Do I Wanna Know?

I don’t exactly recall the first time I heard Arctic Monkeys, but they have such a recognizable sound I can always identify their music when I hear it. While they can be categorized as indie rock or garage rock, they have a very distinct British punk influence and a just altogether dark sound that is not often found in popular groups.

Image result for arctic monkeys

Don’t they look like they could have opened a show for The Clash or Buzzcocks back in Britain’s punk rock heyday?

If you’ve been following my blog, you are probably aware I’m a big fan of music videos, and honestly, that’s what stuck out to me about this band in the first place. The main imagery of their music video for the track “Do I Wanna Know” is distinctively an animated sound wave pulsing to the beat of the song, only to transform into a hypnotic and very strange animation centering around a black and white sound wave. It… gets a little weird at the end. However, that returning image is also incorporated into the album cover for AM as seen here:

Image result for arctic monkeys

I wouldn’t say that one is my favorite video by them, but it is memorable, and it is an amazing song as well as a surprising earworm. That guitar riff in infectious.

My favorite video is the one I will post under this paragraph, “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” It has a minute and a half intro, playing a part of “Do I Wanna Know” before it gets into the actual song. It’s a slightly unusual video, and instead of trying to explain it I’ll just let you watch it. Note the Parental Advisory warning, please.

Those are two well-known hits by Arctic Monkeys, both of which are from their most recent album, AM. As far as I can tell, that is the album that really took off in the U.S. though they had been popular in their home country of England before then.

Arctic Monkeys have that iconic British punk sound influencing most of their stuff while still adding a flair all their own and pulling little influences from other contemporary artists. All together, they really make it work for them. While they haven’t produced another album since AM in 2013, they are reportedly back from a two-year hiatus and are working on another studio album in L.A. I certainly will keep an eye out for it, and I hope they make more music with their distinct style while also breathing some new life into it.

Other songs I recommend: “Arabella” “R U Mine” and “I Wanna Be Yours” all from their AM album (my favorite, obviously), and “Love Is A Laserquest” and “She’s Thunderstorms” from the album Suck It and See, and “Fluorescent Adolescent” from Favorite Worst Nightmare.

If you like classic punk rock or garage rock, you should definitely give Arctic Monkeys a try.

Thanks for reading!

Super Rad!

The Aquabats! started as a joke band, and honestly, I really respect that. They set out to have fun more than anything else and I think that is what made them stand out so well. Their particular gimmick worked out really well for them in my opinion.

Image result for aquabats

I didn’t know much about The Aquabats! until just this past summer when I was exposed to more of their music and then had the opportunity to see them in concert. They are very fun to see live as a staple of their performances is the theatricality in their live shows. Each band member has their own super-hero identity as well as matching costumes. Villains and choreographed fights, as well as videos, are included in the performance and ultimately they are all good showmen. Their songs are fun and silly, their performance entertaining, and their attitude infectious. Altogether, you can’t really go wrong with a band like The Aquabats!

Image result for aquabats concert

As for their musical style, The Aquabats! definitely started out as a ska band with all the elements of the genre such as a walking bass line, off-beat rhythms, big horn sections, and driving guitar. Some other well-known ska bands to emerge from the 80’s and 90’s include The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, and Sublime. This wave of the genre could probably more accurately be termed as Ska Punk as it includes many Punk elements. If you like Punk at all, I suggest you give Ska a try.

Image result for aquabats ska band

As The Aquabats! continued in their career their music evolved to include influences of New Wave, Rock, and Synthpop as well as Ska and Punk. If you listen to some of their earlier music such as “Super Rad!” or “Idiot Box!” which are both on their 1997 album The Fury of The Aquabats! you immediately hear exactly what Ska sounds like. However, if you listen to some of their later music such as “Shark Fighter!” “Hey Homies!” and “All My Money!” from the 2011 album High-Five Soup! it has an obviously more new wave and synthpop influenced sound. It seems like they traded out the horns for synth. I wouldn’t say I prefer one style over the other, they are all obviously the same band in lyrics and arrangement and are fun songs to listen to.

