Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More Crap About What's on My iPod

You know, I think about this all the time--the music on my iPod. That, smells, a certain concept of place, and the weather. That seems to occupy a lot of my mental real estate lately. So let's have a listen to what else is on my iPod (the mini now, not the shuffle. The mini with a one-day battery life. Vad hände????). I'll just go through and yap about whatever seems yappable.

Apple Juice Kissing - DeeLite. (Hmmm, I noticed that I mentioned this one before, so I'll keep this short.) Sometimes DeeLite feels like therapy. You listen to it and you're like, "Oh, this is how chill people think." And I love how it's romantic and even cliched at parts but still sexy and laidback. I even look dreamy when I listen to this. This is what La Isla Bonita should feel like (all of them--Madonna, David Hasslehoff, me....)

Sufjan Stevens Christmas songs. Oh SHIT these are good! I have to admit, I didn't really want to life SS, because isn't he some crazyass Catholic Mormon Baptist shaman? AND he's really good looking AND talented AND young AND in this hipster community?!? But anyway, I heard I think that Illinoize album a while ago and liked it, but didn't go far with it. But this xmas album--it's absolutely transcendent! The song I have on right now, "boogie to the elf dance" or something, the lyrics are just amazing. Not flowery or complicated, but just straightforward, original and sincere. Did I say original? Because WHERE else could you hear a lyric like 'Your sister's bangs--she cut them herself"??!?! It's brilliant! Especially because it's not thrown in there clearly randomly in an attempt to seem clever. Also: "Kmart is closed..." It's not thrown in to be a smart-ass like it usually would have been. It describes this small town he's talking about (that's how I read it anyway). "What a great day..." "Tell all the neighbors there's cookies to eat..." OK are these supposed to be ironic and corny?? I don't think so, which is what makes them so great; because the way he sings them, you can totally see it, you can believe this is a real situation. The complete opposite of the trite phoniness of someone like Celine Dion. I think part of the effect of this song is that 1) SS isn't the most amazing singer there's ever been (he's not BAD, but he's not Jennifer Hudson) 2) the music is odd but it works: banjos, what sounds like a piano recorded in a living room 3) this almost smalltown music-theater quality of the arrangements; and I think there may be kids singing on some of the songs, except that here they sound natural. This almost sounds like it could have been recorded in someone's living room at Christmas. Or maybe a super-idealized family-room. Oh, and I also like how he goes, "There's a lot to shout about" but then instead of talking about Jesus, which is what you expect, he says that "Santa Claus is coming to town." Now how's that for being inclusive?!

And since I mentioned that song, let's also mention All the King's Horns. It starts out just these small delayed bells, and it sounds quite like that one all-bells song on Bjork's Vespertine. Of course, then these really cool, interesting, strange flute-like(?) sounds come in, which just sound otherworldly, but also kind of sound like an animal. It's hard to describe, but you really get the sense that "All the King's Horns" was a perfect name for the song. Moving on...

PSA, by Ed Shepp. Damn. This is the kind of thing that I listen to and think, "I did THAT???!" In a good way. It's just fantastic to look at or hear something you did a long time ago and forgot about and be amazed by how much you like it. And I like this. And I can remember doing it, with these really blunt instruments. It's still fascinating to me how you can get some of the best results in sounds and images with some of the least functional tools. Anyway, moving on still...

The Raging Swedes podcast. OK, I don't get this. I can hear some foreign-language stuff and understand why it's funny, but this is passing me by. It just sounds like a bunch of guys sitting around, eating(!!!!), talking over each other sometimes, coughing, and I'm like, "Wha??" iTunes made it seem like it was popular. Maybe I'm not getting it because it's in another language. Maybe there's a reason why they open with Kitaro. Who can solve the mystery.....

Hair, Japanese Cast. Oh, dear. Well, the funniest thing about this (it's the main song, about 'gimme a head with hair...') is the first part. The line "gimme a head with hair." You know how in English the guy takes his time with this part, because it's supposed to sound langorous and sexy? Well, this is the one time a Japanese translation lived up to the stereotype: there are like 32 syllables here, and it sounds ghastly. The rest: not much better. Is Japanese just a terminally unsexy language? The real weirdest part of the song, however is this: When you think of Japanese people, don't you think of people who work really, really hard to get shit right? Like, they all play the cello and they went through crazyass high schools and shit, right? So if you hear a Japanese song, you expect no vibrato and you expect it will be chromatically perfect on the pitch, right? Well, maybe it's supposed to be off because they're playing "American," maybe not. Whatever the case, they don't sound in tune. Maybe they are, but I expected something like When Does Cry or some crazy auto-tuned country song. (It's really disturbing when every part is tuned like that.) Anyway... the next song is the American version. I have to admit, I just love this song. Apart from the musical, which I'm not as crazy about as I thought I could be. It's a sexy song. Too bad it's from Hair. You listen to it on the subway and Abigail Dupont-Mortimer Johnson&Johnson Snickers Van-Cartier Clinton is all like, "Hmmph. He's listening to Hair. What a filthy hippie!"

Jingle Bells by the Carpenters. This song is such a masterpiece it baffles me. It's so perfect I know there was some intelligent design behind it. Brilliance like this doesn't just happen. I think the greatest thing about this song is that it comes off genuinely creepy, like it would be right at home in a horror movie. It reminds me in tone of the Jingle Bells (was it Jingle Bells) from the One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest movie. It's extremely over-earnest and has a lot of instruments that were used in television or movies way way way way back in the day, so that it already sounds like a parody of itself. Then way they sort of make the strings and horns "talk" is one example of that. You sometimes hear it in Disney movies. And the vocals: It starts out with Karen Carpenter sounding like she always does, but then at the end of the first verse, at "is to ride," comes in this chorus that sounds like it was recorded on a tape player, recorded from some children's special--actually most of these vocals sound like they are from a TV special. Then a crazy chorus of women in head voice, some guys singing and doing that ghastly harmony people do, and sometimes just letting all the air out on the word "bells." Then an instrumental bit in the middle, with this high-pitched horror movie sound that is so high it sounds a little out of tune, just because the frequency is so harsh. Then the chorus takes us out, but some guy is so far forward on the mix, with this chorus effect on his voice (and of course he doesn't sound as good as the background singers), that it just adds yet more to the creepiness factor. And then it ends in a hollow crescendo.

Phantom of the Opera, Wing. Honestly, what's there to say about Wing? The concept is so straightforward: a really, really bad singer who really, really thinks she's good. But in this case the concept works. I've never been crazy about this song, but damn, this recording is GOOD! Those horns sound so real and full! And the strings so lush and, well, real. And in the second verse this HUGE timpani! But it seems like the horns really do it. They just sound so great. You can almost pretend that Wing is, like, the king of Korea's first mistress and that this is the royal orchestra playing just to humor this beeyotch. But anyway, about her singing: Yes, it's terrible, and here's why: 1) if she ever lands on a right pitch it's pure luck--she's flat here, sharp there, and oftentimes just singing different notes altogether. The end is problematic for me: she is getting higher than she was progressively, and then just parks. I wonder if in the original song, which I don't know well enough, whether the singer keeps going UP, but Wing just stops because of her lack of ability. In this sense I could see her hearing HERSELF as going up, but not in reality. 2) Her voice is tight as a drum, and she just has wretched technique all around 3) She never even approaches a vibrato, and honestly she seems to be singing in a non-western scale. Sometimes there are these really weird notes or almost-trills that she does that sound like Asian music. 4) Her accent is like sandpaper. It's weird how you can hear her accent most at the end, when she's supposed to be singing an 'ah' phoneme, but is just making a sound, and it sounds like it could be a non-Western vowel sound, but maybe it's just straining.

Carol of the Bells/What Child Is This, Point of Grace. The music: beautiful. Absolutely breathtaking. And also natural-sounding. All this until they start singing. Then the music takes a back seat and isn't really interesting anymore. Of course, AFTER they finish singing, the music swells again and goes out really interesting, in this great church-bells-pealing sound. But then, these girls also are not Jennifer Hudson, so if the music had stayed interesting they whole time, they would've been drowned. I'd like to hear someone who could really, really sing perform this. But I'd prefer a good instrumental.

