Thursday, December 5, 2013

Introducing The Author's Playlist… and Lindsey Stirling

We recently asked readers of the Files into which unexplored territory they wished the staff to take their favorite internet journal, and the resounding consensus of fans requested the following motion.  By popular demand, then, here are the Author’s first reviews of music contemporary and enduring.*



“Sing, muse, sing to me a song of whooshes and whirrs, with vocals battered by electronic blurs, echoes, and scratchy FX.”

On second thought, don’t.  As a musically picky traditionalist and classically educated rebel against the status quo of pop-culture as it’s written by iPhone-wielding hipsters treading the corridors of public high schools, I have more dutifully resisted the emergence of that techno-funky travesty called “dubstep” than anyone else to my knowledge.  At least I have in my head, banishing Skrillex, Psy, and all their imitators to the darkest, most secluded vestiges of human digital creation.  With that in my mind, to wed radically unclassical dubstep elements with one of the most universally beloved instruments in the classical orchestra would probably seem a more toxic union and riskier gamble than just about any other combination, but the ever exuberant violinist Lindsey Stirling somehow manages to make such a marriage work in ways not just harmonious but beautiful. 

I first learned of Lindsey’s presence on Youtube by coming across her rendition of the iconic (at least among video games and those circles willing to recognize them as a true art form) main theme of the Halo saga, which was interestingly arranged and filmed if markedly less bombastic and memorable than Mike and Marty’s original composition, written obviously for a complete orchestra instead of just one piano and a violin.  Regardless of its worth comparative to the source material, Lindsey’s version must have incurred at least twice as many views and ‘likes’ as the most popular official Halo track on the site, and that her channel had amassed upwards of 400 million views was another indicator that she was probably doing something exceptional.  Aside from reproducing the sound of Halo, she had also churned out interpretations of works ranging from Zelda and Assassin’s Creed to Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones to Phantom of the Opera and a Fallout-reminiscient cover of Radioactive with Pentatonix of all things, many of which do dramatically surpass the original songs even when not accompanied with the consistently high production values and rugged Utah scenery that elevate her music videos.  Nevertheless, all of these ventures are just sideshows to her primary vocation, namely her self-pioneered blend of the violin and electronic beats that almost exclusively comprises the content of her debut album, recently re-released this year.

Lindsey’s style has been praised as original and invigorating by some and maligned as “dance music” by others.  Being much unlike Lindsey, who can bust a seemingly endless number of moves while playing simultaneously, and entirely unversed in all matters of dance excepting the Futterwagon, the Fox, and the Firebend, I can’t really vouch to the validity of that classification, but if it be true, hers is easily the most appealing dance music that has yet and ever will cycle through my senses.  The first allegro on her CD, Electric Daisy Violin, promptly establishes an spirited and energetic tone that will distinguish most of what follows, with a few tracks such as Crystallize and Elements and Song of the Caged Bird assuming a somewhat more solemn air.  Lyrics are mixed only minimally into the largely instrumental album, functioning primarily as background chanting to a symphony of strings and computer-generated percussion.  Lindsey’s use of dubstep differentiates itself from other artists’ – or entertainers’, for a more apt description – in that the electronic components are more of a supporting instrument than a means to cover up weak voices or to distort already melodious notes. Although the techno-beats are erroneously mixed louder on certain tracks than the violin, which should be the centerpiece of all her music, the two sounds remain mostly separate throughout the album while at the same time complementing each other superbly. A couple of the songs, notably Elements, sound exponentially purer and more powerful when the strings are isolated from the artificially generated electronic track, but then the orchestral versions of Crystallize and Transcendence (included with the deluxe, Target-exlusive release of the album) prove that the dubstep can actually enhance the music in some situations.

Lindsey imbues her music with an overflowing rush of youthful joy and force, flawlessly adapting the few strengths of the present to reinforce the everlasting virtues of the old – the end result being a sound that’s refreshingly classical but also distinctly modern.  I cannot recall a single occasion where $10, or any quantity for that matter, has bought a greater feast for my ears.  If Lindsey is not a better-looking 21st-century Vivaldi, then she’s at least the next best thing, no wrecking ball, vulgarity, or Super Bowl wardrobe malfunctions required.

This sampling is probably the most emblematic of her usual fare.  And fiery.

And Peter Hollens kind of steals the show from her by the very nature of this song, but it's a great duet regardless.

And this just went up yesterday.  She's a Mormon, BTW.  Make of that what you will, but you can appreciate that she doesn't try to hide her beliefs.

