Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Song of the Day: "Two Princes" (And a Little on the Spin Doctors' Comeback.)

The Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes” is one of our all-time favorite songs here at Merry Picnic. It’s a classic, feel-good pop song that we can just listen to over and over again anytime. I loved the Sarah Silverman Show bit where Sarah’s neighbor Steve finds that his boyfriend Brian, who’s supposed to be a big metalhead, only has one song on his iPod – yep, it’s “Two Princes.” The montage of Brian skipping through the park and high-fiving people to the song might be the happiest thing I’ve ever seen. At the end of the episode, he explains that it keeps him from going crazy angry from just listening to metal. He makes a good point. It’s impossible to not feel at least a little happy listening to this song.

And I just read some very cool news in Spinner today: The Spin Doctors are making a comeback for the 20th Anniversary of Pocket Full of Kryptonite - the fantastic album that gave us "Two Princes" and "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong." It's hard to believe that this classic album came out when we were 4 years old. The album's getting a re-release, and the band is going on tour - something they were stopped from doing in 1999 when the lead singer developed a vocal cord paralysis and dropped out of the band, according to the Spinner article.

So here’s the “Two Princes” video, so your day can be made better, and so we can keep looking back on our blog and clicking “play” ourselves.

And for good measure, here’s the Sesame Street version, which is awesome not only for its storyline and lesson on friendship but for the way it sounds exactly like the original – with just a few changes. Yeahhhh, cooperation!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Rosebuds - Come Visit Me

If you're not listening to The Rosebuds, you should be. I've spent the last week immersing myself in their two most recent LPs, with more to come I'm sure. Their danceable blend of indie and folk rock sensibilities is right up our alley, and is sure to be a terrific compliment for their shows with Bon Iver later this summer. We'll be sure to catch them at Mountain Park on Saturday, August 6th, but for now check out "Come Visit Me" off the new album Loud Planes Fly Low.  Even if it fucks you up.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Look Back at Heavyweights

We spent this weekend at our friend’s lakeside cabin, and hanging out by a lake, with a water trampoline, in the summer, can only remind us of one thing: Heavyweights.

Heavyweights, one of the best movies of our childhood, is still a classic in our hearts today. We have friends who say it’s Ben Stiller’s greatest movie, and I have to agree. In 1995, when Heavyweights came out, we were 8 years old – the perfect age to enjoy a movie about kids at fat camp. At 23 and 24, it’s even funnier in a lot of ways. Here’s a video clip of one of our favorite characters, Lars - to really make it feel like summer.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Beardo - 24 Hour Party

We're off in the Adirondacks for two-day bender with some awesome people, taking a turn from the incomparable Beardo and partying for twenty-four hours a day.  There's nothing like idiot punk-rock as a soundtrack for pounding beers, so crack one open and follow Beardo's lead.  Drink! Drink! Drink!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

G-Eazy - Well-Known

New G-Eazy tune off Endless Summer, an EP coming out summer 2011.  With guest rapper Kam Royal, the track samples dream-pop trio Au Revoir Simone to fit G-Eazy's usual party hip-hop elan.  Check out the track, embedded below, and we'll have more on Endless Summer as soon as its released.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Beetlejuice - The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)

Talking Belafonte last week got me thinking altogether too much about my favorite use of my least favorite track off Calypso. “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” has become a part of the collective consciousness due to its inexplicable overuse at baseball games, completely ruining for me what would otherwise be a fairly inoffensive tune. There’s still one situation where I’ll find myself enjoying it, the famous possession sequence from Beetlejuice. Catherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones’ enthused but confused dance routine while possessed by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis’ ghosts is nothing short of hilarious. The looks on their faces, feeling the music co-mingled with the terror of having no control over their bodies, make for a delightful dichotomy. The whole film is classic, but this scene stands out as the funniest scene lacking Michael Keaton’s manic title character. Check it out, embedded below.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

