Tuesday, December 08, 2009

N#

Disclaimer: I could write all day about Naturally Sharp memories, but this post is mostly showing off how good N# 2009 is.

OK, so I was in a pop a cappella group in college. The kind that sings stuff you'd hear on the radio.


Our retarded very original name was "Naturally Sharp." We were founded by our buddy Anthony in 2003ish, who, in retrospect, probably threw the group together for no other reason than to gain a competitive edge in the world of hooking up.

You know, now that I think about it, forget "probably," that's definitely why Anthony started it.


 Naturally Sharp, 2006ish


Anyhow, we threw together 2 or 3 standards and 2 or 3 radio hits, and hit the all-female dorms.

We all liked to sing and have fun, but none of us, regrettably, were real standout singers. So we decided to just be really inappropriate fun, and we were.

I stand firmly against the overuse of words or phrases that have a distinct meaning, but are misused / overused so frequently that the original meaning is lost, so believe me when I say we had no shame. I won't go into embarrassing details, but believe me, we were really committed to building a following.

Throughout our university years, we, the founding group, went from a loose group of beer-drinking buddies to singing the biggest venue at Virginia Tech, getting paid gigs all over the place, and hosting our own concerts.

Well, after the founding members all graduated, we were sort of worried that the soul of the group would die out.

It didn't. And the singing got way better.

Listen to the 2009 concert here:








-Hunter

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Turntable Soul




New "Turntable Soul" out today --- if you aren't listening to these, you are about as cool as bringing Zima to poker night.

They're a mix of "Northern Soul, Roots, and Modern Love."

I can't describe it any better than that, but I can tell you that when you play it, whatever you're doing - and I mean anything, you will feel cooler.


Driving in the car? Smoov.

 Loading flood plain data into a geodatabase? Chill.

Trying to get the goddamn garbage disposal to work right for the third goddamn time this week? Fresh.

A genre built from failures,
-Hunter

Monday, November 30, 2009

new to me, volume 1

OK, so we're in a bit of a dry spell for new music releases. I have it on fictitious good authority that after the John Mayer album came out, everyone else who was going to release an album in 2009 stared wistfully out the window, said "what's the point?" and trashed it.

That doesn't mean we can't still find new music. Having never owned a car newer than the 1996 model year, my recent-ish purchase of a 2004 model year car, although it wasn't "new" on an absolute scale, felt like a spaceship from the future when I got in it. Dig?




First up in our "new-to-me" series is a 2007 release from "The Junior Varsity," a now-defunct band I found on Purevolume in college (remember Purevolume?! AIM?! Snood?! College?!). It's called "Cinematographic," and it's good.

This band captured me in about 2004 with a song that had such a non-conventional rhythm, unusual and pleasing chord voices, and an overall hyper-distinct "sound" that I, in my broke-ass college state, actually went out and bought the album, "Wide Eyed." The whole album was solid, and I spun it for at least 2 years in heavy rotation.



Fast forward 3 years, I'm out of college and working, listening to Pandora at work to pass the time, and I hear something familiar --- it sounds like The Junior Varsity, but I don't recognize the song. To my surprise, they had come out with a new album, so I instantly bought it on good faith, based on how much I loved the previous album.

It was more mature, better written, better performed, better produced.

Instant standouts included the warm, jazzy, horn-supported "Cinematographic," the powerful, riffy "The SKY," and the "do WHAT?!" inducing "Memory Made Easy." (Ed. note: not a lot of these are available on YouTube, so you have to lift a finger to get to them. LMGTFY.)

Listening to it now instantly reminds me of driving my mom's old Accord around the DC suburbs, wishing I had a Les Paul to get the beautiful, woody, warm tones that take this album from "just another indie release" to "gonna be up in my iPod when I'm 40."


Lafawnduh the Hawnduh

It's one of those albums that just has an inexplicable staying power --- whenever I have my iPod on "all songs shuffle" and I get something from Cinematographic, I never change it.

For the playas: The Les Paul / humbucker tones on this album are so good that I decided I had to get a Les Paul style guitar after I got this album. My Les Paul search led me to my now-beloved 335 Dot. I literally would not have that guitar if not for this album. Powerful.


There's nothing better than buying a guitar to get a specific sound you're looking for. Besides sausage balls.


Now, I had a rather pleasant Thanksgiving holiday. My wife and I went to Bedford, VA, where my family has "done" Thanksgiving for nigh on 20 years now. After eating sausage balls and fried apple pies until I was genuinely worried about my immediate health, I stepped out to the yard for the annual two-hand-touch football game, where I learned that my dad has still got skillz on the football field, Doc Martens are terrible for football, and teaching a young first-cousin-once-removed to run a play and subtly letting them get a touchdown without being obvious is a great feeling.

The next day we returned to central Virginia, where both her and my parents live, and had the distinct pleasure of picking her parents' two black labs up from the kennel. If you ever want to feel like the hero at the end of a movie, go pick a dog up from the kennel.

Also of note, for the first time ever, a band is actually sending me a copy of their album along with a press kit, so I'll review their album --- tortally allsome. Look for it next week.

All you jealous punks can't stop my dunks,
Hunter

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TLA Has a New Look

After literally minutes of ripping off editing features I wanted into this blog's template, we have a new look.

You'll notice that there are a lot of new bullshit features on the right hand side.

First up is a search box. This thing only searches TLA, so when you search "dan mangan" it's only going to show you my post about the guy, and best of all, it stays here on TLA so you don't get booted off into the cold, dark internet like with most search bars.

Still going strong is the album release calendar. Email me if you know about new stuff coming up that a) I'd like and b) I don't have on there. There's a few releases lingering in the distance, but none that I'd buy, so they don't make the list.





