30 July 2013

We have relaunched blog at the following site: SlowdiveMusic Blog.

Come join us at our new home ... and feel free to follow us at Facebook and Twitter. Thank you!!! Read more ...

20 June 2013

Fashion: "Love Shadow"

It's Throw Back Thursday. In 1982, the New Romantic group Fashion set the dance floors ablaze with the sexy riffs of "Love Shadow." (Thank you, Dave!)

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19 June 2013

Empire of the Sun: "DNA"

Today's Song of the Day is Empire of the Sun's "DNA."

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18 June 2013

Siriusmo: "Itchy / Cornerboy"

On this rainy NYC day, I have actually NOT been listening to dream pop, shoegaze, or post-punk, which very may well be one of the signs of the apocalypse! Instead, been into Siriusmo's "Itchy / Cornerboy" all day ... Enjoy!

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17 June 2013

Tegan and Sara's "Shock to Your System"

Today's Song of the Day is Tegan and Sara's "Shock to Your System."

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16 June 2013

Mayer Hawthorne: "Her Favorite Song"

Today's Song of the Day (posted late!): Mayer Hawthorne's "Her Favorite Song."

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15 June 2013

Shindu: "Happy House"

Today's song of the day is Shindu's amazing cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees' "Happy House." (Thanks to DJ Chauncey for today's selection.)

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14 June 2013

Song of the Day

We will be relaunching soon ... in the mean time, we will be sharing a song a day by various artists and blog contributors. Today's Song of the Day is The Pigeon Detectives' "I Won't Come Back," from their fourth studio album, "We Met at Sea." (Thanks to Peter, aka Mirage, for today's song of the day.)

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04 July 2012

Big Wreck: "Albatross"

As I have said before, my youth consisted of an overdose of a few genres of music: dream pop, glam rock, goth rock, (early deep) house, industrial, new wave, (campy and kitschy) pop, post-punk, punk, shoegaze, synthpop, etc… So it should come as no surprise when I say that by 1997 I was becoming disenchanted with music. Just look at was on offer from the veterans: Erasure’s “Cowboy” (1997, a return to the mundane after an amazingly experimental eponymous album), Crane’s “Population 4” (1997, grew on me eventually, but devoid all of the band’s grandiosity), Siouxsie and the Banshee’s “Rapture” (1995, an anti-climatic end to one of the most underrated bands of all time), Ride’s “Tarantula” (1996, a disappointment only overshadowed by the disappointment of the band breaking up), The Cure’s “Wild Mood Swings” (1996, inferior to all their prior albums), Depeche Mode’s “Ultra” (1997, with the obvious exceptions, really….really?) … and the list can go on and on and on. But then I heard “That Song” … How does the cliché go? Hook, line and sinker! Considering that Big Wreck is anything other than those genres mentioned above, it even surprised me back in 1997 that they were one of the bands instrumental in reigniting my passion for music. And, when I decided that I would wait for July to relaunch SlowdiveMusic Blog (since I would be free of all responsibilities other than tanning and spending wasting hours without my feet ever touching the ground), the best place I could think of starting once again from is the reformed Big Wreck and their new release, “Albatross” (6 March 2012).

Another thing I have said before is that I am sucker for literary metaphors. Whether or not Big Wreck intended on bringing up visions of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” it is where the metaphor of the albatross being a psychological and/or spiritual burden comes from. Lyrically, Big Wreck delivers on this theme of tortured souls and restless contemplation. Musically, Big Wreck continues to elude conventional labeling. Are they post-rock? Post-grunge? Progressive rock? Perhaps it is best to acknowledge that Big Wreck brings in all the above references with a slew of others, including the blues, and, after a decade since their last release, they are still able to stir up that sense of anxiety and angst that makes you breathless. But, unlike so many bands that have reformed, they are not relying on old formulas or old monuments … they are creating the next chapter, not wallowing in the last one for the sake of nostalgia. And there is Ian Thornley’s voice. Suffice to say it is one of the most haunting voices in music.

