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Saturday, June 29, 2019

Song in Focus: 'Memories and Throttle' by Michael Paul Lawson

To be honest, I began listening to this song on a weekend night - a time frame that is usually secured for either old favourites, or noir French films. But the best thing about this song, and the songwriter, and the singer is that in less than a minute you realise you wouldn't regret listening to him perform - like, ever! 

I've mentioned this before in numerous occasions that I am a lyrics person, more than a grammatically perfect piece of musical performance. Performance to me is secondary, it is poetry that appeals in the beginning and at the end. The song is exceptionally well written and the motion of how it has been sung resonates with the words used in a way that 'memories' does evoke a sense of memories, and that of your own. It does not make you feel like you are listening to Lawson's song (which is a beauty in itself, either way) - it makes you feel like it is your song, and you are replaying your own memories in your own head. Isn't that something?

Although 'Memories and Throttle' is a ballad, the motion aspect of the song does not reek the regular slow, sorry, pensive ballad-like vibes. Instead, the resonance that it picks along with its own embodiment allows a kind of juxtaposition that goes beyond poetry but tangentially comes back to it and the song is born, and then reborn to the listener - making everything about its existence reified and pronounced. 

This reification in itself is the mark that the artist leaves on his art. So, when you listen to even, say Ummagumma from Pink Floyd, you know it's their music. Lawson definitely has a very prudent, a very real, flesh and blood connection with his music and that immediately begins to show its magic once you begin listening to him. This guy can find his way around a tune, with a knack for visceral prose that bring to mind the likes of Jason Isbell, Drew Holcomb & Townes Van Zandt.

Other than the song being really impressive, Lawson has a beautiful voice. If you're blessed with that kind of phonetic quality and appeal and emotion and sorrow in just your voice, you can't be kidding by asking for more! We would love to hear more music from this man. And the sooner that happens, the better!

You can buy the digital track here

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Monday, June 17, 2019

LP in Focus: 'Leave it to the Kids' by Bus Stop Poets

Ever woken up on an extremely dull Tuesday and felt like doing nothing? Early-in-the-week blues showing in like clouds upon the hilltop? The lively, yet somewhat gently rustic, country oriented pop music by the Bus Stop Poets might just brighten your day - gently lifting your senses through a realm of what you can call sunshine pop (Remember The Beach boys, people?) 

The LP is going to release on July 26th and is constituted out of ten songs:-

1. You Won't Miss Me
2. Better 
3. Blow
4. Pop Your Top
5. Dance All Night 
6. Leave it to the Kids
7. Don't Call Me Criminal 
8. Tractor Song
9. Cool4U
10. You Won't Miss Me (There) 

What is ultimately satisfying about the collection is that the songs are arranged in a way that the pungent, strong pop vibes are juxtaposed by the softer, more melodious, Fleetwood Mac vibes before sounding even a tad bit monotonous. Songs like 'Dance All Night' and 'Don't Call Me Criminal' even contain such a juxtaposition in them! 'Cool4U' is a level apart and both 'Better' and 'You Won't Miss Me (There)' are pure beauty. 

'Blow' has been released as a single, and finds them channeling their inner Aussie with a sound The Vinyl District described as "Crosby, Stills and Nash (Down Under)...with a lilting narrative quality that conjures up mid-70s Eagles." The band has synced tunes in big commercial spots for Chevy as well as multiple episodes of Showtime’s Shameless.

The songs have an element of true motion in them, and leaves a cognitive vibe inside you once you are done listening. And even though the poets are making pop music, and hail from Detroit (one big, huge plus here!) - they surely are not making 21st century, conventional, prototype and design oriented, market endorsing, boring music. Their music is innovative, original, co-ordinated and leaves a ringing sweetness to the ears that is possible only for musicians who own their own music in the truest sense of the term. 

On a more joyous note, you can dance to some of their more lively, pretty tunes and they most certainly make a very sweet yet passionate impression - something that makes you reach out for their music even more. The poets have also successfully created better songs than poetry - and the entirety, the wholeness of songs is what pertains after you have experienced the journey of perception once you listen to their music. 

Despite the rhythm that is so attractive and a major part of their music, there is also something very tranquil even about their live performances. 

Fans of hard rock, country, country rock, country pop, sunshine pop, R&B and particularly Fleetwood Mac should definitely lend the poets' work a keen ear. You wouldn't be dissatisfied! 

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

LP in Focus: 'Running in the Dark' by Paul Doffing

I felt the vibe in Doffing's music the very first time I casually began listening to 'Running in the Dark' on SoundCloud. There are three songs that constitute the LP: 'Running in the Dark', 'Easy As You Come' and 'In Your Eyes'. I also ended up listening to 'Shake You' subsequently and I wouldn't hesitate to accept that I really had not expected the music to be this pleasing, this tender and as convincing. 

