Sunday, 27 December 2009

Songs of the Decade


This list is not intended by any means to be objective or definitive...I've just put down some of the songs that have been significant for me personally in these past ten years. It's supposed to be a mix of the songs I (used to) love to listen to on the radio through to some obscure tracks, the only criterion being the song's release between 2000 and 2009.
It's quite obvious many of my favourite artists (let alone songs) have been ommited from this blog entry due to time and space restrictions... ;o))

In NO order whatsoever:

All These Things That I've Done - The Killers : Long, long before I bacame anything approaching a Victim (= a fan of The Killers) I'd full-on loved this song. This was the kind of stadium rock I could listen to because it had vulnerability, melacholy and euphory and a bit of pretentiousness - all at the same time. Oh, and the lyrics are pretty great too. I got soul but I'm not a soldier is the perfect anti-war chant of the new millenium, regardless of if it was meant to be one or not.
-Grammy nom-

Viva la Vida - Coldplay : Once a Coldplay fan I drifted away with the thrid album but I was curious what would my beloved Brian Eno do with these hopeless soppy suckers and well, he worked miracles. The album was comercial as well as an artistic succes, this song's the best example: catchy, full of joy w/ pretty good lyrics; and even after almost two years I personally haven't grown tired of it yet.
-Grammy-

American Idiot - Green Day : The frustration of the politics of G.W. Bush put into a song; this song gave the name to a whole, brilliant album, rich on great songs which ended up being huge hits. Tho I'm not as left-thinking as these three Californians and don't think Bush is as evil as it's been popular to say in the past dacade, I do love the raw emotions pooring from this song.

Wake Up - Arcade Fire : Probably the best and most original band that came out in the noughties. I could spend ages thinking about which of their songs touched me the most, which I think is the most beautiful. This song was the first that sprung to my mind, so decided to keep my initial choice here.
We could call Wake Up the spiritual anthem of the 00's.

Hometown Glory - Adele : Tho Adele sings about her hometown (London), I think I can easily apply what she sings to my hometown of Prague as well... So beautiful it hurts. Personally if I had to choose one song from the past decade, this one would be it.
-Grammy nom-

Summertime - Robbie Williams : There probably are a more predictable choices off Robbie's 00's catalogue, yet I chose the closing track on Robbie's slightly more experimental album "Rudebox", a melancholic look back at the 90's - but for some reason I think this ode to carefreedom is pretty much timeless.

Stan - Eminem : The song that gave us Dido. The song that made even us music fans who don't care about hip-hop take notice. This is not just a great song of its genre, it's one of the best popular music songs ever.
-check out the live Grammy version with Elton John-

Can't Get You Out Of My Head - Kylie Minogue : I still remember the first time I heard this song...wasn't a love on first listen but hearing it leaft me longing for more. One of the coolest female pop songs ever?
-3 Ivor Novello Awards-

Music - Madonna : Madonna's released many pop hits in the noughties and many of them richer in message that this particular one but somehow this clever ode to...yeah ya guessed it...music still stands out.
-Grammy nom-

The Way It Is - Nicole Atkins : Grown man were moved to tears listening to Nicole singing this song on David Letterman's late night talk show. And many more men and women were subsequently moved to tears when the video of the said performance appeared on YouTube. The power of music. The passion of love. That can move some.

Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers : RHCP managed being both epic and very entertaining with this song. - And I'm not even talking about the video. ;o)
-2 Grammys-

Bring Me The Disco King - David Bowie : For all the brilliance that is Bowie's album "Heathen" I decided to choose the closing track of his (so far) last album "Reality" released in 2003. As the song was written back in the early 90's it puts this thought in your head: did Bowie save it for his last ever song? Coincidence or not...this song couldn't be a better soundtrack to his 'retirement'.
Don't let me know when you're opening the door
Stab me in the dark, let me disappear


King of the Mountain - Kate Bush : A song for Elvis was the song that Kate Bush decided to return with after more than a decade of being a stay-at-home mum. My favourite female singer and songwriter couldn't be ommited from this list.
Elvis, are you out there somewhere looking like a happy man?
In a snow with Rosebud and king of the mountain?

Citizen Kane, Elvis, Michael Jackson...timeless song, it seems.
-UK No. 3-

Home and Dry - Pet Shop Boys : Together with I Get Along the two songs that started my love for this British duo. Probably one of the most beautiful and the most tender love songs these two have ever written. Gone is the irony, here comes the sadness.

