Archive for the ‘The Cardigans’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: PALEHOUND-A Place I’ll Always Go (2017).

Ellen Kempner’s voice is a bit louder in the mix so you can really hear the words despite the fact that she is still singing mostly in a whisper.

It’s a logical step from her previous album and every thing sounds a bit bigger and a bit better.

“Hunter’s Gun” is slow and a little creepy with the echo on her vocals and her whispered lyrics.  There’s also some great weird effects floating around in the background–especially by the end as the echo more or less takes over.

“Carnations” starts simply enough with a quiet chugging riff.  But the chorus is a wonderful–louder guitar with the guitar and vocals doing the same catchy melody.  It also has some great lyrics

They’re still in love with their ex
And I’m not feeling my best
This is a bad combination

‘Cause I’ve been dreaming I might
Just up and bail on this plight
And maybe go on vacation

Pack up my shit in the dark
And if the car doesn’t start
It spares us both conversations

“Room” is slower more acoustic-feeling.  It’s a sweetly romantic song with the lovely chorus line “She keeps me…  at night.”

“If You Met Her” starts out kind of sinister musically, but it has a really catchy chorus as well  It’s a wonderful song about breakup and new love perfectly summed up with this ending line

I’m with someone new
And I know that you would love her if you met her

The set up of rocker followed by slower song continues with  “Silver Toaster,” a loose, acoustic song that reminds of a snarky/simple Nirvana song (with a banjo solo!)

“Turning 21” has a big shoegaze guitar sound and a wonderfully catchy melody in the bridge.

“Flowing Over” mixes some good guitar lines and a rocking mid bridge section but its the oh oh oh oh section and the way it changes throughout the song that is the major hook.

“Backseat” opens with pulsing keys.  It’s a dark mediation that segues into the beautiful guitar of “Feeling Fruit, ” a pedestrian-seeming lyric that is much deeper and quite moving.

“At Night I’m Alright With You.” is a quiet moody song with a real Twin Peaks vibe.

These two releases are great but to really get to see how amazing Ellen is, check her out live.

[READ: January 23, 2018] “A Change in Fashion”

When I read this recently it sounded really familiar.  Clearly I had read it back in 2006 and it was so striking that I remembered it 12 years later.

And indeed, it is a memorable story, even if it’s not especially profound or funny–it’s mildly amusing and thoughtful.

Basically, this is an account of the way fashions changed after the Age of Revelation.  Girls and women were happily showing off their thongs but it was as if, after a half a century of reckless exposure, a weariness had overcome women…a disenchantment to invite a bold male gaze.

At first girls were opposed to it–it reminded them of old photographs in boring albums.  But soon it became stylish to wear dresses that brushed the floor–wearing lambskin gloves and rising collars. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_03_04_13Chast.inddSOUNDTRACK: DEFTONES-B-Sides & Rarities (2005).


Deftones released this B-sides collection after Deftones.  It contains mostly covers.  They also later released an album called Covers which has all of these covers and some new ones.  Covers was released on Record Store Day and is really hard to get now.  The covers that are extra to that CD are: “Drive” (originally by The Cars), “Caress” (originally by Drive Like Jehu), “Do You Believe” (originally by The Cardigans), “Ghosts” (originally by Japan) and “Sleep Walk” (originally by Santo & Johnny).   Despite those interesting songs, B-Sides and Rarities is no slouch.

“Savory” is a cover of a song by Jawbox.  Chino’s voice sounds so utterly different here, I completely don’t recognize him.  It’s not the most impressive start to the collection as even after a lot of listens the song still hasn’t really stuck for me, but it’s also one of the few songs I didn’t know beforehand.  (It turns out the cover was actually by the band Far (with the members of Deftones playing as well)).  But it was the Cocteau Twins cover that really blew me away.  The Cocteau Twins, an ethereal lighter than air band get a very respectful treatment here.  “Wax and Wane” has a pretty heavy bass line which Chi produces (with cool effects on it), and while Chino doesn’t try to ape Elizabeth’s Fraser’s voice, he does a great job in her register (how he figured out the words, I can’t imagine). Lynyrd Skynyrd’s  “Simple Kind of Man” gets the Deftones treatment with whispered/creepy vocals in the first verse and a big loud chorus.  The cover of Helmet’s “Sinatra” is very heavy (I don’t know the original but I know other Helmet songs) but it doesn’t sound quite like Helmet–a perfect Deftones take on the band, with very low tuned bass strings.  The second biggest surprise comes from their cover of Sade’s “No Ordinary Love.”  I don’t know the original, but I do know about Sade and this song keeps all of the funky bass and the slinky sexiness of a typical Sade song.  But it adds an interesting slightly sinister vibe that really makes the song stand out.

