Monday, October 9, 2017

"The Mosaic Project" by Terri Lyne Carrington (150 Albums by Women #148)

NPR compiled a list of the 150 greatest albums created by women. I've decided to listen to these albums, from #150 all the way up to #1. But to give myself a bit of forward momentum and have a sense of when I was "done" with each album, my method is to listen to the album one time all the way through, then with each subsequent listen, I'd remove my least favorite. This lets me listen to the best ones most frequently without having to sit through too many that didn't work for me at all.

Album #148 is Terri Lyne Carrington's "The Mosaic Project." Carrington is a jazz drummer, and this album is definitely a jazz album. Some of the songs have vocals, some don't, some are originals, some are covers. This one took me awhile to get into the swing of (which is why I'm posting this blog so late). However, from this point on I'm only going to write short pieces about the top five songs on each album. Otherwise on albums (such as this) that were a tough sell for me, I'd spent most of the time griping about it instead of praising what I do like. So here were my top five from this album.


5. Transformation. This is the first song on the album, and for awhile I thought it might be my favorite of the whole thing. It ultimately became less interesting the more I heard it, but I still think it has an interesting sound and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

4. I Got Lost in His Arms. I was delighted to hear this Irving Berlin tune covered on the album. It's a smooth, interesting cover that I prefer to any of the cast album versions I've heard.

3. Echo. This song drew me in lyrically more than it did musically. Every time it came on I'd find myself paying closer attention to the lyrics because they were saying interesting things. It's one of the few songs on the album that attempts to say something larger about society, and while those songs don't always work and sometimes sound preachy, I got into this one.

2. Sisters on the Rise (A Transformation). The album closes on an unexpectedly hip-hop note, sampling the album opener and interspersing it with rapped verses and chorus. After thirteen songs of straight jazz, this was always a refreshing bit of variety.

1. Crayola. This song was dangerously close to being cut early on, but the more I listened to it, the more it fascinated me. There are some versions to be found online without vocals, but I absolutely prefer this one, as the vocals are my favorite part. They are playful and unique and varied, and I'm very glad I didn't cut it when I did, as it's turned out to be my favorite.

The albums I've listened to thus far in this project, in order:
1. The Roches - The Roches
2. Alicia Keys - Songs in A Minor
3. Terri Lyne Carrington - The Mosaic Project

Next up was supposed to be #147, "Dolmen Music" by Meredith Monk, but this is not easily available on Spotify, so I'm moving past it and will circle back around to any albums I didn't get to later. In the meantime, on to #146, "Flaming Red" by Patty Griffin.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Songs in A Minor" by Alicia Keys (150 Albums by Women #149)

A few weeks ago, a friend shared a list NPR compiled of the 150 greatest albums created by women. I've decided to listen to these albums, from #150 all the way up to #1. But to give myself a bit of forward momentum and have a sense of when I was "done" with each album, my method is to listen to the album one time all the way through, then with each subsequent listen, I'd remove my least favorite. This lets me listen to the best ones most frequently without having to sit through too many that didn't work for me at all.

Album #149 is Alicia Keys' debut album, "Songs in A Minor," recorded and released when Keys was very young. She started work on it at age 17, though she was 20 when it was officially released. I already knew three of these songs very well: Fallin', A Woman's Worth, and How Come You Don't Call Me, so I removed those from the rotation to focus on ones I don't know. I've put them back into the final list in their correct ranking. In order from least favorite to favorite, these are the "Songs in A Minor."


16. Piano & I - This went immediately because it's not really a song, it's a spoken-word intro.

15. Goodbye - The songs at the bottom of the list are almost all for the same reason: they just bore me. There are several slow, languid, energy-less songs on this album that blend together in my mind. This was the one that stuck with me the least.

14. Butterflyz - I'd heard this one before but didn't register it very much. I still don't. It's not very interesting.

13. Caged Bird - While I like the lyrics a little bit more than the ones that fell below this, it's still not appealing to me musically. I like the idea of tapping into a more melancholy feel for these lyrics, but this music isn't melancholy so much as plodding.

