music · Uncategorized

Hades, Wisconsin, San Fran, and Who Knows: What I’ve Been Listening To

These past few weeks have been so good. I can’t even begin to articulate how much work I’m getting done on exciting new books, as well as how much I’m getting to enjoy the spring and gather story fodder for whatever comes next. It seems like every time I turn around I stumble onto an… Continue reading Hades, Wisconsin, San Fran, and Who Knows: What I’ve Been Listening To

life · philosophy · Uncategorized

Zen Riddles and Publishing Problems

Aloha! It feels like paradise around here right now. It’s the middle of February, but I spent most of yesterday bicyling around in shorts, visiting the library and Mexican grocery/party store. Do you know those little cookies made from sheets of thin colored wafer? In Mexico they make giant tortilla-sized wafers and they come in… Continue reading Zen Riddles and Publishing Problems


The Lotus Eaters

The Lotus Eaters – New EP by Jennifer Kingwell

There are two great misfortunes in this world. The first is that too few people appreciate Jen Kingwell…a misfortune which stems from the second, which is that too few people know about Jen Kingwell.

This week, she released her first solo work, which is charmingly different than her previous cabaret-style work with The Jane Austen Argument and neo-noir experiment with Neon Bogart. The Lotus Eaters, a short six-track EP wrought with melodic elegance and experimental beauty, is a must-listen for any fan of baroque pop or chamber pop. The link is above; she releases all her music through Bandcamp so it is perfectly possible for you to start listening to it as you read through this blog 🙂

Its spoken word opening sets the contemplative tone for the entire EP, and the rich strings that follow the echoing words give a sense of regality to the beginning. In just fifty-two seconds, Jen piques your interest in the entire project.

The second track, “Sleeping Lessons,” offers a song as mellow (yet intriguing) as its title. This really showcases Jen’s voice right off the bat, and the ambient sound that trickles in behind her is the perfect prelude to instrumentation that gradually enters. Wordplay like “you’re not obliged to swallow anything you despise” throws an engaging message, both rebellious and gleeful as the song builds.

Bizarre imagery against a rhythmic background defines the title track, “The Lotus Eaters,” giving an ominous tone to this adventurous song. Full of pounding percussion, the pulse is broken only for a crash of cymbals and an exposition of Jen’s upper range. It doesn’t tell a story so much as show us a character, giving a sense of futility and determination all in one wallop.

And somewhere in the world

There’s two kids with their hands

In each other’s hair

Kissing in tutus

And the whole world is watching,

The whole world is watching

Cause this is the lens that makes sense.

Next, with “Kissing in Tutus” (previously released as a single) Jen gives us a higher, more feminine beginning to a song that carries itself with a driving drum—thumping like an over-eager heartbeat. It bears some of the same inspirational vibes as “Sleeping Lessons,” but it’s elevating “ah-ah’s” play against crisp strings and sharp staccato sounds in a very different way. The flow of her voice against the instrumentation is uplifting, and this song as a whole paints a picture of love familiar and fanciful, iconic and individual. It seems to seek to remind us why a kiss—any kiss—is unique and powerful.

I must have missed a memo, because I was pleasantly surprised when I heard track five and recognized that delightfully distinct British voice telling me, in little more than a minute, a brilliant story of a girl and her dreams. How can you not be curious about a track entitled, “She Never Trusted the Stars Again,” and how can you not be satisfied when Neil Gaiman tells you exactly how the stars could lose a girl’s trust? The poetic nature of the story is relayed in simple, concise terms, and is all the more enchanting for it.

The final song, “Andromeda,”full of longing and a loving appreciation for the sublime, gives the EP a strong but sentimental ending. A perfect follow-up to the previous track, it becomes a love letter to something bigger than the stars. Much more subtle than the high-strung electric pop of The Impossible Girl’s The Sky is Calling, this final track on The Lotus Eaters does give a similar sense of musical appreciation for the cosmos in its own way, distinct to Kingwell.

While I still miss the cabaret-sound that she had when I first heard her playing with Tom Dickens, this EP further proves what any Kingwell fan has known since Phoenix: this woman can not only hold her own as a solo performer, but continually blow us away with a new take on her own style every time she composes for us.


Finally, Old People Can Enjoy Pop Music!

Finally, Old People Can Enjoy Pop Music!

and by old people, I of course mean anybody with decent musical tastes XD

Meet Scott Bradlee, the Youtuber mastermind behind the band Post Modern Jukebox…a band that takes modern pop hits and redoes them in radically different (and artistically complex) genres. I’ve linked you to “Prohibition Britney,” a HOT jazz rendition of “Till The World Ends.” but to understand the full range of their talent and whimsy, you should also at least check out their Mariachi cover of Avacii’s “Wake Me Up” in Spanish or their Motown rendition of Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8tr Boy”.

As someone who takes a guilty pleasure in most top 40 radio but also has a deep love of swing dancing, this is kind of a dream come true I didn’t even know I was dreaming. It’s kind of the contrapositive of electroswing. These videos don’t have enough views. They couldn’t possibly have enough views.

It really makes me wonder what most pop star vocalists could do if they just decided to belt a number with a really hot band behind them instead of synthesized music just keeping time in the background. I mean, I never cared much for this particular song, but you can really tell what Lady Gaga’s capable of when she sings “The Lady is a Tramp,” in a truly traditional and jazzy rendition.

Some of their songs seem to be riding the coattails of The Great Gatsby soundtrack and the beautiful mashup of contemporary and jazz influences which that exhibited. I think that the American public is jonesing for something more than what we’ve been getting. We’ve totally distilled so much of our music to the bare bones, removing melody and inventing rap or removing instrumentation and calling it techno…and I’m not going to complain that music has “gotten so bad” because there has always been silly, uncomplicated songs shooting to the top of the charts. The point I’m making is that pop music is seeing a sort of modernist draw to minimalism in a lot of respects, and that’s unsustainable. We need to evolve and move forward artistically, but first we’re going to go back and look at our roots. Take a look at the way Gaga is going so starkly back to an 80s sound with “Art Pop” and you’ll realize that everyone is turning over old rocks looking for that little spark of inspiration that is going to send them in a totally new direction. Post Modern Jukebox is part of that, even if they are just a cover band. They’re showing us how much experimentation is still allowed and available.

Art doesn’t stagnate. It’s not about “what’s next” it’s about living in the moment and watching the flux…and I love it.