Monday, January 22, 2007

The Study Of Man...

Night Kills The Day
"The Study Of Man"

No, this is not going to be a post about biology. But I will write about a band that is contributing to the evolution of music. There's an up-and-coming band called Night Kills The Day, and they are releasing a new album in March. And it's going to be a hot one. Coming from NYC, these guys might just top The Strokes and The Bravery as the best rock band out of the Big Apple. I came to this conclusion after listening to a promotional copy of the album. They remind me of a modern day Pink Floyd combined with Depeche Mode. There's a lot of bands now who try and copy the 80's style of music. Then there's bands like Night Kills The Day who sound more natural in the way they bring an 80's influence into their songs. It makes their work more authentic, rather than an effort that just winds up being trendy. Expect to hear more about these guys.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Black Parade

My Chemical Romance
"The Black Parade"

My Chemical Romance's first album was a great entry for them into the music industry. As good as it was, the album specifically fit into the emo/rock genre. For me, what separated them from most other emo bands, was the passion and energy in their music. Oh, and they're from my home state of NJ too. So I guess there is a little bias there. Anyway, their second album The Black Parade sends out a message that this band that will be around for some time. I noticed that some bands mature with each album they put out. As you listen to each new release, you can see where the band matured a bit. Well with The Black Parade, it feels like MCR matured a lot quicker than most. In fact, it seems like they're a totally different band. They really came come out and flexed their skills this time to show they're serious about doing this thing called music. This album is a theatrical experience, not just mere "entertainment". There's a strong 70's rock influence on it, but they also add their own touch. Not only do they mature with their sound, but in the songwriting too. If you listen closely, you'll hear songs that explore themes of life and death. After listening, you can't help but be reminded that we're all gonna die. I know, it sounds morbid. But it's reality. Through the songs, there's the reality of the pain and suffering that comes when someone dies, but there's also a cry out for hope and understanding. This album, as great as the music as, reminds me how short life is, and to remember what's really important. MCR still rocks hard, no question about it. And at the same time, they hit us with a dose of reality.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hello Stranger

Hello Stranger

The keytar strikes back! One day, while Googling that band with a lead singer who plays a keytar, I stumbled across a website that mentioned another band with a lead singer who plays a keytar. I'm starting to wonder if the keytar is some magical instrument that gives special powers, because now I found another band who makes really awesome music with one. The band I'm talking about is Hello Stranger. After hearing clips of their songs online, I was real impressed with what I heard. Well now after listening to their album, I have to say they are one of the best kept secrets in music. Not once did I find myself pushing the skip button on my CD player to find a good song. This is one of those albums you can just put on and enjoy it all the way through. On the album, they combine different styles of music to create a unique sound that's hard to find these days. And the lead singer Juliette Monique Commagere carries each song with her soulful voice, which fits perfectly with their musical style. I sometimes think to myself, where have all the great bands gone with a female vocalist? What happened to Blondie, Luscious Jackson, and The Breeders? Well it looks like I found my answer with Hello Stranger. Be on the lookout for this breakthrough band.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Sweet Escape

Gwen Stefani
"The Sweet Escape"

The former No Doubt girl had a lot of people scratching their heads when she went solo. Being the cynical guy that I am, I thought of a hundred different motives for her change in style. Well, whatever the reason is, only Gwen Stefani knows. Anyway, if you listen to her new music, you might think she has multiple personalities as she switches from dance, to hip-hop, to alternative. Has she gone nuts? The answer is no. She just has so many musical influences, which is obvious after listening. To try and combine all the different styles into one CD could be a real disaster..... or it could be a wise move. On her new album The Sweet Escape, she takes a risk in what turns out to be a real catchy album. At times, some of the songs sound like it could have been done by Missy Elliot or Cyndi Lauper. That's how diverse the styles are here. A couple of songs that stood out to me were Early Winter and Wonderful Life, which sing about broken relationships and regaining a love that's lost. Most of the other songs are bouncy, "get your ass on the dance floor" songs, which are great to play to let out some stress in life. On a side note, one thing I appreciate is that she doesn't let anyone define who she is creatively. She probably knew she'd possibly face a lot of criticism for making a change in her music like this, but she continued to do her thing regardless. Another reminder that we all have different talents and gifts to bring to the world, and we'll never be able to break free as long as we live in the boxes that we try to put each other in. Overall, The Sweet Escape is a fun album to pop on and just get lost in the music. Perhaps her line on the song Don't Get It Twisted sums up the mood of this CD:
"Don't get it twisted, don't get clever, this is the most craziest shit ever..."

Friday, January 12, 2007

What I like about Donald Trump

Sure, he can be more of an arrogant ass than a "nice" guy, and his hair is, well, umm, you know. But I respect that after he speaks his mind, you aren't left thinking, "Ok, so tell us how you really feel." He speaks strongly on what he believes, and apparently knows how to "let his yes be yes, and no be no." Even if you don't agree with what he says, you have to admit there would be less confusion in this world if we all did likewise..... and could still get along despite our disagreements.

What Was I Thinking?

