Monthly Archives: September 2015

Leaving the City

It looks like I may be right about Joanna Newsom’s forthcoming album Divers being a more experimental work, because this second single (“Leaving the City”) is truly unlike anything else she’s ever done before. That’s not hyperbole. I honestly can’t compare this to any other song or even just general thematic sound from any album she’s done before. This is a flirtation with rock – a surprise coming from Newsom, but a very pleasant one!

Her weapon of choice – the Celtic harp – still has a strong presence throughout the track, but now we also get some kind of synthy sound (a Mellotron maybe? I’ll be honest, that’s based on quick research with little details. I have no idea what that instrument is), a bit of piano, some heavy drums, and something called a Marxophone. It makes for a very dark and sinister song. I was listening some thunder and wind noises from one of my favorite sites and all combined it gave me chills.

Now I’m pretty sure Newsom did move fully from New York City to LA (she bought a house out here a year or so ago with husband Andy Samberg), so maybe that’s what this song is about? It seems likely. “I believe in you./Do you believe in me?/What do you want to do?/Are we leaving the city?” It makes for an interesting contrast to the lilting playfulness of “Sapokanikan” which was definitely about NYC. I don’t think this song is about LA so much as it is about the move though. I am excited to see if she does have a song about LA though! I mean, she’s from California, but Northern California specifically – a teeny tiny little place called Nevada City. So who knows? I’m just excited in general to see what comes next.

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LP1

I think I first heard about FKA twigs about a year ago. There was a review of her first full-length album, simply titled LP1, in Bitch magazine. It seemed like a pretty good review, but then so do a lot of the music reviews in Bitch.  I didn’t really think much of it, until I started seeing pictures of her on Tumblr recently. She had this striking look about her, and this certain aesthetic that made me wonder how it reflected in her music. And so I decided to give her a chance and downloaded her album before I drove up to Big Bear Lake for my birthday last week.

I listened to it three times and then some all the way to the top of the mountain. Wow! This isn’t really like anything I’ve heard before. It’s a witchy fusion of chillout, R&B, and trip hop. It’s at some times eerie and other times seductive. It’s a slow burn but it’s hardly boring. It’s very experimental but seems confident it knows what it’s doing. I think it’s probably a really good sex album.

The album opens with a track just called “Preface” (a lot of the songs on here have rather succinct titles) which sounds like something that would be sung by a coven of witches in the woods at night. The lyrics are just this: “I love another and thus I hate myself.” Very short, but repeated like a chant, with ghostly electronic noises that creep into the tiniest crevices of your brain.

Then it goes into a track that placed itself in my favorites pretty much immediately: “Lights On.” The song starts in kind of an unsettling way with more electronic weirdness and sub-bass pulsing and you’re not sure where it’s going until we get FKA twigs’s hypnotic, deliberate vocals. But it’s the chorus that really seals it: “When I trust you we can do it with the lights on.” Both thematically and sonically (it’s those quiet, spooky electronic noises), it reminds me of “Hidden Place” by Björk, another one of my all-time favorite songs, in that it’s about sharing your vulnerability with someone. Well, and your body too, let’s not mince words here. Also, that car alarm at the end should seem jarring and misplaced…but it works.

“Two Weeks” is another seductive track, and it definitely goes all in. It’s got a lot of gusto for a song that sounds so smooth. You just feel it with your whole body. In the video, twigs portrays herself as a goddess in a temple, though that’s not apparent until we’re almost fully zoomed out. It’s the image you want to project when you’re trying to get someone to forget about their ex and realize how good they have it with you.

“Hours” is another stand out track for me on this album. “I could kiss you for hours/And not miss a thing.” Yes, that’s a thing you want to feel! A very good thing! This song has a fuzzy euphoric glow to it that matches those words. It’s pretty straightforward. But I mean it also sounds like it feels like to be in that state. I mean, it just goes to show you how much this album is, if not a sex album, a makeout album at the very least. Seriously, I feel like if you have someone over and things are going well and you put on this album they will start to go VERY well.

