Thursday, October 27, 2011

Warming Up


It. is. cold. This morning my little feet would have frozen in my flats on my short jaunt to work, if it wasn't for my wise decision to whip out the winter jacket and upload any new tunes in my possession straight onto my iPod. Can you believe it's November? Aside from the crisp and icy air and mid-morning sunshine, I really can, actually, because like clockwork near the end of fall - there's been an influx of groundbreaking leaked hits that can't be ignored. Everything that's slowly easing its way onto the airwaves is actually...phenomenal.

As the spooky weekend approaches, I thought I would hold off on the holiday-related post for just a little, because these new tunes that are keeping me ever-so-happy and cozy these days can't be left alone for too much longer.  Listen, love and download more - you'll undeniably have your heart warmed.

What new songs are keeping you warm alongside your knit scarves and turtlenecks?


          
Home - Mumford and Sons:
 Hearing Marcus Mumford strip his normally strained British howl into a quiet, longing hum is enough to make me slow right down. The song is perfectly hush with its gentle introduction, cascading guitar strings and subdued romantic piano; and of course, as the song winds down - Mumford's voice winds up a little. Yet, it never takes off, and that is some of the beauty in this new single. This really is the ideal tune to cozy up to in the brisk November nights; in fact, it might be one of my favourite Mumford and Sons songs to date.



Intro - M83 feat. Zola Jesus:
This song isn't brand new, but my oh my, isn't it perfect? I love the newest M83 album, and especially its whimsical title Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. This song sounds like what those album title words mean. I love the urgent shout in the vocals,  the atmospheric synthesizer and the soaring twinkle behind it all. When the beat comes in, it's as if a musical rocket launches - and the whole thing goes flying high.


Cough Syrup - Young The Giant:
I had a big Young The Giant summer, as you might know from this post. So, maybe I'm feeling a little of the nostalgic summer warmth when I revisit the buoyant single from the happy Californian band. Catchy licks and surfer melodies are sometimes all you need, even if the grass has frost in it.

Hurts Like Heaven - Coldplay:
 This song is actually gorgeous. I can't wait to watch these members of Brit-rock royalty skyrocket back into the front-running position in the industry - where they've conquered charts many times before. The track's cheery disposition, rapid beat and 80s pop melody represent a side of the band we haven't typically seen much of with their prior alt-rock albums. I really want to know the band's motivation for pushing out such a happy, splashy album filled with uplifting sounds, electro beats and lighthearted melodies; although always love-song advocates, surely something in them changed to cause them to swivel in the other direction. This album is undoubtedly going to dive head first onto the top of the Billboard charts, and will absolutely be one of their biggest yet.

Stay warm!



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lana Live

Continuing on her character-driven rise to fame, here is the first sighting of Ms. Lana Del Rey performing live - singing her ever-so-sultry and sad, breathy pin-up ballad "Video Games". Her pouty lips and white dress-suit only further enhance the feeling that you're watching a dreamy "Hollywood sadcore" star (as she puts it), while she sways shiftily to the haunting love song, captivating those curious, unsure and in love with her.

The words become more real every time I hear them, and coming from the puppy-eyed brunette under ethereal blue lighting, they make even more sense than before. This song is every bit about youth as it is about Hollywood and over-indulgence; it encompasses loneliness, thrill, boredom and sex. These themes are portrayed exquisitely through Del Rey's blank stare and long legs, while she seductively taunts from behind the microphone.

Enjoy Lana live, I know I enjoy her even more now.


            
Lana Del Rey - Live on Jools Holland

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beautiful Bandages

One of those great videos, from one of those great Canadian bands. Long live Hey Rosetta.

Please let this beautiful video be an apology for how wildly busy I've been. I think it's good enough to make up for it! Also, these guys are finishing up their European/US/Canadian tour soon enough - if you can grab tickets to one of their not sold-out shows, do it. It will make your list of the best shows you've ever seen, guaranteed.



