Blog Archives

Monday Morning Music – Capsized

Where has the time gone? That’s my typical, yearly response when I realize my kids have only FIVE more weeks of school until summer vacation. So many plans, so much to do, so much undone. I guess you’ve noticed how I’ve neglected the blog these last two months, but I will try to rectify that situation, at least until the actual summer hols roll around.

In the meantime, here’s a so-simple-it’s-brilliant video from my current obsession: Andrew Bird. He’s an eclectic musician from Chicago, vocal-kin to Bill Withers, and this song – this song! – I’m playing it at least a dozen times a day.

Check it out, let me know what you think and enjoy the rest of your week!

 

Monday Morning Music – HBHBHB

“And meanwhile the man was falling from space
And everyday I wore your face
Like an atmosphere around me
A satellite inside me”

How is this song NOT about David Bowie? I wonder every time I listen to it – “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” – the title track from Florence + The Machine’s latest album. I imagine young Florence Welch discovering Bowie as a teenager, sometime in the late ’90s, painting her face with a glittery lightning bolt (everyday I wore your face) and dancing around her bedroom, entranced.

But no, apparently this song is an ode to the California sky, influenced by Florence’s time in the U.S. and her increasing fascination with American music (whether Motown or Laurel Canyon).

The song is stunning, no matter what or who inspired it, and it’s been on constant rotation in my ears. I’m still in a little mourning for the great Starman, and feeling lately like logging on to Twitter or FB is just the daily equivalent of asking: who’s dead now? So songs of comfort and beauty feel quite necessary now.

Here’s a video version of not-quite-the-whole song, filmed (unsurprisingly) under a bright blue sky. The short video was directed by Tabitha Denholm & Vincent Haycock.

Have a good week, x

Monday Morning Music – Laura Marling

I have this idea – and feel free to steal it and run with it – for a column called Story and Song. Maybe it’s already been done, probably so, I don’t know. But it’s where writers combine a book with a record and discuss / explain / celebrate the connection between the two. Just like pairing a nice bottle of wine with a delicious meal.

For me, I’d start with Laura Marling’s marvelous new album, Short Movie, and pair that with Lust & Other Stories, the equally provocative collection of short stories by Susan Minot.

Marling, a British folk singer-songwriter, is 25 years old, about the age of many of Minot’s characters in Lust…, and both the real singer and the fictional characters are experiencing the appetites, insecurities and ambivalence (about men) of young women in their twenties. In ‘False Hope’ (shown above), Marling asks straight out: Is it still okay that I don’t know how to be alone? While in the story ‘City Night’, a young woman named Ellen goes home with a handsome cad. Minot writes:

The night flapped on, disoriented and dark. Ellen had given up trying to steer herself through it.

Both album and book are closely connected to place; Marling with Los Angeles and Minot with New York. Opposite coasts but parallel journeys – across attraction, heartache, defiance – in search of identity and connection.

I can’t be your horse anymore / You’re not the warrior I would die for*

What I like most about both women is how they can write about relationships and even one-night stands with intelligence and insight, so that the female characters can be smart and capable and yet still succumb to messy emotion. They’re complex women but not immune to being hurt or cast aside.

Check them out when you can & Have a good week!

*From Marling’s ‘Warrior’

Monday Morning Music: Wolf Alice

It’s the little things, you know? Like finding real (not UHT) cream in the grocery store, on sale. Or the smile on EO’s face after she touches the wall and sees her time in the 100fly. Or the fact that YO will still hold my hand.

This week I’m adding to that list the fricking awesome song “Giant Peach” by North London band, Wolf Alice.

Long live guitar rock is the first thing I want to say about this tune. “Giant Peach” begins with an extended, driving intro before lead singer, Ellie Roswell, spins images of the push/pull connection to her hometown. She says: What the hell keeps me here / In a dark old town another door through / It don’t seem so clear / And changin’ feels like fear. The song plays like equal parts meat and potatoes rock and psychedelic jam – all guitars and drums – all the while building to Roswell’s climactic lyrics and a squalling heavy metal meltdown. In the video’s finale, there’s even a nod to the band’s Spinal Tap brethren as the smoke machine spews out of control and the costumes scream ‘Stonehenge’!

