30 June, 2009

"She's Got You High" by Mumm-ra

This song appears in the new movie 500 Days of Summer, which looks to be my favorite movie of the summer (and I haven't even seen it yet!)

This is too much fun not to post!

Gives You Hell - The All-American Rejects

I wake up every evening
With a big smile on my face
And it never feels out of place.
And you're still probably working
At a 9 to 5 pace
I wonder how bad that tastes

When you see my face
Hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell
When you walk my way
Hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell

Now where's your picket fence love?
And where's that shiny car?
Did it ever get you far?
You never seemed so tense, love
Never seen you fall so hard
Do you know where you are?

Truth be told I miss you
and truth be told I'm lying

When you see my face
hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell
When you walk my way
hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell

If you find a man that's worth a damn and treats you well
Then he's a fool, you're just as well, hope it gives you hell
Hope it gives you hell

Tomorrow you'll be thinking to yourself
Where did it all go wrong?
But the list goes on and on

Truth be told I miss you
and truth be told I'm lying

When you see my face
hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell
When you walk my way
hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell

If you find a man that's worth a damn and treats you well
Then he's a fool, you're just as well, hope it gives you hell

Now you'll never see
What you've done to me
You can take back your memories
They're no good to me
And here's all your lies
you look me in the eyes
With the sad, sad look
That you wear so well

When you see my face
hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell
When you walk my way
hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell

If you find a man that's worth a damn and treats you well
Then he's a fool, you're just as well, hope it gives you hell

When you see my face
hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell (hope it gives you hell)
When you walk my way
hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell (hope it gives you hell)

When you hear this song and you sing along well you'll never tell
And you're the fool, I'm just as well, hope it gives you hell
When you hear this song I hope that it will give you hell
You can sing along I hope that it puts you through hell

25 June, 2009

"Love Will Tear Us Apart (Live)" - Nouvelle Vague

Staring at a flying monkey in my local library

I should be hard at work, seeing as I have set aside this time to finish some compulsory summer projects, but instead I find myself staring out the windows willing the giant rain clouds to hold their rains back just until I take my fifteen minute walk to work (my raincoat is good, but it cannot withstand deluge after deluge, especially during the summer months). There also happens to be this odd flying monkey installment art placed ever so precariously on the ledge next to me, and I keep waiting for it to jump off and fly away.

If you are in a similar position, where procrastination has gotten out of hand, I would recommend taking this potentially "wasted" time, and applying it another activity. Maybe even listening to a new polka album? Maybe?

If you choose to take my advice, I have just the polka album for you: Apolkalypse Now by Polkastra. Looking at the iTunes reviews I learned two things about this music: 1) it is incredibly fun to listen to, and very family friendly; and 2) most people think they hate polka music! This is such a sad realization for me. Granted, I have never been a huge fan, but I love klezmer music and gypsy jazz, and polka has always kind of pulled in a close third on that list of the eccentric and otherworldly.

For the polka beginner, Apolkalypse Now is a wonderful, lighthearted introduction to an extremely playful genre of music. Take for example "Clarinet Polka" which falls as song number five on the album, and which you or your children may recognize as the backing music for the "Candy Mountain Cave" song from that YouTube classic Charlie [the Unicorn] goes to Candy Mountain. But seriously, this stuff is good! "Light As A Feather Polka" reminds me most strongly of the circus music that plays during the clown acts, and sometimes when the parade is going on near the end of the show (I have been to my fair share of circuses). "Anta, Romnyev, Mure Roulya" is a slinky, sexy, polka march that sounds like a kind of desert soundtrack. "Flying Gypsy Polka" is a gorgeous accordion and string-heavy whirl that will certainly have you foot-tapping (even when you are in that "quiet study" section of the library, and the woman studying for the bar exam next to you is shooting dirty looks in your direction. Hey, maybe she could use a little injection of Polkastra to jump start her studying!)

18 June, 2009

Pop music, or pop art?

Girl at school:
Yeah, they were playing M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" at that party last night, and then all of a sudden it changed to Lady Gaga. It was like 'cha-ching'...'I want to take a ride on your disco stick!'

(pause to eat a forkful of tater tots)
Who's Lady Gaga?

...and that was how I was introduced to the latest and most viral reincarnation of 1980's synthPOP (and the pop should most definitely be capitalized) in the vein of Madonna's "Vogue" with just the right amount of glam rock tossed in the mix to make something with a little edge. After that barely conversation, I forgot about Lady Gaga until last Friday when I was riding around town with some friends and the song "Poker Face" came on the radio. I revisited that morning in the dining commons with a repeated moment of ignorance:

Is this P!nk?

Nooo...it's Lady Gaga...

