Archive for the 'Music' Category

25
Jun
08

Movies, and television, and games, oh my!

Ahhhh… summer. Action movies take over the theaters, the rare blockbuster game is released, and summertime television series are back on.

Apparently the comic book industry has figured out they can make a shitload more money making movies than they can selling comic books. I’ve seen both Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk this summer, and there’s still The Dark Knight and The Spirit to go this year. Personally, I don’t understand why everyone orgasmed over Iron Man. I mean, it was decent, and Robert Downey, Jr., was pretty fantastic in it. But, I liked The Incredible Hulk more, even though the acting was overall worse than in Iron Man. I think it’s because the action sequences are a lot more intense, and that’s what I was looking for in my super hero movie. Plus, all the tie-ins to other Marvel properties are pretty awesome.

Plus, Wanted looks like it may be another of the popcorn-munching action movies that I’ve had such a penchant for this summer. Bonus: Angelina Jolie, who I’ve always found very hit or miss, looks quite hittable in this movie.

Angelina Jolie in Wanted

This year was a strange one for television due to the writer’s strike. We got a lackluster season finale for Scrubs as it (hopefully) prepares to move to ABC. The Battlestar Galactica finale was intense, but with regard to the statement in the ad campaigns that “All Will Be Revealed,” the writers really punked out. In fact, they didn’t reveal anything. And gods know the when the next season or half-season will be begin. Psych starts back up July 18 at 10/9C, which is my favorite summer show. It’s highly entertaining, and I’ve loved Dulé Hill since The West Wing.

As the focus of this blog, it’s only proper I mention some recent high-profile video game releases. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has garnered high praise across the board. The major criticism seems to be the extraodinarily long cutscenes. I have one word for the complainers: Xenosaga. Alone in the Dark and The Bourne Conspiracy were both games that I was anticipating, but both have scored much lower than I’d anticipated. A series of new maps was also included for free in the most recent PC patch for Call of Duty 4: MW. This breathed some welcome new life into the title. Xbox 360 gamers had access to these maps a while ago, but they had to pay extra for them. Chinatown is easily my favorite map of the bunch – moving in and out of all those buildings at high speed is a real rush, and due to the closed nature of the map, grenade and n00b tube spamming is kept to a minimum. Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precepice of Darkness was also recently released. All-in-all its a solid game, complete with all the humor you’d expect from Tycho and Gabe, and a great summer distraction. Another title that was pretty much under the radar for me has been getting solid reviews. Battlefield: Bad Company has landed some solid reviews, and I’m considering picking it up. I do wish it was coming out for PC, though.

I also recently wiped my iPhone clean of all music and resolved to put newer and less-frequently-listened-to music on in lieu of all the stuff I’ve been listening to since high school. Forever the Sickest Kids have won a place in my heart. If you’re into extremely catchy techno/emo hybrid, or techmo, as I will henceforth call it, they will win a place in yours as well. Also, I recently discovered a band called Elbow who apparently have been around since 1990. To me they’re a mix of Peter Gabriel and Radiohead. If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, be sure to check those guys out. I’ve also been giving Chevelle’s latest album Vena Sera a fair shake, and I’ve got to say I’m enjoying it, despite a chilly critical reception. It’s not brilliant, but it’s entertaining.

Finally, I’m just about finished reading through all of the Hitchiker’s Guide books for the second time in my life. I’ve got to tell you; they’re a lot funnier now than they were when I was 14.

Alright, those are the things I’m checking out entertainment-wise right now. What’re you guys into this summer?

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08
Nov
07

New music from yours truly…

So, a byproduct of my taking an electronic music class this semester is I actually have original pieces to share with you guys. This may or may not become a regular thing, we’ll see. I seek no criticism, but feel free to comment.

The track was made with assembled in Digital Performer, and I used a number of different tools to create the sounds. If you’d like a more technical breakdown, let me know.

You can download the track here (right click and “Save Link As”).

Enjoy!

