Archive for May, 2007

A preview/review: "Memory Almost Full"


I’ve spent a lot of time with Paul McCartney’s upcoming release, “Memory Almost Full” over the past two weeks, and like “Chaos”, it signals a resurgence of good songwriting and solo performances from Paulie. If I could combine the best songs from “Memory” and “Chaos”, I’d have the best Paul solo album ever. Instead, like all Paul albums, it’s hit or miss. Fortunately, this one is nearly all hits.

Here’s my song-by-song analysis:

Dance Tonight: Lots of people are upset that this is the first UK single, but I think it and its Michel Gondry-directed video are an excellent choice. The mandolin evokes a track from “McCartney”, or as many have said, the ukulele-driven “Ram On” songs. This is my favorite type of McCartney track — mostly acoustic and catchy as hell.

Ever Present Past: This is the first US single and though I do think it makes a good single, I’m not sure why there’s different singles based on geography. The instrumentation is marvelous — Paul is using his guitar skills to produce nice feedback-y backing to a pop song that sounds more and more late 80s to me with every listen (vocally). There are flashes of “McCartney II” in the middle 8, which helps me like this song more. Paul’s vocal here is not my favorite – it doesn’t match the backing at all to me. Way too sing-songy. I wish Nigel Goodrich was around to tell him to slow it down and sing lower.

See Your Sunshine: This seems like a leftover from “Driving Rain”. It’s not great songwriting and the music is too cutesy for me. The pushy bridge saves it a bit, but nothing can save him from “She makes me so glad/I want her so bad…” opening line that actually gets repeated. Come on. Seriously?

Only Mama Knows: Don’t let the nice orchestral opening fool you – this song rocks. Like many other songs on this album, fans can’t help but think this would fit perfectly on “Ram” or “Back to the Egg”. Lyrically, it’s the first full-blown story song by Paul we’ve heard in a while. Maybe it’s a metaphor for the divorce, but I doubt it. I hope he does it live.

You Tell Me: This is the most obvious leftover from the “Chaos” sessions, which explains why I love it. It reminds me of one of the “Chaos” b-sides, “Growing Up, Falling Down” because he uses his upper register (if you can call it that) on both. It’s a beautiful ballad done delicately, producing a soothing song you might miss if you’re not paying attention. And as a bonus, the lyrics are great.

Mister Bellamy: Another song I hope he does live. It’s a funny song, about a stubborn old man who won’t come down from his roof. This song really showcases what he’s learned in studying and creating classical music pieces. The instrumentation here and Bellamy’s voice (Paul singing the verses) are clearly influenced by proper classical music, and it sounds brilliant. The way he sings “…and I hope that you’ll understaaaand” with his voice going up and down and out at the end sounds like part of an aria. If I met someone who had never heard a Paul song, I would play this one as a great example of what he can do.

Gratitude: I hated this song at first. I still don’t love it, but it is an interesting track. He’s going for the pot-boiler thing he used to do, like with “Oh Darling”. Paul often tries to be something he’s really not, mainly just to pay tribute. His voices (like on most songs, he sings all the parts) isn’t the problem here though. The problem is the strange instrumentation. For example, a disco drum machine comes out of nowhere in the middle 8, and disappears just as curiously. This song needed real horns and louder piano to truly be good. Really poor production decisions here, in my opinion.

Vintage Clothes: I’m not alone in saying this is my fave off the album. I really hope this song gets put out as a single with a great video because I think it could be a big hit for him. Seriously, this song is a perfect pop song, not just a perfect Paul song. The little guitar fuzzy thing is awesome and the lyrics are fun (“we don’t care if we look like a girl or boy/what we are/is what we are/and what we wear/is vintage clothes”). If you’re not going to buy the album, at least download this track off your favorite music service.

“Vintage Clothes” marks the beginning of a suite of sorts. The songs run seamlessly, and all are clearly related to him picking apart his brain. But don’t think “Abbey Road” medley, because it’s not like that at all. All of these songs are finished, complete thoughts – not bits of unfinished tunes.

That Was Me: A bit self-indulgent, yes. With almost anyone else, I’d be more annoyed with this song and how it lists semi-cryptic stanzas of memories. However, realizing that Paul so rarely writes about what’s in his head so openly, this song is a treasure. Still, I tend to skip over it. I’m glad it exists though, even if I don’t know how a person can “sweat cobwebs”. Great voice and bass. Duh.

