Friday, December 9, 2011

Florence & the Machine, Live at WaMu Theater, Seattle, Dec 8, 2011

Because I tend to have that human need to categorize everything in order to understand it, I’ve been trying to figure out how to categorize Florence & the Machine, who we saw perform last night at WaMU Theater in Seattle. The phrases “goth Motown” and “gospel for sinners” keep popping in my head, and so I’m sticking with them. On the surface, I guess you’d call this music “pop.” Maybe “alternative pop.” If that’s the case, then I am grateful that pop music today can include harp and the occasional bit of tribal drumming and chanting. TIME Magazine just voted her song "No Light, No Light" Song of the Year. Here it is performed on SNL:

If you can get past the occasionally flat, yell-iness of Florence’s voice, you’ll be delighted with her power, range and creativity. With multi-layered vocal stylings (performed live with the help of backup singers) and the charisma of a shaman, Florence belts out the tunes with a flourish of arms and the occasional twirl around the stage. It did seem to take her a few songs to really get her game face on, and occasionally we were certain that she was zoning out and thinking about something completely unrelated to performing the song. But those were minor sins in a concert that seemed to promise a kind of salvation for the believers.

The background décor was some of the most appropriate I’ve seen in a while. Of course nothing can touch what Jónsi did on his last tour. But I really enjoyed the five tall fabric panels that looked like stained glass windows in the cathedral of Florence’s musical rapture. With a change of lighting, they magically morphed into primal human forms. It perfectly captured the essence of her latest album: a glorious, primal mix of ritual, praise and enthusiasm.

Clearly there's no video of the show up online yet, but here's something from this tour, at least:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The torture begins

Well, one might say the torture began when my daughter was a toddler, when I started playing "Toddler Favorites" on the CD player for her. Listening to "Wheels on the Bus" and similar ditties can make a mom a little nutso. But still, I have mostly myself to blame for that. You see, I wanted to to indoctrinate my child into the culture, figuring that when she was older, she'd at least be familiar with the tunes and could sing along when necessary (in preschool, or around a Girl Scout campfire or something).

Fast forward to a few years later. My daughter has been pretty good about accepting my music, even liking it on occasion. She recently declared Paavoharju's "Kevätrumpu" her favorite song, and can recognize Sigur Rós when I play their music. She has patiently sat through many hours of the ancestral drone sounds of Natural Snow Buildings, and rarely complains when I play "Bride of the Spirits" by TwinSisterMoon nearly every single day.

But I knew the day would come when she would begin to have her own musical tastes that would differ from my own. A recent trip to visit her cousins resulted in her talking about Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. Then she began singing this one sing over and over again---not the whole song, just the chorus---and she sung the words wrong. I knew it couldn't be "Hey there Mister, hanging on a blister on the radio on the radio..." For better or worse, my husband knew she was trying to sing Train's "Hey Soul Sister" so I looked it up for her and played it so she could read the lyrics. Now she sings it correctly, but still...I don't like this song. My kid likes a song I dislike. She sings a song I dislike.

What's a poor mom to do?

Friday, May 13, 2011


A short while ago I became enchanted with Finnish music collective Paavoharju. Imagine lying on your back in a meadow next to an abandoned train platform, listening to various neighbors tune their radios to different stations. One's playing what sounds like a Finnish folk tune, another's playing Indian film music, you think you hear a reggae rhythm being strummed on an acoustic guitar, and church organ in the distance. The radios keep fading in and out, crackling and popping, and the tinkling of wind chimes and the cawing of crows add to the whole wash of sound that reverberates across a landscape of industrial decay, while a cool breeze wafts a scent of wildflowers across your face. This is the best way I can describe the music of Paavoharju.

The group centers around a pair of ascetic Christian brothers, who assemble a collage of sounds that according to their MySpace is ambient, experimental and folk in its nature. In spirit, they appear to have found beauty and peace in the chaos of hard scrabble existence. The music is a perfect backdrop to peaceful day.

