Posts Tagged ‘band’

Random song post, Volume 10

June 16, 2010

Had a little extra time on my hands.  Reviewed a few extra songs.  Here ya go.

All Time Low – “Lost In Stereo” (Nothing Personal, Hopeless, 2009): Fun, exciting rock from a band that could very well be sliding into Fall Out Boy and blink182’s shoes at this very moment.  With similarities to most of Cartel and New Found Glory’s respective catalogs of music, it’s a solid entry into the pop/punk genre.

The Spill Canvas – “Our Song” (Realities EP, Sire, 2010): Despite a noticeable gap since their last full-length, South Dakota’s The Spill Canvas have managed to tide us over with the recent release of two EPs, Abnormalities and Realities, the latter of which boasts the single, “Our Song, ” easily the epitome of everything this band stands for when it comes to music and a fine representation of their sound.  Frontman Nick Thomas’ distinctive, somewhat aggressive voice drives the song, while the rest of the band follows along nicely with appropriate guitars and drums.

Weezer – “I’m Your Daddy” (Raditude, DGC/Interscope, 2009): On Weezer’s seventh full-length Raditude, these emo/powerpop pioneers took their already diverse musical history into yet another direction, best indicated on songs like the singles, “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To, ” and, “I’m Your Daddy.  ”  It’s the latter of the two songs that sees frontman Rivers Cuomo in prime shape, bringing back a voice not heard since most of the 90s and a band that seems to remember how they used to sound.  With a fantastic mix of drum machines, synthesizer, and Weezer’s trademark over-the-top guitars, “I’m Your Daddy, ” stands as a great example of how far Weezer has come, and what they’re still capable of.

Silversun Pickups – “The Royal We” (Swoon, Dangerbird, 2009): Awesome.  Just awesome.  Hard to believe such a thunderous sound (especially during the chorus) could come from a bunch of shoegazers like the Silversun Pickups.  Touches of string instruments add to the tension ever present throughout the song, and frontman Brian Aubert’s voice sounds just as good as ever.

Review: “That Thing You Do! ”

April 19, 2010

So, I know I haven’t been focusing in solely on music lately, but hopefully you can recognize the musical value of some of the items I’ve been writing about, in particular my movie reviews, all of which feature music as a central theme.  With that said…

Released in 1996 and set during the 1960s, “That Thing You Do!  “   is Tom Hanks’ directorial debut, and a fine debut at that.  The story of a garage rock band who rises to stardom on the success of their one big hit song, “That Thing You Do!  “   this movie hits all the right notes, so to speak, and seamlessly pulls off a fun, playful atmosphere that echoes the carefree days of a bygone era.  After losing their drummer to a broken arm, a local Erie, Pennsylvania band suddenly finds themselves in need of a replacement, quickly turning to beatnik jazz drummer Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) to fill in for a gig at a college talent show.  However, after Guy speeds up the tempo of the eponymous song, turning this slow ballad into an upbeat rocker, the group is soon presented with an unexpected wealth of fame, especially after being signed to Playtone Records by a suave A&R representative named Mr.  White (Tom Hanks) and settling on band name The Wonders.  Despite the usual lousy shows and technical on-stage problems any band goes through, they’re eventually added to a nationwide Playtone artist tour that takes them to a variety of state fairs, all the while enjoying the continued rise of, “That Thing You Do!  “   up the charts and the benefits this entails, such as appearances on TV and in a major motion picture.

As is the case with any film, this one features a fair amount of drama and relationship issues, including those between lead singer/guitarist Jimmy Mattingly (Johnathon Schaech) and his girlfriend Faye (Liv Tyler), for whom drummer Guy secretly longs.  We also see as Jimmy becomes consumed with his own visions for the band, and his desire to take the band in that direction, even if that means less a focus on performing live and a greater emphasis on recording.  Guitarist/vocalist Lenny Haise is portrayed as a silly, skirt-chasing buffoon, a role which Steve Zahn performs admirably.  And it’s great to see Guy’s starry-eyed reactions to all the amazing things that happen to him and the band, all the while harboring his continued love for jazz and, especially, the music of his favorite jazz musician Del Paxton, a love that pays off in a big way for Guy as the film nears its conclusion.

Any film that turns its focus towards music, bands, or anything along those lines is already a winner in my book, and this one is a perfect example of all those things.  As mentioned, Hanks does a wonderful job of bringing the audience into the halcyon days of the 60s, when Beatlemania was at its peak and a band not unlike the Fab Four attempted to make a name for themselves.  Comparisons to The Beatles can be found everywhere, from the uptempo snappiness (to quote Mr.  White) of the band’s music, to their nicknames eventually assigned to the band members, all the way down to the drummer swap, which recalls the substitution of original Beatles drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr.  The cast does an excellent job, rounding out their roles to a, “T, “ and making us believe they’re an actual band (in reality, external musicians including Fountains Of Wayne’s Adam Schlesigner composed much of the movie’s music).

I tip my hat to, “That Thing You Do!  “  for again giving those musicians who’ve cut their teeth in bands at one point or another something to watch with fondness, and making us believe that, maybe, being a one-hit wonder is all you really need.

Review: “Once”

April 16, 2010

Shot on a shoestring budget and starring two people who had barely acted before in their lives, 2007’s Once has gone on to develop an immense following thanks to its cinéma vérité style, honest storytelling and captivating soundtrack.  A simple story of an Irish street musician (Glen Hansard) who develops a musical relationship with a Czech flower seller (Markéta Irglová), the film is, without a doubt, one of the most honest films about the world of musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing.