Again, I would have left myself in blissful ignorance, had it not been for the overwhelming factors that have forced me to cultivate an emotional response to this latest musical craze. In other worlds, this girl is following me around!

Just yesterday I had a conversation with a good friend about how her coworker is both a huge Phoenix fan and one of those Lady Gaga fans who rocks out with glow sticks, bejeweled and face-painted, in the front row (actually, that is unfair. I am not sure that he does any such thing, that just happened to be the image my mind concocted mid-conversation). This morning, I was on Slate and I found this article: How smart is Lady Gaga? by Jonah Weiner. It was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back.

Here is the section that did it for me (from the article linked above):

Lady Gaga is something of an anomaly: a pretentious pop starlet. To hear her tell it, she isn't the anonymous hookup facilitator you might assume from her robotically decadent techno hits but, rather, a savvy media manipulator engaged in an elaborate, Warholian pop-art project. She sprinkles interviews with references to Warhol's "deeply shallow" aphorism, David Bowie, Leigh Bowery, and The Night Porter. Her outlandish, architectural outfits are meant to evoke the avant-garde designs of Thierry Mugler and Hussein Chalayan. She even has her own Factory-style crew of collaborators, which she calls the Haus of Gaga. That none of this is readily apparent in her actual songs might be part of the point. Her pretentiousness—the heady name-dropping, the high-concept video, the wild get-ups—hangs halolike around her music, encouraging us to consider the songs in a different and more radiant light.

You have to wade through the name-dropping (any hints here that Lady Gaga could be pretentious?) and the hyperbolic - *cough cough* beautifully ironic - descriptions of the superstar creation process to find the references to the actual music - and that seems to be the point here. If she is as intelligent as Jonah Weiner is implying in his article, if she is not only a pop starlet, but a savvy businesswoman and "artist" to boot, then she is bullshitting in a style that is absolutely Andy Warhol. My question is: what is the point?

I am not trying to dis the proprietor of "pop art," but, well I guess I kind of am. Maybe you lovely readers can guess that I am not the biggest fan of Warhol as an artist, and my reasons for disliking his art are basically all of the reasons why they are considered art. The point of his work was to be superficial, commercial, insubstantial in many ways, and also to make money. He achieved all of these goals in some sense. Now, some people will argue that his work was social commentary, but I argue back that if you look at the ways in which he lived his life, he was not being particularly sarcastic or ironic. He did like "plastic people," or he certainly spent a lot of time around them if he did not enjoy their company. He was a rampant consumer, and both pretentious and superficial in his actions and words.

Back to Lady Gaga. If she is attempting to make music that embraces the Warholian aesthetic, then she is succeeding in many ways. Embracing fame, money, and superficiality in her music, she has grown in popularity by assuming some features of pop music that have succeeded through the years (disco, synth, glam rock) while bringing in aspects of today's most popular sounds. She carries the brokenness, bitterness, and sauciness of P!nk into "Poker Face" (and I am not just trying to make myself sound less musically ignorant. Listen closely, and you will hear it as well). She also plays up the edge that Katy Perry and Britney Spears cultivate with their hits ("I Kissed A Girl" and "If U Seek Amy" respectively). This is an intelligent thing for a businesswoman to do, and if you subscribe to Warhol's belief that business is the greatest manifestation of art, then you can consider The Fame and all of its subsequent hype a great manifestation of art.

There is a key difference between Lady Gaga and Warhol, and it leads me to the central point of this entire post. It is this: Lady Gaga - even with all of her musical and artistic references - is very much a creature of 2009. Part of the reason she has succeeded in creating interest in her own masturbatory explorations of fame and fortune is that she does have that business intelligence that can be traced back to Warhol, along with an ironic attachment to seemingly deeper themes (as Weiner points out in the article above, she compares love to the exploitative relationships between stars and paparazzi in the song "Paparazzi." What he fails to mention is that she does this while exploiting the relationship between fan and star). Still, I trace her origins and aesthetic to a kind of "pop art" that has really exploded in our Internet Age: pornography. All of those artistic characteristics that can be tied to Warhol, can also be tied to pornography - and I would argue that it is far more monetarily successful (and therefore more artistically successful in Warhol's terms) than Warhol's pop art. In this way, Lady Gaga may outplay Warhol in his own game - by personifying and playing up the most exploitative, superficial, and above all popular "pop art" now in existence.

Someone commented that the beginning of this video for "Paparazzi" reminds them of "soft-core porn." I would argue that Lady Gaga's entire aesthetic rests on a pornographic foundation, and that this is only an appropriately graphic extension of that theme.

16 June, 2009

"The House of the Rising Sun" - The Animals

The song is wonderful.

The matching suits look horribly uncomfortable.

