Friday, November 27, 2009

Blood on the Rooftops

For years I skipped this song.

I heard the intro and thought: "An acoustic guitar playing on and on, it must be some kind of mix-up; this is not Genesis. Probably some Spanish acoustic singer which they accidentally put on this tape. So I went on to the next song of Wind & Wuthering, Genesis' second album with Phil Collins on the lead vocals.

It was my second Genesis album after hearing "We can`t dance" a few 100 times, and it is still my favorite. It has got something magical about it. Something you just can`t touch. A fifth element. For those first years however I kept skipping track number 6 - completely clueless of what I was missing.

I can still remember the day when I kept on listening, passing the 1 minute mark.
Tears came to my eyes. It was the most beautiful piece of music I ever heard.
When listening to the lyrics I always get vivid images in my mind.

A family is sitting in front of a television in the middle of winter. It's warm and cozy inside their home. Outside it's dark and snowing. Snow piles up on the rooftops while the moon is shining bright. It's a cold night.

The family is captivated by the images displayed on the television. It's five past eight in the evening. The world's news is on the television. After a segment about local politics and people complaining about a new tax being implemented the topic switches to a third world country.

War broke out there a few months back. People are suffering. Thousands are on the move, trying to get to the border of their neighboring nations. Many however do not make it. Images of corpses are lying on the side of the road. Rotting, nobody has time to clean them up.

In the meantime the family is enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. The news jumps to the next topic, an important foreign statesman is visiting their nation. They can barely remember the images in the previous news topic. And why should they? They see those images almost every week. They have gotten used to it. Accepted it as something that just "is".

The tube creates distance, and as soon as their favorite comedy show starts they have forgotten all about what they have seen. There's Blood on their Rooftop. It stains the white virgin snow. The ugly truth of a society that is becoming increasingly individualistic - or are we just becoming numb?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dr. John's Gumbo

"You can even smell it, a smell like it has been in a bookcase for a very long time", said the Belgian girl to me when I was heading back to the South and was examining my catch from the record fare. It does smell it's age. Recorded & produced in 1972, this record is more than 36 years old. It doesn`t only smell a bit like mold, it even looks a bit moldy from the outside.

I paid about 10 euro's for this record, and while examining the record in the train I`m wondering if it was worth it. The cover is beautiful - The doctor is standing in front of a large wall, portraying an industrial-farm landscape. The back cover shows him lying on several bar-stools in front of "Yudda's Yummy Hamburgers Hot Dogs" - A little hamburger place. When opening the the record the inner sleeve is even more impressive. It has a slightly greenish quality, displaying the doctor from head to toes - dressed in a nice suite and a top hat. With the bad lighting it is however hard to see if the record has a lot of scratches yes or no.

I start reading the insert. It starts with an intro from the Doctor himself what moved him to record this album. Dr. John is born as Mac Rebennack in New Orleans. From the early 1950's he started working as a studio musician in New Orleans playing the guitar and piano. He worked in the studio where Shirley & Lee, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Professor Longhair and Heuy Smith recorded their records. Later in the sixties he started to record his own material - Gumbo is his third record.

The record is filled with New Orleans classics from the 50s and 60s which have been re-recorded by the Doctor and his band. And how. "Iko Iko" starts the record off extremely catchy. I don`t get the lyrics (They seem to be based on Creole), but the music speaks for itself - It's a great mix between "Dixieland, Rock & Roll and Funk", as the Doctor describes it. The only thing I know is that it is catchier, dirtier and swings more than anything coming from the British Isles in the past decade (European music most of the time is very straight-lined).

The song that blew me of my feet however was "Big Chief"; The organ that runs through this song is just amazing. It's unlike anything I`ve heard before and again as catchy as hell. The song is funky. It's hard to stay still during this song. It also sounds like the musicians had a lot of fun playing these song - and the record is in perfect condition - so it all sounds as clear as an ice cold winter morning.

"Mess Around" displays the Doctor's excellent piano skills, he himself describing his solo at the start of the song as "radiating the adiating". The piano is on fire, that's for sure. In his liner notes he tells that this song was written by Ahmet Ertegum for none other than Ray Charles. It would have fitted Ray perfectly. Up tempo, one big celebration.

