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.

23 October 2009

Anatomy of a Song: Train

Every time I hear this song (the title of my last post), I am more enamored than before. I recognize that it's a little cheesy but get over it! It is damn good and I had to go through the song line by line to check out what it is about the lyrics that move me so much. I found a few that are pretty killer:

Hey, Soul Sister Lyrics

Hey hey hey
Your lipstick stains
On the front lobe of my left side brains

I knew I wouldn't forget you
So I went ahead and let you blow my mind

Your sweet moonbeam
The smell of you in every single dream I dream

I knew when we collided
You're the one, I have decided, who's one of my kind

Hey, soul sister
Ain't that Mr. Mister
On the radio, stereo
The way you move ain't fair, you know

Hey, soul sister
I don't want to miss a single thing you do

Hey hey hey

Just in time
I'm so glad you have a one-track mind like me
You gave my life direction
A game-show love connection we can't deny

I'm so obsessed
My heart is bound to beat right out my untrimmed chest
I believe in you
You're a virgin, like Madonna
And I'm always gonna wanna blow your mind

Hey, soul sister
Ain't that Mr. Mister
On the radio, stereo
The way you move ain't fair, you know
Hey, soul sister
I don't want to miss a single thing you do

The way you can't cut a rug
Watching you's the only drug I need
You're so gangsta, I'm so thug
You're the only one I'm dreaming of

You see, I can be myself now finally
In fact, there's nothing I can't be
I want the world to see you be with me

Hey, soul sister
Ain't that Mr. Mister
On the radio, stereo
The way you move ain't fair, you know
Hey, soul sister
I don't want to miss a single thing you do

Hey, soul sister
I don't want to miss a single thing you do

And the same can be said for their massive hit "Drops of Jupiter":

Drops of Jupiter Lyrics

Now that she’s back in the atmosphere
With drops of Jupiter in her hair, hey, hey, hey, hey
She acts like summer and walks like rain
Reminds me that there’s time to change
, hey, hey, hey, hey
Since the return from her stay on the moon
She listens like spring and she talks like June, hey, hey, hey, hey
hey, hey, hey, hey

Tell me did you sail across the sun
Did you make it to the milky way to see the lights all faded
And that heaven is overrated

Tell me, did you fall for a shooting star
One without a permanent scar

And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there

Now that she’s back from that soul vacation
Tracing her way through the constellation
, hey, hey, hey
She checks out Mozart while she does tae-bo
Reminds me that there’s room to grow, hey, hey, hey, hey

Now that she’s back in the atmosphere
I’m afraid that she might think of me as plain ol jane
Told a story about a man who is too afraid to fly so he never did land

Tell me did the wind sweep you off your feet
Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day
And head back to the milky way
And tell me, did Venus blow your mind
Was it everything you wanted to find
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there

Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken
Your best friend always sticking up for you, even when I know you’re wrong
Can you imagine no first dance, freeze dried romance five-hour phone
The best soy latte that you ever had . . . and me

Tell me did the wind sweep you off your feet
Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day
And head back toward the milky way

Tell me did you sail across the sun
Did you make it to the milky way to see the lights all faded
And that heaven is overrated

Tell me, did you fall for a shooting star
One without a permanent scar
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself

nah nah nah nah nah nah nah
nah nah nah nah nah nah nah

And did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day

nah nah nah nah nah nah
nah nah nah nah nah nah

And did you fall for a shooting star
Fall for a shooting star

nah nah nah nah nah nah
nah nah nah nah nah nah

Are you loney looking for yourself out there

I have to find out more about the singer of this band. For him to be writing lyrics like this, he's got to be an interesting guy. I'll let you (the imaginary people I think read this blog) when I find out.

Hey Soul Sister, Ain't that Mr. Mister on the Radio?

I just have to write this second about some excellent work being done by contemporary artists that are really amazing me.

