Acapella Elvis

Acapella Elvis

 

All hail the king!

Okay, I’ve been a huge fan of Elvis Presley since childhood. And while I love so many of his songs, my all time favorite has to be Can’t Help Falling In Love.

One of my favorite new music groups is Pentatonics.

And when the two came together about a week ago…♥

So tell me, what classic song would you like to have redone by what new musician or group? Let me know in the comments down below.

My Inner Deborah Harry

My Inner Deborah Harry

Every now and then, a song will get stuck in my head and I just can’t shake it. Sometimes, it’s a song I hate–or perhaps that’s too strong. Let’s say it’s a song I don’t really connect with.More often than not, it will be music that ends up on my writing soundtracks. Yes, I make Spotify playlists that I refer to as the soundtracks of my novels.

Lately two songs keep popping up in my mind: “Heart of Glass”  and “Dreaming” by Blondie. Both songs keep popping up on my writing playlists and I find myself singing them in the shower at least 3-4 times a week. I’m sure my neighbours are sick of hearing me caterwauling these tunes. 🙂

When I was younger, I loved Deborah Harry. She was everything I knew I was not: cool, sexy, quirky and thoroughly her own person. Though I looked nothing like her, I tried to channel some of her “I don’t care” vibe whenever I was feeling particularly nerdy in a bad way.  I guess it was only natural–I had pretty strict parents who were always trying to make me look “presentable”. We were like the Cosby kids in my neighborhood in Philly. We always had to put on our best faces and pretend we were perfect. And we did a good job of it because everyone thought we were the perfect kids: always so polite, always so well-spoken and well-dressed (meaning boringly dressed). It’s why I always took an extra set of clothes with me to school to change in so I could be the real me, or at least the me I wanted to be. And that was when I channeled my inner Deborah Harry. I may not have been as cool as she was, but I could tell myself I was.

I think a lot of us who grew up in the late 70s and 1980s wanted to be her or at least have a little of her aloofness, coolness. Even when she was at her worst, she was still iconic. And when she made a comeback a few years ago, it just made me love her even more.

I am forty-something and I still love Deborah Harry Blondie. I think a bit of her ends up in all the characters I write.

In the novella I am working on, “Heart of Glass” is pretty much the theme for at least part of the story. I think Håkan and Jessica both have hearts of glass, though he’s probably a little more vulnerable than she is. He’s the one wearing his heart on his sleeve. And yeah, “Dreaming” is a pretty big part of the story too. So, even if the story is set in Stockholm and Sardinia, there’s a little nostalgia creeping in and Deborah Harry is there somewhere. 🙂

What about you? What song’s stuck in your head now?

 

Accentuating the Postive

Accentuating the Postive

What is it about early popular music that has such an effect on us to this day? There’s a simplicity there, yet it’s matched with so much musicality. Lyrics are to the point, melody is often jaunty and lively. They are meant to make us smile, shuffle our feet and snap our fingers. Jazz, big band and American standards are about celebrating life and “the little things”. That’s why we still dream of a white Christmas in the winter months, dance in the streets in the summer and croon “At Last” when we find true love.

 

 

The sense of wonderment that is so strong in those songs is much harder to find in popular music today. There’s a sense of hope and a feeling of brightness in the music of yesterday that we turn to over and over again. That’s precisely why Pippa, the heroine of my upcoming new release, as someone whose career is in fashion, takes her cue from the line, and song title, “Accentuate the Positive.”

When Accentuate the Positive was first released in 1944, things were a little different. A song inspired by a religious sermon, its lyrics convey the message that a bit of good cheer goes a long way in improving quality of life. It became a hit because it was such an inspiring message with a catchy sound. It was a time in American history when we needed to hear it and we were looking for a path to a sunnier outlook. The opening verse asserts:

 

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between”

 

The straightforward message, delivered with charming directness and exactitude, is that there is no need to let life drag you down when there’s a lot of good out there to take hold of. Furthermore, it suggests that complexity is gratuitous and unnecessary and muddling about in gray areas is not beneficial in uplifting the mood. It definitely sounds a little reductive by today’s standards. Its upbeat theme works much better in modern time when applied specifically. Which brings me to Pippa!

 

 

 

Pippa’s career has been built around the idea that, when it comes to clothing, fashion and outward appearance, women always can, and should, Accentuate the Positive. Unlike the broad concept that drives the song, Pippa’s motto connotes an understanding that contemporary style should cultivate positivity, when there are a lot of ways the realities of modern life can be a little harsh. In the first part of the 20th century, Americans relied on music and some aspects of popular culture to brighten their darker days. In 2017, we may be slightly more able to accept the ambiguities of life “Messing with Mister In-Between” as it were, but we also have more opportunities to look on the bright side as well. How we dress is one of those ways.

