Favourite Song: Chastity Belt ‘Elena’ – the end of something that never was

The end of summer, for many also the end of adventures or rather promises of adventures, brings me Chastity Belt’s new single “Elena”, which is a beautiful song of a love affair that never was more than a promise, never could fulfil what it could have been.

“He did just enough, to keep your hopes up”

I guess, my pop-culture-filled mind immediately leaps to “Love Kernels” from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”. How some people form themselves after the desired image of the partner, do everything to please, to make it work, even though the other person is not even what they really want. They don’t give back as much as is needed but still, they act as a placeholder that is being filled up with wishful thinking.

“His only intrigue was the lack of him, Fill in the blanks with what you see fit”

It’s a sad song, that is sung soft, tenderly with the guitar-heavy sound that Chastity Belt does so well. It’s a song that sounds like the end of summer, the end of something.

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Jason Hill’s “Mindhunter”-Soundtrack is just as good as the show

If you have a weird obsession with serial killers (tbh, who doesn`t?) then you’ve probably already devoured the second season of “Mindhunter”, that fascinating look into the early days of serial murderer-profiling that’s based on a real book (which you probably already read) but is mostly a fictitious retelling combined with real cases and murderers.

If it weren’t enough that half the actors look like their murderous real-life counterparts (some with the help of an amazing make-up team, some through their natural height) and that the show doesn’t even need gory scenes to conjure up horrible imagery, the soundtrack is the last nail into the murder-coffin. The composer is Jason Staehler Hill who produced everyone and their mother and who previously worked with David Fincher on “Gone Girl”.

Look, I’ve seen the real interviews with Edmund Kemper, so I can tell you that Britton nails it.

After season 2, I am absolutely hooked on the soundtrack. Maybe I was too impressed with Cameron Britton looking and sounding exactly like Edmund Kemper (who I, erm, “studied” a few years ago) or I was too happy that Holt McCallany finally got a leading part again after his ill-fated but very good boxer drama “Lights Out”, but I did not notice the music as much as I did this season.

So, I did what anyone would do: I rewatched season 1. And lo and behold, it’s the way it’s being used. In season 1, the viewer is basically tagging along with the agents, particularly Holden. We’re looking over his shoulder. Everything is a lot more noisy, there’s not many scenes in which you just watch without listening to dialogue, background noise, etc.

However, in season 2, you take a step back. You kinda become someone who watches the protagonists. There are scenes that are just you, watching, and the soundtrack. It is quieter but also creates a disquieting feeling.

It creates uneasiness during seemingly innocuous scenes. Watching Wendy visit someone she barely knows in an unknown neighbourhood. Watching Holden get into a car with a stranger. Watching Tench and his wife invite a policemen into their home without even looking properly at his ID. And then, there’s the music, like that unnerving feeling you sometimes get, “Bauchgefühl” we call it in German, that gut instinct.

For a tv show about serial killers, the soundtrack is beautiful. It’s a lot of violins, usually very soft, nearly feminine instruments, that turn sinister, even grating. But only just so, before they revert to their known delicacy. Just like a person leads a normal life, interacts with other people, does normal things and then, only just so, leans outside of this and breaks something. The soundtrack is a constant reminder.

In season 2, especially, it further adds another layer to the show, because there is also a heavy sadness to some of the compositions. Season 1 already takes a lot of time to think about the victims, to see them, listen to them, hear their stories.
These stories often get brushed off, when you listen to serial murder podcasts. I figure it’s easy to make a fun podcast for entertainment about serial killers but it’s difficult to keep up the good mood whilst talking about their victims as real people, leading their lives, having flaws, having aspirations, who then got tortured and brutalised before their untimely death.

Furthermore, though, season 2 shows the effect that violence has on those that are left behind. It puts a big emphasis on the families of the victims and therefore diverts our attention from our initial fascination with the murderers to the lives they erased and the trauma the loss causes not just to individuals but to whole communities and cities. Since the soundtrack itself can switch from a grand sadness to a sinister echoe, it works beautifully with these scenes, reminding us that even though we might enjoy those fun murder podcasts, highly dramatised true crime-documentaries and gritty movies about serial killers, their actions are not entertainment, they are a magnified shock wave of what is wrong with society.

 

10 things to do in a library (when you’re in a horror movie)

Ah, the library, the place the horror genre cannot ignore, whether it’s in games, books or movies. Even in times of Wikipedia and search engines, libraries are still worth a visit due to their documentation of local lore, lack of subscription models (free newspapers for everyone!) and internet that can’t be traced back to you for when your parents forbid you to get into anything regarding that fungi entity that – checks notes – eats people? Oh my, better ask your librarian for help.