The Magic of Christmas Day, Celine Dion. I really can't say enough about this song, about the myriad ways that it is bad and good and could be great, but I will not say anything about it now. I will merely award it an honorable mention.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Shepp-Blumberg Audio Consortium's 2008 Holiday Message

Happy Christmas, y'all! And in the spirit of the holidays, I give you The Shepp-Blumberg Audio Consortium's 2008 Holiday Message.

Everyone clap for Christmas!!


Monday, December 08, 2008

Me Wish List

Here's me wish list, in case anyone out in the ether wants to get me anything:


And if you still need xmas sounds, here's my Ed Shepp xmas sound page, back from last year!

Ed Shepp

Friday, November 28, 2008

Låt den rätte komma in

OK, so I saw that movie, Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In), the other day, quite by accident. (And if you want to know how to pronounce the title in Swedish, click this to hear from forvo.com) I happened to be at the Angelika the other day, and everything looked crappy or depressing, so when I saw the movie was in Sweden, and the ticket person (who thought that new Woody Allen movie was good--WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA?!??!?!?!? She MUST have been kidding when she said she thought it was "complex" and said it was like "Woody Allen grew up." The movie is ridiculous) confirmed that it is in Swedish, I thought "Hey, even if it's retarded, at least it won't seem TOO stupid since it's in another language." So I saw it.

And I'm totally going to spoil it for you here, since you're not going to see it. As I understand it, there's an American version being made, due out in 2010. Make no mistake: It. Will. Suck. And it will avoid everything controversial in this version.

OK, so what happened in the movie? Well, I came in a little late, but I think I got the whole thing. As much as I could, I suppose, since there was stuff that I missed. I will say one thing before I tell the plot: There was a point where the girl in the movie was talking to someone and I thought, "This would be really cool if she ate him." How bout it got really cool! Anyway, here we go...

So it takes place in Sweden somewhere, apparently Stockholm, though I wouldn't think that even Stockholm gets so cold as to be covered in snow and freeze the lakes over and all. It starts with 12-year old blond boy, and he's talking to some girl who looks a lil unkempt. I thought it was going to be a story about a guy befriending a homeless girl, because he gave her a Rubiks cube and I thought they were in a bus station (they were outside). But she's not homeless per se--they're neighbors. Fast forward fast forward--you see an attack happen under a bridge, and you're like, "Is that that girl?" Fast forward--she's over at his house and says, "You have to invite me in." That's when you really get the inkling that she's a vampire, because everyone knows that you have to invite vampires in. (However, not everyone knows this. My friend ---- in Atlanta used to have Mexican workers living with him. They were afraid to go into his basement because they thought there were vampires down there. Uhhh, duh. There can't be, because you have to INVITE them! How uneducated!) Anyway, and this is proving to be a really short synopsis, blond boy is being bullied at school, so he tells Eli (the vampire) about it and she says she can help. More on that later. In a REALLY good plotline, Eli bites this woman but doesn't kill her, so the woman starts becoming a vampire. She goes over to someone's house, where this guy has, like, 900 cats, and they all start hissing at her and then all these computer-generated cats jump on her and start biting. That was freaking hilarious. But it's not over yet! She goes to the hospital, says she wants to die, asks someone to open the blinds on a sunny day, and when he does, a dummy version of her bursts into flames (see the picture). That was awesome. In another plotline, the man Eli lives with turns out to be a pedophile, and he gets caught having kidnapped a boy and he pours acid on his face. Then he falls out of the window at this hospital and his head brakes off. OK, back to the blond and Eli: blond wants to go steady with Eli, and she says something like, "What if I'm not a girl?" OK, you think "she's not a girl, she's a vampire." But it turns out she's both a vampire and a castrated boy. So how does blond react? He reacts like he does to everything in the movie: he doesn't. He seems nonplussed by everything. When he sees her scar, he just shrugs. When he asks her, "är du vampyr?" he might as well be asking her if she got her haircut. And later when this guy says he's going to poke his eye out with a knife, blond seems to have no reaction. Hmmm. I don't know if it's underacting or if it's a Swedish thing. It comes off like the latter. Anyway, so now that we've gotten most of it out of the way, let's finish: Blond fights back against a bully; the bully's brother comes back with a knife and, well, you know. So he's holding him underwater, and you see the blond through the pool cam. he's underwater and losing his breath and all, and then you see a pair of shoes through the water. Then you see the forearm of the guy who's holding him underwater. Yep, Eli has come to save him. Then at the end they go away together on some train. Oh wait--I forgot one thing. There's a scene after he knows she's vampyr, and she's at his house and he's like, "Why can't you just come in? Why do I have to invite you?" so she just comes in. And then starts bleeding out her orifices and her pores. Then he says he invites her in and they hug. And yeah, it's weird when you think that you're watching two twelve-year old kids covered in blood going steady and one is a vampire but is also a boy.

So you can see how they're going to change everything in the American version. More love story, more "defeating the vampires." The girl will probably be caught, and if not, there will be crappy sequels. More good vs. bad. I can't even imagine. The color will probably be richer in the US version--in this version, it was this washed-out wintry palette. It works considering where it's set, but I always prefer bold, rich, splash-right-off-the-screen color.

And that's the movie. Quite strange. But entertaining.

Ed Shepp

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Community Service

OK at the moment I would like to do some community service. Because I care about people. For this lecture I will be discussing some of the contents of my (crappy) iPod shuffle. Read on, and learn.

1. Hidden Place, Bjork. song#4
This song is interesting because it shows us very clearly a certain geocultural internal genre: The Cold Weather music genre. When you hear a song like this, you have to imagine that you're in some huge, icy, dim, snowy scene. Bjork is from Iceland, for the cave dwellers who may be reading. In Iceland it's always cold, even in July. So this is where Bjork lives, physically and mentally. This is the sonic equivalent of the song's mindset. Think of the second verse, (if you can call it that): "He is the beautifulest, fragilest, still strong, dark and divine. And the littleness of his movements hides himself. He invents a charm that makes him invisible, hides in the hair..." Now, does that say "Nordic myth" or what? Yesh. So this is what cold weather sounds like: lush orchestrations, "soft" sounds, especially with a mythic lift to them, higher instruments, lots of chorusing and thickening; lots of reverb. It's definitely NOT the quick-cut, silence-punctuated with futurism like some electronic music.

2. Piece of Me, Britney #5
This is an unfinished song, but it points to what's ahead. It's unfinished because, clearly, it is. It's too spare; it needs more flourishes. I had a feeling the vocoders were supposed to be more front and center; this sounds like a scratch track. Also, the instrumentation: you can tell listening to the end that it was going to have more flourishes, maybe "17th century" style flourishes, but the album got leaked before they added them and it was released thus. But it is a good groove, isn't it?

3. She Bop (remix) #7
Probably the best remix ever done. The sounds, separated, sound so fresh here. And the new sounds! I remember when I was younger, hearing this and thinking there was something seriously salacious about it, but not knowing why. Well, it's the percussion that sounds like toilet seats slamming and the bo-bo-bo-bo-bo-bo-bo-bop metallic sounding thing (it would work well with a 70s vocoder), and maybe more. But I remember I would blush listening to it, and this was before I know what "she bop" meant. But in terms of the sexiness, I have to say: the breath thing, probably going for sexy, doesn't do much. It's just another rhtyhm, and you end up wondering why the breath is so short. But seriously, for too many reasons to get into, this is the best remix ever made.

4. Apple Juice Kissing, DeeeLite. #9
I just love the naturalness of the rapped part, and the casualness of the music that really makes it sound like summer. I swear, they must've recorded this album in Tahiti. This represents an almost subtropical genre, in contrast to Bjork's frozen landscape. It's so casual. It really feels like a summer day. I do have to say, though, I'm not entirely sure what "apple juice kissing makes me roll my hips" means, but it's cool. I have another song from that album on here, and it has the line, "No interruptions, we're all alone. Cuz I don't have a cellular phone"--talk about a casual summer, even almost hippielike, lyric! Love it!

5. Unemployed in Summertime (can't remember) #13
I really like this song. It's by someone in Iceland, but she manages to, for the most part, make it sound like a lazy day in summer. Examples of lyrics: "Let's get drunk on Saturday, walk up Primrose Hill until we lose our way.... Sorry, don't get mad at me--I just did the sex quiz in your magazine. You're my best friend in the world.... Unemployed in Summertime, only just turned 21. It'll be OK. Unemployed in Summertime, we don't need money cuz we're young..." Ah, just listening to those, you feel like you're 21 again and don't have a care in the world.

