Monday, September 27, 2010

Gloomy Weather Songs

It's a gloomy day here. Not really cold, but definitely not warm. Overcast, but last time I checked it wasn't raining. I decided to take a suggestion from a reader and write about some gloomy weather songs.

The environment you're in when you listen to a song can greatly influence how the song feels. For example, when I reviewed the new Bosstones album a while back I mentioned that it came out in winter, but really should have been released in summer as it sounded better driving around on a sunny day than it did in my headphones as I shoveled my car out. So here are some songs that just seem fitting on days like today.

The Mamas & The Papas - "California Dreamin'" - If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears (Dunhill 1966)
The song the reader had in mind when she suggested the topic. Musically, the song is moody and kinda depressed sounding (to me at least). The lyrics seem fitting as well, with lines like "All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey." The leaves are still green here, but the weather indicates they'll start changing any day.

Barenaked Ladies - "Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At The Wheel" - Maroon (Reprise 2000)
Musically, the song isn't really that gloomy. It has an interesting 3/4 oompah time signature, kinda like a waltz or polka. But the lyrics make it one of the most apathetically sad songs I've ever heard. The song is written from the point of a view of a man who is driving home to see his wife/girlfriend/whatever, falls asleep and drives off the road. As he wakes up mid-crash, he gives an oddly surreal description of the crash ("From the ceiling my coffee cup drips, while out of my window the horizon does flips"), as he explains that as it's happening he's wondering if it's a dream. The tone is weird, as though he doesn't really care that he's crashing. I just realized how long I've been writing, so I'll move on. Just listen to it, it's a great song.

Tom Waits - "Little Drop Of Poison" - Orphans disc 2 "Bawlers" (ANTI-Records 2006)
I think most people that have heard this song first heard it in Shrek 2, where a Captain Hook-esque pirate plays it in a dive bar. When the topic was suggested, this was the first song I came up with (after the reader had already suggested "California Dreamin'"). In anyone else's hands, this song could have made this list. But Tom Waits' distinctively rough, emotive voice pushes it over the edge.

Linkin Park - "My December" - b-side to "One Step Closer" (Warner Bros 2000)
Linkin Park are mostly known for hard rock fused with hip-hop and electronica. Songs like "Crawling" or "One Step Closer." But for one of the extra songs on the single for the latter song, the band delivered "My December," a track played primarily on a drum machine and electric piano. The song drips with melancholy, with Chester Bennington proclaiming that he'd "give it all away, just so have somewhere to go to."

America - "Horse With No Name" - America (Warner Brothers 1972)
Unlike Linkin Park equating life with the dead of winter, Tom Waits' assertion that he feels cleaner "after it rains," and The Mamas & The Papa's description of the changes of autumn, America's entry in this list has nothing to do with gloomy weather. In fact, it takes place in an unbearably sunny desert. But the lyrics, often interpreted as a drug trip, seem to describe a post-apocalyptic landscape, where the narrator is perhaps the only living person left, watching nature resume. This is of course only one interpretation, and the song seems open to multiple views.

Tarkio - "Save Yourself" - I Guess I Was Hoping For Something More (Barcelona 1998) or  Omnibus (Kill Rock Stars 2006)
Tarkio was Colin Meloy's band before The Decemberists. The song is more Americana/Country-ish than  the work of his newer band, but the song has the kind of heartfelt melancholy that Meloy has mastered over the course of his career. The song is rather simple, depicting a man who, despite having larger plans for himself, is forced to return home to family farm after his father has died. Meloy expertly describes the narrator's unhappiness with the unexpected destruction of his life ("here there is no revelry, the sadness needs no leavening"), his bitter determination to consider his return a temporary setback ("call it a detour, ugly and impure"), his inability to explain why he has to go back ("My friends all say 'what you're doing this for?' Well, my father died and passed this shit to me"), and the tedium that has taken over his life ("lost inside the peleton with the Jerry Lewis telethon ticking soft as I fall fast asleep").

The Decemberists - "Culling Of The Fold" - The Crane Wife (bonus track) (Capitol 2006)
Another Meloy song. The guy is very capable of writing gloomy. However, unlike every other song on this list, "Culling Of The Fold" has no melancholy or sad or depressing tone to it, instead its gloominess comes from its sinister tone. Thought by some to be about the Shankhill Butchers (and the band did indeed write another song about them for the same album), the song encourages several people to kill other people, insisting that "someone's got to do the culling of the fold." Musically, the song is most fun song on this list, which just makes the sinister lyrics seem out of place and even more sinister. My favorite part is when one person is encouraged to bring his sweetheart to the river by "[plying] her heart with gold and silver," then killing her, because "it may break your heart to break her bones but someone's got to do the culling of the fold."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

All the non-political news that mattered to me over the past bunch of days:

Official video for Two Cow Garage's "Lydia"
Suburban Home Records and Two Cow Garage have posted the video for "Lydia," from their upcoming album Sweet Saint Me. I wrote about this album twice already, but expect me to write about it more before it comes out in October, including a review. If all goes well with travelling and getting the day off at work, Two Cow Garage just might also be this blog's first concert review.

