the song remains

I am at a sort-of crossroads now.

There was one thing I always wanted to do as a child – I wanted to sing. Of course, the voice I hear in my head is infinitely more beautiful than what I produce, but that doesn’t stop me from doing what I love… because I don’t do it for myself alone.

I don’t sing because it aligns me to a group of people I want to be with, although my listening choices might. And I most certainly don’t do it because I think I’m spectacularly good.

I sing because I see creation unfold as the melodies swirl forth.
I sing because my world take shape as the words I utter mould it’s existence.
I sing because it’s the only way of fully expressing my heart’s song.
I sing because I was first created with a song.

Over the past year, I found myself singing less, and as my silent moments ticked away and my song grew colder… I knew I had to return to it soon. But the lack of time negated both my desire and will. Which was why I’d been looking forward to doing it again, come July. However, three weeks ago, I was asked if I could put that desire on the back-burner again, to focus on my upcoming projects.

I couldn’t find it in myself to answer that request. Because I’m not sure how much longer I can last if I live through another’s song. I need to sing again. Sure, I can rebel against the request and do it anyway… but that means being unable to give my all to the craft.

Would I do it if it was sub-standard?

As an experiment, I started singing in the bedroom, in the bathroom, in the cab, along walkways and corridors, in the office, at the grocery store, in a cafe… and found such liberation in doing that simple deed. But I missed being with a group and singing with them. There’s something special when you sing in unity with others. It’s as if the differences in personalities, beliefs and character fade away. You are just one voice.

I don’t know if I can walk away from it again.

And if I do (because there’s no other way), I’m not sure how I’ll handle it.

*

When you reach the little house, the place your journey started, you will recognize it, although it will seem much smaller than you remember. Walk up the path, and through the garden gate you never saw before but once.

And then go home.
Or make a home.
And rest.

– Neil Gaiman

What’s written on my heart is plain to understand. I guess this is one time I’ll need to trust that the Author is the only One who can conclude this story. And as I’m faithful to what’s in my hands, the Author will be faithful to make what’s in my heart come to pass.

In the meantime, I’ll learn to call this new place home.

And rest.

*

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.

– Maya Angelou

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i’m a junkie. now hit me.

Ever had the ‘chills’ when you listened to a song?

Well, it seems like music could quite possibly function as a drug for some people. In a recent study published by Nature Neuroscience, they found that music can increase the dopamine levels in your brain (like how you feel after having that delicious dessert you’d been craving for) and certain tracks – from classical to rock – actually causes you to feel that wonderful ‘shiver’ down your spine.

In the study conducted with 26 individuals, their emotional arousal (monitored via a brain thing-a-majig… not anything else!) was documented and their top 40 hits can be found here.

I’m not surprised that some of my all-time top bands were on the list. And at the same time, pleased that these scientists have a wonderfully diverse playlist.

Yes, I am a music junkie. And now we know why. Take a listen to some of my personal favourites.

1. Lamb – Angelica (electronic)

2. Explosions In The Sky – First Breath After Coma (post-rock)


3. Led Zeppelin – Moby Dick (rock)


4. Tchaikovsky – Swan Lake (classical)


5. Ennio Morricone (Film score for Kill Bill)


6. Steve Vai – Beethoven’s 5th (rock/metal)


7. Tiesto – Adagio For Strings (trance)


8. Pink Floyd – Shine On You Crazy Diamond (rock)


9. Dave Matthews Band – #34 (rock)


10. John Williams – Across The Stars (film score for Star Wars)


*

When I think about how music has the power to cause such reactions in people… is a wonder then, that the importance of harnessing this power to create dreams becomes all the more important to me, and what I do?

Dream Maker… you know what makes people tick. Cause me to hear that heartbeat – yours and the people’s – and to create landscapes upon which they too, can paint their own visions for tomorrow.

andy rehfeldt

Once in a while, a new genius pops up on your radar. One that causes you sit back in your chair and go, ‘Damn. This guy’s good.’

Now I may be a little behind time in finding out about Andy Rehfeldt and his amazing spoofs of tunes but just in case there are some of you out there as bad as me… here are some of the best. Courtesy of youtube. And Rehfeldt’s amazing musicianship.

Black Eyed Peas – I Got A Feeling (Psycho Version)

If this was the version that got airplay instead of their pop-version, I just might find it less nauseating than it actually is… but really, the hilarity kicks in at the end of the video when the group gets all excited but the music takes it slow…

Justin Bieber – Baby (Metal Version)

Almost good enough to make a Bieber fan… if this was really his original version, that is. Heh.