Alone in the universe

With the first melodic chords of "Division" - the introductory song to Moby's latest release, Wait for Me - I heard sounds both eerily familiar, comfortable even, and strikingly of the moment. I suppose these characteristics are not mutually exclusive: comfort and present mindedness can exist on the same plane spiritually, so why not musically? Still, what I hear in this new album is a lovingly crafted melding of sounds with the genius of a symphony.

Like a symphony, this album requires attentiveness and an application of time that allows the music fan to listen to it in its entirety. Although each "song" is a gem on its own, their individual beauty is magnified when the album is played whole. In the age of singles flying out of the cash machines of pop music, this is an anachronistic album that revisits the age of rock operas and progressive themed albums.

While listening to Wait for Me for the first time, I found myself thinking that it was an album deserving of its own movie - a movie written and shot to emphasize the fact that there is a story being told in this music. The second time around, I rethought my position: this music does not require a visual counterpart, although that would add a different kind of depth to the process of listening. Instead, this album deserves focus and attentive listening. It is a Dark Side of the Moon for 2009, embracing the enormity and loneliness of life with melodic echoes off cave walls, and metaphorical odes to dying stars. There is something here that captures warped and fragmentary glimpses of reality, almost as if Moby was recording and writing in a kind of audio carnival mirror. As you listen, you begin to discover more things about the album. It has a tendency to strike a balance between an immensely calming tone, almost to the point of dull numbness and apathy, followed by points of ecstasy that tumble out of lines of growing anxiety. It takes an artist to achieve such emotional highs and lows with music that is the epitome of a velvet hammer, and after listening to Wait for Me I am convinced that Moby is just that kind of artist.

Listen to Wait for Me in its entirety @ NPR - All Songs Considered: Wait for Me - Moby

09 June, 2009

"Lust For Life" - Girls

Isolophobia: Fear of solitude.

(Watch this video in HD. It makes all the difference.)

08 June, 2009

"The Hat (LIVE)" - Ingrid Michaelson

I knitted you a hat all blue and gold
To keep your ears warm from the Binghamton cold.
It was my first one and it was too small.
It didn't fit you at all, but you wore it just the same.

I remember the first time we danced.
I remember tunneling through the snow like ants.
What I don't recall is why I said,
"I simply can't sleep in this tiny bed with you anymore.".

I should tell you that you were my first love.

So it's Christmas time, it's been three years.
And someone else is knitting things for your ears.

I have come to learn I'll only see you interrupting my dreams at night
And that's alright. And that's alright. And that's alright. And that's alright.

I should tell you that you were my first love.

And it's alright. And it's alright. And it's alright.

(And it's alright) We were seventeen again together.
(And it's alright) We were seventeen again together.
(And it's alright) We were seventeen again together.

I should tell you that you were my first love.
I should tell you that you were my first love.

We were seventeen again.
We were seventeen again.
We were seventeen again.

Not to prematurely call the race, but

I feel like on Veckatimist Grizzly Bear is picking up where the Beach Boys left off on Pet Sounds. What do you think?

Here's a side-by-side comparison of "Two Weeks" and "God Only Knows":

"I Do Not Hook Up (LIVE)" - Kelly Clarkson

Clarkson continues to knock hits out of the park, and I cannot deny the fact that I continue to enjoy them.

06 June, 2009

Where Danzig, Harryhausen, and Chrissie Hynde meet and have a love child (in outer-space, or possibly another dimension)

It all began with a single released last year in Norway by a 20-something and her backing band. "Oh My God" sets the foundation for Ida Maria Siversten's entire album - Fortress 'round My Heart - which was released back in March. It's a calling card that speaks of equal amounts of insanity and histrionics, a taste for the macabre, and more than a little bit of punk rock influence in the bundle. The album is full of fireworks. There are screams; outbursts of bitter, seemingly unhinged laughter; soft to loud transitions; and "on a dime" start-stops. These metaphorical fireworks all show a highly crafted persona and style that would normally strike me as annoyingly contrived. Yet, I find myself just as entranced by "Oh My God," as I do by the rest of the album, and it is more than just a musical dalliance on my part. Something inside me wants to live in this record for awhile, and I suspect that the reason lies in the honest glimpses of naiveté, uncertainty, and (yes) vulnerability that deepen the sound of the entire record, making it something more than just a good show built on a catchy single.

When "Oh My God" transitions none to gently into "Morning Light" you begin to hear that eerie bitterness, and also a little bit of cocky strength, a little bit of "don't fuck with me" attitude. Musically, the sound pulls into harbor where the Strokes left off in 2001 with "Last Nite," battens the hatches with smashes and crashes similar to White Blood Cells, and then heads back into the storm with The Misfits' horror-punk at heart.

