Sunday, November 20, 2016

I'm back...sort of. And RIP Sharon Jones.

Hello! Don't worry, I remember I have a blog and I have a responsibility to it. At least I want to have a responsibility to it.

I haven't written in a while and I hate when that happens. I usually try to at least post once or twice a month if I'm in a dry spell. But October was nuts - I went to New York City and saw Watsky, which was great, and then one of my best friends got married which took up a lot of time and preparation for it. So I was pretty busy. I thought "Oh, I'll get back to it in November!" And we all know what happened in the beginning of November in the United States...Election Day.

I am one of those who is unhappy with the outcome and I continue to struggle with the decision that my fellow citizens have decided. Or I guess really, what the electoral college has decided for us, huh? that happened and I've been doing nothing but reading about it and trying to do anything I can to help the cause of checks and balances. I will continue to do so for the next four years.

But the reason why I'm posting today is partially to be like, "hey, don't leave, I'm here and this blog is still kickin" and partially to talk about Sharon Jones, who passed away on Friday from her battle with pancreatic cancer since 2013. I loved her, not sure if you know but I have mentioned her a couple times on this blog. She was someone who was doing her own thing and bringing soul back to the millennium. The music she made with the dap kings was incendiary and I, at least, will never forget it.

Talking with people in my life in the last couple of days, they had no idea about her greatness - a lot of people didn't know her. Which is kind of surprising (considering some of these people are very musically aware), sad and makes me think, "well I need to share her music with as many people as I can." So that's what I'll do. Yesterday at work, I played parts of her Christmas album and most of I Learned the Hard Way.

In a strange twist, I'm going to relate that message with the election for a minute. If this election has taught me anything, it's that if I want people to know shit and if I'm expecting more from people, I should inform them about it. I've been in the mindset I think a lot of millennials have been in for a while which is, "why try? It doesn't do anything." Which is a notion I still struggle with. But if you don't do anything, how do you know it doesn't work? How can you just assume people won't listen?  PERHAPS this is why we're in the predicament we're in - because people stopped talking to each other.

Sharon Jones' death hit me hard - pretty much equal to the remorse I felt over Bowie, dare I say maybe even more. She was such a strong woman and her music really reflected that. I regret not seeing her live - she's been around Albany a couple of times but it just didn't happen. Even knowing she had pancreatic cancer I was like, "she's gonna be around for years!" because that's how she acted. She never ever showed weakness or seemed like she was slowing down - if anything, she went full force. And I really have always admired her for that. She just never gave up. And I'm going to really miss her and her music.

And just for funsies, here is "The Game Gets Old" for your listening pleasure.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Thoughts...part II

I wrote a post earlier in the year just listing songs I've been listening to lately. I'd like to do that again because to be honest, it's a little all over the place...

 1. Angel Olsen "Shut Up and Kiss Me" - her album MY WOMAN (which came out September 2,) is awesome. Very different from Burn Your Fire for No Witness but still very good and it still sounds like her. I just saw her in Hudson, NY a couple days ago at Basilica Soundscape and she's even more impressive live - I love when that happens!

2. Sia (feat. Kendrick Lamar - OF COURSE, am I right?) "The Greatest"

3. Against Me! "Crash"

4. K. Flay "Blood in the Cut"

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Jimmy Eat World Announced Ninth Album

Jimmy Eat World has announced their ninth studio album release, Integrity Blues! The announcement was technically on August 30 but, I've got a life, leave me alone!!!

I'm very excited for it - the first two singles "Get Right" and "Sure and Certain" are perfection. Take a listen below. The album releases October 21.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I want to listen to Watsky...Where Do I Start?

