Science City by Parekh & Singh – Album Review

Just last month, Parekh & Singh finally released their second album.  I say “finally,” because I’ve been waiting for more music ever since I finished listening to Ocean (2016). I must have given up hope, because the new music sneaked up on me, and I kinda freaked out when I stumbled upon it a day or two after its release.  Would Science City live up to all my hopes?!

Parekh & Singh, Indian Indie Duo

So, who are Nischay Parekh and Jivraj Singh?  I hadn’t heard of them or their genre – “dream pop” – until May 2017, when they released their music video for “Ghost.”  The retro vibe, bright colors, and Parekh’s introspective vocals immediately grabbed my attention.  I felt strangely nostalgic for something I didn’t even know existed.

“Ghost”… still my favorite Parekh & Singh song!

Being already a huge fan of electronica artist Owl City, I love dreamy, poetic lyrics with a healthy dose of synthesizers, so this band was right up my alley.  Ocean was pretty much my playlist that summer (and fall, for that matter). 

Science City, Expectations

Incidentally, just like Owl City’s Cinematic (2018), Science City was initially disappointing but has gradually been growing on me.  I don’t necessarily see it as an album for introducing people to Parekh & Singh – that album is still OceanScience City lacks some of the melodic brilliance and lyrical empathy which drew me to Ocean.  It’s more esoteric and therefore less approachable.  Still, to quote a violin teacher I once met, this music “takes a detour to your heart.”  It still gets there, it’s just a less direct route than Ocean‘s.

Let’s go to the tracklist.  There’s 11 songs total:

I was stoked for “Evening Sun” and “Surgeon,” which I’d heard (more or less) as live performance recordings on YouTube. Right off the bat, I can say those two songs did not disappoint.  “Evening Sun” has a driving rhythm and bittersweet melody – the lyrics are a puzzle but it’s apparently about someone who can’t sleep, either literally or figuratively.  “Surgeon” is a quirky, catchy tune and to my interpretation, a bit of a nonsense or absurdist song.

Everything’s in perfect balance
Nothing that I say is challenged
I am a neurosurgeon
I may be the only person
Who sees through the trap of reason
I am a neurosurgeon

Some of the songs are quite hard to understand, so you’re left in an awkward position of not really knowing what they’re about.  Others are more easily identified as love or breakup songs, like the cute “Monkey” and gloomy “Hello.”

Science City, Surprises

I was surprised to hear a random crude word in “Be Something.”  It just seemed anomalous compared to their other lyrics and unnecessary.

On a different note, “One Hundred Shadows” was a complete surprise.  It’s a moody, haunting melody with dark imagery reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno:

I tunneled to the centre of the earth
To escape the troubled surface world
What did I find
What did I learn
The stars in the sky, they began to turn

And all the demons knew my name
All the answers were the same

The gist of the song is that he tries to escape chaos, and doesn’t find any help.  Or, maybe it’s that he realizes he looked for help in the wrong place.  I would really be interested to know the full meaning behind it.

Another one I enjoy more than I expected is the first song, “Sunbeam.”  It’s quite philosophic as well:

Where did the sun go
Is it spinning in circles
In a universal fill
Whatever you do
Never take the blue pill

Overall

Science City isn’t Ocean 2.0, and I think as a fan, that is kind of disappointing when you’ve waited two years for more of the same.  On the other hand, Parekh & Singh are evolving as musicians, and like all other musicians, their lives and experiences factor into their music.  (Singh’s mother, Jayashree Singh, passed away in 2018, which could be why some of the new songs are sadder lyrically.)  I still appreciate the new music, and, as always, their aesthetics are amazing.  I’ll leave you with the music video for “Hello”:

What I’m Reading (and More): May edition

Well, friends…this month’s edition of “What I’m Reading” is going to be a bit of a ramble.  You might want to grab something to snack on or drink.  I usually try to abridge, but this time I just feel the need to stream-of-conscious it….

Personal

For starters, a personal update. Though work and everything are going fine, I’ve been feeling very directionless lately and in need of a change.  The thing is, there’s so many things I would like to do – from buying a house to changing jobs – but no one thing that especially stands out as “yeah, that makes sense.” It feels like a big decision chart with lines going all over the place.
 
