Friday, February 27, 2009

Young @ Heart: the sweetest movie I've seen in a long time

It is possible to age gracefully.
It is possible to grow old without growing boring.
You'll laugh at how adorable these people are. You'll cry at how full of life they are. Please add Young @ Heart to your netflix queue.  I feel like calling my Grandmother and telling her how much I love her.

Founded in 1982, The Young @ Heart Chorus is a group of elderly folks (average age of 81) who have toured the world singing rock'n'roll songs from Sonic Youth to Jimi Hendrix. The film follows chorus members and director Bob Cilman through rehearsals, performances, illnesses and deaths.  One of the performances is at a Massachusetts prison and the other is at a sold out theater as final send off before traveling to Europe.

Yes, yes; we know the movie is celebration of life, music and spirit. These people have the most amazing energy and love of singing.  But I am moved by the originality of musical interpretation and how when these folks sing, you know they really, really, really mean it.

It's amazing how well-written songs can take on completely different meanings depending on who's singing them and how they are being sung.  When you hear a 80-year-old full of aching bones and muscles sing James Brown's  "I Feel Good," it takes on a brand new meaning. What about when a 83-year-old in a nursing home wheel chair sings the Ramone's "I Wanna Be Sedated"?  (This is a video you cannot miss, there are no words to describe it.) Here you'll get a certain perspective, wisdom and humor that missing from the original. This is not a bad-boy punk song anymore, but an old man who needs his pills!

Watch this video of "Fix You" by Coldplay.  This is Fred Knittle.  He passed away in early January 2009, but in the film, he's been asked to return to the chorus after a prolonged illness.  This song was supposed to be a duet, but his partner Bob Salvini died several weeks before.  Forget how much you hate Coldplay and leave your expectations at the door. In a voice reminiscent of Johnny Cash, Knittle sings of friendship, life, death, redemption, and brings me to tears in a way Chris Martin can't.  It's gorgeous.

These are some of the most unique cover songs I have ever heard.   Many of the vocals are rough and off-key, the blend is mostly non-existent, but the vocal phrasing is exquisite and the arrangements are terrific. The soloists make up their own melodies and rhythm and sing from life experience and age. These people don't have a personal history with the songs (born in the 20s and 30s, they are too old to identify the songs with their youth) but can identify with the words. Cilman has chosen each song carefully (You'll never listen to "I Will Survive" the same again).

One thing thing that Cilman says at the beginning of the film is that "you can always understand the words when this group sings them." As some of you might know, making the words understandable is one of the hardest things to do with a choir. Getting clear diction is very difficult.

The film doesn't really address how the songs change meaning because of who is singing them. Mortality, of course, comes up in many different ways like when the chorus members express their desire to continue singing after the death of Joe Benoit, a fellow chiorister. 

It's like working in an elderly home, death is a common visitor to this group and they keep on singing in celebration of life.  And as the founder of this group, Cilman never comments on how it affects him personally, he just keeps trying to get these fabulous people to learn and remember their words.  I'm so grateful for people like him who make it their business to bring joy to the elderly, it's incredible. (Shout out to Music Therapist Froman!)

As one of the audience members says after seeing a performance of the Young @ Heart Choir, "I'm never going to complain about being too old or too tired again!" 

Here's the trailer:

Here's the official film website and chorus website. And an interview with Cilman. 

Please, do yourself a favor and watch this movie. It's terrific.

Funkin out to "Paper Planes" Remix

Popped in my Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack this morning and was rocking out to this on my way to work. It's the DFA Remix of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes". It's all funked up. Very cool.

And while I'm at it, I'll also share an awesome track Everydaydude shared on Twitter called "Mama, I Got a Brand New Thing" by the Undisputed Truth from 1974. Turn this one up.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

GO SLUMDOG GO!: The alwaysmoretohear Oscar Review

Just in case you missed it, word on the street is that this 2009 Oscars awards ceremony was the most enjoyable show in a long time, with a few pitfalls. These are a couple of my favorite and not-so-favorite moments.

