Monthly Archives: June 2015

Music

I think I’d always had Madonna in the periphery of my pop culture awareness, but it wasn’t until high school that I really got into her music. I’ve mentioned before that her 1998 album Ray of Light had some influence on me, but so did her 2000 follow up Music, and that’s the album I’ll be talking about today. (I should note that I somehow managed to pass up Ray of Light during that time, so Music came first for me – though I came back to the latter not too long after.)

I think it was the sound of the album that drew me to it. I wasn’t really into pop at the time – I was very anti-boy band and -pop princess at the time actually (although I liked the Spice Girls and even a little Hansen strangely enough). So it was kind of weird that I got into the Queen of Pop. But at the time, while she was still making pop, she was making a different kind of pop. She was setting herself apart from the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. And I really dug it.

“Music” was the first single to be released ahead of the album, and so it was the first time a Madonna song had truly grabbed my attention (it’s also the first track on this album). While it distinguished itself from the rest of the pop scene at the time, it was also very accessible. Madonna wrote and produced the album with the help of  DJ and producer Mirwais Ahmadzaï, whose odd sounds caught her attention. You can hear his influence right away on the title track “Music.” There’s a lot of electronic noise on behind Madonna’s electronically manipulated voice, but it works so well here. The production on this track is amazing. Start to finish, there isn’t a dull moment.

There are some club influences on this album that are most apparent in the following 2 tracks “Impressive Instant” and “Runaway Lover” (though you can absolutely hear them in “Music” too). These first three tracks are among my favorites from this album. In “Impressive Instant” her voice is distorted throughout by a vocoder, Auto-Tune, and other electronic effects, which could have been a disaster, but thanks to Ahmadzaï’s production, it’s just pure magic. The lyrics are pure nonsense, but who cares? It’s just a fun, danceable track and it sounds great regardless.

After that we have “Runaway Lover,” a track which, to me, is kind of a bridge between Ray of Light and Music. It almost would have fit in on either, but makes its home just fine on the latter. (Madonna worked with producer William Orbit on Ray of Light and brought him back for this track and a couple of others, so there’s that.) It’s one of the more intense and fast-paced songs on this album.

We get some respite from the previous intense club sounds on the dreamy track “I Deserve It.” It’s really nice to hear a minimal song with just Madonna’s unaltered voice and some soft acoustic guitars. It’s an introspective track, so it deserves some quiet, though the accents of electronic noise help it to fit in with the rest of the album. They do a good job of meshing with the more organic sounds, rather than distracting from them.

“Amazing” is another Madonna-Orbit track – and another one of my favorites. It’s got a psychedelic, hypnotic intro and I really, really like Madonna’s vocals here. She sounds so desperate and plaintive and a little bit pained. I especially like the part at about 2:23 where almost all the noise drops out and we hear her voice with the subtle piano (that now becomes more pronounced) before diving right back in to the frantic beats. It’s a very noisy track overall but it’s pulled off just right. It seems like Orbit may have been taking some cues from Ahmadzaï here.

I have to say “Nobody’s Perfect” is my least favorite track on here. Blatant/Obviously intentional Auto-Tune is tricky for me. M.I.A. can pull it off really well, for example. As for Madonna, there are other instances on this album where it DOES work. But here, I just can’t stand it. It just sounds ridiculously corny and annoying, and it distracts from the otherwise well-done background melodies. About the only part I like is about 2:44 in, when the Auto-Tune goes away and we get to hear her voice with some distorted acoustic guitar (which is a fantastic sound). Still, it can’t save this song, and so I always skip it.

