Archive for August, 2010

Chartbreaker 8-31-10

Posted in Chartbreaker on August 31, 2010 by Niveous

I have been a watcher of the music charts since I was a little kid. I used to fight with my parents about going to church because I’d miss Casey’s Top 40. I used to read Joel Whitburn’s Big Book of Top 40 hits for fun. I have always been interested in the strange world of the Billboard Hot 100. Now, on Audioshards, I’m going to give my perspective on the week’s chart.

X- “The Bed Intruder Song” by Antoine Dobson & the Gregory Brothers

I’m a little sad to see this song fall off the charts already. Not because it was some piece of musical genius (though the Marching Band version is phenomenal), but because the story seems to lack a climax. I was hoping this would lead to Dobson appearing on the VMAs backed by the Boston Pops with a rap break by Nicki Minaj (cause she’s on everything!). Oh well. At least, Dobson can take the money and move his family out of the projects. Happy ending.

96- “Black Rain” by Soundgarden

The reunion of Soundgarden has produced a Hot 100 hit. Wow, the last time Soundgarden had a Hot 100 hit was…..wait….according to Billboard, Soundgarden has never had a hit record until now?!? No “Fell on Black Days”? No “Pretty Noose”? No “Spoonman”?! No “Black Hole Sun”?!?! I don’t understand how rock records fare on Billboard. Clearly they are getting bought and getting the airplay and the fanbase but somehow, it’s just not enough to crack the hot 100? I call shenanigans…

95- “Love Like Woe” by The Ready Set

Couldn’t just call it “Love Like Whoa”. Nope, had to try to give it some meaning by calling it “Love Like Woe”. Doesn’t make it any better.

85- “143” by Bobby Brackins f/ Ray J

Really? A song based around the old-fashioned beeper code for I Love You. And it’s got Ray-J. If anyone knows about love, it’s him. He proved it with that wonderful VH-1 show of his. He found love on that, right?

70- “Comeback Song” by Darius Rucker

So, Hootie is back and got a new song, his come back song. I love the narrative in his titles. It’s like the story of trying to regain his success. First song was “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” (he misses the spotlight). “It won’t be like this for long” (he’s struggling). “Alright” (frustration). “History in the Making” (he’s gonna try). “Come Back Song”. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

68- “2012” by Jay Sean f/ Nicki Minaj; 65- “Letting Go” by Sean Kingston f/ Nicki Minaj; 27- “Bottoms Up” by Trey Songz f/ Nicki Minaj; 22- “Your Love” by Nicki Minaj

Over exposure? Her debut album doesn’t drop until late November. She’s on all those songs plus she’s got a song with Kanye West about to come out and collaboration with Will.i.am on the way.  By the time 2012 comes around, we are going to be seriously burnt out of Ms. Minaj. Must she be on every song? I’m expecting to see Lady Antebellum f/ Nicki Minaj soon.

59- “Lover, Lover” by Jerrod Neimann

I kinda dig this song. I would love to know where he stumbled across this song which was a #1 hit in Australia and decided this would make a great country song.  I guess Neimann has a good ear for this stuff. I also like what he said about the song recently on theboot.com. “I really want to stress today that a great song — since I didn’t write it, I can say it — a great piece of art can translate to many different people. It’s not just tied down to one format and genre.”

47- “If I Die Young” by the Band Perry; 42- “E.T.” by Katy Perry; 8- “California Gurls” by Katy Perry; 3- “Teenage Dream” by Katy Perry.

I’ll take the Band Perry over Katy Perry right now. Katy Perry has littered the charts with Dr. Luke/Max Martin production. Note- I have no hate for Dr. Luke. I think it takes skill to make a good catchy pop song and he does it time and time again. He’s figured out an amazing formula. But the songs he’s done with Katy Perry are pretty vapid. In fact, I feel like he took the Ke$ha “Animal” album and just handed it to Katy to do over again. Mash2Mix already showed the similarities on the “California Tik Tok Gurls” mashup. Meanwhile the Band Perry has grown on me with a nice ballad about life and death. I love this verse:

A penny for my thoughts, oh no I’ll sell them for a dollar
They’re worth so much more after I’m a goner
And maybe then you’ll hear the words I been singin’
Funny when you’re dead how people start listenin’

 32- “If I Had You” by Adam Lambert

The best thing to come out of American Idol so far (Bowersox needs to put out some songs) is finally in the top 40. In an age where songs can debut in the top 10, this song has been on a slow crawl. And it’s already a top 10 hit in Canada. C’mon USA, get with it!

