Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Some recent musical discoveries Some exciting bands I've discovered recently. Some have been around for a while; some are new. Here's my guide to what's hot.
MGMT, formerly known as The Management, are from New York, and their second single "Electric Feel" is getting a lot of airplay right now. Think World Party for the 21st century and check out their MySpace. Good stuff.
Now from the wild wastelands of Iceland, 3 excellent but totally different bands for you. If you like ambient music that doesn't even attempt to copy what's on the radio these days, check out Amiina (basically a string quartet of Icelandic ladies who are gradually adding more and more instruments to their arsenal)
Parachutes - a duo not to be confused with New Zealand's Parachute Band and an inferior rock band also called Parachutes. You'll find this band listed on Sigur Ros' MySpace in their top friends. These guys are touring the States now and are due to have their first album out later this year, which I'm very excited about as their music is fragile, winsome and totally compelling. Look out again for their MySpace to hear what they can do.
And then finally, after way too long a wait, there's Sigur Ros themselves. They'll be a more familiar name, and although I've been aware of them for a few years, I'd never listened to any of their stuff til about 2 weeks ago, and I completely fell in love with their Icelandic influenced soundscapes. Like pretty much nothing you hear on the radio these days, and all the better for it.
Of course, all these are just my personal opinions, but if you're feeling brave, check them out. Tell them Kipper sent you!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
At a time when it seems that the world and his wife are releasing Hymns albums - with varying levels of success - it's great to see Bart Millard from MercyMe put out his second record of superior "down south" versions of old classics.
Bart REALLY gets it, and with the possible exception of Amy Grant's 2 excellent Hymns records, his are the only ones I really have any interest in. This latest collection of 11 golden oldies will easily explain why.
Among the selections included are "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus", given the banjo and clarinet treatment, Hank Williams' "I Saw The Light", "Jesus Cares For Me" featuring the silky voice of Vince Gill, "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms" and "Grace That Is Greater".
Put simply, this is a quality album, lovingly arranged and skilfully played, which ably demonstrates just how good some of the old hymns can be if they are put into the right hands.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I'm really having trouble figuring out what beach volleyball is doing in the Olympics.
Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with "regular" volleyball, even though it's hardly played in the UK and therefore I don't know a lot about it, but the beach variety seems to me to be little more than a thinly veiled excuse for dirty old men to stare at women in bikinis.
Let's examine the evidence.
Male players wear singlet and shorts (even in a torrential rainstorm like the other night)
Female players wear...bikinis.
Surely if there was any reason behind the whole thing the guys would be wearing skimpy speedos, but oh no!
If anyone can convince me why this huge difference in attire is valid, I'd be happy to hear from them, but until then, my only thought is that if they want recognition for beach volleyball, then why not go all the way and introduce sandcastle building and throwing a frisbee deliberately just over your partner's head into the freezing ocean?
Let's say a guy named Roger is attracted to a woman named Elaine. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.
And then, one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: ''Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?''
And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.
And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.
And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward . . . I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?
And Roger is thinking: . . . so that means it was . . . let's see . . ...February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means . . . lemme check the odometer . . . Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.
And Elaine is thinking: He's upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed -- even before I sensed it -- that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected.
And Roger is thinking: And I'm gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And they'd better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.
And Elaine is thinking: He's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.
And Roger is thinking: They'll probably say it's only a 90-day warranty. That's exactly what they're gonna say, the scumballs.
And Elaine is thinking: Maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I'm sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of myself-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.
And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give them a goddamn warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it right up their ...''Roger,'' Elaine says aloud. ''What?'' says Roger, startled.
''Please don't torture yourself like this,'' she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. ''Maybe I should never have . . Oh, I feel so ...'' (She breaks down, sobbing.) ''What?'' says Roger.
''I'm such a fool,'' Elaine sobs. ''I mean, I know there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse.''''There's no horse?'' says Roger. ''You think I'm a fool, don't you?'' Elaine says. ''No!'' says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer. ''It's just that . . . It's that I . . . I need some time,'' Elaine says.
(There is a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)"Yes,'' he says. (Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.) ''Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?'' she says. ''What way?'' says Roger. ''That way about time,'' says Elaine.
''Oh,'' says Roger. ''Yes.'' (Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse.(At last she speaks.) ''Thank you, Roger,'' she says. ''Thank you,'' says Roger.
Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of chips, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it's better if he doesn't think about it. (This is also Roger's policy regarding world hunger.)
The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.
Meanwhile, Roger, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine's, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: ''Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?''