Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Celebrity Playlist

I’m a big fan of iTunes Celebrity Playlists. One of the best ways to discover new music is through passionate and adamant recommendations; you can learn a lot about someone when you know what kind of songs really mess with them. Such is the beauty of a celebrity playlist. So when you ask a narcissistic, image-obsessed famous person to produce a list of their all-time favourite tracks, you’re bound to get some good (if not hilarious) stuff. Even if their publicists write the lists on their behalf, you know damn well that said publicist thought long and hard about what will make the celebrity look cool and smart, but not overly pretentious. Excellent musical knowledge is one way to convince people you’re relevant.

A good playlists may even endear you to a celebrity you once thought was a fool (which is exactly what the celebrities' labels want. I am a corporate cog). Case in point, when I saw Ashlee Simpson had a playlist, oh some, three years ago, I was ready to laugh at her embarrassing choices. But when she picked Cyndi Lauper’s cover of ‘When you were mine’, I couldn’t hate her anymore for a few days.

Also, celebrity playlists are educational. A few things I’ve learned from years of following the lists:
1. Celebrities think Wilco RULES
2. Famous people love Antony & the Johnsons – namely lead singer Antony Hegarty’s androgynous voice. There are lots of androgynous people in Hollywood. It makes sense.
3. Prince and/or Bob Dylan are on everyone’s list. It makes me think that Prince and Bob Dylan have a lot more clout in Hollywood than you’d think (okay fine, they’re just awesome, there’s probably nothing suspicious going on here they’ve gotten to me too).
4. The Beatles don’t appear anywhere, because if it ain’t sold on iTunes, it ain’t going on your list. Instead, you’ll notice an imbalance of songs from Paul McCartney & Wings, because people are clearly trying to make up for their inability to tell everyone how much they loved Rubber Soul.
5. I hated Sarah Silverman a little bit when she produced a lackluster effort. Was she trying to be funny? Or just didn’t care? Lack of effort and ambivalence are ugly.
6. Paul Rudd’s playlist features more than two of my favourite songs. We’re obviously meant to be.
7. Judging rich people is fun!

All right, time to get down from my ivory tower of musical superiority. I’m going to make my own playlist. All of the following songs are immensely special to me and I happen to think they are all really, really good. Of course, as soon as I hit publish on the blog, I’ll regret my choices and spend the rest of the day thinking about what I should have done instead. NO. It’s set in stone. These songs are the awesome. They come from different genres and might not mesh, but they’re my most favouritest ear worms.

Links provided for your listening pleasure. Headphones are recommended for maximum cerebral effect. Would love to know what you think and what you’d put on your own playlist, were you given the chance (here’s your chance).

1. Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks My favourite song of 2009. Seriously cannot stop listening….. go now!

2. Fiona Apple – Paper Bag. In university, when DKM and I broken up ( Sigh. Young, troubled love.) I used to get really drunk and sing this song to my roommate Cath. I’d pull her into my bedroom and serenade her until she got super uncomfortable and tried to leave. Then I’d sing it to her again. Then I’d play her Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights because it says “Cathy” in the lyrics. Paper Bag is probably my favourite song to sing out loud. I really miss Fiona Apple.

3. Neutral Milk Hotel – In an Aeroplane over the sea. I was always obsessed with this song (key track of a concept album dedicated to Anne Frank…..yep) but never knew where it came from. With no context, I just figured it was a sweet little jingle. I recently became even more obsessed when someone alerted me to this article about singer Jeff Magnum. After releasing this record, Magnum all but disappeared off the face of the earth. He’s been called ‘the JD Salinger of indie rock.” Awesome.

4. Nina Simone – I Got Life The ULTIMATE pump up song. So it might be about slavery, but just try and not feel good listening to it.
Publish Post
5. Sloan - The Lines you Amend. Let’s hear it for the Canadian contingent! Sloan isn’t one of my favourite bands, but this tune from ‘One Chord to Another’ gets me every time. It's upbeat, and catchy with a kick ass melody, but the lyrics are quite sad. I love a song that brings you up and down within three minutes. That’s powerful stuff.

6. Rufus Wainwright – Poses. This is what dreamy sounds like. Poses is the kind of tune that stays with you forever.

7. Hank Snow – A Fool Such as I Old Country. Not for everyone. Definitely for me.

8. The Cure – Lovesong The perfect pop song. Catchy and repetitive. Rolling drums. Robert Smith looks inappropriately plaintive in the video. It’s got everything.

