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Jersey

Posted : 3 years, 12 months ago on 30 June 2013 04:24 (A review of Music from the 3D Concert Experience)

I know it's silly to state the obvious, but I'm going to do it anyway. The funny thing about the Jonas Brothers is that they're like me in almost every way. I'm not British or a philosopher; I'm not African or a war refugee. I'm not from the South or California; I'm not a New Yorker; I'm not an immigrant; I was born in New Jersey and have lived in several different towns there since I've moved several times like most Americans do; I don't speak any other language than English; I don't like hip-hop or rap; I'm young and not old; I'm a boy and not a girl; I like Taylor Swift. My demographic background is like a blank on which nothing interesting is written.

But at least the Jonas Brothers are super cool and really modern, from 2005, and with this album from 2009. (It doesn't technically count as a regular studio album, but I'm not sure exactly why. I guess it's more like a live album.) And they have all these screaming girls as their fans, like home-grown Beatlemania, and they got Taylor Swift to perform with them, too. They've been on Disney and they're almost like One Direction, except they're from New Jersey.

But anyway, I like this music; I really like it. It has a good energy to it. It's very positive. It's about love and it's rockin', and the live concert screaming girls aspect of it is a plus. I like pop. This is very good pop. It's popping.

(9/10)


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Perfect Love.... Gone Wrong

Posted : 3 years, 12 months ago on 30 June 2013 12:13 (A review of Brand New Day)

Overall Sting is pretty good. Sometimes I like him more, and sometimes less. I like some of his songs more than I can even describe, but as for entire albums of his stuff, I end up just not liking parts of it. "A Thousand Years" is a super song, but "Big Lie Small World" sorta irritates me. It's like, with "A Thousand Years" it's this poetic spiritual impressionistic panorama of love, or something like that, I'm not really sure what it is. But then other times, he lets himself be more cynical than mellow. It's a little difficult to describe. He's an English guy, and he's very European, which can be a good or bad thing.

I mean, I used to have a copy of "Ten Summoner's Tales", which I think I've misplaced, although I guess I did listen to it once or twice.... "If I Ever Lose My Faith In You" is a really really great song, even better than "A Thousand Years", sorta about all that dross, all the useless extra stuff, that takes away from love-- it's impossible to describe, but you can learn alot from it. (I think "I Am The Walrus" is also essentially about what sort of dross there is that can only take away from love.) Something about the album as a whole mildly irritated me, though-- something about the Chaucer reference rubbed me the wrong way. (Yeah, something about the Chaucer reference rubbed me the wrong way.) Sometimes it could even be a little jarring, I'm not sure if it was "Saint Augustine In Hell", but something like that. Something like that.

I remember once I wrote a review of Twilight that referenced ("A Thousand Years", I think) Sting-- they're both about love-- and there's something about them being so opposite that makes them easy to compare. Twilight is great for just exposing itself to ridicule (from snobs and violent people) for the sake of love, for love's sake, (like this girl I saw the other day who was wearing a shirt that said, 'verified belieber'), and the movie side of it is that simple passion, or, from the book, the first one, at least, that simple differentness of the two of them. But of course sometimes Twilight can be irritating for being *too much* of what it is-- too teen, too young, too immature. Sting has the opposite vices and virtues. His stuff is great for being about love, and somewhat sensual, and well, musical, but in this spiritual impressionistic way, like listening to a guy who's reflecting on things, on life, after having loved and experienced alot of love.
But then, sometimes Sting can just be worldly and decadent and sorta irritating like that.

At his best, he's very good, but it would be easy to list examples of his being a little boring, at the very best. Sometimes he just makes you want something more American, or at least more like some guy like Elton John, since not all English guys spend all their time at the UN.

Overall, though, it's not terrible, just.... average.

(8/10)


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Album of the Month

Posted : 3 years, 12 months ago on 29 June 2013 05:47 (A review of In This Skin)

This album is a little bit older-- 2003-- which isn't very contemporary, which is more like 2005 or 2006 at least by this point, I think. (*Actually, it seems I have the 2004 re-release, but, you know what I mean.) Not that that means there's nothing there, just because it's not either classic, or from these last two or three years, I guess, that we've had. Although it's funny, (even though comparing the ages of girls is impolite), Taylor Swift is my age, and Jessica Simpson is my older brother's age. And I guess that means something, with a girl who's a singer. But anyway, she was 23 at the time, and probably at the height of her powers.