6. Christmas in Hell. Some Holy Roller Prodigy. #21. I downloaded this from soundclick. It's some child prodigy's interp of Carol of the Bells. He's also from a holy roller family. The song starts out OK, with a weird inversion of the melody, but with pretty much the same baseline, of Carol of the Bells. Unfortunately, it never really moves on from this. It just builds and gets louder and more aggressive and then fizzles, without exploring more territory, so it ends up basically in the realm of Really Good New Age song, but nothing better. It could have been more, but the idea, of dubious nature to begin with, isn't developed. Furthermore, what exactly does the song mean? Is it that Hell is torment? If so, you're using YOUR OWN composition to signify torment? And it's not dissonant? What does the Bolero-type build mean? That Hell's agonies constantly increase? But you're using your composition to illustrate those agonies. And moreover, the only thing agonizing about the piece as written is that the part is in a minor key. What's so menacing about that? The original song is in a minor key. But it's most important that it doesn't go anywhere, and that's, apart from some very minor misses, is what keeps it from being great.

14. Zombie Jamboree/Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Rockapella. #22/23
I love this choir shit. Just love it. And damn, those Rockapella beeyotches got skills. They MIGHT be good enough to sing on Broadway. But we can't really know, because the particular rules their songs follow don't allow for much original emotional interpretation. One thing I like about the HYaMLC is the occasional Perry Como Special quality that every now and then comes in. Love it! I'm not sure of the very discernible delay effect they have on it--it's pretty, if a bit thick, but why not just hear them the way they sound? Which reminds me--Christina Aguilera: what you really should do? Put out an acapella album with no filtering on the vox. That way we can really hear you sing.

15. "The Magic of Christmas Day" (?), Celine Dion #24
I think I can truly say that this is the only song I know that I like "ironically." Of course I also like it straight, but not all of it. It's amazing to feel this way about a song. First of all, the irony part: Cod, these lyrics are insipid, in so many parts and so many ways. I should say this, though: the character in the song, I wish I liked ANYTHING as much as this bitch likes Christmas. DAMN! eg: "Christmastime is here, our waiting is done." WHO is sitting around WAITING for Christmas, plucking out her leg hair and biting her nails to the bone?! Crazy. And: "...that everyone feels, it's the magic of Christmas Day." What?!??! The MAGIC--what exactly IS this "magic of Christmas Day"??? Really, it's just another day. Sometimes there's magic to Halloween, but not Christmas.

The refrain: God bless us, everyone. The good and the bad, the happy the sad. God bless us, everyone. Here's to family and friends, it's good to be here again. OK, the happy/sad thing is lazy writing. But the 'here's to family and friends...' actually succintly wraps up what we really think about Christmas in a way that's not cheap or maudlin or altogether too cliched, even though it's a little bit beer-commercial.

The bridge: That woman's voice! It gets so WEIRD!!! She goes into an upper register here, and it just sounds freaky, like an alien duck. Especially on "it's easy to do." Crazy. The bridge, OF COURSE, unfolds into an instrumental part with, you guessed it, a saxophone. The biggest Christmas cliche ever (in a huge nest of cliche upon cliche, which is the style of every Celine Dion song), and it doesn't even fit the rest of the song. Like, you expect it in Merry Christmas, Baby, but not in this song which is trying to be soaring.

After the bridge, a repeat of the chorus, then another repeat. But with the second repeat, her lead vocal starts the chorus and full volume and then fades WAY into the background while another line continues as the lead at the lead volume, but it's just the most ghastly thing you've ever heard. It's supposed to be her riffing a bit and getting emotional or somehting, but we all know that the Dion does NOT do this well. This is Dion at her duck best, because she says 'God bless us all,' which ALMOST sounds like she got overwhelmed emotional and just said it, but falls short. Then she just makes sounds in the scale but seriously sounds like a duck. Is that a French thing? And then the lyrics she chooses to repeat as the song fades? "good and the bad, happy, the sad.." Sheesh, how did you choose the most banal lyric when there actually were other better ones, or ones you could have improvised, Celine?!? Uck, it's failings like these that make me certain that Celine Dion will NEVER be able to strike a genuine emotional chord for a sophisticated audience. But then she's so wealthy now, what does it matter to her? Celine, please retire so we can remake your songs in a few years? And while we probably won't match your level of technical who's-it-what's-it, we will sure as hell put more emotional movement into your songs!

17. Sternfall (two songs) #25 and 26
I know someone in the band, but I gotta say: they're amazing. They really hit the note of what they're going for, which is, I'm not sure: I think polka/yiddish/germanic type music. They sing in Swedish, Yiddish and cod knows what else, and you can't hear a song withou thinking they really hit the mark: They seem to use natural instruments, but they're processed a little, it seems, to make them richer. The vox have little processing evident on them: On Goldene Pave, you can hear some echo, and you can hear some pitch correction on the English song, but mostly it's like hearing really well-recorded acoustic music recorded at someone's party or something.

18. Sveriges Radio #28-34
These are selections from Radio Sweden. Godmorjon Varld is first, and while RS said it was comedy, it doesn't sound like it. It sounds like a Swedish "Morning Edition"; it could be all fake. If it is, that's pretty amazing. The second, can't remember the name: Funny. Song parodies, "cooler" sounding Swedish, and a part about drive-bys that's really funny but I don't feel like explaining now. Then a couple documentaries. I like the beginning, with the dramatic music and the thickened voice going "Du lyssna pa sveriges radio. Det har ar P3." You can totally understand it, and when you hear it, you're like, "oh THAT's how 'har' is really said!" Then: Mammas Nya Kille, which is just hilarious for so many reasons, partly because every now and then you catch some Swedish; then cuz of the guy who goes into English sentences all the time and you're wondering if he's supposed to be an American cuz he sounds all cocky; then the voices that they put on for the characters, which you laugh at even though you don't know what they're saying, but you do catch that they frequently address the host by name and pause before speaking. "Bengt..... Ja blah blah blah"

21. Winter Wonderland, hellogoodbye #40
I love this song. I love how it's sparsely and straightforwardly arranged, with the natural instruments playing counterpoint to the overdistorted voice we hear, and the natural, toy-sounding keyboard, with the very, very clear jingle bells. I like the vocal, but I don't believe for a moment that he's as sweet and innocent as his vocal. That said, he does do VERY well with the word nose in "though your nose gets a chilling." It really sounds like a little boy. That said, while his vocal is interesting, he's really not that GOOD, per se, as a singer. But then we need more singers that aren't tuned to death out there.

22. [speaking of tuned to death] Come Clean Rain, Hilary Duff #41
I like this song, it's like the songs I would listen to in high school. Pure candyfloss. It has its moments--at the beginning and in the bridge, when it does that beat speeding up thing and has some pitch variation in the echo of "rain fall." And the vocal is interesting, because you KNOW it's tuned to death but largely don't hear it. EXCEPT at the conjunction of the last two syllables of the song, where it's EXTREMELY evident, at begiiii----ning. Right at ning. I heard it the other day, and I can't believe I'd never noticed it before.

23. Karpe Diem, Swedish/Danish/or something Nordic rappers. two songs #42 & 42
From the very limited exposure I've had to Swedish rap, these guys sound so good. they seriously sound like a couple of young, tanned, golden haired guys you hope that Sweden is populated with. Admittedly, Swedish rap sounds really forking weird to Americans, just because it sounds strange, but these peeps do some cool production stuff with their songs. In the beginning of one, they sing a line from a Beyonce song, mentioning Beyonce by name. It's also kinda strange how they put these chorus effects on their voices. I just wonder if they'll still sound so good after their voices change.

And that's the community service beep for now!

Ed Shepp


Well, I had a little blip on Billy Jam's show the other day, so since it's done aired, I figured it would put it her for downloadage. Here's the link to a 1280kbps mp3 of the blip:

Ed Shepp Blip - Outsiders

Ed Shepp

Monday, November 03, 2008


I'm pretty sure my mom is the only one who even sees this page anymore (hi Mom!), but just in case anyone lands on it serendipitously, here's the latest bgornce:

If you're by a computer tomorrow on Election Day between 9 & 10am Eastern Standard Time, pop on over to wfmu.org and hear my special Election Day episode of The Ed Shepp Radio Experiment, starring a bunch of people and me. And if you were in the show, no, I won't send you a copy. But here's that link again: http://www.wfmu.org/ed-08.html

And remember, Vote or Don't. (And don't let anyone tell you that you can't complain if you didn't vote. You can always complain. Some people do nothing but complain. That's intelligent design for you.)