The second side starts of with "Junko Partner". Described in the notes as "the anthem of the dopers, the whores, the pimps, the cons. It was a song they sang in Angola, the state prison farm and the rhythm was even known as the "jailbird beat". Dudes used to come back with all different verses. The hard-core dopers couldn`t wait to hit the street after their release so they could score again.

"Six months ain`t no sentence
One year ain`t no time
They got boys in Angola
Doing nine to ninety-nine"

Meaning they had no intention of reforming even before the beginning their sentence. It's a song all New Orleans bands had to play: kind if a Calypso-oriented rhythm with Cajun dialect."

The Doctors excellent piano playing accompanies the record right to its end. It's one of the most enjoyable records in my collection (definitely entered my top 10 of favorites - out of more than 300 classics now) - and I can recommend it to anyone who loves music. It was my best 10 euro's spend in a long long time. It's living proof that great music goes beyond the notion of time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Utrecht Records Fare 2009

This weekend I will attend my second records fare in Utrecht, and I am really looking forward to it. What hidden gems will I discover this time? Will I finally find that one record I have been looking for the past years? What new old music will I discover?

Why did I start buying records in the first place? It started just before I went to India. I wondered around a flea market and saw a bin with some records in it. Rummaging around it I found one which caught my interest: The first record of the Dire Straits. Sultans of Swing was the track I recognized. The seller only asked 1 euro for it. And so my current collection was born.

As a music lover, records are for me a cheap and easy way of getting to discover great music, great music of any age. With an average price below 5 euro's its even worth to take risks. You for instance buy an old Santana record for 2 euro without knowing any of the songs on it. You play the record and find out it is an extremely musical light jazz album. Or you stumble on a record from Ry Cooder, a guy you know as the father of the Buena Vista Social Club, and find out he's one of the best guitarists ever. Going to a records fare is like a big adventure into a treasure cove for me; you never you what great piece of music you`ll find. Some people might not find old music relevant in this day and age - but for me a good music is timeless. Listening to the first record of Devo or an early Lou Reed can be just as exciting as listening to the debut of the Japandroids or the latest Dirty Projectors or TV on the Radio album.

So what will I be looking for at the records fare? I`ve been looking for the debute from DEVO for more than a year now; Apparantly the band really has a cult following since I`ve yet to see it anywhere. "Blue" of Joni Mitchell would also be a nice addition. Thanks to the Dirty Projectors I`m really getting into the Talking Heads. Perhaps I can also find the debute of Roxy Music? And what am I still missing from David Bowie? And what about Old soul records from Marvin Gaye, James Brown and maybe Lee Dorsey or Otis Redding? Minnie Ripperton - I still need to find the record that made her famous for a reasonable price. Dr. John also created some extremely catchy music and some early stuff from Van Morrison would also not be bad.

I wonder what my budget will be?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Q: Are we not men? A: We are Devo!

A: We are Devo!
Q: Why are you Devo?
A: With songs as "Jocko Homo" and "Satisfaction" you are basically deconstructing music.
Q: Why deconstruction?
A: Cos these two songs sound like a toddler trying to force a square brick into a round hole. It just does not fit, but you don`t care.
Q: More groups have tried that - why is Devo's effort so special?
A: Besides making square songs they are also completely unpredictable.
Q: Unpredictable as in?
A: Listen you "Jocko Homo" and see how it turns into an anthem at 02:30.
Q: Do they go beyond this gimmick?
A: Absolutely, listen to "Gut Feeling". Probably one of my favorite songs ever. It starts of with a simple guitar riff, speeds up, then the piano sets in, speeds up even more, the piana starts to get frantic, the guitar spits in together with Mark Mothersbaugh's words. At 03:30 in crashes into chaos, only to end with another frantic punk prelude for "Slap your baby down". Crazy and brilliant at the same time.
Q: So you really like this single song, anything else worth listening to on this album?
A: Well, yes: "Too Much Paranoias" makes you feel paranoid and very uncomfortable. In the middle the song breaks up, only to materialize again for one final push. "Mongoloid" is a beautiful song, telling the story of a mentally disabled person who just like everyone else brought home the bacon without being noticed. Such a sensitive song.
Q: Are there any weak points on this album?
A: Yes. The first 10 songs are just one big winning streak. Not one weak link in there; It catches you with its hyperactive jabs and does not let you loose. I never really understood "Shrivel Up" though. It misses a bit of direction, it feels a bit out of place. Still a good song though - but it does not feel as "urgent" or "relevant" has the others.

