Saturday, January 31, 2009

Choices: Speed of Dark

The bounty of available time generated by the completion of my school duties has enabled me to catch up a bit with my reading list. Just recently I've finished "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel, which I still am not sure what I feel about and "Speed of Dark" by Elizabeth Moon.

"Speed of Dark", other than the name of a great music blog, is also a story about being the odd man out, so to speak, but not because of the usual reasons among "normals", but because of Autism. The protagonist is a seemingly functioning and highly intelligent autistic man, who has a regular well paying job and a group of friends. However, one day he is faced with a difficult choice: an experimental treatment may "cure" his autism. Anyone who has lived and operated, even for a short time outside the silent normal majority of their society because of some characteristic that was at odds with the majority, may appreciate this type of dilemma.

The overbearing, sometimes not so subtle, pressure to be normal versus your own unique individuality, no matter how different or "flawed" others may consider it. Be it skin color, religion, sexual preference or how long your hair is, if it's genetic or social, there's something about you that makes you special. But that something also prevents you from being one of the crowd, for better or worse. "Not that there's anything wrong with it..." - but is there something wrong about you? About how you were created by God? (if you take that into consideration).

I won't spoil the rest of the plot, but I would have like the conclusion to be different. Though I sometimes don't like open ends in books or movies, I think this was a good place for one.

Anyway, this post's beautiful song comes from the American indie rock/folk band Ida. Their soft and gentle sound along with song's title were somewhat close to what I felt when I finished reading the book.

Check out Ida's official website, MySpace and pages for more updates and great music.

Ida - My Fair, My Dark {MP3} (from the My Fair, My Dark EP)
The song will be hosted for 3 days only.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Featured Artist(s): Jake Skubisz

Pretense (or is it presumption?) seems a natural part of every artist, perhaps of every man. In a way, you have to have that small voice in your mind, whispering "I'm better, I have something to say and contribute to this world, I want people to listen to me, I want people to notice me".

Some of the time this conviction may not be without basis. Many people leave their mark on the world and on each other, sometimes in ways they did not even realize or intend. Other times, very few get a glimpse at the fading light in some secluded corner.

Some don't seem to have much pretense at all. They may hear that voice inside and try to do their best, for sheer enjoyment and fun, far from the limelight, creating simple, raw and honest music, that makes you want to pick up a guitar and try a few chords for yourself.
Jake Skubisz is one of those people; care to give him a try?

Check Jake Skubisz on his MySpace, and Facebook pages for more songs and updates. Also check his Youtube channel for more content.

Jake Skubisz - Easy on the Eyes {MP3}
Jake Skubisz - Running in Circles {MP3}

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Song of the Morning: Lover's Spit

I've finally got all my tests and papers back. My M.A. is complete. I probably should feel happy about it, or at least a bit more relaxed.

It finally begun sinking last night, as I finished updating the iTunes library. I closed it and then turned - there was nothing I had to do, no special reason to check the university's website, no deadline in which to read or write a paper. That is, one that was not of my own making and design.

I went back to school to escape the imposing banality of work, the repeating made-up tasks and the bite of dull-teethed routines; it was my purpose to invigorate those brain cells that survived the gaping mouth of an existence I was taught both to loathe and admire. I believe I was successful, at least in part.

The point now is to find the next challenge, to give my life the definition and direction it requires and through it meaning.

I woke up this morning with two lines from two distinct songs playing in my head. First, there was Feist's rendition of "Lover's Spit", in particular the opening line "All these people drinking lover's spit". The second was a part of the chorus for Bright Eyes' "If the Brakeman Turns My Way" - a repeating "moving out". Reading both these songs' lyrics now, I find they share a certain degree of uncertainty and expectation for the coming future, probably in hope of a better one.

So, here's to the future and the great unknown.

Feist - Lover's Spit {MP3} (Broken Social Scene cover), live on the famed Black Sessions, 2007. The song is originally from You Forgot It in People.

Bright Eyes - If the Brakeman Turns My Way (a lovely fan made video clip, originally from Cassadaga)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Featured Artist(s): 17 Pygmies

A space/post-rock concept album based on a 15th century Spanish literary classic? Yeah, it works, thanks to veteran band 17 Pygmies.