-Song and dance host Hugh Jackman was perfectly entertaining. Loved the intro. Loved Anne Hathaway.

-I am a big fan of the new best actor/actress format where five previous winners honor each nominee, it made every moment very special. Much better than showing out-of-context clips. I really hope they keep it this way.

-Could have done without the way they presented of "Best Score," I'm sorry, but that was boring and it all sounded the same.  Maybe they could have written a better arrangement. Maybe I just don't appreciate film scores. I dunno. I couldn't even find a youtube video of it, but honestly, I didn't try very hard...

-The "Musical is Back" medley number with Beyonce and a couple of those kids from High School Musical made my head spin. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed it, but there were musical references flying at me so quickly I didn't have time to identify them!  And Beyonce is in everything. She's amazing. 

And since I haven't shut up about it since I hear that an A.R. Rahman film was coming to the American big screen, I should probably say something about Slumdog Millionaire and its big win over the weekend. 

You probably know that Rahman won the Oscar for Best Song with "Jai Ho." And if you haven't seen the movie, or love the song as much as I do, here's the clip from when "Jai Ho" appears in the the film. The Oscar winning song appears over the credits, while the cast performs a very typical, yet out of character from the rest of the movie Bollywood-esque dance in the Mumbai train station.  Love the Spanish, so random.

This next clip is what I've been excited about since I first heard Rahman was getting recognized for Slumdog: the live Best Song performance at the Oscars.  I loved this, even though the Oscars people crammed all three nominated songs into one number. Whatever, it was still cool. And this year, it seems as if it was a "world music" explosion! Bollywood dancers, what look like Kodo drummers, my favorite: the Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa. And I love John Legend's voice.

It was also fun to hear Rahman sing. Did anyone else notice the weird mix of live singing over pre-recorded track?  Whatever. It was cool.  I wish M.I.A. didn't go and give birth right after performing at the Grammys last month, it would have been fun to hear her bit in "O Saya."

Go Slumdog Go! And congratulations to the people of India and Indian film lovers all over the world. This epic film industry has finally gotten it's international props. Hopefully this is only the beginning and there are many more amazing movies and awesome scores to be shared.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Support Tara to be part of the Youtube Symphony

Be part of a musical revolution!  I know it sounds cliche, but please keep reading. This is very exciting:

My friend Tara is part of an amazing youtube project where classical musicians upload audition videos of musical segments, and viewers vote on who they like best, sort of like "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars". Last year she got to play at the 2008 Grammys with the Foo Fighters as part of My Grammy Moment

This year you can vote for her, and other talented folks from all over the world, to play a composition by Chinese composer Tan Dun, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

I think this is one of the most exciting and innovative combinations of youtube, the internet and pure musical talent bringing musicians together from all over the world. 

Definitely check out some of the other musicians, there is a category for over a dozen instruments including contrabasson, harp, french horn, marimba, tuba and more!

Here is the message I got from Tara on how to vote. If you have any questions, let me know.


Dear Friends,

Last year it was the Grammy's -- this year, it's Carnegie Hall!! :) One year ago, many of you helped me play at the Grammy Awards by voting for me on You Tube. Are you ready for some more You Tube fun??

You Tube is holding auditions for the You Tube Symphony -- and it is up to YOU to vote for who should get into the orchestra. This is such a cool project!! The chosen musicians will be flown to New York City from around the world to perform together in Carnegie Hall this April!

Voting will take place from February 14th through February 22nd at

Please vote for Tara!!!!!
1. Go to
2. Click on the Vote button
3. Find my video under the "Cello" category (you can cycle through the contestants or search for "taraklein1027")
4. Cast your vote by clicking the green thumbs up!

Please help me in spreading the word to as many people as you can! Thank you so much for your support!! :)

Much Love,


Here is Tara's audition video from the 2008 "My Grammy Moment". I think she's pretty awesome, but I might be a little biased...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cause it's my birthday: "Jamie" by Edward Holland Jr.