The band performs a great spooky gothy cover of The Cure’s “If Only Tonight We Could Sleep” (at what I gather is a live tribute show) complete with that weird Middle Eastern sounding guitar and the cool splash cymbal.  It’s followed by a great cover of The Smiths’ “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” and he does a surprisingly good Morrissey.   Their cover of Duran Durans “The Chauffeur” was the first cover that I had heard by the band and it was the first time I thought about how cool a Duran Duran song could sound: win-win.

There are some reinterpretations of Deftones originals as well.  “Change (In the House of Flies)” works very well in the acoustic format–sounding somehow more dramatic.  “Teenager” has a trippy Twin Peaks vibe when it opens.  This is the “Idiot Version” with guys from Idiot Pilot joining the Deftones.  It doesn’t sound all that different from the version on White Pony and yet I really didn’t recognize it out of context.  “Crenshaw Punch/I’ll Throw Rocks at You” is the heaviest thing on the album, with loud abrasive guitars.  It was a B-Side from Around the Fur.  My least favorite track is “Black Moon” which is a sung by B-Real from Cypress Hill.  I liked Cypress Hill a lot back in the day, but there’s something unsatisfying about this pairing–or maybe it’s just that this songs really sticks out on the disc.  The acoustic “Digital Bath” is trippy and very cool–it’s amazing when they strip down their songs, which are usually so abrasive and heavy and they still manage to sound great.  “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)” is another acoustic piece with a remix by DJ Crook.

More than just a stop gap or a collection of misfit tracks, this is a really cohesive Deftones album and actually a great place to start for people trying to ease their way into the band.

[READ: March 3, 2013] “Summer of ’38”

This story is about Montse.  Montse is an old woman with three children.  Her husband died some time ago and she is by herself.  Her daughters come to visit her but she doesn’t like to be a bother to them.  On this occasion, her daughter Ana says that she met a man who is writing a book about the war and he would like to talk to Montse to see if she has any recollections of the time (she was a teenager in 1938).

Montse doesn’t want to talk to the man, she says she won’t remember anything and why doesn’t he write the book without her.  But the man arrives anyway.  When he asks her questions, she says she knows nothing about the war.  But he says that a retired general (for Franco) is coming to their town to show the writer war locations.  The general says he remembers Montse’s name and would like to meet with her.  His name is Rudolfo Ramirez.  She says she barely remembers him and that maybe she’s even thinking of someone else.

The writer says it’s not a big deal but is she would like to meet with him he will be at the cafe on Saturday for a casual lunch. She gives a reluctant maybe and the writer leaves. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A CAMP-Studio Sessions on WFUV [available on NPR] (2009).

I rather enjoyed A Camp’s latest album Colonia.  I discovered this session while browsing through NPR’s archives.  There’s a pretty lengthy (and amusing) interview with the band and then they play three acoustic songs: “Love Has Left the Room,” “Stronger Than Jesus” and “I Signed the Line.”

Nina’s voice sounds fantstic, and in such a simple acoustic session it’s her voice that really sells the music.  But this is another instance where an acoustic, stripped down session reveals the strength of the songs themselves.  The album has a lot of production, but when it’s just bare bones guitar and bass, the melodies still hold up.  And again, Nina’s voice just soars through these meloides.  Anyone who got sick of The Cardigans needs to hear what Nina Persson can do in other settings.

Check it out here.

[READ: October 29, 2010] “The Comfort Zone”

The subtitle gives the foundation of the article: Franzen loved Peanuts when he was growing up.  This article was timed to coincide with the release of the awesome Fantagraphics collection of original Peanuts cartoons. I’ve only read the first of these Peanuts books, but it was really eye-opening and quite fascinating to see that such odd thoughts were published on a daily basis on the comic section!  And, I hate to sound curmudgeonly (that’s Charlie Brown’s job) but Franzen is right, the original Peanuts cartoons are far more existentially dark and satisfying than the fluffy Snoopy & Woodstock cartoons of the late 70s and 80s.

