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kottke.org posts about Music

This Kid Crashing Into Trash Cans Sounds Like Phil Collins’ Drums from “In the Air Tonight”

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 12, 2020

I love things that sound like other things and this video of a kid crashing into some trash bins on his bike sounds a lot like the drums in Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight”. (If I may play spoiler for just a second though, capturing the sound of those bins going over so clearly from that far away seems a little suspect. But let’s assume it’s real and have our fun.) See also This Stumbling Deer’s Hooves Sound Like Phil Collins’ Drum Fill on “In the Air Tonight”. (thx to everyone who sent this in)

Daft Trump - Harder, Woman, Faster, Camera

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2020

Donald Trump’s idiotic brag about how well he did on a cognitive test (“Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.”) set to Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.

You just have to laugh because if you actually stop to think about how much harm this man has done and will continue to do in his remaining time in office, the incandescent rage might make you pass out.

Lin-Manuel Miranda Breaks Down His Biggest Hit Songs (Like “My Shot”)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2020

In this video, Lin-Manuel Miranda shares how he came up with some of his most iconic songs from In the Heights, Hamilton, Moana, and even Star Wars (he wrote a cantina song for The Force Awakens). I can sit and listen to creators talking about how they came up with their best work pretty much forever. But honestly the reason I’m sharing this is this incredible detail about the “whoa whoa whoa” bit in “My Shot” (at ~7:35):

And then the “whoa” is based on the AOL startup dial sound, because I wanted it to feel like his words are connecting with the world and they’re reverberating out into the world. And I associate that with the first time I signed on to the internet and you hear [simulated modem noises]. It’s the AOL dialup octave.

Well, I’ll never listen to that song in the same way again. For spry minds, inspiration comes from everywhere. (via the spry minds at open culture)

A Musical Theatre Coach Breaks Down Jonathan Groff’s Performance of “You’ll Be Back” in Hamilton

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 21, 2020

My two favorite performances in the Disney+ version of Hamilton are Renée Goldsberry’s Angelica Schuyler and Daveed Diggs’ twin roles as Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. But perhaps a close third is Jonathan Groff’s turn as King George III. Ever since we watched the show a few weeks ago, my kids and I have been walking around the house breaking into song and talking a lot about what was so mesmerizing about Groff’s performance.

So, I was excited to run across this video of musical theatre coach Marc Daniel Patrick breaking down his performance of “You’ll Be Back”. Yes, he covered the spitting but I found the discussion of how he held specific members of the audience with his gaze for extended periods much more relevant in understanding what made that performance work. I particularly loved how still Groff held his body and the rest of his head as his lower jaw pistoned up and down like a ventriloquist dummy’s singing the “da da da dat” parts. The audio is funny enough, but his possessed mandible makes me laugh every time I see it.

Patrick made a similar video analyzing Phillipa Soo’s performance of “Burn”.

Bardcore: Medieval-Style Covers of Pop Songs

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 20, 2020

With time to burn during ye olde pandemic, practitioners of a musical genre called bardcore have been taking pop songs and medieval-izing their lyrics and tunes. The three examples embedded above are Radiohead’s Creep, Jolene by Dolly Parton, and Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones. Here’s how Creep starts off:

When thou wert here before
I could not look thee in the eye
Thou art like an angel
Thy skin makes me cry
Thou float’st like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
Thou’rt so very special
But I am a creep
I am a weirdo
What in hell am I doing here?
I do not belong here

Here’s a playlist full of bardcore favorites.

Wikipedia and most of the news articles about bardcore date the genre to April 2020, but I found a cover of System of a Down’s Toxicity from 2017 and a medieval cover of Metallica’s One from 2014 by Belarusian band Stary Olsa, which released a whole album of medieval covers of classic rock hits in 2016.

Hamilton, But Sung By The Muppets

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2020

This is a fan-made rendition of act 1 of the hit musical Hamilton sung by The Muppets.

