Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Oscars are funny.

...As in a big joke! A little Oscar commentary for you whether you want it or not.

Shirley Bassey - Big Spender (Wild Oscar mix)

I saw Children of Men last night and it was fantastic. I didn't even know they were announcing Oscar nominations today, but I'm already disappointed and shocked that this film did not get more recognition. There were literally 4 or 5 jaw-dropping moments of brilliant filmmaking that I haven't experienced in a long while, particularly throughout 2006. Comparing it to some of the blockbusters of last summer (emphasis on the BUST), it inspired more wonder and awe than Superman Returns, was more thrilling than Mission: Impossible 3 (ugh), and was a whole lot smarter than The Da Vinci Code, though I guess that's not much of a feat all things considered. Children of Men could've also been nominated in the Visual Effects category since it's plentiful effects are more subtle but no less impressive (in fact, probably more impressive) than Superman, Pirates, or Poseidon.

Little Miss Sunshine was a bit of a shock for Best Picture. It was well-made and enjoyable, but still... Perhaps it's the long delayed make-up nomination for National Lampoon's Vacation back in '83.

As much as I love The Departed and Martin Scorsese, I'm kinda torn as to whether I actually want him to win. On one hand, he's much deserving and it wouldn't be a pity vote (I'm glad he didn't win for The Aviator or Gangs of New York, which were good but...). But it'd be just as cool for him to join Kubrick and Hitchcock as one of the greatest filmmakers to never actually win a Best Directing Oscar. Hmmmmm... he should probably get it.

I laughed that Dreamgirls didn't get a Best Picture nod. I haven't seen it so I can't judge it too harshly, but I thought it was ridiculous that it was hailed as a Best Picture frontrunner before they even started making it. Perhaps there's something to be said here about counting unhatched chickens...? Take that, suckers.

I also think it's atrocious that Dreamgirls is nominated for THREE songs in the same category OUT OF FIVE. Yeah, it's the most nominated film this year with 8, but I repeat, THREE of those are in the same category. It's a musical for crying out loud, it practically takes over this category by default. I can't think of past examples where this has occurred, but maybe they should consider a nomination cap for this category.

Click - Could they not have found a better movie than this for the make-up category?

Animated movies is another category that could use some reconsideration. It seems like a great idea when, say, Spirited Away wins, but let's recount some past nominees: Treasure Planet, Ice Age, Brother Bear, Shark Tale (blech!), Shrek, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. To be sure, there's some entertainment to be found in there, but Oscar-winning films? I think last year's crop of Wallace & Gromit, Corpse Bride, and Howl's Moving Castle may have been the only competitive year since the award's inception. Nominees are basically any animated movie that comes out each year, with box office taken into consideration of course. Mind you, I've been ranting about how much a joke the Oscars are, I guess this category is not that far-fetched. I can already see next year's nominees: Shrek 3, Ratatouille, and The Simpsons movie.

Bah! I'll probably end up watching them anyway... like last year, and the year before, and every year... See you at the Oscars!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

MP3-Photo Travelogue: San Francisco

Some pics from my week in San Francisco with mp3 commentary:

Never the Bride - Going to California [originally by Led Zeppelin]
Me First & The Gimme Gimmes - San Francisco [originally by Scott McKenzie]


R.A.M. - She's a Rainbow [originally by the Rolling Stones]


Captain Tractor - Up the Hill
Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 - Fool on the Hill [originally by the Beatles]


Gary Brooker - Old Brown Shoe [originally by the Beatles]


Fantastic Plastic Machine - City Lights
Fantastic Plastic Machine - Allen Ginsberg


Dread Zeppelin - Jailhouse Rock [originally by Elvis Presley]
Go Home Productions - Modern Rock [David Bowie vs. Queen mash-up]


Ben Folds - Prison Food


The Living End - Prisoner of Society (Reggae Version)
AC/DC - Jailbreak


The Living End - Prisoner on the Inside [originally by Lynne Hamilton from the TV series Prison Cell Block H]


Puffy AmiYumi - Usagi Channel


Sarah McLachlan - Blackbird [originally by The Beatles]
Bobby McFerrin - Blackbird [orginally by the Beatles]


The Raconteurs - Hands (XFM session)


The Beach Boys - Crocodile Rock [originally by Elton John]


Sam Roberts - Bridge to Nowhere


The Toronto All-Star Big Band - American Patrol [originally by F. W. Meacham]


Daft Punk - Digital Love

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Happy Winnie-the-Pooh Day!

