Mercury Rising

Monday the 5th of September was Freddie Mercury day. The day he would have turned 65, had he lived. This makes me feel a little old, but that’s not the point. The day’s Google doodle (pointed out to me with furious glee by one of my coworkers) led me to YouTube and numerous videos of Queen performing live. As I often do, I’d forgotten just how good they were. I spent much of the day fighting the urge to pump my fist and throw shapes at my desk*. Since I had so much fun with this, I’m going to pepper this post with some of the videos I found the most fun. Anything under the videos and written in italics is a comment on the video itself, and not strictly related to the rest of this post.

If you have to start somewhere, you might as well start here. File under: moments which made history.

As I was walking to the cinema yesterday to see Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy, I found myself thinking back to the Queen videos, but also to the post I previously wrote about how much I hated the last two Transformers films, and how much I adored Fast 5. I started wondering if a person’s taste in music might be reflected in their taste in film. I have fairly eclectic fast in music. I like a bit of Dido, a bit of Bjork. I love me some Avenged Sevenfold and some In Flames. I’m as likely to throw on a bit of Massive Attack as I am a bit of Linkin Park. Today I might be listening to At The Drive-In, where as on my walk yesterday my choice of backdrop was Spiritual Beggars. Like my mother before me, I’m also a bit of a Queen fan.

Obviously I have to include this one. Queen at their operatic best.

When challenged to name my favourite films, I’ve been picking the same five for quite some time (in no particular order):

  • Fight Club;
  • American Beauty;
  • Donnie Darko;
  • Amelie;
  • The Matrix.

I might also offer up three others I really love:

  • Out of Sight;
  • Pitch Black;
  • X-Men**.

Perhaps I might also add the first Pirates of the Caribbean film (or maybe Zoolander) to that list. Be that as it may, I’d say the list is reasonably eclectic. Not entirely evident in this list is my love of a really good action movie. Bad Boys. The Transporter. Rambo (2008). Fast 5. Demolition Man. Army of Darkness. Welcome to the Jungle. The Long Kiss Goodnight. Die Hard. I’m not going to try and match items from my musical taste to each of the films I’ve named here, because I don’t think the analogy is that exact, but I think Queen serves as an excellent peer to these action films.

I love this intro. That is how you work a crowd.

Freddie Mercury did not so much walk around the stage as stay perfectly still at the centre of everyone’s vision while the stage moved around him. He worked the crowd like a master while knocking every single note right out of the stadium. It wasn’t just about him, though. The band behind him was as tight as a gnat’s arse. Everything clicked together like the internals of a cuckoo clock. Queen songs were not generally high art, but they flowed brilliantly and they just took hold of you.

This is how a good action film should be. I want the characters to chew the scenery and have it feel right. I want the characters to be fleshed out enough to feel worthwhile. They don’t have to be Lester Burnham or Jack Foley, but I do need to give a shit about what happens to them. The plot should feel, if not possible, then plausible. If something doesn’t quite make sense then it should be okay because I’m having too much fun to care. I want to laugh joyously at the outrageousness of it. I want to feel like pumping my fist along with the protagonists’ success and then leave the cinema with a huge smile on my face. I’ll listen to some Emilíana Torrini soon, there’ll be time enough for that later. Right now, we are the champions, baby!

A beautiful, melancholic and very appropriate song. Seems like a good place to stop.

* For the record: conversation with my coworkers has revealed to me that had I done so, I could simply have told them I was listening to a bit of Queen and this otherwise odd behaviour would have become at least marginally understandable.

** Yes, the first one. It has a wonderful lightness of touch and flow, which (though it doesn’t excuse the film’s complete lack of a third act) does make it very dear to me.

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Epic Googleyep and Other Stories

Update: Redirected video to one which hasn’t been nuked.

I’m currently doing some tests on a couple of different data structure implementations for Clockwork Aphid, so while they’re running I thought I’d a bit of time to write a music related post, since I haven’t done one in a while.

Epic Googleyep

As you may or may not be aware, I spent a reasonable percentage of this year (about ten weeks) working in Australia. Some of that time was spent working offshore in this general area. I spent the latter offshore time on a boat called the Unlimited (fun fact: the company which owns this boat has two others: The No Limits; and The Limitless), a 24m catamaran, with for much of my trip had its full crew complement of twelve. For those of you counting at home, that’s two metres each. It was… a little cramped. It did have a reasonable common area, however, with a great big flat screen TV. Outside the harbor, TV reception was less than good, and it was fairly common that the TV would be left on in an area of good reception, only to have us drift (or actively move) into a much crappier area.

Such was it that I wondered into the mess when a certain music video was trying to come through from the other side. At least 50% of it was static, but what I did hear I quite liked. Much of what I actually saw consisted of a slightly emo looking guy walking through a forest towards the camera, backed by two strikingly attractive and very similar looking ladies (at the time I thought it might have been the same girl twice) in evening dresses, one black and one white. I wanted to know more, but the signal gave out completely before the song finished.

