May 29, 2020
Elfstedentocht? I Don't Even Know Her! Every once in a while you get a double-bonus situation that drops in your lap. I was aimlessly wandering around yootoob, as one does, clicking on whatever struck my fancy... um... fancily. From a train line that stares Mt Fuji in the face to an absolutely killer electronic track called Turbo Killer to a discussion of Cthulhu's Family Tree to a fan-made Spess Muhreens mini-film to a music video involving very angry ducks, it's been a mix of good and not-so-good (not seen here)...
...and then I stumbled upon something called the Elfstedentocht, or Eleven Cities Tour in English. For those of you who, like me, have never heard of it, the Elfstedentocht is a 200km long speed-skating event held when the weather allows in the Netherlands. As can be guessed by the name, it runs through "the eleven historic cities of the province of Friesland" via canals, rivers, and lakes, beginning and terminating in the city of Leeuwarden, which I'd only heard of because it was the birthplace of the noted spy Mata Hari.
The race has only been held 15 times since 1909, with the most recent having been in 1997. See, the entire route must have at least six inches of good ice on it... no thinning ice, no mush, and at least a 12-day stretch of sub-zero Celsius temperatures preceding a race. As you can guess, this is A Big Deal; there's usually just 48 hours warning that the race will actually occur. Apparently in 2012, the last time conditions appeared perfect, it hovered right below the target for long enough that any tiny temperature increase would have nixed the race. On the day the "go" would have been given, organizers said "no" for safety reasons, disappointing the 16000 casual skaters, 300 racers, and the entire nation.
In 2013, the Elfstedentocht organizers, as part of a Leeuwarden festival, contacted Public Service Broadcasting and asked them to write some tunes about the race using historical footage from earlier events. Of course they said "yep!"
From what I've read, the 1963 race, shown in this second video, was held in absolutely brutal conditions: overly cold, strong winds, and snow gunking up the ice. Only 69 out of 10000 people were able to finish it, and the winner did not realize he had actually crossed the finish line due to being snowblind. Broken bones and eye damage were common that year.
I had no idea these tracks existed until they fell into my lap. A rare bright spot on another shut-in sort of day. Enjoy!
May 15, 2020
The Loss Of A (Little) Giant No, not that one... Little Charlie Baty. Come with me on a voyage back in time...
The year was 1987. Duckford was in the midst of its annual end-of-summer music festival, On The Waterfront. Yours truly, having wandered away from Vaucaunson's Duck and some others, had stumbled upon a smaller stage... one of seven that year... as the sun had begun to set. While most of the people attending gathered for that year's headliner... Duckford's own Cheap Trick... to take the main stage, tucked away back here a young Duck was about to be truly exposed to a form of music he'd never heard before: The Blues.
While Rick Estrin was the frontman for the band, it was guitarist Little Charlie Baty that led The Nightcats. He "retired" from the band in 2008, still playing with them at certain festivals and shows in Europe, but he certainly didn't stop playing live.
I thought you had to be down on fingers to play Django Reinhardt correctly. His studio stuff didn't stop either.
The album "Skronky Tonk" was on got a four-star review from Downbeat, long the bible of blues and jazz music, and a notoriously stern grader when it comes to music.
While I only found out a couple of days ago, it turns out that Little Charlie passed away in March from a heart attack. He was 66. While I probably would have been a fan of the blues even if I didn't stumble into that small outdoor concert tucked into a back corner of a large festival, I think it certainly helped that the Nightcats were my first exposure to them... they were both talented and funny at the same time. I even bought their album that night... yes, on vinyl.
Thanks, Little Charlie... you were a huge influence on my music tastes, and I may not have realized it until just now.
April 28, 2020
Iceland! Land of amazing vistas!
Land of continent-closing volcanoes with names that are impossible to pronounce (or spell)!
It's Eyjafjallajokull, by the way.
Land of broiled puffin!
What Iceland generally is NOT known for is its popular music. Oh sure, there was Bjork (and the Sugarcubes) and Sigur Ros, you have to be particularly keyed in to know any others.
Dadi Freyr is a DJ/EDM/whatever guy, I can only assume that Gagnamagnio is the band, and that considering this is Iceland, they're almost all certainly related. I went through much of what he/they have on yootoob looking for another gem like Think About Things, and came up mostly empty.
