Week in Pop: Daddy, Mike Sempert, VA Violet

Sjimon Gompers

The incredible, expansive & introspective bedroom pop world of VA Violet; photographed by Oksun Kitagawa.

Cameron Blake

Through the lenses with Cameron Blake; photographed by Eric Bouwens.

Michigan/Baltimore artist Cameron Blake is readying the follow-up to Alone On the World Stage with the upcoming self-released album Fear Not (available November 17) & presents the world premiere for the emotive tinged & touching tribute to the late great “Philip Seymour Hoffman”. Blake’s latest song cycle finds a global connection to almost any powerful and/or life changing event where charged feelings are found in connotation to nearly everything & everyone-further fleshed out with a collaboration that counts over 50 other artists who were a part of the new album. On the debut of the heartbreaking, tragic, sweet & sincere tribute to the iconic & inexplicably influential artist whose life was cut way too short; Cameron described the impact & creative correlative that the immortal PSH had upon his latest work with the following:

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A vignette on the late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. I don’t really know a lot about the man’s life but the lyrics and music just seemed to fit the feeling I’ve gotten whenever I’ve watched him on the screen. Like his life, the song was meant to go on longer with a few additional verses or a bridge. Once I got to the line, I swore I heard the voice of God, I found I had said everything I needed to say and quit writing.

Cameron Blake’s piano pointed ballad “Philip Seymour Hoffman” places the keys front & center like a reflective eulogy sung from a city wandering troubadour in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event. Histories told in tales reflect upbringing, socialist parents, boarding schools to the daily regiments of the mundane take a stroll down fifth avenue where the recalled voice of a higher power brings the just over two minute epic to a halt. It’s the kind of song you would have imagined being work-shopped at a Greenwich Village coffee shop over one-too-many espressos where caffeine can unlock those particular previously unlit corners of the psyche where the collective consciousness & shared connection to all living things is understood as plain as day. And yet the tallying of life stories, insights on upbringing, dedications to respective creative crafts & more collide together in a bonfire of the humanities that ignites like a solar flare for all to observe in a state of emotional awe.

Cameron Blake further elaborated on the almost psychic connection to the eponymous actor eulogized & edified in the song “Philip Seymour Hoffman”:

Like so many others, I connected with Philip Seymour Hoffman on screen. A lot of it had to do with his physical presence. He had a low, rich voice with a rattle in the back. He could play a self-loathing lover and could also throw his body around in an absolutely terrifying way. It was that perfect combination of sensitivity and ferocity, normal and extraordinary.

When I learned of his death a few years ago, this strange word, karoshi, came into my mind. It’s a Japanese term that is loosely defined as death by overwork. I read somewhere that Hoffman constantly pushed himself to the limit, obsessing over the inner details of his characters and sometimes antagonizing the other actors to get the right reaction. He was an unashamed method actor and it must have been exhausting. In an interview with Terry Gross, he stated, it’s not a great pleasure for me to have a couple of glasses of wine…do you know what I mean? Like, why aren’t you having the whole bottle? Hoffman hated what he loved and the intensity of that love was unsustainable.

The song Philip Seymour Hoffman is to be experienced as a sort of character study, a vignette inspired by his work. It’s not a biography or a memorial but music and lyrics that attempt to give the feeling of the world-weariness that Hoffman portrayed in front of the camera. But not without effort. Originally, I thought the song needed to be longer with a few additional verses or a bridge, but then I got to the line I swore I heard the voice of God and I simply realized that I nothing left to say. A song cut too short…like the life of this extraordinary talent.

“Philip Seymour Hoffman”

I was a young man once
Stronger than my enemies
I was handsome
I was reckless
I was made to live alone

Sent off to boarding school
Fought my dependencies
My Socialist mother still calls me from a pay phone

Knew the liturgy
Like an English nursery rhyme
Everything seems innocent until a thumb is stuck into the pie
And with these feelings I’m not sure I’m even making sense
Or if I even knew you at all

Tired of pretty faces
I’m tired of these kinds of places
I’m tired of silver lining each degree of separation
I take my kids to school, pick up the living room
Walking down Fifth Avenue I swore I heard the voice of God

Cameron Blake’s Fear Not will be available November 17.

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