Ed Shepp

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dead Computers, Greyhound Duchesses and a Fund for Destiny's Ed

What a weekend. While the grönt is pretty much gone from mitt hår, and the mold in the bathroom is as under control as it will get (I suppose), my computer died. I MIGHT be able to grab some of the files from it to restore, but I'm not at all hopeful. The lesson: NEVER ever ever ever ever buy a Dell. I reiterate: Never buy a Dell. I reiterate once again for the search engines: Dells are crap---NEVER buy one. I'll extend that to all PCs, as a matter of fact, since I'm sure that the computer died solely because it was perhaps 1 hour over warranty (which means it lasted probably 50 minutes longer than it usually would have). So now I'm planning to replace it with a Mac. (Did I mention never buy a Dell? Because if you're googling Dell and see this, take heed. DO. NOT. BUY.) Olyckligtvis, shelling out all the money for a Mac will obliterate any plans I had of visiting the land not of my ancestors: Scandinavia, specifically Stockholm or Copenhagen. Sigh. :( So I've created, "Save Karen"-style, a donation link where anyone can plop in donations for me to buy a plane ticket. If not in November, then in February, as a birthday present. If everyone just puts 10 cents into the fund, I'll have enough to buy half a donut. But if everyone puts in 20 dollars, or 100 dollars, or 800 dollars, then I'll have my flight. And if everyone puts in $60,000, I could actually fly first-class. Anyway, here's the button link. Go on, click it! Go on, click it! And if you donate a goodly amount, you can receive one of the following gifts: $50: a copy of my CD Five, since I have about a jillion left over, and a DVD with all the Ed Shepp mp3s I can scrounge up, including all the separate mixes from The Madonna Within EP and my cover of Umbrella. $100: The same discs, with a small home perfume oil sample with notes of caramel and spiced pear. $200: The CDs/DVDs, the home fragrance, and Ed Shepp T-shirt, and I'll hang out with you for 3 hours and inspire you with zillions of ideas and bombast you with personality. (This is really only available to people in the New York area, but it's transferable and won't expire for a long time. Of course, said hanging out must occur in a public place, and not one of those crowded bars that I hate. And you can video/audtiotape it, but you cannot use the footage commercially.) $600: Everything mentioned before, and I'll put you in an Ed Shepp Radio Experiment podcast. $900: Everything mentioned before, and I'll record a song about you. So there we have them. Donate now! Donate now!! Click the button below:

Ok, so that's the fund. Now back to just a mention of more things mundane. I saw that movie The Duchess last week. It stars Keira Knightley's face and a metric ton of $7000/yard fabric. I think I found it good. I say "I think" because it seemed like a good movie, but something about it left me a little empty; it felt a little incomplete. It may have been the pacing--at times I felt like I'd been watching it for 14 years, in some weird Groundhog Day-like accident of timespace. At other times I actually felt moved. And at other times, I actually felt like.... (wait for it...) ....I felt like I could believe in Love. Interestingly, one of the main things you take from the movie is that you can't believe in Love-with-a-capital-L. Love does not conquer all. Sorry, Virginia. The movie is a BBC production, by the way, so you don't see any gratuitous T&A, which I suppose is all well and good, because Keira Knightly doesn't seem to have much of either to offer. Someone i Sverige said that she needs to engage in a cake-eating marathon. and while I couldn't ever really not endorse such a thing, she just has such a pretty face.... Why ruin it so soon? Time will have its due soonly enough. And speaking of her face, one of the people I saw the movie with, who, it turned out, was fond of using archaic language and making arcane references that no one who was in our party got, kept marveling at it, saying that she looked "like a greyhound." Uhhhhh..... what exactly does that mean??? Greyhounds are beautiful, to be sure, but it's not exactly, er, "customary" to compare a beautiful woman's face to... a dog. I think he meant she looked beautiful; but it's just an odd reference. I wish I'd countered with something like, "Actually, I think she looked quite like the Weimeraners that one photographer does--you know, the ones posed like people.... with human hands." Oh yes, and another thing about the BBC-ness of it: one thing you can say about most Hollywood movies is that the post-production people know their way around color correction. Have you ever seen Elizabeth: The Golden Age, for instance? Those colors POP!! Like BLAO in your face!!!! I don't think I've ever seen orange so.... ORANGE. So Hollywood does a great job with bold, amazing color. This movie does not offer that. Yes, it's beautiful, and you can see the gorgeous colors in the expensive fabrics, but the color doesn't leap off the screen and whack you in the face with a metaphorical frying pan.

All things considered, it was a good movie. I don't know if I'd see it again, though. Mark Baratelli thought it stunk, but I never felt like I got out of him his reasoning for why he hated it.

Anyway, that's the gzoomce for now. More beeping coming at ya laters. And don't forget to donate, you cheap pigeonhead!! (LOVE ME!!!!!!)

Ed Shepp

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Bitching Hour

It's no secret. I hate New York City. I've been here too damn long, and I've grown to loathe the place. And it seems to give me a new reason to hate it every day. And yes, I would move ---but for the forseeable future, barring some miracle, I'm trapped. So to everyone who says, "If you hate it so much, why don't you just leave?" I say, "Go fuck yourself with a hot poker, then jump off a building and die alongside your tired cliches."

Reason of the week: The F train. What's the point of the F train? Lately they've been suspending service and deciding to skip stops willy-nilly. Why have the train at all?!? I've walked 20 blocks at least 3 times in the past week. So in case you were wondering, Brooklyn is every bit as infuriating as Manhattan, just for different reasons. (Naturligtvis, this got me wondering what the subways were like i Sverige. So I asked people for their opinions and pictures, figuring that I'd hear the usual refrain: "The trains are horrible; they're never on time......" I heard the opposite from EVERY PERSON: "The trains are extremely efficient, always on time, clean...." and the pictures of the stations were DAZZLING. You have no idea. And looking at them, I can be nearly 100000000000000% sure that they don't stink of urine and godknowswhatelse the NYC ones stink of. But that's for another entry.)

Reason of the day: I thought, "Well, the world is going down in flames, so I might as well indulge that long-held fantasy and become ...blond. Or at least a lighter brunet." So I went to a salon. A SALON. And I pointed to the shade I wanted, which was actually DARKER than the maximum lightness I could achieve with a single process (because a double process was ludicrously priced, considering my hair length). I pointed to an ASH shade. ASH means the hair has a color like ASH. ASH is what's left over when you burn something. It's GREY. It's not colorful. So ASH in hair terms means a very subdued hair color. Basically the POLAR OPPOSITE of gold. I pointed to ash and had confidence that the person knew what she was doing, since she's a fucking hairstylist and her own hair was colored. Moreover, she was Japanese, so I figured she had experience with high-lift bleaching. And I told her, "I have a lot of red in my hair, so I want an ash shade." But I was confident it would come out nice; and all the books say that if you want to lift 3 shades or more, you should go to a professional, which is what I thought I did. So it gets all finished, and voila! My hair is a reddish golden brown*. WHAT! THE! FUCK! In fact, it was only a litte MORE gold than when I used a fucking bottle of L'Oreal True Brunettes, at $9 for the box. So I got BETTER results at home than from a salon?!?!?!?? I'd expect to come out with Puerto Rican orange in Tallahassee, but not in New York. Now I have to either apply shitloads of blue-green temporary color in the hopes of creating grey or verdigris or doo-doo brown; dye it darker; shave it off; or bleach it again (paying even MORE money for a salon is out of the question). All because I had confidence in a frickin' salon.

The first thing to take from this story: Don't go to Hisako Salon on 7th avenue. The second thing: Don't ever bother with a salon. Have a friend bleach your hair and figure out how to tone it on your own. You'll get better results for cheaper. I've had my hair dyed professionally twice now, and both times were total disasters. The first was when I had it done plum in college. Well, the person never got the black off the ends, so I went back twice to have them correct it and ended up with a pile of fried straw on my head. The second was today.

