28 November 2009

Music Video to Love: I Cut Like a Buffalo - The Dead Weather

This is one of the best music videos I have ever seen. It spooks me every time.

The Dead Weather is a supergroup composed of musicians from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Kills, although it really just seems to me that Jack White is the leader of the whole thing. The band debuted in Nashville in March of 2009 and released their debut single, "Hang You From the Heavens" around the same time. Their album Horehound is currently available and they're apparently working on a second album to be released next year.

In the meantime, enjoy this fabulous video. I swear, you can't watch it just once.

Lambert/Gaga/Rihanna: Fashion Envy

I am addicted to fashion blogs. I don't know what I would do on the internet without them. They save me from boredom at least ten times a day and I find them a breath of fresh air in comparison with the music blogs I tend to read frequently as well.

In my own life, things have been really boring lately. Nothing has been good, nothing has been bad.. just a collection of middle of the road occurences that don't add up to much in the long run. When times like these fall on my head I like to mix things up in whatever way I can and that's usually displayed in my appearance more than anything else. In times like these I spend way too much money at silly mall stores and beg people to go shopping with me that end up only frustrated by the day's end. I tend to go overboard on the fashion front sometimes but always within good measure.

Lately, I've been obsessed with Rihanna and Adam Lambert's style. My boyfriend tends to believe that these aren't the greatest fashion icons but their mix of modern glamour and old school, campy rock is so fun and detailed that I find myself trying to do a cheap rip-off any chance I get.

After the age of 16, I fell in love with harder edge clothing after becoming immensely bored with the flowery, pastel clothing of my youth. Purchasing clothes with my own money gave me another avenue to express myself and try different things - that's when I discovered those aforementioned silly mall stores: Aldo, Forever 21, Bakers, the Macy's shoe department, H&M, Urban Outfitters, etc. These stores gave me a chance to mimic the more offbeat styles that the magazines flaunted on every page and I haven't been able to stop since. This probably dates back much earlier than I'm admitting to: my first request from Santa Claus when I was 3 years old was a pair of red party shoes... I knew exactly how much sparkle there should be on the front and exactly what size the heel should be. There was nothing better than shoes and other than music - there still isn't.

Blending the two together is always the most fun. Here are some examples:

25 November 2009

Music Video to Love: Adam Lambert - For Your Entertainment

Although I still don't think the song is up to Lambert standards, it is starting to grow on me and this video is helping tremendously. Aside from his spectacular vocals, Lambert has had the fashion aspect of the music business down from the very beginning. This guy oozes sex and glamour and that has never been more apparent than in this video. While I still think the song would be better suited for Britney Spears, the video takes it up a notch in Lambert's favor and makes me understand the concept a little better. I hope you enjoy, lots of campy, classy fun.

24 November 2009

Love and Magic and Music

I'm 23 years old. I won't always be this age but for right now I can't say I know too much. I wrote a short bit for a writing class today and realized through the subject matter that I knew much more when I was younger. How is this possible? I have regressed on many topics. I'm not too sure of anything anymore. I guess I'm at least in search of answers but I'm also wise enough to know I'm not going to find any and wise enough to know this has been said a billion or more times before, etc. It doesn't stop me from wondering though.

One thing I know for sure is that I'm incredibly inspired by music loved by people I love. Unfortunately my boyfriend doesn't quite like music so he's out of the mix but 50% of the music I love is because of others. I guess you could make the case that all music comes from someone else but I'm an outcast so believe me, most of the music I love is of my own doing. Of course my mother, ex-boyfriend, father, friends, cousin, aunt, and grandfather have been huge influences in my tastes. Men in general (usually the beautiful ones) inspire me a lot and I've found a great way to find new music is by listening closely to what these beautiful gentlemen listen to... I'm specifically alluding to a great discovery today of Sam Baker, a country artist that had fallen victim to a terrorist attack while in Peru that has influenced his music greatly and makes for some fascinating lyrics. Amazon.com suggests Steve Earle and my love Kris Kristofferson on Baker's page as similar artists and upon seeing this, I instantly knew I had found something rather special. While he reminds me a little too much of Conor Oberst, he is clearly older and more worldly, maybe the whining is behind him. I'm so hungry for inspiration oftentimes that I am able to immediately pick up on what is beautiful about something that someone suggests but this was a piece of cake. Even without Baker's extraordinary tale of survival, I would've loved his sound. It's eerie, peaceful, and slightly lonely - very sparse.

