My Top Ten Hope Sandoval Songs :: Top Ten Tuesday

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My Top Ten Hope Sandoval Songs :: Top Ten Tuesday

Looking for the best Music from Hope Sandoval? Whether it be Songs from Mazzy Star, her solo work with The Warm Inventions, or her Musical Pairings, there is a lot of beautiful Music to wade through. Years of listening to Hope in all her incarnations has led me to this quintessential list of My Top Ten Hope Sandoval Songs for this Top Ten Tuesday. So, take a look, and a listen, to the Top Ten Best Music from Hope Sandoval.

1. “Fade Into You” :: Mazzy Star 

I wanna hold the hand inside you.
I wanna take the breath that’s true.
I look to you and I see nothing.
I look to you to see the truth.”

One of those songs I never, ever get tired of hearing. The opening track from the 1993 album, So Tonight That I Might See, this song is a thing of timeless melancholic beauty.

2. “Halah” :: Mazzy Star

“I guess that you believe you are a woman,
and that I am someone else’s man.”

So quintessentially 1991 to me. I close my eyes and I can see everything so clearly, where I was, the feel of a black crushed velvet baby doll dress, short hair, that upstairs apartment with the claw-footed tub and the painted flowers on the window panes.

3. “Into Dust” :: Mazzy Star

“I could possibly be fading,
or have something more to gain.”

In the mid-to-late 90’s this was my favorite Hope/Mazzy Star song. It all started with hearing it in the film Foxfire, and grew through pen pals and mix tapes, Music fueled crushes, and dreams of being lost, or at least just someplace else.

3. “California” :: Mazzy Star

“I think I hear the whisper of my own best friend.
I think I hear the bells ringing in the square,
California,
California.”

Songs about California are a thing to me, one of my Music Obsessions. I collect them and could list them, but it would take a list far more vast than any “Top Ten Tuesday” could hold. This song about California reminds me of leaving, and coming back again. How this state is in my blood, and always will be. How this is the place I always come back to.

4. “Five String Serenade” :: Mazzy Star

“And on my easel I drew,
while I was thinking of you.”

There is something cinematic about this song. I close my eyes and I picture episodes of Twin Peaks, or films in the desert like Kalifornia, and Natural Born Killers. I see pages of the desert story I’ve been writing, too, about cults and coming of age in a dusty, nowhere desert town existence.

5. She’s My Baby” : Mazzy Star

“She’s my baby,
she belongs to me,
but yesterday she walked home all alone.”

The fuzzy guitar is everything here. I love the way it compliments, and contradicts, Hope’s vocals.

6. “On the Low” :: Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions

“All this time,
I always,
have the light,
on for you.
But, I know,
I’m a fool.
Yes,
I know.”

I listen to this song and I think that I want to hear Ryan Adams and Hope do a duet together.

7. “Sometimes Always” :: The Jesus & Mary Chain, featuring Hope Sandoval

“I gave you all I had.
I gave you good and bad.
I gave,
but you just threw it back.”

The perfect break up/get back together song. It also is a stellar road trip song, too.

9. “Butterfly Mornings” :: Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions

“I found you in the corner,
down there sitting on the sea.”

Lush and lullaby like. This song makes me long to be by the ocean, sleeping a dreamless sleep, floating.

10. “Let Me Get There” :: Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions, featuring Kurt Vile

“It was always our story,
if you forgot.”

A late 70’s, light rock, AM radio kind of feel. In the best way.

 

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My Top Ten Blur Songs :: Top Ten Tuesday

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My Top Ten Blur Songs :: Top Ten Tuesday

Since I’ve been in a bit of a Blur mood this week I thought it was time to do a Top Ten Tuesday of their songs. So, if you are looking for the best of the best of Blur, from their Brit Pop 90’s era all the way to their 2015 The Magic Whip release, look no further. Following are my picks for the best of Blur – My Top Ten Blur Songs for Top Ten Tuesday.

My Top Ten Blur Songs:

  1. “Coffee and TV”

    “So, give me coffee and TV,
    peacefully,
    I’ve seen so much,
    I’m going blind,

    and I’m brain-dead virtually.
    Sociability,
    is hard enough for me.
    Take me away from this big, bad world,
    and agree to marry me.”

    From the 1990 album 13, “Coffee and TV” is a modern love song for the reclusive, telly-centric age.

  2. “Beetlebum”“She’ll suck your thumb.
    She’ll make you come.
    Cause she’s your gun.
    Now what you’ve done,
    Beetlebum?”

    Track one from the band’s self-titled 1997 album, the song is Brit Pop 101, all Beatlesque and jangly guitars, and lovestruck, lost youth lyrics.