12. Rock wit U - Despite having heard this song five times by the time I removed it from my playlist, I still couldn't remember how it went. Time for it to go.

11. The Life - Most of the ones after this at least have a thing or two I like about them. Most of them are upbeat. This is the lowest-ranked upbeat one, and it just didn't do much for me.

10. Why Do I Feel So Sad - I love the chorus for this song, but Alicia's voice sounds especially weak throughout, and it grates on me a bit. The chorus saved it for awhile, but eventually this one had to go.

9. Jane Doe - Kind of a catchy song, and it's fun to sing along with, but it doesn't really stand out.

8. Mr. Man - There's a weird sort of wispy sound to this whole song, and it's interesting and different in comparison to the rest of the album. Definitely it kept me listening for awhile. It's out now because the lyrics are strange and do nothing for me.

7. Troubles - I kind of sort of knew this song before I started listening to this album, but I didn't like it then and I liked it more now. There's a cool dark sound to it, and singing solemnly about "letting your troubles go" is much more interesting than trying to force a positive sound into that.

6. A Woman's Worth - My least favorite of the ones I already knew, but it's still pretty decent. They definitely chose some of the stronger tunes on the album to be the singles. It's slinky and bold and interesting.

5. Never Felt This Way - This is the saddest, loneliest love song ever.

4. Lovin' U - Almost all of my favorite songs on this album had a more old school R&B sound. This one I enjoyed a lot every time I heard it, but I kept forgetting it existed, otherwise it probably would have landed higher on the list.

3. How Come You Don't Call Me - The second of three songs I already knew. I like that, unlike many of the slower songs on this album, this one's got a bit of swing to it.

2. Girlfriend - More typical modern R&B than most of the songs at the top of the list. I think I'm most intrigued by the range Keys shows in the chorus vocally. It all sounds so natural until I try to sing along and I realize she's doing much more than I can. It's sneakily impressive.

1. Fallin' - The first one I ever heard from this album, and by far my favorite still. It's the only one of these that I really love, and it showcases Keys' moody music, melancholy lyrics, and retro sound at their best.

Next up: #148, "The Mosaic Project" by Terri Lyne Carrington.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"The Roches" by The Roches (150 Albums By Women #150)

A few weeks ago, a friend shared a list NPR compiled of the 150 greatest albums created by women. I've decided to listen to these albums, from #150 all the way up to #1. But to give myself a bit of forward momentum and have a sense of when I was "done" with each album, my method is to listen to the album one time all the way through, then with each subsequent listen, I'd remove my least favorite. This lets me listen to the best ones most frequently without having to sit through too many that didn't work for me at all.

I began with #150, "The Roches" by The Roches. I only knew one song by this band: "Come Softly to Me," which was one of my father's favorites and was featured in the film Crossing Delancey (one of my mom's favorites). It's a lot smoother-sounding than most of this album, which is more folksy and casual and sometimes awkward-sounding. But overall, I liked this album a lot. Here are the songs I listened to, ranked in order of when I kicked them off my playlist.


10. Damned Old Dog - The only one I actively disliked. It's kind of interesting lyrically, but some of those harmonies are really unpleasant to listen to.

9. Runs in the Family - You know it's a decent album when the ones I kick off just because they're boring are the second-worst.

8. Pretty and High - I never quite got into the feel of this song, but it has some striking moments

7. Quitting Time - This is a pretty little song, but the lyrics didn't interest me as much as the sound, so it fell a little lower on the list.

6. The Married Men - Here's where the decisions got difficult. I ended up being stuck between this song and my #5 for awhile and tossing it over to a music group I'm in on Facebook to be my deciding factor. This one lost. It's fun, though.

5. Mr. Sellack - One of the most interesting little songs I've heard about unemployment.

4. The Troubles - I initially thought this was going to be in my top three, but an unexpected late favorite pushed it out. I really like the bit at the end where they sing a little round of the most important word in each verse.

3. Hammond Song - This song just sounds *gorgeous*. Lyrically it doesn't grip me as much, and it's a little bit longer than I'd like, but the beautiful harmonies and instrumentation boosted it way up to #3.

