Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I'm Ready I Am

All right, so I was having a hard time trying to pick a band to be my (potentially) last blog for the semester.  I decided on The Format, because well they're just one of those bands. Sadly founders Nate Ruess and Sam Means called it quits earlier this year, and they only have two full albums; however, they are still amazing anyways.

The Format is a mix of indy, punk, folk, cynicism. They even chose their name to make fun of the "format" of a hit song. The first album, Interventions + Lullabies was released in 2003. The first track is "The First Single" and it opens with a great dumb beat. But honestly the thing I really love about The Format is the lyrics and Ruess' distinct voice.
The chorus of "The First Single" is

You know me, oh you think you do you just don't seem to see
I've been waiting all this time to be, something I can't define
So let's cause a scene, clap our hands and stomp our feet or something,
yeah something I've just got to get myself over me.

They have great up beat songs with down to earth lyrics that are great to drive to and are good when you're in one of those moods. There's a sense of irony in it all that I suppose you just have to laugh at, and with The Format, you just have to sing to.

"I"m Ready I Am" is another one of my favorite songs. It starts out slow with just vocals then picks up after the first three lines
I'm nicotine,
I'm coming clean
i fooled the crowd when i made it sound like i was more then ready
strike up the band, deprive my sleep
cause there's no love like apathy
the bell that tolls rings loud enough that it should have woke us up.

"On Your Porch" is a sort of sad slow love song. This is followed by an end of the relationship song, "as for me its nothing new just another two years." Honestly, I could just post all the lyrics, because they really are fantastic.

The Format's second album is Dog Problems from 2006. The title came from the issue that one of the band members (I cant remember who) would always buy a dog with their current girlfriend whenever a relationship would start to go sour. The song "Dog Problems" deals with those relationship issues, and it has a really cool music video I'll post at the end. I suppose you can call The Format catchy music with heart, and like I said cynicism/irony. "Inches and Falling" says it's about loving love but they lyrics further support it's not all that great

Take these tattered boxes
that used to hold your clothes
Break them down
Build them back up with your bones
All you did was construct a mess
You're good to me when only flesh
You're a memory with nothing to show.

Overall I think the band is great and I do wish they'll get back together at some point. I believe Ruess started up a band called Fun, but I haven't really had much time to check them out.

I hope that my blogs haven't been too awful at describing music I love and maybe you've been able to find some music to listen to or avoid. Either way, enjoy music.

Well enjoy a fans video, you can read the lyrics. It's hard to find good quality music online sometimes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Crawling Towards the Sun

One of my favorite bands for the last few years has to be The Hush Sound. Combining a jazzy, bluesy, sort of sound with both male and female vocals gives the band a pretty diverse sound. Greta Salpeter, the only woman in the band, is also extremely talented on the piano, which adds even more depth to the music. They have put out three albums since 2005 and they get better each time. My favorite two albums have to be Like Vines (2006) and Goodbye Blues (2008). Their first CD, So Sudden (2005) does have a lot of good tracks like "Weeping Willow," "Crawling Towards the Sun," and "The Artist" too so I would suggest that one as well. 

A friend of mine had the video for "Wine Red" up online, and I was instantly hooked. The verses have a heavy beat with both the piano and drums. However, the chorus is very lyrical. It's the fall of love, "the death of beauty"; it's a really beautiful song. The album has a good variety of both upbeat and slow tempo tracks as well as a variation of both Greta as the lead and Bob as a lead for the songs.  "Lions Roar" is about a search for a girl but it also includes a description of a circus scene. What's interesting is that the beat of the song is also very carnival like and there's a sense of urgency, which matches the lyrics very well. "Like Vines" also as a fantastic beat, there really is great talent on both the piano and drums.

Goodbye Blues is really an amazing CD. I believe it shows that we can continues to expect better and better music with each album released. There is the music box, sort of whimsical opening "Intro" which opens into the very expressive "Honey." The next song is the blues-like "Medicine Man" with a good drum beat that will make you want to "dance across the country." I also think the songs sung by Bob have also gotten better from the last two CDs as well. There's a vast amount of energy in this album that I can't help but to be caught up in. There are a few songs like "Hurricane" that gives a bit of a breather but over all it's a good album to keep in your car.

The Hush Sound is a great band because of their diversity and musical skills. They can sing about things like love and death but do it in an expressive and more artistic way than other songs about a broken heart. I suppose for me too I'm a sucker for music with a good piano player too.


I found this link. You can actually listen to the full album of Goodbye Blues, hurray for that.



