19 February 2012

Videos and a Few Words on Madge

Among some of my friends, the Madonna mania has started – a few of them who have never watched the Super Bowl tuned in this year to see Madge perform. Let’s give credit where it is due: a pop career spanning thirty-years (no other pop artist has ever stayed relevant for that long), the bragging rights of being the most spectacular live pop performer, currently the fourth most selling artist of all time, and the solo artist with the highest grossing tour ever, she has set the mark very high for any artist to replace her as the Queen of Pop. And when I heard her latest single, the bubble-gum “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” I immediately had to laugh … a good laugh though.

Let me say right off that the coverage of her Super Bowl performance was sexist; when she had a misstep, the first thing that it was accredited to was her age. But does anyone mention Keith Richard’s or Paul McCartney’s age if they make an error? Or Robert Smith’s when he screws up his own lyrics live? All artists make mistakes. The evidence that this veteran’s age is not an issue is the fact that the misstep did not deride her performance. She immediately recuperated from it and did not miss a beat in the rest of the choreography that followed. As the years goes on, her ability to concentrate during a performance (which have gotten longer and longer) has only gotten better. And if that is enough to her credit, remember at least we did not see her boobs.

As for “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” Madonna has usurped and incorporated just about everything into her music and live performances, so it is no surprise that Madonna has usurped the 80s revival. At the heart of it all, “Give Me All Your Luvin’” is a new wave song, and I find it interesting how fans of new wave and 80s revival roll their eyes when they hear this song … would they do that if it were another artist performing the song? This song is so 80s that she is even sporting a big, gaudy cross again and not to mention those wedding dresses in the video, a nice reference to “Like a Virgin,” and of course all the less than subtle references to the “Material Girl” video. (Why would she reference anyone else? She does have an ego the size of Montana … no, Canada.) I for one have to admit that this is her best single since “Hung Up” and a perfect example of what makes her distinct from other pop artists. First, she can incorporate just about any element in her music and make it seem natural, just a matter of fact. Second, she can just write a song that is (on the surface) not trying to be more than what it actually is – a pop song. Unlike other artists (nameless), not every single has to be some kind of commentary or something more bombast than what came before it. Not everything is about making a statement, sometimes it is just a friggin’ song. This one just happens to be all new wavish and gets two thumbs up. (Of course, I wonder what was going through her mind when she wrote, “Every record sounds the same…” (those nameless artists?).)

Enjoy the videos!

Madonna’s “Give Me All Your Luvin’” (featuring M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj) form the madonna YouTuve Channel.

SBTRKT’s “Hold On – Sisi Bakbak Rmx” from the youngturksrecords YouTube Channel.

Scissor Sisters vs. Krystal Pepsy’s “Shady Love” from the scissorsisterstv YouTube Channel.

The Japanese Popstars’ “Shell of Silver” from TheJapanesePopstVEVO YouTube Channel.

Austra’s “Spellwork” from the DominoRecords YouTube Channel.

Lightships’ “Sweetness In Her Spark” from the DominoRecords YouTube Channel.

Band of Skulls’ “Sweet Sour” from the vagrantrecords YouTube Channel.

Saint Etienne’s “Tonight” from the SaintEtienneVEVO YouTube Channel.

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18 February 2012

Doug Prescott: "The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea"

My many thanks to Independent Music Promotions for keeping me in the loop.

For some reason or other, I have typically swayed away from making political commentary on the blog, but I think it is obvious from the musicians that I tend to cover where I stand politically. It is perhaps why I usually sway away from certain genres of music and a certain set of musicians – their politics revolt me for the most part. Though I listen to some country music, it is for those said reasons that I usually sway away from it as a genre, so when I received Doug Prescott’s “The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea” (1 November 2011), at first I scoffed at the fact that I was about to listen to country music. Though it is hard to categorize this album as purely being “country,” as many other elements (from lounge to funk) permeates through the music, at the heart of the songs there is something undeniably American. However, I think that the folks in the metaphoric Nashville (who think they have the market on “Americana”) would thumb their collective nose at this album, which, in my book, is a good reason to listen to it.

First let me admit some of my ignorance. I know little about Doug Prescott; I did cheat a little and read a snippet of his biography (crooning by night, by day the CEO of Prescott Environmental Associates, consulting clients to operate cleaner and greener) and know even less about his discography. And even though I do listen to some country music, it is by far not enough to actually tell you what is trendy or not. I say these things to point out that this is truly a blind review. But what speaks volumes to me is the fact that I am listening to Prescott even though I am post-punk overdosed, shoegazed-obsessed.

The album kicks off with the ironically titled “Happy Enough Song,” which really displays some great blues arrangements. “I just do my thing and do my best to sing a happy enough song,” sings Prescott, and it is not just the music that sucks you in, but also the universal reality: we all go through life, the mundane activities of everyday, as we wait for something better, always keeping our chins up – that happy enough song. Starting an album with such a song only makes you wonder just what is coming next. “Hideaway,” more traditionally country than the opener, is about Prescott’s need for change from the mundanities of everyday life: “Break away, I just might need to break away…. Hideaway, I wish I could hideaway. There are decisions to be made, but I don’t want to make them.” (Just about how I feel every Monday.) The third track, “Patience,” brings in the funk, succinct lyrics (“Better just get in line, you just might have to wait; might not be your time, you might get lucky sooner or later…”), and a detached, matter-of-fact vocal style. And already in the first three tracks, Prescott shows a wide diversity of musical and vocal styles, really elaborating on the concept of just what is “country.”

