Needtobreathe Concert Review

Posted: April 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Articles About Music, Concert Reviews | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Needtobreathe Concert Review

Mark my words, or rather my wife’s words: Needtobreathe won’t stay “Christian” very long. Their last two albums were released by Word Records and Atlantic Records, both owned by Warner Music Group. So, technically the band is not solely “Christian” even now, but nonetheless the statement still holds. This is not to say that the band members won’t remain followers of Jesus Christ. It is more a commentary on CCM as a whole. It sucks. But there is hope and that hope is Needtobreathe. They told the 1,000 or so people in attendance on several occasions that they were a rock band and they proved it repeatedly. Thus, word will get out and these five guys will eventually have a following of people who don’t sit in pews and carry Bibles.

We arrived in the middle of their first song, “The Outsiders,” and they were already jamming. Two electric guitars, one bass, one set of drums, and a rocking keyboard. It wasn’t a creative mix of instruments, but great googly moogly did they mix well.

They have been a band for nearly eleven years now and it showed. They didn’t talk much, except to thank the audience. Appreciation was expressed for the attendance because as Bear Rinehart said, “We’ve played plenty of shows with eleven people.” The band’s maturity was something that might go unnoticed by a novice show attendee, but it was obvious to anyone who has seen one too many immature artists pop off about politics, spout some ridiculous joke, or just mumble about something because he or she feels that its artsy. Thankfully, none of that was on the menu. Needtobreathe simply played and played well. Their timing was spot on, maybe save one instance in a jam session. The fact that they nailed nearly every transition and tempo change was a testament to their maturity and skill as musicians because they changed pace a fair amount of times. They still had to look at the drummer for the ending blasts, but I got the idea it wasn’t so much for timing as it was that they were just communally experiencing rock music. Either way, they killed the beginning, middle, and end of every song. What more do you want of a rock group?

They covered The Beatles and Ben Harper and put them into one medley: “Better Way” and “Get Back.” The Beatles cover was a nice throwback; the Ben Harper inclusion made me smile for the next three songs. I’m always glad when artists, especially Christian, pay homage to talented artists. And let’s be honest, no one is more talented than Mr. Harper.

The most captivating song of the night, however, was, as expected, “Washed by the Water.” I wasn’t looking forward to it leading into the night because I knew it was their most famous song. It’s like John Mayer playing “Your Body is a Wonderland;” it’s cliché and gets all the irreverently annoying eighth grade girls to scream. And Christian eighth grade girls are even more irritating. All that said, as the night progressed I realized that these were musicians and a simple crowd-pleasing, generic performance of the song wouldn’t be enough. Sure enough, they saved it for last and belted it sans sound system. He sang, “Daddy was a preacher,” then half the crowd started singing along and the other half shooshed them. “No reason to get hostile with anyone,” Rinehart said as he stopped singing. “But, I can’t sing over all of you so shut up.” (jokingly, of course)  And they did, for the most part. He began again. Two acoustic guitars and just Rinehart’s voice pounding out the words. Notes were strained and sometimes hard to hear in the back, but that little chapel’s roof got blown up by one man’s unamplified voice. It was soul and it was real.

By the way, Needtobreathe is a blend of Kings of Leon and Band of Horses. If you don’t believe me, buy a 12 dollar ticket to their show.

Wu Tang vs. The Beatles

Posted: February 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Articles About Music | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

If you’re a fan of mash-ups then I have a treat for you. Beatmaster, Tom Caruana, has taken some Wu Tang acapellas and remixed them with Beatles songs or covers of Beatles songs. The album is pure genius.  The best mash-ups I’ve heard since Danger Mouse’s Grey Album, which mashes up Jay-Z’s Black Album, with The Beatles’ White Album.  Tom has put the entire album up for free download on Tea Sun Records.   He also just recently put up all of the instrumental tracks and radio edits.  Several of these remixes are just so completely perfect that it makes me think that this might be the original purpose of these tracks.  With all of the mash-up talent out there these days I am gonna hope that someone is listening and I’m putting in my request. I would like to see The Beach Boys remixed with either Beirut or Final Fantasy.  What mash-up project would you like to see happen?

Someday Soon – A Mix for February

Posted: January 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Articles About Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

I’ve been quite lazy in my posting around here lately. I’ve been shooting down idea after idea in my head, until something magical just kinda fell into my lap. Before I just endlessly spill the details of my personal life, let me just get right into why I’m back and what I’m bringing with me. Last fall I had this idea of making weekly mix-CD’s; some for myself and some for others, but at least one a week. The plan kinda fell through after only a month and a half, but I did get a great mix or two out of it. One of the mixes was for my friend Courtney, and I told her that I was going to make her an amazing mix-CD just because I wanted to. So I set to work, and I put it together in about a day. I took me a few listens to make sure I was happy with, but it was still the same songs.  After a couple days of trying to catch each other, I gave her the mix-CD in a white cd-envelope with the track-listing scrawled in the blank space. She loved it. Now, fast forward to three days ago. She texts me out of the blue at 11pm to tell me how she still loves the mix. I hadn’t spoken with her in over a month, nor did we ever text each other much. I knew she was serious. I told her it’s time I made her another one.

