A Night Owl Swimming in “A Moon Shaped Pool”: Why Radiohead Is Keeping Us Awake

three moons

I was editing three of my favorite moon photos together while listening to A Moon Shaped Pool and was inspired to write this article. Photo by Carly Christine Photography .

There’s nothing more haunting than the sound of Thom Yorke cooing in your ear late in the night, but we can all rest easy knowing that after a 5 year hiatus, Radiohead
has brought us just the musical gift we’ve been restlessly waiting for: album number nine, A Moon Shaped Pool. 

All those thoughts, doubts, and feelings reserved for 3am that plague our brains in the dark are backed by the eerie raw Radiohead sound fans have come to know and crave.

Emotions ranging from love to panic are covered in this chilling selection. Some numbers, like “Burn the Witch” even carry underlying political tones, addressing the isolation of immigrant groups and barbaric mob mentality. Fear of descending into the unknown is conveyed in the graceful ballad “Glass Eyes,” whose calm instrumental moment contrasts the anxiety of the lyrics while emphasizing the sadness of feeling “love turn cold.” The aloof heartbroken “Identikit” that follows is more antsy with its use of guitar and is akin to the impatience heard in “Burn The Witch”. Hopeful “Desert Island Disk” (after the BBC 4 Radio talk show) might as well be a lullaby, whereas “Daydreaming” might be the most unnerving track on the album with its slew of frightening background vocals and ambient noise.

The orchestral progressions that mark this album make the tracks transition smoothly from one to the next, making it difficult to simply listen to one song. A Moon Shaped Pool is a series of disturbed and impassioned waves that rise and fall. Once you start riding, these waves engulf you. You drown and feel like you are mentally swimming (or floating) in whatever otherworldly Moon Shaped Pool the band manifested. Thom’s signature uneasy vocal peaks and troughs provide for a sound that is as foreign as the moon, yet unapologetically Radiohead.

This beautiful fusion of electronic, rock, and classical styles will keep you listening all night and force you to feel something profound-even if you are emotionally squeamish.
 

Advertisements

The 20 of ’15 Playlist

I am more than fortunate to say I spent my New Year’s eve in a room full of people I love. After the off key karaoke to “I Love Rock and Roll,” the pounds of food, and something that resembled a Soul Train line,  I watched a pair of my friends dance, eyes locked on one another in the middle of the room as “In The New Year” by The Walkmen played in the background. Another couple sat beside me smiling, and beyond them were people laughing on couches, sitting cross legged on the carpet, all anxiously awaiting the countdown.

Glasses clink, people kiss, fireworks sound…then comes the imminent bittersweet feeling following an end.

“You’re deviled eggs were the last thing I ate in 2015 and the first I ate in 2016!” I laughed at my good friend’s post New Year’s exclamation, feeling oddly flattered by my hors d’oeuvre’s small moment of fame.

Despite the big leaps and setbacks of this year, the most brief and mundane of moments became those I treasured most. The handful of concerts I attended, for instance, not only kept me sane, but reunited me with old friends and surprised me with fun acquaintances. For the other times where there was simply no time or money to attend shows, I engrossed myself in the wonderful new sounds that artists had to offer. Thus, once again, a “20 of…” playlist was born.

1. “(All Afternoon) In Love”- The Vaccines

I’ll admit, I am sucker for a love song. (All Afternoon) In Love, like New Year’s is bittersweet. Although the lyrics describe a broken relationship, the wistful song finds a glimmer of hope in falling in love.


2 . “Put A Flower In Your Pocket”-Arcs

Dan Auerbach, lead singer of the Black Keys made a sweet little psychedelic funk, soul love-child. And it’s fantastic. As a fan of the Black Keys, I was happy to see Auerbach take on a side project this year. The result: something a little more electronic than the Black Keys and unique enough to stand on its own.


3. “Radar”-AudioDamn!

