Rad Covers

I recently put together a playlist that I’m rather proud of and wanted to share.
The art of covering a song is like a book-to-film adaptation; very common, easy to screw up, rarely taken for what its worth when done right.  These are some of my favorite covers, in attempt to give them some much-deserved love.

RAD COVERS on Spotify

CECILIA
Jesse Cook, orig. Simon & Garfunkel

Cecilia has always been one of my favorite songs by Simon & Garfunkel…one of my favorite songs in general, if I’m honest.  The catchy pace, the usual fantastic harmonies are all wonderful.  This particular cover has a deceptive lead-in that kicks up the Latin stylings to a more distinct level, giving it a richer flavor, enhancing the genius that was already there to begin with.  I heard this song over the speakers, through the din in a crowded cafe on a busy Saturday night.  It’s been a regular on my iPod and Spotify ever since.

 

AS THE WORLD FALLS DOWN
Girl in a Coma, orig. David Bowie (Labyrinth soundtrack)

dearly wish this song was covered more often, and with this much originality.  Girl in a Coma gives this haunting melody (one of my favorite soundtrack songs of all time) a powerful kick of electric guitar, while the lyrics are belted by a female voice.  It’s a great rendition which easily matches Bowie’s original.  I discovered this song by just searching through iTunes, specifically for a cover of this song; I consider myself very lucky to have found it.

 

ANNABELLE LEE
Sarah Jarosz, org. Edgar Allen Poe (poem)

I’ve never been a huge fan of Edgar Allen Poe, let alone this particular piece, but the arrangement, pacing and melody added to it by Sarah Jarosz makes it a whole different beast.  Whether intentionally done or not, also changing the voice to a woman, rather than a man, adds a far more complex layering to the piece and it’s a song I listen to over and over again.

 

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE
Jim Sturgess, Dana Fuchs, orig. The Beatles

There’s a lot of conflicting opinion out there about the film Across the Universe.  I, for one, enjoy it immensely, largely (but not only) for the music.  This is one of my favorite selections from the soundtrack.  Doing what a cover does best, it strips away the expectations and gets to the core truth of Lennon and McCartney’s original words, then builds to a wonderful, powerful conclusion.

 

Continue reading

Shatter Me

When Lindsey Stirling’s second album Shatter Me was released back in 2014, I was in the middle of a film production that was especially trying on my nerves. I was not an especially big fan of hers yet – I enjoyed her music well enough, though my favorites of her work were not tracks on her self-titled album (i.e. the Phantom of the Opera and Lord of the Rings medleys, her Christmas covers and the orchestral remix of Crystallize, which is still one of my favorites).  I realize looking back that the pieces I gravitated towards – especially prior to Shatter Me – are ones in which her violin, her voice, is more pronounced.  Don’t get me wrong – I thoroughly enjoy her first album.  Those songs are especially amazing to see live.  But what really, well, shattered me about her sophomore album was how much more of Lindsey there was in the music.  The violin was louder than the thumping bass and backbeats.  When she debuted her music video for Beyond the Veil, it quite literally blew me away.  It was a whole new ball game and I will go ahead and say that that was the moment I became an honest fan, rather than a friend of a fan or as a casual listener of her music.  I respect her very much as an artist and appreciate what she does in encouraging others to be different, take risks and follow their passions, even if it’s scary and even if you are rejected and shot down in the most harshest of ways.  That speaks to me (and so many others, I’m sure) on a deep, personal level and I will keep listening, keep buying and sharing her music because she only continues to get better.

Cheers, Lindsey.  I can’t wait to read your book.
Now…can we get a Christmas album?

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 3.46.51 PM

I’ll Have To Fly by UnusualSidekick

A Triumph: Lindsey Stirling’s “Shatter Me” Album Review

Lindsey-Stirling-Shatter-MeUntil recently, I hadn’t really considered myself an especially huge Lindsey Stirling fan. Sure, I liked her music well enough, but, in all honestly, techno and electronic aren’t exactly my favorite musical genres. When it comes to instrumental, lyric-less music, I generally prefer classical, to which I listen fairly often. My favorite piece by Stirling — prior to the release of Shatter Me — was, hands down, the orchestral remix of Crystalize. The transformation between that and the original is remarkable. For my part, the depth of the music, not to mention Stirling’s mad skills as a musician and violinist — is so much clearer there. As I’ve admitted, though, I’m generally going to prefer symphonic to electronic. Even with Stirling’s YouTube channel,  my favorite videos are the ones that feature more tangible instruments, playing in harmony with her violin (the Phantom and Lord of the Rings medleys, Mission Impossible, Assassin’s Creed, etc.) and her duets with vocal performers (John Legend, Peter Hollens, Pentatonix, etc.).

