Sunday, January 31, 2010

Life Effect

Life Effect - Stars

Sorry for wasting your time
Five long months on a telephone line
Hours of asking if you were fine
And saying I was fine too.

Sorry but I've got to go
The birth was quick but the death was slow
There was so much I didn't know
So much I never knew about you.

And so we disconnect, the room goes quiet around us
It's called the life effect, will it always surround us.

Who made you happy last night
I don't know his name but christ can he fight
As I fell he told me you had a light
A light that shone inside you

I found myself a decent man now
I love him because I can
The bravest that I've ever been, is when I ran away from you.

And so we disconnect, the room goes quiet around us
It's called the life effect, will it always surround us.
And so we disconnect, the room goes quiet around us
Nothing left to protect, the end has finally found us.

The day's almost over, it's almost time for bed
Somebody finally loves me, rest your weary head.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lost In Los Angeles

Lost in the iTunes store this morning I stumbled upon a new treasure: LiLA. Cinematic instrumentation, haunting vocals, and a true testament to indie pop are what LiLA, (which stands for "Lost in Los Angeles") offer with their self-titled debut album. Conjuring up a sonic, dream-like landscape reminiscent of Radiohead and Page France, LiLA offers up their best with tracks like "All Roads Lead To You" and "The Score." The only crime here is that iTunes has mistakenly paired their band page with a description for a country singer named Lila...awkward iTunes, really? More like electronic indie tracks at their finest.
When I listen to this album I can't help but reflect on my own time in the city of Los Angeles. When I was lost in its rolling hills or contemplating my acting career, I'd have to say I would have loved to have this album with me. Maybe you won't be visiting Santa Monica or navigating the treacherous 101 anytime soon but you still might find this LA quartet worth a listen. If you're a fan of Gary Jules, Radiohead or anything of the like, please please give it a few tries and get lost in Los Angeles.

On a side note, I fell in love with Mason Jennings all over again today when my friend kmack inspired me with another CD of his, "Bone Clouds." The first song that caught my ears off the album was, quite fitting with today's theme: California.

"California, I hope that it wakes you, from all of the darkness that I couldn't break through. Cause I'm gonna miss you, I'm gonna miss you....I rubbed your back when you were sleeping, but all along baby it was understood. That you were leaving, absolutely, Since the very first day we met. I'm gonna miss you, Like I miss the ocean. Like I miss the ocean when I go to sleep."

Everytime I listen to this man I become so much more enamored (to be sincerely hyperbolic) with his amazing lyricism. Spread the love, download Mason (a Minnesota local?!) and have a musical conversation with the decade's closest, most lovable version of today's Bob Dylan. (Right now off the cd she let me borrow I'm also loving 'Nothing' and also, as always, the video for Fighter Girl).
I do miss you, California. But I won't have to miss you for long. The amazing music I find today reminds me of every place I journeyed these last few months, and though these tracks may have come a little late, they only serve now to broaden my perspective of such a wild and fabulous time.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lay Down Your Mind

At the end of a busy day, putting your thoughts at rest can sometimes prove trickier than one might hope. I can't guarantee music will fix all your problems, or help you sleep, or even make you a better person. But for me, it presents itself as a way of seeing things in a new way, and that's what these songs remind me of. How to let go of needing to "solve" life and just give in to it's natural ebb and flow. Come on, lay down your mind. It'll be alright.
1. Help Yourself - Sad Brad Smith

Off the Up In the Air soundtrack, Smith melds a soft, bare voice with memorable harmony on this gentle tune of encouragement. An instantly soothing track that has carried itself from the screen to my playlist with just as fervent a resonance. "We believe in everything that you can do/ if you could only lay down your mind"

2. Hey Baby - Stephen Marley feat. Mos Def

The mellowest beat with the sweetest lines. It gets better with every listen. Let another great Marley put your mind at peace with whatever's been stressing you.
A time a space a different place, how perfect we might be
I would be the wind that blows, you'd be that willow tree
And I could never bare the thought of you not by my side
So I would be the warmth of day, you'd be the cool of night

3.Solitude - Billie Holiday

Tremendously soulful. Listening to Billie Holiday is like reading Jane Austen; when you finish Pride & Prejudice you realize that every romantic comedy since has been somehow based on such a definitive work. When I listen to Billie, I think of everything music has since come up with; and how it will never be quite as good.

4. Coin Laundry - Lisa Mitchell

Whimsy is the word that comes to mind when I hear Lisa Mitchell. Recently recommended to me by a friend, her child-like charm immediately caught my attention. No one says such big things with as much simple eloquence as Ms. Mitchell, quaintly singing her minimalist words with unexpected depth and philosophy. Plus the way she dances about a laundromat in the music video...come on. So adorable.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Girls, Girls, Girls

There are some new boys in town, and they're called Girls

SXSW darlings Chris Owens and JR White are Girls, and a total breath of fresh air. Influenced by, among other bands, The Beach Boys, Girls sing with charming vulnerability over freshly produced arrangements and subtle drum touches. Their debut, smugly titled Album is perfect in its candid, catchy untidiness. The opening, Lust For Life is a tongue-in-cheek, but not sarcastic, ode to Owen's ex girlfriend. (And you should definitely watch the vid...) Lyrics like "Oh i wish I had a suntan, I wish I had a pizza and a bottle of wine, I wish I had a beach house, and we could make a big fire every night," while written as slight jabs at her ability to move on before Owens, come off more sincere and fragile than mean spirited or purely in jest. And the following track, Laura is reminiscent of the late 80s Brit punk scene. Overall, these San Fran boys are sure to win you over. If ever you felt like you wanted to get inside the heads of a few dudes, listen to Girls.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Uh Huh Her

There are few women I admire more than ones with a mic and a guitar. Music is one of life's most powerful forms of expression, and being the stereotypical bumper-sticker-toting feminist that I am, I'm naturally a fan of badass chicks with something unique to say. The following are just some of my favorites.

