Song of the Week: Evacuate Thursday, Jan 29 2009 

This week’s song of the week is The Boxer Rebellion‘s “Evacuate:”

“Evacuate” is the debut single off of TBR’s new album, Union.

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Favorite Music Videos of 2008 Wednesday, Jan 28 2009 

In keeping with this week’s music theme, I thought I would list my favorite music videos of 2008. Again, the order here is really rough.

My favorite video of 2008 is Jay Brannan’s “Housewife”:

What I like about this video is its simplicity. It’s very queer, which is always a plus in my book, in its lyrics’ appropriation of traditional heterosexual gender roles (or at least queers it according to a particular definition of “queer”). I also like that it starts off like Brannan’s early videos of himself sitting in his NYC apartment playing his songs on his guitar but then expands out into the world.

Number two on my list is Erykah Badu’s “Honey”:

This video is innovative, stylish, and fun to watch while paying homage to some of the great artists that preceded Badu. I especially like her tribute to Grace Jones!

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Favorite Songs of 2008 Monday, Jan 26 2009 

Yesterday I wrote about my favorite albums of 2008, so today I thought I’d blog about my favorite songs/tracks of 2008. I spent more time listening to music in 2008 than I have in other recent years, so I have a lot of music to choose from. At the end of the year I made a master playlist on my iPod and then slowly whittled it down to a more or less manageable number of 25 tracks.

I’ll go ahead and list them as a top-25 list, though I couldn’t really say that number 18 is more my favorite than number 19 or even number 25. I can say that the songs near the top of the list are definitely my top 10 or so.

1. Laura Marling’s “Cross Your Fingers/Crawled Out of the Sea.” This is actually two tracks, but Marling clearly conceives of them as a pair, so I’ve kept them together as my favorite track of 2008. I have no idea what this song means, but I love it, and the more I listen to it the more I love it.

2. Keane’s “The Lovers Are Losing.” This is my favorite track off of my favorite album of 2008. I especially love the chorus.

3. Duffy’s “Hanging on Too Long.” This is the perfect blend of heartbreak, longing, and the blues.

4. The Killers’ “Human.” This song is quintessential Killers. And I love the lines, “Close your eyes / Clear your heart / Cut the cord.”

5. Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance.” Brilliant dance song. And it’s the number 1 song in the U.S. right now.

6. Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” So many of my favorite songs this year seem to be about loss, goodbyes, and letting go. I’m glad that I also have a couple of pure love songs on the list. This is the best of the year.

7. Lucinda Williams’s “Knowing.” Another great love song, this one by one of my all-time favorite artists.

8. Jay Brannan’s “Can’t Have It All.” Sometimes Brannan’s music a little too earnest for me, but this song really works for me. I like its discontentment combined with getting fed up with oneself.

9. Keane’s “Spiralling.” The second song by Keane on my list is another one that’s less than happy. I like its sentiment that when we fall in love we’re just falling in love with ourselves.

10. Conor Oberst’s “Cape Canaveral.” Victory is sweet, even deep in the cheap seats.

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Favorite Albums of 2008 Sunday, Jan 25 2009 

I’ve been wanting to write a short post about my favorite albums of 2008 since the end of the year but haven’t had a chance. So, I thought I’d take just a few minutes to do so now. 2008 was even more about music for me than other years have been, since PJ gave me an iPod for my birthday in June. I don’t think I’ve become a downloading maniac, but I have used it as an opportunity to purchase more albums than I normally would.

As I’ve been sifting through the albums on my iPod, I’ve noticed that I’ve added more than 20 new albums to my catalogue this year (which doesn’t count the downloads/purchases of pre-2008 albums). Of these, five have clearly been my favorites.

