Friday, July 31, 2009

Creepy Babies on Rollerskates

I may have mentioned on here before that if, by some miracle, I do spend my life making music videos rather than discovering sciencey things (I have made honest to god scientific discoveries this summer, but I can't tell you about them because we haven't even started writing a paper and my PI is paranoid people will steal our research. So cool!) I will have to supplant my income by also making advertisements and commercials. This is more than alright by me, as it gives another outlet for short creative bursts that make people feel something - you want them to want your product so that you make money so that you can eat so that you can go out and make more videos and make them feel something all over again.

Anyways, Evian has recently put out an ad about how drinking Evian makes you feel young. Apparently they mean really young, like fresh out of the womb and hip hop rollerskating young:

The video kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies. There's just something about computerized babies acting like adults that always freaks me out. There was a series of online investing commercials last year that featured a talking baby and I couldn't watch them without feeling weird. I dunno. But there's a behind the scenes video that really makes you appreciate how much work goes into making a 60 second clip. There are CGI artists, actual camera operators, business meetings, live babies, plastic babies, professional rollerbladers, green screens, executives, directors... the list goes on. It's a lot of work to make one creepy commercial, but it looks like fun.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stephanie Just Had The Best Night Ever

I'm not a huge Green Day fan. I like them and all, I've got Dookie and I like their radio singles, but I'm not a diehard. But if I was, this would probably be my dream:

Billie Joe walks along the front of the stage, looking for someone to play the guitar during "Jesus of Suburbia." He can't seem to find anyone, and turns down a few people, but then he sees me. He's skeptical at first, doesn't seem to believe me and asks what key it's in. When I answer correctly, he pulls me up on stage and hands me a guitar. After a little instruction, the song starts and I start playing along with the band. Before I know it, I'm walking around the stage like a rockstar, having the most fun ever while the band rocks around me. The song ends, the crowd cheers, and I walk off to the sound of Madison Square Garden chanting my name.

However for one girl, this wasn't a dream. This was reality. She rocks, and I think it's pretty obvious that her night rocked harder than anyone else's, anywhere, ever.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Secret Shows and Recent Replacements

Little things:

-My Chemical Romance is playing some not so secret shows in LA this week before they head off to Japan for Summer Sonic. I'm very, very jealous. Tickets went to select fans and members of, which is a little rough - if you didn't join the community, you don't get to go. Ouch. But hopefully this fuels them along for more recording of the music that they keep telling us about. "Death Before Disco" is something I am dying to hear. I also still have not seen MCR live and really, really hope they finish the album soon and tour somewhere near me.

-Panic! at the Disco has announced their replacement bassist and guitarist for their tour with Blink-182: Dallon Weekes of The Brobecks and Ian Crawford, formerly of The Cab. I'm absolutely stoked that Crawford is filling in on guitar - he is one of only two guitarists to ever truly blow me away live, and I'm pumped that he's out there playing. The interview that this announcement came from is a little sad, however. Spencer Smith notes that the decision to split was "beyond amicable." That hurts a little, and he notes that though the split is hard for the fans, he's happy that so many people loved the band enough to be hurt. the fanbase is strong, don't let us down.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Young Veins

And now, Ryan and Jon, formerly of Panic at the Disco, have released their own first single. It's a musical war, people, and I don't want to take sides. I really don't want to take sides. But it explains why Spencer and Brendon moved the release date of their own single up so much.

As The Young Veins, Ryan and Jon have put their new song "Change" up on their myspace. I'm on listen three (I've decided to be perfectly fair and equal on listening statuses on both my review of this and of "New Perspective") and I like it. It has problems, but I like it.

Let's start with the title. "Change." Yeah guys, we got it.

I like the guitars. It's an easy song, very heavily seventies influenced. I can see dancing around in the sun, barefoot and with a flower in my hair. The music itself is good, it's put together very well instrumentally, with enough going on to keep it interesting but also not enough to distract you from what's really happening. There are beats aided by hand clapping and tambourines, and the music fits the lyrics which, themselves, are good. They're very disillusioned and jaded, but in the way that a twentysomething can absolutely relate to.

