Pizzicato Five: Hi guys! Let me teach you – Surprisingly good

I’m on record in the comments as having said Pizzicato Five’s pre-1994 material is of questionable merit. Well, I have to take it back a little, because I forgot completely about 1991’s Hi guys! Let me teach you. It’s an über-smooth instrumental set, with a jazzy groove and a relaxing downtempo lounge feel.

It was recorded as a soundtrack to a japanese tv show and is surprisingly hard to find. so if you run across a copy somewhere, pick it up.

Stereolab – Ping Pong: Geo-political Rock

ping pong

ping pong at itunes

Ping Pong is an unusually uptempo, rockin’ song from Stereolab’s mars audiac quintet. It’s one of my favorites from the groop and the increase in tempo gives its lyrics a stronger visceral impact.

Though released in 1994, the lyrics show a degree of timelessness, given the current geo-political situation.

it’s alright ‘cos the historical pattern has shown
how the economical cycle tends to revolve.
in a round of decades three stages stand out in a loop.
a slump and war then peel back to square one and back for more

bigger slump and bigger wars and a smaller recovery
huger slump and greater wars and a shallower recovery

you see the recovery always comes ’round again
there’s nothing to worry for things will look after themselves
it’s alright recovery always comes ’round again
there’s nothing to worry if things can only get better

there’s only millions that lose their jobs and homes and sometimes accents
there’s only millions that die in their bloody wars, it’s alright

it’s only their lives and the lives of their next of kin that they are losing
it’s only their lives and the lives of their next of kin that they are losing

it’s alright ‘cos the historical pattern has shown
how the economical cycle tends to revolve.
in a round of decades three stages stand out in a loop.
a slump and war then peel back to square one and back for more

bigger slump and bigger wars and a smaller recovery
huger slump and greater wars and a shallower recovery

don’t worry. be happy. things will get better naturally.
don’t worry. shut up. sit down. go with it and be happy.

Meanwhile, enjoy this poor quailty music video of the song; it’s so very 90s:

John Williams – Jurassic Park: Hold on to your butts

jurassic park

jurassic park compact disc jurassic park at itunes

Since the mid-1970s, John Williams has never been lacking in notoriety.

Jaws, Towering Inferno, Close Encounters, Superman, Star Wars… these film scores made him a household name, gaining fame and respect for work that is generally restricted to devotees and cultists only. The Star Wars album even managed to break into the public’s consciousness, becoming best-seller on the Billboard charts for 1977 and inspiring an awful disco/dance version of the main titles that went to number one on that same chart.

My dad even had the vinyl double-disc mixed in with his Beatles and Grand Funk.

Williams became as close to being a rock star as a composer of "serious music" could get. And he kept it up into the early 80s with popular themes to the Star Wars sequels and the Indiana Jones franchise.

Then something peculiar seems to have happened. Looking over his list of credits, starting in 1983, we see a sharp decrease in his film output. I’m not overly familiar with his biography, so I don’t know what all he did during that time, but he does appear to keep a rather low profile for the next 10 years (maybe he spent most of his time chilling with the Boston Pops?). And while many of the scores he did produce during that time have artistic merit, none of them can claim to have captured the same public zest as those earlier hits.

Even the scores to the hit films Home Alone and Hook failed to garner much attention outside of film score buff circles, despite the films’ mass audience popularity.

Williams never really disappeared, but in 1993, he becomes a rock star again. And the film that does it is Jurassic Park. Like Star Wars before it, this picture hit a critical mass in cultural awareness and became a landmark event in the history of movie making.

And as with Star Wars, Williams’ music for the film became a crossover hit. Among my peers, it was not uncommon to see Jurassic Park mixed in with Nirvana or Snoop Dogg.

And the reasons are obvious. With its sweeping themes and dinosaur-sized sound, this thing is a masterpiece. The majesty of the Journey to the Island suite is easily the high point of the score. But throughout the score’s entire length, it fails to disappoint. There is not a single bad note in its entire 70 minute length.

If you haven’t heard it in a while, I heartily recommend that you check it out.

Yoshinori Sunahara – Pan Am: The Sound of the 70s

Yoshinori Sunahara - sound of the 70s

Yoshinori Sunahara drm-free mp3 Yoshinori Sunahara compact disc

I recently had the pleasure of reacquainting myself with a little record called Pan Am: The Sound of the 70s, a dazzling example of late-90s downtempo shibuya-kei from producer Yoshinori Sunahara. Some truly funky beats, lush arrangements, and (surprisingly for an offshoot of electronic music), some engaging songcraft grace this remarkably enjoyable album.

Sunahara, who has an obsessive fascination with air travel demonstrates that fascination with not only the "Pan Am" in the album title but also a track called 747 Dub as well as ambient sound recordings meant to evoke the feeling of an airport terminal.

The album’s subtitle, "The Sound of the 70s" however, is little misleading. This recording may get its iconography and inspiration from the jet-settingly fashionable TWA era, but it’s sound is pure late-90s Japan. You owe it you yourself to check out the album’s standout track: the soulfully reworked bossa version of Sun Song (called Sun Song 70s). I’ve had this album for even years now and have never once been bored with it, despite its low-key persona.

The album itself is out of print and a bit rare (and pricey) these days. So unless you just have to have that tactile quality, digital download is the way to go. Apple has the whole disc in iTunes Plus.

this midway island earth

halfway kang and kodos

I reached another tunequest milestone today at 7:48 pm, officially crossing the halfway point of this journey. Pictured above are screenshots of the playlists i use to keep track of my progress. even though the song count is off by 364, you can see that the total time for the played group is slightly higher than the songs remaining. Unless I end up adding significantly more music to my library in the coming months, it should be all down hill from here.

