quinta-feira, 10 de julho de 2014

Count my stars, let them shine

 I have been through many phases in which I become obsessed with a specific band/group or an album, or even an EP. Lately, I've been swinging between shoegaze and post-punk, but mostly shoegaze, as it is always.
Although the following band doesn't quite fit either the label of shoegaze or dream pop, this being because they have their own special, unique environment, they are often put in the "shoegaze/dream pop" group. This specific band is Mazzy Star, one that I've been familiar with for a few years now, listening to their three albums occasionally, from now and then, yet they became one of my most appreciated band that I listen to often now.
Why, you might ask (not really, I imagine)? I cannot tell you. Maybe I randomly chose them as a soundtrack to my study sessions in the last few months, since I have had exams until late June, and I rediscovered their own value and the little, precious treasure that is Hope Sandoval's voice. They are rarely pointed out as one person's favourite top bands, they are most likely that one really good band that doesn't leave that status, I guess.
Since I cannot really decide whether I should approach "She Hangs Brightly", "So Tonight I Might See" or "Among My Swan", I think I should make an essay on their sound and vibe, although it might be a much too vague "review", that is, if you can still call it a review.
Their debut album, released in 1990, probably the very beggining of shoegaze, takes a shape more raw, with Hope almost assuming a femme fatale role in her vocals, and the guitars, well, balancing and struggling between delicate and fierce sounds, having yet a tendency to weigh more on the wild, fierce side. I think Mazzy Star has mantained a sonority that swings from shyness and delicacy to sensuality and intensity. In this album they still adopt a very timid "behaviour". Still, the last songs from the album had a "darker" side to it, such as "Taste of Blood" or "That Highway".
And then, the 1993 album, "So Tonight I Might See" opens up with the ultimate enigmatic love song "Fade Into You". And I didn't choose enigmatic randomly, because this is the keyword to the rest of the album, in which you notice a withdrawn attitude, and by this I mean, a more impersonal type of sound, maybe taking the album to a higher level. I find this album a little bit more ethereal and abstract compared to "She Hangs Brightly" because they group had matured by then. They were seeking, probably, a deeper type of sonority, perhaps focusing really in music and not so much on expressing yourself directly and in a sort of "hot-headed" way.
Lastly, "Among My Swan" is probably my favourite album, and since it is my favourite album it is the most difficult one to talk about, to fully express my feelings and thoughts towards it, although I love them all, but it has the right amount of shyness and sensuality that I have mentioned earlier. Hope Sandoval and David Roback know exactly what they are doing. The mixture of folk, dream pop and those noisy yet seductive shoegaze guitars is genius and really well put together. Everything is exactly as it should be. Keeping always a very melancholic atmosphere, yet going from narratives to first person lyrics, the kind of music you'd love to listen to on a rainy day, yet it would also fit in a summer sunny day. As I said before, it is the most difficult album for me to talk about because it is heavy with meaning to me and I feel like it is very very similar to "So Tonight I Might See", yet it takes a much more brooding character to it.

sexta-feira, 14 de março de 2014

Secrets of the Beehive

     This album has been introduced to me a few months ago yet I  only got interested enough to listen to it a month ago or so. I remember perfectly it was an afternoon in which, for some reason, David Sylvian came up to my mind and so I decided I should give a chance to his 1987 album, one that many consider his masterpiece.

