Category Archives: In Touch

“The Only Living Boy in New York” — Simon and Garfunkel

Editor’s note: Matt published this piece today on Leading Us Absurd in honor of Paul Simon’s 70th birthday. I appreciate his allowing us to feature it here on HFL. –HI-FI Janna

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/v/hJGSHMgbB0E?version=3%5D

Today is Paul Simon’s 70th birthday, so I thought today would be a perfect time to write about one of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs – “The Only Living Boy in New York”.  If I’m being totally honest…(read the entire post on Matt’s blog: Leading Us Absurd)


Find more artists like Simon and Garfunkel at Myspace Music.

“Stranger in Moscow” — Michael Jackson

[youtube:http://youtu.be/pEEMi2j6lYE%5D

Whether or not you’re big into MJ is kind of irrelevant.

Any self-respecting music fan can’t deny the talent, skill, and perfectionism of the man who changed music forever. Besides, there’s rarely anything that comes out of the music or entertainment industry these days that doesn’t make a nod toward Michael – so, chances are, if you like any music that has been created within the last thirty years, you have him to thank for it – at least in part. Because he changed everything.

His death affected me profoundly in a way that no artist’s or celebrity’s has or probably ever will again. When I listen to “Stranger In Moscow” – not a big hit of his, though I think it should’ve been – I get a vivid and emotional glimpse not only of his own life, but of his commonality with his fans, with everyone. Here was a man who was troubled, perhaps more than we’ll ever know, and unfortunately it’s that kind of life that often drives genius.

The music video is, in my opinion, a must-view with the song since Michael was, after all, deeply involved in every aspect of his work. Maybe you can’t relate to being a “Stranger In Moscow”, but you’ve been a stranger somewhere, “living lonely”. You can replace the “Kremlin’s shadow” and “Stalin’s tomb” with anything really. You can see yourself within any of the characters in the video – we’ve all been at that place in our lives, at one point or another, where you drop the umbrella and just walk into the rain. Maybe you’re hoping it washes away whatever you’re feeling. I think Michael wanted to wash away the entire world-the world that constantly loved and hated Michael, fiercely and incessantly, for his entire life. For Michael, “abandoned in my fame”, he hoped he could escape like all the other normal people, hoping they would just “take my name and just let me be”.

It’s a sad thing, no? But there’s an uplifting moment, I think, towards the end when everyone is standing out in the rain. The black and white washes over them and suddenly they find an escape, a moment where nothing really matters. Michael probably had precious few of those moments, certainly fewer than most of us have had. Despite the fame and fortune, I think he’s a prime example of the cliché “money can’t buy happiness”. He was one of us, he was a human being and he was the King of Pop, all at once. I think you’ve achieved true musical and artistic perfection when you achieve that balance, that place where people can see you for you, and you for your talent. I only hope his time with his kids and family and the love of his fans brought him some peace before we lost him.

Image courtesy of http://www.hollywoodgo.com.

Rest In peace, Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009).


Find more artists like Michael Jackson at Myspace Music.

“Ladder” — Joan Osborne

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFN5KP0CDGQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player%5D

I have a diag-nonsense. Two of them, actually: Panic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

You were probably hoping for something sexier or more exciting, like Borderline Personality Disorder or Paranoid Schizophrenia. Sorry. I agree that mine aren’t terribly interesting, but they are enough to color my view of myself and, in a certain way, how I see the world. Oh, and most of the time they annoy the shit out of me.

That said, though, sometimes I kinda dig the fact that I can say that I’m crazy and my psychiatric file can back me up on it. Is that weird? I don’t know…I guess it might be. All I know is that when I’m feeling like *embracing my crazy*, the first song I turn to is “Ladder” by Joan Osborne.

You might remember Joan from her most recognized track “One of Us“. That’s a great song, but I don’t feel it the way I feel “Ladder”. I can still remember the internal dialogue my brain engaged in the first time I heard this song. It went something like this:

(Intro)

Today and everyday….          

