11/24/11

20 years ago today

Today it is 20 years since Freddie Mercury succumbed to AIDS. I remember recording this song from radio to cassette tape after seeing the movie Highlander. Listening to this song over and over again in the context of the movie was one of those early "musical goosebumps" moments.


"The etymology of the word recording, meanwhile, tells us already that this thing which is not always already has to do with loss. Tracing this word back to its Latin root recordari, we understand that recordings are always imbued with a function of remembrance, intended to allow that which has passed to be again. This function was perhaps more present in the minds of the early pioneers of sound recording technologies. This is precisely what is suggested by Jonathan Sterne when he writes: 'If there was a defining figure in early accounts of sound recording, it was the possibility of preserving the voice beyond the death of the speaker' (2003: 287). But this function is present in all recordings and describes not only the past of all recording formats but also their future. It is a future haunted by the spectre of death, of an object or event that is no longer, but which it is the recording's capacity and function to make present again."
-Greg Hainge in Vinyl is Dead, Long Live Vinyl: The Work of Recording and Mourning in the Age of Digital Reproduction

11/22/11

Leonard Cohen: "Show Me The Place"

Album cover designed by Mr Cohen himself
Here's a brand new song by Leonard Cohen. From his upcoming album Old Ideas (Columbia Jan. 29th 2012).

Incredible song. I'm awestruck!

Show Me The Place by leonardcohen

Show me the place where you want your slave to go
Show me the place I’ve forgotten I don’t know
Show me the place for my head is bending low
Show me the place where you want your slave to go
Show me the place help me roll away the stone
Show me the place I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place where the Word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began

The troubles came I saved what I could save
A thread of light a particle a wave
But there were chains so I hastened to behave
There were chains so I loved you like a slave

Show me the place where you want your slave to go
Show me the place I’ve forgotten I don’t know
Show me the place for my head is bent and low
Show me the place where you want your slave to go

The troubles came I saved what I could save
A shred of light a particle a wave
But there were chains so I hastened to behave
There were chains so I loved you like a slave

Show me the place
Show me the place
Show me the place

Show me the place help me roll away the stone
Show me the place I can’t move this thing alone
Show me the place where the Word became a man
Show me the place where the suffering began

11/14/11

A year of interesting albums - pt. 4: 2006

In 2009 I began making album yearlists where I listed what I considered to be the best albums of years gone. The plan was to work my way backwards in time. This began in 2009 so the first year listed was 2008. Three lists have been published so far; 2008, 2007 and 2009 (which was published in 2010). Here's the 4th installment and the year is 2006.

The Knife: Silent Shout









Fascinating sophomore album from Swedish electro siblings. Dark and enigmatic. They're shrouded in mystery, a bit like Björk.


Mono: You Are There









Elegiac post rock from Japan. Many post rock bands veer close to something very trite and overdone but this is a beautiful and atmospheric album. Recorded by Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio Studios. People know what they're doing and it is audible.


Flaming Lips: At War With The Mystics









The Flaming Lips are always enjoyable musical company and this album is no exception. Maybe not up there with their masterpieces but still a good Lips album and a good Lips album is most certainly a good album by any standard.


Booka Shade: Movements









 2nd album from this German electro house/techno duo. This album works well as a long player. "In White Rooms" is a gem of a track! Both the original and the various remixes (found elsewhere) shimmer with electronic brilliance. Saw them live in the autumn of 2008 at Rust in Copenhagen. The club was packed and it was warm as hell.


The Black Angels: Passover









Debut album from this dark psychedelic rock quintet from Texas. Menacing mood stuff that digs into the darker corners of the soul. Great stuff. Seen them live twice. Very good.


Tool: 10.000 Days









Tool is cool! (always on the lookout for an opportunity to say that). Four geeks that make jammy art metal progressive geek rock AND sell loads of albums and have an international fanbase. It works. This album is awesome but Ænema (1996) and Lateralus (2001) are awesomerer...


Iron Maiden: A Matter Of Life And Death











 Traditional melodic metal from the band that came to define a lot of things metal in the 80's. Since 2000 they've had something of a renaissance. Saw them live at Roskilde this summer. It was awesome.