Image result for aquabats super show

The Aquabats! had a TV show for 3 seasons called The Aquabats! Super Show! I haven’t watched any of it so I can’t give you any more info on it, but from what I can tell it is full of stories about the band as superheroes, uses a mix of live action and animation, and is fairly pointless.

Image result for aquabats super show cartoon

If you want a good example of how ridiculous (in a good way) this band is, here’s the video for “Super Rad!” Also here is a link for “Shark Fighter!” Listen to both and notice the difference in the instrumentation between the older and newer style.

The Aquabats! are kind of ridiculous. Their lyrics are not serious in the least, their musical style is upbeat and fairly fanciful, and they wear matching spandex and domino masks. Seriously. They are a freaking awesome band. How many musicians write songs about shool pizza day or giving out hugs? These lyrics are fun, lighthearted, and singable, and you may have noticed their habit of overusing exclamation points.

All I can really say about The Aquabats! is that they are extremely fun. If you want to listen to some of their music, I recommend the following tracks: “Super Rad!” “Red Sweater!” “Pizza Day!” “Pool Party!” “Hey Homies!” and “The Legend Is True!” There are many other really good songs by this band, but those might be my favorite

Image result for aquabats ska band

 

Give it a shot, I really think you’ll enjoy it! They are super rad after all!

Choice Kingdom

I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this band. I have been looking forward to this post for a while.

Image result for alt j

alt-J released their first record in 2012 and I seriously regret that I didn’t become aware of them until about a year ago. The odd name comes from the band’s symbol, the greek letter for Delta: Δ, which can be typed with the keyboard shortcut of alt+J on a Mac computer. This symbol is an indicator of change or difference in scientific equations, which I think it is an apt description of the band.

It was once mentioned to me that no other band sounds like alt-J and I have to agree, they are very unique. This is most evident in the style of their vocals and the way they use common instrumentation that has been arranged in a different and strangely hypnotic way. The almost ethereal sounds on their tracks are really something else. The internet tells me their genres are Indie rock, Indie pop, Art rock, and Folktronica. All of that is accurate, and I had no idea how much I needed art rock and folktronica in my life until now.

Image result for alt j

There are a few standout tracks on both of their albums, some of which you may have heard if you listen to alternative radio stations. The ones I can think of that you might know include “Breezeblocks” and “Left Hand Free” If you like intense and well-made music videos, you should check out this awesome video for “Breezeblocks”

I can be found listening to this music at any time, and while listening to individual tracks is fine and good, it really hits home when you listen to an entire album at once. Their albums as an entire piece are impressive and flow really well. I especially like their second album, This Is All Yours, which ends with a bonus track I consider to be my favorite, “Lovely Day.” It is just trippy enough that I tend to close my eyes to tune out of other sensory input to focus on the music just that little bit more.

On that note, I will say that some of their stuff that doesn’t get radio play is a bit more psychedelic than most popular music and many people will likely find it difficult to listen to. However, for me, it hits just right. The way they layer and build sounds together is truly brilliant. If you want a good example of that, check out the track “Intro” from This Is All Yours.

These guys are true artists. They know how and when to add, subtract, or intensify the textures they incorporate into their music. It’s subtle and almost seamless the way they weave together the many small strands of sound into a cohesive unit. Rarely do they include a sound that overpowers another without purpose. Similarly, the sounds they include in each track have a purpose and reason. There are many artists, good artists whom I love, who never quite achieve that level of cohesiveness whether it be due to long or loud solos or vocals that seem to command sole attention. Sometimes those things are exactly what you want, but I always find it fascinating when the instruments don’t immediately identify themselves to me and I have to think a little more about what exactly I am hearing.

Image result for alt j

One thing that especially impressed me while I was perusing their music was the quality of their live tracks. I have heard many bands who sound fantastic on a recording but are less than stellar live. Based on the styles alt-J has, I would have expected them to have a difficult time recreating their music in a live setting. I must emphatically say this is not the case. Every song I heard from the live EP they released was fantastic; they stayed true to the songs as they are meant to be and still imbibed the feeling and necessary energy required for a live show. I would jump at the chance to go see them perform.

