summer playlist

I wrote a guest post on Jeremy’s blog today, contributing to his “Friday Four-Play” series.

It’s a simple, short 17 minute long playlist that encompasses my summer thus far.

You can check it out here. Give Jeremy’s blog some love!

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music Monday- a day for randomness

I’ve another playlist for today, and this time it is one I had no control over. I’ve decided that, given the wide and eclectic variety of music I own on iTunes, today’s post is the first six songs (kind of) that play on shuffle from my entire iTunes library of 4990 songs. So, here goes:

The first one to play is “A Short Story” by a band called The Album Leaf. This is a 19.5 minute song that I have never listened to. I will not include it in the playlist for that reason.

The second song to play is track 11 from a Chinese pop CD named “Alcohol Songs” (disc C). I do not have the track names because they are all in Chinese characters. My brother asked us if he could purchase this CD when we were in China with him. I actually managed to find it on Spotify, but it is not one that I am able to share through a playlist. So it will not count towards one of the six.

1. The third song. Here is one I can include on the playlist. “Blinding” by Florence + The Machine. I thoroughly enjoy listening to Florence + The Machine. The style of music is just edgy enough that I can still enjoy it. She has a crazy voice that she has massive control over. My favorite of her songs is called “Swimming.”

2. The fourth song is M83’s “I Guess I’m Floating.” It is a short, lovely, ambient-like song that could make you feel like you are perhaps, well, floating.

Next to play is “Fable Practice Space” by Cloud Cult. I was first introduced to Cloud Cult through their song “When Water Comes to Life.” I thoroughly enjoy their CD “The Meaning of 8.” This song is really just two minutes of idle noise, so I will not include it on the playlist. But check out “The Meaning of 8,” it has some great songs.

3. The next song that comes up, and third on the playlist, is “All Those Years Ago” by George Harrison. The Beatles are one of my two favorite bands (my other favorite is The Frames, in case you haven’t figured that out yet). George is, and has always been, my favorite of The Beatles. I feel like we only get a glimpse into his creative mind through his guitar fills and solos. He was the genius behind “Here Comes the Sun,” and if that can’t convince you of George Harrison, I believe nothing can.

4. The fourth song for the playlist is “Ooh La La” from the band The Faces. It is from the soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore.” I obtained this song through a nostalgia mix that Jeremy made me. You’ll have to ask him why he enjoys it so much. It’s a catchy one for sure. Folky and rambling, very enjoyable.

5. Next is “My Lovely” by Eisley. I have always enjoyed Eisley. This is from their first CD (Room Noises), and the entirety of this CD has more of a bright and sunny feel than the other CDs of theirs I have heard. Eisley is made up of five siblings, and I love hearing the harmonies in their songs- it is hard to make anything sound nicer than sibling’s voices blending together.

6. Last on the playlist is “Danse Carribe,” by Andrew Bird. I actually just obtained this song last night and haven’t listened to it much yet. I really enjoy Andrew Bird, his talent is revolutionary. I was first drawn to him for his violin talent. He includes violin in almost all of his songs, and many times it is layers upon layers upon layers of that beautiful instrument. He whistles and plays guitar and sings and plays violin and so much more for his songs, and he has the ability to be a one-man band when he performs live. It really is a sight to see! I was happy to see him quite a few years ago in Philadelphia. At just over halfway through this song you can enjoy some of his raw violin talent, and I hope you can enjoy the song as a whole, also!

So, there’s a tiny glimpse into my iTunes library. Perhaps six songs wasn’t enough to show the true versatility of it, but there you have it, for now. I have so much music that I don’t actually listen to, and I think it’s fun sometimes to just listen to everything on shuffle and be surprised by a song from a few years ago, or a song I’ve never actually heard.

What could I find on your iTunes library? The good? The bad? I’d love to hear it!

Music Monday- LP

This girl can SING. And I don’t typically enjoy bands featuring female vocalists who have voices that are this strong. But seriously now, she’s got a VOICE, people!

