Music of March 2015

So as mentioned earlier, going to try and aggregate/curate/collate some of the music I listen to each month. I usually go back and forth with a friend of mine about this, and some co-workers as well. I even go so far as to write some small words about each piece; so it would seem most of the legwork is already done. Some of the songs I didn’t list because I lack confidence in them, don’t care too much, or I just didn’t listen to them very often.

The ways to find it collated together:

LISTEN ON GOOGLE PLAY

LISTEN ON SPOTIFY (LINK)  or (URI)

Here it goes, music on my March 2015 playlist, in no real order. Though most songs are added as I find them, so this would most closely relate the order in which I discovered them.

  1. Coming Back – Dean Ray  Ridiculous video aside, I enjoy the rhythm of it overall. All I can say is that it is catchy.
  2. All of the Pieces – Reigan I dig the harmony in the background, it builds a simple thing into something with a bit more weight. The synth helps with that too.
  3. Three Fingers – Rival Sons They were featured prominently in some earlier playlists last year. But an article I was reading about new prog rock/rock that’s making waves and they were mentioned so I gave ’em another spin. Also I mean “I’m on my feet and I’m running the plaza, the matador is holding the red, but I’ve got the horns, I’ve got the speed, This motherfucker’s going home dead” Gotta love that.
  4. City Lights – The Soft White Sixties It’s funky and has plenty of energy. This always gets my feet tapping. Also pointed to in the aforementioned blog.
  5. Under A Rock – Waxahatchee  Referred by a friend, but I will say it may not be for everyone. I find it hard to pin down, but I think what I like most about the sound is that it feels the right amount of dirty like it is more genuine than something else I would find normally.
  6. She Lit A Fire – Lord Huron Another referral. It’s a simple song, I like the tone overall, it’s unimposing and easy going. It’s not the most boastful love song I’ve ever heard, which I appreciate. The echo-ey feeling makes it easy to let it kinda slide past you.
  7. When My Time Comes – Dawes (Referral) Not only is the writing and content of the song awesomely zen, but god damn if the belting out the chorus isn’t fun as hell.
  8. Black Sun – Death Cab For Cutie  (Referral) This should pretty much go without any sort of explanation. It’s fucking Death Cab.
  9. No Room In Frame – Death Cab For Cutie (See #8 for more info)
  10. Messidona – Driver Friendly  (Referral) I really enjoy the energy, it’s something that reminds me of the alt numbers of my highschool years. A real manic feeling.
  11. Twin Sized Mattress – The Front Bottoms (Referral) It took me SEVERAL listens to come around to this, but it got it’s hooks in. Even past the shitty theme and whiney tone, I still like it. I could not really explain it.
  12. FourFiveSeconds – Rihanna and Kanye And Paul McCartney (Referral) What can I say, I love Rihanna’s voice. Paul McCartney rocks. Kanye is hard for me to stomach mostly. But the message and other bits seems to outweigh his presence enough. Though this is hardly without precedent. Jay Z and Rihanna carried me through Run This Town some years back. 
  13. Eraser – Young Statues Hits a similar cord to Messidona, and as such it makes the list.
  14. Hum – Tigers Jaw  Reminded me a bit of  early work of The Hush Sound if they pulled the piano bits out of The Hush Sound. Not amazing, but I’ve just been listening to it and it hasn’t gotten on my nerves.
  15. Real Love – Clean Bandit I love electro with nice clean female vocals. If I have a spot that is the equivalent of belly rubs for dogs. That exact spot is it. I realize I’m late to the party on this, Rather Be was on my lists last year, but somehow just caught this one. Unknown how I missed it.
  16. Nobody to Love – Sigma Good rhythm and I like the tempo of it, jumps frequently between the smooth vocal harmonic to the house type synth.
  17. Am I Wrong – Nico & Vinz  I like a lot about this song, the video, the vocals, the sound, the lyrics, all of it really. This song is great.
  18. Waves – Mr. Probz Late to the party again. This one lands in between a few different spaces for me. I think that is why I like it so much. It’s slow melody really just puts me in a very relaxed state. His voice is soft but has a bit of gravel on his upward inflections, it gives a hard edge to a lot of the lines. It’s a small thing but it makes the lines feel a bit more pleading.
  19. I’m So Sorry – Imagine Dragons Won’t even lie about this one, totally got it from the Battlefield Hardline launch trailer. It’s good power rock with driving chords. I’m down with it.
  20. Habits (Stay High) – Tove Lo (Referral of sorts) I am in agreement with a lot of people about Tove Lo, she can sing it. No question.
  21. Youth – Daughter I’ve listened to Daughter many times, this another great one. Nice minor key stuff, they have such a melancholy sort of rambling sound. I always think of their stuff as music to listen to in the rain, which works out here in the Seattle….
  22. Faded – ZHU  It’s good club music, nothing truly exceptional. But it is great for zoning out at the gym or at the office. For that alone it gets an add.
  23. Walk – Kwabs I was fairly obsessed with this song for the last half of March. Kwabs has an amazing voice, really good power and incredible intonation, I mean it is crystal clear at ALL times. Very good soulful tone and a nice driving beat behind it. It definitely get’s in that hip-hop vein.
  24. I See Fire – Ed Sheeran Ed Sheeran? Check. Lord of the Rings? Check. Acoustic Guitar? Check. No further questions.
  25. Boll Weevil – Punch Brothers You won’t see much country on here. But I guess since this is technically blue grass it gets a pass. I love the size of it this song just feels ‘small’ and for some reason that resonates with me.
  26. Please Beware – Dirty Sweet Let it never be said I don’t enjoy solid rock music. Good crunchy chords and a nice reeling vocal style. I would, at the risk of being pedantic, describe this as ‘dirtily sweet’.
  27. Hunger And Thirst – Typhoon A new album from an old stand by. They are a pretty big (in size) alt indie group. Their sound reminds me a bit of Snow Patrol. They have a good range and sound (11 person ensemble gives some flexibility). I really enjoy the groups ability to shift entirely throughout the song, it feels like two experiences in one.
  28. 100 Years – Typhoon Another good track of the previously mentioned album.
  29. Slow Motion – Phox Found this one through AudioTree. I think this is a neat little group. Good upbeat sound, and the singer has an amazing voice. Very good timbre. I’d recommend just watching that whole Audio Tree.
  30. Seeya – deadmau5 WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT FEMALE VOCALISTS AND ELECTRONIC. (Also the whole song is about dreaming, that’s fucking rad).
  31. Humbling River – Puscifier  You cannot go wrong with Maynard James Keenan anything in my house. This has got some great moodiness to it, and the typical preaching style of MJK. Good writing and impeccable execution.
  32. Come Alive – Hanni El Khatib  Heard this one in a movie trailer as I recall. It’s got a nice kind of punchy sound to it, never fails as a pick me up.
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Musical Foray

