Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ryan Adams: 1989 (Album)

Ryan Adams is blessed with a voice so gorgeous he could sing tax regulations and make them sound like poetry. When he decided to cover Taylor Swift's 2014 release '1989' it was likely to the dismay of many of his die hard fans. Fortunately, that did not stop him from completing his project with the same degree of passion he brings to every one of his musical ventures.

Since dropping Monday, the Internet has been buzzing with rave reviews, even from those who thought the 40-year-old singer-songwriter was mad to cover just over a dozen pop songs by a female artist fifteen years his junior, yet the result shows how right his instincts were. Taking inspiration from Springsteen, Neil Young, and The Smiths as well as mining his personal 2014 Christmas blues, Adams deconstructs and reconstructs, thereby creating a collection of songs that adds up to being one of his best albums while at the same time being a beautiful tribute to his own idols and ultimately also to Swift, his fellow gifted songwriter. It was a bold initiative that in someone else's hands might have gone horribly wrong; instead it has turned out to be what may be the album of the year.

There is not a bad one in the bunch, but to me the stand out track is "Out of the Woods"; it takes my breath away, just as his celebrated cover of Oasis's "Wonderwall" did in 2004.

No videos have been published as of today, only audio, but for once, I don't mind: the music more than speaks for itself.

Adams has three shows scheduled for the fall so far. Two of them are benefit concerts for the Bridge School; they take place at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View in Northern California October 24 and 25. (on the impressive bill are Neil Young, Sheryl Crow, Dixie Chicks, Nils Lofgren, Gary Clark Jr., St. Vincent, and Spoon.) The third date is a November 21 show at the Corona Capital Festival in Mexico City (for ticket links, see the Facebook link below.)

NOTE: Now, wouldn't it be fun if Ryan Adams covered Bryan Adams, did a tour and brought his almost-namesake and semi-nemesis on stage for a duet?

Listen to Adam's '1989' on YouTube: (missing as of today for some mysterious reason is the last track on the album: "Clear", co-written by Swift and Imogen Heap.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Nils Frahm: Re + Interview With Director/Animator Balázs Simon

Balázs Simon

Nils Frahm

Usually an artist, a band or a label will commission a music clip from a director. In the case of the stunning instrumental piece "Re" by 32-year-old German musician/composer/producer Nils Frahm from his acclaimed 2012 album 'Screws', it was director/animator Balázs Simon who decided to approach Berlin-based Frahm and London label Erased Tapes with his idea for a video. Fortunately, he got the green light from both and went on to create a hauntingly beautiful work of art which I feel is reminiscent of two of my favorite films, Hayao Mizazaki's Spirited Away (2001) and Disney's original Bambi (1942), yet at the same time is utterly unique.

After stumbling across Simon's video by pure coincidence last week, I Googled his name and found an excellent interview (see link below), done at this year's SXSW festival where his video was screened three times. Still hungry for more information, I contacted the 24-year-old Budapest-based director/animator via his Vimeo page and he graciously agreed to do a Q&A by email.

Q:  I'm not sure how to interpret the video. Is it a metaphoric narrative about loss, fear and healing as some viwers on YouTube have suggested? Or is it a science fiction tale about our planet's disintegration? Or something entirely different? And what or who does the stag represent?
A:  I usually don't talk about that. Let's say it's inspired by personal experiences, but I tried to capture them in a more allegoric way. If it means loss or healing to some, great! Somebody said it's about different religions, another guy told me it's a reflection of the current social-political state in Hungary. It can mean different things; I kinda like that.

Q:  When did you first do computer animation?
A:   I started 3D animation before doing anything 2D, like using Photoshop. I was 16 if I remember correctly, and the learning curve was extremely steep. I had no real idea what I was doing, but I enjoyed it and the habit stayed with me. So after a few years I decided not to study engineering (my original goal), but to pursue animation. One of the best decisions I think.

Q:  Who or what inspires you?
A:   Real life events and people. I mean, I admire a lot of artists (like Roger Deakins or Alex Webb), but I always base my stories on personal experiences.

Q:  What was Nils Frahm's reaction to the video when it was finished?
A:   I was really happy: both he and his label really liked it!

Q:  Are there many animators in Hungary?
A:  Many animators, few original projects though. A lot of people work in international productions. But Hungarian animation has always been outstanding. I really recommend our short films repertoire.

Q:  Do you make a full-time living from your art?
A:  Yes, fortunately. Sometimes I feel like I don't have enough time for personal projects though, but that might change in the near future.

Q:  What projects are you currently working on?
A:   Most of the time I'm doing main title sequences and channel idents, but there are also a couple of personal films in the works. Don't expect them to be finished in the next few months though; they're still in pre-production.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Anya: Greet Me

25-year-old Danish-American singer Anya dropped her debut EP 'The Credit' September 4; the impressive live performance video for the stand out track "Greet Me" was published last December. Raised by her Baltimore native mother on a farm outside Næstved south of Copenhagen after the passing of her Danish father when Anya was three, she was until fairly recently a law student before deciding to focus on her music full time; fortunately for her and the rest of us her gutsy gamble has paid off.

Her creative partner on the EP is fellow Dane Carl Barsk of Århus music collective Hukaos. The busy producer-composer-musician has worked with Karl William, Lord Siva, Louis Rustum, and more.

A mini tour is scheduled for the fall; the September 30 show at Lille Vega in Copenhagen is already sold out, but a second date has been added on October 28. The remaining dates are as follows:

Oct. 1: Posten, Odense
Oct. 2: HeadQuarters, Århus
Oct. 3: Musikkens Hus, Ålborg  (iTunes Denmark)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Daye Jack: Save My Soul + Easy

Only nineteen years old, Nigerian-born/Atlanta-raised wunderkind Daye Jack is now based in New York City where he studies computer science at NYU when he is not busy creating intricately layered soundscapes that compliment his playful vocals.

In 2014 he dropped his musical calling card, the excellent mixtape 'Hello World'. Last week he published a new video to go with the stellar track "Save My Soul" from his sublime ten-song June 29 release 'Soul Glitch'; the artsy-but-not-fartsy clip is by L.A. based director David Gallardo. This comes on the heels of the breezy video published in late June by Chicago native Peter Collins Campbell that accompanies the superb track "Easy".

Los Angeles show: Daye Jack will be part of the bill at the popular Low End Theory event at Lincoln Heights venue The Airliner taking place between 9:30 pm Wednesday September 9 and 1:30 am Thursday September 10. (see link directly below)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Minx: Hold On (Featuring Hannah Joy)

Yesterday I came across what has quickly become a big favorite of mine: a collaboration between Australian DJ/producer Rachel Phillips aka MINX and her fellow Sydney based artist Hannah Joy, a classically trained musician-singer-songwriter whose song "Hold On" was discovered last year on Bandcamp by Phillip's EMI rep and wisely deemed to have great potential as a house track. Joy's stunning vocals + beautiful piano work + Phillip's (& her frequent musical partner Chris Arnott's) superb production is the perfect mix. If there were any fairness in the world this 2014 release would have been a global monster hit by now; shockingly, as of today, the video directed by Adam Callen has only been viewed a mere 22,754 times on YouTube since being published almost a full year ago. So please spread the word!  (iTunes Australia)  (director Adam Callen)