Tag Archives: new wave

Velocifero

I want to talk about Ladytron today! Last time I talked about them, I talked about my least favorite album of theirs. Well, this time I’d like to talk about my favorite album of theirs! And that would be 2008’s Velocifero!

This was my second Ladytron album, after Light & Magic, which I also love. But Velocifero easily overtakes it as the best album for me. It’s just got a bigger, more well-rounded sound, and the production is fantastic. Also, it’s got my favorite Ladytron album cover:

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That may have been the reason I picked it, actually. I didn’t know where to go after Light & Magic so I went with the one with the prettiest cover, which sounds kind of shallow, but for me it was a good choice!

“Black Cat,” the opener, is just great. I love it when Mira Aroyo sings in Bulgarian. Her voice is so seductive and commanding. Her songs tend to be among my favorites in general. No idea what she’s saying, but I don’t mind. (Here are the lyrics in both Bulgarian and English, in case you were wondering.)

“Ghosts” is another great track and I’m almost a little conflicted here, because they are BOTH great openers. You could have switched the two and it would have been just as amazing. But I’m kind of glad they went with the Mira track first. Anyway, I really like how unapologetic and confident this song is. I don’t care much for the video though. There might be some Watership Down references here?

Then there’s yet another track I love: “I’m Not Scared.” There’s this car metaphor they’re playing with that draws me in every time. I guess I just like that it meshes well with the mechanical/robotic implications of their name. I think you can really hear how flawless the production is here. It’s such a well-rounded song.

I don’t have a lot to say about “Runaway” – it’s a pretty straightforward track – but I do like the video for it better than the one for “Ghosts.” It’s a lot more in line with the aesthetic of the album. And the effects are super simple but pretty cool!

Mira sings again on “Season of Illusions” – this time in English! This is one of the rare Mira songs that doesn’t do much for me. But I love something about the lyrics “Obliterate the Sunday you’ve been cherishing all week.” It’s got a very carpe diem feel to it, but it’s sung in such a cool, detached way.

I feel like there’s a lot of aggressive confidence in this album, but it’s given off in such a calm and collected way. “Burning Up” is another one of those tracks, and yet it’s teetering on giving in to the emotion simmering just beneath the surface. “I wrote a protest song about you” just really hits hard.

Another Mira song comes next: “Kletva,” which is actually a cover of a Bulgarian rock song from the late 80’s. It’s a pretty straightforward cover translated into Ladytron’s style. Again, here’s the translation…and here’s the original – it’s a nice song! And it’s weird hearing it in comparison with Ladytron’s version.

I really like “They Gave You a Heart, They Gave You a Name” a lot too. My brain tends to default to some of their songs being about robots, which is the case here, but I’m sure I’m absolutely wrong.

And OH MY GOSH, I love “Predict the Day” so much. Definitely another favorite. The haunting whistle just gets me every time, and the little exhale too. It’s so dark and, again, unapologetic. This song is flawless. It’s like the perfect villain theme song.

How many times have I mentioned that I love a song off this album so far? Like almost every one so far? Because it doesn’t stop with “The Lovers.” It sounds so sinister. There’s this marching drum beat that just goes so well with the synth, and with Helen Marnie’s almost-taunting yet lullaby-like vocals on top, it’s positively hypnotizing.

What the heck it “Deep Blue” about??? Again, my brain defaults to technology, specifically the chess-playing computer Deep Blue. Mira’s voice is so smoky and soft here. It’s a change from her normal tone. It’s really nice and it works so great with the song. I’m glad she did this one, because it wound up fitting her so well.

I don’t have a lot to say about “Tomorrow,” surprisingly. It’s a dreamy song. Somehow the style is distinct from the rest of the album (to my ears anyway) and yet it fits in just right. The video is the best of the 3 they did for this album. It reminds me of some kind of obscure experimental 70’s fantasy film. It’s beautiful to take in.

The final track is “Versus” and I think this is the first time one of the guys – Daniel Hunt – has sung on a track? I think his voice works well here! Both in sound and in theme – it’s his voice against Helen’s, but they go together nicely.

Overall, I think this is a great starter Ladytron album, but I could be saying that because I think just about every song on it is the best. I played a few tracks for a friend once, and he had never heard of Ladytron before, but he loved them instantly. So I’m going to go ahead and say that if you’ve never heard of Ladytron before either, you should definitely start here!

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thin and chasing kites

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for iamamiwhoami! It’s less than a month till the new album BLUE comes out, and I was wondering how they were going to release the rest of their videos by then. Question answered: They released the next 2 tracks together! My guess is they’ll release 2 more the week before the album drops and then the last one maybe the day before or day of.

