Archive for the Music Category

Misheard lyrics

Posted in Music with tags , on August 25, 2009 by Cara Marie

My musical obsession at the moment is the new Metric album, Fantasies. There’s a refrain on the second song that to me sounded like,

Everybody, everybody just won’t fall into line
Everybody, everybody just won’t play with me

I imagined it was about a girl-child who wants to boss everyone around only no-one’ll do things her way. Except listening to the rest of the lyrics, the song blatantly wasn’t about that. And I’m rather bad at understanding Canadian accents in songs.

It actually goes,

Everybody, everybody just wanna fall in love
Everybody, everybody just wanna play the lead

Which is far lest interesting, and I’m sorry that my imagined song doesn’t actually exist.

A Visit to the Freak Show: The Tiger Lillies at the Opera House, 12 Aug 2009

Posted in Music with tags , , on August 14, 2009 by Cara Marie

I had never heard The Tiger Lillies before their show last Tuesday. I went on the recommendation of a friend, trusting that any music described as ‘alt-cabaret’ and ‘Brechtian’ was going to be right up my alley. What a good decision that was! There are so many people I know who would have loved this show; I just have to gloat to them that they missed out on all the songs about cannibalism, kicking babies down the stairs, freak shows and all the other horrid delights of the Tiger Lillies.

The evening began with the support act from Jane Keller (vocals) and Carey McDonald (piano), who got things off to a riotous start. Any middle-aged woman who comes on stage in a long coat and short dress with no stockings is going to be awesome in my book, and she was hilarious, with her tales of casual BDSM and the woes of being an alto, all the while also being an excellent singer!

The hilarity did not end when the Tiger Lillies came on, although it alternated with the melancholic and the truly creepy. I never realised how creepy those brushes on the drums could sound. Drummer Adrian Huge was excellent, playing the drums almost like someone might tap a xylophone, not just with drumsticks but with baby dolls and differently sized yellow plastic hammers (in the one instance ‘of instrument destruction’, after which he contritely put the drum kit back up). During the ‘encore’, a set of pots and pans descended from the ceiling. It was a sad moment when they began to rise back up.

Obviously this is a very theatrical kind of performance, but they are all such excellent musicians you feel it must be good to hear on album as well. Frontman Martyn Jacques plays variously the guitar, piano and an absolutely gorgeous accordian, whilst he sneers and shrieks. His voice alternates between falsetto and deep growl, as he takes on the character of each song with vigour. Adrian Stout plays the straight man while the others go over the top, and as well as the contrabass, plays the saw and the theremin. I’ve never seen a theremin used before, and it definitely adds to the bizarre atmosphere.

The songs are dirty and macabre stories of strange characters, either killed or killers (or failures at such). And yet, even if you took out the car-crash fascination of the lyrics, they would still be good songs. As it is, this is the only gig I’ve ever been to where I’ve heard people snorting with laughter. It was an extremely entertaining evening, and now I’m off to listen to their Twopenny Opera (even ruder than the Threepenny Opera!)

My personal kingdom of addiction…

Posted in Music with tags , on June 13, 2009 by Cara Marie

I am seriously addicted to IAMX. Ever since I watched 0mindthegap0‘s (awesome) vid The Negative Sex… it took me a while to remember why I knew the name IAMX. Back when we were sixth formers, everybody loved The Sneaker Pimps. Specifically Half Life, the second album. The first album had the girl singing, and we prefered Chris Corner, and the third album was just not as good, and I was the only one that still loved it.

In seventh form, Chris Corner put out his first stuff as IAMX. Only, here in New Zealand, it was only available as an import. I think it cost about $40? No way were us little high schoolers going to pay that. I will not even pay NZ full price for a CD.

So I never bought any of IAMX’s stuff. Until I figured out just who exactly ‘The Negative Sex’ was by. After which, NZ music stores failing me, I went onto the internet and ordered all three IAMX albums (and got the single for President free, I love ordering things over the net). Price of CDs in NZ is such that even paying shipping and our crappy exchange rate, the CDs worked out cheaper than new ones here…

I just remembered something. Half Life was the first CD I ever ordered over the internet. It was off a NZ site, and it arrived the next day. It must have been a Wednesday, because I didn’t have to go anywhere straight away. So I took it upstairs and sat curled between my speakers and I put it on and I stayed there. It really is a beautiful album.

I am not disappointed in IAMX. I have had the CDs on pretty much non-stop since they arrived – a month ago? More? I listen to other things but it is only for the sake of listening to other things. The Alternative was the one I loved first, probably because it was the one I had heard songs off before. Then the newest album, Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, which wasn’t officially released until after I placed my order but they sent straight away anyway. It is EPIC.

The first look the longest to grow on me, the one I never bought in the first place. But grow on me it did, and now I just tell the computer to play them all damn through. I’m a bit scared I’m going to play the life out of them.

