The 2013 Grammy Awards

This time last year, I decided to start my blog up again by writing my thoughts on the 2012 Grammy Awards. You can find that post here. I did a pretty good job of keeping up with this blog after that for quite some time, but I’ve waned over the past few months. The 2013 Grammys are on tonight, and I aim to start this blog again the same way I did last year.

I’ve been enjoying the popular music of 2012 over the course of the year. I’ve been listening to the radio much more often that I have in the past, I’ll surf the radio and stop on anything catchy. I’ve found myself enjoying the occasional Katy Perry, or Carly Rae Jepsen, or sometimes Rhianna. I skip the diamond song and anything by Taylor Swift and the rap and R&B stations. Most else is fair game. There are plenty of nominations tonight that I wholeheartedly agree with. Mumford and Sons, Fun., The Lumineers, Maroon 5, The Black Keys, and Adele all hopefully have good things happening for them this evening. Without further ado, let the games begin!

And, we’re off with a bang, Taylor Swift is serenading us with those vocal chords that don’t deserve fame and recognition. I hope some day people might understand her un-talent.

“He looks like an old grandma.” -my brother on Elton John. 

To be completely honest, Ed Sheeran’s “A Team” is one of the songs I tend to skip on the radio. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it all the way through until tonight. He seems like a nice guy, at the least. I’m not sure it’s working too well as a duet.

And Adele wins, naturally, in the one category she’s nominated in this year. Well done, lady, for winning Best Pop Solo Performance for a live version of “Set Fire To The Rain.”  Completely deserved!

I’ve never seen Fun. play live. Nate Ruess is having a few pitch difficulties, poor guy. “Carry On” does seem to be the best song choice, however, for a live performance. “Some Nights” and “We Are Young” have so many tight harmonies that perhaps it would not have gone well, given how this one is going.

Miguel – who is this guy? I’m not so much into R&B, please don’t mind my ignorance. He has quite the wonderful voice.

So happy to see Carrie Underwood winning an award. Best Country Solo Performance is well deserved. I do wonder how many more years she’ll be able to call herself “country,” her songs are starting to feel like crossovers.

We Are Young! Fun.! Song of the Year! They beat Kelly Clarkson AND Call Me Maybe!

Mumford and Sons! I’ve seen these guys live three times and I can attest to their live performance talent. I love how their song lyrics are thoughtful and well-written. They have only gotten better as they’ve become more well-known. Read this past post for a long write up on my love of Mumford and Sons, from when I saw them perform in Monterey.

Kudos to Justin Timberlake for going from “Bye Bye Bye” to so much more. I don’t like him, but I don’t hate him. His music bores me though. However, if I were asked to be a part of that strings section, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I thoroughly miss performing and of those musicians look like they are having a GREAT time!

I think I’ve come across a Frank Ocean song once or twice. He seems like a decent guy. As long as Chris Brown goes home with zero awards, I’m happy. Behavior like his does not deserve awards.

Best Rock Performance- The Black Keys, “Lonely Boy.” Makes me a bit sad that Mumford lost out on it, but they’ve more to come I believe. The Black Keys are quality musicians who deserve any recognition they get.

I think I’ve finally been caught by Adam Levine’s spell (Jeremy, you’re the only one for me though, I know that for sure!) I’ve been a fan of Maroon 5 for many years, “Songs About Jane” was all I listened to the year it came out. Their new music has been consistently well done and catchy (a must for me these days); I may have to actually purchase his most recent CD. I did already tell Jeremy that “Moves Like Jagger” is a must for our wedding reception. Levine and Alicia Keys are putting on an amazing performance, the best one of the night so far, that’s for sure.

Best Pop Vocal Album is filled with some great nominees. I’m fairly surprised Kelly Clarkson won, particularly against Maroon 5 (given my obvious love for them). 

Rhianna’s starting off her performance extremely strong, she may convert me yet. That diamond song is SO annoying, but this ballad is out of this world beautiful. She has obvious talent. She looks beautiful, too. A slow, quiet song as an understated performance, not making a big spectacle- THIS is what I love about music. Showcasing REAL talent. She is BRINGING it!

