Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Only Place

As the weather gets warmer here in LA (well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag at this time of year–it should be gray and overcast but the sun is putting up a fight), I tend to get this feeling of euphoria during the most mundane moments. It just makes me happy to be living in LA. I just…FEEL so good about it.

So when I get like this, I tend to listen to Best Coast. Particularly this song.

Sure, the video is kind of hipster-y, what with them “ironically” destroying things and all. I wish they’d been more subtle about some things. The fridge full of Sriracha sauce is great. Those burgers could have possibly been In-N-Out? Why not more things like that?!

Anyway, it’s a pure and simple anthem to LA. From the surf rock sound to the straightforward lyrics (which, admittedly are a little over-simple at times). It makes me feel happy to be an Angeleno. And I don’t give a damn what other cities think about us. I can’t hear them buried under all that snow anyway.

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Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?

I don’t have a lot to say about this song, except that hearing it is like a punch in the heart. It’s dripping with emotion and drama. It’s very retro-noir. And it’s very human.

Whether you know the feeling of what it’s like to lie to someone because you know that telling the truth would just hurt them more, or you’ve known the feeling of having something that seemed perfect shattered by the truth, there’s something so familiar and sincere about the way Paloma Faith sings “Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?” (from the album of the same name).

I think the video is well-done, but not overdone. I love the way she goes back and forth between looking dejected when no one is looking (“the truth”) and putting on a smile and a show (“something beautiful”). Her expressions really show what a struggle it is to do the latter each and every time. In the end, she just gives up and shows them the truth. And in the end, the audience loves a tragedy because all they see is something beautiful.

Paloma Faith’s voice is very smoky but strong, alluring, and enticing. It draws you in and makes you consider the question. “Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?” I always prefer the truth.

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Music That Made Me

This week, I’m taking a leaf out of the book of one of my favorite podcasts, Wham Bam Pow. They have this occasional segment called “Movies That Made Me,” where they have a guest come on and talk about a movie that influenced them or otherwise had some affect on them at some point in their life. I don’t know that I could do that with any movies or even TV shows, but I can definitely do that with music.

The following is a list of the top 5 albums that influenced or otherwise had some effect on me at some point in my life. They aren’t necessarily my top 5 favorite albums (though some of them are). Rather than present them in the order of least to most influential (or the other way around), I’m presenting them in the order that I discovered them (not the order they were released). This is the music that made me.

1) Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill

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This album came out when I was 9, though I don’t think I started listening to it until I was around 10 or 11. It was the first album I remember listening to over and over again that wasn’t a Disney soundtrack, or otherwise an album meant for kids. It’s funny looking back on it because this album is all about being an adult. Re-listening to it in my 20’s, I feel such a connection to a lot of its themes. I don’t know what drew me to it as a kid. It might have been her unique voice. I certainly hadn’t heard anything like it before. It was harsh but powerful. It was so the opposite of my Disney soundtracks. The production on this album is flawless–I think somehow I recognized that even as a kid. It was (and still is) such a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.

2) Nelly Furtado, Whoa, Nelly!

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I was really beginning to discover my musical independence in high school and, like most kids in my generation, found a lot of my music at that time on MTV. It’s where I first heard Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like a Bird,” and it’s had a special place in my heart ever since. I related to a lot of that album when I was in high school. It was something about the persistent theme of a wandering soul, of someone who was still figuring out who they were and where they belonged. It helped that she, too, had a unique and intriguing voice. I loved the way it never seemed content to stay still or predictable, making it consistent with the themes of the album. It was very different from what was dominant in pop music at the time, which, according to this Slant magazine review, was “‘pop princesses’ and rap-metal bands.” (That is totally what pop music was at that time. They’re not even slightly exaggerating.)

3) Gorillaz, Gorillaz

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The first time I saw and heard “Clint Eastwood,” it blew my mind. It was unlike ANYTHING I’d seen on MTV at that time. I didn’t even know something like that could exist. I’d never even contemplated it. It wasn’t even the pinnacle of what they would accomplish, but my brain and ears were hooked. When I got the album, I was delighted at how this music was (again) so different from anything else I’d heard. It really set the bar for what music could be for me at that time. I also loved the shroud of secrecy that the band kept around them. It was like believing in Santa Claus all over again. I wanted to know so much more about them, but the not knowing was a thrill too. I still remember that sense of wonder when I re-watch Clint Eastwood, even though I now know the physical faces behind the cartoon facades.

