Tag Archives: dream pop

One Year Later: I Still Wanna Be Adored

Hello again, little earbuds! Hard to believe that a year and a day ago I began this, my first public blog. (I’ve had various personal blogs, kept private save for close friends, on and off for several years.) I’ll admit, there have been times when I’ve debated shutting it all down in order to concentrate on other writings. Besides that, my anime blog, Otaku Haiku, gets many more hits than this one every day. But I think I’ll keep Hot Pink Headphones going for a while yet. I love music so very much that it’s nice to have a wee place to gush about the videos and artists who bring me such joy. And while passions come and passions go, music was one of my first true loves, and I can never stop listening.

There have been so many amazing artists and songs that I’ve discovered in just the past year alone that it would be difficult to name a favourite. BUCK-TICK spring readily to mind as a huge new and vibrant musical love of mine. Since I first heard their sexy opening theme song for Trinity Blood I’ve been completely head-over-heels for this Japanese visual kei band (and especially for Atsushi Sakurai, their enigmatic David-Bowie-as-vampire lead singer). Just last night I was watching (for the billionth time) the video of abingdon boys school in concert covering BUCK-TICK’s “Dress,” and when special guest Atsushi hits the stage, I get chills as though I’m in that audience, too. Come to think of it, anime has introduced me to all sorts of new and wonderful music (158 new artists, to be exact, according to my iTunes library). Writing my Music For Otakus series was definitely lots of fun, and something that I’ll probably expand soon, seeing as how I watch new anime practically every week.

But it’s not all in with the new and out with the old here. I continue to discover new albums by bands I already love as well as re-discover beloved albums from a few years ago (or even a few decades). And seeing those much-loved artists in concert is always a thrill. I went to many great shows last year, but finally seeing Dolly Parton in concert is probably closest to my heart, and a memory that I’ll always treasure. Then there’s all the amazing fan-made videos, such as this one for “Keep You” by Class Actress (which is my current fav-of-all-time-omg-I-can’t-stop-watching-it fan vid). Come to think of it, with so much incredible music to be seen and heard, how could I ever think of stopping this blog?

Today’s video is, in my humble opinion, very fitting for my one-year anniversary. When I first heard the original song by The Stone Roses back in college, my immediate and only thought was, “This is my life’s theme song.” It was so mellow and cool, but never pleading; the lyrics were a demand, not a request. To this day it remains an important and beloved addition to my musical library. However, just a couple of years ago, one of my favourite modern bands, The Raveonettes, covered the song. The Danish indie rock duo made something already amazing into a dreamy fuzz-fueled haze of musical bliss. To top it all off, if the excellent video doesn’t make you want to hang out with your grandmother or even just have a picnic and lie in the grass, nothing else will. And on that note, I give you The Raveonettes’s version of “I Wanna Be Adored.”

Thank you to any and all little earbuds for reading, and thanks for listening and sharing in these great tunes with me.

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Gone Is Another Day

Another Wednesday, and honestly, all I can listen to is Class Actress. “Keep You” is amazing, but so is the rest of Rapprocher. Even so, another Wednesday calls for another music video. So, in keeping with the electronica vibe, today’s song of choice is a dream pop ditty that I haven’t listened to in a while but recently re-discovered it thanks to the glorious shuffling of my iTunes. I remember that I couldn’t stop playing School of Seven Bells when I first got their debut album, Alpinisms. This song, “Half Asleep,” was the reason for that initial purchase. After I saw this video on Logo’s NewNowNext video block, I was immediately entranced with the dreamy vocals and upbeat synths that sound like showers of glitter exploding at every chorus. There’s so much movement in both this video and this song that it always makes me want to dance or swim or fly on an airplane; basically it feels like diving into the great flow of life. It’s completely enchanting, which is why I’m sharing it with you today.

I had the fortune of seeing the band members in concert when they were touring with Interpol in 2004, though at the time Benjamin Curtis was with Secret Machines and twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza were part of On!Air!Library!. Later on I was lucky enough to see them together as School of Seven Bells at Moogfest in 2010 (sans sister Claudia, who had recently quit). Let me tell you right now that they are just as glorious live as on their albums. It was a powerful performance, one that commanded attention even in the hippie hustle and bustle that is Moogfest. I adore their second album, Disconnect from Desire, and I eagerly await their forthcoming release, Ghostory, due in spring of this year. However, this song was the initial seed from which my undying love for this amazing band bloomed, and no matter how many times I go running after a new musical crush, I always find it blissful to return to the dreamy waters of “Half Asleep.”

