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Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010
by PopMatters Staff

You’ve heard Ludovico Einaudi’s music in the trailer for The Reader, in an ad for American Airlines with Kevin Spacey, in the 2009 NBA Championship Playoffs advertisements in the US, a number of television placements as well as 17 of his tracks used in the upcoming film Dirt! The Movie


Einaudi has written 15 film scores, several which won prizes as best soundtracks in a variety of European film festivals, including the BAAF award for his soundtrack for Shane Meadow’s film, This is England


Einaudi was the only classical artist invited to play the iTunes Festival in Europe and on his last live tour, he performed more than 120 concerts all over the world including India, Europe, Japan and the US. His first US release, Divenire (2008), debuted at #1 on the iTunes Classical Chart and at #78 on their pop chart. The release was also nominated for “Album of the Year” by the Classical Brit Awards.


Formerly trained in Conservatorio Verdi in Milan, Einaudi now lives on a vineyard in the Italian region of Piedmont where his latest CD, Nightbook (released in the US this month), was conceived.


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Tuesday, Jan 5, 2010

The regrettable tendency for audiences when any great artist dies is to hear that person’s music in the past tense. Songs one used to be able to live in actively start to sound more like premonitions or epitaphs, rather than the vibrant, complex worlds that existed before their departure. Though not as widely known as Kurt Cobain or Elliott Smith, Vic Chesnutt’s recent death has already sent fans parsing through songs like “Supernatural”, “Florida”, and especially the recently penned “Flirted With You All My Life” for clues and foreshadowing of his apparent suicide. However, I hope against odds that this is avoided. For all of Chesnutt’s remarkable candidness and honesty in his writing, songs like those mentioned above shined not just as insight into his own mind, but through their craft, idiosyncrasy, and unique style, they succeeded at illuminating countless unarticulated thoughts and feelings in our own lives, whether dark, silly, crass, or poignant. And though Vic’s death has left an unfixable hole in the lives of friends, family, and fans, the truthfulness and relevance of his life’s work endures.


“Flirted With You All My Life”, for example, touches on experiences and people personal to Chesnutt, though I cry whenever I hear it not out of pity, or how it resonates with Vic’s death just months after its release, but out of sympathy and my own experiences with death. In light of his passing, I hope not to fix his songs as finite pieces of his life’s puzzle, but to allow them to continue to be borderless and timeless. In that spirit, I want to indulge in a few of my favorite memories involving Vic’s music, that continue to make me laugh and think, as much to celebrate what was and is, as to grieve what can no longer be.


Tagged as: vic chesnutt
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Monday, Jan 4, 2010
Monster sells for a penny on the Internet and used record stores can't give the album away. But at one moment, it was good enough to gain four million buyers.

In 2002, I did some record store browsing with some fellow copy reporter interns-to-be in Austin. While I was fishing through the ‘R’s, one girl next to me said “One thing you can count on when you go into a used record store is at least five used copies of R.E.M.‘s Monster will be on hand.” At that moment, I saw a solid brick of orange CDs, proving her point. Several hours and several beers later, we started wondering why so many people turned on Monster. A few months later, I vowed I would get a record store clerk to buy my copy – a feat that took more than seven years to complete.


Before going into why people have sold the album en masse, it merits looking back to see why so many people picked up the album in the first place. After all, a used CD once had a buyer.  Document put R.E.M. in the majors, but was followed by three less rock-oriented albums that made the band superstars nonetheless. Automatic for the People was regarded in many circles as one of, if not the best work from the band. Still, once that album was released, there was a definite rumbling in the band’s fanbase for the band to return to the more rock-oriented sound of their earlier albums. Enter Monster.


Tagged as: monster, r.e.m.
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Wednesday, Dec 30, 2009

Before I begin, is anyone going to argue that “Basket Case”—Green Day’s second Billboard Modern Rock Tracks number one hit, the result of a vibrantly cartoonish music video and the band’s infamous mud-slinging set at Woodstock ‘94—isn’t one of the best songs on Dookie? Because if you are, you are objectively wrong and you suck and I hate you. Here’s why.


First, let’s look at how the song is laid out. “Basket Case” has a pretty straightforward song structure: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus, and finally outro. Simple, huh? Except that’s not how the listener perceives the song.


You see, in order to keep “Basket Case” from sounding like thousands of other songs with a similar framework, what Green Day does is cast the first verse and chorus as a long intro section, a mere prelude for the mayhem to follow. For much of the first verse/chorus pairing, only singer/guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong is playing on the track, instantly grabbing the listener’s attention with an unforgettable introductory monologue:


Do you have the time
To listen to me whine
About nothing and everything all at once?
I am one of those
Melodramatic fools
Neurotic to the bone no doubt about it




Tagged as: green day
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Friday, Dec 18, 2009

After five potent doses of heady pop-punk, “Pulling Teeth” is the first track on Dookie that really allows the listener to catch his or her breath. Drawing inspiration from an episode where Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt broke his arms while having a pillow fight with his future wife, the leisurely-paced “Pulling Teeth” features a character who is physically tormented by his girlfriend. The narrator is trapped in an abusive relationship, noting wryly “She comes to check on me / Making sure I’m on my knees / After all she’s the one / Who put me in this state”. The track is pure black comedy wrapped up in electric ballad form, as exemplified by the Beatles-esque delivery of the chorus “Is she ultra-violent? / Is she disturbed? / I better tell her I love her / Before she does it all over again / Oh God she’s killing me”.


Sandwiched between album highlights “Welcome to Paradise” and “Basket Case”, the song easily falls prey to “album track syndrome”, where a listener is prone to skip over it in order to get to another, more familiar tune. I certainly do that every time I listen to the record, partly because it’s not one of my favorites, but more importantly because it kills the momentum the album has been riding out up to that point. I know “Pulling Teeth” has its fans, but I’ve always found it a bit boring.


It’s not a bad song per se. Like the tracks preceding it, “Pulling Teeth” displays Green Day’s knack for musical interplay and lyrical character studies. Based on a standard rock ballad structure, the band adds touches like dual lead vocals that harmonize throughout and one of the album’s few proper guitar solos in order to play up the song’s subversive intent. However, Green Day delivers the song predominantly in a chugging groove that moves slower than all other songs on the record save “When I Come Around”. Such grooves are rare in Green Day songs, as the band moves best when it’s jumping around syncopated chord changes at a breakneck pace. The band has a harder time keeping its performances interesting when it slows things down (this is why for all its merits I don’t think the group’s American Idiot megahit “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is all that great). Here, it almost sounds like a chore for Green Day to keep from speeding up and busting loose. Unfortunately, the backing performance can’t be too adventurous, as the lyrics are undoubtedly the main focus of the track. As a result, the appeal of the song primarily rests on the listener finding its gender-tweaking “battered male” concept amusing. If you don’t think that a woman abusing her boyfriend is inherently funny (and why should you?), “Pulling Teeth” loses its center and becomes a two-and-a-half-minute slog that sits between you and “Basket Case”. Despite being a nice exercise for the group, these hindrances make it hard to classify the song as one of the album’s essential tracks.


Tagged as: green day
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