So I was thinking about doing something new, hopefully something I could stick with. In the past I’ve enjoyed throwing out the odd idea; unfortunately they were few and far between. So keeping a structure to stick with it was hard.

I do something in my everyday life that I already (kind of) curate and write up, so transitioning it to this space seems easy, reasonable, and maybe a not totally un-fun.

I’ve never really liked the Top 40 all that much and I don’t regularly (or at all) listen to the radio or sources of popular music. As such I’ve looked to different ways of finding new music for listening. I regularly exchange music recommendations with a few friends and co-workers. I’ve always much preferred the search process experienced when using the discovery-based music projects. Starting with Pandora back in 2006, when I started on that service, or the numerous alternatives that have waded into the space. In college I started using Google Music as a storage mechanism for my larger-than-normal mp3 library. Eventually they added the Google Play pass where you can pay to have access to their entire music catalog. I’ve been using that for a few years with no real direction. My lackadaisical listening habits were changed recently when I was turned onto a music curation method by a friend.

Essentially I just go through the normal means of music exploration and listening. Using Pandora, Google Radio, keeping an eye out for samples/uses in TV or Movies, and of course talking with friends. Each month I create a playlist for that month. So currently I have a March 2015 playlist in my Google Music. Any song that comes through my headphones that I really enjoy, I add it to the playlist. Eventually by the end of each month I have about 35-50 songs that are tied to that space and time. It’s an interesting system, and it’s led to some really good listening. It allows me to listen to songs I vibe with, over and over, but then quickly move on before burning them out. In the past I would fixate or attach to a song, play it repeatedly for months, and then lose all interest in hearing it ever again. This method strikes a nice balance, it also allows for more directed exploration. If I find a song I like, and add it; then I will put that through Pandora and Google Radio to see what musical counterparts get spit out.

As I the year goes on, I start a secondary, passive playlist. This is a ‘mega’ or ‘recap’ playlist that acts as a big bucket for the year. So at the end of each month I close out that month’s playlist, add it to the Mega playlist for the year, then move on to the next month, with no carry over. The songs of March will stay there, un-listened, and new songs will begin for April. Fresh new music always, with just enough repeat to fall in love with stuff. And at the end of the year I have an actual account of what I liked and can listen again if I want to. Music and sound have strong ties to memory and even though I’ve been doing this for just about a year now. I can draw connections to many memories with just the one mega playlist I have from 2014. It’s a bit more specific than Spotify’s year in review feature. I am satisfied with that completeness.