I've already written a lot about Monsters of Folk and briefly mentioned my love of Mayer Hawthorne but I am sincerely addicted to both. They have quickly taken the place of all my go-to artists. I'm also finding a lot of Jazmine Sullivan to be incredibly impressing along with Regina Spektor's new album and of course the always amazing Phoenix. Kid Cudi, Kris Allen (of all people) and Train's latest single have also been topping my most played list as of late and although it's a rather strange mix of people, I'm so excited about all the new discoveries.

Autumn always seems to bring those anticipated new albums from artists you've either been dying to hear more of or up and coming ones you can't wait to be introduced to. I know November will bring about the new discs of Adam Lambert, Lady Gaga's reissue of "The Fame Monster", Britney Spears' single collection with the new song "3", John Mayer's "Battle Studies", Alison Iraheta's debut, and Shakira's "She Wolf"... if you're into that sort of thing. Personally, I was hoping for a new The National album but that won't happen for quite a few more months.

So off the top of my head, here are the new songs I'm really digging (some are repeats if you've been reading all along but this is a more complete list):

Mayer Hawthorne - Maybe So, Maybe No
Mayer Hawthorne - One Track Mind
Mayer Hawthorne - Just Ain't Gonna Work Out
Monsters of Folk - The Right Place
Monsters of Folk - Dear God
Monsters of Folk - Say Please
Jazmine Sullivan - Need U Bad
Jazmine Sullivan - Switch
Jazmine Sullivan - Lions, Tigers, and Bears
Kris Allen - Live Like We're Dying
Train - Hey, Soul Sister
John Mayer - Heartbreak Warfare
Phoenix - Girlfriend
Phoenix - Countdown
Phoenix - 1901
Kid Cudi - Make Her Say
Kid Cudi - Day and Nite
Regina Spektor - Eet

I can't wait to find even more amazing music like this in the coming days...

Some of my current favorite videos accompanying these songs:

Loving the Dinosaur

Chuck Klosterman.

A review to come after mid-terms.. in the meantime look, read, love.

I'm ready.

22 October 2009

I am Obsessed With Monsters

I did something several days ago that I haven't done in 100 years: bought an actual compact disc from a music store! Well.. it wasn't exactly a "music" store (more like Best Buy) and it wasn't in the hard-to-open plastic case I remember from years past but it is definitely a CD with a nice cover and lyrics inside! I chose a good one too:

Monsters of Folk.

I gotta tell you, the more I hear this band, the more I love them. I started out not appreciating their single "Say Please", then listened to a 30 second clip of most songs on the album on iTunes, decided on three M. Ward-leading tunes to purchase and didn't think much about the rest of the album until I realized that I was listening to those three songs over and over again. I needed to hear more. I was really leery about going near anything that involved Conor Oberst too heavily, as I mentioned in a previous post about M.O.F., but I took my chances and came out loving EVERY single song on the entire record, including the Oberst tracks. There are really only two bands I recall despising in my life: R.E.M. and Bright Eyes (both of which I saw on the same day in concert for a charity event and only minorly acknowledged as 'okay') so to say I enjoy Conor Oberst on this record is a testament to the other members of the band that make him sound good and his own folksy sound that is not even close to being Bright Eyes-whiny on this collection of songs. Mr. Oberst actually sounds really good if I'm being honest here (he's almost 30, maybe he's finally out of his awkward period). "Temazcal" is a true standout.

Otherwise, I still have little opinion on Jim James and I still love M. Ward so much that I'm starting to mention him too often in my posts. M. WARD. M. WARD. M. WARD. His voice is so captivating I want to hand out fliers with his picture on them at airports like a crazy Hare Krishna. When his voice sinks into my headphones I am lost in the world he creates. I told my boyfriend the other day that I would not be as happy of a person without M. Ward which is kind of an oxymoron when you consider that most of his songs are rather melancholy and I discovered him through a young man I don't speak to anymore that I loved quite dearly. Oh well. Sadder things have happened, right? Maybe all that is a part of why I connect so well with his music. I am smitten with M. Ward. I can only imagine being in a small bar somewhere in the middle of nowhere listening to Mr. Ward sing his peaceful songs with just a guitar and a beer. That might be my version of heaven.