I did not have a lot to go on, so the next time the internet was functional, I fired up Google and brazenly typed in “music video black dress white dress,” and… win! I love it when that happens. Here’s the video:

It’s a little bit emo, but I like it. Good tune. Unless you’re reading this in Australia you’ve probably never heard of Micheal Paynter, but likely have heard of the The Veronicas, the two ladies singing in the background. Now… Perhaps this is down to the alluring power of a well cut evening dress and a knowing smile, but… Damn. I’ve generally thought of them as “pretty” (and sometimes “annoying,” musically) but they really are stunning in this video.

You Are Speaking My Language!

The title of my previous series of programming language related posts was, in case you hadn’t guessed, a reference to this:

Now, I love Juliette & The Licks, but this really isn’t their best song. In actual fact I find this entire album extremely disappointing (with the exception of “I never got to tell you what I wanted to”), where as the other two albums don’t really have a bad song on them. The song title fit the posts quite well, however, so I didn’t feel I could leave it out. I spent some time on YouTube trying to work out which other song of theirs I should post as well, and ended up coming to the conclusion that this was a safe bet:

It’s a good song and I love the video. I’ve also seen plenty of girls walking through Edinburgh at 11am on a Saturday who looked like they might break into this at any moment.

As an additional note here: Juliette Lewis herself confuses the hell out of me. I don’t find her attractive no matter how hard I try, but I do find her extremely sexy no matter how hard I try not to.

Gaga For Gaga

It’s another Lady Gaga cover and I love it!

This is clearly still Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” but with a rock opera feel on top, which I feel works very, very well. I can imagine this version of the song sounding amazing sung by Freddie Mercury, but then I suspect that might be the case for most Lady Gaga songs (not coincidentally).

Musical Arithmetic

Okay, so here’s the formula:

(A – B) + C = D

And here are the variables:

A =

Evanescence. More specifically: the original line up (as far as most of the world is concerned). I like Evanescence quite a bit, but that’s about 74.2% Amy Lee’s voice. The girl has one hell of a pair of lungs on her. I picked this particular song from the first album for reason which may become obvious later. For what it’s worth, I think Everybody’s Fool and Imaginary are a much better songs.

B =

Evanescence again? No. Well… yes, but the current line up. Specifically: Amy Lee herself. I picked this song from the second album (which is much better than the first) because it seems to have the most Amy Lee-ness in it. It doesn’t have an actual video, though, so alternatively:

B =

I figure having a deficit of Seether won’t affect the sum either way, so this works too.

C =

Former Irish American Idol contestant* Carly Smithson. Once again: A hell of a pair of lungs. Not an entirely dissimilar look, but quite a different vocal style, it would appear. Carly’s voice has a bit more blues in it, a bit more sultriness.

D =

We are the Fallen, the new band from Ben Moody, two other former members of Evanescence and Carly Smithson. Can you seen why I picked that particular Evanescence song? That’s more than a passing resemblance, style wise. There is a second reason I picked it, however. Carly has a less operatic voice, though, and a bit more range in terms of singing style. I love me some female fronted metal, so I’ll be keeping an eye on this band.

Okay, here’s another one which plays a bit better to her frankly spectacular voice:

D =

* That is: she’s Irish and was a contestant on “American Idol.” There is no such show as “Irish American Idol,” so far as I’m aware.

Just Can’t Recommend Highly Enough

Today I finished “The Girl Who Played With Fire”, translated by Reg Keeland from the swedish book of the same name by Stieg Larsson. It’s the sequel to ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (which is called “Men Who Hate Women” in the original swedish), and I really can’t recommend the pair of them highly enough (as you might have guessed from the title of this blog post).

I picked the first book up as the combination of the titular character being described as “an expert computer hacker” and the synopsis on the back cover put me in mind of Neil Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon”, not only one of my favourite books but also an outright work of genius, in my opinion. I would describe “Cryptonomicon” as recommended reading if you’re the sort of person who breaths oxygen and walks upright, if you work with computers I’d say it verges on being required reading. Since Stephenson lost the plot more recently (in my opinion, that is; I didn’t make it more than half way through “Quicksilver” before giving up in pained frustration) there has been a rather large cyber-fiction based hole in my world. “…Dragon Tattoo” seems as though it might be poised to fill it.

In fact it did not. It’s a different beast all together. A slow burning and wonderful one, written (and translated) with great skill and care. Both books are very powerful reads, laced with a hatred of misogyny and criticism of a system which doesn’t do nearly enough to prevent it. It’s also a ripping great yarn of a mystery, full of strong male and female characters. Nominally, the books are the first two parts of a trilogy. In fact Larsson planned ten books and left an unfinished fourth manuscript together with outlines for books five and six when he died. I’m waiting with bated breath for the release of the third book. I just hope it ties things up reasonably well and so won’t leave me too curious about the contents of book I’ll never be able to read.

