Sunday, September 27, 2015

Björk Marathon: The Remixes - Medúlla

Next to Vespertine, Medúlla is my favorite Björk album ever! It's one killer record: it's ancient folk, glitch techno, contemporary classical pop, and just crazy avant-garde weirdness, very medieval and KUKL-spirited, an LP that only Björk could do and make it into a real one-of-a-kind experience. Of all the remixes/album eras, the remixes for Medúlla take the cake for me. Here are the stand-outs:

Oceania (featuring Kelis)

This collaboration is a unique one. Kelis and Björk are similar in that vocally they're very distinct, but genre-wise and musically, they're practically worlds apart. With this "Oceania," they unite and fuse as whole. Like wings, Björk lets Kelis's voice soar. Kelis's additional lyrics/ad-libs are beautiful:

I am the continent, working with the moon 
No one even knows me 
But I'm always cold and blue I revolve around the earth 
There are worlds of things within me. 
My belly's always full freedom's glides on surface 
Yes, my heart is deep within Nations dive and trust me 
Nations dive and trust me I lay them at my shores 
They dance with me in time.

When their voices combine at the song's finish: it's utterly dramatic, breathtaking, and epic.

 Who Is It (Bell Choir Mix) 

Remixed by: Mark Bell

This is the version/remix that was used for the "Who Is It" music video. I prefer this over the studio version. The bell choir adds such a joyful mystique about it.

 Who Is It (Choir Mix)

Remixed by: Mark 'Spike' Stent

This remix is incredible and inspiring. The looped vocals...the asteroid flashes...the break beats...from its ethereal slow-paced, introductory build-up to its awesome swooping conclusion. Amazing.

Mouth’s Cradle - Cortejo Affro/ Ilé Aiyé Mix 
(Production Co-ordination & Assistance by Arto Lindsay)

I love the drums! It makes this "Mouth's Cradle" more "bouncy."

Desired Constellation (Ben Frost's School of Emotional Engineering Mix) 

This one is so easy to be obsessed with. Another brilliant remix of many from this era. 

Triumph Of A Heart (Audition Mix)

Remixed by: Björk

This remix is just so much fun. Some of this remix is in the official music video and you can hear more of it in the "Making of Triumph of the Heart" mini-doc in the Medúlla Videos DVD. This "Triumph of the Heart" is more raw, in-your-face, kooky, and not annoyingly club-friendly. You can actually dance to this, drunk or sober, and have the time of your life because this remix is a party!

 Vökuró (VV Mix)

Remixed by: Gonzales and Feist

In sound, this is a Western meeting a gospel. Such a unique remix of an already unique song!

Mouth's Cradle (Recomposed by Ensemble)

Ensemble does it again with a remix that takes the song to a whole other planet. This one's flying.

Oceania (Piano & Vocal) 

Remixed by: Nico Muhly 

You can't ever go wrong with a "stripped" version with only Björk's voice and a piano. So pretty.

Desired Constellation (Choir Mix)

I love this version. I prefer it over the original in general. It's so freakishly beautiful and touching.

Where is The Line (Fantômas Remix) 

Remixed by: Fantômas

This "Where Is The Line" would be at home in a twisted ass movie or video game. It's wild, scary, haunting, and crazy! My love for this one doesn't end, like my never-ending love for Medúlla!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Music Documentary Review: Under the Influence


In a documentary with unparalleled access, discover the people and sounds that inspired rock 'n' roll legend Keith Richards from childhood to today.

