Saturday, 28 May 2011

the right tune the right room

There is much to be said about having a soundtrack to your life. It is one of those things that make movies seem so cool. You have the characters' movements being set to a cool tune and so it makes it seem somehow so much more resonant.

Wouldn't it be cool if we could all do this? Choose the music we would like to set to different parts of our daily activity. This is why Ipods and personal music devices are so popular. It is far more enjoyable to walk across a bridge with a cool tune blaring in our ears than it is to listen to traffic noise. Look at this, this a view of the river Thames in London at dawn a few months back.

Nice picture, but now look at the picture and listen to this by Aphex Twin

How much cooler and more atmospheric is that?

I like to listen to music as much as I can, this may have been a little obvious by my posts and the like. Honestly if you didn't pick that up then I suggest standing outside by some plants and hope that someone waters you. Don't mean to be hostile, but really. The point being that when I am allowed to get away with it, I have music on. I know some people like to have a TV on in the background. Never really understood this. I have music on, in every room I spend more than a couple of minutes in when I control it. I walk mostly with headphones when I am by myself. It is not that I do not like silence, but I don't get a whole lot of that. Live in the big city, work in an office of thousands of people, travel on public transport or in my car. Not a whole lot of silence going on in my daily life

None in fact.

I do find though that it is not always a great idea to have shuffle on. Sure I love it when Pantera comes on, but sometimes when I am engrossed in my book on the tube hearing the strains of Mouth For War are not always what I want. There are always going to be some songs that catch you by surprise and put you in a good mood, just because they are good mood songs. Like this,

I like Smashmouth, they are a little bit under rated I think. They seem to have produced a couple of good albums and vanished a bit. Their best album is definitely Astro Lounge. Well worth a listen.

So that is a song that is always pretty appreciated. However I usually find that there is a particular type of music that sits well in a given situation. For example, I like listening to Classic rock whilst I am in the kitchen , cooking or otherwise. It doesn't need to be a soaring Lynyrd Skynyrd guitar solo either. For example I am always pretty happy when this song comes on and I am cooking.

That is a great song. Always a nice one to sing along to. Although it has to be said that I may destroy most of the songs that I sing, I enjoy it anyway. 6 years of constant karaoke did not much to improve what sounds like an out of tune piano being burnt by throwing petrol over it. .

Regardless, I then like to listen to Metal when at the gym. I think this is pretty self explanatory. But when a song such as this next one comes on, you do feel that much more empowered.

You didn't think I could mention it and not put it in a post did you? . . please, you know me better than that by now . .

I love listening to Electronica when travelling on the train in particular. But general travelling, electronica, especially trance is still my favourite.

I love that video, that is a fantastic video. I want to crawl inside that video and have it drench me in the excess and riot of colours. While we are here. Listen to some Hallucinogen. Listen to as much of it as you can stand. It is simply brilliant and if ever there was a DJ that has transcended the electronica scene to create some true masterpieces of music then it is he. I think that the DJs get a lot of unfair criticism. I agree with those that claim the scratch artists and the samplers aren't really making music. I do. However, when you are creating the sort of music that comes across by placing it all together and arranging the sounds then you are a musician. you just have a different instrument. Listen to Deranger, especially 5 mins in plus, it is awesome.

Lastly, you need to relax at times. It was the modern genius of our time, a Mr Tommy Lee (Motley Crue for the philistines out there) that said, 'You can't be Phoaar the whole time, No one is Phoaar the whole time and so if you pretend that you are always Phoaar, then you are false. ' I know I didn't know that level of articulation existed in Motley Crue either. One wonders then why Vince Neil wrote the lyrics. Still Tommy is right. Sometimes you need to decompress,. This guy is still the master . .

I listen to this now in the airports. I am a happier and calmer person because of this.

What do you listen to and where? Why does it make you feel better about being there?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The cool hunter

I am a 'friend' on Facebook with a site called The Cool Hunter. It is pretty cool, so no worries about the name being mis representative. It is cool because it posts cool pictures from around the world. I am however somewhat disappointed because although I like cool pictures I had hoped that it was going to be actually a cool Hunter. You know, hunt out cool things. Like a cool phrase that someone has said, a cool bar, a cool person. A cool new flavour of ice cream perhaps. I know that this is all a factor of being disappointed in something I had originally imagined so I am not so down beat. It did of course, because it is me, make me wonder about cool people in music.

