the Long Tail

Adventures in the Low End of the Demand Curve

Friday, October 29, 2004

They Might Be Giants - Flood

In many ways, had this album never been made, this page would probably not exist. I'll leave to you to decide if that would be a good or a bad thing. This album introduced me to the joy that could be had by veering just a little bit off of the mainstream.

It was a simpler time, back in 1991, when I discovered two songs that still rank today near the top of my all-time favorite list; "Istanbul, not Constantinople," and "Particle Man." It was a Friday morning that started just like any other, but Tiny Toon Adventures did something a little different, and presented a show full of music videos starring the Tiny Toons. The first two changed my life forever, or at least the parts of it that were set to music.

If you're familiar with the Giants, you already know that they're like nobody else out there. If you've never heard of them, that's all you need to know. Let them take you on a musical journey to see what you've been missing, what music can really be. Equal parts charm, quirk, and a helping of thought make this an album you don't just listen to, but an album you experience.

Monday, October 25, 2004


Part of the fun of keeping this blog active is finding the music in my collection that is both a little on the obscure side, but also finding a CD that has a story behind the original acquisition. Whether its a story of where I found it, who I met in the process, or just the impact that it had on me, a little bit of drama makes the album memorable.

This album, however, has no drama surrounding it. I was simply browsing the music racks at Best Buy, and this happened to catch my eye. The song titles intrigued me, and the price was right. I didn't care for it at first (a common theme throughout this series) but it didn't repulse me, so it had a chance to grow on me.

As far as the songs that intrigued me, including "The World Has Come Between Us," "I Will Be Something," "I Know Where You Are," and "the Scientist's Canvas." They all contain a certain amount of teenage and adult angst that most can relate to, acknowledging the difficulties of relationships, maintaining a postive outlook in today's world when others try to bring you down, and what happens when people part unexpectedly. They have a sound that rests somewhere between Pearl Jam and Linkin Park, but certainly distinctive and worth a listen. If you feel like giving it a try, I recommend it. Let's it's post-grunge sounds give you a kindred spirit, if only for an hour.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

MrNorth - Lifesize

So there I was, at Amoeba Music in San Francisco. I really wasn't looking for anything in particular, just looking for stuff that I couldn't get in Detroit. In addition to finding some amazing stuff, I have a new gold standard that all record stores I go to will be judged by.

One of the CDs that I found was by a then unknown band called MrNorth. It was in the clearance section, but as near as I could tell, this hadn't been out that long. In my old order, the clearance section is typically reserved for stuff that had been out forever that wasn't otherwise going to move, or an album that was excessively overhyped that landed with a thud. I'm not sure how this was marketed in California, but here in Michigan, I had never heard of this band before.

My favorites songs here were "Let Me In," a song imploring a would-be lover to give life a chance; "Start From A" although I can't put my finger on it. My favorite track is the title track, which to me makes me think about the difference between the life we imagined as a child, the life we feel that's punishing us when we're down, and the life we actually have when we see clearly, and how reality is usually in the middle of our idealistic and pessimistic peaks and valleys.

If you live in New York, MrNorth is currently performing every Saturday at a place called Tailor's Hall. If you can make it, be sure to tell me how they're doing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Star Wars, Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Every so often a movie comes along that you really enjoy, but you feel like some sort of a freak for it. You might have a variety of reasons, but ultimatley, you feel dirty for enjoying the movie as much as you did. Well, I'm breaking out of that shame spiral, and I'll announce publicly that I really enjoyed Star Wars Episode I.

For the life of me, I still don't understand why so people disliked this movie. Those that I have asked seem unable to give me a coherant answer. Of course, people have the right to like or dislike any movie they choose to. However, I have yet to hear a rational explanation for disliking this that doesn't ultimatley sound like "It's not like the other Star Wars movies."

Of course, its not like the other Star Wars movies. Those were made in the late 70's - early 80's. Technology and storytelling techniques have changed since then. I didn't waste my time being concerned with how much it "felt" like the old Star Wars movies. Instead, I took it for it was. The untold story of how Annakin Skywalker became Darth Vader; how he went from a precocious little boy to the eventual face of fear throughout the Empire. This was only intended to be part one of a three part story, with the next three parts showing his eventual redemption.