My Review:

Keith Richards is my spirit animal. Seriously, only few minutes into this documentary and I felt like I knew the man. I could feel him in every way, his soul, his spirit, and his heart. I call him the Mad Hatter of Rock 'n' Roll because, well, he's Keith Richards! He is crazy, but that's what I love about him. Behind the myth and the legend, there is one cool dude, a classic music man who has major respect for the blues, country, reggae, and naturally, rock 'n' roll. This doc is hardly about Keith and is more about him composing a musical love letter to these genres and how they have influenced the showman he is to this day. Far from boring and all over the place, Under the Influence is where Keith takes us through this journey through music: first into the blues, about his influences/heroes like Muddy Waters and their first meeting, rock and roll, where he gushes over Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis, and then country, where he gives us insight into Johnny Cash, give us a tour of the original Grand Ole Opry, and the genre in general, and lastly, his love for reggae (who knew?). The stock footage is gorgeous and exciting. Keith showing us his record collection while reminiscing about music was so endearing - it truly humanized him as did his natural way of making you laugh and smile. What a disciplined musician he is, in and outside of the Rolling Stones. What a warm, chill, and laid back spirit he is as well, as was evident in how so many legends he has worked with were equals to him. Even Keith can fangirl sometimes! And did I forget to say how HILARIOUS he is? When Keith mentions one of his books, he slyly says "second to the Bible." What a riot! But what a charmer. You don't have to love the man to enjoy Under the Influence, but you'd be hard pressed not to once and after you watch this from start to finish. No pun intended, but Keith Richards rocks. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Björk Marathon: The Remixes - Vespertine

Vespertine is still my most favorite Björk album. It's her magnum opus. Even Björk herself felt that this album represented the prime of he career, where she felt like she reached the highest peak that she could possibly reach and where she achieved all that she wanted to express in her music at the time. It's the most sensual, emotional, introvert, quiet, and internal album that she has ever done. The remixes are a stunner. Unfortunately, the singles are only 3, and the remixes are few. But for the Vespertine remixes, it's truly quality over quantity, so here they are, the crème de la crème:

Hidden Place (A Capella) 

This is breathtaking. Technically, it's not a capella since the choir and the instruments are still present, but here it feels a tad bit stripped down, so you hear Björk's voice more clearly. Stunning. 

Hidden Place (Hearts & Bones) 

Remixed by: Matmos

Matmos are virtuosos of their craft - the attention to the quirky details of sound are incredible. It's no wonder that she got them to be collaborators on the album and had "Hidden Place" remixed by them. 

Pagan Poetry (Matthew Herbert Handshake Mix) 

Remixed by: Matthew Herbert

Of all the remixes from Vespertine, this one is my favorite. The passion here is overwhelming. 

Aurora (Opiate Version)

This is heavenly. 

Cocoon (Retangled by Ensemble) 

Remixed by: Ensemble

"Cocoon" is Björk's most sexually explicit song to date (next to "Pagan Poetry" of course). This remix feels a universe of its own kind, really. It just takes you away... 

Sun in my Mouth (Recomposed by Ensemble) 

Remixed by: Ensemble

"Sun in my Mouth" is based off of the e.e. cummings poem "I Will Wade Out." I'm partial to the album version, but this remix is mutual/equal to its beauty. I think e.e. cummings would be proud.  

Aurora (Music Box)

The title is self-explanatory. It's short, but oh so sweet. 

Pagan Poetry (Music Box)

This is actually "Aurora," but titled "Pagan Poetry" for this remix. Seriously, it was genius of Björk to have music boxes custom made for her to be made of acrylic glass instead of traditional wood. She wanted it to sound "as hard as possible, like it was frozen." It works, and it's truly a beauty. 

And lastly, It's In Our Hands. It was released in vicinity with Greatest Hits and Family Tree. I'm not a huge fan of this single admittedly, but this remix...I dig it. Not sure why. It's just good!

All the remixes that I shared and LOVE, that's basically ALL of the Vespertine remixes. What can I say? I love them all!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

LGBT Film Review: Beautiful Darling

Synopsis (courtesy of Amazon):

Beautiful Darling chronicles the short but influential life of Candy Darling who was a major part of Andy Warhol's entourage and was one of the inspirations for the Lou Reed song "Walk on the Wild Side."

