Sunday, December 26, 2010

30 or So Songs of Xmas #27

I don't know if the Trans Siberian Orchestra does anything except Xmas music. They do seem to have that down though.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

30 or So Songs of Xmas #26

I was listening, more like enduring, the comprehensive Motown Xmas album yesterday. It seriously sucks.

Then this song, Deck the Halls by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, just played. It is the polar opposite of suck. There is much to like about this one.

I must have had this on my hard drive for years since just hearing the opening notes automatically makes me happy and puts me in the Xmas spirit.

30 or So Songs of Xmas #25

Today's is Christmas Baby (Please Come Home) by The Raveonettes.

Back in day Christmas songs often sort of sucked. U2 covered this song I think for a benefit album. U2 didn't really do anything with it and it was sort of I like(d) U2 and it's Xmas, so it's OK.

Flash forward to now with this Scandinavia act really doing something with this song.

15 Minutes Later Update: The U2 version is now playing on my computer. Their version really grew on me over the years. It's a still a little cringe worthy in parts but is overall rather solid.

Friday, December 24, 2010

30 or So Songs of Xmas #24

Well it's Xmas Eve and I haven't made it up to 30 Xmas songs of note. But I still have a few days until new years.

Today's is Fairytale of New York by the Pogues.

I woke up this morning on Xmas Eve thinking of the line "And the bells were ringing out, for Christmas day". So I'm glad I didn't cover this one sooner.

While not the more cheerful song, it is technically a Christmas song. It's an great song with an equally great video. And that is Matt Dillon as the cop.

Monday, December 20, 2010

30 or So Songs of Xmas #23

Dean Martin's version of this song is buttery. Or do I mean velvety. Either way, I like it.

30 or so Songs of Xmas #22

Bright Eyes is one of those acts who gets a lot of critical acclaim, but I just don't get at all. To me it's like fingernails on a chalkboard. Which is why I was shocked after listening to this song for the first time to find out it was Bright Eyes. I guess that counts as a Christmas Miracle.

This version by Jim Reeves is the standard. Maybe.

Jim Reeves sort of sounds like a male Patsy Cline. Obviously not vocally but the phrasing and background music. I don't know who wrote this song (well I do now), but the stanza with shoppers and their packages is great modern Christmas imagery. I love it. Interestingly Reeves doesn't sing on that part.

30 or So Songs of Xmas #21

I have never really listened to The Band. Nor have I really given Bob Dylan's double album with them much of a listen either, although I've owned it for years. I'll have to rectify that in 2011. Does that count as a new years resolution?

30 or So Songs of Xmas #20

"Said Santa to a boy-child" that is such a strangely awkward line. And the boy-child wants a guitar and the girl-child wants a doll that wets itself. This song is so wonderfully dated.

Although this is obviously from the 1950s or 60s, I didn't hear it until the 1990s. Chuck Berry couldn't break the limited playlist of AOR, though the Keith Richards 1990s revival of this song did. But it's alright now.

I've gotten a little behind in posting again, so I knocked out four posts today because I woke up too early. They are scheduled to appear throughout today.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

30 or so Songs of Xmas # 19

Today's make-up is Christmas Day by Dido.

This song reminds me of the sort of old folk song that Bob Dylan and Sting are both able to revive so well. The Web is really good at providing lyrics, but terrible at ID'ing the author . While this song seems old, it may well be an original by Dido.

This song has been on my computer for a few years now and I always sort of just half listened to it. Today it grabbed my full attention, and it's now on my Xmas song sort list. Great lyrics, excellent vocals, and cool Xmasy arrangement in the background.

30 or so Songs of Xmas # 18

I seem to have gotten behind a few days so I'll try to post more than one song for the next few days.

This one, a very, very fine one, is Christmas Cheer by the Roddies, a Philadelphia based band that I never heard of before this morning. I hope to hear more them.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reading the Dame Part3a: The first half of the 1940s

This a continuation of my series of posts about my project to read all 80 something Agatha Christie mystery books in order of publication (more or less).

