May 17, 2007

Zidane: the soundtrack (by Mogwai)

A surprise hit at the Cannes film festival last year, the film portrait of French footballer (aka soccer player) Zidane looks fascinating, and sounds even better. The instrumental score is by Mogwai (yep, originally named after the Gremlin) and impressed me in its lush sensuality and moody atmosphere.

Having not heard Glaswegian band Mogwai before (I’ll admit, maybe not being up to the challenge of getting into an all-instrumental band) when this arrived in the mail I expected the soundtrack to be triumphant and rousing. You know, maybe like that one song they always play during the seventh-inning stretch with the thumping drums and the kazoo (doo doo-doo-doo-doo-doo HEY! duh-doo-doo-doo).
What I got instead was this gorgeous, sweeping soundtrack that conjures up images of floating away, drifting, or even drowning. There’s a taut darkness strung through every song — reminding me a bit of Massive Attack or the brooding melancholy of Jesus & Mary Chain. The album also definitely has its sexy moments, like the downtempo tension-filled scorchers on the Out of Sight soundtrack (trunk scene anyone?). It’s richly layered, revealing new depth with each listen. I recommend it as one of the best soundtrack scores I’ve heard in a long time.

I also need to see this movie! One synopsis reads: “Follow one of the greatest soccer players of the modern era for a full 90-minute match between Real Madrid and Villareal. Scottish film director Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parenno exquisitely train 17 different 35mm cameras on one of this century’s most creative athletes, Zinedine Zidane. While cameras capture Zidane in ‘real time,’ Gordon and Parenno’s artfully crafted debut feature is anything but a typical sports movie.”

I’ll admit to villifying Zidane because of the way he acted in the World Cup (not that Materazzi was blameless) and because he was on “The Other Team” (I was wholeheartedly pazzo for Italia). However, I understand his talent and his legacy and should learn more about why he is so beloved. With a soundtrack like this, I think I would definitely enjoy the viewing.

Terrific Speech – Mogwai

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July 12, 2006

Party like a rockstar. Or a soccer player. How ’bout both?

I am going through slight World Cup withdrawal, and I thought that this piece of news/celebrity gossip so perfectly melded music and the Italian soccer team that it was a necessary bit to share (from The Sun Online):

Noel Gallagher was the toast of the Italy team after their World Cup triumph on Sunday.

The footie-mad Manc has been the Azzurri’s lucky mascot through the key stages of Germany ’06 after striking up a friendship with goal ace Alessandro Del Piero. And the Juventus star invited Noel back to the team’s hotel to enjoy a champagne super knees-up after the big match.

Mop-top Noel, who was at more games in Germany than David Beckham, even borrowed new chum Alessandro’s acoustic guitar and belted out a rendition of “Don’t Look Back In Anger.”

The players thought it was bellissimo. A source tells me: “Noel has been in touch with Alessandro all through the tournament. He has been a lucky charm for the Italian team and seemed to do the trick again in the final. Del Piero invited him back to the team hotel to enjoy the party and Noel jumped at the chance. Not all the players know Noel from OASIS but they all seemed to pick up the band’s lyrics pretty quickly, and they were all singing along when he performed ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ in the hotel bar. The champagne was flowing and Noel was a big part of the party.”

And if defeat wasn’t bad enough for our boys, the England squad now have another reason to hang their heads in shame — having given one of our finest musical talents little choice but to defect to the opposition.

Noel befriended Del Piero and ex-Italian captain Paulo Maldini after an Oasis gig in Turin — the home of Juventus — three years ago. They kept in touch and Noel swaps gig tickets with them for seats at Champions League games. Noel said: “Alessandro is an Oasis fan and after one concert he gave me a pair of his boots. But I had to give one to Liam. I’d never seen Italy live until the semi-final against Germany in Dortmund last week. We went to the team hotel before the game and Del Piero was a bit upset because he wasn’t in their starting line-up.

“Then he told me, ‘I’m going to come off the bench and score’ — and that’s exactly what he did. Afterwards he said I’d become his lucky mascot and he’s so superstitious he told me I had to go to the final and wear exactly the same clothes to bring him good luck — right down to my socks and underwear.”


Okay, that last sentence is maybe a bit weird. Here’s one final soccer-related tune, sent in to me by a reader. This main theme was used in the Adidas +10 commericals (“If you don’t give my football back, I’m gonna get my dad on you . . .”) that ran throughout the World Cup, from a musician named Jim Noir, also from Manchester. Playful & lovely.

Eanie Meany – Jim Noir

July 10, 2006

And Zidane watches it all from the locker room

Sweet, sweet beauty. Ma che bella gioia! That was a fantastic, tense, magnificent game and I could seriously not be happier right now for my beloved adopted country. It’s like Noel Gallagher said, “The Italians need to win for Italian football.” And so they did — and I wish I was on the streets of Firenze celebrating.

I couldn’t believe that Zidane lacked the basic character and foresight (as the CAPTAIN of his team) to risk losing it all just to give a childish and hot-tempered headbutt. I thought that was unclassy and uncalled for, whatever Materazzi said to him. Have more respect for the game than that. The match might have ended differently with Zidane out there to kick for the penalties.