I think that one of the things that attracts us to some peoples music in the first place is because we think they are cool. or really not cool, or really popular, or really not popular. Or macho, or funny, or gay or something. The reality though is that if you equate cool with being super good, then we are all looking for our own cool to be reflected in the musicians we like. At least to some point. So with that in mind these are some people I think are cool, and why.

Henry Rollins is cool. Henry Rollins may in fact be the coolest guy on the planet. He is articulate enough to host a TV show where he interviews people from alternative culture (sounds like a hippie yogurt flavour doesn't it). People like Oliver Stone, Serj Tankian (System of a Down) plus politicians, writers. He has his own publishing company that publish the books he writes. He does stand up comedy, like this

Ok, not so funny, but I thought it should be listened to by as many people as possible. Henry is cool because he is smart and not afraid to say what he thinks in a public forum.

However, so much about being cool is about showing that you don't care. That the usual rules of society do not apply to you because, well, you are just too cool. This is how the shock artists have made a living since the 50s. As far as this goes you would have to say therefore that many of the Rock and Roll people are cool. Well it is certainly the image they portray. Few actually push the envelope, and those that can then back it up with some music of style and substance should be treasured. Like David Bowie

It is something that is increasingly lost in time I guess, however I have read some of the reviews of his music at the time it came out. Well, the good stuff, the 70s stuff , and it was really out there. I have no real idea what the video for that song is about. It is a cool song though , and I really do respect the ability to write a song that 30+ years since it was written still sounds different and interesting. is it cool? Well it is not perhaps cool in the traditional sense of being cool like this guy.

Who is now considered a legend. There is no doubt he possesses a lot of the physical charm and demeanour of a cool person. I must admit that I was a big fan, I think I admitted that a while ago. I really bought into the whole Morrison myth. Now not so much. I guess I am older and so these things are put into perspective a bit more. It now seems a whole lot less glamorous to be out of your head the whole time. Letting people down and just generally being a useless junkie. That said, I still like a lot of the music. I think it is pretty cool. Like so many things though it is dated now. Well, to be honest he died before I was born and so I guess it has always been a bit dated !!!

More of my era of cool is this guy

I know that a lot of people didn't really get into the Smashing Pumpkins. I did though. I was introduced to them by my brother and became a huge fan pretty quickly. There is something cool about the bald headed man in the public eye. It is saying yes I am bald and I am fine with that. In a world that is increasingly obsessed with looks and labels and how you are perceived it was refreshing. It is more of the norm now, well not norm, but not as unusual , but when that came out in the mid 90s it was cool. There is a coolness to Billy Corgan as well. The music of the SPs is very good. It did peter out a bit at the end, but the first four albums are always worth a listen.

I think though, that what makes people cool in music is actually less about them and more about the music. A friend put it well to me the other day, yes Kurt Cobain was cool, but would you want to have a beer with him? doubtful frankly. Perhaps that is it though, that is the key. It is all an invention of what we think. In reality they can be complete wankers and it still doesn't matter that much to us. Axl Rose was and will always be a very uncool guy. However, when he fronted the worlds best band making the best music did we think he was cool? Hell yes.

So with that in mind here is Mr cool himself

Because when you make music that good, it doesn't matter how you come across in a reality show.

Who do you think is cool? Why?

Saturday, 21 May 2011

music that changed my life

As you may or may not have gathered, music has had a large impact on my life, in a very positive way for the most part. I have found it to be a common thread that unites many people around the world. Perhaps when other things don't.There have been some moments that have been more important than others though. There are a handful of bands that have actually lead me down a different path than the one I was on the day before. I would like to share the who and why if that's alright.

The first of these has to be the mighty (all of the bands in this post are 'mighty' so i will stop using it) Guns n Roses. As I said in my post on them it was really the Appetite for Destruction album that did it for me. As with most of these things much of it is down to timing. At that moment there were a lot of hair bands around and as I was about 14 or 15 it was extremely difficult to relate to them. I liked a lot of the music (I am old and secure enough to admit that out loud now) but the whole style was somewhat confusing. I mean honestly, look at this from Poison.

