Saturday, July 23, 2011

Conor - Seven Songs

If you have the time, please listen to these songs and tell me if you like them! I like them.

"We're the heirs to the glimmering world."
This song is sung in the present tense, and while the lyrics read naive and romantic on paper, this song is unmistakably sad. There's a weight to the drums, to the layered guitars, to his deep voice. It feels like it's been a while since the singer believed the things that he's singing. The National are a band about the little details, and the clarinets, the ways the guitar lightly play together, the soft backing vocals, they all add up to make something beautiful.

Okay, dancing. Someone's going to need to explain this to me, I don't think I understand quite how it's done, yet.I avoid letting myself dance, even though I really enjoy trying and failing, but when certain songs come on I can't help myself. This song is one of them. How is Justice this cool? How is the bass in this song so awesome? How are the strings so sharp and awesome? How is that guy next to me so fresh and stylin' with his dance moves? Some things I will never understand.

Yes, yes yes yes yes I know. The King Of Limbs is probably Radiohead's second worst album after Pablo Honey, their mediocre debut. I agree that most of the songs sound reeeally similar and stuff, yeah sure okay. But now that I'm done expecting greatness and perfection out of this album, I'm liking it a lot more. I think the songs really work better when enjoyed out of context, too. There's an attention to detail and subtlety they show in these songs that's really really cool. This song is especially dense. Towards the end all of the percussion tracks on top of one another make the track sound really claustrophobic and crazy. Also I think the melody he's singing during the "good morning mr.magpie, how are you today?" part sounds like the Beatles. Anybody? Anybody else? Even a little bit?

"We's about to make it clear we and we lonesome."

How cool would it be if I could raaaaap.

There's some x-factor when it comes to rap and hip-hop that I can't place that is totally a deal breaker for me. If a song has it I'm really really into it, and if doesn't I'm pretty uninterested. This song? This song has it. This song has it for days. Gorillaz does such a cool job of bridging pop, hip-hop and alternative music. I really want to learn how to use electronics. It would be so cool to work on something like this.

It would also be so cool to rap. Fuuuuuck.

"It's just a dream he keeps having, and it doesn't seem to mean anything."
What a pretty, bittersweet, catchy, heartbreaking little song. It feels modest, if that makes any sense. The guitar noodles around the whole time while Jeff Tweedy spits out sad little lines with that tired, enduring voice of his. Man I love everything about this song do you guys? Man.

This is one of my favorite love songs of all time. Also, Lemony Snicket, the guy who wrote the Series of Unfortunate Events books, plays accordion on this song, no joke.

I hope I ever write any song that rocks as casually and confidently as this song does at 1:03. They Might Be Giants just plain kick ass for 10 seconds there and then quickly move on to another idea because that's just what they do. They're crazy and endlessly creative. They're 40 something year old nerds who are cooler than pretty much everyone. I read something once that said this song is about a car crash and the song is being sung by the car itself. Woooooah.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

On The Record

by Brendan Cavanagh

Of all relevant mediums by which people listen to music, my personal favorite is the vinyl record. In addition to a portable turntable that I have adopted as my own, my mom has a sizable collection of albums and 45s from her adolescence and young adulthood. Over the past few years I've purchased records of my own, which I keep in a large milk crate with selected albums of my mother's. I prefer listening to records on vinyl for numerous reasons.

For one thing, it's a very physical process. I like being obligated to set down the needle in the appropriate spot and flipping the record after each side is through. I like admiring album art when it's right in front of me, a physical and visual manifestation of the music I am listening to.

CDs, sure, are hand-held and have much more use- you can play them in your car or stereo, you can burn them on your computer and thus transfer the songs to your iTunes or your iPod. But there are just too many CDs to buy if I want to keep up on current and past music and transfer all that to my iPod. I can much more simply and cheaply borrow any desired album from the library and return it when I've burned it onto my computer.

I don't even really want to venture into the discussion of today's music industry and the rise of the mp3. I just think it's dangerous and too available and annoying and boring and blah blah blah.