You know how there's no sound in space as the sound waves can't expand in a vacuum? Well, evidently they can, if you carry them with you on your interstellar trek. This can be done at the comfort of your own home, of course, though seeing those distant points of light flash by can be a wondrous experience on its own.

But this isn't just a trippy album. It is, like the novel it's inspired by and that bears its name (La Celestina) an emotionally charged work of art. While the book concentrates on era themed ideas and characters such as greedy and treacherous servants, the album takes a calmer approach, gently propelling the listener from one emotional nuance to the next. Perhaps best experienced as a full album in a quiet darkened corner, it still allows you to break away from the surroundings for a celestial and human voyage.

Check out 17 Pygmies' MySpace and pages for additional details and updates.

17 Pygmies - Celestina VI {MP3} (from Celestina)
17 Pygmies - Celestina VII {MP3} (from Celestina)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Change of RSS Feed - Not to Worry!


Due to the recent merge of Feedburner and Google, I had to update the RSS feed. If you are subscribed, please make sure you are still receiving the feed (you should) or consider changing your subscription to the new feed as well. This can be easily done by visiting the blog and clicking on the RSS icon under 'Subscribe Now' or the Feedburner icon, both located to the right.

Thanks for reading. Please share your comments, thoughts and opinions about whatever you wish (the new Comments moderation was added because of some Spam messages; other messages will be published as they were written).


Of First and Last

A great deal of importance has been imparted on the mythical "first love": that joy of youth, sometimes unfulfilled but always brimming with endless promise and potential, never quite ripe but always tempting a taste. And indeed, when old age strikes or another failed relationship ends, it always brings a sad smile to one's eyes upon recalling the memory of youth's folly. A pain and tenderness quite unmatched in intensity and feeling.

But what of its less reputed sister, "last love"? That which you leave behind lying shriveled on some unremarked hospital bed, that that you part with for a little bit of eternity on your way to the battlefield or the anonymity surrounding what you thought was just another one night stand.

In the end, those you leave behind may be just as important as those lost memories of that spring day, even here, at winter's gate.

Cheer up with François Virot - Young Love and Fresh Fruits {MP3} (from the Release Party CD-R)
Check out François Virot's MySpace, and pages for further updates and new music.

The fuzzy and painful in between with Elliott Smith - Pretty (Ugly Before), a tribute video clip, originally from From a Basement on the Hill

And the ultimate parting, at the last, Jeff Buckley - Last Goodbye (Live), originally from Grace

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Featured Artist(s): The Flying Black Hats

I've sprained my back somehow last night, probably because of the rain-less chill that descended on the city. I didn't really plan to go to work this morning, but somehow I've found myself there again, staring with renewed agony at the computer screen. I needed something to calm my overworked nerves, lest I snap at someone one or two times too many.

Fortunately, I've stumbled upon this charming duo called The Flying Black Hats. While their online stuff wasn't new and featured recordings from 2003, it still had the desired effect of putting a smile to my face. And that's no simple undertaking on any day.

Check out The Flying Black Hats on their MySpace and pages for more details and tracks.

The Flying Black Hats - Love Song {MP3}
The Flying Black Hats - Brains {MP3}
The Flying Black Hats - Soft Song {MP3}

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Film Special: Persepolis

What do you do when your early life is shaped by war, revolution and violence? Do you become a martyr for the homeland? Do you try to run away, escaping into the unknown? Or do you stay true to yourself and the basic human values of love, the importance of family and freedom?

Marjane Satrapi, a vibrant ideologically inclined child, seemed to have chosen to follow her grandmother's sage advice and be true to her self. An already difficult task on the best of times, it becomes even harder in the face of the Islamic revolution in Iran of 1978 and the long and deadly Iran-Iraq war that broke soon after. The movie, based on her autobiographical graphic novel, continues to depict the horrors of war, the unfathomable restrictions of the new regime, lonely adventures in Europe and finally coming home, only to find living conditions there have become so spirit stifling as to depress the liveliest of souls.

In the end though, I think that these barriers of personal freedom only serve as a backdrop and catalyst to the final departure of the heroine to the West. It is the personal memories that hurt the most, so cruelly violated by the "new order", a people's revolution gone awry.

Though not directly connected to the movie, I wanted to share a wonderful Tom Brosseau song, that may help to capture some of the feelings of young Marjane.