Carly Rae Jepsen and my sister Emili look remarkably similar. That is all.

Kelly Clarkson is singing the Tennessee Waltz, this makes my heart so happy. I grew up playing this melody on my violin with Dad. I never actually heard the recorded version of the song until years later; this melody will forever be with me. What a beautiful voice Miss Clarkson has. Another spot on, incredibly beautiful performance.

Ah, the Zac Brown Band. What fun music they play! Well done, Best Country Album!

Bruno Mars! I have been looking forward to seeing him perform again since his performance at last year’s Grammys. I had no idea who he was last year, and now if I hear “Locked Out of Heaven” on my way to or from work, it’s definitely a good day. I love the Police-esque vibe, how fitting Sting is up on stage right next to him! This song sounds just as good live as it does mastered. As for the next song- who doesn’t love Bob Marley? This performance is definitely meeting my year-long expectations.

SO glad The Lumineers are being showcased tonight. They were nowhere to be found a year ago, and sure, I’ve known of “Ho Hey” for much longer than radio listeners have, but does it really matter? It’s clearly a great, catchy song, and it makes me so happy to see small folk bands get good recognition. (Perhaps it’s because I would love to someday be in one of those unknown folk bands that gain enough recognition to perform at something as large as the Grammys. I’ll just take it one step at a time …)

Jack White is putting on a nice performance, I was unaware that this folky sound is his current endeavor. I’ll have to look into his newer stuff to see if it’s as enjoyable as this. Anything with a violin is fair game in my book. Sure, there he goes with his more “interesting” stuff, but it’s still well done for the genre (whatever it is) and a good, solid performance. I enjoy music best when the music is showcased, rather than making such a spectacle of the performance that the quality of the music takes a backseat.

And Best New Artist goes to … (Katy Perry put on some clothes!) … Fun.!!! I just put two and two together and realized that Lena Dunham is the girl they keep showing with Jack Antonoff of Fun. To get this point across to my mom, all I had to do was mention “the girl at the Golden Globes with all the tattoos who couldn’t walk in her heels.” I’m happy for Fun. for getting this award, they’ve all been playing music for so long (Steel Train, The Format, Anathallo), it’s great that they’re getting some solid recognition for the years they’ve put in to the industry.

Carrie Underwood- how does one go about getting into the string sections of these epic performances? And those butterflies! That performance was a great example of putting on a show and still focusing on quality music.

Oh, Gotye! Record of the Year! Anyone who says they don’t like “Somebody That I Used To Know” is just being pretentious. How precious are Gotye and Kimbra up there on stage.  Truly thankful for being recognized, truly happy to be doing what they are doing. (And anyone who beats Taylor Swift is good with me.)

And the performance I really have been waiting for all night … “The Weight,” written by Robbie Robertson of The Band. What a great compilation of musicians on stage- Sir Elton John, Mumford and Sons, Mavis Staples, T Bone Burnett, Zac Brown, and others- what a great song, and a great tribute to Levon Helm (of The Band) and all the other music industry persons who have passed this year. I LOVE this song, my first introduction to it was actually through a cover done by John Denver. I’ve heard The Band’s songs live by Glen Hansard and Mumford and Sons. Mr. Helm has clearly left a mark on the music industry for many of the greats, and it will hopefully remain for years to come.

Mumford and Sons win album of the year! Bonnie Raitt approves … did anyone else see that head nod? These guys deserve it. See aforementioned blog posts about them if you need anymore convincing on why I love them so much.

I’m headed to bed in a minute, the Grammys are so much easier to watch when living on the west coast, next year I won’t have to stay up until 11:30 to see everything. It’s pretty amazing that I agree with mostly all of the awards that I saw given out tonight. Credit has been given where credit was due, and Taylor Swift won nothing. What a great night!

Let me know your thoughts on this year’s Grammys. Where did they go wrong? Where did they go right? Who do I need to find an appreciation for? Thanks for reading!

