29 December 2009

"This is a Better Record - IN SOME WAYS"

Sometimes I consider making a fresh blog solely concentrating on my favorite band, The National. My love affair with The National is so intense that I don't really have much to compare it to, particularly musically speaking. There is not really any other band that I love nearly as much. During a boring afternoon at work I decided to go on Youtube and just check out some videos that I haven't seen in awhile. While looking up The National, I came across this interview with AOL that really hit me. Matt Berninger, the lead singer, is asked to compare two of his albums to one another and gives a perfect answer: "this is a better record - in some ways". I've always detested when an artist has a new album coming out and suddenly puts down all of their past records. They always insist that their new one is the best of their career and the other ones weren't "them". As a fan it puts me in a weird spot: their old record might have been my favorite - why are they telling me that I shouldn't like that one as much as this one? By saying the new record is simply better in some ways, it's still giving credit to the older songs and admitting that they have their own charms.

Of course Matt Berninger is a genius that is also compared to Raymond Carver within this interview as well so I'm not surprised by his insightful answers.

Also, check out "Runaway", a new song that I've posted before but if you have not heard MUST right now. It is truly exceptional. Sparse and beautiful.

23 December 2009

Song to Love: Meiple - Robin Thicke featuring Jay-Z

The second one in the same day! "Meiple" is one of those songs that is definitely love or hate but from the first listen I absolutely loved it. It sounds like NOTHING else. Robin Thicke has created a song that is so infinitely different from everything else out there and that is really impressive in a time when almost everything sounds alike. And just think: this is a mainstream song! I don't know, I'm really happy about this. Thicke's entire new album "Sex Therapy" that was released on December 15th is so sensual and unique. He doesn't rely on the usual techniques of R&B or pop, he's almost his own genre. Even more exceptional, he seems truly involved in every aspect of his own music taking on production, singing, and writing credits for this, his fourth studio album.

Take a listen to "Meiple" below along with a three minute video of his session time with Jay-Z. For such a short glimpse, it's actually really insightful. And as a quick glance back, I've included the video for "When I Get You Alone", an awesome song he did back in the days of his long hair and one title moniker ("Thicke"). The music in his soul just comes leaping out in this one. It's worth a few minutes of your time, I assure you. Even if you detest the strangeness of Mr. Thicke, he is really interesting and I swear, these songs are going to get stuck in your head all day (the way he says "babe" at the end of every line in this song is SO weird I just love it).

Song to Love: The Christmas Song - Brian McKnight

I have never been a fan of Christmas songs and actually I've never really been a fan of Christmas in general. No matter how much I plan on having a festive 12 days, it always turns into mayhem. It's almost a cruel joke that the days become shorter right before the supposed "most wonderful time of the year", a trick that only helps to breed depression in most circumstances. Christmas songs in particular bother me most of all - with their obnoxious jingles and silly rhymes. It seems like there are 1,000 versions of the same song everywhere I go (and that probably isn't even much of an exaggeration).

Thankfully, Mr. Brian McKnight has stopped the madness and brought to light (on a very dreary night) a beautiful rendition of the holiday classic "The Christmas Song". I don't know if it hit me at just the right time or it really is one of the best Christmas songs I've ever heard but it stuck with me over the past week and got me out of bed to record it at 1am on VH1 Soul the other night so it must have some magic. It is simply beautiful.

Please enjoy.

15 December 2009

Top 25 Best Albums of 2009

The year itself felt like it went by fast but somehow so much good music had time to be brought into the world over the past twelve months and I am so thankful for every sound. These are my top 25 albums of 2009. I had some difficulty getting past twenty at first and then some difficulty cutting it down to just twenty-five so it definitely went back and forth. I think the final list has a little something for everyone and while I'll probably regret leaving this one out or adding that one, I believe this is an honest account of my year with music. This is in correct order based on my appreciation of each album and the timelessness I believe them to have. A trendy album can make the list but that doesn't mean it won't have an expiration date at some point. For right now though, this is my 25 and I couldn't be happier that I had a chance to hear all of this music that contributed to the quality of my life.

01 John Mayer - Battle Studies
No surprise here. John Mayer came out with not only the best album of his career but the best album of the year last month. Battle Studies marks a change in direction for Mayer that sees him going from precocious youngster in the pit of a self-affirmed "quarter-life crisis" to a grown-up, not yet at the wake of a mid-life crisis but certainly watching for it at the top of the hill. In the midst of the endless, hard-to-escape speculation surrounding his personal life, Mayer has managed with this album to somehow turn the attention back to his music career, the reason we care about him in the first place. Songs like "Heartbreak Warfare", "Perfectly Lonely", "Assassin" and "Half of My Heart" fit perfectly into the John Mayer catalog while still allowing space for his sophisticated, adult contemporary sound to grow - this growth is due in huge part to percussionist and co-producer Steve Jordan (1/3 of the bluesier John Mayer Trio), who lends R&B feel and plenty of soulful, almost non-John Mayer beats to the record. If you put this side by side with Room For Squares, you're still aware it's the same person but even more aware that it's been a long decade between the two.
Best Tracks: Assassin, Heartbreak Warfare, Perfectly Lonely, Half of My Heart, War of My Life

02 Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk
When asked last month in Rolling Stone Magazine what he was currently listening to, Tom Petty said only one name first: Monsters of Folk. The supergroup, composed of Bright Eyes members Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis, My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, and singer-songwriter M. Ward (also of She & Him), have outdone themselves with this debut album that blew my mind more than any other record this year or possibly even in the past half decade. Every song on this record has the potential of being an instant classic and I can't readily choose one as better than another. Mixing four dynamic personalities together who are actually able to play all their own instruments and do all their producing is impressive enough but the craftsmanship on this self-titled record really proves that the efforts put forth by all far exceeded any expectations. While it's easy to call them out as a modern day Traveling Wilburys, the main difference lies in the balance of songs: all three main singers get a few songs each to shine on and all create their own characters within. If you check out only one album off this list, let this be it.
Best Tracks: Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.), Whole Lotta Losin', Man Named Truth, The Right Place

03 Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
While they may be the darling of everybody's end-of-year lists, Phoenix has actually been around for over a decade as a full band and officially released their debut album, United, in 2000 with the superb single "If I Ever Feel Better". Five albums later and we find them finally coming into mega success in the U.S. with Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, a nice, little sarcastic, poppy, indie monster that every girl with a pair of Converse and every boy with a pair of skinny jeans loves. I love them too. Maybe even your mom would love them if given a chance. This is a band that is sort of undenaible and overly infectious. Strangely, I feel they've been this way for awhile but something just started to click. With songs like "1901" (constantly playing on that car commercial) and "Lisztomania", an ode to composer Frank Liszt, the world finally took note and not a minute too soon. This is one of those strange addiction albums that you can't easily shake from your brain or your cd player. There are only two things that would make Phoenix's rise to success that much sweeter: a look back at their catalog of other phenomenal songs and some continuing excitement for their next project that I'm sure will be just as delicious.
Best Tracks: Countdown, Girlfriend, 1901, Lisztomania

