reileen: (general - strawberry)
Having finished my JPN106 final (likely got a few things wrong on it, especially WRT to the particles and conjugations for passive and causative-passive and blah blah, but I'm working from like a 95-96% in that class, so I'm not worried) and my ART264 project (presenting at the final critique tomorrow afternoon), I have some time to finally post something more substantial than whining and short links. :D?

***

Vienna Teng

Despite having a shitload of music that I still haven't listened to even once, I've been returning rather frequently to Vienna Teng's Inland Territory. It's basically the musical equivalent of comfort food for me at the moment, and healthy comfort food for me, at that. I'm still floored at how rich and full the songs are, and how, despite the title Inland Territory, it's actually the least introspective of Vienna's albums so far. No...that's a misleading description; if you looked up "introspective" in the dictionary you'd find Vienna's picture. What I mean to say is, when you compare the subjects and the handling of those subjects in IT songs versus her earlier songs, there's a stronger tendency in the IT songs to reach out beyond personal, interior experiences. Or rather, the IT songs are remarkable for this fusion of the external world of events that may or may not be beyond our control, with the internal world of emotions and thoughts. It's a skillful, refreshing blending of themes into an audiophiliac frappuccino.

One thing I didn't consciously notice about the album until someone mentioned it on the VT forums: it's framed by two songs that both have what can be referred to as "instrumental choruses". It's especially spine-tingling on St. Stephen's Cross. (Incidentally, both were songs that needed to grow on me for a while before I came to love them, in their own way.)

Vanessa Carlton

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Carlton has debuted two new songs, "Fair-Weather Friends" and "London". Unfortunately, the quality is so bad on these recordings that you can't understand what she's singing, but melodically it sounds like stuff that would fit in with Heroes and Thieves. According to Wiccapedes, she's apparently almost halfway done with the album and will release it later this year, holy shit.

My liking for Vanessa Carlton's music is mildly perplexing to me. She's not necessarily an excellent vocalist - I wouldn't care to hear her a cappella - but it's such a distinctive voice and it fits her songs. Similarly, I get bored real easily playing her piano arrangements because they're so simple, yet I haven't really figured out a good way to transform those arrangements into something more complex (and thus more interesting) for me to perform as a cover. And her lyrics didn't really become compelling to me until Heroes and Thieves, but they've always had a certain je ne sais quoi about them that was uniquely VC.

At any rate, I look forward to VC's new album.

Yousei Teikoku

With their latest release, the single "Gekkou no Chigiri", it seems like YT is moving towards a more pop sound, though they still retain their distinctive gothic, neo-classical, and electronica elements. I was actually underwhelmed by the three songs on "Gekkou no Chigiri", but then again I was also underwhelmed by the songs on "Irodori no Nai Sekai" and now I actually really like the songs for the most part. In particular, I keep on coming back to "Alte Burg" for some reason. I think I'm fascinated by the chord progressions and the melodic structure, the auditory tension pulled tight like a bow in the stanza melodies before being released in a graceful arc into more musically familiar territory for the chorus. They've done this on other songs as well (including other songs on "Irodori no Nai Sekai"), but for some reason the pattern really caught me in "Alte Burg". I'm not entirely sure that it's an effect of this song being necessarily better than their other songs; it may be that I was listening to the song at the right time and in the right mood.

Charice Pempengco

You can sample her music on her MySpace; her Wikipedia page is here.

I first heard about her through the Angry Asian Man. Charice Pempengco is a young Filipina singer who placed third in a Filipino talent show called Little Big Star, loosely patterned after American Idol. However, she only gained worldwide recognition after an avid supporter named "FalseVoice" started posting videos of her performance on YouTube, garnering millions of hits. Through a series of fortunate events, she eventually landed a performance spot on Oprah, which led to her being signed by music producer David Foster. She is supposed to have a US debut album sometime soon, though I'm not entirely sure how soon.

Charice really has an impressive set of pipes, but she seriously needs to learn how to control that voice. She's cited Celine Dion and Mariah Carey as influences, and boy does it show - and not always in a good way. I think it's great that she has such a good range, but I honestly despise it when singers "oversing" their melodies (see also: Christina Aguilera). It seems so unnecessary most of the time. I prefer her softer vocals in "Smile" and "Maalaala Mo Kaya". But hey, what do I know? I think that, with this style of vocals, she may actually have a chance to break into the American mainstream, somewhat. She's already got two albums released in the Philippines, and a single here in the U.S.

