(ATLANTA - 6 September 2011) :: Songwriting, crisp arrangements and soulfulness are alive and well, I’m happy to report.
All evidenced by Parachute’s latest record, “The Way it Was” (Island Def Jam). The band first caught my ear with the driving, soulful “Under Control” - a fine if a bit safe pop-rock track that spurred me to snag the entire album. I’m glad I did, because it was the perfect prep for their newest effort.
But don’t let that fool you: the production is slick and the writing is stellar. Despite the strange, retro look on the cover, the band fearlessly delves into hybrid waters, with the unabashed, gospel-infused “Something to Believe In.”
“You spend your days alone still hopin' for the truth, But all you hear are lies” As a writer and lyricist, that’s a line that hit right at my core. We are a nation hoping for something new, something truthful, but all we are fed is bullshit - and then we’re expected to stay quiet and accept the scene of our country crumbling at its core.
But the lyric and arrangement is raised up by the gospel backing - a daring move for a band not known for that. I’d push back on their video for not highlighting those specific vocals, because they absolutely make the song. But I’m nit-picking.
I don’t use the term “fearless” lightly with this record - because rock bands often shy away from anything that takes them outside of their wheelhouse. (And they are often criticized for doing so, as Liz Phair found out the hard way.) Creating accessibility in songwriting is not tantamount to watering down or “selling out” - it’s a tool to speak to more people.
Just ask Steve Winwood, who saw “Higher Love” shoot to the top of the charts with the blistering, stellar backing of Chaka Khan. How could that song have soared as it did without her vocal - and without that added accessibility? Answer: it couldn’t. They did, in fact, show Chaka in the video, too.
In all, and in the midst of the nutty spin-cycle of never ending new-band parades, Parachute has done an incredible job. So check it out on iTunes if you haven’t already; make sure to spin “Kiss Me Slowly” (written with members of Lady Antebellum), “You and Me,” and “Philadelphia” - an uncomplicated tune reminiscent of some of Josha Radin’s best stuff.
“We are soft-wired to experience another’s plight as if we were experiencing it ourselves.”
Fascinating piece from Jeremy Rifkin, “The Empathic Civilization” - an animated example of why I’m writing “EIQ: Everyman’s Guide to Developing Emotional Fortitude” Because, in many cases, we as men act against what we’re born, bred and conditioned to do, to be.
According to the piece, “...we are wired not for aggression, violence, self-interest or utilitarianism - but for sociability, attachment, affection and companionship.
“The first drive is to actually belong,” he says in the piece. We ought to “extend our identities to think of the human race as fellow sojourners. ...We need to rethink our institutions of society and lay the groundwork for an empathic civilization.”
Make time to watch this groundbreaking video, here.
They have nothing to do with each other, and attract a disparate audience... but I’m very happy to hear that both “franchises” have sequels in the works.
The first, the new Star Trek prequel, has already been greenlit for a second in the series -- proving that Paramount has enough faith in the buzz of J.J. Abrams’ forthcoming juggernaut that they’d approve a sequel before the receipts are in for this next installment (which is really a complete re-imaging of the entire brand).
You’ll forgive my excitement:
Some of the TNG-based Trek movies won me over - most notably, the dark and high-minded “First Contact” - so I’m excited for this new beginning, too.
In other sequel news, there’s the follow-up in the works to the remarkably long and equally funny Sex and the City feature film, which is reportedly on the fasttrack... which would be a surprise given how long it took for the first one to get made. (Kim Cattrall may want to make another ice skating movie beforehand.)
We could use healthy doses of comedy, action, sex and human understanding that both films franchises bring to the table.
(ATLANTA - 31 May 2008) :: OK, so I did my gay duty and went to see Sex And The Citymovie on its premiere night. Thanks to Thom for coming with.
The film was uproarious, vivid, full of couture, acted and written exceedingly well, and all expectations were surpassed... save for the hideous exception of a visible boom mic.
And not just in one scene - multiple times, and in such an overt way that you think some local loon is standing over the screen on a ladder, holding the long-arm mic, taunting you, teasing you for no apparent reason.
Please, New Line & WB, do us all a favor and fix this in post production somehow. Blame for this error stretches across multiple roles in this film, resting not only with the boom operator... but with the production crew, as well as the actors and director, for not catching it in the film's dailies.
Even so, this movie is so good that it'll wipe out this weekend's competition despite "the long arm of the sound" stepping in front of its cast. The film stays so true to the original series - in fact, elevates it so elegantly - that the mistakes turn out to be just, quite literally, blips on the screen.
And believe me when I tell you - this boom-mic story is intended as fair warning, not as spoiler. I wish I had been warned ahead of time myself.
Check out the latest craze on the Web -- Penny & Jim in "Idol Chat." They've already got a comment! This week I edited the blog for AfterElton.com, while our pal Dennis was on vacation. Thanks to Dennis for letting me fill in!