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Dilemas Amores Y Dramas
Dilemas Amores Y Dramas
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4.0 out of 5 stars forgettable second disc, October 1, 2006
This review is from: Dilemas Amores Y Dramas (Audio CD)
This is not really a best-of collection, but just a compilation of some of Fangoria's past work. Unfortunately, it was released prior to the last album, Arquitectura Efimera. That aside, I can think of one choice Fangoria song that got left out, which is Salvame, from one of their earlier EPs. On the other hand, you have a few of their earlier, relatively unknown songs, like Rasputin and Jason y Tu.

The second disc, all remixes, is forgettable. It would have been better to have scaled back the mixes, and included a few more original tracks. Still, as an odds-and-ends complilation, it's a worthwhile purchase.

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5.0 out of 5 stars the bridge between pop sensibility and innovation, September 19, 2006
This review is from: Homogenic (Audio CD)
I had a similar experience with Homogenic as some other reviewers- what once seemed cold and alienating became my personal favorite.

Homogenic could be regarded as Bjork's bridge album. The early part of her solo career established her as a late-night MTV video darling, and alterna-pop culture icon. Later on, cynicism set in, and she became a walking punchline, turning up on worst-dressed lists, not to mention celebrities gone bezerk. Coincidentially, her music became more personal and obtuse, alienating passers-by, but endearing her more to the faithful.

If you liked the It's Oh So Quiet incarnation of Bjork, well, she left the party quite some time ago. In her place is Hunter Bjork. Hunter throws down the gauntlet, mildly shocking you with its sinuous, military-march beat and eleventh-hour urgency. This song quickly became a favorite, even before I came to appreciate the album as a whole. Interestingly, Bjork said in an interview that this song is about having to "output" as a music artist, so that the small army of assistants around you can continue to have work. It's a very pithy statement. Bjork infers that if she's gonna output, it won't be the usual cutesy-pie, cuddly affairs that come at the expense of artistic sensibility.

Joga, the first single, is a triumph, every bit as urgent as Hunter, and perfectly crafted. Here and elsewhere on Homogenic, Bjork proves that strings-and-synth is a potent combination. Unravel, the third track, foreshadows later albums. It has a rather morose, almost funereal atmosphere. It's a love song, but the mood is brooding and wistful. Midway through, an organ piano is introduced, lending a dirge-like element.

Bachelorette could just as well be titled Isobel, Act II. I say "Act II" and not "part two," because this is NOT just a repeat song with different lyrics. It builds on the operatic quality of Isobel (from Post), quickening the pulse and emotion. The twin nature of Isobel and Bachelorette is a firm testament to Bjork's musicianship.

All Neon Like is the only weak link in Homogenic, in my opinion. The lyics are fascinating, but that "duh-duh, dum-dum-dum" bassline beat irritates. Far better is Five Years. Now, this is Bjork that fascinates me. First, the harsh reproachment of a former lover is compelling. Bjork doesn't indulge in Alanis Morrisette "You Oughta Know" histrionics. Her statement is bolder, less cliche. She won't torch your clothes and your car, but she'll dare you, and take you to task for being a coward who can't handle a serious relationship. I just love the way she sings, "I dare you" with every fiber of her being. Second, the sonic landscape. The song is dominated early on by a harsh beat that's like a distorted transmission from outer space, or a foray though an asteroid belt. Then, it yield to ravishing strings. This is pure genius.

Immature bears the closest resemblance to her earlier albums. The sound has a percolating, almost jazzy feel. The lyrics are very minimal, but the way she sings them is addictive. I can't help but want to sing along. The feel-good sentiment continues with Alarm Call.

Pluto is the most extreme song of the album, a blistering barrage of sounds, like sparks flying from a blown-out circuit. Her distorted vocals make her sound like she sang them through a high-speed fan.

From the harsh landscape of Pluto emerges All is Full of Love. The ethereal, mellifluous strings and lovingly-sung lyrics end the album on a sublime note. It doesn't hurt that the video made for the song is one of the very best ever made.

Homogenic is a brilliantly executed album, one that will reward you time and again.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars reason to celebrate, reason to cringe, September 12, 2006
This review is from: Medulla (Audio CD)
To start, I believe that Bjork's declaration of instruments and synthesizers being "dead" was pure hubris. Still, it was a bold move to craft an album with almost no instrumentation or electronic beats. Too bad that the results are so mixed. Some dishes in Bjork's vocal feast are divine; others are underbaked.