And that’s how I got here. So I got to work one more time. I worked real hard to fill the CD the first time; with a whopping 23 tracks and 78 minutes of music, that sucker was chock full of goodness. I decided that this time around, I was going to go for quality over quantity.

Track 1.  I’m Actual – The Format

While this song is the second track, of The Format‘s album Dog Problems, I found it a good opener to my mix for two reasons. First, was the opening line, “Can we take the next hour / And talk about me / Talk about me, and we’ll talk about me/ Talk about me, and we’ll only talk about me”. I liked this, because from the end of this song, the mix is approximately an hour long. The second reason is that I just love this song. It sets a tone of beautifully orchestrated music, preparing your palate for what is to come.  It’s like the hostess seating you at the table, and handing you the menu.

Track 2.  To the Dogs or Whoever – Josh Ritter

The transition between songs is perfect. The guitar comes in from out of nowhere, and before you know it you’re right in the middle of the song without even noticing that it really changed. This song doesn’t really follow a theme from the first song, it’s just here because I like it. It’s fun to sing in the shower, and in the car. It’s a good mix-cd song, so it’s on here.

Track 3. Float On – Goldspot

I don’t want to diss on Modest Mouse, but I really love this cover. Now this song is a spring-ish kind of song. The full name of this mix is Someday Soon Spring Shall Surface So Sing Some Songs, so this is the first song that starts to set the theme of the mix. This is the shortest “song” on the mix, and ends almost as abruptly as it starts. It’s an enjoyable listen, and is a great addition to the mix.

Track 4.  I Can See The Pines Are Dancing – A.A. Bondy

This one goes off theme, for almost a complete change of pace. Had I not already burned a few copies, and made fancy artwork/cases, I might reconsider the placement of this song. This song feels more… fall or winter to me than spring. But that’s almost the point of it all, that someday spring will come, but as for now we must enjoy the winter while it lasts. Or maybe not. Do pines dance in spring? I guess you just have to listen and decide for yourself.

Track 5. Remain – Tyrone Wells

Back on track with more spring-ness now. I first heard Tyrone on the internal Starbucks radio CD/mixer, and went home and bought his album on iTunes. His voice reminds me of a musician from Tulsa named Ben Kilgore, and the people familiar with both artists seem to agree with me. A solid track, and another great mix-CD song.

Track 6. Ramona – Guster

I think it should be a law that every mix-CD contain at least one Guster song. Nathan (our site founder and editor-in-chief) introduced me to them years ago, and I have since fallen in love. This song works well for this mix in both the sound/feel department as well as lyrically. I live in Oklahoma, as does the recipient of this mix, so when I found a great Guster song that mentions this great state I got a little giddy. “Ramona, you’re Miss Oklahoma /and you miss Oklahoma.” It’s a great line, and a great, great, GREAT song. Perhaps my favorite song on the mix, and the one I really wanted to leave an impact with.

Track 7. Life in Disguise – The Slip

This song pairs wonderfully with Ramona, and is great in it’s own right. A great spring-time night-driving song if I ever knew one. It finds great company between tracks six and seven, serving as the proper transition between the two. This song is amazingly soothing, and always makes me feel better.

Track 8. Cartwheels – The Reindeer Section

If you listen to this track, you’re probably going to say, “Hey that voice sounds familiar!” Well you’re right! You’re hearing the voice of Gary Lightbody, front-man of alt-rock band Snow Patrol along with some other Irish indie rockers as part of the super-group The Reindeer Section. It’s a great song. Just beautiful. This is the kind of night-driving song that WILL make you start day-dreaming. Consider yourself warned.

Track 9. Pills – The Perishers

I really loved the album Let There Be Morning by The Perishers. I mean, really love. I probably listen to at least one song off it every day. But enough about me, and more about this song. It’s kind of dark, talking about being dependent on substances to be able to sleep because a relationship is going so poorly, but not telling their significant other the truth about the root of it all. I just like how it sounds. Oh well. Next song 🙂

Track 10. Somerville – The Pernice Brothers

I was gifted this album by a friend, and I love it. This song is about being stuck in a dead end town and getting out of it with the person you care about. While I’ve never been there, Courtney is from a small town in Oklahoma called Harrah, so I figured why not have a song about small towns. It has a spring-y feel to it. It feels good. This is the kind of song you sing when you’re driving down the highway with the windows down. It’s cathartic and simple, but I love it.

Track 11.  Life is Beautiful – Vega4

This track is another key song of the mix. I was really aiming this one at her tastes, and I hope I got it right. The song is magnificent, and paints a beautiful picture in my mind. The pre-chorus just sucks you in, and then when the chorus hits that first time you just explode with wonder. When the song finally climaxes, your mind is doubly blown. This is the kind of song that needs to be at about the the halfway mark of a mix, and that’s just where you find it. The song keeps my listener hooked, and will surely keep listening after such a great song.