As someone who grew up in an ambiance very intricately associated with the practice of interpreting literature, I have been more attracted to lucid poetry than probably most of the other distractions life has to offer to you! And when poetry blends right with melody, melancholia, mystery or human emotions of the more deeper kind, you make the right kind of music. Most often than not, the chords diverge here and there and the cluster of light that is borne is good enough, close to, resting somewhere - in some plane, at a distance from the truest sense of music. The closer you get, the better are the memories made. 

Listening to 'In Your Eyes', what would primarily attract the ears is probably the amaaaazing voice that Paul has been blessed with. It is such a beautiful combination of tranquility, and solace and depth - is phonetically similar to that of Irish musician Andrew Hozier but somewhat more fluid, and probably even a little more tender at points. This itself could be reason enough to listen to his music, but there are other important reasons that must be talked about. His music has been featured on the Today Show NBC, Guitar World, Diffuser and Folk Radio UK.

The lyrics, although fairly simple, seem to be have been drawn from the depth of experience - which is probably even rooted in the fact that Doffing has already travelled more than half the distance around the circumference of the earth: 12,500 miles (20,000 km) on his bicycle! And his perception of nature, the proximity of exchange that has taken place between the soul and the world shows in his music. The twist in the story is when you listen to the soulful blend of psychedelic elements into the song - mostly in the area associated with the melody and instrumentals. That particularly makes it really hard to put his music into a single genre - simply calling his music "indie" or "psychedelic pop" or even country-inspired-indie doesn't do justice. It clearly defies demarcation lines and stretches over multiple genres and it would be safe to call it experimental indie psychedelic on that note, I suppose. 😛 

'Running in the Dark' is a song that encapsulates in its body the idea and rhythm associated with motion and vice versa. That is exactly the role 'psychedelia' is supposed to play, though. It is supposed to make you experience music rather than simply listening to it. 

'Easy As You Come' is yet another beautiful song and starts releasing the more tender, tranquil, serene vibes that might turn out to be Doffing's signature in music in the coming days. Speculations apart, we will wait for him to write new songs in the coming days. 

I ended up listening to another single called 'Shake You' subsequently and it was a different journey, altogether. What I also loved about his music was exempting the overemphasis on unnecessary areas for just the sake of popularising it. His music is real, and is alive, and has its own existence. 
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Monday, June 3, 2019

Song in Focus: 'Heart' by Craig Irving (Debut Track)

'Heart' is a new release from Craig Irving, former guitarist and vocalist with the Gaelic folk band Mànran and later with the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award-winning band Talisk. 

What is primarily enchanting about the track is its auditory quality, and the phonetic equivalent of flavour - vibes! Although 'Heart' in its entirety retains a certain crisp American pop essence, the method of performance is what sets is apart. The lyrical portrayal is good enough to take away your Monday blues and help you look at the sunny side instead.

The song, despite being amply rhythmic and smoothly paced also radiates a mild, tender indie attribute somewhere. 

 The song just debuted on The Vinyl District who noted, " 'Heart' feels like the work of a savvy and seasoned artist." 

The reason behind Irving's unique style might actually be rooted in the deep involvement that he shares with Gaelic music - oriented with the fact that Gaelic is a beautiful, yet dying language that in itself contains the elements that sets multiple genres of music whole levels apart when infused right. Irving's sweet Scottish accent is also quite evident and rather pronounced, that as a phenomena adds weight to the concept of the song. 

You can now listen to 'Sweet' on 'Soundcloud' as well.
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Saturday, May 25, 2019

Song in Focus: 'Wot's... Uh The Deal' by Pink Floyd

Hello, people! It has been so long since I have written a word about Floyd and it seems that an era has passed since I've spent time listening to them, day after day - unable to switch to anything else. On the contrary, I have been listening to only ghazals alternated with a little bit of indie here and there, and it's a wholesome combination, in its totality. 

But somehow, after my love had been feeling under the weather this morning, I felt like 'A Pillow of Winds' or 'Cymbaline' could do wonders to make him feel better. And as much as I do miss the land that he's about to stroll down from, with all the wild horses tethered with tears in their eyes and the tambourinemen selling crystal candies, juggling them like pillows across the sky-bed, I recalled 'Wots... Uh The Deal' subsequently. Now, this never was a favourite song, nothing that I've felt very strongly for while listening. It's a good background score, it's buoyant and merciful and gentle and cozy but I had never felt spectacularly attached to it. 

