Archive for November, 2010

To Fuck and To Forget

Posted in Gatecrasher on November 29, 2010 by Niveous

Hey there everyone. I’m back from my Thanksgiving break. I hope you all had a great holiday. I’m back and I wanna talk about those crazy Billboard charts again. But instead of looking at the entire chart, I want to focus on a pair of songs.

Better than Cee-Lo?

Cee-Lo Green is not a stranger to hit records. As a member of Gnarls Barkley, he had a #2 hit with “Crazy” and he co-wrote and produced Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha”. 13 weeks ago, Cee-Lo Green debuted on the charts with a song that had earned a lot of fans through viral methods. Over those 13 weeks, it chugged along on the Hot 100 charts. In places like Scotland, the Netherlands and the UK, the song hit #1 but here in the States, it couldn’t make it into the top 10. That was until this week, finally after all that time, Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You” made it to #9.

Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t a complete stranger to hit records. Sure, she’s an actress but she had a song with Huey Lewis; a Smokey Robinson cover that was a #1….on the adult contemporary charts. She would cover Cee-Lo’s song on that show of shows, “Glee”. Her version would be the tamer “Forget You”. It would debut on the charts at #11. In one week, Gwyneth’s version would do what the original took 12 weeks to do.

My question is… What the hell. Is the Gwyneth version better than the original? Not bloody likely. It’s not a wildly different arrangement. Can she out sing Cee-Lo? No way. But the song appears on Glee and instant big hit. Something is not right here. Things like this make me wonder about Billboard more and more.

Formulaic

Posted in Music with tags , , , on November 22, 2010 by Niveous

I have finally stumbled upon it. Today, I found Billboard Magazine’s formula when it comes to what goes into the Hot 100. With the way that the internet is, I found it awfully strange that it was so incredibly hard to find this information. I still can’t find a list of sites Billboard derives info from or any sort of statistical data like you find with a chart like Mediabase, but I’ll take what I can get. What I’ve found is that in the current scheme, physical singles accounts for only about 1% of a song’s stat. That makes sense in this day and age. About 40% is digital sales, which I also can’t complain about. Maybe it’s a little low. 5 percent goes to streaming media though it’s mostly coming from Yahoo & Aol music. That leaves 55…and that belongs to “radio audience”. What does that even mean? Billboard says the chart factors “radio impressions”. I don’t get that. And in this day and age where everyone lives in their iPods and watches music videos on YouTube…is this even close to a viable formula? What do you think?

Where am I now.

Posted in Gatecrasher on November 21, 2010 by Niveous

When I started this blog a few months ago, one of the driving forces behind starting a blog was writing about the creative process of writing a new album. But I haven’t written a lot about that, have I? I have done reviews of SpinTunes and talked about the wild wonders of the Billboard charts, but I haven’t really discussed where I am as a musician.

It’s been a tough road. As I wrote in a past post, Battle of the Block, I have been dealing with a kind of writer’s block. I can write lyrics. That’s the easy part for me. In fact, in the midst of my move, I wrote lyrics for a new song called “Speed of Sound” that I really like. But the problem has been making the music. Now, I started this project by contacting three of my fellow Songfighters and asking them if they would help make this album. Clearly this was a mistake because I was not ready at all for album making, so I left three people hanging and I feel very bad about that.

So, where am I currently? I’m trying to venture out on my own, slowly but surely. I have made a couple of appearances at the Sidewalk Cafe’s Open Stage and played a few songs. The thing is there’s a sound in my head that I’m looking for and I’m not finding it. I’m struggling to create it. I have been desiring to experiment musically. Part of me wants to seek out musicians to work with, but finding musicians who wish to hitch a wagon to your ideas can be hard, especially when you are 33. I know I have online musicians out there but it’s just not the same, especially when you are in the midst of a block and are in desperate need for a kick in the pants.

The alternative is venturing into the land of solo work. I did a little of that recently as I took part in Songfight’s most recent coverfight. I ended up having to cover a song by Berkeley Social Scene. I couldn’t have ended up with anything worse. There are two reasons for that feeling. One is that I work with BSS every year as Zinkline and write lyrics for their FAWM, so I have a personal interest in doing my best for them. Then there’s the fact that they are a progressive rock machine. They are like the molecular gastronomists of music. They live for playing with time signatures and doing technical stuff. Meanwhile here I am with only so much musical acumen and a real desire to experiment. It ended up kind of a clash.

