Biscuits, Triscuits…


Paz Lenchantin “Songs for Luci”
June 30, 2009, 7:50 pm
Filed under: music and musings

I emailed Black Tent Press for some music. This album is amazing and I highly recommend it. Paz Lenchantin has guest appeared on many albums by some pretty big bands and now has her own band that she plays with. This however is solo.

Paz Lenchantin

Songs For Luci

Black Tent Press

Paz Lenchantin recorded this album through the sounds of 17-year cicadas in a rented room in Louisville, Kentucky after driving her newly deceased brother’s truck from California. The songs carry a weight to them that is completely beautiful whether or not you know the background to the writing of this album, but it’s more intimate, I feel, when you do.

With a borrowed mic and drum kit, Lenchantin laid down the violin, banjo and drum tracks to this gorgeously orchestrated album on her own. This is my first introduction to Paz Lenchantin and these seven songs evoke so much emotion with mostly just strings and plucky banjo notes. Her vocals are echoed and distant with sparse but telling lyrics. She opens the album with “Montana Train,” which enters with a staccato violin melody battling a more legato layer of strings. Lenchantin’s vocals come in as a light and airy “ooh” and as the strings come together in a bright harmony, they sound like a chugging train. Most of Lenchantin’s tunes create a descriptive image of what the song is about or trying to sound like.

I listened to this album for the first time riding on a crowded bus from New York to Delaware and as the sun was going down, there was still one blue gaping hole in the sky with glowing white clowds outlining it before the rest of the sky faded to gray.  Songs For Luci is perfect for scenic travel, for changing places and moving through time as Lenchantin was clearly experiencing a huge change when this album was written. Lenchantin’s vocals can be muffled and gentle or they can bend elegantly like tall blades of grass. Her voice blends and waves with the sweet sweaty humid feeling of “Kentucky Hymn,” leaving the listener slightly haunted at the end of the tune.

The only devastating thing about this album is how it goes by too quickly with the prayer-like warmth of songs like “Bloom Like Roses” and revealing textured strings that sprawl beautifully across the other instruments.  The simplistic joyfulness of Paz Lenchantin’s songs created by flickers of light and pinging banjo tracks is truly irresistible.

http://www.myspace.com/pazweb



Speaking of amazing music of the ages
June 26, 2009, 12:53 am
Filed under: music and musings

I didn’t realize how timely my previous post was when i wrote it but given the death of Michael Jackson it made me think. It’s true; there are certain people that can never be replaced. There will never be a new Michael Jackson no matter how much Justin Timberlake or Usher can be compared to him.  It’s extremely sad that he is gone under such unknown circumstances, though I haven’t really heard anything really great from him since the early nineties, it’s still tragic that someone with his originality and talent had to die at the age of fifty.

What I loved about Michael Jackson was that every song from his early career and the Jackson Five era had this energy to it that can’t be beat.  My roommate had a Michael Jackson vs. Prince DJ party and every single song played was completely suffocating in its excitement and danceability.

When I was eleven I would dance to the double disc anthology HIStory in my house when my parents weren’t home.  We would stay up late every time one of his new music videos aired on TV. I think I gave up after “You Are Not Alone” came on with Lisa Marie Presley in a sheet. Though perhaps that was the last one.

Though I wasn’t a fan of how he was rumored to live his life, however he treated children and whatever rumors about his Vitiligo, I think you can’t strip him of the fact that he was an amazing performer and musician.  Bad is seriously one of the best albums ever. It’s a great dance album but there are also messages in his music, I think it’s important to remember that he did spread a great message despite the questions of his personal morals. Also his own moves were legendary and basically set the stage for many of the pop performers of today to try to replicate his dancing.

Michael Jackson will be missed, I don’t know if I will cry. I don’t have my RIP MJ t-shirt with a picture of Bubbles on the back on yet but I think it’s important to think about it and to appreciate everything he contributed to music as a boy in the Jackson Five struggling to find his form  to a young man contributing his thoughts on society through popular dance music that reached further than many musicians ever could. So however he chose to live his life or however immoral he may have been, I think that it sucks, but he still did something great for American pop music. So whether people remember him  for his moon walking, his pelvic thrusts, his “ow”s, or  invigorating dance music that he created, or his Motown days  Michael Jackson will never be forgotten. So thank you for that.