Tom Brosseau - The Young and the Free (Live) {MP3} (from Tom Brosseau)

Persepolis trailer

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Featured Artist(s): The Haunted Mansions

Obviously inspired by the likes of Animal Collective, Beirut and possibly the Dodos and Band of Horses to name a few, The Haunted Mansions (formerly known as Greenlandic Blaque) still manage to create a sound of their own. A North-West American band, some of its members also dabble in video animation (see group member Seth Nicholas' YouTube channel here).

It should be interesting to follow the group's path and work, in animation and music, and watch their artistic distinctiveness forming.

Check out The Haunted Mansions on their MySpace and Facebook pages for further details and their page (where they are still called Greenlandic Blaque) for more tracks.

The Haunted Mansions - Don't Let Your Arms Get Tired {MP3}
The Haunted Mansions - Oyster Bay, December 26th {MP3}
The Haunted Mansions - Watch Out Birds {MP3}

Bonus - Kate, a short film by Seth Nicholas Johnson about adolescent infatuation and the joy of playing music with animal friends. Music by The Haunted Mansions.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Song of the Morning: Blood

I've been meaning to write about The Middle East (the band, not the cursed region) for a while now, so when I woke up this morning with "Blood" rushing through my ears (not literally, thankfully), I've decided the time has come. After all, their album was one of my favorite discoveries in 2008 (thanks to Guy).

There was a time when I thought their music singular and unique. I considered their single (known to me) album an indie post-rock masterpiece. I've felt that they had somehow channeled through their surprisingly young minds and bodies some unknown forces and creative energies. That, unlike in dream pop atmosphere, there was actually a feeling of surroundings and eerie substance to their sound. That it is very unfortunate that the group has disbanded and their debut LP will also be their swan song.

All this is still true, except for that last sentence. Hope has been re-kindled not only in the US, but by a casual visit to the band's MySpace, where NEW tour dates (in lucky Australia) were being posted. Could it be? Will there be more music being worked on and published? I can only hope.

Check out The Middle East on their MySpace (where you can also buy their beautiful LP The Recordings of the Middle East) and page for further updates.

The Middle East - Blood {MP3} (from The Recordings of the Middle East)
The Middle East - The Darkest Side {MP3} (from The Recordings of the Middle East)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Featured Artist(s): Side by Side

It's dark and quiet. You're floating in an endless space without form, softly lighted by countless points of starry light. But this space is also time and somehow it's also music. As you effortlessly glide along, you slowly realize you're dreaming, and lazily make your way towards consciousness, smiling.

The twin brothers Joseph and Mike Pepe from Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, create such dreamy atmospheric music under the moniker of Side by Side. Listening to their debut LP Morning is an emotional journey, mirroring the experiences and feelings they had during the year of its production.

The brothers hope that sharing their work on the LP will help evolve people's musical tastes through their honesty and pure emotion. This is done best, I think, by playing the record in a quiet, dark and secluded place, where you can feel free to let go of the day's burdens and let yourself float to the music.

"Hello new day, are you the cure for me?" is how "Disappear" opens. By this point in the LP, you should be well on your way for full remission.

Check out Side by Side's official site and MySpace for more details and updates (a page is forthcoming and should not be confused with the current entry there). Joey (Joseph) also has a music blog of his own.

Side by Side - Disappear {MP3} (from Morning)
Side by Side - No Reason {MP3} (from Morning)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Going Indie: And Then What?

The hero conquered his fears, the heroine moved on and the lonely looking image of the rider against the setting sun filled the screen. Fin, the End. So, now what?

What happens to your favorite characters, if they survive, when you close the book or watch the credits? Is their existence so narrow that it can be adequately represented in the standard 40+ minutes of a TV episode or the 90 or so minutes of the cinema? Or is there more?

The actors, producers, writes and crew are not the only ones to invest in any such production. The audience, be it the lone reader or part of a larger group of people with a shared passion, also invest, sometimes heavily (on extreme cases, too heavily), in the events and characters that fill their minds. They too have a say in their fates, in their creation via imagination and interpretation of motives and feelings.

For some, the voyage does not end with the credit list. These passionate and dedicated people move on to fill the vast gaps the "canons" leave in their commercial wake with deadly earnest. They create their own interpretations and original content based on what's available, meager resources, hard work and love. Though not actors in profession, they try, and their enthusiasm is impressive. Though not always original, they do come up occasionally with surprising results and twists of plot.

