Monthly Archives: April 2015

Swayze-Crazy: POINT BREAK

Trope and Dagger

In September 2009, the world lost actor Patrick Swayze to cancer. Both an action star and a dancer, Swayze was able to play both romantic leads and tough guys—a feat very few have been able to pull off. Oozing with charisma, Swayze stared in some of the biggest films of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Maybe you first saw him in Ghost starring opposite Demi Moore playing a young lover murdered in cold blood. Or perhaps you know him best as Frances Houseman from the 1987 dance flick Dirty Dancing. Maybe you best remember him as Jed Eckert in the Cold War action-thriller Red Dawn. It was difficult to put Patrick Swayze into just one category, which was probably why he became such a big star and meant a lot to so many people. I grew up watching  Swayze’s movies but it wasn’t until I revisited his films after he died that…

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Please Visit Trope And Dagger, Save My Ankles

Hey friends, could you all do me a favor and check out a post that I wrote over at Trope And Dagger?

What’s Trope and Dagger? It’s a really rad pop culture blog that my old dorm buddies Aaron Wilson and Andy Primm run. They write about TV, films, video games, and even post short fiction. These guys do a way better job of putting out great content on a regular basis and deserve your attention.

Today a post I wrote about the 1991 action-film Point Break went up. Would you do me a kindness and check it out? If this post doesn’t get at least 14 views I’m gonna cry and Andy will break my ankles. I need my ankles to not be broken. Fun fact: did you know that Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers plays a menacing surfer goon in Point Break? It’s true.

"Yo dwag, 14 views or Immagonna break this fools ankles..."

“Yo dwag, 14 views or Immagonna break this fools ankles…”

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Defending Shoegaze/Dreampop/Synthrock

I recently explored the growing world of streaming music and one thing that I found was that Pandora is the best at recommending new music. I pay for Spotify because I usually know what I want to hear, but when it comes to finding new artists, no one beats Pandora. Pandora’s music genome sounds a bit like a con until you compare it with similar recommendation features of competing streaming services. My beloved Spotify has an absolutely atrocious “radio” mode that winds up playing the same ten songs by roughly the same four to five artists. And usually these so-called recommendations are so oblivious that I’m rarely surprised by anything that gets played when I use this feature. I have access to a premium Pandora account where I work, and on Fridays when no one is around I like to pick an artist I’m currently grooving on and see what new stuff I can find.

Now I’ll freely admit that I’ve always been a sentimental fool. I like quiet, moody songs that are bittersweet. Dream pop. Chillwave. Shoegaze. Whatever you want to call it…I love this kind of music even though I don’t know much about this genre. One of my current favorites is the French pop singer Melody Prochet, who fronts the psychedelic dream pop band Melody’s Echo Chamber. I discovered Melody’s Echo Chamber via label mate Tame Impala, an Australian psychedelic band who kick all kinds of ass. Anyway, I took it upon myself to create a Pandora station based around Melody’s Echo Chamber. What happened? I fell down a rabbit hole of electronic-psychedelic-dream pop that melted my mind and made me fall in love.

One of the great things about myself, if I can take a moment to brag, is my ability to love a lot of different/conflicting things. Like, for example, I really love cock rock. Give me a hard-charging guitar riff and with some semi-sexist lyrics and I’m happy as a pig in shit. The more dunderheaded, the better. But I’m also a sensitive soul that likes to be lulled by a sweet melody and lush wall of quiet noise. This music that Pandora showed me was amazing in that it was both distorted and crystal clear. It was intimate and human, while at the same time adorned with the trappings of modern electronic music. This music was full of synthetic sounds and real emotion. It was like discovering a new color.

The branching spectrum of music Pandora showed me was absolutely breathtaking. It was like having a cool older brother with a kick ass record collection show me what’s what. I was certain that all the music I was hearing was brand new, but with a little research I found out that most of it was several years old. How on Earth had I missed the stunning pop of Hannah Georgas? Or the cool electro-funk of Walter Meego? What if I’d never decided to play around with Pandora and these amazing songs had remained unknown to me? This post is part advertisement for Pandora, which is an amazing service, but it’s also about stumbling out of one’s comfort zone. I love The Beatles, but you shouldn’t listen to them 100% of the time, this experience only reinforced that.

If you haven’t played around with Pandora in awhile go give it another shot. Let it show you things you didn’t even know you wanted to see. Or go visit a record shop and talk to that weird guy behind the counter. You know, the fat guy with Elvis sideburns who sweats all over you purchases and mumbles to himself. That guy knows stuff. Pick a genre you don’t normally listen to and give it shot. Or go on r/Music on Reddit and see what all the cool Internet kids are chatting about.

I feel like a kid on Christmas having discovered all these cool new bands! Here are a sampling of my favorites. If you have a chance, take a listen. And if you like this kind of music tell me about it in the comments. I want to find more of this mellow, dreamy, electronic music.