I love this song: "Jamie" from the early career of Edward Holland Jr., before he was part of the songwriting Motown powerhouse Holland-Dozier-Holland.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Radiohead goes with everything

What more can I say? This band is awesome, no matter how served.

This is Radiohead with the USC Marching band performing "In Step" at the 2009 Grammys. I've always thought marching bands were cool, but they don't get much cooler than this:

This *might* almost as cool: Gnarls Barkley performing a cover of Radiohead's "Reckoner," another mightly musical pairing.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rokia Traore: groovin to the music of the smallest woman in the world

Rokia Traore's guitar is bigger than she is. It's really quite incredible. And what's even crazier is that people always look bigger on stage than they really are! So she must really be tiny.

I saw the Malian singer/songwriter and her 5-part band play as part of the Stanford Lively Arts 2008-2009 season the other night. It was a really beautiful show; she's created a really gorgeous blend of traditional West African griot music with more modern genres.  I really wish I could tell you about her AMAZING band, but the printed program didn't list the names of her musicians. I can't even tell you the name of the neat string instrument one of the guys was was playing, but you can see it at the beginning of the video below.

Rokia didn't speak to much to the audience throughout the show, but she did take the time to explain the meaning of the song "Tounka" and the problem of African emigration.  She said emigration is not the answer to Africa's social and political problems, it is only making things worse.  She was pointing specifically to the mass African immigration to Europe and that is because of Europe colonization that Africa has most of these problems in the first place.  It must be up to Africans to come together to fix the problems, not run away.

Her band laid down the most awesome grooves while Rokia and her backup singer danced.  I loved when Rokia broke into some Fela Kuti during their 15 minute encore (the college students a row back from us freaked out in excitement).  Watch the video below and also this one on Watch some of the other videos on too, this website has some of the most interesting talks and performances like Pilobolus Dance Theater, a Brain Scientist who recalls the experience of having a stroke and an English Knight talking about the importance of Art Education.
Unfortunately, I can't find anything to show you that really captures the energy of Rokia's show, it was way more rockin' that anything I could find on youtube. I've also put a song on the "music I like" section over on the right. 

This is a link to her new album "Tchamantche", including a cool cover of Billie Holliday's "The Man I Love." If you listen to some of the shorter samples, you can get an idea of her higher energy tunes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My LP Collection

I'm going to add a special little section over there on the right where I feature a random record from my LP collection that I'm very excited about. This week I will feature two. People love to get rid of LPs for cheap, so they're easy to come by, so my collection is random and hysterical.  You should see some of these covers.

I've been collecting records since I lived in Washington D.C. in 2003. I was interning for  Smithsonian Folkways, the Smithsonian's record label.  They also run Global Sounds, an itunes for the Smithsonian's record collection and all around music education site. They have some amazing things, a lot of international music, folk musics of the world and singer/songwriter types. Lucinda Williams was on Folkways for awhile. I spent a lot of time with the LPs in the archives. It was just cool being around them..

Anyway, I've bought records for 10 cents, bought records that the Library was selling for $1, found records on the side of the road, and stolen some from my Dad (with his blessing). I'm in the middle of finding the perfect record player (I left the one I got for free in Austin, it was big and crappy) but have been playing them on a friends player.  And I'm adding more pretty often. Like yesterday someone left some out for giveaway downstairs from where I work. 

Two featured LPs from Jamie's collection:
(Just a disclaimer, they are random.  I'll add a song to the playlist over on the right too.)

Fiddler on the Roof Original Film Soundtrack - 2 Record Set, Music Adapted and Conducted by John Williams, 1971. My friends Serena at Grass Routes Travel gave it to me. She writes Eco-Tourism books and is teaching me how to make a t-shirt quilt.

Faith George Michael 1987 featuring "Father Figure" and "I Want Your Sex" I think I found this one on the street in Berkeley. It has a 99 cents price tag on it.  I love me some George Michael.