• 13 free tracks from 2009

    Jan 2 2010, 20h02

    Since I'm too lazy to translate my blog post into format, I'll just link:

    13 free tracks

    Do click through; I promise it's worth a few seconds of your time!
  • The Mermen

    Set 24 2008, 19h12

    I just met The Mermen, and they made me so happy...

    I work for Cruzio, a small mom-and-pop Internet provider here in Santa Cruz, California. "Mom" just turned 50, and "Pop" organized a surprise party. He booked the Kuumbwa Jazz Center and The Mermen.

    I was told they were a surf band. I don't know much about the genre, and I was imagining some updated version of the Beach Boys. Was I ever wrong!

    The guitarist started playing some beautifully phrased slow minor arpeggios. My insides started melting. Then The Mermen, well, they took us on a long scuba dive through swirling psychedelic waters. (Well, I had to leave early, but my boss recorded the show, so I got to hear it at work.)

    If you like beautiful instrumental guitar, do check them out, either on or on their website
  • Orchestra Baobab in Santa Cruz, California

    Jun 18 2008, 20h31

    My friends and I loved the Orchestra Baobab show and we danced the whole time.

    The Baobabs started out pretty low-key but gradually loosened up and started dancing and clowning around. The tall sax player (Issa Cissoko, I think) was especially hammy. Then they really got the audience into it and led us in singing and clapping along with some refrains. When they got to On Verra Ca late in the show, they had the Senegalese audience members come up to the front, and invited one young man onto the stage to dance. He was good.

    The band didn't really take a break for more than a few seconds. They jammed and improvised long and well. What stamina.

    It was one of those few shows that make me feel 200% alive and blissful! A musical love affair between the performers and the audience.

    Habib Koité & Bamada are coming to the same venue August 19. Anyone else want to join me?
  • Gorgeous music video: Andy Palacio

    Out 18 2007, 22h09

    Andy Palacio And The Garifuna Collective doing their African-Caribbean thing. Watina is one of my top ten - heck, top five - albums of 2007.

    Don't deprive yourself of this gorgeous, moving music - do watch the video!

    Watina: A Look Behind the Music of Andy Palacio

    More information at

    I encourage you to download Watina from Amazon.
  • Downloading Beethoven

    Out 18 2007, 21h57

    Stumbled across a thoroughly impressive classical music blog.

    On the strength of the post on Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, I bought a recording by Jeno Jando, who I learn is one of the few who plays the rhythm correctly. Though of course I love the Moonlight (sonata number 14), I'm loving the whole record, especially the Adagio from the Pathetique (number 8). When I was little my mother used to play it; I could hear it from down the hall while I was falling asleep. It's the single most reassuring, comforting, peaceful piece of music I know.

    I got it from Amazon's new mp3 store,"" by the way, which I think is pretty darn good. Their selection is not bad at all for a new store. I just wish you could choose aac, not just mp3.

    Magnatune also carries a limited but excellent selection of recordings, available at very high quality.

    Welcome back into my life, Ludwig! I've missed you.
  • Mixtape for September: Sadness and Comfort

    Set 2 2007, 4h56

    For tkyd and anyone else interested:

    Get out your hanky, folks, cause this mix is a tear-jerker. At least, I kept crying while I made it.

    1. Lágrimas Negras (Conjunto Céspedes)

    2. Making Pies (Patty Griffin)

    3. No Time To Cry (Iris DeMent)

    4. I Think It's Going To Rain Today (Randy Newman)

    5. The High Road (Bettye Lavette)

    6. Mercy Now (Mary Gauthier)

    7. Help a Man (Robin Holcomb)

    8. Keep Me In Your Heart (Warren Zevon)

    9. Will You Miss Me (The Red Clay Ramblers)

    10. Acony Bell (Gillian Welch)

    11. To Live Is To Fly (Townes Van Zandt)

    I know, I know, once more it's very folk-heavy, which I said I wouldn't do, but then the theme was announced, and, well, the saddest songs I know are folk songs.

    Download it here: Sadness and Comfort mix. Lyrics are included (some transcribed by yours truly!).

