Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Florence + The Machine!

The first single from a new Florence + The Machine CD due in November, "What The Water Gave Me" is a grand, sweeping song with lots of references. On her site, Florence says, "It's a song for the water... Because in music and art what I'm really interested in are the things that are overwhelming. The ocean seems to me to be nature's great overwhelmer.

"When I was writing this song I was thinking a lot about all those people who've lost their lives in vain attempts to save their loved ones from drowning. It's about water in all forms and all bodies. It's about a lot of things; Virginia Woolf creeps into it, and of course Frieda Kahlo, whose painfully beautiful painting gave me the title."


Monday, August 29, 2011

Currently listening to...

...Holly Beth Vincent singing the fantastic "Honalu." Released in 1982, this awesome song features a kick-ass horn arrangement.
A little raw, a lot sophisticated, and still good after all these years...

"What do you think you are doing here
How did you arrive
Did you come up through the ocean floor
Or fall from the sky

Did you come via the Orient
On a steam boat built for you
Did you think of all your friends behind
While you danced in Honalu

What it's doing to me
I cannot follow you

Did you curtsy to the Governor
On behalf of all your kin
Thanking each and every one who came
For kindly dropping in

And by the way I hear your Majesty
Is in somewhat of a mess
She became full grown although quite unknown
To so many of her guests

What it's doing to me

Did it cross your mind
You can't run away
Little girls caught crying
Never get their way

Endless hours spent inside your room
Do it all inside your head
Cutting photographs from magazines
Take them all into your bed

And when you go outside it's a different world
So unsure of what to do
That you count your change and you rearrange
Your date in Honalu

What it's doing to me"

Just watched...

..."Source Code" with Jake Gyllenhaal.

This mildly interesting sci-fi thriller directed by Duncan Jones (the son of David and Angela Bowie for those who are into trivia) concerns itself with a soldier participating in a secret military program called Source Code which allows a person’s consciousness to be sent back in time. A commuter train has exploded in Chicago and in an effort to find the bomber—who has planted a larger “dirty bomb” in the downtown area—Colter Stevens (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) must relive the last eight minutes of life of one Sean Fentress who was killed in the train explosion. As Sean, it is his duty to explore the train, find the bomb, search for clues, and ultimately discover the identity of the bomber.

We don’t fully understand how such a thing is done, getting only a brief expository monologue from the physicist inventor of Source Code played by Geoffrey Wright (whose marvelous talents seem to be wasted here). A reference to quantum physics and leftover brain signatures are woven into a kind of fuzzy semi-science/ semi-metaphysical equation. The real world mechanics may be shaky, but that’s okay. In films, we are routinely asked to believe things that have little plausibility… and I buy them anyhow. It is one of those things that you simply have to just go along with.

Once you are on board with the premise though, the film zips along nicely. The story is compelling and fast paced. In the end, it might be a little too fast paced. We get a happy ending, thankfully—this type of film can’t get too dark—but it feels like it came a little too easily.

But who knows… I am almost done reading physicist Brian Greene’s most recent book THE HIDDEN REALITY: PARALLEL UNIVERSES AND THE DEEP LAWS OF THE COSMOS, and the factual information in that book could eventually bear out the unexplained quantum physics ideas and the notion of parallel universes that we encounter in this film.

The film looks good with some very nice special effects and the supporting cast are just fine. Vera Farmiga, whom I loved in “Up In The Air” with George Clooney, is great and Michelle Monaghan is sweet as Gyllenhaal’s love interest.

Recommend? Sure, for some entertainment that also has a bit of brain to it.

This is the second film directed by Duncan Jones. His first, which he also co-wrote, was “Moon” starring the highly underrated Sam Rockwell. I will definitely recommend the haunting, intelligent, and thought-provoking “Moon.”


Sunday, August 28, 2011

"Always Shaking"

Always Shaking

Do I have to
show you again
how I clear my mind,
how I beg my blood
to thin,
how I introduce my back
to the ceiling
and become weightless?
Watch as I
fly through the air
toward the bookcase;
head first through the shelves,
squeezing through un-read books
orange and full
like pumpkins
and right through
thin air.