So thanks, New York, for giving me enough reasons for 40 lifetimes to despise you. I always thought jokingly that the best thing about living in New York would be leaving it, but now I think it's actually the truest sentiment I've ever had.

(Of course, I'll probably think completely differently tomorrow. Probably because I'll be high off toxic bleach fumes from trying to kill the mold in the bathroom. YAY, New York!!!! You're SO Sex and the City!!!)

And that's today's bitching hour. For more bitching hour, just talk to me any day of the week.


*Duh, the picture is a rough approximation. No, there's NOT a button in Photoshop that magically changes your haircolor to exactly what you pictured in your mind. Life is not that Barbie video game, Sherella.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Horrible Truth!

Behold the horrible truth that is I, courtesy of Mark Baratelli and L'Oreal:



Ed Shepp

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Great Apartment Search of 2008

This is the story of The Great Apartment Search of 2008.

After four years of living in my great li'l room on the UWS (or maybe it was Harlem or Morningside Heights--who knows...), the time had finally come for my roommate to go off to business school, leaving me to find another place to live. Sigh... To help me in my search was my friend Mark Baratelli, who was going to fly here in June and look with me. Initially I was hopeful about that, but there was a miscommunication: For some reason, I was under the impression that Mark was taking a break from the tour he was on, and would only be here for a week. When he got here and said he'd had auditions lined up, I thought, "He's only here for auditions! I am shocked and appalled!" So I decided it was time for me to at least start the search for a room and at least cover my bases.

I thought a good enough place to start was to create a person-seeking-room ad and put it on craigslist. After all, that type of ad had worked for my friend Lorenzo; it had never worked for me, but I guess there could be a first for anything, right? So I decided I would put up an ad, but I better try to sell myself a little--mention some selling points (the fact that I like animals; my collection of artificial Christmas trees) and illustrate them with photographs. Some of the photos I, er, 'adjusted' for comic effect (eg adding Nicole Kidman and other celebrities into pictures from my parties), but most of them were just adjusted for vivid color. (Yeah, I'm all about color and contrast.)

The plan, after I'd composed the ad (which I did here on terapad, to make formatting and cutting and pasting easier), was to put it up and then tell my roommate to send it to gawker as a tip. I figured if they published it, it would make it that much easier to find a place; frankly, however, I thought the odds of it actually being posted were one in a zillion. But that was the plan. Here is the ad as it appeared on craigslist:

Easy-going guy seeking room in Brooklyn or surrounding area

Hi there! I'm Ed, and I'm seeking a (cheap) room in a safe part of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Jersey City or Hoboken. I'm looking to move at the beginning of July, possibly mid-July, but I'd consider moving sometime in June if necessary. I'm quiet, creative, wacky, laid back, respectful, tidy-but-not-OCD-about-it, interesting to talk to, and not constantly at home. I'm hoping to find a roommate I can get along with--not a best friend, but someone that hopefully will become a friend. It would be great to find someone creative, especially someone into music, podcasting or video art--perhaps we could collaborate on things. On that note, let me tell you a little more about me:

I don't have any pets of my own, but I am an animal lover. I grew up around dogs, and now I live with a cat, which is my roommate's. Here's the photographic evidence:

I also read, so it's pretty likely that if we move in together we'll have something to talk about. Or we can share books. I also have a few DVDs. Let's have a look at some of my books and DVDs now (you'll notice that I'm an Amy Sedaris fan; hopefully that means that we have a similar sense of humor):

I like to consider myself cultured and broad-minded. Behold me in Paris reveling in the local cuisine:

In addition to reading, my hobbies including making the occasional CD and doing some radio. I had a show for a while on the air on WFMU called The Ed Shepp Radio Experiment. Once I get settled in a new place, I plan to go back to doing the show in podcast form. If you're interested in audio and the like, maybe we could work together on brainstorming themes and coming up with ideas. Who knows? Here are some bloops about my show and CDs and a snapshot of a column I wrote once upon a time for a Swiss newspaper:

And while I'm often pretty quiet, I do like to have fun, and I'm certainly not opposed to the occasional party. Here are some snapshots from parties my roommate and I have hosted in the past few years.

Here's me with Tionna Smalls of Talk Dat Ish Entertainment and my friend Jason:

And here are some pictures of our regular friends at some of our parties:

But enough about me. Let's talk about what I can do for you.

Firstly, I have a few concrete things that I can offer if I find the right roommate. I have a globe, a never-used Sonicare toothbrush, some never-used teeth bleach, and a small bottle of perfume (which I tried to give away as gifts, but people didn't want them because they thought it was something I made myself and therefore cheap and crappy. Actually, it was Marc Jacobs's Grass, which I put into smaller bottles so I could give more away. Alas!) Picture below:

If those aren't appealing, well, I do have a teensy bit of skill in Photoshop, so I could help you, say, make your Christmas cards or whatnot, maybe like in the picture below:

If that doesn't interest you, how about this: I do volunteer at a radio station, so I have access to gajillions of mp3s; how about a DVD of a few gigs of new, old, weird, obscure, or whatever music? Or how about a podcast dedicated to you? All possible for the right roommate situation.

Oh, and one more thing. Check out the fake Christmas/holiday trees (and jack-o-lanterns) I've got. Who could resist?!?

But if ALL THIS doesn't move you, consider the plea from my two pets-who-don't-poop (also known as uglydolls):

OK, so if this intrigues you, and you think I might be a cool person to live with, and you have a cheap (like seriously cheap, like under $700 cheap) room, email me at helpedfindahome -AT- gmail -d0t- com. I can give you references if you need them too. Or you can also email me if you think it'd be cool to collaborate or hang out or what not.

Lastly, if you really feel that you need to learn more about me, you can check out my links below:


Thanks! Hope to hear from you soon!

So I finished making that post Sunday night, and then Monday morning created the craigslist ad, which I immediately sent to my roommate with instructions to send it to gawker. I really didn't think they were going to publish it--I mean, it's not a celebrity sighting or anything like that--and I checked the site periodically through the day to see if it did get published, but no such luck. I did, however, start getting a few responses from the ad, so it seemed to be working out. (I didn't really expect to get responses from the ad anyway--I didn't think people actually checked the "rooms wanted" section, or wherever I posted it--but my friend Lorenzo had had luck with craigslist postings like that, so I figured it was worth a try. Anyway, I went home thinking it hadn't been published, but that everything would work out anyway.

Imagine my surprise when my roommate told me that gawker had published the ad, apparently while I had been on the subway home. It was entertaining reading the comments. Some were funny--someone compared Catner to an ocelot (had to look that one up); some weren't so funny, like the person who criticized the picture in my article where I'd put my Amy Sedaris stuff. The comment implied that I was trying to look unique by displaying the fact that I appreciate Amy Sedaris, when in fact that would make me anything but unique. Do I need even to say that the comment completely missed the point? Because if I'm looking for a roommate, shouldn't I stress what we have in common, rather than what makes me unique? So yeah, that's why I showed the Amy Sedaris stuff, rather than, say, The Secret of Scent or that book I have by Slavoj Zižek.

Here's the gawker post, sans comments:

urban anthropology, craigslist, tionna smalls, top

Please Help the Awesomest Kid Ever Find Awesome Roommate

Meet Ed Shepp! He's looking for a home in "a safe part of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Jersey City or Hoboken." A cheap home. Like, cheap. "Like seriously cheap, like under $700." As we learn from his Craigslist posting, he's friends with Tionna, for one! (Our popular erstwhile advice columnist, Tionna Smalls.) He is adorable, dragging out all his media and tchotchkes for digicam show-and-tell! In an effort to be servicey, we procured a roommate reference for him, straight from Ms. Tionna herself:

Says Tionna, pictured with Ed, below: "Ed and I definitely know each other. That picture is from his amazing Christmas party he had in NYC. I think you should definitely feature this on Gawker. Everyone is looking for a roommate and he would be a fabulous one especially because he is a talented musician. He is definitely fabulous."

Cool! In case you are also looking for a new place, here are the things Ed likes to read: "Let's have a look at some of my books and DVDs now (you'll notice that I'm an Amy Sedaris fan; hopefully that means that we have a similar sense of humor.)" Also (not pictured): "Here are some bloops about my show and CDs and a snapshot of a column I wrote once upon a time for a Swiss newspaper."