Currently in heavy rotation in my Shoegaze Playlist:

  1. You and I” by Washed Out. Washed Out famously provides the opening theme to Portlandia a hilarious sketch show on IFC. This song is hypnotic and mellow, I love it.

 

  1. “Happy Birthday Party” by Dom. This song totally feels like more upbeat, less drugged-out Animal Collective. This song should have been a monster hit with it’s rad hook and goofy-fun lyrics. It’s time to get gnarly, happy birthday party-party indeed…

  1. “Gasoline” by Alpine. A mix of dance and indie pop, Alpine are a really cool Australian band that have this weird knack for writing really fun songs that are catchy and fun as hell. These people should be household names.

  1. “Walk in the Park” by Beach Fossils. This is probably the only song on this list that I’d heard prior to falling into my shoegaze rabbit hole. This song is so ethereal and dark, but also really beautiful. I love this song.

  1. “Bullets” by Rebecca & Fiona. This is 100% pure dance music. Straight from Stockholm, Sweden, Rebecca & Fiona are these two really hot DJ’s who are making embarrassingly good dance music with sweet pop hooks. This song “Bullets” is rad and makes me want to dance. I never want to dance.

  1. “Standing on the Shore” by Empire of the Sun. I’ve been a fan of The Sleepy Jackson for many years but had no idea that Luke Steele was also the member of a synthpop band. Totally theatrical and totally glammed out, “Standing on the Shore” is a dreamy pop masterpiece. Weird? You bet. Over-the-top? Sure. Fun? You bet.

  1. “Robotic” by Hannah Georgas. This song is a real heartbreaker. There’s so much soul in her voice. This is one of those songs that feels old and worn in the first time you hear you it—like it’s been a part of your life this whole time. Sad and wistful hurts so good. I love it.

And in case you’re interested, here is my Shoegaze playlist on Spotify. There’s a ton more really cool songs and artists with more added every Friday:

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HIGHLY-UNSCIENTIFIC RESULTS: Do You Pay For Streaming Music?

At the end of last month I posted a poll asking if you paid for streaming music. Why was I curious about this? Well as a big-fat music geek, I pay for my music. I do so for a couple of reasons, the primary being that I don’t think it’s okay to steal if you can afford to pay–for anything. I also look at the sorry state of music today and know that the problem is money-related. The Internet has made it easy to discover new and exciting music, but it’s also eroded away the old Music Biz-model. Scrambling to adjust to the new paradigm, record companies doing just about everything but fostering artists and release better music. When an artists puts out something of quality I feel very responsible to pay for their music just to send the message of “this is good, please make more like this.” When the streaming music model first hit the scene I was against it. Up until two or three years ago I was a massive collector of physical media. The idea of owning but not really owning a band’s album or song was foreign to me. I’d dabbled in iTunes and eMusic, two services that cut out a physical copy but still gave you something, even it if is a digital fileIt quickly became apparent to me that a digital copy of an album was more or less just as ethereal as a copy I was only streaming. I simply wasn’t able to burn everything I (legally) downloaded onto CD, there was just too much. And boy did my hard drive fill up fast. So what did I do? I quit iTunes. I waved bon voyage to eMusic and got on the Spotify bandwagon.

Prior to Spotify, my only experience with music streaming was Pandora. I liked Pandora’s ability to recommend new music to me based on what I liked, but I didn’t care for the radio-like quality of the service. I’m the kind of listener who most times knows exactly what I want to hear, which is not really what Pandora’s all about. Spotify appealed to me because it was basically my iTunes…just with (nearly) everything I could ever want to hear. Spotify sneakily offered me a 90-day trial that hooked me. I now pay for premium Spotify in order to have the best sound quality, no commercials, and so I could have it on my iPhone. Recently Spotify changed their service to allow non-paying listeners the ability to listen to Spotify on their phones, which is a pretty big deal. The drawback to being a non-paying Spotify user is that you can’t pick what you hear beyond the artist. Only premium users are able to pick and choose what they hear, everyone who doesn’t pay is forever stuck on “shuffle.” There has been much debate on the amount of money streaming services pay artists. Most of what I’ve read indicates what I’ve suspected all along: a $9.99 streaming plan that gives customers access to 99.999% of all popular music is not a business model that rewards artists as well as traditional album sales. This bums me out and it appears to be the Achilles Heel of services like Spotify. Since they aren’t paying artists very fairly, many are “jumping ship” like Taylor Swift from Spotify or starting their own streaming services like Jay-Z. I don’t know exactly how I feel about this. On one hand, the chief reason I’m paying for Spotify is so I’m not picking anyone’s pocket…on the other I think it’s shitty you have play “I’m on Fire” 100,000,000,000,000,000 times for the Boss to make a nickel*.

What @$$hole wrote this insensitive poll?

What @$$hole wrote this insensitive poll?

