Archive for category Music

On and On and On (We Go!)

Posted by on Sunday, 8 November, 2015

It seems that I left the lights on on my blog. I had to reset my password to get back in here. It is a bit early for me to talk about song picks for the year, but then again, since I had only posted twice in the last three years, maybe it is really late.

I really only listen to music from female artists these days. Maybe I am just a lonely old man. Or maybe it is because boys as a whole have completely forgotten how to rock, and the ladies are taking over. Let’s go with that one. As it happens, earlier this year, I was almost in a band with a female lead singer, but it did not work out. Anyway, what was I listening to this year?

I actually quite liked that super-massive mega-hit by Taylor Swift. Well, one of them anyway. You know, the good one. The one that has the second most views of all time on YouTube. I do not think Miss Swift really needs my endorsement, as I read somewhere that her album outsold everything from the past twelve years. There was a story a while ago about iTunes mistakenly uploading about 10 seconds of white noise labeled as a Taylor Swift song and it still went to number one. We are not here to talk about pop stars are we? (It turns out that we are.)

Charli XCX – Boom! Clap! / Break the Rules: You may or may not know her as one of the two white girls from last year’s utterly inexplicable hip-hop hit by, well, two white girls. I, for some reason, watched a video of her performance on SNL, and was shocked when she totally kicked ass! So I checked out some of her stuff and… I just was not into it at all. Oh well, I moved on and more or less forgot about it. Then several months later, I happened to run across her name again somewhere and I did a little more research. I came to the conclusion that whoever produced her album did her a huge disservice. Her recordings are just typically forgettable synth-pop, but then she went on tour with a three-piece all-girl punk-ish band, and it is a whole different story. A pop star who is better live than on the record? No, this is a pop star who is only good live. Who knew that was a thing? So skip her official videos, here is her full set from Glastonbury. Now, I am not even going to pretend that anyone is going to read this and watch that whole thing, so I would also just like to point out that on the second song she busts out a comically over-sized inflatable guitar, yet she “plays” it with such conviction that for a brief moment, I questioned whether the damn thing was actually plugged in and making noise somehow. Which is patently absurd, of course, but this girl is legit.

Tove Lo – Talking Body: This is an unwholesome video for an unwholesome song by an unwholesome singer. I do not know if it is because she is Swedish, or because she is a rock star, or a combination of both, but she is far more open about sexuality and nudity than us repressed Americans. As this is still *nominally* a Christian blog, I am not going to provide a link. Just know that this song exists, and that it has been stuck in my head for months. Incidentally, her live band consists of two drummers and keyboardist. Drummers are hard to come by, and here she is flaunting two of them? Scandalous.

Lights – Up We Go: Ugh. This is a straight up peppy, feel good, throw away pop song. There is no reason in the world I should like it at all, but that hook is so dang catchy. The lyrics are actually kind of dark too, when you get right down to it. Now, in the same vein as what I said above, it seems that music videos featuring female singers who aren’t stripped down to their underwear are rather rare. (Presumably because the music industry is run by even lonelier, dirtier old men than I.) This video does feature a couple getting it on, but at least in this case, it is not the singer herself. This is what we call artistic integrity, I suppose. Anyway, if that is a deal breaker for you, have a nice acoustic version instead. [As long as I am being all morality police-y, I maybe should have mentioned that Charli XCX has quite the potty mouth. I don’t care.]

The Like – June Gloom: This is actually a song from 2006 that I discovered the last time that I was on a girl band kick. Unfortunately I found it too late to include in that list, so I am throwing it in here for completeness. Is the song any good? I actually have no idea, but the video is mesmerizing. [SPOILER: the pretty girls are a misdirect! Watch the instruments!]


