Friday, November 25, 2011

It is time.

Okay, I've mentioned before that I'm not Christian, but I still enjoy the holiday season.  However, I've got a love/hate relationship with the music.  At the beginning of the season I really like it.  By Christmas day I'm so tired of it that I never want to hear it again.  I've 178 end of the year seasonal songs on my iTunes (and I state it that way because while most are Christmas songs, I've got a handful of Hanukkah and Yule songs as well).  The day after Thanksgiving is the day they are allowed to go onto the iPod where I might hear them regularly.  The day after Thanksgiving is also the day I stop scowling at everyone who has already started the season, either by music, decorations, or sales. 

And even though it's definitely a religious song, this is probably my absolute favorite seasonal song. 
And this arrangement is probably the best I've heard it done.  When I was singing as a professional caroler (Victorian caroler, mind, so I was singing in a corset.  I'm that badass.) one of our tenors learned David Bowie's part, so, I've actually sung something very close to this.

And with that, it's officially the {insert your preferred end of the year celebration} season in my house.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fun, Fun, Fun

I've found that sometimes it's easier to pick up a song on the ukulele, if I silently run through the chords while listening to the song.  It's much easier to do this if I have the music on my iPod rather than haul my uke and music stand to the office to listen to them on Pandora or YouTube.  So, I'm buying the music when I think about it.  To that end, today I picked up the Beach Boys Greatest Hits.  I've found several songs of theirs with chords that I already know.  However, I've found that since it's been years (in some cases decades) since I've heard some of these songs, I definitely needed a refresher course.

I'm really enjoying listening to this music.  You can babble about nostalgia or looking back on a time of greater innocence of you like, but when you get right down to it, Beach Boy music is Fun.  I mean, really - bouncy music with tight harmonies, what's not to love?  And I'm not buying the innocence bullshit, either.  They may have been more subtle in what they were singing about, but I'm saying he wasn't wanting Rhonda to hold his hand in order to forget the girl that dumped him.  Or not dating so he doesn't leave hist best girl home on a Saturday night while he goes out in his hotrod and picks up chicks.   Because, you know, he's just going to drive them up and down the drag and then let them out of the car.  Yeah.

I do have to wonder if at any point in their career, they ever decided that they were too old to sing "Be True to Your School". 

I totally dig the car in the picture.  Yes, I wanted Archie's jalopy, too.

Yes, it's a tad misogynistic, but not enough to ruin the song.  And yes, he's an ass, but I did like David Lee Roth's version.

And then there is this one,which I know totally lends itself to ukulele, because The Corsairs did it with ukulele.  I was glad to hear they still had talent, but seriously wish that they'd followed up with more new stuff.  Oh, well.

I think I'll let it go with that.  After all, this music isn't going to just listen to itself, you know.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I'm slacking, I know.

I apologize for the radio silence, but I've not had a lot musical happening lately (unless you want to hear me bitch about trying to teach my fingers to do the B and Bb chords on my uke). 

I did buy a couple of good albums this last weekend - The Old 97's, The Grand Theatre Vol. 2 and Bowling for Soup, Sorry for the Partyin'

I first heard of the Old 97's when my friend Catt posted some music.  It was a very good song, but I never pursued finding more of their music.  Fast forward a few years and KXT starts playing them a lot.  And I really liked them a lot.  So, when we went to Best Buy this weekend and I saw their 2 albums on sale, I snagged one.  I picked the second album for their song "Perfume" which a a perky song about losing the girl.  I'm into perky dysfunctional love songs.

I first became aware of Bowling for Soup when The Edge (another D/FW radio station) started playing their "Girl All the Bad Guys Want".  (The one that got them the Grammy nomination).  I liked the song, but never got out to buy the album.  The next album, however, contained a song that hit in my 80s spot.  That would be, of course, "1985".  The Duran Duran reference clinched me having to get this album.  Turned out the whole thing was great.  Have picked up more of their music here and there, but do not have their whole collection by any means.  And I'm thinking I should change that - at least with the albums that came out in 2002 and later (some of their oldest stuff is...less than pleasing.  If you don't believe me, go listen to "Kool-Aid" from their second album).  Sorry for the Partyin' has their only dance song (which is hysterical), some of their standard dysfunctional love songs (did I mention I'm into those?), a song that puts the "b" back in subtle and a love song to Beer.  It's great.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Now THAT'S cruel

I'm on Live Journal and today's Writer's Block questions was "If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?"

