Thursday, August 28, 2008

DJ B Tortures Her Parents with Bad Chinese Pop Covers

So, on the same library trip in which Miss B selected the delightful album Qi Yuan, she also picked out a few other Chinese releases. She wasn't even watching the Olympics, so it's an odd coincidence that suddenly she was drawn to this music.

Her 2nd choice in Chinese music was categorized by the library as Ye Qianwen's "25 Zhou Nian," but emblazoned on each of the 2 CDs is the name Sally Yip. After a bit of research I learned that Sally Yip aka Sally Yeh is a Hong Kong pop singer and this album from 2004 translates to "25 Years of Sally Yeh."

After DJ B requested this album for play, she swayed a bit to the music before donning her silver glittery shoes for some dancing. She grabbed her favorite mouse pad/dance floor and grooved for a bit on it, before tossing it to the side so that she could do some more extensive ballet maneuvers. She pointed her toes, waved her arms in the air, posed in place, then asked her father to dance with her. During a break between songs she raced to her toy piano to play until the music resumed. As the pace of the music picked up, Miss B ran in circles going faster and faster and her dance moves grew increasingly dramatic. As a cover of the Madonna song "La Isla Bonita" began, Miss B smiled broadly, giggled and said, "I'm laughing at you guys." She then made robot faces, told me the music sounded like "stars," then twirled before rolling around on the floor.

While all this was going on, Miss B's father and I realized that we were hearing lots of Western pop covers---from Madonna to Celine Dion's Titanic theme song. Despite DJ B's manic glee upon being exposed to this hybrid of Chinese and Western pop, her parents were a little cheesed out.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Miss B Celebrates the Beijing Olympics with Chinese "Princess" Music

The next public library CD to catch DJ B's eye was a Chinese album called Qi Yuan. After hearing the opening notes, Miss B started to dance immediately then said, "I want my skirt" and ran to her room to find her silk fairy skirt. She put it on, danced some more, then was off to her room again for more treasures. She returned wearing silver glittery shoes.

Miss B then pointed to the CD booklet and asked, "Who is on that?" She opened up the booklet, which is completely in Chinese and put it close to her face for further examination. She asked again, "Who is that? Is it the princess?" She then started to dance again and said, "I want a wand. You get the wand sweetums." DJ B cranked up the volume and did some slow ballet moves, stretching her arms into the air and then behind her. She suddenly realized that her shoes were on the wrong feet, but continued with the ballet, doing some slow, exaggerated moves and lifting her leg into the air. She again asked for the wand. After I found it she waved it around while dancing, then started to clap while bending her knees.

Since that first listen, this CD has been on constant rotation and has become DJ B's new favorite. She's been dancing to it and sleeping to it. The ultimate compliment!

Today I finally found out what we've been listening to (thank you co-worker of Pam!). First of all, the princess lady on the cover is Grammy nominated Chinese singer Song Zuying, who was actually featured in the closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics over the weekend performing a duet with Placido Domingo. Who knew that Miss B's selection was so timely!

According to my translator, the album is a collection of works by the songwriter Zhang Minghe performed by various artists including Song Zuying, Man Wenjun, Sun Yue and Sun Meina. Most of the songs are love songs or ballads and are certainly great for dancing.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Latin Music Enlivens DJ B

On our next library trip, DJ B carefully scanned the shelves in search of the perfect musical specimens. She kept grabbing more and more CDs until we had six in total. When we went to check them out, I learned that we'd maxed out on our CD limit for the library. What to do? After some creative distribution of our booty across both of our library cards we were good to go, so on to #1!

Miss B's first requested album was the collection "15 Cumbias" by 5 Super Grupos, including Tam y Tex, Sabiduria Nortena, Grupo Cauza Nortena, El Cartel de Nuevo Leon, and Los Nortenitos de Ojinaga. Her initial response was to bop a bit to the music while looking at the booklet. She then talked about the photos, saying, "that is another drum right drum right there...this one is a red drum."

After giving me the lowdown on the liner notes she waved her arms, smiled and danced, saying "don't look at me!" She danced some more, turned down the volume, smiled, shrugged her shoulders, then turned her attention back to the booklet while she sat in a chair. When she wrapped the booklet around her foot, I took it as a sign that nap time was near. I asked if she wanted to listen to the cumbias for her nap and she politely declined. Since DJ B seems to be in charge of nap time these days, I gladly accepted her musical wishes.

