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Music Review

Canopy Glow by Anathallo

One of my favorite albums of the year:

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Over the last eight years they have been making music together, Anathallo’s sound has evolved slowly and subtly. Starting in 2001 with Luminous Luminescence in the Atlas Position and continuing with A Holiday at the Sea two years later, the band had adopted an almost avant garde twist to their orchestral indie flare. This trend continued with the Japanese folklore-centered Floating World in 2006. But in Canopy Glow, the band’s latest endeavor, their happy asymmetry has been slightly smoothed out in favor of a more streamlined yet still wholly original sound.

Still, the Anathallo touch remains strong in Canopy Glow. They follow the hypnotic opening track “Noni’s Field” with “Italo,” one of many tracks in which the dual male/female vocals from Matt Joynt and Erica Froman and the exceptional drumming lead the way. Other highlights include the flighty “John J. Audubon” and “Northern Lights,” which is a perfect example of art imitating life; the aurora borealis comes to life in this song’s droning glow.

The tone throughout Canopy Glow is relatively more somber than their previous works, especially Joynt’s vocals. The Chicago-based octet uses the piano and guitar in a much more traditional way than they have in the past, mixing a funky piano riff into the steady groove of “All the Same Pages.” It’s like they’re running for president: moving to the center while still holding on to some radical roots. In the end, though, it’s still the same Anathallo-the perfect mix of quirk, catchiness, and a whole lot of talent.

Categories
Film Music

No Direction Home

Just watched Martin Scorsese’s 2005 documentary No Direction Home about Bob Dylan and I loved it. A great, detailed history of the moment and the man.

I must admit that I have not really gotten into Dylan that much until recently. I have a few of his records on vinyl—Blonde on Blonde is definitely my favorite so far—but now I’m inspired to dig deeper into his work as well as that of his main inspiration, Woody Guthrie.

My growing love of folk music was also boosted by this film. I’m fascinated by folk music’s impact on the 1950s and 60s culture, Dylan being a big part of that impact.

Either way, I’d highly recommend the documentary if you love music, history, or America. Or all of the above as I do.

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Music

Good Listenin’

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a good two days for me musically. First, I got the debut CD from Carla Bruni, the French First Lady, called Quelqu’un M’a Dit from the library. I can’t understand a word of it, but I love the sexy folk style. Now I just have to find her most recent album.

But what makes me more excited than sexy folk music from France is the fourth album from Copeland called You Are My Sunshine. I got it free in the mail from Tooth & Nail because I write reviews for a college music magazine called Hear Say. I freaking loved Eat, Sleep, Repeat and so far I’m loving this new album. I get to see Copeland on tour along with Lovedrug in a few weeks in downtown Chicago (also for free). Good stuff.

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Music

You Are My Sunshine…

I just realized that I’ve written a bunch of posts in the last week or so. Oh, well. I guess there’s a lot to discuss.

Like this: Copeland will be releasing a new album! On October 14! It’s called You Are My Sunshine. It seems like I’ve been waiting for a long time for their follow-up to one of my all-time favorite records, Eat, Sleep, Repeat.

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Etc. God Life Music

Doing Unspeakable Acts To E.T.

I stopped by Half-Price Books the other day hoping to get lucky. After perusing the record collection as usual, I ventured into the clearance section. I’m a bad book buyer because I’m so indecisive and there are so many classics I have yet to read that I eventually get overwhelmed and end up not buying anything. But this time I managed to cross the bridge and buy some books.

I picked up Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies and a collection of Langston Hughes poetry. I’ve been on the lookout for a cheap Hughes collection ever since I read him in an American Literature class and fell in love with him. But Lamott’s book was a surprise and a bit of an impulse buy for me because I rarely buy anything without researching it before hand to avoid being disappointed and regretting departing with my cash.

I’d heard of Anne Lamott before. I think she visited my school to speak but I couldn’t go. But I decided to take a chance on her 1999 memoir because I heard that she was a liberal Christian. You don’t hear from them often.

I loved Traveling Mercies. I cruised through it, and I don’t do that often. Even though I’m an English major I have to really try to finish books. Most of the time I don’t even finish the assigned readings for my lit classes unless they catch me. But I clung to Lamott’s humor and sincerity and no-bullshit view on life. I can only hope to see the good in every part of life she does in spite of (and because of) the suffering she’s endured.

