Monday, November 17, 2008

Paul's Best Music of 2008

The year is also to an end, and as a music lover it has been a pretty good year. Therefore I am creating this post to share my "best of" list of 2008 with you, together with some additional discoveries. My top 5 are in no particular order, since I simply cannot make a decision which album is best.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - DIG!!! LAZARUS DIG!!!

Since the release of "Abbatoir Blues & The Lyre of Orpheus" in 2004 Nick Cave has been on my play list continiously. This album finds Nick Cave moving in a more "Rock 'n Roll" vibe, probably influenced by his adventures with Grinderman. If you like good lyrics with content, Nick Cave is your man. The title song is already of such a high lyrical level that all other current artists are blown of their feet. My personal favorite on this album is "Midnight Man". Especially when those organs kick in in the chorus. Below you can see a performance on "Later..." of "More news from Nowhere".

Brendan Canning - Something for all of us

Didn`t really like that Kevin Drew album of "Broken Social Scene Presents....", but this one is a lot better. There is something on this album for all of us. The title song, "Hit the Wall" and "Churches under the Stairs" have that characteristic Social Scene sound: Driving drumbeats and bass, colored in by a guitar with nice distorted sound. What stands this album apart from the other BSS albums are the instrumental songs. "All the best wooden toys come from Germany" and "Chamaleon" are two beautiful instrumental tunes, which put you in a dreamy state of mind. Perfect after a long hard day of work, while heading home in the train. All dark outside. Just you and this music in your ears.
The Dø - a mouthful

My parents didn`t really like this purchase. The girl who sings on this album is from Finland, and has a very high pitched voice. I`ve got to admit, sometimes it comes very close to the "irritating level", but most of the time she just sounds incredibly cute. And backed up by a very solid production and a sound ranging from Finnish Folk to Psuedo-hiphop to Indie, this is a delight to listen to. If you want to get to know this band, get your hands on the songs "At last", "stay (just a little bit more", "Unissasi Laulelet" and "Queen Dot Kong". These should give you a pretty complete view of what this two man band is capable of.

Nicole Atkins - Neptune City

So what? I bowed for the girl singer songwriter hype that has taken over our world. Please mind though, this is no "Duffy Winehouse" clone. This lady is from New Jersey and not from the British isles. At for a fact, she actually is closing in on the three decennia mark instead of being far below the legal age for drinking in her own country. I`ve got to admit, it's a pretty dramatic album with a very "noir" vibe to it. Perfect for a rainy autumn day. The production on this album is also very high; there's no song avoiding the violins and other orchestra stuff. But despite this overkill, something on this album wins me over; Her beautiful voice including a number of very strong songs. She also seems to sing very easily, which only makes it more impressive. The thing that won me completely over was her performance on the BBC. She was in complete control and new exactly what she was doing. There are a lot of highlights on this album. "Maybe Tonight", "The way it is", "Cool enough", "Neptune city", "Brooklyn's on fire" and "Party's over" are all songs that I would recommend to listen. That's 6 out of the total playlist of 10 songs. Not a bad score for a first album.

Eagles of Death Metal - Heart On

The Eagles have landed! Their third album, and in my opinion the best of them all. It's starts of perfectly with the classic rocker "Anything 'cept the truth", which might be a bit too long for it's own good. This however is made up by the short and feisty "Wannabe in L.A.", which also happens to be the first single. Things start to really warm up though with "(I used to couldn`t dance) tight pants". Maybe it is due to the friction, but this song man, wow! It's probably the best rock song to be released all year and is really, really danceable. Especially the high pitched chorus line "I don`t want to do what I`m supposed to, I just want someone to get close to". It cannot get any sweater than this. This is followed by an even dirtier "High Voltage" which is like sending out an pack of elephants out on a banana field ready for harvesting.

"Secret Plans" is also pure perfection. High tempo, simple lyrics, great chorus. That's all what a good song needs. "Now I`m a fool" is the perfect song to chill out to and shows the Eagles from a more sensitive side. This sensitivity is abandond at the song "Solo Flights" which is about, well, self gratification. Not many songs in music history must have been about this act, this one pulls it of, just. The last song "I`m your torpedo" has got a brutal rhythm section to kick the life out of you. Sounds a bit like those drums are oversteard? Well, it makes a perfect ending to this Rock 'n Roll album. The finest in years.

The Edmonton Folk Fest (2)

Saturday was again another beautiful day. My friend Jen was again fully occupied with volunteering (beer tickets anyone?) while the rest of our group was scattered over the festival. For me my day started at stage number three, where there were some interesting combination. First of all there was the garden party with Dervish, Bellowhead and the Carolina Chocolate drops.

The odd one in this group were the Carolina Chocolate drops, the only band not coming from the European continent. From what I can remember, I was pretty impressed by the Carolina Chocolate Drops. I bought their cd the same day, so I must have been. After that there was the masterclass with a great female banjo player called Alison Brown, french artist Daby Toure, Jerry Douglas and Maura O`Connell, an Irish woman with a beautiful voice. There seemed to be a special click between Alison Brown and Daby Toure, who had a lot of fun together when playing their songs. These are the best moments musically at Edmonton: When you notice that two completely different artist who never met before, have a connection with each other and just click. This is what happened at the masterclass. Maura O`Connell the the icing on the cake. Compared to the other songs, her's were a bit more timid and classic, which made a perfect combination with great banjo-picking and african tones.

Now it was time for my first ever view of the Broken Social Scene. Maybe it is a bit of an anti-climax to see one of your most favorite bands playing on a small stage while everyone is chilling out in the sun, but I loved every second of it. The most stylish guy on stage was definitely Brendan Canning; Wearing a pink top with a chequard short skirt. Pretty impressive. Luke Doucet fitted in perfectly in the formation. It was pretty hard to distinguish him from any of the other Socials. John Bottomly was a bit more distinctive on stage as a person, but is music fitted in perfectly with the rest. Another amazing thing about the Folkfest: By going to your favorite band you will also get to know 3 or 4 other bands.

After a spicy dinner I went on and saw the Peatbog Faeries for the first time. A violin and bagpipe play the solo's together, while the rest of the band lays down a subtle groove. It's one of a kind, and the first time I was indeed baffled. Later however you came to realise something: They are a bit of an one trick pony. The bagpipe and violin lead every song and there is not much variation in this theme. Still, in this first concert they were one of the revelations for me for this festival. Heading back to the maintsage it was time for..sleepy music. Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow quartet featuring Bela Fleck was interesting, but they played music that would come much better to it's right in a more intimate setting. I cannot remember anything from Ryan Shaw, which probably says enough. Joan Osborne was on next.

After she finished singing "One of Us", its started raining. A message? A sign? All in all, it was a bit too much "middle of the road" music for me. Aimee mann had a better voice and songs. Last but not least came Michael Franti and Spearhead. Sometimes you just wish that the dead would rise up against the living. In this case the dead guy should be Bob Marley vs. Franti. Shallow, simple and empty. These are the three words with which I would like to describe Franti's music. He can talk all he wants about his former teacher, father or brother, his music lacks the same emotion has he tries to portray in his speeches. Did Bob Marley talk as much? I don`t know..but my opinion is that you should let your music do the talking, and with Michael Franti it was the other way around. What makes it all worse is that everybody was enjoying themselves, and I just didn`t get it. Of course I tried to join in; but after the 20th time where we were asked to jump by Franti I was like; Jump yourself! A good artist giving a great concert shouldn`t have to tell his audience to jump constantly, they`ll do that on their own. Bah..that psuedo-emotional and happy crap was just not meant for my ears. Call me a grumpy old cynic, but you should have seen me during Rage Against the Machine, or Moloko, or the Flaming Lips, or Franz Ferdinand, or Nick Cave...or...or...