In essence, this is one of the many sorts of music that sits well with me. It paints the contentment I feel wallowing in my own despair, so that I can stop stressing about my own inability to convey such feelings, and simply live my life surrounded by the musical outpourings of people who Understand.

They've released two albums: Yhä hämärää (2005) and Laulu Laakson Kukista (2008), as well as a DVD, Unien Savonlinna (2010). The EP/Single for Laulu laakson kukasta contains that song, plus Kirkonväki and a 12 minute collection of live material under the title Kasetti Moskovasta.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Music Meme Day 30: Your Favorite Song at this Time Last Year

day 30 - your favorite song at this time last year

Probably one of these:
Jónsi "Boy Lillikoi"
CocoRosie "Animals"
Jeremy Enigk "Chewing Gum"

Oh my, the music meme is over and I had to leave out so much magnificent material. Now I feel compelled to blather a bit. I have music on all the time here, finding it elevates and enhances life in myriad ways. If you have no idea what I mean, try listening to Sigur Rós "Ágætis byrjun" next time you fold the laundry.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Music Meme Day 29: A Song From Your Childhood

day 29 - a song from your childhood

The first thing I thought of was how, sometime between the ages of 5 and 9, I used to drive my mother crazy with asking her to put on "The Wild Bull" by Morton Subotnick. This early synthesizer composition evoked visions for me…visions of rabbits being murdered by chainsaws, and for some reason I enjoyed the horror of it. I'm sure it paved the way for some of the horrifying music I enjoy today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Music Meme Day 28: A Song That Makes You Feel Guilty

day 28 - a song that makes you feel guilty

Huh? Guilty? Mm. Well how about this. I used to really love Bright Eyes. I've seen 'em live four times, more than any other band. But after "Lifted," their music lost its soul and passion to me. Conor Oberst learned how to sing and write songs with proper meter on his lyrics, and they just weren't the same. So not only do I feel bad for not liking their newer stuff, I also feel bad that I'm just not as much in the mood for teenage boy angst these days. That said, here's the track that turned me onto Bright Eyes in the first place "Calendar Hung Itself."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Music Meme Day 27: A Song That You Wish You Could Play

day 27 - a song that you wish you could play

"Opal" by Syd Barrett. I wanted to learn this on guitar, but I couldn't find the guitar tab, and couldn't figure it out from listening to it. The bridge is one of the most awesome things ever, imo.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Music Meme Day 26: A Song That You Can Play on an Instrument

day 26 - a song that you can play on an instrument

I could probably still fake my way through "Two Headed Boy Pt 2" by Neutral Milk Hotel if I had the guitar chords in front of me. And of course my own original songs.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Music Meme Day 25: A Song That Makes You Laugh

day 25 - a song that makes you laugh

I believe Strong Bad's polka-inspired "Sweet Cuppin Cakes" is likely to amuse anyone who spends the 1 minute necessary to listen to it. It certainly does me. But I prefer to dance to it. It takes a certain kind of humor to make me laugh out loud.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Music Meme Day 24: A Song That You Want to Play at Your Funeral

day 24 - a song that you want to play at your funeral

Well I talked about my funeral on Day 22. But there's also Antony & the Johnsons "Bird Gerhl" which I think is the perfect funeral song for a transgendered man who wishes to be a girl. Oh, I guess I'm not really a transgendered man, but some days I feel like there's one hidden inside me.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Music Meme Day 23: A Song That You Want To Play at Your Wedding

day 23 - a song that you want to play at your wedding

Already had a wedding…and I already mentioned "Come on Fhqwhgads" in Day 7 so how about the opening track of our wedding soundtrack, which was Bel Canto's "Mornixuur."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Music Meme Day 22: A Song That You Listen to When You're Sad

