Friday, April 18, 2014

Interview: Rob Cantor

Rob Cantor has been a musician and songwriter for many years now. As a member of the band Tally Hall he worked on two albums and since then he's been entertaining people with comedic tracks such as "Shia LeBeouf." Mr. Cantor also just released his debut solo album Not a Trampoline, and he was kind enough to share a few words with me about the album and his career in general.

Rob Cantor
No More Blood From a Clone: What are some of your biggest musical inspirations?

Rob Cantor: Like all of humanity, I love the Beatles. I also love the Beach Boys, Queen, Paul Simon, Elliott Smith, Dan Wilson, and many, many more. 

NMBFC: Most people will know you either from “Shia LaBeouf” or from Tally Hall. Are you alright with being known that way, or would you rather have started fresh with this album?

Rob Cantor: I don't think this album is incongruent with "Shia LaBeouf" or with anything Tally Hall released, and I'm proud to be "known" from either of those endeavors. Not a Trampoline has a bit more depth than "Shia LaBeouf," for instance, but it's also not afraid to be silly and stupid at times...I think there's plenty of overlap.

NMBFC: If you had to categorize Not a Trampoline as a particular genre, how would you describe it?

Rob Cantor: The album is pretty varied. Most of it could be called alternative rock, though there are certainly outliers. "In Memoriam," for example, would not work very well on KROQ.

NMBFC: Would you say the tone of this album is: comedic, serious, or whimsical?

Rob Cantor: Yes. All three, I hope.

NMBFC: How has it differed having mostly complete creative control over your work rather than having to share it with a band? Is it harder or easier or just different?

Rob Cantor: Good question. At first, it was terrifying. I was very used to funneling my ideas through a four-man quality control machine. I knew if an idea was approved by the rest of the Tally Hall guys, it must have some merit. When I started working with my producer Gregtronic on this album, there was no such safety net. It was paralyzing for a minute- I second-guessed everything. But after a while, I grew increasingly comfortable with autonomy, and now I really like it. It's a lot quicker, I'll say that...in Tally Hall, ideas might be bandied about for months or years before any kind of execution ever came into being. The same is not true of making a solo album, and the ability to be decisive is quite nice.

NMBFC: Where does the title “Not a Trampoline” come from?

Rob Cantor: The title is factual- this is an album of songs, not a trampoline. Jumping on songs is not only impossible, it's unsafe. DON'T DO IT.

NMBFC: What’s your favorite track on Not a Trampoline?

Rob Cantor: Hmmm...my favorite track seems to keep changing. Early on, it was "Flamingo"- I enjoy the simplicity and the absurdity. At the moment, it's "All I Need Is You." My friend Randall Maxwell and I made a music video for it, and it breathed new life into the song for me.


NMBFC: “Ghost” seems to come from a pretty personal place. Is there anything you can share about it?

Rob Cantor: Ghost is about regrets. We've all got 'em!

NMBFC: Was there any particular inspiration behind the distinct sound on “The Rendezvous”?

Rob Cantor: The sound of "The Rendezvous" was a collaborative effort between my producer Gregtronic and Andrew Horowitz, my bandmate in Tally Hall. Greg and I had an early version that was dancier and less distinctive. It wasn't really fitting with the rest of the songs, and we'd all but discarded it. Andrew heard that early version, and liked the song. He insisted we give it another go. He took the session file and tweaked our arrangement. He added new sounds and took some away- he revitalized the track. When he sent it back, we knew it belonged on the album.

NMBFC: I’m sure some people will recognize “I’m Gonna Win” from an early Tally Hall song. Can we discuss the creative process behind the development of this song into what it is now?

Rob Cantor: We were just trying to do justice to a wonderful song, written by my bandmate Joe Hawley.

NMBFC: What other contributions did you get from your previous bandmates?

Rob Cantor: Andrew Horowitz and I wrote "Perfect" together, and he co-produced the track. He also added production and keyboards on "The Rendezvous." Ross Federman helped write the drum part for "Old Bike," and Joe Hawley graciously let me record his song "I'm Gonna Win." All four of the guys gave me great feedback on the whole album throughout the recording process.

NMBFC: Who is the female vocalist featured on the album?

Rob Cantor: The female singer on "The Rendezvous" is called Madi Diaz. She's a very talented vocalist, and also a great songwriter. She has a new record coming out soon, and you should definitely take a listen. I've heard some of the tracks, and they are super cool.

