My music collection exceeds 15,000 songs. Nearly all of these are from CDs that I bought and ripped myself, though there is a chunk of stuff I ripped from other people’s CDs. *shrug* The music industry hates it, but sometimes it happens, and I don’t really care since it doesn’t much hurt the band, their cut being so small in most cases. Anyway, I’ve started taking advantage of Google Music, which allows you to put 20,000 songs “in the cloud” to stream to any computer or mobile device you want. For years I avoided buying MP3 players like the iPod (although I do own a 30GB Zune, but I didn’t buy it – I won it) because I didn’t like having to pre-select my music before going somewhere. I actually like selecting the entire collection (well, almost, I have to remove those radio shows) and hitting random play on the whole thing.
That’s what I was doing when a song off the album Example by For Squirrels started playing. Oddly enough it was the first track of the album, “8:02 PM”. I quickly stopped the player, found the album and played it. Never heard of For Squirrels? I’m not surprised. If you weren’t listening to Alternative radio at the tail end of 1995, like Atlanta’s 99X, you probably didn’t have a chance to hear them. The album, their only major label album, was released on October 3rd 1995, but by then the band was all but finished. On September 8th, a little less than a month earlier, the band was involved in a terrible car accident in their van, taking the lives of two of the band’s four members, and their tour manager. Vocalist Jack Vigliatura and bassist Bill White died, while guitarist Travis Tooke and drummer Jack Griego were both injured but survived. The two remaining members of the band would try to reform with new members, later changing the name of the band and releasing one album before disbanding for good in 2001.
Example is, for me, a very interesting album. I’d call it good, but it isn’t remarkable or full of hit songs. The only single it produced was “Mighty K.C.” which was an elegy for Kurt Cobain. However, none of the songs are awful, and in fact show a promise never realized. Had the accident not happened, a second album could have seen the band grow into something more. Instead, we just have this. A song that went to #15 on the Modern Rock chart, and an album that just barely made the Billboard 200.
In 1996, I should have been graduating college, but a misstep or two and a decision to move out on my own, the combination of which resulted in me having to pay for school on my own (which further resulted in full time work and part time school), I missed being able to get out in four years. It was in these early months of 96 that I purchased Example. I’d heard their single a number of times, and I knew the story behind the band. And as I lay on the bed in my room contemplating my next move in life, the music washed over me.
In the past 15 years, I’ve returned to this album a number of times. Every time I hear one song from it, I have to hear the entire thing, from start to finish, every track. I know in part that is because of when the disc entered my life, that it is a permanent part of the soundtrack of my life, but I hope it’s also because there is something more to these songs that the emotion I’ve attached to them, that a song like the penultimate track “Disenchanted” speaks some universal truth that other people recognize too.
I’d recommend Example by For Squirrels to anyone, to listen through at least once, just to give a chance. It is an album of its time, a mid-90s Alternative Rock band. Don’t say I didn’t warn you if that winds up being your complaint.
I’ve been a big fan of No More Kings from the moment I heard Sweep the Leg. Even bigger once I’d seen them live and listened to the entire first album. Then bigger still after getting my copy of their second album and listening through that. Both albums are always on my MP3 player and I love every song. That’s pretty rare, to love every song by a band. Even some of the “best bands in the world” like U2 or The Rolling Stones have a few songs I can’t tolerate. But No More Kings has joined Better Than Ezra and Seven Mary Three in the short list of “can do no wrong” for me.
They don’t have a new album out (though I’m hoping for one), I haven’t seen them live recently, nor do they appear to be coming to town anytime soon. So why am I talking about them?
Because it’s Zombie Wednesday here at Aim for the Head, I didn’t have any other zombie news to post, and I love this song (not the video so much, it’s not done by the band, but it lets me hear the song, so it has that going for it):
Do you write? Do you listen to music while you do it?
I do. In fact, I’ve learned over the years that silence is the most distracting thing in the universe. Once it’s just me and my thoughts, my thoughts win. It’s like a category 5 storm of random things crashing around in my skull. But if I have sound playing in the background, the winds die down and I can focus on my work. But it has to be just music (perhaps with the occasional commercial), not video. When I hear things that I know also have a visual component, my eyes are drawn to the visual. I need to see what images go with the sounds I am hearing. As my eyes pull away from the page or laptop screen, writing stops.
But what music works best?
For me, the best writing music falls into three categories…
Music that I know by heart.
This music works well because I don’t have to actually listen to it. I know every work, every note so well that my brain just latches on and follows along. I’ll subconsciously tap my feet or bob my head. Sometimes I’ll even begin typing to the rhythm of the songs.
Music that I don’t know at all.
Because it isn’t music that I love, I’m able to just sort of block it. I know it’s there and it still achieves the goal of calming down my brain, but I don’t care enough to learn the lyrics or feel the beats. It’s just on.
I’m sure there are studies out there that will show you that brainwaves become more calm and allow for more creativity while listening to classical. But for me it falls almost into category 2, only I do know quite a bit of it. It’s just that there are no lyrics to sing along with. At best, there might be some humming, but not often.
The worst music for me are song by bands I know, or ones I’ve heard before, I sort of like but don’t know well enough for them to be automatic. This is why applications like Pandora or Slacker or Last.fm just don’t work for me as writing tools on anything but the classical music stations. Too many times a song will pop up in the play list that drags me out of the zone and forced me to consciously listen, and the writing stops.
So, this month, as I make my way toward 50,000 words, I’ll, more often than not, be listening to classical music.
Jason’s I’m Not Going To See This Tyler Perry Movie Either.
