Sniper Elf – For Inappropriate Elf Contest

Here’s my entry for Baby Rabies’ Inappropriate Elf Contest.

Sniper Elf lures gullible Rudolph to an untimely demise!


Glorious: Kim Yu-Na’s Gold in Vancouver; Lionel Loueke and Angelique Kidjo’s Performance on “Ami O”

When Kim Yu-Na, the Korean “rock star” figure skater, neared the end of her gold-winning performance in Vancouver, commentator Sandra Bezic declared, “This is glorious… one of the greatest Olympic performances I have ever seen.”

I felt a similar sense of WTF when I first heard the song, “Ami O,” on jazz guitarist Lionel Loueke’s new album Mwaliko (released March 1, 2010, Blue Note Records).

Lionel Loueke

You can check out the track on Loueke’s MySpace site.

In my research for this review, I learned that “Ami O,” is a popular international hit, originally penned in 1962 by Cameroon’s Ebanda Manfred (entitled “Amie,” French for friend). Bebe Manga, also from Cameroon, covered the song, which she called “Amio,” in the ‘80s to wide acclaim. Countless artists have recorded the song since. One article I read likened “Amio’s” popularity to that of the Cuban song “Guantanamera” by Joseíto Fernández.

Loueke, who has made a name for himself in recent years for his fusion of African and jazz music, is joined on “Ami O” by legendary vocalist Angelique Kidjo, who gives an athletic interpretation of the song.

I saw Kidjo in Houston several years ago at the International festival, and she is equal parts great singer and exciting entertainer. I wouldn’t describe her voice as pretty; it’s more muscular than that. On “Ami O,” she belts out the lyrics from start to finish, kind of like a triple lutz of the vocal chords.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=kidjo&iid=1509659″ src=”e/0/f/1/39th_NAACP_Image_4537.jpg?adImageId=11204760&imageId=1509659″ width=”500″ height=”364″ /] Angelique Kidjo

Loueke doesn’t play the song safe, either; no Freddie Green modesty here. He is matching Kidjo step for step, bringing in percussive picking, polyrhythmic accents against jazz harmonies. And that’s just his guitar. He also displays an African version of beat box to great effect.

By the way, Loueke and Kidjo go way back. Their families knew each other in Benin,  and the history between the two artists shows. Their rhythmic reference points allow them to interact with such ease that this listener can’t help but be spellbound.

So check out “Ami O” and use your own superlatives to try to explain in words what Loueke and Kidjo so effortlessly share through their respective instruments, vocal or otherwise.

As a side note, in 2008, I saw Loueke play with his trio and with Herbie Hancock at the Vancouver Jazz Festival as the city was preparing for the 2010 Olympics. Loueke’s trio was tight as an accountant on April 14th, which was such a contrast to Herbie’s group. I feel terrible saying it, because I’m one of Hancock’s biggest fans, but that night, Herbie’s band, which included drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (who is also terrific), sounded like several musicians playing together, but with ear plugs so they couldn’t hear each other. I was so disappointed, I left early.

Lyric Request: If you have the lyrics to “Ami O,” either in French or English, please post them in the comments section of this review. Thanks!


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Psst…I’m Not Telling Everyone About “Bright Orange Air” by Inlets, But I Think You’re Cool Enough To Handle It (Note to Self: Why Am I Whispering?)

With my sleeping schedule all screwed up, I’m half watching the Olympics, half finishing up this song review that I started before my daughter was born in late January.  (Congrats to Ohno and Celski who earned silver and bronze, respectively, in short track skating.)

I wanted to come back to “Bright Orange Air” by Inlets because the song is so good.  To be released on the album, “Inter Arbiter,” on April 20 by Two Syllable Records, this track may end up being a well-kept lo-fi secret, but deserves a wider audience.

Here’s the video (released March 15, 2010 on Pitchfork).

Inlets' Sebastian Krueger

The Inlets music I have heard is so personal, it feels almost private…like the listener is poking in on an intimate concert for a few special friends.

Well, I’m here to tell you, go ahead and intrude, it’s worth it.

Why not give the song a listen, and we’ll talk about it afterword.

Listen to the song here

According to the Inlets press kit, “Bright Orange Air” is an ode to the psychotropic effects of municipal lighting. Here’s an excerpt of the lyrics.

Leading by a thumb
It’s still a branch of knots
That snagged into your hair
But you forgot where
Easy to get
Pressed into your photo books
It’s the way I’ll hold the face
Until the camera drops


“Bright Orange Air
It’s the people’s lines below
I can read at night
In the outdoor light
And I’m waving, oh”

Like I said, this music is pretty personal. The songwriter may be the only person who completely understands the lyrics…but so be it. Supported by beefy guitar picking, Inlets leader Sebastian Krueger’s distinct vocals expertly straddle inspiration and angst. Through lovingly placed harmonies and a nice Brazilian-sounding groove placed here and there, the track takes me to a different world and makes me feel lucky to be there.

For more details about the upcoming Inlets album, check out this article from Stereogum, where the song originally debuted.

