Iron and wine, Dustin Tebbutt : thanks for reminding me that I’m “indie folk” above all else

It’s been about two years since I posted here! Time sure flies by fast. So how can I mark this glorious comeback? Maybe by going back to the roots.

I’ve been a music lover ever since I can remember. When I was ten, my parents bought me a radio-cassette player and it completely changed my life. I’d hear a song that I liked playing on the kitchen radio while my parents were making dinner, and I’d run upstairs to my room like a mad person to press the record button. The sound quality was awefull and I could hear the DJ’s voice over the first or last 10 seconds of the song… but it was soooo worth it. I made countless mixed tapes since then, which remain, in my view, the best compilations ever and I still listen to them, once in a while. As a teenager and young adult, I worked (if you can call it work 🙂 ) at the school’s, then the university’s radio station where I had access to local demo tapes (very bad audio, once again, but these local bands were intense, so it doesn’t matter, right?). I listened to so many songs, so many styles… “as long as it’s good” is what I used to say to people asking me what type of music I liked. Songs accompanied me always, through good times and bad times (especially bad times).

Ah, the good old days.

After having kids, while still listening to music, I slowed down and lowered the sound a little, to be able to hear their shy and cute baby voices. Work and everything else got more intense and I’d basically just crawl up to bed every night dead tired. That, coupled with the fact that I am utterly useless with technology (I concluded that IT hates me) so even the easiest thing nano Ipod or whatnot would die out on me after a while. And yet, lately, it’s been irritating me. It’s been getting under my skin. I want to listen to something new, something good. Something that will really catch my interest, like back then.

Now, thanks to those youtubers who post really great music compilations, out of the blue, I found a few wonderful indie bands that I had never heard of before.

Dustin Tebbutt is an australian singer-songwriter, who’s debut EP “The Breach” has met critically acclaim, and for good reason. The eponym song is haunting, in a good way. It flows smoothly… and endlessly, since I listen to it on repeat. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to something on repeat.

Iron and Wine is an american singer-songwriter who already released several albums, and some of them were extremely well-received by critics, notably the wonderful “Our endless numbered days”. This talented and charismatic bearded fellow has apparently lived though a difficult time in the bible belt where he was raised, but came out of it with a very open and mature philosophy, as quoted in the Telegraph : “That was a confusing time for me, but I don’t miss being misled. I’m not an atheist. There’s an undeniable unseen world that some people call God and think they know more about than other people. I try not to get hung up on the names.” Well said, my friend. In these days of uncertainty and fear, your openness is welcome. So is your music!

I’m adding these two to my list, and if I can make it through my mourning period following the death of Leonard Cohen, I’ll expand my musical research and listen to their other, more recent CDs, and share the results.

Greatings and salutations to all WordPress bloggers!

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Amazing Music Videos : Around the World by Daft Punk

A great music video usually builds on the strenght(s) of the song – powerful lyrics, intense vocal/musical performance, overall atmosphere, … –  to enhance it and convey emotions. That may be why so many successful music video directors are also movie directors. It’s the same idea in film, where directors enhance a script by creatively building on its strenghts.

But one might wonder how a music video director can succeed in enhancing, say, something like “club” music?…  I usually listen to singer/songwriters, so to me, getting inspired by beats and a few repetitive lyrics, however catchy they are, poses somewhat of a challenge… Yet, this Amazing Music Videos list already featured two success stories: Weapon of Choice and Praise you by Fatboy Slim, both directed by Spike Jonze. The video for “Around the World”, by French electronic band Daft Punk, is another great example.

The creative mind of French director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Human Nature, several wonderful Bjork videos) came up with a world where squeletons, mommies, synchronized swimmers, robots, and giant though small-headed athletes dance around together on a vinyl record in a disco-style setting. The idea is quite simple: each group of dancers represent a specific sound/rythm. It’s a visual representation of the song itself. Clever indeed.

With the artistic direction Gondry and his team had taken, the thing they absolutely couldn’t afford to miss was the dancing. And they didn’t, it is very well-executed. The jerky moves fit really well with both the song and the characters portrayed (athough the mommies’ smooth moves at 1:28 is a memorable part of the choreography).

The overall result is a completely hypnotic video, which will make you “see” the song in a new light, so to speak.

