Saturday, November 06, 2010

It's complicated...

There are trends in music!

While progressive rock has been shot and burried, I am hearing it back in more and more new music I buy these days. Take the latest Sufjan Stevens record for instance; It's as complex as an early Genesis and King Krimson album, but no hipsters will ever dare to listen to these two old bands!

The new Sufjan is getting some negative comments from the press though. When I`m listening to it, it sounds very crowded and self indulgent at times. Some people might call these negative espacts, I call them plus points. An artist shouldn`t care about his audience; He should do what he wants to do, and take nobody's ears into account. Experimenting should not always be pleasent to the ears.

When an artist starts listening to what the audience wants, you get bands like U2 and the Kings of Leon. one trick ponys, who learned how tho draw a crowd with their albums, and decided to continue doing this trick till infinity. Bland music. No excitement. Just 3.40 minutes of nothing.

The most intesting thing about Sufjan's Age of ADZ is how he manages to mix the absolute with the relative, the analog with the digital and the ugly with the beautiful. Its an album full of contrasts, and these contrasts make it sound alive.
If you want a demonstration of this, just listen "Too Much". As the second song on the album it is basically a summary of everything to come. Its a mix of electronical beats and classical instruments. Unlikely bedfollows, but he somehow manages to make it work for my ears. It also helps that throughout the album I`m hearing the excellent voices of Annie Clark and Sarah Worden in the background. Or maybe that's just my imagination.

Imagine the Kings of Leon making exciting music. I`ve seen them performing live yesterday on Later with Jools. I`m trying to look into their faces. Trying to spot something in their eyes. Are they consolidating on their current fame? Are they playing save? Are they making the music they actually want to make? Or is their record company pushing them to give birth to 10 other sex on fires?

Questions that might never be answered, but who would even be able to hear these answers through the sounds that make the Age of Adz?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A night on the turntable #1

You start off with a bit of Marvin Gaye, a bit of "Let's get it on". The most sensual record ever made according to experts: Serving as Gaye's first venture into the funk genre and romance-themed music, Let's Get It On incorporates smooth soul, doo-wop, and quiet storm. It has been noted by critics for its sexually-suggestive lyrics, and was cited by one writer as "one of the most sexually charged albums ever recorded" (wikipedia). Produced for only one purpose. Turn it off after the first song - you don`t want to get stuck on this on a thursday night. Best listened to with the lights off and the eyes closed.

So you move on to Allen Toussaint's "Southern Nights".
Allen is a New Orleans pianist who is relatively unknown to the large public.
A song writer for Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey and a lot of other New Orleans artists - he also produced a number of solo albums. The latest being "The Bright Missippi" which has got some great ol' tunes which display Allen's skill behind the piana perfectly. "Southern Nights" is a brilliant song, really reminding you off a warm summernight, enjoying some drinks with your girl together with some good music, watching the sun go down.

Next on the schedule is Billy Joel's "Just the way you are". Again a very smooth song - only a bit more sentimental than "Let's get in on". Mostly played on weddings. It's a great song, but it leaves a dirt taste in your mouth. Please stay the same lady, I like you just the way you are. Or is it more like: Do whatever you want - I`ll like you just the way you are?

To get away from this you start listening to Randy Newman, of Pixar fame.
Grab the album "Sail Away" and listen to the title track. It's black, dark as the night.
Cynical is maybe the best word to describe it, although I`m in a bad place to judge the song's content - cause I ain`t no American. And then you`ve got the original version of "You can leave your hat on". Which sounds a lot darker, dirtier even than Joe Cocker's version. Just read the lyrics. This isn`t a simple striptease song....or maybe it is judging from his comments on this BBC show? I`ll let you be the judge.

Baby, take off your coat...(real slow)
Baby, take off your shoes...(here, I'll take your shoes)
Baby, take off your dress
Yes, yes, yes
You can leave your hat on
You can leave your hat on
You can leave your hat on

Go on over there and turn on the, all the lights
Now come back here and stand on this chair...that's right
Raise your arms up in to the air...shake 'em
You give me a reason to live
You give me a reason to live
You give me a reason to live

Suspicious minds are talking
Trying to tear us apart
They say that my love is wrong
They don't know what love is
They don't know what love is
They don't know what love is
They don't know what love is
I know what love is"

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sensual songs..

I wanted to avoid any cliches here - like taking any song from Marvin Gaye, or Chris Isaak's "Wicked Games". I started with creating a list of ten "love" songs, but ended up just limiting it to three. To keep it select. To keep it limited. To keep the standard high.

(1) Robbie Robbertson - Somewhere down the crazy river

This song sounds like a hot summer night - a night too hot to sleep.
Robberston's smokey voice, the smooth bass, the subtle guitar, the loose drums - it all melts together to make a perfect "love" song.

I'm a man with a clear destination
I'm a man with a broad imagination
You fog the mind, you stir the soul
I can't find, ... no control

(2) Vangelis - Love Theme

No need for lyrics. Without the saxaphone the song is so clean - so beautiful - so untouched. As soon as the saxaphone sets in - it becomes very, very sexy - dirty even at the points where it starts to crack up. It sounds like two people coming together. A forbidden love. They know they shouldn`t, but it's unavoidable...

(3) The Flamingos - I only have eyes for you

Nothing a little doo-wop can`t fix. It's slow, it's gentle, it's warm blooded - and has that great hollow tone. You can serenade it to her - or just be the bass if you can`t make the high notes.
Best part of the lyrics:

You are here
So am I
Maybe millions of people go by,
but they all disappear from view.
And I Only Have Eyes For You

Honourable mentions: Peter Gabriel's Steam, Sade's Smooth Operator, War's Spill the Wine, Santana's Black Magic Woman.....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The True Battle of Chernobyl

After seeing a documentary on Belgium television about people in France demonstrating against the bad maintenance/state of French nuclear power plants - I got interested in the biggest nuclear disaster we had in Europe: Chernobyl. This documentary is fascinating - do yourself a favour and watch it.

It convinced me even more that nuclear energy is not a viable replacement for fossil fuel.
Although the possibility of disasters like this one are extremely small - I feel it is not worth the risk. Europe was lucky in 1986 - it could have been far worse.