the Buzz for December 2011


Leona Lewis — “Colorblind” (from Hurt: The EP) — Colorblind - Hurt: The EP

Hot on the heels of her brilliantly electrifying reinvention of Snow Patrol’s “Run,” which she transformed from an unassuming indie-pop piffle into a brash, crashing power ballad, Lewis turns her attention to this unheralded Counting Crows classic, lightening the mood just enough to matter, and digging beneath the trademark angst and agita to unearth a moving, pristinely potent melody and message.


Matt Pond PA — “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight”
(from Winter Songs) — I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight - Winter Songs EP

This would probably have been much more cute (not to mention relevant) had it been posted before the holiday rather than days after the fact, but I was so swamped trying to get ready to leave town for Christmas that I never got a chance to get this posted, so please forgive me my tardy proud father moment here: one brisk evening early last week, A and I took our beloved shmoofy-head out for her very first experience of admiring Christmas lights, and while it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the things she sorta likes from those that she really likes — if only because she always seems to hurl her entire being toward enjoying whatever the heck she’s doing in any given moment of her day — I choose to believe that she had the time of her life meeting all the new people she encountered and taking in all the serenely illuminated beauty. (The photos below would seem to bear that out amply.)





Bob Dylan — “Must Be Santa” (from Christmas in the Heart) — Must Be Santa - Christmas In the Heart

We here at the Buzz wish you all a very merry Christmas, and here’s hoping that all you churren — naughty and nice — received a visit from the man with the long, white beard and the flying reindeer in the wee hours of this day.


Joni Mitchell — “River” (from Blue) — River - Blue

I always found it funny that this little tune — the token heartbreaker on many a holiday album — was considered in some circles to be a modern Christmas standard, because a) it is so depressing and full of melancholy, and b) it only mentions Christmas in passing in the first verse. Then, after all these years, it dawned on me recently — don’t remember how, but I was thunderstruck in that moment — that it shares the exact same melody and chord structure (if not general mood and sentiment) as “Jingle Bells.” Ooh, you’re a sly one, Joni. (Merry Christmas Eve, y’all.)


The Original 7ven — “#Trendin'” (from Condensate) — #Trendin - Condensate

For reasons that, thus far, all involved continue to talk around rather than about, Prince has stubbornly barred his former farm-team-slash-proteges from using the name The Time, under which this band recorded four classic funk albums throughout the ’80s. No matter: Morris Day and his original compadres burst forth from their professional bondage with a new name, a new album, and their nifty knack for creating masterful melodies — not to mention their trademark cheekiness, which is on full display in this adoringly winking ode to the sexiness of social media — fully intact.


Whitney Houston — “Try It On My Own” (from Just Whitney…) — Try It On My Own - Just Whitney

I (re-)learned a simple but eminently valuable lesson yesterday, and that is this: no matter how big and imposing my 2500HD Chevy Silverado pickup truck may appear at first sight, as a deceptively meek two-wheel-drive machine, it is absolutely not intended for use as an off-road vehicle, and any attempts to defy that hypothesis are performed at the driver’s own peril, embarrassment, and ferocious frustration. To wit: while crossing some day-job chores off the to-do list yesterday afternoon, I — without even giving an iota of thought to what the hell I was actually doing — drove off in a mud hole and managed to get myself hopelessly mired in a hoppin’ hot mess. (It has been rainy and cold for the biggest part of the last two weeks here in the Centex, and the plot of earth that I was occupying yesterday is very well saturated, so what indeed ended up happening would not have been at all difficult to predict, but again, I wasn’t paying an ounce of attention to the situation on the ground when I threw the truck into drive and took off, and I fully own that particular brain fart.) I rocked back and forth for a spell, shifting between reverse and low-gear drive and trying to build up enough momentum to propel myself in either direction out of the muck, but it eventually became clear that, if anything, I was only making my predicament worse, so I trudged off, all MacGyver-like, in search of something — anything — that I could put to use as tools. I happened upon a pair of three-foot-by-three-foot-by-quarter-inch squares of solid wood which we use as signage and, recognizing by that point that I had little left to lose, grabbed them and put them on the ground directly before the truck’s front wheels in the hopes that I could spin myself onto the boards and give the tires enough of a clear surface to grip onto and gain some forward traction.