  1. Find a hidden tome in the one room that’s closed to the public. It’s bound in leather and you’re not quite sure from which animal. Is that an eye on the front? Anyways, let’s open it up and read weird latin summonings out loud at midnight.
  2. Hide from the school / town bullies.
  3. Find out about the horrifying past of the town / house you recently moved into (spoiler: someone was killed there, always).
  1. See the face of a person you know in an old newspaper article from … gasp … 200 years ago!!!!
  2. Meet an anonymous source who will hide behind the book shelves and only talk to you through a gap between the books. You will totally be able to see them and the librarian most definitely knows what’s up but they still will feel like they are super sneaky.
  3. Meet up with friends to come up with a plan to defeat that serial killer / monster that you encountered and that none of the adults believe in. Get shushed by the librarian at least once.
  4. Find that one librarian who’s been there for a thousand years and knows all the town’s history and who also, weirdly, knows just that one obscure book for your very unusual problem (“a fungi presence that eats people every 8 years in November? I think I read a footnote five years ago in this 20 year old book on local forrest lore, it should be around here somewhere.”).
  5. Hide from the serial killer / monster!
  6. Get the book for your school project which initially seems innocuous but which eventually will coincidentally have something to do with the unknown evil you’re facing (“wait guys, I think there was something about how to kill fungi in the book I got for my biology project called ‘are fungi really indestructible?'”)
  7. Start to work there, so YOU can become that awesome librarian who shushes groups of kids, helps with obscure knowledge and knows everything about everything.

Angel Olsen “All Mirrors” – do you recognize yourself?

Angel Olsen, formerly a fave of mine for her angry love songs, indicates a more etherial direction into weird soundscapes with her new material complete with fake fog and heavy eyeliner. The song itself sounds like a long lost title track for “Twin Peaks”. That comparison might even fit because the song seems to be about that surreal feeling of change when you’re growing older and might turn into another person. Illusions are always a thing with David Lynch, as well as the terror amongst the mundane. Well, what could be more mundane than yourself and what could be more terrifying than not recognising your own self?

“All this trouble tryin’ to catch right up with me” should create a sense of dread and despair, I guess, but I think the idea of an ever evolving self is rather fascinating and not necessarily scary. Maybe it’s the millennial talking but change of the self is good. Given that the last image of Angel Olsen is her descending white stairs in an amazing glitzy gown, she might even agree.

Bat for Lashes “Kids in the Dark” and “The Hunger”: Blood-Red Sunrise

Seems like everyone and their mother loves 80s inspired synth-sounds currently. I could not be happier.

Bat for Lashes, aka Natasha Khan, has already talked in interviews about the synth-inspirations for her upcoming album “The Lost Girls”.  According to Natasha Khan, the album itself is going to be another concept album telling the story of a vampire girl gang (somewhat “Near Dark” but with women, I guess?). Since Khan moved to LA after the end of her contract with EMI, the songs also have this air of American sun-fuelled softness which is ironic for a vampire story but also fitting since LA nights are probably where this glamorous facade gets its beautiful dark cracks.

The song “Kids in the Dark” tells of “Nikki Pink”, one of the girls, falling in love and spending the nights together with her probably human love interest.

 

By the way: Diving into Natasha Khan’s inspirations is always fun since she is really a fan of the cinema and also cites “A girl walks home alone at night” as an inspiration.

The freshly released single “The Hunger” is a little more sinister (obviously, given the title). Still, it’s more of a life-affirming hunger, to take it all in, unleash all of it, feel it all, be burned by all of it. The music video with the girl gang in the desert during daylight is gorgeous imagery. I love the heavy bass and really appreciate that nearly hidden guitar line in the last third of the song, those are very juicy nods to the more atmospheric 80s (I am kind of reminded of Simple Minds’ “Seeing out the Angel” even though both songs don’t exactly sound alike, but the mood is similar).

Can’t wait for the album (coming out on September 6th).

Our Native Daughters ‚Songs of our Native Daughters‘ is an experience

As soon as Rhiannon Giddens starts the third song „Barbados“ with Spoken Word, there is a sense that this is not just an album but a conceptual experience. If you know my blog, you know that this is my jam.

„Songs of Our Native Daughters“ is an album by Soupergroup Our Native Daughters that does not feel like a mishmash of everyone’s influences rolled into one musical style. It’s rather a combination of different musical styles, all fitting under the big umbrella of Americana as a music genre and with a very political point to make.

