Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who You Are Under Their Shell

Happy Halloween. Go eat some candy.

This week was awful, and all I wanted at the end was sleep, and so I went to bed instead of going to see Say Anything at the House of Blues last night. Dammit.

So just listen to this. It's really old, Max Bemis in his high school days I think, but it's amazing. If there ever was a modern day love song for our eyeliner wearing, depression loving generation, this is it. One boy, on an acoustic, saving you from your sins.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How I Woke Up this Morning

This picture.

I clicked on a link on the Weezer website leading me to this. "Oh yeah," I thought, "There's Rivers Cuomo. And... is that Travis Barker? No way! Who's that guy in the middle..."

"No way. Pete Wentz? Was there actually some room on this earth that contained all three of these men at the same time? Impossible! There's no way this much of my musical world could have been in the same place at the same time."

Oh wait, morning Alex. You know who else had filmed the day before and, according to People Magazine, dropped by to "watch the guys film"?

Taylor Swift. My musical world just folded in on itself.

(All pictures from RadarOnline, taken by Charley Gallay/WireImage)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Fever, The Focus

"You don't drink, but if you did, I'd totally put a hard drink in you right now."

It's been that kind of week. Of course, it was this kind of week last week too. And possibly the week before. But the caffeine just kicked in - good thing after that much Diet Coke, though it's only just taking the edge off - and it's back to studying after this week's installment of "old angry music that's been stuck in my head all day."

It's another Marc Webb video, one of his earlier ones, which features a lot of running and his signature lamb. I used to be obsessed with this song, despite my almost complete lack of other knowledge about Brand New.

It also features faux hawks, which reminds me of the funniest thing I've heard all week. While out at lunch with my lab, we were discussing hipsters. Just because. One of the grad students mentioned that the NYPD has begun calling hipsters marshmallows. "Why?" you ask. Because they're "white and soft." I almost died of laughter coupled with sleep deprivation.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Just a Little Off Kilter

Wheat and Jukebox the Ghost at the Middle East, October 24

What occurred last night was a badly structured concert.

To begin with, the crowd was far too small for the Downstairs space at The Middle East. Downstairs fits something like 500 people while last nights crowd of about 150 would have fit, albeit snugly, into the more intimate upstairs space.

The first band up was The Needy Visions. They… well they need some vision. It wasn’t great. I spent half of their last song thinking they were singing “member of the peace” when in actuality they were singing “number of the beast.” Those are two very different things. They had no merch to sell, no CDs, just a “flyer and a mailing list.” Come on guys… how hard is it to burn a bunch of CDs and hand them out free instead of that flyer, so that people remember your music?

Next were The Motion Sick. They were pretty good. Their guitarist was damn near amazing – some of his solos were absolutely crazy. Their bassist had this short little trumpet that he would occasionally play and it was all quite cool. They also had a synchronized dance that they tried to get us to participate in for “Up-Up-Down” and I like anyone with synchronized dance moves. “Walk on Water” was good as well as “30 Lives.” Actually, most of it was good. Worth checking out, definitely.

Next, after many salmon pink balloons flying through the air, came Jukebox the Ghost. They were obviously the reason why the crowd was there. They played a lot of new songs, though some of them sounded familiar. I think that they have maybe been throwing “new” songs into their set for the past year to try them out. There was, however, one song that had never been played before a crowd “this far north,” and another that the pianist, Ben Thornewill, noted that he hoped to be playing on a keytar next time. A keytar? Could these boys make me smile any harder? They worked in a few old songs, “Victoria,” and “Hold it In” and “Good Day,” and the crowd loved it, but we also loved and danced through the new stuff. I’m optimistic about the new record – they seem to have kept all of their originality and feel in the new songs. They also seem to have retained the great play between Ben and Tommy’s vocals, which gets another thumbs up from me. I can’t wait for new material.

