AnnieKO'Connor


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Cloud Cult – Love

Cloud Cult’s newest offering Love (out Tues. Mar. 5) opens with their signature twee sound with rough edges. Craig Minowa’s faltering voice sings “Fly, baby, fly, till nothing can get you down” with enough tenderness teach a cynic hope in the opening You’re The Only Thing in Your Way. It’s a painful song about watching a loved one who is the “wind the flood and the flame” fail to reach their potential through self-defeating behavior or beliefs. Minowa tells this truth without reserve, and without cruelty.

This is the type of optimism to be found throughout the album—the kind of hope that takes work in the face of pain or self-doubt or other darknesses.

The album continues with It’s Your Decision. The piece opens with melancholic cello followed by piano like a stained glass window—delicate and colorful—until the song breaks into a postmodern rock. This is musical symbolism for the lyrical content of the album: harsh, driving, steady, delicate and pretty.  They don’t just sing about life, they say, this is what it sounds like. Track three is the album’s thesis and description: Complicated Creation.

Complicated Creation starts with a manic chant reminiscent of Tiny Cities made of Ashes followed by the grunge rock ode, 1x1x1.

Sleepwalker is the standout track of the album. Its ethereal carnivalesque feel sounds like Thomas Newman writing for a music box. It is only made creepier by Minowa’s whispering “We are your conscience. We thought we’d tell, you’ve been sleepwalking through most of your days. Your eyes are open, your body’s moving, your lips are speaking, but you’re far from awake.”

The album then heads to a forceful/happy denouement. It Takes A Lot pulls us through death and birth and broken hearts to the Catharsis where a child happily declares their love atop a lush soundtrack. (Like Raconte-Moi Une Histoire, without the frogs.)

Finally The Show Starts Now is like a benediction, sending us off into the world with the reminder to love and live, here and now. It’s music that’s not afraid to push the boundaries and make something new with all the same old instruments and rhythms. It’s music that’s not afraid to be dark, and not afraid of sounding naive.

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Rihanna and Feminism

[Trigger warnings——domestic violence and rape]

Rihanna has taken a lot of flack for returning to a relationship with Chris Brown. Upon her return to this relationship, several very public condemnations against her choice have been made. She has been accused of being a poor role model for young women who will see it as acceptable to return to abusive relationships.

Frankly I find it shocking that anyone would use the guise of feminism to further the misogynistic victim blaming so common when dealing with domestic violence.

If feminists are talking about rape, they will quickly, and rightly, point out that no woman, however she is dressed, is actually “asking for it.” We must continue to fight the tendency to believe that men can’t help themselves, and women need to be the ones to prevent rape by dressing modestly, and avoiding certain situations. A person can only lessen the chances of being raped by taking precautions; a perpetrator of rape, however, is the only person who can eliminate rape by refusing to partake in raping anyone. Rape is not the victim’s fault.

So with domestic abuse. The statistics are against Rihanna’s safety as she returns to a relationship with a man who has a history of violence against her. But his violence against her? It’s not her fault. By ridiculing her and blaming her for continuing with Chris Brown, we are blaming her for his actions. To direct outcry over his abusiveness at Rihanna is anti-feminist.

Now, who of us is friends with Rihanna that we could do anything constructive in her life? I’m not. I’m guessing you aren’t. But Rihanna isn’t the only woman in a relationship with someone who has caused her physical harm. How do you help a friend in a violent relationship? Here are some DOs and DON’Ts from professionals who work with domestic abuse victims daily: http://www.dvsas.org/pages/Information-and-Resources/Domestic-Violence/How-to-Help-a-Domestic-Violence-Victim


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Too Much

The above image is likely recognizable from my banner. As I discussed in my last post, the image is a product of my synesthesia. This will help me divulge more about what my music-image synesthesia does.

The image is a painting of the opening of the song Too Much by Sufjan Stevens, off his new album Age of Adz.  Each element of the image is a specific part of the song. When I listen to music, the whole orchestration creates a whole orchestration of images. It would be impossible for me to paint a whole song, because music is never stationary. If I could create a shape/color movie it would be closer to my synesthetic experience.

The opening synth creates a low bubbling noise, which is the yellow circles at the bottom left. The red burst shape is the scraping sound behind it. This crescendos into the basic track of the song, at which point it turns to blue/black. The black ribbon reaching diagonally to the right represents the hand claps, with the lined white sections representing the actual claps.  The black right angles represent the hi-hat clicking in the background and the yellow orange patch is the lower bass sounds.

It is far from an accurate representation of what I see. The details of the image in my mind are as complex and varied as the piece of music itself. If you listen to the song over and over (as with many songs) you’ll hear sounds you never noticed before, and with each new sound is an image I never noticed before. I truncated the image in order to create something compositionally cohesive, and my painting skills are no match for my synesthesia. But alas, I try.


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Synesthesia

As an intro to this new blog, I feel somewhat obliged to posit a focus for what sort of information and ramblings can be expected herein. But, knowing myself, I find it best not to have a focus. Instead, I am going to post a series about the banner image found above, and hope said series will suffice to initiate you into the absurdity of my mind (and the subsequent absurdity of anything I produce.)

Before the above image can be properly understood, one must understand synesthesia. You may have heard of it, but still many haven’t (for instance, my browser’s spell checker). Mostly because, well, it’s odd. And scientists don’t seem to have a proper understanding of what causes it.

In short, synesthesia is a cross-wiring or some sort in the brain that causes a link between senses. Some people taste shapes. Others hear colors. The associations are consistent within the individual, and have not been discovered to follow any sort of pattern.

I cannot talk with much certainty about any synesthesia other than my own, so I will stick to that. My synesthesia causes multiple color associations with various senses. Each letter of the alphabet is a specific color (sometimes two at once!). Each number. Shapes. Music. Other things are located in specific areas in space. The week starts to my right and ends to the left. I know what day it is based on how many days are to the right, versus how many days are to the left. And the future is ahead of me, the past behind. Upcoming events hover in front of me, and past events hover behind my back.

Yes, yes, it’s all very strange. (At least for you. I’m quite used to it. I have always perceived the world this way.) The strangest part, even for me, is that it is completely involuntary. If you tell me the number five is blue, I cringe. Such a claim is like finger nails on a chalk board. Five is simply black. I can’t justify that, but it is, to me, the truth.

So, what does this have to do with the image above? It is a painting I made of a song. The shapes and colors indicate what I see during a specific song. But, more about that next time.

(And if you don’t believe me): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia (No, I didn’t write that article.)