New Thing #357: Lucius

LuciusLast week my brother posted about a few new shows he was playing early in the New Year. Not long after that I was switching through the radio stations in the rare break we take these days (with my kids in the car) from the all-Christmas music station.

There was a song on 92.5 - the independent radio station here - called Turn It Around.

And when the artist - Lucius - came on the screen, I thought it looked familiar.

So I got in touch with my brother and found out that it was, indeed, the band that he would be playing with in just a couple of weeks.

A couple of notes about Lucius to start, since they're really this week's Music Monday New Thing.

Turn It Around is a pretty catchy song, and I listened to a few of their other songs online. There was a set they did for the NPR Tiny Desk concert, and a couple of other individual songs performed live.

They sound like a pretty fitting band to play with my brother - they seem like they would complement each other well.

Meanwhile, I think it's another great step for my brother. It's one of two shows he's doing in the first weeks of January associated with WFUV, and I think it adds a nice little symmetry to my year. (OK. I suppose it does so for his year too.)

Remember back in January he turned me on to The Lone Bellow, who then started to get significant radio play and national exposure on TV, and then he opened up for them in a show in Rhode Island this summer.

There was his set for JetBlue, which now that I'm thinking about it might not have happened this year, but featured other bands like Iconapop, who became a big radio presence this year…and 2013 did feature a bunch of people who were happy to tell me that they saw my brother on the TV on their JetBlue flight.

So it's fitting that as we're set for 2014 Matt's developing another relationship that could be high-profile.

And hopefully, soon enough, it will lead to radio play for him.

Here's the info for the show with Lucius…and check out his website if you're interested in what else he'll have going on in the New Year.

New Thing #350: Modern Vampires Of The City

Vampire_WeekendVampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City, which came out in May, had a good deal of buzz when it was released. And now it's getting a lot of end-of-year buzz as one of the best albums of 2013.

I was resistant to it for a while because, though I knew it was probably a New Thing in music I should try this year, well, I thought the band's name sounded scary.

I've thought that since I first heard about Vampire Weekend.

What's scarier than a weekend full of vampires?

Anyway, the music was not what I was expecting from a band called Vampire Weekend..and I did like the album.

This is another one of those bands that I don't really know what to call their genre.

They're kind of a combination of a number of musical styles.

And I can't really tell if that makes them very original or completely unoriginal.

Each of their songs reminded me of different music I've listened to, one of which was Arcade Fire, another was The Lumineers, but others I couldn't quite put my finger on.

It took me about 3 or 4 listens to really start loving the album. Right away I loved Unbelievers, the second track on the album. I defy you to not like that song.

The first song on the album, Obvious Bicycle, is kind of like what some would probably describe as an anthem - I like that one a lot too.

Then I think the rest of the first half of the album is good, but the second half of the album hasn't quite appealed to me as much yet.

I have a feeling I'll get there, because I don't mind listening to the album a few more times.

After all, I'm not scared of it anymore.

Here's Vampire Weekend performing Unbelievers on SNL - although I have to say I like the recorded version slightly better than the live one:

New Thing #343: Play Me I'm Yours

Play_MeI had written off Boston's version of 'Play Me I'm Yours' a while ago. It seemed like it could be a great New Thing, but it was only going to be around Boston through early October.

I knew it would be hard for me to get into Boston just to play a public piano at that time of year.

(If you don't know, 'Play Me I'm Yours' is a public art installation featuring pianos left around a number of cities. This edition had them in Boston and Cambridge in September and October.)

Turns out, though, that while the Boston and Cambridge pianos still in good condition were given to charities, two remained: one at Logan Airport and the other at Quincy Market.

Turns out, I ran into that Quincy Market piano last week when I went to the Bodies exhibit at Faneuil Hall.

I'll be honest with you: one of these last few Music Mondays I was going to publish a video of myself singing a song at the piano. That would be a very New Thing.

I tried a test run one morning on a recent weekend, recording myself singing, and it had been a while since I saw myself sing. It's not great. It always sounds good when I belt something out for the girls - they seem to love it. My wife seems to have grown indifferent to it.

But - and I'm not writing myself off forever as a casual singer…it could have just been a bad morning for my voice, and I'm convinced that certain songs are entirely within my singing ability (the holidays are always a good time - I think Christmas songs fall within that category) - I don't think I'm ready to put out a video of me singing and playing the piano.

Just playing the piano, though? I'm better at that. So that's what I'm doing today.