The impressions of the Muppets aren’t bad and the “casting” is about what you’d expect:

Alexander Hamilton - Kermit the Frog
Aaron Burr - The Great Gonzo
Eliza Schuyler - Miss Piggy
Marquis de LaFozette - Fozzie Bear
George Washington - Sam the Eagle

I don’t know if listening to this all the way through is wise, but you should listen at least until Kermit/Hamilton makes his entrance at ~1:18. Oh, and skip ahead to 17:09 to hear The Swedish Chef do Samuel Seabury and to 19:01 to hear You’ll Be Back performed by Animal. (via open culture)

Nirvana Performing Smells Like Teen Spirit in a Music Store a Week Before Its Release

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2020

On September 16, 1991, about a week before the band’s breakthrough album Nevermind was released, Nirvana played a 45-minute in-store set at Beehive Records in Seattle. When I watch videos like this (here’s the Notorious BIG rapping on a street corner at 17 and a 17-year-old LL Cool J playing to a mostly empty gym1), I look at the crowd just as much or more than the performers. Do the people in that music shop audience know they’re witnessing an early performance of one of the last great consequential rock songs or do they only realize it later?

Hell, I suppose you could ask the same question of the performers: did Cobain or Biggie or LL Cool J know at the time that they were going to blow up in a matter of weeks and months? In Cobain’s case, he may have. From a biography called Heavier Than Heaven:

Two days later, Nirvana held an “in-store” at Beehive Records. DGC expected about 50 patrons, but when over 200 kids were lined up by two in the afternoon — for an event scheduled to start at seven — it began to dawn on them that perhaps the band’s popularity was greater than first thought. Kurt had decided that rather than simply sign albums and shake people’s hands — the usual business of an in-store — Nirvana would play. When he saw the line at the store that afternoon, it marked the first time he was heard to utter the words “holy shit” in response to his popularity. The band retreated to the Blue Moon Tavern and began drinking, but when they looked out the window and saw dozens of fans looking in, they felt like they were in the movie A Hard Day’s Night. When the show began, Beehive was so crowded that kids were standing on racks of albums and sawhorses had to be lined up in front of the store’s glass windows to protect them. Nirvana played a 45-minute set — performing on the store floor — until the crowd began smashing into the band like the pep rally in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video.

Kurt was bewildered by just how big a deal it had all become. Looking into the crowd, he saw half of the Seattle music scene and dozens of his friends. It was particularly unnerving for him to see two of his ex-girlfriends — Tobi and Tracy — there, bopping away to the songs. Even these intimates were now part of an audience he felt pressure to serve. The store was selling the first copies of Nevermind the public had a chance at, and they quickly sold out. “People were ripping posters off the wall,” remembered store manager Jamie Brown, “just so they’d have a piece of paper for Kurt to autograph.” Kurt kept shaking his head in amazement.

Kurt retreated to the parking lot for a smoke and some downtime. But there, the day became even more freakish when he saw two of his old Montesano schoolmates, Scott Cokely and Rick Miller, holding copies of “Sliver.” Though Kurt signed signed hundreds of autographs that day, none made him feel more surreal than putting his signature on a single about his grandparents for two guys from the town his grandparents lived in. They talked about their mutual friends from the harbor, but the conversation made Kurt wistful — Cokely and Miller were a reminder of a past Kurt thought he had left behind. “Do you get back to the harbor much?” Cokely asked. “Not very often,” Kurt replied. Both Cokely and Miller were confused when they looked at their singles and noticed Kurt had signed them “Kurdt.”

Kurt later cited this exchange as one of the first moments he realized he was famous. Yet rather than comfort him, this realization set off something just short of a panic. Though he had always wanted to be famous — and back when he was in school in Monte, he had promised his classmates one day he would be — the actual culmination of his dreams deeply unnerved him. Krist would recall this particular show — a free show in a record store a week before the album’s official release date — as a turning point in Kurt. “Things started to happen after that,” Krist said. “We weren’t the same old band. Kurt, he just kind of withdrew. There was a lot of personal stuff that was going on. It got complicated. It was more than we bargained for.”

  1. And also Chance the Rapper and the Beastie Boys before they were famous.

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2020

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

Nursing Home Residents Recreate Famous Album Covers During Pandemic Lockdown

This is delightful. Over the past few months of pandemic lockdown, the residents and staff of the Sydmar Lodge Care Home in Edgware, England have passed the time by recreating famous album covers.

The Indigenous Peruvian Trap Music of Renata Flores

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2020

Quechua is an indigenous language family spoken by millions of people in the Andean region of South America, primarily in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. It was the main language of the Inca empire and today is the most widely spoken pre-Columbian language in the Americas. In her music, Peruvian singer/songwriter Renata Flores combines modern forms like hip hop, electronic, and trap music with native instruments and vocals sung in Quechua. Here’s the video for one of her most popular songs, Tijeras:

Flores also does covers of pop songs (Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, Fallin’ by Alicia Keys) and she first captured people’s online attention with a Quechua cover of Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel performed when she was 14 years old:

Rosa Chávez Yacila wrote an article for Vice about Flores and her music last year. Her use of Quechua in pop music brought the language out of private spaces into the public.