09
Nov
05

Page Avenue it is not…

Story of the Year’s latest release In the Wake of Determination showcases a grittier, crunchier sound than 2002’s Page Avenue. It’s almost their shot at thrash metal. The whole album centers around a theme of rebellion, a “we’re pissed off, and we’re not going to take it anymore” type mentality. It’s a major shift from the subject matter of Page Avenue, which seemed to center more on dealing with personal hardships and growing up. A lot of bands have an angry, anti-institution album. Shit, that was every Rage album. The problem is that it’s never made quite clear what exactly SOTY are rebelling against. The whole album seems to lack direction, and it shows in the lyrical content of this collection of fight songs.

It starts off well enough, with their latest single, “We Don’t Care Anymore,” a call to begin the rebellion. The lyrics aren’t all that great, but neither were the lyrics of “Until the Day I Die,” the first single on Page Avenue. Somewhat contrived lyrical content is forgivable, so long as it still turns out to be a catchy tune with something to offer. Problem is, the lyrical content never gets any better. I’ll bet you can guess the kind of cliched crap held in songs like “Take Me Back,” and “Wake Up the Voiceless.” The awesome opening riff of “Our Time is Now,” is practically ruined by lyrical excrement:

Today will be the day to start rising up and fighting back
And from this moment on we will live our lives
With open hearts and open eyes

That’s very inspiring, guys, except that I still don’t know what I’m “rising up and fighting back” against. Even the song notes contain trite drivel:

“Take Me Back” Song Notes
Dan : “Lyrically it is about growing up and finding out that ignorance is bliss. Sometimes you wish you could go back and start over.”

It doesn’t take a degree in musicology from Harvard to figure out what you were trying to express there, guys.

There are a few interesting things going on musically on this album. The guitar work is pretty impressive across the board. Their rhythm guitarist, while not particularly inventive, is damn fast, and he makes use of that repeatedly. The drumming isn’t as solid as it was on the first album, which only follows considering the thrash-like feel of most of the album. It doesn’t require much skill, just speed. Something that Story of the Year did so well on Page Avenue fails to appear here: making a complex song sound simple. These songs are merely simple. Not a lot of innovation going on here. It’s as if, while writing the songs, they all said, “What’s the most cliched thing I could do here. Yeah, let’s do that.”

Wake is garnering praise for being the “real” Story of the Year, apparently because of the change of producers, from John Feldman (Jimmy Eat World) to Steve Evetts (Hatebreed). Page Avenue is a much more lyrically and sonically solid album, if it is a bit “softer.” If Wake is what Story of the Year truly is, I don’t want any part of it. On the other hand, if you want straightforward, hardcore-inspired songs that don’t require any sort of thought to digest, check it out.

Simply put, this latest effort simply falls short.

09
Nov
05

Deja Entendu

There is something about Deja Entendu that tears at your guts, but in a way that is so painfully delicious that you?ll listen to it over and over again until you’re sick of it. Then you’ll listen some more, because the way it feels to listen to it is like the sick pleasure some derive from dragging dull knives across their skin. To quote, “I Will Play My Game beneath the Spin Light,”

Watch me as I cut myself wide open on this stage
Yes, I am paid to spill my guts

Brand New take emo to an entirely new level on DE. Lead vocalist Jesse Lacey is a nasally tenor, like a lot of emo frontmen, but Brand New have a grittier sound than a lot of the emo groups in the mainstream today (e.g. Dashboard Confessional, Blink-182, Good Charlotte). In fact, they pretty much abandon traditional emo song construction. There’s very little of the despair about ex-girlfriends that prevailed on their previous album Your Favorite Weapon, and the three-chord song with the predictable progression is all but absent. The “album length letters from pussy-jail” that Jessica Harper calls into question are cannot be found. The lyrical content is unlike anything I’ve heard; a lot of it is in the first person. Not the universal, angsty, white teenage male that seems to be narrator in a lot of emo. Rather, when Jesse Lacey sings, “I,” he means, “I, Jesse Lacey.”

