30 June 2006

whatever happened to rock duets?

good morning baby : dan wilson and bic runga
click here or on the cool guy in glasses below to listen
someone new : eskobar and heather nova
click here or on the jean gray lookalike below to listen

I uploaded the first song for a specific person to hear, but I thought you might enjoy it here as well. This is a duet – more like a collaboration, really – between the vocalist of Semisonic who had the hit Closing Time in the mid-90s (gosh, that was a decade ago – a decade!) and the pretty New Zealander who made it big with her beautiful pop ballad Sway. Good Morning Baby comes from the soundtrack to the 1999 goofball high-school comedy American Pie. Listening to this sweet song got me thinking, How come there are very few rock duets happening these days? A lot of what's out there are, as I said, collaborations where a guest artist sings back-up in the chorus. There have been very few he-said-she-said duets (and probably even less same-gender combinations) lately, and I hate it that the first song that came to my mind when I had to think of one was the sappy Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough (by former Eagle Don Henley and Patty Smyth). Even Someone New – by Daniel Bellqvist, lead singer of the Swedish band Eskobar, and Heather Nova of London Rain fame – is four yeas old. Anyway, I really like this one, which is a break-up song with lyrics so humanly worded they could have come straight from the journal entry of either lover. The only thing I don't like here is the voice of Bellqvist, which I think is rather effeminate. If you know of any good rock duets, please let me know and I'll find the time to post it up here.

24 June 2006

hot off the charts

into the ocean : blue october
click here or on the image below to listen

This song is well on its way to becoming one of the Top 25 most played songs in my iPod. Blue October is a Texas band that has been around for a few years, signing with, being dropped by, and then signing again with a major record label. They finally found commercial success with the release of their latest album, Foiled. The first single, Hate Me, is currently #6 after peaking at #2 in the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks. This is not usually the genre I listen to, but after sampling the CD at a record store, I was immediately hooked. Blue October certainly knows the power of the chorus, making it quite distinct from and more infectious than any other part of the song. Into The Ocean, a song about failing, is a great example. The emotive cry of the chorus is introduced by scratches of electric guitar and a bit of a pause at the tail of the refrain. The tone of voice used is different; the chorus is strong yet desperate, but the rest is near falsetto, effectively effecting weakness without being effete. The best part of the song, however, is the lyrics. The words are very visual – drowning as a metaphor for being left behind – which makes it easy to empathize with vocalist Justin Furstenfeld. I can imagine myself in distress when he sings: I keep looking each direction for a spotlight, give me something, I need something for protection, Maybe flotsam junk will do just fine. These guys are sharp – almost smart. Congratulations is another pop masterpiece in the album. Featuring the breezy backing vocals of Imogen Heap, it is a passive take on the old story of a best friend's betrayal. There is no bitter anger or sarcasm, just a sad surrender to something he no longer has the strength to pursue. I can't change this, I can never take it back, But now I can't change your mind. Furstenfeld easily gets you on his side.

17 June 2006

let's make a list : narrated songs

Let's make a list of songs whose lyrics are entirely narrated instead of sung. So this excludes songs like Belong by R.E.M. where Not Michael Stipe – or maybe it is him, I can't tell – speaks the words and then Stipe goes all "Oooohhh" in the chorus. Here are three from my collection, and guess what? They're all Scots. (A note on the playback: the second song plays softer than the first and third. I don't know why that is, I encoded them at the same bit rate.)

the ghosts : money can't buy music
click here or on the image below to listen

This blog has been in a lull for a while, but this song made me want to write again and share it with you. What struck me most about The Ghosts is its powerful use of simple language to describe complex but universal feelings that perturb. In less than four minutes, Gordon McIntyre parades before us a lifetime of ghosts that live quietly at the back of our minds, memories that somehow nag us with the very regrets that we try to deny or conceal. I transcribed the lyrics the best I could; I could not find them on the web, not even his website. Which ghosts inhabit your lives? Mine are the ghosts of people I took for granted.

The Ghosts
Money Can't Buy Music

We all have our ghosts, and they're with us all the time, everywhere we go, enduring everything that we do. Some of them are people. Some of them are feelings or memories of past things, and some of them are just things. Some of them are the people that we were born instead of the ones who've missed out because of chance meetings at random times, between the parents and the grandparents that we know. The ones who had lives before us that we forget to ask about. They're the ones who were left behind by last-minute decisions, missed trains or one-more drinks or one-last drinks. They're the ones who are so close that we can feel them even now, everywhere we go.

But there are other ghosts too. The people that we loved but we didn't really know, or we knew them too late. The people that we loved that didn't love us back, or who loved us back too late. And then there's the other ones. The ones who loved us even beyond the point where we failed them. Even beyond the point where we gave them no reason to love us.