To which I say: Hooray.

and just in case you’re curious, the song that took me over the hump was Alf Clausen’s Kang and Kodos theme from The Simpsons’ Treehouse of horror series.

Rock for Choice: Pearl Jam in Pensacola

Rock for choice poster

On the evening of March 9, 1994 I attended my first and only Pearl Jam concert at the Pensacola Civic Center in, you guessed it, Pensacola Florida (where PJ guitarist Mike McCready happens to have been born). I was a freshman in high school at the scampy young age of 15 and, having just discovered the full breadth of grunge six months before, I reveled in the notion that one the top bands in the scene would be swinging through my podunk.

(so as not to forget my roots and to illustrate how far I had come, I’ll mention that the civic center is the same venue where I saw new kids on the block just a couple years before. Funny story there. I received tickets to the show as birthday present at the height of the group’s popularity. For some reason though, the show was postponed and by the time the rescheduled date rolled around, the group’s "Cool" Factor had dropped considerably. Still, it was fun; They had lasers. Freakin’ lasers!)

Anyway, the Pearl Jam show rocked. However, the occasion that brought them did not. This show was held as a benefit in response to the murder of Dr. Gunn by an anti-abortion nutjob in pensacola the previous year and is an early example of pearl jam’s nascent politicism. Dr. Gunn’s death was also one in a series of news stories that garnered national attention for pensacola, but always in a negative spotlight, including a second doctor killing, hurricane ivan and the pensacola: Wings of gold tv show.

I remember in the weeks before the show, there were rumors about L7, who were opening for Pearl Jam and there was a constant buzz about more religious nutjobs issuing death threats and staging a massive protest of the concert. Despite that, or maybe because of it, the show was a huge community event. I stood in line for hours on a cold february morning with my dad at a ticketing booth on pensacola nas hoping that the show wouldn’t sell out before our chance to buy tickets. We did, thankfully, manage to get a couple, even though the show was the fastest selling concert in the history of the city at the time.

By the day the show arrived, the excitement was palpable. There were additional rumors that the band had been spotted at a local guitar shop. This was never confirmed though. That afternoon brought one of Pensacola’s notorious thunderstorms, which continued until almost show time. This had the effect of dampening the enthusiasm of any would-be protesters. However, security at the Civic Center was still heightened; Everyone going in had to show their ticket and empty their pockets to prove that they were not carrying any weapons.

I had arrived late, taking my seat at the rear of the venue as the first opening band, Follow for Now, concluded its set. My seat may have been in the back of the venue, but I had a direct view of the center of the stage and a wide vantage point from which to observe the entire experience. I swear I’ve never seen as many people inside the Civic Center as I did that night at the largest Rock for Choice concert ever held.

Most of my memories of the show are a blur, these 12 years later, but I still sharply recall the iconic image of Eddie Vedder, lit by a single spotlight, gently singing Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down. Fortunately for my memory, I found a bootleg recording of the show a number of years ago (the date on the files say september of 2000. It’s a little disconcerting to think that it took me six years after the show to find the recording, and it’s been another six years since I found it). It happens to be the only recording that I own of a concert that I’ve attended. The sound quality on the recording is quite good, the only unfortunate part being it cuts off 54 seconds into Porch. Still, whenever I want to travel back in time, all I have to do is press “Play.”

::

Download pearl jam live in pensacola.

The tunequest half way point

So today, July 22, marks the half way point of tunequest in terms of calendar days. And while I’m a little behind overall, it doesn’t look as bad as I was projecting a couple weeks ago. The count shows a deficit of roughly 500 songs, which seems like a lot. However, the time count shows about a 10 hour deficit.

Some quick math tells me that the average song length will be 5% less on the back end of the project, which should help accelerate the number count.

In any case, it’s been a great five and a half months getting to know the songs in my library more fully. And I can quantify that progress. From the about page:

After 3.5 Years of itunes statistics, 9597 songs (65%) had never been played or only played once. Further analysis revealed that 10% of the songs were responsible for 49% of the play counts.

As of today, which includes 4 years of stat collecting, I can say that 7622 songs have a playcount of 0 or 1. That’s now 54% of my total library, a 11% improvement. Also, the top 10% of my songs are now responsible for 42% of the my total plays. It’s still a large disparity, but there’s been a marked improvement.

And honestly, given the rules of the tunequest, I may listen to every song in my library, but that will still leave about 5700 songs with a count of 1, so the lowest that first indicator will get is 40%.

As for the top 10%, the lowest they’ll go is 35%.

But hey, I’m really having too much fun with this project to worry that much about the numbers. So here’s to more another 5 and a half months of great music listening.

iTunes Statistician for the iTunes Stats Obsessive

There’s a new program in town (for Mac users) to help you gather more nuggets of information about your listening habits as reflected by your iTunes library. it’s a nifty little piece of donation-ware called iTunes Statistician and it analyzes your library data to calculate your top 100 songs, artists, albums and genres, based on playcounts (and optionally weights for star rating as well). additionally, it calculates the total number of plays of all your songs and tells you how much total time you’ve spent listening to your music. It also tells you the average length of your songs (4:23 in my case) and average number of songs you play each day.

The program makes a pretty good desktop-based substitute to the ailing iTunes registry (which is looking to beef up its service, so kick in if you’ve got a few extra bucks). unfortunately, iTunes statistician only samples the entire library. the iTunes registry, on the other hand, allows you to submit any exported song list in XML format. In that regard, it is much more versatile. If you wanted to see the stats for all your 90s music, you’d simply create a smart playlist with condition year is between 1990 and 1999. export song list from iTunes as XML and upload it to the registry for analysis.

However, until the registry is fully operational again, I’m certain that iTunes statistician will provide me with all the information I need.

current i-stats