 

While the simple times of yesteryear were more of a one size fits all, in terms of what we wore, but on a larger scale as well, Pippa rejects that idea in her work: self-expression and self-confidence are her dictums. Accentuate the Positive in today’s world means knowing yourself. Knowing what makes you feel good and what brings you the most joy as your unique self, celebrating your individuality and distinctiveness. One line in particular we find in the song has a very direct tone:


“Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene”

 

The idea is that staying optimistic brings about a sense that we have the ability to take charge in our lives. While still certainly applicable, we are more likely to forgive ourselves the odd mood swing or rough day, not because we’ve entirely lost that sense of hope, but because we know that it’s all a part of “being who you are.” And really, a well-fitting skirt or fabulous pair of shoes can be a very useful reminder of that.

 

Which Love Song do you LOVE?

Which Love Song do you LOVE?

In the interest of Valentine’s Day, we’re talking love songs. Do you have a favorite?

I was thinking about it, and there are so many love songs that I, well, love, but I can’t think of one that I love most.

But here are a few that are on my playlist today:

Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”

 

Josh Groban’s version of “Falling Slowly”

 

Adele’s version of “Make You Feel My Love”

 

Foo Fighters “Everlong”

 

Train “Marry Me” (since my book of the same name is out today!)

 

And, for people who really aren’t feeling the love today, or who hate this holiday, I have one for you too:

J. Geils Band “Love Stinks”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

xoxo,

Oh Radio

Oh Radio

It suddenly occurred to me that I hardly ever listen to the radio anymore. I used to love listening to the radio. When I first moved to Sweden back in the mid-90s, there weren’t so many commercials on TV or radio stations. It was bliss. You could listen to close to an hour of music without interruption. There’d be one long commercial break so you had time to go to the bathroom, take a ciggy break if you smoked, or make more coffee and fix a sandwich. And in the early days when I couldn’t speak or understand Swedish, Sveriges Radio (their version of NPR) broadcast news from the US in English twice a day and even rebroadcast some programs from NPR.

Then something happened a few years later. Many Swedish radio stations started doing that annoying thing of squeezing in commercials between every 3-4 songs. Often the difference in volume was so high it felt like, during the commercial breaks, your radio was jumping up and down on your shelf or tabletop.

It also began to feel like every single station was playing the same music–and I didn’t like any of it. I eventually stopped listening to the radio. Instead, I listened to my collection of CDs and stopped worrying about new music. Sometimes I’d watch ZTV or MTV Europe to see if there was anything worth checking out. Occasionally something would jump out at me like Mando Diao, Saybia and Mew. But mostly I ended up listening to the same music I’d liked when I still lived in the US.

 

It went on like this for a while.  I found some online radio stations I could listen to, which was great. I found more new music to listen to–and not so many damned commercials. Can you tell I don’t like commercials very much?  Nowadays, I subscribe to different bands’ YouTube channels (like Mew, Lianne La Havas, Robyn, etc). But even with signing in, I can’t always escape the commercials. Some you can skip after a few seconds, others refuse to be skipped.

Lately, I’ve been listening to Chance the Rapper. I don’t know how it happened. Maybe it was seeing him on SNL that did it. I liked his performance of “Same Drugs” and now I’ve been listening to it a lot on Spotify. I have the feeling I’ll be listening to a lot more music and watching TV less. There’s a certain orange man I hate seeing on my TV screen, so Spotify and YouTube will be my saviours the next 4 years.

So now I wonder…everything changes so quickly these days, how will I discover new music in the future? And when will I ever listen to the radio again?

Music To Make My Brain Work

Music To Make My Brain Work

I’m often asked if I listen to music when I write. And the answer is a definitive YES! But what kind of music I listen to varies by the task I have in front of me.

Editing, for example, can ben done while I listen to music with words. I have several stations programmed on Pandora like Maroon 5, or the Imagine Dragons. Even the Doobie Brothers. I don’t mind the familiar music while I’m tweaking and perfecting.

If I’m creating, I need something that’s purely instrumental. Again, Pandora has several options for me. Cello Concertos, Piano Sonatas, or my current favorite, a station named Requiem for a Dream (I found the last extremely helpful when writing a battle scene).

