Listen uP: Two for Tuesday

16 03 2010

Grrrrrrrrl Power Straight from Sirius

I originally bought Sirius satellite radio so that my husband and I could listen to Howard Stern in the morning. What we didn’t know was how amazing the other hundred channels were. In the three plus years that we’ve had Sirius, I’ve discovered countless new talents as well as rediscovered old favorites (without commercials, yay!). This week, since I’m feeling empowered by the extended daylight, I’d like to feature two badass lady songs that make me stand up just a little bit taller.

Download #1: “Kiss From a Fist” by Florence + The Machine. I’m so psyched that this song is finally available for download on iTunes without having to buy the entire crappy “Jennifer’s Body” soundtrack. “Kiss From a Fist” is part of the brilliant album “Lungs” by Florence + The Machine and is literally an ass kicking anthem at its two-minute finest (“A kiss with a fist is better than none”). Florence’s dreamy vocals make me think of Bjork on certain tunes, Regina Spektor on others, but she’s got a groove that’s all her own:

Download #2: “Heavy Cross” by The Gossip. I first heard this tune while putting together my summer running mixes and for a split second thought it was Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen.” But then lead singer Beth Ditto kicked it into full gear and there was no mistaking that this was something special. Almost eight months later, it’s still on my mix, motivating me to get just a little bit faster. From the album “Music for Men.”

Although both these songs are incredibly download-worthy, I can honestly say that both albums are also worth owning. Support female artists and get the whole darn thing!


Listen uP: Two for Tuesday

12 01 2010

Michael Franti and Spearhead

My friend Krista, lover of all things that help us get our groove on, was the one who first recommended Michael Franti to me. I was looking for some motivational workout music and she seemed to think he would fit the bill. One month later, the album “All Rebel Rockers” is still on continuous play and these are two of my favorite songs.

Download #1: “Say Hey (I Love You)”- I’m so afraid this song will be played to death once everyone realizes how infectious it is, but right now it’s my #1 morning commute tune, transporting me from the icy cold New York streets to a warm Caribbean island filled with frozen girlie drinks and free-for-all dance parties.

Download #2: “A Little Bit of Riddim”– This is like a pure funk mash up of Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock and Stereo MC’s Connected; kind of like an 8th grade dance for grown ups. Put it on the iPod and pimp on down the sidewalk like it’s your job.

I’m anxious to get to know more of Michael Franti and Spearhead but this has been an excellent start and the entire cd is a winner. Listen. Love. Groove.

Listen uP: Two for Tuesday

15 12 2009

Selections from the New Moon Soundtrack

I was a big fan of the Twilight books, citing them as my #1 guilty pleasure of 2008. And while I’m not nearly as enthusiastic about the horrifically acted movies, I give two big thumbs up to the guy or gal who assembled the soundtrack. In my humble opinion, anyone who can put Thom Yorke and Die Fledermaus on the same album and make it work deserves special accolades.

Download #1: “Hearing Damage” by Thom Yorke. I’m a huge Radiohead fan and when I first heard this song I literally couldn’t move (“A tear in my brain/allows the voices in/…you can do no wrong/in my eyes”).  Not to mention they also made fantastic use of the song within the movie, rather than wasting it on the closing credits.

Download #2: “The Violet Hour” by Sea Wolf. This song sounds like something from alternative ‘80’s heaven with pop shadings of bands like The Jam and The Smiths. One of the few up-tempo tracks, “The Violet Hour” is the meat in the middle of the New Moon soundtrack.

Honorable Mention: Death Cab for Cutie’s “Meet Me on the Equinox” is a fantastic opening track, however I’m afraid that excessive radio play will make us all hate it by 2010. That being said, it’s still a great song that’s definitely worth a listen.

For those that are embarrassed to download the New Moon soundtrack, I urge you to throw your pride aside and take a chance. You’ll be richly rewarded.

Listen uP: Two for Tuesday

24 11 2009

Favorites from So You Think You Can Dance

As a former dancer/choreographer, I listen to music and often wonder, “What would I do with this if given the opportunity?” And although I’m not currently working in the dance community, it’s always exciting to think of the possible marriages between music and movement. This is why I love the show So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) and think it’s such an important showcase for both choreographers and musicians.

