Thursday, April 30, 2009

Primary Colours

The Horrors
Primary Colours
9 out of 10

It is rare, very rare, for a band to overcome a poorly received early career and transform into something classic and legendary. Most bands either hit the scene fully formed with classic after classic release, or they stick around releasing the same thing over and over again. I've racked my brain and can only come up with three bands that have overcome this trend. Radiohead is perhaps the prime example, their first cd Pablo Honey was unremarkable frat rock. I thought "Creep" would be the only song we would ever hear from them. Who knew, when The Bends was released, that they would be starting an amazing and influential career. Same with Talk Talk and Blur. Talk Talk began as a fluffy new romantic synth pop band that metamorphosed into a genre bending ambient jazz collective, while Blur transcended their Manchester rave rock beginnings into a sharp, Kinks like Brit pop band that chronicled the new Britain. It was dazzling watching these bands become who they are.

I think we are seeing the same thing with The Horrors. They came out a few years ago one of the most hyped bands in Britain. Of course, they were talked about more for their sense of style than anything. They all were skinny with cool haircuts and tight pants and clothing. It didn't hurt that legendary video director Chris Cunningham helmed their video for "Sheena Was a Parasite" starring the wonderful actress Samantha Morton.

The video was actually much better than the song, which was nothing more than a pastiche of punkabilly that was mastered by far better bands like The Cramps. Their first ep and subsequent debut cd Strange House offered more of the same; two to three minute blasts of punk, rockabilly, psych rock and churning organ over screaming vocals. It was bracing at first, but then became tiresome. I put the cds away never thinking I would listen to them again, let alone contemplate buying another cd from them. Then I heard some interesting news, their second cd was being produced by Geoff Barrow of Portishead and Chris Cunningham. And then came the video for the first single "Sea Within A Sea." It was almost like hearing a brand new band.

An 8 minute blast of krautrock and art rock, you can hear faint echoes of their old sound in the background, particularly with the hints of organ. Lead singer Faris Badwan forgoes the usual screaming and actually sings for the first time on record. After hearing it the first time, I must have listened to the song about 20 times straight through. It will definitely end up on my top ten singles of the year.

And the rest of the cd is just as striking. Lead song "Mirror's Image" starts off in Brian Eno ambient territory until letting go with squalling guitars a la My Bloody Valentine.

The middle portion of the cd lets loose with several songs that feel akin in spirit to Joy Division's seminal release Unknown Pleasures. "Three Decades," "Who Can Say," and "Do You Remember" marry the torrent of MBV like guitars, haunting organ, and Badwan's deep baritone into an amazing pieces of dramatic rock.

This is not to say that the whole cd is all one note. They do find time to slow things down and rely more on texture and atmosphere. This is typical of tracks such as "I Only Think of You," which sounds like a funeral dirge for a dead relationship.

Which all leads up to the penultimate track "Scarlet Fields."

The song starts out like some lost outtake from OMD's experimental masterpiece Dazzle Ships. It then builds into probably the most direct song on the album, with a driving backbeat and haunting organ and guitar work. It is an amazing song. The band has truly come into their own, willing to trade the pummeling nature of their early work and experiment with silence and mood.

There are only a few missteps on the cd. Some of the songs do tend to blur into one another if listened to out of sequence. And in the middle of the song "Who Can Say" there is pretty jaw droppingly bad spoken word piece that nearly threatens to derail the song. Luckily it is over with quickly and they regain their footing.

Primary Colours feels like The Horrors' The Bends. I am thrilled every time I listen to this cd and it makes me only wonder what their next release will sound like. Go buy this cd. It is amazing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


6 out of 10

No, this is not a salacious post of my dreams and erotic imaginings, as exciting as that sounds. It is the latest cd from the band Metric. Led by vocalist and synth player Emily Haines, Metric have always brought together a potent blend of power pop, synth pop, new wave, and dance rock. Their earlier releases had a rough and shambling quality to them that evoked the Brooklyn by way of Canada scene that they found themselves lumped in with. Now, Haines and company have tried a more mature approach and have delivered a polished and clean sounding cd that plays to their strengths and opens the door for greater commercial success. But does that translate to good music? I think this is a good solid album, but it is definitely a stop gap release, which hopefully means that the next release will be a better representation of the band's strengths.

Don't get me wrong, there are some great singles on this release, in particular, "Satellite Mind," which almost sounds like it could be a Kelly Clarkson track. It has a driving beat and great mood to it and some pretty intense lyrics about a relationship gone sour.

The first single "Gimme Sympathy" also shows off their new power pop sheen. Garbage only wishes they could come up with a song this effortless.

Given the right marketing and push, it is easy to see songs like "Help I'm Alive" and "Sick Muse" being massive radio hits. They are polished to a shiny buff and have killer hooks, which show off Metric's debt to artists like The Cars, Curve, Missing Persons, and Blondie.

That's not to say that all the songs are hard driving pop songs. Metric slows things down on several occasions with some nice ballads including "Twilight Galaxy," "Collect Call," and the standout "Blindness."

My main criticisms about Fantasies is that most of the up-tempo songs have a similar quality and makes it difficult to distinguish between them. Same thing with the ballads. And aside from the caustic lyrics of "Satellite Mind," the rest of the songs are fairly nondescript lyrically.