     After listening to the first time, I immediately fell in love. I found September a very soothing song, that recalled to me my very own relationship with my former boyfriend: two people sitting in a café sipping their own drinks in a very melancholic and romantic environment, envolved and protected from the outside world by their own bubble of love. It is a shame that it's such a small track, yet very powerful too. The first piano notes slide into your ears and you cannot press "pause" or "stop". I'm forced to confess I shed a few tears as I listened to "September". Anyway, it is the introduction to a very simple, modest, beautiful, soulful album yet ambitious in its own way.
    The following track is "The Boy With The Gun" that tells the story of young man that makes justice by his own hands, along with some beautiful melodies and that wonderful mellow David Sylvian voice. Although it is not the most dramatic song in the album, it has a lot of drama in the lyrics and the story behind it. Telling a moving story of a young boy damaged by his own childhood, it is one of the highlights of the album.
   In a spiritual ambient, either religious, pagan or merely existential, Sylvian gathers songs such as "Maria",  having a tense yet numb atmosphere created by the instruments, evoking a mysterious world, along with The Devil's Own, a song describing a tempestuous night time, the midnight hour in which many spells are cast and the despair of heartbreak inbetween sheets and blank nights."Orpheus", taking profit of the mythological poet that lost his love and his reason of being in a much more existential and philosophical way, struggling against dilemmas and life's adversities, yet keeping always resilient towards loss and grief.
    Both When Poets Dreamed of Angels and Waterfront are similar to Orpheus because of the sense of tormented souls present in both lyrics and melodies, one mentioning violence against women, other mentioning young lost boys among the vast challenges of life and its difficulties.
   David Sylvian always takes benefit on stories that he begins to write down on his own lyrics and adds his own personal life shaping, approaching subjects such as grief, uncertainty in life while making decisions, heartache, and the angst of thinking too much. The standard, yet beautiful, angst and unrest of a poet's mind, or at least a sensitive reader. That is exactly what I love about Sylvian, and you can tell especially on this album, where you have this whole world of dreams and stories of other people you can get lost in and feel their ache, their sorrow, their worries, yet you awaken to your own life and conscienceness and there you are again, confronting your personal issues, which happens all the time with me.
 Sylvian's mind is full of beautiful imagery and thoughts, and I can tell by his music, because he was very different with Japan, and I guess being solo gave him the space he needed to be himself, to be mature in terms of sonority and lyrics.
   The tranquility I feel while listening to "Let The Happiness In" is incredible. It's a song that really is the opposite of all of the other ones. It's about being carefree and not letting yourself be attached to obstacles that won't let you be truly happy or at least, in peace. The tuba in it gives it a very soothing and calm touch, and when I think about the lyrics themselves, the message that is clarified is to let go of all that hurts you or stops you from being at peace.
  The last track, which is definitely one of my favourite ones, is Promise (The Cult of Eurydice). I must say I love the fact that David Sylvian mentions greek mythology, one of my favourite subjects, in this album. Eurydice was the loved one of Orpheus, that died and so the "promise" would be the return of Orpheus to get her back from the shadows. Yet they are apart forever, since she has perished and he didn't manage to fulfill Hades' agreement of not looking behind to check if she was there, so she stays all alone for the rest of his life. The guitar is hauntingly beautiful, as well as Sylvian's deep and plangent voice that fits in perfectly. The scenery of a rosary in her hands as she kneels down in the rain, her tears camouflaged by the rain, praying fervently for his return in the midnight hour, as she fears her loneliness.

quarta-feira, 10 de julho de 2013

Nothing but Blood

This Mortal Coil have been introduced to me by the most significant person to me, my boyfriend. He has got their discography in CD and vinyl, and he played them to me several times, and I'm not going to lie it seemed strange at the beginning. But as I let them run their flow, I started to like them a lot. He first told me to listen "It'll End In Tears", but I was so very stubborn and started by "Filigree and Shadow", although back then I would never have patience to listen to it until the end. So, I moved on to "Blood". And it was love at the first listen. 
Their name, chosen from Shakespeare's "Hamlet", one of my favourite books ever, was an attention call. I thought to myself they had to be wonderful, since they were very related to Cocteau Twins and their name was taken off "Hamlet". 

"Blood" is in fact a beautiful, beautiful album. It's one of the least heavy albums of This Mortal Coil and it's the one whom I have first been (actually) introduced to. There are definitely some pointless and unnecessary instrumental tracks, such as "Andialu", "Loose Joints" and "Ruddy and Wretched". Yet, it is an album with such beautiful songs, most of them covers, that's true, but This Mortal Coil were indeed able to improve those very songs and take them to a completely different level. I do give all of the credits to the respectful authors of the cover songs, but This Mortal Coil took their songs to absolute bliss and perfection. For example, "I Come and Stand at Every Door" sends shivers down my spine because they have actually took the song to the extreme of drama and tragedy. It's a complete and absolute different universe you enter in once you press the play button to this album. 