40th Annual American Music Awards: Live Thoughts

Usher’s opening performance is entirely unappetizing. Awkward choreography, bad live singing. What is with all those green lasers? Usher, I know you have talent hidden away there somewhere … ?

12 minutes in and these AMA’s are already/still not impressing me. Justin Bieber’s acceptance speech for Pop/Rock Male Artist is ridiculously cocky. “I want to say this is for all the haters who thought I was here for one or two years. I feel like I’m going to be here for a very long time.” And only after that does he reference his mother? What a terrible attitude he has!

18 minutes in and Taylor Swift just won an award. I should turn this off now, shouldn’t I? It was obvious she’d win it, but I’d rather hear Carrie Underwood give a genuine acceptance speech for something she deserves based off of talent than watch Taylor Swift botch her way through a “thank you” speech that clearly displays she’s bored with all the (undeserved) awards she’s gotten over the past few years.

The Wanted. Can actually sing live. Please get those female dancers off the stage. Who are these guys, anyway?

“Call Me Maybe” live is worse than the produced version. I didn’t realize that is possible.

Kelly Clarkson … I was actually looking forward to her, but now she’s singing Miss Independent? Please stop. I’m so ready for this to be over, Kelly. My little brother- “It’s like someone threw a bottle at her – her make up is horrible!” Hahaha. Ah, a montage of her songs through the one that’s popular today? Of course. What’s with the straining in her voice? These songs were not made for live performance. That’s the problem with pop music today. These songs are all too over-produced in the studio to the point that the singers can’t  capture the same intensity when they’re attempted live.

***

A personal intermission while I switched TVs. Had to reprogram the universal remote. Had to figure out the digital stream box. (We’re so high tech here in our household.) What did I miss? I’m sure nothing much.

A performance by No Doubt is where I’m picking this up.

Aaaaand okay I’ve got to turn this off now. What is she wearing? The sound quality on this TV is terrible … though I almost feel like Gwen’s singing well.

Ah, the Black Keys are nominated for Alternative Rock. At least there’s someone good showcased tonight. But … of course Linkin Park takes it. One could only hope. Oh, and their fifth win? That explains it.

Taylor Swift’s live performance! I was SO waiting for this!!!!! Not.

I wish that someday she could learn that she doesn’t know how to sing. Why has no one told her yet? That eye make up makes her look like she has tears streaming down the sides of her face. Oooh tricky costume change. Not particularly enjoying the theatrical aspect of this performance either. At least she’s yet to over-sexualize herself, I’ll give her that. But please, Taylor, get some voice lessons to back up all those vocal awards you’ve won. (For more ranting on Taylor Swift, please see my post on the Grammys from earlier this year.)

Flashback to Sarah McLaughlin and Cyndi Lauper singing Time After Time. That was when pop music was good. When singers had to be talented to gain recognition. I’d pay to see that performance in its full.

Skipping ahead … I’m actually pleased to see Nicki Minaj is sticking to what she’s good at. After that ridiculous performance at the Grammys earlier this year, she’s back to rapping. I’ll ignore the costume and focus on how she’s properly displaying her talent instead of making a fool out of herself with some sort of spectacle of a performance. Again, see that Grammy post.

You know, I really can’t spend any more time on this. I’ve lasted an hour and a half. I’d love to see Fun. win Best New Artist. I’d love to see some good performances. I’ve a feeling the rest of the AMA’s are going to be full of what this first half was full of. Cocky attitudes, bad live performances, the wrong artists winning awards because people these days do not recognize talent. I’ll conclude this post prematurely and turn off the TV. I really was just hoping to be entertained. Someone please regale me later with what I (don’t care about) miss(ing)!

Glen Hansard- Breaker of my Heart

Okay, perhaps the title is a bit brash or over the top.

Also, okay, this is the third or fourth or hundredth (hyperbole) post about Glen Hansard on this blog. (It has been pointed out by a friend that this blog could perhaps be retitled “Vegetables and Glen.”)