Sunday was the last day of the Folkfest. I already had a heavy sunburn that day. Luckily the day started with the Broken Social Scene, Serana Ryder and Royal Wood on one stage. "Looks just like the sun" was a great start of the day. A bit to early apparently for Brendan Canning who joined in a bit later with his bass. Serena challanged Kevin Drew to an improvisation battle, and after some hestitation he took the challange. The lyrics he made up were quite hillarious and made him pass the challange with flying colors. Eventually the band also started to make up a song as a bit of an ode to the Folkfest. memory abandoned me..I`ve forgotten the lyrics. But believe me, it was a great song and one of the highlights for me of this festival.

After that I made one of my best choices ever: I went to the Mighty Popo. His band is a mix of American and African musicians, and his songs reflect this multi-cultural line-up. He even got the crowd up to dance at some songs, quite a feat at the fourth day of a festival, in the burning sun. Afterwards he would also do a cd-signing. I bought it and got it signed. I don`t know why, but every time I meet a band I never know what to say. You try to avoid the clichee: "wow, that was a great show". But what else is there to say? You don`t know him; You just found out that he and his great music even existed.

Fast I went to the stage where the Carolina Chocolate Drops were performing. I got a perfect seat right in front of the stage, and enjoyed every second of their show. It's not only how they mastered their instruments, it's also their pure enthousiasm while playing. They also have a bit of an experimental side to them. At one of the side stage concerts, the girl, sang a song in gaelic. Quite impressive for somebody from the States. After this performance the festival was pretty much perfect for me. Except for one thing: I still had to see the Broken Social Scene on the main stage.

They tried to get a standing audience in front of the stage, but the security didn`t allow for it. The first half of the concert I thus spend sitting (from a perfect position that I gave us by getting up extremely early) and enjoying the concert passively. I got increasingly annoyed by the clear ambiguity of the audience in front of me. They didn`t seem to care that one of the best and most innovative bands of Canada was playing on stage right in front of them. And they weren`t even performing badly: There was no bad note during the whole concert, it was a tight concert. So halfway the set I decided to go to the front of the stage, and move a bit on the music (some might call it dancing).

A song I especially remember was Ibi dreams of pavement. It's an all out emotional song with a perfect harmony at the end. We were asked to scream our lungs out, and so we did (in the dancing area at least). Thinking back at it, I`m a bit emberassed, but why should I be? It felt good at the time, and if it felt good at that time it was the best thing to do.

For the Duhks I had to get closer to the main stage, since one of my Canadian friends absolutely loved them. I liked what I heard, it was danceable, but that's about all I can remember. Chris Isaac however. Wow! Coming up in a pink suite, runnig around on the field with a hoard of crazy old women chasing him. Trying the climb on the light-tower but miserably (but graciously) failing, running back and finishing his song in style. Then starting to sing a song called bad, bad man. Putting himself in the position of the dictator in the band, who does horrible things to his fellow band-mates (who have been on tour with him for the past 20 years). And to start his most famous song "Wicked woman", and playing it perfectly, still with that same voice as 20 years ago. He changed to an even brighter costume during the second half the set, and continued to play a selection of slow love and rockin' songs. Later I had to explain to me friends that it is not a matter of liking the music yes or no; It is more about the show as a whole, which was just first class entertainment.
What I especially liked was that he does not take himself too seriously: He knows that he is an entertainer, he knows that he is not the greatest songwriter of all time, so what would stop him of giving his audience a great close to a great festival? Nothing! Thanks Chris for beating my expectations of you to pulp! The finale was a song by Ian Tyson; "Four Strong Winds". The crowd sang along en masse. I only knew a few words. Thanks to Neil Young who covered it at the Band's Last Waltz. If the flight-tickets are a bit cheaper next year, there will be a next year. This festival is a lot better than "the way to cocky for its own good" Lowlands. I hate an audience who are trying to be hip a bit too hard. This audience was just nice, gentle and incredibly mellow. And I prefer it that way.

The Edmonton Folk Fost

The Edmonton Folk Fest! Now I`ve been to quite a number of festivals, and let me tell you, this one beats most of them. First of all because it has a line-up, which besides some big names on the main stage, is completely unfamiliar too me. Next to this, it is a sit-down festival. At some times I found this to be a very frustration position to be in. For some music you just have to get up and dance. Two times I managed to get to the dancing area (both on the last day) to get myself in a more familiar, standing, position. Now I`m not much of a dancer; I`m dutch; a bit of a "houten klaas" (translated, a wooden plank). I try to keep that last thought out of my mind though while standing in the dancing area; It's all about having fun hey?

It all started of with Cat Power. Wow. She was really out there, somewhere. Her setlist mostly consisted out of slow, heartwrenching songs, and she put a lot of feeling in every word that came out of her mouth. I would call it Soul, with a capital S. I wouldn`t buy a cd from her, but that performance was 100% real, no act. Aimee mann was next. I don`t remember much from this performance, and this was not due to too many beers in the beer garden. I do remember being impressed by her voice, and the beautiful slow songs. It was not fireworks, more like watching a candle burn, at a very beautiful night.

Which brings me to the location of this festival. Edmonton has got it all, and thus also a small ski-hill in the middle of the city, close to downtown. Now in the winter I figure that people will ski from it, but in the summer it makes up for the most ideal festival location ever. Great views and sound from all over the field, and a great view on downtown Edmonton also. The weather was also flawless during the 4 days of the festival, which makes it the place were I got most of my tan this summer.

On friday the sessions at the side-stages started, and these sidestages were the places where the action really happenned. We started the day with a session called "Finger Pickin' Good". Three bands were on stage at the same time: Amos Garrett and the the festival House band, Jonny Lang and Don Ross & andy McKee. Now the goal of these sessions is to get the musicians working together, resulting in some awesome and mindblowing jam-sessions. During this first performance I already experienced on of these. Especially the songs lead by Jonny Lang were quite exciting. I think he played some blues-standards, and the good thing about these is that they allow all the other musicians to join in pretty easily. Don Ross & Andy McKee are both specialist guitar players (one has got 15 million views on youtube), and this made up for some great solo's. These two also played some individual songs, but it was when they played together with the band that things really started to become very interesting. Four guitars on one stage creates so much dept in the music (or makes it a mess, whatever's your take on it), that you don`t know to which guitar you have to listen to first.

After that it was time for the "Shades of Africa" workshop. Here I met 4 of my favorite new discoveries of the festival. Bill Bourne and Madagascar Slim. Two old veterans from the festival, and both very capable musicians. They seemed to have jammed with almost everybody these four days, always doing it with a smile. Then there was Daby Toure. A young french musician, who I happen to know from a Peter Gabriel concert, where he was the opening act. He impressed me a lot more here than back then. Especially is drumming on the guitar was great to hear, he had a good sence of rhythm. The Mighty Popo is an artist from Rwanda, who emigrated to Canada a few years ago. He had a great band around him, and made some original and smooth African music.

At the end of the festival I bought his cd and got it signed! So if the Mighty Popo becomes the Incredibly Mighty Popo one day, I can say I`ve seen him from 2 meters distance. Jayme Stone and Mansa Sissoko are an odd but great couple. One is a great Canadian banyo player, while the other has his roots in Mali (I believe). Sissoko plays a strange african instrument with a sound like a harp. Pretty complicated to play I guess, but he mastered it perfectly. Together these four bands really recreated the feeling of being in Africa, in Edmonton.

Serena Ryder. First of all, I listened to some of her recordings now, and she sounds a lot better Live than on cd. Her solo performance on stage 6 was together with only one gitarist and this helped to create a much less pollished , and I guess unique, sound. Especially that voice of her's was just subliminal. At one song she just went all out with it, and I got a lump in my throat. This does not happen very often anymore (except when I see old favorite legends like Genesis and Neil Young), which should indicate that this was a very..very special concert. Her looks are also not working against her, so I was pretty much sold after the concert. Her music could best be described has a mix between country/folk and a bit of soft rock. And then she started to play "This Wheel's on fire", an old Band song. Damn you evil woman! You're doing everything right tonight for me to loose my heart. Which I did, for a split-second.

