MUSIC REVIEW: Chris Lastovicka, Fortune Has Turned (Remixed) / Single #1: The 7th Chapter of Job (Remixed) / Single #2: The End of Tyranny (Remixed)

By Lee Anderson

Chris Lastovicka was one of ten composers selected for New York City Opera's Vox: Showcasing American Composers Festival. He was also commissioned to write the music for "Into Sunlight,” a piece about the Vietnam War. Here, Lastovicka has decided to re-release an album, this time handing the mixing knobs to Jeremy Allom who has already impressed on releases for Massive Attack and The La’s. For a mastering engineer, Lastovicka chose Grammy-nominated Emily Lazar of The Lodge, an audio mastering facility in Manhattan’s East Village. 

"Because of her early background in creative writing," Lastovicka says, "and her drive to tell the story of an album through her mastering work...I wanted to get someone who would understand the sonic imperfections of the recordings and how I felt they mirrored the rough experience of seeking the Self." Which sounds like a good enough reason certainly.

The two singles from the remixed album Fortune Has Turned-- "The 7th Chapter of Job" and "The End of the Tyranny--" (the first and last tracks of the album) are undoubtedly improvements on the originals since the integrity of the songs are kept intact. It’s a wise move. 

The initial “7thChapter of Job” opens with a quick, heavy breath of cellos in which the strings exhale slower and slower, like the breath of someone dying. The song builds with French horns and violins around the impressive soprano of Kimberly Tobola. It’s an emotional experience that makes me happy that I took the time to listen to the tracks when I was alone and wouldn’t be interrupted. 

I understand Job to be the poor guy God tortured for no good reason other than to show him He could. I Google “What is the 7thChapter of Job?” and I find Job asking God:   

“If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
    you who see everything we do?
Why have you made me your target?
    Have I become a burden to you?” 

It’s a haunting question and a powerful musical piece. 

Allom’s remix (which comes with the video included below), is a more immediate and layered take, and nearly twice as long. The video is a trippy black and white montage of images layered on top of each other. A classically beautiful young woman glances around herself worriedly and hugs herself, like the helpless, bashful nymph that she is. The image-upon-image effect is mesmerizing, but the song deserves a better video. At least one that stands up to a second viewing and has at least somethingto do with the song title. 

The 2005 version of “The End of Tyranny” is a wistful, autumnal piano piece that warmly drops key at the end. The remix has nothing rearranged but merely brings out the instruments more, making them clearer.  

The release is definitely worth a listen:

Listen to the release HERE.

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MUSIC VIDEO REVIEW: Arden Leigh, “Mary Did You Know?”

By Lee Anderson

Here is the music video to Arden Leigh’s version of the gospel song “Mary Did You Know?” It was written by Mark Lowry and Buddy GreeneI, and previously covered by everyone from Clay Aiken to Kenny Rogers. 

Arden wanted a “gothier” version. “First sang it when I was 17 at my Catholic high school's annual Christmas festival,” explains Arden. “I couldn't believe that in the years since someone hadn't made a darkwave version of it...” 

The song is made “darkwave” by a bassline that sounds right out of early-Cure. The piano and drums are heavier than other versions, but nothing has been too drastically changed. It’s still a gospel song.

The video cuts between Arden singing in the doorway of a “manger-like” structure, then cavorting around an intricate tombstone taller than she is, then she’s alone in a dark room filled with candles like any good religious video should be. 

If you’re not already aware of the song, the lyrics are straight-forward, imploring the Virgin Mary if she somehow had any awareness that she was actually giving birth to the most important human being ever. What would giving birth to God feel like? Doesn’t every woman, in a way, give birth to God? “Mary did you know that your baby is Lord of All Creation?,” Arden sings. 

She owns an amazing voice, no doubt, and seems to have enough confidence in it that she can sing at the camera as intensely as I’ve ever seen a singer do. Also, her fashion model looks and tight dresses are nothing short of sensual, making for an odd choice, if not interesting. Her eyes even roll white when she’s really getting into it, as if, well, “possessed.” This makes it gothier, too.

