Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thrasing Through the Library's Compact Disc Collection

One of my most favoritest things to do when I am home is go through my local library's new acquisitions for the months I've been at school. I search their catalogue for artists currently on my radar, old and new, and place about 35 holds, fingers crossed for what gets in before I depart.

We have a lovely relationship, my library and I. They provide me with music. I provide them with quick-handed re-shelving of all pop/rock materials, in an attempt to get LL Cool Jay as far away as possible from Los Lonely Boys as I can, and Snow Patrol free from the vicinity of Soulja Boy, even if it is only for the few moments before the librarian notices what I'm doing and attempts to put them back in whatever God-forsaken system they think is musical organization. You cannot slap anything that isn't Beethoven with a "Pop/Rock" sticker and get away with it! PEOPLE.

I currently have 18 albums out, some requested, some happened upon, some lucky draws from the back shelf. They arrived in my possession thus:

Snow Patrol, "Eyes Open" (2006) - I've always loved these guys, and this summer a friend rekindled my love for them through the song "Make This Go On Forever." I've checked out this album before, but it must have been lost in the deep throws of my musical collection, because it doesn't appear in my library anymore. So it's a "replacement" acquisition.

Snow Patrol, "Final Straw" (2003) - Streaming their recently released "Up To Now" retrospective has delighted me, and I've decided to delve into their earlier work. The song "Chocolate," which opens the new album, is growing on me in fine fashion.

Phantom Planet, "Raise the Dead" (2008) - Three words: "Do the Panic." I spent the summer playing the tambourine to this song while a friend played guitar as we both mumbled our way through this song, neither of us really knowing the lyrics to the verses. But there is nothing so fulfilling as belting "BA ba ba, BA ba SHADOOBEE DOO!"

Mute Math "Armistice" (2009) - Loved these guys' first album. Haven't listened to the new one yet. But I am a sucker for rock soundscapes.

Boys Like Girls "Love Drunk" (2009) - Not my typical stash, but I've got a friend who's really into the pop-punk, emo scene, and sometimes all you really wanna do is blast some high-school drama and sing along, Good Charlotte style.

Frightened Rabbit "The Midnight Organ Fight" - There is no year next to the copyright in this disc jacket. Isn't that illegal? Anyways, four of these guys' songs were part of a music dump one friend unloaded on my computer a few months back. I heard the sing "Keep Yourself Warm" and was hooked. There is just something addicting about these kids. WARNING: DO NOT LISTEN TO WHILST STUDYING FOR FINALS, OR YOU MAY ACCIDENTALLY PURCHASE THEIR ENTIRE DISCOGRAPHY. (I myself did not do this, but I wasn't the only one to receive the music dump.)

Jose Gonzalez, "Veneer" (2006) - This guy got famous for the song "Heartbeats" being used in pretty much every indie venue...ever. It's a great song.

Joze Gonzales, "In Our Nature"(2007) - These fairly identical albums (just look at the covers) are hard to pick between, but I would argue the track "Teardrop" makes this one the winner, and not just because it's an acoustic version of the "House" opening credit theme, originally done by Massive Attack.

The Ting Tings, "We Started Nothing" (2008) - I spent a summer working in Gap, experiencing the dulcet tones of "That's Not My Name" on the 50 song playlist. Then the Rockies used that very song for their mid-inning vid of baseball bloopers from around the country. I caved.

Switchfoot, "Hello Hurricane" (2009) - Again, a friend this summer re-turned me onto these blokes, mostly with the songs "This Is Your Life," "Dare You To Move" and the surprise hit in my heart, an acoustic version of "Stars." I have a great desire to revisit their work, but this new offering should hold some gems.

Oasis, "Dig Out Your Soul" (2008) - After four months in the Yook, I've developed a fondness for them Brits, and their tunes. Though this album doesn't have their airwave-overwhelming hit "Wonderwall" or anthemic "Champagne Supernova," the most recent album should be a good trip, right?

The Starting Line, "Direction" (2007) - I know nothing about these kids. The cover looks promising. Indie-pop? Rhapsody has them listed as pop-punk. This is actually how I find most of my beloved bands - picked up their album on a whim at the library, decided to give it a spin.

My Morning Jacket, "Evil Urges" (2008) - A friend in high school used one of their lyrics as her senior quote. It was so depressing it got edited out. Intrigued, I've rented them out for the evening, as it were.

The Killers, "Day and Age" (2008) - I'm a massive fan of "Sam's Town" and a lukewarm supporter of "Hot Fuss." "Sawdust" is pretty hit or miss. But about a month ago I had dinner with a guy who swears by the Killers, and through the course of the evening we went through every. single. album. He didn't buy my reasoning that "are we dancer?" isn't proper grammar.

Skillet, "Awake" (2009) - There is something just so doggone PLEASING about heavy metal for Jesus. You feel pissed and holy at the same time. I enjoyed their last album, and I was pleased to run into this one on the racks.