And the winner is:

Meg Myers – Sorry: Okay, enough with the guilty pleasures and embarrassing confessions. This is real. This girl single handedly got me excited about music again. I would not be talking about any of this otherwise. (BTW, didn’t I used to know a Meg Meyers? Not the same one.) She reminds me of Courtney Love, which might not seem like a compliment as Courtney Love is a train-wreck of a human being. Yet I actually liked Hole. I do not know about you, but I realized that I want my artists to be a little damaged. I feel as though a lot of singers have an “authenticity” problem, but Meg here sounds like she has been through some shit, and she sings like she means it. This song is the title track from her debut album, which was conveniently released in 2015. Although, she actually had a couple of EPs before this, and to be perfectly honest, I feel like her older stuff seemed to have more “teeth”. While this song is decent, also check out Heart Heart Head, Curbstomp, and, well, everything else really. Perhaps “Sorry” is not the best song of the year, but Meg Myers is definitely the most interesting artist that I know of right now.

28 Songs in 28 Days

Posted by on Thursday, 6 March, 2014

What: I spent the month of February recording a different song every day.


Why: Why not? Perhaps a better question would be, “Why now?” The project came from a number of factors all coming together. I have been thinking, off and on, for a long time about how I have written “around thirty” songs. Many of which have never been heard by anyone. Although my song writing has been quite sparse in recent years, on those rare occasions when I do come up with something new, I consider recording and posting it online. Then I think that the new song is sort of the musical equivalent of a direct-to-video-sequel-with-none-of-the-original-cast to one of my earlier songs, and yet no one has ever heard THAT song either.

So, with “around thirty” being the number days in a month, it occurred to me some time ago that I could take a whole month and spend one day recording/developing each song. I dismissed the idea pretty quickly at the time as wildly impractical. However, this past December, I quit my job of which I just could not stand another day. Then in January, after years of teasing the idea of investing in vintage guitars, but being unable to pull the trigger, I finally bought one. (Which I could talk about at length, but it distracts from the topic at hand.) In the meantime, the crappy band that I was in a few years ago got back together. And while the band leader is talking about recording and doing shows, I feel that I have heard all that before. This band did not go anywhere the first two times we were together, and I have zero expectation that things will be different the third time around. I just see it as an excuse to play music a couple of times a week, which I would not really do otherwise. Yet it gnaws at me, why am I relying on this guy when I have piles of my own material that I am not doing anything with?

So, with January drawing to close, no particular plans for the future, music heavily on my mind, and of course, February being the shortest month, somehow it just clicked and I decided, “Screw it, I’m doing this!”

This was most definitely a “quantity over quality” endeavor. I knew going in that I probably was not going to finish much of anything. While I have no doubt that many talented individuals can do full production on a song in a single day, I myself am not known for doing things quickly. I do not remember exactly how long I spent the last time that I undertook a serious recording project, but I believe it was on the order of several weeks for only three songs, and even then I was not completely satisfied with the results. So the idea of getting a complete song in a single day was pretty much out of the question. Even though I was not writing new songs, simply recording/arranging/completing existing material, that is still a lot of work. Especially considering that I have not been practicing guitar very much at all in the past few years, and that I have practiced vocals basically never, the goal was not so much to get versions of the songs that I could share with people. It was more for my own reference, to get these ideas out of my head and into a more tangible form so that I can evaluate what actually has potential, what needs work, and what is a lost cause.

Some of the early stuff, I think is pretty good so far, I basically just ran out of time with my one-song-per-day-then-move-on rule. And several times I had some new ideas for a song a day or two later, but again, going back was a no-no. Around day 12 though, I started to run out of steam and really phoned it in for the next week or so. I am almost afraid to go back and listen to any of that. And I was really scraping the barrel some days, with songs that I probably have not played since the Clinton administration, and several ideas that I always felt were good, just never developed, now left me wondering, “What was I thinking? There’s no song here!” It is hard to completely give up on any of them, since in a very real sense every song contains a piece of my life and a piece of my soul… but some are still pretty crappy. I was also unpleasantly surprised by the number of songs that are fun to play yet tedious to listen too.

In any case, I really need a break after living and breathing music every single day for four weeks straight. It was a great learning experience, and I have about 28 different stories that I could tell. But I need to give it a little time and distance so I can go back and listen fresh.

That said… I can not really spend a month recording and not share anything. SO, this song is not the greatest thing that I have written, but it has special significance by being the most recent. In 2012, after one of the aforementioned band’s breakups, I was frustrated not only with the  drama between band members, but also the fact that I really did not like the kind of music that we were playing anyway. Wanting to write something more my own style, I came up this over the next couple of days.