Anyhow, Franzen loved these early comics (and he makes a wonderful comment about spending a lot of time (probably age-inappropriate time) with talking animals: Snoopy, Narnia, A.A. Milne).   But as with all of these longer Franzen articles, it’s about much more than just Charlie Brown.   One night when he was a young boy, his older brother Tom had a huge fight with their parents and stormed out.   Franzen sets this up in the context of generation gap that was sweeping through the country in the late 60s/early 70s.

And it’s this unsettledness that also explains the popularity of the Peanuts cartoons. Despite all of the differences between generations, everyone agreed that they loved Peanuts (except for Franzen’s parents, evidently–his dad never read the funnies, and his mom only liked a strip called The Girls, which sounds like a prototype of Cathy).

The other angle that this article takes is about losers.  Charlie Brown was a loser, there’s no doubt.  But Franzen himself was a winner.  He was the king of spelling bees in his school. (This relates to Charlie Brown misspelling “maze” as MAYS, a perfect misspell for a sports fan).  And when a new kid comes to challenge him he steps up his game…and makes the kid cry.

This, of course, leads to guilt. Charlie Brown one said, “Everything I do makes me feel guilty.” And now Franzen feels guilty about the boy in his class, and about being mean to a frog as a kid and about the wash cloths at the bottom of the closet which don’t get used enough (Sarah and I have jokey guilt about that too) and even about the stuffed animals who don’t get cuddled enough. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE SALTEENS-“Frequency” (2010).

I immediately enjoyed the poppy sensibilities of The Salteens. And I knew I’d want to listen to them on CBC Radio 3 again.  There are quite a few tracks available online there.

This one comes from their new EP, Moths.  A little research shows that they’ve actually been around for quite awhile and even appeared on Yo Gabba Gabba! (early 21st century’s badge of coolness).  It is very poppy, features male/female duet vocals and is immensely catchy.

It’s so catchy, in fact that I played their CBC radio songs over and over.  While I liked some better than others (I wasn’t too keen on “Sunnyside Street”), their twee pop was so joyful that I found myself singing along.  They are definitely twee, but not treacly, and in that respect that are very indie sounding (like a less bummed out Death Cab for Cutie or an early Cardigans).

Their arrangements are always pretty simple, but they range from guitars to keyboard to horns (“Nice Day” is almost all drums with the simplest piano and occasional horns).  And it contains the humorous couplet: “I know you think that I’m gay, but I just play the part”

[READ: July 5, 2010] “Lenny Hearts Eunice”

I’ve really enjoyed Shteyngart’s novels, so I was pleased to see him included in 20 Under 40.  This short story is set in another of his future dystopia, complete with a shlubby main character.

It opens with the obvious (yet very satisfying in this case) technique of a diary entry.  This works really well because the narrator is so strong (not physically) and quirky.  Lenny begins this diary because he is in love with Eunice Park, a young Korean woman with whom he shared a moment (and later an intimacy).  And he intends to win her over.

Lenny is a Research Coordinator of the Post-Human Services Division of the Staatling-Wapachung Corporation, a corporation bent on making everyone (especially its employees) immortal.  Of course, since Lenny is an older, out of shape nebbish, who has just spent a year in Rome gorging on carbs, his future looks bleak.  Rome is where he met Eunice by the way. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DANGER MOUSE AND SPARKLEHORSE present: Dark Night of the Soul (2010).

Seems like most things that Danger Mouse touches involve lawsuits.  I’m not entirely sure why this disc had such a hard time seeing the light of day.  But it is due for a proper release in July.  Although by now, surely everyone has obtained a copy of the music, so why would anyone give EMI any money for the disc (since they hid it away in the first place).

The name that is not listed above is David Lynch, who is an important contributor to the project.  He creates all the visuals (and the visuals in the book that was the original release format).  He also contributed vocals to two tracks on the CD.  (His vocals are weird and spacey, just like him…and if you remember his voice from Twin Peaks, just imagine Gordon singing (but with lots of effects).