This is the untold tale of fans playing heroes. And making it work.

Some prominent recent Star Trek fan movies, such as Hidden Frontier are here , while a Star Wars fan movie can be found here. Fans are also creating an interesting project filling in some of the gaps in the Lord of the Rings movies here.

An intriguing trailer for the fan film "The Hunt for Gollum"

THE HUNT FOR GOLLUM - FULL Trailer 1 from Independent Online Cinema on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Featured Artist(s): State Shirt

My indie paper is due back any day now. I admit, I've been feeling a little apprehensive about receiving it, especially after the professor sent a general e-mail about further instructions on how to write the paper (obviously, after I have already submitted it). Still, I know I did my best.

I've learnt a lot during the making of the paper, that dealt with today's indie music as a form of open source activity. Both are very general and broad terms, which makes it hard to make a decent comparison and analogy. However, both also embody a special creative, resourceful, open and collaborative spirit. The focus is not just on working with your peers and fellow artists, but with your audience and your fans, creating the music together and forging a unique bond between artist, musical piece and listener.

One of these artists is Ethan Tufts, working under the moniker of State Shirt. I ran into his site quite by accident, and a happy accident it is. His works are sometimes deceptively simple in structure, sometimes more complex, generating what is sometimes known as 'folktronica', other times as experimental rock. The view: an American road trip you've never experienced, shadowed in some parts, desperate in others, but always hopeful.

Check out State Shirt on his official site for details on work progress for his next album and your role in it (download songs, remix them and upload them back), personal blog, the store and other treats. Also check his MySpace and pages for more details and great tracks.

State Shirt - Fell Out of the Sky {MP3} (from This is Old)
State Shirt - Time to Go {MP3} (from This is Old)
State Shirt - This is Old {MP3} (from This is Old)

Bonus: State Shirt - Fell Out of the Sky Video (the song was inspired by a flight disaster)

Song of the Morning: Within You

Ray LaMontagne has the most welcoming and soothing voice. He will be there with you in all your woes, regrets and errors and enliven and excite you with his passionate love songs. His soul is not just a matter of genre; it's out there, pouring into you and surrounding the loneliest of echoes.

This morning I woke up with the line "the answer is within" playing in my head. I have so many questions; is this the universal answer? As the unofficial video clip below suggests, things may be a bit more complicated than that. Still, we need to keep looking.

Check out Ray LaMontagne's official site, MySpace and pages for further updates and current tour dates.

Ray LaMontagne - Within You (from Till the Sun Turns Black)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Featured Artist(s): Wintermitts

I like bilingual bands. To paraphrase Woody Allen, you have double the chances of finding a venue for your gig and the audience has twice the fun. It also shows that the group is willing and ready to communicate its message even more so than a regular band.

It can also raise some problems, of course: while French can appear to be seductive, enchanting and mysterious, even on the most mundane of topics, it's also, for the non-French speaker, a mostly unintelligible but rather beautiful stream of musical utterances.

But music is more than simply words. It conveys feelings and emotions; it may be its principal function. So when a Canadian bilingual indie pop band like Wintermitts comes a long, you know it's going to be special. Borrowing their name from a Julie Doiron song, they sound like they're going to pay up the loan with interest and exuberance. But enough of the financial metaphors; the music speaks for itself: a life bursting, smile inducing, tomato loving (yep), tree planting absolute fun.

Check out Wintermitts on their official website, MySpace and, where you can listen to a few more tracks and keep track of their tour dates in Canda and the US.

Wintermitts - DANS {MP3} (from Heirloom)
Wintermitts - Schoolyard {MP3} (from Heirloom)
Wintermitts - En Avion {MP3} (from Heirloom)
Wintermitts - Petit Monstre {MP3} (from Cascadia Fault)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Song of the Morning: Rain

I usually start writing a post with the process of finding the right picture that goes with it. This is not just because I want to make the post more appealing, but also because I sometimes need some added inspiration, the kind that music, although highly inspirational and influential, can't always provide. So when my morning revelation starred Madonna, I had to find a suitable image. In this case, I spent long minutes contemplating which picture to use; there are over a thousand of these on her page alone, and probably thousands more on the net. Hardly any of them seems natural; most are directed and choreographed, bearing and portraying different symbols of power, sex, femininity, religion, spirituality, fashion and much more. It was also difficult to pick between the different transformations and eras the prominent singer has been through (I sort of stopped keeping track after Ray of Light).

