Annie Stops, Then Stops Stopping

Annie Dont Stop
I'm so magical, I got electronic stuff free flowing from my hands

Remember Annie?!? I do. I have held a flame in my heart for her since “Heartbeat” in 2005. It was my crossover dance hit, the song that ripped me from my rocking origins and launched me into new electronic territory. “Heartbeat” spoke to me in a way that Kylie’s coyness never did; it felt startlingly first-person and personal, and seemed to sum up those zany nights in a cold European club, when the sweat and the booze and the beat make it seem like you’ve found true love in your dancing partner. JK! I’ve never had those nights, but I feel that I have, via that song.

I have listened to that song hundreds of times over the years, and the heartbeat bassline never ceased to stir my heartstrings. Then, once, when I had access to a stereo with four speakers, I heard a new layer previously unknown to me–that of the optimistic, popping, upward guitar lick. It renewed my love of that song for another two years.

Last year, Don’t Stop leaked and my then-bf got it for me from the Internetz, since, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know and don’t care to learn how to get things for free from the Internetz.  I was awful disappointed with the album, with the exception of “Song Reminds Me of You,” which, on my ripped version, was the last song. My itunes marks it as the 2nd most listened to song (next to Jay-Z’s “I Know”). I wondered why Annie couldn’t have made a few more songs like that one.

“Song Reminds Me of You” is a song about love lost and embittered, and then has that extra meta “song about a song and songwriter writing songs” element. Annie is often chided for being girlish and childish or whatever, but this common criticism ignores her many wonderful lyrical pop devices; her song concepts are calculated and smart, y’all. “Heartbeat” is about a stirring beat and is a stirring beat; the same goes for “Song Reminds Me of You,” which is about a third party hearing a song he wrote for someone he’s no longer with and is also a song about that same dude, a person she no longer is with. DEEP, DUDE.

Annie’s real version of Don’t Stop allegedly comes out November 17th. Let’s hope this time she chooses to nevergonnadontstop (shout out to partymoose).

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Kelis Asks Basement Jaxx to Kiss Her When She Wakes Up

My lady looks nice but what the hell am I wearing?!?#()#*&$*--Nasir
My lady looks nice but what the hell am I wearing?!?#()#*&$*--Nasir

Earlier this year, when I heard Nas had been ordered by a court to pay child support for he and Kelis’ baby, I think I fell out of my chair. He’s a millionaire; he can clearly afford to pay for child support. Why would he deny Kelis and Knight Jones some money? In the end, he got his comeuppance, cuz he was ordered to pay 45 grand each month in child and spousal support. That is twice as much as I make in year. But he’s a big rap star, and all Kelis has is her pride, her milkshakes, and a new Basement Jaxx song.

You know, I worry about Kelis. Not because I think she’s not self-sufficient–quite the opposite, if her swagger is any testament–but because I haven’t seen her elegantly flicking her wrists in a while.

But then she reappeared, perhaps for the first time since the birth of her son Knight. (Sorry, I wanted to link Knight, but he has not yet been revealed to the public.) She guests on the first song on Basement Jaxx’s Scars, on the song “Scars,” (listen!) and the symbolic associations being made here make me somewhat uncomfortable and sad.

Remember when she was on songs called “Bossy?” Maybe 2010 will hold something good? I hope.

Two Churches Combine Dark Side After 500 Years of Schism

Altogether, I am quite pleased with this apple, which represents the freshness and vitality of life. Oh no! What is that in the background? A skull?! What is this, a recomposition of a 16th Century Dutch portrait? It seems I shall meet an untimely end.
Altogether, I am quite pleased with this apple, which represents the freshness and vitality of life. Oh no! What is that in the background? A skull?! What is this, a recomposition of a 16th Century Dutch portrait? It seems I shall meet an untimely end and that earthly life, after all, is only transitory.
Not quite as attractive in painting as I am in photograph, but alas.
Not quite as attractive in painting as I am in photograph, but alas.

Today the Catholic and Anglican Churches outlined an agreement in which all the crazy fringe people in the latter church get to easily join the former. Anglicans dissatisfied with new developments in their church–ordination of women and gay people, for instance–will get to preserve many aspects of their liturgy and theology in the new church, all while comfortably certain that the Catholic Church will never, ever let progress interfere with the faith.

The magnitude of the migration of Anglicans to Catholicism we have yet to see; but regardless, this “apostolic constitution” is a startling act of unity when division has been the name of the religion game for several hundred years now.

So perhaps it is time to reflect on why these two churches even split up in the first place.

The reason for the split was named Henry VIII, and pop culture loves him, his court, and his women. The rest of this post will be a survey of the latest art stuff on the topic of the English Reformation and Henry VIII:

To sum up the important characters involved:

On the Catholic side, you’ve got St Thomas More, writer of Utopia, defender of the One True Faith, friend and later adviser to Henry VIII. He may have burned a few heretics here and there when the stench of Luther reached the British isle, but he is commonly portrayed with sympathy and with a cherubic glow about him. (See: A Man For All Seasons)

On the Dark side, you’ve got Thomas Cromwell, a man of slightly common origins who worked his way up to the English king through promotions as opposed to a title of nobility. He was the architect of the English Reformation. Lately historians have taken to saving him from his serpentine reputation. G.R. Elton argues (in the words of Joan Acocella), “English political policy, formerly at the whim of the nobles, became the work of specialized bureaucracies” under Cromwell. In other words, wow! This man has been key to forging the ways of modern government!