Arden calls the release of this song a “Christmas gift” while also apparently using publicity from the song to help launch her own 8-week, self-improvement course called “The Re-Patterning Project.” Her course seems to mix Christianity with epigenetics, which is: “the idea, now scientifically proven, that we can inherit trauma generationally through the passing of genetic alterations to the interpretations of our DNA.” In other words, as best as I can understand it, we can feel distress and exhibit aberrant behavior from the trauma experienced and passed on by distant relatives. Even ancient relatives. Anyway, she aims to help you with that.

"When someone tells you it runs in the family, “ she explains, “you tell them here's where it runs the fuck out."

Preview and Buy the Track HERE

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MUSIC ALBUM REVIEW: LeeSun, "Singing You This Song."

By Lee Anderson

Korean/Canadian/British songstress LeeSun has released a new media-only album with the on-the-nose title of “Singing You This Song.” 

The album starts with the wistful tune “Wishing,” which includes LeeSun’s hushed voice accompanied only by a soft acoustic guitar. The song is actually so quiet and melancholy that the next track—with LeeSun’s sudden declaration that: “This is my life!”--jars you out of your skin. Her voice soon lowers playfully: “Life is too short, and life’s too long to spend regretting that I don’t belong in your little world and your little dreams. I don’t want to be you…” Here is the quirky mood and tone I was expecting from someone with so many different cultural backgrounds, especially with the squeaky chorus and eventual hand claps. It’s jazzy and silly but utterly loveable. 

The atmosphere changes drastically again with “Mother Dear,” which sounds like a love-hate letter to a mentally unstable mother from her long-suffering daughter who “soaks up all of your words.” Not sure if this song is autobiographical, but LeeSun herself does say: “This album is about processing extremely difficult and painful experiences, and emerging on the other side, more free and powerful, with an ever-increasing capacity to love.” 

 “Dry Your Tears” seems to be about her mother as well. “The suffering child carries her suffering throughout life,” explains LeeSun, “until eventually she becomes a mother…Her words are a promise to her baby that she will change the story.” LeeSun collaborated with filmmakers Robin and Oli Mueller of Cottongrass Films to get this story across in the song’s music video. (See Below.) Shot in suffocatingly muted colors, a young girl is running free through a field before stepping into a bear trap that remains on her foot for the remainder of the video, even into adulthood. The steel device chews her ankle, holding her down and making her helpless, a metaphor for the behavior trap that can cling to us from our parents. “I give to you all of my strength,” LeeSun sings. “Dry your tears. You’re spirit is bigger than these bitter years. Find your freedom, find your peace…” The video concludes brilliantly with the grown actress that’s playing LeeSun sharing shots with LeeSun herself until both of them slump head-down on a table together, unconscious, comfortably yet dangerously medicated.

“Want to Be” starts with some of my favorite opening lyrics, maybe ever, to a song: “Till the sky falls in and the universe is torn apart with Heaven’s birth and restoration fills the earth, I want to be with you.” Right on. The next stand out song, “Singing You This Song,” marvels at the alignment of decisions and events that fell into place for her to be singing this particular song to us in the exact moment that we’re hearing it. If she were born somewhere different, would she still be singing this song? Yes, somehow I believe that she would.

Her album finishes with “We’re All Made of Stars (Guitar Version),” which I assumed was an acoustic cover of the Moby tune of the same name. Couldn’t but feel a little disappointed that it wasn’t since LeeSun’s downbeat interpretation of such an upbeat pop song would have been interesting. However, I should have expected her to do her own thing. LeeSun is simply too original.   

