pictures. words (sometimes). blog nonsense.

Posts tagged “music

some homebrews

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The first time someone asked me if I wanted to be in a band when I grew up, I laughed in their face. My friends had been reluctantly pounding out classical riffs since the days their mothers first held their diapered rears down to piano benches, whereas I was just starting to train my teenage ear to recognize notes that were not in key–a fact that many of the first musicians I played with were quite happy to point out.

That was a long time ago. Long enough ago to finalize my mirth at such an idea. Nope, unlike countless po-mo peers raising their eyebrows behind the coffee bar, guitar picks swinging on a tiny chain around their neck, I never wanted to be a rock star–which was rather fortunate, both for the inevitably-crushed would-be ego and for any hope of a financial future.

Instead, I chose “creative writing.” Yeah, about that…

Delusions of grandeur never deluded aside, I’ve enjoyed playing music with friends for years. Recently, Kirsten and I got the chance to acquire a very simple microphone interface for our computer, thanks to a few photography jobs (email me). It’s been a blast to hang out with some quite talented friends and help lay down a few of their tracks. And Kirsten has more talent in her humming than I do in all of my fingers, years upon years of practicing scales and all–she just grins a little bit when I play out of key. C’est la vie. I guess I’ll keep her around.

So while relatively few people read this site or click on my Facebook links in the grand scheme of things, I’m trying to not let my friends’ work sit dormant on my computer. I’m temporarily rotating a few in-progress demos through Purevolume (any recommendations for a better site to host more than four songs at a time for a very low cost?) In a world saturated by singer-songwriters, this is not too much more than a bunch of friends having fun.

Feel free to take a listen.

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Signs of the times

For anyone that enjoys watching the trainwreck that is the contemporary recording industry:

Citigroup (yeah, the bank) has apparently bought the struggling EMI record label, along with its “modest level of debt”…aka, 1.2 billion pounds (yes, as in English currency…as in awfully close to 2 billion US dollars).

And that’s after a “65% reduction” in said level of debt.

I don’t think that needs too much analysis from my end…

 


Listener: “Wooden Heart”

This is a rumination on community that I wish I had written, all the better in the end for its rough edges. Kirsten and I actually heard this guy perform spoken word this summer without knowing who he was or that he did projects w/music in ’em…

It’d be easy to compare this guy to longtime favorites mwY. But that’d do his art a bit of a disservice.

The album named after this song is good. Powerful good.


Cstone ’10: Thursday

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Throughout the week, a gentleman named Eric Greene was leading a discussion on the Planet of the Apes movies in the “Flickerings” tent. The place was aptly named. The light was terrible, it was hot in the tent, and the projector sucked–but it was a surprisingly great discussion of “How does popular culture help people wrestle with their deepest conflicts?”

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My little brother and I went to go hear Aaron from mewithoutYou speak on whatever topic was on his mind that day (always an unpredictable, but ridiculously honest and interesting conversation). Unfortunately, we got the host of that particular tent instead, who got up and promptly began rambling on in the most defensive way possible about his own ministry and his past endorsement of Aaron. The tent was jam-packed with kids, who all looked very confused as the gent talked about “the responsibility of the stage.” I leaned over to my brother–“I think this is leading up to a disavowal of the band because of the latest album.”

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Sure enough, after a ton more rambling for the better part of an hour, someone finally yelled out “is Aaron coming?” whereupon the host became even more defensive and said “I don’t know where he is!” Needless to say, the tension got even more awkward by that point–especially when he asked if anyone else had concerns about mewithoutYou’s last album and proceeded to lead group prayer for them, after saying how much he loved them, of course.

Word of advice. If you’re ever in a situation like that, just start off by saying the speaker isn’t coming–and leave it at that. Defensive manipulation will never help you or anyone else, in the long run.

And especially don’t go into that dreaded tangent about “Satan was a worship leader in heaven.” Sorry, but to the best of my knowledge, that’s a ludicrous argument on every possible level, and completely without any theological backing whatsoever (besides a solitary mistranslated, vague scripture from the King James–but feel free to prove me wrong in the comments).

