Sunday, August 30, 2009

Best of Albums

Don't get me wrong. I like it when artists release "best-of" albums filled with their favorite music. However, what I dislike is when they release too many or too soon. Celtic Woman and Hayley Westenra both released albums only after a career of five years and less than five international albums. Enya did the same thing, a career of about ten years and four albums (I count "Enya" and "The Celts" as the same album), but good thing was I did not own her CD "Memory of Trees" and thus received some new surprises when I received it as a birthday present when I was about nine. But what makes me wonder what's going on is that she's released two other "best of" CDs and just two days ago announced a brand-new one coming out in November. Four best of CDs and seven studio albums. That screams "money-making" to me. Compare that to her sister Maire/Moya Brennan who has released seven solo albums over almost twenty years (roughly the same as Enya) but no best of CDs. Clannad has also released an insane amount of compilations, but I think that is largely because they stopped recording twelve years ago (though I'm eagerly waiting for their acoustic album that's supposed to be released soon).

In the end, I think most of the time "best of" CDs are just an excuse for a recording company to make some more money without going into a studio. Just goes to show, I think, how much the music industry is about making money and sucking the artists dry at their expense.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Signature" by Moya Brennan

I've finally managed to download most of Moya Brennan's most recent studio album "Signature," and I have to say, it is absolutely lovely.

According to several interviews, "Signature" is like a collection of snapshots, both good and bad, that look back over Brennan's life. Some of the songs are easy to tell what she's talking about, though others not as much. The music returns to a more acoustic, Clannad-esque sound after Brennan's largely electronic New Age "Two Horizons." Despite her age, over time I believe Brennan's voice gets better and better, as she never loses the power and beauty found in her voice like some singers do once they pass a certain age.

"Purple Haze"- nope, this is no Jimi Hendrix, but it is a stunning song. The background vocals are very reminiscent of Clannad, and there is a heavy depth to it without the overdone use of electronics. This song is one of my favorites.

"No One Talks"- a soft, acoustic song about Brennan's first failed marriage.

"Merry-go-round"- Brennan switches gears into a more electronic song written by her and her husband Tim Jarvis. Gaelic is spoken by the background chorus that sounds similar to Clannad. This is also one of my favorites.

"I Will Find You"- this song has been hard to find. It is a remake of Clannad's "I Will Find You" from the "Last of the Mohicans" soundtrack. From what I've heard, it is a pretty piece.

"Always"- another soft, acoustic piece. In comparison to "No One Talks," this is a happier song about finding true love.

"Tapestry"- this is a gentle acoustic piece with harp, guitar, and uillean pipes. The song talks about the bits and pieces of stories, singing, and dancing that fit together beautifully into a tapestry. This is one of my favorites on the album.

"Black Night"- soft piece with a guitar and a cello that in an interview Brennan described as the feeling of being alone. One of my favorites.

"Hear My Prayer"- after several soft, lullaby-like songs, Brennan picks up the pace with this song. It is a call to God, asking for Him to bring her back to Him. One of my favorites.

"Never Stray Far Away"- this song sounds like a Clannad piece, especially like "From Your Heart" from their 1996 album "Lore." I'm not sure about the meaning, but it is a pretty song nonetheless.

"Many Faces"- the song opens up with a chant in Gaelic that is repeated throughout the song. It is more upbeat then the other pieces on the album. The song seems to describe perhaps Brennan's depression in the 80's while Clannad was enjoying their new-found fame. It is one of my favorites.

"Hidden Stories"- after some upbeat songs, Brennan returns to the gentle, acoustic piece. The meaning is a bit obscure, but it is a pretty song though not one of my favorites.

"Gone Are the Days"- this song is similar in some ways to Enya's "Na Laetha Geal M'oige" in that it looks back over the happy days of her youth when she lived without a care. It is accompanied by a piano and on occasion a flute. It is almost like a final look back, over the entire album and over Brennan's entire life, a fitting end to the album.

"Pill a Run O"- this song is the only one on the album that is sung entirely in Gaelic and that is a traditional piece. It is not on all releases of "Signature", and so it is harder to find. It is sung acapella with her harp providing the harmony. It is a lovely song and a lovely finish to the album.