  3. “Parklife” 

    “Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as
    Parklife.”

    Also quintessentially Brit Pop (and “Brit life”), this time a bit more up-temp, from the album titled the same as the song, from 199. Bonus points for Jimmy (Quadrophenia) in the song and video.

  4. “Country Home”

    “I’m a professional cynic,
    but my heart’s not in it.”

    Another take on “Brit life”, a slice of life song from the 1995 album, The Great Escape. A critical eye on the “life of leisure”, rumored to be about former manager Dave Balfe, who left the band, and the label, and bought a house in the country.

  5. “Girls and Boys” 

    “Girls who are boys,
    who like boys to be girls,
    who do boys like they’re girls,
    who do girls like they’re boys –
    always should be someone you really love.”

    Huge song meant to be played loud, meant to be danced to, meant for the clubs, really. Celebration of sex and love in the modern age of safe sex and sexual preferences.

  6. “Ong Ong”

    “To the isle of the black kites and the wishing tree,
    I wanna be with you.
    On the slow boat to Lantau through misty seas,
    I wanna be with you.”

    From the band’s latest album, The Magic Whip, from 2015, “Ong Ong” was my standout favorite the first time I spun the album, and persists in being my #1 off of it. There is evolution in the sound, but there is still that unmistakable Blur thing, too. The song is said to be a tribute to the city of Hong Kong, from a “British perspective” (where, FYI, the album was recorded).

  7. “Blue Jeans”

    “I don’t really want to change a thing.
    I want to stay this way forever.”

    Taken from the Blur album with my favorite name, 1993’s Modern Life is Rubbish, “Blue Jeans” is another quintessential “Brit Pop” song to me. Musings on love and relationships from a very youthful perspective, peppered with day-in-the-life details, bringing it all to life in a palpable (and melodic) way. I love the opening drums, and guitar.

  8. “The Universal”

    “This is the next century,
    where the universal’s free,
    you can find it anywhere.
    Yes, the future has been sold.
    Every night we’re gone,
    and to karaoke songs,
    how we like to sing a long –
    although the words are wrong.”

    This song is by far my favorite Blur song to hear live. It transforms into something epic, something anthemic, something chill-inducing. That said, even on album it possesses all those traits. Some days this song makes me cry.

  9. “Tender”

    “Love’s the greatest thing.”

    And this is the song I love to hear acoustic, though it is almost that for most of the album version, as is. At least it starts out that way. There is a country music flavor to this album mixed up with the Brit Pop Blur sensibilities. This song seems made to be sung-a-long to – especially the chorus. The song is said to be about Damon’s break-up with Elastica front-woman, Justine. Both Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn wrote the song, and share vocals on the track.

  10. “Sing” 

    “I can’t feel cos I’m numb.
    I can’t feel cos I’m numb.
    What’s the worth in all of this?
    Sing to me.”

    “Sing” is completely cinematic sounding to me, and not just because it was used in the film, Trainspotting. One of my go-to songs to play when I’m writing as I feel it ignites imagination and visual images as it plays on. This is also one of my favorite songs to play loudly, late at night, while I drive through downtown Los Angeles (try it, if you can, and you’ll see why).

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My Top Ten Male Singers :: Top Ten Tuesday

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My Top Ten Male Singers
Top Ten Tuesday

The flip side of the last list by request. These lists continue to be near impossible to narrow down, and this was yet another tough one. The list of my favorites would go on, and on, and on – well past “ten”, but this is a “Top Ten Tuesday” list, so I painfully cut and put this list together. Some of these slots are subject to change, others will always be where they are. All that said, for today, for right now, this is a list of My Top Ten Male Singers on Top Ten Tuesday.

My Top Ten Male Singers

1. David Bowie

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“Heroes” :: David Bowie

“And you,
you can be mean.
And I,
I’ll drink all the time.
‘Cause we’re lovers,
and that is a fact.
Yes we’re lovers,
and that is that.”

2. Ryan Adams

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“La Cienega Just Smiled” (live) :: Ryan Adams

“And, I hold you close in the back of my mind.
Raise my glass,
’cause either way I’m dead.
Neither of you really help me to sleep anymore –
one breaks my body,
and the other breaks my soul.
La Cienega just smiles,
waves goodbye.”

3. Leonard Cohen

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“Famous Blue Raincoat” (live) :: Leonard Cohen

“Well, I see you there,
with the rose in your teeth;
one more thin, gypsy thief.
Well, I see Jane’s awake.
She sends her regards.”

4. Pete Yorn

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“Crystal Village” :: Pete Yorn

“You were there,
and it was good in the beginning.”

