Saturday, May 23, 2015

M83 - Graveyard Girl

I keep bumping into M83, and from a variety of sources.

The French electronic band has been around for a while, since 2001, but it was not until 2006 when founding member Anthony (Yann) Gonzalez took things into a different, slightly more experimentative direction. The other founding member Nicolas Fromageau had left in 2005 and this left Yann in the lone position of creative control, and it was sort of like he was let loose. The songs I am encountering by M83 that are endearing me to them all seem to come after 2006. In fact more specifically I am growing very fond off M83’s last two albums “Saturdays = Youth” (2008) and “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” (2011).

M83 has a weird sound to them, it is not entirely unique in the style of modern music making but there is enough of an individual flare that makes them, at least to me, stand out. They sort of remind me of Daft Punk with the effort of atmosphere like Sigur Ros, or maybe something like MGMT. I do not know, this genre, whatever it is we call it these days is not exactly my most familiar, but I do know I like it. However for the sake of pinpointing a specific track to ramble about I elect one of M83’s tracks that sounds a little more simplistic, a song a little less dependent on the power of technology, “Graveyard Girl.”

While the majority of M83 tracks are very processed and rely heavily on the synthesizer keyboard, “Graveyard Girl” has a fun upbeat rhythm section composed of the keyboard, naturally, and a nice beat from the drums. The drums are a little more noticeable in this song compared to other M83 songs because it does not exists so much in the shadow of the keyboard, and I like it. Also there is a lead guitar, and again when compared to most M83 songs, it too gets to shine a little more than usual because the keyboard is a little more relaxed. In fact, relaxed, or perhaps, mellow, would be a fitting one word description for this tune. Do to the mellow nature of the song a clear symmetry flows through, very much like every M83 songs, but this one is more subdued, less energy, more emotion, or something like that.

When listening to other songs I really enjoyed by M83 such as “Midnight City” or “Wait” it is impossible to deny just how much M83’s sound is very processed; so much so it sounds very much like they are relying on a machine to do the work for them. However there are lots of bands out there like that right now and I’ve seen Foster the People live, they had a whole band and everything, they were real musicians. Judging from the live performance of “Graveyard Girl” I guess the same conclusion can be drawn for M83:

The lyrics are fun.

“Death is her boyfriend.
She spits on summers and smiles to the night.
She collects crowns made of black roses,
But her heart is made of bubble gum.

Graveyard girl

Dark rags and red stars.
She's the dirty witch of her high school.
She worships Satan like a father,
But dreams of a sister like Molly Ringwald.”

The music video had a look reminiscent of “Pretty in Pink” or “Sixteen Candles,” what with an awkward red haired girl in high school being the “Graveyard Girl,” then you pick up on the “Molly Ringwald” name drop and everything makes sense.

In this day in age, most of us, if not all of us, probably know a girl like the one described in “Graveyard Girl.” Some young goth girl, who believes herself to be a lot deeper and mature then she really is, and despite this warped sense of self, that is somehow both egotistical and self-loathing, there is a intelligent light behind her eyes and true poet’s heart beating in her chest. I wonder if Yann has read much Christopher Moore, because “Graveyard Girl” makes me think of Abby Normal, from his San Francisco vampire stories.

The only other spoken words in the song come to us in a monologue from the “Graveyard Girl” herself, which I believe help cements my theoretical comparison:

"Graveyard Girl" by Unearthlydreams
"I'm gonna jump the walls and run
I wonder if they'll miss me?
I won't miss them
The cemetery is my home
I want to be a part of it
Invisible even to the night
Then I'll read poetry to the stones
Maybe one day I could be one of them...
Wise and silent
Waiting for someone to love me
Waiting for someone to kiss me
I'm fifteen years old
And I feel it's already too late to live
Don't you?"

Yeah that is the kind of stuff an Abby Normal like character would say. Maybe it is not sarcastic enough, but still. Clearly there is a great deal to enjoy here, fun song, fun lyrics, great possible connections to a variety of girls, both real and fictional.

Until next month, keep on rocking the free world.

- King of Braves

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Blackmore's Night - Shadow of the Moon

I have written before about how the older someone gets the more mellow they become and we see this happening to effectively every musician who has ever lived. Ritchie Blackmore is no exception to this rule. He went from being the most memorable member of a classic rock band often credited for laying the ground work for heavy metal and now... well now he is doing something completely different.

