I've been listening to rather a lot of music as of late, and rather diverse variety of music, to boot. The sole advantage of a morning commute that borders on thirty minutes in duration is that it gives me plenty of time to delve into my music collection (that's me, always looking on the bright side). Let's take a look at five songs that I've had on heavy rotation recently.
"The Elk King's Daughter"
The music of Nest is a stirring blend of folk music and ambient soundscapes. Aslak Tolonen is the creative force behind Nest, and he draws his inspiration from the natural beauty of the Finnish landscape. Appearing on Nest's 2000 demo tape Fabled Lore,"The Elk King's Daughter" is an especially atmospheric track that brings to mind a feeling of isolation. Yet rather than being melancholic, the mood is actually quite peaceful, as though it were the score of a fairytale. For me, this song is quite evocative of the foggy winter nights I spent in Washington. For those interested, the track is available for a listen at this site.
"It's Only A Paper Moon"
The Paul Whiteman Orchestra
As with many of the classic Jazz standards, there are numerous extant recordings of "It's Only A Paper Moon". The version I had in mind, however, is the 1933 version recorded by the Paul Whiteman orchestra with vocal accompaniment by Peggy Healy. This recording of the song was featured on the soundtrack to the Peter Bogdanovich film Paper Moon (1973) (the film takes its name from the song). It's one of those catchy old numbers that sticks in your head and stays there for quite a while. And yes, I did like the movie. Rather a lot, in fact.
"Cremation Ghat II"
God Is Good
Om was formed from the ashes of the legendary Stoner Doom band Sleep. Om's meditative, quasi-ritualistic brand of music has always carried an oriental twist, but God is Good, the band's latest offering really allows those influences to shine through. "Cremation Ghat II" is perhaps the most memorable cut from the album; although it is not quite five minutes long, the track is quite epic within the confines of that short direction. The use of sitars give the song a decidedly Indian flavor, and the whole composition evokes a feeling of crossing the desert (or perhaps ascending to Shangri-La). Do give the song a listen over at Om's MySpace.
Nine Inch Nails
I used to listen to Nine Inch Nails quite a lot way back when (and by quite a lot I mean all the damned time). I've returned to listening to the band after an absence of a few years, and it seems that somewhere along the line I forgot just how good Nine Inch Nails really is. In May of 2008, Trent Reznor and company decided to give away a complete album to the fans, with no strings attached. That album was The Slip, and it's just as good as NIN fans could have expected it to be. My personal favorite track from The Slip would have to be "Discipline", with its driving tempo that is faintly reminiscent of 80s New Wave. The album is definitely worth getting for those unfamiliar with NIN's music (if there is anyone left who isn't by now), since it is not only quite accessible but also quite free.
Red Army Choir
You just knew these guys were bound to show up on this, didn't you? Although it bears the musical hallmarks of traditional Russian folk music, "Smuglianka" is actually a fairly recent composition (insofar as one may call the early 1970s recent). The song seems to have first appeared in a film about Soviet pilots entitled В бой идут одни «старики» (Only the Veterans Will Go to Fight). As for the song, it starts off softly but builds up to a frenetic crescendo during the chorus. It's also extremely catchy -- just have a listen, and I'll guarantee you that you'll have it stuck in your head for weeks).