February 24, 2006

Imogen Heap - Speak For Yourself

Most artists go solo after getting noticed while working with a band. Imogen Heap did just the opposite. Her solo career is what prompted Guy Sigsworth to start up the project band Frou Frou with Imogen. Speak for Yourself is Imogen Heap’s second solo album, and it is magical. Simply put, Speak for yourself is Imogen Heap’s fiery poetry thrown against a tidal wave of electronics. A talented pianist to say the least, she finds just the right sounds for her poetry with her keyboards. While the whole album is enjoyable, the single is by far the most astonishing song on the whole album. Using just her vocals and a vocoder, she does an amazing sort of electronic a cappella in the immediate hit single “Hide and Seek”. It is one track that can be listened to over and over and over again. In this day of age where computers and keyboards can do just about anything musically, it’s nice to hear someone use those instruments to their full effect and add passion into the mix as well. The songs on this cd take new turns every time you listen to them which make it one of the most enjoyable listens in recent music. I was considering putting it on the Best of 2005 list just because of “Hide and Seek” but decided not to. If I had heard the whole thing before hand it definitely would have nailed a high spot on my list. The album as a whole is insightful and at times, rocks. This album has instantly put Imogen with such company as Joni Mitchell and Bjork, has already surpassed female musicians like Alanis Morrisette and Tori Amos, and has set the bar enormously high for future female vocalists. If Money Mark and Fiona Apple had a baby together, her name would be Imogen Heap (which by the way is an insanely cool name). From the almost alternative “Daylight Robbery” and to the cute romantic “Goodnight and Go”, Speak for Yourself is one album that NEEDS to be heard by anyone that gets pleasure from listening to music with an edge.

February 19, 2006

The Top Soundtrack of our Generation Is....

Good Will Hunting
If you’re writing a movie mostly about tragedy, heartbreak, and loneliness, is there any better artist to have singing in the background than Elliott Smith? Some say the Good Will Hunting film is what sent Elliott into his perplexed state of mind. They think this shot into stardom is what started getting Elliott scared and depressed. Those people are fools. Regardless, the Good Will Soundtrack incorporates some of the most appropriate music into its film. Some will just hear it and think its peaceful music to emphasize the love that is forming between Matt Damon and Mini Driver. “Between the Bars” is the Elliott song that is being played when Damon and Driver are kissing in bed. If you’re watching the movie and don’t know the song, you won’t notice how perfect the song fits Matt Damons character. The song is about a man who is in love, realizing there is infinite potential, yet he can’t escape his own fears and problems, resorting to alcohol and settling in his life of self deprivation and sorrow, still keeping a part of it in his heart. If you have ever seen this movie, you know this is a perfect portrayal of Damon’s character. If this song was written for the movie, it wouldn’t stand out as such an ideal fit. The song he did write for the movie, “Miss Misery”, snagged a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Elliott was even asked to play his song at the Academy Awards cerimony. It was a huge monument for the up and coming artist. Even though he didn’t win (Celine Dion won for “My Heart Will Go On”. How splendid is that?) it still managed to get his name out there. Danny Elfman also got a few tracks in there from the score of the movie. The Dandy Warhols, Al Green, and Gerry Raffertyall contributed songs to the soundtrack as well (This review is already worshiping Elliott, I figured I should throw a few other names in the mix) This movie showcases sorrow and pain realistically, and having a majority of your soundtracks songs written by a man whose whole life has been pain is the most perfect fit. Elliott Smith single handedly made the Good Will Hunting Soundtrack the top soundtrack of our generation

February 18, 2006

Top 15 Soundtracks of Our Generation: 2-5

2) High Fidelity
Is it possible for a movie about a record store owner to not have a killer soundtrack? I’m not sure, but I do know High Fidelity scores big with its assortment of different singers and styles from all over the board. From Bob Dylan to The Beta Band, John Cusak and the rest of the album producers found just the right songs to put in the movie. Starting both the movie and the album is The Thirteenth Floor Elevators’ “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, an unknown bitter break up song that starts the well written story of heartbreak agreeably. The Velvet Underground add 2 great tracks “Oh Sweet Nuthin” and “Who Loves the Sun”. Stereolab puts in “Lo Boob Oscillator” and even though it is in French, it has a suitable sound that works wonderfully in the movie. How can I forget the famous Beta Band scene when Rob Gordon promises to sell 5 copies of their album by playing “Dry the Rain”. For a movie that is all about music lovers, High Fidelity really has a lot to offer. This album is different from most soundtracks in the sense that every song on this album is likable. Which makes it incredible is High Fidelity branches out into so many diverse sounds, puts it all into one album, and surprising makes it all work brilliantly.