MST3K - The Dead Talk Back

Love Lights... into Dark Star... into Sugaree...
The Dead talk back today on Merry Picnic, or at least the Satellite of Love’s premiere tribute act do.  Crow, decked out in his Garcia/crazy prospector garb, lovingly tears into Jerry’s musical persona, noodling his way through a spectacular(ly long) homage to the Grateful Dead’s propensity for extended soloing.  What’s most amazing is how Crow’s solo starts off actually sounding like any number of Jerry’s solos, but quickly devolves into what the uninitiated hear whenever a Dead jam is playing.  Either way, it’s simply hilarious, check it out below.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The 36th Anniversary of JAWS

Hard to believe 36 years years ago today my all-time favorite film was released.  There are so many little moments that make Jaws poignant, sharp, hilarious, and downright harrowing that it's hard to keep track.  I'll keep it to two for today, John Williams' iconic score and Quint's quip of "here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women" as a toasts some of his own moonshine.  (Quint's constant quaffing of Narragansett Lager is worth at least an honorable mention though.)  Celebrate the anniversary with us and John William's still-scary theme embedded below.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Roger Waters - Brain Damage (acoustic)

Disclaimer: "The Gunner's Dream" is my favorite Floyd tune. Sorry Gilmour devotees.

The Dark Side of the Moon marked both an end and beginning for Pink Floyd. Having moved on from Syd Barrett's departure through a series of collaborative and eclectic sounding albums, they reached their collective zenith with the one-two punch of Meddle and Dark Side. However, beginning with Wish You Were Here, the band became less of a team effort and more Waters-led. The old school fans take umbrage to this, believing Waters' egomania to largely bring about their downfall and breakup. Personally, as a Waters fan, the trilogy of Waters' penned albums Animals, The Wall, and The Final Cut are among Floyd's best, and this acoustic take on "Brain Damage" gives some insight into what earlier tracks might have sounded like on those later albums. There's a degree of restraint that would be a perfect sonic fit for The Final Cut, bringing more feeling and finesse than Gilmour's later albums. Check it out, embedded below.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Eels - Mr. E's Beautiful Blues

Thanks to Todd Phillips and his debut comedy Road Trip for introducing me to Mark Everett's musical output as Eels.  Ten years later, and their both still god-damn right, it's a beautiful day.  Get outside and do some grilling, or blast this track while cruising with the windows down, it's what we'll sure be doing.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Harry Belafonte - Will His Love Be Like His Rum?

Surely everyone knows “The Banana Boat Song”, Harry Belafonte’s lead track off his classic 1959 album Calypso. For completely mind-boggling reasons, it has become ubiquitous at baseball games and other sporting events as a call and response cheer. I know for me, there’s nothing like Belafonte’s cry of Day-O being followed by 30,000 languid, uninterested responses from hot, drunk sports fans, but I digress. Maybe that’s the reason why I can’t bring myself to listen to the song outside of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, and it’s definitely the reason why I’m digging deeper into Calypso for today’s offering.

The rest of the album is truly fantastic, a classic example of John Q. Public’s first foray into world music. Calypso is known for being the first LP to sell one million copies, but it earned every one of those purchases. We’ll talk about standout tracks like “Come Back Liza” or “Man Smart (Woman Smarter)” in later posts, but for today we present “Will His Love Be Like His Rum?”, also called “The Wedding Song”. Sung from the perspective of friends and loved ones at a raucous wedding reception, they ask the hard questions of the happy newlyweds. “Will his love be like his rum? Intoxicating all night long? Will she be a perfect? Make him work hard all his life?” The revelers respond to each question with a jubilant cry of “Yes, he/she/it will!” as they drink a toast “to the two we love the most”. It might be among the cheerier songs ever written, full of the excitement, hope, and positivity you would expect at wedding celebration, the key word being celebration. Too often the joy at such an event is sacrificed in favor of a somber or (God forbid) dry environment. This song (embedded below) makes no such mistake. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bon Iver - Self-Titled

