Colombian Coffee

Would we have coffee with…Shakira (aka Isabel Mebarek Ripoll)?

Kristy: Definitely. I’m a fan of Shakira’s but not the biggest by a long shot. I own one album (and perhaps a few downloaded tracks). Until Cammy floated me a copy I was unaware of her latest release. But I find her to be a very interesting person. In addition to being talented she’s also obviously very intelligent. It’s funny thought, because while being smart and independent were huge parts of her image in Latin American 10 years ago, in the US she’s kind of allowed the image of the exotic dippy blonde to take over. At first I thought she was a victim of poor record company promotion, but it’s gone on so long I’ve started to think it’s strategy. So I’d like to have coffee with her to ask her about it. My current theory is that she thought her chances of success in the US were higher if she was just an exotic sex kitten than if American realized there was more behind the shimmy. But I’d like verification on that. I’d also like to have a general conversation with her about things ranging from the Columbian poltical situation to the position of women in the music recording industry. And I feel like I should buy her a cup to thank her for always continuing charity work no matter how big she got.

Cammy:  I’ll have coffee with her, if only to demand a return to her pink-hair, angry-chick-rock-ness.  While her music still sounds great by and large, seeing a music or appearance from Shakira is a kind of let down when you are even passingly familiar with the days when her hair had pink streaks and she was rocking out “Si Te Vas” and “Ojos Asi.”  I’m eager to hear what answers she gives to Kristy about the image change (I might even be willing to hold off on my return to pink-hair demands).  And will she be funny?  Usually smart people are funny, but….And after Kristy’s done with Colombian politics?  I’m gonna ask her about the REALLY important stuff:  Mexican remakes of Colombian telenovelas!  Where does she stand on “En los tacones de Eva” vs. “Por Ella Soy Eva”?  Is she all about “Yo Soy Betty La Fea” or is it “La Fea Mas Bella”?  You think I’m kidding, but I want to know.

Note:  The Management would like to apologize for the late appearance of this post.  Technical difficulties (read: Cammy screwed it up) happened.

Musikalischer Mittwoch: Symphonie

My obsessive play of the week is another international tune.  I decided that two versions of “Symphonie” by German rock band Silbermond just weren’t enough.  I was perusing Amazon and located a third “Orchester Version.”  More strings and (drum roll please) an Oboe (double reeds, represent!)

The song is, at its core, a rock break-up ballad.  The hook, in this case, is  “Symphonie…und jetzt es ist still um uns” (Symphonie…and now it’s quiet around us).  It’s solid stuff, though I’m taken more by the overall sound than the lyrics.

The initial version I encountered was pretty much pure rock.  Again, solid stuff.  It helped to branch my collection of German musik into a cool middle ground between the head-banging, angry-time music of Rammstein, the synthesizer-of-the-80s-live-on sound of the “Schlager” pop music (I love it, but I recognize it’s not for everyone) and the truly ol’ skool folk music my family brings out for holidays and reunions (think beer halls and yodeling).  I needed something that was solid rock-pop, and this (along with the rest of Silbermond’s repertoire) fit the bill.

I was even more pleased when I found the second version, still rock, but with a touch of orchestral strings.  Very classy.  The orchestral touches made the sound more melancholy while letting the guitar build up bring home the gut-wrenching aspect of a failed relationship.   I completely support cross-musical-genre-efforts, but we’ve all seen some forced disasters.  This was not one of them.  I was more than impressed enough.

Until they added the French Horn and the Oboe.

There is very little in this world that cannot be made better with a French Horn and an Oboe.  Rock ballads get better.  Symphonies reach their pinnacle.  The weather gets nicer.  Babies stop crying.  Ice cream tastes better.

No, really.  I swear.

This final arrangement took the increase in melancholy from version 2 and ramped that up, but they still retained the rock build up.  As with the second version, the combination of the classical orchestra sound worked with the rock band–no feeling of shoe horning.  The added instrumentals made the slow, quiet beginning even richer, and they even seem to play a larger roll once the guitar and drums kicked in, which is nice.  I thought the drum entry was a teensy bit heavy, but the points gained with the added orchestral parts out-weigh the split second when the transition seems too sudden.

