New Music To Heal the Non-Blogging Soul

I’ve been in a blogging drought lately. This was evidenced by a comment left on my other blog by a friend who was curious if I was ever going to write again.

So for lunch today, I got a hankering for some new music. There’s a local CD swap shop a couple of miles from where I work, so I thought I’d see what they have to offer. For those of you in the Salt Lake area, if you aren’t familiar with  CD Exchange yet, you either just moved here or your live in a very dark hole that’s 5 feet under a very large rock. Your hole is sound-proof and culturally deprived. I weep for you internally.

For those of you who are familiar with GW, you already know the verneable cornucopia of potential new finds offered at any of their locations. Today being a limited browsing opportunity day, I only got to hastily rummage through letters A through the beginning of D. The yield was pretty good. Here’s a list of stuff I grabbed:

Dear John Letters – Unbroken
Atherton – Skyline Motel
Absentstar – Sea Trials
Kirsten Candy – Glimpse
Blue Condition – Cheap Wine

I also picked up a Cranes Submarine EP with a bunch of remixes, but that’s just because it’s a Cranes CD. That’s a must-have purchase, in my book.

I’ll be reviewing each of these CDs over the course of the weekend (minus the Cranes EP), probably starting with the Dear John Letters CD, since I’m already listening to it. Not bad …

Out of Obscurity

There was a time when discovering unknown music was simple: you simply ran down the the local used CD store and find something you had never heard of. You’d find some new music, take it home, listen to it, fall in love with it, and brag about it. “Hey, have you heard of [insert unknown band name here]?”

“Nope. Who are they?”

“Found them at [insert local used CD shop’s name here].”

*hand headphones to buddy*

“WHOA. These guys are incredible.”

That was a relatively short time ago.

Music and file sharing in general has led to an exponential decrease in the “ability” to find new music that no one’s heard of. At least in your own circle of friends, however large or small that may be. An example of this is Heather–a girl I used to work with. She favors the more mellow, sometimes acoustic sound. I fired off as many a relaxing band: Air, Mew, Bat for Lashes, Folk Implosion, Halloween Alaska, Howling Bells, Sparklehorse, The Olive League … even Scarlett Johannson.  She had heard of ALL of them. Not some … all. I was rather blown away. I pride myself on my music collection. It’s divers, it’s ecclectic, and I used to think I had some obscure stuff. Heather’s collection blows mine away.

One band I’ve been hung up on lately is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. He’s not necessarily obscure, but ask around and see who’s actually heard of him. Better yet, check local music shops. See how many actually have his CDs in their new material. 

Imagine the anti-thesis of Suzanne Vega. Her music is peppy, positive, light, and fun. Nick Cave’s … polar opposite. Except for the fun. It’s AMAZING fun. If you’re into “Murder Folk” music with a gospel twist, he’s your man. He has a real penchant for writing about death–specifically in saloons, in bar fights, down by the river.

Here’s the best part: he’s been around for well over 35 years. And you’ve probably never heard of him. Or at least, you’ve probably never heard a single song of his.

I highly recommend checking out his stuff. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I prefer my CD covers have some kind of artsy feel to them. Cave CDs generally have some image of him on the front. Typically, that’s a red flag in my book. Don’t let this fool you. The music warrants the vanity. To his credit, his later CDs (ex: Abbatoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus) dispose of the self-aggrandizing visage cover and embraces minimalist art. Coincidentally (?), this happens to be my favorite CD of his. The music is at its strongest. Track 2, “Cannibal’s Hymn,” is disturbing. Actually, most of what he writes is un-nerving. You have to wonder what kind of childhood he went through to come up with some of the stuff he writes. I mean, yah … most musical artists pour some of their angry youth into their music. Those artists are typically in their early 20s, and the anger is still relatively fresh. Nick Cave is 52, and he’s been performing since the early 70s.

Anger-y? Good question. He has some sweet love songs, too. Take, for example “Where the Wild Rose Grows” Here are the lyrics.


