Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Album Review: "Aureate Gloom" by of Montreal


Of Montreal have finally come up with an album title that perfectly describes the group and their music. The title, Aureate Gloom could almost be a new name for the genre of glam funk with sad lyrics that the band have become known for. And, of course, this album totally fits the bill.

Aureate Gloom picks up where Lousy With Sylvianbriar left off, if we can assume that the latter was created with 1969 in mind and now of Montreal are ready to delve into the early seventies. It's also an obvious successor if we can assume that the mild depression of Sylvianbriar transformed into the complete emotional turmoil of Auriate Gloom.

"Bassem Sabry," named for an Egyptian civil rights activist, is described as the only non-autobiographical song on the album, although it features Kevin Barnes' usual eloquence and the line "I just watched my hero fail//now I'm in a dark and violent funk." Incidentally, the word "funk" also describes some of the sounds on the track, along with drums playing a starring role in the beginning.

Next up, "Last Rites at the Jane Hotel" paints a dark portrait of a couple (or former couple) plagued with infidelity and self-interest. The busy sound is a distant cousin of "Belle Glade Missionaries." "Empyrean Abattoir" is a much more simplistic, yet discoteche-worthy tune with a great deal of bitterness wrapped up in it. It has been suggested that "Empyrean Abattoir" is about Rebecca Cash leaving the band, which seems entirely possible, although it's also as great a break-up song as "Last Rites," even if they represent slightly different outlooks. It's worth noting that many of the tracks on this album deal with bitter separations, perhaps courtesy of the fact that Barnes has parted ways with many band members including not only miss Cash, but longer-standing members of the band, and his wife of eleven years, all fairly recently.

Barnes writes about his separation from his wife on "Virgilian Lots," a dark track with personal and self-searching lyrics. Although most of the sixties sounds from early albums and Sylvianbriar are gone, and it's probably been a while since anyone compared the band to The Kinks, "Apollyon Of Blue Room" definitely brings to mind "You Really Got Me" in places.

One of my favorite pieces of lyricism on the album comes from "Estocadas"; "Your shifty friend gave you a cactus for a gift[...]//Such a stupid offering what's it meant to symbolize//hostile immobility, is that something to prize?"

"Like Ashoka's Inferno Of Memory" is home of a strange, new influence for the band in the form of a sound very similar to Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song."  The concept of separation from his wife in "Virgilian Lots" returns for "Memory," poignantly when Barnes references the poem "Having a Coke With You," an ode to how great boring things are with the one you love, as a memory.

Aureate Gloom is very much an of Montreal record. If Sylvianbriar can be removed from the equation, it's definitely the best album since Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? It's a different direction from Sylvianbriar. Of Montreal albums can certainly be perceived as moods, so it's almost like another mood. Barnes continues to write personal and thoughtful lyrics ripe with cultural references and complex eloquence. While I can't say it's the band's best work, it's definitely worth a listen. 

of Montreal is the brain child of Kevin Barnes of Atlanta, Georgia.

Aureate Gloom can be purchased here

Friday, February 13, 2015

Separated at Birth: 3 Music Videos That Could Have Been Shot on the Same Set

No More Blood From a Clone has been around for a while now, but it's been a minute since we introduced a new series of articles. So today, I bring you the first installment of "Separated at Birth," in which we explore multiple music-related things that are seemingly unrelated, but share some family traits.

First up, the following are three music videos that (and I'm sure they aren't alone) have a similar nature feel and artistic direction.

In 1985, the somewhat obscure but well-respected group Talk Talk released the video for their song "Life's What You Make It." The video was filmed at the Wimbledon Common and directed by Tim Pope (famous for his work with The Cure). 



Now, in case you're unfamiliar with the work of Talk Talk, let me just tell you, videos were not lead singer Mark Hollis's favorite thing. Their original video for "It's My Life," also directed by Pope, was a protest against lip-synching. But for this video, the band obviously did more to embrace the medium, making "Life's What You Make It" the band's strongest music video.

Perhaps that's why, in 2009, the video had an affair with Spike Jonze's rendition of Where the Wild Things Are, and gave birth to Mika's "Rain" video.


The song itself was described my Mika as "an unapologetic '80s pop record," making it a stone's throw away from the sound Talk Talk were in the process of leaving when "Life's What You Make It" was released. The video, directed by Nez Khammal was filmed in the Epping Forest in Essex, but I think it could have easily shared the set with it's half-brother (providing Wimbledon Common even looked the same by 2009).

