Old Things That Are New(ish) To Me — I’ve Got a Feeling

I’ve heard this song a million times. It’s of course the Beatles from Let It Be. I once rented the movie when I was in middle school but haven’t seen it in years. Somehow a new song I’ve been writing has a bit of this vibe and I found myself humming the melody to it over the instrumental tracks.

Catching this one brief clip put me in the mood to watch this groundbreaking behind the scenes film of the Beatles working on the record (and subsequently bickering and breaking up in the process.) This kind of drama would give Wilco a run for their money. But behind all that drama is some amazing music played live on a rooftop, back when playing on a rooftop was still novel.  Still can’t top the Beatles.
[youtube]TcuvjYxYJz0[/youtube]

hello.music round two — The Silt of the Cosmos

hello.musicI decided to change things up a bit this week. I am waiting on new music softwares and new headphones (to replace ones I left on airplane) so I thought I’d try to do something all MIDI before I go back to past works. This song may or may not fit with the current work I am creating which is tending to be more singer songwriter oriented. It’s a bit too cosmic and psychedelic for that, so it maybe will work with another more sci-fi driven project in the works.

I have tracked lyrics for this but they (along with the title) could change if I decide to move away from said sci-fi project I have on back burner. I left out the lyrics for this round because they were sloppy, out of key and I wanted people to hear the music itself before they get preconceived notions on which project it should be for.

So here is the track currently titled The Silt of the Cosmos

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/soundbox/hellomusic_mike/TheSiltoftheCosmos.mp3]

Questions:

1) what influences does this sound like its treading on?

2) what moods are evoked?

3) how is the structure? any motifs i want to repeat or lengthen…its a bit short now, but not too bad.

4) which direction (sci fi or other) should i go in?

Thoughts?

Say It Loud…

This has been a rough year in some respects. We have lost some greats: from Kansas City heroes Buck O’Neil, Jay McShann and Lamar Hunt, to film legend Robert Altman. All have played their importance in some way and transcended into icons. So I am saddened to find out that we have lost another legend: the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown.

Music is greatly indebted to Brown, whose revolutionary funky rhythms, snarled horn arrangements and famous raspy voice changed the music landscape forever. There is no music right now that wasn’t somehow influenced by his signature sound: hip hop, rap, electronic, funk and even disco. With is politically charged funky soul, he influenced everyone from Sly & the Family Stone and Prince to Michael Jackson, Public Enemy and on and on.

James Brown

Leave it to the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, to make his final curtain call on Christmas Day. No doubt he wouldn’t have it any other way. For NYTimes’ obit go here. For the NPR obit go here.

hello.music round two – Slowly Yes

hello.musicHere’s an update to my song from last week. It’s still electronic. It still has the Circuit Dialogue patch. It still has somewhat of a postal servicey feel. I decided to worry about those textural issues at a later date and just work towards completing a song with real live verses and choruses- imagine that!!!!

Needless to say, I present you with Slowly Yes again, now featuring one verse. Hooray. Before you judge too much, I should tell you that I recorded this at 1:00 in the AM, Christmas morning; the verse line is a whisper because I didn’t want to bother Santa as he was putting our presents under the tree. I swear I heard creaking floorboards 20 minutes ago, and if you listen carefully, I bet there is an artifact in the recording. Maybe I can use the mp3 as proof of Santa Clause, similar to what John Travolta did in the 1970’s classic Blow Out with reel to reel tape. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend (it’s occasionally on the channel 62 Sunday afternoon nothing-better-to-do lineup).

Listen here: Slowly Yes version two

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/soundbox/hellomusic_greg/slowly%20yes_1225.mp3]

Questions:

  1. Do you like the verse melody, or should I try again? Sorry about all the lame vocal effects by the way…
  2. Verse length OK? Chorus length? How many verses I should have?

Here are the lyrics right now, feel free to comment/edit/add:

(Intro with verse progression)

Slowly, yes, is my answer for you, because I know you well enough to call this.
Slowly, yes, is my answer for you, because I know you well enough to call this.
Slowly, yes, is my answer for you, because I know you well enough to call this.

All of the options were failing her when she tried to comply
with an answer that satisfied a simple step: no regrets.

Like a hiker who disregards a faded blaze, ’cause this mountain’s a maze.
Downhill for water, or uphill? “There’s space for a fire, they’ll see me higher.”

Christmastime Is Here…

Charlie Brown Christmas

I came across this great article on Pop Matters that analyzes the holiday classic A Charlie Brown Christmas. Here Will Layman talks about the soundtrack’s origins and success, including my own favourite, “Christmastime Is Here.” He even contends that it is the most well known and universally loved jazz albums ever. And I cannot disagree. More people will recognize the music to this than they would to that of even Miles or Coltrane. And while its’ a far cry from A Love Supreme, nor does it hold a candle to anything Duke Ellington, Mingus or Monk ever wrote, I could listen to this record any time of year.