That being said, I was intrigued by Shatter Me and genuinely curious about where it would go. The remix of Crystallize seemed like such a step up; a shift forward in her abilities and, most importantly, something of a risk. Her own “sound,” her trademark is the “dubstep violinist.” So, what other risks might she be taking? And would it pay off?

Continue reading

Beautiful. Powerful. Dangerous. Cold. My review of Disney’s “Frozen.”

disney_frozen_2013-1920x1080
Born of cold and winter air
And mountain rain combining
This icy force, both foul and fair
Has a frozen heart worth mining
Cut through the heart, cold and clear
Strike for love and strike for fear
There’s beauty and there’s danger here
Split the ice apart
Beware the frozen heart. . .

I didn’t really register those lyrics in the opening of Disney’s Frozen the first time I saw it.  I enjoyed the music of it – I do recall being impressed by the use of a men’s choir and the overall sound of this song as their opening number.  After getting the soundtrack, however, and listening to the lyrics themselves, it really struck me how smart this song is; in and of itself, the lyrics are well written and the musicality of the piece is quite pleasing, but setting it at the top of the film frames the story and tells us, the audience, right up front, that there is a certain sense of understanding between the people of Arendale and their harsh, winter climate.   What’s more, it essentially explains the theme and story that the movie is about to show.

Continue reading

Les Misérables : Preliminary Thoughts

I have been a fan of Les Misérables – the musical – since I was 10  years old.  To this day, it remains my favorite musical (even though, technically speaking, it isn’t really a musical at all).   I am part of that demographic that not only likes theatre and I like musicals in general, but knows just about every line of this particular show by heart.  I even have a favorite rendition: the 10th Anniversary Concert, performed at the Royal Albert Hall in 1995.  I have also read the book (albeit ages ago).

That being said, my perspective going into this, the 2012 film adaptation is going to be incredibly skewed.  I am a subjective audience member and I admit that, openly.  My main concerns deal with the treatment of the show that I know and love.  From the announcement of the cast list to the release of the teaser trailer, I have been extremely nervous about this movie.  I am, at this point, reluctant to see the film because of the NUMEROUS bad reviews and because of the sub-par quality of the soundtrack of highlights released on iTunes.  In principle, the filmmakers’ choice to cast A-List celebrities, primarily actors rather than singers, pisses me off.  This happens in most movie-musicals it seems and I continue to be at a loss for WHY filmmakers haven’t gotten the message yet.  Singing roles should be played by singers.  Casting unknowns (with maybe one or two big names in the mix) does not necessarily constitute a lack of ticket sales.  The Wizard of Oz was a big break for Judy Garland, remember?

Major pieces of the show have been dropped.  Expected, but by no means not disappointing.  And, on that note, the big complaint I see from so many people is from the rushed feel of the movie and the musical at large.  As far as the musical itself goes – yeah.  It’s a long f***king story.  Have you SEEN the size of the text?  The amazing thing about Les Mis the musical is that it DOES manage to tell the bulk of the story in one stage production.  That’s damned difficult.  Do the melodies repeat?  Sure; show me a musical – or, better yet, an opera – that does not.  The reasons for those repeats are there for a reason, they aren’t arbitrary or simply there for their own sake, in spite of what so many critics are saying.  If that bothers you, then this musical is just not your style and that’s absolutely fine, but it is hardly the musical’s fault.   In defense of the film, even without seeing it, I can say that I expected it to be extremely rushed.  There’s no intermission and it’s running in cinemas, rather than a theatre or opera house.  There is a LOT to get through, and that came with the territory.  Is that a reasonable excuse?  No, but it’s something that people shouldn’t be so scandalized or shocked by.  Such a problem comes with the territory of any stage musical being transitioned to film – at least one that is THIS massive in scope and story.

I could go on and on about this.  There have been dozens of interpretations of Les Mis and it has YET to be done better then the four-hour French film produced in 1934.  I have heard good things along with the bad, but overall I am left torn and unsure of whether or not to see this movie at all.

I haven’t had much luck with films lately – I was severely disappointed with The Hobbit for reasons that I expect to repeat with Les Mis and I am not exactly anxious to re-experience those feelings of upset, anger and defensiveness over something that means so much to me.