Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Come Back Margaret (2006) – Camera Obscura

Flourishing a swooning string section befitting a Romanian gymnastics floor exercise routine, “Come Back Margaret” provides a maudlin accompaniment for Tracyanne Campbell as her heart goes through its tumbling routine (metaphorical abuse acknowledged). Drums echo in a chamber of Psychocandy-era Bobby Gillespie floor tom/snare minimalism, sonar signals to calculate the emptiness that haunts Campbell’s heart. The lusterless production quality that pervades Camera Obscura’s brilliant 2006 release, Let’s Get Out Of This Country, suitably emulates the raw resourcefulness of someone capturing an inspired moment on a hand-held tape recorder off a Summer Olympics television broadcast. And, it’s the parturient idleness of summer that inspires Campbell to confess her bi-curious attraction towards an itinerant girl. She obscures her fantasies behind the facade of a distasteful heterosexual relationship and a winsome melody, all the while longing to woo Margaret into staying with the pining in her voice. Ultimately, though, Campbell’s tears are merely incidental to the compulsories of competition, as the world and its romance vie for Margaret’s affections as well. Perhaps Tracyanne will finally win her over before the next sojourn’s end.

  • Listen to "Come Back Margaret" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Monday, May 21, 2007

    200 Songs and Runnin'

    Sugarland’s “Settlin’” marks the 200th song posting. Sonic Lager For Lucid Minds has been a rewarding outlet when I find the inspiration to write. Thanks for reading.

    Settlin’ (2006) – Sugarland

    As it incorporated elements of rock and pop, country music came to fill the role that Top 40 radio once played in the ‘80s: an accessible, family friendly, song-oriented means of commemorating the week. While country music continues to be sidestepped and written off by a large contingent of music fans, it should occur to them that this is about as mindlessly fun as it gets nowadays. With indie music having become a function of blog repute and torrent traffic, sometimes it’s nice to blissfully ignore indie cred, let go of pretensions, and appreciate music that’s meant to get in your face with uncouth shamelessness. Head on down to your local Wal★Mart and Sugarland’s Enjoy The Ride awaits you in abundance. The album’s second #1 single, “Settlin’,” features Jennifer Nettles’ voice in exemplary form, its flat, pronounced twang inelegant enough to immediately chafe listeners as it grates into the consciousness like a bleating sheep, yet unassuming in its down-home congeniality, at times exhibiting a soulful warmth that incites the inner hombre into firing the six-shooter skyward in celebration. Nettles’ resolution to aspire to nothing less than excellence in love and life culminates in a chorus that is apt to hijack the hippocampus in boardroom meetings, finding an ally in economical guitar riffs that stab with adamance as if Rick Springfield showed up at the session to hitch a ride to the top of the charts. Indeed, there’s room for everyone on this country bandwagon, if only for want of willing passengers.

  • Listen to "Settlin'" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Thursday, May 17, 2007

    Mr. Nigga (1999) – Mos Def featuring Q-Tip

    Given the recently revived debate on removing certain words from the vocabulary of entertainment, is banning the use of the “N-word” an efficacious step in reshaping race relations? As Michael Richards’ Laugh Factory diatribe suggests, it’s not his use of the word per se that was deplorable, it was his underlying premise of supremacy in denigrating the African-American audience members who had dared to heckle a white man, drawing upon U.S. historical transgressions in reminding them that they were “privileged” to be allowed to speak freely in today’s society, whereas once they would have been lynched for doing so. Sure, he was speaking primarily out of frustration, but he obviously had a preconceived notion of racial status in this country, and the humiliation of being disrespected on stage caused the ugliness to surface.

    So would it make a difference if this particular racial slur/term of endearment is banished from the lexicon?

    According to Mos Def, it probably wouldn’t. He lets us know that, even having found success as a rap artist and Hollywood actor, despite the luxuries he can confer upon his loved ones, at the end of the day he’ll still be Mr. Nigga. In his guest appearance, Q-Tip brings along a variation of the concise refrain from A Tribe Called Quest’s “Sucka Nigga,” which itself explored the use of the word.

    Mos brings it back down to the clich├ęd, but epidemic, common denominators that plague young black men: to the officer, you’re a criminal, guilty of DWB; to the flight attendant, you errantly stumbled into first class; to the landlord, you are the tenant whom nobody wants as a neighbor; to fellow Rodeo Drive shoppers, you couldn’t possibly be anything other than an employee; to airport security worldwide, you are a drug smuggler. His attempt to analogize Woody Allen’s seduction of Soon-Yi Previn to Michael Jackson’s alleged pedophilia and O.J. Simpson’s alleged double homicide misses the mark, but his frustration with society’s apparent ostracization double standard is duly noted.

    In the end, even those who think they are liberal might be surprised when their actions reveal latent prejudices. Despite lip-service to equality and civil rights, it doesn’t matter to Mos if you use the word, or merely think it, if your actions ultimately reflect it.

    Perhaps at times there’s an obnoxious defiance in the conspicuous consumption of young black athletes or entertainers who hit a financial goldmine, but they’re just celebrating and asserting themselves in ways their forefathers couldn’t—in ways that probably piss off Michael Richards.

  • Listen to "Mr. Nigga" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
  • Anywhere The Wind Blows (1999) – Melora Hardin (Lauren Christy)

    Currently best known as Jan Levinson on NBC’s The Office, Melora Hardin in fact possesses a lovely singing voice (and has recorded two albums). She was able to display this talent in the 1999 film Seven Girlfriends in a scene where she casually plays an abbreviated version of “Anywhere The Wind Blows” on a piano (alongside Tim Daly’s character, Jesse, who displays an uncanny knack for impromptu harmonies upon hearing the chorus once). Melora’s mellifluous voice emits with bare delicateness as she confesses a craving for a little precariousness in otherwise stale surroundings, willing to surrender as a tabula rasa to the caprice of life’s quirks. While the full version sung by songwriter Lauren Christy over the end credits comes properly with polished arrangement, it’s Hardin’s unadorned performance that embodies the song’s capitulatory gist. Most will read the foregoing and sneer with disdain, but those yearning to be uprooted from their daily grind may find “Anywhere” to be an inspirational impetus.

  • Not available from iTunes Music Store.