The Other Side of Music

Posted by on Sunday, 18 March, 2012

I complain a lot about the state of music these days. This is not about that.

Good news! The crappy band I was in a few years ago is back together! Only, instead of “alternative jazz” or whatever that was, this time the band leader wanted to do country! Greaaat…

We fortunately veered away from that after playing together a few times as country simply is not our thing. The latest idea was “alternative rock.” Wait, what? Now you’re finally speaking MY language! Unfortunately two of the bands specifically mentioned were King of Leon and the Black Keys. I remember thinking a couple of years ago that Kings of Leon were pretty good, until I suddenly realized while that they were better than everything else on the radio around that time (which was garbage), they themselves were not actually that good. Like, at all. Also, mere days before the particular band meeting where this was discussed, I happened to here The Black Keys on the radio and wondered if it was the kind of thing that I would like if I had been born ten to fifteen years later. Because, to be clear, I don’t like it, but I think it appeals to people kind of like me in the younger generation.

Although I think that our front-man is an enormously talented songwriter, I do think it is sad that our he is far more interested in doing whatever style he thinks will sell rather than what comes naturally. But then, one could make a similar observation about my reasons for being in this particular band at all.

On another note, I pulled the old Scarecaster out of the closet a couple of days ago. I actually was not interested in the guitar at all, I just wanted to check something about the case it was in. But once I had it out… For some reason I was under the impression that it was not currently functional. Sure, there is a design flaw that has made it impossible to set the action correctly since day 1, and the not-so-great finish has done strange things since it last saw the light of day. Yet when I tuned it up and plugged it in, it made noise, and is that not what really matters?

I have the desire to build and modify guitars. I even went to school for that purpose once. (At least, I think that was me? It does not seem like something that I would do when I really think about it.) Every once in a while I catch myself wondering, why am I not building guitars again? I actually found the answer one day when working in the bathroom. I was looking back at my recent progress and was dismayed that I had spent two days to do something that looked like it should have only taken a matter of hours. That is why I gave up on guitar building, because I work so damn slowly; because I come to a dead stop every time there is any kind of decision to be made, and I can not get past it; because building guitars is challenging, frustrating, maddenening, and once I was done with the school, I did not want to do it again.

Even so, I considered buying some parts and busting out the router to really get that guitar into playable condition this weekend. But I could not do that of course, because I have that bathroom to finish. Which I also did not work on.

Supplemental (Comedy Edition!)

Posted by on Saturday, 7 January, 2012

I usually  exclude comedy songs from my lists, because I have a hard time taking them seriously, if you know what I mean. But some of them are actually pretty entertaining so today I figured, “Why not?”

Horse Outside – Rubberbandits Warning: Vulgar. Also: Scottish.

Perform This Way – Weird Al Yankovic Not necessarily Weird Al’s best, but interesting for the back story. Apparently, when he asked for Lady Gaga’s permission, her “people” claimed that she needed to hear it first. So he went to the trouble of recording, only to be denied, which raises the counter-intuitive proposition that Lady Gaga actually has no sense of humor. However, after he posted the song and rant online, Lady Gaga gave it her blessing. I had read somewhere that after the Coolio incident, Weird Al always contacts the artist directly precisely to avoid this kind of problem. So, was this a misunderstanding, or coordinated publicity stunt? Warning: creepy weird-ass video.

Show Me Where Your Noms At – Hannah Hart & Songs To Wear Pants To This is a collaboration between some dude of whom I had previously never heard and a girl with a terrible cooking show.  That is to say, the show is about terrible cooking wherein she (allegedly) gets drunk and attempts to do a cooking demonstration with no preparation whatsoever.

God’s Away on Business – Tom Waits/Cookie Monster Tom Waits is an artist of whom I have been vaguely aware for some time now. Earlier this year I wanted to know more about him, but he has such an intimidating body of work that it is hard to know where to start. I did quite like this one though. By some coincidence, about a month later, someone put this gem together. It is actually almost a minute longer than the official video, and unfortunately, I feel it actually suffers for the added repetitiveness, but there you go.