But really, Mr. Hansard, I have some more things to say to you.

If you’ve read that first post about my love for Glen Hansard, you can hopefully realize that I am not a crazy person worshipping some celebrity-type. (At least I hope that’s not who I am!) I have a genuine respect for Mr. Hansard and his talent and art. His music awakes in me an emotional response with almost every listen. I am so pleased that his talent has been recognized in a world where over-processed music receives most of the awards.

And if you read my two-part post (part 1 and part 2) on seeing Mr. Hansard perform twice in one week and having a whirl-wind conversation with him that was quickly forgotten on his end (which is completely understandable, no harm done), perhaps you can find a way to relate to me- we all have favorite music, yes? And if we have the opportunity to hear our favorite musicians live, don’t we all wish to hear that song- that one song we have been listening to constantly in its engineered state, the one we can sing all the words to, or we play on our own instruments while hiding away in our bedrooms? And wouldn’t it be all the worse if the song was essentially promised to you two days before the show, by the musician himself, and then it was never played?

Yes we do! We all want to hear it (whatever “it” is to each of us)!

And after seeing Mr. Hansard perform in three different locations on four different occasions, promoting multiple CDs and accomplishments, over the course of four years, I really expected that by know I would have heard that song.

But alas, life is unfair. Or something like that.

So what? I’ve said that all before in the aforementioned posts on this blog. Why bring it up again?

This is why:

I recently relocated back to Pennsylvania, to a town just about an hour north of Philadelphia. This relocation officially happened on September 25th.

Glen Hansard’s Rhythm and Repose tour (which allowed me to see him twice in June of this year) took him to Philadelphia. On September 20th.

Oh, what? Glen Hansard was in Philadelphia five days before my return?

I allowed myself to get over that up until receiving a phone call on September 20th, at 8pm pacific standard time, from a friend who was attending the Philadelphia show.

Over the phone I heard lots of people cheering, lots of muffled noises, and- oh- what was that? The beginning sounds of that song?

I was five days away from being back in Philadelphia and there was Glen Hansard playing THAT SONG!

Oh, the travesty! Oh, the pain! (Hyperbole.)

But seriously, please feel my pain here!

It’s not like I have unlimited funds to see Mr. Hansard play at every venue he reaches worldwide. I’ve seen him in Philadelphia. I’ve seen him in New York City. I’ve seen him (twice) in Los Angeles. His current tour, through March 2013, is coming nowhere near me again. The only place feasible is Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, as I have a sister in college down there- but it’s at the beginning of December, when I should be conserving money for holiday travels. And who’s to say I’d actually hear that song if I were to attend?

Have I lost my chance to ever hear Fitzcarraldo live? Will I have to suffice with listening to it on Set List or The Roads Outgrown time and time again, just to try to get the live experience?

Can anyone relate to me on this (pithy, yes) matter? Mr. Hansard, if your eyes ever grace this page, can you give me any idea as to when I’ll be able to hear the song you promised to me in Los Angeles? My offer still stands for a jam session. Just name the time and place.

Music Monday- Mumford & Sons in Monterey

Gentlemen of the Road- Monterey Stopover

Saturday was a wonderful day spent in Monterey, where Mumford & Sons put on their sixth of seven world-wide music festivals. It was my first time up in Monterey and I thoroughly enjoyed being in that little touristy beachy town; I will save those details for another post.

This was apparently an “intimate evening,” kept “small” so that everyone could really enjoy themselves. Well, “small” meant a sold-out 10,000 capacity for the Monterey Fairgrounds. Might I also add that it was sold out within one week of the show being announced? These guys are big.

Small and intimate, just the way I like things. (Hah. Despite the crowd, I managed to thoroughly enjoy myself.) This picture was actually taken during Gogol Bordello, the band right before Mumford and Sons took the stage. As you may imagine, the venue just got more full once Mumford began playing.

