Sunday, December 25, 2005

Maw! We got visitors!

My server gifted me with hosting for the holidays, so I have some long overdue Giftmas presents to give out. Enjoy!
spiffy special: Vanilla Ninja
A very special guest returns today at th' Hut: Elisabeth Vincentelli is a former music editor and current senior editor at Time Out NY. Today, she joins us to drop some tracks and tell us a bit more about Estonian girl group Vanilla Ninja. Elisabeth and I share a taste for trashy Euro-pop; my hope is to hang out with her and her girlfriend shortly and share that love by gettin' down to some cheesy PS2 Dance Dance Revolution Megamix tracks. I miss the thrill!
Yes, I am a mega-dork.
Make her feel welcome and leave some commentary, n'est-ce pas?

While Sweden and Norway regularly produce extraordinarily inventive music in a wide range of genres, it looks as if the Baltic countries are turning into dangerous competitors. Typically, two of my current favorites hail from Estonia: the black-metal combo Loits (signed to the excellent Lithuanian label Ledo Takas) and the pop-rock girl band Vanilla Ninja. Let’s save Loits for another, darker time, and focus on Vanilla Ninja, which represented Switzerland at the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev despite having zero connection to that country—well, their producer David Brandes works in Germany but was born in Basel, so maybe that’s all it takes to carry the Swiss flag.

Cynics may call Piret Järvis, Lenna Kuurmaa, Katrin Siska and Triinu Kivilaan guns for hire, but I still rooted for them at the contest. First of all, they wore all-white outfits and still didn’t look like dorks. Second, singer-guitarist Lenna professes to like nu metal and has appeared in an Estonian version of The Sound of Music—an unholy combination that actually sheds light on Vanilla Ninja’s mix of operatic overproduction and melodic chops. (I should specify “current mix” since the band used to be a lot more poppier, as examplified on “Inner Radio,” off Vanilla Ninja’s self-titled debut. The group’s turn toward rock grandiosity may have a little something to do with the departure of original member Maarja Kivi, who was replaced by Triinu.)

Vanilla Ninja - "Inner Radio"

The Ninjas’ Eurovision song, “Cool Vibes,” is among the strongest tracks on their third and most recent album, Blue Tattoo. Its coauthors, Brandes and John O’Flynn (a.k.a. Bernd Meinunger, a successful German music hack), also cowrote Germany’s Eurovision entry, Gracia’s awful “Run and Hide,” a detail that somehow adds to the inexplicable mystique surrounding “Cool Vibes.”

Vanilla Ninja - "Cool Vibes"

Everything about that song is dead perfect: the way it waxes and wanes, the way Lenna’s voice slightly breaks at crucial moments, the way the choir goes in and out, the way it all sounds like a particularly over the top Jeff Lynne concoction. I especially love that after literally dozens of listens I still have no idea what it’s all about. The first couple of times I heard it, for instance, I thought Lenna was singing “I can see the danger eyes in your eyes,” which felt poetically dumb in an English-as-a-second-language Eurovision way. But then I realized she actually says “I can the danger rise in your eyes,” which fits the song’s mood of vague despair. I read somewhere that it’s supposedly about a wolf, but I don’t think even Estonians would call a wolf “Cool Vibes.” Unless it’s a metaphorical wolf and the song’s about death by pop music. Damn, I knew I should have stuck with Arcade Fire.

Because Vanilla Ninja does particularly well in Germany, land of the power ballad, it seems like half of its latest songs fall in that category. The best example is “The Coldest Night,” in which lyrics such as “Rain of ice was fallin’/From the black clouds in her eyes” indicate that all is not sunny out there in Tallinn. Or maybe it’s about a wolf. Awesome!

Vanilla Ninja - "The Coldest Night"

Buy 'Blue Tattoo' from Amazon at ridiculously jacked up import prices.
Or, you know, look elsewhere.

Visit the official Vanilla Ninja website.

Explore the Eurovision website.

Read this brief interview with VN.

spiffy special: Too $hort
A very special guest returns today at th' Hut: Anthony Miccio. Internet wag and pen-for-hire, Miccio also runs Anthony is Right, where he dispenses choice bon mots and variegated wisdom on matters musical and otherwise. Anthony has long been th' Hut's connection for all things big and glistening that might otherwise escape our more rockist readers earholes; today he tries something a bit less radio-friendly.
Make him feel welcome and leave some commentary, ya heard?

Too Short - "She Loves Her"

One could be forgiven for believing that Too $hort, author of "Invasion Of The Flat Booty Bitches," "She's A Bitch," "The Bitch Sucks Dick," "Punk Bitch," "Can I Get A Bitch," "Take My Bitch," and "Bitch Bitch Bitch Make Me Rich," is an insufferable misogynist, extreme even for a hardcore rapper. So it's surprising that his 14th album, 2002's 'What's My Favorite Word?', finds him writing about a lesbian encounter in the second person ("You look in the mirror, and see your own reflection/ Face in her thighs, with no long erection"). While the track's success as erotic art is questionable, its refreshing to hear him describe sapphic self-discovery with such sympathy ("juices flowin like a stream/ with no man in between/ feels like a dream"). His fascination with lesbianism has precedent (i.e. 2000's "2 Bitches" - "After seein this shit, I ain't wanna fuck/ I wanna see how long they can keep goin/ I don't know, I fell asleep on 'em/ When I woke up I was getting my dick sucked"), but "She Loves Her" reduces his presence to mere narrator, an unexpectedly ego-free progression.

Don't get the wrong idea, though - his latest album has a track called "Hobo Hoeing."

Buy 'What's My Favorite Word?' from Amazon.

Visit Too $hort World, the man's official site.

Read this long $hort interview from the MurderDog archives.

"Life too short, girl?"


In the mood to rough it?

Have I already written about how glad I am that I'm on monkeywire? Without it, I would never have learned about Stalin's Monkey-Man Soldier program and my life would've been that much less rich.

Six months later and I still enjoy the occasional game of peekaboom. This visual $25,000 Pyramid may be my favorite game on the web this year.

Fun with fraternity hats.

This immense Maude Flanders in heaven fanfic site makes me kind of glad that I can't read German. Or else deeply sad that I can't. Not sure.

File under mysterious: Tofu vs. Fork didn’t really do it for me.

For about two months I kept up this pic of Celine Dion eating a baby on my work computer, from this amazing Celine Wallpaper site until my co-workers forcibly made me change it. Some days I miss it more than others.

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