The Best Music Videos of 2010

Originally posted 2010-12-26 10:00:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

We’ve all heard — and perhaps even echoed — the common complaint about the contemporary treatment of music videos on broadcast television.  It’s typically voiced in a sarcastic question, something like:

Do you remember when MTV used to play music videos?

These days, the music video feels like a lost art form.  They’re more readily available than ever before, what with digital download software like iTunes and websites like Amazon.com, never mind free sites — like YouTube — where copyright is a questionable notion pushed to its limits by users and exploited by record labels in the form of add-on ads.

This being said, the Weekend Review’s “Best Music Videos of 2010” is one of the biggest lists of the season, and perhaps the one that calls for the most interaction from you, the reader.  If there are any videos that you haven’t seen yet, you should definitely search them on YouTube and, depending on how far up the list they are, consider breaking down to download them.

These videos will hopefully remind you that the music video can be a fascinating and fun extension of songs and, sometimes even, albums.

The Black Keys take to the playground for a good old fashioned fight over a woman in “Tighten Up,” which ends up being hilarious.  “Saskia Hamilton” and “King of Anything” are fast-paced, well-edited videos, the former being all the more impressive for being fan-created and Ben Folds-endorsed.  Get ready for white rooms and clothes and lots and lots of paint in Locksley’s take on “The Whip,” and prepare to love the claustrophobic setting of Spoon’s “Written in Reverse.”

You get the idea: these videos run the gamut.  I hope you’ll check them out — YouTube is probably the first, best place; simply search the title, artist, and term “music video.”  This should keep you busy until tomorrow’s list!

The BEST MUSIC VIDEOS of 2010

1)  “Tighten Up” – The Black Keys (Brothers)

2)  “Saskia Hamilton” – Ben Folds & Nick Hornby (Lonely Avenue) – produced by charlieissocoollike

3)  “King of Anything” – Sara Bareilles (Kaleidoscope Heart) – dir. by Laurent Brie

4)  “The Whip” – Locksley (Be in Love)

5)  “Written in Reverse” – Spoon (Transference)

6)  “In the Sun” – She & Him (Volume Two) – dir. by Peyton Reed

7)  “Memories” – Weezer (Hurley)

8)  “By Some Miracle” – Philip Selway (Familial) – dir. by David Altobelli

9)  “God Save the Foolish Kings” – House of Heroes (Surburba)

10)  “Between the Lines” – Stone Temple Pilots (Stone Temple Pilots) – dir. by Christopher Sims

Honorable Mentions:

“Jefferson Jericho Blues” – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (Mojo)

“From Above” – Ben Folds & Nick Hornby (Lonely Avenue)

“Help Me Rhonda” – Al Jardine with Steve Miller (A Postcard from California)

Ben Folds: LIVE IN CONCERT – The Shubert Theater, New Haven, CT (March 28, 2009) – REVIEW

Originally posted 2011-01-17 10:00:42. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

We now deviate from our regularly scheduled program…

In an unprecedented move, the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover songs music video blog brings you TWO concert reviews in one weekend!  Tonight, I’ll review last night’s Ben Folds concert at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, CT.

There’s so much to say about this concert- really unlike any other Ben Folds experience I’ve had.  For one, he played the entire show (with the exception of a couple of songs in the middle) with a band- something I really haven’t seen before.  Those who know my musical tastes know that having Ben play with a band (rather than just doing the whole show by himself) is definitely preferable.  The songs sounded just like the originals, with the drummer and bassist singing the harmony parts on all the old Ben Folds Five numbers.  There was also another multi-instrumentalist / percussionist and another person I couldn’t see from my vantage point that played keyboards and French horn.

My fiancee and I had a nice night out on the town- the Shubert Theater is in the heart of the city.  And even though the surrounding area is a little…well, not so perfect…the inside of the theater was very nice.  We had GREAT seats, which is funny, because I bought them no more than four days ago online.  We sat in the eighth row on the floor, off to the side a bit.  The tickets were a lean $34.50, plus a TON of taxes and fees that brought them over $45 a piece.

Now, the show Ben Folds put on was great, but getting there wasn’t so much.  He had an opening act- God help me if I could remember the name.  They were okay- kinda quirky and VERY Ben Folds Five-ish.  The problem was that the songs were kind of middle of the road and, more than anything, the songs were WAY too “deep” for an opening act.  I even noted that a couple of the songs had similar lyrics, meaning that the songs came from an album that had a deeper meaning and were meant as part of a bigger picture.  Again, it didn’t really fit well with “opening act”.

They started at about 8:30.  After their set, we waited for about twenty minutes or so, then it was time…

For ANOTHER act to come on first!

This time, it was the “only rock/pop a capella group at Yale” and now I know why.  They were TERRIBLE.  I was embarassed the whole time.  No one there had a good singing voice- the girl they picked to sing the second song of three (who was CLEARLY picked because she was the least “brainiac” looking of them all) couldn’t carry a tune if it was strapped to her back.  They sang two songs no one in the audience never heard of before (complete with two tall Asian guys beat-boxing) and then finished up with a slightly-entertaining version of Ben Folds Five’s “Underground”.  The problem with their version was that no one’s voice was strong enough to really make it sound like the original was sung (the two girls they had singing the chorus were barely audible from the eighth row) and the guy singing lead was annunciating every single word!  It’s not, “And now it has been ten years, I am still won-der-ing who to be.”  You had to be there to get how funny it was, but believe me, it was like a comedy routine.