Sunday, November 29, 2009

From Demons to Wizards: Film Scores of Joe Hisaishi

All right, so I've stuck to some typical genres so far in this blog. However, I decided I should stray a bit from the norm and mention my favorite score composer and director, Joe Hisaishi. He has done more than 100 scores and solo albums since the early eighties. I think far too often people underestimate the power a movie score can have over the overall film. Movie scores help emphasizes characters, plots, emotions and other things in the films. I believe horror movies would be a lot less scary if there wasn't the suspenseful music in the background.

Joe Hisaishi is probably best known for is work with animator Hayao Miyazaki and his Studio Ghibli films. These films are some of my favorite and includes Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, and NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind. These films are fantastic on their own, but the score makes them even more amazing.

The film Princess Mononoke is set in medieval Japan is a story of a struggle between man and nature. It's a world of both man and machine as well as nature and it's forest demons and talking demon beasts (I am awful at summing up movies without going into too much detail, since this is about music anyways). Hisaishi produces a score that emulates all of these elements. Princess Mononoke's theme song is airy and sad, reflecting her split life between being human and living among the demons, but also a strong female character. The male character's, Ashitaka, theme depicts his strength and the epic his journey well too. The theme of both these character is a beautiful piano duet, which reflects their relationship I believe.With the exception of those themes and a handful of other songs, the rest of the score is very harsh, because those are the elements of the film. There are battles and bloodshed which leads to steady and marching dumb beats; the destructive ironworks in the film are given very deep sounds. I will advise this is not a soundtrack to try to sleep to, the tracks including themes of demons are down right creepy. In "The World of the Dead" I'm honestly not sure of they have people or of they are using an instrument, but there is wailing. It's fitting, but it really is a spooky, depressing song to listen to. There are many bass and cello parts, keeping the songs deep and powerful; however, brass like to boom in and create a sense of urgency, also an awful way to try to sleep.

A very different theme would be Howl's Moving Castle, which is a different sort of magical, whimsical, character and love story. Again, Hisaishi's music reflects this. The movie is very dreamlike so the music tends to have a lot of slow piano solos with light instruments like harps, flutes, and violins. In a song called "Stroll Through the Sky" begins in the film when the two main characters are being follows by demons, they are more like giant blobs, because the male character is a wizard. The song begins with the strings plucking and picks up pace as they are being followed faster. There is a big crescendo as the two reach a dead in but they actually take off into the air. The music gives the sense of the rush and take off into flight and the full orchestra enters with a version of the main theme. This film especially liked to take its main theme song, "The Merry-go-round of Life" and alter it slightly pending on the moments and events in the film.

I'm honestly not sure how much sense that all made. For someone who played in an orchestra I'm awful at describing orchestral music. Maybe that's because there is so much emotion in it that it's hard to describe, or I'm my musical term knowledge is really rusty. Either way, I would recommend both Hisaishi's soundtracks and the films they are for, and next time you're watching a film pay attention to the soundtrack and not just the songs you can sing to.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Going Somewhere More Familiar

All right, so another all time favorite band has to be Sister Hazel. Much of their older music is what tends to define me. However, like I said in my previous post, when you're a long time fan it's harder to accept when bands change a bit, but you can still enjoy them anyways. I'll always be a big fan of the band, but I'll be bias and said their older CDs are better. Sister Hazel has a great way of balancing acoustic and electric guitar. They've probably a mix of alternative/rock with a Southern twang without being Southern Rock or Country. 

Either way, I was first introduced to the band, way back when in middle school and whatever year that was. Sister Hazel has had a handful of radio hits, but their songs "All for You" and "Happy" off of Somewhere More Familiar are probably ones a lot of you have heard of. My memories of these songs are belting them out with my friends on our way back from a sleep deprived retreat. Sister Hazel then when under the radar for a few years until high school some time when I was listening to the radio at night during a fit of insomnia. This is when I heard the song "Change your Mind" off of their current release Fortress. I was hooked. 

I got their CD and listened to is a million times learning all the words, and never tiring of having it on repeat. I then went out and got their older CDs, their self titled release and Somewhere More Familiar. I think the thing that's so catchy about this band is that their lyrics are about living life with all its ups and downs, and there's a lot about love. So really, what could be more identifying at the age of sixteen-ish than songs like that. Prime example, "Strange Cup of Tea" from Fortress. The song begins:

Sometimes I wake with a weary head and
I wonder how I'll ever get through
Then I think of the things you said
how you told me to my self be true
My faith in things unseen,
My belief that it'll all work out
May seem like a strange cup of tea,
but if its all right with you than it all
Right with me

Oh my feet I walk, with my legs I run
In my arms I'll hold another day
With my head I think, from my heart I sing
And with my hand to my face I pray.