Wrote more postcards than hooks
I read more maps than books
Feel like every chance to leave
Is another chance I should have took
Every minute is a mile
I’ve never felt so hollow
I’m an old abandoned church with broken pews and empty aisles

It may be self-indulgent, but it is good poetry. I always wonder how they came up with that last line. There are all kinds of things about this album that twist the mind into yogurt covered pretzels dripping with metaphor and sticky riffs that attach themselves to the roof of your brain. And tongue as you might, “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows” won’t come loose that you can swallow it and shit it out. “Quiet Things” comes closest to a traditional emo song, but it is saved from mediocrity by biting lyrics, a screamy chorus, and three-part harmonies. Not to mention the non-imitative polyphony that propels us toward the grandiose resolution.

The album is constructed so that you’re never overwhelmed by the more aggressive tracks. The opening track “Tautou,” is a mere minute and forty-two seconds of a single electric guitar with a heavy chorus pedal, a simple drum beat, and the repetition of the phrase:

I’m sinking like a stone in the sea
I’m burning like a bridge for your body

Then the album symbol-crashes into “Sic Transit Gloria: Glory Fades,” which has funky, bass-driven verses and punk-rock choruses. From there the album alternates the softer and slower tracks with more aggressive songs. But all of the tracks feel like, well, art. There isn’t anything particularly misogynistic about the album, either. This most certainly isn’t “cock rock.” Even “Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis,” which is about picking up a girl at a bar, maintains a degree of complexity and musicianship that saves it from sexism. The album is a collection of short stories that capture the broader narrative of life as Brand New see it. Every detail of every song feels like it was deliberately placed in relation to the rest of the album. Even the song titles are so strange that they couldn’t have been random:

Deja Entendu Track listing

1. Tautou
2. Sic Transit Gloria: Glory Fades
3. I Will Play My Game Beneath The Spin Light
4. Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t
5. The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows
6. The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot*
7. Jaws Theme Swimming
8. Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis*
9. Guernica ^
10. Good To Know That If I Ever Need Attention All I Have To Do Is Die
11. Play Crack the Sky

* Songs that are obviously about “girls”
^ Named after a Picasso painting

“Play Crack the Sky” is one of the greatest lyrical metaphors I’ve ever heard. It could be that he is actually narrating the events of a ship caught in a storm of the cost of New York, or he is speaking of his doomed relationship with a loved one. It may be both. I simply have to post the entirety of the lyrics in order for you to understand fully:

Sent out the SOS call
It’s a quarter past four in the morning
The storm broke our second anchor line
Four months at sea
Four months of calm seas to be pounded
In the shallows off the tip of Montauk Point
They call them rogues
They travel fast and alone
One hundred foot faces of God’s good ocean gone wrong
What they call love is a risk,
Cause you will always get hit out of nowhere by some wave
And end up on your own
The hole in the hull defied the crew’s attempts to bail us out
And flooded the engines and radio, half buried bow
Your tongue is a rudder
It steers the whole ship
Sends your words past your lips, keeps them safe behind your teeth
But the wrong words will strand you
Come off course while you sleep
Sweep your boat out to sea or dashed to bits on the reef
The vessel groans the ocean pressures its frame
Off the port I see the lighthouse through the sleet and the rain
And I wish for one more day to give my love and repay debts
But the morning finds our bodies washed up thirty miles west
They say that the captain stays fast with the ship through still and storm
But this ain’t the Dakota, and the water is cold
We won’t have to fight for long
This is the end
This story’s old but it goes on and on until we disappear
Calm me and let me taste the salt you breathed while you were underneath
I am the one who haunts your dreams of mountains sunk below the sea
I spoke the words but never gave a thought to what they all could mean
I know this is what you want
A funeral keeps both of us apart
You know that you are not alone
Need you like water in my lungs
This is the end

So what, though? What difference could this album make in the context of the rock world? Well, if it could work its way into the mainstream, it could do plenty.

As I mentioned before, this album should set a new standard for emo as a genre. Bands like Good Charlotte should be quivering in their boots. Better yet, they should be taken out and shot for the crap that they produce. Deja Entendu does something that no Good Charlotte or MEST record has ever done; it captures a broad range of emotions and experiences in a poetic and, most importantly, sophisticated manner. These songs aren’t about high school crushes and break-ups and sloppy sex in your girlfriend’s bedroom while her parents aren’t home. This is emo for grownups. If the fans of the rock world would simply demand sophistication and material for adults, the artists will make it.




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