Monday, November 30, 2009

Brain of a Fish Band Pick: The Dead Weather

I was lucky enough to attend the taping of the mtvU Woodie Awards back on 11/18. It's quite an experience to be present at any awards show…especially a music-related one like this. "The Woodies"  is an awards show specifically for mtvU, which is the MTV channel that specifically caters to college students and their favorite indie bands.

While I was there, to some degree, I felt a bit out of touch with some of the music that seems to be capturing the hearts of Generation Y. These groups...Passion Pit and Matt and Kim, to name a couple, were enjoyable, but I just wasn't connecting to it in the same way that this demographic does. However, there was one particular exception...The Dead Weather.

The Dead Weather is Jack White's latest project. For those of you hiding 'neath the covers, Jack White is the singer/guitarist of The White Stripes, as well as his popular side project, The Raconteurs. The Dead Weather was formed by White along with Alison Mosshart, from the Kills. In this band, Jack White exercises his multi-instrumental talents. We were used to his moody vocals and his messy, yet brilliant, distorted guitar in White Stripes. In the Dead Weather, however, White primarily plays drums (and plays them quite well, I might add). During live shows, he'll occasionally step upstage to play guitar, too. Most impressive though, is his ability to successfully take on the daunting task of singing lead vocals while playing drums.

What astounded me most about seeing them live was their raw energy. A powerful, classic-sound. This song particularly has a punkish energy that's almost reminiscent of  Rage Against the Machine.

Check out this video of them performing  Treat Me Like Your Mother  live (not from the Woodies). This song is from their debut album, Horehound. Also, check 'em out when the Woodie Awards airs on Dec. 4th on mtvU.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brain of a Fish Album Review: Them Crooked Vultures

It's not often that you listen to a new album and it literally (well, almost) blows you away.  With the exception of the latest Mother Hips (my favorite band) release, Pacific Dust, it's been quite a while since new music has had that effect on me...until now, that is. And, if you're interested in having the same mind-blowing experience, I've got three words for you -- Them Crooked Vultures.

They're referred to as a supergroup since the band is comprised of Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) on vocals and guitar, John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) on bass guitar and keyboards, and Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) on drums.  In this case, the word super certainly applies in more ways than one. 

This self-titled debut album of theirs is chock full of aural pleasures reminiscent of each members' current and former bands….as well as some pretty obvious influences.  The album opener, "No One Loves Me & Neither Do I" is a sexy, badass tune that starts as pure Queens of the Stone Age, yet turns into a heavy, pounding Led Zeppelin-ish tune. "Elephants" has the raw, angry, tempo-changing riffs remindful of Led Zeppelin, as well.  "Scumbag Blues" sounds like a modern-day Cream. (Josh Homme's falsetto, Jack Bruce-ish vocals…the bone-crunching distorted guitar solo supported by Jones' solid bassline)..  "Warsaw, Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up"  would be completely at home on a Doors album.  "Bandoliers" has some Foo Fighters-esque chorus melodies interwoven with some exotic guitar sounds.

At times, it seems that Grohl is channeling John Bonham. Grohl and Jones are so in sync, it sounds like they've been playing together for years. Jones' ripping bass lines along with Grohl's heavy-hitting, yet ultra-tasteful dynamic beats provide the stiff backbone for these tunes.

Aside from superb songwriting and top-notch musicianship, something that sets this album apart from others is the production. The album was self-produced by the band…and trust me, that's a good thing.  The production on most current albums make it difficult to assess the talent of these musicians since we're virtually unable to isolate each instrument. The overproduced tunes with layers upon candy-coated layers of guitar tracks almost making the whole band sound as if it's just a single sound.

In contrast, on  Them Crooked Vultures,nothing is overproduced. To the listener, it sounds like a band in a rehearsal studio simply playing their asses off and having a great time doing it. The listener can easily focus in on any one instrument at any time and be dumbstruck by the raw talent.  The best part though is when you listen to the band as a whole and how each instrument works with the other to produce a tight, ultra-collaborative album. 