I don’t know much else about LP. I just know this video. And her 2012 album Into The Wild- Live at EastWest Studios (embedded under the video). So here is all I know. I hope you enjoy her as much as I do!

the (almost) redemption of Fitzcarraldo (part 2)

(If you’d like to catch up, find part 1 here.)

So, I saw Glen Hansard play at The Wiltern on Wednesday night. It was definitely an evening of mixed emotions.

I had never been to a show at The Wiltern, and was very pleased with the venue. It is a beautiful older building, the architecture in the interior is quite lovely- the ceilings and all the intricacies on them made it a great setting for a show. It is a smaller venue with a standing room floor and a balcony with assigned seats. The floor has a few different levels and that made it nice and easy to find a good place to view the stage. We were basically as close as we could get for the standing room priced tickets.

I went into this show with much anticipation. I knew I would be seeing quality, regardless of the form it took. I was so hopeful to hear my favorite song, due to my conversation with Mr. Hansard on Monday.

There were a few setbacks, mainly due to the people around me- three girls in front of us with terrible, pessimistic attitudes, and a guy behind us who was too drunk (or stoned? Or both?) to act with courtesy. He sang loudly and terribly out of tune, he yelled out to the stage at the most inappropriate times, and he had no care for those of us standing around him. Luckily, he settled down about halfway through the show.

Kelly Hogan opened the show with a 40 minute set. The girl has a killer set of vocal chords and she positively swooned me with her choice of songs. She didn’t appear to have written any of them herself, but she sang them with soul, and passion … and a bit of cockiness that I had to ignore after a while so that I could continue to enjoy her set. That’s all I have to say about her.

When Glen Hansard takes the stage, he positively controls the audience and everything around. He started his set with The Storm, It’s Coming, off of his new solo album (Rhythm and Repose). (Playlist embedded at the end of this post.) To just stride onto stage and sit behind a piano and play a slow, beautiful song as an opener was a great way to get us all hooked into the rest of the evening. He continued with You Will Become, also from the new album.

Let me pause for a moment and comment on how, alongside Colm Mac Con Iomaire, there were two string players (perhaps a violist and a violinist) in the background adding depth to a lot of the music. I would like to know how they got that job, and how I can get that job next time. Every time they came on stage, all I could think about was how awesome it would be if it were me. I would probably do anything to be able to play violin on stage alongside Glen Hansard and Colm Mac Con Iomaire. Next time, it will be me. I will figure this out.

Ok, on to the rest now.

I already mentioned in part one how difficult it is for me to enjoy shows when I am unfamiliar with the music that is being played. While enjoying this show, I started to wonder how it affects the artist who is singing. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two songs Mr. Hansard played, and I attribute this to the face that I was already incredibly familiar with them. The majority of the audience didn’t seem to connect much to those songs, at least in juxtaposition to the third song played- When Your Mind’s Made Up, from the movie Once and from the Swell Season’s 2006 self-titled CD. The feel of the room changed once this very familiar song started, and the audience collectively got involved with the song and enjoyed it together. How does it affect an artist when he is playing a song he so very much enjoys and wants to share but the audience isn’t connecting to?

After this song he played a few more from Rhythm and Repose, including Bird of Sorrow, which is my favorite from the new CD. He prefaced this one with the thought that it is about his Mum, or about Ireland. In the middle he stopped strumming his guitar and wiped tears out his eyes. A truly beautiful moment- the hearts of artists are something to be reckoned with.

After eight songs with a full band backing him up (including the two extra string players and three brass players), Mr. Hansard took the stage to himself for a few songs. This man is a master at pulling you in, particularly when it is just him and his guitar. (His guitar, by the way, had apparently broken right before the show. We got to hear the story of how special it has become to him after filming Once with it, and how a friend from Long Beach drove up to fix it right before the show started.) The passion that Mr. Hansard is able to evoke while playing music (because it is real, unadulterated passion) is something that he passes on to the audience. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few tears- and not as a crazed fan, just purely as someone who is being moved by the musician and his music. He ended the solo set with a Van Morrison cover, and got more sound out of his acoustic guitar than I’ve heard some full bands make. Epic.

