Friday, May 23, 2008

Finished with You? Not Even Close..

I just love it when I change my mind completely. I saw clips from 30 Seconds to Mars music video for The Kill numerous times on MTV two years ago, and I remember I didn’t like it much. I probably thought to myself something like: “Eh.. Nice tonsils.”

It took about two years before I actually listened to the song in its entirety, and concentrated on it. As usual, the song sounded good at that point. What made me take this step was actually my friend who likes this band – and Jared.. Being a multitalented guy, Jared Leto makes both great films and music, and for some reason, is adored by a few billion women..

Yes, I love him too. I had only seen one of his films before my friend recommended watching some more. On May Day I decided to check him out, and found some seriously good-looking pictures. Then, I found some more, and more, and more.. I found some nice interviews, television appearances, DVD’s, and tickets to the 30 Seconds to Mars live concert in Helsinki.. This is one of the greatest obsessions I’ve ever had, and I’m really enjoying it!

It is simply great that the best-looking, most beautiful, and gorgeous human being on the planet makes amazing stuff - films and music. I love watching Jared’s films, and I’m particularly happy about the music. 30 Seconds to Mars has been number one on my playlists lately. Listening to 30STM hasn’t been very difficult at any point. In fact, I’m totally hooked on that stuff. 30STM has even triggered a wider interest in emo (or polka, or whatever you want to call it..) in me.

A Beautiful Lie (2005) is the second and more recent album by 30STM. It is very different from the band’s first album that was created by Jared and brother Shannon Leto without any other band members. The most important thing is that it really is a wonderful, emotional, and atmospheric album with awesome songs.

The singles Attack, A Beautiful Lie, The Kill, and From Yesterday are all great. However, I’m positive about the fact that the band achieved their goal of making a listening experience out of this album rather than a collection of singles. The result is a very consistent album with only great songs, added with utterly wonderful emotionalism and melancholy, very similar to the feel of The Cure’s masterpiece Disintegration. Savior sounds like an impressive modern recreation of Fascination Street. Was It a Dream is very Cure-like, too. The sound of rain and thunder is combined with a gothic guitar riff, Shannon Leto’s brilliant drum beat, and Jared’s wistful vocals. It’s all very enchanting and wonderfully sentimental.

My favourite song is From Yesterday. I just love it, it’s so powerful and awesome, and I never seem to get tired of the beautiful melody and Jared’s perfect vocals. Major chords and angst make a winning combination. The music video for it is also something astonishingly beautiful, I might add..

The 2007 version of this album is actually quite brilliant because it features two excellent bonus tracks and a hidden track. This means that the album has, in fact, three different endings. I find all of them great. I really enjoy Battle of One, the first of the two bonus tracks. Björk cover Hunter is also brilliant. Jared sings it so well that it makes me want to listen to Björk (since I haven’t done that much, yet).

This is so beautiful music. Something else than sugary power pop, for a change.. Stuff that is sentimental and kicks ass – could I ask for more?

30 Seconds to Mars at MySpace

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Emo Time

This happens to me every spring. I listen to happy, sunny pop all winter, and then it starts getting brighter.. Seriously, in the winter you hardly ever see the sun, and then you suddenly notice that the summer is really on its way. It’s hardly ever dark anymore! At that point, I always get the feeling that I really must listen to the darkest, most angst-filled music that I have in my CD collection. Strange? I think this whole thing has quite a lot to do with finding a balance in the middle of the huge daylight change.

Consequently, I’ve hardly listened to anything else than emo and other kinds of dark alternative rock during the past 1,5 weeks. Right now, I feel really good. Sometimes listening to the most angst-filled music can actually be the thing that makes you happy. Also, I think it’s good that I finally found a way out of constant power pop listening. It’s only a good thing to have a break from something you’re totally addicted to. Recently, I’ve been listening to Jimmy Eat World, AFI, Disco Ensemble… and of course my new #1 favourite band, 30 Seconds to Mars.

How is emo in keeping with my other favourite music, then? Here we go.. Take power pop. Remove all sweetness and jangly guitar sounds, speed up the tempo, replace lalala’s with woo-oo-oo, add some hardcore screaming vocals, and you’ll get emo. It’s not actually so different from power pop.. There are some bands that actually are emo and powerpop at the same time.

I started listening to emo about four years ago. I wasn’t aware of the term then, but now I’m doing some research, and I think I already have the basic information. I’m definitely an emo myself, too, at least to some extent.. I’ve always been. Listening to all this great music and getting into the emo aesthetics even makes me want to look like an emo. Unfortunately, I’m having some trouble with looking like emo, since I think I actually subconsciously aim to be a happy hippie popster while I also worship the dark gothic aesthetics (emo is a subgenre of goth), and somehow wish to combine the styles. Needless to say, that ain’t gonna work..

