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Begin Anew

It’s been a little while since I posted but tonight I’m determined to post something.  I get into “funks” every now and again so my creative outlets loose steam at times (ie: photography and blogging about music) BUT, I then have to look to music and photography as inspiration and begin anew.  Thus the theme on this post, “Begin Anew”.

And what delighted music do my ears hear upon going over to one of my favorite websites: www.hypem.com but a wonderful song called “Eyes Wide Open” by Gotye.   From Wikipedia findings, seems he has had 2 hits down under, “Eyes Wide Open” and a song called “Leanalilgivinanlovin” which is another bright musical gem. I would say from these 2 songs that Gotye is infectious and fun!

Here are the 2 songs via YouTube:

The video for “Eyes Wide Open” is pretty amazing!

And the video for “Leanalilgivinanlovin” is fun and animated too!

I would say this music has fit the past week’s weather in SF and gives hope to my friends and family in the Midwest and East coast that the sun will shine again!

And I also want to plug my friend Richard aka “Disco Pup” has he has added some great music which he dubs “Nu Disco“! Here is the link to his podcast, the current one titled “Aumentare”.  I am also posting the release statement he sent me via Facebook describing the songs he has included in the podcast. Enjoy!!

Podcast Link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/discopup-presents-danceteria/id386464658

Danceteria by Disco Pup:

As previously noted, I had intended to do an unabashedly disco mix featuring reboots of some classics, plus explore a genre that is being called Nu Disco.  Then Sharam released “Fun”, and I knew I had to do something else.  So, this became the 20th episode in the Burning Man Trilogy.

Take Me Over (Mylo Remix) – Cut Copy

Thanks to the boys at DOPE and Ben Holder for alerting me to new music from Cut Copy.  This is the first single off the new album, Mylo giving the track an electro spin.

Complete – Code Talkers

Niko Its  A Bad Dream (Sean Palm and Matt Xavier Gravity Pimps Remix) – One Of Them

These two are arguably examples of minimal, a genre I’ve rarely featured. It’s almost chill-out, but good beats and bass keep them from nodding off. After the mix was done, I actually had to go back and write down the times of the transition, as I couldn’t tell.

Come Home (Sasha Remix) – Yousef

This opens the new Global Underground mix from Dave Seaman.

Dog Tag (Sébastien Léger Rmx) – Format:B

One of two tracks brought to my attention by dj spaceotter, who wrote “I love the slinky bassline, the stereo panning effects, and the great build.”

Brainstorm – Re-Zone

From a George Acosta compilation, this hints at the progressive and trancey beats to come.

Fun (Funhouse Mix) –  Sharam featuring Anousheh Khalili

And here, 35 minutes in, we have the reason this set exists.  It starts out wonderfully typically Sharam, great drum loop, deep bass, perky synths… then it stops, cold.  And when I first heard it, I thought there was a glitch in the file itself.  Then Anousheh begins to sing, and the song rebuilds itself around her.  And sets you up for the rest of the set.

Thrive (EDX’s Fe5tival Mix) – EDX

The other track dj spaceotter alerted me to: “This is the kind of epic progressive/trance that reminds me of earlier, more optimistic times in electronic music–the ennobling, joyous nature of progressive & trance in the late 90s. Nice synth triplet chord progression over a sustained choral note.”

Die For Love (Original Vocal Mix) – Klingenberg and Dave Darell

The mix is called “Original Vocal”, but something tells me there’s a version with actual verses somewhere.

Belfunk (Original Mix) – Sasha

I’m going to pick up pretty much anything Sasha puts out. He is easily one of the most original dance music producers out there, stretching genres and challenging listeners.

The Far Side (Original Mix) – Soundprank

Beautiful – George Acosta featuring Fisher

A couple of fun proggy/trancey tracks that continue to ramp up the energy.

9 PM – (Dj J3H 2011 Remix) – ATB

A nice little reboot of the classic ATB track.  Reminds me of sweating my ass off at the Factory.

Ready (Maarten De Jong Dub Mix) – Giuseppe Ottaviani, Walsh and McAuley featuring Emma Lock

Ottaviani is a protege of Paul van Dyk and this Dub Mix featured more vocals than any of the other dubs.  I found the full on vocal to be a bit much, but it may appear on the next Alternative.

