Friday, February 22, 2013

Watchin' Stuff Lite: Vol. 8

#1: "Circle Game" - Joni Mitchell. Continuing with the aging and nostalgia theme I had going last week.

#2: I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store. Back on my documentary kick here, this film examines the development of music formats and the struggle to maintain the record store community. Plus it has cameos by some really cool people.

#3: "Right Through You" - Alanis Morissette

#4: Cleanflix. Another documentary I found on Netflix, this one is all about a Utah based company who helped Mormons avoid vulgarity in movies by editing all the sex, violence and language out of popular films and renting them out.

#5: "Pump It Up" - Elvis Costello

Friday, February 15, 2013

Watchin' Stuff Lite: Vol. 7

Happy Friday everyone. So, since my birthday is tomorrow, I thought I'd do a special 6 suggestion Watchin' Stuff Lite for you all, with some of my favorite age themed songs. Please, do enjoy.

#1: "At Seventeen" - Janis Ian, yes, like the Mean Girls character and I'm sure that wasn't a coincidence seeing as this song plays in the background of a fairly unfitting scene. But, anyway, this was one of my favorites from when I actually was seventeen.

#2: The West Wing. Since I haven't given a TV suggestion in a couple of weeks I thought I'd throw in one I'm watching currently. I recently noticed this show on Netflix and decided to give it a watch. Though not the most exciting show ever, there are some great story lines and some wonderful characters. Overall, I'd say it's a nice, entertaining fairy tale about good-hearted politicians trying to do what is right for the country.

#3: "I'm Eighteen" - Alice Cooper.

#4. Zeitgeist: The Movie. Going back to my documentary kick, I have to recommend this one because it blew my mind. It's a fairly heavy and dense look at conspiracy theories and relatively unknown truths about the origins of religion. Even if you don't want to take the whole thing at face value, it's still nice to see another side of the story.

#5: "No Time To Be 21" - The Adverts.

#6: "Leaves That Are Green" - Simon & Garfunkle. I was 21 years when I started this blog, I'm 22 now, but I won't be for long. Time hurries on and the leaves that are green turn to brown.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Covers vs. the original

Although this has nothing to do with television, it's no secret that Watchin' Stuff also loves music, so I decided to take a little time out to discuss the topic of covers vs. originals. Just as in remakes of movies and TV shows, remakes of songs can be done beautifully, not only doing the original justice but surpassing it in some cases, it can be a passible alternative, or it can be outright offensive. I listen to quite a few covers in my daily life, some don't quite win out over the original, some I like far better, but they're all special in their own way. So, here are some of my favorites in covers vs. originals (click on the artist names to compare for yourself):

Cover > Original:

