Top 7: Pink Floyd Songs

Top 7. Because 5 is never enough, but I’m too lazy for 10.

I’ve covered my favorite band, Duran Duran, already. (And I just bought their new album All You Need Is Now over at Amazon so I don’t have to give any money to the devil iTunes.) So now we move on to my second favorite band, Pink Floyd.

That’s right, Pink Floyd. Because I was raised on a hearty musical diet of ’70s wuss-rock, adult alternative, and psychedelic concept albums. I’ve seen them (and various versions of them) in concert several times, and own most of the stuff after Syd Barrett left. Not a big Barrett fan, I. And just like when fans of the Beatles have to declare a Lennon/McCartney preference (McCartney, FYI), so must Floyd fans declare Barrett/Waters/Gilmour. Personally: Gilmour.

Onward to my top 7!

7. “Us and Them”The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

So Dark Side is the earliest album that will appear on this list. And it’s an amazing album in its entirety — if you haven’t seen it yet, check out the episode of Classic Albums to see some of the amazing, ahead-of-their-time the guys did. Oh, and it’s also available on Netflix streaming. Seriously, it’s worth it alone for the live footage in the studio. As for “Us and Them,” it’s a gorgeous song with a great sax solo. And the original instrumental done for the film Zabriskie Point (again, see the Classic Albums episode) is gut-wrenchingly beautiful.

6. “Coming Back to Life”The Divison Bell, 1994

This song has it all. It’s a ballad, which you know I love. It’s all Gilmour-ish, with guitar solos galore. The lyrics are deep and dark and meaningful, and yet the song itself is in the upbeat key of C-major without sounding like peppy pop.

5. “Learning to Fly”A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987

I don’t recall my parents buying The Final Cut in 1983, so this was the first fresh Floyd in the house since the late ’70s. And in 1987, I was in the midst of my teenage years. So the album must have been good, to suck me into listening into parent music. This song struck me with the literal interpretation (I wanted to learn to fly [still do, and one day I’ll finish flight school, dagnabbit]) and with the metaphorical meaning — reaching out and trying something new and different and exciting. Plus, of course, Gilmour all over.

4. “The Great Gig in the Sky”The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

This is one of my all-time favorites for singing along in the privacy of my car. I’d also choose this as my entry if I ever got involved in a professional whistling contest. It’s even more amazing when you know that Clare Torry’s vocals are completely improvised. And like any good improviser, after she was done she apologized to everyone for being so terrible.

3. “Terminal Frost”A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987

I love it when bands put an instrumental track on their album. This one is all about Gilmour and Mason (Wright wasn’t there, so the track uses a drum machine), as well as two saxophones (one of them clearly the sax player for Supertramp). For some reason, a bunch of the saxophone parts make me think of Trevor Jones’s instrumental tracks on the sountrack for the movie Labyrinth. This is one of those songs that’s best when you put on a pair of big can headphones and block out the rest of the world.

2. “Comfortably Numb”The Wall, 1979

Of course, the entirety of The Wall is incredible. A one-of-a-kind concept album, the likes of which we may never see again. And there are a ton of good songs on that album. But this one has always stood out for me musically. In looking up information online right now, I see that it’s one of the few songs on The Wall that wasn’t completely written by Waters, so that may be part of it. Another part is that it’s one of the first songs I learned on the ukulele. Which sounds like a joke, but really, the chords are dead simple on a uke. (“Mother” is even easier.) Next I’m working on the guitar solos. I’ve actually sat with the uke and the chords and played through most of The Wall while listening to it — Waters wasn’t exactly all about the hard chords.