"In This Skin" received the common fate of the popular thing-- to sell well and at the same time, to be bashed by the almost vindictive snobbery of the critics. (And this was a few years ago, even, before "Twilight" even existed to be made fun of.) In that sense it's similar to Adam Sandler's films, which are widely seen and enjoyed, but which are basically just not serious-- or dark-- enough to get good reviews from writers who take themselves so seriously. (Although it is true that Adam Sandler and Jessica Simpson happen to differ in respect of their faith.) Or, better yet, it's like the sort of films that Jessica Simpson herself has been in, such as "Employee of the Month" (2006), which I saw and enjoyed, in which she plays the part of a working man's muse, basically.

Like I said, comparisons can be impolite, but it's interesting how difficult to assign labels like "pop" and "country" can be when looking at actual individual people like Jessica Simpson and Taylor Swift. Sometimes it really is the individual that you have to look at, or at least what type of personality they have, rather than more abstract categories. Jessica Simpson, the "pop" girl, has a country girl's personality, complete with the religious (Christian) faith and the general contentment with her lot in life and the men who support her-- that's how she comes across to me. Taylor Swift is the "country" girl, and she certainly has a 'natural' look to her, unlike the pop girl Katy Perry, who cultivates the air of an oddball cosmopolitan who is always dying her hair different colors. But in some ways, Swift is more "pop" and mainstream than Simpson-- she relies more on the good old (secular? or pagan? or something!) princess model, rather than the religion of churches, generally speaking; she also writes her own songs, with her girlfriend's help when she wants it, and tries to make the modern girl seem clean and happy, while at the same time dealing with and trying to reconcile modern anxiety-- especially about women-- with the idea of the blissfully happy princess that she wants so much to embody. Swift is newer and more confused-- the incurably nice and compassionate girl who writes songs like "Mean" without wanting to sound bitter or unkind. Simpson, for a better or for worse, is a little older and a little simpler.... Swift comes across as the girl from New Jersey who moves to Nashville and makes a friend from Texas-- she's actually from Pennsylvania, but she's performed with the Jonas Brothers, who actually are from Jersey-- whereas Simpson actually just is from Texas, and sorta sounds like it, too.

Anyway, the music itself is good-- soothing to listen, relaxing. Although "Sweetest Sin" was apparently the single, there aren't really any songs that stand out-- she doesn't have that same pop or party flavor as Swift with "Love Story" or "You Belong with Me" or "Mean" or We are never getting back together" or "I knew you were trouble", but Simpson also avoids having some of the anxiety that goes along with having so much energy. In a sense it's not a very distinguished album, but that doesn't mean that it can't be pleasant to listen to.

(8/10)


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On Various Feelings

Posted : 4 years ago on 28 June 2013 01:23 (A review of Fearless [Enhanced])