Hey, it's A. A. Milne's 125th birthday today. You know what that means... Pooh covers!

Winnie the Pooh [originally by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman]
Carly Simon
Yasuharu Konishi
The Chieftains

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Canadian Cover Content #1

Hey, I'm back from San Francisco. More about that in a later post. I'm also testing out a new file-hosting site... let me know if that works okay.

Part of the fun of maintaining a blog is inventing on-going features that may or may not be actually on-going (see: Cover Riddles). Sunday night I caught the Tragically Hip in concert and I've been inspired to add another irregular feature whereby I highlight covers by and of Canadian artists. Our radio stations in Canada are required by the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) to play 35% Canadian content per week in the interests of promoting our uniquely Canadian culture. In other words, so our airwaves aren't hijacked by American pop stars. Usually on the classic rock station this means listening to an undue amount of Trooper, April Wine, Triumph, and Loverboy. Yikes. Of course, we have our homegrown classics like Neil Young, Rush, Joni Mitchell, The Tragically Hip, The Guess Who, and others. Fortunately, our recent exports like The New Pornographers, The Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, and many more indie rockers are starting to get wide recognition over the past few years. I'm under no such obligation to provide Canadian content, but I thought it'd be fun as a Canadian blogger to occasionally wave the maple leaf. So here it goes!

Sarah Polley - Courage [originally by the Tragically Hip]
Canadian actress Sarah Polley would probably be known best for her roles in Go and the recent Dawn of the Dead remake, but most Canadians would remember her best as the child star of Road to Avonlea. I had never even seen Road to Avonlea growing up, but even I knew who she was. Here she sings this haunting, 180° take on the Tragically Hip song. The cover comes from the soundtrack to Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter, which Polley also starred.

The Tragically Hip - Springtime in Vienna
Not a cover, but at Sunday's gig The Hip played one of my favourite songs of theirs, which is from the Trouble at the Henhouse album.

Captain Tractor - The Log Driver's Waltz [originally by Kate and Anna McGarrigle]
You can hardly get much more Canadian than this. Local E-town folk rockers Captain Tractor plug into a little Canadian nostalgia with this cover. Any Canadian kid from the 80's is bound to remember the Log Driver's Waltz and the National Film Board animated short that accompanied it with the light-footed log driver dancing with a beaver and leaping over moose all the while "birling down" the river on a log... I distinctly remember this playing often on YTV in the commerical break between Dr. Who and Ninja Turtles. See the original NFB vignette here. Little bit of trivia: Kate McGarrigle's son is none other than singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright.

Barenaked Ladies - McDonald's Girl [originally by Dean Friedman]
I used to like the Barenaked Ladies back in the day (their first album Gordon was one of my first CDs ever). I haven't really liked much since their second album, but it's hard to believe they're still kickin' around. This early live cover (recorded for radio?) is an old favourite, although I didn't even know it was a cover for years. Some background on the song can be found on the original songwriter Dean Friedman's site.

Fates Warning - Closer to the Heart [originally by Rush]
This is a fairly straight forward cover of the Rush original. I used to hate Rush years ago. I'm not sure exactly when and how, but at some point I became a huge fan. I guess the Canadian Content indoctrination worked!

Until next time, people.

EDIT: Speaking of Canadian Content, I just noticed that Steve's most recent post over at Cover Freak features Canadian Danny Michel's cover of Davie Bowie's Young Americans. In last year's year-end post, I mentioned that this cover was the top cover that I had heard in 2005 (it's actually from Danny's 2004 all-Bowie cover album, Loving the Alien). Now I would not hesitate to say that it is among my top 5 covers ever. In addition, Danny Michel's original material is top-notch and I'd say he's is one of Canada's most underrated singer-songwriters. If you ever get a chance to see him live, he puts on a great show. So head on over to Cover Freak and download it while you can. He's also posted another one of my fav's: Gina Jeffries' amazing version of Creep, a great cover of the over-covered Radiohead song. Great post!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Happy New Year

Here's a belated, much belaboured year-end round-up post. Phew.

Top covers:
I'm not going to bother ranking these or anything, but these are some of the notable highlights of last year for me in the cover world.