ADDENDUM 7/11: So I was a little too harsh on Zidane. I just read that he broke down in front of a Paris crowd yesterday – I am sure he feels awful enough. I was astonished when he did what he did, but I can also relate to how hot tensions can run during a stressful game like that, and how one can easily be pushed over the edge. Zidane just had the misfortune of having it be internationally broadcast in his moment of fracture.

Since I also completely LACK a song to post that precisely fits the occasion (who can send me some goods?), here is the closest I’ve got. Instead of singing “England 5, Germany 1″ just yell loudly “Italy 5, France 3-in-penalty-kicks” over the chorus and you’ll be golden. From the album Hardcore Hooligan, appropriate for raucous celebrating, jumping around, breaking things, et al.

England 5, Germany 1” – The Business


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June 30, 2006

Forza Azzurri!

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June 26, 2006

Monday Music Roundup

My heart is still pounding and my hands are shaking from the intensity of the Italy v. Australia match that Italy just won on a penalty kick (during which my ability to breathe momentarily left me). FORZA ITALIA! That was gorgeous.

And as of this very moment I am #1 all by myself in the World Cup Bloggers Pool. That is a feat unto itself, since, as we have discussed, I am no kind of soccer superstar. I just have a way of predicting what glistening, lovely European men will do next.

It’s a gift, really.

Diventa Blu
Translated from Italian, this song title means “Become Blue,” and is my salute to Gli Azzurri, the beautiful Italian national calcio (soccer) team in their blue jerseys. According to Connor over at iGIF, this band Arizona is going to be huge, but the fact that this song is sung in a breathy, ethereal Italian (almost Radiohead-esque), combined with the layered and interesting low-key electronica is enough to get me to listen. From their debut album Welcome Back Dear Children (coming out in August).

This song, this whole tribute album is amazingly good. As I mentioned before, and as you have probably read on assorted other music sites, the Big Star tribute album (Big Star, Small World) has finally been released, after being recorded and then shelved for several years. Wilco‘s turn is sad and rich, nostalgic and truly lovely. I’ve listened to it over and over, but this whole CD is great, with contributions by Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, The Posies, Whiskeytown, Juliana Hatfield and more. Highly recommended and available on eMusic.

Dancing On The Highway
Elliott Smith
Chad over at Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands has pointed me in the direction of this unearthed studio recording, a lost “new” song, courtesy of the Elliott Smith fans over at B-Sides And Other Songs. It’s a lyrically rich love song, known also as “Still Here” — a rough mix demo from either the Figure 8 era, or the Basement Sessions. Take a listen. Thanks, Chad!

The Low Millions
I have been meaning to post this for months, but somehow forgot. Fronted by Leonard Cohen’s son Adam Cohen (who has released French-language albums in his native Canada), California’s Low Millions were named an Artist To Watch by Filter Magazine. This track, which did get some radio play, is yet another upbeat song about a breakup (!) with catchy hooks and a fabulous beat that kicks in at about 20 seconds. From their 2004 debut album Ex-Girlfriends (Manhattan Records).

Notice The Ring
Chris Isaak
This one is in honor of Mr. Chris Isaak‘s 50th (!!) birthday today. I tell ya, that man does not look a day over handsome to me. For his special day, his hometown of Stockton, CA dedicated today as “Chris Isaak Day.” This song celebrates all that is rogue, feisty, and wonderful about Isaak. A retro-rocker from 2002′s Always Got Tonight.

June 17, 2006

Thoughts during the USA vs. Italy throwdown

As my friend Massi (from San Sepolcro, Italy) texted me during the match, “Vinca il migliore!” – May the best team win.

That’d be a heck of a lot easier to do if the ref wasn’t so busy reaching into his breast pocket that he couldn’t actually *see* what was happening in the game.

Frickin a, Jorge!

PS – When did Brian Littrell start playing for the US team?

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June 15, 2006

God bless Dave Eggers

Thanks to Eric over at Marathonpacks for this link to Dave Eggers‘ (author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) reflections on the World Cup over on Slate:

“It was, by most accounts, 1986 when the residents of the United States became aware of the thing called the World Cup. Isolated reports came from foreign correspondents, and we were frightened by these reports, worried about domino effects, and wondered aloud if the trend was something we could stop by placing a certain number of military advisers in Cologne or Marseilles. Then, in 1990, we realized that the World Cup might happen every four years, with or without us.”

Read the whole thing here.

Plus, Eggers assigns one fictional character in his essay the name of Fakey McChumpland, which alone is reason enough to read it. This piece comes from The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup, an anthology edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey and published this month. It also includes a piece from Nick Hornby, so you know it’s good.

I LOVE Dave Eggers; A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was one of the best books I read last year (and it has gone missing from me, I think I’d best just buy a replacement). I welcome any links that you wish to send me from other Dave Eggers articles on the web that you find funny. The man is comic genius.

