I’m currently in a soundtrack craze – the (usually) instrumental, original composition accompaniment to TV shows, games, movies etc. I started off with the Wrath of the Lich King soundtrack – of course, playing the game, I fully enjoyed listening to the tracks outside the game setting, and be able to give it my full attention as opposed to it being a minor background whining while I try to kill monsters – it is as good, maybe as good as the Burning Crusade soundtracks.
Then I hit up the Lost Season 3 soundtrack – I have always loved the amazing composition in Lost, which has on occassion made me cry on certain tracks, and fear for my life on the next. The tracks are highly effective at setting the mood on the show. However, sitting down and giving the entire soundtrack a thorough listen, I found it a little one-tune and repetitive – Michael Giacchino tends to reuse the same couple of themes and give it different twists. Which, in the setting of the show, is not too bad, because it gives a very consistent mood and musical branding. But it is not that great to listen to at one shot.
Then, on the recommendation of Jason, I tried the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack. Now, I have not watched Battlestar Galactica before, though I plan to, during the holidays. But I listened to all three seasons plus the mini-series, and I found the composition nothing short of amazing. Even without watching the show and getting the emotional resonance of it (like I do with Lost and WLK), I highly enjoyed the experience. There are decidedly Indian, Middle-eastern and African influences on the composition as well, with excellent use of drums. The music is also a lot more diverse and fun to listen to – while maintaining the musical branding overall. 5 stars for the BSG soundtrack!
This soundtrack craze is likely to continue, because I find soundtracks great background to do work to – much less distracting than normal music, because there are no lyrics and it is lot less jingly. So, if I discover more good ones, expect more reviews on them.
This time, it is not a music discovery, because I am pretty sure everyone and their grandmother have heard of this movie. I managed to obtain a very high-quality version of the soundtrack (and discovered for the first time what a difference a high-quality sound file makes, and what I’ve been missing out by listening to mp3s), and gave the soundtrack a thorough listen.
Of course, Slumdog Millionaire has been a runaway success, and has been awarded and nominated for several titles. Its soundtrack by AR Rahman has already won the Golden Globes, and looks set to be on the path for the Oscars.
Is it good? Short answer is, of course, it is. AR Rahman has once again demonstrated his genius and flexibility, and given us another delectable aural treat. But I will not call it his best work, because having followed his work since the time he premiered on Roja, I can confidently say it is not. Yes, it has gained international recognition – but only because it is attached to a production which is not of Indian origin. Him winning the Golden Globes (and potentially the Oscars), is a lot like Katherine Heigl winning an Emmy for season 3 of Grey’s Anatomy, or a more potent example, Einstein winning the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the photoelectric phenomenon – he/she deserves it, but for the wrong work.
The last time his work gained international recognition was when he did Bombay Dreams and Lagaan. Bombay Dreams soundtrack was decidely unoriginal (Rahman simply reused the tunes from his former work from Indian films, which, of course the non-Indian audience would not have picked up at all), and was rather butchered by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s bad writing.
Slumdog is an original production by contrast, and includes a mix of decidedly Indian soundtracks (Jai Ho), to the extremely western (Gangsta). It would not be entirely wrong to call Slumdog‘s soundtrack AR Rahman for the non-Indian audience – a bit of a primer before you can start appreciating the true depth of the man’s work.
This post is probably long overdue, but as with everything else, I’ve been too busy to blog about it. I’ve received enough ribbing in my life about Indian movies, Indian songs and everything to do with Indian culture. People making fun of “dancing around coconut trees”, moving their heads and hands in a horrible imitation of what they consider Indian dance, and laughing at music – all of which I am expected to agree with and laugh at. I don’t confront residual racism directly, and until recently, I myself would have been unqualified to confront it [But that is not really the point].
So, with the axiom that knowledge is power, I am giving all my readers a tour of that great Indian institution: Indian films. Before I start, I must disclaim that I am by no means an expert, and I have not seen every movie out there [that would take roughly 100 years], and I am only able to give my point-of-view from three languages. Yes, surprise, there is more than one Indian language – roughly 20 official languages, in fact, spread out over 26 states. But the languages with an active film industry are not that many – Bengali, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu and of course, Hindi (popularly known as Bollywood). I am familiar with three of them – Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil. My interest in Indian movies was only recently revived, after having considered most of them in disdain. I still do, but I have learned to appreciate the gems too. Continue reading
No specific track this time to recommend, actually. I was cleaning out the CDs at home, and found a bunch of Tamil and Hindi music CDs I hadn’t yet imported into my library… I had forgotten they existed, honestly, and when I finally did import them, I re-discovered some of my favourite tracks.