My attachment to music often shadows my attachment to people. On a personal note, I had a particularly difficult breakup several years ago that I've mentioned before but I'd like to discuss in further detail. I still speak of it, not because I'm not incredibly happy now but because as a very young person nothing had affected me on that level before. I had lost loved ones to death but never because they wanted to leave me. I did not know how to handle it as he had become an extension of myself, a part of my skin in many respects, and then he was gone. Immediately I felt isolated and never more alone but quickly I realized that I had never been so close to others. My experience - that so many if not all over a certain age have experienced - made me more human. The feedback I received from friends and strangers alike at that time was incredibly humbling. Everyone seemed to care about me so much and always immediately understood that where I was coming from was immensely real - maybe I had never been so real. It would be an understatement to say that I was heartbroken. I was destroyed beyond reason. It is truly is the most human experience I have ever had in my life as typically I'm able to be very strange about most things (you might have to know me to understand that). There is no way of being strange about a situation like that - we all feel the same thing. It is still very difficult for me to talk about. I am only reminded of it because of something that happened this week that made me test the boundaries of where I am right now.

I guess to relate this back to music, I have to refer to a previous post about The National. I thanked this man for allowing me to understand The National's lyrics in a way that I otherwise never would have. He is the same person who questioned my love for John Mayer by asking if I truly related to his lyrics. This has stuck with me for years. I've come to the conclusion at this point that relating to lyrics is not always the only way to relate to a musician but it had me thinking since the moment he asked it. He is also the same person who allowed me to play Coldplay's poignant song "Swallowed in the Sea" while I packed to go away from him forever without shedding a tear. He would sing to me when he was drunk, forced me to listen to Bright Eyes, accepted my love of Pharrell, loved me more because of my affection for Tom Petty, and could recognize Nine Inch Nails in the background of our phone conversations. He'd dance to country music in a dollar store, dance with me to Conway Twitty in the bar, and all the while be very cold somehow. Cold and warm. Hard and tender. Difficult to explain.

He is also the reason for my love of M. Ward.

Now I know some things transcend time and I do believe M. Ward is one because I love him so much and he will never leave me but I'm sure somewhere it's always in the back of my mind when I hear him. I don't want to give any of my other secrets away right now but there are some very, very special moments I keep close to my heart regarding music and this man. If my love of music is a long string, his string is intertwined with at least 15% of it - for now. I'm not sure how I'll look back on him when it comes down to it in the long run and I have no idea what he thinks of me. Sometimes in the back of my mind, I'm certain he thinks of my face when he hears John Mayer. Does he feel guilty? Does he feel happy? Does he feel anything? We didn't end on a bad note. On the contrary, we still had much love for one another but we were "meant" for other people. Even while this has been proven true, my 19 year old self is a little shocked inside.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: music is the only way I can feel all these things again. Sometimes I can feel them so strongly when a certain song is on that I will leave a store or zone out to the extreme so I don't have to be in the moment with it. Maybe if music didn't exist I would hate this person the way I maybe should but for better or worse, I'll hear The Cure and want to write an entry like this for the next two hours. Within three minutes my heart is broken and mended and empty and full all at once. It's magic. Love and music both.

21 November 2009

My Favorite Battle Studies Songs in Order (as of now):

01. Assassin
02. Half of My Heart
03. Perfectly Lonely
04. Heartbreak Warfare
05. Crossroads (cover)
06. War of My Life
07. All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye
08. Friends, Lovers, or Nothing
09. Edge of Desire
10. Who Says
11. Do You Know Me

These songs do my heart good. They're precious to me.

