Sunday, February 28, 2010

Interviews and Local Rock

Local Bands, The Middle East, Feb 27th 2010

So last night, I had the opportunity to interview a group of local bands before their show at the Middle East. Nerve wracking? Yes. Awesome? Absolutely. The interviews will be posted online later on, and I'll link to them when they are, but for now, my minor musical geek out:

The first band interviewed was Thick as Thieves. I observed for most of this one, and fumbled in a question or two when I could, but I picked up the flow and the pacing and how everything was supposed to go. The second was Beneath the Sheets. I was a little more on my own for this one, but I stuck pretty closely to the outline of questions before me and got a little lost in who was answering what and when. The third interview was with Jarrett from Cure for Static. This one was far smoother and almost completely on my own, so that by the time I interviewed The Lights Out I was comfortable enough to ad lib in questions based on the answers that the band gave. And, though it may have been just polite flattery, their drummer commented that it was the best interview they had ever had.

It was fun. So much fun. All of the guys I talked to were beyond nice, and they let me talk to them about music! Most of the time, I have to ply people with baked goods to get them to let me talk about music that much, but the bands and a couple new friends were more than willing to do so, no cookies required. As an added bonus, I was "on the list." This is a new and glorious novelty to me. I didn't have to pay to get in and what may be my last set of "thou shalt not drink" X's became B's.

Beyond that, it's a completely different experience going to a show after talking to the bands. First because they recognize you, and with a venue as open as the Middle East that means that they occasionally wandered by to throw a word or two into a conversation or to chat for a few minutes. It's mainly different, however, because it means that when they start playing, you were just talking to them about these songs and their music. Suddenly, I knew why those boys were playing their instruments, why they wanted to be musicians, and how they came up with the songs they were singing.

The first band that played was Beneath the Sheets. They're very enthusiastic on stage, from the lead singer bouncing around with an old style hand mic to what looked to be choreographed guitar moves. A quick glimpse of their style is the song "Cold Feet." It's by the book pop-punk, and the influence of bands like Fall Out Boy is very obvious in their guitar sound. They had a loyal group of followers, a crowd that wore their merch and knew all the lyrics.

Next up was Thick As Thieves. Most notable is their versatility with their instruments: the bass guitar was traded among three members, guitars were switched around, and a mini-keyboard and slide guitar rounded out the set. Of course with three members from Berklee, I'd expect nothing less. Though a bit slower than the rest of their set, I was a fan of "Here's to Waking Up." More indicative of their sound is "First News from the Zephyr." It's all got a bit of a 70s edge to it, but it works.

Midatlantic was next. They're an Irish rock band, and the accents made me smile. Nothing huge stood out about their set, but it was good, steady music. The crowd liked them a lot. It was good feeling music and it just kind of washed good vibes through the club.

Next was The Lights Out. It was their 100th show, and they were excited. They play something bordering on classic rock, with four part harmonies and obvious experience with their instruments. 100 shows had given them a stage presence that ranged from bouncy and energetic, their guitarist playing in the crowd, to focused and rocking. The crowd loved them, and I'd deem it a successful centennial.

Finally, Cure for Static. I'm a huge sucker for strong bass lines, and their bassist's awesome, so they had me there. The lead singer also spent most of the night with an acoustic, and I liked how that played into the harder music. Usually acoustics are reserved for quiet stage shows, but this was mixed right in with the electric. It worked very well. "Wait it Out" is a good description of their sound.

So what's in the future of my musical life? Hopefully more local shows, more interviews, and more nights of getting home at 2am and waking up at 7am to get to work. Please, who needs sleep when you can have music?

Friday, February 26, 2010

This week was insane. This weekend is going to be insane. My life is currently being pulled in all different directions, and sometimes I feel like maybe I'm wearing myself down just a little too much. Then suddenly, good things happen from all sides, each direction reminds me why I love it so much, and I can't think of any other way to live my life.

"Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up":

Amanda Palmer sang a hilarious song about a lover who loves Vegemite in Australia:

(I love Amanda Palmer. She is hysterical and spot on and has such an amazing view of the world. She tells the best stories both in her songs and in her dialogues.)

This one time, I went to England. They had mailboxes like this. I love contradictions, like a punk rocker with flowers in my hair:

The only way to deal with the stress is to just let it go. The only way to let it go is to dance. And so I spent a lot of this week dancing to this:

And just because I can, here's a Marc Webb video that I stumbled across today. I used to love this video, the video for "Miss Murder" by AFI. I'm such a sucker for a good bass line. And bunnies. And Marc Webb. And striking contrast and angular hair and architecture and powerful videos. This is the full, director's cut version, with a longer intro that explains the piece of paper Davey pulls out of his mouth at the beginning of the videos.

(I have mixed emotions on Vevo. On one hand, they let me embed high quality videos. On the other, they seem to be dominating the online music video industry at the moment. Hmm.)

PS I know it's been a little slow around here lately, but fear not. There's change in the air. Concert reviews, personal musical babblings, and the things I love most about music will remain here. But soon they might be mixed with links to band interviews and a different edge to my musical world. You just stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Boomerangs and Murderous Headliners

Molecular Genetics is kicking my butt. Forgive the random.

I spent over half my life involved in martial arts. One of those things that makes me less creeped out at shows is knowing that if that skeevy dude in the corner puts his hand on my ass again I can break his nose.

My school had big celebrations when people graduated to black belt and occasionally martial artists from other schools would come and perform. I must have been about eleven when these two kids, world champions, came to perform. They did all sorts of weapons demos, and they were fabulous. But what do I remember? Not their names, or their forms, or their ranks. No, I remember their music.

I have been searching for this song for about a decade now. One of the kids performed to it and it will randomly pop into my head, or I'll randomly start singing it. But it's really hard to do a google search for "German song about boomerangs" and get the right result back. But tonight, I found it! It had been stuck in my head all day, this peppy, crazy tune, and I was determined to find it.

Blumchen's "Boomerang." Now this song can stop plaguing me.

On a completely unrelated note, Panic! at the Disco, Shane Valdes, and Butch Walker made this:

I really have no explanation. But could I have Shane Valdes's job? I mean, he gets to make the most random videos with musicians, for no purpose that I can see beyond just being able to. I'd like that. I will admit to being minorly excited at the beginning ("Panic! is touring with Butch Walker? Awesome!") but the disappointment at that being a lie was dispelled by the odd yet fun video. So enjoy.

(As an aside, how many over zealous, over excited fans do you think both of these men have met? I often feel, when meeting artists, that this is how they view the whole Meet and Greet ordeal. Butch gets to finally show his disdain and Brendon gets to act like the hyperactive fans who swarm him at shows. They both must have loved this.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

New Paramore Video - The Only Exception

Sometimes, videos are just perfect for the songs they showcase. This is one of them.

Paramore's "The Only Exception" is a very emotional song, describing a pull between loving someone and not believing in love. This video captures that emotion perfectly, from Hayley's expression to the pacing of the shots to the lighting and costuming and colors. It is a great concept, of running through rooms, moving from one portion of life to another, evaluating love from every point, and finding your way by going back.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Plane Music

I just got back from a weird, strange vacation in Oxford and London. I didn't think I'd ever be warm again, but my tea addiction was assuaged.

My plane music varies, depending on my mood and the people around me, but two songs are always on the playlist.

The first, and most obvious, is "Bring It," and after dealing with crazy Heathrow security, it's making me smile today. So, watch the video. Maybe it'll make you smile too.

The second is a little darker, a little more symbolic, but how can you not love William Beckett's voice and the lovely play with plane vs plain. Enjoy.

