Archive for March, 2010

“My Dinosaur Life ” follow-up

March 31, 2010

Although I continue to stick by many of the comments I made in my first official blog post towards Motion City Soundtrack’s recently released My Dinosaur Life, I can’t deny how unbelievable the song, “Worker Bee, ” sounds in the following live videos:


Wow.  Talk about a song getting better when played live!

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of the new album, I must confess how much, “Pulp Fiction, ” has grown on me as of late.  It’s truly a superb song, with a welcome synthesizer part in the intro along with a bass sound that seems taken right from the Beastie Boys hit, “Sabotage, ” and Tony Thaxton’s usual dose of amazing drumming.  The chorus only improves on the greatness of the intro and verse, and helps to move things along.

GP: “You Found Me”

March 30, 2010

The piano-centric Coldplay overtones present in The Fray’s music have managed to find an audience over the past several years, thanks mainly to hits like, “Over My Head (Cable Car), ” “How to Save a Life, ” and their cover of Kanye West’s, “Heartless, ” which became an unexpected hit for the band in 2009.  “You Found Me, ” the lead single off their 2009 album The Fray, continues their brand of soft rock while also managing to become incredibly catchy in the process-the piano keeps the song interesting, while the drums and guitars work well together to round out the instrumental sections of the song, never getting too out of hand while still showing a bit of creativity, such as the tempo change in the second verse, and the guitar swells in the chorus.  The lyrics, which frontman Isaac Slade have described almost as a general question as to where God might be in the midst of all the tragedy this planet is going through, are heartfelt and emotional, and fit well with his distinctive voice.

A quick note

March 29, 2010

It has occurred to me that I should be posting links to the music I blog about.  However, I don’t want to get caught up in some sort of copyright snafu, nor do I want to get embroiled in the whole anti-video embedding issue Damian from OK Go recently mentioned (by the way, they recently parted ways with their troubled label EMI), although a few videos have made their way onto my blog, such as, coincidentally, an OK Go video.

If you’re looking for the music I’ve been mentioning, your best bet would be to check out iTunes, YouTube (where you can usually find streaming versions of nearly every song you can think of), or, in the case of Semisonic, the $1.99 bin at Half Price Books (sorry Semisonic, you know I’ve got mad love for you).

Random song post, Volume 9

March 27, 2010

Songs I’d forgotten about, or overlooked, but now can’t stop listening to:

Augustana – “Boston” (All the Stars and Boulevards, Epic, 2005): At a time when so many bands are following whatever trend is current at the time (such as Owl City-esque electronica or Brokencyde-style crunkcore), it’s extremely refreshing to hear a band like Augustana, one that owes as much to pop/rock kings like Counting Crows and Goo Goo Dolls as they do to the trendy emo/indie genre.  “Boston, “ has made its way onto the soundtrack of many a primetime soap opera, and serves as background music to any TV advertisement featuring an emotional scene, all for good reason-it’s a well-written, piano-centered, pop/rock gem that never allows the musicianship to get too out of control, yet you know it has that potential.  The slow crescendo starts at the beginning, with just piano and vocals, eventually layering drums, guitars and bass on top as time goes by.  Before long, a string section joins the party, and the song has now hit a stellar high, instantly bringing to mind a group of talented musicians rocking out as hard as possible.  That simple beginning of piano and voice returns at the end, perfectly wrapping everything up, reminding the listener what’s it like to play music with more than just dollar signs in your eyes.  This is precisely what it’s all about.

The Get Up Kids – “The One You Want” (Guilt Show, Vagrant, 2004): In 2004, The Get Up Kids successfully rebounded from 2002’s oft-derided On A Wire with Guilt Show, which showcased a progression from On A Wire while bringing back many of the elements that made the band so special in the first place.  Lead single, “The One You Want, “ features a welcome piano part from keyboardist James Dewees, almost as if to remind the band he’s still a member.  Ryan Pope’s drums are big and wonderful, the guitars are loud but never dominating, and Matt Pryor’s voice sounds just as good as it did on 1997’s Four Minute Mile.  It’s another great representation of their classic rock abilities, while still showing the emo/indie world why these five guys from Eudora, Kansas, are true pioneers of the scene.