Emma Stone potentially in Spider-Man and 21 Jump Street
The news has been breaking over the past couple days that Emma Stone is on the short list to play one of the two lead female roles in the upcoming Spider-Man reboot. My guess would be Mary Jane (based on hair color). And I guess Jonah Hill wants her for his upcoming 21 Jump Street movie. I've already explained to my friends that I would kill any of them if Emma Stone asked me to, so you can imagine that this is very good news to me.

Third Bill And Ted movie is in the works
There are two links in that title. The first is Keanu Reeves talking about the possibility of a sequel to Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey. The second is Alex Winters confirming that they want to make it. A friend of mine predicted that the plot will center around Bill and Ted giving up their rock star dreams and settling into normal, mediocre lives. This will disrupt the timestream, so Rufus's brother will come back in time to fix things. I sincerely hope they don't try to have Rufus himself, since they would have to replace George Carlin in the role. And that predication is so much better than the sons of Bill and Ted having an adventure. I'd go see it, if they actually made it.

Taking Back Sunday on Yo Gabba Gabba
Taking Back Sunday have become the lastest alternative rock band to perform on Nick Jr's Yo Gabba Gabba, a show created by Christian Jacobs, aka MC Bat Commander of The Aquabats. Sorry for the poor quality of the video. I can't quite tell, but it looks like it's the current line-up, the line-up they used for Tell All Your Friends. The group is as tight as ever and this video, albiet a silly song for a children's show, really makes me excited for the album they're working on.

Gaslight Anthem cover Fake Problems
The AV Club posted a downloadable track of The Gaslight Anthem covering "Songs For Teenagers" by Fake Problems, from their new album Real Ghosts Caught On Tape. I reviewed the album on Tuesday, and I was perhaps overly kind. I just didn't have anything bad at all to say about it. The songs rock, including this one. And I love The Gaslight Anthem, so this was all-around good news for me.

And last but not least, I wanted to point out to anyone that doesn't already know but might be interested that next Wednesday will be "ebooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point," a day of keynote presentations and panel discussions regarding ebooks. The virtual conference is being hosted by Library Journal and School Library Journal, two of the leading publications in the field. Wednesday is the actual day, but the website says the content will be archived and available from October to December. I'm not sure if you have to register before the day to be able to access the archives, though, so get in there now if you're interested.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Upcoming Album: Two Cow Garage

Before I start, I want to say that for personal reasons I will be breaking away from my Monday-Friday everyday posting schedule. From now on, I will be regularly posting on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Mondays will be posts about random things, like how I wrote about Nickelodeon cartoons or my favorite epic songs. Tuesdays will be album reviews, predominately albums released that day. Fridays will be what has now become my usual Friday post, with news bits from the previous week about music, movies, etc. Additional posts will show up throughout the week as I see fit. And now on with the post.

I decided to dedicate this post to Two Cow Garage. I wrote a small bit about them a while back when I was talking about cowpunk and alt-country. They have a new album coming out that I am excited about. Along with Jimmy Eat World, Bad Religion and Guster, it's one of my most anticipated albums coming up. I wrote about this when I first heard the news, but I always like helping to spread the word about bands that honestly deserve to be far more well-known then they currently are. The album is called Sweet Saint Me and will be officially released October 26th (expect to see a review of it here).

I first heard about Two Cow Garage when I was ordering something from Suburban Home Records (I think it was either Tim Barry or Josh Small). I saw the name and was intrigued, so I read the description of the album and just had to hear it (the album, by the way, was III, their appropriately titled third full length release). I loved the album and became a fan. But even if I wasn't familiar with the band I would still be interested in the album after reading a blog post about it from Virgil from Suburban Home. Virgil had nothing but good things to say about the band in general, and said that this album is his favorite work of all that they've done. He mentioned in the post that if he could, he would just take anyone reading it out for a pint so he could sit and talk to them about how much the band means to him. Suburban Home has put out some great records over the years, and they've given a lot back to the fans through amazing sales, great tours and celebrations for the label's birthdays. I have nothing but respect for Virgil, so if this band means that much to him, then I would have to check out the album.

The band are starting a tour in a few days to suppor the album. I was very excited to see Buffalo (about an hour from where I live) on the list. I was less excited that Dave Hause from Loved Ones is playing several dates, but stopping just before the Buffalo date. I would have loved to see him play. But still, the Buffalo date is good news to me because most of the bands I like have been skipping over Western New York lately. Here are the dates, copy-and-pasted directly from Suburban Homes:

9/25/10 Columbus, OH @ Rumba Cafe (ALBUM RELEASE SHOW FOR SWEET SAINT ME)
9/30/10 Newport, KY @ Parlour @ Southgate House
10/1/10 Nashville, TN @ The Basement
10/2/10 Oxford, MS @ Blind Pig – Oxford
10/5/10 Little Rock, AR @ White Water Tavern
10/6/10 Austin, TX @ Red 7
10/7/10 Dallas, TX @ Double Wide
10/8/10 Houston, TX @ Rudyard’s
10/9/10 Baton Rouge, LA @ North Gate Tavern
10/12/10 Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub w/ Dave Hause (of Loved Ones)
10/13/10 Gainesville, FL @ The Atlantic w/ Dave Hause (of Loved Ones)
10/14/10 Atlanta, GA @ MJQ’s Drunken Unicorn w/ Dave Hause (of Loved Ones)
10/15/10 West Columbia, SC @ New Brookland Tavern w/ Dave Hause (of Loved Ones)
10/16/10 Jacksonville, AL @ Brother’s Bar w/ Dave Hause (of Loved Ones)
10/17/10 Raleigh, NC @ King’s Barcade w/ Dave Hause (of Loved Ones)
10/18/10 Washington, D.C. @ Black Cat – Backstage w/ Dave Hause (of Loved Ones)
10/19/10 Newark, DE @ Mojo’s Main w/ Dave Hause (of Loved Ones)
10/20/10 Brooklyn, NY @ Union Hall w/ Dave Hause (of Loved Ones)
10/21/10 Providence, RI @ Club Hell w/ Dave Hause (of Loved Ones)
10/22/10 Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place w/ Cheap Girls, Carpenter
10/23/10 Erie, PA @ The Crooked I
11/3/10 Normal, IL @ Firehouse Pizza & Pub
11/5/10 Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock w/ The Evening Rig
11/7/10 Lawrence, KS @ Replay Lounge
11/8/10 Ft Collins, CO @ Surfside 7
11/9/10 Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive
11/10/10 Salt Lake City, UT @ Burt’s Tiki Lounge
11/12/10 Seattle, WA @ The Sunset Tavern
11/13/10 Bremerton, WA @ Winterland w/ I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In the House
11/14/10 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge w/ I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In the House, Olin & The Moon
11/15/10 Stockton, CA @ Plea for Peace Center w/ Olin & The Moon, Daniel Francis Doyle
11/17/10 San Diego, CA @ Ruby Room w/ Olin & The Moon
11/18/10 Los Angeles, CA @ Spaceland w/ Olin & The Moon
11/19/10 Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room w/ Olin & The Moon
11/21/10 Manhattan, KS @ Auntie Mae’s Parlor
11/22/10 St Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
11/23/10 Chicago, IL @ Schubas Tavern

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Album Review - Real Ghosts Caught On Tape

Fake Problems - Real Ghosts Caught On Tape (SideOneDummy 2010)

Fake Problems have made a lot of progress in a very short time. Their first album, 2007's How Far Our Bodies Go, was a modern classic of folk-punk, cementing them firmly in the place of Against Me!, who had already abandoned the genre. They followed that up with their 2009 SideOneDummy debut, It's Great To Be Alive. On their second album, Fake Problems traded their acoustic guitars for electric and traded the folk prefix for pop. The difference in styles between the two albums is very noticeable, but both are unmistakably the work of a unique band.

That uniqueness carries over to their new album, Real Ghosts Caught On Tape. The band is now far removed from their folk-punk origins, fully embracing the pop side of punk rock. After listening to the album, I read some reviews, and several of them mentioned the 60's pop vibe. I fully agree. As I was listening I kept thinking, "it's like a modern day Kinks." Like, imagine if Ray Davies grew up on The Ramones, and that's kinda how the album sounds. "Soulless" in particular sounds like a proto-punk gem with a somewhat modernized sound. Yet for all the retro feel, this is a distinctively 21st century punk album. As we begin the second decade of the new millenium, I wouldn't be surprised if more punk albums started sounding like this. I hope not, because I hate cookie-cutter bands, but there are worse styles to be copying.

The album is full of fun beats and great guitar parts. "Songs For Teenagers," "Complaint Dept," and "The Magazines" especially have some very catchy, melodic lead guitar lines, while "5678," "White Lies," and "Grand Finale" have fun, danceable drums parts. This is an album that is going to sound great live. Especially "5678," which has an odd vocal effect that hopefully won't be used in concert (it's actually the only complain I have about the album).

The real strength (for me at least) is in the lyrics. Frontman Chris Farren writes some great lines. And the lyrical themes shift throughout the album, from depressing themes like self-doubt ("If confidence is key I must be locked out of the house") and addiction ("looking for drugs in all the wrong places," "I spent every last dime in a stranger's trunk"), to more positive themes like cautious optimism ("The future is brighter than you'll ever know now that we're on our own") and salvation ("I was soulless, broken down, hollow as a ghost, but you have brought me back to life and revived the hope").

Overall, it's a great album, and I recommend it. To anyone. And everyone.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Social Network 5 Song Sampler

Not much of a post today, just wanted to put the word out for anyone that hasn't heard yet.

It was announced a while ago that musical genius Trent Reznor and long-time collaborator Atticus Ross were picked to write the score for the upcoming Facebook movie, The Social Network. I've been looking forward to this movie since I first heard about it, and that excitement was heightened by an article in this month's Wired issue. The issue quoted David Fincher as describing the movie as "the Citizen Kane of John Hughes movies," and the article's writer several times refers to it as "Citizen Zuck" (after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg).

