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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Maps & Atlases: Good for directions, and also sweet tunes

In Jesse, the Rippers, and their contemporaries on March 4, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Last night marked the fourth time I have experienced numerous auditory orgasms at the hands of the math rock geniuses who perform under the band name Maps & Atlases.  Listening to their EPs or myspace is great, but when you actually see them they play their instruments, well, it’s enough to take your breath away.  And make you feel like a complete failure that you pretty much suck at any level of guitar hero above easy.  And by you, I mean me.

Bringing new meaning to kicking ass on a Tuesday night, they completely brought down the house at Southpaw, a fantastic venue that is conveniently located a mere five minute walk from my apartment.  Of course, I use the phrase “brought down the house” very loosely here; it is impossible to bring down a house when the crowd is mainly comprised of Brooklyn hipsters.   But there was often enthusiastic clapping after songs, and even several ironic high fives.

The four man band, who have been using their guitars and drums to make beautiful, unorthodox sounds since forming in Chicago back in 2004, have been a favorite of mine since my buddy Corrigan introduced me to them two years ago.

It's hard to play acoustic when your guitars are made of electricity

It's hard to play acoustic when your guitars are made of electricity

Maps’s extremely pleasurable guitar sounds are mixed wonderfully with the eccentric percussion, unleashing a sound that is in the vein of bands such as Minus the Bear and Battles, who are both fantastic themselves.  In fact, Minus the Bear’s “Absinthe Party at the Warehouse” is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.  Besides Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you,” obviously.  That’s a no brainer.


If only your life had a soundtrack like these movies…

In What? This isn't a documentary? on January 26, 2009 at 1:30 am

While we spent the day recovering from last night’s Early 90s dance party,  Jacko bought a Playstation 3 and spent 6 or so hours playing a game called Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. I could make a comment about his lack of productivity for a Sunday, except I sat there watching him play for about 5 of those hours.  Anyway, I could care less about video games (because I am bad at them), but I am psyched to quite psyched about the PS3’s Blu-Ray capabilities, which we just tested out by watching 300.

First of all, Blu-Ray is sick.  When you combine it with a visually spectacular movie like 300, which is so battletastic that it is virtually impossible to watch it without getting about a hundred War Boners, it is almost too much to take.

Seeing it for the first time since the theater, however, reminded me of the one disappointing aspect of the movie: its lack of a killer soundtrack.   You can’t have it all, but when I spend two hours watching men with 8 pack abs killing Persians, I like to rock out a little bit.   A movie with a good soundtrack brings it to the next level, pumping up the audience.  I don’t think I could have written papers in college without the soundtrack to Braveheart or Gladiator playing in the background.

Obviously, a director doesn’t have to have tunes pumping for the entire movie, but can effectively pick and choose great songs to pair with great scenes.  Do you think Rocky would have been as good without “Eye of the Tiger” playing?  Think again.  But sadly, as great as the Eye of the Tiger montage is, it doesn’t make my top ten (plus one) list for the best movie songs.   Without further adieu, John Stamos Fever presents:


Honorable Mention

Every song in Forrest Gump

11. Vanilla Ice’s “Go Ninja, Go Ninja Go!” in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

Vanilla Ice provides the soundtrack to the turtles dominating the Foot Clan in the middle of a classic early 90s club scene.  There has perhaps never been a greater rap single made for mutant teenage turtles in the history of movies.

10.  Urge Overkill’s cover of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon” in Pulp Fiction

First of all, Pulp Fiction is one of the best movies ever made, and this take on a classic Diamond hit is enough to make me want to become a hitman and work in tandem with Vincent and Jules.  Zed’s dead, baby.

9.   Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight” in Anchorman

I think it’s safe to say that never before have four newscasters combined to sing a better rendition of a song that is all about having sex in the middle of the day.

The intimate times?  Outta sight, my man

The intimate times? Outta sight, my man

8.  The Dropkick Murphy’s “I’m Shipping up to Boston” in The Departed

Just unspeakably badass.  The song.  The movie.  The city.  The band.  Perfect combo, just one notch below the best use of an Irish song in a movie set in Boston.  That distinction goes to:

7.  Mychael Danna’s “The Blood of Cu Chulainn” in The Boondock Saints

When the Sarge and I shared a bedroom sophomore year in college, rarely did a day pass without one of us throwing on this song for inspiration.  It fits any mood, livens any situation.  In fact, please feel free to read the rest of this while listening to the tune here:

6. The Geto Boys’ “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangster” in Office Space.

Why should Initech’s Michael Bolton change his name?  The sax playing pretty boy of the same name is the one who sucks.

5. Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker’s Street” in Good Will Hunting

Fresh off his initial mention in last week’s guest for his virtuoso saxophone skills, Rafferty is back for “Baker’s Street,” which stands out as the best song in an amazing movie filled with great ones. Next time I beat up someone from my kindergarten class, I am definitely listening to this song on my ipod.

4.  The Drifters’ “This Magic Moment” in The Sandlot

The Drifters get the nod for a great song, sure, but the real hero of this scene is Michael “Squints” Palledorous, who effectively fakes almost drowning in order to lay the hottest kiss of his young life on the lifeguard of his dreams, Wendy Peffercorn.   This is the greatest kissing scene in the history of Western Civilization.

The Great Hambino may have the sharpest tongue, but Squints uses his best

The Great Hambino may have the sharpest tongue, but Squints uses his best

3. Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” in Say Anything

Lloyd Dobler: making straight guys consider falling in love with a man since 1989.  Cameron Crowe: using ridiculously sweet songs in his movies since the beginning.

2.   Randy Edelman & Trevor Jones’s theme song to Last of the Mohicans

In order to create a song that matched the epicity of Daniel Day Lewis’s character, Hawkeye, Edelman and Jones must have had to sell their souls to the devil.  Luckily for us, they did, and were able to lay down the single most badass song I have ever heard:

And of course, in our top spot, another gem from Cameron Crowe

1. Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” in Almost Famous

If you have never had a latenight group singalong to “Tiny Dancer,” well my friend, you just haven’t lived.

I got a fevah. And the only prescription is… more SAX

In They have the Fever on January 23, 2009 at 12:49 am

Sometimes, when in the right hands, the sax is better than sex.  I mean, so I’ve heard.  I can’t play the sax, and I’m not married yet, so I kind of just have to rely on second hand accounts of both.  Two loyal JSF readers, the golden god Joe Sarge and Tommy (aka Maine Coast 12) Nale, love the 80s.  And they love the sax.  Particularly, they seemed to love when the sax and the 80s mixed.  I was intrigued so I asked for them to provide the first ever guest contribution on John Stamos Fever.  And what I got was a brilliant tornado of emails filled with gems from these two.  When the dust finally settled, here’s what I was able to piece together:

While the sax may not be the uber instrument some wish it to be, with correct placement and execution, it has the power to raise a song to that next level of greatness.  Historians have theorized for decades about when the true birth of the saxophone as a dominant instrument occurred, but few argue with the fact that Gerry Rafferty, fresh off some great work with Stealers Wheel, really held the coming out party for the saxophone.  He helped make it a staple, God bless him.  And a staple it has stayed.  The high was when our president was a rock star on the sax.  The higher, of course, was James Brown’s “Living in America.”  What a classic.  You just know that James was sitting around his mansion, smoking some crack, and saying, albeit inaudibly, “How can I make this song I’m using in Rocky IV more hip?”  Clearly, in a cloud of smoke and after several pipe burns, he found his answer.  Unfortunately he was not prescient enough to find a way to save Apollo from a vicious and fatal beatdown.

Yes, the 80s were a dominant decade, and the sax was there to usher it in.  For example, there’s the heavy sax usage in the “The Heat Is On,” a song that not only launched Glenn Frey’s solo career (and a completely kick-ass appearance on Miami Vice) but also served as the intro for the opening credits in one of [Tommy’s] favorite movies, and arguably the first buddy-cop comedy ever, Beverly Hills Cop.  The sax wasn’t done though.  By 1985, it was just getting warmed up as the last two minutes or so of Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” is just one big sax orgasm.

There are many ways to incorporate the saxophone into a song but all methods result in the aural bliss we have come to love and sometimes crave uncontrollably.  The Sarge has broken the way the sax is used in songs, and in movies, into the following four categories:

Ultimate Sax:  Some songs just grab the sax and run with it.  The lead singer knows when they have to bow down to the instrument, for it is the star.  Huey Lewis and the News and James Brown had that big band sound and made liberal use of the saxophone. The aforementioned “Living in America” and “Back in Time” are not only fantastic but helped to make Rocky IV and Back to the Future the awe inspiring films they are.

