Category Archives: music

Weezer’s Blue Album, visualized

Get ready to feel old: Weezer’s Blue Album — the album of “My Name Is Jonas” and “Buddy Holly” and “Say It Ain’t So” and “The Sweater Song” and a few more of your favorite Weezer tunes — is turning 22 at the end of this month. It’s the same age as Justin Bieber and Dakota Fanning. It’s already been drinking legally for a year and vote for three. It’s just three years away from being able to rent a car without paying a premium!

The Blue Album (technically called simply Weezer) was one of the first CDs I bought, back when I was just discovering music beyond whatever was on the radio as one parent or another drove me around, when buying CDs meant standing in the music aisles at Barnes and Noble and agonizing over which $16.99 purchase would give me the most happiness for my accumulated allowance’s worth.

The Blue Album is now a bona fide classic (as any amateur karaoke night will ascertain), so in honor of its birthday, here’s a word cloud of all the lyrics from its ten tracks. (Click on it to see a larger version.)

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 6.37.36 PM

Other fun facts: The whole album (according to A-Z Lyrics’ record of the lyrics) is just 2,221 words long. “The Sweater Song” only contains the word “sweater” three times. There are 13 individual names mentioned (plus the band Kiss): Jonas, Wepeel, Buddy Holly, Mary Tyler Moore, Jimmy, Daddy, Jesus, Steven, Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler, Ace Frehey, Peter Criss, and Kerouac. And I was a little bored at work today.

Thanks for the memories, Weezer!

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Heartbreak and word choice: The Last Five Years

Falling in love: an extremely hazardous undertaking.

Falling in love: an extremely hazardous undertaking.

My day job requires me to be a massive grammar nerd. My days are filled with constant internal debates — that or which? alternate or alternative? palate or palette (or pailette??), which might seem like the seventh circle of hell to some but to me affords endless opportunities to contemplate just how nuanced and byzantine and gloriously, wonderfully confusing this language we call English is. And that’s just what I was thinking about recently when reconsidering a movie I watched a couple months ago, The Last Five Years. In case you’re unfamiliar, it’s based on a Broadway show of the same name by Jason Robert Brown, and follows Cathy and Jamie (Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan in the movie) through their meeting, marriage, and breakup. The twist: Cathy’s story starts at the end of their relationship and moves backward, while Jamie’s does the opposite; they intersect once, in the middle as they marry.

As you might have gleaned from the premise, it is a downer of a movie (though with some fun songs); you probably don’t want to watch this if you’re having one of those “I’ll be alone forever” evenings. Anyway, it wasn’t until a while after I watched the movie that I really considered its title: the last five years. See, my first real boss taught me the subtle but important difference between “last” and “past”: Most people would use them interchangeably, but she explained to me that last really means final, as in the end-all, be-all — my last days on Earth, the last unicorn, etc. Yes, the movie takes place over the course of Cathy and Jamie’s five-year relationship, so it is technically their last five years together (as well as their first) — but if Brown just wanted to convey the passage of time he could have called the show The Past Five Years. I don’t think most people even after a breakup would consider their entire relationship a slow and inexorable slide toward its bitter conclusion, so if the title were meant to convey the end of the relationship maybe it should have been called The Last Two Years, or The Last Seven Months Except That One Weekend We Went to Montauk, Because That Was Pretty Fun Still.

But when you take The Last Five Years with the full weight of that word — last — it underscores just how tragic and earth-shattering this story is for these two people. They have had their last kiss, their last lazy batch of shared Sunday bagels, their last fight that ends in tears followed by apology sex. They are divorced; their relationship is over. There’s a sense of finality that can’t be erased; something has been broken that will never be mended. It’s the kind of pain that’s as physical as it is emotional, that makes you feel like you literally might die from it, and even once enough time has passed that you start to feel better, you’ll never be the same again. “Cathy and Jamie” have died, the title says; now there’s only Cathy and Jamie, alone once again.

What a lot of heartbreak in just one letter’s difference.

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On Cold War Kids and Aging

Cold War Kids have been one of my favorite bands for quite some time. They’re one of those bands that, for a non-music snob like me who still wants to retain some cred, are visible enough for people to know but haven’t ever broken into unacceptable, arena-rock popularity (see: Arcade Fire). They’re a fascinating band, both for their gorgeously complicated lyrics, rife with obscure literary references, and for their career trajectory and what it says about the nature of fame, and of the music industry, and the creative process. And now, for me, a woman in her late 20s (late!), they’re fascinating for what they say about aging.

Last night I went to see them at 9:30 Club—my third time seeing them in that venue alone. It proved to be a show unlike any of theirs I’d seen before, and, really, unlike any concert I’ve seen, period. It became immediately clear when they took the stage that something was very wrong with lead singer Nate Willett’s voice. He croaked through two songs, opting for a different key, never breaking into the distinctive falsetto that makes their songs so irresistibly repeat-worthy. And even that seemed like a struggle. After the second song, he finally addressed the crowd: “I blew out my voice,” he explained in a cracked whisper. “So we encourage participation more than ever.”

