Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 And All That Blah!

2010 comes to an end and all that blah! The last week of December doesn’t belong to December but becomes the property of the entire year gone by, good or bad. We have best of lists, worst of lists, historic moments lists, flops, hits, trends of the year, etc., etc., etc. Heck! Even I made two lists prior to this blog post. Ah! Yes. How could we forget the New Year Resolutions lists? These are invaluable.

I don’t see the fuss over a new year, frankly. Yes, it is fun to make these best of lists and see what the year was like. But for me that’s it. Luckily, till date, the new year has always been preceded by a week-long Christmas vacation so when I get back to college in the new year it does feel refreshing. Though I wonder how much new year is going to feel like a New Year once I start working, come April, and when I’m probably working my ass off on some year-end list on December 31st only to get back to create a list on January 1st about what to look forward to in the new year.

Well, call me cynical, but then the truth can be that way.

After all, what would New Year’s Day be if some wisecrack thousands of years ago who has found his name in the trivia books hadn’t made the Gregorian calendar. What would New Year’s Day be if that wisecrack hadn’t said that December would be the last month and after that would begin a new year? Would we have an all night party counting down to twelve o’clock (well, would we have a twelve o’clock at all? But that’s another issue!) if the Wisecrack hadn’t decided that January 1 follows December 31?

For all that matters, we wouldn’t even be celebrating our birthdays! (But that is not a good thing. I love birthdays. I’m too narcissistic to not love or celebrate birthdays).

So what is a New Year? Just a passage of time. Nothing more. And yet we wish for a “happier 2011” because “the previous year wasn’t good”. Well, a New Year is not going to change anything guys. Especially if you repeat the same things that you did the previous years. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for making mistakes. How else will you learn? But then don’t go and foolishly hang yourself off the fan just because you didn’t succeed the first time!

Your New Year will be a “happy and prosperous” one only if you want to make it one. Only if you act in a manner befitting one. Only if you don’t blame destiny and fate and God…

But sigh! Only if…! If only…!

Happy New Year anyway!

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Favourite Hindi Film Soundtracks - 2010

Two days ago I read this post about the best Hindi film soundtracks of 2010. I must say, I was disappointed with the article. Maybe my musical tastes do not match those of majority of the Indians and the site too, but missing out on a few really good soundtracks of the year after including Tees Maar Khan, Prince and Action Replayy is ridiculous, I feel. I was anyway about to write my post regarding my favourite Hindi film soundtracks of this year. Now I get an added reason to do so.

Not in any particular order, here we go.

1. Udaan (Composer: Amit Trivedi) - Can this guy ever get it wrong? After Aamir, Dev.D and Iktara in Wake Up Sid he came up with the soundtrack of perhaps the best Hindi film of 2010, Udaan. An untypical film demanded an untypical soundtrack, and that Amit Trivedi provided. My favourite from Udaan is Aazadiyan. The lyrics speak about freedom and liberation and that is exactly what the music feels like: liberation from the routine, monotonous music that composers in Hindi films had been providing. And although music in the rock genre may be his forte, he sure is adept at other genres too; fusion especially (more on this in the a little later.) Listen to Naav and Nadi Mein Talab Hain as well. The list mentioned above missed Udaan. Well, this list ensures that you shouldn't miss out on it like they did.

2. Aisha (Composer: Amit Trivedi) - And after Udaan, Trivedi followed it up with a commercial soundtrack in Aisha. But by 'commercial', he did not go to the ludicrous extents that other composers go to make their music commercial. Mixing various genres here (yes, that fusion I mentioned) he created a really eclectic soundtrack. From the rock of By the Way to the Punjabi folksy Gal Mitthi Mitthi Bol and from the acoustic Sham to the pop-ish title track, and how can one forget the soft-rock of Lehrein where he brought the piano and the violin together: absolutely melodious! This guy is here to stay.

3. Break Ke Baad (Composer: Vishal-Shekhar) - Vishal-Shekhar (VS) had composed music for I Hate Luv Storys (sic!) and Anjaana Anjaani before coming in to Break Ke Baad. All three films are romantic comedies and I didn't exactly like the music that the former two had. For Break Ke Baad, surprisingly though, VS went in for a more Western sound. The Indian feel was there too in Ajab Leher (where VS employed Neeraj Sridhar to sound amazingly different), but it was songs like Dhoop Ke Makaan, Dooriyan and Main Jiyoonga that had me swooning. It was probably the effect of working with a lyricist they had never worked before: Prasoon Joshi. But the results showed. And how!

4. Ishqiya (Composer: Vishal Bhardwaj) - Bhardwaj last composed music for his own film Kaminey last year and the music was a breakthrough hit. He composes again for debutant director Abhishek Chaubey and keeping with the rustic feel, yet thriller atmosphere of the film comes up with a suitable soundtrack. From the Spanish strumming of Dil Toh Bachcha Hain Jee to the electric guitar sounds on Ibn-E-Batuta, Bhardwaj really creates a fragrant blend. Badi Dheere Jali presents a classical tune in a slightly modern avatar. My favourite, though, remains Ab Mujhe Koi. A very soft track made even more soothing because of Rekha Bhardwaj's smooth voice. Enchanting.

Special Mention:
Peepli [Live] - The songs were not the typical Hindi film sound again. Indian Ocean collaborated on the soundtrack and provided an amazing track in Des Mera.

