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Top 5 Nordic Country Namechecks

NordicCountriestunes
Nifty Nordic Logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

As geographically correct a list as possible with all 5 Nordic countries represented.

Enjoy!

5. “Finland, Finland, Finland, Finland has it all”
– Monty Python, Finland

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4.”Let’s chalk it up to Stockholm syndrome”
– Weezer, (Girl We Got a) Good Thing

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3. “…In the snow, One Night in Copenhagen
– The Tragically Hip, One Night in Copenhagen

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2. “She left for Iceland, we lived a techno fantasy.”
– Ozma, Iceland

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1.”Isn’t it good, Norwegian Wood.”
– The Beatles, Norwegian Wood

Nordic Countries, here we come!

NordicCountriestunesNifty Nordic logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

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I’ve stayed in France longer than expected (but I’ve certainly spent more time in less desirable spots).

To quote Matthew Wilder, I’ve got to keep on movin‘.

And so for the next few posts, I’m heading to the geographical region known as The Nordic Countries.

Which means I get to travel to 5 countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark) instead of 1.

Even better than that, a new trip means a new Sarca logo!

I practically insist you tell her “Great logo Sarca!” in the comments.

To streamline the process, I’ve included the relevant google translations of “Great logo Sarca!” below:

Great logo Sarca

MC Solaar – Qui Sème le Vent Récolte le Tempo (1991)

 madeinfrance1001albums

Le beau logo est par Sarca @ caughtmegaming

Made in France Artist #1: Manu Chao

Made in France Artist #2: Daft Punk

Made in France Artist #3: Jean Michel Jarre

Made in France Artist #4: Jacques Brel

Made in France Artist #5: Air

Made in France Artist #6: MC Solaar

[Album 457/1001]

Timing is everything.220px-Qui_sème_le_vent_récolte_le_tempo

It’s possible that this is the finest hip hop album on the list.

Regrettably for MC Solaar, coming after lengthy immersions in old favourites Gin Blossoms/Prince/Weezer, combined with general life busy-ness, NHL playoffs & new Radiohead, the timing of listening here is lousy.

As a result, I’m unsure of where MC Solaar belongs in the following matrix:

matrixMC

Lauryn Hill’s fine album benefited from my early project enthusiasm.

Queen Latifah likely benefited from being reviewed shortly after returning from Maui – I was so pleased with the state of the world, how could I not approve?!

Apocalypse ’91 was far from a negative review…but it hasn’t left my car since either, and would likely feature even more positive adjectives if re-reviewed.

I know the timing is not so great for Qui Sème le Vent Récolte le Tempo.

The question is, am I not fully appreciating MC Solaar’s 1991 release because it’s not really that great?

Or is it, to borrow a Blue Rodeo line, bad timing that’s all?

weezer: History Rewinding

equal

weezer: History Rewinding
by Geoff Stephen

I’ve spent/invested/squandered most of my adult life trying to solve one of the great mysteries of our time:

What happened to my beloved weezer?

After years of intensive research, failed mathematical models, and general bewilderment, I have come up with two possible theories:

1) A disruption in the space-time continuum

theory 1

As I first proposed in December 2014, there was an early 21st Century disruption in the space-time continuum, creating an alternate timeline, resulting in the release of some less-than-sacred albums, the original timeline somehow being reset by 2014, just in time for the release of the solid Everything Will be Alright in the End.

This scenario remains implausible enough to be true.

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2) weezer is not repeating history. They are REWINDING history.

I’ll explain. Graphically, of course.

albums 1-7
Diagram A

With weezer, listener frustration varies by album.

Therefore, weezer albums represent the independent variable (x) and listener frustration levels represent the dependent variable (y).

Diagram A shows listener frustration levels across the first seven weezer albums.

– The first two albums are frustration-free

– Frustrations grow with the simplistic ‘Green’ album, then subside slightly with the less instantly-appealing but more magnificent Maladroit

– The frustration levels jump again with the Beverly Hills-led Make Believe, only to recede slightly upon hearing the flashes of brilliance (e.g. Greatest Man Who Ever Lived) on the ‘Red’ album

– Finally, listener frustration spikes with the release of Ratitude.

Following the release of that 7th album, things looked bleak.

However, with the release of weezer’s 10th album, the ‘White’ album, a new pattern is emerging.

albums 8,9,10
Diagram B

Notice what happens on albums 8, 9, and 10.

They are mirror images of albums 7, 6, and 5.