             

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Home


A co-worker told me this morning that he caught a Sundance Film Festival-winning flick called Another Earth at our one of our local theatres, and that it was a powerful intriguing film he insists everyone sees right away. I watched the trailer, and was blown away at the concept; it's absolutely one of those storylines you can't particularly describe, but one that makes sense in a 3-minute trailer montage. A 3-minute clip that I was pleased to find was also put to one of the most haunting songs of all time.

About 3 years ago (day of 3's?), I fell in love with Canadian songbird Patrick Watson. A former winner of the Polaris Prize - a coveted Canadian music honour that this year was taken home by Arcade Fire - Watson is unparalled and breathtaking in his thoughtful, quiet balladry. So, imagine my absolute elation when I found that this seemingly profound story concept was matched with Watson's collaboration with The Cinematic Orchestra, a British downtempo and jazz instrumental clan. They make beautiful music, and even more beautiful creations when flowing behind Watson's acapella perfection.

I was happy on this blustery wet fall day to discover the magic of this earth-shaking song again. It really is the music people must have in mind when definining songs that could bring people to their knees. It's one of those songs that whatever feelings might be lingering under your surface - happiness, melancholy, urgency or rebellion - they will come to fruition when this anthem plays loud. I highly, highly suggest you listen to the real deal (which is actually two songs "To Build A Home" and "That Home") combined into one 6-minute piece of heaven.

             


And here's the live version of the last part of the song, "To Build a Home". Wow.

            

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Starring Mazzy


They're back, hooray! Mazzy Star is set to release two new singles within the next month, and this is simply wonderful news to me - as well as grade nine me, who was over-the-moon obsessed with anything Mazzy Star and their phenomenal lead singer Hope Sandoval.

The two songs, from the preview below, sound typically Mazzy Star (soft, haunting melodies), with a little taste of more contemporary popular folk we hear so much nowadays. What's even more gorgeous than the songs themselves? It's the ethereal indie band's first release in over a decade. Mazzy Star and their sleepy acoustic lullabies were so revolutionary in the 90s, making many "top" lists, including mine, as influential bands bringing forward that indie flavouring. Something about Hope Sandoval's dreamy voice howling from her slight frame still stands out as the perfect rebellion against caving into popular female dance genres that were ruling the airwaves those days. She was the Lykke Li, the Lana Del Rey, the girl who it seemed everything about her was just a little bit more different than the next.

I remember when I started exploring my love for female rock and acoustic artists further - moving past the confines of Canadian Women and Songs-like artists and researching who else was making waves as powerful artists. In the late 90s and early millenium, I started transitioning from Sarah McLachlan to Cat Power, Paula Cole to The Cranberries, Jann Arden to Veruca Salt, Mazzy Star and The Cardigans. Not that these artists were any better than my former obsessions, but they certainly had a little bit more mystery to them - something coming-of-age I couldn't get enough of. The album So Tonight That I Might See (1993) from Mazzy Star was on such-constant repeat that I truly couldn't understand when the band just...disappeared. The only things I was hearing out of tiny Hope Sandoval were sporadic collaborations and then her appearance alongside her latest venture, Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions. This was all fine and well, but I've been waiting for the return of Sandoval and David Roback in the form of Mazzy Star for quite some time.

                        The New Stuff:

 
      
Common Burn/Lay Myself Down (preview) - Mazzy Star


The Old Stuff:

      
Fade Into You - Mazzy Star

      
           Into Dust - Mazzy Star


 The In-Between:

 
                                           Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions - Trouble

Hope Sandoval & The Chemical Brothers - Asleep from Day

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Best Feist Yet




I love Canadian music. I love female artists. I love artists that originated out of the stacked Arts & Crafts record label. I really, really love when a great artist has gone on hiatus, collected themselves, and then comes back stronger than ever - with an absolutely incredible album to speak to it.

Well, that is exactly the case with the new Feist album. Metals, released September 30, is easily one of the strongest albums I've heard in quite some time - and is hands-down the best out of the Saskatchewan indie sweetheart. The collection of jangly, atmospheric rock tunes is breathtaking - highlighting Leslie Feist's calm and collected vocals, bouncy folk guitars, quirky percussion and deep lyrics that have spawned from her four-year time of reflection.