Roy and Diz Quickly Dismissed by DJ B

The third and final CD from DJ B's latest library batch was Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie's "Roy and Diz," a 1954 jazz recording. I'm sure that part of what interested Miss B when she pulled it off the library shelf, was the lovely album art. Yes, that initial allure was not in evidence when she sampled the CD at home. The first time we played it, she said, "I don't like it" as soon as the music came out of the speakers. When we tried again later, she said, "I don't want to sing it" and stopped the CD player after just a few seconds. I continued to prompt her to listen to the release, to no avail. Poor Roy and Diz, Miss B just wasn't in the mood for jazz.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Orchestra Baobab is Good for Quiet Time

In addition to NOFX, one of the other picks on Miss B's recent library jaunt was Orchestra Baobab's critically acclaimed CD "Pirates Choice." DJ B selected it from the shelf, even though there was no album art or booklet to lure her in. The first time we put this CD in she didn't pay too much attention to the music and instead put her Dora shin guards on and asked to blow bubbles.

We gave this another chance today and Miss B gave it her full attention. While we listened she sat quietly in a chair, swaying from side to side while munching on Cheddar bunnies. When some male vocals and saxophone burst from the speakers, DJ B said, "Baobab" and smiled. She repeated "Baobab. Baobab. Baobab" while tapping her hand on the CD case and then sidled up next to me and sat on my lap. She wiggled her toes, shrugged her shoulders to the beat, rocked herself and hummed while she nestled in my arms. Later we both got up to dance a bit to the tropical sounds. When I asked Miss B if she liked the music, she said, "Mmmm Hmmm." Before I knew it we had listened to Disc 1 in its entirety, which is a rarity for DJ B, what with her 2-year-old attention span.

Overall, DJ B found the Senegalese/Cuban/jazz-flavored sounds of Orchestra Baobab to be pleasant music for a lazy morning at home.

College Radio DJ's Library Tour

I was just researching University of Texas radio station KVRX for my college radio blog Spinning Indie, when I ran across a blog series called Pimping the Public Library. College radio DJ Doktor Ana has been hitting up the Austin Public Library searching for musical gems since early July. On her blog she's written reviews of some of her discoveries, including surf music, international sounds, and the '80s box set "Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80s Underground."

Additionally, she's been able to track down harder to find music by using inter-library loan. Wow! What a concept. Now if Miss B and I were actually searching for stuff methodically (vs. grabbing from the shelves at random), this would be a wonderful tip. Or, perhaps inter-library loan can be DJ B's Library Tour Version 2.0 when she tires of the shelf inventory.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NOFX Cures Tantrums

After finally squeezing that Etta Baker review out of Miss B, we can now move on to other selections from the public library tour. I was so excited when DJ B chose the NOFX release "Wolves in Wolves' Clothing" the other week. She hasn't reviewed any punk yet, so I was dying to hear her reaction to it.

The first time we played it Miss B was luckily not paying too much attention, as the opening track is littered with prominent swear words. She was more focused on the booklet, which she desperately wanted to pull out of the CD case. After listening to the music for a few seconds she said, "I don't like NOFX." She stopped the CD and took it out.

A few days later, on a particularly stressful, tantrum-filled morning, Miss B grabbed the NOFX CD and wanted to listen to it. She asked for the booklet and then cozied up on the couch with it while I put the CD on. This time I fast forwarded to the swear-free second track, so that I wouldn't get in trouble with her preschool teachers for teaching her profanity.

While listening to NOFX this time around, DJ B was mesmerized. She sat quietly on the couch listening and I was reminded of one of my 5th grade classmates who was given coffee from a thermos all day long in order to calm his hyperactivity. Could this be the same principle? Have I discovered that if one plays punk music for a tantrum obsessed 2-year-old they cross over some sort of threshold into mellowness? Genius.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Etta Baker Gives Miss B the Blues

The final CD from Miss B's latest library trip came from Ms. Etta Baker. "One-Dime Blues," a Rounder release from 1991, turned out to be not so intriguing for DJ B.

When Miss B first saw the CD cover she asked, "What's that one? Is it Grandma?" Yet, the first few times I tried to play it for her she turned it off immediately or had no reaction to it. One day she asked for Etta Baker, yet when I put it on she didn't seem interested.

