Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Album Review: Jesca Hoop - Kismet

While reading a fellow blogger’s blog I ran into an album-cover which looked really interesting. I typed in her name in Google and found that she has been the nanny of Tom Waits’ children. Interesting to say the least. So I got my hands on her debut, called Kismet. The first song title is “Summertime”. That name kind off reminded me of Norah Jones’ Sunrise. Her sound however, is completely different from Norah Jones, or any other artist that I know off.

“Summertime” starts this record of with a very light and happy tune. A song that indeed feels like Summertime; birds flying around, the sun shining through the leafs. Just close your eyes and you would start to forget that it is only slightly above zero on the other side of that window. The next song “Seed of Wonder” has a very addictive guitar-lick in it that plays almost throughout the whole song. Around this little lick the other instruments develop constantly though. It is a very dynamic and playful song. At some moments it sounds very empty, while other sections are heavy on percussion (a bit like Byork?). According to an interview with Jesca, she wanted to hear something that was fresh and new to her ears. Here she succeeded.

“Enemy” consists of Jesca’s voice and a single acoustic guitar. She gives, just like in the other songs, a really nice flow to the lyrics. This becomes even more apparent in “Silverscreen”, in my opinion one of the best songs on this record. Her singing style is a lot different here compared to the previous song. A bit child-like, with a little accent. It feels like you are sitting in an old cinema in the 1930’s, and indeed are hoping that they’ve done “good editing”.

“Money” is the song that she dishes in its lyrics: ”Cause if you want to belong you write a sing-a-long”. After a few listens I am singing the chorus together with her. She likes to play with her music and lyrics, and together they have a very strange, but nice, chemistry. In the process she also creates her own sound. “Dreams in the hollow” is again a bit softer and more intimate. It feels like opening a small Pandora’s box, and seeing a little band performing in it. One on one with you in a dark room.

Then the album continues to a little tribute to the victims of hurricane Katrina. “Love is all we have” is again a little acoustic song. Very basic, but also very effective. It allows her voice to come more to the foreground. I especially like the creaking in the background. Like a ship getting a heavy beating on the waves of the sea. I also started to notice that she dubs her voice a lot on this album. It sounds very good, but I am curious how she supports it on her own, on stage.

“Intelligentactile 101” is just a brilliant song that floats somewhere between heaven and earth as a perfect living being. It even has a real rockin’ chorus. And it all fits together as one song! Seeing as the lyrics are about a little girl who’s still in her mother’s belly, this would be my first choice as a single including a video. Fun lyrics, it sounds highly addictive and you can even create a mosh-pit at some moments.

After this absolute highlight we go back into the mystic with “Havoc in Heaven”, which is followed by the more up-tempo and experimental “Out the back door”. You should consider the use of the word “experimental” to be relative, since this whole album is trotting on new ground most of the time (for my young and inexperienced ears at least). Together with “Love and Love again” it again has a very “old” feel to it. It sounds timeless, but she does tell on her myspace that she is influenced by music from the early 20th century.

All in all it is a very strong debut, with virtually no weak points in it. It has a great number of highlights with “Summertime”, “Seed of Wonder”, “Silverscreen”, “Money” and “Intelligentactile 101”. A lot of highlights for one little disk. It amazes me how I have only seen such a limited number of reviews of her album on the net. Even Pitchfork does not have a file on her. Maybe because this album is released under the umbrella of a major label. That does not influence my opinion on this great album. I hope to see her live soon at any stage in the Netherlands. She’ll probably win me over completely, like others did before her (PJ Harvey, Sarah Wooden).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Album Review: Desert Sessions I & II

The elusive “Desert sessions” were started in 1998 by a young strapping lad called Joshua Homme, who just left a band called Kyuss. Probably still wondering what to do next, he rounded up a number of like-minded musicians at the Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, California. Ten years later, and Josh Homme is now the front-man of a hardrock-band called the “Queens of the Stone Age”, who are both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. The first and second Desert Sessions show us the birth of this band. On an album that is almost 10 years old, out of print and pretty much forgotten. A perfect time to go back in time and argue why this is not only the best of all the Desert Sessions, but should also be an essential part of any music lover’s collection.