I was attracted to the band’s name before I even learned I liked their music. Not only does the name contain a mild swear word, but it is punctuated with an exclamation mark. What could be more exciting than that? Not to mention I first read it as “AudioDAAAMN!!!” with a little more enthusiasm than necessary. Once I hit play I was greeted with an equally as enthusiastic soul jam that was refreshingly different from other 2015 material.


4. “Me & My Girls” -Selena Gomez

I unexpectedly fell onto the Selena Gomez bandwagon. “Me and My Girls” is a straight forward girl power song fit for dancing. “No jodas nosotras.” Gracias, chicos. 😉


5. “Honeymoon”- Lana Del Rey

Honeymoon as an album was not my favorite, but as a song, it had me mesmerized by the haunting instrumental introduction and bleak lyrics, unbefitting of honeymoon merriment.


6. “The Ground Walks, With Time In A Box” – Modest Mouse

Nothing seems to mix together appropriately in this bizarre Modest Mouse concoction and it is a bit maddening.

“Bring your candy taster, time wasters around
And we’ll fuck with their minds.” Umm…What? This whole song sort of fucked with my mind. The concept of “the world’s an inventor with it’s work crawlin, runnin, squirmin ’round” is intriguing, for sure. The more I listen to this song, the more I feel like it is something akin to the poems in my literature class.


7. “Me Myself and I”- G-Easy, Bebe Rexha

“Oh, it’s just me, myself and I
Solo ride until I die
Cause I got me for life”

Growing up as an only child with a single mother, this was practically preached to me. Perhaps not verbatim, but pretty close. She told me I better learn to love myself, because people will come into my life as quickly as they go. I can only count on myself.


There is also quite a bit to be discussed about greed and fame and their consequences of pain and loneliness. However, the three mentioned lines resonated with me more than anything.

8. “I Love You, Honeybear”- Father John Misty

Perhaps it would be audacious of me to say that “I Love You, Honeybear” is the easily the finest song of 2015? It may sound like a cute piece from a romantic movie soundtrack, but all daintiness is lost when woeful vocals pierce through the dreamlike melody. What keeps the track from being completely depressing is its almost comedic matter-of-fact attitude that is too dry and real to bring a listener down. “Everything is doomed and nothing will be spared” but that’s okay, because he loves his Honeybear. Isn’t that sweet?


9. “Slab of Butter ‘Scorpion'”- Miley Cyrus feat. Sarah Barthel

Flaming lips teamed up with Miley to produce the monster of an album Miley Cyrus and Her dead Petz. Instead of another round of “Party in the USA” tracks, Miley ‘blessed’ the world with genius lines like “I feel like a slab of butter.” Enough said. Wait… Some glitter was harmed in the making of this album.


10. “Mountain at My Gates”- Foals

Trust me that the song is great. But the corresponding video deserves some serious credit. This was the first Go Pro music video I had ever seen and it knocked my socks off. I looked like an idiot spinning around my living room with my phone, but I didn’t care. It was magical.


11. “Genghis Khan”- Miike Snow

“Genghis Khan” is frankly one of those songs that I can’t seem to stop humming everywhere I go. There’s not a whole lot of meat to it, but the hook is really catchy and somewhat amusing. I’m hoping to see some more Miike in 2016.


12. “Sedonna”- Houndmouth

It’s 4:35 am. “Sedonna” is really pretty.

I still don’t know what hue “a Saturday night kinda pink”is…


13. “Losers”- The Weeknd

I will start by saying that any song that includes a horn wins points with me automatically.

What sets “Losers” apart from many other tracks on Beauty Behind the Madness, is the dynamic quality it has. The song begins as more of a soft ballad, crescendos into the chorus, and then shifts to a state of dominating vocals that pose interesting questions: “And now that we’re all grown up, who do we owe it to?” “And now that we all came up, do we lose? Do we lose?” After a life of  growing and advancing, is there anything else to gain once we have reached our respective thrones?


14. “Hello”-Adele

“Hello, it’s me,” still writing.
“I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet,” and talk about how great Adele is? This lovely lady broke records with her album sales. She also made me cry with this song. *sniff* Beautiful.