The album opens very subtly with “Head Together,” and then the beat drops: “Those glances ricochet off everybody else, but they’re sticking to me like glue. And if the situation ever was to change, who’s to say what the hell I’d do.” Big instrumentalisation and tight arrangements, this is the kind of song you expect from Big Wreck. The second track, “A Million Days,” with a new-wave-esque opening that repeats, has one hook after the other, endlessly changing it up. Then follows the first “wow” moment, “Wolves.” Musically, the mandolin work is very unexpected. Lyrically, the weight of the words is belied by the levity of the music (“I said bleed out your heart, if it’s still beating for someone else….”). Then the titular track follows: “One last cup of starlight, before I wake and start my day. A past so filled with promise, before I lost, I lost my way. Ah that’s okay, and I’m alright; I guess I’ll be lost again for one more night. Oh and that’s alright, I’m okay; I’ll wear the albatross for one more day.” And even though the song is ripe with bluesy elements, Ian Thornley’s voice is uplifting and oozing more hope than it has ever before.

The rest of the album is as brilliant as the opening four tracks. “Glass Room” demonstrates Big Wreck’s pop sensibility, without compromising their style, while “All Is Fair” is a contemporary (indie?) take on 70s rock. “Control” slows things down (eerily) to ditch out a bit of harsh reality (“It’s the same old world, where we grew up, and there’s no one to blame for why we’re all screwed up. You can bury your head in a great big hole, did you ever believe that you were in control?”), while “Rest of the World” is this big, loud, harsh monster of a song, where all of the metal and post-rock references are running rampant. “You Caught My Eye” is a study in contradictions: musically anti-sultry but seductive, lyrically harsh but coquettish – yet it all works so well when put together. The cacophonous “Do What You Will” plays with your expectations over and over, and then slips into the final track: “Time.” This is the biggest surprise on the album. From all the acoustic elements to the unexpected shifts, Thornley’s is profounder than ever before: “If I could go back in time, what would I change of mine? I wasted way too much of it just wishing I could go back in it. It takes time to figure out why I’m always running out.”

And what have always said if you wanted the job done right? Get a veteran to do it! “Albatross” is an amazing album and a very welcomed return of Big Wreck. Check this album out immediately.

Track Listing:
1. Head Together
2. A Million Days
3. Wolves
4. Albatross
5. Glass Room
6. All Is Fair
7. Control
8. Rest of the World
9. You Caught My Eye
10. Do What You Will
11. Time

Keep up with Big Wreck at their homepage, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here are the videos for “Albatross,” “Control,” and “Wolves” from the bigwreckmusic YouTube Channel.

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12 May 2012

Back, with a Few Words, Videos, and More Koortwah

It has been quite some time since I have been willing to write, and, in retrospect, I realize that I really needed the time to myself to deal with many issues. 2012 has been one of those years that make you wish it were over already; from my home being broken into and someone in my immediate family passing, I just needed the time to let the dust settle and sort things out in my head. Being back, typing away, is like wearing an old pair of jeans: comfortable, familiar, and feels good. I thought I would start posting again with videos, including Koortwah’s latest video “Candy in the Sun.” But first….

There are a few people I would like to thank for their patience and support during this time: Mia (from miles away I still feel your support), The Candyman and his insufferable other half (for always giving me perspective and being there for me), my “Mama” Charlene (for his undying optimism), and Painted Bird (for continually bringing me back into reality in your own way).

As for the videos, I wanted to lead in with Koortwah’s “Candy in the Sun.” The last time I wrote and posted, I wrote about Koortwah’s debut album, “Lay Them Wise” (link). He has that “je ne sais quoi” characteristic to his music that I am attracted to. Over the last month, I have heard the album over and over and over, and every time my musical expectations continue to be challenged and am left even more curious than the previous time; continuously mixing and switching up everything from IDM and synthpop to post-punk and synth-rock, this is the kind of album that no one song as an exemplar can really capture the dynamics of all its intricacies. It really is a must listen to album, but with that said, the video for “Candy in the Sun” needs to go viral! Support this amazing independent musician and get the word out about the album and the video!