In 1994, approximately, Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple, this time for good. In 1997 Blackmore with his then fiancée Candice Knight formed the aptly named two piece band Blackmore’s Night. This new band and new direction by Blackmore is completely different from everything he had created previously. Blackmore’s style mellowed dramatically, and under the banner of Blackmore’s Night he took to writing festival like folk music along with a variety of guitar focused cover songs both from classic rock and old classical music. It was like he traveled backward in time, like five hundred years, and got in touch with his inner minstrel. This change was unprecedented, and it has left many loyal Blackmore fans surprised and saddened. They do not want Blackmore to play at renaissance fairs (no really that is what Blackmore is doing now) they want him to play classic Deep Purple and Rainbow songs.

I too love Deep Purple and Rainbow, I too want Ritchie Blackmore to play “Child In Time” and “Stargazer,” but I also love Ritchie Blackmore and I want him to be happy, so I am perfectly okay with him playing classic guitar and classic inspired guitar music with his wife at renaissance fairs. It helps that Blackmore’s Night is also really good.

As a young person, Candice Knight was a huge fan of Rainbow, and she met Ritchie at a signing event, or something like that, and they got to a talking and realized they had a lot of common interests and became friends. For a short time Candice did backing vocals for Deep Purple but by 1994 Ritchie left the band, this time for good, and took his then fiancée with him.

They look happy to me.
Candice Knight is very pretty and I mistook her for a model, partially because she as a glow about her that would have made her a successful model if she had chosen that career, but also partially because it is a classic outcome for a rock stars to marry supermodels. For me there was an immediate concern seeing just how pretty and young Candice was, she is twenty-six years younger than Ritchie and naturally my first fear was that Ritchie was going to lose half of his stuff. However it does not appear that way at all, not only do they seem legitimately happy together, but they have now been together for two decades or more. Furthermore they share music, the single biggest aspect of both of their lives and that must be a beautiful connection to share with someone you love. So hurrah some stories have happy endings.

This is normally where I bring up a specific song to talk about, because I know the attention span on the average person these days struggle with a whole band or even album, but I found it incredibly hard to pick just one song by Blackmore’s Night. As of today Blackmore’s Night has released nine studio albums, which yields a lot of material to listen to and enjoy, which also leaves me with a lot of options to choose from. So somewhat randomly I am going to talk about “Shadow of the Moon.”

“Shadow of the Moon” is the title track off of their first album, released in 1997, so it seems a good a place to start as any for a dialogue about Blackmore’s Night.

One thing I like about “Shadow of the Moon” is it reminds me a little “Green Sleeves” the old English folk song, but I hear that song everywhere, possibly because it is one of the first songs I learned to play moderately well on guitar. Naturally Blackmore’s Night also does a cover of “Green Sleeves,” of course they do, that’s their thing. The folk styling of old medieval is a constant theme throughout Blackmore’s Night entire body of work and the charm that offers is present also in “Shadow of the Moon.” I really appreciate now Blackmore and Knight are able to create so many songs that sound like the style of the past. I am constantly forced to look up their songs to see if they are old songs I am unfamiliar with, sometimes they are, but mostly they are original tracks either composed of various past inspirations or completely new pieces of work. Every time I discover another song that sounds like it came from Camelot and it was created in the modern time I am impressed with just how in tune with this style Blackmore and Knight have become.

While the original work is definitely the most impressive content by Blackmore’s Knight I am very fond of their cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a Changing,”

The Time They Are a Chagin

That music for “The Times They are a Changing” in particular really captures what I really like about Blackmore’s Night, Ritchie and Candice seem so damn happy. Ritchie has always been a very relaxed individual, never seeming to get to excited, but seeing him jamming out with a very happy blonde angel with a super nice smile makes me all feel warm inside. It seems like they are really happy.

So If you still feel sad that Blackmore is not playing “Child In Time” anymore, check out this live performance:

Child In Time - Live

"Sisters of the moon," hippier words have never been spoken.

What was that? A French horn? The point is you might get to hear “Child In Time” or some other Deep Purple or Rainbow classic at a renaissance fair, or some other medieval theme festival, someday. I have to say, think we have a winner in Blackmore’s Night.

- King of Braves