Pennsylvania Recharge

Continuing with this year’s theme, my life is a freaking whirlwind. So much to do and never enough time to do it in. For that matter, so much to write about and even less time to sit down at the computer. It’s the same old excuses with me these days, my poor neglected readers. But it hasn’t been all bad and I promise I’ll fill you in on some of my recent adventures… eventually.

For the moment though, I am carefully blocking it all out in favor of my impending journey into the backwoods (relatively speaking) of Pennsylvania. My husband and I are heading up there for a little unofficial grad school reunion with some dear friends. It’s going to be a positively jam-packed weekend of sleeping in, cooking, watching movies, talking until we can’t talk anymore, and (most importantly) laughing. Who knows what kind of shenanigans we might get up to? Oh yes, dear readers, it’s going to be nothing but non-stop action. Hell, we might even go to a bar!

And you have no idea how much I am looking forward to this. I can’t even put into words how much I need this. These are some of my favorite people in the world, who for all intents and purposes became my family while I trudged my way through grad school in the frozen wilds of downtown Boston. It’s going to be glorious and it is putting me in mind of some party music. As you would expect, I am the defacto DJ at these shindigs and I am already combing my collection for appropriate tunes to share.

In that vein, I leave you tonight with Polite Dance Song by The Bird and the Bee. This lovely little California synthpop duo really knows how to pour on the irony. I particularly love the contrast between the lyrics and subdued sound of Inara George’s vocals. This is a band that I really love and honestly they deserve far better treatment from the likes of me. But while you’re waiting for me to write something more substantial on this pair (good luck with that by the way), why don’t you check out this video?

Polite Dance Song by the Bird and the Bee

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Frogs and shoegazing

Little did I know when I picked up M83’s recent double album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, that it would include the formula for human-amphibian transformation. Think I’m kidding? Well… Maybe a little, but we’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s get some business out of the way.

This Saturday, April 21st, is Record Store Day. This is an amazing chance for every music lover in the States (as well as some places in Europe) to go out and support local businesses, local and regional music, the concept of the traditional music store (something that is in danger these days), and well… the good old-fashioned album. Plus, there are exclusive national, regional, first, and limited-run releases in honor of the occasion. What is not to love? And I am by no means encouraging you to just go browse the CDs at the big box store of your choice. No, my friends! I’m talking about a real honest to goodness record store–preferably one that is participating in the event. I will personally be wandering up and down the aisles of The Sound Garden here in Charm City. You can get all the info at the official Record Store Day site, where you can also search for a participating store near you. Mark those calendars, folks! You won’t regret it.

And now back to our original premise: frogs… in a moment…

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming  is a gorgeous romp into the highs and lows of dreamy electro pop from one of France’s most popular exports, M83. Throughout the double disk there is a pervasive fantastical quality, only partly because of band leader Anthony Gonzalez’s exploration of his childhood and the concept of dreaming. Every song features extensive progressive layering of electronic tracks and guitar riffs. Although there are lyrics aplenty the vocals are soft–featuring muted and sometimes incoherent lyrics–that are often as not treated like just another instrument (I actually had to look them up! I’d been listening to this album for over a week before I realized I didn’t remember any of the lyrics!). And through some amazing feat, the double album is rife with infectious beats that somehow manage to lull rather than energize. Just how Gonzalez and his mates manage this trick I’m not quite sure, but it makes for a trance-inducing listening experience. With the exception of a few stronger songs on each of the disks in the form of Intro–closely followed by the stellar Midnight City–and Steve McQueen, the majority of this beautiful work is more ambient than danceable. Apparently, these are some of the prime traits of what is called shoegazing, a lesser known UK subgenre of alt rock that was pushed out of the limelight by American grunge back in the early ’90s, but that has been making inroads on American radio for the last year or so.

I’m really smitten with many of the songs featured on this album, but by far and away my favorite is Raconte-Moi Une Histoire, which translates to Tell Me a Story. This is an exploration of what dreaming is like to a child and it focuses on (you guessed it!) frogs. The song consists of a building electronic beat, layered with ethereal wordless vocals, and the voice of one child (possibly two?) speaking in English. It is truly something to behold and it made my husband laugh really hard when I played it for him. I dare you to listen to this without smiling!

Enjoy and remember to visit your favorite record store this Saturday!