I’ve been through all the conventional wisdom – focus on others, not yourself; try to find what you’re passionate about; make small goals; etc.  But after all of that, I’m still in a maze, with too many ideas and hopes and doubts pulling me in different directions.  And in spite of everything being fine, that sense of possibility is making me feel like I’ve lost control of the situation and need to choose something.

First-world problems, for sure, but frustrating nonetheless.  I hope writing about it enough times might help me figure it out.

Reading

Psalms

A bit of a backstory: After finishing Revelation, I read Romans.  It’s perplexing, but I found Romans to be very heavy, difficult reading.  I didn’t want to carry that feeling into Corinthians, so I decided to switch gears to Psalms, which I’ve been meaning to re-read ever since reading Fear No Evil earlier this year.

'David' by Michelangelo Fir JBU013
Jörg Bittner Unna [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Psalms is deceptively familiar.  I remember some verses and of course Psalm 23.  But I can’t say that I actually know the book, all 150 songs/poems.   I am reading just two at a time and hoping, at this pace, to help it sink in more.  Also, I’m still using the lectio divina method of Bible reading, which works very well with smaller sections.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Not sure if this warrants a disclaimer, but here goes anyway…

I fall into the peculiar category of people who neither love Peterson nor loathe him.  I’ve seen him in a few YouTube videos, but they didn’t spark enough interest in me to want to watch more.  What is most interesting is the effect he has on other people (his fans and enemies).  I thought I’d read this book, published just a year and a half ago, to see what the fuss is about.

That said, I did come into this 400-page tome with some bias:

  • Philosophy is still a fairly new genre to me, and I’m warming to it only very slowly.
  • I actually loved the movie Frozen, particularly as it features the strong relationship between two sisters, something I relate to personally.  Due to that, I doubt the judgment (literary or otherwise) of someone who writes Frozen off as “propaganda.”
  • I don’t care for self-help books as a rule (uhh no pun intended), so it takes a pretty good one to impress me.

So I’m about halfway through 12 Rules and, consistently enough, my feelings about this book are mixed.  There are many moments of wisdom, but some parts are also quite questionable, or even laughable.  Some reviewers are turned off by the many Bible references; they’re somewhat interesting, but I don’t really like his use of them, either (though for different reasons).  It’s also both creative and tedious that he doesn’t stick to his thesis the whole time, but rather weaves other topics into each chapter.

My favorite parts thus far were his anecdotes about growing up in a small town in Canada, in Rule #3 “Make friends with people who want the best for you.”  It had all the makings of a gripping memoir, or even a coming-of-age novel.  That was the book I wanted to be reading. 

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age 

 

Another tome, over 500 pages!  Actually I powered through the first 60 pages, in spite of learning science-y things (gasp) about motors and such.  The book uses original diagrams from olden times (aka Tesla’s day), which makes my amateur graphic designer heart very happy.

More importantly, however, the writing is excellent: serious, yet approachable and very informative.  Tesla’s early life was largely positive, but after the death of his older brother, his adolescence was overshadowed by his tense relationship with his father and, at one time, a bizarre transition from workaholic student to gambling addict.  I didn’t know all of this, so those first chapters were especially fascinating.

No classics?!  What is this?

Yes, apart from Psalms, I’m not reading any classics at the moment.  I’m supposed to be re-reading The Time Machine and Ben-Hur, but lost steam somehow.

Also, can you believe I’ve only read two fictional books this year, and the rest have been nonfiction?  That’s some kind of record.  My challenges are getting rusty, too.

I do plan to get back into fiction reading soon, as I’m in line for a library copy of Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander…  I’m tentatively excited, because I love the movie and kinda hope the book is just like it, at least character-wise.

Other

Apart from Valkyrie, I haven’t watched any movies.  I do want to re-watch Cranford soon, though.

I also have an album review coming up later this week, since one of my favorite groups just released a new one.

Other than that… hope everyone is having a lovely week!