Monday, December 24, 2012

My Favorite Christmas Songs

And here is a big ol' Christmas playlist for all of you. Some classic favorites, some new favorites... just all the songs that make me feel most like Christmas. No explanations, just a list of songs and a link to download if you so choose. Also, the songs are a mix of MP3 and M4A because I didn't realize they were until I zipped and uploaded the file. I am a terrible, lazy mix maker sometimes.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, crew.

1. Darren Criss and Chris Colfer (from Glee) - Let It Snow
2. Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You
3. Avalon - Joy (To the World)
4. Glee Cast - The Most Wonderful Day of the Year
5. Trans-Siberian Orchestra - Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)
6. Family Force 5 - My Favorite Things
7. Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick - One Christmas At a Time
8. Relient K - Sleigh Ride
9. Darren Criss and Chris Colfer (from Glee) - Baby It's Cold Outside
10. Point of Grace - Light of the World
11. NSync - Under My Tree
12. Jars of Clay - Hibernation Day
13. Leigh Nash - Last Christmas
14. The Carpenters - Merry Christmas Darling
15. She & Him - Christmas Waltz
16. Adam Pascal - New York State of Mind
17. Relient K - I Hate Christmas Parties
18. Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick - Christmas Is Interesting
19. Nat King Cole - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
20. Vince Guaraldi Trio - Christmastime Is Here (Vocal)
21. Groovelily - Snow Song (It's Coming Down)
22. Brian Wilson - Peace on Earth
23. Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick - Christmastime Is Wunnerful
24. Vince Guaraldi Trio - Skating
25. Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song
26. Michael Ball - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
27. Michael W. Smith - All Is Well
28. John Tartaglia - Rod's Christmas

Download aqui.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Top 5, Bottom 5: Holiday Movies (2011 vs 2012 Comparison)

I was going to do just a straightforward Top 5, Bottom 5 feature and then realized I'd already done a holiday-themed one. I thought it might be interesting to compare the two lists, as well as do a quick rundown of any holiday-themed movies I've seen in the last year.

Last Year's Top 5:
1. Love Actually (2003, #2 on my FlickChart)
2. It's a Wonderful Life (1946, #146)
3. White Christmas (1954, #159)
4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965, #165)
5. Amahl and the Night Visitors (1978, #223)

This Year's Top 5:
1. Love Actually (still #2)
2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964, #145 on my chart)
3. It's a Wonderful Life (down to #181 on my chart)
4. White Christmas (down to #193 on my chart)
5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (down to #199)

So, basically, Rudolph jumped up to take its rightful place in the realm of Christmas movies and everything else scooted down. I'm happier with this year's top 5 than I was last year's - really, Rudolph should have been in my top 5 then too. It's always been my favorite animated special. Sorry to lose Amahl off the list, but it is #6, so at least nothing else has shoved it out of the way.

Last Year's Bottom 5:
1. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006, #1640)
2. Star Wars Holiday Special (1978, #1639)
3. The Santa Clause 2 (2002, #1623)
4. Frosty Returns (1992, #1591)
5. The Christmas Shoes (2002, #1586)

This Year's Bottom 5:
1. The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (down to #1802)
2. Star Wars Holiday Special (down to #1801)
3. The Santa Clause 2 (down to #1786)
4. Frosty Returns (down to #1756)
5. The Christmas Shoes (down to #1751)

So... no changes there, except I hate all of them more. Or, well, actually, the lower numbers just mean that every movie I've seen in the last year has been better than all of them.

Have I seen any new holiday movies this year? Flickchart says the last one I added was Die Hard, which was back in February of 2011. However, I did just see Rise of Guardians, which I enjoyed immensely but haven't added on to my Flickchart yet, and I'm pretty sure that counts as a holiday film.

As a final bonus list...

Top 5 holiday films I have yet to see, according to Flickchart:
1. Gremlins (#455 on the global charts)
2. Die Hard 2 (#527)
3. Black Christmas (#647)
4. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (#707)
5. Diner (#740)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Beginner's Introduction to Jonathan Coulton

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of going to my very first Jonathan Coulton concert ever. I've been a fan of his music for several years now, and he is one of only 8 artists to be played more than 1000 times on my In fact, as I look at my now, he has jumped from being my third most played artist to being the second, surpassing Groovelily and sitting right behind Glee Cast (which is only that high because they've released over 300 songs so far).

