Tuesday, December 07, 2010

circa survive - appendage ep

Circa Survive has a new EP out as of November 30, 2010. I have previewed one track, and am saving the others for when I get the CD, so I can have that feeling you get when you hear an album for the first time.

It's only 5 songs, but hell, Keith Urban's latest was 8 songs, and that was supposedly a full album release. It's an EP, deal with it.

Here is a preview of what you're in for:

Also, for all ye loyal readers: I have fallen off a lot with TLA, I know. I had a son on October, and I started building guitars at home, so I am pretty busy. I will post this month about all the music I bought between the last time I posted --- it's a shitload, and I'm sure you'll find something in there that you love.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

my life according to john mayer

My Life According To John Mayer:

Are you a male or female: Who Did You Think I Was?

Describe yourself: Bigger Than My Body

How do you feel: Waiting on the World To Change

Describe where you currently live: Comfortable

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Back to You

Your favourite form of transportation: Wheel

Your best friend is: No Such Thing

Your favourite colour is: Another Kind of Green

What's the weather like: Covered In Rain

Favourite time of day: Wait Until Tomorrow

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called: Home Life

What is life to you: Bold As Love

Your current relationship: I Got A Woman

Breaking up: I'm Gonna Find Another You

Looking for: Not Myself

Wouldn’t mind: Brown Sugar

Your fear: My Stupid Mouth

What is the best advice you have to give: This Will All Make Perfect Sense Someday

If you could change your name, you would change it to: Lenny

Thought for the Day: Everything Is Not Broken

How I would like to die: Slow Dancing In A Burning Room


Yeah, I am thirteen.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

punchline's "delightfully pleased"

If you have a sense of humor, and love poppy, punky rock, this is your new jam. To preview it is to buy it.

This album is self-aware, carries NO PRETENSE at all, and is hilarious. They start the album off strong with "Seventy," a song that tells you up front "you won't find songs of hopelessness on this record / you won't find songs that leave you feeling LOST / just press play and let your problems melt away..." and gets remarkably up-front about never making it big, but being 101% content to serve their diehard fans with the line:

"...a platinum dream and a touring saga / we shot for the moon and missed / so we discovered our own planet"

And their own planet is the planet where their appreciation for their fans is always at the forefront - hell, the first track on this album is basically a letter of appreciation written to you and me. I could quote the rest of the lyrics to support the point, but you'll hear the full song soon enough.

Punchline's 2004 "Action" album was the soundtrack of my college years, and all of my friends will agree and remember, we spun that album like it was making us rich. Hearing it now is like hopping into a time machine that takes us back to sophomore year, where Milwaukee's Best and Ramen reigned supreme, and every night was a party night. Come to think of it, we listened to Punchline every night when we were partying, and the "Action" album never got old either. Those songs are truly the anthem of our college years. That album LIVED in the CD player of my awesome Jeep. Well, 2 albums and 6 years later, "Delightfully Pleased" has claimed the same spot - it's my go-to jam.

They mention LOST in the album opener, subtly nodding to the amazing track "Roller Coaster Smoke" - a tribute to the show "LOST," and a must hear for fans of the show. I have never seen LOST, and it's still my favorite song on the album, because it's awesome. Great arrangement, buildup, and groove. Defies genre. I DARE you not to bob your head when you're listening to this. RPT 1 PLZ.

The musicianship and songwriting here have stayed memorable and strong - you will absolutely have these hooks stuck in your head for a week. Pure delicious earworm goodness with incredible shelf-life. The harmonies and guitar tones are out-the-control good on this album. I have not grown tired of this album yet, and I have played it start to finish probably 20 times in the past 2 weeks.

They also have a song "Keystoned" that is all about how great Pennsylvania is, which I love, because I am a geographer. My favorite lyric in the song comes at the end of a long run of fun facts, where the singer lays out a triumphant "...and Pittsburgh has more bridges than any other cityyyyyyyy," while the rest of the band, in an over-the top 3 or 4 part harmony, a-la Bohemian Rhapsody, belts out a disclaimer "not counting Venice!"

Their "Greatest. Party. Ever." reminds me of myself - while describing the "Greatest. Party. Ever.," they tell you "I've been cleanin' and dustin' and cookin' all day / I got a fridge full of Zima and a vegetable tray" and resolve the stanza with "the WiFi network is slammin / Forrest Gump's on TV" - it's all so fun good-natured that you just want to give them a high five after every song.

Why should you buy this album: when I first discovered Punchline in 2004, I liked them so much I ordered a t-shirt from their shitty website. Well, a week later when the shirt arrived, I found with it a baseball card and a handwritten letter from the band, that said something to the effect of, and again, no pretense, just appreciation for their fans, "Dear Hunter, thanks for buying a t-shirt! We appreciate it and we're so glad you enjoy the album. Please accept this Will Clark baseball card as a token of our appreciation. Love, Punchline."

