Monthly Archives: May 2011

Castle Walls

I’ve recently been really into dubstep – a genre of electronica that originated in South London around 1998.  Its style has been described as “tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals”. Dubstep has had its own interesting evolution over the years but I won’t get into that. The other day I got an album that was someone’s collection of 201 “best dubstep songs and remixes”, so naturally I’ve been listening to it. There has been a lot of great stuff so far but what really caught me was the fAux dubstep remix of “Castle Walls”, the original song I had also not heard before by American rapper T.I. featuring Christina Aguilera.

I think the original is great single, an amazing hip-hop track and Christina’s vocals are as always fabulous! But I am really into the fAux dubstep remix, and though it leaves out T.I.’s rap throughout the remix is darker and haunting. I can’t stop listening to it!


Ólafur Arnalds

Ólafur Arnalds is from Iceland. For a time Arnalds was a drummer for hardcore/metal bands Fighting Shit and Celestine, as well as several others. He has released 2 albums and 3 EPs since 2007. Arnalds music reflects in many ways the Icelandic landscapes: minimalist, mellow, scarce, yet absolutely beautiful and organic. His music uses a lot of piano and strings as well as loops and great beats and it is amazing how fluidly the songs can switch from classical to contemporary.

His album Eulogy for Evolution is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. The entire album fits together really as one cohesive piece. It is very mellow and uses a lot of piano and strings. On the album’s sixth track, mid-song, suddenly a driving force of guitar and rhythm comes in and drives the until now mellow ambiance into something really wonderful. The seventh track has what sounds like some kind of violin caprice with some subtle piano, which in track eight suddenly goes wild with drums and electric guitar before finally become an organ elegy.

His videos are also just incredible pieces of art. Check out his website:  Ólafur Arnalds. There is a lot of great multimedia including live tour footage and even a documentary about his music. He also has a video diary! A definite must-see website!


Lena – Good News

You may remember an earlier post featuring Lena and her debut album My Cassette Player, which had the A-mazing hit from last year’s Eurovison: “Satellite”. Well, already Lena has given us a follow up album: Good News. Lena represented Germany again this year in the Eurovision, in an attempt to defend her title. This album features many songs that were sent to Lena from different songwriters for her entry to this year’s contest. The album peaked at number 1 in Germany and was certified platinum.

The album combines all the songs performed by Lena in the national final for the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest, Unser Song für Deutschland (Our song for Germany). Apparently she was sent over 600 songs as possible entries! The album’s first single, “Taken By a Stranger” was chosen to be Lena’s entry to this year’s Eurovision. The album is very cute and fun to listen to! My friend Monique described it and the debut album both as great albums for a sunny day and a nice drive. =)  I still love Lena’s voice and the soulful vibe of the album.

The song “Taken By A Stranger” is super sexy and the performance at Eurovision was great! It also has a good video to go with it! Listening to the album as I write this, I can’t help but smile at songs like “Good News”, “What Happened to Me”, and “Mama Told Me” – the latter two written by Lena herself. “A Good Day” is just the happiest, funnest little song ever! I love it! I really love then entire album, I could say every song was my favourite! I definitely see myself listening to this album a lot in the near future. Good News is a great sophomore album and I really hope to hear a lot more from Lena!

Here is a Youtube channel with most of the album: Good News


Polski hip-hop

I have several piano students who are first generation Polish-Americans, and their parents love me just that much more because I am Polish too. =P I was telling one of the dads of these kids about my love of all things Polish and he ended up giving me 4 CDs with hundreds of Polish artists on them, many of which I have not been able to find on my own. He also showed me the magic of Polska Stacja  – an online Polish radio. I have spent countless hours (especially in the music library at school!) listening to the Tylko Polskie Przeboje  station!

Several of the artists on these mixed CDs only have a few tracks, and I would love to have their entire albums, but I haven’t been terribly successful in finding all of them. The ones that I do recognize from Tylko Polski Przeboje I have usually been able to find the singles. I’m obviously a complete Polskaphile and I beyond love the sound of the language! Polish has some pretty amazing phonemes. On one of the CDs is a lot of Polish hip-hop/rap and can I just say that I love it?

I have tried to find information on these artists been I have been completely unsuccessful! All I can find are sites in Polish (which may be awesome but I don’t know bo mówić trochę polski!) But check out my favourtie tracks so far! Kaczy featuring Mezo: “Kocham” You know this is my jam!

I was able to at least find a Wikipedia article for Doniu – although it was entirely in Polish. But here is Doniu and Liber featuring Kombi – “Nasze Rendez-vous”. This ones even got an official video! =P

And you know I love the piano in this one by Stok – “Tylko Ty Kochanie”


Masterworks Reworked

After watching that Flying Steps performance again, I was reminded of just how much I love classical-fusion and the reworking of the classics into an almost futuristic experience. When looking for a collection of this kind of music, I was amazed at how many people I find straight sippin’ on the hater-aid; vehement rants about the depravity of doing anything to classical music. This always upsets me, and throughout my career I have experienced the divide greatly as a teacher and student of classical music. While I am very traditional in my teaching methods – always having my kids use classical music, I also have many students who also work on songs from video games, animes, or even Lady Gaga! But back to this album! I happened to come across this album and it seemed splendidly serendipitous! “Nessun Dorma” is one of my favourite arias and this remix of it I think is just absolutely brilliant! There is some great Bach, Beethoven, and Tchaikowsky on it too!

Here’s a great description:

“10 master composers, 11 modern producers, 12 masterworks, reworked for a new generation. A one-of-a-kind release featuring sophisticated, inspired remixes from original classical recordings.

