Tag Archives: Music

Chick-Rock: 90s Style

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The 90s alternative music scene was the place to be if you were a girl with vocal chops, guitar-shredding skills and a bad ass attitude. A high angst quotient didn’t hurt either. 

And what a decade for fashion.

It was like a 1960s-era Las Vegas lounge club exploded and managed to pull some bits of the 40s and 70s into the blast. I still remember the silver holographic spandex tank top I bought along with the white pleather jacket with enough (faux) lambs wool trim for a small Tibetian village.

Baggy jeans and one-size-too-small tees? Lipstick so marroon your lips were perma-stained? FLANNEL?  Oh…and let’s not forget the mini-skirts and knee-high tights!  I so belonged in a grrrrl band (or on the Sunset Strip — the jury is still out on that).

Fur fur fur fur fur. Hell, it was the 90s.

See that furry thing that Kate Moss is sporting? I owned something similar and it made my 17 year-old heart feel quite fashionable. Looking back on it today, I probably looked more like a runaway prostitute than a fashion model.

Let it also be known that the 80s fashion trends are swiftly turning their eye to the grungy 90s. Prepare yourself for jean shorts with tights, matte lipstick galore, distressed leather jackets, combat boots with dresses and lots and lots of P-L-A-I-D. Most of this is already a thing but the South is slow to respond. I guess we like to think it over before we jump onto the fashion train.

The one thing I will not miss are mom jeans. No matter how tiny your waist or tight your tush, no one looks good in mom jeans, but apparently they are popular in Buenos Aires.

Between seeing what is emmerging this spring on the runway, hearing that The Breeders are touring again, and watching Clueless this weekend (a young Paul Rudd — I mean hello!) I have become fondly reminiscent about one of my favorite things from that decade: the music.

So to give you a peek inside my boy-crazed, music-fueled, and hormonal teenage brain, here are some of my favorite chick-led bands from the 90s.

Cause like…girl power is bitchin’ and stuff!

Happy Music Friday: Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette

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Let them eat cake. Lots and lots and lots of cake.

“It’s always more intriguing to imagine what’s happening, as opposed to seeing everything, because then you can use your imagination. I always wanted to be at a distance.” – Sofia Coppola

I love me some Sofia Coppola and anything she touches is gold in my book.

Production design and music pretty much cement a movie for me (along with a good script of course) but this time I have to say that the music stole the show. Don’t get me wrong, I could go on for days and days about the painstaking recreation of — well — pretty much everything in the entire movie, but the music drew me in and kind of obliterated everything else.

Pastel pastries be damned. Give me some music!

“Acting isn’t for me. I don’t like being told what to do. I’m more interested in set design, more visually driven.” – Sofia Coppola

The soundtracks to her movies are always great and they add a lot of emotion and depth (even if it is pop music). The treatment of the subject, which is usually sterile and very bookish, gives insight as to how a teenager might have felt in having the entire treasury of France at her feet yet not one soul to truly call a friend.She literally has everything she could have wanted yet she’s quite the lonely dauphine, er, queen.

It’s like Molly Ringwald in French class: pink dress, gossip, backstabbing and all.

So, in honor of the amazing 1980s — America’s poshest decade full of waste and frivolity and horribly bad fashion — I present to you some of my favorite tracks from the soundtrack to Marie Antoinette.

Enjoy mes chéris! Now go eat some cake or something.

And for the coups de gras – a cameo by Phoenix (a Sofia Coppola favorite, probably because she’s married to Thomas Mars, the lead singer, and also probably because they’re French).

 

 

Happy Music Friday: Chromatics

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Chromatics

“I drank the water and I felt alright. I took a pill almost every night. In my mind I was waiting for change. While the world just stayed the same.” – Chromatics, “Kill For Love”

If you haven’t heard of Chromatics you are missing out on one of the best electronic bands that Portland has to offer.

I knew their music but wasn’t a rabid fan until I watched Drive. The soundtrack is amazeballs and is totally worth a listen on it’s own. Cliff Martinez built the score based on 80s synth-pop loveliness and I think I’ve listened to it at least three times a day every day since adding to to my Spotify account this past weekend.

I won’t gush on about the band but if you like sultry, floaty, etherial vocals and songs that offer a variety of moods and tempo then you owe it to your ears to find their first full-length album Night Drive. It’s by far my favorite.