1. “Shine on You Crazy Diamond (parts I-VI)”Wish You Were Here, 1975

If anyone out there wants to get technical and say that this is five songs, I say to you: suck it. This rips from the CD as one 17-minute track, so I’m calling it one song. The thing is, for all seventeen minutes, it just rocks. Weirdly enough, it totally kicks the ass of parts VII-IX. It’s like they frontloaded the best stuff into the whole “Shine on” suite. Although on my CD, it appears that part VI is both at the end of the first set and at the beginning of the second set, bookending the rest of the album content. I use the 4-note theme (technically at the beginning of part II) as a ringtone on my phone. And when we lived at our old apartment, I’d occasionally use this song as a timer for my drive home, which usually took between 15 and 18 minutes, depending on how generous the traffic signals were. It just hits all of my Floyd sweet spots: sax solos, guitar solos, lots of Gilmour, instrumental chunks, slow tempo. Oh, and it’s my second choice for a whistling contest. So come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and SHINE!

Top 7: Duran Duran Songs

Yes, top 7. Because 5 is never enough, but I’m too lazy for 10.

What better way to launch a new category — my personal top 7 lists — than with the songs from my favorite band, Duran Duran. They’re still as fantastic to me now as they were 28 years ago. I have to make some tough choices, since their discography includes 14 albums, as well as numerous B-sides, demos, and other rare songs that didn’t make it onto an LP. My MP3 collection, which is incomplete (but has some remixes, demos, and live versions) contains 137 songs. Tough choosies!

7. “Someone Else Not Me”Pop Trash, 2000

This is probably a song you’ve never heard of, from an album you’ve likewise never heard of. Unless you’re a big ol’ Durannie. But it hits me right in my mellow sweet spot — Duran Duran made great party music, to be sure, but they also really knew their way around a ballad.

6. “Serious”Liberty, 1990

Again, you ask: what? From what? That’s right, another track from a little-listened record. Not only is it the best cut from Liberty, it’s really the only great song on that album. The rest are fair to good, but this album suffered from musical musicians and the boys figuring out what they were doing. The band liked the song enough to play it on MTV Unplugged in 1993, so there’s that. A great ballad with a great sound.

5. “Rio”Rio, 1982

Wait, what? “Rio” isn’t the number one song? Not for me, it’s not. Although it’s an excellent piece of work, with an upbeat tempo, full of fun, and a bassline I’ve always loved. It is, however, hindered by that long super-quiet lead-in, which always makes me think my CD player is suddenly on the fritz. But the big problem is, Rio is an amazing album full of outstanding songs. Which means for me, personally, the song “Rio” isn’t even the number two song on that record.

4. “Lonely in Your Nightmare”Rio, 1982

Because this song is my number-two from Rio. The third track on the album, sandwiched between radio giants “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf”, has always been one of my favorites. And it’s made even more awesome by a game we play at the House of Meyer, where we try to fit whatever we’re saying into the cadence, “if blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, let me in.” So just remember: if it’s time to fold the laundry, let me in. (Now please excuse me for a moment, because it actually is time to fold the laundry.)

3. “What Happens Tomorrow”Astronaut, 2004

I just about exploded when I first heard that the original five were getting back together for this album. I fretted greatly that it wouldn’t be good, but my frets were unfounded. The album as a whole is quite good, with a few songs that stray into great territory. They managed to capture a lot of the fun positivity that made their early stuff successful, but they also tweaked things enough to be current. “What Happens Tomorrow” is a perfect combination of hopefulness and smooth ballad.

2. “Save a Prayer”Rio, 1982

Okay, so you may have realized by now that I like ballads. Probably 80% of my music collection in general consists of slower songs. And this is one of the best damned ballads ever made. What girl who heard this song didn’t want to be the one whose one-night-stand Simon LeBon called “paradise”?

1. “Girls on Film”Duran Duran, 1981

I have three versions of this song in my collection. One from the original album, one from 1984’s live Arena album, and the “night version” from the 12″ single. The song is peppy, and fun, and vibrant. The full Godley & Creme video was shockingly full of boobs, while the concert video from Arena had leather-and-lace girls playing roller derby. Which was awesome. But it’s the song’s personal staying power that puts it in the number one spot: whenever I make a new mix CD for the car, a version of this song is always on it. In fact, my current car mix has both the Arena version (I put the whole album on this one, except for I omitted “Wild Boys”) and the night version on it. Just hearing it makes me want to dance around. Or skate fast in a circle. (But not in leather and lace.)