So guess this is a heads up of sorts. I intend to post the playlist for the month at the end of each month. With a short description (1-2 sentences) as to why the song was added, what I liked about it, or where it came from. I’m unsure the best way to share the actual music itself. I know that my playlist on Google can be listened to by anyone (who has a google music access pass). I’m not currently on Spotify which I know is the preferred platform for most. I could also do a few minutes of work and build a Youtube playlist with the songs, that is hardly ideal because of the rampant ads on Youtube. I’ll think on this. The first post (March), will probably come with a few of these options to see what the best is.

Musical Growth

I am a huge fan of music, always have been. I grew up with music and have been developing my own musical tastes since before I can remember. I am thankful to my father for having good musical taste and imparting it on me. I listen to music nearly all the time. I would say about 75% of my waking hours have some level of music happening. (I’m listening to music as I write this)

Image by ShirtWoot

When I hear music from days past, the feeling of nostalgia strikes me like anyone else. I remember all of the good times and memories associated with the music. I can’t listen Matchbox Twenty’s Long Day without thinking about reading Dinotopia on Christmas listening to the Yourself or Someone Like You album on repeat with a Sony CD Walkman. Ah, the 90’s.

Musical nostalgia is double edged sword, though. It is good with equal parts narrow-mindedness. I often find that this pining for the music of old ends up hurting our musical appreciation in the long run. It is a subconscious struggle we may not even realize at first.

I am a huge fan of The Mars Volta and have been for many years (about a decade). They recently released a new album NoctourniquetSince I heard in late 2011 of its impending release, I marked the date and closely watched its approach. Finally it arrived and I quivered with joy as I loaded it into my music player. I was in a break between classes and had the 64 minutes required for a single playthrough, so I gave it a straight run-through. It is not often get the chance to immerse myself into an album in this way at the outset. If you have the chance to do so I would recommend it. Radio, Music Videos, and popularized music delivery (Web) often tramples on the idea of musical albums as stories to be experienced. Most albums lack innate progression, narrative, and any real impetus to listen to an album start to finish.

What I heard while listening to Nocturniquet for the first time was strangely foreign. It was distinctly Mars Volta, to be sure, their sound is unmistakable. However it had a strange energy to it. The music was more electronic and more frantic, which if you know TMV that is really saying something. It felt simply uncomfortable for me. This isn’t a feeling unknown to me; new music always takes time to break in. Still, something was off about Noctourniquet. I listened to the album a few times through over the next week and it didn’t break in, it didn’t grow on me, and I didn’t really enjoy it. Every time I tried to listen to it, I ended up turning it off and returning to the older TMV albums. I eventually let the album collect dust in my digital library.

I would only return to it a few months later, with a different perspective. I had happened across an interview by a musician who has been very influential in my life: Maynard James Keenan.  It is an older interview from Keenan, and I had seen it before. Maynard delivers an idea that has stuck with me for a very long time, but had receded to the rear of my mind. It really gets at the heart of musical performance, and art forms in general. There is a very apparent selfishness to a majority of music floating around these days, music that preaches the basest selfish emotions: greed, violence, abuse, misogyny, and hate.

However there is a different kind of selfishness, one that has an indirect but an altruistic result. Keenan’s desire to performing/recording is not to directly entertain fans: it is to learn, heal, and grow through his self-expression.

At around 1:50 Maynard responds to a question about fans bemoan Maynard’s departure from his older, much angrier, music. He explains:

“Well for those that miss that type of music, that’s why I recorded the old stuff, if you want to listen to that, go back and listen to the first albums. If I can’t heal and grow from my art, then how can you? I suppose I could repeat myself over and over and over again but what’s the point of that?”

While Maynard’s reasoning for performing may be at first self-centered, his work benefits his fans by joining them into the healing process. Through this exercise both the artist and audience can grow together.

I never thought about musical performance in that light before. People often respond negatively to new recordings by their favored bands, and I began to realize it may not be the artist’s fault but instead the listener’s musical obstinacy. Artists continue to grow, experiment, and hone their craft. Yet we refused to grow along with them, and we are left behind with only our nostalgia and dusty albums to comfort us.

Hearing this simple observation I decided to replay through Noctourniquet. What I found was that with a different mindset, one not bound by the expectation of old Mars Volta vibes, I enjoyed the album more with each listen. I can honestly say that it is a great album; it just took me some thinking to realize it. Some people may not want to ‘think’ about their music to enjoy it, that’s their choice. However I will approach my music as I always have, in a way which Maynard explains in another great interview:

“There are several ways you can go into music. You can just kind of click out and just kind of use it as a backdrop and not really think about what’s going on in your everyday life. Or you can use music as a catalyst to do some searching, to do some soul searching, to do some growing. And that’s the kind of band that we are. […] that is the kind of music that we perpetuate […] something that is going make you get involved.”

So the next time one of your bands drops an album that doesn’t exactly click with you: try to appreciate the musical growth that the artist has undergone.

