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10 BEST ALBUMS IN 2009

December 10, 2009

PHOENIX: WOLFGANG AMADEUS PHOENIX
Their approach to 20-something-American-style alternative funk tunes sound authentic despite their French origins. Armed with spacey synth sounds, lush vocals and dueling acoustic and electric guitars, this release is an excellent mixture of dance, pop, rock and electronic music. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix has some of the catchiest beats around to go with approachable, sing-along lyrics, like in ‘Lisztomania’ and ‘Fences’. The French trio has succeeded in making an utterly danceable album that is highly recommended for your peppy nightout.
Standout tracks: Lisztomania, Fences, Lasso
GIRLS: ALBUM
Born into an extremist cult, Christopher Owen could have grown up to be a serial killer or a freak. But with his friend JR White, he decided to form a band that combines power pop with psychedelia twists and simple haunting lyrics about despair and hope with drug influences. From the first track, ‘Lust for Life’ in which Owen sings ‘I wish I had a father, and maybe then I would turned out right” to the next 11 tracks, Girls manage to maintain that glorious feeling that only classic pop albums can have. The best surprise of 2009.
Standout tracks: Lust For Life, Hellhole Ratrace, Laura

TORI AMOS : ABNORMALLY ATTRACTED TO SIN
America’s very own flame-haired kook (who claims to be a MILF) is still battling for a woman’s right to be spiritual while being sexual. Classic Amos’s religious themes and profound melodies are featured, though she’s become comfortable with incorporating digital sound effects, drum machines and, apparently, the idea of wearing high heels. In spite of being less bouncy than her previous record, the Cornflake Girl’s wave of emotions still springs freely from the poignant number ‘Maybe to California’ to the more eerie and jazzy tracks such as ‘Give’ and ‘Lady in Blue’. This latest offering is an excellent addition to her discography, and while her piano remains her weapon of choice, the electronic embellishments add welcome layers to her idiosyncratic repertoire.
Standout tracks: Curtain Call, Starling, Lady in Blue

CHAIRLIFT: DOES YOU INSPIRE YOU
Despite a glut of similar sounding rivals blossoming throughout this year, Brooklyn-based trio Chairlift managed to garner attention for their beautiful and hypnotic marriage of electro pop and indie rock. The combo makes for some impressively catchy tunes that are guaranteed to dig into your brain until you hum them on the bus. Revealing influences ranging from the atmospheric sounds of Joy Division to the rusticity of Emmylou Harris to the peculiar vocalisations of Bjork’s, this album clearly shows Chairlift is a force to be reckoned with.
Standout tracks: Bruises, I Don’t Give A Damn, Somewhere Around Here

REGINA SPEKTOR: FAR
The seeming lack of killer singles does not make this album any less brilliant. In fact ‘Far’ is a cohesive extension of the Russian-born chanteuse’s last effort, ‘Begin to Hope’ which nearly went on to become a full blown hit-maker. Her distinct brand of quirky vocals makes her memorable and is still very evidential in tracks like ‘The Folding Chair’ and ‘Dance Anthem of The 80’s’. The magnitude of her endeavour in maintaining her piano-playing in pop territory takes her advanced skill onto another level of song writing, and the result is an accessible record that takes higher account of being vibrant in both playfulness and wittiness.
Standout tracks: Blue Lips, Machine, Dance Anthem of the 80’s

ANDA: IN MEDIO
This eclectic package of music isn’t exactly a breath of fresh air, but it is perfectly done for what it is. Mainly revolving around pop and jazz, Anda’s strong vocals fortify this release, while his guitar style accents its excellence. Although acoustic guitar dominates most songs, some include pretty shocking treats such as 80’s iconic and influential keyboard sounds in ‘Sebuah Pesan’, a soft rock number in ‘Bias Senja’ and ‘Moi et Toi’ a hippy duet with Mian Meuthia wrapped up in reggae style. A slight comparison to Jeff Buckley and Lenny Kravitz could be made, but ‘In Medio’ is still quite an original. Overall it suggests that Anda is maintaining the right temper for the right day, creating an album is precisely what it wants to be.
Standout tracks: Dalam Suatu Masa, Biru, Full Moon Tonight, Asmara Sendu.
THE TREES AND THE WILD: RASUK
Languid is the ongoing theme of this 52-minute long experience, emotionally floating through imaginary peaks and valleys. The almost-flawless harmonization of the melodious acoustic guitars and John Mayer-ish vocals allows this whimsical series of soothing songs to flourish. Check out ‘Irish Girl’ and ‘Our Roots’, which prove to be rustic and peaceful, and the album’s culmination, ‘Derau dan Kesalahan’, which includes more beats. This album will gratify your ears with compellingly pristine music.
Standout tracks: Honeymoon On Ice, Our Roots, Derau dan Kesalahan