***Janna’s brain: Joan! I am liking that piano. Good times.

I’m standing here in your closet

Unbuttoning all your clothes

***Janna’s brain: Whoa. That’s not normal.

I sleep in your bed tonight

But I never find you home

***Janna’s brain: Hmmm…

You’re giving me crooked answers

I’m cracking your little code

I’m learning another language

So full it’s about to explode

***Janna’s brain: Aha! I think I see where you’re going with this, Joan, but let me hit the back button on my player so I can make sure I got all that.

So that’s what I did–and it made me so happy, because I was RIGHT!

If you listen to the rest of this song, you can tell it is about a woman who is still in love with a guy who is losing (or has already lost) interest in the relationship. However, she can’t shake her obsession and she’s totally fine with admitting that to herself.

Yay!

You gave me a ladder, now

I surely believe I’ll climb

It don’t even matter, now

I’m willing to take my time

I’m gonna love you anyway

Today and everyday

Okay, I’m not saying it’s healthy. I’m not even saying it’s normal…but damn, I have a hard time not loving a song that provides me with an opportunity to honor my crazy. And I feel like that’s really the point here. For whatever reason, this guy’s still got her heart. I think she knows the relationship isn’t gonna go the way she wants, but she can’t help herself. And she doubts whether she’ll ever be able to. And that’s insane!

I don’t really relate to the obsessing over a man you can’t have facet of this story (at least not now), but I totally get being obsessed with something that you can’t change or fix. See, I’ve got my own ladder–it just leads me to a different (though equally nutty) place. I’m better off when I keep my feet firmly planted on the ground of sanity. Nevertheless, I occasionally climb it anyway. My ladder might not take me anywhere that’s positive or helpful but it’s part of who I am and sometimes that urge to climb up and see how freaked out I can get about something just wins. It.just.wins! And I think I have to be okay with that.

In all seriousness, I have a good handle on my anxiety most days…but those times when I just can’t help myself, I really appreciate this song being there for me and helping me embrace my crazy. So thanks, Joan! xoxoxo!


Find more artists like Joan Osborne at Myspace Music.

“I Need Air” — Magnetic Man

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2vWQFHP3D0%5D

I first heard Magnetic Man‘s “I Need Air” in the bar at the Generator Hostel in Camden Town, London. I don’t think all songs have to be about the depth of the lyrics – there’s a simplicity here that really caught me the moment I heard it and it really stuck. I guess sometimes it’s not the lyrical genius of songs that mesmerizes us, but the feeling and moment of life that occurs during that first listen.

Perhaps it was the few drinks in me…or maybe it was the fact that it was my first time being (legally) in a bar, my first time being overseas, my first time travelling just with friends – many firsts were happening. Whatever *it* was, when that trance-y beat started I was hooked. The atmosphere in the music video is somewhat indicative of my experience – the blue lights and flashing strobes of the bar and the flying colors on the dance floor were almost too much. The music took me.

My friends and I danced, we drank, we had the time of our lives. We were 3000 miles away from home. There was an unmatched feeling there, something I’ve yet to experience since and that I’m sure awaits me again only in London or a similarly distant locale.

Electrify my body
And you’re makin me feel
Like I’m so electric
Everything you do is makin me
Blow Blow Blow

Don’t know what to do about it
Can’t see how I’d live without it
All I wanna do is just
Know Know Know

You suffocate my mind
And now my atmosphere is crowded
And you being here is makin me
Blow Blow Blow

You penetrate my space
And now I’m looking out of place
And you’re makin it hard for me
I need air!

The chaos of that experience was strange, beautiful and suffocating all at once – that constant beat was like a wave and we were dancing on top of it. The bar was a sea of blues, greens and reds. Trippy. There was a moment where the music, the colors and the atmosphere were all one.

