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Serpents in my mind. Are playing video games.

18 Mar

Serpents. Video Games.  These words are connected right now inside my head.

Maybe it’s because as words they sound kinda cool together.

Or maybe it’s because they form the titles of two new songs, both put out by artists with similar-sounding vocal styles, and by women with similar sounding names.

Or maybe it’s because as two women in music, Sharon Van Etten and Lana Del Rey couldn’t be any more different.

And it struck me.

When I first heard Del Ray’s Video Games on a live YouTube clip, I was transfixed — captivated by her nearly perfect beauty, her throaty Nancy Sinatra-esque voice, her ghetto fab earrings, her quivering sexuality. I felt like she had emerged from a 1960s women’s magazine, slapped on some acrylic nails, fake lashes and a gold chain, and picked up the mic to sing as an anachronism in the most natural way.

I found this especially captivating because, as we all know, time travel is most unnatural.

After falling asleep that night I also dreamed of being in his favourite sun dress, watching me get undressed, take that body downtown. Ah. To feel sexy in one’s own sleep through song. Magnificent!

But the more I listened to Video Games, the less I realized I could identify with the lyrics. I could not attach myself at all to the meaning or the message. It’s just so bloody submissive. Case and point:

“It’s you, it’s you, it’s all for you
Everything I do
I tell you all the time
Heaven is a place on earth with you

Tell me all the things you want to do
I heard that you like the bad girls
Honey, is that true? “

Oh, I see.

It’s you. It’s you. It’s all for you?
Everything I do?

Hm. I don’t think that’s true.

Needless to say, months after first hearing this song on YouTube I am still reacting to Lana Del Rey’s ridiculous songwriting inside my head. She’s just so… dormant. Bah. It irritates me.

As Pitchfork reviewer Lindsay Zoladz so articulately wrote,

“… the sexual politics of Born to Die are troubling too: You’d be hard pressed to find any song on which Del Rey reveals an interiority or figures herself as anything more complex than an ice-cream-cone-licking object of male desire.”

Too perfect.

Sharon Van Etten, on the other hand, my god what a magnificent woman.

She is so deep and fragile and strong. She exhibits a simple, pared-down beauty, with her face partly hidden by a curtain of dark chin-length hair. Apparently, Van Etten’s college boyfriend in Tennessee “told her she was shit, hid her guitar, and shoved her back home to New Jersey,” so a great many songs off her previous albums were written in reaction to this toxic relationship. But on her latest album Tramp I can really feel her strength and confidence emerging.

It grows like a sprout throughout my headphones.

Or rather, it’s like Van Etten’s an abused animal gingerly reaching out for love. Because she finally realizes the next blow just isn’t coming.

She’s found her voice and it sounds incredible.

“You enjoy sucking on dreams
so I will fall asleep with someone other than you
I had a thought you would take me seriously
And listen on

Serpents in my mind
I am searching for your crimes
Everything changes
In time”

In terms of imagery, this piece of writing is stunning. It’s active, incongruent, disorienting, like a dream that feels disturbingly close to reality. Or like a living nightmare.

As a piece of psychoanalysis, it’s dark, honest and aware. Her song is about herself.

It’s also about a man, yes, but it’s not about becoming everything a man wants. She is so so so much more than that.

Add a dose of incredible drumming by Matt Barrick of The Walkmen (love) and what you get is a raw, vividly emotive track barbed with bitter lyrics, passionate vocals and heavy-handed guitar — plus the accompaniment of drums dripping with male focus in an almost desperate attempt at simplicity and forward momentum.

I love it. I love it. I love it.

I’ve listened to it dozens of times on my iPhone and I find more in it each and every time. I’m going to see her play with War on Drugs at The Biltmore on March 24 and I could not be more excited. I can’t wait to close my eyes and let Van Etten’s serpents invade my mind.

Maybe she will find some of my crimes?

In conclusion I will leave you with the lyrics for Serpents, which I think are just as brilliant as Van Etten’s voice sounds as it’s crooning out:

It was a close call
Sitting in the back of the room
with a bowl you had owned,
But they didn’t know.
Close in on my black eye.
I feel safe at times.
Certain emblems
Tell me it’s time

Serpents in my mind
Looking for your crimes
Everything changes
I don’t want mine to this time

You enjoy sucking on dreams
so I will fall asleep with someone other than you
I had a thought you would take me seriously
And listen on

Serpents in my mind
I am searching for your crimes
Everything changes
In time

You’ll stay frozen in time
Collaging girls,
Controlling minds.
You hold the mirror well
To everybody else

Serpents in my mind
Trying to forgive your crimes
Everyone changes in time.
I hope he changes this time.