Let me quickly dispense with the delete-worthy songs before I move on to the treasures. Oll Birtain, along with the penultimate track, are nothing more than dopey vocalises that only the most zealous fan would enjoy. Then there's Submarine. Somewhere in cyberspace, there's got to be a sub-niche genre of world music called Arctic Doo-Wop, which inspired this clunker. Finally, Ancestors. I wonder if the working title was Sex With an Incubus?

Now, on to the good, and almost-good. The opening track, The Pleasure is All Mine, characterizes the mishmash of genius and hubris. It opens with a sort-of barn owl imitation, before launching into a lush vocal tapestry. Clearly, Bjork worked hard at making her voice sound silky and smooth, almost as if she had taken vocal lessons. The male chorus kicks in for the second verse, and you are transported to a celestial place. But, just when all the elements meld, Bjork rips the rug from right under you, and goes back to imitating a barn owl. "How extremely lazy of me," indeed, Bjork!

Show Me Forgiveness is an impassioned acapella interlude, nothing more, nothing less. Quite gripping, but not at all experimental, unlike Where is the Line. Now, having read through a few of the most recent reviews, I know that this is a love-it-or-hate-it song. I happen to love it, to the point that I can't get the damn song out of my head. I love the accusatory lyrics; the sonic distortion; the brutal, exploding beats; the double-chorus sounding out single notes of horror, worthy of an ancient Greek tragedy.

The antidote to this post-apocalyptic scorcher is Who is It?, which has firmly established itself as an all-time Bjork favorite, in my book. Over that phat beat-box bassline, she sings with pure joy. Only a heretic could deny its appeal.

As many reviewers have noted, Desired Constellation points to the Vespertine album. What strikes me most about this song is that line, "How am I going to make it right?" Bjork sings it compellingly with remorse and anguish, a harsh self-examination that contrasts with the reverie of "throwing stars like dice." I am reminded of the song Five Years, from Homogenic, when she sings, "I dare you." Both of these songs pack a whollop of emotion.

Perhaps the most tangible example of what Bjork meant to accomplish with Medulla is Oceania. I love the lyrics, in which the ocean reminds mankind about its origins, and puts its existance into perspective. "You count centuries, I blink my eyes." The chorus imitates the movement of sea creatures darting about (in my mind). The beat-box element has a calypso feel, filtered through Bjork's sensibility.

Like Show Me Forgiveness, Sonnets/Unrealities XI is moving, but not terribly novel. Volkuro benefits from being sung in Icelandic.

Near the end of the album, you have Mouth's Cradle. It seems to have found favor with many fans, but I don't think much of it, unlike Triumph of a Heart. You've got to hand to Bjork, who buried this gem at the end of the album. I'm sure the some studio svengali would have placed it front-and-center. It's wonderfully goofy, lighthearted, and very infectious. It almost makes up for the four stinkers I described at the beginning.

I wish this album could have been as strong as Post or Homogenic. Medulla won't go down as Bjork's best, but then again, this is Bjork. When she's good, she's really, really good.

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars better things to come, September 12, 2006
This review is from: Debut (Audio CD)
It had been years (literally) since I played Debut, so I pulled it off the shelf for a spin recently. When I'm in the Mood for Bjork, I grab Post, Homogenic, Medulla, even Vespertine, but never Debut, for some reason. Now I know why. Compared to the rest of Bjork's catalogue, Debut comes off as thin and, well, rather amateur.

Granted, this was Bjork's introduction as a single artist, instead of a member of The Sugarcubes (hard to believe that an artist this talented and independent EVER belonged in a band). Human Behaviour made a big spash on modern-rock radio and MTV, a sort of antidote to the Seattle grunge sound epitomied by Nirvana and Pearl Jam. The next single and video, Big Time Sensuality, became her signature hit, still to this day. In fact, that video always appears in any best-of music video list.

So, the promise was there. Unfortunately, it doesn't extend to the rest of the album. You can pick out favorites, but never do you feel that an "album" was created. Rather, Debut falls victim to the "first album" syndrome- whip up some impressive singles, then cobble together enough material to fill up a CD.