I pop out
on the other side
where it’s the end
of the world again and again,
where the ground
is epileptic
and all the buildings
do the rhumba,
almost toppling like a mountain of wooden barrels
in a Mack Sennet film
yet held together by the
tension of,
by the giant, invisible
rubber band of

©JEF 1989

Masterpieces of Pop: "Dreams"

In 1977, you couldn’t get away from Fleetwood Mac’s spectacular album “Rumors.” One heard it everywhere, it seemed that nearly every song from the album became a single (not true, but it felt that way), and everyone owned a copy of this insanely popular record. But the most popular and best selling song—not only from “Rumors” but from Fleetwood Mac’s entire career—was the languid, smooth “Dreams.”

Written by band member Stevie Nicks in a ten minute impromptu solo song-writing session, the original demo was simple, and even “boring” as described by fellow band mate Christine McVie. Nicks gave the song to the band’s guitarist and in-progress-ex-boyfriend Lindsay Buckingham who turned it into something very special. Buckingham had and continues to have an uncanny knack for arranging and creating songs with unique landscapes. And the sound of “Rumors” and in particular, “Dreams” really tapped into something in the popular culture of that moment. I can’t exaggerate how omnipresent and important this song and album were at the time.

Lyrically, “Dreams” is a metaphor-laden, fantastical exploration of interpersonal feelings. The tone of this highly poetic narrative seems idyllic but also full of resignation and a world-weary melancholy. This is even more apparent when one understands what was happening within the band. During the period of recording “Rumors,” every relationship was dissolving. Keyboardist Christine McVie and bass player John McVie were divorcing after nine years of marriage. Drummer Mick Fleetwood was ending his marriage to his wife who was not a member of the band. And Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were ending their eight year relationship. The emotional turmoil that was roiling around the band was palpable as couples would no longer speak to one another except to work on songs. Naturally, this kind of break-up sorrow and anger made its way directly into the lyrical content of “Rumors.” After Nicks wrote “Dreams,” Buckingham responded with a musical message of his own: “Go Your Own Way.” But despite the fact that these five musicians were working out their relationship troubles, they set personal feelings aside when it came to the music and rallied around the songs, and “Rumors” ended up being a remarkably cohesive and powerful artistic statement.

This is largely due to Buckingham’s arranging powers. He directed and steered the course of the production of “Rumors” (as he did with their amazing follow-up double album “Tusk,” which was an artistic triumph but a commercial failure). The sound of the whole album, as well as “Dreams,” is akin to the California soft-rock genre of the time. But Buckingham managed somehow to truly capture it, creating one of those musical works that define an era. His guitar work on “Dreams” is nothing short of stunning (unlike most guitarists, Buckingham does not use a pick but his fingernails and fingers instead). It is restrained and haunting, producing a texture that can only be described as perfect for the song. Fleetwood’s drumming gives the song a swinging, laid-back and slightly jazzy feel. John McVie’s bass shows similar restraint, pacing the song with an effortless feel. And Christine McVie’s keyboards and lovely gauzy vocals add the perfect touch. Backing vocal duties were shared by Buckingham, McVie and Nicks, and the harmonic blend is mellifluous and so satisfying. But of course Nicks is the star of the song, with her sweet, plaintive voice (this was before she ruined it on the Tusk Tour and with years of drug use).

Listen to how the gentle, philosophical lyrics support and blend with the easy sound of the song.

"Now here you go again
You say you want your freedom
Well who am I to keep you down
It's only right that you should play it the way that you feel it
But listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness
Like a heartbeat, drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering
What you had, and what you lost
what you had, and what you lost

Thunder only happens when it's raining
Players only love you when they're playing
They say, women, they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean you'll know
You'll know

Now here I go again, I see the crystal vision
I keep my visions to myself
It's only me who wants to wrap around your dreams and
Have you any dreams you'd like to sell,
Dreams of loneliness, like a heartbeat drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering
What you had, And what you lost
What you had, oh what you lost

Thunder only happens when it's raining
Players only love you when they're playing
They say, women, they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean you'll know

Oh thunder only happens when it's raining
Players only love you when they're playing
They say, women, they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean you'll know
You'll know
You will know
Ooh ooh ooh, you'll know"