Dragonforce

So cheesy! So retro! Yet so gloriously awesome and epic! I wanna write my own Dragonforce-esque song. Not that it would be hard, technically, but still.

***

I have some book discussion I want to do (namely, The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd and Tekgrrl by A.J. Menden - neither of which I was impressed by), but it may take some time for me to formulate coherent reviews about them, so I'll leave y'all with a long-overdue link-o-llection instead.

Jeff Yang: What Does It Mean to be Asian-American?

Four decades later [after the late Ronald Takaki taught the first-ever Black Studies course at UCLA], however, it's worth considering how far the idea of Asian America has come, and how far it can go. Does Asian American identity still have meaning? Have prevailing attitudes towards race evolved to a point where the term "Asian American" limits us rather than lifting us up? Has the moment passed?

Truth be told, the current picture isn't pretty. Many prominent Asian American institutions, particularly those associated with arts, culture and media, have either shut down or are in danger of doing so. Some of this is due to the larger economic crisis, but if pressed, many of the former leaders of these organizations will quietly admit that the core issue they face is simple: Audiences and subscribers for their work have been dwindling, and without collective support from within the community, it's been an uphill battle getting support from outside of it.

On the political front, the vibrant grassroots movement of the '60s and '70s never produced a broad-based pan-Asian American advocacy organization along the lines of the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza. While reinvented old-guard institutions like the Asian American Justice Center (formerly the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium) and exciting new-school entities like Asian Pacific Americans for Progress offer hope, the history of Asian American activism over the past few decades is largely a mosaic of short-term coalitions that were built with a single issue in mind and vanished after that issue no longer seemed pressing.

And those issues are rare these days. It's hard to point to a critical political event that has galvanized pan-Asian communities since 1982, the fight for justice for Vincent Chin, the Chinese American murdered by laid-off Detroit autoworkers for being "Japanese." (Some might suggest the protests against the Broadway musical "Miss Saigon" fit that bill. Even so, those took place in 1991 -- nearly two decades ago.)

All of these factors point to the uncomfortable truth that bringing together Asian Americans has often seemed like herding cats, if those cats were randomly mixed in with, say, dogs, sheep and giraffes -- a metaphor that reflects the staggering diversity of our community, which incorporates dozens of nationalities, each with multiple linguistic, religious and ethnic subsets, and a varying historical record of immigration to the U.S.

Yes, the challenges are enormous. And yet, the stakes are high. Those who seek to suppress racial discourse have gravitated toward Asian Americans as the weakest link in the multicultural chain. They suggest that the successes some Asian Americans have achieved mean we no longer need the protection of a racial category; they point to the difficulties we've faced in organizing as evidence the category never should have existed in the first place.

Ray Fisman @ Slate: Want more women to study science? Hire more female professors.

The researchers also found that the influence of professor gender was even starker for the set of students who were math whizzes when they entered the Academy (those with math SAT scores above 700). For these students, a female instructor eliminated the gender GPA gap entirely—and solely because high-performing women did well in their classes rather than because high-ability men underperformed.

What's more, having a male instructor didn't just affect female cadets' performance in their first-year classes—ramifications could be seen throughout their undergraduate careers. Not surprisingly, students who did well in their introductory science classes were more likely to go on to obtain science degrees (and presumably go on to science-related professions). Among high-math-SAT students—those most likely to be the ones to go on to obtain science degrees—the authors calculate that having a women-only roster of faculty would create gender parity among science majors.

What is it about a woman instructor that is so important for female pupils? It's unlikely to be simply the sense of empowerment of seeing that women can in fact make it in science. If that were the case, then having all female professors should help their female students catch up to the men and having all male professors should cause the male-female performance gap to widen. Yet the authors found that, while female students perform better on average in classes taught by female professors, there are some male professors under whom there's no achievement gap between male and female students (and also some female professors for whom the gender gap is as big as that of some of their male colleagues). So some men are very good at mentoring women, just not nearly enough of them.