5. Bryan Ferry

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“Slave to Love” :: Bryan Ferry

We’re too young to reason,
too grown up to dream.”

6. Paul Weller

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“Wild Wood” :: Paul Weller

“High tide,
mid-afternoon,
people fly by,
in the traffics boom.
Knowing,
just where you are blowing.
Getting to where you should be going.”

7. Sam Cooke

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“Bring It On Home to Me” :: Sam Cooke

“You know I’ll always be your slave,
’till I’m buried and buried in my grave.
Oh, honey bring it to me,
bring your sweet loving,
bring it on home to me.”

8. Elliott Smith

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“Waltz #2” (live) :: Elliott Smith

“I’m never gonna know you now,
but I’m gonna love you,
anyhow.”

9. Mick Jagger

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“Wild Horses” (acoustic) :: The Rolling Stones

“No sweeping exit,
or offstage lines,
could make me feel bitter,
or treat you unkind:
wild horses couldn’t drag me away.”

10. Noel Gallagher

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“If I Had a Gun” :: Noel Gallagher ‘s High Flying Birds

“Excuse me if I spoke too soon,
my eyes have always followed you around the room.
‘Cause you’re the only god that I will ever need.”

That’s My Top Ten Male Singers for Top Ten Tuesday. Who would be on your list?

My Top Ten Female Singers :: Top Ten Tuesday

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My Top Ten Female Singers
Top Ten Tuesday

Another list by request. Another list that was beyond difficult to narrow down, but I gave it a shot. My list of female singers I love goes miles and miles past ten, and the list of who is in those “top ten” slots do change, rotate, and vary. But, for today, for right now, this is a list of My Top Ten Female Singers on Top Ten Tuesday.

My Top Ten Female Singers

1. Tori Amos

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“Crucify” :: Tori Amos

You’re just an empty cage girl,
if you kill the bird.”

2. Nina Simone

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“Feeling Good” :: Nina Simone

“It’s a new dawn,
it’s a new day,
it’s a new life for me – 
and I’m feeling good.”

3. Elizabeth Fraser

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“Song of the Siren” :: This Mortal Coil, featuring Elizabeth Fraser

“Long afloat on shipless oceans,
I did all my best to smile,
’til your singing eyes and fingers,
drew me loving to your isle.
And you sang:
sail to me,
sail to me,
let me enfold you.
Here I am,
here I am,
waiting to hold you.”

4. Stevie Nicks

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“Gypsy” :: Fleetwood Mac

So, I’m back to the velvet underground.
Back to the floor,
that I love.
To a room,
with some lace,
and paper flowers.
Back to the gypsy,
that I was,
to the gypsy that I was.”

5. Aimee Mann

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“Save Me” (live) :: Aimee Mann

6. Beth Gibbons

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“Roads” (live) :: Portishead

“Oh, can’t anybody see,
we’ve got a war to fight.
Never found our way,
regardless of what they say.”

7. Natalie Merchant

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“Verdi Cries” (live) :: Natalie Merchant

“Holidays must end as you know.
All is memory taken home with me:
the opera,
the stolen tea,
the sand drawing,
the verging sea,
all years ago.”

8. Chrissie Hynde

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“I found a picture of you,
oh oh oh oh.
Those were the happiest days of my life.”

9. Sharon Jones

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“100 days,
100 nights,
to know a man’s heart.
And a little more,
before he knows his own.”

10. Fiona Apple

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“I Know” (live) :: Fiona Apple

“And you can use my skin,
to bury your secrets in.
And I will settle you down.”

That’s My Top Ten Female Singers for Top Ten Tuesday. What would be on your list?

Love Songs :: Top Ten Tuesday

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My Top Ten Love Songs
Top Ten Tuesday

By request, a Top Ten Tuesday list of My Top Ten Love Songs. This list has changed over the years, and I had to trim off quite a few favorites to limit the list to Ten, and tomorrow, or next month, or next year, if this request came to me again, the list might look different. That said, I know there are a few that have been there for as long as I can remember, and will probably be sticking around for forever.

The list tends to veer older, with a few, more recent songs, woven in. The classics though are awfully hard to compete with, especially in regards to songs about love. They transcend cheesiness and contrived sentimentality, gifting something a bit more vulnerable, imperfect, and real.

So, here’s my list, at  least for today, by request…

My Top Ten Love Songs

1. “Heroes” :: David Bowie

“Though nothing,
will keep us together,
we could steal time,
just for one day.
We can be heroes,
forever and ever
What’d you say?”

2. “Bring it on Home to Me” :: Sam Cooke

You know I’ll always be your slave,
’till I’m buried and buried in my grave.
Oh, honey bring it to me,
bring your sweet loving,
bring it on home to me.”