It’s very common for many Quechua speakers to not teach their children or grandchildren the language because they consider this knowledge as a burden. To explain the shortage of active bilingualism in Peru, the linguist Virginia Zavala uses the concept of “linguistic ideologies,” which are the ideas that people have about languages. For example: French is the language of love; German sounds rough; Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish are similar.

Quechua, similarly to other indigenous languages, is associated with poverty, rural life, and illiteracy. These ideas have been shaped by history and society to the point that people hold on to these beliefs as if they were universal truths. And these “truths” are deeply embedded in their conscious thought process. Value hierarchies also exist with languages. Some are “worth” more than others.

The end result is that many native Quechua speakers believe that using Quechua in public is unnecessary after learning Spanish. Either by shyness or shame, they reserve their maternal tongue for private spaces and intimate conversations.

Dinnerware Smashing in Slow Motion Accompanied by Bach

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 02, 2020

Optical Arts conceived this video as a “live action musical animation” of cups, plates, and glasses smashing and un-smashing accompanied by the toccata section of Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous organ piece, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. I thought it was fully CGI at first (as The Morning News reported), but then I found the making of video on the project page and it’s not — they filmed all the glasses and dished smashing at extremely high speeds between 1000 and 5000 frames/second on Phantom cameras.

I don’t know about you, but this video is what it looks like inside my head lately. Smash smash smash! (via the morning news)

Kulning, a Beautiful Medieval Nordic Herding Call

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2020

In this hauntingly beautiful video, Jonna Jinton performs an ancient Nordic herding call called kulning to summon a herd of cows.

The herds grazed during the daytime, wandering far from the cottages, and thus needed to be called in each night. Women developed kulning to amplify the power of their voices across the mountainous landscape, resulting in an eerie cry loud enough to lure livestock from their grazing grounds.

One should always take caution when hanging out with someone kulning, as it can’t be done quietly. Rosenberg, who’s researched the volume of kulning, says it can reach up to 125 decibels — which, she warns, is dangerously loud for someone standing next to the source. Comparable to the pitch and volume of a dramatic soprano singing forte, kulning can be heard by an errant cow over five kilometers away.

(via moss & fog)

The USPS Introduces New Hip Hop Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2020

USPS Hip Hop Stamps

On July 1, the USPS is introducing a set of four stamps celebrating hip hop. The stamps were designed by Antonio Alcalá based on photographs by Cade Martin. In an interview with Steven Heller, Alcalá explained how he thought about the design process:

Hip Hop has a long and rich history, and from the start, I knew I wouldn’t be able to represent its totality in one set of stamps. But because it is such an important part of our nation’s art, and one of our most significant cultural contributions to the world, I knew we needed to at least begin representing it somehow. Hip Hop has four widely recognized key elements, or “pillars”: Rap, DJs, Graffiti, and B-boying (known more broadly as break-dancing). Using contemporary images that quickly and accurately depict the genres eased the burden of having to represent the many histories within the subject.

You can preorder the hip hop stamps on the USPS website.

Making Music in Excel

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2020

Dylan Tallchief created a complete digital music studio app in Excel and in this video, he demonstrates how he used his spreadsheet program to recreate a-ha’s Take On Me. You can listen to the whole song here:

If you’d like to make your own songs in Excel, you can download the spreadsheets on Google Drive or the individual modules and objects on Github.

See also The Excel Spreadsheet Artist and Super Mario Bros Recreated in Excel. (via @pomeranian99)

Alicia Keys’ Tiny Desk Concert

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2020

Well, this is a treat. In February, before the pandemic lockdown, Alicia Keys recorded a Tiny Desk Concert and NPR released the video earlier this week.

As she approached her piano, a bit surprised at the amount of people in the room, she smiled and remarked over her shoulder, “Gee, the Tiny Desk is tiny!” She kicked off the set with an uncanny ode to combat the darkness of this moment in American history: “Show Me Love,” a single she released in 2019. No one could have predicted then how much her lyrics and musical healing would be crucial during this emotionally fraught time of unprecedented political and racial unrest, heightened by three months of quarantine due to a global pandemic.