Recent reviews have compared Wolf Alice to ’90s bands like Hole and Garbage, which is just a simple way to say: this is a rock band with three guys and a female lead singer. Lazy! With their ear for melody and shred-tastic (yes, had to say that) guitars, I hear more similarities with Veruca Salt and another lupine band: Wolfmother.

Wolf Alice have released some EPs and their debut full-length, My Love Is Cool, is expected in June. Check them out when you can and have a good week!

Monday Morning Music: Jungle

I LOVE dance music videos. Yes to the vintage Adidas. Yes to the fresh choreography. Yes to the perfect medium for showcasing dance and the music that moves hips.

Here’s one of my favorites from 2014: Busy Earnin’ by a group called Jungle. The song is fantastic and the video is so simple yet so effective. Just a group of hip hop dancers in an empty warehouse space, but oh how mesmerizing.

Jungle are known for their dance videos, most notably Platoon, which featured six-year old dancer, Terra, as well as The Heat, with its skating duo known as High Rollaz. Jungle are a two-man British collective that’s only been around since 2013, but their self-titled debut album – released in the middle of 2014 – is a confident, funky mix of midtempo numbers. Already nominated for a Mercury Prize, they’re part of the modern soul resurgence going on in the UK at the moment. Not as pop as Sam Smith or Naughty Boy, but more accessible than SOHN, Glass Animals and the red hot FKA Twigs.

You can check out all of Jungle’s videos at:

http://junglejunglejungle.com/

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!

Monday Morning Music – Chromeo

School’s out this week! That means this expat family will be packing up and hitting the long-haul soon, so I thought I’d post this summer jam – Frequent Flyer – by the funky Montreal duo, Chromeo. It’s from their recent release, White Women, and it is fun (and clean) so play it for the kids and drop that bass like you mean it.

Oh, and don’t forget your travel pillow 😉

 

 

Monday Morning Music – Hozier

It’s been several weeks since I posted any enjoyable jams. But while catching up on some SXSW recommendations, I came across Hozier, who’s actually one guy from County Wicklow, Ireland. He made a bit of a splash in Austin last month and he’ll be touring the US this May before taking part in a slew of summer festivals. I like how he mixes blues, pop and even gospel in a way that feels natural and unpretentious. The Irish are good at that, aren’t they?

“Angel of Death and the Codeine Scene” is from his first EP, Take Me To Church. And here’s another track from his latest EP, From Eden.

Please disregard the Shia LaBeouf/James Franco visual vibe he’s got going on, and check him out at http://www.hozier.com. And, of course, let me know what you think!

I’ll be taking a break for the rest of the month – we’re going back to Texas to see my Dad – so enjoy your Spring and Happy Easter!

Mother’s Little Helper

So often I’m asked, ‘Hey Rockmom, how do you stay so relevant?’

Because you know, these days, it’s not enough to refer to yourself in the third person or date Jake Gyllenhaal (God knows we’ve all tried) or even replace your bottom teeth with diamonds.

Q: if you don’t brush, do you get summoned to the Hague for possessing dirty diamonds?

Proving that brilliant and stupid are no longer mutually exclusive

No, you’ve got to come up with the cool goods, day after day, erratic blog after erratic blog. It’s no wonder people wonder, ‘How does she do it?’

Well, I’m here to tell you, my small but rabid readership (You shall now be referred to as the Fox Terriers of blog readers!), here are some of the things I don’t do:

1. I don’t go out every night checking out bands at skanky dives in search of the next big thing.
2. I don’t hang out with A&R guys/gals for insight in to what’s hitting hard in two thousand and now.
3. I don’t have a lifeline to that French MC who used to date Sofia Coppola but now spins newly-discovered tunes as the in-house DJ for that pop-up store that sells funky clothes endorsed by Alexa Chung…

Naw, I don’t do any of that. Namely because I can’t do any of that. Hell, I don’t think I need to remind you that I live in Hong Kong, the place where molecular cocktails and Michael Buble are a happening night out.