HIGH ROTATION 2011 – My best o’ the year mix

5 Feb

It’s 2012! Time to take stock of the past year and determine which artists and bands contributed most to my love of music and my optimism for future tunes. Though 2012 is upon us, I’m still tying up loose ends from 2011. I managed to get my High Rotation done in time for Christmas but I’m a bit late with posting it online. I actually had two versions this year, which I try never to do, but I ran out of listening time and made V1 too quickly. Of course then I end up regretting taking specific tracks off, and putting other tracks on, but that’s another story.

It always happens this way. In December I’m met with a deluge of tracks/albums/mixtapes to sift through because all the “Best of” lists come out and I don’t want to miss anything important. But I always do. Case and point: Pretty Lights and Phantogram had great albums in 2010 and I didn’t know till recently! Gah!

Nevermind. It irritates me when other people are full of regrets so I won’t indulge in this too much. Suffice it to say that I’m happy to know what I know when I know about it.

For those who aren’t aware, my High Rotation is a tracklist containing a selection of my highest-played songs that squeaks in just under 80 mins. Keep in mind these are my fave tracks of the year. For fave albums, see below “Top Ten Albums of 2011.”

I like to make this mix each year for two reasons: 1.) I can’t stand when people say there’s no new, good music anymore. There is! So much more than you or I will ever know. 2.) I love to listen to and talk about music, so if I spread this love via the Internet or CD, then we will have even more to bond over!

So let’s get started.

Here are the Top Ten Albums of 2011 – According to me:

(And yes, they are in a specific order)

Note: The Artists’ name links to their web page; the album name links to their album on iTunes, if available.

1.) Austra Feel it Break (Deluxe Edition)

In a word: Supernatural

Perfect for: Transcending time and space inside your head. Elevating life’s simple doldrums to the ranks of gods and superheroes. Lightning bolts! Thunder clouds! Crashing waves! Life cannot be boring set to this otherworldly, epic score.  The Deluxe Version includes the most beautiful rendition of Roy Orbison’s Crying that I’ve ever heard, and this is coming from a huge fan of Mullholland Drive. Best of the year for sure.

2.) M83 Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

In a word: Creative

Perfect for: Coming up with new ideas. Put this on while making things and you’ll be quite surprised at what you turn out. Listen to Raconte-moi une histoire and try not to create something new and interesting. I dare you! The entire album vibrates with a high, fevered emotional pitch. Oh, and Midnight City is the best song of 2011 — full stop.

3.) SBTRKT – SBTRKT

In a word: Party

Perfect for: Shakin’ alla whatcha got. I went to Burning Man in 2011 and was totally overwhelmed by the massive amount of electronic music I took in all day, every day, for seven days straight. I would get on and off the various art cars, grinning from ear to ear, but still wishing for something a little different in terms of music. If SBTRKT had an art car there, I would’ve never gotten off.

4.) Pretty Lights I Know the Truth (single)

In a word: Confident

Perfect for: Getting. Shit. Done. Whether it’s asking for something you want, telling some crazy bitch to eff off, sticking up for yourself at work, or thoughtfully articulating your boundaries to a friend — put this track on and you will have no fear. Or better yet, “no mercy.”

5.) Kurt Vile Smoke Ring for my Halo

In a word: Affection

Perfect for: Sitting alone, thinking about the people you love and why you love them: their idiosyncratic tics; the way their eyes crinkle at the corners when they smile; their pitch of their voice that is totally distinctive; the way they look when the sun hits their face. Put this on and think about who you love, and why. Then tell them.

6.) Bon Iver Bon Iver

In a word: Relaxation

Perfect for: Clearing the cobwebs outta your brain, or visiting the spa inside your mind. It feels like recumbent relaxation with cucumbers on your eyes while a lovely person gives you a foot massage. Self-pampering at it’s finest.

7.) Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues

In two words: Growth and reflection

Perfect for: Pondering your unique place in the world. Reaching a new level of self-awareness. Getting older and realizing this eternal struggle comes with the priceless gift of inner wisdom. Ah!

8.) The Weeknd – House of Balloons

In a word: Sensual

Perfect for: Seeking out sensory pleasures when you know they’re bad for you. Sort of like a random hook-up with an ex, or staying out too late when you know you have stuff to do the next day. You’ll pay, but dammit it was fun at the time.

