2013 in Review: Favorite Videos Monday, Feb 3 2014 

While my list of favorite albums from 2013 was heavy on alternative, indy music, my list of favorite videos is a little more diverse–only a couple of the songs play on Alt-Nation!

1. “Tennis Court” by Lorde

My favorite video of 2013 is Lorde’s “Tennis Court”:

I love the song, but what really stands out about this video to me is how smart it is. It takes the standard one take head-shot and turns it on its head by having Lorde only lip sync with the background vocal. I think it’s brilliant.

2. “Pretty Hurts” by Beyonce 

Each of the videos on Beyonce’s new album are interesting and well done. I could easily have filled my top ten list with videos from this album. I was especially torn between “Haunted” and “Pretty Hurts.” The latter ultimately won out since the video for “Haunted” doesn’t see to have been officially released yet.

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2013 in Review: Favorite Albums Sunday, Feb 2 2014 

I bought a lot of music in 2013. Consequently, it’s taken me a while to decide what stood out most to me last year. But I’m finally ready to record my favorite music lists from 2013. This will have to be a relatively quick series of posts. First up: my favorite albums.

My favorite album of 2013 was a no-brainer: one stood out head and shoulders above the rest, and I only liked it more the more I listened to it. My favorite album of 2013 was More Than Just a Dream by Fitz and the Tantrums. I first heard the lead off single on Alt-Nation. Once I sampled the whole album I was hooked and downloaded it immediately! It’s difficult to choose just one track to represent this album–I love the first 7 tracks almost equally–but I’ll feature that first single, also titled “More Than Just a Dream”:

I love this group’s “soul-influenced indie pop” (Source). The whole album is fun to listen to, and one or two other tracks will appear in some of my other music lists this week.

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SotW: If I Were a Boy from Glee Sunday, Nov 24 2013 

A couple of weeks ago I flipped the channel briefly to see what was happening on Glee, a show I don’t watch much anymore, since it conflicts with Project Runway. The beginning of this video is exactly where I came in:

I wasn’t sure what had happened to lead to this song — I asked PJ later, since he watches Glee — but part of the beauty of this performance is that you didn’t really need to know what had happened to precipitate it. It’s moving and beautiful without any context.

A few years ago, Glee was on the forefront of depicting gays and lesbians on television. I’m glad that it’s continued that progressive tradition by depicting a trans character like Unique. Just as younger audiences have arguably learned greater acceptance of gays and lesbians by watching them on television, hopefully the same positive acceptance will come soon for transpeople. Orange Is the New Black and Glee are leading the way. Hopefully other shows will soon follow.

My Dorothy Loudon Obsession Thursday, Nov 21 2013 

A couple of years ago I stumbled across a video of Dorothy Loudon singing this medley of two songs by Stephen Sondheim while PJ and I were going through a big Sondheim phase:

This performance still gives me goosebumps when I watch it. It suggests how brilliant Loudon was, but I didn’t really follow up by listening to anything else by her. But this past Sunday, we were listening to the Broadway channel on Sirius when we heard a song that neither of us had ever heard before. It turned out to be Loudon singing “Fifty Percent” from a Broadway show entitled Ballroom. Here’s a video of her singing it much later:

Again, she gives a mesmerizing performance, and I now LOVE this song. And I’m obsessed with Loudon. She has a couple of albums, which I’ve purchased and have been listening to. She’s amazing!

2013: The Summer of Gay Love Sunday, Nov 17 2013 

I’ve been meaning to write this post for months and just haven’t gotten to it. This past summer will be remembered for the landmark Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage. While that decision did not extend marriage rights to all 50 states, our nation is headed in the right direction, and I look forward to being legally wed to PJ in the not too distant future.

Gay love was also in the air this past summer musically. In many respects, it started with Macklemore’s “Same Love”:

I’ll admit that, at first, I didn’t pay much attention to Macklemore. But once I sat down and listened to his hit, I was really impressed with what he’s achieved: he’s captured the way so many younger people now think. It’s a beautiful video, and I think it paved the way for other music made by queer artists.

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SotW: Annie’s Song by Brett Dennen and Milow Thursday, Apr 18 2013 

I’ve loved John Denver my entire life, so I was excited to see that a new tribute album recently came out. Lucinda Williams has a track on it, so I knew that it was going to be good (and her version of “This Old Guitar” is great!)

“Annie’s Song” has long been one of my favorite of John Denver’s many great songs. The version recorded for the tribute album really lives up to the original’s emotional lyrics. I also like that it’s two men singing it — that doesn’t have to make it a gay love song, but I choose to hear it that way. It’s a great cover that will surely become one of my favorite songs of 2013.