1. St Vincent

A former member of the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Steven's touring band, Annie Erin Clark or "St Vincent," has a vocal styling like none other. To call her melodies haunting would be a drastic understatement. Few women can rock with such careful wit. Listening to Vincent's ethereal, well-crafted folk experimentations conjurs up curious images of Alice In Wonderland, and following that analogy, Clark herself would most righteously be the Cheshire Cat.
Must download:
-Actor out of Work (This video is a must watch, as the visual is just as intriguing, if not more, than the music itself)
-The Strangers
-Laughing With A Mouth of Blood

2. PJ Harvey

Take St. Vincent, give her a few cigarettes, maybe a half bottle of Jack, and a problematic ex-boyfriend and you probably get Ms. Harvey. Don't get it twisted, PJ's been in the game way longer than most of her other female contemporaries, and is a lot more explicit. Though repeatedly denying her lyrics are autobiographical, Harvey sings with such raw believability that I'd like to think she's as outspoken and fractured as she is on her albums. Plus her mean muggin' alone on "Uh Huh Her" makes me immediately think yeah who is this bitch? lets kick some ass PJ.
Must download:
-One Line

3. Metric

Who would I be if I didn't include a saucy blonde spitfire on this list? The perfect woman for the job: Emily Haines, Canadian import and top notch badass bitty. Easily leading fans to believe she must possess a doe-eyed innocence because of her petite frame and movie-star cheekbones, Haines actually spins some highly addicting, well-condensed jams. Metric is the kind of band that does a fantastic job making a cohesive sound but unique individual tracks. If you heard a Metric track anywhere you'd know it was Metric, (mostly because of Haines impeccable, honeyed voice), but of their many songs, no two leave you with the same impression.
Must download:
-Sick Muse
-Too Little Too Late
-White Gold
-Help I'm Alive

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Writer of Fictions

And I am a writer, writer of fictions
I am the heart that you call home
And I've written pages upon pages
Trying to rid you from my bones

So muses Colin Meloy, front man for The Decemberists, on one of my new favorite songs: The Engine Driver. I was recommended this song by someone recently and it has struck a beautiful chord with me. Only seldomly does a band tell stories like The Decemberists do; their latest album The Hazards of Love presenting itself as a rich, conceptual album of 17 tracks, each one more cleverly orchestrated than the last.

The Decemberists are a group that have slowly meant more to me over time, and their songs merit multiple listens before you dole out an opinion. Like any good musician, Meloy lets your understanding of his work build the more tracks you hear.
I was introduced to the group of Portland natives in high school, but my fondness of them is re-found with every track I discover. It's a slow process, a gradual comfort that seeps over me with every listen. I'm in no rush to digest every one of their albums at once; instead I'd rather take it step by step, savoring a new song every so often. Similar to the way one miserly stretches out the reading of a favorite novel, so I've done with The Decemberists. Meloy is nothing short of a craftsman on his latest, and all albums with The Decemberists. He posesses a mysterious, timeless affectation that leaves you with little regard for what sparked the tales he tells. Regardless of their lyrical origins, it is his creation and meticulous execution of these words that leave their listeners better off.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Trivial Pursuit

As you may know, I'm a stickler for individuality. I'm not one to readily admit my more commercial interests (i.e.: I'm a music snob). This is not to say I haven't shelled out an embarrassing amount for tickets to Britney's Circus, or sung along to my fair share of cities 97 sampler cds; in fact, some of my favorite music is widely known and played. There's nothing wrong with pop music, there's nothing wrong with liking something everyone else likes. There's probably a good reason it's become so acclaimed. And to be honest, I think Lady Gaga is probably the best thing to happen to music this decade. (Indie kids everywhere are crying and re-cutting their bangs at the thought of that statement.) But you've got me, John Mayer, and I think I'm ready to own up to it. Hell, go grab me my Northface and a Range Rover, because my obsession with Mayer couldn't be more white-suburban-kid if it tried. But before you judge, I challenge you to buy Battle Studies and let the music speak for itself. I mean come on, not that many well-known musicians these days actually pen their own tracks, let alone speak about universal themes in such an intimate, sexy way. (What is JM if not the hopeless-romantic, acoustic-guitar toting sex symbol of our decade? Nothing, that's what).

Mayer's allegory for the trouble with love is one that would do Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield" plenty of justice. It trumps any of his contemporaries in that it tells a complete story, yet each separate track is perfectly made and produced on its own. Still the same bluesy, soulful Mayer many of us know and love, but definitely a more honest. What he's made here with Battle Studies is a tribute to the after-effects of romance, the intricacies and complications and all the messy in-betweens that so many sing about but few with such direct poignancy. Who else would admit that they were an "Assassin, with a job to do" instead of just saying it didn't work out? When I listen to Battle Studies, Mayer wraps around me like a warm, comfortable blanket. (Plus, it comes with its own insta-game: Guess which tracks were written about Jen Aniston?).

Maybe this album came at just the right time for me or something, which I think it often does, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I relate whole-heartedly to its message. It's ok, don't worry about us, because me and JM are perfectly lonely at the moment. Nothing to do, nowhere to be, a simple little kind of free. Cause I don't belong to anyone, and nobody belongs to me. Finally a break from every shitty replay on B96 that tells me I've gotta pop bottles and get low. Me and Mayer are gonna curl up next to the fire with our golden labs and JCrew sweaters, ok?