Are you still here?  Leave this pathetic excuse for an entertainment website and don’t return to these borders until you’ve watched all of Lindsey’s videos and bought a CD for yourself and all your musically impoverished, ignorant fellows.  Seriously, why on God’s not-that-green-holistically-speaking earth are you wasting your life reading words, albeit funny ones, about something that you’re supposed to hear?

Singles
Royals – Like many songs that blow up records nowadays, Royals has a dangerously catchy beat and moody, muttery vocals that you can hum all day long, but makes precious little logical sense when you attempt to dissect the lyrics in your mind.  The first line immediately establishes what looks like a thematic idea for the rest of the song, expressing the artist’s sentiment that she’s “never seen a diamond in the flesh”, i.e. that a perfect soul is illusive and even unattainable among mortal men.  However, this metaphorical and captivating observation disintegrates into a cryptic and probably nonsensical reflection about “chipping my teeth on wedding rings… at the moooovies”.  First of all, how on earth does that even happen, and secondly, why should we care?

I guess that’s kind of the point of the song: why should we care?  “We’re not caught up in your love affair.”  Gee, that’s a really deep profundity you articulated there, Lorde Whateveryourrealnameis.  It’s about darn time that somebody inside the entertainment industry vocally decried the celebrity culture of fame at any cost and the People magazines of the world that are much obliged to exploit their private matters for profit.  Now, if you’ll excuse me while I go ‘follow’ Lorde on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so I can ask her what in the world this jumbled bunch of malarkey means to her, how the chorus can express two contradictory sentiments interchangeably (you’ll never be a royal, but you want to be a queen bee?), and why the two shirtless dudes in her horrid music video are boxing randomly.  Is there some obscure, subliminal metaphor and/or inside joke I’m missing here, or are people just writing messages into this song in order to pretend they’re smart enough to understand something that’s not there to be understood in the first place?

Blurred Lines Feat. T.I. & Pharrell – The first time I heard that some nobody named Robin Thicke had made a song called, well, that, it had already outpaced garbage like Get Lucky to reach the top of the spin charts and had just sealed its fate in the halls of infamy with Miley Cyrus’ shockingly degrading twerkathon at the MTV Awards that nobody even heard about it until the state-run media graciously filled us in on the great artistry we missed; naturally, I wasn’t expecting anything meaningful from this single.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered a poem embellished in symbolism and philosophical subtext that challenged my preconceptions of what it means to live.  A fitting companion song to the credits of Christopher Nolan’s mindbending thriller Inception, Blurred Lines Feat. T.I. & Pharrell has none of its source’s succinctness** but all of its thought-provoking substance.

The narrator embarks in a state of stuttering confusion, chanting, “Hey, hey, hey,” monotonously and without purpose.  He has arrived at this condition through the progression of gradual steps, moving ever further away from reality as he continually immerses himself in the realm of dreams and fantasy, to the point that he can no longer see or reason clearly.  “Maybe I’m going deaf, maybe I’m going blind, maybe I’m out of my miii-iii-iii-iiiiind,” he emphasizes by artistically multiplying the singular I syllable into four or five.  From here Thicke shifts into the powerful and emotionally stringent chorus, crying out in a passionate burst of untempered fury, “I hate these blurred lines!” referring to the ever receding distinction between the real and the imaginary.

Rarely does a songwriter rise into the public eye who so eloquently laments the increasingly blurred lines of fiction and reality, between the idealistic world that so many people construct around themselves and the objective world that evades their gaze but will catch up to them in the end, whether or not they are steeled to face it.  In Blurred Lines Feat. T.I. & Pharrell, Thicke has done as much with lyrics mature, graceful, and uncommonly moving.  This is rightly the must-own title of year, so if you haven’t bought it yet, waste no more time.  After all, “I know you want it.  I know you want it.  I know you want it.”

Our God (Is Greater) – Chris Tomlin deserves credit for writing many of the best worship songs to overwhelmingly infiltrate and even dominate churches and radio stations around the country.  This is not one of those songs – even though it has unjustly wormed its way into every facet of modern Christians’ cultural life.  Our God (Is Greater) has all the sophistication and logical reasoning of an elementary school kid’s playground taunts and all the poetry of a Sunday school lecture.  “My Lego collection is bigger than yours, you peasant!  My test scores are twice as strong as yours, you simpleton!  I can out-jump, out-run, out-fight, and out-socialize any of you!  Oh, and my god can kick your god’s butt! because he’s greater, stronger, and higher than any other being – because he’s God!”  When the song isn’t stooping to petty and nauseatingly repetitious boasts about the superiority of the Christian God over all others, it’s either recounting various miracles that Jesus performed on earth, as though these acts are the source of his divinity and the one reason we praise him, or completely ignoring basic grammatical rules.  “And if our god is with us, then what can stand agaiiiinst… what can stand agaiiiiinst?”  Against what?  That’s a preposition, not an adverb.