04 Mayer Hawthorne - A Strange Arrangement
I am so excited to discuss Mayer Hawthorne for this next paragraph. I had a strange arrangement of my own with this album. Let me start from the beginning: I first heard of Hawthorne from John Mayer's Twitter page months ago where he declared that this was the greatest album of the year (all the way back in the summer I believe). From there it was on to Perez Hilton that immediately followed suit by saying anyone into throwback R&B would love Hawthorne's Amy Winehouse-esque sound and finally, after weeks of avoiding my first real listen, I had to check it out for myself. Usually over the top buzz makes me nervous to check out a new artist but in this case it couldn't have been more correct. As the iTunes review notes, Mayer Hawthorne is like a Raphael Saadiq that can't sing as well but can write better songs (some may remember that Saadiq's old school R&B album was my #1 choice for 2008). A Strange Arrangement is one of those albums that sneaks up on you when you're not looking - it is so perfect in its execution that you need a minute to question whether or not it's intentions are pure. Is this just a cheap rip-off of an album Marvin Gaye did way better 30 years ago or is it something entirely new that could start a revolution all its own? It took me a while to clear this up for myself and let me save you the hassle: This is definitely the latter. We live in a day and age where buying an entire album is a thing of the past and even as a true believer in new music, I typically can't get myself to spend more than $4 on a few songs off a new record - I bought this entire thing and didn't regret a penny. I'm totally in love with album and proud to have in my top five of 2009.
Best Tracks: Just Ain't Working Out, Maybe So, Maybe No, Your Easy Lovin' Ain't Pleasin' Nothin'

05 Passion Pit - Manners
Manners is another rarity on this list (and one of the last before we get to the end): it can be listened to from beginning to end without a clunker to be found. I'm fully aware that Passion Pit and their high-pitched, indie-rock, strange world of electronics and synth bass is not for everyone but once you get that initial taste in your ears and develop your tastebuds to their kooky world, I have a feeling it will be difficult to get enough. In many respects, their light hooks and kid-tested appeal are reminiscent of Phoenix but what Passion Pit brings to the table in terms of darker, edgier fare makes them a band of their own accord. Since their incredible EP "Chunk of Change" arrived in 2008, it was obvious that this was something that was going to catch on quick and with Manners, they have confirmed that in a big way.
Best Tracks: The Reeling, Sleepyhead, Little Secrets, Moth's Wings

06 M. Ward - Hold Time
For anyone that has even read Music Mavens casually, it may be obvious that I have a soft spot for M. Ward, one of the greatest singer/songwriters of this or any other generation. M. Ward has proven time and time again that he understands not only how to write about the turmoils of life but sing about them in a way that grips at the soul and makes a permanent nest there. Yes, that's dramatic but so are most of his songs. Strangely, Hold Time seems to start a venture into lighter tunes for the usually deeper Ward with a cover of Buddy Holly's "Rave On" and a guest appearance by She & Him bandmate Zooey Deschanel for the carefree "Never Had Nobody Like You". I am continuously in awe of what M. Ward is capable of doing in any fashion. If you don't already know him, stop reading and go find out.
Best Tracks: Jailbird, Never Had Nobody Like You, Rave On, Epistemology

07 Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
This album is special to the list because it has the good fortune of containing the greatest song of the year and possibly one of the greatest I've ever heard. "Two Weeks", track two, on Grizzly Bear's third full length album, is so soaring and bittersweet that it became the reason I like this band. Over a year ago now I saw Grizzly Bear open for The National at a party for New York Magazine at Roseland Ballroom in NYC. The room was packed and the second they went onstage it was as if the "Talk" sign went up and more than half the people around me began their own conversations either about the poor quality of the band's performance or some other drunken dribble. I'm not saying there weren't tons of people there that probably loved them but I just didn't see any of them. All of their songs sounded the same and I was immensely disappointed. Fast forward to 2009 and this album comes out. I am blown away and willing to give them a second chance (as if they care what I think at all). Grizzly Bear is now one of my current favorite bands and that terrible concert memory is long behind us. Rarely does a song come along like "Two Weeks" that encompasses everything good and right with music. Thank you, Grizzly Bear. You made my autumn shine.
Best Tracks: Two Weeks, While You Wait For the Others, Southern Point

08 Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
A lot of times when an album comes out in January you're apt to forget about it by the time December rolls around and you're considering all the other great music that has come out since but Andrew Bird managed to make his album not only relevant throughout the entire year but continuously surprising. I don't know if I caught a repeat or if his appearance was oddly placed but just a couple months ago he was on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon singing "Anoanimal" in such a way that I couldn't get it out of my head ever since. Add that to the other songs I've been playing since the record came out and you get one of the top 10 albums of the year. Andrew Bird has to be one of the most experimental, versatile artists on this list and Noble Beast incorporates all the parts of him that are the most well-tuned. I feel like this album will be around for a while.
Best Tracks: Anoanimal, Tenuousness, Fitz and Dizzyspells

09 Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures
I don't think I'm experienced enough to discuss this album the way it rightfully deserves. All I can say is I was lucky enough to catch a deal on iTunes before the arrival of this album earlier this year when they were giving away "Mind Eraser, No Chaser" for free and it made my night. Them Crooked Vultures marks the second supergroup on this list composed of Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), and Mr. John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. Grohl himself stated in a Rolling Stone interview that occasionally Jones will play something in concert that destroys him so much he has to stop and admit that he doesn't know how to follow it up. That is how crazy this band is. It is experimental rock that brings back the true edge and meaning of rock music all at once. To me it genuinely sounds like a combination of all the bands these members bring with them. It is so deeply rooted in the classic but still brings the biggest hope of the future.
Best Tracks: New Fang, Mind Eraser, No Chaser

10 Kid Cudi - Man on the Moon: The End of Day
When I first heard "Day 'n Nite" then saw the genius video that followed, it was difficult for me to believe that this guy didn't even have a debut album out yet. How could I get my hands on more material? In the meantime I did some research and it was not much of a surprise that he had helped write the two best tracks on Kanye West's 808's and Heartbreak ("Heartless" and "Paranoid"). Once his album was on the verge of coming out and I saw the video for "Make Her Say" for the first time where he generously gives Kanye and Common one verse each, I was hooked. I know he's been fodder for some "emo/rap" jokes (as in Rolling Stone: "rap is going emo and this is the fall out, boyee.") but he's a hell of a lot more than a passing fad.
Best Tracks: Day 'n Nite, Make Her Say