But for those days when I really have to crunch the the words, I log into my Brain.fm account, opt for the Focus section and really go to town. The Binaural tones truly blocks all other noise out and lets me write up a storm (today’s word count in about 2.5 hours was 3200. It really works). Check it out when you have a chance. I’ve even used the sleep option on those nights when I can’t seem to shut my brain off.

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Auralgasm

Auralgasm

by Xio Axelrod

Hey again! The last time we spoke, I was at the tail end of a period filled with travel. Yep, I saw more airports bathrooms in 2016 than I ever want to see again. *ahem*

T’is the season for hanging out with good friends, eating good food, and listening to good music. Okay, so, not all holiday songs are kind to the ears, but there are a few gems out there.

carolers

One of my favourites is O Holy Night. I’ve heard, literally, dozens of versions of the classic hymn, but none have struck me as deeply as this haunting rendition by Nils Bech. The string arrangemet is gorgeous on its own. Add Nils’ ethereal falsetto on top, and it produces and auralgasm. Check it out!

No, your ears aren’t deceiving you. It wasn’t in English, but you already know the words. Right? At least the chorus, lol. Amazing, isn’t it? I hope you enjoyed it.

Wishing you and yours a lovely holiday season!

xio sig1

Confessions of a Creep

I like music, really I do, but it’s not something I need around me all the time. In fact, being a little noise intolerant it can get on my nerves if it plays constantly in the background. Which doesn’t mean I don’t have a have a perfectly curated playlist that inspires me, motivates me and informs my writing style and character development. I wouldn’t envy anyone trying to figure me out on the basis of this soundtrack, it’s eclectic to say the least, from Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” to to the Sugar Babes “Too Lost in You”,  rubbing shoulders with Depeche Mode to JJ Cale. My oldest daughter calls my playlist “lyrical angst”, she may be onto something.

One song on my playlist is an upbeat little number you may be familiar with – Creep, by Radiohead. I am not particularly Radiohead fan, but I appreciate the sentiment of that era. (Lyrical angst at its finest). Grunge rock was all about not fitting in, not falling in line, floating in some kind of undefined space where you were unreachable to many others, but at the same time, being pretty much OK with that. It’s a fascinating perspective on life because it’s an impossible one to fake. In the 60’s you could become a flower child by growing out your hair and acquiring a suede vest, in the 80’s the right clothes and car could get you most places where you wanted to be – but disenchantment and alienation are hard to feign. A song like Creep is a prime example of that. While in decades past recording artists may have been singing about their unrequited love for a boy or girl or laying out their seduction plans, or how to carry out a particular dance move, these songs are about the tense relationship we have with ourselves. Creep shows you a way to meet up with your insecurities and fears, albeit in a dimly lit, shabby room, and shake hands with them, maybe hang out if everyone’s schedule is open for a bit.

If you aren’t familiar with the song, here’s the YouTube clip. Really listen to the lyrics and then tell me some little part of you doesn’t relate to this.

 

 

 

These words reflect a common misconception many of us labor under, that other people have things figured out and their life is pleasant, fun, effortless. Meanwhile, we view ourselves as inherently lacking in the ability to tap into that life, as if we are inhabitants of an entirely different world. The lyric “what the hell am I doing here” always strikes me as extremely poignant. Where else would he be? In what scenario would he feel like he “belonged’? If we ask these questions either in the context of the song, or to ourselves, we would get some very thought-provoking answers.

But truthfully, we’ve all felt this way at some point in our lives. We look at something from the outside and determine it’s somehow better, superior to, above us. We’ve all felt like that creep who feels utterly out of place among those he admires. What’s amazing is that the listener is made to feel special by that song, by being understood and accepted. I want my readers to have that same experience, to recognize themselves in my book and to make that emotional connection. The real, raw nature of grunge let a generation of young people truly be themselves, warts and all. The legacy of that genre, and a song like Creep, is that we are all a little more interested in meeting those warty parts of ourselves, and seeing them in others. I am a very big advocate of that, and I hope that readers relate to my characters, see themselves in the pages of my books, and they all enjoy hanging out together for a little while.

 

sarahsig

Duran Duran, I Love You

Duran Duran, I Love You

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 07.21.41Yesterday was Duran Duran Appreciation Day and somehow I missed it. I am not sure how this happened. I was a teenager way back in the 1980s. Yes, I am showing my age and that’s okay. I still remember the first time I heard a Duran Duran song–it was “Hungry Like the Wolf” and we’d only just got MTV at my parents’ house in West Philly, but I hadn’t seen the video yet. My dad was the keeper of the remote control and he wasn’t interested in music videos. No, I *heard* “Hungry Like the Wolf” on the radio. I can’t remember the name of the station–maybe it was Hot Hits WCAU FM? I just remember experiencing insta-love with the song and trying to figure out when I could buy the album even though I’d only heard that one song.

