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The Late Movies: Rilo Kiley Have Broken Up

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When news broke last week that Rilo Kiley, one of my favorite bands, had broken up, I knew it was my responsibility to introduce my fellow nerds to their music. Rilo Kiley is sort of a country/indie rock band, known for strong melodies and dark lyrics. Take a listen, and if you like this new-defunct band, pick up one of their records -- and wait for a reunion tour that might never come. Enjoy! (He said, shuffling sadly off into his hi-fi room.)

For those unfamiliar with the band, read up at Wikipedia. Lead singer Jenny Lewis may be best known to some readers as the female lead from The Wizard (yes, the Nintendo movie), and lead guitarist Blake Sennett was in both Salute Your Shorts and Boy Meets World. Note: several of the songs below use the f-word to great effect.

"Breakin' Up"

"It's not as if New York City burned down to the ground once you drove away."

"With Arms Outstretched"

"It's sixteen miles to the promised land, and I promise you I'm doin' the best I can. Now don't fool yourself in thinkin' you're more than a man, 'cause you'll probably end up dead."

"Portions for Foxes"

"There's blood in my mouth / Because I've been biting my tongue all week / I keep on talking trash but I never say anything."

"It's a Hit"

"Gotta write a hit / I think this is it / It's a hit."

"Spectacular Views"

"There are no bad words for the coast today, then you ask 'What's a palisade?' and if we're too late for happiness." Apparently this version is from 2002!

"Paint's Peeling"

Another from 2002. "Now that you’ve seen almost all of America, all you can say is, 'Where is all the water?'"

"The Execution of All Things"

"And if you’re well off, well then I’m happy some for you. But I’d rather not celebrate my defeat and humiliation here with you."

"Does He Love You?"

"Get a real job; keep the wind at your back and the sun on your face. All the immediate unknowns are better than knowin' this tired and lonely fate."

"More Adventurous"

"And it's only doubts that we're counting, on fingers broken long ago. I read with every broken heart we should become more adventurous."

"A Man/Me/Then Jim"

"It's my gradual descent into a life I never meant."

"Close Call"

"She was born on a brightened pier, to a gypsy mother and a bucket of tears."

"A Better Son/Daughter"

"And you'll be awake and you'll be alert / You'll be positive though it hurts / And you'll laugh and embrace all your friends / And you'll be a real good listener / You'll be honest, you'll be brave / You'll be handsome and you'll be beautiful / You'll be happy."

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Big Questions
What's the Difference Between an Opera and a Musical?
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They both have narrative arcs set to song, so how are musicals different from operas?

For non-theater types, the word “musical” conjures up images of stylized Broadway performances—replete with high-kicks and punchy songs interspersed with dialogue—while operas are viewed as a musical's more melodramatic, highbrow cousin. That said, The New York Times chief classical music critic Anthony Tommasini argues that these loose categorizations don't get to the heart of the matter. For example, for every Kinky Boots, there’s a work like Les Misérables—a somber, sung-through show that elicits more audience tears than laughs. Meanwhile, operas can contain dancing and/or conversation, too, and they range in quality from lowbrow to highbrow to straight-up middlebrow.

According to Tommasini, the real distinguishing detail between a musical and an opera is that “in opera, music is the driving force; in musical theater, words come first.” While listening to an opera, it typically doesn’t matter what language it’s sung in, so long as you know the basic plot—but in musical theater, the nuance comes from the lyrics.

When it comes down to it, Tommasini’s explanation clarifies why opera stars often sing in a different style than Broadway performers do, why operas and musicals tend to have their trademark subject matters, and why musical composition and orchestration differ between the two disciplines.

That said, we live in a hybrid-crazy world in which we can order Chinese-Indian food, purchase combination jeans/leggings, and, yes, watch a Broadway musical—like 2010's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark—that’s billed as “rock opera.” At the end of the day, the lack of hard, fast lines between opera and musical theater can lead composers from both camps to borrow from the other, thus blurring the line even further.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at

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Lost Gustav Holst Music Found in a New Zealand Symphony Archive
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English composer Gustav Holst became famous for his epic seven-piece suite "The Planets," but not all of his works were larger-than-life. Take "Folk Songs from Somerset," a collection of folk tunes composed by Holst in 1906 and largely forgotten in the decades since. Now, more than a century later, the music is finally attracting attention. As Atlas Obscura reports, manuscripts of the songs were rediscovered among a lost collection of sheet music handwritten by the musician.

The Holst originals were uncovered from the archives of a New Zealand symphony during a routine cleaning a few years ago. While throwing away old photocopies and other junk, the music director and the librarian of the Bay of Plenty (BOP) Symphonia came across two pieces of music by Holst. The scores were penned in the composer’s handwriting and labeled with his former address. Realizing the potential importance of their discovery, they stored the documents in a safe place, but it wasn't until recently that they were able to verify that the manuscripts were authentic.

For more than a century, the Holst works were thought to be lost for good. "These manuscripts are a remarkable find, particularly the ‘Folk Songs from Somerset’ which don’t exist elsewhere in this form," Colin Matthews of London's Holst Foundation said in a statement from the symphony.

How, exactly, the documents ended up in New Zealand remains a mystery. The BOP Symphonia suspects that the sheets were brought there by Stanley Farnsworth, a flutist who performed with an early version of the symphony in the 1960s. “We have clues that suggest the scores were used by Farnsworth,” orchestra member Bronya Dean said, “but we have no idea how Farnsworth came to have them, or what his connection was with Holst.”

The symphony plans to mark the discovery with a live show, including what will likely be the first performance of "Folk Songs from Somerset" in 100 years. Beyond that, BOP is considering finding a place for the artifacts in Holst’s home in England.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]


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