11 Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
As with a couple others on the list, it took me a long time to appreciate Karen O and company for the superb artists they are. As the first female in a collection of only three that made the list, it's obvious that Karen O has a gift that cannot be denied. Her voice is gorgeous and on this album in particular the entire band goes in a different direction with their sound that maybe is a little less hard but still completely independent of all other music stylings, if you know what I mean. They are not trying to be anything they're not. This album, the band's third, kind of scares me. There is nothing warm about it and it's been said that the production of it was quite unusual because throughout the several months it took to complete, the band would take short breaks from recording songs "to get inspired". It seems like all the extra time definitely paid off. This record is an unusual masterpiece.
Best Tracks: Zero, Heads Will Roll, Skeletons, Dull Life

12 Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3
The Blueprint 3 is Jay-Z's eleventh studio album and probably his sixth since his supposed retirement. Luckily for us he's a liar. This is the final installment of the critically acclaimed Blueprint triolgy that began in 2001. This particular record sold nearly 500,000 copies in its first week alone making it Jay-Z's eleventh consecutive number one album and breaking the record held by Elvis Presley for number one albums by a single artist. It is probably the most noteworthy, historic album on the entire list.
Best Tracks: Empire State of Mind, D.O.A., Run This Town

13 Bruce Springsteen - Working on a Dream
Another January album, this one by Mr. Bruce Springsteen is his 16th studio album and has already sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide this year alone. This album also turned me into a full-on believer in what Springsteen can do and holds another of the greatest songs of 2009: "The Wrestler". I might be a late-bloomer on the whole Springsteen bit, especially coming from New Jersey, but better late than never. While I wasn't a fan of his previous album "Magic", I found this one to be relatable on a lot more levels and felt like it really took me to a place a lot of other music doesn't have the ability to - whether I'm making too much out of one album has yet to be determined. I'm still nowhere near the diehard level of many other Springsteen fans and still can't grasp that "boss" title just yet... but I'm getting there.
Best Tracks: The Wrestler, Tomorrow Never Knows, Surprise, Surprise

14 The Dead Weather - Horehound
Jack White, one of the craziest workaholics I've ever heard of, has truly done it again. Whether it's The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, or The Dead Weather, White is out there making more music than most musicians do in an entire career and making most of it better than the others. It took me a long time to come around to this kind of crazy, throwback, experimental, blues/pop/rock sound that is none of that and all of that all at once but out of all of White's ventures thus far, The Dead Weather has been the easiest to swallow. The creativity of this band is outstanding - and if you're counting, the third supergroup to make it on the list (Alison Mosshart of The Kills, Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age, and of course Jack White, the leader of the pack).
Best Tracks: I Cut Like a Buffalo, Hang You From the Heavens

15 Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young
Although I'm putting this excellent album on the list and firmly believe that Julian Casablancas probably was the heart of The Strokes, I must say that this is only one in the long line of superb solo albums from various members of that band. This happens to be the one that came out this year and therefore, here it is, but if you love The Strokes as much as me and want to hear what the others have been up to you will check out Albert Hammond Jr.'s solo disc "Yours to Keep" and Fabrizio's band Little Joy's self-titled debut that are really unique and worth their own praise. Phrazes for the Young, an album that consists of only eight songs (unless you purchase the complete album on iTunes) is definitely unique and worthy of its own praise as well but if I'm being honest here, none of the songs live up to the genius single "11th Dimension" that I've had on repeat for the past month. Casablancas' voice is eternally enticing and exciting and his signature style is all over the place but in the end these tracks leave me wanting more Strokes and less EPs masquerading as full length albums.
Best Tracks: 11th Dimension

16 Michael Johns - Hold Back My Heart
Throughout the year I had high hopes that I would have to look at this list and be embarrassed that I had three American Idols on it: Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, and Michael Johns. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending how you look at it), two of those Idols failed to deliver on their promise of excellent music, and while Lambert is still the one that will come out on top in the end, it is Johns that successfully created an album that is listenable from start to finish. If you had the statistics on the table: Top 100 Billboard album in its first week, on the same label as Cold War Kids and Santigold, and touring across country on a semi-successful concert trek, I don't think Michael Johns would be the first guy to come to mind. Even if he gets dropped from the record label (or maybe already has as almost all American Idols are proned to do), he has a lot of accomplishments under his belt, the greatest of which being this old school soul record that truly lives up to its "Otis Redding/Marvin Gaye" promise. Although I loved him from the minute he stepped foot on that stage, I didn't truly believe he could pull it off. This is the proof. Support him and listen to this album - it could be his last.
Best Tracks: Little Bear, Mountains, Fire, Feeling Alright

17 Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster
Fun, weird, trippy, beautiful, underrated (for the singing), overrated (for the theatrics), crazy, wonderful, dancy, freaky, not-so-freaky, poppy, Top 40, silly, stupid, Madonna, not-Madonna, controversial, perfect, lovely, soft, hard, different, great, Lady Gaga.
Best Tracks: Bad Romance, Speechless, Telephone

18 Train - Save Me, San Francisco
I was obsessed with Train this year mostly because of the silly glory that was "Hey, Soul Sister", their first single off Save Me, San Francisco, the band's fifth album. This folk-rock band has consistently been full of surprises whether it's their long breaks away from the music industry after extremely successful albums or their strange lyrics ("Ain't that Mister Mister on the radio, stereo/the way you move ain't fair you know") that completely boggle my mind long after I've changed the station on the radio dial. I'm a little infatuated with this band and their frontman Pat Monahan that kind of looks like a possessed Muppet in every one of their music videos. I always like a band with a little personality and guts - this one has plenty (you may remember them primarily for their smash hit "Drops of Jupiter"?)
Best Tracks: Hey Soul Sister, Save Me, San Francisco

19 Pete Yorn - Back and Fourth
Produced by Mike Mogis (of Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk), this is Yorn's fourth full-length release and the follow-up to the end of his "day" trilogy that was completed in 2006 with "Nightcrawler". Pete Yorn is the reason I love singer/songwriters as much as I do. My story of picking up his debut cd at The Wiz way back when has been told more times than the story of my own birth at this point. It was the defining moment for my love of music. I will be forever in debt to Mr. Yorn and while I don't think this is his greatest work, the first single, "Don't Wanna Cry", is one of the most beautiful songs of the year by far and touches me every time I hear it. Pete Yorn can do very little wrong in my eyes. If you haven't yet, check out "musicforthemorningafter" to be blown away by what Yorn can do when he sets his mind to it.
Best Tracks: Don't Wanna Cry

20 Devendra Banhart - What Will We Be
Although this is Banhart's seventh studio album, it is my first foray into his music after hearing good things about him for years. This is another artist I was a little scared to get into but my half-hearted attempt to listen to his single "Baby" when it became available on iTunes ended up being the first step to my newfound appreciation for all things Devendra. I continued to buy this album track by track until I realized that I had almost the complete package and stood back to take in what had happened: I'm a real fan now. I'm just sorry it took me so long to realize it. He's a nut but this is one of the best albums you're going to find all year, I promise. Of course it doesn't hurt that track two is named after me.
Best Tracks: Baby, Angelika