So I got off topic but there are other songs I love on this album: "The Right Place" is absolutely one that has gotten the most plays since my purchase. While it still doesn't top my ultimate favorite "Whole Lotta Losin", it is such a Nashville-twangy, cheerful, uptempo song that it always makes me feel good.

And then there's the first track "Dear God". The track that confused me when I ripped off the plastic in the parking lot and thought I was in for a country album and heard R&B beats right off the bat. This almost six minute long song is DELICIOUS. If you've read more than ten posts on this site you might know I'm not a fan of songs longer than four minutes - they are always drawn out, I don't care what people say about "Free Bird" or "Stairway to Heaven". I don't even like John Mayer songs that go on for too long (ironically my two favorite songs of all time are both near the 8 minute mark but those are literally the only exceptions of that atrocious length - they are true epic sagas - and "Music Sounds Better With You" - that's a good one). "Dear God" is tacked on to that list now. It is sexy, sad, and insightful all at once and in equal doses.

I don't write music and I don't get the feeling of wishing I wrote something very often but these four musicians that compose Monsters of Folk are masters at their craft and I'm practically jealous of their talent. Of course I'm more grateful than anything. This album is perfection and I'm nearly convinced that they're all geniuses.


Favorite Tracks: Whole Lotta Losin, The Right Place, Dear God, The Sandman, The Brakeman, and Me, Baby Boomer, Temazcal, Say Please

21 October 2009

Back and Better Than Ever

I am blinded by love right now for what is starting to sound like John Mayer's best album to date. I was concerned after the hoopla surrounding the meager "Who Says" but judging from the 30 second previews on Amazon UK, I'm beginning to believe that the song doesn't even belong on the record with the rest of these stellar sounds.

There is this phenomenal Lindsay Buckingham sound to almost the entire album that is so striking I can't think of much else to say about it just yet. It is incredibly sultry, sleepy, breezy, hollow, Radiohead-In-Rainbows-ish even. Like I mentioned previously, Mayer stated he was going for a SoCal, Tom Petty vibe on this record but thankfully he missed that point (which I feel he wouldn't be able to hit) and almost mistakenly came up with a record so perfect in its classic John Mayer/Fleetwood Mac execution that I was practically in tears listening to it. Superb.

So far, once again just based upon the 30 second clips, my favorites are opener "Heartbreak Warfare", middle track "Perfectly Lonely", and follower "Assassin". These three songs hit me right away without needing a second listen (although there's already been about 12 listens to each of these). I cannot wait for Battle Studies, the album I will be listening to nonstop for the next five years, to come out.

Sorry, everyone. I know it's embarrassing to admit obsessive love, particularly for John Mayer, but while he still needs to work on his album cover skills, he makes excellent music.

19 October 2009

I Still Owe You For the Ghost in the Hall

My favorite thing in the world has to be music that emphasizes an emotion. In grade school I was told that if you use the word "thing" in a sentence you have to explain what you're referring to - in this case I can't really describe it. There are a lot of flaws like this in my writing about music (others might be the constant gushing, the informal nature, etc.) but I hope the extraordinary sounds I'm touting shine through regardless. I only know how to give that to you through my own personal experiences. Chuck Klosterman-style I hope. (p.s. the picture above is Mr. Klosterman, my role model, himself in a t-shirt I own with a framed record behind him that I also have framed in my living room...)

Now, let me try to paint you a picture of today:

I'm walking around campus - a semi-young, semi-self conscious girl - nervously pulling at my skirt that's shorter than anyone else's I've seen and feeling pretty anxious about my last class. I walk down the long sidewalk adjacent to one of the main streets within the campus where cars drive by incessantly and as usual get the feeling that they're staring directly at me. This is my paranoia of course but I can't help but feel it on the back of my neck as I move towards the shuttle bus, my destination on this walk.