Juicebox - The Strokes : Yes, the first song I ever heard this band play was Last Nite and tho that song is pretty hot and all, it doesn't get me going as much as Juicebox. I just love Julian's singing here. I don't really listen to what he's singing about...as far as I am concerned, this song is pure sex.


Fistful of Love - Antony and the Johnsons : Before I ever bought Antony's second album, this song was the first of his I'd ever heard. The irony, of course, is that the song kicks off with Lou Reed's spoken words (I vaguely remember Lou might have been the reason I decided to give Antony a try in the first place).

I Want Love - Elton John : I became a fan of Sir Elton in the noughties (after having a crush on David Furnish for many years, mind you) and I love his recent albums very much. Wasn't easy to choose one song: it basically was a tie between this one (the Robert Downey Jr. song), not very known American Triangle (featuring Rufus Wainwright) and This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore (a minor hit).

Poses - Rufus Wainwright : eventually became a fan of Ruffie in the last few years (he does have quite a few celebrity fans, doesn't he) after many years of trying to love his voice and failing. Of all of his songs that I feel passionate love for I have to choose Poses which is a song I liked even in those dark times and because of the lyrics I did go from wanting to be someone, now I'm drunk and wearing flip - flops on Fifth Avenue. Genius, much?

Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole - Martha Wainwright : Rufus's 'Little Sister' proved to be no softie with this single. She might sing it to her dad but I choose to somehow interpret it as someone's lament to oneself and/or to God.

Take Your Mama - Scissor Sisters : I first noticed Scissor Sisters performing this song at Live 8. I'd heard about them before but never quite got around to listen to them. Hilariously enough it wasn't the yummy loonie Jake Shears that stuck in my memory from that performance but it was the fabulous Ana Matronic...
The Sisters do have better songs than this one but this was my very first, you know. ;o)
(P.S. Ana, I love you.)

Ulysses - Franz Ferdinand : Became a fan of Franz Ferdinand (fan club card and all) thanks to David Bowie's recommendation and this band hasn't let me down yet. Tho I'm a huge fan of their acoustic songs as well as their dancy hits, I had to eventually choose this weirdness from their recent album because it's just brilliant. :o)

Rain - Mika : I knew and loved this song as a piano ballad (see Mika's second DVD), and I love it as a 90's disco type track it ended up being on "The Boy Who Knew Too Much", not a hit in the UK but it best shows Mika's talents for blendig euphoric, sad and dancy into one beautiful song.

Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes : Tho this is the obvious choice, I don't think this song is in any way overrated and it just is one of the best rock songs ever. I did consider putting my personal fave Icky Thump here but then I thought, what the hell, I love this one just as much and, well, it was the song that made the general public pay attention, after all.
-Grammy-

Carolina Drama - The Racounteurs : Listen I'm not like an obssesive fan of Jack White or anything (only have a fetish for his voice and hair) but this guy IS in three succesful bands and he IS a great musician, so including two of his songs here is quite inevitable.
I suppose this is my crime stories & dark humour loving side that puts this song in the all-time-fave rank.

Family Portrait - P!nk : I fully understood the greatness of this song only this year when I finally saw P!nk live and the piano version of it literally moved me to tears. "M!ssundaztood" was quite an important album for me at that time but only now getting to the age P!nk was when she recorded it I can see all the layers.

Muse - Ruled by Secrecy : After many years of trying to ignore these smug looking losers I finally warmed up to them through this particular song that's been one of figure skaters' favourites. No kidding, I became a fan of Muse (who are actually very funny guys) thanks to figure skating. :o))

The Jeep Song - The Dresden Dolls : Might be an odd choice. Probably the most conventional of all their songs (or Amanda's for that matter) but I do have a soft spot for it. I wouldn't go as far and say it's my DD favourite but it is a break-up poppy song with some brilliant lyrics, so what the heck.

Lover All Alone - Clay Aiken : Released in 2008 on the singer's 4th studio album it's so far the only song he wrote the lyrics to. But what lyrics. Let's just write I couldn't say it better myself...(and I totally couldn't SING it better ;o) ).
What I also like about this song is that it mostly relies on the piano and even tho some strings creep in later (the cello's beautiful, tho), this song is still among the least MOR songs Clay's recorded and one of the most organic, raw sounding and most beautiful.

