of great importance to us lie in the dust of memory, a thing we find remarkable when we notice it.
Put together, the song and video are a brilliant fusion of contrasted yet complementary ideas; so full of brilliance and motion, yet imparting a sense of peace and thoughtfulness. Together, they are haiku.
There, I said it; now watch:
Video of the Week –>
Last night while Mme. Ross was at some sort of high-falutin’ jewelry party, Little Miss and I were sitting at the dinner table enjoying a wonderful repast of cheddar cheese, cherry tomatoes, summer sausage, lunch meat, quinoa, and the not-to-be-missed Daily Show with John Stewart. We watch it on Hulu Plus, so we are always a day behind, and this was Thursday’s episode. What really blew me away is the history behind the government’s treatment of miltary veterans, which has — as you will learn — not always to the benefit of those who gave up much to serve our country, leaving us with this very appropriate quote:
“On this Memorial Day weekend eve, we can finally admit that America has had for over 200 years a great bipartisan tradition of honoring those who have fought for our freedom by f***ing them over once they give their guns back”
That’s it! I hope you enjoyed this Surf Report as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I hope also that you have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, with barbecues and family fun or just rest — you deserve it. May you find peace in your life as well as your own path forward. If you would kindly help me out by answering the poll below, that would be awesome.
A while back, Rob was bitten; not by a radioactive spider but by an idea to post a weekly article about a few songs that he really likes. There are so many possibilities that the series could go on forever, and so Saturday Jams was born.
Of course, nothing lasts forever, and the demands of work and life brought the whole thing to a standstill. But the ideas keep coming, and coming back to the keyboard for Saturday Jams becomes a matter of pushing the sludgy old will into motion once more, and so the wheel turns . . .
Let me start by saying that music discovery has never been my strong suit. Recently, I’ve had some help in this area; I usually work in absolute silence because it never occurs to me to put some noise on in the background while I’m doing things. What makes this worse is that at my job I am required to wear earplugs for most of that ten-hour stretch, which cuts me off from sound — and consequently, the ability to relate fluidly with my co-workers and my environment.
I have started to turn some of this around, however, by listening to music online via some popular streaming services, because I get bored pretty fast without variety. My musical love was reborn out of the heat death of the alternative wave when I finally discovered The Beatles’Abbey Road (years after everyone I’ve ever known got over it,) and I carried this album in my heart to North Dakota with me in 2008. Some time later I fell in love with The Decemberists‘ The King is Dead, which was a fantastic album about going back to our folk roots — not just with music but in many aspects of life. Then when I started fooling around with Spotify (gasp, oh no I said Spotify! [that’s a touchy subject to some]) I discovered this fantastic album by a band called Imagine Dragons: Night Visions. Every song was different, every one of them as hooky as Velcro and so sing-alongable.
That’s the essential palette I’m working with, and so recently I’ve been striking out on musical adventure by listening to Pandora in the car; it wasn’t long before my Imagine Dragons station turned up some songs that drew me. A lot of music by The Killers, which I thought was quite appropriate but nothing new. Thumbs up. Then there’s that new song by Philip Phillips, I think it’s called Home? But after listening to more of his stuff, I thought he might be less to my taste — as in, that’s the only song I heard that really appealed to me. I’d just as well call him Vanilla Phillips, no offense!
I hate to say it, but I’m picky, and I look for those albums that have several really strong songs on them. After Abbey Road, The King is Dead, and Night Visions, how could I not be spoiled by these incredibly cohesive and dynamite sets? Then I discovered this song:
(I highly recommend watching the official VEVO video here – apparently we’re not allowed to embed VEVO on WordPress anymore, but even the skilled live performance below falls short of the chills I get from the official video.)
When I went to listen to more, I found the American Authors album Oh, What a Life to be full of positive energy, with enough variety to satisfy even my finicky palate. Recommended. Since listening to both of their albums, Spotify has been pushing me to branch out, so I figure: why not?
I was sucked in by the strange energy of a band called Fitz and the Tantrums. What is this guy selling? He’s got a voice straight out of the 80’s pop era, playing music that sometimes aligns strongly with the sounds of the sixties, bringing up visions of the Motown bands I heard in my youth on Detroit’s oldies station WOMC 104.3. Then there’s a little dark edge of saxophone a-la The Blues Brothers. I was stuck. Watch this:
Halfway through that day (this past Thursday) I bit the bullet and bought both of their albums on iTunes (since the death of DRM I have no problem doing this,) and would you know that the downloaded deluxe album included a music video? I pop for the deluxe albums when they’re available because I like the extra tracks – I don’t care much for the PDF booklets because I haven’t figured out how to easily get them onto my phone yet, but a music video downloads with the rest of the album so why not?
This video just blew my mind. It’s like Winamp had a baby with the whole band. I can’t not share this one with all my peeps and tweeps! The new album switches up the sound a little bit, brings more of it forward in time while still preserving that strange energy the band has, and yet . . . not completely brings it forward. What I really dig about this video is that it’s a giant standing with one foot in the infancy of the rock music era and the other foot is planted firmly . . . somewhere nearby. This is another one I’m no longer allowed to embed because Warner Music Group says no, so click here to watch this:
Maybe I’m blowing it out of proportion, but music gets me so jazzed! Now I have to go out for a run just to blow off all of this energy, and it’s time for you to go live your adventure.
Until next time, keep listening and exploring; comments go down below!
If you read yesterday’s post about the possible drawbacks of the oversaturation of society with popular music, that fast food of the auditory cortex, then you understand the irony of today’s discussion on the possible songs that my parents were getting it on to (to which my parents were getting it on?) when I was conceived.
This isn’t a perfect system, of course; not everyone was carried to a thirty-eight- or forty-week term, and so I’m guessing they just turned the clock back about nine months and retrieved the billboard stats from the calculated week. Still, it’s a fun little window into what was playing during the general time when we were first discovered. Here are my songs:
Rod Stewart: Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright) – One of two songs I definitely remember from the selection. It’s a catchy tune, and for that reason I get why it’s popular, but the video? Eek. First of all, he looks sillier than David Lee Roth in his best days. Second of all, now that I understand what he’s singing – I mean the words – it’s changed the experience of the song. I beg not to see and hear that simultaneously ever again.
The Detroit Spinners: Rubberband Man – right time, right place. . . right groove? It’s got bass, piano, and horns. The triple threat of sexy music instrumentation, right? I could believe that I was conceived to something that only reminds me of Superfly; it’s like being born in the manger next door to Jesus.
The Bee Gees: Love So Right – I’m not so sure about this one; I’m thinking that back then I’d have had better luck staying awake during sex if I was on Quaaludes. Just saying.
Gordon Lightfoot: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Please say it ain’t so, Gordon. Have you ever felt like you were reading the New York Times, only the sentences all rhymed, the story was set to music and sung in a flat Canadian drawl? Yeah. And so I get all the way through this song and I look at the clock as I always do, marveling that it only took six and a half minutes to get through it.
That sounds about right.
So personally, my vote is for Rod Stewart or the Detroit Spinners, with a strong lean toward the Spinners; because I figure either it was all business or it was fun, and if you’re on the business end you’re gonna do it right (since tonight’s the night). Then again, I’d be more likely to believe it was Billy Joel setting the mood.
So what’s your results? Write them up and feel free to drop a link in the comments or link to this page to generate a pingback.