Overall I am so very pleased to have found alt-J, they are one of my absolute favorite bands to come out of this decade. They have a new album coming out in this summer, and I for one am looking forward to seeing what they come up with for it.

 

My Paper Heart

When The All-American Rejects debuted their self-titled album in 2002 it was right at the time when I became interested in current pop music. Prior to that, I mostly listened to the music of my older siblings ranging from bands such as Depeche Mode to Cyndi Lauper to R.E.M. to They Might Be Giants to Harry Connick Jr. and … you get the idea (in large families there can be a quite diverse collection). But with the turn of the century came a change in the methods I was exposed to music. I started listening more from mainstream sources than I ever had before, heard about songs and bands from my friends at school, and started to look for what I liked. Turns out I liked most things, but the point here is when this faction of alt-rock/pop punk music aimed directly at teenagers hit the radio waves, I was all for it.

Image result for all american rejects album

That album was a game changer for me, and I remember it was one of the ones I always kept a CD copy of in my car once I got my license. I still know all the words to every track, and I am not at all ashamed to admit that.

Of course even 3 years later in 2005 when The All-American Rejects sophomore album was released (ironically it coincided with my own sophomore year of high school) I had hit another one of those  “I don’t like what’s popular” phases I was so fond of as a teenager and I found the hits from that album annoying and maybe a little trite. Some part of me believed that as I grew and matured they stayed the same, making the same music aimed at the same demographic. In essence, I grew out of it.

Now, however, I can listen a little more objectively. I maintain that the first album was the best one; infectious and fun, tracks such as “Swing, Swing” “My Paper Heart” and “Time Stands Still” made it a stand out record and really sent The All-American Rejects to the front of the line. Creative instrumentation and dynamic arranging are key features for the sound on that album, and I will never tire of it. I am under the impression many of those songs used electronic drum tracks, but I can’t seem to find a source for that information. That’s what it sounds like at any rate.

Image result for all american rejects

As for the rest of their albums. The hit singles such as “Gives You Hell” and “Dirty Little Secret” are good tracks, exactly the kind of radio hit I expect. They were overplayed on the radio so my reflex is to skip those songs, but on the rare occasion I do listen to them I like them. For some other tracks you might not know, they had a song on one fo the Transformers movie soundtracks called “Real World” that was pretty good, and I enjoyed “Drown Next To Me” and “Bleed Into Your Mind – Demo” from the Kids In The Street” album.

I think one of the reasons it doesn’t resonate as much with me now as it did at first is the lead singers voice. It’s just a little bit nasally, perhaps even whiny, and it grates on me after a while. But that is a personal preference of mine. I also feel like the dynamic arrangements I loved from the first album didn’t show up on subsequent albums nearly as much

All together, they are a pretty good band and have made some notable pop-rock/pop punk music over the last 15 years. And yes, it has been that long. Kudos to you, All-American Rejects, and may you inspire emoting teenagers everywhere for years to come.

Image result for pop punk music

The Sun Always Shines On TV

a-ha is one of those bands who just can’t seem to quit. No, really, They started up in the early 80’s and went until 1994 when they went on hiatus for 4 years. They released an album in 2000 and kept on releasing albums until 2009, and then decided to split up after one last tour (named the Ending On A High Note tour) the following year. But then they reunited in 2015 for another album and 2 more years together.

Scandinavian bands tend to flare in popularity in the US hot and fast. Until I started listening to their other stuff, I had assumed a-ha was just another one hit wonder from the 80’s. Not so, they have released no less than 10 studio albums and have been widely popular pretty much everywhere else in the world. They are even in the Guinness Book for largest paying audience. 198,000 people showed up to listen to them in Rio.

a-ha’s best years are arguably the first decade, when new wave was all the rage. And that’s definitely what they are: new wave. Also a little alt-rock and synth-pop, but I digress.