As to the other two singles, they aren't bad, but they don't stand out when compared to singles off later albums. Sure, Venus as a Boy is a nice tune, but I've never quite liked Violently Happy, for some reason. Great name, but the song just doesn't cut it.

In regard to the non-single tracks, Crying could be considered a possible single. And then there's Come to Me. In a landscape of canned-synth beats, it's a heartbreaker, a personal favorite. My one, small complaint is that Bjork's vocal is too far in the back. Comparatively, Like Falling in Love is embarrassingly awful.

To sum it all up, Debut is the first album, but Post is the proper introduction to Bjork's musical genius.

Blue Bell Knoll
Blue Bell Knoll
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars critically dismissed, fan acclaimed, September 2, 2006
This review is from: Blue Bell Knoll (Audio CD)
Music critics have not been kind to this album. I have read this album described as a failure of sorts. It seems the "experts" felt that the Twins were resting on their laurels, after cranking out some of the most introspective and melodic music of the early-to-mid eighties. With song titles like The Itchy Glowblo Blow, Spooning Good Singing Gum, and A Kissed-Out Red Floatboat, perhaps they were also taking themselves a little too seriously. Accusations abound about Blue Bell Knoll being the zenith of prettiness for prettiness' sake, forsaking in the process any depth or gravitas. Yet, many fans describe this as either their favorite CT album, or among their favorites. Who is to be believed?

I have a theory about why Blue Bell Knoll isn't critically praised. The reason has to do with the timing of its release. It succeeded two very important albums, the seminal Treasure, and the highly conceptual Victorialand. Conversely, it was followed by Heaven or Las Vegas, which broke with the past and established the Cocteau Twins' mature sound. Sandwiched between those albums, Blue Bell Knoll doesn't seem to break any ground, thus inviting dismissal, which is a mistake.

If you think about it, Blue Bell Knoll was the end of an era in musicmaking. After their early "post-punk" efforts (the Garlands album and the Lullabies / Peppermint Pig EP's), the Twins found their signature sound. After Blue Bell Knoll, however, they hit middle age soundwise, and were forced (perhaps) to stay relevant in the wake of a changing music scene. Much of the change was achieved by scaling back and lifting a few veils. Then, three albums later, they sounded the death knell, calling it quits.

Blue Bell Knoll is a bit like floating lazily down a river atop an inner tube. The Twins weave a sound tapestry that is uniformly beautiful and ethereal. The only vague bit of melancholy is Spooning Good Singing Gum.

It would have helped if the Cocteau Twins had composed a song of equal strength as Carolyn's Fingers. Just about every other full-lengh album in their canon achieves this effect. Sugar Hiccup is mirrored by My Love Paramour, Ivo by Lorelei, Iceblink Luck by Heaven or Las Vegas, Bluebeard by Evangeline, etc. Don't get me wrong- there is NO filler in Blue Bell Knoll, but Carolyn's Fingers does stand apart from the rest.

For fans of Heaven or Las Vegas, a precursor can be found in A Kissed-Out Red Floatboat, a shimmering, exquisite blend of Elisabeth Fraser's soulful lower range, and angelic upper range, spread across a percolating backdrop.

My personal favorite, aside from the obvious choice of Carolyn's Fingers, is Suckling the Mender. That high note Elisabeth sings midway through is jaw-dropping, a mighty feat for one who isn't classically trained.

Really, the whole album gives you great pleasure. The opening title track begins with an electronic equivalent of a spider spinning a web.

Contrary to folk wisdom, the Cocteau Twins' Blue Bell Knoll album proves that God is in the details.
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Faltan Lunas
Faltan Lunas
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars no solo faltan lunas, August 30, 2006
This review is from: Faltan Lunas (Audio CD)
Here we go, folks. A decade ago, Fey burst onto the Latin-Pop scene, first with the mega-hit Media Naranja (from her otherwise iffy debut album), then with her mega-album Tierna La Noche, which I still consider one of the best dance-pop albums ever.

Yearning to shed her bubblegum-pop veneer, Fey turned again to Carlos Jean, the architect of her Mecano-tribute album, La Fuerza del Destino. This time around, for an album of original material, Carlos Jean has given Fey a makeover, what I call euro-lounge meets disco. I suppose it's worthwhile, since Fey is very much a product of studio wizardry, instead of a truly talented singer, like Monica Naranjo.