But it’s okay, because then we have the next track (and next single) “Don’t Tell Me” – one of her best tracks not just on this album but maybe one of the best of her career. Sure, it’s not as epic as “Like A Prayer,” nor is it as peppy as “Material Girl.” But right from the intro, the stop-and-start guitars make this one instantly unforgettable and recognizable. It’s hard to categorize this one because the guitars give it this country flavor, but the beats make it more like a hip hop track, while the strings give it a sweet softness. It’s made up of all these different sounds that shouldn’t fit together but they do. Apparently, Madonna’s brother-in-law wrote the song though it wasn’t originally meant for her. It was his wife (her sister) who suggested he send it to her. They both had their doubts; he didn’t think it was the right song to send to her, and she wasn’t sure it would fit with the sound of her album. But with his permission, she rearranged it without changing the lyrics and, with some production magic from Ahmadzaï, pulled off an amazing track that surprised everyone and would still sound great 15 years later.

Another great track follows with “What It Feels Like For A Girl.” The beats and background noises here are much simpler, which is important for this song. This is very much a track where the lyrics need to stand out the most. The intro features a spoken word sample of Charlotte Gainsbourg from the movie The Cement Garden. Even if you haven’t seen it (I haven’t) or maybe especially if you haven’t seen it, the line is instantly recognizable and resonates with the listener. Even long before I was calling myself a feminist, this song resonated with me. It lists just about every double-standard a woman faces. 15 years later, it could be said not much has changed, and the song still stands strong lyrically, aurally, and morally even today. However, what this song is perhaps most remembered for is the music video (featuring a dance remix by Above & Beyond), which was banned from MTV:

“Paradise (Not For Me)” is unfortunately my second least favorite track on this album, though depending on my mood, I may or may not skip it. The background melodies are great here, and Madonna’s voice is nice enough, but it’s kind of corny and heavy-handed. The drama is just overdone in places. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if it sounded sincere, but it just doesn’t here.

“Gone” is the closing track, appropriately enough, Some of that country flavor returns here with the acoustic guitars, punctuated by simple but deep-hitting beats. I like this as the closing track. It rounds the album out nicely and, well, it makes sense. Actually, it even sums up the album pretty great. “Selling out is not my thing” she sings, letting you know that while she may still reign as the Queen of Pop, she’s not going to feel threatening by younger pop stars nor is she going to give into pressure to be more like them. (Although, for me, she would betray that promise with Hard Candy – but that’s a post for another day. If I’m up for it, ugh.)

Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of Madonna, at least not when you consider her entire body of work. But this is still among my favorite Madonna albums. It just felt so natural and true to her. I haven’t given Rebel Heart a chance yet, but it feels like she’s lost some of her spark as of late. There’s been the occasional glint of brilliance (Confessions On A Dance Floor) but other than that, it feels like she’s trying to play catch up to today’s pop scene rather than just go at her own pace. I feel like that might be due to pressure (probably from record company executives) to “stay relevant,” whatever the fuck that means. I guess while indie artists can go pop, there’s no such thing as going the other way. Ray of Light and Music are my favorite sounds from her career. I’m not asking that she just make more of those from now on but…damn, I wish I knew what I wanted to hear from her these days. I guess I wish she would just do her.

I didn’t mean for this post to end in a depressing ramble! So, uh, how about that Music? Certainly a pop tour de force by Madonna. I still place it behind Ray of Light, but just barely. These albums practically go hand in hand. If CDs were still as big a thing as they were 15 years ago, I’d loan this one to anyone who hadn’t actually heard the whole thing. It’s that kind of album.

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Demon Days

Gorillaz played a hugely formative role in both my high school and college years. I played the hell out of their self-titled debut album Gorillaz throughout high school. I was fascinated by the smoke and mirrors that surrounded this animated band – it was unlike anything I’d ever seen or heard. I hadn’t grown out of cartoons either (come to think of it, I still haven’t) so that may have been another part of what made the whole package so appealing. I remember seeing Charts of Darkness (their first documentary) on MTV – and I was hooked. Entranced. I couldn’t get enough.