21 Silversun Pickups - Swoon
I don't know if you recall awhile ago when MTV was hawking this band like it was the next Beatles but that made me sick. I felt like they were everywhere all at once and I didn't understand why MTV, a channel that hasn't played music in 100 years chose this band over all the other deserving bands to promote in between every commercial break for their crappy shows. Now that is just a faded memory and the Silversun Pickups are back with Swoon, their second album that has really won me over in a short time. Lead vocalist Brian Aubert's soothing, albeit whiny voice is slightly reminiscent of a young Billy Corgan and their songs are a mixture of alternative '90's rock and modern indie stylings. I look forward to seeing what else they can do.
Best Tracks: Substitution, Panic Switch

22 Sondre Lerche - Heartbeat Radio
Let me try to keep this short: Sondre Lerche is in the league of M. Ward and Pete Yorn, that is artists that will always be perfect to me. Lerche's mix of worldly pop, stylish jazz, Elvis Costello rock, and a personal dash of wonderful, yet-to-be-defined Lercheness, make his work incomparable. While this particular album doesn't hold the key to the world for me, it is still ten times better than most of the mumble jumble on the radio today. Luckily Lerche is 150% dedicated to his craft and comes out with an album or two almost every year so I can't even begin to guess what he has cooked up next. Heartbeat Radio got very little recognition or promotion this year which could be why I see it as a little less glossy than his other recordings but I assure you, this is something you have to hear to understand. Sondre Lerche is a true troubadour of excellence.
Best Tracks: Don't Look Now, Heartbeat Radio

23 Will Dailey - Torrent, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
Will Dailey. Wow. Everything about time spent with Will Dailey will surprise you. If you want to know about my time spent with Will Dailey, just click on the link that will lead you to all my posts about him but for now take these words and search for his music on iTunes: He is an artist in progress. I know a lot of music blogs out there are popular primarily because they hold the secret to finding artists before anyone else and bringing them to the masses at just the right moment. Of course this blog is nothing like that but I do believe I found Will Dailey at just the right time - I have never had the good fortune of seeing an artist grow right before my eyes the way I have with him and do believe I can honestly say he is getting better with every song and performance put out there. This is a guy that works his tail off to make good music and every inch of his sweat is visible for anyone that wants to come out and revel in it. He's a sweet, genuine guy that is making a name for himself the good, old fashioned way - no strings attached. I'm in awe of his motivated, ambitious nature and really hope he blows up the way he so desperately wants to. He's got charisma coming out of every pore and you'd be a fool not to get on board right away.
Best Tracks: How Can I Make You Happy, Tomorrow Still Comes, Never Be Your Baby

24 Regina Spektor - Far
This is Regina Spektor's fifth studio album and the first that I gave a chance. Maybe it was Spektor's overly cute ways or her overly sweet voice but I never particularly warmed to her style the way so many others around me were in the past few years. It took her performance this year on Saturday Night Live to change my mind. When I heard her sing "Eet" off this album I knew that I had to find out more. The lyrics, feeling, and piano drove me crazy. It was so beautiful and moving and I began to wonder if her other songs were anything like this. Turns out they were and once again, I had probably been missing out for quite some time. There is an otherworldy current in Regina Spektor's voice and this album showcases that perfectly.
Best Tracks: Eet, Laughing With

25 Various Artists - Dark Was the Night
Although it falls at number 25, the end of the list, this record is entirely -if not more so- deserving of your listen as any other. Compiled by Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National as a charity project to get funding for AIDS research and awareness, they called on all their most talented friends to donate songs that when combined, filled two full albums and contained some of the artists' best works. Some of the greatest names in the business today, from Sharon Jones to Grizzly Bear, Arcade Fire and My Morning Jacket, can be found on here performing songs exculsively for this album. Of course the best song you'll find is my ringtone, "So Far Around the Bend", performed by the most generous, most amazing band on the planet: The National. This is a one of a kind treat for all music lovers.
Best Tracks: So Far Around the Bend

10 December 2009

15 Songs to Spruce up December

As usual there are so many things I should be doing but cannot seem to concentrate on - one of which is a final revision of a short story I wrote for my creative writing class. I turned on my iPod in the library hoping it would clear my mind of all the things I'm thinking about (and nervous about) but of course it just filled my mind with music and how great all the songs are that I've been listening to for the past month.

In October I thought things couldn't get any better. In November, I figured it was already the end of the year so nothing else was going to come out that would blow my mind and now in December, I'm astonished by all the music that waited until year's end to bestow its greatness on us - and I haven't even touched the surface yet. There are still so many albums to run through on my iTunes list that I keep hearing good things about. I couldn't wait any longer though: here is my brief playlist for the final month of 2009 that touches on a few of these new singles and a couple from the past couple years that I'm just discovering.

Robin Thicke ft. Jay-Z - Meiple
Beyonce ft. Lady Gaga - Video Phone
Passion Pit - Moth's Wings
John Mayer - Assassin
David Gray - Fugitive
Them Crooked Vultures - New Fang
Wale ft. John Mayer - Letter
Silversun Pickups - Substitution
The National - Cherry Tree
Mayer Hawthorne - Your Easy Lovin' Ain't Pleasin' Nothin'
LMFAO - La La La
Passion Pit - Little Secrets
Jennifer Hudson - Spotlight
Phoenix - Countdown
Adam Lambert - Whataya Want From Me

28 November 2009

Music Video to Love: I Cut Like a Buffalo - The Dead Weather

This is one of the best music videos I have ever seen. It spooks me every time.

The Dead Weather is a supergroup composed of musicians from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Kills, although it really just seems to me that Jack White is the leader of the whole thing. The band debuted in Nashville in March of 2009 and released their debut single, "Hang You From the Heavens" around the same time. Their album Horehound is currently available and they're apparently working on a second album to be released next year.

In the meantime, enjoy this fabulous video. I swear, you can't watch it just once.

Lambert/Gaga/Rihanna: Fashion Envy

I am addicted to fashion blogs. I don't know what I would do on the internet without them. They save me from boredom at least ten times a day and I find them a breath of fresh air in comparison with the music blogs I tend to read frequently as well.

In my own life, things have been really boring lately. Nothing has been good, nothing has been bad.. just a collection of middle of the road occurences that don't add up to much in the long run. When times like these fall on my head I like to mix things up in whatever way I can and that's usually displayed in my appearance more than anything else. In times like these I spend way too much money at silly mall stores and beg people to go shopping with me that end up only frustrated by the day's end. I tend to go overboard on the fashion front sometimes but always within good measure.

