maandag 30 augustus 2010

Artist Recommendation: My Brightest Diamond

My Brightest Diamond is the project of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Shara Worden. I will refer to My Brightest Diamond as 'she' because it's all about Shara.

Shara has the ability to create a fantasy world out of her music. Her lyrics are very visual (which means you can close your eyes and the song turns into a movie), her voice is enchanting and the use of instruments is sublime. And more than anything, Shara isn't afraid to try something new. That explains why you can hear her voice on several Jedi Mind Tricks and Vinnie Paz (hip-hop) songs, which makes for an unexpected but amazing combination of two entirely different genres of music.

I should start at the beginning. For me, the beginning is the song To Pluto's Moon, which is a hauntingly beautiful song about a lost love. "Why did you go like this?... I slam against the wall... It's crushing my skull... Why did you go like this?... I slam against the wall of permanence... permanence... permanence..." Long before I was able to understand My Brightest Diamond's music, I was drawn to this song. I played it again and again. I had just gotten into an amazing relationship, there was no reason for me to play sad love songs, but this song illustrated my fears - what would happen to me if I would lose my love. I would go crazy. A very powerful song indeed.
Then I started to appreciate the song Inside A Boy. Who wouldn't? It's very touching. "Inside a boy, I found the universe... And in his eyes are a thousand stars, on a dark sky..." See, if I would say this in real life, people would think I was crazy and obsessed. But Shara makes the words magical, she's like a fairy, she makes it ok to say it.
Both of the songs described above are from the album A Thousand Shark's Teeth, which is My Brightest Diamond's most recent album (from 2008). It contains many other musical pieces of art, such as Like A Sieve, Ice And The Storm, If I Were Queen, Bass Player and bonus track The Gentlest Gentleman. But I should warn you: these songs are really, really hard to understand. Not so much the lyrics, but the overall picture they sketch. I would strongly recommend to listen to MBD's first album Bring Me The Workhorse before listening to A Thousand Shark's Teeth.

Bring Me The Workhorse is in my opinion not as amazing and fragile as A Thousand Shark's Teeth, but it's easier to listen to. For example, Something Of An End is a nice rock song that you don't have to understand to appreciate it. Gone Away is a song about loss, a song you'll relate to whether you've lost a life or a love. An excerpt from the lyrics, is: "I have saved every piece of paper, like grocery lists and note cards, to-do lists and race scores, so just in case you change your mind and come back, I've kept everything safe... While you're gone away, where there isn't a telephone wire... Still I wait by the phone... You don't even write to say goodbye... Goodbye..."
Freak Out is a surprisingly uptempo song, you could almost play this at a party. It's strange but it works. The Good & The Bad Guy and The Workhorse are both pretty amazing, they're completely different songs but they have the same level of awesomeness. I never really paid attention to the song Disappear, until I heard the String Quartet Version that appears on the Disappear EP. You should track down the cover of that EP by the way, because it's a really gorgeous photograph.

Then there are the non-album tracks. I pretty much own all of them, because I get real obsessive-compulsive when it comes to this type of music. I would strongly recommend Feeling Good from the Dark Was The Night compilation CD. This is a cover-song, but as can be expected from Shara - she makes it her own. Hymne A L'Amour from the Top Of The World EP is also an amazing cover-song, the original was written and recorded by Edith Piaf.
Also, the collaborations with Jedi Mind Tricks I mentioned before are songs I strongly recommend. Especially Razorblade Salvation, from the album Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell. It gives me the chills every time I hear it. It's hip-hop at its best, combined with the most beautiful voice in music right now.

Shara Worden has also released a solo CD named Word (under the name Shara), but I've never been able to track that down. She's also released several CD's with the group AwRY, I haven't listened to those CD's yet but I will buy them because I will love them. I already know.

A last note: don't listen to the remix albums (such as The Shark Remixes and Tear It Down) because they make the music sound ridiculous.

I hope you will check out my recommended songs by My Brightest Diamond. If you do, please let me know what you think of them.

maandag 16 augustus 2010

Concert Review: Vienna Teng (15/08/2010)

My friends :) Today was a very exciting day, because I got to see Vienna Teng perform in Burg Wilhelmstein (in W├╝rselen, Germany). Last year I went to Amsterdam and Groningen for her, and those concerts were so amazing that I had to see her again this year. One last time (at least for now), because Vienna is going back to school! She won't be touring as much as she used to.

The evening didn't have a very good start, because the concert was outside and it was raining.. We heard the rain in the background during the entire show, but luckily it didn't ruin the music. Here is a picture of Vienna playing Augustine. Unfortunately the combination of flashy lights and darkness made it hard to take good pictures with my amateur camera, but I tried...

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Vienna Teng and her piano.

The second song she performed was The Tower. This is actually my favorite Vienna Teng song, so I was happy to hear it. However, they had a special live version of the song, and I've grown so accustomed to the album version that I couldn't really appreciate this version. It's just like the song Gravity: when Vienna plays it live, she plays a special version (the Lake Version) and I don't like it nearly as much as the album version.
But she made up for this with the song Antebellum. I think it's my favorite live-song by Vienna, because the way she performs it with her band is very creative. They use a lot of instruments to perform this song. At one point it turns into some sort of a duet between Vienna and Alex Wong (member of her band). And what I love most about the song, is the moment when she sings "How I couldn't be what you need, but oh how I could make you bleed", the way she sings it is very powerful.