Stores That Tell You Exactly What They Are – Break This is a song that I declined to put on last year’s list, which is a shame, because it might have been the only one actually released in the year 2010. Other than that, I think the appeal is self explanatory.

Songs of the Year (Ladies Edition‽)

Posted by on Saturday, 31 December, 2011

“Ladies Edition,” because after I realized that music is about attracting women, and women like, shall we say, lame music… I realized that to find anyone who is rockin’ these days, one probably has to turn to one of two groups who supposedly are not musicians merely to attract women. Namely, Christian and female artists. (Or both?) Or something. Or maybe when I am looking for music, I just tend to click on the videos that have a pretty girl in thumbnail? Whatever, I have a lot to get through here this time. Not all of these will be women, but at least a few might actually be from 2011.

Paranoid Android – Weezer A cover of a ’90s song by a band from the ’90s? I thought this would be an instant winner. Then I listened to it. They did nothing interesting with it. Also, there are no ladies in Weezer. Coincidentally, a friend pointed me to another version that someone edited together from clips of three dozen other Youtube artists. It’s amazing.

On the topic of Youtube covers, here are several that I enjoyed this year:

Smooth Criminal – 2Cellos I never realized how bad-ass cellos are.

Chop Suey – Vika Goes Wild (2009) After hearing this, it is hard to imagine that Johann System von Down ever intended it any other way.

Bad Romance – Lissie (2010) The story goes that back in 1970, Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, unaware that he had a game that day, dropped some acid (like you do). The mistake was realized, and he went on to pitch a no-hitter. I am reminded of that story as Lissie here seems to have rolled out of bed and into the studio, hungover and wearing yesterday’s clothes, and then proceeds to OWN this song.

All I Have to Do is Dream – Lauren O’Connell Here is another entry from last year’s winner. I was sold in the very first second of this video when she sets an EBow on a piano. I was under the assumption that an EBow had to interact with the pick-ups on an electric guitar in order to work and it never would have occurred to me to try that. (I do not really understand that electromagnetic field stuff.)

Cut Here – Psychée (2010) When I found this song several months ago, I intended to mention it as basically the punchline to a post that I never ended up writing, so that is not particularly relevant anymore. Maybe you will enjoy it anyway.

Feel Good Inc. – Josie Charlwood This is easily the best solo live-looped Gorillaz cover by a left-handed redhead that I have ever heard.


On to the real(ish) stuff then, shall we? Honorable mentions first.

Rolling in the Deep – Adele (2010) That’s right, I went there. Even though this was not released in the calender year of 2010, it was still in the top 10 of Youtube’s music section at least as recently as October. I even heard this song in a grocery store in the French Alps (true story). Not exactly my cup of tea, but I feel that this is a step in the right direction for pop music; with that direction being about 40 or 50 years backwards. It is on the album 21. Her previous album was called 19. I am not sure how old Ms. Adele is, but I strongly suspect her of not being very creative with album titles. However, she has a powerful set of pipes, as they say, and I wish the best for her and the future of pop music.

Walking on Air – Kerli (2009) This came up a couple of times while listening to Pandora, and I rather liked it. I had assumed that it was some late ’80s/early ’90s electronic band, which I seem to get a lot of on there. It turns out that she is actually a sort of “Lady Gaga lite” from just a couple of years ago. I usually listen in mix mode, so I am left wondering which of my actual preferences triggered that pick, but hey, it worked I suppose.

Sail – Awolnation I was driving home one day thinking about how rock music tends to use the same handful of chords in a few standard keys and how there really are only so many possible chord progressions available. Though it seems absurd mathematically speaking, perhaps we really have run out of new variations in terms of melody and instrumentation on a practical level. And as I am thinking through this, I suddenly am hit with these pizzicato strings followed by… some stuff… and think, “Well, this is different.” I am not sure that I like it, and even less that I understand it. It seems like something that might be playing in the elevator of a mind that is descending in to madness. It is kind of fun to say though. “SAIL!”