So, where was the "real" Madonna? How much substance does she have in her own vast commercial empire today? Why would she wake me up with "Rain", after quite a few days of dry weather and an even longer period of a Madonna-free play list?

I don't know, but it's making me think of her in nostalgic terms, which I find somehow strange and even sad, for both of us. We've grown up. I wonder if we realize that.

Madonna - Rain (from Something to Remember)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Featured Artist(s): The Voom Blooms

The Voom Blooms create a fast paced, jumpy indie rock that's fun, even while covering some pretty dark topics. A Loughborough, UK band, it draws its influences from a variety of sources, including Kanye West, Interpol (only somehow lighter), The Smiths, The Libertines and what may count as an early Bright Eyes. Perhaps a more surprising effects are provided by the Beach Boys and Mogwai.

How do you compile all these and more and yet manage to create your own sound? It takes quite a bit of talent (of all sorts), hard work and what some may term 'luck'. I think a little self-confidence and inspiration can also help. How else would the band's name come to be born if not with a 3am dream?

With their debut EP Nine Ships launched the past summer, The Voom Blooms are preparing to take on the world, UK first. Whether they make it or not is unknown, but the journey looks promising and enjoyment is guaranteed.

Check out The Voom Blooms on their official site, MySpace for more songs and page for additional details.

The Voom Blooms - Nine Ships {MP3} (from Nine Ships)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Song of the Morning: Chelsea Hotel No. 2

My angioma (picture) has been actively kind enough to remind me of its existence these past few days, so I went to bed early last night. However, I didn't find a lot of peace there either. I tossed and turned all night dreaming I was criss-crossing New York City, looking for Broadway, convinced that I was going to see the Golden Globes ceremony there (probably still under the influence of the last post). It was only later in the dream that I'd remembered that the ceremony took place in Beverly Hills, at which time I was quite exhausted.

I did take one small souvenir from my nightly trip to NYC though. I woke up with Rufus Wainwright's rendition of "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" (originally by Leonard Cohen) playing in my head. So, as the song goes, "Well never mind, we are ugly but we have the music."And now you have the music, too.

Rufus Wainwright - Chelsea Hotel No. 2 (a Leonard Cohen cover)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Film Special: Waltz with Bashir

In honor of "Waltz with Bashir" winning the Golden Globe last night and in hope of it winning the coming Oscar, I wanted to dedicate a few words for this singular movie experience (check the movie's official site here).

The first thing that captures your attention is the somewhat unusual choice of medium - animation. Once connected mostly with children related content, animation, in movies and literature, has changed to appeal to wider and more mature audiences. Or maybe it was the audience that has changed, becoming more accustomed and receptive to other forms of expression.

Either way, whatever the reason, the medium has a very profound impact on the viewer in this instance. This is also a part of another unique feature of the film - its candid and unequivocal approach with the subject matter. It's not just a war movie; it focuses on the human side of it. In a scenario where the grotesque, hellish and bizarre are the norm, the ordinary man, torn from his everyday life, has his sanity questioned. But the questioning doesn't stop, even when the battle is officially over; the aftermath, years later, is just as important. The protagonist's battle certainly hasn't ended: it is his struggle to recall the lost memories of the period while facing the present plaguing nightmares that direct the movie's plot and heading. It is a course that would eventually wound up on itself, taking the movie goer with it.

There are so many questions being raised throughout, both explicit and implicit. Morality, man's place and relation in society, obedience, the necessity of violence and the futility of it all, are just the beginning. Are there any good answers? I don't know. But "Waltz with Bashir" is a hell of a way of raising those questions to mind and heart.

"Waltz with Bashir" trailer

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Featured Artist(s): These United States

Imagine a somewhat tired sounding, quite possibly a little drunk scoundrel singing in a band. Yet this man is politically and socially conscious, witty and smart in lyrics and with a haggard look that's been there and back. Actually, why imagine? Just give These United States a listen.

A Washington, DC group, These United States may best be described by their own words: "if words make you think a thought, and music makes you feel a feeling, then songs, at their best, can make you feel a thought. Or was it think a feeling? The point remains: there’s a synesthesia. There’s a light around the bend – or is it a haystack in a tunnel? Jump in."