Some thought that the underlying story of a trade dispute was a little weak. Perhaps, but I saw it as a rather innocuous beginning to the saga of Annakin Skywalker, and gave the two Jedi a legitimate reason to be on Tatooine. I saw it as a way emphasize the lowly beginning of the man who would become Darth Vader.

Some disliked the movie because of Jar Jar Binks, and how annoying he was. I will concede that I didn't really like Jar Jar either. I thought he was loud and obnoxious, and clearly was designed to pander to a teenage audience that probably didn't appreciate it. However, he was also played as a buffoon, and this characterization was used brilliantly in Episode Two.

Some also said that they didn't like the way that Anakin was played in this movie. Saying things like "Yippee," hugging his mother, showing his fear when it came time to leave her. I counter that if Anakin didn't do these things, I would have been freaked out. He wasn't acting like Darth Vader yet because he wasn't Darth Vader yet. He was acting like the eight year old boy he was.

My hope here is that if you've decided to dislike the Phantom Menace for these or any other reasons, that you re-evaluate your opinion. Maybe you'll change your mind, maybe you won't, but I thank you for letting me make my case. The Phantom Menace is like any other movie; some will like, some won't.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Atticus Fault

I had high hopes for this album eventually finding its audience. Despite the fact that folks at the local record store that I bought this from thought that this sounded like Oasis or the Couting Crows, I had hopes that word of mouth would get around. I thoroughly enjoyed this entire album, and when I found this in mid 2002, I was surprised they still made albums like this anymore.

Alas, this ecstasy was to be short-lived. Apparently, nothing was learned from the echolyn debacle, and this album languished in obscurity until the band broke up. I still hold out hope that they might reform, but I realize that its a long shot. Until then, I'll keep this album in frequent rotation, especially focusing on the standout tracks "Soundtrack," "My First Trip to Mars," "Mary Mother," and "Once Around the Sun."

echolyn - As the World

Back in 1995, I had a fascination with the band Rush that was unusual for someone my age. I used them as a jumping off point to find other music that was in their vein. One of the bands that I discovered was a band from Pennsylvania named echolyn. When the opportunity arose, I promised myself that I would pick it up and give it a listen. Then, I went to a Best Buy in Green Bay, Wisconsin, yadda, yadda, yadda...

While the album didn't jump at me at first, it gradually grew on me. I liked it enough that I was able to give it a chance. Eventually, this became (and still is) one of my favorite albums. The favored songs included "As the World," a tribute to true individualism, but a acknowledgement of the challenges that go with it, "How Long I Have Waited," just a song in praise of perseverance, "One for the Show" the conclusion of a string of four songs that tell a story that can also stand on its own. "Never the Same" might have been written for someone who died, but it helped me get over someone who had just drifted away from me. "A Habit Worth Forming" was there for me when I tried to make changes to my life for the better.

Unfortunatley, echolyn broke up just before I bought this album, due the some tensions that arose as a result from the way the album was handled by Sony records. I believe that this album could have been a hit had it been promoted more enthusiastically by Sony, but I'm over it now. Echolyn has since reformed, but in my opinion the new albums don't compare to As the World. Be that as it may, I'll always have this album. It's a fine substitute.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Birthday Girl

The fact that this movie reportedly sat on the shelves for two years, and then rushed in and out of theaters in Early 2002 probably didn't inspire a lot of confidence that this was worth watching. However, the concept intrigued me; a lonely bank clerk arranges for a mail-order bride named Nadia from Russia, and things seem to go all right at first. Then hilarity ensues...

The hilarity in this case are Nadia's "relatives" who arrive on the scene to carry out the second half of their plan. The plot turns into an elaborate extortion scheme, and the three of them force the lonely man to rob the bank that he works for. Then, another complication arises, and Nadia is left out of the plan. She reunites with John, and now that both of them are in quite the pickle, they agree to work together to rob the robbers. The plan is successful, but John realizes that he would be a wanted man if he were to return; with nowhere else to go, he agrees to accompany Nadia (who had revealed her real name to be Sophia) back to Russia, with admittedly uncertain prospects.