Opening track "The Bad in Each Other" is without-a-doubt the best song on this album, and one of the best of the year. Starting with a stomping clap-beat and transitioning into a memorable growling guitar loop, the song starts the phenomenal album on such an influential note. The darkish opening loop and verse rises into a beautifully emotional chorus where Feist chants alongside a male voice melancholy confessions like, "A good man and a good woman, bring out the bad in each other." Later, the profound clamour of saxes, strings and piano mold together as part of a wildly spiralling outro.


"How Come You Never Go There" was a golden find from first listen, however, it moreso resembles her more subdued, jazzy hits from past albums. We hear the new far-from-Apple-commercial concepts that her hiatus bred in songs like "The Undiscovered First", a howling folk tune featuring perfect electric mixed with slamming kickdrum and tambourine, and a choral uprising halfway through. Powerful, moody and peeling away layers from the second it starts - there's no doubt the ingredients of Feist's most recent songwriting experience were outside of her comfort zone at first, but as a result, genius. "Bittersweet Melodies" is exactly how it sounds - a ditty highlighting her tiny songbird voice in front of a light rapping drum and sweet-as-pie melody. "The Circle Married The Line" has a haunting tone to it; one that will undoubtedly garner critical acclaim for its pleasant countryside chords, twinkling xylophone and her magical yelps and croons punctuating each minute. "Cicadas and Gulls" is one that I can tell will grow more on me with each new listen, and it's another one of those glorious songs that fits like a glove into its title. The quiet seaside flow of this simple tune features echoing vocals and an unobtrusive guitar melody - and if you can, it will need to see the sun when you play it, maybe even from a waterfront of sorts.

Either way, this album and it's diverse mix of experimentations and oddities has really turned out perfectly, and will inevitably secure her reputation as an artist who can do little wrong. She's innovative, eternally talented and beautifully creative. If anything's learned after listening carefully to this gorgeous piece of artwork, it's that the music world could use a few more Feists. Or at least many more albums like this one.

                            

     

                             

Friday, October 14, 2011

G...N...O.

Like I've said before, it's extremely rare for my girlfriends and I to be able to plan a night out - all of us, together, dancing, laughing, not working. Well, tonight is the night. One of them, who never gets a night off - has never been more excited to let her hair down. The other, who's in the midst of graduate studies - is ready to whip her hair back and forth. Another one of them, who coincidentally has the longest hair of them all (what am I even talking about anymore?) - is going to be sporting a half-up/down doo, because she has to leave us to bartend at 11:00pm. Sad.

But, regardless, this night has awaited us since our last GNI (girl's night in, figure out the article title now!), and we're going to make the most of it, despite any obstacles in our way. Here are some of the pumped-up jams we might be tapping (or shaking, kicking, losing, etc.) our pumped-up kicks to ce soir.

         
Isn't this the catchiest GNO song you've ever heard (other than my obsession with "Moves Like Jagger"...? It's in dedication to the other girls who aren't in town - but would be out in full force tonight if they were.


New jam.

     
Newer jam.

     
Newest jam.





Thursday, October 13, 2011

Unchained Melodies



Well, isn't she the cutest. Swedish berry/indie popstar Lykke Li has had an undeniably good year - a stellar second album with a slew of underground airwave hits, and now a sweet melancholy take on what of the most romantic songs of all time.

Of course, Lykke's cover of The Righteous Brothers' classic "Unchained Melody" is very much the token way of this scraggly porcelain doll - with her undecorated tiny vocals and plain annunciation of the song's message echoing throughout the studio. But, with just the little pixie, her candy-coated vocals and the simple strums of an acoustic guitar carrying across Triple J's radio studio - it's quite adorable.