Just a year later, a brother much more closely related to "Life's What You Make It" was born, in the form of Jamie Woon's "Night Air."


"Night Air"'s video is very similar in artistic direction to the Talk Talk single, complete with close-ups of the creatures crawling in the night.

While there is seemingly no other link between these three songs, I think the videos are a crazy connection. Stay tuned for more musical artifacts that were separated at birth.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Album Review: "Uptown Special" by Mark Ronson


Mark Ronson's ever star-studded albums just got a new little brother in the form of Uptown Special, an album which has already seen a great deal more success here in the states than anything Ronson has performed on in the past. "Uptown Funk" became Ronson's first American #1 as a performer last week (previously he was one of the producers on Bruno Mars' #1 "Locked Out of Heaven").

Uptown Special kicks off with an introduction piece, the short "Uptown's First Finale," which features not only Stevie Wonder himself, but the classic Stevie Wonder sound circa the early 70s. "Uptown's First Finale" gives way to "Summer Breaking." The lyrics (as with many songs on the album) are by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Michael Chabon. As terrific as the collaboration is on "Summer Breaking," which paints a fantastic picture of a heart-hardened girl and her summer exploits, one has to wonder if this will become a recurring partnership between Chabon and Ronson, much like the one between Ben Folds and author Nick Hornby.

"Feel Right," of course, is completely different from the soft, floating sound of the first two tracks. The seventies sound is still present, but the drums and wind instruments bring to mind Version more than Record Collection. Mystikal provides an aggressive yet playful rap on this track for which Bruno Mars is credited as one of the many writers.

Of course, what can be said about "Uptown Funk" that hasn't already been covered?


The feminine voice on the album, "I Can't Lose" features the vocals of brand new artist Keyonne Starr, whose voice is completely on par with the rest of the seasoned musical veterans. It's a shame to see so many fewer women working on this album, since Ronson's work generally features women much more heavily.

One of the standout tracks is "Daffodils," which features vocals by Kevin Parker of Tame Impala. The mesh of funk and psychedelia with poetic lyrics makes the piece a dreamy dance tune. Andrew Wyatt of Miike Snow comes to the forefront for "Crack in the Pearl," which also offers a lyrical reprise of "Uptown's First Finale."

"In Case of Fire" is a smooth, falsetto-laden track with vocals by Jeff Bhasker. Chabon's lyrics give the song an incredible flow that may have been missing on the tracks of Record Collection.

"Leaving Los Feliz" is the Beatles-esque track on the album. The first eleven seconds bring to mind Paul McCartney's "We All Stand Together," while the rest of the song, including Parker's vocals and the echo production seems to channel the solo work of John Lennon. Los Feliz is the so-called hipster area of Los Angeles, and the track is about a hipster who realizes he may be getting too old to continue partying in Los Feliz. It's definitely a track that's worth a listen.

And of course, the album is bookended with "Crack in the Pearl, Pt II," another song on which Stevie Wonder guests, reprising the Wonder sound and "Las Vegas" lyrics.

The entirety of Uptown Special has a seventies throwback sound. Inclusions of things like the harmonica and Stevie Wonder vocals merely cement the core sound, which, oddly, isn't disturbed by the album's sole rap track, "Feel Right," which sounds as though it's rapped over a James Brown song. As with any Ronson work, there are many styles of music represented, yet much like Record Collection, no song is the lonely kid standing in the corner. Somehow, all of the styles come together in a cohesive manner, not only because of the central sound style, but because they have a flow that only a good DJ like Ronson could provide for an album with so many varying tempos and styles. As wonderful as Record Collection was, Uptown Special does not disappoint. In fact, there are fewer "weak" tracks on Uptown Special, making it quite an exciting album.

Mark Ronson is a producer and DJ.

Uptown Special can be purchased here.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Top 14: Singles of 2014

2014 was more about singles than albums. Much as it makes me cringe to think about, it's entirely true. That's not to say there weren't any good albums, but there was nothing that measured up to the top 10 albums of 2013.

So, the year was about singles. In addition to that though, it was about women. Women dominated the charts and the airwaves. We're talking Taylor Swift being the first woman to knock her own #1 single to #2 so she could occupy the two positions simultaneously. We're talking about the sheer variety of female acts topping charts, from the aforementioned Swift to Meghan TrainorAriana GrandeNicki Minaj, Iggy AzaleaSelena Gomez, Tove Lo, and Jessie J, just to name a few! Chrissie Hynde released her first official solo album, Lily Allen and Ingrid Michaelson each put out new albums, and, once again, Taylor Swift broke tons of records with 1989.

