Sunday, November 30, 2008

Featured Artist(s): Get Well Soon

Get Well Soon is a German band led by Konstantin Gropper. From the sounds of his music you may guess he's a talented multi-instrumentalist or that he's classically trained. You may infer from his sombre lyrics that he prefers English to German as his choice language of creation. You'll also notice his sources of influence and inspiration: gently silhouetted giants like Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Nick Drake and Thom Yorke.

You can expect all of this and still be overwhelmed. Perhaps being overwhelmed is not the right phrase for it; a bewildering shadowy mixture of grand and real, a remnant of an alternate twentieth century 20's and 30's in a steam punked world and the creeping feeling of something else... something strange somehow. Strange, hauntingly sad and beautiful.

Be sure to check his rather eerie site here (including a few more clips) and his MySpace and for a few streamable songs. Mostly, I recommend his debut LP, "Rest Now, Weary Head! You Will Get Well Soon" (Amazon).


Friday, November 28, 2008

Song of the Morning: Titled Untitled

As predicted, I've procrastinated enough of last weekend and the first part of this weekend to be significantly behind my original papers writing schedule. On the up side, though, I still have a little under an (extended) month to complete these last two papers. On the down side, I may have to re-submit a paper on a topic I've already moved on from since. However, you know what they say of self-fulfilling prophecies... (No, what?)

I sometimes can't help but wonder if this is all that life has to offer - a series of things to do and accomplish, write that paper, date that person, go to that job interview, don't eat that food, look for something else to pass the time. Until the end. You can almost wish for it, except there's not likely to be anything afterwards (and perhaps, hence the appeal). But maybe it's just me. Maybe life doesn't have to be so mundane, so normal, so boring and repetitive.

I wouldn't really know anyway. But I can feel that there are alternatives. My senses may be dulled by the mind numbing routine of work and occasional grocery shopping, but I can still feel. Thus I know that this, whatever this is, is not enough. That it can be better.

But the obvious choice is to head into another form of routine, perhaps by adapting someone else's - their kind of job, their kind of family. And that would not do at all.

So, what is the answer? Perhaps there isn't one. Perhaps all I have is questions. Maybe I just need to ask them.

This post is dedicated to Kathleen Edwards, a Canadian alt-country indie artist who's making it. The song is taken from her out of print debut EP "Building 55", which Aquarium Drunkard fortunately shared a couple of years ago. I don't know if the song is based on actual occurrences, but I can imagine a fiery glare from the singer, accompanying it. Also check her latest album from 2008, "Asking for Flowers", where Edwards continues to develop as an artist (though I keep a warm spot for "Building 55").

Be sure to check Edwards' blog and her rather extensive tour list (currently in Europe and then back to America).

Kathleen Edwards - Titled Untitled {MP3} (from Building 55)
The MP3 will be hosted for a limited time only and is intended for introductory purposes only. For quite a few more downloadable and streamable songs (as well as for their purchase) go to Kathleen Edwards' site or just a selection on the page. Kathleen Edwards' picture is from her MySpace page.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Featured Artist: Fredrik

It's night. A full moon above. You're in a forest clearing surrounded by fresh green trees. It's quiet. And suddenly you hear it.

A night march. Silent, delicate but persistent and strong. You feel it carries its ancient history with it. You hear pride and self assurance but also sadness and remorse.

It inspires you. You can't make out all the words but it touches you. Something has awaken inside of you. The forest around you is stirring, marching with the music.

Finally, the musical echoes fade away in the distant. You open your eyes and stare at the stereo. A lone leaf remains.

Fredrik is a Swedish band creating wonderful music. Perhaps you can catch them out of the corner of your eyes on your next moonlight walk.

Fredrik - Black Fur {MP3} (from Na Na Ni)
The MP3 will be hosted for a limited time only and is intended for introductory purposes only. For a full listen of the album (and purchase) go to the site or just a selection on the page. Fredrik's picture from their MySpace page.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Gift Of Selfish Rain: Imperfectly

My Gift Of Selfish Rain: Imperfectly

My muse seems to be on an extended holiday these days, but I hope to call her back by reading creative and mysterious poems such as this.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Facing the Music: The Two Stevens (and John Darnielle)

I'm dedicating this weekend to music. You might ask: "how's that different from most other weekends thus far?". Well, first, thanks for the question. Second, it's not going to be dedicated (just) for listening but also for a rather heroic (and probably futile) attempt to start and finish the one-before-last of my papers, which deals, surprisingly, with music. More specifically, it deals with the controversy of whether music plays a role in human evolution and if it does, what is that role.

