Monthly Archives: February 2015

Hey Arnold!

Today’s Music Tuesdays it a late one – so it’s gonna be a quick one!

Let’s start by talking about TV music. Been awhile since I used the TV tag! This time, I wanted to talk briefly about the music of the 90’s Nickelodeon cartoon show Hey Arnold! One of the things I remember liking about the show, besides the great characters and whimsical views of city life (it was always NYC to me), was the music. It fit the show so perfectly. It was cool, like its namesake character. And it was probably one of the reasons I got into jazz. Not that I’m well-versed on the subject – I listened to my local college station play jazz music at night, and sometimes I listened to my parents’ Harry Connick, Jr. CDs (20 was the main one for me). But put on some jazz and I won’t complain.

The music ranged from upbeat and swinging, like the intro theme here:

To smooth and laid-back, like this track, titled “Groove Remote,” which I’ve been listening to on repeat all day:

When I listen to this soundtrack (mostly random collections scattered across YouTube), I think still get the same sort of visions of NYC. I’ve thought of it as some kind of exotic place that exists in America. It’s not really a romantic fantasy view of the city. Well, maybe a little bit. But there’s still some real grit in there. It would make as much of an adventure as a boat ride down the Amazon River, in my mind. Full of possibilities to explore.

I feel like I’ve gone off on a tangent, but I swear it’s connected! The point I’m trying to make is that this is one of the places my imagination takes me when I listen to the jazz music featured in Hey Arnold! Of course, it’s pretty close to the vision presented by the show (which never REALLY said it was NYC), but I have to imagine that it could have played out another way if they’d chosen a different type of music.

Someday, when I visit the Big Apple, I’m going to be hearing this music play in my head.

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Top Songs – Björk

Now that Björk’s Vulnicura has been out for a good while, I thought it would be a good time to look back and pick my favorite songs from her past eight studio albums. Just the eight! I’m not counting soundtracks, compilations, singles, B-sides, remixes, or any of that. I’m not even counting that album she put out when she was, like, 12. Just the main 8 from Debut on. And here we go!

“Human Behaviour” from Debut

Gosh, this feels like kind of an easy one. But it’s one of my all-time favorites, and so there it is! This song has a primal, primitive sound that suits it well, and I just really dig that. It’s off-kilter and odd, with a touch of madness, and it’s got one of the greatest music videos of all time. Plus, one time, Beavis and Butthead watched this video and it was awesome.

“Army of Me” from Post

Wow, it was tough to pick just one favorite from Post because there are so many songs on this album that are great! But this one takes the cake for me. It’s my personal theme song. It’s industrial and confident and assertive and a little bit angry too. It’s a self-declaration of independence. And it’s got another spectacular music video!

“Alarm Call” from Homogenic

So uplifting! I kind of put this one on the flip-side of “Army of Me” as my personal theme song. It’s all about the power that music can have over a person, and how it can be transformative. And it’s got one of my favorite lyrics – one I try to make my personal motto – “Today has never happened, and it doesn’t frighten me.”

“Hidden Place” from Vespertine

This was another tricky song pick, because this is definitely my favorite Björk album, and all of the tracks are wonderful. But I love the ethereal, transcendental sound of this particular one. It’s so intimate and heady. It wraps itself around you. It kind of embodies this messy amalgam of love and lust. (I also adore this video.)

“Triumph of a Heart” from Medúlla

Another happy song! It just makes me feel so good. It’s Björk doing hip hop – and she makes it work in her own way! Like every song on this album, the beats and melodies and every other sound in between is made using the human voice as an instrument. Which makes for lots of fun noises! The video is also fantastic and features Björk married to a cat.

“Innocence” from Volta

Innocence_box_cover

This song isn’t really so much about “virginal” innocence, but I think it places around with that idea. It’s really more about the innocence you have in life, in general, before experiencing something new, and how terrifying and exciting that can be, and how it can shape you. Also, the beats are PHENOMENAL on this track. (The music video was a fan-made dud, so I’m posting the single art instead.)

“Cosmogony” from Biophilia

Cosmogony_Björk_Cover

I love this song for its fascination with the universe and our place in it and how it all came about. It’s introspective, but big and outward-facing. It covers 4 different creation myths – counting the Big Bang Theory as one of them. In the fantasy world where I get to go to the International Space Station, this is one of the songs that plays one of the mornings I wake up.

“Atom Dance” from Vulnicura

Björk_-_Vulnicura_(Official_Album_Cover)

Heard in order, this is the first song of hope on an album that is about devastation. It reminds me of a carefully composed waltz, or of snow melting into spring. It’s so prudent at first, then it transforms and flows into something grand and beautiful. It’s healing, like this entire album is meant to be.

