Añejo Mockingbird

Used to be this place was mostly about music and pop culture, but it's slowly morphed into a launching pad for finding our foster greyhounds new homes. So be it. We love the hounds and are more than happy to use our modest little blog page to reach out and snag some attention for these greyt dogs... Oh, we'll still post the occasional odd music review or rant at the state of the Redskins from time to time, but they'll hafta take a back seat to the dogs 'til further notice

Location: Pennsylvania, United States

Music geek who appreciates everything from power-pop to indie-rock and most everything in between. I especially dig Reggae and its predecessor, Ska.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Break-Ups, Bouffants, Boy-Drama - Vintage Girl Groups

Musical rave:
One of the Christmas presents I received this year was a boxed set compilation of girl group songs from the '60s, entitled: One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost and Found.
This one's from the folks over at Rhino Records, who at this point, know the boxed set genre better than almost anyone else in the music industry.
Now, I'm a sucker for this sort of deal, 'cuz I'm lazy, and this makes for a convenient way to gather up a bunch of great songs in one fell swoop. And gathering up a bunch of great songs is what this compilation's all about. I'm about three quarters through the set (for those following along at home, this means I've heard 3 out of the 4 discs included in this set) and I've been aggressively using the repeat button on the remote. Formerly dismissed by some as inconsequential pop fluff from an era that's better off forgotten, this set contains high quality music throughout and should give pause to any naysayers who've poo-pooed the genre. The production, songwriting, and the vocal performances here are all top notch. Seriously, the quality of the tunes speak for themselves and as a long-time music geek that's about the highest compliment I can pay.
Rhino, as is their wont, does a uniformly excellent job across the board on this set. The liner notes serve as a history lesson for those who are unfamiliar with the story behind the rise and subsequent fall of the girl group sound. The remastering of the source material is first rate, also. Given that many of these songs are/were obscure 45's and are therefor somewhat hard-too-find, this is no small accomplishment. The only thing missing from this set are the contributions from Wall Of Sound creator, and all around whack-ass, Phil Spector. The former girl group svengali is not one to issue licensing rights for any of his biggest hits to anything or anybody that doesn't put him on a pedestal and worship at his feet, consequently there's no Spector stuff here. Rhino gets the last laugh though, 'cuz his presence (or lack thereof) isn't an issue due to the high level of non-Spector-affiliated material the producers of this set dug up. In other words, Spector gets to take the piss while the rest of us enjoy revisiting the '60s without him.
Interesting to note who some of these performers are; for instance, Cher, Dolly Parton, Brenda Lee, and even Connie Francis, all recorded songs that rocket way off their chosen musical paths to perform tunes that fall well within the confines of girl groupdom. If you peruse the tracklist, you'll find plenty of recognizable names (Little Eva, The Shangri-Las, The Shirelles, The Ronettes) to go along with the obscurities (The Fabulettes, Goldie & The Gingerbreads, The Whyte Boots, etc) and what holds them all together thematically (and qualitatively) are the storylines, Boy drama (loving, longing, hoping, wishing for, etc, etc) being first and foremost, followed by family drama at home and hearth over said boys... There's also the spectre of death hanging over a lot of these songs. Car crashes, motorcycle crashes, gang fights and things of that nature all take their toll on the inhabitants of many of these recordings. Musically speaking, you've got doo-wop styled pop taken to many different places; psychedelia, R&B, and countrypolitan are just some of the influences that appear. And the glue that holds it all together? I think it's the 3 H's - hooks, harmonies, and handclaps - those three things bind all of the diversity together and somehow structure the songs into the easily recognizable format that we know as vintage girl group tunes.
When all is said and done, what you have here is a truly terrific set of tunes that are as eminently listenable as they are historically fascinating. And for you kitsch freaks out there, it comes in a hatbox, too!