A couple of things I need to say about the following video: I went with Billy Joel's Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel). It's my go-to when I need to play something from memory. (This is the first time I've ever needed to play something from memory for an audience, unwitting though they were.) Over the years, though, I've lost some piano-playing memory. You might notice a couple of  spots in the video where I just forget the notes. It's not as egregious on video than it felt, though, when it was happening. (I think it frustrates my brother that I rely on note-reading so much when I play the piano. But I just don't have the ear for it. I'm getting a little better, I can kind of sense the appropriate chord in certain situations, but as you can see in the video it doesn't always happen that I play the appropriate chord or note. I admire those who can hear something and then re-create it with no notes on a musical instrument.)

Also, I went with the American Idol arrangement of the song - you know, I didn't feel like you needed to sit through two of the exact same verses, so I jumped from verse one to the bridge to the ending of the song.

I think that's about all you need to know. I was with my co-teacher for the exhibit, so she graciously took the video...and helped talk me into playing. So thanks to her for that. (And for cheering at the end.)

I'm kind of proud of myself for doing it - Quincy Market wasn't crowded, but it certainly wasn't empty. I got quite a rush, too, from playing in public. I hope you enjoy.

New Thing #336: Big Star

Big_StarWe're down to the last few Music Mondays of the year. So this week I once again turned to my friend Justin, so instrumental in helping expose me to new music (to me, anyway) this year, to see if he had any final Music Monday recommendations.

His almost-immediate response was Big Star.

Once I established that was a band, and not a song, I started doing some homework, listening to their music and reading up on their history.

They're an early '70s band that sounds exactly like you would think an early '70s band sounds like.

But I guess they were more of a ground-breaking early '70s act than other early '70s acts, because Justin says they inspired later bands like REM.

(Confession: I don't really like REM. I have their greatest hits. But I never listen to it. I like Man on the Moon, I like Orange Crush, and I like Nightswimming, but even with the songs I like I only like them for a minute or so before I get tired of them. I'm sorry to say it - I know they're very popular. But I'm just not a big fan.)

So you would think that maybe I wouldn't like Big Star, if you're drawing logical connections.

Well, I love their logo - my impression is that image above is what they had on the cover of their first album.

And I liked their music. I like some early '70s rock, and theirs is the kind of early '70s rock I like.

I guess I was most surprised that I'd never heard of Big Star before - they seem like they were a pretty big deal.

The original band only lasted a couple of years, then they continued to put out music with different members switching in and out. (That stuff always confuses me.) I didn't listen to any of the later stuff. The songs I heard were from the debut album.

I liked it - it may be worth buying down the line.

But, as with so much of the music I've heard doing 365 New Things In 2013, I'm glad I now know about a band which previously I had never heard of….and I enjoy texting back and forth with my brother and Justin about these bands.

I asked Justin why he recommended Big Star. I expected him to tell me it was just the last band he heard on his iPod before I asked. He told me that he liked that they were this under-appreciated group that was an influence on a lot of huge bands.

And then he added that the singer died recently and there was a big outpouring of appreciation then.

When I asked my brother about Big Star, he too knew that the lead singer had died recently. (I totally missed that one. He died in 2010.) Then he told me it was Alex Chilton, who was in The Box Tops, famous for their song The Letter.

See why I love doing this? I feel like that's great information that I wouldn't have otherwise known.

(Late addition: After I wrote this on Friday and Saturday I read through the Boston Sunday Globe Arts section and came across this review of a documentary on DVD about the band. That's pretty amazing, huh?)

New Thing #329: Underneath The Tree

Kelly_ClarksonI don't usually listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. It's Thanksgiving weekend when I include the all-Christmas-music radio stations in the channel-changing rotation, when I take out the Christmas piano music, when I put up the Christmas lights, for that matter.

But this year, maybe because of how late Thanksgiving is, I've decided today is the right day for a Christmas-themed Music Monday.

I asked my brother what the hot new Christmas song was going to be this year, and he looked at me like I didn't know what I was talking about…because I guess there's not a hot new Christmas song every year.

But it just so happens there will be this year - and it's called Underneath The Tree.

I guess Kelly Clarkson has an entire new album - but it doesn't matter, because this is the song that's going to become the new Christmas standard.

It's right up my alley.

I love Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You. I know there's a love-hate relationship with that song - either people love it or they hate it, that is - and when Matthew compared the Kelly Clarkson song to the Mariah Carey song, well, I was sold.

I love the fast pace of the song, the belt-it-out vocals, the 1950s-sounding horns - it all works for me. (It's a bit long for a Christmas song, but right now I'm going to go ahead and call that a good thing. Ask me again in a couple of weeks when the song is in heavy rotation.)

It's November 25th. We're a month out from Christmas. It's time to start paying some attention to the songs of the season.

And - fair warning - if you're not seeking out this song, don't worry, it'll find you pretty soon. I think it'll be everywhere.