As I stated, I don’t know very many hardcore music fans (a sad indicator of where the music industry is going or maybe just I’m bad at making friends) so I’m always a bit puzzled if I’m in the minority or majority when it comes to paying for streaming music…hence the poll. The results indicate that only 28 people could be bothered to read my shitty blog and take the poll. Of those 28 people, 16 people (57.14%) said that they do indeed pay for a streaming music service of some variety. There were 12 people (42.86%) who reported that they don’t. Then a bunch of cry-babies took umbrage with the phrasing of the poll answers. I wrote the poll answers with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, but there were a few people who didn’t take it that way. They refused to participate because they didn’t like being called a “chump.” Similarly, some people were upset that the option of saying “no, I don’t pay for streaming music” also alluded to illegally downloading music (“No, this is 2015 and music is free online). I get it. People who are into music almost always want to pay for it and the stigma of being “a chump” looms over us all. Hell, one of the reasons I put the poll up in the first place was to see if I was out of touch (or whatever) because I was paying for a streaming music service. I don’t think I am…but not thanks to this highly-unscientific rock poll. No, the sheer number of streaming services is proof enough that the business model is making someone, somewhere money. You can’t make money without chumps–I mean customers–forking over cold hard currency. I’ve written in the past how Spotify saved me from a 5-10 CD a week habit. More than just the expense of buying all that shiny plastic, streaming music saves space in my home and has allowed me to discover so many great new bands and genres of music by simply letting me “try out” music with one flat fee. Having all the music I could want on my iPhone is great, too.

Really, the only negative I have with streaming music is the music rights issue. I can’t tell you how many times a band’s album or even entire discography has simply vanished overnight. I can’t quite tell the reason, but I imagine it’s because the service I’m using just up and lost the rights to carry the album/song/catalog. It’s a bummer when a song you love just evaporates, like it was never available to you. I also don’t like how certain services have certain bands. AC/DC and The Beatles are available on Pandora, but are nowhere to be found on my Spotify service. Bummer. If these two issues were somehow solved (which they won’t be) then I’d have no problems at all with streaming music services. I think that in a few years music streaming will 100% be the norm in regards to music consumption. I think Pandora or Spotify accounts will be bundled with Cable/High Speed Internet packages…and we’ll all live on the moon with our rocket sleds and robot dogs. What a glorious future it will be. *not an actual figure

“Open Fire”: The Darkness Sound A Bit Like The Cult

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So I’m sitting here listening to the latest song from The Darkness, and all I’m hearing is The Cult. The English rockers, known more for sounding like Queen, have a new album coming this summer titled LAST OF OUR KIND. That’s not the big news. The big new is that they now have a lady drummer, which I must admit is kinda hott. That’s “hot” with two T’s. Her name is Emily Dolan Davies which is just about perfect, don’t you think?

Hott.

Hott.

I don’t mind this song, in fact I think I kinda like it, but that guitar tone has qualities that remind me of The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary.” The song’s a nice bit of English cock-rock, something that this world is sorely in need of if you ask me. I liked the band’s last album,  2012’s HOT CAKES, though I don’t think it made much of an impact…I didn’t hear anyone anywhere talk about it. Let’s hope that LAST OF OUR KIND brings the band a “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”-sized hit. It could happen.

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UPDATE: CHINESE DEMOCRACY (Possibly) Worth More Than In 2013 & 2012

Back in December of 2013 I noticed that the price of Guns ‘n Roses latest album CHINESE DEMOCRACY had gone up. Comparing the list price against a (super depressing) tweet from 2012, I saw that the album has increased in price by $1.22. The price rose, like a phoenix from the flames, from a paltry $3.66 to a robust $4.88. This was terrible-ish news for people who had not yet purchased the CD (and have very limited budgets). I, on the other hand, saw this as great news because the thought of CHINESE DEMOCRACY costing less than $4.00 feels just wrong.

Go ahead and check-out that first album-price post, it’s much better written. In that post I point out that prices on Amazon are always in flux so this might not actually mean anything. I also noticed (when I was halfway through writing that post) that I wasn’t comparing the price of the album at the same time of the year (October 2012 vs. December 2013). I even think I suggested that I check on the price of the CD in December 2014 to try and be more scientific about studying this trend. Of course I forgot.

I was checking on the status of a separate non-GNR related order this morning and decided to check-in and see what the price of CHINESE DEMOCRACY was currently. To my utter chagrin, the price has skyrocketed from $4.88 to $4.92. That’s an increase of $0.04! If you’d have taken my advice and purchased 100,000 copies of CHINESE DEMOCRACY back in December of 2013 you’d have made a profit of $4,000! Holy cow, I feel like the next Warren Buffet.

So for reasons that are absolutely beyond me, the price of CHINESE DEMOCRACY has continued to slowly climb. Perhaps this current jump in price is related to the “Only 8 left in stock-order soon” note, which was absent from the listing the last time I checked on the price of this album. Could it be a low supply that is driving the price up? I guess. Maybe. Sure.

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$$$

If you don’t own a copy of this masterpiece now is the time to hop to it and buy this sucker. You don’t want to have to pay $5.00 for this thing, do you?

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Happy Easter (War Is Coming)

For all my egg-dyeing peeps out there (pun intended):

 

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