Metallica – Enter Sandman (Smooth Jazz Version)

This one made me laugh till I cried. It could be the fact that I once head-banged to the original. Darn. I think I just revealed my age.

But the chap is brilliant, no?

shuffle 25

This is going to be self-indulgent. But then, when is a post here not?

So here goes.

Inspired by a friend’s post, I put my iPod on shuffle mode and patiently listed out the first 25 tracks that came on. The Hubby has always gone on about how playing music on shuffle is the best way to explore your own person music archive but I never did listen to him. I’m quite particular about what I wanted to hear, depending on my mood and what I’m doing then. But! I have to admit… this little exercise brought back some interest in the other 75 gigabytes of music that I don’t regularly listen to, but happily tote around with me every single day of my life.

That said… here’s my 25 tracks. And the thoughts that went through my head as I listened to them.

01. River by Madeleine Peyroux (oooh, nice. Why haven’t I been picking this album out to listen to? It’s almost perfect in every way for my midnight time alone…)

02. Everything In Its Right Place by Radiohead (classic band alert)

03. Space by Spiritualized (another amazing band. Grew up listening to them… still do actually… erm, both the growing up and listening…)

04. There’s No Home For You Here by The White Stripes (listened for a while, then promptly forgot… sorry White Stripes fans)

05. I’ll Be Your Pot Of Coffee by David Knight

06. The Love Of Richard Nixon by Manic Street Preachers (who could forget this early punk band? Taboo album titles, a missing member… just another band whose every album I owned with such pride back then)

07. Voicething by Goldfrapp (I enjoy listening to them while running. Hmm…)

08. High & Dry by Jamie Cullum (which is actually a cover of Radiohead’s classic)

09. Ladies Of The New Century by Mum (a band the Hubby introduced, which I fell in love with)

10. Robot by The Futureheads (I be honest… I not listened to them… yet)

11. The Best Of My Love by the Eagles (vintage no? What does that say about me?)

12. The Hollow Earth by Thom Yorke (my love and passion for Radiohead is showing a little too much)

13. Laid by 1969 (cover of a James’ classic, and a band that refired 2009 for me, reminding me to live with a little passion)

14. Polmont On My Mind by Glasvegas (a band, which if you haven’t listened to yet, you must! Worth your ear-time. And the gorgeous internet landing page is beautiful…)

15. Helter Skelter by U2 (classic cover by a classic band of another iconic group – the Beatles)

16. Bird Song Intro by Florence & The Machines (barely a song really, at 1:42 seconds… loved watching this band live)

17. Know Who You Are At Every Age by Cocteau Twins (gosh… we’re really going down memory lane here. This band accompanied me throughout my teenage years… I remember smoke-lit nights writing and listening to their music)

18. Fragments by Manic Street Preachers (I’m starting to see a pattern here… with the music that I have in my iPod)

19. Lasted In Different View by Yasushi Yoshida (beautiful instrumental music, fanstastic for late night pondering)

20. In The City by the Eagles (oddly, I hardly listen to this band much now. Maybe it’s a sign)

21. Halo/Walking On Sunshine by the Glee Cast (embarrassing… I am a closet Glee fan. I can’t help it. I love watching how they do the covers and mash-ups. No excuses…)

22. Don’t Be Afraid, You Have Just Got Your Eyes Closed by Mum

23. Amsterdam by Coldplay (needs no introduction, really)

24. Catastrophe And The Cure by Explosions In The Sky (one of the ultimate bands to watch live. Ever. I love.adore. them and am weirdly thrilled I’m nearly ending the list with this spectacular track)

25. A Three-Legged Workhorse by This Will Destroy You (another awesome track, awesome band… and awesome way to to end this very dull and inconsequential list)

 

Coolest bit to this entire exercise? I’ve begun listening to my iPod on shuffle. It’s… liberating. And just like watching MTV, I hang around waiting to see what pops up next. A little rainbow moment in my constant colour-shifting world.

So what is your shuffle 25?

my stars…

I watched her dance, oblivious to the people who giggled at her extravagant enjoyment. Twirling, laughing and clapping her hands, this was the band and their songs that spoke to her alone. And within that pure expression, she was at a height that none of us reached.

*

I watched them laugh, drunk on cheap beer, heckling the band, the audience and anyone else who crossed their path. Finally, one of the gang launched an object at the lead singer and hit him squarely on the head. It stopped the show as the singer walked off stage. Another band member had to chide the audience and welcome the singer back on – which he did, gamely – and finished the set.

