Sunday, April 10, 2011

30 Favorite Songs of All Time

Doing the "Julio Challenge," (Mandy's nomenclature, not mine). Per Mandy's suggestion, I restricted myself to one song per artist/band.

This is my 30 all-time favorite songs. (As accurate as possible given space constraints and per-artist limitations, as well as the urge to have a more varied sampling). In alphabetical order by band name:

The Beatles -- Eleanor Rigby

I used to be a huge fan of The Beatles. Not so much anymore, to the point that I can pretty easily skip one of their songs when it comes up in my playlist. This song, however, never will be skipped. Just a great song with great emotion and a cool story.

Beck -- Girl

I had to include a Beck song, and this one is just too damn catchy. What's more, I love the infusion of 8-bit.

Coheed & Cambria -- Welcome Home

This song is simply too epic for words. It's a great combination of elements from classic rock and progressive rock. And the Spanish-style guitar solo at the beginning is one of my favorite riffs of all time.

Dave Matthews Band -- Crash Into Me

Had to include a DMB song on here, too, because the band is just full of amazing musicians. This song doesn't necessarily exemplify that fact, but it is, nevertheless, my favorite song by them. It's hard to make such a sexual song sound sweet and innocent, and it really does pull at my heartstrings just a bit. Let's not talk about modern-day DMB ... let's revel in what they used to be.

Eric Clapton -- Tears in Heaven

Pure emotion, and you can hear it in his voice and in the lyrics. One of the most memorable songs of all time.

fun. -- Walking the Dog

I'm so glad I discovered fun.. The band just has a helluva lot of ... fun, and their hooks are like gifts from your god(s). If you haven't heard this band's album, Aim and Ignite, do yourself a favor and buy it now.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova -- Falling Slowly

I'll admit that I hadn't heard this song until someone (I think Kris Allen?) performed it on American Idol. I went and listened to the original, and it's simply beautiful. I still haven't seen the movie it was written for (Once), but I hear the movie is damn good, as well.

Green Day -- Basket Case

An awesome song from a masterpiece of an album. I still love singing along to it (unlike Nirvana, which I'm just sick of at this point), and it kicks he deep and hard in the nostalgia gland.

Johnny Cash -- Hurt

I love this song for a number of reasons. First, I'd always loved the haunting original song by Nine Inch Nails. Second, the fact that Cash would cover a song by a band like Nine Inch Nails was crazy to me, but I respected him for it. Then he blew the song out of the water, reinventing it with his gravely voice and the sincerity with which he sang it (not to mention all of the imperfections in his voice). What's more, the fact that it coincided with his death so closely gave it an especially haunting aura. As Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) said, "[I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn't mine anymore ..."

Lynyrd Skynyrd -- Sweet Home Alabama

I'm known for my outspoken dislike for most classic rock music, but there are some songs that I simply can't deny as being amazing and fun to listen to. Even if only for the guitar riff alone, this song easily makes it into the top 30.

The Mars Volta -- Inertiatic ESP

Ultra progressive rock, and one of my first experiences with it. I wasn't a huge fan of The Mars Volta's later work, but this album was a masterpiece, and it all kicked off with this epic song. Nothing else sounds quite like it, and it's fast and raw, and I love it.

Massive Attack -- Teardrop

Funny-ish inside joke with this song: About 15 years ago I was telling my friend Joe about how awesome thing song was. I'd tell him over and over to take a sec to listen to it. Two years later he came up to me and -- without any irony -- said that our friend Nate had just played a song for him that he thought I'd really like: Teardrop, by Massive Attack. I wanted to kill that sonofabitch.

Regardless, I've loved this song for quite some time now, way before House commandeered it as its theme song. It's just haunting and beautiful, and the woman has an amazing voice.

Michael Andrews -- Mad World

Would have loved to include the actual video, which is kinda cool, but the official YouTube video has embedding disabled, so you get this one. Good idea on their part ... why would they want me sharing their approved version of the video with you? This version is much better for them. /sarcasm

I'd always thought this song was by R.E.M. Nope (obviously). I love it for its simplicity and the emotions it evokes. Most of you will know this song from the Donnie Darko soundtrack.

Moby -- Porcelain

I guess a lot of my songs are on the list because I'd describe them as either "epic" or "beautiful." This is another in the "beautiful" category, especially with the piano portion. Plus, I had a huge Moby phase when his album Go came out (I loved everything on that album ... but not so much since), so I had to include at least one by him. This song was on infinite repeat in my car for like a year. I also love the turntabled instrumentation that kicks it off.

Muse -- Starlight

Muse is the band that made it hard to only include a single song. If there weren't a one-song-per-artist restriction, I'd likely 4-5 Muse songs on here. I had to leave off some of my favorite epic songs of all time and some of my favorite beautifully haunting songs of all time to include just this one song. So, why Starlight? Well, I can't really pinpoint why. I suppose it's because when I think of Muse, I think of this song first. When I knew I had to choose just one, this was the first one in my head. It has commercial appeal, it verges on being epic, and I love the lyrics. Plus, if you've ever seen this one played live, the accompanying lighting is incredible.