So I've been listening to x Infinity like all day, every day. It's a great album and I think rapper George Watsky really dug deep into his interior to create this, and it really shows. His fourth full length album and first to reach the Billboard top Rap album chart (!!!) is different from his previous work but still the same, if that can make sense. You can tell when listening to the album that it's him, he's still witty, still poignant and still making really solid, catchy hooks but he's also paradoxically showing this maturity and growth in his music. It's really cool to see, especially if you know Watsky's discography...and if you don't know, you're in luck, because I've created a list of songs you should start out with if you want to get into Watsky! Yay segue's!

This isn't on the list but I feel like I should include it since this is kind of where it all started: 
"Pale Kid Raps Fast"
This video became what we call "YouTube viral". Before this, he was doing spoken word/slam poetry shows across the United States at college campuses and also competed in various spoken word competitions. Around the time this video became viral, he was also trying to make progress in his music career and the rest is history! Anyway... 

"Hercules" - Watsky (2009) - This is a song I just started listening to more and more. It's actually about Watsky's family involvement in Hercules Inc., a chemical and munitions manufacturing company. While he's telling the story, he's also explaining his drive and determination to be "just like Hercules"...the Greek hero as well as the company...strong, successful and talented. I think he's accomplished all three of those things since he's recorded this.

"IDGAF" - Nothing Like the First Time (2012) - This is definitely the top of my list of songs I'll give to someone who has never listened to Watsky. It's just a light hearted romp that speaks the truth. There's not really much to say about it, it just has to be heard...and seen (the video is awesomely weird).

"Stupidass" - Nothing Like the First Time (2012) - This is a song I don't think a lot of people would include on this list but for some reason, I love it. The "some dudes'll front 'how do you do, mama?'" part just always gets me. The video is a little gross but I can appreciate it. Also, this song is one of the many references to his formally beloved Subaru...which he recently just gave away as a contest prize during press for x Infinity! I'm wondering if he's still going to talk about it in his songs just for traditions sake.

"Wounded Healer" - Nothing Like the First Time (2012) - Another one of my favorite songs by him and a top pick for songs I like to have people listen to when they've never heard Watsky before. The instrumental is a sample from Deer Tick called, "Baltimore Blues No. 1" and it's one of his very few samples he uses in his music (at least samples from music that is popular). When asked what inspired this song during a Reddit AMA he said: "my father's best friend committed suicide last year. they were both psychotherapists who got into the field to help others deal with problems they both had when they were younger. 'wounded healer' is a term my dad used to describe therapists with previous life trauma." He also has more about this in his new book How To Ruin Everything which is definitely worth a read and is inspiring and heartbreaking just like this song.

"Strong as an Oak" - Cardboard Castles (2013) - Whenever I feel like I want to just go back to bed and not deal with life or people, I listen to "Strong as an Oak." And then I can function as a human again.

"Moral of the Story" - Cardboard Castles (2013) - "But if you got a goal you gotta hold onto it that what hope is / If I didn't have it I would ask you where the rope is". Contrary to the lyric I just quoted, this is Watsky's "Loose Yourself" - it gets you hyped up and ready to do the things you're nervous to do. Whether it's a job interview, waking up in the morning or maybe it's both. "Moral of the Story" will make you feel like you can do that..."'till your arms fall off, till your abs get hard and your bone's all soft."

"Hey Asshole" (feat. Kate Nash) - Cardboard Castles (2013) - To be honest, this is just a cute, funny song and I don't have much to say about it. It definitely should be on the list because it's one of his catchier songs and there's a vast majority of music listeners who I think, would dig this. It also shows his versatility as a songwriter. Plus, it's featuring Kate Nash and she's pretty awesome!