3. “Love & Happiness” :: Al Green

“Love and happiness,
something that can make you do wrong,
make you do right.
Love.”

4. “Slave to Love” :: Bryan Ferry

“We’re too young to reason,
too grown up to dream.”

5. “Something” :: The Beatles

“Somewhere in her smile she knows,
that I don’t need no other lover.”

6. “Ship Song” :: Nick Cave

“Come sail your ships around me,
and burn your bridges down.
We make a little history, baby,
every time you come around.”

7. “Wild Horses” :: The Rolling Stones

“Wild, wild horses,
couldn’t drag me away.

8. “Fade Into You” :: Mazzy Star

“I wanna hold the hand inside you.
I wanna take the breath that’s true.”

9. “Wonderwall” :: Oasis

“Because maybe,
you’re gonna be the one that saves me.
And after all,
you’re my wonderwall.”

10. “God Only Knows” :: The Beach Boys

“I may not always love you,
but long as there are stars above you,
you never need to doubt it,
I’ll make you so sure about it.
God only knows what I’d be without you.”

That’s my Top Ten Love Songs for Top Ten Tuesday. What would be on your list?

AIR :: Top 10 AIR songs

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AIR :: Top 10 AIR songs
Top 10 Tuesday

Are you looking for the quintessential tracks from AIR? Whether you are a new listener seeking an aural introduction, or a veteran fan of the French electronic duo who wants to revisit you’re favorite songs, this Top 10 AIR songs should help satiate your AIR-desires.

AIR is the music duo of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît, who hail from Versailles, France. Moon Safari, the duo’s debut, was an international success in 1998. It was definitely the album that caught my attention, and had me wearing out their CD that early late nineties Summer.

I was living in Salt Lake City, missing my own city, and the people I’d left behind. I found solace and inspiration in Moon Safari, the songs within acted as a melodic-muse to my writing at the time. That Summer birthed reams of poetry, as well as the start of a novel that I am still revisiting today.

It went beyond those first 10 songs though. AIR became a go-to for me, littering many playlists with their electronic-gems, and igniting more stories, and characters, along the way.

Nicolas studied architecture pre-band, and Jean-Benoît studied mathematics. To me, you can hear the structure and order and calculations in their downtempo, electronic music. That said, it does not take away from the creativity and artistry that transcends the music from being only sets of equations. Can you hear it, too?

AIR was originally meant to be an acronym meaning Amour, Imagination, Rêve (English translation = Love, Imagination, Dream).

The band has always inspired that in me – love…imagination…and dreaming…

Following is my Top 10 AIR songs for Top 10 Tuesday.

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Top 10 AIR Songs:

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1. “Sexy Boy”
from the album, Moon Safari

2. “All I Need” featuring Beth Hirsch
from the album, Moon Safari

3. “Playground Love” featuring Gordon Tracks
from the album, The Virgin Suicides

4. “Cherry Blossom Girl”
from the album, Talkie Walkie

5. “Venus”
from the album, Talkie Walkie

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6. “La femme d’argent”

from the album, Moon Safari

7. “You Make it Easy” featuring Beth Hirsch
from the album, Moon Safari

8. “One Hell of a Party” featuring Jarvis Cocker
from the album, Pocket Symphony

9. “Alone in Kyoto”
from the album, Talkie Walkie

10. “How Does It Make You Feel?”
from the album, 10 000 Hz Legend

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Want to dive in further than the above Top 10 AIR songs? Check out this quintessential AIR playlist and listen on.

Winona Ryder :: Top 10 Tuesday

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Winona Ryder :: Top 10 Tuesday

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10. Mina Murray/Elisabeta
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

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Dinner with Dracula

9. Beth
1969 (1988)

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Trailer

8. Kim
Edward Scissorhands (1990)

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Edward’s snow

7. Veronica 
Heathers (1988)

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Veronica and JD meet

6. Joyce Byers
Stranger Things (2016)

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Joyce and Jonathan

5. Susanna
Girl, Interrupted (1999)

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Borderline personality disorder

4. Charlotte Flax
Mermaids (1990)

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My life, my way

3. Jo March
Little Women (1994)

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Ending

2. Lydia Deetz
Beetlejuice (1988)

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Strange and unusual

1. Lelaina Pierce
Reality Bites (1994)

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You and me and five bucks

Top Ten Female Movie Characters :: Top Ten Tuesday

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Top Ten Female Movie Characters :: Top Ten Tuesday

1. Clementine Kruczynski
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

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Without a doubt my number one favorite cinematic female character, one who I deeply relate to and understand, and feel most like, in both good, and not so good ways. The way she loves, her insecurities, her issues, her heart, her flaws, and the persistence she possesses, is beautiful to me. Even when I recognize that she’s messing up, I still root for her – every time – and envy her hair!

Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind; don’t assign me yours.”  ~ Clementine

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2. Lelaina Pierce
Reality Bites (1994)

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I felt so much like Lelaina at 23, except for the fact that I also had a baby daughter. Beyond that, though, I felt both inspired and lost, I was trying desperately to “find myself” (as if one ever does), I fell for the artist who may have been the wrong one to fall for (jury’s still out/my heart still falls for the Troy’s of this world), my friends were my family, and music and pop culture was an intrinsic part of my language, and I even had her hair. I still love her, even when she makes bad decisions, and I love her relationship with Vickie, and yes, with Troy, too.

“I just don’t understand why things just can’t go back to normal at the end of the half hour like on the Brady Bunch or something.” ~ Lelaina

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3. Penny Lane
Almost Famous (2000)

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Oh Penny Lane, I love you even though it breaks my heart watching you sometimes. The way she loves – music and people and life – and how both strong and vulnerable she is, how she inspires and makes people feel, how she creates magic and family, and yes, the way she breaks, her character feels a part of me, and I am always very drawn to her. Second to Clementine, she is one of the characters I most relate to in film.

I always tell the girls, never take it seriously, if ya never take it seriosuly, ya never get hurt, ya never get hurt, ya always have fun, and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.” ~ Penny Lane

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4. Princess Leia Organa
Star Wars series

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In a world of princess in peril and waiting around for their prince to come, along came a princess that changed the story, and gave me a role model who would shape the way I saw myself, and the world around me. She was strong, she kicked ass, she fought and ruled and was wise, and she was also emotional, and passionate and loved deeply, and she had moments of both being rescued, and rescuing, and she was (is) a survivor. Complex and amazing, Princess Leia MATTERED to me as a young girl (and still does).

“I don’t know who you are or where you came from, but from now on you’ll do as I tell you, okay?” ~ Princess Leia Organa

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5. Holly Golightly
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

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A chameleon, in some ways like Clementine (a trait I relate to in both), strong but very vulnerable, complex and flawed, but loves big, even if she doesn’t trust love very much, Holly is complicated in ways that make her real to me. I know the book is different in many ways to the film (I’ve yet to read the book – someday), so I can only comment on her cinematic version, which I immensely feel for. Sometimes I watch the film, and her, and she makes me cry and hurt, and other times the movie, and Holly, make me feel inspired to write, and/or hopeful and happy – I suppose all art is like that to me, different depending on where and how I am when I take it, and retake it, in.

I’m like cat here, a no-name slob. We belong to nobody, and nobody belongs to us. We don’t even belong to each other.” ~ Holly

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6. Andie 
Pretty in Pink (1986)

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Me and Molly, as an adolescent she played some of my favorite characters, but none of them connected with me as much as Andie did. I was the poor girl with the single parent (mom for me) who went to the rich school that I had a scholarship for, though I didn’t make my own clothes I shared a lot of her style sensibilities, worked in a record store (two actually) and dealt with some of the stereotypical rich kids, too. I’m a much bigger fan of Andie (and Iona) than I am of either of the “boy choices” in the film, especially as I’ve gotten older and re-watched the movie so much – I really want her to choose neither (and/or maybe have a fling with Steff).

I just want them to know that they didn’t break me.” ~ Andie

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6. Alyssa Jones
Chasing Amy (1997)

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Oh how I love Alyssa, her spirit, her fluidity, her sense of self, her persona, her humor, and her heart. When I saw “Chasing Amy” in the 90’s I remember wishing I could be like her, seeing her as brave and bold in ways, and about things, that I was shy and insecure about. I feel closer to her now, and was once in a relationship much like the one she is in with Holden, and have had to defend my past before, too – I think she’s such an important female character (is she the first bisexual female film character?) – cheers to Kevin Smith for writing her, and for Joey Lauren Adams portrayal of her.

I love you, I always will. Know that. But I’m not your fucking whore.” ~ Alyssa

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7. Mom
Boyhood (2014)

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Sometimes the Mom’s story in “Boyhood” feels so familiar, and hit on such painful memories, that it is hard to watch, but then again, it also makes me feel less alone in my story, and also proud of where I’ve come from, and gotten to. Patricia Arquette’s portrayal of the Mom (I wish she was given a name) was phenomenal, and just barely edged out my previous favorite role of hers (see #9). In many ways I feel that this is more the Mom’s story, than the boys, but maybe that’s because of my perspective, as a Mom, who has shared some of the story she has within the film.