 
Next up is a view of stuff that I've shared recently on Google Reader. I get a kick out of stuff that I see floating around the web, so why not drop it in here, even if it's not relevant to music? It'll give you a better idea of what I like and who I am, for enhanced context. If you don't use Google Reader, you are a caveman. If you don't know about Google Reader, find out, and thank me later.

I put a facebook "badge" up so you can stalk me and look at all my pictures of me putting new pickups in guitars, and pictures of the thermometer in my car to show everyone how cold or hot it is here.



I wasn't kidding.

 I also added buttons so you can share TLA on Facebook or Twitter with one click.Whenever I read a good blog post that I think is cool or that I get a kick out of, I post it on Facebook and/or Twitter so my friends can read it too. If you do that, now you can do it with one click.

Anyways, that's the new setup, just a heads up that this is still the right site.

-Hunter


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Serious Post

What do we have to be thankful for?

Art.




Family.



Music.




Have a safe and memorable holiday.

-Hunter

Thursday, November 19, 2009

So sick, bro

What the hell, let's just call it unofficial John Mayer week here on TLA.

I have been too busy doing real work to write much this week, besides my gigantastic Not A Battle Studies Review. I have had the chance to come across a lot of good web content this week, most of which I'll tell you about when I can gather the momentum to write about it in a way that does it justice. A YouTube here and there will get you by, though.

Check out this video of Mayer with Alicia Keys, doing "Ain't No Sunshine" live at Black Ball 2009.

As one of my friends on TGP said, and I paraphrase:

"That was so sick it made me throw up"






Also, a big shoutout to my big sis. She has a blog too. It's written almost exactly like mine, only she writes about girl stuff.

Today's my birthday, and this video is better than cake,
Hunter

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Marginally Acceptable As Music




Not to be outdone by his brother, Carl Mayer has signed an exclusive contract with Big Lots! stores nationwide to distribute his debut record “Teh Battle Study.” Clocking in at a tidy 2.5 hours, it is dubbed by his PR rep Maurice Biglot! as “insufferably good” and “marginally acceptable as music.”

Fans who are Diners Club International cardholders will be given first opportunity to purchase tickets to Carl’s album release party, held at Arthur Treacher’s restaurant in Milford, CT on December 25, 2009.

(Ed. Note: not my content, go to http://jhnmyr.tumblr.com/ to see the original!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Can't Review Battle Studies




Trying to review Battle Studies is like trying to award a diploma to a fresh-out-tha-minivan college freshman. Allow me to explain. First off, listen to the first 25 seconds of this video.


"For me it's about patience. When I was younger, I thought watching someone shred something apart was...awesome, musically; but now what's really cool --- I love watching patience. I love watching...someone have more in their coffer than they're going to pull out that night. I just like that."


Point taken.


Next, think about 2007's "Where The Light Is" album (and awesome DVD). That album was proof that the songs grew during the tour.

Example: I Don't Trust Myself (Studio)




vs.


I Don't Trust Myself (Where The Light Is)



Yeah. Me too.

I think about this album like you'd think about a talented young college football player --- you can see that it has great potential, and maybe not operating at full-tilt today, but it's going to be fun to see how it changes over time, with more live performances.

I fully believe that by the time these songs get through a tour, they are going to be at their full potential. Right now I feel like they're almost intentionally spare, to make room for live concert growth.

I can't review "Battle Studies." I know I will read this 6 months from now and I'll feel embarrassed, like I missed the point on my first listen. I get that a lot with Mayer's music --- heck, I hated John Mayer's music until about 2006, when I heart his Strat tone on "Heart of Life" in my wife's car. I thought it was preppy girl music. Either there's more to it than that, or I am a preppy girl. (Please leave your retorts in the comments section, I know you got 'em). Without further adieu, I present my Not a Battle Studies Review:

Heartbreak Warfare: Just a monolithic song, lots of depth. The lyrics are great, and the groove sticks with you. Almost some U2 style nods in there. The solo has an obvious Jeff Beck influence. The "Heartbreak Warfare Strat" that he's been playing a lot recently, has both the Heartbreak Warfare logo on it (a logo for a song, dayum - that's when you know you're in the big time) and what appears to be a very obvious Jeff Beck-style hardware setup. Guitar nerds will know what I'm talking about (note the LSR roller nut). Hell, it might even be a Jeff Beck Strat.


I once wrote almost an entire paragraph about this guitar

All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye: I don't get this one yet. It's a nice, sweet song, with a chorus that is just the title of the song over and over. John calls that the "So Lonely." Hilarious. Very thoughtful solo, but I don't see this getting a lot of play time in my car.



Kiss me, John.
Not now, chief, I'm in the zone.


Half of My Heart: This one features Taylor Swift singing accent parts, and it has been stuck in my head like crazy. The theme of the song is revealed almost instantly, when Mayer adds a very distinct guitar accent over the first chords. Brilliant songwriting. In a lecture he gave at Berklee, John mentioned the importance of a theme in a song - something that you hear that instantly tells you what the song is, no question. The example he gave in the lecture was Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer," which has one of the most recognizable "themes" of all time --- as soon as you hear that intro run, you know exactly what song it is without a doubt, and the whole song plays in your head in an instant. This has been the song I have been playing at home every time I pick up a guitar. The vocal harmonies are spectacular.

(Ed. Note: Listen to that Berklee lecture, whether you like Mayer or not. It changed the way I listen to music, and changed the way I write music. Should be a mandatory listen for anyone who likes music.)




Who Says: Already wrote this one up, still feel the same way. If you're taking this song at face value, you're missing the point.