My Review:

Candy Darling was more than a transgender glamour queen, but a sad, lonely, and tragic soul. Her story doesn't stray too far from the likes of Marilyn Monroe. It's eerie, but hardly surprising. Even Candy herself felt and knew that she'd die forever young, blonde, and beautiful as she also knew and felt that she'd one day be a star. In all accounts, what she always felt and knew would be her life, that was what happened, even at its tragic end. The heart of this documentary is about that without sugar-coating or creating this overly fantasized version of the Andy Warhol Superstar. There's so much sadness in Beautiful Darling, it really permeates in every scene. It's depressing, but there's also so much love, compassion, and understanding as to why and how Candy was so vulnerable, and how that vulnerability was partly what made her charming, likeable, and intriguing. The archival footage here is amazing, the music is a nostalgic timewarp, and the cast of characters (her friends and colleagues, some well-known, like fellow Andy Warhol Superstar, Holly Woodlawn, while others not, but still colorful in their own right) give us deeper insight into Candy. Chloë Sevigny reads Candy's letters and diaries throughout and does an incredible job channeling Candy's voice, especially at the documentary's conclusion where it really hits hard at the heart. That truly is Beautiful Darling for you. One gut-wrenching film, but utterly fascinating.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Björk Marathon: The Remixes - Homogenic

The transition from the "promiscuous, urban, and euphoric" Post to the loudly extrovert, emotional, and soul-bearing Homogenic was smooth, but the journey to get there was chaotic and life-changing for Björk. But it wasn't all doom and gloom at the same time. The heart of Homogenic is that it's "a love letter to Iceland." These remixes seem to reflect that spirit full-heartedly It's absolutely moving and breathtaking. Homogenic had 5 singles, and most of the remixes included in them are divine. It was hard to pick my most favorites since there were so many amazing ones, but here they are!

Jóga (Howie B Main Mix)

Remixed by: Howie B.

This "Jóga" is heavier on the beats and the strings. Absolutely stunning.

 Jóga (Buzz Water Mix)

Remixed by: Howie B.

This just might be my favorite "Jóga." It sounds so quiet and ethereal. It just moves me for some reason. It's like a whole other universe of sound that takes this ballad to a whole new level of beauty.

Immature (Björk's Version) 

Different from the album version, this "Immature" is a standout because of the piano and how it's just almost a capella-like.  

Bachelorette (Howie Spread Mix) 

Remixed by: Howie B.  

This "Bachelorette" is heavier on the strings and on the beats, even more dramatically cinematic.

 Bachelorette (Mark Bell Optimism Remix) 

Remixed by: Mark Bell

Now this is one powerful remix, extra-heavy with the cinematic-drama, beats, and strings!

Bachelorette (RZA Remix)

Remixed by: RZA

This is so RZA. The beats slowly build up to the climax. This is the closest thing probably that we'll get to hearing what those Björk meets Wu Tang Clan sessions must have sounded like.

Hunter (µ-Ziq Remix)

Remixed by: Mike Paradinas

This is one haunting "Hunter."

Hunter (Mood Swing Remix)

Remixed by: Mark Bell

 This "Hunter" is so adventurous!

All Is Full Of Love (Strings)

 Remixed by: Mark "Spike" Stent

"All Is Full of Love" is one of my favorite Björk songs of all time. This version is a heart melter.

All Is Full Of Love (Plaid Mix) 

Remixed by: Plaid 

This is possibly one of the best "All is Full of Love" remixes. It's perfect.

All Is Full Of Love (Guy Sigsworth Mix)

Remixed by: Guy Sigsworth

This is my personal favorite and my favorite remix of all the "All Is Full of Love" remixes. It's so magical, the horns sound so breathy, airy, and hallow, and the beats are accentuated to almost resemble a heartbeat.

Weren't these remixes breathtaking or what? 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Special Day for Hedwig, Caitlyn Jenner, and Me

This Sunday was a pretty special albeit slightly bittersweet one. I'll start off with the special!

Today was the season finale of I Am Cait, a show that I've been live-tweeting about since its debut.