Redeem Me (Beauty Will Redeem the World) - Marc Almond : Written after recovering from his serious accient in 2004 and released three years later this song looks back at Marc's life of wild depravity that the singer doesn't miss; but ultimately this song is a reconsiliation with oneself and an ode to life - and to the beauty of it.
And for me personally I need some beauty in my life could be THE lyric best describing my personality...

The Man Comes Around - Johnny Cash : The 00's was the decade in which we lost many great musicians: George Harrison, Michael Jackson or Ray Charles among them but none of these guys have been around for as long and left as great an impact on popular culture as a whole as Johnny Cash did. Taking to account this was one of the last songs he's ever written, one can easily see the genius of The Man In Black.

FV

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

2009 Albums of the Year

Some of my favourite albums of 2009 in no particular order:

Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

Not love on first listen but after some intensive listening ended up being my favourite of all Franz Ferdinand albums yet. Unusual Ulysses, sexy No You Girls, dancy Can't Stop Feeling, trippy Lucid Dreams or quite touching Katherine Kiss Me... Unlike the earlier albums this one doesn't really have one 'off moment' for me. I'm usually into one-take simplicity when it comes to rock stuff but FF's elaborate ways of producing this record have completely paid off in the end.

The Pursuit - Jamie Cullum

I really like Jamie's style. He's a true 21st Century Kid: he loves jazz, he loves pop, he loves another trillion of music styles and he's somehow able to blend them all together and always sound only like himself and no-one else - and he's getting better and better at it.
As I wrote in my 'review' of this album earlier this year: prior to hearing Jamie's version of Don't Stop The Music I had no idea the song existed and most probably even if I had heard it before I wouldn't have been able to draw a link between Rihanna's ordinary disco track and Jamie's explosion of sexiness. Someone pass me an ice cube.

The Boy Who Knew Too Much - Mika

I fully realize there are many people who don't 'get' Mika's colourful yet kind of spooky world. All jurnos seem to be able to do is lable him "flamboyant". This guy isn't flamboyant, he's downwright craaaazy. But in the best possible artistic way. In a way that gives birth to characters like Dr. John and songs like Rain. All one has to do is jump through the mirror and enjoy the sad yet uplifting ride that'll make you believe that We, actually, Are all pretty much Golden.

West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum - Kasabian

An example of an album where I really don't pay that much attention to the individual songs but rather to the album as a whole.
This album is swagger, this album is a man's man who isn't afraid to raise his maul into the air and cry out in despair for the love missing from this world.
This is what rock and roll sounds like in 2009. Even with all our technology, it's still about the Fire, man...fire.

Far - Regina Spektor

I wanted to put one of Regina's songs from Far on my previous list but I just couldn't choose just one. Regina's released her strongest album yet, dealing with God and other familiar human stuff in her unique quirky way but giving us melodies that you just can't resist and end up singing to them in no time. Oh, and the piano can make our heart sing as easily as it can make it cry.

It's Not Me, It's You - Lily Allen

Tho labled as a naughty girl by the press Lily in fact is very unlike any other female singer out there right now. She's just too clever for her own good. Biting, ironic, sweet and an annyoing bitch at the same time. Lyrically she is a bit of a female Robbie Williams but she's not afraid to be way more political even if it eventually blows up in her face. Fuck You is a true protest song for the new millenium, Everyone's At It & The Fear deal with the sad state of things that are and Him deals with God...with a mixture of irony, warm humor, sadness and catchy melodies.
On the other hand even when Lily loses the smirk and lets her emotions unfold she's still very gripping: I Could Say or the Take That rip-off Who'd Have Known will tug at your heart strings without making you feel guilty about it afterwards...
Best female pure-pop act out there. One-of-a-kind. It would be really sad if this album doesn't get a follow-up.

Journal for Plague Lovers - Manic Street Preachers

Manics are back raw and with the late Richey Edwards's lyrics. Songs like the lead single Jackie Collins Existential Question Time makes you sing along, songs like William's Last Words will send shivers down your spine. Great album.

