Friday, March 23, 2012

Little Boxes: Walk Off the Earth

Happy Ugadi! Greetings for the new year! Here is a small gift that is like a multimedia cup of Ugadi Pachadi.

My primary focus area over the last several years has been the re-definition of education. I believe that the crisis we are facing in almost all areas of human life is a failure of education. Somewhere in our rush to be who we wanted to be, we have forgotten what we learned, and forgotten to teach our children well. The warning signs have been around for a long time, and I don't mean just a few decades. Music has a very important role to play in this, especially in carrying the message of re-defining education to a generation that has been let down beyond belief by the ones preceding it.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Norah Jones and Danger Mouse: Little Broken Hearts

I am pretty obsessive about the work Norah Jones has done, and have little to say that is critical or negative. I have felt that way even with Feels Like Home, which I thought was a brave thing for her to have done. But then, her career has been about constantly reinventing herself, and usually in unexpected creative directions. Ms. Jones is about to do it again.

Norah Jones literally "burst on the scene" with her 2002 debut album, Come Away With Me, that won her five Grammy awards and millions of fans. It was a smooth and jazzy journey into the classical popular song format, with subtle instrumentation and arrangements that primarily showcased her voice and vocal skills. She went on to demolish this image of hers by releasing Feels Like Home in 2004, which was a “conservative” country album all the way. Not Too Late, released in 2007 introduced us to the philosopher and political Norah Jones, with all its material written by her, including songs of sorrow, songs of protest, and songs of nostalgia. Once again, it was a new foray into using contemporary formats to present the traditional song format.

The Fall, in 2009, revealed a new Norah all over again, with a new steampunk look and music videos that were meant to give competitors a run for their money. The music and the lyrics had gone urban, and the laid back languid tone was replaced with a sense of urgency that was reinforced by the slickly paced rhythm and the guitar driven structures of the songs. In between all of this, she managed to pull off amazing collaborations and side projects, working with Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, Willie Nelson and the like and keeping up her work with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and her own side project The Little Willies.

Danger Mouse, or Brian Burton, on the other hand is a remix and hip hop artist who is half of the Gnarls Barkley duo, but whose biggest claim to fame will remain the Grey Album, a redo of the famous White Album of The Beatles. I must confess that I am not an avid listener of this genre of music, and beyond its innovativeness, I have failed to find great musical value in this type of music.

So it was a pleasant surprise to hear that Norah’s next outing was going to be a collaborative album with Danger Mouse, and it wasn’t till I heard the first single that I had any idea of what it would sound like. The Fall had seen Norah mature in style and move closer to guitar based rock without compromising on the content. She still spoke about love and loss, about ideology and disillusionment, but in a more relevant and hard hitting style. Along with it was the image makeover, that saw Norah leave her innocent country girl look behind and emerge as the strong urban woman.
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