Perfectly Lonely: This is your blue-eyed soul, backyard barbecue, beach party song. Lots of great licks in the Motown style, and lyrics that you'll use in your next bachelor party roast.

 
He works in the dead of night. Oh-ooo-whoa-ooo-oh-ooo-oh-ooh-whoa-ooo-oh.


Assassin: This is the masterpiece of the album. Dark, sinister, sexy. Mayer worked on this one for years, and it shows. It's a relationship metaphor that describes an assassin, who's mantra is "you get in, you get done, and then you get gone --- you never leave a trace or show your face, you get gone," who is caught off guard when he realizes that his target is an assassin too. Mr. and Mrs. Smith, anyone? Pino Palladino shines on this one, creating what's the perfect bass line for a song this dark. Steve Jordan's always-perfect drums create the perfect "dark alley" ambience. The guitar solo on this one, he just nails it. Perfect climax to an awesome song. The dénouement of this song is incredible, too. This song plays like a movie.


Just try and listen to Led Zeppelin without hearing Robert Johnson after clicking this picture.
Johnson died at age 27.



Crossroads: A Robert Johnson cover, played in the style of Cream (Eric Clapton)'s cover. Super clean and tight mix, and fun to hear John play with a really gritty "dead battery" fuzz tone. Super cool. Snaps you awake after you take the "Assassin" ride. One of the things I like about Mayer's music is that it connects the modern generation to blues greats from yesteryear. If one high school kid discovers Robert Johnson because of this song, it's done it's job.


He should win a Grammy just for figuring this fucking thing out

War of My Life: A beautiful song, a songwriter's song. Rumor has it that Mayer uses a MOOG guitar on this song. Reminds me of Room For Squares, with more restraint. You will be hearing this on Lite 98 when you're 40.

Edge of Desire: You know how your high school English teacher told you that you want to create tension and release with your writing? This song has the most moving buildup and freight-train-climax I've ever heard. When the harmonized guitar solo comes in, you will cry like the first time you saw Marley & Me. This is a song you could study for years. The melody and harmony vocals are elegant and will have you singing the harmony part in the car. The solo in this song pairs with the song as a whole better than any song I've ever heard. And I've heard a lot of music. My favorite song on the album that's not "Assassin."

Do You Know Me: Another song I don't get. Not to say that it's bad, just that it doesn't strike a chord with me. Kind of a funny premise, telling a girl she looks familiar and asking if she knows you. Of course she knows you, you're John Mayer (0:37, but watch it all for context. Like you have anything better to do).

Friends, Lovers or Nothing: Big, big, big. A "big-band" type of song, similar to the feel of "I'm Gonna Find Another You," that has lyrics that everyone on the planet can agree with. Smooth move, relating to people. You know how the best part of the Derek and The Dominos version of "Layla" is the tag at the end, the outro vamp? This song is just like that, with a hyperbolically memorable extended outro, the lyrics of which your daughter will probably get tattooed on her lower back after her first bad breakup. This is what music is all about.

So, team, I can't review Battle Studies. What I can do is tell you what I thought about it after my first listen. Be sure to focus on that, the "first listen" part.

Since I had pre-ordered the album and limited-edish t-shirt literally the first minute the pre-sale was open, I felt OK with grabbing the pre-release leak torrent. The actual album sounds, without a doubt, much better. I usually recommend buying music on Amazon MP3 for the convenience and price, but this album needs to be played on a real CD. The YouTubes don't do it justice. I am probably going to buy a turntable someday soon, specifically so I can spin this album on vinyl (and rack up a shitload of indie-cred).

Hearing and listening are different, do the latter,
Hunter

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

YOU GO; I’MA STAY HERE

I’m writing this post from the parking lot of community college, where, curiously, everyone seems to drive a nicer car than I do. Speaking of cars, I like cars --- I also like driving. Regrettably, it’s apparent to me that everyone has figured out how much I enjoy driving and they’ve united to make sure that driving is as much of a pain in the ass for me as is possible.



I’ll start off with STANDING. You know those signs in front of office buildings, strip malls, and just about anywhere else that say “NO PARKING OR STANDING”? Yeah, those aren’t just “No parking” signs. There’s a whole ‘nother word in there, and I am amazed at how few people know what it means. And no, it doesn’t mean standing there on your New Balances, wondering how to make driving painful for me.

You know how when you park somewhere, you put the car in park? (Ed. Note: for the manny tranny drivers out there, read: in neutral with the e-brake on, in gear with the e-brake on, or if you are the poor bastard who ended up with my old Toyota pickup truck, in gear, with the e-brake on, and with a large stone chocking a tire) Well, standing is when you stop somewhere, but don’t get out. In park, in gear with your foot on the brake, doesn’t matter. If you ain’t moving and you’re in the car, you’re standing.





Anyways, when you’re standing in front of the grocery store, and I pull up behind you and just wait, expecting you to move, and you stick your arm out the window to wave me around, I’m not trying to be a pain in the ass, I promise. I am actually confused. Because there is a large “NO STANDING OR PARKING” sign in plain view, and I know that you had to take the same written exam I did to get your driver’s license, which includes the distinction between Standing and Parking. You should feel like I’ve given you a compliment --- I’ve given you the benefit of the doubt; inferring that you know the laws of the state in which you’re operating a motor vehicle and have the intelligence to apply that knowledge. See, I’m not all bad.



My wife kept laughing and pointing at me when she watched this

 
Next up is “Me First Syndrome,” a disease more prevalent in the northern region of the great Commonwealth I call home. This is a disorder that causes the afflicted to feel the need to be in front of you and everyone, regardless of the sustained speed of the lane at large. That last part is the caveat that makes this disorder so hilarious / frustrating.