Most of my friends claim my music taste runs a little too close to the odd and weird. But I really don't think that is the case. I enjoy a good song regardless of genre or specifics. I don't discriminate just because a song is more "pop." I just have higher standards when a song is "pop." I want something with a little intelligence and not something that is boring and cliched. Metric does not fall in the boring or cliched category, but I wish they had stretched just a little bit more.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Non Sequiturs

Sorry my posts for the past week are a bit off. My contract job for McKesson ended and I had to scramble for a new position. I found one, but unfortunately I had to work both jobs for one week. I think I worked over a hundred hours last week. Because of my crazy schedule (four sixteen hour days in a row), I barely had time to sleep, let alone blog. To make matters worse, the new job pays $7 an hour less and they do not allow us Internet access on our individual computers. It's money, which I am not going to turn down, but the working conditions are far from ideal. Even more insulting is the president of the agency that hired us. He comes in acting like he is our "friend" when really all he is doing is undercutting the market and making everyone miserable. He promised a big bonus if we worked over 65 hours last week. So we were expecting something pretty substantial. $250 was the bonus. After taxes and everything, it would worth about nothing. So I am patiently working this project hoping something better comes around the corner.

I don't know why, but this cracked me up:

And this scared me. I hate clowns. Really and truly. A friend of mine's co-workers put this together for him in his office because he hates them too. I would have killed my co-workers for this.

Lyrics Rattling Around My Head:

"There is so much here.
There is so much that defines you
in the things you keep inside and never show.
It is really clear.
There is more behind that smile
as you're walking down the driveway in the snow.

These are the things about you.
These are the things about you.
These are the things about you I know."

"These Are The Things About You"

"In this painting
the whole world is navy blue
I run home from the mailbox
in all the dim of five o'clock
to see you.
Cars and trees go by me,
you are in the yard
and in my arms again
Oh happy, oh happy, the end,
the end , the end
Happy, oh happy
the end."

Innocence Mission
"Happy The End"

"Down to Santa Rosa and over the bay
Across the grapevine to LA
We got deserts we got trees
We got the hills of Beverly
Let's burn the hills of Beverly

Walk with your credit card in the air
Swinging nachos like you just don't care
This is a slow, sick suckin' part of me"


"(Don't have to be) A big bucks Hollywood star.
(Don't have to drive) A super car to get far.
(Don't have to live) A life of power and wealth.
(Don't have to be) Beautiful but it helps."

Pet Shop Boys
"Love Etc."

Appealing Things:

Driving with the windows down
Red velvet cupcakes made by Chris
The Reader's Encyclopedia
Dogwood trees
Gay Willow
Fresh sheets on a Sunday night

Annoying Things:

Working in an office on the weekend with no air conditioning
Rude people at the gym who do not say hello when you say hello to them
Folgers coffee

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Videos of the Week/80s Synthpop Version

This week saw new releases from two of my favorite synthpop bands of the 80s, Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode. Oddly enough, both were very good releases. Not their best work granted, but very consistent and very enjoyable. I doubt either album will be on my best of list at the end of the year, but I could easily see a single from each of them in my top singles list. At any rate, these releases had me waxing nostalgic for songs from the 80s. Here are a few that were favorites of mine in the day.

Here is a classic from Depeche Mode, "Shake the Disease." It's interesting seeing how they looked and dressed. Martin Gore's hair is hysterically hideous. I love this song; it has a great melody.

This is probably my favorite Pet Shop Boys song of all time, and the video is incredibly beautiful. The video was directed by Bruce Weber, so there is a little bit of nudity in it, so probably NSFW.

Thomas Dolby is best known for the novelty song "She Blinded Me With Science." He is actually a pretty brilliant musician that never really was able to shake the one hit wonder status. It's a pity because his second cd The Flat Earth is surprisingly mature and accomplished. The first side of the album is practically perfect. The title song is so beautiful. Here is a live version of the song with everything performed by Dolby himself. It is amazing watching him build each part of the song.

As a bonus here is another classic track from Dolby from his first cd:

I was never a huge fan of Howard Jones. He had a couple of good songs on his first cd, but he sort of lost any edge he had and became rather pedestrian. I do like this song though. Another cheesy video though.

Naked Eyes only had two albums but they were both pretty good. This is an album track off the first cd which I liked. I have also put in their classic "Promises Promises."

This is the "sequel" to their video for "Take On Me." While I love the video for that song, I hate the song. I like this song much better.

These kinds of bands make me laugh now, but back then they were pretty cool.

Speaking of embarrassing, here is the first synthpop incarnation of Ministry. And yes, that is really Al Jourgenson.

Icehouse were a pretty good band from Australia. I will say that this is a great song, produced by Brian Eno. Terrible hair he has though. What was with the proto-mullet?

Beautiful song from Ultravox, but incredibly cheesy video.

I loved this band. Unfortunately, none of their videos are able to posted form Youtube, so here is a live clip of one of their best songs. I was listening to this song on my way from Savannah to Athens to college, and got pulled over by the cops for going too fast. Luckily I didn't get a ticket, but I learned never to listen to this song while driving. It makes you go very fast.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Pet Shop Boys
7 out of 10

How odd that two synth pop titans from the 80s both release new cds the same week. I think I almost wet myself on Tuesday. Along with Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys are one of my all time favorite bands. I was hooked ever since I saw the video for "West End Girls" all those years ago. I have practically bought everything the Boys have put out; all of their studio albums, most of the their remix singles, and even down to the flotsom like their music backing Battleship Potemkin and their ill fated musical Closer to Heaven. I will admit that after their masterpiece Very, the Boys' CDs starting to become a little more spotty. I still buy them though, because even a so-so PSB cd is generally a hundred times better than most band's best efforts.

