I grew up in a town that begins with the letter C. Sadly, it’s about as far removed (literally and geographically) from the splendidly-monikered portmanteau that is Calexico.
Their 2015 album “Edge of the Sun” was one of those great finds and after a bit more rummaging around on Youtube, I eagerly added it to the episode list.
It never ceases to amaze me how many bands there are out there working, playing live, touring, and making interesting, unique, and ultimately really good music. Especially ones that show up on Breaking Bad soundtracks or have covered The Clash (in English and Spanish). You know you’re onto something good.
“Falling From The Sky” reminded me a bit like the The Jayhawks in their pomp. Bright and breezy but with a cleverly layered sound that set them apart. From what I remember (OK I cheated. I looked up the notes I’d cobbled together for the show) they added vintage mellatron strings, trumpets, and some sweet, pedal steel guitar to the mix. Nice.
Calexico combine that really cool vibe with a diverse back catalogue that’ll more than likely (or hopefully) keep you amused.
When I first heard Benjamin Booker a couple of years back, it was when he was unsigned to a label, but the buzz he was attracting from his live shows was getting him quite a bit of press.
The song I remember playing on “Cut Me Some Slack” was called “Violent Shiver” and it only took me a couple of plays to think “that this could be the start of something big”. I was having one of my more optimistic moments.
Violent Shiver is a wicked blend of garage-rock, soul, with a big pop-hook. Don’t forget the fuzzy guitar tones and of course, best played loud. The debut album plays out in a similar fashion.
So, I read a couple of weeks ago that he’s releasing his second album in June “Witness” and first single of the same name has also surfaced. It features Mavis Staples. Bonus points right there. The new song is definitely leaning to a more Gospel sound and when you read the accompanying essay that Booker wrote to go alongside it, it kinda makes sense. It’s in the link below and worth 5 minutes of your time.
I might just about get a song a day while I’m still here in South Korea. Let’s start with A.
Dan Auerbach’s last project were The Arcs and they released the excellent “Yours, Dreamily” in 2015. He hired a female Mariachi band (you can kinda do that when you’re a Big Shot…) for the recording of the album, as well as being backed by his own band for the album. It’s cool making music with your buddies.
I remember hearing this song for the first time and thinking “this’d sound great as a Bond theme tune”… or words to that effect. Spookily, it did coincide with the release of “Spectre”, a movie which I’ve not seen. Maybe because it has the most Beige theme song in living memory (remember, there’s been utter guff from Madonna, Jack White, Sheryl Crow in recent years)? It could be…and Sam Smith definitely qualifies as one of the most soulless, empty, and yes, Beige, voices of our times.
Anyway, check out Dan Auerbach’s debut solo album from a few years back, as well as this from The Arcs. A new solo album’s expected later this year too.
I remember leaving the hotel we were staying at and travelling into the city on the subway. Kilts, Hanboks, sporrans, the lot. We did get few looks of interest from the other passengers on the train. Maybe there was a circus in town?
Next, to say “Yes”.
Not as easy it may sound.
The minister who was in charge of all things “yes” related was a bit of a chatter box. It felt like an eternity standing there, trying not to sweat in the 30+ degree heat while some strange man, jibbering in a strange language, not pausing for breath, was busy telling me all the things that I should be doing for the rest of my life. To be honest, even if we were speaking the same language chances are I probably wouldn’t be paying that much attention to what’s being said either. “Any chance we can cut to the chase, Boss?” There’s a ton of people here who want feeding.
Eventually, we get to the bit where we say “Yes”. I never was good at listening.
Third, make sure everyone enjoys the day.
Well, that was probably the easiest part of the day. There were a lot of people at the ceremony, then about another 50 or so at the reception. Looking back through the photographs it was good to see you all again. Some of you are still in Korea. Others have moved back home and taken that next step in your own Big Journey.
What was truly memorable about that day was being able to spend it with such a great bunch of people. I remember there being lots of laughs and jokes. In fact, so much fun that we kept it going the following day. Good times, as they say.
Eleven years ago today Eun Jin and I were married in Seoul, South Korea. Those are some words that I never thought I’d be putting in writing when I was growing up in Cumbernauld. Worlds, if not light years apart.
I’m truly blessed to have met my partner and to still be together today. Eun Jin’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love her to bits. Happy Anniversary.
Sadly, there still seems no way in which you can avoid the fat man in the suit?
Almost a year on from that fateful day in July 2012 when ‘Kangnam Style’ was released from captivity, it, for some unknown reason (to me at least) is still lingering round like that unwanted smell at the back of your student fridge. I wish it was as easy as calling someone to get rid of it. I’ve tried. Really, I have. But it all looks like being in vain. There is no getting away from it.
I should mention that I’ve never actually seen the video in its entirety. Nor have I (willingly at least) heard the song from begining to end. However, that’s not to say that I’ve not been given the privilege of having it blasted in my face when say, travelling on a bus or grabbing a quick bite at lunchtime. I can deal with things like this in short doses as I usually just turn my own music UP to compensate for the inherent noise pollution.
What’s also perplexing is that not only was ‘Kangnam Style’ the first Youtube video to reach one billion (I’ve no idea how many zero’s that is?) hits, but it shows no sign of stopping any time soon. How on God’s Green Earth did we manage to get in such a shitty state of affairs? I want to speak to whoever’s in charge. Now!
