28 September, 2007

Tea Time

My past experiences with Wes Anderson movies have been odd to say the least. The Royal Tenenbaums royally freaked me out (this may have something to do with the fact that I watched it when I was about 12) and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou achieved a place in my mind somewere between a movie by the creators of This Is Spinal Tap and Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami (which ranks it with the strangest artistic experiences of my life). Still, I keep coming back to his movies, because there's something there, maybe hidden behind the dry humor and David Sedaris-like family commentary, that's striking and important.

So I embark on my journey through The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson's latest full-length. I plan on seeing this movie in theatres, and fully engaging in the experiences of the three brothers (Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson). I hope this adventure will be a less-depressing spiritual journey than Into The Wild. If the soundtrack is any indication, which it usually is, The Darjeeling Limited will be exponentially more enjoyable than that Sean Penn drama. Every song on the Into The Wild soundtrack is an ode to isolation, with Eddie Vedder sobbing about some kid with no common sense, while The Darjeeling Limited soundtrack is as varied a collage as India itself and soaked in humanity.

Most of the music found in the 22 songs on the album comes from other movies. These movies are Indian in origin, and not contemporary; the kind of movies that are best viewed in a theatre, where you can be immersed in the story. Among the other songs on the soundtrack are some classical pieces that lend a little drama, and a few rock songs by The Kinks and the Rolling Stones that define the experience as Western while celebrating the influence of Indian sound in rock-psychedelia. The album opener and closer are almost polar in their opposition. "Where Do You Go to (My Lovely)" by Peter Sarstedt is minimal (guitar and voice alone) with sweet, offbeat, pop lyrics and a slightly depressing folk air; an appropriate beginning to a movie that opens with a death. The finale is "Les Champs-Elysees" by Joe Dassin, a bouncy French jazz song with plenty of horn and piano, and a playful approach to music-making. In between, as I described above, are the songs and sounds of India which I've always found intoxicating and uplifting. The campy "Typewriter, Tip, Tip, Tip (From Merchant Ivory's film 'Bombay Talkie')" makes you feel like you've stepped into the 1960s and 1970s in India. "Title Music (From Satyajit Ray's film 'Teen Kanya')" is instrumental and lush. "Charu's Theme (Satyajit Ray's film 'Charulata')" sounds like an improvisation on scales from a child's music class: plain and unsteady, but perfect. "Prayer" by Jodphur Sikh Temple Congregation and "Memorial" by Narlia Village Troubadour are two locally flavored songs that are yearning and spiritual.

Overall, this album is a collage of sounds and culture, and a collage that succeeds in matching bits of the past and the present with bits of Western and Eastern culture. I ask myself what more important spiritual journey you could encounter than such a magnanimous union of disparate sounds and feelings? Where Sean Penn and Eddie Vedder celebrate Chris McCandless's inability to live in the real world, inability to embrace all of humanity and come to spiritual enlightenment by really getting his hands dirty, Wes Anderson seems to do the opposite. He throws his characters into the quirkiest, dirtiest, and most uncomfortable celebrations of human existence (albeit the most unlikely and fantastic). This is my kind of spiritual journey.

MIT Hacks Harvard!!

MIT is basically the coolest school on the planet. A school filled with merry little pranksters. Above is the latest MIT hack, where John Harvard is turned into a guy from Halo 3. How awesome is that? Check out more hacks on this website, and read more about Harvard's amazing transformation: MIT Hacks

22 September, 2007

The Shins en Espanol

Say What You Want to Say to Me by Spanish for 100 just says everything, doesn't it? Well, maybe not the title by itself, but the music has a lot to say. You'll regret not having listened to "Limerance Be" when your friendly, neighborhood blogger told you to when you hear it on the soundtrack of another Zach Braff movie. Not that it's bad to be liked by Zach Braff (we love you, Zach!), it's just that after Natalie Portman made "New Slang" a hit, and that awkward guy in your local record store tried to use the Garden State quote as a pickup line, "New Slang" lost a little bit of its poignancy. I'm not here to write about that old Shins album (so two albums ago), I'm actually here to write about the new album from Spanish for 100.

Whatever their name means, this band is making music that should be heard. I would describe the sound of Say What You Want to Say to Me as orchestral lo-fi, which seems like an oxymoron, but makes more sense when you actually listen to some of the songs. This album sounds like a collaboration between Remy Zero and the Shins.

"Attack!" has a plodding yet manic energy, with swirling guitar noise and a steady rhythm. The lyrics are similar to beat poetry, where the cadence and sound of the words is as important as the meaning. "Sangria" is the second song on the album, but a definite departure from "Attack!". Although the two songs are recognizable as album siblings, they have different personalities. "Sangria" is an orchestral song of musical highs and lows, and the rhythm and timing are experimental. " Say What You Want To Say" pulls in a little country influence, but maintains some of the coolness of Seattle alternative rock. You can imagine this band in plaid and jeans, rocking in nature or in the city. I love the fact that the vocals are almost more melodic than the instrumentals in this song. "Snakebite" and "Sweet Surprise" follow that same country line, and you can imagine these songs as the soundtrack to open spaces and starry nights. "Limerance Be" happens to be the single, and is a gorgeous song with soft but strong vocals. For anyone who doesn't know what limerence is (I had to look it up), it's a phsychological concept from the 1970s (Dorothy Tennov, Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being In Love) that is basically the idea of an involuntary attachment to a person. It isn't quite love, but more like a long infatuation. The sighing nature of the song seems to be a perfect match to the notion of a limerent relationship, and I expect to hear this song on the soundtrack to an indie romantic comedy in the near future. The rest of the album moves in an even more expiremental direction, and I think I enjoy the songs "Red", "Thought Twice", "She's a Robber", and "Quick As Ashutter" because of this experimentation. The band is playing with sound, but not to the point where the music becomes unlistenable, just to the point where the songs' interesting qualities are at their peak. I would recommend this album to any musiclover, but especially to those who have lost a little of their limerent feelings towards the Shins, but who need a soundtrack to their own indie romantic comedy.