Indie folk-rock can seem like a cliché, bordering on redundancy.  Fairly uninspired acoustic acts are a dime a dozen, pumping out albums that shamelessly (to a much lesser degree) ape on Nick Drake, Roy Harper, and the other great folkies of yesteryear.  Bon Iver is one group that does not have that problem.  Their 2008 debut For Emma, Forever Ago is a superlative example of modern folk, evocative of the wintry forests of Wisconsin where it was recorded, saying as much with the sparsity of it's arrangements as the music itself.  Their sound has grown beyond their initial offering on their newest album, Bon Iver.  Much like their musical compatriots Iron & Wine, musical expansion is paramount between efforts, with more prominent percussion, synthesizers, and electric guitar presented on their sophomore LP, all the while retaining Justin Vernon's signature vocals.  While not the borderline jam-rock of Iron & Wine recent LP Kiss Each Other Clean, listeners can readily hear how much the band has grown on Bon Iver.  Check out the new album, out today on Jagjaguwar, and give a listen to "Calgary" embedded below.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Antlers with Little Scream at The Space - This Friday!

The Antlers with Little Scream might just be the best musical pairing to come to our small state this summer. Yes, I think I’m willing to say that.

NPR had The Antlers’ new album, “Burst Apart,” streaming live for some time before it came out last month, and I couldn’t stop listening to it for those first few days it was up. Their emotional, anthemic rock spans such a spectrum that it really can be listened to it for hours on end. If you’re reading this right now, it’s likely you’re already interested in the show, and I probably didn’t have to tell you that. If you haven’t heard this band, I think you want to. Below is a video of The Antlers performing “I Don’t Want Love,” the first track off “Burst Apart.”

The Antlers, on tour with Little Scream, just played two sold-out shows in New York City a few weeks ago. We get to see them in our backyard, right here in Hamden, in the intimate space that is The Space, for only $13 in advance or $15 at the door. And it’s their last stop in the U.S. before heading overseas for sometime and coming back to play Austin City Limits in September. I don’t think it gets any better.

Little Scream is one sweet tour companion, too. Little Scream, Laurel Sprengelmeyer’s moniker, describes her sound in the name itself. She has this sweet, soft coo over steady folk-driven, yet still progressive, guitar, keyboards and drums. You can listen to some yourself on the Little Scream Myspace page:

Friday is going to be good. Make sure to get your tickets in advance, or get there early, because like those two New York shows, this one will probably sell out too.

Show info:

The Antlers with Little Scream
Friday, June 17 – 8 p.m.
The Space – 295 Treadwell St., Hamden, CT
$15 ($13 advance)

I’ll leave you with one more little music video from The Antler’s last album:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Mamas & The Papas - Creeque Alley

A veritable who's who of the 60s music scene, "Creeque Alley" details the beginnings of the seminal folk rock group The Mamas and The Papas.  Born out of the ashes of The Mugwumps, the band went on to produce signature tunes such as "California Dreamin'" and "Monday, Monday".  For me, this story of music and success is their best tune, describing their formation as well as that of The Byrds, The Lovin' Spoonful, and several popular haunts of the time.  Dig the live version embedded below to see them before their breakup(s), still young and having fun "leaving the folk music behind".

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Shivers, Pearl and the Beard, and Celebrated Tigers at Bar - This Wednesday!

The Shivers, Pearl and the Beard, and Celebrated Tigers are playing a free show this Wednesday at Bar in New Haven as part of the Manic Productions Wednesday series, and it’s sure to be one of the better Wednesdays there yet.

The video above is a song off The Shivers’ album, “More,” released just last month. The Shivers’ sound is all over the place, and I can’t describe it accurately, so you'll need to listen for yourself to get a good picture. Some of their songs have a real electronic, psych rock feel, while others are folk rock, and yet others sound like they have a Tom Waits influence. There’s slower ballads and fast-paced indie rock that you want to dance to. Their set is sure to be a good time.

