Monday, June 29, 2009

Assessment! Regina Spektor's "Far"

(Sire Records)
June 22, 2009

In the past, Regina Spektor has displayed a knack for crafting off-kilter tunes that are melodic and intricate.  This latest album is no different. The first tracks, "The Calculation" and "Eet," are excellent examples of Spektor's ability to travel up and down vocal scales with mastery. "Blue Lips" starts off with just Spektor's voice, but as the song continues piano and other instruments join in.  "Laughing With" seems like a play on Joan Osborne's "One of Us."  

Like with every Spektor record, some songs do not work as well as others. "Dance Anthem of the 80s" contains a overpowering piano melody and her voice is definitely on display for all to listen to.  The breakdown appears to be heavily influenced by the music of Spektor's Russian roots. Its unique but doesn't present itself as an everlasting track.   "Machine," a rough-and-tough song about, I think, post-apocalyptic life and living with full reliance on technology, exists somewhere off the scale of normalcy but could be a grower in some cases.  
"One More Time With Feeling" is one of the more standout tracks of the album.  It sounds joyful but is actually a depressing and easily relatable tale of "playing parts" and going through the motions.  "Genius Next Door" is a definite example of her background in classical music while "Folding Chair" operates as an alluring ode to companionship.   

Overall this album operates in line with her other releases. It is as accessible as 2006's "Begin to Hope" and contains quite a few glorious pop songs along with some stranger tracks that convey Spektor's off-beat and charming personality. Her voice is as potent as ever.  This album is an essential for those who are already a fan of her work as well as those who crave unique piano melodies coupled with even more unique lyrical composition. 

  • Mp3s: "One More Time with Feeling"  and "Folding Chair" 
  • For more information about Regina Spektor, check out her myspace and official website

Top 5: Soundtrack for a Vampire Obsessed Nation

It seems inappropriate to talk about anything non-Michael Jackson related these days, but I have watched enough tribute specials, heard enough "Billie Jean" on the radio, and even laughed at enough dead MJ jokes ("His heart just couldn't beat it anymore...") to know that there is no such thing as "too soon". 

Instead, I'd like to write about a trend that has been and continues to sweep the nation. Vampires. They've always been present in common folklore, but suddenly they've taken over the books we read, the movies we watch, and even HBO. Not only are these blood-lusting creatures, inexplicably sexy, but they've got indie cred too. Although the Twilight soundtrack surprised me with moments of goodness, Radiohead's "15 Step" in particular, I can't help but think that a few of these tracks may have also benefitted. Here are my favorite vampire songs for your listening pleasure, in between episodes of True Blood and Twilight novels, of course.

  • Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, "Vampires in Blue Dresses" mp3
It was with the help of this Indiana band that vampires found their way into chamber pop. With lyrics such as, "Your mother is a vampire/ She sucked your old man's life away/ Turn everything off/ Just cover your neck/ Cause life is full of your regrets/ And I should be one," and a drumbeat outro resembling an execution, this song is utterly appropriate. 

  • Chad VanGaalen, "Red Hot Drops" mp3
If you have ever listened to a Chad VanGaalen song, or better yet, watched one of his animations (recommended) you know that just about everything he creates is eerie in the most terrific of ways. Check out his new album, Soft Airplane, and give this creepy ditty a listen. It reads like an vampiric meditational chant, calmly urging, "Sharpened teeth that dive deep into veins/ Slowly draining with no pain, sinking and drinking in a thick way." It's no wonder he creates everything in a hermit-like style, barely emerging from the privacy of his Calgary basement. 

  •  Arctic Monkeys, "Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But..." mp3
Who could forget the English breakout band from Myspace? The term "vampire" is used as an insult in this song, and it sure sounds like one through Alex Turner's churlish Yorkshire accent as he snarls, "Cause all you people are vampires/ And all your stories are stale/ And though you pretend to stand by us/ I know you're certain we'll fail." 

  • Sufjan Stevens, "You Are The Blood" mp3
Although not quite about vampires, this song still fits the mold with the unearthly quality it possesses. Stevens turned this Castanets song into an odd anthem weaving in and out of genre's all in the name of good will. The cover was released on Dark Was the Night, the compilation release for the Red Hot Organization, a charity dedicated towards HIV and AIDS awareness and research. 

  • Radiohead, "We Suck Young Blood (Your Time Is Up)" mp3
Radiohead are the champions when it comes to producing hauntingly beautiful music. Thom Yorke poses questions in his trademark falsetto, crooning, "Are you sweet?/ Are you fresh?/ Are you strung up by the wrists?/ We want the young blood." Whether it's young blood or true blood, these days, it seems like everybody wants it. 