This new sound is great when it works, but can't sustain a full album. In fact, in my mind, Fey has only released one great-from-start-to-finish album, which was Tierna La Noche. All of the others stall in the latter half or third, even fan-acclaimed Vertigo.

The opener, Aqui Estoy, is nothing special in itself. It's just another tried-and-true number in the Fey catalogue, another hit that doesn't blow you away instantly, or break new ground. Having said that, it's still a good song, just not the one I would have picked for the first single. The obvious choice is the next cut, Me Has Vuelto Loca. It's a shimmery blend of acoustic riffs and light disco. Fey even makes an honest effort to stretch her vocal. If the whole album was this tasty, I'd have given it five stars.

Things slow down a bit with Como Un Angel, a more introspective song. Then comes the album's highlight, the title track Faltan Lunas. It's got great energy, almost worth the price of admission alone. Sadly, it's the only hi-energy song. Again, I can't help but think of Tierna La Noche, which was packed with hi-energy anthems.

The last good song of the album is Tres Razones, which is effervescent and instantly hummable. That leaves six songs, half of which I skip over almost everytime. Faltan Lunas succumbs to that terrible practice of front-loading the best tracks, to avoid being a hit-and-miss affair.

When all is said and done, this ranks as the third-best Fey album, behind Tierna La Noche and Vertigo. Her debut album had too many cheesy numbers (Fiebre de Sabado, anyone?). El Color de los Suenos was a failed attempt to reprise a hit album. And La Fuerza del Destino only deserves a very occasional spin.

The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More
The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More
by Chris Anderson
Edition: Hardcover
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a bit streched, but still good, July 31, 2006
Like other reviewers, I found myself skimming towards the end, when the author starts to repeat himself. However, throughout most of the book, by attention was sufficiently captivated. If nothing else, it shows how people a decade younger than me are far surpassing my generation in terms of harnessing the internet.

When I was a teen, I was interested in non-mainstream music. The only way to discover this music was word-of-mouth from friends and peers, buying magazines like Alternative Press, and making the trip across town on the bus to shop at the independent music store. Nowadays, those interested in niche genres of music have MySpace, peer-to-peer filesharing, etc. You don't have to buy magazines, or travel for miles to find the music on the shelf. It's as close as your computer screen. Kinda makes the cassette dubs we made in my day seem like child's play.

The ramifications of sophisticated technology at next-to-nothing cost is a prevalent theme in Anderson's book. However, there are glaring omissions, and a problem in format. For example, he makes a big deal about how a quarter of Amazon's online book inventory sold cannot be found in even the largest book superstore. Before you strike the death knell for the bookseller industry, there's one name the author is remiss to leave out: Oprah Winfrey. For all Mr. Anderson champions consumers as the new tastemakers, she is the ultimate tastemaker, like it or not. And her recommendations are through her television show, not the cutting-edge technology channels mentioned in the book. Furthermore, those books can be found in any superstore, not just online.

Formatwise, a lot of the tedious repetition could have been weeded out, and replaced with more focused chapters. I would have liked to have seen chapters that only dealt with one form of media (one for music, one for books, one for television, etc). This would have been preferable to the how-many-ways-can-I-tie-a-scarf approach.

Siempre Rebelde
Siempre Rebelde
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars a cheap attempt to cash in, July 31, 2006
This review is from: Siempre Rebelde (Audio CD)
Hmm, does the title of this collection give anything away? Obviously, Fey's old record label is trying to cash in on the current popularity of the teen-pop group Rebelde. What you have is a hodgepodge of some of Fey's bubblegum/uptempo songs, which is in no way a good reprensentation of her catalog.

Spend your money instead on her new album, Faltan Lunas.

I'm Going to Tell You a Secret
I'm Going to Tell You a Secret
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hyperkinetic Madonna, June 26, 2006
The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Well, given the fact that Madonna doesn't like to tour in Texas anymore (her last Houston concert was for Blonde Ambition), this is, above anything else, a chance to finally see live clips from her Re-Invention Tour, since it hasn't been released on DVD yet. Madonna- give the fans a real treat; how about a box set of all of the tours from Blonde Ambition on?

