Saturday, January 30, 2010

Music: "Die Young" by Blair

Immediately after Blair released the "Pluto EP" in 2007, critics were making comparisons to influential musicians like Liz Phair and Jenny Lewis. What these writers were unfortunately overlooking is everything that sets Blair apart from her predecessors. With her full-length debut, "Die Young," Blair has developed a sound that is familiar and friendly but with the signature style that made the "Pluto EP" so successful.

"Die Young" explores a wider variety of emotions than Blair's previous work. The album opens with "Rampage" which sounds just as aggressive as it's title implies. As the string arrangement in the beginning of the song builds up, it's pretty clear that something huge is about to happen.

"My Turn" combines a steady rhythm and some subtle orchestration with really excellent vocals. Subtlety is something that Blair has mastered in her songwriting. Whether it is with clever lyrics or smart compositional decisions, she doesn't hit her listeners over the head with answers. There were times during listening to "Die Young" that I was aware of how much I was loving it, but couldn't explain why. I had to do some digging, but would it really be as much fun if it was being spoon-fed to me?

I think that's why I find Blair to be different from the musicians she is so commonly compared to. Her music is fun, but thoughtful and smart. That's not to say Liz Phair and Jenny Lewis have never written fun songs, but Blair does it in a way that’s relatable. It never gets too heavy.

Other standout tracks on the album are "Murder", "Wolfboy" (previously heard on the "Pluto EP" but making a welcomed return), and album closer, "So That's It". Although I'm singling out individual songs, I want to make it perfectly clear that the whole album is worth listening to. If you are going to get any of it (which you should), get the whole thing!

I've been waiting for this album for a while now, and it's awesome to be able to say that it delivers in every way I hoped it would. You know how when you experience something that's so incredibly conceived, polished, and structured it blows you away and makes you want to be a better writer or artist or musician or whatever it is you love to do? Blair does that.

We asked Blair a few questions about the making of "Die Young" and her future plans.

"Die Young" was written over a long period of time in different locations. How do you think this affected your writing?

Half of the songs from Die Young were written over a span of 5 years. The other half were written within one month. Initially, I was writing songs without a real goal of completing a record. Yes, my ultimate goal was to create a solid piece of work, but, I didn't necessarily think about the art of a record. My goals were a bit more short termed: write another song. I recorded and re-recorded these songs many times over the years which allowed them to evolve. After I moved from New Orleans to California, it just sort of happened upon me that I had a group of songs and a vision of how they fit together. I got excited about that and wrote the rest of the record very quickly. The mountains, the ocean, and the seclusion I felt after moving to a new place, opened up a stream of creativity that I had never felt before.

How was recording "Die Young" different from recording the "Pluto EP"?

The "Pluto EP" was recorded after a year of hopping around the south due to Hurricane Katrina. I didn't have so much of a vision of a collection of songs as I did with "Die Young", as an urge to just record whatever songs I had at that moment. Katrina pressed the fact to me that nothing is certain and so I felt an urgency to put something out there. With "Die Young", I felt no urgency. Just the urge to create something that would be a collective statement of how I see the world.

Are there any bands or musicians that have had an influence on your songwriting?

I like the fringes of pop music. Nirvana taught me what a pop song is. At some point, I fell in love with John Frusciante's guitar playing. My mom was always playing Neil Young. I bought Beck's One Foot in the Grave and couldn't stop listening to it. I was obsessed with The Strokes for a bit. Doolittle is one of my favorite records. Arular by MIA changed me. The White Stripes inspire me. How did these magic music moments influence me? I have no idea. But they must have. If I knew, or tried to figure that out, I don't think I'd like my songs.

Is there anybody you would really like to collaborate with?

I'd like to record an EP with John Frusciante.

Are there any touring plans for 2010?

The touring plans are in the making. Late spring will entail a U.S. tour.

What are you looking forward to most going into the new decade?

I'm looking forward to traveling to play my music for people. I look forward to learning more about music and to hearing music that will change my life.

Have you seen, heard, or read anything that you would like to recommend to our readers (film, art, music, literature)?

I saw a great film, A Single Man by Tom Ford. I thought it was beautiful.

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