Monthly Archives: January 2015

Vulnicura

A new Björk album dropped very suddenly, and along with it, so did everything I was doing. Because when Björk releases any new music, anywhere, that’s kind of the appropriate reaction.

Announced 2 weeks ago, Vulnicura was due in March, but was unfortunately leaked just about the day after said announcement. One week later, Björk officially released the album. I bought it right away, of course.

Björk_-_Vulnicura_(Official_Album_Cover)

Holy smokes, where do I start? This is unlike anything she has done before. I mean, that’s true with any album, especially since Björk likes to experiment with new sounds and styles with each album. But I mean, this is really, really unlike anything she’s done before. The beats are reminiscent of Homogenic, but the strings make me think of Vespertine, while the vocals and mixing remind me a bit of Volta. But it’s still purely in a class of its own.

This is also the most personal album Björk has ever written. Literally. As in, it’s a document of her breakup with her long time partner Matthew Barney. It is like reading a diary. It’s voyeuristic, heartbreaking, and, at times, uncomfortable. She definitely made this album for herself first – to get all the emotion and pain out, for self-healing. Vulnicura means “wound cure” in Latin (basically – Björk has fudged with words to make them into album titles before).

This album is so heavy. As I was listening to it, I could feel my heart sinking. You can just hear the sadness and pain in her voice. I found myself asking “Man, is she gonna be alright?” It’s just that real and honest. I don’t know what it’s like to be a mother or to go through a divorce, but I can’t help but wonder if this is what it feels like for a woman who is a mother to go through a divorce. As I said, this album is pretty much an emotional documentation of her breakup with Matthew Barney. Every time she sings about “you” or “he” she’s referring to him. In the album booklet, she even documents when each song takes place. The first three songs are the months before the breakup. The next three are the months after. The final three seem to follow the moment when she finally lifts herself up and begins to heal and look back on it all.

While all of this baring herself to her listeners seems very spontaneous, every bit of this album is incredibly deliberate. I like the writing here a lot better than on Biophilia. The sound is also a lot more consistent. The tracks are pretty long, so this album is not a quick listen. You don’t just play random tracks. It’s meant to be heard as a whole, like a meal served all at once, not in courses. Still, my favorite tracks by far are “Lionsong,” “History of Touches,” and “Atom Dance.”

“Black Lake” is beautiful and tragic. This is where I felt my heart sinking the most. This is where it felt the heaviest. And then you get to “Family” and it just hits you. This is so, so, so personal. She is singing about Matthew and their daughter – it’s literally her family. It builds up to such a frantic desperation and then it just…lets go. Another thing I really enjoy in the album is the pacing. Like I said, it’s just so deliberate and well-orchestrated. And again, just to go back to the writing, some of my favorite lyrics include:

Moments of clarity are so rare/I better document this – “Stonemilker”

How will I sing us/Out of this sorrow – “Family”

We are each others’ hemispheres – “Atom Dance”

When I’m broken I am whole – “Quicksand”

It’s really hard to say much more about this album. It’s just pure emotion and raw honesty, and it’s hard to just…talk about that. What I can do is recommend these articles. The first is an interview from Pitchfork that gets into the making of and inspiration behind the album, as well as her continued frustrations with how the music journalism industry treats her as a female artist. It gets wonderfully feminist at the end. There’s also this New York Time article which covers her history and journey up until this point, including a little more insight into the making of the album. Finally, this NPR article really gets into the nitty gritty critical analysis of this album. Read it if you feel like you didn’t get enough from my amateurish attempt at reviewing it! This was definitely a tough one. It’s a must-have for any Björk fan, naturally, or even for someone going through or fresh out of a breakup. It’s incredibly sad but also therapeutic, from start to finish. Hence, “wound cure.”

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More Music That Made Me

Last time I did a Music That Made Me post (well, the only time until now, really), I talked about the top 5 albums that had an influence on me at various periods throughout my life. I even mentioned a few runners up! But I think it’s worth talking a little more about some of those runners up – and a few others I completely neglected to mention but were still very important to me growing up. When I say “growing up” I mainly mean high school. Because it seems like that’s the time when music most has an influence on us. When songs from these albums come up at the right time, I get a little nostalgic. Not that my high school years are THAT far behind me (scarcely over a decade, really), but I don’t know how else to describe the feelings they give me. It’s comforting and familiar. So without further ado, I present another round of 5 for Music That Made Me!