Anyways, though I love Trent Reznor I was a bit skeptical at first, thinking his unique take on music would be an odd fit. But that was before they released a 5 song sampler for free download. The songs are great. I don't usually like instrumental music, but I could listen to these all day. The sampler has erased my doubts completely.

The full soundtrack will be released later this month digitally and in October physically from the Null Corporation (while you're at the site, check out Reznor's new project, How To Destroy Angels). There are a variety of ways to get the album, including a super-cheap digital copy on Amazon for a limited time. Check out the site for more details.

I know this wasn't a super exciting post, so I'll add a bit. Here's a video Punknews posted of Fake Problems covering Blink 182's "Dammit" (from the Dude Ranch album) with Brian Fallon of my favorite band in the world, The Gaslight Anthem. Chris Farren even throws in a little endorsement for higher education.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Some stories and posts from the past week that caught my attention:

Brian Fallon's new album
The Gaslight Anthem is my favorite band in the world. So when I heard that frontman Brian Fallon was working on a new album I was ecstatic. The description sounds pretty interesting too: "I would like to make a record people can listen to in the night time. I think I'd like to do that with a band name and some friends where we can dress like the Bad Seeds, in suits." No other details yet, but I eagerly await news.

Alaska makes it harder to be a librarian?
New laws in Alaska meant to protect children may make it harder for librarians to serve their purpose of facilitating the flow of information. I agree with keeping children safe, but sometimes people can go too far, and this might be one of those times.

Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury?
Sacha Baron Cohen may be playing Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in an upcoming movie about the band. I admire Cohen's commitment to his roles, fully submersing himself in the character. But the Borat movie got old to me very quickly, and Bruno just annoyed me, so I do look forward to him not relying on stereotypes and shock value for cheap laughs.

New My Chemical Romance album
Ok, so this isn't really brand new. They announced they were working on this album a while ago. But they just recently announced the release date, as well as the title: Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys. I liked Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge and to a lesser degree I Brought You My Bullets You Brought Me Your Love, but I wasn't too cray about The Black Parade. They've been saying in interviews that it's more like their older work, so I'll willingly give it a listen when it comes out.

Sex Pistols song in betting company ad
What is with the Sex Pistols lately? I agree that there's a fine line between making money from your music through ways other than concerts and merchandise and selling out, but for a band that used to resist things like this so much to suddenly be doing so much of it is kinda ridiculous.

Less Than Jake's new album/EP thing
Less Than Jakes's new release, TV/EP, sounds pretty awesome. 16 songs in 13 minutes, meant to give the same impression as flipping through channels. I cannot wait for this album. They've posted a stream of one of the songs, the theme song from Animaniacs. You can listen to it here.

A few other stories:
Bomb The Music Industry plays The Blue Album & Pinkerton
Rise Against enter the studio to record new album
I'm Still Here (Joaquin Phoenix documentary) a fake
University assigns freshmen "personal librarians"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Album Review - Demos (Matt Skiba)

Matt Skiba - Demos (Asian Man Records 2010)

I wrote a few days ago about my favorite split releases, and one of the ones I wrote about was Matt Skiba's split with Kevin Seconds. I've been an Alkaline Trio fan for years, and while I enjoy Dan Andriano, Skiba is by far my favorite member. So I was very excited when I heard a while back that he was releasing a whole album of solo work. I was lucky enough to see Alk3 at Warped Tour and picked up a copy of the album before it was officially on sale. And, as expected, I loved every minute of it.

The album has a different sound and style than the Kevin Seconds split. That release was all acoustic guitar, bass and drums (recorded by Skiba). Demos is more in line with his work with Josiah Steinbrick in the side project Heavens. I was expecting more like the split, so the various electric instruments and drum machines caught me a bit by surprise. In a good way, though.

The album is a collection of home demos Skiba recorded, and they do sound homemade. Some of the instruments sound almost strained, as though the equipment couldn't handle the audio levels. The vocals on some tracks especially sound a bit distorted, but I can't tell if they were meant to sound that way or if it was the limitation of the equipment. It doesn't matter either way, though, because Skiba makes it work. Every limitation or flaw just adds to the overall sound, which makes Skiba something of a musical genius in my mind.

I would definitely recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of Alkaline Trio, Heavens, the split, or just good music in general. The stand out tracks for me include "You Didn't Feel A Thing," "Haven't You," and "Special," which is the closest to the sound of the split.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Favorite Sequels

I've been reading about some sequels that I've been looking forward to lately. I'm not against the idea of sequels, as long as they make sense. People mock the Saw sequels, but I think they've been taking an interesting route by building the back story and concurrent storylines. As long as it builds up to a solid end (and they actually end it like they say they will), then the sequels will be well worth it. On the other hand, I thought The Matrix  held up well on its own and the second two were unnecessary. And Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day actually made me like the original a little bit less.