I’ve already threatened to have this version song at our wedding if PJ and I ever have one!

SotW: Believer by American Authors Monday, Mar 25 2013 

Alt-Nation has been playing “Believer” by American Authors a lot lately, and it’s gotten stuck in my head:

I like this song’s peppiness and optimism. It also helps that all four members of the band are cute! They’re currently working on their first EP. If this first song is any indication, the band has a lot of promise.

Finally, here’s an interview with the band from earlier this year, which includes a brief introduction to “Believer.”

Nice Work If You Can Get It: A Review Sunday, Mar 24 2013 

Since PJ was in New York City over spring break to work at the Public Library, I went along for fun. While he worked, I went to the matinée of Nice Work If You Can Get It, a musical starring Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara featuring the songs of George and Ira Gershwin.

I had heard a positive review of the show from a colleague, and I love Gershwin tunes, so I decided to see it. Besides, my seat was perfect, and I could only get a front row seat at either of the other two musicals I wanted to see.

Broderick plays Jimmy, a dim-witted wealthy playboy during the Prohibition era. O’Hara plays Billie, a bootlegger who stashes gin in the basement of Jimmy’s summer home thinking that he won’t be in residence. When Jimmy shows up with his new bride (wife #3), Billie has to think fast about what to do. She has to think even faster as she and Jimmy begin to fall in love.

Judy Kaye won a Tony for her featured role as a zealous temperance leader determined to stomp out all alcohol. Suspicious that something isn’t right in Jimmy’s household, she embarks on a quest to ferret out the local gang og bootleggers and have them arrested. She definitely deserved her Tony — she’s hilarious in this role!

Broderick and O’Hara are also great. Nothing terribly surprising happens in the show — everything one might predict would happen does happen, but it’s fun entertainment nevertheless. It also has one of my new favorite songs: “Treat Me Rough.” I immediately purchased the soundtrack just so I could have this song along with O’Hara’s beautiful rendition of “But Not for Me.”

Once: A Review Saturday, Mar 23 2013 

PJ and I were in New York City for a few days over spring break. I saw five plays over the four days we were there. The first show we saw was Once, the musical adaptation of the great 2006 independent film. I loved the movie, so I was both eager to see the musical and a little anxious about it. I had tried to see it before but could only get seats with a partially obstructed view. This time we could get tickets without obstruction, but our seats were on opposite sides of the orchestra, which seemed fine to us.

The challenge this musical faced was that the movie’s plot is rather thin: guy meets girl; she inspires him to make music; they fall in love, raising the question of whether they’ll get together or not. Other than sing together, there’s not really much more to the plot than that.

To fill it out into a two-act structure, the musical adds a few supporting roles and a couple of musical interludes. Steve Kazee won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance as guy, but we got his understudy, Ben Hope instead. We had really wanted to see Kazee, but Hope was excellent in the role.(He also has great deltoids!

Indeed, the whole cast is great. I was especially glad to see David Patrick Kelly, who starred in the Broadway production of Twelfth Night that I love to show students when I teach the play. He plays Guy’s father. Cristin Milioti plays Girl; she’s wonderful too.

Overall, it’s a great show, and I see why it won Best Musical: it’s not your usual Broadway show. The spareness of the plot forces the production to think outside the box and be a little more creative. I definitely recommend it!

SotW: “Against All Odds” from Glee Friday, Mar 22 2013 

It’s fitting that this week’s episode of Glee was about guilty pleasures. I don’t watch the show regularly anymore, but I indulge the guilty pleasure of peaking in from time to time to see what’s happening. When I flipped over this week, I was treated to Darren Criss’s performance of Phil Collins’s “Against All Odds,” the guiltiest of all guilty pleasures:

I’ve always loved this song. Against All Odds was one of the movies I liked to watch on cable when I was young and closeted. Jeff Bridges is so hot in it, and we get to see him mostly naked several times. Hearing this song always reminds me of a teenager lusting after him along with the overwrought emotions of the movie and song — why wouldn’t a teenage gay boy love it!

Contestants on American Idol sometimes try to cover this song, and until I heard this version I would have said that it simply can’t be sung any more — it’s too cheesy and too clichéd. But Criss demonstrates here that any almost any song can be redeemed with the right arrangement and a big dose of emotion. As I read later, the song apparently didn’t really match what was happening in the episode, since its emotion is too big to fit Blaine’s crush on his best friend Sam, but it’s a beautiful cover regardless!

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