NMBFC: Is music definitely your career at this point, or is there still a plan b?

Rob Cantor: Music is, and has been for many years, my sole career. There is no Plan B!

NMBFC: That's good to hear. What do you hope the response to this album will be?

Rob Cantor: I hope the response is "HOORAY."


If you'd like to check out Not a Trampoline, it can be previewed and purchased at Bandcamp.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I've Got This Covered: fun. "Some Nights"

It's been a while since the last I've Got This Covered, so if you've forgotten what it is, this is where I take an album and imagine what artists could cover it. In this edition, I've taken fun.'s album Some Nights and imagined which musicals the tracks could have been removed from.

1) Some Nights (Intro) - Sweeney Todd
I hate to start by going out onto a little bit of a limb, but I feel like this could be a dark song for just after "Epiphany," perhaps after Todd has claimed his first couple of victims and starts to feel just the smallest bit of remorse.

2) Some Nights - The Lion King
When this song first came out, I saw a couple people describe it as having a Lion King feel, but even in terms of concept, The Lion King fits. "Some Nights" reminds me of Hamlet, and The Lion King is technically a Hamlet adaptation. This one would be sung by Simba somewhere between the middle and the end of the musical.

3) We Are Young - Oliver!
I see this number as one with several narratives. Both Oliver! and this song have to do with the meshing of youth and naivety with adult concepts and dangers, so in Oliver!, this track would have been sung in part by Nancy and Bill Sykes and in part by the orphan children.

4) Carry On - West Side Story
"Carry On" could have been an alternate song for "There's a Place." It's perfect for the story, especially with the allusions to "knives in a fistfight."

5) It Gets Better - Spring Awakening
Spring Awakening isn't a musical I have a great deal of familiarity with, but from everything I know, a song about losing your virginity could find no better home.

6) Why Am I the One - The Music Man
Although it's not a perfect match, this song seemed to me to coincide beautifully with the scene in The Music Man in which Harold Hill bemoans "for the first time in my life, I got my foot stuck in the door."

7) All Alone - Easter Parade
Considering this song almost sums up the first fifteen minutes of Easter Parade, where else could it go? In the film, Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) buys an Easter rabbit for Nadine Hale (Ann Miller) just before she breaks up with him. Hence, this scene would involve Hewes singing about the rabbit (who is now a wind-up doll, but close enough).

8) All Alright - Scrooge
This song would be performed either during Scrooge's visit to Christmas past (as he watches himself let the love of his life go) or Christmas present (as he realizes he's pushed away anyone who would care about him).

9) One Foot - Rent
Rent is another musical I'm not intimately familiar with, but the attitude of this song seems to fit it pretty well. Perhaps an alternate for "La Vie Boheme"?

10) Stars - The Girl Can't Help It
A great forgotten musical that I've paired with my least favorite song on Some Nights. "Stars" would be sung by Tom Miller about Julie London instead of the fantasy sequence with London singing "Cry Me a River."

11) Out on the Town - My Fair Lady
"Out on the Town" has always reminded me of It's a Wonderful Life, but since it isn't a musical, "Out on the Town" would function as a reprise of "On the Street Where You Live."


That's how I think it should go down. Questions? Better ideas? Drop me a comment. Or if you have lots of pull in the musical theater community, feel free to make this happen.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Album Review: "Not a Trampoline" by Rob Cantor


Rob Cantor isn't new to the music business, but Not a Trampoline is his first full-length solo work. Prior to this, Cantor released two comedic singles, "Shia LeBeouf" and "Christian Bale is at Your Party." Going even further back, he was a member of Tally Hall. It's very exciting to hear what he has to offer with his first album.

Not a Trampoline begins with the deep and dark "Ghost," which seems to improve with each listen. "Ghost" represents a natural step in the progression of Cantor's talent as a songwriter. It works on multiple levels: first as a catchy pop tune, next as a spooky story song, and finally as a philosophical piece. "Ghost" was a great choice for a single, and it's followed by the first single Cantor released off of this album: "Old Bike." I initially believed "Old Bike" to be just an attempt to recapture the success of Queen's "Bicycle Race," but it's really its own piece. The female vocals bring to mind Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "Don't Come Around Here No More." "Old Bike" is a lighthearted Cantor track that will be perfect for any bicycling playlist.