Cassette tapes are fun, albeit obsolete nowadays. None of my tape players work anymore, and I'm not going to carry around a newly-purchased walkman when I have an iPod. Former Thursday Classic Brian blogger, Cory, releases all music on his independent record label on cassette tape only.  An admirable business venture, but a fiscally unsound decision all the same. I'm glad he is now further able to assert his hipster status, but even hipsters have to realize that cassette tapes are inferior to virtually all available music-listening mediums.

The records I buy on vinyl are typically- though not solely- older albums, ones that I have a personal stock in. These are albums that I want to set up and play in my bedroom or dorm room to fill up the room with that inimitable, rough, nearly palpable sound. It's sort of like an invisible concert is being played while I put away laundry or read a book.

Furthermore, if I were to choose one type of music-listening medium to hold onto for years to come- something to come across and reminisce about fondly- then I choose vinyl records. They're just cool.

Some records that sound great on vinyl:

Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan
The Band - The Band
Various Beatles' LPs - Sgt. Pepper's, Abbey Road, Rubber Soul (US version, duh!), etc.
Oracular Spectacular - MGMT
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (saw them in St. Louis the other night, fantastic!)

Today I just got Paul McCartney & Wings' Band On The Run, and from previous listening, it's fascinating when played on vinyl. Namely "Mrs. Vanderbilt," followed by "Let Me Roll It." Here's hoping old Macca plays those songs when I see him live at Wrigley Field on August 1.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Who loves musicals?!

Hey gang!

So this sort of feels like one of those awkward moments where you're nice to someone who you usually ignore because you want something, but here's a shameless self-promotional post about Hairspray!

I know how much you guys love musical theater so you should all know that this show will not disappoint. This Friday, July 22nd, Hairspray will be oping at the Muni and believe me when I say that we we have stepped our game up. This ain't yo mama's Muni show. Our lights and sets are outta control, our costumes and hair are larger than life and our dancing an vocals are unreasonably awesome. Also I'm in it! (see my unimpressed face below).

So anyway, it was good talking to you. See you later maybe.

P.S. The show starts at 8:30 at the Springfield Muni.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nick - Feeling Lucky?

There's a really excellent study (PDF is here) about what makes a person lucky or unlucky. The ten year study involved 400 people who considered themselves exceptionally lucky or unlucky. Here's a quick summary of what it found:
  • Self-described "lucky" people had fortunate chance encounters.
  • Lucky people were more observant in experimental trials.
  • Unlucky people are generally more anxious than lucky people.
  • Self-described lucky people continue being lucky; unlucky people continue being unlucky.
  • A "luck school" by the experimenter was successful in teach people how to be luckier.
Ultimately, the study made some interesting conclusions. One important one that presents itself is that we have a flawed perception of luck. While we think of luck as simply being left completely to chance, it is actually determined by a person's state of mind or mannerisms.

The second important conclusion to the study is that it identified the four principles that allow a person to generate good fortune. These are, essentially, the character traits that distinguish a lucky person from an unlucky person.
  1. Skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities
  2. Make lucky decisions by following their intuition
  3. Create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations
  4. Adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good
When you put these traits together, basically what you get is the impression that go-with-the-flow type of people are luckier. Which, looking back, has always seemed true in my experience. Basically, being too anxious or inflexible results in missing opportunities in life.

The moral of these four traits can be summed up like this: Keep a positive outlook, because your own perception of events is what really matters. Be flexible, and don't let opportunity pass you by.

Don't be afraid to take chances.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ultimate Cereal: You Are Not Prepared

Robert Langellier

Alright, I know this happened. And more recently, this. But now we’re gonna talk about this.