You heard the man, give 'em a listen.

These United States has additional details including tour dates in their official site, MySpace, page and blog. Below are a couple of tracks from their Daytrotter performance.

These United States - West Won {MP3} (Live on Daytrotter, originally from Crimes)
These United States - Burn This Bridge {MP3} (Live on Daytrotter, originally from A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden)

These United States on iLike - Get updates inside iTunes

Friday, January 09, 2009

Song of the Morning: Radiohead as guides to the afterworld

This post is going to be a little weirder than usual (already quite an achievement) as it involves Radiohead acting as sort of guides to the world beyond. I'm talking about a dream, of course, though given some of their work on Kid A and Amnesiac, it may not be completely without basis.

It started with Radiohead performing live on stage, but they were also constantly changing, shifting from their 90's look to the current one (and vice versa), complete with hair do and song repertoire. In fact, they seemed to have played very old On a Firday songs I'm not even familiar with (yet I somehow identified them as such).

Finally, the show was somehow interrupted by a street scene of a veritable parade of what looked like people dressed in very obvious animal costumes (such as sharks with legs). These, Thom Yorke explained, were some of the dead being in transition from this world to the next. I don't know who's idea was it to put these people in Halloween-styled apparel, but it somehow felt natural at the time (dream time, that is). Sadly (or perhaps fortunately) I don't remember how it ended, though I'm sure there were additional explanations by the seemingly knowledgeable band. The harder I try to remember the more the details just seem to blur and fade away.

I awoke in silence. At first I thought there would be no Song of the morning, but then I heard it: excerpts from two songs, one after the other, very quietly. The first was the chorus of Yehudit Ravitz's song "Angel Face" (in Hebrew), which is a beautiful love song (a woman welcoming her beloved in a rainy city) but also a sad sounding song, sometimes associated with the death and loss of youths, mostly in war. The second was a line from Sea Wolf's "You're a Wolf": "The one that you are looking for, you’re not gonna find her here, here".

So, what to make of it? I can think of worse things than being accompanied to the next world by the members of Radiohead, but as an agnostic I'm not sure I actually believe in the existence of an afterworld, so that may turn the subject moot. Is my deranged sub-conscious trying to say something? Or are dreams simply the day's thoughts and feelings being regurgitated with some unusual after taste and side effects? I don't know; they sure keep life weird though, huh?

Yehudit Ravitz - Angel Face (Hebrew) {MP3} (from Come to Rio), hosted for a limited time only.
Sea Wolf - You're a Wolf (from Leaves in the River)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A New Look: Color Bars

As you can see, I've upgraded the blog's template and looks. This took longer than I expected because the new intuitive blogger HTML template, and in particular the ability to add links and buttons, was not so intuitive (at least not for me). After more than an hour of frustration, though, I was able to find the rather helpful post in a forum "have you tried using the Java/HTML text widget?". Of course I haven't. I sometimes amaze myself on how I'm trying to do things the hard way when they are almost a click away...

Anyway, the new design is not complete and is still a work in progress. Also, this post will not, I hope, come instead of the one I intend to write tomorrow. The problem with "Song of the Morning" posts though is that I don't plan them in advance as they are completely dependent on how I wake up the next day. That's also what I like about them.

I'd preferred sharing this post's song, but I'd rather not start this new template with (another) legal mail from blogger. Besides, seeing Elliott alive instead of just hearing him has its benefits. The song is a favorite of mine and has some lines which under a certain interpretation may be related to the recent change I've made:

"But I'll be connecting everything
The traffic in my town
Riding high again,
High on the sound".

Thanks, everyone.

Elliott Smith - Color bars (from the beautiful Figure 8)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Featured Artist(s): Lanterns on the Lake

They say "Lanterns on the Lake" is a dream pop band. In fact, I've said it too. I described them as "dream scented" in an e-mail to a colleague and thought to define them at first that way, to try and capture their ethereal essence.

But how can you capture a dream? The memory of it fades as your heart beats a little faster on the way out of sleep, the images recede back to the inner depths of your mind. I think that the "dream" metaphor may be closer to the truth if you think of the dream in cinematic terms and point of view. That is, how would a dream be presented to the movie goer in a way that she would understand and relate.