Part of me wants to do something about "Red", since I've thought about 'red' and what 'red' is, but I'm not sure that I can do all that all over again, so I'll do this instead-- "Fearless". (And I just got the songbook for it, so I suppose that that must count for something, in terms of investment.)
At any rate it is something by Taylor Swift. She is, as many clever people know, a girl. She's a very pretty girl, and cute and creative, and classy. She's also, for lack of a better word, very clean, and, for lack of a better word, very different.
Anyway, the album "Red" (2012) is in some ways a little bit more developed than "Fearless" (2008), and it probably has catchier singles-- "I Knew You Were Trouble" and "We are never ever getting back together". "Red" has somewhat of a better exit song, "Begin Again", and it might be a little bit lighter on the whole-- although with "The Lucky One", or "I Almost Do" it's a bit ambiguous and sometimes a little hard even to decide if the song is melancholy or not, or hopeful or melancholy or both-- but the two groups of songs are a little hard to compare. All you can really say is that they are both by Taylor Swift and both ultimately about love, and all that puts them together into their respective groups is sometimes simply just that they were written at about the same time.
That is, the songs are varied, and it's more about her personality-- would it be too much of a stretch to give her a vague similarity to Ally Dawson from "Austin & Ally"?-- which is her charm, rather than some sort of master plan. There are a few decent singles, "You Belong With Me" and "Love Story", but you don't have to find it an earth-shattering album to enjoy it. (I once heard "You belong with me" in the mall; whether that was better or not than hearing "We are never ever getting back together" in a limo is not easy to rank. But I have a tendency to over-think-- e.g., What if I had to make that mistake and it was the right thing to do? This could be extended at numbing and confusing length. But you get the idea.)
But anyway, it's certainly music by a girl, containing rather varied feelings. Because of a similar contrast I can't help but be reminded of "Take Me Home" where One Direction is by turns happy, then consoling, whereas she is sometimes swinging between being happy and despairing. (I am a princess; I am not a princess.)
But since generalization amid such fluctuation often does little to show what it really is about the way that she looks and sounds and is that makes her what she is-- it is certain that her hair is not like Katy Perry's, but, aside from that, it is hard to say what makes someone what they are, and different from another, or what makes some person like Billy Joel or Elton John better than the other one....
So, since generalization about fluctuation is just that, it might be better to take each piece, rather than the whole thing.
Which is difficult.
"Fearless" is a happy song; it's about not feeling bad. By lending its name to the album, it means to cast a happy aura over the whole, despite certain difficult passages, since she is really optimistic at heart. And so there's this song, about things not getting in the way and things being okay-- "you take my hand and drag me headfirst/Fearless", and this ability to be fearless on her man's part allows her to be fearless too, and have some happiness without encumbrance-- "it's a first kiss; it's flawless, really something-- it's fearless."
This is followed by "Fifteen", a much more cautious song, and very unlike "22" (from "Red"). It's about being a young girl, basically. She has to deal with a much older world that makes very little sense, and which she is not understanding. It's the sort of song that lightly drips doubt over your faith in love by relating some of things that happen-- "Abigail gave everything she had to a boy who changed his mind and we both cried." It's certainly a girl's song, but maybe it ends before you really start to wonder why you spend your money on music instead of wizard-of-gore type movies in the name of faith in love, if even Taylor Swift.... But, you know.
In another sort of about face, this is followed by "Love Story", which is more of a princess song, rather than the sort of thing you'd take to a women's issues and co-dependency session. ;) "You'll be the prince and I'll be the princess; it's a love story baby just say yes." Probably the memorable lines from the whole album-- this is the happy place. And the song is a little story, complete with escaping the parents, meeting the parents, and reuniting with the lost lover. Well, it's a little difficult to explain since it's more of a impressionistic story than a more narrative one. It works, though. "This love is difficult, but it's real."
The next segue is a little gentler, into "Hey Stephen", a flirty song in which Taylor Swift advertises herself and her ability as a songwriter to attract attention to herself. She flirts with the guy by telling him how much she likes him. "I can't help it if you look like an angel.... I can't help myself."
And then all of that just sorta goes away, and "White Horse" happens. It's basically a song about, not, finding the love of your life. "I'm not a princess; this ain't a fairytale.... this ain't Hollywood; this is a small town.... now it's too late for you and your white horse to come around." So forms a relationship that she comes to regret, and then escapes from it.
And then that unhappiness goes away as quickly as the happiness did, and it's time for "You belong with me" which despite being full of longing and even disappointment, is filled to the brim with hopefulness. The photo in the CD sleeve is worth seeing, because it's quite different from the sort of creatively pretty shot that she normally posts, if that makes sense-- Taylor Swift with bubbles in the air and tea in her glass on a picnic in the grassy park (the back cover of the sleeve), no, here she throws her lot in with and becomes the bespectacled shy girl in the clarinet section who can't bear to look, at that guy she wants who's with the sort of pretty brat who's such a type of a serviceable villain, and especially for some people, I guess. Anyway, the song is a message she sends to that guy, to let him know that he would be better off with her. (In this sense, I guess it could be considered a sort of distant cousin to 1D's "I Would".) (It's also the sort of song you can listen to again and again, over and over again, for a long while; "Back in the USSR" was like that for me too, but, anyway.) Still, maybe it's the sort of song that it's a little easy to listen to, or at least hear, without really understanding. Basically, it's about what make relationships really work-- what matters and what doesn't. It's easy, maybe, to sing the "She.... I...." parts without really thinking about it-- the point is that the cheer captain's status glitter didn't add up to much. "I know you know better than that; hey what are doing with a girl like that?" What mattered was a shared taste in music, an understanding of each other's hopes, dreams, feelings-- a sort of kinship of spirit. "She doesn't get your humor like I do.... I'm listening to the kind of music that she doesn't like, and she'll never know your story like I do." The real connection of music is worth more than surface impressions, and status isn't what matters to a genuinely healthy relationship with real compatibility; "Walk in the streets with you and your worn out jeans; I can't help thinking this is how it ought to be." It's a good song. "If you could see that I'm the one who understands you; been here all along so why can't you see; standing by waiting by your back door; all this time how could you not know baby-- you belong with me."
And then the mood changes again, with "Breathe". In a way, it's about not knowing what to do. She doesn't want the relationship to end, but there's no way to save it, no matter what either of them do. "And we know it's never simple, never easy." And so all she knows is that she has to breathe; "I can't breathe without you.... but I have to." It could be called a song of regret-- of ending.
The mood worsens somewhat with "Tell me Why", which is about an argument. It's a little unpleasant, since "you might think I'm bulletproof, but I'm not"-- she needs to tell him that she's hurt by some of the things that he said out of his anger. (It's a long way from "Hey Stephen" and "I can't help myself.") She's tired of his bad attitude and his behavior makes no sense to her. "Tell me why".
And then things get more worse with "You're Not Sorry". This isn't what you want to hear, naturally. But it is true that apologies do not always have to accepted just because they are offered, and that some people really are bad. "Don't want to hurt anymore". It can be important.
Things pick up somewhat with "The Way I Loved You", although in an odd sort of way. The song is a little confusing-- although probably because the feelings that inspire it are as well. "He is sensible and so incredible, and all my single friends are jealous." But she would rather be with a past love, since she misses "screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain". It's an odd, juxtaposition, I guess. I suppose the point is that sometimes love demands the insane from us, which seems impossible and cannot be explained, and it's not always about what other people seem to think it is.
"Forever & Always" is a little ambiguous too, although it is mostly unhappy. The thing is that it refers to, "I was there when you said forever and always", but the promise of forever is remembered when it is all collapsing, the whole relationship, ending. And so, nothing is working. "Oh, it rains in your bedroom; everything is wrong-- it rains when you're here, and it rains when you're gone." And so that's bad. "And then you feel so low that you can't feel nothing at all." Although the thing is that it's not a very bitter song like some people might make; it's just honest.
The next song is a bit of a surprise-- "The Best Day" which is about a 13 year old girl's relationship with her father. "Don't know if Snow White's house is near or far away, but I know I had the best day today." It's quite a princess song, and in the most innocent of innocent ways. It's hard to explain Taylor Swift, but I think that this is an important part of her makeup. I read somewhere that the Beatles wrote "Eight Days A Week" on "Beatles for Sale" (when they were being overworked) because their driver made a comment about working eight days a week, and so they turned it into this sprightly little song about *loving* eight days a week. That was the way they were-- no matter what happened to them, somehow their response was always to sing their love. And with Taylor Swift, even after singing about broken promises and foolish faith, albeit softly-- then the next thing she wants to do is to make herself a child again, so that she can have all her faith back. "I don't know how long it's gonna take to feel okay, but I know I had the best day with you today".
And then it ends with "Change". It's a happily vague sort of song about good growing and crap receding. It's a hopeful song. And things do change. The world is different now from how it was even in 2008. "Twilight", for example-- people call it trite, but it didn't used to exist; romance is becoming more popular, more.... here.
But anyway, it's a pretty good album. The songs are okay, and if there's no super obvious reason for why which one comes when it does, I suppose that that's common enough. After all, there's no explaining everything, is there.