Here are some of my favorite sequels:

The Godfather Pt. 2 (Paramount Pictures 1974)
My favorite sequel of all time, ever. The Godfather Pt 2 actually is about equal parts sequel, as it not only continues the story of Michael Corleone's rule over the Corleone crime empire, it also tells the story of Vito Corleone's rise to power. In my opinion, it's one of few sequels that are better than the original. Not an easy feat considering how amazing the original was.

The Devil's Rejects (Lion's Gate Film 2005)
I love Rob Zombie. I borderline worship the man and his work. So there's no way I wouldn't watch this movie. And of course I loved it. The sequel to Zombie's directorial debut (not counting music videos for his solo work and his old band White Zombie) House Of 1000 Corpses, the film finds the surviving members of the Firefly family on the run from the brother of the cop from the first film. Stylistically it's brighter than House, but in tone it takes a major turn in darkness. While I loved House, when you compare the two it's obvious that the first was Zombie's first movie and that he was more experienced for the second.

Weekend At Bernies II (TriStar Pictures 1993)
"The first movie was about wo guys that act like their dead boss is still alive so they can party at his beach party. How can we make the sequel even more bizarre and far-fetched?" "How about if he comes back from the dead just a little bit to show them where he hid the money he stole?" I love this sequel because it takes an already ludicrous premise and makes it even more ridiculous. It's just campy fun.

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (Orion Pictures 1991)
Same as the above. Not content with leaving Bill and Ted getting an A in history at the end of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Orion Pictures sent them on a journey through the afterlife in the sequel. Teaming up with an alien(s?) and Death (in a humorous nod to Bergman's The Seventh Seal), Bill and Ted have to defeat the robots that killed them and win the battle of the bands. Hilarious.

Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (Warner Bros 1995)
Same basic idea as the first, just with a different movies. Jim Carrey likes animals more than people and makes a lot of silly faces and noises. Still, a fun watch.

Addam's Family Values (Paramount Pictures 1995)
I seem to really like early 90's films. I really like what they did with the story on this one. A way to add a new element without destroying everything for later movies. Of course, then they ruined it in the later movies.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Album Review - Hurley

Weezer - Hurley (Epitaph 2010)

There are some Weezer fans that will never get past Pinkerton. For them, every album since then has been a huge disappointment. I feel kinda bad for them. Weezer may not be rewriting that album, but the music they make isn't any less good. Hurley is a great album, from start to finish.

The name and cover art are kinda weird. But, as Punknews pointed out, they aren't the first punk band to do something like this. Honestly, I don't really care how odd it might be, the music is what matters to me. And Weezer brought some great songs to the table for this album. 7 previous albums and signing to Epitaph after their history with Geffen haven't caused them to lose any steam.

"Memories," the album's kick-off track and first single, is a high energy ode to the band's history. "Where's My Sex?" is just plain weird. "Smart Girls," about a fetish for smart girls, stands out in a pop culture where little is valued over looks. These are just a few of the stand out tracks, but the whole album is high energy and fun, with some great lyrics.

I don't really have too much more to say about it. It's just a good album in general. I really do feel bad for the Pinkerton fans that can't move on like Weezer did.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Favorite Split Releases

Split releases are fun. If you like one of the artists but haven't heard the other, it can be a great way to hear the other artist. For bands, it can be a great way to help out other bands gain exposure to your fans, or a great way to get the other band's fans listening to your music. And if you've heard both bands, then it's just a new release, which is always fun. So here are some of my favorite split releases:

NOFX/Rancid - BYO Split Series Vol 3 (BYO 2002)
For their entry into BYO Records' series of split EPs, NOFX and Rancid decided to cover each other's songs. Rancid do a great job covering NOFX with "Bob" and "Don't Call Me White," while NOFX shine with their reinterpretations of "Olympia WA" and "Corazon de Oro."

Alkaline Trio/Hot Water Music (Jade Tree 2002)
Chicago pop-punkers Alkaline Trio turned in two original songs and a HWM cover ("Rooftops") for the split. "Queen Of Pain" is one of my favorite Alk3 songs. Gainesville's Hot Water Music also released two original songs, but two Alkaline Trio covers for their half ("Bleeder" and "Radio"). Like "Queen Of Pain" for Alk3, "God Deciding" is one of my favorite HWM songs. Both bands released their half later on their respective rarities collections (Remains by Alk3, Til The Wheels Fall Off by HWM) so if you're a fan I'd recommend getting those instead.

Andrew Jackson Jihad/Ghost Mice (Plan-It-X 2007)
I picked this up after hearing good things about both bands and wanting to give both a listen. Aside from the split format, it's just a regular release from both bands with nothing special. But it's good music, so that's fine.

Reel Big Fish/Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer - Duet All Night Long (Reignition 2007)
6 songs, 3 by each band. All 6 songs are covers, but the vocalists from both bands sing on each song (hence the "Duet" of the title). Reel Big Fish are at their best on "Ask," originally by The Smiths, while ZtR&RD play "Don't You Want Me" better than the Human League original.