I wanted to put together a little collection of my favorite JoCo songs for those who maybe are not quite so familiar with his music. He is one of my very favorite songwriters, with a wonderful talent for mixing comedy and tragedy to tell stories with unexpected protagonists. Although he's primarily known as a comedic musician, some of my very favorite songs of his are beautiful, sweet, and sad.

So here is a beginner's introduction to Jonathan Coulton.

The Essentials

These are the songs that even the most casual JoCo fan knows... and they also happen to be some of my favorites.

1. Code Monkey
Possibly the first JoCo song I ever heard. I love the cheerful punkish rock sound and the reoccurring JoCo theme of impossible unrequited love.

Code monkey like Fritos
Code monkey like Tab and Mountain Dew
Code monkey very simple man
With big warm fuzzy secret heart
Code monkey like you

2. Still Alive
Probably the first JoCo song most people heard. He wrote this song for the end credits of the game Portal, to be sung by the computer antagonist GlaDOS. The song doesn't actually make that much sense for those not familiar with the game, but the lyrics are clever and interesting.

I've experiments to run, there is research to be done
On the people who are still alive
And, believe me, I am still alive
I'm doing science and I'm still alive

3. The Future Soon
One of my very, very favorites, I think this song is the perfect blend of funny and sad. It's a song about a young nerdy boy who dreams of someday not being such an outcast, and while the story is entertaining (his ultimate fantasy is of taking over the world with a robot army he's built himself) the inner desire to not be the underdog, for once, is very relatable. I'm pretty sure everybody has felt like this at one point or another.

It's gonna be the future soon
And I won't always be this way
When the things that make me weak and strange
Get engineered away

4. Skullcrusher Mountain
I suspect this song is telling us what's happened to the Future Soon kid... he grew up to be this evil genius, living on Skullcrusher Mountain with his assistant, Scarface, kidnapping women and making crazy half-pony-half-monkey monsters for them in an attempt to earn their love. This song is really funny... and, fun fact, it has somehow become "our song" for my fiance and I. Even though I promise he's nothing like this.

If you could find some way to be
A little less afraid of me
You'd see the voices that control me from inside my head
Say I shouldn't kill you yet

5. Re: Your Brains
What nerd rocker's repertoir is complete without a song about zombies? This zombie song is sung as a memo from a recently turned zombie to his human co-worker, trying to convince him that resistance is futile. In concert, JoCo encourages the audience to chime in on the chorus with their best zombie impressions.

All we wanna do is eat your brains
We're not unreasonable
I mean, no one's gonna eat your eyes

My Other Favorites (In No Order Whatsoever)

6. Today With Your Wife
One of JoCo's rarer serious ones, this song is perhaps one of the saddest songs I have ever heard. Although I haven't heard any official word on what the song is about, it sounds to me like it's about running into the wife of a good friend who has died, and the song just breaks me. It's simple, with a gorgeous melody and incredible, melancholy lyrics.

Everyone seemed okay
But then she'd never say
You should have been there
You should have been there

7. Blue Sunny Day
In true Coulton fashion, this song features a protagonist you don't usually hear much about in music - in this case, a heartbroken vampire - but the song speaks so easily to the human experience that there are really only a few lines that indicate it's about anything unusual.

Birds are singing, bees are buzzing, sun shines overhead
I'd be there to see it but I can't get out of bed
Since the day you left, the weather always feels this way
One more blue sunny day

8. Baby Got Back
Pretty sure this is the best cover of all time. A gentle acoustic version of Sir Mix-A-Lot's original. However, just as a warning, FYI: when this song gets stuck in your head and you quietly sing it out loud to yourself, it is VERY hard to explain to anyone around you.

9. Over There
This song is a satirical look at American elitism, singing about how horrific it is to travel to Europe. He sings so earnestly about the unpleasantness of overseas culture that it makes me laugh a lot. I'm including my favorite video of him singing this, where it is requested at a concert in Glasgow.

Over there, you'll never feel at ease
'Cause there's not much soap and there's too much cheese
And everyone wears clogs and rides on trains

10. I Hate California
This song never seems to appear on anybody's "favorites of JoCo" list, but it really is one of mine. I love the simplicity of it, and how halfway through the song it becomes apparent that, it's not California the singer hates, it's the memories associated with it, and suddenly the song stops being just a silly song about disliking a state and becomes a break-up song.

