Sunday, May 31, 2015

Moonlit Driving Illusions

In the nearly three years I've been driving my car, I've come to find that there are certain songs that are just perfect for listening to quietly while driving along at night, mostly in the city.

This one's a perfect example:

It just sounds like night in the city to me. It happened to come on the radio while I was driving home after time spent with a friend. I was on Leitrim, with the moonlight shining on me from above. Then I saw the airport lights and masts, and it was perfect.

It's a smooth, cool-sounding song to me. Just the music's atmosphere. I originally thought a woman sang the lyrics, with backing female singers, but interestingly it's actually several British black men - literally black-skinned. I synesthetically get mostly nighttime imagery and scenes.

This isn't the only song that works perfectly at night - there are others, except I can't really name them because I never hear them enough to try to figure out what they are. Gowan's 'Moonlight Desires' works, though it sounds obvious. I should try and figure them out - maybe I can make a list and a subsequent CD or something so I get specific songs for each occasion. After all, there are songs good for driving in the morning or in the rain - 'Birmingham' by Amanda Marshall sounds like a morning song to me, while 'Sheriff' by Tenants sounds like an afternoon rush hour thing and 'Heart and Soul' by T'Pau sounds good to listen to in the rain. Songs for the dusk, evening, night, midday, whatever. Songs for after you've dropped your friend off and you have a bit of a drive home.

I will see about putting together a project like this, and maybe post the results when I have them eventually.

Red Cloud

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Got something to focus on, two 'new' songs I've put my ears to.

Of course they aren't new - one is from thirty years ago this year, and the other is from thirteen years ago (yeah, only thirteen years).

For the one released in 1985, it was something that has entered and left my mind lazily for the past twelve years or so, in similar fashion as songs like 'It Feels So Good' by Sonique, or 'Sour Girl' by Stone Temple Pilots, or 'Lotus' by R.E.M. Shortly after I first heard it, I recall playing a ball game with my then-friend Myles and Duncan during recess in sixth grade, and having the song blasting in my mind while kicking the ball around.

It was this:

As the background image shows, it was part of the soundtrack to that movie (Three Men & a Baby). I don't recall watching it in full, but I know my mother has it recorded from TV on VHS (something she did constantly throughout the late 80s/early 90s - we have a tub full of ancient VHSs of TV-broadcasted movies of huge range, all written down in faded pen on a label on the side). I do recall watching the movie's introduction however - which is where this song plays. It caught my eye - what I remember is a constant camera pan of wall sketches and drawings that continued on as credits showed on the screen as the song played. The song, like the wall drawings, stayed in my mind.

When I listen to it now, after having it randomly come and go after all this time, I hear exactly what my memory played - a bright chorus with a constant beat, a woman singing this "bad bad boy" refrain, and this resolution at the end. I mapped the root note of that chorus as E flat, which is a bright note/chord to use.

Like the typical 80s song, horns are prevalent and there's your typical booming drums that start the verse at the beginning. The horns are nice; the deep drum fills predictable - and the voice refreshing and attractive.

But to get critical here, there are some things I find problematic or pointless. Like the thirty-second drum introduction. You get nothing but this drum beat for half a minute, nothing else - then the deep booms come in to start the song, almost when you aren't expecting it. Deep booms start virtually every 80s pop song. Booms and horns and saxes and synths dominate 80s songs as string sections and funky bass lines dominate 70s music - while piano, tinkly drums, super-low bass lines and bubbliness dominate 90s stuff.

I find the song awkwardly put together. The progression isn't bad (the music sets the right tone for the song's subject matter) and the chorus is nice, but you only maybe hear it twice with three verses in between, a sort of bridge, and a long fade-out that's the same as the bridge - which has this annoying, faintly loud background vocal refrain of "bad boy, bad boy, boys will be boys" etc. over and over while the vocalist repeats "feeling restless," etc. over top. More could have been done to make it sound more clever and fun, because you find yourself surprised that it's already over, especially considering it may be easy to zone out during that bridge, brief final verse, and long fade out of the same. Yet it's over 4 minutes long. If I like the song, it's the chorus that shines to me, and that's about it. The lyrics are kind of silly when I think about them - "you call me on the phone, it goes ring...ring...ring-a-ring-a-ring..." Nice voice and all, just silly words.

Music: B
Lyrics: C-

Update May 28: I change my grade. I embedded what appears to be more of a remix of the song rather than the original. I've since listened to that and it's somewhat better - in terms of arrangement anyway (remixes are never chronological or smooth or linear to listen to). The music gets a B+; the lyrics basically stay the same - though I love the sensual-sounding "you naughty" line right before she launches into the chorus. And having seen the music video - what a beauty. Really.

The second song was yet another thing I heard at Wal-Mart. I've heard it a couple of times. To my surprise, the closing assistant manager gave me the name of the band even though the song had already ended by the time I saw him, so that gave me enough to lead me to the right song.