Matt Skiba/Kevin Seconds (Asian Man 2002)
Matt Skiba (guitarist/vocalist of Alkaline Trio) and Kevin Seconds (of 7Seconds) try out their solo work. Skiba's songs are great, Seconds's aren't as great but still really good. Both play acoustic guitars backed by drums and bass guitar (Skiba recorded his own, not sure about Seconds).

Dan Andriano/Mike Felumlee (Double Zero 2002)
Alkaline Trio's other singer (and bass player) Dan Andriano teamed up like Matt Skiba for a split with former Smoking Popes drummer turned solo artist Mike Felumlee. Felumlee also drummed for Alkaline Trio for a short time before Derek Grant joined the band. I don't like this split as much as the Skiba/Seconds split, but it's still good.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

I liked last Friday's post, where I just talked about some movie, music, etc news stories throughout the week that caught my eye, so I thought I'd make that the Friday post from now on. All the stories I found interesting throughout the previous week.

New Two Cow Garage album
Cowpunkers Two Cow Garage have announced their new album, as well as a tour. And the tour stops in Buffalo! Which means I need to use a vacation day at work. And as icing on the cake, The Punk Site posted this story about how the band will be releasing download codes for the first single on Polaroids. How cool is that?

Bruce Campbell wants to make the sequel to My Name Is Bruce like The Expendables
There is nothing about his description of the movie that I didn't like.

Second Edition of American Hardcore
American Hardcore is a book that came out a few years ago chronicling the American hardcore punk scene. Now a new edition is coming out with additional chapters, updated chapters and new interviews. This is great, I've been wanting to read this book, so now I'll just wait for the second edition.

Green Lantern Trilogy and The Flash
The Flash isn't really big news to me, but a friend of mine has recently gotten me interested in Green Lantern, so I'm excited about that upcoming film. And like I said yesterday, I like the idea of a movie company working on something larger. So intentionally working on it as a trilogy definitely makes me more interested than one movie and infinite sequels.

Chinese Woman Sues Theater
A lady in China has sued movie distributers for "wasting her time" by showing advertisements before a movie. Her complain isn't the trailers (that's one of the best parts of seeing a movie in theaters!) but with regular commercials that have become a trend in theaters. She wants twice the ticket price plus a bit more for emotional distress. I agree that those commercials are a bit annoying, but I think suing is a bit of an overreaction. Maybe they're more annoying in Chinese theaters.

Poster for MegaMind
They snagged it from Filmofilia, but The Movie Blog posted character posters for the upcoming MegaMind. I don't care if people are saying its the same basic idea as Despicable Me, I still want to see this movie. And I love movie posters, so seeing character-specific posters raises my attention in the movie more.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chis Evens as Captain America

Not sure when the news broke about this, but The Movie Blog posted a story today about the first pictures from the set of the upcoming Captain America film. The pictures show Chris Evens' stuntman in the much talked-about Captain American suit. Exciting times for comic book nerds. I'm not that familiar with the character, so the suit looks pretty much like I thought it would based on what I have seen.

I don't really care about Captain America. I'll probably see it with friends, but I'm more excited about the overall reach of the current Marvel movies. With the Iron Man, Hulk, now Captain America and soon Thor movies all leading up to the eventual Avengers movie, Marvel is attempting something pretty big. With all the unending franchises Holly churns out, sequel after sequel with no end in sight, I'm excited about a company actually planning something like this so many movies at once. And I loved the Iron Man and Hulk movies so far on their own, so I can't wait to see the end result. If they keep up the way they have been, there's sure to be a great payoff.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Uplifting Punk Songs, Part 2

Part 2 of my post on uplifting, motivational or inspirational punk songs.

5) Switchfoot - "Dare You To Move" (The Beautiful Letdown, Columbia 2003)
 This is one my two favorite Switchfoot songs, and just a good song to listen to anytime. Medium-hard but downtempo and melodic. Since I finished working on my Masters degree back in May, I've been having trouble finding a job in my field. This song is one of the three songs (along with "True North" and "The Greater Plan," both by Shelter) that have played a big part in keeping me motivated.

4) Rancid - "Fall Back Down" (Indestructible, Hellcat/Warner Bros 2003)
Tim Armstrong hit a pretty dark place when his wife, Brody Dalle, divorced him. His friends and bandmates in Rancid helped him out, and he wrote a song about it. "Fall Back Down," from what just might be Rancid's least fan-accepted album, is a tribute to the community that exists in the punk scene and the support you get from friends. The video featured Kelly Osbourne and one of the twins from Good Charlotte, but it's a good song anyway.

3) Shelter - "True North" (The Purpose, The Passion, Supersoul 2001)
This is the song that inspired me to start building this list months ago. Shelter were one of the more well known bands to emerge from the Krishnacore movement of 80's and 90's hardcore, blending hardcore sounds with ISKCON philosophies. There are other songs that could have made this list (such as "Mantra" or "The Greater Plan"), but "True North" stands out to me as a truly inspirational punk song. Over a relatively poppy hardcore background, Ray Cappo discusses the importance of having direction in your life and how that direction can give you the strength to push on through obstacles.

