Sunday, 20 January 2013

My Musical Diary XLVI

Better late than never, here's my latest Diary. No pop here this week, it's all critically acclaimed coolness and weirdness.

Arcade Fire - Month of May

Ooh, I listened to a lot of "sophisticated" stuff this past week, while working on the topics for my final exam. Including Arcade Fire. Originally I wanted to feature We Used to Wait instead but since it already appears in my Songs of 2010 post, I decided to instead devote this place to this absolutely rocking first single from the era of The Suburbs LP. When this song started to play in the middle of my work last week, it totally woke me up from my study slumber. In a similar way Month of May was a great surprise when I first heard it almost 3 years ago, a wake up moment (no Arcade Fire pun intended). The band are known to let it all out in their big, epic messy songs but still, this was a new kind of energy for the band. Timeless sort of rock'n'roll in a way. But with their trademark violins and eerie female vocals in the background.

Leonard Cohen - Who By Fire

Leonard is, in the words of my mother, still the best singer ever. She doesn't mean it in a technical way, obviously. She mostly has no idea what he's singing about but she LIKES anyway. They call Leonard the vagina whisperer or some such (the vaginal poet, actually--I googled it; my phrase is way better though). Now, I really don't want to think about the place I came from over 25 years ago, but this guy's voice just has a real power, and not only over female ears. Yes, I have to admit, I do find Leonard's singing/whispering voice incredibly sexy but he would be nearly not as interesting as he is without his other power - the song writing. Many of his songs are compelling enough even without lyrics. I feel like this side of his song writing tends to get overlooked - even though we're talking about the man who wrote the ubiquitous, overplayed, and often misinterpreted Hallelujah.

Therefore this time I'm choosing Who By Fire. Leonard's lyrics were inspired by the Unetanneh Tokef, a medieval Jewish liturgical prayer/poem and the pleading and very Jewish sounding melody really makes you pay attention to them. Again, this was the song that took me out of my study trance a few nights ago. It might be one of Leonard's shortest songs but it's definitely one that makes you stop and listen.

Who by his lady's command, who by his own hand,
Who in mortal chains, who in power,
And who shall I say is calling?

Well, is it God, fate or..?

Kate Bush - The Wedding List

And now something a wee bit crazy. Like, really flippin' mad, mate. It's my darling Kate Bush. While most other songwriters seem to have a "thing" they write about over and over, it seems Kate's array of topics is pretty much boundless. When she was young she tended to write songs inspired by TV and films (Wuthering Heights was famously based on the 1970 film adaptation, not the novel itself). The Wedding List was also inspired by a film, namely François Truffaut's 1968 film The Bride Wore Black. The song appears on her third album Never for Ever, which came out in 1980, and on which Kate started to musically experiment a bit more. The Wedding List is not terribly experiment-y yet, but at the same time, the character Kate takes on for most of the song is not exactly safe for work. A jealous murderer who commits suicide after killing her ex at his wedding? Kate's primal screaming at the end of the song, lyrics featuring "the heat of my booty", as well as "I'm coming coming coming honey!" and the brilliant "ashes to ashes to ah-ah-ah-AH-ASHES" are a thing of beauty. And so is her rack in the above video taken from a 1979 Christmas special (I'm endlessly amused this was considered a suitable Xmas entertainment in 1979...oh, to live back then!). Enjoy.

David Bowie - It's No Game Part 1

Yay! more screaming! Scary Monsters is one of my favourite Bowie albums, and its opener has been one of my favourite things to listen to any time I need to blow off a little steam. What Bowie does with his voice in this song is something I'd be dying to do at certain situations in my life but I just don't have the balls. Or the strong vocal cords.


What makes this screamer of a song even more perfect are the Japanese verses, spoken in a samurai-like style by female singer Michi Hirota. Random or just genius? Maybe both. Message aside, sonically this beats any punk song ever recorded.

Chinawoman - Party Girl

I got my ticket for Patrick Wolf's third Prague concert last week and it reminded me of Patrick's support act from the last time he played here. It was a Canadian singer songwriter of Russian descent, who calls herself Chinawoman. Now, people tend to talk their way through supporting acts, or half-sleep through them in my case, but as soon as Chinawoman started to play this hypnotic song, I came closer and sparks flew.

Funnily enough the singer is inspired, among other things, by her Russian heritage as well as by a fellow Jewish-Canadian vagina whisperer Leonard Cohen. If you want to hear more of the Russian flavour, check out the song Russian Ballerina, which is a pretty catchy thing. I might feature it here some other time.

