Archive for August, 2010

In honor of John Lennon’s upcoming 70th Birthday Anniversary

John Lennon's contribution to music is deep and significant

In honour of John Lennon’s 70th birthday on Saturday October 9, 2010, I plan to feature a lot of his music here. What better way to start than to go back to my school days and call on two friends – Sanjiv and Surupa to share their thoughts on John’s music and their favorite song. Thanks to them both for their sincere, visceral thoughts and for taking time out of their busy travel schedules to contribute (Sanjiv was in Dallas as he moves to London and Surupa wrote this from her vacation in Maui).

Dude — Lennon’s line on Beautiful Boy — “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” — is what I base my life around! Got to know the Beatles — along with Queen and Floyd — while quarantined in my room for a couple of weeks as a youngster with chicken-pox! Since then, these three groups have formed what I like to refer to as the “soundtrack of my life”. The Beatles hold a special place because of the way their music changed over time, from school-boy love songs to Revolution and I’m So Tired. Matches the progression of life! John was my personal favourite, though obviously a very complex character. I make it a point to visit the Strawberry Fields memorial in Central Park everytime I am in New York.

– Sanjiv Kapoor, Class of 86, La Martiniere for Boys

Hard to not be a Beatles fan….we visited the Beatles Museum in Liverpool last year. In fact the only real reason for visitingLiverpool was to see the museum. Loved it; the museum is housed in a nightclub that they used to play at during their early years. So many details and so much memorabilia, incl a rotary phone that the band used to book tixs for their shows.

Re the role of Beatles — I grew up around a bunch of older cousins who were going through their college love interests and relationships when I was in second or third grade and Yesterday was one of the songs they used to play often, esp after a breakup type situation. 🙂 I think all ideas of romance/love etc that I had in those early years and in the 80s were from hearing the Beatles!

And then my older son’s favorite song as a preschooler was Yellow Submarine and Under the Sea! He could hear them back to back a few dozen times. We finally hid the Beatles CDs so we did not have to hear those songs any more!!

Favorite songs — too many to mention. If I had to choose just one, it would be Imagine. I still find it so stirring, simple and relevant to our times (and perhaps for all times)! Also captures the essence of JL very well.

– Surupa Sengupta, Class of 86, La Martiniere for Girls

Mansions on the Moon’s “She Makes Me Feel” is dope!

Darrin Lancaster brings us the scoop on Mansions on the Moon.

This band is dope! Looks like Shea for N.E.R.D. signed them so you know the production is going to be great . I also watched another short clip on theirs & some other Star Trak artists and I am really feeling them. Plus check the remix out with Richie Sosa – it goes so hard for the hip hop heads!

– Darrin Lancaster, Music Correspondent

King’s Cross: Pet Shop Boys, Tracey Thorn & Hot Chip

We danced to PSB on a regular basis at the Pink Elephant in the Oberoi Grand in Calcutta. Or listened to it really loud in my friend George’s Standard Herald as we drove from over-the-top social gathering to another. I never really found the hidden track on the 1987 album, “Actually“, until several years later. And it wasn’t until this year that I examined the song closely (mostly because Tracey Thorn updated it on her 2007 outing which was then remixed by Hot Chip).

The original PSB version is a dreamy, synth track, of course, and feels like a day-after-a-ecstasy trip through the King’s Cross station. The music washes over you in only slightly persistent waves. Layered and yet seemingly stark compared to some of their more produced work. But what does it mean? Is it a horrible premonition of the fire that happened there later that year. Not likely since the album was released several months earlier. Based on reading writing by the group, introspective, a lot people migrated to London, from the North of England, looking for work. Neil Tennant came to study at the Polytechnic of North London.  He’s probably referring to the fact that King’s cross looked like a refugee camp with all the students, tourists, and homeless people. People waited for their train in long queues. Many of these people probably didn’t find work and eventually drifted else where but regardless the place probably felt pallid. Strange since the station was built on the former site of a small pox and fever hospital.