Chromatics have also done some pretty solid covers of a couple of my favorite songs by Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. I never would have thought that their sound would have worked with two staples of the rock-and-roll-guitar world but they managed to pull it off and give the songs a new feeling.

They also covered Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”. Several bands have covered the song but this is by far my favorite.

Happy Music Friday: J Tillman’s Latest Incarnation

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J Tillman

“I thought that playing music professionally was kind of the be all and end all. It was kind of the only thing I imagined myself doing.” – J Tillman

In case you aren’t up on the American folk music scene, let me introduce you to a little known but much beloved artist, known simply as J Tillman.

J (Josh) began playing in 2001 with Philadelphia’s Saxon Shore and then moved it on over to Seattle to join Fleet Foxes as their drummer and one portion of the three-part harmony sound that the band is best known for.

Since 2009 I’ve seen Fleet Foxes three times and I can say every time is a new and beautiful experience. When I heard that Tillman was leaving I was sure that there would be no one who could replace his humor and musical talent, and most especially, his voice.

His new gig under the name Father John Misty brings him again to the spotlight (much like when he did with previous solo albums) and I’m happily digging his new adventure.

Father John Misty

“Jesus Christ, girl. I laid up for hours in a daze. Retracing the expanse of your American back with Adderall and weed in my veins.” [Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings – Father John Misty]

“ ‘Misty is a drunk, shamanic drifter character offering you a cup of his home-brewed ayahuasca tea,” is how Tillman describes his musical alter-ego, a persona that has decidedly more in common with Charles Bukowski than Ziggy Stardust. There is nothing naive or sentimental about him. He’s a loner who doesn’t see the world as being worth saving. ‘Father John Misty’ is not really even meant to be taken as a literal person, more like an avatar of mischief. He likes to needle people a little and freak ‘em out. But I could’ve called him ‘Steve.’”

There’s a great interview over at Apes On Tape where he explains his thoughts on music, his process, the literary influences on his work and his interest in pagan rituals.

And now for some tunage from a few of Tillman’s many incarnations…

Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With BB King

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I took a trip home last week to visit with my family and have dinner to celebrate the birthdays of both my dad and sister. They were born on the 12th and 21st respectively, while my mom and other sister were born in January. I am the lone October birthday outcast. I like being a Libra, though, so no skin off my nose.

It was a gorgeous day and perfect for driving so I flipped it to Lithium on Sirius XM and had about an hour’s worth of flashbacks from the 1990s. It amazing how much of that music I have forgotten about, as well as how many of those bands just fell off the face of the earth after the music scene changed sometime after 2000, when electronic music began to creep back into the US.

So long, grunge. Say hello to Herr Synthesizer.

Graduation 1998

Me and some friends post-graduation (1998) celebrating never having to "go to school" again.

One of the songs that I heard was “Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand” by Primitive Radio Gods. This was one of my favorites. It came out right around the time I got my first car (Nissan 240SX). I can still smell the interior and the semi-busted speaker in the back that rattled whenever the bass hit too hard. I loved being able to come and go as I pleased (no more riding the bus to school) and carting people with me to basketball games was actually fun. Becoming the family taxi and grocery runner, not so much.

240sx Coupe

Almost exactly what my 240 looked like. I felt like a total bad ass.

I had never really gotten into blues in high school but since then my music scene has expanded exponentially. When I heard that song from my past played again I instantly recognized a line from a BB King song called “How Blue Can You Get”. I was lucky enough to have gotten to see him back in 2007. He had to sit in a chair through the whole show but he can still play and sing like a man half his age. It’s less like he plays guitar and more like the guitar is a part of him.

The line goes, “I’ve been downhearted baby, ever since the day we met.” It actually opens up the song by Primitive Radio Gods. It was kind of nice to have grown enough in experience to be able to know the origins of the line. I always wondered but I never had a frame of reference.

Then some crap song by Smash Mouth came on and I had to change the channel. Barf.

Primitive Radio Gods

BB King – How Blue Can You Get

Happy Music Friday: Vietnam Edition

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Vietnam

How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man? - Bob Dylan, Blowing In The Wind

Although I wasn’t born until 1979, this is still the music that I grew up with thanks to my parents. There’s something about music of this era that just seems so right — as if this is the way music was meant to sound.

I saw Platoon last night for the first time in over 10 years (in college I decided to watch all of the war movies that I never got to watch as a kid) and I had forgotten about what an amazing sound that time period had. The music reflected perfectly the strains of society and the way America was changing as a nation — more grit, teeth and blood. The youth were expanding their horizons with drugs, sex and ignoring the norms of society in favor of finding their own way.