Video Bonus:

Jack White's Serious Jibber-Jabber with Conan O'Brien

Stuff gets a wee bit repetitive over the course of the 90 minute interview the US comedian/TV host conducted with his musician friend Jack White but nevertheless it's an interesting and at times hilarious interview which could be attractive even for non-fans of White. It touches upon subjects like work process, creativity, working with women, meeting idols, fame and ubiquity and even if you don't agree with Jack and Conan on every point, this is one of the interviews that don't merely entertain but make you think as well.
Additionally, if you're a Jack White Hair Fetishist like me, you won't be disappointed.

Thanks so much for reading. Are there any interesting interviews with musician you'd want to share with me? What are you favourite angry songs that allow you to let off some steam after a stressful day? And do you have any comments about this blog or a question for me? Take advantage of the space below & feel free to share this entry using the handy buttons.

Till next week.........

Love, Peace and Ringo! x

Friday, 11 January 2013

My Musical Diary XLV

This edition of the Diary was always going to be a David Bowie one. But more of a retrospective one. Well, Bowie obviously changed the tone a bit, when he released a new single on his 66th birthday, a decade after his last release of the Reality album (which came out in September 2003). That's Bowie for ya.

David Bowie - Where Are We Now?

In the words of my dear Marc Almond: "In a state of ecstatic wonder. That's where!". Couldn't have put it better myself. Pete Paphides called the brand new Bowie single "a postcard from someone we love". Indeed, Where Are We Now? is much more than a song.

I was happy with Bowie being retired. I had no objections whatsoever. As time passed by I just assumed he really had retired. There still was a possibility he would re-emerge when his kid was grown up-ish and if he had something to say, just like my other musical deity Kate Bush did last decade, when she released a new album after 12 years. But I didn't need him to do so. My favourite band are The Beatles. Apart from working wonders on one of their dead member's two demos they haven't really released anything new since 1970. Bowie's discography is just as varied as theirs, and much bigger.

No, he really didn't have to release anything new but when I read the news on Tuesday morning I couldn't help but to be absolutely excited about the sudden and surprising resurrection. "It's alive! His German pronunciation is even worse than it used to be but the song is beautiful! A real grower of the best kind! Well wasn't he smart about the release tactic?" Those and a thousand more thoughts kept running through my mind all day. I could barely concentrate on anything else.

Just WOW.

What can I say about the song? I've read way too many reactions from people who I respect for their taste and writing skills, that I don't feel I can add much else. For the best example check out the reaction of Graeme Thomson (who is the author of the excellent Kate Bush biography Under the Ivy).

My personal observations: the song's chorus reminds me of Thursday's Child's chorus a bit, actually the whole mood of these two songs is quite similar (even if in TC he lets the past go and in WAWN? he's walking the dead). The climax of the song starting with as long as there's... is breathtaking, but almost too short. I could listen to the last part of the song for years.

Now I can't wait for the new album The Next Day, which, according to Tony Visconti (who obviously produced it) should be quite "rocky" (yay! as much as I like the first single I could not take a whole album of just this mood).

As for the video...It's creepy, but apparently it's still pretty tame compared to what the artist (Tony Ousler), who shot the video, usually does. I do like the Berlin footage part of it though.

Lana Del Rey - American

be young, be dumb*, be proud 
like an American

* Best misheard lyric ever. (And judging from Google I'm not alone in hearing "dumb" instead of "dope". Heh.)

Wow. This song makes me feel things. Growers are the best. The song you kind of just let pass you by for the first few listens...and then BAM.

you make me crazy
you make me wild

Indeed. There's this kind of sad euphoria seeping throughout this song. It's a mood that features in most of Lana's songs, but here it's just turned up to 100. And Lana's voice sounds just absolutely incredible here, especially in the chorus. The tone of her voice on "wild" and (especially) "child" just does things to me. A few days ago I had a chance to listen to the song while lost in the outskirts of Prague, just me and Lana - her voice so clear - and I got all kinds of goosebumps and chills during this song. It's like the song kind of sounds more powerful than it should, considering it's a hodgepodge celebration of Americana, complete with Bruce Springsteen and Elvis mentions, as well as a quote from one of Tom Petty's biggest hits (honey put on that party dress). The song just struck a chord with me and made it to my Lana top 5.