2) Rise Against - "Built To Last" (Our Impact Will Be Felt, Abacus 2007)
This is actually a Sick Of It All song that Rise Against recorded for Our Impact Will Be Felt, a Sick Of It All tribute album. I have the original song (along with the album of the same name), but when I'm in need of uplifting punk songs the Rise Against version just hits me better. "Built To Last" is a hardcore anthem that I would love to hear live someday, in which Tim McIlrath (Lou Koller in the original) declares that "[their] impact will be felt" because they're built to last.

1) Jimmy Eat World - "The Middle" (Bleed American, Dreamworks 2001)
"True North" may have inspired me to start this list, but "The Middle" immediately hit the top 5 and kept climbing as I revised it. The song delivers the plain, straightforward message of being yourself no matter what anyone else things. The video is an interesting way of illustrating the point, depicting a teenage house party. Everyone at the party is only wearing underwear, except for one fully clothed teen obviously feeling out of place. Just as he gives in and begins taking off his clothes, he finds a girl who has likewise decided to give in to the trend, and both of them change their minds and leave.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Uplifting Punk Songs, Part 1

Throughout its over 30 year history, there have been varying definitions of what punk is. A specific sound, a specific lyrical content, a specific philosophy, etc. On the philosophical side, there seem to be two main ideas. Some argue that punk rock is about being loud and angry and doing what you can to screw up the system. "Live fast, die young." Others argue that punk rock is about living life for yourself. Not necessarily in the selfish sense, but living life the way you think you should and doing what you think is right. I've always been more on the second side of the fence. In tribute to that, here is part one of my list of the top 10 uplifting, motivational, inspirational punk songs ever written, or at least the top 10 in my iTunes library.

(for the purposes of this list, I've taken a somewhat loose interpretation of "punk" in terms of musical style)

10) The Dollyrots - "Because I'm Awesome" (Because I'm Awesome, Blackheart Records 2007)
Female-fronted power pop trio The Dollyrots caught my attention because of the title of their second album. I saw the American Idol-parodying video on Fuse and loved it. Seems to me like it might have been written as a "you don't deserve me" post-breakup song. The semi-tongue-in-cheek insistance of the singer that she's awesome makes this a self-empowering anthem that's fun to listen to.

9) Black Flag - "Rise Above" (Damaged, SST 1981)
Damaged was Black Flag's first album, preceded by a handful of EPs (including the amazing Nervous Breakdown and Jealous Again), and was also their first release with Henry Rollins on vocals. The first song, "Rise Above," was a powerful blast of hardcore, the kind that Black Flag fans had come to expect. Lyrically, the song encouraged listeners to rise above the limits and expectations of the world around them. As far as Black Flag songs go, it's only my fourth favorite (after "Nervous Breakdown," "Fix Me" and "Jealous Again"), but it's still a defining moment of hardcore, and a great song.

8) Bouncing Souls - "We All Sing Along" (Ghosts On The Boardwalk, Chunksaah 2010 / 20th Anniversary Series Volume 1, Chunksaah 2009)
"We All Sing Along" was originally released digitally as part of The Bouncing Souls' 20th anniversary series (to celebrate 20 years as a band, they released one song per month through all of 2009, with an extra song for people that bought a subscription for the year), then was collected in the first of four vinyls collecting those songs. In 2010, the band released all those songs as the album Ghosts On The Boardwalk. There are other songs that I could easily have put on this list ("True Believers," "Born Free" and "Sing Along Forever" just to name a few), but "We All Sing Along" stands as an empowering songs about finding comfort in the idea that we're all in this together. Your plans may fall apart and your life may not turn out like you wanted, but in the end "we all share one heart song, we all sing along." For a short time I considered getting this as a tattoo, before finally deciding to not get any tattoos.

7) Ben Weasel - "True Heart Of Love" (Fidatevi, Panic Button 2002)
After Screeching Weasel broke up again after the release of Teen Punks In Heat and before The Riverdales reformed to record Phase 3, Ben Weasel decided to record an album on his own (well, actually with Dan Vapid and some others). The result was Fidatevi, a rough-edged pop-punk masterpiece. The second track, "Tue Heart Of Love," finds Weasel advising that "to love someone, you've got to love yourself" and encouraging compassion. I highly recommend that you listen to it, then go listen to Screeching Weasel, Boogada Boogada Boogada, My Brain Hurts, and Weasel's second album These Ones Are Bitter.

6) Armor For Sleep - "Today" (The Killer In You, Reignition 2005)
Armor For Sleep didn't write this song, but since this is the version that is in my iTunes library I think it's a valid entry. AFS recorded the song, originally by Smashing Pumpkins, for a tribute album called The Killer In You. Oddly, I like AFS more for What To Do When You Are Dead, a concept album about a man regretting his suicide. But on this song, they shine through with the message of living for today. At least that's how I interpret it, as it seems like it could easily be interpreted differently.

Tomorrow I'll continue with the second part of the list. I'll have just gotten out of work, so I'll definitely be in the mood for some uplifting songs.

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Music

I don't really have much to write about today, so I thought I'd share some bands I've started listening to over the past few months. Some are old, some are more recent.

