Thursday, September 12, 2013

Album Review: Fly By Wire by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

Bands can take many approaches in releasing a new album. The norm lately seems to be changing drastically into a 70s or 80s revival band, but Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin have remained pleasantly consistent in their sound. Their last album featured a brief shift into louder, clean sound on Let It Sway (which comes with having Chris Walla produce your album). However, Fly By Wire calls back to a sound much more similar to Pershing. It's not a regression, instead it is the band becoming very comfortable with their particular sound.

The album begins gently with "Harrison Ford," which disappointingly seems to have nothing to do with the actor. But the sound is sweet and soft with the tenderness of a Broom track and the catchiness of a song from Pershing. "Young Presidents" is poppier, but still calm and quiet, somehow bridging the unnoticed gap between noise-pop and hard rock. The next track, "Cover All Sides," is a good example of many aspects of the band, featuring a harmonious chorus, a soft verse, and their particular brand of jangling-yet-wailing guitar, and even the slightly inaccessible, but still completely sensical lyrics.

"Lucky Young" has the uplifting feel of "Modern Mystery" (and the blank-syllable chanting as well), but falls short in terms of overall staying power. On "Ms. Dot," the band manage to channel the beat from Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" and the chord changes from the bridge of The Monkees "Last Train to Clarksville" without sounding particularly like either song. That said, "Ms. Dot" is not a particularly standout track, but the tempo of the album picks of quite a bit for "Loretta," which has a reggae beat (although not feel) to it.

The album begins to wind down by "Unearth," which contains similar musical concepts to "Dead Right," but not played off as well. "Bright Leaves" is another track not quite up to par with the rest of the album.

Still, "Nightwater Girlfriend," an outstanding single from the album is used as the second to last track. "Nightwater Girlfriend" is a highlight of the album, featuring many elements that make the band good, and hooking you from the very first bar of guitar. "Nightwater Girlfriend" gives way to the title track, "Fly By Wire," which is a weaker track, but it still works fine as a wrap-up.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin have always seemed to me to be a good band that there's not to much to say  about. Fly By Wire enforces this idea. It's a good album, but somewhat indescribable. "Nightwater Girlfriend" is a great track, and  the rest of the album is pretty decent as well, but unless you know what to expect from the band, it's nothing to dive into.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin are an indie pop band from Springfield, Missouri.

Fly By Wire is out September 17th, and can be purchased here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

One-Mind Tracks: Manic Pixie Dream Girls

For those who do not know, Manic Pixie Dream Girl" is a title that was coined by a reviewer of the movie Elizabethtown. It was used to describe Kirsten Dunst’s character, and it has expanded to describe the over-the-top, happy-go-lucky girls that are often featured in…guy romantic comedies? These girls are sometimes depicted to have their own deep-seated flaws and insecurities, but frequently the main focus is their impact on the guy and how they can fix his life, or how he can get her to date him. Kate Hudson in Almost Famous and several Zooey Deschanel characters are considered to be manic pixie dream girls, but examples of the trope date back as far as Katherine Hepburn’s character in the 1938 film Bringing Up Baby. These characters also occur in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (story and film), Annie Hall, the comic and film Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and the character of Jane in Breaking Bad.

There are also Manic Pixie Dream Guys, like Will Ferrell’s character in Elf, Jason Segel in I Love You Man or Brad Pitt’s character in Fight Club. But that’s another topic unto itself.

Although Zooey Deschanel often portrays this type of character, 500 Days of Summer is actually a deconstruction of the trope. Likewise, young adult novelist John Green utilized the trope in Looking For Alaska, and then deconstructed it in Paper Towns. The deconstruction of the manic pixie has almost become part of the idea at this point, but from Paper Towns comes the moralistic idea to "imagine people complexly," and a wonderful quote that sums up the manic pixie dream girl storyline better than this entire rant, and that is:

“What a treacherous thing to believe, that a person is more than a person.”

While some people would argue that the "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" trope is anti-feminist, I would argue that it is no more damaging to women than any other cliche (in fact, less damaging than the woman in romantic comedies whose life is going to hell until she meets that guy). Due to the deconstruction part of the trope, manic pixie dream girls are not often one-dimensional either. The lesson, much like in Paper Towns, is often to try to see women as more than just redeemers or golden tickets into a world of happiness. I happen to love the trope, because it can be explored many different ways, and often is, in films, books, and song.

So finally we get to the playlist I have compiled, which includes songs about many different aspects of the manic pixie dream girl.

Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones
Although I've never been much of a Rolling Stones fan, if you asked me to sum the manic pixie dream girl up in a single song, this would have to be the one. You've got the mystique, the "dreamer" quality, the independence,and the narrator's intense desires for the girl in question. You also have the fact that in The Royal Tenenbaums, "Ruby Tuesday" is used at a turning point involving mpdg Margot (played by Gwyneth Paltrow).

She's Got You High by Mumm-Ra
Used in the (500) Days of Summer soundtrack, this track is perfect to describe the part of the story when boy first meets mpdg.

Watching the Detectives by Elvis Costello and the Attractions
Apart from the fact that this song evokes the spirit of a noire detective film complete with the femme fatale (which I believe to be a relative of the mpdg), this song is also kind of the basis for mpdg film Watching the Detectives about a man who is content watching movies about adventures until he meets the adventurous Lucy Liu, who teaches him to go on real adventures. Parts of the basis for this story can be heard directly in the song.

She's So Mean by Matchbox Twenty
This is the first of two songs on this playlist which features a clear mpdg in the video. And the lyrics too!

Come On Sister by Belle & Sebastian
Not only does the narrator see the female character as someone that everyone must be after, but features the lyrics "And it's fun thinking of you like a movie star//And it's dumb thinking of you like the way that you were," which is the kind of misimagining of people that mpdg pieces are all about.

Makeup by Everybody Else
This song tells the story of a troubled girl who "[doesn't] believe in love," but is still incredibly interesting to the narrator who doesn't seem to know much about her.

Plans Get Complex by All-Time Quarterback
From Ben Gibbard side-project All-Time Quarterback, this song has always reminded me of Paper Towns.

Vancouver by They Might Be Giants
They Might Be Giants did a challenging project in which they wrote a song for every venue they played at on tour in 2004. In Vancouver, they wrote and performed this Cars pastiche, about a girl who is "a different kind of girl//the kind you see in pictures." She also wears a monocle, so she's either a mpdg or just a hipster.

She's So High by Tal Bachman
And now for the second mpdg-centric video, and a song that no one who lived through the 90s can forget.

Rhiannon by Fleetwood Mac
Stevie Nicks based this song on the novel Triad by Mary Leader. She didn't know that Rhiannon is also a character from Welsh legend until after the completion of the song. The song character is a woman who can be many things and "wouldn't you love to love her?"

Born To Do by Everybody Else
A female character who walks into a grocery store singing, steals something so the narrator can see, then makes it clear she has money. The narrator is besotted with the girl, and loses his job and girlfriend in order to pursue her. Then she disappears...

Wildflowers by Tom Petty
The title track of Tom Petty's 1995 album, this song features a "free" woman who is perceived to be much better than everyone else.

Sunny Girlfriend by The Monkees
A girl who fixes everyone's problems and champions their thoughts with no concerns for herself. Almost a perfect example of a mpdg (spoiler alert, it's probably actually about drugs).

Just Like a Woman by Bob Dylan
Rumored to be about Joan Baez or real-life mpdg Edie Sedgwick, this song still shows both sides of the mpdg, who seems strong and tough on the surface (enough to have power over the narrator), but who is deeply flawed underneath.

I'm Looking Through You by The Beatles
The narrator comes to realize the mpdg is not who he'd thought. To me, it's reminiscent of the scene in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World when Scott finds out Ramona has dyed her hair without consulting or informing him,

She's Not There by The Zombies
This song is a little tough to interpret, but I think it could be taken to mean the woman turned out to be so different from what he thought that the woman he knew disappeared. The narrator seems to know all of her physical attributes and the fact that she lies, but not much else.

Windy by The Association
Much like the girl in "She's So High," "Windy" is put on a crazy pedestal. Just a reminder, putting anyone on a pedestal is unhealthy. Unless of course you're Steve Martin.

Grey Sky Eyes by Carbon Leaf
The narrator of this song seems attracted to the mystery of the woman in this song and her "grey sky eyes," but she fights back, warning him not to romanticize her.

Complex Person by The Pretenders
I'm not sure if anyone ever thought Chrissie Hynde was a mpdg, but she is still fighting back against being imagined one-dimensionally. She does the same in "Every Mother's Son," but spells it out better here.

Mouthwash by Kate Nash
Kate Nash asks people to imagine her complexly and realize there are many elements to her life.

Undun by The Guess Who
Like Alaska in Looking for Alaska and Penny Lane in Almost Famous, this song outlines the mpdg who tries too hard and feels like she fails.

That Girl Has Love by Rooney
Once again, this song features a girl who is very confident and in control when it comes to relationships, but deeply troubled and ends up committing suicide.

Any More? I'd love to hear them.

And if you live in the area of Marion, Ohio, be sure to catch most of this playlist Thursday night at 7 on One-Mind Tracks on 97.5 WDIF.