I put out a song, a version of BSS’ “Thinking bout the Old Days”. The results were a spacey, weird song, but again production reared its ugly head. I suck at production. I listened to the song. My girlfriend listened to the song. We thought it sounded good. I sent the song in. I listened on my headphones at work a few days later and the vocals sounds muddy. I couldn’t feel more disheartened. BSS are production monsters. I knew at that moment, I had given them a cover that they probably wouldn’t enjoy and at the same time, I had screwed up at the production aspects.

So, I don’t really know where I’m at. If I can’t succeed at producing then I can’t release songs. Then there’s trying to create the sounds that I envision. There are so many issues and I just feel a little lost as a musician and I’m struggling to find my way.

The Return of Audioshards

Posted in Music with tags , , on November 20, 2010 by Niveous

Hello to all that have stumbled upon this humble little blog. I’m Niveous and I’m back. I took a couple of days off from blogging due to my recent move to New York and a ton of happenings at work. But now I’m back and I’m going to do some things a little different around here, just to ensure that I have more content. My old blog 10kdays (10kdays.livejournal.com), I would write one post about music each day. I figure I was able to do that for over a 1000 posts, I could do the same sort of thing here. So, keep looking at the blog each day and there will be something different.

Today, here’s a cross post from another site that I have begun working with Cupcake Goth. Here is my review of the new album by Underoath:

%C3%98Band: Underoath
Album: Ø (Disambiguation)
Label: Tooth and Nail
Release: November 9, 2010

The band Underoath has earned its share of detractors. There are a multitude of reasons. They came onto the musical landscape early in the 00’s and were lumped by many into the emo genre, in part to their dual vocalist style and their appearances on the Warped Tour. They have also been lumped into the Christian Rock scene due to the band member’s faith. Neither of these labels truly apply to Underoath. They aren’t singing about Jesus and their music is far harder than the Jimmy Eat World’s and Taking Back Sunday’s that inhabit the mainstream emo scene. Underoath at its core is a metal band and their seventh album Ø (Disambiguation) makes that fact undeniable. I think it’s time for the detractors to take another look at Underoath.

Ø (Disambiguation) marks the first album without singer/drummer Aaron Gillespie, who has gone off to front acoustic Christian band The Almost. With a new lineup in place, including former Norma Jean drummer Daniel Davison, Underoath’s sound has changed and grown considerably darker. There were times in my listening to this album where I found myself comparing Underoath’s aggression to bands like Slipknot. On other songs, they found a way to channel a dark atmosphere on their songs comparable to the Deftones or Tool. It’s all a far stretch from songs like their breakout hit “It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door”. It’s a band reborn and I like this band’s new direction.
The album’s opening track “In Division” sets the table by starting with eerie keyboards before lead singer Spencer Chamberlain unleashes a vocal fury. With Davison’s blistering drumwork, the energy of the band has changed. There was a certain precision to previous Underoath songs. “In Division” is less about creating a balance, it’s moreso unleashing the band’s raw energy. That energy carries over into “Catch Myself Catching Myself”, a song which includes a NIN/Filter-esque breakdown with Chamberlain in hushed tones singing “I’m not the same anymore”, a statement that could be the mantra of this entire album.

The highlights of the album include the moody “Paper Lung”, which may be one of the album’s most tame songs but it’s a song filled with strong guitar work and one of Chamberlain’s best vocal performances of his career proving he could handle the clean vocals aspects he didn’t do while under Gillespie. Chamberlain’s grittier vocals also get a chance to shine on the album. On “A Divine Eradication”, the band finds its most powerful groove. As Chamberlain growls “where is my fix”, Davison and bassist Grant Brandell build a heavy foundation for the two guitarists to layer sheets and sheets of sonic chaos. It all comes together to make one of the best songs on the album.

Ø (Disambiguation) is not a perfect record. It does lose some steam towards the end with more generic songs at the end. “My Deteriorating Incline” and “Vacant Mouth” both lack the power of the previous songs while album closer “In Completion” spends too much meandering in their old sound. It may have its flaws but it remains an album that I would highly recommend. This is the start of a new sound for Underoath and I look forward to the opportunity to hear more.

