Here’s to the Fools Who Dream

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“She told me
A bit of madness is key
to give us new colours to see.
Who knows where it will lead us?


And that’s why they need us.
So bring on the rebels,
The ripples from pebbles,
The painters, and poets, and plays.


And here’s to the fools who dream;
Crazy, as they may seem.
Here’s to the hearts that break.
Here’s to the mess we make.”

Breathtaking, colourful, exhilarating, melancholy, hopeful. La La Land is a movie for anyone with a streak of art in their soul. You root for the protagonists to make it, both in the entertainment business and in their own hearts. The file harkens back to a time when the movie musical was king, when films like Singing in the Rain and An American in Paris were the greatest things on the silver screen. But what gave the film life were the performances of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, and the vision and skill of writer and director Damien Chazelle. I thought Whiplash was a triumph. I believe that La La Land is a landmark film for this century. You owe it to yourself to see it, if you haven’t yet.

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Amazing

George Michael
June 25, 1963 – December 25, 2016

George is the second icon of ’80s music to pass away in 2016, following Prince. I feel his passing greatly, as he is on the list of five artists that dominate the soundtrack of my life. His music accompanied me from my teens to twenties, from the early Wham! days in my teens to the nuanced covers of his worst commercial album in my thirties, music that I love dearly despite its lack of popularity. George had one of the most expressive, most flexible and subtly powerful voices around, being able to do quiet ballads and Freddie Mercury power songs with ease. In his later years, his struggles with addiction, legal issues and the loss of his life partner tinged most everything he did with an undercurrent of pain and weariness. Just as the joy of Wake Me Up Before You Go Go was everywhere when he was starting up, the struggles of being who he was and the things he went through can be felt in the strains of Jesus to a Child. I’ll never get to tick that item on my bucket list to see George perform live. The world is poorer for his less.

Thank you George, for sharing your amazing talent with the generation of kids that grew up with your music.

I struggled with the video to accompany this post, cycling through many tracks. I settled on George’s cover of The Long and Winding Road because… well, it feels right. Listen to it. You’ll understand.

My Year in Music 2015

What a difference a year makes.

In the final week of 2014 I was knee-deep in this weblog, spitting out posts in tandem with my new blog-friend Sugar. Today, I’m struggling to write again, and have barely posted in months. Sugar’s blog is gone, and I thank her and wish her well. All things come to an end.

However, I’m not giving up on this blog yet. I’ll call the last few months a setback, but will not make another empty “new year’s resolution”. I will plan on channeling more energy into writing here in the next weeks, and see how that goes. For this week, in cognizance of the year-that-was, I return to music, as I did in 2014.

Here’s the music that was 2015 for me. (No, I didn’t forget the Adelecalypse. Her new album didn’t really do anything for me, sadly.)

Little Toy Guns – Carrie Underwood

Carrie’s Greatest Hits album was released at the end of 2014. Its two new tracks, “Something in the Water” and “Little Toy Guns” were right at home on the album, country pop/rock driving tunes made from the same cloth as Carrie’s last album “Blown Away”. Towards the end of 2015, Carrie released her new full album, “Storyteller”, featuring a sound that leaned more towards bluegrass but still with the trademark Underwood pop/rock power. I love both albums, and combined they’re my most played music in 2015.

Run Away With Me – Carly Rae Jepsen

This was the year’s biggest surprise. On the heels of Taylor Swift’s massive 1980s pop-styled album 1989, Carly Rae Jepsen released her own 80s pop passion project album, E*MO*TION. I love the album, and hold it in the same esteem as Tay-Tay’s record, with maybe a bit less sheen and self-awareness. “Run Away With Me” has a sax line! They don’t do songs with sax lines anymore.

E Più Ti Penso – Andrea Bocelli & Ariana Grande

Every Andrea Bocelli classical crossover album is an event for me. This year, it’s movie soundtracks. Sold, sold and sold. The album, “Cinema”, got as a carrier track this collaboration with teen techno-pop princess Ariana Grande. It’s good, even if Ariana sounds like she’s being overpowered due to her breathy vocal. They should have just let her sing full voice instead of this borderline falsetto she’s using. Anyway, the standout track is “Mi Mancherai”, the theme from Michael Radfor’s 1994 Pablo Neruda sort-of-biopic “Il Postino”. There’s nothing on YouTube yet, so we get Andrea with Ms. Grande.

Can’t Deny My Love – Brandon Flowers

Speaking of 1980s-inspired passion projects, The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers also released one in 2015. His record, “The Desired Effect”, draws more from synth-laced new wave music than the Madonna-pop that Taylor and Carly Rae referenced. It’s a strong record, regardless of what the industry rags and critics said. Using musicians and producers from that decade on the album tracks is a plus in my book.