3) Fight Club
The Fight Club soundtrack consists of 2 artists, The Dust Brothers and The Pixies. The Dust Brothers make every song you hear in the film except the last song in the movie, done by the Pixies. Really stretching the mind musically, the Dust Brothers add their flavor of electronic beats, bass, turntables and synths to create an original soundtrack that etches their name into music stardom. From fast paced heart pumping songs to the slow simple beats, they add insight and thought to every song. Keeping with the overall gloomy theme Fight Club has, the Dust Brothers attempted to make something new and infatuating to give the movie a nice edge. Throw in a few horns, a couple of eerie sound effects, and the Pixies, and you’ve got one hell of a soundtrack.

4) Garden State
Zach Braff is the actor and director of the drama Garden State. Showing off his love of indie music, Braff throws plenty of indie bands into his soundtrack and puts a lot of emphasis on the music in his movie. This is shown well in a little scene where Braff is waiting in a hospital with Natalie Portman. Braff asks if he can have a listen, and Portman gives him the headphones to hear the Shins’ “New Slang”. Not particularly the perfect song for a moment, but it was a scene where the music was the absolute focus point of the film. This soundtrack was one of those albums you buy and want to get every album from the artists on it. I’ll admit it turned me on to a few bands. Iron and Wine, The Shins, Zero 7, and Frou Frou are bands I never heard of before this soundtrack that have grown on me. From starting up his motorcycle for the first time in years with The Shins “Caring is Creepy”, to dancing in front of a fireplace to Remy Zero’s “Fair”, Braff’s selection of songs goes with his characters in the movie quite well.

5) Great Expectations
You all know the story. People change their minds on a constant basis. This soundtrack changes moods repeatedly. The soundtrack excelled in changing along with the characters in the movie. Going from dismal to joyful, this album has every mood from the film, capturing the atmosphere wonderfully. When Estella takes off her clothes to let Finn draw her, the climactic “Like A Friend” (Pulp) erupts as Finn goes crazy, drawing dozens of pictures of the beautiful girl. Scott Weiland and Chris Cornell both do amazing solo songs that are probably the best songs on the album. The rest is filled with Tori Amos, The Grateful Dead, Duncan Sheik, Poe, Iggy Pop, and Reef. A great sound for a great movie.

February 17, 2006

Top 15 Soundtracks of Our Generation: 6-10

6) Forrest Gump
Following the life of the unintelligent Forrest Gump through many historical moments of time, this soundtrack keeps up with Forrest magnificently. Winner of many Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor, Director 1994), Forrest touched the hearts of everyone that saw it. The soundtrack stays true to the movie with plenty of music from artists like Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel, Jefferson Airplane, The Supremes, and Bob Dylan. A wonderful anthology covering almost 30 years of music, this soundtrack will fit into almost everyone's collection.

7) Thicker Than Water
This is a soundtrack to the surfer film made by the Malloy Brothers. This cooled down soundtrack is surfer music done just right. Following surfers around the worlds exotic beaches with a camera and taping what happens is what surfing movies should be about. Leave the Hollywood lingo and the electric instruments at the door, grab a guitar and a board, and have a good time. That is just what Jack Johnson, G.Love, Finley Quaye, and Natural Calamity did. In doing that they did something no other surfer movie has been able to do thus far. Capture the essence of what surfing is really about. It's all about being in the water, soaking up the sun and listening to chill music.

8) Requiem For A Dream
This soundtrack is absolutely bloodcurdling. The Requiem for a Dream Soundtrack is mysterious, erratic, riveting, and completely engrossing. The 33 songs are intertwined to create an electronica masterpiece. Clint Mansell is a genius, and the Kronos Quartet isn’t half bad either. It is truly a haunting album that shouldn’t be listened to before you go to bed.

9) The Royal Tenenbaums
The Royal Tenenbaums is a dark comedy about a dysfunctional family with a dropback of contagious music. Wes Anderson impresses again with his matchless style of dry dark humor. What makes the movie so interesting however is not only Anderson’s story telling, but the opportunity Anderson gives his audience to absorb the songs he has chosen for his movies. When Margot gets off the bus and has Richie starring her down with Nico’s “These Days” playing, Anderson slows it down enough to let you thoroughly take in what is going on in the scene. Richie later decides to shave his head and cut his wrists to the depressing Elliott Smith “Needle in the Hay” in the best scene of the movie. Throw Bob Dylan, The Ramones, The Clash, and The Velvet Underground in the mix, and you have yourself an amazing soundtrack.

