Category Archives: music

New Moon Soundtrack

My sister, upon hearing me (affectionately) describe the sound of Alice in Chains as an acid spill slowly eating through the floor, told me I should write more music reviews. The fact of the matter is that I don’t listen to much music these days. When I’m in the car alone I listen exclusively to audiobooks, and when there’s anyone else in the car we’re usually talking, which means I’m not really listening to the songs.

So since I’m pretty much completely out of touch with modern music, I figured the best way to dive into the music game was with a movie soundtrack. Mashable gave the heads up that the New Moon Soundtrack was available in its entirety for streaming from the Twilight MySpace page. I was curious, so I swallowed my distaste for MySpace and gave it a listen. (And coincidentally, it comes out in stores today. How uncharacteristically timely of me!) Overall, it’s a little heavy on the slow songs, but still a marked improvement over the Twilight Soundtrack, which featured way too many cringe-inducing vocalists. (Robert Pattinson, for example, sounds like Tracy Chapman on barbiturates.) I mean, wow. There were a lot of really bad songs on that soundtrack. Anyway, without any further ado, here are my thoughts on the songs from this soundtrack.

Death Cab for Cutie – Meet Me on the Equinox: Gets stuck in my head a lot. Good but not spectacular.

Band of Skulls – Friends: A fun little ditty. Lame, but in a cute way.

Thom Yorke – Hearing Damage: Very reminiscent of the techno songs I enjoy listening to as background music. I really like it, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d expect from the frontman of Radiohead.

Lykke Li – Possibility: Pretty, but very boring. Something about her voice bugs me. I can’t put my finger on it.

The Killers – A White Demon Love Song: Pretty typical Killers. Not bad, but not something I’d go out of my way to listen to. Reminds me a little bit of The Beta Band.

Anya Marina – Satellite Heart: A sweet little song about unrequited love. Not a huge fan of her voice, but it’s an okay song.

Muse – I Belong to You: Sounds like it could be a fun tune, but only the first thirty seconds were available for streaming. So I got sneaky and found it on YouTube. And you know what? I like it. It’s catchy.

Bon Iver & St. Vincent – Roslyn: Mellow. Lovely acoustic guitars. Too bad the vocals are so obnoxious, but I think it could grow on me with repeated listens.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BMRC) – Done All Wrong: A good addition to this soundtrack, which is pretty much a breakup album anyway. I like the simplicity of this one.

Hurricane Bells – Monsters: Kinda fun. Makes me bob my head. Not bad, but pretty generic.

Sea Wolf – The Violet Hour: Reminds me a little bit of The Killers. I like this one. It’s interesting, catchy, something I wouldn’t mind hearing repeatedly on the radio. Probably my favorite on the entire album.

Ok Go – Shooting the Moon: I dig the weird electronic sounds and harmonies. A very sweet song; I like the dichotomy between the heavy bass drum and the quiet vocals, as well as the instrumental madness at the end. Man, I heart Ok Go; I can’t give an impartial review.

Grizzly Bear with Victoria Legrand – Slow Life: I like the chorus, but the verses are a little too stark. Makes me sleepy.

Editors – No Sound but the Wind: Very old-timey, like a lounge singer. A beautiful song on its own, but this rendition comes across as a little cheesy. The singer sounds like he’s wearing a toupee and a sparkly suit jacket, and I just can’t shake that mental picture. Which is a shame. It’s quite a lovely ballad.

Alexandre Desplat – New Moon (The Meadow): A little bit of the score, I assume. Gorgeous solo piano piece. A nice close to the album. Very quiet, peaceful, hopeful – as should be the aftermath of any breakup, once the tears and heartache have passed.

So there you have it.  I guess it’s more of a “thoughts while listening to the songs” than an actual review. Overall, I kinda dig it. Sure, it’s likely that big names like Thom Yorke attached themselves to this soundtrack because of its guaranteed success, but I’m not complaining. Think of how many people will be hearing great bands they never would have otherwise discovered. Though not strong enough for me personally to purchase it, I can see this soundtrack having something to appeal to even the most die-hard of Twilight-haters. After all, none of the songs are bad. At worst they’re generic or kinda meh. Definitely worth a listen.

Literal Music Videos

I realize I’m about a year late on this bandwagon, but I just recently discovered literal music videos. Basically you replace the lyrics of a song with ones that describe what’s going on in the music video, with often hilarious results. The original and best is Take On Me, but other favorites of mine include Head Over Heels, Daydream Believer, Separate Ways, Total Eclipse of the Heart, and I Would Do Anything For Love. I’m glad most of them have subtitles, because there were times when I was laughing too loudly to hear the words.

Want more? Check out the motherlode.

Vamps at Sonar, 16 June 2009

The Day: …was very long. My husband and I arrived in Baltimore around 1:00 PM and immediately got in line for the autograph signing at 2. It’s not that we wanted a good place in line; we just didn’t have anything else to do for the next hour so we might as well hang out. Fortunately, the three guys in front of us were friendly and funny, so the wait wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately, it was hot and extremely humid, and the signing started nearly an hour late. The process itself was smooth – they let in a few people at a time, and Kaz and Hyde graciously signed everything and shook everyone’s hand – but we didn’t get out of there until after 3:30. Several of the more die-hard fans proceeded to sit right back down in line again for the concert almost five hours hence – and indeed, the first person in line at the signing session had arrived at 7:00 that morning, presumably intent on spending an entire day waiting in line on a scuzzy sidewalk. We, on the other hand, had other things in mind. Feeling the onset of heat exhaustion, we drove down to the Inner Harbor and chilled out at the Barne for quite a while. My husband more or less recovered, but I felt pretty wretched for the rest of the day.

