Sooo…what’s going on here, anyway?

I’ve been avoiding this question for quite a while, but in a nutshell: SoundCloud has changed a lot since I started this blog, and it’s grown increasingly difficult and time consuming to post other people’s music here, although that’s why I originally created Sirenstories.com.

As a new mom and aspiring novelist, I was missing my first love: music. So I started this blog to inspire myself to seek out new independent artists. And I think I did a pretty good job. There’s a LOT of great music posted on this site. My goal was to accept every song uploaded to the Sirenstories SoundCloud, find something I loved about it, and share.

The blog was a delightful diversion for me, as well as a way to give back. A way to discover new independent artists, amazing songs, and gorgeous composed music.

But now, because of the changes on SoundCloud, and in my own life, I’m officially moving on from the original Sirenstories.com format. From here, I’m not sure how the blog will evolve—but I don’t want to just let it go.

So hopefully sometime soon, I’ll start updating links, and continuing to connect with musicians and authors whose work I admire. But for today, here’s some work of my own. My first book trailer. Please click on the pic below to watch, and if you have a sec, let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you. I hope you enjoy this small peek into Cate and David’s world…

And until we meet again, I hope you take good care of each other, and work for what you want. You know what I’m talking about.

Love,

Mimi

Cate sitting w guitar on lake copy.jpg

The Tree

 

JC 2

A bleakness of mood that evokes Nick Drake.

Phrasing that raises the specter of Jeff Buckley.

British songwriter and photographer J.C. Wrightson’s stark songs are instantly ear catching. Deceptively simple on first listen, they are minimalist in nature, and grainy in texture, and it is there, in that bit of a blur, that you feel the rub: Wrightson’s songs are not as simple as they sound, not simply sad, not simply vulnerable. They are those things, but they are also something more. A finger crooking, not so much in invitation, but to indicate direction: it is here, look here, in the seam of the song. Listen to the words, and also, listen to the words that are missing.

Something existential this way comes, disguised as an emo neo folk song.

J.C. Wrightson’s brief Twitter bio mentions that he’s living in Stockholm, but that’s pretty much all I know about his personal life. I started this post months ago, and tonight Wrightson’s website is down, so I can’t include the bio that I’d made a note about, the one that I apparently thought was, “as romantic as they come.”

Hopefully I can find out more about J.C. Wrightson in the future and update this post, but I’ve already waited too long to get this song up. Here’s The Tree, recorded live in Carlisle, UK. After you listen to it, you may want to check out the music video below. Nothing is Forever had me holding my breath, waiting to see what would happen—and so much happens, and nothing happens. Beautiful, and heartbreaking, and like The Tree, the video for Nothing is Forever is deceptively simple, and a killer. 

 

French Trailer Music — To Defeat Them All

Jonathan Mayer

I knew if I said French, you wouldn’t be able to resist . . .

Born into a family of artists and musicians, French composer Jonathan Mayer studied violin as a child, then in high school moved on to electric guitar. But it was when he first heard the music of John Williams that Mayer discovered his passion for film music. Movies like Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park inspired Mayer first, and only a few years ago, he discovered that he “could play an orchestra” by himself with soundbanks.

In our back and forth, Jonathan Mayer told me that originally, he composed for fan films—which made me think of authors who’ve honed their writing skills on fan fiction. Then he wrote music for companies who needed it for educational trailers. Now, he’s branching out into commercials and Android video games, and recently an agency in New York contacted him about using his music for TV.

Love this screen shot of To Defeat Them All

Screen Shot To Defeat Them All

We’re quite lucky to have caught Jonathan Mayer at this stage. He ended our last email conversation by saying,

“Here i am now, very busy, but that’s what i looked for.”

Then he apologized for his English, but I found it charming.

Mayer was generous enough to contribute several pieces to the Sirenstories SoundCloud and he sent me a couple of tracks privately, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time listening to his music. Epic, mysterious, bold, moving—it’s all deep and dramatic. In other words, excellent writing music.

SInce it was so hard to decide what to post, I’m adding one more of Mayer’s pieces for your listening pleasure—the name alone made me love it: Biocode.

Those who speak geek might like to know that on Biocode, Mayer uses Spectrasonics omnisphere, Projectsam orchestral brass, EWQL stormdrum 2, symphobia 2 and cinematic strings.

I’m a musician and all but—yikes.

