Monday, October 18, 2010

Hooked On Cellophane

Ah, Stars.  I rave way too much about this band. But for a good reason: they're amazing.  The fact that they're not more famous disturbs me greatly.  I could literally go on for hours and hours about this band, and I guarantee that this will not be my only post about them.  But for now, I just wanted to post the one song of theirs I've been digging on.

Originally released on their debut album "Nightsongs," the song "Going, Going, Gone" was re-released on the EP "Sad Robots."  On the original version, friend of the band, Broken Social Scene member, and Metric frontwoman Emily Haines contributes vocals. Her version is very different from the one on the Sad Robots EP.  On "Nightsongs," Stars' lead singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan didn't use their songs as stories and play off of each other, as evidenced in later songs such as "Elevator Love Letter," "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead," "One More Night," and "Personal."  Therefore, to finally hear Amy put her vocals on this track and sing it with Torquil only enhances the track.

In my interpretive opinion, this song is about many things. As with many Stars songs, Amy appears to be playing the role of an oblivious female, while Torquil is an angry male counterpart.  Amy's character has problems with a shopping addiction (Still hooked on cellophane/hanging round the mall and all/each penny numbs the pain/sends you gently for the fall), and a boyfriend whom she suspects of cheating (I followed you last night/I watched you turn your lights out).  Torquil's verse on this version is particularly biting, as he almost sneers the lyric, "Look good in that red dress/I bet the boyfriend's happy," then later bringing up, "Still hooked on cellophane/killing time with gin and lime."

As with many Stars songs, a story of lost/unrequited love is told, and unresolved, letting you decide what's happened. I like to think that you're encouraged to make up your own ending because you probably have your own similar story, so you already know the ending.  And as I finish this essay, I scroll through my music library, realizing that I can write pages and pages about any particular song by this band.  And I find that that fact is what makes a band truly great.

Friday, September 17, 2010

When You Do The Tricks, The Tricks Look So Good

Bit of a double post to make up for not writing the past few days. Also while writing the last one, I was inspired. I feel that Broken Social Scene is one of the better bands out there today, they've got a sound that is truly their own, and I discussed the instrumental from their latest album, "Meet Me In The Basement." While I was thinking about the structure of that song, I decided that I needed to write about this, my favorite Broken Social Scene track of all time: (ignore the picture)

Off their self titled album, the song "It's All Gonna Break" I feel is their most climactic song. It's nine minutes of back and forth jamming, culminating in what I can assume live is the equivalent of reaching nirvana. Despite it's length, the song is without a doubt worth a listen. The way the song takes you on a roller coaster of sound, starting quiet, getting louder, going back to quiet, and ending in an eargasmic eruption, shows why Broken Social Scene can still make it in this broken social scene.

Here We Go

When it comes to instrumentals, many great ones come to mind. The Allman Brothers' "Jessica," Frank Zappa's "Watermelon in Easter Hay" (which may be my favorite instrumental of all time), but it seems that today the instrumental often appears to be a lost art, which is why I was glad to hear this song:

Broken Social Scene's "Forgiveness Rock Record" is one of the best albums I've heard in the last few years, up and down it's very impressive. But this track always stood out to me. There's something rather majestic about it, the way it builds and builds and builds to an explosive climax, each section being progressively added as the song grows more suspenseful. As for the name of the track, well I guess that's up to interpretation.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Everyone I Know Goes Away In The End

In my last post, I discussed the differences between covers of an obscure 70s song, the meaning of which can be different for everyone. This time, the song and its meaning are a little more clear cut:

The final track of the 1994 Nine Inch Nails album, "The Downward Spiral," "Hurt" is a song clearly written from a dark place, darker then most men dare to go. The haunting feeling one gets from the first line, "I hurt myself today/to see if I still feel" is not like any other. Trent Reznor was a heroin addict, and the effects of his addiction can be clearly felt in this song. Hearing him sing this song does not give one the impression that he would survive to make another five or six albums, but he overcame. Nevertheless, this song is conjures up some of the darker feelings that one can have.

And now for a completely different song:

Almost ten years later, an aged and dying Johnny Cash recorded this song for his album, "American IV: The Man Comes Around." While Reznor's version comes from a place of darkness and hopelessness, Cash's comes from a somewhat different angle. Cash sings the song applying the poignant words not to an addiction, but rather to his age. The same lyric, "I hurt myself today/To see if I still feel" brings about the same emotional response, but for a different reason. Reznor sings the song as a dead man, Cash sings it as one who can feel his death approaching. After hearing the cover and having people constantly mistake him for covering a Johnny Cash song, Trent declared, "It's not my song anymore."

One last thing I'd like to point out is the video for Cash's version. Apart from being brilliantly and disturbing shot with June by his side, the video makes for one of the sadder I've seen in a long while. But there's one thing about the video that evokes an emotion in me that I've never felt. Around the 2:53 mark, Cash picks up a goblet and starts erratically spilling wine while looking directly into the camera. I find that more bone chilling than many other things I've seen on the internet, and I've seen some things. I don't know, maybe it's just me.

It's almost unfair to ask which song is better in this case because in my opinion, they're two completely different songs.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'd Hate To Have To Take You Home

When I picked up the Pete Yorn/Scarlett Johansson collaboration "Break Up," I really didn't know what to expect, but I had heard some good things. In listening to the album, I found it generally good, with a couple of tracks really standing out, none more than the following:

I felt that this song was clearly the champion of the album ("Clean" coming in at a close second), mostly for the fact that it sounded so different from the rest of it. I later learned that there was a reason for that, it was a cover:

Chris Bell, former member of Big Star, is the original artist of this song, and I'm sorry I hadn't heard his version sooner. Many who favor the Bell version absolutely despise the SJ version. I personally enjoy them both, but after hearing the Bell version, my choice was clear. He sings the song with a certain pain that quite frankly, just felt real. Bell dealt with depression and heroin addiction, and died at the age of 27 when he lost control of his sports car and crashed into a light pole. No disrespect to Scarlett, add in the fact that she's singing it with a different context, but she is, in my opinion, unable to muster the emotion needed to really make this song poignant.

The idea of "Break Up" is that the songs represent an ongoing dialogue between two people going through a break up. Where "Cosmos" fits into that schematic, that's another conversation for another time, but the overall point is that each version is done in a different context, an idea I'll be exploring more when I go over the Johnny Cash and Nine Inch Nails Versions of "Hurt."

But what do you think? Do you favor the Johansson/Yorn version, or the Chris Bell version?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Intro To Blogging

Over the next few days and weeks I'll be posting progressively more, usually pertaining to music or films that I find particularly significant or worth a watch/listen. For now I'll start with an old classic, and a personal favorite:


I love you.