Paramore, "The Final Riot!" (2008) - I enjoyed the album "Riot!" as much as the next indie-but-I'll-listen-to-your-emo-music-if-you-really-want-me-to rocker, and in my experience, the live stuff is always better than the studio stuff. You have to know what's going on (i.e., what the studio stuff sounds like), but live music is so much more rewarding, even if it's recorded. (Oxymoron much?) Music was meant to be live, people!

Phantom Planet, "The Guest" (2003) - I may be overkilling in this band's department, but I like to run the gamut of offering. 2003 was AGES ago, man!

Nora Jones, "The Fall" (2009) - Mainstream is mainstream for a reason. Would I like Regina over Nora? Yes. Will I listen to Nora anyway? Yes.

And there you have it. Thus are the interworkings of mine brain. In other news, I'm hungry, and I haven't been properly hungry for about five days. It's a nice feeling. But I'ma gonna go eat something. Cheers, y'all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Avatar: Or, You Cannot Buy Me With Floating, Flourescent Jellifish

Last night I went to see Avatar. This is after Alby both texted and posted on my facebook wall (multimple times): GO SEE AVATAR. GO SEE AVATAR. (etc.) So my little bro and I buckled down and went.

Unfortunately, we had to see it in 2D, because our theater of choice is not yet equipped with 3D apparati, and the theater that is has a history of being sold out for everything ever. So we didn't see it in super-shmancy-pancy 3D, which is probably why the movie left me feeling completely unfulfilled. Without effects to fall back on, the story was a flop (or, as one before me put it, Dances With Wolves...IN SPACE!!). Now I LUV me some Costner stache, but the dialogue in Avatar is so basic, by the third act I was laughing out loud at the real whoppers. I'm planning on seeing it again in 3D with mon pere, but as it stands, I don't think any amount of "full world emmersion" can salvage the elementary state of the writing.

If you would like the film COMPLETELY SPOILED FOR YOU (not that it won't happen anyway), here's my condensed version:

Generic Hero I-Haven’t-Found-Myself-Yet Marine (Good): Hello, I’m a paraplegic ex-marine with a dead twin brother *pity pity pity sprinkles*


Sigourney Weaver: I’m Sigourney Weaver. I went to Stanford, class of 1972. *points at shirt* Did you get it?

The Man: OH NO! We must harvest unobtani-adamanti-wonderflonium for MONEY! And the indigenous population is all that stands between us and MONEY! Because as The Corporate Man, All I ever want is MONEY!! I’M SO ORIGINAL!!!!

Native Population: But oh! I will represent everyone from Native Americans to Iraq! I shall be used to make a comment on everything from the War on Terror to Global Warming! Don’t worry, they will be so overt that you won’t need to bother with thinking! This is mindless entertainment for crying out loud – I’m gonna pump it with “Message” so you feel GOOD about feeling bad when it’s all over.

The Man: Oh no, the natives are in the way!

Bad Marine: Let’s pretend to care about moving them, because all we really wanna do is blow them up no matter what! WITH GUNS OF FIRE! I can’t possibly be a reasonable character because then who would we have to blame?

Good Marine: Hey, I’m kinda falling in love with this indigenous culture that is far more pure and genuine than my own…thank God I’m not a Kevin Costner fan or I might be having déjà vu!

Big Eyed Female Thing: I will represent every ethnicity that isn’t Anglo-American. And I will walk around being “clearly attractive” pretty much naked, but it’s okay because I’m odd enough looking that it won’t bother you. And whenever I feel emotion I will do this: *hacking scream*

Ohh, look! The glowing jellyfish have CHOSEN YOU!! YOU MUST BECOME ONE OF US!!

James Cameron: Now let’s spend 45 minutes flying around and looking at fluorescent plants. Because I’m James Cameron. And I can.


And now we must have military + Big Business versus the gentle, peaceful natives because banal conflict is all we need as an excuse to for an epic battle scene!

Good Marine: I must save the Na'vi. I must save my wife and my newly adopted culture, because I am now enlightened, and therefore everything I do is GOOD and everything opposite of me is BAD and even though I have been created by a culture than thrives on boasting relativity and grey area I have allowed NONE! “I have to take it to the next level.” (Really, James? That was the best line you could come up with?)

Oh, no! Our quasi-Gandalf/Obi-wan is dying and we must SAVE HER! Cue a religious ceremony that includes every type of worship that ISN’T CHRISTIAN.
[Do we really wanna make that comment?]
[Let’s hope they don’t notice.]

Meanwhile, James Horner decides to write a completely original, overtly moving score with ethnic influence. Oh no, how can I convey ethnic influence? “EEEYYYAAAAYOOOAEEEHHHHH” BOOM BOOM “AAAHEEEYYYYYHAAAA” BOOM BOOM BOOM

Bad Marine: Let’s blow a hole so deep in their racial psyche they’ll be reeling too much to fight, or something else that makes me sound impeccably racist. Let’s fight terror with terror, and spoon feed you some more subtext. And for a final comment, let’s foolishly ignore the Energy Of The Trees (even though their science is UNDISPROVABLE and I’m clearly just choosing to ignore it to advance my own business agenda subtext subtext subtext.)