Shortly after 5:00 we wandered down to the Convention Center to pick up my husband’s badge for Otakon. The staff, in a flash of brilliance (or maybe just common sense), designated a separate line for those with tickets to the show. We were then shuttled in first so we all had time to get signed in and still make it to the show in time. I thought that was quite decent of them, since probably 99% of the concert attendees were also registered for Otakon. After grabbing some dinner, we drove back to the club around 7:00, when the doors were supposed to open.

The Music: I admit that Vamps is probably my least favorite of Hyde‘s musical projects, with L’Arc~en~Ciel and his solo album ranking first and second, respectively. But it’s still Hyde, and I still love Hyde’s voice, even if he’s a touch too screamy for my tastes in many Vamps numbers. Their cover of Life on Mars? is especially interesting.

The Venue: Sonar is a converted warehouse located a few blocks north of the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. We were leery at first, as the line was over three blocks long. Where were all these people going to fit? Would we be jammed in like sardines, violating every fire code in the book? Since it was general admission with no chairs, we didn’t bother rushing to get a good spot in line. Instead, we relaxed in our air-conditioned car for quite a while, then on a bench across the street, before finally joining the line near the end. By the time we finally got inside (around 9:15, though our ticket claimed the show started at 8:00), we were absolutely stunned at how much space there was. The room didn’t look especially large, but somehow we all fit with ample room to move around. Multiple fans were running, creating plenty of air circulation and keeping the temperature pleasant. I even got to and from the bathroom with no problem. (The bathroom, by the way, was clean and fully stocked with toilet paper in all eight stalls.) We’d forgotten our ear plugs and were gratified to see they were selling quality disposables for a buck each. For the most part, it was a surprisingly clean and comfortable venue. Though we were near the back, the band was easily visible on two huge monitors, and when the Vamps members weren’t slouching too much, I could see their faces clearly over the tops of the crowd’s waving hands.

The Show: Alas. As soon as they struck the first note around 9:30 PM, I knew I was in for some trouble. The sound, especially the bass, was turned up far too loud. This isn’t just aural sensitivity on my part: warehouses are not built with acoustics in mind, and when things are that loud you create standing waves, drastically distorting the sound. It was so severe that I could hardly recognize the first few songs, and the bass made me feel physically ill. Oddly, this was not the case for the entire show. Several songs sounded fine, then the distortion would be back a little while later, once again rendering the song completely unrecognizable. It was worse in the bathroom, as the ladies’ room is right next to the stage. My teeth were literally rattling against each other. But when I wasn’t being utterly assaulted by the noise, it was a fun concert. Hyde is hilarious, though perhaps unintentionally, with his poofy hair and itty bitty vests. The bass player was totally awesome as The Guy Who Gets The Crowd Excited. (Every band needs one.) And though my image of Kaz was ruined by the observation that he looks like Yoko Ono (OMG he so does!), his guitar playing was excellent.

Epic Parenting Fail: One guy brought a baby. Yes, I’m completely serious. He covered its ears with his hands for the whole show, but come on. A baby? At a rock concert? Really? I guess he’ll be picking up a book on sign language soon.

We had to leave around 10:30, since I had to get up early for work the next morning, but we suspect there wasn’t much show left anyway. We both felt completely wrecked from the heat, humidity, and rapid switches between outside and air-conditioned indoors. It was a decent experience, but I wish we could have seen them in a venue that’s built specifically to handle those kinds of volumes. And, to be perfectly honest, I hope the next time I see Hyde it’s with L’Arc~en~Ciel. I just like their music better.

band grabbag

I was perusing my local 99 Cents Only store and picked up a couple of promising-looking albums. Okay, so I was judging entirely on cover art, but sometimes you can find some real gems that way. Radio and recommendations from friends only get you so far. I figure at worst they’ll be painfully mediocre. The first is “Dear Valued Customer” by Snog, which is more or less an anti-consumerist rant set to semi-interesting techno-industrial music. I was surprised to discover that one of their albums is called “Third Mall from the Sun,” which I knew as a song by Block. No idea if they have anything to do with each other. The second album is “Surrender, You Freak!” by Sister Psychic. It’s somewhat generic rock; with a few more listens I think it could really grow on me.

Jekyll and Hyde

I first encountered the musical Jekyll and Hyde a few years ago when it came to Ball State. I’d never heard of it (aside from the original Robert Louis Stevenson book, of course) but I’ve always been drawn to demented tragedies so I went. I really really liked it. I liked its dark, twisted music and themes. I pulled out my soundtrack the other day and have been listening to it, and though the story is still quite compelling, I’m reminded of its definite flaws.

First, some of the lyrics are just ridiculously bad. Not all of them, mind you, but there are a several phrases that sacrifice flow for the sake of rhyme and end up sounding really awkward. And maybe it’s just the singers taking too much liberty with the tempo, but sometimes it sounds like there are just too many words for the number of notes allotted them. Plus, I would have liked the composer to have spent just a couple more months writing two or three more songs so “Facade” doesn’t have to be reprised four times. No, I’m not exaggerating.

But you know what makes it all worth it? Not the big numbers like “Good’n’Evil” or sensuous ballads like “In His Eyes” or even the one song people have actually heard, “This is the Moment.” No, it’s the second-to-last song in the entire show that gets me every time: “Confrontation.” Here, Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde finally talk to each other in a kind of duet…all sung by one man, of course. Through lighting tricks, music cues, and of course excellent acting, it almost seems like two men arguing instead of one wrestling with his inner demons. It’s a truly brilliant piece and makes me wish the rest of the show could have lived up to it.

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