Thursday, December 10, 2009

“Lost of this lust, exactly what becomes of us?”

I thought it would be nice to close this semester with the Parenthetical Girls, largely because their singer, Zac Pennington, worked as a music journalist before starting his band (& because I have a major crush on him, but don’t tell anyone).

They were originally called the Swastika Girls, after the David Bowie song. Parenthetical Girls is an experimental pop band currently based out of Portland, Oregon. Zac, the bands songwriter, doesn’t really know any chords either, being heavily influenced by the D.I.Y. attitude that came with punk and followed with post punk outfits, such as the Fall (who also didn’t really know any chords). He began the band as a largely electronic solo project, getting much needed help from Jamie Stewart, of Xiu Xiu fame. Here is a Xiu Xiu music video, just because I like them so much:

Their first two releases, (((GRRRLS))) & Safe as Houses, still followed this experimental electronic pattern, but their newest album, Entanglements, was mostly experimental symphonic music, with the likes of Phillip Glass. Really interesting sound though, especially with Zac falsetto vocals & wonderful songwriting capabilities. Here’s their music video for “A Song for Ellie Greenwich.” She’s one of the girls from the Crystals (who are amazing) & he even borrowed some lyrics from the Smiths for this one (who are also amazing). B.T.W. aren’t they cute?:

And there’s not really much news about them as of late, except for the fact that their release a two-song Christmas disc to follow their long tradition of Christmas releases, such as Christmas with Parenthetical Girls & A Parenthetical Girls Family Christmas. This one’s going to be called The Christmas Creep. So… I guess I will leave you with this video that they shot for They Shoot Music. Hope you enjoy!

"Portraits, male nudes, & flowers…"

I figured that I should post something other than music for once (or twice now), so this post will be about… [insert drum roll]… Robert Mapplethorpe [yay!]! Mapplethorpe’s prominently illicit black and white photography gained popularity in the eighties. He grew up in New York City & mostly did portraits, self-portraits, both male & females nudes, & pictures of flowers. His portraits were mostly of famous people (mainly based around New York), such Andy Warhol:
and he even took the photograph for Patti Smith’s album, Horses:

Robert & Patti’s relationship began when they were nineteen, both growing up in New York City. Here’s a short video of the two talk about each other—pretty interesting stuff:

Robert Mapplethorpe took the D.I.Y. aspects of punk rock found in Patti Mapplethorpe’s music & applied them to photography. As he said in the film above, he pretty much just picked up a camera & went with it. He did many self-portraits, I would guess as an experiment of some sort, so he didn’t have to experiment on others. Here are some of those self-portraits:

There was much controversy based around the homosexual aspects in his photographs, especially found in his male nudes. One such controversy was having one of his books temporarily banned from the University of Central England. Authorities later returned the book however. Here are some of his (less risqué) male nudes:

Here are some of his flower photographs:

Mapplethorpe, however, died in March of 1989 from complications from the AIDS virus. Shortly before his death he founded the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc. which has both protected & promoted his work & raised millions of dollars for research in the fight against AIDS & HIV infections. The website for this foundation can be found here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

“Not just men have known my charms…”

Well, I neglected this from the last post, so magickally a new post appears. At that show I saw at the Variety Playhouse, not only did the Mountain Goats & Final Fantasy play, but so did this lady:

Her name is Larkin Grimm, and I had never even heard of her before, but she was truly amazing to see live. You could kind of tell that she didn’t know any chords, which I read later in an interview to be true, but boy does she have a voice—a kind of weird voice, but a beautifully haunting one nonetheless. She’s a great songwriter as well, which is apparent in these lyrics to her song “Be My Host:” “Little Mother Mary riding on a unicorn. Come across the highway, wishing you’d never been born. Oh mama, I’m your spirit, be Host. I’m your Holy Ghost. Hey Little Mama will you love me when I’m eating you? You’re calling me a cannibal, come on let me cook up a stew.”

Also, in that interview I read, I learned that she was born into some sort of cult in Tennessee, but her parents later moved to Dahlonega, Georgia. She said the cult was interesting, because her parents basically kept her away from all the evil of the world, so in a way that kind of makes her like Gautama Buddha (or at least, I would like to think so). I also read that when she was writing her newest album, she considered herself transgendered, which is apparent in the way she writes about sex. I think it’s visible in this video of her playing “Blonde and Golden Johns.” Before she plays in it she discusses Brittany Spears vagina for a while, which I suppose is pretty interesting as well:

I only have her third and newest album, Parplar, which was produced by Michael Gira from the band Swans, on his own label Young Gods Records (which brought Devendra Banhart into popularity). On a side note, here’s a video of Swans cover “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division:

I guess that’s all I really have to say about Larkin Grimm, other than the fact that is adorable. That’s clearly apparent in this video of her playing “The Last Tree” by a lake. I mean, come on, she spends the first fifteen seconds of it bringing in nature energy… Adorable!