A Bouncing Baby Ukulele

I got a new musical instrument last week. It’s like a couple of musical instruments I already have, but it’s SO SO different.

My new baby is the center instrument — a Kala Makala concert ukulele. “Concert” is a size — the next size up from soprano, which is the smallest of the ukes. The right-hand ukulele is a soprano, my old cheap Johnson (my, that sounds a little dirty). I felt ready to move up to something that sounds better and is a little higher quality. Mind you, this concert is pretty cheap still. The Johnson soprano was around $25, this Kala concert is $50. Although I got a package deal, which included the ukulele, a really nice padded bag, and an electric tuner. The tuner alone is worth the package price.

I got it locally at George’s Music, a chain with stores in Florida and Pennsylvania. What a weird mix. Anyhoo, they had a much better selection of ukuleles than our local Guitar Center, Sam Ash, and that creepy independent place by the freeway combined. Plus, they had a little one-hour Ukulele 101 class, which I forced Scott to attend. Either he’ll start playing with me, or he’ll get a comic out of it, or both. I’m hoping for both.

I also did a little IKEA hacking here. Instead of paying 15 bucks each for guitar and uke wall hangers, I got shelf brackets for 50 cents each. Two for each instrument, and that’s three bucks for my display wall. Works for me!

Here you can also admire some of our books and DVDs, as well as the collection of fezzes and Mexican wrestling masks. And my American Idol Experience lanyard. FUN! Also, for the curious, my guitar is a student size, because I have tiny girl hands.

Anyhoo, you may wonder how the new uke sounds. It sounds GREAT! You can really tell the difference in quality. Although I wouldn’t scoff at little Johnson; he’s been a great uke, and I’ll still play him. My very first uke (which died years ago when two tuning pegs broke the same week) was a super-cheap yellow floral job, and until it broke, it still sounded OK. I’ve already told Scott that if I had unlimited space and budget, we’d have a massive collection of ukuleles.

If you’re interested in learning to play, you could do worse than finding music to play at Dr. Uke, printing out the Ukulele Lady’s chord chart (although I prefer Dr. Uke’s D-chord) and visiting the massive archive at Ultimate Guitar for the chords to your favorite rock/pop songs.

Lady Music

I’m in the middle of reading the February 26th issue of Entertainment Weekly, which was delivered to my home earlier this week. I don’t understand why it was delivered, since the label on the front clearly states my EW subscription expiration month as JAN10, but if they want to keep sending me free magazines, I’ll keep on reading them.

There’s an article in this issue about Lady Antebellum. The article taught me that Lady Antebellum is actually a group of three people, not one single person. My confusion stems from two sources: one is that the names Lady Antebellum and Lady Gaga both appeared on my radar around the same time, and since Lady Gaga is one person, I figured Lady Antebellum was as well. This, of course, is the same kind of rash assumption that caused Darius Rucker to shout at a friend of mine, “MY NAME IS NOT HOOTIE.”

I’ve never actually heard music from either Lady; country isn’t my thing, and although a friend of mine gave me a copy of a Lady Gaga album, I’ve been too busy listening to classic acts like Duran Duran to give it a shot. Although I do get to hear “Poker Face” almost every week at the roller rink.

The Lady mixup is not as confusing, however, as when a young female singer named Nelly Furtado appeared on the scene at roughly the same time as a young male rapper named Nelly. Man, that one boggled my mind. I was never really sure who was who most of the time. And I actually felt bad for both of them. Most of the confusion was probably in my own head anyway — many years ago, a girl I worked with said she was going to the Pink concert. I expressed my surprise, since I hadn’t heard that Pink Floyd was back together. Yes, I’d never heard of Pink at the time. And yes, she looked at me as if I’d grown a second head … because she’d never heard of Pink Floyd.