I was surprised, along with DM's Sounds of the Universe, to find that this is probably the PSB's most consistently good effort since Very. PSB have never been musical pioneers, but they understood trends and how to appropriate them without seeming trendy. Instead of treading water in MOR territory, as with their last releases, they have gone back to what made them great in the first place, excellent songwriting and attention to detail in the music. Who else would use a Tchaikovsky melody as the basis for a song, while marrying it to a Timbaland-style beat? Which is exactly what they did with the song "All Over The World."

This is not to say that they forsake their tried and true formula. First single and album opener "Love Etc." is classic PSB, with a wonderful call-and-response chorus and simple, yet effective melody. They also show that they pick very cutting edge directors for their videos, as shown by the clip below:

A couple of songs really bring back a feeling from the heyday of Very. The bouncy "Did You See Me Coming?" even sounds like a Very outtake. "More Than A Dream" has a wonderful insurgent feel to it, and "The Way It Used To Be" recalls the more winsome aspect of the PSB, akin to "Being Boring." Tennant is excellent at sounding wounded, and the song is perfectly complimented by guitar work from frequent collaborator Johnny Marr. It is becoming one of my favorite PSB songs.

PSB have never been known for their ballads, however, when they are on, they create some lovely music. One of my favorite songs on Yes is the ballad "King of Rome" which shares the same mood and tone as "King's Cross."

There are a few clunkers on the cd, but thankfully, they are few and far between. The song "Building a Wall" just never goes anywhere, and has an irritating chorus, and the song "Vulnerable" is a little too wispy and fey, and Neil Tennant's voice just sounds tinny.

As they are both in their 50s, it is amazing to see PSB still sound relevant and making great music. While Yes is nowhere near as strong as their first cds, it is an excellent edition to their catalog and well worth seeking out.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sounds of the Universe

Depeche Mode
Sounds of the Universe
6 out of 10

To me, Depeche Mode is an integral part of my teenage years. I wore out my cassette copies of Construction Time Again, Some Great Reward, Black Celebration and Violater. They truly were the first band that sparked my love of dance music and synthesizers. I have followed them blindly ever since then, for better and for worse. Once Alan Wilder left the band after the Songs of Faith and Devotion tour, I've felt that the band is no longer as willing to push the envelope as much. After the tepid Ultra and almost somnambulistic, and misleadingly titled Exciter I had about given up hope on them. Their last release, Playing the Angel, definitely restored my faith with a return to a more focused sound. DM kept the same producer for their latest release, and while it is not as refreshing as Playing the Angel, it in no way tarnishes the DM reputation.

This is by far one of DM's longest cds at over an hour and 13 songs. It starts off with "In Chains" with a slowbuild up and interesting use of older analog synthesizers and drum machines. Dave Gahan's voice is still getting richer and deeper and he works well on Martin Gore's lyrics as well as the few tracks that he is now writing. It is a compliment to say that it is getting difficult to tell the difference between the two writers. Also, Gore's guitar playing has gotten more confident, although he uses it more for texture and atmosphere than for the focus of the songs, which to me is a good thing.

First single "Wrong" is a standout on the album. It recalls the glory days of songs like "Personal Jesus."

The cd appears to be as strong as Playing the Angel at first, with the one/two/three punch of "In Chains," electro-tinged "Hole to Feed," and "Wrong." The middle of the cd takes a turn to old-school DM, with more reliance on beats and synthesizers. Things start off right with the wonderful "Fragile Tension,""In Sympathy," and "Come Back."

At this point, I was thinking we were reaching another Violater. The quality of the song writing and the production was excellent. Of course, I spoke too soon. After "Come Back," the cd basically goes off the rails. They continue with the ill-advised habit of having a short instrumental on this cd like on Ultra and Playing the Angel. This year's culprit is "Spacewalker" which sounds like a bad Air outtake. It gets even worse and more meandering with "Jezebel," a Martin Gore sung ballad, which does not use some of his better lyrics. The cd ends on the unfocused "Corrupt" which doesn't seem to know where it wants to go, before ending with a long fade out leading to a quasi-reprise of "Wrong."

If DM had edited the cd a little more critically and sequenced the songs a little more thoughtfully, this would have been another classic. As such, we are left with a cd that is better than good, but just short of great. Of course, at this point in their careers, they really don't have anything to prove. They will continue to sell out stadiums and make tons of money. So I will allow them their indulgences, as long as they continue to put out good records. And yes, this is a good record.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Non Sequiturs

A friend pointed this story out to me and literally made my mouth drop open. One of my favorite actors, Rupert Everett, who turns 50 next month, had a ton of plastic surgery done recently, I guess in the ill-advised attempt to regain a more youthful look. Here are the horrid results.

I am at a loss for words on how awful this is. He looks like Joan Rivers. I just don't understand why people get cosmetic surgery when they all look like plastic mannequins afterwards. Granted, he was looking rather wrinkled in the before picture, but it at least looks natural, unlike the bizarre circus freak look he now has. It's just very sad.

I think if I had to give up either hot showers or sex, I would give up sex.

Is it odd that I get a subtle thrill from doing laundry or cleaning my loft? Yes, I have been nicknamed Monica by my friends.

I started a new contract project today where they are facing a fast deadline and an enormous amount of documents. There are over 60 of us on the project. The pay is very low but we are able to work as many hours as we want, unlike my last project where we were limited to 40 hours. The only bad thing is that I have to work more to make less. And today the "boss" gave us his idea of an incentive....$250 if you work over 65 hours. Um, computer says Noooooooooo.

