Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hi, I'm a Mac.

I seem to be very good at unannounced blog hiatuses. Oops?

I've got a few things I want to post about, but that will have to wait a bit. I promise I'll stop being my lazy, It's finally summer and I only want to sleep and watch TV, self soon. For the moment, a few blurbs about what I've been up to (aside from the obvious sleeping and watching TV).

I'm currently getting things set to go to Boston to work here on this. I'm very excited about the project, but the 25 previous publications dating back eleven years is a bit intimidating. I've got a lot of reading and studying ahead of me to get up to speed. I'm also pretty thrilled to be living in Boston for the summer. I'll have several old friends nearby, and it should be a fun summer city for a youngster like myself.

Since I'll be staying in Boston for 10 weeks, am completely computer addicted, and can't haul my massive desktop up the east coast with me, I have invested in a laptop. I went through the Windows-Mac debate for a good while, and finally decided to go with Mac. Windows has burned me a few too many times. Twice to be exact. Within a one month period. No more Blue Screen Of Death.

Of course, I seem to have taken the plunge a bit too early, as I got the 12" powerbook just a few weeks before they released these new MacBooks. But oh well, I love it nonetheless. And it's smaller than those 13"ers anyways, so HMPH. I've named it La Petite Pomme (The Little Apple). I wasn't feeling especially creative at the time of naming, but it fits her well. It's small, sleek, and very user-friendly. Exactly what I wanted in a laptop. Portability is key. And the smallness is adorable*.

I tested out La Petite Pomme while visiting Matthew (a.k.a. The Definitive Source) in North Carolina this past week. So far, so good! We had a great time visiting various cities and historical places. I have many beautiful pictures, and will post them along with discussion soon. They're on the internetless laptop, and I am not ambitious enough to transfer them to a connected computer.

The real test of this wee Macintosh will be when it is my primary computer in Boston. Which is very soon, actually. I suppose I should stop putting off packing.

* Why are almost all small things cute? I fall all over myself at the sight of baby shoes every time, but haven't the faintest idea why.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Most Recent Listenings

For someone who most friends would describe as an "indie kid," I've really been listening to a lot of old music lately. Not entirely sure of the reason, but I don't suppose it's a problem. It's good to listen to music outside of The Latest Internet Fad from time to time.

More recently, I've found a lot of new music that I really enjoy. Elaboration to come soon, I'm sure. But in the meantime, here are some older titles (though some are new to me) that have been stuck on repeat in the past month or so.

Hem - Eveningland / Rabbit Songs
I'm cheating here a bit, listing two albums from one band. But it would be a very tough choice between the two. Hem, I've decided, is the slowcore of They rarely push the tempo past moderate, and always sound quite mellow. You'd think it would get a bit lackluster after a while. And you'd be right if Hem weren't incredibly adept at song composition, arrangement and performance. I absolutely adore Sally Ellyson's voice--the girl can just plain sing. She could be singing her groccery list, and it would still sound absolutely gorgeous.

Rabbit Songs, Hem's debut album, is full of simple and beautiful songs. The song writing and arranging is refreshingly clean and pointed. Melodies are catchy and memorable. Arrangements perfectly convey tones and textures without beating you over the head with them. Hem's follow up, Eveningland, only reassured that the wonders of their debut were not a fluke.

I'm not always the biggest fan of twang. But Hem, for me, is a perfect example of how great song writing and performing can win you over, regardless of genre.

Neko Case - Blacklisted
Neko Case is another example of the wonderful writing and performing talent combination. Her music has some very traditional elements in it; particularly instrumentation. And it's very clear that she listened to a lot of great music growing up. But there's something very modern about Ms. Case's work. I'm not entirely sure what it is. Perhaps some of it is her lyrics, which are far more open to interpretation than most. She also plays around with song structure a bit.

Her very pleasing voice doesn't hurt, either. Again, there's something I can't quite put my finger on about her voice. It's very unique, in a good way. She's very spunky, as is clear from an interview she gave with Pitchfork that had me laughing for ages. That attitude seeps into her songs, and it works oh so very well. Example: "Running Out of Fools."

The Lucksmiths - Warmer Corners
This absolutely adorable Australian trio makes perfect spring and summer music. Beautiful weather and sunshine call for a soundtrack of infectious melodies and fun. And what better way to do that than guitar driven power pop with clever lyrics and the occassional horn and string accompaniment?

Of their albums, I think Warmer Corners has won my heart as the favorite. Each one has its smattering of gems, with their smart and playful lyrics and can't-get-it-out-of-your-head hooks. But this most recent effort is the most consistently delightful. The increased use of horns and strings beefs up their sound when the tune calls for it, like "Fog of Trujillo". But they still know when to keep things sweet and simple, as with "Great Lengths". With Warmer Corners, The Lucksmiths both expand and hone their pop skills. It's a truly pleasant listen.

Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True

Amadou & Mariam - Dimanche A Bamako

I have been trying to write blurbs on these last two albums for nearly a week now to no avail. I think it's time to stop "Saving As Draft," in hopes that I can come back to it at a later date. I'm really not getting anywhere right now.

It's surprising how difficult it can be to explain why you enjoy something. In an English course freshman year, our teacher devoted an entire class to the subject of humor. He would read jokes or statements and then ask us why we found them funny if we laughed or smiled. Nearly every response was along the lines of "it's just . . . funny." I appear to be stuck in this sort of a rut. I'm left incredibly inarticulate about the music I enjoy most. I just end up with variations of "it's great!"

Hopefully this is only a post-finals burn out that will pass with time. In the meantime, please pardon my uncommunicativeness.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Isn't It Only Fair That You Try And Let It Go?

It's official: this pop addiction is not just a passing fad. I think it's pretty safe to say that it is here to stay.

Marit Larsen, yet another Nordic musician blessed with the pop-genius-gene, seems to be chock full of pop delights. An mp3 of "Only A Fool,"a song off of her debut album Under the Surface, can be found here (via FluxBlog) for a limited time. I'm a bit tardy in posting on this one, so you best download quickly--it probably won't be around much longer.

I've heard three of her songs now, and have yet to find one I dislike. They're gorgeously orchestrated, well produced, clever, riduclously infectious, and just plain delightful. It doesn't hurt that she seems to be fond of handclaps. Though I promise you, that is not the only reason I enjoy her music. "Only A Fool," in particular, is a great example of her pop mastery. It's all sorts of catchy without being the least bit predictable or ordinary. Between the instrumentation, her playful delivery, and that Americana-esque bounce, you just can't resist it.

Under the Surface has yet to be released here in the US. And I've had no luck trying to get my hands on more than a few mp3s here and there. I must say, it really is a shame that there aren't more quality pop acts in the United States. I like to think that many people would enjoy good pop music if they had access to it, and that the somewhat rampant lack of musical standards among many American youth is only a result of this lack of access.

If Marit looks or sounds familiar, you may be recalling your good old Disney Channel days. As a kid, she was half of the girl-pop group M2M. I'll try to be the bigger person here and forgive her for participating in a group that sang a song on the Pokemon soundtrack.