It just doesn't get any better than that. Reward these guys for kicking ass.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

cynic - traced in air

Cynic - Traced In Air

I found out about this 2008 album from my friend David, who, in a stroke of irony, started a blog of his own.

     But Hunter, what's ironic about that?!

When we were in high school, back when AOL Instant Messenger was not only the primary method for teenagers to talk to each other, but the AIM Profile served the same kind of function that facebook does today --- kids had their favorite quote, some information about themselves, a link to their favorite band, snarky comments, etc. Exactly like facebook. Don't fight me on this.

Anyhow, back then, the word "blog" didn't exist yet, but guess what word did? "JOURNAL." Yeah baby, you know you remember it. "Journals," which were, predictably, online journals, were the awkward precursor to blogging as we know it, but back in the day, you have to remember that Google didn't exist yet. That meant that journals were not ever meant for mass audiences - they were always meant for your 3 friends that had AOL to read. This exclusivity meant that most early journals were full of embarrassingly retarded pseudo-emotional drivel. This also meant that finding out that someone at your school had a journal was cause for celebration, because that meant you could find it, read it, and make fun of them.

Anyways, one day I checked David's AIM profile, and saw that he had added a link: "my journal." Now, I thought this was weird, because David just wasn't the type. Well; naturally I was excited at potentially having some dirt on David with which to make fun of him. I also thought, hey, there might be a side of David that I've never considered before - maybe he has a more introspective side beneath the hard persona. Maybe he has sensitive ideas about things that he couldn't say out loud because the high school social structure would never let him live it down. Maybe he really loves cats. Maybe he's into gardening. All told, I was pretty curious to see what this journal was going to be about.

So I click the link, and I am just tickled pink thinking that I am minutes away (this is 1997, yo) from laughing at one of my friends writing about how elephant poaching makes him cry, or how he still watches Winnie the Pooh. Well, the site finally loads, and my jaw dropped.

I been zapped!

On the page was a picture of David, mean-muggin' like you never seen before, middle finger up, with big, bold block letters "JOURNALS ARE FOR FUCKING DORKS"

Anyways, the Cynic album is badass, buy it.


Just kidding, I'll actually tell you a little bit about it.

The first thing that stood out to me was the composition --- Paul Masvidal's composition and arrangement style uses a lot of dynamic range --- not only volume, from quiet to loud, but also smooth, clear guitar tones to harsh, heavy guitar tones, from legato, jazzy drum passages up through thrashy metal sequences. you will immediately either 1) respect the composition, or 2) think "OK, I don't get this."

Chances are though, if you read this blog, you'll listen to "King of Those Who Know" at least once, for the sake of science and artistic exploration. When I first heard it, I was like, "ehhh, this ain't my thing," but after I listened to it in full once, I felt a strong compulsion to hear it again, and all these little things jumped out at me. 9 listens later, I had to buy the album.

There is a very present jazz influence. Also, for the guitar nerds out there, you will hear some beautiful Stratocaster style tones. You could honestly mistake the outro to "King of Those Who Know" for John Mayer if you didn't know it came right after a thrash-metal verse.

You'll also notice an incredibly addictive groove to all of these songs once they get going. The post-intro drop on "The Space For This" slays me.

The thing that impresses me the most is how the soft and hard parts work so well together. I remember my sister once told me, with a preface / disclaimer of "I know this is totally lame to say," that she finally "got" Radiohead, while she was at a Radiohead concert that her husband dragged her to - and couldn't describe it any better than this; "it was just beautiful."

Getting Cynic is a lot like that --- the total picture just has a beauty to it. If you zoom in too far and focus on what you're hearing right now, as opposed to what you're hearing, you might miss what's so great about it.

Blues Brothers from Oz is Over the Rainbow on Vimeo.

Think of it like your favorite movie. Mine's "The Blues Brothers." All in all, the movie is hilarious, and the overarching theme of reserved, subtle humor is what I love about it. One if the best scenes / lines in the movie is when they're under the bridge, about to make their run for the Palace Hotel Ballroom in their Dodge cop car, and Elwood turns to Jake and says, " It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses" and Jake, without a second's hesitation, says "Hit it."

If you didn't know the characters, the characteristic of their dialogue, and their dynamic, you would not be able to extract any humor or enjoyment out of that --- but in the context of the film, it's the turning point of the whole story, and one of the most revered movie scenes of all time.

Check out Cynic's "Traced In Air."


Monday, August 23, 2010

i used to be ruthless (at blogging)

I used to be ruthless at blogging. U SEEN'T IT.

Image is an awesome, awesome link.