The rest of the disc is jam packed with interesting singers: Wayne Coyne (from The Flaming Lips), Gruff Rhys (from Super Furry Animals), Jason Lytle (from Grandaddy) on my two favorite tracks, Julian Casablancas (from The Strokes), Black Francis, Iggy Pop, James Mercer (from The Shins), Nina Persson (from The Cardigans), Suzanne Vega, and Vic Chesnutt.

I’m not sure if Danger Mouse and Mark Linkous wrote the music already knowing who the singers were going to be, but musically the tracks work very well.  And yet, despite the different sounds by the different singers, the overall tone and mood of the disc is very consistent: processed and scratchy, melodies hidden deep under noises and effects.   Even the more “upbeat” songs (James Mercer, Nina Persson) are dark meanderings.

It took me a few listens before I really saw how good this album was.  On the surface, it’s a samey sounding disc.  But once you dig beneath, there’s some really great melodies, and it’s fascinating how well the songs stay unified yet reflect the individual singers.

EMI is going to have to pull out all the stops to make it a worthy purchase for those of us who have already found the disc.  Since The Lynch book was way overpriced for my purchase, (and they surely won’t include it with this CD), they need to include at least a few dozen Lynch photos (and more).  And with a list price of  $19 (NINETEEN!) and an Amazon price of $15, the disc should clean your house and improve your wireless connection too.

[READ: June 1, 2010] Bloom County Vol. 1

Boy, did I ever love Bloom County.  Back in high school I had more drawings of Opus and crew in my locker than anything else.  (I used to reproduce the cartoons by hand, I was never one of those “cut out of the paper” people.)  And so, there are tons of punch lines that I still remember twenty-five years later.

And yet, despite my fondness for the cartoon (and the fact that I owned (and read many times)) all of the collected books, I was amazed at how much of the early strips I had no memory of, at all.  True, some of the really early ones are here for the first time in collected form (according to an interview there are hundreds of comics in collected form for the first time in these volumes).   But those early 1980 comics…wha? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A CAMP-Colonia (2009).

This is the second album from the side project of The Cardigan’s Nina Persson.  This disc was created with her husband Nathan Larson from Shudder to Think.  Their first album had a country flair to it, but this one eschews that entirely for a pop feel that is entirely different from The Cardigans’ two main styles: the “cheesy” happy pop of “Lovefool” and the bitter guitar pop of their later discs.

Although like the Cardigans, Nina uses her beautiful, almost angelic voice to mask the critical, often bitter lyrics that fuel this disc.  The music is kind of sparse, which really allows for Nina’s voice to shine through. “Stronger Than Jesus” is a wonderful song about, of all things, love.  While “Bear on the Beach” opens with a delicate twinkling piano. And “Love Has Left the Room” has soaring vocals and a wonderfully catchy melody line.

The best track is probably “Golden Teeth and Silver Medals” a cool duet with a tongue-twisting chorus.

They also have a bit of fun with genres, so “Here Are Many Wild Animals” opens like a doo-wop song, but swerves into a cool minor key masterpiece.  Even the album closer, the slow, meandering “The Weed Had Got There First” works nicely with Nina’s voice (although I wouldn’t want a whole album like this).

Anyone who misses the Cardigans would do well to track down this disc; or, if you find the Cardigans too treacly, this is a great representation of the true side of Nina’s character.  I just can’t decide if the A in the band name is the indefinite article or the letter A.

[READ: March 3, 2010] “By Song, Not Album”

My friend and coworker Anna loaned me this issue of The Sun saying that she thought I would enjoy it.  I’d never heard of it before, but I’m always up for new things, so I decided to check it out.  I really enjoyed the Photo Essay “With Eyes Shut.”  And I read two of the longer pieces as well.

This first one, is, I believe non-fiction.  And if it is non-fiction, it is the least believable non-fiction piece I may have ever read.  I was interested to read it because of the title, which seemed an interesting conceit for a story.  And while that does come into play, the story is really about a young woman who is studying abroad in France who is suffering from a severe depression.

The only one who can pull her through is her father, who is similarly afflicted with depression.  He flies over to assist her and they wind up spending several days together.

What I found unbelievable, was the way her father behaves.   (more…)

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I’ve been a huge fan of the Cardigans since their first U.S. single “Carnival”.  I was living in Boston and I vividly remember the first time I heard it on the radio.  It was bubbly and treacly and then about halfway through it turned into something fantastic.