The Last Song:
I’m usually a Nicholas Sparks movie fan. As pompous and arrogant as he is, he does write a good love story most of the time, and they generally translate to film well. But his last, Dear John, was a let down. In that movie, the father-son relationship was great but the romance was stilted. The Last Song is much better. I got to see a screening of it thanks to Movie Jungle. Here the father-daughter works in addition to the romance, so we get a whole movie instead of half of one. Miley Cyrus isn’t the world’s greatest actress, but she does alright, however Greg Kinnear and Bobby Coleman steal the show. It makes for a pretty good date flick.
Clash of the Titans:
I actually saw the original in the theater as a child. I’m a fan of Ray Harryhausen’s work. That said, I agree with David Jaffe that remakes aren’t evil, and in fact are needed to keep stories alive. As proof, the wife saw the original for the first time this weekend, and after seeing current fare like Avatar, the old stop motion stuff just looks… old. No kid born after the release of the original is ever going to really like it unless they are a huge fan of old stuff, and keep in mind that “kids” born after the original might be almost thirty years old. Anyway, I was excited to see the new film. Thanks to 43kix and Gofobo, I got to. This isn’t the same film. There are some parallels, but it deviates as much as it stays the same. This is both good and bad. For me, this was fantastic, because it means I could watch the film and not feel like I had to compare the new stuff shot for shot with the old stuff. For some people, this will be bad because what they want is a shot for shot remake of the old one. I’ve heard some people say the new film lacks character and depth, but I felt it actually added character and depth to what was a fun yet fairly cardboard plot. In any event, I recommend seeing it. I had a blast watching it. A word of warning, however, don’t pay the extra money to see this in 3D. Totally not worth it. The 3D (added to the film after the fact, it wasn’t filmed for 3D) is flat and never adds anything to the scenes. In fact, it makes watching the film more annoying because of having to wear the glasses. See it in 2D, I promise you aren’t missing anything.
I was first introduced to the band No More Kings because of a funny video for a song of theirs. The song was “Sweep The Leg” and the video is…
The infectious groove of that song immediately had me hooked. Shortly after discovering the song, I found out the band was coming through Atlanta and playing a gig down at Smith’s Olde Bar. We went, and there I heard more of Pete Mitchell’s music. I bought the CD and it has remained a staple of my changer.
Not too long ago, No More Kings put out a second album, which I pre-ordered and it has joined the first in remaining a staple of my CD changer. One of the best parts of Pete and company’s style is that while many of their songs are littered with and about pop culture (or specifically 80’s pop culture) like the song in the video above they never really come out and beat you over the head with it. The song is called “Sweep The Leg” and not “The Karate Kid song”. For another example, take the following lyrics:
there’s no reason to look under the hood
a slight malfunction, doesn’t mean i’m no good
i won’t be shut down, i’m not ready to die
i said that i was sorry, but robots don’t cry
the very thought of losing out now is making me tremble
i am alive, i am alive, i am alive
please just gimme a chance now, no disassemble
i am alive, i am alive
there’s no reason to take me apart
extension cords and circuit boards don’t mean there’s no heart
i can tell somehow you relate
we’re indifferent to the difference between program and fate
now i know i’m alive
can’t you see i’m alive
i finally know i’m alive
i wanna show i’ve arrived
i wanna stay up all night
set all circuits to jive
i wanna prove i’m alive
do so much more than survive
i’m gonna reach for the sky
and give the world a hi-five
i wanna shout it out, i know what life is about
i wanna laugh wanna scream wanna cry out loud
You might need to read through it a couple of times if it doesn’t jump out at you, but this song is called “Robots Don’t Cry” and is about Johnny 5, the star of the film Short Circuit. Many of their songs are like this, although they also do a number of fully original tunes that are not about movies and TV shows.
Disney is making bank off their little sing song movies, and this looks to be no different. I’m sure it will be safe to take the kids to, and a fine fun guilty pleasure for adults, just like the High School Musical movies. Personally, I’ll wait for it to stream on Netflix, if I ever see it at all.
An animated film by Hayao Miyazaki. As a kid I saw Warriors of the Wind and loved it, and I own a copy of Spirited Away on DVD but have never watched it. I’m not itching to see it, and might never, but if your kids aren’t in to singing teenagers, this could be your weekend alternative to Bandslam.
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard:
I loved Used Cars! And hey, I’m a Jeremy Piven fan from way back, so what’s not to like? I might not make it to the theater for this one (see District 9) but I absolutely will see it at some point.
Its a limited release, but from what I’ve seen it look to be a decent film. I want to see it, but likely won’t since it is sure to vanish from theaters too quick.
I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now. It just looks awesome, so I will find a way to see it this weekend. I have to before people spoil it. This is going to be great!
The Time Traveler’s Wife:
I got to see a screening of this film, and I can’t say if its just because I had fairly low expectations or if it was a good film, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. I suspect it is a little of both. To be honest, I went in expecting The Notebook, in part because of Rachel McAdams but also because it was a sort of “star crossed lovers” kind of tale, only with the thing keeping them apart being his random uncontrollable time travel instead of more typical problems. And maybe that’s the element that drew me in. Henry (played by Eric Bana) keeps bouncing around through time, sometimes for minutes and sometimes for weeks, but always, it seems, around the people and events that are important to him. I think the movie does very well at conveying the changes in time as the story moves around, but a number of people at the same screening mentioned not being able to follow it. To each their own I suppose. Overall, it was a sweet movie with just a touch of science fiction that kept me watching. Good stuff.