Category: Music

Warrior [Ke$ha] (CD)

Kesha Warrior Album ArtLike any self-respecting intellectualoid, I had only haughty disdain for Ke$ha and her antics. After all, she sang a childish bubble-gum rocky electropop that glorified getting drunk, getting high, and calling people either douchebags or losers. On top of that, she couldn’t even sing!

Then I spent two weeks in Hawaii, working on the house. My handyman, in his early twenties, forced me to listen to Ke$ha’s first album, Animal + Cannibal on the half hour drive from and to the site. At first, I was horrified. After a couple of days, I was intrigued at how easily some of her songs just catch your mind. I never got into the lyrics as much as he did, but I started really appreciating the music.

First of all, the criticism leveled at Ke$ha is appropriate. She cannot sing, as she amply demonstrated in her live appearances:


Magic Hour [Scissor Sisters]

Magic Hour Cover ArtFor a group that faced an existential crisis in the mid-2000s, Scissor Sisters has a remarkably consistent output. After releasing  in 2003, 2005, and 2008, the band released Magic Hour in 2012. 

I need new music for the gym. It has to be dance music, since dance music really lifts my workouts to a higher plane. Scissor Sisters fits the bill pretty well, with their upbeat tunes and dance rhythms. Can’t go wrong, right?

Magic Hour didn’t disappoint. I have listened to it all day, and have been spinning to Baby Come Home for a half hour. It’s all good fun.

You hear me unenthusiastic. True that. Scissor Sisters has been aging as an act faster than the years that have passed. Many of the songs on the album sound like they come from long-gone eras. Fun eras, sure, but we live in the time of Time Life’s Best Of series. Seriously?


Push and Shove [No Doubt] (MP3)

No Doubt - Push and ShoveNo Doubt fans had to wait for a long time. Their last album was in 2001, and if was the slightly underwhelming Rock Steady. Then came the long hiatus that saw Gwen Stefani touring the world in her slightly overcommercialized version of pop. Then she ran out of fresh ideas, I guess, and the band reunited. Then they promised an album (I almost said, a CD) for 2010. Then nothing happened. Then, finally, on June 11th, 2012, they finally had something to show.

Now, one would think that after 11 years, the first release would have to be one giant spectacle of music. Or one tired old dozer. They either still have it, or they lost it. I mean, in terms of music a decade is a huge distance, especially in the new Millennium, and maybe No Doubt was really not that good in the first place. Who knows.

What happened, instead, is a little odd. No Doubt has made its mark with high energy, ska-influenced pop beats like Just a Girl or Hella Good, or alternately heart-felt ballads like Don’t Speak. Push and Shove has some of that, but it also has an astonishing amount of “fillers.”


Le Grand Docu-Soap [Army of Lovers] (CD)

Le Grand Docu-Soap cover imageIt was the Year of the Lord 1992, in the month of January, on the 22nd day, and I was in Heaven. I had left the continent of Europe for the first time and landed in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in Honolulu. As the doors of the aircraft opened, instead of the smell of kerosene and city, tropical flower scents greeted me. 

I stepped off the plane. When I hit the tarmac (how unromantic), a jolt of energy raced through me. “Welcome home,” it said, “this is where you belong.” I later learned that Hawaiians call that energy, mana.

I spent the following week in a routine of bliss. In the morning, I would wake up and walk from my hotel (one of the Waikiki Outriggers) to Ala Moana, swim for an hour, then march back to 1717 Ala Wai. There I’d have breakfast with my hosts and spend the day with them. Around 6p, we’d have dinner. Then I would go out on my own, exploring Waikiki nightlife.

That’s when I found the (now defunct) Hula’s. It billed itself as a “bar and lei stand” and offered the rarest of commodities: an open-air dance floor. Suddenly, I was freed from the then omni-present cigarette smoke and could dance the night away. And I readily did that, dancing for hours, fending off unwanted attention by simply continuing to dance when someone ground too close.


Ta-Dah [Scissor Sisters] (CD)

It's been a while now that I have been paying attention to the Scissor Sisters. My first encounter with them was at the gym: their second big hit, Laura, was a hit with the Gold's Entertainment Channel, and I would listen to it while running on the treadmill.

My first impression was not favorable: I hated the song's hammering rhythm, and found the video silly. Additionally, I didn't get the Scissors part of the equation and found the frequent references to haircutting silly and thought the whole thing was a one "hit" wonder.

Oh, how wrong I was… 


Confessions on a Dance Floor [Madonna] (CD)

She’s done it again! Madonna has continued amazing me since her first album, Madonna, was released in 1983. Back then, my idea of music was classical, and her songs sounded wildly exotic to me.

Over time, she was always able to capture my imagination, with songs like Like a Virgin, Like a Prayer, Vogue, Ray of Light. Lately her albums had been a little on the thin side, artistically, but with this latest one, she’s outdone herself.


Heaven [DJ Sammy] (CD)

Dance versions of pop songs are DJ Sammy’s specialty, and with Heaven he gets quite a few right. I first heard about him when watching a few kids play Dance Dance Revolution on a Playstation 2 (at the Metreon in the City). The dance version of the Bryan Adams hit "Heaven" is included in the game.

Aside from accelerating the old pace of songs of the sixties and seventies, DJ Sammy adds a lot of riffs and beats, and makes the sound overall more danceable. It’s fun to listen to a new reading of "California Dreaming", and the old "The Boys of Summer" sounds amazing with a bit of beat behind it.

Waiting for more!

Tra Te E Il Mare [Laura Pausini] (CD)

Growing up in Italy is a bitter-sweet. Italy’s culture is strong, rich of an imagery that had thousands of years to mature. In particular, design, architecture, music, and movies are world class, as many have recognized.

While Italian design has world renown in cars, furniture, and – to possible parity with France – fashion, the other items are not widely accepted to be part of the Italian strengths. Architecture, for instance, is something that most people associate with past centuries, and they see no new contributions. Similar fate awaited the Italian movie industry, once leading the pack of avant-garde movie making. Today all the common man knows is Il Postino and Life Is Beautiful.

In music, though, Italy’s vitality is unprecedented. There is nothing that is more Italian to my senses than its music: melodic lines sung by artists that typically write their own songs, with minimal instrumental aide, but a lot of background chorus. When these songs start soaring, it feels as if the whole world revolved around a medieval piazza, with young folks flirting with each other and old folks staring gently.


Zucchero & Co. (CD)

There are the times when you realize you have been missing home for way too long. In nothing else do I realize it as much as when I get to hear music from Italy, one of my home countries, the one with the more distinct music tradition.

Italy has of course an extremely long tradition in music, as exemplified by the copious amounts of musical terms that are borrowed from the Italian. There is opera, of course, but also concert (from Italian in concerto, together); there is the violin, the cello (from Italian violoncello, little big viola). And there are scores of musicians that are unknown outside Italy, but once in a while reach out and become famous.

Zucchero Fornaciari is one of them. He has a wonderful dark voice, and if he were American, you’d probably hear him called soulful.