Magically, half way there, I get my iPod out, put in my headphones, and press the shuffle button on my favorite playlist aptly titled "Angelica" because the songs are so much a part of me, and morph into a different person. I hear the opening chords of Mayer Hawthorne's "Maybe So, Maybe No" (that I'm listening to again now) and get a strut, you know? I hear those notes and I don't exactly forget about the cars driving past me on the long road but I don't care about them anymore. Maybe I'm even walking for them, entertaining them and suddenly - if I have any thoughts about other people at all - it is simply: I wish they could hear this song!

In relation to my last post actually, I was thinking about the Principle of Non-Allness, one used in communication to describe how words that we use in daily life don't capture everything we mean. Based in semantics, it basically means that the map is not the territory. When you give someone directions over the phone, the process of physically getting there is much different than you just saying, "oh, you pass a Wawa on the left.."

It's the same with music. I had mentioned that my professor spoke of being incapable of discussing a particular feeling music gives him. In turn I questioned the point of discussing music at all and concluded that much of music talk revolves around a necessity among music lovers to share their feelings with others regardless of the exact message they're transmitting. Even Rolling Stone can't put their thoughts exactly into perfect words for their readers. Sure, a great review can do wonders for record sales but it's not going to shake someone's soul until they hear the record for themselves. The sounds will simply be stronger than the words. Hearing about a delicious restaurant is not the same as eating at it.

I'm stressing this because I want to explain to myself (and possibly you) why writing about music is so important. Not only is it necessary but it's the only way to SHARE the beautiful sounds and emotions. I can try to explain how M. Ward's voice makes me feel - and it would be a great accomplishment in the art of writing if I could - but the art of music is also being discussed so it's also important to hear his voice for yourself. There are two art forms working together and with massive respect to writing, both are equally important. One is informed by the other. I love this cycle. I love trying to explain why I love someone like M. Ward (which has multiple stories behind it) and I love knowing that it can best be understood by actually hearing him. There is some "thing" so powerful about that connection that I'll never fail to be amazed by it.

I hope I have the opportunity one day to continue the journey of exploring music with a larger group of ears. In the meantime, consider reading Rob Sheffield's poignant autobiographical music book, Love is a Mixtape to get a perfect example of music and writing coming together to form my favorite specialty art form. There is nothing else like it.

15 October 2009

Dancing About Architecture and Other Musings


These are the words that came out of my favorite professor's mouth today while discussing music.

Granted, it was probably meant as a passing comment and it was during a discussion of Latin America's political framework but somehow he got off topic and dropped those words on my ears that stuck with me for the rest of the day. When talking about music, is there any way to actually talk about it?

In his example, he mentioned hearing a great song on the radio. You get the desire to talk about it incessantly with friends later on but is there any way to recollect the feeling you got when you first heard it? We are supposed to implicate that the answer is no, there is no way to explain that sensation to others, it is something that happens inside you and there are no words in the English language - or Spanish - to qualify as specific enough to express such personal feelings.

I love that he used music as an example but his true statement kind of refutes my entire career goal: writing about that same musical sensation that he deemed impossible to express. And unfortunately, I agree. The reason I want to write about music is because when I get that particular feeling about a song, I can't wait to share it with the world. I want everyone to hear the song immediately, understand why I love it so much and secretly I want them to give me accolades for finding it first. I think that's the underlying desire of many music fanatics.

My professor's wonderful insight brings up a lot of questions for me. While music is indeed one of the most passionate, erotic, expressive, thought provoking, and overall personal mediums one can think of, it is also meant to be shared. Of course in most cases, these are strangers making the music to begin with and then spreading it across radio waves for all of us listeners to enjoy and take in as our own. When Johnny Cash sings "I Still Miss Someone" his "someone" is not our "someone" but it sure as hell feels like it on some rough days when you feel like the words are there exclusively for you - but they're not. I have to remind myself sometimes that there are millions of people - both before and after me - who believe these words are for them too, and then there's the original writer and the original "someone".