The times, they were a’changin’.

It also reminded me of the television series China Beach. I really liked that show, although I guess I was a little young for it.

Although not necessarily the most upbeat topics for Happy Music Friday, I still really like the music. It’s thought-provoking and a departure from a lot of the crap we get today. Nothing like a little social justice and self reflection to inspire a good song.

And now, on with the show.

Music For Your Ears: The Golden Filter

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I’m totally digging on New York electro-disco/pop-synth duo The Golden Filter lately.

The Golden Filter

Penelope Trappes (vocals) and Stephen Hindman (synthesizers). Saint Etienne and Pink Floyd are just a couple of their musical influences.

Their music has really intense and disturbing qualities that I find quite nice. We can’t always have happy music, now, can we?

I remember hearing Solid Gold back in 2009 when it first came out, but it fell off of my radar until recently, when I heard Kill Me (which reminds me a bit of something The XX might have turned out).

Besides being a fantastic song, the video is really cinematic and dark, to say the least. Let’s just say that Mom needs some anti-psychotics and some therapy for her Electra complex.

They do a lot of collaboration with Moop Jaw, an Australian video production team of awesomeness, who have also produced videos for Neon Indian and the Canadian dirty-girl herself, Peaches.

And of course, they covered New Order’s Age of Consent, much to my liking. It’s slower and more ethereal and brings a new light to the song.

Don Henley – The Boy of Summer

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Ringo Starr gets no love.

"He's not even the best drummer in The Beatles!" - John Lennon when asked whether or not he believed Ringo Starr to be the best drummer in the world.

Many people argue that artists embarking on solo careers after the demise of their band don’t have the swagger they once did when they were part of the unit (see: Mick Jagger, Billy Corgan, Art Garfunkel, Debbie Harry, Gene Simmons and Ringo Starr).

It’s okay, Ringo…we know you tried.

While I agree that there was something clearly special about the talents that once-combined to form the original band, sometimes a solo artist can thrive on their own (see: Michael Jackson, Sting, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins [both from Genesis], Robert Plant, Gwen Stefani, George Michael, Neil Young and oh yeah…the rest of The Beatles).

Also see Don Henley, former lead singer and drummer for the 1970s supergroup, The Eagles.

As American bands go, no other group out-sold them during the entire bell-bottomed decade. Even though much of the band’s success was built upon his partnership with co-founding member Glenn Frey, Henley has enough accolades of his own to qualify as a solo success.

I grew up listening to The Eagles (thanks to my parents’ extensive record collection) and can pretty much sing every song they made. They broke up in 1980, though, so my memories of them all pre-date my existence on Earth (minus a few months).

Don Henley, however, was my bridge between the past and the present.

I always liked The Eagles for their songwriting style and lyrics. They wrote more of a story than a song and I could very easily make up videos in my head when I listened to their music (which is pretty much what I do for every song in the world).

The same goes for Henley.

Boys of Summer stands out in my mind as one of the 80s classics thanks to some well-written lyrics (brown skin shining in the sun, Deadhead stickers on Cadillacs and Wayfarers).

The images conveyed are written all over every 1980s movie in history and made me yearn to be older, cooler and yes, boobier, even at scant five years-old.

Those  were the days before we had any idea of the dangers of obtaining that healthy glow and Malibu Barbie was a best-seller (minus the melanoma).

The days when yuppies — the 80s’ cultural response to hippies — were flaunting their new-found wealth, prep school educations and fancy cars. And don’t forget Republican wunderkind Alex P. Keaton’s interpretive dance inspired by the stock market crash of 1929.

The days when sunglasses ceased to be just a form of eye protection and became an iconic piece of fashion history, AKA, the Wayfarer, AKA, Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise is bringing the cool back.

"She told me I could make more money in one night than I'd make all year. Enough to pay for my father's car. She told me she'd be my girlfriend. She told me a lot of things. I believed them all." - Joel Goodsen

In honor of the impending summer (in some parts of the US it seems we’re there already), I’m posting three of my favorite Don Henley songs from his solo-career-solidifying second album, Building the Perfect Beast.

These songs make me wanna throw on some Keds, put the top down and take a drive.

Now who’s lending me their convertible (and some sun screen)?