Lately, I've been obsessed with Rihanna and Adam Lambert's style. My boyfriend tends to believe that these aren't the greatest fashion icons but their mix of modern glamour and old school, campy rock is so fun and detailed that I find myself trying to do a cheap rip-off any chance I get.

After the age of 16, I fell in love with harder edge clothing after becoming immensely bored with the flowery, pastel clothing of my youth. Purchasing clothes with my own money gave me another avenue to express myself and try different things - that's when I discovered those aforementioned silly mall stores: Aldo, Forever 21, Bakers, the Macy's shoe department, H&M, Urban Outfitters, etc. These stores gave me a chance to mimic the more offbeat styles that the magazines flaunted on every page and I haven't been able to stop since. This probably dates back much earlier than I'm admitting to: my first request from Santa Claus when I was 3 years old was a pair of red party shoes... I knew exactly how much sparkle there should be on the front and exactly what size the heel should be. There was nothing better than shoes and other than music - there still isn't.

Blending the two together is always the most fun. Here are some examples:

25 November 2009

Music Video to Love: Adam Lambert - For Your Entertainment

Although I still don't think the song is up to Lambert standards, it is starting to grow on me and this video is helping tremendously. Aside from his spectacular vocals, Lambert has had the fashion aspect of the music business down from the very beginning. This guy oozes sex and glamour and that has never been more apparent than in this video. While I still think the song would be better suited for Britney Spears, the video takes it up a notch in Lambert's favor and makes me understand the concept a little better. I hope you enjoy, lots of campy, classy fun.

24 November 2009

Love and Magic and Music

I'm 23 years old. I won't always be this age but for right now I can't say I know too much. I wrote a short bit for a writing class today and realized through the subject matter that I knew much more when I was younger. How is this possible? I have regressed on many topics. I'm not too sure of anything anymore. I guess I'm at least in search of answers but I'm also wise enough to know I'm not going to find any and wise enough to know this has been said a billion or more times before, etc. It doesn't stop me from wondering though.

One thing I know for sure is that I'm incredibly inspired by music loved by people I love. Unfortunately my boyfriend doesn't quite like music so he's out of the mix but 50% of the music I love is because of others. I guess you could make the case that all music comes from someone else but I'm an outcast so believe me, most of the music I love is of my own doing. Of course my mother, ex-boyfriend, father, friends, cousin, aunt, and grandfather have been huge influences in my tastes. Men in general (usually the beautiful ones) inspire me a lot and I've found a great way to find new music is by listening closely to what these beautiful gentlemen listen to... I'm specifically alluding to a great discovery today of Sam Baker, a country artist that had fallen victim to a terrorist attack while in Peru that has influenced his music greatly and makes for some fascinating lyrics. Amazon.com suggests Steve Earle and my love Kris Kristofferson on Baker's page as similar artists and upon seeing this, I instantly knew I had found something rather special. While he reminds me a little too much of Conor Oberst, he is clearly older and more worldly, maybe the whining is behind him. I'm so hungry for inspiration oftentimes that I am able to immediately pick up on what is beautiful about something that someone suggests but this was a piece of cake. Even without Baker's extraordinary tale of survival, I would've loved his sound. It's eerie, peaceful, and slightly lonely - very sparse.

My attachment to music often shadows my attachment to people. On a personal note, I had a particularly difficult breakup several years ago that I've mentioned before but I'd like to discuss in further detail. I still speak of it, not because I'm not incredibly happy now but because as a very young person nothing had affected me on that level before. I had lost loved ones to death but never because they wanted to leave me. I did not know how to handle it as he had become an extension of myself, a part of my skin in many respects, and then he was gone. Immediately I felt isolated and never more alone but quickly I realized that I had never been so close to others. My experience - that so many if not all over a certain age have experienced - made me more human. The feedback I received from friends and strangers alike at that time was incredibly humbling. Everyone seemed to care about me so much and always immediately understood that where I was coming from was immensely real - maybe I had never been so real. It would be an understatement to say that I was heartbroken. I was destroyed beyond reason. It is truly is the most human experience I have ever had in my life as typically I'm able to be very strange about most things (you might have to know me to understand that). There is no way of being strange about a situation like that - we all feel the same thing. It is still very difficult for me to talk about. I am only reminded of it because of something that happened this week that made me test the boundaries of where I am right now.

I guess to relate this back to music, I have to refer to a previous post about The National. I thanked this man for allowing me to understand The National's lyrics in a way that I otherwise never would have. He is the same person who questioned my love for John Mayer by asking if I truly related to his lyrics. This has stuck with me for years. I've come to the conclusion at this point that relating to lyrics is not always the only way to relate to a musician but it had me thinking since the moment he asked it. He is also the same person who allowed me to play Coldplay's poignant song "Swallowed in the Sea" while I packed to go away from him forever without shedding a tear. He would sing to me when he was drunk, forced me to listen to Bright Eyes, accepted my love of Pharrell, loved me more because of my affection for Tom Petty, and could recognize Nine Inch Nails in the background of our phone conversations. He'd dance to country music in a dollar store, dance with me to Conway Twitty in the bar, and all the while be very cold somehow. Cold and warm. Hard and tender. Difficult to explain.

He is also the reason for my love of M. Ward.

Now I know some things transcend time and I do believe M. Ward is one because I love him so much and he will never leave me but I'm sure somewhere it's always in the back of my mind when I hear him. I don't want to give any of my other secrets away right now but there are some very, very special moments I keep close to my heart regarding music and this man. If my love of music is a long string, his string is intertwined with at least 15% of it - for now. I'm not sure how I'll look back on him when it comes down to it in the long run and I have no idea what he thinks of me. Sometimes in the back of my mind, I'm certain he thinks of my face when he hears John Mayer. Does he feel guilty? Does he feel happy? Does he feel anything? We didn't end on a bad note. On the contrary, we still had much love for one another but we were "meant" for other people. Even while this has been proven true, my 19 year old self is a little shocked inside.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: music is the only way I can feel all these things again. Sometimes I can feel them so strongly when a certain song is on that I will leave a store or zone out to the extreme so I don't have to be in the moment with it. Maybe if music didn't exist I would hate this person the way I maybe should but for better or worse, I'll hear The Cure and want to write an entry like this for the next two hours. Within three minutes my heart is broken and mended and empty and full all at once. It's magic. Love and music both.

21 November 2009

My Favorite Battle Studies Songs in Order (as of now):

01. Assassin
02. Half of My Heart
03. Perfectly Lonely
04. Heartbreak Warfare
05. Crossroads (cover)
06. War of My Life
07. All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye
08. Friends, Lovers, or Nothing
09. Edge of Desire
10. Who Says
11. Do You Know Me

These songs do my heart good. They're precious to me.

