Can Music Be Happy and Good?

I started writing a piece about optimism and pessimism the other day, and it got me asking whether or not I even have happy music in my 36-day-long collection of songs.

Knowing that I could never go through all 36 days worth of music, I pulled a few that may or may not be happy.

Dresden Dolls — Good Day
I know it seems like I picked this song based on name alone. It took me a couple of listens to figure out whether or not it is actually happy, however. I kind of feel that it is more cynical than not happy? If that makes sense? It is basically an anthem about how strong someone is in the face of a brutal breakup that would potentially render someone uncontrollably depressed. So, a final verdict? If we are going on the A) B) options I have given myself, I would have to say happy.

Deftones — Teenager
Very symbolic, and alludes to tragedy instead of happiness. It is a song that seems to be about moving past pain and abandonment. To say that it’s pessimistic is undermining potential readings of what the poetry of this piece could be.

Deer & the Headlights — Sweet Talk
I fucking love this song. Not happy at all, and does not even pretend to be. Musically, it could be argued that it sounds “boppy” and aloof. The heartwrenching lyrics are about seeing an ex with a new lover for the first time since you separated. Juvenile? Very much, but a very relatable situation for most of us. What holds this song apart from most in the pessimism group is that it doesn’t really give the listener any sort of reprise, or even an alternate way of looking at the situation. Can I call it happy? Hell no.

Cursive — From The Hips
The most cynical song I think I have come across in my life. It is trying to make an argument that the pinnacle of human interaction is sex. The singer alludes to the idea that sex is the only time we are all truly honest and without alternative motives.

Braid — Do You Like Coffee?
I may be biased by my love for the black substance that is the subject of this song, but I would confidently put this in “optimism” pool. The song tells a tale about seeing someone for the first time in a long time. It could been seen as bitter-sweet, but still optimistic.

Livestalk & the Bodies — Pourvous
I actually forgot about this one until I asked a friend of mine about what they would recommend. I’ll probably get to their suggestion, but I want to point out the irony that one of, if not my absolute favourite song that I played on is incredibly happy-bordering-on-cute. (Don’t tell Kevo I called it cute). A song of love, confessing all manners of appreciation for all parts of the narrator’s partener. Plus, this song has the most amazing piano line written and did I mention that I love it and I played on it and I didn’t write the drum line but I wish I did am I rambling without punctuation I am so sorry.

Broken Bells — The High Road
As a fan of the bands The Shins, of course I came across this gem. The best parts of Danger Mouse cira 2010, and released just before Modern Guilt by Beck, this album combines and jangly guitar that The Shins were known for, and the trip-hop grooves that Danger Mouse produces so well. The name, and parts of the lyrics, lead one to believe that it is going to be a happy song. When you really listen to it, however, you notice that it is about someone burning out after living a great life. So, as most of the other songs on this list: cynical, at best.

The Fratellis — Flathead
EVERYBODY DANCE! FEEL HOW GREAT THE GROOVE IS! BEAT THE PISS OUT OF EVERYONE!
*ahem* This song is great. I will never get a bigger smile on my face than when I’m analyzing this one, but it hides a dark secret behind the bombastic chorus’ and bigger-than-life transitions. It’s alluding to the idea that people are two-faced at best, and horribly spoken about at worst.

The Junction — Untitled (Revised)
This song is not a great example of the album, but it remains one of my favourite pop songs of all time. I have a very hard time deciphering lyrics at the best of times, and this song is a whearwind of metaphors and complicated prose. I THINK that it’s happier than most, even though if fits very nicely in a dark sounding chasm.

The Tokyo Police Club — Bambi
This song is a coating of blunt opinions and a harsh tone over joyous celebration of youth. Maybe I am biased because of the fantastic keyboards coupled with how happy the keyboard player looked while they performed this one day, but I will forever see this as an optimistic song.

WHAT IS MY CONCLUSION? Happy lyrics are possible. Non-cynical lyrics are possible. Music is an expression of the musician’s soul, and it is easier to dwell on the horrible rather than the best of times. Hell, that Livestalk & the Bodies song is the only one out of the full album of fifteen that might be mostly unhappy.

Now, all of this conjecture is just that. I admit that I am horrible with figuring out lyrics meaning on the best of days. There are probably of happy songs. Hell, I didn’t touch ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky, Of Montreal’s entire catalogue, or C + C by Tom Vek.

Classic Album Review :: Bran Van 3000 — Glee

This is an example of one of those albums that I honestly can’t help myself but to recommend. I never feel like I sell it very well, and I feel incredibly upset that it has seems to have been forgotten.