After that I saw two of friend's favorites. Jonny Lang and Hawksley Workman. Now Jonny Lang used to be a gitarist-wonderkid, and I`ve already seen quite of those come and go. They are indeed great guitar players, but this does make you a great songwriter. My impression of this concert was that he was trying too hard, especially with his voice. I prefer subtle music, but his style of Blues (the 80s rockin' kind, a la Gary Moore but then with less memorable songs) just didn`t appeal to me. Hawksley Workman was something completely different. I came here to have fun, and the music sounded just like that. Modern Rock, with a bit of a dramatic twist to it (it reminded me a bit of Queen at some points, and not just because he played "Under Pressure"). He played quite a bit of covers (3 or 4), a bit of shame since I would like to have heard a bit more of his own stuff. The songs he played were solid, and it was a great show indeed. I only believe that this guy has a bit more up his sleeve that he had shown us that night. I`ll keep an eye on him.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Food & Drinks at White ave

Part three of my trip to Canada is a bit hazy for me personally. Perhaps it was the alcohol, or the sun, but memory of this period is a bit limited. What I do remember is the following:

The day after coming back from Jasper, Jen dropped Clara and me off at the West Edmonton Mall. This is supposed to be the biggest mall in North America. It ended up being a bit of a disappointed. We went to Galaxyland: The largest indoor amusement park in the world. It does not really have a lot of competition for all the obvious reasons: It is not that wise to built an amusement park in the middle of the building since the space for expansion is limited.

Besides the usual fair attaction they had several rollercoasters, and these were quite stomach-turning. The first one was a rollercoaster where the carts themselves spinned around while you were being tossed around the track. So instead of only having to focus on the area right in front of you, you turned around constantly, losing your orientation in the process. After this ride we went straight to the top rollercoaster. Yes, indeed, the largest indoor rollercoaster in the world. In took three loops (although I completely missed the second one) and an awefull lot of turns. Your body was literally thrown around.

The mall itself...euh...Shops everywhere...exclusive shops..shops with pushy owners..not my taste. But it was surely a great taste of kitsh and the grandest scale.

That evening we had our first real night out in Edmonton. We went to White ave, and old part of the city of Edmonton, and it was quite primitive. Luckily however they had a great bar which was accomodated especially for drinking games. It was somebodies birthday and the drinking game was already going on for quite some time judging by the lack of focus in the birthday boy's eyes. All I remember from playing this game was that my number was three, and that I lost a lot. Mostly intentially. The punishment was drinking a little bit of beer, and since I hadn`t had a drink since entering Canada, this was an end to a long period of drought for me. So we were playing a very loud drinking game which started to attact a bit of negative attention. Finally, around 2am, we prepared ourselves to go back home.

We took a cab, and arrived at somebody's appartment. A pretty nice one I`ve got to say. There we watched some television and had some more drinks. And I, your's truly was the only one to finish his rum-coke! I regretted finishing it in the morning was a clean night but a bit unstable.

I also remember that Jen, Clara and me went to a Cajun place somewhere along white-ave. Dee-da-do was the name of it. A nice little bar, great 30-40s music, a bit of Jazz. I don`t know exactly anymore what I had, but it was a big sandwich, with a lot of pork on it, and the taste was simply..well..delicious. I had a hard time finishing it though..and for something tasting this good, that's rare!

Now I`m also remembering this great Japanese place I went to on Robson street in Vancouver. I love ramen. I wish we had a ramen shop in Brunssum. Ramen has several things going for it. 1) It's generally cheap 2) It's filled with fresh vegetables and optionally some meat 3) It is a soup. Basically this means that you get two meals for the price of one. And at this restaurant they were simply delicious. Hmmmm.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Moose's tale

The bus trip to Jasper was a very long one. Almost 12 hours sitting in your seat. This could have been very tedious ride, if it wasn`t accompanied by the great views of the backland of British Columbia. Never did I have such a scenic busride as this one. And besides the Flaura, the Fauna was also very interesting what kind of people travel with the bus besides tourists. I`ve seen my fair share of Canadian trash. Those classic examples of couch potatoes with clothes that fitted them 10 years ago but not anymore. A very scary sight for sure when you see pure fat just wiggle around like that. A human body is not meant to move like that. Luckily the sights outside were just perfect.

Then came my first wildlife sighting. Right in front of our bus, coming from the opposite direction, we saw a car hitting something. The something rolled into the ditch. That something was a black bear. The car had a serious dent in its hood, probably total-loss. Speeding here in your car has some serious risks.

The Jasper International Hostel was waiting for me in Jasper. My first hostel ever. The had a coed dorm (mixed) and a female dorm. It was refreshing to stay at a place where people of any background can just coexist with eachother, even when sharing a room with 20 other people. Within a few minutes I already met some people with whom I could hike. A Swiss girl and a German guy. I know; long live Europeans, but I would meet those real genuin Canadians later on my trip. We decided to hike the mountain that was in the back garden of our hostel. An 8 km trail, with an increase of height of almost 1300m. The signs all said it would take between 4 and 6 hours, but quite amazingly, after a shocking start (we were already out of breath after 100m), we were at the top in 3.5 hours. And we didn`t even hurry, we just took it slowly, step by step.

On top of the Whistlers we had one of the best views ever. Everywhere around you mountains with snowy peaks, a cold harsh wind blowing in your face. The sky was a bit cloudy, but this only added that extra bit of drama to the landscape: The interplay between shadow and light. We had a nice coffee on top of the mountain, and went back down with the cable car. Sadly, both of my new friends had to leave the same evening, so I had to find some other people to talk to after dinner. I ended up having a little chat with two dutch girls, who were already travelling in Canada for two weeks.

Later that evening I checked my e-mail and so a message from Jenn, stating that I should call her. So I called her. She wanted to drive to Jasper (CRAZY!) to meet me and to do some sightseeing together. So what did we do?

We went to Maligne Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and took a hike on the Moose Lake Loop. This little loop honoured it's name as we closed in on the lake; There she was! We saw it standing there, a female moose! I honestly think it was chained to the bottom of the lake. We decided not to close in to much; The last thing we wanted to do was to disturb it's dinner. Amazing how you can have such a brilliant animal sighting, on one of the shortest hike ever.

Then we proceeded to Malign Canyon, to go for a hike there. However, we (or should I say I? Sorry Jen!) decided to make the hike a bit longer than the 2.6km one of the Canyon itself. We created our own giant loop, walking besides the river and into the forests. It was not the most scenic route, but still incredibly challanging. It took us almost 4 hours to get back to the car, completely exhausted. I estimate we hiked about 12 to 16km. A bit too long for both our tastes I guess. So we decided to award ourselves with some pizza. I took a hawaii-en pizza, while Jen treated herself to a vegetarian. I barely was able to finish mine, and Jen also left the greater portion of hers on her plate.

Around 20:00 we decided to drive back to home. Sitting in the front seat, we had to make several stops before we left the park. We saw some large deer walking in a local river, and some mountain goats. Around 23:30 we arrived in Edmonton, slowly pulling up at her house. I got assigned the guestroom, with a nice soft bed and some thick and warm sheets. Suffice to say that I slept like a rock.

The next morning (a monday), we had to wake up early to go to the Heritage Festival. It's a festival in the river-valley park were all kinds of local cultural organisations come to celebrate their roots. Examples of stands were the people from England (Off with his head!), Wales, Thailand (including transvestite singer), Poland, First Nation and of course The Netherlands. I could not keep myself from trying on of the herings. It tasted just like the ones you can get at The Hague. Sadly the other members in my group did not want to join in this cultural exchange. To think they are alumni from Aiesec! A disgrace I tell you! ;)

In the afternoon it was time to go on a Susan Mary Edey Park Hike (in short: a SMEPH). These are special hikes were she guides you through the wildest regions of the park. While you are struggling to get through the vegetation, you get the impression that she does not know where she is going. Actually, she knows exactly were she is, and just wants to give you that wild Canadian experience. It worked out perfectly, and Clara and me were quite tired after the extensive hikes. Later that day we went to the Provincial government building. It was pretty damn interesting. Alberta seems to be a conservative place, where the conservative party as the absolute majority in parlaiment. They had some strange governers, and simply adore Queen Elisabeth.