Tuneage presently turning: see above :-)

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Kool-Aid Drinkers & The Fake War On Xmas

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and joyous greetings to whatever spiritual-laden freak-flag you happen to fly.
The Christmas rant:
Did you know that there's a War On Christmas™ being waged? Yeah, me neither, but the folks over at Faux News (especially, longtime blowhard and all around gas bag, Bill O'Reilly - whoops, that's Fox News. Ya know, the network that's fair & balanced [cough, cough...]- would like you to think that Christmas has been targeted for annihilation by the ACLU and other dirty, rotten, liberal-leaning, atheist hippies. Problem is, like so much of everything propagated by the neocons, it's all so much bullshit. Apparently, when they're too busy to check facts, they just make up stuff wholesale. Look, it's all just a big bait -n- switch designed to distract people from the realities of the day - namely the disingenuous effluvia emanating from the White House on a daily basis. With all the revelations of illegal behavior by the White House being uncovered on an almost daily basis during the past several weeks, it's no wonder that the Kool-Aid-drinking, neocon apology machine is kicking it into overdrive with an aggressive propaganda campaign designed to distract the populace with something, anything other then the reality of the situation.

Thankfully, the ACLU hasn't lost its sense of humor despite being targeted by all the usual suspects. Check out their satirical take on all the hoo-haw, below.

Christmas raves:
Thanks to FOX News and highly credible voices like StoptheACLU.org, the news is out that ACLU has declared War on Christmas.

It's true. In fact, I have just returned from our War Room where ACLU's brightest minds are spending this final weekend before the holiday plotting to kill Christmas. Atop every mountain we've secretly placed an army of green grinches prepared to sled down on Christmas morning into towns across America to steal presents from toddlers.

Don't believe it? I tell you I've seen the secret grinch training facilities.

The War Room for Operation Kill Christmas lies in a bunker deep underground. That's also where we keep all our Communists. I know most of you thought Communism was dead after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It's not true. They're all huddled deep underground in our secret ACLU bunker.

It was the Communists, in fact, perhaps predictably, who came up with the idea of taking the War on Christmas to the next level involving actual armed struggle.

You heard it here first: ACLU plans to assassinate Santa Claus.

Here's an amusing little rant from Philly's CityPaper that I'm including in the rave section.

Apparently the GOP, busy fighting its Global War on Terror and its concomitant War on the Geneva Conventions as well as the ancillary War on Organized Labor, is making time to fight a rearguard battle against the War on Christmas. Michelle Malkin and like-minded nativity-worshippers everywhere are said to be besieged on all sides by the encroaching forces of secularism, Judaism, Muhammadism and assorted other malign "isms" seeking to overthrow the rightful hegemony of the American consumerist celebration of Christ's birth.

The biggest pitched battle of this war, the Christian Stalingrad if you will, is over the two magical words "Merry Christmas." Angry Republicans, not content with controlling all three branches of government, as well as a majority of state governorships, are cowering in fear that their beloved December blessing will be expunged in favor of the anodyne "Happy Holidays," which, translated into radical conservative, means "Abort the babies, marry the gays, empower the feminazis and replace Charlie Brown's Christmas with Harry Potter and the Satanic Paganist's Stone."

I regret to report the failure of this left-wing plot to install Maoist holiday values in place of those traditions derived from Christ's valiant fight for expanded department store hours on the eve of his birth. Just this past Sunday afternoon, at a Jesus Day gathering on my block, local left-wing agitators masquerading as residents of Philadelphia wished me a "Merry Christmas." I stared them down to draw out the obvious hipster irony with which they delivered this besieged holiday bromide, but found only deadpan seriousness.

Merry Christmas, folks. And please, drink all the egg nog you'd like, just stay away from the Kool-Aid...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Photographic fooforaw

1fastdog with 2 fast dogs! Yeah, that's me with some canine accompaniment... Mostly for this post I'm just messin' around with the photo capabilities of Blogger and trying to see how all this crapola works or doesn't work. I'd like to add this photo to my profile, but Blogger says it's too big.

I'll have some rants & raves to post tomorrow, I believe.