What I’m talking about is when you are doing an industry-standard 10-over with the flow of traffic and a respectable following distance between your car and the car in front of you, and a car will ride your ass. As a citizen with a healthy regard for the greater good, and of course a spectacular grip on the ins and outs of macro-level transportation dynamics, you change lanes to allow this BMW car to pass. In doing so, you break your cruise control decelerate 7-15 miles per hour. Since the lane you just moved into is going 3 under the speed limit because of a cautious gold minivan, a work van, or a 97 year old lady in an Oldsmobuick, you change back into the lane you were in originally to restore your original speed. If you’re cruise control savvy like me, you simply press “Resume” and your car starts smoothly accelerating back to your original speed, an industry-standard 10-over.

What’s this? The Infiniti car that just got all up on you, is going less than your original speed of 10-over, and now you have to hit the brakes and break cruise control, to avoid losing the space cushion between you and the afflicted. This, my friends, happens because the car that rode your ass and that you changed lanes and broke cruise control for, did not want to go faster than your cruise speed --- oh no, they wanted to be in front of you. Me First Syndrome. It's usually guys like this. (link too hilarious / terrible, even for my blarg. Nothing awful, just a lot of colorful language - and Ed Hardy shirts.)


Pictured: A guy in a Prius who would rather drive around the parking garage for 16 minutes waiting for a spot with minimum walking distance to the office door than park in an empty spot and walk an extra 20 seconds.

Parking lot stalkers: I work in a building where there is a 6-story parking garage, to accommodate all my esteemed colleagues’ Lexuses cars. I get to work early, before almost anyone, so I always get a spot on the ground floor. Well, sometimes I’ll walk out to my car in the middle of the day --- to grab my iPod, grab a jacket (ever been in a server room?), or just sit in there and listen to music for a few minutes to relax.

Well, 10 out of 10 times when I am walking to my car to grab my iPod or whatever, a Prius car will trail along behind me, at my walking speed, basically steps behind me. Well, I’ll dart in to where my car is, unlock it, reach in and grab my iPod or Altoids or whatever I went out there for, and re-emerge, seconds later. This is almost always met with a violent sigh, some hand motions, usually resembling that of a (n angry) touchdown, and mashing the accelerator to the floor to speed away. Because nothing spells frustration like squealing your tires “at me.”


I actually get a kick out of this, but, God bless me, I try to help them out. Nowadays, when I sense a parking lot stalker, I will give them a very deliberate hand motion opera of sorts that clarifies that “I am NOT getting in THE CAR and DRIVING AWAY; I am getting my IPOD, and WALKING BACK into THE OFFICE.” The semicolon is really tough.

This doesn’t seem to help, though. I’m usually met with the same violent sigh, angry touchdown, and squealing tires that I get without extending this courtesy, only I get it sooner. Parking lot stalkers.

The new Dashboard Confessional is out today, “Alter the Ending.” I am sure it will be good, because my wife, the vox populi is actually excited about it. Also of note, and on topic, speaking of parking vultures, the new Them Crooked Vultures album is available for free streaming now. And it's good.



And as you see from my earlier post, John Mayer's Battle Studies leaked, and is now available for streaming.



Anyways, have a nice Tuesday, and if you’re driving, think of me and my superior understanding of transportation flow, comprehension of laws, and hand motioning skills.

Seriously, you should see my we-both-got-to-the-4-way-stop-at-the-same-time “I’MA STAY HERE, YOU GO; I’MA STAY HERE,” a baby could understand it.

Cruise control saves lives,
Hunter

John Mayer's Battle Studies


Has leaked. Now streaming in full, here:





I am intentionally not listening to it.

I want the full, immersive, "first listen" experience when I get the album. You know, light some candles, get some red wine, curl up on a bearskin rug in front of the fireplace --- you know, guy stuff.

That's something you can only do one time.

And I'm not doing it on earbuds in my office. You can, though. Because you don't understand John like I do.


Who says I can't get stoned?
-Hunter

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Vox Populi, Vox Uxor


This belongs in the album cover hall of fame, with Ken


Weezer has a new one out yesterday, "Raditude," and if you have ever listened to Weezer before, you know their music is just plain old fun. They are also one of the only bands whose lyrics I listen to, because I know I'll get a kick out of them. Their single, "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To," is a great example of the type of song you can expect from the album --- fun, fun, fun.

You know how some artists set out to make the most artful, most meaningful, emotional music they can, to affect the lives of those around them?

Yeah, Weezer ain't doin' that.

You can tell that they are having a shitload of fun in performing their songs, and I can't describe it well, but you can tell that every single one of 'em is smiling while they're playing. Seriously, give it a listen and you will agree, the bass player must be smiling.


A lot of these songs are based on the type of riffs you would come up with in your high-school garage band, simple stuff that other musicians would run from as hackneyed, but Weezer has the songwriting and the attitude - excuse me, Raditude to write a full and fun song around them.


Of note, my wife, whom I consider to be the vox populi when it comes to music, loves this album. She was dancing around the bedroom while she was getting ready this morning, just thinking about "I Want You To." She called me twice on the way to work to say something like "listen to track 2, it's totally you and me!" This is one the ladies can get down with for sure.

The track list itself is fun, even. With titles like "The Girl Got HOT," the tale we all know of running into a high-school bookworm years later and thinking "damn, she fine!", "Can't Stop Partying," a club parody that includes shoutouts to Patron and "tha 'Goose" as well as a rapped verse from our boy Lil' Wayne (Weezy and Weezer, together at last), and "In the Mall," which is exactly what it sounds like. There's also a thoroughly well-written and heartfelt "Love is the Answer," which, while off-pace with the rest of the album, is the kind of song that will play in your head when you look at the pictures you took in college.


