Monday, January 15, 2018

I Will Always Go Beside You, You Will Always Understand: Dolores O'Riordan

Something has left my life
And I don't know where it went to
Somebody caused me strife
And it's not what I was seeking.
Didn't you see me, didn't you hear me
Didn't you see me standing there
Why did you turn out the lights
Did you know that I was sleeping
Say a prayer for me
Help me to feel the strength I did
My identity has been taken
Is my heart breaking on me
All my plans fell though my hands
They fell
Though my hands on me
All my dreams, it suddenly seems
Like many, there is utter shock at the news of Dolores O'Riordan's sudden passing at such a young age. While grunge was on heavy rotation, the voice of an Irish muse began to infiltrate the airwaves.  The Cranberries Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We gave us so many classic Cranberry songs like Linger and Dreams.  Her voice, poetic and versatile, gave us Ireland in the mainstream again. With their second album, No Need to Argue, her hair pixie short and blonde, we got a heavier dose of her potency. 
Zombie, one of their few political songs, painted perfectly the political feel  at the time, the endless cycle of violence in The Troubles. It's pure emotion. It's the frustration, the denial, and the sadness.

It's the same old theme
Since nineteen-sixteen
In your head, in your head, they're still fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their guns
In your head, in your head, they are dying
PCarlson 2001 Belfast
 And while they may not have stayed in the mainstream, their fan base continued to follow them until their break in 2003. However, it was Dolores that inspired me to shave my hair and buy they Doc Martens. She was a tiny powerhouse and she was my muse. Ireland has a special place in my heart and, to me, she was the continuation of a long tradition of Irish bards and poets who painted their history and religion in beautiful words. 
As a final note, Dolores had a deep regard for her religion and for Pope John Paul II and was able to play the Vatican Christmas concert several times by Pope Benedict. The church " influenced a lot of her development as an artist, as a musician." 
Chuid eile i síocháin  Dolores Mary Eileen O'Riordan
September 6th 1971 - January 15th 2018
        Rain on Rahoon falls softly, softly falling,
 Where my dark lover lies.
 Sad is his voice that calls me, sadly calling,
 At grey moonrise.

 Love, hear thou
 How soft, how sad his voice is ever calling,
 Ever unanswered, and the dark rain falling,
 Then as now.

 Dark too our hearts, O love, shall lie and cold
 As his sad heart has lain
 Under the moongrey nettles, the black mould
 And muttering rain.
~James Joyce 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Feels Just Like Starting Over ... Goodbye 2017

And here we are again at the crossroads of another year. And what a strange, crazy, year we have had. It's been full of those really awesomely great moments, but also a lot of really sad, tragic, and questioning moments. So how do we move on from 2017 - in a time of turmoil and uncertainty.

I am going to  proselytize here for a bit, but I'm not looking for you to convert. You will also not hear U2's New Year's Day as that is a song about Polish Solidarity. (See, I always ruin songs for you.) I think that with even with all of the suck that was 2017, we are more alive than ever. We're involved, be it through social media, but people give a damn. We're passionately standing up for our causes and concerns. But please, I beg you, check your facts. Pretend whatever you post is going to that teacher in high school you feared. Also, remember that we are all entitled to our own beliefs and opinions. Both may not be wrong or right. Kind of like how I can't stand Rush. I am neither right nor wrong.

But most of all, can we just be kind to one another? You don't know what that guy with a scowl on his face sitting across from you on the subway has gone through today - maybe he lost his job, his boyfriend, girlfriend, or can't shake those bombs from Fallujah anymore.  I even have to remind myself not to check the morons walking up the subway stairs slower than Belt Parkway Traffic on a Sunday, their smart phones in their hands, that glow on their face. Maybe they are waiting for important news - or just have a Pinterest obsession. Give everyone at least one chance.

Also, don't waste energy over something you cannot change. However , exhaust yourself to the limit over something that you can! 2018 is a chance to start over and feel relieved that some things are left behind. There are many things in my brain that I am tossing out with the Prosecco bottles Sunday morning, leaving room for the good moments to grow and make some space for new memories.

We've all lost something or someone this year be it a family member, friend, idol, or stranger. It's never too late to get up and start again. While pain or memories may linger, you've got to live for you and those who love you. We come into and leave this world on our own - and those are two pretty big damn things to do by yourself. So getting in shape, setting a goal, or trying something crazy is pretty doable when you look at it that way.

And don't give up on music. It is still out there very alive. More importantly, go see your favorite bands. Go see new artists. Most artists today are making their money through touring...thanks internet. Create memories through music. 

Speaking of music ...who should you be listening to in 2018??

Greta Van Fleet
Caroline Rose
Mt Joy

You should continue to listen to: 

Nicole Atkins


And maybe you should check out some wearable rock and roll while you're at it courtesy of  Dana Distortion.

Finally, I want to thank you for reading this blog. Your support means the world. It was just an idea and you've helped to foster it into something greater than I ever imagined. 
Please continue to send your ideas, new bands, and comments. Happy New Year to you all! Now, let's go chase those dreams, shall we?

