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Playing Ukelele Can Save the World

September 13, 2012


Last week we saw Amanda Palmer perform live (and totally drunk-Tweeted her afterward, oops) — but right before the show, we saw her hubby, author Neil Gaiman, read a new, unpublished short story. (To seven hundred freakin’ people, holy shit — some of them queued all day to get a good seat!) Anyway, as a “reward” to his audience for sitting quietly during the hour-long reading (reward, ha — some people had flown halfway across the country for the reading), he introduced his wife, a.k.a. Amanda Fucking Palmer, who performed her ukelele anthem. She brought down the house! Seriously, total standing ovation from the audience.

And she’s only half-kidding about wanting to change the world with the ukelele — check out her introduction to the song in the video above (recorded at the British Library in London), which is a very early live performance of the song. And yep, that’s adoring husband Neil Gaiman holding her lyric sheets. Here’s a taste:

so play your favorite beatles’ song
and make the subway fall in love
they’re only $19.95, that’s not a lot of money
play until the sun comes up
and play until your fingers suffer
play LCD soundsystem songs on your ukulele
quit the bitching on your blog
and stop pretending art is hard
just limit yourself to three chords
and do not practice daily
you’ll minimize some stranger’s sadness
with a piece of wood and plastic
holy fuck it’s so fantastic, playing ukulele
eat your homework with a fork
and do your fruit loops in the dark
bring your etch-a-sketch to work
your flask of jack
your vibrator
your fear of heights
your nikon lens
your mom and dad
your disco stick
your soundtrack from “karate kid”

It goes on and on brilliantly. You can read all the lyrics and download the studio version of the song on her website here.


Janeane Garofalo Wants to Make Love to Bob Dylan

August 30, 2012

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The right soundtrack can transform a so-so sexual encounter into something memorable (just ask Hollywood producers). And the wrong soundtrack? Well, that can really screw things up, as it were. Imagine: you’re feeling all lovey-dovey and want to hold your lover’s face while you make sweet missionary love… and then your partner puts on some hardcore punk. And what about when your partner wants to do it to Bob Dylan and you just plain don’t? So it goes in the newly released song from our friend John Wesley Harding (you might also know him as Wesley Stace, the author of novels including Misfortune and By George), “Making Love To Bob Dylan.” And yep, his stage name is taken from the Bob Dylan song and album title. Perhaps too much Malkovich Malkovich, as Entertainment Weekly notes. This hilarious video stars Jeneane Garofolo — you’ll have to watch to the end to see if the couple can compromise. Let’s just say that Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” is not involved.

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Amanda Fucking Palmer

August 20, 2012


Singer/pianist/lyricist/composer/performance artist Amanda Palmer, a.k.a. Amanda Fucking Palmer or AFP, is the epitome of an American indie artist. She’s bold, unapologetic, bisexual, with awesomely hairy armpits and actual pubic hair. She organized an unbinding flash mob wedding between her and  writer Neil Gaiman in 2010, then made it legal in 2011 in a private ceremony hosted by literary power couple Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon. Unafraid of addressing provocative issues, she’s fought against Prop 8 and blogged about her own abortion and date rape. Her second solo album, “Theatre Is Evil,” comes out on September 10th in full, but you can pre-order it now and also get a mini EP immediately …

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A Musical History of Wooing Women

July 26, 2012


CDZA (short for Collective Cadenza) is a group of mostly Juilliard-trained music geeks (and we use that term in the most loving and respectful way) that “creates musical video experiments” — in other words, fun viral vids that play upon all sorts of musical themes and genres (think “Evolution of Dance” but with live musicians and no dancing). Ten months ago they created their inaugural “History of Lyrics That Aren’t Lyrics” (i.e. Sha na na na, doobie doobie doo, etc). Then a few months ago they started producing these videos regularly, one every other Tuesday. Some recent examples: “Mark Zuckerberg: The Musical” (“This is the dawning of the page that you share with us”) and ”Aces of Basses” (a literal tribute to the Swedish pop sensation using five acoustic upright basses).

Now there’s “History of Wooing Women.” It begins innocently enough with the 1955 classic “Only You” by the Platters and quickly runs through the next few decades with Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight,” The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does,” and so on. But suddenly, around the mid-’90s, things take a turn for the obscene:

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Great Music to Have Sex To: Patrick Watson

July 3, 2012


photo via Flickr

Or maybe we should say “great music to make love to” (if we actually used that terminology). It definitely works for making out to. Not frantic rip-off-each-others’-clothes sessions, but more deliberate, sensual interludes that last longer than an hour, the kind earnest teenagers in love engage in. Patrick Watson, the Montreal-based band (fronted by singer-songwriter Patrick Watson, natch), create songs that are ethereal, haunting, and heady — with upright pianos, weepy violins and saws, quirky percussion, guitars occasionally strummed with toothbrushes… And the live versions are even more hypnotic and ultimately climactic than the excellent studio versions. They’re currently on tour in the States through July promoting their fourth album, Adventures in Your Own Backyard. I (Lo) saw them this past weekend at MassMoCA’s cabaret (as part of the museum’s “Oh, Canada” exhibition this summer)

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“Bounce That Dick,” Feminist or Not?