4) Deltron 3030, Deltron 3030

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Well, what can I say about this album that I haven’t said before? Deltron 3030 changed everything I thought I knew about rap, and even what I thought I knew about music. It really raised the bar for me.There was no going back after hearing the track “3030.” It’s no wonder, considering there was a lot of creative exchanging of musical ideas going on between Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Damon Albarn at that time, and you can totally hear it. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it had the biggest influence on me since I’d first heard/seen “Clint Eastwood.” It’s just a surprise how long it took me to discover it! (It was around the end of 2010, I think.)

5) iamamiwhoami, kin

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So I think I’ve made it pretty clear how much I love iamamiwhoami. But I don’t think I’ve given a definite reason. kin is that reason. I’d already heard of them by the time they’d started the slow-release of this project/album. And I’d been intrigued before, but bounty didn’t have the same sense of continuity that kin did. kin was not as busy as bounty. It seemed to have a clearer sense of direction, even if it wasn’t clear to the viewer/listener what that was. It was better than following a TV drama from week-to-week (kin was released biweekly). I eagerly awaited every single release up to the very end, when I snatched up the CD/DVD release and watched it in its entirety. It was only after a few watches that it finally became clear to me what it was about. I won’t say because I think it means something different to everyone, and everyone is meant to discover what that is on their own. But it’s so deeply personal to me. I feel it in my bones every time.

Honorable mentions:

Björk, Vespertine – This album had a pretty good influence on me when I was in college (a lot of Björk’s work did) but it falls just shy of the top 5 most influential list. Sorry, B!

Madonna, Ray of Light – I never listened to a lot of Madonna growing up, but I remember getting interested in her around this time. This was when she was going through her Kabbalah thing. It made for a magical album.

Moby, Play – I played the hell out of this album in high school. Moby’s music was such a curiosity to me, mainly because it seemed to defy genre. It took my mind to totally new places.

Sheryl Crow, The Globe Sessions – Another album I played the hell out of in high school. It was so soulful, and I’d never really experienced anything like that. It reminded me of my experiences with Alanis Morissette, but softer.

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vista

It finally came out! It came out last week, actually, but I wanted to give it some time. “vista”!

The 80’s new wave/synthpop sound continues. Like “hunting for pearls,” it’s a more danceable song, though it’s got a more uplifting-sound. As usual, it’s hard to tell what Jonna is saying half the time, and searching for the lyrics doesn’t help, as you’ll find at least a dozen different interpretations. But it seems to be about being tempted by fame and fortune and gaining nothing from it once you have it. It’s clear enough that the song starts with an echoing “Want…want…want…” and continues with “Stretching out before my eyes/Are riches a ruler requires.”

We see this reflected in the video. In it, Jonna examines chunks of ice that look like chunks of diamond. It’s all around her and yet she seems unimpressed. She is a snow queen (now wearing a crown) and yet she seems unimpressed by her arctic kingdom. Instead, she admires the birds flying freely above the glittering ocean. A trio of inky black suitors come along to woo her, but she shows no interest in them either. Instead, she imagines herself as an explorer of new territories. There’s a single line on her flag: “I.” Not “us” or “you” or “we,” but “I.” She dances for her independence, and the suitors, eager to impress, mimic her. When she realizes they won’t take the hint, she runs, and they give chase.

At least, that’s how I interpret it all. Like the futility in searching for the right lyrics, there’s even more futility in searching for the “right” meaning. I don’t think there’s supposed to be a “right” meaning to anything iamamiwhoami does. Sure, they have their original intention when they set out to make each project. But really it’s up to us, the fans. No one’s right and we’re all right. In the end, everyone gets what they need and want from it.

Aaaa, I’m sorry it all sounds so existential! iamamiwhoami has that effect. Going back to a more objective interpretation, I think that theory that the videos are going back in time may be right. “vista” ends with the men in black (no not those ones) giving chase, while the previous single begins with Jonna being chased (albeit in a different outfit – I’m 100% positive that’s on purpose for some reason. And anyway she’s back in the white suit later in the video).

Another thing I’m 100% positive of is that this is a new album. What it will be called and when it will be finished is anyone’s guess. Actually it may very well end up being called GENERATE but I’m not quite willing to bet money on it. I am, however, willing to continue to spend money buying the singles and supporting their new project. And I’ll absolutely be spending money on a physical copy of the album even though I’ll most certainly have bought all the digital singles. It’s for sure going to be a two disc CD and DVD combo like kin and bounty. I’m just hoping a real US tour follows that includes LA. Sigh. I’ll just keep dreaming till then!

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