Their amusement was not found in the music. It was in the high.

*

I watched them grouped at the perimeters of the action – the sideliners. They didn’t want to take part in the atmosphere because they either couldn’t understand it or weren’t impacted by the band that was giving their all, their heart out on stage. They were just there – disengaged.

*

I stood in the centre of it all.

Early this morning, the Husband told me that we had free tickets to the Stereophonics final show before they returned to London.

‘Do you want to go?’ He asked. It was a loaded question because I don’t ever give up gigs, whether paid for or not. It’s just a matter of work and time. I find that there’s always something to appreciate at a performance. I understand the hard work that goes behind the scenes – from the crew to the performers – and I won’t disrespect any of it. I may not always get it, but I will honour their passion. So I checked with the boss, who wonderfully excused me from the night’s responsibilities.

I’m glad with my choice because tonight, I was made a fan.

I listened to the odd Stereophonics track here and there back in the late 90s but was never into their music. I just happened to identify more with other bands like the Ride, Cocteau Twins, Suede, Pulp, Blur, Stone Roses, the Smiths, Spiritualized… somehow, the Stereophonics was not on my listening to-do list.

Today, I was a captive audience. Watching them perform was exhilarating and I think I fell in love. Not with the singer but with the songs and with his voice – one that sounded like it’d been drenched in too much cigarettes and alcohol. It’s broken edges wrapped me in a blanket of hope, sprinkled with the stars of yesterdays and tomorrow’s clear skies.

I stood there in my beautiful moment and looked up at the moon, the twinkling blanket above the trees… I closed my eyes and swayed, allowing myself to be pulled in to the place where I no longer cared about anything at all.

I was caught up in their untold story.

It’s a thrill to see your imagination
Just watching you is an education
What’s in your mind is my fascination
It blows my mind, it sets my heart to racing

You’re my Sunday, Make my Monday come alive
Just like Tuesday you’re a new day, wakes me up
Wednesday’s raining, Thursday’s yearning, Friday nights…
Then it all ends at the weekend…

You’re my star

– The Stereophonics

*

What made the lead singer continue pursuing his dream? It’s been so many years on and he’s still doing it, chasing his star.

If I met setback after setback, would I still chase my stars? If you met me on the streets and asked me what today was all about, and what tomorrow held, how would I answer you?

Yesterday, I might have hesitated. Tonight, I’d have come alive.

Under the stars tonight, I finally believe that dreams do come true.

of performances and all things heart

I sang today.

I died today.

It was the usual… broken, floppy notes and harsh, dangling entries but I did it with all I had in me. I enjoyed every single moment of it, until I stepped back at the end and looked out at the many people.

‘God, why? Why did you call, of all people, the one with the weakest vocals to do this for you?’ I sobbed inwardly. It’s so hard to feel so stripped and exposed in the weaknesses of my voice each time I step out on the platform. There is no greater vulnerability for me, than being out there. This was, and still is, a constant refrain in my life.

Years ago, I asked the Dream Maker, ‘When can I finally do it well? When will the improvement come?’

‘Will you do it still? Even if your voice sounds this way forever? If I can use it and anoint it, are you willing to let your brokenness be used?’ He asked me back.

Silent, I battled with my foolish pride. Then I let it die. ‘Yes… I will do it. If it means that You always get all the glory, I will.’

Since that day, I watched how God took the broken pieces of what I can offer and used it to fulfill whatever He wanted to do in each service. It’s an amazing experience. Today was no different.

‘Hey…’ one of the singers walked up to me, with tears in her eyes. ‘That was beautiful worship. I know you sometimes feel shortchanged about your voice but I always look forward to your leading and today, it was amazing. I just wanted you to know that you need not ever feel discounted because of what you lack. What you bring to the platform is precious.’

Then at the end of the service, Bob Fitts and his wife walked up to me.

‘I just wanted to say… that was awesome. The presence…’ he trailed off with a smile and a shake of the head.

‘You were gorgeous, so beautiful! Everything about you was so beautiful to watch,’ his wife continued.

I was overwhelmed. This was the man whose recordings I grew up with. I still had his cassette tapes as they meant so much to me. Every song, every line of his was deeply etched in memory. The dreams I had were first fashioned by him and his ministry, and now, here he was, telling me he was touched. I didn’t know how to answer. I was overwhelmed.

The Dream Maker took my broken pieces and made something precious out of it all.