The next day I went back to the Rockies, with Sue's parents, and Clara, Sue's friend from Brasil. We first drove to Banff, after which we continued to Lake Lious, going to the Icefields parkway, ending our trip in Jasper. So what did we do in Banff? We started with a hike in Johnston Canyon, a beautiful Canyon with upper and lower falls. We decided to take the full hike, but only after having a wildlife picknick. The falls of Johnston Canyon reminded me a bit of the rivers I saw in Luxembourg, but everything in Canada is just a little bit bigger and wilder.

After this nice hike we went to downtown Banff, and went up a mountain with a cable cart, and hiked a bit more there. Again, great views of the surrounding mountains with the sunset. In the evening we wanted to go to a spa, after having a nice dinner at the Spagetti Factory. Sadly we arrived a bit too late at the spa, and it was closed. Disappointed and tired we went back to our hotel room. The next day I learned that Canadians do not give up easily.

It was a day that started with the incredibly blue Lake Louise. In the background you could sometimes hear some heavy rumbling. This rumbling was caused by parts of ice breaking of the mountain-gletchers. Judging my the demographics of the tourist there, you really saw that both the Indians and the Chinese people have increased there welfare quite a lot lately. They should however become better tourists in my opinion. For example: We went to the Columbian Icefields. We stayed perfectly within the cones (for our own safety). The Chinese just went wondering off all over the gletcher. But besides the Chinese people with a subconcious death-wish, walking on this glether was probably one of the most unique things I ever did.

It felt so strange to walk on a few thousand meters of moving ice. In the beginning I was quite sceptic: It is melting, it will be gone within a few years just like the North Pole. But finally on the gletcher itself I was complete awe-struck. All the sceptisism just left me, and I felt like a little child again while making my way on the glether. An amazing experience, and the sights, well, it becomes an old story: Stunning. I tried to bring some gletcherwater back home to Holland, but on the final day of my trip I decided to drink it. Fluids in airplanes, people just don`t like it these days ;).

After hiking on the gletcher, we took a little hike at the great divide, which did provide some great views, but no real "great divide" (division of the river into two directions, one to the Atlantic, one to the Pacific). Then it was time for some relaxation. We went to a spa near Jasper. There I switched from the hot (50 degrees celcius) and the cold (19 degrees celcius) several times. The feeling in your nerves is just simply amazing. I think I burned some skin on my food during one of the quick interchanges. It was very relaxing though, just before we went back to Edmonton to go to a festival.

Thanks to John and Mary for driving us two around this region. I owe them a few dollars on gas and a lot more.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Vancouver or Van Coeverden?

Where do I start? Let's start with a little nice fact. Where did Vancouver get its name from? Of course; from an English captain whose last name was Vancouver.
But I quote "Captain George Vancouver, the first European to explore the inner waters of Burrard Inlet, was born in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, on June 22, 1757. He was of Dutch ancestry, descended from the titled Van Coeverden family, whose castle at Coeverden was long an important fortress on the eastern frontier with Germany."

You read it. Captain George Vancouver was from Dutch ancestry. Our golden age is already past us, and with it we left our mark on the whole world. Practically Vancouver is thus a dutch colony. Just like New York, which used to be New Amsterdam (before we sold it to the english for 10 guilders). But let's get away from my patriotism (a rare sighting), and back to my vacation.

My plane lands in Vancouver and the first thing I see is an airport-hanger with "UPS" on it in those big letters. Even on one's holiday one cannot escape from work. The first thing I had to do was to walk through the customs (exciting hey?). They looked like a bunch of bored teenagers, asking me a number of strange questions in an icy tone, and letting me pass. Then I went to the information desk, a girl is there, and she talks to me in exactly the same was as one of my friends I am visiting. At that point I already knew that this trip was going to be a great experience.

So I picked up the airport bus and got dropped of in downtown Vancouver. I had to walk a few blocks to get to my hotel: The YWCA. Yes, I know, normally it is only for women, but this one in Vancouver was for all genders. I had a beautiful double bed and the room had a nice view over the main streets. One thing I immediately noticed was the size of the cars; they are a lot bigger than our European/Japanese tin toys. Especially those Ford trucks are gigantic (Monstertrucks!).

It was raining this first night, but that did not keep me from exploring the direct block, and going to a local korean restaurant to get some korean food there. And it tasted good. But it will never be as good as the dinners I had in korea. Still, I immediately noticed that a fulfilling meal can be death-cheap in Canada.

The next morning it was raining even harder, and I decided to go to the look-out tower and take a walk around the city. The look-out tower was not that exciting with all the rain; the visibility was quite poor. But they had a solution for that: The ticket you buy is valid throughout the whole day. So I returned later in the evening, and then the views were a lot better. As you can see in the picture below.

Then I decided to start walking. From the Telus word of science museum, past the bay, past granville island, past the beautiful condo's, onwards to Stanley park. Did I mention it was raining? ANd that it even started to rain heavier has I was walking on the wall around Stanley Park? The advantage of this was that the park was deserted, which enabled me t enjoy some peace and quiet. The disadvantage was that I was getting completely soaked and tired, and that my summer jacket was not rainproof. Just like my little bag. I already took this into account, so I brought a plastic bag with me, so everything electronical was save in there. While walking along the wall, I could see that Stanley park had been hit quite heavily by a strom, not that long ago. Everywhere there were trees de-rooted and lying on the ground. This gave the place a very wild look, almost like a tropical forest. A tropical forest in the middle of the city.

I took a little hike towards the middle of the park, and there I stumbled on the aquirium. They had dolfins, otters and the famous white balugo whales. The place was incredibly crowded, but the excibits were nice. I took some nice pictures of the dolphins and a seagull who was looking to snatch some fish out of the air.

The next day I went to the musuem of Anthropology on the south island of Vancouver. It was situated in the middle of the campus of the University of British Columbia. They have got a nice campus, but not that impressive as the one I saw in Korea. At the musuem a lot of information was provided about the first nation people. In europe these are better known as "Indians" or "Eskimo's", but those two names have been kicked out of Canada's history books. The totem-poles, boats and other traditional items that wer eon excibit were extremely interesting. They also found a solution for their lack of exhibit-space. They had about a hunderd cabinets, each containing 6 drawers, full of artifacts from all over the world.

After getting to know Canada's history, I travelled all across the city, with the ferry, to North Vancouver. There I took a trip to Grouse Mountain and its park that is beautifully located near the top. At the top, I saw some grizzly bears, a show with birds of prey and some stunning views of Vancouver and the mountains lying behind the city. You also had the option to make a steep climb to the absolute top of the mountain. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am just like a daisy-bug: I always want to climb to the top, if there is a top to climb. On the top, again great views, but the greatest thing append to me when I went back down.

A close encounter of the..second kind? I almost walked into a wild deer grazing on some grass. Instead of running away it just stood there. Obviously he was trained to do this, right? Just look at him, looking over the town of Vancouver. Canada's next top model.

In the evening I went to a small Japanese restaurant (on Robson street) to get some great noodles. I know, again an asian place. I tried to find some typically Canadian food, but besides the buffalo steaks, there wasn`t really anything unique (and affordable) to find.

Later that evening I was lucky enough to catch a bit of the yearly festival of light. It was China's turn this night, and they did a great show from a boat lying the middle of the bay. The amount of people that gathered for this show was absolutely amazing. It seemed like the whole of Vancouver walked out to see this, in an atmosphere that was just so good and mellow. The fireworks were great. For half an hour it banged and banged. To the left you can see a little example.