The stand-out moment during her Tiny Desk was the premiere of “Gramercy Park”, a song from her upcoming self-titled album, ALICIA, which is set to be released this fall. It’s one of those timeless songs that will transcend radio formats and genres, with lyrics that address how utter selflessness and worrying about making everyone happy but yourself can throw your own center askew. The song’s spiritual refrain is sure to be a sing-along moment for the rest of Keys’s career.

As an encore, she and her band played Fallin, her first big single. As someone in the comments said:

Can we all just appreciate the fact that she can pull fallin out her back pocket, dust it off like an old record, and make us fall in love all over again.

Keys’ almost casual brilliance blew me right away here. Wow.

Barcelona Opera House Reopens With a Concert for 2,292 Plants

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2020

Plants Opera

As promised last week, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu reopened on Monday with a string quartet performance of Puccini’s Crisantemi played before a packed house of 2,292 plants. You can watch the performance here:

A strange & beautiful performance. I love that they did the “please silence your mobile phones and no pictures please” announcement before beginning.

The performance was the brainchild of artist Eugenio Ampudia, who wanted to “offer us a different perspective for our return to activity, a perspective that brings us closer to something as essential as our relationship with nature”. Afterwards, the plants were donated to healthcare workers who have been battling Covid-19 for the past few months.

See also A Forest Grows on an Austrian Soccer Pitch.

Nile Rodgers Tells the Story of the Iconic Riff on Bowie’s Let’s Dance

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2020

In this video from Fender, the legendary producer/composer/guitarist Nile Rodgers sits down with his iconic Stratocaster and talks about how he took a folky tune that David Bowie came up with and turned it into the jazzy backbone of the pop song Let’s Dance, arguably Bowie’s biggest hit. Listening to where the song started off before Rodgers started tweaking, it’s hard for this musical simpleton to recognize that it’s even the same tune.

Update: Rodgers told a variation of this story in 2015.

Palo Alto, a Previously Unreleased Thelonious Monk Live Album

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 22, 2020

A Thelonious Monk live album that was recorded in 1968 is set to be released for the first time on July 31, 2020. You can hear the first single from the album on YouTube, Spotify, or several other places. (The song is now unavailable — see the update below.)

The story behind the performance is a little nutty — a student hired Monk to play at his high school and many folks didn’t buy tickets until the jazz great actually pulled into the parking lot.

After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, racial tensions across the country rose. Palo Alto, a largely white college town in California, was not immune to the events of the day. Danny Scher, a rising junior at Palo Alto High School, had a dream to bring Thelonious Monk to Palo Alto to perform and help bring about racial unity in his community as well as raise funds for his school’s International Committee. After somehow securing Monk’s services to perform on Sunday, October 27, Scher initially had trouble selling tickets and convincing people that Monk was even going to show up. With many twists and turns along the way and several hundred people waiting in the school’s parking lot to await Monk’s arrival before purchasing tickets, the concert eventually happened and was a triumph in more ways that Monk or Scher could have imagined. This is a recording of that historic concert.

(via, who else?, @tedgioia)

Update: One of the high school’s custodians took charge of tuning Monk’s piano and recording the session. A crowdsourced effort is underway to identify and recognize his efforts.

Update: The album’s release has been “indefinitely delayed”.

“I received word that there was a dispute between the estate and Monk’s previous label,” Scher said during a phone conversation on Monday, July 27. So the release has been taken off of the schedule indefinitely “due to circumstances beyond the label’s control,” according to a statement by Impulse! Records. Co-producer Feldman was unable to provide any further information at this time.

The album’s first single has been scrubbed from all the streaming services as well.

Tonight’s Classic Radiohead Concert Is From 1994

posted by Jason Kottke   May 28, 2020

Since early April, Radiohead has been putting video of one classic concert a week up on YouTube (playlist here). Tonight’s show, which starts streaming at 5pm ET, is from a really interesting point in the band’s evolution. In May 1994, Radiohead had released only one album (Pablo Honey) and no one knew whether they were going to be anything more than a one-hit wonder. At the time, the group was in the midst of recording The Bends and the setlist contains several songs from that album, including Fake Plastic Trees, The Bends, My Iron Lungs, and Just.

