the Buzz for July 2011


Angelo Badalamenti featuring Julee Cruise — “Falling”
(from Twin Peaks [Original Television Soundtrack]) — Falling - Twin Peaks (Original Soundtrack)

Yesterday evening, A and I drove out east of the Seattle metro area and into the tiny burg of Snoqualmie, Washington, whose edifices and landscapes once upon a time stood in for those of Twin Peaks, ABC’s riveting and revolutionary soap which hit the airwaves in 1990 and flamed out a scant year later after twenty-nine mind-bending episodes. Badalamenti’s lushly evocative original theme for the series remains one of the most brilliant pieces of modern music ever composed for television — hell, ever composed period — but there’s something about the addition of Cruise’s hauntingly compelling coo here that brings this thing to a whole other level of stunning, striking magnificence, and throughout the entire experience, the tune, still so iconic even after two decades, was playing on a cruel, lovely loop inside my skull.


Tori Amos — “Past the Mission” (from Under the Pink) — Past the Mission - Under the Pink

Another dispatch from Seattle, dateline Wednesday: A and I headed downtown to check out the famed Pike Place Market, which contains a lovely farmers’ market, a multiplicity of bakeries with pastries from urry nationality under the moon, and, by the by, the original Starbucks store (founded in 1971, and still a mortifying madhouse some forty years hence — literally, it was so busy, there was a poor woman in the middle of the shop directing traffic!). After braving the crowds for an hour or so, we made our way up to the Hard Rock Cafe to grab lunch, which proved to be quite a marvelous marriage of amazing food and aural frolic: we split a chicken sandwich, which was heavenly, and a side of funked-up mac and cheese (paradise on a plate, believe it). But the highlight of the meal was, without question, its soundtrack: the walls of the Cafe were liberally dotted with flat-screen televisions playing music videos, and each table had a touch-screen device on which you could vote, from a series of six choices, for the next song to be played throughout the restaurant. As huge a fan of the democratic process as I am, I got so excited when I saw the goddess’ name popping forth from the first series of names that I nearly leapt plumb out of the booth, and I was even more thrilled when my vote won and the “Mission” videoclip suddenly appeared on every television in the place. (Picking my absolute favorite Tori Amos song would, I suspect, be roughly as difficult as picking my favorite nostril or kidney — like, I wouldn’t even know where to begin; I love so many of them, and for so many different reasons! But let it suffice to say that the magnificent “Mission” — a hauntingly gorgeous shuffle about sex, sin, and the secrets that pass between two girls, which features a bone-chilling harmony vocal from the frightening Trent Reznor — ranks at or near the very, very top of the list.) A and I quickly traded seats so that he could snap some pictures of me and the dazzling duchess of devil-red hair; as you’ll see from the pic below, the camera clearly knew which of the two of us on which to focus its full attention. And we all lived — and jammed — hap’ly ever after. (In case you’re curious, the other songs I voted for successfully during the course of our meal: George Michael’s “Faith” (which video really holds up, and not just because it heavily features King George’s denim-swaddled backside), Florence + the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” and The Cranberries’ “Zombie” (both of which were least-of-all-evils elections; better them than that heartwrenchingly wretched trollop Ke$ha, if you axe me.).)


Damien Rice (with Lisa Hannigan) — “Volcano” (from O) — Volcano - O (Deluxe Version)

My adventure with A in the Pacific Northwest kicked off yesterday afternoon with a trip to Mount St. Helens, which I found to be absolutely riveting, even though the top of the mountain, sadly, was obscured by stubborn clouds which refused to part for even a bit. Looking at the landscape in the valleys around the volcano — still barren, and most of it still ash-gray, thirty-one years after the destructive eruption that devastated the area — it’s nearly impossible to get your mind to fathom what it must have been like for the people who made their entire livelihoods on this land — on the lake, in the forests, on the terrain in the shadow of this natural monster — only to watch it all get washed away in just a few excruciating moments. (As the thousands of remaining stumps bear witness to, not even the trees were strong enough to withstand the fury.) But the stark, serene beauty of what remains is arresting, is literally powerful enough to steal your breath wholly away.