Reality Killed the Video Star - Robbie Williams

Three years after Rudebox which got undeserved shit from the British press, Robbie decided to go back to his classic (brit) pop roots and the result is probably the most well-balanced record of his recent career. Robbie's slightly less biting than he used to be (Morning Sun, Won't Do That), on the other hand he sings about not calling it a comeback Last Days of Disco) and male lesbians (Difficul for Weirdos), so you know he's still very much our Robbie that won't ever make it big in the US by singing Jesus didn't die for you - what are you on?! - and all is well. :o)

Coraline OST - Bruno Coulais

Of all this year's original soundtracks this one caught my interest the most. Bruno Coulais has previously also scored with his beautiful compostition for Les Choristes, with Coraline he underlines the weirdness and spookiness of the film and a plus point of his songs is the fact the language they're sung in is a made up gibberish which the whole world can equally not understand in unison. ;o)

The Boat That Rocked - Various Artists

No new music here (except for one Duffy's coverversion) but I decided to include this compilation soundtrack album on this list because simply it is better than most of the stuff the still very much alive artists have come up with this year - and it doesn't even include one song by The Beatles. ;o)
If My Generation doesn't get you going, A Whiter Shade Of Pale doesn't make you trip a little and Lorraine Ellison's Stay With Me doesn't break your heart and make you wish Leona Lewis would be capable of something like that, you aren't alive...

FV

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

2009 Songs of the Year

Now, I listen to way too much music, very different stuff, and choosing a few songs as the standouts from this year is basically impossible for me. :o)

I ended up not including quite a few of my favourite artists but they will make an appearance in my next blog about my favourite albums of 2009.

Ulysses - Franz Ferdinand

The lead single from the band's third album "Tonight: Franz Ferdinand" was released right in January and I've listened to it way too many times since then. The brilliant thing is, I haven't grown sick of it yet. The song is quirky, hot, dancy and you can hear Alex Kapranos is a much better singer now than he used to be when the band took to the charts 5 years ago.
If I had to choose one new song I liked the best this year, it most probably would be Ulysses.

P.S. The video for Ulysses must be one of my all-time-favourites as well. Weird rulez.

Zero - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Yeah Yeah Yeahs changed their sound with their third album "It's Blitz" a little bit and with that they caught my attention. The whole album is pretty much listenable (which I just really can't say about the earlier albums...maybe I'm gonna give them a fifth chance next year) but for me Zero is still a stand out and a song that can wake me up and make me dance basically at any time of the day or night.
Besides the video for Zero must be - again - one of my all-time favourite ones.

Kabul Shit - Lily Allen

I could have chosen basically any song off Lily's second album but I decided the b-side to the lead single The Fear would do here just as fine, if not better. Kabul Shit sounds like what Pet Shop Boys might sound if they were 30 years younger and a girl. The melody is kinda melancholic (especially in the chorus) and the sound of the record probably a little more 'electronic' than we're used to from Lily.
As I shared on this blog earlier I hadn't known this song until Lily sang it on her gig here in Prague - and it was love on first listen that I still haven't fallen out of.
The lyrics of the song deserve a mention, nah, not only a mention, they deserve to be carefully listened to. I think anyone in the late teens/early 20's who at least sometimes uses their brains for thinking for themselves can identify with them.
Sample: Now, you'd think that we'd be grateful/For the fact we've got a choice/Instead we throw it back at people/Who don't even have a voice.

After The Event - Pet Shop Boys

I don't know why some artists don't put their best songs on the albums and instead save them for b-sides and bonus features. After The Event didn't make it on the band's tenth album "Yes", it was among the bonus features on one version of the release and it was later released as a b-side on the second single Did You See Me Coming, yet the album featured two songs that are rather infuriating to listen to.
Even if you don't listen to the lyrics of After the Event describing a typical day full of usual annoying stuff climaxing in a hysteria following someone dying - drama without meaning - you can't stay unaffected by the song when it reaches its come on come on chorus. People keep on describing Neil Tennant's style of singing as expressionless but to me personally his delivery only amplifies the content of the songs.
The lyrics of this song actually kind of remind me of an Andy Warhol quote The movies make emotions look so strong and real, whereas when things really do happen to you, it's like watching television - you don't feel anything.

Dog Days Are Over - Florence + the Machine

Sonically, this song is the closest you can get to a 'fountain of life'. Whenever I listen to it I can't help but visualize people running through grass fields, no kidding. And it's all very colourful. :o)

Uprising - Muse

Well, this song doesn't really have much of a competition on Muse's newest album, does it. A Doctor Who theme rip-off but it still works for me. Sexy rhythm, Orwellian lyrics...what more could a girl with a slight crush on Dom Howard want... The little drummer boy himself, perhaps.