"Garden of Eden" is an energetic piece about a Frankenstein-esque creator and his creation. The delivery is beautiful and unique, but the song's failing comes in the ending fade, the likes of which I haven't heard on anything since a 60s album. "Garden of Eden" is followed by "Rendezvous." On first listen, "Rendezvous" is very simple with a dance beat, but the song really works. The vocals Madi Diaz adds to the track help it not only with its complexity, but with the illusion that it could have come direct from the Drive soundtrack.

Next comes "I'm Gonna Win," a song fans of Tally Hall might recognize from the earlier incarnations including "All of My Friends." This final product, credited as written by both Rob Cantor and Joe Hawley is more empowering and with more direction than "All of My Friends," and has more dimension than Tally Hall's version of "I'm Gonna Win." That's not to say it doesn't lose something by being less haunting than "All of My Friends," but overall, "I'm Gonna Win" has been developed into a great song.

Things are wound down for the more acoustic "All I Need Is You." "All I Need Is You" is almost like a lullaby in parts, but picks up in others. "All I Need Is You" wouldn't have been out of place on Tally Hall's Good & Evil, and I wonder if it's a leftover from the years Good & Evil was in production. Either way, it has an outstanding, gif-based music video:


The album continues with "Flamingo," which I could hear as a club dancing song apart from how incredibly bizarre it is, in a very Cantor manner. The narrator states "I feel like I'm a shy enormous pink flamingo man." "Flamingo" gives way to "La Telenova," which is a departure from anything Cantor has produced to this point. "La Telenova" means "the soap opera," and is a collaboration with Jhameel. "La Telenova" is a very modern song, which also features some aspects of 60s folk pop in the melody, 90s pop in the bridge, and latin pop rhythms.

"In Memoriam" is a flowing, melodic tribute to Alan Alda, speaking of his life in the past tense, despite the fact that he's still alive. After "In Memoriam" (which is just over a minute long), comes "Let Your Mother Know." "Let Your Mother Know" is one of the strongest tracks in the latter part of the album. It's upbeat and catchy, and makes you want to move your body.

Nearing the end of the album, "Perfect" is a collaboration with Andrew Horowitz, and features his signature keyboards and sentimentality. Cantor adds his own style to "Perfect," but it's very noticeable that Horowitz had a hand in it.

Not a Trampoline closes with "Lonely (But Not Alone)," another personal-sounding piece, more acoustic than anything else on the album. As a closer, "Lonely (But Not Alone)" is near-perfect, winding the album down to an end.

Rob Cantor has a lot of musical talent, as a songwriter and lyricist, a vocalist and instrumentalist. Not a Trampoline is a great display of these talents. Not every song is perfect, but as a first solo work, Not a Trampoline is incredibly well done. I look forward to hearing more from Cantor and I encourage everyone to check out Not a Trampoline.

Rob Cantor is a singer-songwriter and instrumentalist. Not a Trampoline is his debut solo album.

Not a Trampoline can be purchased here.

Stay tuned for an interview with Rob Cantor right here on No More Blood From a Clone!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Album Review: "Pure Fiction" by Eric Hutchinson


Almost two years ago to the week, Eric Hutchinson released his sophomore album, Moving Up Living Down. And now, he returns. Each time Eric Hutchinson comes out with a new album, there's a moment in which one has to wonder: "Is this the album where he tips over that line into the mainstream? Is this the sellout album?" Yet despite his early album entitled "Before I Sold Out" and despite the fact that he was signed to Warner for a while, Hutchinson manages to maintain integrity to his central sound.

The first track and lead single is the most uplifting track on the album, "Tell The World." "Tell The World" sounds like a hit, and I'm not sure if it's fortunate or unfortunate that this song wasn't created until after his departure from Warner. On a mainstream release, "Tell The World" could have become a song that got overplayed on the radio. "A Little More" is the second track and single, and possibly the actual best song on the album. "A Little More" has a power pop feel unparalleled by anything else on the album. It probably has the most energy of any of the songs on Pure Fiction. It's catchy, pop-based, and yet soulful.

Right around "Forever," I started to worry that my fears about this album being a sell-out were founded. "Forever" has very few redeeming qualities. It's incredibly repetitive, with something more false than "wall-of-sound" going on in the backing track, and for some reason what sounds like a music box. But "I Got the Feelin Now" is a much better track, with genuine complexity and direction. "I Got the Feelin Now" is a smooth blend of disco and early 80s synths, with a pleasing rhythm.

