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An Entertaining Year

31 Dec

There was a lot to like this year, entertainment-wise. For example, it was inconsistent and frustrating at times, but when it was great, there were few shows I enjoyed as much as Glee. I didn’t read as many books as I have in years past, but I thought Steve Knopper’s Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age was very good. I picked the winner of American Idol as far back as February. Lily Allen, U2, Jamie Cullum, and John Mayer all released great albums. And of course, there were a bunch of impressive movies too.

As of this writing, I’ve seen 48 of the year’s releases (down from 53 a year ago), and if pressed to rank my favorites (not necessarily the best ones), here are the top 10:
1. Up in the Air
2. In the Loop
3. A Serious Man
4. Up
5. Star Trek
6. Precious
7. The Girlfriend Experience
8. Two Lovers
9. Fantastic Mr. Fox
10. Where the Wild Things Are

What were your favorite movies, albums, TV shows, books, etc.? I’d love to know.

Life Was Good

31 Dec

Generally, I’m not a fan of New Year’s Eve, but this year especially, I’m not looking forward to it at all.

You see, unlike many people I know, and contrary to general trends in the economy, 2009 was a great year for me. Really and truly it was.

So perhaps I jumped the gun when I called 2008 “The Year of Martin” because I enjoyed 2009 so much more.

Here are some of the reasons why. Continue reading

Loving Lily

20 Apr

From the moment she first appeared Sunday night on the stage of the House of Blues, wearing a low-cut red onesie, sneakers, and a red Red Sox cap tilted to the side, Lily Allen made it clear that she had come to Boston to have a good time. She even wore red socks as a tribute to her host city, and promised a “wicked pissah,” even though she clearly had no idea what that meant. But no matter. In just under an hour and a half, Lily Allen gave all in attendance a great show that was big on fun and big on attitude — but with plenty of talent too.

It wasn’t just Lily’s outfit — which showed off her adorable backside — that was cheeky. The rebellious Brit’s current album, It’s Not Me, It’s You, which I love, is filled with lyrics bemoaning ex-boyfriends’ lack of sexual prowess, the lack of substance in celebrity culture, and even throws in a kiss-off to George W. Bush for good measure. And it’s all delivered in a sweet sounding voice and with catchy melodies that makes for a fun juxtaposition. In person, Lily maintained that dual nature, looking adorable, but throwing around profanity and repeatedly breaking the city’s ban on smoking indoors at places like bars and clubs. (She must have smoked at least five cigarettes during the course of the show.)

Sunday night, while scampering around the stage, Lily performed every song off her latest album, throwing in only three songs from her debut (Alright, Still). Each one sounded, to use a British phrase, bloody brilliant. Lily sounded as good as she does on the album, if not better. On songs like “Never Gonna Happen” and “Fuck You,” she had the crowd enthusiastically singing along, and she clearly loved it. The beat went on with songs like “LDN,” “Him,” and the country-ish “Not Fair,” all of which were great. Of course, for every rude song, there was one like “Chinese,” which she preceded by saying how hard it was to be away on tour for so long, and then dedicated to her mum. And Lily saved her biggest hits, “The Fear” and “Smile” for the encore — during which, it’s worth mentioning, she was wearing a lobster tee-shirt dress.

If there was any misstep in the entire show, it was an odd “competition” between two women picked from the audience who were each asked to eat a bowl of baked beans. This just went on far too long, and was wholly unnecessary. Thankfully, Lily’s other attempt at interactivity was more successful: during “Smile,” she picked two kids, both no older than 12, from the audience, and when she put the microphone in their faces, they showed they knew every line of the song, even the one about having “a little wine and a moan.” Good stuff.

Lily closed the show with her cover of Britney Spears’ “Womanizer,” and it was so rocking that unfortunately, it just sounded like noise. Too bad. The rest of the concert was so much fun that I can’t wait till Lily comes stateside again so I can see her in concert once more.

It’s Definitely Her

9 Feb

If you enjoyed Lily Allen’s song “Smile,” with its upbeat melody and quite bitter lyrics (“When I see you cry, it makes me smile”), not to mention its revenge fantasy video, then chances are good you’ll love her new album, It’s Not Me, It’s You, which hits stores tomorrow. As Blender magazine recently said, the album is “part God, part country and all middle finger.” That’s about right, since the songs on the album discuss politics, religious fundamentalism, ex-boyfriends, and more, all in Lily’s take-no-prisoners style.