2. We - Right from the beginning of this album, I knew I was going to have fun with it. It starts off with this cheerful meta-song introducing the sisters, explaining their back story, and sighing a bit about how they always get asked the same questions in interviews. It's delightful.

1. The Train - On my first listen through, I'd never have expected this to be my favorite, but the more I heard it, the more I kept connecting with it thematically. I don't take the train to work, but I definitely know the drudgery of a long commute and the desire to do something, anything, to break it up. I kept being struck by the line, "I am trying not to have a bad day," in the first verse. The thought process in this song is so familiar to me that I deeply related to it even with completely different circumstances.

Next album: #149, Alicia Keys' "Songs in A Minor."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Top 10 Songs From Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Season 2)

Back in February I wrote a blog post about my top 10 songs from the first season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Originally I was going to combine both seasons into one blog post, but I hadn't listened to season two enough for it to really wow me yet, so I decided to hold off on that one until I got a few more plays in. Well, it totally worked, because the 10 songs I have here are now some of my all-time favorites now that I've really gotten to know them. A few wouldn't even have been in my top half of songs from the show two months ago. So let's dive right in, shall we?

(Note, first of all, that this is chock full of season two spoilers, and, secondly, that two of these songs have curse words in the title. One is uncensored. One is censored in the official song name but it's obvious what it is.)

10. Friendtopia

Not only is this a fun song to listen to, but I like the unexpected path it takes. It's a Spice Girls-style song about friendship, but then there's this weird second half of it which is that it's about using female friendship to literally take over the world. So we get this weirdly dark song that's half about being besties and half about world domination, and I love that bizarre combination. (One of the YouTube comments on the video is, "What a... weirdly specific concept for a satire song.") I think it's probably all summed up in what I'd choose for the best line:

"We're gonna braid each other's hair, then cut each other's braids, connect the braids to build a rope to hang all of Congress."



9. Let's Have Intercourse

This song would've been higher up a few months ago, and even though it's slid down a bit I still really enjoy it. The context is a very cold, unpleasant, arrogant character who has, much to his dismay, suddenly become interested in Rebecca and decides they should sleep together so he can get her out of his system and move on. So he sings this song. The music is romantic and sensual, while the words are anything but, as he clearly sees this as sort of an embarrassing chore. But the music is so pretty! I'm such a sucker for songs where the music and lyrics are an amusing mismatch, and this totally hits that. (One of the YouTube comments points out this is an Ed Sheeran style parody, which may very well be right. I don't listen to enough Ed Sheeran to know for sure.)

Best line: "Let's get this over with so I can focus on other tasks."



8. What a Rush to Be a Bride

Some songs have an extra bit of humor that come out of being just... really, really unexpected. This is one of those. Rebecca's in the midst of planning her wedding and gushing with her best friend Paula over all the little pretty details, and then, abruptly... there's a screaming heavy metal song. It was completely unlike anything the show had done up until this point, it was completely unlike the tone of the episode up until that moment, and it was brilliant. It started and Jacob and I pretty much just both stared at it laughing because we couldn't believe that was the direction they'd go. I'm not into screaming metal much, so it's here almost solely on the strength of that first appearance, but I love that they did this.

Best line: "EVIL! EVIL! EVIL! If you rearrange the letters it spells 'veil.'"



7. So Maternal

Let me say right now that I don't have kids, never plan to have kids, and react strongly to those who think I will never know what true love is until I have kids... but I am in total sympathy with my mom friends who get all kinds of outside advice from people who don't know what they're talking about, and this song is a prime example of that. Rebecca offers to babysit Paula's elementary school child for a weekend and, in a burst of confidence, this song happens, contrasted with amazing clips of her cheerfully and obliviously failing at childcare. (The weekend ends with Rebecca taking the child to a nightclub and losing him there, so... yeah, she comes down to earth on this eventually.)

Best line: "You know, I think I just instinctively 'get' how to be a mom, and that sets me apart from other 'mothers.'"