"Goodnight Goodbye" assures us that this is the Eric Hutchinson that we've grown to know with the heartfelt vocals that Hutchinson specializes in. "Goodnight Goodbye" is followed by the pleasant "Love Like You," which starts with some synthesized strings before jumping back to the sound of Sounds Like This, complete with keys and backing vocals.

Moving forward, "I Don't Love U" is catchy and well-arranged, although I'm not sure whether the narrator is to be despised or sympathized with. "Sun Goes Down" is a decent, but ultimately skippable story song. It's almost the pop-folk version of a country song, in which the narrator receives yet another a postcard from his runaway wife, and seems finally able to let go of the memory of her.

The remaining two tracks on the album are for some reason labeled as acoustic, which seems wrong as a label for official album tracks somehow, but they're both decent songs. "Forget About Joni" has a Spanish feel and recounts the tale of a woman who seduces all the men, but is actually a lesbian. "Forget About Joni" is the home of the standout couplet on the album "She's the kind of a girl who wants a girl in her bed//you can give her your heart she wants your sister's instead." The final track isn't quite as strong. "Shine on Me" is a good tune, but not notable in any way.

Although it's a hodgepodge of styles and feelings, Pure Fiction proves that Eric Hutchinson still has it. It isn't as smooth or solid as his previous two albums, but it also has some of the highest-quality production so far. If you like top twenty hits, Pure Fiction might be a good gateway into Eric Hutchinson, but if you're more a fan of Motown or indie pop, this album should probably be a last resort.

Eric Hutchinson is a singer-songwriter.

Pure Fiction can be purchased here.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

State of the Music Address: April 2014

This is a new feature for odds and ends, and to give you a preview of what's coming up in music and on Nomorebloodfromaclone. So without further adieu...

-There are quite a few new albums coming out soon:
  • April 8th, Eric Hutchinson Tell the World
  • April 14th, Rob Cantor Not a Trampoline
  • April 15th, Ingrid Michaelson Lights Out
  • May 5th, Lykke Li I Never Learn
  • May 27th, Miniature Tigers Cruel Runnings
  • June 9th, Chrissie Hynde Stockholm
-As such, there have been a few single releases, including Rob Cantor's "Ghost":



-...and Miniature Tigers' "Swimming Pool Blues," the video for which is as perfectly done and humorous as anything the band has done.


-It's going to be a great summer for concerts here in Ohio.
  • The Ohio State Fair is featuring Blue Oyster Cult, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, The Beach Boys, Heart, Joan Jett, America, and Aretha Franklin.
  • The Monkees are touring again, with the three remaining members.
  • Cher and Cyndi Lauper have joined forces for a tour.
  • Of Montreal are coming to Cincinnati. I wish they'd do a Columbus date at some point!
-Record Store Day 2014 is fast approaching. fun., Of Montreal, and Deerhoof are all releasing stuff, just to name a few, so I'm excited for April 19th.

-And finally, here at Nomorebloodfromaclone, you can look forward to an exclusive interview soon, as well as yet another "I've Got This Covered." If all goes according to plan, you can expect more frequent updates here in general. Stick around!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

One-Mind Tracks: Sinners

Here are a collection of songs about knowing you're a bad guy.


Highway to Hell by AC/DC
Since they're the quintessential "bad guy" band, it was tough to limit myself to a couple for AC/DC, but since this one is Hell-centric, it was an easy choice.

Bad to the Bone by George Thorogood
Another easy choice. This one seriously makes me feel like a cool, bad guy. And I'm a girl.

I'm Going to Hell by The Long Blondes
This was one of the songs that inspired the whole playlist. The Long Blondes have a few songs about questionable morals, and their lyrics are always pretty clever.

Bad by Michael Jackson
Is it cheating when the title makes the choice this obvious? Too bad. And does everyone these days realize that the video for this song was directed by Martin Scorsese? It also featured a younger Wesley Snipes. Originally planned as a duet between Michael Jackson and Prince, this song was actually based on a true story of a kid from the streets who tried to make something of himself by going away to school. When he returned home on a Thanksgiving break, his jealous friends ended up killing him.

Troublemaker by Weezer
Yes, Rivers Cuomo, you're such a troublemaker! Influenced by Eminem, this is the fictional account of a self-proclaimed troublemaker's rise to fame. Interestingly though, there's still an underlying isolation such as in the line "I'll party by myself because I'm such a special guy."

T.N.T. by AC/DC
Another AC/DC so soon! An explosive ladykiller who is ready to kill you with his bare hands.