They also have a snuggie.




 "The Weezer Snuggie is actually very easy to play in — that's one of the greatest things about it," Cuomo explained. "You're able to strum the guitar, you're able to do fist pumps and pound the drums and stay warm."

I also have to give the post-listen report on the Say Anything and The Almost albums that were released today. First off, I have to say, music is not a competition. The "best" album doesn't exist in absolute space, it only exists for you, or for me. That said:






Most Improved / Baddest-Ass: Say Anything - Say Anything
This album really blew me away. First thing I noticed was the production. Other Say Anything albums have sounded like they were recorded in my basement --- lacking fullness and sounding inconsistent across tracks. This one is in the big leagues, for sure. I actually like the mix better than the other two albums I bought yesterday.


I can't do a track by track breakdown of this one, because I would basically be gushing. I love this album.



Where previous Say Anything releases had a sometimes bitter or vulgar tone, singing candidly about drug addiction and love/hate relationships with girls, this album has the same fire wrapped up in maturity and thoughtfulness. Also, self-awareness:

In one song, "Mara and Me," where Max Bemis sings "There are babies with guns, beheading their friends, in shopping malls around the world --- yet somehow the Kings of Leon still find time to write songs about girls," he interrupts himself, all the music stops and he says, "Wait a second --- I can't write the same damn song over and over again" and the song changes completely. It's a brilliant move that captures what this album is about. Staying candid, staying edgy, but shedding the bitterness and zeroing in on the gigantic raw talent they collectively possess for writing songs that make you want to tell your friends.


This is the kind of album where any song, if I heard it individually and out of context, I would say, "Holy shit, what is that?! I love it," and go score the whole album on good faith. Go buy this album.



Most Staying Power / Best Songwriting / Best Instrument Performance: The Almost - Monster Monster
You've already read about The Almost, who they are, and why they are. The first listen of this album was like meeting the type of person you could marry. Stay with me here. That person is not likely to be the badass, the slutty-kind-of-hot, the daredevil. They will, however, have something about them that makes you think "they get it, they get it in the same way that I get it." There is still flash, awe, and excitement, but you know it's not a veneer, it's that way all the way through.

This album is fun to listen to, because you know the capability of the band, or more accurately, Aaron Gillespie, is monolithic. When you watch the Bourne Trilogy, part of what makes it fun is that after you're in the zone, you can see a room full of knives and broken glass, no way out, Jason Bourne, and 10 CIA assassins, and be all like, "He's got this." That feeling of confidence in your character is what draws me to The Almost --- their songwriting is just perfect, the instrumentation, the parts they write, the stops and accent parts they throw in just to make you jump-back-say-damn, are just so perfectly crafted and executed, that at any point during any song, you know that A) you like what you're hearing and B) that whatever's coming next is sure to surprise you.

Aaron Gillespie played all the drums on the album, too, which you know I like. Let's just say singing and songwriting isn't his only talent.





Don't be fooled by the video above. The feel of the album is Foo Fighters-meets-The Fray-meets-Thrice-meets-Third Eye Blind. I'll be listening to it 5 years from now.


Also of note, there's a new single out, for free motherflippin' download on iTunes from Them Crooked Vultures, the Led Zeppelin / Foo Fighters / Nirvana / Queens of the Stone Age / Kyuss supergroup. There is so much hype behind this album, it will sell like Snuggies whether it's awesome or not.


Speaking of which, the Foo Fighters' greatest hits album is out today, too. I would be more excited if I hadn't already LimeWire'd my own Foo Fighters greatest hits album 5 years ago. (Ed. Note: I only buy music now.)


I have picked up so many new albums in the last week I can't hardly keep up with the listening. Instead of on headphones (my preferred listening method), I have had to listen to a lot of it in the car. I've included a video of me listening to music in the car (below), so you can try and pick up on some of the methods I use to listen critically.


This one goes out to my big sis, and our old neighborhood friend, David, who did pretty much exactly this every morning on the way to school. And on the way home from school. And any time we had to go anywhere after school.






Jungle is Massive,
Hunter



Monday, November 02, 2009

Them's the Breaks

Editor's Note: Notice the calendar I've added on the right. Tortally allsome. If you use Google Calendar, I've made it public, so you can integrate it with your own calendar and stay on top of the new music releases that I care about. While we're on the topic, I want to disclose that this blog isn't about new music releases in general --- I'm only writing about stuff that I like. So if your musical taste falls entirely within my own, you're in luck. If not, you are going to miss out on some stuff (don't expect to see any Lady Gaga releases here).


Let me break it down for you:



[/nuts&bolts]




Our family symbol, the fleur-de-lis. Translated literally, it means "drinking after college"


I hope you all had a Happy Halloween. I know I did. We had about 3 trick-or-treaters. One of those three was a little boy dressed up like some sort of a Japanese animation thing, and when I opened the door, the little boy was shy and turned back around to his dad.

His dad encouraged him, asking the little boy gently, "What do you say to the man?"

And the little boy said "can I use your potty --- I really gotta go!"



Halloween rocks.


I just subscribed to a new podcast this weekend, "Indie Music Filter," and it's great --- definitely a fun mix of stuff, from the more acoustic-focused side of what we classify as "indie," to the more electronic and hard-edged stuff. I recommend it to all who seek new music. Image is a link.



On my first listen of this podcast, I heard a song that really jumped out at me: "Road Regrets" by Dan Mangan. The song has a sense of autumn to it, the cold feeling you get, the feeling of solitude, and the feeling of being nestled in your car like it's your fortress. It also has an energy behind it that's not immediately evident, but on second listen you'll hear that it has energy without being loud or fast. Just an all around brilliant song. Live version below, but you can hear (and download for free) the most-excellent and actually more recommended studio version here.



