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Alejandro

OK, well Gaga fans, the new “Alejandro” video is out. I always love a macho man in fishnets and heels, but beyond that I don’t know what to think yet. I liked it more than I thought I would based on last week’s teaser. And the choreography, per usual, is stellar. It’s directed by renowned fashion photographer, Steven Klein.

Regina, My Love

So, I just realized my last post before my most recent one was October of last year. In that post, I mention that I’m really only familiar with one or two of Regina Spektor’s songs. Two very important things have happened in the past eight months: (1) I moved across the country and more importantly (2) I have fallen in love with Regina Spektor.

The woman is absolutely brilliant. Granted, I already have a thing for female vocalists/pianists (Amanda Palmer, Ingrid Michaelson, Kate Nash, to name a few), but Regina is without parallel. My favorite album is definitely “Far,” there’s not a song on it I don’t love, though “Two Birds” and “Eet” are top of the list if I had to choose. But then there’s “Folding Chair” and “Blue Lips”– which sounds different to me every single time I hear it. That’s just one album, though.

Regarding “Eet,” I have to ask: If “Eet” is your favorite song and you forget the words to it, do you get extra points for irony?

Regina was born and raised in Moscow until age nine, when she moved to the Bronx. Like me (on my Dad’s side) she’s a Russian Jew and apparently she studied at SUNY Purchase, which gives me a great deal more respect for SUNY Purchase than I previously had. Naturally, she’s a veteran of the New York “anti-folk” scene, which I didn’t realize I was familiar with as I’d never heard the term before. I’m just going to quote wikipedia for this one:

Anti-folk (sometimes antifolk or unfolk) is a music genre that takes the earnestness of politically charged 1960s folk music and punk and subverts it. The defining characteristics of this anti-folk are difficult to identify, as they vary from one artist to the next. Nonetheless, the music tends to sound raw or experimental; it also generally mocks seriousness and pretension in the established mainstream music scene

Regina’s earlier albums (such as “11:11”) are certainly more experimental than “Far,” but I love the cohesiveness and accessibility of “Far.” Not that her earlier work should be over looked, especially if you like blues or jazz.

There’s too much to say about Regina in one post, or any of the amazing musicians I mentioned; my adoration will have to be peppered over time. I just needed it to be known that I had found love in Regina. I leave you with one of my many favorites of hers, “Us,” and encourage you to go watch all her videos over on YouTube you haven’t already!

New Music Mondays

So, I sort of stopped blogging about my music junkie habits because no one was reading. Eventually, I realized this was not a reason to stop writing. So I’m back! To welcome myself back, I’m kicking off “New Music Mondays.” On Mondays, I’ll go out of my way to listen to a group I haven’t heard before, or take suggestions from readers if I ever get any!

Today’s new group is called “Skillet” and allow me to wet your appetite with their song, “Monster.”

This single is from their most recent album, “Awake.” I haven’t listened to the entire thing yet, but I’ll get back to you. Skillet is an alternative CCM rock group (or Christian hard rock). The group in it’s current incarnation (noticed that half the band is female! rock on!) has been around since 2001 and they put out 3 albums before “Awake.” I’m kind of surprised I haven’t heard of them. Though, I am grateful everyday that there is great music I haven’t heard yet.

It breaks my heart

Either Pandora doesn’t realize that Regina Spektor has written more than one song, or it doesn’t think I’d like any of her other songs. The one song it keeps giving me of hers (mostly from my indie rock stations– Metric, Stars, the Ting Tings… are the TTs “indie” anymore?) is FIDELITY.

Now, anyone who knows anything about Ms. Spektor can tell me that Fidelity is her most overplayed song by far, and likely not her best. I cannot help but continually apply my palm to my forehead over the fact that of all the songs Pandora could beat me senseless with, it could “Fidelity.” It breaks my heart.

Other things that bemuse me include bands that used to be mainstream and have since gone Christian. Not that I have a problem with Christian rock, I can actually name several Christian rock artists I like to listen to (though, I admit I would’ve never been introduced to them without my mother’s side of the family. My Dad’s side? We just do the Hora. And then listen to Hendrix). Said Christian rock artists include Nichole Nordeman, Natalie Grant and Steven Curtis Chapman.