The crushed stem will not be broken by Him; and the feebly burning light will He not put out, till He has made righteousness overcome all.

– Matthew 12:20

When I forget there’s an audience and do it for the King, that’s me up there. Not performing, just praising my dearest Lover.

*

I watched the band play tonight. It was their reunion gig ten years after their split and the hubby was on drums. Listening to the familiar favourites, I was transported down the corridors of yesterday and was mesmerized by the guys. At the end of it all, I ran up to the bassist and gave him a huge hug.

‘I missed you so much!’ I squealed. And I did, truly. I hadn’t seen him in a decade as he had very purposefully removed himself from the scene after the band’s breakup.

‘Awww, really? Man, I was so nervous! I haven’t been on stage in ten years. I barely even knew what I was doing!’

‘No man… you belong up there, you really do.’ I said seriously. And I meant it. The stage was made for this guy. I have not ever seen another bassist do what he can with the guitar and told him so.

‘Why did you disappear after the band split?’ a reporter once asked the bassist.

‘The band was family to me. We were together for years and when they called it quits, I felt as though the family had quit on me.’

There were stories about why they split, and there were unfinished matters between some of the members but for the gig, they’d put aside all of it to perform. Tonight, the family was finally reunited and it felt so good.

*

Does the breaking of a performer make a better performance?

When a person walks out on stage knowing he has nothing left to offer, and chooses to give what is left in his hands – his heart… is that when the performance really matters?

Today was one filled with performances. And none of it, an act.

Awesome.

capturing gorgeous

Wednesdays are usually raucous, ear-blastingly loud and chockful of random laughter, jokes, rants and tantrums. Throw in couple of singers practising, the musicians playing their instruments while doing their personal rehearsals and you have… tired ears.

But still, I couldn’t resist listening to Jeff Buckley tonight. What can I say? His album ‘Grace (Legacy Edition)’ is brilliant and I’m enjoying it a whole lot. I wish I had the chance to watch him perform ‘live’ but since he’s passed on… youtube it is. Interesting note: Years ago during a creative lull when Radiohead hit a dry spell in their songwriting and performances, their manager took them out to watch Buckley perform. So inspiring was his performances that they returned thereafter to write and produce the amazing album, The Bends. Listen to Buckley’s ‘So Real’ and Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ & ‘Street Spirit’, you’ll understand why. Even Thom Yorke’s singing sounds like Buckley’s. I like.

Which reminds me… I have so many concerts and gigs to attend in January and February (8, at last count). I hope that my work will allow me to enjoy those nights thoroughly. Look out for my reviews then!

But back to the main event today: The release of the December issue – the one where we girls all had to get dressed up and photographed. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it.

Let’s put it this way,’ the husband replied, when I asked him what he thought of the photo-spread. ‘It’s not a badly taken picture of you, but it’s not the best I’ve seen of you. The personality conveyed in that picture is not you, and that’s the problem. I think the pictures that capture you in your relaxed moment are the best.’

How true. I think that even my profile picture on the other blogs I own are way more flattering because they’re me. In the magazine, I’m some glammed-up cat. They said that they had the most problem finding a good picture of me because I looked waaaay too sexy. Odd because darn it, I wasn’t channeling sexy. I was merely obeying the photographer when he asked me to do something.

So SEXY?!?!??!
*grunt*

This made me realize that due to my general disinterest in taking pictures (I have no idea where it stems from) I have failed to document landmark moments in my life – whether quirky, beautiful, special or random – I don’t have any pictures of myself that I’m specially proud of in 2009. And so much happened this year!

Now all I have is that prettified picture of a non-me. I have chucked the magazine aside. I don’t want to look at it because the more I see, the more faults I find. I think I’ll just have to find a new way to capture the gorgeous. Because that’s the root of it all – we are all gorgeous creatures who may not always look that way in pictures – now how can we frame who we are, for all posterity?

Now let’s hope I can feel this way when I get up tomorrow morning, sleep and caffeine deprived because for now, the mirror is all I have. =)

rock the night in the dreaming

darkwaters

Some days, all it takes is for a song to define things for you.

I’ve gone through changes
I’ve gone through pain
But there’s not enough reason for me to go insane
I know the feeling, when it grows
I’m in a rage up from my head down to my toes.

You know it ain’t easy
Running out of thrills
You know it ain’t easy
When you don’t know what you want.

Rock now, rock the night
Till early in the morning light
Rock now, rock the night
You’d better believe it’s right.