For other interesting X-Mas albums this year, check out this list NPR compiled.

Old Things that are New to Me — Christmas Time for the Jews…

Not headed home for holiday time this year due to work which isn’t so bad except for one thing: Christmas time can be pretty quiet and dull when most people leave town or spend time with their families.  So while watching an SNL rerun from last year, just saw this pretty great TV Funhouse song:  Christmas Time for the Jews.

[youtube]M3a3_nFRTfE[/youtube]

This song perfectly captures all the glorious things that happen when all the Jews run the town, while the X-Masers are nestled in bed with their sugar plums and calling birds.

Best Albums of 2006

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So here it is. The list. Well at least the list as it was cobbled together with twine, duct tape and ample amounts of chewing gum. I am pretty confident that these few were my favourite albums this year and while glancing over I realize there are few obscure picks here, it was a pretty great year for popular rock music overall.

If you read this and have comments or suggestions, or your own list feel free to add to this chain, or to send an email to bestmusic2006@hellocomein.com. So without further ado… read on.

Belle & Sebastian

10) Belle & Sebastian — The Life Pursuit
After hearing this album, it was apparant the recent staleness of the last few albums had subsided. The band sounds rejuvenated and trying new approaches to their Scottish chamber pop. Very few opening tracks stayed with me like this album’s “The Act of the Apostle Part 1.” A great catchy album worthy of road trip sing-a-long when you’re looking for that boost of energy.

Sparklehorse
9) Sparklehorse — Dreamt for Light Years In the Belly of a Mountain
This might the one questionable vanity pick I am championing higher than it probably deserves because I really love this the melancholy vibe so much. As a relative sequel to the previous It’s A Wonderful Life, not much is radically different, but that is not a bad thing. Nice to have Mark Linkous back to writing these darkly morose yet wonderfully warm, orchestrated dirges.

Regina Spektor
8) Regina Spektor — Begin to Hope
Probably one of the most perfectly constructed pop songs of the year is that of the lead track, “Fidelity.” The album is richly emotional and cinematic. Regina’s voice can be so sharp tounged and funny, with an adorable fragility underneathe. Add that to her dexterous piano arrangements and you have an album that is lovely and delicately fun.

Juana Molina
7) Juana Molina — Son
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Molina was once a comedian on Argentinian television. But only because her free form songs are so lushly exotic and romantic. The surreal electronic swells and burbles border on experimental pop yet they compliment the intricate guitar work and seductive yet hushed voice. A perfect record for a quiet late night road trip. That is if you drive through the Midwest late at night and you like songs in Spanish sung by beautiful women.

Cat Power 6) Cat Power — The Greatest
As I look at this list more closely, it seems the albums that resonated the most are female singer songwriters. And this one by the fragile and often tormented Chan Marshall is a great example. There is something appealing about singers of this ilk (Fiona Apple for instance) because you feel like in some way you are strangely intruding on some painful personal experience. Yet the motifs they explore to exercise that pain are universally thematic. Marshall is backed by Al Green’s Memphis Rhythm Band on this soulful collection. Cat Power has never sounded better: strong, vibrant and perhaps a little less anxious.

M. Ward
5) M. Ward — Post War
Finally an album that is not only about the war (or at least a war) but a world afterwards. Matt Ward’s songs are filled with poignent vignettes and song structures that harken back to a long forgotten era of music. His attention to old song styles and mysterious melodies are further benefited by Ward’s gravelly husk of a voice and impressive guitar work.

Neko Case
4) Neko Case — Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Further exploring her love for Southern country roots music, Case slinks and slides through this new collection of entrancing and engaging tunes. Case’s elegant voice is instilled with a beauty that is both cinematic and hard worn that make it easy to relate to such as the highlight track “Star Witness.”

3) Jenny Lewis — Rabbit Fur CoatJenny Lewis
While a fan of Lewis’ indie pop band Rilo Kiley, I always found some of the arrangements a bit straight forward. The songs I was drawn to were the more personal quiet moments that unfolded the more private moments. In her solo debut, Lewis has crafted a series of intimate songs that also tackle the bigger questions of love, religion and God. The music takes on a gospel country feel especially when joined by the equally lovely and transcendent Watson Twins whose backing vocals shimmer and emotionally swell underneathe each titular phrase. This is a nearly perfect character study and glimpse into Lewis’ mind and a great sign of music to come.