Hand (Next DJ mashup of JvD mix) – Jorn van Deynhoven and Temple One vs El

From the mix name to the list of artists, I have to believe that this is a combo of two or more tracks.  If anyone knows what the originals are, let me know.

Be.Angeled (Paul Van Dyk Club Mix) – Jam and Spoon featuring Rea

From 2001!  I know!  Be.Angeled is a German film that follows a group of young people as they attend Berlin’s Love Festival.  The vocalist Rea would go on to sing for Paul van Dyk on his “Reflections” album.

Many thanks to DJs Pete Savas, Matt Consola and spaceotter. And thanks to Randy Moore who continues to push and promote.

v.3.46
http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/discopup-presents-danceteria/id386464658
The first Danceteria of 2011 features an exploration of progressive, tech house and minimal tracks. But true to the cover art, the set takes a sharp turn about 35 minutes in with a brand new track by Sharam. After that, it’s nearly non-stop switch-backs and rabbit hops until the very trancey last 20 minutes.
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Musical Interludes for the Weekend

As usual on a late Friday night, I start to browse through the web for new and old tunes to add to playlists for the 2 bars I work at.  One bar where I work, Trax (Haight St, SF, CA) is what you might expect from a dive bar on Haight (yes, that Haight St, yes those hippies back in the 60’s) is a very laid back dive.  The regulars are musically savvy ranging from jazz to current music and everything in-between.

The bar I work in
Trax: Where Destinies Collide

I love playing a song and seeing that misty look in their eyes as memories drift back to them.  Playing a tune they haven’t heard of in a long time or thought of for that matter.  I love playing for all ages, it’s a challenge that I look forward to fulfilling weekly.  I try to stay within certain parameters for a bar crowd: ie: nothing too depressing, nothing really slow and something that makes people generally happy and in a good mood.  Sometimes I strike out, but I think every DJ/bartender who brings their IPODS strike out at some point or another.  Music is a journey and sometimes, you step in shit just like in real life!!

So some music I stumbled on for this weekend:

Peter Bjorn and John“Second Chance”: They were the guys behind the mega hipster hit “Young Folks” in 2007.  That nice little whistling tune you would have stuck in your head for days on end.  Well now they are back with something a little more grittier and a departure from the whistling.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the tune “Young Folks” but this track kicks some serious ass for 3 guys that are listed in Rhapsody under the category “Dream Pop” (how the hell they come up with these genres are beyond me..?) And it seems they replaced the whistling with a cow bell! Gotta love the cow bell!  Check it out:

Now I’m a sucker for a rap song that loops a song in a decent manner.  I admit, I’m picky about my rap.  I can’t do gang bangin’ rap, I’m a 38 year old white gay male…I just don’t get the gang bangin’ rap.  Now if that is what you like: cool. To each his own.  I mostly favor women rappers vs male rappers ie: Missy Elliot, Lil’ Kim, etc. But I found this nice little rap jam via Gorilla Warfare Tactic with a tune called “Temptations” which I’m thinking is a double meaning: one being they sample a Temptations song (“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”) and from what I can gather lyrically, maybe temptation is a theme as well..? Anyway, I think it’s a cool song so take a listen:

Another element in a song that will probably catch my attention is when a song starts out one way, then changes into something else in the middle and then go back to its beginning.  A good example is from way back in the day (well at least for me anyway) is Billy Joel’s “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant”, its 3 songs in one! Starts out slow, then gets mid tempo on your ass and then goes into full kick ass mode by 2:54!

So the song that I’m currently referring to with this element is Memory Tapes “Today Is Our Life”: it starts out slow and moody then it bursts into bright pop sweetness! Then by the end of the song you just have quiet synthesizer playing to fade. Below I have posted Billy Joel’s way of using the element of a song within a song and Memory Tapes after that:

Billy Joel – Scenes From An Italian Restaurant

Memory Tapes – Today Is Our Life

So that concludes another post here in Xanadu! Have a great weekend everyone!

To see my photography go here: http://shandopics.paradepro.com/ or here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shandopics/

To buy my photography go here: http://www.redbubble.com/people/shandopics (and if you don’t see a photo you like that is currently on Red Bubble, tell me a photo you do like and I will post it for you to purchase!)