20 November 2009

Me and Carlos

Here's the situation:

I wrote this paper for my favorite class and I'm immensely disappointed with it. The objective was to REPORT on a topic relative to Latin America. I took this as a sign that it should be a formal paper dismissing any idea of personal opinions on my topic or anecdotes specific to my life. I chose Carlos Santana as my topic and went from there. It was a very short paper - clocking in at only three double spaced pages so I didn't have much room for all the information I managed to find.

My problem is that it ended up more like a biography than anything else. I chose to concentrate more on his upbringing in Mexico than anything else because I wanted to put the theme of Latin America out there but I'm still not satisfied. I wanted this paper to be great and although I don't know my grade yet, I'm disappointed in myself and I need to feel better about it somehow. I'm hoping by putting it up here maybe it will look better in my eyes or someone might enjoy the detailed information on Santana - probably silly. I set out with the goal of impressing my fantastic professor but ended up faltering under the pressure. I wish I could redo this whole thing and come up with a fresh idea rather than the same old "report" nonsense. I hope I'm just being too hard on myself. I can't tell - I just wanted to impress this special teacher so much that the writing ended up being cold and scared rather than warm and telling.

November 19, 2009

Carlos Santana: Finding Spiritual Ecstasy through Music

“I want the audience to be reminded that before they had all this stuff, this DNA and flesh and bones, they were made out of light. And so what we want to do is not blind people but illuminate people.”

The life of world renowned musician Carlos Santana is nothing if not a vast collection of contradictions that add up to one of the greatest international tales of stardom in recent history. His story is one full of God, women, LSD, John Coltrane, and of course, some of the best guitar playing around, good enough for him to be named the 15th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2003. He’s sold over 90 million records throughout his career and reached over 100 million fans through his many years of international touring. He was hailed as "the original crossover star who ignited rock 'n roll with Latin music" by Billboard Magazine and was honored this year with the Billboard Lifetime Achievement Award during the Latin Music Awards ceremony. The press release quoted him as saying, "Whether Puerto Ricans, Mexicans like it, I represent the highest there can be... I'm really important to the Latin community. I might not be what you want me to be, but I represent you” (Cobo 10). This contradiction of representing an entire community on a global scale and yet feeling guilt for not living up to everyone's expectations is echoed in many of Santana’s sentiments.

Born in Autlan de Navarro, in the Mexican state of Jalisco in 1947, Santana was raised in a musical environment, introducing him early to the sounds of waltzes, polkas, tangos, and mariachi music his father would play to support the family around towns nearing the U.S. border like Tijuana where the family eventually moved when Santana was around 12 years old. With his father’s encouragement, Santana first began playing the violin although he never felt entirely comfortable with the instrument or playing his parent’s traditional Mexican music. As he stated to Rolling Stone in 2008, “I joined my father in the streets, playing boleros but I had my ear on Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley. They went deep, and each note carried something important. I knew, from a long time ago, the difference between notes and life. I’d rather play life” (Fricke 58). These varied inspirations were the first inklings of Santana’s now signature fusion of blues, jazz, rock, and Latin percussion.

While growing up in Mexico, Santana started learning English by watching television programs through the windows of neighboring houses and was sent out with his brothers to sell gum on the streets or shine shoes for some extra cash. Occasionally, once he started playing guitar, Santana would sing Mexican folk songs for spare change (Heath 38). Eventually, he landed a job, while still underage, at a strip club in Tijuana where he worked for two years and attributes much of his lessons in professional musicianship. As he discussed in an interview, “I learned a lot about how the music helps a woman to walk when she’s onstage; otherwise she can look stupid. I noticed that if the drummer wasn’t playing the rhythm right, (the stripper) would take her high heels and throw them at him” (White 14). This seemed to have left a lasting impression.

Not only did Santana use this experience as inspiration in his musical career when creating beats that would bring people to a “spiritual orgasm” (14) but much later, as part of his flourishing entrepreneurship, designing a line of women’s footwear called Carlos by Carlos Santana which has now brought in about $100 million in sales since its development and he continues to credit the women he has met in his life with his success. He even manages to mention this gratitude in a short foreword written for the book Voices of Latin Rock: The People and Events That Created This Sound along with a message to the future contributors of Latin Rock: “If our history can challenge the next wave of musicians to keep moving and changing, to keep spirituality hungry and horny, that’s what it’s all about.” As one of the most successful musicians in history – and of any ethnic background – Santana has kept to this somewhat contradictory formula, a culmination of spirituality and sensuality.