The other parts of the series:
Reading th Dame Part 1: The 1920s
Reading the Dame Part 2a: The 1930s
Reading the Dame Part 2b: The 1930s continued

Reading the Dame Part3a: The first half of the 1940s
It is interesting (to me anyway) to note that Christie manages to publish about 6 books during WWII. The rationing imposed by the war didn’t fully end until 1953. Considering how hard WWII affected the UK, it is rather remarkable that the British printing industry still was able to function pretty normally during the war.

Christie published nine books from 1940 to 1944. It took me about 3 months to read those nine. My previous post, which covered 1935 to 1939, saw her publish 13 books. Those 13 books took me 5 months to read. As of November 2010, I read 42 Agatha Christie books since starting the project in August 2009.

1940 Sad Cypress
This is an interesting read. A woman is being tried for murder and Poirot is hired to try to clear her. It is narrated by a unknown third party who refers to Hastings’ later response when Poirot tells him the story. The idiotic Hastings is not missed as narrator. A little out of formula for her, but it really works. Well written. Another one I hadn’t read before.

1940 An Overdose of Death
This is another really good one. Poirot’s dentist is killed in his office. A quite involved but satisfactory plot. This another vaguely familiar one where I may or may not have read before.

1941 Evil Under the Sun
Another one I hadn’t read before. Poirot is back again. A good plot with well drawn characters. I read a lot of this one a really long train trip to and from Montreal Canada. Apparently World War II has not yet started . Surprisingly this one takes place not in an exotic sunny local but on an island resort in England.

1941 N or M?
I don’t think I read this one before but I may have; 30 years is a long time ago. Tommy and Tuppence are back. WWII is full swing. Their twins, now adults, are serving in the war effort. Tommy and Tuppence being middle aged (45 for Tommy, a little less for Tuppence) are frustrated at not being considered fit to help. Being Tommy and Tuppence they wind up getting involved as unknowns sent by the government to uncover the enemy from within at a sleepy seaside town.

As a person of 45, which is the supposed theme for this blog, it is interesting to see Tommy and Tuppence (who poses as a two time widow) in their mid 40s in 1941. We hear today how 50 is the new 40. I sort of poo-poo that as BS. But I may well be wrong. Tommy and Tuppence in their mid 40s are treated like modern day people who are in their mid 50s. Maybe 55 really is the new 45.

At the end, Tommy and Tuppence adopt an orphaned 2 year old. So maybe 45 actually is the old 45.

There are definitely a lot of good bits in this book.

1942 The Body in the Library
After a string of ones I either hadn’t read or didn’t recall reading, there’s one I remember the title. This one is a real throw back with a body found in a large country house, blatant contempt for the lower classes, and people getting their money the old fashioned way - by inheriting it. There is also no mention of the war and youthful men are still around. I must assume this was written or mostly written before the war, with the topical Nor M? getting pushed ahead of it. A good read with well developed characters. Christie continues her break from Poirot with Miss Marple being the lead, though she doesn’t appear until the 2nd half. The reveal does feel like a little bit of a cheat since we aren’t fully let in on the all facts. Adding to the retro feel, after a decades long absence “vouchesafed” returns for it’s once per novel appearance.

1942 Five Little Pigs
Poirot is back. This is a good and interesting one. Poirot is hired to solve a mystery that took place 16 or so years earlier. It all fit together, though the end does feel like a bit of a cheat. Once again no mention of World War II.

1942 The Moving Finger
I remembered watching this on Masterpiece Mystery, though I have no idea who the murder was in it. Even after reading the book I don’t remember how the movie went. Though I do have a habit of nodding off towards the end of them. I think I take after my mother that way. This is was a good one and all of the clues were there. Christie now seems to be alternating between Poirot and Marple. Once again the war gets almost no mention. One of the main characters has come to the small to town to aid in his recovery from injuries suffered from a plane crash, but it is not made clear if that was as a civilian or as a soldier. If as a solider, he seems to be completely discharged from service. Despite constant socializing with the locals, the war gets no mention at all in the town.