The downside of this ear-worm is that I went looking for even more Silbermond MP3s on Amazon only to find there are very few.  The only full up album is Verschwende Deine Seit from 2004.  The rest are 2-3 track single albums (be warned, if you buy from Amazon, watch those singles albums–several are priced at $9.99 for the album, when there are only 2 tracks which you can buy individually for $0.99).  The selection of albums on CD is larger, but the prices are significantly higher.  And, unfortunately, most of the official videos from the group on their YouTube channel are geo-blocked for those of us in the USA (we deserve it, I know).


Musikalischer Mittwoch: Making it A Better Time for the Optimists

In case you missed my whining, and the fact that I haven’t posted on time (again), I’ll tell you that this has been a helluva last two weeks.  I’ve been working long days, on weekends, and generally busting my ass.

This level of sustained activity involved in something I’m not really keen on doing requires a certain level of musical stimulus to maintain my sanity and my energy level.  “Zeit für Optimisten” by Silbermond has been in my playlist rotation fairly heavily.

If you like fast paced, solid rock music, you will be able to enjoy this song without knowing German.  Musically, I won’t say this is my favorite Silbermond song (I think that would go to “Symphonie”), but it’s got the right tempo to offer a pick me up when Excel spreadsheets are bogging me down.  There’s also the note of, not quite anger, but definitely something less than happy lurking under the upbeat sound, which mirrors my level of frustration just about perfectly.

If you DO know some German, the lyrics complete the package to make this a perfect addition to the job-dragging-me-down playlist.  “es ist ‘ne schlechte Zeit für Optimisten” repeats the chorus….literally?  “It’s a bad time for Optimists.”

Ain’t.  It.  Just.

And rather than offer empty hope about improvement for the Optimists, the song takes the bull by the horns suggesting “Also lasst sie uns ein wenig unterstützen / Wer will schon gern alleine sein?” That is, we should help the optimists….who wants to be alone?  That’s right.  Instead of bench warming it with the pessimists (me), we ought to be out there finding a way to make things a little better for those lonely optimists.

A nice sentiment, really.

Of course, being a pessimist I could suggest that the other option for Optimist loneliness is to convert them to pessimism.  Clearly Silbermond has more optimism than me.  And that’s good, because they give me rockin’ songs that make me momentarily think I should abandon my pessimism if I want to see things improve.

Once again, for the daring samplers out there, a legal version is up on YouTube.  The video is a couple of years old.  Don’t ask me about the TV-headed people.  I didn’t get it when the song came out and I still don’t get it, though I am amused by the guy on the crapper and the kid on the mini four wheeler.



Musikalischer Mittwoch: With Office Zombies!

As overdone as the zombie thing is these days, it’s still totally acceptable in the form of geeky music.  Especially when it’s a song dealing with a zombie take over in the office.  Because, well, a zombie take over in my office would be a total delight.

“Re: Your  Brains” is a staple in the diet of Jonathan Coulton fans–so I’m sure it’s nothing new to many of you.  It has all the key features of Coulton’s well-known songs: great music with a catchy tune and hysterical/geeky/just damn-good lyrics and high-quality delivery.

This particular ditty is a musical e-mail from an un-dead co-worker who really just wants to eat your brains.  Bob from the office down the hall is totally polite in his message, and–accompanied by great guitar work and a rock-anthemic chorus you can belt out with co-workers–he lays out the memo and the ultimatum  “All we want to do is eat your brains.  We’re not unreasonable/ No one’s gonna eat your eyes.”

What’s not to love right there?  But, it goes further….it’s got all the necessary elements of a typical corporate office e-mail–all the phrases, the cliches, the passive-aggressive comments.  That’s actually more horrifying than the idea of  having your brains eaten.

Bonus fun for this song:  you can listen to the whole thing (and lot more) online for free at Coulton’s website (downloads are a buck), and it’s available under a Creative Commons license (along with all the other songs written by Coulton).