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars~ Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I Will Never Let Your Words Be Washed Away: Michael Hutchence

It's so strange
How my life's changed
I know nothing
About the people that I touched 

Released December 14, 1999 This self-titled posthumous solo debut from the INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence was a reminder of not only this singer's talents but also his pain. The album is a testament to the music that inspired many of the INXS songs that you may be familiar with. Soul, jazz, R&B permeate each song with the pop and rock sounds you would expect to hear from this Aussie rock icon.

The album does not disappoint, even for those fans expecting to hear INXS sounds. It is sultry and funky with lyrics that paint a picture of a rock star haunted by stardom, paparazzi, and his life's circumstance at the time. Songs like Possibilities and Slide Away are jazz smooth but lyrically sharp edges of pain and doubt.

This is our letter in a bottle, a snapshot of Michael's mind. His songwriting ability never wavered and he never got into the habit of making songs that sound like INXS. Michael made strong emotional and edgy songs even back in the Max Q days. Michael Hutchence was a song writer not just a pop icon.
Twenty years since Michael passed and eighteen since this album graced our lives, many questions remain about what could have been. Would Michael have embarked on a solo tour post twenty- year INXS reunion? Would he have ever found his true happiness? 
Oh the possibilities...

Let Me Show You
Get on the Inside
All I’m Saying
A Straight Line
Don’t Save Me From Myself
She Flirts For England
Flesh and Blood
Put The Pieces Back Together
Slide Away

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Why I Float: My Journey Of Float Tanks And Sensory Deprivation

PMCarlson 2016

Floating was introduced to me by a friend who, like me, was looking for the perfect way to get rid of stress. I always seemed to have that nagging knot in my shoulder or persistent headache that neither my chiropractor nor massage therapist could end. I started to do my research ... just what is floating?

I discovered it wasn't just floating in a tank of water. It was being suspended in a tank of body temperature epsom salt water in complete darkness and silence. I was sold. 
My mind is constantly going, which I figure, meant the stress could never be turned off. The mere idea of having an excuse to be anywhere in silence and darkness and not have to answer a phone or email felt heavenly. 
So I went to Lift/Next Level Floats in Brooklyn for my first float. The facility felt so very zen. You remove your shoes and can sit and have some water or tea while you're given an introductory video to watch. I also had some insider tips from my friend ... all seemed to end with 'don't get the water in your eyes.' I had options: a float room or a tank. I  chose the room (I have since tried both). You can keep the lights on or turn them off. After showering, I was ready to climb into the water. 
PMCarlson 2016

It really was the perfect temperature. I placed a small towel around the door handle (in case I had any water anywhere near my eyes) and then closed the door. The magic blue lights and overhead stars were still on. I am guessing everyone tries to not float in the tank when they first get it. You just cannot. The epsom salt give you buoyancy like the Dead Sea...don't fight it. I decided to forgo the ear plugs and neck rest and just laid back and floated. Seemed easy enough. 
Eleven from Stranger Things
But what do you do for an hour in the tank? Once I was ready to turn the lights off, I was ready to discover. I made a list of what I didn't want to think of in the tank: work, work, and to do lists. I used some Transcendental Meditation techniques and I have to say that set me on a pretty clear path about what the float tank and sensory deprivation tank was about: self. 

Letting my mind go, I ventured to the purpose of self through my family lineage, felt as if I was traveling down a river, and once realized I thought my eyes were closed but they were really open. My muscles relaxed. My mind wandered. If thoughts wandered to work, I imagined putting thoughts on the shelf, but then they turned into kittens. Your mind is a wonderful thing, friends. The hour sped by.
 As floating guru Michael Hutchison made clear in his book, floating isn't just about being in the tank. Floating benefits also occur for hours and days following a session. 
I've noticed myself paying more attention to details in the sky, in people, and in myself. Physically, the benefits of floating for being a type-A and an athlete are astounding. No more knots in my back and shoulders, quicker recovery time after workouts, and problems don't seem to get me rattled so much. 

Do I recommend floating? Absolutely. If you're claustrophobic or afraid to be in a space without the lights on, you can leave them on.  If you're afraid that you can't go an hour without your phone, then you really need this. You need to get get re-introduced to your mind. 

It's been over a year since I have been floating. I've even tried extended floats. Nothing has helped me mind, body, and soul as much as floating and sensory deprivation have. I am forever indebted to Lift/Next Level Floats in Brooklyn and to my friend who introduced me to this life changing practice. 

This song is always in my mind when I float, because I am in my Blue Room.

Blue Room by U2

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sometimes You Kick: INXS Kick at 30

I think what makes the Kick album so dynamic is that we weren’t so much interested in what everybody else was doing as we on what we wanted to do," says Farriss. "It’s really that simple. Michael and I were extremely focused as songwriters, and the band was very intent on making a series of recordings that we could be passionate about. ~ Andrew Farriss

INXS's sixth album
Released October 19, 1987
Mercury Records
Top Hits:
New Sensation
Need You Tonight / Mediate
Devil Inside
Never Tear Us Apart
Copies sold to date: Almost 20 million

Personal Trivia:
  • Kick was one of my first two CDs (the other was The Joshua Tree). 
  • I would play Devil Inside at Pizza Hut in Ebensburg and my mom would shoot me a look every time the line it's hard to believe we need a place called hell would come on, as I was not allowed to sing that part.
  • I used to draw the Kick and INXS logo on all my paper bag covered school books. 