Sax on repeat: Other songs feature the sax appearing again and again. “Who Can it Be Now” and “Overkill” by Men At Work and “Your Latest Trick” by Dire Straits are such gems.  Each of these keep coming back to the saxophone just as Rambo keeps single-handedly defeating entire armies and saving the day.

Sax solo: Hits like “If You Leave” by OMD, “Never Surrender” by Corey Hart, “Rio” by Duran Duran, and even “Kokomo” by the Beach Boys blindside you with amazing saxophone breakdowns.  Some are short and sweet while others are quite substantial.  In terms of drinking, the sax solo “was to music what an Irish Car Bomb is to a night of drinking–everyone’s enjoying the show, cruising along and having a good time until the Car Bomb’s start flowing, and then holy hell it’s all over, people take it to the next level, and awesomeness ensues.”

Happy ending sax: A Happy ending sax hit, much like its massage counterpart, finishes off with something extra and leaves the listener with a wonderful sense of euphoria.  “Dancing in the Dark” by Springsteen, while having some difficult to hear sax throughout, kicks it up a notch at the end.  And while listening to “Super Freak” by Rick James or “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, you’re probably thinking, “This can’t possibly get any better” and then wham, super crazy awesome saxophone solo that blows your mind.

Experts still won’t go as far as to say that the sax is inherently awesome–although it may well be.  Many think that maybe it just seems more awesome because it’s involved in a lot of awesome songs.  It’s in “Bad to the Bone.”  80’s legends Huey Lewis, Hall and Oates, Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen, INXS, Eddie Money, Gloria Estefan, and of course, Billy Ocean all had some big boy sax solos in some of their best 80’s hits.

Maybe the sax is entirely awesome (though nobody thinks Kenny G is awesome) all on it’s own, but it’s more likely the product of great placement and kick-ass timing.  Yes, the era of sax solos seemed to end with the 80s but the songs we got from it can still melt your face off with their awesomeness.

I love your music, so I will kick you in the nuts

In Jesse, the Rippers, and their contemporaries on January 7, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Say what you want about, but it’s ad-free radio, so it’s pretty rad in my book.  Sure there may be better sites out there, but I challenge someone to find something I like better than typing in the artist “Islands” and seeing what the geniuses at the Music Genome Project have come up with.  Alright, I am coming off a four-month long at work addiction to the “Arcade Fire” station, but whatever.  It’s hit after hit; currently I have been riding on a roller coaster of sound through tracks by The Shins (you can hate on them, but I’m with Zach Braff in Garden State… to a degree), The Pixies, Cake, The Flaming Lips, Wolf Parade, Death Cab For Cutie and Islands’ song, “Rough Gem.”  Listen to it.  Or better yet, check out the video of it below (if for no other reason than to see kids dressed up as dogs acting like newscasters).  But after you watch, finish reading, I’ve got some good stuff planned:

The Flaming Lips just came back on and it’s one of the best songs ever- “Fight Test,” so I’m for the repetition in this case.  It reminds me of this summer when I went hiking on the Appalachian Trail with two friends, Mosh and F-Bomb.  To pass the time while we walked. and walked. and walked, we talked about a lot of things.  Life, sports, food, music, movies, women, how much our feet hurt, how much faster Mosh was at walking than us, which Ninja Turtle we would most want to be, and other important things of that nature.  At one point F-Bomb regaled me with a tale of how one of his friends at a music festival was walking around late and night screaming “I’m going to kick Wayne Coyne in the nuts!” (for those of you not in the know, Coyne is the lead singer of The Flaming Lips.  If that doesn’t mean much to you, you may remember a song about the girl that Coyne knows who will make you breakfast, who’ll make you toast, but she won’t use butter, and she won’t use cheese.  She won’t use jelly or any of these, but she sure will use that delicious Vaseline.)  After apparently yelling it for an extended period of time while walking back to his tent, a shadowy, grizzled figure emerged from a tent and asked, “So, I hear you want to kick me in the nuts?”  Of course, F-Bomb’s friend loved Wayne Coyne (in 2009, in lieu of cards, I am going to send loved ones a kick in their nuts), and they exchanged pleasantries, saving Wayne Coyne’s gonads and ensuring his voice’s octave level would remain killer for future generations of music lovers.