After I was already hooked on Fortress, their next album, Chasing Daylight, was just as fantastic. They continue to write about life and love. There's an even balance of fun, playful songs like "Swan Dive" to more serious songs like "Sword and Shield." I can't even remember how long I listened to this CD without getting tired of it. 

Sister Hazel continues to release album after album, with a totally of eleven CD right now. What's also great about this band is that they are amazing live. They have fun and have a habit of interacting with the audience, including taking my brother's cell one time when I couldn't make it and saying, "Order a pizza, I'll be home soon." They have a sense of energy that just continues through the years. Though there have been fewer radio hits, Sister Hazel continues to have a large fan base. They have also had songs in films such as "Your Winter" in 10 Things I Hate About You, an "Where Do You Go?" on an episode of Scrubs, and "We'll Find It" in The Wedding Planner.

Like I said earlier, I have a harder time accepting the change in their music, but it doesn't mean it's not good. I do recommend those three albums for when you're looking for something to listen to in order to get you out of a funk or just enjoy some good times.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Take the Wheel and Drive

All right. So it's time for one of my favorite bands. I could lie and say that I have been listening to them since the 90s when they came around, but I have a habit of missing the band-wagons (and making awful puns). Either way, I think this band is very diverse in every album they have put out to date and I'm always impressed.I was introduced to Incubus by my boyfriend nearly four years ago, and I've enjoyed listening ever sense.

From Fungus Amongus to Lights Grenades there has been a beneficial growth and change in the band. Just viewing music videos you can see a change in the band. From grungy dreadlocks in "Take Me to Your Leader" to the clean cut "Anna Molly." However, there is a similar energy throughout all their music. I think the advantage of being a later fan is that it allows me to like both the older and newer songs. Too often when you've been a fan of a band since their beginning, it's hard to accept change, even if it's good change.

My two favorite albums have to be S.C.I.E.N.C.E and Make Yourself. Released in 1997, S.C.I.E.N.C.E, can be described as metal-ish, with an emphasis on the skills of DJ Lyfe on the turntables. My simple say on S.C.I.E.N.C.E  is, "Get excited." This cd a level of energy that can just make someone's day. Doesn't matter if you're in a good mood or a bad mood this is the perfect album to fit that mood. There's not a slow beat on these tracks from "Redefine" to "Calgone"; however, my favorite song has to be "Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song)." The bass line is fantastic right from the start, and it's a non-sappy love song. Another good song is "A Certain Shade of Green," which is asking "what are you waiting for?". Really with a song like this it's got to be more of a motivation to get you moving and on your way.

Make Yourself was released in 1999 and has the radio popular "Drive" and "Pardon Me." Incubus has toned down a bit from S.C.I.E.N.C.E, including Brandon Boyd losing the dreads. Unlike their previous cds, Make Yourself has more of a variety tempo-wise. Songs like "The Warmth", "Miss You", and even "Drive" slow the beat down with more serious lyrics than a girl sitting on a bug hill ("Sink Beneath the Line" - Fungus Amongus). Though I hate to say it because of their high radio play, "Drive" and "Pardon Me" are probably my two favorite tracks. They both have good beats, and really who can't relate to being "twenty-three on the verge of spontaneous combustion."

I have continued to enjoy seeing the changes on each album and will be interested to see where Incubus goes with their next full release (I don't count the best of, with a few randomly new songs of Monuments and Melodies). I have to say that Incubus is one of the best bands I have seen in concert as well. It can be hard sometimes to be able to carry the same energy of recorded tracks onto the stage, but Incubus does it amazingly well. And as a side note, Incubus has created organization called The Make Yourself Foundation, which takes cuts from their profits for charities and participates in similar events.



Sunday, October 25, 2009


For this blog I'll go in various different directions than my last one. Let's tune down and chill out, there's no need to be that angry at the world, all the time at least. One genre that I tend to be sucked into is the female singer-songwriter area. You can't help but to have respect for a woman who can play an instrument, sing, and do it all without provocatively prancing herself around the stage and every bar on the street. One of my current favorite albums right now is "Everybody" by Ingrid Michaelson, her most recent release.