Also on the Dark side is Anne Boleyn, who is either portrayed as cunning, slutty, or cunning and also slutty.

On the sexy side, you’ve got the King himself, who, though fat and likely gross, is commonly portrayed as a babe. He is also purported to have had a murderous and lustful appetite for women and food. Or so I have gleaned from The Tudors.

Most recently and probably most notably, Hilary Mantel, a British novelist, wrote Wolf Hall, a fiction about Thomas Cromwell. Joan Acocella says Mantel portrays him as “a wise minister and decent man.” I am going to a bookstore after work to buy it.

A couple years back, Showtime made the ill-fated show The Tudors. For all its production value and soap-ready source material, this show lacks a coherent or interesting plot. When I look back on the two seasons I have watched, in which Anne Boleyn steals Henry’s heart, Catherine of Aragon is banished, Cardinal Wolsey is banished, Thomas More is forced to be an adviser to Henry, Thomas More is executed, Thomas Cromwell becomes #1 adviser, the English Parliament decides the King and not Rome is God’s earthly authority, and, er, Peter O’Toole becomes pope, I cannot recall a single episode striking me as a particularly tight and well-executed nugget of bodice-ripping costume drama.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers consumes fruit in the most lascivious manner throughout this 3-season series. He also is good at portraying rage through his blank blue eyes, though not so much through dialogue. And Thomas Cromwell, portrayed by the darkly handsome James Frain, seems rather stately, humble and efficient, but not evil, which I guess is refreshing for our times.

Lastly, Eric Bana plays Henry VIII with swagger in The Other Boleyn Girl, and seems to have taken Henry’s characterization: “of powerful but unoriginal mind” to heart. The film version is based on a book of the same title, which gets down with the sex lives of several Boleyns. Ahem… who cares. The brother was gay! The sister was a floozy! This movie features several Hollywood  hotties and though I don’t remember all the particulars, I remember thinking that the movie was not as terrible as it looked.

So let us rejoice that the Catholics and Anglicans can agree on a few things and symbolically come back together as one after these 500 years. I wonder how this momentous occasion will go down in the future of art? Perhaps a scene in which Pope Benedict constructs a sign reading “God Hates F***,” or attempts to persuade Rowan Williams to see his side of things, a la Palpatine v. Anakin in Revenge of the Sith:

This One For My Homeboy William

A VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF HOPE
A VISUAL REPRESENTATION OF HOPE

I made a playlist of some of my favorite tracks from 2009. At one time or another, I listened to each of these songs very frequently. Some, like the Clipse track, I put on here out of obligation. I love Clipse and I need to represent, even though most of their singles this year were duds. (NOVEMBER 10th, THOUGH, WE WILL SEE WHAT THEY’VE BEEN HIDING FROM US!)

Some, like “Shine Blockas” and “Raindrops,” the openers and closers to this album, are uplifting and hopeful.

So, remember, CAN’T BLOCK MY SHIIINE, SHOHTY. (translation: you can’t bring me down, woman.)

ENJOY!

THIS ONE FOR MY HOMEBOY WILLIAM PLAYLIST LINK HERE

Dizzee Rascal: Don’t Call Him Rude Boy

This is like a picture of Che Guevara wearing a Che Guevara shirt, except it's Dizzee Rascal wearing a Dizzee Rascal shirt.
This is like a picture of Che Guevara wearing a Che Guevara shirt, except it's Dizzee Rascal wearing a Dizzee Rascal shirt.

Dizzee Rascal will probably never make more than a few ripples on this (American) side of the pond, but in the UK, he’s kinda like a big deal. He won the Mercury in 2003 and hasn’t paused since. The Guardian recently called him “Britain’s first urban superstar.”

Uh, is urban a codeword for black? Race politics in other countries are sometimes beyond me. Maybe I see things that aren’t there; maybe urban is simply an appropriate descriptor for grime. But I’m not sure.

I was hooked at “Fix Up, Look Sharp.” Though it’s embarrassing to admit, I liked Dizzee Rascal and The Streets before I liked Jay-Z or NaS. I care not divulge all the particulars concerning why that might have been, but I will hint that it might have had something to do with shameless anglophilia.

Last month in the UK, Dizzee’s fourth album Tongue N’ Cheek was released. I’ve been obsessed with “Dance Wiv Me,” the album’s first single, since I heard it bumpin’ in a Forever 21 last spring. Yeah, I know.

Last week I heard “Bonkers,” which is indeed pretty bonkers, as heavily distorted guitars (chainsaws!?!?) assault your ears in much the same way they would on a Justice track.

I am really bad at knowing how to download things on the Internet, and I also don’t like buying music from virtual stores, so how am I going to get to hear this entire album? It promises to be Dizzee’s most dance-friendly, which suits me just fine. Any tips?