This was my list for 2010. Two songs that do not make my list, but I'm sure will make others' lists for Best Hindi song of 2010 will be Munni Badnaam Hui and Sheila Ki Jawani. Well, to each his own. But I really do not endorse the use of people's names in such a lyrical context. Freedom of expression, too, has its limits.

Looking ahead, 2011, I hope will be a good year for music too. Amit Trivedi has already started it on a bright note with the music for No One Killed Jessica. Watch out for him; this man knows no bounds. Next year, then.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Favourite Songs - 2010

Since this is the end of the year, I feel obliged to create my own 'Best Of...' list as all others do. (It is a totally irreverent issue that no one reads my posts but that's a topic for another day). Today I will list out my favourite songs from this year. But before that a brief insight into my explorations into the music scene this year.

Ever since I got an internet connection last year, I visit sites like Billboard and Pitchfork often to search for new music. Being on Twitter also helps a lot while seeking new sounds to listen to. Besides, new friends at my Journalism course introduced me to lots of Indie music that I would've otherwise never listened to. At the same time, I also kept a ear out for the mainstream music that I like. So now, after I have given a short premise I list out my Favourite Songs of 2010, not in any particular order.

1. The Suburbs (Arcade Fire) - Not just the first single off their third album is worth listening to. I was introduced to Arcade Fire last year and Funeral (their first album) remains my all-time favourite album a year later too. With The Suburbs, they experiment further with their music, but not in entirely new directions; we had seen hints in Neon Bible (their second album). This third album is up for Grammys in the coming year. I do not know whether they will win or not but this much is sure that they do deserve the recognition they are getting. Their music is very cathartic and engrossing; music just got steroids in its veins.

2. Giving Up The Gun (Vampire Weekend) - Their music is chaotic and mad, yet it makes perfect sense. There is no other way I would love this band. Sure, Giving Up The Gun is not exactly in the same mode as their other songs (Oxford Comma, A-Punk) but Ezra Koenig's voice more than makes up for it. There's that same mischief inherent in their music that was visible in their first album (Vampire Weekend). With Contra, they just show that they are having a lot of fun (check out the video for Giving Up The Gun). Another good listen from this album would be White Sky.

3. When They Come For Me & The Catalyst (Linkin Park) - Linkin Park gave themselves a makeover, and how! 15 songs, all joined up with one theme: that of peace in violent times. Just like Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, it doesn't make sense to listen to songs in isolation in this album. But The Catalyst and When They Come For Me really stand out. Whereas The Catalyst still sounds typical Linkin Park to some extent, the latter explores new territory. Listen to the entire album; it is a very good listen.

4. Misery (Maroon 5) - Trust Maroon 5 to come up with good dance numbers. Misery and the MJ/Prince homage Give A Little More (also the first two songs in the album) will keep you tapping your feet. The rest of the album takes a little slower tempo but makes for good listening nonetheless. Stutter is typical Maroon 5, whereas the title track (Hands All Over) goes into an area which the band hadn't covered yet. Get hold of the deluxe edition. Their cover of Alicia Keys' If I Ain't Got You is plain lovely.

5. Becoming A Jackal (Villagers) - An Indie band that I found online, their first album (also Becoming A Jackal) is a poignant listen. Some very interesting lyrics thrown in with the uneasy yet reassuring voice of Conan O'Brien keep you on edge. This album hasn't received much publicity (it is up, though, for a Mercury Prize) but it can easily be one of the better albums this year. The title track pulls you in like no other off the album. Also pay attention to Set The Tigers Free: another good song.

6. The Flood (Take That) - I started listening to Take That after they regrouped four years ago. Shine from Beautiful World remains one of my all-time favourites. The Circus didn't impress me much. Now with Progress, Robbie Williams has returned bringing with him a new electronic sound previously unknown to Take That listeners. The Flood is the anthem-song for Take That, it has a 'reaching-out' feel to it. At the same time, it derides those who thought they would never be back together again. I am, yet, not a big fan of their music. But this song will remain on my playlist.

7. Tighten Up (The Black Keys) - Another band that I did not know much of. I downloaded this song only because it was number one on some Billboard list. I really loved the song, its Chinese influences and the video was funny. I didn't like their other songs, but in Tighten Up, I've got a nice earworm to deal with, although I don't mind.

8. Bad Bad World (Guster) - I downloaded Bad Bad World because they were giving it as a free download. I downloaded it, though, more so because I loved their song Ramona. (Thanks Ankita Kanwar) This is a very good band, I must admit, of which I just can't get enough. If Ramona (from 2003's Keep It Together) presents a love song like no other, Bad Bad World (from this year's Easy Wonderful) makes you want to believe that everything is alright with the world.

Over here, I'd like to mention one last artist that did not release an album in 2010. Their only album One EskimO was released 2009. The artist being talked about is One EskimO. With ambient electronic sounds mixed with guitar and piano beats and a voice that would make you believe that you are listening to James Blunt, One EskimO is surely an artist to look forward to. Listen to Chosen One and Kandi. Thanks Shubhra Rishi.

That's all for 2010. 2011 too promises to be a musical year. Here's a short list of a few of my favourite artists releasing albums in the next year. Will definitely be awaiting them.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Green Day (Live album)
Nelly Furtado
Kelly Clarkson
The Ting Tings