They call me The Wild Rose
But my name was Elisa Day
Why they call me it I do not know
For my name was Elisa Day

From the first day I saw her I knew she was the one
As she stared in my eyes and smiled
For her lips were the colour of the roses
They grew down the river, all bloody and wild

When he knocked on my door and entered the room
My trembling subsided in his sure embrace
He would be my first man, and with a careful hand
He wiped the tears that ran down my face


On the second day I brought her a flower
She was more beautiful than any woman I’d seen
I said, ‘Do you know where the wild roses grow
So sweet and scarlet and free?’

On the second day he came with a single rose
Said: ‘Will you give me your loss and your sorrow?’
I nodded my head, as I lied on the bed
He said, ‘If I show you the roses will you follow?’


On the third day he took me to the river
He showed me the roses and we kissed
And the last thing I heard was a muttered word
As he stood smiling above me with a rock in his fist

On the last day I took her where the wild roses grow
And she lay on the bank, the wind light as a thief
As I kissed her goodbye, I said, ‘All beauty must die’
And lent down and planted a rose between her teeth

Hmm. Actually, that’s pretty morbid. OH WAIT. That’s Nick Cave. 🙂

Like I said, I highly recommend.

Trip Down Memory Lane–Van Halen Style

In the late 80s and early 90s, I was heavily in to Van Halen. They have a concert video called “Live without a Net” that I had on VHS. The way my brother put it, “It was the bible of concert videos.” I couldn’t agree more. I’m pretty sure I ran that tape extremely thin. Thankfully, my dad had a stereo VCR. I ran audio out cables to the back of his little boom box and made an audio tape of the concert. I wore THAT tape thin too. I had 5150, OU812, “The Red Album” … wasn’t as much into the David Lee Roth stuff with the exception of their first album from 1978. GREAT music … “Runnin’ with the “Devil,” cover of “You Really Got Me,” and of course, “Eruption”–Eddie’s seminal solo for the ages.

That was about 18-20 years ago.

Flash forward to today. My tastes have shifted somewhat. I still like rock, but with a much more refined ear. Odd time signatures impress me. Key changes are a must. Van Halen … not a lot of that going on. However, earlier in the week, as I was playing with, I stumbled upon a DVD copy of the old concert video with which I had spent so much of my time as a kid, visually and audibly. For kicks, I downloaded it.


That “wow” has various and sundry layers to it. The most prominent is the sheer “shudder effect” I had when hearing Sammy scream “HELLOOOO, New Haleeeeeeeeeen” and Eddie’s wailing guitar starts up as they get ready to launch into “There’s Only One Way To Rock.” The goosebumps, the chills, the thrill … I was 17 again, sitting on the edge of my bed air drumming with Alex (cuz let’s face it … there’s no way I’m going to even attempt to air guitar with Edward).

The next layer of “wow” was the amazing 80s clothing styles. Sweet merciful crap. Michael Anthony comes out in this yellow blazer looking coat thing with matching yellow pants. Huh?! Why?! I mean … YELLOW pants. MAYBE it was cuz he knew they were video taping, and he was deathly afraid of peeing himself, so he figured, “Hey … yellow pants, pee is yellow … sometimes. Maybe it’ll just blend in.” I don’t know. All I know is that Sammy was dressed in something that would make Joseph’s amazing technicolor dreamcoat cringe. THAT’s saying something. Of course, 3 songs in, he and Michael ditched their top layer. Wisely so, given Sammy’s desperate attempts to show the crowd how David Lee Roth-like he can be, jumping around and high-kicking and what-not. I guess I didn’t know much about the history of the band growing up. I knew DLR split after releasing 1984, but I didn’t know his stage style–his constant martial arts displays, etc. Knowing what I know now and going back and watching this concert, it’s … interesting.

Another “wow” layer. Maybe it’s just me, but there just seemed to be a really thick, heavy “cheese” element to a lot of Sammy’s extraneous dialog. What the hell is “vosephus” anyway? Defining what “5150” is supposed to mean … I dunno. Even some of the songs themselves seemed to have not aged well. That was truly a disappointing revelation. Here were my childhood icons, putting on an amazing show, and there is now a rather different feeling to watching it this time. Everything was just so over the top.