Fans of Hibike! Euphonium, however, will recognize one tune... for better or worse.
I'll let you decide which it is.
February 01, 2020
Music... From Foreign Lands! Over the past few months I've been spending time listening to a lot of music I've never experienced before. When you do this, you get a lot of stuff that's... not worth listening to again. Sometimes you get stuff that's... nice, but not anything you're going to go out of your way to hear again. Then there's the small percentage of tunes that make you sit up and pay attention (or even better, make you lean back, close your eyes, and pay attention). That's the category that I'll be inflicting upon you here now. We've got music from such far-flung places as Scandahoovia, India, California, Japan, Sweden, and an odd Irish/Italian thing.
Let's have a listen, won't you?
January 10, 2020
Neal Peart If you are approximately my age, you or someone you knew was a fan of Rush when you were in high school. Me, I liked a number of their songs but I couldn't call myself a real fan... mainly because of the rabidness of the REAL fans who insisted they were the greatest band ever. Kinda off-putting, y'know? Particularly when you were like me and you preferred more synths and new wave.
As time went on, nothing ever really changed my opinions towards the band... a few great songs, a lot of usually pretentious prog-rock-y stuff, and an overzealous fan base. I did acknowledge, however, the unquestioned skill of Geddy Lee on bass, Alex Lifeson on guitar, and Neal Peart who is pretty much on the very very very short list of "best rock drummers of all time." You might be able to convince me there's someone better. Modern Drummer has him as the #2 rock drummer, #3 overall, behind Buddy Rich and Led Zeppelin's John Bonham. Well, maybe so.
Neal Peart died today at the age of 67. He apparently had been battling brain cancer for the past few years, but keeping it quiet from the public at large. Despite not being the megafan who will be deeply wounded by his passing, I wanted to acknowledge him... if for no other reason than he was the subject of one of the first bits of fan-made CGI I had ever seen.
2004. Remember 2004? I have a hard time remembering that far back anymore... I had just started working at the Duck U Bookstore after CowPuters went under, that's how far back we're talking. I'm sure many of the Pond Scum remember the video fondly, or at least remember it.
The Pond's condolences to his family, friends, and fans.
December 06, 2019
Once Upon A Time... Back in the days before the Duck U Bookstore, heck back before the days of CowPuters, I worked at the local news-talk radio station as a buttonpusher show producer on a fill-in basis. I did have one regular shift however... the Sunday Morning Church shift. I mean, it started at 6am with the Catholic Mass in Swedish, for heaven's sake, pun not intended. The Salvation Army had a recorded program, there was a program I literally never paid attention to except to make sure it was still running, there was the live-in-studio show with the purple-suit-clad preacher who was, eventually, removed from his position in his church because he got a little too close to some of his female parishioners, and then there was the show I privately called "the church ladies."
Yeah, kinda like that, except not at all. The preacher in purple I mentioned earlier? The church ladies usually matched him sequin for sequin when they came in, spoke loudly and cackled even louder. But their chat show took place in and around gospel music songs... and since I was the button-pusher I had to pay attention for the cues and stuff. And along the way, I discovered something: gospel music could be quite good.
I found out today that one of my favorite groups from that show, The Blind Boys of Alabama are still recording, and what I was playing for the Church Ladies was already 30 years old at the time.
Really, there's no reason for this post other than to mention that. Have a nice day!
August 23, 2019
Yee-Haw. So I'm browsing around Reddit one day this week and I stumble upon a charming little story about a 90-something-year-old WWII veteran that approached a bunch of musicians performing at a festival to request a song. I don't remember the name of the tune, but it was what the dockside band was playing when the vet's troop transport pulled away to head into the Pacific War.
Well, that's cool, I thought, and got into the comments section. The guy who posted the thing original was a member of a group called "Shoot Low Sheriff", which made me laugh because I knew the rest of that sentence is "... they're ridin' shetlands!" What really made me arch an eyebrow was that the band plays "Western Swing."
