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October 2010

October 29, 2010

Alan Jackson, Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels: “Spooky Country” (Napster Playlist)

 If you're ready for some eerie music to carve a pumpkin by, but you're not into metal, reggae, or some of the other flavors of Halloween ear candy available, we've got a down-home suggestion for you: Napster's "Spooky Country" playlist. It's full of ghost songs and assorted frightful musical tales, and really sets the mood without being overly terrifying or overbearing. You'll hear good old country sounds with a spooky twist from artists including Alan Jackson, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, and Jim Stafford—everything from Ferlin Husky's "Phantom 309" to Ralph Stanley's "Oh, Death." And no country Halloween playlist would be complete without Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," so of course you'll hear that, too. Great for powering up your haunted hoedown or just watching little ghosts and goblins collect their treats.

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World Series Believin'

 The end of October is prime time for US sports fans. All of the major leagues, including football, basketball and hockey are in full swing simultaneously, but the most meaningful games are being played now in the World Series. This year, baseball's Fall Classic is packed with storylines, and two long-suffering teams, the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants, have taken center stage. The Giants were underdogs going in, but since the playoffs started, the team has given fans something to believe in, and even Steve Perry from the Bay Area's own Journey was in attendance leading the sing-along during the National League Championship Series. The Rangers are undoubtedly feeling the sting of disbelief so far, but the series shifts back to Arlington this weekend, and deep in the heart of Texas they'll likely have a few musical moments of their own to remember.

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October 28, 2010

Bo Burnham, Words Words Words

 Just 18 months after releasing his debut album (at age 18), Bo Burnham continues to pave his road to stardom with bricks of non-traditional comedy gold—and the bodies of his sworn enemies, such as hack traditional stand-up comics, out-of-touch hip-hop artists, and anyone who might begrudge his pre-twenties success. On Words Words Words, Bo continues to deliver his trademarked fast-paced, hyper-literate musical comedy, but this time incorporates more pauses between songs for joke-telling. He delights in challenging his audience to keep up with his lexical gymnastics and analogic comprehension, and listening to him is kind of like taking a funny SAT test in song form. Puns can be a dangerous thing—they're often referred to as the lowest form of comedy—but delivered with his charming ironic pretentiousness, Bo manages to make them clever and meta enough that they work. The first two tracks, "Words Words Words" and "Oh Bo" are studio recordings with expectedly higher production values and full arrangements, while the rest of the album comprises his recently aired one-man Comedy Central special. His raunchy, high-low approach and status as an unusually young working comedian (he prefers "prodigy") have already made him an Internet sensation. Now, Bo Burnham is making his pitch to become a non-traditional comic star in the realm of traditional media. His chances are looking better every day.

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Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas

Pumpkin The witching hour draws nigh, but if you haven't yet committed to an All Hallow's costume, fear not, there's plenty of inspiration to be drawn from the world of pop and rock excess. Here's your chance to look like a rock star, act like a rock star, or let your nerd flag fly, so don't lame out. Remember, nobody really knows who you are under that mask, and this is your one (socially acceptable) chance this year to show your true fan fervor.


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The Cure's “Carnage Visors”

 Need some mood music this Halloween that's a little more alternative and a little less "Ghostbusters"? Napster's got you covered. Over the past few years we've told you about the excellent post-punk compilation The Gothic Collection and the indie Nightmare Before Christmas tribute album, Nightmare Revisited. Then there's Napster's "Alt Hallow's Eve" and "Gothic Invasion" playlists (read about the latter here), both perfect for Halloween. But my personal favorite "mood" music is by the moodiest of the original post-punk goth-rockers, The Cure. On one of their early tours, The Cure screened a short film before performing, for which they wrote an extended instrumental piece called "Carnage Visors" to serve as soundtrack. It went unreleased for many years but is now available on the deluxe version of Faith (pictured). A 27-minute atmospheric epic, "Carnage Visors" is a unique and little-known gem in The Cure's vast catalog and a great way to set the tone for a spooky holiday. Happy haunting.

