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Mix Tape: Half Life by Aaron Krach

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"Half Life" by Aaron Krach is one of the most entertaining novels I've read this past summer. The book tells the story about the depressed Adam Westman who grows up in the urban wasteland of Los Angeles in a broken family. After the suicide of his father, his young life unravels until a hunky cop comes to the rescue. Under the surface, the story is about the obscure relationships that people form and the illusion, dissapointment but also inspiration they often represent.

Krach has put together a mix tape of music to read by for Arjan Writes. I love his picks of Sigur Ross, the Beach Boys and Moby. After the jump, Krach gives a song by song description of his selection. Thanks Aaron!

1 "Von" by Sigur Ros
2 "Lost in Translation" by Adam West
3 "Yesterday is Dramatic, Today is OK", by Mum
4 Excerpt from the CD, "Moon Safari" by Air
5 Einstein on the Beach; "Knee Play 5" by Philip Glass
6 Excerpt from the CD, "Agaetis Byrjun" by Sigur Ros
7 "The Ballad of the Broken Birdie Records" by Mum
8 Excerpt from the CD, "Von" by Sigur Ros
9 "There is a Number of Small Things" by Mum
10 "Sexy Boy" by Air
11 "Constant Craving" by k.d. lang
12 "By This River" by Brian Eno
13 "Sweet Dreams" by Patsy Cline
14 "Surf City" by the Beach Boys
15 "Waterfalls" by T.L.C.
16 "Uptight, Alright" by Stevie Wonder
17 "Stars" by Moby

Sigur Ros.
Well, for my money, there’s a sneaky relation between the moody Icelandic bands music and the underlying vibe of Los Angeles…the L.A. of "Half-Life"…the L.A. without the movie stars…the L.A. when "ordinary folks" live extraordinary lives.

Mum
Because you can get every more surreal and moody than Sigur Ros. What is up with Iceland that the little place can churn out such trippy music.

Air
Okay, French, not Icelandic. But damn the first album, "Moon Safari" is awesome and celestial, which is a theme that runs through "Half-Life." Stars and Hollywood stars and the Los Angeles sky that is never black enough too see the stars in the sky.

"Einstein on the Beach" by Philip Glass
The end-all-be-all of experimental operas. The thing blew people’s minds when it first came out and it continues to ripple through musical culture today. This particular excerpt is heartbreakingly romantic. Sample lyrics: "Two lovers sit on a bark bench next to each other. 'How much do
you love me?' he asked. 'As much as the stars in the sky,' she answered."

“Sexy Boy” by Air
This song is actually in the book. And it comes at a very crucial moment towards the end. Jeff, the sexy older cop picks it to play while on a date with young Adam.

k.d. lang
Because "Constant Craving" is perhaps the most universal song. And k.d. lang is vocal-genius.

Brian Eno and Patsy Cline
Two ends of the same spectrum. One electronic and the other country western, but like "Half-Life," both artists traffic in the melancholy of broken hearts.

“Surf City” by The Beach Boys
This one is also in the book. Adam, the main character is going through a phase where all he wants to do is listen to oldies. It’s also oddly ironic because Adam is so gay and couldn’t be further from the lifestyle celebrated in the song.

"Waterfalls" by T.L.C.
Another song from the book. Best friend Dart wakes up to the song one morning and thinks about the video. You know, the one where the guy has died of AIDS and his girlfriend looks at his picture longingly.

"Uptight, Alright" by Stevie Wonder
Because I could only pick one song by the master of soul. And this one is so positive, which "Half-Life" is as well. Under the layers of heartbreak, suicide and bad parenting lies a young man with a heart.

"Stars" by Moby
a) I love Moby’s music. B) when this song came out, it was about my book, I’m convinced. "We’re all made of stars…" is just too perfect. C) So I asked Moby (through his manager) if I could use a bit of text/lyrics as the dedication in the very front of the book. He agreed. And I couldn’t be more proud to have his artistry grace a front page of "Half-Life." Now I love him even more.

September 27, 2005 in Mix Tape | Permalink | Comments (2)

Madonna Pens Song for Ellie Lawson

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Here's a recent Madonna tidbit that some of you Madge mavens might have missed. Madonna and William Orbit reworked their 2000 song "Time Stood Still" (from The Next Big Thing soundtrack) into the song "Inside Out" for emerging artist Ellie Lawson. The track is included on Lawson's debut "The Philosophy Tree."