Up until that point, Cstone had been an incredible model of faith-filled dialogue and tolerance for wrestling with big questions, such as I’ve rarely seen modeled by religious communities. I mean, this is the place that semi-famously welcomed avowed atheist David Bazan back with more or less open arms. Ahh well, maybe it was just the cost of each of the many tents being independently run, more or less–and thankfully, it was the only incident of the kind that I heard about or witnessed.

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With an uncomfortable taste still in our mouths, we went back to the Gallery stage (where we spent most of the festival, come to think of it) and listened to some new Nashville talent. Rhona Kelly had a great alt-country voice and we had fun chatting with her when we ran into her later in the day, as well.

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Kirsten had fun participating in a songwriting seminar with Jan Krist throughout the week. It paid off–I had fun sneaking in and watching Kirsten entrance a tent full of participants the next day with her song. (As an interesting sidenote, Jan is apparently the mother of one of the members of Blind Pilot).

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You never know who might show up to listen along with you…

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It was great to hear Brooke Waggoner with a full band this time around (Nate R, eat your heart out). Her live show is (surprisingly?) energetic and the hipsters around us were smiling a mile a minute–definitely catch a show, if you ever can.

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In case you were wondering, gentle hipster folk was not necessarily the main draw at the festival, given that there were well over a hundred bands officially playing. Out of curiosity, I checked out some of A Plea for Purging‘s brutal set…and was amused by the scene, as always.

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The Almost (the drummer from Underoath‘s main gig, now) on the mainstage–another place we didn’t spend much time. And Cstone was very unique in that the mainstage didn’t feel like the mainstage–very few people seemed to camp out there all week long, with so many other stages constantly pumping out a wide variety of music. Throughout the week I tried to gauge how many people were at the festival–25k? 50k?–but to no avail. They were simply too far spread out.

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Yeah, Skillet brought their mainstream crotch-rock ethos and it was ridiculous. And I sort of smiled at the one song I checked out. I mean, there were great balls of fire (whose heat I could feel from the back of the crowd), the guitarists went up and down on elevator platforms, and there was a live, dueling string section. Pre-recorded or not, it’s been a while since I’ve seen that kind of cheese-tastic show.

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Getting back to our regularly scheduled program, Kate York lent her jaw-dropping sense of melody to the hymns project of the host of the gallery stage that day, The Wayside. Really, if you don’t check out anyone else, you owe it yourself to take a listen to her deceivingly simple, honey-coated bitter-pill sad songs.

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After playing in a plethora of other arrangements the day before, Cstone vets The Choir closed out the night.

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Cstone ’10: Tuesday

After over fifteen hours of driving, we joined a crowd in the middle of absolutely nowhere in Illinois…

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Switchfoot.

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I haven’t been a true Switchfoot fan in quite some time, but I will quickly admit they put on a very solid show. Foreman‘s voice was stronger than I’ve ever heard before from ’em in person.

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I’m obviously as guilty of this as the next person, but man! it seemed like every other person had their videocameras outstretched anywhere we went.

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Timbre. This lady was EVERYWHERE we went–it seemed as tho each band wanted her on stage with them, from The Chariot, to mewithoutYou, to Brooke Waggoner…during one of the highlights of the night, all of the backing musicians gradually joined Timbre at her harp, plucking strings and continuing to lightly drum the rhythm on the soundboard.

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Last year, I was intrigued by her first album when my brother sent it my way. Her live performance far eclipsed anything recorded I’ve heard from her so far. It was a show full of meandering volume swells and the energetic symphonic pop that marks the best of indie music today, carried along by a vocal that transfixed the attention of all the hipsters sitting in the grass around us.

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snapshots from traveling south

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april asylum show @ the HUB @ PSU

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mewithoutYou

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The Menzingers

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Safari So Good

Much more at the flickr.


www.noisetrade.com (again)

They’ve posted albums by Kate York and Disappointed by Candy.

I advise continuing to check out the site.


the envy corps

So, Eisley is touring again this spring (anyone want to go to the Philly show with us?)

One of the bands they’re bringing along is the Envy Corps, who are currently sharing their album free of charge, due to stereotypical label delays. Link to it off their Wikipedia page (click on Dwell in their discography).

Think typical Embrace/early Radiohead/Doves influence…with a good dash of lyric originality and an energy that saves them from being merely derivative.

Take a listen.

EDIT: And videos.