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EP/VIDEO REVIEW: Monique Angele, "Alive" and "Hold On"

By Lee Anderson

The cover to Canadian singer Monique Angele’s EP “Alive” (Above) shows her sitting alone in an antique armchair near a tiffany lamp. She turns her head to her right, as if someone on the other side of the room has just said something worrisome. It’s a remarkable picture for an EP cover and I don’t normally comment on covers. (Maybe I should.) The Polaroid-esque tension of the image makes the perfect pre-introduction to her 6 track release. Angele injects a lot of emotion into her songs but never shouts. Her songwriting is precious but without stealing anything from Kate Bush. 

The first track is “Pink Colored Sky,” backed by what sounds like an orchestra in a room where the wood on the walls is fake but beautiful anyway. “Oh, I dream of pink-colored skies where there are no limits,”she sings. “Seeing things I don’t want to see, feelings things I don’t want to be…”Her voice is beautiful and strong enough to carry such lyrics, thankfully. Words that would weigh too heavy in a lighter voice.

Angele describes herself on TWITTER as an “operatic piano pop singer-songwriter.” She’s right. The operatic part comes on stronger with the second track “Our Paradise.” She’s wanting to know where it is. We all do, but sadly we haven’t a damn clue. “Forever Strong” insists defiantly that “we all belong.” 

Based in Australia now, Angele has a background in solo piano and voice repertoire as well as opera and musical theatre. “Rare Girl,” my favorite track, continues to show off what a talented pianist and  vocalist Angele is. Each song is, in fact, started then held together by the rhythm and value of her piano playing. She sings here about the universal need to be that rare girl, the one who always has it all together. 

“Hold On” has a music video which I’ve included below. The video dissolves between her hands playing the piano, Angele reclined before a white sheet curtain, and a frontal shot of her playing the piano and singing, swarmed in lens glare. “Time will tell when I’m fine,” she sings, later walking in a white dress through a high-grass field.  Her superimposed profile sings: “I’m broken now, I’m broken now” over an image of her continuing to walk, actually appearing pretty broken now. “I’m not me, I’m not me…” The song builds with choral background singers. The video ends with Angele reassembling a broken mirror in slow-motion, intercut with her atop a large hill, the chorus still swelling, ultimately victorious. 

The EP ends with “I Want A World” in which she just wants a world where people are kind. She wants a world where she can breathe clean air. “…where we never leave nature in despair.” We all want that, but sadly we haven’t a damn clue.

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NEW SONG REVIEW: Les Techno, "Closer Look"

By Lee Anderson

Les Techno’s single “Closer Look” is a very, VERY Eighties track, but this is a GOOD thing. He’s not trying to hide it at least. His pitch is his nostalgia. I’m a child of the era myself, so I’m all in. Also, I try not to ever comment on an artist’s physical appearance, but the promo picture on the video above even screams “Pretty in Pink.” Collar popped on a nuclear-green jacket, iridescent shades, a high cap of hair that maybe isn’t hair at all but some kind of crazy hat? The guy isn’t fucking around.

“Les Techno” (his real name isn’t offered) is a singer and guitar player who was once a fixture of the New York City music scene, performing in the bands Sim-Stim and Love Posse. Later he worked with the late jazz artist Larry Coryell who taught Les Techno his mastery of analog synthesizers.

This brought him to work on hip-hop tracks with Run-DMC, Mobb Deep, and Onyx. He also was hired to do a Red Hot Chili Peppers remix of “Higher Ground,” and worked with Bernie Worrell on a record benefiting New York’s Gay Men's Health Crisis Center (Downtown, Virgin/EMI). Les Techno has written and produced everything from reggae dance-hall to techno and Latin hip hop.

His new song “Closer Look,” with its Thompson Twin synthesizers and ghost echo guitar, takes you back to a simpler, yet more dramatic time. That beloved decade before the nasty Nineties. In other words, it makes you feel like you do after you’ve said good-bye to your first teenage girlfriend at the airport, and you’re convinced she’s your soul mate, and now you’re driving home and the light of the orange, sinking sun spikes through the trees that zip by on the highway, warming your arm as it hangs in the window, and you light another cigarette because you already can’t stop thinking about her.