Empire State of Mind - Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys

Not a fan of hip-hop but this song was love on first listen, I admit mostly because of Alicia's singing and piano playing (her own, just sung, version can be found on "The Element Of Freedom", her newest album) but the rush of energy and sheer joy take over me whenever I listen to it. There really aren't that many songs that can do this. Two huge thumbs up for Jay-Z, Alicia and the city the whole song's about: NYC.

Doesn't Mean Anything - Alicia Keys

Alicia allowed pop to co-write a song with her and the result is just brilliant. The lead single from "The Element of Freedom" is sad and uplifting at the same time: as only the best pop songs can be.

She Wolf - Shakira

I nicknamed the song The Gayest Song Ever. There's a She Wolf in your closet/Open up and set her free. Dancing Queen has just died.
Shakira on the other hand is as quirky as ever and she's back.

Blasphemy - Robbie Williams

So hard to choose just one song off Robbie's latest album but I'm gonna have to go with this one. Great lyrics, great tune (Chambers, after all) and tho the strings arrangement is brilliant the most important thing for me is that you could sing this song accompanied by just the piano and it would still have all its power. So fucking well done.

I Need To Know - Kris Allen

Originally the song that I wanted to write about here was the lead single Live Like We're Dying which I've listened way too many times since its release. But I think I Need To Know is a song that doesn't get nearly enough praize and therefore I'm just gonna sing some myself.
This song makes me feel. It doesn't make me feel for one of my made up characters that keep popping up in my head all the time, it makes me FEEL. And it's not only the power of the lyrics and the melody, it's Kris's weary delivery, the insistance in his voice that can actually take me to what he's singing about or rather to whom he's singing to. You find out for yourselves.

Out of The Blue - Julian Casablancas

Yes, I know I am going to hell in a purple basket/At least I will be in another world, while you're pissing on my casket.
That's a true rocker attitude...

Vulture - Patrick Wolf

Vulture sounds like Soft Cell 2009 - no surprise Marc Almond almost ended up sharing a stage with Patrick in November. It didn't work out this time but I'm hoping it will happen eventually because it's always great seeing your favourite artists collaborating.
Note: if you don't check out the whole album "The Bachelor", at least give a listen to Hard Times, a song that competed neck to neck with Vulture for this spot. It features some 'violin riffs'. :o)

Battle For The Sun - Placebo

Just like the song itself progresses and grows stronger and more intense with every note, the more I listened to the song the more I ended up liking it. Now, 9 months after the release it made it to this list and I think it very much deserves to be here.

Entertaining Thoughts - Tommy Reilly

I really don't know what to say about this song. It's my favourite on Tommy's debut called "Words on the Floor". It starts as a simple piano song and ends up being a big Fucking Brillaint Song and just like with Kris Allen's songs I just wish more people would know about it and appreciate it and love it.

FV

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Screw The X Factor, Go to YouTube

I while ago I went on YouTube hoping I'd find a piano + vocal cover version of Beyoncé's Halo - which I eventually found.
But along the way I also found these two:



Check out 1:41 - the TONE. Woah. I'm not into sopranos and big voices but hell, I like this.

I also found these two:



Orla

But most importantly I found Orla Gratland's channel and also a channel she shares with her friend Ashley.
Once again, the Irish rock.






An effin genius, she is. x



Ago

One more YouTube find:

Been a fan of Ago for quite some time... Simply put, he rocks. :o)







YouTube is basically a talent show only without the nerves, judges, song choice restrictions, touching personal stories and drama (or at least if you don't read the comments there is no drama lol).

FV

2009 Film Surprises

There have been many films this year that I thoroughly enjoyed but in some cases I just didn't expect I would like them so much.

Moon

I first got to know about Duncan Jones's feature film debut early in 2009 but only had the (legal) opportunity to see it when I bought the DVD in November. I was expecting all kinds of good plus thanks to Twitter I got to know more about Duncan himself (he replied to me TWICE, btw! lol). So because of Duncan and all the hard work he put into the project (directing, promoting...) and because of all the positive reactions I was hoping I would end up likig Moon.
But even after all this I actually was surprised - blown away even - by the film. Sam Rockwell is literally starring in this picture...I've never been a huge fan of his but he won me over - especially after seeing the documentaries about filming Moon.

My recommendation: go buy Moon on DVD/Blu-ray because not only the film, also all the bonus features are more than just worth it.

One of the DVD extras is actually Dancan's first film - 30 minutes long Whistle (financed by his granny) which is a clear indication the world of film has got a huge talent in Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones. I can't wait for his next projects.