My favorite album of 2008 was Keane’s Perfect Symmetry. I blogged about the album in October, so I won’t repeat everything I said there. The thing that stands out to me most about this album at the moment is its skepticism about love. It’s a beautiful album with a great ’80s feel to it, but it’s also cynical and jaded, which isn’t at all the kind of music I usually admire. But the combination of all these things coupled with my clear preference for British music in general last year made this my favorite album of 2008. Here’s the latest single off of the album, the title track:

Four other albums were among my favorites last year. I’ll write briefly about each of them, though I haven’t put them into any sort of ranking.

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Song of the Week: Used to Be Monday, Jan 19 2009 

This is my new favorite song. It’s by Beach House. The official video can be found here.

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Teaching E.M. Forster’s Maurice Sunday, Jan 18 2009 

Last week, I taught E. M. Forster’s Maurice for the first time in several years. The last (and only other) time I taught it, I didn’t think it went very well. This time I taught it in my Major English Authors class, which is focusing on British Lesbian and Gay writers. I think it went pretty well.

Forster wrote Maurice in 1913/14, but it wasn’t published until after his death in 1970. The novel relates the story of Maurice, a suburban, middle class English boy (and later man) who comes to understand that he prefers men to women. The novel is impossibly romantic, but it provides an interesting glimpse of Forster’s ideas of the origins and experiences of homosexuality.

Maurice holds a special place in my life. It is literally the novel (and film adaptation) that helped me come out. I was “struggling” with my sexuality when I happened upon the movie version of the novel on one of the cable movie channels (my dad worked for a cable company, so we had all of the pay channels). The first time I stumbled across it, I only saw one scene, one in which Clive, played by Hugh Grant, and Maurice, played by James Wilby, lay on a bed together. Maybe my parents were around or something, but I quickly turned the channel. I then looked up what movie it was in the guidebook and found out when it was playing again. I often stayed up late at night after everyone else had gone to bed watching movies. Fortunately, Maurice was playing late one night a few days later. I found a copy of the novel and read it too (though I can’t remember if I read the novel before seeing the movie or vice versa.)

The first scene I saw is about 5:40 into this clip:

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What Would Gay Marriage Look Like? Monday, Jan 12 2009 

This satiric propaganda “film” is hilarious! I especially love the advice for what to do if you see gays betting married. And let’s put the “altar” into alternative lifestyles!

Song of the Week: I’m Gonna Be Strong Sunday, Jan 11 2009 

I’ve loved this song for years. This is Cyndi Lauper at her best vocally, and I love the way the song builds and crescendos from its quiet sadness to tragic strength. I always think that someone on American Idol ought to cover it. Since Idol starts again this week, it seems like a good time to select it as my song of the week.

Why I Love Tina Turner Tuesday, Jan 6 2009 

February 26, 1985. I was in junior high in Nederland, Texas, a small town a few miles outside Beaumont, when Tina Turner performed on the Grammys. I had already heard about her from my favorite teacher, Mrs. Stansbury, the theater arts teacher at C. O. Wilson Junior High School. But seeing this performance sealed the deal: I was in love.

It wasn’t until about 5 years later, however, that I was able to fully indulge my love for all things Tina Turner. As soon as I got my first CD player sometime in college, I bought her four solo albums — Private Dancer, Break Every Rule, Tina Live in Europe, and Foreign Affair — and started listening to them obsessively.

What I’ve always liked about Tina’s music is her combination of strength and vulnerability. This combination is captured in Herb Ritts’ iconic image of Tina. Her story as a survivor shines through in his image. She is strong, determined, and joyful, despite whatever else is happening in her life. Her music also captures this quality.

Because my love for Tina Turner came to full fruition around 1990, it was inevitably bound up for me in my simultaneous coming out as a gay man. Listening to Tina’s music spoke to me in that period of my life, articulating what I felt, what I wanted, and even what I was most afraid of. Ever since that time, Tina’s music as been a constant love, something I return to over and over. Whether I’m depressed, happy, in love, confused or nostalgic, listening to Tina always jives with what I’m feeling. So many other things have changed, are changing, and will change in my life; but my love for Tina remains the same.

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SotW: Where I Stood by Missy Higgins Monday, Jan 5 2009 

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