Tag Archives: new album love

Songs Of Summer, Part I: Sunshine From Finland

Memorial Day has come and gone, which means that summer is fully upon us, at least here in the USA. Every year I find myself craving new summer anthems to distinguish this season from the rest as well as mark each year’s passing. My summer anthems don’t need to be newly released, just new to me, and I prefer poppy, breezy tunes that meld well with driving with the windows down or just lounging away in the seasonal heat. By designating a particular song, songs, or album my “summer music,” I can instantly return to that carefree state of mind long after it’s become too cold to wear short sleeves, or even revisit a particular summer many years after the fact.

The summer before I moved from my family’s farm in the South to Boston for college was filled with an oddly fitting mixture of Radiohead’s OK Computer, Sarah McLachlan’s SurfacingLoved by Cranes, and Four-Calendar Cafe by Cocteau Twins. “Know Who You Are At Every Age,” indeed. Now, many years later, whenever I listen to any of those albums, I can vividly remember the feelings of hope and trepidation and excitement that swirled around me all summer long. A couple of years later I wanted to transfer to a different college, and that summer was spent with Mazzy Star’s glorious shoegaze album So Tonight That I Might See as well as Madonna’s infectious pop single “Beautiful Stranger” on constant repeat. I can clearly remember whiling away the days dreaming of the new adventures that were to come. Even today those songs fill me with a sense of anticipation.

Unfortunately summer loses some of its glamor as we get older. No longer is there the luxury of doing absolutely nothing; when you’re an adult you’re expected to keep going, keep working, keep taking care of things. Life doesn’t stop just because it’s hot outside. I must admit that I miss those days of low expectations and being left to my own devices, even when my devices were as simplistic as watching crappy movies on cable, or lying on my parents’ bed for hours while staring up at the ceiling fan because it’s just too hot to move. Despite being considered an “adult” by society at large, I still try to invoke those carefree summers of old by finding new summer songs year after year. Luckily one such song has already landed in my ear, and I can’t stop playing it: “Tapaa minut aamulla” by Regina.

I was instantly drawn in by this Finnish indie pop outfit’s mellow sound as well as the beautiful trill of lead singer Iisa Pykäri on the chorus. I have no idea what the lyrics are, but the feeling is breezy and hopeful, making this a perfect song for summer. Regina’s song “Unessa” has an even more summery video accompanying it and is quite lovely to boot, but it’s “Tapaa minut aamulla” that grabbed my heart and got me primed for sweltering heat, ceiling fans, sundresses, and mid-afternoon naps. Viva la summer!

More songs of summer will surely follow as they make their way to my headphones, so stay tuned!

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I Left My Childhood In The Garden Green

Yesterday I finally made it out to the cinema in order to watch The Secret World of Arrietty. It was really just…breathtaking. Something about that film completely captured my heart. I wrote about it in great detail over on Otaku Haiku, where I couldn’t stop myself from gushing about the beautiful soundtrack, which caught my attention as soon as the film opened. To quote myself:

…the music is stunning. The entire soundtrack is by Celtic musician Cecile Corbel, and while a Japanese film with a Celtic soundtrack doesn’t seem like it would necessarily be a good fit, it’s actually incredible. The vocals are lovely and lilting, and the harp makes the natural setting come alive, especially in the rain scenes where every pluck of the strings mimics a drop of water on the leaves. As a longtime lover of Celtic music, I know that the genre can get a little heavy at times, hearkening back to those 90s Pure Moods compilation CDs. However, the soundtrack to Arrietty is as far from the Celtic clichés as night and day. It would be a gorgeous album on its own, but paired with the film it perfectly enhances this Western tale in an Eastern setting.

I bought the album as soon as I left the cinema, and I’ve been listening to it non-stop ever since. The delicate harp and gentle vocals are the most prevalent, but the dancing flute that recalls wind and the soft beating of the bodhrán as footsteps all play a part in making the woodland setting of Arrietty come alive in a really astonishing way. I’m of the opinion that you don’t have to already be a lover of Celtic music to enjoy this album, but take a listen* to the opening song, “The Neglected Garden,” and decide what you think. Music this lovely that plucks at the heartstrings speaks for itself.

*SPOILER ALERT: This fan-made video, while excellent, shows many scenes from the film The Secret of Arrietty, including almost the entire end of the movie. Watch at your own risk.

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The Only Girl I’ve Ever Loved Is Andrew In Drag

I’m trying to remember how I first got into The Magnetic Fields. They’re one of those seminal indie bands that you feel like you’ve known forever. I think perhaps I received a few songs on various mixed CDs over the years, but it was the film Pieces of April that made me seek out their albums. I say “their,” but The Magnetic Fields is mostly the genius of one man, Stephin Merritt. The Gothic Archies, The 6ths, and Future Bible Heroes are all his creations, too, but The Magnetic Fields is really where he shines. The simple instrumentation and Merritt’s deep voice highlight the pure poetry of the lyrics, but everything works together so well that it doesn’t feel preachy or boring. Each song is a story, and The Magnetic Fields write some of the most unique and interesting ones in music today.

The newest single from their forthcoming album, Love At The Bottom of the Sea, is no different. This is a song that illustrates how fragile gender lines really are, and how much false facade is involved in what we consider to be “feminine” and “masculine.” However, true to form for The Magnetic Fields, this is also a really sweet and wistful love song. Be warned that there is nudity, so this video is probably NSFW. Without further ado, I give you “Andrew In Drag.”