Pearl and the Beard is a really interesting band from NYC with great instrumentation and a lot of spunk. Below is a really cool “Subway Sessions” video of Pearl and the Beard performing the song “Reverend” at a subway station. The sound is great – guitar, drum, tambourine, and cello in tow – and the video is shot just beautifully. I also clicked through related videos to a “Will Smith Medley,” which is super sweet. The band - armed with a glockenspiel, cello, and snare drum - play parts of a bunch of Will Smith favorites around the city.

Celebrated Tigers’ indie rock album, “Year of the Tiger,” released just this past April, can be streamed in its entirety at

All three bands are sure to make for a chill, very inexpensive night at Bar. I’m looking forward to getting there early for some beer and maybe some pizza and sticking around for some really good free music.

Show info:

The Shivers, Pearl and the Beard, and Celebrated Tigers
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Bar – 254 Crown St., New Haven, CT
21+, Free

Manic Productions event page for the show:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Doctor's Orders - Kris Kristofferson "Sunday Morning Comin' Down"

We're proud to present the very first guest-written post on Merry Picnic.  The good Doctor Bendel has graced us with his talents and extensive music background, in a new feature we'll be running under the moniker Doctor's Orders.  Check it out, and hopefully we'll have him back soon.

We’ve all heard Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee”, Elvis Presley’s “Help Me Make It through the Night", Roger Miller’s “Best of All Possible Worlds”, or maybe, for the real classicists, even Johnny Cash’s #1 hit country single “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down”. Few, however, can name the mind who generated so many of these songs that have shaped American country and folk rock since the early 1970s, and even fewer have had the privilege to hear these songs as performed by the man himself, Kris Kristofferson.

“Sunday Morning Comin’ Down” was one of Kristofferson’s first real hits, first popularized, before Johnny Cash, by country great Ray Stevens, at a time when Kristofferson’s own albums were largely overlooked and undersold. Kristofferson, who began his songwriting career while a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, returned to the United States in 1960 to become a decorated Army Ranger, only to turn down a professorial appointment at West Point and end his Army career so he could focus on his songwriting, a move which would thrust him and his young family into poverty. It was during this time, while working as a janitor in Nashville, that Kristofferson wrote some of the best songs of his career, including “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down”. In this track you can really feel Kristofferson in his place and time: The self-pity and the valor, the dirtiness and loneliness you’d feel at a church or by a family in the park, the smell of booze in your sweat, the eyes burning with decades of bar smoke, the shudder of the whiskey going down, and Kristofferson brushing it all off. We all know the vapid hollowness of our hung-over Sunday mornings, feeling much like the condensation on a warming beer can; but they are those empty Sunday mornings, those that propel us so hopelessly into each week of tedium, that, like “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down”, invisibly define more of our lives than many would care or bother to appreciate.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

FREE CONCERT - Yo-yo Ma in New Haven

Don't miss Yo-yo Ma with the Silk Road Ensemble TONIGHT on the New Haven Green.  The show will be happening outside from 7-8:30, so dress warmly and park early to enjoy a night of diverse music, instrumentation, and culture.  We'll see you there with an Irish coffee and lawn chair, and be sure to check out their Arabian Waltz which they'll be playing tonight.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bill Kirchen - Seeds and Stems (Again)

Almost immediately after posting Commander Cody's original version of "Seeds and Stems (Again)", I found this version by original Lost Planet Airmen guitarist Bill Kirchen.  Playing at New Haven's Cafe Nine, the man whose guitar made "Hot Rod Lincoln" so classic gives us his take on another Commander Cody tune.

Enjoy it below, and happy weekend!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Look Back @ Rocko's Modern Life - Zanzibar

Among the highlights of 90s Nickelodeon were its “event” specials. Sort of like the tentpole releases of children’s television, we would be inundated with constant advertisements and reminders of the upcoming Nick ‘r Treat specials or Rugrats’ Passover Special, until we were chomping at the bit to get our promised programming, regardless of how little we actually knew or cared about the holidays.

