An Orchestrated Album Made Effortless (Valerie June, The Order of Time review)

 

We need to find more light. Because the light shines brightest when we focus on it over the dark.

That’s the challenge musicians, singers, and songwriters face every day. How do you serve a greater purpose and cut through the darkness of monotony? I think this week’s album review might have an answer.

 

 

 

Valerie June – The Order of Time
released March 10, 2017
********* 9/10

Valerie June is an American singer, songwriter, and musician. She has a unique sound, which I realize is something of a cliche to say, but it’s true. June holds dear a mixture of blues, soul, and mountain music. But not just mountain music, there is a mixture of gospel, country, bluegrass and folk in there too.

This is the fourth outing for June and much like her third album, Pushin’ Against a Stone, June continues to explore the notion of quality music over innovation.

June works over each song slowly, building in nuance and an essential quality of care for her own vocals. It’s heavy in places, and airy in others, but never feels unnecessary or problematic. Starting off with soft opener Long Lonely Road, a saccharine exploration into salvation, June continues onward and upward, considering the very key elements of time, love, and music as we wander through her album. It an autobiographical track that is immediately intimate, but not a tell-all by any means.

Following this is probably one of my favourites of the album, Love You Once Made. Filled with organ sounds and shifting effortlessly between indifference and indignation, it describes the true feelings of a love lost. Luckily for us, this is only the beginning of the organ use – Shakedown is the opposite of what precedes it, upbeat and effervescent, it could have a place in any popular blues act of the day (read: The Black Keys). Next up is If And, another of my much liked tracks. In this one, June sways to the beat and rhythm while crooning away about the dangers of an unloved woman.

The whole album plays out this way, full of wisdom, and vocal intensity, June is doing what so many other acts out there seem to refuse right now, and that is to provide substance. Wonderment on Astral Plane, simmering heat on Man Done Wrong, and the consideration of intimacy on Front Door. These are just some of the themes explored throughout The Order of Time, but this album is most definitely something that will either grow on you or put you off, I can write that with confidence.

But what I’m most excited about in listening to this album is that Valerie June is black woman drawing from a wealth of musical history and managing to make something far cooler than anything I’ve heard in a quite some time, and she does it without concerning herself over political issues – the music delivers it best.

 

 

 

 

 

Valerie June continues to make music which separates itself from the mainstream while operating within it. This is a rare feat for any artist and worthy of our attention. But as I mentioned previously, it might not be for everyone, and that’s okay. I like that notion that light is cutting through the dark in due time.

Tim!

Eh, It’s Alright (Moana review)

But what do you do if a movie is critically acclaimed, everyone loves it, and all you feel is an underwhelming meh when you think about it?

That’s the question on my mind today dear readers, and we’re about to find out why.

 

 

 

Moana (2016)

Cast: Auli’li Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyck
Director(s): Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams
released on blu-ray March 7, 2017
****** 6/10

IMDB: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%, Audience Score 90%
The Guardian: ****/*****

 

Ron Clements and John Musker have directed a number of Disney Classics, from The Great Mouse Detective, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin, to less popular choices Hercules, Treasure Planet, and The Princess and the Frog. Don’t get me wrong dear readers, those last three movies are all still good movies, just not as compelling as the first three.

Ron Clements and John Musker also directed Moana. Which has been critically acclaimed and much beloved by the general public. But I am just not that impressed by it.

Co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams have a much smaller portfolio, having both worked on Big Hero 6, with Williams co-directing Bolt, and Hall co-directing Winnie the Pooh.

Disney has a history of bringing on several directors for the their films, given the huge teams of people needed to animate their films. Ultimately most of the weight falls on Clements and Musker, and they seemed like the logical choice. But I personally feel like they’ve lost their touch and haven’t really got it back. Heck, they may never get it back.

In the past I would have said that this was largely due to how dull the jokes felt and how ridiculous the characterizations were, but the reality is that those classic Disney films suffer from those problems too. No, the problem with this film is that it plays too safely to a well worn narrative, this time self-congratulating its team members for heavily researching their characters people they portray, in the hopes that they can serve up a fresh batch of disney princess without doing anything innovative.

