Inspiration » Archive

I’m always discovering (or rediscovering) inspiring and amazing music, thanks in large part to my friends who either make music or know how to listen to it. Here are some songs you may or may not have heard.

Bad Bad Hats – “It Hurts”

With its minimalist arrangement, catchy beat and lyrics like “I cross my heart and hope to die, but my heart says you’re dying to cross my mind,” you’ll realize how amazing this song is even before the kazoo solo. Lots of songwriters try to refresh cliches into truly unique phrases but not everyone is as good at it. (Looking at you, pop country songwriters.)

Hank Williams III – “Straight To Hell / Satan Is Real (Medley)”

As vulgar (and obviously un-gospely) as Hank III can be, he has a firm grasp on the honesty, tragedy, heartbreak, violence, and redemption that makes songs by the Carter Family, Marty Robbins, and Hank Williams Sr. so engaging. Even for a rebel like Hank III, I think the opening clip of the Louvin Brothers song is just as much a tribute as it is a joke.


Hayes Carll – “Beaumont”

This is my favorite song by Hayes Carll, an amazingly diverse songwriter who is equally hilarious and heartbreaking. I saw him play at The Moody Theater in June and he opened with a beautiful performance of this song. I try not to research these things (songs can be just as fictitious as any other art, after all), but to me it always sounded like the narrator made a long trip to let a girl know he finally gave up on her. And lines like “You looked like forever, where the water meets the shore”? Yeah, that.


The Pogues – “The Broad Majestic Shannon”

I listen to The Pogues quite often, especially for someone who doesn’t drink, but every so often this song comes back to me and goes through my head for a week or two (I’m not sure if I’m currently on week one or two). Although Shane MacGowan gets a lot of attention for his drunken and unpredictable behavior, he can deliver a line like “You sang me a song that was pure as the breeze” with as much romanticism and sentimentality as any sober man.

The other night I was fortunate enough to be one of the early viewers of #Doorman, a pilot that is currently being submitted to several film festivals and therefore can’t be posted online for the public. Otherwise I’d be writing and calling everyone I know, telling you all to go watch it. For now you’ll just have to trust me that it is hilarious, with top-notch writing and acting. Personally, I’m hoping this becomes a television series, motion picture, and action figures. I’d settle for a television series, though.

Doorman and I met the same way everyone meets nowadays: on Twitter, because someone retweeted him and he was hilarious. From there, I got hooked on his wildly entertaining #Doorman blog; unflinching accounts of his experiences as a hotel doorman (concierge, in the early days) that are so outrageous, unbelievable, and hilarious they have to be true.

This may not seem to have very much to do with rushmore beekeepers or folk music, but I think of Doorman as a kind of folk hero, a de facto public servant; answerer of questions, giver of directions, exactor of revenge. Someday someone will write a folk ballad about him. Maybe I’ll do it.

Mysterious and anonymous (at least to anyone who hasn’t seen the pilot), Doorman understands the absolute misery that can lead to great comedy and great art in general. I’m sure he could write great comedy without having a rough job, and even the heroic everyman Doorman wins sometimes.

I’ve been trying to write a hit record
Sleepless long nights thinking bout whatever
I’ve been trying to hang in forever

“Dreamin’ Wild” by Surf Curse

Surf Curse released their album Buds on Big Joy Records a couple weeks ago with a show at The Smell, the DIY venue in Los Angeles. I wish I could’ve been there but the drive is a little further from Austin than it would’ve been from Las Vegas. Regardless, I bought the album on bandcamp that night (because I follow the band using bandcamp’s fan profile, I got an email when it became available) and have listened to it several times through. The cassette is now available online so I’ll probably buy that, too. (Obsessed fan what?)

I met Jacob and Nick soon after moving to Las Vegas, NV when fate brought rushmore beekeepers and Nick’s former band The Advertisements together for some super fun and memorable alternative-experimental-indie rock / indie folk music shows. Nick and Jacob are absurdly talented and have exceptionally great taste in music, movies, and pretty much everything; they couldn’t produce bad music if they tried, and the spectacularly raw energy, catchiness, dreamy surf sound, and lyrical content of lo-fi indie rock duo Surf Curse is concrete proof.

Featuring a minimalistic arrangement of guitar, drums, and vocals, their songs reference underappreciated films and television shows like Heathers (“Heathers”), The Outsiders (“Ponyboy”), and Twin Peaks (“Fire Walk With Me”); they even have a song about The Smell (“The Smell Saved My Life”). Both Jacob and Nick sing and their voices seem to compliment each other naturally and effortlessly.

Keeping in mind that this is coming from a dedicated (rabidly obsessed?) fan, I recommend both Demos, a collection of their first recordings (originally singles and EPs), and the more recently recorded Buds. Some of the songs repeat between the two albums; those that don’t are worth the low price and the earlier fantastically lo-fi recordings are still energetic and powerful.

Taking the inspiration for their name from an episode of The Brady Bunch guest-starring Vincent Price and starting with the ultimate goal of playing The Smell (great interview at the dumbing of america), Surf Curse is bringing original and exceptional indie rock music into a world that always needs it.

Jacob has a lo-fi bedroom pop project called Casino Hearts and Nick creates dancy lo-fi bedroom pop music as Televisions; between the two of them, they have plenty of awesome music you can add into your rotation.

Also, about five years ago Jacob made a fantastic stop motion film using “street i’ve never seen” from throwing mud at your streetlight:

Earlier today I received the sad news via Twitter that country music singer Slim Whitman had died. He lived to be 90, which is pretty impressive, and he left behind some of my favorite country music.

Although I can’t say for certain, my first encounter with his material was most likely in the movie Mars Attacks!, in which his amazing falsetto plays a very important role in something very spoilery. (If you’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing Tim Burton’s hilarious science-fiction alien invasion movie, you should watch it right now. Sorry I’m always telling you what to do, but you should.)

The next time I heard Slim Whitman’s music was in Andy Kaufman: The Midnight Special, in which an awestruck Andy Kaufman stares at Slim through a performance of “I Remember You.” After the song, Andy and Slim take part in a subtly hilarious exchange during which Andy tries to learn Slim’s falsetto technique. Between his incredible voice and this hard evidence that he is a very good sport, it’d be hard not to love Slim.

Most memorably (and most importantly, although the more devout Mars Attacks! fans may argue this point), Carrie and I danced our first dance as husband and wife to Slim Whitman’s “Indian Love Call,” probably the best song for any couple’s first dance. (No offense, everyone who isn’t us.)

There’s something very endearing about his music that is hard to articulate. Even if he’s singing a sad song, it makes me feel good just because he is singing. People always call him a yodeler, which he is, but there’s more to him. His delivery and technique are unique; his music is sincere without being sappy. Really, he seems like a very nice guy who just happens to be musically talented.

Although I haven’t listened to all of his recordings – I’m currently listening to his last record, Twilight On The Trail (2010) – I’ll be forever thankful for the body of work he left behind.

Here’s a good quality transfer of his performance on Andy Kaufman: The Midnight Special:

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