Harvey Danger - Oh! You Pretty Things [originally by David Bowie]
One of my favourite bands covering one of my favourite Bowie tracks? Most excellent. I don't know what I was expecting when I first heard it, but I was vaguely underwhelmed. This may have to do with the piano being replaced by an organ. I quickly got over that minor quibble and by the second time I gave it a listen, it had suddenly become a delayed instant classic. Go figure. If you're looking for something to spend $0.99 at the iTunes store, I'd have to recommend this above all others.

Corinne Bailey Rae - Since I've Been Loving You (live AOL session) [originally by Led Zeppelin]
I was blown away when I heard this cover. This is the 2nd cover I've heard from her and now I'm starting to take notice. Despite being one of the greatest and most successful rock bands ever, I still feel that Led Zeppelin is somehow underrated (if that is even remotely possible). Um, I was about to go into a big rant about it, but you'll just have to take my word for it. Apparently, Bailey Rae will have an album version of this next year... or rather, this year (still not used to 2007 yet).

Chris Thile - Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground [originally by The White Stripes]
I love The White Stripes. I love covers. And Chris Thile of Nickel Creek hit this one out of the ballpark. The version I posted is not actually the cut from the album, but a truly solo live version from Reg's Coffee House, which is incidentally fantastic. Also go here for video of another live version and a great cover of The Band's Ophelia.

Nickel Creek - Just (live at the Largo) [originally by Radiohead]
Last year Mark Ronson released a cover of Radiohead's Just, which was superb to say the least. While there are billions of Creep covers, it was the first Just cover I had heard and I welcomed it with open arms. Then Nickel Creek had to come along and cover it too. Now there are two superb Just covers. I nicked this from the Largo website, which I had stumbled upon while scouring the net for Jon Brion material. For a while there, he was performing at the Largo once a week. How sweet would that have been? Answer: pretty damn sweet. Now I hear The Watkins Family Hour (aka two-thirds of Nickel Creek) are performing at the Largo almost every Thursday until the spring (contrary to the online Largo calendar). Very cool, if you live in LA.

Lulu Hughes - Time [originally by Pink Floyd]
So I borrowed this album from the library called Pink Floyd Redux. I wasn't expecting much seeing how I'm just a casual Pink Floyd fan, but damn if this isn't one of the best covers of the year.

Devo 2.0 - Monkey's Uncle [originally by Annette Funicello with the Beach Boys]
My musical knowledge of the original Devo is limited, so I haven't really formed an opinion as to whether an all-children's update of the new age group is a good idea or instant sacrilege. I have also never heard the original of this 1965 Disney song (from the movie of the same name), which was apparently sung by Annette Funicello with the Beach Boys (?!). Somehow none of this mattered as I was sucked into this song unawares and learned the following things: A) Songs about monkeys are cool; B) Children singing like robots is strange (but fun!); C) Corporate Disney channel cash-ins aren't ALL bad; D) Devo for kids is WAY better than kidz bop... ugh.

Natalie Cole - Criminal [originally by Fiona Apple]
Fiona Apple in the style of Aretha Franklin is unexpected. Unexpectedly awesome, that is.

Fall Out Boy - What's This? [originally by Danny Elfman from The Nightmare Before Christmas]
This had all the makings of disaster... Fall Out Boy? Covering beloved animated classic? And yet, it's addictive. Not surprisingly amped up, but surprisingly faithful and the lead singer has a flair for theatrics, which is advantageous in this case. Other covers on the Nightmare soundtrack re-release, not so successful (with the exception of Fiona Apple). Why wasn't the 3D re-release of the film shown seemingly anywhere in Canada?


Catchiest song of the year:
Jason Webley - Eleven Saints [via Fabulist]
This year's War Photographer award (for an insanely catchy tune attached to online animated music video) goes to Jason Webley's Eleven Saints. About a month ago Neil Gaiman posted on his journal "And just so you know, I cannot get this song and video out of my head". Naturally I had to check out the link and he was absolutely right, it's damn catchy. Since then I've been listening to it incessantly and then a couple days ago I finally decided to check out Jason Webley's website where I discovered in the forums that he had just finished touring with the Dresden Dolls. What the deuce?!? My musical tastes once again converge in strange and unexpected ways (see: Ben Folds calls up the Dresden Dolls). In this recent interview with Fabulist, Jason Webley's story of how the tour with the Dolls came about is equally strange.