15. “Deja Vu”- Giorgio Moroder, Sia

My guilty pleasure has always been disco or anything that is disco related. DJ Giorgio Moroder collaborated with Sia (from Australia, where all good music can be found) to make this upbeat disco pop track.


16. “Now”- Joywave

“Now” will be the song I remember hearing on the radio most frequently in 2015.


17. “Searching for A Devil”- In The Valley Below

For my 18th birthday, my friend and I went to see these folks live and what a performance! To put it lightly, the lead female singer was a bit frightening-mostly because she didn’t blink enough and every movement she made was delicate, controlled, and almost inhuman. Not to mention, what sounds like a tambourine in this song is actually a chain that she stood stoically shaking. She was lovely though, and she and her husband (the lead singer) had a wonderful on stage chemistry.


18. “Yes, I’m Changing”- Tame Impala

I was tempted to swap “Yes, I’m Changing” for “The Less I know, The Better” from Tame Impala’s album Currents but I found the former to be more applicable to my 2015 reflection. “They say people never change, but that’s bullshit, they do. Yes I’m changing, can’t stop it now.
And even if I wanted I wouldn’t know how.”


19. “Black Sun”- Death Cab for Cutie

I was unbelievably excited when Death Cab for Cutie released an album this year. “Black Sun” got the number two spot on my list before I listened to anything else on this list. One of my favorite bands of all time.


20. “What Kind of Man”- Florence and the Machine

Saving the best for last…”What Kind of Man” by dear Florence- a medley of killer guitar pieces, prominent horns, and striking powerhouse vocals.


Oh, one last thought for the new year: “2016 is the year MGMT re-dominates your mind hole.”         So ready.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 in Concerts

Today was the day I finally dumped all of my phone’s contents onto my computer-a relief for the poor Samsung who was storing such an enormous gallery that it was struggling to even function. In the midst of embarrassing friend photos, selfies, and travels I found dozens of videos from concerts I attended this past year. With 2016 only a few days away, I thought scrapping together these clips would be a good way to remember my 2015 musical adventures.

Photographs from these concerts and more can be found at my personal photography website.

 

A Kylie Christmas!

I can vividly remember, back in 2004, sitting in a corner far away from the rest of the kids who were on the playground. In my hands rested one of my most treasured possessions- my portable CD player which contained yet another gem, the Ultimate Kylie collection disc one of two. While most other seven year olds listened to the Jonas Brothers, I played Kylie Minogue tracks obsessively (not as obsessively as Cher, but that’s a blog for later). “Can’t Get You Outta My Head” was the song that first got me hooked which is ironic, because still to this day whenever I hear that song I seriously can’t get it out of my head. It’s awful. Thanks, first grade self!

But when I heard that the  Australian pop beauty released a Christmas album, I knew my holidays were about to be happy. “Kylie Christmas” is a collection of 13 holiday songs, ready to brighten the mood at every ugly sweater party. Take a little time to do some wrapping with Iggy Pop. Wait for Santa alongside Frank Sinatra. As long as you have Minogue’s festive album on hand, you’ll surely be of good cheer!

 

Nine Nifty Musical Numbers to Note

There is something wonderfully ironic about writing a blog post to avoid other forms of assigned essay writing…  Perhaps all this talk about turning over a new leaf in 2015 and dubbing it my “best year yet” gives me a false sense of security? Procrastination hit me like a freight train this year and has warranted my attention everywhere but where it is needed most. Luckily, I can always count on my trackless educational journey being music filled to make the trek easier.

(Speaking of “Trek”, excuse me while I take a moment of silence for the dear Leonard Nimoy. I will always remember the endless trips to Blockbuster 8 year old me took to watch and re-watch the original Mr. Spock.)

Aside from that tragic loss last week, the first couple months of 2015 have brought promising new tracks just itching to be in a blog post. My wallet is already hurting from expected album purchases…Here are nine nifty musical numbers to note, if you haven’t already:

1. Black Sun- Death Cab for Cute

Watch out, the melancholy Death Cab is back on the road!