Good Marine: I HAVE THE COOL FLYING BIRD!! I WILL NOW SAVE US ALL!! NOW TO PELENNOR FIEL –oh, wait. That was the other big December blockbuster that we’re trying not to mention lest it inhibit our intended claim on Best Movie Experience Ever.

EPIC BATTLE SCENE AND oh, no, every single auxiliary character is dead. FEEL THE WEIGHT OF THE SITUATION. FEEL IT. FEEL IT.

And now we must come to the final one-on-one between our layered hero (layered – that’s not a stretch at all…) and our villain, who must have burst forth from the womb in a fit of unjustified anger because we certainly don’t have any reason for why he acts the way he does. Oh, wait. He’s the military commander. He’s supposed to be a mindless mongol!

Meanwhile, our heroine is pinned beneath a rhinodactle because we needed to remove her from the situation without downplaying her role as a fully competent warrior.

Oh, no, he’s dying! Can his lady love save the human form she’s never met! CUE CIRCULAR DIALOGUE TO REMIND US THE CENTRAL THEME OF THE FILM! “I…see…you”? Quite appropriate for the film, since really all I got was a feast for my eyeballs.

And now the energy of our feminine God-tree [can we plug for climate change awareness one more time?] transfers his consciousness from his broken human body to the fully realized indigenous one! Open they eyes…open the eyes…CHYESS!! I AM NOW FILLED WITH DEEP SHAME AT MY HURTFUL CULTURE BUT BRIMMING WITH HOPE THAT WE CAN FIX IT – TOGETHER!!! Now let me toss my half eaten popcorn and get back into my SUV. Not to worry – I am now conscious of the pain that I personally caused Native Americans…and the Redwoods.


Well, kids, if this is what it takes to make you “think,” go see it again. And again. So Fox can make the money back (wait, people making money? Didn’t we already establish that that’s BAD?) so they can go back to making movies that don’t make me cringe.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sticky Note Radio

One of the greatest forms of procrastination I have found is "music popping." Ah, yes, you say, Golden Music Guru, what is this "music popping"? Well, my child, it is that fantastic realm you enter when you begin to look up an artist, and it leads you to another artist, and a song on a compilation album with another artist you must discover, and pretty soon you've gone from Gilbert & Sullivan to Jamie Cullum.

Often I will find myself deftly searching a new artist I've heard of or run across and I will suddenly find myself in a tidal wave of music, and as I begin to pick my way through it, soon I am hopping from artist to artist like a frog on lilly pads. This is how great music is found. You start looking up one thing, it leads your to another, and suddenly you run across Nightwish and realize Finnish metal is your one true calling and a love afair is begun! It is this innocent clicking and playing and wondering and pushing that is the real expansion of musical tastes. You're reading an article about your facorite artist, they mention their favorite artist, and suddently new worlds open.

I have also developed the nasty habit of collecting musical names on sticky notes, which get posted on the Nightwish poster next to my desk. Here we have the name Andrew Bird, who I've heard much about but never really "gotten in to," persay. Next to him is Juana Molina ("from Daddy") who I was directed to listen to. Next to her is The Blue Nile, who's first album, I've learned, is one of those gems that sets the electronic 80's junkies from the casual listeners. Then we have Inara George (lead singer of The Bird and the Bee), Sonos (funky little group that I came across on a Barnes & Noble Sunday album, and haven't found since), Neko Case (great homework album), Miranda Sex Garden (madrigal singers gone Goth), Renaissance (British folk revival from the seventies), Bat for Lashes, Sigor Ros, Bela Fleck, Abigail Washbutn (= Sparrow Quartet), Celtic Legacy (metal), After Forever, Visions of Atlantis (more chick metal), and a quote from House ("I was right, and more satisfyingly, you were wrong.") Also up there is a sticky note reminding me that Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard (just remember).

I am delicately working my way through each artist or group, listening to an album or two, reading the wiki band bio, and connecting the dots. If I'm ever at a loss for what to listen to, I pick a name and look it up. More often than not that just leads me to adding MORE names to the poster. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it! And there is nothing quite as fantastic as coming across a great resonator, or music that knocks my flip-flops off. That is, of course, the end goal in all this: finding the music that most perfectly hits the Point of Resonance, that shakes my soul and makes me yell YES YES YES THIS IS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Rake's Progress: "Hazards of Love" Review

Listen to it once. Listen to it twice. Listen to it five times, and you’ll still have no idea what it’s about. But you’ll like it.

“Hazards of Love” has all the makings of a great Decemberists album: a root in folk, blatant yet cryptic lyrics, odd instruments that pop up when you least expect them (harpsichord, anyone?) and a story that you must work to understand.