1944 Towards Zero
I remember reading this one before and really, really liking it. I read it again and again really, really liked it. Inspector Battle, who has been a supporting character since the 20s, is the main detective here. The characters are well developed and the book is very well paced. This is really Christie at her finest. You (and I) would think that this point, I would be really jaded of having just read Agatha Christie mysteries for the last 15 months. Surprisingly I am actually enjoying them more than ever.

Again no mention at all of the war. In fact it seems not to exist. People travel freely overseas without concern.

1944 Death Comes as the End
This is a strange one. It’s Christie’s only historical novel, taking place in ancient Egypt. This book was laborious for her to write and while not laborious to read, it’s not really all that solid. Ancient Egypt doesn’t really hold much romance for me. So all the work of creating the historical scene didn’t really do anything for me. Maybe in the future, my new knowledge of everyday ancient Egypt will be very useful for me, but I doubt it. The story was very suspenseful all the way through. I didn’t think the ending was very fair though. There really weren’t enough clues.

Christie never tried to write another historical novel, which was a good thing. I am bit surprised to find myself missing Poirot and London and Poirot’s comfortable existence. Hopefully he will be in the next novel.

Yet another wartime novel where WW2 isn’t mentioned at all, but at least this time there’s a valid reason. A little Googling reveals during WW2 Christie worked in London as a nurse and pharmacist, while publishing 12 books. Maybe she saw enough horrors of war, that she didn’t want to think it about any more than she had to.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

30 or so Songs of Xmas # 17

Today's song is by The Christmas Song by Adam Arcuragi, who used to live in Philadelphia but has move 8 times since then. I'm not sure what this lyrics have to do with Xmas even after listening to it a dozen times, but I like song.

If the embedded thing below doesn't work, you can listen to the song on MySpace. That should be a direct link.

Friday, December 10, 2010

30 or So Songs of Xmas #16

Picking 30 great Christmas songs is hard for me. Which reminds of a line from a song I was going to include at some point anyway.

Today's song is Bob and Doug's 12 Days of Christmas. I remember from my high school days staying up super late on Saturday nights to catch SCTV, which came on after Saturday Night Live. SCTV was a Canadian show, and Bob and Doug were originally created as a farce to fill 2 minutes of required minimum Canadian content for Canadian television. The skit became popular and wound up on the US version as well.

Bob and Doug eventually resulted in a comedy album (which this track is from) and a now classic movie. The cartoon version must have come much later.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

30 or So Songs of Xmas #15

Today' song is Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses.

This is another one of those perfect Christmas songs, which is especially surprising because nobody can name a single other Waitresses song.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

30 or so Songs of Xmas # 14

Today's song is Silent Night by Enya.

Enya was an act that was rather popular in the mid 90s. Although front by the seemingly eponymous Enya, it was a three person group. This song is an excellent representation of everything they did so well.

Enya may still be active. I don't know. I lost total interest after a few albums. As great as their sound was (and it really was great), there is only so much of it any one person needs since they didn't seem to really evolve any. I'll try to listen to some later day Enya later to see if this a fair assessment.

Either way, this is a great version of Silent Night, maybe the best ever.

