Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Comfortable Plateau

The other night I fell asleep with all the windows and the door of my room, shut. Needless to say, I woke up with a start in the middle of the night, gasping for breath.

In that instant, the first thing that came to my mind was the scene from Kill Bill 2 where Uma Thurman's character has been buried alive by Budd (played by Michael Madsen). I do suffer from a mild case of claustrophobia and so this scene quite literally took my breath away.

This was immediately followed by another, more pressing idea. What if there was a limited supply of oxygen for each person in this world? Would you breathe freely, live each moment to the fullest and accept death or would you sacrifice the pleasure of every breath to prolong your life?

In a world consumed by the urgent need to grab every inch available, most of our choices are taken keeping the "long-term perspective" in mind. Many of us, including me, live a carefully calculated and measured existence. From the day we are born, our parents plan for us. We take over the mantle to a certain extent by planning for our future, once we have to decide our career path after high school. This uphill climb is undertaken to achieve that comfortable plateau of a well-settled family life. A good job or business, spouse, kids, retirement, etcetera. By all means, this is a scenario worthy of being pursued and once achieved, cherished.

It is possible that many of you might say that you would like to achieve that delicate balance between breathing freely and saving up oxygen for the future, much like how what we strive to do with our finances. Like everything else, this too is a matter of your choice. Whatever you do, just don't gag yourself.

Just like the background image you see while reading this, you'll reach that comfortable plateau at some point in your life. But once in a while, take the plunge off that cliff. It will be worth it. Breathe.

-- Harshvardhan.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Every Picture Tells A Story...

They say "every picture tells a story". This one is no different, though it does throw up more questions than what it answers.
For starters, what is it that she is capturing on her camera?
Where is this photograph taken? It looks like a classroom to me, with the blackboard in the background.
Is she wearing a watch on her right wrist?
And most importantly, what does her face look like? Her long arms, fingers and endless, washboard abs suggest that she is a tall lady.

I came across this image on the internet and quite frankly, I've fallen for her, big time.  The delicate arch of her back, the perfectly toned arms with the solitary bracelet on her left arm, the snug t-shirt hugging her body and accentuating her slim, graceful figure and the hair pulled together neatly, make the camera quite inconsequential. Or so you would think. As it turns out, the camera is the reason why she's standing the way she is.

Questions there are aplenty, but this picture does give me one answer that makes me feel good. There is no ring in the fourth finger of her left hand... :)

-- Harshvardhan.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Album Review. "Scars & Stories" by The Fray.

Scars & Stories is the third studio album by American alternative rock band, The Fray. It was released on February 7th, 2012.
The band spent a portion of their budget for this album to travel the world and hence, most of the 12 songs on this album have been inspired by their travels.

The Fray are:
Isaac Slade - Lead vocals, piano
Joe King - Backing vocals, bass guitar, rhythm guitar
Dave Welsh - Lead guitar
Ben Wysocki - Drums

Here is a short review of all the songs on the album.

Track #1: Heartbeat
The album kicks off with this disappointing track, which tries hard but does not work for me. The chorus is uninspiring and nothing about the song makes you want to go back for a repeat hearing.

Track #2: The Fighter
This should have been the first track, ideally. Isaac Slade's wonderful vocals backed by consistent, rhythmic riffs throughout by Dave Welsh and Joe King, make this of the two best tracks on this album. 

Track #3: Turn Me On
Listening to this song is like peeling off layers. From the outset, the funky bass line suggests that this will be a catchy song. Foot-tapping music. The girls will like this one.

Track #4: Run For Your Life
I reckon this will turn out to be one of the more popular tracks on the album. Very good work on the guitars and brilliant songwriting.

Track #5: The Wind
Everything about this track is likeable except one thing - the music during the chorus. One gets the feeling that Dave Welsh (lead guitar) and Ben Wysocki (drums) are holding back when it matters the most. Need more strength, conviction and a fuller sound in the chorus.
Apart from this, throughout the song there is beautiful layering of the guitars over Slade's vocals.

Track #6: 1961
The sound of 1961 as a whole is a sore disappointment. Unremarkable.

Track #7: I Can Barely Say
Beautiful song. Pained lyrics. Wonderful vocals by Slade. Backed only by the piano, this song is full in it's sound.

Track #8: Munich
By far, the best track on the album. Everyone will agree with me on this. Munich has what The Wind was lacking - a strong chorus.
Soft rock at it's best. In addition to the the piano, guitars and drums, this track also has the violin layering seamlessly to create a wonderful, rich sound. Arguably one of their best tracks of all-time.

Track #9: Here We Are
One of those songs which start, finish and you don't even realize. And if you do happen to notice anything, it is the only thing the fact that the chorus becomes supremely annoying as the song wears on.

Track #10: 48 To Go
Rest assured, this song will grow on you. And it won't take 48 repeat hearings. A good song.

Track #11: Rainy Zurich
As with most good songs, it is the bass line on this one that makes it work. Take a bow, Joe King. Love this track.

Track #12: Be Still
The final song on Scars & Stories is a slow, moving ballad. With only the piano accompanying Slade's mellifluous vocals, this a perfect ending to a solid record.

By no means is this a groundbreaking record. The Fray stay true to their strength, a piano-driven pop-rock sound; and come up with a consistent record which neither bowls you over nor makes you toggle to the next artist on your music player.
Though this album will not give us any runaway successes like 'How To Save A Life', 'Over My Head' and 'You Found Me', it has firmly established this Colorado-based quartet as masters of their formula.
If you are a fan of this band, you will enjoy the album. If you aren't, I suggest you start with the previous two albums before listening to this one.

Rating: 6.5/10

Disclaimer: The views expressed are my own. Not everyone will agree with this assessment. Feel free to post your comments. :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Because Life Follows No Game Plan

"Free at last", his weary mind thought,
But his life for him had other plans,
What he imagined as his toughest test,
Was only the beginning of a scam.

A scam that life plays with us all,
It throws at us test after test,
And just when you think it's all over and done,
It reminds you to give it your best.

You think your best isn't nearly enough,
"After all, how much can one man take?",
"I'm not leaving you with any option, son",
Replies that gentle voice in your head.

That voice in your head tells you all that you want,
But not necessarily all what you need,
And that's when your conscience starts knocking around
Persistently, for you to pay heed.

And if you pay heed to that pricking knock,
You won't see life as playing a scam,
With a clear conscience, you'll give it all that you got,
Because life follows no game-plan.

-- Harshvardhan.