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  • A Little Summer Catch-Up Work

    5. Sep. 2014, 21:43



    I don't know what gets into me sometimes when it comes to various places I post my writing online. I'll be really gung-ho about something for a while and then forget all about it. Months or even years can go by before I dust things off and pop my head in again. Such is the case with this little music journal here.

    Life over the past few years has found me transitioning a little bit. I've been discovering a lot of new things, cleaning house throughout my personal life, and rearranging my professional priorities. I even look different, having dyed my hair a shocking shade of bright, Jessica Rabbit red since I last wrote here. Sometimes when life gets hectic like that, the weirdest thing happens. I don't necessarily stop listening to music altogether, but I do tend to fall out of touch with what's new in music until things calm down. At that point, I have catch-up work to do and that's kind of where I am now.

    That said, I'm only just now getting around to listening to what favorites like Katy Perry, Tori Amos, or even David Bowie have put out there over the past three years or so. I've been discovering newer artists like Lorde and Lana Del Rey for the first time as well. So far I'm really liking everything I'm hearing and I am definitely happy to be back in the know musically. I take that as an excellent sign that I'm stabilizing again as far as life goes.

    That said, here's a short list of albums I'm digging right now and that together formed the soundtrack of my summer. Some of them are newer while others are... well... not.

    1. Lorde - Pure Heroine
    2. Queen - Greatest Hits
    3. Journey - Greatest Hits
    4. Katy Perry - PRISM
    5. Lana Del Rey - Ultraviolence
    6. The Black Keys - El Camino
    7. Phantogram - Voices
    8. David Bowie - Heathen
    9. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
    10. Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday

    I have more thoughts on individual albums and artists in particular. However, those may be things to share on a day when I have more time to ruminate and express than I do at the immediate moment.
  • Suzanne Vega, Tori Amos, and Other Muses That Inspire Me

    28. Aug. 2011, 19:27



    I love how music can so easily be the sort of thing that can suit any mood, any state of mind, and any activity. I'm a very changeable sort of person. At any given point in my life, I seem to be a million different people all at once. Then there's the way I change over the years. I can look back even a few years into the past and see where many of my values and interests have shifted (or at least evolved) significantly. I'm never sure how I feel about this. On one hand, I realize that change is good, but on the other, I often long to be more consistent.

    One thing that doesn't really seem to change for me is the music that I love though. I don't tend to look back on albums I used to like as a kid or a teenager and think things like: "God, I'm so embarrassed that I ever listened to that. What was I thinking?" Instead, I'll rediscover it, look at it through fresh eyes, and feel almost the same way about it that I did then. In this way, my music collection tends to grow over the years, much more than it actually changes.

    ........

    The first time I really fell in love with music and allowed it to become more than just amusing background noise for me, it was with the likes of acoustically-oriented female alternative musicians like Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, and Aimee Mann. Later on after high school, I would branch out to really embrace more rock-oriented artists like PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, and Alanis Morisette as well.

    As I'm sure was the case with many artistic young women who probably thought way too much and socialized way too little, I found understanding and commiseration within their songs that I didn't seem to know how to get from actual friendships or relationships yet. They were my girlfriends and my role models before I knew how to find any outside of my own head space and I don't think I'd really be the same person without them.

    It was just always so comforting to know that no matter how bad a day I'd had and no matter how misunderstood I felt at home, I could put on my albums when I got home and instantly feel better. Maybe my mom, my teachers, and what few friends I felt I had didn't understand what I was going through... but Tori, Alanis, and PJ sure did! Just knowing that someone else -- even musicians I'd never meet or talk to in person -- had been through the same things and had the same feelings helped me through it and the music I listened to throughout those years will always have a special place in my heart because of that.

    ........

    These ladies have also inspired me creatively over the years. Songs of theirs have been the seeds that resulted in numerous stories, poems, and art pieces of my own. They've helped me develop my personal style and find my own unique voice as a creative individual. Their music is also something I can count on to put me in the right frame of mind to write or design for work.

    Lately, I've been struggling off and on with depression, as well as a lot of professional frustration. I'm at yet another place in my life where I feel like I've hit the wall in regards to the path I'm currently on. Although I definitely want to continue working professionally in the arts, things nevertheless need to evolve or change direction right now if I'm ever to get where I want to be. It's amazing how similar the feelings that situation produces are to the angst of my teenage and college years though.