 

Jonathan Mayer

Musicians and composers, please connect with Jonathan Mayer on his facebook page.

Thank you.

 

The Commuters

COMMUTERS

As I Make My Way starts with a scratchy guitar riff that morphs into a burst of late Beatlesque sound then moves into a groove that for some reason, although it’s slower, makes me thing of Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend. Maybe it’s not the rhythm, maybe it’s the lo-fi production, (which I love), or that rough around the edges guitar part, but I swear, there’s a little bit of Sweet’s megahit in there.

And then, As I Make My Way is nothing but The Commuters, with their very own pop/rock, anthemic sound. And even though it’s a band sound, the mix never gets crowded, never becomes a wall of music, and stays refreshingly lo-fi—that hint of Sweet’s Girlfriend, all grown up, and possibly holding a U2 CD in her hands—with vocals that are sometimes tough, sometimes tender, always honest. Grounded.

I’m seeing light from the other side of morning
Reflected light from the other side of day
I’m seeing light from the other side of morning
I’m seeing light, my mind is blown away

…My mind is blown away — away
I’ll figure it out as I make my way

I watch the world from the other side of owning
The things I’ve held, I’ve let them go away
I watch the world from the other side of owning
I watch the world, desires have slipped away

…Desires have slipped away — away
I’ll figure it out as I make my way

I’m on a journey, I’ve got my faith
I don’t have to worry about my fate
The planets align as the will dictates
I’m writing it out as I make my way

I walk through time with a different understanding
Embracing what I see along the way
I walk though time with a different understanding
I’ll figure it out, as I make my way

…as I make my way — my way
I’ll figure it out as I make my way

I’m on a journey, I’ve got my faith
I don’t have to worry about my fate
The planets align as the will dictates
I’m writing it out as I make my way…

Siren Zeeshan Zaidi, frontman and founder of The Commuters, was generous enough to share the story behind As I Make My Way.

“This song is about the vision I had all my life of becoming a professional musician and just going for it. I’d been in and around the music industry much of my life, but had put my own musical dreams on the back burner. One day I was deep in thought and said to myself: Some day I will die. And when that day comes I don’t want to look back on my life and kick myself for not doing what deep down inside I’ve always wanted to do. So the song is about that moment, and going for it, and not worrying too much about outcomes — about giving it your all and just trusting that things will work out as they are supposed to.

Ironically, even though this was the obvious first single, in the studio, this was one of the last songs to come together. It was lagging a bit behind the other songs and I wasn’t sure if it would even make the album. Then one day I said to Uri — let’s take a cue from the song itself and lay down some cool parts, starting with a great intro, without caring too much about how it turns out. Just let it go. So then I came up with the two guitar parts you hear in the intro and put them down, and Uri was messing around with a keyboard and came up with the really killer synth riff, as well as the scratchy sound at the beginning.
Felt a lot like magic.”

And sounds a lot like magic. So glad The Commuters got it down.

The Commuters are: Zeeshan Zaidi (Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Keyboards, Songwriter, Co-Producer), Uri Djemal (Guitar, Keyboards, Co-Producer), Ben Zwerin (Bass), and Paul Amorese (Drums). Their full 11 song album Rescue was mastered by White Stripes/Ryan Adams collaborator Fred Kevorkian and includes Take a Step Back, a gorgeous ballad that I’m particularly in love with. Rescue is available on bandcamp so you can easily choose the tracks you want, or get the entire album, which is what I recommend.

The music video for As I Make My Way is of the Day In A Life variety, but what makes it so interesting, besides the fact that it uses the band’s hometown of NYC as a backdrop, is that it shows Zeeshan Zaidi as the start of the day not as a musician, but as The Man In The Gray Flannel suit tech entrepreneur that he is in his ‘other’ life.

Using Music to Protest Mountain Removal

2:3 Goat

Stream of Conscience from the New York City based band 2/3 Goat (pronounced: Two-Thirds Goat) is more than just a great bluegrass song with an edge, it’s a powerful protest song in the vein of the legendary Pete Seeger.

And that’s it. I don’t want to waste another second on words. You must listen to this track, and then please, spread the word.

Music has the power to change the world, and I hope the metrobilly of 2/3 Goat does exactly that.

Although I don’t often post video, I’m including the music video for Stream of Conscience here, because it’s amazing, and because it will show you what mountain top removal mining looks like, if you don’t already know. Plus, it gave me goosebumps. I’m happy that 2/3 Goat found Sirenstories, and proud to feature their music on the blog.