Star Trek

Having friends who are HUGE Star Trek fans I always knew a little bit about it (my love for Spock has been going on for many years!) and I saw a few episodes (those with Patrick Stewart) and even one film (the one with Iman) but until I read all those rave reviews about the newest, 11th Star Trek film, I was quite in the safe zone as far as Trek goes. ;o) This film singlehandedly made me a bit of a Trekkie.

Must be my favourite blockbuster type of film ever (so far seen it only 4 times...). Why is it a surprise? Because in the months before the film was released no-one was really sure how it would turn out - even with JJ Abrams directing.
I personally hadn't seen one episode of Lost, nor had I seen Zachary Quinto in Heroes - therefore I didn't know what to expect, on the other hand I also didn't have any "baggage" and went to the cinema hoping people on the interenet didn't lie and the film actually was good.
Good, man. Might be the only 2009 film that would get 100% rating from me. It actually feels really good to enjo a big budget film for once. You get the feeling that all the money that went to it was absolutely worth it.

The Damned United

Could I like a film about football? I could, actually - or at least I found out I could a few weeks ago when I finally saw this film starring Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall.
A) tho a film about a football coach, there isn't too much football in it.
B) Michael Sheen. One of my favourite actors has done it again. He's one of the few who can make you forget you are watching a film with your favourite actor and instead pull you right into the story - and he manages to do all that while playing real life characters, sometimes the guys are still alive. He's just amazing and so very under-rated.
C) Timothy Spall. Oscar nomination, suckers!

-----

Doubt and Changeling were two other films (nominated for Oscar 2009) I liked more than I expected but technically they were 2008 films so I decided not to include them here. On the other hand, I think they deserve a mention.
State of Play was another film I LOVED this year but I fully expected I'd love it. I enjoy watching oldfashioned thrillers, moreso if they include Russel Crowe (American Gangster, The Insider).
The Boat That Rocked (Pirate Radio in the US)simply put rocked even on the paper and what I saw in the cinema didn't disappoint in the least.

FV

Monday, 14 December 2009

2009 Surprises in Music

As a music "maniac" I discover new music almost on daily basis. If we say music is my drug, we will be basically correct. ;o)

I've always been a curious person and being for instance a Bowie fan has never just meant I'd listen to his records over and over. It meant I wanted to know all his influences...and make up my mind about them.

But sometimes something wonderful crosses your path without you searching for it (in my case Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen or The Dresden Dolls) and this blog will be about some of these little music surprises that happened to me this year.

Florence + The Machine.

There are many interesting, sligtly deranged-looking female singers-songwriters, who aspire to be another Kate Bush or Tori Amos but not that many of them caught my attention or even made me like them... then came Florence. The red hair, the weird lyrics, the VOICE. And she also has got the songs...not too out-there, not too pop; she doesn't sound like a copy of anyone - and that's something these days. How does she do it, I've no idea.
When she sings that dog days are over, you just somehow believe her. ;o)

Alicia Keys's new songs.

The last time I listened to Alicia was back when she released her first album...and I kind of lost touch with her - until I heard her collaboration with Jay-Z this year and until I heard "Doesn't Mean Anything". Just bought the new album, haven't listened to it yet - but the more melodic, less vocal acrobatic style of the few songs she released this year totally makes me hopeful I'm gonna like it.

Julian Casablancas.

Never been a fan of The Strokes but some of the reviews of his first solo album Phrazes for the Young convinced me I should give the album a listen. Very nice surprise!
Also, always liked Julian's voice...guess that's why I can never really become a fan of someone like The X Factor's Joe. I just don't like too pretty. ;o)

The Script.

I've already blogged about the musical surprises of this year's season of American Idol.....consequently because of Kris Allen I discovered the music of an Irish band called The Script. Tho not a huge fan of soft rock and r'n'b I actually seem to enjoy the mix of it this band offers. Most of all tho, these guys can write some true to life lyrics with some real deep-ish meaning their contemporaries in sound fail to come up with.What can I say, Dublin.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!

Yeah Yeah Yeahs is a band that's been around for quite some time, I'd known some of their songs but never quite got into them until they released this album this year. I've listened to "Zero" for too many times - and it still makes me dance and I just don't get tired of listening to it. Well done, I guess.

"Cry Me A River" by Michael Bublé.

Aagin...I'd known Michael Bublé for ages, known what type of music he does but never really checked him out until he sang on The X Factor - his version of "Cry Me A River". I guess he had me on "And". Brilliant version - and quite a surprise for me.