Won't somebody help him out? He has references!


So that was the post. I was a little taken aback at being referred to as a "kid," since I don't think I've fit into that category for about, oh, 15 years, but it was cute. Needless to say, after that post went up, the responses started to flood in, which of course was great. I also, however, emailed everyone I knew to check out the post. After all, it's not everyday someone like li'l ol' me gets on gawker, right?

And then one thing started leading to another, and I found other people who were looking, and eventually had assembled a coterie of about 6 people who were all doing some part to look for a place. It was also at that point that things got a little awkward with my friend Mark--after I explained to a friend that he was here for the week looking at places, he clarified that he wasn't here for just the week, but indeed until the end of the month or however long it took. Oh. That turned out to be good news, though, because I genuinely would have liked to find a place with people I've known for some time, rather than any a stranger. But I figured that whatever will be will be, and decided to look both with Mark et al. and on myne own.

Moving on then.... Since I'd sent news of my gawker mention to everyone, and everyone included Pseu Braun, she posted my mention on the WFMU blog, which must have thrown some extra traffic toward the post, and did in fact result in another person joining the group of us looking for a place. Here's Pseu's post:

WFMU's Ed Shepp Gets Gawk'd

Shepp_2<>WFMU associate, Ed Shepp in actual time as his reality begins to fold in on itself and create ripples into the fourth dimension. You see, this brilliant and perpetually excited young man (and by young, I mean younger than me) innocently placed this innocuous ad for a roommate on craigslistnyc. Who'da thunk the postiest-post mawdernz at Gawker would finally pick up the hotline on this guy (can you say HELLO??) years after his radio listeners, Time Out NY and Vice mag have, creating what Ed would surely term "gwakloads of melisma"!? I''ll simply disregard the faint essence of attitude-doody and rightfully bitter New York renter's comments on the Gawker blurb and push my way to the front to proclaim that Mr. Shepp is absolutely genuine in his pursuit of a reasonable rent-share and was even willing to learn about *gasp* New Jersey pricing! I swear if I thought he wouldn't mind my regular drunken caftan'd and turbaned tirades ala Ruth Roman/Susan Hayward I'd move Ed into my spare room in Jersey in a Beep! Maybe this Other Ed Shepp can help our boy find his dream digs.

Posted by Pseu Braun on June 10, 2008 at 10:56 AM in DJ Crap, New York City, Pseu's Posts, The Internet |

And thus the search began. I got an email a few days later from the person at gawker who'd done the original post, asking for an update when I found a place. So I'll skip all the search details here and go straight to the update, which excerpts my email update:

making it, craigslist, not afraid to be servicey, urban anthropology

We Helped the Awesomest Kid Ever Find an Apartment for Under $700

In an attempt to be servicey (and atone for our sins), we posted the awesomest Craiglist apartment-seeking ad ever—it was a riot of nerdy kookiness. Musician Ed Shepp (our erstwhile advice columnist Tionna Smalls' buddy) was absolutely deluged with responses! To refresh your memory, he was looking for something cheap, "like seriously cheap, like under $700." (In case you think that's impossible, come to my place—I have achieved it.) Read on, because Ed has, too—"Thanks in great part to Gawker!" He's also included a computer rendering of what he hopes to turn his backyard into, complete with a menagerie of plastic lawn ornaments.

"I found a home! I dropped off the deposit last night, so it's all on the level now. It's in Brooklyn, at the 15th St. Prospect Park stop; it's under $700 (actually a great price, but I don't want to publicize that widely). It's a great brownstone with two cool roommates, Haiyen and Lindsey.

I didn't have to look at many places, either. Here's how it went down:

My first two places: the buzzer didn't work at the first, so I stood around looking a tourist or something, wishing I had a pink cake to cry into...

Then my friend was having lunch at some restaurant, and the waiter told him that there was a room avail in his building. We saw it that night—a GORGEOUS loft in Bed-Stuy, right off the Morgan stop, I think... The rent was something that came out to just over $500 for 4 people (and we had 4 people), so I said, "We want it."

This I said in front of someone we'll call "Blustafson," a very good-looking but quiet guy sitting playing on the computer. The person leaving the apartment said that "technically it's Blustafson's call, because he's here now..." And I had to whisper, "Is that Blustafson?" I think he finally looked up at this point, and the temperature dropped 20 degrees in the room.

...The next place I looked at was a $500 room... It was also in an interesting neighborhood, right on the Nostrand stop on the A, which felt in some ways like a Caribbean version of Canal St. I went into some great sneaker store and got these awesome sneaks for $19.90. A lot of great sneakers for uner $20. Don't know how they do it—don't care.

Then I went in one of those cheap stores that sell everything, and they had deodorants that I'd never seen marketed in mainstream stores and shorts for $5 and the like. Then I went into this oil and candle shop—because I'm a scent nut—and I was looking at the large selection of oils, and I asked if I could smell them. The guy said they were "not for perfume; for special purposes." But the perfume oils, of which there were a MUCH smaller selection, were on the other shelf. I turned back to the "special purposes" oils and he reiterated his previous point, adding that they were for "religious purposes." Oh. I should have known, considering one was called "voodoo."

The next day I saw the place I got—a gorgeous brownstone on the outskirts of the Park Slope area."

Congratulations, Ed! Oh, but one caveat: the house comes with this:

So that was that. Obviously it's not the comprehensive account of every place I looked at and doesn't mention any last names or such, but it's the gist of it. What it leaves out is one apartment that I looked at in Ridgewood (a referral from Maria Levitsky) that I considered but ended up not taking in the end; and also a great place in Washington Heights which I was pretty much settled on taking with my friend Mark before I saw the place in Park Slope. Since I'd pretty much expressed my interest in that place before taking the Park Slope one, another awkward moment came up when I had to say that I'd found another place. Later it became even more awkward when Mark decided he'd rather not take the Washington Heights place (which I still think is a great deal). Luckily, the room in Ridgewood was still free, so he took that. So in the end, it worked out. Sorta. For some of us. Um, yeah.

And HERE are the pictures that I sent but didn't make it into the gawker update:

Behold my new roomies, Lindsey and Haiyen:

And Haiyen on a mechanical bull, and a shot of the house, obviously taken in cooler weather:

And, of course, not to be remiss, I should mention the coverage of the whole thing on my friend's blogs:

Mark Baratelli

Jason Atkins

And that's the story of the Great Apartment Search of 2008!

......AND if you've made it THIS FAR in this crazy long entry, enjoy the very brief video Mark Baratelli took of me out-singing Celine Dion:

Ed Shepp

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ed Shepp - The Madonna Within EP

Ed Shepp - The Madonna Within EPAloha, gzeeplets! Welcome to the post for my latest offering, The Madonna Within EP.

OK, Before we get to the story behind the project, here are the mp3s. Click HERE to download a zip file of the entire EP, encoded at 128kbps (~20Mb). Or click here to download the zip file at CD quality. OR click below for the individual songs---click the 320kbps link to download the high-quality file; click the 128kbps to download the average-quality file.

1. Beautiful Stranger (320kbps) (128kbps)

2. Love Tried to Welcome Me (320kbps) (128kbps)

3. La Isla Bonita (320kbps) (128kbps)

4. I'm Not Cool Enough to Listen to the White Stripes (the Madonna within mix) (320kbps) (128kbps)

And a couple alternate mixes:

5. Love Tried to Welcome Me (Softly) (320kbps) (128kbps)

6. I'm Not Cool Enough to Listen to the White Stripes (the Madonna without mix) (320kbps) (128kbps)

There we go. Now let's talk about the EP. Overshare time!

What's an EP? According to Wikipedia, "An Extended play (EP) is a vinyl record or CD which contains more music than a single, but is too short to qualify as an album." I grew up in the 80s, so I remember having vinyl records--12-inch dance singles (which sparked my lerv for remixing & glitching), a Footloose picture disc, and that David Lee Roth EP with Just a Gigolo on it. When I bought it, I thought "extended play" meant remixes; but no, for some reason it meant "4 songs or so." Whahappah?! At the time I was a li'l peeved, but it must've stuck in my mind, because "releasing an EP" became one of those things I always wanted to do in my imagined popstar life, like doing a "concept album" or a spread in Playgirl or coming out with a line of vitamins or something.