Feet in the Clouds: I always think of the cover to “Off the Ground” when I hear this. I really like this mainly acoustic ditty. Again a great lyric blended in with perfect backing. This song could be done by a indie pop star today. It’s a bit sing-songy in the chorus, but I could hear someone like Sufjan Stevens doing this song. The little build-up to the chorus sounds like something off a bad Wings album, but it works perfectly here. Lovely song.

House of Wax: Ok, talk about your Wings sound-alikes… In theory, I like this song. But I think I’d like this song more if it had come out in 1978, where I’d be more forgiving. It’s just so melodramatic. Still, if this is a sign of things to come from Paul, I can dig it. Nice guitar work – wish he’d do it live but I highly doubt it.

End of the End: We’ll all get really sick of this song when he does actually die (probably 30 years from now) because they’ll play it over and over and over again. Therefore, I’m leaving this song alone.

Nod Your Head: Paul exists in a mini “Helter Skelter” scream off. Totally silly, yet it rocks. How very Macca.

So to you, Paul, I nod my head because I like this album. Can’t wait to spend $300 to see him up close next year.

P.S. WTF? Check out the totally indie Pitchfork interview with Sir Paul! And be sure to check out the three websites.

Wired is funny?

Let’s Make Website Mashups, Like Netflickr, Figg and BoingPress

A list from Wired offering ideas for new websites. My favorites include:

BoingPress

This blogging service provides all the functionality of WordPress, and in addition automatically links to stories about DRM, the Creative Commons, Disneyland and anything John Hodgman does ever.

mapse.cx

This site helps you out with directions, but for some reason only displays routes involving tunnels.

WikiHarmony

Welcome to the only online dating service with profiles that anyone can edit! Personal descriptions are notoriously biased, and clearly only random people using pseudonyms can provide the objectivity necessary to decide whether Becky Jarker is a “fun, feisty redhead” or a “henna-addicted lush.” Careful, though … one too many boring dates and you’ll be deleted as “non-notable.”

Any other ideas? Wish I was that funny.

Nordeast Minneapolis Art-a-Whirl

At the suggested of my buddy Chad, I took my out of town guests to the Northeast Minneapolis Art-a-Whirl on Saturday. Although I still favor the St Paul Art Crawl, this one featured more stops and of course more galleries. I think I like the St Paul one mainly because I love looking around people’s lofts and studios.

My favorite stop was the Minnesota Center for Photography. Most of the photos were printed on inkjet printers, which I thought was amazing and nearly impossible to notice. Many were portraits and they all looked like they’d come right out of Life magazine.

Other interesting stops were personal connections. First was the Frank Stone Gallery, who is a resident of my home town and has done glass work for the church I grew up in, including a special circular stained glass window in memory of my dad. The other cool stop was St Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral, which I’d been to many times, even sang in the choir. They were displaying icons in the beautiful cathedral, and even a lady painting an icon. I hope lots of people doing the Art-a-Whirl went there so they can see the wonder and beauty of an Orthodox church.

My favorite artist was Teresa Razidlo who makes terrific handbags. I didn’t buy one, but I hope to soon. They are made of all vintage material and she told me she collects buttons, so all feature a special button that magically matches perfectly with the material. The best part is that many of them have long straps so you can carry them over your body, which is what I look for in a bag (that and several pockets, which these lack but I can make an exception).

Guess I should have voted (spoiler alert)

WTF? The best singer ever on American Idol, Melinda Doolittle, was voted off tonight. I’m guessing many were like me, too confident that she’d make it so they didn’t bother voting at all or often for her. Whoopsie. Honestly, the finale is hardly worth watching now. I’m incredibly bored with Blake these days and Jordin is like Melinda Lite (TM). *Yawn*.

The best part of the show as the return of Elliott Yamin. It’s sort of sad that everything is “fixed” about his head now (teeth, hair), but his dimples are hidden by his beard and he looks older. Still, he’s got a great voice and it’s cool that the writer was in the band.

And please Melinda, release “Nutbush City Limits” as your first single so I can gyrate my pelvis and stomp my feet all the damn time. I’m shocked at how cool the producer’s picks were.

Anywho, on to “Lost”, where I may lose my favorite character as well.