Lyrics Rattling Around My Head:

"And to be shared
On this night
Feel my hands
Feel my life
For the Sun
And the stars
Are my Mother
And my sister
I know where the form is changing
I know that the stars will follow me.."

Bat For Lashes
"Two Planets"

"Shake my head
Turn my face to the floor
Dead to respect
To respect to be born
Lest we forget who lay"

Talk Talk
"After the Flood"

"Is this the legend of a liquid brain
That cluster-fuck muscle man who died in the rain?
He never guessed that the world would end
Crawling off the beach from the sea to the land"

Beta Band
"Liquid Bird"

"Steal more treasures, steal more gifts
This'll size creative lies
Until we grow up
It won't free you to go look for the key
My consciousness don't look away
What might keep them, but a slave
What might keep them, but a slave
My truth's not even, even half of what's

Safe at last
Seeing my thoughts in order
Safe, fallen down this way
I want to be just what I am"

Cocteau Twins

Appealing Things:

Sushi at Zuma
Strawberry and White Chocolate Scones made by Chris
Lavender and vanilla fabric softener
My cat asleep on my clothes

Annoying Things:

Incentives that really aren't incentives
Atlanta traffic
Having to work weekends for less money

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Videos of the Week

It's that time of the week again, when I recap what songs/videos have been interesting me lately. After looking at my Facebook postings, I just realized that not much was interesting me this past week. It's been that lull time before all the new summer releases come out so there hasn't been much new stuff that I've seen. In addition, some of the old songs I like either I cannot find the video on Youtube, or the video has the embedding disabled, which is completely annoying.

Oh well, this may be a short post, so enjoy what is there:

This is a relatively straightforward song for Bat for Lashes. It sort of sits in the middle of her new cd Two Suns as a bridge between all the other challenging music. It's not my favorite song on the cd, but it is a good one. The video is a little bizarre; and I am not quite sure what is the purpose of the dancers with the black balloons taped on them. And the end of the video looks like it was copied directly from a Bjork video.

I'm not a huge fan of Crystal Antlers. They can be a little too prog-psych-funky for my tastes. However, this song sort of grabbed me as it is somewhat different in execution. The singer actually seems to be singing and putting some emotion into it, especially when he sings "don't let me die, all alone." Could be an interesting new direction for them. I hope they continue to go down this path.

Here is a video from one of my all time favorite bands, the Cocteau Twins. Elizabeth Frazer has an amazing voice. This was a live performance from the Jools Holland show. It is interesting to see them from this period when they have a pretty large backing band, knowing that they used to perform as a three piece with a drum machine. I have seen them live in both incarnations. Both were interesting and hard to say which one I prefer as I do have a certain fondness for that old drum machine sound.

As a bonus, here is a clip of a video for the song "Crushed" which was on the Lonely Is An Eyesore compliation CD from their label 4AD records.

I've always loved Siouxsie and the Banshees. This was a great song from their CD Tinderbox. A very muscular song.

Múm is a favorite band of mine, though their latest release didn't really do anything for me. I have posted two versions of "We Have A Map Of The Piano;" one a fan made video and the other a live version of the song. It is probably in my top five songs of all time. I can listen to it over and over again. It is great to listen to on headphones on a cold wintery day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Begone Dull Care

When does dance music technically become not dance music? That seems to be the question most often asked in conjunction with Junior Boys. All of the key elements are there: drum machines, synthesizers, and sequencers. And yet, none of their songs, aside from a handful, will lead you to shake your ass on the dance floor. Call it bedroom dance-pop, interior dance floor music, or whatever you will, it all tends to lean to more of an intellectual bent than a physical bent. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with it, you just have to come to the Junior Boys with a different set of expectations.

Formed by Jeremy Greenspan and Johnny Dark back in the early 2000s, the Hamilton, Ontario duo created a sensation with their first release Last Exit. An expertly produced and arranged collection of slow-burning electronic songs, it was a perfect amalgamation of a variety of different styles, from synth pop, dubstep, micro-house, to even hip hop. The songs were lush and featured intricate drum programming utilizing very odd time signatures and percussive techniques. Dark left the band shortly after the release to pursue other interests and Greenspan was joined by engineer Matt Didemus for the second CD So This Is Goodbye. While this was not a drastic sound departure from Last Exit, So This Is Goodbye was a decidedly darker, icier release. Few of the songs reached above a whisper, and there was only one song, "In The Morning," that could actually be danced to.

Thus, it brings us to the third CD Begone Dull Care, that takes its title and inspiration from a collaboration between animator/filmmaker Norman McLaren and jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, that I have not seen, so I have no idea how this compares to the CD. After the first two CDs, it appears Junior Boys are somewhat in a rut. There is really nothing to distinguish it from the first two CDs; it has the same impeccable production, lush arrangements, and languid tone. When I first heard it, honestly, I couldn't tell one song from the other, which was tremendously disappointing. I set the CD aside and basically forgot about it. Later, I was sitting at work and I just wanted something innocuous to have on in the background and began to play it again. Strangely enough, I really started to listen to it and it held my attention more and more. Each of the songs is well over 5 minutes long and it takes awhile for the song to build and let the melodies and instrumentation come forth. It is a deceptively simple CD, because only after listening to the songs multiple times do you find all the little odd touches that show how meticulously put together everything is: from the odd pitch-shifted synth bell sound in the funky "Work," to the subtle saxophone at the end of "Bits and Pieces," to what even sounds like a banjo in "Dull to Pause."

