Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Finally----a new slice of Key Lime Pie---->>>>

A number of years ago we set up this site to be a slightly hipper site companion to That site was set up by the people who filmed my Xmas Concert and is more than a bit corporate and provincial in look and feel (sorry----they meant well). When we did it, I started writing some little blogs about music and they still stand up I think though are decrepit and aged. I have not kept up to date so here is a much needed new one.

I want to comment a bit on Panic At The Disco's record since it occupied me 24 hours a day for the better part of 5 months, including the time spent with them in the mountains when they were writing and in L.A. when they were working on that initial material. I'll do that at a later date (most likely when the record is no longer new unfortunately). Here are some new faves:

1. Radiohead---In Rainbows---I know nothing need be said, it's old news, and by writing this I am just jumping on the extraordinarily overloaded bandwagon but I need to say something about it anyway. While making the Panic At The Disco record the boys played me a bunch of things, especially Jon Walker who is a music maven and has as large a collection of stuff as anybody I have ever seen. We listened to Coheed and Cambria, Supergrass, The Killers, Sigur Ros, Bjork, Feist, and a ton of other stuff. I actually loved the Feist record. Though her voice does leave me a touch wanting after 12 songs of charmingly quirky production, she is a gem, a true artist who clearly is a few inches taller than the rest of the pack. BUT I DIGRESS (as usual.) I kept returning to my room at the end of the night and putting on In Rainbows, over and over and over and over. Why???? Do I think that they are the great Messiahs???? Well...... I guess not but here is what is so unique and rare. Yes, Thom Yorke can seem to be moaning for a half hour when you listen and are looking for a chorus to hang your hat on. THAT BEING SAID, this is a band of great visionary musicians, which in so many cases is the kiss of death. Often the good musicians can get overly cute and clever and put in too many twists and turns, way too much information. They make the art of Pop music into a weight lifting event.
Believe me I know. Listen, I love Steely Dan chords as well as anybody (they are actually Duke Ellington chords but that is another conversation). I also love the strength technically of both Mars Volta and Tool BUT....... with Radiohead you get both the pop capability of a band like XTC at their best mixed with a kind of Lou Reed meets Pink Floyd sensibility. I know that sounds odd but at no point in the listening experience do you ever say, "Aw, bullshit!" At least I don't.
It is pure and unfiltered madness mixed with phenomenal music making alongside a kind of trance like calm at times. An absolute must own. To hell with the download. Buy a copy or, even better, buy 2 copies; one for the home and one for the car. This is the kind of record that would be criminal to get for free though they allowed it. It is too good. If that record is given away, then what are the rest of us worth?

2. Pretty. Odd. Panic At The Disco---We know already. I produced it and am proud of it but more importantly, these are kids that were not taken seriously by musicos and older listeners last year. They are now really coming into their own as writers and are not afraid to lay on the kitchen sink in an unbridled move towards pure joy. What record have you bought recently that laughs at itself on a regular basis??

3. The Amazing Story of The Who---Absolutely magnificent DVD documentary on this miracle of a rock band. Most moving of all to me, and quite continually moving in the weeks and days after my initial exposure, is the documentary on Roger Daltry on the second disc. It is part of a package on each member called "Six Quick Ones". (Daltry is the most forthcoming and emotional in his responses on the main documentary.)All this said, there is this amazing moment where Pete Townshend describes Daltry singing a new composition of his called "Real Good Looking Boy" at some benefit in the States and making it his own song even more than usual. You get to see actual footage of what Pete is describing. When Pete stands up at the end of the song and is staring at Roger singing this new composition of his, it is absolutely heartbreaking in a joyous and inspirational way. I break down every time I watch it. First of all; it is, in its studio version, a very strong new Pete song. The Elvis intro is a bit staid and corny in that version but LIVE with Roger on Acoustic, it is stunning I think. Most important of all are these two men, who have made so many beautiful and timeless things together, describing their devotion and respect for each other. Essential. Absolutely essential I think but then; I am a sap.