2. What Kind of Man- Florence and The Machine

Finally, some Florence with killer vocals and sweet guitar. Been missing this lovely lady since 2012.

3. My Type-Saint Motel

2014’s fun bubbly My Type EP keeps me dancing nonstop! The smooth Indie Prog group, Saint Motel, promises an album later this year.

4. The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box- Modest Mouse

A feisty new single with scrappy instrumentation.

5.  It Is Just What It Is- Guster

A track from Guster’s newest album Evermotion.

6. I Love You, Honeybear- Father John Misty

A song as sweet as honey…more or less.

7. Uptown Funk- Bruno Mars

My biggest guilty pleasure song. Ever. Do me a favor and just try not to dance.

8. Mouth Mantra- Bjork

Bjork’s Vulnicura album is immensely painful because “there is a vocal sadness” conveyed in the tracks that is unparalleled. “Mouth Mantra” along with the album’s other tracks literally sounds broken and should be credited for its uniqueness.

9. Weight of Love- The Black Keys

An intimate single with a bluesy introduction and skillful guitar pieces. As always, the Keys impress.

Bands Who Are Feeling Shaky In 2015

shaky in 2015 bands cover

Coldplay is becoming a cold case. Yeah Yeah Yeahs are feeling like the No No Nos. And U2 might just become U…

After experiencing a successful year with the release of their 2014 album Ghost Stories, the beloved British rock band Coldplay is now saying record number seven just might be their concluding set. In an interview with Zane Lowe, lead vocalist Chris Martin says, “Its our seventh thing and the way we look at it is like the last Harry Potter book…this is the completion of something. Its just a very fun time to be in our band. I have to think of it as the final thing we do otherwise we wouldn’t put everything into it.” Sometime in the next 12 months, fans can expect to see the groups newest release A Head Full of Dreams hit iTunes and store shelves, but their future beyond that remains a mystery.     

Lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O came out in 2014 saying that the group was on “a bit of a hiatus at the moment,” which many (myself included) dramatized to be their demise. Reading more into her words, we find this is not the case and all the band needs is a little more inspiration to fuel their “yeah!” screaming indie rock fire. “We have to wait to get that urge, get that itch. The time needs to be right and we’re okay waiting for that,” says O.  Even though the most recent Yeah Yeah Yeahs album Mosquito might have left some wanting more, listeners can still find some of the band’s unique sound and energy in O’s first full solo record Crush Songs which I mentioned in my 20 of ’14 post. Sadly, the tracks, recorded long ago almost never found their way to the outside world due to O’s fear of exposing their raw and intimate nature. Thank goodness they did because the reality of the music is heartbreaking, but damn good- at least enough to make me forget my Yeah Yeah Yeahs craving for a little while.  When the band finally gets their feet off the ground again O says, “it’ll be like muscle memory, this unspoken thing between the three of us where it all just…locks in.”

As for U2, the band who sparked 2014’s favorite album controversy, came out with another surprise for fans courtesy of frontman Bono who posted an A to Z New Year’s post  on the group’s website bringing a bit of sad news.  Bono recalls a severe injury he was afflicted with on his 50th birthday writing, “I blanked out on impact and have no memory of how I ended up in New York Presbyterian with my humerus bone sticking through my leather jacket.” “Very punk rock as injuries go,” he jokes.  

 Although the result of the injury may be no laughing matter when it comes to Bono’s future with U2. “It is not clear I will ever play guitar again,” he confesses in an ABC news report. Despite his uncertainty, he concludes his post with a hopeful optimism for the future generation: “As they age, I don’t know if they’ll be playing our music, but if we are still around, I hope to be deafened by the joyful noise of a world unrecognizably better because of the innovations in science, medicine, and equality they bring about. The biggest breakthroughs are always in the way we see the world. We could do with some fresh eyes. On U2 too.”

Perhaps Songs of Innocence will be the last album we hear from U2…If so, at least U2 can say they left off on more than a good note.