That is not a very good song , but look at them. I have no real issue with it per se, but it was not something that I aspired to look like as a man. I just didn't get that aspect of it at all. The music itself was incredibly flippant and all about partying. Fine, but then this came into my life

Now that was the business. I agree that they still had a little bit of the effeminate style going, but it is somehow far more menacing. The impact this had on me was huge. The sophistication of the songs and the much more macho ideals appealed to a 15 year old as you can imagine. I started to get into much heavier music from the day I heard this album. This led me to Metallica , Slayer and Maiden. Before this moment I was aware of punk and guitar music. This album brought me to the metal party and left me there unsupervised. . . which was fun. As I said in my post on them, this was it, this was the real deal and suddenly everything else I had been listening to was blown away.

Around the same time, literally, as I clearly remember taking out the Gunners tape and replacing it with a tape of recordings by this band, this exact song came on

Wow, even hearing that song today still has an impact. You can imagine what a time this was for me. First gunners and then Dead Kennedy's. I was on a school trip overnight on a bus, and I borrowed a tape off a guy whose nickname was ET. I forget his real name. I didn't actually ever give the tape back I don't think. Sorry about that ET. I literally played Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables , the album that song is off, until the damn tape broke. When it broke I came pretty close to crying as well. The anger, the political statements , the amazing bass running through it all. The songs are short, and sharper than a page of Oscar Wilde witticisms rolled up dipped into lemon juice and poked into your eye. Really sharp.

Again the impact it made on me was huge. Here was someone with something to say. It was more about the lyrics and the meaning than it was about telling the world how cool he was. or how much he drank, smoked or did drugs. This lead me into the world of Punk as well as teaching me to listen to the lyrics much more. This was the exact point in my life I realised that I wasn't going to be like everyone else in my music tastes. I was going to be different and it was going to mean a lot more to me than it seemed to when I looked at some other people.

With these two bands under my belt I started to explore the alternative universe that up to now I had only sort of realised existed. Honestly, it was like being in a room for a long time, only to suddenly realise that there was a door, I went through the door and found a much more interesting and diverse room. The music I found changed my world view. For the better.

In this spirit I came across Jane's Addiction.

That is live and is fairly trippy. That whole concert is on You Tube. I loved Jane's Addiction and I still do. The music has that kind of hippy trippy feel to it at times, and at other times it has this type of feel

I have also written that I think Three Days of their Ritual De La Habitual album is one of the best songs of all time . This whole world of more experimental, less structured music opened up to me. The amazing vocals of Perry, the equally amazing guitar of Dave Navarro and just the overall qualities of this music led me into the world of prog a lot more. Which sounds a little odd given the much more industrial sound that Janes had, but there is much more improvisation to their music, in the same way there is in prog. I was increasingly open to anything with a guitar and this filled that gap that was left by metal and punk. It is a bit of both, but neither really. I recommend listening to their albums, Nothings Shocking and Ritual de la Habitual as they are incredibly varied and interesting. I see that they are going to be putting out some more music very soon and as you can imagine I am a little excited about that.

This could go on for a very long time and I could expound on a huge number of bands and musicians, because in their own way they all had an impact on me. But I will write about just one more.

The Mercurial Aphex twin.

Ignore the first part, as it is a parody of gangsta rap videos. What a messed up video (that is just as a little aside). Enough to start questioning your eyes. Anyway, the music, that amazing sound. This was the first electronic song I really got into. This is where my love of electronic music began. From here I cascaded down into the sound scapes of Brian Eno, Boards of Canada, Biosphere, Sigur Rios etc. Trying to find that perfect sound scape. I found it in the end just around the corner from where I started as it happens

Not that I regret a minute of the journey, mind you. That piece of music touches something inside and calms it down. I think if you close your eyes and listen to that piece it is impossible to remain angry at anything. I will write a post about electronic music soon. I have not really concentrated on it at all yet.

So there you have it, four times my musical doors were opened and I was let into a world that I didn't know existed before. How cool is that? It is funny though, each time it happens I get the feeling like I cannot believe I didn't know anything. Seriously, how could I not have heard this before? This is amazing, do I know nothing?

Long may it last, long may it last.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

best song from your country??

It seems people from a few different places are reading and so to you all I ask . .

What is the best song by a band or person from the country you are from?