I’ve been hurt and we’ve been had
You leave home, and you don’t go back
So I went looking out today
For the one who got away
Murder walking round the block
Ending up in King’s Cross
Good luck, bad luck waiting in a line
It takes more than the matter of time
And there’s still no guarantee
There is still no guarantee

Fast forward to early 2007, Tracey Thorn records the track as part of the second album (25 years after her first album). You should know Thorn’s work  – she’s collaborated with Massive Attack, The Style Council, and Lloyd Cole & the Commotions. Thorn’s rendition is stark, eerie, and lonely at best. Yet it’s one that works supremely well in the Hot Chip remix of the song – which is unexpectedly energetic, yearning for the 80’s and yet magnificently new.

Click here to listen to the Hot Chip Version.

That’s the journey this song has taken through pop culture. Yet the original stands up – and perhaps that is because of its vagueness, its lack of commitment, and its spareness (compared to some of the other PSB work). Regardless, it’s a gem. One that you should savor.

HTDW: Provocative, Otherworldy Pop

Those already familiar with HTDW, AKA Tom Krell through the self-released, widely lauded “Can’t See My Own Face” EP from earlier in the year will already be aware of his dense, disturbed compositions and truly beautiful voice. Those who are not should prepare themselves for obsession. Leading up to debut album proper “Love Remains”, due for North American release through Lefse on September 21st 2010, “Ecstasy With JoJo / Take It On” sees Krell continue to produce his devastating brand of otherworldly pop at pace, organizing his stirring, intense vocal harmonies into dense, provocative melodies and textures that glow with powerful humanity.

Abstract and yet unmistakably informed by mainstream pop and R’n’B, his compositions are sonically alien in their unique mood and atmosphere but emotionally resonant and immediate in the very real feeling  they suggest.  How To Dress Well is music that fully understands the nature of how such feeling is experienced – never in clarity, but in total absorption and chaos of the senses. We are overwhelmed by love, held captive by desire, buried under loss. As such, “Ecstasy With JoJo” is a ghostly party jam boasting a dance floor wrecking sample that is foggy and warped but in a way that only further magnifies its joyful energy. Likewise, flip-side “Take It On is more mournful and brooding but its tension serves only to create space for Krell’s miraculous vocal acrobatics. In short, this is potent, unafraid, seductive modern pop music that will swallow your heart whole if you only submit to it.

Listen to “Ecstasy With JoJo” here

Listen to “Take It On” here

– Duncan Alney

Through John Bragg’s Eyes: Santorini

Thira, Santorini, Greece

With all of the reports about Greece’s financial problems in the news, I thought I would post a photo from my trip to Greece.  The island of Santorini in Greece is fantastic in October.  The temperatures were in the mid 70’s and the tourist season is winding down. Five days of my ten day trip to Greece was spent on this island and it was time well spent.  There is a reason this is the most popular of the Greek Islands.  The villages are dramatically perched on the top of the cliff and they overlook the volcano and the sea.  I stayed in the village called Thira, but it’s a relatively short hike to get to the other villages.  And there is an amazing sunset view in the village of Oia.  It was funny trying to navigate around the outskirts of the island because they didn’t seem to care too much about street signs.  So, trying to follow a map was comical.  But, it wasn’t really frustrating because there weren’t a lot of road options anyway.  I spent time on the black beach (called this because the sand is black volcanic sand), rode a donkey down the side of the cliff, and ate plenty of greek salads and drank my share of Mykonos beer.  A side note on the salad: a true Greek salad consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, green bell peppers, red onion, kalamata olives, olive oil and a slice of feta cheese.  No lettuce on this salad.  If you ever have a chance to visit Greece be sure to spend at least a few days in Santorini.  Opa!!

John Bragg travels the world. He’s a photographer by vocation. He’s a story teller who catalogs his encounters with architecture, food, and people. His work has been featured in national and international publications.
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