Willett plowed gamely through the set, wincing occasionally as if in pain, taking sips of water wherever he could, the bassist and guitarist extra active as if to bolster him. But the person I couldn’t take my eyes off was their keyboardist, Matt Schwartz. Last time I saw the band, Matt was just the touring keyboardist, eager as a puppy to be onstage, contributing backing vocals and shaking the occasional maraca. Before this tour, the band announced he’d been added as a full-fledged member of the group—and his new status was on full display during this show. With Willett’s voice gone, Schwartz did a surprising amount of the heavy vocal lifting. Standing on the right side of the stage, he watched Willett, front and center, and seemed to be compensating for his voice when it failed, several times singing right along with Nate, overpowering him. He had his own vocal solos on other parts, too, and even got a chance to play to the crowd, who ate it up like chocolate pudding.

It was hard not to think, standing in a crowd of teenagers (none of whom, I’m sure, shared my concerns about the integrity of my left eardrum), that we were watching a changing of the guards, so to speak—a transitioning from the original to the new generation, from the older, ailing musician to the young and vital. I thought as Willett took the stage, even before he opened his mouth, that he looked paunchy, puffy around the face. I saw for the first time that he was aging.

In the past year, the band has replaced two of its original members and added Schwartz as a fifth. Though Matt paid extreme deference to Nate, watching intently for his cues while Nate barely glanced in his direction, I imagined their backstage power struggles, the frustration Nate must feel at not being able to perform the way he wanted to, the way he used to be able to. And while Schwartz’s falsetto is nowhere near as strong, as gorgeously piercing, last night he was more Nate than Nate was.

Music critics love to talk about Cold War Kids in a kind of past tense. Always referencing their first, revered album, always musing on the rocky path they’ve followed to low-level stardom. Nate has a new band now, with the only other original member of CWK who’s still around. I couldn’t help but wonder whether part of him is now preparing to dissolve the original band and focus on something new, to accept that the vision he had of his success has not been fulfilled and he should move forward, accept that the Cold War Kids phase of his life has run its course. I wondered if I was witnessing the beginning of the end.

Pop Culture Phenomena I Either Missed or Intentionally Skipped (A List)

  • The Wire
  • Most of The Sopranos
  • Most of Lost
  • Twilight
  • American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, Toddlers & Tiaras, (insert name of terrible reality show here)—I did, however, watch a couple seasons of So You Think You Can Dance with my sister. We both loved it.
  • 50 Shades of Grey
  • Furbys
  • Beanie Babies
  • Saved by the Bell
  • Justin Bieber
  • Taylor Swift
  • LOLcats for the LONGEST time and now I kind of think they’re hilarious

There are so many more, I’m sure, and the ones I didn’t totally miss I became aware of way after everyone else. I guess I’m not usually what you would call an early adapter. For the most part I’m okay with missing out on this stuff (although I do plan to watch The Wire and The Sopranos in their entirety at some point.)

The OC

My last post was entirely too serious, so even though today I am feeling some major feelings, I’m going to sweep those under the proverbial rug and talk about something totally inconsequential: my love of the erstwhile series The OC. Is it my favorite show of all time? Maybe not. Do I own the box set? Naturally. Did I once, as part of a book publishing class for my master’s degree, create an illustrated diagram of all the show’s various tangled relationships through the whole four seasons? Why yes, I did. (If I still had said chart—and I probably do in a hard copy somewhere—I’d post it on here. It’s one of my finer efforts, I think.)

I occasionally like to half-watch TV shows while I’m blearily putting on makeup in the morning, and since the fall series have STILL not started, I will sometimes pop in a random OC DVD. Recently I started over with the pilot, and was shocked by how good it still is. I remember stumbling across the show for the first time when I was at home and bored, I think still in high school. SoapNet was showing the entire first season as a marathon, and I instantly got hooked. I sat in my parents’ bedroom for hours, indulging guiltily in the rapid-fire jokes and over-the-top melodrama, reveling in the Cohens’ easy, glossy family chemistry. And, naturally, developing a huge crush on Adam Brody (which doesn’t hold up today—except for when he’s flashing his dimples).

I find some of the plot lines fairly boring now, but I’m surprised at how good of an actor Ben McKenzie is when they’re letting him be a vulnerable, troubled teen rather than some sort of stoic cage fighter. And while Mischa Barton’s wide-eyed “Heys” drive me b-a-n-a-n-a-s, I’m noticing something about her brittle, wounded demeanor that makes Marissa Cooper a more believable—if wildly inconsistent—character than I’ve thought before.

What’s also interesting is the number of now big names who appeared in bit parts: The Vampire Diaries‘ Paul Wesley as semi-psychotic waiter Donnie, Amber Heard in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her turn as a vapid shop girl, and, of course, Olivia Wilde as Marissa’s ratings-bait girlfriend.

I also thank the OC for introducing me to lots of great music and the combined amazingness that is Melinda Clarke and Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows. Put them in the same room and you’ve got an instant recipe for success.