(8/10)


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Home Dock

Posted : 4 years ago on 27 June 2013 08:23 (A review of The Very Best of Otis Redding)

I'm an incurable comparer of people, so.
I'm not sure if I like him better than Chuck Berry, although he reminds me more of Buddy Holly, which is okay. I also like his version of "Respect" better; it's just calmer when he does it. I guess that "Sitting on the dock by the bay" doesn't have the same fame of Berry's "Roll over Beethoven" or "Rock and Roll Music", but not everything has to have that party flavor, that flare for the dramatics and rock-hard-or-go-home thing. Maybe James Taylor would like him better. Like "Country Road"-- "I guess my feet know where they want me to go"; "Walking Man"-- "A hypothetical destination.... any other man stops and talks, but the walking man walks"-- mellow like Otis, "Sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away.... sitting here resting my bones, two thousand miles I roam, just to make this dock my home".
So that's kinda special.

.............

I originally called this 'slow rock', but then I started actually trying to tag my music and organize it, so that made me kinda want to be more precise, instead of using rock as a synonym for popular music, which I admit is tempting to do. (And for my second title, I really had to reach for something random, haha.

Also, for a minute there, I had to figure out why I compared him to Buddy Holly, and then I realized that it was a biographical thing.

Anyway.

I really have no idea what I'm talking about especially when it comes to black musicians, (although practically nobody seems to write music reviews here, so you're stuck with me), but the point is that with old Otis here, you can tune in to something different, and that something different is also something that is definitely laid back.