6. We'll Never Have Problems Again

This, right here, encompasses a lot of Rebecca's problems. She is just stuck on the idea that a relationship is going to fix everything that's wrong with her, and while most of the people around her realize that, nope, that's not true, she just ignores them and sings a cheery disco song. This song is insanely catchy and the first one on the list where it was really difficult to choose a single favorite line because so many of them are great. It's such a cleverly written song of naivete, and I love it.

Best line: "Do you remember back when we had problems? Oh, man, that was annoying."



5. (Tell Me I'm Okay) Patrick

The YouTube comments are on point with these songs as I read through them. One user says, "How can something be so completely over the top and also so incredibly true to life? I guess that's what makes it so funny.  The tears are in the margins." Oh my gosh, so true. In this song, Rebecca has struck up a casual acquaintanceship with package delivery man Patrick, who has brought wedding item after wedding item to Rebecca's door and listened as she vented about the stress of wedding planning. Here she falls apart, begging someone she doesn't know for validation that she's not as completely broken as she feels like it is. The song is funny (Seth Green plays Patrick with a stoic calm that really sells it) but on that final, "Am I okay?" you really see the desperation in Rebecca's eyes, that she feels like she is losing her mind and can't quite find her way back. I relate. Hard.

Best line: "I think I'm fine, Patrick, but I'm only like ... 43% sure."



4. Rebecca's Reprise

AAAAHHHH THE FEELS

OK, so this one is high on my list for contextual reasons. By itself, it doesn't mean much to anyone. But let me try to explain why this hits so hard. It's a reprise medley of four previously sung songs, sung here by Rebecca on the morning of her wedding (which we know, know, know cannot possibly end well). The first two songs were originally incredibly dark moments in her life, moments when she saw herself at her worst. The third is a song not even sung by her originally, it was sung by another character about his love for his daughter, but here she co-opts it because for the first time she feels like maybe her parents will love her because she will finally be a successful married woman. And then she ends with one of the songs from earlier in the list: "I'll never have problems again." It hurts seeing how she is so hopeful that she will climb out of her self-loathing and her deep-seated issues through this relationship, and when it all falls apart at the end (as we know deep down it must because neither she nor Josh are ready for this), a second listen to this song is even more heartbreaking. One of the most beautifully tragic moments in the whole show.



3. It Was a S*** Show

I MISS YOU, SANTINO FONTANA! My favorite character is gone from the show, but of course his last couple songs are in my top 10. This one is his official goodbye song to Rebecca, acknowledging that they were really, really bad together, that they would always bring out the worst in each other. And he pulls zero punches, as you can see just from the title of the song. He nearly gives in at the end, since they really do love each other, but that's not enough when they both have serious issues to work through and can't do that together. It hits that funny-but-sad note that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is great at, and it's a fitting goodbye to Greg.

Best line: "And when you say that I should stay that's exactly when I should split."



2. We Tapped That Ass

This song quickly became one of my guilty pleasure favorites. In this song, the "memory spirits" of Rebecca's past lovers are haunting her house and reminding her (with dozens of classless euphemisms) of all the sex they had. Every place in her home is haunted. The song is crude, but it's crude purposefully -- it matches the unhappiness with herself she feels for having lost not one, but two guys she thought she had a future with, and demonstrates how everything is now just a gross reminder of how willingly she gave herself to them when they then left her. The cheerfulness of the two men singing is what sells it, though it's important to note that thy are both much kinder to her than this in real life -- this is, after all, Rebecca's mind painting them as gleefully comparing sexual experiences. The glibness of the song is a hint at how Rebecca sees her past mistakes, rather than a genuine endorsement of sex as a series of conquests. And it's also super catchy and fun.



1. The Math of Love Triangles

I knew back when I started compiling this list that this would have to be at the top of it. Since I first saw it, it's been one of my favorites, a brilliant send-up of Marilyn Monroe (especially in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and the general trope of dumb women being sexy. Here, Rebecca's dream sequence features a group of men earnestly trying to teach her about triangles, but as she responds with baby talk and misunderstanding of what they're saying, they get increasingly frustrated. This was another one where it was really difficult to choose a favorite line, as there were so many... but in the end, I think I have to go with this amazing exchange:

"Is this a triangle?"
"No, that's a shoe."
"Is this a triangle?"
"No, that's you."
"So I'm a triangle?"
"What? No."
"1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 3, go!"