I came across Ingrid Michaelson a few years back on a recommendation radio station on last.fm. Over the time she's developed a larger fan base and her songs have been included on shows such as Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs and One Tree Hill. She is labeled as a indie/pop/folk singer who can play the piano, guitar and ukulele.

"Everybody" is a positive and upbeat album about love and life. The opening track "Solider" starts with a quick and steady tempo. The drums come in to bring the song together and continue the almost marching beat. The song emphasizes the struggles of love and how often it can be like a battle or war. However, "it can be won." Michaelson also demonstrates her pitch range with varying from deeper to higher tones. Michaelson has the ability to have a upbeat feeling while her music often stays rather mellow. The opening of the song "Everybody" reminds me a bit of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and you can picture yourself hanging out on the beach, just relaxing and enjoying life. Michaelson actually sings "Over the Rainbow" on her second album "Be OK." 

Michaelson switches from guitar to piano in her song "Sort Of." She also plays piano during my favorite song "The Chain." A live version is preformed on her "Be OK" cd, which I actually prefer. There are very few times that someone can sing as well or better live as the do recorded, and Michaelson's live tracks do not disappoint. The live opening also includes a cello, which isn't included in the recorded version, which I believes adds depth and emotion to the song. I also fine the song unique because she sings a round. Yes, first thought would be, "didn't we do rounds of "Row Your Boat" in kindergarten?" However, for this song it's a beautiful attribute. She sings about waiting for a lover to return and the ache of dealing with that. "The sky looks pissed" and your "room seems wrong" because your "love is gone."

"Everybody" has a balance of quick tempo song such as the the inspirational "Mountain and the Sea" which says that "you can move a mountain if you want to." The album evens out with slow and melow songs such as the waltz "Men of Snow" and bluesy "Incredible Love." 

All together Ingrid Michaelson has put together a strong and personal album that anyone who might need their day brightened or spirits raised. Michaelson has some brilliant talent vocally, instrumentally, and lyrically. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Glassjaw

Have you ever had a bad day? I'm not talking a  Daniel Powter "Bad Day" or even a Fuel "Bad Day." I'm talking about from the moment you wake up everything just seems to go wrong. It's one of the days you start to question what you must have done to have karma smite you so bad after you are only able to deodorize one armpit before the last bit of the deodorant falls out onto the floor, you're late for class because a four-way stop is an anomaly for so many people, and to top it off your comfort food when you get home burns, even though you cook it for its normal time.

A day like that can make any laid back person livid and ready to snap.  And for me, just about any emotion can be paired with music. In the case of a truly bad day, I turn to the band Glassjaw to let off any steam. Honestly, I can casually say "I was listening to Glassjaw when..." and get the reply, "Oh wow you must be pissed." I believe thought that music can be one of the best outlet when you have no other way for expression.

I was introduced to Glassjaw a few years ago, and I believe they are a band that tends to remain unknown. This is probably also due to their couple year long hiatus, which they appear to be coming out of finally. Glassjaw has two complete studio releases so far, Everything You Need to Know About Silence (2000) and Worship and Tribute (2002). They are categorized under post-hardcore, experimental rock, and melodic hardcore. The band has had many change ups in their line-up, but the  band is fronted by vocalist Daryl Palumb (also lead for Head Automatica) and guitarist Justin Beck.

Everything You Need to Know About Silence
is a fairly raw, aggressive album, and a handful of the lyrics would shock my mother. She would probably try to confiscate the music if she could. I'll agree, some of the word and theme choices are a bit intense. However, Glassjaw finds a way to tie in the lyrics with talented musicians as well. This includes some really good bass lines, like for the opening of "When One Eight Becomes Two Zeros." This is an album mainly about relationships, or the lack there of. This is when you're in love, but the other person isn't as much as you are, and they screw you over and now you're pissed. However, Glassjaw is able to express these feelings without crossing the line to emo and asking for pity. Although Palumb is relentless towards his characters in the lyrics, his unique singing of style of mixed shouting and melodic sounds adds power overall to the music.

Worship and Tribute
is a more organized and more abstract album. The lyrics tend to be less in your face and are more up to interpretation. Do I always know what they're singing about? No, but that's ok, because it's good, developed music. Although the material is different, the same sort of energy is passed onto the second CD. Two of my favorite tracks have to be "Cosmopolitan Bloodloss" and "Two Tabs of Mescaline." Both albums are strong, because the all the pieces, from the lyrics to the layout of the tracks, fit. And personally the albums are good, because Glassjaw can always make a bad day better.