If I’m going to have any sway in this pop culture universe we call home, I gots to stay ill. I gots to keep it tight. I gots to use slanguage that would mortify my preteen daughter.

But most of all, I have to surf the internet.

So simple, you say, so lame. Have I disappointed you, my Foxy Brown Terriers? You were expecting some wicked insight into my je ne sais rock quo? Some explanation for my tuneful deftness during pub quizzes?

Wait! Before you pull the curtain on this Lyrical Oz, please understand that my aim is true. And if you know the artist who sang that line then you have an insight in to my musical heart. Music is my hobby, my passion, my drug, my, my … porn. (Well, that and interior design magazines but that’s another story.)

I devote hours to listening, reading, writing and talking about music and then run up countless pennies on iTunes – The Spinners, School of Seven Bells AND Blind Faith on one playlist. Yes! All for the harmonious joy in finding cool tunes, that special drug-hit wonder of hearing something awesome, remarkable and rare.

They photoshopped my dog!


And if you are still reading this, my FBTs, I trust you share my zeal. For I am but a mere envoy, a disciple, a Sister, sharing the gospel of… Hark! To Hear the Herald Angels Sing. Must be Glory, Glory, Glorious…

And Happy Holidays to You All!

Best of 2010… so far

I’m stepping down from my soapbox this week – behave yourself, Miley – to talk about one of my favorite albums so far of 2010.

Broken Bells’ self-titled disc has been on steady rotation in my car and in my brain since I bought it a few months ago (call me quaint – yes, therockmom still buys CDs at the store). My oldest daughter, however, is sick of hearing BB so much; the other night she asked if I could change the music on the car stereo because this song ‘is weirding me out too much’. I think at that point we were on the ghostly ‘Citizen’.

Just two guys make up Broken Bells – James Mercer from The Shins and Danger Mouse (aka Brian Barton) of Gnarls Barkley. If you’re familiar with The Shins then you’ll know Mercer for his articulate, well-crafted pop – tunes that speak of wistful longing and personal searching. I think of misty Northwestern forest towns populated by Raymond Carver folks, just trying to get by. Mercer looks like Kevin Spacey but sounds like no one else I know in pop, past or present.

Do you think this outfit makes me look like Keyser Soze?

What Danger Mouse brings to the party is funk. You can hear it in the groovy organ playing and drums, which push the sound away from Shins’ straight-up pop, towards a deeper R&B groove. Although Danger Mouse is best known as a producer extraordinaire – having worked with Beck, Damon Albarn, Sparklehorse and others – in Broken Bells, he plays and writes equally, instead of just coming in and working his magic at the mixing table.

I must have listened to the first single, ‘The High Road’ a gazillion times last Spring but my favorite track has to be ‘The Ghost Inside’. The song opens with a slightly quirky beat, an organ and some hand claps. Then in comes Mercer’s falsetto, weaving a sad-glam story about a woman and wrong choices. He sings:

Just like a whiskey bottle drained on the floor
She got no future, just a life to endure

During Broken Bells’ recent performance on kcrw.com, host Jason Bentley said he’d taken an impromptu poll of listeners to find out what song they think ‘The Ghost Inside’ sounds like. Bentley said the winning song was Missing Persons’ ‘Destination Unknown’. Okay, that’s a bit more kewpie-robot-doll than BB, but similar in its own pop tale of alienation and dislocation.

In that same interview, the duo discussed how they came together and what their influences are. Danger Mouse went to school in Athens, GA, and both he and Mercer loved the scene there (incubator for REM, B-52s, Pylon, etc). They also draw on influences from ’60s R&B as well as ’80s pop.

I have no musical training so words like ‘soundscape’, ‘timbre’ and ‘harmonic function’ only complicate matters for me. But I do find that the word ‘texture’ somehow best describes Broken Bells’ music. It feels like fabric – corduroy, thick cotton, sometimes velvet – when I listen to them. A depth of feeling. A richness.

Mercer and Mouse are currently on tour, but they’ve said there are more Broken Bells tunes in the works. My daughter might not be happy about it, but I am definitely looking forward to hearing more from this sublime pop collaboration.