Tag Archives: single

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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Sapokanikan

Stop the presses! Joanna Newsom has started making noise again! Gosh, how did I almost miss this one? Well, when an artist goes five years between albums (and doesn’t have any social media accounts or even their own website – just a page on their record label’s site), I guess it takes some time before the news reaches a fan. All I knew over those past five years was that she got married to Andy Samberg and bought a house in LA that Charlie Chaplin used to live in.

And so we have “Sapokanikan,” the first single from her upcoming album Divers!

It reminds me a lot of her very early work, at least vocally. There’s a lot of acrobatics and lilting and wild abandon going on here. Yet lyrically it makes me think of Ys. Though this track isn’t nearly as long as the shortest one on that album, it still has that epic poetic lyrical structure – there’s hardly a pause between verses. It’s really hard to pin down this one. It sounds like this album is going to be more experimental.

It’s hard for me to say what any Joanna Newsom song is about. This is usually because of that epic lyrical structure I mentioned earlier. It usually takes a lot of listens before I get a feel for it. And even then, a Joanna Newsom song requires more research, as she makes a lot of references to history, literature, and myths. Yeah, it’s a little hipstery, but if you can get over it, it makes for great music that transcends the casualness of most rock and pop. I’m sorry, that sounded pretty hipstery too. I can say that Sapokanikan refers to the Native American name given to the land that eventually became Greenwich Village in NYC. So it seems that this song is a musing on the history of the area. If you want a good breakdown, I’d head over to Genius. They’re usually pretty good about this kind of stuff.

As for the video itself, it makes me think of Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” but in NYC, of course. It’s somehow fitting for Joanna Newsom to be prancing and skipping through the big city as she sings. The song certainly doesn’t make me think of NYC, but that just makes it all the more interesting. She should seem out of place and overwhelmed (coming from the little bitty town of Nevada City, California) but she’s not phased at all and seems comfortable as she winds her way through shops and parks. I like it.

This is probably not a good starter Joanna Newsom song for a newcomer – but if you’re a fan and you, like me, have somehow missed out on it, get to listening! And prepare yourself for something very new and different. I’m excited to see what October 23rd brings.

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Swords

((Sorry for my two week absence! I had a really bad pain in my neck (literally) and then I came down with an awful cold. I’m taking it easy for now, so this will be a quick post.))

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Well, it looks like M.I.A. is back in the swing of things! I’ve been seeing these random teaser videos on her Facebook page, and a few weeks ago an actual song finally dropped. It looks like audio visual albums are the big thing now, as that’s what this next project, Matahdatah, is shaping up to be.

Right now, it looks like you can only watch the video on Apple Connect, but you don’t necessarily have to sign up. You can also just buy the thing on iTunes if you want. I just bought the single but the video is very cool and you should definitely go watch it. It also features a video she recorded for her song “Warriors” from her previous album Matangi.

The video for “Swords” is amazing. Not quite as jaw-dropping as “Bad Girls” but I’m still pretty flabbergasted at how deftly these young Indian girls handle swords (and staffs) that are nearly as big as they are – like they’re simply a third limb. Where did Maya find these girls???

There’s not a lot of information out there (the album only has an unlinked mention on the discography section of M.I.A.’s Wikipedia page – not even on the discography section itself), but this Stereogum article gives us enough for now. I’ve been through this audiovisual concept album thing before with other artists (iamamiwhoami in particular) so I’m looking forward to see what she does with it. Maya’s always enjoyed turning her camera on other people from around the world, specifically people we don’t see a lot in the mainstream (i.e. “world’s sexiest” A-list celebrities from developed Western countries). I’m pretty excited to see what other countries and people will feature in these future “scrolls,” as I’m guessing they will be called.

The song itself is pretty great too. I like that she recorded the sword strikes to use as a beat. If this is an indicator of the theme, then this album may turn out to be pretty upbeat, which is the mood she wanted Matangi but her record label didn’t like that. I’d like to hear an upbeat, empowering album from M.I.A. For now, we just have to wait and see what comes next!