The story is what drives this album. It is a concept album, no doubt, with recurring musical themes and characters voiced by guest artists. But the Decemberists would never settle for something so easily done – instead of a straight narrative, the story of Margaret and her lover William is broken up by “The Rake,” a man hell-bent on regaining his freedom from life as a widowed father. The most frustrating (or delicious) part of this album is that it takes a few mighty listening to really decipher what is going on and to whom each voice belongs.

The story begins with William telling the tale of his true love entering a forest, or taiga, which requires a Wikipedia run to define (a biome covering Alaska, Canada, and upper parts of Europe). The album is full of words that aren’t so common these days, adding another layer of interest. Margaret, voiced by Becky Stark, encounters The Queen, voiced by Shara Worden. The tale of Margaret, William and The Forest Queen (and the mysterious child she bears) is convoluted at best, but the enigma of it makes it even more entertaining for the avid listener.

Margaret’s song, revealing thoughts during her journey early on (“Won’t Want For Love (Margaret in the Taiga)”) is the real gem of the album, juxtaposing Stark’s New Folk voice with a driving guitar accompaniment that could have come straight off a Led Zeppelin album.

After William finds Margaret, they sing a love duet, “Isn’t It a Lovely Night?” accompanied by sighing guitars and an accordion.

The Forest Queen makes her first appearance with “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid,” and Worden’s full, rustic voice gives her an edge that could chill bones as the Queen reprimands her “son” for abandoning her. It is here that the narrative really starts to take shape and draw the listener in.

This is followed by “The Rake’s Song.” It details the marriage of the narrator (the only character to break the fourth wall to address the audience) with gritty, expressive lyrics that could only be pulled off in such a cavalier way by the Decemberists. “I was wedded and it whetted my thirst until her womb started spilling out babies,” explains the Rake. “What can one do when one is a widower, shamefully saddled with three little pests?” He goes on to detail how he rid himself of each child, which is most effective when heard for the first time with the music.

Cut to Margaret, who in “The Abduction of Margaret” is being picked up on horseback by a man (the Rake?) with unsavory plans. The Forest Queen is willing to help the abductor, who will remove the threat of Margaret from her son, and is willing to help him cross the river.

“Annan Water” is one of the more rhythmically interesting tracks, and the wavering accordion chords throughout the song add a layer of anguish. Here, William is attempting to cross the river in order to get to Margaret. He pleads with the river that if he is let to pass, when he comes again the river “may have [his] precious bones in return.”

Margaret’s abductor tells her to give up hope in “Margaret in Captivity” as she cries out for her lover to save her. This is followed by the third reprise of the “Hazards of Love” theme “(Revenge!)” and the voices of the children murdered by the Rake return to haunt their father. The warped children’s voices recount their deaths and assure their father they are still around him. The music is disjointed, with a harpsichord that feels appropriately out of tune. It is the most sound effect-heavy track on the album. The tongue-in-cheek, carefree attitude with which the children sing is creepy, but satisfying.

The story ends with the fourth and final tune in the “Hazards of Love” sequence, “(The Drowned).” William has retrieved Margaret, and the water around them is slowly rising. They exchange wedding vows as their ghosts join the water. The song is slow, almost textbook “indie” style, to end the tale with a wistful attitude, complete with whammy-heavy guitars.

This is a landmark album, taking the concept album beyond anything it has been before. The format of the storytelling is such that it is beneficial to read through the lyrics on their own. The words by themselves are a completely different artistic medium when experienced on their own and add a layer to the listening.

There has not been such a satisfying album in years. Because of its musical and narrative structure, it asks the listener to return to it over and over, without becoming boring. It requires lots of thought and attention before it fully reveals itself, which is what the concept album is all about.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why Dollhouse "Man on the Street" Is Just Plain Good TV

Last night, over a bad, illegal download connection on my laptop (because I missed it live and couldn't wait for Hulu) I watched the "game-changing" episode of Dollhouse. I will admit, I wasn't expecting much. The eps so far have been alright, and that's giving it a bit too much credit. I've been hanging on to this show because I believe in The Joss Man and his vision, but slowly loosing hope. All doubt, though, left, when at three in the morning I ghasped my way through "Man on the Street."

Here's why: first of all, The Joss Man knows what viewers are thinking. He isn't trying to lead them along or hope they keep watching until the juicy scene or gimmicking his way through the show in order to keep viewers. He writes as if he is watching the show himself, and knows what we are thinking when we see it. This "third eye" enables him to play on our emotions at exactly the right moment. Ballard and Nellie are having another one of their "neighbor" conversations, as "just friends." He has his shirt off and I'm thinking, "He should just kiss her! That would be so cool!" and then SMACK he pulls her in and lays one on her. My jaw dropped! How often does television give you what you want, no build up, no explaination, just going for it? This is just one example of me, the viewer, having an urge to see something happen, knowing the writer woulnd never allow it, but I still want it, and The Joss Man being right there with me and going for it.

