Music Review: Dhana – Confessions of Lily Rogue EP

Hi all…

More than a year ago, I reviewed Taxi Doll‘s album Here and Now and loved it. I’ve always had a soft spot for electro-synth-pop and Taxi Doll scratched that itch beautifully. Now lead singer Dhana Taprogge has released a new EP of solo material called Confessions of Lily Rogue. Deeper than Here and Now, Confessions offers a slower, more reflective approach to the music and lyrics.

In this slower, solo context, Dhana’s voice provides a textured, emotive counterpoint to the contagious dance beats of her work with Taxi Doll. Don’t let that statement fool you into thinking there’s no bite here. These songs deal with the fact that relationships aren’t always wine and roses…

Love is funny. Sometimes one person loves another and that causes tension. But what happens when someone you think of as just a friend finds another lover and you find there’s a spark of jealousy there? “Not Enough” focuses on this odd kind of love affair that happens every day. “You had a thing for me, but you faltered…” and “Today, you broke a piece of me, you had to leave me for another…” Smoothly orchestrated with strings, keyboards, and a heartbeat drum beat throughout, it’s Dhana’s voice that connects the threads without being trite or overly dramatic.

The video for “Not Enough” has a trippy, kaleidoscope feel:

“Wanted” moves on with more keyboards and strings, again keeping it slow as Dhana sings of love and loss. “What you wanted / is gone…” and the person left behind is struggling. “Little pieces of broken glass / just a memory, time has passed / tiny puzzle of tears and sorrow / what you gonna do tomorrow…” where “breathing is a painful thing…” Most people I know have had those moments where love has faded away and they’re not ready to let it go. But the chorus speaks of hope – “Probably better this way / you’ve had enough / now go and make the change…”

The next song, “Low”, has a bit faster beat as Dhana sings of someone seeking to lose themselves as a friend wonders “how low / can you go / love how low / can you go…” No matter how far you run, you can’t run away from yourself. This one has another beat and melody that reminded me more of Taxi Doll’s infectious beats.

And “Feel Right” deals with that tough spot in a relationship when you want to be with someone, “but it just don’t don’t feel right.” It’s that moment when the conflicted heart pulls and pushes and your head has to step in – “my head is straight when I’m far away” but “when I’m far away I’m still wanting you / and it just don’t feel right…” But when you’re with that person, for a while you can forget things don’t feel right – eventually though, the regrets and doubts pile up.

Also included is an acoustic version of “Not Enough,” which unwinds a bit of the electronic vibe of the track in favor of a stripped down feel. Dhana’s voice comes through loud and clear and the piano and strings don’t overwhelm her at all. That said, I think I like the version with electronics a bit better with its fuller sound.

I love Taxi Doll, but have to say I was impressed with Dhana’s solo work. The EP takes her voice in different directions focused on a darker side of life than the typically upbeat electronica of her band. I think if you like Taxi Doll, you’ll love hearing Dhana’s solo work with Confessions of Lily Rogue. Though I love the EP, I’m hoping Taxi Doll will releasing great music as an ensemble for many years to come and we hear new music from them soon!

For more about Dhana’s music, visit her website at DhanaMusic.com.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Also check out Taxi Doll’s release here:

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DVD Review: Life

Hi all…

What is life? At its most basic level, it is a state of being alive at a cellular level or greater. And yet, we live on a world teeming with life in such abundance and diversity of form that it is so much more than that. Ultimately, I think that is what the most recent production from the BBC’s Natural History Unit is about.

Life was four years in the making from the producers of Planet Earth and The Blue Planet and takes us on another amazing journey around the world capturing on film the dazzling diversity of life we are blessed with on Earth. As with their previous productions, these filmmakers have provided us with the shock and awe of the natural world and shown us things we may never see otherwise.

Characterized by shots in real time and slow motion, we get to see creatures, alone and in groups, doing what they do best – surviving and perpetuating their species. From the tale of the gobie fish in Hawaii climbing waterfalls to spawn in perfect pools at the top of rocky cliffs and flying fish to the cycle of hunter and hunted played out in countless environments each day we are presented with crystal clear imagery that mesmerizes with almost every frame.

Originally broadcast at the end of 2009, the ten episodes of Life each focus on a unique aspect of living organisms on Earth.

The series starts with the “Challenges of Life” where the filmmakers present examples of how plants, animals, and insects manage to find enough food to eat and find ways to reproduce to ensure the continuation of their kind. Amazing footage of what a small mother strawberry poison dart frog does to keep her tadpoles safe in the rainforest canopy and the Pacific giant octopus sacrificing herself so that her children may survive show the lengths to which some creatures will go to protect and care for their young.

Life then walks through an episode for each major group of creatures on the planet – “Reptiles and Amphibians,” “Mammals,” “Fish,” “Birds,” and “Insects.” Each episode shows the cycles inherent in all living things – from the groupers spreading fertilized eggs in clouds beneath the waves that get eaten by predators to the damselfly’s chance to lay eggs interrupted by a leaping frog. Opportunities abound for all creatures in the food chain to do their part to survive.

The series then shifts to “Creatures of the Deep,” where photographers managed to show a seal carcass beneath the Antarctic ice provides food for urchins, sea stars, and nemertean worms proving that creatures big and small will find ways to eat and reproduce even in the harshest conditions. The amazing footage of hundreds of thousands of spider crabs moulting in the shallows off South Australia was amazingly bizarre, yet memorable.