We Don’t Need Money to Have a Good Time – The Subways I saw a reference to this band online somewhere and I had to look them up, because I had never heard of them. So I do not know how well known they are. These kids have a passion and energy that gives me hope for the next generation of musicians, perhaps for the first time. Their music is… let’s go with “not terrible.”

Burgundy – Warpaint This all-girl band was featured on Youtube sometime this year. They seem to have been influenced by the same bands that I like myself. Their songs are all kind of similar though, with haunting, faraway vocals that I find almost impossible to grab on to. I am not sure what the drummer is doing on this one as the tempo and feel change several times in a not particularly fluid manner, but I picked it because burgundy is kind of like purple.

I Will Dance (When I Walk Away) – Katzenjammer This all-girl band… plays instruments. Lots of instruments. They trade them around for different songs and play two or three at once. This song is what I would call “bluegrass”, but they also dabble in rag-time, blues, and, uh, good ol’ fashioned drinking songs? All those old time genres about which I know nothing.


So that is a lot of stuff, none of it really, you know, “great”, but what’s this?

All I Ever Wanted – The Airborne Toxic Event I know that most of my music picks are pretty crappy, and all I can say is that has been because music itself has been pretty crappy, but Oh My God. I heard this song on the radio. The actual radio. This song contains heavy adult themes that quite frankly, I am surprised the teenagers can identify with, but what do I know? Anyway, I do not want to oversell it, but I REALLY like this one. Interestingly, they have other songs on the album named All at Once and All for a Woman, so apparently they are really into totalities. Oh, and they have a female violin player, so there’s that.

Timoth Hates Music (Holiday Edition!)

Posted by on Friday, 16 December, 2011

Towards the end of the year (or whenever), people often mention how much they enjoy Christmas music. I always wonder what is wrong with them, because, theology aside, that crap is like sandpaper to my eardrums. It was not until this very week that I finally realized that we might not be thinking of the same thing.

It occurred to me that when people say that they like Christmas music, they probably mean Christmas carols. “Silent Night”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “Little Drummer Boy”, that kind of thing… sure, who doesn’t like that? (I have honestly heard multiple atheists admit a fondness.) What I was thinking of was Christmas pop music. “Holiday music” really. The drivel that they play on the radio and in stores this time of year. I would list examples of the songs that I can not stand, but it would be a very long list indeed. So let me put it this way: “White Christmas” and “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” are fine. That is pretty much it.

In particular, I realized that songs about Santa Claus are pretty obnoxious across the board. Upon further reflection, I even realized why. Santa Claus is a significant element, yet not really the “true spirit” of Christmas. As such, any song about him is almost inherently irreverent tongue-in-cheek, which is a difficult genre to do well. And of course, since there are relatively few Christmas songs to choose from, pretty much anything gets repeated play every year.

As an aside, several years ago I noticed that while Christmas songs used to be about joy and family and tradition, it seems like those released in the last twenty years or so are all about being alone and miserable on Christmas.

My point is, I know that I am all over the map religiously and politically, but can we at least keep the Christ in Christmas music?

Flawed (feat. MF-ing GUITAR SHOW!)

Posted by on Saturday, 6 August, 2011

I went to a guitar show last weekend. I had been looking forward to it for some time. I have been wanting to start collecting/investing in guitars for quite awhile now, yet I have been reluctant to pull the trigger on buying anything.

Part of the issue is that collecting and investing are not really the same thing.
Collecting means buying guitars that I personally would want to have, and probably (though not necessarily) would not want to sell. Investing in guitars is just like investing in anything else: buy low, sell high.

It is the “investing” part that is tripping me up. Last year, I bought a big book full of guitar prices. The value of guitars is a lot like cars: a 10 year old one is not worth very much; a 20 year old is worth practically nothing; but somewhere around 30 years old, it changes from “used” to “vintage” and the price starts to go up again; and at 50 years, it is worth quite a lot.

Key then is to buy something that is on the downward part of the curve and then wait ten or twenty years for the price to go up. However, every time I find something that looks good, either online or in person, the seller wants way more than my book says it is worth. Who are they kidding? Is anyone really buying vintage guitars in this economy? I would think it would be a buyer’s market.