After their set, 75% of the crowd left. This was another huge structural flaw of the night because they weren’t the last band! Poor Wheat was left with a crowd of maybe 30 people. It’s rude to leave before the last band. However, we hit the final structural flaw that broke the camels back. The sound had been a little weird all night, but when Wheat began to play it was almost unbearable. Their computer tracks were turned up so high that it was drowning out the notes from almost everything else. Sure, I could feel the drums, but I couldn’t hear a note coming from that violin. To compensate, the guitars were turned way up and the vocals were brought up and it was just a jumbled mess of noise. I stayed for about 20 minutes in the hopes that the sound would all get sorted out and they would turn something down so that my ears would stop pounding and that poor boy in the front could pull his fingers out of his ears, but no. And so we left, wandered out into the Cambridge rain, and headed out. Sorry, Wheat. I’m sure you’re awesome and cool, but somebody in the sound booth did you a huge injustice.

The whole night was just a little off tilt, a little weird and wrong. I can’t quite put my finger on it but there was something fundamentally wrong with last night. It was unsettling and not right in my little musical world.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Want You To

Well. This isn't where I thought this video was going.

I love Weezer and I love Marc Webb and it's a cute video. But the children with digitally added Weezer heads freak me out. And people get maimed. I love the concept, of the femme fatale disrupting the world of men, coming in and completely turning their lives upside down. I also love the fact that there are multiples of everyone, and as always I love Marc Webb's physical shot compositions and style. But it's also weird. My favorite shot is of Odette Yustman dropping the flower that Scott hands her. Their facial expressions combined with the framing and movement are pure gold.

There's a making of video as well (love these!) which includes the band and Webb talking about the video. This is a weird group of men. I know that in past video shoots (specifically the MCR "I'm Not Okay" video) Webb has declared "silly hat days" and I hope that is the reasoning behind his very silly hat. Rivers also describes the song as being about that awkward moment when you really like someone but you're not sure if you should do something about it because you don't know if they like you back. I love that concept, and I see it in the song. Very cool. But why was there blood spurting and arrow shooting and digitally manipulated creepy children? I don't see.

What I Need is a Good Defense

It has been such a long week. And tomorrow's going to be long too. I want to crawl into bed and never get out.

So here. Have some old music that's been playing in my head recently. Because... because I'm tired. So tired.

"It's a sad, sad world, when a girl will break a boy, just because she can."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Your High Top Sneakers and Your Sailor Tattoos

The Gaslight Anthem at the House of Blues Boston on October 17th

I’ve been going to a lot of concerts lately that feature keyboards and synths and poppy sounds, Lights and Cobra Starship and MySpace Bands. I’d forgotten how much I love that first moment of a rock show, when the guitarist of the very first opener walks out on stage, picks up his guitar, and strums a few chords to make sure it’s in tune, to make sure it’s working. Everything melts away in those few seconds, and I’m not sure anything can cause that same overwhelming surge of happiness within me.

It was my first time at the new House of Blues in Boston, and it is so much bigger than I expected. I snagged a fabulous spot – everyone was headed right in front of the stage, and by the time I got there there were already tall people in front of me. That’s when I noticed the raised section by the bar. It’s about 10 feet from the stage and about 2 feet above the crowd. There was no one there and I snagged a spot against the railing and stuck to it like duct tape. I could see the stage perfectly without being crushed between hundreds of people. I now know where I’m headed for every HOB show.

The first band up was Broadway Calls, and they set the tune for the night – honest, hardworking, true music. These were boys in tee shirts and jeans laying their music and their hearts out on the stage. “Tonight is Alive” was my favorite. They had me at the line “I’m singing for all of you,” because isn’t that what every band should be doing? Their recorded songs aren’t striking me the same way their live performance did – it’s more polished than their live act, but the rough around the edges feel fits the music and the sentiment. I’d really love to push for more live (studio) recordings in music – everyone should play in the same room at the same time, and we should hear that on the CD, not what the band would sound like if everyone played their own part in separate tiny rooms at different times. But the band was good, the crowd was into it, and it was a great way to start. They tore through their set, barely giving us time to clap and cheer between songs, but it kept everything fast paced and excited.