THE S.I.G.I.T: HERTZ DYSLEXIA
Despite only featuring seven tracks, ‘Hertz Dyslexia’ feel stuffed with adrenaline-pumping tunes that are likely to be 2009’s finest rock and roll local album. Their mind-bending guitar flickering and blistering heavy distortions are still the constituent core, while frontman Rekti’s strident vocals amp up the heat with more variety, ranging from outraged resonance in ‘Money Making’ to a masculine heart-breaking rendition of Neil Young’s ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’. A legitimate reason to bang your head in euphoria.
Standout tracks: Money Making, Only Love Can break Your Heart, Lost.
ENDAH N’ RHESA: NOWHERE TO GO
This dynamic duo knows exactly how to maximize their minimalist act. Fully girded by advanced strumming of the acoustic guitar and groovily guarding bass lines, ‘Nowhere To Go’ is a minimalist debut album that givea birth to a new genre for nu-folk music. Singer Endah’s voice is a wonder to behold: swiftly alluringly tender in ‘When You Love Someone’, andsoft and bluesy in ‘Living With Pirates’. This impeccable package is worthy enough to be called the most accessible record  2009.
Standout tracks: I Don’t Remember, When You Love Someone, Living With Pirates.

BALAWAN – SEE YOU SOON
Balawan is a heavenly guitarist and this latest offering positively resonates. The collection features profoundly clever compositions of thick jazz sounds which are perfectly matched to his internationally acclaimed guitar playing. Although the lyrics are planted firmly within the safety zone of being radio-friendly, the music is far beyond ordinary. From the soft strums of the introspective-love themed ‘Andai Ku Setia’ to the speeding electric tones in ‘Shred Ahead Jazz’, ‘See You Soon’ is an alluring record with accelerating chords that reflect the albums skilled, peaceful ambience .
Standout tracks: Andai Ku Setia, Your Love Is, See You Soon.

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Silent All These Years

October 20, 2009

Dear Reader,

Beauty is a fragile thing. More so because it is held in the perspective and the indulgence of tired eyes and preconceived ideas that colour our world blind. Lines and form meld in patterns of grace that lend a frame upon which it hangs, within which it stands. Time passes and light changes, wind erodes and we all chase the grains of sand that fly before us, just out of reach.

Love is pretty much like that too.

Flying ahead we chase it, we yearn for it, we are mesmerised by it. 

I have chased the idea of love for longer than I care to think about. Objects of my unwanted affections have come and gone yet that yearning, that burning desire to be in a that most wondrous things – a relationship – has rarely been absent. And the longer I drift without someone the more tired and despairing I become.

Our capacity for self deception is immense. So much so that though we might know this, though we understand it, we always forget it.

We will yearn again, we will jump after the carrot again, and we will again trip along the path of disappointment only to lie in bed and berate ourselves. Berate ourselves of what fools we are to forget that hope plays the role that allows us to deny the facts of reality.

Where are the instructions for living? What help is there for those poor souls who become crippled by yearning, who hurt in places they never existed, as they stand invisible to the stream of humanity which passes by, dancing to a music we can only sometimes hear a snippet of.

If life is simple, why do we fail? If nature knows best, why do we rely so much on timetables and cheat sheets? We are often too quick to apportion blame. 

We find easy targets.

We make sweeping statements based on wild generalizations, because we feel more comfortable when we say we understand; that is how the world works.

But they terrifying truth is that we don’t know how the world works.

Has fate really laid out our paths, invisible before us?