"Some people never change/ they just stay the same way." Yes, this is part of a pissing contest between the Panic! boys and the Panic boys. Was there ever any doubt?

There is, however, one problem. One big problem. Ryan Ross can't really sing. "Behind the Sea" was always hard to listen to. The first time I heard him sing live, I was embarrassed for him, but thought he must have been sick, or having a bad day. Then I heard him sing again at another concert and realized that live, his voice just can't hold up. It's very processed in the song, cut up horizontally rather than vertically. (Did that make sense to anyone but me? It's not cut up in that it's jumpy with pieces missing beat to beat, but that it's been layered over itself with pieces missing from each individual beat. Horizontally, not vertically.)

I really like it though. I like the lyrics and the music. It makes me feel something. But Panic has split into one side that can write music and one side that can perform music. Neither of those halves can thrive on their own.

(The repeated chorus of "change, change change" at the end? Yes boys, we know! But only a year and a half ago, things had changed and it was okay. What now?)

Monday, July 27, 2009

New Perspective

A day early, but somehow (intentional or not) Panic! at the Disco's (I'm not used to putting that ! back in yet) new single is out on the internet. You can download it here, but I'm not telling you that you should, or saying that I did, because that's illegal kiddies. I'm just saying that it's there.

It's called "New Perspective." I'm on time three of listening to it and... I feel nothing. Panic! songs (and even Panic songs) always made me feel something - anger, sadness, happiness, lust, heartbreak, beauty. But this is nothing. I'm not even sure what they're doing wrong. I wish I could point to something and say "there, right there, if only they would change this it would be great!" but I can't.

And I'm sorry, but "can we fast forward to you go down on me" belongs in a song with violent guitars and screaming vocals and some sort of pounding drum, not some sort of shaker, a xylophone, and a lilting voice.

It's all just words and pep and vacuous notes. I really wish it wasn't. I had hoped that this side of the split would be the one to uphold my love of Panic!, that Spencer and Brendon would continue to make the music that I needed.

Okay, the song just hit 2:53, and I can see this, the vocals over the piano. This fits, this works. At 3:05 the guitars come back in and I lose it again. Maybe that's the problem - they've flooded the song with too much, trying to do everything at once. Maybe that's what it needs, to be stripped back and stripped down, to just a piano and drums, maybe an acoustic. There's too much going on and it's overpowering the emotion and the lyrics and the feeling.

Who knows. It's off of the soundtrack for Jennifer's Body, so maybe it's not even going to be on their album, maybe it is different from everything else they'll make. Maybe this is just a very elaborate and pissed off "Blow me" to Jon and Ryan.

Tread carefully, Panic! boys. Just relax and let the music flow - stop trying so hard.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

(500) Days of Summer and Harry Potter

I've gone to the movie theater three times in the past two weeks to see two movies. Yes, I am one of those creeps who went to see Harry Potter twice. Yeah, I own a Gryffindor headband. What are you going to do about it? I've tried to make the reviews as spoiler free as possible, but if you don't even want to know anything about camera angles, then I'd skip this post.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
was good, great even, but only as a part of a series. The movie threw you in right where the last one left off, so if you were new to the Harry Potter franchise you would be very lost and confused. I realize that at this point few people are Potter virgins, but the movie is more of a place holder than anything, just as the sixth book was. It's a setup for the seventh movie, not a stand alone. However I thought it was great, and it brought back some of the magic and love that I had lost for Harry Potter after the seventh book. I'd been terribly disappointed with how the book series ended, but the movie reminded me that the wizard realm had once been fun too. Sure, the movie is dark, but the director brought in enough funny and light moments to balance it out. They also played out the romance between the characters more than the book did, and obviously could not fit the entire story into a 3 hour movie, but I feel they did a good job hitting on all of the main plot points. I have some nitpicky issues (a bottle at one point was labeled Thomas Marvolo Riddle when Voldemort's name is actually Tom and not Thomas, as explained in the second book) and some plot problems (they added a new scene and dropped some important old ones) but it was an all around good movie. I also love their portrayal of Draco in this movie - he transforms from the static, one dimensional character he was in the previous movies to a dynamic, well rounded, believable antagonist.