30 or so Songs of Xmas # 13

Today's (well yesterday's as I'm a day late) song is Christmastime is Here Again by the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

Charles Schultz's Peanuts is an enterprise that lasted way too long. Retiring while on top, like Bill Waterson with Calvin and Hobbs and Gary Larson with Farside, hadn't really been done yet. With The Grey Lodge Pub, I hope I end my run while at my peak and try something new rather than suck a great thing dry and have people say "yeah that place used to be good". But rather than dwell on Charles Schultz and Peanuts' decades long crappy end run, today we are going to remember back when Peanuts was at its prime.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is older than I am. That seemed normal to me when I was in grade school, but is now a little hard for me to believe. A Charlie Brown Christmas was the very first notable children's Christmas TV special. Young or old you have to agree that A Charlie Brown Christmas is an masterful production. Solid story, a little humor, and a solid ending. It's the music that really pits over the top.

I remember buying this CD back when I was 25 (20 years ago) and feeling very cool to be into the retro jazzy soundtrack from a touchstone (oooh big word) of my youth. What an urban hipster I must have been back then. Now a days everyone is nostalgic for their youth and it doesn't feel "cool" to like this anymore. Currently cool or not, this is a great album, and it brings back lots of childhood holiday memories and always puts me in a wonderful holiday mood. It wouldn't be Christmas for me without the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

Turns out I somehow picked a YouTube Vince Guaraldi Trio mix, so I've been listening to four songs from A Charlie Brown Christmas as I write this. Who could ask for anything more?

Bonus Video (Song Count Stays the Same)
Turns out you can ask for more, because it also turns out there's a super cool video for Matisyahu 's Miracle. The live version is a few days back, so the song count stays the same.

Monday, December 6, 2010

30 or So Songs of Xmas #12

Here is another blast from the past, Greg Lake's I Believe In Father Christmas. This song perfectly captures the ennui that often accompanies the holiday season.

I was never into Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I can't even name a single one of their songs, so I am always mildly amazed at how much I love this is delicate, lovely song.

Here's an interesting interview to sort of explains why is the only Greg Lake song I am familiar with.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

30 or So Songs of Xmas #11

This is another blast from the past that still lives on. The Kinks' Father Christmas was one of few Xmas rock songs way back in the day. It was a great song then; it's a great song now. It rocks, it's got xylophone and a bit of a message. Pretty much a perfect song.

Stylewise this video is sort of the worst of the early 80s, or the best if you liked that sort of thing.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

30 or So Songs of Xmas #10

It's hard to pick just one song from the Kingston Trio's Xmas album. I really look forward to breaking out this CD every December. This a very interesting album because they found a lot of holiday songs that to this day are still pretty uncommon.

The song on this video is a bit weak, but that just means you should acquire the CD or the audio files.

Friday, December 3, 2010

30 or So Songs of Xmas #9

This one is a Hanuka song which I've only known of for exactly a day now, thanks to Steveo Hawk.

Matisyahu is an orthodox Jewish reggae musician. Yes you read that right. This is a cultural mash-up that really works.

Now Jews don't have to settle for that annoying Adam Sandler song. If anyone wants to expose me to a great Ramadan song, I'm all ears.

Steve and I noted that there a lot of similarities between Orthodox Jews and Hipsters, and you might be seeing more about that someday soon. We also suspect Matisyahu's guitarist celebrates Christmas.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

30 or So Songs of Xmas #8

I'm a day late, but this is free so probably not a dollar short.

There is something so right about surf rock Xmas songs. Here we have The Ventures andRudolph the Red Nose Reindeer with a little I Feel Fine mixed in.

The Ventures' Christmas album is another MUST HAVE for any holiday music collection.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

30 or so Songs of Xmas # 07

I downloaded an alternative Christmas compilation last year. Like I need more Xmas music on my hard drive. Most of it sucks and probably won't be on my hard drive come Xmas 2011. "Keegan's Christmas" by Marcy Playground though is a real keeper. It's a really great little song.

Since this is an original song, here are the lyrics so you can read along if you want. Hell sing along too if you want.

Lyrics | Marcy Playground lyrics - Keegan's Christmas lyrics

Reading the lyrics really made me appreciate how much talent the lead singer has. I heard of Marcy Playground but never heard any of their stuff before. I'll definitely be checking out more of their work.