I loved how she can be so freaking funny in moments of complete confusion or distress. She describes the feeling of hitting your child: “It’s so awful, attacking your child. It is the worst thing I know, to shout loudly at this fifty-pound being with his huge trusting brown eyes. It;s like bitch-slapping E.T.”

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been reading at camp, which is over this week. To make a big life lesson so very concise: I’ve learned a lot about humility and patience.

I’ve got the new Coldplay album on steady rotation. Check it out. Also the song “You’ll Always Be My Best Friend” by Relient K off their new EP/B-sides record The Bird and the Bee Sides.

On a less happy note, what’s the deal with Favre? Notice I blame him and not the Packers for this soap opera. I’m starting to wish he never retired, despite what I wrote shortly after he did so. Oh, well. Rodgers is our man. Get used to it Cheeseheads.

Categories
Music

Soundtrack of the moment, part III

Haven’t done one of these in a while. Since the last one, I’ve tightened my music collection dramatically so as to eliminate the stuff I don’t listen to, as well as the stuff I had just for the sake of having. Here it goes…

“I’m Waiting for the Day” – The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
Pet Sounds has grown on me. At first I thought it was overrated, but after repeated listenings, O can’t get enough of it. Now if I can only get the vinyl…

“Your Mother Should Know” – The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour
Such a catchy melody. Tight composition and easy to listen to over and over again.

“Prelude/Angry Young Man” – Billy Joel – Turnstiles
I’m so glad I’ve discovered more of Billy Joel’s catalogue. His late 70s music is among the best of all pop music.

“Jesus” – Brand New – The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me
From a former pop punk rock band comes this thoughtful, heavy-hitting tune in an album worthy of decade-best lists. A great spiritual song from a great rock band.

“The Greatest” – Cat Power – The Greatest
I’ve just gotten into female singer-songwriters and I’m lovin’ ever minute of it! Down to the bare bones, a la the Plastic Ono Band.

“Rubylove” – Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat
Again with the singer-songwriters. This just goes to show that all you really need is a guitar or piano and a voice to make really good music. Check out any of Cat’s stuff.

“You Are My Joy” – David Crowder Band – A Collision or (3+4=7)
Listened to this album all the time at summer camp. It flows together well and provides the usual Crowder kick in the upbeat songs, as well as the deep thoughts in the slower ones.

“When Your Mind’s Made Up” – Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova – Once
Such a brilliant movie. Since it’s basically a musical, the songs make it what it is. This song is quite powerful and driving, but you need to see the movie and buy the soundtrack. I hope ‘Falling Slowly’ gets an Oscar nod, and hopefully a win.

“Bring on the Lucie (Freda Peeple) – John Lennon – Mind Games
Basically all of John’s solo stuff is great, but this song is especially catchy. I finally have the vinyl as well.

“Potato’s in the Paddy Wagon” – the Main Street Singers – A Mighty Wind soundtrack
I think I heard the soundtrack before I saw the movie, but both are awesome. I just love this song’s groove and altogether folksy spirit.

“Man We Was Lonely” – Paul McCartney – McCartney
This was the solo album that was released right after the Beatles broke up, and pre-Wings, so it’s good. All the songs are acoustic and stripped down, which is good.

“Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” – Peter, Paul & Mary – Album 1700
I didn’t know PPM did this song. I love this kind of stuff.

“Videotape” – Radiohead – In Rainbows
I’m no Radiohead snob, but it’s a great album overall. I paid a few bucks for it on their website because I wanted to be legit, and I also wanted to reward them for sticking it to the recording industry.

“Political Science” – Randy Newman – Sail Away
This song was written in the 1970s, but it is still all too relevant today. Plus, I love Randy Newman. His voice is quite off sometimes, but having just piano and voice for most of it is a plus for me.

“America” – Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends
Yet another ridiculous catchy S&G tune. I could listen to their albums all day.

“Island” – The Starting Line – Direction
I didn’t think they could top their previous album, but Direction is just flat-out good. It’s different enough from their past work to be progress, yet it sticks to what’s worked in the past, so it succeeds on every level.

“Sir Duke” – Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life
We played this in pep band. It’s such a fun song. I haven’t delved too far into Stevie’s music, but I will eventually.

Categories
Music

Art for art’s sake

“We make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made; and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Art for art’s sake. What a concept. So what if the song I’m listening to doesn’t mention Jesus or discuss Christian philosophy? It’s still a song, a piece of art. Why can’t it be appreciated as so?