But what from the 80s WASN’T over the top, right?

In essence, it was just a fun trip down nostalgia lane, watching parts of this video again. The great part to this old classic is the dynamic tracking–allowing me to skip over the songs I didn’t want to necessarily finish and get to the good stuff, like “Get Up,” “Best of Both Worlds,” “Panama,” “Rock and Roll” (Zep cover, and WOW!) … there are other good songs, but stuff like “Summer Nights” I just skipped over. Even “5150” didn’t hold up well, but that’s due mainly to the point that I *never* cared for that version. I HATE it when a band plays a song in concert and tunes the whole song a step or 2. Like no one’s going to notice. Rush does that with 2112 all the time. Metallica FINALLY got around to playing “Dyer’s Eve,” only to tune it down a whole step. It’s not like James Hetfield can’t hit those same notes … he hits higher notes on “That Was Just Your Life” off of Death Magnetic. My point is this: if you’re going to play a song in concert, PLEASE play it in the original key.

Anyway, overall, the concert held up well. If they’re not the best party band in the history of music, they definitely have a solid place in the top 10, if not top 5. They’re just … FUN!

More iPhone Fun

So, I use my iPhone for a lot of things–music, blogging, staying in touch, reading up on news, playing, edutainment, etc. I’ve downloaded some pretty cool apps lately that I would highly recommend. Some cost; some don’t. If you have the means, I would highly recommend these.

  1. Shazam. Ever hear one of those songs on a commercial and wonder who’s performing it? Or you’re listening to your local radio station and you change the channel right as the last 30 seconds are playing to some song that you’ve been dying to hear, BUT you have to get out of the car before the announcer says who it is? Shazam to the rescue! The concept is that you launch the app, press “tag now” in the top right corner, then hold the phone up to the speaker. The app “captures” about 20 seconds’ worth of music, analyzes it and sends back the results. Once the results are displayed, you have a ton of options: tweet, send as a postcard, album review, biography of artist, discography, view youtube video, purchase the song from itunes … you can even geotag where you heard the song. Why you would want to do this is beyond me, but you can.

    It finds really obscure things, too. It’s found everything I’ve thrown at it. I especially like using this when I’m listening to the local college station when they have their indie music time slot. REALLY handy. REALLY free.

  2. Drum Kit. For all you Neil and Danny wanna-bes (and yes, I throw myself in that mix), you *have* to have this. 4 toms, 2 crash, 1 each of high hat, ride, bass and snare. Press the icon in the lower right, and you have access to recording and playback of what you churn out. Sorry, no gong.  🙂  Price: 1.99. Worth every penny.
  3. More Cowbell. Straight from Christopher Walken’s best SNL performance, you too can now bang cowbell with Blue Oyster Cult zeal and zest (or not …).  You can also select maracas, triangle, tambourine or sleigh bells. You know … for when it’s Christmas and stuff. 

    There are all kinds of fun things you can do with this. I won’t spoil the surprises here. Just get it. It’s 99 cents, for crying out loud. And SOOOO very worth it.

  4. Music Studio. Wow. Just … WOW. You really could write your own music on this thing. 128-track recording studio, replete with all kinds of keyboard sounds. WOW. Seriously … i’m going to use this to rework Ravel’s Bolero. All 13 sections.

    This one will cost you 19.95, but again, I say without reservation that you will be amazed at everything this little app can do.

That’s all I have right now. Well, okay … I have a few other apps I could discuss, but those are the maat and potatoes of my musical app time. Enjoy!

General Lack of Understanding

So, there seems to be this faddish thing with only using one ear bud on an mp3 player. Someone is going to have to explain this one to me. I tried it just to figure out what the appeal is. There isn’t one, in my book. Too much outside noise, not enough music. I just don’t get it. I especially don’t understand the appeal to driving like this. Even a stock radio is better than driving around with one-sided earphones, even if it is just an AM knob-dial tuning piece of junk.