It bothers me to no end that this feels like yet another rip on Hawaiian culture, while profiting from the people it represents. Yes it’s beautifully depicted and the songs are lovely, but who cares about these generic characters?

Anyone remember Lilo and Stitch? That was an entertaining movie and it was, as they say, authentic. Am I the only one that finds it ironic in one movie breath we hear Lilo say “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind,” and then in another movie breath we get to witness Moana completely go against tradition like oh so many heroes and heroines before her?

And let’s not forget the literally showstopper of a crab voiced by Jemaine Clement and called Tamatoa. He halts the story but good during his time on screen. Which is frustrating because he could have been a really fun supporting character.

Last, but certainly not least when we finally do meet Maui, he’s certainly not a caricature, but he’s definitely not likable either. He’s a bit of jerk with a thin character arc.

I wish the hear of this movie had a better body to house it in, because never really engaged with me at any particular point.

Pros: It’s refreshing to see a lack of a love interest in a Disney story  as done previously in Zootopia and Frozen. And the visuals are amazing. It truly feels like a getaway from the typical fare.

Cons: While it does move away from the love interest trope, it relies so heavily on other established ideas that it becomes evident fairly quickly where the story hasn’t taken any chances. It’s characters are not one-dimensional, but they aren’t engaging either.

Runtime: 1 hour 47 minutes

Points of InterestWhile the film is entirely digitally animated, Maui’s tattoos were hand-drawn into the animation, making Moana a first in over five years to feature true animation. Moana is the first Polynesian of the Disney Princesses.

I realize now that I didn’t get you much of a summary of the film, and for that I am kind of sorry. I really needed to go on a rant about this film. Because I don’t want more them to be made. 100% we should continue to support female protagonists who aren’t dictated by their personal relationships, but that doesn’t mean they need to revisit all of the other tropes that male leads have done over the past 100+ years of film.

End rant.

theories Summarized

What do you think? Did you like Moana? I hope I haven’t been too harsh on this movie. It represents a positive direction, and if Disney can help change minds with its depictions, I’m all for it. I just want to see Moana fight an internal battle or two, have some nuance in her performance. But thats my theory, after all.

Tim!

Good, Not Great (Bon Iver, 22 A Million)

I’m glad I went to art school. I was exposed to a lot of people looking to impress, but without anything real to offer up. The struggle of the artist isn’t one of employment, it’s whether they can commit to a purpose and authentically represent it.

Too many posers walk around pretending they suffer, when they should put their nose to the grindstone and be affected for once. Yeah I’m feeling salty on this one.

Bon Iver – 22 A Million
released September 30, 2016
****** 6/10

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Bon Iver is a multi-instrumentalist group headed by Justin Vernon, one that focuses on indie folk and which has been around since 2007. They’ve put out 3 full-length studio albums at this point, but it has been five years since their last album was released.

22 A Million is more of an experiment then anything. Lots of the songs go into unique directions, ascending and descending, depending on the song, but often cutting short before we see a real resolution. I think I may have been spoiled this year dear readers, there have been so many great album releases that Bon Iver didn’t really have a chance.

I should be more clear with my intent – it feels like the songs have lost all interest in established forms of songwriting, and they don’t really help us to whatever atmosphere the group had strived for; thanks Justin and friends. It’s a challenge against convention, a battlecry against form, but the other team didn’t want to show up.

Folk music is in a difficult place these days it seems. While pop music has continued to explore what’s possible and even make conceptual decisions that are exciting, especially this past year, folk artists that dabble in pop should be uniquely poised to come out ahead. And yet, this album feels a lot like the late oughts. I find it very confusing. We’ve explored these themes already.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed parts of this album and it sounds beautiful, but as a professor of mine once said, I’m grading you based on your own ability and not on a preset standard, because that’s the only way you’ll grow. After all, I think it can be exciting when we reject tradition in favour of exploration, but exploration for explorations sake? Come on Bon Iver, wake up.

