Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Music’

An introduction to Steely Dan, my favorite cerebral-ironic jazz-rock nerd grouch band

September 20, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Music No Comments →

When I was 14 I got a Walkman, and from that moment on I was free to choose my own mental soundtrack. I never had to hear Air Supply or David Pomeranz again, unless my batteries died or I caught a stray high note while changing cassettes. The most pleasurable and most agonizing choice of the day was which four albums to take to school with me.

One of the first albums I bought with my own money was Gaucho by Steely Dan. I would never have heard of Steely Dan if “Hey, Nineteen” had not briefly cracked the the Top 40 chart. Obviously I did not relate to the band’s experience—I had no memory of 1967 and was not a dandy ogling teenage girls who did not know who Aretha Franklin was. (I had a vague idea who Aretha was.) I liked the funny-sarcastic lyrics, the sound (beloved of audiophiles), the way their songs had narrators, and the weirdly moving vocal harmonies. So I looked up their previous albums. Aja remains my favorite. I remember listening to “Home At Last” and sitting bolt upright as I realized it was the Odyssey. Luckily I always sat in the back during Physics lab.

Walter Becker died on September 3. I’m hoping Donald Fagen resumes his tour. But damnit, I’ll never see the whole Steely Dan perform live. And another thing has occurred to me: Do younger musicians, people 30 and below, listen to Steely Dan and play their songs? They should.

So if you have a band and you play Steely Dan, let me know. I’ll come to your gig, bring music nerd friends, write about you. We can talk about what the songs mean.

If you have no idea what Steely Dan is, here’s a basic playlist.

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Goddamnit Donald Fagen was supposed to headline the Blue Note Jazz Festival in Yokohama this weekend and I’m in Yokohama and the festival has been cancelled!!!

I hereby make a vow to see Donald Fagen in concert as soon as possible.

Goodbye to my youth, part 3,047: Chris Cornell is off to the Superunknown

May 18, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Music No Comments →

Chris Cornell is dead at 52.

Goodbye to my youth, and the perpetual ringing in my ears, and looking for open restaurants at 3am (There were no BPOs then), and feeling very close to people I just met two seconds ago whose names I didn’t hear, and laughing at the idiotic things friends did because we were all young enough to get over them. And being happy listening to very loud, gloomy songs. Those were good times. In the bad times we has Chris Cornell’s music to see us through like a solid, indomitable brother.

His cameo in Singles.

Back-to-work links: Jerusalem cats, the Pope’s laundry, Salter, trashy movies, old book smells, and Prince’s death anniversary

April 17, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Cats, Health, Music No Comments →

Holy Cats! Jerusalem’s strays and their unsung guardian


Drogon is 5! This week he is The Oracle.

April 12, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Music 14 Comments →

It’s Drogon’s birthday! (I assigned the date because I don’t know exactly when he was born—it’s also the birthday of Koosi, the first cat who adopted me.) Drogon likes sitting at windows and watching the outside world. Unlike our eldest cat Saffy who is antisocial, he enjoys visiting his human’s friends on their movie nights. These days he plays tag around the house with our new cat, Jacob.

Drogon is also a ferocious hunter, with skills he seldom gets to practice as an indoor cat. The other night I noticed him sitting in the bathroom for a long time, staring unblinkingly at the wall. The following morning there was a broken dish by the sink, books fallen off the table, and in the center of the room, a small cockroach corpse. All hail the fearless hunter!

In keeping with our tradition, we declare Drogon the Oracle and invite you to post your questions and wishes in Comments. No rush—he’ll answer them throughout the long weekend.

Here’s one of Drogon’s favorite musicians, Thundercat, who is inspired by his cat, Turbo Tron Over 9000 Baby Jesus Sally, Tron for short.

Road to Nowhere

April 02, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Music No Comments →

I’ve always enjoyed the music choices on Noah Hawley’s shows (Listen to Fargo, Season 2.) Episode 2 of Legion opens with Syd’s cover of this cheerfully ominous Talking Heads song.

What can’t Jake Gyllenhaal do?

February 09, 2017 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Music No Comments →

That is not an easy song, and try performing it while going down steep stairs. (Watch Jake’s rendition of And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going from Dreamgirls when he hosted SNL ten years ago.)

Three people we love: Jake Gyllenhaal, Stephen Sondheim, and Cary Fukunaga, who directed this video.