The second movie I saw was (500) Days of Summer. I have been waiting for this movie for months, as it is the first full length, widely distributed film directed by Marc Webb, my favorite music video director. It was awesome, and I wasn't the only one who thought so. The packed movie theater that I saw it in, opening night in Cambridge, spent the entire movie laughing. Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt gave the perfect portrayal of our generation's dating scene filled with two types of people - hopeless romantics searching for love and jaded cynics who feel love is beneath them. The story is told out of order, chronicling an untraditional and slightly unhappy boy meets girls love story from start to finish, but it jumps around, from day 300 to day 1 to day 268. It's smart, funny, and well put together. There are some particularly music video like aspects as well, from a short interlude about the "Summer Effect" (how the girl, Summer, turns heads in precisely mathematical formulas) to a party done is split screen, the left side showing how the boy, Tom, expects the party to go while the right side shows how it actually unfolds: the expectations versus reality that we all play in our heads whenever we envision a situation or encounter. I was slightly unhappy with the ending (I think that the last minute, while funny, is a bit of a cop out) but it was a minor, minor detail in the grand scheme of an amazing movie. I highly recommend, nay, insist that you see it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dónde Están Shakira?

I used to love Shakira back in middle school, when she sang in Spanish and a little Arabic. I had been speaking Spanish since fourth grade, and Shakira was right on the edge if what I could understand. Then she came to the US, started putting songs out in English,and lost some of the appeal, but Dónde Están los Ladrones? was one of the first CDs that I put in my car, and it hasn't left the rotation yet.

But when I heard "She Wolf", I was a little confused. It is so over processed that it's hard to find Shakira underneath. She's recognizable only by the slightly nasal whine and spike to her voice that has always defined her singing. However the music behind it and the highly metallic quality to her voice make her sound like a computer. The Spanish version "Loba" is only slightly better. There are huge differences between the lyrics of the two as well - this isn't a straight English translation of the song. Not only did they revamp the lyrics to go with the beat, but they changed some of the meaning behind it. In the English version, the man wants her to be "a domesticated girl" while in the Spanish version she wants "un lobo domesticado" or a domesticated male wolf. It changes who's in control and some of the dynamic behind it.

It's not really bad. It's just not Shakira. Not the angry Spanish rock Shakira, or the sexy English Pop Shakira. This is new, computerized Shakira, and it's disappointing. I do, however, love the little "Ahooo" wolf cry she put in. It's just enough to be playful, not enough to be scary. Nice touch.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Every Day

So Lights keeps doing things that have made me decide that not only is she intergalactic, she's also super awesome. The latest example is her guest vocals on the song "Every Day" by Ten Second Epic. I've never heard of Ten Second Epic before (am I allowed to shorten it to TSE? That reminds me too much of the TSA which reminds me of the annoying fact that I have to take off my shoes when I get on airplanes) but it's a cute song and a cute video. However I'm also pretty sure that I'm never ever going to see Lights live - she played Warped Tour minutes from my house today, but I couldn't go because I had to go to work. The disappointment was enormous. I enjoyed the video instead, and you should too:

Friday, July 17, 2009

Weird Videos of Weirdness

What is going on here?

First, we have the new video for "Open Happiness." It's a song sponsored by Coca Cola, and pulls together a wide range of artists - Cee-Lo, Janelle Monae, Brendon Urie, Patrick Stump, and Travis McCoy. The song is sugary sweet, which is fitting, but the video is another example of green screens gone wrong. It's a bad acid trip of colors and images and ridiculous dancing. In all honesty, I'm a huge fan of ridiculous dancing, but there is a fish helicopter, clouds made of cotton candy, and person sized crayons. The kids who get sucked into this "world of happiness" are amazed and excited by their surroundings while I feel that if I was in their place I would be searching desperately for a quiet corner to escape the crazy. In good news, however, I actually like Janelle Monae in this. It's restrained compared to her stage act and so I focused on her pretty voice and not her flailing. But who put Patrick Stump into an awkward pilot's costume? And why is Cee-Lo a zebra? I just don't understand!