Okay, well, maybe some tracks are not so sexy lyrically (but who is listening to the words during makeouts?). Like “Pendulum” for instance, which is about feeling insufficient in your relationship because your partner has basically told you so. The video is gorgeous to watch at least and features some amazing (hair) shibari and suspension. It reminds me a bit of the video for “Pagan Poetry” by Björk but without the nudity and…extreme…body piercing. A different kind of kink then.

“Video Girl” is the creepiest song after the intro track, I’d say. This sounds like a song about a cheating partner (Is she the girl that’s from the video?/Stop, stop lying to me), but it’s really about twigs herself! She started her career as a successful backup dancer in music videos for several big artists (Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran, and Jessie J to name a few) and was kind of stuck in this role when she was trying to break off and make a name for herself as an artist (yay! She succeeded!). The video is even more unnerving, and features her watching and dancing on top of a man being put to death by lethal injection, like she’s some hallucination or succubus. There is some more creepy though not quite graphic imagery, like the stuff you see at the edges of your mind when you remember a nightmare you had, so just a heads up about that. (Oh, also also it starts with “Prelude”!)

I really like the track “Numbers” a lot, even though, again, it’s not thematically very sexy. “Was I just a number to you?” I mean, that says it all. But it’s so trip-hoppy and hypnotic, it just pulls you right in. It’s bitter and pining and devastated and seething with barely contained anger. There are also a lot of little creepy noises and whispers. It sounds like there’s a poltergeist in this song at times.

“Closer” makes for a pleasant follow-up track. It’s got this sort of church choir sound to it. Like a hymn or something. It’s definitely full of joy and praise, run through twigs’s trippy chillout stylings. It’s not my favorite track, but it’s a very nice one!

The next track, “Get Up,” is nice too, but it’s sad. You know, with a lot of these songs, I can imagine a unique dance assigned to them. I mean, twigs was a backup dancer after all, and a very good one at that. This one is graceful like a ballet and tragic too. I’m no choreographer, but I can feel my body moving to this one in a very particular way.

“Kicks” is the final track and it seems to answer the thesis set by the intro. Where twigs started hating herself, she now practices self-love. Literally. It seems like she’s hesitant to do so at first, but eventually she justifies it to herself. Because she deserves it, dammit! “When I’m alone/I don’t need you/I love my touch/Know just what to do.”

I’ve been thinking about what kind of person I would recommend this album too. I think if you like Björk, especially Vespertine, you would like this album. If you like iamamiwhoami (haha, how many people would that be again?), especially bounty, then you would probably like this album. I think you have to have a little patience to like LP1 because it’s not an album you jam to. It’s a good background album. It’s a good headphones album too. There are lots of interesting noises going on here, as I’ve mentioned multiple times. Sorry, I just really like music with subtle, interesting noises! It’s one of the reasons Vespertine is one of my favorites, and it’s why I draw so many comparisons between that one and this one. While I don’t think LP1 has quite as much lasting power as Vespertine, I think it’s still worth the listen and I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the comparisons.

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Even More Music That Made Me

I bought some records recently and one of them (which I’ll get to momentarily) made me reflect on some more music that made me when I was growing up. The record that started this trip down memory lane was…

1) Weezer, Weezer (aka The Blue Album)

Yep, their debut album! The vinyl I got has the original master recording, so it sounds even better than I remember it – but then I think I ripped it from a burned CD when an old childhood friend visited years ago. I think I was in high school but this album came out when I was a kid and had no idea who Weezer was. Really, when I first heard of Weezer (again, in high school) it was the singles from their third album (also titled Weezer but better known as The Green Album) that I was familiar with. These were mainly “Hash Pipe” and “Island in the Sun.” But my friend didn’t have The Green Album and so I burned The Blue Album. It would stick with me for several years and today still I enjoy coming back to it.

