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The Gothic Archies: The Tragic Treasury: Songs from a Series of Unfortunate Events

By Katie Havard, 16, Beverly Hills HS

When I say, “The soundtrack to Lemony Snicket’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ books is delightful” you can assume that I am not talking about the fluttering of pages, the slight eek of a spine, or any other noises made by actual books. I am talking about the music that author Lemony Snicket and Stephin Merritt, frontman to the altrock pioneers the Magnetic Fields, have created to accompany The End, the 13th and final book in Snicket’s series. Their album is a tour de force—a phrase which here means, “A collection of irreverent, lovely songs that effectively sum up the spirit of Lemony Snicket’s work.” Snicket himself is on drums.

The melodies are pop-y and silly but the lyrics and the vocals are dark and macabre—sort of like the books themselves. The song “Shipwrecked” about a pair of lovers on a desert island, goes, “I wouldn’t eat you, oh, never, not I so let’s catch a shark and I’ll make us a pie/ What shall we use for bait?/ Lend me a hand I’ll sew it back on when we get to land.”

The Gothic Archies have a sound reminiscent to the Smiths, or even a deeper-voiced version of the Shins. Basically, it’s like someone brought Joy Division’s Ian Curtis back from the dead and taught him how to play the harpsichord. It’s important to note that, while the album is inspired by the Series, it’s not required reading. Though this Very Fine Disc can be enjoyed without previous examination of Snicket’s Volatile, Fanciful, Diatribes, I will admit that reading the Series of Unfortunate Events makes the Gothic Archies more enjoyable, in a Valuable, Felicitous, Delicious way.

Editor’s note: This does not sound like the standard L.A. Youth music review, we know. But Katie was inspired by the books to emulate their style when she wrote this.

Nancy Rumbel: Notes from the Tree of Life

By Tanya Vazquez, 17, Downtown Magnets High School

In her album Notes from the Tree of Life, Nancy Rumbel makes you feel as if you’ve suddenly gotten lost in a forest and you’re venturing around, just like you might expect from New Age music.

In the title track the reedy sounds of the oboe, accompanied by the piano, xylophone, tambourine and conga drums, will make you feel very happy, even when you’re pissed off.

Interestingly, I picked up this CD because the cover looked cool—how often do you see a kid lying down on a tree on a CD cover? I had no idea that this CD would turn out to be great.

With many cultural themes the music is unpredictable. In “Coyote Dance,” Rumbel uses Indian drums, tambourine, Indian flute, guitar and ocarina, an ancient type of flute. I could imagine being a Navajo living in the mountains. In “Passing Fancy,” the maracas, bass guitar, ocarina, cowbell and keyboards take me to a Caribbean conga line dancing on the beach. Then there’s “Anansi,” which makes you feel like you’re in the Serengeti plains of Africa. Rumbel’s use of oboe and ocarina stand out among the wide variety of instruments she uses.

This CD shows that New Age doesn’t have to be boring. It can take you to places you only dream of and see in your dreams.