This second disc by the British singer boasts great music mixed with a ton of attitude. Like many of the tracks on Allen’s self-titled debut, the bright, bouncy melodies here will hook you, and then you’ll stop and realize just what it is you’re singing along to. Of course, then you’ll just laugh your arse off. Case in point, the infectuous pop tune of a track like “Fuck You,” which may just be my favorite track on the entire album — and not just because it’s a rant against George W. Bush. Have a listen and try not to sing along.

I’ve embedded the video for the album’s lead single, “The Fear,” below. Like most other tracks, it’s got a great beat and a catchy chorus. Many of these songs will be popular in clubs and at parties. Personally, I’ve had the disc on repeat play in my car since I downloaded it a week ago.

Another personal favorite track is “Never Gonna Happen.” Thought I’d share some of the lyrics here:

Please can you stop calling
’cause it’s getting really boring
and I’ve told you I don’t want to be friends.
Believe me when I tell you that I never want to see you again.

How on earth could I be anymore obvious?
It never really did and now it’s never gonna happen with the two of us.
I don’t understand what it is that you’re chasing after,
but it makes me really sad to hear you sound so desperate.
It just makes it harder.

Anyway, I’ve already got my tickets to see Lily live here in Boston and I can’t wait. Till then I’m going to tide myself over with this album, which I highly recommend.

Listen Up

1 Apr

I had a long drive ahead of me today, so put in my new mix of songs from Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen, Mika, and James Morrison’s latest CDs. That’s all the mix was — my favorite five or six tracks from those four albums. And if I can toot my own horn about my mix-making ability, then I have to say this was one damned good mix. But it’s not just my arranging that made this mix so good — it was the music itself. Yes, you’ve heard me mention all those folks before on this blog, but if you’ll allow me to do it one more time, I just wanted to give them another plug. If you don’t already own Winehouse’s Back to Black, Allen’s Alright, Still, Mika’s Life in Cartoon Motion, or Morrison’s Undiscovered, then seriously, do yourself a favor and pick them up. Or download a few tracks on iTunes. You’ll thank me.

Monday Music with Marty

29 Jan

Happy Monday?

Last month I gave you a heads up about one of my new favorite singers, Amy Winehouse, whose album, Back to Black, is dropping on March 13 and whose song “Rehab” I just love.

Well, add another name to your shopping list: Mika, whose song “Grace Kelly” is one of the catchiest tunes I’ve heard in a long time, and whose album, Life in Cartoon Motion, also drops in March, on the 27th (though you can already find a bunch of tracks online if you look in the right places).

Take Rufus Wainwright, make him less moody, and add some Freddie Mercury-ish attitude, and you’ve basically got Mika’s sound.

It’s piano-driven pop, and it’s fresh and cool and I hope he takes off in a big way.

The video for “Grace Kelly” is fun, and it’s already getting a lot of airplay on the MTV Hits channel. Listen for yourself here and check out the video below.

And while I’m on the subject, I burned one of my old-fashioned, typically eclectic “State of My iPod” mixes this weekend, a collection of all the songs currently on heavy rotation.

If you’re at all interested, here’s what’s on it (with selected links so you can sample some of the tracks; the unlinked ones — with the exception of the second Mika track — are on iTunes):

1. Mika – Grace Kelly
2. Amy Winehouse – Rehab
3. Lily Allen – Smile
4. Fall Out Boy – This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race
5. Justin Timberlake – What Goes Around Comes Around
6. Robbie Williams – She’s Madonna
7. Nelly Furtado – Say It Right
8. Gwen Stefani (with Akon) – The Sweet Escape
9. Jay-Z – Show Me What U Got
10. The Shins – Phantom Limb
11. Cold War Kids – Hang Me Up to Dry
12. Jason Mraz – The Beauty in Ugly
13. Mika – Stuck in the Middle
14. Mat Kearney – Nothing Left to Lose
15. RJD2 – Ghostwriter (remix)
16. Corinne Bailey Rae – Trouble Sleeping
17. Norah Jones – Thinking About You
18. Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good (feat. Ghostface Killah)
19. Regina Spektor – Fidelity
20. Vanessa Hudgens – Come Back to Me
21. Steve Jobs – Macworld Keynote (remix)

And finally, if you like Lily Allen’s “Smile” (her album Alright Still comes out tomorrow), check out this alternate version by Mark Ronson.