Posts tagged music
Posts tagged music
I’ve been a Tegan and Sara fan from way back, pretty much as far back as you can go without being from Calgary. I still remember having to order their first CD from an actual CD store, because that’s the way we rolled back then.
2013’s “Hearththrob” represents a new musical chapter for the band. It’s still Tegan and Sara, but not like you’ve heard them before. They’re at the top of their song-writing game, but the production on these songs is more lush, a little less garage-y, and just plain fun to listen to. It’s a new artistic turn for the band and the results are fantastic.
Go ahead and get this album. You can thank me later.
Not sure how I came to hear about Max Richter (probably owe a hat tip to Shazam on this one), but I ended up purchasing the album “infra” and loved it. Beautiful melodies that end up sliding into industrial decay, as if he were deliberately sabotaging that beauty for some ulterior purpose. The result is haunting and gorgeous.
I went on to pick up another Richter album “Recomposed” which is a reworking of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” Another score.
These albums make for perfect background music while writing. I highly recommend.
Caution: This blog post is a conflict of interest. You wouldn’t ask the pope for an unbiased opinion on canonical doctrine. And you can’t expect me to give a fair review to a Cloud Cult album.
Being objective about Cloud Cult’s music is nearly impossible because listening to them isn’t so much an activity as a way of seeing the world. Being a fan of their music means stripping away the layers of cynicism and negativity we accumulate like armor.
The new album, Love, is available now for pre-release at the group’s website, and will be available in wide release March 5. Unlike their last album, Light Chasers, which followed the narrative arc of a couple’s relationship through various trials, the songs on this new album are not as tightly linked. Their subject matter deals largely with struggle, loss, and the possibility of achieving grace by overcoming them. The approach to these subjects on Love is more oblique than on earlier albums such as Feel Good Ghosts. Thematic differences aside, the songs on Love still have that classic Cloud Cult sound: haunting strings; tender vocals; small beginnings and slow, majestic swells that lead to triumphant finales. Which is a slightly longish way of saying, the songs on the new album are great.
The standouts on Love are the hard driving “Complicated Creation” which fits neatly into the group’s self-helpy, don’t-let-life-get-you-down wheelhouse. The largely instrumental “All the Things We Couldn’t See” is a rousing knee-slapper that won’t fail to get you wound up by the conclusion. Easily the top song on the album, though, is “Meet Me Where You’re Going” which was originally written as a wedding present for some friends of songwriter Craig Minowa. Listening to it is a simple, legal way of feeling a lot better about life.
I’m not making any promises here. I’ll be the first to admit you may not buy into what Cloud Cult is selling. Their music and lyrics have a tendency to stray into the saccharine and ocassionally into the didactic. I realize that’s not to everyone’s taste. If you give them an honest listen and decide they’re not for you, I wouldn’t hold that against you. But sometimes a band comes along at the right time and catches you defenseless, helpless against its charms. That’s what Cloud Cult did to me.
Let me illustrate this strange power the group has. This past summer, Cloud Cult did two shows on consecutive nights in Chicago. The first one was at Lincoln Hall, the cozy little club where they usually play when they’re in town. The next night’s show — an outdoor concert at Pritzker Pavilion — was free. It was a hot and sultry evening and it took a while for both the band and the crowd to get into the show. There was a lot of picnic eating and wine sipping, which inevitably causes a show to lack the kind of intimacy we’d come to expect from their indoor concerts. It seemed, too, like the band hadn’t quite adjusted to the open space and ambient noise. For about an hour, it seemed like both crowd and band would somehow miss each other — asymptotic lines that would never quite intersect. Then, on the last song of the set, something happened. It started the way any mass movement starts: with someone being unafraid to stand up and look foolish. In this case, it was a hippie-looking guy with gnarly dreadlocks. He got up in the middle of Prizker pavilion and began dancing around, let’s just say, interpretively. A moment later, some fratboy-looking guy in a Jets jersey got up and started dancing, too mostly, it seemed, to make fun of the hippie dancing guy. At that point, though, the seal was broken. People all over the pavilion got up. They started dancing, most of them badly, but they didn’t care. And as the song built, there seemed to be an energy coming off the crowd, we were all standing and dancing and surprised to be doing it. It was as if we’d been hypnotized — fooled into being less-cynical, more awesome versions of ourselves.
That’s what happens when you listen to Cloud Cult. That’s why I should not be reviewing their album. As exhibit A of my biasedness, you could point out that I’ve just written an entire “album review” and I’ve hardly written about the actual album. Guilty as charged. I have no defense. You shouldn’t trust me. Not at all.
In that case, don’t listen to this album. You’ll hate it.
Like any list, there’s always stuff you end up leaving out. In fact, just as I was putting the finishing touches on this post I realized I hadn’t included any Cloud Cult, which, if you know me, is a huge oversight. Regardless, I’m going to stick with the list I originally came up with. So..
Here’s Part 2 of my novel soundtrack.
9. 5 Years Time, Noah and the Whale
10. Last Stop: This Town, Eels
11. There Will Be No Divorce, The Mountain Goats
12. Weighty Ghost, Wintersleep
13. Birdhouse in Your Soul, They Might Be Giants
14. Welcome Home, Radical Face
15. Mighty Little Man, Steve Burns
16. P.S. You Rock My World, Eels
As my manuscript wends its way through the twists and turns of the publication process, I’ve been toying with something I’ve always wanted to do: create a novel soundtrack. It’s one of those projects that starts small and should realistically take an hour at most, but then I got completely geeked-up over it and it’s ended up consuming way more time than is reasonable.
I was attempting to come up with a set of songs that’re thematically or tonally tied to the story (duh), but I also wanted to get a mix of somewhat obvious choices with somewhat more obscure ones.
Here’s the first half of what I’ve come up with:
1. Unsatisfied, The Replacements
2. This Year, The Mountain Goats
3. I Hear Noises, Tegan & Sara
4. Young Adult Friction, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
5. Afraid of Everyone, The National
6. Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues, Eels
7. The Recognition Scene, The Mountain Goats
8. Mi Fido Di Te, Jovanotti
(Part 2 will be coming shortly.)