A Day to Remember – “Right Where You Want Me to Be” (2009): Released around the end of 2009, “Right Where You Want Me to Be, “ might be A Day to Remember’s best song yet, full of the punk-grooves-into-heavy-breakdowns the band is known for.  And yes, the gang screams that we’re all familiar with consistently show up throughout, perfectly rounding out a near-perfect song.

Hit the Lights – “Drop the Girl” (Skip School, Start Fights, Triple Crown, 2008): After losing frontman Colin Ross in 2007, Ohio pop/punkers Hit the Lights moved guitarist/backing vocalist Nick Thompson into the now-vacant slot and released a second full-length entitled Skip School, Start Fights in 2008.  The album’s second single, “Drop the Girl, “ perfectly represented a band that had not only underwent a massive change, but also taken two giant steps forward musically-kicking off with a simple techno beat and Thompson’s voice, along with a low-fi guitar riff, the song soon launches into a unrelenting series of verses and choruses that continually pummel the listener with sheer energy and entertainment.  Drummer Nate VanDame gives it his all, and the, “Whoa, “ chants in the choruses give it a Jerry Maguire sense of completion.  Yes, a typical emo breakdown is the basis for the bridge, but by that point the song can do no wrong.  Well done.

Random song post, Volume 8

March 26, 2010

Songs I’d forgotten about, or overlooked, but now can’t stop listening to:

Beastie Boys – “Ch-Check It Out” (To the 5 Boroughs, Capitol, 2004): By the time Beastie Boys released 2004’s To the 5 Boroughs, five years had passed since their anthology release The Sounds of Science and six years since their last proper full length Hello Nasty.  Despite the gap, To the 5 Boroughs is still a solid album, with the honor of preeminent song easily going to the first single, “Ch-Check It Out.  “   The trademark shouts and lyrical trade-offs that made the group so revolutionary in the 80s are quite present here, along with their incessant pop culture references (watch out, Nick at Night, Mutual of Omaha and even Miss Piggy).  The way MCA starts the song is classic-instantly blowing the listener away with a fierce lyrical assault, somehow making Star Trek quite cool in the process.  And later, when Ad-Rock sends it back over to MCA, with a quick, “MCA grab the mic before the mic goes stale, ” the song heads in yet another direction.  The instrumentation is pretty minimal, restricted mainly to drums and a horn section, yet the signature vocals are more than adequate to support the song and keep it moving forward.

Anberlin – “Never Take Friendship Personal” (Never Take Friendship Personal, Tooth & Nail, 2005): After 2003’s Blueprints for the Black Market hit store shelves and the expected great deal of touring, Florida’s Anberlin eventually made their way back into the studio to record Never Take Friendship Personal, an album which to this day still contains many of their more beloved songs (including the single, “A Day Late”).  However, the opening title track deserves its day in the sun as well-it’s a solid, heavy rock number with an opening barrage of chugging guitars and frenetic drums, all eventually coming together into a solid beat that, just as quickly, breaks down into a half-time fist-pumper for the verses.  The chorus brings it all together, jumping back and forth between off-beat and straight-forward rock, all before the bridge builds up into an all-out screamfest.  Some head-banging half-time ends the song, truly leaving the listener breathless and wanting more.

Head Automatica – “Beating Heart Baby” (Decadence, Warner Bros.  , 2004): Glassjaw leader Daryl Palumbo took a bit of a leap in 2004 from his main band’s post-hardcore sound with the release of Decadence, the first album from his electronic-tinged side project Head Automatica.  However, the single, “Beating Heart Baby, ” still managed to win over many who considered the group too different from Glassjaw, what with its infectious groove and Palumbo’s all-too-familiar singing, laced with the yelps and screams one has come to expect from the enigmatic frontman.  The guitars, bass and drums that dominate Glassjaw’s music get a boost from the synthesizer on this song, and the straight-forward nature of the tune takes an ethereal turn during the bridge, all before a quick cowbell-based interlude brings it on home.  As corny as any of this may sound, it’s actually very creative and fun, and a definite step in a new direction for Palumbo.

