Friday, June 10, 2005

Random Music Musings

* I pick up albums to listen to(and buy) mainly on gut feel, and upto an extent based on reviews, and occasionally recommendations from friends. A single or two on radio and the Internet give you a reasonable idea about whether the artiste is a one-hit wonder or if it is someone you want to plug your ears into.Great discoveries using this M.O. - not in the sense of their being unknown, but in the sense of their music being relevant to me - include Matchbox Twenty, Switchfoot and Dido. More here .

Add Sarah McLachlan to the list. I just happened to pick up the live concert DVD "Mirrorball" from the library for want of something to watch while hogging dinner at night. Being my second Sarah album, I thought I knew what to expect. Suffice it to say, I was pretty surprised. While her latest studio album Afterglow (another middling to good album) seems polished and introspective, this one harks back to an older and more effervescent time. While she was a pretty good songwriter even then, a different energy flows through this album. The overall instrumentation (great keyboards, aggressive percussions, guitaring with liberal use of distortion) of the concert performances, lined with old familiars ("Building a Mystery", "Sweet Surrender" "Possession", "I Will Remember You"), and some powerful vocals made this a great listen (and watch, since she's easy on the eye. Not that it matters - really). She goes from serious to sappy in minutes, yet retains her credibility (there aren't many singers who'd look good singing something like "Your love is better than ice cream"). Her incredible vocal power remains the highlight throughout. Songs that totally rock including an incredible rendering of "Building a Mystery" as well as "Possession".

Like all albums I really like, this has been on endless rotation for 3-4 days now, and seems like it will be on the list a few days more. Sadly, the CD album has only around half of the 23 songs on the DVD, and misses out on many of the songs I really liked. I've been reduced to ripping the DVD audio track so that I can listen to the songs that I won't be able to otherwise, since they aren't available anywhere else.

* This just in - her new live album Afterglow Live is equally compelling, though somewhat more subdued. The usual suspects reside here - with a few off the new record making an appearance as well, and of course, a goose-bump-inducing version of the Beatles' Blackbird. It's difficult to go up one up on the Fab Four, but there' s something about that voice... and the new track "Train Wreck" goes completely overboard with the metaphors.

Would your eyes like midnight fireflies
Light up the trenches where my heart lies
Until I can see again
to find my way back again

'Cause I'm a train wreck
Waiting to happen
Waiting for someone
to come pick me up off the tracks
A wild fire born of frustration
Born of the one love that gets me so high
I've no fear at all

If this effusive praise gets you interested in her music - go to her official website - there are downloads of mp3s or lossless tracks from her albums - no DRM crap.

* A perennial debate between the mix meisters that churn out remixes at the drop of a hat (or a turntable, or a mixer) in India revolves around the argument that classics are being 'desecrated' by the new generation, and the counter-argument is that this is one way for the new generation to be exposed to older songs. They didn't have to ruin my vacation last year by exposing me to the wonders of Meri Beri Ke Ber Mat Todo - that too two versions of it.

I don't subscribe to either school of thought - bad remixes are just that - bad. That doesn't mean there is any point to stopping them from being made. For every 10 "Dr. Phil" s (or whoever the latest expert on skewering Indian classics is), there is probably someone in India or UK or the US who is actually doing a good job of churning out these club favorites. Bally Sagoo is one of my personal favorites. Some of his remixes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's stuff are amazing - Kinna Sona and Jhule Jhule Laal come to mind. And - they got me interested in listening to the pristine traditional versions. Khan saab's voice was cruelly cut short but the magic lingers on. Round one to the remixsters - they turned me on to NFAK. Doubt I'd have heard them but for Bally Sagoo.

* There's something about the wet, slightly cloudy Northwestern weather that is conducive to musical genius. I'm coming out with an album with my newly acquired musical skills.

Ha! Gotcha. In my dreams.Just checking if you were awake through what is probably the longest post I've ever written. Seattle has a throbbing indie music scene (that I only read of in the papers - I should actually go and see what the heck it is all about)

Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. Pearl Jam. Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and now of Audioslave .The Grunge Music movement (my generation's sad and depressing answer to 60's and 70s music).And the guru of all Guitar Gods - The Voodoo Child Jimi Hendrix all owe their birth to this fine piece of land called Washington state. If you want to be a musical genius, plan to be born here in your next janam .


Sumedha said...

I'm a Sarah McLachlan fan too.

As for the combination of a powerful voice and pedestrian lyrics; check this piece of Sinead O'Connor's 'Nothing Compares to U':

'I can see whomever I choose
I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant
But nothing
I said nothing can take away these blues'


Ajay said...

The good songs give you the patience to indulge in the lamer stuff.Also, the live version of "Ice Cream" is a great crowd-pleaser - a good chorus for a sing-along, and a chance for Sarah to strut and show off her acoustic guitar skills. And you have to respect someone who's better live than in studio. That needs talent and skill, unlike Ashlee Simpson's fiasco on SNL last year.

Sumedha said...

On the subject of live performances, I'm sure Madonna does the real thing (contrary to Elton John's latest slur ) coz she sounds terrible live!