Now it's no secret to anybody who's read The Pond for a while that I do like me some big band / swing music. I'm still enjoying the electroswing movement, for example, and one of my favorite Joe Jackson albums is "Jumpin' Jive". But "I've never heard of no Western Swing before, wonder what it sounds like" is what I thought to myself, so I looked them up.
Well, I'll be.
That's kinda darn fun right there! I bought both of their albums from Amazon, and they're a blast to listen to. Obviously if you don't like Western music, you're probably not going to like this... and I understand that. If you don't like swing music, you're probably not going to like this... and while I don't understand that, people are different. Even if you're wrong.
They get a Wonderduck two wingtips up! Enjoy, won't you?
August 11, 2019
I'm Sorry. I'm So So Sorry.
I know, I know. It just made me laugh very, very hard. Yes, that beat is from "Gentleman" by Psy.
So did this, but for completely different reasons.
May 17, 2019
I Had No Idea... Y'all remember The Art Of Noise, right? New Wave band, did that thing with Max Headroom, and that other thing with Tom Jones, and that other other thing with Duane Eddy, and the video with the kinda creepy little girl directing people to destroy various musical instruments in various entertaining ways? Right, that song was titled "Close (To The Edit)", and like a lot of Noise's stuff, it still holds up really well today.
But here's the thing: I always assumed that it was all electronic stuff and samples and drum machines. And maybe it was, but I only just learned that Trevor Horn produced the band... indeed, he was actually part of the band. And between him, Anne Dudley, and a Fairlight, there was actual, y'know, music. That could be played live. A stunning concept for what I thought was nothing but a studio band.
How did I discover this? Like most revelations, I discovered it accidentally, by stumbling over a 2004 Prince's Trust concert celebrating the career of Trevor Horn. His work with The Buggles, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Yes, Seal, ABC, and others all performed live... and then this:
Completely gobsmacked. I knew Horn played bass, but holy crepe on a stick, he does seem to be pretty damn good at it. Oh, and those drummers are doing some serious work.
And it was live. Who knew the Art of Noise was a real live boy?
Note: If the video isn't working, click here!
May 02, 2019
When Cover Songs Try Too Hard Last night I found myself following a pointer gleaned from over at J's place into the darker recesses of Yootoob. I came hunting for the promise of a good cover song, made likely by the musician being Jonathan Coulton... y'know, the guy who wrote Portal's theme song? So into this den of iniquity I went, and I found an entire album, entitled Some Guys, of cover songs of '70s hits and ballads. I began listening... and I found myself confused.
That's not a cover song! Oh, it is of course... that's Coulton singing instead of Gerry Rafferty... but there's practically no difference between the two. Is that a cover, or is it a tribute, or just a knockoff? The entire album is like this, nigh-on note perfect copies of 40-year-old songs. And I have to ask: why bother? Don't get me wrong, it's a tour-de-force by Coulton. The performances are excellent, and if you didn't know better you'd swear you were listening to the originals.
And that's the problem, isn't it? If I wanted to listen to the original song, I'd just listen to the original, not Jonathan Coulton pretending to be Gerry Rafferty, no matter how good at it he is.
I'm long of the belief that a good cover song must have a healthy dollop of the covering band's flavor on top of the original. The best example of this that I can come up with off the top of my head is the song "Got The Time".
Classic song by Joe Jackson in his "angry young man" phase, somewhere after punk but before new wave kicked in. He's long been my favorite musician, and this is easily one of my favorite of his tracks. Until I heard a cover of it.
By heavy metal band Anthrax.
Now it's still one of my favorite Joe Jackson songs, I just prefer this version. It's still the same song, just performed in Anthrax's inimitable style. It's no slavish copy, it's just a brilliant repurposing.
THAT's what I think a cover song should be like. Don't copy: adapt.
April 24, 2019
Everybody Sayin' "What About Us?" Sometimes being half-asleep when browsing can turn up some gems. Like this:
March 28, 2019
Extending Apologies To The Spookliy-Named Group
Well, Ghost is much too weird for me to explain them.
That's what I said in the blurb for the Pet Shop Boys' cover in the last post. I'd like to apologize for that, because some few hours has taught me quite a lot about the band from Sweden. You would do well to turn the volume up on this post, by the way.