For as much of an impact as they had on me, I lost track of Gorillaz sometime in my college years. I didn’t come back to them until after I had started my junior year of college – that would be fall of 2005. Demon Days came out May 2005. I’m not sure what brought me back to Gorillaz, but I distinctly remember finding their website and realizing I had been missing out. Phase Two was Gorillaz at their best. To this day, Demon Days remains my favorite album of theirs as well as one of my favorite albums in general, so I’m happy to be revisiting it today.

When the album opens, it’s with a spooky atmospheric track that samples from George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. It’s a brief intro that fades into “Last Living Souls,” one of the more underrated tracks on this album, I think! It’s a nice sort-of pop track that contrasts interestingly with Damon Albarn’s nasally voice. (People say nasally in a bad way in most cases, but think of it in a good way. It reminds me of Bob Dylan in a lower register – which could be a bad thing for some people too, actually. All respect to Bob Dylan, I like to think I do a pretty funny impression of him.) “Are we the last living souls?” seems like kind of a hopeless question in this context, but the track sounds so uplifting to me. It sounds like the start to a journey – which is exactly what this album is supposed to depict.

One of the things that sticks out to me about this album is how political it is. It was made in the midst of the Bush years, and though Gorillaz are a British band, the whole world seemed to have strong opinions about Bush at that time. I mean, if you think about the years between Gorillaz (2001) and Demon Days (2005) then, yeah, that makes a lot of sense considering A LOT HAPPENED (9/11, WMDs, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the Iraq War itself). It was an extremely volatile time.

That brings me to the next track “Kids With Guns.” Pretty self-explanatory, and yet the lyrics are kind of a point of contention. I don’t think they were ever officially published (at least not in the liner notes) but to me Albarn was always saying “Think of something to suppress it” – though it should be “Think of something to say no to.” They kind of have the same meaning in the context of the song, in the end. The melody has this very pensive, contemplative mood that fits it for such a serious topic as “Kids With Guns,” sung in a staccato tone. It’s a great, great song…

Followed by another great song! “O Green World” has a fantastically weird intro. You’re not sure where it’s going until Albarn starts singing with vocals that are plaintive but so beautiful and expressive too. I think the emotion comes from a place of anxiety, just a bit. The world had changed all of a sudden – it was like we were all on a train with a crazed conductor with a single-minded agenda…which WAS kind of what was happening in the world. So there’s some hand-wringing going on here, but rightfully so. At the time, it was so uncertain where we were going or what would happen next. Albarn sings “O Green World/Don’t desert me now” with just the right amount of feeling. The bell tolls at the end convey a sense of impending doom, of time running out.

Next up comes one of my favorite tracks “Dirty Harry” – honestly, it’s one of the best on this album. There are so many layers of brilliance going on here. This is a track that’s clearly about the Iraq War. (And the cover for the single is obviously a nod to Full Metal Jacket.) It features rapper Bootie Brown spouting lyrics like “Your water’s from a bottle/Mine’s from a canteen” that just give me goosebumps. Then there are topical lines like “I’m the reason why you fill up your Isuzu” and “The war is over/So said the speaker with the flight suit on.” Using children to sing the chorus (“I need a gun to keep myself from harm”) was just a terrific decision. The whole song has this strangely light-hearted feel to it (before you get to the rap) that makes you want to dance – which ironically the song claims is a problem. I once read somewhere that Damon Albarn got the idea for that synthy-keyboard hook from Sesame Street. Sure sounds like it and, wow, does it work. One of their best, from any album.

The music video is a great companion to the song, making it very clear what Gorillaz thought of the Iraq War (the armored vehicle breaks down before it can go even half the length of a football field):

Of course, the most successful song off this album is “Feel Good Inc.” Geez, this song was everywhere. But for good reason – it’s a great song! And while it’s got the same cynical attitude as “Dirty Harry” it’s about something very different. Before embarking on Demon Days, Gorillaz had been working on a movie, an idea that was scrapped very quickly when they realized that Hollywood wanted something very different. It was a classic tale of artistic integrity versus corporate greed, as I understand it. Ridiculously hackneyed but true. Knowing that, this track is clearly a retelling that experience. “A melancholy town where we never smile”? Come on, so very clearly a diss to LA/Hollywood. Anyway, I really dig that bass line. And I think the general listening population did too. It’s still an amazing track ten years later.