Honorable Mentions: You're My Best Friend (And I Know I'm Not Yours), Thought Bubbles, Santa Ana Winds, Ping Pong Girl, Greg's Drinking Song, You Go First

Other friends watching the show... What's your favorite performance of season two? 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Top 5, Bottom 5: John Goodman

Let's do an easy blog! Easy blogs are the best! I just recently watched my 20th John Goodman movie (and I've , which means it's time to do a Top 5, Bottom 5 list for this actor. I'm sure I've seen a lot more movie where he's in it but just not mentioned in the top five actors, which is all Flickchart counts. Let's find out my favorite and least favorite movies of his.

Top 5:
1. Monsters, Inc. (2001, #8). My favorite Pixar movie, though it's been quite a few years since I rewatched it. I love the imaginative concept, I love the characters, and I love the narrative. The first Pixar film to make me cry, though not the one that made me cry the hardest.
2. The Emperor's New Groove (2000, #58). Interesting that my top two Goodman films are both voiceover roles for him. I'm delighted this movie has developed such a cult following, because it's a bright spot in the middle of the awful Disney decade from 1995-2005. Pixar aside, there was just nothing good out there... and then there was this, which is ridiculous and goofy and totally works.
3. Punchline (1988, #346). I'll be honest, I don't even remember Goodman being in Punchline, because all I remember are Tom Hanks and Sally Field, both of whom are phenomenal in their respective roles. This was a Movie Challenge 2014 assignment, and it ended up being a wonderful little gem.
4. Flight (2012, #420). This could have been horrifically cheesy if not for great acting on Denzel's part, and he completely sold me on this movie. I do remember Goodman in it and I remember him being good, but he's definitely not the star of this film.
5. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016, #436). Oh man, now this is a starring role for John Goodman. It's a terrific movie, both as a thematic sequel to the original and as a standalone thriller, and Goodman is so, so good in it. I can't give many more details without getting spoilery, so I'll just say... go see it.

Bottom 5:
5. Raising Arizona (1987, #1487 out of 2607). Probably the only controversial choice on this list. I just can't get into this. I never like the Coen movies I'm supposed to like.
4. The Monuments Men (2014, #1882). I was so ready to love this despite the critics, but turns out it's just boring and not artistically inspiring at all.
3. Always (1989, #2097). Aside from some great flight scenes, this movie is pretty much wholly ridiculous and inept. A rare but definite miss from Spielberg.
2. Frosty Returns (1992, #2563). And even as my top two were voiceovers from Goodman, my bottom two are as well. Here he plays Frosty in a creepy, joyless sequel to the original Rankin Bass special. Ugh.
1. The Emperor's New Groove 2: Kronk's New Groove (2005, #2564). Ugh. The first was so good and the sequel so awful.

Top 5 Unseen:
1. Revenge of the Nerds (1984, #1661 on the global charts)
2. Sea of Love (1989, #2341)
3. Fallen (1998, #2608)
4. The Big Easy (1986, #2644)
5. Arachnophobia (1990, #2836)

What are your favorite John Goodman roles? Which of those unseens should I tackle first? I've only even heard of two of them.

Friday, April 14, 2017

2017 Resolutions: April Check-In

I do not want to do this post. This year, I really haven't wanted to do any of these posts. Over the past eight months or so, depression and anxiety has really been pushing me down and kicking me over and over again, and every time I looked at what I wanted to do, what I planned to do and never got to, I feel like a failure. And this was a rough month.

So this is what's going to happen. I'm going to (very quickly) add up the points for how I did on my goals this month. I won't be explaining which ones I got points for and which I didn't. I'll just have my points number as a benchmark. And then I'm setting eight incredibly easy goals for the rest of April. Super duper easy, I should be able to accomplish them no problem. Because I think I need to be able to look back at this in May and count at least one full win. I need that little boost to remind me I'm capable of, ya know, doing things, so that when depressionbrain is taunting me I can be like, "NOPE! REMEMBER THAT ONE TIME IN MAY I ACCOMPLISHED MY GOALS EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE SMALL? HA!!!!"