I will be writing more TLA goodness soon, with the caveat that there has been a whole schitlöde of new music that I have discovered and haven't written about. I still haven't decided if I'm going to try and write about all of it individually, forget about it and start fresh, or do like my very first post and write about 10 things all at once. If you have an idea, leave me a comment.

I'm leaning towards giant brain dump all in one post.


Oh, P.S., no more Google ads. I made $3.53 in ad revenue last year, so it's obvious that the combination of TLA's tiny audience and your cheepnis is just not cut out for web 2.0. I would make a twitter account and push the site, and make it look nicer if I cared about TLA blowing up, but let me be real - I'm just glad you're reading it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

welcome to 2004, what's the future like?

TLA finally joined facebook.

Now you can get TLA updates on facebook, and facebook updates on TLA.


Thursday, July 08, 2010


I just rewrote my Devils of Belgrade - Đavolja Varoš review.

You're reading this post in my voice.

The reason I write --- the reason I geek out on music, is to go beyond "hey, I like that," and dig deeper. I dig to find out what was going on in the artist's life at the time, or where they were geographically when they recorded it. I want to find out what guitars they used, and what stories those guitars carry. I want to find out who produced it, what other bands they've worked with, and what their "sound" is.

Why do I do this?

I get a great satisfaction out of "getting it."

When you listen to something like John Mayer's "Who Says," and think "LOL pot, wtf is up with John Mayer and drugs?! LOL!", you're not getting it.

When you hear Sara Bareilles' "Love Song" and think "man, I wonder what dude pissed her off", you're not getting it.

But how do we "get" the real meaning of songs and music?

Well, I usually read about them on music blogs.

The clues that enable us to form a closer bond with our favorite musicians, to understand their music better, and extract more value from something that has been hidden in plain view, are discovered by people like you and me --- people that love music and just want to get inside their favorite album and wear it like a pelt. When those people make those discoveries and share them, they enable other listeners to share that same joy - the joy of "getting it."

I hope you enjoy the rewritten review. It captures my feelings about the album better, but most of all, and on topic with this post, it contains more information about the album , the artists, and the songs.

It even contains unauthorized quotes from band members.


Friday, July 02, 2010

Devils of Belgrade - Đavolja Varoš

 Q: What do all these things have in common?
A: They kick ass, and your girlfriend hates them.

Hot off the press is Đavolja Varoš, the sophomore effort from the Devils of Belgrade. 

Devils of Belgrade are a bit of a hard nut to crack. On one hand, they have musicianship to the hilt, but on the other hand, they sound so informal; so familiar. 

They are that bar band that you hear one night and lose your shit over.

Đavolja Varoš means "Devil's Town" in Serbian. The rock formations on the album cover are real, and they are known for making eerie sounds when the wind blows, and also for the extremely acidic (pH 1.5) springs at their base, appropriately named "Satan's Urethra." 

Just kidding, they're called Đavolja voda and Crveno vrelo.

<a href="http://devilsofbelgrade.bandcamp.com/album/avolja-varo-2">The Kuga Parada by Devils of Belgrade</a>

Anyhow, the name of the album, as well as the song titles have a distinct air of "we're in on the joke," poking a little fun at the way-too-serious nature of most metal and prog albums. The over-the-top name is a subtle, contextual in-joke, which got me excited as a listener --- these guys aren't going to "Dane Cook it" and let everything out at face value - there's going to be restraint, tension, release, and dénouement on this album. Nice.

First things first, this is an instrumental album. The funny thing is, though, that I didn't notice it until I was on about track 7 --- it doesn't sound like a band that's missing it's singer; it sounds like they very intentionally wrote every song around the instrumentation that the band has. Even that description sounds a little bit like an apology, but when you listen to it you'll understand - the sound is more like a Harley-Davidson Trike than a car missing a wheel.

Left: Karaoke version of "Sweet Child of Mine," Right: Đavolja Varoš

As you dive in, the first thing that stands out to me, is that while it's certainly aggressive, it doesn't sound mad or mean. Or angst-ridden, or immature. It sounds like you feel when you're chopping carrots or something in the kitchen - and you're going super fast and awesome, and you're like "I'm a frickin' MACHINE!"--- you're kicking ass, but not 'cuz you're mad.

I am a guitar geek enthusiast, so the guitar work on this album is of particular interest to me. First things first, the tones:

Most albums you hear, and most bands you hear, have "a sound." More often than not, that "sound" comes from a common guitar tone in all the songs. U2 is the easy example, but think of any of your favorite bands. This album (and this band) somehow retain a common "sound" without using the same guitar tones over and over. There are probably 30 guitar tones on this album - each a little different, and each prescribed for the riff or solo or song that they're on. That kept me interested throughout. After I picked up on what was going on, I was curious to see what was coming next.