I won't say that Begone Dull Care is my favorite Junior Boys CD, that designation will likely always be Last Exit, Begone Dull Care is a definite grower and multiple listens never fail to bring up something else I missed previously. It also shows Junior Boys willing to get a little geeky/funky on the song, and first single, "Hazel:"

Other highlights are the aforementioned "Bits and Pieces" which again shows the funkier side of Junior Boys, and has a glitch filled breakdown in the middle of the song:

On "Sneak a Picture," they even attempt, perhaps ironically, an homage to old school 80s style R&B jams. It is always hard to tell how firmly tongue in cheek Junior Boys can be at times. They always seem to be on the fence between jokingly making fun of a style of music and showing an appreciation for it. Junior Boys end the CD on a quieter note with "What It's For," which appears to return to the icier realms of So This Is Goodbye.

It will be difficult to determine where this release with lie within the Junior Boys canon. It has an air of being a stop-gap CD, one where they are treading a little water before charging off in a different direction. At least, I hope they will plan on progressing their sound more. So what we are left with is not necessarily a masterpiece, but still a finely produced/performed CD that is genuinely fascinating.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Two Suns

I am late in coming to appreciate Bat For Lashes, the brainchild of Pakistan born, British citizen Natasha Khan. Her first CD, Fur and Gold, was just a little too precious for me. Too many slight melodies and quirky instrumentation, not to mention the lyrics about mystic golden light and other flights of fancy. There were several moments, fleeting as they may be, that pointed towards a more muscular, full bodied Bat For Lashes sound.

Two Suns opens with the dramatically building "Glass." Singing in almost a dreamlike monotone, surrounded by subtle electronics, her voice gathers strength and conviction and almost a masculine tone as drum programming pushes the song to interesting heights.

One of the criticisms of Ms. Khan is that she wears her influences too closely, with hints of everyone from Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Annie Lennox, Siouxsie Sioux, and PJ Harvey littered throughout her music. I think the criticisms are fair, but there is one thing to intentionally ape someone else, and another to use them as a springboard for your own individuality. I think the criticisms are less apt for this second release.

The songs' voices alternate between Ms. Khan's true "desert-born spiritual self" and her alter-ego Pearl, a "destructive, self-absorbed, blonde femme fatale" with both sides covering "the philosophy of the self and duality, examining the need for both chaos and balance, for both love and pain, in addition to touching on metaphysical ideas concerning the connections between all existence." It's a pretty heady concept to tackle in the course of one album, however, Ms. Khan executes it nearly perfectly, bouncing from more experimental tracks such as "Peace of Mind" with its choirs and banjo-esque funereal dirge to the more pop-oriented songs such as "Daniel."

The songs as her alter-ego Pearl are particularly entrancing. "Siren Song" is about Pearl's desire for comfort and stability in a loving relationship but how sometimes temptations get the best of her and she ends up hurting her lover, even though she doesn't want to. It is lovely how Ms. Khan sings the stable Pearl's lyrics in almost a hushed whisper, and then when temptation gathers, the music builds into chaos and her voice becomes wild and uncontrollable.

"Pearl's Dream" continues her fight to find a balance between a calm, easy existence, and the urge to be more wild and untamed. She sings, "and when the battle was done/I was promised my sun/but with a thousand nights gone/to any kingdom I run."

My favorite song on Two Suns is "Two Planets," which rivals some of Bjork's best works. Over insistent, pummeling beats and electronics clicks and hand claps, her voice swirls in and out of the mix. The lyrics appear to be about the pull between darkness and light, but that she knows she is now in control.

"And to be shared
On this night
Feel my hands
Feel my life
For the Sun
And the stars
Are my Mother
And my sister
I know where the form is changing
I know that the stars will follow me."

Interestingly, the closing song on the CD, "The Big Sleep," she duets with Scott Walker, the king of the avant garde, and matches him note for note. Walker is such a huge presence that I was shocked that she was able to keep up with him.

This release is such a huge leap forward from Fur and Gold that it almost seems like it comes from another artist altogether. It is always amazing to hear someone come into their own voice and almost perfectly translate their vision. I am very interested in watching what Ms. Khan does next. She has set the bar very high though; but something tells me that is the only way she would want it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Non Sequiturs

No offense Cheryl, but there are some legal recruiters who really just don't have a clue. To be honest, I think this goes hand in hand with real estate agents as well. You are either really good at your job and care about the outcomes and do your best to help your client, or you are hopelessly unorganized, unsympathetic, and painfully lazy. I am having to deal with an inordinate amount of recruiters in my job hunt, both on the temporary side of things as well as the permanent side. I have one recruiter who consistently calls me each week and leaves a panicked message about a project starting the next day and whether I am available. When I call her back to reassure her that I am indeed available she says she doesn't have anything and that she was just gauging my availability. When I inquire as to why she left me a panicked message, she just says that most people don't call her back if she doesn't. I suppose this person was never read the story about the boy who cried wolf. In defense of Cheryl, and other recruiters, I will say that I have one recruiter who calls me almost every week just to check in an offer me advice and to fill me in on what the job market is like out there. It reassures me that there are still people out there who do care about what they do.

Had to take my car in this morning because the check engine light was coming on. Happened right after I had my oil changed at a non-dealer place. I was scared the oil change place messed something up and it wouldn't be covered by my warranty. After sitting in the waiting room for two hours with no word I began to get nervous, so finally I just went out and asked what was going on and it turned out to be some emissions cylinder that was broken. No charge thankfully. I did have to waste three hours sitting there. I was glad they had the Today show on to keep me company.