29- “Deuces” by Chris Brown, Tyga & Kevin McCall

I wonder if they know that: 1) In places like the UK, throwing the “deuces” is the equivalent of saying “Fuck You”, which does work in the song’s context. 2) Then there’s dropping a “deuce”, which I guess works too, kinda. Speaking of “Fuck You”, this chart needs some Cee-Lo Green.

16- “Take It Off” by Ke$ha

I’ve gotta admit. This is kinda genius. Dr. Luke put Ke$ha over the Streets Of Cairo beat and you’ve got a song that is instantly in your head because you grew up knowing the beat. What? You’ve never heard of the “Streets of Cairo”? It’s been in a bunch of cartoons. It’s usually used as the snake charmer song. And a bunch of li’l kid songs are based on it. “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance…”, “There’s a place on Mars where the women smoke cigars…”. Hell, it’s even in “Istanbul, not Constantinople”.

6- “Right Above It” by Li’l Wayne f/ Drake

This song debuted at #6. Isn’t Weezy still in jail? The guy is spending an 8-month stint in the hoosegow and releasing hit singles at the same time. I’m baffled by the world.

Gatecrasher Diary 8-30-10

Posted in Gatecrasher on August 30, 2010 by Niveous

The slower the process moves, the harder it is to self motivate. It’s a curse but it’s very true of a lot of things. People work very well with instant gratification. It’s the long haul that messes you up. Gatecrasher looks to be the long haul and I’ve gotta find ways to stay motivated and on course. This morning, I just put some more touches on the 3rd song. It was originally called “The Warning Signs Were There” but I didn’t like the perspective. It evolved into “Steady Hand”, which is the story of a political assassin with a clear shot and a moment of hesitation. This song and its two predecessors make up the exposition of Gatecrasher. I’m hopeful that the rising action heats up my creative spark.

As the Tune Spins… part 1

Posted in SpinTunes with tags , on August 26, 2010 by Niveous

Every Spring, I run a music competition called the Nur Ein. This year was the 5th anniversary and it was quite an interesting one. There were a lot of great bands like Ben Kreiger (Nur Ein V’s winner), Berkeley Social Scene, Chris Cogott, Milo Dunderville & Minty Handy. Despite that some critics say it wasn’t the best Nur Ein citing that few bands pushed the envelope when it came to the challenges. Nevertheless, i enjoyed Nur Ein V and left it revigorated about doing online music contests (after missing last year’s Gift of Music).

Then I received a letter from a guy named Spintown inquiring about doing a contest that was much like the Nur Ein but with some subtle differences (no set titles, less rounds, more emphasis on shadowing). I have to admit that my first reaction was ” This is a straight up Nur Ein ripoff!” But I quickly changed my mind on that and came to the better point of view that more music competitions means more good music in the world and I was okay with a Nur Ein emulator (it means I must have done something right putting Nur Ein together). He then asked me if I wanted to judge. I didn’t know how to take that offer. I had just finished a brutal Nur Ein jury where one of the jurors and I verbally came to blows. But I thought about how working on this would be a way to meet a lot of new musicians from the TMA/Song-Fu part of the web. The idea of bringing that gap and maybe getting some of those musicians to songfight was a temptation that was way too big to resist and I agreed.

Spintown then told me that everyone was meeting up to talk on Tinychat and there was some mention of twitter and I went “huh?”. Not that I hadn’t used an online chat before or that I didn’t have a twitter account (@10kdays), I was just surprised at how different things would be from the get-go. Nur Ein is very forum based and this wasn’t rooted in the same way. It was going to be an all new experience. So, of course, things would go wrong from the offset for me. The first day I go to meet with all the judges in the online chat, my computer refuses to connect to the web (a conflict with my XBox) and I almost missed the whole thing. I made it there just in time and helped create the 4 challenges that would make up the contest known as SpinTunes 1.

Next up… Round 1 (aka “Heroes, Villains, and Mean Judges”)

10 Shards: 10 Songs I’m excited for in RB3

Posted in 10 Shards with tags , on August 25, 2010 by Niveous

I’m a lifelong gamer. I grew up with an Atari 2600 and a Commodore 64 and never lost my love for video games. And I have always had a penchant for music games. Back in 2001, the evil geniuses at Harmonix put out a game called FreQuency and I got hooked on music games and have been happily watching as they get better and better. I’ve stayed loyal to Harmonix and become a big fan of the Rock Band series of games. They are fun to play and they allow you to become a more focused listener by taking apart all the pieces that make up the songs and laying them out in front of you.