Some might rejoice that she's re-worked the Motown favourite, which may have lost cool points after being the feature soundtrack song in 1990's Ghost, into something haunting and contemporary. But in general, this song, is perfect. It's a universal favourite, and probably the better portion of the world - parents, friends, pets, everyone - holds a special place for it in their heart. It really is everything anyone could want in a love song and more - so I suppose it's in everyone's best interest to have a version out there to cater to each and all of us. Here is the newest take, and some others from the past to convince you of this tune's timelessness. Which one do you like the most? And no, I didn't list the Leann Rimes version...

           



                            
Unchained Melody - U2 (a powerful take on the classic, from a B-side)


Unchained Melody - Willie Nelson (Willie makes me melt.)


Unchained Melody - Elvis Presley (performed at Elvis' last concert)


And then the original...perfect.
              

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Don't Care.

I was recently at a conference. It was green-related, like most  all of my job, and so a supposedly very environmentally-conscious (and huge) band played the opening kick-off event. Now, all week when I was explaining where I would be for my few days away, what I would be doing, and some of the special perks of the event - everyone kept remarking, "Ooh, are you going to show your moves like Jagger?!"...

This was unsettling. I had no idea what they were talking about, and I already knew I didn't want to know. And no, I most likely wouldn't be shaking it - pencil-skirted, high-heeled and amongst work peers - like Mick. It didn't take me long to figure this remark had something to do with a song, or something the lead singer did on his hit show "The Voice", and then I inevitably found out that the former was true. I had apparently spent my summer inside of a dark, dark pop culture hole - and had missed this huge hit flying out from the airwaves.

So, once I figured it out, still having not heard this famous pop tune - I would gladly partake in banter about how, despite my general excitement for the conference and the amazing opening plenary events, I was in no way excited to see this band. They had their moment to shine, their lead singer was super dreamy - but no, I wasn't a fan and didn't intend to be. (Clearly, judging from my three-month-late response to one of their biggest hits yet).

But then, I went to this opening event, ate, drank, was merry - all the while so distracted with good conversation and stimulating speakers that I don't think I even noticed the performers get announced. I then heard the opening whistle of the song, as I looked down from the VIP booth, and watched the band take the stage to kick-off the wonderfully innovative and forward-thinking conference with a bang. "Oh! THIS song!", I exclaimed. I knew it after all, or at least recognized it from the background music played during my shopping cardio at popular young stores. It was absolutely one of those experiences where I completely took everything I said back. This song was catchy as hell, and it took every bit of my restraint not to helicopter my collared-top above my head. And, performed live by tasty, tight-shirted Adam Levine and his high-pitched, prancing self? Not too terrible, I must say. Would I normally sign up for a Maroon 5 concert? Absolutely not. But should I speak/judge before listening to any song, regardless of where it stands on the pop charts? Absolutely not. Like I've said in numerous posts before, if you like it - it's good music. Maybe not good to everyone. But feels good to you. And you can't put a label, price or judgement on feeling that healthy kind of good, people.

Because that night, my fellow opening ceremony-goers and colleague friends saw me move like Jagger. And I don't care. *Reader's note: Check back with me after having heard it more than seven times, I may have a slightly changed opinion...




Aw yeah.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More Lana Love






Oh, hurry up and release more of an album, woman! I just am loving everything Lana Del Rey these days, which I've said before, but as of now i'm stuck with this sad syndrome of making due with the songs that have leaked online. I feel deprived of the amazing music she'll inevitably release more of, and the captivating live shows she'll inevitably play more of when she rises to inevitable stardom. In the mean time, I have to make due with what I already know, and the new listens I get out of what I already know.

What a fascinatnig girl - I'm just desperate to find out more about her. But I'm moreso desperate to do it through her musical oddities. Play her for almost anyone, and I would be surprised to hear you didn't get positive responses across the board. Everyone loves strange things they don't really understand.