Who Do You Love? by George Thorogood and the Destroyers
George Thorogood is really great at recreating that same song over and over, but that one song is pretty okay, so here's another one about how "bad" he is.

Only the Good Die Young by Billy Joel
A songwriter sometimes tells stories, and this Billy Joel tale about a bad boy trying to convince a Catholic girl to go all the way is certainly an example. But this one sure did alienate a lot of Joel's Catholic fans, and caused many people to try to get it removed from radio playlists.

Son of a Preacher Man by Dusty Springfield
Turned down by Aretha Franklin, and later recorded by her older sister Erma Franklin, this was a big hit for Dusty Springfield. Aretha Franklin, a preacher's daughter, turned the song down originally because she thought it was disrespectful, but after hearing Springfield's version, she ended up recording her own version a couple of years later.

Missionary Man by The Eurythmics
Dave Stewart wanted to create more of an arena rock song, so they jazzed up this Annie Lennox poem and voilĂ !

Unbelievers by Vampire Weekend
Some of the religious imagery in Modern Vampires of the City went slightly over my head, but this one is apparently about how everyone is an "unbeliever" to someone else, seeing as everyone believes something slightly different.

Bad Reputation by Joan Jett
Another song that always makes me feel tough. This one sprung from the fact that no record labels wanted to sign Joan Jett because of her bad reputation.

You Know I'm No Good by Amy Winehouse
The golden days of Mark Ronson drums and brass are over, but this soulful track by the late Amy Winehouse recounts the tale of a serial cheater in her own words.

Creator by Sanogold
The highly under-rated Santogold rap/sings of her unrelenting power.




What's your favorite "bad guy" song? I'd love to hear!


And if you live in the area of Marion, Ohio, be sure to catch most of this playlist Thursday night at 7 on One-Mind Tracks on 97.5 WDIF.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Concert Review: Paul Simon & Sting in Auburn Hills, Michigan

For my dad's birthday, my mother and I bought him tickets to see two of his favorite artists perform on stage together: Paul Simon and Sting. While I was never the biggest fan of Sting or The Police, I've always enjoyed the music of both Paul Simon and Simon & Garfunkel, so I was excited for the possibilities.

We arrived at The Palace just before eight o'clock to find that our seats had been ungraded. However the reassignment table was such a mess that I was still standing in line when "Brand New Day" began to sound from the main stage. It sounded great, but I didn't get to see any of it performed, and in fact missed part of "Boy In the Bubble," in which Sting's distinctive voice joined Paul Simon's for the chorus. The first song I heard fully was a favorite Sting track of mine, "Fields of Gold," which was played as a gorgeous duet. 

Photos by Kenneth Sedam
Paul Simon left the stage, and Sting launched into some of his classics including "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic," "Englishman In New York," and a very staying version of "I Hung My Head." He then played two more Police classics, "Driven to Tears" and "Walking on the Moon." "Driven to Tears" was really where the band began to show how great they were, with some impressive electric guitar and a killer violin solo. 

Paul Simon returned to the stage for the perfect crossover song with Sting, a performance of "Mother and Child Reunion" even more reggae-riddled than the original. Sting then left the stage, and Paul Simon played "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover." 



The intro to "Dazzling Blue" was another showcase for the band's talents. The drummer began to play a sitar-style slide guitar, and other percussionists came in to create a tabla feel. Nothing really does justice to "Dazzling Blue" quite like hearing it live with Sting and Paul Simon's band. 

After "Dazzling Blue," they played a slightly more country "Graceland" and "Still Crazy After All These Years." Paul Simon and band then played one of the most exciting tunes of the evening in terms of energy from both the performers and the audience. "Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard" was incredibly fun and high-energy. My only complaint was that Paul Simon opted for avoiding the high note in the "goodbye Rosie" line, whether due to the fact that his voice isn't as agile as it used to be or because he just wanted a different feel for the live song.

Sting returned to the stage for a joint cover of  "Fragile" and "America." Although I missed part of it, "America" was still as tear-jerkingly beautiful as the original Simon & Garfunkel version. 


Again, Sting was left alone on-stage to play "Message in a Bottle" and "Hounds of Winter."




He continued with "They Dance Alone" and "Roxanne." Finally, Sting and the band performed an impressive "Desert Rose." 



The duo rejoined yet again for "The Boxer." It wasn't a perfect rendition, but it was certainly a good one.