Friday, June 12, 2009

Concert Review: Band of Horses @ Carnegie Hall, June 11th, 2009

How did we get to Carnegie Hall on Thursday evening?  Well, it was a combination of "practice....practice...practice" ....and the D-train. Ha.  All stupid (awesome) puns aside, last night Jenna and I traveled uptown for a performance by Band of Horses at a little place known as Carnegie Hall.  As we took our seats in the obstructed view sections on the third "dress circle" tier, it was obvious we were in for quite a treat. 

The opening act,  Arbouretum [myspace], was reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel in their softer moments.  This band, hailing from Baltimore Maryland, was a great match for BOH.  Their mountain-ish and melodic sound, along with the deep and throaty voice of lead singer David Heumann delighted the crowd for a tight set.  Once they were done, though, the whole hall was ready for BOH to take the stage.

Band of Horses took the stage around 9:15 and positioned themselves on metal chairs, which were on top of oriental rugs.  It was so appropriate.  They opened up with "Part One" and "Marry Song."  The tempo of "Weed Party" was quickened while "Wicked Gil" was slowed down considerably. "The Funeral" turned into an extended jam session. They conquered Gram Parsons' "A Song For You" and played two new songs, one by Tyler Ramsey and another that referenced "compliments down there."  

The band left the stage, momentarily, and then came back for an encore of "Ode to LRC" and "Detlef Schrempf." For their closing tune, "The General Specific," the mood of the show swiftly shifted from mellow to cheery. As Ben Bridwell grabbed a tambourine, people throughout the venue began to rise from their seats.  There were even two people in our section who shook their hips and clapped their hands throughout the upbeat song.  The most awkward thing was a business-man, dressed in a baggy white button down and dress pants, who busted a move as his arms flailed around in a crazy fashion. You could tell this man really enjoyed dancing like the whitest man alive.  

Overall the show was a chilled-out, sit-back epic masterpiece.  Everyone seemed to embrace the sit-back-and-enjoy tone of the concert, except for the few random bros who decided it was appropriate to yell out "Free Bird" and attempt to get others to stand up when most people wanted to retreat to their velveteen cushioned seats. Even though BOH's said this was the first time they had ever embarked on this type of show, the band seemed to be in their element: playing acoustic gems on carpets to a mostly mellowed-out and attentive audience.

  • Check out Brooklyn Vegan for a complete(ish) set list and some pictures.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Top 3: Tuesday Trio Giveaway

We haven't posted in a while, this was such a whirlwind week, and it's been raining all day. Here are three songs I've been holding onto for quite some time now. They are hot in my hands and I don't want to carry them anymore so I'm giving them to you.

  • Clues, "Perfect Fit" mp3
The morbid yet lovely band, The Unicorns, captured my high school heart, so it should come as no surprise that Clues, featuring Alden Penner (previous member of The Unicorns) as well as Brendan Reed (ex-member of Arcade Fire), has also piqued my interest. The song starts with a spooky tune that sounds as if it could be the soundtrack for a haunted house at an amusement park and then picks up to form a whimsical anthem of sorts.

  • Suckers, "It Gets Your Body Moving" mp3
This song lumbers on dependably in a grandiose display of percussion and synth. It's sing-a-long style may evoke an image of a roaring campfire from a summer long ago, embers sputtering and bits of ash popping into the air. Feel free to hold hands and sway to this communal beauty. 

  • Stars of Track & Field, "With You" mp3
This three-piece Portland band took its name from a Belle and Sebastian song. The track is wistful and dreamy with an added digital chill of synth. Get lost in the melancholy void of their shoegazer sound. It is still raining after all. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Take It From Me: John Lennon: The New York City Years

John Lennon once said, "I have a love of this country. Two thousand years ago, we would have all wanted to live in Rome... and now this (NYC) is Rome. This is where the action is." The current action is located at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex on 76 Mercer Street nestled in between art galleries and upscale boutiques. Aside from the usual treasures, including but not limited to a bedazzled jumpsuit that once belonged to Elvis, a letter that Paul Simon wrote to Art Garfunkel while he was at summer camp, and an assortment of old and decrepit looking furniture from CBGB's, is an exhibit put together in part by Yoko Ono titled John Lennon: The New York City Years.

New York City was the setting for many of Lennon's political stunts and solo musical endeavors which is evident throughout the exhibit which includes memorandum from his struggles against deportation (such as his green card and letters of support from celebrities and NYC locals), album covers, articles of clothing such as the famous New York City t-shirt (pictured above), and an art book by Ono which ended up being Lennon's inspiration for the song, "Imagine". Are you familiar with that tune?

