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A Willow is Planted, a Star is Born: Introducing Willow Smith by carlmagazine
October 27, 2010, 5:31 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: ,

By Rachel Feinberg

Recently, Justin Beiber has dominated the airwaves with his prepubescent but catchy tunes.  King Beibz better watch out, because there is a new girl on the block: Willow Smith. Willow Smith, the nine-year-old daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith, just burst onto the music scene with the catchy, upbeat jam, “Whip My Hair.” The song combines a fast, percussion-heavy dance beat with Rihanna-esque vocals. The lyrics are pretty simple. 80% of them are the repetition of the phrase “I whip my hair back and forth.” The rest of the lyrics are about confidence and women and girls feeling empowered. “Ladies if you feel me/Do it to whip your hair/Don’t matter if its long or short/Do it to whip your hair.”

With the catchy song comes a fun video. It opens with a whimsical scene of Willow entering a dull silent classroom where the walls and furniture are all a sterile white. Soon she brings it to life and into color by playing her music and whipping her hair dipped into bright colored paints. The later scenes show Willow and other students dancing in other parts of the school. Her fashions in this video channel similar looks to Janelle Monae or the aforementioned Rihanna with intricate hairdos, a face bedazzled with diamonds and trendy, futuristic outfits.

As the daughter of two of America’s biggest stars, there is no question that nepotism played a role in her rise. She was featured in her father’s blockbuster, I Am Legend, as well as Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. She was also signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label.  It is easy to draw a comparison to Miley Cyrus (pre-Vanity Fair photoshoot) when looking at Willow. They both have famous fathers and as youngsters entered careers on screen and in music, garnering fans from their tween base and beyond. Perhaps Willow’s career will go in a different direction than Miley as her sound is a little less poppy. Even Nicki Minaj released a rap over “I Whip My Hair.”

The future of young Willow Smith seems bright for now with tons of attention in the media, the blogosphere, and even a tribute video from Jersey Shore’s Snooki. I wish the best of luck to Willow; as she embarks on her career as she brings to the airwaves prepubescent sugarcoating combined with a spicy twist of swagger.

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The Sounds of Violence: 10 Scary (and Possibly Spooky) Songs by carlmagazine
October 23, 2010, 8:24 am
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , ,

by Andreas Stoehr

Want to put together the ultimate Halloween playlist? Well, we at The Carl have got you covered! And you have just enough time before the big night to, uh, purchase these songs through perfectly legitimate means. Or something. So give your dorm that macabre atmosphere with these classics of scaaaaary music…

10. “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus

Back when “goth” meant something more than a high school fashion statement, Bauhaus released this tribute to vampiric icon Lugosi, who shuffled off this mortal coil in 1956. Long and atmospheric, the song was featured in the opening scene of The Hunger (1983), where it helped establish mood better most of the noisy, confusingly edited scenes to follow. Its eerie simplicity set an example that director Tony Scott would’ve been wise to follow. Sample lyrics: “The virginal brides file past his tomb / Strewn with time’s dead flowers…”

9. “Pet Sematary” by The Ramones

Written for Mary Lambert’s 1987 film of the same name, it was the song that finally brought together punk rock and Stephen King. In their typically repetitive fashion, The Ramones beg not to be interred in the titular burying ground. The band had a history with the horror genre – see the Freaks references in “Pinhead” – so they were a pretty natural fit for this material. But once you’ve heard the Ramones’ rendition, you should listen to the even creepier cover by the Swedish band The Tiny. Sample lyrics: “And the night, when the moon is bright, / Someone cries, something ain’t right…”

8. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson could be a pretty creepy guy, and I’m not talking about his appearance or personal life. I’m referring to his frequent use of monsters and the supernatural in his music. (See also: the multimedia extravaganza Ghosts.) And with the assistance of John Landis and a rapping Vincent Price, “Thriller” is not only one of the best scary songs; it’s also a truly great horror movie. Werewolves and zombies and meta-commentary, oh my! Sample lyrics: “It’s close to midnight and something evil’s lurking in the dark…”

7. “Transylvanian Concubine” by Rasputina

Much of Rasputina’s music reveals a morbid sensibility at work (see also “Christian Soldiers“), and frontwoman Melora Creager sure has a knack for blending idiosyncratic humor, wordplay, and gruesome imagery. In this song from their album Thanks for the Ether, she invites the listener to a vampiric community of sexual abandon. The song also introduced Rasputina to the wider world through its appearance on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sample lyrics: “You can never be too rich or too / Thin. The blood has run out…”

6. “In Heaven” by Peter Ivers

In Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr., David Lynch gave disturbing implications to Roy Orbison (“In Dreams,” “Llorando”) and Bobby Vinton (“Blue Velvet,” duh), but Eraserhead‘s “In Heaven” is probably the most aggressively surreal use of music in the whole Lynch canon. From the gurgling ambient noise in the background to Ivers’ twangy delivery and the shaky organ accompaniment, every aspect of the song contributes to the deranged vision of “heaven” that Eraserhead’s hero Henry pines for. Sample lyrics: “In heaven, everything is fine / In heaven, everything is fine…

5. “Gloomy Sunday” by anyone

Rezső Seress’s infamously depressing song carries decades’ worth of depressing rumors, including ones about its composer’s own suicide. But that hasn’t stopped generations of musicians from covering it! Some of the best include Billie Holiday, Artie Shaw, Lydia Lunch, Portishead, and Sinéad O’Connor, each of whom gives it a unique (and always depressing) spin. It’s not called the Hungarian suicide song for nothing. Sample lyrics: “My heart and I / Have decided to end it all.”