 

Fleetwood Mac: From Then Till Now

I have been listening a lot to Fleetwood Mac these days… perhaps because Christine McVie finally came back for their new tour, perhaps because Stevie Nicks released a new album, perhaps because for some reason I finally saw their 1997 live show “The dance” and I got totally into it and became a bit nostalgic… But perhaps, it’s mainly because I went back, way back, to their early years, back when this band was composed of only british people playing some pretty nice blues-rock tunes. Peter Green sounds SO great (both vocally and musically, on the guitar). Really, what a bluesman.

And then, many talented musicians came and went, and two fiery americans ended up completing this band, which then created history with their music, their intriguing and charismatic personas, and their bizarre (dare I say disfunctional?) yet very productive group dynamics.

So they are all in their sixties/seventies now, and they seem to be enjoying themselves and each other a lot more now that they’re older, wiser, sober, and that some of that famous heavy emotional bagage has disapeared or at least toned down. Indeed, the intensity and pain in Lindsey Buckingham’s 77 live performance of “Go your own way” is palpable.

And if you watch interviews and documentaries like “Destiny rules” about the recording of their 2003 “Say you will” album, you can see that the lasting “tension”, especially between Stevie Nicks and Buckingham, is not just a gimmick for the fans. While it is obvious that the band and/or their managers like to exploit the Nicks/Buckingham so-called neverending soap opera, I personally don’t mind it because I think there is a genuine connection there that allows for some wonderful emotional performances, such as the ones on “The dance” live album/DVD, the band’s first live show in ten years (aside from the presidential campain of course). Buckingham once said that, as they wrote much of their songs about each other but never really reunited after their break up, Nicks and himself get to “live out their love affair on stage”. That’s the feeling I get while listening to “Silver springs” live : the ending is so intense on Nicks’ part, it’s almost scary. Scary, but great!

Lindsey Buckingham is underrated, he is a great musician (plus he gets points in my book for playing the old fashion way – no guitar pick!).

As good as “The dance” is (their vocal harmonies are better than ever), to me, the 70’s performances remain the greatest. They feature long versions of the songs we love, played and sung with fury and raw emotion, which pulls at the heartstrings.

That being said, I’m very glad I discovered the oldies too as I’m a big blues-rock fan, and I encourage you to check them out as well.

More Fleetwood Mac videos (“The Chain” and “Rihannon”) in this previous post: https://songsuneedtohear.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/a-few-70s-songs-by-fleetwood-mac/

Welcome the new year with La bottine souriante!

So long 2014! While preparing to welcome in 2015, I thought I’d share some wonderful festive music which we particularly enjoy here in Québec to ring in the new year.

“La bottine souriante” was created in 1976 and is mostly known for its wonderful rendition of Québec traditional music. Songs from the first few decades featured vocal harmonies, accordeons, guitars, pianos, harmonicas, mandolins, and crazy foot works! Indeed, in addition to Yves Lambert’s distinctive voice and accordeon playing, “La bottine souriante” included insane foot rythms by Michel Bordeleau, a great addition to this upbeat music which will have you dancing in no time.

Québec folk music is influenced among other things by old French songs and celtic music. In more recent years, the band explored some new sounds, widened their brass section and added some jazz elements and world beats. “La bottine souriante” is a hit here in the province, but the band also played in France and around the world. The group won several prizes including a BBC Folk Award in 1999.

I saw them live about 10 years ago and it was one of the best shows I had ever seen (and I have seen a few). It took perhaps two or three songs to get the crowd fired up to the point that there wasn’t anyone left sitting on their seat. Below is a live show from 1998, so dance the night away!

Happy new year to all!

Amazing Music Videos: November rain by Guns N Roses

This 9-minute long epic video of a classic song by American hard rock band Guns N Roses tells the story of a couple getting married surrounded by family and friends, in what seems like a beautiful dream, only to see it all come to a brutal halt when death tears the couple apart and drives the man insane (through raging insomnia). A bit dark and depressing you say? But is it, in fact, reality or a nightmare?

The video features Axl Rose and his girlfriend of the time, model Stephanie Seymour, as well as all of the band members who are seen attending the wedding, and performing live in a theater with an orchestra.

Remember how incredibly frustrating it was when radio stations would only play the first few minutes of the song and stop right before the intense part, which everyone loved most? But that did encourage people to watch the video in order to enjoy the entire song and see the poor lovers’ fate when everything crashes and burns (or rather drowns). The “November rain” video won the “Best cinematography” award at the MTV VMAs. Incidentally, it reminds me of the 80’s decade when videos were often structured as movies, telling a complete story with the singer/frontman(woman) as the protagonist (Pat Benetar and Cindy Lauper videos come to mind instantly). The themes addressed here, however, and the really dark undertones, are very 90’s.