"All the boys I have ever loved have been digital..."

Amidst all the insanity of finals & dodging random tramplings on Black Friday (jobs in retail are killer), I did manage to do at least one thing that was enjoyable. On November Twenty-First, I saw a show at the Variety Playhouse. The Mountain Goats headlined, but I really went to see Final Fantasy, & no I’m not talking about the old Squaresoft video game series (which is amazing as well). I’m talking about a fellow named Owen Pallett, who also loved the video games, so much so that he named his musical project after them. Some people may have heard of Owen Pallett, because he is also in the Arcade Fire & wrote the string arrangements for their albums.

I saw Owen once maybe three years ago at the Drunken Unicorn, which was probably one of my favorite shows of all time. It was just him with a violin and a loop station, so he could loop all of the violin parts and sing over them. He even did his own percussion by hitting the violin different ways and looping those sounds as well. It was… amazing. This time, there seemed to be a lot more douche bags at the venue, and Owen had a drummer who seemed to be far too drunk to play anything very well. Still pretty good though; they were at least having a good time.

He played a lot of songs from his first release—Has a Good Home. This was definitely his most heartfelt release in my opinion. Some great songs, such as “This is Dream of Win & Regine,” which is a play on the DNTL song “(This is) the Dream of Evan and Chan.” Win & Regine are the couple who formed the Arcade Fire. Good lyrics too: “Crown myself the prince of buzz / Can’t wait until you, can’t wait ‘til you unsubscribe / I’ll be a lonely scribe” & “Montreal might eat its young / But Montreal won’t break us down!” Here’s the 2005 music video:

Owen also played some off his second release—He Poos Clouds. Funny title, eh? He came up with it one night when he was really drunk supposedly. Eight of the ten tracks on this album are about each of the schools of magick from the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. He actually won the Canadian Polaris Music Prize for this album though. Here’s a good song about falling in love with characters in games & books.

And last but not least, he played some songs from his upcoming release—Heartland—to be released in January (hopefully). This album is about a farmer named Lewis, in a fiction world that Owen created, called Spectrum. It should be pretty interesting. He used a synthesizer for these songs, and even ran his violin through different synthetic settings, which made a really interesting sound. Here is “Lewis Takes off his Shirt” from that upcoming release:

To end on a lighter, funnier note, here is a video of Owen covering Mariah Carey’s classic, “Fantasy:”

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"He was simply waltzing with the footsteps home..."

Two reasons not to read this post:
(1) It's simply a plug for myself. Now you might even stop reading after I write that, but hey, I figure everyone has the right to be conceited every once in a while. Some feel they have this right more than others, but I am not one of these people. I simply just realized that time has slipped away from me, & I must complete five more blogs before Wednesday, & I figured writing about myself would be fairly easy considering that I've been stuck with myself for twenty-one years.
(2) It's another post about Matthew Shepard. Therefore, you may grow tired of reading about him.

One reason to actually read it:
(1) It's another post about Matthew Shepard, who is a very good documentation of hope in the face of judgement & sorrow.
ANYWAY, this post will simply contain a poem that I wrote about Matthew Shepard this year & two mixed media pieces that I did about him when I was eighteen (as a parenthetical aside, sorry for the bad picture quality; I am no photographer). So here goes nothing...

Oscillate wildly in the northern lights
of Aurora Borealis-bent, motion-pictured lives,
staccato—black like crows, then white like doves
on all the ghosts on the floor two-stepping for love,

but he’s rooted to a bar stool with the alcohol,
neglecting local newspaper coverage of the Fall
of Mankind, thus befriending two wingless men,
who led a lonesome waltz with the touch of a hand.

Stepping: one-two-three, two-two-three, three-two-three, four,
as the pair of black hearts danced in time out the door
& led a tiny, young Icarus to a cold, damp street,
where September showers & Jack-o-lanterns meet.

As through the looking glass, the Queen of Hearts
put the knave on trial for stealing her tarts,
so with graceful tongues are prisoners lured
to be tied to the gallows for something absurd.

So they danced him like a scarecrow to an empty field,
where seeds of hate were sewn, what did harvest yield?
for Hopeful, young Icarus, too close to the sun,
with battered wings broken at the butt of a gun,

tied & bound like Prometheus to a wooden fence
looking just like a scarecrow, but too scared to dance.
He was simply waltzing with the footsteps home,
but they sashayed him to the hospital.

They say Pandora’s Box only opened up violence,
but a Butterfly of Hope flew out from the silence,
so when you think that Hope was all his head,
a thousand angels danced around his deathbed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

“The stage is set to rip the wings from a butterfly…”

I meant to write about this earlier, but for once procrastination actually paid off… The subject is Matthew Shepard. For those of you who have not heard of Matthew Shepard, he was killed by two men who offered him a ride home from a bar in 1998. According to witnesses during the trial, he was targeted because he was homosexual. Shepard was a twenty-one year old student at the University of Wyoming when Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson tied him to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming and robbed and pistol-whipped him, leaving him tied there overnight in freezing conditions. He was found the next day in a coma by Aaron Kreifels, who mistook him for a scarecrow. He was taken to a hospital in Colorado, but died five days later on October Twelfth.