All the photography you see on here (unless otherwise noted) is by me and if you are in the Bay Area and would like to have portraits done, or a headshot or some other kind of photography gig, let me know! Thanks!!!

New Tuesday Album Review: Cake – Showroom of Compassion

Album Review

Cake – Showroom of Compassion

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cake_(band)


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Doing song by song on this one:
1. Federal Funding: Gritty guitar beginning, slow tempo. With the opening line “You receive the federal funding/ you can add another wing” ..this is going to be a bumpy, sarcastic, but oh so true, bitter Cake!This is pretty dark stuff for a Cake song.  Very minimal in lyrics. Like the addition of the horns.
2. Long Time: Unexpected lyrics such as “It’s been a long time/since you wore your pillbox hat”. So-so song.  Once again, the energy in this song is on the low side. Horns make appearance.
3. Got To Move: Immediately thought of the song “Groovy Kind Of Love” (one of the more successful versions are by The Mindbenders in 1965 and Phil Collins in 1988, I prefer the Mindbenders version personally.  Sorry Phil, suck it!) Still at the point of this album, energy is low and not as playful as Cake has been in the past.
4. What’s Now Is Now: Speaking of groovy, the guitar beginning in this one is kind of groovy. (Sigh) where is the catchy Cake I know and love? Oh where oh where are you….??? This song has a better energy than the first 3 songs…but still not quite where I like my Cake to be…

5. Mustache Man (Wasted): Finally, a Cake song that I might like!  Guitar grooving’, horns are fun, picked up pace lyrically.  Favorite lyric: “He’s a king dust demon with an icepick smile/ his music fills your feathers as you feel his passions fly”

6. Teenage Pregnancy: Piano begins the song then heavy drum and guitar into odd sounding keyboard sound.  Beck-like.  No singing, music only song.  Like the title.  One can only guess what possessed them to call the song “Teenage Pregnancy”.

7. Sick of You: This was the first single off the album.  You can easily understand why this was the lead single cause it is undeniably Cake. Catchy and sarcastic. Harmonies strong.  Also has the signature talk/sing section.

8. Easy To Crash: Odd keyboard sounds again.  Energy comes back down again. Yawn…

9. Bound Away: Acoustic song; country feel to this one. Traveling along kind of song.  Not a horrible song but with the energy of the album, will you make it to this song? Will you make it through without pressing “forward” or the arrow symbol or however you skip songs on whatever device you may be playing this on?

10. The Winter: AH, nothing like sleigh bells in the background of a non-xmas song…Oh wait..they do mention xmas in this song…so I guess it fits to have the sleigh bells…This is just downright depressing….sigh, oh cake, oh cake..where have you gone…? Is this because they turned 40???? I’m 38 and it can’t be this depressing to turn 40..????? Is it???

11. Italian Guy: I like this tune. Maybe because it’s Beatles-esque in nature.  But too late ….doesn’t make the album any better.

Overall, this record is lethargic.  It lacks the fun and grit of previous Cake ventures.  If I were driving to this album, I would fall asleep and wreck.  If this is how they plan on doing future albums, I suggest breaking up.  Will always have many memories of past Cake songs and the fun they invoked, but this album leaves me bored and tired.

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Single Review: “Hold It Against Me” – Britney Spears

Crystalized
Image by shandopics via Flickr

If you are of above a certain age, you may remember a tune called “If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body Would You Hold Against Me”  by the Bellamy Brothers (yes, the title was that long).  I believe that is where the writers of this song came up with the idea of Britney’s new single “Hold It Against Me”.
Production credits for this song are Max Martin and Dr. Luke, who recently teamed up with Ke$ha and Katy Perry.  In my research on Max Martin, he was born in 1971 so this would make sense that HE remembers the Bellamy Brothers song.  He has done a string of earlier Britney music including “…Baby One More Time” and “Oops…I Did It Again”.  He is also credited with recent hits by P!nk (“Raise Your Glass”) and Katy Perry (“California Gurls”).

Dr. Luke, born in 1973, worked with Britney on “Circus” as well as Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” and the unfortunate Miley Cyrus hit “Party in the U.S.A.”