This album is a complete mess in terms of it’s composition. I might as well be listening to a 35 minute solo track in long form.

Literally every song on this album features some sort of dichotomy, good vs evil, up vs down, I could go on, but the point being made is one of tension. Even the song titles are written with symbols and avant garde grammar, it’s pretentious and we’ve seen that trick before too – leet speak is dead. Maybe I’m completely off my rocker here folks, but 22 A Million is not groundbreaking, it’s evocative, haunting, and a great jazz session. We should look at this as more of a mixtape then anything, and hopefully when the rest of the world wakes up, Bon Iver will have put their pants back on.

 

 

 

Maybe that was a harsh criticism, but I really do believe these guys are capable of a lot more than we saw on this record. I want to believe that this was just a misstep, but the flourishes and fawning of the masses over this record are driving me nuts friends. Listen to this one at your own discretion, but don’t for a second fall into the hype. It’s good, not great.

Tim!

 

My Heartbeat (Professionalism)

Being yourself has become such a cliche that I literally cannot even, dear readers. I just literally cannot even.

Sorry, bad habit from dating someone in their early twenties.

Such a beautiful create who is still figuring herself out and doesn’t really know what she wants out of life yet.

Someone who is exploring the open road and wants to see what is out there.

Well actually, I’m really sorry but not sorry, because I already know what I want out of life, and while I’m pretty fucking cool with adapting to other people and their life pursuits, I’m most definitely not cool with someone trying to force me to do that which is against my goals and aspirations.

So bye bye baby, baby goodbye.

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Now that might not seem professional my friends, but as you’ve slowly come to learn about me, I’m an art maker, and I try really hard not to be a heart breaker, because after all, you can’t have heart without art, and as my friend Singh likes to say, you also can’t have art without heart.

My authentic self

My authentic self is entwined with the arts, and I’ve made great efforts to get back to a place where I am supporting the arts at every turn, and so I cannot be in a relationship with someone who won’t let me do my thing, and whose interests follow another path, and so if that led to an ultimate situation, then so be it. Because my professionalism is important in this journey of timotheories.

Which means it’s for the best Lindsey, I really hope you get the love you need in this life, and while I highly suspect that won’t be me anymore, I’ll always have that garden party, Ticker doodle doo.

Now, why do I care? Well friends, we’ve arrived at the final introductory post on the Importance of Marketing series, and as sobering of a topic as this is for me personally (thought I never would’ve expected that on first glance), it’s relevant that I write what I know.

After all, if we’re going to discus professionalism, it’s important to address that a professional is competent. A professional is both efficient and a producer of quality. Which means that as it relates to your brand or voice, your marketing needs to be consistent, unique and representative of you.

Think about your own favourite brands, you are the audience for the brands that you consume, and so as a marketer, you have a unique position. You know both sides of this story. It comes down to expression of an authentic message. Or as I like to call it, the why of your business.

My professional joy de vivre

Do you know your why yet? Your joy de vivre? If you can get to the purpose of what inspires you to do what you do, then you can start the process of articulating that why statement that will lead you to your brand statement. Once you have a brand statement, holy shit Batman, you can keep your professional image on point.

Figure out your audience and align with those in it, support what is being consumed, be authentic in your social media, learn the rules of marketing, and stick to the fundamentals, don’t worry about being cool.

There is a lot more to this professionalism than what I can share in a healthy post length, but I can assure you this much, I DON’T know it all friends, but because I’m working on sharing the arts with everyone from the artist’s perspective, I know that I’m going to learn as much as I can, and I’ll keep sharing theories with you along the way.

So now the real question comes in, did you really break up with your girlfriend just to make a post? No, I didn’t art shakers. I only made the best of an authentic situation to give you a solid example of keeping it real in your business.

I’m out of theories for now friends, but I’ll see you tomorrow with something timely.

Tim!