Every weezer album is inevitably described as a “return-to-form.”

This week, it occurred to me that for the remainder of their career, this will ALWAYS be true with weezer.

But the “form” to which they are “returning” will depend on the album.

Each subsequent weezer album is really returning to the form of its first 7 albums counterpart, in reverse chronological order.

It’s as if they pressed ‘REWIND’ at some point between albums 7 & 8.

As shown in the graph:

Hurley (album #8) was a return to Ratitude (#7) form; each drove fans equally bananas, frustration levels to the extreme.

Everything…(#9) returned to the form displayed on ‘Red’ (#6); both albums sporadically reminding fans of why they were still weezer fans.

Which makes ‘White’ (#10) a return to Make Believe (#5) form.

And there are parallels a plenty. Out of respect for reader time, here are the Top 5.

top 5 parallels

Graphically, this return to Make Believe doesn’t seem like good news, as it has a higher frustration level than its predecessor.

However, if this rewinding/mirror pattern continues, the next 4 albums should be beauties.

weezer
Diagram C

The takeaway message?

The future looks bright.

weezer’s 11th album will mirror Maladroit; it will be underappreciated by the masses, be slightly heavier than usual, and feature a stellar track 7-8-9 sequence.

weezer’s 12th album will mirror the Green album; it will be short & snappy, though listeners will long for less basic song structures.

weezer’s 13th and 14th albums will be well worth the wait, joining Pinkerton and the Blue album as undisputed, stone cold classics.

I’m excited!

Prince: The Artist

Where were you when?

With Thursday’s sad news, I was in my period 4 math class, about to launch into a quadratics lesson when a student called out, “Mr. Stephen, did you hear…”

Prince

But over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about a different ‘where were you when’ question.

Q: Where were you when…you became a Prince fan?

A: Saturday, February 4, 2006. At home, watching Saturday Night Live (SNL) with my fabulous future wife.

Steve Martin was the host, the two of us were really enjoying the episode. The self-help book promo sketch, Don’t Buy Stuff You Can’t Afford, we still quote, 10 years later.

Though the skits were fun, it was the musical guest that night that left a truly unforgettable impression.

About half an hour in, Steve Martin announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Prince.”

About 4 minutes after that, I was well on my way to becoming a full-fledged Prince fan.

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What a track. What a performance. What a performer.

What a tragedy that he’s gone.

Thank you Prince for sharing your remarkable talents with the world.

Rest in Peace.

170px-Prince_logo.svg

 

Air – The Virgin Suicides (2000)

madeinfrance1001albums

Le beau logo est par Sarca @ caughtmegaming

Made in France Artist #1: Manu Chao

Made in France Artist #2: Daft Punk

Made in France Artist #3: Jean Michel Jarre

Made in France Artist #4: Jacques Brel

Made in France Artist #5: Air

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[Album 456/1001]

“It is also a nice way to re-immerse in the 1001 project…”
– me in April 2014, in my review of Air’s Moon Safari.

The Virgin Suicides.

Is there a more attention-grabbing title on the 1001?

With such provocative titles however, the challenge is maintaining listener attention.

Though he’s discussing car reservations, Seinfeld illustrates this grabbing/holding distinction splendidly:

“You know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation. And that’s really the most important part…”

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The French duo Air was able to get my attention.

But could they follow through with the most important part, the holding?

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I’ve been looking at this CD cover for the past few years at The Beat Goes On in Burlington.220px-Air_-_The_Virgin_Suicides

It always got my attention, but didn’t hold it after seeing the price tag of $7.99. Yes, it’s not outrageously priced, but if I were to spend $8 on each of the 1001 albums…!

So I streamed.

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Should I find myself in Burlington again soon, I may have to bring $8 with me.

The album (the score to the film of the same name) didn’t necessarily reel me in right away; somewhere around listen #4, it really started to click.

This film score featured recurring themes, without being repetitive.

There were Elliott Smith-ish moments, without being derivative.

The Radiohead influence was everywhere, without feeling second rate. One could argue the soundscapes & seamless sequencing here are on par with much of Radiohead’s 21st Century output.

I didn’t recognize the vocals on the opening track. Turns out, it’s the lead singer of the French band Phoenix, performing under a pseudonym.

Earlier this year, I wondered whether Phoenix would be a future favourite. Now I’m wondering where The Virgin Suicides might be placed in an inevitable Top 5 Film Scores list.

In any event, I’m glad that Air got & kept my attention.