In “Plants” we see the other side of the equation, from the forest floor to the canopy, the ocean floor to the desert – flora has also found ways to adapt and thrive in inhospitable places. The exposed roots of the Epiphytes in the rain forest canopy trapping water and leaves for nutrients provide a stark contrast to the Bristlecone pine trees that can live up to 5,000 years with a six-week growing season above 9800 feet.

And lastly, the series focuses on the “Primates” – our distant cousins on the evolutionary chart. These intelligent, social creatures – from baboons and macaques using troop dynamics and bloodlines to determine the outcome of disputes to the White-faced capuchins using rocks to break open clams for dinner. It’s impossible not to see similarities to the human condition that we experience every day.

Though we weren’t able to catch each episode as it aired in the Discovery Channel, we were excited to see the series become available on DVD recently. It’s another amazing achievement for the BBC Natural History Unit and their dedicated, amazing photography teams scattered around the globe.

Each episode on the DVD was accompanied by a “Life on Location” special feature, which documented some of the challenges the film crews faced while trying to get footage for the production. Though short, each provided a glimpse into the commitment necessary to become a world-class nature photographer.

My one complaint with the series is that they chose Oprah Winfrey to do the narration this time. Though Oprah is a force to be reckoned with in her own right and the scripts were well written, her voice has an interesting tendency to put me to sleep. The visuals were stunning and I wanted to hear the stories, but found her narration monotone enough to make it difficult to watch.

And as if they wanted to rub in how boring Oprah’s narration was, they had David Attenborough narrate the extras for each episode that describe the challenges faced by the crews sent out to get the footage. Though nearing retirement, Attenborough’s voice seemed infused with energy and life compared to listening to Oprah.

Though tempted to use the “Music Only” viewing option, we managed to get through Oprah’s droning and enjoy the entire series at my house. Hopefully they will find better narrators in the future. Jim Carrey would be a good choice (he recently narrated Under the Sea for IMAX) and James Earl Jones would also be great.

Don’t let Oprah stop you from enjoying Life on DVD. It’s another amazing documentary series from the BBC that you won’t want to miss. Hopefully they’ll have a better narrator for the upcoming Frozen Planet series to air in 2012 on the Discovery Channel!

Article first published as DVD Review: Life (2010) on Blogcritics.

–Fitz

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DVD Review: IMAX: Under the Sea

Hi there!

Though my family loves seeing films of all kinds on a huge IMAX screen, I will be the first to admit that it’s a bit expensive to do so regularly. Instead, we find ourselves watching some of the beautiful documentaries on DVD. That’s certainly the case with IMAX: Under the Sea, in which Jim Carrey narrates a few colorful, entertaining, and cautionary tales about the denizens of the deep blue sea.

Originally released in IMAX theaters in 2009, this short (41 minute) film presents some absolutely stunning video of some of the most beautiful spots in the blue waters of Papua New Guinea, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, and Indonesia. From the vents spouting gas bubbles like undersea fountains to the amazing array of colors and types of undersea life, the film does an amazing job of giving viewers just a glimpse of the Coral Triangle – home to a majority of the marine species in the world.

The crystal clear waters were unbelievably perfect for filming, showing the brilliant blues, bright oranges, reds, greens, yellows and shadows beneath the surface. The patience of these videographers to capture just the right shot gets you right into the action. How they ever found a crab willing to wear a jellyfish as a hat is beyond me.

But the show stealer for me was the courting dance of the female cuttlefish and her two male suitors set to “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” by Doris Day. Carrey speaks quietly about their mating technique as the males try to get her attention long enough to perpetuate the species. The dance seems perfectly timed to the music as the female tries admirably to ignore her suitors. Her “playing hard to get” shows that we’re not so different as a species after all.

Though Jim Carrey is more well known for his comedic roles in movies like Bruce Almighty and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, he does an admirable job of maintaining an even tempo to the narrative track written by Howard Hall, who also directed the film and acted as the director of photography. Carrey’s humor slips in now and then, as when describing a wobbegong shark as a shag carpet or a stone fish having waited several days getting frustrated after missing a meal. But there’s a seriousness in his voice as well and it’s easy to hear his own concern for this delicate environment and what humankind has done to affect it.

As with many documentaries, the film serves to entertain and educate, showing not only the beauty that remains brilliantly alive but how changes to seawater temperature and acidity due to air and water pollution affect the coral reefs and the thousands of species that depend on them. Ultimately, we must be more aware of the environmental impact of our decisions on the surface or film will be all we have left to remember these beautiful undersea vistas.

Watching with my wife and children, we really enjoyed IMAX: Under the Sea even on our much smaller screen. This film, from the makers of Deep Sea and Into the Deep, does an amazing job of showing the beauty beneath the waves and expressing the urgency with which we must take better care of our planet’s wonders.

For more details, be sure to check out the film’s website at UnderTheSeaMovie.com. The film is available in a Blu-ray Combo Pack, on DVD, and for download.

Article first published as DVD Review: IMAX: Under the Sea on Blogcritics.org

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up Under the Sea and other great documentary DVDs at Barnes & Noble below!

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