Friday, August 26, 2011

1!, 2!, 3!…Listen to Me

“Music the great communicator
Use two sticks to make it in the nature!”
--Red Hot Chili Peppers (“Can’t Stop)

The word of mouth raconteurism (not a word, but it should be) of music makes me giddy. I’ve spent so much of my precious time over the years bouncing music back and forth with others—it makes me want to take my I-pod to the top of Zerfas Mountain and play it for ALL the lands. Perhaps others will enjoy it as much as I do and join the party. It’s that real The Jerk mentality that makes me want to write about my passions in the first place. Navin R. Johnson in a see of blues music (being born a poor black child) finds some toe tapping jazz. He shimmies around the house and inspiration pours out his pores to the point that he hitches a ride to search the world for more.

That is how I pursue music. If you find yourself reading this…chances are you have that mentality as well.

This, my friends, is a tribute to you (I actually originally put your names by each band and inspiration, but then struck that idea as YOU may not want that) folks who have passed along music to me. I am taking a moment to list and promote a few bands I’ve been listening to. Most of them in this batch I have a close relationship with in some, way, shape or form—whether it be friends of friends, friends bands, friends recommending and updating me on the happenings of people in bands that we became friends listening to together, etc.

Let’s get started with talking about the title of the this post,“1,2,3…Listen to Me”: There is a band called Further Seems Forever. Their first lead singer was Chris Carraba who most associate with Dashboard Confessional. The second lead singer was a man of outrageous pipes, Jason Gleason. The album he did with Further Seems Forever was titled How to Start a Fire. If you don’t own it, you should pick it up now for a lesson in gut shredding vocals. He ended up leaving the band after one album and was replaced by a bland voiced Jon Bunch. The third album came out with said bland voiced singer and it was decent, however, there was one track on the “Bunch album” that eventually surfaced with Gleason on the vocals. Same song, different vocals and there was a world of difference between the two. It is hardly recognizable that they’re the same song!?

Further Seems Forever “Bleed”: The Jon Bunch version is a good rock song. You could listen to this song. You like it. Simple. Straight to the point. It gets the job done.

Further Seems Forever “There, Now I’ve Said It”: The intro to this slices you so quick and thinly you’re not sure what hit you, but you know it’s deep cut. HOLY SHIT! That’s all you can say.

He just BELTS “1!,2!,3!!!..Listen to Me” only the ellipse there is TOO MUCH. There isn’t time for three periods! He merges it smooth, somehow, scream purees into a melodic croon that eventually details emotions about leaving the band behind. I don’t know how, but it happened, and that’s all there is to it. It’s one of the most amazing feats I’ve ever heard vocally.

Secondly, he sings the same song in a completely different timing. Kind of like how Elvis Costello never really follows the pattern of his songs vocally in the way that you’d think one would based on the backing music. It’s just off enough that you feel it’s off, but it works well enough that you’re amazed at its authentic nature and originality. Use two sticks to make it in the nature.

Overall, I can’t help but always use this as an example of how the slightest change can mean EVERYTHING to a song, and to me that’s everything you need to know about the raconteurism of music and why we all need to stick together sharing these tales of music appreciation.

Old Wives Tidal Tales
Listen to: “Alto Cinco”

You now know who Jason Gleason is. You needed that and you’re welcome.

Further Seems Forever’s How to Start a Fire might possess too much depth for you. It’s not light lifting. It’s NOT the kind of music you go to first thing in the morning or when you’re driving. Too much viscosity! In fact, I would recommend stretching and doing calisthenics for 5-10 minutes prior to consumption. Drink a red bull and try to relax, sucker.

I’ve been waiting my whole life for Jason Gleason to make an accessible album that everyone can enjoy, and brother, this is it! In theory, the right situation could find Gleason making a whole album that sounds like if you typed Jeff Buckley’s “Eternal Life” into Pandora. If you could handle it!? Tidal Tales closes in classic Jeff Buckley fashion with a song called “Troubadour” which could easily pass for a B-Side off of Grace.

(I typed “Eternal Life” by Jeff Buckley into Pandora and the first five songs were 1) “Operation Spirit” by Live 2) “One Big Holiday” by My Morning Jacket 3) “How Lovers Ball” by Only Living Boy 4) Bring it Down” by Oasis 5) “Lethal Woman” by Gentleman’s Pistols)

You know when you really hope for something and it doesn’t happen for awhile, you don’t give up, but your expectations lower and almost anything will do? This is not the case at all on this album. The only problem I have is the length. It’s kind of an EP if you ask me. There are essentially nine tracks and one of them isn’t what I would call “accessible” as it’s low fi and kind of a bonus track—only it’s actually the eight of nine tracks. Weird. We can’t have it all, but you CAN get this album for yourself today and live a better life because of it.

Besides the vocal prowess of undeniable accolades, the backing music here is unique and pretty thick. Not in the way that How to Start a Fire is deep, but there are lots of organs, steel drums, changing tempos, huge rock intros/outros, laser effects, horns, calypso rhythms, and whatever else you look for when you ask for variety. This music is so catchy you’re going to hate listening to it, because the addiction will geyser to your brain like an ice cold glass of Mug Rootbeer.

The timing and the structures of these songs hints at something retro. I think of music that you SHOULD be hearing when you were spinning around on amusement park rides as a kid. I don’t know the name, but one of those spider like contraptions that essentially whips you around avalanching your body to one corner of your seat, depending on which way it spins. This is the soundtrack to that moment, only if my memory serves me right, they would play hits. These songs are better than those hits, but with the feeling of this childhood memory I’ve depicted.