“El Mañana,” while a really well done track, is not particularly my favorite. It seems like it’s about love, but it’s hard to discern the lyrics – again leading to variations depending on what website you visit. Anyway, I like the instrumentals and it’s a beautiful song, but it just doesn’t stand out very well. It’s a little too dreary. That isn’t a bad thing, I just don’t care for it here.

The opening guitar to “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead” is fantastic, but I’m afraid this is another one I don’t care too much for! Actually, I tend to skip these two tracks. The instrumentals are nice here too, but I just feel like nothing impressive is being done. They’re just kind of plain and pleasant, even though they’re sad. Well, there is one interesting thing about this song. I think I read that Albarn got the inspiration for it while riding a train across China. He mostly saw a lot of desert and wasteland (and there was something about hotel TVs playing Chinese-dubbed Betty Boop cartoons I think?) and it just gave him this impression of being on another world.

Now, “November Has Come” – I love this song. It’s got this twinge of weirdness to it that I really like, and a nice chorus too. “Well you know November has come/When it’s gone away” is one of those lyrics that makes you stop and listen. Albarn’s vocals sound like they’re coming through the fog. The whole song has this hollow, chilly, dark sound – like most Novembers in most places. I can feel the fall breeze blowing in somewhere between the claps and that bass line. The raps by MF Doom are calculated and perfectly timed and just a pleasure to listen to.

“All Alone” has a lot going on, aurally, but somehow it manages to pull it off – and it makes for another wonderful song. There’s a balancing act going on between Roots Manuva’s stellar, aggressive raps and Martina Topley-Bird’s all-too-brief and dreamy, angelic vocals. This song really picks you up and shakes you around (in such a good way), so having her clear away all the weirdness and noise for that time is a pleasant reprieve before diving back in. I love the contrast here. It’s beautiful.

The track fades into “White Light,” a sort-of alt-rock track that hasn’t got a lot to it, but still sounds super interesting. It’s all these simple sounds and repeated verses coming together that make it work. I think it’s brevity helps too. I can’t see this track working if it went on for too much longer. So it’s perfect at the length it is on the album! Much like the previous track, this one has this moment where it takes a breath in the middle.

Next up is another one of my favorite tracks – It’s “Dare”! It’s supposed to be “It’s there” but guest singer Shaun Ryder’s accent made it sound like “It’s dare,” and so the song got its name! This is just a purely fun dance track, happy and upbeat and making you want to get your body up and move it around. Yeah! Sometimes you just need one of those on your album, but it’s not like it’s just been thrown in – it’s really well done and deliberate. The music video is a lot of fun too:

“Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head” is interesting for the reason that it’s mostly a spoken-word track, featuring Dennis Hopper. The simple background music plays a great role in creating the atmosphere as Hopper tells the story of a peaceful, innocent town destroyed by the thoughtless acts of greedy strangers. It seems like a pretty obvious parable, but this was just one of the many topics that seemed to preoccupy singer Damon Albarn’s mind. And anyway it’s so vividly told. And when Albarn’s dreary vocals come in at the end, it’s just brilliant. (See? Dreary can be good.) I feel like it’s actually a pretty bold decision to put this weird (mostly) spoken word track on this album.

The final two tracks are just amazing (and both feature the London Community Gospel Choir – taking these songs to a whole different level). First we have “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven,” the track that signifies the beginning of the end of our journey. I love the chorus: “Dont’t get lost in heaven/They got locks on the gates.” Heaven is supposed to be a place you want to go, but here it’s a place you don’t want to be, at least not for very long if your curiosity gets the best of you and you DO find yourself there. The heaven here isn’t the religious notion of heaven – it’s the earthly idea of heaven, of having all the pleasures and distractions you could ever desire. It’s the over consumption of pop culture and forgetting who you are and the problems that exist in the world. This has been a major concern throughout Demon Days, and Albarn wants us to remember that here.