Low

…and speaking of archive.org, they also have a great, recent performance by Low off of Radio France.

Think Innocence Mission with a much more somber feel (and even more minimalism) influenced by Mormonism instead of Catholicism, or think all of the best uses of negative space from Over the Rhine’s Good Dog era…


two quick links to interviews…

with Rosie Thomas and Linford Detweiler. I find the RT article interesting because she delves into her personal life and its impact on her records (details I always suspected, but never knew) and the LD piece arresting because of his unusually gentle/humble/non-critical take on spirituality.


beirut

For those wondering about the indie band Beirut, may I suggest a bootleg and a video?

So far, in my exposure to the man, his live shows exceed his recorded material (which I’ve failed to connect with).


Anathallo

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Live @ Messiah College, Jan ’08.

They were great, btw. I was surprised that so few people were initially there for a live show, but by the end, the student union center was pretty much filled. Kudos to Messiah for the free show–PSU thanks you.

I first saw Anathallo at Purple Door a few years ago. I had thought they were going to be an instrumental band (getting them confused with Saxon Shore, I think), but they blew my socks off, regardless. Think Arcade Fire with less swaggering and more pop sensibilities, or Polyphonic Spree with less pop sensibilities and more meaning or Sufjan with less pretension and more energy.

Then, as this time, I was perhaps most impressed with their onstage demeanor. They gave off a cheerfully exuberant attitude throughout most of the show, even when dealing with an extremely laid-back crowd.

Indeed, my chief complaint was that the crowd was sitting down…and the show was a tragic mere hour long.


more film blurbs

Sophie Scholl:The Final Days–An amazing, character-driven independent film that fully explores just about every individual it introduces. Surprisingly well-acted (with the exception of her attorney) and well-shot (with the exception of some of the tv-lighting-glow). Sophie’s grappling with truth and the dire consequence of death gripped all those I watched the film with…and challenged us to think about moral slippery slopes. After watching this movie, I was all the more challenged to oppose torture, no matter how many lives it “saves.” This was not an overt argument of the movie, by any means, but its stand for righteousness and its depiction of men who have compromised is both absolutely sobering and truly heart-breaking.

Heima–A music video/”documentary” as pretentious and absurd as Sigur Ros themselves. And as achingly beautiful and captivating. The movie could easily double as a travelogue for Iceland (and that’s a good thing). Some of the visuals were rather dubious at first…such as the reversed shots of waterfalls. But in time, their simplicity drew you in and deeper into what we were watching, as trippy and mesmerizing as the music itself. The interviews were the greatest weakness on the disk and could have been condensed into two minutes of meaningful dialogue. Then again, what else would you expect from a band that gave this historic talk to NPR?

Grizzly Man–The most intimate, deepest personal biography/documentary I have ever seen, with some of the most fascinating, complex discussions of environmentalism, troubled psychology, and confused spirituality ever depicted. And it’s all (purportedly) real…the scope of what this movie addressed or attempted to address was staggering, perhaps simply because it honestly showed a complete portrait of someone in a hundred and forty minutes. I was impressed by its ability to tackle such convoluted and intricate subject matter and still have something to say amidst all its post-modern-tinged depiction. Bravo. And wow. Grizzlies are big bears. And poor, confused Californians make good snacks (as do all furries. Maybe that’s what Colbert is really hiding).

Being John Malkovich–“Can’t you just be entertained?” I was asked after seeing this film. To which I firmly reply: “No.” I hated everything about this movie and found nothing insightful, thought-provoking, or interesting about it. I cannot be entertained by something unless there is a reason for me to be entertained by it. There were no reasons here, because I am not amused by skewed sexual behavior, mind possession, relational unfaithfulness, or any of the other slew of shallow behaviors shown without any artistic provocation to cause the viewer to think or consider. Some of the puppetry shots were beautiful (but that’s what youtube is for). No, overall this was an ugly movie in every way imaginable, with no redemption of any kind for the ugliness shown. If I wanted that, I’d have picked up the P.O.S. rags at the supermarket or watched daytime television.


toot-toot

horn one

 

horn two

 

horn three

 

horn four

 

 

 

Us rock’n’roll kids at the Upper Room are selling a beautiful trombone to finance a relief trip to New Orleans this January. Check it out if you know anyone who might be interested.