Homme, Grohl, and Jones each shine at any given moment in any song.  Grohl, who played drums in Nirvana, pleasantly surprised us when he started Foo Fighters as not only a frontman, but a guitar player.  In Them Crooked Vultures, we're able to see him go back to his original instrument and showcase his talents like never before.  John Paul Jones, who we all know from Led Zeppelin, shows that he's still got it.  We're now able to realize how distinctive his bass lines are by hearing him play with yet another top-notch set of musicians.  Josh Homme is a fantastic vocalist and a kick-ass guitarist. I've only listened to the Lullabies to Paralyzealbum by Queens of the Stone Age thus far.  However, you can bet that I'll be checking out their other albums after hearing him in TCV.

I could go on and dissect each song separately, but I won't.  What I will do is tell you that, if you like good, smart, instantly-classic music, run to the store (or your computer)…don't walk…and buy this album! Oh yeah, and listen to it loud!

Monday, November 16, 2009

All-Swimupclusiveness = Happiness

Just yesterday, I returned from a fantastic vacation at a resort in the Dominican Republic. Spectacular beach, crystal clear ocean, fantastic pools of all shapes and sizes, and constant sunshine....what more could I ask for. Ironically though, the best part about this vacation was the fact that it was at an all-inclusive resort. I'm not sure how many of you have experienced a vacation at an all-inclusive resort...but you should know, it's nothing short of heaven right here on Earth.

I typically use vacations as a time to re-assess my life...pinpointing areas that I'd like to change...and also just simply thinking about what makes me happy. Well, I've decided that what makes me happy is....all-inclusiveness!  I mean, sure these vacations still cost money. After all, nothing's free in this world. But, the mere fact that I was able to lock up my wallet in my hotel room's safe for the week, yet still have unlimited food and drinks...I could barely comprehend it. I couldn't put it into words the joy that I felt. A stress-free week without worrying about money...ahhhh.

It led me to could I bring this feeling of pure satisfaction back to my everyday life? Well..hmmm..I guess I probably can't. Just imagine it though...what if we just paid a lump sum of money every year and were always able to go into any restaurant we chose...whenever we wanted...and ate and drank to our hearts' content? Not very realistic, I guess, but quite appealing.  I guess I just like the feeling of something being included. Makes me feel nice inside.

So, I began thinking about yet another facet of my vacation that made me happy....the swim-up bar! This too just might be difficult to take home with me. It does beg the question, however, why is it that things are more fun when you swim up to them? Laugh if you must. If you don't believe me, then try this...walk into a bar and order a drink. Now, go to that same bar, but instead of walking in, swim up to it and order your drink. Which was more fun? See what I mean?  Perhaps we could instate that pleasure-inducing mode of transportation somewhere in society. Swim-up banks maybe? Swim-up supermarkets? Maybe going to the dentist would be a more palatable experience if you could just swim up to the dentist chair.

These may be dreams for now, but at least I now know that I will ensure that my next vacation destination will be an all-inclusive, swim-up bar-inhabited resort. As for you...well you can read my all-inclusive blog. You navigate to the blog and can read all of these! Now, I just need to figure out how I can get you to swim up to it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Brain of a Fish Video Pick: Hot Video from Death Cab for Cutie

This is the second video that I've posted from Death Cab for they must be good. This is the new video for their single Meet Me on the Equinox, from The Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack. Great song...great video. Enjoy!

Friday, November 6, 2009

My Jeanius Tendencies

It's true that "jeans" may not be the most common topic for a blog post.  However,  I have, what some people might consider, an unreasonable attachment to my jeans.  It's not that I'm obsessed with them or anything. That would be weird.  I'm just a bit particular about them. Oh...and then there's the fact that they're the only form of pants that I will ever wear on my legs in the non-summer months.