While discussing a new favorite song, I have a tendency to say "it sounds like me" or "it sounds like my style". Recently I felt like this about Monsters of Folk's "Whole Lotta Losin'". When I first heard it, I went silent. The sound of the song blew my mind and I immediately wanted to post it right here, on this blog, and share it with as many people as possible. I'm not even sure how many people read this blog to begin with but the main reason I want readers is for moments like that. I want someone to comment on that kind of post and say, "wow! I completely know how you feel. You should check out...so and so." Passion, sharing, and music all go hand in hand for me - like three best friends if you will. One just isn't right without the other.

But how does this fit into my professor's statement? I'm not sure. I do believe to some degree, as Elvis Costello stated so bluntly, "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture" but I think perhaps in both of these statements, the point is being missed. Yes, it is impossible to convey such a strong emotion as how a piece of art makes you feel to another but sharing the actual piece of art with them and letting them get their own take OR trying to tell them how something made you feel and letting them tell you how they relate based on another piece of art that they love are two options that might help express this a little better. I think that is what music journalism is: giving what you love to someone else and letting them make a judgement for themselves. That giving should hopefully incite some type of reaction and set off a chain wherein they feel compelled to share with you something they love in return.

Maybe that's a very whimsical theory of music journalism but that's my dream. I want to start a passionate conversation.

My darling professor has evoked several other thoughts of music in my head before with casual comments regarding the art that at this point are best left for another post. He is obviously a deep lover of music himself and rarely do I get the treat of hearing someone passionately discuss my favorite thing in the world which is possibly why I took this particular comment to heart. But just another topic to think about: It's extraordinary how much easier it is to pay attention to words stated by someone you adore and admire than a regular person. I wish I could be around more people that get my wheels turning...

14 October 2009

This Isn't Pretty: John Mayer Edition

I've only seen it once but so far: I hate John Mayer's new video for "Who Says". The only way I can get through it is to imagine that when he says "I don't remember you looking any better but then again I don't remember you" he's referring to himself - because those are my thoughts exactly.

He has never looked better, he's a sexy guy, but I don't remember John Mayer this way and I don't want to. I want my old "Room For Squares", nerdy, off the radar John Mayer back immediately. I don't want him covering Tom Petty songs anymore or saying his duet with Taylor Swift is like "Petty/Nicks" in the '70's. It is not. I'm tired of these pathetic games. I'm about to shell out some major money for an album release show in November and I'm so fed up with this new image of John Mayer as a tabloid rock star/starlet sex machine/arrogant not-even-as-talented-as-he-thinks-he-is mess.

I'm only so harsh because I love him and he's my all time favorite. I know he can do better and it really saddens me that the beautiful minimalist format of videos like "Waiting on the World to Change" and "Clarity" are suddenly replaced with what Perez Hilton called "Mariah Carey style - all glam, no substance". This is too depressing to even post about.

While I'm starting to appreciate the song "Who Says" for what it is and starting to realize more and more that this upcoming album is not going to be the jazzy soul record I was praying for, I still can't swallow this video yet. Why is John Mayer suddenly Hugh Hefner? Keep it in your private life. I know I'm just one person but as a long time Mayer fan, I value his artistic side just as much as his musical side. This might be a little known fact but he is the one responsible for coming up with many of his own album art layouts. "Heavier Things" is all him and the classic John Mayer blue/gray color scheme is another brainchild of his.

Now, who's responsible for this crap?

Watch below:

And as a reminder, this was one of his last music videos, the gorgeous "Waiting on the World to Change". Look at the difference. And hey, while you're at, listen to how much better this song is than "Who Says". WHAT A MISTAKE.

11 October 2009

Music Video to Love: Eet

I just heard this song for the first time on Saturday Night Live last night while I was half asleep but it sounded so good that I remembered to look it up once I got to work this morning. I'm not typically a fan of Regina Spektor but she kills it with the emotion in this one. The lyrics, particularly "It’s like forgetting the words to your favorite song you can’t believe it, you were always singing along", really speak to a certain feeling I can understand instantly. Really lovely.