…this whole rant was spurred because we watched episodes 2.18-2.19 of Sarah Connor Chronicles, and they broke my heart. Then I thought about how they broke my heart, then I thought of the IAMX song ‘Spit it Out’ (uh, because one of the lines is ‘and it breaks my heart’) and I had to go put on the album. Again. I ♥ you Chris Corner, you still make my life.

Amanda uber-slays

Posted in Music with tags , on March 19, 2009 by Cara Marie

So, how awesome was Amanda Palmer when she played Wellington last week? All the awesome, that’s right. I’m not saying stuff didn’t go wrong, because a lot went wrong. Playing standing up is harder than you’d think (even if the short people do love you for it). The keyboard conked in the middle of more than one song. But it didn’t matter, because it was Amanda fucking Palmer, and she was awesome.

It didn’t matter because the experience of being there was more than just the music. What she played and how ‘good’ it was doesn’t figure much in my memories of the show. More of it is how Amanda actually engages with her audience – I think the only person I’ve ever seen talk more was Ian MacKaye with The Evens.

It’s not just a few jokes and stories, it’s how she makes the audience feel like they matter, what she’s willing to do for them. I mean, she must have been bloody exhausted, but that didn’t stop her from giving us her all.

Here’s Amanda Palmer singing ‘New Zealand’, a song she wrote in 25 minutes after someone expressed jealousy that Australia got a song:

Thus fueling the trans-Tasman battle for another generation!

At the end of the show, after the encore, she came out in her bra & stockings, climbed onto the bar with her ukelele, and we all sang along (not for the first time) as she played ‘Creep’. Isn’t it nice to have an excuse to be dorks en masse?

To fangirl about someone else for a second, Battle Circus opened the show, and they played a great set. It was gratifying to see them get a good reaction, because Wellington has not had a history of appreciating them – my mother, who has been to three of their shows here, will vouch for this. They deserve a big audience.

No women on stage, please…

Posted in Music with tags on March 13, 2009 by Cara Marie

So, one of the boys who I did geology with has a blog. Really, I should have known better than to read it. Seeing as how we once had a heated debate on whether or not women were inherently more emotional than men, it was inevitable that something should piss me off.

So, in his latest entry, he starts off talking about bands, and the nature of hit singles. Which would be all very well, except that he has to go and say this:

In a recording studio though, or just a jamming jive session, and the men are playing their instruments and making the beats together just so. And then the observing crowds of women are in moving agreement that it is a good song being played and that they are hearing.

Because bands are only ever made up of men. Us ladies just have to stay in the audience and worship. God forbid a woman should pick up a guitar, or play the piano, or ever try and create anything. No, that never happens.

And why is it only women listening to the music? If only! Then I wouldn’t have to get annoyed at tall guys who stand in front of you and get in your space. But funnily enough, heterosexual men are quite happy to listen to music created by other men. Sometimes they even dance.

The perceived musician-audience divide is pity enough without having to go and gender it. It seems to me that in doing so, you’re reducing music to a matter of courtship. The men are showing off their skills, and the women are judging them on it. And this wonderful, transcendent-immanent thing called music is reduced to being all about sex.

Sure, I appreciate it when a band has cute guys in it. I also appreciate seeing awesome women up on the stage, and funnily enough I appreciate music even when I don’t find any of the band members attractive, I appreciate it when I have no idea who they are, and I don’t care. It’s the music that moves me, not the musician.

Speaking of that non-existent entity, the female musician, Amanda Palmer played Wellington last night. It was awesome, and she totally wins at everything. But I think that will have to be another post in itself.

This is Your Brain on Music – Daniel Levitin

Posted in Books, Music with tags on March 11, 2009 by Cara Marie

This is Your Brain on Music is one of several books to come out in recent years to explore the science of music. Daniel Levitin is a former record producer turned neuroscientist, interested in how music works, how your brain makes sense of it. I’ve come away from the book with a new appreciation for just how clever a contraption the ear is.

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Over the Atlantic, without the nostalgia

Posted in Music with tags , on February 18, 2009 by Cara Marie

When I made my previous post on bands I saw at both camps, I actually left one band out – Over the Atlantic. That probably tells you the kind of impression they made on me back in ’07. ‘Wussy music,’ I thought, but I stayed for the whole set anyway because I though Nik Brinkman was a bit of a fox.

So I saw them two years ago, stuck them in the ‘not for me’ box, and never thought about it again. I didn’t set out to see them at this camp. “You’ll probably like them,” I told my friends, as we were making our way to the main stage. Our tastes are pretty disaparate, and they may well adore music that bores me rigid.

This is what I call wussy music – it may indicate that the music: is acoustic/electronic, is performed by a singer-songwriter, is angsty (particularly ‘angsty young man’), doesn’t have much going on structurally, is inoffensive but not exciting, is ‘nice’. I use it to describe bands like Belle & Sebastian, Bright Eyes and Ladybird. For an example from Camp ’09, The Crayon Fields fall into this category. It does not describe Nick Cave, whatever certain workmates of mine might believe.