The release of The Bends and the reception to it established Radiohead as a group to be taken seriously and set the stage for OK Computer launching them into the critical stratosphere. As Jonny Greenwood later recounted: “That’s when it started to feel like we made the right choice about being a band”. Really excited to watch this one.

“New” Philip Glass Music, Rediscovered After 50 Years

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2020

Philip Glass: Music In Eight Parts

In 1970, right in the middle of his minimalist period, Philip Glass composed a work called Music in Eight Parts. It was performed a few times and then lost to the sands of time.

It’s theorized that after Glass’s 1975 opera Einstein on the Beach landed the composer in a fair amount of debt, Glass was forced to sell a number of scores. In Glass’s archive, only fragmentary sketches of MUSIC IN EIGHT PARTS remained as evidence of the piece’s existence. Glass “never intended this early music to last” and yet these pieces have ended up being some of his most appreciated. MUSIC IN EIGHT PARTS is immediately recognizable as being of Glass’s minimalist musical language in full stride and it is played with absolute mastery by the specialists of this repertoire.

The manuscript was rediscovered in 2017 and plans were made to perform the work in a series of European concerts. The pandemic intervened, so several members of the Philip Glass Ensemble each recorded their parts at home and they’ve released a recording online (Spotify, Apple Music).

You can see some of the individual recordings in the middle part of this video:

The cover art is by Sol LeWitt, who used to send Glass random $1000 checks. See also a writeup of the music in the NY Times, listen to a snippet of an archival performance of the piece from the 70s, and the manuscript itself, which sold at auction in 2017 for $43,750.

Philip Glass: Music In Eight Parts score

Knight Rider for 8 Cellos

posted by Jason Kottke   May 26, 2020

This is a video of the Knight Rider theme song arranged for 8 cellos by Samara Ginsberg. You’re either the type of person who can’t wait to click on a link that says “Knight Rider for 8 cellos” or you are not. When I was in college, a friend who DJ’d campus parties used to throw the Knight Rider theme on and people always went nuts for it. Because it BANGS.

Carly Rae Jepsen Uses My Silkscreen Font in a Promo Video

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2020

This morning, Carly Rae Jepsen released a new album called Dedicated Side B (stream here). Amidst rumors of fresh music, the pop star had been teasing fans with its release all week, including this video of a simulated chat posted to Twitter and Instagram yesterday.

Long-time readers will recognize that the chat text is displayed with typeface called Silkscreen, which I designed back in 1999, an era of small monitors and even smaller fonts.

Carly Rae Jepsen, Silkscreen Font

Back in the day, Britney Spears used Silkscreen on her website, and now it’s come (sorta) full circle with Jepsen. Silkscreen pops up here and there every few months, and I’m glad to see people are still getting some use out of it. It was retro when I made it and now its retro-ness is retro. Culture is fun! (thx to @desdakon for spotting this)

Beastie Boys Videos Remastered in HD

posted by Jason Kottke   May 19, 2020

In celebration of the documentary Beastie Boys Story coming out, the Beastie Boys and their record label have remastered dozens of the group’s music videos in HD and uploaded them to YouTube. The videos include heavy-hitters like Sabotage and (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!) but also some more obscure stuff as well. Check out the entire remastered playlist here.

Questlove is DJing Up a Storm During Quarantine

posted by Jason Kottke   May 15, 2020

Most nights since mid-March, The Roots’ Questlove has been doing lengthy DJ sets for fans, kind of like a series of distributed house parties. The shows range in length from 2.5 hours to more than 6 hours — most are in the 3-4 hour range. The past shows have been collected in this playlist. The most recent show, from Tuesday, celebrated the 70th birthday of Stevie Wonder:

He did a 3-hour set made up of audience requests:

And of course there were sets focused on particular artists and bands — the Beastie Boys, James Brown, and Prince:

From a Fast Company piece about how The Roots have adapted their approach to entertainment during the pandemic:

“My whole narrative is that I’m this musical griot or this musical expert with 170,000 pieces of vinyl that you can Google, but now that I’m thrown in the pool, I realized, yeah, I have 170,000 records, but at the end of the day, I know maybe 400.”

Questlove has digital access to about 30% of that massive collection and decided to get to know more of his songs in front of a live audience. It’s different when that audience is the internet, but Questlove gets it now. He can reach more people. He’s having fun with his selections, and his diverse and meticulous approach to music shows up in his nightly playlists.