Track 12. You Do – Until June

Now we slow it back down. This song starts soft, light vocals and the sound of train cars. The piano and heavily-fx’d guitar wash over the audial canvas in a motion that will relax every thought in your mind. The song’s lyrics are christian based, but at it’s root appeals to the higher notion of just being able to understand the unexplainable. I like to imagine the night sky, stars and satellites overhead as I sing the hook over and over to myself.

Track 13. Julia – The Beatles

I love how delicate this song is. It sets up the mix for a much bigger song to follow, and The Beatles just really rock the subtly of this one. I suppose this song could have been better place if Courtney’s name was actually Julia, or if I was in love with her, but neither are true so we just take it at face value.

Track 14. I Ran Away – Coldplay

This next treasure is a rare Coldplay b-side to their hit single The Scientist. It’s a shame that it got lost amongst the hype of it all. For Coldplay haters, this song follows a predictable structure that can grow tiresome as it continues. If you like Coldplay, this is a great rare track; otherwise, skip it.

Track 15. Middle Distance Runner – Sea Wolf

This band is on my list of artists that belong on every mix I make. I wish more people were aware of their stupendous awesomeness. In retrospect I should have chosen a song off their newest album, but this one just kinda stood out to me. I’ve dangerously danced in the shower to this one a few too many times. This song sounds a bit like musical raining. I had the chance to listen to it in the rain a week ago, and it was awesome. Perfect rainy songs are perfect spring songs. Done and done.

Track 16. Morning Light – Graham Colton Band

Here’s the climax of the mix! You finally made it! This is such an appropriate song for the climax because of the first line, “Sometimes I think I pass you walking on the street, and I believe it.” What does this have to do with me or Courtney? Well, Courtney moved back home to Harrah and I had no idea. I had thought for the last three weeks that she was still living on-campus at my school. So I guess the song was true in that aspect that I thought I was seeing her on the street when I really wasn’t. This was merely coincidence, I found this out after I had made the mix. Trust me, its a better story than the real one.

Track 17. One Last “Whoo-hoo!” For The Pullman – Sufjan Stevens

Seven seconds of Sufjan. Are you ready?

Track 18. Within You – Ray LaMontagne

AAAAAaaaaaannnd that wraps it up. This great track from Ray is a brilliant close to his album, and now to my mix. This song is beautiful and just does a great job of tieing up all the musical loose ends, leaving the listener with a feeling of completeness as the song fades into empty sound.

And that’s it! I was so proud of it that I had to come share. I want to come back and share my greatest playlists more often, as well as get back into the remix saddle very soon. So be on the lookout for more great posts coming your way.

Until then, I hope your ears bleed someday soon. Ω

Songs in the Key of Inept

Posted: November 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Articles About Music | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

This weekend, I visited a church with a ham-fisted drummer. He played busily when the song required a skeletal beat. He ignored song structure and any notion of dynamics with a toothy grin. And just as the chorus of a beautiful hymn prepared to soar, he played an entire bar of gut-wrenching hi-hat fills.

Despite the obvious fact that he was new to the instrument, a stranger thought irked me. Something about the clumsy beats was disarming, even appealing. The drummer’s mistakes lent the entire affair a very natural, very human quality (much to the annoyance of the eight other musicians on stage) that illuminated one of the purposes of religious music: to blur the division between musician and spectator, creating a larger group of participants.

“American Idol” ratings are near their highest at the beginning of each season, when one poor sucker after another sings a wretched rendition of some pop standard and then gets verbally berated. Why do people love to watch this? Well, we’re a sadistic bunch, for starters, but also because an inept musician is just another schmuck. We savor the commonality.

More importantly, the inept musician is an icon, a frozen point in the lifetime of all musicians, who constantly struggle to reinvent themselves by mastering their instrument.

In 1962, John Lennon begged the postman for a letter from his sweetheart to the tune of four chords and the most tired drumbeat of the era. The Beatles’ “Please Mister Postman” wasn’t even written by the band. Four years later, he sung lines about ego death adapted from the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” over backwards guitars and one of the most important drumbeats of all time.

Of course, Lennon and his Liverpool pals were no hacks in the mop-top years, but their relatively derivative songs certainly weren’t pushing technical boundaries. Yet the early, rudimentary songs are the ones fans remember with fondness, the ones that granted the Beatles the funds and popularity to experiment. Ironic how the archetypal experimental rock band are so branded by their inexperienced beginnings.

Unsurprisingly, the artists that top today’s charts are largely inept. The only new aspect of Auto-Tune is that its use is more blatant than before, and popular singers were lip-synching long before Ashlee Simpson. These technologies have abolished the former standard and blurred yet another line: the one between a musician and a pretty face.

You can wince when the guitarist who fumbles around on the fret board or the singer who searches, without success, for the right pitch. But you shouldn’t laugh because, hey, at least those schmucks are trying.