To do this, I will need to describe two of the main sides in this controversy, namely that of Steven Pinker (music is an auditory 'cheesecake' and Not an adaption) and that of Steven Mithen (music and language both developed from the same proto-musilangauge with music having a distinct role to play in human evolution). Naturally there are other views (such as one that claims that music is an adaptaion without any specific claims to a joint music-langauge progenator), but I do have to set bounds for this paper (and besides, those other researchers may not be named Steven...).

As this question deals with evolution it has no clear and resounding answer - which is a good thing (there would be no controversy otherwise!). Personally, I'm not sure I want this issue resolved. Having a mystery such as music in my life seems almost like a privilige in this rather explained age. Why Do we love and need music when it does not seem to have any survival-related benefit (or so some claim)?

To me, music definitely has survival related benefits. As most who know me may guess, a large part of my nutrition is actually non-physical in origin. So apart from the usual soul food, music is top in my dietary requirements. There are all sorts of musics and songs: some dietary, some require longer digestion periods, other are quick on the ear (and tounge) and just melt away. And there are those that provide energy and inspiration for the short and long runs.

The Mountain Goats' "This Year" began for me as such a song: an upbeat, determind melody with the repeating chorus saying "I am going to make it through this year if it kills me" (and the final lines closing in "there will be feasting and dancing in Jerusalem next year"). For a tough a year as I'm having, what could be more fitting?

But a caerful listen to the lyrics (and the other songs in this beautiful album) revealed a more complex story. The determination in the song was now filled with pain and resolve born out of past fear and experience. The hope to hold on for just one more year had possible departure or esacpe at its end rather than your ordinary "prize". This is because this song deals in painful earnest with the lyricist's history as an abused child, and specificaly describes one day of temporary escape from it. All of this hasn't hindered this song's capacity for inspiration; it may even have increased it (even if for some additional reasons).

The video clip below perplexed me for a bit as the storyline (the band being held hostage and forced to sing) is somehwat odd and does not deal directly with the lyrics. However, it may be delivering the message as a metaphor by Darnielle being forced to finally tell his story, a sort of a theraputic endeavor. So music does serve a purpose, it seems.

The Mountain Goats - This Year {MP3} (from The Sunset Tree)
The MP3 will be hosted for a limited time only and is intended for introductory purposes only. I recommend buying The Sunset Tree as it should be listened to as a whole album.
The Mountain Goats' picture is from their page.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Song of the Morning: Murder In The City

Getting up can be tough sometimes, especially when you spend the latter part of the night tossing and tumbling with one strange dream after another. Among these fleeting dreams are, sometimes, the songs of the morning, those I wake up to. I don't always realize what song it is. Sometimes I don't even hear it - until the chorus comes crashing in while I'm brushing my teeth or the silent final few chords whisper softly as I turn around the house before I leave for work, wondering what I've forgotten to do this morning.

Sometimes I realize what song it was only hours later, when it's actually playing on the stereo. This is the case with this post's song, The Avett Brothers' beautiful "Murder in the City". Because sometimes it's not enough to simply get up in the morning. Sometimes you need to wake up to reality (even if only briefly) and see that things can be better. The creative art, genuine enthusiasm and uniqueness of the Avetts is a good enough such reason to wake up (and go to one of their fabled concerts if you're on the same continent).

The Avett Brothers - Murder in the City (from The Second Gleam EP {The Avett Brothers Store, Amazon}) Also highly recommended is their latest album Emotionalism, from which the second clip ("Go to Sleep") is taken. Their picture is from their official website.

The Avett Brothers - Go To Sleep

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Featured Artist(s): Chapman & Brocker

Chapman & Brocker are a duo of brothers from Los Angeles, who create the most wonderfully lush and subtly rich music. And that's not all - their lyrics echo landscapes and atmospheres birthed in dreams and 19th century styled novels.

For example, "Chimes" speaks of a dream-like experience rooted in some faraway personal mythology of longing, love and the underlying desire to cross over - where exactly we don't really know; we can only feel our way there. As Obscure Sound, a great music blog that had a feature on them states, Chapman & Brocker “create stories that could be experienced rather than merely understood”.

Their debut album, "Dance of the Crazy Man", which was 3 years in the making and released on late 2007, contains 11 such mystified tracks. Like their earlier work, a soundtrack for the surfer film "Best Hours of the Day", this is also a soundtrack - for an inner voyage. Just close your eyes and take a step.