What Was I Thinking?
Steve Brown

Within the past few years, I’ve gotten real selective with the Christian books that I read. Some of them make me want to become an atheist because of the superficial or judgmental way they’re written. They represent Christianity as good as Kevin Federline represents the hip-hop community. Then there are other writers I respect who remind me what it means to be loved by God, and encourage me to love others as Jesus would. It’s hard to define what being a Christian is today without hearing phrases like “religious right”, “narrow minded”, and “George Bush” being thrown in. I can attest that none of those have ANYTHING to do with what a Christian is. Anyway, Steve Brown is one writer who always reminds me about God’s love in a way that most aren’t able to. His honesty about his sin and failures in life, and God’s love despite all of that, is encouraging to hear. Well, he has a new book out called “What Was I Thinking?”, and it is a damn good book. If you’ve ever heard Steve speak, you know he speaks like he’s talking with you, instead of talking at you as if he’s a spiritual guru. His writing is the same way. It’s written mostly in conversational style. In this book, he revisits all the old views he had on the Christian faith, and describes how he came to where he is now, understanding God’s love more. The one thing I love about reading Steve’s books is that I always come out with a bunch of great quotes that get stuck in my head. Here are some that stood out in this book:

“I honestly used to think that if one worked at it hard enough, studied the Bible long enough, and talked to the right people often enough, one would eventually figure out God. I’m an old guy now, and I’ve been doing all three for a long time. And I was wrong.”

“It’s not that I’ve always obeyed Jesus, but I’ve followed him for a long time, and I’m still here. I’m bloodied, sinful, and afraid…but I’m still here. The longer I follow Jesus, the more I learn about him--and the more I’ve had to change what I think about him.”

“Jesus hung out with prostitutes, drunks, and bad people. It quickly becomes clear that if I want to be his friend, I can’t be a ‘proper’ Christian.”

“One must be careful about religion, because it can make you feel that you’re close to God, when in fact, you aren’t.”

“I once thought that Jesus’ invitation was pretty exclusive. But I was the one who was into exclusivity. His invitation is far more open than I thought it was.”

“The church is not a place for people who are ‘together’, obedient, and spiritual. If you really think it is, then you were conned. The church is actually a place for people who are needy, afraid, confused, and quite sinful. But more important than that, the church is a place for people who have been loved…and have no idea why.”

“The greater we define ourselves in terms of ‘us and them’, the greater the gap in relationships, and the more marginalized we become.”

“The people who shout the loudest are often those who are least sure about what they’re saying.”

“When we start thinking about it, we begin to realize that self-righteousness is perhaps the most dangerous of all human sins.”

“If not for my sin, I never would have come to know Jesus…or love others…or experience the joy and release of acceptance.”

“Only those who know that God will love them even if they don’t get better will ever get any better.”

Steve brings it “back to the basics” with his new book.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Light Grenades

"Light Grenades"

There's a couple of reasons why I really like Incubus. One would be Brandon Boyd's voice, and how it can adapt to all the different types of songs they play, whether it's slow or hard. Another reason would be how they aren't afraid to experiment with different sounds on each album. Another reason would be their lyrics are usually thought provoking and edgy, and they deal with a lot of life issues. Well, their new album Light Grenades keeps up their track record of putting out breakthrough songs. I really enjoyed listening to this one. The songs are catchy, and they range from mellow to real intense. One thing I like is way they brought in a middle eastern flavor to the track Anna Molly. They were able to blend it in with their rock sound really well. Another thing that really stands out to me on this album is the lyrical content. I've always appreciated their honesty in songwriting, but this one has a lot of depth to it. Here are some lines engrained in my mind after listening.

From the song "Anna Molly",

'A cloud hangs over
And mutes my happiness
A thousand ships come and sail me
Back from distress
Wish you here
I'm a wounded satellite
I need you now
Put me back together
Make me right'

From "Love Hurts",

'Love hurts
Sometimes it's a good hurt
And it feels like I'm alive
Love sings
When it transcends to memories
I want to chime in
'Cause without love I won't survive'

and from "Dig",

'We all have a weakness
But some of ours are easier to identify.
Look me in the eye
And ask for forgiveness;
We'll make a pact to never speak that word again
Yes you are my friend.
We all have something that digs at us,
At least we dig each other'

This is a solid effort by a band who's still putting out hits through these changing times.

Money Mark

My musical radar picked up the news that Money Mark, the Beastie Boys' keyboardist, is coming out with his own album in February. I was able to listen to his track "Pick Up The Pieces" and a few words to describe it are smooth and soulful. It is a step out into the world as a solo artist for Money Mark, and so far his style sounds promising. Looking forward to hearing more when the album is released.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Crane Wife

The Decemberists
"The Crane Wife"

The Decemberists' sound is very avant-garde, which makes their album The Crane Wife interesting to listen to. They're kind of difficult to describe. Think of them as R.E.M. combined with Death Cab for Cutie, with a vocalist singing like he's straight from Ireland. Behind his vocals, the band provides a background sound with elements of funk, alternative, and folk to create songs that put them in a category of their own. The lyrics transport you to the Civil War era, with themes covering revenge, crime, murder, and war, highlighting how nasty it is during wartime. Listening to this album makes you feel like you're at the front row of a Civil War play. As I listen to the themes in the songs, it reminds me of how tragic war is, and the cycle of revenge and violence that goes on and on. Overall, this is an edgy and smart album that mixes Tarantino-esque lyrics with a unique sound.