“I challenged myself to do a dancehall set that didn’t require me to play ‘Murder She Wrote.’ I’m gonna try and do the salsa set that doesn’t require me to play like ‘Suavemente,’ all the Captain Obvious stuff,” he explains. “So, I mean just as a music lover and a musician, it’s challenging me to find exciting ways to present music.”

Prince and the Revolution Live Show from 1985 Will Be Shown on YouTube for a Limited Time

posted by Jason Kottke   May 13, 2020

As part of a benefit for Covid-19 relief, The Prince Estate will be broadcasting a classic concert by Prince & the Revolution from 1985’s Purple Rain tour on YouTube. The stream (embedded above) will begin on Thursday, May 14 at 8pm ET and will only be available through Sunday, May 17.

The concert was recorded in Syracuse, NY on March 30, 1985 and is considered a classic, a show that found Prince at the crest of his pop culture stardom. Laurie Gwen Shapiro recounted going to the show in college — a friend of hers camped out in the ticket line to get front row seats.

In the past decade it has been very difficult to find this legendary concert film in the United States that was later released in the 1991 as “Prince and the Revolution Live!” on VHS only. If you watch the film — and I swear this is true — I am the person the cameras flashes on first in a venue that holds 40,000 plus, and I am making a rather ridiculous orgiastic face for the ages. To understand how I was the beneficiary of such dumb luck, and the greatness of Prince’s performance, let’s go back to 1985 when the internet was yet to come.

The setlist includes many of his most popular songs — Let’s Go Crazy, When Doves Cry, 1999, Little Red Corvette — and the show ended with a 20-minute rendition of Purple Rain (10 minutes of which is a Prince guitar solo).

By the time they finished a towering 20 minute rendition of “Purple Rain,” featuring what is probably the best single guitar solo I’ve ever witnessed in the flesh, most of the crowd would have let Prince do anything with them that he wished. What Prince did to us, and for us, was the best gift of all.

The show is also available on DVD as part of this remastered edition of Purple Rain. The remastered audio from the concert will also be released to streaming services on Friday.

Update: The live album is now available on streaming music platforms: Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Pandora.

The Purple Rain closer clocks in at 19 minutes 26 seconds.

Update: Prince superfan Anil Dash wrote up some notes about this show.

Finally, we come to Prince’s scorching final guitar coda to “Let’s Go Crazy” where he brings out his entire palette of Guitar Face expressions, from playful smirk to full Mustachioed Telecaster Orgasm.

Trains Speed Through the Swiss Countryside to Techno Beats

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2020

Perhaps my fondness for Michel Gondry’s video for The Chemical Brothers’ Star Guitar has primed me to enjoy these POV Swiss train videos paired with techno music. The driving beat of the music, the forward motion of the train, and the soaring scenery complement each other perfectly. (via why is this interesting?)

Music for Empty Malls

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2020

Listening to recorded music as if it’s being played in empty malls1 is a thing that I find incredibly soothing and nostalgic and also a little creepy?

An entire playlist is available here. Some of these sound more convincing than others, but almost any of them with 80s music instantly transports me back to wandering past Kay Bee Toys, Chess King, and Spencer’s while wearing my Hypercolor t-shirt, KangaROOS, and Guess jeans.1 (via @Remember_Sarah)

  1. A la running Christian choral music through digital filters to make it sound like it was sung in the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul.

  2. Just kidding on the Guess jeans…my family couldn’t afford those! They were like $60! Even Levi’s were a luxury good. I wore mostly Lee or Bugle Boy jeans from Farm & Fleet. The Hypercolor shirt was a Christmas present.

Radiohead’s Rejected Spectre Theme Song Played Over the Film’s Opening Credits

posted by Jason Kottke   May 06, 2020

My kids have been making their way through the Daniel Craig Bond movies so when I mentioned that our local theater was planning on showing drive-in movies on a screen in the parking lot, my son said, “ooh, maybe they’ll show the new Bond movie”.1 Then they began to speculate who would be singing the theme song in the new movie, and I piped in: it’s Billie Eilish and they’ve already released the song.

So we listened to it and, since they had just watched Spectre, I also played Radiohead’s rejected theme song, which I obviously prefer to Sam Smith’s bland Oscar-winning song. This morning, while trying to figure out who sang the official one, I ran across the video of Radiohead’s version played over the opening credits (embedded above). Gah, so much better. What a missed opportunity.