Jesse Malin was up next. It was his last night on the tour, and he put everything out on the stage because of it. His music was a little less my taste, but he was still great. There were songs about New York and songs about ex lovers and songs about growing up. I liked “Little Star” and “Black Haired Girl.” It was a touch more mellow, but with racing guitars. His guitarist, however, was playing bigger than himself – no need to act like a rockstar when you’re just the guitarist for a solo act. It was good music and the crowd was into it.

This was, however, when I noticed the 50 year-old man with an earring (who knew all the words) hanging with the twenty year old girls buying him red bulls. I have no idea what that was about, but it made me realize that I need to squish as much music as possible into my twenties – I will not be the fifty year old woman dancing in the middle of the twenty year olds. I won’t let that happen to me. There was a weird age spread in the crowd in general – about 60% of the crowd was under 30, 80% under 40, and the last 20% was definitely over 40. And it wasn’t parents (there weren’t enough teenagers for that anyways). These were adults drunkenly singing along to the bands in clothing made for people 20 years their juniors. I’ve begun to realize that the older a crowd is, the more drunk they will be. Is this what 21+ shows holds in store for me? If so, I’m not a fan.

Okay. Back to the music.

Murder by Death was up next. Before the set, while the crew was sound checking the instruments, I was confused and sent a text to my roommate.

Me: Murder By Death has a keyboard and an electric cello. I am confused.

Roommate: Hmmm. They could hit you on the head with the keyboard, or strangle you with a cello string…

Their music was not at all what I expected from their name. It was very country, almost “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou,” but with an electric cello that sometimes sounded like a saxophone, played by a tiny blond with pigtails. Again, it was good music, but not at all my style. There were songs about drinking, songs about jailbreaks, and songs about friends going back to jail. The cello, however, gave it a different, modern edge and kept me interested even if the style wasn’t really my thing. They’re great at what they do, and if you’re into old time Americana country with a jailbreaking streak, I would absolutely check them out. The singer has this huge deep voice somewhere between Elvis and Johnny Cash. Amazing.

Then, oh then, came The Gaslight Anthem. They walked out on stage to “Single Ladies” by Beyonce, and it was ridiculous, and then they started playing. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time. They play amazing, honest, hard working music. These are unassuming boys laying out their stories and their pasts and their hearts. They had so much energy and were radiating this amazing happiness and great vibes. They sound exactly the same live as on their record, and they play this amazing cross between old time rock and roll, blues, and punk. True Jersey music. They talked about recording with Dicky of The Mighty Mighy Bosstones, and jumped around the stage. Brian Fallon’s smile is infectious and he played to every person in that room. The crowd was absolutely in love. My favorite songs will always be “Old White Lincoln” and “The ’59 Sound,” but each and every song they played struck me in some new way that made me want to listen to it over and over.

Fallon writes songs about women out of old time movies, Maria and Anna and Gale, women who may or may not exist but who represent every person who’s ever broken a heart. Each song is a story about real people living real lives, searching for life and love and happiness. The crowd completely absorbed them and poured them back and there was such an amazing and real energy. Brian at one point turned to Alex (the guitarist Alex, not the bassist Alex) and mouthed something that looked a lot like “This is the best show ever!” I wouldn’t blame him for thinking it – the club was alive with love. I was smiling so hard at points that my cheeks were sore from the effort, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I was that happy.

Just watch, and listen, to some of the music that lives in my heart:

The Gaslight Anthem "The '59 Sound"

The Gaslight Anthem | MySpace Music Videos

Friday, October 16, 2009

Excited? Yes.

Hold up now.

Weezer. Marc Webb. The 50s. All in one video?

Oh, I am beyond excited for this. I can't wait until it's released.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Alpha Dog and Omegalomaniac

Last September, Fall Out Boy put out a mixtape online to promote both their upcoming record, Folie a Deux, and Obama. It had a snippet of a song called "ALPHAdog and OMEGAlomaniac." The full song was just released to the world through Banana's Music Club, and it will be one of the new singles off of the band's Greatest Hits album, out in mid November. You can listen to it here.