John Scalzi: The New York Times: We May Slide into Irrelevancy But At Least We Update Daily

The thing about this Times piece is that it feels almost endearing anachronistic; not to run down blogs, but they’re not exactly the hot new kid on the block these days, are they. These days it seems like the only people starting new blogs are laid-off journalists, which says something both about blogs and these journalists. Everyone else has moved on to Facebook and Twitter. Which is something I personally applaud; I like my blog, but I’m a wordy bastard, by profession and by inclination, and online social networks actually do a far better job of what people wanted blogs to do, which is be a way to act and feel connected online with friends and family. No one gives a crap if your tweet or status update is short and utterly inconsequential (”Hey! I just ate a hot dog!”) — indeed, that’s kind of the point.

[livejournal.com profile] nonfluffypagans has a post discussing the idea of pagan community centers. It touches on a number of issues that PCCs face, including money, interpersonal politics, and the lack of support from the broader community.

I want this corset like burning.

Iraqi teen cracks 300-year-old math puzzle.

Tokyopop recently raised the prices on its individual manga volumes, but it looks like readers are actually getting less for their money.

And then finally, an article from The Onion that is sure to be a classic: Oh, No! It's Making Well-Reasoned Arguments Backed With Facts! Run!

-Reileen
fire's getting closer but I've got to stay calm
reileen: (glee - Bomberman)
Vienna Teng and her crew gave an amazing performance at Schuba's on Friday, as they always do. (I have video evidence of this fact, but alas, it doesn't even begin to capture the magick of the moment.) I stalked caught up with her later and got her to autograph my copy of Inland Territory - yay! She also thanked me for my review of the album, which I think she found through the forum - double yay! And I found out that the reason they haven't played "Augustine" live yet is because they haven't really found an arrangement that they really liked for it. So now I await with bated breath the fateful day that she gives a live performance of "Augustine."

The opening act, Ben Sollee, was pretty damn amazing too. I'm not sure if his music, which could probably be described as "country on cello", is my thing or not, but lemme tell you, he's damn good on the cello.

After the performance, I crashed at [livejournal.com profile] lysis_to_kill's place with Lauren and Melissa. We watched Crash, which isn't exactly a "fun movie night" kind of film, but I'd heard about it back in HON301 and Lauren had brought it with her, and no one really cared which movie we watched so I just took charge of the viewing materials. (I'd say that this is such a typically Leo thing of me to do, but then, Melissa and Lauren are both Leos too...) Crash is an incredibly uncomfortable film to watch because of the way it takes on a lot of major racial issues in America, and the characters of the large main cast fall into a lot of grey areas. Some are more redeemable - or redeemed - than others.

By the time we finished this movie, it was getting kind of late, but somehow we decided that we wanted to watch something else, so we popped one of the DVDs I had for the first season of The Big Bang Theory and watched the first episode. Much lulz were had. I seriously need to watch the rest of this series; it's flippin' hilarious and I love all the geek jokes even if I can't understand half of them. (Tangentially related - I also need to finish watching Firefly - I think I'm on the second DVD of the boxset that I got for Christmas two years ago. I'm so bad with sitting down and just watching shit.)

Despite the late bedtime, all of us were up before 8:00am, WTF. However, the early wake-up was sweetened - literally - by a pack of cook-it-yourself Cinnabons that Liz managed to pick up in the fridge aisle at Jewel. OMG SO GOOD AND SO UNHEALTHY FOR YOU. I'm afraid to find and buy these for myself, because I'll probably be eating them all. The. Time.

***

So, the final chapter of Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro was released on Friday. I'm sad that MTNN has to end, but if we had to get an end, this was a pretty good end to get. And Matsui is supposed to be releasing a new series this July - I'm not sure if it's a new ongoing series or a one-shot, though.

These minor spoilers are on the tip of my tongue. )

Fare thee well, Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro. It was sweet while it lasted. Now if only someone would pick up the tankoubon for English localization!

-Reileen
I run but it stays right by my side
reileen: (general - strawberry)
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I actually have a number of LJs. My oldest one is almost 10 years old by this point - I got it when LJ was still invite-only, in 2001. IIRC, my first LJ entry in that particular LJ was about school and grades. I discovered while re-reading both my old digital journals and my old dead-tree journals that I bitched about school and grades a lot. What can I say, I had a boring life. I might've rambled on a bit about anime, too.

My first entry in [livejournal.com profile] reileen was basically a faux-contemplative thing about why I chose the name "Reileen" and about where I was at that point in my life, which was...not really in a very good place. Better than some, worse than I would've liked.