4. Barenboim on Beethoven: Even if you are a die in the wool Jazz and Rock person, not much classical, this may be worth checking out though it is a bit of a geek buy. This is Daniel Barenboim playing, at age 65, all 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas for memory in the space of about two weeks; 8 concerts in Berlin, each about two hours + in length. Daniel Barenboim, statesmen, conductor without peer right now except perhaps Abbado and Rattle, and one of the finest pianists in the world. His technique is astonishing at 65, let alone 25. There are a few rusty moments but it is small minded to even mention those. This is a man that has recorded the entire cycle twice in his life and who has been playing these pieces since he was a child prodigy. Add to this his wisdom and his experience as an extraordinary conductor and you have pure gold in your hands.The Beethoven Piano Sonatas to me are like the Pyramids, proof of something beyond us. Fuck Richard Dawkins (excuse the language---I apologize). He is one smart mofo but I don't buy it. If after listening to the last five Beethoven sonatas you don't get the sense of something metaphysical, some great creative stream behind the universe, well...... then...... uh..... I don't know what to say though I respect your right to see it differently. These, in the hands of Daniel Barenboim, are as powerful as Mahler in the hands of Leonard Bernstein or Britten's songs sung by Peter Pears or Gershwin's Porgy played by Miles. We are privileged to be alive and to be able to witness such wisdom and giftedness. Barenboim is just beyond belief. Age 65: hours and hours of the most difficult and brilliant Piano music ever written: all memorized and communicated with a depth that is unparalleled?????? Please.....!!!!
This is why I get pissed off when I work with Pop artists that are full of themselves. I don't care if your name is Prince, Keith Richards or Paul McCartney. You ain't frickin' Beethoven. Or Barenboim for that matter.

5. Chris Brown---Damn that fricker can dance!!

6. Sigur Ros--Heima--miracles do happen and great, great art and music is being created RIGHT NOW.

7. Bruce Springsteen--Radio Nowhere---the album has too many songs where he goes from the 1 chord to the 4 chord over and over again BUT...... he is a bad ass and that song is one of his strongest in a while. Scope out his wife Patti Scialfa's Looking For Elvis (The VIDEO) with Steve Jordan, the absolutely remarkable Larry Campbell on Guitar and others. Pretty special.

8. Thomas Ades---Violin Concerto---This is only available as a download on itunes plus (slightly better sound) but it is a concerto written by Ades, one of our greatest contemporary composers, for the incomparable Anthony Marwood on Violin. It is just vibey and cool as hell, rigorous, beautiful, otherworldly, accomplished and inspiring.Being a composer myself, I have modest goals: to write music that is deeply felt, firmly tonal and beautifully rendered if possible. Ades on the other hand, one of the very best and in an entirely different universe, has the modern composer's creed in hand at all times. EXPAND THE LANGUAGE>>>>EXPAND THE LANGUAGE>>> Post Stravinsky and Boulez this is well nigh impossible. He's doing it!!! but then.........he's a certifiable genius. Scope it.

9. Joni Mitchell--Both Sides Now----I know, it's old and was put out years ago but I am talking about her orchestral version arranged by Vince Mendoza. Just heartbreaking. It is so difficult to write an arrangement on a ballad and not be smarmy, boring, overly precious, too hip for the room harmonically, Mahlerian, a Jeremy Lubbock rip off or a million other things. We all know the same damn voicings, the warm minor 9ths, the open Copland spaces. It gets old. You start to understand why Schoenberg came up with his 12 tone system of serial and atonal music. Mendoza hit a grand slam to win the world series of Arrangements in the early 21st century though. By channeling both Arvo Part and John Taverner plus Gorecki's 3rd Symphony, he just kills it. Magnificent and so touching. It was used for a moving scene with Emma Thompson in the film Love Actually. Check out the youtube version with Joni singing it at the end of an evening devoted to her music. Makes life worth living and more proof of the supernatural as far as little ole' me is concerned. You can download it off of Dreamland, a new Joni collection on itunes.

10. Mozart's Violin Concertos with Claudio Abbado and Giuliano Carmignola. Unbelievable. Pure, unadorned by excessive vibrato. Baroque style period instrument approach, small orchestra. Like Chamber music and so refreshing because of it. To hell with Disney sized orchestras unless you're Olivier Messiaen. This is early Mozart. A genius teenager wrote these pieces. More proof. Buy it now. This and Radiohead are the absolute essentials.

I am grateful someone reads these blogs now and again. I am so grateful for music, for Mahler, for Miles, for Mitchell, for the Missa Solemnis, for so many other musics. Take care. Until next time.

Rob Mathes