Another brutually amazing tactic The Joss Man uses is his dead-on ability to do exactly the opposite of what the viewer is thinking. He'll kindly lead me on in one direction, then crash everything to the point I am saying, "How are we going to get out of this? We can't fix this!" The Joss Man knows what the viewer is thinking and capitalizes on it by doing the exact opposite of what is expected. Nellie's about to be killed. I'm thinking, "They just had sex, therefore admitting they really do like each other, and there's no way she's going to survive this episode." I started tearing up. I LOVE Nellie! I'm thinking she's my favorite character, and now she's going to DIE! But at the last minute, when Ballard is running back to the house, calling on his cell phone, the message machine in the back of the struggle picks up and BOOM Nellie becomes a ninja. She's an ACTIVE? WHAAA? Brilliant. BRILLIANT. Of course, I say. Deus ex machina, without the cop out and confusion. It makes perfect sense. The Joss Man knows this. The Joss Man sees us coming, innocent and comfortable. The Joss Man isn't afraid to throw things at us, because he knows we can handle them. And we know he hasn't breached the Realm of Possibility. This is when really great writing happens. This is when a viewer can be shocked shocked SHOCKED! without being confused, dissapointed or blamful that the writer used "save yourself" writing.

The final note I will make on The Joss Man's writing is that he says things plainly. He doesn't go for flowery language. He doesn't attempt to say things in an elevated fashion or make characters sound more intelligent than they are. He writes the first words, the words people think before rephrasing them better. The truthfull words. This is why Buffy is fun to listen to. Even the quirky made-up words fit, because they are completely within the character's Realm of Speech. You can't see a writer feeding them words. Father Hesburgh once said something (in an article my grandfather read to my mother when she was little, so I don't have the exactly quote) about using the plainest words possible, because there's no need to use a word just because it is bigger. The Joss Man gets this. He says what needs to be said, not what "should be said on TV." The beauty of the quotes that come from his shows is in their cleanliness their precision. Its the principle of Shakespeare. It's funny because of how the words are said, how they have been moved around and how they have been joined together or ripped apart. In Shakespeare, everything is appropriate to the speaker, and nothing is ever our of place.

"You played a good hand."
"No, I played a very bad hand very well. There is a distinction."

Is The Joss Man Shakespeare? Not yet. But damn, it's good TV.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Taste Variation: Bluegrass

I love music from many genres. They are vast and varied. Today I would like to explain my attachment to bluegrass/banjo-based folk music.

There is something distinctly American about bluegrass music. It manages to weave the memory of folk songs with a balance of syncopated rhythms, appealing yet unpredictable melodies and expressive, particular voices. There is always an air of warning in a bluegrass song, a love that's wary of its own truth or a commitment that knows it won't last. It's also very rooted in immigration and the identity of a culture, another very American theme. It's hard to hear a bluegrass song and not hear the irish "jig" influence.

Bluegrass is simple. It came out of a tradition of community music. It had to be understandable by everyone. The lyrics are straightforward, but that doesn't mean boring. They're often witty or reveal deeper irony. This much is true: no song's story can be understood unless you wait until the last stanza.

The musical structure is very simple, with basic song construction (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, ornamented verse, etc.). But within that structure is the chance for unlimited variation. Bluegrass musicians are like jazz musicians. They understand their craft so well that they are able to reach around it, through it, and within it in order to vary the emotion experience by the listener. It is the true musicians who create the best music (Abigail Washburn, Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss). It's the people who know what they're doing that make it look so simple. Someone once described jazz music as "extreme creativity within extreme discipline." I think that's pretty true for bluegrass.

I also like it because my dad does, and it reminds me of him. What can I say, the man has taste.

Representative (and Darn Good) Songs:
Anything by Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet
"Notes from the Banjo Underground" Old Man Luekecke
"Oh, Agamemnon" Crooked Still
"Half Acre" Hem
Alison Krauss (preferably nothing done with Robert Plant) I appreciate the genre bending, but this was not so great.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Brain Went on Spring Break on Monday

And it is Tuesday, and I still have things to do. God bless a week of relaxation, free of the torment of routinized living, but not at the expense of this week.

I officially started season 5 of Angel last night, howling aloud in the early hours of the morning after the lines, "Spike?" "Spike?" "BLONDIE BEAR!" It's the little things The Joss Man does that make my day.

The stressful days leading up to spring break and spring break itself seem to merit a section of music all its own. These are the changing times, the visible switching seasons, that change our listening habits. I've been pretty straight indie-mellow since the year's dawn, but yesterday I broke out the Euro metal. Nightwish a'blaring in me ears. Quality, I must say.

