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: BeyoncĂ©, Rihanna and Drake. I will admit, BeyoncĂ©'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 well...here 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 scene...click 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!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Last.FM Randomizer Challenge 8.13.16

Hey! I had an idea...every once in a while I'm going to choose a random number between 1 and 50 with help from www.randomizer.org and the number that gets picked will be the number of the Last.FM artist that correlates with that number. I'll talk about that artist and my favorite songs, albums, etc.

This time Randomizer.org chose #33...according to my Last. FM most scrobbled of all time list that artist is...Death Cab for Cutie!

I have to say, my interest in Death Cab has wavered throughout the years...I would say a lot of those scrobbles last.fm has calculated comes from the 2008 Narrow Stairs - possibly my favorite Death Cab for Cutie album, which I know is sacrilege because everyone knows Plans and Transatlanticism are the best! And if you don't agree well then obviously, you're wrong. Right? RIGHT?! That's what people say anyway.

I love Plans, don't get me wrong, but Narrow Stairs had this maturity and honesty to it that I love. Before Narrow Stairs, Death Cab focused a lot on relationships and personal issues but Narrow Stairs told stories about other people and even used stories from literature ("Bixby Canyon Bridge") and current events ("Grapevine Fires"). If they did talk about relationships, it seemed to be written in more of a mature light than previous albums, "The Ice is Getting Thinner," most specifically. That song still makes me cry sometimes.
Then after this record, they released The Open Door EP which is also a favorite of mine and very similar sounding to Narrow Stairs (which makes sense because they recorded those songs while they were recording Narrow Stairs). In a way, I wish they just kept these songs on Narrow Stairs. "I Was Once a Loyal Lover"? "My Mirror Speaks"? Those are some solid tunes.

The last album I was really interested in by them was Codes and Keys, released in 2011. I haven't heard Kintsugi yet, which was their eighth studio album released in 2015 but I haven't heard good things and judging from the one or two songs I have heard from it, I don't really have interest. I don't know exactly what happened but it seemed with Narrow Stairs and Open Door that they were adjusting to growing up and making music that was still Death Cab, just a little more intricate. They will always be timeless though, and an important band to anyone who grew up in the early aughts. You can start singing "Soul Meets Body" practically anywhere and I'm sure, at least one person will finish the lyric you're singing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer Concerts July & August 2016: Ryan Adams, Best Coast & Motion City Soundtrack

I realized right before Motion City Soundtrack that it will be the only show I'm going to in August...and because I didn't see Bloc Party when they came to Albany due to being really tired after running a quidditch tournament for the library, I figure I can just make July and August one post. I usually have a lot more concerts to attend in the Summer than any other time of the year but funny enough, it seems like Fall is going to be the busy time - Explosions in the Sky, Watsky, Henry Rollins, Ben Folds and Angel Olsen! And three of those are actually in the Albany area...which obviously are the best concerts because I don't have to travel. Anyway first up is a king amongst men (to me, at least) Ryan Adams...

July 24: Ryan Adams @ The Capital Theatre - Port Chester, NY
Opening Acts: Amanda Shires (who I officially worship after this concert)

I was probably 10-15 feet away from the stage...I tried to figure it out while I was waiting for Ryan Adams to come on. A couple minutes after I sat down, Ryan Adams actually came on stage to introduce Amanda Shires - I thought that was pretty cool of him since the artist usually likes to wait for the grand reveal during their set to say "here I am!" but not Ryan - he's like, "fuck those rules and you know what? Just rules in general." Amanda Shires came on and rocked her set - she's also of the alt country variety but more country than she is alt. She reminded me of Dolly Parton very much - especially her voice. She can also rock out on that steel guitar, which was her only instrument during the entire set. I can't stress enough how awesome she was. Please listen to her, if you think this might be your thing.
Then after overhearing the chatter of everyone around me after Amanda Shires' set, ("Damn, there's a squirtle somewhere around here and I can't find it,") especially the pretentious hipsters who were right next to me and probably students from my alma mater, SUNY Purchase, which is right next to Port Chester, let's be real, Ryan came on with The Infamous Stringdusters and Nicki Bluhm. Not his normal backing band, The Shining but regardless of that, they were fantastic. It definitely was a different vibe compared to when he plays with The Shining (he did the first time I saw him in Burlington, VT. last year). The stringdusters are 100% bluegrass and that's more of what we got but it was kind of cool to hear a song like "Give Me Something Good" or "To Be Young (Is to be Sad, Is to be High)" with a vastly different arrangement behind it. I was able to get some photos/videos but I tried to do it like a ninja because Ryan doesn't like people taking pictures because of his Meniere's disease and he doesn't want to risk the flash giving him an episode, which is understandable. He and his people specifically post signs EVERYWHERE in the venue during his shows that say "please no pictures, worried about flash going off" blah blah. And he's called people out for it too. I was so nervous my flash was going to go off and then Ryan would have scolded me from his stool and that would be the only and last time I would have actually interacted with one of my all time favorite artists. I say last time because I would be so mortified, I wouldn't be able to go to a concert of his again, let alone meet him. Wouldn't that have been great?! There's actually a picture I took that looks like he's looking at me and knew I was taking a photo...obviously I stopped after that.

