14 January, 2010

Haiti & Wyclef

Gone 'til November by Wyclef Jean

If you can, help Haiti:

The Nation: Helping Haiti

Thank you!

13 January, 2010

Social Commentary via Ralph Lauren?

Vampire Weekend's second album, Contra, was released yesterday to mixed reviews. Big surprise, right? Vampire Weekend are always given the shaft in one way or another. They are considered too preppy, too lyrically obtuse, too Ivy League, not "authentic" enough, too much like Paul Simon (I fail to see how that is a negative attribute), and really just too much for most music reviewers to take. But I found myself in this funny little wrinkle of synchronicity where I felt the need to re-watch season one of Hugh Laurie's and Stephen Fry's Jeeves and Wooster based on the novels by P.G. Wodehouse, on the same day that I needed to do a complete stock-taking of my current feeling for Vampire Weekend's first album.

I came to some fresh conclusions upon a fresh listen, in light of P.G. Wodehouse, and this blog entry from just about two years ago by Elif Batuman: My Life and Thoughts: Beautiful Shirts

All of these things really made me think about social commentary in music and art in general, and what spaces are authentic, and what spaces are contrived, and what makes for a thoughtful comment, and then I thought about Rudyard Kipling and I thought about Ernest Hemingway. And largely, my thoughts got away from me - as they have a tendency to do. But one thing I realized is that if Vampire Weekend had the ability to spark all of this discussion and controversy, then isn't that a good thing in and of itself? I mean, at least it means that people are taking these ideas into account, and feel like they are being challenged in some way. So how is that wrong?

On the musical commentary side, I find myself enjoying both Vampire Weekend and Contra. My first thought with Contra was that VW had pulled an M.I.A. M.I.A.'s first album had a lot of world music influence, and it all sounded fairly rough in terms of its application of computerized sounds. It wasn't streamlined to the point where it sounded like something futuristic. But Kala hit home with a world music sound that pushed the boundaries in terms of computer music. The synthesized sections were clear and common. This is true on Contra. The album is streamlined, it sounds cleaner and slightly more contemporary. It's a sound that you cannot easily tie to Paul Simon, and I find it rather entertaining.

08 January, 2010

Flamenco in many forms

My friend turned me onto this video for "Boy with a Coin" by Iron & Wine:

I think it is beautiful.

I also came across this photographer in the New Yorker:

The Flamenco Women of Spain - Ruven Afanador profile in More magazine

Ruven Afanador just released this book of photography, Mil Besos, which is a compilation of pictures of "the flamenco women of Spain."

I swear, sometimes things just follow me around!

05 January, 2010

...and in music the salvation of the world

So I knew I was being hyperbolic when I entitled this post only to write about the Green Day musical. Bear with me. Hopefully you won't be disappointed.

Here's the thing, I didn't realize that the American Idiot musical was the brainchild of not only Green Day, but also Michael Mayer who worked on Spring Awakening, and that the incredible John Gallagher Jr. played the main character "Johnny" in the San Francisco run. Or, that the cast would sound as exceptional as they do on the newly re-released "21 Guns." The repetition of the line "you're in ruins" makes my heart palpitate. While the choral repetition of the chorus feels like gospel music, and only intensifies the feeling of regret and resignation that is so encapsulated in the original song.

I wasn't a big fan of 21st Century Breakdown, but this song in particular struck a chord with me, and I am pleased to see it re-vamped in such a fulfilling way.

If it is any indication of what lies in store for those who see the musical, I cannot wait to get my hands on some tickets.

03 January, 2010

Happy New Year Playlist (The Clean Slate Decade)

2010: a new year and a new decade, and many people seem to be grasping hold of this "beginning" in the face of multiple levels of crisis. To me, the new year is all about symbolism, and its ability to channel growth and positive energy all across the world. With this in mind, I've created a 2010 playlist. 12 songs that address some of my own positive and negative attributes. I suppose they are resolutions of a sort, but not anything really clearly defined. For now, they are the background music to my life. It's like tattooing "love" and "hope" on your wrists; they're there to jumpstart you into action, not to create something from nothing.


I am going to start with a song that has been playing over and over recently on my radio, and not of my own choosing! It's a song about putting yourself out there, and maybe getting hurt, but trying nonetheless because you can't do anything but try.

"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" by The Police.