The variety and range of Masterworks Reworked are what separate this compilation from others. The original tracks, ranging from vast orchestral symphonies to subtle piano pieces were performed by various European ensembles and taken from the archives of the Capriccio classical label.

Rithma, The Tao of Groove, Jazzelicious, Morgan Page and others mold and reshape these masterpieces to their own vision. From Down-Tempo to House, Nu-Jazz to Electro-Funk and many stops in between, these inspired tracks take the melting pot that is today’s music to yet another new and exciting direction…”

Check out the track listing: Masterworks Reworked


Flying Steps

I am still completely blown away by my first Eurovision experience; not only were the competing songs amazing, but so were many of the acts used to fill the time while the votes were being counted. Flying Steps filled that space during the second semi-finals and it was something completely different. They were formed in 1993 by Kadir Memis and Vartan Bassal, and the group has 9 members. They have taken first place in at least 10 major break dancing competitions between 1994 and 2008. They are widely considered one of the most successful urban dance groups in the world.

Their performance during this year’s Eurovision was nothing shy of fantastic. Their choreography was to all classical music, starting with one of my absolute favourite preludes from Das Wohltemperierte Clavier, Buch I: the prelude in C minor – accompanied by solo harpsichord. They continued to dance to some incredible remixes of Bach, including excerpts from the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor.  I love classical music, and it has been such a huge part of my life, but one thing I hate about being in classical music academia is the narrow mindedness. I have always thought that classical music lends itself so well to modern expression that I think one of my all time favourite genres or styles of music is what I call “classical-fusion” – a perfect example being this remixed Bach (many more artists of this genre will surely be posted soon!).

Flying Steps‘ website.


Jenny Berggren

Remember Ace of Base? If you grew up in the 90s you do. “Beautiful Life”, “Cruel Summer”, “Don’t Turn Around”? These songs are amazing. Ace of Base must have been one of Sweden’s biggest exports of the decade. While looking for new Danish music, I happened upon Jenny Berggren’s – of Ace of Base fame – solo career. I haven’t actually heard her album yet, but I stumbled across this single: “Let Your Heart Be Mine” which was almost Denmark’s entry to this year’s Eurovision! Now the song is great by itself, but I found a video of the Calboy Club Remix, and… just wow! I hunted the Internet for almost an hour trying to find this song, and success! So check it out!

Check out the Ultimate Ace of Base site –  you can download many Calboy remixes of great Ace of Base tracks! Who could ask for more?!


Kenza Farah

Kenza Farah is another great French R&B artist. She has released three albums, but I only have her second, Avec Le Coeur. It is a 2 CD set released in 2008 and went platinum. There was a big media incident when Kenza was in a car accident while leaving the studio one night, she was even erroneously declared dead. When she was seen shortly after completely unscathed, people thought that it was a big publicity stunt for her new album, but Kenza said she was in fact in an accident but that it was no big deal and the media had just gone crazy with it.

Kenza is another one of my favourite French artists – I love French R&B so much! The double album is so awesome! The beats are great and I love her vocals! I really love the flow of the French language in their music, and I find it particularly amazing in their R&B. I was listening to the album for the first time, and when the track “Kenza Sur la Beat” came on, I found myself recognizing the song but I couldn’t figure out why; then I realized it was the chorus to the Fugee’s “Fugee-la”! Which instantly made me love Kenza even more.

Kenza‘s Website (en Francais)


dEUS

dEUS is a rock band from Belgium. The band’s lineup has been somewhat unstable since their formation in 1991, but the current members include Tom Barman (1991-present), Klaas Janszoons (1991 – present), Stéphane Misseghers (2002 – present), Alan Gevaert (2002 – present), and Mauro Pawlowski (2002 – present). They have released 6 studio albums, but the one I am most familiar with is their fifth, Vantage Point, released in 2008. It is the first of their albums to retain the lineup of a previous album, and also the first of their albums to be recorded in their own studio at Borgerhout. Vantage Point was certified platinum and reached #1 on the Belgian charts.

The album has indie-, alternative-, and experimental-rock qualities to it. It is pretty chill. “Oh Your God” is an interesting track with incredible percussion and guitar parts and great vocals. It’s one of the more edgy tracks on the album. Vantage Point had 4 singles: “The Architecht”, “Eternal Woman”, “Slow”, and “When She Comes Down”.

I have their entire discography, but so far I have only really gotten acquainted with Vantage Point. I have high hopes for their earlier material and will definitely post more when I finally get a chance to take it all in!

Their website is pretty badass: dEUS


Eurovision Finale!

Well Eurovision is over and it was super fabulous! This was the first year I got to watch it and it was incredibly exciting! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time their were divvying out the points! The surprise winner this year was Azerbaijan: Ell and Nikki with their hit, Running Scared. When I heard this song for the first time in the semi-finals I had to admit that it was super catchy, but I didn’t think that it would win.

Sweden was robbed! While watching the finals, I put two countries on my list for the victory: Sweden and Hungary. Hungary did – to my surprise – incredibly poor, with only 53 points, and it looked like Sweden was going to take the victory but ended up in 3rd with 185.

Georgia was another country I really enjoyed. Eldrine’s One More Day was pretty badass and she did surprisingly well, coming in with 110 points.

I know that many of these songs are going to be popular in my house this summer. Sweden and Eric Saade’s Popular as well as Hungary’s Katie Wolf and What About My Dreams are definitely going to be summer dance hits. And I know Lithuania with Evelina Sašenko’s C’est Ma Vie is going to be my Eurovision ballade. It was a magnificent show and I can’t wait for 2012 in Azerbaijan!