Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the first Rock and Roll show with…biological classification and Guided by Voices?

Nearly 20, 000 people were beating on the doors of a venue that would hold less than 10, 000 shouting “Let us in!” Tickets for the  second night had all been printed with the same date as the first. The police waded into the crowd and ordered the opening act, Paul “Huckerbuckers” Williams to stop shortly after he began. A man was stabbed as the confused crowd dispersed. On the surface, The Moondog Coronation Ball, March 21, 1952 in Cleveland, was a total disaster. Continue reading “Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the first Rock and Roll show with…biological classification and Guided by Voices?”

The Cat Empire’s Falling with a little thanks to the Bronx High School for Science

Australian band The Cat Empire are best known as the epitome of the party band. Their music is an often irresistible mix of latin, jazz, ska, piano rock and whatever else happens along the way. Falling, from their 2010 album Cinema, is a great specimen in this regard. Somehow a brass band, guitars, a scratch DJ, several layers of keyboards and a singer stay infectiously together. It works in large part because of their great keyboardist Oliver McGill. His merengue inspired rhythm piano is the spinal column of the song. He holds everything together and everything radiates out from there. Yet in a band with a full horn section, why does he play an electric keyboard? There aren’t any elaborate effects and the band clearly isn’t just looking for an easy piano replacement (seeing as they’re already lugging turntables). The keyboard synthesizer just provides exactly the right sound at the right time. Sometimes it’s a Hammond organ, sometimes it’s bar piano. Even better, sometimes, it’s both (well, with the second keyboard anyway). Continue reading “The Cat Empire’s Falling with a little thanks to the Bronx High School for Science”

“We won’t leave it all in our heads” Rich Aucoin’s anthem for science

Science is a process, sometime a very long one: Gels won’t run, programs need to be debugged, engines overheat and fry the instruments, and populations of chimps suddenly make themselves elusive.  Even after the experiments, observations and analyses are done you’re left waiting on your supervisor, the reviewers, or the journal editors to finally make up their minds. Whether as a student, a technician or a full-time researcher, making it through these times of frustration and waiting takes perseverance. This weeks’ song is for those times.

Rich Aucoin’s It is the centerpiece of a three-piece suite of songs: The Little Creatures Know / It / The Greatest Secret in the World from his 2011 independent release We’re all dying to live. Aucoin’s music is spirited, joyous even. Like the titles together suggest, these songs are anthems to the knowledge held by even the smallest of us. Slowly building from a soft and restrained vocal, when the chorus finally bursts through it’s hard to not get swept up in it, chanting to yourself: “We won’t leave it all in our heads!” Sitting in the lab, pouring over a manuscript, or struggling with a database those frustrations can seem overwhelming. A rousing song like this can be just the antidote. Don’t leave it in your head – get it out there. Science needs to be shared!

Youth Lagoon, Polanyi and seeing the forest and the trees

When I first started listening to Youth Lagoon‘s Montana I didn’t think too much of it. The opening is simple, and I was working on something else. I’d mostly stopped paying attention moments after it started. It built itself slowly, though, and completely  caught me off guard. Suddenly I wasn’t writing at all but staring out the window completely absorbed in the song. Continue reading “Youth Lagoon, Polanyi and seeing the forest and the trees”

Don’t count the feathers: Dan Mangan, nature study and a surprise Charley Harper reference

The title alone of Dan Mangan‘s “About as Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All”, from his 2011 album Oh Fortune, seems to be crying out for a comparison to graduate school experiences but that’s not nearly the most interesting thing about this song. Let me take you through my thought process on this one. Continue reading “Don’t count the feathers: Dan Mangan, nature study and a surprise Charley Harper reference”