Granted, Chapman can get kind of preachy, but Nordeman is one of the most talented song writer’s I’ve had the pleasure of coming across. Many of her songs do not actually refer to God or Jesus specifically and that leaves them open for interpretation to those who aren’t otherwise aware it’s all God-talk. Of course, most of Nichole Nordeman songs are about people, not religion. Songs I suggest checking out by her include, “Gratitude” (though this one obviously addresses God, I think it has an excellent message and this song has been known to make me cry on occassion) and “Wide Eyed” (which does refer to Jesus, though not by name– what is with my examples?– but is about the hypocrisy of dismissing outcasts even though Jesus himself was one).

Considering that many Christian Rock songs don’t refer to God directly, it’s easy to see how a Pop Rock group could make a seamless transition– it’s just that now all the “he”s in the song are about God and not that cute boy with the locker next to yours.

Who remembers the movie “She’s All That”? Folks in my age range (d.o.b. 1985) probably will, despite the fact that there were a thousand other teen movies out at the same with roughly the same premises. Cool guy takes a bet that he can make awkward girl the prom queen and they eventually fall in love. Now, if you know what movie I’m talking about, I’m sure the song “Kiss Me” pops to mind. What band did that song again? That’s right, Sixpence None the Richer.

Since there hay-day of “Kiss Me” and “There She Goes,” Sixpence broke up, got back together and put out the album “Divine Discontent,” that includes more than a few Godly references. Not that I’m criticizing the band decision to go Christian, just wondering why? I know Jewel originally wanted to do Christian Rock, and I hear tell that Avril Lavigne wanted to be a country star before she became the punk princess, but why change genres mid-career? Especially to move from a broader genre to a much more exclusive one?

Well, after all this I think I need a change from indie rock for a while. I’m feeling… Pink Floyd.

Your Ex-Lover is Dead

I love rock bands that use alternative instrumentation– almost as much as I love clever and multi-faceted lyrics. This single by Stars includes both, not to mention the gorgeous video that accompanies it. (Stars: Indie-rock group formed in 2001 in Ontario, Canada; 3 representative albums to date.)

I found out about Stars via Pandora and my love for Metric. Go figure, Emily Haines (lead singer of Metric) formed one of her first bands with classmate Amy Millan. Together, Haines and Millan formed Stars, though I’ve found no evidence of Haines in the groups recent work. Either way, it should come as no surprise that great musicians run together.

Now, it should be noted that I am extremely picky about music videos. This elitism comes from a concieted place in which I do believe I could do a significantly better job than most of the hacks out there. I have vision and talent with a lens.

That having been said, I’ve only seen two Stars music videos to date and they’ve both blown me away. The music video for “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” is SO good, it’s actually supplanted my own image for the song in my mind. This is a first.

So why is this video so fantastic? Well, a great video starts with a great song. As previously mentioned, “Ex-lover” also features alternative instrumentation (violin, trombone, french horn). Like many of Stars’s songs, “Ex-lover” features a strong baseline and a brilliant build-up. “Ex-lover” has not one, but two great peaks, both featuring some of my all-time favorite lyrics.

To wit, they are:

“Live through this and you won’t look back”

and

“I’m not sorry I met you,
I’m not sorry it’s over,
I’m not sorry there’s nothing to save.”

Now for the video itself… The image of a frozen pond is perfect for this song– so perfect that I’m practically kicking myself for not having come up with it. The song, as you may have guessed, is about an ex-lover. Specifically, it’s about running into an ex-lover and marveling at the lack of regret. But what better image for long-dead flames than ice? Especially juxtaposed with the opening image of a room on fire.

Which brings us to the song’s opening quote, “When there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.” Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to confirm the origins of this quote. What I do know is that the speaker on the album is the father of lead vocalist, Torquil Campbell. Additionally, the quote is reminiscent of Jan Palach’s 1969 suicide in the former Czechoslovakia.