Santana consistently mentions his deep belief in angels, devils, God, and the ghosts of his musical heroes that he believes visit him in times of crisis. "The energy of devils and angels is the same energy; it's how you use it. It's fuel. There is a saying: If you scare all your devils away, the angels will go with them” (Heath 38). His views on these topics are the main focus of many interviews like this one with Rolling Stone in 2000 in which he also states for the first time that he was molested as a child in Mexico by an American man who was a friend's father. He blames this for his problems with "guilt, shame, judgment, and fear" that he was forced to overcome for years and says the product of eradicating this was 1999's critically acclaimed Supernatural album that not only garnered eight Grammy Awards but revitalized his career, raising it to an even higher level than it ever was before (38).

In the years since, Santana continues to add to his astounding list of endeavors that most recently includes starting the Milagro Foundation, to help impoverished children around the world, the social networking program Architects of a New Dawn, which advocates global change through the power of positive thinking, and an upcoming residency in Las Vegas where he will perform 36 concerts a year through 2010. As recently as last year, Jon Parales of The New York Times gave Santana a glowing review for a concert performed at Madison Square Garden. Among other superlatives he stated, "Mr. Santana is a virtuoso and crowd pleaser with a mission - still, long after the '60's, reaching for ecstasy."

Carlos Santana is an illuminating example of how impossible it is to cage someone inside a stereotype. He is a man that not only came from a small town in Mexico and made himself into one of the greatest names in the music business for over three decades but allowed people all over the globe, from Peru to New Jersey, to grow up with his music and challenge their own beliefs about race and culture. He represents not only Mexicans, not only Latinos, but a universal group of soul searchers continuously creating contradictions in their own lives and continuously looking for that balance between angels and devils.


16 November 2009

For the Love of Headphones

While I often find myself in love with something: a new song, a perfect pillow, a new, horrible television series (Lorenzo Lamas reality show?), a gorgeous professor... the one thing that I never fall out of love with is my headphones. There is nothing that can get my heart racing faster than an incredible song heard through the little speakers attached to my ears by that long white cord that goes all the way down to my sparkly evergreen iPod full of some of the greatest songs ever recorded.

On a regular day I'll listen to music on the television, the computer, maybe the good old cd player or record player, and of course my headphones while I walk back and forth between campuses, etc. It makes me feel like a princess, like nothing can hurt me as long as I'm listening to something that makes me feel good and more confident than I could ever feel on my own. I have a strange relationship with music and part of that is making sure it is always personal. While music is one of the most fun things to share, it's also the one thing in my life that I feel very protective about, the one thing that is so private I'm not sure I can properly describe it with words, it's much more based in feelings. Headphones allow me to pretend that the music I'm listening to is not just in my ears but my entire body. I can feel it in my soul and through my being. Somehow I don't get that feeling through other mediums. It's like I'm having a private moment with someone whom I don't actually have to speak to (which is good) but I get the bonus of feeling comforted by their voice anyhow.

It's funny: I understand completely how cavemen got along without shoes and bathrooms but I can't really imagine how they didn't have headphones. I guess I'll give a personal example.

I don't have the internet at my apartment. We live close enough to the university library that I'm able to bring my laptop down there whenever I feel the great need to do something worldwide-webby. In the meantime I'll write little notes to myself about songs I need to download on iTunes (I am officially 100% musically legal now by the way, which I highly suggest) and bring them with me on the days I do manage to trudge down and get them. I set up my computer, sit on a stiff red chair, plug in my headphones, and drift off into my own world. Once the headphones are in I don't have to worry about the girl with the odd ponytail giving me strange looks or the creepsters with large pepsi cups in their laps - I just worry about the volume panel.