Tuneage presently turning - The Futureheads by The Futureheads & Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Best Music Of 2005

Yeah, I'm a few days late. I submitted a "best of" music story over at Plastic and didn't have enough time to do it here, 'til now. And in another time-saving gesture, I'm copying my post from the thread. Ah, the virtue of laziness!
My top 25 picks:
25. Doves - Some Cities. Another solid album of dreamy Britpop.
24. The Shout Out Louds - Howl, Howl, Gaff, Gaff. Good, solid, unpretentious rock-n-roll from Sweden (I think)
23. The Decemberists - Picaresque. A good album, but one that left me slightly underwhelmed. Seemed like they were trying just a bit too hard...
22. Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak. Less southern and more soulful than its predecessor - a surprisingly entertaining & coherent album considering that you can barely understand the lyrics.
21. Kaiser Chiefs - Employment. Lotta fun, this album is. Very bouncy.
20. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema. This one made my list mostly because there are a handful of awesome singles on it, but I was very disappointed by it, overall. For me, their first two albums are much better.
19. The Russian Futurists - Our Thickness. Catchy, electro-pop by the one-man-band that can, and does, move you.
18. Tall Grass Captains - She Moved Through. Throwback guitar pop a la Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe.
17. Ash - Meltdown. Released in '04 in the UK, this was finally released this year with little fanfare. Too bad, 'cuz it's a great album. Catchy rock with the guitars getting a metal-esque sheen. Big-time sounding arena rock - the Foo fighters wish they could make an album this good.
16. The Click Five - Greetings From Imrie House. My guiltiest pleasure of the last year. Pure power-pop sugar. Ridiculously catchy. If you liked The Knack's debut album (from way back when), you oughtta like this.
15. The A-Sides - Hello, Hello. Beatle-esque pop from Philadelpia. Pays tribute to '60's pop without sounding derivative. Very solid album.
14. The Orange Peels - Circling The Sun. Summery pop music from the folks at Parasol. Played this one a lot at poolside this Summer.
13. Black Mountain - S/T. Sexed up stoner rock. Kinda/sorta. Sabbath, Zep, and various others from the '70s are referenced on this disc.
12. The Happy Bullets - The Vice And Virtue Ministry. Giddy lit-pop that outdoes the Decemberists. Seriously, this is the record that the Decemberists should've released.
11. System of a Down - Mezmerize. Truly a bizarro, kinetic, frenetic, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink fusion of metal and Armenian folk music that goes all over the map, yet still manages to stay focused and slay everything in its twisted path! Best metal/hard rock disc of the year.
10. Stubbs The Zombie - V/A (Soundtrack). Various alt-rockers take on tunes from the '50's (mostly) for this soundtrack for a video game. Endlessly fun!
9. M.I.A. - Arular. Sri Lankan hip-hop extravaganza! Best hip-hop/electronic/whatever album of the year. She's got a very unique vocal style that almost sounds perfect for the beats on this album. Well worth checking out if you're into adventurous music.
8. Wolf Parade - Apologies To The Queen Mary. Much-hyped Canadian band lives up to all the glowing accolades with a great mix of Modest Mouse-inspired rock. And indeed, Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock was at the helm or the recording of this album.
7. Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy. Black-hearted, alt-countryish album of dark, engaging tunes. This is one of those albums that grows better with each listen.
6. Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. Forget the haters that dismiss Conor Oberst - the man can, and does, write some amazing songs. This is a great album that features Emmylou Harris guesting on vocals with the man-child who gets all the Dylan comparisons. There are some absolutely gorgeous songs on this album of gothic Americana. Ignore it at your own peril.
5. The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers. Pure pop bliss. Hooks and harmonies galore. This is timeless, classic stuff.
4. Spoon - Gimme Fiction. Perfect, highly textured, indie-pop. Layer upon layer of interesting sonics. There's some killer singles on this album, too.
3. The Tah-Dahs - Le Fun. Witty, clever pop that sometimes blisters your ears with its ferocity. Killer fucking hooks are all over this album. I took a flyer on this after reading the Coke Machine Glow review and downloading the available track, and I'm damned glad that I did. If you like Ted Leo, The Pixies, and Husker Du/Bob Mould then this disc should be right up your alley.
2. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois. This album deserves every freakin' good word written about it. A terrific, terrific album.
1. The Earlies - These Were The Earlies. Dreamy, psychedelic indie-pop. Originally released last year in the UK, it got its proper U.S. release earlier this year, which is a good thing for those not willing to shell out for the import price. Anyhow, there is a ton of stuff going on and swirling around on this album. This album touches on everything from the Beach Boys to the Flaming Lips, yet doesn't really sound like any of them. There is no filler on this disc, which mangaes the neat trick of being instantly accessible, while revealing new layers and growing deeper every time you listen to it. As you might expect, it's a super headphone album, too. My absolute favorite album this year! If you like the Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Grandaddy, Spiritualized, or My Morning Jacket* you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