"Whoa Whoa Whoa" - All You Can Do (2014) - Another great example of his songwriting as well as his rhyming skills. He does say in this song that his skills are "highly honed." I'll let you find out what the lyric before that is! He definitely toys with word play here - my favorite being: "I'll jump the freeway median, I'm savage/ Cause my mode is that I'm meaner than the average" also in reference to you know, Math. Oh yeah, also, also...I spy Bo Burnham!! I realized after watching this before writing this paragraph, dude is an instigator like whoa in this - he's giving George the gasoline, the lighter...he's just a big pyro in this, huh? And I'll also shout out Chinaka Hodge who is absolutely fantastic and the girl with George and Bo in the beginning. Hodge is a fellow Bay Area slam poet. She actually was featured on a song on Cardboard Castles called "Kill a Hipster", which is great and is very relatable to an almost 30-year-old who doesn't like to admit she's a hipster but totally is, and also makes an appearance on Watsky's new album ("Exquisite Corpse" - another great one).

"Never Let it Die" - All You Can Do (2014) - This is one of my favorite songs, period. Like, just in general. Similar to "Moral of the Story," it's a song I like to listen to when I'm feeling down or when I need a pick me up. I love the end where he says: "We won't surrender, we'll wipe the blood up with the White flag." So epic! The video is pretty great too!

"Tiny Glowing Screens Part 3" - x Infinity (2016) - Wow, I'm finally getting to x Infinity! This list turned out to be much longer than I thought, just like I thought the Ryan Adams list would be. Anyway, yes, there is a Part 1 and 2 of "Tiny Glowing Screens" and they're awesome, especially Part 2, which is a spoken word poem rather than a song. But "Tiny Glowing Screens Part 3" is probably one of the best introductions to an album I've ever heard. Again, it gets you pumped. You're like, "yes, let's continue this journey and listen to more music on this album. I'll pour us a couple more scotches."

"Talking to Myself" - x Infinity (2016) - This is a great example of Watsky showing his growth as he progresses as an artist. I feel like this song is what "Wounded Healer" evokes, like they're fraternal twins of each other, but "Talking to Myself" is written in a more general sense. The lyrics are so genuine and real, the day that Watsky is describing you could have had last week. I also love the "how ya feelin' today?" part in the background throughout the song. And again, the video is something to watch too. The dancer in the video choreographed this as well.

"Yes Britannia" - x Infinity (2016) - There hasn't been a video for this song released yet, but I hope there will be soon because it might shed some light on what exactly this song is about. A lot of people who are Watsky fans online are speculating it could be about a relationship he had with a British person, about a lawsuit he dealt with in England while he was performing during the Warped Tour in 2013 or it could be about both - the verses are interchangeable and it does seem like one verse could be about one story and the next verse is about another. So, who knows. But it's a great song - reminds me of something that would be on All You Can Do.

"Stick to Your Guns" (feat. Julia Nunes)- x Infinity (2016) - An important song in his discography. I'm not going to get political on this blog so I'll just let you listen to it and decide if you like it. Plus, Julia Nunes!

"Brave New World" (feat. Chaos Chaos) - x Infinity (2016) - I'm really into this song right now - it's put together so delicately but it doesn't sound delicate. The Chaos Chaos hook is awesome. And it again, shows growth in his lyrics and in his music. He's telling a story with his song and that is something a lot of musicians don't know how to do. It's not a requirement to be a good musician but it certainly helps.


Before I'm done writing this...I have to add one more...damn, it's so hard to make lists for me. I just want to include EVERYTHING! Just listen to Watsky, how about that?

It's an honorable mention from Nothing Like the First Time and is sampling Diddy & Dirty Money's "Coming Home" which is a guilty pleasure of mine...although I guess I'm not really too guilty if I just admitted it, am I?

 "4 AM (Monday)" - Nothing Like the First Time (2012)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The VMAs: What the Actual Expletive

I don't even know how to start this post. First, here's what I wrote on my personal Facebook because I can't quite sum it up any better than this:
So I usually watch the VMA's every year because of my music nerdiness but I didn't make a point to watch it this year since last year pissed me off so much. But of course, I was curious and looked at the award winners/nominations and it can be pretty much summed up into three words: Beyoncé, Rihanna and Drake. I will admit, Beyoncé's album is really good and I like all three of these artists to a point, but I feel like every year the scope of music that gets represented at this damn award show just gets smaller and smaller. If you look at the winners/nominees from 2010 or even 2013, you'll notice it. And you might think "oh it's MTV who gives a crap," but the importance of this is, MTV still has such a huge impact on teens and teens are not being exposed to what's out there. MTV was one of the venues I used to get new music as a teen, listen/watch new bands...and crazy enough, some of them were rock, punk, soul and jazz influenced. That doesn't get played on MTV anymore and that's a problem for the music industry and for our culture - what we're teaching young people, etc. 