That is some horribly mucked up thinking, not to mention cruel.  ONE song?  Can't be done.  Even if I was only presented with one song, my brain would eventually be warping it into thousands.  Not full fledged "professional" music, by any means, but my brain does tend to mess with the songs that get stuck in my head.

First and most obvious, if I get a song in my head that Weird Al Yankovic has gotten hold of, you can guaran-damn-tee that the lyrics will eventually be waffling back and forth from the original to the parody. 

Second and not so obvious is my own brain's tendency to mess with lyrics.  Especially if I only know part of them.  I hate it when I've got a song in my head that I only know the chorus to.  I'll either just have the chorus on endless loop or I'll find myself trying to come up with lyrics that scan and match the intent.  The latter is not a good thing when I'm driving.  Fortunately, I've got a working radio/cd player in the car to keep that from happening.

And lastly is my brain's tendency to do mash-ups if I'm stuck with an internal song for too long.  I've even got a couple that would probably work really well, if I had the talent and tools to muck about in mash-up land.  (I still say that "Rubber Ducky" and "Notorious" would work.  Trust me, I'm a MBLF.)

I did answer the question, by the way.  "I Wanna Be Sedated" by The Ramones.  Because, you see, this is the reset song that I use.  If I've got something stuck in my head, I can start singing this and it will go away.  And then I can easily replace this with any song that I so choose.  It's always nice to have a reset song.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Time for a rant!

Yes, we know I have my hangups and I'm going to bring out one of my big ones.

The vocorder is a legitimate musical tool that has been badly abused of late.

Most of you know this tool by the brand name Autotune.  There have been many before, the first being created in the 1930s as a way to encode speech for transmission.  The music biz grabbed it at some point (I'm sure if I'd finish reading the Wikipedia article, I could give you a date, but I've had a martini - hence the rant mode - and don't have the patience at the moment.) and turned it into a way to play with vocal effects.

I don't have a problem with that.

Quite a number of musical groups have used the vocorder to add spice to their music.  The Electric Light Orchestra is probably the first I heard use it and they did a lovely job of touching up their singing with a bit of synthetic voice effects.  Several groups have used the vocorder when they wanted to imply computers or robots talking (Styx and some of the music from the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band come to mind - don't judge).  So, for years I didn't have any problem with this particular tool.

Come the mid to late '00s and I have a totally different take on the tool.  (I pronounce it "naughties" by the way.  As in using "naught" for zero.  Since we haven't come up with a universal way of saying "after the nineties but before the teens" I think I can pick and choose my euphemisms here.)  Because somewhere along the way it either a) became such a cool effect that everyone wanted to use it or b) was being used by every producer alive because to not follow the herd would be unheard of (no pun intended).  I strongly suspect the answer is b) moo.  Which is yet another reason I don't listen to pop music on a regular basis.

Now here's the dilemma - there is a lot of pop music that I find fun and danceable and that I like musically.  But if I have no idea what the lead singer sounds like without the damned Autotune, I have a hard time liking the song over all.  Because I want to know that you earned that record contract by having a voice that is worthy before you pump out crap on Autotune.  Owl City has a song "Fireflies" that I would totally love, if I knew they could sing without Autotune.  Ke$ha has a couple of songs that I'd totally dance to, if I knew she could sing.  I know Will.I.Am has a decent voice, but you wouldn't know it if you picked up Black Eyed Peas "The E.N.D." (which I like in a guilty sort of way).  At one point Brittany Spears had a decent voice, but apparently she won't sing in public anymore without the Autotune.  And - especially disappointing seeing as I loved her quirky voice on the first album - even Katy Perry has succumbed to the "follow the herd or be cast out of radio play" and added Autotuned stuff to her newest album (although, not to the extent of some of the earlier examples).

So, here's my opinion on vocorder done right:

A good example of using it as icing to the song.  Keep in mind this was recorded back in the '70s when big fuck-off perms and shirts open to the navel were cool.  Really.  I'm not making that up.
In this case, the vocorder is used to represent the robots.  I promise the song makes a lot more sense if you listen to the whole album in order.  It was meant to be a rock opera.

I could give you more, but I'll leave it at that.  (Besides, I couldn't find the songs from Sgt. Pepper's that I wanted to inflict...uh...share with you.)