Q: And why do you still listen to Devo in 2009?
A: Nothing came before, and nothing came after it quite like it. Devo devolve there music like no-one else, and therefore listening to it sounds like a great party where people can only move in stop-motion. Check out there first album at your local record or web store. It's worth the money.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

You`re an extra, lost in the scene

It has been a long, long time since my last post. Don`t let the gap of 3 months fool you: I`ve been listening a lot of music and learning about myself in the process. It for instance seems that I`m a person who likes a bit of structure in music. Groups like Animal Collective and the Dirty Projectors seem to be on the wrong side of this thin red line of mine. I don`t think they're bad, but I just don`t get it (yet). I don`t get what's so appealing about it (yet).

Artists that are appealing to me at the moment are Phoenix, The Pains, Allen Toussaint, Talking Heads (yea,yea, due to the dirty Projectors), Apostle of Hustle, T. Rex, Charles Spearin and St. Vincent.

St. Vincent in particular makes me smile. It's hard to describe how her music sounds like; It's a mix of styles. It's a (lot) rougher version of My Brightest Daimond - with a beat. Her latest album is a carefully constructed patchwork of songs. Some can start of as dreamlike and then at one point fall back into harsh distortion. It is this combination that makes me really like Actor, and songs like Marrow and The Strangers perfectly demonstrate this. Playing them very loud though will get your neighbours yelling at you.

Luckily she has some very neighbour friendly songs like Save me from what I want and Laughing with a mouth of blood. Judging from their titles and lyrics you would not call them upbeat, but they do sound like it. I especially appreciate those nice backing vocals she did on both the songs; the "Watch your step's" give Save me.. that little bit of extra.

Finally, the first single Actor out of work is a great stacato marsh from the start to the end. I really like how the songs builds up to the finale. It's not a second too long at a little bit more than two minutes, and makes you want to play it, again, again and again.

The best thing about this is that I`m going to see St. Vincent live in action in Nijmegen in about a week's time. I`ve taken half a day of to go see her perform her songs. And if this Letterman performance is anything close to what I`ll see that monday, I`ll go back home happy. Hopefully my right foot doesn`t drop off in the meantime.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Two Suns from Bat for lashes

Natasha Khan is Bat for Lashes and with the first song on her new album "Two Suns" she immediately caught my ears, and after seeing the album cover, she caught my eyes. A beautiful album design placing her in the centre, two worlds in her hand. Is that a tear on her cheek and a crown of stars or thorns? So many questions. Is there a vinyl version? - this would look great on any wall.

It all started when I saw her as a similar artist on for PJ Harvey and My Brightest Diamond. So basically nothing could go wrong with me picking up her record, and after listening it for several times, we were a match made in heaven.
Her music reminds me of 80s Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush (although I only own one album of the latter) and more recently, Yeasayer. So it did not really come as a surprise when I read that actaul members of Yeasayer participated in the creation of this record. Her voice is indeed almost as strong as those of PJ Harvey and Sarah Wooden, but still unique. Music wise she is a lot smoother than Polly Jean (Check out her latest cooperation with John Parish), and replaces Sarah Wooden's guitar with a grain-shed of other instruments.

As mentioned earlier, "Glass" is a very strong opener, the perfect song to kick the album off. It takes you to a different universe with its echoing (tribal?) drums, synthesiser bass and hollow guitar. All together it sounds epic, and that's wher it reminds me of Peter Gabriel: Serious lyrics, dominating drums and low bass. It's only four and a half minutes long, but you`ll keep repeating it till infity.