Anyhow, I'm Going To Tell You a Secret will put some people off, but ultimately will please the fans. Yes, Madonna discusses her spiritual outlook almost non-stop, but it's mostly digestible. There are only two things that made me gag. The first was the overly cliche argument about God's existence with Stuart Price, who happens to be an atheist. The second was when Madonna waxes about not just waking people up, but giving them a "direction." That bit of hubris should have been left out- how dare she even THINK about giving anyone a "direction?" Just open the door, and let us find our own way, just like you did!

What's funny is that for all that Madonna's changed, she's still very much the same person. She still likes to be Queen Bee and Den Mother, carp about the hotel rooms, tell people to "f" off, write hokey poetry, complain about not getting enough attention from her man, etc. The parallels between the Madonna we see here and the Truth or Dare Madonna are innumerable. It's just a slightly more mellow, stable version this time around.

For my money, this documentary replicates the best aspects of Truth or Dare, without being a cheap imitation. Above all, Madonna never ceases to amaze you. She will bare her soul one minute, like when she tearfully thanks her dancers on the night of the last show of the tour. Then, the next minute, she becomes imperious and aloof, like when an off-camera dancer asks her when she will grace them with her presence for an outing.

There are two parts of I'm Going to Tell You a Secret that really made me laugh. The first is when Lourdes describes how she read from The English Roses at a children's hospital, and then tries to explain the moral of the story, only to be drowned out by her brother. The second takes place in the pub in London for her Guy's birthday. She looks so bored, begging to go home, and then resorts to taking a nap on a small wooden bench! I remember nights out with friends when I felt exactly the same way.

Jonas Ackerland is to be commended for the style of the documentary. He cannily evokes the feel of Truth or Dare, while blending in his own elements, such as beautiful full-color images of cities, and kinetic live concert shots. My favorite example of the latter is Nobody Knows Me.

Some negative reviews point out that Madonna's vocal chops aren't great enough for the accompanying live CD. Nevermind the vocals- it's worth it for the reworked versions of some of her best songs, including the bagpipe intro to Into the Groove.

Montserrat Cabale & Marilyn Horne Concert / Philharmonie Hall, Munich
Montserrat Cabale & Marilyn Horne Concert / Philharmonie Hall, Munich
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Caballe in bad form, June 19, 2006
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Unfortunately, this joint concert by two great operatic divas is not as spectacular as it could have been.

By 1990, both were past their primes, but in the case of Caballe, a little research explains why she is in such sub-par form. In late 1989, she was suffering from chronic bronchitis, which severely impacted her singing. She tried to cancel a series of perfomances of Respighi's La Fiamma, at the Teatro Liceu. Unfortunately, they artistically blackmailed her, claiming that no substitute singer was available, and it would result in the opera house being closed for five nights, a sharp loss in ticket sales. Montserrat fulfilled her engagement, although the singing left her horse. The sheer effort to sing despite her ailing condition resulted in pneumonia.

This gala performance from Munich was one of her first singing endeavors following the worse spell of illness in her career. Unfortunately for Caballe, this televised concert exposes how shaky her voice was as she tried to recover from the bout of pneumonia and exhaustion. From the very beginning, it's evident that Caballe is nowhere near peak form. The Bajazet aria, taken at a laboriously slow pace, is sung with broken legato and unsteadiness of pitch. Also distressing is that Caballe seems so tired and worn out. She sings with her eyes closed during much of the performance.

In her solo arias, there are some baubles that one would think La Caballe simply incapable of. At the end of the Mercadante aria, there is a weak, lamentable trill, for example. At several points, the famous pianissimi seem a challenge for her. On a normal night, she could have floated those until the cows came home. Her high notes, always a might sharp, are glassy and brittle sometimes.

Please, don't think of me as a negative reviewer. I adore Caballe, but this performance was probably best left in the vaults. Souveniers of bad performances like this, due to illess, have the potential to tarnish a singer's reputition.

This DVD isn't a total loss. Horne is in good form- maybe not as good as in her glory days, but still a formidable artists. Of her solo arias, the Meyerbeer ranks as the highlight. Of her duos with Caballe, Giorno D'Orrore and Belle Nuit recreate some of the magic that they were known for.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2010 12:53 PM PDT

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