 

 

The 20 of ’14 Playlist

 

2014playlist cover

Since today is New Year’s Eve, I naturally started to reflect on my 2014 music selections during the past few days which sparked a ridiculous flood of memories from the past 12 months. So I busted out my Walkman player (in place of my daily Pandora regimen) late last night for a change of pace, listening to anything but 2014 tracks when it suddenly occurred to me how wonderfully 2013 had treated my ears with new favorite albums courtesy of Arctic Monkey’s, The National, and quite a few others. Despite this, I never sat down to craft a “20 of ’13” list and the thought was saddening, because honestly, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to look back and document my year than through my most resected and favored tunes.

The “20 of…Playlist” is back and here to stay!

1. “Who We Are”- Switchfoot

This track was one of the first new songs I came across in 2014 and  I almost didn’t recognize the band Switchfoot when I heard “Who We Are.” Their change of sound was a pleasant surprise. The track was  light, airy, and summed up my youthful “wide-eyed innocence.” 2014  had just begun and there was “still time enough to choose who we are.” (Looks like I’ll still be trying to figure out that one in 2015…)

2. “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”- U2

Ah U2…they caused a ruckus this year by releasing their lastest album Songs of Innocence for free. The contraverrsy is still somewhat puzzling to me, because U2 made a decision they felt was right for them, therefore, the Black Keys frontman or anyone else for that matter should leave the band be. Who wouldn’t appreciate free music? As for me, having access to a free album online  is not going to stop me (a CD collector) from investing in the record. U2 is an enjoyable rock band, so forgive them for trying to spread musical joy. “The Miracle of Joey Ramone” is a passionate U2 number with expressive vocals. The not too harsh yet solid guitar jams make the track catchy and radio ready.

3. “Fever”- The Black Keys

“Fever”  hit the FM like wildfire but the rest of the record seemed to get tucked away. Admittedly, the Black Keys’ 2014 album Turn Blue was not my favorite, but definitely not a total bust. “Fever” is one of those songs that takes a couple listens to grow on you and can be appreciated for deviating from the Keys’ artistic norms. I was fortunate enough to attend the Turn Blue concert at Arco Arena for  my birthday (I don’t care what people say, it will always be Arco) where they played mostly hits from El Camino and Brothers. Background graphics and a rather long encore were the icing on  the Black Keys cake. Even my friend who enjoys criticizing my taste was bobbing his head at  the concert.  So if you take anything away from this ridiculously long list, know that the Keys are excellent live.

4. “Fall In Love”- Phantogram

Dare I say, I fell in love in 2014?…

Well, to say the least, I certainly showed a lot of love for Phantogram this year by sticking songs from Voices on repeat.

5. “I Never Learn”- Lykke Li

Whether someone listens to Lykke Li’s gorgeously melancholy tune in 2014, 2015 or years from now, the lyrics to “I Never Learn” hold an infallible truth to which any human being could relate. Tears, guilt, and pain are unavoidable, yet we do our best to ignore them. Will we ever learn? Perhaps, its best not to, especially if the end result is anything like the melodies of Lykke Li.

6. “Best Friend”- Foster The People

This is probably my top played song of 2014. I was completely hooked after first listen and fascinated with the accompanying video. Models eating models? Thank you, Foster the People.

7.”Klapp Klapp”- Little Dragon

Nothing could top Little Dragon’s Machine Dreams album but she did produce solid work this year that is mechanical, haunting, and a bit alarming (especially when accompanied by the music videos).

8. “All The Rage Back Home”- Interpool

One of my favorite groups, Interpool managed to please, yet again, with sexy vocals from frontman Paul Banks and smooth, catchy guitar pieces.

9.”Lazzaretto”- Jack White

Lets get technical with Jack White’s newest masterpiece (Yes, I’m audacious. I said masterpiece.) It is so perfectly flawed that the sound is both disturbing and electric. Jacks vocals fight the ears of his listeners. A great blend of chaos and skill.

10. “Left Hand Free”- Alt-J

Alt-J is fucking weird. But when their astute attention to odd and disturbing detail  (in songs like “Every Other Freckle”)  combines with an artful instrumental backround, it somehow works. “Left Hand Free” has got to be one of the least bizarre Alt-J songs I’ve heard where the band takes a more bluesy approach.