A few words about the video from 2/3 Goat:

“Protest footage (courtesy of Jordan Freeman) is from the March on Blair Mountain, a march to save historic Blair Mountain from being demolished by mountaintop removal. The 2 men on the sign: Sid Hatfield, sheriff of Matewan, WV, and his deputy Ed Chambers. The pro-unioners were shot and killed on the steps of the courthouse while awaiting trial. This led to the Battle of Blair Mtn (1921). 2/3 Goat is against the destruction of any Mountains. They are all part of our rich history and our livelihood.”

Stream of Conscience is the title track to the second album from 2/3 Goat, and was recorded entirely on vintage equipment. Get Stream of Conscience here.

Learn more about 2/3 Goat and earn yourself some karma points by liking their fb page, thank you!

Boy Meets Girl. Cities Burn.

Soundtracks can be a great source of inspiration for writers.

If you’re writing a scene today with a lot of conflict, check out Final Battle (The Gates of Kronos) by Peter Mor. Final Battle is a minute and a half of epic drama, perfect for book three of your paranormal trilogy, when good and evil go at it.

Dotted with hits of quirky synth sound that come in for the first time around the fifteen second mark, you can use Final Battle as the background music for your YA dystopian, too, or to help you get that sci-fi novel you’ve been thinking of out of your head and onto the page. Focus on the vigorous strings if your characters need to flee, or the sustained brass part if you’re writing your hero. The insistent, driving drums guarantee you’ll have a sweeping setting if you let your muse listen to Final Battle and allow her to have her way, although she might talk you into writing a historical novel, something you promised yourself you’d never do, because it’s just too much work.

Peter Mor was born in Volos, Greece, and comes from a musical family. He began classical guitar lessons at the conservatory at age seven, but his favorite instrument is the electric guitar. I’m pretty sure he loves movies, and Sirens. This pic was on his site.

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Solitude

S t r e t c h  . . . blink, blink.

Okay, I’m back. I think.

Sorry about the silence. As you may know Sirenstories.com is 1-year-old now, which means, I’ve basically reached my goal of posting a new indie artist every week.

The thing is, I’m a very goal oriented person, so . . . what? What does that mean for Sirenstories? I’m not sure. Maybe it means the posts will become irregular, something that, ahem, has already been happening. Or, it might mean posting simple recommendations of music I love, and not searching out new indie artists that are tougher to find, not posting pictures and links and short bios or their comments like I’ve often done this past year. I just don’t know.

One thing I do know, is that I’m very busy, like all of you. Too busy. Spending a little time this summer looking at the water and doing nothing is high on my to do list. It kind of sucks that DO NOTHING is even on a list though, right?

But since it is, just for today, (whoa, that sounds awfully familiar), I promise myself a few minutes of solitude. And in celebration of solitude, I offer you this song from Jade Lawhon

Sounds from the Tomb has popped into my head dozens of times since I first heard it, the day I posted this.

You may have missed this quirky, haunting, sexy song in the original post about Jade,  because it wasn’t the featured song. I’m glad to share it with you again, it’s been in my head, and deserves to be in yours.

See you next week. Maybe. See you soon. Definitely. Now go look at the water. Go.

The Muse Enjoys the F Word

Lover I Don’t is a trip hoppy lounge song from Jade Lawhon.  Along with the song, she left a phrase that’s an extension of the title and basically explains what it’s about: Lover I don’t have to love.

Jade Lawhon uploaded Lover I Don’t to the Sirenstories SoundCloud a while ago, but I didn’t post it because the song has the word ‘fuck’ in it. I’m not sure why I wanted to keep Sirenstories G rated, probably because my son is 6 and he listens to the songs.

But I like Lover I Don’t, so I want to share it. And I love the word ‘fuck’. It’s . . . special. Right?

At one point, I taught music at a school that was kind of the last stop in New Jersey for kids who would otherwise be on their way to jail. They used the word fuck a LOT, where I, as a teacher, had to curtail my use of it. As a parent, it’s the same of course, but as a musician and a writer, as a person, I’ve always used the word. I told my students, ‘fuck’ is a super powerful word, so sure, use it, but use it when you need it. If you throw it around like it’s a light weight word, it’s going to lose it’s punch, and then when you need to make a strong point, and you reach for the word ‘fuck’ and it means nothing, you might feel like you need to go to the next step to express yourself. You might resort to violence. In fact, that’s what a lot of these kids had done. I loved them, and they were fascinating people, but in addition to the classrooms, each floor of that school had a padded room. Tall, burly guys stood watch at the ends of the main hallways. All day.