This spiritually and substantively vacuous verse, reverberating around the world and making unconscious braggarts out of regularly nice people with its primitive, generic hero worship of a deity’s physical might, altitude, mystical healing properties, and awesomeness of power, may be one of the main reasons why the liberal Nones are so broadly coming to think that Christians are nuts.  C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, all of America’s Founders including the deists among them, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Dante Alighieri, Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine, and countless other intellectuals would beg to differ, but such is the impression that Our God (Is Greater) will continue to foster.



Only one of these selections was disingenuous.  If you can correctly identify which one, you may leave a request for The Author to review any song or possibly album so long as it’s not pointless or obscene*** and doesn’t have the word “gangster” – eh, gangsta, pardon my language – in it.****


* We’re kidding, of course, as such a reader survey never took place and none of you wrote in demanding that the most cynical Author sling his mud at popular songs that are honestly ripe for his unsparing and unblunted criticism, even though you know you wanted him to… In truth, the only reason he did this was because he fancies the dancing violin girl in the videos rather pretty.*
* squared – Correction from Chief Editor Josephos Rex to staff underlings: That’s not the ONLY reason…*
* cubed – Staff underlings to the hand that feeds them: Come on, now.*
* to the 4th power – OK, you got me.

** That was sarcasm, as succinctness is a concept altogether foreign to Nolan.

*** Again, we’re kidding, because the Author takes the most glee in his profession whenever it allows him to expound just how pointless and obscene something is, hence the joy he has taken in ripping apart Alan Wake, Man of Steel, and Alien Cubed, among other monstrosities.

**** Christian rap titles are welcome and even encouraged, as the very idea of a Christian rap subgenre is hilariously stupid.

9 comments:

  1. I must admit, I was scratching my head in disbelief, until I got to the word "disingenuous" ...

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  2. Oh, Oh, can you review "Overboard" by Manafest??? I LOOOOOVE THAT SONG!!!

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  3. That Punk you went to school withFriday, December 06, 2013

    I'm placing my bet on Blurred Lines. That has fake written all over it.

    As for your next post, You've come too far / To ignore where we are / So please raise the bar / And review a pop star / I'm reading your blog to get some / I'm reading your blog to get fun / I'm reading your blog to get lucky / I'm reading your blog to get lucky...

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  4. I'd like to offer a theory on the part about chipping your teeth on wedding rings. You know those times when you're escorting your wife or fiancee to your seats in the movie theater and you kiss her hand chivalrously just as the trailers start to roll and there's suddenly a ear-shattering explosion out of nowhere and your body instinctively reacts to kiss her finger a little too hard?

    No? Well, it's possible. At least for a guy, who presumably isn't singing the song.

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  5. Misty - You have to pinpoint the dishonest review before I can take your requested song into consideration. If no one correctly identifies the fraud, then I may review Ovahboahhed, but until the next post I have to give priority to the winners of this challenge.

    Enigmatic Punk - You may just get lucky.

    Gina - Thanks for your thoughtful, explanatory insight on Royals. Perhaps I'll have a new appreciation for it now that I can visualize exactly how you might chip your teeth on a wedding ring in the mooooovies.

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    1. Oh. Well if i had to guess, i would say that your review of Our God is the fake one. I don't see how anyone could think something negative about that song. I believe that it really sums our position as God's chosen people in life. It is also really glorifies God and shows his power.

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  6. I think your whole review on Miss Stirling was your disingenuous one. A wise young man such as yourself couldn't possibly support a Mormon, and one who contributes to Climate Change in those music videos. I think you should review one of Green Day's albums. I think they do some great music, very thoughtful and deep lyrics plus great composition.

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  7. While I refuse to place a wager in your little challenge because gambling is a sin, I will offer my observation that your temptr......errr...little violin girl's videos were NOT recorded on National 'No Make-up day'.

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  8. Al Goyer - What a sad and fruitless existence you must live for having nothing better to do than ridicule Mormons and scold people for warming the planet by, um, moving a bow across a string and filming it. But haters gonna hate, aren't they? Why don't you go narrate a conceited documentary about man-made global warming and pick up your stupid Oscar instead of inconveniencing my readership with your non-truths?

    Vanna T - It's not gambling if you have nothing to lose, and I would argue that gambling isn't inherently sinful anyway. As for the temptrerrr's Elements video, you're probably right in that it wasn't shot on National No Makeup Day, and that is why we only celebrate National No Makeup DAY. Regardless, if you had seen some of her less stylized videos, then you would know that Lindsey Stirling's not wearing any makeup; the makeup is wearing her.

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