The track is so Eighties that the beginning xylophone beat will remind you of that image of Tom Cruise, rounding that hill in his cream-colored ’49 Buick Roadmaster Convertible with his autistic older brother babbling beside him, a road trip turned redemptive journey.  

Looking back at the written word, a thought drifts in, some wisdom heard. All paths, they lead us to this shore. I understand each time you crack the door,” Les Techno sings. Then later: “Ancient walls, they frame the view. A beautiful face, it belongs to you…”

What the hell do lyrics like that even mean? 


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VIDEO SINGLE REVIEW: The Stone MG's, “I Need You.”

By Lee Anderson

The following is a music video by Austin, Texas duo The Stone MG’s, which consists of Rodney James on vocals and S.J. Warman on guitars and bass. Their new singlw “I Need You” is a song about addiction and the many hideous forms it can take. 

The beat of the song comes in like mallets pounding a garbage can. Warman’s bass pulses in, soon covered by James’ pained but unhurried vocals. “I need you,” he sings. “And everything you do.” Framed in shadow, a black and white cartoon man stares at the middle distance. His shadow self (or bandmate?) steps out from behind him, then changes into cartoon sharks, tigers, spiders, teenagers dancing, and other dangerous animals. 

Color is used sparingly in each scene, if at all, and then only to highlight what the illustrator wants to emphasize: splattering blood, the plastic on a child’s bag of potato chips, a pill bottle, an alcoholic’s eyes… 

James’ voice takes you off-guard at first, like it’s mixed too high. But as the beat and bassline continue, his singing gradually takes over the song, like it’s meant to. His pitch is high because his soul is hurting. 

The symbolism in the video is fairly easy to interpret: While innocent cartoon characters move within a cloud of friendly butterflies, the addicted are covered in a feeding frenzy of demonic beetles. Misery swarms over everything in the shape of bugs. Scenes transition down a tunnel of lights, feeling as though we’re either being taken upwards through the galaxy—or down into the earth, deeper and deeper, getting more and more lost…


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MUSIC REVIEW: Weather McNabb, “Cubicle Zombie”

By Lee Anderson

We can assume the title of Weather McNabb’s new ep comes from her own personal experiences of having to survive on a dead end office job--that blackmail of modern survival. (“Your soul’s on sale from 9-5,” she sings on the song “Adapt.”) Minneapolis-born but out of Boston, Weather’s earlier music career was kept funded by a series of bookkeeping jobs. As a result, her songwriting is of a woman disillusioned and pissed at the boredom and disappointment that life has given her, just the kind of lyrics you might expect to see squeezed onto a minimized Word document so her boss won’t see. 

“Good morning” starts off with the bluesy reverb of a lone guitar before joined by electronic beats and McNabb’s smoky voice, which makes such a banal greeting somehow haunted. “One morning I woke up to find the sky was gray, steeped in lies,” she sings, the song then altering tempo and mood 3 times, even switching featured instruments.

Weather does this often in her songs, mostly with piano change-ups that are unexpected but always welcomed. Melodies evidently come easy for her. However, the frequent voice effects placed on her singing seem intended to mask her lack of range. What her voice lacks in power, it actually makes up for in sincerity without veering into Anne Murray territory. Her songs themselves rely heavily on the chorus to mixed results. Some of them simply aren’t as catchy as they think they are.  

Next is “Adapt,” which sounds even angrier: “I beg for help, you slam the door. You say you know, but I say goddman you don’t.” “War Paint” thankfully picks up the mood while remaining defiant. “Time Machine” is a fun, 80’s-to-the-core pop song that appropriately contains a countdown. 

Closing out the Ep is the thump-bass intro of “User Error.” “I cannot sleep at night, you really fucked it up this time.” The tune ends with that last line repeated until her voice fades out. It’s the words of someone beginning to admit their mistakes and regret their temper, which is nothing less than rocket fuel for the some of the best songwriting ever. Weather is getting there. And it’s looking sunny! (Couldn’t resist.) 

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