Anyway, as many of you know, I’m writing a YA trilogy. As I revise Book I, I’ve been working with the gifted editor Emma Dryden. Emma suggested that there was a scene missing towards the end of the book, between the main character and her sister. She was right, and when I wrote the scene recently, it was amazing to see what came out of the sister’s mouth. In trying to write for teens, I’d purposely tried to keep the language clean, as if it was my responsibility or something. Also, I think that although plenty of people use the word ‘fuck’, there are lots of folks who don’t, and I thought I wanted my books to have the widest readership possible. I don’t think edgy language will help that happen, but my main character’s sister? She needs the word ‘fuck’. And the only real responsibility I have as a writer, is to be truthful. Not factual—the trilogy is fiction—but truthful. So for now, fuck stays in the story.

Jade Lawhon is from Orlando. Lover I Don’t features the beats of Eric Miller. Click on the image below to watch a music video by Ben Sasso for Jade Lawhon‘s song Sounds from the Tomb, it’s adorable, and wonderfully eerie. I fucking love it.

In the Head of John Peel

And in the head of Modal Roberts. And in my head. That’s where you’re going. But could that be any weirder than the trip In the Head of John Peel just sent me on? I think not.

When people submit to Sirenstories I listen to their songs and read the notes/lyrics they leave for me. Or not. Some artists don’t seem to understand that I want to write about them, and they leave me nothing but the tune.

But whether or not they leave me a message or few autobiographical facts or links or lyrics I often go poking around online to learn more about them.

In the case of In the Head of John Peel it wasn’t artist Modal Roberts I wanted to learn more about, but the subject of his song, John Peel.

I’m not saying that Modal Roberts doesn’t interest me, because he does. See?

The alternative blues sound of In the Head of John Peel made me think immediately of guitar god singer songwriter Chris Whitley. There’s a certain rawness, something visceral that the two artists share and In the Head of John Peel definitely has that Delta blues flavor that Chris’ music has.

That may be where the similarities end. The more I listened to In the Head of John Peel the more hilarious I found the song, it’s much funnier than any song Chris wrote, any song that I know of at least. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

But okay. The trip I took. I listened to In the Head of John Peel twice and I was like, huh? I’d heard of John Peel but as a sort of DJ legend, I didn’t really know any details about him, so I Googled him.

There’s a ton out there about John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, (August 30th, 1939 – October 25th, 2004), known professionally as John Peel. Wikipedia even has a sample of what they call his “seismographic handwriting style”.

Of the myriad of bizarre facts Wikipedia had to offer about the English disc jockey, radio presenter and journalist who broadcasted regularly from 1967 until his death in 2004, I thought the strangest was that following Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, he passed himself off as a reporter for the Liverpool Echo in order to attend the arraignment of Lee Harvey Oswald and he and a friend can be seen in the footage of the November 22/23 midnight press conference at Dallas Police Department when Lee Harvey Oswald was paraded before the media. He later phoned in the story to the Liverpool Echo.

John Peel showcased new acts that later achieved great fame on his show, and he was one of the first broadcasters to play psychedelic rock and progressive rock records on British radio. He was widely known for promoting the music of  various styles, including pop, reggae, indie rock, alternative rock, punk, hardcore punk, grindcore, death metal, British hip hop, and dance music.

Here’s the thing:

His favourite single is widely known to have been the 1978 song Teenage Kicks by The Undertones. In an interview in 2001, he stated “There’s nothing you could add to it or subtract from it that would improve it.”

But Modal Roberts doesn’t really believe John Peel, and that is what In the Head of John Peel is about.

Did John Peel really dig the tune as much as he said he did?

The opening guitar chords of Teenage Kicks remind me of Blondie’s One Way or Another which was released the same year. You’ve probably heard Teenage Kicks, Wait—no? Well here you go. It was almost impossible to decide which version of the song to post, but in the end I fell for this one:

Are teenage dreams so hard to beat
Every time she walks down the street
Another girl in the neighbourhood
Wish she was mine, she looks so good

I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night

I’m gonna call her on the telephone
Have her over ’cause I’m all alone
I need excitement oh I need it bad
And it’s the best, I’ve ever had

I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night

I wanna hold her wanna hold her tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night

So. Is this the perfect song?