Koortwah’s “Candy in the Sun” from the KOORTWAH YouTube Channel.

Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains’ “City Kiss” from the DominoRecords YouTube Channel.

Twin Shadow’s “Five Seconds” from the 4ADRecords YouTube Channel.

The Big Pink's “Lose Your Mind” from the 4ADRecords YouTube Channel.

Gossip’s “Perfect World” from the GossipVEVO YouTube Channel.

The Magnetic Fields’ “Quick!” from the MergeRecords YouTube Channel.

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10 March 2012

Koortwah: "Lay Them Wise"

A bit over a month ago, DJ Chauncey Dandridge told me about Koortwah; he did not so much ask me to listen to Koortwah’s music, but rather demanded it. With permission from Koortwah, I was forwarded a link to download and listen to the music, a collection entitled “Vertical Demos.” Honestly, I did not take the needed time to really listen actively and thoroughly, but on Saturday, 11 February 2012, I was in Manhattan with friends to catch the musical interpretation of “Carrie” at the Lucille Lortel Theater. Chauncey sent me a text that evening telling me that Koortwah was performing at Rock Bar, three blocks away from the theatre. After the musical (which I do recommend), we headed down to Rock Bar, and I have to say that by the end of the first song, I was smitten.

That night, I went home and really listened to “Vertical Demos,” which apparently has been released under the title of “Lay Them Wise” (7 February 2012) via iTunes. Koortwah is the brainchild of Jake Courtois; the moniker is the phonetic spelling of his last name. He migrated to New York City, in his words, to “escape from his fundamentalist overseers,” where in New York, “rats, being largely misunderstood, felt like family.” These two quotes sum up so much about what you can expect from Koortwah. Metaphoric with a sense of humor, his music celebrates the misunderstood or ignored, oftentimes the obvious we forget to mention, leaving behind the fundamentalist ideas of how people should behave and even how music should comport itself. Essentially treading through electronic soundscapes, the references are much wider than the average electronic outfit. From synthrock to IDM (intelligent dance music), electro and synthpop to trip-hop, the electronic coldness is juxtaposed by the occasional use of an acoustic guitar strumming and Courtois’ eerily alluring voice.

The opening track of “Lay Them Wise” (also the opening track of the live performance that night) is “Night Vision.” There is a feel of dream pop etherealness in the vocal arrangements, grounded by the IDM beats, the ambient music and ostinato is occasionally interrupted by some “harsher” sonic elements. The following track, “Candy In The Sun,” slows down the beat to a near downtempo feel, musically less ambient, the coarseness of the music mirrors the lyrics: “Candy in the sun, we all come undone, insides on the outside, wave good-bye.” Sometimes, however, there is a bit of mid-80s post-punk mentality in the music, where the feel of the music belies the lyrical profundity. “Amen” captivates you with its dance-ready beat, savvy hooks, and a controlled cacophony of sounds; lyrically, there is definitely a dark motif running through the song, where the religious “Amen” is highlighted in the vocal arrangements: “I don’t want what you want, maybe I should die alone; hold my hand, I want to go home… Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen.” Now, it is my understanding that Courtois does not explain his lyrics, so I wonder if this is an allegory of gaining self-confidence to continue alone, or a nifty take on the crucifixion. Either way, the song is infectiously disarming.