The basic premise of my escape plan proved to be structurally sound, even as it devolved into a twenty-five minute push-pull process of inching the vehicle forward in baby steps, and then positioning the boards anew to keep up with the progress. About halfway through this ordeal, I noticed a man sitting in his own pickup truck, maybe two hundred feet away, and watching me. Not talking on the phone, mind you, and not checking his oil or his Twitter, and certainly not offering to help me in any way; no, no, just sitting there with his eyes firmly trained on me, as though he were watching the second act of a brilliantly entertaining action film instead of a brave young man desperately trying to coax his automobile back onto the pavement. And while, to be perfectly fair, I’m not sure what he could feasibly have offered me in the way of concrete assistance, I’m equally unsure if I would have accepted any help the asshole might have offered had he seen fit to actually get off his bee-hind and walk over to where I was; if it’s true — and it is — that I was stupid enough to have gotten myself into such a magnificently ridiculous mess in the first place, I felt obliged to prove — to myself and to my audience of one — that I also was sly enough to hurl myself the hell out of it.

Which, I’m proud to say, I ultimately was, even if it did comprise a maddening half-hour of my life I’ll never, ever get back. Luckily for me, I had Miss Whitney’s uplifting words — originally delivered in her unfortunate crack-is-wack phase, but completely capable of giving me gentle comfort and riveting reassurance all the same — ringing in my ears the entire time, cheering me on. (As for you, my vulturous voyeur: someone — God, Krishna, Allah, somebody — was watching you today too, sir, with every bit as much hungry absorption as you watched me — and I know you were watching me, because you cranked up your truck and sped away the moment you understood that I had made it back to safety, and I refuse to believe that was just a silly coinky-dink — and karma is a savage fire-breathin’ bitch, you rude, inconsiderate, ignorant, useless asswipe.)

(And, to heap insult atop injury: due to some ill-timed clumsiness later in the afternoon yesterday, I nearly ripped my easternmost nipple plumb off my chest in the middle of the Target parking lot. But perhaps that’s a story best saved for a more appropriate occasion….)



Marc Cohn — “True Companion”
(from The Very Best of Marc Cohn) — True Companion - The Very Best of Marc Cohn

From the betcha didn’t know file: while watching Jeopardy! last night (as is our bedtime ritual most evenings, as boring and predictable as that may sound), A and I learned a nifty, fun fact about the word companion, whose origins derive from Latin words which basically translate to “one with whom you would eat bread.” (I don’t know jack about Latin, but I’m reasonably well-versed in one of the language’s closer relatives, Spanish, and thus I immediately recognize the root words comer (“to eat”) and pan (“bread”), and I’m delighted to know that the folks who write Jeopardy!, whose clues of late have regrettably turned toward the banal, is still capable of tossing out a zinger that temporarily jolts my brain straight off its axis.)



Donna Lewis — “Christmas Lights”
(from Women of Christmas in the Garden of Lilith) — R&B Christmas, Vol. 2 - R&B Christmas

When my sister and I were churren, my mother — who is otherwise a normal and perfectly level-headed woman — loved to go apeshit crazy with the Christmastime decor. (I’m talkin’ huge tree, lights and ornaments galore, mistletoe gracing every door jamb, Santa Claus shower curtains, toilet seat covers, and toothbrushes… literally, the works!) And though we all loved to poke gentle fun at her for her extreme dedication to the divinely insane rigors of such decorating, we all secretly loved it too. I think my father — a Christmas freak every bit her equal, in his own way — probably loved it best of all, and I’ve come to believe that she put all this gorgeous madness together for his benefit as much as for her own, because in the six years since he passed away, December has become — sadly, if not unexpectedly — a markedly more muted affair around Chez Mom, to the point that, when I visited last summer, she declared that she wanted me to take off her hands the centerpiece of her holiday wonderland: a Victorian-style Christmas village scene that, I kid you not, occupied one whole half of our living room, replete with lighted porcelain buildings and facades (which accurately depict a church, a school, a city hall structure, a train depot, homes, pubs, you name it!), a convincing facsimile of an ice rink (which actually has five skaters doing all manner of axels, lutzes, and figure-eights with the help of magnets and magic), and a passel of resin figurines representing the citizens who are apparently out for a nighttime stroll through the town square.