I like "Sleep Alone" for the background vocal and cymbal which set in after about 45 seconds. Haunting vocals, subtle synthesizers and nice rhythm which keeps your feet tapping. Together with "Moon and Moon", this song is stuff that puts you into a dream like state (edit: actually counts for the whole album in retrospect). "Daniel" is the first single from this album and a good one. It's got a catchy chorus that you can pick up without a lot of difficulty. Those violins at the 2 minute mark must be an addition of Yeasayer, they sound so recognisable.

"Peace of mind" is a great combination of traditional and modern instruments, woven together into a songs which follows the beat of the drum. "World Music" just popped into my head while writing about this song. "Pearl's Dream" wants me to buy a drum machine and start experimenting myself. Wonderfull rhythm she devised there. Also love the chorus which acts as anchor in all the experimentation and sampling.

"Good Love" sounds like a mix between BSS' "Anthems for a seventeen year old girl" and the Zombies' "Way I feel inside". The organ at the start of the song resembling that of the Zombies, and the generally sad mood of the song reminding of the Anthem. Together with "Two Planets" (Which is the song that is most out "there" on this album), "Good Love" makes sure that the whole album keeps you captivated. There is no filler here.

What is on this album, is a great mix between piano and drum-lead songs. Experimental at times, but highly listenable. Dreamy, but not at all light. Unusual and delicate music with a lot of detail, but without making it sound as complicated kitsch.
In short: Buy it on monday.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Pains of being pure at heart

Only 10 songs on this album.
A pretty melo-dramatic band name.
And when I arrive at song four I already feel like I heard this song before on the very same album. There is not much variation in between songs, and I do not really bother listening to the lyrics. They're not really worth listening to.
All reasons why I should not like this album, but something, something about this album just makes me like it.

This album summarized into one sentence: Robert Smith from the Cure (Stay Alive) suddenly starts wearing colorful shirts and convinces the Jesus & The Mary Chain (Contender) to join him on a crusade to make the world care-free.

And every morning when I select this album on my mp3 in the train on my way to work, they succeed. Thanks Robert Smith and Jesus & the Mary Chain!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Black Hearted Love for PJ Harvey

10 Reasons why I (really) like PJ Harvey

Her voice - Deep & Powerfull

Her guitar - She plays a beautiful Gibson Firebird VII

Her songs - Great lyrics but often not too complex: Less is more

Her lack of genre - She does not fit into one. She is free, creative.

Her appearance one stage - Five years ago I saw her performing on Rock Werchter 2004. While singing some songs the audience was so intimidated by her performance they seemd to back off a few meters. I think it was during "Meet Ze Monster".

Her cooperations - She actually played together on one of the Desert Sessions with Joshua Homme, did some duets with Nick Cave and now joins John Parish for her latest album.

Her residence - She still lives in rural England.

Her lack of any fixed style - Just as varied as her music. One day she can be a classic femme-fatale, the other day a stylish punk and then a conservative victorian girl.

Her attitude - Whatever she does, it's full of energy and emotion.

And finally, she's raw.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When Under Ether

The ceiling is moving
Moving in time
Like a conveyor belt
Above my eyes

When under ether
The mind comes alive
But conscious of nothing
But the will to survive

I lay on the bed
Waist down undressed
Look up at the ceiling
Feeling happiness
Human kindness

The woman beside me
Is holding my hand
I point at the ceiling
She smiles so kind

Something's inside me
Unborn and unblessed
Disappears in the ether
One world to the next
Human kindness

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lash at that Bat!

Anxiously I`m waiting for the new PJ Harvey and Jon Parish album. Already read a promising review in OOR, and they say it's going to be a very diverse album covering a wide range of sounds. It will be released in two weeks, so in the mean time I found another great one: Bat For Lashes.

She's a British singer-songwriter and will release her second album later this year. I`m listening to it now for the first time, and those first 5 songs are very impressive. On her similar artists are My Brightest Diamond (I like), PJ Harvey (I like like), Cocorosie, Cat Power and Patrick Wolf (I know and interested). So I guess this album and me are meant to be? Hopefully she will come near one day. Or maybe she will play on Lowlands 2009?

