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  • That Song From The Commercial For Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close

    Posted on January 5th, 2012 Brian No comments

    Album Art from Ma Fleur by The Cinematic OrchestraIt’s always cool when music you’ve liked for a really long time hits mainstream. It gets used on a commercial or in a movie trailer or played at a sporting event, and when the person next to you says, “Wow! What is that song?” you can just tell them. That happened several times with E.S. Posthumus, and every time it was awesome introducing somebody to new music. (And if you are a fan of grand, cinematic-style music and haven’t checked out E.S. Posthumus yet – well, you’re missing out.)

    I don’t have a whole lot of interest in seeing the new movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but the commercials playing on TV are playing a great track off The Cinematic Orchestra’s album Ma Fleur called To Build A Home. You should probably just go ahead and buy it now.

  • New Nine Inch Nails Breaks the Mold

    Posted on March 4th, 2008 Brian 1 comment

    I’m a long time fan of Nine Inch Nails, so news of Trent Reznor’s latest release would be exciting enough on its own. Above and beyond the music, though, is his trail blazing attempts at media distribution in a modern world – one without the record companies greedily leeching profits from the artists for discernible purpose. He knows there are ways to make both music and money in this brave new world, and he’s willing to take risks to find the right approach. I think this may be the best attempt to date.

    With the release of Ghosts, Trent begins by releasing the first nine tracks, entitled Ghosts I, for free on his web site. Go download them now, if you’d like. Then, the next three sets of tracks can be bought for only $5. At that price, there’s almost no reason not to buy it! As a bonus, both sets come with a 40-page PDF booklet about the music, a bunch of cover art, high-resolution wallpaper images (in both 4:3 and 16:9 ratios), and avatar art for your favorite forums.

    And then we move into the physical realm. If you prefer discs, or like me, just have to have every NIN album ever released, you can purchase the two-CD set, including a printed sixteen-page booklet. The cost is a mere $10. Targeting the real collectors is the $75 two-CD set in a fabric case. It is accompanied by a Blu-ray disc with slide show set to super-high-quality versions of the music. And for the budding musicians in the world, it also comes with a data DVD containing all of the recordings in multi-track format – ripe for remixing. (More on that in a moment.)

    For the die-hard NIN fan, a limited edition collectors set was offered for $300. It included everything before it, as well as two high-quality, frame-suitable prints of the cover art, and a fabric-bound hard-cover book of the art, signed by Trent Reznor. Only 2500 were made, and even at $300, they are already sold out.

    Finally, on top of all of this, the whole thing has been released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. This means that not only can you share the music with your friends, but that anyone can use Ghosts as a starting point for their own work, including up-and-coming amateur musicians, YouTube videos, or background music at your church. And all of this without the fear of gray-area legal repercussions from a broken copyright system.

    So download the music, and enjoy it. Buy the rest, if you like it. Share it with your friends. In the meantime, after I’ve had a chance to listen to it, I’ll post my thoughts on the actual music. The non-musical portion is certainly amazing.

    Nine Inch Nails and Ghosts I-IV images by Nine Inch Nails, licensed and re-published under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.

  • New Music: The Format – Dog Problems

    Posted on September 23rd, 2006 Brian 1 comment

    Unlike most of the people who frequent Murky with their laptops, I normally do not put on my headphones unless their is no music playing, bad music playing, or obnoxious people talking loudly. I enjoy the exposure to the new and different groups, albums, genres, and styles that the ecclectic mix of people behind the counter choose to play; most of the time it is nothing too special, but occasionally I discover something new.

    I was working there a few days ago, and I found my concentration consistently broken by the music playing in the background. I approached the counter and inquired as to the artist and album, and was informed that it was “Dog Problems” by The Format. I quickly purchased the tracks on my favorite music store, and have given it a more thorough listening.

    Verdict: Damn Good. Highly recommended.

    Their sound is a crisp alternative rock, with some great instrumentals standing out in every part of the music. Think of the clever instrumental use by Modest Mouse, and then make it a bit less edgy and a lot more integrated and harmonious. The tunes are catchy, the lyrics are intelligent and interesting, and the rhythms are clever.