4/5

Check out a live video of Underoath doing “Paper Lung”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atuLIc3Bns4

As The Spin Tunes #6

Posted in Music, SpinTunes on November 5, 2010 by Niveous

I just finished my big move to New York and I return to the world of the web to find that SpinTunes round 2 has ended. I never got to write my reviews during the round but that doesn’t mean I still can’t throw in my two cents regarding what was one of my favorite SpinTunes rounds. In fact, this may be even more interesting for me to do because I can review them in the order in which the judges rated them and see if my opinions agree with theirs. Let’s begin. (Oh, also before I listen to these songs I’m going to listen to the songs that inspired them)

The big winner was Chris Cogott. He did a sequel to “Homeward Bound” by Simon & Garfunkel, called “Roadward Bound”. I have to give his respect immediately because he choose quite a tune to write a sequel to. He kept the music in a very similar vein, seems like he may have just changed the octave. Where as the original had such a focus on wanting to get back home to his love, Cogott’s version has her almost as an annex to getting back on the road and the road comes off as the true love. Gotta ask, why didn’t Cogott do the easy rhyme of “belong” with “along” instead of doing “with me”? Not a big gripe, just a question. Musically, this is well performed, but lyrically, I don’t get the sentiments. The judges mostly remarked about the strong  performance which I totally agree on. I don’t know if I would give Chris Cogott the win but I would rank him fairly high.

Next up is Edric Haleen‘s sequel to “The Star Spangled Banner”. I expect nothing less from the wonder that is Edric. So, I just took a listen to Whitney Houston’s version (the hit) and now to Edric’s (Note- this may sound like I’m listening to these songs for the first time by the way I’m writing this. This is about my 3rd time listening to this round of SpinTunes). Edric showed his musical prowess on this one. It’s not as powerful as the original as the original is all positive while Edric’s has hints of negativity, but can anyone deny the strength of Edric’s delivery especially the 10 second sustain at the end. Not everyone has that card to play (I wanna hear Edric do some Freddy Curci now) and he played it in round 2. I would’ve probably given this song a high score. He followed a tough act and made a very strong sequel. Let’s look at the judges scores. Glennny murdered this song in his review and yet it stayed up at #2. Funny how judging works. But I have to agree with Glennny that this song is not for everyone and it’s not something I plan to keep in my jukebox but I can’t deny how well it was done.

Charlie McCarron went for a sequel to RHCP’s “Under the Bridge” and I like how the music is definitely a derivative of the original but it breaks new ground especially with the “ooh-wee-ooh”s. McCarron took better control of his vocals than last week and created a great song. But I don’t think I get the story in the song completely. I gather this is a song of relapse? But what’s up with the mystic lantern and the ancestors at the end? The lyrics are a bit abstract. And one thing that’s lost from the original is the attachment to the city. “Under the Bridge” is just as much a love song to Los Angeles as it is a drug tale. There’s a great groove to this and it’s extremely catchy though its short, but I don’t know if I get the all of the story it’s trying to tell. Do the judges have a better understanding? Lindyke says he understands this song better than its predecessor. KSR-1 had some problems with the lyrics too and had a similar feeling that this could work as a prequel too.

Beka decided to write a sequel to one of the Dr. Luke chart monsters’, Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and challenged the lyric “We’ll be young forever” by making it “Elderly Dream”. One song is about hot and heavy teenage love and the sequel is elderly love. I question if there is much more of a connection. Teenage Dream is all about holding on to that feeling that is so inherent in teenage love. Everything is lust and emotions that sit right on the forefront. Elderly Dream doesn’t look at how the characters in the original have dealt with those emotions through time. I feel like it’s a nice song but I feel it fails to be a true sequel. KSR-1 said in his review that its hard to forge a strong connection between the two songs and that’s my feeling as well. Nice song, well performed, barely succeeds at the challenge.

Ross Durand came in 5th with his sequel to Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and this was a true sequel in the way that I often think of sequels. This wasn’t “Aliens” to “Alien” or “The Godfather 2” to “The Godfather”. This is one of those sequels that has clear cut connections to the original but fails to generate the same spark that made the original special. It’s not a bad song, per se, but the song that inspired it is full of emotion. Durand’s song is a rockabilly tale that doesn’t connect in the same way. For that reason, I would place that in the middle of the pack. It’s nothing special. Lindyke & Glennny both said that Durand nailed it while the other 3 judges all said this was pretty solid and a good Johnny Cash sequel. I feel he was shy of hitting his mark. He made a good song though.