You know how some metal bands will throw in one acoustic thing, just because every album has one acoustic slow jam? This ain't like that. It's all in stride and perfect in the context of the album. I appreciated that. The acoustic tone is bad ass, too. They even throw in our old bluesy friend, the resonator - and it sounds more at home here than on half of the blues albums I hear it on.

The clean electric tone on here furthers my belief that good tone can have 1000 definitions. What's most impressive is that everything sounds like it belongs. I often hear either no clean tones at all on a metal album, or SUPER CHEESY clean tones on a prog album. Well, since this album is what I would consider "progressive metal" it chooses a third category - clean tones that sound like they belong; like "of course that part is clean." Big ups.

Left: Devils of Belgrade, Right: me

The crunch and high-gain tones are thuper thweet. On "The Bay of The Seven-Headed Hound" they do a very mellow and major key'd breakdown, and you are thinking "ah, this is nice, like a puppy eating an ice cream cone!" and then they kick in the riff with a crunch tone with this sort of impossibly smooth+chainsaw=??? tone, and right when you are like, "OK, this rocks," they throw in a pair of very metal pinch harmonics that accent the peaks of the riff. It's details like that that make you want to hear what's next. And I don't mean the next album or the next song --- I am talking about the next second. The whole album is like that, and if you're anything like me, you'll get to the end and say "holy shit, I just listened to an entire instrumental prog metal album," but then after you get over that, you're going to say, "I want to listen to it again."

I got a lot of a backwoods, camping trip, bar-after-a-long-day-on-the-river vibe. I don't know if it was the song titles, like "Beerzerker" and "Oktoberfist" that put my head in that space, but listening to it made me want to crack open a microbrew and just listen to the album. Think about that - it made me want to just listen to the album. It's a shame that music these days has been relegated to what is essentially background noise. 

I don't know anybody who sits down and listens to albums any more --- as the only thing they're doing. I remember sitting on the floor in my room when I was a kid and listening to the new Stone Temple Pilots album --- and that's all I was doing - listening. I wasn't driving to work or writing a paper or painting a bedroom, I was just listening. Đavolja Varoš took me back to that.

The dual guitar setup is really effective and awesome. The melodies on this album pull you in, but they're not trying to substitute as a vocal. It's really something you just have to hear. You get some Thin Lizzy style harmonizing at times, too, which is just fantastic. You can tell the teamwork is fun for them, like you can hear them smiling. They also hit some major melodies in their songs, too, which is a great metaphor for what I love about this band --- they are musicians before all else, and their vocabulary has a wonderful breadth to it. I was reminded of everything from church music, to 90's grunge, to pop rock favorites, to black metal, to thrash, and all points in between. You get a sense that they could play an R&B gig or a classic rock gig tomorrow if you asked them to. The musicianship on the album is the constant thread from beginning to end that is intangible, but is present on every second of the album.

 The drummer is very dynamic, and has a great effect of the mood of each song. He's locked in very well with guitars, which provides a very heavy overall sound. The drum tones on this album have a lot of "presence," which you may love or may hate. The drums on this album have a recorded tone pretty similar to those on Thrice's "The Illusion of Safety," which was a formative album for me. The overall sound is very up-front and focused --- no atmospheric ambience here, just blazing the trail for the rest of the band with straight up rock drums, and often in interesting time signatures and styles.

Real talk: The mastering and mixing on the album are interesting. As some of you know, I am VERY focused on the mastering and mixing of an album. I even go so far as to buy albums from bands I've never heard of, simply because of who mixed them. Seriously.

This recording is very dry and is not hiding behind any compression or "studio magic." The sound you hear in your stereo is what I imagine the band would sound like in person. At first listen, I was like, "ugh, I don't know if I can get down with this mix." Then, something really cool happened. Adam, the guitarist from Devils of Belgrade, reached out to me to talk about the mixing of the album. He read my initial review, and noticed that I was kind of perplexed by the mixing and mastering --- we briefly discussed my obsession with mixing, and the importance of mixing and mastering in recordings, but he left me with this, which I loved --- because the reason I'm a music geek is that I;m not only interested in my reaction to music, but I love to find out what an artist was thinking, what they were going for when they wrote it and recorded it. This is why I write this blog.

He told me, "the sound and vibe of the record was a very conscious thing...I know a lot of people really like a polished, super-produced sound right now, but we worked to distance ourselves from that. I hope that, later on, it'll pay off, and this album will still sound fresh and won't be dated; in part because we made that choice."

 So there you have it, from the horse's mouth. It definitely sounded like it was on the continuum between a live recording and a studio recording. In a way, it added to the overall listening experience, making the album very friendly and intimate. Any way you slice it, once you hear the songs, you'll start to "get" the production. Or you'll never notice it, because nobody gives as much of a shit about mixing as I do. 