And that’s how I’ve felt about them ever since.  They obviously hit the big time with “Lovefool” and then became something of a one hit wonder band (in the US, although not in Europe).  Which is a shame because they’ve written some amazing songs.

I just learned about this Best of (not released in the US). It’s got 22 tracks on disc one including all of their international hits and a few surprises.  Disc Two features a ton of B-sides and other fun things.  I have a lot of these tracks from when I was a singles collector, but it’s a lot more fun to have them in one place.  And, I stopped collecting singles quite a few years ago, so it’s nice to have these newer B-side too.

But perhaps the most fun part of this collection is the liner notes.  You get a band’s eye view of all of the songs–where they recorded them, what worked and what didn’t and even what it’s like to have unexpected enormous success (for a short period of time).

I’ve seen the Cardigans live about three times.  Their live shows bring out a whole new layer that is not apparent on their discs (except for their Black Sabbath covers).  They can be a pretty heavy, rocking band.  On the last tour I saw, Nina came out in leather pants and they opened with a cover of “Iron Man.”  It was pretty intense.  Don’t judge by their adorable looks, they’re a solid band, and this is a great place to delve into more than the hit.

[READ: November 30, 2009] “Mermaid Fever”

This story has a fairly simple premise: a mermaid washes up dead on a beach.  The town where she was found claims her as their own.  They display her in a museum and everyone from miles around comes to see her.  Mermaid fever sweeps the town.

What was interesting about the story, beyond the supernatural premise, was the amount of detail Millhauser threw in.  Everyone is familiar with when some kind of fever sweeps a town, but with the mermaid, it took on far more unrealistic proportions.  Perfect for humor but also for the underlying message.  So, it was fun to see the way everyone started dressing like a mermaid: bathing suits that taper down like a tail. But it was also interesting to hear people complaining about how dehumanizing this new trend became. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PETER, BJORN & JOHN-Writer’s Block (2006).

My friend Eugenie told me about these guys: 3 Swedish songwriters whose names are, indeed Peter, Bjorn and John. This is their 3rd CD and I’m not even sure what I thought they would sound like except that Eugenie has great taste. I think I thought they would be a bit more synth poppy (I guess the Abba connection is pretty strong) but instead, they write wonderfully poppy songs, but they are more folky, or alt-rocky. I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this CD.

All three guys sing. Peter sings most of the songs and he sounds like a combination of John Lennon and Michael Penn…his voice varies quite a bit between songs. Bjorn sings two of the songs. His voice is quite different…deeper and more stark, and it’s quite a nice change from Peter’s (not that there’s anything bad about Peter’s). John sings one song, and his voice is fairly similar to Peter’s. But they all do harmonies, so you hear them all the time.

It took me about three listens to fall in love with this CD. There’s a couple of songs that are immediately gratifying; however, the rest really reward multiple listens. Interestingly, it’s the two Bjorn songs that are immediately catchy. “Amsterdam” and “Let’s Call It Off” (which gets a remix on the album too). “Amsterdam” (interestingly, Guster have a fantastically catchy song called “Amsterdam” which this song is not) has this immediately striking whistle (as in a person whistling) as its opening motif. It is stark and haunting, and will have you whistling it for days. “Young Folks” is a duet with Victoria Bergsman (not sure who she is) and has a deliriously catchy chorus. “The Chills” has this great shh-shh-shh sound that is at once chilly and interesting and reminiscent of The Cure’s “A Forest.” As you might guess, the CD covers some pretty different styles and genres, yet the album is not a mishmash. There’s a consistent PB&J sound that unifies the record and leaves you wanting to hit play again after it’s over.

The Swedish music scene has just been exploding lately…The Hives, Dungen, Jose Gonzales, Jens Lekman and PB&J are all adding to the (sadly seen as one-hit novelties) wonderful Cardigans.

[READ: January 2008] Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog

For Christmas, Sarah’s mom gave her this book, not knowing that she missed the intended target by mere inches. As soon as I saw the book I immediately had to read it. Diagramming sentences was always a guilty pleasure of mine, and I am saddened to hear that kids don’t do it anymore. (more…)

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