The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas is having a birthday today. Some of his work is included on today’s playlist.
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Inspired by the August 23 birthdays of The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas, The Drifters’ Rudy Lewis, Andrew Rannells, Happy Mondays/Black Grape’s Shaun Ryder, Rick Springfield, Edwyn Collins, Gene Kelly and Tex Williams.
I don’t understand Beyoncé. She spells her name with an accent over the second e, but she pronounces her name with the accent on the second syllable. That makes no sense to me. Musically, however, I was down with Cé in 2014. She challenged herself artistically with her latest album, snuck out at the tail end of 2013, and for the most part she succeeded. Yonc places four songs in my year-end list, more than anybody else, with two of those songs in my top ten. And to think, she owes her whole career to me.
The big trend that nobody talks about is that Sweden has invaded in a big way. Tove Lo and Neneh Cherry (welcome back!) are on my year-end list, and First Aid Kit are in this week’s top ten. Three acts may not look like a big trend to you, but let’s encourage Sweden. They still have a ways to go to make up for Ace of Base. Elsewhere in Scandinavia, Norway is represented by Röyksopp, Annie and Bjarne Melgaard. Come on, Denmark and Finland – let’s step it up! Other foreign acts representing this year are Britain’s George Ezra, Katy B, Disclosure, Sam Smith, SBTRKT and alt-J; Scotland’s Paolo Nutini and Belle & Sebastian; Canada’s Mac DeMarco, Tegan & Sara and Arcade Fire; Australia’s Courtney Barnett and Sia; France’s Daft Punk, Nigeria’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; and Neverland’s Michael Jackson.
There’s little hip hop on my 2014 list. Very little. Two songs, both performed by Kendrick Lamar. This is the poorest showing for rap in a year-end list since the early eighties, I think. I’m too lazy to look for my old listings, but I’m pretty sure that’s accurate. Was hip hop really that lame this year or am I turning into my mother?
Country music fared a little better than hip hop. Three songs, two of those performed by Miranda Lambert. The third song is “Follow Your Arrow,” performed by Kasey Musgraves, which is my #1 song of 2014. This is the first time a country song has topped my year-end list, I think. I’m too lazy to look for my old listings, but I’m pretty sure that’s accurate. The song, about being true to yourself and not letting others dictate your path, resonated with me when I was at a crossroads in my professional life. Do I continue working for the man in a soul-sucking job or do I pursue my passions? I opted to follow my arrow. If I crash and burn, Musgraves will hear from my lawyer. Also, it was rad to hear a simple, catchy tune coupled with the lyrics “Kiss lots of boys or kiss lots of girls if that’s what you’re into.” It was radder that this song won the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year award, despite being only a modest hit on the country chart. Raddest was that two male country singers, Billy Gilman and Ty Hendon, who each have sold hundreds of thousands of records, announced that they kissed lots of boys and that’s what they’re into. I’m paraphrasing.
I now present to you my favorite songs of 2014. The list was compiled from my weekly top ten lists. I crunched the numbers and this is the result. Songs that are in Glenn’s Ten at the present time (e.g. First Aid Kit’s “Cedar Lane,” Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk!,” Perfume Genius’ “Queen”) are not included; I’ll put them on my 2015 list. Here are the 83 tracks that made my weekly top ten in 2014:
1. “Follow Your Arrow” – Kacey Musgraves
2. “Ain’t It Fun” – Paramore
3. “Happy” – Pharrell Williams
4. “Every Time the Sun Comes Up” – Sharon Van Etten
5. “Do You” – Spoon
6. “Partition” – Beyoncé
7. “Drunk in Love” – Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
8. “Really Don’t Care” – Demi Lovato featuring Cher Lloyd
9. “Seasons (Waiting on You)” – Future Islands
10. “Beggin for Thread” – Banks
11. “Avant Gardener” – Courtney Barnett
12. “Budapest” – George Ezra
13. “Habits (Stay High)” – Tove Lo
14. “Gotta Get Away” – The Black Keys
15. “Love Never Felt So Good” – Michael Jackson
16. “Somethin’ Bad” – Miranda Lambert featuring Carrie Underwood
17. “Hundreds of Ways” – Conor Oberst
18. “Step” – Vampire Weekend featuring Danny Brown, Heems and Despot
19. “Put Your Number In My Phone” – Ariel Pink
20. “Blue Moon” – Beck
21. “All the Rage Back Home” – Interpol
22. “i” – Kendrick Lamar
23. “5 AM” – Katy B
24. “Secrets” – Mary Lambert
25. “Cinnamon and Lesbians” – Stephen Malkmus
26. “Just One Drink” – Jack White
27. “Chandelier” – Sia
28. “Automatic” – Miranda Lambert
29. “How Can You Really” – Foxygen
30. “Out of the Black” – Neneh Cherry featuring Robyn
31. “XO” – Beyoncé
32. “Wait for a Minute” – Tune-Yards
33. “Control” – Broken Bells
34. “Bored in the U.S.A.” – Father John Misty
35. “Latch” – Disclosure featuring Sam Smith