Sure, if you go looking through my closet, you may come across a few pairs of corduroys and maybe a couple pairs of khakis. However, these don't ever go into rotation unless it's absolutely necessary. And believe me, there'd better be a good reason for me to be wearing something other than my beloved jeans.

Of my varied selection of jeans, only a lucky few end up making it into my weekly rotation.  And actually, from the moment of purchase, I'm probably aware of which ones I will and won't wear, but I'll never admit it at the time.  I'll  always buy some dark ones and a couple not-so-dark ones ...just so there's a bit of jean variety.  I even have one pair with a button-fly, which I regret ever having purchased.  In fact, I think it was an accidental purchase. I didn't realize they were button-fly when I bought them. Think about it...when you undo your fly,  it's for one of three reasons...  1) you're about to go to the bathroom  2) you're about to have sex, or 3) you're about to go to sleep.  Most, if not all of  these are relatively time-sensitive and somewhat urgent activities.  Button-flies only serve to make the process of removing your jeans take longer than it needs to.  They're never as easy as the simple-to-maneuver mechanics of our familiar friend, the zipper.   

So, anyway,  I become attached to a select few pairs of jeans..maybe three of them.  I'll wear these jeans day after day after day. When all three of these pairs of jeans are dirty, I will exclaim, "I have nothing to wear!"…even though my closet is stocked with additional pairs of jeans and the aforementioned corduroys and khakis.  I don't like to leave the house not feeling comfortable.  Apparently, leg coverings dictate my level of comfort. Weird? Definitely.  The problem is...I keep on wearing and washing these jeans that little-by-little, the legs seem to get incrementally the point where, when I sit down, my socks are fully exposed.  That's most certainly a jean faux pas.  Perhaps if I keep washing them, they will turn into jean shorts. That way, I can wear jeans in the hot summer months as well.  Smart, huh?

Fortunately, I work at a company where people are allowed to wear jeans. In fact, every company I've ever worked for was jeans-friendly.  I'm actually not even sure if my co-workers would recognize me in pants. Well, I'm sure they would recognize me, but they may not recognize my legs.  "Nice to see you, Jon...but who are they?" (as they point to my legs)  They might worry about me if I was crazy enough to change it up like that. 

I don't like to worry people.  To be safe, I'll stick with my jeans.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dear Joe...

Hopefully, many of you have the good fortune of living near a Trader Joe's supermarket.  After years of shopping at the mainstream supermarkets, Trader Joe's has made my Sunday food shopping quite a bit more enjoyable. Its unique twists and takes on snacks and desserts...its delicious, easy-to-prepare lunches and dinners...and its reasonable prices are just a few of the appealing factors of this chain. To show my gratitude, I have listed 10 reasons why I love you, Trader Joe!

  1. Your individual bags of "handfuls" of almonds: You make me know when I've had enough almonds, Joe. Nobody's ever done that for me before.
  2. Your lack of hydrogenated oils: Stop and Shop, A&P, Shop Rite…you name it. They try to load me up with trans fats and clog my arteries. They don't care about me the way that you do, Joe.
  3. Your infinite variety of combination juices: Apple Grape, Black Raspberry, Blueberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Kiwi…the list goes on. It's like an interracial, interfaith marriage of delectable fruits. Your acceptance and willingness to blend fruits from different backgrounds is pure and beautiful.
  4. Your frozen vegetarian pizza: You make it easy to have a quick, easily-prepared dinner. Sure there's cheese on it, but those delicious veggies sprinkled on top makes me feel like I'm being just a little bit healthier…and you understand how important that is, Joe.
  5. Your never-ending selection of "healthy" chips: You realize that a "popped" chip is healthier than a "fried" chip. Who else even thought of that? You realize that sweet potato chips are a welcome alternative to regular potato chips. Damn, you're intuitive!
  6. Your nitrate/nitrite-free hot dogs and whole wheat buns: Sure it's not the same greasy dog that you'd be eating while watching the Yankees, but there are other occasions to eat hot dogs, too....and you might not always want to pollute your body with these toxic preservatives. Who knows this? That's do, Joe.
  7. Your unbeatable selection of cookies: Dunkers, Way-more Chocolate Chip cookies, Joe-Joes, etc. C'mon…the way you thought of taking America's favorite cookie,the Oreo...removing the hydrogenated oils, and calling it by your name…twice? Pure genius.  I don't see any "Pathmark Pathmark" cookies anywhere!  Just good 'ol "Joe-Joes"! Brilliant.
  8. Your toilet paper, paper towels, detergents, soaps, and shampoos: Products that are environmental, non-toxic, and don't have any Disney/Hannah Montana branding. Need I say more, Joe?
  9. The fact that you unload the items from my cart and bag them for me: I think you're more than aware that nobody else does this for me.  Could you be any more selfless, Joe?
  10. Your daily samples: You not only allow me to purchase your amazing products to feed myself at home, but while I'm shopping, you make sure I'm fed.  That's truly the way to my heart.  Apparently, you're the only one who knows this, Joe.
The list could go on and on. Thanks for everything, Joe. See you on Sunday.