You And Your Sister's cover without font

One of the most obvious highlights is Caroline Crawley's voice, in songs as "Mr. Somewhere", "Help Me Lift You Up" and "Late Night", in which she gives a very pastoral and rural touch to the songs. Another one is that genius and sweet sound of "You and Your Sister", where you can actually feel emanation of love out of the song and its vocals and the very beauty and uncertainty of love and affection for someone. The beauty and softness and the almost velvet-like sonority of songs like "The Lacemaker", "With Tomorrow", "Carolyn's Song", "'Till I Gain Control Again", "Dreams Are Like Water" dictate the very and exact essence of the whole album: calm, tranquillity, the beauty of melancholy. "Baby Ray Baby" is one of the most lovely and innocent songs in the album, from the baby's babbling to the choir in the background singing imperceptible sentences in a very maternal yet melancholic way, sounding almost as guardian fairies or, as my boyfriend once said to me, "pre-raphaelite muses", which is a definition I absolutely agree. The subject of childhood is spoken in "I Come and Stand at Every Door" and "Baby Ray Baby" which I think it was meant some kind of contrast between those two: the subject of losing your own childhood to death and the other subject of being a baby wording meaningless things as that infant is protected by some metaphysical women or force. It's haunting to me because I have thought about that, about how the child in "I Come and Stand at Every Door" will never live his or her own careless childhood, and how that child will never grow old. These type of things really can touch me in a very deep way, and that is exactly why I can't listen very often that song, because it simply is too sad and tragic. 
"Several Times" is the very peak of what journalists and the whole media seem to call "dream pop". It's one of the dreamiest songs I ever experienced in my whole life, and it's beautiful, yet painfully short. Yet, the whole album is, indeed, dreamy and to me, it's got a beautiful mazzy and hazzy, stardust atmosphere. Beautiful, haunting at times, sweet and innocent, but above all, a wonderful and well done album.

sábado, 18 de maio de 2013


To some, this may be just a greek food plate. To me, it's the soundtrack to my past summer, filled with loneliness and melancholy.
Front cover of "Souvlaki"