    Music's been helping me through that process in the same way it used to. Tori Amos and Fiona Apple may not be the daily mainstays they once were for me in those days, but I find their music to be as beautiful and comforting as I did way back then. I've been listening to them quite a bit lately, as well as other similar artists I somehow missed getting to know when they first exploded onto the scene, but have become happily acquainted with over the years. (Ani DiFranco and Regina Spektor are great examples.)

    I'm especially listening to a lot of Suzanne Vega right now and wondering why I never got more involved with her music sooner, because her music suits me to a tee. Something about her song Caramel from her album Nine Objects Of Desire is resonating right now and I can't stop playing it. It's probably easily my favorite track from any artist at the moment.

    If you enjoy the sort of music I've been talking about, but aren't acquainted with Ms. Vega or with that particular album, I highly recommend checking it out on Spotify or something (because they have it). It's just lovely and I'm not sure how I've lived without it officially being part of my collection all these years.
  • Cold-Driven Forays into Folk and Indie

    28. Apr. 2011, 9:07



    It appears that a couple of people have actually started looking at this little journal on a regular basis, so it occurs to me I really ought to try writing in it a little more often. I've been around online, but feeling a bit under the weather. Therefore, I haven't been my energetic self to the same extent as usual.

    As usual, I find that my taste in music almost always reflects what I've been doing and how I've been feeling. That said, I've been choosing more folksy, calming music than I typically do. Here's a little bit of what I've been listening to. All of these bands, songs, and albums come highly recommended by me. I love this stuff when I am feeling wistful, artistic, or if it's cloudy outside.

    Death Cab for Cutie: I discovered Death Cab some years ago and while I wouldn't say I listen to them at all regularly, I do go through phases where I apparently can't get enough of their style. Most Death Cab fans list Transatlanticism as their best work, but I personally prefer Plans. Pay special attention to the airy Soul Meets Body and the haunting Someday You Will Be Loved, as they are my favorite tracks.

    The Shins: Yet another band I discovered back in my big, big days of indie listening and retained a great love for even though they're not necessarily on my everyday playlist anymore. I love the Oh, Inverted World album and think that would be a great first listen for people interested in them. If you're familiar with their music at all, it is probably via their songs Caring Is Creepy and New Slang. Both were included on the soundtrack for the movie Garden State and are part of this collection as well. However, don't overlook Know Your Onion!.

    The Decemberists: This band is a new discovery for me. Those who keep up with the indie and folk scenes have probably already heard a lot about them, but I've only just recently gotten my hands on some of their stuff and given it a really proper listen. I'm currently really into the album Picaresque. It includes a wonderful song called The Infanta which I first heard in an episode of Mad Men. I also am really into The Mariner's Revenge Song at the moment. I have quite a bit of their other stuff as well, but this album is so lush and multi-faceted that I feel I'd like to get to know it inside and out before moving on to something new. That's sometimes how I roll with my music, you know.
  • Album Review: "Charm School" - Roxette

    11. Feb. 2011, 3:43



    Naturally, as someone who has been a fan of Roxette ever since Look Sharp! came out in the late 80's, I pretty much pissed my pants when I first found out Marie and Per were planning on pairing up again and putting out some new material sometime in 2011.

    I tried not to get my hopes up though. There are so many bands out there that talk about putting out a new album and then never do, so I secretly thought it might be too much to hope for. Then the release dates and the official confirmations started coming out. Then I finally got my hands on a copy of Charm School! Naturally, I couldn't wait to play it.

    Granted I often have to listen to albums a number of times before I really form a final opinion about what the standout tracks are. However, I also think there is something to be said for getting your thoughts on an album down while your first impression is still fresh. That said, I felt moved to jot down some thoughts here. I really don't remember to write in this journal often enough.

    People who never really cared much for Roxette in the past or who are hoping for something ground-breaking just because it's been 10 years since their last release are probably going to want to pass on this album. Charm School probably isn't going to surprise anyone or earn Roxette any new fans. This album is very much classic Roxette in every way.

    That said, people who love Roxette and have just about worn out their copies of Have a Nice Day and Room Service wishing for something new will really love Charm School as well. All of the classic Roxette elements are present -- two great voices that go fabulously together in their trademark back-and-forth style, clever melody patterns and key changes courtesy of Mr. Gessle, and lyrics that get stuck in your head pretty much immediately.