Ultimate Cereal is the pinnacle of cereal combination creations, a hobby of which I’m sure many readers are active and enthusiastic participants. Everyone’s thrown some Cocoa Krispies in with Golden Grahams at one point in a vain effort to make Golden Grahams edible. But the Holy Grail of cereal combination creations remains elusive, despite many laughable claims of “perfection” from various combo creators. THEY ARE WRONG, AND I HAVE FOUND IT, and it was right in front of our very eyes this whole time:


Right? Now, where did society go so wrong in that our careful observance of tasty things could go so far astray, and that something so obviously delicious could escape our vision? I remember a day, not so long ago, when I leapt across the dining halls with glee after combining the mediocre apple taste of Apple Jacks with the cinnamon explosion of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. How foolish I was to think that this was some kind of cereal ceiling I had experienced.

Let me tell you about Ultimate Cereal:

Ultimate Cereal, as you can see from the pictures, is the combination of Captain Crunch Crunch Berries and Lucky Charms marshmallows. These two cereals are notorious for having a lot of stupid shit to eat through to before finally arriving at edible Shangri La. Anyone who likes the crunch in Captain Crunch is wrong and anyone who likes the wooden things in Lucky Charms shall have their tongues amputated, in due time.

Ultimate Cereal takes time, patience, and steely determination to concoct, as well as three separate cereal bowls and one thing I tragically lack: any friend to sit by you as you sift in order to make you not look like the saddest loser ever. I’m relatively certain to a fairly high degree that every single regular patron of Plaza 900 feels bad for me. They do not understand. Currently I’m devouring I think my fifth bowl of Ultimate Cereal in as many days, and I am proud and my stomach is proud and pleased.

Grammatically, Ultimate Cereal is a proper noun. This is in order to distinguish it from my language modifier “Ultimate (Noun)” that I introduced last week, which are merely capital letter common nouns. Ultimate Cereal is a concrete entity and is always to be referred to as such and is never to be replaced by weak, compromising pronouns. Ultimate Cereal is not an “it” or a “her” or even a “thing” because even that’s uncomfortably close to a pronoun in my opinion. It is only Ultimate Cereal.

I understand that some of you may have certain concerns about the dangerous concentration of delicious things. Fret not. Ultimate Cereal tastes how it tastes in your dreams, which as you may already have dreamed, is very tasty. The sugar rush is intense, and it shoots directly from your tongue to your bloodstream, bypassing your esophagus and other digestive organs entirely, but in a good way. And yes, Ultimate Cereal does indeed make you earn its delightful bounty by requiring first berry picking,* then mallow hunting,* and then careful spoon mixing, but all of this only whets the greedy appetite, and the end result of this mounting tease explodes into a frenzy of unabated gobbling, and every second will be forever remembered in its glorious and fleeting ego death, akin to the sweat lodge revelations and, yes, the sexual orgasm.

I recommend it.

*official terms

The Mediocrity of Harry Potter

"Oh no, my childhood is over. Harry Potter has ended. Waaaaaaaaah!"

Shut the fuck up. Harry Potter is just decent. Move on.

"Oh but Brian, the world Rowling created was just so wonderful and magical. It seemed so real to me! It was almost like I was part of it!"

Really? Because there really isn't even much to the world. It's like, what, Hogwarts, the Ministry, Hogsmead (what's the deal with hogs?), and Godric's Hallow? And I'm not gonna say it's badly done, because it isn't. I like it well enough, but I don't see what's so special. I wouldn't be ripping on the world Rowling created if that weren't the frontline for every defense of Harry Potter. But it is, so I am. I just feel like so many other series do a much better job of it and get little to no credit, let alone the worldwide acclaim Harry Potter has gotten, and that's frustrating to me.

Harry Potter has some good characters, but let's be honest here; Harry Potter himself - least interesting of them all. The fact that the main character of the saga sort of sucks puts me off a bit. That's like if the title track of a pretty good album isn't very good. It doesn't necessarily ruin it for me, but it puts doubt in my mind. He's just an angsty little kid who gets lucky a bunch. Ron is way cooler, and he's a ginger.

Wow, I just got really bored of writing this.
'Nuff said.