Random song post, Volume 6

March 18, 2010

Songs I’d forgotten about, or overlooked, but now can’t stop listening to:

Limbeck – “Everyone’s in the Parking Lot” (Let Me Come Home, Doghouse, 2005): With a light, alt-country feel that is boosted by low-key drums and guitars, along with frontman Robb MacLean’s pleasant voice, this song, much like most of Limbeck’s music, is the perfect addition to any summer soundtrack or road trip mix CD.

The Get Up Kids – “Stay Gone” (On A Wire, Vagrant, 2002): Most people dismissed this record as The Get Up Kids’ worst, as it represented a drastic change in sound helped in no small part by Scott Litt’s production (R.  E.  M.  , Nirvana).  Nevertheless, the album still featured a wealth of great songs, such as, “Stay Gone, “ which saw James Dewees’ synthesizer swapped for an organ and the guitars and drums toned down as well.  Additionally, frontman Matt Pryor’s voice has never sounded better, and all these elements mix together for a consistently great Get Up Kids tune from start to finish.

Saves The Day – “Shoulder to the Wheel” (Through Being Cool, Equal Vision, 1999): With Through Being Cool, Saves The Day’s second full-length, the band was finally able to shake off any comparisons that they were simply a rip-off of fellow New Jersey post-hardcore legends Lifetime and firmly establish their own sound, which was best demonstrated on, “Shoulder to the Wheel, “ the album’s flagship single.  It’s a fast, thrilling, powerful song that succeeds on many fronts, such as the pounding choruses with the layered gang vocals, and the fist-pumping drums with that snappy snare.

Random song post, Volume 5

March 17, 2010

Please note: I’ve got a lot of songs I’d like to write about, too many to do in one sitting, so I’ll be dividing the list up into mini-posts over the next number of days.  However long it’ll take is how long it’ll take.  Capiche?

A few recently added songs to my iPod:

Bright Eyes – “At the Bottom of Everything” (I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning, Saddle Creek, 2005): To be honest, I’m not going to try and interpret the words to this song, the first track off Bright Eyes’ more laid-back 2005 album I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (as opposed to the darker, highly electronic-influenced Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, which was released around the same time).  The spoken word intro, during which frontman Conor Oberst recounts an airplane crash, is enough lyrical analysis for me, which then leads into the song itself, a folk/bluegrass-style tune that will instantly place a smile on the listener’s face.  It’s one of the few songs where I truly don’t case what the singer’s telling us-the music itself is far too catchy.  🙂

Songs I’d forgotten about, or overlooked, but now can’t stop listening to:

Ben Folds – “Fired” (Rockin’ the Suburbs, Epic, 2001): After shedding the other members of 90s buzz band Ben Folds Five in 2000, frontman Ben Folds released his debut solo effort Rockin’ the Suburbs in 2001, a solid album chock full of songs as diverse as the title track, which recalls the music of his previous band, to upbeat numbers like, “Fired, “ which throws in a bit of a jazz influence but still maintains a fun vibe throughout.   That piano solo is particularly a highlight-one can picture Folds just slamming the keys as hard as possible.  And it wouldn’t be a Ben Folds song without a curse or two, which ends the song before an energetic explosion of drums, bass and piano slams it to a halt.

Oasis – “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” (Definitely Maybe, Creation, 1994): When Manchester-based Oasis released their debut Definitely Maybe in 1994, no one knew what the future held for these English ruffians, yet, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, “ the first track off the album, seemed to be a fitting introduction to the group, one that to this day is considered by many to be their finest moment.  Lyrics like, “I live my life for the stars to shine, people say it’s just a waste of time, “ and the anthemic choruses of, “Tonight I’m a rock n roll star, “ reach out to each and every musician with a dream, while Noel Gallagher’s guitar solo takes the song to a whole other level.  It’s a fine piece of work all around, from the bombastic drums to Liam Gallagher’s voice, and truly represented the beginning of the band’s illustrious career.

Review: “Anvil! The Story of Anvil”

March 12, 2010

First of all, let me start off by apologizing profusely for the blog/post delay-been busy.  You know how it is.  However, this brief vacation has given me time to focus on my next post, which has been in the works for a few weeks now-fittingly, it’s a departure from the subject matter of my normal posts.