Title: Edge of the Ocean
Album: Long Distance
I fell in love with this song the very first time I heard it on Grey’s Anatomy Season 1, but never looked it up until recently. And I was much rewarded by one of the most beautiful songs I possess. Edge of the Ocean is a soulful, dreamy, melancholy Lo-Fi treat. Though I first heard it on Grey’s Anatomy, I kept thinking that it surely should have been used as a song in an episode of Lost, in one of the montages, as the lyrics fit it perfectly. I can listen to it again and again, and not get tired of it.
There’s a place I dream about
Where the sun never goes out.
And the sky is deep and blue.
Won’t you take me there with you.
Ohhh, we can begin again.
Shed our skin, let the sun shine in.
At the edge of the ocean
We can start over again.
There’s a world I’ve always known
Somewhere far away from home.
When I close my eyes I see
All the space and mystery.
Ohhh, we can begin again.
Shed our skin, let the sun shine in.
At the edge of the ocean
We can start over again.
Title: Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)
Album: Beautiful Garbage
When I first heard this song, I simply liked it for its musical appeal. However, when I happened to look up the lyrics, it was perhaps the queerest song I had ever heard (with the exception of Lick It by God-des She, but that’s a different story altogether). It is about a boy who looks like a girl, a girl so beautiful it is almost unreal. When the chorus goes “You’re such a delicate boy/In this hysterical world/Of an emotional landslide/In physical terms”, you know exactly what they are talking about, about subverting gender norms and living to tell the tale.
Thanks to Jessica for the original recommendation. Really, you couldn’t have picked a queerer song, and probably by accident too.
This won’t be so much as a review as a fan-girl gush-session about KT Tunstall’s concert on 27th March. First of all, I have to thank Pirate for the tickets, without which my student wallet would not have made it to the concert.
There was a mile-long queue outside the hall before the concert started, Pirate and I couldn’t believe that this many people had turned up to see her. Half of the attendees seemed to be Caucasians, which was a pity, because really, more locals need to know her. Continue reading
Artist: Lily Allen
Album: Alright, Still
I originally heard LDN on The Planetcast, and instantly fell in love with it. Her floaty, girly voice and the sunny, upbeat music can fool you into thinking this is some kind of Little House on the Prairie music, but it is far from that. The lyrics are harshly honest and funny, gritty and light all at the same time. LDN is as about how double-layered the city is, just like her own music, all pretty and shiny until you do a double take.
It is not unfair to describe Lily Allen’s music as the white girl answer to rap music, especially with her other songs Alfie and Smile from the same album, grit delivered on a white fluffy cloud.
Title: Rocky Took a Lover
Artist: Bell X1
Rocky Took a Lover is one of those songs that you like without meaning to, with its quirky lyrics and interesting choice of instruments for a primarily soft rock group. It uses soft tinkling xylophones/bells, juxtaposed against a primary background of electronic guitars and bass to create an ethereal, dont-know-what-to-make-of-it tone. The lyrics, typically, don’t seem to make a lot of sense, especially when viewed with its even more quirky music video, and the only connection I can seem to make is that the cartoonish characters look like rocks, hence, er, the title of “Rocky”, who is, er, romancing another stone-like toon.
Title: Bailando Va
Artist: La Caina
Album: Cafe del Mar Dream Vol 4
Cafe del Mar albums are famous world-wide for their soothing, chill-out, perfect for watching-a-sunset, perfect for a dinner-or-drinks-party music. Only recently have I gotten into their music, and I stumbled onto this song while looking at the Cafe del Mar Singapore website. It has all the classic markers of a Cafe del Mar song, the sounds of sea, the slow soothing Spanish female vocals, slow strumming of the guitar, that envelop you in a comforting lyrical blanket. It makes you want to curl up with a good book or a partner at the beach at night by a cosy fire. [By the way, the song is best heard without watching the accompanying music video – I used this link because it was the only one I could find]
I also managed to find a song I’ve been hunting for more than two years, from a Cafe Del Mar album – Mumbay Theme Tune, as it is called in the Cafe del Mar Volume 5. It is the theme song that appears in Fire, the controversial 1997 Indian lesbian movie. Fire, to this day, remains my favorite movie for many reasons, and this theme song, beautifully written by A.R. Rahman (as always, him being an unparalleled musical genius) makes me want to cry every time I hear it, so beautiful and bitter-sweet. Okay, I admit, I did cry the first time I heard it again, as it evoked for me, strong memories of the film and its powerful ending. You caught me, I am a weepy little sensitive girl. Now shoo, and go listen to the recommended tracks.
Update: Another recommendation from the Cafe del Mar Dreams Volume 4 – Feel Safe by Luminous, a beautiful, almost romantic tantric piece.