In conclusion, I don't know the entire album that well, but nonetheless it is well done. To me, "Two Horizons" wasn't that good, but this is a return to the acoustic style that sets her apart from her sister Enya. I give the album five out of five stars.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Two Political and Economical Thoughts

Today while I was shopping and running errands, two thoughts came to me that I thought I'd share.

First: The hotly debated healthcare package. Mom and I were standing in line at the tax commissioner's office for 45 minutes, waiting in a loooong line. We were talking, and we both thought, "national healthcare?" One thing that we've noticed is that in places like the post office, the DMV, and here is that there are extremely long lines that take forever to get through. It reminded us that if this healthcare package gets passed, this is what we'll get: more long lines and hours of waiting. Is that really what we want? Especially if there is an emergency and you need immediate attention? I mean, I've already read stories of people dying while waiting for the doctors to see them, but I don't think this bill will help in that regard.

Second, the recession is over? According to the "experts" this week, the recession is over. I beg to disagree. Earlier this week, some dear friends of my family learned that their husband/father was laid off because his company is going down. Also, while I was shopping today, I saw more evidence that it isn't quite over. At both Wal-mart and H-Mart, I noticed much lower prices, especially at Asian food store H-Mart, where there was a huge sale on food. I've tended to notice that if there is a huge sale of unbelievably low prices at any store, that means business isn't doing good. If the recession is over, then there shouldn't be all these stores cutting down prices; cutting prices mean business isn't good.

Those are just two rambling thoughts today.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chill out, Celtic Woman fans

I was goofing off on youtube (since my laptop is currently out of commission thanks to the non-working power cord, I get to search youtube freely without it locking up my computer) earlier today on the bedroom computer. I was watching videos from Celtic Woman's "Isle of Hope" tour because, frankly, my current CW collection is old and I needed a dose of some new stuff (though I wish someone had recorded "You'll Be in My Heart" because it's a new favorite and I only heard it once... back in March). Anyway, I started off with "Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears", moving on to "Fields of Gold" (it's growing on me, though I don't think it's Lisa's new "Caledonia" as fans are calling it") and then ending with Mairead's encore (amazing piece by her!). On the encore, I noticed comments that had been given so many negative responses so that they disappeared. From what I can guess, the comments looked like they were from fans who said that they wished CW would go back to Celtic music instead of the pop they did on the recent tour. My first thought was "why in the world do fans take delight in butchering those who disagree with them?" Now, granted, the pop music may have been added as more or less a tribute to Americans, but some of the pop was done by British artists Sting and Phil Collins, not by Americans. Anyway, that aside, I wondered why fans were getting so defensive. I myself have come under attack from fans when someone asked if Chloe had lost weight; I answered that it was probably just the dress she was wearing because with girls of larger size (me included), clothing either fits or it doesn't. I was not making an attack on Chloe or anything of the sort (though I would be more likely to make a polite one against the dress designer in this regard); it was a general comment from my own experience and my post gets shot-down and disappears, though I've yet to delete it. If someone can't speak their own opinion about CW without getting shot down by fans, that tells me there is something seriously wrong with the fanbase.

On a related note, I was watching the video from Meav's solo concert back in December 2007 when I saw more comments from another guy who claims to have inside information from within CW, and my, you should have seen the responses. Fans were leaping all over him, saying that he was lying. One was even bold enough to say that he (or she) posted on the CW forum and that there was no information about such things there. First off, fans are not going to know that one of the singers is getting a divorce or that one of the management is in jail; generally, you don't tell your fanbase that unless it gets out in the news, then it's over. Second, I don't think CW forum is the right place to get your information. I've watched it for some time and have seen the evidence that it's under strict control and that you can't say anything bad about the show or PBS without getting the topic locked or losing your membership there. I myself don't have an opinion on this news and will wait until it's confirmed elsewhere, but I'm not closed to the idea that such things could truly be happening.

All this being said, I still love listening to CW's music, even if I don't agree with the whole commerical showiness, but I love the beautiful music they produce. So before fans jump over me, look at the title of my post. Chill out. Don't rant about me being an idiot because the girls are angels and can do no wrong. Everyone has their faults, and not every singer is going to produce songs that all the fans adore. But that doesn't mean that those people with their own opinions should be shot down for speaking their mind about a group or singer that they like. In regards to the other claims, fans, if you don't think they're true, then ignore them. Slamming them like they did in youtube was very immature and only made them look all defensive about it. So, I repeat to you fans, just chill out. Sit back and enjoy the music for what it's worth, not go hunting anyone else who disagrees with you.