    Per sings most of the catchy, danceable tracks and Marie sings the majority of the ballads, just as we're used to. I've always been partial to the catchy, dancey tracks myself, so I really liked the opening track Way Out, Big Black Cadillac, and the album's lead single She's Got Nothing On (But the Radio) right off the bat. The album on the whole is full of gems though including the slower tempo Speak to Me and the haunting Only When I Dream. Then again, I really didn't expect anything less. Per Gessle is a very talented songwriter and he hasn't lost his touch.

    Overall, I really must say that as a long-time fan of Roxette's, I'm very pleased with this album and can't wait to listen to it lots more in the future. No, they haven't broken any new ground or made my jaw drop with how different this collection is from their other stuff. However, I don't know that I really wanted them to. I honestly wanted to hear more of the Roxette I know and love. That said, Charm School will make Roxette's fans very, very happy and they owe it to themselves to give it a listen.
  • Brief Notes On My Life As a Roxette Fan

    20. Nov. 2010, 5:38



    My interest in popular music has really waxed and waned over the years according to what was popular. I've also never necessarily liked the same stuff everybody else liked until relatively recently when I developed a liking for people like Lady Gaga, Beyonce and others along those lines.

    One of the few bands I've really consistently loved over the years is without a doubt Roxette. Not exactly The Beatles, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, or any other group most people would probably name after making such a statement, I know, but there it is all the same. Yeah, a lot of people remember they had a couple of big hits in the late 80's and early 90's with songs like The Look or Joyride, but that's probably about it. In truth, they have a number of very consistently good albums that you might want to check out if you liked their sound at all.

    Really, Have a Nice Day and Room Service are still staples on relatively heavy rotation for me because of how catchy most of the songs are and I never say that... ever. (This is especially how I feel about those albums when I've had a couple of glasses of wine, but we won't talk about that right now.) Neither of those albums was even released in the US as far as I know and that just makes me sad. If it wasn't for the internet and the import market, I'd never even know what some of those songs sounded like.

    Right now, I am listening to Waiting for the Rain from Have a Nice Day while waiting for an actual rain storm and it's... really kind of nice. Reminds me of when I was younger and had actual mix tapes of rain-appropriate music. I would play them and wait for the rains to start, eagerly awaiting the rattling on the roof and against the windows that meant it was finally here. It was a total event!

    I have also closely followed Per Gessle's solo career and really, his albums are just as good since he was responsible for writing all of Roxette's songs as well. If you're one of the veritable handful of Americans who still remembers and appreciates Roxette, then you really owe it to yourself to pick up his Party Pleaser in addition to the other two Roxette ones I mentioned. You can thank me later. I prefer generous Paypal donations, but I will also accept chocolate, video games or bottles of wine. Oh, and bunnies. I will definitely accept bunnies.
  • My First Impressions of Nicki Minaj's "Pink Friday"

    18. Nov. 2010, 7:51



    Like everybody else, I've been hearing a lot of buzz about Nicki Minaj for quite some time now. However, I actually had yet to hear any of her songs or see her videos. Nevertheless, I was really curious about her sound because the same circles that seem to like people along the lines of Lady Gaga or Ke$ha seem to like Nicki, too.

    If you know anything about me and my ever-evolving musical tastes, then you already know that I've been exploring the somewhat alien world of pop lately and -- much to the surprise of my formerly hipster-ish self -- I've been liking it a lot. That said, I got my hands on a copy of Nicki Minaj's new album Pink Friday as a leap of faith, because I was curious about her. I've been known to do that if I'm really sure I'll like someone.

    I'm actually listening to it for the very first time right now. Most of the songs are completely new to me with the exception of Your Love, which Slacker has tossed up on occasion for my listening enjoyment, but so far? I actually really like this album even on the first listen. It always takes a while for my true favorite tracks to emerge -- especially in regards to an album that has so much of a rap/hip-hop vibe going on -- but I've pretty much "hearted" half the tracks already after a single listen. I absolutely love Blazin' and Check It Out already and I can already see where many of the other tracks will grow on me as well.

    I'm normally not the biggest fan of rap at all, but this is... different and very nice on a level I can relate to. As someone who grew up on 80's new wave, I can really appreciate the samples of certain songs and the new wave vibe that many of the songs do have. This is also very lushly and richly produced like a lot of popular music these days, but I'm not a critic of that method the way a lot of people are. On the contrary, I really like it and it's actually what drew me back to the pop genre for the first time since I was 12 or 13.