I'm completely pissed that this song is coming out just as the band it taking a "break," because this song is made to fill arenas. The second chorus in I was rocking out in my headphones and singing along. It has a great chorus, a very full sound, and it's really good. It doesn't hurt that megalomaniac is one of my favorite words. Tell me you can listen to this without bobbing your head and rocking your shoulders and letting the sound just take over. I want to scream along to this in a huge crowd. I love the way Patrick plays with the word megalomaniac in the chorus. Fall Out Boy knows how to make the songs that will get us to sing and live and move and feel.

I was prepared to make some disparaging, critical comments about this, "It's good, but..." and I just can't. It is an honestly good song. No buts.

"You're not the first or the last, but you're possibly the prettiest."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rag And Bone

This might just be my favorite song off of Icky Thump. It's not a musically genius song, and there's more talking than singing, but it's playful and fun and I love the world, the storyline that it creates. A+ White Stripes. I also love Meg's tiny little speaking voice, her precocious "Or not..." at 2:31. Just listen. It's a pretty crappy version of the song, but what do you expect from youtube?

Monday, October 5, 2009

My Arms Get Cold

LIGHTS at the Middle East - October 4, 2009

I’ve been trying to go to a Lights concert for about a year now, but something always came up. One concert was the night before a huge midterm. I was ready and leaving to go to another one when a family friend’s father went into the hospital and I went instead to babysit her son. Then Warped Tour this summer Lights played in my hometown, but I was running chemosensory tests on fruit flies.

So I was positive that something was going to prevent me from going last night. Lightning was going to strike. My car was going to die. I was going to get swine flu. But nothing happened and finally, I got to see Lights!

The first opener was Andre Obin of Boston. He had a mac and a keyboard and a program board and basically layered beats over each other while singing through a highly distorted microphone. He would have been great at a club, dishing out music for dancing and grooving, but this wasn’t really the crowd for it. We clapped and cheered and bobbed along but we weren’t really the dancing type. He, however, was totally into it and was dancing by himself on the stage. Thumbs up dude, though I would have preferred a little more playing and a little less programming in a live show.

Next up were the Stars of Track and Field. They were two guitarists and a drummer, with a computer for a bassist. They weren’t bad, they made me dance a little, but they had all of the instruments turned up so loud that they really just became a wall of sound. Now, this was a hypnotising, encircling, enveloping, awesome wall of sound, but it was still a wall of sound. I’d love it if bands would turn down their instruments and put some space between notes so that everything is distinguishable from everything else. There were two points in their set when they, just for a few seconds, just sang with a simple guitar in the background and it was awesome but then they brought all of the instruments back in and everything got lost again. It was one of the guitarist's birthday, and so we sang to him and he was very happy. “Racing Lights” was a good song, and I’d recommend checking it out.

Finally, Lights. She bounced out on stage and was so cute and happy and bouncy. She sang her heart out and rocked out on the keytar and put so much energy into her performance that she ended up out of breath at some points. She played pretty much everything off of her EP and a handful of songs off of her new CD (out tomorrow!) The Listening. My favorite point of the night, however, was her performance of “February Air.” I’ve been waiting for about two years to see this song live, ever since I saw the simple promo video for it on a blog forever ago. And she rocked it. Technology cooperated with me and I uploaded the video I took of it onto YouTube for your viewing enjoyment. So enjoy:

The notes she reaches, the fact that she is pitch perfect and spot on, amazes me. She has quite possibly the best voice I have ever seen live, and the truest voice to recording I’ve ever heard.

She played a stripped down piano version of “Pretend” that was absolutely gorgeous and a completely different side of her music from her normal synth pop. The song apparantly appears on the CD in both forms and I’m pumped to hear them both. She ended the night with a Phil Collins cover (“In the Air Tonight”) and bounced off stage to chat with the crowd.