A few days later, we got an interview in Dazed & Confused magazine! What a treat! I feel like’s it’s been a good while since we’ve had a decent interview. In this one, she gives a lot of love (and credit) to her fans for helping her make this album happen. This, I think, is the future of music. I’ve seen it happening more and more lately. Oh Land, another Scandinavian singer (Danish, specifically!) is making her album through a pledge page too. It’s very exciting to feel so close to an artist. They really are making the music for you. I want to see more mainstream artists doing this!

Anyway, let’s get on to the videos/singles! First up is “thin.”

Gosh, I love this one. It reminds me a lot of “fountain,” which I also really like, in that this one sounds a lot like it belongs in an 80’s fantasy movie. I just LOVE the change of pace in the song just past halfway through. It just swallows you up. It’s like being held down by an anchor in the middle of a waterspout. It’s frightening and beautiful at the same time.

I think Jonna Lee’s relationship with her fans has gotten a little complicated here. If that is who the shadowy black figures represent. I saw someone else suggest that maybe they represented her past? I’m not 100% sure about that. I can relate to the figures a little if they’re fans though. They’re getting messages in bottles from her, but the put their hands on their hips and scratch their heads in confusion at their meanings. Yes, yes, that I can relate to, haha. I suppose they figure they’re not going to get any meaning from the words because the end up burning or tossing away the papers. As I’ve said about iam before, I think their music is meant to be interpreted by everyone differently. It means something special for every individual, and no one is right and no one is wrong. That’s why they burn the papers but keep the bottles. The images of the shadowy figures holding up the empty bottles against the dusky sky gives me the shivers a little.

Next up is “chasing kites.”

We open to shots of a typewriter, dozens of sheets of paper (with what looks like her lyrics printed on them), and glass bottles. So that’s where they’ve been coming from! Jonna inhabits a lighthouse on a small island, all by herself. The shadowy figures are nowhere to be seen (except in a few fleeting flashbacks to other videos). She starts by singing “It’s a thin, thin line and I walk both sides of it.” What a great transition from the previous song! I can’t wait to hear the album as a whole. If anything, this is where she addresses her past. It feels like it’s representing her leaving her home (past) and casting her sails to the wind (future), even though she’s torn between the desire to stay and the decision to leave. This whole album, I think, is representing her journey from being this vague and mysterious project to a full-fledged “band” that’s captured the attention of, well, maybe not the world, but certainly a lot of people. She’s torn between enjoying the shroud of secrecy and wanting to share her work with everyone. (Refer back to the interview where she indicates her trepidation at becoming a “mainstream” artist while later stating that she doesn’t want to keep her artistry all to herself “in the closet.”)

It’s a really fascinating new look into iamamiwhoami’s psyche, especially Jonna’s. I’m certain she must be an introvert, because I’m familiar with that feeling of wanting to be alone, but not lonely. It’s this sort of Jekyll and Hyde tug of war in your head sometimes. Wow, this song really hits me when I think about it.

I’m so excited for this album! And they’ve finally announced the release of a physical album! I’ve already bought the digital version, but I just HAVE to have this CD, even if it doesn’t come with a DVD. Less than a month away now. Soon, soon, soon!

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blue blue

It’s all coming together! The predictions came true: snow queen Jonna has melted and so have her surroundings. In her latest single/video “blue blue” we find her in tropical landscape, surrounded by palm trees, white sand, and crystalline waters.

The first thing I noticed in the shot of her in the sand was that this is just like the opening shots in “good worker” and “idle talk” from kin. I’m not sure what it means, except that, as with kin, we’re going along on a journey with her. She’s been followed by one of the mysterious people in black, who now, rather than chasing her, provides her with comfort and companionship. She may have awoken in a strange new place, but she doesn’t have to be alone. She seems fascinated by the waves, and her new friend encourages her to explore them. While Jonna was running from the shadowy figures in “hunting for pearls” and “vista,” she seems to accept them here. She has nothing more to fear from them. They only meant to provide her with support.

There’s another Jonna in this video, one who’s slightly more dressed up in plastic bodysuit and paper frill. Unlike the first Jonna, who’s free and inquisitive, this one is sad and brooding. She sheds blue tears as she examines herself in a mirror. One of the shadow people stands behind her, watching. Somehow I feel like this is an earlier version of Jonna. Maybe one who felt stuck in one of her older phases and couldn’t figure out how to get out of it till she found her support.

The oceanic journey motif carries on pretty heavily here. Her outfit at 1:32 is evocative on the sails of a ship. We see glimpses of Jonna on an physical ship as well. Near the end, one of the shadowy figures sends little paper boats into the water to drift away freely. This journey isn’t going to end any time soon. Who knows where she’ll end up next?

Jonna wakes up in the sand at the end, and it seems the whole day has passed. It’s dusk now Did she just imagine the whole day? Her shadow companion is nowhere to be seen. Floating in the shallows, we see the sails of her outfit. She plucks them out of the water and the video ends.