Chapman & Brocker - Chimes {MP3} (from Dance of the Crazy Man)

The MP3 will be hosted for a limited time only and is intended for introductory purposes only. For a full listen of the album (and purchase) go to their site or just a selection on their page. Chapman & Brocker picture from their MySpace page.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Pause

In writing this blog I'd hoped to do something I normally desperately am trying to avoid - getting noticed. I admit, I wanted someone to hear me, someone to read this. Now, it seems that I have been noticed, only that by the wrong people.

I received an e-mail today from Blogger saying that they've removed my latest post due to copyright infringement. This is a fairly scary message to receive as it contains many strange, legal-minded words. However, as the infringing content has been removed and I have no intention of posting such material, I hope that this is the end of that unfortunate affair.

This leaves me puzzling how exactly will I be able to share my thoughts and feelings about the music I love without actually sharing the music itself. As I am very much aware of a lot of other music and MP3 blogs, I suspect some sort of sharing is possible. The question is how or perhaps whose. It seems that the more indie and low profile the artist the better - as these artists tend to share their music more readily and freely, with free songs on their websites and such.

If that would not be possible, I would revert to a more empathic form of writing, perhaps one that is more natural to me. Ironically, the incriminating post (now restored without the infringing content) may be the first of its kind. I'd like to explore how a song or music in general affects me, how and what and why I feel it and perhaps offer an interesting interpretation of my own.

I do not concede defeat; the battle just got more interesting.

The picture above was taken by me on June 2005 (around midnight), near Dawson City, Canada. It is a remnant from a period my personal mythology and history refer to as "the best time of my life". Happiness is possible, even if only for a little while.

Song of the Morning: Blue Jay Way (ver. 2)

Note: This is a re-post without the song (the original post was removed due to copyright infringement).

It begins in mystery and suspense: a fog upon L.A. and your friends have lost their way. You know that they are supposed to come over - you've talked to them and they've assured you that they're on their way.

So, what went wrong? You don't want to be alone and sleep is creeping in. Maybe you're all alone in the house, maybe you're all alone in the world, and your friends are no where to be seen. You don't want to fall asleep alone in this place but you're tired, so very tired.

Maybe you can dare a glimpse outside? It's dark and you can't see the stars. That damned fog is consuming the city. And no, they're still not here. You start to panic. Surely they could ask some policeman on the street for directions? Policemen provide a sense of order and security, even in L.A. And there are so many of them - you remember joking with your friends about the large number of coppers in the city. You wish they managed to meet even one of those now.

You finally go outside and sit at the door step, rocking yourself slightly as the darkness swoops in: "Please don't be long, please don't you be very long, please don't be long". Do I belong?

This beautifully sad-but-also-hope-promising song was written by George Harrison, and is evidently based on a true story. I guess Hollywood can be pretty rough for the uninitiated.

Beatles - Blue Jay Way (appears on Magical Mystery Tour).
Beatles picture appears on their profile.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Featured Artist: Nico Muhly

Nico Muhly
is a contemporary classical music composer I've recently had the good fortune of stumbling upon. It's very hard to define exactly the kind of music Muhly, who has worked with artists like Björk and Philip Glass, is creating. Just what is "contemporary classical music"? How do you know if it's "classic" when it's contemporary and still fresh, perhaps too fresh, in the ears?

The simple answer would be that it depends on the type of musical instruments, arrangements and scores being created, and whether it was similar to the works of the recognized classics. Muhly, who is greatly influenced by 16 and 17th century English liturgy and choral music, however, seems to take a different approach. And no, it's not fusion. It's a sort of a minimalistic, stripped down approach to music, celebrating the creative process from a unique place of personal and cultural history and that somehow emerges, seemingly effortlessly, from the artist.

This post's musical piece is in fact the closing piece (in three parts) of Muhly's second album, "Mothertongue", produced and performed together with
Samamidon (Sam Amidon). In his words, it is part of an emotional reaction against the "totally pussified" or "wimpy guitar based thing" folk music that abounds these days and that lacks "blood and guts and infanticide" (featured prominently in the folk songs the piece is based upon).

Nico Muhly - The Only Tune (parts 1-3) (from Mothertongue)
Nico Muhly's picture is from his page.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Song of the Morning: Amos the Transparent

As I'm writing this the voting has just started and though the polls do show a certain trend, past campaigns have shown it's important not to count the proverbial eggs before they're hatched. Still, as the votes are being counted, I can't help but wonder how these elections and their outcome will be remembered and analyzed in the future.