“I Need Air” is now one of my favorite party songs — but it’s more than that. Despite the simplicity of the lyrics, there’s something to be said here: a party, a dance floor or whatever escapist venue you might find is a welcome and constantly sought-after haven from reality. And if you find that haven crowds your space, suffocates you or feels as if it is about to blow, you can find the way through with music like this. You can let yourself go.

Kaleidoscope of colours that you’re bringing me
You’re freaking out my energy
I’m loosin and you’re makin me
Low Low Low

Don’t know what to do about it
You and I can’t live without it
All I wanna do is just
Go Go Go

You smother my emotions
Now I’m drowning in your ocean
And I’m runnin and I’m feeling like
I don’t care

You penetrate my space
And now you’re looking out of place
‘Cos you’re makin this hard for me
I need air!

Those moments in London became a kaleidoscope as the colors and vibrance of the scene suddenly rushed into the dark, flashing bar where in a single moment I seemed to experience what the city was about all at once. London = *life*. You don’t need the stunning visuals of the music video to experience that kind of natural high – you just need this song, a euphoric energy, and a venue (a physical one or one created in your mind). I was totally myself when I first experienced this song and when I hear it now, I continue to feel like it’s okay for me to be who I really am and I don’t have to care whether or not anyone else approves. It was liberating.

Now that I’m back in the states, I listen to this song to immerse myself in those memories and capture that feeling of freedom once again (and again and again). Care to join me in my reverie? The formula for getting there is a simple one: turn off all your lights, play the video at full-screen and pump up the volume until the music is so eclipsing that you need air.


Find more artists like Magnetic Man at Myspace Music.

“Goth Star” — HEALTH (Pictureplane cover)

Something quite magical typically happens around September. I’m old enough now to anticipate it happening, but I’ve yet to be able to accurately target from where the feeling will come. I’ll usually start pulling out my favorite autumn classic records (which I’m sure I’ll post about in the future) to let the mix of nostalgia and welcome weather change trigger the emotional blooming season. Normally, the new addition to my ever-growing collection of fall records doesn’t really manifest itself until around October and I’ll not realize its memorable impact until long after the fact. This year was an exception.

This past Monday, for the first time post summer heat and humidity oppression, I got to throw on a hat and hoodie to start my day. During my morning internet rounds, I found a free download (via Last.fm) of the band HEALTH’s cover of the Pictureplane tune “Goth Star”, and the feeling of fall came much sooner than I was expecting. It was perfect, and everything fell into place.

There a few aspects I find interesting about this piece. For starters, I’m not really someone who focuses so much on lyrics.  For me, the evocative aspects of music lie in the soundscapes. I think it’s why, as much as I love rock and roll, I’m just as much moved by a well produced hip-hop track or electronic piece. (Pick your sub-genre. I’m pretty open to all of them.) The original version of “Goth Star”, sans the R&B vocal sample that’s essentially unintelligible, had no lyrics. HEALTH’s version adds subtle lyrical vamps which add to the melancholy feel of the tune.

All we have is lost…

Beg for what you want…

I find it interesting that so many current bands cover the songs of their contemporaries. Another good example of this is Small Black’s cover of Best Coast’s “Sun Was High(And So Was I)”. Certainly this isn’t some new phenomenon, as it was more commonplace pre-MTV era. However, the prior practice was more about songs being sold by dedicated songwriters to performers, rather than the current model of bands writing their own music (mostly…at least as far as rock bands are concerned). Unlike this former “business model”, these covers feel more sincere and facilitate a sense of community amongst indie acts. It hearkens back to Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones covering Bob Dylan songs (“All Along The Watchtower” and “Like A Rolling Stone”, respectively). What makes this instance unique, to me, is the genre crossing. Pictureplane is primarily an electronic act, where as HEALTH is a traditional rock 4-piece (think Nine Inch Nails with more colorful clothing and less overt religious imagery). The de-stigmatization of using synths and samplers in rock and roll enables a lot of this cross-cultural tributing and allows for more accurate recreation of the original pieces.