9.) Elite Gymnastics Ruin

In a word: Daydream

Perfect for: Zoning out on cars or buses, watching the world whiz by while your thoughts float back and forth. Or dancing by yourself at 4 am after everybody’s left the party, staring at your sparkly toenail polish and wondering how it all got to be so complicated.

10.) Mexicans with Guns Ceremony

In a word: Progress

Perfect for: Taking disparate things and meshing them together to create something new and brilliant. Also perfect for reneging on past statements like, “I don’t listen to dubstep.” When I say something like this out loud I usually end up taking it back soon after. Thank goodness!

Also check out this guy’s crazy/disturbing videos based on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain. Some seriously twisted stuff.

In four words: GO BUY THESE PLEEZ!

To conclude, here’s mixtape of Smalltown DJs’ best tracks of 2011. Suuuper good beats up in herr, and a host of new songs for me to obsess over! I’m loving Don’t Move by Phantogram.

Also, this nguzunguzu mix tape is soooooooooooo goooood:

It’s gonna be a good year.

First two photos taken by Kate Semrau; second photo edited by me, featuring Steph Bowen.

NEW MUSIC RIGHT NOW: Turning up the heat

27 Jul

I can’t stop listening to R&B.

Or music that is R&B-inspired.

This way, I can pretend I’m hot and sweaty when really it’s 12 degrees at the end of July. The weather is so damn crappy this month I’ve been resembling the leather-jacket-clad Nicki Minaj a la her most recent visit to Vancouver back in April, when I’d rather look like this Nicki:

I love the ruffled booty shorts and matching jacket by Jean Paul Gaultier. That outfit makes me wanna leave the shower on to increase the humidity in my living space. If you need some steamy inspirations, check out these awesome mixtapes for free download:

NGUZUNGUZU – The Perfect Lullaby

The Weeknd – House of Balloons

And these too:

Jai Paul – BTSTU

How to Dress Well – Just Once EP

PLEASE WATCH:

How to Dress Well on Pitchfork TV

I can’t figure out how to embed this video in WordPress so you’ll have to click. Amazing performance with live strings and percussion.

Love,

your leather jacket Nicki

First four photos courtesy of fashionfame.com; last photo courtesy of glamourvixen.net.

WTF IS THIS? New LCD Soundsystem “Drunk Girls”

9 Apr

Ugh. This song is terrible. Can someone please massage me until I forget the past three minutes, thirty five seconds?

It’s vapid, it’s derivative, it’s campy, it’s soulless… and it’s also just not a good song.

Hate it.

It is NOTHING like Someone Great.

James Murphy told us Pitchfork the song is “about drunk people and fun things and the fact that all of the boys of the L.A. mansion we recorded at were called ‘the girls’ by our chef. We were the ladies of the mansion.”

Uh, what?

May you have better luck with the track.

EXPERIENCE THIS: Three music videos you can’t miss

12 Mar

You simply Must Watch all three of these videos. (Note I have bolded, italicized AND capitalized the words  “Must” and “Watch” for “Emphasis.”)

They’re for songs that are on a very very high rotation on my iPod right now, and the vids are awesome to boot.

Promise you will watch.

Pantha du Prince feat. Noah Lennox – Stick to My Side

LOVING this track, and the video features a funny tree man: a must-see. In fact, this entire album, Black Noise, is amazing. I am physically incapable of turning it off. Will post about it soon.

Caribou – Odessa

Completely obsessed! I cannot wait to see Caribou at Sasquatch this year. The video is very dreamy and appropriate for the local weather forecast. New album comes out April 20.

Gorillaz – Stylo

Great song. And this video has BRUCE WILLIS in it! He is just so masculine. Is there anything the Willis won’t do to win my heart? Video also features some top shelf animation and a wicked car chase. I just bought this album on Wednesday so I have to let it sink in. So far, I’m finding it excellent; lots of great collaborations.

Happy staring!

SEASONAL STIMULI: New Janelle Monae and Kenzo have me salivating for spring

8 Mar

Hey! Have you thought of what you’ll listen to/wear for the first day of spring yet?

No? Care for a suggestion?

You should check out this awesome new track Tightrope by Janelle Monáe, featuring Big Boi.

This song is a pelvis-thrustin’, hair-flippin’, gum chewin’, clam-digger-wearin’ funk anthem with a solid beat that Pitchfork writer Tom Breihan aptly suggests is reminiscent of Rich Harrison’s beat for 1 Thing” by Amerie.