That is the beauty of the best. It's the music you can go back to time after time and still feel something. No matter how many times I listen to "Nemo," I always hear something new (a bass line, a string section, a hocket in the drums, etc). And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the real test of music. Like all things, it is the test of time. Will I like it in a year? Will I like it in three years? Will it mean the same thing it meant to me in high school? Is it strong enough to grow with me, or will it only be the music of memories? Some music has stayed with me because of association (Avril Lavigne - can't clean my room without her) and some music has grown to something completely new with time (Vanessa Carlton). Some music I have grown to like (Rush, Death cab) and some I still can't stand (Pink Floyd).

If you like a song, like it today. If you love a song, you won't know it until it's blossomed and evolved, months or years from now.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Escaping the Rain by Hiding in the Subways

Normally I am elated to see clouds that do anything other than snow or just sit there, looking putrid, stale and disgruntled. Basically, I like clouds that rain. Or clouds that are hanging off in the corners puffing up and reflecting the light, attempting to make this world a little more epic. I appreciate those clouds.

But, monsieur rahn clood, nut toodey. I feel lethargic, depressed, and hungry. My perfectly concocted hair has imploded, my joints are achey, and the "I'm Not Wearing Boots Today" clogs are...well...soggy. I have soggy clogs. :o(

On a more stream-of-consciousness note, I am currently listening to the Subways, and they are divine. Post-grunge, I-could-have-been-on-the-OC-but-I-want-more-from-this-world, guy with chick vocals in the background kind of divine. The first listening wasn't too impressive, but when music grows on me, it's delicious.

Highlight of the week: Gina Torres carries out a tacky Messiah metaphor on Angel, as viewed while on my elliptical trainer.
Dollhouse tomorrow night. Fingers still crossed for The Joss Man.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So Little Time

There is a great mother buttload of music out there. Everything exists. And because of our lovely friend Inter Net, we can find it all, listen to it all, download it all and love it all. Literally, millions of songs at our fingertips. If not billions. From the highly ranked iTunes toppers to the crappy Garage Band upload on your cousin's music MySpace, music is being heard, interpreted, reinvented and produced at a rate so rapid there is no guarantee any artist will survive more than a few weeks, or months if they are lucky. And if you miss an artist, too bad, they're lost forever into the void of "Once Was Popular."

With so many options, it's daunting to go fishing for anything new. We cling to iTunes charts and The Radio to tell us what's good, because we haven't got a snowball's chance in Miami at finding it ourselves. At least, this is the thought of the music muggle. This means that even though the indie artist is free to write, record and produce their own full album, if they haven't got a way to market it to the masses their music is moot. It takes the music geek, the guru, to fish out new music, and then popularize it through blogs, file sharing, mixes and word of mouth. Then, radios begin to pick it up and the ears at Spin perk up to catch it minutes before it bursts onto the scene. They get one to three hits on iTunes, perhaps a full album of popularity, some placement in ads and Gossip Girl, and then begin to be dubbed "Known Music." This is the kiss of death. No one really wants to listen to Known Music. It isn't popular enough to be Taylor Swifting its way into the hands and iPods of the muggles, but it is no longer indie-chic, and therefore the music geeks and uber nerds won't touch it. And then three years later it gets dumped on Rolling Stone. Every so often a band fished from the obscurity of its music MySpace will strike a real chord (or at least one that sounds different) and it will gain a true following of Diehards. These are the bands that have staying power, the ones that, in the end, really matter.

The corporate system plucks unsuspecting youngsters from their festering musical obscurity, dresses them up, tells them they're rock stars and spoon feeds them to the music muggles through movies, TV and The Radio. They play huge release concerts at Virgin and are begged to deign to put their name on a fashion label. The muggles eat it up. The gurus scoff.

The point is, there is way too much music out there for it all to matter. Even for most of it to matter. Music has one major flaw: it requires time. You need three minutes to listen to a song. You need forty-five minutes to appreciate an album. The only way to find music is to listen to it. We simply cannot love that much music. There is a limit to what can be popular, because we can't listen to everything that Should Be Popular. Even if every radio station everywhere never repeated a song, we wouldn't be able to get through it all. No one would go for that anyway, because the beauty of music is falling in love with it, and a lot of times it isn't love at first sight. We need to sit with music, to live with it, to associate memories with it in order to claim it. And in the end, that's all we really want to do. Muggle or guru. We want music that's our own.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Monteverdi & Doughnuts

I’m hitting a brick wall, here. I am supposed to be studying for an exam on Baroque music history, high points including Monteverdi versus Artuzi as to codified rules of counterpoint and…man, this stuff really bites. But I’m sitting here listening to The Duke Spirit (look ‘em up, kid) and all I can think of is, I want to move to London and be in a blues-tinged indie punk band and make predictable music with half-assed lyrics and appear on Jay Leno. It would be so EASY to just drop everything and make music. Anyone can become famous if you spin the music the right way (and I’m not talking about spinning records, here).