The next morning it was time to go to the Vancouver art gallery (yup, it was again raining a bit, so this time I decided to find my entertainment inside instead of outside. Here they had four expositions. The first one was called "KRAZY!", an exposition about graphic novels. This was for me the most interesting exposition. People always see "comics" as a lower form of art, but some of the stuff I saw here was simply amazing, and really made you think. I almost bought one book from the musuem shop, but it was just a bit too expensive. And I could probably also buy it at home.

Another exposition focused on the art of Zhang Huan. He is a chinese man who does artbody-based performances, and captures these performances in photographs. For instance: He finds himself the dirtiest public toilet in Bejing andtakes off all his clothes. Then he covers himself with a sweet substance and gets surrounded by flies, while sitting, naked, on the toilet. A guy takes pictures of it, and it has a certain symbolic meaning (certainly endurance is one of them). A fascinating exposition, although I am wondering how much of is appraisal he gets for being Chinese (a communist country, where creativity like this would normally be surpressed).

Then there was an exhibition of Rebecca Belmore. The main topic in her art was the liberation of women. To me, her art seemed a bit "frustrated", as if there was something bothering her and she expressed it through her works. Finally there were a selected number of paintings from Emily Carr and other female Canadian painters. Especially the paintings from ms. Carr impressed me, and I even bought a little magnet with one of her works on it (Above the Gravel Pit, 1936-1937).

After this four hour visit to this art gallery, I was a bit tired, but still decided to go to Granville island, the cities market place. Sadly this wasn`t that interesting, moslty due to the bad weather which just made everything look so grey. I then decided to end the day with a hike through the cities most famous neigbourhoods: Gastown, Chinatown, Davy Street and of course Robson street. I bought some souvenirs, and after this I was all set to leave for my next destination: Jasper.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Choosing a new guitar..

Is the hardest thing to do!
On the 23rd of September I will finally become 24 years old, and about 6 months ago I decided that this should be the date where I will finally buy myself a new guitar.
My Yamaha RGX 112p served my well in the past 4 years, but now I`m ready for the real stuff. And this I`ve been scouring the internet to find something I would like.

I finally fell in love with two different models. The Fender Jaguar and the Gibson Firebird. Both not the cheapest of guitars, but incredible beautiful. Ater reading on about them, I found out that the JAguar was actually meant as a bit of a surf-guitar, and not as a heavy rock guitar. Since I mostly play alternative/rock'n roll music, it thus dropped of the radar pretty quickly. Fenders also have the tendensy to sound a bit "squilly" and thin. At least, I`ve never really been impressed by the starocasters sound, and altough the Telecaster has a nice buzz to it, it never sounded as powerful as for instance Gary Moore's Les Paul or Neil Young's "Old Black". So I decided that it was going to be a Gibson.

But why the Firebird? Well, the Les Paul is just a boring old design if you ask me. Everybody has them, they are ordinary. I`m looking for something special. The real Gibson are a tad bit too expensive for me (starting at 3000 euro's and up), thus you end up getting awe-struck by the beauty that is a Firebird.

It's unusual body design, it's long neck, it's unqie pick-ups. In every picture I see it looks like a piece of art. Just look at this model:

A true beauty. The sad thing is that this color is not in production anymore. And this is the Firebird VII; the most expensive model. Costing somewhere in between 1700 and 2000 euro's. That's why he Firebird V, which is still available in a stunning sunburst paintjob, is catching my attention now. This one however as two mini-humbucker pick-ups which give this guitar a very special sound. Some folks on the internet say it does not match the sound of full Humbuckers, and this is were the Firebird Studio omes in. The sad thing about the studio is, is that it only comes in black, and misses some of the characteristics that make the Firebird so special. So I might as well go for the Firebird V, sunburst then hey? Well..we`ll see when I get one in my hands.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

My favorite songs from Canada..

3.5 weeks left before I go to Canada, and of course I`m already trying to prepare for any cultural shock by listening to their music. Those Canadians are quite good at song-writing, so hear a top 5 of my favorite Canadian songs:

5) Death from Above 1979 - Romantic Rights

Yea, they already broke up and made only one album which isn`t even that good, but this song! It's catchy and heavy at the same time. It's a song you can dance and mosh to (if you like moshing). It also indicates that the bass is a highly underestimated instrument, which in the right hands can carry a song to great heights!

4) Broken Social Scene - Almost Crimes

Listening to this song is like running way too fast through a crowded street, running into people while screaming your lungs out. Its chaotic, almost buckeling under its own weight, but somehow stays on track. I like a bit of chaos in my music..

3) Joni Mitchell - Fury sings the blues

Joni immediately brings you to the little park, where old Fury sings his blues. It's a very nostalgic song, maybe even a bit tragic. Everything that reminds us of the past will eventually be broken down, leaving nothing but memories, from an old man on the corner.
Singing his blues, lonely and bitter, but incredibly strong.

2) Neil Young - Like a Hurricane

Neil Young perfectly knows how to capture the image of a girl that's just out of your reach.

Before that moment you touch my lips
That perfect feeling when time just sleeps away between us
On our foggy trip

You are like a Hurricane
There's calm in your eyes
and I`m getting blown away..

Somewhere safer where the feeling stays,
I wanna love you but I`m getting blown away...

1) The Band - Chest Fever

One of the best and most powerful songs ever made, just listen that that organ intro! Nothing can compare with it! And then that pounding bass, it's incredible funky! I think this would range somewhere in between RnB en Rock `n Roll? It defies genres and still sounds fresh to me. A lot of modern bands could only dreaming of writing such a gem of a song.

And finally..this one..I could make it number 6 but then it wouldn`t be a top 5 anymore, right? Here's the vid:

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Pinkpop 2008

Yes ladies and not so gentle men!
It's the 7th of June, almost one week since I was walking on the green fields of Pinkpop 2008, enjoying the sun, the rain, the people and of course the music.

This year we went together with quite a large group of people, comprising of family, friends, friends from family and some very old classmates (primary school!).
It all started with the usual routine of finding a space to set up your tent. After an hour of stress, the first beer could be opened. Looking at the program, the following acts caught my attention...

Flogging Molly! The second time I saw this band, but again a very entertaining performance. "Good afternoon B'stards!" were the frontman's first words. Folk-punkrock is probably the best way to describe their music. Sometimes you wish they would play more sophisticated songs, that are more folk orientated, but to hell with that! It's the festival opening damnit! It should open with a bang, and that's exactly what flogging molly did.

After this Irish entertainment it was time to test the local cuisine. Fries with mayonnaise. Delicious!

We needed this healthy food because the next stop would be METALLICA(!!!). I`m one who believes that you can only fully enjoy a concert when you are standing relatively in front of the stage, so me and my two companions waited in line to get into "the pit". While waiting we saw a bit of Incubus, which sounded ok, but I still believe they take themselves (and life) way to serious.

After almost 1.5 hours of waiting it was finally time to squeeze ourselves in front of the stage. After a lot of sweating and a little of pain I was standing at the perfect spot to see..METALLICA(!!!).

METALLICA (!!!) was brilliant. I don`t listen to their music in my daily life, only know their "best of". However, from the second they started playing the first chords it was chickenskin all the way..and that really says something about the quality of the performance. It was better than Rock Werchter in 2004, by miles. Especially when they played songs like "The Memory Remains" and "Enter Sandman" you know that you are looking at one of the best bands still out there. They`re one unit on stage, and it just sounds perfect.

After 2:30 hours of METALLICA (!!!)..I was tired..luckily it was they end of day 1. We walked around a bit, bought some more food, and slowly went back to our tent.

The next day I woke up, and as always (the second time in four years), I had a cold. A pretty heavy one to: I needed two paracetamols to relief my head a bit. The good thing about those pills is that they keep away the pain. The bad thing about them is that you everything becomes a bit hazy. It feels like there is a thick layer of Plexiglas between you and the rest of the world. Could work out good for some concerts, but for others..

For one act those pills really didn’t work out in their favour; Blood Red Shoes sounded like a cheap-ass White Stripes clone, without the catchy hooks. A steady (and this really boring) rhythm on the drums with unimaginative riffs on the guitar.
No, thank you, bye bye!

