Saturday, March 31, 2012

Regina Spektor - Don't Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)

Regina Spektor's 2009 album, Far, was a mixed bag for me.  The album had plenty of great songs and the foundation was there, but it was plagued by unfortunate production.  Many of the tracks contained beats that sounded pre-packaged and unnecessary.  Regina's ability the write a wonderful song felt buried beneath the frills and metronome structure.  I really just wanted to hear something that resembled her early work, quirky songs with a strong dose of raw piano.

It's not as if Regina is unable to create an album that successfully uses the various instruments often included with high production values.  2006's Begin To Hope was glossy and took advantage of this sound with beautiful, and full, arrangements.  Still, Far isn't a bad album.  It's far from that, actually.  The album was simply a letdown after Regina's previous records, all of which were pretty spectacular.

Regina's latest single is an updated version of a track from her 2002 album, Songs.  "Ne Me Quitte Pas" is now "Don't Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)".  What was once a simple fun thing is now a full blown bouncy pop single.  Let me just say that I absolutely loved the original version.  I don't quite understand why she chose to redo the song, but it actually works pretty well.  The first edition still wins, hands down, but this updated model is an interesting listen that has me excited for the full record.  The synth-horns and bubbly chords do add a strange tropical vibe, though.

Regina's album, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats is out on May 29.  The record contains both "Don't Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)" and "All The Rowboats", the latter of which had a music video release earlier this week.  You can listen to "Don't Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)" and pre-order the new album below.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Taylor Swift - Safe & Sound (Feat. The Civil Wars)

If you follow me on twitter, then you might have seen my recent rantings about The Hunger Games.  Over the past few months, I've heard nothing but amazing things about the book trilogy.  After being relentlessly urged to check out the series, my curiosity peaked.  The movie trailers are what finally convinced me to see what all the fuss was about.

About a week before the film's opening weekend, I sat down and gave it a shot.  Let's just say that I'm now on book two, Catching Fire.  Anyways, I went to a packed theatre last Sunday and saw the movie with high hopes.  It lived up to the hype.  During the credits of the film, a few songs from the compilation soundtrack are heard.  As I'm reading the various credits, (fun fact: the "food stylist's" name was Jack White), this stunning folksy track starts playing.  Ever since that day, I can't get it out of my head.

The song is "Safe & Sound" by Taylor Swift, and it features The Civil Wars.  Not only is it completely perfect for the film, but it also has such a beautiful melody.  I believe it may be some of Taylor Swift's best work yet.  That's probably because it isn't her usual pop-country breakup single.  The Civil Wars are the finishing touch on the song by adding some supporting vocals that really make such a difference.  You can check out the music video for "Safe & Sound" below.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to reading.  Feel free to discuss the books, film, and soundtrack in the comment section.  Remember, no spoilers!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

LIGHTS: Live At The 9:30 Club

When I arrived at the venue, a line of eager bodies wrapped around the building.  The sun had already begun to set and the air was frozen by gusts of wind.  I was suddenly wishing I had worn at least two more coats and maybe a scarf.  Stretching down the block, a mass of people were waiting for LIGHTS to perform at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC.  As part of the Siberia Tour, March 5 was her night in the nation's capitol, and the show would surely be something to remember.

The doors opened at seven, as everyone rushed in to escape the cold.  The opening band, Ambassadors, wouldn't play until fifteen past eight, so that stretch of time allowed for a decent amount of excitement and anticipation to build.  When Ambassadors finally did come out, I was somewhat surprised.  They're definitely not the type of band that I would expect to see opening for an electro-pop artist.  They had energy and worked the crowd, but I feel like they would've been better appreciated at an alternative rock concert. Mismatch aside, the audience seemed to enjoy the act.

After Ambassadors played for a good forty minutes or so, the stage was cleared and set up for the main event.  At half past nine, the party started and everyone remembered why they were there.  The stage lights went full blast and the music picked up.  LIGHTS' set lifted off with her latest single, "Banner".  At most other shows that I've been to, the crowd never fails to make a rush towards the stage when they sense their favorite band is about to play.  I must say, this audience was one of the most considerate and polite that I've seen.  No pummeling surge or relentless moshing throughout the entire night.  The LIGHTS Army is a gentle kind.

The setlist dabbled back and forth between cuts off of LIGHTS' new record, Siberia, and old favorites from her debut.  The odd non-album track was also present.  She ran to and from synthesizers as the insanely catchy melodies filled the air.  You know how some people look completely different when you see them in person?  LIGHTS was identical to her album cover, wearing a red plaid button-up over a tank top and jeans.  Her standard combover mane was present as well.

The dubstep infused breakdowns found in a handful of her recent songs were magnified that night.  Strobes lit the club and worked the room on tracks like "Flux And Flow", "Suspension", and one of the highlights of her set, "Everybody Breaks A Glass".  Rap verses by Shad, which appear on the studio recordings, were replaced with instrumentals or an extended chorus.  Moments like these proved that if LIGHTS really felt like it, she could create one heavy album.

In contrast to the thicker electronic tracks, LIGHTS slowed down the set halfway through with the reprise of "Pretend".  The alternate piano version had arms waving in the air.  She followed this touching moment with a suitable rendition of "Face Up".  Just when this little ballad section started to settle in, a crunchy "Siberia" brought the pace back up.  I feel like balance is required for a successful concert.  If you leave one end of the show lopsided with slower tracks or pack every hit single one after another, you'll lose any sense of connection between the songs.  LIGHTS did an excellent job of weaving the tracks into an order that felt right.

The main set ended with "Toes", the lead single to Siberia.  She then took her exit for a mandatory break before the encore.  After a brief round of "LIGHTS!  LIGHTS!  LIGHTS!" chanting from the giddy crowd, she returned to the stage for two more songs.  First was a stellar performance of "Second Go", one of my absolute favorites from her first album, The Listening.  It served as the last call to scream along before the night ended.  To wrap up the evening, LIGHTS played a stripped down version of "Cactus In The Valley".  Accompanied by her acoustic guitar, it was the perfect way to say goodnight to DC.

LIGHTS knows how to put on one spectacular concert and I would gladly see her show again the next time she stops by.  It's pop enough to satisfy the Top 40 crowd, yet those who are into dance and electronic music will have a great time.  If you're interested in catching a concert, LIGHTS is still playing across the US as part of the Siberia Tour.  For a full list of tour dates and ticket info, including SXSW, you can find her schedule here.  To download Siberia go this way.  For any other inquiries about the Canadian songstress, head over to her website.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

SSION - My Love Grows In The Dark

Yesterday, SSION released a music video for "My Love Grows In The Dark", a track from last year's Bent.  I was familiar with Cody Critcheloe's style through his collaborations with other artists.  The group's leader has a range of directorial credits with artists including CSS, and more recently, Santigold.  Always eye-catching, his guest spot on CSS' "City Grrrl" was perfect in every way.

Leading up to this video premiere, I had never listened to Cody's work with SSION.  I can now say that I'm addicted to Bent after watching the clip.  The video for "My Love Grows In The Dark" is pretty much the song's visual soulmate.  It's like Culture Club all over again.  Check it out below...