It also stands as a great reminder - this band hasn't made it yet. If you want to hear more from them, and you want a better mix, you gotta vote with your wallet. By buying it and rocking the hell out of it in your car, house, boat, golf cart, pool float, cubicle, or helicopter.

All told, I love this album. It's about the same length as my commute to/from work, and I have spun it probably 30 times in the last few weeks. I can't stress enough how much it does for me to restore the ALBUM as an art form. Also, it's a super-accessible format to expand your musical horizons, because it's kind of metal, without all the chest-beating and ego --- and it's kind of prog without all the wizardry and wannabe mystique. If you are bored with whatever's in your CD player right now, this is what you need: 4 guys from Indianapolis who have a ridiculous knack for keeping you engaged. Buy it now.


Monday, April 26, 2010

circa survive's blue sky noise

Blue Sky Noise [+Digital Booklet]

Circa Survive released a new album recently, "Blue Sky Noise" and I have been streaming it all day. I like it about 10 times more than their last release, which, while musically interesting, had the same effect on me as 4 beers --- it left me tired, but wanting more.

It's like the band went from sad and mysterious to glad and mysterious. And it's a glorious transformation.

I only found this release because I am a Circa Survive fan, and I only discovered Circa Survive because I am a Saosin fan, but I can honestly say that if I heard this album without ever having heard of the band or knowing if their origins and previous body of work, I would be immensely excited at the discovery and I would buy it and rock the hell out of it on my afternoon commute. It's just plain good.

It combines the ethereal, atmospheric (music review lingo double word score!) signature sound that Circa Survive is known for with a lot of "bounce" and energy that translates to a tone of happiness rather than aggression.

This album, in comparison with the previous album, is like if you told a 12 year old girl "I got attacked by a bear," and she was like "oh no! so scary! so sad!" and then you were like, "it was a panda bear" and she was like "awwwwwwww!!!" 

Come on dude, that's probably not even her real name.

Stream it in full here, and if you like it, hit up the links here and pick it up at Amazon. I still don't know if my Amazon Associateshiphoodness (and resultant presence of Amazon badges / links in my blarg) is offensive or helpful, but they sent me an email telling me that I "haven't referred any sales yet" and that I am a disappointment and that I have so much potential, but I just need to focus. Or something equally metaphorical to my school days. If it bothers you, or if you find it convenient, or just want to berate me for trying to make a buck off of what should be a purely artistic space, post a comment and let me know what you think.

Anyhow, stream the album here and check it out - I think it's a perfect fit for these rainy spring days.

Related: Minus The Bear is releasing a new album on May 4!


Thursday, April 08, 2010

mae (a)fternoon

New mae album dropped last week.

It's entitiled (a)fternoon. I love mae, so I bought it without even previewing it. I know it's good.

If you're not familiar with mae (elephant in the room: yeah, it's intentionally lowercase), they are a clean and fresh sounding band from Virginia Beach that have been making music for almost 10 years.

I remember my good buddy Daniel made me listen to a track of theirs when we were freshman or sophomores in college, and I immediately dismissed it, because "the singer sounded wimpy." The song I heard / dismissed was Embers and Envelopes from 2003's "Destination: Beautiful."

Little did I know that "Destination: Beautiful," although admittedly lightweight, would become a major foundation for my own songwriting and guitar playing. You can even catch me playing "Tisbury Lane" on one of my YouTube guitar demos.

After "Destination: Beautiful" came "The Everglow." I would liken "The Everglow" to...I don't know, let's say the first time you got drunk. And I mean the verrrrrry first time. You had some expectation of what it would be like, but then HO-LEE-SHIT-NO-WAY!

  Pictured: how I felt when I heard "The Everglow" for the first time.

This album raised the bar for my expectation of what music can be --- in terms of both songwriting and performance. The songwriting is basically inexplicable - it combines melodies that stick with you like glue, but with authentic depth; a layering of instrumentation that betrays the group's small lineup. It's like a Ferrari that can tow a boat.

Back to (a)fternoon --- it's the second in a timed-release series of concept albums --- the first one of which was (m)orning, a few months back, and this one is (a)fternoon --- it's weird, there are 8 tracks on each one, and the track 1 from morning has commonalities with track 1 on afternoon, and so on. I am really digging the vibe though. With (m)orning, I hated it for a month, was honestly a little disappointed, then a switch flipped and I loved it.

There's a lot of great guitar tone and recording on this album. SUPER clean, and there's a lot of acoustic guitar doubling electric guitar parts, which I love. His signature electric sound has come int its own, clearly carving out a definition of "Firebird into a VOX."

"Communication" is a standout for me, with such great lyrics I want to write them down and frame them.