December 30, 2011


When we were sent a link to the new YouTube video “Bounce That Dick” on the Jenna Marbles channel, we didn’t know what to expect: some kind of safe-for-work sexual technique advice video by a porn star turned educator? Then, during the first 30 seconds, our hopes were raised, as the young “blogger and entertainer” began a rap parody, stating with much braggadocio, “I’ve been told since the day I started growing pubes to shake my ass. Well, guess what, my ass is fucking tired as shit. This time it’s your turn to wiggle your man junk for me. I wanna see you shake your muthafuckin penis, bitch.” Ever since we read Gloria Steinem’s essay “What If Freud Were Phyllis?” years ago, we’ve enjoyed the use of role reversals to expose sexism, racism, etc. But by the end of the vid, we were left a little cold…

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Did Mariah Carey Invent the Sexy Santa Look?

December 22, 2011

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Earlier this week on our site, we asked our Wise Guys what was up with the sexy Santa lingerie thing. Which naturally lead us to thinking about Mariah Carey, and how she basically owns the entire sexy Santa category, not to mention the sub-category of soft-core porn Santa. We know she didn’t exactly invent the look — scantily clad Santa’s helpers have been around for decades, and someone saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus years ago — but she’s made it her own again… and again… and again (Google-image-search “Sexy Mariah Santa” if you can handle even more).

Well, just in case anyone dared to think that the arrival of twin babies would cause Mariah to zip up her Santa suit to cover her cleavage, she recently unveiled — quite literally — her 2011 edition of Sexy Mariah Santa. This time around, it’s in a video for her remake of “All I Want For Christmas” with Justin Bieber. In the video, Mariah is apparently supposed to be a vintage animated Christmas card and Justin Bieber acts like he’s her awkward new stepson. She bumps and grinds against a wall while Bieber and his boy buddies push shopping carts around Macy’s looking for presents. Because when you find yourself alone in a Macy’s after hours with a Sexy Mariah Santa who could eat you for breakfast — you need backup, dudes.

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New Fiction (and Film and Music): “Lola, California”

July 5, 2011


The amazing writer Edie Meidav (who also happens to be our friend and neighbor) is out today with a new novel: “Lola, California”, called “brilliant” and “awesome” by Publisher’s Weekly. Meidav is such a force of inspiration that art practically gets spontaneously generated in her wake: above is a beautifully haunting short film created by Snapdragon that’s inspired by “Lola” along with Meidav’s narration; and here is music inspired by the book from Kevin Salem, who calls it “part soundtrack for the reader, part songs inspired by the text … and part music inspired by the cultural identity of the novel.” Below is one of two excerpts from “Lola, California” that Meidav is generously allowing us to publish here — this one about a rape on a Greek island. Stay tuned next week for the second excerpt about two friends go-go dancing. Both are compellingly creepy and deeply moving, even without the context of the full novel:

Chord progression being an island of a moment in Greece bearing two girls, nurtured on American soil and pieties, hitchhiking to get a boat back to the mainland from which they’ll take a bus toward a plane toward home so they can return toward starting the first year of college and all its unknowns. These girls intersect with a native mode: two men of the islands driving a truck on a highway.

The truckers pull over, understanding the girls enough to suggest a destination, asking do the girls mind stopping at a restaurant? Four plates of salad and fish, an afternoon stretching on, a broad continent of arm, a brush of skin, a narrow hand pulled back, continental drift, rough thumbs pressing an apology and offers of endless ouzo. The men drive farther down the road only to pull into another outdoor bar. Drink, dab bread into glistening plates of olive oil, dab hands, a brush of skin, no apology, drink and drive, brush some more, pull into an- other bar.

We got to get to our boat, says one of the girls, it’s getting late. Let’s go check the schedule at the train station. One girl looks around out- side the truck while one slouches inside, contemplating. The afternoon has slipped through their hands, a wild rodent. One man inside, one outside and, a drink-and-dab earlier, the plan must have been hatched: without warning, the man in the truck takes off with only the one girl inside, a tectonic plate shifting.

He is driving her up the mountain road toward, ostensibly, the train station. For no reason the girl can see, he pulls over on the side, of- fering her then that downward arc that will become so familiar: his hand on the back of her neck, pushing her head down toward his lap as if a gentle derrick.

She resists and he pushes farther, deeper toward the core of the earth. Years later another man will explore this similar gravitational potential and she will throw up in his lap, oddly elated. But right now there is the problem of her head’s habit of numbness and the bothersome question that lets her go down more easily: had she wanted this overpowering?

Also and not insignificantly she wants to ace the situation, sur- vive intact. Like that heiress, kidnapped, who immediately saw her kidnappers’ point of view. Could spinelessness be a surprise tactic of strength?

Ravines and clefts in his forearms, along his neck.