Bottom line, don’t call yourself Lady if you’re not a lady. That’s just confusing. Keep it normal and easily gender- and size-guessable, like that sweet young lady I’ve heard of recently, Flo Rida.

Greetings from Skullcrusher Mountain

JoCo with Paul & Storm

Last night, we attended the Jonathan Coulton concert. This was his first time playing in Florida, and I think he’ll be back. The crowd was awesome (and what a fascinating, geek-tee-shirt wearing, bearded demographic he has), even though at this particular club (The Social) there’s no seating, so we stood for ~4 hours. This morning my back hurts, but my head is happy.

My friend Sarah took a picture of me and Scott with JoCo; she was the only one with a working camera with a flash (and it was her Blackberry, at that). So that’s still forthcoming. Lesson learned — take the good camera, not just the phone! We were concerned, because some venues really crack down on any photography, but The Social merely banned “really large video cameras”. Everything else was OK.

I’ve never been to a concert this intimate — almost all of my concertgoing experiences have been in massive arenas or sports stadiums. Even when I went to see the Puppini Sisters at the House of Blues, we were up on a balcony and were separated from the performers.

I actually got to help out a little bit with bringing JoCo and his family to WDW, so I got to meet him a couple of days ago. And I have to say: nicest. Guy. Ever. At the concert, when wandering around and mingling before and after the show, he called me by name. I gotta say, that’s an awesome feeling, having someone you think is so grand know who you are.

Internet Radio Experiment, Part 5: finetune

It’s getting harder and harder to find new internet music services. Sure, there are some like Live365 and Shoutcast and Accuradio that are pre-programmed stations, but I’m after stations where I can hear exactly what I want to hear.

Tastefully presented in basic black.

Tastefully presented in basic black.

The latest system I’ve tried is finetune (they seem to not want the name capitalized, so I’ll follow suit). They seem to be completely free, with no alternate paid option to get ad-free or feature-rich service.

As with so many players, you start with a single artist and go from there. In order to take a break from the Depeche Mode and Cure that usually follows Duran Duran, I’ve gone a different direction and started with Poe. Clicking on her, I’m given a list of similar artists: Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, Fiona Apple, Dido, Sheryl Crow. All right, a fair place to start.

Finetune (sorry, finetune — couldn’t help capitalizing at the start of the sentence) appears to be solely a music discovery player. You can listen to other people’s playlists, but after searching their FAQ and then doing a Google search, it looks like they disabled the ability to build new playlists earlier this year. Most of the search engine results are postings from 2006 and 2007, when this player was apparently more feature-rich and user-friendly. Which sucks the big banana. So you can mark artists and albums as “favorites”, but you can’t pile them into your own list.

Speaking of marking things as favorites, finetune is lacking a very, VERY important feature for me: the ability to mark songs/albums/artists as NOT favorites. They have no red X, no frowny-face, no thumbs-down for me to click on. There’s a fast-forward button, but after you FF past five songs, you get a little pop up that reads, “You’re gonna have to listen to some of them…” and you’re stuck. Even if you call up a different artist and start listening to their station, you’re still blocked from any further fast-forward action. It looks like you have to wait 5 minutes, then you get the ability to fast-forward one more time, before you’re blocked again.

They have one feature I haven’t really seen anywhere else, which is user tags. You can tag artists or albums with whatever words you like, be it genres or feelings or emoticons. So instead of the player service classifying Poe as, say, “alternative rock, pop” … you get a list like this: “Alternative Rock, Grunge, alt rock, Hoobastank, I <3 Poe, Kassad, Malaysia, melayu, Melodic, mintyjulep, offspring, women who rock, zwan33's Rather soft". So clearly, people are using the tags as a work-around to the now-missing playlist feature. Which blows. Overall, finetune is near the bottom of the list. It's not even ON the list for playlist-based, play-on-demand services. And Pandora is still the top dog for discovery players.