See? I had a minor panic attack...

Anyway, he was great, as usual. He played three new songs that sounded promising. I also love that he's now embracing his sense of humor onstage: "the drugs around here are fucking great, apparently," he said when two drunkies in the front kept yelling "LA CIENEGA!!!" And I know they must have been drunk because out of Ryan Adams catalog of beautiful songs, you pick "La Cienega Just Smiled" to yell out as a request?

July 31: Best Coast @ Upstate Concert Hall - Clifton Park (Albany), NY
Opening Acts: The Stargazer Lilies

Oh Bethany and Bobb, it's always nice to see you. I've seen this band a couple of times now so every time I get a chance to see them, it's like going someplace familiar - because they're pretty consistent with their set and it's a very relaxed vibe. Plus, Best Coast fans, from what I've seen, aren't rude and give you your space during shows, so that's nice...unlike the Motion City Soundtrack show I went to two days after this at the same venue, but I'll get to that later. The opener would have been better if they turned their speakers down, not to sound like an old lady but seriously, it was so loud their music was muffled and inaudible. Crank it down to 11 at least, Stargazer Lilies. Your set would have sounded so much better if you did so. Maybe that was what they were going for, I don't know but all I know is I saw a co-worker during the set, we tried to talk for a little bit and were literally yelling into each others ears and could still hardly hear each other. What the hell, Stargazer Lilies? They were very shoe gaze, which was cool, and I think I probably would like them better listening to their recordings.
Here's my little Snacks...my cat is so jelly.

Best Coast's sound person was way more on top of things. I know it wasn't the usual sound guy at Upstate Concert Hall for both bands because I know what he looks like because I work with him at the library so it looks like they had their own guys. It looks like Bethany and Bobb have added a second (technically third while Bethany is playing,) guitarist to their live band to give Bethany some freedom to not play guitar sometimes if she wants to walk around in her gold lame heels (seriously, you need to see these shoes - I don't think I got a good enough photo of them unfortunately) and play the lead singer role. They played a lot of stuff from Fade Away for some reason but I'm not complaining about that. I've been listening to Fade Away a lot more lately - like the last couple of months so I was pleasantly surprised. They also played a lot from Crazy for You - going back to basics. They don't have anything to promote during this tour, so I think that's why they picked songs they usually don't play - they actually had the opportunity to play whatever they wanted. Also, just so you know if you're going to a show of theirs soon, they're selling Snacks (Bethany's cat,) stuffed animals on this tour for $5!

August 2: Motion City Soundtrack @ Upstate Concert Hall - Clifton Park (Albany), NY
Opening Acts: A Great Big Pile of Leaves, Rozwell Kid
 This will be my last live show with Motion City Soundtrack...allegedly. Anything is possible in the music world. I'm still hoping for a White Stripes reunion and probably will get it eventually.
The band is on their "So Long, Farewell" tour and have promised to pack it in after this three or four month tour. I'm sad to see them go but I think it's the perfect time for them - they stopped before they burned out. Motion City Soundtrack still produce great albums, have good lyrics and songs that can still cut any teen suffering from unrequited love in the heart with a knife.
A lot of bands should really do this more often - I'm talking to you U2...and stay away from Apple too, while you're at it. Anyway, the band played a great show and included all of their hits with an epic encore of "The Future Freaks Me Out." My only complaint, and this is in no way the band's fault, was the crowd - some of the rudest people I've had the unfortunate pleasure of spending time with at a concert. There was this one girl who kept touching me and my friends hips unexpectedly as she passed by (she was one of those "I need a drink every 5 minutes but I also want to stay in front,") for no reason and people were dancing when there was no room to dance. Like, we're sardines here. What are you doing? By the way, I've had experience in crappy crowds before, if you would like to read more of my feelings about this.
The openers didn't impress me too much. There is a lot of buzz about A Great Big Pile of Leaves but they didn't really do anything for me. Sounds like a pop punk Tokyo Police Club.

The Summer is almost over, I can't believe it. It goes by quicker every year, I think.