Finally, we have the title track “Demon Days.” It’s a wonderful, wonderful closing track. One of the best of any album. It sounds so uplifting and hopeful, but that’s not quite the case: “You can’t even trust the air you breathe/’Cause Mother Earth wants us all to leave/When lies become reality/You numb yourself with drugs and T.V.” But it’s still encouraging: “Pick yourself up it’s a brand new day/So turn yourself ’round.” So there’s hope after all. I can’t think of anymore words to describe this song. It’s just so, so beautiful and perfect as an ending track. I just get lost in it.

Demon Days and Phase Two were Gorillaz at their best and most prolific. They took their public image as a gimmick band and used it to surprise everyone with an amazing album. Meanwhile, the story of the virtual, fantasy aspect band became more developed and tangible. I didn’t even get into that here, but if you like Gorillaz, then their illustrated autobiography Rise of the Ogre is a must-read. During this time, more than ever, Damon Albarn and artist/co-conspirator Jamie Hewlett (also known for Tank Girl) were on the same wavelength and the same mission: to say something important about the state of the world. Give Demon Days a listen if it’s been awhile – or if it’s been never – and really listen to it. It’s an important album and it deserves legendary status.

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Vespertine

Okay, I’m going to get to the Vespertine review in a minute here, but first, you NEED to go to YouTube and watch this RIGHT NOW. Yes, it’s a music video (for “Stonemilker”), but think of it like a music video done in Google Street View. Click and drag and watch what happens. It’s BLOWING MY MIND. I actually said “woah” out loud. Now THIS is the kind of quality music video I expect from Björk. Also worth watching are the music video for “Lionsong” and the “Family” moving album cover, both of which can be found on her official YouTube page. AND there might be a bootlegged copy of of the “Black Lake” video from the MoMA exhibit that just ended floating around somewhere. *cough*cough* (No, I mean really bootlegged, like DVD-you-bought-in-a-back-alley-with-shadowy-figures-occasionally-walking-in-front-of-the-camera bootlegged.) (UPDATE: The official “BLack Lake” video from MoMA is now up!) Anyway, it’s GREAT to see she’s made a return to form with these videos. I’m really, really glad.

NOW, let’s get into Vespertine. Funny how I’m choosing to talk about it in June seeing as how it’s a very wintery-themed album (though it was released at the end of August). It’s got light and airy sounds, making use of such instruments as a harp, celesta, various strings, and a music box made out of glass. There’s even the sound of snow crunching in one track.

Thematically, the album is all about love and sex – and more love and more sex. That’s really it! At the time, it was her most intimate album – well, it’s also ABOUT intimacy. But it was incredibly personal endeavor. We’ll get into that during this review.

I’ve mentioned multiple times that the opening track “Hidden Place” is one of my all-time favorite Björk songs. It is one of my favorite opening tracks to any album. There’s something about the way that soft repetitive electric sound at the beginning pulses and washes over you. The choir that comes in at around 32 seconds brings it to another level. And when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it takes you to an even higher euphoric state of mind at about 50 seconds in when the beats, strings, vocals, and background melody all swell up together.

Of the theme of the track, Björk said:

‘Hidden Place’ is sort of about how two people can create a paradise just by uniting. You’ve got an emotional location that’s mutual. And it’s unbreakable. And obviously it’s make-believe. So, you could argue that it doesn’t exist because it’s invisible, but of course it does.

It certainly feels like a paradise, although one of a sexual nature. It’s pure, unbridled bliss. My favorite lyrics are “I’m so close to tears/And so close to/Simply calling you up” as well as “Now I have been slightly shy/And I can smell a pinch of hope/To almost have allowed/Once fingers to stroke.” I don’t know why, but these particular lines just get to me. Normally, I would say they get me in the gut, but, er…that’s not quite where they get me.