Don’t seek convenient comfort my friend, avoid quick and easy assurance of assumption. be brave enough to ask questions which cannot be easily answered. And be brave enough to walk the path alone though it kills you inside.

Music – September 01 2009

September 1, 2009

There is nothing more self-explanatory than experiencing this space of time during nighttime where my mind could travel sonically without leaving the place I am sitting on. 

I suppose music has become my form of gaining catharsis. There is such a bigger,wider, crueler world outside my bedroom’s door and I sort of collect memories of the past and try to fit them all in into one 3-minute life-experience that resemblance every core identity of my being which can then be enjoyable for listening pleasure and transforms itself to become … my mantra?  Yes. My mantra. My way of getting messages from my heart. 

Frankly, I have been away from myself, far far away. I don’t know how this could happen at the first place, but you now when you’re having a highly expected blind date? You try really hard to prepare yourself to fit into your categorization of being “decent” so that the person you’re meeting could match his or her own portion to yours. That is a soul-eroding process. You try to negotiate instead of elaborate to yourself what you really are and what you have been made up of. Yes I could easily sign up for yoga classes, I could be relentlessly ignorant, I could put my skinny jeans on and drive both my thoughts and my car to a bookstore to find some prophet-wannabes ‘ books which I might be inspired by, but the question now is: am I or can I.. be present to myself? 

I am not complaining. No way. Life is full of hidden surprises and I could say I’m quite an explorer. But I think being away from yourself could be such an endless, loooooong brick wall that you find your name sprayed on it every 5 meter. What does it mean? What does it want me to do? What is behind these brick walls? 

One more casualty, you know, we’re to easy, easy, easy ….. (Amos, 1992)

Eventually, the music comes in, slowly and steady. And these song creatures come to me as if they’re illuminating firmaments. Trying to reach my hands, under poetic presences, and say “Look, if we are going to face all this, choke your potential tear-producing, put your shoes on, hear your voice and GO”

You are the clever one aren’t you?

Words can wound. Words can heal. (Part 1)

August 4, 2009

During 2004-2005, my main medium was words. Writing thousands of them was daily beverage thrown at any liberty to my brain’s hunger for achieving “distinctive” mark. And I must say “playing” with them is much more challenging and stimulating my passion than what I am doing now. Words can wound and words can heal. It’s like having an ability to alter one’s mind. There’s a beauty and also a danger there which I am willing more than anything to re-embrace. I should have bought an external hard disk and saved all my writing pieces so that they might prove useful to show how my wilderness would advocate or stipulate any existing problems to be extracted creatively in terms of analytical writing process. Oh yes. Those days when friendly substances were nothing but ’til-the dawning of the day conversations that made us philosophical even on a plate of chicken chop accompanied by half-baked potato and scattered red beans.

Luckily, last night I found my old flash disk I used to use when I was in Singapore. And found some of them here:

EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES
What:
The granting of equal rights, privileges, & status regardless of gender, age, race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation (http://viewpointbank.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=glossary)
Equal opportunities are basic human rights. It stresses the idea of not excluding people from social activities, employment, health care and other social facilities. There is no discrimination nor alienation to any human based on their ethnicity, gender, marital status, age, disability, religious belief, sexual orientation or political orientation, unless stated otherwise belonging to a specific job. It endeavors to ensure that all members of every human being will not get less favourable treatments. They are are treated on the basis of their values and abilities. It also requires a commitment to educating people in order to stop the existing discriminatory actions, policies and practices.

Purpose:
Under this particular circumstance, everyone shall enjoy and make use of the same opportunities such as in fields of recruitment, conditions at work, remuneration, and termination. The purpose is aiming highly for living in a balanced life.