Nine Inch Nails -- Only

Like Muse, NIN was a reason why restricting to one-per-band was hard. However, I had to choose this song because it's catchy, it's fun to sing, and I love this video -- dig the concept. Trent Reznor (the frontman of NIN, and the guy who actually records and composes all of the music and instrumentation) is a genius, both musically and from a business perspective. He understands technology trends and how to treat his fans. There was no way I'd leave him off of this list. But, alas, as with Muse, I had to leave off a bunch of great songs by them. "Only" doesn't feel quite right for this list, but neither would any other individual song by NIN. NIN had to be on the list, but there wasn't a single song that was a top 30 song. The entire body of work by NIN is probably No. 2 on my all-time favorites, but a single song doesn't quite fit. But here it is, anyway.

A Perfect Circle -- 3 Libras

I guess stick another one into the "beautiful" category. Not much else I can say about this one, other than that. Wish I were better with bullshit descriptive words. This one also was a no-brainer for me. I've always loved it, and I love singing along to it. It's both simple and epic at the same time.

The Postal Service -- Such Great Heights

Who doesn't love this song? I never got sick of it, even after it was played ad nauseum on the radio. The opening bleeps and bloops are iconic, and it was this song that -- ironically -- vaulted Death Cab for Cutie into the mainstream. I still long for the day that they produce a follow-up. And no, Owl City doesn't count as a follow-up.

The Prodigy -- Narayan

I knew I wanted Prodigy on this list, but I couldn't come across quite the right song. This one kept coming to mind because -- surprise! -- it is so epic. I've always liked the feeling I've gotten when listening to it. It may sound shallow of me, but I like it because I can think of it playing in the background of a movie during a pivotal moment.

Propellerheads -- History Repeating

I came across The Propellerheads in a roundabout way. I first heard their song Spybreak! on the soundtrack for The Matrix. I loved the song, so I looked them up. The only had one album (and that's all they ever made), but I liked it a lot. This was my favorite song from it, and also their most commercial song. I just love how it has elements of jazz, electronica, and spy-movie flair.

Queen -- Bohemian Rhapsody

I might get made fun of for this one, but I don't care. I've loved this song since Wayne's World. I love how many weird but musically awesome elements it has to it, and how it was unafraid to be just all over the place. Plus, of course, it was epic.

Queens of the Stone Age -- I Never Came

Not one of their well-known songs, but it's always been my favorite by them. It's soft and beautiful, and it always gives me goosebumps.

Radiohead -- 15 Step

Like NIN, I had to include Radiohead, but none of their songs individually deserves to be on the list so much as their entire body of work. I suppose this song best represents why I like them, because it's catchy without having hooks.

Red Hot Chili Peppers -- Under the Bridge

This song doesn't even deserve a description, because it was the first song I put on the list when I decided to compile it. It's that much of a no-brainer. That doesn't make it the best song of all time, necessarily, but it's easily among the top 5.

Sneaker Pimps -- Post-Modern Sleaze

I just love this woman's voice, and the guitar riff in the song is captivating. Plus, I doubt many people have heard it before, so I wanted to include it.

Soundgarden -- Black Hole Sun

With a video like that, how could I not include this song?

Sufjan Stevens -- Chicago

Sufjan Stevens is an acquired taste, but I love him for his musical prowess. He's an awesome composer/singer, and this song very well exemplifies that. He wanted to go through all 50 states with albums -- lol, like that was ever going to happen. Nevertheless, the album was a masterpiece, and this was the keystone.

Third Eye Blind -- Semi-Charmed Life

This is just an incredibly fun song -- fun to listen to, fun to sing along to ... just fun. Plus, I love, love, love that it was in so many Disney/family-friendly movies. It's about doing drugs, assholes.

Vangelis -- Rachel's Song

It took me like four viewings to get through Blade Runner. I simply didn't like the movie the first three times, but then something clicked the fourth time, and now it's one of my favorite movies of all time. This song very well encapsulates the movie, and it's easily the most haunting song on my list. Love, love, love it.

The Verve -- Bittersweet Symphony

This was another shoo-in. When I thought of making a list, this was one of the first songs I thought of. I'm a sucker for orchestral components in alt-rock, though.

SPECIAL BONUS: Shawny G. -- I'll Die When I'm Famous

My best song of all time: I'll Die When I'm Famous -- for the first time ever on YouTube! (With ridiculous lyrics onscreen!) Read more about the song and download the mp3 on my previous blog entry.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

How to Start a Company (I Hope)

Update: While is being developed, I've started a placeholder blog on the domain to more fully explain the idea, update people on the project, and discuss some ins-and-outs of dating. If you want a better sense of what the site will be about, check out this blog entry specifically.

Let me tell you the story of WikiDates. It’s a fairly short story thus far, and it does not yet have an ending.

“Wait,” you might say. “What the hell, Shawn? Why would you tell us a story that has no ending? And it’s probably a story about you, too, isn’t it? You pompous prick.”