My cat Missy sleeps probably 23 hours a day, as most cats do. The funny thing is she always hunts down a piece of my clothing to lay on. In fact, I have seen her drag a piece of clothing out of my closet to lay on. Here she is spreading fur and fun all over my favorite t-shirt:

Went to drinks last night with some of my best friends from my CNN VJ days, Vickie, Gina, and Jen. VJs for those of you not in the know are video journalists. It is basically the entry level position at CNN, which involved ripping scripts, floor directing, running the teleprompter, and various other annoying tasks. Even though we made absolutely no money (starting salary back in 1993 when we started was $15,000), we all had a blast and there was a nice collective family feel to the job. Because we were all on limited budgets we used to go to a burrito place on Ponce De Leon called Tortillas. They used whole beans and not the refried stuff most places used. I think they called them San Francisco style burritos. Well, you could get a huge burrito and a couple of beers for less than $10. It was always fun and when the weather was nice we would sit upstairs on the outside patio. It was also, as a friend commented, the one place where are the hipster bar band members would wait tables between gigs. Unfortunately, the rise of places like Moe's and Chipotle ran Tortillas out of business. We were very sad to see it go, especially now that it is changed into a chain breakfast place. It was fun catching up with them. We have all gone on to different things, though both Vickie and Jen still work for the Turner family; Vickie with CNNI Backstory and Jen with Turner Studios. Gina is now a freelance writer/producer with WebMD. Here is a picture of us taken by Jen's husband Hutch who is an attorney with Turner.

From left to right, Jen, Vickie, Me (with beard, any thoughts?), and Gina.

Lyrics Rattling Around My Head

"My love is bigger than your love
We take more drugs than a touring funk band
Sing it!"

"To Hell With Good Intentions"

"Please forgive me
If I act a little strange
For I know not what I do
Feels like lightning running through my veins
Every time I look at you."

David Gray
"Please Forgive Me"

"The building blocks sometimes have to crash
Not built to last like a mother's love
Sleep comes when all is laid to rest
That's where you'll find what you're looking for"

Neil Finn
"Lullaby Requiem"

"The sound of waves in a pool of water
I'm drowning in my nostalgia"

David Sylvian

"And watching lovers part
I feel you smiling
what glass splinters
lie so deep in your mind
to tear out from your eyes
with a word to stiffen
brooding lies
and I'll only watch
you leave me
further behind."

Duran Duran
"The Chauffeur"

"With all you have
Still you turn your back
You're given every chance
How can you ask more than that?
But still you have to ask
I really need for you to ask"

Duncan Sheik
"Hey Casanova"

"There were times in the past
If I had the move, I couldn't make it last
Girl, it's wasted in the night
And is it really so hard?
Tell your body to forget the words
Pushing you too hard
'Cause I don't know

Can you teach me how to fight?
Show me what it's like to give that pain
Show me how to fight, throw him down"

Junior Boys
"Teach Me How To Fight"

Appealing Things:

Chris' happy food dance
Getting all of my windows replaced in my loft for free under terms of the warranty
Car warranties
Grey days where you can sleep on the couch all day without feeling guilty about getting outside
Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Lie to Me"
LOL cats

Annoying Things:

Spring pollen counts over 3000
Losing at Scrabble
Waiting for three hours at the car dealer
Sinus headaches
No more Tortillas, and for Vickie, no more Bean Man.

Videos of the Week

Here are a few videos that struck my eye/ear this past week. Some are new, and some are blasts from the past.

This is the new video from The Killers for their song "Spaceman," which was one of my favorite songs from last year. Sorry for the odd video with lyrics, every other version on Youtube had the embedding disabled so this was all I could come up with. I hate just putting a link on here. The song has a great melody and is a lot of fun. The video...hmmm. Can't really say I have any idea what the heck is going on in it. It reminds me of the set from Fellini's 8 1/2. All of the background actors appear to be doing whatever the heck they want. Makes no sense, but is at least interesting to look at.

Next up is the new song from The Horrors. They came out a couple of years ago with a very goth look and a proto-punk sound reminiscent of The Cramps. If they had continued in that vein I would have lost interest immediately. Refreshing to see them expanding their sound. This is a very long song, but changes directions multiple times, going from Krautrock to Joy Division to synth pop. I am really excited about hearing the full album.

Metric are poised to be a really huge band. They straddle the line between indie and pop. I really like this song a lot and it has really grown on me.

I despise Britney Spears, but at the same time I always want her to do well. I actually liked her Blackout cd, though you could tell she was barely there while making it. Her latest, Circus, is just more of the same Britney. When I was going out to the clubs here in Atlanta, whenever they played "Womanizer" I used to hate it because it was such a horrible song. Very odd syncopations and the beat was hard to follow. That's why I think it is brilliant that Franz Ferdinand take the song and it fits perfectly with their angular guitars. The song just makes more sense as a rock song.

David Sylvian is one of my favorite artists. His voice is so rich and textured. He could sing the phone book and I would be entranced. A couple of years ago he and his wife divorced and he put out one of the most painfully intimate cds ever released called Blemish. Most of the time, the songs were just his naked voice and some backing electronics. Although the cd is fairly brutal to listen to, the last song, "Fire in the Forest," offered a ray of hope. It is modernized version of "Over the Rainbow." This is a lovely video of him performing the song on tour. His voice is phenomenal.