This morning was when I realised the lyrics to the song is actually substantial, and substantially heavy. The juxtaposition of the orientation of 'self' is a true poet's cup of tea and Waters, throughout his life has been a warrior alongside one. The lyrics to almost all songs in 'Meddle' (1971) and 'Obscured by Clouds' (1972) pertain a very tender, very gentle quality to them and 'Wot's... Uh The Deal' is no exception. The song has been co-written by both Waters and Gilmour but the sole reason behind glorifying the presence of Waters far more than that of Gilmour at least in case of songwriting is...say, 'Childhood's End' - I mean, it's so sad that it doesn't even sound like a Pink Floyd song! Every other track, "co-written" with Waters has the pungent Floyd element engulfing, enthralling its whole being! Even the more underrated 'Stay' (co-written by Waters and Wright) and 'San Tropez' (written by Waters) retain the Pink Floyd quality. Songs co-written by all members like 'One of These Days' or 'Echoes' remain favourites across multiple generations of prog lovers. 

'Wots... Uh The Deal' is weirdly playing in my head a bunch of long lost weird coming of age realm of memories and is making me miss both my early-teenager and pre-teen years along with a visit to a certain place at the heart of the mountains a few months ago. It has a winter-evening feel to it that's not very evident but still there - a season close to spring, but still attached to the essence of winter and reluctant to come out of it. The whole song derives its sultriness from the G7-G chord patterned play that's oh so sexy. The melancholia in G7 brings out the prudent presence in the otherwise more or less dull C, and that altered with Am and C is definitely a sweetly rolling, joyful, little stream at the heart of a lush, green valley.

The photographs taken by ean-Denis Mahn, during the recording of the Obscured By Clouds album at Strawberry Studios, Chateau D’Herouville, France, between 23 and 29 February 1972 featured in the official video of the song is something
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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Stills from 'I Killed My Mother' (J'ai tué ma mère) Directed by Xavier Dolan ; 2009

Okay, Xavier Dolan is beautiful. No doubts about that, no confusion, no arguments. However, when a twenty year old filmmaker makes something like 'I Killed My Mother', there should be some conversation about it. And besides being incredibly powerful, Dolan has been unapologetic, magnificiently brave and intelligent in the making of the film. Although it could have been a little briefer in expression in certain contexts, the elongation and endurance of longer takes does make the portrayal sound and look more poetic, and hence more real. 

The complexity of the adolescent psyche has been depicted with great care, and the characters and their conversations, and their loneliness and legacy have been put together like a warm colour palette from one of Gustav Klimt's paintings - only that this time they are more blue, a luminescent, more melancholic yet expressive palette of blue. 'I Killed my Mother' is a wonderful film, and something that has the power to change the perception of homophobes about a lot of gruesome things they believe they are incapable of changing. Works like this would at least go on insisting that there is ample hope for art to survive doomed times as ours. 

Here are twenty seven stills that I felt were worthwhile. 

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Stills from 'Une Femme est Une Femme' (A Woman is a Woman) 1961

I watched a Godard film almost after two years, I think! And the moment I wanted to watch Godard, I wanted to watch one of his more mainstream, popular, hyped over films. Another plus about 'Une Femme est Une Femme' is that this is an Anna Karina starred film and I secretly adore her.

There were two things beyond the cliché portrayal of a melodramatic oh-so-complex, often illogical femme fatale - class demarcation showcased in a rather fluid, eloquent space and continuum and the dismissal of the act of intercourse as a rather vague ordeal as compared to cussing each other by exchanging words, and books ; my God - books and plenty of them!

Here are twenty stills from the film that I felt were worthwhile.

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Song Cover: 'Skinny Love' by Bon Iver

I tried singing 'Skinny Love' on the ukulele at around four thirty in the morning, obviously after a sleepless night. Kindly excuse the tired face and messy hair. Let me know if this turned out to be something at all! 💓

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Song in Focus: 'El Derecho de Vivir en Paz' by Victor Jara

I had been listening to Phil Ochs last morning in hope of grasping onto something that could lead me to think of better things but it somehow didn't work out after I ended up listening to 'There but for Fortune' and then went on to read all the way upto his bipolar disorder and suicide. There was one thing that had been embedded quite deep inside me, though - that the murder of Victor Jara injured Ochs permanently. And the only idea I had about Victor was his identity as a revolutionary, as a singer, as a leader and as a martyr. Given my almost villainous presence of memory, I also remembered the details of how the murder happened. Somehow after yesterday, I had been craving his music and it has been almost a whole day that I have been listening to this song and I seem to still not be able to get enough of it! 

I actually played this to several other people today and many of them loved the tune to it, although none of them could make head or tail of the lyrics. Technically, there are two things that might have happened. One is that once music is born out of a certain social movement, and involves an honest intention to freedom, to liberty, there is one common factor - one with no name that binds the universality of it altogether. This is perhaps how people's music has developed as a distinct genre in itself. 
The second thing is that the song is in Spanish and Spanish has an 'universal' element in itself (think why Esperanto is called Esperanto) and perhaps helps ideate certain dormant things hidden deep inside, so even if you don't fully understand the lyrics - it opens up certain doors and windows and helps you look at the world outside. 