Our Native Daughters are Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell, all singer/songwriters in their own right. If you do know a bit more about American folk/blues, you might already know that Giddens and McCalla both played in the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Russell is one part of Birds of Chicago (together with her husband). If you are – like me – not that well-versed, here’s a few of their websites to dig a little:

Amythist Kia – Website

Rhiannon Giddens – Website

Leyla McCalla – Website (that cover-photo!)

Birds of Chicago – Website

Even though there are lovely lullabies and airy songs about lazy afternoons, there is no hiding what this album wants to tell. The lyrics speak clearly and while songs like “Moon meets the Sun” might sound like a soft breeze, they do talk about shackles just like „Mama’s Cryin’ Long“, a thrilling a cappella-revenge story, that will put a boulder into your stomach and let your blood run cold.

 

The depth and darkness of these topics shouldn’t surprise, though. This is no „I am a wanderin’ man strummin’ my banjo, “-album. The intro alone („Black Myself“, written by Kiah) makes it clear that this is a record that shows Americana in all its roots, versions and influences.

Politics have always played a big role in this kind of music, whether directly in the lyrics, weaved up in metaphors or through its history. After all, Americana in most of its forms (gospel, blues, folk, etc.) is music created by black people. Songs like „Slave Driver“ don’t even try to hide behind any subtlety because in this day and age, it can and should be clear. As such, this album can be angry (rightfully so) but it also holds hope and strength and joy and fun and sweetness and love. There is always the underlying message how the strength of togetherness and the power of music can help through the historical and present oppression.

 

There’s a lot of humour involved as well, for example, when a song that sounds like something you skip ropes to on the schoolyard („Better git yer learnin’“) talks about:

The white folks, they will write the show
If you can’t read, you’ll never know

One could go so far to say that this record by these four black women shows all these layers, different feelings, views, the different songs and styles and instruments that are part of being a Woman of Colour in America.

This album is also a journey through the different forms that American folk music can take on. If I knew more about the specific origins of all the sub-genres, I could probably create a roadmap to track the actual geographical/historical genre-path these musicians take on their album.

Unless you really hate folk music and Americana, I’d say you will find at least one song that you’ll like. But be aware: there’s a lot of fiddlin’ and banjo-ing.

Favorite Song: Tears for Fears ‘Head over Heels’

In my personal opinion, nearly every Tears for Fears single is the perfect amalgation of why 80s pop was and is incredible. They truly are the sound of the 80s and their music ages so well, like every truly great pop song.

 

The trope of annoying the librarian because you have a crush on her, dumping your keyboard on her desk and having  achimpanse in the reading room. How rude.

Also, if I may be so bold: 80s Ian Stanley might have been the only living keyboard player ever who was the most attractive band member. If you wonder what happened, since he is the only original member who did not return for the bands reunion: he became a pretty prolific music producer, so there’s that.

Now, “Head over Heels” has hit me right in the guts in 2001 when I was 17 and saw “Donnie Darko”. This song is the introduction to the typical 80s high school life. The scene was specifically written and edited for the song and it shows. I haven’t watched that movie in years but this song is basically the whole mood of the entire movie, this hightened sense of surreal wonder.

 

What starts out as a love song, gets a little political (?) at the end. Even though the beginning is about trying to ask someone out, by the end, we have to ponder heavy lines like “It’s hard to be a man when there’s a gun in your hand” – I guess, Tears for Fears were never meant to be the band that writes “just” a love song.

Especially, since the song is supposed to be a twin with “Broken” which is just a super sad song of having given up all hope. The lines “one little boy one little man” as well as “funny how time flies” are repeated in “Broken” and in that way, this could be read as two songs about innocence (which always is hopeful) and the loss of it. The little boy (Head over heels) and the little man (broken). In “Head over Heels”, the demands that society puts on young men already weigh on the protagonist/narrator, so by the end, he already is turning jaded. But that’s just my two cents. I know that not every song is supposed to have a clear cut interpretation.

The amazing thing about the entire song is that the big musical promise the intro makes (a keyboard extravaganza leading up to greatness and really showing those butterflies of first crushes) is completely delivered by the song’s dramaturgy with the chorus as well as those heartfelt interludes. When Roland Orzabal sings “I feel so” in his high-pitched voice and then immediately drops into the chorus, it’s like my heart stops, it’s absolutely beautiful.

This song changes constantly. Again, this is like the ups and downs of being in love, this confusion and its perfectly delivered by Roland Orzabal who puts so much emotion in his vocals, it’s unashamedly 80s because it’s all so extreme and so much but it’s perfect that way. I love big emotions in pop music, give me all the pathos!!!