This video is just as beautiful as the song, mostly because Ms. Spektor is a beautiful woman. Check it out.

Eet Lyrics

It’s like forgetting the words to your favorite song
You can’t believe it
You were always singing along
It was so easy and the words so sweet
You can’t remember
You try to feel the beat

Eet, eet, eet, eet
Eet, eet, eet, eet

You spent half of your life trying to fall behind
You’re using your headphones to drown out your mind
It was so easy, and the words so sweet
You can’t remember
You try to move your feet
Eet, eet, eet, eet
Eet, eet, eet, eet

Someone’s deciding whether or not to steal
He opens the window just to feel the chill
He hears that outside a small boy just starting to cry
‘Cause it’s his turn but his brother won’t let him try

It’s like forgetting the words to your favorite song
You can’t believe it
You were always singing along
It was so easy and the words so sweet
You can’t remember
You try to move your feet

It was so easy and the words so sweet
You can’t remember, you try to feel the beat

Somebody to Love: Phoenix

Phoenix is a French alternative rock band formed by childhood friends in the suburbs of Versailles in the late-'90's. Started during the same period as bands like Air and Daft Punk - other friends - their music shares very similar qualities. They've had both critical and international acclaim for their five album ventures over the last decade and are currently touring the US in support of their latest album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, released in May of this year.

This is a band that has never stuck to a genre. Listening to their current album almost sounds like a mash up between European electro pop and The Strokes style of retro rock. It's hard to put a finger on exactly what makes these songs so catchy but without a doubt they are some of the best songs to test out the bass in your car speakers. Songs like "1901" and "Lisztomania", written about the hysteria over 19th century composer Franz Liszt, are as addicting as Wawa's Peruvian coffee blend and sound better than anything on the radio today.

Unlike so many other bands, Phoenix has also managed to make one excellent record after the next. "Everything is Everything" and "Run Run Run" off 2004's Alphabetical and "If I Ever Feel Better" off their debut disc United still sound as fresh as when they first came out. These are timeless, fun, good old pop songs that never seem to tire.

I have to say, I sometimes don't understand how certain bands think they're making good music when in reality it's clearly garbage. Phoenix is the polar opposite. They have created some of the best beats and strangest lyrics I've ever heard. They're amazing.

I suggest buying the entire Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix album immediately. You won't regret it.

10 October 2009

Music Video to Love: While You Wait For the Others

I don't know how I feel about this song yet but I do love the music video. I'm so impressed with it - both artistic and heartfelt. Grizzly Bear is quickly becoming one of my trusted bands, I never would've thought.

Grizzly Bear - "While You Wait For the Others"

09 October 2009

I Love The National. Did You Know That?

The National just completely remodeled their website and have a couple tour dates up for the end of October - not as the band but the individual members along with several others from The Breeders and My Brightest Diamond will be performing in Brooklyn under the name "The Long Count". I might not make it to that but I hope to hear some spectacular reviews and see some excellent youtube footage.

Check out the new site and learn more about the greatest band in the world: American Mary.

Nothing Beats a Good Poster

Just stumbled upon a great music poster website called The Small Stakes . They have some of the best poster art I've ever seen in terms of miminalist, funky, modern designs that would look fantastic on a living room wall. And if you're at least a semi-middle class person their prices aren't even that bad (if you're a poor college student, it's a little rougher). I love these though and would consider forking over the $25 plus shipping fees for a few of them if I didn't then have to buy an additional frame, border, etc. to make it look right on my already carefully decorated walls.

But in all seriousness, these are exceptional..

07 October 2009

Rock Photography

Just came across an amazing photographer, Justin Borucki, that I felt compelled to share with everyone. Of course one of the most amazing components of these photographs are the subjects but his artistic eye is definitely worth commenting on. The facial expressions he captures in these are pretty interesting.