(I still work out to that song allthetime! Beat so good!)

It will help you get “in the mood” for the sexiness of spring.

And the first day is fast approaching, friends. Fast approaching! I even wore my bikini at the beach on Saturday.

Let me reiterate:

Bikini.

At the beach.

It is still winter in Canada.

But my bikini saw real sunlight! I am so excited for spring now I can hardly contain myself. Could it be because my day of birth is in the spring? Perhaps. But even more exciting are the new fashions that accompany the new season.

If I had to choose a fave right now t’would have to be Kenzo, designed by Antonio Marras. His designs are easy, feminine, worldly and dripping with bohemian sophistication — just what I feel like emulating as daylight slowly conquers evenings.

It’s also easy to achieve the layered, ’70s look on a thrifty budget.

In fact, Kenzo’s eponymous Japanese founder Kenzo Takada’s very first designs were made from a hodgepodge of vintage fabrics because he could only afford to buy secondhand. Therefore, Takada had to combine several striking fabrics together to make a single garment.

And here I thought I was the only one who made scarves out of old, mismatched socks!

Anyway, while you listen to Janelle Monáe, you can also behold my favourite looks from Kenzo’s Spring 2010 collection:

Love love those fur textures, floaty florals, menswear touches and enveloping cuts. Hazzah, spring shopping inspiration!

In a bit of a random note, according to Takada’s Wikipedia page:

“Kenzo proved his sense of dramatic appearance when, in 1978 and 1979, he held his shows in a circus tent, finishing with horsewomen performers wearing transparent uniforms and he himself riding an elephant.”

Excellent.

Look for me blogging live from atop an elephant this spring.

Photos courtesy of Pitchfork and Style.com.

BEST OF 2010… ALREADY! Beach House “Teen Dream” is a must-listen

31 Jan

Well call me pleased as a pumpkin! I’ve already found the first album for my “Top Ten of 2010” list, and January isn’t even done.

It’s official: Teen Dream, the third effort from Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House, and I are an item.

We have run away together.

This is not an affair characterized by drunk dials, cheap motels or unrequited love; rather, it’s one built on warmth, complexity and the careful exposure of one’s own vulnerability.

A “teen dream” it is indeed, as the album’s sweeping emotions recall teenage glory-days where highs were high, risks happened daily, and heartbreak was lurking ’round every corner.

Oh the sadness and the splendor of it all!

This is the first album Beach House has released on Sub Pop. Because both CD and LP formats of Teen Dream come with a companion DVD featuring a video for each song made by a different director, it appears the record label folks are just as dedicated to making this a complete sensory experience.

And what an experience it is.

LISTEN HERE:

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Vocalist/organist Victoria Legrand spans an incredible range with her rough, androgynous sound. Her voice is described as “beautifully oaky and deep,” like a fine wine. With incredible vocal dexterity and her trademark controlled wavering, Legrand’s melodies create a world where sadness is a regular fixture, but the depth earned from weighty lessons is far more significant.

Interestingly, Legrand’s sadness is balanced by her bandmate Alex Scally, who brings a tinkering, starry-eyed optimism to the album.

For example, the strong pop-powerhouse loop that opens “Norway” and the easygoing guitar twang that accompanies Legrand’s tormented melody form a delightful contrast.

“Norway” is epic and disorienting: perfect for riding your bike downhill after a first kiss.

Also, the shimmery synth-pop track “Lover of Mine” is suitable for reminiscing about drinking outdoors with good friends. It’s got the simultaneous warmth, excitement and release of going pee in the wilderness. (What?! Who doesn’t love that?)

And if that’s not enough to sell you, the boozy, calm sway of “Silver Soul” will call up memories of the best beach vacation you’ve ever had.

But the true gem of the album is “Real Love,” in which Legland’s soulful voice drips with tears. Here it’s just her and some gorgeous heavy-handed piano for a gut-wrenching five minutes and 23 seconds.

I am tranquilized:

“The color you say is black is the one you might lack / In the size of your eyes, is there a righteous prize?

“There’s something wrong with our hearts / When they beat pure they stand apart / In the black room, the light, watch the seabird fall / Real love, it finds you somewhere with your back to it”

You’ll need to get carried away by the band’s airy, emotional car chase, but rest assured there is a steady hand on the wheel.

BUY: Beach House Teen Dream on iTunes

LIVE ACTION: Beach House LIVE at Rickshaw on April 11

Photo courtesy of musicsnitch.com.