Minus Sting yet again, Paul Simon played a rousing "That Was Your Mother," followed by "Hearts and Bones." He then did two songs back to back, almost in a medley fashion; "Mystery Train" and "Wheels." He hailed them as his favorite songs before kicking off the acapella opening to "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes." Simon closed his set with an energetic "You Can Call Me Al," the lyrics to which he altered slightly.



A very brief pause separated the encore, at which point Sting and Simon returned to the stage to do "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Every Breath You Take" and "Late in the Evening" together.






The band left the stage, but Paul Simon and Sting returned for one final encore, a duet cover of The Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved." The audience then provided a standing ovation as the lights came up after the great show.

Paul Simon and Sting put on a very respectful, under-stated dual show. Both musicians still sounded near the top of their musical game, despite being past their respective heydays. It was a fan-pleasing show, loaded with big hits by both artists and their previous bands. The sounds managed to mesh better than I'd ever imagined, to create a great sound throughout the whole show. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

One-Mind Tracks: Love Lost

Valentine's day is over, so we can now fully celebrate the concept of "Love Hurts" without offending the happy couples. So today's playlist is a collection of songs about lost love.



While I Cry by The Monkees
A breakup song to rival any other, this Michael Nesmith-penned piece explores the fact that the protagonist was warned about the female antagonist ahead of time, but was so blinded by love that he just stumbled on.

Here I Sit by The Ronettes
Yet again, a forewarned protagonist looks back on a lost love they should have known better about. Plus there's that extra part where it was co-written by Harry Nilsson based on a dirty bathroom graffiti joke.

Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson
Ingrid Michaelson sings of the intense pain of lost love that allows you only to "keep breathing."

Woke Up New by The Mountain Goats
The poetry John Darnielle brings to a piece is so perfect in this song, and for these emotions, that even if you haven't lost love, you can feel it.

Black Coffee in Bed by Squeeze
The memories, "the hurt and the anger and the joy and the pain" are all discussed in this tale of a former love.

One by Harry Nilsson
Made famous by Three Dog Night, this song, written by Harry Nilsson, represents a cross-section of the late songwriter's interests; sad love songs and numbers. Plus if you're part of my generation, you might remember this song from the episode of "Even Stevens" in which Ren loses her stuffed monkey.

Thank You For Breaking My Heart by Ben Folds Five
One of the most tear-jerking songs on the list, yet it has a somewhat uplifting message "thank you for breaking my heart//now I know that it's in there." Alright, so not very uplifting, but it reminds us that each broken heart just helps us realize we still have a heart to break (just like the Tin Man!).

The End of the World by Herman's Hermits
In a soft and beautiful way, Peter Noone delivers this Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee tune about thinking lost love is the end of the world (just a reminder, it's not).

Photograph by Ringo Starr
If you watch the Concert For George rendition of this song, you will cry your eyes out. Even as a single though, this song is a winner in the category of being sad (unless Morrissey is in the mix, but that's another topic).

She by The Monkees
One of my favorite things about The Monkees is the fact that this song is completely different from the other Monkees tune on this list. Different musical era, different genre and style, and even a different attitude to betrayal and loss.

Last of Days by A Fine Frenzy
A similar premise to "Keep Breathing," this song theorizes that the narrator will be lost without their beloved. I hope they came to their senses.

Walking on Broken Glass by Annie Lennox
Had this playlist been a little less mopey, I would have included The Eurythmics' "Thorn in My Side" instead, but that seemed a little too positive amongst the rest of the songs.

Love is a Bourgeois Construct by Pet Shop Boys
My favorite thing about this song is that the narrator has totally not learned that "Love is a Bourgeois Construct," that's just the view he's pretending to hold, though he still expects his lover and relationship with love return ("so I'm giving up the bourgeoisie//until you come back to me").

Now I'm All Messed Up by Tegan & Sara
Out of all of these songs, this is the one that perfectly captures a feeling in the pit of your stomach, imagining your former lover with someone else.




Any More? I'd love to hear them.

And if you live in the area of Marion, Ohio, be sure to catch most of this playlist Thursday night at 7 on One-Mind Tracks on 97.5 WDIF.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Top 10: Albums of 2013

There are a lot of "opinions" present in and surrounding the music of 2013. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis had a hit with the progressive "Same Love," Miley Cyrus was the center of controversies (but what else is new?) and Robin Thicke ensured that he would never have a feminist fanbase. Pharrel Williams became pretty much the crowned king of the radio, P!nk's album about different parts of love (which came out last year) became a must-play. Lady Gaga slipped quietly to the peripheries, despite her new album release, almost as though she really doesn't care about being the center of attention anymore. Ah yes, and lest I forget to mention it, Snoop Dog became Snoop Lion. From across bodies of water, Lily Allen made a comeback, and a sixteen-year-old from New Zealand who calls herself Lorde became a somewhat unlikely pop sensation with her song that denounces the displays of wealth that seem to prevail in rap.