Image result for a-ha funny

How many of you know anything by a-ha other than “Take On Me”? To be fair, “Take On Me” is a fabulous song: fun, catchy, sing-able (even if that high note is nearly impossible for most guys), and it can really bring people together. Who doesn’t love that song?! Combined with an iconic music video, it’s a hit for the ages. Here’s a link to the video for it:

That will probably always be one of my favorite music videos of all time. However! We are not here to talk only about the music you already know, but also the music you don’t.

Three was so much more to listen to by a-ha than I anticipated, I had to spread it out over a week or so. Their sound changed a bit over the years, starting out your typical 80’s new wave with a few stand out tracks such as “Cry Wolf” and “The Sun Always Shines On TV” and “Crying In The Rain” though that last one reminded me a little of Talking Heads.

Related image

One of the defining traits of new wave bands in my opinion is a strong synth keyboard sound. That sound is very apparent in the songs I listed above, but some of a-ha’s later albums (and here I’m talking mostly about the album Cast In Steel) the synth became more understated and the track became more orchestral in it’s arrangement. I was honestly reminded of Keane a number of times throughout that album. To anyone who is a fan of Keane, you should check it out for sure. My favorite from that album is probably the title track.

Image result for keane

There is a collection alum on Spotify titled Time and Again: The Ultimate a-ha that had quite a few good tracks on it. Firstly I would mention “Did Anyone Approach You” which was one of the songs that made me think of Keane. Secondly, there were some good remixes there, my favorite being “Summer Moved On.” It is kind of an epic song in the first place but the remix gave it a “2000’s cool” kind of vibe that really worked well.

Moral of the story here is that one hit wonders aren’t really just one hit wonders. I got on board the new wave train for this post and found some good tunes to add to my collection along the way.

‘Til next time!

Homage/Fallin’

There are so many artists to talk about, so I decided to do a 2-for-1 special in this post. So without further ado, here you go.

Part 1: Alicia Keys

Image result for alicia keys album art

Objectively, I am completely aware of the fact that Alicia Keys is a truly great musician. She writes and composes very well, and she represents the genres of R&B and Soul excellently. She has a large collection of very soulful music that most of it, for some reason, I just don’t really care about. I actually quite enjoy R&B and Soul music, though I typically go for the older stuff. I think Alicia Keys is a great artist, but her music just doesn’t really reach me. Everyone has their favorite genres, and even though I like this genre quite a bit and can enjoy her music when it is on, Alicia Keys is not an artist I seek out much at all.

Except, that is, her hit singles. These are possibly the exception because I have heard them so many times on the radio and being piped over speakers in various locations, but nonetheless they are great songs and I do really like them. My top 3 are “No One” “If I Ain’t Got You” and of course “Fallin'” I have to say “Girlfriend” is pretty good as well with, in my opinion, a Destiny’s Child kind of vibe. They are all ridiculously fun to listen to (and dance stupidly to if I’m hanging out alone in my apartment).

Here’s a video for “Fallin'” for your enjoyment.

Don’t get me wrong, if you like R&B at all, please go listen to her, she’s really good. I like her stuff, I just don’t listen to it often and wouldn’t bother trying to get a ticket to see her live. Make of that what you will.

 

Image result for and now for something completely different

 

Part 2: Alien Ant Farm

Image result for alien ant farm

Alien Ant Farm is not my usual cup of tea either. I honestly have no problem with Metal (I believe this particular group is classified as either nu metal or alternative metal) or with Punk Rock (they also have that label) and in fact there are multiple bands in those genres I truly love. I guess I’m just a lot more picky when it comes to some genres.

I’m pretty sure most of you have no idea who Alien Ant Farm are. They are the band who did that alt-metal-punk-rock cover of “Smooth Criminal” that shows up on Alt-Rock stations. You know the one. It’s a pretty good cover; I like when a band covers a song and makes it their own a little bit. If you play it the same way as the original then nine times out of ten I’d rather just listen to the original. Anyway, “Smooth Criminal” is the reason they are on my Spotify.

