Tag Archives: London

Top 10 Songs of 2013 – #1: “Pompeii” by Bastille

31 Dec

Bastille Band

We have reached the end of our annual countdown and standing alone on the top is “probably the happiest song about volcanic destruction you’ll ever hear.” It’s an apt quotation from the band. It is true that I have not ever heard a song about a pernicious volcano that I have liked more. I have also not heard a song in 2013 that I have liked more than “Pompeii.”

Bastille has been going at this whole music thing since 2010, but it goes without saying that 2013 was its most successful year. The London-based rock band was founded by Daniel Smith as a solo project. Not long after, he decided to form a band, and he added two multi-instrumentalists (Kyle Jonathan Simmons and William Farquarson) and drummer Chris “Woody” Wood. Signed by Virgin Records, the band started releasing singles in 2012 to moderate success in the UK. “Flaws,” a track from Bastille’s excellent debut album Bad Blood, worked its way into the top 40. Then, in February of this year, the band released “Pompeii,” and like Mount Vesuvius, the song literally blew up, reaching top 10 chart positions in more than 15 countries.

Bastille is a distinguished part of a new crop of alternative/Indie rock bands that are sweeping the musical climate. This list includes bands like Imagine Dragons (who had quite the 2013), The Neighbourhood, Young the Giant, Foster the People, and Grouplove. Out of all these bands (and there are some more I am leaving out), though, I am most excited about Bastille, whose Muse-like epic musicality makes each song potent,  infectious, and unique.

Although quite different, “King of Spain,” “The Afterlife,” and now “Pompeii” – each #1 song on respective annual Music Court countdowns – share a similar quality: the songs all near perfection (hence their #1 placement!) “Bastille” scores high marks on all qualities of an excellent song (rhythm, melody, lyric, vocal, and instrumentation).

The song begins with a Blue Swede-like vocal rhythm. This rhythmic chanting sets an almost allegorical tone, meaning the melody is representative of intense Roman religiosity. One can almost hear this dark chanting in a temple of worship – overwhelmingly spiritual and subtly lugubrious. Dan Smith’s airy voice breaks the chant and carries effortlessly over clacky percussion. This culminates in a choral diapason with crashing percussion, melodious harmonies, and the chanting. The song swoons until it breaks into war-like percussion (the percussion in this song is ridiculously skilled) and a repeated bridge (partially a cappella). The lyric completely fits the song. Over the “tumbling” “walls” and “darkness from above,” Smith urges listeners to “close your eyes” where “it almost feel [s] like nothing changed at all?” While the song is quite literally representative of the destruction of Pompeii, it is difficult not to take it as a metaphorical look at when any unwelcome change occurs in life. Sometimes it is difficult to be “an optimist” and you must “close your eyes” and dream of better days.

Merry Fitz.mas and Happy Caves

6 Dec
Fitz

Fitz

 “Twas the advent of Christmas,  And all through the land,  Not a creature was stirring,  but one festive band” – Fitz.mas

Fitz, a London-based collective of musicians led by Singer/Songwriter Sam Fitzpatrick, has brought new meaning to the Christmas advent calendar. Instead of a little pieces of candy, Fitz is providing listeners with a variety of song nuggets from popular Christmas movies. FOLLOW THE CALENDAR. The audio/visual tidbits are released every other day, with the other days of the month devoted to giving visual clues of the song that will be released next. It’s creative, different, and fun. It also just demonstrates the talent of Fitz.

Yes, Fitz is far more than an advent calendar. He is an uber-talented singer/songwriter with a penchant for sweet vocals and skillful acoustic melodies. His talent is only outweighed by his subtlety. Fitz’ music creeps up on you. It’s soft, even pastoral, and it is vast – a wide-open field of wonder and tenderness, like the bright green field depicted in the video for his song “Caves,” which was released back in October.

Fitz’ British Americana style – yes, I understand the contradiction in that sentiment – is that of a folk troubadour. The music is comfortable, low-key, and relaxing. But, at the same time, there is a vivacity in his tunes, a strength in his voice that calls out to listeners. Fitz understands how to mold a song, and he does so with wonderful precision.

The video of “Caves” tells the story of a young boy who leaves home to explore a verdant world. It is a true coming-of-age video, as the characters suggest. The boy in the video takes a picture of the “tallest tree” and then tosses it in a stream after he sees an even taller tree. In his exploration, he grows. It is a story of adventure and aging – with the universal color for growth, green, as a backdrop.

I want to provide you with one video from the advent calendar. Here is an enthusiastic, albeit self-deprecating version of “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

Merry Fitz.mas!

Check out more about Fitz at the website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

First Stop: London

22 Jun

The Clash proclaimed quite popularly in their 1979 punk masterpiece that they were “London Calling.” I have perverted the angst demonstrated in that song and will now use it for my own tourist purposes. Yes, I too was London Calling, but as an American who had never been to The Big Smoke. Wow, that’s an outdated nickname, ain’t it. Rebecca, my girlfriend, and I took off on June 1 (conveniently missing the Mets first no-hitter later that night…I don’t want to talk about it) and landed in London early June 2 to cloudy skies and light rain (which would follow us around like a dog throughout our stay…and most of our trip elsewhere). But we were troopers and with umbrellas at ready went out to explore London by way of tourist bus and London underground. Our first impressions? Rainy, but soaked in antiquity and culture. It also didn’t hurt that we visited London (unintentionally) during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee which provided us with a full-on display of British celebration and culture.