The very first thing you hear (not the ambient noise you actually first hear, the music) was what drew me in. And it came out in 2002. I'm not usually the type to go for this electronic disco stuff, or probably even album covers that are essentially crazy rainbow colours (then again, I quite like a couple of songs off of Cosmic Thing by the B-52's, and I especially like the look, colour, and arrangement of the album cover - just as rainbow-y) but it's the rare funk song that has a sound I find refreshing and clean and enjoyable. I could dance to it. I like the scratchy, tinny-sounding music progression during the "going downtown" refrain (I'll figure out the music in a second). It makes me think of long summer afternoons turning to evenings. It's D-DE-EA...AE-E flat-D. However, I dislike the male vocals during the empty drum verse, particularly the backing vocals that respond to the main vocals. It kind of sounds like he's stuttering and can't immediately remember the next couple of words to sing, and the little responses just make me think those voices are of young children. I'm not into listening to young children chanting. It turns the bit of song into a pep rally for children to me.

But the bass is fast and funky, altering between octaves, the guitar is fun, and the little keyboard bits are just as colourful and nice. The sound of the snare drum changes, which I like. The oddly-named band comes from Denmark, making them the second band from there whose song I kind of like. I say 'oddly-named' because while it's a good creative idea to pair up contrasts in a name, I find this one a little...too contrasted. Too obvious. Almost contrived in its obviousness. 'Celtic Slavics' or 'Canadian Americans' are oxymorons but don't sound as crazily apart or polar from each other as 'Junior Senior' to me.

Music: A-
Lyrics: C+

Seems I've found some great music but not great lyrics. Eh. They're songs I kind of like and may listen to more than often - at least in the latter song's case. Nice to get something new from Denmark. Other than Asteroids Galaxy Tour, the only other music I've heard from them was "Barbie Girl" by Aqua (yet another influence on how I perceive the 90s as blue). Thinking about that thing makes me laugh. I guess the Danish are pretty great at creating funky electronic stuff.

We'll see how these age with me.

Red Cloud

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The 100-Year-Old Man Review

I know I've written about the novel and reviewed that on here already, but I haven't really talked about the film.

Originally, I had found a way to download it and watch it (considering it wasn't available here) but being a 90% Swedish-language film, with bits in Russian, Spanish, French and English, I could only follow it based on my knowledge of the plot of the novel. That didn't always help considering the film, as every film has and will ever do, took various parts of the novel and changed or removed them.

Last week, I happened to mention it to a friend, who brought it up on Netflix. Since when did it become available there? Because I'd just had my Internet service changed, I felt no worry in watching the whole thing immediately. On my nice speakers. With the Mac hooked up to my TV, now in the basement.

Netflix helpfully had a version with English subtitles as well as Allan providing an English narration. With that, the film finally opened up fully for me.

I don't need to explain much of the plot considering I've already done the same with the novel. I will note that Alan doesn't cross the Himalayas, nor does it go into much detail of his arrival in places. The whole Tehran bit is removed as well (after all, he crossed the mountain range to end up there). But it does go into more visual detail on certain things only briefly mentioned in the novel. Like his father advocating the use of contraception ("this will end poverty!" etc.) The Never Again gang is changed somewhat, so that one of its members finds Allan and the gang at the farm does so because he's an ex-boyfriend of the Gunilla character and just wants a reason for seeing her again. Per-Gunnar Gerdin's name is changed to Gadden, and has an ankle monitor so he can't leave his apartment.

Allan's vacation in Bali is also removed, and changed so that its relation to the plot is entirely related to the Never Again gang. In the novel, the group's boss, "Pike" Gerdin, is awaiting the money from the Russians via Bolt, his courier, thanks to a drug deal with them. Bolt is the person Allan steals the suitcase with the money from, screwing everything up. In the film, it appears to be the other way around, with Gerdin - now Gadden - and Never Again owing money to an Australian man in Bali, perhaps for the same deal. This subplot comes and goes as the man gets more frantic and angry through cell phone calls, waiting for confirmation about the money. After the group rams Gerdin/Gadden on the road with the bus, he ends up with memory loss and apparent mental retardation, and when Allan asks for an idea of where the group should go next, "Bali" is the only thing that crosses Gadden's wounded head.

The Yuri Popov character is slightly altered as well, so that as Allan meets up with Yuri in Russia in the 60s, he has a son named Alec. Allan gives the boy his Vice-Presidential lighter (originally a gift from Truman) as a little gift. This Alec character grows up and maintains a close relationship with Allan, running am international courier business, and he's the one who spirits everyone, elephant and all, to Bali.

I think the film works out well. Visually, things looked pretty authentic from a historical point of view, and they got some good actors to play the notable leaders of the time. The story is told pretty well as well, and it appears a little more realistic than the crazy story the main characters come up with to the prosecutor at the end of the novel. It was a little funny in places as well - Allan's laissez-faire attitude regarding the recently-killed Bulten character (he was sat-on by the elephant) starkly contrast's the rest of the group's urgency and hysteria as they try to figure out how to get rid of the corpse. Allan's only concern is whether anyone wants to join him for a swim.

I'd probably rate the film a B+. No film can perfectly cover everything a novel could, but it's visually authentic, realistic, interesting, and kind of funny and absurd.

Then again, I don't need a translation for bird song. "[bird song]"

Red Cloud