It was halfway through the show at this point, and not at one moment did it yet seem like the right time for Fitzcarraldo to be played. I started getting worried, but tried not to think about it. I really wanted to just enjoy the show for how it was.

With the full band there were quite a few more Swell Season songs played. It was nice to hear the familiar, but I found myself really hoping at every song change to hear something new, or something from the far-off past in the Frames’ discography. It really would have been great to hear a Frames song, particularly since they were all on stage together. As I’ve experienced with all the other Glen Hansard shows I’ve been too, there were a fair amount of “sing-along” songs to participate in. That is always a nice way to be able to connect with the music. The initial set ended with High Horses from the Swell Season’s second album Strict Joy, and they left the stage for a few minutes while we all did our clapping and cheering in anticipation for the encore.

One more song from Rhythm and Repose was played during the encore, and then Lisa Hannigan joined Mr. Hansard on stage and played one of her songs, Little Bird. The rest of her band was brought up and the whole crowd of everyone on stage sang some songs in tribute of Levon Helm. It was at this point I realized Fitcarraldo was nowhere to be found in the evening’s set list, and I did what I could to let that go and enjoy the rest of the evening.

Lisa Hannigan and many of her friends/vocalists, along with Glen Hansard and the entirety of The Frames

The show ultimately ended with The Auld Triangle, performed by Mr. Hansard and the Frames. I am familiar with this song only from this video of Mr. Hansard and Bono recently singing it together. As it seems to have a lot of meaning in Ireland, it was naturally the right way for Mr. Hansard to end his show.

It was a great show. It really was. Glen Hansard knows how to take the stage and he has all the talent he needs to back it up. It is great to see him playing with The Frames because they are all so familiar with playing with each other. They’ve been together for over 20 years at this point. Oh, what I would do to have friends who I could play music with for that long!

Naturally, due to Monday’s events, I left the show feeling a bit saddened. Frustrated, maybe, but ultimately just a bit sad. There’s no one to blame for not hearing “my” song. I just got really excited that I was told I could expect to hear it. I assume it was simply and easily forgotten about. I was, however, surprised to not hear a single Frames song during the entirety of the show- that was more unexpected than just not hearing Fitzcarraldo.

And now I’ll admit this: on Thursday morning while I was eating breakfast, I made a Twitter account for basically the sole purpose of tweeting Mr. Hansard and Mr. Mac Con Iomaire to complement them on the show and slyly “ask” about Fitzcarraldo. Find me @iamRebekahRae. I can’t promise much tweeting activity, but it is nice to be able to directly converse with these musicians who I so strongly respect. (Mr. Mac Con Iomaire did actually respond to me.) I’ll be waiting in anticipation for the next tour, which I can only assume will be at least two years from now. With all that time to wait, I hope that next time this mounting anticipation amounts to something other than a third let down.

Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy my massive collection of Frames, Swell Season, and Glen Hansard discography, and try to convince everyone I know to give them a try as well.

You can start here! Listen to this playlist and it will be like you were at the show!  And the playlist isn’t live. And you can’t see the musicians. But hey, it’s the exact set list of the show on Wednesday at The Wiltern. Enjoy!

 

music Monday- strings for all!

As a violinist, I am immediately drawn to music when I hear a violin/viola/cello used. A good use of strings can add merit to even the worst of songs. Of course, I prefer to listen to the good ones. Regardless of my bias, I enjoy how strings can be used in any genre of music. A stringed instrument does not necessarily make the song country or bluegrass. Rock, punk, pop, metal, and even rap all have songs with good uses of strings suitable to their genre. I love how universal stringed instruments have become.