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The Sounds Of Inspiration, Part I: M83

I made a big decision last week. Miss Pink has officially signed up as a participant in NaNoWriMo. I’ve had a story simmering in my brain for years, and since nothing else seems to jump-start me into writing, I know that a competition will do what years of good intentions have not succeeded in doing. And I am very competitive, little earbuds. In an attempt to streamline my creativity and force me to have no alternative other than to writewriteWRITE, I’m going “offline” for the month of November. That means no email, no Facebook, no Twitter, no TinierMe, none of the hundreds of online ways that my time gets devoured. As for my beloved bevy of blogs, I’m scheduling Hot Pink Headphones and Otaku Haiku to update automatically. (Yup, that means from here until December every entry will be pre-written, how organizational and unexpected of me!) I’ll hop online for just a bit on Fridays to update The Procrastinator’s Project Journal just to keep track of how I’m doing, so for the curious, that’s the place to go.

But enough with the chatter! In honor of me striving to complete one of my dreams, the next month’s entries will be a new series devoted to the music that inspires. Everyone gets their inspiration from different sources. Music is obviously at the top of my list, as it is for many others. However, I’m quite particular about what music I listen to when I write. For me personally, the music can’t have a lot of words, or else I’ll be distracted trying to decipher them. If it’s music with words that I’m familiar with, I’ll stop writing and start singing. I love soundtracks, but I can’t listen to a soundtrack in full because I don’t want my work to be shaded by whatever film the music is describing. There are even particularly evocative pieces of classical music that are off limits due to the fact that I made strong memories of it whilst reading a favourite book as a youngster. (For example, I used to listen to the Amadeus soundtrack on repeat as I read Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, so that one, beautiful as it is, is out.) What does that leave me with, dear reader? Quite a huge amount, actually, as every year my music collection expands exponentially.

My inspirational music comes in many forms. The summer between my freshman and sophomore years at university I stayed up incredibly late and wrote in a personal blog to the seemingly endless beats of techno. That was a very prolific summer! These days my go-to writing music is ethereal/dream pop/shoegaze. That genre is immediately atmospheric and always sets me in a mind frame of wanting to be alone with my thoughts and my characters, “in a world of my own,” as Alice (the one who travels to Wonderland and back) would say.

Today’s artist love (and video of choice) is M83. I first heard them several years ago thanks to a random iTunes playlist that included their breathtaking song “Run Into Flowers.” I loved that song so much that I delved deeper into their catalogue, and that’s when I found one of my desert island albums, Saturdays = Youth. Every song is a gem of pure moodiness and otherworldly ambiance. It continues to inspire me every time I listen to it, and I listen to it quite often (especially when I need to get into a creative or contemplative state of mind). I don’t have to skip a single song on this album, which, as any music fan knows, is quite a feat. Oddly enough, one of the songs that induced me to purchase said album, “Graveyard Girl,” is now the track that I listen to the least. However, I know the reason is because that song already has such a strong story to it, and as I mentioned above, I need less structure and more general atmosphere in my creative music. I could pick any song from this album to share with you, but since I only have time for one today, I’ll begin at the beginning: “You, Appearing.”

This video perfectly expresses what I crave in the music that inspires me: ambiguousness, and vague undertones of an unnamed mood. This song, and indeed this album, provide the paint. It’s up to me to draw the actual picture. What more could an artist ask for?

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The Sky Is Still Blue, The Clouds Come And Go, Yet Something Is Different

Thanks to the power of Netflix, I’m not only able to keep up with a steady stream of anime as well as recent films that I missed at the cinema, I’m also finally able to check out the television shows that I’ve always heard about but never watched. My show of the moment is that slice of cherry pie from the 90s known as Twin Peaks. Though I was just a shade too young for this series when it originally aired, my older sister watched it faithfully, and I have very distinct memories of clearing out of the living room at night as the opening theme played. My sister, who is never afraid of anything (she even stayed in her room alone one night after a very scary experience with a Ouija board) would tell me whispered stories of “Bob” and relate that even she was freaked out by the show. (Keep in mind that she was also twelve years old at the time.) And so, in honor of her bravery, today’s video is the theme song from Twin Peaks, “Falling” by Julee Cruise.

It’s interesting how this show, and this song, make me long for the early 90s. I had completely forgotten what the Twin Peaks theme sounded like, but as soon as I heard the slow, deep opening notes, I was in the living room of the house where I grew up, running my fingers through the tortoiseshell shag carpet, hiding behind my dad’s big brown recliner, peering through the wooden railing that separated the kitchen from the hallway and den. Funny how something that just hovered on the edge of your periphery at the time can bring back such strong and tangible memories. As for the show itself, I’m not far in, but I can see why it was such a cult success. Though it’s probably for the best that I didn’t watch it when I was younger, as the adult me got freaked out by just the second episode. I’m very intrigued to find out how this twisted tale unravels, so if you know, keep it to yourself!