P.S. Funny story from my research: not only was Smith unaware that Radiohead had been asked to do the theme song before them, they were also apparently unaware of who Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke even was.

  1. We’ll have to wait until at least November for that, although I suspect that as the summer goes on and people don’t go back to movie theaters even if they reopen, the studios will have to start releasing films straight to digital/Blu-ray. The can’t delay everything for a year or two.

Juilliard Students Go All Out for Online Performance

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2020

Like other schools, performing arts conservatory The Juilliard School is closed due to the pandemic. But constraints drive creativity, and a group of dance, drama, and music students at the school (along with some alumni like Yo-Yo Ma, Laura Linney, Patti LuPone, and Itzhak Perlman) have created this wonderful performance of Ravel’s Bolero, each performing from their own home.

This is one of the best and most creative grid music videos I’ve seen. The meeting through the glass at 3:40 was genuinely moving. You can read about how the performance came together.

Created with the support of a roster of internal producers, staff, and faculty members as well as a team of external artistic and technical personnel, Bolero Juilliard is a complex online puzzle with many components being conceived, rehearsed, and produced simultaneously. Keigwin and his co-choreographer, Nicole Wolcott, created a storyboard based on states of being and emotional concepts like “Interior Lives” or “Soothing.” Juilliard dancers learn Keigwin’s choreography in Zoom sessions, creating a simulacrum of unity and cohesion very much in spite of the reality of social isolation. Juilliard actors, singers, and alumni contribute videos of emotionally specific gestures and actions. Rather than gathering in-person as they normally would, members of the Juilliard Orchestra and Juilliard Jazz — from wherever they happen to be — video-record themselves playing individual lines, which are edited together to create a complete piece from disparate parts.

My Recent Media Diet, The Pandemic Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2020

Well, it has been awhile. I have not done one of these since late December. First I was away for a few weeks and then, well, you know. I’m not even sure if anyone wants to read this sort of thing right now — I barely wanted to write it — but I know a lot of people are stuck at home, looking for stuff to watch, read, and listen to. Plus, keeping the media diet going feels normal, at least a little.

If you’re strapped for time/attention, my top recs are Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Devs, Exhalation, Little Women, Unbelievable, Future Nostalgia, The Overstory, and You’re Wrong About.

Devs. Fantastic. I loved every minute of this gem. (A)

Unbelievable. Based on a true story. Excellent performances by Toni Collette and (especially) Merritt Wever. (A)

The Report. Also based on a true story. The Bush presidency still does not get the credit in terms of the harm it did, and continues to do, to America. (B+)

Exhalation by Ted Chiang. Killer collection of tech/science stories. (A)

Slow Burn (season 3). Not just about Biggie/Tupac, but about 90s hip-hop & the cultural reaction to it. (B+)

AirPods Pro. Wearing these feels a little like the future. (A)

Aeronauts. Perfectly fine. (B)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Straight-up masterpiece. (A)

Don’t F**k with Cats. How on Earth did I not hear anything about this case when it originally happened and why is it not more widely known? A media-obsessed wanna-be serial killer caught by online sleuths? It seems like fiction. (B+)

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. This maybe would have been better at half the length. (B+)

1917. Technically stunning but I never truly got involved in the story because I was trying to see where the cuts were. (B+)

Icarus. Almost unbelievable where the story goes in this. (A-)

Little Women. My choice for the best 2019 movie. (A)

My Brilliant Friend (season 2). The second part of the first season set a high bar to clear, but I’m loving this season so far. (A)

Jojo Rabbit. Like Inglourious Basterds directed by Wes Anderson. (A-)

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Fittingly finished this on the plane to Vietnam. (B+)

Anthropocene. Typically excellent look at the impact of humans on the Earth by Edward Burtynsky. (A-)

Frances Ha. Baby Adam Driver! (B+)

Catch Me If You Can. Spielberg (and DiCaprio) at their most entertaining. (A-)

Edge of Tomorrow. Love this movie. An underrated gem. (A)

The Overstory by Richard Powers. A wonderful novel about trees and the natural world. (A)

Titanic. A masterclass of blockbuster filmmaking and storytelling. (A)

Good Place (season 4). Loved the ending to this. (A-)

Outbreak. Contagion. Deep Impact. 2012. The Core. I Am Legend. I have been watching all of the disaster movies. They are terrible and I love them. (A/C-)

