Playlist 12 -- Bumblers, Books, Bees and Buzzes

Hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day and that you're enjoying a long holiday weekend. My Playlist this past week included a humorous novel, music (both old and new, some Philly-related), and a fruit beer. As usual, feel free to chime in. Let me know what you're watching, reading, listening to, or even drinking ...

An Arsonists Guide to Writers' Homes in New England by Brock Clarke.
Do you ever feel like a bumbler like I do? Well, have no fear. There is no bigger bumbler than Sam Pulsifer, the main character in Clarke's fourth book. At age 18, Pulsifer "accidentally burned down the Emily Dickinson House in Amherst, Massachusetts, and in the process killed two people." He later leaves prison, goes to college, gets married and moves to the burbs, not far from the site of accidentally arson. Sam's simple life -- home in Camelot, job as a packaging scientist -- gets turned upside down as his past comes back to haunt him. In his bumbling ways, he never told his wife and kids about the fire. And, for some reason, he told them his parents were dead. (They're not). The unraveling of Sam's life coincides with a new string of fires being set to other famous writers' homes. The book pokes fun at literature, academia, white collar criminals, and more. Go get this book and read it if you want a laugh-out-loud funny page-turner.

We Brave Bee Stings and All. Thao.
Thao is playing in a crowded field now. Quirky, folksy acoustic guitar/piano-driven female songwriters, thanks to Feist, are the rage now, particularly those with the low-key, smokey voices. But Thao Nguyen stands out because of her clever songwriting and smart arrangements. And the tunes are just so darn catchy, even when the subject matter is grim.

My Buzz Comes Back. Slo-Mo.
Amore. The Hooters.
Back in the early 80s, Philly's "it" band the Hooters sold more than 100,000 copies of Amore. Major label attention and national radio play followed, but the band never quite matched this independent release. The band had some success, mostly as songwriters for others -- Joan Osbourne (yep, Eric Bazilian wrote What If God Was One of Us -- not Dr. Evil) and Cyndi Lauper. They're back with a new CD, but I was focused this past week on their first album, grooving to Hanging on a Heartbeat, All You Zombies, Fighting on the Same Side, etc. Almost 25 years later, Amore still rocks with its infectious ska and new wave grooves.

A lesser-known Philly gem is steel guitarist extraordinaire Mike Brenner. He's been a hired hand, playing with ton of bands -- those with Philly ties (Marah) and those without (Magnolia Electric Co.). The premise of Slo-Mo is to match Brenner's steel guitar with rapper Mic Wrecka rhymes. Believe it or not, it works. Not all of it, mind you. Some comes off as novely, but surprisingly, much of the CD clicks. Even those who dismiss hip hop as a music form (I'm one of them) will find joy in songs like Shackamaxon, 3Way, Why Rent?, Levitation, Cuidado and, of course, My Buzz Comes Back.

Apricot Wheat Beer.
Yes, I was skeptical. The apricot smell is strong, but the fruity taste is slight and not overpowering. The beer is one of many made by the Sea Dog Brewing Company in Maine. Overall, it's a nice mellow taste. Not sure it'll get in the rotation, but was a pleasant alternative. The Beeradvocate, however, does not agree with me, giving this beer a mediocre C score.

Some songs I've been digging this past week ...
-- Colours, Loudon Wainwright III. From Hell to Obscurity (Blackmail compilation). Loudon Wainwright singing about the various shades of dog poop while Richard Thompson wails on guitar. How do you beat that?
-- Bamboozled by Love. Frank Zappa. You Can't Do That on Stage, Vol. 3. The version on Tinsletown Rebellion is much better, but this live cut features Frank soloing over Yes' Owner of a Lonely Heart riff.
-- On and On and On. Wilco. Sky Blue Sky. This is now my favorite song from the most compelling CD of last year.

And leaving you on a light note. No date for Valentine's Day? Well, at least you didn't get one of these cards.