I’ve spent the first half of my life acquiring all this stuff and now I’ll spend the second half getting rid of it!” ~ Mom

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9. Alabama Whitman-Worley
True Romance (1993)

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Alabama is a hero to me, the ways she LOVES in big, bold capital letters, and her extraordinary strength, persistence and fight. She has this optimism to her that is juxtaposed with a very rough life, but despite the rough go’s, she has this naivete and heart that makes her so amazing to me. I believe in Alabama.

I had to come all the way from the highway and byways of Tallahassee, Florida to MotorCity, Detroit to find my true love. If you gave me a million years to ponder, I would never have guessed that true romance and Detroit would ever go together. And til this day, the events that followed all still seems like a distant dream. But the dream was real and was to change our lives forever. I kept asking Clarence why our world seemed to be collapsing and things seemed to be getting so shitty. And he’d say, “that’s the way it goes, but don’t forget, it goes the other way too.” That’s the way romance is… Usually, that’s the way it goes, but every once in awhile, it goes the other way too.” ~ Alabama

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10. Margo
Modern Girls (1986)

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Smart, literate, sarcastic, red lipstick/black clothing (yes!) style, and a big, big heart make up Margo, and make up many of the reasons I love her so much. She takes care of her friends, even if they don’t see it, and is much more complex than her cool and distant demeanor suggests. I love when she let’s some of her surface walls down, and we start to see the other sides of her, the wilder sides and her inner vulnerability.

And we never buy our own drinks.” ~ Margo

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Live Aid :: My Favorite Artists/Bands

1Live Aid
July 13, 1985
Wembley Stadium & JFK Stadium

2In lieu of the Monday Favorite Artist/Band post, and in observation of the 30th Anniversary today, I thought I’d do a little something on Live Aid. I was sixteen years old and it was Summertime, and music was my everything. I woke early to see this from the start, and was completely unmovable for the entire day. I remember my Mom asking me to go out with her for a few things (lunch, some kind of baseball game, I think, dinner) and I would have none of it. I was in the vortex of total and complete musical bliss and I wanted nothing to do with anything except the music. For most of the day I sat cross-legged on the living room floor, as close to the television as I could get. Sometimes I talked to my friends on the phone, but most of those conversations were no conversation at all, just us sitting and watching, phone at our ears, and saying random things like “did you see that?”, “wow”, “Duran Duran is next”, etc.

I was so grateful to have MTV that day, though I wished that I could see each and every performance, in-person, at both locations.

Live Aid was a dual-venue concert held on this day in 1985. The event was organised by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise funds for relief of the ongoing Ethiopian famine. Billed as the “global jukebox“, the event was held simultaneously at Wembley Stadium in London, England, United Kingdom (attended by 72,000 people) and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States (attended by about 100,000 people).

On the same day, concerts inspired by the initiative happened in other countries, such as Australia and Germany. It was one of the largest-scale satellite link-ups and television broadcasts of all time: an estimated global audience of 1.9 billion, across 150 nations, watched the live broadcast.

Looking back at the set-lists and artists I realize there are some that I missed, and a few that I did not appreciate as much at the time than I would now, if I could time travel and see it all again live. For the most part, though, my favorites then are still my favorites now, and my top 10 artists of the event wouldn’t have changed that much, just maybe the order I placed them in between then, and now.

In the spirit of remembering, though, I will keep in the number 1 spot what was definitely my number 1 that day. I will preface it by saying that as a teenager I was a total Duranie, and there is, and always will be, a place in my heart that belongs just to them.

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Following are my Top Ten favorite Live Aid arists. Will you share yours with me?

1. Duran Duran

Union of the Snake (live)

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2. Elton John and George Michael 

Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me (live)

2

3. David Bowie

Heroes (live)

2

4. Queen

Radio Ga Ga (live)

25. Paul McCartney

Let it Be (live)

26. Madonna

Holiday (live)

7. Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music

Slave to Love (live)

1 8. Rick Springfield

Love Somebody (live)

1

9. U2

Bad (live)

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10. Spandau Ballet

True (live)

LIVE AID

Natalie Merchant :: My Favorite Artists/Bands

NatalieMerchant-2012-01Natalie Merchant :: My Favorite Artists/Bands

Natalie Merchant is one of those artists, and voices, that I cannot remember ever not knowing, and loving. The 10,000 Maniacs album, In My Tribe, was recommended to me by a friend in High School, and I fell hard for it at first listen. From that moment I’ve been loving Natalie’s voice, and songwriting skills. I’ve seen her, and the Maniacs, live many times, and four of her albums (solo, and with 10,000 Maniacs) are on my list of all-time favorite albums (In My Tribe, Our Time In Eden, Tigerlily and Ophelia).