Alison is the opening and it begins brilliantly, with those drifting guitar riffs that wander in your mind make you relax and just sink in a state of mind of trance. The lyrics are kind of enigmatic, but I relate them to teenage years and all those youthful things to do. I don't think it is a song about sorrow, but more about "not caring about anything" because you are a teenager/young adult.
Then follows "Machine Gun", this stunning and atmospheric beauty of a song. I think it's a song about drowning, at least drowning in your own sorrow and loneliness, an interpretation based on my own experience. Once this song starts, there's always a tear on the corner of the eye. Maybe it's Rachel's vocals, or the distant, "wavy" and floating guitar sounds, or just the melody, I don't know, but I remember when I first listened to it, I had the need to sob. Maybe at the time I was a little too sensitive, but that's what Slowdive makes to you. Nevertheless, the lyrics do not have much meaning in this song, all of the interpretation is based on the sound and the music only, not the lyrics. Perhaps there is a specific meaning, a symbolist one. The explanation I find is that "Son of yellow" may be referred to someone mentally ill, since yellow is the colour of madness, and that person might have drowned in it's own lunacy and hallucination. As to "Sheeba", according to my researches, it can whether mean marijuana or a very potent strain of LSD, or referred to someone who is nice, gentle and caring. Also, I found that Sheba is a hebrew name and it means "promise". The whole song mentions water and drowning, and that's something that has always attracted me.
Inner sleeve
Then "40 Days" looks like a song about missing someone, something that's so close and so distant at the same time. It's not necessarily a sad song, it's actually a kind of cheerful song. The lyrics don't seem to happy, but the song in itself does. I think it's about being too attached to someone that even if you wanted to leave him/her, you couldn't.
"Sing" is a very hypnotising song, filled with distant vocals, Rachel's vocals. It's very much like the whole "Souvlaki" atmosphere, very aerial and etherial. I particularly love the beggining with the water sounds, those sounds you hear when you're underwater. They almost sound like water bubbles blowing up on your ears as you sink in a lake. Everything sounds much more mysterious, I'm speaking of my own experience as a swimmer, those sounds remind me so much of when I'm underwater, and I can see the thick and intense blue of the pool, as I watch my colleagues' legs fade as they're swimming. It's a beautiful image because water always brings me so much comfort. "Souvlaki Space Station" is, as "Sing", a very etherial song. It doesn't remind me of water though, reminds me of flying amongst cosmic universes.
"Here She Comes" is a short song, maybe too short. I wish it would have been longer, but those 2 minutes and 21 seconds are beautiful, whether musically whether lyrically. The metaphorical image of "There's a shadow on my wall, it dances like my soul" makes me think of some dual personality, someone who is two different people, and that person is aware of it. I personally identify it as the shadow of sadness of one's own, manifesting itself on what's supposed to be the real person's reflection. The title "Here She Comes" may be the personification of sadness as a female, since I've always identified sadness as a woman.
"When The Sun Hits" is a song about a girl that's fading into dust, dust of despair and misery, a girl whom you love more than anything, but inevitably, she's slipping away from your own fingers because she doesn't know how to stop giving in to severe and heavy depression, and I can find those evidences in "Sweet thing, I watch you burn so fast it scares me". It hurts very much to see a person that you care about so much trying to fight against despair and frustation and you can't do anything, you do you best to help, but it looks like everything's turning worse. It's a very personal song to me, and it touches me in a very deep and painful way.
Both "Mellon Yellow" and "Dagger" is another song about loving and suffering. The constant fear of losing the other person, of watching him/her slipping away, fading away, watching the previous and mutual happiness just disintegrating. This is a subject that is so terrifying for most people, specially for me. In Mellon Yellow, I notice that the songwriter has got a different way of showing his/her love, but since the other person won't understand, he just sits and watches everything fall apart. In Dagger, it's about the same girl that just feels too awful and too hurt, and he recognizes that he's the reason of her despair: "You know I am your dagger, You know I am your wound (world)". Yet, although the adversity in their relationship, he recalls her smile, and remembers himself that, maybe not everything is lost and all that remains is hope for both ("I didn't really lose you, I just lost you for a while".

Inner sleeve

I conlude this review by saying that it is a very personal album for me, and it's okay if your own interpretations are not even close to mine. In the end, music is an interpretation as well, just like poetry or visual arts as paintings and sculptures.

sexta-feira, 29 de março de 2013

Marble Giants going through their Colossal Youth

    Simple, lovely and spontaneous guitar riffs as well as a very crystal clear voice of a young and unpretentious girl among the other bandmates. Young Marble Giants has been described as a "shock" to the world in a period of agitation, frenetic and loud movement in the middle of the punk (post-punk) scene and also as a quiet and discrete, almost as intentionally disguised as a background band. Also, they have been labelled as "minimalist" which is a very ugly word in my opinion because it reminds me of effortless things, of nihilism and just taking the easy and pragmatic way, without any love or passion for what's being done. I don't see Young Marble Giants that way, it's quite the contrary: in my eyes, they are passionate, very passionate, something you notice on the lyrics ("Nature intended the abstract for you and me"). It's just that you don't have to be complex to be fascinating or to be overly elaborated, especially on music, to make something proper and valuable. Of course, you have to know how to do it. Young Marble Giants are simply humble and unpresumptuous which makes them very graceful and unique in their own way. Their music is definitely simple and almost casual, like a type of band you would listen to in a Saturday night, all alone.
   Colossal Youth is a marvellous album and one of the most concrete examples that music can remain in a novice level without being awful and being actually very beautiful. Of course, many people would not agree (especially progressive rock fans), but I guess that you just have to be more open to other mentalities to appreciate Young Marble Giants' sound.
Colossal Youth, 1980
   Eating Noddemix is a brilliant song with a strong narrative characteristic which makes it interesting. You don't really understand the conclusion of the narrative, but you know there was a murder and there's a femme fatale that getting ready for something. So I just associated those two facts as one: that femme fatale killed a man and goes hunting for me flesh to slit and blood to spill. Then, you have N.I.T.A that is also one of my favourite songs on the album. It talks about lonely souls, haunted and abandoned by their own old lovers. You have been abandoned but yet you weren't because you're still being haunted by that person who's supposed to be leaving you. Now that subject is very in-depth and insightful, quite enough.It's a song that clearly talks about loneliness, a song I used to listen in my own Saturday night loneliness.
   Every song in this album has got this beautiful monotonic beat that kind of hypnotises you, as well as the synthesizers or the organ (Wind in the Rigging) that sound so characteristic of the post-punk itself and combined with the easy tabs of the bass and guitar contributes to the whole atmosphere of relaxation, insight, modesty and delicacy of the sounds and lyrics and the voice itself of Alison Statton.
It's not a masterpiece, that I can say, but it's a little delicate gem from the depths of the early 1980's that has been kept under veils and veils of lousy and cheap pop, glam-rock, hair metal music.