Mojave 3: Puzzles like you









The core members of this band used be in legendary shoegaze band Slowdive. Mojave 3 is acoustically oriented folksy guitar surf pop with a country tinge. Neil Halstead knows how to write a song.

Teitur: Stay Under The Stars









Beautiful and melodically strong collection of songs from Teitur. Probably his best album to date. Organic stuff.

Serena Maneesh: Serena Maneesh









This is one of the very best rock albums I encountered in the noughties. An amazing album that cuts through the history of rock and brings out the very best. Full of contrasts. Noisy, chaotic, wild and raving but also serene, beautiful, melodic and shimmering. Their 2nd album Abyss In B Minor (2010) doesn't disappoint.


Sonic Youth: Rather Ripped









Legends rip off themselves and play on it in the album title. This is not samey sounding, this is an album where Sonic Youth manage to distil their qualities into a collection of relatively short concise songs. They really know their craft and they've created their own language within rock music. I'm a fan.


Thom Yorke: The Eraser









The head honcho of Radiohead wents his electronic leanings on this not exactly cutting edge but still very decent collection. Moments of pure beauty here and there.

Justin Timberlake: Futuresex/Lovesounds









A brilliant pop album. Faroese graphics & film wizard Thomas Koba described it as "Michael Jackson releasing the Bad album without any lead vocals". In some sense that is the perfect description.


Bob Dylan: Modern Times









There's a boxing ring somewhere where this album and Serena Maneesh's debut album fight for the title of album of the year 2006. Great songs. Tradition. Lineage. And what an amazing voice. I mean that. Bob is probably my favorite singer in the world.
When people say that they prefer Bob when other people sing his songs it makes about as much sense to me as preferring Jimi Hendrix when other people play his solos...

Trentemøller: The Last Resort









Nice soundscapes. Last year's follow-up Into The Great Wide Yonder adds cinematic surf tones to the mix. The attention to detail is impressive.


120 Days: 120 Days









Along with Serena Maneesh this is one of the better bands to come out of Norway/Scandinavia in recent years. Love this album. Epic stuff. There's a lot of synth in rock these days but it's often put to mediocre use. These guys are an exception. They know their synths. Their 2nd album was out the other day. Seeing them live at Loppen next week.


Jóhann Jóhannson: IBM 1401, A User's Manual









Icelandic composer/musician. Jóhannson is also in Apparat Organ Quartet (four organ players and a drummer that make insanely catchy and groovy rock!) He's also a composer on his own. This album is very beautiful. I think I hear some Arvo Pärt in there. The story behind the album is quite moving.

Honorable mention:
Gestir: Burtur Frá Toftunum









I play keys on this so I can't really say anything. Just want to point you in it's direction.

11/4/11

(Ahk Toong Bay Bi) Covered - a track review

If I was to choose my favorite rock album in the world, it would probably be Achtung Baby by U2. An almost perfect amalgamation of really strong songwriting and sonic adventurousness. An incredible work where the band completely reinvents itself yet maintains the very core of what U2 is all about. Regarding reinvention I haven't run into anything similar elsewhere. Maybe Kid A by Radiohead comes close. Close, but not cigar.

Achtung Baby turns 20 this year and a lavish repackaging project is out now in celebration of the 20 year anniversary. Q Magazine is also celebrating the anniversary by releasing the tribute album (Ahk Toong Bay Bi) Covered with their December issue. They've commissioned covers from an interesting bunch of artists. I've given the album a few spins and below are my reviews/ratings of each cover from best to worst.

Stream the full tribute album here

1. Gavin Friday: The Fly
F*ck yeah! Gavin Friday is Bono's longtime friend/soul mate and he has known the band since forever. He pops up here and there in their history. I remember noticing him credited as "consultant poptician" in the liner notes for the Pop album and thinking it was really cool. I've also come upon descriptions of him as "the dark side of Bono" and it is said that the MacPhisto character from the Zoo TV tour is based on Friday's persona. He does solo work every now and then and he used to sing in a weird Dublin band called the Virgin Prunes. They were part of the same kind of milieu that U2 were part of in the early days. This cover is just a really cool and ballsy deconstruction of "The Fly" which in my opinion is one of the best rock songs in the world. Ever.

2. Jack White: Love Is Blindness

Wow! The final track on the best album ever gets an intense reworking by White. Wouldn't expect anything less, really.