Hit the Amazon link up top to preview the album, then buy it if you think it's your spring jam. I just became an "Amazon Associate," which is a setup that allows me to make a buck or two if you actually buy some of the music I'm recommending (from the links / badges I post here). I wanted to let everyone know, so you don't feel like I'm sneaking one in on you. I want to be clear that I have no intent of turning TLA into a money factory, just hoping that eventually I can make enough bucks to register a domain name and get some hosting space for the blog and expand the content to include stuff like podcasts with cool playlists, etc.

So preview the new mae album --- if you're anything like me you'll love it --- and if you're new to mae, you may have just found your new favorite band.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

why it's tough to listen to music when you're a musician

 My wife and I listening to music (dramatization)

When you love listening to music, being a musician yourself is both a blessing and a curse.

It's kind of like being married (God, that came out wrong). It makes things better for you all around; you extract "more" from everything, you don't take small things at face value, you can appreciate not only what someone's doing, but why they're doing it. Like when John Mayer makes my lunch every morning. I think I may have cross-threaded my analogy, but you get the point.

It can also make simple things, things you never used to notice, tough on you. (Insert wife using autotune joke.)

I was recently taking a walk with my wife, and I mentioned that I've lived a lot of my life "behind the curtain" --- from my recreation, to my community involvement, my cars, all the way to my job. You're more likely to find me backstage than in the audience at a church play --- you'd find me waiting in the wings, playing backup guitar for high school choirs --- at work I spend more time getting data ready and presentable for use than actually using the data for anything. Real talk: I never take my car to the shop, because I know that the guy they're going to get to fix it is A) definitely probably no smarter than I am, and B) cares less about the car.

It dawned on me, pretty suddenly, that I have a lot more time invested in getting things presentable for an audience than actually being a part of an audience.

So I don't think the same way as some folks when it comes to final products of any sort - whether it's food, cinema, automobiles, or music. I realized that there are two types of folks: audience folks and backstage folks.

  • At a nice restaurant, the audience folks think "this food tastes great!" The backstage folks think, "the cooks did a good job with this."
  • At a movie, the audience folks think, "it really sucked me in." The backstage folks think "the lead actor really executed his character well."
  • When the audience folks are thinking "this truck rides nice," the backstage folks are thinking "some enginerd nailed the spring rates."
 You know how sometimes I throw a random picture in the middle of a serious blog post?
    I don't ever really enjoy any music at face value anymore. I am dissecting guitar tone, thinking about mic placement, the subtlety (or not-so-subtlety) of compression, and things like that.

    On the downside, the overall picture, the "song as a whole" is often lost on me, or only comes to me once I listen to every "channel" of the song, beginning to end. So if I'm interested in the drums, bass, rhythm guitar, accent guitar, vocal, and vocal harmony of a song, I need to hear that song 6 times, one time focusing on each element, just observing and "seeing what I see" before I can let the whole thing play as a unit. The curse of a wannabe recordist.

     On the upside,  I can listen to something on the radio and pick out a Telecaster through a Vox amp, and think "hey, that sounds great, I might wanna try that combo," and boom - I have a new tonal idea without ever hearing or reading a single word. Or I can hear somebody use an effect in a way I've never heard it used, and I can say "damn, I oughta try that," then I'll spend a few hours in the basement turning knobs and playing around, and boom - a new song is born, just from messing around with a new setting.

    What I imagine when I pull away from a stop light. 
    This condition also affects other areas of life, as well. Having seen the inside of an engine too many times, when your average driver mashes the accelerator into the flo'board, they are probably thinking "WOOOOOOO!!!," but I am thinking about the connecting rods and rod bearings and valve springs and piston rings and how the whole thing should explode.

    It might seem contrived or unfathomable to you, but I literally cannot derive any pleasure from blasting off like a rocket in a car. I'm not thinking about what's happening, I'm thinking about everything that makes it possible. That's life behind the curtain. Anybody else live this way?


    Friday, March 12, 2010

    four year strong

    I used to fancy myself a super cool punk rocker. I mostly did this because I listened to a lot of punk music, or so I thought.

    Yes, this is actually a real picture of me. 
    I'm holding the controls for a hydraulic suspension system on a lowrider Chevy. 
    Yeah, my head exploded a little bit when I saw this picture too.

    Years later, in my infinite wisdom as a wannabe music reviewer, I realize that all the music I ever liked was pretty much straight-on POP, with a dash of punk flavor.

    Anyways, I used to wear No Fear t-shirts, which, at the time, were very X-TREME, I rode my skateboard everywhere in the neighborhood, which I now realize actually somehow takes more energy than just walking somewhere, and used to try to do sweet jumps on my BMX bike. I have a permanent scar on my belly from where I did what eyewitnesses describe as "most of a backflip" on my bike.

    This was me, trying to be a super cool punk rocker. I have recordings of me playing and singing Green Day songs, solo acoustic style, at home. Equal parts bad and hilarious.