21 September, 2007

"Drive My Car" by the Beatles

Asked a girl what she wanted to be
She said baby, can't you see
I wanna be famous, a star on the screen
But you can do something in between

Baby you can drive my car
Yes I'm gonna be a star
Baby you can drive my car
And maybe I'll love you

I told that girl that my prospects were good
And she said baby, it's understood
Working for peanuts is all very fine
But I can show you a better time

Baby you can drive my car
Yes I'm gonna be a star
Baby you can drive my car
And maybe I'll love you

Beep beep'm beep beep yeah

Baby you can drive my car
Yes I'm gonna be a star
Baby you can drive my car
And maybe

I told that girl I can start right away
When she said listen babe I got something to say
I got no car and it's breaking my heart
But I found a driver and that's a start

Baby you can drive my car
Yes I'm gonna be a star
Baby you can drive my car
And maybe I'll love you

15 September, 2007

"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" by Bob Dylan

You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast.
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun,
Crying like a fire in the sun.
Look out the saints are comin' through
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.

The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense.
Take what you have gathered from coincidence.
The empty-handed painter from your street
Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets.
This sky, too, is folding under you
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.

All your seasick sailors, they are rowing home.
Your empty-handed armies, they are going home.
The lover who just walked out your door
Has taken all his blankets from the floor.
The carpet, too, is moving under you
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.

Leave your stepping stones behind, there's something that calls for you.
Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you.
The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.
Strike another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.

14 September, 2007

Excerpt from "Flagpole Sitta" by Harvey Danger

...Been around the world and found
That only stupid people are breeding
The cretins cloning and feeding
And I don't even own a TV

Put me in the hospital for nerves
And then they had to commit me
You told them all I was crazy
They cut off my legs now I'm an amputee, Goddamn you

I'm not sick, but I'm not well
And I'm so hot cause I'm in hell
I'm not sick, but I'm not well
And it's a sin, to live so well

I wanna publish 'zines
And rage against machines
I wanna pierce my tongue
It doesn't hurt, it feels fine
The trivial sublime
I'd like to turn off time
And kill my mind
You kill my mind

Paranoia, paranoia
Everybody's comin' to get me
Just say you never met me
I'm runnin' underground with the moles
Diggin' big holes
Hear the voices in my head
I swear to God it sounds like they're snoring
But if you're bored then you're boring
The agony and the irony, they're killing me, whoa!

I'm not sick, but I'm not well
And I'm so hot cause I'm in hell
I'm not sick, but I'm not well
And it's a sin to live this well

(One, two, three, four!)

02 September, 2007


Bold Displays of Cowardice by Easy Tease and Set the Woods on Fire by Art In Manila

These two alternative albums snap with creativity and exhuberance. For example, listen to "The Headless Horseman Rides Again" or "Set The Woods On Fire" and you'll understand the way these two bands focus their fantastic imagery around a point. The stories aren't allegories, but there's truth in these songs nonetheless.

The Easy Tease create carnivalesque jazz and folk with many instruments mixed for optimum creative output. Listen to "Blizzard a-comin'", and you can hear the soft snow falling from the piano keys while in the background the horns warn of the torrents that will fall. On "Father's Sonata" the horns play a more central role, guiding the mood of the song and twisting around each other and the rest of the instruments. "The Mad Scientists Break Into the Laboratory to Steal Solanine" is the most appropriately titled long song I've ever heard (take that Fall Out Boy!). If the hysterical hooting that takes place behind the vaudeville sounds isn't connected to a mad scientist, then I'll have to rethink my whole worldview. The whole album is rough patchwork, cobbled together with some of the oddest sounds in the musical arsenal, but forming a nice quilt.

Set the Woods on Fire accomplishes a similar final product, but the pieces that form this product are less obscure and varied. There's a lot of crooning from Orenda Fink (Azure Ray), and the lyrics are the crowning achievement of the entire album. Because of the central role of the lyrics, the songs sometimes sound like the female rock music of the '90s: sweet and sad. However, there are definite highlights on this album that make it more varied than most of the music put out by say Sarah Mclachlan. "Our Addictions" rockets back to the '80s a little, with obvious synth-influence (obvious, but not egregious), and the Orenda Fink's voice really soars on this song. "Set The Woods On Fire" adds a magnificent strength to despairing sounds, while "Spirit, Run" is a definite celebration of spiritual freedom with ghost sounds. "Anything You Love" would have been my choice for a grand finale, but is situated nearer the middle of the album. Despite its poor placement, this song is my favorite with a little Spanish guitar and a Victorian opening statement: "Believing in the living can be a dangerous thing" (by Victorian, I mean macabre). This album is spiritual, the question is whether it's celebrating the spirits of the living or of the dead.