Tag Archives: musica

Solstice, yearning.

Winter break started about one week ago. I haven’t done much that isn’t slovenly and therefore lovely–late evenings, beer with friends, naps, and trolling some music blogs for new tunes. Don’t let anyone tell you that sloth never produces anything good, though. Due to this quiet time, I have two new album recommendations for you.

Alela Diane, To Be Still

The first is a little late given its February 2009 release. However, I just found out about Nevada-City-native-turned-Portlander Alela Diane, and just listened to To Be Still (Rough Trade Records) for the first time today. I’m quite taken with it and her pretty, infrequent blogging. This is her first recording since her debut, The Pirate’s Gospel (Holocene Music 2006). Her songwriting is impressive given her short musical history–she started writing songs just three years prior to The Pirate’s Gospel. Yet both of her parents are musicians, TPG was recorded in her father’s home studio, and he has collaborated with her on several of her songs. She was “discovered” by fellow Nevada City native Joanna Newsom, who arranged for her first public show. She has since toured throughout the US and Europe, extensively in France. She collaborated with Joey Waronker, Gus Seyffert, Leo Abrahams, and Woody Jackson under the name “Headless Heroes” to produce an album of covers, The Silence of Love (Nov. 2008), recorded by Eddie Bezalel and Hugo Nicholson. Her most recent release (Oct. 2009) is a collaboration with Alina Hardin, simply titled Alela & Alina (Family/Names Records). You can hear a sample of them here.

Other nice stuff: Pitchfork‘s review of To Be Still;  a Daytrotter session, which includes some nice recordings (May 2007); NPR’s World Cafe session with the lady and her father (!); and a Blogotheque “Take Away Show,” which is embedded below (Dec. 2007).

Laura Veirs, July Flame

Luckily, I’m right on time with a fanfare for this album. Laura is another Portland transplant who I was lucky enough to see perform at the Laurelthirst (one of her standard gigs) back in October. She had a valise full of CDs of July Flame, her newest recording, set for a Jan. 12, 2010 release date. The recording will be the debut full-length album for her own label, Raving Marching Band Records, and her seventh full-length album–sixth with co-producer Tucker Martine. A look at her website reveals a full July Flame tour schedule extending into March, with dates throughout both the US and Europe. In fact, if you’re in Portland, you can catch her at the Laurelthirst again on New Year’s Eve. You can download two tracks off the album right here; I certainly recommend the title track. Like Alela, the Colorado Springs native got a start in music with her family, with summers spent camping and singing around campfires. Her songwriting skills really emerged right after graduating from college and moving to China to serve as a translator. Writing lyrics became a way of coping for her, during a period of semi-isolation. Her biography on her website describes July Flame‘s genesis:

On a day in late July 2008, when the sun was hot enough to melt the skin, Veirs and a friend stumbled upon a booth at the Portland, Ore. farmer’s market selling July Flame peaches. Veirs so liked the name that she suggested she and her friend each write a song with that title. They bought a bunch of peaches and canned them in their bathing suits on the hottest day that summer. The peaches, spiked with cloves and drenched in syrup, turned out great, and the song is one of Veirs’ best ever. “I’d been in a songwriting slump at that time and writing that song pushed me over my plateau and into a new place where I was surprising myself again. I invented oddball tunings so I was really using my ear to search out new-sounding melodies and patterns,” says Veirs. “I wrote this album from a searching, soulful place. I hope it elicits a real gut feeling.”

Other nice things: The NPR World Cafe session is here; I’ve embedded a video she made of her barn, the space at her home where she writes her music and teaches lessons. It’s a pretty cool glimpse!

Thanks for reading, all; I hope you enjoy these two beautiful albums. Merry Christmas to all, and a fulfilling new year.


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On Wonder.

It’s my goal to one day compile a list of the absolutely amazing, world-class concerts I’ve attended this semester. And that will undoubtedly happen very soon considering I’m supposed to be writing summaries and critiques of the operas we’ve seen for the music history quotient of my all-encompassing music class. For now, though, I’d like to mention that I saw Zubin Mehta conduct Brahms’ second piano concerto and third symphony tonight. Zubin Mehta — yes, that Zubin Mehta — the much lauded Zubin Mehta, the guy from India who was supposed to go study medicine, then wound up in Vienna studying conducting with Hans Swarowsky. Zubin Mehta, the baller who leads world famous orchestras and soloists the likes of Yefim Bronfman and doesn’t use a score for any of it. That’s right. Ball.Er. My newest hero.

Tomorrow I will compile that aforementioned list and actually post it here. Then I’ll actually post the itinerary of the 10 days of self-liberation that will occur post-Firenze. It’s all quite exciting, if I do say so myself.

‘Til then, darlings. Baci.

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“Che cose si trova nelle strade di Firenze?”

The title of this post is a small excerpt from a certain poem that was given to me for my twenty-first birthday, which, incidentally, was this past Friday. The poem is called “Ode to a Sauntering Parenthese of a Woman Who Laughs Like Black Coffee and Talks Like Fingerprints on a Newspaper in the Morning; Who Is Older Today Than She’s Ever Been Before, and, Perhaps, Will Ever Be Again.”

Hannah, thank you again and again and again. This weekend has sealed the deal: I’m quite smittin’ with this place and the lovely friends it holds.

My night was quite a good one: a few of my close friends and I went to the symphony with tickets provided by the school. Lo and behold, they had secured us a box. A box, friends. It was quite the glamorous experience, complete with red velvet and gilted in gold. Sir Neville Marriner was conducting the Orchestra Toscana. We heard Mozart’s “Haffner,” Haydn’s “Il Miracolo,” and five Schubertian Lieder performed by the Orchestra’s guest, Monica Bacelli, arranged by Webern.

The rest of the night was typically debaucherous, as most twenty-first birthdays should be. I had on my dancin’ shoes and everyone from school came out for a good, comfortable night at our Scottish Pub with Dexter, our dear bartender.

The rest of the weekend was spent in Rome. This was my first trip to a large city in Italy; what a rich way to start. I’m not quite sure I’ve ever experienced anything as physically stunning as the moment I stepped into the Vatican. There isn’t a way to convey how physically overwhelming it is, larger than you would ever imagine if I told you in words. I felt my jaw drop as I crossed the threshold and I promptly forgot how to raise it back again.


This post is mostly just to say that life is good, birthdays are quite swell, you all are the sweetest for your words and your kindnesses, and most importantly: that this weekend also marked the first time that I’ve solidly felt as though I will miss Italy when I leave. Perhaps that means I’ve settled in a little. It’s a reassuring feeling. Hopefully that’s a settled spot that doesn’t go away and that I can find it again when I come back.

P.S. One more thing: Aaron and Jared sent me this for my birthday. Please enjoy.

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