11.”Guess Again!”- Thom Yorke

Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, the latest album by our dear friend Thom Yorke is sad and evokes feelings of loneliness that somehow leave you fulfilled. It is nothing to special, really, but it is a “listening” album that is thought provoking and noteworthy.

12. “Om”- NehruvianDOOM

A very impressive 18 year old Bishop Nehru has found his way through my headphones this year and I’ve gotta say, its refreshing to hear an upcoming rapper avoiding extensive profanity and degrading lyrics. As a female, listening to Bishop Nehru, I don’t feel the least disrespected and can devote all my attention to  hearing the lyrical stories unfold. He teamed up with the well-known NehruvianDOOM to produce a self titled album that is short and oh-so-sweet. I enjoy “Om” for many reasons: one being that it has a spoken introduction that made me raise an eyebrow in slight confusion.  The overall sound was different, yet classic in the best possible way.

13. “All This Could Be Yours”- Cold War Kids

My fingers are tiring from typing…Its a good song, m’kay?

14. “Do You”- Spoon

After too long of an absence, Britt Daniel is back! Enough said.

15.”Take Me To Church”- Hozier

The radio loved the track this year, as did I. “Take Me To Church” is a beautiful and heartfelt ballad that exudes spirituality.

16.”Mind Over Matter”- Young The Giant

A lot of mind and matter battling took place throughout my personal 2014 and this song was my escape to places far away from Sacramento. It reminds me of all the people and places I have met and missed this year. I am taken back to my trips to New York and recall the matters on my mind during those rainy city days. After more recent trips to LA, those matters seem increasingly insignificant now after being replaced with new matters my mind has to reflect upon. Maybe someday I will get to write about a venture in Tokyo where it snows…

17.”Rapt”- Karen-O

I’ve always felt a strange personal connection to Karen O and I was left frowning after hearing that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were on a hiatus. Turns out, I had nothing to fear, for Karen’s new solo release  will be more than enough to tide me over until the Yeah Yeah Yeahs dig up a little inspiration. In the meantime, listening to the product of her angst (Crush Songs), I find myself being moved by Karen’s voice more than ever. The tracks are more soothing and dialed down than  typical Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs but still pack an emotional punch that really lets her personality shine through. The recording of Crush Songs gives the impression of Karen being far off into her own world where she coos in a rhaspy voice, ” love is soft, love’s a fucking bitch. Do I really need another habit like you?” while her song “Body” sums up the album with the verse “if you love some body, anybody, there will always be someone else, so make it right for yourself.” Well said, Ms. O.

18. “Passing Out The Pieces”- Mac Demarco

Mac Demarco’s music has a unique  feel and there is a genuine quality in his voice that keeps me listening. In contrast to my musical taste in the beginning of 2014, the end of the year brought me back to more raw sounding tracks, a category in  which Demarco fits into nicely.

19. “Riptide”- Vance Joy

Riptide has been my personal anthem of 2014, being able to perk me up in any situation with its beachy vibes and snappy sound.

20. “Waves”- Sleeper Agent

This song conjures a feeling of closure in me and leave me feeling care free. “In the sticks, we’re bare foot friends. We chew on leaves and quote Huck Finn.” Sounds like typical lovely afternoon in a year that gave us consistently warm weather!

Well, “its over now I suppose…”

Thanks, 2014. Its been a fun ride.

Gazing at Night Tides with Robert Francis

I almost felt worse about spilling my drink considering the fact I wasn’t the least bit drunk. The straw I was sipping from was giving me tasty cherry doses of a Shirley Temple. Looking down at the fallen ice cubes I reluctantly accepted the fact that I am just clumsy and promptly turned to the man who fell victim to my butterfingers and apologized.

Its a funny thing being underage in a night club, the bouncer gives you lectures about staying safe on the nighttime sidewalks of Midtown, the person collecting entrance fees draws an X on your hand to deter you from alcohol, then as you walk away calls you back to draw yet another X just to be secure. I promise you I am no rebel child!