  • Guster at Wolftrap

    Posted on August 1st, 2006 Brian No comments

    Hedda and I just got back from seeing Guster out at Wolftrap. The show was opened by Rouge Wave, a rock group with a pretty good but fairly average sound. They were followed up by Ray LaMontagne. He has a fantastic voice, although his songs are a bit too ballad-y to really open for a group like Guster. He’s got some country twang mixed in with a folk rock feel that’s pretty good, though.

    And then there was Guster. They have really come into their own as a headlining band. Hedda and I were remembering when we used to see them opening for other groups like Barenaked Ladies or John Mayer. We used to be the only people in the crowd cheering for our band. When I saw them play at the Riviera, they were excited to have some Chinese dudes outside selling bootleg T-shirts, as though it were a milestone on the way to stardom. (Thanks, Ted, for helping me remember the name of the Riv.)

    Now, the roles have reversed. The entire crowd is there for Ryan and Adam and Brian (And Joe? What’s up with his limbo status, anyway?), and boy do they ever feed off of it. It’s not that they are huge – they still work their asses off touring and such, but they have a very solid fanbase these days. We were shocked at how many teenagers they still draw.

    The show started off a little shaky, perhaps due to the stifling heat. They quickly got on track, though, playing a good mix of old and new. Highlights included a fantastic version of Airport Song. (I really don’t like that song, but man this version kicked ass.) There were also some antics involving a roadie named Scooter, as well as some fevered cowbell. Oh, and Adam played the trumpet.

    The show was solid, although it lacked the awesome group dynamic from the last time Guster was in town with Ben Folds. The worst part is that Hedda and I had to duck out early in order to get back to the Metro before it closed.

    Which suprisingly turned out to be one of the best parts of the evening. After the driver closed the doors of the shuttle bus back to the Metro station, he came on the loudspeaker and asked, “Does anybody have a car parked at West Falls Church station? This is very important? No? Then this bus is going all the way to Rosslyn station!” Which elicited cheers from the entire bus, since we would get way closer to our final destinations. We got back home probably 1/2 hour earlier thanks to this awesome bus driver.

    But it gets better. He had been cracking jokes over the PA system, and after we were on the road, some girls apparantly convinced him to give over the microphone. They got the whole bus singing, with the highlight being a Build Me Up Buttercup. The dude in yellow is a riot.

    Best. Metrobus. Ride. EVAR!

    Oh, and Guster is for lovers!

  • New Conjure One – Extraordinary Ways (Verdict: Disappointing)

    Posted on January 3rd, 2006 Brian No comments

    Conjure One has finally released a new album. Their namesake first album easily competes with Hybrid, E.S. Posthumus, and Chicane for most-played in my music collection. Others seem equally impressed with their first offerings, as well: A simple search on your favorite P2P network will turn up dozens of remixes for “Center of the Sun,” “Tears from the Moon,” and “Sleep.” Amazingly, the originals are just as good as the mixes.

    The new album is titled Extraordinary Ways, and much to my dismay it falls far short of its predecessor. Thankfully, the vocals that so marked the gems of the first album, both powerful and haunting, are still present; but they are squandered on uninspired melodies, clumsy lyrics, and simplistic beats. In a bitter coincidence, the title song, “Extraordinary Ways” (Track 7), itself exemplifies the failure to satisfy which mars the rest of the album.

    The only bright spot is “One World” (Track 4). A well-structured melody and clever lyrics are harmonized flawlessly with the instrumentals into an almost flawless example of what this album should have been. But in the end, like the team that loses the championship game, the pain of such almost-success dashes any enjoyment of what actually was accomplished – only the sting of disappointment is palpable.

    So the verdict? Pass on buying the album – but download “One World” from iTunes and pretend it’s from the first album instead.

  • Pandora’s Music Box

    Posted on November 27th, 2005 Brian No comments

    Have you tried Pandora yet? If not, go there and check it out. It’s pretty self-explanatory, and really freakin’ cool.

    But for those of you who don’t trust your own eyes – perhaps they were clawed out by angry baboons on an African safari? – I will explain Pandora’s premis. Imagine if a bunch of people got together and categorized a lot of different music according to various components. They might listen to thousands upon thousands of tracks, applying labels like “vocal-centric aesthetic,” “prominent saxophone solo,” “guitar power ballad,” or “corny lyrics” to each song they heard. They would probably quantify those ratings, relate them to one another, and then put them into a big ol’ database.