Everybody knows what a concept album is, right? A bunch of songs devoted to the same thing telling a story as they go... The Who's Tommy, Pink Floyd's The Wall, Joe Jackson's Big World, Alan Parson's Project's Tales of Mystery and Imagination, Styx's Paradise Theatre, all examples of the concept album. Well, Ghost takes it one farther: they're a concept band! The concept is, however, that they're a Satanic cult led by their charismatic frontman. Said frontman has until only lately been appearing in skull makeup and church regalia. These days, he wears a Uncanny Valley facemask.
Didn't make the satanism rumors go away, which is probably exactly what Ghost wants. The more I think about it, the more I believe them to be more performance art than musical band... though considering their formidable skills, I'd not say that to their faces. These Followers of the Morning Star can friggin' rock.
Yes, that's right, that's a Grammy Award they've got there. They won the 2016 award for Best Metal Performance for their song Cirice.
Nowadays the Grammys aren't worth much of a much, but for people of a certain age... ahem... that remember what they used to be, there's still a cachet to owning one. And while that's a helluva music video they've got there, Ghost seems to be a better live act. Here's a live version of Cirice, for example.
Across the board the band's official videos are... inventive. To the point that sometimes they take away from the actual music... the video for Rats! is so goofballish that the song (which isn't one of their best, it must be said) just gets swamped. At other times, the video will actually explain the song (see Cirice, for example). Often enough, fortunately, the band'll leave things open to interpretation, forcing you to actually listen. Square Hammer appears to be freemasonry, clever since how many people actually KNOW what a Mason is/was anymore?
In a lot of ways, there's nothing new with Ghost. They're absolutely metal, taking cues from all over the map: Kiss and Metallica are references mentioned in interviews (and there's a kickass cover of Enter Sandman played in front of the King of Sweden, too... turns out Hetfield's a fan!). They don't seem to be just the usual headbanging heavy riffers... there's a serious amount of songwriting and musical talent here. I'm tempted to say that this is "Metal For The Thinking Man", except they'd probably make fun of me for being pretentious. But come on, read the lyrics to what I think is their best song, He Is:
If you didn't know better, this is Christian Rock. At least, it is to start. It sort of heads south (if you know what I mean) along the way to the end. Even then though, you really have to be thinking about what the lyrics are saying to catch it. The reference to the story of the burning bush speaking to Moses is really sneaky... when Moses asks for proof that he's truly speaking to God, the reply is "I am who I am." So "he is" is second... or is it third?... person referencing here. Circles within circles.
I find online reaction videos to Ghost to be hilarious. Either people love them, or they're confused as hell... that reaction is usually from self-described christians. These guys love the song, but despise the message, except then they don't like the song, but they do, and... and... and... they're right though, Mere Christianity is a wonderful book.
Go out, give 'em a listen, you might be surprised. Or you might hate them. Either response is perfectly valid, and I'd understand either one. Or don't think about it and just bang your head vigorously. That works too.
March 23, 2019
Two For GreyDuck, One For Everybody, And One For Nobody GD, I heard these two and immediately thought of you. It's up to you if you think that's a good thing or not.
Apparently Covenant isn't new... I see album dates of 2000, 2001, so on and so forth, so perhaps you're familiar with them already. But some good stuff there.
Oh look, it's a weird cover of a Pet Shop Boys tune. Well, Ghost is much too weird for me to explain them, but their original music is very heavy indeed.
I think by definition if you're a member of the Pond Scum, you get some level of enjoyment out of bagpipes. This song has appeared on The Pond before, back in Saturday Night Tunage V where it was performed by the Victoria Police Pipe Band as opposed to the Red Hot Chili Pipers. I just realized something, and it terrifies me: in the blurb for the song in SNTV, I mention that I first heard the song "nine years ago." I wrote that in 2011. Eeurgh.
So Formula 1 knocks on the door of the Chemical Brothers and says "we like your stuff. Or, really, our grandkids like your stuff. Do a song for us." And the Chemical Brothers said "we like dogs." The rest, as they say, is history. This is an awful, awful tune. However, as a riff dispenser it's top-notch, and I fully expect to be seeing F1 commercials and broadcasts using snippets from the track as backing music. Other than that? Well, the "Powered by NEEEEUM" on the car made me laugh. If you don't get why, say it out loud while watching a F1 car drive past.