*Haven't heard their latest yet if you're wondering why it didn't make this list. Also haven't heard latest discs from The White Stripes, Clap your Hands Say Yeah, The Mountain Goats and several others who may or may not've made the list...
In this day and age, anyone who says that there's no good music out there isn't trying very hard. It was a fine year for tuneage, and I'm looking forward to next year's albums already!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Civil liberties? Pish! That's so quaint.

Political rant:
Once again, King George has made a mockery of the Constitution. Apparently, it's been determined by our addle-brained president (and his coterie of "yes" men) that spying on our citizens without judicial oversight is just A-O-Fucking-Kay. This, of course, is not ok. We have a system of judicial safeguards in place for very good reason: so the government doesn't overstep its authority and engage in witch hunts against the American people. The government may very well have information or intelligence that leads them to suspect American citizens of fomenting terrorism or having ties to terror organizations - if they do, they need to follow the law and operate in a manner that befits a nation with democratic principles. Sadly, the ethically-challenged GOP leadership in Congress is so busy whoring themselves to any lobbyist with a dollar to spare, that they're just beginning notice that they've lost their power to reign in the Executive office.

Lawmakers have been caught by surprise by several recent reports, including the existence of secret U.S. prisons abroad, the CIA's detention overseas of innocent foreign nationals, and, last week, the discovery that the military has been engaged in domestic spying. After five years in which the GOP-controlled House and Senate undertook few investigations into the administration's activities, the legislative branch has begun to complain about being in the dark.

Political rave:
Props to Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) for telling the White House to, in effect, talk to the hand. Also, a minor shout out to PA's own independent-minded Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) for promising to investigate the president's latest flouting of the law. Specter is the only apparent member of the GOP that refuses to drink the administration's Kool-Aid. He's also the only Republican who's got anything mildly resembling a backbone...

Hopefully, I'll be able to start my "Best of '05" music list very soon. If not later today, then definitely tomorrow. In the meantime, here's Metacritic's highest rated discs of the year to tide you over.

Tuneage presently turning - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
by Bright Eyes

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The weather is here, wish it was beautiful...

It's the most wonderful time of the year, or so the song says. I guess that all depends on how you react to the weather. Here in Pennsylvania we're recovering from several days of snow, ice, and freezing rain. Christmas-y? Yes. Welcome? No. Scraping a quarter inch of ice off the windshield is, to put it mildly, a major pain in the back-end. On the other hand, this is the only period of the year when I'm able to quaff down the Nog! Pre-made egg nog is available in the local grocery stores for about a month or so before the we welcome in the new year by shoving the old one ass-first out the door, so it's within this limited time frame that we get to enjoy the deliciousness that results from our good friend, King Rum, shaking hands with the Nog. This is the one time of the year in my household that Tequila takes a back seat to any other spirit, though it does make me feel like a bit of an añejo heretic...

Sometime during the next week of rum-powered seasonal bliss, I'll be putting up my list of the best music of 2005. Lots'a good stuff was released during the year and hopefully I'll be able to whittle my list into something approaching a semblance of value for y'all.