Philip Moxham, Alison Statton and Stuart Moxham

Photo courtesy of Philippe Carly: Alison Statton and Philip Moxham
Photo courtesy of Philippe Carly: Alison Statton

back cover of Colossal Youth

quinta-feira, 21 de março de 2013

Scottish Roses

   Not, that's not the band's name, but what I usually call them. I call them that simply because on the climax of their musical careers they were like two little roses (one of them literally a "rose"), due to the briefness of their ephemeral success.
They could be called as Boy George's sisters, Siouxsie Sioux's cousins and made out of polka dot fabrics.
Who else would I be talking about if not Strawberry Switchblade? Rose McDowall and Jill Bryson, two girls from Glasgow that formed a band in 1981, from which reached success in 1984/1985.
 What drawn me the most to these two Gothic Lolita godmothers was probably their look. Besides their own natural beauty, of which I still envy, I also was jealous of their closet, their hair ribbons, the flowers and garlands in their voluminous ripped hair (as it was usual and a fashion on the 1980's) of the polka dots, lace and all the exotic glamour that they emanated and transmitted to me. Yet, once I heard their debut album, debut and last album, Strawberry Switchblade, I fell in love with their innocent, shrill and jangling voices that belonged to Rose and Jill, I fell for the pop and cutie atmosphere of the album and the lyrics, for the electronic-ish sounds, so charasteristic of the 1980's. Still, above everything, I fell in love with the ability they had of making good pop music. 
Going back to their home town, Glasgow spawned most of my favourite bands, and to me, there is a small group of glaswegian bands that makes bad music.
 As to the album in itself, the second track, Deep Water, is possibly one of my favourite songs of the whole album, and of all time. First, it is because they have the jingle and the whole tinkle of the wind-chimes that are, usually, placed in the porch and wind-chimes remind me of rainy days. Second, because the whole sonority of Disintegration (especially on Plainsong) by The Cure, which is one of my favourite albums ever, brings me back to those exact sounds. And third, because the lyrics are inspired by the situation of being underwater, of drowning (which reminds me of legendary characters like Ophelia, the tormented lady from Hamlet by Shakespeare) and also, inspired by the misty riddle and mystery that lays beneath deep veils of water of rivers, seas, lakes, etc.
Strawberry Switchblade, 1985
Trees and Flowers, EP

Another track that catches my sudden attention is Who Knows What Love Is, that leaves me in this immediate sensation of a young teenager singing and not the woman that Rose already was back then. It leaves me in this feeling of comfort and warmth maybe because the melody of the song provokes those feelings. Black Taxi and Michael Who Walks By Night are two songs that evoke me mystery and the nocturnal life, such as pubs and clubs. Those two are also one of my favourite tracks on the album, that also have these reminiscences of Japanese Whispers by The Cure.
Last but not least, Trees and Flowers are one of my favourite songs by this new wave duo (followed by Deep Water). It's a song about the fear of buildings, of tall buildings (agoraphobia) that Jill Bryson felt, yet according to my perspective, the lyrics are kind of ironic because I absolutely love flowers and trees and I sing this song as if I actually hated them. Maybe that happens due to the "expressiveness of the figure of speech". As to the melody of the song, the guitars and the instrumental part is really adorable and cutie, and they make me feel the same way as I do when I listen to Who Knows What Love Is?.