If you’d like some information about the subject, here’s a nice video about being emo. I think it’s brilliant, and totally hilarious.. Still, I believe it presents some actual facts, too.

What Is Emo?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Summer Is Here

It wasn’t long ago when summer made its first true appearance here in Helsinki after the long, cold, and dark periods of winter and early spring. Exactly then arrived Dave Dill’s latest album Follow the Summer (2007), and it made a perfect soundtrack for that magical moment.

Dave Dill’s music is sunshiny pop characterized by those beautiful 70s-sounding keyboards and some awesome, rocking guitar work that brings Queen and 10cc to mind. Multitalented, as he is, Dill performs all instruments, singing, and almost everything else (compositions, production, recording), too. One of Dill’s assets is his nice, warm, and expressive singing voice.

Happily Ever After and Don’t Remember represent the more rocking, Badfinger-influenced side of the album. Meanwhile, Perfect There is an example of how Dill creates a heavenly and peaceful atmosphere, an actual mental image of summer – just like The Beach Boys and the great 60s sunshine pop groups. The acoustic guitar plucking and good harmonies will make you feel like you’re lying on a sunny, white beach with all your worries washing away.. That is really one amazing feeling, simply triggered by music. One of the most important reasons why I listen to music is that it can actually bring you a happy feeling through your ears. It’s such a great thing.

Never so Beautiful is a wonderful waltz. For me, the title track Follow the Summer/Pink Skies is also one of the highpoints of this album. The summery feel is very much present and the song and the melody sound really pleasant. Actually, all songs on this album are good. Together the songs are even stronger than when listened separately.

All in all, this album was a very pleasant experience. Great songs, great sounds.. Even the cover art is beautiful, it captures the spirit of this wonderful album.

Dave Dill at MySpace

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Something Beautiful (That I certainly didn’t miss.. instead listened to it a couple of hundred times)

Bewilderbeest (2000) is the final album of The Sun Sawed in 1/2. First of all, it’s awesome - that’s for sure. This album is a very interesting combination of traditional and untraditional powerpop songs, and genuine Slavic instrumentation.

Bewilderbeest is certainly not the most traditional powerpop album you’ll hear. It contains stuff that is very different from the other material on the same album, but it still sounds consistent. The main reason to this is probably the good song running order. The album starts with two perfect pop songs: Kiss Her Like You Mean It (100% catchy) and The Beholder and His Eye.

The Beholder and His Eye has become my favourite song. It’s actually great being able to name one song as your favourite. I guess it’s quite impossible for most people to pick a favourite song because there are so many perfect songs. For many years I couldn’t name a favourite tune either.

Here are the reasons for The Beholder and His Eye being my favourite song:

1. It’s jangly. It has perfect sounds, perfect playing, and a happy, easy-going feel.
2. The melodies are absolutely perfect in every way.
3. The vocals are the sweetest I’ve ever heard.
4. The lyrics are beautiful and perfect.

After Beholder and an interval comes the first Slavic song, Me, Myself & I. It sounds like Slavic folk music and it’s brilliant. Me, Myself & I, as well as Today I Fell, and the dramatic ending track What Soul Have I were recorded in Kyiv, Ukraine, with local musicians. The result is wonderful and unique. The other songs on the album, recorded in St. Louis, are a perfect match for the Slavic songs because of their melancholy. Ken Kase, who was with the band during this final album, sings two songs, Song No. 11 and Still Rain. Song No. 11 is his own composition, and it surely doesn’t sound like your traditional Sun song. It’s a very good song, and a great addition to this album.

Shining Knight is beautiful. I just love that song and the a cappella part so much. Everything Goes has some jazz quality, and it’s perfect. Painting, Today I Fell, Settle Down.. You can’t go wrong with Tim Rose’s excellent songwriting. The mystery track at the end of the album is also brilliant. I love this band – it’s full of surprises!

However, I think there is one small (very small) problem about this album. The song running order is good, but there are three interval tracks. Each of them serves a special purpose but, in my opinion, they still cause some fragmentation to the album. The songs on this album are very different from each other, and that’s why the intervals are quite useful. I think it’s just that I’m so used to listening music in an extremely economical form with no intervals of any kind. After all, I really don’t even mind this so-called problem. When there are excellent and perfect songs, these kinds of tiny things don’t really matter. In fact, I would never have wanted to miss a track like Denny’s Lounge! It’s great fun, and it adds one whole new music genre to Sun’s catalogue (lounge music that is).

For me, Bewilderbeest is at least hundred times worth its price already for The Beholder and His Eye alone (although determining a value to a song is in fact impossible). When you also have all those other exciting songs.. It’s like a dream come true.