Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What is that Noise?

I recently heard that Neil Young was coming out with a new album, "Le Noise", due out September 28. I was so looking forward to hearing it!

Tonight on the way to Office Max for a new mouse... a song came on the radio. As I was listening, I first thought, "WHAT is this station playing?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing on my usually reliable FM station. The song was completely out of character for them.

My 2nd thought was, "Who IS this guy? He's trying too hard...." In the next instant, I recognized the voice - it was Neil Young!

The song was "Walk With Me", (click title to hear track!) but instead I wanted to run away. I know I am probably going to disappoint some die-hard Neil Young fans (myself included!) by saying that the tune was hard to listen to!

Missing from the track were Neil's charming yet quirky signature vocals. Instead it delivered the slash and burn of an over-played guitar. By mid-song, I began wondering if something was wrong with the man. It reads "psychedelic 60's trying too hard to advance to the new millennium but held back by the 70's".

The crying guitar measures seemed totally unnecessary and over-done. I could find no melody compelling me to sing along. The lyrics were insipid-such a surprise coming from the man who did "Needle & the Damage Done".

Some friends suggested that I not post this review until I listen to the entire album, but I call them as I hear them. I can only hope other tracks from the 8 song album, offer more promise and are easier on the ear!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Music-Trends Like Fashion

You've heard the saying, "don't throw out those bell bottoms from the 70's, they'll come back into style again someday"...
So too with trends in music. Many of the new bands are definitely styling some retro vibes.

Image of The Postmarks
Consider the Postmarks - a trio from Pompano Beach, Florida. Tim Yehezkely's lead vocals, and often her own fashion sense (see above photo) make me feel transported to the mod 60's. Jonathan Wilkins & Chris Moll (the other 2 of the trio) are multi-talented musicians, playing many instruments and arranging music with pure genius. Their track "My Lucky Charm" from Memoirs at the End of the World, is magically delicious! Groovy vibes made fresh with their Indie-pop sound.

Irish born songstress, Imelda May, is often described as "rockabilly" but the track "Johnny Got a Boom Boom" from her Love Tattoo album, has that 50's/60's jazz/beatnik sound. Not that I never was IN a beatnik club in the 60's, but I imagine it sounded like this! You can almost smell the clouds of cigarette smoke and hear the clink of bar glasses. The bass provides the perfect backdrop for Imelda's Kool-Kit delivery. She's outrageously sexy while exuding an untouchable class (think Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly) This track just settles in, forcing my foot to tap, and fingers to snap. Bongo bango, mingle mangle, ratatat, she's got all that.... (forgive my lame attempt at Beatnik poetry!)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Music Sounding Fondly Familiar

So many new artists and groups hitting the charts in the past couple of years are familiar in a comfortable way. Some artists seem to be trending toward a more Folksy vibe. Consider Monsters of Folk, Mumford and Sons and The Avett Brothers.

Monsters of Folk's formation, exemplifies the bonding that brings music lovers together. At the time the group was named in 2004, all members were with other groups or working on solo projects which ultimately delayed the release of their first album until 2009: Jim James from My Morning Jacket, Mike Mogis & Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes and Portland guitarist M. Ward, had frequently encountered each other while on tour, at times sharing the same stage & often sat around backstage, just making music. The title of Monsters of Folk's "Baby Boomer" actually reflects my point quite well, as do these lyrics: "We don't agree about September, could we agree on Vietnam?" This catchy tune reminds me of the 60's & 70's folk music that was a signature of the Baby Boomer generation. An alchemy of sound & the individual styles of its 4 members, imbibe country, folk & bluegrass of old, yet manage to still sound fresh and new.

In the Avett Brothers' "Laundry Room" , its lyrics "I am a breathing time machine" reflect that indeed the Avett Brothers are like a musical time machine. Their banjo, guitar and harmonies are reminiscent of the Travelling Wilburys and celebrate the loving act of making music. Brothers Scott & Seth Avett from North Carolina, joined by bassist Bob Crawford, create folksy tracks infused with pop, rock, bluegrass, honky-tonk, ragtime & country overtones, creating music which sometimes defies description!