The Aftermath. The ending of this felt random, a gotcha to the audience rather than the natural end to the story. (B)

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. I had medium hopes for this, but the Seth Rogan episode made me laugh harder than I have in months. (B+)

Watchmen. The first three episodes gave me this-is-gonna-end-like-Lost vibes and then they announced there wasn’t going to be second season, so I stopped watching. (B-)

The Farewell. Wonderful. (A-)

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon. Started slow but finished strong. Keep your eyes peeled for all of the sci-fi references. (B+)

Birds of Prey. This was mindless. And not in a good way. (D)

McMillion$. My main takeaway was being aghast at how much time, energy, and money the FBI put into this case, which one of the lead investigators only pursued because it was fun. (B)

Star Trek: Picard. I would have voted against bringing this beloved character back (for fear they’d ruin it) but I enjoyed almost every second of this. (B+)

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. Another great book from Larson. The Battle of Britain is surprisingly relevant to these pandemic times. (A-)

Onward. Not my favorite Pixar, but solid as always. (B)

Future Nostalgia. Love this album, not a single weak song. (A)

The Mandalorian. It took me too long to realize that this was a western. I don’t care that much for westerns. (B)

Star Wars Episodes I II III. I needed some true garbage to watch about two weeks into my self-quarantine. These movies are mostly terrible. (C-)

You’re Wrong About. I’ve mentioned this podcast before, but You’re Wrong About has become essential listening for me. The OJ and DC Sniper series are both great, and their episode Why Didn’t Anyone Go to Prison for the Financial Crisis was excellent and surprisingly didn’t really mention the actual crisis at all. (A)

Iron Man. Iron Man 2. Thor. Captain America: The First Avenger. The Avengers. The kids and I are rewatching all the MCU movies in release order. Some are better than others. (B)

Tiger King. I watched the first episode and…is this anything more than just gawping at yokels? Does this documentary have anything important to say about society or is it just reality TV? (C)

LBJ and the Great Society. A fascinating look at a brief moment in time when our government worked and how that happened. (A-)

The Case of the Missing Hit. You’ve likely heard this instant-classic episode of Reply All by now, but if you haven’t, it’s worth the hype. (A-)

Tempest in a Teacup. Outside/In talks to Charles Mann about a passage in 1491 about passenger pigeons, which suggested that their famous abundance was a relatively recent occurence caused by the decimation of indigenous populations in the Americas by Europeans and their diseases. (B+)

The Living Room. The episode of Love + Radio that inspired the Oscar-winning The Neighbor’s Window. (A-)

Simulcast. Tycho’s instrumental companion album to Weather. (B+)

Minority Report. This was cheesier than I remembered it. Hasn’t aged well in some ways. (B)

Pelican Brief. So 90s. But I’d forgotten the star power of Denzel and Julia Roberts, even in a mediocre movie. (B)

Murder on the Orient Express. Rewatch. Branagh sure does chew the scenery, but it is fun to watch. (B+)

Gemini Man. Action. Sci fi. Mostly forgettable. (B-)

Yesterday. Cute flick. (B)

Monsters University. This was the only Pixar movie I had never seen. And now I have. (B)

Dark Phoenix. Slightly more entertaining than I was expecting. (B)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

The Songs of 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1989

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2020

You might remember last year1 when the Hood Internet released a series of videos mashing up the top songs of 1979-1983. Over the next few weeks, they’re going to finish up the 80s. The video from 1984 is up first:

As previously noted, 1984 was perhaps mass pop culture’s high tide, a great year for music, and the most 80s year of the 1980s.

Update: Here are the videos for 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, & 1989.

Update: Steve Reidell and Aaron Brink of The Hood Internet talk about how they do these year-by-year mixes.

Oftentimes we’ll have an idea of where we want to start and where we want to end, and the work is figuring out how to get from one place to another. We’re changing song speeds and tempos to match and pulling in individual instrumental or vocal tracks if we can find them. Sometimes the thing that matches is a musical similarity and sometimes it’s lyrical. In the 1981 video, there’s a section where we string together Rick Springfield singing “Jessie’s Girl” and Rick James singing “Superfreak” and made it sound kind of like a duet about the same girl. Dropping that on top of Vangelis’ theme to Chariots Of Fire just ups the intensity and the absurdity of it all.

  1. I know, I probably lost a bunch of you at “remember last year”. But I’m pressing on regardless.