"I resolve to call her up a thousand times a day,
and ask her if she'll marry me in some old fashioned way.
But my silent fears have gripped me,
long before I reach the phone,
long before my tongue has tripped me,
Must I always be alone?"


This next song has also been following me around, and I love Elvis Costello so I really cannot ignore it. Oh, synchronicity.

"Everyday I Write the Book" by Elvis Costello.

"...Don't tell me you don't know the difference
Between a lover and a fighter..."


I rediscovered So Much For The Afterglow when I was thinking about my two musical decades and focusing on the '90s. I relate to this song in too many ways.

"Everything to Everyone" by Everclear.

"You do what you do,
you say what you say,
you always try to be everything to everyone..."


I was at a Boxing Day party and this song came on shuffle, and I had to stop walking and talking, and just listen for a minute. Spoon has had this effect on me ever since I saw the movie Stranger than Fiction, which I found really brilliant.

"The Underdog" by Spoon.

"I wanna forget how convention fits
but can I get out from under it?
Can I get it out of me?
It can't all be wedding cake
It can't all be boiled away
I try but I can't let go of it
Can't let go of it,
Cause you don't talk to the water boy,
and there's so much you could learn but you don't want to know,
You will not back up an inch ever,
that's why you will not survive..."


I found this band back in the early 2000s, and I have followed them since. They don't always take me where I think I want to go, but once I get there it's usually right.

"Goodnight" by ZOX.

"Sometimes I,
stand between the sidewalk and the sky,
and stare into the clouds as they pass by,
you have to leave the ground to learn to fly."


This song never ever fails to make me smile. In fact, it almost always makes me dance. Stevie Wonder's music can be a spiritual experiment, and this is a religious song.

"Signed, Sealed, Delivered" by Stevie Wonder.

"Seen a lot of things in this old world,
When I touched them they did nothing, girl,
Ooh baby, here I am, signed, sealed delivered, I'm yours!"


The Grateful Dead have been a staple in my musical experience since I was in the womb, and I find myself regularly drawn back into their orbit. This song has been in heavy rotation over the last few months, and I find it comforting in many ways.

"Scarlet Begonias" by the Grateful Dead.

"Well, I ain't always right, but I've never been wrong,
seldom turns out the way it does in a song.
Once in awhile you get shown the light,
in the strangest of places if you look at it right."


Otis Redding is another kind of comfort food. This song makes me feel intensely calm. It is meditative, and it puts me in a contemplative mood. I feel myself growing every time I listen.

"Sitting On The Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding.

"Looks like nothing's gonna change,
Everything still remains the same,
I can't do what ten people tell me to do,
So I guess I'll remain the same, yes!"


Positivity can be embodied so thoroughly in music, and in so many shades. I love it! This song is multifaceted. It has edges and curves, and more than a little sunshine. It makes me want to travel and see the world. It is so much greater than it appears to me now.

"Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" by Paul Simon.

"And she said honey take me dancing,
but they ended up by sleeping in a doorway,
by the bodegas and the lights on Upper Broadway,
Wearing diamonds on the soles of their shoes..."


Riding that vibe, you always need an upbeat, cheerleader song. You need people to cheer you on!

"Doing It Right" by The Go! Team.

"We have the right combination, we got everything.
And to strike faster than lightning, we raise what we bring.
We have the right combination,
It ain't time to crawl.
Give it all!
Give it all!
Give it all!
Give it all!"


Everything about Peter Gabriel makes me feel ready to take on the world. How can one person create that feeling? It is something I am striving for – for myself, and for the people around me. If I can inspire, I will be happy.

"Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel.

"So I went from day to day,
Oh, my life was in a rut,
'Til I thought of what I'd say,
Which connection I should cut.

I was feeling part of the scenery,
I'd walk right out of the machinery.
My heart going boom-boom-boom
Hey, he said, grab your things I've come to take you home
Eh, back home..."


If I have learned one thing this year, it is that "be yourself" is a loaded proclamation. More appropriate, I think, is "pattern yourself intentionally." So I've been listening to Mika... It's a work in progress.

"Grace Kelly" by Mika.

"I could be brown, I could be blue,
I could be violet sky,
I could be hurtful, I could be purple,
I could be anything you like.

Gotta be green, gotta be mean,
Gotta be everything more,
Why don't you like me?
Why don't you like me?
Walk out the door!"


Happy 2010 lovely readers.