I don't blame the Beach Boys, I don't blame Hollywood
I don't blame L.A., although I probably should
I don't blame the sky for its careless shade of blue
Lord knows I don't blame you

11. Mr. Fancy Pants
One year, Coulton did something called Thing a Week where he tried to put out some sort of music-y thing every week. Some of the songs were better than others, but one week he put out this ridiculous little song about a competition for the fanciest pants. There's something very fun and cheerful about it, and I absolutely love it, but I think he was a little befuddled by the way it kind of took off among fans. The song is just over a minute long, so when he plays it in concert, he does a little Zendrum solo in the middle of it, as you will see in the following clip.

Chances are your pants are not as fancy as the pair
Of very fancy pants that Mr. Fancy Pants will wear
When everybody's marching in the Fancy Pants Parade
He's gonna pass the test
He's gonna be the best
The best in terms of pants

12. Chiron Beta Prime
A quirky Christmas song about a family celebrating their holiday in exile on a robot-governed asteroid. It takes all the holiday season cliches - snow, Santa, Christmas dinner - and turns them into something with... not so much Christmas cheer. This one's not on his newly-released Christmas album, but it is one of my favorites.

Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime
Where we're working in a mine
For our robot overlords--
Did I say overlords? I meant protectors
Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime

13. You Ruined Everything
I love how Coulton can write sweet songs that are never sappy or overly sentimental. This particular song is about parenthood, and while I *hate* most parent/child songs, I love this one. It's loving and honest and genuine and very, very sweet.

You should know how great things were before you
Even so, they're better still today
I can't think of who I was before
You ruined everything in the nicest way

14. Space Doggity
Songs and stories about space always connect very deeply with me for some reason, and this one is no different, as it tells the story of the first dog sent into space, who died just a few hours after being launched into space. It's a reimagining of Bowie's "Space Oddity" and although the title is a silly one, this song is completely heartbreaking.

Guess what, Malashenkov? I took the collar off
I'm holding my own leash and walking myself outside this door
I don't think I want to be a good dog anymore

15. I Crush Everything
And... I lied about these being in no order. I deliberately put my all-time favorite Coulton song at the end. It's a terribly sad song about a giant squid who hates himself. Heh. Weirdly, though, the melody and the melancholy lyrics get to me in a way that none of his other songs quite manage, much as I love them all. I tried to write something about this song *while* I was listening to it, but I just sat listening to it. The melody is beautiful, the lyrics are a wonderful mix of quirky and heartbreaking... there's just nothing about this song I don't love.

I can't do that thing anymore
Can't be the way I was before
Maybe I am better off alone
Because I crush everything

Monday, December 17, 2012

Annnnnnd Back Again!

Well, hi again, everybody!

So it's been about a month and a half since I last blogged. There have been three main factors contributing to that.

1) NaNoWriMo happened. Every November I participate and try to write a 50,000 word novel. Even though I didn't make it this year (my first failure since 2007, when I was traveling with the New Life Drama Company and had no access to a computer), I spent a large portion of the free time I had writing for that, not the blog.

2) My computer broke. Or, more specifically, the fan broke. It made a horrible grinding sound whenever I turned it on and if I insisted on using it, it would overheat and shut off after about 25 minutes. My computer time became rather a precious commodity, and blogging didn't quite make the priority list.

3) November was quite the busy month for me personally. The second half of the month involved a visit to my boyfriend up in Indiana, then bringing him back home to South Carolina for Thanksgiving with me and my household... and then during our week in South Carolina, he proposed to me.

(To answer the obligatory questions for any who have not yet heard: he proposed to me a day earlier than he meant to. Heh. Wednesday afternoon, we were going to go into town together and have some just-us alone time, and he was going to propose then. But Tuesday night, we were out in my car talking and he just decided he couldn't wait any longer and proposed right away. After I said yes, he said, "Well... I don't have a ring. This wasn't supposed to happen tonight. This was supposed to happen tomorrow." The ring he'd ordered arrived in the mail the next day, and he did the whole down-on-one-knee thing for that. We're planning a July wedding. There... I think that answers most things we got asked.)

All that to say, it's been a pretty busy month. However, two of those three things are done now - NaNoWriMo is over and my computer is fixed, and although I am still engaged, the fiance is back up in Indiana finishing school, and so he's not around as much to steal me away from my blogging. So I shall return. W00t!