Rocko’s Modern Life was no exception with its conservation-themed musical event, “Zanzibar”. Featuring catchy tunes on the subjects of spring cleaning, recycling, and basic spelling, the songs stay with me today. I often find myself humming “R-E-C-Y-C-L-E, recycle! C-O-N-S-E-R-V-E, conserve!” while I pull recyclables out of the trash. Rocko also taught us the merits of civil disobedience, that with a little effort you CAN fight City Hall. This is all on top of the fact that this uniquely madcap take on conservation education was rampantly hilarious. I still crack up at Heffer’s pubescent cry “that you shooouuld” before the big reprise. Most importantly, I’ve taken to heart the advice of Captain Compost Heap, given at the episode’s close, “If you’re not nice to mother nature… or she’ll kick our butts!” Check out the full episode, embedded below, it’ll take you back.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth

Certain songs say certain things at certain times to certain people, and completely weave themselves into the collective consciousness and landscape of a period.  There might be no one song that does that better than Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth".  While thought by many to be about the Kent State shootings, the song is a more general commentary on the feelings of unrest due to the Vietnam War and the Youth-vs-the-Establishment climate of the 60s.  Check out a more positive association for the song, the band's 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival (embedded below), featuring a rare David Crosby appearance prior to CSN's formation.  Also, if you're heading to Bonnaroo, do NOT miss Buffalo Springfield's set, featuring the reunited surviving members for the first time since '68.  For those of us not so lucky, they'll be continuing the reunion with a full tour this fall, a must see show for 60s aficionados.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Exuma - Fire in the Hole

It’s a people explosion here on Merry Picnic, as we bring you the largely forgotten Bahamian musician Exuma. Taking his stage name from the island of his birth, Exuma’s musical output defies classification, combining aspects of reggae, African folk, and protest songs into his own frantic blend of energetic shout-singing. Perhaps his uniqueness was an impediment to his success, as people were unsure what exactly Exuma was. Were they a band? Was it a solo act? Was it something to do with the island itself? The album art and packaging gave little in the way of clues, requiring would-be listeners to make a greater leap of faith than normal. Those brave souls that took the plunge would find themselves brought into Exuma’s world of junkaroo, rake and scrape, and other aspects of Bahamian culture. No track takes you there better than “Fire in the Hole” of 1970’s Exuma II. Give it a listen (embedded below), because to quote the man himself, you can’t kill human emotion.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Yourself and The Air & Wess Meets West @ The Outer Space (TONIGHT!)

Looking for something to do tonight? We've got a pretty good option in Hamden: Yourself and The Air & Wess Meets West @ The Outer Space

As a former marching/concert band pit member (high school and college), both of these bands appeal to me for their infusion of mallet percussion sounds into sweet guitar and bass lines and steady, building drum beats. They're the perfect pairing for a show at The Outer Space. I've been streaming Yourself and The Air on their myspace page, linked below, and I like what I'm hearing. Make sure to play the video below and/or listen to their stuff from the link. Wess Meets West rocked their show at Bar a few months back, so I'm looking forward to seeing them again.

Not only are these great bands, the setting is perfect for a Monday night off, and it's a bargain. We finally made it out to The Outer Space, the recently opened sister bar/venue to The Space, and it's everything I've ever wanted in a bar venue. Great corner stage, small tables, and a nice patio out back. Drink specials from 5-7 include $2 drafts. The show itself is a deal at $5 - and there's no cover until a half hour before the music starts. The show starts at 8, according to the Manic Productions website. Thanks, Manic Productions and our friends at The Space and Outer Space, for making this happen. 

Here's the info for the show:

Yourself and The Air & Wess Meets West
The Outer Space, 295 Treadwell St., Hamden, CT
8 p.m.

Listen to more Yourself and The Air here: 

And some Wess Meets West here: 

And check out this Wess Meets West video: 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Andrew Gold - Thank You For Being A Friend {RIP}

Just found out about the untimely passing of Andrew Gold, 59, the songwriter behind hits like "Lonely Boy" and "Thank You For Being A Friend", which of course was immortalized as the theme song for The Golden Girls, one of our favorite shows.  Check out Gold's original masterpiece below.  RIP

Crosby, Stills, & Nash - Our House

We saw these venerable folk-rockers open for Tom Petty last year at The Meadows, and frankly they stole the show.  It's easy to overlook the number of killer tunes they've put out of the years, but they've been the soundtrack for a generation since Buffalo Springfield split up in '68.  From their take on Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" to the sprawling "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", their intricate vocal harmonies and collective instrumental skill still wow audiences as they approach their seventies.