Anyway, I had been planning on reviewing Muse’s The Reistance at some point, but with everything life’s thrown at me the last 2 weeks, it’s been impossible. I’ll try to get to it tonight, though I suspect my wife and I will try to catch up on The Office, since we’re so behind this season. We’ll see.

Cold and Rainy

So, i’m in the gateway district in downtown Salt Lake. It’s frickin’ freezing out here. The thing of it all is that there is a lot of ambient noise going on: rain, splashing puddles, passing cars, there’s some kind of music coming from somewhere, but it’s barely discernable over everything else. The lady parked directly in front of me is getting her daughter squared away for … something. Work? School? whatever it is, The girl is in a seriously misguided, weather-inappropriate plaid miniskirt and white t-shirt, and I can’t help but wonder why. It’s no more than 40 degrees out here. Oh well. The things some people do.

It’s an awesome September send-off.

You My Friend, I Will Defend

For all you Layne Staley die-hards, I feel your pain on having to mull over whether to embrace or shun the new Alice in Chains CD.

May I throw a couple of names at you …

Brian Johnson.

Sammy Hagar.

Now, you can add William DuVall to that elite list.

They are not just back … they are poised to shake up the current music scene with an infusion of masterful musicianship that ONLY Alice in Chains can craft. Take notes, young ones … school is about to open, and you very well may need the lessons.

Jerry, Sean and Mike have a new friend. Will he ever replace Layne entirely? Of course not. Layne’s visceral, tear-you-apart-from-the-inside-out, gutteral growling style of vocals was his own. William DuVall has his own unique sound that will lend a new, diverse sound to AIC’s discography, if for no other reason than, moreso than any other AIC CD, Jerry and William trade of frontman duties with frequent regularity … and it totally and utterly works.

Second pass listen, and I have yet to hear a song that even hints at borrowing from their previous musical catalog. Granted, their previous catalog was 3 LPs, 2 EPs, and a couple of tracks scattered over some soundtracks, and some “Greatest Hits” CDs, so sure, there isn’t a LOT of material to compare and contrast (see Rush for a good reference of diversity in sound over a 35+ year career).

I stumbled across their first single, “Check My Brain,” about a month ago. I instantly skyped my buddy and asked him if he had heard it. He hadn’t, so he checked out AIC’s website. His immediate response was, “Damn … I don’t think I’ve ever heard an opening like that before. Ever.”  or something like that. Which is probably true. The closest I can think of is Eddie Van Halen with his drill at the beginning of “Poundcake,” off of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

The opening track, “All Secrets Known,” says it all: “Hope, a new beginning. Time, time to start living. Just like just before we died. There’s no going back to the place we started from.” Literally. You can’t bring Layne back … all you can do is move on and start anew. Precisely what Alice in Chains have FINALLY gotten around to doing.

It’s been about 14 years between studio releases for these guys. You would think that there would have been more of a change in sound, but really … it’d almost be cruel to hard-core fans to abandon the sound that got them where they are now. Their raw, visceral edge that’s so prominent on CDs like Facelift or Dirt is amply evident on the new CD. This is the AIC CD for the rising generation, and it will more than cement the new fans as AIC hard-core legionnaires.

In a nutshell, Layne would be proud.

10000 Days in the Fire Is Long Enough

About 11 years ago, I began working in the campus game room. Basically, I was surrounded by 12 pool tables, 30+ arcade games, a juke box, and a snack stand next door. So, yah. Lots of amenities.

There were these two girls who came in EVERY Friday and Saturday night. Because they gained “regulars” status, they were given the preferential treatment of playing on Table 1–the table right next to my register, and technically for my use, but … I mean … come on. I’m not stupid, right?

The CD they played the most was Tool’s Aenima CD. Unfortunately, a pool hall with loud background noise and crappy speakers is probably not the best way to be introduced to Tool, but it’s what I had. The two girls would come in, grab their cues, ask for balls (no, seriously … ), and then they’d go drop off their stuff. One would set up the table, and the other would drop coins into the jukebox. They played 3 songs at least every single time they’d come in: “Stinkfist,” 46 and 2,” and “H.” Never failed. Sometimes, they’d throw in “Pushit” just for fun, but not regularly.