This is what I went into Over the Atlantic expecting. If only I had actually read their blurb in the program! It would then not have come as a surprise when I found a full band and a tight sound that actually seemed like it was meant for filling large spaces. Although I don’t know I could have predicted expecting all the songs to turn into U2′s ‘In the Name of Love’. I’m not even joking.

I don’t think my friends were impressed, but I was. I haven’t rushed out to buy the CD, but I’d definitely see them live again. It was a sweet set.

Only one girl, no choristering. Probably not even from East Brunswick, the liars!

Posted in Music with tags , on February 12, 2009 by Cara Marie

East Brunswick All Girls Choir, Camp A Low Hum, 7th and 8th February 2009

On the last morning, my non-wussy friends and I head to the Noisy Stage, to see East Brunswick All Girls Choir for the second time. One of us ruminates as they’re setting up – “I think these guys would have to be my stand-out for camp,” he says. “They’ve got everything – cute girl bassist, rhythm guitarist who gets made fun of all the time…”

Also, as it turns out, a frontman with the ability to get the whole room to follow him outside whilst he sings a song about everyone having a ballsack. Which was actually less hilarious than some of the stuff he’d been saying the day before.* Who cares if they only had five songs? We were there for the comedy!

Only they were too good songs. I guess some bands do have it all.

*I’m not going to explain, you’ll just have to hope it shows up on Youtube.

Camp-time nostalgia

Posted in Music with tags , , , on February 11, 2009 by Cara Marie

Only three of the acts I saw at Camp ’09 were people I also saw at the first Camp. There’s a strange mix of nostalgia and fighting expectations in there. So what is it like, revisiting bands like old friends? Especially when most of Camp is spent making new ones.

The Sneaks, Camp A Low Hum, 6th and 8th February 2009

The Sneaks moved to London some time in 2007, so this was the first time I had seen them since then. It’s nice to know some things don’t change – there might be a few new songs, but what you get is what you want: half an hour of concentrated dance fun times.

They played twice, once on Friday night outdoors, and again on Sunday afternoon on the Noisy Stage. The latter would have been the best dance I had all camp – not only do The Sneaks have incredibly fun tunes, but when they’re tunes you know, it’s easier to rock out and let go.

So So Modern, Camp A Low Hum, 6th February 2009

It’s a funny feeling when you see your old favourite band in the first time in ages, and you find they’ve all grown up while you weren’t around to see it happen.

So you could say that So So Modern didn’t quite scratch the nostalgia itch that The Sneaks did. Because most of their material was new, and I didn’t know how I felt about it. They’re damn fine musicians, of course, and put on an amazing performance. They only played the once, on Friday night. I was sensible with them and didn’t even try to get close – the nature of the main stage, where the field cupped upwards at the edges, meant the view was pretty good anyway.

The new songs seem to be less random than the old – less of the spontaneous changes which made them so much fun to dance to. (Which admittedly means normal people probably find them more dance-able…) I’d like to get the chance to hear them again, but, in bloody annoying news, both their gigs later this month are while I’m away on a fieldtrip. The geology department just doesn’t want me to have fun.

Grayson Gilmour, Camp A Low Hum, 8th February 2009

Last time I saw Grayson, things were kinda spoiled by my sister fainting (no, not when he came on…). This time, luckily, we were all sitting down! It was full band again and it was beautiful.

There was no ambivalence about new material here… ‘Oh, Statis’ in particular is a fucking gorgeous song and I feel like I wish I’d been paying more attention, like I could recall it better. Which is pretty silly. I am totally looking forward to the new album, whenever that may be.

Ria Grün, Camp A Low Hum, 8 Feb 2009

Posted in Music with tags , on February 11, 2009 by Cara Marie

It was eleven o’clock on Saturday morning. We’d straggled along to the main stage – most people keeping to the shade, but we had to sit right in the middle of the field, in the sun. This gorgeous woman is on the stage; she has an accordion. We are in love.

It is a disappointment then, when the accordion goes away again. For the next song, Ria needs accompaniment. She’s got the backing tracks on her laptop, but she needs something more. She needs an air pianist.

No-one volunteers. We are sitting right where she can see us, where she can point an elegant finger and say, “You. You look like you could play air piano.” We are stunned for a few seconds, then Carmel says, “I think she means you, Hera.”

So up Hera goes, and she does make a good air pianist. It’s only for one song, then she jumps back down and we listen.

Ria has a gorgeous voice. That’s important, when most of the songs you are singing are in German to a Kiwi audience. I would like to hear her sing something from Brecht; I think she could put on a good show. She sings two songs in her ‘bad English’ – I don’t know if they’re German songs she’s translated or what, but melodramatic ballads are all the more fun when you can understand what’s being sung.

At the end, the audience demands one more song. “With the accordian!” Carmel calls. There’s no accordion, in the end, but it is awesome anyway.