As an added bonus, here’s an Inlets video of the song, “Roots on Sidewalks,” which will give you a great feel for the intimate nature of Inlets’ music.

Inlets’ web sites include the following:

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Listen Back: 10 Songs I Can’t Live Without

Okay, the baby is wiggling around under bilirubin lights to my left, and the wife is sweetly snoring on the foldout couch to my right, so I have a few minutes to share with you 10 songs I can’t live without.

  1. From 2002, MeShelle Ndegeocello’s song Priorities 1-6. Bet even Papa Jo Jones would dig these crazy hi-hats [picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=meshell+ndegeocello&iid=3957287″ src=”7/1/8/b/The_Tonight_Show_4bf2.jpg?adImageId=9994842&imageId=3957287″ width=”380″ height=”254″ /]
  2. From 1996, Big Mama’s Door by Alvin Youngblood Hart In his early 30s, Hart brings you oooold school blues
  3. From 2004, Anais Mitchell sings her ingenious song, 1984. Combines Orwell’s 1984 w/ Prince’s 1999.
  4. From 2008, ♫ She Got To You by Esperanza Spalding. Damn, that’s cold! [picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=esperanza+spalding&iid=4698971″ src=”c/2/2/6/2009_New_Orleans_abe6.jpg?adImageId=9994998&imageId=4698971″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]
  5. From 2002, the song Tika Ngai from Lokua Kanza. Beautiful vocals from this native of the Congo (Zaire)
  6. From 2004, ♫ Sleepwalking by The Bruces. Dark & earthy folk with some nice guitar picking.
  7. From 2004, trip hop artist DJ Krush on “Transition.” Piecing together samples clean as Irish Spring… [picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=DJ+Krush&iid=7547166″ src=”3/b/d/8/Musician_DJ_Krush_80e6.jpg?adImageId=9995377&imageId=7547166″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]
  8. From 2001, Celtic singer Alyth McCormack on “A Mhairead Óg,” from album The Edge…dark piano chords, angel voice
  9. From 2004, Plunger by Umphrey’s McGee. Math-rock pyrotechnics that get me all in a tither. [picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=Umphrey%27s+McGee&iid=3109130″ src=”6/b/b/e/5th_Annual_Jammy_e7f8.jpg?adImageId=9995155&imageId=3109130″ width=”380″ height=”243″ /]
  10. From 2003, you may have missed “Slide” with Jill Scott because it was on bone player Jeff Bradshaw’s album.

What are some songs you can’t live without? Let me know. I can’t wait to check out them out.

Gotta go. Baby just slid out of her lights mask…cute little rascal.

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Have Writers Block? Hit Your Local Farmer’s Market – Laura Veirs Did & Reached a Creative Milestone with “July Flame”

For me, the joy of the creative process is up there with other key life events…say, feeling my wife’s prego belly as our baby does kung fu moves in utero.

That’s why I was tickled when I read a recent tweet from indie-rocker Laura Veirs. She said, “Somebody’s kicking me in the ribs! WTF?”

No, she didn’t get into a bar fight in England where she is currently on tour. She has an onboard band member (translation: she’s pregnant).

Indie Singer/Songwriter Laura Veirs

On the creative process, Veirs says in her online bio that writing “July Flame,” a song from her album by the same name (released Jan. 12, 2010, Raven Marching Band Records), helped her reach an important musical milestone.

July Flame (permission received for free download)

“I’d been in a songwriting slump at that time and writing that song pushed me over my plateau and into a new place where I was surprising myself again,” she says.

The track’s title was borrowed from a variety of peaches called July Flame, which Veirs purchased for canning during a July 2008 visit to a Portland, Oregon farmer’s market.

Starting with a lonely, grieving guitar, the song takes us on a journey through firework flames and unfulfilled desire. The track never brings us to the shores of resolution, but gives us hope on the journey – as testified by a choir bolstered with uplifting strings at the song’s climax.

Full Lyrics to July Flame

“July Flame
Fiery kite
Lead me through the night

“July Flame
Sweet summer peach
High up in the branch
Just out of my reach

“Can I call you mine?
Can I call you mine?

“July Flame
I’m seeing fireworks
They’re so beautiful
Tell me why it hurts

“July Flame
Ashes of a secret heart
Falling in my lemonade
Unslakeable thirsting in the back yard

“Can I call you mine?
Can I call you mine?”

For Veirs, the creative process didn’t stop with the song. Check out the beautiful “July Flame” video. (This may be the first time you’ve seen peach fireworks and wildlife roasting marshmallows!)

If you’re interested in learning more about the making of Veirs’ “July Flame” album, this video is for you.

The Hidden Meanings of Secret Heart

“July Flame” has several meanings in the song – a peach, will-o’-the- wisp and unrequited love (my guess). So, I have taken “secret heart” from the second verse and given it totally unintended new meanings.