Answer below or on twitter or facebook please

Me? I am from Australia and the best song ever by anyone from Australia is 

Back in Black by ACDC

Followed closely by this from The Church

Don't agree? then let me know.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Nice to see you, nice to be seen by you

One of the best things about Music is going to see bands play. It is something that doesn't really exist in other art forms. Obviously actors go on stage as well, but they very rarely are performing the film you saw them in. Bands and artists however, get up there and bang out the songs from their back catalog and if you are lucky, a once only cover, or a song from a new album (sometimes you are not so lucky and you do get that new song).

There can few be experiences as cool as seeing band on top of it's form playing live. The crowd of people all also into the band as much as you are singing, jumping around. A collective being full of energy and life. It's brilliant and if you have ever felt this then you know that it is an unforgettable experience in so far as it doesn't happen anywhere else. I have not ever been to one of those sing along film sceeenings . . although I doubt 250 flamboyant people singing along to the Sound of Music has anything like the same impact as a mosh pit going nuts.

Some bands then try and capture this for those of us not so fortunate to have been there on that great night. With extremely mixed results. I am not entirely sure where I stand on the live album. The quality is so vastly different. I have always also thought it is a bit of a lazy way of putting another album out there and fulfilling the record company contract for the requisite number of albums. That said, some people owe a huge amount of their careers to the live album. 'Frampton comes alive ' was the biggest selling album of all time until Rumours and Thriller came along. 'Live at the Budokan by Cheap Trick really ignited their career and without it they would have been very much a fringe band.

Some bands simply fit the live album mode so well that it seems entirely natural. Take this .

Stick with that until 2.34 in, and you will see what I mean. I have watched Flight 666 a number of times and that is the moment that you get just how much of a unique tribe a concert audience is. The entire crowd raising their fists at the same time. All feeling it. It is amazing that it comes across so well, because you can get the other extreme, the situation were the audience ruins the entire experience for those of us not there.

That to me just about sums up what is wrong with live albums. It is a brilliant a song as I have remarked upon many times. However, that version, with the vague promise of an extremely intimate version unplugged is ruined by the people whistling every time it strums the guitar. The vague crowd singing in the back ground. the rest of the band then coming on stage and then doing needless repeats of the least interesting part of the song. I don't like it. At all.

That is not to say though that a band can't change one of their existing songs into something new and making it better than the original

It is a long song. But it is worth it. I was lucky enough to see Tool play and I have to say it was a pretty amazing experience. I do understand that it is not everyone's cup of tea, but the way a band of virtuosos doing what they do best and having an appreciative audience is just amazing. It isn't so much about the show they perform, more about that you were there.

I have never been to a pop concert. Actually ever. I find it a very informative point that very few pop bands release live albums of any note. This has to be because their shows are about entertainment and not an experience. Doesn't it? Because they are not as good at actually performing without the aid of the studio?

Getting back to the Tool song, what I like about it is that it is such a good song in it's own right. Yes it was played live, but the recording quality is amazing. the clarity of the instruments is just brilliant. This is one thing that puts me off a lot of live recordings I have to say. The fluffy noise. The distortion and the inability to hear whom ever it is shredding or wailing properly. I realise it is not supposed to be the same as the studio recoding, but I feel somehow that while it is great if you are there, it isn't so good if you aren't. It is alright in the background, or if they are doing a cover, but I never put on a live recording, close my eyes and imagine I am at the concert. It just doesn't translate to me.

Am I alone here? Give me your best concert and or live recording? It can not be the same , because if there is an album of a concert you went to then that is a completely different kettle of fish.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

I think it is better like this actually . . . .

One of the wonderous things about the modern media age is the access to information we all have now. This relates to music particularly well. If you can think of a song you can probably find a copy of it on You Tube. If you like it then you can buy it through Itunes or have access to it through spotify and have it on your ipod or pc within about 10 minutes including listening to it.

This has meant the artistic process has become easier. The big losers out of all of this are the record companies, but I am not sure too many people are that upset about this. You can now get whatever you want to get out to a number of people with relative ease. Take this blog for example, I just write it and post it. Without the digital revolution I would have to print flyer's and then hope that people have access to the same music. Which they would not have and so it would be a futile process.