Vikesh Kapoor

Now that my hands had become sharpie masterpieces I began snapping photos of the opening act, a handsome looking lad from Oregon with a smooth voice and a knack for the harmonica. His name was Vikesh Kapoor and I was even able to talk with him for a brief moment after the show.

I just adore musicians. Especially ones with interesting names.

A few Kapoor songs later, the opening act moved in. Robert Francis and the Night Tide, a group of Indie Rockers immediately got my foot tapping and my friend swaying. Now, the best part of watching Robert Francis perform was how immersed in his music he seemed. Sporting a colorful variety of faces, Francis made for a pretty fun photography subject.

Here are my two favorites.rawrFace #1 “Rawr”

 smileFace #2 “Smile at your guitar like its your best friend”

This is what makes live music worth listening to, the raw emotion and expression that the performers exude on stage. It is so humbling. When he smiled, it was like he was a little boy playing a song on his guitar for the first time, an unmatched happiness. You can tell not only does Robert Francis enjoy what he does but he is damn good at it. Not a word was off key. Take a listen to “Junebug” but I guarantee it was better live. The rest of the band members met his waves of enthusiasm with grace and pulled them back into the tide to create music that flowed effortlessly. I am definitely satisfied with this new find. Nice work RF and the Night Tide!

 

Out With the Old and Into The Morning: Folk Band “Miner” Is a Little Ray of Sunshine

“It’s been a long time in the coal mine,” 

Miner Band Members Photo credit: Iammusicblog.com

Miner Band Members
Photo credit: Iammusicblog.com

and I seem to be stuck in an endless pursuit of new treasures and sounds to keep my music pallet satisfied. After a while now of picking away at various bands, I’ve decided that dropping the pick ax, getting your hands a little dirty and stepping outside the house to go experience live music is the best way to hunt.

I made my way to Harlow’s in Downtown Sacramento with the initial intention of seeing Cayucas but the opening act Miner quickly grasped my attention.  The epitome of the  “girl next door,” looking cheery and upbeat, prepped her instrument along with the rest of the band, making those happy little sounds from time to time that can only come from plucking the strings of a ukulele. Her partner in crime, later determined to be the lead singer, stood on stage with a classic country beard and a shockingly full head of hair.  The adorable husband and wife chemistry they brought to the stage was absolutely infectious!  Take a boy/girl duo with an “Of  Monsters and Men” folk aura,  give them a more down to earth feel, and you’ve got Miner. Though unlike our “Monster” friends, this underground pair has more straight forward vocals and their songs lack the same lyrical  ambiguity of the former. This allows for an authentic home grown sound that is honest real and overall, refreshing.  Peppering in a  bit of rich country twang into their style (although not too much to tamper with the folk rock sound),  the lovebirds seem to sing from the heart and belt out  unscripted emotion that is purely heartwarming.

Naturally, by the end of the night, the band had won me over and I was suckered into buying their CD  Into the Morning (which they ever so kindly autographed) . It was undoubtedly a worth while purchase because it has become one of the new precious gems in my collection.

From start to finish, the album shifts through different stages of love, cycling through the initial feeling of something more, to losing it for a while, only to rediscover it in a merry reunion. The album brings to mind new beginnings- happy ones full of fondness and affection and despite a few blue lyrics here and there, the music never loses touch with the joy of the simplicity that comes from nature and life and being able to share that with those you care about.   In an interview, lead singer Justin Miner remarked “this was all about entering a phase of light and positivity. A lot of the music I had been making prior to this had been centered around more negative emotions. I wanted to make a record about the good parts in life.” (http://lamusicblog.com/The hint of sadness and reality in the track When I Win You Over  is overshadowed by the hope of  winning back a love and starting a new life together; “When I win you over, we’ll count the flowers growing in the yard.”

The relationship between Kate and Justin is really the bond that brings the sounds of  Into the Morning together, for they relate to their music, being a married couple who has inevitably been through various ups and downs.  This fact makes their songs all the more impactful and in seeing them perform, the love they share is almost palpable. I am lucky to have listened to them live and my CD is sure to receive hours more of playing time, along with a place in my 2014 favorites.