I know my limit
Just what it takes
When things ain’t good enough
I just pull the brake
Sometimes it’s easy
Sometimes so tough
But just have one thing clear
I can’t get enough…

-Europe, covered by Hellsongs [listen here]

The border.

Armies fight over borders.
The writer writes within.
The doodler ignores its presence.
The children learn to respect it’s authority.
The lovers try to conquer it.

Some borders you simply can’t cross. They are too wide, too dangerous, too formidable. And that is why we dream.

People think dreams aren’t real just because they aren’t made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes.
-John Dee, Preludes & Nocturnes, The Sandman.

Dreams can’t die. They fade. They return like a child’s blanket, in moments of comfort. You can try to forget dreams but somehow, they are never truly forgotten. Something will always trigger it off again. Because as long as you live, you will always remember… in the back room of your mind, behind the closed door… you once had a dream.

Tonight, I dream.

1969

1969

People assumed they were in a band because they looked good together.

That was the reason why Butch Walker, along with Darren & Michael finally decided to start something and in 3 days, recorded Maya. The band is still under the pop culture radar but darn it, they are good. They are easily digestible rock/pop music made better with soaring melodies and really, take a listen for yourself, the songs are written with finesse. Songwriting is an art form that is sorely missing from a lot of chart toppers today.

Butch Walker has written songs for Avril Lavigne, Family Force 5, Bowling for Soup, Pink, Simple Plan, Sevendust, Injected, The Donnas, Hot Hot Heat, American Hi-Fi, Puffy AmiYumi, Default, Midtown, Gob, Fall Out Boy, All-American Rejects, The Academy Is… and The Cab. The list goes on for too long.

While there are moments in his solo albums that I feel are a tad indulgent, here with 1969, the artistry is tempered by the other band members’ input. Add to that the fact that Walker can sing… you got a winning band which had the problem of well, sounding like a lot of other bands out there. The only difference is that they are better.

When you wake up to the sound
Of a thousand voices around
Can you hear the rattle of words
That only takes a heart to be heard

– Save A Place (which was featured in an episode of One Tree Hill)

Download these two tracks, listen… then go out and get the album.

All Talk No Action

Save A Place

covers – doing the done, different [part 2]

If you love covers as much as I do, you can download a few tracks off my earlier post here.

I especially love it when someone takes a popular tune that I’ve grown deaf to (due to too much airplay) and turns it around to be something deeper, richer and well, worth taking a second listen to. So here’s the second instalment to my list of covers.

Pieces Of Me – Almost Better

Argh. I dislike Ashlee Simpson and will therefore do anything to avoid hearing her music. When Almost Better produced this cover, I was suddenly worried for myself. Oh god. Does this mean that I can actually identify with that girl’s music? Nah. I attribute the quiet goodness of this song to the 4-piece pop/punk band from Central NY.

Who Wants To Live Forever – Breaking Benjamin

You cannot fault Queen. They are one of the ultimate music-makers and I loved their music even more after watching We Will Rock You, the musical. Here, Breaking Benjamin, an American alternative metal band does such a darn good job on this track I almost weep. Altogether now… ‘Who wants to live forever…’

Wonderwall – Ryan Adams

This rates as one of the best covers done so far. Besides the pop culture story behind it (it was featured in an episode of O.C. which I have never watched) the song is taken away from the psuedo-swagger of Oasis and made very bittersweet. Who else better to do a song sad than an alt-country rock musician? Thank you Ryan Adams.

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Tori Amos

Nirvana! Tori Amos! Eerie… and deliciously so. If you haven’t yet had a chance to listen to Tori Amos (how could you?!) but you love something that makes your spine chill in the night, you should try to get your hands on her other cover of Eminem’s ’97 Bonnie & Clyde off the album Strange Little Girls. Neil Gaiman actually wrote stories to accompany each song on that album which is found in his compilation of shorts titled Smoke & Mirrors. But that’s for another day. Today, it’s ‘a mullato! An Albino! A mosquito! My libido!

And finally…

Teardrop – Elbow

The original by Massive Attack was sung by Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins. It was beautiful to begin with and really, it’s hard to compete with dreamy vocals like hers, especially since when she sings it, you really don’t know what she’s saying. Elbow‘s rendition of the same actually takes away the groovy mire set by Massive Attack and makes it into a song. For once, the lyrics stand out and guess what? The lyrics rock.

Love, love is a verb. Love is a doing word
Fearless on my breath, gentle impulsion
Shakes me makes me lighter
Fearless on my breath
Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath…

Ah. Realisation dawns. It was a love song.