    Well, since about 5 years ago, I have not been reppin' pop punk like I used to. I started to become embarrassed by it, because it seemed like I was "aging out" of the "scene." The funniest part about that sentence is that I actually thought I was a part of a scene. Anyhow, I started focusing on my guitar nerd roots --- Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Derek Trucks, and my own personal musical napalm, John Mayer, leaving punk, pop-punk, punk-pop, and whatever the hell else you want to call it, behind.

    Well, just today, I was cruising iTunes, to see if anything that slipped past Stereogum or Pitchfork was charting. What I found, was a cool looking album cover that linked to a band called Four Year Strong's latest release, "Enemy of the World."

    Enemy Of The World
    Pictured: A centaur with a machine gun.

    I clicked Preview All, and something wonderful happened.

    I got a twinge of that attitude I used to have - that attitude that helped me be in a good mood on a bad day, the attitude that helped me care a little less about what people were thinking, and more about what I was thinking. Now, I don't intend to wax philosophical on the psychology of punk music, but I can definitely say that there's something to it that evokes a very, very distinct response in me --- a response that I can't synthesize on my own.

    I bought the album, and I'm giving it the first spin now, so I won't review it, but I will say that if you related to anything I wrote up there, you might want to check this album out.

    Fakie backside nollie to 540 ahhhh who am I kidding,

    Thursday, March 04, 2010

    solid air

    John Martyn, live from Rockpalast in Germany, 1978.

    This is the first song I've heard in probably 5 years that made me

    Written by Martyn about the death of his friend Nick Drake.

    John Martyn is one of those musicians that makes me feel cheated that I didn't know about him before 2010. John Martyn died January 29, 2009, aged 60.

    His notorious alcoholism is said to have set a range for his performances from "absolutely terrible" to "inexplicable genius." I have done a lot of reading on John Martyn, and have heard tales from old musicians that described his state, just before a concert as "unable to form a sentence, and barely able to stand," but then he would walk out on stage and deliver a performance like the one you see above --- simply on another level.

    Eric Clapton was quoted as saying Martyn was, "so far ahead of everything, it's almost inconceivable."


    Monday, February 22, 2010

    new turntable soul

    Turntable Soul January/February PODCAST by TurntableSoul

    The new "Turntable Soul" is out.

    Like I have said before, if you aren't listening to these, you are about as cool as wearing a Radiohead t-shirt to a Radiohead concert.

    For the uninitiated, turntable soul is a podcast that comes out every 2 or 3 months, where some genius mixes awesome Motown songs with awesome rap songs, in a way that makes you bob ya head.

    Listen and groove,

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    murphy's kids (plays all your favorite songs)

    Disclaimer: most of what's below is a recollection of events that occurred before yesterday,
    so the details will be entirely made up fuzzy.

     Kind of like Motown and AC/DC had a baby. With horns.

    Murphy's Kids was the coolest band in my high school when I was growing up. I remember seeing them get the plug pulled at a high school talent show because of their excellent (and mostly true) song, "Everyone's an Asshole" (I still hear it in my head when I'm sitting in meetings). And getting the plug pulled on you at a high school talent show is actually cooler than playing a high school talent show. That band went from being high school heroes to one of my legit favorite bands.

    Well, being a wannabe musician myself, I had a band in high school --- I was the guitar player for an 8 piece funk band.

    I'm in yellow, using most of my brainpower to count to 4.

    The band that I was in, the embarrassingly named "Graham Funk Railroad," (we were pandering to Mrs. Graham, the judge for talent show auditions), had a bass player and saxophone player that were in Murphy's Kids. In this small world, I got to know the other fellas from Murphy's Kids a little bit, but not really.

    Fast forward to college. The aforementioned bass player, who had become one of my best friends, is writing music with me all the time, spending long hours in my basement with a crappy stolen microphone and whatever guitars we had. He was still playing bass in Murphy's Kids, and they were coming up to do a gig, but didn't have anywhere to practice, or stay for that matter.

    I told them they could practice in our basement. Again, after this the details get fuzzy, so be warned that most some of this could be entirely made-up inaccurate.

    A short while after I told them they could come practice in our basement, my roommate Dan came home with a keg and said, well, "KEG!"

    This, my friends, is what we call the perfect storm for A GREAT MOMENT IN PARTY HISTORY.

    Predictably, we ended up having a full-on rock show in our basement, featuring Murphy's Kids and as many people as would fit into our basement.
    That PA speaker remained in the basement of that house literally until the day we moved out.

    Since then, I have been the biggest of MK fans, and do my best to keep in touch with the band, who are now long-time brohams of mine.The current lineup no longer includes the aforementioned bass playing buddy, but rest easy - his riffs live on, and he was replaced with a long-time friend and musician extraordinaire. Long-time. Betcha didn't think I could get three in there.

