Monday, May 23, 2011

30 Days

So it seems there's a new trend going around Facebook. It's called 30 Day Song Challenge. Basically the idea is that you post a video every day according to the list of songs you're meant to select (found by clicking on "Rules"). As I was reading this list, I felt remiss at the idea of posting these videos and not offering any explanation as to why each fits into its given category. There are plenty of good stories behind more than a few of these songs, at least for me. For the purposes of this blog entry, I tried to, whenever possible, avoid boring videos of just the song over some pictures. Many of them are live versions, some music videos, a few special versions, and a couple of the aforementioned boring videos. Some I didn't bother posting videos for for what should be obvious reasons.

day 01 - your favorite song - Thrice - For Miles


It wasn't long ago that I'd have had a hard time even putting a four-minute song with a pop song structure in my top ten songs of all time. This song is an aberration. It may be the only song that I like more every time I hear it and it's one of the few I never get tired of. I've always been a sucker for songs with powerful "moments" and this one is basically one big four-minute and twenty-seven-second moment. The opening piano. The epic choruses. The passionately optimistic lyrics. The soaring bridge. The thunderous outro. It's all over much too quickly for a four-and-a-half-minute song but the impact it has is never gone.

day 02 - your least favorite song - Weezer - Beverly Hills


"Least favorite song" is an interesting category to me. There are tons of songs I truly loathe more than "Beverly Hills"--in fact, it's kinda catchy and I'll jam to it if someone puts it on. What makes this my least favorite song is what it represents. It's an absolutely awful song, to be sure, but it was written by a band that has written some of my all time favorite songs and two of my all time favorite albums. Considering how their fall from grace happened, it's hard to fault Rivers or the rest of the band for what they've become. Cuomo himself admitted in an interview on DirecTV that after the critical and popular failure of Pinkerton, he became extremely distraught and took some time off to "figure out how to write songs that will make people happy again." He talked about how he felt responsible for (seemingly, at the time) killing Weezer by making this incredibly self-indulgent record. So while I want to be mad at Weezer for turning into shit, I'm really mad at the consumers for not understanding or appreciating the brilliance of Pinkerton in its time and causing Rivers to have a nervous breakdown and start writing songs to placate people.

day 03 - a song that makes you happy - Radiohead - No Surprises


If this song can't make you smile then you've got a seriously rough life. Not only is this one of the most peacefully serene songs ever written but the lyrics are both comforting and empowering as well. "You look so tired-unhappy," it empathizes. "Bring down your government," it urges you, assuring you that "they don't speak for us." Also, for such a soothing song, it has a somewhat deceptive amount of momentum in a few key spots. The cascading choruses move like ice skaters and the key-changing bridge crescendos subtly into a joyful explosion. To me, this really is one of the best songs ever written and definitely one of the most joyous.

day 04 - a song that makes you sad - Incubus - I Miss You (acoustic)


The only way this song could possibly not make you sad is if you've never been in love or even really liked someone and you've never missed someone either. If you've ever been in love with someone who didn't love you back then this song probably kills you the way it does me. I've yet to meet a person who doesn't have someone this song reminds them of. The stories are never good, either. I put this on a mix CD I gave to the first girl I ever loved for Christmas. She asked me why I chose that song and I said because of the lyrics. Amazingly, this probably wouldn't even make the top five songs that remind me of people--mostly because it pretty much reminds me of every girl I've ever loved.

day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone - Deftones - Rx Queen/Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile



As you can see, I couldn't even pick one. The main reason being that the people they remind me of are equally important to how I've become who I've become, even if I knew one of them many years longer than the other. The first one, I put in a mixtape I made for above first girl I ever loved, which had a note tucked into it with explanations for each song. For this one I put: "I picked this song because I want you to be my girl." Shut up, I was 15. As for "The Fragile", this one belongs to the second girl I ever loved although she should be considered second to no one in the scheme of my life. No person has ever consumed me so completely as she did when we were in high school (and beyond). Both probably had equal hands in forming my concept of what love is, what it means to me, and what I love in a human being.

