Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Modern Suspects - 'Just Watch Me'

The new single from Modern Suspects is out today! Be sure to check out 'Just Watch Me' here on iTunes.

I'll be performing this song with the Suspects all around the Colorado area over the next few months and, hopefully, in the days to come, all across the planet. Be sure to tune-in to these guys, follow them on social media, and dig on their music as they continue to release it. And if you can catch us at a live show, I guarantee that you'll have a good time!

But, for now, here's to Garrett, Bart, and Tyler and the release of their new single!

Monday, March 28, 2016

'Batman v. Superman', the consumer culture, and Artistic Appreciation 101

So here I sit, on the Monday after Easter, attempting to enjoy a much needed day off for my hands and ears after a weekend of double drumming celebration at church. I can't help but notice how often physical exhaustion and spiritual nourishment go together. Anyway. How's that for a random introductory thought for everyone? Take it for what you paid for it.

Besides the annual celebration of human history's single most dynamic, beautiful, and important event, something far less notable took place this weekend. The highly anticipated or highly dreaded (depending on your response to things like Batfleck and some inordinately revealing trailers) arrival of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice came to fruition at movie theaters. Being a lifelong Batman fan, a lifelong movie fan, and a seriously interested cultural analyst, I couldn't resist the opportunity to seize the moment and beat the drum (pun intended) of one of my own oft-repeated philosophical mantras.

For anyone unaware, the movie is, according to the vast majority of reports, not very good. (And that's putting it lightly.) Full disclosure: I haven't seen it. I don't plan on seeing it. And while I don't consider myself particularly taken most of the time with what critics have to say, I have found myself intrigued by the overwhelming and homogeneous nature of the reviews. A lot of people are agreeing about a lot of the same things when it comes to why BvS doesn't work, and, as of this writing, the film's Rotten Tomatoes score is below 30%.

Warner Bros.

And yet, despite the almost universal panning of the movie by most of the people seeing it, BvS has still managed to break a handful of box office records. As far as weekend openings go, it's the seventh-most successful of all time, the biggest DC movie release of all time, and with the inclusion of international markets, it generated over $400 million.

Which brings me to my point.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Movie Music Monday: 'Legends of the Fall'

Few composers capture the vibe, theme, philosophy, and character of the movie they are composing for as well as James Horner did. When you listen to his soundtracks, you can hear what the movies are about. You hear the romance, the heartbreak, the terror, the violence, the grandiosity and the epic sweep. You can sense the period of time and the mood. Horner, like precious few others, had the ability to truly capture in notes, melodies, harmony and percussion what the films were created to say through dialogue, cinematography, plot, and action. He was a magnificently gifted composer and Legends of the Fall is one of my all-time favorite Horner scores.

Edward Zwick's Legends..., based on the Jim Harrison novella, is the story of a Montana family's battle to stay united through the early years of the twentieth century. Horner's score beautifully and terribly captures the dynamics of the Ludlow family's saga, from the idealism of young men heading off to fight in World War I to the catastrophic loss of loved ones and the eventual discovery of the family's need for one another. The soundtrack masterfully incorporates elements that bring to mind the Americana of the newly settled frontier, the chaos of trench warfare, and the spiritual appreciation the characters hold for the land and time in which they live. The film is a multilayered and complex story, and the music is similarly diverse.

But Horner never leaves a listener stranded for long. He was clearly a big believer in theme and accessibility, and the soundtrack for Legends... contains a handful of some of his most memorable lines. You may even hear hints of other Horner films and recognize traces of instrumentation that were prominent in some of his later scores. His signature was a memorable one, and Legends... certainly marked some of his most potent work.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Buy This Album - 'I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it' by The 1975

The sophomore slump is a real thing. After you've had your entire life up to the point that you write your first record, the new deadlines of being an already established artist tend to quench the flow of a substantial amount of artistic juices. Add to this the dynamic of a successful first record, and now you've found yourself with the added pressure of living up to (or even exceeding) expectations. Even more rarely do you hear real artistic growth between a first and second record.

Well, it seems that The 1975 has defied all of those tendencies with their second label release, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.

The band's self-titled debut took me by surprise and blew me away. The retro '80s influences, the great playing, the hooks... it was an unusual breath of fresh air in a market oversaturated with disposable pop detritus or artists trying too hard to be important. It rocked, it grooved, it was singable and accessible with just the right amount of artistry to remind everyone that these cats weren't looking to be anyone or anything but themselves.

I'm glad to say that the new record has picked up right where the first left off, but with enough twists on the original idea to verify the notion that these guys aren't settling. They're not over-extending themselves, either, but they're moving in directions that indicate growth and a lack of contentment with where they left off the first time.

Whereas the first record featured short sound effect-y interludes between songs, I like it when you sleep... has taken things a bit further, featuring entire instrumental pieces built on the foundations of those earlier clips. These might not be welcome news to everyone, but they're an interesting touch on a modern pop/rock record. The instrumentals on this record are pleasant and intriguing, and they allow you to disappear a bit into the soundscape while wondering just what the guys had in mind when they were orchestrating them. They bring to mind composers like Hans Zimmer or James Newton Howard, and they demand another layer of attention: this is a record designed to be listened to. Imagine that.

As for the more conventional tracks, the band is back to their proven process of drawing from artists before their time. There are traces of Bowie and Prince here, with hooks for days and electronics that manage to keep from becoming annoying or obtuse (a notable feat in today's music scene). And I, for one, can't wait to see if Adam Hann (the band's guitarist) manages to reintroduce the guitar solo back into popular radio. The guy is a monster player and the band doesn't shy away from showing him off here and there.

I like it when you sleep... has been a great trip for me since its release last Friday. If you like solid, groovy, melodic pop/rock from real musicians who understand their heritage and seem more interested in their art than succumbing to the machine of industry celebrity-ism, be sure to give it your undivided attention. The 1975 are proving they've got plenty to say and, hopefully, are just getting started.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Movie Music Monday: 'Fantastia'

Alright, alright, alright... today's movie music pick isn't technically movie music. Or, maybe it is technically movie music. Either one. Whatever.

Disney's timeless animated musical, Fantasia, features the performance of classical music tunes that have become - at least in part because of the popularity of the movie itself - some of our culture's favorites. The Nutcracker Suite. Ave Maria. The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. These are all pieces that most people recognize and love, regardless of their exposure to or education in classical music. They have simply become part of our cultural understanding of what the genre sounds like.

The soundtrack for Fantasia features Leopold Stokowski directing the Philadelphia Orchestra through these masterpieces (and more) in what is surely one of the most popular classical music recordings in modern history. For fans of Disney, for fans of soundtracks, and for fans of classical music, this collection is one to own. It's a deep and moving progression, as well, even if you haven't seen the film. This one's a treasure, people. Be sure to check it out.

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