The lyrics flow in a rhyming poetry, but the story, which is sentimental while making a statement, never gets lost. That’s the beauty of The Magnetic Fields: everything works together, and no one aspect outshines another. Their entire catalogue is full of gems like this, beautiful short songs that are so much fun to listen to. I’ve been a big fan of Merritt’s work for many years, and this video makes me extremely excited for his newest album, which comes out on March 6th. Leave it to one of my favourite musicians to poke fun at gender norms while singing an actual love song!

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Gritty Goth-Tinged Rock Gives True Blood: Volume Three Its Bite

Yesterday True Blood: Volume Three was released, aka the soundtrack to season four. Though I may have entered the game late, I am now a 100% dedicated Trubie, so I bought the album as soon as it was available. I’m quite liking it, though not as much as Volume Two. Then again, I’ve been listening to that one for many months, and this album is new, so it might need some time to marinate. I didn’t immediately love the last one, to be honest, but now I do. As for the latest offering, there are some gems that stick out immediately on this new collection of tunes for the southern supernaturals among us.

Nick Cave and Neko Case do a sultry-yet-peppy lil’ cover of The Zombies’ “She’s Not There.” (Quentin Tarantino fans might recognize pieces of the song since Malcolm McLaren did a melancholy take on it for the Kill Bill Vol.2 soundtrack.) Then there’s the Karen Elson/Donovan version of “Season of the Witch,” how very appropriate for this particular season of True Blood. And of course, you can never go wrong with Siouxsie and the Banshees, so I was pleased as punch to hear “Spellbound” during the closing credits of episode eight. However, my current fav track on this album is “Me And The Devil” by recently deceased poet Gil Scott-Heron.

This song has just the right mixture of menace and groove that I come to expect from a gritty southern show about blood and creatures that roam the night. I think that it gives a good overall taste of what season four is about. Speaking of which, I keep reading rave reviews about the current season, but what do you think? Do the witches add or detract from the lives of Sookie, Bill, Eric, and all of our other fav True Blood characters? Which has been your favourite season thus far?

I’m not loving season four as much as season three, but who knows, maybe next week’s season ender will knock my socks off. At any rate, as far as the soundtrack goes, it’s a worthy purchase, in this Trubie’s opinion. The rockin’ cover of “Burning Down The House” by The Used isn’t included, so be sure to find that one separately. True Blood: Volume Three will certainly give you musical food for thought while biding your time until the finale this Sunday, because as every fan knows, waiting sucks.

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My Bluegrass Bollywood Heart

When it comes to musical marriages, many genres have been successfully combined to produce some truly ear-bending sounds. Remember when new wave pioneers Blondie featured rap in their 1981 single “Rapture?” (If you don’t, you should definitely check it out.) That song become the first rap-influenced single to reach #1 on the US Billboard Chart, and it proved that there is indeed an audience for new and interesting musical mixtures. Personally I’m a big fan of experimentation and trying new things, so my delight-o-meter nearly went through the roof when I discovered a recent EP that seamlessly blends bluegrass-tinged folk with traditional Indian music.

Bluegrass is part of my blood, being a born and bred East Tennessee farm gal. To be fair, I didn’t fully appreciate the genre until my twenties, as up to that point I was in the oh-so-popular teen angst phase of life where rebellion was a daily rite of passage. That rebellion included hating everything around me, especially anything that hinted at my country roots. Luckily I got over that, and I credit my darling hippie college in North Carolina for opening my ears to the beautiful stylings of bluegrass. There were impromptu concerts all over campus, usually after dinner, and quite often the president of the college was playing with the other musicians. After college, when I began my world travels, bluegrass music was a tiny token of home that I could carry around with me and listen to whenever I missed my family. The recent flurry of bluegrass-y folk bands that have sprung up in the past few years has tickled my musical palette to no end, Mumford & Sons being one such beloved band. As for traditional Indian music, I’ll write more about my connections to that in an upcoming post. While there is no definitive time or place that I can point to as a springboard for my love of the genre,  it exists, and it is strong, and it truly stirs my soul.

Mumford & Sons have joined together with fellow British folk darling Laura Marling and the traditional Rajasthani folk collective The Dharohar Project to produce a self-titled EP of four extraordinary songs. Take a listen to the live version of my personal favourite, entitled “Devil’s Spoke/Sneh Ko Marg:”

This song has a little bit of everything: gritty rolling strings that all but demand foot stomping, lovely and varied vocals, and a building tension that causes you to listen with bated breath to see how it all ends. This was my first introduction to The Dharohar Project, and further investigation produced this information, taken from the collective’s website:

Dharohar’ is a Sanskrit word meaning legacy. This unique group of musicians formed at the Jaipur Virasat Foundation is a creative collective from the UK and Rajasthan. Inspired by the great mystic poet Kabir, indeed carrying on his legacy, the Rajasthani element are an intriguing mixture of Hindus and Muslims, made up of differing religions and castes, working to overcome tensions between themselves and disapproval faced within sections of society. Their belief is that music can overcome differences and creates true unity.

Their music, insofar as this collaboration, is a joyful testament to that belief. Check it out if you love folk, or bluegrass, or Indian music, or like me, all of the above. I hope to hear much more from these talented folks in the near future.

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