In the latest issue of Relevant magazine, Aaron Marsh, the lead singer of Copeland, says that “inspiration is too abstract to pin down. There are a lot of things that influence the lyrics or melodies.” You don’t have to be listening to a worship song or writing lyrics based on Scripture to be inspired.

“In the end,” the article concludes, “it’s all just music–good music–but just music, all the same.”

Amen.

Categories
Music

the darndest thing

I love being powerless to art.

I can listen to a song, but I can’t choose how it affects me. Sometimes a song makes me feel the darndest thing. For instance, I was listening to the Fergie song “Big Girls Don’t Cry” on the way to a bowling outing with some very rambunctious RA buddies.

So, so far we have Fergie + rambunctious, dancing-in-their-seat ladyfriends. Not always my best formula for a heart-rendering moment.

But there I was, in the middle back seat of a huge caravan, actually getting into a Fergie song. It’s mostly the chordal structure and back beat. There is definitely a formula for creating the perfect pop song–damned if I know it. But that’s why they hire professional songwriters. They know how to make a song. Who cares if it’s sung by a trashy, no-talent diva–at this moment, I like something in what I hear. I’m powerless.

It’s a strange, yet oddly cathartic feeling. A song comes on, and you have a spiritual awakening. I love it. It’s a moment in time, in space, in God, that makes some dissonance in your life resolve. No matter where you are, it will find you. And that’s sweet, basically.

Categories
Life Music

the intersection

“What direction now? Life begins at the intersection.” – Switchfoot

This lyric smacked me right in the face. What direction now? What are you doing to do now? Which path are you going to choose?

When you’re staring down your options, burning holes with your eyes, which way? What direction now? Are you going to stand up to the darkness, the unknown, the fear? Or are you going to embrace mediocrity, complacency, unproductivity?

What direction now?

It’s your decision, make it the best one. Stand up and decide. What direction now?

Categories
Music

Soundtrack of the moment, part II

These are some songs I’m listening to. I think you should too.

“Lost in Space” – Aimee Mann – Lost In Space
Such a hauntingly beautiful song. Imagine driving through the desert at night with this whole album on repeat and you have an awesome musical experience.

“Seize the Day” – Alan Menken – Newsies soundtrack
Man, I love this movie. If you haven’t seen it and loved it, I will fight you.

“Hoodwink” – Anathallo – Floating World
What a mind-blowing album. These dudes mold music into forms never seen before.

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
Their later stuff is way better than the surf rock stuff they started out with. Check out the entire album.

“Come Together” – The Beatles – Abbey Road
One of the coolest and most memorable openers I’ve ever heard.

“Jesusland” – Ben Folds – Songs for Silverman
What can I say? The dude knows how to make good music.

“Trolley Song” – Dave Brubeck – Greatest Hits
Sounds exactly as the title suggests. This guy is a piano player if I’ve ever heard one.

“Break on Through” – The Doors – The Doors
This song always reminds me of Forrest Gump.

“Tiny Dancer” – Elton John – Madman Across the Water
Of Almost Famous fame. A really catchy song from a gifted musician, however odd he may be.

“Belle” – Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams
This just puts you in a street cafe in Paris. It’s almost too good a song.

“Mother” – John Lennon – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
You can tell that it’s a cathartic song for John. I highly recommend all of his solo work, especially Imagine and Mind Games.

“Waiting on the World to Change” – John Mayer – Continuum
Am I a sell out if I like John Mayer and his ridiculously catchy tunes? Oh well, it’s a good song with an honest message.

“God’s Gonna Cut You Down” – Johnny Cash – American V: A Hundred Highways
The man’s a straight-up badass. This is his last album and a damn good one at that. You can hear the pain in his voice and feel the ache in his fingers.

“Money” – Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
In an album that’s basically half instrumental, this song shines through as one of the best.

“When She Loved Me” – Sarah McLachlan – Toy Story 2 soundtrack
Man, this song just killed me. An incredible addition to a near-perfect film. If you aren’t in tears by the end, you have no soul.

“Deathbed” – Relient K – Five Score and Seven Years Ago
I’m in the minority that think that this album is not their best, in fact, a far weaker effort than mmHmm. But this epic masterpiece stands out amongst the other forgettable songs.

“Cecilia” – Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water
One of the many infectious folk-rock tunes they created. Get all the albums.

“Zoo Station” – U2 – Achtung Baby
I’ve never been a gigantic U2 fan, but I really liked this album.

“Roundabout” – Yes – Fragile
A great mix of classical, 70s rock, and psychedelia.