I once saw a young man on a library computer with heaphones in flipping out in front of the screen. There must've been twenty people sitting around us and there he was dancing in his seat, playing air drums and counting time with his hands and feet and anything else he could get to move. I laughed at the time but then tonight I was just like him. I got the new John Mayer album ONE DAY EARLY thanks to his incredible, underrated management team and I couldn't contain my feet. I was bouncing all over and couldn't care less who saw. The beats felt so good in my headphones that my soul was shaking.

Tomorrow I might wake up wanting to kill my boyfriend or drop out of school or not loving my dear John Mayer (well that won't happen) but one thing is for sure: I will always be in love with my headphones.

14 November 2009

Half of My Heart

Half of my entire heart belongs to John Mayer's new record Battle Studies. It doesn't officially arrive until Tuesday but the full version Rhapsody is currently streaming on their site is unbelievable. It is better than possibly anything he has ever commited to tape, which is saying a lot.

I know some people don't appreciate Mayer's public antics played out in every supermarket tabloid and evening entertainment show you can find but his music is on a completely different level I assure you.

I will try to do a full review (even just to see if I can) once Tuesday comes and I can enjoy the album in the comfort of my own home but it will be tough to not gush to extremes about how fantastic this music is. You know, I expected a great record but this far exceeds all my expectations. This is an album I would proudly blast out of any speakers at any time. This is one of my favorite things in the world right now.

I know it might say "aspiring music journalist" in the "about me" of this blog and maybe this isn't very journalistic but when you love something, how can you form words to express it rationally? I have not figured it out yet, I am just too excited to care!

Battle Studies is beyond words for me. "Heartbreak Warfare", "Perfectly Lonely", "Assassin", "All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye", "Half of My Heart", "War of My Life"... all exceptional by any standards.

One complaint I can think of so far? The war concept is a little wearing on my nerves in terms of lyrics by the end of the album. I can appreciate what is trying to be said by the consistent metaphors of love and war but perhaps it could've been toned down a pinch? Doesn't matter much though - I don't think the lyrics matter half as much as some of the real music found within these songs. Mayer has absolutely found the right background sounds for his raspy, mellow, sparse vocals. The combination is the definition of flawless.


09 November 2009

Best Songs of 2009...so far

I don't know if I have all the necessities to properly complete a list like this but I'm going to try my best. I won't set an exact number because that would be giving myself too much work but I do think you'll find a few excellent songs on here that you might not know along with some you definitely know that you should give a second or third listen. This is a list mainly for people who like a mixture of professionally produced, semi-popular indie music and a smattering of Top 40. I'd like to be more obscure but I always go back to what sounds best to me and that is usually the nicely produced, already known music that doesn't go overboard but is right on deck... if that makes sense. There are multiple songs by one artist on the list but don't take it as a bad thing - it's actually amazing. All of these songs are amazing in some fashion.

This is NOT in any specific order.

So here we go:

Best Songs of 2009 (So Far)

01 Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks
02 Grizzly Bear - While You Wait For the Others
03 Phoenix - 1901
04 Phoenix - Girlfriend
05 Julian Casablancas - 11th Dimension
06 The National - Ashamed of the Story I Told
07 Them Crooked Vultures - New Fang
08 John Mayer - Heartbreak Warfare
09 Kris Allen - Live Like We're Dying
10 Train - Hey Soul Sister
11 Kanye West - Paranoid
12 Jay-Z - Empire State of Mind
13 Will Dailey - How Can I Make You Happy
14 Mayer Hawthorne - Maybe So, Maybe No
15 Mayer Hawthorne - Just Ain't Gonna Work Out
16 Kid Cudi - Make Her Say
17 Monsters of Folk - Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)
18 Monsters of Folk - Whole Lotta Losin'
19 Kid Cudi - Day and Nite
20 Passion Pit - The Reeling
21 Michael Buble - Haven't Met You Yet
22 Regina Spektor - Eet
23 Andrew Bird - Anonanimal
24 Pearl Jam - The Fixer
25 Beyonce - Ego
26 Sondre Lerche - Don't Look Now
27 Devendra Banhart - Baby
28 Silversun Pickups - Substitution
29 Owl City - Fireflies
30 Free Energy - Free Energy

I'd say the BEST song of 2009 so far is...  Mayer Hawthorne - "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out".... I think. We'll see.