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Gospelflava.com: Bridging the Gap Between Gospel and R&B

 Gospelflava.com has found a unique way to bridge the gap between Gospel and R&B music. The popular gospel site has just released Gospelflava.com Presents Something on the Inside, a compilation of some of music's most notable R&B artists singing gospel music. R. Kelly, Brian McKnight, Mary J. Blige, Fantasia, Michelle Williams (of Destiny's Child), and others are featured, and with each performance, singer and song combine the soulfulness of rhythm and blues with the praise and worship of gospel music. In addition to providing great music, this compilation (like its name) embodies the values that Christian and Gospel music live by; that it doesn’t matter how a person may appear on the outside (even if they sing secular music), it only matters what’s "on the inside." Fans from either world (Gospel or R&B) now can get the best of both.

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October 27, 2010

Kanye West, “Monster” Featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver and Nicki Minaj

 Kanye West's newest single from the upcoming My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy certainly lives up to its title. Offered as a free download on Kanye's website for the last two months, radio started spinning the tune and soon found audiences attracted to its driving rhythm and featured verses from some of hip-hop's hottest, includng Jay-Z and Rick Ross. Young Money's Nicki Minaj steals the show, pulling out all the stops with her energetic delivery. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is scheduled for release on Nov. 22.

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Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain": Fantasia, The Wizard of Oz, and...Weekend at Bernie's?

 What do Fantasia, The Wizard of Oz, and Weekend at Bernie's have in common? Here's a hint: With Halloween right around the corner, if there's one piece of classical music that would get the "all-time spookiest in pop culture" award, it would have to be Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain." So let's take a closer look: A lesser-known arrangement first appeared in 1867, but the version you've heard a hundred times is the Rimsky-Korsakov-arranged, and later Stokowski-conducted take. Conceptually based on a gathering of witches, the piece is also the first known tone poem (inspired by "St. John's Night on the Bare Mountain") by a Russian composer. But its origins are among the most difficult and confusing to trace—English musicologist Gerald Abraham once said "No work of Mussorgsky's has had a more confused history and none is less known." While the piece's influences (which may or may not include Lizst) and early performance history are muddy, it's influence on pop culture is clear as a witch's cackle.

In 1940, Disney used the Stokowski-conducted adaptation for one of the eight parts in its third full-length animated feature, Fantasia. Depicting the terrifying devil Chernabog, this segment stood out, with its complete embodiment of evil, as one of the most stark and powerful moments of Disney animation to date. But it was one year earlier that it provided perhaps the most famous witch of all time with a theme: 1939's The Wizard of Oz incorporated the most recognizable "Bald Mountain" motif in a few spots, which can be heard on the 70th anniversary edition soundtrack on tracks "Cyclone," "Dorothy's Rescue, " and "On the Castle Wall." And from there, it's been used in several other films, mostly for comical purposes, such as Weekend at Bernie's in 1989. Okay, I threw in the Weekend reference only because it's a personal favorite. Nevertheless, "Night on Bald Mountain" is quite an aural treat this time of year—it just wouldn't be Halloween without it. Mwahaha!!!

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Michael Jackson Still No. 1

 Even after his untimely death, Michael Jackson still manages to come in at number one. According to Forbes, Jackson is the "Top-Earning Dead Celebrity," but even more impressive is that over the past year, he has earned more than current mega-celebrities Lady GaGa, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Madonna combined! Jackson’s posthumous fortune is attributed to several well-placed licensing deals and a major spike in sales of albums like Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, and This Is It (a collection of his greatest hits). Another major factor in Jackson’s revenue surge his stake in publishing company Sony/ATV, which owns rights to music by major artists including Elvis Presley, Eminem, Christina Aguilera, and Shakira, just to name a few. Although Jackson’s death was untimely, sales show that fans are keeping his legacy alive through his music and in other ways. Judging by the impact he's had on his millions of fans, it's hard to see him being anything but number one anytime soon.

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Cruella De Vil, Ursula, Jafar: Disney Villains

 If your house is filled with fans of the Disney animated films and all the memorable characters that we have come to both love and hate, then the new Disney Villains: Simply Sinister Songs album is sure to be an instant favorite. It's a great new Halloween-time soundtrack, featuring songs either sung by some of the creepiest bad guys or about these dastardly villains; the collection spans decades and includes classic tracks such as "The Siamese Cat Song" from The Lady and the Tramp, "Oogie Boogie's Song" from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from The Little Mermaid. So while we all love to hate her, now we can sing-along to "Cruella De Vil" and other odes to her fellow Disney evil-doers.

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