February 6, 2008

The Jared Kraminitz Sing-Along Hour

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And we’re back. I missed you all very much and I’m excited for a whole new semester of writing last-minute columns about whatever the hell I dream up on Tuesday afternoon. As usual, I don’t know what to write about, so how about a musical autobiography (I was going to go with a new music hagiography but that seemed neither modest nor appropriate) of songs I’ve been listening to recently. Play along at home and see if you can spot all the songs mentioned. If you rearrange the letters of those songs they form get a new sentence. Get it right and you can win a prize! (They don’t and you won’t, but I’ve got 800 words to fill so get used to verbosity.) Anyway, this column is like a travelogue or a journal or something equally neat. I figured that since I only remember what was going on in my past by what I was listening to at the time, I ought to write some of this stuff down, otherwise I’ll forget everything.
And so we begin. It may be past relevance now, but since we’ve all been away from beautiful balmy Ithaca, I think that Matt Costa’s “Cold December” — from his first album, Songs We Sing — is still an acceptable part of this list. And, to be fair, I was listening to it a lot in December. Part Donovan and Nick Drake with just a little Jack Johnson thrown in, it’s good for listening to on your iPod during long, cold walks around town, as I’ve discovered firsthand.
Over break I also got turned onto Rilo Kiley, admittedly a few years late (which means I’ve got to turn in my already dubious indie kid credentials, sadly) when a friend recommended “Silver Lining” off of their newest CD, Under the Blacklight. It was catchy enough that I got my hands on most of their entire back catalog. The standout song, for me, was the title track from More Adventurous. Musically, it’s got an obvious country influence with a little of the Bright Eyes sound thrown in. Lyrically, it’s a spare marvel and though I’m not totally sure what it’s about the song still hits me each time. Jenny Lewis, the lead singer, has a voice that somehow soars and wavers through the chords.
The third song which has been a major part of the past two months is from Yael Naim’s eponymous debut album, New Soul. If you’ve seen the commercials for the new Macbook Air then you’ve heard this song. Frankly, I like the song a lot more than the computer. There’s no way I’m getting a Macbook Air (as the cool kids are calling it) but I’ve already listened to New Soul almost ten times, according to iTunes. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that when you’ve got roughly 245 days of music on hand, listening to anything eight times is a lot.
Continuing with this focus on female singer-songwriter types, consider Neko Case. She performed at the State Theater two Saturdays ago and put on a great show. Not only did she perform two particular favorites of mine (“Hold On, Hold On” and “Margaret vs. Pauline”), she also brought the funny in a big way, which isn’t always the case.
Speaking of the State Theater, I can’t endorse it enough. I’m amazed by the caliber and number of artists who play in a great venue only ten minutes from my house (and it’s close to Starbucks and The Sun!). Last semester one of my favorite groups, the Avett Brothers, played there, and this semester has a great lineup. Richard Thompson played last week, Ani DiFranco performed Feb. 2, Taj Mahal is playing Feb. 21 and Medeski, Martin and Wood are playing a week later. Two other notables, Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt are playing Feb. 24, but that’s sold out, sadly.
Speaking of Lyle Lovett, I’m reminded of another song I enjoyed over break (am I good at segues or what?): the Walk Hard remix from the movie of the same name, featuring Jackson Browne, Lyle Lovett, Jewel and, in a sublime non-sequitur, Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan who drops knowledge with rhymes including: “Out of my way, I’ll bring you down/no one’s safe not even Jackson Browne/my skin stays scarred/you can ask God/lots of ladies unsnap their bras/ask Lyle Lovett, I had sex on Mars.” Also it has Jewel yodeling, if you’re into that sort of thing. I didn’t see the movie, but this song made me sort of want to.
It looks like that’s it for me this week. Hope you enjoyed the column and maybe in a couple weeks I’ll have one that actually has a point. Bye.

Jared Kraminitz is a junior in the College of Industrial Labor Relations. He can be contacted at jkraminitz@cornellsun.com. The Last Word appears alternate Wednesdays.