Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top 10 Favorite Cover Songs by Jasmyn Wong

Joshua Tree National Park by Channone Arif

Hey, hey, hey, let’s have a drum roll for my first guest blogger!

My coworker, Jasmyn, is a Bay Area drummer who has contributed her subtle beat-keeping to an array of bands including The Skygreen Leopards, Paula Frazer & Tarnation, and The Sarees. Nowadays, you can find her laying down beats for Oakland’s Dawn Riding. Born in Santa Monica to artsy parents, Jasmyn grew up in San Francisco listening to a variety of music, from punk and oldies to jazz and R&B hits. (In case you’re interested, her favorite holiday song is Dave Brubeck‘s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.“) She worked in curations at Pandora Radio for nearly seven years, and has also worked at Fandor and the Bay Area Video Coalition. She’s been a part of our office for just a little over two months, but she has already proven that she is indeed quite an exceptional source when it comes to discovering new outstanding musicians and films, which is why I was eager to find out what top 10 list of favorite cover songs she could drum up (oh, I couldn’t resist!)

Without further ado, here’s Jasmyn’s top 10 favorite cover songs. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I have; I’ll write up my accompanying post for the new year.

10) Buffy Sainte-Marie – Helpless (original composition by Neil Young)
Neil Young is one of my favorite singers of all time. In my most humble opinion, nobody compares to him. However, this particular cover really hits home for me. Buffy gives a soulful gospel approach in contrast to Neil’s folky melancholy version. I think Buffy’s vocal abilities really stand out in this song. 

9)    Nina Simone – I Ain’t Got No/I Got Life (James Rado, Gerome Ragni, Galt MacDemot-Hair)
I’ve been digging into the Nina Simone’s vaults lately to get me through these difficult times. This song is my ultimate favorite from her and has become a personal mantra for me. I still get tears every time I hear it. It reads as more of a serious political statement than the original to me.

8)    Bratmobile – Where Eagles Dare (The Misfits)
I was a huge fan of Riot Grrrl music and culture as a teenager. Bratmobile enlightened me to take feminism more seriously. This song still remains one of my life anthems. I also love how goofy Slim Moon’s lyrical deliveries are against Allison Wolfe’s scratchy angry vocals.

7)    The Flying Burrito Brothers – The Dark End of the Street (James Carr)
I have a big soft spot for hippie outlaw country folk bands from the late 60s to early 70s. This band is one of my favorites along with Gram Parsons’ solo projects. I always loved how raggedy and loose this version is compared to the soulful James Carr original. It reminds me of a nice smooth aged whiskey after a long hard day of work. For long drives through California and New Mexico’s landscapes, I highly recommend this song. 

6)    Quix*o*tic – Lord of this World (Black Sabbath)
I had been a long time fan of the DC all-girl punk band Slant 6, so when I heard one of the members formed a new band in the early 2000’s, I immediately grabbed a copy of this album. The one track that stuck out on this album was this cover of Black Sabbath. I normally don’t like covers of Black Sabbath, but this one takes the cake for me. I like how heavy they were able to do this song with just drums and guitar with Mira showcasing her tough-as-nails vocals. A job well done in my book!

5)    Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Passenger (Iggy Pop and Ricky Gardinier)
In high school, I caught my first glimpse of the goth world by attending my first darkwave club for our school’s newspaper. I heard Siouxsie and the Banshees’ version of this song on their sound system and was instantly enamored. This rendition has a more fancy yet careless vibe than Iggy’s. I’ll never forget the twirling of long black lace gowns and arms waving in the air to the beat of this tune.

4)    Phyllis Dillon – Woman of the Ghetto (Marlena Shaw)
Phyllis Dillon is one of my favorite female reggae artists. This version is tougher than leather and will inspire you to keep moving through these dark times. I also love how this rocksteady reggae song was still able to maintain strong classic soul R&B roots.

