Wednesday, December 8, 2010

5 Christmas Songs That Don't Make My Brain Want to Explode

It's that time of the year again, where it gets colder, snow starts falling, and your favorite radio stations start playing the same 30 Christmas songs in endless rotation. Now, I love holiday music. I love what it represents as much as I love the music. But, hearing the same songs everyday from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day will drive any normal person insane. So, I've compiled a list of some covers and songs that you may not have heard in the past, and will hopefully put off your impending mental breakdown.

1. Kiss Kiss - The First Ever Global Warming Awareness Christmas EP

Exactly what the title says, this was an EP that was released quite a few Christmases ago. It pretty much disappeared since then, with no mentions of it anywhere. It's ridiculous, but with songs like "Corporate Wonderland" and "Frosty The Puddleman," what's not to love?

2. [title of show] - Holiday Story

Not technically a song, this was a track on Carols for a Cure 2006, and it's just such a silly, sweet story.

3. OK Go - Cover of Father Christmas

Originally by the Kinks, this is just a really great song covered by a really great band. They're similar, for sure, but I adore this version so much.

4. fun. - Believe in Me

If you've ever wanted to hear a song that sounds like the Beach Boys and Panic! at the Disco having a holiday party, this is that song. A little tongue-in-cheek and very sweet, it's actually an original song by the bamd.

5. Death Cab For Cutie - Cover of Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

This song is covered by almost everyone. Anberlin, Death Cab, Mariah Carey, Leighton Meester, U2, and tons more. This cover just suits the mood of the song so perfectly.

So, there you have it, a few Christmas songs that don't cause me to wish for harm to fall on people near me. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The 5 Music-Related Items I Will Save in a Fire

After my house almost burned down last summer, I was left with a car filled with various animals, clothes, and belongings, that apparently made up my most valued material posessions. I found it odd how many of these items related, in some way, to music. So, here for you today, are some of the first things I grab when I fear that my house is going to burn down.

1. My clarinet.
I have a music corner in my room, with guitars, a keyboard, a trumpet, a flute, ukuleles, recorders--basically a giant collection of instruments. But, when push came to shove, the only thing I grabbed from that corner was my antique silver clarinet. I have been playing the clarinet for a little over 9 years. I learned to play in the 5th grade on my silver clarinet, leading me to constantly be mistaken for a flautist. Woodwind drama aside, I treasure my clarinet more than any other instrument in my collection.


I think this goes without mentioning. Of course I'm going to take my entire music collection with me.

When told I had a minute to gather up important things, I ripped my autographed the Hush Sound tote bag off the wall and stuffed it with everything I could get my hands on. I never knew it was that important to me, but since the band broke up, it's become pretty special.


Kiss Kiss is not my favorite band. They're maybe in my top 10, on a good day. Yet, for some reason, this was the only CD that I grabbed from my collection. I don't understand my thought processes, sometimes, but I do know that this is an amazing album.


Ah, and finally - my Sony Discman, the first CD player I ever got, way back in elementary school. I have no idea what I intended to do with it, since I only grabbed one CD, but maybe it was more for nostalgia than anything else.

So, now you know what I save in fires. I'd like to think there's some deep, psychological meanings behind my selections, but I have a feeling it was more a case of, "Quick! Grab everything you can carry and run!" What a fun day.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The 5 Movie Musicals I Will Watch Over and Over Happily.

A close friend of mine recently asked me what items I would bring if I was to be stranded on a desert island. In the top 10 was a portable media player with movie musicals on it. It's no secret to those who know me that I have a strange affinity for movie musicals. Whether they're from the dawn of the movie era, or simple indie films, I love them for reasons even I don't understand.

However, there comes a time when I just cannot watch a movie again. Certain movies are impossible to watch over and over. Whether it's for the emotional drain it causes, or simply the length of time, I can't watch movies like The King & I repeatedly. But, there are 5 that I can and will watch for days at a time. Here, in no particular order:

1. Across The Universe

Across the Universe is based entirely on the music of the Beatles. It's definitely got some dark, dreary moments, but overall, it's a sunny, gorgeous musical about life in the '60s.

2. Were The World Mine

I sing music from this movie at basically every moment of my life. My bird's name is Timmy, so he is constantly serenaded with "Oh Timothy." The movie basically revolves around a gay boy's homophobic school putting on a production of "A Midsummer's Night Dream," and his accidental transformation of the town. It's just pure silly, happy, musical fun.

3. Hairspray

I think every girl wants to be a little bit like Tracy Turnblad in the 2007 remake of "Hairspray," the sassy, self-confident, and totally awesome star of the movie. With pure camp cheesiness, a classic soundtrack, and actual substance, this is one of those great movies, no matter the time.

4. Spiceworld

This is my gratuitous Spice Girls post. I love them. They are awesome. My childhood revolved around them. I watch this movie at any opportunity, and I have it on all of my computers, plus 2 DVD copies, and a VHS. I have no shame about this. In fact, after I finish writing this blog, I will probably go watch it.

5. Top Hat

I still remember the first time I saw this movie, I was young and terribly uninterested in the old black & white movie my aunt wanted me to watch. But, I watched, and I was entranced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in this classic film. I still love it to this day.

There's something special about these musicals, if only for their ability to make me smile like a fool every time I watch them. And for that, I salute them.

Friday, November 19, 2010


It's commonly known in the movie world that music can make or break a movie. A low-key, artsy film will not benefit from a flashy Top 40 soundtrack. But, a movie that could come off as too ploying can be changed into a quaint and loveable film with the perfect soundtrack.