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Asobi Seksu Or Spaghetti? I Choose… Spaghetti.

Oh goodness, little earbuds, that drag show was amazing! I took lots of video, but with a so-so camera (bless it) and I have yet to start going through it all. But rest assured, should any prove to be decent and non-static sounding, I shall post post-haste! (See what I did there?) In other news, despite an excellent mini-break with my most excellent younger sister, today I am tired and sore and just a wee bit cranky. Between having to break up cat fights (and I don’t mean the derogatory slang term for a fight among women, I mean literal cat fights among my furry darlings) and surfing the crimson wave, not to mention yet another looming tornado warning in the area, I am missing a concert that I would otherwise be all over like white on rice: Asobi Seksu. Pour some of this loveliness in your eardrums, dear reader:

You may or may not have heard that song used at the end of a particularly touching episode of Ugly Betty. I actually discovered Asobi Seksu (whose name in Japanese roughly translates to “playful sex”) yet again through my beloved Logo. Out of the blue I was jolted off the couch by not only the swaying, smooth beats of their song entitled “Me & Mary,” I also could not look away from the stark visuals of the video itself. It looked old but sounded new and dreamy; the performers kept changing outfits, trees and arrows and Dr. Caligari-esque lamp posts were being drawn over the background, and feathers were floating everywhere, all in a bold palette of mostly black and white. The entire thing drew me in and led me to the gorgeously phenomenal album Hush. Take a gander at the video that began this particular Artist Love for me, if you will:

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Hush has been on constant rotation on my stereo since I purchased it a few years back. However, after checking out Asobi Seksu’s most recent album, Fluorescence, I was disappointed. What I heard sounded decisively less shoegaze and more like traditional alt rock. Less dream, more pop, if you will. While there’s nothing wrong with a beloved artist branching out, and their new album would still catch the ear amongst any given smattering of standard radio fare, I just couldn’t get into it. And we all know that unless it’s a greatest hits tour, if there’s a new album out it will usually comprise a good deal of any given artist’s show. So despite the low, low ticket price of $8 and my love for their former work, tonight I’ll stay in and make spaghetti instead of venturing out into the current gale storm to see Asobi Seksu perform an hour away. But I wish them well in their current tour, and should they return under the banner of a new album that I fancy more, I’ll be there in a shoegaze minute (which is more like an hour in actual time).

 

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Ethereal Roots Part I: Cocteau Twins, Changelings, and LSD

There are many different categories of music that can be discovered taking shelter under the black umbrella term of “goth music.” I found goth through a life-long love of vampires, which means that my deep-seated roots lie in classical music. Organs and harpsichords and violins were all that I listened to as I read Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and wrote poetry about ghosts and incense, longing and blood. When I was introduced properly to goth as a musical culture at the age of 15, I have to hand it to my goth mentor that I got proper exposure to all the classics. I was sent mix tape after mix tape of Bauhaus, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy, The Cure, and Christian Death. However, I was also introduced to slightly more esoteric bands that blurred the line between gothic rock and the classical that I already loved, bands such as Love Spirals Downwards, Bel Canto, Cocteau Twins, This Ascension, and Love Is Colder Than Death. Through research on the newly burgeoning internet I discovered that most of these bands were considered “ethereal.” They are distinguished by hazy, dreamy vocals (mostly female) and lush, shimmering instrumentals that make me feel as though I am swimming through oceans of serene sound whenever I listen to them. I knew that I wanted more.

Somehow I managed to get my hands on a Projekt catalogue, which is a label that has specialized in ethereal, ambient, and neo-folk music for many years, and I must have flipped through the pages of that small magazine (more like a brochure, really) over a hundred times, wondering what a band called “Black Tape For A Blue Girl” would sound like. (As I discovered several years later, they sound amazing.) While my exposure to ethereal music during high school was limited to the occasional mix tape song, once I went to college in Boston the floodgates opened. I frequented a marvelous music store called Newbury Comics that carried all the bands I ever dreamed about listening to and more. Suddenly I had entire albums of the artists that I was previously limited to owning one or two songs by. Though several of my most beloved ethereal bands from the 90s are now no longer together, they remain my most turned-to albums for inspiration and meditation. Ethereal is definitely a sister to dream pop and shoegaze, both of whom enjoy moderate to rising success in the current musical climate. However, true ethereal music does as the name promises: it transports you to another time and place by the simple act of closing your eyes and listening. And so, dear reader, I shall share three of my most beloved ethereal tracks with you here and now.