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Revisited: The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

You’d think being a music blog, I’d make this post about the Grammys, but I didn’t watch the Grammys and I don’t listen to a lot of music that gets nominated for Grammys, so here we are! (Just in case anyone thought I was trying to be professional or that I knew what I was talking about.)

Instead, I’d like to revisit an album I reviewed way back when I started this blog (I’ll probably make “Revisited” a recurring feature, like Music Tidbits or Music That Made Me). Actually, this goes back to my very second post on this blog! This week, I’d like to revisit Neko Case’s “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You”!

I feel like when I wrote that post, I wasn’t yet fully invested in the album. I read it again and I realize I really breezed over it. I’m terrible when it comes to giving my opinion about a thing immediately after watching/listening to/consuming it. I’m the worst person you could invite to a focus group. I need time to digest things, to really mull them over and think about what I did or didn’t like, and why. This is especially the case with music. I really, REALLY need the time to listen to the album as a whole – repeatedly – and then dissect it track by track. I need to get tired of it, put it away, then come back to it.

So now that it’s been well over a year since this album was released and I got my grubby little paws on it, I’ve DEFINITELY formed a better opinion about it! Well, it’s still not my favorite Neko Case album, BUT I do enjoy it a lot more than I initially did.

So let’s start at the beginning. (Where else?) “Wild Creatures” is a little underwhelming as an intro track. It didn’t have the same oomph for me that the opening tracks from her previous three studio albums did. I DO like these lyrics though:

“Hey, little girl, would you like to be
The king’s pet or the king?”
“I’d choose odorless and invisible,
But otherwise I would choose the king.”

There’s something about choosing to be “odorless and invisible” that I can relate to in my worst moments.

“Night Still Comes” is one of my favorites from this album. No clue what it’s about, but it kind of speaks to me as being about being fiercely independent and misunderstood for it, but then deciding you know what? I don’t need anyone to understand me. Umm, but really I have no idea. I still really like the line “But I’ve revenged myself all over myself/There’s nothing you can do to me.”

“Man” is still also my favorite! Oh my gosh, I LOVE this song. Neko is obviously playing around with gender roles and expectations here. It took me awhile to understand that. Like, it seems there’s this common theme that girls are either taught to be proper and ladylike (read: submissive, passive, seen but not heard, etc) OR they’re taught that to be feminine is to be weak, pathetic, and stupid. Neko (in this song) is playing with that latter theme here. She’s been raised to be a “man” – tough, bold, brave, strong – BUT she refuses to see women as the opposite. I mean, just take the line “A woman’s heart is the watermark/By which I measure everything” – and she really draws out that “everything” when she sings it. And then, of course, she sings at the end “‘Cause you didn’t know what a man was/Until I showed you.” It’s just fantastic.

I barely mentioned “I’m From Nowhere” last time, except for a few lyrics. I mean, what? This song is GREAT. It’s quiet – Just Neko and a guitar. It’s all about identity being tied to where you’re from. Neko’s father was a Vietnam War vet, and her parents divorced when she was young, so she moved around a lot growing up. I did too (but not NEARLY across as many states) so I can relate a little bit. So, she’s from “Nowhere” and that suits her just fine.

And how in the world could I skip “Bracing For Sunday”?? “I’m a Friday night girl/Bracing for Sunday to come.” These are just…FANTASTIC lyrics. Friday, the day everyone goes out and gets wild, and Sunday, the day everyone atones for it. I just really like the way she sings it, like she’s not afraid of it. She’s ready for it. This song is so charged and restless.

“Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” is still a wonderful, beautifully sad track. And I still really want to know where this one came from – but I also feel like it’s none of my business because it might be personal. Which makes it all the more fascinating and touching.

“Calling Cards” might be the only straightforward love song on here. Which makes it kind of an interesting track considering the rest of the album is so introspective, even when it seems to involve other people. I mean, this is pretty much the theme song to a long distance relationship. It’s sweet.

“City Swan” – another one that hardly got a mention! But it’s so good! It goes back to the theme of wanderlust that “I’m From Nowhere” flirts with. Sure, there are places that could be called hometowns. But when you’ve spent so much time away from them, going back to them makes you feel like an alien – completely out of your element. To be a city swan is to be someone who was transformed from a small town duckling. You’re unable to reconnect. And this part in particular just really hits me: “And it breaks my heart just like the day/That I looked down and I realized/I’d been sailing so long I’d become the shore.” Wow.

“Afraid” … Um. I don’t care for this one too much? Neko didn’t write it (but Nico did!), so I dunno. I do like the line “You are beautiful and you are alone” though.

“Local Girl” – This one is pretty nice, but for the longest time I thought she was singing “All of you lie about Sunday/You’re on a first name basis” – which made sense to me – but it’s actually “All of you lie about someday.” Which doesn’t make as much sense to me? I was listening to some old episodes of some podcasts I don’t normally listen to because they had interviews with Neko Case back from September 2013, when she released this album. Anyway, she was saying that this song is about how people talk about love all the time when they don’t know anything about it. It still doesn’t make much sense to me. But I still like it!