It was almost as difficult to decide which picture of Modal Roberts I should post. Click on the pic above and you’ll wind up at his website where you can check out some other photos of him. Or maybe if you’re lucky you’ll catch him at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Modal is performing at Paradise in the Vault August 6th—14th.

I’d love to see Modal Roberts live, but until I do he will be forever linked in my mind with John Peel and The Undertones, Chris Whitley and maybe even JFK. The fact that In the Head of John Peel made me think even for a minute of Chris Whitley,  whose music I hold above all others, is high praise.

And yes Modal, I did follow the links down the rabbit hole and ended up at the John Peel narrated JFK video. I’m pretty sure that will make you laugh.

Back to Book Trailers, The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister

My favorite things: music, books, movies. The order varies, but the list explains why I love book trailers.

The trailer for Charlotte Agell‘s middle grade novel The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister is one the best I’ve seen.

One of the things that’s so wonderful about this trailer is how true to the book it is. The trailer captures the essence of The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister. In this case, I read the book first then saw the trailer. My review of the book is below.

India is one of my favorite characters in Middle Grade fiction today. She’s even got her own blog, which is adorable and much more organized than mine. Of course India’s creativity might have something to do with her multitalented creator Charlotte Agell who probably gives India a hand once in a while. Click on India’s pic to visit to her blog.

The Siren behind the music for India’s book trailer is Charlotte’s son, Jon Simmons. The music is perfect; it expresses both India’s sweetness and her quirkiness.

Jon is also part of a pop/rock band based in Boston called The Crosswalk Kings. Look for a post about his music soon on Sirenstories

 

I finished reading The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister on the beach. The pages have a little sand in between them now, and I think that would make India happy.

India loves the outdoors, and author Charlotte Agell has included some beautiful descriptions of inland Maine in this entertaining and moving story about a sweet-natured nine and a half-year old girl who takes her fairly complicated life pretty much in stride. In a world full of little drama queens, I found India’s attitude refreshing.

Besides being an excellent and economical writer, Charlotte Agell is a gifted painter. An adorable watercolor portrait of India and the family pet bird, Beatrice Strawberry graces the cover of the book. I’d like to see Ms. Agell put out a version of India with full-blown watercolors of all the characters and their homes. I want to see paintings of things like “the lilac bush hidden in the fog” that India sees when she can’t sleep early one morning and steps outside to sit on her front porch swing.

Wolfgang, Maine, where the book takes place, is a front porch kind of town and by the time I’d finished the book I wanted to go there. Although there are no watercolors other than the front and back cover and jacket flaps–they feature more great pictures of India with the bird and her dog Tofu, the jacket designers obviously knew a good thing when they saw it–the book is full of sketches: clever drawings of India and things she likes, plus–just as important–things she doesn’t like. The sketches are accompanied by comments that made me laugh out loud.

India has a unique voice. Her backstory is rich. The settings are beautifully rendered. The book is colorful in every sense of the word, as is India’s slightly wacky artist mother.

India was adopted, and we learn she has questions and issues around that, but the book isn’t a big drama. Instead, The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister is a story, told by showing us small wondrous details in what seems like a very real little girl’s life.

I found myself wondering what will happen in India’s future, especially as far as she and her best friend, a boy named Colby, are concerned. Snowstorms in June, whale songs, yearning, and insightful comments fill this book that begs to be part of a series. A sequel won’t enough for those of us who have fallen in love with India McAllister.

I checked out this book as a possible gift for my niece who is India’s age. Unlike India, she’s not an avid reader. I’m pretty sure this perfect book of adventures will change that. I couldn’t put it down myself. It’s sweet and funny, and the way India’s small but complicated family comes together in the end left me with a lump in my throat and a smile on my face.

Confession: I’m a huge fan of Charlotte Agell‘s work. Her picture books are among my favorites, and my son, who is five, feels the same. The paintings that illustrate her books are so beautiful, I’ve been tempted to tear out certain pages and frame them.

My son and I love Charlotte’s book To The Island so much, that I used the text, with only a few alterations, as the lyrics for a song. Below is the super rough version I recorded on my laptop, at home, with my son.

I hope to go into the studio one day and do a better recording, but for now, I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed singing it. The words are so simple, but to me, they’re a metaphor for some of life’s more profound passages.