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Double Feature – Better in the Morning and Headphones

WELL, IT HAPPENED. Little Boots heard my plea and dropped the first single from her upcoming album Working Girl. It’s called “Better in the Morning” and here it is!

Those snippets from Instagram were indeed from her first single! And I love it just as much as I knew I would when I first heard them! This light, bouncy melody is infectious – it makes me feel over-the-moon happy. This is the song for people who need a little help getting out of bed in the morning. It certainly got me out of bed when I saw that it had dropped. As I described it elsewhere, I was so excited, I started hamboning. This is my favorite Little Boots single since “Headphones” (which I’ll get to shortly).

I’m just so excited for this album! With each album, EP, or single she releases, I love her sound more and more. This is a grand evolution of style, and I’m so happy because I think that it shows her true self (even if in all the album propaganda she plays the role of a very formal CEO character – it’s been fun though!). I’m hopeful for a fun video as well. “Taste It” was fantastic.

Now, you may have noticed the “Double Feature” up there in the title – I wanted to talk about another single that has nothing to do with this new one or the upcoming album. That would be 2012’s “Headphones.”

I thought it was appropriate to include not only because I mentioned it earlier, but also because this single gave me similar feelings of over-the-moon happiness, especially when I saw the video! It was a standalone single, so it didn’t get released with Nocturnes, even though it came out before that album but after “Shake,” which WAS included on the aforementioned album. It makes sense to me though. It doesn’t quite fit with the themes of Nocturnes.

“Headphones” is much more of a dance track than “Better in the Morning” but it’s still a bouncy and positive tune – and catchy too! Likewise, it features some…Non-lexical vocables? I looked up scatting on Wikipedia, even though that’s not what it is, but my search lead me to this. Basically, it’s when Little Boots sings “La la la la la,” while in “Better in the Morning” it’s “Do do do do do do do.” Sure, it’s a simple thing to do, but it helps carry on the mood of the song and makes it easy to sing along.

What I love about the video is how it fits in with the themes of the song – these people walk into a private booth in a shady, not sure of what they’ll see. Surprise! It’s themselves! But where the watcher is seated and dressed austerely, their counterparts are dressed in vibrant colors and outfits, dancing under flashing lights like they don’t have a care in the world. The sitter seems shocked, confused, and unsure at first, but then when they see how happy their more free-spirited selves are, they finally give in. The older woman crying just gets to me. Everything about this video makes me smile.

If you need a little cheering up, put one – or both – of these songs on and just let them do their thing! Better yet, watch the video for “Headphones” and you’ll smile for sure. Hopefully the video for “Better in the Morning” is forthcoming and just as good! I’ll do another update on the single whenever it comes!

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Cookie Thumper

So I missed last week’s Music Tuesdays post because I made poor life choices. Stay in school kids! (Actually, it was just bad planning, but what I said before sounds funnier, at least to me.)

Anyway! I saw Chappie last weekend. And I won’t really say much about the movie itself because…well…I mean…the robot was cute, I guess. Sigh. But besides that, this is a music blog! And this movie actually had some musicians cast in leading roles. And of even more relevance, it featured their music!

I am talking about Die Antwoord, who played themselves in this movie, more or less. I really only know this one song, “Cookie Thumper,” which was introduced to me by a friend (and was also in the movie, so I recognized it instantly). There was a little overlap: I was excited about Chappie at the time, and she pointed out that it featured this duo and sent me one of the songs. I’m including the music video below, but I have to mention that it’s very NSFW and features lots of heavy sexual suggestiveness, drugs, a little urination, and general creepiness. Don’t show this one to your mom and make sure the kids are tucked in bed and asleep, that’s all I’m saying.

Personally, I kinda like it! The visuals can be really overwhelming – at times it’s just a bit much – but that’s their style, I get it. It’s supposed to have a high shock value. I actually do like the singer Yolandi’s voice though. What can I say? I like female vocals and even more so when they get weird. It’s very child-like, so it goes well with her image, which is also kind of child-like but also really weirdly sexualized, but not in a conventional way. It’s all very jarring.