  • "I Heard It Through the Grape Vine" - The Slits vs. Marvin Gaye: I know I'm probably in the minority on this one because Marvin's version is undeniably soulful and an absolute classic, but for me, The Slits win out in this one. Featured in my "year in review" a month and a half ago, I love this song for all of the reasons I listed there. 
  • "Diamond Dogs" - Beck vs. David Bowie: Those who know me know I am a huge David Bowie fan (so much so that I have a Bowie inspired tattoo on my arm) but, much to my surprise, I like Beck's version of this song (made for Moulin Rouge) a lot better than Bowie's. Whether it's because Diamond Dogs was never my favorite Bowie song, or because Beck just rocked the cover, I don't know, but this is one of my favorite covers of all time. 
  • "Femme Fatale" - Dramarama vs. The Velvet Underground: Some might find this one blasphemous but I prefer the Dramarama version of this song. I will say, that it was the first version of the song I heard so that might have something to do with it but, either way, as much as I like Nico's voice, for me, John Easdale wins out on this one. 
  • "Rock & Roll" - The Runaways vs. The Velvet Underground: This might make it seem as though I don't really like the Velvets, but that's not true, there are just some good covers of their music, which basically just comes with the territory of being a groundbreaking band I suppose. Anyway, my love of the Runways is just as well known among my friends as my love of Bowie and this cover is by far one of my favorite Runaways songs ever so really, the original just doesn't hold the same draw for me. 
  • "Do You Wanna Touch Me" - Joan Jett & the Blackhearts vs. Gary Glitter: Above all of my favorite musicians, Joan Jett is by far the closest to my heart and a good amount of the covers in my itunes library happen to be by her and the Blackhearts. Sometimes her covers win out and sometimes they don't but this one is one of the former. Though I do greatly enjoy Gary Glitters version, this is probably one of my favorite Joan Jett songs of all time so it's not much of a competition. 
  • "Androgynous" - Joan Jett & the Blackhearts vs. The Replacements: Here is another Joan Jett cover that I prefer to the original. Just as in the last pairing, I do really love the Replacements version, in fact it's one of my favorites off my favorite Replacements album Let It Be, but there's something about the Joan Jett version that resonates with me more, that's really all there is to it, but it's probably the closest race of all the ones up here. Like, as in, almost a draw.  
  • "Woodstock" - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young vs. Joni Mitchell: As much as it pains me to admit this, I think I like the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young cover of this song better than the Joni Mitchell original. It is honestly my favorite cover of any song I've ever heard, and it has to be for me to say it's better than Joni Mitchell's. Both versions have a quality in and of themselves (Joni's haunting piano vs. CSNY's beautiful harmony), but I can listen to the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young version any day of the week and the just isn't the case with the original. See for yourself. 
Joni Mitchell's original

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young cover

Original > Cover: 
  • "River" - Joni Mitchell vs. Sarah McLachlan: Had to give Joni a little recognition after doing her like that in the last category. Personally, I think her version of "River" was not surpassed by the Sarah McLachlan cover. Though Sarah has the beautiful voice that reminds me of my childhood, Joni has the unique voice that does the same. I feel like what it really comes down to is the fact that Sarah's version is too pretty. It's beautiful, soothing, holiday music to be enjoyed with cocoa by the fire but Joni's has heart, meaning and originality and for me it can't be beat. 
  • "With A Girl Like You" - The Troggs vs. Alex Chilton: While I do enjoy Alex Chilton's cover, the Trogg's version of this song is still better in my opinion. I think the biggest factor in this failure to surpass the original is the fact that it's too similar and the Troggs were better at it. I wish Alex had been a little more innovative with it, but still, I will gladly listen to both versions. 
  • "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone" - Paul Revere and the Raiders vs. The Monkees: This is probably the first experience I ever had with cover songs as a small child. I used to listen to both versions in my elementary school days and have alway preferred the Paul Revere version. Just as in the last pairing, I feel like the Monkees made a cover that was far too similar to the original and unfortunately Mickey Dolenz couldn't bring it like Mark Lindsay.
  • "Gloria" - The Shadows of Knight vs. Patti Smith: Hard to say whether this is actually a cover or if it's a completely different song that just shares some of the same lyrics but I'm using this as an indication that, despite what it seemed like from the last two comparisons, it's not just about changing up the original for me. Don't get me wrong, I love both versions and I understand and respect what Patti was doing, but personally, I enjoy the Shadows of Knight version a little more. It's a preference thing more than a quality thing here (and probably for this whole list), I just love the original. 
  • "Ask The Angels" - Patti Smith Group vs. The Distillers: I had to get Patti back here and show that although I don't prefer her "Gloria" cover, her originals are hard to (if not impossible to) touch. Neither the Distillers cover of this song nor the 10,000 Maniacs version of "Because the Night" come close to the original for me. That being said, I think it's an admirable cover, it's a lot of fun and if the Patti Smith version didn't exist it would be a great song. But the original is still better. *Side note: there is a version of this song that falls between the Patti Smith version and the Distillers one, though not quite as good as Patti Smith it is not just a valiant effort but a great cover that's a bit better than The Distillers' but it has yet to be recorder. So, as an honorable mention, here is Wild Flag's live version
  • "Be My Lover" - Alice Cooper vs. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: As I said before, Joan Jett does a lot of covers and not all of them are better than the original, which is the case with this one. Though I do like her version and I do prefer the speed of hers, the original edges the cover out by a bit. Plus, there's a line in there somewhere about a girl asking "why the singer's name was Alice," which is a little too personalized to really fly in the cover and that has always bothered me. 
  • "I Wanna Be Your Dog" - The Stooges vs. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: For this one, Joan had some crazy big shoes to fill, so I can't fault her too much for falling short. The Stooges version of this song is actually my favorite song ever recorded so, despite the fact that this is actually one of my favorite Joan Jett & the Blackhearts songs (and one of the best ones she does in concert), it wasn't gonna beat Iggy and the boys. That being said, I must note that even though sometimes Joan's covers do fall a bit short of the original, a good number of them improve upon the one that came before it and not a single one of her original songs can be touched by others. Or at least that's the way it seems based upon the fact that I have yet to hear a cover of a Joan Jett song that has done the original justice (in fact most are downright offensive). But, anyway, here are the two versions of this song for comparison's sake. 
The Stooges original 