But the dream itself, like the Lanterns' music, is much more complex and inexorably (like their music), more beautiful. This is because dreams are echoes of feelings and thoughts, to be felt and deeply so (again, just like their music). So, if I had to choose a better fitting metaphor, it would be to somehow emotionally feel without a direct physical presence, yet relying on past memories and future hopes to put it all in an overhanging frame of mind. It's not much of a metaphor or an image, I admit, but emotions are not physical and their imagery is very illusive (and elusive) and can tend to be self conscious. Would it be suffice to say that the created music is beautiful and true? Or are words simply inadequate?

My ineptitude to properly describe my feelings hearing these songs aside, I hope I can convey the simple message that they are good, and that Lanterns on the Lake, a still unsigned (how?) north-eastern English group, will sparkle brightly in your stereo if you'll but let them.

Please visit their page for more songs and their MySpace for the opportunity to buy their latest EP, "The Starlight EP". The hosted songs in this post are at the permission of Lanterns on the Lake.

Lanterns on the Lake - I Will Lay You Down {MP3} (from Recordings 2007)
Lanterns on the Lake - This Year {MP3} (from Recordings 2007)
Lanterns on the Lake - If I Have Been Unkind {MP3} (from the new Starlight EP)

Monday, January 05, 2009

Song of the Morning: Society

Getting away from it all - is it possible? Is it feasible to flee that mutually oppressive support system more commonly known as "Society" in any real sense? About 3 years ago I've had my own modified and highly diluted version of escape. It was the best time of my life (pictures on Flickr). A much braver man than I went all the way and paid for it with his life.

His name was Christopher McCandless. A strong willed young idealist, he seemed to have felt uncomfortable in the modern American culture. This, and his admiration for the like of Jack London and Thoreau, have led him to become a sort of a drifter, moving between different jobs and places at will, living as autonomously as possible. Finally, he realized his long lived dream for an "Alaskan Odyssey" and lived in seclusion in a deserted city bus for a few months. There, he eventually succumbed to either food poisoning or malnutrition and died.

His story inspired a book by Jon Krakauer titled "Into the Wild", which was eventually adapted into one of my favorite films in 2007, bearing the same name. The soundtrack of that film is the beautiful and haunting debut solo by Pearl Jam main vocalist, Eddie Vedder.

I went on my "great" adventure before I've found out about McCandless' fate, so I didn't go to that last bus park site to pay respects. Instead, I am left to wonder how much self-sustained and independent we can actually be. As Lewis Hyde said, even famed Thoreau wrote his "Walden" thanks to the generosity and assistance of his friend Emerson, so there was no absolute self-reliance there. So, is the need to break away doomed from the start? Perhaps this take is a little too adversarial, over emphasizing the individual. Perhaps, in a closer view to Hyde's, just as the "Genius needs to tinker in a collective shop", as an open and receptive individual who creates and operates on the existing common basis, it is the everyday man that lives in a similar web of influences. McCandless' tragedy then is compounded by the lost potential to interact, by realizing that the power and uniqueness of the individual are not the only standing qualities he may have to offer, but also his openness and the willingness to learn and to teach.

I woke up this morning with "Society" in my head. Perhaps I should keep it playing.

Eddie Vedder - Society (from Into the Wild)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Featured Artist: Johnny Flynn

Being a folk singer-songwriter and an actor can be quite useful, especially when you perform in your own video clips. When you add being a poet to the mix, things can be quite complex.

Johnny Flynn seems to handle it all quite brilliantly. On the more recent videos you might think all he does is play and act, but it's enough to be in one of his live gigs or see his Black Cab session to know that he's for real.

In his official debut LP "A Larum", which was preceded by several EPs, Flynn manages to be true to himself and his music, delivering energetic and vibrant melodies and songs. The poetic element is also present, supporting the feeling that this is a soundtrack for a life's journey, an ongoing self-aware and joyous adventure. Citing Yeats and Shakespeare as influence may be a bit pretentious is most cases, but not in this one. Johnny Flynn may yet have a long way to go.

Check his pages (also under Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit), MySpace and personal site for updates, streamable songs and poetry.

Johnny Flynn - The Box (from A Larum)

Johnny Flynn - Brown Trout Blues (from A Larum)