Once upon a time in college (I swear this story will be related), I had a teacher show us Un Chien Andalou and I got to see the infamous eye-cutting scene – I say infamous, but I didn’t know about it at the time, so it was certainly a shock to me and not a pleasant experience at that. (Any sort of eyeball injury or torture is one of those things that makes me want to projectile vomit. I’m not even THAT squeamish. But eyes just…UGH.) Anyway, my teacher explained that this scene was based on quote (which I now can’t find and which doesn’t seem to be supported by the Wikipedia page) that goes something like “Art should be an assault on the eyes.”

I bring this story up because that’s what I think when I watch this video. It’s an assault on the eyes. The sound is an assault on the ears. Overall, it’s just an assault on (and some might say an offense to) the senses. But I like that that’s what it is. I certainly can’t think of anything else like it. Some people might dismiss it as garbage music, but I think Die Antwoord would own that label. That kind of seems to be what their style is all about. It’s called “zef” and the origins are kind of interesting. The Wikipedia page makes for a quick read.

I’m going to have to look more into Die Antwoord. I’ve been meaning to since my friend introduced me to “Cookie Thumper” but just haven’t got around to it. I sense a bump in popularity for them following Chappie so I’ll be riding that wave too. Well, once i get around to it.

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Ghost

I had a music-related first last week. I discovered a band via Tumblr, and that band is Mystery Skulls. Just search for Mystery Skulls on Tumblr, if you have one. Otherwise do an image search for Mystery Skulls Lewis and you’ll find what I started seeing on my dash – Dozens of cartoon images of a pink-haired, sharp-dressed skeleton-man.

At first I though that maybe this was from some new indie cartoon. So I was a little confused and frustrated when a band kept popping up. Then I finally made the connection and I realized that the skeleton was a cartoon in a fan-made music video for “Ghost,” a single from the album Forever by the band Mystery Skulls. And so I finally watched it!

I love this music video so much. I love how bright and colorful it is, I love the animation style, and I love the way everyone’s heads bob in time to the music. (And I want to bob my head in time with the music when I listen to this song.)

The first thing that should be obvious is that the music video is an homage to Scooby-Doo. First, we’ve got a couple of teenage or college age kids and a dog driving through the spooky woods and winding up at a haunted house. Then there’s the animated style of their running, which is very posed and distinct – anyone who watched Scooby-Doo growing up would recognize it. And finally, there’s the classic hallway doors scene, wherein the character chase each other in and out of various doors, the connections between which don’t really make sense.

But setting aside the Scooby-Doo parallels, the music video tells a really sad story – one that doesn’t get a happy ending! Gosh, I didn’t think a little cartoon music video could break my heart. I just didn’t want it to end where it did! I was hoping Lewis (the skeleton) and Vivi (the girl) could somehow wind up together happily ever after. (By the way, don’t ask me where these names came from – Tumblr has somehow decreed that these are the names of the characters, so I’m just going along with it.) Ah, well. There’s oodles of fan art to be enjoyed.

What about the music? Well, I love that too! It’s energetic and fun and makes me want to dance – that last one is always a good thing for me! It reminds me of some of Daft Punk’s earlier works, with more of a pop sensibility. I actually bought the entire album after hearing “Ghost” – and if you love this single, you’ll love the rest of it too! It’s totally the kind of album you would throw on if you wanted to have a dance party with your friends.

I just can’t believe this song isn’t on the radio! Or maybe it is. I’ve kind of been in and out (mostly out these days) with my radio listening. So give “Ghost” a try and buy the album if you like it. Support this band!

Here’s a bonus: The original music video! I don’t like it as much – which isn’t to say I don’t like it. It’s a fun and silly nod to The Exorcist (watch out for a little jump-scare in the last 10 seconds when the music starts to fade). I feel like there’s a bit of Michael Jackson posturing going on here too. Still, I’m just too attached to the bright colors of the animated music video and the star-crossed story of Lewis and Vivi.

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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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