Favourite albums of 2006:
The Dresden Dolls - Yes, Virginia

Analyzing my iTunes play counts by 2006 albums, The Dresden Dolls take 5 of the top 6 most played tracks. Four songs from this album and a b-side. It's hard to argue that any other album released last year topped this one in my books.
Mrs. O
Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner (B-side)
When I hear the latter song, I'm reminded of a French film I saw this year at the Edmonton film fest called La Tourneuse de Pages and specifically a scene where the lonesome cello player attempts to take advantage of the page turner (this does not end well for him). Previously I had never heard of a page turner as a vocation, let alone the subject of a film or song. If cold, calculated revenge is your thing, I recommend this film. Although when it ended, the woman seated in front of me promptly stood up and declared that she hated it. You can listen to me or that woman.

Rodrigo y Gabriela (self-titled)
First of two artists I "discovered" this past summer while in the FOPP record store in Bath, UK. A friend and I were perusing the CD racks and just couldn't NOT ask what was playing over the speakers. We were told Rodrigo y Gabriela. OK, mental note to self: remember those names and look into it when I get back home in a month or so. I later learned their latest album was produced in Bath, so it made sense that they were promoting it. The duo themselves are from Mexico and based in Dublin (!). I would later have the obscene good fortune of seeing them when they inexplicably made a stop at the Edmonton Folk Festival (to the neglect of the rest of Canada). Here's a Metallica cover:
Orion [originally by Metallica]

Wolfmother (self-titled)
Wolfmother is the other band I heard for the first time while in FOPP in Bath. It was this first track Dimension blaring over the speakers that was irresistably rockin'. Later in my summer travels, I bought their CD in New York City. First impressions: Jet spliced with White Stripes. To some, that would be a bad thing. But I like it, so there.

The Raconteurs - Broken Boy Soldiers
I am of the opinion that nearly everything Jack White is involved with is exceptional and The Raconteurs is no exception. Looking at that sentence I just wrote, I'm starting to doubt its logicality. . . Um, The Raconteurs rule!
The Bane Rendition (b-side to Steady as She Goes)

Hawksley Worksman - Treeful of Starling
Seeing Hawksley Workman at the Folk Fest made me regret not checking out his music earlier. His long delayed, rain-soaked Friday evening performance on the Main Stage was mesmerizing even though it was only him and his piano player Mr. Lonely. I became an instant fan and thoroughly enjoyed his subsequent workshops on the side stages. This makes a nice post-apocalyptic companion piece to We Will Become Silhouettes.
You and the Candles


My Year in Concerts (click the links to revisit old concert posts):
02/18 - Edmonton - The Philosopher Kings
04/25 - Edmonton - Franz Ferdinand/Death Cab for Cutie
06/24 - Dores, Scotland - The Loch Ness Monster: Fatboy Slim & guests
06/30 - Toronto - Seu Jorge
07/15 - Toronto - The Dresden Dolls
08/01 - Toronto - The Living End
08/10 - 08/13 - Edmonton - Edmonton Folk Music Festival (Hawksley Workman, Rodrigo y Gabriela, K'Naan, Bedouin Soundclash, Feist, Chumbawamba, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Sarah Harmer, and many many more...)
08/24 - Edmonton - Ben Lee
09/22 - Edmonton - Danny Michel
10/06 - Edmonton - The Who
10/17 - Edmonton - The New Pornographers, Immaculate Machine, and Novillero
10/22 - Edmonton - Ellen McIlwaine with Cassius Khan

About 75% of those shows were brilliant. Let's just say that with the exception of The Who, larger venue concerts are not ideal. The tantalizingly short 30-minute set by Rodrigo y Gabriela was unreal and unarguably the best gig out of 4 days of solid music at the Edmonton Folk Fest (read more here). At the other end of the gig spectrum, The Dresden Dolls' night of entertainment, which spanned nearly 5 hours for $10 in an old movie theatre was amazing and was one of those rare occasions of quantity AND quality (see above link).

The Who - See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You (live in Edmonton 10/06/06)
Roger Daltrey's parting words after a night of technical difficulties: "Never give up!"

The Living End - 10:15 Saturday Night [originally by The Cure]
Danny Michel - Moonage Daydream [originally by David Bowie]
Death Cab for Cutie - Little Boxes [originally by Malvina Reynolds]
Ellen McIlwaine with Cassius Khan - R&B Medley (live in Edmonton) [various covers]
The Dresden Dolls - Tout les gar├žons et les filles (live in Lyon) [originally by Fran├žoise Hardy]

I'm kicking this melting popsicle stand and jetting to San Francisco next week with the fam'. Stay frosty.