Everything But The Girl were in a rut. They had released several lovely albums, but they were all starting to sound the same. After a DJ remixed "Missing" and it became a world-wide club hit, EBTG decided to switch gears and put out a drum and bass cd. The result was Walking Wounded, which is now a classic of the genre. Here is a video of them performing "Before Today" live.

To round out this week, here are some favorite songs and videos from the 80s that I always enjoy looking at. I hope you enjoy them too.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fever Ray

Karin Dreijer Anderssen is one half of the Swedish electronic brother/sister duo The Knife. A couple of years ago, they surprised everyone by coming out with a breathtaking CD called Silent Shout. It appeared in a majority of end of the year best lists, including my own. Musically, The Knife was not original, using pretty bare boned, Asian themed electronics. What separated them were their odd lyrics and heavily pitch shifted and treated vocals. You never knew from song to song what they would do with their voices, and it created a wonderful tension.

Karin decided to take a break from her brother and recorded under the moniker Fever Ray. This first release does not stray much from The Knife's template, but it is subtly different; the lyrics are far more personal and intimate, and the music is more subdued and haunting. Hardly any of the songs rise above a whisper, and only a few have danceable beats. In an article I read interviewing her, Karin said he composed everything on her laptop with the Ableton Live software. The effect is of someone locked away in a room, pouring out their heart. The CD reminds me a lot of Bjork's Vespertine.

The first single, "If I Had A Heart" provides a good overview of the entire CD. Below is the video for the song:

The song appears to be about greed, whether monetary or emotional. The lyrics are very pointed and honest.

"This will never end
cause I want more
more, give me more, give me more

If I had a heart I could love you
if I had a voice I would sing
after the night when I wake up
I'll see what tomorrow brings."

Of course, the video for the song is very creepy and haunting. What I have always liked about The Knife and now Fever Ray is that they never do anything half-heartedly, they make sure everything from the packaging to the promotional videos are of great quality.

Although the singles released from the CD are brilliant, they are not my favorite songs on the CD at all. My favorite is probably "Dry and Dusty." It has minimal percussion, almost like a heartbeat. Karin's voice is so heavily treated it does not even appear to be female, let alone human. The song appears to be about a couple, now older and reflective, and possibly in the early stages of Alzheimer's, looking back on their past:

"Never leave me
walk close beside me
your hand my hand
fits so easy

No tomorrow
let us stop here
we did some great things
or didn't we."

It is a very haunting and touching song.

Another one of my favorite songs is "Keep The Streets Empty For Me." It has a vaguely American Indian feel to it, with a very methodical, ceremonial beat and they way Karin sings the lyrics. It also reminds me somewhat of some of the more dirge like songs on Talking Head's Remain In Light CD. The song seems to be about reincarnation, with lyrics such as:

"I will never disappear
for forever, I'll be here

morning keep the streets empty for me."

The album closes with the almost seven minute song "Coconut." It is a slow-building song with a Caribbean feel to it. The lyrics appear to be about how things got strained between her and her brother Olaf after the long promotional tour for Silent Shout. Apparently, Olaf is on some island working on a opera about Charles Darwin. The song feels like it was created on a beach, with lyrics like this:

"Open atmosphere
take me anywhere
take me there

(oh oh oh oh)

We have water mouth
sand in pockets and a strained household."

The CD is not as immediate as Silent Shout. Most of the songs tend to drift into each other with seemingly little to distinguish them. But over several listens, it appears to be a song cycle, and the individual songs start to show their distinguishing characteristics. It is a challenging listen and definitely not an easy listen. You feel like you are privy to some of Karin's most intimate and pure thoughts. It is well worth the journey, and one of my favorite Cd's of the year so far.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Non Sequiturs

Today, in an unanimous decision, the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the state's ban on gay marriage. So Iowa (???) along with Massachusetts and Connecticut, are the only three states that have overturned this ridiculous, bigoted policy. There is still the chance that the Iowa voters could amend the state's constitution, but according to legal experts, it is a very long and drawn out process that is practically insurmountable. It is a very special day, especially when it comes from a midwestern state. It is a small step, but a very important one towards equal rights for everyone. With thanks to my friend Al out in Houston, here is a site with the court's well-written and well-reasoned opinion.

Also, check out Al's blog. It is always entertaining, and was one of the main reasons why I began blogging. It can be seen at:

Today ended the first tier review on the project I am on. I feel bad because I was one of three people who were allowed to continue with the second tier review; I worked with some nice people on this project and I am sorry that they are no longer employed. Hopefully they will find new projects soon. The economy has really hurt the contract attorney market as well, so new projects are few and far between. My good thoughts and prayers go out to everyone looking.

Chris F. is finally feeling better. This stomach bug he had really threw him for a loop. It was difficult seeing him not feeling well. We are going out tonight, so I am happy he will be in good spirits. He thought he lost a lot of weight this week, however, the doctor weighed him and there was no change. So he pouted a bit. Of course, he looks great anyway, so I had to snicker a little bit at him.

Two things that disturb me, in the fact that both are women and I find them both appealing. First, the weather person on channel 46, Dagmar Midcap. It's such a Swedish stewardess name. It is disturbing because I find her very attractive. Go figure. I think it's the redhead thing. Here's a picture:

Second is the Padma Lakshmi Hardee's commercial. It is so overtly sexy and perverted. To be honest, I am not sure whether I am more attracted to Padma or to the hamburger. Mmmm, bacon. Below is a link to the commercial. For some reason embedding the video direct from Youtube is not working. Update (it appears that Safari will not allow me to embed videos, but Firefox will. Go figure.