***

Skipped ART227 today in favor of taking an early nap (about 8:30am to 10:15am) before working on my poster mockups for ART264 later tonight. I'm slowly getting used to Illustrator, and am beginning to see why people would like using it, especially for layout and logo design. Because it's vector-based as opposed to pixel-based like Photoshop, it's easier not only to get smoother lines, but also easier to resize things if you decide that you fucked up on something. And it just feels...more organized, somehow. I can't imagine using Illustrator solely for - lulz - illustrating, though. I might try experimenting with doing outlines in Illustrator and then importing those over into Photoshop, especially because Illustrator has that miter thingamabobber thingy that lets you get points on all your sharp corners, which I've always had to add by hand when doing outlines in Photoshop. I think I need to get my hands on an Adobe Illustrator CS3 bible or someshit, to get more familiar with all the doodads and thingamajigs in this program. I've become quite competent with the Pen tool and its crazy Paths over the past few years, so I think I should do fine in picking up Illustrator over my time as an A&D major and then applying it to other stuff (work, play, in-between).

I still have no idea what the fuck is going on in HAA115, but I'm going to have to do some early research on the three-eyed hairerection-sporting deity statue. The professor hasn't handed out, like, an official outline sheet for this paper or anything, but the paper is due May 8th, which is, uh, the day of ACEN! Yeah. So I might as well get familiar with some general stuff. In the meantime, I suppose none of y'all out there would be able to help me out on making sense of the history of ancient Indian art, would you?

I'm going to need to start going to bed earlier on Mondays and Wednesdays; taking a nap in the library is good for a decent recharging of the biological battery, but it's not exactly the most comfortable thing in the world, and I could be using that time to work on homework, or at least to get my urge to dick around on the Internet out of my system before I start being productive.

***

I've suddenly been trampled by a bunch of hangout plans. First up is the Vienna Teng performance at Schuba's Tavern this Friday, which I'll be attending with [livejournal.com profile] lysis_to_kill, Lauren, and Melissa. Before that, we'll be eating out (probably at Clarke's Diner), and then after that we'll be crashing at [livejournal.com profile] lysis_to_kill's apartment overnight. I might have to bail out early, though, because I need to get homework done and then do Artist Alley stuff which I still have not started WTF. D:

Then there's ACEN from May 8 to May 10. The crew this time 'round consists of myself, Lauren, Melissa, [livejournal.com profile] lysis_to_kill, Melissa's friend Susan, and Susan's friend, all crammed into a four-person bedroom at the Crowne Plaza. All of us are flailing around a bit as we're ironing the wrinkles out of plans for things to bring, when we'll be checking in, et cetera and so forth. This has the distinction of being [livejournal.com profile] lysis_to_kill's first ever anime convention, so I imagine that the vets in the group will all have fun playing "horrify the anime convention n00b" with her. :D! (Also, Liz, if you want, I'll lend you the first five volumes of a manga called Death Note. You may like it - it's got serial killers, the FBI, and other such things, but with a supernatural twist. Also, the art is purtyful.)

And then finally, it seems that there are plans in the air amongst Lauren, Melissa, and others to go on a weekend Las Vegas trip over the summer, since the prices there have dropped to ridonkulously low levels and airfare is also dirt-cheap. Now this should be interesting if we can get this off the ground!

***

Random: I freakin' want Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels.

-Reileen
it seems that the whole experience is terrible and crippling
reileen: (Default)
Thanks to someone ripping the mp3s off a site that was streaming the album days prior to the Germany release (which it turns out was not supposed to have happened...), I've had a lot of time to really listen to Vienna's new music and formulate semi-coherent thoughts on it. I almost thought about posting a review as soon as I gave the album a full listen from the mp3s, but for some reason I felt it would be more, uh, "ethical" for lack of a better term, to wait until I received my hard copy, which happened to be today. (I also feel the need to disclaim that by the time I downloaded the mp3s, I'd already ordered the album off Amazon.de...)

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS
Absolutely astounding. Brilliant. Completely blows away her first three albums - and those albums were good. I think this is also the first album of hers where I've actually actively liked every song on it. What I mean by that is, while I consider nearly anything Vienna puts out to be extraordinary, there were always particular songs on her previous albums that didn't connect with me as much as other songs, and they tended to be ones I skipped over in replays of the albums. (However, a couple of songs, especially from her third album Dreaming Through the Noise, were redeemed through the energy and exuberance of her live performances, and I'll talk more about musical energy later.) With Inland Territory, there was no skipping of songs - I listened closely to the whole thing completely multiple times. I certainly prefer certain songs over others, and so some songs took more listens for me to appreciate, but the musical makeup and arrangement of this album really works for me. It truly feels like a full, complete album - whatever the hell that means.