20 November 2009

Me and Carlos

Here's the situation:

I wrote this paper for my favorite class and I'm immensely disappointed with it. The objective was to REPORT on a topic relative to Latin America. I took this as a sign that it should be a formal paper dismissing any idea of personal opinions on my topic or anecdotes specific to my life. I chose Carlos Santana as my topic and went from there. It was a very short paper - clocking in at only three double spaced pages so I didn't have much room for all the information I managed to find.

My problem is that it ended up more like a biography than anything else. I chose to concentrate more on his upbringing in Mexico than anything else because I wanted to put the theme of Latin America out there but I'm still not satisfied. I wanted this paper to be great and although I don't know my grade yet, I'm disappointed in myself and I need to feel better about it somehow. I'm hoping by putting it up here maybe it will look better in my eyes or someone might enjoy the detailed information on Santana - probably silly. I set out with the goal of impressing my fantastic professor but ended up faltering under the pressure. I wish I could redo this whole thing and come up with a fresh idea rather than the same old "report" nonsense. I hope I'm just being too hard on myself. I can't tell - I just wanted to impress this special teacher so much that the writing ended up being cold and scared rather than warm and telling.

November 19, 2009

Carlos Santana: Finding Spiritual Ecstasy through Music

“I want the audience to be reminded that before they had all this stuff, this DNA and flesh and bones, they were made out of light. And so what we want to do is not blind people but illuminate people.”

The life of world renowned musician Carlos Santana is nothing if not a vast collection of contradictions that add up to one of the greatest international tales of stardom in recent history. His story is one full of God, women, LSD, John Coltrane, and of course, some of the best guitar playing around, good enough for him to be named the 15th greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2003. He’s sold over 90 million records throughout his career and reached over 100 million fans through his many years of international touring. He was hailed as "the original crossover star who ignited rock 'n roll with Latin music" by Billboard Magazine and was honored this year with the Billboard Lifetime Achievement Award during the Latin Music Awards ceremony. The press release quoted him as saying, "Whether Puerto Ricans, Mexicans like it, I represent the highest there can be... I'm really important to the Latin community. I might not be what you want me to be, but I represent you” (Cobo 10). This contradiction of representing an entire community on a global scale and yet feeling guilt for not living up to everyone's expectations is echoed in many of Santana’s sentiments.

Born in Autlan de Navarro, in the Mexican state of Jalisco in 1947, Santana was raised in a musical environment, introducing him early to the sounds of waltzes, polkas, tangos, and mariachi music his father would play to support the family around towns nearing the U.S. border like Tijuana where the family eventually moved when Santana was around 12 years old. With his father’s encouragement, Santana first began playing the violin although he never felt entirely comfortable with the instrument or playing his parent’s traditional Mexican music. As he stated to Rolling Stone in 2008, “I joined my father in the streets, playing boleros but I had my ear on Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Bo Diddley. They went deep, and each note carried something important. I knew, from a long time ago, the difference between notes and life. I’d rather play life” (Fricke 58). These varied inspirations were the first inklings of Santana’s now signature fusion of blues, jazz, rock, and Latin percussion.

While growing up in Mexico, Santana started learning English by watching television programs through the windows of neighboring houses and was sent out with his brothers to sell gum on the streets or shine shoes for some extra cash. Occasionally, once he started playing guitar, Santana would sing Mexican folk songs for spare change (Heath 38). Eventually, he landed a job, while still underage, at a strip club in Tijuana where he worked for two years and attributes much of his lessons in professional musicianship. As he discussed in an interview, “I learned a lot about how the music helps a woman to walk when she’s onstage; otherwise she can look stupid. I noticed that if the drummer wasn’t playing the rhythm right, (the stripper) would take her high heels and throw them at him” (White 14). This seemed to have left a lasting impression.

Not only did Santana use this experience as inspiration in his musical career when creating beats that would bring people to a “spiritual orgasm” (14) but much later, as part of his flourishing entrepreneurship, designing a line of women’s footwear called Carlos by Carlos Santana which has now brought in about $100 million in sales since its development and he continues to credit the women he has met in his life with his success. He even manages to mention this gratitude in a short foreword written for the book Voices of Latin Rock: The People and Events That Created This Sound along with a message to the future contributors of Latin Rock: “If our history can challenge the next wave of musicians to keep moving and changing, to keep spirituality hungry and horny, that’s what it’s all about.” As one of the most successful musicians in history – and of any ethnic background – Santana has kept to this somewhat contradictory formula, a culmination of spirituality and sensuality.

Santana consistently mentions his deep belief in angels, devils, God, and the ghosts of his musical heroes that he believes visit him in times of crisis. "The energy of devils and angels is the same energy; it's how you use it. It's fuel. There is a saying: If you scare all your devils away, the angels will go with them” (Heath 38). His views on these topics are the main focus of many interviews like this one with Rolling Stone in 2000 in which he also states for the first time that he was molested as a child in Mexico by an American man who was a friend's father. He blames this for his problems with "guilt, shame, judgment, and fear" that he was forced to overcome for years and says the product of eradicating this was 1999's critically acclaimed Supernatural album that not only garnered eight Grammy Awards but revitalized his career, raising it to an even higher level than it ever was before (38).

In the years since, Santana continues to add to his astounding list of endeavors that most recently includes starting the Milagro Foundation, to help impoverished children around the world, the social networking program Architects of a New Dawn, which advocates global change through the power of positive thinking, and an upcoming residency in Las Vegas where he will perform 36 concerts a year through 2010. As recently as last year, Jon Parales of The New York Times gave Santana a glowing review for a concert performed at Madison Square Garden. Among other superlatives he stated, "Mr. Santana is a virtuoso and crowd pleaser with a mission - still, long after the '60's, reaching for ecstasy."

Carlos Santana is an illuminating example of how impossible it is to cage someone inside a stereotype. He is a man that not only came from a small town in Mexico and made himself into one of the greatest names in the music business for over three decades but allowed people all over the globe, from Peru to New Jersey, to grow up with his music and challenge their own beliefs about race and culture. He represents not only Mexicans, not only Latinos, but a universal group of soul searchers continuously creating contradictions in their own lives and continuously looking for that balance between angels and devils.


16 November 2009

For the Love of Headphones

While I often find myself in love with something: a new song, a perfect pillow, a new, horrible television series (Lorenzo Lamas reality show?), a gorgeous professor... the one thing that I never fall out of love with is my headphones. There is nothing that can get my heart racing faster than an incredible song heard through the little speakers attached to my ears by that long white cord that goes all the way down to my sparkly evergreen iPod full of some of the greatest songs ever recorded.