With lyrics like "Lend me your hand and we'll conquer them all", Mumford & Sons "Awake My Soul" can be likened to the social awareness of the 60's & 70's. The strains of guitar, the lyrical harmonies & a banjo building up the bridge, are all elements of folk, country & bluegrass which are delivered with such enthusiasm by these four 20-something young men from West London. Its hard not to be drawn in by the heart-warming & relevant stories their lyrics tell. In spite of the familial ties the name of the group might suggest, its members are not related. They are four friends - Marcus Mumford, Country Winston, Ben Lovett & Ted Dwane, who had performed individually around London with various bands before joining forces in 2007.

The music of all three examples above, brings me back to a time of innocence in my own life, sitting backstage during summer stock theatre's rehearsal breaks, singing and playing the guitar with friends who LOVED music as much as I did. We brought harmony to life, & celebrated friendships through our shared passion for making music, much like the basis for the creation of all three of these groups.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Day the Music Stopped

Welcome to my FIRST blog! Thank you for taking the time to read a novice's verbal meandering. If you like what you read, I hope you'll subscribe!

May name is Pamela - and I am addicted to music. I have been since the day I was born (so my mother told me!). I'm certain that my 1st words were sung rather than spoken. I can remember providing the entertainment for my Mom's weekly Bunco club gatherings when a small child, singing songs. I taught myself to play the piano by ear, because I wanted to PLAY what I'd heard my older siblings spin on their record players. My siblings and I performed in musical theatre from the time I was 7.

So many of my fondest childhood memories revolve around music. My parents kept the home filled with music! Though neither parent sang, all of us children excelled, vocally. We entertained ourselves by putting records on the LP player. We would march around the family room to the strains of John Philip Sousa's marches, or danced the Cha Cha and the Waltz. If not in school or rehearsal for a play or musical, all of my time was spent sitting with friends, strumming the guitar and singing favorite tunes. When my parents separated & subsequently divorced, I covered my ears with a set of headphones and rarely surfaced from listening to the saddest music I could find. Somehow it consoled my wounded psyche.

I could not IMAGINE life without music! To say I lived and breathed it, would be an understatement. My memories are forever tied to the music I loved at the time whichever event transpired.

All of that changed one day in September, 1996. Only it took me more than two years to realize that the music had stopped for me on the day my mom - who was also my best friend - was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Although my career had taken me nearly two thousand miles away from her and the rest of my close-knit family, we still talked daily.

It wasn't until more than 2 years after her death, that I even REALIZED that not only had my Mom died, the music had left me, had left my heart and soul, the music too, had died. When that realization hit me, I was filled with such a palpable grief, it is hard for me to articulate. How could I have spent the past 2+ years without EVER sitting down at the piano? How did I make it through 760 days without ever singing a note? How is it possible that I never once listened to my extensive music library or turned on a favorite FM radio station? Why had I deprived myself of the JOY of music? As music has always been tied to the best memories of my life, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that it disappeared during the worst grief of my life.

Even after that realization, I didn't rush to the piano or burst into song. It still took a long time before the music was truly resurrected.

This lengthy story lays the groundwork for one of the most amazing music related discoveries I've ever experienced - Blip.fm. What is Blip.fm? If you don't know yet - it is a music sharing web-site (free!) where people can PLAY or purchase music while connecting with other music lovers across the globe. I joined in early December, 2008 and quickly became a Blip.fm addict!

Blip.fm re-ignited the musical flame for me. The joy of rediscovering my old favorite songs was akin to reuniting with an old lover. Blip also introduced me to a lot of the new music I had missed during my musical embargo. I've been like a kid in a candy store since joining Blip.fm.

If you're a music lover and haven't already experienced Blip.fm, you can join by clicking here, I would love to see you on the Blip-stream!

In future blogs, I will focus on individual artists or groups that have grabbed my attention. I'd love to hear from YOU about the music you're loving these days! Please leave your comment below! That's another of the joys of Blip.fm - discovering new music! Lets take that musical journey together!