'El Derecho de Vivir en Paz' literally translates to 'The right to Live in Peace' and is a song dedicated to Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh. 

The lyrics and the English translation to the same can be found here. It is a flaming, beautiful culmination of the verses that it consists of and the easy tune coming through as diluted, as tranquil as the sea-salt in the ocean waves is something you could crave for on days when you are in need of hope. Given the present political scenario in India, in South Asia and across the globe, it would not be a mistake to remind each of ourselves and those around us that we are in trouble unless we are conscious. Victor's fingers were smashed while they mocked at him and asked him to play the guitar. Victor's nails were uprooted. He still smiled and he sang until they shot him at the head followed by the nearly fourty bullets that riddled his body. The beauty that continues to surround his music and radiate itself is still so evident, and is everything but forgotten. 

The prelude and especially the multiple interludes intertwine a breathtaking combination of elements from folk and also rock - this is not astonishing but bewildering for sure, in a certain sense, and obviously amusing! The whole picture totally makes sense, makes evident, non-chaotic, delightful and strong sense. There is reason why a part of Phil died when Victor was murdered. Victor, in all his entirety, was not just a leader, not just a revolutionary, not just him - he was the voice of a movement, he was the name of a movement and only sometimes...he was but a song! 
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Saturday, April 6, 2019

Song in Focus: 'Roslyn' by Bon Iver and St. Vincent

I have been listening to this particular song like a maniac for the last two days and have still not managed to free myself from its intoxicating clutch. I have been smitten by Bon Iver lately and have been listening to his less popular, less talked about songs which is exactly what people do when they're interested in the poet's method of poetry. Although 'Roslyn' was performed by Bon Iver and St. Vincent and had been used as a soundtrack in 'Twilight: The New Moon Saga' (that movie is lame, oh God start talking about lame) - not a lot of people remember the song because of the song anymore. Also, in the film industry, what's past is past quicker than you can actually sum up the concept of present in your head. 

I had been dragged into his aura when I listened to 'Love More' this week followed by 'Roslyn' but while 'Love More' feels like outer space and whale calls, 'Roslyn' is even stronger as poetry and then the composition reminds me of mountains and kisses and a slow, soft fall down the course of a foggy rift, closer to silence, closer to echoes. 

(Photograph Source: Open Spotify) 

The reason why I absolutely adore Vernon is because his songs are so intricately associated with his emotional being that it shows - in all its beautiful, incandescent, all-encompassing glory, it shows itself, bares itself aloud effortlessly. His poems, his songs, are then him in a certain form. 


Up with your turret
Aren't we just terrified?
Shale, screen your worry from what you won't ever find

Don't let it fool you
Don't let it fool you
Dancing round, folds in the gown

Sea and the rock below
Cocked to the undertow
Bones blood and teeth erode, they will be crashing low

Wings wouldn't help you
Wings wouldn't help you
Down towards the ground, gravity smiled

You barely are blinking
Wagging your face around
When'd this just become a mortal home?

Won't, won't, won't, won't
Won't let you talk me
Won't let you talk me
Will pull it taut, nothing let out

The last part of this post had been written last afternoon. It has been more than a day since then, and I started playing the song on my ukulele when it was dawning outside after an almost sleepless night. I have listened to the song countless times since then and it probably was echoing in my head even when I was thinking of other things. The last time I got this addicted to a song was probably when I was fourteen and had listened to 'Wish You Were Here' for the first time! This is perhaps the biggest analogical compliment I can ever gift to a song. 

While trying to play the song on the ukulele, what I realised was that the composition is based on a rotational pattern of very simple notes, which can be morphed into a little more complex tones - as in you can use a combination of Dm and Dm7 instead of using Dm7 or Dm individually, you can alter the strumming patterns. Either way, if you got a high-pitched voice (which fortunately or unfortunately is the situation with me) - this song might sound beautiful! I am not sure if a more bassy baritone would do the trick in this case. 

The song sounds very mysterious, to begin with, and as the readers would know - I have a habit of relating songs with seasons and time. The twist in the plot of the story is that I absolutely have no clue if this is more of a day or night song, I think it's more of a dawn or dusk song ; probably more dawn than dusk because there's an element of 'lift', of vanishing into thin air, of elevation...something that is rising and not sinking anymore. 

The lyrics are absolutely Bon Iver kind of lyrics. You could tell they belong to Justin Vernon once you go through the intense, intimate kind of poetry that hits the core of your neurons the moment you begin paying attention, and there is not much reservation left not to. I still am listening to the song on repeat as I write
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