The album closes with “Little Elvis & Fat Cat Eddie” – a strong blues ending to mirror the opening. And by the time you have reached this closing point, you are realize that one of the reasons you have been drawn to the vocals is because they are fashioned after an older, 60’s, style of singing which is warmer and more alluring that contemporary singing, which makes it perfect for the continual narration throughout the album. My favorite track is “Silence Speaks Volumes.” With a near Caribbean-feel and a line I think we all must have said at one time (“Don’t patronize me when we’re trying to talk it over”), it is the outlier of the album. Musically it is disarming in the context of the rest of album, and lyrically it is the line that comes before the aforementioned that is the most poignant: “Sometimes what you don’t say hurts more.” I would be remiss, though, if I did not mention “Let’s Get Wide Open.” In terms of the arrangements, no song on the album compares – this is great arrangements! There is nothing superfluous: from the vocal crooning to the use of the horns, every moment of music and vocals helps propel the mood of this 70s-esque song.

Doug Prescott’s “The Journey & The Deep Blue Sea” is essentially a country album, but it is those musical references to other genres that really brings it to life. His non-purist approach to songwriting is refreshing, as anything that is done by the book easily bores me. Furthermore, Dough Prescott represents one of the independent country musicians, a set of musicians that rarely get any mention in the world of the “independent” music. And as a true independent artist, he is able to compose music that is outside of the norm or the expected. This, I state emphatically as a post-punk overdosed, shoegaze-obsessed fan, is the kind of music that might have me going out to buy a Stetson. Check it out.

1. Happy Enough Song
2. Hideaway
3. Patience
4. Silence Speaks Volumes
5. Oh Maggie
6. Let’s Get Wide Open
7. It’s About Oil
8. Beach Wedding
9. Right Time, Right Place
10. Little Elvis & Fat Cat Eddie

Keep up with Doug Prescott at his homepage and Facebook.

Here is Doug Prescott’s video for “It’s About Oil” from the davstill YouTube Channel.

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07 February 2012

Alcest: “Les Voyages De L’Âme”

Every once in a while I find that it is alright to revert our minds into the times of knights in shining armor and the Guillotine. There is a lucid feeling that one gets when off in the clouds of ‘the great escape.’ It is enough to know that there is some place to turn to when the walls of today are crumbling to the floors of tomorrow. I once came across Alcest while surfing through the “related videos” on YouTube — I watched the video for their single “Atre Temps,” and was captivated, not by the video but the story going on behind it all. Although it is a proven fact that I know nothing of the French languge besides “Que’ce que tu fais?” and “Bonjour,” it was nice to know that this exotic poetry could capture me so. Alcest’s “Les Voyages De L’Âme” (6 January 2012 in Germany and Austria, 9 January 2012 in Europe, and 31 January 2012 in the USA) is their third album, and being that I’ve never truly been a fan to shoegaze, I just might have to put up my white flag and surrender. Hailing from Bagnols-sur-Cèze, France is a sort of musical architecture that has aligned itself on the borderline of two worlds — imaginary and reality. And often people find it a challenge to evenly balance the two, yet as it seems Alcest took the challenge into deep consideration and created “Les Voyages De L’Âme” [English translation: “The Journeys of the Soul”].

The album begins with “Atre Temps” [“Another Time”], where initially we are set out in a distant land that somehow manages to remind one of “Lord of The Rings;” birds are flocking overhead (the gentle stinging of the guitar), and the clouds are fast forwarded and slowed in a simultaneous manner as Neige produces his vocals which seems to caress the listeners ears. Initially placing us in a foreign atmosphere where we are free to do as we please (bear with me), we are serenaded through a course that will lead us to ancient dragons and maybe even a castle or two, but ultimately we will pass by everglades and streams that we can touch and feel with the strumming of the guitars, the beating of the drums and the subtle vocals leading us through these magnificent acres of land. To cast aside the imagery for a moment—the fact that Alcest took the time to create such an intricate piece is what has seemed to capture me the most, in contrast to that there is also a need to understand that this band puts in the effort when composing their works of art.

The next track that I must mention is of course the titular track “Les Voyages De L'Âme,” truly the official entrance into this world where there are no restraints. When thinking in terms of both the album and track title, there is a sense of knowing. The musical narrative displays a lavished portrayal of the world of the “unknown,” yet as Alcest leads us through this place it is enough to realize that we might know too much. Personally I find this track to be one of my favorites simply because of the complete tenderness it conveys, not only that but it leaves you with a thirst that seems to be unquenchable until you have reached the very last song on the album.

The closing track is “Summer’s Glory,” and when taken into deep consideration it is very much similar to a track that would be played at the end of an extraordinarily epic adventure. With this track being the second longest on the album, it also gives a complete summary of what one’s “soul” might have been through. “Summer’s Glory” is an incredible track simply because of the florescence that shines through much like being in a forest of leaves with the sun setting in the distance of it all. There is no comparing when it comes to the opening or the ending tracks on “Les Voyages De L'Âme” but what should be left to remember is that Alcest traded reality for idealism and painted it upon the blank canvas of their listeners’ minds.
And I am left with nothing more to say than if you’re someone who enjoys indulging in a little bit of shoegaze or even maybe a trip far away from reality, then this is your band. With the release of this exceptionally mesmerizing album, it’s honestly worth the listen if you happen to have some free time on your hands. And try not to be shy; in the surrealism that Alcest has created in “Les Voyages De L'Âme,” anything is possible.

Track Listing:
1, Autre Temps
2, Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles
3, Les Voyages De L'Âme
4. Nous Sommes L'Emeraude
5. Beings Of Light
6. Faiseurs De Mondes
7. Havens
8. Summer's Glory

Keep up with Alcest at their homepage, Myspace, and Facebook.

Here is their video for “Autre Temps” from the prophecyBC YouTube Channel.

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