Something else I can’t recommend highly enough, while I’m on the subject, is this:

I love it when an an apparently shallow and vacant pop star turns out to be really quite absurdly talented…

PS If you’re reading this via Facebook and intend to comment, please do so on the actual blog, rather than on Facebook. Thanks 🙂

Serendipitous Nostalgia

Today I was walking home from work and absent-mindedly listening to music, when I noticed that that my supposedly shuffled iPod was displaying a definite preference for one band in particular. A band I haven’t really spared a seconds thought in some years. As I walked I hatched a plot a write a blog post regarding the nostalgia this inspired. So I arrived home and thought to have a look on youTube for some reference material to post…

There is a reason I have a marked preference for the combination of a heavy rock music and female vocals, and her name is Aimee Echo. In the late nineties she fronted a band called Human Waste Project with vocals which managed to be both sugary sweet and ragged at the same time. My youthful self took notice. My youthful self also attended a festival called the “Ozzfest” with his friend Rich and said friend’s father, where he found Human Waste Project to be a late addition to the bill. My youthful self promptly had the back of head damn near blown off by one of the best live shows he had (or was ever to) see.

As it turned out, that was to be their second to last show. Aimee Echo left the band, who sounded like this:

and formed a new one, called at first Hero and then theSTART, who sounded more like this:

Though I like this second song, I find that the raw edge is missing from her voice. This is probably due to the more electronic sound of the new band and thus the requisite multi-tracking of a voice I don’t feel requires it. The point is I don’t like the second band as much, not least because this is the only song of there’s I found which has much of a chorus.

So where was I… ah yes, I was searching youTube for content to post. What I found was a lot of presumably live videos. I saw one for “Dog”, thought “sweet!” and clicked. The video loaded. Aimee Echo was talking into the mike. “So a long time ago… there was a band in the nineties… called Human Waste Project… and we are them…”

Hang on… this is a new video… and then the opening riff gave me goose bumps…

I’m aware the sound quality is awful on the video, but here it is:

HERE

A bit of frantic web searching promptly revealed that yes, gloriously, the band were back to together. At least to some extent. They’d played two shows in 2008 (well… more like one and a half, since the first one was actually the encore from a theSTART show) and were rehearsing for a reunion tour.

It’s when things like this come together that I’m given to smile inwardly and think that perhaps there is someone “up there” who likes me.

For what it’s worth, another lady who had an (arguably stronger) effect on my musical taste is Sandra Nasic. So, for the sake of completeness, here’s a couple of videos of her singing with her (now defunct) band, “Guano Apes”, and another of her providing guest vocals on an Apocalyptica song.

Apocalyptica, in case you were wondering, are a group of Finnish ‘cello players, who once exclusively played Metalica covers, but now play original material. Here’s another one, this time with Corey Taylor:

I think that’s enough music for now. Tootles.

Serendipity

Some things are too perfect for even me to not blog about them.

A little while ago I posted a fantastic song called “Still Alive”, which was from the soundtrack to a computer game.

Some time before that I talked about a Swedish singer called Lisa Miskovsky whom I quite like.

Sometimes the universe gives you lemons… other times it gives you awesome…

So, without further ado, I give a song called “Still Alive”, from a computer game… sung by Lisa Miskovsky:

I quite like the song… but I think the game looks pretty awesome. This might be a game I’ll actually buy and enjoy (making it the first since The Orange Box).

Flip side

Two updates in one day shocker!

The last one was a little downcast, though, and I felt a need to pass on something awesome by way of balance. Here it is:

Perhaps you’re thinking “Huh? Who’s this guy?” or “What’s with the cake?”. You’ve been missing out if that’s the case. Jonathan Coulton (for that is the man’s name) is a computer programmer turned unlikely rock star (You scoff? He has a song in Rock Band. I’m having trouble thinking of a better benchmark), who’s become something of a geek standard thanks to the somewhat unlikely nature of his subject matter (one song has Pluto’s moon singing its condolences regarding its loss of planet status).

The song itself is the song over the closing credits of the game Portal, which is, quite frankly, an absolute fucking work of art. You probably know that I’m several different flavours of nerd and so JC’s* stuff appeals to me on a fairly base level , but I’m not a hardcore gamer. I have above average social skills, leave the house regularly and I prefer making love to playing computer games. There. I said it, and with a completely straight face. But that game is complete genius, through and through. I think Valve do amazing work in everything they do, and the fact they got JC* to write the song for the closing credits of one of their games makes me grin from ear to ear.

Check out some more of his stuff, it might make you smile. If you do and it does, leave a comment telling me about it, because that would make me smile**.