I’ve compiled a playlist of some of my favorite songs with strings. Initially this list had 33 songs on it; I downsized to make it more “listenable.” I left out songs that are only strings, and concentrated on bringing you five fantastic songs of varying genres that make good use of strings alongside vocals, guitars, drums, and the like. You can find the playlist embedded at the end of this post.

1. Rise- The Frames
The premiere Music Monday post was all about Glen Hansard and The Frames. Naturally, I had to include one of their songs. “Rise” is made complete with the violin part. There is a build that starts around 1:50 that continues for the remainder of the song, and the violin solo is integral- it truly would not be the same without. It is one of my favorite uses of Colm Mac Con Iomaire’s violin skills.

2. Rouse Your Bones- Broadcast 2000
Broadcast 2000 makes good and innovative use of strings in most of their songs. This one is a favorite of mine because of how necessary the violin is. There is not much guitar used, instead there are many layers of violins, plucked and bowed, to make some wonderful fillers as well as the bulk of the rhythm.

3. Mayday!!!- Flobots
The violin in this song is used seamlessly and it adds so much. There are smatterings all throughout under the lyrics and other instruments that add to the movement of the song, as well as some solo fillers that that really stand out and- in the long run- help the lyrics make their point. *please be advised that there is a bit of language in this one*

4. Rocks and Daggers- Noah and the Whale
This song is from Noah and the Whale’s first CD- “Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down,” and it remains my favorite of their three CDs. “Rocks and Daggers” is a good representation of how happy and fun most of the songs on that CD are. It is yet another song that has an integral violin part. Not only is there a nice solo line that gets introduced around 1:50 and repeated throughout the rest of the song, there are also many fillers and rhythm lines to take place of guitar chords.

5. Wagon Wheel- Old Crow Medicine Show
This is my all-time favorite “campfire” song, if you will. It is classic bluegrass- four chords, applicable lyrics, great harmonies, and fiddle interludes in between all the verses. I have played this song more times that I can remember with various groups of friends and acquaintances. So, for nostalgia’s sake, it had to be included. It really is a fantastic song.

6. Of course, if The Beatles were on Spotify- Eleanor Rigby is a definite must add to this list. Trivia- it is the only Beatles song that doesn’t include any of the four on their instruments!

What do you think of this list? Are there any songs with good string parts that have stuck out to you? In what genres do you think the use of strings works best?

Everything I’ve ever wanted to say to Glen Hansard, or, Everything I’ve ever wanted to tell you about Glen Hansard

While I continue to sort through how this blog is going to play out, I think I’ve decided to include a music Monday post. Music on Mondays is clearly for the alliteration. CSA posts will likely be on Sundays when I get my bags of goodies. Other posts on other days will fall into place as I make blogging more of a habit.

So, onto today’s music Monday (a few hours late depending on your time zone, yes). There’s no better way to start what will hopefully be a consistent Monday post than with one about my all-time favorite musician: Glen Hansard.

(You can find all songs mentioned in an embedded playlist at the end of this post.)

I was first indirectly introduced to Glen Hansard in late 2005, when a playlist made by this guy included a song titled “Fake” by a band named The Frames. Glen Hansard is the lead singer and primary songwriter, and guitar player and all around wonderful musician heading up this rock band from Dublin who have been around since the early 1990’s. I enjoyed the song, but didn’t pay particular attention to Mr. Hansard until a year later, driving in a good friend’s car through the scenic Kentucky countryside, windows down, listening to some beautiful music I had never heard before. It was the soundtrack from “Once.” (You may know the song “Falling Slowly,” which won best song at the Oscars in 2008.) I immediately obtained a copy of the soundtrack and for the next few months it was literally the only music that I listened to. Some would say I overplayed it, but to this day I remain immune to getting tired of that soundtrack. It is just TOO good. The music led me to seeing the movie, and after a bit of research, I discovered it was, in fact, Glen Hansard playing the lead role. This led to many years following of delving into any music that I could find that he put his hands on.