In the EPK for this album, Vienna mentions that, as a result of moving from the West Coast (where she's from) to the East Coast, and bringing in some NY-based musicians to help out with the album, there's a certain "restlessness" to the music from Inland Territory. There's definitely a lot more uptempo songs on this album, and I think that - in addition to any emotional displacement brought about by moving - having Alex Wong of The Animators as her co-producer and, in live performances, as her percussionist, really lends a lively energy to these new songs that wasn't quite as strong in her previous studio efforts. Although the material from Inland Territory is still mellow in a way (sorry, VT, I know you said you were trying to move away from that, but...!), this time 'round, you can actually hear and feel the heartbeat of the music.

Vienna's also branching out in terms of her usual musical genre for this album. We actually get, of all things, electronica on a couple of songs: it's most prominent in "White Light", but you get a bit of it in "Stray Italian Greyhound" and "The Last Snowfall" as well. She also goes blues (...I think that's the right genre) for "Grandmother Song", and I have no idea what genre you'd put "In Another Life" in (someone mentioned "honky-tonk" over at the forums, but I have no idea if that'd be correct or not). Despite these genre shifts, though, the songs are all recognizably Vienna, and I'm really happy with seeing how she's developing as a talented singer-songwriter-musician.


INDIVIDUAL SONGS

1. The Last Snowfall
I find it kind of amusing that this album starts off with a song that's entitled "The Last ____". This was one of the songs that I didn't really like much at first, because I found the rhythmic static effects kind of distracting. It does give the song an interesting low-fi feel, though, and the melody is simple but beautiful.

2. White Light
Holy crap! An angry song from Vienna! With electronica! This song is like if "Whatever You Want" from Dreaming Through the Noise had a daughter with "Changing Sky" by Artemis from her Undone mini-album, and then that daughter grew up and was going through her angry rebellious teenager phase. This could totally be a radio song for Vienna - much like "Whatever You Want", incidentally enough. Easily one of my favorites from this album.

3. Antebellum
Another album favorite - I loved it when I first heard it at Schuba's back last August, and the album version is just as amazing, although I miss the prominence of Vienna's piano work. Still, the strings arrangement is lovely. Musically and lyrically (have I mentioned that I really, really love the lyrics from this song?), it's similar to "Gravity" (Waking Hour). To steal a joke from the VT forums: "Your 'Gravity' is evolving! 'Gravity' evolved into 'Antebellum'! Give 'Antebellum' a nickname?"

4. Kansas
This was another song that took a while for me to get into. The overall melody progression reminds me of "Nothing Without You" (Dreaming Through the Noise), although lyrically speaking those two songs are like polar opposites. Beautiful, but sad.

5. In Another Life
Another song I heard at Schuba's. I like the clarinet work in the studio version, which was performed with melodica in the live performance. I can't describe the feeling I get from this song, but when I hear it, I think of the weight of history, of sepia-toned pictures, of vintage objects and other such things of the past. Which, I suppose, is all appropriate for this particular song.

6. Grandmother Song
The last song from this album that I heard at Schuba's. I love the witty grace of the lyrics, the subtle shift from caricaturing timeless worries of family matriarchs everywhere to fully understanding why, exactly, said matriarch has those worries in the first place. I love this distinctive departure from Vienna's usual style, and I think it's a very clear indication of how far she's progressed with her already amazing musical capabilities.

7. Stray Italian Greyhound
Album favorite. I have to admit, when I first saw the lyrics on Vienna's scrapbook, I was skeptical about what kind of melody they'd be fitted around, but hearing this blew all those worries away. The vocal crescendo at "what to do with a love that won't sit still" is epic (oh, and the imagery from the rest of the bridge lyrics is epic too).

8. Augustine
Another album favorite, almost instantly. I love the drums and the melody. In some ways it feels like a descendant of "Harbor", or maybe a relative. I'm fond of the lyrics here as well.

9. No Gringo
Yet another album favorite. I heard the proto-loop of this a while back from Vienna's scrapbook, which impressed me even back then. The key signature has shifted from B-minor to C-minor, which I think improves on the original loop immensely (as beautiful as it was). The lyrics have an element of speculative fiction to them: they tell the story of a family forced to leave Chicago (for an unspecified reason), so they try to immigrate across the southern border to Mexico, where they find that they're not welcome (hence the title of the song).