How To Destroy Angels
When Trent Reznor announced that he would be retiring Nine Inch Nails as a touring entity, a lot of fans were wondering what his next move would be. It turned out to be a collaborative project with his wife (Atticus Ross is involved but I'm not sure of his status as a member of the group). The new group is somewhat reminiscent of NIN but very unique, and I highly recommend it. Their EP is available for free download on the site.

The Mighty Regis
I wrote about these guys a few weeks ago when I reviewed their album 21. They play a blend of punk rock and Irish folk. They do a pretty good job bringing a unique sound to a by now over saturated genre.

Fiddler's Green
Another Celtcore (they call themselves "speed folk") band. A friend got me listening to them when I was telling him about The Mighty Regis and he thought I might like them. They've got a live DVD out now called Folk's Not Dead that I want to check out.

Female-fronted pop rock. I started listening to them thanks to their inclusion on the Scott Pilgrim vs The World soundtrack, as well as their singer's role in the film itself. So far I only have their album Fantasies, but it's pretty good.

Dan Padilla
"The band not the man," as they describe themselves. I want to do a post at some point soon about my favorite free albums (as in, the band released it online for free, not pirated) and Dan Padilla's As The Ox Plows will most likely be on that list. I first heard about them from ThePunkSite, who listed the album in their free music blog. Pretty good punk rock, sort of a Gaslight Anthem meets Rancid sound.

The National
A friend of mine gave me a link to a site that was hosting a stream of "Bloodbuzz Ohio" from their new album High Violet and I got hooked. Melodic indie rock, and the singer has an enchanting (for lack of a better word) baritone voice.

Terrible Things
Terrible Things is the new project from Fred Mascherino (Taking Back Sunday, Breaking Pangea, et al). This time he's joined by former members of Coheed & Cambria (Josh Eppard) and Hot Rod Circuit (Andy Jackson).

I haven't listened to them enough to have anything to say about them yet, but I recently downloaded (more free music from bands, yay!) albums from Black Sails Western Shores, Arliss Nancy, Sour Boy Bitter Girl, Beat Noir and Johnny Rev from Death To False Hope Records.

Friday, September 3, 2010

News that I missed

Had some problems with my Internet the past few days, hence no posts. First thing I did was catch up on blogs, news feeds, etc, that I missed in that time. Here are some of the more interesting bits:

Gaiman's Sandman possibly heading to the small screen.
There have been rumors off an on for over a decade that a feature film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's DC/Vertigo Sandman comic book series. It'd be difficult to do, and would probably need to be several films to get the whole story in. I realized in terror the other day that if they were to make one, Johnny Depp would probably be cast in the role of Dream (no offense to Depp, I just don't think he'd be right for the part). However, it appears that Warner Bros are in talks to make it a television series, which could work. The "book" format of NBC's Heroes and Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender could be adapted, perhaps with each season being one volume from the 10 volume collection of the series. There's also a rich backstory and supplemental books for spinoffs (I would love to see Joss Whedon handle Death: The High Cost Of Living). At first, I was skeptical, but now I would love for this to happen.

Updates on the release of Diaspora.
I heard about Diaspora a while ago, but I missed this update. Not too much new, but it increases my excitement about the project. Diaspora is an open-source alternative to Facebook. Started in response to the increasing criticism of Facebook's privacy policies among other policies, Diaspora was created by two college students and I guess is more customizable than Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, contribute money to the policy, but that might be a PR move rather than interest in the project.

You need a Masters degree to be a librarian?
LISNews posted this article about the differences between library paraprofessionals and librarians. I intend to share this article every time someone asks me what you learn at library school, since my own explanations seem to leave them confused.

Apple: Ping and new version of iTunes.
The new version of iTunes came out this week. I just downloaded it and I think it looks pretty neat. I like the new design (overall it's the same, but with some changes to small details). Besides the new look, I haven't really explored yet to see if there are any new features other than Ping. Ping is a new social aspect of iTunes that is opt-in through the iTunes store. You can share what you listen to and follow friends to see what they're listening to or artists to see what they're up to. I haven't really explored Ping's possibilities yet, but I'm excited.

The Pogues throwing in the towel.
World-renowned folk punk band The Pogues are going on a last tour then quitting. But as the article points out, they've quit before, and the band say the last show of the tour won't be the band's last show, so it might not really be that big of a news story. The Pogues were the third Celtcore band I ever heard, second that I actually recognized as Celtcore, and also wrote one of my favorite sad Christmas songs ever ("A Fairy Tale Of New York"), so I hope it's not really the end.

Tom DeLonge on the new Blink 182 album.
Tom Delonge recently spoke about the direction of the long-anticipated followup to Blink 182's experimental self-titled album, released shortly before the band went on hiatus. I really liked the direction the last album was taking. It shed a bit of the pop-punk appeal of earlier work, which I did like, but removed some of the adolescent humor that I always felt kinda hindered them (always seemed to me that they were too talented to be relying on fart jokes). With time off spent on side projects, I look forward to this new album.