Ryan “Ruff” Smith went for a sequel to a Bacharach/David classic, “Baby It’s You” by the Shirrelles. I think that Ruff did a great job with this. In many ways, it’s not an overly complex  cover. It took the original and gave us the inverse. Was it a creative home run? No, but it worked for what it was. I liked the play on the original music and I could hear this fitting in with the music of the time period. I especially liked the bridge on this song. Lindyke called this song shallow and that was about the most negative the 5 judges got on this song. That probably says it all. Shallow lyrically, not the most creative but a good performance and a decent song.

In the same vein as the Ryan Smith song is Gweebol‘s “Thank You Mr. Postman”, but I actually enjoy this sequel more than the original. I like the story of how the singer falls in love with the Postman while waiting for the letter. It’s a  good idea and it’s handled well. It doesn’t quite have that same Motown feel as the Marvelettes version, this is more Carole King, but I’m not saying that as a negative. Sure, every once in a while there’s a lyric that’s a bit campy but all in all, this is one of my favorite’s of this round. It’s well thought out and performed. Do the judges agree? They basically did. Jeff MacDougall even remarked on that style switch that I mentioned. It took him out of the song, while it endeared me more to it.

Coming in at #8 was Mitchell Adam Johnson with a sequel to Ritchie Valens’ “Donna”. The original had such a strong catchiness despite not having much in the way of a chorus. This song borrows heavy from the feel of the original but it doesn’t connect with me in the same way. Perhaps because the original was much more vocal oriented and this one had no such focus and you kind of had to take it all as a whole. Plus, the story in the song just didn’t resonate. Maybe because it was barely a progression. The character is still holding on to the idea of Donna throughout the song  just like he was in the original, even with the new love interest who definitely takes a second fiddle.  Not one of my favorites of the round. Musically, it was fine especially with the darker tones but it’s not a standout and not much of a sequel. Jeff MacDougall’s review was nearly the inverse of mine as he said it might be the perfect sequel song. I don’t see that. I feel the storytelling would need to be tightened up and really have the singer express how he’s moving on no matter what.

Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” is full of all the pop cheese that makes the 80’s a wonderful bit of nostalgia. Inverse T. Clown decided to make this a darker tale of a man who seemingly went to prison and now wants the girl of his dreams at any cost. This could have been a chilling sequel but instead ITC decided to layer this with some comedy that fails to hit, like the upside down name on the chest which only stood to take me out of the story. Then there’s the music style which I’ll have to admit is not my cup of tea. I would’ve been able to get past the music  if this song was either disturbing or extremely funny. Since it didn’t land on either mark, it failed to win me over. It polarized the judges as some gave it high scores (Zack Scott gave it the top score?! Really? REALLY?) and some had it in the elimination realm. I would’ve been with the latter.

Governing Dynamics decided to go with a sequel to Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees”, a song that washes over you with emotion, thanks in a big way to the instrument choices (eerie strings & keys) and Thom Yorke’s performance. In other words, it’s a hard act to follow. GD decided to follow up with a rocker that pulled little from the original for its composition. Lyrically, there is certainly a connection between the two songs. But the original is a song of desperation. There’s a feeling of hitting rock bottom. Only the first verse of the sequel touches upon that but only lightly before it becomes this messy lyric which all comes to the conclusion of the singer being just as fake, though the journey to get to that epiphany has to do with gravity and ultraviolet rays and a whole bunch of oddness. Musically, it’s okay. It didn’t set my world on fire. I enjoyed the moments where it broke down. That at least harkened a little to the original but this song, all things considered, is not a great sequel. Zack Scott gave the song 2nd place & KSR-1 gave it 3rd. On the other hand, the other 3 judges all noted, in some way, the lyrical disconnect from the original.

Zarni De Wet chose to tackle the Fountains of Wayne’s Cars-esque “Stacy’s Mom” in her song “Stacy’s Dad”,. Houston, we have a problem. Didn’t it say in the original that Stacy’s Dad had walked out on Stacy’s Mom that’s why “she could use a man like me”. So, either this is a prequel or she failed the challenge. KSR-1 questioned if this was a sequel, or if this song ran parallel. I say it’s neither, it’s an alternate dimension where the Dad is still around, which is a fail in my book. As for the song itself, there are great little details in the lyrics which I like. The vocals are fitting. The music borders on flat out parody. All in all, it’s cute, which is basically what she was going for.