day 06 - a song that reminds you of somewhere - Stone Temple Pilots - Glide


When I was growing up, my family (mom, grandma, and grandpa) would go to Aspen every summer for the Aspen Music Festival and also to generally enjoy the mild mountain air and breathtaking scenery. Actually, my grandparents would usually stay for nearly the whole summer, my mom and I could only really afford to spend a week or so there visiting them. We did this from the time I was an infant until, I believe, the summer after my sophomore year of high school. Ironically, there's really only one summer where I listened to this song (and the album it's on, No. 4) a whole lot and it was the summer after my freshman year; the summer I met TFGIEL (The First Girl I Ever Loved). I'll always remember that particular trip to Aspen as the most miserable one for me. I had just gotten done meeting all these amazing new friends and TFGIEL and the last thing I wanted to do was leave them all to hang out with my family. I barely ever did anything while we were there that summer apart from listening to a lot of tortured, depressing music--along with this album. It also ended up that she had to fly home the same day I was coming back. I was informed of this one morning in Aspen, via email. Obviously that didn't exactly brighten my mood. That was a pretty miserable trip. Still, this song somehow also reminds me of all the wonderful times I spent in Aspen over the years. I hope we get to go back one of these days.

day 07 - a song that reminds you of a certain event - Darwin's Waiting Room - All I Have Is Me

Really, this song reminds me of a person in general. The same person that "The Fragile" reminds me of. But this one I associate even more with a period in time when she became very upset with myself and some friends of mine and decided to stop talking to us for a period of time. I can specifically remember one night when a mutual friend of ours brought her to my house to try to get her to talk to me but as soon as I opened the door, she turned around and walked away and our mutual friend apologized. Immediately after that, I went to my room, shut off all the lights and cranked this song as loud as I could. And, well, sang along to it. I was 15, ok? Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video for this one.

day 08 - a song that you know all the words to - Propagandhi - Back to the Motor League


I had a friend who introduced me to this band and he always used to say this song is about me. Well, that's a little less than fair. This song is about a great number of different people. It's about him, too, to be honest. But really, the reason I picked this one for a song I know all the words to is because it's probably the most impressive song I know all the words to. Specifically the very end of the song. I also chose it because the lyrics are phenomenal, as all Propagandhi lyrics are.

day 09 - a song that you can dance to - Black Star - B Boys Will B Boys


OK, I can't breakdance. That should be pretty obvious. Still, I can't help but move to this song when I hear it. I love those old school, organic break beats. They just groove so freaking hard. Not that much else I can say about this one.

day 10 - a song that makes you fall asleep - Incubus - Aqueous Transmission


There are so many great songs to fall asleep to but this one really has it all. Delightful plucking on the Pipa. The dreamy, surreal chorus of "further down the river." The delicate ambience of the frogs croaking in the last minute or so (although this video is a live version). I'm craving a nap just talking about it.

day 11 - a song from your favorite band - Radiohead - Planet Telex


In case you hadn't noticed, my favorite band is Radiohead. This is the song that got me hooked on this band. I actually wasn't that into them the first time I heard them but this song is just so epic that I couldn't resist.

day 12 - a song from a band you hate - Fall Out Boy - This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race

Honestly, Fall Out Boy is really interchangeable for about 5 dozen other bands that sound exactly fucking like them but whatever. I'm not posting a video for this because I don't want to subject you to that.

day 13 - a song that is a guilty pleasure - John Mayer - Slow Dancing In a Burning Room


You know, this is kind of on the borderline of guilty pleasure. John Mayer is actually a really fucking good guitarist (part of the reason I chose this video was for the noodling at the beginning). He just writes a lot of really boring, generic songs but every now and then he pops out a gem and this is one of them.

day 14 - a song that no one would expect you to love - Estelle - American Boy


To be honest, I'm not sure there really is a song that no one would expect me to love. Everyone always says they have eclectic tastes or they like a little bit of everything to the point that it's such a cliche now but I really, truly listen to a whole fucking lot of very different shit. This was as close as I could get to something that no one would think I would like. This song is the shit.

day 15 - a song that describes you - Thrice - Image of the Invisible


This song became something of a rallying cry to me personally in the time leading up to the 2008 election and the short time after. I still take it personally for me and my generation because this is the attitude we need to have. We need to be serious about taking over responsibility for making the world the way we want it to be. This song is a constant inspiration to me to keep fighting the good fight even when the battle is far uphill.