Much like a standard musicial, the film allows the songs to further the story, delving into topics like break-ups (“Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy, ” and, “Lies”), a technique which not only showcases each song’s excellence in its entirety, but also provides great framework for show-stoppers like the Oscar-winning, “Falling Slowly, ” an emotional tune that truly gets me every time I hear it.  Even more skillful songwriting makes an appearance during a scene in a recording studio, where the two lay down several songs with the help of a backing band-it is here that we’re fortunate to witness the recording of, “When Your Mind’s Made Up, ” an unbelievable song in 6/8 that gives the soundtrack an additional boost.

As I obviously treasure these songs a great deal, I will not be posting links to videos or mp3s of any of the aforementioned tunes, instead recommending that anyone who reads this blog post take a few hours to watch Once.  I will, however, direct those same readers to the video below, in which Hansard does easily the most incredible cover of Van Morrison’s, “Astral Weeks, ” I’ve ever seen/heard.  Thanks to Tony Memmel for pointing this out!  🙂

At the risk of sounding like the host of Reading Rainbow, if you’re interested in more music from the talented duo that star in Once, do check out The Swell Season, who have released three LPs to date including last year’s Strict Joy.  Hansard has also enjoyed a successful career in his own right, as a member of Irish rock group The Frames and the mastermind behind a wealth of solo recordings.

Review: “Almost Famous”

April 6, 2010

Ever since his directorial debut, 1989’s Say Anything…, Cameron Crowe has established himself a solid filmmaker with a reputation for blending sincere humor, heartfelt dramatics and storylines that draw the audience in with every scene.  Movies like 1996’s Jerry Maguire weave an emotional web of compelling characters and complex themes, while others like 2005’s Elizabethtown tackle heavier elements like the death of a family member.  His consistency of delivering some of the best films one is likely to see will hopefully continue for many years to come, and it’s refreshing to know that these treasures will remain a part of our collective consciousness long after he throws in the proverbial towel.

Keeping with the theme of consistency, another common thread throughout Crowe’s films would easily have to be the unbelievable soundtrack that accompanies each and every moment, whether it’s the Seattle grunge of 1992’s Singles, or the atmospheric art rock of 2001’s Vanilla Sky.  Furthermore, it’d be hard to picture any other song erupting from John Cusack’s boombox during Say Anything… than Peter Gabriel’s, “In Your Eyes.  “

It is with these images that I invite you, if you haven’t already, to take in a film called Almost Famous.  Released in the fall of 2000, Crowe brings us into a semi-autobiographical journey alongside a fictional rock band, introducing us to a world of sex, drugs, music, and an ever-changing tapestry of relationships.

Set during the early 1970s, Patrick Fugit stars as William Miller, a fifteen-year old outcast who frequently diverts his attention from the accelerated classes his mother (Frances McDormand) has laid out for him towards music-specifically, music journalism, a path which has taken bands like The Who, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan to William’s ears.  After an encouraging meeting with legendary rock writer Lester Bangs (played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman), William eventually finds himself backstage at an actual concert, expecting to interview Black Sabbath but instead rubbing shoulders with Stillwater, an up-and-coming opening band that features Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) on guitar and Jeff Beebe (Jason Lee) on vocals.  It is here that William also meets Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), a, “Band-Aid, “ who considers herself less a groupie and more a admirer of the bands she looks up to, especially Stillwater, who’s guitarist Russell shares mutual feelings towards Penny.

From this point, Crowe takes the audience on a wild and, oftentimes, unexpected ride that thrusts William into the heart of Stillwater, where he discovers sides of himself he never knew existed all while witnessing the genesis of a great band.  All the while, Penny and Russell’s relationship experiences similar up-and-down moments, as William watches from the sidelines, harboring feelings of his own for Penny.  The movie picks up speed when William hits the road with Stillwater, charged by Rolling Stone magazine with writing a story about the band-a change that the band members tentatively accept due to their fears of how they’ll be portrayed and the sensitive, band-only information William will now be privy to.

Believe it or not, this is only the beginning.  What Cameron Crowe has created with Almost Famous is, quite simply, the finest movie one will ever see about the world of rock music.  Every little detail, every piece of fashion, every word that comes out of the character’s mouths-it’s all done to a, “T.  “  The characters themselves, from the off-beat humor of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lester Bangs, to Jason Lee’s typical rock star Jeff Beebe, even to Noah Taylor’s band manager Dick, are all richly defined and drawn.  Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane, in particular, is nothing less than a sheer juggernaut of a performance, one of the most original characters one is likely to witness on film.  Watching her in Almost Famous, you can easily see her career beginning from the moment she appears onscreen.

But let’s be honest-putting aside all the characterizations and melodrama, this is a movie about music and the life of a touring musician, and were one to strip this film down to the music alone, it would still succeed admirably.  The numerous scenes of Stillwater onstage are convincingly filmed, thanks in no small part to Lee and Crudup’s performances.  Seeing Russell nearly electrocuted onstage, or the band argue over a shoddy t-shirt design, or the many endless drives in their rusty tour bus-all come together to create a vast palate from which the story draws its heart and energy.  And yes, the drug use, while not as rampant throughout the film as one might expect, still shows up, particularly during a scene at a house party in which Russell indulges in some acid, and utters the film’s most famous line.

And yes, the soundtrack, which features choice cuts from Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and even Stillwater themselves, is another home run for Crowe.

To call Almost Famous merely a film would be detrimental to all it has to offer.  It’s moviemaking at its finest, a film that somehow managed to elevate itself into a higher level previously reserved for works of art that encapsulate every emotion, every feeling, every sensation one gets from listening to their favorite song.  Without a doubt, this is unquestionably one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.