But, all the brilliant images in the world would be rather useless without someone competent holding the camera. The cinematography in this video is yet another note-worthy achievement. For one, having all the musicians lie on their backs and be filmed from above while snow falls on them… simply beautiful. The shots of ice skaters in front of a bright light? Also beautiful. What truly impresses me, though, are the shots in which the camera spins. The cuts in this video aren’t too quick (a common problem in music video today) and the cinematographer managed to make this gorgeous, spinning shots without making the viewer want to hurl. Clearly, someone learned something from the debacle that was the Blair Witch Project. The camera work, like everything else in this video, is gracefully executed.

And so, without further delay, I give you “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” by Stars:

Title please?

I can’t come up with a header for the main blog page.

Suggestions?

Ack.  I cannot get Metric’s “Help, I’m Alive” out of my head.  (Metric: Electronic, new wave, dance/synth pop group formed in 1998 in Brooklyn, NY; 3 representative albums to date.)

While this song is one of my favorites by Metric (including the acoustic version as well), it’s stuck in my head because the repetitive line in this song–my heart keeps beating like a hammer, beating like a hammer–is drumming along with my headache. You know, beatin’ like a hammer.

The band had released the following video, a short film by Deco Dawson, as the song’s official video.   It’s nothing I ever would’ve come up with for the video, but it is obviously carefully crafted and works extremely well with the song.

A music ho is born

I might as well be honest.  When it comes to music, I’m a ho.  This week the Fray might be my go-to group, but come Monday morning I’m not returning their phone calls because I’m fooling around with Lily Allen.  As soon as I get into Common’s pants, my thoughts wander to Atmosphere, Lupe Fiasco and Murs.  My taste in music, like my taste in lovers, is wildly eclectic.  The only things I can’t stand listening to are, specifically: honky-tonk country, gansta rap and disc jockeys.

My father raised me on the music of his 1960s-70s youth and I was a bubbly fan of the 1990s.  I marched around the living room to “Yellow Submarine” when I was four and when I was ten I listened to the Spice Girls—I even bought SG lollipops and saw their movie. I danced many a Macarena and got down Big Willie Style.  And then there was Napster.  The digitalization of music drastically changed the way music was (and is) listened to, but innovations such as the Music Genome Project (aka Pandora Radio) have become gateways for music junkies like me: I punch in a favorite group and find five more I love and never knew about.

I try to keep my listening habits traditional.  I only have a tape-deck and a radio in my car and, yes, I still listen to FM radio.  The tape-deck is useful since I have a tape adapter for my iRiver (yeah, it’s an MP3 player and it’s not an Apple product), which also works with the CD player.  Compact discs are my preferred listening method.  I grew up with them and I miss the ritual of buying a new disc, listening to it relentlessly on my stereo for weeks and learning every song forward and backward before I finally filed it away.  I suppose vinyl would be my medium of choice if I had a turn table and could afford a vinyl collection.  Vinyl has a reverence that discs don’t.

I made an art of mixed CDs when I was a teenager.  I still have many of them and periodically in enjoy them when I’m not too busy laughing at myself.  To be fair, I still make playlists, but they’re out of control with the 80-minute limitation a CD presented.  I also have a considerable compact disc collection that I lug around in a 220 capacity case that’s been christened the “iSchlep.”

Oh, but what about me as a musician?

I became a classically trained flutist and vocalist mostly by choice (I wanted to learn and all public schools teach is Western Classical theory), but I want to play jazz (hopefully with an alto flute for starters) and learn to improv.  They never teach flutists to improvise.  I’m also a band geek, love to march and wish I played an instrument they had in Drum Corps, damnit!

I compose music in a variety of ways.  Sometimes with a pencil, a tuner and a piece of staff paper, sometimes electronically, sometimes with a flute or a piano at hand, and sometimes by humming into a recorder.  I asked my composition teacher for some better methods freshman year of college, but he had none to offer.  I also write lyrics too, but never for the music or vise versa.  It’s very strange.  I keep wondering if I can’t remedy that.

Besides music, I also love to write, read, and take photographs.  With more free time on hands suddenly, writing about music seemed like a good idea to fill the void.  If I can work photography into this somehow, I’m set.

What else is there to know? I currently live in Boston with an aptly named cat, Nero.  I’m 23 and I still have so much left to learn.  Not to mention listen to.