This was a powerful, emotional, and life-affirming episode. One of the discussions that Cait opened up on this last episode was on transgender people and their relationship with religious and God. When I tweeted about this, Caitlyn Jenner herself read and re-tweeted me!

What an honor!

This show brought a community together, and I've made so many new friends on Twitter since the beginning and throughout the show's airing. I'm crossing my fingers that we'll have a season 2!

Now to the bittersweet:

Well, the bittersweet was that I Am Cait is now over! And one of my favorite musicals, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, had its last show on Broadway today.

I had the pleasure of seeing this amazing show twice and got to meet Neil Patrick Harris and John Cameron Mitchell. It's not all bluesy, Hedwig will be touring internationally, so, it really is a celebration all around for everyone! What a year it has been for TV and Broadway for the LGBTQI community (also can't forget that Fun Home, based on the incredible graphic novel, is the first-ever Broadway show to star a lesbian character and to have won a Tony). 2015 is certainly our year - before we know it, we'll have 2016! And I can just feel that everything is going to be even better.

Friday, September 11, 2015

LGBT Film Review: Grandma


Lily Tomlin stars as Elle who has just gotten through breaking up with her girlfriend when Elle's granddaughter Sage unexpectedly shows up needing $600 bucks before sundown. Temporarily broke, Grandma Elle and Sage spend the day trying to get their hands on the cash as their unannounced visits to old friends and flames end up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets.

My Review:

Grandma is one smart, entertaining, hilarious, poignant, and sweet movie. While the story is so simple with much of the plot about Elle helping her granddaughter Sage earn enough money to get a procedure done in time for the appointment, the heart of Grandma has more to do about Elle's past, facing her demons, confronting old friends and exes, and finding forgiveness from herself and her loved ones. Not surprisingly, Lily Tomlin rocks as one loud-mouth, no-nonsense, bat-shit crazy grandma, and even though Laverne Cox's role as Deathy was only for fifteen minutes or so, her character was a memorable highlight as well. All the characters from the minor to the major ones are very strong. Even if their time on screen was short-lived, you won't forget them. The story is sugary feel-good throughout and to the end, but a lot of hilarious and very heartbreaking episodes ensue that makes it not as sweet as it appears on the surface. If there's only one flaw about Grandma for me is that it falls short on surprises and it's on the predictable side, but that's forgiven because of how rich it is in showing that family, whether you love them or hate them, matters, that for your soul, you have to forgive and move on, and for the better, it is best to live one's life on their own terms, but try and be as much of a good person as you can while you're at it. Grandma will make you smile, laugh out loud, and just maybe it will make you tear up a little.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

LGBT Film Review: Circumstance


A tale of love and family turned upside down by obsession and suspicion, Circumstance is also a provocative coming-of-age story that cracks open the hidden world of Iranian youth culture. Alive with playfulness, two vivacious teenage girls, wealthy Atafeh and orphaned Shireen are discovering their burgeoning sexuality full of wild yearnings and imaginative fantasies. And while the simplest things are often disallowed them, they take risks ever day to lead their own lives.

My Review:

New York Magazine called Circumstance "Daring, Hot, and Forbidden!" In a nutshell, that is what Circumstance is. It's bold, it's daring, and very sexy as it is playful, charming, and hopeful. Atafeh and Shireen's love story is the star of Circumstance. Actresses Nikohl Boosheri (who plays Atafeh) and Sarah Kazemy (who plays Shireen) are devastatingly stunning together. Their sexual and romantic attraction was so immediate that it's shocking to think that this was just acting. Together, Atafeh and Shireen are risky, vivacious, and so free-spirited which is pretty exciting but very dangerous in juxtaposition to Iran's cultural norms. They're two women in love and they won't let anyone and anything get in their way. Circumstance also glimpses on the clubbing, drinking, and drug scene among Iranian youth, which that, too, was beautifully captured in this movie with striking, energetic, and sensual cinematography. I was truly impressed by everything, even in the rich Iranian music, pretty breathtaking. Circumstances is a breath of fresh air on so many levels. It didn't pander to its audience, it didn't over-sexualize the lesbian couple (it focused on their dreams and ambitions equally to the hot sex), and for all its complexities - the religious and culture clashing and the controversy, conflicts, and barriers - it's unbelievable how well this was all executed, so organized, smart, and clever. Pretty superb film and still edgy for its time. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Björk Marathon: The Remixes - Post