9. Eddie Vedder – No Ceiling One minute and thirty-nine seconds of goodness. My only complaint? I wish it were longer. Oh but, Eddie, I can’t stay mad at you. Meow.

10. Frank Sinatra Witchcraft It’s hard to pick one Sinatra song, but Old Blue Eyes can’t be excluded from my list. He wouldn’t allow it. My earliest musical memories all involve Frank.

11. Radiohead – True Love Waits One for the lovers. I go through months-long phases where I play this song constantly. As hard as I try to kill it, it never goes away. That’s the mark of a truly great track.

12. Lauryn Hill – Ex-Factor Remember when Lauryn Hill was this good? Feels like forever ago.

13. Pink Martini – Hang on Little Tomato For times when you need to hear from a woman with a really beautiful voice

That was fun.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Catching Up

Eid Al Adha holidays are over. Five days off work in the private sector. That’s as good as it gets in Qatar. While it’s not my friend Cath's situation in Korea (on paid government sanctioned vacation from December 23-February 8 holy god I’m in the wrong country), I’ll take it. Five day weekend!! Over Eid, most residents leave town to visit exotic and/or historic locales for a few days. I stayed. The city was dead. No one was around and there was nothing to do. I barely left the house. I cooked lots. Slept in and read the newspaper. Also read brilliant essays. I strongly recommend you print these out and enjoy with a drink (Frank Sinatra, Vonnegut, Michelin star restaurants, Mike Tyson, disappearing in the digital age). Seriously, those links are gold. You'll actually learn things.

That's me, on vacation. It's a hermit crab. Was that sly reference lost on you? Go watch this disgusting yet completely mesmerizing starfish feeding frenzy and learn more about aquatic life.

I would have blogged but my brain was only interested in ingestion. Nothing good came out. When you buy six movies and the first one you watch is Paul Blart: Mall Cop, you’re in a pretty sorry state. My review of Paul Blart? That probably would have been useful to you eight months ago, but we’re not CNN Breaking News here. My review: it stinks. The movie has skateboarding robbers and “the 2007 internet sensation of the year” parkour, and I forget what else. Going in, there was hope that Paul Blart would be secretly hilarious like the surprise delight Role Models, but no. And whoever thought to cast Kevin James as a romantic(ish) lead was probably drunk. Or it was Kevin James himself. Either way, it didn't work. It's Not that I have anything against watching a fat person fall in love and make out with someone way out of his league. I’d just rather spend my 10 QAR (3 bucks, still not a bargain) on a more realitic movie. Like Star Trek. Disss.

Happy end of Movember! Do you have a Movember male in your life? If so, surely you understand that despite its 30 calendar days, November is the loooongest month of the year.

Have I ever mentioned how great it is to run with an hotelier crowd? Hotels just love giving other hotels free stuff. It’s crazy! For instance, the Hot Hoteliers Doha group (co-founded by DKM) meets every six weeks at one of Qatar’s finest hotels for an evening of free booze and noms and socializing. Last night the event was at the Ritz-Carlton. And the Ritz doesn't joke around. They’re the gold standard in hospitality. There was foie gras (yes, I hate the idea of it too but as an amateur foodie you have to admit it’s delicious) and crab cakes and spicy tuna on mini spoons and teeny desserts served my waiters who never disappeared. DKM also won a raffle prize – two day passes to the Ritz-Carlton beach. This is me at said beach:

Happy place. Responsible sun play. The book? Atonement. Sexy times. 

DKM gave me the passes because he’s going to watch the Rugby Sevens and train in Dubai for eight days. I’m taking Brenda. We asked for the passes before D even had a chance to offer, which he was going to do originally. We looked like jerks. Lesson? Always give someone at least five minutes to offer you a present before asking for it yourself.

So here’s one productive thing I have to show for my extended weekend – I put up a fake Christmas tree. When I opened the box a tiny bug came crawling out, and I was terrified to touch the 200 or so pieces inside. I had a cry on the living room floor while probably surrounded by bug-infested fake branches, before pulling myself together. Two hours later, a star was born.

Look at this fool, pretending she’s not frightened.

So there’s a short update for my friends who are mad I've been a bad pen pal. I’m behind on correspondence! Your accusatory messages are giving me the sads.

I have some thoughts on Tiger Woods that need to be punched out. Will write about something other than my immediate surroundings soon. Promise.