Amy Winehouse — “Tears Dry On Their Own”
(from Back to Black) — Tears Dry On Their Own - Back to Black

I have been swamped with other projects the past few days, so the Hive has unfortunately gotten short shrift as a result. Besides, even though the announcement was hardly a surprise, given everything we knew about her attitude and antics, I’m still struggling to wrap my brain around the idea that Winehouse — she whose phenomenal success as a brilliant-beyond-her-years throwback surely set the stage for something like Adele’s ball-busting breakout this year — is no longer with us. (Incidentally, shouldn’t someone do a study on why a non-trivial number of our most profoundly gifted artists — Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and now Miss Amy, to name but four — have, at the age of 27, died so tragically young? And that doesn’t even take into account a Jeff Buckley — a mere 30 when he drowned in a tragic accident — or a Shannon Hoon (28 when he overdosed)!) Every time over the past few days that I have devoted any mental energy to this story, I continually come to the great Natalie Cole — who, it must be noted, spent most of the late ’70s and early ’80s as high as five kites before staging one of the most thrilling comebacks in the history of popular music — and how incensed she was three years ago when Winehouse swept the Grammy Awards, winning five of the six trophies for which she was nominated, including Record of the Year for a tune that (of all things!) essentially mocked the efforts of drug rehabilitation. Cole’s take on the whole situation was that the Academy, in honoring such a seeming hot mess, was sending the message that nothing else matters if you’re talented, and that heinous behavior should be rewarded. I’m still not certain we want organizations like the Grammys to be arbiters of civic, social, and personal decorum, but, now that we have a clear(er) sense of how Winehouse’s story has apparently ended, part of me wonders if Cole doesn’t have a perfectly valid point. Part of me wonders if the staggering success that Winehouse achieved in such a lightning-quick flash of time is precisely what doomed her to the fate she always seemed to be barreling right toward. (Incidentally, speaking of Mr. Cobain: I’m spending the next few days in Seattle, so don’t be surprised to hear a grunge classic or two emanating from the Hive ‘fore the week’s up.)


Abra Moore — “Birthday Song” (from On the Way) — Birthday Song - On the Way

I turn thirty-five on this day, so says the calendar, and I choose to spend this day with my absolute favorite wackydoo of them all. (I had the distinct honor of welcoming Ms. Moore to Brandon’s Buzz Radio in February 2009, and if you missed that enlightening conversation, you can catch it here.)


Adele — “Set Fire to the Rain” (from 21) — Set Fire to the Rain - 21

I’ve no qualms about saying how much I love Adele, or admitting how high 21 is likely to land on my year-end top ten list. (Answer: very.) But I have to tell you, I have officially reached my saturation point on “Rolling in the Deep” — the album’s monster smash leadoff single, which seems to have taken up permanent residence on just about every radio station on the dial (I’m sure we’re just weeks away from a hit country cover, as well!) this summer and has so blanketed the collective cultural consciousness that even our grandmothers know who this heifer is. Dell, baby, it’s time to let this one go and move on to numero dos before we all start marching through the interiors of our skulls trying to eradicate every last trace of our affection for you. (Please!)


Janie Fricke — “It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Easy” (from Greatest Hits) — It Ain't Easy Bein' Easy - Janie Fricke: 17 Greatest Hits

It may or may not surprise you to learn that there exists a corner in the deep, dark interior of my soul — a corner of sleepy yearning, a corner of desperation and perspiration — which gets in a weird mood sometimes, a mood that only exposure to the furiously magnificent Fricke, a long-forgotten and criminally underappreciated two-time winner of the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year prize in the early ’80s (and one of the great heroines of my childhood), can quench and quell. (Suffice to say that I’m struck by one of those moods today.)


Coldplay — “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”
(from Every Teardrop is a Waterfall) — Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall - Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall - Single

I’m still not totally sold on this one: the lyrics are yet another hunk of dopey, pretentiously British-y cornpone, though the melody soars on eagles’ wings (which is essentially another way of saying, it’s not so different from any other Coldplay song). But at least Chris Martin (for the most part) doesn’t come off like a morose whiny-baby here — matter of fact, he almost sounds (gasp!) happy — and whoever came up with that freaky-fab guitar riff that sounds like a blast of bagpipes gets my early vote for man of the year. If not a full step in the right direction for these guys, Teardrop is at very least a glance.