 

 

Giving Life Back to Music:Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories

“It’s time to have something new in the dance world. Still dance, a little electronic, but giving that human touch back.” – Giorgio Moroder 

RAM3

Approximately one year ago rumors began to spread of the ever- inventive Daft Punk’s new project.  Most fans, having waited nearly a decade, could hardly bear the anticipation. The French duo had me personally marking my calender on May 31st, the day Random Access Memories (RAM) would be available for the world’s listening pleasure.

This album sheds a light on the new direction many artists seem to be gravitating toward. Surprisingly enough, that direction is backward, reminding many of another era, incorporating sounds of the 70’s and the 80’s. For the fairly contemporary electronic  band, this would mean treading into uncharted territory.

Daft Punk wasn’t the only one taking the leap this year and would have others faithfully by their side. The Strokes, also deciding to experiment,  paid tribute to the time period with their album Comedown Machine.  It was a busy year for the band’s lead singer Julian Casablancas , tackling his own group’s project as well as being featured on “Instant Crush,” track 5 of RAM. He along with  many other collaborators came to the Robots’ aid in crafting the record. Among them were Giorgio Moroder, Todd Edwards, Nile Rogers, Panda Bear, Chilly Gonzales, DJ Falcon, and Paul Williams, all of whom were a part of a video series know as the Collaborators Series, sharing their experiences of  working with Daft Punk .

Random Access Memories album cover.

Random Access Memories album cover.

Prior to the album’s release, the pair gave listeners a taste of the album  (our first glimpse being a spinet on SNL)  with their single “Get Lucky” which as expected received a very positive response.

For clarification, the lyrics- without a doubt- say “get lucky.”  Those of you who believed the song said “Mexican monkey,” I have nothing to say to you other than go purchase yourself a hearing aid.

“Get Lucky” captures the essence of taking time to live in the moment, have fun, and simply be alive. In an interview, Pharrel Williams compares the feeling of listening to “Get Lucky” to being on an “exotic island.” “Being in that world is like…the only thing that really matters is you’ve met this girl at a party and getting lucky is not just sleeping with her, but meeting someone for the first time and it just clicking.”

I have heard many disagree with the suggestiveness of this song (looking for a reason to nay-say the track) but let’s be honest, have you heard what is played on the radio these days? Admittedly, it is not the crow jewel of RAM but definitely not the worst either.

Where the  album actually takes a fall is at track 4, “Within.” It is the least gripping song and to place it after the album’s peak was in my opinion unwise. With an original storytelling introduction and hooks that are impossible to resist, “Giorgio by Moroder” should not be followed by such an anti-climatic number. 

“Instant Crush helps revive the vibe and set us up for one of the better tracks.  “Lose Yourself to Dance” (ranking #2 on my list of favorites after “Giorgio by Moroder” ) earned its spot for its groovy, summertime feel. Although the next song “Touch” tones the album down a few notches, the contrast seems to work  well. In fact, this track could possibly be the glue holding the album together. The song is very interesting because the first two minutes contain the signature “robotic” sound which appears to show the nature of the track. However, this is soon interrupted by intense emotion in the voice of Paul Williams. Examining this, the theme connecting man and technology begins to reveal itself.

The record is the physical embodiment of these  stage personas Guy-Manuel and Thomas have adopted. They present themselves as  robotic, stoic figures who behind all the technology are simply humans who too have memories stored in their brains- the hard drive. RAM as a whole has been viewed as trying to mimic reminiscence of time and experience as it might pertain to an individual or a computer. Other stands may note the album resembles the message behind Electroma (2006) where cyborgs fight with their inner desire to be human. Whatever the symbolic significance may be, Daft Punk saw the need for something new. “Electronic music right now is in its comfort zone, and it’s not moving one inch,” stated Thomas Bangalter. So they got to work, made Random Access Memories, and if nothing else, pushed the genre an inch further.