Random Video: Palo Alto

Apparently it’s Radiohead week around these parts, and that is A-OK with me.

The above video is taken from the documentary, “Meeting People Is Easy,” the Grant Gee flick in which he followed Radiohead on their world tour after the release and surprise success of world-changing opus, “OK Computer.”  (Yeah, I’m a fanboy.)

‘Palo Alto’ was originally titled ‘OK Computer’ and was recorded with the intention of appearing on the album but the Radio Heads soundly realized it didn’t fit the vibe of the album and left it as a B-side.  A wise choice, because if you know the album (if you don’t, for shame), you know that it just wouldn’t have had a natural spot on such an ideally sequenced work.

But that doesn’t make this a bad song.  It would have still sounded out of place on “The Bends,” yet it would have probably been a standout track.  Unlike my previous Radiohead Random Video post, this song has no chance of ever appearing on a proper album, and that’s just fine.  It exists in a time capsule where the fanatics like me can always have it.

(And if you haven’t seen “Meeting People…” I recommend it highly for anyone who has a deeper interest in the music world, regardless of your taste for Radiohead.  Unless, of course, you have epilepsy.)

Random Video: Leader of the Pack

Putting the ‘random’ in my random video posts, I just had to share this song.  Maybe it’s all this talk about Kerouac.  Maybe it’s because I’ve just started watching Mad Men.  Maybe I just like oldies.*  I’m betting it’s the last one.

Anyway, I heard this song a fair amount in my childhood (we listened to a lot of oldies), and I still love its beautiful melody and harmonies and its over-the-top theatrics.  Pop music being pop music.

What’s not to love?

Plus, this video.  Egad.

*I realize that “On The Road,” Mad Men and the Shangri-Las all represent distinctly different years.  And I don’t care.

Random Video: Stay Young, Go Dancing

I actually saw Death Cab For Cutie in concert before I had ever heard a song of theirs.  I was in college, I knew the name, and a friend wanted to see the show, so I went with her.  What I remember from the concert (other than the repeated refrain of “I loved you Guenivere” which I found particularly stirring) was just how much I enjoyed the show despite not knowing the songs.  Usually, I’d be bored at a concert where the music was all new to me, but the band’s performance and sincerity was completely engaging.

In Charlotte, I briefly dated a girl who was obsessed with Death Cab.  This was at the time “Plans” came out and while a lot of people were dismissing the album for being their first Major Label release, this girl loved it.  Listening to the album over and over again in her truck, the album grew on me so much I had to eventually buy it for myself a few months after I stopped seeing her.

Most recently, Death Cab released “Codes and Keys,” an album that to my surprise has become one of my favorites of the year.  Even more surprising, the song that has become my favorite is the album’s lovely coda, “Stay Young, Go Dancing.”  Proving that a band can transition from morose to uplift without losing a step, this song is the most hopeful and uplifting piece in the band’s catalog, and I love it.

If there is a more satisfying message in a pop song this year, I haven’t heard it.

Random Video: Hold On

“Well, go ahead and call the cops / You don’t meet nice girls in coffee shops…”

It’s damn near impossible for me to pick my favorite Tom Waits song, but this is top 5.  The admiration I have for Tom Waits is unlike the affection I feel for any other artists.  I have bands and singers who I like more, artists who I listen to more frequently.  But there is something about Waits’ music that grabs my attention the moment it comes on.  It’s incomparable, and impossible to replicate.  The mix of bluesy, alcohol-soaked guitar and piano with those inimitable guttural vocals and pain-filled yet sardonic lyrics makes him a true one-of-a-kind artist.

Oh, and I have mentioned that I met the man once?  Probably, but it bears repeating.  He walked into the bookstore I worked at in San Francisco one day at the end of my shift.  I was the only one in the store who recognized him, but I couldn’t believe it was actually him, even though he was rocking the classic fedora.  I ended up sticking around on the floor 20 minutes after my shift to work up the nerve to approach him.  When I finally did, I had to ask:

“You’re Tom Waits, right?”


“I’m a huge fan.”

“Oh, thanks,” he said with an obliging grin.  He then shook my hand and I left.

And that’s it, because, like an idiot, I couldn’t think to say anything else.  Like, for instance, that the one short story I had published was titled, “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart,” after his song of the same title.

Talk about starstruck.

So, yeah, Tom Waits is the man, and his songs are truly special gifts in our musical history.  Cherish them.  And if you aren’t a fan, track him down and become one.

Random Video: Elephant Gun

I cannot describe how much I love this song.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if I had even a smidgen of musical talent, I would create songs like Beirut.  It might be natural to dismiss this American boy’s Eastern European flourishes as pretentious or unauthentic, but once you’ve listened to his music I think its beauty and grace will overtake your critical posturing.

Besides, we all create art that emulates our most affecting influences, so why not Balkan folk music (is it any less authentic than mining British folk music)?

Plus this video is a giddy pleasure of mine.  I love the dancing.  I am, actually, quite a sucker for dance and love to watch masterful performances.  Someone take me to a ballet, I’d plotz.  Maybe not.

Good stuff all around.  Enjoy.

Random Video: Star Witness

Hear the album version here.

I first heard this song while I was living in Charlotte.  It was on a Paste Magazine Music Sampler (back in the day when they had a print magazine).

I was mesmerized by it back then.  I still am.  Neko Case has an incomparable voice, a weapon of unmatched ferocity.

It wasn’t until I was working in Philly at my infamous Used CD/DVD store job that I picked up the full album, “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.”  It took barely a day for me to become obsessed with it.  Her followup album, “Middle Cyclone,” is a more consistently affecting and successful album, song by song, and perhaps her career’s masterpiece (so far).  Still, I have a deep place in my heart for Fox Confessor, especially “Star Witness,” a song that displays her amazing voice and her uncanny storytelling ability.  Her songs are like beautifully rendered short stories, filled with depth and pathos.

I may be among a minority of people who came to know of Neko as a solo artist before finding out she was a member of the New Pornographers.  Just as well, I’d rather hear her sing solo any day of the week.  And next week, I’m finally getting the chance to do just that and see her live. 

Enjoy the video, and if Neko isn’t already a part of your regular musical diet, stock up.  She does a body good.