day 22 - a song that you listen to when you’re sad

Sigur Rós "Von" is so creepingly epic in its sadness I want it played at my funeral just for the catharsis effect. Then afterward I expect someone to break out the beverages (how about Kraken rum, Sangria and Thai Iced Coffee), and the party can begin. I hope to see (from my soul hole up in the corner of the venue) hula hooping and aerial acts, a puppet show acting out my life story, and people cosplaying characters from my favorite mangas. (The reality is my funeral will probably end up as boring as the rest of 'em, but I can dream). Oh and then people will ritually wrap my body in a piece of cloth they've all written wishes and prayers on, and dump me in a hole in the ground. No coffin please. Let the worms eat me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Music Meme Day 21: A Song That You Listen to When You're Happy

day 21 - a song that you listen to when you’re happy

Hard to pick something I haven't already posted…I don't have a lot of happy songs in my collection. So I just picked something from my "Absolutely Joy" playlist (which only has 11 songs in it). Here's Kate Bush "The Big Sky"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Vocal Mystery Solved

In a previous post I debated whether the high soprano vocals of TwinSisterMoon and Natural Snow Buildings could possibly belong to male Mehdi Ameziane. Then I found this video, which proves that they do! If you go to minute 15:00 you can see the man himself is the owner of that pretty voice. Sweet!
Mehdi Ameziane at Dwars Festival, 2008

Music Meme Day 20: A Song That You Listen to When You're Angry

day 20 - a song that you listen to when you’re angry

Deftones "When Girls Telephone Boys" is a good one for that purpose. Deftones have saved my sanity on multiple occasions, most notably when I needed to calm down after a f&c$in% tai chi / yoga class.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Music Meme Day 19: A Song From Your Favorite Album

day 19 - a song from your favorite album

That means I have to pick a favorite album! Impossible! Okay it's tough, because to be a favorite album, I should probably like darn near every track on it, right? Most Sigur Rós albums are like that for me, and some Sunny Day Real Estate albums, too. Since I have already handed you the former, how about something from the latter. Here's something from a Sunny Day Real Estate album that almost never got finished and released. By the time the album was done, the band was so fed up they didn't even want to bother choosing a cover, which is how the cover ended up plain pink and simply called "The Pink Album." The whole thing is a meandering bliss fest for those of us who appreciate whiney emo bands. Here's the opening track, "Friday."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Music Meme Day 18: A Song That You Wish You Heard on the Radio

day 18 - a song that you wish you heard on the radio

I'm going to give you three:
Jónsi & Alex "Happiness"

Paavoharju "Tuoksu tarttuu meihin"

Natural Snow Buildings "The Ice Fortress"

Because we need an entire freaking radio station that sounds like it's playing a soundtrack for the post-apocalypse through a defective transmitter while I lie in a grassy meadow on a warm summer day with breeze blowing across my face. Please?

Failing that, listen to my station.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Music Meme Day 17: A Song That You Hear Often on the Radio

day 17 - a song that you hear often on the radio

I hear that Owl City "Fireflies" song in every store I walk into, it seems. Luckily, the inhuman sounding vocal enhancements are not audible in such environments, and that almost makes the song bearable. But I still prefer Her Space Holiday, which is who I mistook Owl City for first time I heard them. You may not hear any resemblance, but there's something about the cadence of the singing and the scales they use, I think, that is similar.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Music Meme Day 16: A Song That You Used to Love But Now Hate

day 16 - a song that you used to love but now hate

I can't think of any song like this. Normally if I love a song I will always at least 'like' it, even years later. If anything, I might find a song I hate and later find something to like about it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Music Meme Day 15: A Song That Describes You

day 15 - a song that describes you

The obvious choice is this one...

