Blog Archives

Monday Morning Music – Elbow

Morning all – guess what? Therockmom turns five years old today. Hard to believe but it was exactly five years ago today that I posted my first inarticulate but heartfelt ramblings about music and motherhood. On that day, I wrote about the K-POP band, Super Junior. As you know, I’m slightly obsessed with their dance moves and particular brand of androgyny. I also lamented the fact that the current Hong Kong concert offerings included Dionne Warwick and El Divo. Well, five years later, Super Junior have just released their seventh album. They’re still hugely popular and strangely compelling. The HK concert scene hasn’t changed much either. Nostalgia acts such as the Pet Shop Boys, Tony Hadley and that guy from Westlife are still safe bets, but we have witnessed the rise of Clockenflap and promoters willing to take a gamble on smaller alternative and punk bands (Das Fluff, Japandroids, etc).

To honor therockmom’s birthday, I thought I’d spend the rest of the week looking back at some of my most popular and controversial posts – starting with a band that was one of the inspirations for this blog way back when.

Elbow were already well established in the UK when I discovered their fourth album, The Seldom Seen Kid. I literally knew nothing about them, but when the second track, “The Bones of You”, came on, I was dumbstruck. Who are you? Why have I not loved you forever? The shimmering guitars, the vivid lyrics, the chorus of harmonies, all crystallized in to a perfect pop love song.

But it wasn’t just the song, it was the realization that there is so much wonderful music out there, waiting to be discovered and coveted. If I’m hearing this fantastic song now, I said to myself, imagine what else I’m missing! So in a way, starting therockmom was like going on a treasure hunt. The blog has given me a reason to devote a portion of my week to listening to new music, reading about new bands and old favorites and, when the HK concert gods bless me, going out to see a live show. There’s room for nostalgia (yeah the ’80s!) on therockmom, but there’s also the hope that you might like to hear some new tunes too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed being a part of this journey and I thank you for your support.

Have a good week!


Cross My Heart & Kiss My Elbow

I’ve done a bit of soul searching recently, a bit of contemplating on the deeper things in life, and it’s made me face up to some cold hard facts. Of course, as a shameless blogger, I feel compelled to share these thoughts with you, dear reader. Namely:

1. The no-panty-line panty is pure myth.
2. I curse Man United but I have impure thoughts about Dimitar Berbatov.
3. Elbow’s latest album is nowhere near as good as their last one.

There, I’ve said it.

Back in 2009, Elbow released a piece of pop perfection called The Seldom Seen Kid. And for the last two years it has easily been at the top of my most played list. Even now I reckon I listen to the gorgeous, evocative “Bones of You” at least three times a week. Prior to Seldom Seen…, I’d never heard of Elbow, even though they’d been kicking around the UK music scene for several years. Seldom Seen… changed all that, and deservedly so.

We come in peace to make it safe for fans of The Moody Blues everywhere.

They won awards and ended up on lots of year-end Best Of lists. “One Day Like This” was the big single, while the bite of “Grounds for Divorce” got lots of play on TV shows. I preferred the beauty and romance of “Mirrorball”. With lyrics like “We kissed like we invented it”, how could you go wrong? Elbow’s Brit pop was smart but fearlessly emotional. I loved these guys and was so pleased to see them enjoying success. So how excited was I when I heard they had a new album out as well as a slot opening for U2 this summer. I picked up the latest release, Build A Rocket Boys!, enthusiastically slipped it in to the car stereo, and readied for greatness to blast out of the speakers.

Then how totally disappointed I was to hear they’d made a noodle-y, meandering, experimental record. Ugh! Is it too much to ask to write a song I can sing to? I’m not talking “The Bones of You: The Sequel” (even though I’d love that), but come on! Yes, you can hear a lush, not-quite orchestral sound on the last album, but Jeez-Louise, with Build a Rocket… you’ve now got a full orchestra, a spoken word reprise and a youth choir! A youth choir?!? Did all that success go to your head? Too much pot in the studio? I’m wondering what happened to your straight-ahead cords and pop sensibilities, now given over for a go at out-radioheading Radiohead. Or maybe they were trying for a Tears for Fears-inspired sort of choral-group does melancholic introspection set to a grand synthesized heaviness. I’m drowning under the weight of their ambitions while they seem to be mocking me, “Radio-schmadio rockmom, we’re more interested in how this will sound in the Royal Albert Hall with a 60–piece orchestra.”