“There Go Your Teeth” (with a line that is going to be my new mantra, “Everything is boring, you’re boring, maybe I don’t need new friends”) is an anti-love song which musically juxtaposes harsh electronic sounds with the warmth of a piano, while “Wrong Tree” basks in its electronic soundscape, fluttering easily through its arrangements, even when the beat drops away and the acoustic strumming begins. The mood instantly changes with “Built To Burn,” especially when Courtois sings, “You know what I’d do for money…” The closest thing to a ballad on the album, what the song really made me think of is that this is how some of the slower tracks on the “Chorus” album [by Erasure] would sound like if it were recorded today – poppy, yet heart-rendering; electronically generated, but musically and lyrically greater than its medium. Then the jazzy titular track drags itself in. What I really like about this song is how the ostinato and the main key arrangement during the verse are so distinct from one another and yet, somehow, work well in tandem.

The most disturbing song is “Pound of Sugar”: “I had children, yes, I once had sons; they lived and learned, I guess they all died young.” What I really like about the vocal arrangements is that the song is not sung line by line in the traditional way we are accustomed to; quite often, the last word of the bar is the first word of the next line. It adds a sense of drama and suspense to the song. Then the album (unfortunately) comes to a close with “The Water’s Gold.” Instead of ending on the clichéd power song, the album closes with a slower paced song that oscillates between coarse and ambient, between ethereal and earthier arrangements.

It is not often on this blog that I have felt compelled to comment on each and every song on an album; this, in and of itself, really reflects what I feel about this album. Here is secret about my musical collection: there are only a handful of albums that I can say that I feel an intimate attachment with each and every track. “Lay Them Wise” joins this group of albums. What Koortwah has created here is a musical experience of elements we may all know, but are presented in a way that is disarming and gives you pause to reconsider what you think about your own musical expectations. This nascent, truly indie artist has composed the kind of album that some of the veterans he lists as influences would like to produce themselves. Furthermore, when I think of what post-punk means – a budding movement from the late 1970s that stayed true to the punk ideology of rejecting conformity, while at the same time experimented with a broader range of sounds and references, always with a twist as it usurped popular formats – it is hard for me not to consider Koortwah among this tradition.

(I would be remiss if I did not say a few words about the live performance. A drummer joined him on stage, he occasionally strummed away on his acoustic, while the rest of the music was produced electronically; throughout the performance of each song, there were images being projected, which ranged from curious to poignant. However, there was no sensory overload; the music, the vocals, and the images all conspired together to suck you right into the performance.)

“Lay Them Wise” is the first album of 2012 that I can honestly say is a must! Check out Koortwah’s music and follow him at one (or all) of his sites to keep abreast of new music and future live performances – you may just find yourself falling in love with the music as much as I did. (Of course now I need to track Jake Courtois down among the rats to get him to answer a few questions.)

Track Listing:
1. Night Vision
2. Candy In The Sun
3. Amen
4. There Go Your Teeth
5. The Wrong Tree
6. Built To Burn
7. Lay Them Wise
8. A Pound Of Sugar
9. The Water’s Gold

Keep up with Koortwah at his homepage, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here are a few of the interation iTunes links to Koortwah’s “Lay Them Wise”: Canada, Deutschland, España, France, Ireland, The United Kingdom, and The United States.

Here are the tracks “Built to Burn,” with the videos used during live performances, and “Night Vision” from the KOORTWAH YouTube Channel.

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03 March 2012

Stephen Vs Stephen Answers 5

When I first listened to Stephen Vs. Stephen’s deubt EP, “And Yet,” I was immediately drawn into its multi-references to past musical trends and its air of current urgency and relevance. There was no doubt that I was going to review this EP (link). Stephen Vs. Stephen is the brainchild of Stephen Sandknop, a truly independent and nascent musician. So nascent indeed that you will be pressed to find out information on him on the Internet, which led my urgency to want to ask him a few questions. A few e-mails later, I would like to thank Stephen Sandknop for taking the time to Answer 5.