36. “New Dorp, New York” – SBTRKT featuring Ezra Koenig
37. “All About that Bass” – Meghan Trainor
38. “I Blame Myself” – Sky Ferreira
39. “Do It Again” – Röyksopp and Robyn
40. “Birth in Reverse” – St. Vincent
41. “Prince Johnny” – St. Vincent
42. “Bother” – Les Sins
43. “Brother” – Mac DeMarco
44. “Everything Is Awesome!!” – Tegan and Sara featuring The Lonely Island
45. “Dark Sunglasses” – Chrissie Hynde
46. “Heart is a Drum” – Beck
47. “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” – Kendrick Lamar
48. “Let Me Down Easy” – Paolo Nutini
49. “Talking Backwards” – Real Estate
50. “Stranger to My Happiness” – Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
51. “High Hopes” – Bruce Springsteen
52. “Electric Lady” – Janelle Monae featuring Solange
53. “Crying for No Reason” – Katy B
54. “After the Disco” – Broken Bells
55. “***Flawless” – Beyoncé featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
56. “West Coast” – Lana Del Rey
57. “Nothing More than Everything to Me” – Christopher Owens
58. “Left Hand Free” – alt-J
59. “The Party Line” – Belle & Sebastian
60. “Low Key” – Tweedy
61. “Come Get It Bae” – Pharrell Williams
62. “Do What U Want” – Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly
63. “Alone in My Home” – Jack White
64. “Fever” – The Black Keys
65. “Me and Liza” – Rufus Wainwright
66. “You Are Your Mother’s Child” – Conor Oberst
67. “Inside Out” – Spoon
68. “Instant Crush” – Daft Punk featuring Julian Casablancas
69. “I Wanna Know” – Best Coast
70. “Eyes to the Wind” – The War on Drugs
71. “Forever” – Haim
72. “It Comes Back to You” – Christopher Owens
73. “Just One of the Guys” – Jenny Lewis
74. “My Own World” – Eleanor Friedberger
75. “Spit Three Times” – Neneh Cherry
76. “Lazaretto” – Jack White
77. “Russian Kiss” – Annie featuring Bjarne Melgaard
78. “Another Night” – The Men
79. “Dangerous” – Big Data featuring Joywave
80. “Gust of Wind” – Pharrell Williams
81. “A Place with No Name” – Michael Jackson
82. “Give Life Back to Music” – Daft Punk
83. “We Exist” – Arcade Fire
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Last Tuesday I made my long-form improv performance debut on the main stage at Improv Olympics, one of the top improv schools in the US. I’ve performed short-form improv at various venues. Short-form is the style used on Whose Line Is It Anyway. Players create spontaneously within the parameters of a particular game. In long-form, we get a one-word suggestion from the audience and from that we perform about eight scenes for a half hour.
I was very nervous all day Tuesday. It reminded me of the first time I performed standup I public. I was taking a course in Stand-Up Comedy. One day my teacher called me while I was at work. He was hosting a show that night and one of his performers dropped out. Could I fill in? I said yes; after all, that was the point of taking the Stand-Up workshop. Once I said yes, I could barely get any more work done. My heart was racing. I got to the venue – a singles dating meetup at the Jewish Community Center on New York City’s Upper West Side. My teacher, the emcee, introduced me. I walked to the stage and turned to face the audience. I felt all the fear leave my body. I did my set. It went over well.
Showtime last Tuesday night was 8:30. Along with my fellow players, I exited the green room via the door that leads to the stage. What I did not know was that the door literally opens to the stage. I went through it and there was the audience. All the fear left my body. It’s not that confidence took its place. It’s more that I had to focus on the task at hand, and that took precedence over my nerves.
Two weeks ago I gave a speech about 9/11. When the attacks occurred, I was living and working in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, two miles north of the twin towers. Though I was sure my Los Angeles audience saw on television what was going on in New York that day and the days that followed, I tried to convey what it felt like in my neighborhood – how the smell of the burned buildings permeated our streets, how all available outdoor wall space was plastered with notices about missing people who were last seen at the World Trade Center, how the only sounds on the streets were the sirens from emergency vehicles.
The speech was well-received. I wasn’t nervous about giving it, though I knew I would choke up, as it’s something I find difficult to talk about.
Obviously, that September day was horrible, but some life lessons were learned. It put work/life balance into a proper perspective. It made clear that our time on this planet is limited, so make the most of your stay. It brought home, literally, that while there is a lot of good in the world, there is a lot of evil as well. Life can be scary, and there are things more scary than speaking to a crowd or improvising a scene based on a one-word suggestion. Such presentations and performances can be nerve-wracking, but it’s doubtful they’ll kill you.
My next public improv performance is this coming Tuesday.
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