One of the very cool things I have seen on youtube is that people are taking the music they love and putting different pictures to it. That is very cool I think. I think it is great that we can access the band's artistic vision of the pictures they want to go with the music, but it is also cool that we can see what other people have done with it as well.

A perennial favourite for this is the mighty Boards of Canada. I really can not speak highly enough about this Scottish duo. Their music is always fantastic, whether you have it on in the background or you put on some proper headphones ,close your eyes and let the music take you away. Their songs are very emotive and so people have taken it and made their own videos to it. This is still my favourite.

The song 84 Pontiac Dream is taken from the album The Campfire Headphase. Which is my favourite album of theirs, although they have a lot of other good albums as well. Geogaddi in particular is also brilliant.

I am on twitter, please follow me if you are also on it.(Music Ruminations) I follow a few people and to be honest most of it is a little unfathomable to me. But it is perhaps because I am getting older and the new stuff doesn't seem to make as much sense as it should. I hope this is the case. Anyway, before I get into a whole premature mid life crisis diatribe, I will get back to the point. I follow Cage the Elephant and they tweeted this version of their song

There are a couple of things here. Firstly, that is an amazing song. It isn't actually the album version but appears to be a more unplugged version. Secondly , it is very cool that the band have seen what the other person did with their song and have told their fans about it. That's awesome I think. Someone has sat at their PC, cut the images together and sent it to the band. The band have then thrown their weight behind it. It only has 8, 000 hits on you tube, but I hope for every one's sake that it is a little further distributed.

One of the other great things on youtube is that people have taken the lyrics a little too literally as they hear them and have put images to what they have heard. This has been my favourite for a while. The song is a piece of pure aggression by the Mighty Pantera.

The song contains some swearing and so if that offends you perhaps do not listen. I should have put this warning before the song, but well, swearing shouldn't offend really.

If we wanted to be a little more mainstream with this we could also listen to this one.

I am not sure these videos add much to human civilization as such, but they are certainly very diversionary, and if you love the songs in the first place then you do get a lot more out of the whole thing. They are very amusing.

However, rather than just being bored some people use this medium to express themselves. This is not necessarily in an elaborate way. Look at this video

That is a great simple video. A perfect Circle are an interesting band. The lead singer is Maynard from Tool. Yet they have managed to sound very different from Tool. Which is quite a feat. I really like their music. It is perhaps a little more accessible than some of the Tool albums. Perhaps makes it less rewarding in the long run, but hey, we are talking about Tool, who must be one of the most important bands of the past 15 years. I would highly recommend getting some Perfect circle, seriously how good is this version of 3 Libras?

Have you seen, or even made your own video to some music you like? Please send it to me, use the comments field, or via facebook/ twitter. I would love to see it and perhaps get some explanations from you.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Osama is dead

So they have finally got him. I have been thinking about it since I heard the news today. Initially I was a little surprised that they had actually managed to accomplish this task. It has been nearly ten years and I think it has become something that most of us were not actually expecting to happen any more.

I am struggling with a bit of a dichotomy if I am being perfectly honest. I had friends who didn't make it out of the twin towers and there is something quite primal about hearing the news and realising that this is as a result of that. Which happened so long ago. I feel an element of closure, it may not be the end, but it is the end of the beginning at least. With that , there is the celebration of the death of a person. Who was hunted down and killed. I am not saying it was a wrong decision, it wasn't. Not sure about how I celebrate it though.

If music is appropriate in all circumstances, then it should be relevant now as well. Which songs am I listening to in order to help or define my mood?

Somewhat strangely this song comes to mind.

It is a very angry song about a false prophet. Listen to the lyrics of the song.

he had a lot to say
he had a lot of nothing to say

I am not for imperialism of any kind. Especially when it is so thinly veiled as an excuse to impose the right to make money in a foreign country. I do believe in self determination. However, the hatred and the anger that this now dead man preached is much more abhorrent to me. I can not understand how people can take the scriptures, of any monotheistic religion, and turn them to make people not only want to die for them, but also make them want to kill other people.

Another song that comes to mind in this . .

This is a much more primal state of mind, but very much along the same lines. It is an interesting song in so much that it has the power to empower the singer much more than intimidate other people. It is not a song about strength per se. It however manages to get that across extremely clearly. That must make this a good song. Obviously it comes to mind today because of the references to war and fighting.