FV

Sunday, 13 December 2009

2009 American Idol vs. The X Factor, the Output

Didn't follow any of these shows prior to this year... The trouble with them are the terrible themes and song choices - and as a fan of Bowie, Kate Bush and The Dresden fucking Dolls I always felt these shows were beneath me.

My opinion was kind of changed this year with American Idol. A show that similarly to Czech X Factor allows their contestants to use musical instruments...exactly half of the top 10 finalists ended up being record-buying worthy for me.
From what I've read this season WAS extremely good - I checked out some of the past contestans' performances and I wasn't that impressed by them at all.

This year the winner, singer-songwriter Kris Allen could almost make you forget you were watching a talent show when he humbly strummed his guitar or played his piano covering old ("Ain't No Sunshine") or new ("Heartless") classics, and sang with a passion and vulnerability only Irish and Scottish artists seem to be able to put in their singing.
He also sang Glen Hansard's and Marketa Irglova's Oscar-winning "Falling Slowly" and got praize from them even tho no-one actually hunted these two down and asked them to do it.
Most surprisingly tho, even tho his post-Idol album wasn't flawless, it totally was worth a buy and I can't wait to hear more from this guy.

Then we have the runner-up Adam Lambert.....I intend to write a whole blog about this over-the-top openly gay wonder, so I just add altho not my type - visually or vocally he totally caught my interest and I also am interested in his future career.

Allison Iraheta. Finished 4th place, ended up being singed first and is so far the only American Idol 2009 contestant that got a short article in one of the "serious" Czech rock music magazines. Though only 17, she's got the voice of a 40-year old belter and can express emotion many contemporary female singers can only dream of being able doing.
Was worried her album would turn out being another Avril album, only with better vocals but I was wrong. No, it's not a great album (but neither is P!nk's Fullhouse) BUT it's one of the nicest surprises of this year for me.
If you like female rockers and haven't seen Allison singing "Don't Waste The Pretty" or "Holiday", you haven't lived.

Matt Giraud. Finishing fifth and winning the hearts of everyone on the American Idol tour when there were no judges staring at him and no cameras pointing. Pianist, singer-songwriter and a piece of a man with a very interesting voice didn't show his best in the competition itself but proved he can be THE performer you wanna see on stage when he can just work his audience, play the crap out of his piano and sing.
When he releases his stuff, I definitely will be there to buy it.

Megan Joy. So what if she doesn't sing in the technically right way, she's got the most interesting voice I've heard in ages. One of my favourite Czech singers - and one of the symbols of The Velvet Revolution - Marta Kubisova, has spent her whole life singing with some kind of vocal chords dysfunction - and that's what makes her voice so fucking interesting. Unless Megan's style of singing would lead to a damage to her vocal cords, I hope she won't go and try to sing correctly. :o)
The two new songs she put on her Myspace recently totally made me excited for the whole album she hopefully releases next year.

SO, that's why I tweeted and blogged about Americn Idol so much this year. I couldn't care less about the format of the show - I discovered five great artists that fascinate my soul and ears that are always hungry for new, great music. I believe neither of these five will disappear, even tho not all of them will become megastars.

Being a musician is not only a gift and it's wonderful to see people like Zoe Keating telling it like it is: you can make your living writing, playing & recording music and not being huge stars...if it's really music you love and not fame and money you'll be fine without being on charts (especially in this day and age).
I find it kind of unbelievable that most of these five understand that - especially Megan - and it makes me happy and hopefull for the future of popular music.

Then there we have The X Factor. I made two mistakes. I expected something similar to American Idol - and I also expected the rules of the British version being the same as the rules of the Czech version.
What we ended up having here in the end was a small crowd of wide-eyed contestants in the hands of the "mentors" who in so many cases didn't manage to understand what made their acts so special, instead kept on insulting each other and making as much drama as possible (I've learned that the British love drama even more than the Americans, ouch).
There were quite a few talented performers in the competition (my fave being Rachel Adeji who sadly didn't get far) but what this show didn't accomplish at all was to make me hunger for some new music. It only made me pissed off, week by week. But once I started I just couldn't stop.
As a TV show, great...as a vehicle to find something musically interesting for me, useless.
The only artist I "discovered" by watching The X Factor was, ironically, Michael Bublé who totally got me with his version of "Cry Me A River" and I've bought a few of his albums and become a minor fan since then.
So that would be my only thank you to this show, I guess.