10. Watershed
This song? Is the return of "Pontchartrain", bigger and more badass. No wonder Vienna said that she'd been having trouble trying to figure out how to capture the scale of this song in a live performance. The lyrics, the bells in the background, the vocal layering...everything is just amazing. Like "Pontchartrain", this can be a difficult song to listen to all the way through because it's so slow and so dense, but it's totally worth it.

11. Radio
Another song featuring a bit of a speculative story to it, told from the POV of someone who's listening to the news on the radio about a suicide bomber attack, and then tries to imagine such a thing happening closer to home. This is a penknife song, for realz - it disguises its unsettling subject matter with an uptempo beat and a very catchy chorus. I love the musical structure shifts.

12. St. Stephen's Cross
This song takes some time to get going, but when it does, hot damn. This one must be so amazing live. A beautiful end to a beautiful album.

-Reileen
but if I were that kind of grateful, what would I try to say?
reileen: (music - proofread score)
One Day [rough]

One Day

I know you feel the storm that brews beyond that sky
I know you fear that help will pass you by
But this path you walk is your own
So even if you fall, stand up and move on
Because I know

One day, one day
You'll reach your El Dorado
Where all is as it seems
One day, one day
You'll find the Shangri-La
Of your fevered dreams
One day...

I know you fight to keep control
I know it feels like the trail has gone cold
But just take the detours and see
That you're going where you need to be
Believe me when I say

One day, one day
You'll reach your El Dorado
Where all is as it seems
One day, one day
You'll find the Shangri-La
Of your fevered dreams
One day...

One day, one day
You'll reach your El Dorado
Where all is as it seems
One day, one day
You'll find the Shangri-La
Of your fevered dreams
One day...

One of the things I try to keep in mind as I compose the piano for my songs is that I want it to be as distinctive and interesting as the lyrics and vocal line, and not "just" an accompaniment to those things. Ideally, if you played just the piano part of my songs, it should sound like an almost complete instrumental piece in and of itself. Part of it is just that it sounds better to me - it's one of the many things I love about Vienna Teng's music, even when she's already advanced enough in her music career to be able to allow for other instrumentation when composing her songs. (Just wait 'til y'all hear the piano for "Antebellum"! Lovely, lovely song.) Part of it is also feeling self-conscious about the vast difference in ability between my piano performance skills and my vocal skills, hoping to make up for my lack of vocal skills at the moment with some interesting piano work. Unfortunately, then you have to take into account that my actual composing skills are even worse than my vocal skills, so now here I am, a bit of a trainwreck of musical (in)ability...

At any rate, this is, I suppose, one of those "writer's block" songs, which would explain why the lyrics are simpler and shorter than usual. I was just tired of playing my usual songs, and I was stuck on my unfinished songs, so I threw this one together the other night when I probably should have been doing homework. I'm not entirely sure what to do with it now; as usual, once I get the vocal melody and the chords down, I'm at a loss for what to do for the piano accompaniment that isn't just the same shit over and over again.

***

Also, the Gods help me - I ordered Inland Territory straight from the German Amazon website. The album can't arrive fast enough. o_o!

Also also, there's finally a clip of the song Vienna wrote for a singer-songwriter "reality show" called Sagebrush Valentine, in which a group of musicians were given a title and had to write a song based on that title in an hour. You can see Vienna's version of "Nothing Left For Us to Find" here on Vimeo.

-Reileen
I am left silent here, trying so hard to understand
reileen: (music - proofread score)
Vienna Teng's music video for Gravity is - much like the song itself - beautiful, haunting, and not the same love song we've seen before. (I'm not even sure it would actually qualify as a "love" song, but it can be argued either way.) Gorgeous atmosphere, and Vienna herself looks mighty fine in that burgundy ballgown. I'm not entirely sure what to make of the video's seemingly straightforward-but-not storyline. My pet theory is that Vienna is just so damn good at what she does that *POSSIBLE SPOILER?* even the dead sit up and listen when she plays. (Vienna Teng: Necromancer! There's a music video idea. Everyone knows that everything is better with zombies!) *END POSSIBLE SPOILER?*

Meanwhile, the German Amazon page features a promo video of Miss Vienna for her Inland Territory album, which features short little samples of the songs from that album. I don't even know what to say - this new material is simply breathtaking. You thought Vienna Teng was amazing before? If you didn't, don't tell me, so I don't have to put you to death for blasphemy, 'cause I like y'all. This is where the really good shit is at. One of my main nitpicks with Vienna's albums (if you can call it a nitpick) is that the album recordings never seem to capture the energy of her live performances. From what I've heard of Inland Territory so far, however, it doesn't appear that I'll have a problem with that. (Though I don't doubt that, as amazing as these sample clips sound, seeing her perform these songs live will be even better, as it usually is.) If you have RealPlayer, you can also download 30-second samples of all the songs here.