Another notable find from the podcast was "Invisible" by Winter Gloves, Ease V Remix. Has an old MUTEMATH type of sound to it --- with really sharp keyboards and some badass sampling on it. The part of the song I like is mostly Winter Gloves - so don't think "remix only" band. I like their overdriven organ sound. Not a euphemism.

Also, people --- get ready for the new Say Anything and the new The Almost albums tomorrow. I've already written them up, this is just a reminder to spend your Christmas-gift fund on albums tomorrow.

Enough about music, let's talk about me.

I took my first Statics exam last Monday. For those of you not in the know, I have a bachelor's degree in Geospatial Analysis, which is the-science-of-writing-a-blog-while-you-wait-for-the-stupid-piece-of-shit-thing-to-finish-sometime-in-this-decade, but I have always had an interest in mechanical engineering, which I squarely avoided when I was at one of the nation's top engineering schools because I heard the homework was hard.

Anyways, I'm taking some basic classes at the local community college to gauge where I'm at scholastically, and I'm really impressed with how hard I've worked on this class. Except now, if I get a C, I will be laughed at by 18 year olds who didn't get into real college. Anyways, my love of all things mechanical led me to this fascinating account of how motorcycles are really made.





"...argument juice, from the argument lobe of the female brain, is added to allow the bike to change direction in an instant."

Also, daylight savings time really messed me up. It's off for the winter. I am used to driving to work in the dark (have to leave early to beat biblically spectacular traffic) and driving on a road when the sun is up with relatively few cars is a new experience for me. Also, having the sun set earlier sucks for me. I like to go fishing after work, and DST's retreat is messing up my "me time."

I know it's safer for the schoolchildren or whatever, but do schoolchildren drive the economy? Do schoolchildren solve the nation's hard problems? Do schoolchildren get pummeled by 5 different bosses all day, each thinking their task is the most important thing in the universe and just need to hit the river and have some goddamn peace and quiet after a hard day?!?!



No. They don't.


Anyways, I will saving my "hating on teenagers" rant for another day. I have that thing so well-rehearsed it's practically law. The Cliff's Notes version is: I hate teenagers.


Vote tomorrow! Vote for whoever the anti-teenager candidate is!

-Hunter 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

P.O. Box 963


Alright folks, two in one day. This is what we call an "event based entry," similar to my gold tooth escapade (that I have to stop writing about, because now all my Google ads are for rap CDs and ringtones --- oh, and dentistry), where something so notable pops up that I have to spread the word.

I just heard a song that really, truly straddled genre --- 4 genres to be exact. Hip-Hop straight to Metal to Pop to Techno. When I say techno, I don't mean a little synthesizer beat in the background for 8 measures, no no, I am talking about if-you-walked-into-a-club-and-you-heard-this-on-the-box-you-wouldn't-think-anything-of-it no-shit techno. The metal is tight, tight, tight and has that painful dissonance I love so much. The melodic / pop parts are so sweet that even Daniel will like it (yeah, that's a personal callout, deal with it). I was so surprised that I bought their album without previewing anything else on it. So far it's been a fantastic listen. I heard it while listening to Pandora on an "A Day To Remember" seed.

The band is Attack Attack!, the song that took me for a ride is "Stick Stickly."

From what I saw in their music video, these guys all have the same haircut.


Here is a music video of the song that surprised me so much, which I actually like better as just audio --- I feel like seeing the band takes away from how awesome the song is, so I recommend turning away from the video, and letting the audio rip really loud. The reason I say that is because hearing something powerful is one thing, but seeing that the powerful sound was made by five 19 year olds wearing their sister's jeans takes something away from the experience. Call me crazy.

Edit: I found a video that was just the album cover. It's better this way. My point about 19 year olds in girl pants is still relevant.



The album opens with this notably authentic "crunk" style intro, and drops directly into what sounds just like real honest-to-Beelzebub metal, which turns into alt-pop melody within about 20 seconds. A confusing minute of music, for sure. 2 minutes later you're hearing club-style techno with vocoded harmonies, wrapped up with a big ugly dissonant metal finish. Even if you hate metal, pop, techno, and hip-hop, after hearing this song you'll be thinking, at the very least: "Well, by God, they really crammed a lot into 4 minutes."

Anyways, give them a listen, click the album cover to preview, and buy it if you like it.

A quick note, almost every image I post is a link --- album covers will be links to somewhere you can preview or buy that album, usually Amazon MP3, just a personal preference.


I am really excited to get this album spinning in the car on the drive to work.

I like to play a game with the toll booth people where I try and play the most inappropriate music I can find when I roll up to the booth. I don't mean bad words and such, I mean mismatched themes, like "white guy, black music," or "straight looking dude, really girly music." I get a kick out of it and I'm sure they do too. Try it next time you hit a tollbooth.

Girls hate music like this,
Hunter

It's Impossibeeeeaaarrrrhl-ah!

Sorry to be away for so long, gang. I had a long week of waking up at 4:30 a.m. to go save America. I was supporting a war game, which is nothing like what it sounds like.

A full night's sleep is very important to me, so I was going to bed at 8:30 p.m. every night this week, no joke. One of those nights, I got a text message from one of my readers (sidebar: the person who sent me the text message is more of a "long-time friend" than a "reader," but I'm trying to make the blog sound legit) that said something to the effect of "What's the TLA scoop on the band "House of Heroes?"


So, I hit up Amazon MP3 to listen to the band, and it turns out they have a free 3 song EP, "The End is Not The End." The cover features a picture of what I looked like in college.