Don’t forget though, there are artists who just lose touch and make shitty albums.

Music as a Metaphor

Language tells us that music is a tangible object, beyond a simple experience.

The comparison is often drawn that, music while being mere air pressure fluctuations, has a tangible nature that can be manipulated and  experienced by the listener in a manner that they would interact with other physical objects.

People often say:

‘The music washed over the audience.” As though the music were water.

“The musician wove a masterpiece.” As though the music were a fabric.

“The composer built a beautiful symphony.” As though the music was a monument or structure.

All people who have heard or listened to music agree that the experience possesses physical attributes similar to other human sensations;  and its composition and structure shares qualities with common constructs of society/humanity.

Take for example the oft remarked observation that, “The music washed over the audience”. Music possesses qualities much like water. Music has peaks and troughs like the movement of water. People relate the moments of quiet and calm punctuated by quickened tempo and climatic crescendo to the tides of water. Continuity in music mimics the continual motion of water.

People often liken the composition and writing of music to the different constructive exercises, the notes and melody of a song must be timed, placed, and positioned to create a cohesive tune. This practice is much like the interweaving of fabrics and threads when creating clothing. Similarly composers must properly utilize different sections of his symphony to piece together a concerto. Each section has qualities and strengths that when tempered with others work much like the building blocks of a super structure.

Music also has a very visceral mental/physiological stimulation for listeners. Listening to music (that one enjoys) has many neural responses; many of which are similar to the sensation of touch (due to not only the actual air pressure variation, but the mental connections associated with sound) and genuine elation. Such elation is often compared to relaxing and pleasurable sensations, similar to the feeling of water over the skin. Music illustrates the Descartes’ duality of merging physical sensations of the body to mental and ethereal experiences of the mind.

Music is in many ways an abstract experience, for listeners with limited understanding of language or vocabulary it is often hard to describe what they are feeling when the listen to music. This confusion leads to simpler and more relatable explanations for music.

That often means using other real life examples as a comparison or metaphor.

Who am I?

I’m a third year Video Game Development and Design Major at Rochester Institute of Technology. I have grown up around computers and I love technology. I have dedicated myself to developing a career in the video game industry in any postion. While my major focusses towards programming and development, I like to think that my skills are not only in coding, but in other elements of desgin. I am experienced with level design, 3D modelling, animation, different design methodologies and writing.

Aditionally I am deeply interested in music. I find music therapeutic. I take any and all oppurtunities to see live concerts. I find that so long as the act your seeing isnt a type of music you dislike: you will have a great time. I am 20 years old and I have been to roughly 18 different shows, and seen approximately 55 different artists perform.

Video Games are the career and field of study I have chosen, they are of near infinite interest to me. With so many possibilites and facets that the medium of interactive media possesses, its hard not to become involved. I find myself drawn to action games. This includes: First Person Shooters, Third Person Shooters, Stealth, Real Time Strategy, Turn Based Strategy, Flight Simuilators, Role Playing, and some Racing games. After playing thousands of games, it appears to me that action games (such as those listed above) lend themselves to better plot and character development.

As a child I was drawn toward ‘fun’ games. These were the games with fun mechanics and good hooks. As I grew older I saw that I wanted to play more ‘good’ games. Now that does not mean ‘fun’ and ‘good’ games are mutually exclusive. Often there is much over lap. But I started to see more and more the difference between games that you get hooked on for days, then the moment you finish you can even remember the character names; and games that really pull you in and involve you in a story that sticks with you. I try to design, develop, and play ‘good’ games. Games that when the credits roll the player sits there and watches them; not because they want to see the names, but because they physically can’t move: they are dumbstruck.

A little bit about me personally, I am deeply political: so much so that I have often considered running for public office later in life. I find myself in the extreme corner of classical liberalism. That puts me in line with the current Libertarian Party in the US. However, I subscribe to the theory of Rational Anarchy as described below:

“A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame . . . as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world . . . aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.

Before I committed to RIT, and the game design program there, I was seriously considering going to school for Political Science. I have always been someone who was deeply interested in history. As a kid, if I wasn’t watching cartoons; I was watching the latest special on military history on The History Channel. My favorite recreational reading has been historical fiction and military fiction books. As a result I ended up studying a lot of American history, much of which involves the creation of our nation and the foundation of our government. I began reading the writings of our founding fathers and revolutionary visionaries: Jefferson, Madison, Paine, Jay, Hamilton, Adams, and others. While reading these teachings I saw allusions to older works of political theory and practice. References to: Montesquieu, Locke, Burke, Hobbes, Machiavelli, and Voltaire. I started reading their works. I found that often the political rhetoric within these books was more enjoyable and biting than most modern comedy. From that point I was hooked. I read almost every piece of legitimate politcal writing I come across.