If the first track wasn’t blunt enough for you, well here, have “Cocoon.” (And, oh yeah, the video’s totally NSFW.)

Heavy-handed on the euphemism AND the literalism, the breathy vocals in “Cocoon” make it very clear that this is a post-coital track. The little glitchy beats are wonderful and a little eerie. The minimal sound really works for this song. I don’t know if it would have succeeded if it was as overwhelming as “Hidden Place.” This track is meant to be introspective in its bliss.

I feel like “It’s Not Up To You” wasn’t necessarily supposed to be about love or sex, but it’s difficult to read it any other way, at least for me (“Just lean into the crack”? I mean, come on). To me, it’s about that unknowing that exists when you’re not sure what kind of a relationship you’re in with a person. There seems to be chemistry, but there’s also this difficult balancing act in your head: Do you pretend like it’s nothing and risk missing an opportunity, or do you take a chance and risk blowing it all? You’re stuck in this limbo of not being able to read their frustratingly ambiguous signals. (Boy, have I been there.) I feel like this song really captures that pensive burning curiosity that runs itself back and forth across your brain and makes you into a nervous wreck. “Six glasses of water/Seven phone calls.”

So that makes “Undo” a pretty good follow up! It’s very meditative and calming right from the get-go: “It’s not meant to be a strife/It’s not meant to be a struggle uphill.” You just have to let your nerves go and go with the flow. This is not so much about sex and love as the others. Although I said it’s a good follow-up to “It’s Not Up To You” it could really apply to any situation in life that you’re overthinking/stressing out over. “Undo if you’re bleeding/Undo if you’re sweating/Undo if you’re crying/Undo.”

“Pagan Poetry” is probably the biggest standout track on this album. It’s the most passionate, the most emotional, and the most theatrical. And so is the music video, which, by the way, is even more NSFW and, besides that, definitely NOT for the squeamish when it comes to needles and piercings.

So…this video was banned by MTV, and not just for Björk being topless and having strings of pearls being sewn into her body. If you’re wondering what those weird blobby, blurry images are…well, it’s highly likely you’re seeing a Björk sex tape (watch again – do the way those blobs are moving look familiar now?). It’s not just all about nudity and needles though. Setting the music video aside, this song is about making yourself vulnerable (and, in a way, that’s exactly what the music video is capturing) as you head into a new relationship, even as you’re scared to do so because of the consequences that could result (as they may have in the past). This song is swarming with desperation and anxiety. It’s so important that the music drops out when Björk chants “I love him” over and over again.

There isn’t really anything to say about “Frosti,” the glass music box interlude, except that it’s BEAUTIFUL. If it didn’t cut off (because it fades into the next track), I could listen to it over and over again.

That next track would be “Aurora,” the most wintery track on this album (so it makes sense that it’s paired with “Frosti”). Themes of nature and love kind of blur together here. “A mountain shade/Suggests your shape.” She fills her mouth with snow to remind herself of her lover. It’s the best track about intimacy without being as heavy-handed about it. There’s something transcendental about it.

“An Echo, A Stain” brings a chill down my spine every time. It’s a sinister, dark song, based on a one-act play called Crave, which I know nothing about, except for the themes that I’ve gathered from its Wikipedia entry which include “rape, incest, pedophilia, anorexia, drug addiction, mental instability, murder, and suicide.” The musical themes of the album work perfectly with this song, being creepy and quiet. It’s meant to make you feel uneasy, and in that aspect, especially knowing what it’s based off of, it works.

The next song has lyrics taken straight from the e e cummings poem “I Will Wade Out” which, for those not familiar (I mean, I wasn’t) is purely about masturbation. It’s pretty obvious from the lyrics regardless. Also, the music works great as a euphemism here. It starts out with gentle, exploratory tones before slowly building up to a crescendo and follows with a blooming release before coming back down and ending with fuzzy, fading, echoed vocals. It may seem heavy-handed (no pun intended), but it’s also pretty clever!