Luckily Voicst was there to cheer me up. I`m getting sick of hearing that one song of theirs on the radio, but this performance was good! Really good! Well written songs that actually have some depth in them, together with a good performance.

Especially liked the part (during that song that makes me sick due to over-exposure) where they froze on stage for four full minutes. Pete Philly & Co. performed one of their songs during this moment in time. We had to leave a bit early though for the..

EAGLES OF DEATH METAL! I`ve seen them two times already in the past 2 years, but I keep coming back. Why? Well, this is one of the coolest bands out there. No complications, just good ol' dirty Rock 'n Roll! How it's meant to be, you know.
What did they play? Mostly material of their last album.."Death by Sexy". And for the first time I`ve got to say this wasn`t a bad thing. Songs like "Cherry Cola", "Don't Speak.." and especially "I Like to Move in the night" never sounded better! This time Jesse Hughes was also more concentrated on his moustache than the female members of his audience, which certainly helped his performance.

After the Eagles we had to go back to the mainstage for the Foo Fighter. While waiting in the line for the front-section, the Kaiser Chiefs where playing. They kept my mood up during an hour of way too close physical contact with members from the same sex (People were cramped like sardines in these wasn`t pleasant at all). I`ve got to say, it was worth it. The Foo Fighter are a solid band. It's not exactly my music (too much of the Straightforward Stadium Filling American Rock - SSFAR), but songs like "Monkey Wrench", "One by One" and "Learn to Fly" were still very enjoyable. And one of the persons with whom I went to the festival, was a great fan of theirs, and had the concert of her life. That's all that matters.

And then we already arrive at day number three, the last day. We started of completely at the front for Patrick Watson. Again he gave a great and experimental performance. It was a bit further "out there" than Lowlands last year, which probably wasn`t the best decision when looking at a general member of a Pinkpop audience. Early Sunday morning. Still having a headache from last night. "Man under the sea", "The Storm" and "Daydreamer" where the absolute highlights of his set.

After that we just chilled a bit on the grass, with Cavalera Conspiracy on the background. Pretty good music to take a nap with. It was on this day that we also got a nice sunburn. Napped a bit too long I guess.

We had to gain some energy though for the Grand final. This started of with The Hives. They are an entertaining band with some good songs, but not ground breaking. Good for an hour's worth of fun, but after gets a bit boring. Luckily for us the set was only 60 minutes! And because I had to be in front for the Queens of the Stone Age, I had to leave a bit early.

Along the way I bought some more food, and another coke (the cola variant). I was willing to stand in line for more than an hour to see my favourite band perform life again. I was even prepared to listen to Alanis Morrissette for this. And oh man, was it bad. She has gotten old. She might still have a good voice, but playing all the up tempo songs (like Ironic and Ought to Know) half a tick slower is just murder! It kills the energy that these songs used to contains. It kills the performance. Alanis, maybe you had a bad (birth)day, but please, get some more energy to play those songs at the speed that belongs to them.

Time for the Queens of the Stone Age. And as always, they were tight. They played a lot of songs from their last album, which isn`t bad for me, because I know them all. But the rest of the audience as just standing there. I guess they were already waiting for the Rage. "Misfit Love" and "Turning the screw" turned out perfectly in a live setting though. Not to mention "No One Knows" and "Monster in my Parasol".

Somehow however it seemed that Josh was a bit tired. I think something is nagging him; perhaps the format to which he has to keep himself with the Queens. Maybe something new will be created from its ashes soon. Just like what happened with Kyuss..

The festival ended with none other than the Rage Against the Machine. Got to love the tattoos of the bass player. True body art. Might try it out myself one day. The performance of the band was crazy. People where jumping constantly and the temperature was soon rising to a 30+ degrees Celsius. Luckily there were some songs where everybody could rest a bit. It was probably one of the most exhausting performances I ever attended. But with songs like "Bullet in the head", "Guerrilla Radio" and "Killing in the name" it's pretty damn hard to stand still mind you.

I was completely exhausted afterwards. I had chest pains (due to bad shoes; they didn`t really take the impact of me jumping up and down), my voice was gone (beer, screaming and a cold..what more do you want?) and my money.. still in my pocket?
I actually didn`t spend that much this time around. Less than 100 euro's in three days. And this year I actually had money to spend. Maybe it was just the cheap b'stard in me that kept me from giving away notes of ten..

All in was the best Pinkpop ever! The bands were great, the company was great, the weather was great..the food was great! What more do you want? Nothing!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Not so High Fidelity: Top 5 most intriguing female artists

A few weeks ago I saw High Fidelity, a great movie with John Cusack in the lead. He played a record-store owner in the middle of another relationship crisis. He makes a top 5 break-ups list, and decides to visit each of the ladies on this list to find out why they broke up with him.

Based on that movie..and my soft spot for girls with guitars (or any other kind of instruments)..a top 5 list of most intriguing female artists.

no.5 Sarah Wooden (My Brightest Daimond)

From the sessions of Lowlands 2007. Saw her there last year and was immediately captured by her voice.

no.4 Alison Goldfrapp (Goldfrapp)

She can be an angel, she can be the devil. She's in control.

no.3 Abi Harding (The Zutons)

Without Abi and her saxaphone, the Zutons wouldn`t be half as fun to hear and look at.

no.2 Roisin Murphy (ex-Moloko, now solo)

Beautiful voice. Just love the way she moves along the stage. She seduces her audience.

No.1 PJ Harvey

PJ has many faces. Rock Chick. Classical Pianist. Alternative Artist. Punk bitch. On thing remains the same: The quality of her recordings and that voice. Truly one of the best and most original artists of our time.

Monday, March 17, 2008

/ignore Fitna by Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders. Dutch politician. Peculiar hairdo. Extreme visions.

Wilders has used "Islam" in the same sentence with words such as fascism, terrorism, tsunami's and criminality. The Koran has been compared with Mein Kampf, and has been named the "psychological detonation mechanism of fundamentalist terrorism". Wilders is not the kind of guy to pursue any subtlety in his actions and words. That's for sure. He would make a crappy diplomat.

Soon you, the international blog reader, will be confronted with a little section in your newspaper called "Fitna". It's the title of the new (and first) movie of Geert, in which he will uncover "the truth" about the Islam. It'll be almost 15 minutes long, and I`m expecting a not so gentle message where one of the world's biggest faiths will be burned to the ground. Without any common sense, but with false arguments. And while you are reading this message, our prime minister is warning your government for the movie. Giving it more attention than it deserves. It's great free publicity for the movie. Wilders doesn`t have to spend a lot of many on getting this baby some publicity.

Did I tell you that this movie has taken the dutch media hostage for more than a month now? Or maybe I should phrase it differently: "The dutch media has taken itself hostage over this movie". Just as the NME or the Rolling Stone can hype a band to stardom, so can the dutch media propel Fitna to mass attention.

There is one strange thing though, the dutch media is wondering loudly in every tv-program why this movie is getting so much attention. Let me give you an overview of a typical piece about Wilders' movie:

"This is all amazing! It hasn`t even been released yet, and still this movie gets so much attention! Even our prime minister is telling everybody about it! And look, an upside-down Dutch flag has been burned! And over here, mister Wilders is saying something, he says that he will not listen to any advice to cancel the movie! And after the warning from the dutch security agency he again repeats his answer! Amazing! Ah, the movie deadline has been moved! Wow, it will be aired by dutch commercial television! But when, when...WHEN?!!?!"

So why does this movie, and Wilders, get so much attention? I point my finger at the media.

The media, whom for some reason, do not hold themselves accountable for all the publicity that this man and movie are getting. The dutch media say it is their responsibility to report "the news". But doesn`t the media determine what is "news", and what isn`t? It seems they are trying to downplay their importance. Pretty strange for such a group of ego-heavy writers.

I think the media know the truth themselves, but why tell the poor dutch audience that they are the ones behind the hype that surrounds Wilders and his movie? They`ll be killing their own exciting, albeit fabricated, story. And so the saga continues.