Today, I played it again for her and Miss B asked, "What are you putting on?" I said, "Etta Baker," to which she replied, "I don't like Etta Baker." She tolerated the music for a few minutes while she played with her cat flashlight, but turned the music off before the first track came to an end. She proclaimed, "I want to play my music" and went to her piano to play a song of her own creation. Surprisingly, she then asked to hold the Etta Baker CD before putting it in the player. As she listened to the music, I asked her what it sounded like and she said, "like a guitar." Miss B then requested milk and turned the CD off again.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Miss B Not Enthralled by Aerosmith's "Pink" Album

When Miss B pointed out the three CDs that she wanted at the library last week, her first request was for "the pink one," which turned out to be Aerosmith's "Just Push Play." I was kind of excited about this one, wondering what her reaction might be to a heavy rock album.

Well...her glee didn't extend much beyond the pink cover. When we first put the CD on she tapped her feet a bit and smiled at me. She listened for awhile and then asked, "This is Alice Cooper?" She smiled some more, rocked her feed a bit, then growled. She pointed her toe on the ground, pointed the other toe, patted her knee and danced in place a bit. She then turned down the volume, declaring, "I want Alice Cooper."

I tried to play Aerosmith again on another day and DJ B turned down the volume, then turned it off completely, saying, "No. No. No...No I don't like it!" before she physically removed the CD from the player.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Alice Cooper Looks Scary

DJ B is getting a bit more precise when choosing her CDs from the public library. Back in the beginning, she would either just go for brightly colored spines or simply grab a bunch of CDs that were next to each other on the shelf. Last week, though, she carefully scanned the shelves and picked out three CDs from different sections that caught her eye based on the covers.

"Mascara & Monsters: The Best of Alice Cooper," was the first album that she chose to listen to from her latest batch. After putting on the CD, Miss B's attention immediately turned to the brightly colored, photo-filled booklet, which Miss B calls a "mat" for some reason. As she looked through the booklet she asked, "Who's that?" When I said "Alice Cooper," she replied, "Look scary." She asked tons of questions about all of the pictures and then looked at the cover art and proclaimed, "they have noses." She then said, "I pretend" as she played some air guitar. Her next move was to run around the room, playing with a flying disc and soccer ball. Later she snuggled on the couch, yawned, then threw a tantrum.

We listened to the album multiple times that first day and waves of nostalgia came over me as I rocked out to classic hits like "School's Out," "No More Mr. Nice Guy," and my favorite "Clones (We're All)." Since we both became a little obsessed with this release, it's not surprising that Miss B kept asking for it. She said, "Where's Alice Cooper?" After putting on the music again, DJ B perused the booklet and informed me "This is Alice Cooper." She continued, "Looks scary. This is scary. Wanna see it?"

So this week my little Miss B learned the allure of the scary. Rock on, sister!

P.S. After writing this, I read that Vince Clarke's kid digs Alice Cooper too. According to San Jose Mercury's Baby Beats column author Yoshi Kato in his piece last month, "When interviewing techno-pop musician Vince Clarke - of Erasure, Yaz and Depeche Mode fame - I asked him what sort of music he and his 2 1/2-year-old son listen to together. He said they've been downloading a lot of '70s music. 'He really likes glam rock, the Sweet and Alice Cooper.'"

There you go. Every 2-year-old should give Alice Cooper a listen.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

To the Sounds of Patti Scialfa, Miss B Channels Her Inner Snow Angel

The third and final CD from Miss B's recent collection of public library finds was Patti Scialfa's "23rd Street Lullaby." When DJ B grabbed the CD to play she asked me, "What's this one?" When I replied, "Patti Scialfa," Miss B then said, "I like Patti LuPone." Wrong Patti! But, funny that she thought she liked the other Patti's CD, when I distinctly remember that her review was called "No, I don't want Patti LuPone!"

While listening to Ms. Scialfa (perhaps best known as Bruce Springsteen's lady love), Miss B sat on the arm of the couch and tapped her feet while guarding 2 remote controls. She grinned and then stood up on the couch. After returning to the floor, she asked me to "bounce," put her hands over her face and bowed her head a few times requesting that I do the same. She then got on her back, saying "like an angel" as she moved her arms and legs as if she was making a snow angel. Taking a break from that, she then sat down on the floor to play her toy piano.