    Now imagine that you could start listening to some music that you know you like, and then that database would find similar music and play it for you. You could thumbs-up or thumbs-down its choices, and it would tune itself into your musical tastes.

    Now imagine that this was all free, and you’ve just imagined yourself Pandora. Unlike its mythological namesake, this particular Pandora is opening a music box, and this time there doesn’t seem to be any plauge, famine, or other general evil spilling out. Just good music.

    Major kudos to Husky Ted. You are officially my Cool Shit Compass, and my Peruvian Princess.

  • Guster, Ben, and Rufus Oh My!

    Posted on June 29th, 2004 Brian No comments

    I just got back from attending the Guster/Ben Folds concert at Wolf Trap with Hedda, Katie, Chris, and a couple of other friends. Hedda and I mostly went for Guster, and Katie mostly went for Ben, but it was a simply awesome show all the way around.

    To begin with, Guster and Ben are on tour as co-headlines, swapping the top spot often. Rufus Wainwright is opening with a good act, although it’s tough to understand him most of the time. Guster put on a good show, play several of their best songs, including the not-so-often-played “Two at a Time” off their latest album. Ben played a mix of old, new, and newer-than-new. However, the highlights of the evening were definitely the guest spots by the different bands.

    Guster played with Rufus, Ben accompanied Guster with a cha-cha-ified version of “Happier,” Rufus sang a hilarious cover of “Never Gonna Dance Again” with Ben, and then Guster and Ben closed out the pre-encore show with a phenomenal number. The exciting thing about this tour is the synergy between the three groups together. They parts are awesome by themselves, but together they make a show that is far more than the sum of themselves. If you like any or all of these guys, and you get a chance to snag some tickets, jump on it. You’ll be happy you did.

    Guster is for Lovers!

  • New Hybrid: Morning Sci-Fi

    Posted on October 29th, 2003 Brian No comments

    Many people have heard Hybrid‘s music, even if they have never heard of Hybrid. Their track Finished Symphony (mp3) has been featured in the Too-Fun-For-Its-Own-Good Snowboarding game SSX and its mega-successful sequal SSX Tricky, in the “Untracked” courses. There is much more to Hybrid than this one famous track, however.

    Their first album, Wide Angle is quite possibly one of the best all-around electronic music albums of all time. Their fans have waited a long time for another original production album, and we have been rewarded for our patience with the excellent new album Morning Sci-Fi. The album resonates of the duo’s trademark deep beats, charged melodies, eerie bridges, and distorted effects. As always, they blend the symphonic and the electronic with precision rarely heard, and it is truly a treat for the ears.

    Morning Sci-Fi lacks the catchy vocalized tunes of its predecessors, with the cloest to such a track being “Blackout,” the last on the album. A few of the vocals are extremely reminiscent of some of VAST‘s offerings. Overall, though, the album feels much more ambient than either Wide Angle or Remix and Additional Production. Don’t let that deter you, though: It’s still new Hybrid, and comes highly recommended.

  • Travis

    Posted on October 28th, 2003 Brian No comments

    I just got back from seeing Travis live at the Abbey Pub. Weeks won tickets to the private show from 93.1 WRXT, which was recorded for later broadcast.

    I had never heard of the band before. It consists of four guys from Scotland. They have a good sound, although certainly not the most original. I’ll probably buy a couple of their albums when I find the money.

    The nice thing about the small venue (there were about sixty people) was that we got to hear some of their views on life. Being from Europe, they rather predictably disagree with the current state of the world, but it was also nice to hear them discuss their current dislike for the music industry as it now stands. When asked why so few artists have made statements in their music about the current world affairs, the lead singer Fran replied that there “really aren’t that many artists anymore.” His statements that “all of the action occur at the top” of the industry, referring to the multi-billion dollar acquisitions and mergers by the media conglomarates, were dead on. He continues stating that the lack of action on the bottom then has negative effect that has on the creativity and exposure of artists.

    I couldn’t agree more. As Lawrence Lessig keeps telling us, our current intellectual property system is slowly killing our vibrant culture.