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And finally, the only original video I could find.

What’s up, Donny? Don’t like the YouTube?

Seeing Through The Eyes of…Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist

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On the Street...Quai Voltaire, Paris

"On the Street...Quai Voltaire, Paris" by Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist

….the designer must be able to see – make a concentrated effort to absorb the essence of the project. Seeing is a very difficult thing to do. Most people “look” at a lot of things but never “see” anything. Looking is emotional; seeing is an intellectual process. – Albert Hadley

In the land of street photography, I have a certain fondness for the work of Scott Schuman, otherwise known as The Sartorialist.  His eye for small details and the mood of his subjects are part of the attraction. The fact that he travels around the world capturing concepts of fashion makes me believe that there is room in the world for people who just want to share their ability of seeing with the rest of the world. Traditionally, one only considers visual art to be contained in magazines, museums, and tomes for the coffee table. The success of The Sartorialist proves that there are no boundaries on the internet — art is what you make it. This makes me happy.

I browse the blog several times a week, delighting in how the rest of the world pulls together disparate ideas into a single, interesting look. There is usually an overall concept that permeates everyone’s wardrobe. For a while now it seems to have been a play on volume inspired by the 80s. There’s the option of volume on the top (tunics on top of ultra-skinny pants) or volume on the bottom (harem pants are back, ladies). This spring I anticipate seeing a lot of feminine sun dresses coupled with military boots. I love the look but I feel a bit Olive Oyl when I try something like that. Maybe I can figure out how do make it work.

The image above from The Sartorialist is so 1980s-Synth-Pop-Pet-Shop-Boys. I was way too young to get into any kind of scene when that music was popular (although it has been making a comeback) so I guess I have some leftover unfulfilled desire to incorporate it into my life. I love the all-black, very buttoned up, almost suffocating collar and the leather vest. I remember having a black and white polka-dot shirt and a black vest that I loved wearing. I was only about eight but I felt so…adult. The look is classy and uptight, as compared to the Rock-and-Roll/Glam Rock style that seemed to permeate the US in the 80s.

I think the look the subject is giving the camera is another reason I love the image, too…staring down the barrel of a gun, so to speak. No matter the subject, and despite an absence of traditional beauty, it always comes down to the eyes.

Mad Max Killed The Video Star

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"Two men enter, one man leaves."

Over the past couple of years I’ve seen an emerging trend in music videos: post-apocalyptic tales of destruction and woe, occasionally coupled with a Mad Max type of feel.

The songs themselves aren’t always full of dust clouds of depression and burnt-out city skylines, but the videos do a good job of reaching into the heart of the lyrics and pulling out the essence. Every time I hear one of these songs I can’t help but recall scenes from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

I’m constantly waiting for a crazy-haired Tina Turner to jump out in front of me as I’m driving. I think I need to start wearing distressed leather with spikes and chains attached. Maybe some fingerless gloves? It’s also a perfect excuse to try that smudged makeup look I’ve always wondered about.

I think the phrase I’m looking for is Derelicte.

It may be the end of the world, but it doesn’t mean that I have to die fashionless. Phuleeze.

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Great concept for a video (wait until the end).

While it’s not the typical apocalyptic situation, it’s more applicable to real life. Also, check the Merge Records site for the Spike Jonze/Arcade Fire short film “Scenes From The Suburbs”. You can watch the trailer and also pre-order “The Suburbs” Deluxe Edition which includes the 30-minute film, behind the scenes extras, a booklet, as well as two previously unreleased songs and an extended cut of “Wasted Hours”.

One of my favorite story-telling bands. The video is well done and quite beautiful. Does anyone else feel like they are in the quarry from “The Walking Dead”?

I wouldn’t necessarily call this the end of the world, but it is pretty badass. And they’re wearing leather.

And who can pass up Billy Idol’s 1908s zombie-fest (and skeleton inspired vestie-thing?) And I’ll sweat, sweat, sweat, sweat, sweat!

Apparently all you need are loin cloths, fire, and windmill-powered water boarding to illicit an apocalyptic feel. Maybe this is where Kevin Costner got his inspiration for “Water World”.

And lastly, the video that looks like a photo spread for Vogue. I can dig an end-times scenario that includes fierce, runway ready outfits and hyenas on chains. Look out, Tina…Beyoncé is gonna give you a run for your money.

I’d still put my money on Tina, though.
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“Warriors, come out to playayyy!”