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The Curse of... I mean, House of... er... )
arachnekallisti: (Default)
Not all of these are obscene, but probably best not to listen at work without headphones. I am fond of the sort of song that you might happily be tapping your foot to until you realise "Good heavens... was that what it was about?!"

As a handy example:

1. Fascinating Aida - Dogging
It's a song about... exactly what it says on the tin. Filthy, hilarious, and sung in a wonderfully motherly way by Dillie Keane.

2. Tom Lehrer - Poisoning Pigeons in the Park
An absolute classic. Prior to the recording, the pianist had seen the sheet music, but without the lyrics or title. He recognised the style ("Oh, it's a waltz") and seemed perfectly happy about this. However, when the conductor announced the title ("Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, take one") the pianist shouted "WHAT?" and fell off his bench. Lehrer merely commented "I had never seen anything like that".

3. Half Man Half Biscuit - Lord Hereford's Knob
An affectionate parody of innuendo-ridden folk songs, and the Welsh mountain also known less hilariously as Twmpa.

4. Jonathan Coulton - Re: Your Brains
Possibly the funniest song ever written about a zombie apocalypse. Middle management become the walking dead. Would anybody notice?

5. The Darkness - English Country Garden
A hurricane of puns and knob jokes. This is the point where the Darkness veer from quasi-parodic rock god status right into open comedy.

6. Voltaire - The USS Make Shit Up
I love Trek, but I will admit that Voltaire sort of has a point here. An incredibly earwormy tribute to the joy of technobabble.

7. Mitch Benn - I'm Proud Of The BBC
Difficult to pick one of his songs; he's so damned good at topical musical satire. This is catchy, affectionate and a sentiment I thoroughly endorse.

8. The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets - 20 Minutes of Oxygen
A darkly funny short sci-fi story. The video is even funnier than the song alone. Very Red Dwarf.

9. Professor Elemental - Cup of Brown Joy
A chap-hop tribute to the joys of a good cuppa.

10. Lemon Demon - The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny
Another classic. Points for sheer, joyous absurdist invention.

Videos under the cut )
arachnekallisti: (act her age)
You could make a case that it was in 1969 that synthpop as we know it was born. The first time that it occurred to someone that you could make purely electronic music that you could dance to. That case would be a track called "Popcorn", recorded by Gershon Kingsley on his album Music to Moog By.

"Popcorn" has gone on to become something of a synthpop standard. It's been covered by everyone from Aphex Twin to the Swedish Chef. There's at least 79 versions around, but these are my personal favourites:

1. Gershon Kingsley, 1969.
The original, and possessed of a certain retro charm. Quite different from later versions - the melody's slightly different, and it doesn't have the chorus in.

2. Hot Butter, 1972.
Arguably the definitive version, and the basis for all subsequent ones.

3. Marsheaux, 2004.
Probably my favourite. Chilly and ethereal.

4. Muse, 2010.
Prog-rock version with lots of guitar.

5. Fiddler's Green, 2003.
Folk-metal version. THIS IS AWESOME.

6. Aphex Twin, 1992.
Uncompromising experimental electronica version.

7. The Popcorn Orchestra, 1972.
Actually Jean-Michel Jarre, before he was famous.

8. The M & H Band, 1987.
Not actually Jean-Michel Jarre, although they're doing a pretty good impression of him.

9. Guru Josh, 1990.
Live acid house version. Quite fun, but goes on a bit.

10. Necronomikids, 2009.
Surf rock thrash version. Fast, fun, but over a bit too soon.

Videos under the cut. )
arachnekallisti: (Default)
I'm actually rather looking forward to the festive period this year. Time off work, chance to catch up with friends and relatives I don't see much of, an excuse to give people I like some nice things, and some parties. Sounds good to me.

Anyway, Obscure Christmassy Songs That Are Not Completely Naff. Some exist, and here they are. (The absence of Pogues is not because I don't like "The Fairytale Of New York" - far from it - it's because I'm assuming you know about it already.)

1. Half Man Half Biscuit - "It's Cliched To Be Cynical At Christmas"
A sweet, dreamy melody that sounds a bit Cocteau Twins, and kids singing carols. Offbeat even for HMHB, but a defiant celebration of having fun even if it isn't very cool. The video is filmed in and around the Wirral, and I shall stop before I go off on another Northern Pride kick.
2. Kate Bush - "December Will Be Magic Again"
It's Kate Bush being all sort of perky and otherworldly. Like one of Santa's elves as reimagined by Brian Froud and Tim Burton.
3. St Etienne featuring Tim Burgess - "I Was Born On Christmas Day"
Bright, euphoric synthpop with just enough in the way of bells to sound festive without being syrupy. Invigorating like a clear and frosty morning.
4. Zombina and the Skeletones - "A Chainsaw for Christmas"
The eternal problem of the well-intentioned but utterly unsuitable Christmas present gets a psychobilly/bubblegum pop/B-movie treatment. Squick and gore warnings as regards the video. Very festive.
5. Jonathan Coulton - "Chiron Beta Prime"
A Christmas circular from a family enslaved by robots in deep space, to an incredibly perky tune. Probably the best Christmas song about a dystopian future ever.
6. Goldfrapp - "Winter Wonderland"
A gorgeous, sparkly, ethereal synthpop cover. Perfect for the Dr Who Christmas fanvid :)
7. The Kinks - "Father Christmas"
A department store Father Christmas gets mugged by a teenage gang. Christmas with a side of class war.
8. The Vandals - "Oi To The World"
A ska-flavoured punk appeal for tolerance, forgiveness and a bit less bloody racism this Christmas. Are you listening, Daily Mail?
9. All About Eve - "Last Christmas"
A sweet, wistful version, all mist and snow. Pleasantly melancholy.
10. The Darkness - "Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)"
Justin Hawkins does his quasi-parodic rock god thing to great, and transcendently silly, effect here. The obligatory bells and childrens' choir blended with the Darkness' trademark falsetto vocals, swooping guitars, lycra and knob jokes. I can't go through Christmas without listening to this.