And Brits, if you're reading this, buy Rage Against The Machine's single this Christmas, instead of any muzak this show might produce, I urge you. I'm sure it won't sound a bit like "Live Like We're Dying", anyway. ;o)

FV

(P.S. No, "Hallelujah" is not a Christmas song.)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

2009 TV Surprises

Glee

If you told me a year ago that I'd watch - and very much enjoy - a TV musical series...well, you wouldn't hear many nice words from me.
I do enjoy a musical now and then - if the story is good (Cabaret must be one of my favourite films ever) - and I enjoy the tunes but the combination of musical and TV kind of reminds me of Highschool Musicals and Miley and I'm very much a wrong age group for those (well, always was lol).
First of all, Glee is not just a musical...it's the gayest over-the-top comedy show I've ever seen (and yeah, I own the whole of Ally McBeal on DVDs as well as a season of Will and Grace). Glee makes fun of highschool musicals, pays an homage to them as well and is the only TV show that makes their viewers sob while watching a choir of deaf students "sing" John Lennon's "Imagine" in one episode and totally make fun of that in another episode.
If other highschool films/TV shows give you a nice, shy and talented girl as the heroine and a smart but troubled boy as the hero; Glee gives you an annoying talented girl and a nice, good at heart but basically dumb boy without making them a comedy cliché.
Glee is so not PC but also so PC at the same time - guess it depends what exactly you make of it - and yes, this show can also actually make you think (treat the disabled as equals or make advantages for them? - for instance). Also, it doesn't give you a neatly wrapped happy ending after a morally challenging tale. The good don't always win but the bad don't become good in a blink of an eye, their characters actually develop (kind of suroprising for a comedy, eh?).
Also, Glee is the only show that gives you Sue Sylvester (Emmy nomination for Jane Lynch, ya hear me?!) who utteres one-liners like "Yes. We. Cane." Sue Sylvester became the new Chuck Norris after she killed him and had his balls for dinner. Ew.
Best of all: Glee isn't flawless - in the best possible way. After all, there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in, as Leonard Cohen sings. ;o)



Dollhouse

It's been short but it was mostly good while it lasted. Nobody thought Dollhouse would get a second season but a miracle happened and a second season did actually get filmed...but miracles can't happen all the time and the series wasn't renewed for a third season. There are 4 episodes left to air now but at least it seems it's going out on a high.

I've never been a Joss Wheddon fan. Buffy, Angel, Firefly...all just names for me but when Dollhouse was the new show on the block I took an interest in it and even tho the first few episodes didn't make me drool with bliss, I was later rewarded for my persistance in watching.
I'm still having mixed feelings about Eliza Dushku, the leading lady of this show; don't think I've seen an actress as imbalanced in her ability as her. Sometimes I wished there'd been another, better actress in her place but other times I was almost blown away by how well she did.
The real stars of this series for me, next to Olivia Williams and Harry Lennix would be the gentlemen Fran Kranz and Enver Gjokaj in particular.
The former playing a neurotic, twitchy and sociophobic genius of a scientist (Topher Brink) who annoyed you at first but you ended up loving him eventually; the latter playing.....well, so many people (including characters usually played by other actors on this show) I'm just blown away by his talent. This guy should get a fucking starring role in a feature film.





Mad Men

Not a new show this year but a new show for me. I love history, I love historic series that manage to capture the time period (the 60's in this case), have intelligent storylines and have some warmth to them as well.
This year's season was somewhat darker than the previous ones but the last couple of episodes and the finale somehow turned that on its head.
Attention to detail, great continuity, next to The West Wing probably the best cast: Brilliant TV.

2009.....Fragments.......

Originally intended to write a blog about what caught my interest the most this year...the good, bad, funny etc.

Never been good at doing those best of/worst lists...therefore the blog would end up being a VERY VERY LONG shambles and therefore I decided to write a series of shorter blogs instead.
Basically I'm gonna write about all the things I only tweeted about but never quite got around to blog about them here.

The blogs will mostly be about (popular) music but I'm sure some stuff from film, TV, other popular culture and maybe even politics will pop up in them as well.

Anyway, I hope those of you who'll end up reading them will enjoy that reading, will agree or disagree...maybe even comment and also excuse my bad grammar and lack of typing skills.

First of the blogs will be up this weekend.

SYL!

FV