“November rain” appears on the twin release “Use your illusion I/II” which were great subsequent albums to the fierce (and awesome) “Appetite for destruction” which introduced the band to the world. I’ll post about that CD eventually.

Andrew Morahan who directed this video, also directed several other GnR’s videos, as well as videos from many other artists including Simple Minds, Ozzy Osbourne, George Michael/Wham!, Pet Shop Boys, The Human League, and AC/DC. I have not seen all of his work, but, at first view, this video distinguishes itself as one of his most memorable ones. I believe it also introduced the band to a wide – really wide- audience; hearts softened as Axl played classical piano, smiled at the priest, and suffered after a lost love, and Slash acted like a cute goofy ring bearer… this after Guns N Roses completely tore the place apart with Appetite for destruction. But it’s ok, this is no easy power-ballad, “November rain” is a great song.

Ultimate highlight of this video for me: Slash going out of the chapel to play his solo in the middle of the desert. 😉

 

 

 

Amazing Music Videos: March of the pigs by Nine Inch Nails

Sometimes, less is more. Directed by Peter Christospherson, this video features an intense live performance by industrial alternative rock band Nine Inch Nails, filmed apparently in one take, in a bare room with white walls. Quite simple, in fact, but in such a minimalist setting, you absolutely can not fake your way through. You HAVE to be that good and to give it your all. And what can I say, it turned out great. It’s genuine. It’s noisy. It’s raw. It’s perfect.

Again, clearly you don’t necessarily need bling bling or oversized budgets to make a great video. What you need is a good idea, and to remain authentic.

Trent Reznor is slamming all over the place, into fellow musicians, throwing his mic around… and crew members keep coming in at just the right time so that everything can go smoothly. Great vid. Seeing it again makes me want to listen to their 90’s classic album “The downward spiral”. I bet, contrary to what some may have thought back then, that it has aged very well. Trent Reznor is a great songwriter and deserves to be recognized as such. I encourage you to listen closely to the lyrics and see for yourself!

 

 

 

Amazing Music Videos: Hurt by Johnny Cash

Let me apologize for waiting this long to post about this incredible work of art! A strong candidate for the number one spot in my Amazing Music Video series.

The adventure began with yet another incredible idea to come out of the brain of famous bearded genius Rick Rubin, a prolific and very influential producer who is responsible for several of the most important albums of the last few decades. Johnny Cash, now in his 60’s-70’s, had been working with Rubin on the American Recordings series: the AR albums comprise new versions of famous songs by american songwriters. On the fourth american recordings record, intitled “The Man Comes Around”, Johnny Cash performs a stunning and unforgettable version of alternative rock band Nine Inch Nails’s iconic song “Hurt”. Using the same strong lyrics (aside from the removal of one little word), he made the song his own and took it in a different direction, as an old man emotionally looking back on his life. While many I’m sure dismissed the raw alternative NIN song right off the bat were then surprised and blown away by it, once they let Johnny Cash do the storytelling (which, incidentally, is also relatively common with Rick Rubin’s albums – he breaks the frontiers of genres and brings out a performance that can be understood by a wide audience).

Directed by Mark Romanek, this video has nothing to do with “blingbling” or what not. It’s not about escaping reality by daydreaming about obscene wealth and fame and nonstop lapdancing (sigh…). It is a naked portrait of a legendary figure in music, now in his 70’s and in fragile health, looking back on his life and career as the “hell-raiser man in black”.  It’s an incredibly moving video, which won best cinematography at the MTV awards; Romanek really should have taken home the best video awards but he lost to Missy Elliot… at least he didn’t lose to 50 cents’s In da club! That was the year of the famous Britney-Madonna kiss too… but let’s rejoice that somehow out of this could rise a wonderful work of art which will stand the test of time (unlike others who shall remain nameless).

I heard someone say once that this video is like a baroque painting. What do you think? Here goes:

PS. If you haven’t seen my “Hurt – original vs cover song battle” between Nine Inch Nails and Johnny Cash, I invite you to take a look and make your choice (if you can, it’s a heartbreaking choice!) : https://songsuneedtohear.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/hurt-vs-hurt-nin-vs-johnny-cash/