You know how sometimes you'll eat something, and all you can think of is, "this tastes like something I've had before...what the hell was that, I really liked it...maybe it's Erin's chili...nope, nope, I think it's my mom's pork...nah, that can't be it...shit..." and so on? You forget to actually taste what you're tasting, but instead are thinking of everything it reminds you of. Well, I have obviously , and this short EP was just like that.

All I could think of when I was listening to it was how much I like Matchbook Romance. House of Heroes reminding me of Matchbook Romance is a good thing for me, but a bad thing for House of Heroes. It's kind of like when the car you just bought reminds you of the car you really wanted.



They also remind me a little bit of The Anniversary. Again, it's like when your new girlfriend reminds you of how much better your last girlfriend was.


Forgive the low quality link - you really need to hit up Amazon and at least preview this stuff in good qualty

Anyways, I was underwhelmed by House of Heroes's songwriting and performance, BUT they did remind me to listen to Matchbook Romance and The Anniversary, so I'll call it a win. Tip of the hat to Anthony for turning me on to them, and rekindling my flame with The Anniversary and Matchbook Romance. They both have this pomp and theatrical quality to them that is so rare, and so fine. Definitely art.

The albums to buy from those two are "Your Majesty" and "Voices" respectively.

The album that changed my life summer of 2003. 
Must get: "Sweet Marie," "Peace, Pain, & Regret"



The album that made me realize that epic songwriting is still alive. 
Must get: "Monsters," "You Can Run, But We'll Find You"


Anyways, good day in music for me, reconnecting with some old favorites.





                           

=



If you haven't heard of Them Crooked Vultures, and it's likely that you haven't, you are missing out. Them Crooked Vultures is a supergroup comprised of Dave Grohl from Nirvana and Foo Fighters, Josh Homme from Kyuss and Queens of The Stone Age, and John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin.


Wait, did you say Led Zeppelin? As in, Led-fucking-Zeppelin?!

Yeah baby. And you can hear the influence too. This group is so monolithic and incomprehensibly badass, that they elude comparison. Dave Grohl is one of my personal favorite musicians, and I am pleased to say that he is back behind the drum set for this album. Just listen to him play, he is a monster. Josh Homme's signature downtuned and heavy, (but not metal) sound is alive and well, and he serves as the group's lead singer, with attitude and power, and better yet, confidence. Unstoppable force type confidence. And what can be said about John Paul Jones? He was the bass player and keyboard player in Led Zeppelin from start to finish, and his production ear guided the band's sound, which is really important, but hard to describe to non-recording-nerd people. Let's just say, that "sound" you associate with Led Zep is more JPJ than you may have guessed. Self-titled album out November 17, which is shaping up to be a huge day for album releases.



  
Next up on the block is Switchfoot, with a new release coming November 10, "Hello Hurricane."



This links to an unintentionally hilarious video on their website, where you can pre-order the album

So, I haven't been able to preview much of it, but they say on their website, "if you're not crying, why are you singing it?" --- proudly proclaiming their deep emotional connection to this batch of songs. To me, it seems like it will be solid, more of a listen-in-the-car album than a play-at-a-party album, but it has some U2 overtones (religious connections aside) and some very straightforward and boring pop progressions and rhythms. I hope the album has their signature way of making normal (boring) progressions cool by leaving some absence in the arrangements. Like I said, drops November 10.

Fall Out Boy has a new single out, clearing a path for their forthcoming "Greatest Hits" album, "Believers Never Die." Verse: stud. Chorus: dud. Pre-Chorus: Super-Stud. "Believers Never Die" hits shelves November 17. Not sure how I feel about a band of dudes my age releasing a Greatest Hits album.



Atreyu has a new album out today. It's called "Congregation of the Damned" (has a nice ring to it, yeah?) and is a lot more pop than their previous releases; something you couldn't tell from the title and album cover, which looks like fried hell. It sounds like a mix between Good Charlotte and A Static Lullaby, kind of confusing. Amazon is blowing it out for $3.99 like they do, which is cheaper than the toll I have to pay to drive to work, so I'll probably pick it up. Maybe I won't though, because it's really boring. I miss their older stuff like this (below). Verdict: boring, letdown. Bring on the older stuff.




And now, the moment, you've all been waiting for:



Is he kidding?

Glory, glory, Hallelujah, Creed is back together! New album, "Full Circle" released yesterday. I will be getting a tribal arm band tattoo and renting a Camaro to celebrate.

Seriously though, say what you will about Creed, but I just love singing their songs in the car --- it's a hoot --- especially when the wife is with me.

Wearth aerhms whi-do-pearnh-ah!
Unnn-daer the surnhlearght!
Wehlrkearhm to this plearce-anh, I'll show yeaurh evry-thearnh!
Wearth aerhms whi-do-pearnh-ah!

Then for the rest of the day I grunt everything in Scott-Stapp-voice. We pass a movie store and I say
"Cearnh we reaehrnt a mooo-vearnh-ah? May-beahn ah eaction-thrillearnh?!"

Music is supposed to be fun, right?
-Hunter



Friday, October 16, 2009

Paying The Rent With "Mad Props"


New Cartel album coming out October 20; "Cycles." Back in college, we played Cartel at our house like it was the cure for the hangover. Their last release, "Cartel," was made in MTV and Dr. Pepper's "Band in a Bubble" flustercuck, but the album came out better than I'd imagined it would. There was a lot more southern flavor, good old-fashioned rock tones, but composed with pop moxie and hit with some very slick production. Everyone in the world except me hated it, though, and it got no love from most Cartel fans.