This is the third time I have seen Mumford & Sons live. The first time I saw them was at the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philadelphia in May 2010. It was one of their earlier shows in the United States, they were still newer to the music scene here. The TLA’s capacity is a mere 1000, compared to the 10,000 fans Mumford serenaded on Friday. I count myself lucky to have been at that first performance, just as they were starting to become known. There was a magic about that one that can only be found as a band is first reaching stardom. The four of them were so enthralled by the crowd’s excitement that they were getting emotional about it at times. They were still working out kinks and learning things that you can only learn after performing live many, many times. It wasn’t the best presented show, but the music was spot on.

The music was still spot on during their performance on Saturday night.

After a long day of openers on two stages who included Slow Club, Haim, Apache Relay, Two Gallants, Grouplove, Gogol Bordello, and The Very Best (who actually ended the festival after Mumford & Sons), Mumford took the main stage at 8:50pm. One of the (many) wonderful things about this festival is that every show started on time. Gogol Bordello even started a few minutes early. I have a feeling many follow up Music Mondays will include reviews of Slow Club, Apache Relay, and Gogol Boredello. I’d heard of the first and the last before, but Apache Relay was new to me- and as they are from Nashville and have that sort of vibe, I thoroughly enjoyed them as well.

Mumford opened with a song from their yet to be released new album Babel (September 24th you can’t come soon enough!)- Lovers’ Eyes. They immediately followed with the crowd pleaser that is Little Lion Man (language in the chorus). This was Mumford & Son’s debut song from their first album, “Sigh No More,” in 2009. It was nominated for the 2011 Best Rock Song Grammy (though it lost out to Neil Young’s “Angry World.”) It hit prime positions on music charts in 10 different countries, including #1 for US Alternative Songs.

Throughout the show they played a wonderful mix of old and new songs and did it all with the vibrancy and tenacity that I’ve come to see in them time and time again. They also could not have closed out the set any better. After initially ending with Dust Bowl Dance (from their first album), they walked off the stage and then came back for the obligatory encore. Opening the encore with Winter Winds got the crowd going wild (again). And then came the best song of the night (sure, I’m biased)- The Cave. What a wonderful, beautiful song. It has long been my favorite from “Sigh No More.” They closed out the night by bringing all of the day’s musicians onto the stage to play The Weight by The Band. There was no better song to end this epic show with. No. Better. Song. As Levon Helm of The Band passed away in April of this year, I’ve been hearing his music more and more in the circle of artists that I enjoy. Some of you may remember my loving rant posts about seeing Glen Hansard in June. He ended his show with two songs by The Band, in honor of Levon Helm. This is a perfect song for a collaboration of artists, and Mumford & company  played it beautifully on Saturday night.

during the second half of Lovers’ Eyes

One characteristic that draws me to Mumford & Sons is their authenticity. They are really doing this because they love it. They write music and perform it for the fans out of sheer enjoyment. They seem to have no ulterior motives. Let me put it this way- I actually left for 10 minutes or so during one of the other bands, I just walked around and explored the fairgrounds (and, yes, took advantage of smaller lines for the bathrooms). That is not something I do. Music is to be enjoyed. But I left during one of the bands because I was frustrated with their stage presence. The content of their songs and their chatter between them had an air of assumed authority. Sure they were enjoying playing their music, but they (to me) also seemed to be enjoying (to a fault) the fact that all eyes were on them. And that it somehow made them better than the rest of us.

For all the talent and fame that Mumford & Sons has, they exude no air of assumed authority. They never appear to believe that they are better than anyone they are playing their music for. They are playing it to share it. That is what should be done. That is one of the many reasons I follow this band.

Were you there in Monterey also? Let me know your thoughts! If you are reading this and have not listened to Mumford & Sons before, I’d love to know your initial reaction to their music- here is the official audio for their new single “I Will Wait,” which will be found on their album “Babel” to be released on September 24th. Enjoy!

summer playlist

I wrote a guest post on Jeremy’s blog today, contributing to his “Friday Four-Play” series.

It’s a simple, short 17 minute long playlist that encompasses my summer thus far.

