Sunday, January 18, 2009

Songs That Might Otherwise Pass You By

In-Flight Safety, "Actors" (MP3 courtesy of their promo company)

Buoyed by silky sound reminiscent of the 80's New Romantics (Spandau Ballet and Roxy Music come to mind), it would be easy to blithely coast on the safe, warm feeling one might get on first listen to this song. However, if you listen to the lyrics (which some people don't...ignorance is bliss...), you will realize that coasting is not what this song is about. For all the seeming romanticism of the song, the lyrics are really about a small, very personal romantic death--the death of a self-made fantasy. It's about finally looking around and seeing that everyone is faking it--the world is conspiring in a gigantic web of delusion. You're the only one who sees the self-deception. Are you ready to perceive the world as it is, or will you willfully keep playing along, knowing it's a ruse? Will you stop being a pawn and start being a participant? Are you capable of being yourself? If you aren't, then you may have no choice other than to keep playing along.

(Thanks to Largehearted Boy for directing me to the mp3)
"Actors" video

The Secret Society of Unknown Officers from Unknown Branches of Service

Neko Case, "People Got a Lotta Nerve"

I recoil anytime I hear about an animal being hurt. I will jump at the chance to do something to help end the torture. This time I didn't have to jump far--the opportunity is right here. Featuring this song wasn't a particularly difficult decision, anyway--I've been a fan of Neko Case for years. She embodies the sauciness, the determination and the fiery personality of the older generation of women country singers--Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and a little Dusty Springfield (ya can't get more country than being in love with the son of a preacher man). The fire and the determination is firmly in place here: anger over severe mistreatment of animals is the fuel running this song. The lyrics explicitly state the situation these animals are in--to the point where I can't pay attention to the lyrics closely, or else I might break down a little. Innocence isn't bliss in this case, but I need to tune out the lyrics to save my sanity. How she can sing the lyrics over and over is a mystery to me--that's part of that fiery determination. She'll keep singing until the cruelty stops.

Learn how to help the Best Friends Animal Society just by liking this song and this artist.
Best Friends Animal Society
Neko's website
Neko's Myspace

This look says "You better not hurt any animals. I'll come after you".

Amanda French, "All My Internet Friends"

When I first heard this song, I really thought it was an old Joan Baez or Judy Collins song. Then I was all "Wait. Is she talking about a board meeting? How very Mad Men!" Then the lyrics got more prescient: Sarah Palin getting smacked down? Sarah Palin was barely a travesty waiting to happen in the 60's. How could a 60's folk singer know all this? Could I be listening to the Nostradamus and the Papas? (Pause for laughter). Then I remembered I was listening to Buzz Out Loud, the most culturally savvy tech podcast I subscribe to (that ain't saying much, folks--tech podcasts aren't known for being culturally savvy. Some of the tech pundits I listen to still think "Max Headroom" is on the air.) Then I realized it must be a modern take on those old folk songs. Amanda French mimics the style well. She's got the trilly, meandering, vulnerable vocal delivery of Judy Collins. The guitar isn't showy and adds a good backdrop to her vocals. There isn't a lot of clutter here: No overpowering electric guitar solos, no keyboards, no heavy drum beats. For a song about tech, it's very untechy. This seeming disparity adds to the dichotomy: The subject of the song is completely at odds with the style of the music (unless you can picture Joni Mitchell with an iPhone...iPod maybe...probably a Nano or a Shuffle), but this is what makes the song interesting. If it were just a neo-folk song it might get lost in the coffee shop clutter. If it were overly electronic it probably wouldn't appeal to me (unless it were more 80's New Wave synth than Techno). This marries two parts of my personality: the Folky Bohemian who's waiting on her HTC Fuze to come in the mail (it better get here soon).

Website (with lyrics)

Amanda French strikes the folk-singer pose

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