Jessie Ware - Wildest Moments

Another song giving me headphone eargasms this past week. The Brit Awards nominee for a British Breakthrough Act of 2012 is in general not my thing...she's a bit too smooth in her music and vocal style, but Wildest Moments is sensual and dynamic enough - even though the song could be best described as a ballad (lyrics aside, it's pretty much Bleeding Love with soul and warm sexiness). Jessie does have an amazing voice, and it shines here, more than on any other of her songs that I have heard. Wildest Moments is a proper heavenly pop moment. Savour it.

Bryan Ferry - Make You Feel My Love

I've been listening to Bryan a LOT recently, haven't I. But he SO is worth listening to. He has a song for every mood...and since the mood of this whole Diary is quite melancholy (perhaps because Bowie at the beginning kind of set the tone), I chose one of Bryan's melancholy covers. Well, the song is melancholy whoever sings it (...perhaps most famously Adele on her debut album 19). Make You Feel My Love was written in the mid-90's by Bob Dylan, and I actually never heard his version (it's impossible to find online). Billy Joel then swiftly covered it...and so it all began, a never-ending stream of covers.

Bryan Ferry featured his version on his album of Dylan cover versions which came out in 2006. His version is the most delicate, vulnerable and gorgeous one that I've heard yet, and the live version that I featured here is even better than the one the album. Warmer, more tender...a real delight. One could almost get emotional.

Clan of Xymox - Heroes

This is what Heroes would sound like if it was written by New Order. I discovered this cover a few days ago thanks to a pen pal of mine and I have to say I really like it. And I can't think of another cover version of Heroes that I ever liked, so there you go.

Video Bonus:

All Bowie, just as planned. I tried to choose a few cuts of the less obvious stuff...of all kinds. Enjoy!

In 1993, introducing his own videos on MTV:

In 1996, in Basquiat, playing Andy Warhol:

In 1978, narrating Peter and the Wolf (available on CD & Vinyl):

In 1995, Strangers When We Meet video (a personal favourite of mine, the song as well as the video):

And finally & hilariously, in 2004, on an Australian chat show Rove:

Thanks so much for reading and I hope you have found some interesting and even very amusing stuff here. Have a great week and until then....

Love, Peace and Ringo!

Friday, 4 January 2013

My Musical Diary XLIV

The first Diary of 2013 is here!

Iggy Pop - Livin' On The Edge Of The Night

I listened to this one a lot during Christmas. It's a pretty basic early 90's kind of rock song but while I must have had listened to it before, all of a sudden it just jumped out at me right before Christmas and I fell in love with it. Iggy is in a very, very fine voice here and even though he didn't write the song, he definitely sells its sentiment very well. You can find Livin' as the closing track on Iggy's 1990 album Brick by Brick and, interestingly, before the album even came out it appeared on the soundtrack to Black Rain, a Ridley Scott-directed film starring Michael Douglas.

No Doubt - Looking Hot

Being a fan of No Doubt during the Rock Steady period I initially didn't think much of this song. It was too current pop for a No Doubt single but not current pop enough for a solo Gwen Stefani single, so I just let the song pass me by. But a few days ago I finally got around to checking out songs on Popjustice's list of top 45 singles of 2012, and I gave Looking Hot another shot. And this time I got hooked. I can tell you this song is brilliant for shopping.

Lana Del Rey - National Anthem (Demo)

National Anthem is not one of my very favourite Lana songs but thanks to the aforementioned Popjustice list I discovered this demo. I like this demo a lot. But then I tend to like demos, since they are rougher. And I do like my amazing melodies roughed up a bit...

Franz Ferdinand - Katherine Kiss Me

Late last night I realised I hadn't listened to Franz Ferdinand for way toooo long. Which is sad since I even used to be in their official fan club (and I loved my time there...I even won rare vinyl stuff...woooo!). I love Franz's third album and this closing track is the perfect thing to listen to at 11 PM (take it from me, I did it just last night). Hoping for a new album by this band this year...hoping I'm not hoping in vain.

Marina and the Diamonds - Power & Control

Marina released her second album Electra Heart in spring last year, but it took me until yesterday to actually get it's obviously not bad at all. I'm currently obsessed with this song, especially by the tinkling in the background. The tinkling beat. Can't get enough of it. Makes the song sound sinister, in the best way possible. I wish the single had been a bigger hit than it was (but who cares, the album got to no. 1 & Primadonna did pretty well).

Thanks for reading. Share and comment if you wish and till next week...

Peace, Love and Ringo! x