March 17, 2019
Yes, I Know That's The Point, But Still... Look, I get that this sort of music is supposed to be catchy. I don't know if Momoland is an Idol team like AKB40 or whatever, or if they're just a K-Pop act, and I'm not entirely sure I care. What I do care about is that "catchy" doesn't quite go far enough to define "Boom Boom".
Seriously. Weaponized catchy. The followup, "Bbam", isn't quite as good, but hell, that's like saying Godfather II isn't as good as The Godfather. It's not, but nobody cares because II is still pretty damn good.
I hope for their next track they move into less onomatopoeia for explosions as a concept.
Enjoy all this while you wait for the the Australian F1 writeup, won't you?
March 01, 2019
A Question Answered... By Anime! For most of the nearly four years I've worked at my present job, there has been a constant face in the evenings/night shifts... the head of the cleaning crew. They usually show up around 8pm, empty garbage cans, clean bathrooms, vacuum, that sort of thing, y'know? I've made it a point to smile and nod, or wave, or something, to the guy in charge, because hell, he's cleaning up our mess. Without him, I suspect the office would look like Pond Central before the "condemned" sign went up in no time at all.
However, in one of those "I don't know X, and by now I'm afraid to ask" moments, I don't know his name. He told me a few years ago, yes, but he has a very thick Slav/Eastern European/Something accent, and it just got by me. I mean, it's not a big deal, it's not like we talk or anything... a nod, a wave, that's about it. And, to be honest, I'm just about the only person there who does even that much. There's always a few people in a business setting you don't want to piss off: the office manager, the head of the cafeteria, and the head of housekeeping all leap to mind... Anyway. Tonight. It is 8pm, and I've been the only person in the entire building since about 6pm... I had a couple of hours to make up. Anyway, because I was sick and tired of headphones, I had hooked up my mp3 player to a couple of cheap external speakers and was rocking out whilst doing claims. Mr Head Of Housekeeping was a couple rows over, using a push-brush to clean up a spill before he brought out the real vacuum, and something wonderful happened.
He started singing along. "It was a song my grandfather sang." I'm still not entirely sure where he's from originally, but he knows Katushya... and his first name is Alexander. I'm not sure how I didn't get that the first time around. What the hell, let's do another Russian song!
I first heard this maybe four or five years ago (edit: SIX! Saturday Night Tuneage XVIII, would you believe?), I didn't know what I just heard then, I'm still not sure now, but damn it's fun anyway!
February 14, 2019
Watching Excellent People Do Their Jobs Excellently Lighting Designers know that there is a God and He loves us, because there are Pink Floyd concerts to light.
"So, Mr Lighting Designer... my concept for the lights on Run Like Hell is throw as many instruments as you want into the arena and just live it up."
"I think I can work with that."
Seriously, though... whoever thought up the "projection screen with lights around it" idea had better have gotten a raise that day.
January 27, 2019
Perhaps The Easiest Question To Answer Ever Over at The Atomic Fungus, a small amount of griping can be seen regarding the rock band Queen. Fungus Prime is wondering just when this group of... moderately okay reputation became such a thing that they now are considered legendary. The song that causes such angst in the Fungal Vale is, of course, Bohemian Rhapsody, which lends its name to a well-regarded movie about Queen and Freddy Mercury. "Why have they suddenly became such icons?" is the refrain. Here's the thing: it wasn't sudden, but the exact starting point of this popularity can be traced to a very specific date and time:
July 13, 1985, 641pm London time.
It was Queen's performance at the Live Aid concert that turned them from a band of "that's nice" to the hottest thing on the planet. Some 33 years ago, give or take, I had pulled a comfy chair up in front of the TV, hooked a audio recorder up the the headphone jack, and diligently set about recording as much audio from the concerts as I could. I don't know what happened to those cassettes. I don't even remember if I caught Queen's set. But I know it now, and if any one thing can be said to make a band popular, this would be the poster child.