Look, I live in the American Southeast and I know good and well this bit of cold snap is just a tease. It’ll be 90 degrees again, most likely within the week, and proper autumn weather won’t settle in ‘til most likely late October. However, with all of the other auxiliary aspects of fall kicking off (pun half intended) like football and a new school year/semester, it’s nice to have a soundtrack to welcome in my favorite part of the year. Lucky for me, it’s a cover of a song I like by a band I like. Cheers…


Find more artists like HEALTH at Myspace Music.

“Kyrie” from Lord Nelson Mass — Franz Joseph Haydn & “Daemon Irrepit Callidus” — György Orbán

“Kyrie” from Lord Nelson Mass — Franz Joseph Haydn

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSGa5oJDELE&feature=youtube_gdata_player%5D

“Daemon Irrepit Callidus” — György Orbán

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RNBf3CS9KU&feature=youtube_gdata_player%5D

For me, music attaches most strongly to memory when I perform it. I never learned to play an instrument, although I can strum a few chords on a guitar and pick out a melody on a keyboard. What I did was sing in various choirs throughout my school career. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not extraordinarily talented, nor should I audition for American Idol. Still, my experiences with music will always be colored by performance, by letting music flow not only into but also through my body.

I can clearly remember the dress rehearsal for my first high school concert. We were singing Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. At the time, I sang in the women’s choir, so I was only used to hearing the soprano and alto parts along with the piano accompaniment. At the rehearsal (and in the concert), the advanced choir—complete with tenor and bass—would join us, as would four professional soloists and my school’s orchestra, who had practiced the same piece for a joint concert.

If you haven’t heard it before, you should check out the first movement—“Kyrie”—from the Lord Nelson Mass. It’s not exactly a shy, retiring melody. Rather, it’s a wall of sound that hits the audience full-force from the beginning. On the afternoon of that dress rehearsal, I was stunned by the power added by the men’s voices and orchestral accompaniment. Overwhelmed by the beauty and strength of hundreds of voices and instruments combined, I literally forgot to sing . . . until my friend elbowed me, that is. It was the first time I really felt that potent sense of belonging that comes from being part of something much, much greater than oneself.

That sense of belonging took a slightly eerie turn with György Orbán’s “Daemon Irrepit Callidus,” a quick, devilish Latin number used for the All-State tryouts my junior year. I hadn’t tried out before, so I didn’t know what to expect. We met at the high school early one Saturday morning and drove to another school for the auditions. I remember receiving a tryout number and then walking toward the school’s auditorium with my nervous gaggle of classmates. The imposingly thick, heavy wooden doors—you know the type—transmitted only muffled sound. Once heaved open, that sound expanded into the unbearably strong yet irritatingly tinny noise that can only come from accompaniment on cassette tape played too loudly (and on a continuous loop) through the auditorium’s sound system.

The only way I know to describe how it felt is to say I felt like I had entered Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, or any other well-made, religious-themed horror film.

Hundreds of high school students, glassy-eyed with lack of sleep and practically shimmering with nervous energy, perched on the upholstered auditorium seats. They all faced the empty stage with its closed, blood-red curtains. Sheet music in hand, they sang along with the tape, practicing the tryout section over and over again while waiting for their numbers to be called. It was far too loud for conversation, so my friends and I wandered, trance-like, to the first free row of seats, sat down, pulled out our music, and began to sing along, as glassy-eyed and nervous as the others.

There, the sense of belonging was tinged with the strange, cult-like feeling I get whenever I hear (and participate in) groups of people reciting the same thing all at once. It was intense, magical, and somehow just a little bit off—exactly like the music itself.

Don’t get me wrong. I love performing. Whether I’m belting in the shower, mumbling my way through half-understood Spanish-language lyrics in my car, or singing onstage, the act helps me connect to a piece of music in a deeper way. The experience is admittedly hard to define. However, both of these intense experiences epitomize what it is, to me, to be not just a listener but, in fact, part of a song.