Ticket Purchase: HUGE SUCCESS

My excitement levels are rising every day, for something that’s not happening for over two months. Forget Thanksgiving, the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Boxing Day, or even New Year’s Eve. What I’m looking forward to is January 14th, when Jonathan Coulton plays his first concert in Orlando.

You Seattleites have it so good. JoCo plays there practically every couple of months. It’s about time you shared the love!

This concert will also most likely be our first big trip to downtown Orlando. We’ve driven past downtown a couple of times, and I’ve visited places on the outskirts once or twice, but we’ve never really been down, down, downtown. We were actually hoping he’d play our House of Blues, but he’s opted to play some joint called The Social.

It wasn’t until I combed through my blog archives that I realized, I knew of JoCo four long years ago; I posted a link to his cover of Baby Got Back.

I’ve had “Flickr” stuck in my head for days. So here’s the video:

Internet Radio Experiment, Part 4: Grooveshark (& Rhapsody)

First off, I’m going to send Rhapsody to the garbage pile immediately. They only allow 25 song plays per month; if you want more, you have to pay $12.99 per month.

This week, I’ve been testing the Grooveshark service. As with most internet music sites, there’s a paid version that goes for $3/month or $30/year. But I’m just using the free version, because I’m a cheapskate.

Clean and neat. Queue and player along the bottom.

Clean and neat. Queue and player along the bottom.

As far as making playlists and listening to specific songs anytime I want to, Grooveshark is the new winner. It’s almost more like a huge collective hard drive of music, with contributions from users, than it is a regular service. You can play any song instantly. You can play it over and over again, without limits. You can build and save playlists with any number of songs, and play them whenever you like. It’s far and away the best service I’ve found for playing what you want, when you want.

The selection of music is surprisingly large, I suppose because it’s contributed by users all over the world. Not only do they have every Duran Duran song I’d ever want to listen to (including the very hard to find “To the Shore,” which was dropped from their first album on re-issue to be replaced with “Is There Something I Should Know”). I’ve been able to find almost every rare thing I can think of, including the soundtrack to the 80s cartoon movie Animalympics and the original soundtrack to the videogame Psychonauts. If there are songs you own that aren’t on there, you can upload them to your account (and by doing so, share them with the world).

The interface can be a little sluggish at times, as it’s a big Flash program. But for the most part, search is snappy and there’s very little, if any, delay between songs. The player runs along the bottom of the screen, and you don’t have to navigate away from the player to browse or search. There’s one skyscraper ad banner on the right side, which isn’t too distracting. They even have a variety of themes to make the player pretty (although the coolest themes are reserved for the $3/month “VIP” members).

So it does playlists, but how about new music discovery? It’s available, but it’s not the best. Formerly called “Autoplay” and now called “Radio”, Grooveshark lets you put a song (or two, or three, or more) in your queue, then will feed similar songs. But it’s a bit too predictable — a couple of Duran Duran songs (my usual baseline) got me some Depeche Mode, some Cure, and Billy Idol. I think if I’m in the mood for discovery, I’ll head back over to Pandora, where they use the very cool music genome project to make more interesting and unexpected offers of new music.

If you wanted to pay, what does your $3/month or $30/year get you? More themes, more server space for your uploaded music, and a higher number of “favorite”-marked songs. You also get no ads, first shot at trying out any new updates, more screen size adjustability, and it appears there’s a desktop player (but it’s hard to find out information without ponying up the dough).

So there it is: Grooveshark is the new top dog for playlists and immediate specific-song playback. And it’s even earned a spot in my favorite bookmarks bar up at the top of IE. And I feel like I’m supporting a local business, since they’re based here in sunny Florida.

Internet Radio Experiment, Part 3: Jango

The latest internet radio station I tried was Jango. The Jango experiment didn’t last a week like the other ones; it only lasted one day. Jango was just that terrible.