Also on display are three guitars of Lennon's and the piano that used to be in his bedroom in the Dakota. In addition, four films are projected onto the walls in opposite corners of the room showing assorted music videos, talk show clips of interviews, evidence of their political activism such as their bed-ins and appearances at protests, and clips from their art films. There is also a small white phone with vague instructions to pick it up if it rings. You may find Yoko Ono on the other end of the line.

The oddest and most moving object at the exhibit was a nondescript sealed bag containing the clothing Lennon was wearing when he was shot. Ono wrote an accompanying statement about how the man who once had everything was returned to her in a simple paper bag and in keeping with her fashion, left markers for people to sign their names to a protest to prevent gun violence which will eventually be sent to President Obama.

All I am saying, is give this exhibit a chance... and peace. Give peace a chance too.

New York City mp3

Monday, June 1, 2009

Twitter-Mania, Euphonie Style

Twitter is sweeping the nation! Some love it. Some hate it. Some just don't get it. But the truth is every one seems to be talking about it. Me myself, I am an avid twitter follower and updater. I love the constant connection with friends and famous "friends" and the fact that you can be tuned in to their musings at all times. I find enjoyment in each tweet, no matter how random. Actually, the more random the better! Here is a list of some of my favorite "famous" twitters for your consideration. Enjoy!

Rob Thomas
(@ThisIsRobThomas) has been filling up my twitter page these days. Through his random musings, I feel as if I am intimately acquainted with the Matchbox 20 front-man. From the political (commenting on the Sonia Sotomeyor justice nomination) to the mundane (spending time with his wife, Mari) to the "rock star" (getting interviewed and photographed by Rolling Stone), Thomas covers the spectrum. Even if you don't like Matchbox 20, you have to appreciate his ability to stay personable to all 48,000 of his followers.

Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) is one of my favorite parts of the "I Love The..." series. In his twitter, he tweets about his family, mostly. But each entry is funnier than the last one. HIs self deprecation-filled brand of humor is what makes him so enjoyable, as well as such movies as "Wet Hot American Summer" and involvement with "The State." For example, who can't not laugh at this sample tweet: "Khakis are to cool pants what math students are to cool people." It is a daily dose of the M.I.B. we have all come to love.

Jon Cheese (@JonCheese) is an unknown name to most, but to me he is the most beloved member of Limbeck. Most of his recent tweets have been regarding several nights out on the town that ended up with hangovers and complaining. One night he updated 4 times in a 20 minute period, all with the same message: something along the lines of "i'm a drunk idiot." Who can't relate to that? In addition to booze-fueled entries, he also talks about missing the road, riding the greyhound bus with all "the crazies" and his addiction to "I'm On A Boat." Don't you just want to be his real-life friend? Because I most definitely do!

John Mayer (@JohnCMayer) is a constant updater. If you think he is a pretentious and overindulged asshole, like some people do, do not subscribe to his twitter. His twitter is really just another manifestation of how into himself he is (by my count, it is in a good way of course). He talks about the Titanic, song-writing, current events and family (several entries include the @carlmayer tag). He is incredibly random. There is almost no filter. It is great - just great fun.

Ezra Koening (@arzE), from Vampire Weekend, runs a twitter that is sparse but has the potential for daily witticisms. Like this May 29th tweet: "faux-accent Friday! today I'm from New Hampshire." He is as New York-centric as any Ivy League New Yorker, as displayed in this May 21st entry: "At my cousin dan's graduation from St. Jude's. Can't stand the UES. so much pretension and backstabbing." Funny. Keep it coming, Ezra.

Other Notable Twitters:
Colin Meloy, of The Decemberists: @ColinMeloy
John Roderick, of The Long Winters: @JohnRoderick
Jim Gaffigan: @JimGaffigan
Ingrid Michaelson: @IngridMusic
Justin Timberlake: @JTimberlake
Matt Pond PA: @mattpondpa
Dr. Tobias Funke: @DrTobiasFunke

On a related note, I was extremely disappointed by the twitter of Real Housewife of NYC Bethenny Frankel (@Bethenny). I expected it to be filled with musings in line with the persona she presented through the two seasons of RHWONYC. But instead, she just updates you on the going-ons in her life, from to her book signings to upcoming magazine interviews. Booooring Bethenny, real boring.

Also check out the twitters of your favorite fantastic bloggers Allie (@allie_roth) & Jenna (@mostunsavory). Follow us! And we'll follow you.