“Where Did I Leave That Fire?” is a really eerie one. Not just because of the dark, haunting, submarine sounds, but because it’s kind of got a little bit existential horror going on, at least for an artist. If you listen to it from the perspective of an artist, you’ll get what the “fire” is. And something about the way she sings “I wanted so badly not to be me” hits heavy.

“Ragtime” is another favorite of mine! This one really, really gets to me too. I talked about this one before (#5 on my list!). It’s very much like a phoenix rising from the flames. Just listen to the lyrics: “I’ll reveal myself when I’m ready,/I’ll reveal myself invincible soon.” I also just really like the lines “I am one and the same/I am useful and strange.” It’s so soothing, for how cacophonous it is at the end. It’s just feels like letting go.

“Madonna of the Wasps” – Another song not written by Neko! (It was written by Robyn Hitchcock. Just because I wrote that sentence, doesn’t mean I know who that is.) It’s so hippie-dippie. I kind of like it, but I also have to be in the mood for it, because it’s kind of uncharacteristic for Neko. It’s not really her style!

And OH MY GOSH, how did I NOT mention the version of “Magpie to the Morning” on this album, because it is one of my FAVORITE songs and I LOVE this version of it. See how disappointed I am in you, me from over a year ago? Well, I guess there were some things in my life that happened that changed that since then. This song just means to much to me, and I am so in love with the way it’s performed here. I could go on forever about it.

“Yon Ferrets Return” – Haha, I still like this one a lot! It’s just so much fun! There’s that wanderlust theme again. It just sweeps you right up! I want to jump on that covered wagon it makes me picture and ride off into the sunset. I know, I’m weird.

So that’s about it! What a much better review for an album that’s much better than I treated it over a year ago. Forgive me, Neko! And forgive me, readers. You both deserved better, so I hope I gave it this time!

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Music Tidbits

I’m pretty busy this week, so today you get a Music Tidbits post! Instead of a hodge-podge of things, as I did before, however, this one actually will have a sort of theme to it. The theme here being relaxing music. Appropriate with how busy (and a tad stressful) things have been for me lately! So lay back and enjoy some random chillout-esque music (that isn’t really chillout)…

First up, I’d like to go with some perhaps odd choices: Video game music! When I was in high school, the Spyro the Dragon series was my absolute favorite video game series, particularly Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage! I had an obsession with dragons, but it helped that it was incredibly fun too. And the music (composed by drummer Stewart Copeland of The Police), was fantastic. I still get nostalgic when I hear it. But there are also some tracks that are a great source of stress relief, and I love to play them from time to time when I’m feeling nervous, anxious, or upset. These would be the realm themes:

Summer Forest

Autumn Plains

Winter Tundra

Sometimes, when playing this game, I would just leave the TV on and let the music play on loop while I did something else. It’s pretty much just ambient music. But it’s great ambient music. Put on some headphones (or just play it through your speakers), put one of these tracks on repeat, lay back, close your eyes, and you’ll feel all your stress melt away in no time. That sounds so corny, but it’s true and I swear by it.

Next up, well, this isn’t really music at all, even though it’s on an album. It’s the track “Marais La Nuit” (French for “Marsh at Night”) off of Middle Cyclone by Neko Case. Really, all she did was record the noises around her farm at night (it has to do with the nature themes of the album). I guess you could get it from an ambient noise machine, though I don’t think I’ve heard one with cricket and frog noises. But say you don’t have one of those (or a laptop handy to find the sounds). In that, case you’d pop in your headphones and play this!

It came in quite handy when I spent the night in a hotel room with my parents last summer and forgot that my dad snored (LOUDLY). I put this on loop, set the sleep timer, and I was out by the second loop.

Don’t run away before I’ve had a chance to explain this next one, because it’s Justin Bieber singing “U Smile.” Or more specifically, it’s Justin Bieber singing “U Smile” 800% slower.

This may be the closest you come to having an out of body experience. My favorite description of this song was something like “It’s like the ocean…but, like, in SPACE…” That’s…actually a pretty accurate description. Put this one on if you ever need to Zen out. Drugs not necessary.

The last song I want to share, I discovered in college. It’s from this kind of oddball Japanese movie called Ping Pong, which is about just that, basically. I’ve tried to find the soundtrack version on YouTube, but I can only find the album version. Which is unfortunate, because it’s so pretty throughout until you get to the last 30 seconds of the album version and it goes all wonky and loud. Just stop it around 6:30 at the first fade out and you’ll do fine.

Ahhhh…Hope you all enjoyed this mini-chillout-esque playlist! Go do some yoga or look at the stars or something, man…

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