Make new friends but keep the old
June 25, 2009, 8:00 pm
Filed under: music and musings

I’ve been listening to a lot of Dylan recently. I guess trying to really get it, though I’ve always been one to love poetry and in my own songwriting simplicity is key, but I’ve always dealt with people who dislike Dylan for one reason or another. And I don’t get it. So I watched Scorsese’s No Direction Home, in a span of three days because that movie is quite lofty, and realized there’s no way to minimize or get cliff notes on Bob Dylan; it’s either all or nothing.  So I’ve been listening to him a lot and reading some writing on him and somewhere I started thinking about how I’ve heard about people being compared to him, being called “The next Bob Dylan.” So I googled it because it bothers me, I don’t think there is a way to be the next Bob Dylan in any way shape or form. That type of craftsmanship and originality is no longer really available, everything now is a copy of a copy (Heidegger style) and even Dylan admits to that. But how one could be called “The next Dylan” really got on my nerves so I found some articles.

One article I found mentioned several musicians who could be called or in line for being the next Dylan:

http://folkmusic.about.com/od/toptens/tp/NextBobDylan.htm

It mentions Ben Kweller, Conor Oberst, Dan Bern, Jeff Tweedy, John Prine, Langhorne Slim, Loudon Wainwright III, and Willy Mason.

Now this isn’t to say that none of these musicians aren’t excellent at their craft but it seems trite and unnecessary to place them on this particular pedestal. I don’t think we should be looking for the next Bob Dylan; we should be looking for the next NEW sound, the next inventor of a style or a philosophy of music, the next mover and shaker. Because from where I stand, there is tons of good music out there, there’s an alright amount of amazing new music out there, but there isn’t much and there aren’t many pivotal people leading the revolution towards something new the way Dylan did, and did it without even realizing it somehow.

The next article I found was a direct comparison between Conor Oberst and Bob Dylan saying that it’s a close call, and Oberst is almost there?

http://crawdaddy.wolfgangsvault.com/Article/Freewheelin-Bob-Dylan-vs-Conor-Oberst.html

Granted the article does take the stance that making this comparison in the first place is somewhat absurd but she still takes it on and thinks there is actually a basis for it.  And my thoughts came flooding out, that I absolutely disagree, I think Conor Oberst has some merit but is nowhere along any lines as Dylan other than the fact that he started his career very young and did well. I then read this article by Zac Pennington

http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/Content?oid=33063&category=22153

and it said everything that I was thinking and wished to say. At first I thought he was going to go the way of the previous pieces but it was right on par with how I felt about the issue. Who needs another Bob Dylan? We have him, we love him and always will but if we are going to search for something it shouldn’t be to make comparisons it should be something we can’t compare to anything else. And that’s damn hard. I have trouble finding music that is original, and I lose a little bit of faith every once in a while wondering when some originality will trickle back into our music culture but I do find glimpses of it, even in twisted resurrections of music that has already been done, but it’s still there, lurking behind the speakers.

Recently for me it’s Headlights from Champaign, IL whom I have written about countless times for different publications, and wake up to every morning. I find their music (mainly their last album Some Racing, Some Stopping) stunning and beautiful melding of old-time phil spector-esque recordings with a fresh, upbeat indie rock style attached. Hopefully they have a new album coming out soon because I am super excited to hear what’s next. http://www.myspace.com/headlights

I’m still searching for more though, and when I think about it, remember it or find it, you can read about it here.



Rainy Day Tunes
June 24, 2009, 2:13 am
Filed under: music and musings

The weather has been absolutely shoddy the past couple of weeks (it’s been alright today though) and makes me think of rainy day music. I think a lot about post-rock like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky with their blasting pinnacles of sound that thunderously explode through speakers like rain storms.  But it’s not just the smattering twinkling of instruments that creates this ability to be great rainy-day music. It’s an emotion present in the energy of the songs, so I really enjoy listening or this type of music in the rain. Though there’s tons more:

Azure Ray, especially the self-titled album is perfect for rainy days with glazed-over vocals blazing above trickling piano like the song “Sleep.” It’s hopeful and sweet, like a feeling you’d like to know on a rainy day. But they also have low simple guitar tunes with the same gentle almost monotone vocals that have a little less hope to them but feel gorgeously appropriate for gray skies and soaked shoes. The album has orchestral parts in songs that share something innocent with you, something that allows you to know that at some point, it might stop raining.

I think that not everything can be rainy day music, and I will surely research and find more that is really fitting for the rain but right now these are the sounds that are on my brain as I trudge through the soggy streets of Brooklyn. More rainy day song suggestions:

Jeff Buckley- “Grace”

I like “Grace” in rainy weather partly because of the gorgeous guitar part it opens with, the high-pitched strumming that recurs throughout the song.  It is really uplifting but still has this vulnerability that one feels when they are soaking wet. I can imagine or recall, I can’t remember walking soaking wet in the rain listening to this song. If it hasn’t already happened, I’m sure it will one day.