I often dream of getting songs into Rock Band via their Rock Band Network and maybe one day I’ll get the focus and cash to pull that off (anyone want to help me out with that?). In the meantime, I’m looking forward to Rock Band 3 coming out this fall. Here are the top 10 songs I’m excited to play in RB3.

1. “One Armed Scissor” by At The Drive In

The new RB3 setlist is a little light on crunch in some places. Many of the new songs are more keyboard heavy, since keys are the newest peripheral in the game. But this song will certainly fill the gap for me with its blistering guitars and insane lyrics. This is the song to rock out to.

2. “Break On Through” by The Doors

As I stated in the last edition of 10 Shards, I have been a big Doors fan since my teenhood. Getting to play any Doors song in Rock Band would be fun for me but this is the song that started things for me. I didn’t get into “Light My Fire” until later. I started off with this one. My only question about its inclusion is will the lyric “She gets high” chorus make it in or will this be a slightly cleaner mix?

3. “Something Bigger, Something Brighter” by Pretty Girls Make Graves

PGMG’s “Elan Vital” album is one of my favorites of all time. While this song is from the previous album, I can appreciate it and will enjoy playing it. And who knows? If Harmonix has a link to PGMG, perhaps there will be more of their songs coming as downloadable content.

4. “25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago

I’m gonna be honest here. When I heard what songs were going to be in RB3, I was way too happy to have this song. My jubilance has diminished as I have wondered how the heck they are going to chart that song but the fact remains that it’s got a great groove and the horns are fun as is the guitar solo. As long as it comes off better than that American Idol version, everything will be just fine.

5. “Midlife Crisis” by Faith No More

More FNM in Rock Band is a very good thing and now you have keyboards so that you don’t have to skip Roddy Bottum’s parts. These songs are always fun to play. Mike Patton has great vocals. Billy Gould is one of my favorite bassists. I would’ve preferred “A Small Victory” from this album (Angel Dust) or something from Album of the Year, but I’ll happily take this.

6. “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears For Fears

Yes, this song isn’t one you rock out to. But growing up, this was my favorite song. Its position has since been usurped (by “Pillars” by Sunny Day Real Estate, which I hope will be in RBN soon) but it doesn’t change how much I enjoy it. C’mon, it’s the ending theme to Real Genius. It’s the popcorn song!

7. “Oh My God” by Ida Maria

This is the one to rock out to. The lyrics are super simple and it’s probably going to be a breeze to play but it’s built for all your late-night rock star bravado. Add in the multiple vocalist option and this is going to be a blast to play with a full band. Sadly, you won’t be able to emulate the atrocious Iggy Pop remix of this song.

8.  “Portions of Foxes” by Rilo Kiley

On my old blog, I was called an indie elitist because of my negative feelings for the band led up by the girl from Troop Beverly Hills and their overplayed song “Moneymaker”. The thing that reader didn’t get is that I don’t hate Rilo Kiley, just the dosage I was receiving. This song is quite a gem in RB3. Great lyrics.

9. “Du Hast” by Rammstein

I know that it lacks the charm and elegance of their song “Pussy” but the levels of camp in having this song on the setlist is immeasurable. German is not a pretty language and that ought to make some wonderous vocal moments. A “Du Hast” + “Herr Kommt Alex” + “Perfekte Welle” playlist would be epic.

10. “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake

This is going to be so much fun. Pure 80’s hair metal goodness. Adrian Vandenburg was a great guitarist and it’s be a blast to play his solo on this song. The chorus is so catchy. This is a rowdy sing-a-long, rocking good time waiting to happen.

RB3 has all that plus INXS, Queen, The Cure, J. Geils Band, Amy Winehouse, Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Jett, John Lennon, Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Free Bird!”), Filter, Mana, Dio, Dire Straits, Deep Purple, Devo, Blondie, A7X, Def Leppard, Flaming Lips, Doobie Brothers, HIM, Marilyn Manson, Metric, Phoenix, The Who, Yes and tons more. I’m going to have a lot of fun with this.

Gatecrasher Diary: 8-24-10

Posted in Gatecrasher with tags , on August 24, 2010 by Niveous

It’s a landmark day, however small it is. Today, I handed my first lyric to Chris, Ken and John for Gatecrasher. Over the last month, this has all been conceptual. Now, the project is beginning to move forward.

