Friday, April 17, 2009

Travelling, Treking, On ze road again

Today I'm leaving for Paris. Then I'm going to Corsica. Then I'm heading back to Paris. Then I'm coming back to Tours. Then I'm returning to Paris. Then I'm flying to the USofA!

So! During the approximately two weeks in Corsica-Paris-Corsica, I will have limited web or email access, so don't be hopeful for a sudden, miraculous surge of blogging. However, thanks to the magic of Twitter, I can microblog! It's on the sidebar but for those of you who are not sure how the scroll function works on your computer, here is the URL:

Happy microblog reading...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Won’t Want for Rock: A Review of the Decemberists’ The Hazards of Love [2009]

I decided to share my recent review of my favourite band's latest release, soon to be published in the Davidson Reader.

In the middle of the Decemberists’ fourth full-length release, The Hazards of Love, the song “An Interlude” provides one minute and forty seconds of quiet, instrumental relief. It’s a necessary pause in an album that barely lets up on pounding guitars and intense vocals. With The Hazards of Love, the Decemberists leave their well-trodden, comfortable territory of sprightly indie pop and enter the darker rock land that they explored with their 2004 EP, The Tain.
Like The Tain, The Hazards of Love is a tightly-wound concept album, centered around the much-wronged character Margaret. Listeners familiar with lead singer Colin Meloy’s distinctive elocution may find the presence of two female guest singers, Becky Stark as Margaret and Shara Worden (from My Brightest Diamond) as the evil queen, jarring at first. However, these female vocals mesh neatly with Colin’s and provide a rich avenue for the complex and morbid lyrics.
“Prelude” opens the album with nearly a full minute of silence; a deep resonance gradually awakens with a threatening atmosphere reminiscent of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. Soon the track cuts seamlessly into “The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone)” as Margaret’s tale of woe begins. There are three encores of the main “The Hazards of Love” theme as the album continues.
The advance single for the album was “The Rake’s Song,” about a murderous young father, easily the creepiest song on The Hazards of Love. His victims make a re-appearance in “The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge)” as a bone-chilling children’s chorus join the already expanded ranks of vocalists. The album’s longest track is “The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid,” but this is no “California One / Youth and Beauty Brigade.” Instead, Colin and Shara take turns in a duet of debts and desire.
Still, The Hazards of Love is not a release to be sampled in morsels; it is intended to be a complete experience for listening from beginning to end. Tellingly, the Decemberists played the entirety of the album during their concert at SXSW; unlike most concerts where artists play a mix of new songs from the latest release and some old favorites, this one featured solely the tracklisting straight from the album. Only after an encore did Colin play two older songs. Just as that audience in the concert experienced, taking in the music during one fell swoop is the best way to appreciate The Hazards of Love.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

My Window Is Open


Sorry for the long pause in blogging! I have not been sitting idle, I promise. What have I been doing? Well -- traveling to Berlin, Lyon, cycling to Villandry, and re-discovering Normandy, for starters. Also, wrapping up my semester and preparing to return to the U.S. (!) in less than a month. I have loved my year abroad (lack of blogging updates notwithstanding) but still miss my friends and family.

I've also discovered Twitter (see side bar for the link). Now, I was always one of those people who thought Twitter was strange and faddish, but then I saw the error of my ways. It was my sister who piqued my interest in joining that group. However, I still refuse to use the words "twitterverse" and "tweet" (urgh) since they just sound horrid.

It's strange to request post topics, but is there something I should blog about? The parts of France I love and the parts that are "challenging"? The joys of public gardens and amorous teenagers? The amusement of badly-dubbed television? Tell me.