Why Madonna covers? Well, why not? I love doing cover versions--they're often pretty quick to put together, and you can put your own spin on them; plus, (and this is just my theory here) people can be more easily persuaded to actually listen to them. Not to imply that I'm putting myself in the same league as these people, but I heart the various versions of Smells Like Teen Spirit, Umbrella, Baby One More Time, etc. I also love the different versions of Like A Prayer, like Bigod 20's and John Wesley Harding's versions. Which brings us to the other half of the question--why Madonna? Well, again, I'm a child of the 80s. Behold me in my full 80s horror (this picture is from a Prince-inspired idea I had of wearing only purple, white or black. Ugh. I still remember someone making a joke about me wearing "disposable clothing.") So anyway, yeah, I grew up listening to Madonna songs. And I had (and still have, sigh) friends obsessed with Madonna. (I reiterate---sigh.) Also, her music is so ubiquitous that pretty much everyone knows or likes at least one song. Furthermore, they're not exactly the most difficult ones to sing--I don't think Madonna has ever put gwakloads of melisma into any performance.

Moreover, I already had ideas for Madonna covers. One idea was for a version of Nobody's Perfect. I thought that it, with its out-of-control auto-tune, sounded something like an artificial intelligence experiment gone awry. The song is sung from the point of view of a robot that's just been given emotion which it cannot control and massacres all the scientists developing it. Of course, then the robot feels sorry and sings the song about nobody being perfect. I thought it would be cool to remake the song like that, with audio clips to suggest the backstory. It was actually on the list of songs to do, but I decided eventually not to do it, because the song (let's face it) is pretty dull, even if it has a backstory and all that. Another song that I wanted to do but didn't make the final cut was Like A Prayer--I wanted to combine the acoustic guitar sound of the John Wesley Harding version with a hard beat like the one I used in Swamp. I ended up not doing that one because I didn't feel as strongly about it as the other songs. As for other songs I might have liked to do, there's Inside of Me and Bedtime Story, the former because it reminds me of a few people who've died, the latter because it's just such a cool song. But since I didn't have much of a point of view for those songs, and not much to really add, I decided not to do them. Oh, and I always thought it would be fun to do American Life (such a bad song--I wonder if the song she stole it from [allegedly--fascinating and bizarre link] was any better), but I sort of incorporated that into La Isla Bonita, so yeah.

But enough of the songs I didn't do; let's talk about the ones I did...

Beautiful Stranger. [click for lyrics] I just think this is a great song. It's one of my favorite Madonna songs--I love the arrangement, and if I'd not done it, I might have thought that I had nothing to add to it, that it was absolutely perfect the way it was. Now that I'm finished with it, of course, I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and I think I brougth my own aesthetic to it. Why did I choose this particular song? Well, I know that it had become something of a 'signature song' for me, but I can't really explain why. Partly because I sang it all the time at the radio station while waiting for files to process or whatnot. Partly because I like to change the lyrics to make them Ed-centric. Example: "To know Ed, to know Ed is to love Ed... You're Ed-vrywhere I go...." In the end, the song becomes something of a song about myself, as if I'm the beautiful stranger. Or as if there's a part of me that is a beautiful stranger to myself. I suppose you could read a lot into that if you wanted to. One of things that I'm reminded of when I think of that interpretation of the song is when my friend Mark was learning the song Where or When for an audition. ("And so it seems that we have met before, and laughed before, and loved before... but who knows where or when?") His vocal coach told him to sing it as if he were singing to himself. I kind of like singing Beautiful Stranger in that way--it's an interesting interpretation. Oh, and one more reason why I chose this song: I've already performed it, sort-of, live on The Ed Shepp Radio Experiment as part of one of the fundraising shows I did. Another reason why it's a signature song of mine. I thought that since I've performed it already, I might as well do it right and make a big production of it. So I did. And I even name-checked my hometown at the end. ("You came here from Florida, and brought the beep from Mount Dora...") Booyah!!

The processing in the song: I fell in love with a lot of the instruments that I used to create the song. I love the choir-type voices, the celesta-type sound which I wanted to sound like a toy piano, the brass-type sound that you sometimes hear in it, and of course the tubular bell (one of my all-time favorite sounds; so is the "boing" sound effect in "dancing all over the place"). I'm also very pleased with all the beeping, and most especially with the timpani that comes in around the "Ed-vrywhere I go" parts. Ever since I heard a timpani used in both Bjork's Human Behavior and the bottom heavy dub mix of Madonna's Human Nature, I've always wanted to use the sound in something. I think in Beautiful Stranger is makes the song even more fun. Oh, and the drums: these were just drums I was using as a temporary file to check out the vocals and stuff; I hadn't intended to use them in the final mix. But the more I listened to it, the more I liked it. The song is at 122bpm, so I think a driving beat works pretty well for it. So I kept the drums mostly simple, and I'm really pleased with how they came out.

Love Tried to Welcome Me. [click for lyrics] OK, I must confess--I can relate to this song. Sure, maybe it's not the best, most moving song in the world, but in that tumultuous time when I was dating and all, I found that the song really spoke to me. I guesss in a way it still does, as I realize that finding a relationship and getting married just isn't important to me like it seems to be to other people. To paraphrase Bjork, I definitely enjoy solitude; perhaps I'm overly wedded to my own independence. Or perhaps I'm just rambling. Anyway, I've always felt this song was under-rated, so that's one reason I wanted to record it. Another reason would be that I have very little somber pieces in my repertoire, so I thought this would be a nice addition.

As for the processing in the song, I originally wanted it to sound very natural, but, as I am wont to do, changed my mind as I worked on it, going with a very electro sound. I'm very pleased with the vocoded parts. I also like the instrumentation, which in my head started out as a very simple recorder-type instrument playing the parts. But when I heard some of the wind instruments that I could use for the song, I chose to use a flute and piccolo for the main parts of the song and went with an electronic sound for the baseline, which alone sounds very haunting (you can hear this more in the softer mix). I flattened the echoes a little too to try to give the song a more 'blue' feel.

La Isla Bonita. [click for lyrics] With this song, I wanted to re-imagine it as a tragedy. The backstory here is that we have a transgender "woman" (male-to-female) sitting in a run-down apartment, despondent over something we don't know. We hear the sound of her refrigerator humming and various household noises, plus a television set in the background. We hear her crying, and from the television set we hear an announcer talking about a story to air at 11 about the "new hallucinogenic drug ravaging the transgender community." (I'm amused by the idea of snorting Calgon), and it's supposed to make those who use it, at least the MTF transgender ones, feel "like The drug is called Calgonreal girls." Then the announce says, "And now back to Tyra" and we hear The Trya Banks Show (a show which arguably epitomizes depressing, brain-dead daytime TV, and one which presumably would appeal to the transgendered, since Tyra Banks, with her wigs and being 9 feet tall and all, is practically a drag queen herself). Interestingly, I think in the clip she's talking about one of her biggest beauty secrets, which is, go figure, Vaseline. Anyway, the woman in the song mutters (of course), "Calgon, take me away" (I couldn't resist that one) and snorts it. Quickly thereafter the music from the song fades in and she starts singing.

I meant it to be evident that this girl isn't relating to this song because she's actually been to any sort of tropical island, so I mangled the Spanish wherever I could. Except, of course, for the title, which pretty much everyone knows. I want to convey there that she's clinging to a corny Madonna song to escape her reality, but she's also conflating the song's content with her reality. Under the influence of this new drug, she believes that she's been to this island. At least, until, she gets to the bridge of the song, where we hear the song start to collapse (the vocoded background vocals flatten, etc.) as she gets to the line "...a boy loves a girl." Here she crashes down from her high, from two factors: 1) the high doesn't last very long, which I guess in a sense would make it like hallucinogenic crack and 2) the realization that she is not, in fact, a girl at all, which is a buzzkill. At this point you hear her break down again (and you hear Tyra talking aboug Spanx) and she snorts more of the drug. Then the music fades back in and she resumes singing.