    Hope you find it worth a listen.
  • Tegan and Sara: The Con

    Ago 6 2007, 3h01

    Why I like Tegan and Sara's new album, The Con, a lot:

    Even though all the songs basically sound the same, they still manage to be catchy.

    I like their vocal harmonies. It probably helps that they are twins.

    The perspective they communicate on heartbreak: painful honesty, taking responsibility for your own feelings.

    I think of it as a kind of anti-country song. The typical country ballad lashes out and blames the erstwhile lover for the singer's broken heart. "You took away the love we knew, you wrecked our happy home."

    Tegan and Sara look inwards instead and tell you of their grief/anger/need/shame/regret in strangely fascinating detail, while admitting their own failures. "I listened in, yes I'm guilty of this, you should know this."

    If I had to pick one line to summarize the album, I'd use the same one highlighted in the CD booklet: "Make a map of what you see, direct pain effectively."

    Sometimes you wonder if some of their pain comes from picking at old wounds, but still, just like scab-picking, the experience is oddly enjoyable.
  • August mixtape: Walks of Life

    Ago 2 2007, 15h28

    I was a little anxious about my first mixtape so I prepped it a while ago. My apologies, it's probably too long, but I divided it into chunks if that's easier or if you don't want the whole thing..

    Here: august mixtape
    The song listing is there too, in pdf format.

    If I get to it, I'll try and do the 3 minute pop song thing too. I have a bad cold though so I might wimp out.

    And in future I guess I'll try and keep my mixtapes down to an hour or less!

    I totally welcome any feedback, good or bad!
  • Go Tell Aunt Rhody

    Jul 26 2007, 3h59

    I was at work a little while ago when my housemate's email arrived with the news that Hen died today.

    (That's Henrietta's butt on the left, Oprah's on the right.)

    She was found stuck under a bush in the yard, and he wasn't sure whether she broke her neck while trying to get out, or died of exhaustion as she struggled. He buried her and made plans to build a small cross on her grave.

    Yes, Henrietta was a hen. I think it must be an occupational hazard for domestic birds to die from, well, stupidity.

    Go tell Aunt Rhody,
    Go tell Aunt Rhody,
    Go tell Aunt Rhody,
    The old gray goose is dead.

    She died in the millpond,
    She died in the millpond,
    She died in the millpond,
    Standing on her head.

    Hen was a good chicken and a good hen. She was definitely Big Sister to her foster sisters Oprah and Rickie. She was at the top of the three-hen pecking order; she was always the first to gobble up any grain or leafy green goodies. She laid the biggest eggs of the three, I believe.

    She was also closer to her human adoptive mom than I have ever seen a chicken be to a human. She would hop up on Amba's shoulder or even her head.

    We will miss her. If there is a Great Chicken Yard Up Yonder, I know she's there scratching for big juicy bugs.

    Wanna know something weird? When I got home, the first song that came up on my shuffle was Sacaron Agua. Take a listen, there's a rooster crowing in it.
  • Music, illness and fatigue

    Jul 21 2007, 6h41

    The two reasons I listen to so much music:

    One: Music is humanity's highest achievement.
    Two: I'm tired and sickly.

    A 2006 study showed that listening to music can reduce chronic pain and depression. Well, duh.

    I don't have chronic pain so much as lack of energy, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping. I use music to manipulate my energy level.

    I can soothe my nerves and calm my heart rate by listening to Anonymous 4 singing Hildegard Von Bingen's medieval compositions. (Scientists have some interesting hypotheses about music and heartrate; I recommend the linked article, but disregard the misleading headline.)

    I like a hypnotic groove for workouts, so that I hardly notice the physical effort, like Issa Bagayogo's earthy electronic Malian pop.

    I may be barely able to drag myself out of bed some weekends, but I never get bored. Music brings me infinite worlds of feelings, experiences, and ideas, especially because I explore so many diverse kinds of music. And thanks to the Internet, of course, the amazing music delivery system that I've almost learned to take for granted.

    And if I had no other reason for living, the ability to hear the works of Johann Sebastian Bach would be enough. Even, say, only Pablo Casals performing the Cello Suites.

    Maya Angelou wrote, "Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness."

    What do you listen to when you're down, tired or ill? Do you have favorite "comfort music"?