There is something special about Glen Hansard’s art. Years of listening to his music have brought me to a place of utmost respect for him as a musician and songwriter. It doesn’t hurt that, as a violinist, I dream of being in a band similar to The Frames. The energy that they are able to exude from their songs continues to astound me. When asked why I want to play music in a band, I can’t respond in words. The only way I can convey my love for playing music is to direct people to a song- “Revelate,” by The Frames, from the live CD “Set List.” The build up to the first violin solo, and the solo itself (starting around 3:25), conveys so much more than I will ever be able to put in words. I not only have Glen Hansard to thank for that, but also specifically the amazing violinist of The Frames- Colm Mac Con Iomaire. I met him once. I also later conversed with him through Myspace messaging and he was so kind to explain to me the gear that he uses while playing shows. I’ll have to do a post about him another day.

I met Glen Hansard once also. It was during the same time I met Mr. Mac Con Iomaire, after a Swell Season concert in Philadelphia in late 2009. The sad thing is, I was so engrossed in talking shop about violin that I didn’t get any sort of conversation with Mr. Hansard. At the last second, I jumped into a picture with him and my very tall friend John. Slightly awkward moment, but I needed that picture!

That was the extent of my meeting him, but I did observe him a lot while he was interacting with fans. What really struck me was his sincere kindness. How genuine he was. A normal person who has an extraordinary talent and is recognized for it, but hasn’t let any of that get to his head. I’ve met other relatively well-known musicians and this has not been the case with anyone else of his status that I have come in contact with (except for the rest of his band; Colm Mac Con Iomaire and Marketa Irglova were quite lovely as well). That just adds tenfold to the respect I already have for him.

I once drove from Lexington, Kentucky to Philadelphia, PA and then took a train to NYC to see The Frames on their 20th anniversary tour. This was late 2010. As The Frames were, and are, my favorite band, this was a huge deal to me. In fact, I got to Philadelphia the night before The Frames show, and they happened to be playing Philly the night I arrived- I wish I could say I went to that show as well, and though I didn’t, you can be guaranteed I debated heavily about it.

The venue in NYC was a larger one, with a big open area for standing room at stage level, and three balconies wrapping around three sides of the stage. I ended up on the first balcony, stage right, almost immediately over the side of the stage. My view (with a zoom) looked like this:

This show is another thing I have no words for. The best I can do is to say it was the best show I’ve ever been to. Words like that don’t seem to have any meaning, but I can’t describe how amazing this show was. In everything Glen Hansard does, you can see and experience all of his emotion. It is seemingly tangible. He loves what he does. He is invested in it. His musicianship, his songwriting, his performing- it is all part of who he is. He puts on a show, yes, but it’s not that he’s acting for everyone. He just is who he is. There are no frills, there is nothing fake. He is real and transparent and it all shows in his music, particularly in his live performance. (I can say the same for when I saw him perform as Swell Season, but as The Frames are my particular favorite, I will stick with writing about them for this post, so as to save some space.)

I do have something negative to include about that show, something I still cannot let go of, though it’s been a year and a half at this point. You see, I have a favorite Frames song. Who doesn’t have favorites, right? And this song that I love is not some random song off of a B-side CD or anything. This song is the title track of their 1995 album “Fitzcarraldo.” This song is perfect and beautiful from start to finish. I have four different versions of it in my iTunes. I learned the violin part by ear and it’s a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine to play along with the song and pretend I’m in the band. So in the weeks leading up to the 20th anniversary tour stop in NYC, I was getting increasingly excited to hear my favorite song live, to see all the raw emotion firsthand, to simply experience the song as it should be experienced. I wasn’t seeing Swell Season this time, I was seeing The Frames. I was seeing how it all began 20 years earlier. So I could be guaranteed to hear this song.

And then the song never happened.