              

Lana Del Rey - Double A-Side Single - October 16th

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Case of James


This weekend, I really do have Blake's back. Brit artist James Blake, during his own debut appearance on the music scene and his collaboration with Justin Vernon, is slowly becoming one of the most sought-after artists in the indie industry. On his recently-released second EP, Enough Thunder, again we hear his mellow, deep acrobatic croons soar from an era past; so profound, flipping and twirling in the air as they spill effortlessly from his small frame. His innovation in music, however, is so valued that when he resorts back to bare basics - it isn't always widely received. Story of a new artist's life.

A second album and undoubtedly another cloud of attention and buzz garnered after a world of interested parties have had the chance to listen all the way through and plenty of times - Blake is one of the oddest sensations today. Several questions pop into my head whenever I listen to this young soulster. Who is he and where did he come from? When and how does a young man of such slight and unintrusive stature learn to sing like that? How does a man (again) of such slight and unintrusive stature muster in him the bravery to pull off a classic Canadian female artist's hit song with each new whack? Last year it was Feist, this year it's the ever-debateable Joni Mitchell and her famous old tune, "A Case of You". While opinionated listeners generally part like the red sea in their admiration of Mitchell's rambling Woody Allen-style falsetto storytelling, they so far have an equally debated take on Blake's fresh spin on her old ballad. I happen to like Mitchell very much, but saying that around certain listeners can equal a big-time cut eye. I happen to really enjoy Blake's version very much as well, and more cutting looks I can expect.

Every bit classically lethargic Blake, the new tune boasts the simplest of Billy Joel-style piano - instead of Joni's original use of guitar - looping underneath his cartwheeling vocals. I love the undecorated new spin - which certainly is taking flack for diverting far from Blake's regularly embellished, funky oddities. In fact, I'd go so far to say that any critics of his stripped-down vocal performance might change their mind with more listens. We know he has the ability to jazzily garnish his hits, via autotune and dance-age accessories, so why not give the kid a chance to show he also has the ability to handsomely sing the simplified balladry that might act as the next generation's wedding first-dances. A song like this needs nothing of the usual Blake bucket, it only needs to keep the ingredients from the original recipe, and then add some of the sweet flavouring from this young soul star. Blake, and Joni, I like you just the way you are.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. Pour a glass of wine, savour the smells spilling from your colourful kitchen and enjoy a young man - the kind you would bring home to Mom - and his take on one of Mom's favourites:

A Case of You - James Blake
             



I remember that time you told me you said/ "Love is touching souls"/ Surely you touched mine/ 'Cause part of you pours out of me/ In these lines from time to time/ Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine / You taste so bitter and so sweet/ Oh I could drink a case of you darling/ And I would still be on my feet.

- Original words by Joni Mitchell



Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sure is...



Believe it. Lately, here has been the equation of my life:

Extremely busy.
+
Exploring different types of transit (long car rides, planes, busses...)
+
Being bored during the "in between".
+
A hotel maid ran over my Sony headphone set and sliced the wire.
+
I really like listening to music, and like it even more through those headphones.
+
Earbuds hurt my little ears, and I get so frustrated at their pinching and tangling I want to slice them with my own vacuum.
+
My life is one big massive tangle, it feels like.
+
So, believe it or not, I veto the interim traveling music and stick to listening to it when I'm at home.
+
Hopefully this will not last long.
+
But, while needing something to do - I've been reading a LOT again. And I love that.

And here's a song I re-discovered, and have been loving, when I'm at home.




The Power of Orange Knickers - Tori Amos and Damien Rice

Monday, October 3, 2011

Let Me Hear That Song


I have to apologize again! I've been SO busy lately - my headphones and my keyboard have nearly been abandoned. (Unless for not-as-fun emails and work-related things). I've been back and forth between three cities, taking planes, trains and automobile all over the place - and I've neglected everything from my apartment, to grocery shopping and now this. Sigh.

So, expect little bits and pieces of what I've managed to get my ear on - and when all calms down a little bit, expect much, much more. I still adore the time I get to type. And I still adore this new dance-punk classic from The Rapture, who have returned from their long hiatus and revealed this new age favourite. Kick your heels/sneakers off and thrash around the dance floor with your best friends, it's the perfect song for it. Forewarning - it gets real good at 3:20...: