Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Erasure's Christmas Album Out Nov 11; Snow Globe Trailer Released

I usually loathe the mention of Christmas before Halloween — but an exception has to be made for Erasure's new Yuletide release, Snow Globe (Mute Records), which hits the shelves on November 11th.

In addition to the standard CD, a limited edition, ultimate holiday gift for the Erasure fan will be issued.  The Deluxe Christmas Box Set includes a desktop calendar, a "tree bauble," postcards, a Christmas card signed by Vince Clarke and Andy Bell, and more.

What, no Erasure snow globe?  

Reading the Mute press release, I'd have to imagine that admirers will not be disappointed by the band's approach to a Christmas album — a recording that usually is one of any artist's most lasting legacies... if done right.

"I told Vince I wanted the music to sound like shards of ice or snowflakes falling," Bell recalled in a press statement, which went on to explain that "Clarke paired all the music of songs he worried might be over-familiar back to their route chord and fleshed nothing out, with carefully aggregated synthetic punctuation points, making a spare, brittle noise that speaks of Erasure’s incredible ability to move listeners from the simplest of places."  

"'It sounds quite odd,' Clark said, delighted at the leftfield result of what could’ve been such a mainstream pursuit. ‘But always with us melody is at the heart of everything.’"

An extraordinary trailer for Snow Globe — featuring a remarkable interpretation of "Silent Night" — has been created by Martin Meunier (Coraline, James & The Giant Peach), which can be seen here.

The album's first single, Erasure's version of the traditional latin carol "Gaudete," will be released on October 29th.

Snow Globe Track Listing:

Bells Of Love (Isabelle's of Love)
Make It Wonderful
Sleep Quietly
Silent Night
Loving Man
The Christmas Song
Bleak Midwinter
Blood On The Snow
There'll Be No Tomorrow
Midnight Clear
White Christmas
Silver Bells

Erasure's official website: http://www.erasureinfo.com/

- Steve Stav

Monday, September 9, 2013

Spark And Shine To Release Star Anna's Go To Hell

Go To Hell, the long-awaited new album by Seattle's Star Anna, is due on shelves Sept. 24.

I've had a few listens... my verdict, as a biased fan?  The musical, emotional depths of Ms. Anna's bluesy, (mostly) Americana effort doubtlessly will delight — and might even surprise — her longtime admirers.  New fans will be definitely brought into the fold; hopefully Star Anna will take this record on the road until she's an international draw.  It's right around the corner; I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Go To Hell is a mature effort by a performer who has paid her dues, yet is still very hungry.   A great slot for an artist to occupy, and you can hear it on this disc.   Every local musician I know is in awe of her stage presence - no one wants her on their undercard.  Star Anna's the most riveting performer I've witnessed in a long time; watching her sing a quiet number, a ballad, can be like hearing a lullaby, or waiting for a bomb to go off.   Fire-in-the-belly, punk rock personified, regardless of what musical path she's traveling on at the moment.

Things do explode, get a bit incendiary on Go To Hell — but there's a gentleness, a sweetness here, too.  Altogether, more of a resolution than an exorcism.  

I can't recommend it strongly enough, but have a listen yourselves.  The song, "For Anyone" can be heard here.

- Steve Stav

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Futurama's Last Hurrah

Tonight, Matt Groening's hilarious, irreverent, illegitimate children will take their final bow.

For almost 14 years, I've done my best to keep abreast of the Futurama gang's adventures during an oft-fractured run of seasons; I - and countless others in the Gen-X demographic that seems to be the show's primary target - will miss them terribly.

I'll miss Fry's gold-hearted idiocy, Professor Farnsworth's addled profundity, Leela's pragmatic badassery (Katey Sagal's finest role, ever);  Dr Zoidberg's bottom-feeding gluttony, Bender's hedonistic greed, Morbo's pathological hatred of the human race.  Not to mention the overwhelming power of Hypnotoad!

Groening's careening, alternately pessimistic and hopeful vision of the future - a far cry from Roddenberry's clean, near-utopian Earth - was the perfect vehicle for thought-provoking satire... not just of pop culture, politics and societal status quos, but of humanity, period.  One thing Futurama and Star Trek do have in common is the exploration of human (and alien) natures  — conditions that technology can't evolve or alter.

Every one of Futurama's main characters have at least one glaring weakness to battle, at least one fear to overcome.  I've loved seeing them all shamelessly exploited for laughs... and an occasional tear. There may have not been roses at the end of each episode, but there was always perspective.  It's the sentimental side of Futurama that has always appealed to me the most, a sentimentality tempered with dark humor... an alcoholic robot's skills in the realm of crass levity never went to waste.

All of my favorite episodes, then, contained profound moments of sobriety encapsulated in outrageous plots.  For example, at the conclusion of 2001's "Paradise Lost," a pining, heartbroken Fry feebly attempted to recreate a stellar, sonic drawing of Leela after the alien parasites that made him a superhuman Leela-magnet were expelled.  

In the mindblowing H.G. Wells riff, "The Late Philip J. Fry" (2010), Fry stood up Leela again - this time, literally for centuries - as he's trapped in a forward-only time travel expedition with Bender and Farnsworth.  The episode ended with Leela acknowledging their more-than-friendship... as Bender took care of a space-time continuum problem with a shovel.

This year's "Game of Tones" combined hilarious theft of a Close Encounters hallmark with another trip back to the day Fry went into the deep freeze; in the final moments, an indebted Nibbler granted Fry's wish to somehow go back in time and visit his mother in her dreams.

Deep, funny, poignant stuff.  Can't wait to see how (or if) it all wraps up.  Will Fry and Leela finally make something official?  My guess is yes.  And no.

Indeed, there was no certainty in the world of Futurama - except that almost every episode brought with it a cheerful, yet ominous utterance of, "Good news, everyone!"

I think I'll miss that most of all.

- Steve Stav