I had been to this same guitar show last summer and been slightly disappointed. Sure there were a lot of nice guitars, especially a lot of high end and vintage guitars that you do not generally find in the average guitar shop. Yet, while they did have a number of guitar models that I was familiar with but had never actually seen in person, there was not really anything new and unusual to me like I had been hoping for.

This year, the event was at a venue much closer to where I live and I went fully planning to walk away with something. I do not know if it was the change in venue or the economy or what, but there were not nearly as many booths this year. Still, even on a casual first walk through I noticed several promising guitars. A few more when I really started looking carefully at each vender. Most were again in the way more than I would want to spend range, but not all. I could go into details, but I doubt it would mean much to most readers.

There was one interesting guitar that I kept coming back to in my mind. Great guitar? No. Nice looking guitar? It was actually in pretty bad shape cosmetically. Worth what the asking price? Debatable. But an interesting guitar. A guitar that wants to be played, not kept in a case in the closet. A guitar with character.

However, for a number of reasons (or should I say, “excuses”) that do not seem that important now, I ended up not buying it, and walked out empty handed and more than a little annoyed with myself. I did not even take note of the dealer’s name, which might have left open the possibility of buying it online.

This is not so much about buying a guitar or not buying a guitar. I already have a lot of guitars. I also in general struggle with buyer’s remorse and just plain “clutter” way more often than I have regret over NOT buying something. This is really about having an idea and not following through. It is about not being able to make a decision in the moment. I keep thinking about that guitar that I am never going to have and it reminds me of so many other opportunities that I have missed because of my overall lack of CERTITUDE.

To add extra an extra layer of futility: after spending hours walking around and dreaming of possibilities, did I play any guitar when I got home? I did not.

The Hills Are Alive(ish)

Posted by on Friday, 8 July, 2011

I usually feel guilty every time that I write a post about music, because I imagine that it is not why folks come here. “Ugh. Another post about guitars? I’m not reading that.” Yet today I am of the mood that they should be happy that I am posting anything at all, jerks! (timoth is good with the people.)

I have been having some internet difficulties again lately, which naturally means picking up the guitar a little more often. These days I have been focusing more on instrumentals, because a while ago I had an idea for a Purple Robe project that would consist of a series of short (one to two minutes) guitar instrumentals in wildly different styles to try to create different moods. Why? I do not know… is there a good reason “why” behind anything the Purple Robe has ever done? Basically just to see if I can, I guess.

To give you an idea of what I mean, I came up with one piece that I think is kind of “piratey”, and another that, though I am not really sure how to describe the style, sort of reminds me of a summer breeze. There is also a “Chinese” flavored one that has been kicking around for a couple of years, and a couple of other snippets as well. None of these are anything close to full songs of course. And just because *I* think that they sound like a particular genre that I know nothing about, does not make it so.

I am not sure why I even bother to mention this, because I think we all know that I am never actually going to finish it. In fact, with my tendency toward total secrecy when working on a project, merely bringing it up pretty much guarantees that I will not finish it. Why all this mucking about in genres of which I know nothing anyway? You know who does that? People far more talented than I, and it still results in the poopiest music of their careers.

Then I somehow got to thinking that one problem with my body of songs is that none of them have a really “killer riff”. I do not like to think of my self as merely a “chord strummer”, in the sense that you often see someone in at a coffee house, open mic or church simply strumming basic open chords as accompaniment for the vocal. (Although some of my songs actually are exactly that.) Still, for whatever reason, I do not really like to move my fretting hand a lot when playing guitar, so my style does boil down to mostly picking or strumming chords, even if it is not the most common or obvious form for a given chord.

Technically speaking, a “riff” is any repeated musical passage, so even a simple chord progression qualifies. But what we are talking about here are KILLER riffs. I am thinking of “Rebel Rebel”, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “Iron Man”, “Oh Pretty Woman”, “Boys Don’t Cry”… I could go on and on, but hopefully for at least one of those songs, the mere mention of it created a distinct musical passage in your mind. A killer riff gives a song identity*.