My feelings kind of mirror the feelings I expressed in this post when I wrote about the Billboard Top 100. I'm not sure which way it is - is MTV following Billboard and sales or is Billboard reflective of the music on MTV because MTV is still so popular with the youth so teens just buy what's on MTV? I feel it might be the latter but we don't know for sure, I guess.

Not to sound like an old fogie but when I was a teen, I don't remember MTV being so one track minded. Yes, you had your Britney and your Backstreet Boys, but that's what TRL was for. I remember getting ready for school in the morning watching music videos as I brushed my teeth, got dressed, etc. And the playlist was something like this (I realize not all these songs came out at the same time, I'm just listing these to make a point):

Coheed and Cambria "A Favor House Atlantic"
Eminem "The Way I Am" (or whatever his new song was at the time)
Jay-Z "99 Problems"
Steriogram "Walkie Talkie Man" (which I've actually been listening to lately thanks to Apple Music)
Norah Jones "Come Away with Me"
Kid Rock feat. Sheryl Crow "Picture"
Against Me! "Don't Loose Touch"
Evanesence "Bring Me to Life"
Lil Jon "Get Low"

Do you see the varied genres represented here? Cause I sure do. I can probably count 5 on this list. As you can see here from the Top 100 songs of 2003, there are a lot of genres that were represented in pop music. Check out the list from 2015. Okay in the top 20 alone we have Hozier and....Hozier. He's the only one that wouldn't be considered pop or rap/R&B. Fall Out Boy is number 43 and maybe some people consider Maroon 5 still rock - I don't. You could argue this in like, 2002 when they first came out but not anymore. Oh, and Geroge Ezra is on the bottom at #89. And even he could be considered pop, but specifically I think he's singer/songwriter - as is Hozier. So out of 100 there are 3-4 different artists in there, that's interesting, so where are the other genres? WHERE THEY AT???

As a side note, you know who won Best Rock Video this year at the VMA's? Twenty One Pilots. Twenty One freakin' Pilots. I love them but they are not Rock. They're just not. But they're popular and MTV doesn't know where to put them so, Best Rock Video it is! What's up with that?

I find this has been a long time coming but it's gotten really bad lately. Even Pitchfork and other popular music websites are focusing more on the artists MTV's little box promotes. As young people, we were able to choose - are we fans of rock music? Rap music? Country? Now it seems like it's harder to choose what genre we want to identify with as a young person. That's not okay. One of the reasons why I love music is because there are so many different sounds, artists, outlooks, etc. that you can explore and love. This new version of popular music doesn't seem like it's wanting young people to be able to discover that.

If you like this music that's on MTV and apparently "popular" according to whoever this omnipotent figurehead is who decides this, that's great, keep listening to it. I even like some of it, to be honest. But I miss the days when oh, I don't know, Courtney Barnett would be featured on MTV or even a rapper like K. Flay who is doing some interesting stuff with her music. But if it's not in the box, the masses allegedly don't want any part of it anymore.

