Monday, October 28, 2013

Yesterday's Gone

Today has been a very weirdly nostalgic day for me. Like much more nostalgic than I usual. And powerful nostalgia at that. But in order to explain how this came about, I'll have to backtrack a few days:

Last Friday I recorded all the bass parts to Beat Noir's forthcoming full-length album. Hey! Wait a second! That's big news! Yep, we're in the process of recording our debut full-length! In fact, drums, bass and guitars are already done! Hot damn! I'm sure that I will update you on the process again soon and will also fill this blog with links once it is actually put out. Until then, sit tight.

So yeah, last Friday I recorded all the bass parts to the album at our friend Pat's home studio. After recording, Duff drove us back to Kitchener so we could resume our lives and I could head home for Thanksgiving. As we were getting ready to head out he said "Ah no, fuck it. We're listening to Jackson Browne" and put on For Everyman. Jackson Browne was an artist who was constantly being played in my house while I growing up, so any time I hear his music, I'm instantly hit with some crazy nostalgia. The reason for this is that Running On Empty is one of the ten or so albums that my mom has owned throughout her life and they never left her car. Anytime that I went with my mom to run errands, there was a pretty good chance that I would hear Jackson Browne*. A lot of critics see Running On Empty as "Jackson Browne lite", or the point when he started to lose his integrity/credibility, but up until about two weeks ago, it was the only one I had heard, as I had never put in the effort to go back and see why my parents fell in love with him in the first place. So the overwhelming nostalgia of hearing something from my youth combined with the "Holy fuck! This song-writing is SO GOOD!" moment of realization upon hearing For Everyman for the first time really hit me square in the feelings.

I mean, this is the real shit:

Any time that I think about Jackson Browne, I immediately think about Fleetwood Mac as well because it was another album that never left my mom's car. I always associate the two because they existed at the same time and also made at somewhat similar sounding music. When I was younger I was really resilient with my music taste and always thought my parents listened to crummy, old person music. Then you get older and realize that your parents had great taste and being around good music like Jackson Browne or Fleetwood Mac, or all the Motown and Stax that my Dad put on, during your childhood does a whole lot for your skill as a musician as an adult than they stuff some other kids parents listened to.

Anyways, back to Jackson Browne. The funniest part of driving somewhere with my mom while listening to Jackson Browne is when "The Load Out" and "Stay", the last two songs on the album, come on, because they bleed into each other and are more or less one song and that is my mom's favourite song. She doesn't even wait for the big "Oh, won't you stay..." break by Rosemary Butler, she just belts out the entire thing and lord, is she ever tone-deaf. But because of this, it's impossible to think of anyone other than Mom. This song IS my mom. Even though both my parents are a picture of health for their age, they are starting to get older and I've started to think about their mortality a lot more. What in the world am I going to do when they're gone? Will I be able to deal with it? Will I be able to function as a person without them? At the bare minimum, I know that my mom will always exist for me through this song. Any time I listen to it, it's pretty much inevitable that tears build up in my eyes throughout the entire thing. Love you Mom.

Now, after having listened to nothing by Jackson Browne and Fleetwood Mac for two or three days straight, I thought "Wow, I need to lay off the melancholic pop music for a little bit, for my own sake." Because it was actually to starting to get me pretty sad, despite the fact that I don't really have that much to be sad about. I was talking with a friend about our favourite music videos and I came to the conclusion that no matter how silly or stupid some people may view it as, "First Date" by blink-182 is hands down my favourite music video ever.

When I was in 8th grade, this was all I cared about when it came to music. Poppy (though I didn't realize that's what I liked about it at the time), silly and the main statement behind the band seemed to just be having fun with your friends, and I could really get behind that. Hell, I can really get behind that now. While I do really enjoy the direction that Beat Noir is taking and I like adding new things and seeing what we can do with our "art" (pretentious enough?), I'd be lying if I said that hanging out and joking around with Duff, Mark and Colin wasn't one of the things I enjoy most about the band.