4. “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield

Maybe this wouldn’t be considered “scary” if it hadn’t been used in The Exorcist. But hey, it was, and now it’s impossible to hear those bells a-ringing without conjuring up thoughts of danger, darkness, and Pazuzu. They just sound so redolent of both the 1970s and the unexplained. This also makes great mood music for frightening trick-or-treaters.

3. “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” by Krzysztof Penderecki

I don’t know nearly enough about musical technique to say why “Threnody” is so chilling, but its feral, anarchic sound – and the use of Penderecki’s other music in movies like The Shining and Shutter Island – confirm its status as scary music. Blame pop culture for putting this commemoration of a national tragedy into such vulgar contexts, but it’s now impossible to hear it now without thinking of long, narrow hallways and something lurking around the corner.

2. “This Is Halloween” by Danny Elfman

One of the best songs from Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s a paean to everything good and scary about the season, from “the one hiding under your bed” to “the clown with the tear-away face.” It’s also informed by the subtle undertones of poignancy, regret, and tradition that fill Nightmare. The whole segment is a triumph of beautifully grotesque animation meeting catchy songwriting – and it’s only the first of the film’s many musical treats. Others include “Sally’s Song” and “Oogie Boogie’s Song,” or you can try Marilyn Manson’s not-for-all-tastes rendition of “This Is Halloween.” Sample lyrics: “Trick or treat till the neighbors gonna die of fright /It’s our town, everybody scream…”

1. “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett

Pickett’s one-hit wonder is really the beginning and the end of popular Halloween-themed music. It’s harmlessly tongue-in-cheek, but contains a deep and infectious reverence for the Universal horror films of the 1930s. Incorporating Karloff, Lugosi, and the rest into the musical fads of early ’60s, the “Monster Mash” is a reflection of just how ingrained in American pop culture these monsters were. It’s also the quintessential song for radio airplay on October 31 – and the same should go for your iTunes! Sample lyrics: “The scene was rockin’, all were digging the sounds / Igor on chains, backed by his baying hounds…”



Modern Classis: Hercules and Love Affair by carlmagazine
October 21, 2010, 2:23 am
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , ,

by Charlie Rosenthal
Disco gets a bum rap. Every history of punk music begins with some sort of screed against the materialistic, drug-fueled excesses of terribly trashy, popular disco, much as every account of the beginnings of grunge attacks the similar excesses of hair metal. The problem is that disco is inherently easy to understand. It is very uncomplicated music. You dance to it. You do cocaine to it. You abuse polyester to it. There isn’t too much deep, deep introspection or social commentary in the music. Even in the academic sphere, disco is hated. For example, in his textbook Introduction to Black Studies, Maulana Karenga (the guy who invented Kwanzaa) brutally attacks disco as a white, pop bastardization of traditionally black forms of music, such as soul and funk. Admittedly, disco does deserve some of this hatred. Some disco does really, really, really suck. However, occasionally, disco can be brilliant.

In 2008, Andy Butler of DFA Records, under the pseudonym Hercules and Love Affair, along with a large cast of guest vocalists, most famously Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons, released a self-titled album. Drawing from the wells of disco and classic house music, Butler crafted an album that smashes nearly all of the misconceptions about disco. There is discussion of important themes, ranging from aging to acceptance. The musical chops are impeccable, with Tim Goldsworthy and Butler expertly blending horns, synthesizers, drums, vocal samples, and more exotic instruments to create a lush, deep musical environment. On the most basic level, Hercules and Love Affair is a great dance album. I’m not sure you could play it at a Sayles Dance, but you could certainly get away with it on some wildly progressive dance floor in either New York or Stockholm. It’s grooveable. However, the greatest triumph of Hercules and Love Affair is the addition of vocals. It’s that addition that changes it from a dance album or a party album to a listening album. It’s not really meditative headphone music (it’s far too bouncy for that), but it’s certainly deep enough to be really, really listened to.

Lead single “Blind” is perhaps the most evocative of Andy Butler’s uncanny ability to work vocalists in. The aforementioned Antony steps in and delivers perhaps his defining performance. Coming across as a sort of male diva, Antony’s voice quavers, soars, shrieks, and generally works to it’s fullest. For example, during the bridge, when most of the instrumental tracks drop out, he soars to unimaginable heights. He then rolls along, low, sort of murmuring about feeling things. It is, without a doubt, one of the most emotive vocal performances in recent electronic music history. Antony also shows up on album opener “Time Will,” a drastically different track. Instead of matching “Blind” and its towering heights, “Time Will” moves along at a slower burn. Antony doesn’t show off the full extent of his vocal talents, instead opting to mutter a bit over some handclaps, crying synths, and thumping drums. Otherwise, vocalists like Nomi Ruiz on “You Belong,” a house song based around an intelligible vocal sample, and a supremely smooth Kim Ann Foxman on “Athene” always add something to the track, creating uniqueness and an aural signpost to remember each song by.

Apparently, Hercules and Love Affair will be coming out with a new album in January. Whether or not its as good as their debut album remains to be seen, but, for now, we have this one testament to what can happen to disco when put into capable, modern hands.



Moog to the Music by Greg Hunter
November 9, 2008, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

robotmacca

If you’re like me, you probably thought you could go the rest of your life without hearing another “Hey Jude” cover. But Walter Sear’s version, featured on the compilation of Moog-centric cover songs, is enough to make you think twice: http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2008/11/switched-on-bas.html

Also recommended: the version of Booker T & The MGs’ “Time is Tight” by…Dick Hyman?  (Have some class, bro.)