Gay:
The removal of direct discrimination – ensuring that people are not treated less favourably on the grounds of their disability, ethnicity, national origin, colour and race, sex, gender reassignment, marital status, religious belief and political opinion, sexual orientation, age (http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/publicwebsite/public_rnib002459.hcsp).
Ideally as mentioned in the quote, sexual orientation does not determine quality of one’s work. Straight or gay, the orientation itself is not an abnormal disfunction, but rather a basic characteristic that every single human being possesses. Therefore, even though the gay people are the minority, they should not experience irrespective existence. However some cases have proven that discriminative treats still exist. On a random observance, found a case that might give a frowning: a gay guy is strictly prohibited from concerning his will to educate children. Some agree due to an influential outcome for children’s fast absorbability. Therefore, one teacher experienced a job loss when he is known as the “gay teacher” in the child education. The gays are often considered as sexual predators. But this categorization does not make a point because sexual predators aren’t always gay or lesbian. Thus, to make the matchable simple, bad people aren’t always gay, same thing as good people aren’t always straight. A consenting adult is fully responsible for his action and know how to place him/herself in a decent position as decent as the straight ones.

Women:
It implies that girls and boys, women and men have to be treated the same without discrimination in realisation of full rights.  Full human rights are achieved through access to resources and removal of institutional structural discriminatory practices (http://www.rwandagateway.org/article.php3?id_article=124).

The acknowledgment that women are entitled to the same rights and opportunities as men in all contexts of society is a recent reality which has taken over the better part of the 20th century to attain, consistently practiced in the advancement of the democratic principles of justice, liberty and equality, and bearing in mind the struggle carried on by women themselves in vindication of their rights.
However, A lot of things in the world are rather run by patriarchy, and some are even preferred (eg: music industry, presidential structure). This has to deal with a harsh reality: even though the feminist movement has bloomed, it is still on the battle ground. There are numberless of cases that show women’s right to choose is still condemned. For instance: at some parts of the world women driving public transport is still considered unusual as they are expected to “merely” deal with the household department. Another one is the child labor problem that involves young women forced to marry stranger older men. A quick realization to how women are expected to be ruled by the society can be exemplified by the following: a man having to change his partner in numbers of time over the years can be considered as “playboy” or “good looking” whereas a woman, under similar circumstance, can be considered “dirty” or “uncivilized”. Simple things like 40 year old single man is called a bachelor but a 40 year old woman is called spinster (which has more negative meaning). This is a serious context in society that men are superior to women and it is still happening as a second goes away.

Disabled people:
But the facts speak otherwise. Disabled people have somehow poorer standard of living to that of non-disabled people and unfortunately it is undoubtedly. The media can be a pretty harsh take on handling this issue. It often portrays a disabled person  as an object of pity, concerning their disability that somehow becomes a parameter of how success people can be if they are “not” diasabled. Other pictorial examples are disabled people being pitiable, pathetic, an object of violence, his/her own worst enemy, non-sexual as the worst is a burden. These are summed up as the idea of how disabled people are utterly unable to participate in daily life. These stereotypes are particularly evident on television, in the press, and in advertising. Reports about disabled people are usually featured for their sensation value rather than their accuracy. Disabled people and a lot of their organizations reject this view as a sound basis for understanding the problems associated with disability. They are however, still living just like people who aren’t disabled, therefore still in need for those basic human needs. Although they may not function as maximized as people who aren’t disabled but they don’t resemblance uselessness, they are still capable in some fields and the talents should be put in use.

soulmate

August 2, 2009

I think there’s a place where you realise that

people come in and out of your life

sometimes for a day

sometimes for longer

and all of them make you who you are

you can’t separate these people out of you

because they’ve formed who you are

even the ones that kind of make you say

“I don’t know if I want to be formed by them anymore”

but you are in some way

you are

that’s why maybe you shouldn’t look at them so harshly

because they have affected you

at the end though

it’s us as individuals

with our love for the lands

and something intangible

that when soul mates come and go

you’re never alone

even when you’re standing just you and your shoes

because you carry them with you

Religious desk

July 31, 2009

new yorker (NY): i’m just saying that if one desk should fit 3 persons and then there’s clearly another desk next to it -unused- it will be so effective and rewarding if one from the three makes use of the unused. So not only does that give more space for the other two, but it also gives sense that it doesn’t belong to being unused.

almost-gringo (AG): WHAT DO YOU MEAN BELONGING? THIS IS AN ACTIVE WORKING COMPANY NOT SOME RELIGIOUS BELIEF SYSTEM. NO BELONGING.

NY: umm…. I am not talking anything religious. I am talking about desks?

AG: I SAID NO RELIGION ATTACHED!

NY: …..

