Categories
music

On Arthur Phillips, “The Song Is You” (2009).

[Crossposted from a 3-star entry on Goodreads.]

No, it’s not a proper review (I leave that up to the experts), but more of an extended observation, which can perhaps be best illustrated with an example of Arthur Phillips’ prose, with our protagonist Julian listening to his Walkman in the Manhattan twilight:

…and he had the sensation that he might never be so happy again as long as he lived. This quake of joy, inspiring and crippling, was longing, but longing for what? True love? A wife? Wealth? Music was not so specific as that. “Love” was in most of these potent songs, of course, but they — the music, the light, the season — implied more than this, because, treacherously, Julian was swelling only with longing for longing. He felt his nerves open and turn to the world like sunflowers on the beat, but this desire could not achieve release; his body strained forward, but independent of any goal, though he did not know it for many years to come, until he proved it.

Because years later, when he had captured all that — love, wife, home, success, child — still he longed, just the same, when he listened to those same songs, now on a portable CD player, easily repeated without the moodicidal interruption of rewinding (turning spindles wheezing as batteries failed). He felt it all again. He pressed Play and longed still.

It’s eloquent stuff, yes, all this aching, the blunt and concise beauty of a phrase like “this quake of joy.” And yes, there are small gems like these scattered throughout the novel. But see, it’s that word “moodicidal” that’s, well, moodicidal. All this rapture, then a tiny thud, as if our appealingly lovelorn but not completely sympathetic protagonist — the sort of person who would craft a word like “moodicidal” as a form of emotional self-defense, if that makes any sense — had insinuated himself into the narration. A private grief made more palatable, perhaps, pulled to the surface, manifested and masquerading as verbal artifice. Because after all, the emotional core of The Song Is You is loss (the death of a child, a divorce), its depths momentarily excavated, dragged up to the light, by the fortuitous turn of the iPod’s click wheel.

Categories
music Pinoy

Where’s The Other Pinay?

Dear Mr. David Byrne,

You mean to tell me the one single Pinay singer who actually has a lead vocal on your project didn’t get to be on your cool poster? I mean, she sings lead vocals and all!

Sincerely,

The Wily Filipino

p.s. Thanks, though, for the big spike in visits on my very old Wit and Wisdom of Imelda Marcos page. And I dig the album, though I wish you’d written more about the horrific abuse of human rights (and corruption, and poverty) that the Marcos dictatorship perpetrated upon the Filipino people. That’s all.

Categories
music

Music Video Quiz #1.

Back in the day — four years ago, a lifetime in Internet terms — when I was more active on Last.fm and had way too much time on my hands, I would change my avatar to a screencap from a music video and have people guess its source. (Back then YouTube wasn’t that popular yet, so it was a little more difficult for folks to confirm whether one’s guess was correct.) But at some point I lost interest and things got busy and I had no more images left — none of these screencaps were taken from YouTube, but from video files I actually had — so the whole thing just faded out.

Anyhow, in the process of messing around with my other blog last night, I found all the images on a stray USB flash drive, and so I thought I’d slowly post them here until they’re all gone. (And you Last.fm friends who might know all of these already: play nice and don’t answer them all, okay? I know who you are!)

Guess the artist and song title in the comments:

1. vidcap1

2.

3.

4.

5.

Categories
music

The Runners-Up!

But wait, there’s more! Of course there were runners-up — twenty, as a matter of fact — that, depending on the time of day or the way the sun streams through a window, could have made this top 15 (+1). And now to put my obsessive-compulsiveness to rest.