I tried to make her sound as if she were breaking further with reality as the song continued, but that she was also connected to her sadness. So she's not "high" in a traditional sense; she's more in a "mixed state," some combination of despair, euphoria and agitation. Anyway, at the very end, I thought that nothing (nothing but nothing) could convey her despair more than a rendition of the rap from American Life. Cuz really, is there any lower point than that? And the last line about nothing being what it seems helps illuminate her experience; but mostly I liked the idea of adding that because in a pop music sense it's almost the very essence of tragedy. Can we agree that the rap in American Life is the worst thing Madonna has ever done (musically, at least), tongue-in-cheek or not? (I would even include "Wild Dancing" here.) Discuss.

A note about processing: You'll notice that the vocals in the song are not pitch-corrected within an inch of their life. This is intentional. The singer is not supposed to sound good. So I just sung the song in in one take, with no practice. Not that I had to worry about sounding bad enough--I'm far from a good singer. But I definitely did NOT want the song to sound like a good singer trying to sound bad. I've heard that so many times before, and it's tiring. I like the way my version came out--I'm sure it's cringeworthy to someone with good ears, but it's not supposed to sound good. As for the instrumentation, I wanted it to sound lush, and even disorganized toward the end. I also wanted it to build every time it began, since the music isn't real per se, but only part of the singer's hallucination. I did a lot of doubling of instruments to try to get the right sound, and for the most part I'm pleased with it, especially the part where the full drums come in--the effect I was going for there was this: when the bass and the drums first come in, they're supposed to sound puny, so I gutted a lot of low frequencies from the bass guitar and kept the drums low in the mix. So the listener is supposed to think it sounds crappy, but then be surprised when the full drums and bass come in. I hope I achieved that. Unfortunately, I don't feel like I really achieved the full effect on some of the vocals--I wanted there to be more echo in the end, to really give an impression of 'otherworldliness,' so to speak, but I just didn't have the time to delve enough into that, and I feared it would muddy the mix beyond recognition. Alas! Maybe with the next song of this sort....

I'm Not Cool Enough to Listen to the White Stripes (the Madonna within mix). [click for lyrics] I'm not sure that you can really call this a cover version. It's inspired by the beast within mix of Justify My Love, (hence my "Madonna within" mix and EP title), in which Madonna basically read excerpts from the Book of Revelation and interspersed them with some lyrics from JML. The music in the mix is actually pretty boring--some sitars I think, the sample of Madonna wailing from Erotica (although it sounds awfully good to be Madonna; kind of like the wailing in Paula Abdul's My Love is for Real, which is actually not Paula Abdul but Ofra Haza. I'd always thought as much, but I figured that it was so drowned in reverb that it could've been Abdul's crap voice. Anyway, as far as I know this remix pre-dates auto-tune, so I have my doubts as to whether Madonna herself sung that part). And the beat was from another rather uninspired remix of JML. So I redid the music with loops, rather than try to re-create any of it. Also, I didn't use any of the JML parts, but instead used my song I'm Not Cool Enough to Listen to the White Stripes (Vote for Angelyne) from my CD Superpowerpusssy. It's a song which is absolutely self-explanatory, as it simply states that I'm not cool enough to listen to the White Stripes and exhorts the listener to vote for Angelyne to be the governor of California. If you look at its success as an Angelyne campaign anthem, it's a total failure, but that's fine. It was a song I created while I was just learning how to use Cubase on a friend's laptop, and it served as part of the inspiration for a ditty that I made for WFMU's Pseu Braun called The P is for PsuperpowerPseu Too (which also combines elements from The P Is for Pussy and Superpowerpusssy.) So anyway, since the music is very different and the "remixed" song is as well, I wouldn't call this a cover version in the strict sense. But I will say that I made most of the same choices in interpreting the text as Madonna (or whoever coached Madonna) did, with a few differences, some of which work well, some not so well. One example of something we did differently is that I like to pronounce the word "blasphemous" as [blass-FEE-muss]. I just think it's funny; it might be hard to hear in the song, though.

One thing that I really like about the song is the way the ending of JML and InCEtLttWS parallel each other. In JML, it ends with the quote "What're you gonna do?" from the song. Mine ends with "Are you cool enough?" which actually ended the original version as well. I like how that turned out.

But since this isn't a cover version in the strict sense (since Madonna certainly cannot be credited with writing the Book of Revelation, although I'm SURE she tried to change a few words or something to get a co-writing credit! :P ), why did I choose it? Well, ever since I first heard it, I thought it was one of the coolest ideas ever. And I always wanted to do something similar, or maybe even copy it outright for an episode of The Ed Shepp Radio Experiment or something, but I never had time to do the latter, and I couldn't think of any way to do the former which would come out as well as JML. I also have a fun memory of the song from college, when my friend Tavares and I, who were the only people who knew the words by heart, walked through campus speaking them in unison, looking like lunatics. So anyway, since I couldn't think of a way to make the idea myne own, I thought, "I'll just do a cover of it!" And so I did. I have to admit: I had a concern about omitting the line that says "the slander of those who say that they are Jews, but they are not..."; but I chose to leave it in. After all, it's not my words--I'm covering Madonna, who was covering the Book of Revelation. And frankly, I don't know that the phrase is explicitly anti-semitic. It seems to me that the author, John, was saying that Jews who'd rejected Jesus constituted a "synagogue of Satan," not Jews or Semites in general. I can see how some people might find the wording offensive, but let's face it, people, the text is thousands of years old and has been translated a zillion times by people with almost as many agendas. Who knows what was said back then? So today we end up with a potentially incendiary line in a song that no one will really take seriously, but creates some juicy controversy (at least it did for Madonna--obviously an intentional move on her part, and more savvy than Michael Jackson's pathetic "kick me, kike me" lyric intended to stir up a ruckus).

A note about lyrics: Basically, I just said what Madonna said. Or, rather, what I thought she said, because I already knew the song by heart and didn't feel like checking them. Yeah, I can be lazy. So I probably got some of it wrong. I guess that would put me in the grand tradition of people passing down holy books, then.

And now the processing: This was a fun song to do, because I like working with loops. The biggest challenge was to give them variation. While I think everything's in the same key, there is a bit of variation there. I think the song is listenable without being too boring. Another challenge was making the spoken parts loud enough to discern. I put a LOT of compression, probably too much, on them, and maybe forgot to apply a de-esser. But I really shouldn't talk about processing so specifically, because I'm sure the whole EP, and maybe everything I've done myself, is littered with technical errors. So to any engineers reading this and thinking about how to express your criticisms, suck it. Another vocal note: Everyone will notice that the chorus is not pitch-corrected. In fact, it was a "scratch vocal," something I just put in as a placeholder and meant to redo later. But when I heard it with the spoken parts, I really liked how it sounded. I think there was a bit of distortion in some parts of it, but that's minor. Also, the way I did it, off pitch and all, reflects almost identically the way I did the original song--basically, I sung it before I had any music done and hoped for the best. Interestingly, though, if you compare this song and the original back-to-back, you do hear a slight improvement in my vocal control, because in the original the last time I say "I'm not cool enough to listen to the White Stripes" I flatten to some strange place, which sounds pretty cool to me but almost certainly dastardly out of tune. My voice also cracks a little. I'm a bit more consistent here, although I would have liked to replicate the cracking and flattening more. Alas.

WHEW!!!!!!!!!!!!! That's a helluva lotta yakkin! I hope I covered everything; if not, maybe I'll come back and add more. Or ask me questions if you want, or leave a comment. I'd expect that if any hardcore Madonna fans actually listen to the songs, I'll probably get some mean, evil comments! :P Hell, that comes with the territory. In the end, though, I hope someone out there likes what I did. It was a fun project--more time-consuming than I thought, but also more fulfilling than I thought it would be, considering the songs are Madonna covers. I guess I should also note that I finished the project (actually was forced to finish it before I'd have liked to) because of sad events, so to some this may seem like an odd time to be dropping a CD (of sorts). But it really has to be done before I get down to apartment-hunting and all that. Thanks to everyone for your kind words, incidentally.

And since I'm thanking peops, I just want to give a shout-out to everyone who gave me feedback or acknowledged the project. Thanks! That means a lot. I'd also like to thank all the peops who did NOT acknowledge the project--that says a lot. Thanks to Andy for asking me how it was going, even though he couldn't care less about Madonna covers. :P And thanks to Craig at Little Pioneer Cider House studio for those great sounds.

In closing, I hope you like the songs. No, I hope you LOVE the songs. Or HATE them, and send them to everyone you know raging about how you hate them. :P And that's that. And that's the beep for now.

Ed Shepp