(Stephen Sandknop of Stephen Vs. Stephen)

1. Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

Gosh. My musical influences are pretty diverse – everything from Sonic Youth to Wilson Philips. The “And Yet EP” is a direct offshoot of the albums “She's So Unusual” and “I Say, I Say, I Say” by Cyndi Lauper and Erasure, respectively. Both albums got me through a rather rough period of time and were hugely inspiring to me. Lately I've been trying to make myself listen to newer music (I'm usually stuck firmly in the 80s and 90s). Some of my favorite tracks at the moment are by Jonsi and Bon Iver. Really amazing stuff, musically, and it's nice to hear guys sing like they aren't bored with life. Aside from musical influences, I've written several songs while watching David Lynch films on mute. It works every time.

2. You are truly an independent and nascent musician, with little information out there about you and your music. Could you tell us three things about yourself as a lover of music and musician that we should know about you?

Three things you should know about me… Barbra Streisand and Courtney Love taught me to sing… Most of my songs don't have bridges because when I try to add them they almost always become an entirely new song… I'm an Aries. I've been told this explains why I actually have terrible rhythm. I finally found myself an awesomely sexy Leo boyfriend, though, and I'm never letting go of him (he has rhythm).

3. One of the things I love about your music is that it references so much, from synthpop to shoegaze. So I am wondering when you sit down to compose a song, are all of these references something that you keep in mind or is the process more organic?

I'd say it's a bit more organic; I don't sit down and think to myself "today I'm going to write that long-lost OMD track." I do try, however, to surround myself with things that inspire me and fit my ideals. I love Christmas lights and unusual paintings and old furniture. I listen to synthpop a lot when I want to be energized or while cleaning and shoegaze when I'm driving. I drive a Honda from 1988 and sometimes when I drive I like to pretend I live in another era. Nothing makes me feel groovier than listening to “Automatic” by The Jesus and Mary Chain while driving and smoking and wearing really cool sunglasses. I'd like that kind of thing to be present in my music, yes.

(Stephen Sandknop of Stephen Vs. Stephen)

4. SlowdiveMusic Blog ranked “The Void” in Top Tracks of 2011. We demand to know the genesis of this song!

"The Void" was a collaboration with an Australian Internet friend of mine named Robbie Goldstein. We met on an old Courtney Love fan board called KittyRadio back in the mid-2000s and started exchanging song ideas and sexy pictures. One evening he sent a song idea my way that he'd put together in Reason. It sent shivers down my spine and within a matter of hours I'd workshopped the structure with him and added vocals to it. The vocals on the final version are from that first run through. By the time it came out on the EP I'd added some guitar, a real snare drum, and more layered instruments. It remains one of my very favorite things I've ever helped create.

5. What’s on your plate at this moment? Any new music we can expect soon?

It's coming, slowly but surely! Right now I'm just expecting the EP to take off…any minute now. But in all seriousness, there's an upcoming sci-fi film called “Goliad Uprising” by Indie filmmaker Paul Bright that's going to feature one or more of the tracks from the EP. Apparently, one song in particular is going to be playing during the opening credits and I could not be more PSYCHED! Aside from that, I've just moved to Los Angeles and the sky's the limit, so they say. I'm looking for work as a production assistant on various film projects, and in the interim Hayden Hall and Jugger Naut of the fabulous synthpop band Professor Possessor are shooting an overtly sexy music video for "The Difference Between Us." I'm expecting it to be genius per their usual work, and the three of us are also in talks of starting a throwback 1960s boy band. I can't tell you how excited I am to start doing live shows again! Sky's the limit, indeed.

Keep up with Stephen Vs. Stephen at his Bandcamp page (where you can preview and download the “And Yet EP”) and check out his YouTube Channel, SBSandknop – interesting “Pyscho” influenced clip there!

Here is Stephen Vs. Stephen’s song “The Void” from his Bandcamp page.