Psy also has three videos in the Bestest Youtube Ever Top 20. When you see what makes up the rest of the Top 20 (Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, and the chimp that lights its own farts – ok, I might have made the last one up, but no too far from the truth), I cannot help but wonder when (and where) all this is going to end? Do people really have that much free time (says he, avoiding writing his thesis by doing this and/or anything else instead) on their hands? How many times do you need to see a video?
Last night as I was going through my Twitter feed, I came across this piece titled – ‘Gangnam’ is one year old, K-Pop Is massive, and Music Is Forever Different
While I don’t necessarily disagree with the first two points in the headline, I can’t see eye-to-eye with the third. Simply put, music is not that much different (Unless ‘different’ is a euphemism for ‘shit’?).
Psy certainly hasn’t changed it.
How people consume music and how the product is sold to them has become more spohisticated, for choice of a better word. But music, and the Psy ‘phenomenon’ in particular is just another cog in the wheel. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it’s just another in a very long line of sub-standard, cheesy, and generally fucking awful novelty songs. ‘The Emporer’s New Clothes’, if you will…
The writer then feels the need to tell us the first time he saw the video, then the first time he showed his friend and blah blah blah. He goes on about it not being ‘anecdotal conjecture’. Utter bollocks.
The parodies. The chat shows. Hanging out with Presidents. The Worldwide Number #1 hit single. The stupid fucking dance routine. But how has it actually changed music forever?
Psy, short of being put up for early-beatification, has done pretty well for himself out of the deal. Riding high on the crest of his equine-esque wave, he’s managed to turn his flagging career around. One could say he has in fact managed something that has escaped so many of us and has ‘polished the turd’ to great success? Proving many of his critics wrong along the way. Wait, does he have any critics?
I thought it would be difficult to squeeze any more life out of this turgid tune, but not for the first time, I was wrong. The government, albeit the tourism lackeys, have seen fit to put Psy’s big mug all over an advertisement promoting Korea’s awesomeness (of which it has many – but most of which were overlooked). See for yourself.
Seriously – Samgyeuopsal and champagne? WTF?
To sum up, I don’t think it’s that bad that Psy’s taken on this role as ‘ambassador for Korean culture’, or that he’s continuing to bring ‘Kangnam’ to a worldwide audience. But try getting a taxi there on a Friday night (ironically, unless you’re Psy) pal…that’s a different story?
I can’t really see myself tuning in to Youtube to partake in any more of his ‘musical shenanigans’, now, or anytime soon. For me, the whole ‘Kangnam Stlye’ craze has all the entertainment value of shit on a stick. And not a very big stick at that.
Evidently, however, there are billions of you out there who will. It’s just not for me.
Without wanting to outstay our welcome (or, if you prefer, to avoid the ever increasing number of tourists coaches that were heading our way now that the rain had stopped) we decided to take the 15-20 walk towards Samcheong-dong (삼청동). It’s a neighbourhood that I’ve only ever driven through and wanted to get a feel of what it looked like from the ground up.
There’s an interesting contrast of the old and new as make your way from Kyeongbok Palace, past yet more nondescript museums and art galleries, walking alongside its long, narrow, and seemingly never-ending walls.
It’s a pleasant enough walk. In fact, with only the massive line of tourist coaches (again) lining up for parking spaces, the walk in itself is actually quite quiet compared to the relative hustle and bustle madness of Sejong-ro. As you make your way towards the end of the road you begin to see more of a security presence. This is mainly because the presidential residence “The Blue House” (Cheong Wa Dae – 청와대) is just up the road. Interestingly enough, this part of Seoul was also witness to one of the more ‘daring’ raids from Our Friends In The North in the late 1960’s.
An elite group of commandos were sent by the North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung to (literally) get the head of the then Korean President (but in reality, dictator) Park Chung Hee. The mission was not successful in its final objective, but they did get to about 400 metres of the ‘Blue House’ and their main target. A more detailed account is here…
So, with all that in mind, we meandered our way up, hoping not to bump into some mad, brain-washed, ninja types, but instead, we’d settle for something, hopefully, a bit more ‘friendly’.
The first thing you’ll notice is that there are lots of very similar things on offer. There are shoe shops aplenty, boutiques, chocolatiers, independent coffee shops (a pleasant change from those ‘other’ ones that are in abundance elsewhere), as well as quite a few small galleries and art spaces. So, if you want to shop, eat, drink or just browse, then this should be right up your street (if you’ll pardon the pun).
With all that walking we were getting a bit hungry. After looking through various (and somewhat swankier) menus, we decided to just eat at a local, regular restaurant. This is the kind of place that you’ll find almost anywhere in Seoul and get fed reasonably well for $5 or so. Nothing fancy, but kimchi-fried rice (as seen in the now ubiquitous food shot) did the job. Ten minutes. Fed and watered. Then good to go and finish the walk. If that’s not your thing, there’s plenty of other choices to suit your taste.
It’s not too long before you come across several (very steep) flights of stairs that’ll magically transport you to the Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을). Hanok is the term used to describe a traditional Korean house, and it’s definitely something worth spending a bit of time looking through. These photos may be a better way of showing rather than telling…
Well, other than quite a long walk back to Insadong for a well-deserved cup of coffee (and cake, of course), that was pretty much how we spent the best part of 3 or 4 hours. On the way back you’ll notice that Bukchon has a very similar kind of vibe to that of Samcheong-dong. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bring your date. Walk. Talk. Eat. Have a drink and enjoy this unique part of the city.