One more time…THE VOICE. This guy is the best in the business. I really hope he continues to make rock music, because my soul needs it.

Halos Living Like Kings of Convenience
Listen to: “Amalgram”

We seem to be on the theme of soaring vocals. Gleason is the king of setting up a satellite above the music with unfathomable emotion and technicality. I really hadn’t had that experience with a band again until I discovered Halos, a project that hails from Long Island, NY (now LA), through a former colleague. That particular friend will be PISSED that I make that particular connection between How to Start a Fire and Living Like Kings of Convenience, but it has to be done. In both cases, I find myself looking to the stars to find the vocals that rocketed through the headphones, out of my brain and into outer space.

“Meet me in the atmosphere
Don’t worry I’ll take you there…”

This line is a pretty fitting intro to the album. The descriptors of Halos like to use words like “atmospheric” and “ambient rock”, which are terms I like, but also don’t want to over categorize the music. The point of having categories is to group things not make 10,000 categories for filing things. That’s what band names are for.

One of the lost arts in the electronic movement is the album cover. Obviously, purists have been saying it all along when cds transcended to records—that the art lost the size. Now days, one has to seek out album art electronically and force it into I-Tunes (that takes forever!). I’ve always wondered if album art is a self fulfilling prophecy or if bands are just very skilled at branding their own music, because well, they created it—I think they know it best. The cover for Kings is a haunted looking mansion on a hill in the dark night sky. Perfect. Whether it’s that way because they planted that image within me while listening to the music is up for debate another time (seriously, I will talk about this someday, I have thoughts).

Halos definitely take you on an emo ride through the atmosphere. There are undertones of the emo movement, like that of Sunny Day Real Estate, but the hooks are memorable fist-pounders that make you want to take life by the horns, throw your troubles to the ground and float using the breeze at your back with vocalist Dan Lyman through the starry night sky.

I’ve always been a sucker for celestial references and callings from mother earth in music. Everyone should channel their inner Walt Whitman and anytime I have the feeling that a singer hiked to the top of a mountain or nearest grassy knoll with a pen and paper and let the beauty sculpt the prose…my day has become more organic. Everybody knows the word “organic” is worth another 27 percent, fiscally. I’ll go ahead and send Halos $2.69 to supplement my purchase order.

The other thing I like about the band is the hidden intricacy of the arrangements. Everything seems pretty simple, waiting for the vocals to chime in and take you away on that ride, but the guitar effects used are unique, rocking yet not too heavy or campy and quite patient, reaching out a helping hand to the magic carpet.

Combine the organic celestial mother earth with locker room bulletin board inspirational sonnets, clinging to your cortex, like “without faith it’ll bring you down!,” and my favorite “this is where I go to clear my head/this is where I go/this is where I go,” to lift your battered soul and give those teary eyed stars a hug. Yes, stars feel pain too.

Our American Cousin Michigan EP
Listen to: “Michigan”
Buy the Michigan EP (you name the price):

Michigan is a four song EP, soon to be LP (tentatively slated for late September), composed by my life-long friend Josh Kaufman. Besides being one of the world’s best wise-ass sarcastic sentimentalists and all-around good guy, he’s one talented dude. I’ve always encourage Josh to continue pursing music (he always has) and I’m elated, perhaps even giddy, about his latest project Our American Cousin.

It’s just downright impossible to avoid Sufjan Stevens comparisons with the song “Michigan.” Josh himself is probably sick of it, but, when you use a shit-ton of instruments giving a wide array of backing sound with an almost intimidating variety (think a more grassroots Pet Sounds), coupled with a soft soothing voice, and blonde-haired boy (Sufjan isn’t blonde) next door lyrics…well…it’s going to happen. Oh yeah, and then there’s the whole Michigan thing.

We got that out of the way.

There’s much more to this. My favorite moment is on the last song titled “If You’re Looking For Me (I’m Not There),” channels 2004 era Ryan Adams (I believe he made three albums that year alone, so that’s an era) and the quagmires of the mid-to-late 20’s.

“I'm in the prime of life
I've heard a hundred times but
I've been hiding for so long
It's hard to give life up”


Their right for keeping on
And in the end i'm wrong but
I've been drinking so what’s the use
How about you?

Sounds a lot like one of my all-time favorites…

“So I am in the twilight of my youth
Not that I'm going to remember
Have you seen the moon tonight, is it full?
Still burning as embers
The people dancing in the corner of the city
Happy, but I am sad
I'm still dancing in the coma of the drinks I just had”
--Ryan Adams (“Anyone Wanna Take Me Home”)

This is where the ‘Nard Dog chimes in with a “nailed it.”

It’s relaxing, soft and soothing, but there is depth and pain there. Pain you hate to love, because you feel for the songwriter, but you’re almost glad they went through it based on the final product of the music. Torture makes for wonderful art. If a subject has to have a couple down years to come up with the next “Bohemian Rhapsody,” I’m all for it. The potential of Josh Kaufman is a truncated exponent.

I lied. I can’t root against this guy (even if in this case rooting against was a root “for” in the grand scheme). I did, however, as a youth, ruin one of his shows by showing up OBLITERATED and shouting “Noodles” through an entire concert pretty much mutilating the experience for everyone involved. I almost got my ass kicked.

I’m a jerk, but you can help me make it up to him. Pick this up and get yourself out on the backways with a man that’s about to change lives one maudlin melody at a time.

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