day 16 - a song that you used to love but now hate - Kings of Leon - Sex on Fire

The only reason I used to love this song was because it was the only thing on the radio in Ireland when I went there with my dad for about a week and it was kinda catchy. The problem was, they played it at least 30 times a day. This band has a few songs that are better than this one on the Only By the Night album but I've never really understood everyone's infatuation with them. They're just the poor man's Arcade Fire to me.

day 17 - a song that you hear often on the radio - Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine

Another one that reminds me of TFGIEL. To be fair, I almost never listen to radio. In fact, the one thing I listen to more than anything on the radio is Beatle Brunch so I couldn't really count that. This is just one of those songs that they'll never stop playing on the radio. They play it on Big 105.9 now which is a trip. "I'd hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain" still gets me every time. Still, I'm not going to subject you to the video as we've all heard this song way too many times.

day 18 - a song that you wish you heard on the radio - Thrice - Come All You Weary


Not only does this band deserve to be massively huge but the message in this song (which is a recurring message in Thrice's songs) is one that should be spread. A message of empathy and caring. This song reflects the band's attitude toward their music in that they want to be a comforting and supporting force in the lives of their fans and I'm pretty sure that's a goal they've accomplished quite well. If only more people in this world had such compassionate attitudes, imagine the kind of place we'd live in.

day 19 - a song from your favorite album - Tool - Ænema


Amazingly, no, my favorite album isn't a Radiohead album. This song also happens to be the title track of the album it's on, although the spelling is changed from Ænima to "Ænema" for some reason. This is far from my favorite song on the album but it's a damn good one and not too long and it has a killer video, which is why I picked it.

day 20 - a song that you listen to when you’re angry - Converge - You Fail Me


This is the quintessential angry song as far as I'm concerned. Not only is it viciously furious but its bile is so narrowly focused and so vulnerable that the impact it makes is massive. This is a towering cyclone of swirling fiery rage surrounding a white hot laser center. The main riff is an absolute steamroller. I know this kind of stuff is a little too intense for most people but anyone who has any desire to experience the most pure and passionate musical anger, I highly recommend this. If someone asked me what the heaviest song I've ever heard is, I'd have to really think about what I consider "heaviest" to mean--but my knee-jerk reaction would be to say this song. This is a video of an early version (two years before the release of You Fail Me) with different lyrics/vocals.

day 21 - a song that you listen to when you’re happy - Jimmy Eat World - Futures


This has to be the catchiest, happiest riff ever written. You can't help but bounce when you hear it. And you can't help but smile at the opening lines: "I've always believed in futures. I hope for better in November." The chorus soars: "Say hello to good times. Trade up for the fast ride. We close our eyes while the nickel and dime take the streets completely." Almost enough to give even me hope for the future. Almost.

day 22 - a song that you listen to when you’re sad - Radiohead - How to Disappear Completely


I don't even think I need to explain this one. If you have a different song you listen to when you're sad, you're wrong, this one is better. What could sum up the feeling of being sad or depressed better than "I'm not here. This isn't happening."

day 23 - a song that you want to play at your wedding - Bright Eyes - Oh, You Are the Roots That Sleep Beneath My Feet and Hold the Earth In Place


I want this played at my wedding no matter who I marry because whoever I marry, this song (hell, the title of this song) will undoubtedly describe that person.

day 24 - a song that you want to play at your funeral - Thrice - Beggars


What could sum it all up better than this:

All you great men of power,
You who boast of your feats,
Politicians and entrepreneurs:
Can you safeguard your breath in the night while you sleep,
Keep your heart beating steady and sure?
As you lie in your bed,
Does the thought haunt your head,
That your really rather small?
If there's one thing I know in this life,
We are beggars all!

All you champions of science,
And rulers of men:
Can you summon the sun from it's sleep?
And does the earth seek your council on how fast to spin?
Can you shut up the gates of the deep?
And don't you know that all things,
Hang as if by string o'er the darkness,
Poised to fall?
If there's one thing I know in this life,
We are beggars all!