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts cover 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Watchin' Stuff Lite: Vol. 6

Five more suggestions for you, brought to you by me.

#1: "Walking On Broken Glass" - Annie Lennox. Feeling a little nostalgic, I guess, so here's one of my favorite childhood songs. Also, John Malkovich and Hugh Laurie in the same video? Magic.

#2: Exit Through the Gift Shop. Continuing with my documentary kick here, Exit Through the Gift Shop is one of the best I've seen on Netflix so far. At the outset, this seems like a straightforward documentary about the street art movement but it turns out to be a lot more. I don't want to spoil the twist at the end so all I'll say is, it's definitely worth the hour and a half.

#3: "Not Living At All" - Mr. Airplane Man. This is a great band and I feel like more people should know that about them (I wanted to post "Shakin' Around" but I couldn't find a video for it on YouTube, you should look up the song if you like this one, or even if you don't).

#4: This Film Is Not Yet Rated. Like Exit Through the Gift Shop, this is one of the best documentaries I've seen on Netflix in the past few weeks. This one covers the hypocrisy and agenda-pushing system behind the movie rating system in a very effective and entertaining way. It is pretty infuriating but in every way a documentary should be really.

#5: "59th Street Bridge Song" - Simon & Garfunkle. This just makes me happy.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Watchin' Stuff Lite: Vol. 5

Happy Friday, folks. Here are five more suggestions for those who still come around.

#1: "Because the Night" - Patti Smith. Patti Smith songs really need know explanation or justification, as far as I'm concerned.

#2: Following Sean. In the 60s, the director of this movie made a short film about a 4-year-old kid named Sean who lived in the apartment above his with his hippie parents in the Haight. Following Sean  is basically a follow-up to that short film where the director catches up with Sean 27 years later to see how he ended up. I definitely recommend this movie, but also, check out the original short film, Sean, on YouTube because it's adorable.

#3: "Blood" - Band of Skulls. I heard this song a couple weeks ago when I was out with a friend of mine and quickly realized I needed some Band of Skulls.

#4: The "Up" Series. These movies are fairly similar to Following Sean in that they catch up with the characters at different points in their lives. A British television special from 1964, the original "Up" film, Seven Up, documented a group of seven-year-olds from very different social backgrounds. Every seven years since, the film crew has come back for new films (7 Plus Seven, 21 Up, 28 Up, 35 Up, 42 Up and 49 Up, all on Netflix. 56 Up came out last year but is not on Netflix yet) to see where they all are and what their lives have become. Some stories are a little sad and some of the kids drop out at some point but it's very interesting to see the group as they move through their lives and see their aspirations come true or fall flat. But, be forewarned, there's a lot of repeat in each film so you might want to fast forward a bit.

#5: "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl" - Broken Social Scene. This is something I listened to a lot when I actually was a 17-year-old girl and still enjoy it whenever it comes up on shuffle.