While this post does not have much to do with music, I thought you might find our stop in London interesting. I also think you might enjoy a taste of Paris and Berlin over the next few days. Talking about taste.

Is there any better picture to start out with. You know I am an American when my box of fried goodness is loaded with the sticky rouge of ketchup. Notice the variety and straight-up disorderly jumble of my little artistic food picture above. In a way it describes our culinary experience in London. We had Sardinian cuisine, British staples like fish and chips, pies, and pasties, Indian food, and Chinese cuisine at Chinatown at 11 p.m. We crisscrossed cultures and broke down culinary boundaries. Actually, we didn’t. See, that’s the thing with London. It is so ethnically diverse and culturally open. It reminded me of New York in many ways. Hmm…I wonder why. New York was named after the Duke of York, a title of nobility in the British peerage. New York in many ways is like London’s cool nephew. I felt at home in London, more so than in Paris and Berlin (perhaps that’s because they spoke English).

You knew you were getting an image of Abbey Road

There I am in my Grateful Dead zip-up grinning like a fool. It’s funny. Now that I look back at this photo it actually seems photoshopped. I assure you it’s not. Rebecca and I took the trek west of Regent’s Park to Abbey Road. It was quite the trek, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it was completely worth it. Like I am sure you all know, this intersection is still an active roadway. Can you imagine having to drive on that street to get to work everyday and having to deal with starry-eyed tourists walking back and forth like idiots to imitate the Beatles. Damn Beatles! I’m not going to lie, besides from thinking about getting run over by a car, I was humming a little ditty to myself as I walked quickly on the beaten white lines. It went a little like this:

Like I said earlier, the Diamond Jubilee transversed our time in London. It was quite exceptional seeing all the preparation for the celebration of the Queen’s 60 years of reign, only the second time a Jubilee has reached diamond status (other was Queen Victoria in the 19th century) since the British monarchy began with Offa the Mercia in the late eighth century (even though some consider the true beginning to be with William the Conquerer in 1066…even though the kingdom of Wessex is the first kingdom to unite England after beating the Mercians in the ninth century (okay I will shut the hell up).

The Fish and Chips photo from above came from the day of the Thames River Pageant which saw thousands of individuals crowd bridges and traffic-less streets to view the procession of boats (including the royal barge) down the Thames. Big video boards showing histories of the Queen on repeat lined the streets. People walked around in suits of the British flag and sang God Save the Queen (I’m serious).

There was also a concert during the five-day celebration at Buckingham Palace that was streamed to various viewing areas like Hyde Park. Here is a picture of my girlfriend before we dug into a vegetarian pie. It was delicious. But through it all my favorite memory from London was something we saw that was not even in London.

That is my beautiful girlfriend and I in front of Stonehenge, the famous pre-historic rock something-or-other built by people who lived on the land that is now the English county Wiltshire anywhere between 3000-2000 BCE. Yes, the rocks are old and they also make extraordinary pictures.

See…I told you

Damn group of people to the right of the picture. I should photoshop them out. What is so intriguing about this rock formation, besides its age, is that no one is quite sure what the formation was. A temple? Was it a clock? Or perhaps…aliens? They are all theories, and besides the last one they are all reputable notions. Since the people did not keep written records (but they were able to master dragging rocks from hundreds of miles away to this spot) we will never know for sure.

It also was pretty funny that the first time we saw blue skies was at Stonehenge.

Rebecca and I made sure to catch some theatre on our last night in London. We chose to see a rock musical based on the music of Queen because, well, we both love the music of Queen. The music was killer (like the title pun, lol) and it made for a great last night in the city.

So there you have it. London. Next Stop: Paris. Before we get there, here is an image of the Tower Bridge.

Bye for now London

London Calling – Back in the Middle of June

30 May

In his song “Paris in the Morning,” Joe Purdy proudly sings that he will show you Paris in the morning and London afternoon. Close, Joe Purdy. Switch that around. I will be traveling abroad for two weeks on vacation with my girlfriend. London, Paris, and Berlin – a three-city European excursion, a present to ourselves for our first year out of University and employment. Also, a testament to minimal responsibilities (besides work) and the unbridled enthusiasm of our restless spirits.

But before I sign off for a few weeks, I want to assure you that you should not tune out of the Music Court for that time as well. Okocim and Amanda Grannis will be making their way back onto the blog, posting during the span of my trip. I’m excited to welcome them back and I hope you enjoy their posts.

Then, when I get back, summer posting (few days before summer officially begins) will commence on the blog. The band profiles will continue (at the pace of perhaps two a week), but more categories will sprout up or be revitalized. Remember, if you have any suggestions please do not hesitate e-mailing me at musiccourt@gmail.com. And, if you are a new band who is interested in maybe being profiled on the blog e-mail me at that address!

Since we discuss music on this blog, I am going to send myself off with three pieces that all feature the name of a city I will be visiting in the title.

London:

Paris:

Berlin:

See you all soon!

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