When the first cut, “The Birds”, clocks in at 8:04 you know you’re in for some serious musical ramblings. Time it’s time! It’s the second coming of Talk Talk! (whom I love by the way, but I’m not the moody teen I once was).

Having said that, there are a few gems to be found amidst the burdens these boys are carrying around, and yes I will listen to it, though not nearly as much as Seldom Seen…. I’m finding that most of the tracks, such as “Lippy Kids”, “The River” and the aforementioned “The Birds”, take time to reveal themselves, while a couple – “Dear Friends” in particular – are pleasures straight out of the box. Guy Garvey’s lyrics continue to unspool like poetry from a hopeless romantic. Past love(s) figure heavily again making me wonder who is Guy’s ‘freshly painted angel walking on walls, stealing booze and hour long hungry kisses’. She has been immortalized. If only!

I shall sing you Bulgarian songs of love - high five!

As I listen to Elbow’s modern soundtrack for the moody teen, I’m thinking: either Elbow’s latest is an ambitious shot in to the pop darkness or a self-indulgent piece of rock star dress-up. You know, how many auteurs does it take to screw up a good thing? On the other hand, as I listen to Guy’s husky voice and lovelorn fearlessness, it does make me wonder: does Dimitar ever write poetry?

One hopes this isn’t a dead lizard

Funny thing recommending music to people. It’s quite personal – almost revealing – and you never quite know what reaction you’ll get. Sometimes I feel I’m the family dog retrieving your slippers and newspaper, and you’re pleased at the gifts I’ve delivered. Sometimes, however, I sense I’m the family cat, who’s just deposited a freshly-killed lizard at your feet.

Both are offered out of affection, though not necessarily welcomed as such.

But I still rave and recommend and burn disks for people in the optimistic hope that they’ll be as jazzed as I am by Neko Case, Animal Collective, Matthew Sweet, Elbow and all the other cool artists who regularly rock my world.

Yesterday I completed ignored my New Year’s vow to economize and blew a small bundle at HMV on new music. What am I, still in college? Tiger Mother would have my ass! Somehow I don’t think I can get away with feeding my kids instant noodles and hot dogs for the rest of the month. Can I?

I’m still working through my purchases – catching up with late 2010 releases like Rufus Wainwright, Massive Attack and Jonsi – but the best of the bunch so far is the debut album from a British singer-songwriter called Rumer. (You can check out several of her songs at

Can I rave here for just a second? Rumer is sublime pop. The songwriting and arrangements are this close to transcendent. Take one part jazz vocalist, throw in some California confessional, a smidgen of seductive chanteuse and a hefty dose of seventies pop and you have Seasons of my Soul.

The Guardian has likened her voice to Karen Carpenter but absolutely do not let that put you off giving her a listen. I first heard Rumer on (where else?) with the song ‘Aretha’ (yes, after the Queen of Soul), and it was just a perfect jazz-pop number. I had to go back and check kcrw’s tracklist – who is this chick? Her voice is warm and familiar, like something you heard coming out of your Mom’s stereo. She’s not over produced or trying too hard, and I’m thinking that’s because she’s British, not American. She’s Diana Krall without the burden of being Diana Krall, you know what I’m saying?

The tracks ‘Come To Me High’ (what an awesome title) and ‘Slow’ groove so slowly and seductively that you’ll be lighting candles, opening a Sauv Blanc and breaking out the negligee. Trust me ladies. Don’t make the mistake I did of listening to this when your hubby has just gone out of town, unless you happen to have something in the battery-operated department stashed away (note to self – update shopping list).

Rumer has been around the music business for a good decade without a recording contract. Because of that, I think, she’s had time to learn songwriting and figure out who she wants to be. The songs are personal, well-crafted and seemingly unaffected by the whims of today’s music. Retro sounds without the irony or Glee gloss.

The only question mark is her cover of Bread’s ‘Goodbye Girl’. Hey, I like a good ‘70s movie song as much as the next guy (that means you Tootsie and Arthur) but this was just a little too cloying and didn’t gel with the rest of her highly intimate tracks.

She’s worked with Burt Bacharach, Elton John and Leon Russell. She’s been nominated for two Brit Awards. She’s currently on tour in the UK (please come to Hong Kong!), so I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot about her this year. Enjoy!

Due to a substantial increase in my readership, I've been able to hire two assistants. They don't bring me dead lizards however.