A tight band full of talented musicians playing nigh-on perfectly, led by the consummate showman who has 72000 people in Wembley Stadium and millions more watching across the world eating out of the palm of his hand. After that performance, oft called the greatest single live performance of all time, the question isn't how they became what they are, it's how come they didn't become bigger?
I don't know how much fandom I had for Queen before the show, but I appreciated them a lot more afterwards, and to this day Radio GaGa is on my short list of favorite songs.
Oh, and that Wayne's World thing didn't hurt them, either.
December 11, 2018
Music? Gaming? Various? Other? I'm not entirely sure where to put this one, but I've got to linkify it or I'll go even more insane than usual.
K/DA - Pop/Stars
I don't know if any of the Pond Scum plays League of Legends. I don't, and I've never even been tempted to, and I'm not now. But I'll be damned if I don't think this song by four of the Heroes from the game (well, no, not really, but you know what I mean) isn't stupidly catchy. The video isn't anything to sneer at either... it wasn't all that long ago that animation would have been the only way to get something that looks like it. Nowadays you could pull it off in the real world with a lot of Premiere... heck, maybe it was rotoscoped, I dunno, they don't tell me these things.
Anyway, now you've got the song in your head too. Good luck with that.
December 02, 2018
Hey Wonderduck, What're You Listening To? Everybody has their musical obsessions of the moment, right? The stuff that you've simply got to hear when you're listening to music, on heavy rotation on your mp3 player, constantly streaming online, whatever, you've got 'em, your friends and co-workers have 'em, and I have 'em.
The difference is, I've got a blog.
Benny Goodman - Sing Sing Sing (Swingwhale Enhiezima Remix)
Because I simply will not let electroswing go down without a fight. And yes, I do think the original is better, but I like the addition of the modern bass elements. Plus, hell, it's fun stuff and I'm no expert on music theory or anything like that.
Kid Kasino & Dutty Moonshine - Everybody
Sometimes you stumble across clever music in the strangest of places. One place that has a surprisingly high ratio of "entertaining tunes" to "content" is gameplay videos. I was watching a guy named Arlios and his World of Warships highlight vids, when a couple of minutes into it I realized I was diggin' the tune more than the gameplay. That's happened before, but it's always a fun time when it occurs. The videos are good, too!
Zooly - Siri Says
Lets get this out of the way right now: I'm not sure if I like the song, or I like the AMV and the song just tags along. What I didn't realize is that the AMV is by Haunter103, the creator of The Greatest AMV Ever. While it's not as good as that one... how could it be, when it's up against The Greatest AMV Ever?... it's still awfully darn good. Song's catchy too.
Adhesive Wombat - Anthem
Speaking of music in gameplay videos... you know the game SuperHot? FPS, time only moves when you move, opponents are all red? This song was used in SuperHot's greenlight trailer. Is it original? No. Is it repetitive? Yes. Do I care? No. Do I enjoy listening to it? Yes.
Gevolt - Khokhotshet
Klezmer is a type of music originally played by Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews, but got mixed with American jazz in the 1920s. That's the version most people are familiar with; the original style is apparently having a quiet resurgence. Heavy Metal is a type of music that stems from the late '60s that includes the use of driving guitars, a heavy bass and drum back beat, and often dramatic (or overdramatic) singing. Klezmer Metal is an unholy mutant that is simply wrong in so many ways. Which is what makes it so stinkin' good. Seriously, if that isn't some of the best metal music you've heard recently, you've got to tell me what you're listening to that's better.
Korpiklaani - Ievan Polkka
Hatsune Miku is over in the corner crying, because in Finland even the polkas are metal. And yes, that viking is wielding a feather duster. And this might be the best use of Valve's software ever.
Right, that's all. Everybody back on your heads.
November 11, 2018
NEW PSB EP!!! Ladies and gentlemen, Public Service Broadcasting has released a new EP.
White Star Liner is the story of the Titanic, from her construction to her sinking. The band got to debut the songs in June, as it turns out, during the BBC's "Big Weekend" concert in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast. The stage was placed on the graving yards that the great ship was actually built upon, and if that isn't cool, what is?
Here's the first song:
White Star Liner is available wheresoever you choose to get your music thang on. It was $4.00 on Amazon, for reference's sake. Now if only they'd come to the Chicago area...
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