In Dizzee related news, a one time collaborator/all-time crazy-town electro duo Basement Jaxx are coming to Chicago on November 6th! They will be playing only 6 blocks from my house, and the show costs a third of what Kylie’s show recently cost at the same venue. See you there?

Herta Müller and The Nobel Prize

The part of Banat that's in Romania is shown on this map
The part of Banat that's in Romania is shown on this map

Though this blog is primarily dedicated to music, I want to clarify a few things about Herta Müller, who was today announced as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Some articles says she is a “Romanian-born German writer,” while others say she is a German writer (in reference to the language in which she writes).  The Times explains that she is from a German-speaking town in Romania.

Well that’s confusing! So here’s the thing: Müller is exempt from national identity proper, as she is part of a small group of people called the Banat-Swabians. I once did legitimate research on the topic, but now the only evidence I can find online is from wikipedia. The point is, Banat-Swabians are German speakers who migrated from German-speaking regions in Austria during the 18th Century to the Banat region of Romania.

Somehow, these German speakers held out in small groups, a leftover from times when all the maps of Eastern Europe were being drawn and redrawn by the Habsburgs, Russians and Ottomans. In some of Müller’s novels, this particular population is subject to special exploitation and misfortune during the Ceauşescu  regime. I say “special,” because all of Romania suffered under the excesses and misgovernance of its Communist leader.

Herta Müller is one difficult writer. Her prose is highly poetic, scattered with symbols and motifs (often in the form of colors and animals) and rarely tells a straightforward tale. I can’t speak to the nuances of her writing in German, but her strange and estranged prose was some of the most alienating and bleak I’ve come across, and leaves you with a sort of hollow pit at the center of your being. Delightful!

The novel I’m most familiar with, called The Passport in English, has no such straightforward title in German, as it’s called Der Mensch ist ein großer Fasan auf der Welt. That means something like: “Man is a big pheasant on earth.” Interestingly, the French edition tried to keep Muller’s original meandering title, and it much more accurately conveys the obliqueness of her narrative style. I probably wouldn’t have known that The Passport was about obtaining an exit visa on my first reading had the English title been more akin to the German one.

Anyway! Hopefully Müller’s winning the prize will bring more light to post-Communist literatures of Eastern Europe as well as draw some attention to these little known populations in Romania. I know the Nobel committee often considers the political leanings as well as levels of obscurity of its prize-winners (in addition to literary considerations, one can only hope), and Müller certainly fits the bill in that way.

However, I’m still crossing my fingers for the day Philip Roth gets picked.

Update: Julian Casablancas

FAIL
FAIL

Think back to your junior year of high school… What lyrics were you writing on your converse high-tops with a sharpie during French class? I will answer my own question: Strokes’ lyrics. I didn’t really sense that the Strokes’ frontman was the most blasé rock star ever. J. Casablancas was then a clear forerunner to one of the chaps on Gossip Girl, a guy whose cultural echelon was really beyond me. If I’d have figured out who he was, I probably woulda hated him. But  I just heard the language of rock n roll, and The Strokes spoke it with the energy of the young and coked out.

The night before Pitchfork revealed the last installment of their top albums from the decade, I drunkenly texted my predictions to my pal Andrew. See, the whole prospect of organizing the last 10 years of music excited me, because for once, I was alive and paying attention for the whole decade in music. I’d had a glass too many and rifled through my collection of compact discs. The cds, once lovingly organized by artist and era, then alphabetically, then in the order in which I’d acquired them, were scattered on my closet floor, neglected artifacts of my youth.  I found the selections that would most obviously be on the pfork top 20 list, cellphone snapped photos of the album covers, and sent them over to Andrew. Among the photos was Is This It, with its swirling particle collision paisly cover. I remembered, with not a small pang of nostalgia, how much I loved that album.

SO what’s up with J Casablancas these days? He’s been up to some weird shit in the past couple a years.

Here is a sampling:

\”My Drive Thru\”

This is a terrible song, produced by Pharrell, featuring Santo/igold and Casablancas. It was for a Converse shoe campaign. Converse: the face of counter culture, owned by Nike! Your Drive Thru, Julian? I think it’s THEIR Drive Thru. Casablancas is doing his worst Prince impression.

\”Little Girl\”

This is also a terrible song. Produced by Dangermouse & Sparklehorse, feat. Casablancas. A twangy, trebly, directionless mess.

\”Boombox\”

This is a joke song, written by The Lonely Island. J Casablancas’ vocal urgency is used for comedic effect on this song; lyrics include: “you’ve got to know your limits with a boombox/this is a cautionary tale/a boombox is not a toy.” As this song lacks any self-seriousness, it is the best of the three so far listed.

\”11th Dimension\”

From his forthcoming solo LP Phrazes For the Young, (reported to be out Nov 3rd in the America) this song is abrasively, unapologetically retro. It leads to one of those First Impressions of Earth zigzaggy hooks: familiar, but comforting. As for the instrumentation, this is the closest thing to an Andrew WK song I’ve heard in a while. But it features the drum machine tightness of a Strokes LP song, and, um I just can’t get enough of this tune.