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Yesterday I spoke my love for harmonies in songs. Anyone who followed my brief musical career knows that one of my strengths lies in coming up with crazy harmonies for lyrics. In keeping with that, I wanted to introduce you to a band from Germany that has lain in obscurity for the most part here in the States. This is another unsung band that has had minimal success here in the melting pot, but at least thankfully has blossomed in Europe. M√ľnchener Freiheit is their name, more commonly known here simply as Freiheit.

Think back to 1989(if you can). The year I graduated high school was a memorable one, for may reasons. Living Colour was crunching and riffing their way into cultural consciousness with "Vivid", Star Trek: The Next Generation had become THE scifi thing to watch, the Berlin Wall came down, and John Cusack and Ione Skye starred in a teenage masterpiece of love and drama called Say Anything.

To say that Cameron Crowe is a great director is to simply speak the truth albeit a bit understated. In much the same vein as John Hughes idealizes a snapshot of life that will have you watching their movies over and over again. Hughes' movies were perfect for the 80's, when teenagers felt "OMGthisisEXACTLYportrayinghowi'mFEELING!" while watching Ferris or Bender or The Geek doing their teenage things, in situations that are coming of age moments. So to for Cameron Crowe's films, but even deeper and richer. His entire body of work has had some impact on aspects of people's lives. Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything, Singles, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky, Elizabethtown? Christ! Of course, you can't forget Jerry Maguire(which I still haven't seen), or the impact it had on marriages and showing people things.

For Crowe, music and it's visceral impact on the listener play a large role in his films. This is something I can certainly appreciate. I watched Almost Famous with the sound muted once, and because I've watched it so often, I could "hear" the language as they spoke. This was a kind of test to see if music really did make an impact, and it was just not the same. It didn't suck, but wasn't as good without the background music, kind of like being color blind: The world may still be there, but it there is an aspect missing. He iterates in the liner notes for the soundtrack for Say Anything that music is a fundamental part of our lives, and that it helps shape and color the experiences we have in any given situation.

If you have missed Say Anything, then put it in your Blockbuster queue immediately. Mr. Cusack and Ms. Skye are electric onscreen, and the dawn boombox moment with Peter Gabriel singing Lloyd's heart to Diane will make even the staunchest stoic relax with sympathy. Just as in the Breakfast Club, it is a defining-moment-must-see, or any other cliche statement to get you to see it. The soundtrack is on par with the movie itself, using theme on top of theme, having such a mixture of pop, funk, ska, rock, and alternative(in the old classic sense). Joe Satriani, Ann Wilson, Cheap Trick, Depeche Mode, Fishbone, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Replacements, Peter Gabriel, and of course, Freiheit.

The song is titled, "Keeping the Dream Alive." It is played quietly in the background during the party scene, and is not one of the big theme songs, so you might miss it if not paying attention. It immediately caught my attention for it sounded of George Harrison mixed with ELO, and both artists use harmonies to great effect. Freiheit is a group that uses harmonies to such a perfect blending in "Keeping the Dream Alive" that it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. There is a moment in the climax of the song where it feels as though there is a 5 part harmony that gives me a thrill of chills down my back. It is one of those soft song of romance, of longing, of reminiscence, that has strings and flutes, as well as guitar and trap set. Sounds a tad sappy on paper like this, but bands like ELO used whole orchestras with much success mixed with rock beats back in the 70's.

The song is off their album "Fantasy", one of only a few they released in english. The largest success they had was from the Say Anything soundtrack, so sadly, their extraordinary vocal ranges are hard to find here in the states. If you have a chance to pick up at least "Fantasy", give it a try. Some of the music sounds dated, it was released in 1988, after all, but there are a few real gems on it as well.

I found an appearance of Freiheit performing "Keeping the Dream Alive" on a Danish TV station on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdX3D_2h8Pk&feature=related . Give it a listen, and hopefully you'll get goosebumps too. It looks as though they are lip synching, which has been happening since music was performed on television, so you'll have to forgive that, but the clothes! The clothes are so Miami Vice, it's great!
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Last year I fell in a short but intense love with the movie Garden State. I loved the mood, colors, the language, the ideas, and the odd natural-ness that it evoked. I briefly lauded Zack Braff as an unsung genius, before his head got so big and he wasn't so much fun to love. His writing ability was spot on in this movie, and I was caught by the look and feel, my eyes and mind immediately felt at home in that place and time. The characters were people that I went to school with, and even though I have never been to Jersey, I lived in the neighborhood. I drank beer with those people, popped and dropped some drugs with them at parties, and swam in my underwear(at the time briefs) with them.

One thing that I always unconsciously pay close attention with a film is the soundtrack, and will influence my like or dislike of a director as much as camera work, or lighting, or use of the word fuck. I'm not speaking of those enormous, sweeping, John Williams or Ennio Morricone single-writer scores, but the orgasmic miasma of music in films like Say Anything, Breakfast Club, Elizabethtown, Rush, and Garden State. If I am as aurally stimulated as optically, then I can be a fan forever. John Hughes, Cameron Crowe, Lili Zanuck, directors who really take stock of the effect a single song in a film can have on the viewer have kept me watching.

Back to Garden State: The end credit music was what made my head explode. "Let Go" was the song playing from the end into the fade-out into the credits, and I cried when I first heard it. Just an awesome song, in the classic sense of the word. I was struck, just having a spiritual experience with it. The artist is Frou Frou, a collaborative effort from Imogen Heap and producer/songwriter Guy Sigsworth. I immediately went to find and acquire the album, Details. Such a lush album, every song made me cry in one way or another. In a time when so much music just suck these days, so much so that I had retreated to the 70's listening to Pink Floyd, Rush, Utopia, Allman Brothers, etc, this was such an infusion of life for me. I shared this artist with [livejournal.com profile] dv8dgrrl and made her cry to, so I felt justified in my tears of musical joy.

I was saddened to find that there was only the one album by Frou Frou, but I was absolutely delighted to find that Imogen Heap has been struggling and flowering in her own solo career for years! In the same flow as Ani Difranco and Sophie B. Hawkins, she's been one of those songwriters that has gone the route of self producing an promoting her albums, having been frustrated and burned with large record companies, with great success. I am listening to "Speak for Yourself" at the moment for the 8th time, and I only got the album yesterday. She's great for dancing, trancing, sex, and certainly for spinning. I also found a great DJ Tiesto mix of her song, "Hide and Seek" that almost perfectly counterpoints her vocoded a capella with a thumping dance beat. Check out her site at http://www.imogenheap.com/ . She rocks.

Other artists that I have lauded to others about recently:
Sphongle: This is a great ambient sort of music, whether dance, trance, sex, long car rides, or just jumping up and down. Mixed up beats and themes. Great for spinning.

Jason Falkner: He was the guitarist for 90's group The Jellyfish, his solo career has moved beyond what was already a complex musical style. He does all the recording AND plays all the instruments himself, doing an exquisite job.

The Jellyfish: Blendings of Beatles, Beach Boys, and Queen make for a really interesting time with this band. Sadly, they only released two albums, Bellybutton and Split Milk, but they are a must listen to.

The Who: I have only recently come into getting any of their albums, and I have been hearing their music on the radio since birth. I have missed out on a lot of really good stuff by them; the one song that I can't stop listening to right now REALLY loud is "Eminence Front".

Toad the Wet Sprocket: Great band that never really got it's due, in my opinion. I have always been a sucker for good harmonies, and these guys make some really nice ones. The lyrics are deeper than you'd think, talking about issues that affect old and young, all the while wrapping it up in a really good melody.

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September 2014

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