While Debut was a giant (and extremely successful) leap for Björk post-Sugarcubes, Post is what  catapulted her solo career. Post was a juggernaut of the 90's, so it's not surprising that Post is chock full of so many remixes (especially for "Army of Me" and "Hyperballad") that it's almost dizzying. I mean, after all, Björk had an entirely-remixed Post album called Telegram and later down the road (in 2005) there was a compilation of just "Army of Me" remixes (with proceeds going to UNICEF):

And not to mention, Post had SIX hit singles, the most singles that Björk has ever released to date.

As daunting as this may seem, well, it's my pleasure to do it! My favorite Post remixes are:

Cover Me (Cave Version)

Björk is no stranger to recording songs in some of the most unlikely places (like when she recorded "There's More To Life Than This" inside of a toilet at a club). This "Cover Me" was recorded in a cave. I love how you can hear the bats and the water dripping in the background as the song sounds kind of hollow and echo-y, which adds something extra special and unique to this lovely song!

You've Been Flirting Again (Icelandic)

What's not to love about Björk singing in her native language? Gorgeous.
Army of Me (ABA All Stars Mix) 

Remixed by: Mike D

This "Army of Me" is AMAZING. I LOVE the retro-sound of it with the horns, the quirky beats and bleeps, the kooky laughing, and the overall jazzy flavor of this "Army of Me" remix. As I've expressed before, the problem with most remixes of upbeat/pop/extroverted songs is that they are too busy, noisy, and obnoxious. Not this remix. There's a lot of style to this that I absolutely adore.

Army of Me (featuring Skunk Anansie) 

Remixed by: Skunk Anansie

If you thought that the original "Army of Me" was angry, THIS version just kicks ass. Björk's howls, growls, and wails on this "Army of Me" is insanely raw and out for the kill.

Isobel (Deodato Mix)

Remixed by: Eumir Deodato

This "Isobel" sounds just as good as the original! It's groovy.

Isobel's Lonely Heart (Goldie Remix)

Remixed by: Goldie

This "Isobel" was remixed by Goldie. So naturally, it's very trip-hop, and simply amazing.

You've Been Flirting Again (Flirt is a Promise Mix) 

Of all remixes from the Post era, THIS one is my most favorite of all. Yes, I love it that much. It sounds so cinematic and sweeping. For a song so simple, this version is beautifully complex. 

 Hyperballad (Brodsky Quartet Version)


One of Björk's most classic and brilliant collaborations was when she worked with the Brodsky Quartet. This version has transformed "Hyperballad" to an even more sweeping/emotional level.

Hyperballad (Girls Blouse Mix)

This is my favorite version/remix of "Hyperballad" It's so quiet, ethereal, and beautiful.

Hyperballad (The Hyperballad Fluke Mix) 

Remixed by: Fluke

Pure magic.

Hyperballad (Towa Tei Remix) 

Remixed by: Towa Tei

This is house music meets jazz. I love it.

Cover Me (Plaid Mix)

This "Cover Me" (by the wonderful Plaid, another frequent collaborator) sounds kind of spooky and eerie. When Björk sings "This is really dangerous..." you can practically feel the chills.

Possibly Maybe (Calcutta Cyber Cafe Mix)

Remixed by: Talvin Singh

"Possibly Maybe" is one of my favorite songs from Post. This version is a nice balance of the extrovert and the introvert side.

Possibly Maybe (Dallas Austin Mix)

Remixed by: Dallas Austin

I love the vibe and sound of this "Possibly Maybe." It's industrial meets the cinematic.