Some of Natalie’s songs have been with me for so long, and have been through so many things with me, that they have become part of my life soundtrack, and personal history. There are some songs that are hard to listen to because of the memories they evoke, and there are songs that feel so close to who I am that they feel like anthems, and are what I play when I need to reconnect with myself, and feel free.

Some songs, too, have beautiful memories attached to them, recollections of falling in love, of long road trips with music playing, of starting over moments, and of my younger daughter as a baby. I sang songs off of Ophelia and Tigerlily to her as lullabies when she was a newborn.

Though albums with the Maniacs came out in the 80’s, and some of her solo work has been in the 2000’s, her voice and albums, both with the band, and without, remind me mostly of the 90’s, and the girl I was then. I have memories that come before that decade, and after (see the lullabies above), but it is the 90’s that the music immediately takes me back to, especially the album Our Time in Eden (10,000 Maniacs).

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Natalie Merchant joined 10,000 Maniacs in 1981 and left it to begin her solo career in 1993. She was born October 26, 1963, in Jamestown, New York, the third of four children of Anthony and Ann Merchant. Her paternal grandfather, who played the accordion, mandolin and guitar, emigrated to the United States from Sicily; his surname was “Mercante” before it was Anglicized.

When Merchant was a child, her mother listened to music (primarily Petula Clark but also the Beatles, Al Green, Aretha Franklin) and encouraged her children to study music, but she wouldn’t allow TV after Natalie was twelve.

She [her mother] had show tunes, she had the soundtrack from West Side Story and South Pacific. And then eventually… she’d always liked classical music and then she married a jazz musician, so that’s the kind of music I was into. I never really had friends who sat around and listened to the stereo and said ‘hey, listen to this one’, so I’d never even heard of who Bob Dylan was until I was 18.”

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Merchant was lead singer and primary lyricist for 10,000 Maniacs, joining in its infancy in 1981 while she was a student at Jamestown Community College. The group recorded their album Human Conflict Number Five and performed a corresponding Music video at The Hotel Franklin and at Group W Westinghouse studios (Jamestown, New York) in 1982. Merchant sang lead vocals, and later played the piano as well, for 10,000 Maniacs for seven studio albums.

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In 1993 she announced that she was leaving the group. Her last recording with the band, a cover of Patti Smith’s Because the Night at the 10,000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged performance, reached # 11 in the singles chart, becoming the band’s greatest U.S. success.

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Merchant has said in interviews that after her split with 10,000 Maniacs she was so eager to begin writing her own material that she went home that very day and composed the song I May Know the Word, which was originally meant to appear on the soundtrack to the Tom Hanks movie Philadelphia. The song was eventually cut from the soundtrack, but it would go on to appear on Merchant’s debut solo album, Tigerlily, which was released on the Elektra label in 1995. Merchant chose to name the album Tigerlily as she felt it captured the feel of the album, which she described as both “fierce” and “delicate“.

Editor’s note: Fierce and delicate are two perfect descriptors for how I feel about Natalie’s music, and how her songs make me feel, as well.

The fifth song on the Tigerlily album, Carnival, was requested by the serial killer Aileen Wuornos to be played at her wake after her execution. It was also played over the end credits to Nick Broomfield’s documentary Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, which was aired on the Crime channel.

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Seeking creative control, Merchant chose to fund Tigerlily herself, refusing the advance from the record company. She also wanted to work with a core-group of young musicians who she felt would be enthusiastic about the music. The group would consist of guitarist Jennifer Turner, bassist Barrie Maguire, and former-Wallflower and eventual boyfriend to Merchant, Peter Yanowitz, who played drums on the album and who continued to do so with Merchant until their abrupt split in 2000.

Tigerlily was a critical and commercial success, spawning her first top-ten hit in the single Carnival and achieving top-40 success with subsequent singles Wonder and Jealousy. The album would go on to sell over 5 million copies, and continues to be Merchant’s most successful album to date.

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Three years passed before Merchant would release her second solo effort, Ophelia. While Tigerlily contained a lot of sparse instrumentation, the music on Ophelia had lusher arrangements. The reprise at the close of the CD featured a symphonic arrangement composed and conducted by British composer Gavin Bryars with whom she would collaborate nine years later to put Shakespeare’s sonnets to music. Merchant treated the recording of Ophelia as a series of workshops, where she would invite various musicians she had met over the years into her home studio to collaborate and record. In the end, 30 different musicians featured on the album, among them Brand New Heavies frontwoman N’Dea Davenport (with whom she duets on the song Break Your Heart), famed trumpet player Chris Botti, and the husband and wife duo, Don and Karen Peris, from the band The Innocence Mission.