Rose and Jill: Trees and Flowers cover photo session.

Rose and Jill: Trees and Flowers cover photo session
Rose McDowall, Trees and Flowers cover photo session

Strawberry Switchblade, live at Leeds in 1984. How lucky the audience was!!

On a TV show

Rose on the set of the "Since Yesterday" video

On the dressing room. Front: Jill; Back: Rose

Jill Bryson

Jill and Rose

Rose, left. Jill, right

All photos are courtesy of Peter McArthur taken from their official website: http://strawberryswitchblade.net

sexta-feira, 15 de março de 2013

Gruesome Flowers: I and II

As a few of you may know, I'm a huge fan of The Wake, the legendary underground post-punk/indie pop glaswegian band. And, as a fan (even if a very recent fan), I have heard the tribute to them "Gruesome Flowers". I thought it was a lovely idea because it showed that there were a few current bands that had actual good taste in music. So, I risked and gave them a chance. One of the bands on that tribute, Wild Nothing, has caught my heart with their echoing guitars from Nocturne, their second album. But the others... well, it was what I expected.
Gruesome Flowers vol. I
The first "volume" had Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing as performers of the songs "Plastic Flowers" and "Gruesome Flowers". To start with this review, I'll analyse one of my absolute favourite songs from The Wake, which is "Plastic Flowers". I can basically say that Beach Fossils didn't take any risk (neither did Wild Nothing) and kept too close to the original. I expect, usually, covers to be different due to the own essence of the band that covers a certain song. But I was disappointed. Same happened with Wild Nothing, although they surprised me with the dreamier guitars and atmosphere. It kinda of gave their own life to the song itself. The song was slowed down, since most of Wild Nothing's songs are slow and calm.
As to Beach Fossils, I'm not saying they ruined the song or anything, because they didn't, but they should have done something different and maybe they should have reincarnated the song in the band's own structure. They even picked up a female voice to pretend it was Carolyn's. Nonetheless, it's not a bad cover, but it could have been better. Yet if we consider Beach Fossil's type of songs, it's very common and it sticks to the usual fast indie guitars, calm and distant voices, and monotonic beats.
Wild Nothing's "Gruesome Castle" is also very faithful to the original yet, they managed to give their own touch to the song with the echoes of their Nocturne-like guitars, the electronic-ish beats and printed the song in a very dreamy and ethereal environment. It's a well done cover, and a beautiful one as well.
Moving on to "Gruesome Flowers II", we have Craft Spells and Blouse covering the songs "Talk About the Past" and "Pale Spectre".
Craft Spells are notoriously influenced by The Wake (so my boyfriend says) and it would be obvious if they wouldn't change much in their cover. Basically, the only thing different was the voices. It didn't please me and it did disappoint me because although they're influenced by them, they could have reshaped the song, making it their own.
Gruesome Flowers vol. II
As to "Pale Spectre" by Blouse, I have to say I didn't know the band before but it surprised me. After being disappointed two times (almost three), I expected it to be rubbish and a simple copy of the original, but I was wrong. The song is completely slowed down and almost impossible to recognise. And it's beautiful! It feels like falling in slow motion into a bed of roses and snow, into a dream. The echoes of the beats from the drum are simply stunning, and the voice of their vocalist is quite different from Carolyn's, which pleased me, and it is very mesmerizing. It's a whole different world and almost as if a whole different song. As much as I might be a huge fan of The Wake, I think Blouse have actually improved the song. They have turned a very cheerful and cute song into a song that you play in your head when you fall into a pool all by yourself and stand there, underwater, for minutes without even caring if you're breathing or not. It's a notable improve, something I never thought saying. My congratulations to Blouse.