    Plus, I really dig Nicki's persona and image. This "quirky and surreal" thing so many singers have going on these days is so much fun. Say what you will about it, but it reminds me of the old school Bowie days when a musician's art extended beyond the music they were actually putting out there to their clothing, hairstyles and image as well. I was bored with the music scene for sure, but this type of thing has given me something to be excited about again.
  • I Treat Everything Like an Experiment

    17. Nov. 2010, 22:38



    So, I had such good intentions in regards to this little journal thingy on here when I first started using my Last FM account in earnest. It seemed like it would be kind of a neat-o place to stick notes on albums I listen to or review new music I discover, because I'm pretty sure my regular readers at my usual blogs could care less. Then I wind up writing one whole entry and forgetting all about it until almost a year later. Typical me!

    I've certainly been listening to a lot of pop music these days, which is kind of strange considering I never listened to it much before the last year or two. I was way more of what some people might call a hipster for many years. I won't go so far as to say I didn't like anything popular, but I wouldn't have been caught dead listening to straight-up pop music. If you'd told me that I'd even own a single album by the likes of Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera, I would have told you you were crazy. Now I not only own their entire catalog, but I actually play the stuff, too... often. Same goes for Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Ke$ha. All of those people are regulars in my little Top 8 display of the last 3 months or whatever I have it set to right now.

    I'm not really sure what would account for the change in attitude. I always thought that you only like pop music when you're young and that it's natural to seek out more serious music with more depth to it once you get older. For me, it's been the other way around. I was far too serious as a young person. However, now that I'm in my mid-30's, I find I've loosened up a lot and become a lot more in tune with a youthful, "fun" side to my personality I never actually knew was there before. That side of me really appreciates pop and can't stop playing Ke$ha's Cannibal track. It also enjoyed having California Gurls set as a summer ringtone just a little too thoroughly.

    I love exploring different types of music though and I definitely like at least being aware of what's popular, even if I try an artist's music and don't like it. These days I have music for every mood I could possibly be in from happy to somber and I like that.
  • Notes on the Cult of Gaga, Vintage Bowie, and Other Treats

    3. Jan. 2010, 20:18



    I guess I should actually consider writing in this little journal thingy a little more often, since I actually do use this site quite a bit. It would actually kind of be a neat place to put things like album reviews, thoughts on music, and so forth. That type of thing rarely if ever fits into the mix very well at any of my "real" blogs.

    I suppose lately I've been embracing pop music a little more readily than I have in the past. When it comes to non-classical and non-operatic music, I tend to be someone who sticks to indie, alternative, and folk. I've actually had Lady Gaga on perpetual repeat for a while now. I know I'm a good year or so too late, but I love her song Poker Face. I also have been listening to Bad Romance a lot though.

    At first, I can't say that I really understood the whole Lady Gaga "thing", but after studying her a little bit more, I totally understand her appeal. She's so brilliant artistically and I honestly really admire the way she pays so much attention to the look of her performance, her clothes, her personal concept as an artist, and so forth. She's like a combination of old-school David Bowie, Andy Warhol, and Madonna. It's a very cool combination and I am excited about seeing what else she does in the future.

    I've also been listening to a lot of vintage Bowie lately. I listen to him a lot anyway, but usually it's his newer stuff. Heathen and Reality are my usual staples. However, I've recently been embracing the Berlin Trilogy ("Heroes", Low, and Lodger), as well as getting reacquainted with some of the stuff he did during the 80's.

    Seriously... I actually don't get why Never Let Me Down is so despised in general when it comes to Bowie's catalog. Even Bowie himself really hates it and considers it to be some of his worst work. I personally think it has at least a few real gems on it though -- especially Time Will Crawl. That's always been one of my favorites of his, to be totally honest. Glass Spider has really been growing on me as well since I got that album.

    This post feels like it needs pictures, or videos, or something... but I'm not sure I feel like figuring out how to get all that to look right just now. Maybe in the future. I really don't think that many people are checking this page for journal entries right now anyway. I've had this account for a couple of years and I never update it.

    ETA: Aaaaaand I've figured out the whole picture-adding-to deal on here, so I have added a Bowie-related image to this post. It only took me a year to figure it out, too! Huzzah!