Toronto and London-based Lowell has the kind of voice that veers dangerously close to being exploited in an iTunes commercial. Which is why it’s significant that her new EP I Killed Sara V. opens with the blisteringly original “Cloud 69.” That music and those lyrics could never be used to sell hybrid cars. The crush of percussion and synths and the descending “oooooh” in the chorus make the heart pound faster. It’s an extraordinary song and unlike anything else I’ve heard.
Kathleen Hanna was my dream girl growing up. It all started when I went to a record store and found a copy of Reject All American by Bikini Kill. I had no clue what it was but the cover intrigued me. I gave it a shot because it only had a 99-cent price tag.
I left the store with a few CDs that day (mostly punk) and listened to them throughout the rest of the week, but that night I popped that one in and it did a number on me. First, it sounded completely badass. It was raw and ferocious. The lyrics were well thought out and this girl singer was not fucking around. Between “Rebel Girl” and “Statement of Vindication,” this was the best album that I’d heard in years. I immediately found out who Kathleen Hanna was and tracked down everything she put her hands into.
Suzanne Vega is one of the few survivors of the Great Folk Uprising of the Eighties. Her career hit its heights with her single, “Luka,” which was later covered by The Lemonheads. The British producing team, BNA, turned her a capella tune, “Tom’s Diner,” into an international dance hit. You know. “Doo do doo DO doo do-doo DO.” That one.
As it happens with some artists, as Vega matured as a performer and songwriter, her presence on the music charts decreased. Some of her best works went practically unnoticed (why people never caught onto her album Songs in Red and Gray is one of the great mysteries of our time).
After a seven-year break, Vega is back with Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles, a fascinating mix of bitterness and release, spirituality and despair.
There’s a delightful ramshackle quality to the newest album by Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs. All Her Fault has a spontaneous, lively sound, and wickedly witty lyrics. It’s the kind of album that is not only instantly engaging, but also gets better with each listen.
The tagline on the DVD for Concussion is the kind of lurid text that implies we’re going to watch a Lifetime movie from the 1990s: Wife. Mother. Escort. When you examine the plot—middle-aged wife and mother gets hit on the head and then creates a secret life as a prostitute—it doesn’t do much to dissuade that notion. Yet Concussion isn’t a cautionary tale and the head injury doesn’t produce dissociative fugues; no one gets blackmailed, kidnapped, or murdered. It’s a frank examination of dissatisfaction and desire that could easily be transposed onto a heterosexual relationship, but in Concussion the married couple are lesbians with two kids.
With more than 300 films screening in a ten-day time period, the Toronto International Film Festival makes time management a challenge. Rumor has it that some film critics will leave a screening after ten minutes if they’re not fully engaged. I’m going to bet that there were quite a few who walked out on Violet & Daisy at TIFF 2011. That would have been a big mistake.
Chiaroscuro is defined as “the technique of using light and shade in pictorial representation.” It’s a ideal name for the second album from I Break Horses, the musical project from Swedish singer/songwriter Maria Lindén. Rather than a contrast between light and shade, however, the songs on Chiaroscuro are a study in the interplay between the retro synths of ’80s shoegaze and the more contemporary flavors of techno and EDM. In a way, Chiaroscuro reminds me a lot of School of Seven Bells’ Ghostory, but while that album was crystalline ice, these songs are like smoldering embers.
With a voice as soulful as Shelly Bhushan’s, Something Out Of Nothing could have taken a straight R&B route, and she could have thrown in boatloads of melisma to impress. Instead, she’s turned in an album full of interesting, unexpected arrangements and thoughtful lyrics, and presented them with her gorgeous, versatile voice. Something Out Of Nothing is a stealth charmer.
Diablo Cody hit it big a few years ago with Juno and everyone and their mother flocked over to her fan club. I watched Juno and admit I enjoyed it, but it was so filled with pop culture one-liners that it became boring. People said it was fresh and new but to me it was someone just trying way too hard. After that, Cody wrote Jennifer’s Body, which I was a fan of because of the silliness and how the film actually presented itself. Of course, people didn’t like this one and it was easily dismissed by critics. Cody wrote another “hit” called Young Adult which was just OK by me and many others.
Recently a new film called Paradise has surfaced that Cody wrote and directed. This is actually her directorial debut and the project she decided to helm first. First off, let me say this film feels like a total passion project for Diablo Cody. I could be wrong, of course, but Paradise falls flat and is so boring it doesn’t feel right.
There’s a lot to be said about the decidedly bizarre time capsule that is Saâda Bonaire. They weren’t so much a band as an experiment, but one that definitely pays off.
In 1982, Bremen DJ Ralf Behrendt, a.k.a. Ralf von Richthofen, embarked on a musical project that he hoped would replicate something akin to the influence Caribbean and Indian music was having on British pop. Behrendt had an exposure to and fascination with Turkish music due to his work in the German government’s immigration department. He enlisted local Turkish and Kurdish musicians, as well as his then-girlfriend Stephanie Lange and her friend Claudia Hossfeld (who both wrote the songs), to create Saâda Bonaire.
Thirteen tracks were recorded for EMI in Kraftwerk’s Studio N with producer Dennis Bovell, including “You Could Be More As You Are” as the intended single. But then, it all hit a snag.