On a regular day I'll listen to music on the television, the computer, maybe the good old cd player or record player, and of course my headphones while I walk back and forth between campuses, etc. It makes me feel like a princess, like nothing can hurt me as long as I'm listening to something that makes me feel good and more confident than I could ever feel on my own. I have a strange relationship with music and part of that is making sure it is always personal. While music is one of the most fun things to share, it's also the one thing in my life that I feel very protective about, the one thing that is so private I'm not sure I can properly describe it with words, it's much more based in feelings. Headphones allow me to pretend that the music I'm listening to is not just in my ears but my entire body. I can feel it in my soul and through my being. Somehow I don't get that feeling through other mediums. It's like I'm having a private moment with someone whom I don't actually have to speak to (which is good) but I get the bonus of feeling comforted by their voice anyhow.

It's funny: I understand completely how cavemen got along without shoes and bathrooms but I can't really imagine how they didn't have headphones. I guess I'll give a personal example.

I don't have the internet at my apartment. We live close enough to the university library that I'm able to bring my laptop down there whenever I feel the great need to do something worldwide-webby. In the meantime I'll write little notes to myself about songs I need to download on iTunes (I am officially 100% musically legal now by the way, which I highly suggest) and bring them with me on the days I do manage to trudge down and get them. I set up my computer, sit on a stiff red chair, plug in my headphones, and drift off into my own world. Once the headphones are in I don't have to worry about the girl with the odd ponytail giving me strange looks or the creepsters with large pepsi cups in their laps - I just worry about the volume panel.

I once saw a young man on a library computer with heaphones in flipping out in front of the screen. There must've been twenty people sitting around us and there he was dancing in his seat, playing air drums and counting time with his hands and feet and anything else he could get to move. I laughed at the time but then tonight I was just like him. I got the new John Mayer album ONE DAY EARLY thanks to his incredible, underrated management team and I couldn't contain my feet. I was bouncing all over and couldn't care less who saw. The beats felt so good in my headphones that my soul was shaking.

Tomorrow I might wake up wanting to kill my boyfriend or drop out of school or not loving my dear John Mayer (well that won't happen) but one thing is for sure: I will always be in love with my headphones.

14 November 2009

Half of My Heart

Half of my entire heart belongs to John Mayer's new record Battle Studies. It doesn't officially arrive until Tuesday but the full version Rhapsody is currently streaming on their site is unbelievable. It is better than possibly anything he has ever commited to tape, which is saying a lot.

I know some people don't appreciate Mayer's public antics played out in every supermarket tabloid and evening entertainment show you can find but his music is on a completely different level I assure you.

I will try to do a full review (even just to see if I can) once Tuesday comes and I can enjoy the album in the comfort of my own home but it will be tough to not gush to extremes about how fantastic this music is. You know, I expected a great record but this far exceeds all my expectations. This is an album I would proudly blast out of any speakers at any time. This is one of my favorite things in the world right now.

I know it might say "aspiring music journalist" in the "about me" of this blog and maybe this isn't very journalistic but when you love something, how can you form words to express it rationally? I have not figured it out yet, I am just too excited to care!

Battle Studies is beyond words for me. "Heartbreak Warfare", "Perfectly Lonely", "Assassin", "All We Ever Do is Say Goodbye", "Half of My Heart", "War of My Life"... all exceptional by any standards.

One complaint I can think of so far? The war concept is a little wearing on my nerves in terms of lyrics by the end of the album. I can appreciate what is trying to be said by the consistent metaphors of love and war but perhaps it could've been toned down a pinch? Doesn't matter much though - I don't think the lyrics matter half as much as some of the real music found within these songs. Mayer has absolutely found the right background sounds for his raspy, mellow, sparse vocals. The combination is the definition of flawless.


09 November 2009

Best Songs of 2009...so far

I don't know if I have all the necessities to properly complete a list like this but I'm going to try my best. I won't set an exact number because that would be giving myself too much work but I do think you'll find a few excellent songs on here that you might not know along with some you definitely know that you should give a second or third listen. This is a list mainly for people who like a mixture of professionally produced, semi-popular indie music and a smattering of Top 40. I'd like to be more obscure but I always go back to what sounds best to me and that is usually the nicely produced, already known music that doesn't go overboard but is right on deck... if that makes sense. There are multiple songs by one artist on the list but don't take it as a bad thing - it's actually amazing. All of these songs are amazing in some fashion.

This is NOT in any specific order.

So here we go:

Best Songs of 2009 (So Far)

01 Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks
02 Grizzly Bear - While You Wait For the Others
03 Phoenix - 1901
04 Phoenix - Girlfriend
05 Julian Casablancas - 11th Dimension
06 The National - Ashamed of the Story I Told
07 Them Crooked Vultures - New Fang
08 John Mayer - Heartbreak Warfare
09 Kris Allen - Live Like We're Dying
10 Train - Hey Soul Sister
11 Kanye West - Paranoid
12 Jay-Z - Empire State of Mind
13 Will Dailey - How Can I Make You Happy
14 Mayer Hawthorne - Maybe So, Maybe No
15 Mayer Hawthorne - Just Ain't Gonna Work Out
16 Kid Cudi - Make Her Say
17 Monsters of Folk - Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)
18 Monsters of Folk - Whole Lotta Losin'
19 Kid Cudi - Day and Nite
20 Passion Pit - The Reeling
21 Michael Buble - Haven't Met You Yet
22 Regina Spektor - Eet
23 Andrew Bird - Anonanimal
24 Pearl Jam - The Fixer
25 Beyonce - Ego
26 Sondre Lerche - Don't Look Now
27 Devendra Banhart - Baby
28 Silversun Pickups - Substitution
29 Owl City - Fireflies
30 Free Energy - Free Energy

I'd say the BEST song of 2009 so far is...  Mayer Hawthorne - "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out".... I think. We'll see.

30 October 2009

Let's Pretend With Adam Lambert's New Single "For Your Entertainment"

Mr. Adam Lambert, a man I hold in high regard based on his exemplary performance on the little known television program American Idol, has come out with a single, "For Your Entertainment", that is not only unexpected but very troubling to my soul.

I am one of those in the mindset that Lambert was going to save the world from bad singing. He was going to set the bar higher than those before him and break open the land of mainstream music in a way no one ever has. Lambert was going to make not just the best American Idol alum album but the best album of the year, the decade, the century - the best vocal album, go on to win Grammys, four star praise, and everything that comes along with it. He could live out his days in one of the fancy mansions his millions of adoring fans gave him the opportunity to afford and buy lavish costumes that would fill his many closets when not on tour. He would have the untouchable fame of Cher and Madonna, with the ability to lie about retiring then come back to kill us all with the best selling tour of his career only to retire again and then make a great album we all knew he had left in him. When the light finally dimmed on his mega-successful, triumphant beyond words musical endeavors, we would all rush out and buy the thousands of magazines with his gleaming face on the cover, in his younger years, and mourn the death of the greatest human to ever walk the earth....

Well now I'm doubting all that.