My Favorite Songs of 2009:

1. Mos Def, “Quiet Dog” (2009)
2. The Sea and Cake, “On a Letter” (2008)
3. Pinback, “Loro” (2008)
4. Quantic and His Combo Bárbaro, “Linda Morena” (2009)
5. Passion Pit, “Folds in Your Hands” (2009)
6. Ximena Sariñana, “Vidas Paralelas” (2008)
7. Thomas Tantrum, “Work It” (2008)
8. The Zombies, “I Want Her She Wants Me” (1968)
9. Ben Kweller, “Old Hat” (2009)
10. Ida Maria, “Oh My God” (2007)
11. Anna Fermin’s Trigger Gospel, “How Do You Judge Me” (2003)
12. The Phenomenal Handclap Band, “15 to 20” (2009)
13. Speech Debelle, “The Key” (2009)
14. ComaR, “I Want You D.A.N.C.E.” (2008)
15. Michael Jackson, “Happy” (1973)
16. Wonder Girls, “Nobody” (2008)

Categories
music

My 15 (+1) Favorite Songs of 2009: 1. Mos Def, “Quiet Dog” (2009).

1. Mos Def, “Quiet Dog”
– From the 2009 album The Ecstatic (Lala link).
Official website.

Mos Def’s latest album, The Ecstatic – with a cover featuring a cropped still from Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, one of the greatest American movies of the last four decades – has been described as his best since Black on Both Sides. (See my short blurb on his recent “Black on Both Sides in its entirety” tour.) One might say that isn’t saying much; the previous two albums were merely decent, and didn’t quite live up to the promise of his debut album (and certainly not if you count Black Star, his excellent collaboration with Talib Kweli).

But still: “Quiet Dog” has become my favorite Mos Def track ever, the real Empire State anthem of 2009. It’s partly because I’ve found that I tend to love the songs that sound like Mos was merely messing about: “Fear Not Of Man”, for instance, is a State of the Hip-Hop Nation manifesto delivered, one thinks, almost off the cuff. “Umi Says” features him trying to sing (just barely, actually), over an ambling jazz groove that sounds more like a noodly instrumental coda.

At the end of a decade when the hip-hop charts seemed to consolidate its shift from its funk/soul sample base to European club music — from boom-boom-bap to boomf-boomf-boomf — “Quiet Dog” was a nervy single to release, featuring a stripped-down return to (for lack of a better term) “rap-o clap-o”, and starting off with an excerpt from a Fela Kuti interview (check out David Letterman’s usual nonplussed reaction to hearing his name in the YouTube video above). Mos Def seems infatuated here with that single kids-on-a-Brooklyn-streetcorner, drum-and-handclap rhythm – “The prominent bassness / Zulu arrangement / rockin’ amazement” — simmering down only towards the end.

It has a breathless intensity that the songs mentioned above don’t quite have, as if the thick torrent of words flowing through him and the Sugarhill Gang and everyone else before him can’t be stopped and won’t be stopped, and he needs to talk himself into staying cool. Dare I say it? It’s the dank, primal, musical embodiment of his most beautiful boogie man persona, the opposite of “bright as the A.M.,” the mighty Mos Def stirring a cauldron with strange sonic brew for your favorite nightmare.

The single was released exactly a year ago today, which gives it something of an unfair handicap on my list. It means that it’s been bouncing around in my head for a year now – the music in my headphones and in the streets and in the car and on the train and at work and my favorite song of 2009.

*I was going to cite Kid Cudi’s ubiquitous 2008 single “Day ‘n Nite” as an example, but remembered that Kanye West had already utilized Daft Punk, of all bands, for 2007’s “Stronger”.

—–

The rest of the list:

2. The Sea and Cake, “On a Letter” (2008)
3. Pinback, “Loro” (2008)
4. Quantic and His Combo Bárbaro, “Linda Morena” (2009)
5. Passion Pit, “Folds in Your Hands” (2009)
6. Ximena Sariñana, “Vidas Paralelas” (2008)
7. Thomas Tantrum, “Work It” (2008)
8. The Zombies, “I Want Her She Wants Me” (1968)
9. Ben Kweller, “Old Hat” (2009)
10. Ida Maria, “Oh My God” (2007)
11. Anna Fermin’s Trigger Gospel, “How Do You Judge Me” (2003)
12. The Phenomenal Handclap Band, “15 to 20” (2009)
13. Speech Debelle, “The Key” (2009)
14. ComaR, “I Want You D.A.N.C.E.” (2008)
15. Michael Jackson, “Happy” (1973)
16. Wonder Girls, “Nobody” (2008)