That was followed by an announcement saying that Ben was coming out with a new album (!!!)…only to get let down by the fact that it’s an album of performances by a capella college groups! Ugh, talk about an album I’ll miss.  I’m almost absolutely certain that this will end up on Chris’ TV stand in the near future, though.

After that act was done…we waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.

Finally, about 9:30 or so, Ben came out on the stage with his band.  The band didn’t really seem into the music all that much, but it’s probably because they were trying to act cool.  Ben was his usual lively self- kicking the piano bench away and singing better than I’ve ever heard him.

He played an interesting set anchored by tracks off his past two albums, “Way to Normal” and “Songs for Silverman”.  He played songs like “Effington”, “Dr. Yang”, and “Free Coffee”, which are NOT some of my favorites.  Although, I do have more respect for “Free Coffee” now because that terrible sound on the piano is actually made by putting empty Altoids boxes on the strings and adding a distortion pedal.  These songs sounded exactly like the recordings.

He also played some better ones from “Way To Normal”, including “Hiroshima” and “Brainwascht”.

His “Songs for Silverman” list included “Bastard”, “Jesusland”, “Sentimental Guy”, and “Landed”.

One thing I noticed about this show was the pre-determined setlist.  He really had it down, like a regular concert.  There was no wasting time after he got on- each song ended, then the next one began about five seconds later, with no introduction.  I mean, he talked enough, though- made a few jokes, had the audience sining (hilariously, at points) on my favorite song, “Not the Same” and “Army”, and seemed very happy.

He looked good, too- not all crazy-haired and everything.  He looked happy and healthy, which is good to see.  His show was an hour and a half, but the encore was only one song (a great one in “Fair”, especially with the band) because he said they ran out of time.  I think the delay from starting the concert may have been from him “dueling pianos” with someone at Toad’s Place in New Haven, which he mentioned a couple times during the show.  I think he came back to the Shubert late!  He had to get a Band-Aid for his finger after playing the piano so hard at Toad’s.  Both Ben and the opening act commented on how great the sound at the Shubert was- said it was the best sound on the tour.  That theater is built for having great acoustics, so I can see why.

It was a great show and everyone left happy.  There were a lot of younger teens there, too, which is nice to see.  Everyone seemed to love the songs off of “Rockin’ the Suburbs” the most, seeing that it was a popular album.  In classic Dylan fashion, he didn’t play his most (and only) famous song, “Brick” or another crowd favorite, “One Angry Dwarf”.  He played a crazy alternate version of “The Bitch Went Nuts”- I never heard it before and the only similarity between the one he released on “Way To Normal” was the title line.  I kinda liked the song he played last night better.

I’ll definitely go see him again next go-around, and I hope he comes out with another album to add even more variety to the setlist.

The BEST COMPILATIONS of 2011 (The Year-End Awards)

Originally posted 2012-01-21 10:00:16. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Every year, there are a wide variety of compilations, best of’s, essentials, greatest hits, and retrospectives that are released.  I usually only buy one here or there.  This year, there were three outstanding compilations, which are recognized below.  In each case, the packaging is excellent, notable if only for the excellent attention to liner notes that provide further context and insight into the tracks.  Even though all three were of high quality, Ben Folds’ reasonably-priced, beautifully packaged, well-selected Best Imitation of Myself takes the prize without debate.

1) The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective – Ben Folds

2) Twenty – Pearl Jam

3) Outside Society – Patti Smith

Ben Folds & Nick Hornby’s “Lonely Avenue” (2010) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-10-11 11:42:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  4 / 5 stars

It’s natural to shake your head when an artist of the caliber of Ben Folds undertakes a collaboration.  Even if you like the collaborator, the results are typically underwhelming, a document of unique talent and energy being diluted, and perhaps even forced; as a result, the collaboration is more likely to collect dust than play counts.

I’ll admit that I shook my head when I read that Folds would be working with an author, as if his lyrics  haven’t always been strong, dating back as far as Ben Folds Five.  As if he needed a creative infusion.

Then I read that the author in question was Nick Hornby.  That would be Nick Hornby of High Fidelity fame (yes, there is a book that inspired the John Cusack film).  If ever there was an author who might be able to lend an intelligent and unfiltered edge to rock music, it is Hornby.

(To clarify, he is not to be confused with adult contemporary pianist Bruce Hornsby, an alliance that would serve little purpose short of adding profanity to “The Way It Is” or perhaps some angry piano to “Mandolin Rain.”)

The title Lonely Avenue is itself an homage of sorts to another writer: Jerome Solon Felder, better known as Doc Pomus.  I imagine that many listeners will wonder, as I did, whether the title character of the fourth track is a creation of Hornby’s imagination.  (Wikipedia has, once again, provided what I lacked in cultural literacy regarding twentieth century songwriters.)  This is a fitting title for the album, particularly considering that the thread tying each song together, with one notable exception, is that of confronting and/or pontificating on the inherent loneliness of the modern human condition.