“Heirloom” is another song about love, but a different kind of love – a familial kind. Its pensiveness reminds me of “It’s Not Up To You.” It’s a very introspective track and the most surreal, lyrically. It feels like maybe this was the best way Björk could describe the way her family forms her foundation and holds her up. A singer’s voice is their most important asset, and when they lose it, it can be easy for them to question their worth. And so one has only to look at who supports them and know that everything is going to be okay.

The song “Harm of Will” was co-written by Harmony Korine and is supposedly about Will Oldham, though I’m going to be honest here: I have no idea what that means. I mean, okay, the name of the track is basically made up of both of their names. But beyond that, I don’t have any clue what Will Oldham has to do with anything, much less who he is (someone’s going to be mad at me for that). But completely ignoring that, it’s another dark song with a sinister ending. There are two characters in this song: a man and a woman. Björk seems to go back and forth assuming the identities of these characters. It’s hard to tell which one at times. It’s a hauntingly beautiful and sad track. And, dammit, I wish I understood what it was about.

We end with a fantastic track, the best way to end this album: with a track called “Unison.” Okay, again, this is going to sound corny (for different reasons), but I really relate to the way she describes love here. “Born stubborn, me/Will always be/Before you count one, two, three/I will have grown my own private branch/Of this tree” and “I thrive best/Hermit style/With a beard and a pipe /And a parrot on each side/But now I can’t do this without you” especially. This is another track about vulnerability, but where “Pagan Poetry” was filled with distress and fear, this track is eager, enthusiastic, and a little bit flustered. The swelling orchestra and chorus just make my heart soar. I feel so happy and hopeful when I hear it. I don’t want it to end.

I don’t think I’ve said it before, but Vespertine is my favorite Björk album, and one of my favorite albums of all time. It’s one I would have to have if I was on a desert island or on a rocket ship headed to Mars. It’s definitely one I need to get on vinyl. It has my favorite sounds and it just means so much to me. I never get tired of listening to it.

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Mother of Pearl

Sorry I skipped last week. I have no good excuse. Anyway, let’s get back into it this week with a quick one!

If I haven’t made it clear on here before, I consider myself a feminist. And as a feminist, I’m always on the lookout for a good anthem. Well, today’s post isn’t so much of an anthem as just a cathartic track. Today’s post is about Nellie McKay’s “Mother of Pearl,” a satirical song about feminism and the way it’s treated and misunderstood. Any time I see people shitting on feminism and I feel myself losing my cool or generally getting upset, I just put on this song and somehow I feel better. It’s more cathartic than any Le Tigre track – and I like Le Tigre!

I guess satire helps me put it all in perspective. Nellie McKay gets it from the first line: “Feminists don’t have a sense of humor.” The hits just keep on coming with “Lighten up, ladies,” “Won’t these women ever get a life?”, and “That’s why these feminists just need to find a man.” As journalist Helen Lewis put it, “the comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.” And these are just the kind of comments you would expect to find. They’re so hackneyed and predictable, they’re FUNNY.

Admittedly, I don’t have any other Nellie McKay songs. Just this live one from a TED talk several years ago. There are various live versions floating around on YouTube where she changes the name Dennis Kucinich (I’ve heard one with Sarah Palin, another with Michelle Bachmann), but this one is my favorite. Not necessarily because of the name she uses, but more because of the quality and clarity – plus the audience laughs at all the right parts.

Next time the misogynists get you down, or even just the people who say “I’m not a feminist – I love men!” or “feminism is just too EXTREME,” just put on this track and have a laugh. Works for me!

And though it’s not music-related, I’ll close with this Kate Beaton comic that I think relates pretty well to this post (and also makes me feel better…somehow).

wonder woman

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