Hello! and sorry I have been away for so long. The month is almost over and I have too much to talk about. I don't know if anybody has made time for anything but the new Sade, but I have been listening to many other albums. In fact, I have not even had time to listen to Sade. I was never a huge fan, but like most people, I was a casual fan of "Smooth Operator." It was the single on their first album, Diamond Life, from 1984. Hard to believe it was that long ago! I was only ten years old and easily influenced by top 40 radio. 1984 was the year of some big singles. Songs that will forever be part of my memories. Songs that I know all the words too whether I want to or not. This was the year of "Owner of a Lonely Heart" by Yes, "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club, "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" by Wham!, "What's Love Got To Do With It" by Tina Turner, "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper, "Hello" by Lionel Richie, "I Just Called To Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder, "Out Of Touch" by Hall & Oates, "Carribbean Queen" by Billy Ocean, and "The Reflex" by Duran Duran. I know all these songs are now swirling around in your head! Can you think of any bigger songs than these? I may have not owned all these albums, but you can bet I had them all taped onto a cassette tape from the radio! These songs were monumental in shaping my life. They could not be avoided. And this was way before the Internet. Way before music blogs!
1984 also featured huge songs from huge movies. This was back when songs were really a big part of the movie and were really written for specific films to be a part of the plot. Music videos were made featuring the artist singing in front of a screen with the movie projected on it. And some of these songs went on the be nominated for Oscars. 1984 featured "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins and "Let's Hear it from the Boy" by Deniece Williams from the movie Footloose. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder was from the movie Woman In Red and "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" by Phil Collins came from the movie of the same name. "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince were from the movie Purple Rain. "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr. was of course from the great classic film Ghostbusters. All of these songs except for the Prince songs were actually nominated for best song that year. The songs nominated for Oscars these days are never nearly as popular. The year ended with possibly the biggest song of my childhood, "Like A Virgin" by Madonna. I really forgot what a listener of mainstream music I was when I was a child, but indie rock did not exactly exist in 1984. And I was a bit too young still for punk rock and more obscure new wave stuff. Anyway, just in case you didn't know, Sade is back with a new album. They have done a lot since 1984 but it has been 10 years since the 2000 album Lovers Rock. The new album is called Soldier of Love, and I do have to admit that I like the single, although, unlike in 1984, I really don't like much else in the top 40.
Also out this month is the new album from Hot Chip. I highly recommend it if you like that kind of thing! It is fun, goofy and nerdy dance music, just like what I have come to expect from them. They are sort of the modern version of Devo. The title track is "One Life Stand." Hot Chip is one of those bands you either love or hate. I can't really talk you into liking them. You just do or you don't. Take a listen to "One Life Stand" and decide for yourself.
I have been a big Album Leaf fan for a while. Jimmy Lavalle is the mind behind The Album Leaf. He was also in fellow San Diego bands GoGo Airheart and Tristeza. This is the third Album Leaf album on Sub Pop. Into the Blue was one of my favorite albums from 2006. I have to admit that I have not fallen in love with this new one as much as the last, but there has been a lot going on. I blame it on the Winter Olympics! I have not had a whole lot of time to listen to music since they have started. I normally hate watching sports on TV but I get Olympic fever whenever they are on and have to watch them every night. I mostly just watch them in anticipation of people falling. I really don't want anybody to get hurt but I do live for the moments when ice skaters fall on their jumps or when skiers miss their turns and tumble down the mountain. I think it just makes me feel better about myself knowing that nobody is perfect. So back to Album Leaf...Listen to their old stuff and then get into this new one. I think the new one is good for sure, I just need to spend some more time with it. I just can't not like this band. They do not hit you over the head with their greatness. You need to give them some time to let yourself fall in love with these albums. But you will. Check it out.
If you know me at all then you probably know that I am not a fan of jazz music. I have tried over the yearsbut I will admit that I have not tried very hard. That's not to say I don't often get out of my indie rock bubble: I love tons of soul music old and new; I love blues and old country; I listen to a ton of dance music; and I often get obsessed with film scores and listen to them over and over; I also love modern classical music (but I will get to that later). Jazz is just the one genre that I have not been able to jump into. And of course Gil Scott-Heron would be the man to possibly get me into jazz music. However, his new album, I'm New Here, is nothing close to a typical jazz album. That's not new territory for Gil though. This new album reaches into the genres of soul and hip hop and electronica more than jazz. It is more of a spoken word, bluesy trip hop album than anything. I am still not sure if I am ready to jump into the world of jazz, but for now, this might be as close as I am going to get. Gil Scott-Heron has had a long and interesting music career and I am not going to pretend to know much about it, so if you would like to know more about his life and music, then read here. I do know that this is his first album of original stuff in more than 16 years. Take that, Sade! And I do know that I love this album. You should too. I am not nearly done listening to it, but I will be exploring his older albums very soon.
I am also very excited about the new album by Rachel Grimes called Book of Leaves. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but it is out now and you should love it. Rachel Grimes is the pianist from the brilliant group The Rachel's, a minimalist post rock classical group out of Louisville, Kentucky. They put out some brilliant, beautiful albums in the 90's on the label Quarterstick: Handwriting from 1995 and Music for Egon Schiele from 1996 remain two of my favorite albums of all time. They often get labeled post rock and associated with bands like Tortoise and Godspeed. I have always called them indie classical, mostly just because of their association with an indie label, but also because of their fans. I was introduced to them my last year in college and became a big fan very quickly. Most of their fan base is made up of indie rock kids that are not the usual fans of classical music. My love of The Rachel's got me into bands like Tortoise, LaBradford, and Bowery Electric, but this is probably the band that first got me thinking about classical music. I really didn't know that there were interesting things going on in the 20th Century in the world of classical music until I first listened to the Rachel's. They really opened up the door for me. I don't know if would have ever explored the albums of Michael Nyman, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Max Richter, and Nico Muhley without the influence of The Rachel's. The band sometimes uses guitars and drums as well but they play mostly classical music. I have always thought of them as people that I would be friends with that just happen to play classical instruments. Rachel Grimes is one of the main 3 members of The Rachel's along with Jason Noble and Christian Frederickson.
I finally got to see them perform for the first time 7 or 8 years ago at Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco. I thought I could look forward to more albums and tours after that but I have still been waiting! The last album they put out was Systems/Layers in 2003, so I was very excited to listen to the new Rachel Grimes solo album. The piano and keyboard have always been my favorite musical instruments. I absolutely love the keyboard and most bands that I like usually have a keyboard involved, and the instrument that stands out for me in classical music and film scores is always the piano, so it is nice to hear Rachel Grimes all by herself -- just her and piano. I love this album. It is one of those records that you can put on in the background but that is impossible to ignore. The music can get deep into your soul and bring out those emotions you might be hiding from yourself. This is one of those albums that I think can be used for therapy -- you can go on an emotional journey with this one. I found myself wanting to cry a couple of times while listening to this album. Thank you, Rachel Grimes! Thanks for helping make those brilliant Rachel's albums. And thanks for not letting me forget about you by reintroducing yourself with this solo album. Check it out. You owe it to yourself.
also out 2/2...
Chorus of Storytellers by The Album Leaf
Paper Dolls by The Brunettes
Ugly Side of Love by Malachai
Courage of Others by Midlake
Soft Pack by Soft Pack
Origins by Voice Voices
also out 2/9...
Maintentant by Gigi
One Life Stand by Hot Chip
Heligoland by Massive Attack
Soldier of Love by Sade
I'm New Here by Gil Scott-Heron
Odd Blood by Yeasayer