While I'm a little sad that there weren't more standout albums, I wasn't entirely displeased with some of the singles. And also, girl power. Anyway, below are fourteen of my favorite singles of 2014.

14. "Earth is the Loneliest Planet" by Morrissey
It was nice of Morrissey to release this track as a single on my birthday. It's also pretty cool to see that he's still got that Morrissey musical sadness. This might even be the best track he's done since the mid-nineties (in my opinion).

13. "Where No Eagles Fly" by Julian Casablancas + the Voidz
From Tyranny comes this gem of a track. The rest of the album was impressive as well, particularly the overall production. I love how perfect all of the visuals are for this Julian Casablancas + the Voidz project, from the videos to this exaggerated retro single cover. If you missed it, you should really check it out.

12. "Foil" by "Weird Al" Yankovic
"Weird Al" Yankovic had his first #1 album with Mandatory Fun this year, and it's no surprise that the album did so well (although it is a surprise that none before have). The original songs and parodies are all spot-on, and even this parody of "Royals," which begins like a run-of-the-mill Weird Al food song, but takes a darker and funnier turn.

11. "I Won't Let You Down" by OK Go
The band that's known for their videos makes some awesome music too. That said, the video for this one is a Busby Berkeley musical number on Honda personal mobility units. I love the inventive way they're always coming up with new things for videos and not just recycling the treadmill gimmick over and over. I also love the touches of the 70s, which remind me of "I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5.

10. "Air Balloon" by Lily Allen
Lily Allen's Sheezus was a lot more hip-hop influenced than I had expected (the title failed to clue me in), but at the same time, the album had a great deal of variety. Take this worldbeat-infused pop tune for example. It's been compared to "Paper Planes" by M.I.A., and you can hear the similarities, but it's also got its own thing going on in an infectious earworm way.
9. "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor
While I can't help but agree with opponents of this song, that it isn't as much about body positivity as it seems on the surface, "All About That Bass" is still a winner in my book. Originally offered to BeyoncĂ©, this track became a viral hit for young Meghan Trainor (who is 21). The bold use of colors in the marketing of this song and "Lips Are Moving" (also a hit) give her singles a uniform look, along with the fact that "Lips" references the previous single, saying "tell me that you're not just about this bass." Trainor is a singer-songwriter, and has written singles for several other acts, so she should have no trouble writing for herself.

8. "Be Reasonable, Diane" by SPEAK
You don't need a gimmick to sell a song, but I won't deny that it helps. SPEAK released a game to go along with "Be Reasonable, Diane." I'm sure it's not the first time it's been done, but it definitely works. Meanwhile, I'm perplexed by the recent surge in the name "Diane" in songs. I only know one Diane, and she's my aunt, yet Vampire Weekend also released "Diane Young" (a pun, I know) last year.
7. "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift
The biggest album by a female artist since Carole King's Tapestry, 1989 has been shattering records like no one's business. But this one is more than just a record-breaker in my opinion. "Blank Space" is a playful and mature look at both Taylor Swift's heartbreaks and the way the press treats them. She takes the blame herself as in "I Knew You Were Trouble," but also professes the "we all hurt each other" sentiment as in Ingrid Michaelson's "Girls Chase Boys," and the whole thing has that sort of fairytale feel of her earlier songs ("Love Story"). I just wish the producers had gone for a cleaner sound right before "and I'll write your name."


6. "Tell the World" by Eric Hutchinson
Constantly teetering on the edge of the mainstream, Eric Hutchinson released Pure Fiction this year and, while the tracks weren't as strong as some of his previous ones, songs like this one really stood out. The first single off of Pure Fiction was this feel-good tune, empowering in both sound and lyric.

5. "Girls Chase Boys" by Ingrid Michaelson
Ingrid Michaelson's most successful single since "The Way I Am," "Girls Chase Boys" is both a breakup song and a statement that "no matter who or how we love, we are all the same." She tackled gender inequality and the universal nature of heartbreak in the video for this catchy tune. It serves as both a tribute to Robert Palmer and a fun political statement.

4. "All I Need Is You" by Rob Cantor
Rob Cantor may not have broken the internet, but he sure used some fun new techniques to sell the great songs on Not a Trampoline. With his viral video of celebrity impressions set to "Perfect," and this video made up of gifs, he's like the OK Go of internet memes. And the song is pretty great too!