“It is also a nice way to re-immerse in the 1001 project…”
– me in April 2016, concluding this very review of Air’s The Virgin Suicides.

Found out about Me [Part 4/4]

Picture of a photograph

Found out about Me:
My (not so) New, (not so) Miserable Gin Blossoms Experience
By Geoff Stephen

Where Are They Now/Prologue (2016)
Learning the Hard Way (2006)
Congratulations, I’m Sorry (1996)
New Miserable Experience (new-to-me in 1994)
Found out About You (pre-summer 1994)

[Part 4/4]

Without further adieu, the reason for the comically-oversized shirt.

Like the line in Competition Smile, “emulate the style,” I wanted to be like the lead singer Robin Wilson.

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I should note, in the early 90s, I seemed to think dudes with long hair named Robin &/or Wilson were the bee’s knees. Like Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood, or the Calgary Flames’ Carey Wilson. This singer has both Robin AND Wilson in his name? Bonus!

Given that, sometime pre-summer of 1994, I saw the Found out about You video and immediately thought, hey, that’s how I want to look!

Now with the strobe lights and quick edits, it’s difficult to replicate his wardrobe exactly beyond the earth-tone, turtleneck-ish, long-sleeve shirt. I can only assume he too was wearing short shorts, socks, and sneakers.

The question is (correct answer = him), who wore it better?

Robin Geoff

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Beyond informing my choice of style, hearing this song was one of those defining moments in my musical education.

It’s probably also my closest answer to the question, “what sort of music do you like?”

Appropriately, my love of Found out about You says an awful lot about me. Out of respect for reader time, I’ll list only 5:

1) I always try/never succeed at lyric accuracy

I can picture rewinding the tape over and over again, trying to scribble down the lyrics. Upon reading the printed lyrics this week, turns out I wasn’t even close!

2) I struggle with tabs/sight-reading

I remember picking up a guitar magazine as a youngin’ because it had this tab. I tried the intricate picking, not happening! Or at least, nowhere close to the right speed when attempting to sight-read. And so I play by ear, aiming for close enough.

3) I listen/watch for the guitar chords

I remember being baffled that the verse pattern here wasn’t just C, D, Em, D. It was these new-to-me chords, Cadd9, Dadd2, Em7, Dadd2 (Another reason the Gin Blossoms are special: they take a few chords, and make them sound new). I’m sure if/when I finally see them live, I’ll be watching Jesse Valenzuela & Scott Johnson’s left hands, try to figure out the chords as I enjoy the show!

4) In music, I’ll take light with dark every day

The strobe lights maybe are a bit much, but the clean tones & unhappy lyrics mesh beautifully, as per usual.

5) I prefer unresolved endings

The Cadd9 closing chord is fitting for this song, leaving the listener unsure of what would happen next.

gin blossoms

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And with that, I’m back to where my love for the band began.

Perhaps fittingly, also with a somewhat unresolved ending.

Why did I keep losing track of the Gin Blossoms? Why did I not even realize there was a 2010 album? How did I not realize their significance in my life before this year? What became of that shirt?

Once again, I turn to the song, Until I Fall Away.

1) “When there are no good answers to those new questions.” Sounds about right.

2) The bad spot on my cassette copy of Until I Fall Away.

When fellow ‘Where are they Now?’ blogger Brian wrote his “Bad” Spots in Music post earlier in March, my muffled Until I Fall Away copy immediately jumped to mind. Then the ‘Where are they Now?’ collaborative post was floated, I signed up for one Gin Blossoms post, and ended up in a month-long catalogue immersion, resurfacing with this series!

If history is any indication, I may fall away from the Gin Blossoms again.

But until I do, I’ll continue to savour this reunion with an old friend.

Epilogue

Top 5 fools

I’ve relished this revisiting of my Gin Blossoms CDs (including the EP Up & Crumbling featuring the exceptional closing track Keli Richards) and reminiscing about their role in my life over the last 2+ decades.

Like the lyric in 29, I’ve gone through “good and bad and straight through indifference” in terms of how I’ve felt about their music.

I’m pleased that at age 34, I’m back to full-fledged appreciation & enjoyment. Next on my to-do list is to pick up their 2010 album No Chocolate Cake & hopefully see them in concert.

Thanks for coming along on this journey, I’ll leave the last word to the Gins:

“Only time will tell if wishing wells
Can bring us anything
Or fade like scenes from childhood dreams
Forgotten memories”

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