"I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked" plays with words like Don Juan plays with hearts, and I think it was really this song that made me fall for Ida Maria's music. It is cavalier in the most heartening sense of the word, but also continually surprised by its own carelessness. Semi-ironic in her embrace of female empowerment in the vein of The Donnas, while carrying over the thoughtful snark of Kathleen Hannah. In the end though, however many philosophies you subscribe to in a verse, it comes down to a beat and a melody that make you move. This song isn't written to be particularly melodic, but the rhythm does overtime.

In "Stella" God is a drug-dealer and his 43 year old girlfriend is a hooker who inspires the title of the song. I find myself feeling like that story might not be too far from the truth when Ida Maria sings:

"And it made me realize how much you wanna give away just to feel loved
And the Lord blinked to me and asked: What is real love to you?
What is fake and what is true?
Oh, Stella, I wanna give you the world if you just stay with me tonight
Stella, Stella! I wanna give you the world if you just hold me tight,
Hold me tight

She sings these lines with all the sweetness and warmth missing from her more graphic proclamations in "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked" and "Morning Light." It is here where you begin to see more clearly that Ida Maria sings her love songs to the dirt and grime and reality of humanity.

With this revelation, you find at the very heart of the album, a sober ode to some type of normalcy. "Keep Me Warm" celebrates comfort and the kind of love that works without loud declarations and fireworks. Suddenly, Ida Maria's voice melts into the softness of the song, and the softness of the themes and she is transformed into something altogether less harsh and alien.

"Forgive Me" begins to wind the energy of the album up again, and with the strength of Chrissie Hynde on her most ferocious whirlwind Pretenders songs Ida Maria whips into motion again, calling out a lover who "read about love in a book somewhere." There is heartbreak in here, in fact there is a good amount of heartbreak, but there is also a kind of self-absolution taking place, as she reckons with the fact that she has been fooled and hurt in the process.

Then there is the fallout with a bottle of whiskey in "Queen of the World." What lends a certain depth to this outwardly throwaway song is that Ida Maria is dealing with something greater than alcoholic dance parties. In fact, there is an existential question at the heart of this song, and it is neither pretentious nor fanciful. In the middle of the song, you find these lines:

"...I'm Queen of the world
I bump into things
I spin around in circles
And I'm singing, and I'm singing
I'm singing
Why can't I stay like this?
Dear God.
Oh let me be young
Let me stay, please
Oh let me stay like this

Bring me home
I've got no plans for tomorrow
I've got no plans for tomorrow
I got no plans in sight
In fact I'm free this week
I'm free this month
I lonely, lonely this year
I'm lonely forever
But today, oh...

Yes, the slip of loneliness, the slip of uncertainty spills from a mouth admittedly lubricated by alcohol, but isn't that a more honest expression of a drunken night of carousing than, for example, "Blame It"? "Louie" follows the same pattern of hollowness exhibited in drunken moments. Both songs are highly danceable, and they carry that cavalier attitude from "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked," but then there are sharp pricks of uncertainty that drop into the midst and send shudders through the rest of the song.

"Drive Away My Heart" does not embrace the cavalier, but instead relinquishes control to the inevitability of future brokenness. She sings "I wanna give you love, and so love will be my grave," and although this line it calls to mind many an emo/pop anthem, Ida Maria's delivery makes all the difference. Her voice shudders and groans, emitting all of her strength with the delivery of the prophetic lines. It hurts to listen to this song, but I think it is worth the pain.

"In The End" is a kind of Laura Marling inspired, darkly influenced, song of resigned love. There is a soulful expression of hope, like a bird sighing in a cage. The hope is that the lovers (I am assuming they are the lovers who meet and part and meet throughout the album) will meet once again with "wrinkles like the demons" and the energy to dance.

But like I said at the beginning of this post: it all began with a single called "Oh My God." Here you have it:

01 June, 2009

"Ice Cream (LIVE)" - Sarah McLachlan

I was never a big fan of Sarah McLachlan, and I still think she's pretty goofy in this video, but I also absolutely adore the sentiment.

"I'm in love with the world..."

I'm in love with the world through the eyes of a girl
Who's still around the morning after
We broke up a month ago and I grew up, I didn't know
I'd be around the morning after
It's always been wait and see
A happy day and then you pay
And feel like shit the morning after
But now I feel changed around and instead of falling down
I'm standing up the morning after
Situations get fucked up and turned around sooner or later
And I could be another fool or an exception to the rule
You tell me the morning after
Crooked spin can't come to rest
I'm damaged bad at best
She'll decide what she wants
I'll probably be the last to know
No one says until it shows and you see how it is
They want you or they don't
Say yes
I'm in love with the world through the eyes of a girl
Who's still around the morning after