I was quite impressed with the way the year turned out musically. Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball" was a pleasure, even if I couldn't quite get into the groove of Gaga's "Applause." Below are ten of my favorite albums from 2013.

10. Un Album by DALI
In today's computer age, anyone can make an album. Anyone with talent, that is, and luckily, DALI has that talent. Released on Bandcamp, Un Album is a gorgeous mix of low-fi, folk, and mid-sixties girl groups, wrapped into a burrito of modern music marketing and twee lyrics. And not only is she talented enough for a promising career if she sticks with it, but she has the good sense to surround herself with talented people, like the director/cinematographer of the video for "Wildflowers."

Key Tracks:
"Wildflowers"
"The News"
"Woody Allen Song"

9. Heartbeats by Alex Sheridan
I interviewed Alex Sheridan earlier this year about Heartbeats, which was produced in my hometown. Heartbeats was a fairly commercially successful album considering it was independently released. Despite the fact that hip-hop isn't usually my cup of tea, I truly enjoyed it. Sheridan winds his way through a series of mild hip-hop tunes, coloured by complementary genres, with cameos by an array of singers and rappers.

Key Tracks:
"Say You Gotta Man"
"Muddy Shoes"
"F.I.N.E."

8. Comedown Machine by The Strokes
The Strokes were up to their usual tricks, with a decent album that just doesn't quite have the staying power to make it into anyone's top five. Comedown Machine picks up where Angles left off, but with more grit from the earlier albums, and slightly fewer electronic noises.

Key Tracks:
"Tap Out"
"One Way Trigger"
"Partners in Crime"

7. Fly By Wire by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
I reviewed Fly By Wire when it first came out. While I'm still waiting for anything to match Pershing in terms of quality, Fly By Wire was a great piece of work, with calm, catchy tunes and jangle-ey guitar. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin might have a name that stands out from the crowd, but they don't seem to rely on anything over-the-top to make themselves more sell-able, they just let the music speak for itself.

Key Tracks:
"Harrison Ford"
"Lucky Young"
"Nightwater Girlfriend"



6. Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend finally found a central sound for their music this year. Modern Vampires of the City has a complex religious level to it, but it also has a level that isn't complex: earworm songs with enough energy to keep you hooked.
Key Tracks:
"Step"
"Diane Young"
"Ya Hey"

5. Lousy With Sylvianbriar by of Montreal
As I stated in my review, of Montreal channelled 60s country and folk for Lousy with Sylvianbriar, reminiscent of the band's early albums, but completely new. There's a standout lyric from the album that really stuck with me: "all the evil in the universe//there are no victims only participants." Definitely the band's finest work in a while.

Key Tracks:
"Belle Glade Missionaries"
"Triumph of Disintegration"
"Raindrop in My Skull"


4. Electric by Pet Shop Boys
While I'm by no means an expert in the discography of Pet Shop Boys, I didn't think they would be able to remain relevant in the modern music scene. But I was grossly mistaken, because Electric is everything you could want from an electronic pop album. It's still very much a Pet Shop Boys album, but every bit as relevant to the present as any band formed in the past ten years is, and sometimes more. No other recent album does such a great job of reminding us that dance and catchy pop are finally wed and building a house together [my full review here].

Key Tracks:
"Love is a Bourgeois Construct"
"Thursday"
"Vocal"

3. Nanobots by They Might Be Giants
Much like Electric, Nanobots proved that an experienced band can still put out quality material. Like most great They Might Be Giants albums, Nanobots is scattered with superb pieces of musicality and lyrics, right alongside equally superb tracks less than a minute in length ("Hive Mind" is six seconds). I might be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure that there are no rules to a They Might Be Giants album, apart from the fact that it has to be quality.

Key Tracks:
"Circular Karate Chop"
"Call You Mom"
"Icky"

2. Volume 3 by She & Him
If there is a precedent for clean-sounding retro-pop, I'm pretty sure She & Him set it, and Volume 3 is their finest work so far. Along with almost a dozen original compositions, Mark Ward and Zooey Deschanel improve upon and take ownership of a Blondie song and Ellie Greenwich's "Baby," and even take a stab at "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me." Volume 3 is crisp, clean, and artfully crafted: a must-hear.