There are a million choices as to what to do with this life in front of me, rolling by like slices of cake on a conveyor belt behind a wall of glass, and I really want to reach out and eat one. It’s like being at a Krispy Kremes. I really, really want a doughnut but they’re all behind a glass wall and I’m not to the front of the line yet.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Follow the Music

I was walking around work, innocently bouncing the Dollhouse-premieres-tonight happy bubbles up and down, when I heard lo from the depths of the building a group of violins going at it. Immediately all thoughts of The Joss Man were purged from my head as I was full-force drawn to the source of the sound. I figured out it was just a video (why do we still use the word video? Isn't it all digital and DVD's now?) advertisement for a string quartet. My curiosity was quelled, at least for the moment.

This brings up and interesting phenomenon. I have a physical, visceral reaction to music. When I hear it, it's not just in my ears. I feel it with every atom of my body. I will freeze up or relax or shift footing or slouch or sit up according to what music is playing, and I've just started noticing it. Music overwhelmingly determines how I feel, and it has it's most potent effects when I'm not expecting it. Every single type of music carries with it a multitude of emotions that it exudes, and I have different auditory receptors open at different times. Sometimes classical music draws me straight to it in my quest to discover who wrote it, when they were writing, what styles the were using and generally place it in a genre. Sometimes classical music makes me want to chuck my keyboard out the window. (Have you ever noticed that dropping the preposition "of" is very Shakespearian? It could read, "out of the window," which is proper grammar, but instead it reads "out the window," which begs a sort of cockney Second Guard type lilt.)

The truth of the matter, though, is that I feel music, often before I hear it. I'll tense up or relax and then wonder what changed only to discover that there is music playing. I have an ear for it even when I'm tuned out. Most music causes a reaction depending on the state in which I greet it. Most music can either be good or bad, depending. But the one song that never ever in a million years fails to center me is "Colors/Dance" by My Man George (George Winston). God bless George, he figured it out.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Art of Obsession

I am an obsessor. I take my loves very seriously, throwing myself full-force into whatever world I stumble into. This can be anything from Middle Earth to vintage albums of The Police. This I've learned: never love anything half way. Love it all the way.

When I was in the seventh grade, I went to see Fellowship of the Ring. It rocked my world. Two years later I saw Return of the King with a couple of people, and they turned out to be my best friends. A lot of this centered on the fact that we all became obsessed with LOTR together, went through stages of excitement and creeper internet fan stalking together, attempted to learn Elvish together and eventually grew up together. Our obsession fed our friendship. We had much more in common, but we always had LOTR as a base, as some thing we could make inside jokes about or reference with a wry smile. There are a million stories like this, especially involving LOTR I'm sure, around the world. Obsessions bring people together.

Other things I've been obsessed with: Finish metal bands (chiefly Nightwish, who I followed to a show at the House of Blues in one of the most exciting/life threatening experiences of my life, what with the lights and the screaming and the being right up close and the dear-jesus-please-don't-mosh-me-ness of it all), Firefly (which led to all-encompassing love of The Joss Man, see below), The Police (who announced a world tour just when I'd gotten over the fact that I'd never get to see them live, which, eleven tickets and $2,000, later turned out to be gloriously untrue), (btw, I'm still paying people back for those tickets), Ryan Spilborghs (plays left field and is the DH for the Rockies, looks like a dream, who knows where he'll end up this season, but as long as I can ogle him from the third base line I'm good), Ralphie (Vaughan Williams, for you plebeians, writer of the song voted best ever by the citizens of the UK, "The Lark Ascending"), and many more...

Here's the "art" part. You can't say you obsess over just anything. I have a friend who has picked up the nasty habit of saying things like "I am obsessed with these fries" or "I am obsessed with those windows" (i.e., I think these fries/windows are really cool and have my full attention at this moment). But this is just not true, because you cannot be obsessed with something unless you love it with your whole heart and live it with your whole life. There should be posters on your walls, bookmarked websites with obscure facts, and songs on repeat that drive those living in close quarters with you crazy. You should be able to connect everything you encounter in your day to day life back to it. ("Oh hey! Those spires on that building look like the helmet the third orc from the left of the second shot of the battle at Osgiliath was wearing!")

You see, one must truly, deeply find devotion to the obsession a rewarding experience. It’s not about outward appearances, or being able to recite more facts about Sting than anyone else (which can be cool, I warrant you), but enjoying the new realm into which you have entered because it fulfills you in ways “normal” things don’t. It helps you discover things about yourself and reveal truths about humanity. (Pardon my lofty language, but show me a Ringer who says Lord of the Rings hasn’t changed their life.)