Does he do manual labor on the side? She had liked his looks, the delicacy of the eyes, a femininity against harsher angles. His hand not ungentle but insistent on the back of her neck toward his lap where he is conveniently unsprung. She hadn’t chosen to enter this situation but now it has arisen, a pop-up dollhouse. A man’s hand warming her neck and is she willing or not? If she doesn’t want to be doing this, can this son of this country of mothers’ sons tell? How can a man want something not freely given?

Does he tell himself that it is wanted? But maybe she wants. Is it bad if you aren’t the first person to know what you want?

And hadn’t the lolling tongues and technicolor availability of cer- tain magazines, her mother’s creased copies of certain novels, initi- ated her into some permanent hoarfrost of open-lipped readiness?

In ninth grade, on the pastel carpet in the parental bedroom, the televised cartoon of Yellow Submarine playing on the tiny TV set above a pile of tea towels, had she not mouthed for the first time the young and grateful Flynn, seeking to initiate both of them? What was different between her liking for that boy’s good nature, his father- less making-the-best-of-it self, and this moment in a Greek truck? Flynn too young and flimsy to bear the weight of her vague fantasy, not desire, really, but an apery of futurity, an ironic paroxysm.

Her head breaks on the thought. She’s no virgin but in this truck in Greece she wants to choose, choice everything: she could choose rape and then, in a fight with this fellow, wouldn’t she win? If she doesn’t choose, she’ll emit the scent of fear and some unguessed-at contrap- tion might release a lever making the whole moment plummet be- yond danger into irreversibility on a mountain roadside where no one in the world knows the exact coordinates of her body. The mo- ment narrows. She floats above her body, allowing for a certain kind of survival.

After and in the truck’s fish-scent, she rifles through the phrase- book. Trying for let’s go back, though can a person go back? Epeestro- phe, she says.

Her rapist, a man of few words, agrees, drawing dignity back into himself. As if something quite normal has transpired, he drives back, fingers tapping out an idle rhythm on the steering wheel, knuckle hair matted by a wedding band shimmering in the last of the day. At the restaurant bar, her friend runs to the car. To stay safe from the other truckdriver, her friend had hidden atop the restaurant roof if in plain sight of diners and cooks, another chicken avoiding the pan.

Stunned, the two girls grab backpacks, running blind in the dusk only to end up lying in a ditch. The girl who’d gone for the ride hugs the one who’d been left behind, crying: I hate men! Falling still when the two men tramp near holding flashlights, muttering as if they’ve stumbled into an outtake from a war movie, seeking American girls fallen to an earthen trench, parachutes broken. A search party of en- emy soldiers who back away when they find nothing. One girl raped but might as well have happened to both of them.

They will never talk about it. A vessel containing past and future, all the crisp nights when one girl failed to show at the other’s house or the moment when one had cried, saying your friendship means more to me, I didn’t mean to hurt you with that boy, I didn’t know you had a crush on him, he just showed up around my house, throwing rocks at my window at night and I won’t see him if it makes you feel better. Or the moment when one visits the other’s room at college. A debu- tante roommate will say—after seeing the girls’ shared uniform of messy hair, thrift-store patterned skirts and men’s white shirts—to the girl she’d suspected was a witch because of her penchant for standing on her head and burning incense, that, at least, after meet- ing the girl’s friend, she could understand the girl a tiny bit better.

It will contain the night when one of them finishes college and moves to Los Angeles, driving fast at night on Highway Five’s hills toward an art school with an old boyfriend who himself had just fin- ished driving across the country to start over and he’s offering a bite of moo shu vegetables while her favorite song of the moment plays, a latterday version of Lola which happens to have the name Jane in the refrain.

A truth will pop in her mind: that lost bubble. She lives in a post- girlfriend universe, left entirely alone to experience others. She will hold that boyfriend’s hand, drive hard.

“Lola, California” is available today from Amazon.com.

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People of Walmart Song

June 24, 2011


It surpassed 2.5 million views on YouTube last week. Jessica Frech‘s original song and video set to images from PeopleOfWalmart.com is a prime lesson in successful self-promotion: take an Internet site that thrives on our love of laughing at people and pair it with a seriously catchy tune (seriously, don’t listen to it more than once if you don’t want to wake up singing it tomorrow) and voila: Internet meme! Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Frech is a talented musician with an ethereal voice (and a ukulele!) — but her mastery of grass-roots internet marketing is what will propel her to fame. She updates her YouTube channel religiously with covers, follow-ups to PoW, and now, through the channel, she’s just begun a weekly songwriting challenge whereby her fans suggest topics, she picks one each week and then churns out a tune: The first one came from the fan suggestion to write “a song about rep weiner and what it would be like if McDonald’s sold hot dogs (McWeiner) XD” and she launched The McWeiner Song this past Monday — it’s no “People of Walmart” but she did it in a week! She’s a machine.

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Weird European Music Videos, Tres Sexee?

January 14, 2011


Our L.A. writer friend Charlie Amter recently launched a labor-of-love blog called EUROPOPPED, what he describes as “a little epic sideblog” to “turn on more people to the crazy Euro music vids” he finds every day. And they ARE crazy. Or just foreign. Or maybe something is just getting lost in translation. Whatever the reason, it makes for entertaining time-killing, even if you can’t speak French or German…

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