MTV and Dr. Pepper, united to entertain generate revenue

Well, I've previewed this new album, and I gotta tell ya, they are really bringing the rock. It's like their Chroma album drank a Red Bull and got a tattoo. It's still sappy pop rock, but it's got a teensy-weensy bit of edge now, and the production is a lot...bigger, more bombastic. I think maybe their producer had a Red Bull, too.

Anyways, I know only 3 people read this blog, and half of you like Cartel anyways, so click the album cover to preview the album, then go get it on the 20th. Blacksburgers, this one's for you.

My buddy Dan asked me the other day, and I paraphrase, "How many of these albums that you're critiquing are you actually buying, because I've spent at least 50 bucks on music in the past month, and I don't know if I can keep it up. I'm enjoying it though."

The answer --- almost all of it. As I have aged (shut up, you're young too), art has become more important to me, and supporting it has become more important to me. What a lot of people don't understand, is that I don't buy music to put artists in fancy cars --- I do it to encourage the artists to make a next album. Say you're in a band and you release an album. You press 100,000 copies of the thing, and 37 copies sell. Are you going to make a next album? Nope, because you're going to be too busy flipping burgers to pay off the 99,963 albums you pressed and didn't sell.

The only way to get a next album, a tour, a new single, whatever out of an artist you love, is to buy their album right now. Putting their name in your Facebook profile under "Favorite Music" or telling your friends that you give them "mad props" isn't going to be enough to encourage them. I have tried to pay my rent with mad props before --- not recommended.



Think of an album like this --- ~5 guys work on it for 2 years. How much dough do you pull in in a year? Multiply that by 5, then multiply that by 2 (also known as multiplying by 10, but my sister reads this blog and I didn't want to confuse her) and write the number down on a piece of paper. The part of the work that they sell to the consumer, you, costs $9.99. For something 5 people (usually twice that, production) worked on for 2 years. Think about it, think think about it.

I have a buck or two to spare, and when I think about what's important to me, music ranks in the top 10. When you think about how much money it is, try and compare it to something you spend just as much money on but don't love --- e.g. toll roads or dry-cleaning. What are you going to remember 5 years from now?

Also, artists change over time --- imagine if Aerosmith had called it quits after "Toys in the Attic," before you were born. The most exciting thing about music to me is the dynamicism (please don't Google that, I used it improperly) --- how subject matter changes and how the writing changes --- how many times have you seen an artist come out with a head-bobbin' album full of love songs, then drop a brooding masterpiece of break-up songs 2 years later? I've seen it a lot, and I love it. You get the point --- [/soapbox].




Everybody have a good weekend --- there is no continuum from "bad to good" with weather, it's all just different, so don't let the rain get you down.

Listen to the raindrops on the roof of your car,
-Hunter

P.S. I know this post was heavy / not very funny, but hey, give me a break, the weather's shitty!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tears of a Baby Panda





First up is an album I'm really excited about. The Almost is a band a lot like the original Foo Fighters --- a pop rock outfit with all songs written by and every instrument played by the savage drummer from another well known heavy band. Aaron Gillespie, if you don't know him already, is the badass drummer, clean vocalist, and principal songwriter for the ha-mazing melodic hardcore band, Underoath. Below you can see what an artful songwriter and capable vocalist he is. Don't be fooled, though, most of Underoath's music is more like this. The drums on the song I just linked in the previous sentence have resulted in numerous near-car-crashes for me, as I can't refrain from air-drumming. This applies to almost every Underoath song, so if you see me on the road and you hear Underoath, pull over and call the police.




The amazing part is how The Almost is so unlike Underoath. Aaron notes, “As much as I love what I do in that band [Underoath], there are songs in me and music that I enjoy just as much that comes from melody."
I like Aaron Gillespie, Underoath, and The Almost so much that I'm going to come off pushy if I go any further. Dive into YouTube and hit some Underoath and The Almost videos.

Start with this undeniably Foo Fighters-meets-90's-radio-single track from their (his?) upcoming "Monster Monster," and dive back to their Billboard #7, "Say this Sooner"



Next one's for you emos. Just kidding, I like it too.


New Dashboard Confessional single out this week - Belle of the Boulevard. I used to make fun of Dashboard Confessional / Chris Carabba for the over-the-top band name and the "would you just  grow a pair and deal with it already?!" inducing sappiness, but years later, seeing that they were just musicians speaking in "their voice" as a band, I can't hate on that. The single comes as the spearhead of their upcoming November 10 album release, "Alter the Ending" which we can't preview yet. I'm sure it will fly off the shelves, under the guise of "irony" for people who are still too ashamed to admit they like a band that sounds like a baby panda crying.



 Out on October 20, is a new Flight of The Conchords album, "I Told You I Was Freaky." This is the kind of album I never buy, but love to find YouTubes of to listen to at work. The thing about Flight of the Conchords is that while they're a comedy act, their music is actually catchy / memorable, so I'll find myself humming it. Funny when you realize your humming the melody of "You're definitely the most beautiful girl I've ever seen......with a kebab." Preview it now on Amazon by clicking the album cover



Also, you know I can't stay off "The John," (there's got to be a better way to say that) so here's the newly released video for his new single, "Who Says." I don't like the video as much as I like the song, it takes the opposite tone that I was figuring it would. Whatever the message is, it looks like fun, and the video is one you'll want to watch twice.


I found a decent light pop album while cruising Amazon, too --- Qu by Sherwood. I can't really categorize it further than it's like sugar compared to bread --- this one's sugar, giving you what you need right now, but I can see it losing it's spot in the CD tray the same month you buy it. Listening now. Yours for $2.99 @ Amazon.

Had to counter my gold tooth with some alt rock cred,
Hunter

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