Find more artists like Franz Joseph Haydn and György Orbán at Myspace Music.

“Did you hear it?”…some words about Radiohead

Editor’s note: IronJ146 first published this piece on his personal Tumblr site: Robots can live in the woods, too…. It originally ran on February 19, 2011, the day after the release of Radiohead‘s most recent album, The King of Limbs. While this post was created well before the conception of HI-FI Lives, it certainly makes sense to include it with our collection as it poignantly captures his experience with the release of this music and I appreciate his allowing us to feature it on HFL.        –HI-FI Janna


Yesterday, I woke up to the closest thing to actual serendipity I can expect in my adult life. It may be a condition unique to me, or this moment in history, but it’s never commonplace to wake and immediately discover that one of your favorite “things”, no matter the form, has made itself available to you when you weren’t exactly expecting it.

My “thing” in this scenario is the new Radiohead record, The King Of Limbs. Radiohead has been my stock answer to “Who’s your favorite band?” for the lion’s share of their career. The Bends was one of the first cassettes I ever purchased for my car when I was 15. Every subsequent release has either come about during some substantial period of my life…or maybe I just use their albums as place markers to keep up with my own personal history…either way, anytime those 5 guys collaborate on an album of recordings it has an impact on me at a very personal level. For better or  worse, their artwork has had a massive impact of the formation of my personal identity. (yikes!)

I’m not trying to build up the release of this record to some hyperbolic level of importance beyond the fact that such an event has historically been significant to me, personally. I did seriously consider skipping out of my daily responsibilities to digest the album. I tend to have really bad ideas when I first wake up.

I should address the particulars before losing the attention of the average net reader. (Ugh! 4 paragraphs? I don’t have time for this.)

Look, I like it. I’m only really disappointed in its short length. I could’ve used 2 or 3 more songs, but maybe that’s being selfish. There are a few songs I welcome into the band’s larger body of work with open arms. “Bloom” feels like a Flying Lotus song with DJ Shadow moments, which may say a lot about circular influence. “Little by Little” feels like how I imagine the 1960’s were in the UK, and “Codex” is the show stopper that I hope for with every release. I’m compelled to continue listening to it and that’s all I can really ask for from any album.

With all that personal opinion stuff out of the way, there’re a lot of aspects of the “event” around my “thing” that I find interesting. I’ve noticed a wide variety of reception to this album. Most notably, I feel like there are a lot of listeners that are underwhelmed, and that’s fine. When you have a reputation for releasing game changers, there’s gonna be some unreasonable expectation involved. We’re certainly not talking about Chinese Democracy here, but it’s hard to defend against “disappointed.”

I also can completely sympathize with the aggravation that comes along with Twitter and Facebook feeds of non-Radiohead fans being bludgeoned with updates about something in which they essentially have no interest. I can’t help but feel a little defensive, but that’s because it’s my “thing”. Every time Kanye puts anything out, I roll my eyes as well…but that’s completely different because…nevermind, I’m not gonna debate the subjective.

Most of all, I like that people are talking about it. It could certainly be my circle of interaction that makes it feel so prominent, but no matter the quality of the album or level of satisfaction, it is being discussed. I’m lucky to be able to go out the day that my “thing” happens and start a variety of conversations that begin with simply “Did you here it?”. Just it. 

Therein lies what I really find significant and special about Radiohead. I’ve been called a cynic, but when my favorite “thing” occurs I’m at no loss of discussion forums. It’s one of the rare moments where I personally feel in touch with the world around me and it, ironically, happens with something as personal as my favorite “thing”.

Did the world change with the release of the new Radiohead album? Of course not. Do I like the new addition to my “thing”? Absolutely.

Here’s to having a favorite “thing”. Cheers.


Find more artists like Radiohead at Myspace Music.