Monthly Archives: February 2014

Pogo

To be honest, I was kind of holding out for another iamamiwhoami release. For a few days there it looked like we were going to be getting something new. Alas.

So what is it this week? Pogo!

If you haven’t heard of Pogo before now, you either don’t know too many people who are hardcore Disney fans or you don’t have enough friends into obscure electronic music. If you watched the above video, you get the general idea behind his work. He basically takes fraction-of-a-second-long recordings from movies and turns them into full-length songs. He even puts together the videos in the same spirit.

“UPular” was my introduction to Pogo. I think I discovered it not too long after the movie came out. Within the same year, for sure. Anyway, it was definitely my gateway drug to all his amazing Disney-themed tracks. It just blows my mind when I think about how much time and effort it must take to put these songs and videos together. “UPular” remains one of my favorites though, not just because it is so well-crafted, but also because he manages to perfectly capture the spirit of wonder and adventure so prevalent in the film. (I will say Up is in my top 3 favorite Pixar movies, though, so I may be a little biased.)

“Bloom” is definitely my other favorite. As soon as I hear the harps at the beginning, I just get this swelling happy, whimsical feeling. The sound bites and video clips revolve around Disney princesses (and leading ladies) and that beauty and grace that they carry around them that just commands the attention of everyone around them. The song overall just captures that innocent, romantic Disney princess spirit. It’s dreamy and cheerful, just like they are.

I know some people can be thrown off by Pogo’s work, and I can see how they would be. I understand how it could be difficult for the brain to try to comprehend a song made of mixed up bits that one must assume make up a general theme rather than casually listen to a song that makes it clear for you. Okay, that sounded kind of snooty, but I mean I really do get where you’re coming from if that’s what you think! What you have to do to enjoy a Pogo song is turn off the logical part of your brain and just let your emotions react. It’s not a Rorschach test of sounds (though sometimes that logical part of your brain jumps in and makes up words and phrases). It’s really impossible to sing along to. You can’t enjoy it if you try to make too much sense of it.

Instead, just try to tune in to the way a good Disney film makes you feel. That’s what Pogo sets out to capture and share. Seriously, go and listen to his Disney playlist! You’ll remember the way Disney movies made you feel when you were a kid, and then it’ll all make sense.

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That Time

I have this issue where I’ll really like an artist, but I don’t feel qualified to talk about them because I don’t have enough of their music. The reason for THAT being that I have an Amazon To-Buy List (Wish List, if you must) that consists of a few hundred albums, singles, EPs, and so on. I get into this dilemma every time I think that I should buy a new album but I’m not sure which one. It goes kind of like this:

“Okay! So I’m thinking of an album in such-and-such genre. Hmm. I HAVE been meaning to listen to more of artist A. Oooo, but album B by artist C is supposed to be really good. Oh man, and artist D just released album E, I should get on that. But I really like the songs by artist F on album G. And I know this isn’t the genre I started with, but I have been meaning to get album H FOREVER…”

And so on until I end up buying nothing because I don’t think I could live with myself if I got album B by artist C instated of album G by artist F. First world problems, am I right?

Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is because I’ve had this song on my mind:

And although I have only one album and a couple of random songs by Regina Spektor, I really, really like this one and I think it’s my favorite of hers (so far, but then I don’t know how many more out there could be better, and even then I couldn’t see myself liking this one any less).

Regina Spektor seems to dabble more in indie pop, her weapon of choice usually being the piano, so this song stands out to me for its use of simple dirty garage rock bass guitar and drums that strikes up at the beginning. It’s a very simple yet distinct sound, and Regina’s light and playful voice makes it even more fun to listen to. I especially love it when she lilts “So cheap and juicy!”

Lyrically, the song is so relatable to me, even if I never ate boxes of tangerines for a month, or knew someone who ODed (twice, even). This song just feels like sitting around and reminiscing about good (and bad) times. This song makes me want to invite my friends over for a night of beer and memories. Regina makes it feel like you know her and do remember when she would only read the backs of cereal boxes.

The video isn’t an official video (actually, there isn’t one), but it feels like it could be. You never really see anyone’s face (except once for a brief second when that man kisses her ankle) and that’s what makes it so perfect for the song. Just like the song makes you feel like you can relate to a bunch of random vague events, so does the video by never showing the face of the woman in pink heels or the people she knows or meets. It’s so well done, and all by some random person on YouTube 5 years ago! It’s got nearly 1 million views, so Regina Spektor fans seem to agree they’ve done something right!