And, just for good measure, here's a new spin (I can't believe this was a year ago already) on one of my all-time favorites:

New Thing #322: The Figgs

Once again we have one of my podcasts to thank for an idea for Music Monday. And an Astoria connection certainly helped its chances.

Marc Maron had The Figgs on his show last week.

Needless to say, since it's the case with many of the music guests on WTF, I had never before heard of The Figgs.

I gave the podcast a chance though. (Not that it's a stretch for me - a podcast would have to be the worst thing in the world for me to turn it off before listening to it from beginning to end.)

And not only did I find the members of the band likable, but there were two connections that really piqued my interest.


The first of the connections is that one of the band members (there are three of them, I didn't really do much research on them besides listening to a bunch of their songs online. I figure if you're interested enough you can look up the info as easily as I could have.) spent a lot of time in Astoria, my hometown.

Maron spent some time in the early 2000s living in Astoria. (He gave the exact location - also last week - when Ileana Douglas was on the show. I think he said 37th Street and 30th Avenue. Douglas, by the way, also has an Astoria connection - she spent a lot of time there as a kid with her grandparents. She was on the Ditmars end, very near to where I grew up, but she was talking about the late '70s as when she was there. A lot of Astoria talk on my podcasts last week.) Maron told the story last week of how he kept running into one of The Figgs at the grocery store in Astoria, because he was living in the area too. Maron was a fan of The Figgs…the band didn't know who he was other than some stalky fan.

Anyway, I like that there's an Astoria connection. (For what it's worth, one of the band members also currently lives just outside of Boston. They're like me!)

But then they talked about how they had hit it big in the last year or so because a song one of them had written was used in a popular Lexus commercial. I couldn't for the life of me think of what that was - as far as I knew I had never heard of The Figgs before in my life. Then they played the song, Je T'ador , and it sounded vaguely familiar, but I still couldn't place it. I looked it up and I remember the commercial, but the song didn't really stand out to me. I included that video at the end of this post for you to remember, and to get a taste of The Figgs. (Pun not intended. I swear.)

I listened to a lot of The Figgs' music last week. (Though I'm sure not anywhere close to all of it - by a long shot, I think.) I liked most of what I heard. I don't quite know how to describe it - a little rock, a little punk, a little grunge? There was a Foo Fighters feel to some of the songs…but that's not quite a good description. They also talked about Elvis Costello as an influence, if I remember correctly, on the podcast. I can see that too.

I liked, too, that many of the places they've been captured on video on YouTube are some of the same places my brother has played in recent years. It gives me hope that another little-known act with roots in Astoria will catch fire and get greater exposure.

New Thing #315: Booker T. And The MGs

Booker_TIn recent months, I've heard Booker T. Jones on a couple of my favorite podcasts. Not too long ago he was on Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, and then late last week he was on WTF with Marc Maron.

In both cases I came away awed by his immense talent at such a young age, his story, and his career.

And I realized that besides Green Onions, I knew very little of his work.

So this weekend I set out to fix that.

I downloaded 'The Very Best of Booker T. and the MGs', because I figured that was as good a place to start as any.

I should tell you that when I was growing up, we listened to the oldies station almost exclusively, so a lot of the songs from the era when Green Onions came out is very familiar to me.

And a lot of the songs on which the band probably played backup or which Booker T. Jones contributed to in any number of ways was probably stuff I knew. But I was less aware of him other than having heard the name "Booker T."

The only song I recognized at all from this 'Best Of' album besides Green Onions was Soul Limbo. I'm pretty sure that got some radio play too.

Besides the fact that I've come to like Booker T. Jones a lot through a couple of extensive interviews, I'm glad to now know more of his music.

As I discovered listening this weekend, it's great Sunday morning, getting-ready-for-the-day music.

And Jones isn't done - he's 68 years old, but is still putting out music, or collaborating - there's a lot he still wants to do.

Which means I might have some more Booker T. Jones interviews to look forward to.

New Thing #308: 365 Days of New Music

New_MusicHere's a website I can relate to: It's called The Ruckus, and they have a feature going right now called '365 Days of New Music.'

It came to my attention because of their October 16th entry - none other than Matt Sucich. (Hey! He's got some new music/videos to check out - head over to his website to listen/watch.)

But that got me to check out the site a little.

I'm down to about 7 or so more Music Mondays, and coming up with these 52 New Music experiences has been hard enough.

I can't even imagine what it was like to do a whole year's worth.

So to that I say, nice work, Ruckus.

Because I assume this gets to a point where you really have to work your way through it.

If you're going to try 365 new musical acts - songs or bands - you're bound to hit a few clunkers.

I hit a couple of bands I enjoyed when I clicked around their site - most notably Noble Hunter - but hitting one I didn't like was enough to turn me off the entire project.