Kick was INXS's sixth studio album but, for many in the US, it was the first they had heard (and seen MTV generation) of the band. Their previous album and title song, Listen Like Thieves, was a gateway into what was coming next for the band, The sound is what will be coined as classic INXS:  Tim Farriss's infamous chords, Jon Farriss's tight drumming, Andrew Farriss's romantic keyboards, Garry Garry Beers amalgamizing bass,   Kirk Pengilly's sexy saxophone, and Michael Hutchence's soulful voice (among other things). This album fused the sound of their previous studio recordings. You can catch influences on each song, yet also see the steps forward towards creating a sound they would continue to hone on their seventh album, X.

As stated above, it was also the MTV generation. So when you think of Devil Inside, you don't necessarily think of the driving guitar, the speaker alternating percussion, or the bass that carries each moment of the song. No, you think of a caramelized Michael Hutchence in a gray suit and 80's white turtleneck. and perfectly tousled hair and a woman in a black dress walking on a bar.
Kick gave us many songs of our youth. New Sensation, Need You Tonight/Mediate, Mystify, Devil Inside, and of course, Never Tear Us Apart. The videos offered up a new way for us to enjoy this band from the land down under. Their sound successfully blended funk, soul, rock, and a new wave 80's sound that made them unique and not cliche. They didn't try to mimic U2, but did politicize on a few songs. Their dance-able tracks, sexy love songs, strong song writing, and colorful videos remain a hallmark of INXS. Thirty years after it's release, Kick remains one of the top albums of the 80's.

Guns in the Sky
New Senstation
Devil Inside
Need You Tonight
The Loved One
Never Tear Us Apart
Calling All Nations
Tiny Daggers

Saturday, September 30, 2017

To Be In You Eyes: The Verve Urban Hymns

 ..."an album of unparalleled beauty so intent on grabbing at the strands of music's multi-hued history." Melody Maker

It is safe to say that, for most people here in the US, The Verve will only be remembered for their Rolling Stone's Long Time sampled song, Bittersweet Symphony. Urban Hymns was British band The Verve's best selling album to date in 1997, with two other before it failing to make their mark on radio listeners ears (at least in the US). The album's sound is lucid, at time melancholy, and layered in rich sounds that allowed for a slight comparison to Oasis. Urban Hymns would be their last real glimmer of radio stardom. Infighting brought the band to disband, reunite briefly, only to call it quits again. 

What could have been we will never know, but thankfully we do have this one gem that brings back the memories of the 90's.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Goodnight Rhonda Lee and Hello Nicole Atkins

I first heard this Jersey native sing at Bonnaroo in 2008. After a long, hot Tennessee day of setting up our tent, I sat outside either This tent or That tent under a sky full of stars and heard her soulful voice. Her journey from Neptune City to Goodnight Rhonda Lee has been a busy one. It's also been a journey of taking music making into her own hands and also a journey of discovery. 
PMCarlson 2017

  ...because my records are old friends. I have trusted in them many times before. ~Darkness Falls So Quiet

You can pinpoint moments of inspiration in this diary-like album that sounds as if it was recorded in the golden-era of Muscle Shoals. Chris Isaak, Roy Orbison, Glenn Campbell, Spector's Wall of Sound, The Grateful Dead,
and The Band can be heard in the distance, but in the end, it's all Nicole's voice, soul, and self awareness that give each song it's power. At any moment, you're waiting for Candi Stanton, Julee Cruise, or Bill Withers to start singing along with her.

The music gods blessed us all when Chris Isaak convinced Nicole to "play her strengths" on her next album. Goodnight Rhonda Lee is full of her vocal talents and exudes a timeless sound. Nicole has always dabbled in soulful sound, but with Goodnight Rhonda Lee, she has fully committed to her strengths, which is foremost her powerful voice, but also her ability to channel vintage sound so effortlessly. 

What also makes this album an instant classic is that it really is an open book. It's about struggle, loneliness, failure, acceptance, and love. Songs like Listen Up, A Night of Serious Drinking, and Sleepwalking are just so damn good because of the truth that exists in the lyrics. I Love Living Here (Even When I Don't) gives us a love song to anyone's home. The magic lies directly with Nicole's ability to hit the powerful and raw notes at the most opportune and perfect time in songs. The slow build of A Little Crazy and Brokedown Luck explode with quintessence. 

Goodnight Rhonda Lee is a perfect example of an artist that can tell their story centered around inspiration and their own unique sound. Forgoing the mainstream, this album offers up 70's soul in a world drowning in computerized sound and meaningless lyrics. Thank you, Nicole.