Top to Bottom: Chris Cornell, Robert Smith - The Cure, John Frusciante - Red Hot Chili Peppers, Common, and 88 Keys.

If you liked these, also check out the brilliant work of Melissa Friedman on her website beIMAGED. Some truly inspiring stuff.

All of these photos found on www.justinborucki.com

Everclear - October 5, 2009

I was extremely lucky to receive free tickets to Everclear's performance at the elegantly simplistic Highline Ballroom on Monday night in New York and even luckier to be off from work and school and have someone to go with on such late notice. To top off my luck, Everclear surpassed my meager expectations and made me proud, once again, to call them one of my favorite bands.

Like some of the rap I've been enjoying lately, Everclear is not typically what one might consider my type of music but upon my first listen in middle school, I was hooked to their deep phrasing and passionate storytelling. Art Alexakis, the lead singer and single constant of the band, can tell a story through alternative rock better than some of our finest folk acts and hip hop stars. This guy has the gift of gab - within a song. Even at 47 years old, he is fresh and the pain still lies deep. Stories of childhood heartbreak, girlfriend overdoses, traumatic nightmares, Volvo driving soccer moms.. no topic is off limit in an Everclear song. It's not only refreshing to hear about personal experiences coming from a place within someone's soul that they're not trying to hide from the public but it's also incredibly moving to be in front of a middle aged man pouring his heart out in songs about some issues other people wouldn't even feel comfortable talking about with their closest friends. It somehow reminds me that we're all just human beings trying - struggling - to get through our day to day lives in one piece.

Everclear's songs have always hit me this way. They say so much within three minutes but it's typically the feeling the words evoke that mean so much to me. Watching Mr. Alexakis up there divulging stories of his daughter taking him to a father/daughter dance and getting up in front of her classmates to give a speech about how proud she is of her dad is one thing but seeing his crooked, embarrassed posture as he does so and how his voice cracks a little when he thinks of how proud he is to have this story to tell - it is just overwhelming. I know it's supposed to be a fun rock show - and I did have tons of fun screaming the lyrics at the top of my lungs and dancing like a maniac - but what separates a band like Everclear from any other alt-rock to come out of the '90's is the heart their front man has without ever meaning to. He is doing what he has to do - what he is trained to do. He comes across as so fragile and helpless that I found myself hoping he realizes the amazing ability he has to touch a person's soul. He understands the human condition in a very unique way that most music doesn't ever come close to.

Now, I do have to say this is a far cry from the last time I saw Everclear about a year ago in Camden opening for the Stone Temple Pilots. Art was in rare form yelling about how he's spent too much of his life listening to women and he's not going to do it anymore and seeming more like an angry old rocker than a person ready to explore their human spirit. While they performed pretty decently that evening, it wasn't anything to write about and they were toppled by STP with Scott Weiland at least pretending to be professional.

On Monday, Art was off vocally, which he acknowledged several times, and did seem a bit exhausted most likely from personal problems he mentions more specifically on his blog, but all of the flaws amassed into something that felt one of a kind. I was not disappointed whatsoever. I actually appreciated the vulnerability much more than the flashiness of the typical concert you get these days with over the top nonsense taking the place of real grit and real music.

The set list contributed to the intimate feeling as well. Let the critics say what they will about Everclear "reliving their glory days" but I enjoy hearing tracks from the older catalog of a band I've loved for a long time. Too many artists get caught up in playing their entire latest album and forget entirely about their devoted, long time fanbase that might want to hear the songs that made them fall in love in the first place. Everclear not only played the classics like "Father of Mine", "I Will Buy You a New Life", and "Santa Monica" but Art took to the acoustic guitar to play old favorites like "Strawberry" and jammed on some stirringly unique versions of "Herion Girl" and "Brown Eyed Girl" which he dedicated to his daughter. And while the encore wasn't long enough, "Everything to Everyone" sounded just as good as ever.

I left the venue feeling privileged to have been a part of an audience of die hard fans that truly love and respect an artist, flaws and all.

