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. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Place Both Wonderful And Strange: Twin Peaks The Return

Never has a show impacted my psyche as much as Twin Peaks. As a teen, the odd, evil, eclectic, naughty, and quirky show on ABC challenged your moral and spiritual realm. When the show was confirmed to come back for 18 episodes, there was that flashback to what was, but knowing David Lynch, we were going to a place we had really never been. For me, I was hoping it would go the route of Trainspotting 2 in that we would be fulfilled in the mission but wouldn't be getting what we would expect. David Lynch has given us a gift of mind, body, and psyche, mixed with some electricity, nuclear detonations, and black coffee.

Looking back when Twin Peaks first aired, I had just lost my father. With the return, I had just lost my mother. It was odd timing indeed. And 1992 gave us the ABC Twin Peaks. Cable allowed David Lynch to go full throttle with better effects, nudity, swearing, and just all out Lynch. I thought I had it all figured out. Bob. Laura. Leyland. The Black Lodge. But no. 

Twin Peaks the Return offered up many visions and clues that, thankfully, due to some serious time in sensory deprivation, I can try to understand the workings of Mr. Lynch's storytelling. We didn't know which characters we would see again or what these new locations meant.

When we began episode 31, I admittedly teared up with those first bass notes from Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks theme song. But from there, to paraphrase Agent Cooper, it's been both wonderful and strange. We had new characters to learn, a history that was seemingly started when the first nuclear test happened, a beautiful and ongoing tribute to David Bowie's character Phillip Jeffries (even as a tea pot - see photo below), and the continued partnership of Gordon Cole and Albert Rosenfield. We became attached to Agent Cooper's new family, Janey - E and Sonny Jim. And the plot thickens as to what happened to Deputy Brigg's (RIGHT? I just needed to see that written out) ... sorry, what happened to Bobby Brigg's father, Col (Judy) Garland Briggs?

And Lynch has made us work for whatever is in store for these last two episodes. The seed, tulpa, the arm, Naido, and let's not forget bloody Mary herself, Sarah Palmer. 

And while we did not see a lot of our 1992 characters, the vibe of the show is not the Invitation to Love-esque show it was. We've seen happy lives being lived, and some new but old romances being re-kindled in Twin Peaks to our squealing delight. We have the absurdities of Doctor Jacobi, Nadine, and Jerry Horne. We have the evil of the smoking man, Mr. Cooper, and the Cohen Brothers meets Tarantino mixed with Lynch inspired Chantal and Hutch love birds come assassins. And then there was this:

 Audrey has been an enigma this entire series and it got even more mysterious in the last episode. Is she trapped? Is she a tulpa? And what is the power of the Road House?

With only two episodes left, there is fleeting time to decipher so many mysteries or to meet our old friends.  

  • Diane
  • Conversations between Hawk and the Log Lady
  • The Convenience Store and Philip Jeffries.
  • The Blue Rose explained
  • Audrey's purple dance
  • The Music!!
Questions that remain 
  • Judy?
  • Is Audrey the sound trapped in the Great Northern?
  •  Will Julee Cruise close out the show (appropriately)?
  • Is Naido Diane? But still WHO IS JUDY?
  • Do we every find out what is in the White Room?
  • Oh, who really killed Laura Palmer, and does it really matter now anyway?

We are like the dreamer who dreams and lives inside the dream, but who is the dreamer?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Appetite at 30: Guns N Roses Appetite For Destruction

 Pitchfork writer Maura Johnston retrospectively reviewed it, rating it 10 out of 10, saying, The debut from Guns N' Roses was a watershed moment in '80s rock that chronicled every vice of Los Angeles led by the lye-voiced Axl Rose and a legendary, switchblade-sharp band.

1987 was a conundrum of music. We had INXS, U2, Metallica, Poison, and Motley Crue. Then out of the LA club scene came a sound that was different than anything else on the radio . The opening notes of Welcome to the Jungle, the first chords of Paradise City, and the unforgettable power of Sweet Child O' Mine ushered in a band that would scare our parents and made us all wish we could party like Guns N Roses. 

The first play through the cassette of course gave most of us youngins a surprise with its not suitable for radio songs like Mr. Brownstone, It's So Easy, and of course, Rocket Queen. It was shocking and dangerous and a perfect getaway from the safety net of pop rock and hair bands. 

Axl, Slash, Izzy, Duff, and Steven represented all the debauchery that LA could offer and lived up to the rock and roll lifestyle. The album is an amalgam of each member contributing to the debut album, now ranked as one of the best albums of all time. 

But what was it that made Appetite such a memorable album? It covers a wide spectrum of music influences, from punk to rock. It pushes boundaries (still). But in the end, no offense to the rest of the band members, it was the uniqueness of Axl and Slash. Axl's unmistakable voice and side to side sway delivered a performance that could not be matched. Slash's iconic hair and top hat only caps unmatched guitar solos.

30 years on and Appetite for Destruction still remains an iconic album for a generation that had yet to see the Berlin Wall fall and communism end. It was the Reagan era and the excess wasn't ready to be tossed aside. Guns N Roses gave us sex, drugs, and rock and roll with no apologies. 

Welcome to the Jungle
It's So Easy
Out Ta Get Me
Mr. Brownstone
Paradise City
My Michelle 
Think About You
Sweet Child O Mine
You're Crazy
Anything Goes
Rocket Queen