Update: His website is here http://www.jonathancoulton.com/ And you can buy (and download for free) all his music there.

That is all.

* No, not that JC

** At the risk of me smiling so widely that the top of my head falls off.

In search of shiny Swedish music

So in my last (none film review) blog entry I posted a video by a Swedish goth metal band called “Beseech” and then mentioned that they’d split to form two other bands.

I was bored waiting for code to run today and did a little digging. Seems there’s a bit more too it than that. The female singer joined formed another band called The Mary Major, which also has a male singer.

The male singer from Beseech is called Erik. He has a beard and long hair.

The male singer from The Mary Major is also called Erik and also has a beard, but has short hair and wears a hat.

But I am not fooled! Though he dons a disguise, my eyes do not lie! For it is he, the same Penniless Sitar Player! Wait… no… that’s not right…

Anyway. In my opinion they aren’t very good. They do have one song I like, though. It’s called “Split” and you can find it on their myspace page, here:

The Mary Major

Others members of Beseech formed a band called Those We Don’t Speak Of (TWDSO, henceforth), and their story is a little more interesting. Also, their music is better. Among the musicians who also joined the band was singer Sara Löfgren, an established singer songwriter. That interests me because it pretty much never happens here. Their home page seems to be down (I’ll try and shed some light on that in a moment), but you can find some music here:

TWDSO at MySpace

I quite like it. Not a lot of subtlety to be found, no, but there’s a propulsive quality to the music I enjoy very much. Also I’m a complete sucker for a powerful female voice over the top of a driving heavy rhythm.

But wait… there’s more. It seems Sara Löfgren left the band due to pregnancy and was replaced by another established solo artist. This time one Emma Varg, and you can listen to her here:

Emma Varg at MySpace

She also has a (mostly) working home page, here:

Emma Varg

…which says she is looking for new members to join her band… and that was circa February 2008. Also, no mention of TWDSO and a lot of media links are broken on the site. Confusing, no? I’ll come back to that, because first I want to talk about her music. Again, I like it, for much the same reasons as previously mentioned. There’s also a brazen quality to her lyrics I like… and the closest we get to that in the UK is the Sugar Babes singing “..who do you want me to be, to make you sleep with me…”

I find I really want to listen to this new band, but am a little starved of information. Emma Varg’s MySpace says that she’s taking over on a temporary basis until she gets her new band members, but another interview suggested she was a permanent replacement. I almost suspect this new band will have a different name, that would explain the missing / broken home pages.

I also learned a new Swedish music related word today: Melodeath. I have resolved to find out more about it.

Eclecticism

Seems the Facebook app does not do what it’s supposed to. Never mind, I shall content myself with the (better) WordPress interface. Maybe I’ll look into writing a Facebook app which interfaces with my RSS feed. That would be cool.

I thought I would write a music related post, since I found a couple of things on YouTube which piqued my interest. First an entirely serious one:

When I first heard this on the radio I thought it sounded so fresh they must be a new band. But no, they’ve been around quite a while, I even knew other songs by them. Unfortunately I don’t like many of them, but you can’t have everything. Apparently.

Next, something quite different. Helen played me this at a dinner party on Saturday night for the comedy value. I went looking for it on YouTube, mostly out of curiosity regarding the identity of the female singer, and found a live version. Promise me you’ll listen to at least some of it, and not just hit stop as soon as the guitars start. It might make you smile.

I think I genuinely like this. It helps that I actually like ABBA. I think they wrote really good songs. I also love cross genre covers, and this is definitely that. The female singer’s voice really works for me as well. I had a look for some of their other stuff, but it’s really not good, not good at all. It seems they split and formed two entirely new bands, both of which are a slight improvement, though.

Told you I had eclectic taste. Here are a couple more for your edification:

A soft one to start off with. Dido is so much better live. In my opinion her voice is perfect, but sounds overly processed on her recordings.

Bit of a heavier one, there. This is about as heavy as my taste in music gets. I love the singer’s voice, though. If you’re confused by this wait for the chorus. If you don’t have the pertinence for that, try this one by the same band:

See? The band, if you’re interested, are called “In Flames”. Look up a song called “Dead End” if you want to know what happens when a Swedish metal (death metal? pop metal? disco metal? death pop disco metal?) band collaborates with a Swedish pop singer song writer…

How about another soft one? Okay, but I’m going to get it from an unexpected place:

Yes, that was Slipknot. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

I’ll skew a bit heavier again, but not too far.

I’m a little disappointed that YouTube couldn’t supply “Father’s Daughter” from “Like a Bolt of Lightning”, but this will do.

I’m tempted to throw in a bit of Massive Attack, a bit of Evanescence, a bit of Killswitch Engage… but this post really could go on for ever, so I’ll stop it here.