And you know, people like to rip on blink and they like to rip on me for how much I like blink, but goddamn are they one of my favourite bands ever. I definitely wouldn't be into punk if it wasn't for them. This was also the first time I watched this video in a long time and I had an odd moment of realizing that the way I dress today is 100% and amalgamation of the three characters in this video. I didn't do that consciously, it just sort of happened. Anyways, "First Date" kicked off a giant blink binge that lasted several days and brought on a whole new type of nostalgia, much different from Jackson Browne and Fleetwood Mac.

Bet you thought you'd never see those three bands tied together, didn't you?

*For the record my mom's music collection: Running on Empty by Jackson Browne, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, Bat Out of Hell I by Meatloaf, the soundtrack to Mamma Mia, the soundtrack to  Grease, Jive Bunny: The Album by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers (my mom may make up the entirety of their fanbase in 2013) and Greatest Hits by the Beach Boys.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gordon Street

Whenever I fall completely in love in an album, and that happens pretty frequently, I find that there is almost always one particular instance of listening to it that always does the trick. It's a weird coincidence where life events and the content of the album link up in some weird awesome way to hit me square in the feelings.

I bring this up because this morning I was thinking of when this happened with the album Awkward Breeds by The Sidekicks. During Reading Week of 2012 I went on a trip to New York with a bunch of other Fine Art students at Guelph. I did have a few good friends coming along on the trip as well, but for the most part I didn't really know most of the people coming with and was a little nervous about it.

Our bus left from the university at 5 AM, which required me to get up at 3 in order to walk to the stop in time. The night before I had hastily packed up what I needed and didn't have time to dry all my laundry, so I left the house looking like a royal mess, in daze from lack of sleep and in damp jeans. I smoked a hastily rolled joint and tried to power walk to the university to both warm up my jeans and fight off the cold. I didn't have a proper winter jacket, so I tried to compensate by wearing my denim jacket over a hoodie over a flannel, accompanied by a scarf and toque.

I got to the stop in time, took my seat beside Candice and we were off. Around this time in 2012 On The Impossible Past by The Menzingers, the aforementioned Awkward Breeds and Giant Orange all came out around the same time (officially all on the same day, but y'know, internet) and I was really eager to listen to all three. I didn't sleep much on the way to the border, since it was only about an hour and I didn't want to fall asleep, be woken up right away and then have trouble getting back to sleep after.

So once we were over the border I settled into my seat, still slightly feeling the effects of that mornings joint, and put on Awkward Breeds while I slowly drifted off into sleep. It was the best music I could have chosen for the time and the lyrical themes of the album were absolutely perfect for the mental state I was in at the time. During the remainder of that drive and the drive back 4 days later, I listened to the album another 5 or 6 times and that was all it took for me to love it.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Under The Radar Vol. I: The Stereo

I find that while I do share a ton of favourite bands with most of my best friends, there are a multitude more where it seems like I'm the only person in the world (re: southern Ontario) that listens to them. As is the case with most things that you become obsessed with, you always want to share them with everybody you know, because there are few things that feel better than getting somebody as into something as you are. This is really hard with music though, because most people already have fairly specific tastes when it comes to tunes and they generally roll their eyes whenever you say "Wow! You have to listen to this!", myself included. Unfortunately for me, music is one of the things I know most about, so it winds up being one of the things I like to talk about a recommend, but it seems like nobody every cares to listen.

But I swear I'm good at recommending music!* So my thought was that I would start on series here on Imu^ where I write little synopses of some of my favourite, more obscure bands and explain why I like them and why you should like them too. Now, you may ask yourself "But Timmy, don't like more than half of your posts consist of that already?" and I would reply "Yes. But now it has a name!" I also want to focus more on broken up, forgotten bands than current ones. It will probably end up being a whole lot of never-made-it third wave ska bands, so bear with me.


I chose The Stereo as the first entry in this because I seriously am the only person I know, aside from Boston/Baltimore's own John Flynn, that listens to them and I can't for the life of me understand why. They have everything my friends like in music! Big pop hooks! Distorted guitars! Solos! Cleverly crafted pop song structure! Lots and lots of love-like feelings in their lyrics! They were what inspired me to start this series because I keep coming back to them and they keep being a perfect rock/pop band.