Weezer_-_Blue_Album

2) Moby, Play

I mentioned this one in my first Music That Made Me post. It was an honorable mention at the time, so here I’m giving it a full mention. I played this one A LOT in high school. I wasn’t really aware of how big an album this was at the time. I just saw the music video for “South Side” on MTV and liked Gwen Stefani and so I bought the album. Looking back, it makes sense and seems right that this would be one of the greatest albums of its time. (I think it still holds up even now.) Every song was like an audio landscape to me. They’re so distinct from one another and yet they belong on the same album. It’s like a quilt, and it’s one of my favorites as such.

Moby_play

3) Harry Connick Jr., 20

This one seems kind of random, eh? I went through a period where I really liked jazz (I mean, I still like jazz) and somehow I got ahold of this album. It belonged to my parents, but I had it in my walkman a lot for a time. I really liked how expressive a solo jazz piano could be. This album doesn’t have a lot of singing on it – well, less than a general pop album would, I guess – but it didn’t need a lot of sining. And even when there was singing, it flowed really well with the piano. Because I don’t forget the music that made me, I have a couple of Harry Connick Jr.’s other albums, but none of them quite did it for me like 20. I never stopped liking jazz, and I still love this album.

Harry_Connick_Jr_20

4) Dido, No Angel

Another album from high school! Like most people, I was introduced to this one via the single “Thank You” – the actual single, not the sample from Eminem’s song “Stan.” But “Thank You” wasn’t even my favorite song. The album overall is painted with sad tones and themes, but there was something very independent about it too. Dido’s presence was very strong throughout, and it made an impression on me. I don’t think I’ve heard the whole thing from start to finish in quite some time, but I think I may need to change that. This was a great album, start to finish, and I think anyone who likes a quieter pop album would really appreciate this one.

Angeldido

5) Coldplay, Parachutes

Should I say it again? Another high school era album for me. I mean, of course the music you listen to in high school has the greatest influence on you. Coldplay has been big practically from the start, but this was before they got really, really big the way they are now. Seeing as how I liked Dido, it makes sense that I liked Coldplay too. I mean, I guess I still like them! I have a few of their other albums that followed. But this one made the biggest impression on me. It was the quietest, yet it was just as powerful as the albums that would follow, for me anyway. I played this one a lot, a lot. But again, it’s been awhile since I’ve listened to it start to finish.

Coldplayparachutesalbumcover

I’m looking from the top of the list to the bottom and I guess I’ve unintentionally listed them in the order I’d go back and listen to them – from sooner rather than later to later rather than sooner. I don’t want to say I’ve outgrown these albums – they’re still good and they were important to me – but I guess my musical tastes aren’t as fulfilled by these ones. It’s kind of weird to look back on these and think of the albums I play a lot now and how different they are. I don’t really see a pattern in my music that made me. Just an evolution, I guess.

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BoJack Horseman

Another week skipped. Oh well, here I am again, with a quick post! And it’s about…TV? Well, sort of. It’s about the music featured on a TV show, or at least a particular song. (Oh, I’ve done this a few times before!)

I started watching BoJack Horseman on Sunday and I haven’t been able to get the opening theme song out of my head. It doesn’t really have a name. It’s just called “BoJack Horseman Theme.” It’s performed by Patrick Carney and features Ralph Carney on the sax. That’s about all the hard facts I have on the song.

Wow oh wow does that opening punch me in the gut. The visuals are pretty straightforward. It’s just the title character staring ahead with a look that hardly changes while we watch his background change constantly over the course of an entire day. It’s monotony clashing with dynamism, and that’s great. I mean, I’m only halfway through the first season so far, but it makes perfect sense for the show.

I couldn’t get enough so I found a longer version. The full version even!

There’s just something so hypnotic about it. I love that weird, twangy sound and the reverb on that guitar. The drums make it feel like a meditation, and then that sax comes in and just blows my mind. It’s just so good. It’s painful and plaintive and a little soul-crushing, but in such a good way. Maybe that’s just me over-interpreting it. Or maybe, if reviews I’ve heard of the show in its entirety are true, I’m spot-on. We’ll just have to see.

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