"Only Human"

original version by Heidi Berry (lyrics in the second person)

or cover version by The Hope Blister (lyrics in first person)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Music Meme Day 14: A Song That No One Would Expect You To Love

day 14 - a song that no one would expect you to love

Well, that certainly depends on your impression of me, doesn't it?
If you think I'm a middle aged old bag, then you might not expect me to love "Spit it out" by Slipknot, but I do.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Music Meme Day 13: A Song That Is a Guilty Pleasure

day 13 - a song that is a guilty pleasure

"The Prayer" by Celine Dion w/ Andrea Bocelli. The lyrics are so cringeworthy I wish they were ALL in Italian so I wouldn't be able to understand them. But the way they tweak the melody and harmony throughout the course of the song is just wonderful, imo.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Music Meme Day 12: A Song From a Band You Hate

day 12 - a song from a band you hate

I tried to think of which hated song by the hated Bee Gees I should include, and "Stayin' Alive"'s irritating chorus popped into my head.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Music Meme Day 11: A Song From Your Favorite Band

day 11 - a song from your favorite band

Any random Sigur Rós song? Okay how about this one that has an epic video (about two twelve year old boys who fall in love) to go along with it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Music Meme Day 10: A Song That Makes You Fall Asleep

day 10 - a song that makes you fall asleep

Stars of the Lid "A Lovesong (For Cubs)" (in three parts!) and several other SOTL tracks have lulled me to sleep on occasion.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Music Meme Day 9: A Song That You Can Dance To

day 09 - a song that you can dance to

Scraping Foetus off the Wheel "Water Torture" has provided many enjoyable moments of dancing joy during the witching hour when everyone is on the short end of a long day and trying not to lose it. With this song, you can lose it in a manner that is almost socially acceptable.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Music Meme Day 8: A Song That You Know All the Words to

day 08 - a song that you know all the words to

I used to sing "Queen" by Heidi Berry to my daughter:

"She's so high she's in the upper atmosphere
and she will fly, her hair will brush across the sky.
And then it's down down down down she flies
it's down down down to drag you through the night.
She will smile when it is not the time to smile
and she will sing a song to lullaby the stars.
And then it's down down down down she flies
it's down down down to drag you through the night.
She will call just as you lay your body down.
She will crawl through the open window frame.
And then it's down down down down she flies
it's down down down to drag you through the night.

It is interesting to try to sing all the extra syllables into the words (you have to listen to the song to know what I mean).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Music Meme Day 7: A Song That Reminds You of a Certain Event

day 07 - a song that reminds you of a certain event

"Come on Fhqwhgads" by Strong Bad reminds me of my wedding. Because we played it there, yes we did.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Music Meme Day 6: A Song That Reminds You of Somewhere

day 06 - a song that reminds you of somewhere

"Time Has Told Me" by Nick Drake (and pretty much any Nick Drake song) reminds me of living at 14 Choate St. Those who remember 14 Choate St (probably no one who is actually reading this) may recall the humble slumlord abode I shared with my then boyfriend and three others. Whether we were using the grill to cook TV dinners and fish sticks, harboring fugitives and homeless youth (one of whom, incidentally, could play Nick Drake on guitar and sing), or watching the neighbor's cat stick its head up through the ever-present hole in the kitchen floor, surreal times were had by all. But Nick Drake was mostly played in the attic, where I lived for several months until winter came and my boyfriend and I decided to move downstairs to the one room in the house that actually had heat.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Music Meme Day 5: A Song That Reminds You of Someone

day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone

Soon after I met the man I'm currently married to, he put on Terry S. Taylor and told me this was the soundtrack to his normal mental state. That's how I knew I'd found someone happy-go-lucky to balance my gloomy, jaded self (my own mental soundtrack is more like this).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Music Meme Day 4: A Song That Makes You Sad

day 04 - a song that makes you sad

"Torch Yourself" by the Gloria Record just builds and builds into a crashing wave of desperation and beautiful angst. It's a hopeful sad though, especially if you listen to the lyrics…

"These people have no feelings
their heads are the only things that ever teach them anything about love.
And I'm not sad, I just want to trust someone so badly.
I just want something beautiful to happen here right now."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Music Meme Day 3: A Song That Makes You Happy

day 03 - a song that makes you happy

I'm not usually a big fan of happy music, especially when it seems to be mocking me. I prefer music that reflects the mood I'm already in, and slap-happy grinning is not a state of mind I'm in very often. Being forced to listen to upbeat, cheerful tunes when I'm not in that state of mind reminds me of that song by Bright Eyes where the depressed person is told by some clueless but well-meaning bystander, "You would be happy if only you'd TRY."