On other concert news, I bought concert tickets today for Mostly Autumn, ZzZ and Roosbeef. Mostly Autumn is a British Progrock band who were destined to be the "2nd Pink Floyd" in their early days, but seemed to have had some bumps along the way. Bumps always make people stronger, so I`m hoping for a great concert. ZzZ is a Rock 'n Roll band from the Netherlands who I saw 3 years ago on Lowlands, just after the release of their first album. The play two instruments: Drums and a Hammond. And they sound pretty massive and raw.

Finally there is Roosbeef (she picture to the left), she's a dutch singer-songwriter who seems to be either loved or detested. On 3FM (The worse dutch radiostation there is; they aim at a young audience by playing the same hits every day and talking a lot of sh*t in between) they only played her song a few times and got a lot of feedback from disapproving radio listeners. It had something to do with her singing, she has a certain style..My opinion: Bob Dylan is a great singer, and so is Roosbeef. You just have to get used to it, give it a chance. That's what I will do on a friday evening in May.
Finally: I do not like the Vivian Girls. It's too straight forward and too rickety.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Phoenix are my favorite French band.
The first song I heard from them was "Too Young", which is a great little tune on the soundtrack of "Lost in Translation", a movie from Sofia Coppola. The lead singer is actually married to Ms. Coppola, but do not fear, their marriage had nothing to do with the inclusion of this song on the soundtrack. It does not need the film to be great.

About three years ago I read some reviews of their last album "It's never been like that" which caught my attention. "A french band making an album that should have been the second Stroke's album". I bought the album and indeed, it was full with great pop songs. Listen to songs such as "Consolation Prizes", "Rally" and "Long Distance Call" and you`ll know what I mean. It's just fresh, music without worries, only great catchy songs.

Now they unveiled their first single from their new album "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" which will be released in May 2009. Looking forward to it already. Download it here. Or simple listen to it on You Tube.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Prog Rock Britannia

Found an interesting documentary about progressive music showing its rise and demise. My music listening experience started with Genesis thanks to my dad, however I only got into their progressive roots gradually. I like the way the band is portrayed in this documentary. From the "Lamb lies Down" they noticed that making another album that would be even more complex, would not please anyone. A joy it is then to listen to a "Trick of the Tail" which is such a briliant song. Genesis did focus more on the songs than on the musical complexity, and that's probably why I never can listen long to Yes or ELP: Complexity only for complexities sake does not make good music.

That first introduction of King Crimson sounds great though, need to check that album out.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Spirit If...Kevin Drew and Peter and the Wolf

RnR on a Firebird
I will never be a highly skilled technically perfect guitarist.
And I don`t care.
I`m playing this instrument with fun and love.
And that's all that matters in my music.

For music produced by others, I am only looking for something unusual, original, fresh, beautiful, emotional, dirty, soothing, messy, uncoordinated, multi-layered, not too complicated, fuzzy, downbeat, melancholic, intelligent, soft, rough, raw, romantic, crooked, but with a great rhythm. Summarizing: I`m just looking for that certain something that rings my bell.
This is what I found in the past few weeks to be quite interesting:

As the title suggests this is an extremely mellow album. Something to wake up to in the morning. Preferably in a hammock on a tropical island with a view on a crystal blue ocean. The band originates from Austin, Texas, and was formed by the musician Red Hunter. It's genres are defined by wikipedia as "Folk, Lo-fi, Singer/songwriter". The coolest tune on this album? One which displays the album's strength? Definitely "The Bride of S. Travels" which is a delightful little tune. The first thing that makes in great are the "Ahaaaaaaa"'s. Perhaps not the most beautiful "Ahaaaaa's" you`ve heard in a song, but definitely fitting the song perfectly. The second thing that makes this song great is its topic, travelling, which makes the song perfect for daily commuters such as me. If you`ve got to run, safe travels. From the 2 minutes mark the ending of the song is set in, with a subtle guitar and Aya's to lead to song to its end.