Second is a... music video? Promo? Short film of confusion by Taylor Swift and T-Pain. In which she raps. It is hysterical and I love it, even if she claims she baked caramel delights (which you should not do! They are never as good when you try and fake bake them at home. They are supposed to come from overpriced purple boxes with girl scouts in fire helmets on them!) I'm not entirely sure what the purpose is, but Taylor Swift just keeps doing things that make me think she would be hysterical to hang out with. "What, what, I knit sweaters, yo!"

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hot Mess

It struck me today that Cobra Starship's new album is basically an expansion of their song "Damn You Look Good and I'm Drunk (Scandalous)".

EW has a stream of the title track "Hot Mess." Erm. Um. Okay. It's not bad. I like it. It's not exactly classic Cobra, but I'll dance to this, sure. I want more drums. And not fake drumbeats from a synth - I want Nate Novarro in the back of the stage banging away for all he's worth because he's awesome to watch when they give him real drumming to do, but I don't hear much of it here. I'm still on the fence about the song, but I don't think the album is going to be a complete train wreck. I know it was Gabe's dream at one point to create an album based entirely on keyboards and synth, but I would love to see some real instruments come back into their music. Drums and guitars and Alex Suarez on the bass. I also want Victoria there rocking the keytar, but I don't really want three keyboards and a vocalist. It's good for a few songs, but you can't build an entire album on garage band. Listening back right now on "Pete Wentz is the Only Reason We're Famous" has assured me that there are other instruments on the album, and even some opportunities for fabulous drumming, but I want more of them.

Gabe Saporta, you have an entire band - use them!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lately It Seems Like Everybody's Sick

I absolutely do not want this blog to become filled with posts following the unfolding of the Panic! at the Disco drama. But there is new music, and I'm all about that:

It's a demo, so it's unfinished. I feel like they need to slow it down just a little - they can still keep the fast pace but at the moment it sounds as though they're anxious, trying to get the words and beats out too quickly. The lyrics aren't bad, though they sound like they've taken a lot of direction from Pete Wentz. "Oh Glory" could be a good song, and it sounds like a return to the old Panic! (plus !) with a slightly more upbeat note. I can't wait to hear what the new single and album sound like, and I'd love to have more than 15 or so seconds to judge the music from. It could be going in the right direction.

The Radio

I keep a stack of CDs in my car, ready to cover any musical emergency. But sometimes, driving late at night, I love rolling the windows down and blasting the radio. Usually I end up switching between bad pop songs and oldies, but occasionally I find something good stuck in there too.

The first seems to be all over the airwaves lately. It's called "Help, I'm Alive" by Metric. I like that the lyrics are distorted and electric, and there’s a definite synthesizer feel through the whole song. There’s also something eerie about the song itself, as though something really is after the band. Their music in general seems to have a bored, dirty rock sound and I like it. The band has fun with their music and creates something that makes you want to move around. “Sick Muse” comes accompanied by a cute video of the band just playing around and the lyric “everybody, everybody just wanna fall in love.” It’s good, not great, but if they came to Boston I’d absolutely go see them.

The second is "I Like to Dance" by Hot Chelle Rae. It's currently available on their website for free download and is completely worth it. It's also recently been on So You Think You Can Dance, or so says their website. It's got a great, catchy chorus: "Well I Like to dance / so if you do just get on the floor / forget the romance / this is what music was created for / so find someone hot / and if you're not it doesn't matter / baby take what you've got / and just go dance ‘til you feel better" and some sick guitars at the beginning of the song. It had me dancing in my car and wishing I could play it over and over again. There's also a repeated chant of "lovesick electric" which is just perfect. Its got a slightly electric pop rock feel. Are they the next big thing? Maybe, maybe not. But it sure is a catchy song, and the rest of their stuff seems to be more of the same. It's almost bordering on too pop, too clean, but I still like it.