As for Britney’s “Hold It Against Me”, the line that makes me think of the Bellamy Brothers’ song is “If I said I want your body/ would you hold it against me”.  Pretty similar huh?  But at least the songs do not sound the same given that the Bellamy Brothers are a 70’s country duo.  Brit’s version is the usual club pumping, typical sounding Brit we have come to love and expect.  This song is catchy and will bring her back into a positive spotlight.  I am looking forward to the dance remixes as I always am when it comes to today’s “divas”.
Can Britney sing? Yes but in a constrained, sing from her throat kind of way.  But I never expect Britney to be hitting Mariah notes.  She has found her niche which is an ex-smoker club singer with heavy production.  I LIKE the song but don’t LOVE the song.  This song is very heavy on the club effects, lots of echoing and harmonies.  It has a euro-trance feel to me at times so I’m sure there will be a million remixes working out all these themes.

I have listened to this song multiple times for the “can I hack this more than 5 times” feeling and I can handle it beyond 5 listening sessions.  So gay men and 14 to 17 year olds, get ready cause your Britney is back!


Britney’s album is expected to drop this coming March and I am looking forward to other songs beyond this first song.

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Something To Dance To Over The Weekend

Lady Gaga at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
Image via Wikipedia

Everyone loves the weekend right? And there is nothing like a good dance groove to make your weekend even better! Maybe while you are cleaning house or about to go out on the town.  So on the weekends I will try and find some great new remixes and/or mashups that will get your booty shaking!!

First up, a fun mashup! Like most remixes, if you get to about one minute into it, that’s where the fun begins!
Title: Madonna Vs Lady Gaga Vs Pitbull – You Know I Want Love Celebration – Robin Skouteris Mashup

And for those who know me, I will forever live in the 90’s when it comes to dance music. I guess it’s because that was when my major clubbing days were back in Boston! So I have to post one of the divas of that day which was Deborah Cox‘s “Absolutely Not (Hex Hector)”! I could only find the long version so feel free to fast forward!

Have a great weekend everyone!!!

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Review of the week: The Decemberists: The King Is Dead

The Decemberists
Cover of The Decemberists

Recently I have been reminiscing about R.E.M and their early days.  Well lo and behold, The Decemberists give me a good reason to keep R.E.M. in mind in literal fashion.  “The King Is Dead” is set to be released on January 18th, 2011.

This album is a great, enjoyable record taking you down country roads and open fields.  It was recorded in a barn near Portland, Oregon.  The music is deeply influenced by where it was recorded.  There are many enjoyable harmonies on most of the songs which are provided by the lead singer, Colin Meloy and the wonderfully talented Gillian Welch.  (Do some research on this talented woman, begin at her website: http://gillianwelch.com/ .

Another guest on this record is Peter Buck, the lead guitarist of R.E.M.  His influence is great indeed and adds a wonderful texture to the three songs he contributes to which are: “Don’t Carry It All”, “Calamity Song”, and “Down by the Water”.  Instead of this album “sounding like” its influences, it really is an homage to the roots of country/folk music.  There is the jangle pop sound fans of The Decemberists are used to but there is a new direction they are taking and I hope they keep down this path of country/folk/jangle pop because it is magical to the ears.

Some favorite songs of mine off the album are:

“Don’t Carry It All”: Bright beginning to the record.  The harmonies between Meloy and Welch are just simply wonderful and perfect.  Favorite lyric: “a neighbors blessed burden within reason/ becomes a burden born of all and one”

“Calamity Song”: This has the most recognizable Peter Buck influence on the entire record.  Upon first listen you will hear a direct R.E.M. guitar lick which I believe is from “7 Chinese Brothers”.  This song is another bright, country affair.

“January Hymn”: an ode to the month of January and actually makes winter seem bearable. (I happen to loath winter which is one of the reasons I moved to San Francisco!) This is Meloy on his own. Favorite lyric: “Hail the winter days after dark/ wandering the gray memorial park/ a fleeting beating of hearts”

“Down By The Water”: This is the first single off the record and is full of good old fashioned teen angst.  There is the obvious influence of Bruce Springsteen (especially in the harmonica playing).  This confirms all the feeling and frustrations of a bored teenager.