Okay, I know that’s all really depressing. Makes me want to cry, honestly, but this trial was a great turning point in the passing of hate crime laws in the United States. After all this, Matthew’s parents fought very hard for national hate crime laws for LGBT victims. But now to why procrastination is a good thing in the case of me writing this…

Well today, President Barak Obama finally did something POSSIBLY notable for a Nobel Peace Prize. He passed a Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill disguised in a 2010 Defense Authorization Bill. This bill is meant to protect victims of crimes motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity. Since I suppose marriage for gays will not be legal for a long time, this was the least he could do… although it is a bit ridiculous that this took ten years to pass. Matthew’s mother released a statement shortly after, which can be viewed in an article on The Advocate’s website.

But ANWAY, I’m just speaking politics when this is supposed to be about art. What I really want to talk about is the post-punk, independent screamo band, Thursday. Their frontman, Geoff Rickly is really into Equal Rights and one of their songs is actually about Matthew Shepard. The video below is the song “M. Shepard” with footage from a movie based on the crime and trial called “The Laramie Project.” Hope you enjoy it!

P.S. I’m also going to post the lyrics, because it’s a bit difficult to understand all of it, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

"M. Shepard"
The stage is set to rip the wings
from a butterfly.
The stage is set, don't forget to breathe,
between the lines.
If the whole world dies,
then it's safe to take the stage.
These graves will stretch like landing strips ----
hospitals: all dead museums,
we won't have to be afraid anymore.
The crowd is growing silent
with the gathering storm.

When the curtain falls,
and you're caught on the other side
(just trying to keep up the act),
we'll lie in the back of black cars,
with the windows rolled up,
joining the procession of emptiness.

If we say these words,
it will be too late to take them back,
so we hold our breath and fold our hands, like paper planes
(and we're going to crash).
We don't have to be alone
ever again.
There's a riot in the theater.
Someone's standing in the aisles,
yelling that murderers are everywhere
and they're lining up,
carving the M in your side.

Pull the curtain back.
Kill all the houselights.
Pin the dress with lotus flowers.
The silk is spinning
around and around, with the ceiling fan.
I'm disappearing into the spotlight.
I'm on display,
the butterfly
and the scarecrow.

With smiles like picket fences,
you tie us all up and leave us outside.
"That voice is silent now, the boat has sunk..."
We're on our own,
but we're not

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

“Let the camera linger on yr. perfect skin…”

For those of you who have seen the film Pieces of April with Katie Holmes, you have probably also heard the work of one my all-time-favorite songwriters, Stephin Merritt. For those of you who haven’t seen Pieces of April, you should! It was directed by Peter Hedges (About a Boy, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?) & not only does it star Katie Holmes, but also Patricia Clarkson (Jumanji, Lars & the Real Girl) & Sisqó (that guy that wrote “Thong Song,” strangely enough…). Stephin Merritt does the entire soundtrack for the film, under his own name & also with two of his various projects: The Magnetic Fields & The 6ths.

The 6ths is a project of Stephin Merritt’s in which he asks other various artists to sing songs that he has written both musically & lyrically. It is commonly thought that Merritt created this project after noticing that no one had ever made a tribute album for him, so he made two himself: Wasps’ Nests & Hyacinths & Thistles. The name of this project was chosen, because it is impossible to say without a lisp, as are the names of both of these albums. Some of the most notable singers that perform on these albums are Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500, Lou Barlow of Dinosaur Jr. & The Folk Implosion, Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü, Marc Almond of Soft Cell, & Gary Numan (& yes, that is the guy that sings that catchiest song of all time, “Cars”).

Hyacinths & Thistles also includes a very unlikely duet of blues/folk singer Odetta (often referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”) & author Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events). In “As You Turn to Go” from the video below, Scottish singer Monus performs the vocals. That’s the guy that rephrased Andy Warhol’s quote from my previous post. Weird, huh?

“Let the poets struggle to describe yr. heart,
Yr. art of love & yr. love of art.
Well if you ever loved me tell me so,
As you turn to go.”

Damn, those are some good lyrics… & Monus’ vocals go beautifully with Merritt’s music. That song appeared on the Pieces of April soundtrack, but really all of the tracks on this album are great. However, before Pieces of April, the 6ths wiggled their way onto the American children’s television station, Nickelodeon. Merritt’s works appear many times in The Adventures of Pete & Pete, which also featured guest appearances from many notable figures, such as Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Michael Stipe, & LL Cool J. The video below features “Falling Out of Love (with You)” with a collage of footage from the television show. It is a proud testament to when children’s television series were actually cool…