And let's not forget the fact that a lot of the music that is popular is about sex and saying the N word a thousand times. This is an aspect to the bigger problem that teens think this shit is normal. We're an oversexualized society to a fault, it's been discussed for many years now, and the music being offered to the youth certainly isn't helping.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New Albums I'm Looking Forward To

For some reason, August was the month a lot of artists I really like came out with an album - Watsky, of course, K. Flay came out with an EP, Bayside, Of Montreal and Young the Giant. Oh yeah and Frank Ocean, I guess, people are really stoked on that, right? Apparently, Ocean's second album was delayed for many years and fans were going nuts...just look at r/music on Reddit and you'll see it! 2015 was still a way better year for me regarding new music but there are still some really solid releases coming our way the end of 2016 as are the albums I'm anticipating. (Also: these are albums with a specific release date, some albums have been rumored to be released this year but haven't gotten a release date yet...I'm looking at you, Brand New).

Bastille - Wild World (September 9)
Bastille are one of those bands I'm a sucker for. Like, they seem very cliche and mainstream rock but I don't care, they're awesome. They're great songwriters - "Bad Blood" was amazing and the band just plays off each other really well, including singer Dan Smith. This is their follow up to their most popular album to date and their first major label release. Hopefully they continue to produce quality songwriting. Judging from their first single from Wild World, "Good Grief" it doesn't seem like they're going anywhere any time soon.

MIA - Aim (September 9)
 This is her LAST ALBUM?! Get out of here. LOL MIA WHY YOU LYIN'? She'll be back. London born, Sri Lanken MIA is a musician to her core, she'll always be producing music. I haven't been particularly jazzed with her albums as a consecutive piece since Maya but she always has some gems in there that I can appreciate. I just had to mention this because she claims it's her last album...come on, I don't even think she believes that. She won't be able to stay away for long.

Against Me! - Shape Shift With Me (September 16)
Let me just start writing about this by saying, "yaaasssss," as the kids do these days. I'm so excited for this album. It's their follow up to Transgender Dysphoria Blues, which was arguably one of the best albums they've done so far, and they're going on #7. I'll never say it's their best because Searching for a Former Clarity has a special place to me but if I didn't have that nostalgia, I would probably say Dysphoria is their best. Anyway, maybe Shape Shift With Me will be a contender for this title and it'll be so good, I won't be able to deny the awesomeness any longer.

Taking Back Sunday - Tidal Wave (September 16)
 TBS are still going strong with John Nolan, again, for their seventh studio album as well. Their last couple haven't been very awe inspiring but they've changed a lot as a band and as people - I'm hoping they'll eventually get their new shtick right.

Skylar Grey - Natural Causes (September 23)
I just love Skylar Grey so much - even when she was Holly Brook alongside Mike Shinoda on Fort Minor's most popular song, "Where'd You Go". "I Need a Doctor" with Eminem and Dr. Dre is one of my jam out in the car songs too. Anyway, I'm going to check this out because she's a great talent and a fantastic songwriter. Also, did I mention I love her?

Regina Spektor - Remember Us to Life (September 30)
You can't go wrong with Regina - she's one of those artists that delivers consistent, good albums. She's also going on #7 with Remember Us to Life and it's her first in a while (her last being What We Saw from the Cheap Seats in 2012). I've been on a slight Regina kick lately prepping for this album. I could probably listen to "Hero" at least three times a day, every day and not get tired of it. But I don't do that because it also reminds me of this if you want to cry.

 Sum 41 - 13 Voices (October 7)
 Sum 41 are still a band, you say?! Well, they had a few rough years but now they are finally coming back with their sixth studio album, 13 Voices. The only thing I'm bummed about is, here I thought "oh wow, they have Deryck Whibley back, they have Dave Baksh back, the gang is all here!" Except Steve Jocz who unexpectedly quit the band during the recording of this album - WHAT? No Stevo 32? No "Nevertheless am I dressed for the occasion / It's number 32 now here's the situation"?! Get the hell out of here, Sum 41. Get Steve Jocz back for an epic reunion and we can pretend it's 2003 again!!!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Happy x Infinity Day!

Google Play
Apple Music/iTunes

Buy it, damn it!

I've been listening to it since last night and so far, it's very very different from his other stuff but quite enjoyable. More serious and varied lyrics/music. Go George!