By the way, I am still rocking the suburbs on the World Cup bloggers pool, which is surprising even to me. Don’t worry guys, I am sure to lose soon! (but in the meantime, call me Prognosticator of Prognosticators)

June 12, 2006

A thought during the Italy vs. Ghana game

Pimpong could be the best last name ever. Maybe even better than Pujols. Wait, no, if you go to the ESPN site on Pujols, it actually says “Pronounced: POO-holes.” DANGIT why is that so funny.

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Monday Music Roundup

What a wonderful soccer-filled weekend. I love the simplicity, the urgency, the grace & beauty of the sport. The luck of the Irish (or something!) was with me this weekend because I did (mostly) well on my predictions and am tied for first place with a couple other “music lovin’ mofos” in our bloggers’ World Cup pool. Woo hoo!

Here is a linguistic/soccer-related question that occured to me this weekend during the Angola vs. Portugal game. Perhaps one of my global readers can enlighten my ignorance. I kept hearing the announcer mention the Portuguese team “Benfica.” It caught my ear because it sounds like a bit of racy slang in italiano (‘fica’ means fig, and is also slang for a, uh, certain part of the female anatomy. Ben, short for bene, meaning good). So what gives with the word “benfica”?! I know it must not mean the same thing in Portuguese, but how widespread was the jesting in Italy when ex-Fiorentina coach Trapattoni became the coach in 2004 of benfica? Anyone?

Or is it just my pathetic Italian-as-a-second-language misunderstanding, and I am embarassing myself? Wouldn’t be the first time.

Enough of that nonsense, here’s some tunes.

Cemetery Song
Jon Auer
This has got to be the peppiest pop-song-about-a-dead-person ever penned. From former Posies member Jon Auer‘s fine outing Songs From The Year Of Our Demise (available on eMusic), the harmony-laden Beatles-esque sound fits in among 15 tracks Auer wrote for this themed-album, all written about the loss of a friend and the facets of grief. Despite the subject matter, this low-key album is surprisingly not depressing. Check out the free single (“Six Feet Under”) on label Pattern 25′s website, and buy the album on eMusic.

So Hard To Find My Way
Jackie Greene
A fantastic upbeat, retro-sounding tune combining piano, banjo, and Memphis horns. From his new CD American Myth, Jackie is delving into more poppy arrangements than the harmonica-folk of his previous efforts, but it sounds good to me. I really like this chap and think we will be hearing a lot more from him.
(PS – Did you download that Esthero/Sean Lennon duet “Everyday Is A Holiday” a few months back? I swear this song is its musical twin).

Universal Frequencies
His Name Is Alive
Wow, it must be the summery weather, but this week’s music roundup is shaping up to be a string of ’60s pop sound tributes. This lovely offering, as will become apparent in about thirty seconds to whomever listens to it, is a complete and straight-up homage to the Beach Boys (notably, Good Vibrations & the whole Pet Sounds album). His Name Is Alive admits to listening to Pet Sounds incessantly during the writing & recording of their 1996 album Stars on ESP, from which this comes. It’s fun and kind of trips you out to hear something that could pass so smoothly for the Beach Boys, but with the addition of a female voice to the layered harmonies. Another eMusic find.

Wait(Beatles cover)
Ben Kweller
Let’s just keep the momentum going with more Beatles. See, all these songs thus far are the perfect accompaniment to some strollin’ in the sunshine. No better music for that kind of business than the Fab Four, eh? Ben Kweller was born to sing retro pop confections, and this is a feel-good cover from the Razor & Tie 40th anniversary tribute album to Rubber Soul (This Bird Has Flown, 2005). If you don’t have the album, buy it on eMusic — it’s also got some sweet tracks by Ben Harper, Ben Lee (it’s a Ben bonanza!) The Donnas, Ted Leo, and Sufjan Stevens.

Into Oblivion
Lisa Germano

And here’s the exception to the blissfully happy lineup of songs so far this week. I’ve heard of Lisa Germano in connection with Eels, but over the years she has also worked with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Johnny Marr, U2, Sheryl Crow, and John Mellencamp. From her latest solo effort In The Maybe World (July 18, Young God Records), this song is tailor-made for a sleep mix. Lisa’s lushly rich vocals fronting the best song Sigur Ros never wrote. Close your eyes and picture; a piano underwater, laying on your back floating on an iceberg, walking through a dark forest at 3am. Sonic bliss.

Off to catch some of the Italy v. Ghana game. Forza azzurri!

June 8, 2006

The world readies itself for soccer madness (football to the rest of the world)

The FIFA World Cup kicks off tomorrow in Germany (mere hours from now, given the time change) and I am all over that action. See, I have joined c’s Blogger’s Paradise peeps on the ESPN Pick ‘Em site. I have logged my initial predictions – and between you and me, I have NO IDEA (really) what I am doing. But I am good guesser. And I can trash talk with the best of them, so no one will ever suspect.

Here is some mood music for the occasion: British band Embrace wrote the official anthem for this year’s games. Although some scoffed, it is pretty dang triumphal sounding — only occasionally lapsing into cheesy — and the Oakenfold remix is even more booty-shakin-in-the-stands.

World At Your Feet (Oakenfold Radio Remix) – Embrace

Let the games begin.

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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