I couldn’t quite believe at first that she actually trusted me enough to bequeath to me her pride and joy to me to assemble in my own home, and I hadn’t the foggiest clue what a monumental endeavor I was in for when I started to unpack the two huge Rubbermaid containers to get a sense of each individual piece in this massive puzzle. (As a young ‘un, I would literally go to school one morning with a normal living room, and return home to find the sofa and chairs having been scrunched together in order to accommodate this massive spread. I had no idear how much work went on in between those two poles!) And, to further complicate the issue, I took advantage of some key pre-Christmas sales last month and added a few structures (a lighthouse, a clock tower, a radio station in honor of the Buzz, a record store in honor of my preferred leisure activity, a doggie day care in honor of my beloved Shmoofy-head); I was quite literally unpacking boxes and checking light bulbs for two full hours, and spent another three or four arranging, moving, and tweaking the evolving end product, which I set up atop a pair of 3×6 tables. A was originally incredulous that I intended to actually go through with the seemingly mad notion of recreating this village scene in our home, when we have scarcely not gone further than a tree and stockings in terms of holiday decor heretofore, but I think even he is duly impressed by the sheer spectacle of this ostentatious presentation. As for me, this village always meant Christmas when I was younger, and, in a funny way, it always meant home, and it fills me with a peculiar pride to have been able to conjure those feelings anew as an adult. (I love you, Mom, and I hope I did you proud!)





Joan Osborne — “These Arms of Mine” (from How Sweet It Is) — These Arms of Mine - How Sweet It Is

So, here’s one from the it sucks getting old file: I have apparently — I say apparently because this is based on a diagnosis made by my mother, a brilliant registered nurse, via telephone some five hundred miles away from my physical location — developed a nefariously nasty case of tendinitis in my right bicep muscle, and Mom reports that the best course of treatment that doesn’t involve true medical intervention is to ingest six-to-eight-hundred milligrams of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, e.g.) every six hours, without fail. Thus, like clockwork, I have been downing four Advils four times a day for the past week, in the hopes that this affliction will soon go back to wherever the hell it came from. Mom says I may have to follow this protocol for at least a month in order to fully eradicate the inflammation, so if you happen to encounter me in the next few weeks and get the distinct impression that I am flying as high as a kite, it’s quite possible that I in actual fact am. (I certainly feel as though I’m well on my way to becoming a Skid Row junkie!) But if that’s the price I have to pay to be able to again lift something heavier than a can of Cherry Coke with my right arm without wincing in wrenching pain, I’m perfectly willing to make that trade-off.


Adele — “Rolling in the Deep” (from 21) — Rolling in the Deep - 21

Precisely one year ago today, just after the nominations for 2010’s Grammy Awards had been unveiled, I put my noodle to work, employed some achingly clear-cut iron logic, and correctly predicted that Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” would go on to nab the Record of the Year trophy in a walk. The nominations for 2011’s awards were revealed last night, and prepare to be amazed as your Uncle Brandon slips on his swami hat and calls it from the git-go all over again: the Adele Express has been barreling toward this very moment for most of a year now, ever since it became clear that 21 was going to be every bit as ginormous a commercial smash as it was a creative one, and she’s gettin’ ready to steamroll over the whole lot of these clowns who are unfortunate enough to be up against her. (And just like with “Need” last year, the fact that “Rolling” is far and away the best song among the contenders for Record of the Year — a field that also includes sterling selections from Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons and a middling pair of tunes from Katy Perry and Bruno Mars — is immaterial: Adele is one of the few winners of the Best New Artist Grammy whose career has benefited, in a way that is eminently quantifiable, from the honor, and her classy, inescapably compelling sophomore record lives up to the hype from every corner of its existence, which means that the members of the stodgy ol’ Academy can feel hip and with it by voting for this and still respect themselves in the morning for their choice. Besides all that, Bon Iver and Mumford seem doomed to split the fringe vote, Mars is here with the wrong song entirely, and Perry has no business being anywhere near this hot mess with her prefabricated, passion-free hokum.) Yep, folks, step right up and get yourself a front row seat for the most suspense-free Grammy ceremony ever, and sidle right up beside your next Record of the Year winner. (And Song of the Year winner. And Album of the Year winner. And whatever-the-hell-else-the-heffa-is-nominated-for-this-year winner. And remember who told ya first.)