Videos under the cut )
arachnekallisti: (Default)
Soundtrack is your friend. VNV Nation generally makes everything a bit more epic, as does E. S. Posthumous:.

Perhaps the best choice is Gary Numan's Exile, given that it's an industrial concept album about the War In Heaven. Adds absolute shedloads of epic even if you're trying to cope with Graham McNeill's writing style.

Note 1: do make sure you have your MP3 player set to cycle through tracks by artist, not by artist in order. Fulgrim with a soundtrack by Half Man Half Biscuit was just... unsettling.

Note 2: if the novel in question is Battle for the Abyss, hit the absinthe. You may end up hallucinating a plot and characters.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
I kind of collect weird cover versions. I love them for the same reasons I love bizarre crossovers and cracktastic AUs where everyone's a gerbil. I want to see exactly how far a skilled artist can push it with a song, how far they can go with making the same tune and lyrics convey something entirely differently. Ideally, I'd want the cover version to be as different from the original as possible, and still awesome.

Top Ten: cover versions
1. Florence and the Machine - "Addicted to Love"
Turns the original's smugness into a dreamy slow build to some blazingly confident vocals and flashy piano work. Stunning.
2. Patti Smith - "Gloria"
Another slow burn here. Patti Smith has this amazing, scratchy voice with this kind of snarl to it, and this is punk as all hell.
3. Marsheaux - "Pure"
The original is sweet in a slightly twee way. This is playful, otherwordly, and lucent.
4. The Clockwork Dolls - "The Final Countdown"
It's a ridiculous, bombastic song, and therefore an ideal candidate for a flamboyant steampunk reworking with lots of violins.
5. The Raincoats - "Lola"
Having "Lola" sung by a female voice, especially one with Gina Birch's frayed round the edges DIY punk vibe, adds a whole new interesting layer of genderqueerness to the whole thing. There's a story in my head here, kind of like Tipping the Velvet updated for the punk era.
6. The Genitorturers - "I Touch Myself"
I think it was one of Kit Whitfield's essays that pointed out the D/s subtext in Twilight. Gen's cover brings out the powerplay in a song about adolescent sexual obsession. The Labyrinth vid was picked to really drive the point home. So to speak.
7. Ecstatic Frog - "On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At"
It's a techno bellydance version of a darkly funny Yorkshire folk song. How is that not awesome?
8. Tori Amos - "Raining Blood"
Tori Amos is good at covers. Really good. Turning a thrash metal anthem into something cold and creepy good.
9. Joan Jett and Paul Westerberg - "Let's Do It"
Y'know, there really is a hidden vein of punk in Cole Porter. The songs may be slick and sophisticated on the outside, but the lyrics are all about sex and drugs and rock'n'roll. I got this one off the Tank Girl soundtrack - much like the movie, it's not deep, but it is fun.
10. Johnny Cash - "Hurt"
The last song Johnny Cash ever released. It's agonisingly perfect for him. Even Trent Reznor admits that this is Johnny's song now.

Videos under the cut )
arachnekallisti: (Default)
1. Baen Books have released a CD with the new printing of CryoBurn, the latest Miles Vorkosigan novel, which contains a full set of the Vorkosigan Saga and some cool extras. The really shiny thing is that they're also allowing free downloads of this CD as a promotion, and a load of other free SF novels. Which should keep you going for a while.

2. Black Library have also started releasing free ebooks. So far they've got First and Only (Dan Abnett, Sharpe in space, awesome) and Nightbringer (Graham McNeill, Ultramarines, becomes a bit more interesting if you read it with slash goggles on) available, and also some short fiction (including a short story by Sarah Calkwell, who is one of the better Space Marine fanfic writers).

3. The Clockwork Dolls, a rather fantastic steampunk band, have made three of their best songs available for free download here, and there's also their rather fantastic cover version of "Don't Stop Believin'" available.

ETA: And also their cover of "The Final Countdown".

4. Cries of the Planet is Vernian Process' steampunk remix of the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack. FREE STEAMPUNK FFVII. DO WANT.
arachnekallisti: (Default)
Thesis is getting done, slowly and painfully. I have all sorts of bits and bobs that just need assumbling into a Thing that Makes Sense. Taking Lord of the Rings as an allegory for a PhD, I think I'm midway through Mordor and recovering from being bitten by Shelob right now.

Anyway, downtime! I should have some. So here are the first lines of fifty songs from my current playlist (note: I skipped the ones in Japanese). Guess the title and artist. I'll strikethrough when they're correctly guessed. Then try it yourself. Fun!

ETA: Answers at the bottom for the curious.

Cut for the sake of your friends page )


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October 2012

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