Leonard Cohen- “Take This Waltz”

This song opens like the beginning of “Beauty and the Beast” but it has the low kindling vocals of Leonard Cohen that just sound like what firewood smells like.  I think of this song in the rain because it feels French with its waltz-y strings and for some reason I think of dancing to the song inside while rain is falling outside in gallons. And when the female vocals echo atop Cohen’s baritone,  “I’ll dance with you in Vienna, I’ll be wearing a river’s disguise…” it just feels so careful and planned, like stepping through rings of fire, or puddles for that matter. This song would make me feel a lot better about the fact that it’s raining, which is why it comes to mind in these warm but exhaustingly rainy days.

Broken Social Scene- “7/4 (shoreline)”

This song starts with such a sureness about it, the guitar line is plucking and delicate but so pointed in it’s clarity that when the clinking drums chime in you are already hooked. This song could make any rainy day seem much better. Inside or out, it’s just an up song, but it’s not a crazy dance-y upbeat song that seems like too much for such monotonous weather, it’s perfectly clear and gentle, not too forceful. It makes me think of water, probably because “shoreline” is in the title, but BSS always does a great job of conveying a lot of imagery in their music and this is a perfect example of that.

Cap’n Jazz- “Puddle Splashers”

“We’re busy touching til we’re dizzy stupid” it starts out until the song breaks into spastic drums as opposed to the controlled quick pattering during the verse.  I think this is a great distraction song from crappy weather, or a great song to do exactly as it suggests.  I love the simple joys of  it, its very open and understated and it is called “Puddle Splashers” so why not think about rain? Any song by Cap’n Jazz for the matter is pretty great for rainy weather, it’s all muddled and slightly angsty but absolutely non-sensical and fun to just listen to while rain is pattering in the background.

Casiotone For the Painfully Alone- “Toby Take a Bow”

The first note that opens this tune is the exact chord rain would make in my mind. And the pitter-patter electronic drums just add the warm low tone in a very secondary manner. But those repeating chords as Owen Ashworth sings in endearingly though still somewhat deadpan really get me. Not all his songs are good for bad weather but this song is two minutes of absolute rain music.

Cocorosie- “Good Friday”

While we’re on an electronic music kick, lets move over to the odd, off-kilter tune by sister duo Cocorosie.  This song is less electro mix and more strange whirring noises and the sounds of things breaking while the Billy Holiday vocals mix with operatic style singing or whisper above the noise.  It makes me think of playgrounds and light rain. Sitting on damp, rusty swing-sets in abandoned parks, trading secrets on a rainy summer night, grayish blue almost dark skies and maybe dry heat lightning storms.

The Detachment Kit- “Ricochet”

This song is so uncharacteristic to me of Detachment Kit but it is also a great rainy day song. A slow guitar riff enters into light vocals singing in a way that sounds like rain ricocheting off of sidewalks. I love the guitar part and as the drums enter it’s just this simple piece about things falling apart and it completely feels like rain causing everything to go wrong. It’s like every step that rain goes through, starting with the dark clouds and then the light beginning of just drizzle to just a steady falling of thick plopping drops.

What I love about all this music is it’s not just specifically for these gross days we are encountering.  Some music I can only listen to in the winter or the spring, or specifically in the morning but these songs are great for rain that will never end but also for many other occasions, which is what music should be. Always.

That’s it for now. Hopefully it is almost done raining every day and soon I can write about awesome summer tunes (The Clash anyone??)



Experimentations in music with children
June 21, 2009, 2:40 am
Filed under: music and musings

I’ve been experimenting in music on my Ipod to see what is appropriate to play during school.  Here are my findings so far:

Joanna Newsom: The Milk-Eyed Mender

Joanna Newsom is pretty perfect to play for two-year-olds because she does not curse, she herself sounds like a child and the music is playful but not abrasive. She layers her vocals with either her own youthful singing or actually uses children, so that’s pretty appealing to the kiddos.  I’ve had a lot of positive reactions from the kids to her songs.  Some of them bob up and down or sway along while eating their cheerios.  I was unsure if this was going to be child-friendly just because she is a little bit off-beat but it’s really magical sounding and wispy which has proven to be a winner with kids.  