All you big-shots who swagger,
And stride with conceit.
Did you devise how your frame would be formed?
If you'd be raised in a palace,
or live out on the streets,
choose the place or the hour you'd be born?
Tell me what can you claim?
Not a thing!
Not your name!
Tell me if you can recall,
Just one thing, not a gift, in this life?
Can you hear what's been said?
Can you see now that everything's graced?
After all,
If there's one thing I know in this life,
We are beggars all!


day 25 - a song that makes you laugh - Flight of the Conchords - Bret, You Got It Goin' On


Just watch...

day 26 - a song that you can play on an instrument - Converge - Heaven In Her Arms


I didn't even have to look at tabs; I learned this shit by ear. Yeah, be jealous.

day 27 - a song that you wish you could play - Between the Buried and Me - Mordecai


I have dreams of being able to play this song where I wake up all sticky.

day 28 - a song that makes you feel guilty - Thrice - Digging My Own Grave


I had a really hard time coming up with any song that made me feel intense personal guilt so I went with something a little more broad. Heaven knows I've got more than my share of nasty habits that I keep convincing myself I'm going to stop soon enough but "soon enough" is a very non-specific deadline.

day 29 - a song from your childhood - The Beatles - Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite


My mom used to play the Sgt. Pepper album all the time when I was a little kid--or maybe she just played it for me once or twice and that prompted me to want to play it all the time. Either way, I've loved this album from a very young age and that love has only grown and flourished. This was probably my favorite song on the album when I was a wee lad and it's hard not to understand why. This song is bloody whimsical! It's fun and amusing and funny and twisted, just like The Beatles' sense of humor. Another fun memory I have of this song is listening to it while on a psychedelic trip. All I know is, I couldn't stop laughing at this song but it was the most beautiful song ever. The video is the version from Cirque du Soleil: LOVE that combines it with "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and "Helter Skelter" quite effectively.

day 30 - your favorite song at this time last year - Deftones - Diamond Eyes


I don't know about favorite song but this song certainly is a representation of what I was listening to a LOT of at this time last year. To be fair, this album had just come out but I still must have listened to it front to back about 50 times since it came out. It's coming very close to surpassing Adrenaline and Around the Fur on my list of favorite Deftones albums because it's just really their most complete and focused album, I feel. Maybe most focused isn't the right term, it just seems like they finally found their sound, so to speak. It's kind of ironic because one of my favorite things about their first three albums is that they each sound completely and utterly different and I absolutely love bands that can do that from album to album and still have a sound that is distinctly their own. For Deftones, it seems like after White Pony, they decided this was their blueprint and they were going to fine tune it until they got it perfect and on this album, they've done that.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What I Will by Suheir Hammad

What I Will
by Suheir Hammad
(sue-HEAR HA-mud)

I will not
dance to your war
drum. I will
not lend my soul nor
my bones to your war
drum. I will
not dance to your
beating. I know that beat.
It is lifeless. I know
intimately that skin
you are hitting. It
was alive once
hunted stolen
stretched. I will
not dance to your drummed
up war. I will not pop
spin break for you. I
will not hate for you or
even hate you. I will
not kill for you. Especially
I will not die
for you. I will not mourn
the dead with murder nor
suicide. I will not side
with you nor dance to bombs
because everyone else is
dancing. Everyone can be
wrong. Life is a right not
collateral or casual. I
will not forget where
I come from. I
will craft my own drum. Gather my beloved
near and our chanting
will be dancing. Our
humming will be drumming. I
will not be played. I
will not lend my name
nor my rhythm to your
beat. I will dance
and resist and dance and
persist and dance. This heartbeat is louder than
death. Your war drum ain’t
louder than this breath.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

System of a Down - IZE

As much as I love the System of a Down double album Mesmerize/Hypnotize, I really could have done without a number of the songs from both records. Most double albums probably should have never been double albums. I think SOAD had it right with the process they went through for Toxicity where they recorded somewhere around 30 songs and then whittled that down to 14. However, with the positive response to Steal This Album!, I think they felt like this time they could just leave those songs in and make an epic double album. Unfortunately, they had it right the first time because there's a lot of filler on both albums that doesn't fit in and interrupts the flow of the album. So what did I do? I removed them and reorganized the tracks the way I would have had them in a playlist. I call it "IZE."

1. Intro (Soldier Side)
2. B.Y.O.B.
3. Attack
4. Dreaming
5. Revenga
6. Violent Pornography
7. Kill Rock N' Roll
8. Question!
9. Tentative
10. Lost In Hollywood
11. Hypnotize
12. Sad Statue
13. Lonely Day
14. Soldier Side