  1. The Secret Heart (1946 film) – The New York Times describes “The Secret Heart” as “a psychological drama starring June Allyson as a disturbed teenager obsessed with the memory of her dead father and unable to embrace her stepmother.” Here’s the trailer.
  2. Paul McCartney’s Secret Heart Operation – In the fall of 2007, Paul McCartney secretively had a coronary angioplasty. Apparently it did the trick. He’s alive and kicking and recently wrote the song, “(I Want To) Come Home,” for the new Robert De Niro film, “Everybody’s Fine.”

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A Proposal to Have Chazz Michael Michaels Star in a “Let’s Write a Book” Video by Field Music

Here’s the video to “Let’s Write a Book” released on May 11, 2010.

Not that the guys in British alt. pop group Field Music should listen to me, but here’s an idea for a Field Music video that’s sure to make the kids say “that’s beast!”

On Jan. 12, 2010, the group released the single, “Let’s Write a Book,” from the upcoming double-album, “Field Music (Measure).”

For me, the track evokes images of Prince writhing in funky purple accompanied by a leather-clad Terminator bodyguard (1984 vintage), while David “Burning Down the House” Byrne jumps up and down on stage. Add to the party what sounds like the Blue Man Group banging on those weird tubes, and you have a pretty good idea of how this song feels. It feels good…

Listen to Lets Write a Book Here

Brothers and co-front men David and Peter Brewis of Field Music

With that said, who could encompass all of the above to star in an epic music video for the song? With his ‘80s-big-hair-macho, my vote would be for Chazz Michael Michaels, co-lead character in the 2007 movie, “Blades of Glory.”

Here’s how this whole video thing could go down:

Verse 1
“Let’s not apologise
Let’s not assume blame
And if there’s a whisper of dissent
Send it to the library”

In a sleeveless shirt, terrycloth headband and red leather pants and boots, Chazz struts down an aisle of books at the library. He winks at a sexy librarian, and then spins to look into the camera with his index finger over his lips (shhhhhhhhh!)

During the ensuing xylophone barrage, we see Chazz pop-locking and doing the robot at the book return desk.

Verse 2
“Oh honey, dearest
We’re all panicking now
I’m minded to take it away
Oh honey, darling
Can we learn to take what’s coming?
Resounding with take, take, take, take”

Chazz raids the kids’ section of the library, taking books from children and shaking his head at them while they cry.

Verse 3
“Let’s write a book
Let’s paint the walls
And if that makes us forget where we are
We’ll always be somewhere else”

Chazz, Michelle Kwan and Oksana Baiul read the book, “The Complete Book of Figure Skating,” together, and then Michelle and Oksana spank Chazz with it.

Oh honey
Oh darling

More pop-locking

And there you have awesomeness.

Be sure to check out Field Music’s new album, which is due out on Feb. 15, 2010. Here’s a link to two free songs: “Each Time is a New Time” and “Measure.” (At the Field Music home page, see the sticker at the bottom middle of the screen that says “click here.”)

You’ll notice the free download songs, are totally different from “Let’s Write a Book,” which is one of the reasons why you should check out this exciting group.

By the way, here’s a video Field Music actually made.

Field Music’s Web sites include:

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No Lyme Disease or Blood Sucking Here: Deer Tick Just Wants You to Get Lucky with the New Song, “Dance of Love”

Deer ticks are nasty little arachnids whose mission is to suck the blood out of living creatures, all the while transmitting the horrible Lyme disease.

Well, in the summer of 2005, singer/songwriter John McCauley found one of the little buggers on his scalp on a camping trip and inspiration hit. His band would be “Deer Tick.”

(L to R, Deer Tick is John McCauley, Dennis Ryan, Chris Ryan and Andrew Tobiassen)

But don’t worry, this group is all about rocking your party – no blood sucking involved. (As far as I know, they can’t spread Lyme disease either.)

On the new song, “Dance of Love,” released Jan. 1, 2010, as part of the EP, “More Fuel for the Fire,” on Partisan Records, Deer Tick shares a road map for guys to get lucky…the old fashioned way.

Listen to Dance of Love Here

Here’s an excerpt from the lyrics:

“Well if I pull that chair out
Or maybe if I hold that door for you
If I do it cause my mother always told me to do
If I make a point to complement you
I’ll be feeling those legs already on mine

“Oh the dance of love
Well the dance of love
Is a wonderful dance”

Musically, “Dance of Love” is no lambada (the Brazilian dance of love). The song is wrapped in a Johnny Cash “Folsom Prison Blues” guitar groove, bolstered by some attitude from The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and uplifted by the spirit of the great Cajun bar bands such as the Pine Leaf Boys.

I love drummer Dennis Ryan’s driving beat on this tune. It’s busy, but in all the right places. On this track, Andrew Tobiassen’s lead vocals are a lot of fun. He’s no trained opera singer. This dude is just blurting out how guys feel about courting women, with all the raspy, hootin’ and hollerin’ that goes along with that.

So check out “Dance of Love” by Deer Tick. These guys will have you laughing, dancing and who knows what.

Deer Tick Extra: Here’s probably something you never imagined. Deer ticks singing soulful acapella.

Deer Tick is on Twitter (@deertickmusic) and the group’s Web sites include , and

American Lyme Disease Foundation
Deer Tick Biography on the Band’s Site

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