Possibly Maybe (Live at Wembley Arena)

The live versions of "Possibly Maybe" are always so gorgeous, and this is one of them.  

I Miss You (Photek Mix) 

Remixed by: Photek 

This is the best remixed of "I Miss You." The beats are so powerful!

I Miss You (Dobie's Rub Part One - Sunshine Remix) 

Something about Björk and hip hop goes together like banana and Nutella! So sweet!

Remixed by: Dobie Rub 

I Miss You (Dobie Rub Part Two- It's A Hip Hop Thing) 

Remixed by: Dobie Rub 

This "I Miss You" is as hot as Part One!

Hyperballad (LFO 3 A.M. Remix)

Remixed by: LFO

Beautiful. Pretty. Enchanting.

Is that enough Post remixes for you? ENJOY!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Björk Marathon: The Remixes - Debut

I'm not sure why lately, I've been listening to Björk's remixes. Maybe it's because I just can't get enough of Björk, and even though I've listened to a good 95% of her work, the 5% that I've basically ignored or under-appreciated is her remixes, so it's about time that I started listening to them. And I did, for all of them, per album era, and overall, a lot of them are misses, but there are so many gems in her remixes repertoire. The thing is, I really don't like remixes. They all too often sound busy, annoying, obnoxious, and too techno/dance when that type of flavor is not necessary for a song that's either already techno/dance, or where it feels tacked on and it's so unnecessary. Björk's remixes are no different: some are everything that I can't stand about remixes. But what makes Björk's remixes special is not only because it's, well, Björk, but because of who she chooses to remix her songs. She doesn't just let anyone remix her songs. Typically, those who remix her work are her collaborators, friends, or artists that she admires and trusts enough for them to do their own spin on her songs and making them sound fresh and new. The release of her singles/remixes also to me feel more like love letters or homages to the DJ culture than her just releasing remixes for the hell of it.

With each album era, the remixes seem to reflect the time era in their sound and also the place where Björk is/was in her life at the time. The Debut remixes are so 90's, but not painfully so. I wouldn't say that these remixes are as adventurous as the remixes for her later albums, but they are fun, sexy, and freeing like the liberated Björk who was so excited and hungry to release her music post-Sugarcubes. From this album era, there are seven remixes that I really liked, and they are:

Human Behavior (Acoustic)

"Human Behavior" is one of those songs where I don't think it really needed to be remixed, but I love the acoustic version that you can watch on her Debut Live DVD. This particular version is wonderful because you can really hear Björk's trademarked growls, howls, and other otherworldly vocal quirks.

Venus as a Boy (Anglo American Version) 

Remixed by: Mick Hucknall

Now this remix is just gorgeous. It still preserves the original sound of "Venus as a Boy" but makes it sound even more playful, sultry, and hypnotic. This almost makes me all gushy. Just adorable.

Play Dead (Tim Simenon 12 Inch Remix)

Remixed by:  Tim Simenon 

I love the DRAMA of this song, and Tim Simenon's remix of it makes it sound even more epic.

Come to Me (Black Dog Productions)

Remixed by: Black Dog Productions  

What makes this remix work completely are the strings that climb up this track and in the background you have this catchy beat that blends in so well with it and, naturally, with Björk's vocals. This version of "Come to Me" sounds more urgent unlike the original that sounded more reassuring.
Anchor Song (Acoustic Version) 

What's not to love about the acoustic versions? I love how much more emphasized her hisses are here and where you can truly feel her heart and spirit emanating in the sweet and personal lyrics.  

Come to Me (Acoustic Version)

Ooh, look, another acoustic version! What makes "Come to Me" acoustically more special?

Listen, and you'll hear why this is a stand out. 

Violently Happy (Vox Dub)

Remixed by: Nellee Hooper

This version of "Violently Happy" makes me feel violently happy!

Which remix out of this bunch do you love?