3. "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
While I'm disappointed that it's not another Mark Ronson and the Business International record, I certainly can't complain about the quality of this #2 hit. Watch out Taylor Swift, this fast-rising funk and soul track might just de-throne you.
2. "Swimming Pool Blues" by Miniature Tigers
Another great summer-soundtrack tune from Miniature Tigers. The rest of Cruel Runnings is sparse competition for "Swimming Pool Blues," which was definitely one of my favorite songs released all year. I even love the cheesy "underwater" sound editing bridge.

1. "Dark Sunglasses" by Chrissie Hynde
If there's one track I played on repeat this year, it was this one from Chrissie Hynde's very first solo album. I know, it's a fine line, "Chrissie Hynde solo album vs. any other album she's worked on," but man, did this single get it right. You can sing along with the backing vocals, and that cowbell...Totally my favorite track this year.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Concert Review: Carbon Leaf in Columbus, Ohio

It was almost two years previous to the day that Carbon Leaf took the stage at a Columbus venue. But last Wednesday, the band returned, this time taking the A&R Music Bar.

At about 8 p.m., the opener, Daniel Champagne, took the stage. The crowd, while polite, was not nearly silent enough to reflect his talent. Champagne came all the way from Australia, and started off by playing "The Nightingale," the first preview of his impressive guitar technique. Though Champagne took the stage alone, he created the auditory illusion of a full band with just himself and his guitar. His quick-moving hands played the guitar in the traditional sense, used it as percussion, and created a unique sound by tuning and untuning the guitar as he went.


He continued to play a total of six songs, showcasing his clear, crisp voice. "Same Enemy" featured very handy guitar work, sometimes strumming from the bridge, sometimes plucking with the fingering hand on the fretboard so that he could use the other hand on the body of the instrument as percussion again. Another song, "Fade to Black" was a cover of the blues-ey Dire Straits song that he performed with a great deal of energy.


His final piece was very impressive, with the rapid hand movements almost at their peak, and never a misstep. Unfortunately, customs had confiscated the copies of his CD or I probably would have purchased one.

Carbon Leaf took the stage around 9 p.m., after being introduced by an audio clip from The Muppet Show. They launched immediately into a piece from one of the two albums they released last year, Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle, "A Song For the Sea."


The tour was officially the "Indian Summer Revisited Tour," owing to the fact that it's the tenth anniversary of the album (they also rerecorded the entire album in order to reclaim it from their old record label). To celebrate the album's birthday, they played many songs from the great album, starting with "This is My Song!" and a version of "What About Everything?" much closer to the album version than the performance they gave last time I saw them.

Barry Privett.
The crowd involvement was quite impressive, with Barry Privett holding out his microphone to allow the audience to sing a section of "One Prairie Outpost."


They closed the selection of Indian Summer songs with "Life Less Ordinary," and launched into more tracks from Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle. They began with the instrumental "Februaery Detailles," featuring Privett on electronic bagpipes, and the audience participation piece, "She's Gone (...For Good This Time)."


"Bloody Good Bar Fight Song" was followed by its successor on the album, and a favorite track of mine, "The Donnybrook Affair." "The Donnybrook Affair" may have been the best performance of the evening, although it was followed by the almost equally terrific "American Tale" (from "Ether-Electrified Porch Music").


Carter Gravatt on violin during a song from Ghost Dragon Attacks Castle.

Carter Gravatt shined throughout the evening once again, notably on the extended guitar intro for (and throughout) "Grey Sky Eyes" and an extended break in "Raise the Roof."

Jon Markel
The band then moved into an amp-free semi-circle for "Comfort" and "Ragtime Carnival," both of which sound amazing as acoustic pieces. 


They closed the set with "The Dancing Song," "Desperation Song," and the fan favorite "The Boxer." The crowd remained entertained and engaged to the end. 



Carter Gravatt and Terry Clark reflected in the garage door windows of the A&R.
The band returned to the stage for an encore of "Let Your Troubles Roll By," and then moved into the center of the audience for another acoustic semi-circle of "Learn to Fly."

Carbon Leaf put on another great show. It wasn't free of mistakes, but it was a truly excellent show of skill and rapport with their audience. I eagerly await the next time they come around, and encourage anyone to check them out.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Album Review: "Tyranny" by Julian Casablancas + The Voids


Let me start off by saying that it's impossible for me to discuss this album without comparing it to The Strokes or the former solo work of Julian Casablancas. This isn't to say it's due to similarities, but rather vast differences.