Now, I do want to make a note about the crowd. It was not at all what I was expecting. There were the requisite scene kids, and the girls with silly headbands, but there were also a short ton of guys. Some were middle-aged men, some were wearing leather jackets and caps over their shaved heads, and then there were the “bros.” There was this whole crowd of guys dancing like they were at a frat party in the middle of the floor, and at first I thought it was just a group of fifteen guys who decided to go to the Middle East for the night and drink some beer and dance to whoever the hell was there. But they knew the words. I didn’t think Canadian synth pop would attract so many dudes to a club, that so many of them would admit to listening to Lights and would unabashedly sing along. It was amazing. Of course, waiting to see her afterwards, there were the guys behind me scheming on how to ask her out. Ah. Hot chick appeal?

Was worth the two year wait? Absolutely.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Holy Auto-Tune, Batman

I hate when the commercial pop music world takes a song, decides it's not really polished enough for radio success, and completely changes it to something they think is better.

Driving back from work today, I flipped the radio station and heard a song that was vaguely familiar. It had some girl singing, but the beat was recognizable and I knew I had positive feelings towards it, even though I couldn't place it, even though it was the wrong person singing and there were all sorts of loopy flares over beat. Three seconds later, I realized what it was.

Someone decided it was a good idea to take "Star Struckk" by 3OH!3, auto-tune the hell out of it, add Katy Perry's "feminine response" to the lyrics, and add some dance beats over the dance beats. And then to sprinkle on some more synth and a little more pop. And some sparkle. I think this song is glittering.

This is not a song that should glitter. "Star Struckk" begins with the lyrics: "Nice legs, daisy dukes, makes a man go *whistle* ... low-cut, see through, shirts that make you *whistle*" This is not a... clean song. It's dirty, it's a little raunchy. The words are half sung, half screamed, with some big beats behind it. It's one of my favorite songs off the album, but not one I would play in front of my grandmother. It gets a little more introspective as it goes, and I love the chorus: "I think I should know how to make love to something innocent without leaving my fingerprints out. L-O-V-E's just another word I never learned to pronounce." It's a big song that fits so perfectly with imperfect vocals and huge beats.

But then, then someone took it and turned it into this. I realize that 3OH!3 was a part of this decision, that they went into the studio with Katy Perry and recorded this and that they made a conscious decision to put this out into the world. But I want to believe that it's because some executive decided that it was a good idea, not because they thought this version of the song, where their voices are completely unrecognizable, where Katy Perry's voice is unrecognizable, and where their song has been completely lost, was not their decision. It sounds nothing like them, or their songs. And what is up with Katy Perry's "response section"? Are they trying to be a little more "correct"? It's as if they're saying, "Sure, we're being gigantic assholes, but it's not actually working to get us girls." Except, that's exactly what the original song was saying. The video is them lying in a writhing pile of half naked girls. I mean, come on.

I don't mind it so much live. Sure, they're not all the greatest singers, but who cares? It's the energy and the music and their own voices. I don't want to listen to a computer, I want to listen to the actual singers. I like Katy Perry. I like 3OH!3. I think their live voices are a little off, but I want to hear them. I wouldn't have a problem if they just added Katy to the song, but the auto tuning and beat adding and crazy synth took a cool, catchy song and turned it into something almost unlistenable.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Check It Out, I'm Rocking Steady

Today calls for Motion City Soundtrack. It just does.

The future freaks me out, but everything is alright. This is my mantra for today. Watch. Listen. Love. Hope that these boys finish up their record and put new music out soon.

I've saw them live once, in May of 2008, knowing only one song. It was so loud, the music was everywhere and all around and blaring into my ears, and there was this girl jumping and flailing and screaming in front of me, and it didn't knock me off my feet, but it planted the seeds of these songs into my brain and there are just some days when you've got to tell the world "Fuck it, I'm on fire, and now I think I'm ready to bust a move."