This might just be wishful thinking (I’ve mentioned before that I’m DYING to see them in concert) but I really think this project might be iamamiwhoami’s way of saying they’re ready to go out into the world, i.e. on tour. I mean, that’s GOT to be what they’re hinting at, right? Sailing around the world, from their snowy, frozen Sweden to warmer and warmer landscapes? Otherwise they’re just telling an interesting story about a journey, which is fine too. But COME ON! I need to see them in concert! The only times they played in the States was once in NYC (psh, of course) and another time at some random music festival in Middle-of-Nowhere, Northern California.

Anyway, I’m not sure we’ll be getting the rest of the videos before the album comes out. It seems unlikely, seeing as how they’ve been releasing them monthly (give or take), “blue blue” is the fifth track out of ten, and the album comes out in November. So, the math doesn’t add up. But it’s okay, I have pre-ordered my digital copy and I’ll be able to watch the rest of the videos the day BLUE is officially released! I’m still annoyed at where it ended though. What is she going to do next? That final shot was such a tease!

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Witching Hour

This last week, I decided I needed to get some new music, so I bought some Tom Waits (Nighthawks at the Diner) and Ladytron (Gravity the Seducer – finally!). But I’m not going to review either of those albums. Ha ha!

Well, I am going to review Ladytron. Specifically Witching Hour, which might have been their most critically acclaimed album, and I just don’t understand why. It’s my least favorite Ladytron album, and it pains me to say that because I really love the rest of their work.

Ladytron was trying something new on this album – which is great! All artists should be constantly trying new things. They should never get comfortable with one sound. In this case, it seems to be the use of electric guitars. And again, it’s great that they wanted to try that! But honestly, for me, it doesn’t work. It makes their songs dead, aloof, and passionless, and normally Ladytron songs are possessed, seductive, and too-cool-for-school. This album, dare I say it, is just boring. Ladytron is not boring! I don’t know what happened.

For the most part, the songs on this album all sound the same to me. And I hate it when people say that about music, because to me that’s just them saying that they’re not listening hard enough. That’s what a lazy listener says. And yet I’ve listened to this album numerous times and thought one song was another then looked and saw I was wrong. I know my music pretty well, but when it comes to Witching Hour I’m left scratching my head. It becomes background noise to me.

There are a few standout songs on this album though. I like “Sugar.” It utilizes the theme of the album but manages to keep it fresh. It’s also the second-shortest track, after the instrumental “CMYK.” That might be why it works so well. Helen Marnie’s voice actually has some decent range, compared to the rest of the album.

I also really like the sinister-sounding “Soft Power.” I feel again that Marnie shows more range – and a hell of a lot more emotion – in this track than in most of the rest of the album. The bass and electric guitar do a wonderful job of accompanying her voice rather than competing with it, as they tend to do elsewhere. When you have vocals in electronic music, it’s a delicate balancing act to make sure one never overpowers the other, and I think it works well in “Soft Power.” In contrast to “Sugar,” this is the longest song on the album. And yet it works!

“Whitelightgenerator” is pretty good. I like that it takes the sound of the album to a higher level. Literally, the pitch is higher in both the vocals and the instruments. Hearing it feels like ascending to heaven. Or maybe the high of a drug. Again, the vocals and instruments work very well together here.

“All the Way…” is easily my favorite track off this album, as well as one of my all-time favorite Ladytron songs. Maybe because it contains the least amount of electric guitar! It has an ethereal and kind of sad sound, tinged with a hint of nostalgia. I swoon when I hear the opening lyric “They heard the sound of the snow falling.” It’s simple yet poetic. The track manages to sound like a snowy winter – something I haven’t experienced in a long time. I feel at peace when I hear it. It’s a fantastic closer.

When it comes to Witching Hour, I personally would not recommend it, at least not for a first-time Ladytron listener. It’s got some interesting sounds, but they are few and far between. It’s a lackluster warm-up to the far superior Velocifero which I’d easily recommend. That is where Ladytron mastered their sound. But that is a review for another day!

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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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hunting for pearls

Well, it finally dropped. It was a day late, but even nearly a week later I couldn’t let it go unaddressed on this blog. So here is is!

My first thought upon finishing it was “I don’t love it more than ‘fountain.'” And yet I bought the single and have been listening to it pretty frequently. There were even points where “fountain” would come up and I’d go “Nah, I wanna hear “hunting for pearls.”