1) Dirty Vegas, Dirty Vegas

Dirty_vegas

I got really super into EDM towards the end of high school and into early college – at that time I just called it “techno.” For Dirty Vegas, I think it’s technically “house.” Anyway, silly labels I’ll never get right aside, this was one of my FAVORITE albums at the time. I’d take any excuse to listen to it – so I listened to it all the time. My brother and I would even put it on while we played video games. It took me to a different mindset. I remember being hooked from the first track “I Should Know.” I still get good vibes when I hear it. As I mentioned last time, I got my first taste of Dirty Vegas from a Mitsubishi commercial (featuring “Days Go By”) and I instantly knew I had to get the album. So I did.

2) Sheryl Crow, The Globe Sessions

Sheryl_Crow,_The_Globe_Sessions

I mentioned this in the last Music That Made Me! It was tough picking between this album and the eponymous Sheryl Crow, but this one definitely came first for me. I remember it being a constant presence in my freshman year of high school. I loved this album so much. Her voice, the acoustic sound of the instruments, the sadness in (a lot of) the songs…I just felt it all deep in my bones and my heart. I still get that when I listen to tracks like “Riverwide” and “It Don’t Hurt.” Great production on this one. This was a really mature album for me to be listening to at the time, now that I think about it. I guess I (occasionally) had mature tastes? I say “occasionally” because…

3) Blink-182, Enema of the State

Blink-182_-_Enema_of_the_State_cover

This is the album that comes next in the list of Music That Made Me. Haha, I don’t believe you should ever be ashamed of the music you listen to, but I’m maybe a little embarrassed this is on here? Oh, this was a high school album alright. It came out in my freshman year and might very well have been the first album I bought with my own money* (given to me by my parents so I could spend an afternoon at the mall). I played the heck out of this one too. I knew all the words. Once in awhile, a Blink-182 song will come on and I’ll think to myself that I don’t want to hear it, but if I don’t move fast enough to change it, I’ll realize that yes, indeed, I do want to hear it. This is probably the bro-iest album I own? Oh, dear.

4) Télépopmusik, Genetic World

Genetic_World

More EDM/techno/whatever you want to call it! (Wikipedia says it’s electronic, trip hop, downtempo. Okay.) Again, as I mentioned before, I discovered these guys in a Mitsubishi commercial by way of “Just Believe” towards the end of high school. This one fascinated me because it wasn’t the type of techno that I was used to – but I still really, really liked it and I played it a lot. Angela McCluskey’s voice was heavenly to me (it still is) and her tracks are probably some of my favorite off of this album. These guys haven’t put out an album since 2005. That’s just 2 albums in 14 years! But each one is so deliberate – I remember noticing that even 11-12 years ago (or whenever it was that I bought it).

5) System of a Down, Toxicity

SystemofaDownToxicityalbumcover

I didn’t listen to a lot of metal in high school. Maybe because nothing came as close to the perfection that this album achieved! Wow, this is still such a great album. And another one I listened to quite a lot. The politicalness (I couldn’t think of the right suffix for this??) went completely over my head at the time. I remember hearing about this band getting a lot of crap when 9/11 happened. But I didn’t make the connection. All I thought amounted to “Hey, it’s just music and I like it, so whatever.” Ah, teenage ennui. “Chop Suey!” got me into this album. I had a roommate who would call it “Self-Righteous Suicide” and got disgruntled when corrected because “Chop Suey!” made no sense and wasn’t even mentioned in the song. Heh.

That’s all for now! No honorable mentions this time – Oh, I definitely have more albums that influenced me, but I think I’ll save them for another time! This increments of 5 works well for me. Till next time!

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You Cried Me

Before I get into this week’s post, let’s talk about selling out. This is a tricky subject because I have previously lost interest in artists for what I had perceived to be them “selling out” but was really just them trying a new style that I wasn’t a fan of. It was unfair of me to accuse them of selling out. Artists are allowed to try new things for whatever reasons, even if we perceive the reasons as being that they wanted to change in order to appeal to a broader audience, even if that means losing you as a listener, because that’s their prerogative. And anyway, there are a MILLION other artists out there. And further still, you’re allowed to enjoy their older work, the stuff you perceive as being made for “you.” You’re still allowed to have that – so just enjoy it!

What about selling out commercially? Specifically, artists allowing their music to be used in advertising, for promotion of something other than their image. I mean, how shocked was everyone when Bob Dylan did that Chrysler commercial for the Super Bowl? I’ll admit I was, at least a little. However, I have no qualms about that either! I think an artist allowing their music to be used in a commercial is a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Let me clarify. Have you ever heard a song in a commercial and just HAD to know who or what it was? Thanks to the Internet – especially YouTube, and let’s not forget Shazam! – we can find out! My first memory of such an experience was in high school. It was a commercial for Mitsubishi, though I can’t remember which one. Because one commercial featured “Just Breathe” by télépopmusik and another featured “Days Go By” by Dirty Vegas. Granted, this was some time before YouTube and especially Shazam existed, but I was relentless in hunting down the source of these songs I knew nothing about at the time. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to discover the songs and the artists and subsequently acquired the albums that defined my 2003.