Okay. My body currently thinks it's 2:33am. I've been awake for... a long time. I think I'm going to go get some sleep. Oh jetlag, you make me silly.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Blame it on the Rock and Roll

I've rebuilt myself from the ground up over the past three years, and every piece of me comes from my music. Oddly enough, it's usually an unconscious process, but when I stop and evaluate, I am what I listen to. It's one of those 1950s arguments, a disgruntled authority figure blaming my attitude, my clothing, my hair on the music.

I can never argue with that.

It's telling, almost too personal to write out what came from where. My attitude, my personality, my flaws, and my insecurities play themselves out in a jumble of lyrics and song titles and melodies. There are too many to spell out, the list would never be complete, and it keeps changing and evolving as I clutch onto new things I love and let go of old lines that I've grown tired of.

I can pin my personality and outlook on life onto a handful of artists, lead singers, lyrics, and liner notes. But that, to me, would be more revealing than nude photographs.

But my style is out there for all to see. My black shining nail polish creates "fingernails that shine like justice." My skinny jeans with snaps up the legs came from William Beckett circa "Snakes on a Plane." My purple hoodie came from Gabe Saporta. The theoretical lip ring is all Frank Iero's fault. And my crazy tights and thigh highs? Blame Amanda Palmer. My "big black boots" are Jet, my hair is Gwen Stefani. My current desire to bastardize my old Catholic school uniform into something punk comes from Lyn-Z. And let's not start on my high school obsession with wanting to be Shirley Manson and be able to look this hot while messing with the concept of "Androgyny".

And if that's just the beginning of my wardrobe, take a breath and imagine my psyche.

But those perfect red pumps that I spent years searching for came from this video:

I bought this album for $2.99 at a used CD store in Harvard Square that went out of business a couple years ago. I spent most of high school wishing I could pull off this look. By the time I hit college, I realized that it wasn't about being able to, it was about just doing it.

Why? Because my music told me that I could be whoever I wanted to be, and that everyone else could fuck off.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Dinosaur Life Album Review

One of the best things about working in a research lab (besides the fact that I’m doing awesome science) is the ability to listen to music while doing mundane things like counting flies and sorting vials. I added two new CDs to my mp3 player to listen to while working, and only got through one. Not because it took forever, but because every time I got to the end of it, I told myself I’d listen to it “just one more time.” I lost track of how many "one more time's" it was.

That was yesterday. Today wasn’t much better. I listened to it again at work, and then as I was walking back and forth across campus, and then when I had a mini dance party to it in my room. That’s how good My Dinosaur Life by Motion City Soundtrack is.

There’s not a bad song on this CD. Honestly. I’ve actually been putting off writing this review because I’m not sure I can really convey how awesome it is. I think the only way to do this and not have my head explode is to do a track-by-track rundown of how amazing it all is.

Worker Bee: This is just a positive, happy song that sets the pace for the entire album. All of the songs are musically very strong, as well as lyrically descriptive and full. There’s true emotion on the whole album, and it all starts here.

A Life Less Ordinary starts with a really, really happy guitar bit, which fills in with drums and mingles with Justin Pierre’s vocals and it’s fun. Once it hits the chorus it’s also smart and it pulls you in with piano keys and this joyful little guitar.

Her Words Destroyed My Planet is a song that I already loved, and I’ve now figured that the synth-guitar-baby is actually a kazoo. A kazoo! I love that MCS has made a song that is so awesome that adding a kazoo just makes it better, rather than ruining it. You can’t do that to many songs. Also, underneath all of the amazingness is a cowbell. This song is lyrically poignant and musically genius and it’s just… awesome? Amazing? I’m only three songs in and I’m running out of adjectives.

Disappear is a bit darker, rougher, faster than the previous songs. It feels a lot like their earlier songs. There’s so much anger and emotion, a tangled mix of love and hatred and a desire to run. The guitars and vocals and drums all race together and the huge deep breaths that Pierre has to take between lyrics just adds an edge of fear and desperation that make you truly feel this song.