Well, once I actually saw the video I was hooked. I know I wasn’t alone. I think every girl in school was gung-ho for Duran Duran, and we all had our favourite band member. I was partial to both Simon Le Bon and John Taylor. 🙂 How many of my teenage dreams were fuelled by “Hungry Like the Wolf”? Probably too many.

At some point I remember going to Plastic Fantastic, the record store that used to be located on 40th Street in University City, and buying my coveted copies of Rio and Duran Duran. I was such a Durannie that I bought them on vinyl *and* cassette (which was perfect since I could listen to them on my Walkman). Later that summer, I bought the Duran Duran video album. I think it probably corrupted me. 😉

My parents shipped me to Virginia for the summer and Duran Duran came with me. I converted a couple of my cousins to Durannies, listened to “Save a Prayer”, “Hold Back the Rain” and “New Religion” non-stop, screamed along to “Planet Earth” while in the shower and generally drove my grandparents insane. In between reading books I probably shouldn’t have been reading at the time (it’s what happens when you find your aunt’s copy of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying), I was trying to write my own short stories and singing along to Duran Duran. It was the soundtrack of my summer.

Of course, I wasn’t *just* listening to Duran Duran. Around the same time, I ‘d discovered WKDU, Drexel University’s radio station and they’d introduced me to the Psychedelic Furs, Black Flag, the Sex Pistols, Kraftwerk, Joy Division, the Cure and Echo & the Bunnymen. Somehow, I managed to get my friends on Spring Garden Street to listen to some of the same music I was only just finding out about. In between listening to LL Cool J, Run DMC and Schoolly D, we were also digging Duran Duran and the other new bands from Europe that college radio was introducing me to.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s. I was in Richmond, Virginia working on my master’s degree and suddenly, after a few years of somehow not listening to Duran Duran, I heard Simon Le Bon’s voice singing “Ordinary World”. It was the first song from the new period of Duran Duran that I loved since “Land” and “I Don’t Want Your Love” from Big Thing.

I was working on my thesis and babysitting, trying to earn a few extra bucks since my assistantship was definitely not helping me make ends meet. I loved “Ordinary World” from the moment I first heard it. It ended up being the soundtrack for my thesis. I am pretty certain that at least two of the short stories in my thesis were inspired by the video, if not the song.

Now fast forward again and Duran Duran are still making music that creeps into my life and gets stuck in my head–and yes, I love it. “Come Undone” inevitably ends up on playlists for my new writing projects, as does “Pressure Off”. Their music is still inspiring me as I write and I still adore them.

How do they do it? They keep reinventing themselves and staying relevant. They never do the cheesy “80s Night” tours or cruises that some other bands have had to do. Whatever magical elixir they’ve found, I am willing to drink it down as long as they keep making music that ignites within me and keeps me feeling inspired, carefree and bedazzled.

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My Signature for the Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Affair With Fall Out Boy

Last fall, I was taking a walk through the neighborhood. I had my Imagine Dragons station on Pandora, the weather was a cool 68 degrees. Pretty much a perfect day. I’d even chosen a alternate route for the day; I turned right out of my drive, instead of left. Maybe that’s what made the difference. Usually, when I walk with music, I don’t pay as much attention to the words as I do to the cadence. But that day. I heard the words of “Centuries” by Fall Out Boy.

Video Credit: Vevo

“Some legends are told

Some turn to dust or to gold

But you will remember me,

Remember me for centuries”

I remember getting chills as the idea for a new series gripped me and wouldn’t let go. I increased my pace to a jog, my mind racing more quickly (I’m not a fast runner. Well, really I’m not a runner at all). I had to get home and put the thoughts on paper. Because this series, about finding inspiration, was going to be great. I also spent an hour or so on You Tube listening to all their music, looking for whatever other inspiration FOB could lend.

And all because of one song I have four books written in this new series. That’s all it takes really, to find inspiration. Simple words, or pictures (We won’t discuss my idea based on an album cover from the late 70s). And now, any time I hear anything by FOB the volume goes up and I dance with a wide smile on my face. And I always listen to words now when I’m walking or driving, or just sitting on my deck enjoying sunshine.

What song inspires you?