Posts Tagged ‘guitarist’

Random song post, Volume 11

July 2, 2010

Mayday Parade – “Jamie All Over” (A Lesson in Romantics, Fearless, 2007): Combining the dual vocals of frontman Derek Sanders and former vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Jason Lancaster, and boasting a high level of production courtesy of Zack Odom & Kenneth Mount, the irresistably catchy pop rock of, “Jamie All Over, ” can’t be ignored, nor denied.  Jake Bundrick’s drums are simple, solid and laden with just the right amount of creativity without the tendency to overplay.  Rounded out with occasional bursts of half-time during the bridge and outro, “Jamie All Over, ” is yet another excellent entry into a genre that could use more songs like this.

The Swellers – “Fire Away” (Ups and Downsizing, Fueled By Ramen, 2009): Immediately coming out of the gate with a 6/8 attack of aggressive drums and guitars, this unrelenting burst of energy only briefly comes down during the verses, which itself is short-lived, bringing to mind early Foo Fighters.  Even more Foo comparisons can be found in frontman Nick Diener’s vocals and guitar, and his brother Jonathan’s fantastic work on the drum kit, similar to the chemistry found in Dave Grohl and his drummer Taylor Hawkins.  As a die-hard Foo fanatic, it’s easy to see this Michigan quartet filling their shoes one day-in fact, they might already have.

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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: “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.

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.