(8/10)


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Party

Posted : 4 years ago on 27 June 2013 08:14 (A review of Golden Rock Hits of Chuck Berry)

I'll try to keep the Byrds out of this, even though they apply to everything.
It's hard to form a balanced opinion of Chuck Berry for me. He's that black guy that I know, since the Beatles and the Beach Boys covered him. George Harrison's version of "Roll over Beethoven" made me a little giddy about the guy, since I found Beethoven to be a crabby old man. (Learning a little piano has made me less critical of guys like Bach, since he wrote a decent minuet, but that's a totally different story.) And that two famous bands covered "Rock and Roll Music" is pretty cool, but of course Berry wrote more than two songs, and he performed them himself, too. So it's a little hard to describe him, or to find the right adjective for the guy.
Maybe he's like the Beach Boys, since they're both (American and) steady old-school sorts. Maybe he's somewhat less successful too, at least from my own point of view, although it is true that there's nothing wrong with "Johnny B. Goode".

(8/10)


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Ride

Posted : 4 years ago on 26 June 2013 09:31 (A review of Sounds of Summer: Very Best of The Beach Boys)

Even without considering "Pet Sounds", Paul McCartney's favorite album-- and there are three selections from it, but 90% are from the rest of their work, so it represents the all of their art and not just that one piece-- it is true that the Beach Boys performed a variety of different kinds of songs. "Be True To Your School" is inspired by local spirit (maybe not unlike BB's), it might be said that "Fun Fun Fun" deals with the issue of having and not having, albeit in a *goofy* way, and "California Girls" creates a sort of sociology of fun by searching around for the place with the best girls....

But although there is diversity among their different songs, there is a sort of vague broad similarity throughout them. And aside from "Pet Sounds" maybe part of what makes their music so, say, reassuring, with some energy but just overall very relaxing and easy to be with, is that they produced so much of so much broad similarity over so long a period of time-- (e.g., say, "Barbara Ann", 1965, and "Kokomo", 1988), almost as though it were indeed one very very long single album, a The Very Best Of just waiting to be edited and compiled.

And I suppose that the spirit of similar inspiration diffused throughout their stuff which makes it broadly mostly the same sort of rock and roll music, are a few easy going attitudes-- a happy-go-lucky belief that running after girls will work out well in the end, a contented feeling that being an American is a pleasant experience, and just a general feeling that there's really nothing so serious to worry about!

(9/10)


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Subtle Uniqueness

Posted : 4 years ago on 25 June 2013 10:15 (A review of James Taylor: Greatest Hits)

James Taylor certainly isn't the only mellow man to have ever picked up a guitar-- you can listen to the Beach Boys for a very long time indeed without worrying about anything or stressing-- but James makes his music really therapeutic. Maybe it's because of his deep personal experience with depression, that his music is especially capable of serving as a coping mechanism when the simple frustrations of life become an obstacle. The Byrds also deserve laurels for producing soothing art, but James Taylor's personality does come through in his work, leaving me with a sense of his great humility and simple faith in the power of love. His greatest hits album is an especially nice distillation of the products of his talents, and it has an interesting flavor in that, like the White Album, it is somewhat less about love in a relationship and more about the simple love of life.

(9/10)


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Just North of Normal

Posted : 4 years ago on 23 June 2013 07:01 (A review of Gravity Falls)

I don't know just how to explain it, but I like how Disney takes your old sci-fi crowd and seeps the bitterness and violence out of it, (and without letting all that seep *in*), and just lets it be. Isn't it good-- Norwegian wood. ;)

(9/10)


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On Trying New Things

Posted : 4 years ago on 23 June 2013 06:53 (A review of Soul 2)

Sofia: *brightly* I've never heard music like that before!
Amber: *lazily* I've heard better.

Being lazy about trying new things isn't really a sin, but it just isn't a virtue either.

And it's always easy to suspect people of having alternate reasons for suggesting something different-- action movie people are too uptight to be mellow, and of course some people are always just looking to score points or put other people in a bind. But, then again, it's silly to be too self-absorbed when always doing the same thing can be boring sometimes.

And clearly Seal is like Disney's Jessie, or something like that, there's no reason not to like him, and he's clearly a very mellow person.

Although, it is a little hard. I never quite figured out what I honestly think of Chuck Berry. I guess he's like the Turtles in overall quality, (they both certainly had a couple of good songs, at the very least), whatever that is, but it's hard to say. It's easy to bipolar inbetween listening to it just for the sake of listening to it, and neglecting it just for the sake of not wanting to bother, to self-absorb.

It's easier with say, Bob Dylan, even though my opinion of him fluctuates as well-- he's over-rated; no, he's actually good-- but at least with him, I don't automatically get nervous and start dropping things just thinking about it.

Then again, I suppose that I want to be one of these guys that just sits around and explores new things in the world of music, so, I suppose it's worth it. It's hard to know what you really want sometimes, still less what you ought to aim for.

Anyway, it's good stuff, and it's mellow.

(8/10)


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