So I definitely applaud the effort.

And who knows - I might rely on the site once or twice more in these last few weeks as I try to expose myself to a few more new music experiences.

I just hope I click on something I end up liking.

New Thing #301: Lightning Bolt

PJ_On_FallonI haven't paid much attention to Pearl Jam in recent years. I remember Eddie Vedder did some solo stuff for some movies (I think the one with that guy who cut off his hand under that rock).

But the last time I had anything to do with Pearl Jam was when I bought Yield when I was in college back in 1998.

I liked that album - and believe it or not, that's the only Pearl Jam album I've ever bought.

But I think I'm buying this new one.

Now, don't get all riled up - of course I'm familiar with Pearl Jam's great early albums. I've listened to Ten with friends (and I'm pretty sure my wife owns it), and I think I've heard most of Vitalogy and Vs. And, you know, they're a band that gets a lot of radio play. So I knew them for my whole teenage-and-up life. I just didn't buy the albums...mostly because that was a time in my life where I didn't buy a lot of albums.

But I got Yield when I was at an age where I started to buy a lot of albums. I remember loving Wishlist the most.

And I knew a new Pearl Jam album was coming out recently...but I was reminded to check it out when FOX used some Pearl Jam music as a bump in from commercial during Game 1 of the World Series. It just brought this wave of nostalgia because I hadn't heard their music in so long.

Then I saw that Jimmy Fallon had 'Pearl Jam Week' on his show, and I watched the performances of Lightning Bolt (the title track from the album) and Sirens from his show. I liked them both.

I tend to think of Pearl Jam as dark. (That's what Jeremy played over and over on MTV will do to you, I guess.) These songs, though, seem light. Or lighter, at least.

And, man, they are a cool band. Aren't they? Here are two links to the songs I saw them do on Fallon - that is just one cool band.

I haven't listened to the album, though I will probably download it. One person who has, though (and one person who I think I gathered from Facebook has already seen them do a couple of live shows promoting the album), is my cousin Joann. I know few people more (or equally) passionate about a band than Joann is about Pearl Jam. (For reference: there's Justin and Bruce Springsteen, me and Billy Joel, my cousin Eddie and Huey Lewis and the News, to name a few.) So I asked for her thoughts. Her response was so well-written I just threw it here as a screen shot. Take it for what it's worth. (My caveat: I once thought Mark Sanchez was going to be a great quarterback. Sometimes love can be blind.)


Oh yeah - Forgot to mention - most of my cousins call me 'Johnny'.

New Thing #294: Bauer

BauerHere's a guaranteed way to get me to listen to your music/write about you as a New Thing on Music Monday: Follow me on Twitter.

It worked for Bauer.

I wrote about Keane a couple of weeks ago and next thing I know I'm being followed by @bauermusic_ (Free Twitter advice to Bauer: I'm not sure you want the underscore at the end of your twitter handle...but what do I know.)

So I gave some of their stuff a listen.

Bauer has an album out that's less than a year old - it's called Sleeping Giant.

I'm not sure if they toured with (opened for) Keane or just sound like Keane - and they certainly do sound like Keane, so that might be the only connection between them following me after I tweeted about Keane. (Kind of like if their slogan was, "If you like Keane, you'll also like us!")

But the band, from England (like Keane!), seems like it could probably stand on its own. I liked the music - it was upbeat. It was my type of music.

I endorse it - you can look into some of Bauer's music for yourself on their website.

It also reminded me that the last time we saw Keane in Boston they had a band called Mystery Jets opening up for them. They were also from England, if I remember correctly, and they weren't bad either.

Not a very diverse choice for this week's Music Monday - it's more of the same, really, as far as my musical tastes - but it's always good to find something new that I like.

New Thing #287: An iTunes Playlist

PlaylistOne of the least-utilized tools on my phone is the 'Playlist' feature for my music. I tend to listen to an entire album in one sitting, or, if I'm in the mood to switch between songs, I'm doing it manually.

Problem is, when I'm running, I'm limited to either listening to one album all the way through or an artist on random or something like that because I'm not taking my iPhone out of my pocket to play DJ.

So recently I tried mixing things up a bit.

I added a lot of new songs this year to my iPhone that I really enjoy, but that I haven't been able to listen to while I run because they're the only songs by those artists on my phone.

For example - recently I was going for a run and I was scrolling through my music to figure out what to listen to. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros' Home looked appealing, as did Jim James' A New Life. But I knew I wasn't going to have the time to switch songs while I was running...and an added complication is I run with my Nike Running app so I'm pretty much committed to whatever music I start a run with - it plays whatever album I'm currently playing, and I'd have to pause the app if I wanted to switch music. (I've toyed with the idea of putting one really good 3-minute song on loop and hearing it 10 times during a run...I wonder if that would work.)

