366 Songs 136: 80s Life

There’s a lovely wistfulness in “80s Life,” in large part from the vocals (especially the swooping “ooooooh”s that start at 1:25) and the yawning melancholy in lines like “I don’t wanna live a war/That’s got no end in our time” and “Oh, Lord, can a stone/Be ballast for an aching soul?” But the arrangement behind the voices is wonderfully sweet, not ’80s in sound at all – something older, almost doo-woppy – and sparse, tentative and makes the song into the beautifully fragile thing that is ultimately is… especially as the song slowly climbs the stair towards the sleep of its end. I really, really appreciate the mixed emotions this song brings out of me, protectiveness, happiness and caution all at once.

366 Songs 135: Memento Mori

There are many, many people who don’t like The Streets for one reason or another, but I admit more than a sneaking love for Mike Skinner and his laidback, lazy and occasionally shitty rapping. There’re parts of “Memento Mori” that are just horrible – The verse starting at 1:31 just doesn’t work – but the singalong chorus, wonderfully conversational opening and minimal backing are enough to make this a favorite of all of the Streets tracks I’ve heard.

It’s been that kind of week that “What was the question? Oh, yeah, memento mori” feels like an especially fitting phrase. Looooooong week.

“The Name is WARHAWK, Mutants”

This may have been the first back issue I ever bought as a back issue, as opposed to something old that just happened to be available and I didn’t know any better. I was maybe ten years old, perhaps eleven, and just getting into the X-Men as a concept, and this cover looked absolutely awesome.

“You Need To Give Your Thought Process A Break”

You need to give your thought process a break between first and second draft.  Ideally this is a couple of days, but even 15 minutes of playing Angry Birds or talking to your spouse about where to put the new climbing roses breaks your thinking process enough that when you go back to it, you’re much better able to see whether your narrative arc holds together, and what you don’t really need.  Read it aloud to yourself before you start rewriting: What sounds wrong?

That’s Megan McArdle, senior editor for The Atlantic, talking about the best self-editing advice she knows. For years, I operated on a “Write it and get it out there!” plan, just churning out material; I’ve started re-writing and re-working material recently, and the “you need to give your thought process a break between first and second draft” thing is so amazingly spot-on for me; even just something as basic as having dinner can allow me to break through a problem that seemed insurmountable before.

366 Songs 134: Crazy In Love

Purely because the Christina song reminded me of it:

This song is already almost a decade old, and it’s one of those times when you can totally believe it; there was always something timeless about this, thanks in large part to the smart sampling – and slowing down – of the Chi-Lites:

(Also, let’s be honest: That’s a fucking great Chi-Lites song.)

It’s such a wonderfully relentless song, with the percussion keeping the energy up when the horns aren’t around and the vocals suitably unforgiving (There’s so much here that comes almost entirely from the “backing” vocals, especially when B just ends up running the scale in sighs), that it lives up to the hilarious Jay-Z promise at its beginning that it’s “history in the making.” When it comes to debut solo singles, this is up there with George Michael’s “Freedom.”

366 Songs 133: Ain’t No Other Man

When it comes to lists of “Great Pop Songs of The Last Decade,” we can all agree that “Ain’t No Other Man” by Christina Aguilera belongs somewhere in there, right…? As with so many great pop songs of recent years – Well, recentish; this one is, what, six years old now? – what makes it click isn’t so much the vocal acrobatics of Aguilera, all brassy and hitting too many notes when far fewer would do, but the production. It’s a song that hints at classicism, and then tweaks it – The opening horns that get looped on their climactic note, with the join audible (I love that detail), or the mix of a disco-esque bassline with the processed horns and entirely, obviously, fake scratches – to become something that’s more a wink at the past but something that’s far more interested in the kind of crossover magpie approach that you can only really get up to these days.

Plus, of course, it’s catchy as hell.

Treat Yourself

In my inbox this morning:


Dear Amazon,

If I could afford said item, I wouldn’t have added it to a “wish list” in the first place.



Recently Baked (6/14/12)

On the left, banana bread. On the right, chocolate chip cookies. In between but not photographed because I forgot, almond flour macaroons. I’m a baking fool these days, apparently (See also: Things that relax me after a day of work when I don’t have the social skills to talk to people).

Spoiler Warning

Okay, this one needs a little backstory. Every week for Newsarama, I do a top 10 based on… Well, whatever’s in my head as the deadline approaches, really. This week, based on the plot developments in a particularly popular superhero comic, I decided to do one about the brothers and sisters of superheroes, characters whom have a tendency to become supervillains. In discussing this idea with Newsarama’s boss, I said “I don’t know how we can do this without spoiling [this week’s superhero comic in question].” “Don’t worry,” he replied, “we’ll work something out.”

Here’s how the story is presented on the front page:

The best part is, I wrote the story, and I don’t know what all of those “[Spoiler]”s are replacing. I think it’s “Top 10 Sibling-Superhero Super Villains,” but I could be wrong (Wait, I just checked the URL; it’s “Top 10 Villain-Superhero Sibling Rivalries”).

Is it wrong that I find this quite as amusing as I do?