Album Review: Tori Amos – American Doll Posse


I’ve been skeptical of Tori since “Scarlet’s Walk”, when she seemingly turned adult contemporary for two albums. I remember once I said, “I like old Tori Amos” to a fellow Tori fan, and she didn’t get it.

Well, I’m proud to say I like the current Tori Amos too now. “American Doll Posse” is a marathon in much the same way “Boys for Pele” is. It’s lots of songs (23 in this case), many of which are just short little ditties. Like “Fat Slut,” which is a brief conversation, but like most Tori conversations, you’re never sure how many people are involved.

The posse mentioned in the title is a real group. Well, a real made up group anyway. Tori’s created five personas, including one for herself, and these are the dolls who sing the songs. The digipack explains it all. Listening to the album, the characters make no difference. There aren’t really five types of songs, it’s probably more in the subject matter but it’s barely noticeable.

What’s interesting here is how Tori has focused on the songs themselves. Clearly this is what happens when she works with a band. I’m not a Tori purist — I don’t care if it’s just her and a piano or her and a metal band, which does happen here. I love that there’s electric guitar on nearly every song. In fact, some of the best songs, “Big Wheel”, “Bouncing off Clouds”, and “You Can Bring Your Dog”are great because of the guitar. They are all poppy and infectious and interesting lyrically, in that special Tori way.

But there’s a couple surprises in the last three songs. I totally thought “Posse Bonus” was a bonus track as I listened in my car because of its campiness and deliberate lyrics, “This is your posse bonus…” But no, there’s two more excellent songs, including the spooky and masterful “Smokey Joe“, which I swear is about “Fried Green Tomatoes”. I think it’s the best song of the album. Her voice and the mix is absolutely amazing, and those purists can’t object since it’s traditional Tori.

I give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It is definitely one of her top three albums. “This is your posse bonus / cuz I like you..” Thanks, I like you too, Tori.

How Kind of You, City Pages

Welcome to everyone meandering over from City Pages Blotter! Oddly enough, I do not specifically recall writing about “Mexican female wrestlers/murderers”, but it sure does sound interesting. I do, however, recall the Australia female murders….I sense a frightening theme here.

I must keep this short as I am on my way to the STC conference, which I will be reviewing for UXMatters at some point. If you’re nerdy, check it out.

Can anyone say "Heavenly Creatures 2"

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Perth girls get life for murder

Two teenage girls in Western Australia have been sentenced to life in prison for killing a friend to see whether they would feel remorse at the deed.

And if Peter Jackson is up for it, just think of the awesome computer animation…like maybe the girls have weird, fantastic dreams!
Kate Winslet could be one of the mothers!

I Finally Played with a Wii


I’ve been trying to get my hands on a Wii since it came out. But knowing someone with one and feeling comfortable with that person don’t always go hand in hand for a girl with access to a plethora of geeky boys. But a pleasant and safe opportunity finally arrived this weekend.

Let me start with the awesomeness of the remote because I never saw a description of it that mentioned these things. The shape and button placement could be refined a bit, but it definitely is easy to use. The coolest and most surprising part to me as the speaker at the top and the LED indicator for which player number that remote is assigned to. When your turn comes up, the remote makes a quiet “dong” noise to remind you to play. I think it rumbles a little too. How many times have you wondering which controller is plugged in to which player number? This is great innovation to me.

Now, on to playing. We started off with Rayman Raving Rabbids, a jolly romp through a Wild West setting (at least the stage I played) where your goal is to kills as many rabid bunnies as possible with toilet plungers. Nintendo, you rule just for that. For this one you hold the remote vertically in your hand and use it to aim and shoot (with the trigger button on the underside) while you shake the other half of the remote in your other hand to reload plungers. I did ok.

Next came bowling. You use the main remote like it is the ball. You start up and then swing back then forward again (as the on-screen directions clearly state at every turn in the mode we played). You can put spin on the ball by twisting the remote just a tad with your wrist. I got a 174 in 10 frames and beat the four random dorks I played with. I RULED!

We also played golf but I was really bad at it. I have absolutely no idea how the remote works, but it sure is sensitive. You hold the remote as you would a club, it’s really not that much different from the real thing. The more strength you use, the farther the ball goes. Totally intuitive.

The graphics on Wii Sports are pretty bad, but in a funny way. Like the people don’t have legs or they just have one arm…it’s really the bare minimum. But it’s ok because how you play it is totally amazing.

So way to go designers! Now the question is can I justify purchasing my own Wii…???