The story of the beginning of The Stereo is an interest on if you are as into ska as I am. In the early days of Fueled By Ramen*, there were two especially great ska/punk bands on the label: The Impossibles and Animal Chin. While both of these bands were obviously primarily ska bands, both definitely had a bit of power-pop (in the sense of Weezer) to them, which really set them apart from their peers, in my opinion. They both also had very talented song-writer/singer/guitarists at their helms in Rory Philips and Jamie Woolford respectively. Both of these bands also broke up at roughly the same time, while on the same label. After the demise of the two bands, both singers started to work on more straight poppy rock music on their own until somebody at Fueled By Ramen had the stroke of genius to recommend that two start working together on songs. What resulted was the wonderful band known as The Stereo.

The two did essentially everything on The Stereo's debut album Three Hundred themselves and released it in 1999. Right away you can see all the influences that were subtly hinted at in their ska bands (Weezer, Billy Joel, The Raspberries), but now they were free to be as poppy and hooky and rocky as they could imagine. The end result is fucking amazing and so catchy that it's impossible to do anything but smile and air-guitar for the entirety of the record.

For example, the lead track:

The constant chugging guitars! The amazing vocal hooks! The lyrics that make me want to put this song on for somebody that I care about! The "Woo!" right before the guitar solo! THE FUCKING GUITAR SOLO!

It's also easy to see how more or less every band (especially Fall Out Boy) heard this and thought "Okay, let's play guitar and sing just like that." after hearing this album.

The Stereo went on to fill out their lineup and record two more albums, despite the departure of Rory after Three Hundred, before breaking up in 2004. Though I haven't been able to track down a copy of Rewind+Record (impossible to find anwhere), I can vouch that New Tokyo Is Calling is every bit as good as Three Hundred and just as deserving of a spin and the best example I can think of for that is this cut from the album:

Every time I listen to that song I think that if I were to write a pop song, that is exactly what I would want it to sound like. The vocal hooks in the chorus and verse are amazing, I can't enough of the main riff and the stop/start rhythm of the song is amazing.

I don't really know how else I can sell you on this if it doesn't sound like something you would into already. If you like old Weezer, this is a poppier version of Blue Album. They're a louder, faster version of Billy Joel. A punker version of Cheap Trick. It's very clear when listening to it that Jamie, and on Three Hundred Rory, have really honed their craft and are expert song-writers. Every song transitions perfectly from verse to chorus to bridge to whatever else. If you start listening to a song and aren't that into it, chances are you'll be belting out the chorus in a minute or two.


These release are a little hard to find, as the band has really fallen off the map^, so your best bet to track them down would be to just buy them. But man oh man, will it ever be worth it.

*See: How much Bomb the Music Industry!, Less Than Jake, Smoking Popes, etc. that Brian listens to. Can I take credit for Selly's interest in The Wonder Years? Party Pat's interest in Municipal Waste?

^Oh, you know that shit is gonna become a thing.

*When they were started by Vinnie of Less Than Jake, Fueled put out more or less an even mix of ska and pop-punk. Eventually they moved towards the latter and started bathing in money, but I absolutely love their early output.

^They reunited to play the Fueled By Ramen 15th Anniversary show in 2011, which is how I found out about them. Despite the band still sounding amazing, nobody in the audience seemed to care as they were all there to see Paramore.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Must Be Some Kind Of Curse

I'm currently really into this release. Lawnmower channel all of my favourite parts about 90's indie/alternative and the most apt* comparisons would probably be Harvey Danger(!) and Pinkerton-era Weezer (but not as sad). Really great rockin' tunes!

Makes marking exams a whole lot more fun!

*It's funny, I hardly ever use the word "apt" in conversation, but feel like I use it constantly when writing on this blog. I think it's interesting the way that your voice differs between the way you audibly project and the way you write it down.