You can check it out here. Give Jeremy’s blog some love!

music Monday- a day for randomness

I’ve another playlist for today, and this time it is one I had no control over. I’ve decided that, given the wide and eclectic variety of music I own on iTunes, today’s post is the first six songs (kind of) that play on shuffle from my entire iTunes library of 4990 songs. So, here goes:

The first one to play is “A Short Story” by a band called The Album Leaf. This is a 19.5 minute song that I have never listened to. I will not include it in the playlist for that reason.

The second song to play is track 11 from a Chinese pop CD named “Alcohol Songs” (disc C). I do not have the track names because they are all in Chinese characters. My brother asked us if he could purchase this CD when we were in China with him. I actually managed to find it on Spotify, but it is not one that I am able to share through a playlist. So it will not count towards one of the six.

1. The third song. Here is one I can include on the playlist. “Blinding” by Florence + The Machine. I thoroughly enjoy listening to Florence + The Machine. The style of music is just edgy enough that I can still enjoy it. She has a crazy voice that she has massive control over. My favorite of her songs is called “Swimming.”

2. The fourth song is M83’s “I Guess I’m Floating.” It is a short, lovely, ambient-like song that could make you feel like you are perhaps, well, floating.

Next to play is “Fable Practice Space” by Cloud Cult. I was first introduced to Cloud Cult through their song “When Water Comes to Life.” I thoroughly enjoy their CD “The Meaning of 8.” This song is really just two minutes of idle noise, so I will not include it on the playlist. But check out “The Meaning of 8,” it has some great songs.

3. The next song that comes up, and third on the playlist, is “All Those Years Ago” by George Harrison. The Beatles are one of my two favorite bands (my other favorite is The Frames, in case you haven’t figured that out yet). George is, and has always been, my favorite of The Beatles. I feel like we only get a glimpse into his creative mind through his guitar fills and solos. He was the genius behind “Here Comes the Sun,” and if that can’t convince you of George Harrison, I believe nothing can.

4. The fourth song for the playlist is “Ooh La La” from the band The Faces. It is from the soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore.” I obtained this song through a nostalgia mix that Jeremy made me. You’ll have to ask him why he enjoys it so much. It’s a catchy one for sure. Folky and rambling, very enjoyable.

5. Next is “My Lovely” by Eisley. I have always enjoyed Eisley. This is from their first CD (Room Noises), and the entirety of this CD has more of a bright and sunny feel than the other CDs of theirs I have heard. Eisley is made up of five siblings, and I love hearing the harmonies in their songs- it is hard to make anything sound nicer than sibling’s voices blending together.

6. Last on the playlist is “Danse Carribe,” by Andrew Bird. I actually just obtained this song last night and haven’t listened to it much yet. I really enjoy Andrew Bird, his talent is revolutionary. I was first drawn to him for his violin talent. He includes violin in almost all of his songs, and many times it is layers upon layers upon layers of that beautiful instrument. He whistles and plays guitar and sings and plays violin and so much more for his songs, and he has the ability to be a one-man band when he performs live. It really is a sight to see! I was happy to see him quite a few years ago in Philadelphia. At just over halfway through this song you can enjoy some of his raw violin talent, and I hope you can enjoy the song as a whole, also!

So, there’s a tiny glimpse into my iTunes library. Perhaps six songs wasn’t enough to show the true versatility of it, but there you have it, for now. I have so much music that I don’t actually listen to, and I think it’s fun sometimes to just listen to everything on shuffle and be surprised by a song from a few years ago, or a song I’ve never actually heard.

What could I find on your iTunes library? The good? The bad? I’d love to hear it!

Music Monday- LP

This girl can SING. And I don’t typically enjoy bands featuring female vocalists who have voices that are this strong. But seriously now, she’s got a VOICE, people!

I don’t know much else about LP. I just know this video. And her 2012 album Into The Wild- Live at EastWest Studios (embedded under the video). So here is all I know. I hope you enjoy her as much as I do!