Well, if you’d freaking listen for, like, a minute, maybe I was getting to that. Seriously. Wow, you have a short attention span.

This could be my site.
Sad Face ...
You’re entering the story at a pivotal moment -- the rising action leading to the likely climax, where things either come to life in spectacular, vibrant colors … or wilt and die. (See illustration)

Let’s briefly jump back to the beginning. I have such a diverse group of smart, talented friends and so many fun ideas for websites tumbling around in my head that I've always wanted to quit my job to enable me to work in an intensely focused way to put that plan into motion. So, in December 2010 I decided to do just that.

I quit my entirely stable job of five years to flesh out side projects. Ideas I'd had in the past were interesting, but they didn't quite light a fire inside of me. Finally, in February I was searching on Google, trying to find an interesting place to take my girlfriend for our one-year anniversary. Obviously, my first search was “Best Las Vegas Dates,” and I couldn't find anything truly worthwhile -- just a bunch of top-10 lists in blogs, articles, and the like. I was hoping to find a place where I could search through a ton of possible dates to find the perfect one for us, and the perfect one for this occasion.

But, whatever; I didn’t find anything useful, so I came up with my own date ideas and moved on. A few days later it struck me: Obviously, if I wanted something to exist and it didn’t -- I should make it. Most of the best ideas are things that people stumble upon purely by accident, and the true innovators are those who recognize that moment.

So, I got to work all by my lonesome setting up the company, organizing and mapping out the business plan, designing page comps (mock-ups of what each page will look like), itemizing developer specifications, and coming up with Facebook-, Google-, and guerilla-marketing plans. I bought the domain -- yawn -- because my preferred domain, WikiDates, was taken. I put a backorder on WikiDates, just in case 1) it actually went up for sale and 2) they were asking a reasonable price. Then, lo and behold, I got an e-mail a few days later that WikiDates was for sale, and it was going at a price that was significantly lower than I had expected. It seemed like all of the pieces were clicking right into place and pushing me to finish the puzzle. (Warning: the preceding sentence was very cliché.) (Note: The preceding warning was pointless, having come after the sentence. Sorry about that.)

However, I’ve never started up a company before, so it all still feels a little daunting. What’s more, thus far (and for the foreseeable future), I’ve been funding the entire company and taking on all of its startup costs out of pocket (remember, I’m unemployed now). So, I’ve been trying to get away with things as cheaply as possible. I figured I had an obvious resource right in front of me to possibly alleviate both issues, so I started searching around for blogs, books, or cheap software that could give me a leg up in the startup game.

That catches us up to just now, when I happened upon something called the Lean Startup Bundle on the site (a Groupon-style group-buying service for techies). I was honestly dumbfounded by what was being offered (and I’m not just saying that because someone from AppSumo is likely to read this blog) -- $6,620 worth of software, web apps, and services chosen specifically for startup companies … for $99. I immediately shot the link to two friends -- one who had committed to helping with the Web development for my site, and another who was starting up his own company -- simply because the deal seemed too good to be true.

But then it got even more insane. In addition to this bundle, AppSumo was holding what they called the Lean Startup Challenge for anyone who bought it. The Challenge is a contest awarding funding, mentoring, and even bigger packages from some of the companies with products in the startup bundle.

Essentially, this whole AppSumo deal became eerily perfect for me. It provided a bunch of books on startups (all in eReader format, which was much appreciated; gotta love my Kindle), premium newsletters and blogs on startups, cheap software tools and web apps to help me organize, research, analyze, and implement what I needed to do (including web design, which was another issue I hadn’t tackled yet!), and now this -- the almighty funding.

I’ve been wrestling with the idea of taking on investors and venture capitalists. The decision seems like a non-decision: depleting my life savings self-funding this company or doing the smart thing and selling investment shares in the company to people with deeper pockets than I. I came to realize that while I have a romanticized vision of owning my company outright, the fact remains that a site like mine is going to need a tremendous marketing push and a lot of organization to survive, and that’ll mean more capital than I have. A good friend of mine reminded me that owning 100% of a $1 million company isn't as good as owning 40% of a $50 million company or 20% of a $500 million company, and the company is incredibly unlikely to get that big without external investments. He is, of course, entirely right.

So, like I said, we’re now at the climax of my little WikiDates story. I’m not exaggerating when I say that winning this sort of prize could make or break my site, effectively crushing my dream of running my own company and seeing my idea come to life and succeed. The best part, however, is that the climax of the story involves audience participation. AppSumo has to decide who to award the prize to, and they’ve specified that they’ll base their decision on Twitter voting, as well as their own (dare I say “perceptive, balanced, and inarguably fair”?) opinion.

But, no pressure or anything … just sayin’.

Wish me luck!


PS. Those links above to all of the products in the bundle were not required for this blog. The people at AppSumo never asked for entrants to put any links in their contest-entry blogs, I just kinda wanted to show some love for some of the products in the bundle since it was suck a sick deal.

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