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I finally took the time before my run to play around with my music. I found the Playlists button, created one (it was ridiculously easy - I can't believe I hadn't done it before - I'd only created one Playlist before, on my computer, which I then downloaded to my phone), and ran to the 10-song creation. It lasted for about 40 minutes. I suppose if I want to increase my distance I can just add some songs on any given day, but I'm thinking I'm probably going to want to switch up some of the music.

The music I used this time around has a definite '365 New Things In 2013' feel to it. Who knows what other new music the rest of the year will bring - I might have another playlist for another run before the end of the year.

New Thing #280: Higher Than The Sun

KeaneI'm sure you know by now, even though one of the goals for this year was to expose myself to music I haven't heard before, I've really enjoyed writing about new music experiences featuring some of my favorite artists. And one of my favorites is Keane.

I really liked Somewhere Only We Know when it came out, and then I think I heard Everybody's Changing on Scrubs, perhaps.

I suspected I'd like Keane, but my brother cemented it when he suggested the album - it was piano-heavy, which I tend to like, and he thought I'd like them.

(Later he gave me an autographed copy of their second CD - pictured on the right above - when they came by his radio station to promote it.)

But there's also a sentimental element to Keane that will forever keep me attached to them.

Hopes and Fears - the first album featuring the two songs I mentioned above - came out in May 2004. I'm not sure when I started listening to the album, but that's exactly when my wife and I got married, and Keane was really the first band we both started liking together. (This is no small feat. My wife and I don't exactly share the same musical passions, and we were content to live in different musical worlds. But it sure was nice to have this one thing in common musically.)

We've seen Keane live twice, and besides Billy Joel, which for my wife is kind of like marrying into in-laws who you have to see whenever they're in town, I think they're about the only live show we've both shared and loved.

Thankfully Keane has had a rockier past ten years than my wife and I - there was a rehab for their lead singer, a terrible LP, but then a strong rebound. And now they're putting out a greatest hits album.

I'm past the age as a music consumer to go and get excited about a greatest hits album - I own all of the Keane albums and I really, truly love most of their songs, so I don't need a separate album with just their commercial hits.

(They are releasing live performances of all of the greatest hits, though, so I may have to buy something. And I think in the UK - maybe elsewhere internationally, where the band is huge - they are showing a live video in theaters. Or theatres, I suppose.)

But they are releasing at least one new song. It's called Higher Than The Sun, and it's typical Keane fare. Which means it's good, it's catchy...but truth be told, it doesn't seem destined to go down in history as my favorite Keane song. What it is, though, like the band itself for my wife and I, is a sentimental song.

The band lately has been big on tracking their fan's experiences. What do the songs mean to you? Where have you seen the band play? What big life events have you listened to Keane for? (I guess that question means my wife and I are not alone with our sentimental attachment to the band. When I write about having things 'just right' for the birth of our first daughter, the music involved Hopes and Fears - and maybe even Under The Iron Sea, their second album, playing in the hospital room.)

But it seems like ever since the release of Strangeland - their most recent album - a year-and-a-half ago, the band has gone ultra-reflective. And that's what I love about Higher Than The Sun, or at least the video.

It's like a three-and-a-half minute tour through the band's history, with quick homages to the artwork from each album. I put it here for you to enjoy.

The Best of Keane comes out on November 11th. If you're new to the band, that might be a great place to start. Then I'd recommend checking out all of their work. I love that band. And all of their albums are great. Except Night Train. Go ahead and skip that one.

New Thing #273: Baselines

The Major League Baseball regular season is over (well, there's a game 163 today, but it's an elimination game, so for all intents and purposes the regular season is over), and the post-season is about to begin. It's a fun time of year for me...even if the Mets aren't in the playoffs. (I say that as though the Mets regularly appear in the playoffs. My default setting is pretty much the playoffs without the Mets in them. If the Mets are in them to say I enjoy this time of year is a ridiculous understatement.)

Anyway, it's a chance for me to take stock of my pre-season picks, and I know they were hard to follow this year, what with me picking them on Twitter and all. (Side note - I've searched my hashtag #30MLBPicks and get only two results, which is a little upsetting to me. Where are all my picks?)

But I'd like to draw your attention to my pick to win the National League East: The Atlanta Braves.

Because they won the NL East...and they are the subject of this week's Music Monday.

(Note: I did pick the Braves to lose to the wild card out of the NL East, the Washington Nationals, because I was buying in on the Nats as much as everyone else. And I was wrong on many other picks. But I had the Braves, which no one else did. I'm proud of that.)