But those will have to be album reviews for another post! Maybe another “Music That Made Me”? Because I can’t believe I left those out…

Anyway, there is a point to all of this! The point being that I made my latest discovery in this way thanks to a commercial for Nature Valley granola bars, of all things.

Hunting down the source of this song was easy enough. But apparently, the band is super duper indie! They don’t even have a Wikipedia page. They’re on a Wikipedia page for an indie record label that they are no longer associated with, however. It seems they can’t even decide whether they’re called Jookabox or Grampall Jookabox (I think it’s the former?). So now you’re asking if they even really exist!? Yes. Yes, they do. They even have a fun little video to go with the song!

This song is fun and a little silly and makes me want to run around. It’s like…Mumford & Sons getting drunk and messing around on their day off? It’s interesting because from what I’m hearing of the rest of the album that this song comes from (Dead Zone Boys), this is not actually their usual style at all. It’s kind of like how people really liked “Maps” and then heard the rest of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Fever to Tell and were confused (some were even upset, haha) when they found out it was mostly screamy garage-style alternative rock. I don’t know why I bring that up, it just amuses me. I need to go back and give a good listen to some more Jookabox.

One other thing I wanted to mention – just as an aside, it doesn’t really have anything to do with what this post is about – is that I have this silly little inner thought (a headcanon, if you prefer and are familiar with the term) that this song, though it’s a completely different artist (both musically and in the video) and genre…Got a little carried away with that sentence…In my own head, I like to think that this song is a sequel to “Ghost.” Again, not musically or artistically! But certainly lyrically. I’ve imagined a music video for it in my head – a little hobby of mine. Oh, if you liked or even know what “Ghost” was all about, give this one a listen and tell me you don’t think of Lewis and Vivi.

So anyway, here’s to selling out! Because, hey, you know what? If an artist can expose themselves to a new audience, if they can get more people excited to discover and buy their music because they happened to hear it in some random commercial – more power to them! I say there is nothing wrong with this sort of “selling out.” In fact, I wouldn’t even call it selling out at all! How about intelligent self-promotion? Because that’s really what I think of it as.

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The Best of Édith Piaf

I recently couldn’t stop listening to Édith Piaf’s “I Shouldn’t Care” (the English version of “J’M’en Fous Pas Mal”). I just love it so much. So much emotion. I can feel it tugging on my heart every time. I’ve had it for awhile – and for awhile it was the only Édith Piaf song I had. While looking for more of her music on YouTube, I got to hear a handful of other songs. Then I decided that I had to have as many as possible. So I bought The Best of Édith Piaf, a collection of 72 of her greatest hits.

I don’t know how much I’ll be able to say about her music – almost all of the songs on this album are in French, after all, and I don’t know more than a few words. Nouns, really.

But I can speak to how wonderful and triumphant and tragic her music is to my ears. Really great music can stir your emotions and your imagination, even if it’s not sung in a language you speak/understand (and that includes music that features no singing at all). When I hear Édith Piaf sing, I get visions of that romantic version of Paris that probably most Americans who have never been there get in their heads. It’s an old Paris that probably doesn’t even exist – if it ever did? It’s a fantasy Paris, the kind in the movies or in oil paintings.

The song that most people will recognize, of course, is “La Vie En Rose” (or maybe the Louis Armstrong cover of it). And it’s a great song! Soft and fuzzy and romantic and sweet. It makes me swoon (as does “I Shouldn’t Care”). But I also have a lot of feelings about “La Foule,” “Padam Padam,” “Milord,” “Non, Je Ne Regrette Non,””Mon Manège à Moi,””Hymne à l’Amour,” and”Jezebel,” to name a few.*

Without understanding the music itself, I can understand why Édith Piaf would be regarded as a French icon. Like I said, her music evokes the romantic image of classic France, especially Paris, which I can imagine would make the French proud. There’s just something about her voice and the way she sings those words (that I can’t understand, mind you). She’s got that… “je ne sais quoi” if you will. Womp, womp. Okay, I’ll see myself out.

*(By the way, I have no idea how capitalization is supposed to work in French, so forgive any inconsistencies. I kind of gave up toward the end there.)

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