Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Back in your head...

To be fair, I became familiar with Tegan and Sara pretty late. It wasn't until The Con that I really started investigating their music. They have unique voices that I thought might drive me nuts if I listened to a full album, but I couldn't have been more wrong. I went to their concert here in LA a number of months ago and was pleasantly surprised at what amazing performers they were. Engaging with the audience, entering into a dialogue with them, it felt like a much more intimate performance than it was.

The first Tegan and Sara songs that got me curious were Where Does the Good Go? and Walking With a Ghost. The candid and blunt lyrics combined with the melodic harmonies of Where Does the Good Go? was refreshing. Instead of dancing around what we want to hear from a significant other, they just lay it out there. No fancy metaphors needed. As one who tends to be more blunt in nature than passive, it appealed to me. In a similar way, the stripped down pop tone of Walking With a Ghost seemed to be a clean slap to modern pop music. Instead of being overwhelmed with synthesizers and other layers of sounds that don't come out of a typical instrument, there is restraint in the use of something other than a guitar and drums. The guitar riffs are quick, deliberate, and distinct.

When Back in Your Head started making the rounds of Los Angeles radio my ears perked again. Their distinctive style seemed more polished than ever and compelled me to finally download the albums So Jealous and The Con as an introduction to their music. I now consider myself a full Tegan and Sara convert. Their songs are intense, direct and a welcome dose of candor in an environment that seems more akin to romantic comedy musings.

Nineteen - Tegan and Sara

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Anecdote of uncool

Let me start by saying that I have met a celebrity or two and been in complete control of my composure. With that said, the complete opposite happened when I came face to face with one of my favorite bands, Nada Surf.

The show was on March 19th of this year and had Nada Surf as the headliner with Sea Wolf opening. I had been loving Sea Wolf since first hearing the single You're a Wolf and was really enjoying the whole album Leaves in the River. I can best describe Alex Church's music as easy-going with a hint of melancholy, like that of an introduction to a Southern childhood narrative; moving slow with a faraway look as the story unfolds. I think it is the string arrangements that give the music this slow gait, but an insistent guitar gives it a contradictory sense of urgency. It was refreshing to see Alex working his own merch table as I walked into the theater and the set that followed was amazing. Simple yet clear, powerful yet controlled, it was a perfect compliment to Nada Surf.

Then there was Nada Surf. I must admit that I have been a fan of this band since the song Inside of Love poured out of my stereo's speakers in my first year of college. I have been to a few Nada Surf concerts in my day, but this one definitely surpassed them all. Matthew's lyrics are haunting yet familiar in See These Bones, the perfect soundtrack for a good day in Beautiful Beat, simplistic in narrating the quiet in The Film Did Not Go 'Round. With the new album, Lucky leading the charge while songs from Let Go, The Weight is a Gift, and The Proximity Effect provided support the show was nothing short of amazing. It will be tough to top, but I'm anxious for them to try.

Having obtained two wristbands to the meet-and-greet after the show by sheer luck (and a really really nice merch girl!), my friend Alexis and I made our way upstairs to the patio that features a fantastic view of Hollywood Blvd. Now, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I've met a few celebrities while living in Los Angeles. They have been actors, mostly and I've never had a problem putting together a complete and cohesive sentence. However, when speaking with Matthew and the rest of the band this elementary skill somehow became difficult. Thank goodness for my amazing pal Alexis for helping me hold it together, but I think that is one of the first times in my life where I can say I was utterly beside myself with awe. I had a chance to have a one on one conversation with Matthew (which I hope to repeat sometime more articulately), a chat with the thoroughly entertaining Ira, and a brief but appreciated Thank You exchange with Daniel. I have to say that this has officially made it into my top 10 life moments. They were humble and conversational, so easy to approach and talk to.

On top of all that I had a chance to say hi to Alex Church of Sea Wolf on my way out. It was an excellent way to round out one of my favorite nights of 2008.

If you haven't had a chance to check out Nada Surf and Sea Wolf I encourage you to do so! Here is a little sampling below.

Youre A Wolf - Sea Wolf

Beautiful Beat - Nada Surf

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Funkier Than a Mosquito's Tweeter

If any of you were unfortunate enough to watch some of last season’s American Idol, then you were forced to endure many tragic renditions of the song “Feeling Good.” Now, I don’t know about you, but it made me a little sad to hear many of the auditioners say, “Michael Buble’s, Feeling Good.” I thought it was common knowledge that Nina Simone’s version was the far more superior and well-known recording. While she didn’t write the song (it was originally written for the 1965 musical The Roar of the Greasepaint) and she wasn’t even the first artist to cover the original recording (John Coltrane beat her to it), in my humble opinion she just kills the song like I’ve heard no other.

Hearing Nina Simone’s recording of “Feeling Good” again on the soundtrack for the show Six Feet Under (Six Feet Under, Vol. 2: Everything Ends) sparked my curiosity. Her voice is hardly that of a typical soul songstress such as Aretha Franklin or Gladys Knight. It has the power of a soul singer behind it, but there is also a bluesy melancholy and subtleness to it that sets her apart. Sometimes known as the High Priestess of Soul, she was not only a singer but also a songwriter, pianist, arranger and civil rights activist.

Fortunately Michael Buble hasn’t been the only artist influenced by Ms. Simone lately. The lesser-known Nina Simone song “Sea Lion Woman” appears on Feist’s most recent album The Reminder. Only Feist doesn’t just cover the track, she re-interprets it. Modernizing the song by adding an electric guitar, some pulse driving claps, along with a break that insists you get out of your chair and MOVE; the song starts to resemble something of an anthem for the independent woman of the 21st century.

Another great Nina Simone discovery has been the album Remixed and Reimagined. It features some classic standards with Nina Simone on vocals and various DJs creating a new way of listening to a unique voice. One track that particularly stands out is the song “Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter.” You can feel the influence of James Brown-style funk and soul, the occasional appearance of a modern hip hop downbeat along with the sass that drips from Nina Simone’s voice makes this track particularly interesting. Another track worth experiencing is “Here Comes the Sun.” Given a light, ethereal remix you can almost picture yourself walking in a park on a sunny day, or dancing in the middle of a crowded floor with this pouring out of the speakers. As for the last track on the album, I just won’t even spoil it. You have to listen for yourself.

Funkier Than A Mosquitos Tweeter (Jazzeems All Styles Remix) - Nina Simone