Finally, one day I told myself that it was time to hear the rest of the CD and actually listen to it with headphones. I ran down to the local used CD shop. In retrospect, not finding it amongst the used items was not surprising in the least. It’s too amazing to sell. Period. Finally, I succumbed and checked out Hastings. Notorious for their wallet raping prices, they were the only ones who had it, and so I *had* to buy it there.

(ed. note: yes, I realize that, all things being relative, “had” is very much a subjective term. People *have* to eat; you *need* sleep. No one *needs* a CD. Yes. I get it.)

If you can imagine being punched in the gut by Mike Tyson in his prime (read: pre-ear chewing and raping, et al), then being thrown over a billion foot cliff and hitting the bottom, yet somehow miraculously surviving, that’s what the first track (“Stinkfist”) on Tool’s Aenima is like. It’s an amazing sensation the hear the opening drums, base and guitar smack you around.

Anyway, that’s not why I’m writing this.

I’m writing because of their “newest” CD, even though it’s been out for well over 3 years. There’s a reason it takes Tool anywhere from 4-5 years to release a new CD. Other projects notwithstanding, they craft their songs in such a way that there’s no way anyone could reasonably expect such amazingness to materialize year to year. Take, for example, the 3rd and 4th tracks on the CD: “Wings for Marie” and “10000 Days.” These two alone would make the CD worth buying. They span 17+ minutes, and for those 17 minutes, you marvel at the wonder that is his mother. You feel his emotion and his affection for her. And this is TOOL we’re talking about. “Freaks are in this hopeless f***ing hole we call L.A. The only way to fix it is to flush it all away” Tool. It’s amazing to me that they can write something like this and then, on the same CD, play a song about alien abduction and being told that “you are the chosen one–the one who will deliver the message. A message of hope for those who choose to hear it, and a warning for those who do not.”

Their music has avoided a lot of the political agendas that a lot of bands tend to tow (ala SOAD, Muse, etc). They do, however, convey a strong spiritual message. “We are eternal; all this pain is an illusion” (from Lateralus‘ “Parabola”).

In the end, 10000 Days is one for the ages. Some critics discount it as being not as strong or edgy as Aenima or Undertow. While it may not be, it’s definitely Tool. That’s all that matters.

41 Ways To Die …

A couple of years ago, a girl I worked with asked if I had borrowed her Vas CD. Since I had no clue what she meant, I actually had to ask if it’s a piece of software. She just laughed. “No, they’re a musical group. Heavy middle-eastern influence.” Obviously, I didn’t have the CD. I came home and did some poking around online. Here’s what I discovered.

Vas is the collaboration of Azam Ali and Greg Ellis. They’ve been working together since 1997’s Sunyata CD. They have 3 other CDs: Offerings (1998), In the Garden of Souls (2000), and Feast of Silence (2004).

Azam Ali is a busy little girl. In addition to Vas, she works on a few other projects:

  • Niyaz
  • Roseland
  • Solo recordings
  • Collaborative recordings

So far, I have 9 CDs of her stuff: 4 Vas CDs, 2 Niyaz CDs, 2 solo CDs, and Roseland.

Here’s the thing. Her voice is …

ummm ….

it’s ….

well, let me put it this way: you’ll either need a cigarette or you’ll have to pee after you’re done listening to her. She’s that good.

On some of her projects (Roseland, solo efforts to some degree), she mixes western influence in with her music. With others, you can totally tell that she is of Iranian descent.

Her music is great if you’re into mellow, relaxing, hypnotic soundscapes that send you on a trance-inducing trip, much like taking a Lortab 10. The great thing is that, once the music is gone, you’re not left with a chemical hangover. Cuz, you know … Lortab does that to you. Or maybe it just does that to me.

iPhone Blogging

So I have this iPhone, courtesy of my previous company. I installed the WordPress software on it, so now I can write from pretty much anywhere. That’s pretty cool. The problem is that I have fat fingers, which, sure, have their useful purposes, but writing on a tiny keyboard is not one of them.

Anyway, this is just a test blog to see how well this iPhone app works.

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