Shifting to music, though: I heard on Buster Olney's podcast last week that there's a team song called Baselines about the Braves. It's a knock-off of Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, and it's really well done.

It flows, none of the lyrics feel particularly forced. (Though it does violate an unwritten rule of mine about these types of songs - it twice goes after the other teams in the National League East, including my Mets. I think these songs should pump up your own team, not necessarily go after others. But I digress.)

I also have a special attachment to team songs. Olney referred to three others in his podcast - the Super Bowl Shuffle for the Chicago Bears, and two with New York connections:  Go New York, Go New York, Go (1994 Knicks), and Let's Go Mets Go!, about the 1986 Mets.

I loved that Mets song. I have the "Making Of..." video. I wore that VHS tape out. (And, as my friends point out since I'm one of the last few people with a working VCR plugged in, I still could if I so wished.)

So I leave you today with Baselines - a well-done song parody in tribute to one of my least favorite teams, the Atlanta Braves.

And to get the bad taste out of your mouth after that, please enjoy Let's Go Mets Go!, featuring, among others, my hero, the late Gary Carter.

Enjoy the post-season.

New Thing #266: The Fox

This is by far the weirdest Music Monday of the year. And I totally stumbled into it.

On a group e-mail one friend made a music joke and another friend countered that he didn't get it because he doesn't listen to any music...but he did have 'What The Fox Says' stuck in his head.

I had never heard of it - so I immediately looked into it.

Turns out I had missed quite a sensation.

It's a music video that went viral earlier this month, I think.

It went to 3 million hits on YouTube in three days - it's almost up to 45 million total right now.

Hard to believe that something can get that popular that fast and I can end up having no clue about it - but I have a clue now.

The song is sung by a duo called Ylvis, brothers who have a Norwegian variety show. (They've been compared to 'Flight of the Conchords', if that helps give you some context.)

It's a very catchy song, and it's absolutely ridiculous...but the minute I watched it I knew I had to write about it.

(And others have too - I found this article which actually investigates "What does the fox say?" - complete with sound clips of actual foxes.)

That's about the extent of my knowledge about this Music Monday entry - feel free to comment if you have anything else. (One late addition, thanks to promos during Fox's NFL Sunday - Fox is using it as an add campaign for its fall television season. Pretty good idea.)

Here's the video. And I'll give you the same warning I was given: It will be hard to get this song out of your head:

New Thing #259: Radiohead

RadioheadA few weeks ago Thom Yorke was on WTF with Marc Maron. I really enjoyed the interview, and it occurred to me as I listened that I didn't know very much about Radiohead, the band for which Yorke is the lead singer.

The extent of my Radiohead knowledge, I think, is their OK Computer album, which came out in 1997.

There are a few possible reasons for this:

1) I was confounded by what "OK Computer" meant when that album came out. Those two words didn't really go together in my brain.

2) The video for Paranoid Android, one of the singles off that album, was on MTV constantly. I'm sure you've seen it. It's a cartoon - I must have seen it come on 1,000 times that year...and I'm not sure I watched it all the way through once.

3) Karma Police, another single off that album, was on the radio a ton through my college years.

For this Music Monday, though, I listened to their album Pablo Honey.

The album was suggested by my friend Justin, who, when I texted him for Radiohead suggestions offered this: "I don't really like them much anymore. I have the first 3 albums. I happen to love Pablo Honey, which is their very first album. It's a great pop album before they decided to just make weird ambient noise." (This is why Justin is a great resource for my Music Mondays - I couldn't quite put my finger on why Radiohead didn't much interest me. That last comment kind of sums up what my impression of them was.)

Before they made 'weird ambient noise', though, I wasn't much of an album buyer. I was familiar with Creep, because that was on the radio constantly in the years leading up to college, and then while I was in college - I feel like WBCN in Boston (which was always on at the Boston University gym where I exercised and was also the preferred station of one of my college roommates) played it once an hour. Until I listened to it on the album I never knew there was such an explicit-language lyric repeated so often.

I liked Pablo Honey - I'm not positive I knew any of the other songs on the album, but a couple sounded vaguely familiar. It could have been just that they reminded me of what I expected songs on a Radiohead album to sound like - or maybe I have actually heard the album somewhere before.

As I investigated Radiohead a little more I discovered other songs they had done which I didn't realize was them - I'll categorize them as "Songs You Hear On The Radio And Don't Really Realize Who Sings Them"...which I suppose makes them somewhat generic and is probably not a real compliment to the artists who record them: High and Dry is the main one I didn't realize was Radiohead...and in a brief listen to a bunch of the songs on Best of Radiohead it occurred to me that I could have heard any of those songs on WBCN in the late '90s and not been able to tell the difference. (I would never have associated Radiohead with a band like the Gin Blossoms...but as I listened to Pablo Honey there were times I thought they could have been any '90s band, and Gin Blossoms was one that came to mind.)