I feel good about this song. It’s the beginning of Gatecrasher’s tale. I know that I’m going to have to do some prose to go along with the album to make it really cohesive but I like the way the story is coming along through the songs. The songs are a little abstract and that’s something I’ve struggled with in the past. I like filling in all the blanks for the reader/listener and if you take just the songs on their own, you may not get the entire story and I’m fine with that. That’s why I’ll write some prose and do some videos. Bit by bit, the story will unfold until you get an entire piece. It’s not the usual way that I work and I couldn’t be happier for that fact. Tomorrow, I hope to give the band another lyric while I work on the other 8. If I can get into a groove, I know I can churn the words out. I just have to get into that groove. Finding the creative trigger can be the hardest part sometimes.

My return and XTRG

Posted in Gatecrasher on August 23, 2010 by Niveous

I’ve been away for a few days on some small treks, trying to diminish stress. Now this could have been a perfect time to work on some more Gatecrasher stuff. And I did some work on 2 songs: “Blowing Up The Metro” and “The Warning Signs Were There” and got ideas for another song “Landmine Sugar”. I could have done more work but I was pretty serious about getting this r&r. The funny thing is a lot of the music I’ve made has come out of dark places. I don’t want Gatecrasher to come out of that.

So  what exactly do I mean by my music coming out of dark places? Allow me to tell you the untold story of my band, X-Tokyo-River-God. (link to the music)

XTRG started off in March of 2005. I was experimenting with samples and came across a good one, strangled it, spun it backwards and laid down a robotic text to speech voice (that we call Nataly K) over it talking about saying one magic word that can destroy the world. Tada. I had made a song, called Snow Fort, and it was a creepy one. It didn’t win the songfight that it was in but it earned some strong reviews include a Fightmaster’s Pick. That was amazing and fuel enough for me to continue making these crazy soundscape pieces.

Now for some perspective on where I was in my life. XTRG was bore out of the fact that I wasn’t sitting around playing my guitar. I was live in a hellhole apartment in Brooklyn where I was dealing with roaches, arguments, mice, money troubles and a whole assortment of things. All that and my marriage was about to take a turn for the worst too. I was right on the threshold of a big bout with depression and didn’t even know it.

So, I continued plugging away into making XTRG songs. I released “Devils” and “Let’s Go Boy” and they both went over pretty well with the Songfight audience but people were tiring of hearing Nataly’s creepy voice, so I attempted to do some songs with me singing. “Saint Peter” and “Digital Chimera” were colossal failures and I went into a headspin. Honestly looking back at the time period, some part of me really needed XTRG desperately. I needed something to be working out well because there was so much falling down around me.

I turned to Johnny Cashpoint, who throughout my time at Songfight has been my musical mentor and frequent co-collaborator, and Noah McLaughlin. XTRG as just strangled samples was not working (note- only a month has passed since “Snow Fort”) so I asked them to help create a more organic sound while still experimenting. The resulting song was “Ellis Island”. I produced the song and to tell you how my mental state was deteriorating at the time, I cannot recall how I put this together. Regardless, I am extremely proud of the result.

Then things began to get a little more blurry as my personal life began to get crazier, my work with XTRG began to change too. “…George Lucas” and “…Hand Me Downs” were solid collaborations between the trio. Though as Noah & J$ added more to the mix, I was adding in less and less into the group I had created. Then came the oddest part of the journey- One Beautiful Summer. Noah & J$ gave me their pieces for a song and I tried to produce it and create something great like “Ellis Island” and I couldn’t. I couldn’t figure out how to make the pieces fit. I ended up creating a strangled mess, “One Beautiful Summer”. Noah & J$ didn’t seem to like it. What did they do, they took all the same samples and created the song “Courage” with new lyrics and my only contribution was Nataly’s vocals reading out Noah’s lyrics.

I hit rockbottom musically and personally. Soon after, I moved out of NY and into a place I hated in NJ and my marriage had the moment that started its slow collapse. Next thing you know, I was in the hospital dealing with depression.

I started XTRG back up again in January of 2006. I tried to regain that spark that I had at the beginning of the project. Except now, it wasn’t creating music as a method of getting some kind of gratification that I needed. I was trying to find myself again and rebuild. I had already began working as a songwriter more, but this was the first real big composition. I got the amazing Anti-M to join the band and we created “Don’t Think I Don’t Miss You”. It is one of the songs I am most proud of and it went on to become our most noteworthy song as it became a part of Oddio’s Calling All Fiends compilation.