It all starts with a drunken and lone redneck preaching to the lord of darkness. A promotion for Man’s Ruin records it seems. But then the magic starts. A pounding drums and bass-line sets in, with an organ joining in a few seconds later. It grooves itself in your head, an echoing and wailing guitar at the lead. The first thing you notice is that there are no lyrics in this song called “Girl Boy Tom”, which in my opinion only adds to the hypnotic qualities of the music. Slowly the song fades out, announcing the arrival of “Monkey in the middle”. A song which sounds a bit tired, like standing in the same traffic jam every afternoon when you are heading back to work. Slowly we head back again to “Girl Boy Tom”.

Apparently the traffic jam has finally lifted at 7 p.m., and you are heading home at 90 miles per hour. At the time of “Cowards Way Out” you notice that you took a wrong turn, and are driving on a long straight desert road, with no other traffic for miles. Your Tom-tom tells you that in about 20 miles there will be a road that leads back to your original route. You decide to press the gas paddle, since dinner is being served at 8, and you don’t want to be late. But then the car starts to make a sound, which, strange enough, sounds like a “Robotic Lunch”. Probably a little bit of a weak point (understatement) in this, up till now, very impressive journey. But a Desert Session wouldn’t be a Desert Session if it didn’t have its little f*cked up moment in it.

Maybe you should just skip to the next track, “Johnny the Boy”, one of the two absolute highlights of this record. This track is pure groovin’ Rock ‘n Roll. The best point is at two minutes and four seconds exactly. I think they call this point a “break”, where you only hear the magnificent riff, with the rhythm section joining in soon after. This is immediately followed by the ghostly “aaaaah’s” in “Screamin’ Eagle”, the second highlight of this album. Again great riffs, which sound just like god (or the devil) intended them to be: massive. Around two minutes the song leads you to a magnificent climax, followed by a lot of groovin' you seldom hear these days in popular rock music.

The last song is “Cake (Who shit on the?)”, which is a great end to this album. Again this is a track divided in sections, just like the two preceding it. It might be a strange comparison, but this reminded me of the time-changes that lot of progressive rock bands (Pink Floyd, Genesis) used to make in there music. The song has a great 70s loose jamming feel to it. Slowly however, this trip is coming to an end. On the radio you hear that redneck preaching again, telling you not to buy any products from Man’s Ruin records. I think that speech ruined them. Luckily you still have the internet.

This enables you to get your hands on this gem, which is the most consistent of all the Desert Sessions, and the only one which has a real “album feel” to it. The album already has the groove in it, which I think can be defined as the signature sound of the Queens of the Stone Age this present day. Also, with Johnny the Boy and Screamin’ Eagle, it has two tracks which define Rock `n Roll in my dictionary. Hopefully these two tracks, and the whole album, will be discovered by a new generation when the old Desert Sessions are re-released in 2008. It deserves to be.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Let me sing you a song that has never been sung before...

2 months into jobsearch madness and I`m having an even harder time determining what I want and what I don`t want. When you start getting rejected for certain jobs you start to wonder if these kind of jobs are really meant to be for you. And your confidence. Your confidence crumbles a bit, especially concerning what you did during your past. Maybe you should have done more. Maybe you should have taken more initiative. But wait a second. I`ve been to South-Korea and India. Nobody in my family has been away from home for that long that far. I`ve met a lot of people at those two locations. Would I have been living in my university city, I might have never met these people. And that, that would be a (unforgivable..;))shame. I don`t regret anything that I have done in the past. Maybe I should have done a bit more, but the thought did not occur to me at that time. There must be some valid reasons for that, yes? So why listen to those people who ask you why you didn`t do this or that? If they have a problem with how I lived my life up till now, it is theirs, and not mine!

Job interviews are intensive on the mind...hehehe....