Brain of a Fish Video Pick: Hot Video from Foo Fighters

Here's a new video from one of my favorite bands, Foo Fighters.  They are led by insanely talented, multi-instrumentalist, Dave Grohl, who we also know as former Nirvana drummer. As a musician myself, I'm always inspired by Grohl's musicianship, his songwriting ability, and his pure musical energy.  In these post-Nirvana days, he's managed to configure this band of amazing musicians, including one of my favorite drummers...the heavy-hitting, Taylor Hawkins.

The Foo Fighters are about to release their Greatest Hits collection, which includes the new single, Wheels. Check out the video!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Deal or No Deal?

Why can't anyone buy a car these days without it being so darn complicated? C'mon…you tell me how much it is, I pay you, and you give me the car.  It should be that simple, right?  Not quite.

My current lease just ended and I, luckily, somehow lived to tell about my car shopping ordeal.  It's an experience that can hurt your brain, your wallet, and your self-esteem.

Every time a car commercial came on…and every time I saw an ad in the paper….it gave me hope...but not for long!!  $199/month?? That's an extremely reasonable price! Could it be real??  Well, no.  Only if you put $3,999 down and $1900 at inception!?  Disheartening, I tell you.  Whatever..I'll just go to the dealership. It'll be easier. Ha.

1. Me: Yes, can you please tell me how much a monthly payment is for a 36 month lease on a Toyota Highlander?
2. Salesman: Well, how much do you want it to be?
3. Me: Uhh..(can I really say ANY number??? Should I say "nothing"? Should I say "$20/month"?)  Umm..uh..$350/month??
4. Salesman: Let me go talk to my manager.
(repeat #3-4 many, many times)

What's the deal with the "manager" guy? Does he even exist? And why can't he come talk to me himself? Does he have to keep himself mysterious? Is he like Jacob from "Lost"?  Every time I negotiated, the salesman had to go back to talk to him. Make yourself known, Mr. Manager!!  

Each time he went back there, he kept me waiting for at least 10 minutes. Frustrating…frustrating..and even more frustrating.  How do I know that the salesman isn't just hanging out in the back smoking a cigarette?  I think it's a tactic so that you'll end up saying "Ugh, I've been here for hours already. I've invested this much time...I might as well take the car!"  And after being there for a few hours, I did take it!  Mostly because I really liked the car, but partly because I didn't think I could go through the same process at another dealership.

At least it's something that I need to do only every three years.  Can you imagine if every purchase was like this?  What if I asked for a Mocha Frapuccino at Starbucks and they said "How much do you want to pay for it?"  Or what if they said you can have it for $1.95, but you have to put $2.49 down and pay 51 cents at inception."?  Thankfully, this madness doesn't happen with most of our daily purchases.

Luckily, I did end up with a car in the end. No idea if I paid a fair price. I don't think I'll ever know....but "the manager" will always know.
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