It’s definitely a more danceable, engaging song. It’s more upbeat, but it doesn’t lose that dreamy, ethereal quality. Again, I’m reminded of 80’s fantasy movies. I hear more of a Depeche Mode-like sound in this one. So far, the songs have had a pretty consistent musical theme, the most consistent I’ve heard from them so far. Yet they still manage to make each song distinct from the next (again, so far). I feel like previous albums/projects have had a bigger hodge-podge of sounds — not that that’s a bad thing! I just see how it could be jarring for someone who was just hearing/watching them for the first time. (Especially with bounty, haha.) What I’m saying is if you’re tuning in to iamamiwhoami for the first time, you’ve picked the right moment!

The video features more fantastic scenery, but this time it’s with an element of danger, as Jonna flees from her faceless, featureless pursuers. In case you’re wondering what that box she’s holding so tightly is, it’s the embodiment of her last album kin. (You’d have to see how the final track/video of the album/project ends, but essentially…it’s a black cube.)

Oh, by the way, I neglected to mention that box was featured burning in a fire in her previous video, “fountain,” which you may or may not have noticed (or remembered, haha). So how does she have it wholly intact at the beginning of this video? I’ve seen a theory floating around that the videos so far are chapters of a new story being told backwards, from the end to the beginning. I wouldn’t put it past them, and it’s kind of making sense so far.

I think I can tentatively say that this is looking like a new album/project. They’re already lining up the singles on their website, and it looks like we’ll have another one to look forward to soon, maybe in a month. I wasn’t sure what the “GENERATE” thing was about at first, but I’m beginning to think it’s their own version of a Kickstarter campaign. From what I know about them, for as long as I’ve been following them, it looks like they’re putting the power in their fans’ hands. I’ve read that they create these videos and songs in real time, meaning they only start making the next one once they’re finished the one before it. So perhaps the timeliness, quality, and story of the next chapter depends on how much and how soon the fans contribute. Who can say for sure? iamamiwhoami still manages to maintain a shroud of mystery around them. I remember being worried that they wouldn’t be able to do that after kin had finished, when Jonna finally came out and started giving real interviews about the band/collective/project. I’m so pleased to be proven wrong.

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fountain

Well, I was gonna post something else I wrote up earlier today, and then this happened:

What is “this?” This is iamamiwhoami, a Swedish electronic/new wave audio-visual project/band/experience. I realize how pretentious that all sounds, but this single may actually be their most accessible song to date.

iamamiwhoami (the band name and songs are almost always in lower case so I follow suit — it’s pronounced I-am-am-I-who-am-I, by the way. You’re welcome) sprung into existence seemingly from thin air when they began releasing music video snippets on YouTube and emailing them anonymously to music journalists and bloggers in late 2009/early 2010. It took some time before people figured out that the woman in the videos was Swedish singer Jonna Lee, though her North American record company denied any knowledge of her newest project.

After the snippet-teasing phase, iamamiwhoami began releasing videos about monthly as part of their bounty project, available as digital singles throughout 2010. (An actual album release wouldn’t come until three years later.) In 2012, they released a video every other week as part of their kin project, also available as digital singles. An actual album followed pretty much immediately after the project completed though.

iamamiwhoami fans have had about one album/project/something to hold us over per year, so I figured we had to be due for something soon (though I was a little doubtful in wondering if they could keep it up). The question was when, as iamamiwhoami has always shrouded themselves in mystery, releasing new singles or starting new projects without notice. At this point, we can’t even really be sure whether fountain will be a standalone single or the start of a new project. Even in between bounty and kin, for example they released two standalone singles that never went anywhere until they appeared on the bounty album. Nevertheless, the fans (myself included) have pretty much broken out into hysterics like teenagers at a Beatles concert.

The thing about iamamiwhoami is that everything they do is so incredibly deliberate and planned. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all Type A personality perfectionists. The result is worth it. Their sounds are aural landscapes, so it makes sense that they release a music video with every single.

fountain is no different. In fact, if you haven’t already, I highly recommend watching the video on the highest quality available and in full screen. It’s like being transported to some far away fairy tale land. You half expect to see mermaids leaping out of the water, trolls stomping across the hills, and unicorns running through the woods. Jonna herself looks like the Queen of the North Pole as she navigates her boat through the misty waters. There’s something magical about the way she moves and takes in her surroundings. She tells a story while simultaneously making you wonder what that story is and allowing you to make your own.

The music complements the visuals perfectly. I can see it being used in a 1980’s fantasy movie like Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal. Both the synths and Joanna’s voice are ethereal and otherworldly, like you’re hearing them in a dream. I’ll totally admit that I can’t understand what she’s singing half the time though. Blame that on the reverb effects, I suppose. But it kind of adds to that sense of wonder and dreaminess.

So can you handle the high art musical pretentiousness? If you like artists like Björk, Kate Bush, Florence and the Machine, and maybe even Depeche Mode, then drop all your presumptions and just give it a listen. And a watch. Just…experience it.

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