3. Garbage: Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
Not sure if every aspect of the production works and I've never been a big fan of Garbage, but this is still surprisingly good. Shirley Manson taps into some emotional potential that doesn't always shine through in the original (or; it depends on the mood) and there's something about those chord changes and the sound of the track that I really like. Beautifully imperfect. Like the original, actually.

4. Depeche Mode: So Cruel
OMG! It's Depeche Mode covering "So Cruel"!!!

5. Patti Smith: Until The End of The World
OMG! It's Patti Smith covering "Until the end of the world"!!!

6. Nine Inch Nails: Zoo Station
OMG! It's NIN covering "Zoo Station"!!!

7. U2: Even Better Than The Real Thing (Jacques Lu Cont Mix)
Achtung Baby marked the point where U2 became heavily interested in dance music and began commissioning remixes from dance producers from all over the world so it's only fitting that a remix made it onto this album.
I've always liked their remix discography - it's like an alternative dance floor history of U2 - and there are some real classics in there. The funny thing is U2 have had people remix their music for 20+ years so the different remixes are done in different styles that fit with what was contemporary at the time. Some of the early 90's remixes have a really cool Madchester/acid house/euro vibe to them. "Even Better Than The Real Thing (The Perfecto remix)" and "Salome (Zooromancer remix)" are great examples.
The great thing about this new remix by Jacques Lu Cont is that even though he's tackling a track that is 20 years old the result doesn't sound awkward. It's just sounds fresh.

8. The Killers: Ultraviolet (light my way)
I've always considered The Killers to be heavily U2 inspired so this makes sense. A fitting cover that adds a dash of theatricality to the proceedings. And Brandon Flowers has the pipes for it. Nice enough.

9. Damien Rice: One 
Apart from a certain on/off intensity in the voice I find Mr Rice to be a bit of a dull fellow musically, mostly because his original material tends to be too bland. Here he's working with an absolutely amazing piece of songwriting and the result is actually quite ok - the sombre low register vocal does a certain justice to the song - but in no way does it beat Johnny Cash's version on American III: Solitary Man (2000).

10. Snow Patrol: Mysterious Ways
The funkiest track on Achtung Baby reworked as a ballad. Ranks high in the "covers should be interpretations and not just rehashes of the original"-department. Pretty and nice. That' about it.

11. Glasvegas: Acrobat
I really really REALLY love the song itself. There are some days when no other song in the world expresses and summarizes more clearly and intensely how I feel and think. But sadly the Glasvegas version doesn't do much to it. Uses the same tricks to lesser effect. The original track is breathtaking. U2 at what is probably their most shoegazey.

12. The Fray: Tryin' To Throw Your Arms Around The World
A great song reworked as run-of-the-mill FM radio crap. Thanks but no thanks.

-----

So, is it any good? Yes, I think so. This is a tribute album that proves its point: the original album by U2 is an amazing piece of work. Not a single weak track. A masterpiece. It's fun to hear the interpretations of each song and how they illuminate different aspects of the songs. It is also fun to be reminded that I'm not the only one who loves and finds challenge and comfort in the grooves of Achtung Baby. There are millions of us out there.

Album tracklist:
01. "Zoo Station" Nine Inch Nails 6:28
02. "Even Better Than the Real Thing" U2 (Jacques Lu Cont Mix) 6:39
03. "One" Damien Rice 5:26
04. "Until the End of the World" Patti Smith 3:36
05. "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses" Garbage 5:16
06. "So Cruel" Depeche Mode 6:02
07. "The Fly" Gavin Friday 4:16
08. "Mysterious Ways" Snow Patrol 4:48
09. "Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World" The Fray 4:33
10. "Ultraviolet (Light My Way)" The Killers 4:53
11. "Acrobat" Glasvegas 4:08
12. "Love Is Blindness" Jack White 3:20
Achtung Baby original album cover

11/2/11

Thoughts on music #9 - Pierre Schaeffer

"We learned to associate the lute with the Middle Ages, plainsong with the monastery, the tom-tom with wild and primitive man, the viola da gamba with courtly dress. How can we really not expect to also find that music in the 20th century relates to machines and the masses, the electron and calculators?"
-Pierre Schaeffer (source: Adventures in Sound liner notes)