Photos courtesy of The Aquarian (from different show but same idea).

05 October 2009

Connect the Music

I had some wonderful inspiration for a post today in the form of a song I listened to on the way to class.

In the morning it's usually difficult for me to hear anything besides the running water in the bathroom as I get ready for the day and possibly the humming of the heat if it's cold enough. Today, on the other hand, I decided to actually hook up my iPod and try to get in a lively mood before my first class. John Mayer was my go-to voice for this occasion.

Now, you know that I love John Mayer but oftentimes I'm asked to explain what it is about Mayer that makes me so happy. Is it that I can relate to his lyrics? Do I think he's "hot"? Maybe my friends are into him? Well none of these are applicable in my situation and until today I don't think I had a solid answer.

Typically I'm all about sharing musical experiences with other music lovers and coming together as one to appreciate a sound we're all obsessed with but sometimes there's no good explanation for why a particular piece of music evokes a feeling in you and might not in someone else. Putting on the song "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)" this morning, I was somehow brought back to the first time I heard the song and how much it meant to me. I had just bough Mayer's album Continuum (on the day it came out of course) and I hadn't heard any of the songs on it save for the single, "Waiting on the World to Change" and the John Mayer Trio version of "Vultures". I didn't know what to expect but the built up anticipation and near anxiety I was going through waiting to hear it for the previous couple months had come to a head and I was prepared to give it my complete attention.

I put the cd in the player and sat back on a white leather chair in my bedroom waiting the final seconds for the sounds to begin. "Waiting on the World to Change" was first and that was fine. It set the mood. Then "I Don't Trust Myself" was next and the opening chords blew me away. I remember thinking it was everything I was looking for in a song - the way someone might feel when they think they've found the right partner - it was everything I never knew I needed. Jazzy, sexy, slinky, tight beats, sparse drums, the lead guitar part that is more melodic than our greatest vocalists, the emptiness of a song that says so much but mostly in your mind... with the music more than the lyrics.

In the days after this discovery, I would play this song while putting on my shoes, while writing, while playing with my cat ... anything. I always wanted to hear it. It took me to a world I wanted to be in. It was my key into a Manhattan penthouse with slate gray walls and luxurious Armani furniture. It was not superficial though. It was the feeling all of these images evoked for me. I have always been in love with modern, sexy, cool jazz sights and sounds. I know the tabloid's "John Mayer" isn't known for this specific vibe but my John Mayer unconsciously achieves this since his first album and beyond. "Neon" on Room For Squares was the same thing. That songs still skips on my original cd version because of my repeat playing habit since I was - oh - 15? Now that I'm quite a bit older, it has come to my attention that I came of age to Mayer's voice and music. He is an old, trustworthy friend that keeps me company and makes me less afraid to face the world when his voice is reassuring me through my headphones.

I don't take this for anymore than it's worth though. It is "just" music and I get that but it means the world to me. There's not too many things you can rely on in this world and I consider myself lucky to have one constant that has stayed by side through thick and thin, high school, West Virgina, college, break-ups, get-togethers, etc. What a gift.

While I still deeply, deeply love the New York jazz sound I feebly tried to explain above, as I get older, I get a little more jaded and rough around the edges. Sometimes the old standbys don't work anymore and that's when I find music that not only soothes my soul but changes it - The National.

The National is the only other music I've come across at exactly the right time and I strongly believe it changed my outlook on life, love, logic, etc. It transformed me if you can possibly imagine one single band doing that. Like Mayer, Matt Berninger's voice was a beacon of light. It just clicked instantly. And strangely, unlike Mayer where the sound of his sparse music felt immediately recognizable to me, it was The National's strange, deep emotional context and connection that got inside me. It was the exact opposite of what I was loving about John Mayer and it set up the foundation of a maturity in my own life that was beginning to grow.

I would love to hear other people's stories of music helping their evolution as a person too but I guess I'll have to wait to until I can do some real research.