Then, of course, Lady Gaga came on and I switched the station.

(PS - I wrote a venue review of The Middle East for Love Your Fans. They're a new blog that could be a huge resource for concert goers everywhere if everyone pitches in a little. Check them out and show some love.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Whirlwind of Musical Emotions

I have a mug of hot chocolate, with added cinnamon and milk, and it is making me quite happy.

I spent the day listening to nothing but Panic at the Disco, from their albums to some of my live footage to their extraordinary cover of "Tonight, Tonight." I realized through this why I'm so upset about the split: I wanted to see what they did next. PATD evolved so much from their first album to their second that I really wanted to know what their third album would be. I would have been disappointed with a replica of either Fever or Pretty.Odd. I wanted something new and different, a new musical style or scene. I guess I'll still be able to see that, and see more clearly as to what they each expected that expansion would be, but I was excited to see how all four of them came together on it. Here's wishing them all luck and hoping that this creative split turns out some fantastic music. My predictions? Brendon and Spencer claim to have found something in their recording space, and I venture to guess that something might be the lost cabin songs, or at least something that sounds like them. I’m betting on a feel like the anonymous Paul Revere Jumpsuit Apparatus song that appeared on the Fall Out Boy Citizens for our Betterment mix tape in the fall. Jon and Ryan seem to be spending a lot of time with Eric Ronick, their tour keyboardist, and Alex Greenwald of the now defunct Phantom Planet, so I predict a mellow, stoner rock album much like Pretty.Odd.

Slight tangent: Did the 2008 Honda Civic Tour kill bands or what? First Phantom Planet went on hiatus, then The Hush Sound, and now the split of Panic at the Disco. The only band left from that tour (which itself died and did not happen this year due to the economy) is Motion City Soundtrack, who just finished a new record. If something happens to them (and I seriously hope nothing does) I’m afraid for any band that came in contact with that tour.

In other scene news, All Time Low just came out with a new video that has sparked a ton of controversy over its portrayal of its fans. If I hadn’t seen them live, and didn’t know how they talked to crowds, I might let it slide as taking a fun poke at the scene. But as it stands, this is just an extension of an attitude that I really hate. I’m not going to dive into a long rant about whether or not it’s degrading to women in general, or just to girls who sleep with boys in bands (bad idea, girls, bad idea), but I’ll let you decide on your own; do you want to listen to a band who drops you into one of only two categories: “band slut” if you want to sleep with them or “tease” if you don’t? The video is here. I don’t particularly want to embed it.

But in happy music news, we have Julia Nunes, who is delightful and awesome. I would love to see her live. My favorite cover of hers is "Keep Fishin'" but her cover of "Don't Trust Me" by 3oh!3 made me smile, because I love that song and because she held up a setlist that included The Mexican Hat Dance and a song by Meatloaf. Now I know what you're thinking: "But Alex, this song is just as demeaning to women as All Time Low's video. How can you like one and decry the other?" Okay, so maybe you weren't going to use the word decry, but my point is that there's a right way to poke fun at the scene and a wrong way. 3oh!3 did it the right way, with a tongue in cheek (hah!) jab at those girls in the back that we all make fun of. All Time Low did it the wrong way by encouraging their fans to be sluts, then making fun of them for it.

Here, have a smiley girl on a ukulele. It'll make the hypocrisy go away:

Panic at the Disco

Heartbroken is the only word I can use to describe how I'm feeling right now. I fall in love with music, and I fall hard, and some of it just ripped my heart out.

Panic at the Disco has split. Ryan and Jon have left the band to pursue a different project while Brendon and Spencer will remain as Panic at the Disco.