"Lovelife" by Lush is the kind of happy song I can enjoy, however. Because if musicians like Lush who are normally shy, gloomy shoegazers like me can gush forth something this bubblegum sweet on occasion, then surely I can lift my head and smile once in a while, too.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Music Meme Day 2: Least Favorite Song

Honestly I don't spend a lot of time thinking about which songs make me want to kill somebody. So when I was faced with the question of which song is my least favorite, I just asked my husband. He told me that I'd once called "Rag Doll" by Aerosmith "soul-killing music" so we'll just go with that, so I don't have to spend another minute on this question. (Except to mention that I generally detest Bee Gees, the Eagles and the Doobie Brothers as well).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 1: Favorite Song

"Ivo" by Cocteau Twins

I've liked this song since it came out in 1984. The texture, flow, melody, harmony,'s all exactly what I want in a song.

[BTW I'm starting a new thirty-day meme and cross-posting it to my LJ.]

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Vocal Mystery

I've been listening quite a bit to Natural Snow Buildings and TwinSisterMoon this past year, and puzzling over whether or not the person who sings in TwinSisterMoon is Mehdi or Solange. Here's the thing: Natural Snow Buildings is comprised of Mehdi and Solange, while TwinSisterMoon is supposedly Mehdi's solo project. But the vocalist on TwinSisterMoon sounds female, and Mehdi is male. Yet there are a number of blog posts out there saying that is for sure Mehdi's voice, however girly it may sound, while at least one other blog states that it was actually Solange guesting on the vocal tracks.

Natural Snow Buildings clearly sounds like it has two vocalists, one that sounds 'male' (which I assumed was Mehdi) and one that sounds 'female' (which I assumed was Solange). Here is an example of the 'male' sounding voice:

And here is an example of the female sounding voice:

Now compare with the vocalist for TwinSisterMoon:

What the hell? Is that really Mehdi singing there? Is it possible that a biological male could sing that high, without the nasal sound of a falsetto? Heck I can't even sing that high, period. But I am willing to accept that it is him, if it is true, which I don't feel certain about.

Then check Solange's solo project "Isengrind." I've only heard two of the four albums she's released, but the vocals all pretty much sound like this:
...the vocals are so distant I can't tell if this is the 'male' voice from NSB or the 'female' voice. If anything, this sounds like a third person entirely! If Solange is capable of any of the beautiful intimate singing I hear on either NSB or TSM, then I can't imagine why she would want to make herself sound so monotone and processed on Isengrind.

I realize there are more important issues in the world I should probably be concerning myself with. Ultimately...I enjoy it when I can't tell if someone is male or female. But I would like to know the is frustrating to see music bloggers stating completely different 'facts' about who is singing what.

What would really help is a bit of live footage showing them singing, but I haven't been able to dig that up. If anyone can definitively answer the question of who is singing which of these songs, I'd love to see your comment!

Monday, January 3, 2011

My Top Ten Songs of 2010

I noticed other people doing this, so I thought...why not?
I just went into my and looked the most played tracks for the past 12 months, and chose the top song for each artist (otherwise it would have been nothing but Jónsi and TwinSisterMoon in my top 10), and here we are:

Jónsi – Boy Lilikoi
TwinSisterMoon – Bride of the Spirits
Jeremy Enigk – Chewing Gum
Moby – Into the Blue
Antony and the Johnsons – The Snow Abides
Holy F*ck – SHT MTN
Cindytalk – The First Time Ever...
CocoRosie – The Moon Asked the Crow
Echo & The Bunnymen – The Cutter
XTC – Rocket From a Bottle

And if you haven't heard most of these songs, be honest, I haven't heard of most of your favorite songs either!