This movie carries a theme about the lengths that some of us will go to find someone to love. Some people meet and fall for the girl next door; some meet their love in the local supermarket; some have to go to other lengths. I don't believe that one method is inherantly better than any other, but the fact is that the more extreme methods carry that much additional risk, which is another point made here. As the movie ends, John's future with Sophia is uncertain, but we are left hopeful that perhaps Sophia can put her past behind her, as John does seem to genuinely care for her.

This movie was the first to make me appreciate Nicole Kidman. I had seen her in a couple of other movies but she never really stuck in my head. It hasn't exactly made me want to see anything else that she's done, but I now understand what some people see in her.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Venice - Welcome to the Rest of Your Life

The band's name is Venice, named for their hometown of Venice, California. That was also where I happened to discover this album last August in a used bin at a place called Benway Music. (I don't remember what street they're on, but I do remember that they were near Venice Beach).

If I'm going to try out a CD from a band I've never heard of, I have two guidelines that I try to follow: 1) It has to cost less than $12, and b) the copyright date must be in the current year or the prior year. The copyright date on the album was back in 2002, which put in just outside of the second guideline. However, I still had a strong feeling about this, so I decided to give it a try anyway.

Obviously, I was impressed, or you'd be reading something else here right about now. I was especially fond of "Not Down Anymore", "Sweet Aloha", "Blue Paint", "Unbreakable Heart", and "Most of Us." It was nice to hear an album that went of its way to paint a picture of optimism that is missing in society today, not just in music, but in media in general.

This album is barely listed in, and seems to be out of print. If you happen to find this, it comes highly recommended. I count myself fortunate to have found this, and took their invitation to the Rest of My Life.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Robbie Williams - Swing When You're Winning

I'm surprised this album was never released in the U.S., especially as it full of songs that were popular in another era of American music. Sure, Robbie is British, but he does possess some musical talent that make this worthy of a listen.

Some of the standout tracks here include "Mack the Knife", "Something Stupid" (featured in the sadly underrated Birthday Girl), "It was a Very Good Year", and "Ain't That a Kick in the Head." Most of this album was new to me, and it was a nice change from my usual musical choices.

Based on the title alone, some probably thought that this a cynical attempt to cash in on America's brief fascination with Swing Music in the late '90s. While I won't deny that went into the inspiration, the result was fascinating, and didn't come across like a cheap cash-in, IMHO.

Robbie Williams - Escapology

Somewhere along the way, I heard a story about a man and his monkey. It was a slightly comical, slightly sad story about a man swept up in events that he hadn't anticipated when he picked up the monkey as his hitchhiker. After some research, I found the song again, and lo and behold, I had a new appreciation for the boy band refugee Robbie Williams.

In case you're wondering, Robbie's musical career started with a British boy band known as Take That. They may not have been a boy band in the traditional sense, but they were still labeled as such. It must have burned Robbie up, and he eventually seperated from that, and was able to break out as a solo artist.

While it's true for all of his solo albums to a certain extent, Escapology was actually a fairly deep album with a lot of emotional moments. In addition to the song "Me and My Monkey", the other standouts include "Monsoon", "Sexed Up", "Love Somebody", and possibly one of the best songs I've ever heard by anybody, "Feel." Perhaps its just because it seems like a perfect way to describe my state of mind over the past couple of years, perhaps just because the emotion was captured in the recording so well it send chills up my spine, or just because I can't resist singing along, this makes the entire album worth the price of admission.

Come for the Monkey, stay for the emotional content...

Welcome to the Long Tail

A short time ago, I commented on an article from Wired about the movement of media industries (including Music, Movies, and Books) away from the current hit-driven mentality, to one where a work of art doesn't have to move 4 Trillion copies to make a profit. Since then, I've envisioned many more entries following that theme.

To that end, I decided to create a whole new page dedicated to highlighting Music, Movies, Video Games, and Books from the lower end of the demand curve, with an occasional hit thrown in, just because I think that its that cool.