Lyrics Rattling Around In My Head:

"And I draw a line
To your heart today
To heart from mine
And pray to keep us safe

Watch the stars now moving
Across the sky
Keep this feeling
Safe tonight"

PJ Harvey
"One Line"

Burnt out
And fear you are
And now the shade

Sun eclipsed to shame"

Mark Hollis
"The Gift"

"Got struck by the first volley
Of the war in the courts
Never held my serve
Send'em a wire, give'em my best
This ammunition never rests
No one serves coffee, no one wakes up

Stop breathin'
Stop breathin'
Breathin' for me now
Write it on a postcard
Dad, they broke me
Dad, they broke me"

"Stop Breathin'"

"And I have learned
That even landlocked lovers yearn
For the sea like navy men
Because now we say goodnight
From our own separate sides
Like brothers on a hotel bed

You may tire of me
As our December sun is setting
Because I'm not who I used to be"

Death Cab for Cutie
"Brothers On A Hotel Bed"

"Break my face in
It was the kindest touch you ever gave
Wrap my dreams around your thighs
And drape my hope upon the chance to touch your arm
Fabulous muscles
Cremate me after you c** on my lips
Honey boy place my ashes in a vase
Beneath your workout bench
No romance no sexiness
But a star-filled night
Kneeling down before the now familiar flesh
Of your deformed penis
Wigging out before the unfamiliar flesh
Of my broken neck"

Xiu Xiu
"Fabulous Muscles"

Appealing Things:
Seinfeld Reruns
Target clothes
Bumble and Bumble
The Trailers for the new Harry Potter movie, Bruno, and Where the Wild Things Are
The fact that my inner diva is Tina Turner
Aunt Net
Ellwood and Shiloh

Annoying Things:

Miley Cyrus
My cat clawing my one expensive rug and avoiding the cheap rugs
Pollen count over 1500
Getting my oil changed and then having my check engine light come on

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Videos of the Week

Here are a few new videos for the week, meshed in with some oldies but goodies.

I've been a huge PSB fan ever since they dropped "West End Girls." Up through the cd Very, each cd was more and more classic. Since then, they have had some great singles, but the whole cds themselves have been spotty to say the least. Advance word on Yes has not been favorable, but if it is at least as consistent as this first single I think it will be enjoyable. It has a very bouncy beat and killer chorus. The video is completely stunning.

Kleerup, the scraggly man in the video, is one of the most sought after producers these days. His song with Robyn, "Every Heartbeat" was a gorgeous song that was one of my singles of the year last year. Kleerup has exquisite taste when it comes to collaborators and picks Neneh Cherry's half-sister Titiyo for the song "Longing for Lullabies." The song doesn't stray much from the "Every Heartbeat" formula, lowkey drum programming, twinkling synths, and subtle orchestration, but somehow it works again. It's a very beautiful song with a sweet video.

Fever Ray is Karin Dreijer Andersson from Swedish electronic act The Knife. Although this is not much of a departure from her work with her brother, it is very distinctive. Her work as Fever Ray is more insular and haunting; nightmares given voice with subtle electronics and pitch-shifted vocals. These two videos are very well made and very sinister. "If I Had A Heart" looks like it was made from leftover footage from the movie Children of Men; and "When I Grow Up" from discarded winter scenes from The Virgin Suicides.

Patrick Wolf is bizarre, no getting around it. His first two releases were stunning laptop made electro chamber pop. His last release opened up his sonic palette but seemed to constrict rather than broadening his sound. I think he does better on a more intimate scale. His new cd The Bachelor appears, so far, to be going back to the original template. First single "The Vulture" is a Marc Almond-esque romp with a kinky, S&M bondage video. There is some partial nudity, so it may not be safe for work.

Beautifully shot video for the Kanye West song "Welcome to Heartbreak." His cd 808s & Heartbreak is such a trainwreck, but is one of the most fascinating cds from last year.

In honor of a list on Facebook for my favorite Post-Punk cds here are 5 of my favorite bands from the early 80s:

Howard Devoto left the Buzzcocks when he felt that they were not evolving. He formed his own band Magazine which is about as far from the punk roar of the Buzzcocks as you can get. Icy, minimal and jagged, Magazine plumbed the depths of relationships. Here is a live performance of one of his most caustic songs "Permafrost," which has some of the most brutal lyrics I have ever heard. I would hate to be the person he wrote this song about.

From the classic cd Entertainment. Gang of Four were one of the great socio-political bands. Socialism with a beat.

It is impossible to mention post-punk without including Joy Division. Closer is one of my all time favorite cds. This is a live performance of a b-side from the Closer sessions. For some reason I couldn't find any live perfomances of songs from the cd. Oh well. This gets the point across.

John Lydon's post-Sex Pistols band. While not as in your face as that classic punk group, Public Image Ltd's music was just as confrontational. Metal Box is a harrowing listen and not an easy thing to sit through, but it is essential.

Echo and the Bunnymen never truly crossed over the way U2 did, though without them, The Edge would not have known what to do with an effects pedal. Will Sergeant was a true innovator and the key to the band's haunting sound. Here is a live performance of "Heads Will Roll" from their classic cd Porcupine.

We end today's post with two Aphex Twin videos directed by Chris Cunningham. The first is probably the creepiest video ever made for the song "Come To Daddy." The second video for the song "Windowlicker" is a commentary on the over-the-top hip-hop videos that were prevalent at the time. It contains an enormous amount of profanity so probably not safe for work.