Abnormally Attracted to Reviewing

July 27, 2009

I am quite fortunate to have contributed my writing piece for Time Out Jakarta. It was my personal insight review for the dwn of Tori Amos’ new album Abnormally Attracted to Sin. Now, I have been a fan of hers since 1997, I think I could relocate a few things about her over the years and sum them up to confront this new born record.

3.5 stars out of five. I guess I have to put down my eagerness as an “Ears with Feet” to fully support Tori Amos’ music and put on my role as an unbiased music reviewer so 3.5 stars to me, feels sufficient. I wouldn’t say it’s as ground-breaking as Little Earthquakes or emotionally raging as Boys For Pele, but it’s definitely better than The Beekeeper (which I would have given 2.5 stars).

I will dissect the album in a more intimate discussion very soon, but for now here’s a little peek at how my writing looked like on the music section page.

Music July'09

CD Reviews (July)

Album of the month
Tori Amos
3.5/5 stars
Abnormally Attracted to Sin Universal

Tori Amos’ tenth solo album (not counting the 1988 release of ‘Y Kant Tori Read’, the poorly reviewed soft-metal album by her band of the same name), is a departure from 2007’s soul-searching ‘American Doll Posse’ and a return to the dark, atmospheric style of ‘From the Choirgirl Hotel’. With more than 15 tracks (the fourth consecutive time her albums have included this number since 2002’s ‘Scarlet’s Walk’), the record explores sexual liberation and feminism, something that Amos has been a keen advocate of since 1992’s ‘Little Earthquakes’.
There are a number of tracks worthy of note: the album’s first single, ‘Welcome to England’, follows Amos’ more mainstream preference of melodies; layers of electric and acoustic guitars blended with her fervent voice. Meanwhile, opening track ‘Give’ creates an eerie, lost-in-space kind of atmosphere and the soft, sultry ballad ‘Maybe California’ tells the tale of a mother on the brink (one of those tunes likely to bring a tear to the eyes of fans when played live). Amos also takes the opportunity to indulge her anger towards America’s dysfunctional, most notably in ‘Strong Black Vine’. Amos takes a swipe at the media too, when, in ‘Curtain Call’, she states: ‘By the time you’re 25 they will say you’ve gone and blown it’. The album culminates in an eight-minute long soothing jazzy track, ‘Lady in Blue’.
Fans will rue the fact that ‘Abnormally Attracted to Sin’ would have been a killer record if Amos had been a more vigilant editor. Too many tracks do not contribute to the album as a whole, while others are just plain boring: ‘500 Miles’, ‘Police Me’, ’That Guy’ and ‘Not Dying Today’ would have best served as B-sides. Nevertheless, the album still serves as a distinctive addition to this American troubadour’s achievements. Luky Annash

real power is about exchange not subordinate

July 26, 2009

Violence and seduction are a ticking bomb. I think it goes back to the powerlessness some people feel. They feel so emasculated that they get angry or seek attention from a place that they shouldn’t. For someone to get off on another person screaming, the wires have got crossed somewhere. When you’re dealing with people with real power they only want you if you’re willing. It’s about the dance between you and them.

 

Real power is about exchange, not subordination.

 

For some people a powerful man is a bully. He’s powerful because he scares people. And I would say that’s not a powerful man – that’s an intimidating man, a man who uses intimidation tactics. A powerful man is a man that knows who he is and doesn’t need to manipulate people to get what he wants

I am piecing a potion to combat your poison

July 24, 2009

If I had a double tongue, I would congratulate myself. As weird and unexplainable as that sounds, things have been rather resembling themselves. Sometimes it takes a minute to quickly understand what the circumstance is, but then there are some others that feel like they’re in joint ventures to sum up what confusion is really about. And I could tell you, they give me long pauses for as long as I could remember. I may sound babbling but I seriously am not.

I wouldn’t say turning 25 a few days ago was the chirpiest thing to go through, but it’s definitely not my coming-of-age downfall (although it seems that there aren’t many contraries to maintain anyway). But I believe I am on my own way. I have my own hell to raise and I will be risen. Thank you Tori. Thank you Amanda. Thank you ice cream.

“I am piecing a potion to combat your poison”

Hello world!

July 24, 2009

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