Key Tracks:
"I've Got Your Number, Son"
"I Could've Been Your Girl"
"Together"

1. Heartthrob by Tegan and Sara
Many Tegan and Sara fans were disappointed with this album, but I think Heartthrob is every bit as good as their earlier albums. I reviewed it back when it came out, and I think it's grown on me since. Heartthrob doesn't just touch on aspects of relationship emotions like some of Tegan and Sara's earlier albums did, it wallows in them. It highlights the highs in a relationship, like "Closer," the assuredness ("Love They Say"), the sadness ("How Come You Don't Want Me?"), the regret as in "I Was a Fool" and "Now I'm All Messed Up," and the memories ("Drove Me Wild). Every song on the album is dripping with feelings, not rivaled since "Take Me Anywhere." Though I think their live shows have suffered from this new sound, I think Heartthrob is as good as anything they've otherwise created, and definitely one of the best albums of the year.

Key Tracks:
"I Was a Fool"
"Drove Me Wild"
"Love They Say"

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Concert Review: Michael Nesmith in Ferndale, Michigan

The last time I saw Michael Nesmith, it was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania back in April. Since then, the show seems to have changed a little bit for the better. Perhaps it was the seating arrangements (the Carnegie show had more of an auditorium feel, whereas The Magic Bag is a relaxed, jazz club feel in an intimate setting), or maybe it was Nesmith's level of comfort with performing his songs live again, but either way, it was incredible to see that these shows are getting even better.

The Magic Bag alternates between being a concert venue and a light dinner theater, so seating was mostly at tables and many people in the audience had popcorn. The lighting was low, but the stage was very visible. Nesmith and his band took the stage around eight-thirty and after a brief introduction of the band, Nesmith also introduced the concept that he built for the shows. Much as he did during his last tour, Nesmith built the setlist and atmosphere of the show by introducing a song or series of songs with a "setting," hence the tour title "Movies of the Mind."

Nesmith's artistry with words does create a terrific atmosphere, which I will try not to spoil for you when I say that the set started with a story that prefaced "Calico Girlfriend," "Nine Times Blue," and "Little Red Rider." Although it seems like an unlikely opener, "Calico Girlfriend" had much more energy than the recorded versions. After only a short pause, "Calico Girlfriend" became a heartfelt and rockier version of "Nine Times Blue." "Little Red Rider" closed the series of songs, and Nesmith created the setting for the next song, which I immediately realized was going to be one of my favorite of his compositions, "Propinquity (I've Just Begun to Care)." The word propinquity means "the state of being close to someone," and the song is a gentle tune about falling in love with someone you'd formerly taken for granted. In this live performance however, the lyrics and music were both only small players, outshone by Nesmith's voice, which sounds just as good as ever. His voice seems to have more or less the same range, but it seems to have gained a new level of depth as he's matured. Another lyrically masterful Nesmith track followed: a slowed-down version of "Tomorrow and Me," which really captured the emotions the lyrics seem to convey more so than the original recorded version.


The next vignette took place in Paris, and led into a version of "Different Drum" which featured mandolin and synthesized accordion. "Different Drum" was followed by "Some of Shelly's Blues." Another elaborate visual description set the stage for "Joanne" and "Silver Moon," while yet another still led into "Rio" and "Casablanca Moonlight." While I prefer the album version of "Rio," the live "Casablanca Moonlight" seems far more engaging than the album version.


The set continued with "Yellow Butterfly" and then "Light" and "Rays" played consecutively. My favorite part  of both shows I've attended is a trio of songs beginning with an updated "Cruisin,'" and continuing with "Dance" and "Tonite," all from Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma. That trio of songs works amazingly live, and stands out as the best group of tracks amongst many other great songs. The set closed with "Running From the Grand Ennui."


There was a pleasantly brief pause before the band returned to the stage for an encore of "Rising in Love" and an upbeat "Listen to the Band," during which, Nesmith introduced his actual band again, with solos from each of the talented band members.

Michael Nesmith and his band put on an incredibly good live show, with plenty of life and energy, and ripe with musical talent. Even if you're unfamiliar with some of his work, but you still enjoy a good "classic" rock show, Nesmith and co. provide. It's a relaxed journey, and well worth the ride.