1.) Love Spirals Downwards – I Could Find It Only By Chance

Love Spirals Downwards is the first band that comes to mind when I think of quintessential ethereal music. I could literally have chosen any song from either of their first two albums, Idylls and Ardor, to share as the ultimate example of what otherworldly music sounds like. I chose this song from the latter, “I Could Find It Only By Chance,” because I discovered this beautiful fan made video that accompanies it. The creator of said video was spot-on in using so much water throughout, because this song is the sound of swimming at night, floating on stars, feeling weightless and at ease.

If you like this song, I can not recommend their first two albums enough. Magical things have happened to me when I’ve been listening to these albums, as well as magickal things. Dreams have been intensified, creativity has been unleashed, and my inner sense of calm and peace is always restored after an hour in a locked room with this band on my headphones. Their third album, Ever, has some lovely gems as well, but their fourth and final album together, Flux, is a vast departure from their earlier works, so be warned, angel seekers. Both LSD vocalist Suzanne Perry and instrumentalist Ryan Lum have begun other musical projects since parting ways (Melodyguild and Lovespirals, respectively) but in my opinion, their best and most significant works are to be found as Love Spirals Downwards.

2.) The Changelings – Earthquake At Versailles

The Changelings are particularly dear to my heart, as they are from Atlanta and I am a “dark southerner” myself. In this author’s country opinion, the southern United States has a certain ease to its gothic nature: you don’t have to travel far to find dilapidated graveyards with crumbling angel statues and mausoleums engulfed in kudzu. Every time that I drive to the nearby town to buy groceries I see rotting wooden barns and abandoned houses that were once white but now radiate an eerie blackness glimpsed between the dusty shards of shattered glass windows. I’m not sure why we keep these rusty cars and broken bricks around us, but we do, we have evidence of our humid, disintegrating lifestyle all around us. Perhaps it’s our way of trying to keep time standing still, by filling our yellowing parlors with antique artifacts from generations past. Whatever the cause, here we are, country folk all but swallowed in green foothills and the grey skies of thunder storms the likes of which you would never feel in an insulated city.

We southerners live with darkness and decay and death, and while we don’t claim to fully understand it, a great number of us have made peace with it. Many if not most traditional southern songs deal with death, but often in an uplifting way, speaking to the hardships of life and the joy of being reunited with loved ones in heaven. The Changelings are not as overtly heaven-focused in their lyrics as much southern music is, yet their songs are just as otherworldly as any ethereal band. While LSD is the sound of swimming in the stars, The Changelings delve deeper into the ethereal nature of all of the elements, utilizing fiery stringed instruments from all over the globe as well as earthy drums, airy vocals, and tinkling electronics like drops of rain at sea. This song in particular, “Earthquake At Versailles,” speaks to the beautiful decay that we southerners know so well. Each of their albums is an intoxicating blend of elemental magic, but their ghostly self-titled masterpiece remains my favourite. Though the band broke up in the early part of the last decade, happily they have recently announced that they are reunited once more. I look forward to more from this magnificent band, and hope to catch them live this time around.

3.) Cocteau Twins – Sea, Swallow Me

Chances are, even if you aren’t familiar with ethereal music as a whole, you’ve heard of Cocteau Twins. Choosing just one song to feature was a near impossible task (and one reason why today’s entry is posted much later than Miss Pink would wish it to be). Many folks argue that Cocteau Twins are dream pop, or post-punk, or simply alternative, but whatever genre you use to describe them pales in comparison to their actual music. The lyrics are sung in trills and half words/half noises, which could sound like cacophony with another vocalist, but coming from Elizabeth Fraser sounds like whispers from another realm, and Robin Guthrie turns any musical project he touches into gold for fans of this type of music.

This song is from a collaborative album between Cocteau Twins and renowned composer and pianist Harold Budd, called The Moon And The Melodies. “Sea, Swallow Me” is the first track of an amazing album, and it has always stood out to me because when I purchased the album I didn’t quite know what I was getting into. I was still in high school (re: limited musical exposure in those days before the glorious internet) but I had heard of Cocteau Twins, purchased one of their albums second-hand from the local indie record shop, and was eager to find more. During a trip to a huge Media Play in Chattanooga one weekend, I found The Moon And The Melodies. But whereas Four-Calendar Cafe (my first Cocteau purchase) was dreamy in a warm, sunny, summery way, this album was completely different: cool and quiet, an album for nighttime listening. I thought that it was so strange, but also fascinating. Listening to this album put me at odds within myself and led to much self-contemplation. Re-listening to it now reminds me of those times when I was questioning everything in my life, but it also provides a sort of cold comfort that keeps me on my toes. And above all, it is quite simply beautiful to hear.

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