 

Beirut: Gulag Orkestar

I’ve been starting off some of our mornings with this album, but I generally start with “Brandenburg” because it’s not quite as booming with horns so it’s not a scary beginning to their mornings.  I’ve laid on the floor with a child just almost passed out on my chest listening to this album on lazy Fridays in the am, so I think that’s definitely proof that this album works really well with kids. It’s playful and melodic with lots of instruments so if they want to dance they can dance, or it’s just nice background music while they play with cars.

 

Explosions in the sky:  How Strange, Innocence

 

File:How Strange, Innocence.gif

 

After the crazy 30 minutes in which we try to change diapers and wash hands while getting all our kids lunches ready before they become tired, cranky hunger machines, a mellow, focused sound is what is needed while they chow down on their meals.  I put this album on the other day during lunch and the mellower songs worked really well. As lunch time ended and the drums on the album got a little hectic, the energy in the room also became more frenzied and it was time to put on our naptime music because the little guys started getting a little out of hand.

 

I haven’t had time to really go through and make a playlist of music that is really good for the kids, but I will at some point because it’s definitely better than listening to “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”.  I think it’s really good to play real music, creative music, for kids. It probably helps them in some ways with expression and interpretation of sound and melody.  More updates on experimentations in music to come.



Dum Dum Girls- Yours Alone EP
June 18, 2009, 10:05 pm
Filed under: music and musings

Dum Dum Girls- Yours Alone EP

Dum Dum Girls is the explosive, echo-y sound of one woman named Dee Dee. Her hollowed out vocals and crinkling drum tracks crawl through the speakers in a whitewashed, bleating style that sounds old yet polished. The four tracks on Yours Alone are warm and airy, they make me want to crawl inside speakers from the 1950’s and hibernate to Dum Dum Girls all winter. “Catholicked” comes across like do wop meets no wave with sweet high-pitched harmonies blanketed with fuzzy guitar action and white noise. While the noisy reverberation carries through the EP, Ms. Dee Dee’s drive and innovation can be heard through catchy dance drums that sound muffled and bass-y and billowed vocals both melodic yet slightly atypical. “Sock In It” is chock full of layered female vocals and a catchy guitar riff surrounded by an ethereal buzzing through the song.  The title track “Yours Alone” rings like a surf-rock ballad that’s been flipped inside out and bathed in reverb.  I know she has a couple more singles out there and collaborations coming out, so I definitely plan on keeping my eye out for Dum Dum Girls. I love the feeling of going back in time, flipping through someone’s in a photo album just by hearing a song. This album makes me feel like throwing on heart-shaped sunglasses and a polka dot bikini and running off with beach bums all summer in a convertible. Thanks Dum Dum Girls, my new summer goal is now set.

http://www.myspace.com/dumdumgirls



Sentimentalist Magazine
June 17, 2009, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Sentimentalist Magazine articles

I had a stint writing for Sentimentalist Magazine, a strictly online publication. I wrote some CD reviews and a live review of a show I went to at a Prada Party during Fashion Week. It was absurd.  I was told I didn’t have a plus one, so my friend leaves and I walk in to a giant bedazzled PRADA with huge pictures of skulls with clocks on their eyes and a skull disco ball. I am immediately offered a baby cheeseburger on a silver platter and a glass of champagne. I then see Mary Kate Olsen.  It was absolutely terrifying and I basically had to run back outside and call my friend.  I realized my wrist band was put on pretty shittily and could easily slide off so I gave it to my friend and told the bouncer mine fell off. It was pretty genius because I couldn’t have lasted there all alone. We saw this band The Hours perform and I think we were both in awe of how bad it was and yet how glamorous everything was at the same time. Granted for the published article I couldn’t be too negative but the party was extremely frightening, we were obviously the poorest people there and no one spoke to us. We were even asked to move while leaning against the wall so photographers could take pictures of prettier people against it. We managed to drink their free alcohol all night though so I’d say it wasn’t a terrible night. 