A killer riff should be short, often only one or two bars, although it can be longer as even some of my examples above are. It should contain notes of a scale and not just a chord. (Until very recently I thought that a scale and a key were basically the same thing, and even now knowing that they are not, I am still a little fuzzy on the distinction and the purpose of each, but even so.) A riff is different from a melody, although they can be melodic. It should be a “hook” rather than repeating through most of the song, which I think makes it more of a “rhythm” than a “riff”, though that is a somewhat ambiguous and possibly artificial distinction.

So what to do I have? “Wasting” has a neat little guitar thing, although it is really just two alternating chords with a little flourish in the middle. “Art of Letting Go” has a riff that I feel gives the song identity, but it does not have notes that you could hum or scat sing or whatever like the above examples. “SoPoard” has a nice repeating phrase, although it is quite long and slow. I think my riffiest of riffs is from a song called “The Wait” which no one has ever heard. [I should totally finish that one, you would like it I think. Well, maybe not if you have not liked any of the other ones. Nevermind.] Yet even that one underlies most of the song, which was against one of my conditions.

So, it is as I said: no killer riffs.



*The leader of a band that I used to be in was always talking about giving songs “identity”, by which he usually meant taking a perfectly good groove and changing it around so that it messed with people’s expectations (including the rest of the band) and quite frankly, now sucked. That is not what I mean here.


Posted by on Sunday, 24 April, 2011

Anyway, when I do blog, it is rarely about God at all. Usually it is about music. This is no different. Also, I should probably mention in advance, there is not going to be any payoff to this post. You have been warned.

I have been playing guitar again lately, or trying to anyway. (Mostly as a means to avoid something more important that I should be working on, but whatever.) I have also been thinking a lot about my “greatest hits” (in the loosest possible sense of the phrase). Basically, I have written a lot of songs over a lot of years and am now wondering which songs would someone expect to hear if I was doing a show? Not just a simple open mic night where you play three songs that no one has heard before and everyone in the place is either politely waiting for their turn to play or ignoring you entirely (or both), but an actual concert where people are coming to see me specifically. Answer: I do not have any hits. I do not have any fans. There are maybe four people on the planet who I would expect to even be able to name any of my songs off the top of their head. Most people that I know have not heard any of my music, and a good number of my songs have never been heard by anyone at all. In particular, the stuff that I have written in the last seven years, which have been few and far between, a lot of it is unfinished, most of it is crap, and very very little ever heard by anyone but me.

Yet I am reluctant to put any serious effort into new material when so much of my old stuff, “the classics”, remain unrecorded, intangible, unavailable. So then I invert the question: which of my songs do I wish that other people knew? Of course, then I just want to say, “All of them!” But there are a few I can throw out; that one was dumb; that one never really worked; that one was more of sketch than an actual song. Then I get to the pile of unfinished works that were solid ideas that I just never had the tools to execute the way I imagined them.

There is one song in particular that I have been struggling over. It is called “A Secret”, not that I expect that to mean anything to you. At the time I considered it the pinnacle of my guitar playing. Most of my songs are pretty simple. There’s the verse part, the chorus part, either a bridge or a solo but almost never both (and sometimes neither), maybe a little instrumental transition between chorus and verse. Three or four pieces total is all. But this song had a whole bunch of pieces. I actually wrote it by recording a lot of parts to a phrase sampler and stringing it all together, layers, loops and all. It is actually in G Mixolydian mode as well, which is unusual for me, not that I knew anything about modes back then, it just worked out that way. Yet it is not one of my hits. I do not remember the words, although I do have them written down somewhere. It is not one of the songs I play on the those occasions when I do pick up the guitar. You do not need to know it, I will not be playing it live.

Not that I will be playing anything else live for that matter. However, going back to the open mic idea, it occurred to me that Youtube is, in a sense, the world’s largest open mic. Better in some ways. There is no three song limit, and you are only watching because you want to. Of course, the down side is that it is not real… So I set up a channel a while ago as a way to get my music out there… and that is as far as I went. My playing style does not lend itself well to “pick up the guitar, face the camera, and go!” As I may have mentioned in the past, my songs sound like they want the full band treatment. I often lament that now I finally have the resources to at least fake the other parts for demo purposes, but lack the overall passion for music that I once had. Part of it is that songs written as an angsty teenager are harder to take seriously at 32. In retrospect, I was surprised at the high number of my songs that have lyrics where every line or couplet starts with the exact same word or phrase. U2 has several songs like that, and the Cure have a few as well, which is probably why I thought I could get away with it, but now it seems rather uninspired.