Gavin DeGraw — “Not Over You” (from Sweeter) — Not Over You - Not Over You - Single

The Hive kicks off its second year of life with a request from Sherry Ann, who texted me last week and commanded me to give this song some attention and love. No sweat: DeGraw — a troubadour straight out of the old school, but laced with a funked-up modern sensibility (to say nothing of his hella fine piano chops) — is one of the few real deals to have emerged in the past decade, and though I suspect he faces a tough trudge with this tune — the terrific lead single from his fourth album, due in September — at pop radio, which has all but abandoned melody of late, it’s great to see him bravely fighting the good fight nonetheless.



A chastised me yesterday for not leaving this post on the front page a bit longer (just the way the timing shook out, darling!), and because I am profoundly proud of how the final product turned out (and because it took about four tedious hours of cutting, pasting, and tinkering to splice it all together), I’m throwing this back up on top for the day. Three hundred sixty-seven days ago now, inspired by a flash of genius and grace at a traffic light one summer evening, I started a new “song of the day” feature on this website entitled Honey from the Hive. I had multiple goals when I decided to open up this Pandora’s box: I was looking for a way to goose reader traffic and make Brandon’s Buzz much more of a daily destination than an occasional read, as well as a way to shoehorn even more music-related fare into a blog whose primary purpose for existing was already to wax poetic on my eternal love of song. Most importantly, I had long been searching for a way to impel myself to write: write anything, write something, for this site every day. (Sadly, there are still occasional gaps between updates — though not nearly as many as there used to be — but otherwise, I couldn’t be more thrilled with how year one of this little side project has taken shape.) Looking at the list of 242 songs below is quite a trip: a wide cross-section of clashing styles are represented here — perfectly apropos, this, given my maddeningly broad tastes — and in just a minute or two, you can relive a brilliant year in the life of a lovably insane music fan, and understand with renewed clarity how every piece of my life — every friend I make, every breath I take (ha!), every movie I see, every conversation I start — is irrevocably colored by my passion and respect for the masterful melodies that score each of our days.


JULY 11: Dierks Bentley (featuring Del McCoury & The Punch Brothers)
“Pride (In the Name of Love)” (from Up on the Ridge) — Pride


JULY 12: Melissa Etheridge — “Fearless Love”
(from Fearless Love) — Fearless


JULY 13: Tara MacLean — “If I Fall” (from Passenger) — If


JULY 14: John Mellencamp — “Case 795 (The Family)”
(from Human Wheels) — Case


JULY 15: Dido — “Mary’s in India” (from Life for Rent) — Mary's


JULY 16: Laura Branigan — “Spanish Eddie”
(from The Best of Branigan) — Spanish


JULY 17: Sara Bareilles — “King of Anything”
(from Kaleidoscope Heart) — King


JULY 18: George Jones — “The King is Gone (So Are You)”
(from 16 Biggest Hits) — The


JULY 19: Norah Jones — “Jesus, Etc. (Sad, Sad Songs)”
(from The Fall [Deluxe Edition]) — Jesus,


JULY 20: Bernard Butler — “Not Alone” (from People Move On) — Not





Shawn Colvin — “One Small Year” (from Whole New You) — One Small Year - Whole New You

I already said everything worth saying about Honey from the Hive‘s first birthday in yesterday’s post, so I won’t bore you here with a warmed-over rehash. (A small bit of trivia that I intended but failed to divulge yesterday, in case you’re curious: according to this site’s statistics, the three most popular song posts from this first year were, in descending order: my beloved Tori Amos’ “Jackie’s Strength” from July 27; Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue” from July 28, and Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” from September 2.) Instead, I’ll just say, once more, from the bottom of my heart: thanks. A million.


Kendall Payne — “Honest” (from Jordan’s Sister) — Honest - Jordan's Sister

She emboldened and empowered an entire generation of women, of Americans, of people, with her unapologetic candor, her unyielding honesty, and her disarmingly intimate example, and she saved a number of lives that must surely by now measure in the millions, simply by laying herself bare and recognizing that her status as the wife of the most powerful man on Earth didn’t exempt her from that awful malady called being human. Her enormous legacy is living proof that sometimes the most noble and courageous action we can take is to open our mouths and let any and all within earshot know how the world looks from our own particular plot of ground. (May the angels bless you and bless you forever, Miss Betty Ford, wherever you may now be.)