Monthly Archives: September 2010

Natalie Merchant: Leave Your Sleep

As far back as her days with 10,000 Manaics, Natalie Merchant sought a more catholic (note the small "c") approach to her writing. But within the confines of her alt-rock star persona, these gestures tended to come off as awkward.

(You can’t convince me "Jealousy" is a convincing soul performance.)

But on her first album in seven years, Merchant finally does what she should have to achieve that more eclectic sound — ditch rock entirely.

Leave Your Sleep is a sprawling collection of poems set to Merchant’s music, which veers from reggae to klezmer to Celtic music and beyond. Employing more than 100 musicians, Merchant lets the needs of the verses dictate the direction of the music, not the other way around.

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This site achieved something of a milestone this past Tuesday (Sept. 21, 2010).

It was the 10-year anniversary of my registering the domain name

It’s probably the most definitive birth date I can muster for the site, mainly because the content here evolved from numerous sources in the past. Back in 1997, I published two issues of a print zine called The Soloist’s Notebook. In 1998, I moved that zine online. In 1999, I merged it with my online journal. In 2000, I relaunched the journal/zine combo as Greg’s Music Reviews, till I later that year, I registered the domain name.

Go to the archive, and you just might find reviews dating back to 1999, before actually launched.

I registered right around the time I started listening to music from Japan. A trip back home to Honolulu in February 2000 introduced me to Utada Hikaru, Shiina Ringo, L’Arc~en~Ciel and the brilliant green. I had already been listening to Cocco since 1998 and wanted to hear something similar. I spent the summer exploring music by NUMBER GIRL, eX-Girl and m-flo.

When launched, Japanese music became my “beat”.

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On the playlist, or requiem for the compact disc

For the first time in its 20+ year existence, Waterloo Records laid off eight of its employees. When I worked there, the Internet was just starting to ravage the recorded music industry, but Waterloo managed to stem the tide by offering remarkable customer service.

Well, it’s hard to provide that service when your customers are dwindling. I number myself among the dwindling.

Digital downloads have made it easier for me to be a choosier CD buyer. My modus operandi now is to download albums from eMusic for a fraction of the full CD price. If I feel passionately enough about an album to want it in a physical format, I’ll buy it.

As I get older, the bar gets set higher. In the past, I would gamble on those purchases I could imagine selling back to the store after a year. (I still have to do that with EMI and Universal titles, since they’re not carried on eMusic.) I’m not a betting man these days. It’s also harder finding albums that really grab me.

In essence, I’m following the consumer pattern of an older listener — someone not as willing to gamble on new artists. (But are you really new if I heard you the first time under the name Duran Duran?) And yet I think my consumption has Increased.

I’ve also migrated mostly to listening on my computer, where I am most during the day. My car is the last outpost where the CD reigns, and my commute is a lot shorter with the new job.

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10 (Indie) Rock Songs I Want to Hear Renée Fleming Sing

I didn’t know what to expect of Renée Fleming’s indie rock album, Dark Hope. First, I know of Fleming by name only — I don’t listen to opera to gauge how she compares to, say, Dawn Upshaw. Also, I’m familiar with only a few the songs on Dark Hope.

So I’m approaching Fleming and the material with a fairly blank slate, and I have to say — I’ve really taken a liking to the album. Fleming actually does a good job adjusting her voice to the material, sounding like a pop singer, not an opera singer slumming with the pop. (I heard only a snippet of Luciano Pavarotti dueting with Bono. Pavarotti was doing it wrong.)

I have no idea how bankable another Fleming indie rock album would be, but should she venture down this path again, I have a few suggestions for repertoire. Next time, she should try:

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