This is the seventh installment of my original, ongoing "Masterpieces of Pop" series. You can read the other essays here:

Masterpieces of Pop: "Ode To Billie Joe"
Masterpieces of Pop: "Rikki Don't Lose That Number"
Masterpieces of Pop: "I Only Have Eyes For You"
Masterpieces of Pop: "I'm Not In Love"
Masterpieces of Pop: "Warm Leatherette" and "Cars"
Masterpieces of Pop: “Family Affair”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

BEAUTY: Sculpture--Paolo Fumagalli

Florentine Paolo Fumagalli was a product, furniture, and interior designer before becoming a fine artist. It is easy to see how his previous product design experience influences his thought provoking multi-media sculptural works. These slick and to-the-point pieces are commentaries on the anxieties of contemporary world culture.

Top to bottom: Pacifier (9mm); Bipolar Reflection; Handle With Care (Frustration); Love Will Tear Us Apart; Special Offer (Lies); White


BEAUTY: Interiors--Luxurious Living Rooms

Living rooms should be comfortable and well appointed but unique and interesting as well. This can be done with luxurious fabrics, exceptionally shaped furnishings, unexpected colors, interesting wall treatments and art, and dramatic lighting fixtures. Click on each picture to see the bigger version and look closely at the design elements that make each of these rooms very special.

Interior images found uncredited except: pictures #1 and #3 by Smith Boyd, picture #6 by Kara Mann, and picture #8 by Barry Dixon.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Had That Dream Again...

BEAUTY: Mixed Media--Michael Johansson

Michael Johansson's art both delights and disturbs me. It seems more like some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Often grouping objects by color, he stacks, slides and fits these objects--all of varying sizes and dimensions--into satisfying cohesive shapes like cubes or into other larger objects like bookcases or closets, or under and on chairs or small tables. It is a fascinating glimpse into a mind that can "see" space and what will fit into it in a beautifully cataloged and organized way. In some titles of his work, he even references the famous video game Tetris which requires players to arrange various shapes into a solid form.

Top to bottom: Box Office; Half Empty; Monochrome Anachron; Packa Pappas Kappsäck (Pack Daddy's Suitcases); Strövtåg i tid och rum (Strolls through time and space); Tetris - Landskrona Museum (Objects from the storage room at Landskrona Museum)


BEAUTY: Art--Jerm IX

Jerm IX, whose given name is Jeremiah, considers himself to be a street artist, urban explorer, poet, lyricist, and activist. He creates stencils of his own poetry, commentaries on current culture, and pointed observations, and posts them around Vancouver, where he lives and works.

Some of the pieces can be heartbreaking, referencing a life that has seen difficulty and pain. His work is powerful, raw, and honest. They feel like works that deserve respect for their directness and authenticity.




BEAUTY: Ceramics--Shary Boyle

Canadian artist Shary Boyle creates hilarious porcelain figurines that riff on the kind of dreadful little tchotchkes we have all seen in the homes of our grandmothers, aunts, or friends of our parents'. It is a Frankenstein-ish mash-up of tacky Lladro pieces and that Barbie with the huge crocheted skirt that fits over the extra roll of toilet paper on the back of the john!

Boyle is actually a highly skilled artist as evidenced by her beautiful representation of The Beast from Cocteau's gorgeous, immortal film "La Belle et la Bête." Visit her website to see some of her paintings and drawings.

Top to bottom: Snowball; untitled; untitled; Little Brown Bat; Ouroboros; Haunt; Veils; La Bête


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Active Child: "You Are All I See"

I am absolutely thrilled that Active Child's new CD was just released. Called "You Are All I See," it is a glorious mix of electronica, harp, and Pat Grossi's divine, haunting voice. Here is a still video of the heavenly "Hanging On" from the new CD, on Vagrant Records.

The collection of songs has a delicate, yearning sound, with a little bit of "blue-eyed soul" thrown in. I seem to be stuck on "Hanging On" but I also like the lightly funky "Playing House" and the lovely and enigmatic instrumental "Ivy."

The album is available at Amazon and iTunes.

Thank you, Pat! I'll see you at The Bottom Of The Hill!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011