For last month's goals, I get a 14 out of 80, down from 28.5 from February to March. I told you this was a rough month. But it means going up is easy.

So here are my easy peasy goals to accomplish in the final two weeks of April:
- No more fast food. Like until the end of the month. I'm being stupid with my spending and my eating and I can't afford to do either. It's actually a little bit tougher because making food stresses me out, so I'm making it count for both my diet and my finance goal. 20 points if I make it.
- Work out once. Just once. I've been not doing it at all, once would be a step up.
- Spend time with God twice. Just twice. Again, twice is a step up from not at all. And if I end up doing more, awesome.
- Get laundry quarters. Am I going to do a crap load of laundry like I always want to? Probably not. But can I be prepared for it? I sure can.
- Have at least one online meetup with faraway friends and/or family. I tentatively have three scheduled right now, so I should be able to make at least one of them happen, yes?
- See a movie in theaters next week. Can't say "every week" because that always fails, but, yup, I can see a movie next week.
- Write my May check-in blog on time (which means ready to post on Monday the 1st). Even if I fail everything else, I can get at least 10 points on this one with a little "Hey, I somehow failed!" post which means I'm almost where I was this month anyway.

Looking back at this post, I sound defeatist and discouraged. I'm sorry. I kind of am this month. But this is me trying not to be. And maybe it will be the burst of confidence I need to feel like I can do something positive for myself even when my brain is doing its best to get me to just give up and eat ice cream and cry all day. So if you don't mind, send me prayers or love or good vibes or whatever you can spare. Thanks, friends.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Top 5, Bottom 5: 1985

Here, let's have a quick, simple blog post to talk about my favorite and least-favorite movies of 1985 according to my Flickchart. I've only seen 23, so there are a lot more I've yet to get to, but here are the standouts so far. All rankings are out of 2588 movies.

Top 5:
1. The Purple Rose of Cairo (#10). My second-favorite Woody Allen movie is this charming story of a woman whose favorite movie character steps off the screen to spend some time with her. It takes an unexpected turn at the end that I used to like, but I have since fully embraced it.
2. Back to the Future (#20). Two 1985 movies in my top 20? Wow. This is a classic favorite for a reason. It's such a creative, smart, funny script, and all the actors do an amazing job bringing it to life.
3. Ladyhawke (#69). Granted this is a nostalgic pick for me, but I have always liked tragic love stories, and this has such a great one at the heart of it.
4. The Breakfast Club (#134). I need to rewatch this one, but I remember being really impressed with how the script brought these characters to life. This kind of one-room drama has often been attempted but this is one of the few true successes.
5. Better Off Dead (#285). A delightful surprise when I first watched it. It's a morbidly quirky rom com starring John Cusack as an emotional teenager, and it's fantastic.

Bottom 5:
5. Silverado (#2080). This one, to be fair, probably isn't nearly deserving of its spot here. I mostly remember thinking it was just okay, not bad.
4. After Hour (#1882). This Martin Scorsese comedy is so over-the-top that it doesn't sit right with me at all and ends up reminding me of Lynchian horror more than anything else.
3. The Goonies (#1818). From my experience, it seems like most people who watch this as an adult are as unimpressed with it as I am. The tone of it is super weird to me, and I don't like any of the characters.
2. Legend (#1639). Tim Curry aside, this weird little movie is pretty forgettable. I had to think for a minute to remember which one it even was.
1. The Man With One Red Shoe (#1515). Like Legend, this movie just isn't terribly memorable. I think Tom Hanks was okay in it.

Top 5 I Haven't Seen:
1. Come and See (globally #337)
2. Re-Animator (#502)
3. Pale Ride (#792)
4. Day of the Dead (#803)
5. Witness (#848)

What's your favorite movie of 1985? And which of my unseen ones should I watch first?