Where will it end? Although I absolutely detest every word that comes out of Wilders' mouth, I want him to survive. He is less dangerous alive than death. Just look at Fortuyn and Van Gogh. Did their deaths make the situation any better? No, it only provided gun-powder for people like Wilders. I can only hope that the people who could eat Wilders' guts for dinner will realise this to.

So here I present you with the essence of the problem called "Fitna by Geert Wilders".

The problem is this post. And any other form of attention that they are both getting.

The solution?

/ignore Geert Wilders
/ignore Fitna

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Vampire Weekend's Vampire Weekend

When I first got my hands on this album I was a bit sceptical. Another hyped band that "reinvents" a wheel that already has been reinvented a thousand times? I pressed play and started listening Mansard Roof: Nice little organ, cool drums, pleasant voice, all in all a nice little tune. Next song. Again that little organ. Is this their gimmick or something? Is this little instrument the only thing that differentiates them from all the others? Did they find it somewhere at a garage-sale or something? It's nice song though. An unusual topic; Who gives a fuck about an Oxford Comma? They raise the question themselves, and write a song about it. So they do give a fuck about it. Hope that organ doesn’t come back in the next song, hope they have more tricks up their sleeve.

A-punk sounds like they are cramped into a 2x2 room with all their equipment. Again a very cute song. In the chorus I hear another cute organ , but this one sounds like that tune from that skiing-game I played on my Commodore 64. My scepticism starts to disappear. On to the next song.

Is this Paul Simon? This whole song just breaths the relaxed nature of Simon at the time of Graceland. The major difference is that he is a lot more minimalist in his lyrics that Paul Simon. And then Peter Gabriel gets mentioned in the chorus. I guess "Peter Gabriel to" sounded a lot better than "Paul Simon to" (try it!). M79 starts of as a classical opera, completely with strings and medieval piano. The strength of this song starts at 2:30 minutes. It's a kind crescendo that they also used at Oxford Comma. The song is sophisticated but still sounds very simple and straightforward. The secret for a good pop-song?

Ah! The organ returns at "Campus". This song reminds me a bit of The Strokes. Especially that chorus with the guitars. I guess the Strokes have the copyright on that twin guitar effect. Still, they differentiate themselves with the extra instruments and a rhythm that's not just "1,2,3,4". Bryn flows by like a breeze. It has got its good points, but is not as "peculiar" as the first 7 of this album. With its 2.12 however it is not really a big disturbance.

Up till now I was still a bit in doubt. Is this band just a novelty, or are they really good? It's one thing to make good use of an organ and copy Paul Simon (or Peter Gabriel, whatever..) flawlessly, but can they stand on their own feet? "One (Blake's got a new face)" is the best song on this album, and convinced me that this is indeed a great new band. Just hear those drums kick in together with the synthesiser. They just went into that studio with the intention to have some good old fun, and make a good record in the process. And any band which let's the fun seep through their music, and tries something new, has got a fan in me.

"I stand corrected" and "Walcott" are more laid-back and traditional tunes. Not as inspiring as the best songs on this album, but also not real "filler" material. It kind of suites the album to end at a somewhat slower pace. Most bands would expose this more serious side of themselves on their second album (great examples being the Futureheads, or the Strokes) Vampire Weekend already reveals it on their first. Courage my friend, courage.

"The kids don’t stand a chance" ends their debute in style. One of the impressions I am left with is that it could be listened by a 7 year old kid and your grandparents, and they both would love it. It’s a very positive album. It’s light, but not naive. There is real musicianship and song-writing included and they are familiar with the concept of "less is more". It’s the song that counts, and my…oh my… there are some great and addictive tunes on this fun and original record.

Monday, January 28, 2008

It all went wrong with Lenny Kravitz...

Here's an artist who I greatly admired back in 1998, when he released is album called 5. With numbers such as "Fly Away", "If you can`t say no" and "American Woman", it was an album I really enjoyed during that time. Soon I went back in time and discovered an even better debute album and one of its follow ups called "Are you gonna go my way". Both excellent albums with classics such as "Believe", "I built this garden for us" and of course "Let love rule".

Anno 2008 there is nothing left of my admiration. Every new song I hear is more uninspiring and boring than the previous one. "Dig in" and "Where are we runnin'" didn`t bring anything new to his sound. Both are just standard and simple songs that just do not swing. Lenny's rhythms in this third millenium are always straight. There is no creativity, no experimentation. It's dead music.

And now, with the new single called "Ï`ll be waiting", I can see where he wants to go with his sound. He wants to go back to the basics, like so many artists did before him when they lost their way. I`m sorry to say, but Lenny, it is just the same old thing. It's the classical ballad which you have written 10 times before.

And now this song is one heavy rotation on the so-called music-radio station called 3FM. I can only recommend to the people who like this song to listen to his first three albums, before you buy his latest. There is more beauty on each of his first three albums than his whole after-2000 production combined.

He's the perfect example of an "has been".

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Mouthful of Dø

Olivia is Finnish, Dan is from France. Both have there roots in Jazz, with Paris as their hometown. "A Mouthful" is their debut record, and my first of 2008. Defined in one word: Playful.

The record starts of in a kind of Byork style with "Playground Hustle". It heavily relies on the drums, with a cute children’s choir on the back. A bit later in the song the synthesisers start to kick in, and it gets an almost modern R'n'B sound.

"At Last" settles down completely as a nice guitar-pop song. It kind of reminds me of the Cardigans. It is a song sung by a girl who has finally found the love that she was dreaming of. The thing that makes this song special is that she directly talks to the listener with lines such as "Won’t make it harder on you girls". It's a very intimate song.

Olivia's vocals on "on my shoulders" are a bit more distressed and thin. In a world where vocal perfection is the standard in pop music, it is nice to hear a voice which isn’t perfect. It fits the song. "Song for lovers" continues the more laid-back feeling that the previous two song started. It's a plain and beautiful song. "The Bridge is broken" reminds me of PJ Harvey. It has that raw feeling to it, with minimal instrumentation, and those tormented/kind of sexy vocals.

"Stay" is another great and cute little song. Almost a sing-a-long. "Unissasi Laulelet" hypnotises you with it's tribal rhythms. This band has it's influences from many directions, and isn’t afraid to display them all on one record. That might lead to a very incoherent record, but Olivia's voice provides you with a red line to hold on to. The guitars in "Tammie" make it sound a bit like Radiohead, it has a bit of gloomy quality on it.

When I first listened this record these first 8 songs went in quite easily. Then came "Queen Dot Kong". It has a style for it's own. It sounds mixed with a bit of Balkan beat, a Peter Gabrielesk piano and bass section with a creative use of sampling. That Peter Gabrielesk part especially comes forward in "Coda", which is kind of an outtro for the shock that is "Queens Dot Kong". A positive shock of course. The following songs are again a lot more mellow, with "Aha" being the most notable. You could compare it's sound with some of the Britpop band out there.
Finally, "In my box" ends the record as it started.

"A Mouthful" is a very versatile record. It borrows little pieces of almost every genre of music and combines them to create an indefinable sound. It's a very playful record made by people who don’t let their creativity by bounded by the borders of a certain genre. Made by people with an open mind. I love it.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Era Vulgaris of the Stone Age Queens

Nervously I plug in my SD-card holder in the back of the computer. I`m sitting in my usual internet-cafe in Jaipur, India, and just downloaded the new album of the Queens of the Stone Age. First I need to unzip it though, but there is no Winzip on this computer, so I also need to download that program. A few minutes later and I am ready to put the unzipped files on my SD-card, but then the damn computer doesn`t detect it. After playing around with the cable I`m finally able get the thing working. There they go, one by one; "turnin’ on the screw.mp3, sick,sick,sick.mp3, i`m designer.mp3, into the hollow.mp3, misfit love.mp3, battery acid.mp3, make it wit chu.mp3, 3’s & 7’s.mp3, suture up your future.mp3, river in the road.mp3, run, pig, run.mp3"***.