For the majority of my life, I never even knew there was such a thing as a soundtrack in movies. Raised on a diet of movie musicals and Lifetime movies, my perception of music in movies was that it was either background music, or the star. Now, I've come to realize that a great song can be more than just filler, it can be a supporting character that pushes the scene to greatness.

My favorite popular examples of a great soundtrack are Juno and (500) Days of Summer. Juno, with her laid-back attitude and carefully-constructed vocabulary, could easily come off as a character with the wrong elements in place. But, the homemade feel of the soundtrack, largely due to Kimya Dawson's great songs, give an air of credibility and depth to Juno's character. In (500), the soundtrack is integral to the plot, with the main characters bonding over The Smiths and karaoke nights. Carla Bruni is played from car stereos, and a fantasy song-and dance routine takes place mid-movie.

It's easy to ruin a movie. In fact, it's almost guaranteed that a movie will have some strange flaw in it. But, sometimes, all that's needed is the perfect song to fix the moment.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Review: Hellogoodbye - Would It Kill You?

There is nothing I love more than when bands grow up. With their second album, Hellogoodbye has done just that. In 2006, Hellogoodbye were signed to Drive Through Records, and bright-eyed, they released their first album, "Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!," an auto-tuned, synth pop opus.

I was 14 at the time, and I immediately fell in love with the dorky band and upbeat songs. For two years, that CD was one of my favorites. And then, just as quickly as I had fallen in love, I fell out. I was sick of power pop, auto-tune, and cheesy lyrics. I was 16! Practically an adult! I couldn't be seen listening to this childish music! Hellogoodbye and I parted our ways.

But the split was not to last, as they released a three song EP, the Ukelele Recordings, with two new songs, and one Buddy Holly cover. Along with the EP, they announced a show at the Stone Pony, one of my favorite hangouts, with PlayRadioPlay, one of my favorite bands of the moment. The love affair was back on. So, excluding a few Hellogoodbye-deprived weeks, that band and I have grown up together. With their new release, "Would It Kill You?," the band has grown into a pure indie pop sound. In the past four years, the band has gone through a total lineup change, with Forrest, the lead singer, as the only original member left. And, Forrest got married to his longtime girlfriend.

That shows in all of the songs, the majority of which are about his wife in some capacity. The CD spills forth songs that, to me, sound like sitting on a beach in California in winter watching a meteor shower and then the sunrise. The opening song, "Finding Something To Do" is a fast-paced song about figuring out something to do when you've spent so much time with a person, and knowing you'll be spending the rest of your lives together. "When We First Met" is retrospective and just a very pretty song. "You Sleep Alone" is probably the most similar to their early works, which makes sense as it was the first written on the CD. An angry sing-along song, it's slowly becoming one of the most played on my iPod. My favorite song currently is "Coppertone," which was primarily written by the guitarist, and is this gorgeous song about doubt and love. Finally, the title song, "Would It Kill You?" explains the sound of the album better than any other explanation. A love song, but more to his art, Forrest asks himself if it would kill him just to let it all work out instead of obsessing and tweaking.

To be honest, this is one of my favorite albums of the year. There's no low point. It's just a special piece of music, and I know I won't be ashamed to listen to it in two years.

Friday, November 5, 2010


November always seems to be such a great month for music. Winter tours begin, and tons of CDs are unleashed to the masses. This month, I'm really excited about a few things. On the ninth, Hellogoodbye's second album, "Would It Kill You?" is finally being released. So far, it has recieved high praise, and is toted as being a possibility for the best release of the year.

On the eighth, if my sources are correct, OK Go will be premiering a music video for "Last Leaf." The video will involve lasers, bread, animation, Samsung cameras, and other magical elements. This has not been officially announced, though, so it might be put off for a while. Speaking of OK Go, they recently released "Of The Blue Colour of the Sky: Extra Nice Edition," and it has a ton of really cool extras on it.

The twenty-second brings the much-anticipated fourth album from New Jersey natives My Chemical Romance. "Danger Days: True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys" departs from the last album's melancholy feel to a more futuristic, pop sound.

I also recently stumbled upon the Raveonettes, a Danish band that I've really been enjoying lately. Hopefully, this November will live up to my expectations.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Music Boxes

In a world where auto-tuned pop music and lyrics written by strangers reigns supreme, artists who write their own music are some of today's most creative and influential people. In nusic, it has become commonplace to see singers who can't sing, dance, play an instrument, or really do much besides standing around and looking pretty. Because of this, truly talented people are pushed to the bottom and forced to work even harder to create works of art.

"Artists" like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera have been around for quite a while. They sing, they dance, and they look pretty; but at the core, they are just music boxes for record companies to renovate and play their music through. There is no heart or soul in pop music. Artists like Lady Gaga have challenged the status quo of the genre, but really, is Lady Gaga anything more than an extravagantly decorated music box? Yes, she's different, but is there anything behind the almost contrived uniqueness?

Young singers and singwriters seem to be the only hope left for true art today. Bands like Kiss Kiss, with an electric violin and an orchestra-gone-mad sound, or This Is My Suitcase, with sad lyrics and happy melodies, challenge what is expected from music, and from art.

Bands and singers that write their own music as a sort of challenge to the music industry are the most creative artists we have today. With new sounds, new ideas, and new beliefs in what sounds good, these artists take what the listener is used to hearing and turns it on its head. In essence, these artists are redefining music as we know it.