10) The Virgin Suicides
This is a gloomy movie with an excellent soundtrack. Filled with super sounds of the 80’s, the songs really add to the intense moments in the movie. Not the best movie I’ve ever seen and certainly not the most uplifting. But when the music gets louder than the rest of the movie and you get sucked into the moment the characters are in you really enjoy the sounds you hear. I’ve heard Heart’s “Crazy on You” a million times. None of which top the time Trip is sitting in his car after watching TV with the Lisbons. The song slowly builds and builds until Lux runs outside and opens the car door. There are other great songs on it too, but that is one amazing scene.

Top 15 Soundtracks of Our Generation: 11-15

11) The Nightmare Before Christmas
I am so lucky this movie is not a Disney film. As far as animated movies go, Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas" has the greatest soundtrack hands down. Jack the Pumpkin King is probably the only animated character I have ever related to. When he sings about filling the void in his life and not being whole on top of that escalator hill, you can actually connect with him. Overflowing with fun sing-a-longs and a dark hearty comedy that isn't found in most children films, this movie and soundtrack are a perfect combination. The Boogie man and those 3 little sidekicks of his singing about capturing Santa Clause, Jack trying to find the missing link between Christmas and Halloween, and Jack stumbling into Christmas land are only a few of the jolly songs that this film has to offer.

12) I am Sam
I am Sam is the story of a mentally challenged father struggling to keep custody of his adorable daughter. Sam is infatuated with The Beatles, naming his daughter Lucy after the tune "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". This soundtrack consists entirely of Beatles songs covered by artists of today. Rufus Wainwright's "Across the Universe", Sarah McLachlan's "Blackbird", The Black Crows "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", Eddie Vedder's "Hide Your Love Away", and Nick Cave's "Let it Be" are just a handful from the jam packed soundtrack. I am Sam is a touching movie that has an even more emotional soundtrack.

13) Trainspotting
Featuring some of the UK's best unheard of acts and some established artists too, Trainspotting has it all. Iggy Pop starts the movie and soundtrack off perfectly with his "Lust for Life", setting the atmosphere for an eclectic collection of new and old, generation crossing alternative rock. Mixing in some 80's techno with New Order also adds diversity to an album that has a hard enough time getting into the stereo's of unknowing listeners. Trainspotting is a movie entirely about the pitfalls of being a junkie living in Edinburgh in the early 90's. Lou Reed, Blur, Pulp, and Primal Scream are a perfect fit for such an intense film.

14) Pulp Fiction
What makes Quentin Tarantino's movie so incredible is not only his ability to create such captivating dialogue and extreme action sequences, but also his ability find truly remarkable music to fit perfectly into the theme of his movies. Pulp Fiction has without question the best soundtrack of any of Tarantino's movies. John Travolta and Uma Thurman are twisting to Chuck Berry's "You Can Never Tell", Uma overdosing to Urge Overkill's "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon", and Bruce Willis almost making his get away to The Startler Brothers' "Flowers on the Wall". Tarantino may not have picked the most modern music for his movie, but he certainly picked the most appropriate songs for an out of this world film that pushed the limits back in its day.

15) Dazed and Confused
An incredibly funny movie about the life’s of a bunch of high school kids in the 70's. A wonderful collection of 70's radio tunes that go fit flawlessly with the time setting of the movie. It seems to capture almost every genre of the time. Kiss, Deep Purple, Lynard Skynard, War, Black Sabbath and more make up the soundtrack of 70's teen America. Basically the soundtrack of everyone who was in high school in 1974. If this isn't enough classic rock for you, grab the second soundtrack "Even More Dazed and Confused".

Top 15 Soundtracks of Our Generation: Rules

Before we set sails on this vast sea of musical soundtracks, there are some rules that need to be stated. I want it to be clear that this list is purely my opinion and should not be taken as anything more than that. On that note, lets go over the rules.

1: These soundtracks were all made between 1990 and today. You will not see Ben-Hur, Citizen Cane, or any other soundtrack coming from that time period. This is a list of soundtracks from our generation. Movies you've seen, songs you should know.

2: No Disney. Of course Aladdin is a great soundtrack, but there is no need for it on this list. If I put every Disney movie with a great soundtrack up here, the list would be gigantic.

3: No Scores. Unless the movie has no other soundtrack but the score. In which case it will be allowed

4: The soundtracks were not picked on their content alone. They have to match the idea, feeling, and tone of the movie they were made with. It's a package deal. You can't just throw good songs in a movie and expect it to be an amazing soundtrack. "The Girl Next Door" for example. Great soundtrack, stupid movie.