TV on the Radio
2) TV on the Radio — Return to Cookie Mountain
This was one of the most anticipated records of the year and yet for me, still lived up to the initial hype. It is by far the most interesting and unique sounds of the year. I have waxed on and on about this band all year in many forms so I am not sure what else to say about the futurist noise cluster of rock, hip hop, doowop and soul. The songs are not simply a collage of static-filled soundscapes. When you strip them down, the record proves to be a fully thought out collection of real pop songs. While I enjoyed the first album, this one will surely be difficult to top. There really is nothing else like it this year.

1) The Decemberists — The Crane WifeThe Decemberists
Upon first listen, I knew this would be an album that stayed with me the rest of the year. As soon as the chorus to “The Crane Wife 3” came in, the song was so instantly recognizeable and memorably catchy. I was already singing along as though I had heard it many times before. And for me, who has trouble hearing lyrics, that is saying something. The band has made the segue to major label success without any noticeable murmur or palpatation. One would expect them to make a quick and easy album that treads on the waters of the past, but that is not the case here. Colin Meloy and company have pushed the boundaries of their literary minstrel indie folk sing-a-longs by incorporating traces of prog rock and fusion that would give Jethro Tull or Yes a run for their money. Not only was this album stellar, but the band delivered one of the most memorable and unpretentiously fun nights of live music I can remember in a long time. When it comes down to it, The Decemberists have that perfect mix of superior songcraft and great showmanship. I eagerly anticipate this band’s next tour and next album. I know I’ll be there.


Mike’s SPECIAL BONUS!… albums that might have made my top ten but barely missed and deserve some attention and love (i.e. the runner-ups) in no particular order:

Bob Dylan — Modern Times
The Walkmen — Hundred Miles Off
Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton — Knives Don’t Have Your Back
Tilly & The Wall — Bottoms of Barrells
The Flaming Lips — At War with the Mystics
Camera Obscura — Let’s Get out of this Country
Beck — The Information
Thom Yorke — The Eraser
The Black Angels — Passover
Joanne Newsom — Ys

hello.music round one – Slowly Yes

hello.music

Here is my entrance fee for round one of hello.music. It’s a couple midi things, a bass line, and the beginnings of a vocal line. A few musings:

  1. Need to stop using the “Circuit Dialog” synth because it’s featured in just about everything I do in GarageBand
  2. The chorus needs retooling because I want the line “a temporary setback” to follow the last “I know you well enough to call this…” of the chorus
  3. Need a verse melody
  4. Bridge.
  5. I would like to alternate verses with Jenny Lewis. Then we will fall in love.

Slowly Yes

[audio:https://hellocomein.com/soundbox/hellomusic_greg/slowly yes.mp3]

hello.music round one – Oxygen One

hello.music

This is my entrance to this weeks hello.songs . Oxygen One is the very first thing I created after purchasing an Oxygen midi keyboard, so I think its fitting as my first submission into the world of the internets.

Oxygen One

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/soundbox/hellomusic_aryn/oxygen_one.mp3]

So the idea here was to see what I could make my first really using a midi interface and garage band. I think it turned out pretty well, I would like to revisit it and expand it out a little longer. This was created using my patented method of improvise and add, where I commonly start with one improvised element, then play over that a few rounds then improvise the next part … etc. until I have something laid down.

Its pretty short, and I do like the sweeping synth that comes in about 13 seconds in… its simple enough to drive the song forward. I am not really sure yet where this could go, if it needs to just stay a short interlude type piece or actually expand out into a more standard length song with lyrics etc..

hello.music round one — I am the king of sad retorts

hello.music

About two months ago, I came up with this shell of a song but have been stuck since then trying to figure out a good structure to lengthen it to normal song length. Its running a bit short now.

Here is I Am the King of Sad Retorts

[audio:https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.179/wvv.338.myftpupload.com/soundbox/hellomusic_mike/I%20Am%20the%20King%20of%20Sad%20Retorts.mp3]

This song feels overly Ben Gibbardy and I am even afraid I ripped off that bass piano line from Death Cab…but i havent checked yet b\c I am afraid of my imitation. But I think this tune might be able to have some potential once I figure out a chorus part and write some lyrics. I think I am already hearing the vocal melody in my head, but I might just be humming in a Death Cab-esque style.

I think this is the point where we need to start refining what we have and I dont know, maybe record some lyrics. As we are quite music based in nature (at least I am) I think this will be our major turning point in developing shimmering sparkley pop songs for the eager public.

So I still have a few challenges:

1) I need to find out what the structure is so I can write the correct amount of lyrics.
2) I need to write lyrics and vocal melodies for this past songs and record to see how all of that fits together.

So thoughts?