    Their latest album is "Departures," an album that's a perfect soundtrack for your house party / beach trip / BBQ needs.

    The album is strong from start to finish with an obvious focus on rock songwriting, adding to their already fun ska sound. I Still Miss You (Alex Levine) has a Pink Floyd vibe at the beginning, and is one of the few songs you'll hear in modern music that has DYNAMICS, our long forgotten friend. This song has a clear buildup and climax, a very well composed song.

    Hands On is a perfect driving-with-the-windows-down or grilling-a-burger song, a positive mood-changer for sure. Whenever I hear it, I want to do that high-knees, side-to-side rasta walk that you see white people do at festivals.

    Me toil part-time at jah Cold Stone Creamery!

    Plans is a good representative of the change in style, the "departure" if you will, from Murphy's Kids' long-time (that's 4!!!) ska sound. I hear jazzy chord voicings in here that give me the same thoughts I get when I hear any of my favorite guitarists: "How in the hell did he come up with that? And why didn't I?"

    To me, this album is definitely "rock with horns," not "ska with rock," although the integration of ska and rock throughout the album is seamless. I am impressed with how much the horn section is brought into the riffing as well --- the horns aren't just there for accents, they absolutely drive the band. You'll hear what I mean.

    I won't review the rest for you because I have work to do spoil the first listen - but I will say that I bet you'll enjoy it.

    I would be remiss in describing the band if I didn't tell you that their live show is bad-ass. Nothing against their album, but their album compared to their live show is kind of like...a globe compared to THE PLANET EARTH.

    This was 2 or 3 years and bandmates ago

    Also, MK hosts an annual holiday charity event called SKALIDAYS that supports a charity that is "helping victims of domestic violence through advocacy, support and empowerment. Simply put, their goal is to help people with no other place to turn get the counseling, support (even housing in some cases!), and knowledge they need to become healthy and self sufficient."  This past year was the event's 10th. Ain't a damn thing wrong with that.

    Are you with me?


    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    He dead!

    I'm back.

     Ctrl + Click this image to play the music that accompanies my triumphant return to a blog that 3 people read!

    I used to do a lot of set-it-and-forget-it type of stuff at work. You know --- waiting for models to run, waiting for data to load, sending interns to find a basement that doesn't exist, etc., and I could drift away into writing about music and why I rule at everything. These days, all the work I'm doing requires my full attention, which makes the government run more smoothly day fly by, but it's killed my blog.

    I'm not getting dumber, I just haven't had any free time.

    Anyhow, let's get back to what TLA is about: music reviews. And my two cents. Dot com.

    Deadwing was recorded entirely while brooding, on the banks of a lake, 100 years ago.

    At Christmas, my brother-in-law gave me the Porcupine Tree album "Deadwing." I first found out about Porcupine Tree on guitar nerd forums, where my fellow guitar nerds were dissecting the band's guitar tone. So I YouTube'd some stuff and got really interested, because their riffs were tight. Not a euphemism.

    The album is progressive rock, which, for the uninitiated, is best explained by this excellent article by Cracked, which states:

    There is no clear definition of progressive rock, as it is not bounded by convention, structure, tradition or common sense. Progressive rock is like the anti-socialite of music; there are no rules or restrictions.
    However, progressive rock bands have typically featured:
    • Extremely skilled guitarists, drummers, bassists and keyboardists
    • Okay singers
    • Huge egos
    • Tons of drugspiration
    • No sense of when to stop a song
    Be sure to click through to that Cracked article. They even have a chart that plots prog rock album covers on a scale from "Dongs" to "Butts."

    Porcupine Tree is smack-dab in the middle of Pink Floyd and Tool on the progressive rock continuum. I have to stop writing about prog rock now, because I would be repeating the Cracked article, which had me LMFAO.

    On Deadwing, the first thing that stands out is the riffage. We are talking really bad ass riffs, the kind that play in your head when you get home from work before your wife and you imagine your house is a scene from an action thriller and you work your way through the house pwning imaginary henchman with various made up karate moves.

    This has nothing to do with prog rock, Porcupine Tree, or house karate. I just felt like I needed a picture here.

    The next thing I noticed was that it's not so far out there that non-music-nerds won't run from it. It's accessible, because Porcupine Tree don't get any of their progressiveness© from gimmick. Everything they do that pulls you in is just straight up good --- no zoo animal noises, no screaming, no playing guitar with power drills - just good ass music.

    After my embarrassing gush over a band that was ALL gimmick (which I won't delete, because it's as funny as it is embarrassing), it's refreshing to get excited about a band that gives you the "holy shit!" with zero gimmick.

    It's good to listen to all in one shot, as with most prog rock albums. Next time you have to go on a road trip or drive a ways alone, download this album and prepare to be a big Porcupine Tree fan.

    I will be dropping more blog science on you TOMORROW!


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