As for making videos, I have come up with concepts to go with a number of my songs, but seriously, if in all this time I could not be bothered to even record anything, what chance is there that I am going make them visually interesting as well?

Get Your Music Off My Lawn!

Posted by on Saturday, 1 January, 2011

Earlier this year I set out to find a song released within the calender year of 2010 that I actually liked.

I failed.

I realize that I am getting old, and I also know that probably for as long as there has been recorded music, one generation has been saying to the next, “How can you listen to this trash? That’s not music, it’s noise!” I wonder if we have reached the point for the first time in history where we instead look kids in the eye and ask, “How can you listen to this trash? It’s so boring!” Sad times.

At some point I started listening in my truck to a CD by the band Hole that I received for Christmas one year back when they were popular. (Was Hole ever “popular”? Back when they were on the radio anyway.) It was surprisingly good. Certainly better than what is essentially a glorified vanity project by the widow of a music legend has any reasonable expectation of being. (I miss the ’90s.) I particularly recommend Boys on the Radio.

I did, however, manage to keep a list of songs that I found entertaining this year, even if they weren’t actually released this year:

The Funeral – Band of Horses (2006) There was a show called FlashForward this year that took a fairly interesting premise and a generally talented cast and threw it all away with unlikeable characters making mind-boggling poor decisions. It was mercifully canceled, but I watched the whole season, perhaps out of a combination of boredom and morbid curiosity.  Yet somehow, the final scene set to this song made me want MORE. (Maybe I’m just a sucker for a good montage?)

Walk Like a Zombie – The Horrorpops (2005) First let me say that I really do not understand the whole “zombie” phenomenon. A lot of people (a lot of geeks anyway, a category with which I usually identify) seem to think that zombies are inherently awesome, but I simply do not see the appeal. Never-the-less, this song is excellent. I find it to be the absolute perfect blend of macabre and old-timey goodness.

Those songs are several years old though. Since it is my blog and my list, and who honestly cares or even reads this crap at all, I decided to bend the rules and consider songs released in the final months of 2009.

Until the Day You Die – Abney Park (2009) I like to drop the name “Abney Park” now and then with the assumption that no one has any idea who they are. Perhaps I have done it often enough by now that some of you might have bothered to look them up, perhaps not. In any case, speaking of “old-timey goodness”, this song has it in spades.

Since I have previously established that today’s music is boring, I find myself drawn to cover songs and remixes. In that vein we have:

Bohemian Rhapsody -The Muppets (2009) If you happened to be wondering if The Muppets are still relevant in the twenty first century, the answer is “Yes”.  I don’t know what else to say, if for some reason you haven’t seen this yet, you absolutely need to stop what you are doing and correct that right now.

United States of Pop 2009 (Blame it on the Pop) – DJ Earworm If you are at all interested in mash-ups, this guy is a master. This song is so much more than the sum of its parts… which is truly a feat considering that many, if not most, of those parts are downright unlistenable on their own.  (Although if you happen to feel that the end result is likewise unlistenable, I can respect that.)

The Lovecats – Tanya Donnelly & Dylan in the Movies (2009) Listening to Hole got me thinking about another female fronted ’90s band, Belly, and wondering what Tanya Donnelly was up to these days. It turns out that she is collaborating with some unknown band to really sultry up an old song that, despite being a fan of The Cure, I had never liked in the first place. So that’s something.

My pick of the year for “2010” is:

White Noise – Lauren O’Connell (2009) Remember what I said about girls and acoustic guitars? Nevermind, I don’t either. I discovered this songstress via the much more popular Pomplemoose, who use the same “videosong” production technique*,  but I like this song more. It is a bit “folky” and a  rather slow starter, but what it lacks in face-melting rock, I think it more than makes up for in bowed banjo solo!


*Which clearly influenced my own Christmas song, which I don’t know, maybe you missed?