Ah, the wonders of Muriel’s Wedding… Steve Durand went with a sequel to ABBA’s “Fernando”. His song “Miranda” is a love song with a touch of swing. The vocals in this are so lackluster on the verses. It’s really a detriment. Now, I can see where this a sequel. Soldier goes home, gets to his love and realizes it was all worth it. But didn’t he already know it was all worth it during the original? “If I had to do the same again, I would”. This is a completely unnecessary sequel. It spins its wheels. So, it’s got a lackluster performance and a story that doesn’t stand out. That puts it towards the bottom of my list. What did the judges have to say? Lindyke’s review is pretty similar to mine. Zack Scott’s hated it in general. The other judges seemed far more impressed than Mr. Scott, the good Doctor & I.

And now to the eliminated ones. First up, Brian Gray went with Matchbox Twenty’s “3 A.M.” as his inspiration for a cover, which probably cost him a point or two. Let’s be honest here. Matchbox 20 has its share of haters. I like the guitar riff. I dislike the vocal performance. Rob Thomas has a certain energy in his delivery that you don’t find here, despite the heaviness of the topic. Weird thing about this song is that it echoes the “3AM, I must be lonely” which sets it as a parallel but it’s about a later time. I guess this is the next day after the mother has died. But the original is more about being left behind. Right? It’s an odd lyric to begin with. Gray’s is much clearer, though less catchy. Lindyke gave this song the win. Glennny slaughtered it for its production and composition. Zack Scott plain old hated it. I lean towards Jeff MacDougall’s review. It’s just mediocre. Elimination deserved? Yes.

Covenant Ranger aka Duality decided to go with a sequel to the Taupin/John classic “Rocket Man”. Could you pick bigger shoes to fill? It’s easy to get the connection between the two songs. It’s a tale of the astronaut coming home and now finding love anew. It’s a fine little tune except that it’s such a sleepy little tune. I kinda wanted the astronaut’s shuttle to burn up upon reentry just to give this song some oomph. The judges reviews included phrases like “background dinner music”, “hard to remember” and “not a song I’d listen to” and I have to agree with all of that. It’s a bit of a bore. Eliminated deserved. Yes.

Danny Blackwell did a sequel to “Wannabe” by Spice Girls. Is this what was going through Eddie Murphy’s mind after Scary Spice left? Seriously, there are some flaws here. In the last verse, there’s a murder but then comes the chorus about wanting to be like family. Unless he’s cradling dead bodies, we’ve got a problem here. Musically, guitar is Blackwell’s strong point and he played to it, but not much else. It’s not a mindblowing tune by any stretch of the imagination but it’s not the worst song I ever heard. The biggest problem here is that the original is a piece of fluff and that created a weak sequel which, though not as vapid as the original, had to lyrically lower itself. A couple of the judges said this was just a goof. I disagree. I think this was a legit attempt at a sequel but it was a bad original creating a bad sequel with lackluster execution. Elimination deserved? Probably.

Common Lisp went for a sequel to Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science”. This succeeding would take a miracle because the original is lightning in a jar. It’s a perfect storm of odd things that came together to make a hit record. How do you do that again? You can’t do a sequel without attempting the same quirkiness and unless you find some kind of new wonderous quirk, you’re going to fail. That’s one of the big problems with trying to make a follow up to a novelty hit. You don’t always get “Let’s Twist Again”. You often get things like that Chipmunks song about Alvin running for President. Never heard of it? There’s good reason. Sequels to novelty songs are tough and Common Lisp just couldn’t pull it off. Judges tended to agree. Elimination deserved? Yes. He chose a mountain too high to climb.

Then there’s Ben Walker, who I had picked to make it to the end of the competition and he goes out due to a rule break. Sad. The rule was clear that it had to be a top 20 hit. “When I’m 64” would’ve been a hit but George Martin decided to play around with the way that the Beatles released singles. You ended up with “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” as a double A-side single and “When I’m 64” not getting released. It cost the Beatles money (as they would’ve made far more with 2 singles and 64 as a b-side) and it cost Ben Walker his place in SpinTunes. Sad. Especially sad because it’s a pretty good sequel. It’s got a great Beatlesque feel with nice harmonies and would’ve easily made it into the next round if it weren’t for the infraction. A look to the judges reviews and they all agree. Sad.

Sorry but no look at the Shadows for me this time around because today is my birthday and I’m going to go do some other stuff. Later folks. 🙂