Inland Territory will be seeing a February 6 release over in Germany. If I can spare some money, I'll probably try to get the downloadable album from the German Amazon website while I wait to buy the real deal on April 7, when it comes out in the US. I'm really, really excited to finally hear Vienna's new songs. I suspect I will end up crying upon the first full listen, both at how incredible the album is and how much farther I have to go before I can even hope to match that in my own music.

***

I've also been enjoying Yousei Teikoku's Iro no Nai Sekai mini-album, released on January 14. It includes five new tracks plus an off-vocal version of the title track. I hadn't been impressed with the song "Iro no Nai Sekai" when I first heard the TV-size version of it (it's an ending to an anime called Kurokami), but it comes off better in its full-sized version. Still, when it comes to the quiet tracks, I prefer "Tooi Maboroshi". "Destrudo" and "Alte Burg" are more along the lines of the previous singles "Schwarzer Sarg" and "Hades: The bloody rage", while "Valtica" sounds like a descendant of the techno/electro sensibilities of "Chinmoku no Mayu" and "Kikai Shoujo Gensou". Although I do happen to like "Valtica", it unfortunately also sounds almost a little too much like any generic electropop anime song - the gothic edge that's very much honed and sharp on most of their songs is a bit dull here. Still, overall, I'm pleased with this latest installment from Yousei Teikoku.

***

2009 is looking to be a good year for my music library. In addition to Vienna Teng's Inland Territory and Yousei Teikoku's Iro no Nai Sekai, I can look forward to:

-Alestorm's Black Sails at Midnight: Scottish pirate metal. Scottish pirate metal. That should be all I need to say about this. I mean, c'mon.

-Ghost Orgy's currently titleless album: This is such an epic band. They're like if you mixed together the best of Disturbed, Rasputina, and Evanescence. Their songs are perfect for rocking out to during Halloween, but if you're looking for a twist on gothic rock, check out Ghost Orgy. I really love Dina Concina's alternately sweet and screechy(...?) vocals; maybe someday I'll get that vocal versatility as well. (It also helps that she's Filipina(-American?) and smokin' hot.)

-Kanon Wakeshima's Shinshoku Dolce: Wakeshima's music, based on what I've heard from her two singles, is a little like Yousei Teikoku's, except that, musically, it comes off more neoclassical, probably because Wakeshima is also a cellist and the cello lines figure prominently in the songs. Wakeshima's vocals are also lower on the vocal register, which is quite well-suited to her cello work. She's produced by Mana, the guitarist for the visual kei band Malice Mizer, so I expect to see some interesting stuff from her.

-Lacuna Coil's Shallow Life: I wasn't really wowed by their most current album, Karmacode, but I still like this group enough that I want to hear what they've got lined up for Shallow Life. I admire Cristina Scabbia's vocals (even if sometimes I can't understand half of what she's saying - although the Wikipedia page for the upcoming album states that the band is working on making the English lyrics more intelligible this time around), and enjoy the dark, gothic sensibilities of their songs that doesn't rely on orchestral elements.

***

I've accepted, mostly, that I do not have the time or the money to be able to study abroad in Japan, like I'd dreamed for years. The Japan CTI winter trip doesn't look like it's happening, and it's really not feasible for me to do a summer study abroad trip. I cried for a good while when I realized this, but being able to complete my bachelor's degree by spring 2010 is top priority right now. I can travel to Japan (and to other places around the world!) later. Now probably isn't a good time to do any heavy traveling anyway, the economy considered. I can only hope it'll be better by the time I decide that I want to embark on a transcontinental trek.

I have had luck with contacting a second A&D advisor about my major requirements - I'm scheduled to meet her at the art building at 9:15am on Tuesday. Hoo boy.

-Reileen
it's just the radio, darlin'

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Reileen van Kaile

April 2010

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