While I was listening to their other stuff I did in fact find a few that I liked and have since added to my music collection, but other than that I didn’t much care about it one way or the other. A lot of their music is just filler for me, and didn’t leave much of an impression. The ones I liked more tended to be more on the pop rock side of their style as opposed to metal or punk, and most of them are from the album Always and Forever. Specifically, I like “Sidelines” “Movies” “American Pie” (not a cover of the Don McLean song) and “Homage”

That last one is my favorite, it’s pretty much nothing but music references. In fact I counted approximately 24 references. If nothing else, please listen to that song, it’s very fun and really hit home with me. In fact, here’s a link to a lyric video for you:

Well, that’s about it for me today. Two more artists down, hundreds to go. There is still a long musical journey ahead of me, yet I am undaunted! Onward we go!

All I Really Want

 

When you hear the name Alanis Morissette, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For most, it is probably “angry rocker chick music” or possibly “90’s alt-rock angst.” Both are true to some extent. Let’s be honest, if you hadn’t heard her stuff before and then someone played “You Oughta Know” it would sound pretty angst ridden and angry rocker chick. Here’s the music video if you’re interested:

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Jagged Little Pill came out in 1995 when I was 6 years old. Most of my exposure to Alanis came about a little later on when I finally reached an age demographic that can appreciate the music she produces. I can’t remember the first time I heard her music, but it was likely on the radio when I was a kid. It was background music for a large portion of my life and I didn’t give it much thought other than, “hey that’s a good song.”

This project has been great for me in a lot of ways, but I am especially glad I looked a little closer at Alanis Morissette.

In my opinion her most critically acclaimed album, Jagged Little Pill, is her best album. If you haven’t heard the acoustic version of that album she released in 2005 (tenth anniversary of the original release) you should check it out, it is a great return to that album and has phenomenal versions of the tracks you know and love.

You can’t go wrong with songs like “You Oughta Know” “Hand In My Pocket” “Ironic” or “Head Over Feet”, but you’ve heard all those songs hundreds of times on the radio. The other ones on that album that I now love would have to be “Right Through You,” “All I Really Want” (both are even better on the acoustic album), “Mary Jane,” and “I’m Not The Doctor.” Those are some really fantastic songs and hit home her aptitude as a lyricist.

Here’s the acoustic version of “All I Really Want” for your enjoyment:

Everyone knows Jagged Little Pill, and that’s great. The album you should really check out aside from that is Under The Rug Swept. This was the first album where she was the sole writer and producer, and I have to say I was impressed. It is chalk full of the same awesome Alanis Morissette sound on some all new tracks.

I am especially fond of “Hands Clean” and “21 Things I Want In A Lover” but really the whole album is good. There’s also a really nice yet very simple bass line going on in “So Unsexy” and we all know I love a good bass line. 

Speaking of bass lines, go listen to the bass line in “You Oughta Know” which was actually played by Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Similarly, Dave Navarro took on the guitar line for the recording of that track. 

 A lot of artists have the curse of having all their music sounding the same, and with such a unique voice it would have been easy for her to fall into the same rut. I am glad she tried out some new things on some of her other albums, though personally I don’t think it worked all that well for her on Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, yet she managed to stay true to her original style on Under The Rug Swept while still keeping it interesting.

All in all, Alanis Morissette is a great song writer. I really got into her stuff during this and was pretty blown away by how much I really liked it. I feel like some of it can really stand the test of time and is relate-able to a lot of people in various circumstances, and not just jilted women in their 20’s. I really recommend you listen to some of the songs I mentioned in this post, especially if you haven’t heard it before.

That’s all for now, keep an eye out for my next post which will be a double whammy and cover two separate artists.

P.S. Who on earth knew that she’s done some acting?! I certainly didn’t, and I have never seen any of the things she’s been in. Admittedly, it’s not a huge acting career, but it’s there. Random.

Image result for alanis morissette meme