Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Running Up That Hill" / Kate Bush / The Whole Story

I was too young to really experience the first time Kate Bush was popular, so I came to buy this CD in a roundabout way. When I was a Senior in high school, MTV would play the"Love and Anger" video off "The Sensual World" from time to time (Can you imagine that now? Seriously. MTV playing a Kate Bush video). I liked it OK, but had no idea of her backstory as an English alt-pop experimental artist.

99X started not too long after in 1992, and they heavily played this and her other early 80's hit, the ridiculous, awesome "Wuthering Heights". That was enough to convince me to give her greastest hits CD a shot, and I enjoyed it very much.

The early 90's was something of a mini-Renaissance for Kate Bush, as she put out a brand new CD "The Red Shoes" (which I also bought) and was sampled on an out-of-left-field hit in 1993 "Something Good" by the Utah Saints. Also, when Tori Amos came out in 1991, I was cool enough to immediately peg her as a Kate Bush rip-off (but I do love you, Tori! Call me!)

Kate Bush has really kept a low profile since then. She put out a new CD in 2005 ("Aerial" - I didn't buy it, but did download the single "King of the Mountain") and I can remember a couple of references popping up over the years - Big Boi of Outkast (!)professed his love for her:
She was so bugged out man! But I felt what she was talking about in the songs. "Mother Stands for Comfort", "Running Up That Hill". My uncle would explain what the songs stood for. Like "The Man WIth the Child in His Eyes" and all that s***.

"I thought, 'Wow! She's so f***ing deep! I was infatuated with her, still am. I gotta track her down! I just found out that she was producing all that s*** herself! She's so f***ing dope and so underrated and off the radar.

And there was a cool cover of her song "Hounds of Love" by British band The Futureheads:

Supposedly, "Running Up That Hill" is about the female orgasm. That probably comes from the chorus:
And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with god,
And I'd get him to swap our places,

And then later:
C'mon, baby, c'mon darling,
Let me steal this moment from you now.
C'mon, angel, c'mon, c'mon, darling,
Let's exchange the experience

It's plausible, I suppose, and I think it's a very sensual song, so I could see that reading. There are layers and layers of overdubs which create an incredibly lush atmosphere, and the soft backbeat of the drums contribute to the mood as well. I love the quirky keyboard squiggle which you hear at the beginning and which appears at odd times throughout. Bush's voice is incredible. I wouldn't describe it as "beautiful" as I would Neko Case or Kelly Hogan (it's a bit thin and doesn't have much presence, in my opinion) but it's certainly unique and instantly distinguishable. And you can't really tell it in this song, but she can hit the hell out of some high notes (check out "Army Dreamers")

Bonus - in checking YouTube for this song, I found out Placebo, another band I enjoy, covered it. Check it out, too.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Cigarettes, Wedding Bands" / Band of Horses / Cease to Begin

This band is one of my favorite discoveries of the past year or so. I believe I heard their song "The Funeral" from their debut album on an indie-rock internet station, and I began to take notice of them. When Cease to Begin came out and was getting great reviews, I went ahead and took the plunge. Since then, I've been one of their biggest apostles, talking them up to almost anyone that will listen (in fact, I couldn't help but pimp them a bit ago on a random post here). I even got my wife to really like this band, which is a feat as she's really slow to take to new music.

I was really happy, though, when I found out recently that "Is there a Ghost?", the first single off this album, is one of Isaiah's favorites. The family was tooling around somewhere and we were listening to music, when Izzy asked me for "the ghost song". I had no idea what he meant, then my wife explained to me that she listens to that song a lot with him in the car and he loves it. It's the little things that make you giddy as a parent, really.

This album will forever remind me of a trip I took to Saint Simon's Island with Quinn last year to attend one of my best friend's wedding. I had just bought it, and put it on leaving Athens. Once I got to Greensboro, it was flipping over to start again...and I let it play. I did this over, and over, and over. Something about this music seemed to fit early Spring among the marshes and Spanish moss of coastal Georgia. Maybe it's because, as I found out later, although the band is based in Seattle (thus explaining the song "Detlef Schremph"), their singer is from South Carolina.

Speaking of Ben Bridwell, I knew later that they were destined to be a favorite of mine when I found out he's a HUGE Georgia football fan. I've read several interviews in whihch he, unsolicited, professes his love for the Dawgs. How cool is that? Check ou, for example, this one from Pitchfork:

Favorite TV Show at the Moment

Hard to say, because I'm not sure if a football team counts as a TV show, but when the University of Georgia Bulldogs are playing on Saturdays or whatever, that's my favorite show that could possibly be on television. Tomorrow versus Tennessee at 3:30 eastern!

Pitchfork: Well, the Vols being my home team, I guess I'll have to watch that.

So, it's not exactly football, tailgatin' music, but it's cool to see an indie band that doesn't treat the idea of sports in general as a haven for beefheaded mouthbreathers.

Here's the tune:

I love the heavy opening crash leading into the verse. Bridwell has a very distinctive voice, and he and his band have often been compared to My Morning Jacket, and I can see that for sure. They certainly have that same kind of jammy, etheral, reverb-ery sound to their music. They work the heavy / soft dymanic really well in this song, giving the verses and the accompanying lyrics lots of room to be heard. The heavy comes back in on the chorus, with the "While they lied at night, they lied at night, while they lied" refrain. Speaking of the lyrics, I'm having a bit of a time with them. There are definite themes of alienation, broken relationships, and death for sure there, but I can't piece it all together. I'm getting a real Flannery O'Connor, Southern Gothic kind of feel from them, though. Maybe someone could be brave enough to give it a go in the comments?

By the way, here's a really great live version of this song too. They really translate well live, and have impressive facial hair

Monday, February 9, 2009

"Shining Star" / Earth, WInd & Fire / Let's Groove

Man, remember when R & B used to be about real stuff, positive, serious, stuff, and not just about doin' the booty?

I'm talking about uplifting, socially conscious stuff like Marvin Gaye, my man Curtis Mayfield, or even Pubic Enemy (Admittedly I'm stretching the defintion of R&B). Not modern R & B like "My Neck, My Back". Maybe that's a good thing, as you could argue that maybe the social status of folks has risen as such that it doesn't need to be a part of music anymore. I sure miss it, though.

I really don't remember the heyday of E, W & F, but like much 70's music, it has over time seeped into my consciousness. "Shining Star" was released in 1975, when I was three, but it's probably their most famous song and has been used over and over again for soundtracks, commericals, and soundtracks, unfortunately to the point that it's almost lost any effect it once had. Although, who can forget Elaine Bennis' dance to it in "Seinfeld"?

And don't you remember Stryper covering it back in the day? One of the all-time classic WTF? moments.

Listening to it again, it's a lot shorter than I recall - not even three minutes. The part of the song that I remember most as a kid is the last few seconds, the "Shining star for you to see / What your life can truly be" that fades the song out and ends in a cappella. I thought that that was the chorus, but it only appears at the very very end. I love so may parts of this song, though. The groovy little guitar lick at the beginning, the Earth, Wind and Fire patented horn fills, the falsetto chorus, the rhythm guitar in the verses, it's all good stuff (and I always like the voice Philip Bailey uses in "Make your body big and strong at 1:27 too). And, as mentioned, I do like the message of the song. Confident, uplifting, positive, and fun. This is one that has gone in mixes I've made for the kids.