And the other loves. The secret ones. The ones that never took hold because of wrong places or wrong times, or just wrong somethings. They spawn a whole new generation of ghosts. And they are ghosts too. They’re never quite alive and they’re never quite dead. But they are real. They last and they endure. They live in the tiny moments. Accidental touches and the joys of looking, the joys of being close.

And they live in our eyes, and the hoping and the wishing. And they die in our hearts with the knowing and the hurting. But they're real loves. They last and they endure. And who's to say that secret loves are not the deepest loves of all? And though they live in our eyes and they die in our hearts, who's to say that secret loves are not the deepest loves of all?

a space boy dream : belle & sebastian
click here or on the image below to listen

This song is more fun to me than anything else. You just cannot make up a dream like this. I envy the level of detail in it – not just the visual ones, but the feelings associated with them. I'm always kidding on about going to Mars for the day, but faced with the reality of it, in a dream, I was terrified. If there's one thing I wish I had, it would be the ability to remember my dreams. Put simply, I just don't. I would wake up from a dream, often all bothered, but in literally a span of five seconds, I would lose all recollection of what it was about. My dreams are as transient as waves. They build up in slow motion, freeze for a split second the moment they come to their farthest reach, and then swifty pull back. Do you remember your dreams?

A Space Boy Dream
Belle & Sebastian

I dreamt I had to go to Mars. I'm always kidding on about going to Mars for the day, but faced with the reality of it, in a dream, I was terrified. And it wasn't going to be like a moon trip - there was three of us going, but we couldn't all go on the same ship; we had to go one at a time with a day between us. I had to go first, and it was the thought of passing through all that black space, all the darkness with nothing in it, and then being the first one to land there, all alone... I knew it was supposed to be all dark around, with just a red surface, but what if I got there and it was light, all civilised and populated and stuff? So I made a plan.

The other astronauts were gonna be my dad and my sister, and my dad would come first after me, so I decided when I landed I would just stay in my seat until he got there, and then we could get out together and have a look around and see what sort of things were there.

And when I woke up and I was lying in the darkness, I thought I had landed. And I just lay still for a while, waiting for my dad to get there too.

love detective : arab strap
click here or on the image below to listen

The Belle & Sebastian album where the previous song comes from is called The Boy With The Arab Strap. Interestingly, it bears the name of the band that did this song. I didn't think much of Love Detective at first. With its masked vocals and Scottish accent, good luck trying to understand it. Only after Googling its lyrics did I realize what a fascinating conversational narrative it is, about a man in the room of a one-night stand, discovering her sexual adventures in her diary, and realizing she's too much for his liking. That's something I have trouble understanding in a relationship. Why dig up the past knowlingly? It's like asking for trouble.
Love Detective
Arab Strap

We slept in this morning and she had to get ready in a hurry - no time for her usual attention to detail - and she ran out the door, slamming it behind her, leaving her keys swinging and jangling. I stayed in bed until I heard the downstairs door shut, then peeked through the blinds and as soon as she was out of sight, I went for the keys. She never tried to make a secret of the box or the fact it was locked or even where she kept it. But as I said at the time - "If you've nothing to hide, why hide it?"

It's one of those wee red cashbox things and she keeps it in a drawer by the bed, under some pictures and books. Every key she has is on the same keyring - it took me a while to find the right one. I don't know, I suppose I've had my doubts for a while. There's been hushed phone-calls virtually every night, her friends stop talking when I come in the room and they look at each other, and I don't know, it's just a feeling. Anyway, I eventually found the right key and it fitted perfectly in. I put the box on top of the bed and opened it up...

There were these pictures of friends and ex's, letters, postcards, doodles, nothing bad - and then I found some sort of sex diary and I went to the latest entry. It explicity detailed a recent adventure up the park with a boy she said she had forgotten about...

And it got worse as it went on. The dates never made sense, there were people I had never even heard of. Eventually I had to stop reading it because I started to feel sick. So I put everything back the way I found it, shut the drawer and phoned you. See, I don't know what to do. I keep having fantasies about leaving her dictaphone under the pillow or following her when she goes to work. I've been lying about where I'm going, just in case I can bump into her.

06 June 2006

filler post #87458956

I am around. Just been busy and distracted. Thanks for dropping by. Here are three heart-tugging songs from movies I saw not-so-recently but have been stuck with me. All three films are great too, especially Transamerica.

orange sky : alexi murdoch
click here or on the image below to listen

From the movie Paradise Now. Incidentally, Alexi Murdoch releases his full-length album, Time Without Consequence, today. It follows the success of his 2003 EP, Four Songs, where this song comes from.

kothbiro : ayub ogada
click here or on the image below to listen

From the movie The Constant Gardener

travelin' thru : dolly parton
click here or on the image below to listen

From the movie Transamerica