So here's a quick run-down: The Strokes formed in 1998, and and kind of a gruff rock and roll sound (like a post grunge indie thing). They took a break a few years back, and frontman Casablancas released a stylized 80s-sounding solo album with lots of synths. The Strokes regrouped and made two decent but very synthy albums reminiscent of some stuff Casablancas did as a soloist, but still with touches of the old Strokes.

This album is not like any of that.

When "Take Me in Your Army" kicks off, you feel like you might have stepped into a real-life retro horror video game. The song doesn't stay that way for long, but it does go on to remind you of something you can't quite put your finger on. All parts of the song blend together perfectly, but with something deliberately just a little off, so it's unsettling. Is it the attacking beeping synths? Is it the way the title line "take me in your army" goes for both a word and a note that wasn't what we might have expected? Or is it the fact that the coming and going of the vocals altogether isn't something you can predict?

We have the perfect amount of time to ponder all this, but not come up with a solution, before the next track, "Crunch Punch" breaks in in a completely different manner. It's bookended with found audio samples from old radio programs. "M.utually A.ssured D.estruction" is one of the hardest pieces on the album, yet there are touches of Casablancas' signature vocal style peeking out from under all the sound. It's also the shortest track on the album, leaving you only time to ponder its purpose, and it never really "gets going." Of course, "M.utually A.ssured D.estruction" gives way to the longest track on the album, "Human Sadness."

"Human Sadness" is just over ten minutes, with rough sounds and synthesized strings living harmoniously together with cliche Strokes guitar and Casablancas rambling vocals. The change comes in at almost exactly halfway, and it's as though you're listening to a battle take place. The lighter sound seems to win out in the end, possibly indicating the end of human sadness. The track doesn't seem as long as it is, despite the lyrics being all but impossible to understand.

The lead single "Where No Eagles Fly" has the only truly killer hook on the album, and certainly functions as the most accessible song on the album. The only hook that comes close to "Where No Eagles Fly" is "Business Dog," which is still as odd a number as the album gets, including a self-censor in the first minute of the song.

"Nintendo Blood" almost sounds like it will be a reprise of "Take Me in Your Army," but comes into its own soon enough. The album closes with the dreary "Off to War..." which has less musicality than many of its' cohorts on the album, but is a quiet enough, it almost acts as a fade out for the album.

The way many of these tracks mesh together sounds like they weren't created as an album. So much so that I don't think it was an accident. I think each closing and intro is meant to be jarring, to let you know who's in control, to tell you the track has changed and there's nothing you can do about it. It's almost as though it's to wake you from the notion that you might have found some security even in the nonsense of the previous song.

Tyranny is gritty and unique in a way nothing Julian Casablancas has ventured into before has been. At just over an hour long, this has to be one of the longest albums I've listened to in years too. But it's worth the time.

Julian Casablancas + The Voids are a rock group side project of Julian Casablancas.

Tyranny can be purchased here for only $3.87!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

State of the Music Address: August 2014

It's been a while since a we had a new post here at Nomorebloodfromaclone, so yet again, I'd like to bring you some tidbits that don't make up full articles on their own (and hopefully explain my absence over the last couple of months).

Aretha Franklin at the Ohio State Fair.
Photo by Tammy Sedam, via Rebeat
-I moved! I was considering buying a house and all of that business kept me pretty busy for a while, but as soon as I get a consistent internet connection, you can expect hopefully more-frequent updates here. 

-The radio program One-Mind Tracks is still alive and well, and the station should be streaming online soon, which will mean my audience here will finally be able to hear my radio show! In the meantime, the theme this week was "Winds of Change" and we discussed Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." The recent and awesome interactive video can be found here.

-I've started writing for the online classic rock magazine Rebeat, so most of my classic rock articles will now probably be posted over that-a-way, such as a review of the Aretha Franklin show at the Ohio State Fair (pictured). It's there. There are also a lot of other writers more clever than me writing there too.

-Yes, I know I missed out on lots of recent albums, and I'm very sorry about that.

-102.5 Summerfest is Sunday, featuring acts like OK Go in Columbus, Ohio. Not too many shows in September though. What's up with that?

-Anyway, this time, when I say I should be posting more frequently, I mean it! Once my internet is hooked up, that is. Until then, please stay tuned!

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.

Check out my interview with Rob Cantor here!