Over the past few years that SYTYCD has been on the air, I’ve discovered and rediscovered some amazing artists, both old and new, whose music has appeared in pieces on the show.  Today’s “Two for Tuesday” selections come from two very different artists and two vastly different dance pieces.

Download #1: “Koop Island Blues” by Koop featuring Ane Brun. Anyone who watches the show will remember Mia Michaels’ infamous “butt dance.” This song makes me feel like I’m in a speakeasy in Paris and gives me an extra dose of sass as I walk through the village to work.

Download #2: “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” by Stars. Travis Wall choreographed a gorgeous contemporary piece last week about lovers who were reunited after a ten-year period apart. It was incredibly moving and expertly danced but it was the song that stayed with me. I downloaded it immediately and have had it on a steady rotation all week long. The lyrics are chillingly familiar but the cello will warm you all over.

Here’s to a most inspired Tuesday!

Listen uP: Two for Tuesday

18 11 2009

Two for Tuesday: Sensitive Guys with Guitars

Remember back in the day when the Top 40 radio stations had “Two for Tuesday?” They’d play two songs from an artist and the 98th caller would win drink tickets to the Hunkabunka Ballroom in Sayreville or something equally as useless. The Hunkabunka has been long closed due to underage drinking and other shenanigans, but “Two for Tuesday” will officially live on in this blog.

While I love all types of music (and I do mean ALL) I’m an absolute sucker for sensitive dudes with guitars. This Tuesday, I give you two excellent selections from two of my faves.

Ray LaMontagne

Download #1: “Sarah” by Ray LaMontagne. Picking one Ray LaMontagne song is close to impossible, but after seeing him live last week, this one in particular continues to make a recurring appearance on my iPod. It reminds me of one of my all time favorite Bob Dylan songs, “4th Time Around,” and the lyrics and melody take you to that same melancholic place (“Now I see just how young, how scared I was/ Eyes closed tight throwing punch after punch at the world/…is it ever gonna be the same?”). Stunning and sad–when Ray sang it you could hear a pin drop. (From the album Gossip in the Grain).

Download#2: “Orange Sky” by Alexi Murdoch. I’ve been hearing about Alexi Murdoch for a while now from some of my songwriter friends who have compared him to Nick Drake, but it wasn’t until I heard this song on “Coffee Shop” on Sirius radio that I really started listening to him (“When I am alone/ When I’ve thrown off the weight of this crazy stone/ When I’ve lost all care for the things I own/ That’s when I miss you”). “Orange Sky” clocks in at over six minutes yet begs for an immediate second listen to see what you’ve missed the first time around. From the album Time Without Consequence).

Alexi Murdoch

I hope you enjoy my sensitive bearded man selections and as always, I welcome all suggestions from new or old artists. Happy Tuesday!

Listen uP: Musical Highlights from a 13.1-mile Run in the Rain

28 09 2009


During my eight-week training period for the Jersey City half marathon, I would put my iPod on shuffle and take mental notes of those songs that gave me a little extra energy; that little push that made me want to run just a little further. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I was brushing up on my French at the time so in between songs little snippets of Francais would randomly pop up –“Je suis fatiguee” (I am tired) or “Je voudrais une biere” (I would like a beer) were amongst my favorites.

So when it came time to put together my 13.1-mile iPod mix, I reflected back on my favorite training moments and incorporated a bit of French to create the perfect half marathon mix. Here are some highlights.

Mile Un (1):

“Two Step” (Dave Matthews Band)- Despite what the vegan hipsters in Williamsburg might think about DMB, the frenetic pacing of “Two Step” really creates a moment at the starting line. Look around at all the people running in the rain and smile.

Mile Deux (2):

“The Light” (David Gray)- People either love or hate David Gray but when you’re running, completely in the zone, and this song is playing, it’s like your own personal movie soundtrack.

Mile Trois (3):

“Here Comes the Sun” (Richie Havens)- I love every version of this song and even walked down the aisle to the Nina Simone version. My parents were waiting for me at mile 3 and it was the only break of sun during the entire race. Pure perfection.