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The band (Ward Williams and Alex Wong).

Alex also got the chance to perform one of his own songs named In The Creases, with Vienna singing in the background. It's a lovely song, and I think Alex Wong is a very talented man. This song was followed by her attempt at a country song, Homecoming. I never liked this song very much, but the live version blew me away! Very impressive.

On Blue Caravan, Vienna asked the crowd for some help. We all had to jingle our keys, which created a sound that turned out to fit the song very well. The songs No Gringo and Radio are both very touching, if you never listened to the words then you really should. I never experienced Radio as a spooky song, but Vienna did a great job at performing it that way. After we all clapped our hands during Grandmother Song, the band left the stage. But, of course, after a while they returned for an encore. They played a Randy Newman cover, named I Think It's Going To Rain Today, and the song Harbor. Both very appropriate, with the rain and all... Then they left the stage again. And, after the crowd gave them a standing ovation for several minutes, they returned again! I expected this, because Vienna always ends her concerts with a sing-along song named Soon Love Soon. This is one of the reasons I love her concerts so much: she really interacts with her fans, she makes them sing, clap, stamp their feets and jingle their keys with her! She talks to her crowd and she actually adjusts her setlist to the circumstances (with all the rain songs!). She never disappoints, and I can say with full conviction that (if it's in my power) this won't be the last time I went to a Vienna Teng concert.

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Vienna, Ward and Alex performing Soon Love Soon.

Finally, I have the complete setlist for you guys, in case anyone wonders what songs she usually performs.. You'll hear the majority of these at every Vienna concert, so it'll give you a good impression of what to expect.

1. Augustine
2. The Tower (live-version)
3. Whatever You Want
4. Antebellum
5. I Don't Feel So Well
6. 1BR/1BA
7. In The Creases (Alex Wong song)
8. Homecoming
9. Blue Caravan
10. No Gringo
11. Stray Italian Greyhound
12. Radio
13. St. Stephen's Cross
14. Grandmother Song
15. I Think It's Going To Rain Today (Randy Newman cover)
16. Harbor
Second encore
17. Soon Love Soon

maandag 9 augustus 2010

Male vs. Female Artists

Hello everybody! I want to clear something up.. As you might have noticed while going through my blog, I mostly talk about female artists. I want to explain this, and also I want to say I'm trying to come up with male artists to compensate for this but it's hard on me.

I prefer female voices over male voices any day. I prefer female beauty over male beauty any day. I look up to women, never to men. I can relate to a woman's lyrics, not to a man's. And some of you know I'm a writer, I write short stories and I'm working on a book, well let me tell you: I've tried to write from a male's perspective for ages now, and it just doesn't work. Maybe that makes sense because I'm a woman myself? But no, that's not the reason. I'm just much more interested in women. This may sound strange since I'm in a heterosexual relationship (and if you've read my previous blogs, you'll know I'm so in love that I can't stop talking about my boyfriend). But yeah, that's just the way it is.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. When it comes to hip-hop music, one of my favorite genres, I generally listen to male and female artists equally. There was a time when I collected female rappers' CD's, but it started to bore me because that market is very small. There are artists like Three 6 Mafia, Snoop Dogg, Atmosphere and Dutch artists Manu and Jiggy Dje - they make music no female could ever make. This is not a sexist remark, just listen to their music and you'll understand.
Also, some 90's R&B artists like Ginuwine, Montell Jordan, Blackstreet and R. Kelly have made songs that will forever be classics in my opinion and I prefer them over most R&B songs sung by females.
Well, to put it shortly, in many genres males are generally more successful than females. And in some cases, I agree a male voice can make a song work better than a female voice. I won't deny that. But personally, I prefer women to perform the music I listen to. Look at my Last FM page to see my current favorite artists and most played songs, but know that I won't recommend every one of these artists to you because some of them are PERSONAL favorites that aren't necessarily genius artists. Click here to go to my Last FM page.

maandag 2 augustus 2010

Artist Recommendation: Danity Kane

Danity Kane, the R&B girl group Diddy selected on his Making The Band show, has split up. But their music lives on, and it's still worth checking out. I started listening to DK when their album Welcome To The Dollhouse was released, and when I found out that album is SUPER HOT, I also gave their first album Danity Kane a chance. And now that they're not releasing anything new because the group has broken up, I'm doing my best to find every non-album track they ever recorded. All in all, I now have pretty much every Danity Kane song and I can make a very good recommendation.

So, what tracks should you listen to first? I mean, you'll love every one of their songs eventually (just like me), but you have to start somewhere, right?
Ok, first the best songs on the Danity Kane album: Touching My Body, Heartbreaker, One Shot and Sleep On It. This album produced the hit Show Stopper, but I personally don't like that song more than average.
On the Welcome To The Dollhouse album, the best songs are: Pretty Boy, Damaged, Bad Girl (featuring Missy Elliott), Strip Tease, 2 Of You and Poetry. Well, this album is pretty much hot from beginning to end so you should listen to the whole album.
A nice non-album tracks is It's Yours (non-released track from Welcome To The Dollhouse). It's very catchy.

Last but not least, some of the girls from Danity Kane are trying to start off a solo career. You should definitely keep an eye on them. Listen to Aubrey O'Day's song Party All The Time, which features Young Money's female singer Shanell. You'll like it. :)