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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Randy George - YouTube Artist

Here is a great clip of Randy George playing Gnarls Barkley's, "Crazy" featuring a theremin! Pretty sweet.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jack Conte - YouTube Artist

Jack Conte is back again with another creative cover. Not even a huge fan of the original song, but this is worth listening to.

Chris Dodgen - YouTube Artist

If you are a fan of the Fleet Foxes, it's likely you'll enjoy this cover. If not, it may very well turn you on to the Fleet Foxes.

Regardless, this is a creative cover of White Winter Hymnal. Check it out.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Benjamin Riley & Benjamin Kempkers

Saturday, May 2, 2009 at 10:00pm

Rocky's Bar and Grille

633 N.Ottawa Ave.

Grand Rapids, MI

Tall Drinks and Good Music, what more do you want?
18 and up
$3 for drinkers $5 for kids
Music starts at 10pm


Iglu & Hartly - In This City

I can't get, "In This City" out of my head. I really have nothing more to say about it than that. It's a guilty pleasure and you should at least listen to it once.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Kanye West : 808's & Heartbreak

In the early 90's Creative Labs had an Eliza-like program included with their sound cards called 'Dr. Sbaitso'. It was an early example of a consumer-level computer program that could create audible speech from typed words. You could tell the good doctor to "say" something and he (generally) would try his level best.

If you followed the link above, you'd be taken back to a sound that will bring about nostalgia for some, disgust for others, a vague familiar feeling for yet others, and an odd mix of the above for a good many. For this writer, it's that familiar disgusting nostalgia that a session with Dr Sbaitso and his ilk (several Apple standard voices are similar) bring flooding back to the senses.

What does this have to do with music, you may be asking yourself. That's really a fine question, and you'd be right for asking if you hadn't paid any attention to modern pop music or have been living under a rock for last several years.

You see, dear reader, the music industry has pulled a fast one on you. They've sold you on a "cool" gimmick (much like bad recordists using gated reverb on drums in the 80's) that covers up the flaws in vocal recording sessions.

If you've heard that metallic, almost other-worldly tambre coming off the voice of your favourite pop star, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Autotune, as it's called, is a blight on modern music. It's lazy and offensive in the fact that real work had to be done for the money that was used to buy what amounts to an inferior product.

Up until recently, I erred on the side of the recordist, probably having to deal with artists who had become self-serving and lazy in the studio. Thus, the occasional, sporadic use of autotune to correct issues or to "pepper" a recording has become pretty standard practice.

And then came Kanye.

I have a hard time calling it -his- album, since all I hear is Dr Sbaitso complaining about this and that to a retro-beat that is sometimes all too thin and other times so noisy one can barely distinguish his "music" from the cacophony of traffic. In a couple of words, it's work to listen to this, well, "album."

Autotune is used on almost ever vocal on every song on the album. After three songs, it's humorous. After six, it makes you want to throw up. After eight, it makes you want to throw the CD out of your car window, or at least ban anything that Kanye has touched from your iPod.

It's clear that Kanye wanted to make an R&B record, but can't carry a tune in a bucket. I can certainly dig the desire to do that which you're just not capable of doing, but if I wanted to listen to a robot sing, I'd just fire up the trusty old DOS machine and ask the good doc to complain about a lost girlfriend.

If Kanye were even half as good as he thinks he is, he would have had someone teach him how to sing in tune, forgone the autotune gimmick and presented us with a record that could be respected, even if his vocals were weak. At least, at the end of the day, he wouldn't have reviewers like this one comparing his "master work" to an Alvin and the Chipmunks record and dismissing it to the bargain bin.

I rate this one, "why oh why did I buy this?" 1/2 of a star, because the coverart doesn't really suck. I hope the artist got paid well, or at least got a good lunch out of the deal.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pete & The Pirates : Little Death

It's a snow-covered, bleak, cold Saturday here in Michigan. We haven't seen the sun in several days, maybe even weeks until just moments ago when the sun made an appearance through the clouds. We're not sure when the last appearance was. All we're sure of is that the warm days of spring seem to be so far off, we can barely comprehend that something so wonderful can exist here.