The gorgeous Orbit-produced tune sets the tone for the rest of the 12-track disc that positions Lawson as a gifted singer/songwriter in the vein of Alanis Morrisette, Jem and Dido. The release of the album was postponed after she was dropped in the shuffle at Atlantic Records earlier this year. However, her luck quickly changed when not only Madonna but also Ellen DeGeneres embraced the artist. The comedian featured Lawson on her day-time talkshow that gave her the chance to be seen by millions.

Lawson includes a range of different styles and moods on the record. From the folky "Gotta Get Up From Here" to  R&B on "Friends," to the heartfelt pop balladry on "Never Be The Same" to the tropical-tinged "Hour Of Need." The record concludes with "Why The Fighting" a powerful political statement against violence and war.

Stream Ellie Lawson "Inside Out" [qt]

September 26, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Hot New Talent Alert: Nightmare Of You

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In her pursuit to find the next Killers, music journalist/power blogger/entrepreneur Sarah Lewitinn signed New York foursome Nightmare Of You (or: NOY) to her new Stolen Transmission singles label to showcase some of their songs. NOY was formed by lead singer Brandon Reilly (ex-Movielife) with high school friend Joseph McCaffrey. Ryan Heil and Sammy Siegler joined the two to make the Nightmare complete. Last week, the group released their full-length debut on its own Bevonshire Label, named in honor of the dingy hotel they lived at during the album's recording.

Nightmare Of You initially stands out because of its band name. That was something that the group wanted to create on purpose. "We wanted to set ourselves apart from the current garage/80's movement," says enigmatic frontman Reilly in an interview. "We also wanted the band name to not fit our music."

NOY's first single "I Want to Be Buried In Your Backyard" is a departure from the group's edgy punk-rock roots. The song is a gentle, love-gone-sour pop tune that invokes sounds of Morrissey and even the Police. Watch out for an interview with the band in GENRE's november issue.

Download Nightmare Of You "I Want To Be Buried In Your Backyard" [mp3]
Stream Nightmare Of You's entire debut album here

Previous Arjan Writes Hot New Talent Alerts:
Antony & The Johnsons
The Veronicas
Sacha Sacket

September 22, 2005 in MP3 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Video Premiere: Dannii Minogue "Perfection"

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Dannii Minogue is releasing her brand-new single "Perfection" in the U.K. on October 17. The song is produced by Soul Seekerz and is based on their club hit "Turn Me Upside Down." The track samples "Turn The Beat Around" that was made famous when Gloria Estefan covered it in the mid-nineties. "Perfection" is exactly the type of disco pop that you'd expect Dannii to put out. I have to admit that I prefer the instrumental original. Dannii's sweet-girl vocals are too fragile for the diva-style performance that she attempts to deliver. Check out the video for some nice eye-candy and listen to audio clips of the song on Dannii's web site. Pre-order the single with remixes at HMV. Update: Foxy points out that "Turn The Beat Around" was originally recorded by Vicki Sue Robinson.

Watch Dannii Minogue & Soul Seekerz "Perfection" [wmv]

September 21, 2005 in Video Premieres | Permalink | Comments (16)

Jake Shears and Tiga Reunite On New Single

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Jake Shears

Talking about Tiga... LetNoManJack commented  that our favorite gay Jake Shears is featured on Tiga's new single "You Gonna Want Me." The song is taken from Tiga's upcoming album "Sexor" that will be out early 2006.

Tiga and the guys from Scissor Sisters are old pals. Tiga and Jake became friends when Tiga was playing Sonar and Scissor Sisters were still hoping for a record deal. Tiga then produced the band's first release and Babydaddy returned the favor when he (secretly) produced Tiga's underground hit "Hot In Herre" that also features Jake on vocals. Watch the famous marionettes video here.

The video for "You Gonna Want Me" was shot by Michael Gondry's brother Oliver. The single will be out October 10. (Thanks for heads-up LetNoManJack. Jake Shears photo via EatsDirt.)

Watch Tiga "You Gonna Want Me" (ft. Jake Shears)

September 21, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3)