It is also a great connector. When you find people who are obsessed with your loves, it’s truly a kindred spirit experience. No matter who the other person is, where they are from or their economic background, when you both realize the line, “I am a leaf on the wind, watch me soar” makes you both want to cry, there is a deep connection that is felt. It doesn’t mean that you have to become best friends, but it does mean that your love has been affirmed, that someone else out there gets it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Being Late

I am petrified of being late. I think this stems from the fact that I spent my parental-control childhood being late to everything from sports practice to Church. Since I have gone up & away, I have lived my life in perpetual fear of arriving late to anything. Class, work, movies (especially movies, but I have the odd habit of desiring to spak up the aura of a theater long before the previews begin), I will arrive early for everything. I plan to be at least ten minutes early to get a good seat or just settle in. I hate walking in late; I think it's just bad form. I have a friend who is late to everything, especially class, though I often cover for her. That utterly PETRIFIES me!

Another theory: I am early to everything because I will probably leave in the middle of it to go to the bathroom. Perhaps the constant presence of my petrified state in the face of lateness damnation shocks my bladder into the size of a peanut. But this is another topic entirely.

I have another friend who is chronically late and everyone who knows him has gotten in the habit of telling him things start 45 minutes earlier than they actually do. He usually ends up being pretty on time for the main event.

My mother does not understand "We need to leave now." It inevitably becomes, "GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW OR I AM DISOWNING MYSELF." My dad's usually pretty good, unless I tell him we need to go somewhere and he forgets, and then it, of course, is my fault that I didn't remind him.

And as I sit and write this, I get nervous that I should start heading out because I have a class in 20 minues in a building 5 minutes away. Thus the fear descends.

Joss Man in the 'house

Dollhouse premiers this Friday. I have to say, it takes a lot to convince me to stay home on a Friday night, but this is one man I'm willing to do it for. I've been in love with The Joss Man ever since I was introduced to Firefly this time last year. Interesting to look back on the year and see how far I've come. In exactly one year, I have gone from knowing nothing about The Joss Man or any of his work to having seen all seven seasons of Buffy, owning copies of Firefly and Serenity, attending the annual nationwide screening of Serenity (in costume) last June, attending a large-screen viewing of Dr. Horrible & commentary sing-alone (in costume), and I am currently on the fifth disk of the fourth season of Angel.

And what lovely timing, because now I get to experience all The Joss Man has to offer first-hand, with the rest of the television community. I am, in an understatment, excited. The Joss Man constantly renues my faith in television as a story-telling medium and I have quite enjoyed our previous tristes through the worlds of sci-fi. And of course, the geek-compulstive within me is ever greatful for the opportunity to barnacle on to such a fantastic ride.

The Joss Man According to The Golden Music Guru:
Best Show: Firefly
Funnest Character to Watch: Lorne (though Jayne is a close second)
Greatest Moment: When Buffy revieves the Class Protector award at prom at the end of the third season. I love it, I absolutely love it. (First runner up goes to pretty much any Mal/Jayne tet-a-tet)
Worst Moment: Cordelia & Connor. I mean, really?
Favorite Couple: Zoe & Wash
Funnest Character to Dress Up As: Buffy. Black leather and FBK boots make anyone feel like a slayer.
Easiest Character to Dress Up As: Captain Hammer. T-shirt, khakis, boots & snow gloves.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Way I Hear It (or so I hear...)

Most people who read music read the notes. They see the pitches and match them to their instrument. People with perfect pitch can see the note and immediately hear it in their head. (They are a strange, radical race. I happen to have a faction of friends who want to find all those with perfect pitch and breed them into a super-race, like Uruk-hai, but less tone-deaf. Speaking of Uruk-hai, apparently in between takes during the long night shoots all the extras in costume at Helm's Deep would break into song. So perhaps Uruk-hai are not as tone-deaf as first supposed. Has Tolkien given us any hard evidence to the contrary?) I've even heard of one perfect pitcher (no, not talking about Sandy Koufax) who actually passed out when Sara Brightman was singing at the Opening Ceremonies in Beijing because she was so off key. The point being, most musicians see, hear and learn music based off of the printed source.

There are also people who learn by ear. Call it the "suzuki" method. I happen to think using this as a basic teaching technique is bollocks, but it is a helpful method to enhance music memorization. (I can't knock it too much - the first thing I do when I need to learn a new song is find it on Rhapsody or YouTube.) I have friends in a choir who lean all their music by ear, and are given CD's of songs and told to hear and memorize the parts. Musicianship-wise, this isn't very quality, but it gets the job done and they do sound great at concerts.

They way I hear it, I believe, is in sections of "should's" and "shouldn'ts" (Shoulds for how this sections "should" sound, "shouldn'ts" for what wouldn't make sense in the section.) After hearing a song about three times, the song partitions itself into section of shoulds and shouldn'ts, branches of the song that look/sound one way or another and piece together to form a song as a whole, with modulation, variation and so forth. I see/hear these sections with a quasi-photographic memory. (It wants to be photographic oh so much, but then I get to tests and think I know EXACTLY where the answer to that question is in the book, the page, the sentance...I just can't remember what the sentance SAYS!) Then the sections order themselves like an album, one track moving seamlessly into the next.