5: Almost Famous will not be on the list. I'm making this a rule because it was incredibly hard for me to not put it up here. If it's a rule I'm less tempted to add it later on. It is one of my favorite movies and a great soundtrack too. The problem is though the soundtrack is good, it could have been much better. There were over 40 songs in the movie, and the 13 they picked for the soundtrack just don't make an amazing soundtrack.

That being said, lets dive in!!!

February 14, 2006

Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George

If there is one artist that can write lullabies for a Curious George Movie, it is Jack Johnson. With a little help from Ben Harper, Matt Costa and G.Love, Johnson crafts some likeable sing-a-longs for parents and children alike. With his new single "Upside Down", Jack stays close to his Hawaiian roots with lots of bongos, percussion and acoustic guitar. Nothing about this soundtrack is controversial. With a style similar to the old Schoolhouse Rock series back in the day, Johnson sings about sharing, caring, taking turns, and the 3 R's (reuse, reduce, recycle). Johnson even covers the White Stripes song "We're Going to Be Friends" with his own peaceful style. The sound is that of classic Jack Johnson. It's the same old acoustic guitar with groovy slow melodies. Instead of singing about the corrupt corporate world and women, the new father sings cheerful songs that speak to the mind of a child. Just as lovable and appealing as his past work, this album is a must have for any Jack Johnson fan. A perfect birthday gift for any 5 year old little sister that loves to sing and dance with her brother!

February 08, 2006

Elliott Smith - Roman Candle

Roman Candle is Elliott Smith's first full length solo album. Hardly his best work, yet utterly angelic. Made in his basement with a 4-track in Portland, Roman Candle captures the beginning of what was to come for the poetic singer songwriter. Songs like “Roman Candle”, “Condor Ave”, and “Last Call” are haunting. While songs “No Name #1” and “No Name #2” are catchy melodies that are cheerful as much as Elliott can be. Some of these songs have a positive sound, yet after close attention to the lyrics it is clear what the message of this album is. Elliott gives us just a glimpse of his life of catastrophe and heartbreak. He invites us to sink into the loneliness and join him in solitude for just a brief moment with a few hushed songs that were never even meant to leave his basement. Elliott was just getting some stuff off his chest. He played the tape for his girlfriend who gave it to the record producers and it went on from there. Not the best starting place for a new Elliott fan, but certainly a must have for anyone who has heard his music and connected to him in a way only Elliott fans can appreciate.

February 05, 2006

G.Love And Special Sauce - Yeah, It's That Easy

If I'm going to have a blog about the wonders of the indie music scene, how can I not write about the man that got me started in the first place? G.Love is one singer that can't be ignored. One listen to his care-free rappin blues style should get you hooked. G.Love's third album "Yeah, It's That Easy" is without question my favorite of the six G.Love records. It came out with a blast back in 1997 and put some life back into the music where “Coast to Coast Motel” left a void. "Yeah, It's That Easy" is the starting point for anyone interested in getting down with G.Love’s distinctive style. It has everything the Special Sauce has to offer. Funky upright bass, unorthodox drumming, slacker rapping with a twist of folk guitar and blues harmonica to make up one of the best bands of the 90's. Also considered one of the most under-rated and over looked bands of the 90's, G.Love has more character in one song than most artists can muster in a whole cd. With the G.Love show right around the corner, I figured now is the ideal time to tell you about him in case you would want to catch his show. As much as I love to sing along with G.Love, some may find it difficult with his style of rapping and singing. On the other hand, songs like "Stepping Stone", "I-76", "Recipe", and "Lay Down the Law" have chorus' that are irresistible. “When We Meet Again” is G.Love’s now signature acoustic closer that speaks of friends that grew apart, yet he still keeps the memories. “Recipe” speaks the truth about the band. They have something that other bands can’t touch. That’s their one of a kind philadelphonic sound. His groves are perfect summertime music. Every listen of this album takes me back to the good old days (which might be the most pathetic comment I’ve ever made, but it’s so true). “Yeah, It’s That Easy” is an album to be enjoyed with a group of friends. That is something I’m not preaching from experience, people. His music is truly for those who are, as he puts it, “living life as a profession.” If you really want to experience G.Love, instead of buying his album, I would suggest going to see him the 23rd at Water St. Music Hall. His shows have so much liveliness you’ll feel tempted to join in and dance without even knowing the songs. For practically the price of a cd you can experience the excitement and enthusiasm of this self professed “flower child of the truest kind” on stage. Now I CAN preach that from experience.