A few days later we put this in the CD player again. This time DJ B turned down the volume pretty quickly saying, "I don't want it." She immediately issued an order to her father (coincidentally, the only Boss fan in the house), saying, "You turn it off, dada."

Friday, August 8, 2008

DJ B Dismisses another Jazz Lady

Next up in DJ B's pile of CDs from the public library was Mabel Mercer's double CD "Once in a Blue Moon/Midnight at Mabel Mercer's." Initially Miss B wanted to check out CD2 ("Once in a Blue Moon"), but as soon as we played it, she said, "I want milk." After quenching her thirst, she asked me to dance with her, then said, "spin me around," before she sank into the couch to read some books. We listened to the classic 1950s jazz sounds of Ms. Mercer for awhile and then Miss B turned off the CD.

We tried CD1 ("Midnight at Mabel Mercer's") a few days later and Miss B just continued with her own business of reading books and not paying much attention to the music. Today when I tried yet again, she just told me flat out that she didn't want to hear it.

Coincidentally, the CD booklet includes an oddly similar review: "Make no mistake: she's not may not even appreciate her the first time around...her subtle brand of singing is an acquired taste" (quoting Victor Lownes III, from original liner notes to "Midnight at Mabel Mercer's").

DJ B couldn't have said it better herself.

Algerian Folk Doesn't Draw in DJ B

A few weeks back DJ B picked up a new group of CDs from the public library. With all the live performances and promo CDs that we've been reviewing, it's been hard to keep up with our weekly random picks...but here we go.

The first of the three this time around was Souad Massi's "Honeysuckle." The French resident was born in Algeria and sings folk songs in Arabic.

Although I was quite interested to hear this album, Miss B didn't pay too much attention to it. Instead she wanted to play with her new Hello Kitty lunch bag, which she promptly filled with all three library CDs. She exclaimed "I love bugs," and then started to thumb through the liner notes. Her chatter then turned to the impending arrival of her beloved babysitter and Miss B informed me: "I don't want to go to bed."

I tried to play the CD again later, and again, I got no response other than the request to turn it off moments later.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Blankies Teach Miss B a Lesson

Image from The Blankies website

With The Blankies' "Learn" album we reach the end of our first trio of promotional CDs. When Miss B saw the case, she pulled out the cover art and wanted to open it. She seemed disappointed that it was just once sheet (perhaps she was spoiled by the massive book in her Verdi CD?). She barely gave this a chance, saying "I want the other one" after only one song.

However, days later she was asking for "The Blankies," so leave it to Miss B to be entitled to her ever-changing opinion. As for me, I kind of liked the sweet poppy sounds and boy-girl vocals of the Blankies, and was reminded of the minimalism of classic K bands.

In addition to the educational lyrical content, this CD taught us another lesson when I went to listen to it this week. I popped it in the player and it started skipping on the first track. When I looked at the CD it was full of scratches, no doubt by my resident DJ B. This was a sobering reminder to me that, yes, indeed Miss B is still a 2-year-old DJ in training and we need to work on those "CD handling" lessons again. Can someone write a song about that, please?

Monday, August 4, 2008

I'm Totally Like Wow. Rock Daddy Rock

Image from Rock Daddy Rock website

The second CD in Miss B's first batch of promos was the just-released Rock Daddy Rock's "Silly Short Songs for Silly Short People." When DJ B saw the case she asked, "What's this one?" When I answered, she exclaimed, "Yes! Rock Daddy Rock." Upon initial listen she bounced her legs a bit and picked up the CD case for closer inspection. When we got to the second track ("Don't Hit, Don't Spit"), she began to creep slowly about the room, then transitioned into more elaborate dancing with jumps. During one song ("Where is the Bathroom?") she heard a toilet flushing and immediately laughed, saying, "It's funny flushes." She listened to this for a full 12 tracks, then took it out to play Teacher and the Rockbots again.

Although it wasn't Miss B's most favorite album this week, Rock Daddy Rock was a fun CD with hilarious lyrics about boogers, farts, burps, dirty nails and diapers. Plus, the '80s teen in me cracked up when I heard the phrase "I'm totally, like, wow" in the song "Your Room's a Mess."

If you liked the lyrics like I did, you'll be psyched to hear that a children's book based on this is in the works. According to the Rock Daddy Rock website, "The Rock Daddy Rock project started as a series of poems with the goal of publishing a children's picture book..."