3)    Nico – These Days (Jackson Browne)
It was hard to decide between Ian Matthews and Nico’s version of this song. Of course, I had to pick the darker version of the two. I love how unique and eccentric Nico’s voice is. She contains a strong masculine tone yet soft around the edges. I also love how tasteful the string arrangement is orchestrated against the guitar parts.

2)    This Mortal Coil – Kangaroo (Alex Chilton)
I first heard this song while working at Urban Outfitters in the late 90’s. I literally stopped folding clothes and fell in love. This version almost sounds like a completely different song than the original from Big Star. The structural experimental music pauses after each verse are beautiful. This song also reminds me of a song that could have been on a Twin Peaks soundtrack. I love the way the guitar and violin keep swinging back and forth like a pendulum. Gordon Sharp’s vocals are a perfect blend of anger and sadness.

1)    Sandy Denny – Milk and Honey (Jackson C. Frank)
This is the song I want to be played at my funeral. When I first heard it, it gave me shivers up my spine. Her voice is like a thick soft velvet that you want to be wrapped in on a cold winter’s day. I think her version contains a much more haunting ghostly presence compared to Jackson’s rendition. Perhaps it’s the way the guitar has an emotional breakdown dueling against the rise and fall of Sandy’s vocals. Fun fact: she was also the only guest vocalist to record on a Led Zeppelin album and was also the front woman for Fairport Convention and Fotheringay.

Monday, December 12, 2016

My (First) Trump AmeriKKKa Moment

No wonder Jesus hasn't come back.

A week and a half after the election, I sat on my bike and waited for the light to turn green at the intersection of Broadway and Grand Avenue. Downtown Oakland. Friday morning. One foot was planted on the curb, the other on my left pedal when an old—and I mean old—white man started to trudge across the street in my direction. He was the only person traversing the crosswalk in either direction. Broadway and Grand is a major intersection, so the crosswalk is at least nine feet wide—and he had it all to himself. But what did he do, when he was halfway across Broadway? He hugged the big fat white line demarcating the crosswalk, where vehicles are supposed to line behind to make space for pedestrians. My front bike tire was right over the line. At most, it was maybe two inches over the line, but this man stared at me from across the street and walked straight at me. In the eleven years I have been cycling on a near daily basis to commute to work, this has never happened before. I didn’t know how to react. As he glared at me, I furrowed my eyebrow, stared down at my front tire to confirm that it wasn’t obstructing him from walking up the curb ramp. It didn’t. He had gone out of his way to walk within inches of my bike tire. I didn’t give move. And I didn’t say a thing to him because I was so stunned by his behavior. He just continued to walk down the sidewalk.

Over that weekend, I wondered if he was just some cranky old fuck who has a thing about bicycles hovering anywhere near a pedestrian crosswalk. But on my morning bike ride the following Monday, I looked at the crosswalk’s ample spacing. I studied the curb ramp and saw how wide it was—and how far it was from where I had stood on my bike that Friday morning. That’s when I knew this was one of those quietly racist incidents that white people have become adept at in this country.

Since the election, I’ve read a handful of other similarly peculiar incidents on my Facebook feed between white folks and people of color. Every day there seems to be a new story. A new incident. Like this woman in Chicago (what a surprise) who yelled at black Michaels employees. Or this piece of shit for a human being who threatened Standing Rock tribe members in North Dakota. Although I already have a fairly low opinion of humans, it makes me sad to hear and read about this shit. Basically, some white people are going fucking crazy now that Trump’s the president-elect. Like they can get it up after years of not being able to get hard.

Now that I know the score—even in Oakland, California of all places—I’m prepared for a next time.

And I’m not going to stay quiet.

And I’m not giving a goddamn fucking inch.

(And the next time some dumb cunt pulls shit like this, I’m going to be the one to yell, GO BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM! (If they even know where they came from.) My blood’s been on this hemisphere longer if they want to play that stupid game of first dibs on something inherently boundary-less like our Mother Earth.)