I couldn’t hold it all together though. I was still a mess. It would be seven months before I could pull it together again. I enlisted Roymond into the fold and so came “Rhymes with Lucia” and I still struggled to contribute to a band.  I wasn’t ready yet but it was progress.  XTRG would make one more tune a year later but really the band was a part of my history by then. Or so I thought…

Songfight’s 2nd New york concert happened last year and it was the perfect storm. There was Noah, Roymond, J$ and myself all in one place (Anti-M quit the band, Elaine DiMasi would assist in her stead). We had to try to make XTRG work live. But there was a question for me, could I do this? XTRG had come from a different mental place. The answer was yes.  XTRG  may have been born out of the darkness in me but life had changed. The performance was odd and artsy and wonderful to do. Now when I make music, I know I can get inspiration from the darkness I’ve seen in my life. I also know that I don’t have to be in that darkness. I’m determined that Gatecrasher will be the first piece of music I’ve made in a long time that isn’t me creating while in a depressive stupor.

Gatecrasher Diary 8-14-10

Posted in Gatecrasher with tags , on August 15, 2010 by Niveous

Audioshards’ main focus is to chronicle the journey of making my new album, Gatecrasher.  So, for my first diary entry, a little background story. The road to making this album started with some odd feelings about some successes.

Every February, I team up with the members of the Berkeley Social Scene and we combine forces like Voltron and become the mighty Zinkline. Zinkline then releases an album for the FAWM. In 2007, we made an album called “Bending the Worlds”. The next year, I decided to write a concept album. The album was called “Grace of a Car Crash” and told the tale of a political assassination that leads to a nuclear war. Zinkline enjoyed doing the concept album idea the first time, we embraced it again in 2009. We did an album all about various board games. “Zugzwang” included songs inspired by Monopoly, Operation, Settlers of Catan and various others. We stuck with the concept album idea this year and made “Little Cuts”, an album full of songs inspired by various phobias.

The thing about “Little Cuts” was, despite it being an excellent album, it wasn’t what I had envisioned. Some of the songs went in directions, I hadn’t expected. I wrote very dark and moody tunes, the bands decided to play them with contrasting bright melodies. And that’s when the strange feeling came over me. These were songs that I had written but I didn’t take part in the music making. I was the words, BSS were the sound. As a lyricist, you hand your work to others to manipulate. I suddenly found myself wanted more because I may have been happy to have a band as talented as BSS turning my words into songs, I wanted a bigger piece of the pie.

The first thought was make an album myself. I would delve into my usual world of acoustic guitars and dark songwriting. Then I came to the realization that the narrow range of my musical acumen would not suffice if I wanted to create the album that was in my head. So, what did I do? I decided to put down the music for a little while and focus on my writing. Back in November, I had succeeded at my first NaNoWriMo. I wrote a story called Dead End 94, all about a group of ghost hunters. I love serials and I wrote Dead End 94 with the clear intent to write several sequels. I started going over the story and found that I didn’t have the drive.

I was creatively lost for quite a while. Then my girlfriend Jill & I got the idea of starting a blog where I would write a serial. The serial would be called Gatecrasher and have to do with opening a gate to a parallel universe. The initial blog fell apart and I tried to write Gatecrasher as stand alone prose. It didn’t feel right. Then I got the idea to write Gatecrasher as songs. I wrote the first song, currently titled “Dead of Night”, and everything clicked into place. I knew that this was going to be an album. But I was still left with the question of how to get it to sound the way I envision.

Lucky for me that I know a bunch of great musicians. I asked my friends if they would be interested in helping me and put together a four piece band: Chris on guitar, Ken on drums, John on bass and I’m handling vox. The band is going to try making three songs to see if this foursome clicks. Chris has been great with listening to my ideas and trying to make them happen. I love the fact that I’ve got him listening to Made Out of Babies to get a sense of where my head is musically.  Right now, we’re really at the beginning stages. I’m writing the lyrics for the 10 songs that will make up Gatecrasher’s story and I’m only 2 songs in.

The album isn’t the whole thing. Gatecrasher needs to be something more. To tell the story, I need more. Chris suggested music videos and that thought was already in my head. There needs to be a greater presentation. But that’s way down the road. And I’m excited to see where Gatecrasher’s Road takes me.