Will those in the future mock us for our expectations and hopes? Will they admire our courage? Will they condemn us for falling for the folly of youth and charisma? Will they mark the 2008 elections as a significant transition point from the racist era of the past or perhaps the continued rise of corporations and mass media giants?

At the end of the day, no matter who wins, there will be unavoidable disappointments from each of the candidates. It would be up to them to realize the national dreams and hopes of their voters, despite the sometimes hostile Houses, in face of a teetering economy, global climate problems, troops in faraway countries, a lousy international image and ravenous powers behind the corner. A change, such as it may, will come. That doesn't guarantee it will be liked by all.

But for now, let us celebrate, a storm crow's cry north of the US, in Canada. This post's haunting song is from the band (primarily a duo) "Amos the Transparent" ( for more details and Facebook for more updates). Their sound can be defined somewhere between folk and indie pop, though I'm not sure neither of those definitions will do. Make sure to check their website and meet them in person (or at least in a series of videos).

Amos the Transparent - Title Track (from Everything I’ve Forgotten To Forget )

Amos the Transparent picture from their MySpace. A re-post.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Featured Artist: Idan Rabinovici

To continue the trend of correcting oversights, I want to dedicate this post to singer-songwriter Idan Rabinovici. As his last name appears to be a certain point of contention among his fans, I'll stick with the official version.

Idan divides his time and possibly his sources of inspiration between the US, the UK and Israel, writing and performing soulful (as in personal and powerful, not necessarily the Aretha Franklin way) songs. He also took part in a sort of art-urban activism project called 'the collective' and recently served as the opening act for José González (in what is said to be one of the best performances in recent times; naturally, as a complete idiot, I didn't go).

His debut album, "Bedroom Folk", which I bought shortly after it release in early 2008, is a beautiful piece of modern urban folk. Though I'd recommend the entire album, my favorite tracks are "Morning Song" (the ending makes me want to get down on my knees and pray), "Jared's Blues", "Jungle Man" and "Butterfly". The latter has a few lines that speak to me these days, spoken in a certain defiance:

"I'm alive,
yeah, I'm alive;
We do the best we can
or at least we try".

I don't think I'll miss the next concert.

Idan Rabinovici (MySpace, - Butterfly (from Bedroom Folk [Basement Records, CD Baby])

Idan Rabinovici's Photo by Goni Riskin, see

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Song of the Morning: Psychedlics, Samples and James Bond

I know. I've been overly negligent in not writing so long. I wish I could say I had a good reason like finding the love of my life or even a bad reason like being at work. Instead, I have to settle for just not feeling up to it, as though my creative sap has dried up all of a sudden.

It hasn't just yet. As much as I love the winter (my favorite season), it needs some getting used to, and this is but the middle of autumn. So I'll trudge on with a few more bouts of dizzy spells and that'll be that, I expect.

This period has allowed me to be finally exposed to some good music from a few years back and some more recent work. Most seem to follow the trend of deconstruction, of moving away from the more traditional song writing styles into a more chaotic structure. Some, like The Avalanches, build on samples and the joining of bits and pieces into creating a new and sometimes strange or wonderful whole. Others, like Black Moth Super Rainbow, seem to build from the ground up, except that the ground is sometimes up or inverted or in some Alice in Wonderland styled caterpillar world that somehow meets a vision of a weed-clutching/acid-dropping San Francisco of the early 70' (that's what I got, and I don't do drugs).

And yet, the song that is haunting my mind these days is entirely simple in form and lyrics. I can't really explain why
Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds are Forever" won't leave me be (those closing lines might have something to do with it). Maybe I need something as simple and clear as that song every now and again - the messages is clear, the lyrics are simple and logical and the melody is very catchy. Mostly, it had the good fortune to be sung by the powerful voice of Ms. Bassey - it has no choice but to be hurtled on over to the listener, so fitting in the traditional James Bond world settings.

As odd as it may seem though, wisdom can be found even in James Bond songs. Take "You Only Live Twice" (lyrics) for example (what a great title!). Again, in simple, perhaps a little corny but direct lyrics and presentation (Nancy Sinatra), you get the all too important place of love in your life as well as the rather lucid view that your dreams are also important, perhaps as important as the dull day to day existence sometimes mislabeled as 'life'. So, when you meet that strange dream, that risk called love, hold on to it. Who wants to wake up?

Black Moth Super Rainbow - Happy Melted City (from Drippers)

Black Moth Super Rainbow picture from their profile.