In My Earbuds Lately


Here are some albums that I’ve been listening to lately. (The previous peek into my listening habits is from May 2010!)

  • Daikaiju. Daikaiju. 2005. Virtuoso instrumental surf rock.
  • Dungen. Skit i allt. 2010. Psychedelic 70s prog.
  • Graveyard. Hisingen Blues. 2011. Bluesy and psychedelic 70s metal.
  • Jobriath. Jobriath. 1973. Piano-heavy folk/glam rock.
  • Jobriath. Creatures of the Street. 1974. Piano-heavy folk/glam rock.
  • Karaboudjan. Sprodj. 2001. Heavy instrumental prog metal.
  • Mercury Rev. See You On The Other Side. 1995. Psychedelic art rock.
  • OK Go. Of the Blue Colour of the Sky. 2010. Funky new wave guitar pop.
  • Sleep. Sleep’s Holy Mountain. 1993. Stoner rock.
  • Voodoo Trombone Quartet. Voodoo Trombone Quartet. 2005. Funky lounge pop.
  • Voodoo Trombone Quartet. Voodoo Trombone Quartet… Again. 2009. Funky lounge pop.

Bellman’s Pale Rhenish

Dear Reader, please try saying “ENSKTBLEH”. Yes, six consonants in a row. ENSKTBLEH. OK? Now sing it, loudly and happily. Go!

I’ve spent three happy days at the first ever Picture Stone Symposium in Visby, listening to papers, moderating some bits and giving a presentation of my own that went down pretty well. And one evening I was reminded of a) that I’m a weird singer, b) that one of C.M. Bellman’s least felicitous phrases occurs in one of his best-beloved song lyrics.

During a reception Thursday night in the Picture Stone Hall of the Gotland County Museum, a UK colleague asked me and a lady whose name I didn’t catch to sing something in Swedish. She suggested Bellman’s Bort allt vad oro gör, “Begone All Troubles”, and we went at it. Now, I don’t have great vocal range, defined as the number of notes between the lowest and highest ones I can comfortably sing. But my main problem is where that range is on the scale. My high tenor is out of phase with most people’s ranges, so when this lady intoned the song, she put it right in a spot where I couldn’t do the whole thing without frequently switching octaves. Sigh.

“Begone All Troubles” is about relaxing and sampling wines. And this is where Bellman makes the singer go ENSKTBLEH. Vad det var läckert! Vad var det? Rhenskt bleckert? Oui, Monseigneur. “This was really good! What was it? Pale Rhenish? Yes Sir.” RhENSKTBLEckert. Silly drunken poet.

The word bleckert fell out of use more than a century ago. It is a cognate of “bleach” and Sw. blek, “pale”. The vintage may still be around though: apparently it was made in the area between Coblenz and Andernach. What’s it called nowadays?

Juniorette Sings Cohen

Juniorette is a precocious seven years old. Here’s her rendition of Leonard Cohen’s 1984 song “Hallelujah”, with the Swedish lyrics by Py Bäckman. The performance is influenced to a certain degree by another young Swedish singer’s version, Molly Sandén’s on her 2009 album Samma himmel.

While Cohen’s beautiful lyrics deal mainly with broken love affairs through biblical allusions (compare the Pixies’ “Dead” and “Gouge Away“!), Bäckman’s lyrics are a bit too churchy for my taste. “[The song] has something that takes hold of you / And leads you from night to day / And suddenly you want to sing ‘Hallelujah'”.

Did you know, Dear Reader, that “Hallelujah” is a formulaic Hebrew expression meaning “praise / sing praises to JHWH”?

Juniorette is not churchy. On Saturday I drove her and a friend home from a birthday party for a classmate whose dad is a Swedish Church minister and a really nice guy. (Junior has a steady babysitting gig there.) Juniorette’s friend commented that though Nora’s dad isn’t the parish shepherd proper, he’s usually the one officiating at church. “Does your family believe in God!?”, asked my daughter incredulously. “Yeah, but we don’t go to church often”, said her friend. “I’ve been, like, maybe five times?”.

I’ve written before about the casual godlessness common among modern Scandinavians.

George Hrab Hits Scandinavia: The Golden Ticket Tour

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When skeptical darling George Hrab released his latest album, Trebuchet, he placed a golden ticket in the sleeve of one copy that went into regular distribution. On the ticket was Hrab’s phone number and a promise to come and play a gig for free at the venue of the recipient’s choice. When the call came, it was from a guy in Helsinki.

Upon Hrab’s mentioning this on his podcast, I suggested to my fellow board members of the Swedish Skeptics that we might make the trip worthwhile for the man and organise some Swedish gigs. Everybody liked the idea, and Hrab was happy to oblige. Then the Norwegian Skeptics got in touch and asked to get in on our scheme. And so, we’re hosting the Golden Ticket Tour!

Check out the live footage from Hrab’s Dublin gig on Sat 12 February!

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Amnesia Was Her Name

Junior, who is a digital native and knows way more about current net fads than I do, turned me on to the multi-talented Neil Cicierega and his band Lemon Demon. Excellent synth pop that should hit the sweet spot of any Apples in Stereo fan. I know it hit mine!

Here are the beautifully clever and happy-sad lyrics to the Lemon Demon tune “Amnesia Was Her Name” that has been playing in my head lately. It’s from the 2008 album View Monster.

Amnesia was her name

By Neil Cicierega

Amnesia was her name, she had beautiful eyes
And every word she said, it was a little surprise

Can’t remember when I realized I was in love
Can’t remember who it was I was thinking of
Oh my god
Oh my god

The doctor said that I had tomato loss (all right)
Dr. Amnesia was her name, she had beautiful eyes
We had spaghetti with long term memory sauce (all right)
And every word she said, it was a little surprise

Can’t remember how she smiled when she said my name
What’s my name?
Can’t remember ’cause my heart jumped and hit my brain
C’est l’amour, et blessures

I guess she didn’t know how treat me right
Because I can’t recall where I slept that night
I can’t recall that special way
She told me, each and every day, her name
I can’t recall the fact that I always said I loved her back
The same way, every time the same

The doctor said that I had beautiful eyes (all right)
Amnesia was her name, she had memory loss (no, wait…)
And every word I said, it was a little surprising (all right)
And every word she said didn’t make it across

Can’t remember when we walked past the O.R. Sign
Can’t remember passing out with her hand in mine
I remember waking up with my mind repaired
I remember when I realized she wasn’t there

Surrender to Your Darkest Dreams, Kids, in Church

Last night I attended Junior’s school concert in the church of St. Catherine in Stockholm. Here are some of the lyrics sung by the 13-14-year-olds in front of the altar.

Because the world is round it turns me on

Because the wind is high it blows my mind

“Because”, Lennon & McCartney


Night-time sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination
Silently the senses abandon their defenses

Slowly, gently night unfurls its splendor
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender
Turn your face away from the garish light of day
Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light
And listen to the music of the night

Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams
Purge your thoughts of the life you knew before
Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar
And you’ll live as you’ve never lived before

Softly, deftly, music shall caress you
Hear it, feel it secretly posses you
Open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind
in this darkness that you know you cannot find
The darkness of the music of the night

Let your mind start to journey through a strange new world
Leave all thoughts of the life you knew before
Let your soul take you where you long to be
Only then can you belong to me

Floating, folding, sweet intoxication
Touch me, trust me savor each sensation
Let the dream begin, let your darker side
give in to the power of the music that I write
The power of the music of the night

You alone can make my song take flight
Help me make the music of the night

Charles Hart, “The Music of the Night”, from The Phantom of the Opera

Welcome to the Church of Sweden!