I don’t think this song is a good introduction to Regina Spektor just because it is so different from her usual repertoire, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recommend it. Seriously, give it a listen and see if it doesn’t make you feel a little fuzzy and nostalgic (and maybe happy-sad) on the inside. It’s a solidly satisfactory feeling in the end.

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Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Late last year, NPR ran this piece about the top ten most loved albums by women. The list included, at #5, Fox Confessor Brings The Flood by Neko Case. Neko and her album are up there with some of the Greats. Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday… That’s some pretty lofty praise!

I think the album is pretty deserving. Why must the greatest albums be 40 years old (or older)? Why does it seem that a certain amount of time must pass for an album to qualify as “greatest”? Anyway, this sounds like it was fairly objective poll, when you set aside where the pool comes from.

What makes it so great? Let’s start with the opening song, “Margaret Vs. Pauline,” which is an instant favorite of mine. It lulls you with minimal guitar strings, then Neko’s voice comes in strong, but not overpowering. She tells the story of two women, very different from each other – one adored and the other ignored. One unbelievably blessed and the other inexplicably unlucky. It just breaks your heart with the line about the relative misfortunes each has to face: The worst thing to happen to Pauline was that she left her sweater on the train. Margaret lost three fingers at the cannery.

And then (later) there’s “Hold On, Hold On.” At the time it was the only autobiographical song Neko had ever written; it was actually about her. Something about the lines “In the end I was the mean girl/Or somebody’s in-between girl” just gets me.

“A Widow’s Toast” is a fantastic minimal track – Minimal and yet somehow Neko’s voice sounds larger than life. “Specters move like pilot flames” is such a great image.

A little gospel comes into play in “John Saw That Number,” probably the most upbeat song on the album.

“Lion’s Jaws” is another favorite of mine. Neko’s voice sounds so sultry and heavy – which is appropriate for a tale of seduction. Maybe it’s just my imagination running wild, but I picture two old friends at a high school reunion (20 or 30 years, at least) having one last dance together as they remember the night they once spent together after prom. It’s got this sort of melancholy, slow-dance feel to it.

The poetic “Maybe Sparrow” comes next. It’s melodic and plaintive and Neko’s voice works so well with the music to tell the story of this sparrow.

Actually, every song tells a story on this album. Whether it’s about Neko, the people or places she knew, or things she was just totally making up, every song stands out on its own, with some stand out lines that make me pause to really listen to them. And her voice? Just amazing. She has so much control over it, and it complements the instruments so well. They balance each other perfectly.

Fox Confessor is the music equivalent of a book of poetry. Will people still look back on it as one of the greatest albums 40 years from now? I think if more people heard it, they might. Neko Case occupies a comfortable place between wildly popular and vaguely indie. I do wish more people would give her a listen though. This is such a powerful album and I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t heard of Neko Case.

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Fight for Your Right – Cover

I find that the majority of people fall into two camps when it comes to Coldplay: people who enjoy their music (on any level) and people who think they’re wannabe elite café music snobs.

Well, if you fall in the latter camp, you’re REALLY not gonna like this post.

A couple years ago, when Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys died, Coldplay paid tribute to him by covering the band’s party anthem “Fight for Your Right” in their own very Coldplay way. Which is to say very toned down and even a little melancholy. It seemed like the antithesis of what the song was about, and yet I think it captured the spirit, albeit in a very different tone. It’s got this beaten down but not beaten feel to it. Down, but not out.

I actually really like that this was done live, because you can hear the audience reaction when they realize what Chris Martin is doing. It’s very emotional, especially when they sing along.

There was a lot of reaction following the performance at the Hollywood Bowl. It ranged from “amazing cover” to “wtf is this shit.” I think the latter camp is ignoring the point of the cover, which was to honor the passing of a fellow artist. After all, this was the same Adam Yauch being honored who apologized for sexist songs like “Girls” that were a product of their “drunken college frat boy” music genre stage.

Look, it’s okay to not like things, but don’t be a dick about it. Don’t press play on that video if you don’t like Coldplay. The rest of you, enjoy a touching tribute.

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