In early 2006, walking through a Strawberries in my hometown, back before FYE bought them out, I flipped over a random CD. The back held sentence long song titles and the front held a band name that I had seen scrawled across the planners of the music junkies at my school. I shrugged, picked it up, and bought it on a whim. I got back to my car, ripped off the plastic, and popped it into the CD player as I started to drive. The music caught my attention, from the angry yet eloquent lyrics to the great orchestration to an amazing voice rushing and flowing through the music. I loved the fact that the CD came in two acts, with an introduction and an intermission - it was the first album that I had bought with the format and I was enamored with it.

I remember looking up the band a few weeks in, the CD having been playing on repeat the whole time, and seeing a picture of four scene boys with the same haircut. I brushed them off and payed no attention. I didn't care who was behind the music because those words were exactly what I was thinking, exactly what I was feeling. I wasn't the only one - my best friends and I would drive around, get in the car and circle parking lots and shopping malls, screaming along at the top of our lungs to the words that described out worlds. We learned every note of that album, every twist and every key imprinted on our teenage hearts. Panic! at the Disco was our music.

In the fall of 2007, things started falling apart around me. With the advent of college and the realization that facing life meant struggling with things greater than book reports and prom, some of my best friends were taken away from me. With them went Panic! at the Disco. For seven months I refused to listen to what had been one of my favorite CDs - I was fine through the introduction, fine through the first few notes, but then the music carried me back into my beat up car with people who I could no longer reach, and I would wrench the CD out of the player in order to make the memories stop.

Early April of 2008, I stumbled across the music video for "Nine in the Afternoon" online. I was suddenly struck with three questions: 1) Why is that kid vacuuming his bed? 2) Who wears a fedora with pajamas? and 3) Why the hell is one of them having a dream about furries? I didn't recognize these boys that I had been listening to for almost two years, and immediately caught up on all that I had missed - there had been performances with circus acts, makeup and rose vests, and a lot of time spent in a cabin. I realized that this was not the band I had been listening to anymore, immediately bought a ticket for their tour date in Boston that May, and went out to buy Pretty. Odd.

I first listened to Pretty. Odd in my backyard in the sunshine, lying on a swing. It was perfect, fresh and new, with a happier and softer tone of love. I remember finding perfection in "When the Day Met the Night" and endless circles in "From a Mountain in the Middle of the Cabins." May 11th, 2008 I drove into Boston to see the show, and put A Fever You Cant Sweat Out into the car stereo for the first time in seven months. I listened to it all the way through, went to see the show, and took back one of my favorite bands. Their music was back in my mind and my heart.

Since then, Panic at the Disco has remained in my car, on my mp3 player, and in the stack of CDs by the stereo in my house. They have always put out the music I needed to hear when I needed to hear it, from teenage angst to college aged acceptance that "things have changed." They are one of my favorite bands, and Fever is my second favorite CD. Their music is the soundtrack to my life, and the fact that they have split just sent a tremor through my world built on music. It happens of course, people go in different directions, but the split seems wrong. There are two notes on their website, one from Jon and Ryan written in a very stilted and formal tone about creative evolution and a compromise of personal achievements, while the other is from Brendon and Spencer about individual tastes taking friends in different directions and trying to assert that PATD is alive and well.

It's not alive and well, boys. Half of your band just left, losing its lyricist and founding member. The split divided Ryan and Spencer into two halves, at least creatively, though they have been friends since childhood. You're left with a drummer and a vocalist, and the promise of a new song in August. I don't know what this means, I don't like it, and I'm not happy with it. I wish them all the best, but what I wish more is that they would come back together again to fuel my musical heart. I have my third row ticket to see whats left of them on August 6th, but I'm crushed. Gabe Saporta's twitter of "stay together for the kids?" makes so much more sense now.


Edit: Pete Wentz's blog linked to some audio. Don't worry.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Wanna Hear the Same Song Twice

I'd spent the day letting an entry about Starbucks roll around in my head, but then I stumbled across a video of Brendon Urie doing an impromptu version of "Boss DJ" on Pete Wentz's back porch and it kind of blew my stupid coffee mongering stories out of the water.

Jesus that kid has an amazing voice.

(I did, however, laugh at the baby accoutrements in the background.)