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While Ophelia is not a concept record in the traditional sense, the album-cycle saw Merchant flexing her creative muscles in surprising ways. The name of the album and the title track are a literary reference to Shakespeare’s Ophelia, who in the play Hamlet becomes mad and eventually commits suicide when Hamlet remains non-committal and lost in himself. Merchant’s Ophelia describes a series of women throughout time—women who dared question the patriarchal status quo and who were often castigated for doing so—and is a cry for women’s rights and for more understanding of female archetypes beyond the scope of the “mother” and the “whore“, both of which severely limit women and attempt to turn them into little more than chattel.

The portrayal of the women in the song is a tribute to the non-traditional “too smart for her own good” type of woman who is often misunderstood by society. As a lyric to the title song cries: “Your common sense, your best defense, was wasted and in vain!” A reflection of women driven mad by social limitations, Natalie’s tribute described Ophelia as being at once a “novice carmelite,” a “suffragette,” a “circus queen,” a “demigoddess” and a “mafia courtesan.”

The album sleeve saw Merchant pictured in colorful and ornate costumes as each of these different characters. As a companion to the album, she also released a film where she portrays each of these different characters, with voice-overs used for the “novice carmelite,” the “sweetheart” and the “courtesan” as they are Spanish, German and Italian, respectively.

ophelia5The first single off the album was a happy and uncharacteristically simple song called Kind and Generous, which received massive airplay on VH1 and which solidified Merchant’s role as a bona fide solo artist. That summer, Sarah McLachlan invited Merchant to co-headline the year’s biggest music festival with her, Lilith Fair. The exposure from the tour helped the album reach Platinum status in just under a year, with subsequent singles Break Your Heart and Life Is Sweet receiving moderate airplay on adult contemporary radio stations.

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In 2000, Merchant embarked on a folk tour in the United States with many shows being supported by alt-country band Wilco.

Merchant’s next studio album on the Elektra label was Motherland, released in 2001. Motherland saw Merchant at her most experimental musically. Motherland achieved Gold on the Billboard charts after debuting at No. 30 on the Billboard 200 and # 13 on the Top Internet Albums of 2001, respectively.

Merchant embarked on a year and a half world tour to promote Motherland. The first leg of the tour started in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 17, 2001, trekking all over the United States, and then heading to Europe with some special acoustic shows in Europe.

Merchant also participated in the Rock am Ring Festival and Rock im Park in 2002. In the summer of 2002, she was paired with Chris Isaak and both played at stadiums and arenas.

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Natalie has had three albums since, The House Carpenter’s Daughter (2003), Leave Your Sleep (2010) and Natalie Merchant/self-titled (2014)

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Following are my Top Ten favorite Natalie Merchant. Will you share yours with me?

1. Verdi Cries
from the album, In My Tribe 

“Holidays must end as you know,
all is memory,
taken home with me,
the opera,
the stolen tea,
the sand drawing,
the verging sea,
all years ago.”

2. Jezebel
from the album, Our Time in Eden

“I’ve sat in the dark explaining to myself,
that I’m straining too hard for feelings I ought to find easily,
called myself Jezebel.”

3. Cowboy Romance
from the album, Tigerlily

“He’s a scoundrel and
she’s no pearl;
together they are two lovers cruel.”

4. The Painted Desert 
from the album, In My Tribe

“the stars were so many there,
they seemed to overlap.”

5. My Skin 
from the album, Ophelia

“hey say that promises sweeten the blow,
but I don’t need them,
no, I don’t need them.”

6. Few & Far Between
from the album, Our Time in Eden

“‘Til you drop that heavy baggage you’re dragging behind,
there won’t be room for us to both go this ride.”

7. Carnival
from the album, Tigerlily

“I’ve walked these streets,
a virtual stage,
It seemed to me.
Make up on their faces,
actors took their places,
next to me.”

8. Don’t Talk
from the album, In My Tribe

“I know that if you think of it,
both long enough and hard,
the drink you drown your troubles in,
is the trouble you’re in now.”

9. These Are Days 
from the album, Our Time in Eden

“These are the days you might fill with laughter until’ you break,
these days you might feel a shaft of light make it’s way across your face,
when you do you’ll know how it was meant to be.”

10. Life is Sweet
from the album, Ophelia

“They told you life is hard,
it’s misery from the start,
it’s dull and slow and painful.

I tell you life is sweet,
in spite of the misery,
there’s so much more,
be grateful.”

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