"For Your Entertainment" was Lambert's first chance to knock us all dead with the power that he possesses in his throat that even the best of the best can't attain. This was supposed to IT for every one of his fans, not to disappoint anyone but to "entertain" everyone. Now, why does it sound like Katy Perry?

Maybe it's not always in the best taste to compare musicians to one another but this single isn't in the best taste either. Adam Lambert got his fame on the wings of his voice. He is not using his voice in this single. Let him make the music he wants to make, whether that be dance, electro-pop, pure pop, whatever but at least use that voice! It is like Whitney Houston going out and smoking all that dope and hanging out with Bobby Brown. No one has a voice like Adam Lambert. It should be used for the universal good - in my opinion. There are people like my mother out there who even at 53 years old is still incredibly hip with the current musical trends and absolutely fell in love with Adam. We both did. My stepfather did. Our dog did. Anyone within a 30 feet radius of the television did. He has the gift of angels. And no other singer has ever made me get spiritual before.

"For Your Entertainment" is a decent song. It might even be a great song to dance to but as a first single? It might've been a cool surprise on the album - at say track 8 or something - but Adam's talent is FAR superior to this fluff. I don't even blame Adam for this. No one can turn their back on someone with that kind of mega-talent. He'll still put it to good use I'm sure but it saddens me that as my boyfriend and I sit here listening to his single this morning (me acting like it's Christmas day), my face must go down a little and shake in dismay at what is coming from the speakers. Adam Lambert has a crown on his head. He must remember that and not let Kara Dio-whatever and Dr. Luke get in the way of that.

Don't be led astray Adam!

I will be looking out for the next single with very high hopes that refuse to be tarnished.

PS. I do like the campy, sarcastic album cover though. I think it's pretty clever.

26 October 2009

Standard Rock Radio

Just a quick thought about mainstream rock/pop music:

I'm so confused by it. Is it good? Is it bad? What is it?

I love Rob Thomas so much as a person and used to really dig Matchbox Twenty back in the day but I really have no idea what to make of his music now. I was watching VH1's Jump Start music video block this morning and saw his new music video for the single "Someday" and really enjoyed it but just wasn't sure to make of the song itself. Why is it that all of his songs are starting to sound the same? Even if that sound isn't particularly bad it's starting to go viral..

Doesn't Chris Daughtry and David Cook and Nickelback and all the others sound just like this? Granted, I'm not the first to comment on this commercialized corporate rock pattern but with my newfound love of Train it concerns me. Listening to their old hits (of which I'm pretty sure every single track they've ever put out has been), it reads like a list of standard, mundane rock tunes you'd turn to on any lite FM station or "80's, 90's and today" channel. Songs like "Meet Virginia", "Drops of Jupiter", and "Calling All Angels" are genuinely good but they have that monotonous sound of all the others. I am madly in love with the lyrics to some of these songs but they lack some oomph for the most part. "Hey Soul Sister" is obviously very different but is that just because of the distinct drums perhaps? I'm not sure.

Songwriters like Rob Thomas and Train's Pat Monahan are respectable because of their impressive writing skills.. maybe Monahan for his vocals but I don't think many people are particularly enthused to admit that they are gigantic Train or Matchbox Twenty fans - it's frankly a little embarrassing and I hate when that happens in music. These songs are certainly crafted in a specific way that took a lot of people a long time but it's just a shame that they almost completely lack any cool factor. They are mom rock at best and uncool blandness at worst - but the worst part is that there are talented guys behind this kind of music. Why do they insist on creating fluff on a lower level than Britney Spears? (which reminds me that Pink is also an impressive artist that doesn't get enough credit for her ACTUAL talent: writing)

Bottom line: I want to like Rob Thomas and Train but they make it too hard to even try.

25 October 2009

Wake Up Your Saints

When I get on a kick, it's difficult to get off it.

Last night at work I listened to three hours worth of The National and now I'm home with VH1 Soul (the 24 hour music video channel) on mute in the background and am still listening to nonstop National songs.

I miss The National. I haven't been listening to them as much as I used to but the second I start it up, it all comes rushing back. They're a tough band to listen to if nothing dramatic is happening in your life. There's a lot of drama and emotion packed into three minutes. I can't get my mind around it if I'm feeling stable. Luckily, I'm not usually feeling all too stable.

I wrote up a new 'about me' for the site and it came about when I realized I'm not very good at communicating in social settings like work, school, bars, sidewalks... I'm not relatable unless I'm writing or talking about music. It's the only place I seem to fit in. I can never find the perfect words to express my feelings and never know what to say to people when it's my turn in the conversation. I love my little blog though.

Getting back to The National, I specifically love that Matt Berninger's lyrics don't just talk about love gone wrong and all the usual things packed into a song. They're about career woes, vulnerability to life, and filled with irony or strange metaphors that normal people could never think of. In my writing class we're always discussing writing about the same things in a different way. The National does this better than anyone. Just the sound of their songs makes me feel different about everything. My entire mood shifts when they're on.

I don't know if it's worth talking about but why aren't they more famous? I was reading an interview with Matt Berninger from a couple years ago that mentioned he still had a day job designing pop up ads for websites. This man is someone I would consider one of the most talented people on earth. To think that he's wasting even a fraction of his time on things other than living life and making music is upsetting to my soul. This is not just "indie" music he's making, it is something otherworldly. I'm not sure how someone could hear these songs and not be moved by at least one line or one sound or one phrasing...

The National is the best band on earth.

24 October 2009

Picture of the Day: Matt Berninger of The National

This photograph...

courtesy of Stereogum's Virgin Mobile Freefest 2009 Photo Gallery.

Save Me, San Francisco (or Best Buy..)

And I continue my love of Train...

I'm so obsessed with that "Hey, Soul Sister" song that I'm getting embarrassed. For some reason Train's music reminds me of happiness, Christmastime, road trips - basically the few things in life that are good.

I don't know what it is with me and these lite radio sounds and as usual I wish I was drawn to more avant garde fare but I'm typically not (my version of avant garde is like - Dramarama - and now I'm thinking of how incredible they are and how I should write a post about them..).

On Tuesday I am definitely going out and buying their new album, Save Me, San Francisco. The clips on Amazon sound pretty decent and I'm itching to hear the rest of it.

While I'm waiting, I took a listen to the band Mr. Mister, the one mentioned in my Train song and found that I'm starting to love Train even more for referencing such a strange band that makes such eerie music. Who doesn't remember this song "Broken Wings" from their childhood when your parents were still in charge of the radio station and listened to the generic Top 40 of 1989? This really makes me happy for some reason and I can see the connection somehow between Mr. Mister and Train.

Does anyone even know what I'm talking about? Do you have to be a huge fan of Train to appreciate what I'm talking about even if you know what I'm talking about? Am I going crazy?

Yeah.. just watch this video though.