Sanity is one of those things that is sometimes difficult to capture and hold during the dead of winter in the north country. Some achieve this noble goal through heat lamps and tanning beds. Some shackle their sanity in winter hobbies and sports. Some just let it go; this is my explanation for all the horrible winter drivers. Some, like this humble writer, find the feeling of warm summer sand between their toes in certain records.

I've been a long time enthusiast of British neo-retro rock. The Brits are masters of taking something old, worn, mostly-cliched, but still loved and turning it into something wonderfully fresh and tasty. Pete and The Pirates are no exception to this statement.

This record pulls elements of almost every major genre of popular music from the past 40 years, blends it seamlessly with a heavy late 60's pop sensibility and masterful songwriting in a package that is not over-produced, well-arranged, and just fun to listen to.

Even the non-upbeat tracks on the album remind me of warmer days and sunshine. The lyrics portray their message very well without being obvious. Most of the tracks are songs of longing and perhaps that's what speaks to me about the days of green grass and warm southerly breezes.

The band is a group that is very good at making music together, but each is not particularly talented in their own right. Musically, the record is not challenging, but the emotion of music is compelling and drives one to continue listening. Throughout, the record is a collection of listenable pop tunes with very little if any filler.

British pop is always a good remedy for the dark days of winter. Pete and Pirates succeed magnificently at re-creating the warmth of summer for those of us trapped in the alpine north country.

A solid 4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Carry The Weight - Denison Witmer

Official Website: http://www.denisonwitmer.com
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/denisonwitmer

While killing time at Schuler's today I came across a "Paste Recommendations" shelf. On that shelf was Denison Witmer's, "Carry The Weight". The name seemed familiar, however I could not put my finger on the music of Denison. After scanning the label and briefly listening to a couple tracks I decided on this over Fionn Regan's, "The End of History", which I had been carrying around for the previous hour or so.

Across the street my wife was catching up with some girlfriends from highschool. She had our two children with her. I had all morning to read through the staff reviews and decide on something, after all I had a giftcard that had to go toward some sort of purchase.

It wasn't until I got home that I really truly listened to the album. The way I listen to albums for the first time probably isn't the way a proper album is to be listened to. Generally, I'll tear open the case and check out the artwork and booklet (if there should be one). During this process I have also started the music and typically I'll listen for 20 seconds or so before switching to the next song. I do this until I reach the end and then decide on the songs that I connected with. Then I go back through listening to my intial "favorites".

Every album has an evolution process with me. Some songs that initially garner my attention, often end up seeming trite in their repetition. Other songs that seem slow moving often show their beauty in their build... and then there is my mood to factor in too. Oh, it can be complex.

Anyway, back to Witmer's music.

1) Beautiful Boys and Girls
The album starts with Beautiful Boys and Girls. With full band instrumentation, and Witmer's soothing and simple vocals. Honestly, the song (as of now) seemed a bit like a boring start to me, and the chorus seemed to repeticious. Although, I did like the change in flow during the bridge and the harmony sung during the chorus. The electric guitar sparked a little more interest toward the end, but just as it seemed to be taking off the song ended (maybe a good thing).

2) Life Before Aesthetics
Life Before Aesthetics is an upbeat tune that proclaims that life is more than just material things. It's a bob-your-head song, a catchy tune with some great organs that kick in during the chorus. I love a good hammond (by the way Blake Wescott is credited for playing that, as well as acoustic and electric guitars, bass, wurlitzer, vocals and producing the album). The end is great with the layered vocals of verse and chorus filling the space simultaneously.

3) From Here On Out
This song starts with a fingerpicking reminescent of Ben Gibbard's playing on "Follow You Into the Dark". In fact, Witmer's voice (especially on this song) is also reminescent of Gibbard. The bass and wurlitzer kick in at the start of the second verse and from there the song just continues to grow. The song ends with, "from here on out it looks like you and me." After just today's listen - this is my favored track - I'm sure that will likely change (see above comment about 'evolution of an album').