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01 March 2012

Katrin The Thrill: "Earth Is Calling Us"

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

There are a few female vocalists, who when I hear them sing, the sound of their voices continue to haunt me for hours. Grace Slick and Siouxsie Sioux are two of these vocalists; the one thing that they have in common is that when they sing, their vocals seem to “lift” from the songs and dominate the soundscape. In more recent years, Skin of Skunk Anansie and Marina Lambrini Dimandis of Marina and the Diamonds also have this quality to their vocals. Katerina Panopoulu, who writes and performs under the moniker Katrin The Thrill, is another female vocalist to possess this quality. Her debut EP, “Earth Is Calling Us” (20 December 2010), not only frolics in darkish, brooding music that straddles both grunge and post-punk revival, it showcases her powerful and compellingly alluring vocals.

This is one of those releases that I kick myself for not discovering or being told about earlier! The genesis of the EP harkens back to 2009, when fires swept through Greece leaving havoc and devastation in their wake. “Earth Is Calling Us” is not only a reaction to the fires, but also a means to help; part of the profits will go towards the reforestation of the burned forests. In essence, this EP is more than just aesthetics; it is the chance, the potential, of doing something meaningful that transcends music.

“Earth Is Calling Us” opens with “You Make Me Wanna Die” – musically straightforward and lyrically blunt: “Now you’ve hurt me enough, so please decide to stop. Yes you made me sad, how cruel is your love…” Do not dismiss this song as that ramblings of a jilted lover; take notice of how the atmosphere between verse and chorus shifts, when Panopoulu repeatedly sings, “You make me wanna die.” It becomes obvious that this song is about the effects of an abusive situation, an issue rarely addressed in music. And it is obvious from the start that there is conscious consideration of how music and lyrics will work in tandem. The following track, “Unreal,” is darker and more brooding than the first; the guitar playing/arrangements on the track, though not the most complex on the album, really create an amazing lulling atmosphere. “God” is a surreal, narrative track of death (maybe suicide) and a “trip to find God” in order to find love. The song is as dramatic as they come; from the verses that seem to inch slowly, building up suspense, to the grandiose, yet ambient, feel of the chorus, everything about the song is disarming in a good way, especially when she sings the line, “I am God. I am God.”

The titular track follows, sharing some of the same underpinnings of the preceding track in terms of how suspense is built in the song. What I really like about this track is how the music and vocals bounce back-and-forth from resigned to angry. The radio edit of the song closes the EP. But before reaching that point, you go through “Sorry.” The music goes poppier than before, definitely more on the grunge side, with a bit of “shoegazy” guitars for effects. The main lyrical content is the repetition of “I’m sorry.” What really gets you about the song is how the near bubbly music and the idea of contriteness in the repeated phrase are really mutually exclusive and yet work wonderfully together (definitely my favorite track). But like good lyricists, there is an air of (total) ambiguity about this song: what are you sorry about? How did it go wrong? But, at the end of it all, it doesn’t matter, because the song really captures that moment when you want to give into your remorse and ask for forgiveness, but still stubbornly holding onto the façade of being happy and upbeat.

Just as I always say about Scandinavia, Greece stands outside and relatively at a distance from the Anglo-American world; though drenched with its music, it is experienced in quite a different way than a kid in Boston or Manchester would engage it. It is that distinct perspective about music, genre, and even language that really gives some international artists something special and alluring to their music. Katrin The Thrill (though having studied prior and now living in the UK) is one of those artists that have that alluringness of being the outsider producing something familiar, but yet refreshing and distinct. “Earth Is Calling Us” is the evidence of that. It is everything about this collection (that amazing voice, the infectious rifts, knowing that your purchase helps reforest parts of Greece, and that distinct approach of familiar elements) that keeps me hitting repeat and making me wish I knew about it earlier.

Track Listing:
1. You Make Me Wanna Die
2. Unreal
3. God
4. Earth Is Calling Us
5. Sorry
6. Earth Is Calling Us, Radio Edit

Keep up with Katrin The Thrill at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here is the video for “Earth Is Calling Us” from the manoouz YouTube Channel.

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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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