I'll get off my soapbox now.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Story Evolution

It's amazing in writing a story how you have a character who acts one way and then over time, quite unexpectedly, that character completely changes.

On the Binding of the Blade forum, I joined a story about gladiators in a fantasy world similar to that of the Roman empire. I wrote two characters: a man named Vladisk who hides his emotions well and has a stony face and a woman named Temini who is very emotional. It's interesting now how different they are. Vladisk is in love with another female character, and Temini now has become emotionally and probably mentally unstable, believing that Vladisk was bewitched and that he betrayed her. If you were to look at the original post and meet the two chars, you wouldn't expect them to turn into what they are now... especially just over a period of about a month. It's amazing, and I didn't even plan on it.

Anyway... that was just a random thought of mine.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Corruption of Music Industry

Yesterday I was on pandora when a song called "Already Gone" by Kelly Clarkson came on, and I was hooked on it. When I looked it up, I discovered that Clarkson had been very unhappy to discover the similarities between "Already Gone" and Beyonce's "Halo." As I listened more closely to the song, I too realized how similar the two songs sounded. Clarkson's producer for that song Ryan Tedders, who had worked with Beyonce as well, denied that the two sounded similar or something to that extent. Then what made me mad was Clarkson telling her record company not to release "Already Gone" as her next single, but they decided to go ahead and do it anyway.

After reading this, it makes me see how corrupt the music industry has become. The artists have little control over what they can release, and producers milk the artists for money and fame. In short, the artists are the "slaves," the ones who do all the work while the producers and the record companies get most of the reward. It reminds me of Clarkson's last album "My December," which received little promotion and no tour because she broke with her producers to do what she wanted. Sadly, that is the way the music industry works: give us what we want you to do, and we'll promote you to the heights; but if you don't do what we want, we'll make you see reason when your album is a flop. It is a sad business, but I fear too many aspiring musicians don't realize the ugly truth until it's too late.

I commend the following artists for forming their own record labels and having the liberty to produce what they want in an honest way: Loreena McKennitt, Anuna, Jars of Clay, and to some extent Hayley Westenra (though she had issues with her recording company recently about promoting herself). To all aspiring musicians and singers, you don't need a big record label and big producers to be famous. Would you rather seek fame in return for slavery to the record companies, or would you be an indie artist with the freedom to perform the music you really want?

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Idiocy of Paleoanthropology

Thanks to Virginia and Jessy on the Binding of the Blade forum, a new debate has begun: facts vs. faith i.e. evolution vs. creationism. Pretty much, the creationists are getting slammed for not going with the flow and believing in facts, so I decided to do my own research. I went to secular websites and those that promote the idea that man evolved from apes, and I studied up on a few different genuses like homo, paranthropine, and australopithicine. After spending a few days on this research, I have come to a conclusion: paleoanthropologists are idiots. They find a few bits of a skull and then draw an entire creature as being bipedal. Then they can't get their facts straight. Regarding the australopithicine "Lucy" (I was suspicious about the circumstances about the finding, and I was later told that it is a hoax), one website says the complete skeleton was found then a few paragraphs later it says 40% was found. I don't know about you, but there's a big difference between 40% and 100%. And another thing, reading about the different species, it makes me wonder if all these are just a previously undiscovered ape species in several variations to adapt to the environment and not a line of the evolution tree from ape to man.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to get stoned to death by Virginia and Jessy for posting those notes, but, hey, at least I look at the evidence from the source and not just buy into it. Besides, I'll never forget something that Charles Hapgood said. In his book "Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings", he said something to the extent that it often takes an amateur to look at the evidence and point out fallacies that the experts don't see. I think of Berry Fell (who studied fish but decoded the Irish language Ogham on both sides of the Atlantic), Leuwenhook (science was his hobby, and he's considered a master in the science field), and someone else whose name eludes me at the moment (he discovered fossil layers during his hobby of geology), and I think that Hapgood is right. Not that I think I'll change modern thinking about various issues, but I do think that sometimes we don't need to trust the experts but that we need to look at the evidence for ourselves.

Well... that research is done. Now either to research something new (not sure what yet) or go back to writing (more likely). All I know is that I'm tired and that I should be in bed.