As some of you may know, I consider This Is Spinal Tap the funniest movie I’ve seen to date.  Modern-day laugh riots like The Hangover and the films of Judd Apatow will never truly hold a candle to the adventures of Spinal Tap, which is probably also due to both a nostalgic and personal connection-being a musician, it’s appealing, but also oddly familiar to watch the band get lost walking from the dressing room to the stage, or get second billing on a theme park marquee to a puppet show, or miscalculate prop measurements and find themselves stuck with an 18″ model of a Stonehenge-esque object.  Anyone who’s ever been in a band can more than likely relate to any number of the predicaments the band finds themselves in.

This is where Anvil! The Story of Anvil comes in.  It came as a surprise to me to learn that, in the early 1980s, Canadian metal band Anvil was right on the cusp of Bon Jovi/Metallica-level success, clearly exemplified in the opening segment, which shows the band rocking out at a massive rock festival overseas interspersed with footage of legends like Lars Ulrich (Metallica), Lemmy (Motorhead) and Slash (Guns ‘n Roses, Velvet Revolver) praising the group for their talent and high-energy stage presence.

From there, we cut to the present, where founding members Steve, “Lips, ” Kudlow (guitar/vocals) and drummer Robb Reiner (drums; coincidentally, he shares the same name as the director of This Is Spinal Tap, with one extra B in Rob) are working menial jobs while still trying to keep Anvil afloat.  Their greatest joy is playing during the weekends at venues like local sports bars, where their devoted fanbase has been continually showing up and supporting the band all these years.

Despite the obvious lack of mainstream success that has plagued the band since day one, Lips and Robb still hold firm to the belief that their moment of fame and fortune is right around the corner, even in spite of the fact that they’re well in their 50s and are playing an 80s style of music that has since been eclipsed by other genres too numerous to count.  Luckily,  a small light at the end of the tunnel appears in the form of a fan who books a European tour for the group, one that quickly shows signs of trouble through missed trains, non-existent pay from club owners and dismal attendance numbers (the scene at the Transylvania rock festival, where 174 people showed up in a 10,000 seat arena, is particularly hard to watch).

Eventually, the band decides to focus their efforts on recording a new album, one that could hopefully recapture the feeling of their classic record Metal on Metal, released at the pinnacle of their fame during the 80s and produced by Chris, “CT, ” Tsangarides, also known for his work with Judas Priest.  The band is soon able to reunite with CT, who agrees to produce the album but announces it’ll cost 13,000 pounds (roughly $20,000) to do so.

I’ll stop summarizing the movie here, because it’s at this point that some of the most touching and satisfying scenes are yet to come.  Scenes like Lips’ sister agreeing to loan the band the money necessary to make their record instantly grab at the heartstrings.  Scenes like the band discussing their financial hardships and trying to score a record deal will instantly make you realize that the world of rock ‘n roll may not be as glamorous as artists like U2 and the Rolling Stones make it out to be.  And the final scene, at a rock festival in Japan similar to the one they played at decades earlier (shown previously at the beginning of the film)…well, it just needs to be seen.

To see these two musicians still devoted, still so passionate towards their art after all these years and all their failures, is enough to make this movie one of my favorites.  Any musician with an overinflated ego who might complain about the brand of bottled water in their dressing room or the lighting in their stretch limo need only take one look at Anvil, who are merely happy playing music solely for the sake of playing music-anyone who’s been at it as many years as them clearly has more than just a passing interest in music.  As the film goes on, it becomes apparent that the success they’ve been craving starts to become replaced with stronger ties to family and friends, and a desire to simply produce the best music possible by whatever means, in whatever location, to whatever size crowd.

Rock on.

EDIT: I’m happy to report that the success of this documentary has given Anvil a second career, earning them slots opening for AC/DC and an appearance in the upcoming Seth Rogen film adaptation of The Green Hornet.  It’s apparent the band still has some life left in them-this is only the beginning.

A Springsteen must-see

March 5, 2010

When you get a spare moment, head over to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7O9AK2sfY and check out the video.  It’s taken from Bruce Springsteen’s VH-1 Storytellers performance in 2005, is quite possibly the most beautiful version of, “Thunder Road, ” in existence.  What elevates the song is Springsteen’s narration, which comes to an emotional conclusion that closes out the show.