In many ways, Folds’ music has always adopted the Pomusian attitude described by Hornby as, “He found a way to make his feelings/isolation pay.”  Think for a moment about such tracks as “The Last Polka,” “Evaporated,” “Regrets,” “Still Fighting It,” “Trusted,” and “You Don’t Know Me” — just one track apiece from his previous six albums — each an exercise in repaying pain with a musical and lyrical roast aimed at catharsis.

In many ways, this is Folds’ great musical legacy, and perhaps a clue as to how he has remained so popular with college audiences.

Lonely Avenue is thus populated by lost or otherwise isolated souls: a victim of cruel online blogging, a chronically ill inpatient, a social outcast, a nine year old dealing with her parents’ divorce, a man being cheated on, a poetry nerd, and a music star doomed to a Promethean cycle of torment as he is asked nightly to play a hit song he wrote for a woman from whom he has long since separated.

Lonely Avenue (Ben Folds & Nick Hornby, 2010)

Considering this cast of characters, “From Above” functions as a thesis of sorts, asserting in the chorus that, “It’s so easy from above / You can really see it all / People who belong together / Lost and sad and small / But there’s nothing to be done for them / It doesn’t work that way / Sure, we all have soul mates / But we walk past them every day.”  Antithetical to the romantic comedy genre, Folds and Hornby advance the theory that we may never find our “soul mates,” and short of acquiring some sort of metaphorical aerial view of our lives, we may never realize that we could be happier.

Hornby nicely adopts the genre’s device of juxtaposition, placing Tom and Martha, the prototypical disconnected soul mates, not only together in the same song but also together in the same place on numerous occasions throughout their lives.  They are never “actually unhappy,” but there is a sense of “a phantom limb, an itch that could never be scratched.”  This serves, at least, as some explanation for the human condition; as Folds sings, “And who knows whether that’s how it should be?  Maybe our ghosts live right in that vacancy.”

This also functions as a myth of artistic creation, Hornby positing that “Maybe that’s how books get written / Maybe that’s why songs get sung / Maybe we owe the unlucky ones.”  To be certain, we owe the synthesis of Lonely Avenue to the unlucky ones, such as those listed above.

What works best on this album is the ebb and flow of tracks, the pensive ballads interspersed between piano rock.  Indeed, Lonely Avenue is the most dynamic Folds release since 2001’s Rockin’ the Suburbs, although the individual tracks probably aren’t as strong as those on Songs for Silverman (2005).  It’s also arguable that there is not as much of that x factor “soul” as there was on his post-breakup offering Way to Normal (2008).

And yet, Lonely Avenue clearly emerges as the inheritor to the Rockin’ throne, an album comprised of diverse stories and sounds bound together in a cohesive manner.

Where the album suffers is as a result of not knowing when enough is enough.  The orchestration seems overdone at times, and some tracks dissolve Folds’ typical predilection for tight numbers.  “Picture Window,” for all its heartrending poignancy, pushes this latter line and “Password” probably crosses it, albeit with a killer payoff in the post-“ding!” twist, but it is most notably in “Levi Johnston’s Blues” when Folds stretches the song out for a minute and a half beyond the logical stopping point.  The song — whose deceptively crude chorus was actually lifted from Johnston’s Facebook page and brilliantly set to music — borders on anthemic, and I would be willing to concede on the song’s length up to a point (as I enjoy singing along to it more than I should admit here).  To be certain, though, the final thirty seconds are inexcusable; the chorus is funny and fun, but enough is enough.

“Levi Johnston’s Blues” is also the aforementioned notable exception, its premise being more about holding up a figure for ridicule than thoughtfully exploring the isolation of an individual.

Lyrically, the album is every bit as strong as one could hope, and musically, Ben Folds is as interesting and impressive as ever (yet another reason to be disinclined to approving of too much orchestration).  There are several absolute gems, although “Claire’s Ninth” jumps to the forefront as the perfect specimen of a beautiful song that is beautifully performed and produced.  As far as album closers go, “Belinda” is among the best in Folds’ catalog, sounding (as they intended) like “an old hit song” and putting such recent derivative attempts as “Kylie from Connecticut” to shame.  Even “Your Dogs,” rough around the edges though it may be, could be held up against any Ben Folds Five-era caustic rocker, just as the tender depths of “Practical Amanda” have not been hinted at since Silverman and have not been reached since Rockin’ deep tracks like “Losing Lisa” and “Carrying Cathy.”

I will not argue that Lonely Avenue is a perfect album; it certainly has its shortcomings, all the more noticeable to fans of Ben Folds’ music.  However, there is a danger in always comparing new music to the previous artistic heights of the artist.  As such, I cannot in good conscience limit this release to three stars out of my love for past albums; rather, I submit this as a bona fide four star album: an insightful exploration of isolation that is not only solid but also imbued with unique energy by an unmitigated talent.