Delirium: This song holds one of the underlying themes of the record, of going a little crazy and taking a little medication and losing a little bit of your head. Of course “there’s a buzz, there’s a buzz, there’s a buzzing of bugs, from flower beetles, yellow jackets, silverfishes to slugs, it’s always raining caterpillars from the circular fan” was just an apropos line while at work. The bass line is repetitious and it pounds in the idea of going just a touch insane.

History Lesson starts off acoustic, and reminds me a lot of 90s pop music. It’s musically a little plain, but by this point in the songs, it’s a perfect break, a breather. There are violins and it’s soft and relaxed, a song about contemplating the time that’s gone, or not wanting to.

Stand Too Close also starts with an acoustic, but it also has handclaps and cute, quirky vocals. It calls to mind girls in pastel dresses dancing by subway cars in the rain. Don’t even ask me why, but that’s the picture I have in my head. There’s a tambourine and a beat that makes you want to move quietly and softly.

Pulp Fiction begins to take the music faster again, and it’s also reminiscent of their previous records. With Japanese references and the great lyric “like a slasher film I’m torn in opposite directions, the plot sucks but the killings are gorgeous.” This is a grown up MCS playing with their younger sound and it’s perfect without sounding processed or over polished. They know how to write great songs now that appeal to lots of people, but they haven’t lost who they are.

@!#?@! is my favorite song on the album. It made me laugh a little when I read in their own Track-by-Track that they felt it was “in the vein of Weezer.” I’m so predictable. It’s a song about being losers, geeks, and nerds, and telling the rest of the world to just back off... with a dance beat. I think that just described my life between the ages of 13 and 18. It makes me want to dance and sing along with the chorus, which, while simple, is just brilliant: “You all need to go away, you motherfuckers.” Now imagine that sung happily with snaps and a bouncy guitar and it makes me smile so hard, which is such a fabulous contradiction. Honest to God, I danced down the stairwell at work to this song. And then realized just what the hell I was doing. Thankfully, there was no one around. It makes me want to move and clap my hands and move my hips and tell the world to step off. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Hysteria echoes the sentiment of “Delirium” but with a perfect synth and more clapping and a full chorus. The best part is really the synth and clapping after the choruses, a perfect six seconds of head bobbing, shoulder shaking happy music. It’s going crazy and bubbly at the same time.

Skin and Bones starts to lead the album back down towards the end, and feels like leaving your friends, being stuck on city streets in the cold at 2am. It poses a series of questions, from “What if there is no point at all, what is we just grow up to fade away?” to “What if we’re all just broken shells full of someone else’s thoughts?” to “What if there’s nothing more to us, we’re just carbon based, we’re just pixie dust?” The lyrics range from pseudo scientific to psychological and they’re the exact questions everyone has in the dead cold of loneliness.

The Weakends is the end of a set. It’s the end of the night, the end of the show, with the crowd happy and pumped but getting tired, sleepy, drunk, ready to go to sleep but never wanting to leave the crowd and the venue and the music. It’s one more song, one last dance, one more weekend. It’s perfect.

Five dinosaurs out of five.

My Dinosaur Life is squeezing itself into my top six albums. Motion City Soundtrack just set the bar for all of the music being released this year, and they’ve set it high.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Little Boy Plays Jason Mraz on a Ukelele, and My Heart Bursts From Cuteness

Today was a slow day in lab, and everything just seemed a little off. One of the Post-Docs decided that music was needed, and (after a video on botflies... because we're scientists of course) he turned on this:

It made me smile so hard. It made everyone smile so hard. You can't not be happy while watching this child and his ukelele. The faces he makes and his utter happiness with the instrument are beyond adorable.

And this next one is okay at the beginning, but once you're a minute in that kid gets rolling and he's amazing!

He's so happy and he kicks his feet and plays so well that I just want to scoop him up and pinch his cheeks. Who knew a small boy playing a ukelele could completely change my mood? You can't not be happy in the face of his utter joy!