This is perhaps a slightly different take on the whole thing.

Now Henry Rollins is about the coolest person on earth. Intelligent, articulate and also produces some kick ass music. I doubt very much he would be particularly happy with me putting his music into my little ode to the death of Osama Bin Laden, or the death of any person. But the anger and the confrontation of that song is appropriate. I realise that if you are on the left wing of politics then you will see this death in a slightly unusual way.There is so much anger still towards the Bush administration and the war that was seen as unjust by so many globally. However you feel about the war i think that it must be conceded that the person behind the killing of innocent people in an unprovoked , directly at least, attack, must have been aware that there was going to be retaliation.

Maybe now the world will be a little more like this.

I know, probably not, but we can hope a bit.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

A bit of New music

When I describe this blog to people the first question that they ask is if I review new albums.

Well no. I don't. There isn't a specific reason for this. As you will know if you have read some other posts, this is a blog which isn't specifically about any type of music, new old, hard, soft, electronic or experimental. So if I follow my own rules I then need to talk about some newer music.

So, where to start? Well, I will start with something reasonably new. The Black Keys, not to mixed up with the Black Eyed peas. In any way

This is from their album of last year, Brother

Not specifically new music per se. but I think that you will agree a very good song. I have always been a big fan of the big beat introduction in a song. What i like about the Black keys is the re-take on the classic blues sound. The song is undoubtedly a modern song, but you can hear elements of The Band, The Rolling Stones and Yardbirds in their music. The Album is of a similar vein and is certainly one of the best of the last few years.

I am a big fan of itunes. I realise that the Apple Corporation is now the big brother of our world. Iphones that monitor your location and let other people know, without telling you, where you have been. That is actually in the original Big Brother book, 1984, by George Orwell. That said itunes is a great way to access music. I especially like the radio channel function. Which allows you to listen to lots of different music of the same genre at any time. I think I said before that i stopped listening to the radio in the mid to late 90s. It wasn't until the introduction of itunes radio that i started listening again.

This is a song I came across during this process.

Cage the elephant

I like the song, obviously. I like the Pixies/Nirvana , loud quiet format that they have , adopted let's say. I got their album, which I have to say is a little bit shouty. If you are in the right mood then it is great, but it can get a little tiresome. I think that there are big things to come from these guys.

Another band I came across is The Limousines

Again with the big beat introduction. Maybe that is something I am just into at the moment. The song has the post modern angst that i like. It is great travelling music as well, maybe just for the commute. It does raise the ugly spectre of whether or not the synth has any place in music. I do not think it has a place in metal. End of Story, if it has synth it isn't metal. However it makes sounds and as such it belongs in other forms of music. Some bands use it to fantastic effect. Interpol, The Bravery to name but two current bands.

Talking about metal, well at least hard Rock. This is a band I came across why trying to waste some time on the plane the other day. This is Hinder. I think you will agree , pretty good for a plane album selection.

OK, so maybe not metal. But a good take on the updated Southern hard rock. Good guitars and a decent take on the attitude. Although I have a question for my American readers, why does so much American music talk and reference America in it? i do not mean the talking about modern society, but more the This is America and look at me i am talking abut America stuff? There does seem to be a lot of it. I think I understand why, but I would like to hear some opinions on it please.

Ok last one, I realise as well, that I am talking about bands that are new to me. And are recent. As I have said again and again, the digital music age allows us to discover music that may not have been released that recently but is new to us. That is all that matters.

I thought that I should give a listen to Arcade Fire, they won the Grammy after all. Now I usually take no notice at all of music awards. In fact since the 1992 MTV music awards that was taken over by some fantastic live performances by the grunge era bands, I haven't watched one. The music I like very rarely wins anything and I always get the impression that even if the bands play that I like, they don't really like being there. Anyway, with this in mind I approached the latest Arcade Fire Album.

I like it. I do. it is not quite as edgy as other music. But it is no worse off for that. I like the sound scape and think that it could be a bit of a slow burner. Not so much in the Tool way, where it takes about 50 listens to get it. But more a 5 listen album that i will not shuffle off when it comes up on the ipod.

I am also listening to the new Radiohead album, but want to write a different post on that.

What are you listening to? I want to know why and whether or not it is worth the effort.