Anyway, if the early albums are similar to Pablo Honey, I might try them out at some point. But like Justin, I don't think I would enjoy the later stuff either - partly because I know for a fact I don't much enjoy the stuff from OK Computer.

New Thing #252: iTunes Music Festival

Lumineers_MusicI'm not sure how often iTunes runs this music festival. It's probably once a year - but the last time it happened feels more recent than a year ago.

Because I distinctly remember wanting to check out some of the acts the last time around but not having the time to do it.

But when I saw the online ads for this year's (or just the latest) edition, I knew I had to make an effort to tune in for a Music Monday.

I saw a few acts in the lineup that I was interested in. But the times they aired live did not seem to be conducive to my schedule.

Then I was poking around and saw that you didn't have to watch the shows live - you could watch in full acts that had taken place already. (Which seems like it should obviously be the case, but I don't seem to remember being an option last time around.)

So on Friday night I sat myself down to a concert by The Lumineers on the computer.

Quickly, to refresh your memory - The Lumineers were one of the first bands I checked out on Music Monday as part of 365 New Things In 2013. I loved their music immediately and filed away in the back of my mind that I might like to see them live. (In fact, what drew my attention to them first, besides Ho Hey, I suppose, was that a friend had seen them opening up for Dave Matthews Band and raved about them.)

Well, this was my chance - all with the click of a button.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at how easy it was. But part of me always thinks that technology will come bite me at some point. Like mid-concert a pop-up would come on asking me to pay to see the rest of the concert, or the concert video would overload my computer and it would explode in a fireball or something.

But none of that happened. So maybe I'll check out some of the other live performance offerings before the month is up. (As I write this, I now wonder exactly what the 'live' means on the iTunes Music Festival. They're all "live" performances, meaning concerts. But does that mean iTunes actually streams them "live", as they happen? I'm not sure. There are times posted next to each I'm wondering if that's when they are actually playing live, or if that's just when their taped live performance is posted. I'm not sure.)

As for The Lumineers, I was worried at first - they started with Submarines, and it was kind of a slow start. But it picked up and I really enjoyed it.

They played a new song which I enjoyed, and there was a really unrehearsed feel to the set that made me think, "Wow. They must have rehearsed the heck out of this performance."

Remember when I wrote that there was a raw, back-of-the-bar-type feel to their album? It's amazing that somehow they manage to transfer that raw feeling to their live performance. At one point they move from the stage to a semi-stage in the middle of the crowd to recapture the intimate settings in which they played not that long ago.

You can see all of the other bands through the iTunes store. And there's a link to it all at - just look for this image:


New Thing #245: Zac Brown Band

Zac_BrownI don't know why I don't like the Zac Brown Band. It's kind of like the whole country just doesn't do it for me.

I know I'm in the minority - country is tremendously popular, and growing more and more popular every day.

And I know the Zac Brown Band is very popular too - especially among women, it seems to me.

In fact, it was my wife buying their new album that got me to listen to it as this week's new music.

I played the album while I was setting up my classroom on Friday.

I gave it a chance. I listened to it twice.

And, I'll be honest - I see the appeal. I do. There were a couple of songs in there that I didn't hate...I might even admit I kind of liked them.

But any sense of enjoyment I felt listening to the music was accompanied by a sense of irritation - something about that music just bothers me.

I'm sorry. I really am taking an open-minded approach to it. That's the whole point of this year.

But I think the bottom line is that I don't really like country music.

And the Zac Brown Band didn't do anything to make me reverse my opinion.

(Not to mention the album cover art kind of scares me.)

New Thing #238: Music Videos

I remember the good old days, when MTV and VH1 actually played music videos. Well, that's what you're supposed to say, anyway, when you're about my age and you talk about music videos.

Truth be told, I didn't watch very much of those channels back then anyway.

The only videos I cared about were Billy Joel's, and I had most of those on VHS tape.

Nowadays, MTV and VH1 might not play a bunch of videos anymore, but their affiliated channels certainly do (MTV U, VH1 of many different varieties)..and then there's the other music stations.

But I don't usually watch those channels - because you can find any music video you want at any time on the internet.

I know I'm not breaking huge news here. I'm sure many of you have been watching music videos on the internet for years.

But I haven't. Other than the videos my brother posts every now and again with his music or that of his friends, I just don't watch many music videos.

And as a result, in doing my Music Monday posts each week, I've probably watched more music videos in these past eight months than I have in the past eight years.