Give a listen to one of our personal favorites, "Our House", a definite candidate for greatest love song ever written.  Anyone who's ever been in love can agree with that, knowing the best place to be, their favorite place, is at home with their partner.  Our house.  Enjoy.

Bonus find: Here's cell phone video of the performance we saw before Petty at The Meadows with surprisingly good sound quality (embedded below).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen - Seeds and Stems (Again)

The subject of a Vintage Vinyl post some time back (read it here, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen have spent their careers writing rollicking country love songs. Subjects range from cigarettes to booze to lovely ladies, but the Commander and crew love them all. Feeling lovelorn for a bit of greenery is no exception to this, being the subject of his classic tune “Seeds and Stems (Again)” off his ’71 LP Lost in the Ozone. Referred to as “our only slow song”, it isn’t solely about Mary Jane, but rather a laundry list of the narrator’s troubles. Bored on a Saturday, seeing his lady’s new beau, jealousy of a friend’s new squeeze, the death of his dog, and a visit from the repo men all pale in comparison with his lost love. In a lot of ways, your run of the mill country tune, but to top it all off, he’s got the seeds and stems blues. So if you’re in the mood for a bottle of Ripple (or Wild Irish Rose, for you kids) and the saddest song ever written, check out “Seeds and Stems (Again)”, embedded below.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Flaming Lips with Prefuse 73 (2011 EP)

The Flaming Lips have been churning out new music at an astounding rate this year, as part of Wayne Coyne’s new initiative. Rather than spending 2+ years writing 20 some-odd album tracks to be arranged, produced, recorded, mixed, and eventually whittled down to the 12 or so that make the album, The Lips are opting for frequent releases in varied formats. From their 12” EP collaboration with Neon Indian to their Gummy Song Skull with a flash drive of music embedded in the brain, it has been a fruitful year for the Oklahoma psych-rockers.

Their newest effort pairs them with Prefuse 73, bringing glitch hop and intelligent dance music sensibilities to the Lips’ Embryonic-like computer-manipulated guitar compositions. The end product is 18 minutes of atmospheric chillwave, too loud to be called ambient, but largely devoid of standard song structure. Give a listen to the lead-off track “The Super Moon Made Me Wanna Pee!!!” embedded below, somewhat reminiscent of Embryonic’s “Watching the Planets”, and defying description in more ways than one.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cool Hand Luke - Plastic Jesus

I was staring out a rainy window recently and got this tune stuck in my head.  I had heard The Flaming Lips' version many times (it's a great down-tempo moment on Transmissions from the Satellite Heart), but hadn't thought about the version that made it famous in quite ahile.  Check out Paul Newman's emotional take on the tune from 1967's Cool Hand Luke, complete with the old timey banjo picking that makes it so classic.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gogol Bordello RSD 2010 (45 @ 33)

This is a new feature where we will be ripping our 45 rpm records at 33 and posting the results. Just like the grown men who were sped up to become Alvin and the Chipmunks, any artist on a 45 can be turned into Barry White by taking it slow.

More for comedic effect than anything else, we first found how hilarious it could be slowing down our 45’s by accident. Taking our Record Store Day 2010 release of Gogol Bordello’s “Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)” and playing it slow had us stitches, partially because Eugene sounds like the devil and partially because it now sounds like GWAR rather than Gogol. That opening bass-line becomes so much more satisfying once it’s slowed down, making you feel it as much as hear it. The b-side, “Trans-Continental Hustle” is a different sort of hilarious, as it actually works slowed down. Check out the original tracks on YouTube, then check out the Mediafire links below to give the slowed-down versions a listen, and try to make it through without laughing. We dare you.