Anyway, here’s some clips from Sentimentalist Magazine:

 

 

Headlights – “Some Racing, Some Stopping”
This sophomore album comes as a slight surprise when one considers Headlights’ driving debut Kill Them With Kindness. The Champaign, Il., trio took a break from touring non-stop to record in a farmhouse outside their hometown, and create this innovative, 50’s American-pop infused masterpiece. “So Much For The Afternoon,” contains oldies-style drums that smack of dance-y potential but remain the backbone for chilling “oohs” and “aahs” and cosmic keys looming beneath. The cheeky drums in “Cherry Tulips” clink alongside bleating organs, rolling guitar, and breathy vocals, feeling reminiscent of Phil Spector, while “Catch Them All” sticks with the poignant guitar of their past album, but feels relaxed and less jam-packed with stylistic arrangements. Some Racing seems as though it had more time to marinate, staying true to their personal style of sweet harmonies and catchy beats while adding a softer more organic side that had been buried beneath. (Polyvinyl) –Lauren Piper
Article can be found here: http://www.sentimentalistmag.com/2008/02/19/headlights-–-“some-racing-some-stopping”/

The Hours Play in Style at PRADA, NYC, 9.08.07: Sentimentalist Magazine Review

The Hours live

On a recent Friday night at the PRADA boutique in Soho, British power-pop band The Hours debuted in the U.S. They played on a stage in front of New York’s most fashionable people, with lights flashing blue and yellow and a giant disco skull hanging above the audience. The show was a fitting wrap-up for the end of NYC’s Fashion Week. Not surprisingly, the hottest young models and photographers, and some celebs as well (Olsen twins anyone?), were dressed to the nines ready to get their rock on.

 

Upon entering the store, the first thing anyone noticed were the walls, decorated from top to bottom with the logo of the Hours: a skull with clocks for eyes. Little skulls dotted every facade in the store and little hors d’oeuvres were passed amongst the crowd, including bacon cheeseburgers and potato skins, which makes one wonder if they are favorite snacks of The Hours.

The band hit the stage around 10:30 and proceeded to serenade the audience with smooth piano rock songs with dancy drumbeats and thoughtful, well-blended vocal harmonies. Singer/guitarist Antony Genn’s vocals are full of emotion and his performance makes his lyrics stand out. The Hours released a new album, Narcissus Road (A&M Records), in February of 2007 and played plenty of its songs. They were upbeat and fun and everyone seemed to be having a great time in their fabulous outfits, rocking out to The Hours.
The band, made up of Antony Genn (who played with Pulp) and Martin Slattery (who toured with Black Grape), is clearly talented and the music definitely has something to offer, though it was difficult to sit still with lights flashing and silver walls gleaming, reflecting the beautiful faces of the audience.

After four or five songs, it was hard not to feel like the music was a little repetitive and many people did start to wander and mingle. Tonight, The Hours performed music which worked well as a background for fabulous party conversation, but at the end of the night, seeing the band live was not comparable to just listening to their melodic tunes at home.–Lauren Piper

Can be found here: http://www.sentimentalistmag.com/2007/09/19/the-hours-play-in-style-at-prada-nyc-90807-sentimentalist-magazine-review/


YVEL – “YVEL”

 

Opening with swaying strings, James Levy’s musical project YVEL twinkles with echoed vocals thrown into an orchestra. The space-y intentions feel as though Levy infused The Flaming Lips with ideals of Claude Debussy, which can be heard in “Golden Crown”. Levy’s vocals bend and fuse themselves into the music, becoming an apparition to the ethereal nature of his songs. While the strings sometimes feel a little redundant, the atmosphere Levy creates is calm and soothing, mixing classic with experimental. For example, “Burn Like Fire” lightly sprinkles guitar under smooth violins while his deep low vocals sweetly sing in an Andrew Bird meets Buddy Holly style. Using both heavily orchestrated tunes as well as folk guitar, YVEL listens like a Monet; from first take it sounds like a cohesive whole but as you peel away each layer, you hear a smattering of styles, instruments and arrangements. (Self-released) –Lauren Piper

Can be found here: http://www.sentimentalistmag.com/2008/02/19/yvel-–-“yvel”/

 

Mia Doi Todd – “Gea”
    

 

Mia Doi Todd believes in the powers of creative expression and song and uses all the energy in her body to expel her music and artistic beliefs. Her seventh full-length, Gea, smolders with creativity, seeming as though drawings and paintings exploded into musical notes floating like fiery ash in a clear blue sky. Todd’s passion and vision is more pointed and exact than her music, which chants and wanders slowly through layers of drones and bongo drums to get out what she wants to say. With hollow vocals reminiscent of Enya or Jefferson Airplane, these ten songs seem to expand for miles, particularly “River of Life/ The Yes Song,” which is almost eleven minutes of Todd’s drawn out lull and moaning harmonium. For one who likes to meditate, this album hits the spot but also reaches out to a broader audience through its experimentation with a variety of instruments. (City Zen Records)    –Lauren Piper

Can be found here: http://www.sentimentalistmag.com/2008/02/19/mia-doi-todd-–-“gea”/