Ave Maria (JS Bach/Gounod) – Yo-Yo Ma & Kathryn Stott

Yo-Yo Ma is one of the greatest musicians of my generation. He’s also the greatest cellist of my generation, and one of the most prolific and inclusive. If you go to his artist page on Spotify, hit shuffle then play, you’re going to be transported to all manner of places. He’s incredible. So to my joy Ma released a new album, “Songs from the Arc of Life”, in 2015. It’s exactly what its title says it is – a collection of pieces that represent life, from birth, through childhood, adulthood and old age, then finally death. It’s rare for albums these days to have a structure that invites listening to its tracks in order, like chapters of a story. The track here, the well-known Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria”, is the first piece of the album. The sound is breathtaking, and this is a YouTube video. This is one of those albums where I actually got a physical CD, because there’s nothing better than redbook audio for something this amazing.

One more note on one of my favourite pieces of music: “Songs from the Arc of Life” includes a new recording of Saint-Saens’s “Le Cygne”, a song about the twilight of life. I previously posted Ma performing this piece, which happened maybe 20 years ago. I watched both again, and he plays the piece very differently, perhaps reflecting his emoti0ns now that he’s closer to the end of his life than the beginning.

If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me this far. This post is dedicated to Sugar – obrigado, for being my blog-buddy for a time. Be well, always.

New Music for the Blues

When I’m struggling with depression, I try to manage it by tricking myself into falling into routine. If successful, this usually affords me a bit of focus so I can get some important professional or personal things done. The tricks usually involve using media that can hook me and lift me out of the darkness for a moment – music, a movie, a TV show, a video game, a book, a sporting event. The focus doesn’t last long, and I have to cycle through the tricks to have output approaching minimum acceptable volume, but I count myself lucky that I can function. I know that many other people that suffer from depression can be incapacitated completely.

I’ve had luck recently with recent album releases from artists that I enjoy. Here are some of them.

Cinema – Andrea Bocelli

I adore Bocelli, and I love movies and movie soundtracks. This is a selection of movie themes that Andrea covers. This track is from the film “Once Upon a Time in America”. My favorite track in the album is Mi Mancherai, the theme from the film “Il Postino”.

Hello – Adele

It’s got 207 million YouTube views, so chances are everyone on the planet with an internet connection has seen the video and heard the song. Has there been a more anticipated album in the last ten years?

Storyteller – Carrie Underwood

My favourite American Idol’s new album is really, really good.

1989 – Ryan Adams

When I first heard about Ryan Adams, I thought it was the Canadian rocker that did Summer of ’69. So, there’s this guy without a “B” in his name, and he did a full cover of Taylor Swift’s monumental album 1989. I enjoy good covers as much as anyone. Not all of the reimagined tracks work, but my favourite Tay-tay track from that album is Style, and the Adams version is reasonably different and listenable.

Pentatonix – Pentatonix

I think it’s great that former Sing Off champs and a capella wunderkind Pentatonix debuted at #1 on the Billboard Album Chart. The Pitch Perfect films play the a capella craze and sub-culture for laughs, but good music is good music. These kids are talented, they worked their butts off, and they’re now legitimate artists. (PS: Yes, I loved Pitch Perfect 2. That a capella cover of Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” was amazing.

For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come

Quote misappropriated from the Bard, of course. When battling depression, I bounce between states of acute insomnia and dark dreams that I can never remember. I just feel like I emerged from a crushing darkness when I wake up. It’s not a great state to be in when one needs to work, and it destroys all capability to write coherently. One day at a time, with support of music, sunshine (when available) and coffee, until I emerge from the deep dark hole that I fell into.

Light at the end of the tunnel, I hope. Enya is one of my go-to artists when I need help to focus.

Music Carousel: That 70’s Sound

It’s been a tough last few weeks, for many reasons. It’s disappointing that one of the first things to suffer is my writing, whether on one of my projects or here on the weblog. I’ve been on two trips and have taken a grand total of zero worthwhile pictures. That means I’ve been unable to even post that. (It didn’t help that the last Photo Challenge didn’t really resonate with me. This one doesn’t much either – I’m not a fan of collages.)

So I’ll fall back on the old reliable Music Carousel for today, while I have the energy and focus to do one. I’ve been getting through the rough spots with music, and several times have had a series of artists from the 1970s stuck in my head. Here’s a few of my sonic support structures that have helped me thorough the past few days. It’s not over yet, either.

Carole King – It’s Too Late

Tapestry is a giant of musical history, and is one of my personal favourite albums.

Fleetwood Mac – Rhiannon

Fleetwood Mac was one of the supergroups of the time, with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham eventually becoming stars in their own right.

Don MacLean – Vincent

It sounds kind of cheesy today, but Vincent spoke to the trapped artist in my soul when I was a kid. It hurts (emotionally and physically) when you can’t let the artist in you out to play on a regular basis.

Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly With His Song

Amazing voice. No, this was not a Fugees original.

Karen Carpenter

I think I was in love with her at one time in my youth. Her voice is instantly recognizble. She played drums. I’ll listen to her sing anything. One of the most tragic stories in music history.