I plug the SD-card into my cheap mp3-player and start to listen while dodging traffic and cows on the way back home in Barkat Nagar. Turnin’ on the screw starts nicely, it seems the Queens got their groove back after the heavy and schizophrenic "Lullabies…". It’s catchy as hell, but sounds a lot more difficult and raw than the first six song on that previous album. Probably due to the off-beat guitar shredding throughout the song, and the electronics. I like the part where the sound goes from one ear to the other. Better production than lullabies to, that album really had a "flat" sound to it.

I already heard and saw "Sick, sick, sick" on youtube, which was presented as the first single of this album. It starts where "Feel Good Song of the summer" ended in my opinion. No complicated bullshit in the lyrics here, just a plain message with a great riff at high speed. As a hard rock fan, I don`t desire anything else. "I`m Designer" is a new Queens song. Again the characteristic Queens groove, but this time with eligible lyrics and a real socially conscious message. Coming from a band with lines such as "I seen some things I thought I never saw. Covered in hair", it is refreshing. The song has an interesting construction. As a starting musician I always wonder how you can fit the chorus, verse and bridge/break together, keeping each section original/interesting while keeping the song an coherent one. "I`m Designer" is a great example of how it should be done.

"Into the hollow" is a slower song, in the line of "I never came". It sounds very cold and naked, which fits the lyrics perfectly. At first I wasn`t really impressed by it, but after the first two minutes the song really gets a soul. The song is also heavily lead by the drums. You can clearly hear that the Queens are now three people with Josh, Joey and Troy at the helm. "Misfit Love" is probably my favorite song on this album. It has that groove of the rhythm-guitar and bass, that punch of the drums and that staccato lead-guitar, which joined together make it just perfect. And just as you thought it couldn`t get any better, the song has a kind of "you can`t quit me baby" outro at four and a half minutes. Pure bliss.

I`ve got to admit, it took me a long time before I was able to completely listen to "Battery Acid". Usually life in India was already pretty chaotic, and I didn`t need this song to create some extra pressure on my brain. After I while I got used to the album’s "metallic" vibe , and was also able to listen to this song entirely. It kind of hunts you down throughout its duration. No time to breath, just a continuous (kind of ugly) pounding. Not my favorite song on this album.

I already heard "Make it Wit Chu" on the 2003 Desert Session’s album, and then I already knew that this should be released as a single at one point in time. Such a brilliant tune, it would surely have become a hit in my universe. Homme re-recorded it for this album, probably because the original version had a production quality to it that would not have fitted on this album at all. I prefer the original though, since it has a more organic feeling to it, PJ Harvey on background vocals, and a superior guitar solo at the end. It is hard to change something that is already perfect, which makes it a kind of shame to change it at all. Still a great song though, and a resting-point on this album.

Now where do people hear Nirvana’s "Smell’s like teen spirit" on "3’s and 7’s"? I honestly do not have a clue. Ok, the chords might be slightly similar (pay attention, and you will notice that this happens all the time in music), but the progression and the rhythm are completely different. On it’s own it is a nice and catchy song, an obvious single, on the same level as "Little Sister", but nowhere near the behemoth called "No one knows".

After this run of three close to average songs, Homme gets back on track with "Suture up your future", my second favorite track on this album. It kind of shares the same style as "Into the Hollow", only worked out a lot better. It’s a very compact and solid song. Everything seems to fit together perfectly and is lead by the drums. It also has a "trippy" feeling to it. Like sitting in the back of a cab, with the driver roughly dodging traffic, while you are sitting in the back, completely smashed after a long night out.

"River in the road" reminds me of a marsh of the damned, largely thanks to the drum-pattern. In some reviews it is called filler material, with which I have to agree. It does not really grab you like to other songs, it is a bit forgettable even. The last track completely makes up for it though. "Run, Pig, Run" grabs you by the throat and tosses you around until you can`…tossed…anymore. Or something similar like that. This song again has a similar feel as Battery Acid, but is more structured, has less noise and is easier to listen to. And that little break in the song is brilliant and hilarious at the same time. I thought of George Orwell’s "Animal Farm" while listening to this for the first time. Maybe because the subject matter is the same. The bonus track, "The fun Machine Took a Sh**! & Died", is perfectly described by its title. It has that typical Queens weirdness to it, which makes it a fitting end to this album.

All in all Era Vulgaris reaches my high expectation, but then again, it doesn`t. The vibe of the album is completely different from "Lullabies.." or anything else that preceded it. When I listened it completely for the first time, I didn`t really know what to think of it. Where these the "Queens of the Stone Age" that I learned to love on their previous four albums? Initially the answer was no, and I was even a bit angry and disappointed. But after a few listens I got used to this completely new direction of the band, and started to love it. I started to realise that each of the first three albums had a completely unique sound: Stoner, slick/sophisticated and just plain hard. The first half of "Lullabies.." however was almost an extension of the softer songs on "Songs for the Deaf", with the second half being more experimental. With "Era Vulgaris" Homme continued with the old trend to completely reinvent or develop his sound for each album, something which I cheer at. This development is something that in my opinion distinguishes the Queens from the Muses, Editors and Arctic Monkeys of our time: They dare to change their sound and direction significantly. At the risk that you as a critic or fan might not like it. I am a lucky one. I like it. A lot.

***Back in the Netherlands I immediately bought the new cd.

Beth Hart @ Effenaar

I saw Beth Hart for the first time at Bluesrock Tegelen, about 3 years ago. She was the odd one between all the heavy blues acts, which made her sound very refreshing that day. Bare-footed she plays straight-forward rock, with a little hint of blues and a lot of energy. Her history is an amazing one, with some familiar elements. Starting out as a talent-show regular (and winner), she recorded her first album in 1996. During the late 90s however she became heavily addicted to drugs, only to re-emerge clean and healthy in 2004 with a new and successful album. Now we are in 2008, and since a good friend of the family was ill, a ticket for Beth Hart was available for me. I was impressed by her a few years ago, and since this was at a small venue I looked forward to seeing her again.

With a big smile on her face she runs out on the stage to face the eager crowd. You directly get the impression that you are dealing with someone who has seen and been to the bottom of a little thing called life. With hard work and determination she climbed out of the cress-pool and she is enjoying everyday of her live now. In some ways the set-list of that night symbolises all the emotions she encountered in her years of fame, addiction and rehab. You`ve got the sad and slow moments that never seem to end. Then the moments where you just can`t keep the anger and frustration inside anymore and need to scream it out over the rooftops (my favourites this night). There are times of celebration, jubilation and pure loneliness. The music might be simple rock, but Beth adds a whole new layer with her performance and voice, which make it very interesting and fun to hear and watch.

Great examples of this uniqueness are the moments when she forgot a chord or lost the key. During two songs she asked (more "ordered") her band very friendly to stop and start over again, since she fucked up behind her piano. She seems to be a bit insecure, but still makes jokes about it with her guitarist, who will "hate her for this in the morning". She even gets the help from her audience to get her back on key, which perfectly reflects the great atmosphere at the performance. During these stops you also hear a lot of friendly fuck it's coming out of her mouth, basically telling herself and the audience not to worry too much about it. Especially because it was her last concert for a pretty long time.

In general it was a solid good performance with a woman who, to her advantage, has some loose strings in her head. She immediately captivated the largest part of the audience, and remained their sole object of interest during the whole set. A few comments though that do not relate directly to her performance. In my opinion one and a half hours is a bit short for a concert, but maybe this is the new trend in the age where the average album is not longer than 40 minutes? And what is wrong with those people who have the urge to keep on talking during the whole performance? If you want to have a decent conversation, why don`t you go to a bar? And besides the distraction it creates for the other audience members, it is also a bit disrespectful for the artist. She is singing her heart out on stage, while a bunch of guys is discussing the 5th unique guitar of the guitarist. Yes, I know it is a white Fender Stratocaster, now please shut up and listen!