And I've enjoyed them. From the flash mob bit (and the story behind it) in Sara Bareilles' Brave to that thing Anna Kendrick does with her hands in Cups to the weird video for Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men, I've liked seeing what people are doing in their music videos now.

I've liked, too, when I'm on YouTube and I come across an old video and I watch that and it leads me to another music video that I've never seen before. Because there are a lot of those - both then and now - that I've missed.

But as far as videos from this year go, it's a callback to another Music Monday from very early in the year that takes the cake.

I still like Mumford and Sons - I still listen to their albums quite often. That said, I've never seen them play live enough to get an idea of just how much of a parody their video for Hopeless Wanderer is. But I think it's a riot that they've allowed this parody of themselves, and I still get a huge kick out of the video.

And I'm not sure that if it came out in any other year that I would have watched it. So for that, I'm glad. Here's what I'm talking about:

New Thing #231: DJ Kitty

DJ_KittyMy only regret from the time I spent in Florida last week is that I did not get a video recording of what I'm going to tell you about today. I was hoping I'd come back from my trip with some kind of local new music experience.

I did...but this isn't exactly what I had in mind.

Allow me to introduce you to DJ Kitty.

Maybe it's for the best I don't have a video of it - it's truly best if you experience it in person. (And for that, I'm sure Rays management would be appreciative. There aren't many people experiencing Rays games in person. More on that later in the week.)

I'm not sure I knew this phenomenon was happening. From the videos that are available online (click here so you can at least get a taste of DJ Kitty), I'm assuming it dates back at least three years. Maybe a game I was watching showed it and I didn't know what it was out of context...but this is one of those fun ballpark things that I feel people should know about.

I went to two Rays games, and DJ Kitty popped onto the scoreboard in, I think, the middle of the 8th inning in both games. The crowd, obviously, loves it.

I don't remember which song comes on with the video - it could very well be the one in the video I linked to above - but the song doesn't matter because of the video of the cat and the crowd shots and dance club shots shown over the music. (My favorite is when DJ Kitty raises its hands in the air and moves back and forth.) I get the impression they show DJ Kitty with different songs in different years.

(The other funny thing the Rays do which is music-related is when there's a conference on the mound for the other team they play some cheesy music video - at our two games it was a David Hasselhoff number and a Mr. T song and they pull back to show the music in a thought bubble and then they attach the thought bubble to the conference on the mound. It's amusing.)

(And while I'm parenthetically throwing out Rays trade secrets - they're trade secrets because no one goes to the games and therefore no one knows about them - when the Rays win they play another video clip after the last out that the fans love. It's a good time down there in St. Petersburg.)

DJ Kitty is the best one, though. And the Rays know this - they have DJ Kitty souvenirs on sale. I considered getting one.

I really liked DJ Kitty. And that's coming from someone who does not like cats.

Here's what it looks like from inside the stadium:

New Thing #224: The Civil Wars

A little more than a week ago my brother tweeted the following: Matt_Tweet

That sounded pretty powerful, so I made a mental note to check out The Civil Wars.

Turned out, although I didn't realize it at the time, I had skimmed an article about the band in the Sunday New York Times just before that tweet.

I did some more reading on them and listened to some of their music and decided they were definitely worth a Music Monday write-up.

The reason The Civil Wars were written about in the Times is that they released a new album - their second, following up on a very successful debut album.

But here's the catch: The duo - Joy Williams and John Paul White - haven't been on speaking terms since canceling a tour in November, after they recorded the album in September.

So the album is now out, there will be no tour to promote it, and the folk duo's future is in serious doubt.

I'm glad I'm not a huge fan, because that is the type of thing I would find immensely frustrating.

It sounds like there's a pretty passionate fan base that's now left hanging.

I listened to the two songs my brother mentioned. I listened to Safe and Sound, a song The Civil Wars did with Taylor Swift for the soundtrack of The Hunger Games. I watched a couple of live performances on YouTube.

There's a definite chemistry you can feel between the two during those live performances. And I like the music...though you know me, I prefer my songs a little more upbeat.

If you want to read a little more about the turmoil, Rolling Stone also wrote about the new album and talked about the rift - from Williams' perspective, since White isn't talking about it, I guess.

I'm sure there's a lot of speculation about why they're having the "internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition" they referred to in the statement they put out in November. (I've known of the band for less than a week and I could offer a theory or two.)

And I'm sure this has been said, and I'm sure it's trite, but I'm new to the game, so I'll offer this: wouldn't you think a duo calling themselves The Civil Wars was destined for this type of split?

Maybe they should have gone with "International Incident" or something like that.

(OK. Turns out NPR used a play on the band's name in this interview with Williams which offers a little more insight into their situation. Thanks to my brother for sending that along.)