Seriously, that's a lot of ads. And so ugly!

Seriously, that's a lot of ads. And so ugly!

Their main page has quotes from sources like USA Today and Wired Magazine, which make it sound like a decent system. There seems to be an emphasis on the “social” aspects of their system — you’re supposed to add your friends, and let their musical tastes influence what you listen to. Hey Jango — have you heard some of the crap my friends listen to? No thanks.

Compared to the smooth black layout of Slacker and the bold red design of Last.fm, Jango looks like it was cobbled together by a Web design student. Or worse, software like Pagemaker. It has a weird layout, a weird color scheme, and more ads on the page than any other player I’ve tried so far.

As with every other internet radio player, I started with a solid base of Duran Duran and built my station from there. Jango gives you lists of “related” artists, and you have the option of clicking a plus-sign to add them to your station, or a trash can to ban them. I clicked a lot of trash cans, because the likes of Pantera and Def Leppard are hardly “related” to Duran Duran.

As songs play, you can click a frowny face, smiley face, or big grinning face to rate them. But if you click the frowny face, which means “never play this song again,” the song doesn’t stop playing. Every other system, they immediately move on to a new song when you ban the one playing. Jango makes you fast-forward yourself after banning. Nice. Then every couple of songs, a pop-up window stops all music playing and reminds you to check out their fabulous sponsors. Radio will be available again in 15 seconds. After that 15, you have to click a link to continue playing. It makes Slacker’s audio ads seem like an absolute dream.

On Jango, you have to add in artists as a whole; you can’t pick a single song or album to add to your list. And when songs play, you’re told the artist name and song name, but not the album name. Also, every few songs they’ll throw in a song from an “independent” or “emerging” artist, which you’ll almost always have to fast-foward through, because nothing in this new indie artist’s style has anything to do with the style of the music you’ve already selected.

Bottom line, Jango is at the bottom of the heap. The worst of the internet radio stations so far. I won’t be back, so I won’t be able to see their ads for: Zune, Wal*Mart, L’Oreal, Seventeern magazine, VoiceFive, Olive Garden, and Zune (again). And those were all on one page.

Internet Radio Experiment, Part 2: Slacker

This week, I’ve been trying out another web-based free internet radio system, Slacker.

Slacker, just like most other free services, also offers a paid system with more features. But I’m cheap, so I’m just trying out the free radio.

The banner and side ad are both animated, which is dizzying.

The banner and side ad are both animated, which is dizzying.

To start out, Slacker has you type in the name of an artist or group. As usual, I started my radio station with Duran Duran. You can then go through a list of “similar artists” and click a little heart icon next to the ones you’d like to hear. You can also select specific songs to mark with a heart, but they limit the number to something like 20.

Well, that’s not entirely true. You can mark additional songs with the heart, but only as they play on your radio station. The limit is on the number of songs you can specifically seek out to mark. Unlike the previous champion Last.fm, you can only mark favorite artists in general; not specific songs or albums from those artists.

A nice feature is that they show you not only what artist is going to play next, but they give you a little thumbnail of the album cover. So I know the next song up is not only Duran Duran, but it’s going to be a cut from Rio. The software also updates the title of the Web page reliably, so I can be surfing on another page, but see the Slacker tab displaying the title and artist. Handy.

Slacker doesn’t appear to have a limit on the number of times you fast-forward or “ban” unliked songs, which is great. Overall, I’d say it’s comparable to Last.fm except for one thing: actual radio commercials. Every few songs, Slacker plays one or two quick ads (the system usually feeds me one PSA, followed by an actual product ad). There are also ads galore on the Web page where the player lives.

Overall, I’m putting Slacker in a close second behind Last.fm — Slacker’s better at keeping the page title updated and showing me the thumbnail of the next album, but they play audio ads and don’t let you favorite just one album from an artist; you have to “love” the artist’s full catalog.