Mile Quatre (4): Entering Liberty State Park

“Neighborhood #1 Tunnels” (Arcade Fire)- One of my favorites during the grueling training period.

“Lost!” (Coldplay)- I’m sorry, but there’s absolutely no feeling in the entire world like running into Liberty State Park, past the Statue of Liberty, listening to this song.

Mile Cinq (5):

“Hateful” (The Clash)- The Clash’s “London Calling” is a brilliant album and nothing fires me up quite like “Hateful.”

“Victoria (Live)” (The Kinks)- What a way to finish up the 5th mile—Loud and live with a great pace.

Mile Six (6): a.k.a. The Theater Dork Mile. What do I think about while running? Dancing, mostly. Mile 6 was 100% choreography. Soundtrack of choice: “Jelly’s Last Jam”

Mile Sept (7):

“Rip this Joint” (Rolling Stones)- “Exile on Main Street” is perhaps the best rock album of all time. What an amazing energy boost at the halfway mark.


Mile Huit (8): a.k.a. Sisters are doing it for themselves.

“Valerie” (Amy Winehouse)- Love her or hate her, this is a killer track. And I laugh at the fact that Amy can barely get off the couch, let alone run, but this tune is a dance floor fave.

Mile Neuf (9):

“With a Heavy Heart (I Regret to Inform You)” (Does it Offend You, Yeah?)- Part hard rock, part glam, this sticks to your ribs like a hot toddy.

Mile Dix (10): a.k.a Take your last breath

“Manhattan” (Kings of Leon)- When you’re looking out across the water at the Manhattan skyline and you’re not sure if you’re going to pass out and this song is playing…it’s pretty magical.

Mile Onze (11): a.k.a. Last mile before I fell apart

“Oh Saya” (Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack)- Oh, those drums are intoxicating.

“Wolf Like Me” (TV on the Radio)- Back to choreography…I hear this and want to dance.  Strangely.

“Pencil Full of Lead” (Paolo Nutini)- A silly, 2-minute ditty that pushes you that much closer to the finish.

Mile Douze (12): a.k.a. Kill Me

“Breathe Me (Mylo remix)”  (Sia)- The first time I ever ran a 10-minute mile was to this song. I equate it with victory. And Six Feet Under. And breathing.

Mile Treize (13): a.k.a. The End is Near

“Lust for Life” (Iggy Pop)- 5 minute tune with a frantic, punk beat? The end is near.

“Canned Heat” (Jamiroquai)- I like to end everything with this song: weddings, races, it’s simply perfect when you feel like you’re going to puke your guts out but spot that finish line 4 minutes away.

Twelve hours later, I’m thankful to be sitting in my living room in oversized (dry) sweatpants drinking a glass of wine. I think there’s a good chance of me doing this again some day, hopefully in better conditions and with a few new tunes, but I’ll remember fondly the soundtrack that dragged my soaking wet, sick self over that finish line. And for now, that’s enough.

Listen uP: 20 Greatest Movie Soundtracks

13 07 2009

This spring, I decided to start running. Over the past few months I’ve gone from five minutes to five miles and am now signing up for races. In the beginning I would make running mixes for my iPod but later discovered, quite by accident, that the best thing to listen to when I was pounding the pavement was the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack. Something about the drums and the Indian music propelled me along and got me thinking about the best movie soundtracks of all time. With a little help from some friends, I’ve compiled a list (in no particular order because my brain would probably explode if I tried to rate them too) of the top 20 movie soundtracks of all time.

1.) Reservoir Dogs– Tarantino is a soundtrack genius. Probably the most named of everyone who participated. Defining track: “Stuck in the Middle with You”

2.) Royal Tenenbaums– Anyone who can put the Ramones and Paul Simon together and make it work gets a huge thumbs up from me. Defining track: “Judy is a Punk”

3.) Romeo+Juliet–  A sentimental favorite of the ladies it seems, R+J soundtrack shaped my mid-college years. Defining track: “#1 Crush”

4.) Almost Famous– The only negative here is that “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” wasn’t included. Still not a deal breaker. Defining track: “Tiny Dancer”

5.) Stealing Beauty– A beautiful, little seen Liv Tyler movie set in Italy with a killer soundtrack. Defining track: “If 6 Was 9”