The last two songs on the album, “This Is Why We Fight” and “Dear Avery” are darker in tone and feel than the rest of the album.  “This is Why..” is about war and its repetitive nature thus the repetitive nature of the lyrics.  At the end of this song, there is a wonderful moment with Gillian Welch singing into one mic and you can hear the rain in the background.  This moment leads directly into the last song, “Dear Avery”.  Is this a song about the passing of Avery or his absence?  The very end of the record is just music that gives the listener hope but with the lingering of a “ghost” of loss.

You can listen to this album in its entirety or song by song on NPR’s website: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/03/132436422/first-listen-the-decemberists-the-king-is-dead#playlist

A definite must have for lovers of good old fashioned country/folk/rock music.

The Decemberists main website: http://www.decemberists.com/

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Music, Photography and Me

For my first blog on We are in Xanadu, I just wanted to give insight into the who, what and why of this blog.

Music and photography are two of my passions and I decided to bring them together to create what I hope to be a successful blog.  I have a photography blog but have basically abandoned it at this point.  I am beginning a career as a photographer currently under the business name “Shandopics”.  To the side of this blog, you will see the Flickr links, etc.

I became bored with the photography blog but also, the thought of being technical, explaining how I take photos, etc really was a boring concept to me.  There are soooo many photography blogs (well ok, there are so many music blogs as well) but I thought by combining my two loves that I would be more invested in keeping the blog up to date.

The main purpose of the blog will center on music reviews, some music news and hopefully introducing people to new music as well as older music that you may have never heard of or forgot about.  The photography is more of a showcasing of my work along with the blog.  That way I will give more exposure to my photography while at the same time commenting on music.

When it comes to music, I pretty much like every genre except for polka, opera and other not so popular genres.  Well, who am I to say that polka isn’t popular, it just isn’t in my world.  If one listens to my Sansa Fuze + (that’s right, I do not own an IPOD currently and am trying not to, I will talk more about that in other posts), I am all over the place musically.  From dance/club music to classic rock, to vocal/pop standards to country.  And when I speak of country on this blog, I will mainly be referring to country music I grew up with that came from the 50’s through the mid 80’s and maybe some 90’s.  Current country is really just plain boring to me and most of country today seems to have lost its roots with the past.  Most country to me sounds like a pop song with a “twang” here and a “twang” there for country flavor.  I like my country with ALOT of twang and for the most part, alot of depression! But more on country and depression in another post.

In each post after this one, I will attempt a review of some kind whether it is of a current song/album or past one.  I will try and list some songs I am currently listening to at that moment and links to where you can find the music.  Of course my concept of what goes into each post could change at any given time but that is the basic idea at this time.

As for the name of the blog, We are in Xanadu, it harks back to the awful but wonderfully awful movie “Xanadu” starring Olivia Newton-John and what unfortunately was Gene Kelly‘s last movie.  The song “Xanadu” holds a very special place in my heart.  It is in my top 3 of all time favorite songs and no matter what, always makes me smile and almost everytime, dance in some form or fashion like I’m on roller skates! “Xanadu” was also one of those roller skating movies of the late 70’s and early 80’s. The soundtrack is amazing with the combination of ELO‘s production and lyrics added with the delivery of Olivia’s vocal talent!

I was 8 years old when this movie came out (August 8, 1980) and I did not see it in the movie theater unfortunately (that would happen upon moving to San Francisco in 2005 and seeing it on the widescreen at the beloved Castro Theater!).  When it began to be played on regular television randomly is when I began to view the movie and growing up, it would be on mostly late at night.  If it was on, I pretty much stopped whatever I was doing and watch with content as the amazing sounds of ELO and Olivia Newton-John come together for a pop/rock roller skating extravaganza! Also music and photography take me to xanadu, they bring me peace, happiness and with photography, I find a very quiet, serene place in my soul as I take photos.

I hope to make people smile, think and follow their passions through this blog as well as introduce you to new music of all kinds from current to the past.  I feel that knowing the history of music and how it connects to today’s artists is very important.  Like anything else, knowing the history of a subject just makes it that much more richer of an experience.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and go on this journey I call “Xanadu”..go download the song now, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

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