Other great songs are "Fireflies", "Ballad of Redhook" and "This Kid I knew". Melancholy, romance and a bit of nostalgia would be to key words to characterise these songs. Finally I`ve got to mention "Bottle Rockettes", a perfect pop song. It already starts of pretty good, but at the moment when the female singer joins in to sing her lines this song goes into higher grounds. And the break "Hey now honey, I`ll be fine. I just got to clear my mind. You go have a super time, I stay here and clear my mind". And then she replies magically....well..just listen the song. It`s just..beautiful.

Starting off in complete musical chaos you might be inclined to immediately push the eject button and throw the disk in the garbage bin, but please, please, control yourself and wait. After a minute or 2 the song settles down and transforms into something a lot more soothing. If you read some of my previous posts, I kind off dismissed this album compared to other BSS releases, but after 1.5 years it has won me over. It sounds like the intended follow up to "You forgot it in people". What one me however was the fact that Kevin can write a beautiful song titled TBTF. Translated: To Beautiful To F*ck. It's a bit tragic, which I could would be the case if you found a girl who is TBTF. In other ways in can be the ultimate compliment: "You are to beautiful to be touched". Reminds me a bit of Nick Cave's Where the Wild roses Grow, but there the girl got killed. She'll stay forever young, which is again a great Bob Dylan song, a song which in turn again relates to Ageless Beauty from Stars.

Back to the album! F*cked up kid has a great hook in it, just after the line: "ah sh*t..I guess I`m in love..with the f*cked up kid". The Lucky ones is probably my favorite tune on this album. It has an great positive vibe to it, great breaks, a perfect chorus and an even better ending. After this song the more experimental side of this album starts with songs like Gang Bang Suicide, Frightening Lives, Big Love (Great song to test your speakers with or any other audio equipment). This is followed by Backed out on the, which is great rock song. Distorted guitars, loose singing, dislocated solo' has fun written all over it.

And then there is Bodhi sappy weekend, which after an easy start shows it brilliance at 47 seconds. That chord progression! Amazing! In general this album has a very relaxed vibe and it is certainly not as chaotic (read: busy) as the second and third Broken Social Scene albums, but it has it's moments of brilliance. Largely due to smart simplicity. I love this album.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Why did you buy..

Pate Benatar - Crimes of Passion
You better run! You better hide! Pat Benatar was one of the hardest rocking ladies of the 80s and this album is rumoured to be one of her best. I`m checking it out right now, and it reminds me a bit of Bryan Adams' "Reckless". Still waiting to hear "Hell is for Children" which should be a hard rock song about child abuse. <10> Which turns out to be a rather mediocre standard rock song. Ah well, it was the 80s. Musically comparable to the dark ages? Wasn`t this the decade that MTV started? Maybe that's why it was all f*cked up: visuals were getting the upper hand.

Crusaders - Street Life 300S.
Yes! I`ve got it! Street life! I`ve been looking for this song on Randy Crawford albums for the past few years. Why? Well, you can find a perfect performance below from this century, but the first time I saw them was on Jools Holland's Later a few years back. She just has on of the most beautiful voices ever, and the band is incredibly tight and good. Listened to the first side of the album and the 10 minute version of the title song is great. Worth every 1.5 euro I spent on buying the album!

Janis Ian - Between the Lines
Janis Ian - Stars

Janis Ian is one of those songwriters who made a lot of albums during the 70s but has been completely forgotten except for one song, "Seventeen", that has been imprinted in everyones brain the first time they hear it. A song that makes you silent, and perhaps a bit nostalgic. I`m just reading the lyrics and they still hit hard. "Remember those who win the game, lose the love they thought they gained, in debentures of quality and dubious integrity. Their small-town eyes will gape at you, in dull surprise when payment due, exceeds accounts received at seventeen". BAM! Get that hometown queen! I`m pretty happy to find these two albums (in goods quality) of her and hoping they will be a (serene) blast. Funny thing I noticed about these two album covers is the kind of contemplative position of her hand. Interesting..