6.) Harold and Maude– I normally don’t like one artist dominating a soundtrack but this is Cat Stevens. And it’s Harold and Maude. Defining track: “Don’t Be Shy”

7.) O Brother, Where Art Thou?– T. Bone Burnett+The Coen brothers=movie soundtrack gold. Bluegrass never sounded so modern. Defining track: “Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby”

8.) Trainspotting– The first was so good they needed to release a second.  This soundtrack becomes one of the characters. Defining track: “Lust for Life”

9.) Dirty Dancing– I’ll put up with the ridiculous Kellermans’ theme for Solomon Burke any day of the week. Deflower her, Johnny Castle! Defining track: “Cry to Me”

10) Singles- 1992: Seattle grunge rock galore! And somewhere in Jersey, a 15-year old girl puts away the hair band tapes for good. Defining track: “Seasons”

11.) Pulp Fiction– Back to Tarantino country, where Dick Dale and Dusty Springfield blissfully coexist. Defining track: “Son of a Preacher Man”

12.) Grosse Pointe Blank– Best of the cool kids’ 80’s. The scene where Cusack has a moment with the baby is movie soundtrack perfection. Defining track: “Let My Love Open the Door”

13.) Rushmore– Classic British invasion tunes perfectly shade this twisted little movie. “I saved Latin. What did you ever do?”  Defining track: “Ooh La La”

14.) I’m Not There– 20+ artists doing solid Dylan covers? Sign me up! Defining track: “Mama You’ve Been on My Mind/A Fraction of Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie”

15) Grease– The only musical that made the list. Honestly, I was just afraid to go there. Defining track: “You’re the One that I Want”

16.) Juno– Quirky, silly and sentimental.  And it includes my wedding song. Defining track: “Sea of Love”

17.) Saturday Night Fever– I hate disco but I have a soft spot for the Bee Gees. Defining track: “Staying Alive”

18.) Purple Rain– 25 years later, Prince still packs the dance floor. Defining track: “Let’s Go Crazy”

19.) Garden State– Probably the most played soundtrack of all time in the salon and I still love it. Defining track: “Only Living Boy in New York”

20.) The Last Waltz– Though technically a documentary, Scorsese gives us a bird’s eye view of one of the greatest concerts ever filmed. Defining track: “Caravan”

Honorable Mentions: The Commitments, Good Will Hunting, Into the Wild, Dazed and Confused, Goodfellas

Listen uP: Diane Birch

6 07 2009

I have a love/hate relationship with female singers. For every bad ass soul sister or indie rock goddess, there are two pop tarts dressed in half shirts and hot pants, singing about lumps and humps and whatever other idiotic topic can fit into a three minute dance mix. So this month, with a little guidance from clients and my good friend, Entertainment Weekly,  I’ve set out to find some chanteuses with a little meat on their bones.

If you were to take Stevie Nicks, Tapestry-era Carole King, the ladies from Heart and maybe Norah Jones and throw them in a blender with a little Cat Power added for flavor, the result would be the brilliantly talented Diane Birch. But instead of sounding like a mishmosh of her own influences, she still has a sound that’s all her own (deep throaty growl that lifts effortlessly into a pure soprano). I sampled a few of her tracks on iTunes and remember being impressed but it wasn’t until I was walking through the West Village, listening to her debut album Bible Belt in its entirety, that I was truly captured by it.

This is a cd about heartbreak but it remains optimistic. The first track, Fire Escape, brings me back to my Williamsburg days, drinking $8 bottles of Chianti with my roommate Jen on our (yes) fire escape, praying that our 30’s were going to be better than our 20’s (and yes, they are). Valentino, probably the most poppy, hook laden of the lot, is a sweet summer jam. Rewind, the power ballad, recalls a yearning 70’s tune of the Rumours genre, while Photograph aches with regret of a lost love (“I can’t erase the look on your face/Guess I’ll be spending the rest of my days/Waving tomorrow goodbye a tear in my eye/Nothing can bring back that feeling”). Despite one or two clunkers, the album flows seamlessly and ends with a glorious Magic View.

Faves: Fire Escape, Photograph

Skip: Don’t Wait Up

For more about Diane, go to