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5 posts from April 2009

April 30, 2009

5 albums that will transport you to another planet

Every once in while you have a listening experience that changes the way you think about music and what it can do.  Most of these albums had been out for quite a while the first time I heard them, but each had a huge impact on me both as a music lover and a musician.  Totally cosmic, man.

1) Yes - Close to the Edge

The first time I heard this album was the closest I've ever had to a religious experience listening to rock.  I remember sitting there, headphones on, my eyes closed, and just becoming completely enveloped by the music.  Amazing playing, complex, intricate arrangements, and Jon Anderson's soaring voice and weird/mystical lyrics.  Wow, what an eye-opener.

2) Queen - Queen II

The greatest thing about this album is that it is completely unique - nothing else sounds quite like it.  As with most great things, it is an acquired taste, and definitely takes a number of listens to appreciate. Queen made full use of studio technology with multi-layered guitar and vocals, and Freddie Mercury really starts coming into his own here.  Outstanding playing and arranging by the whole band.

3) Rush - Moving Pictures

Even though this album contains most of Rush's best known songs (Tom Sawyer, Limelight, YYZ) it never gets old for me.  I still remember hearing this album as a fledgling drummer and thinking 'Oh, I have a lot of work to do'.  Another awesome album to listen to with headphones in the dark.  Super tight playing and arrangements, and killer production by Terry Brown.

4) Allan Holdsworth - Metal Fatigue

The first time I heard Allan Holdsworth play, all I could think was 'how is this guy not massively famous?'  The answer of course, is that Holdsworth is a guitarist that only plays what he feels and doesn't pander to popular tastes or fads.  His music is beautiful, and his facility as a guitarist is almost unbelievable.  It also doesn't hurt that his band over the years has used some of the most amazing session players ever.  On a personal level, he is also one of the nicest, most humble guys I've ever met.

5) Porcupine Tree - In Absentia

Dark. Heavy.  Atmospheric.  Intelligent.  Porcupine Tree is finally starting to get some of the credit they so richly deserve.  Steven Wilson, the bands guitarist/singer/producer and primary song writer has created an amazing sound, mixing the psychedelic sounds of Floyd with some very dark, crunchy metal.  He also has a drummer that is arguably the best rock drummer playing today - Gavin Harrison.  Almost shocked me speechless the first time I heard it.

April 28, 2009

And two more for fun...

Although I am big fan of Anthony Bourdin, and also watch Top Chef from time to time, I can readily admit to watching two other shows that are a bit more...well...crass?

1) Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern

Although this show can be somewhat gut-wrenching (particularly for an animal lover like me), it does do a great job illustrating how other people around the world eat.  How that guy keeps some of that stuff down is beyond me.

2) Man vs. Food

OK, I know I shouldn't even admit to watching this, but it is entertaining!  Some of the eating challenges Adam Richman puts himself through are just brutal.  Five 24-oz. milkshakes in thirty minutes?  I don't think so.

April 27, 2009

Five best cooking shows on TV

I'm not much of a cook, but I do love cooking shows. Here's a list of my personal favorites:

1) America's Test Kitchen
Does what few other shows do: tells you why as well as how. It also makes everything seem easy and straightforward. And they tell you which products and tools to buy. Absolutely the best!

2) Top Chef
While not a how-to show, Top Chef does help you understand what being a restaurant chef is all about. Top Chef drinking game: take a shot every time someone says "flavor profile."

3) Good Eats
Alton Brown is both entertaining and informational. He also makes cooking seem really fun and accessible. The show does get too silly at times.

4) Mexico One Plate at a Time with Rick Bayless
Rick Bayless really helps you understand the culture as well as the food. I just wish his daughter wasn't such a big part of the more recent shows -- it seems forced.

5) No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain

While just as much about travel as it is about food, Bourdain is really entertaining no matter whether he's eating at a Michelin 3-star restaurant or a food stall.

An honorable mention to Jamie Oliver, who's original Naked Chef series was fantastic. However, I've never really enjoyed any of his subsequent shows.

Bonus pro tip: avoid anything with Paula Dean. :)

April 26, 2009

Coolest and lamest band names

There are some bands that I wanted to like before I ever heard their music because of how cool there name sounded. There are also some bands that I like but am ashamed to say so because their name sounds so lame. Off the top of my head...

Super cool:

  • The Smiths
  • Elvis Costello (technically not a band name, but not his real name either)
  • Pavement
  • Housemartins
  • Superchunk (helped by the fact that they have an album called "No Pocky for Kitty")
  • The Replacements
  • Travis
  • The Shins (named after the mayor's family in "The Music Man" supposedly)

Kinda lame:

  • Yes
  • The Beatles (so universally loved that I'm not embarrassed to say the name, but still pretty bad for the greatest band ever)
  • Death Cab for Cutie
  • Gorillaz (it's the "z" that makes me dislike it)
  • Barenaked Ladies (hate to include them, but it is a pretty bad name)
  • Steely Dan (especially if you know where the name comes from)

Anyone else have an opinion? Who did you want to like before you heard their music? Who are you ashamed to tell your friends you like?

April 25, 2009

MST3K 20th Anniversary Edition


Mystery Science Theater 3000 is one of my all-time favorite shows. In fact, I rank it with the greatest artistic creations in the history of mankind alongside the Cezanne's "Kettle, Glass and Plate with Fruit" and Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Come to think of it, Catalina Caper blows "Kettle, Glass and Plate with Fruit" out of the water.

Anyhow, few months ago Shout Factory released a Limited Edition 20th Anniversary Edition DVD Set. It includes four movies: First Spaceship on Venus, Laserblast, Werewolf, and Future War (not great episodes overall, but Werewolf is hilarious) and a tin containing various goodies, including four custom lobby cards and a figurine of Crow T. Robot. There's also some awesome DVD bonus material included.

The limited edition tin seems to only be available on the secondary market, but if you love the show it's probably worth seeking out.