As the night moved on and the minutes passed more and more quickly and they played one amazing song after another, I was increasingly earnest about yelling “Fitzcarraldo!” to the stage below me. It was to no avail. They ended the set and walked backstage and then came back for the encore when I believed surely they’d play my song. They didn’t. I think they played two or three more songs for that encore. I don’t remember a single one. I was too downhearted. It was my chance to hear Fitzcarraldo, and it never happened. The icing on the cake was when I talked with my sister who lives near Belfast and saw The Frames on the same tour a few weeks earlier or later or whenever, and of course they played it there. I really cannot let that go. Or maybe I just don’t want to let it go. I just want to know why it didn’t get played that night. Why, out of all the songs to exclude, did Fitzcarraldo have to be one of them? When will I ever have the chance to hear that song live? Will The Frames tour again?

I was two degrees of separation from Glen Hansard just a few months ago. My employers attended the Scientific and Technical Awards in February, and as it turned out, The Swell Season was the entertainment for the evening. Coincidentally, my employers had asked me just a few days previous what type of music I listened to, and I answered as I answer that question every time- “I have two favorite bands, and though they are fairly different from one another, I can’t separate them into who I like better or who is the better band, they are both the same standard to me- The Frames, and The Beatles. Glen Hansard of The Frames is the most talented musician out there.” (I then further explained to them who  The Frames are by mentioning “Once,” and mentioning The Swell Season and “Falling Slowly.” They got it by then.) And so when my employers saw who the entertainment was that evening, they wasted no time in introducing themselves to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova and telling them how I compared The Frames to The Beatles. I now have a second set of autographs from them, and Mr. Hansard’s reads “To Bekah- Big Love.” I’m okay with that.

I’ve tickets to a June 20th show here in Los Angeles to see Glen Hansard solo. Honestly, I’d been scouring the Internet for months, at least 4 or 5 times a week, to see when he’d be touring again. I bought tickets as soon as I was aware of their availability. I found out an hour later that my darling boyfriend had intentions to buy me the tickets for my birthday. I was too fast for him. Oops. I am extremely excited about this show. He has a solo album coming out on June 19th and I’ve so far heard two of the songs- “Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting,” and “Philander” (The latter not available on Spotify at the moment, here’s a YouTube link.) It took me two listens each to love them. The first time through, I was slightly unsettled because they initially seem to be a lot different than his typical style. But on the second listen I was sold, first because I knew what to expect, second because Glen Hansard is a musical genius no matter how he presents his talents, and third because there are still parts of the “old” Glen Hansard I know and love thrown into these songs, you just have to listen a bit more for them.

This “old” Glen Hansard is so distinctive to me. Powerful vocals, thoughtful lyrics, and- what really gets me- intense builds in the songs, these builds are what really bring out the emotion. I think it’s the builds that I initially thought I was missing in his new solo songs. But in reality, they are there, they’re just there differently. Instead of builds, per se, there are more spread out smatterings of the emotion. I’ve grown used to builds like in “Santa Maria,” a song I used to skip almost always because the beginning truthfully bored me- until I saw them perform it at the NYC show and was reminded of how it ended. That song has some energy! “Say It To Me Now,” from the Once soundtrack specifically, has it as well. “Dream Awake” and “Finally” have both smatterings and progressive builds. “The Cost” builds to an amazing violin solo that at first listen still sounds like an electric guitar to me. The best example I can give of his vocal talent is “Falling Slowly” from The Frames’s CD “The Cost.” Around the 3:00 mark he goes into the chorus basically a capella, and the emotion behind the words and the control of his voice strikes me every single time I listen to that section.

When it comes down to it, I’d love to sit with Glen Hansard and pick his brain about how he writes songs. However, I’m so bad at asking questions, that perhaps I’d prefer a jam session over a cup of tea. Maybe then I could finally hear Fitzcarraldo live, from just a few feet away, and fulfill that daydream of playing the violin part with the real band.

And, P.S. that guy who first introduced me to The Frames through “Fake,” well, at one point I attributed that song to him. And five years later, and now two years after that, I can attribute “Headlong.” It’s funny how life works. Thank you, Glen Hansard, for writing songs that are relevant.