Then again, it is a Canadian hip-hop/alternative album. Yes, there are examples of things thriving in that catagory, but for every success there are hundreds of flash-in-the-pan albums. Unfortunatly, this is a latter. It’s unfortunate, simply for the fact that there are so few albums that explore the corners of musical expression that this album ventures into.

As previously mentioned, this album could be placed comfortably into the hip-hop genre. That does not define it, however. Yes, they use samples and turntables for a large percent of the music, but where they explore other instruments is where they differ themselves. The single (placed below because it’s amazing) toys with an expression of someone who is strung out. The entire album feels like it was made by that group of stoners that you saw in high school. Harmless, brazen, and always saying or doing something interesting.

This is one example of why I have a hard time vocalizing why you need to listen to this album. On paper, it sounds like like drivel. Or, at least, mildly annoying. The fact is that this album has so many ideas. Everything from electonica to folk, dance to metal, and it works as a gateway into a world of unliited possibilities. This album is a gateway into everything this band has in the long term, and things only get better and weirder.

That’s right, I’m recommending an album to recommend another album!

Discossis is the next album they put out. It’s somehow more chaotic yet more intentional. I digress: listen to Glee. If you like it, pick up Discosis. Thank me later.

It’s probably bad form to include a song from a different album, but I need to share this. Second part, in particular.

Something Old

This is a video from 14 years ago! LOOK AT HOW SKINNY I AM!!!!

I miss playing in this band. It was incredibly fun and formative. Not just as a musician, but as a person.

Being in a band teaches you how to interact with people. You have to get along with bandmates, you have to get along with promoters, and you have to get along with fans.

This show, in particular, predated our last album.

Classic Album Review :: The Flaming Lips — Embryonic

Little text explaining why I am doing so many reviews right now. The world, or at least North America, is fucked. Everything is breaking (because it needed to) and there is little happy that I can find to be exposed to. So, I focus on coffee and music. Since it would be boring to just keep reading about how great my black coffee is, I hope that you aren’t too sick of the music!

Interesting bit of information: I have almost exactly 38 days worth of music on my computer. I deleted about 3 days worth of stuff I either will never or have never listened to: so, biased as the claim may be, I only have the best the world has to offer!

I had my full collection on random yesterday, and was reminded of this album. It could be argued that this album isn’t old enough to be placed in the ‘classic’ category yet, but 2009 is a while ago. In my broken mind, I can justify it being two decades old. I can do simple math, I know it’s not. Shut up.

ANYWAY: This album borrows greatly from the ’60s psychedelic sound that the Flaming Lips have always used. I actually watched a video compilation using a song from this album over footage from the original Woodstock, and it fit rather nicely. I cannot decide if the Flaming Lips are in the wrong decade, or if they are just really good at appropriating sounds of the past. They fuse old sounds and ways of composing with new technologies and methods. It creates this almost timeless kakophonie. The sounds leave the listener in the middle of a miasma of ideas.

Of course, I am a huge fan of the drums on the album. They are really kinetic and almost lure the listener into a kind of trance. Most songs sport a simple 4/4 pattern, but there are deviations. The song ‘Your Bats‘ comes to mind, where it adopts a 6/8 in a way that isn’t noticeable at the start. Or, at the very least, I didn’t notice it. Maybe my mind is simple, I’ll let you be the judge.

The vocalist takes some getting used to. If you can accept his very high voice, it becomes impossible to consider any other style over the band. If someone cannot get over how shrill his voice is, however: it can render the album almost unlistenable. I could never fault anyone for being unable to get over it. I would pity them, however. It is far from a slight to point out how every instrument being played is being done so by a deft hand.

I mean, if I wanted to do a full career retrospective, I would be writing forever. This band has been producing albums in some capacity since 1983. The band has been through 16 members, with only the bass player staying absolutely consistent in his role. Even the individual who is now the lead singer didn’t start off that way. I really recommend reading the Wikipedia page about them, it’s fascinating!

Classic Album Review :: Broken Social Scene — You Forgot It In People

I have no idea what inspired me to tackle this album. This is one of my favourite albums of all time, and it will be very hard for me not to say “just listen to it because”, but I will write something more substantial because you should listen to it.

You Forgot It In People came out of nowhere on the Canadian music scene. The early 2000’s were an amazing time in Canadian Indi and pop rock, and this album helped cement that statement as true in multiple ways.

First off, and most importantly, is the pedigree of musicians on this album is amazing. Though this band does not hold the record for the most performers, it still holds 18 credited actors. I say credited only because I would not be surprised if someone did clapping on the song “Stars & Sons” and they just forgot to give them a shout-out.

The part of this album I love the most is the flow. The album starts with an ethereal string portion, track two begins with roughly ten seconds of simple guitar mixed with violin then launches with a kinetic energy from the percussion that I have never found prior or since. Track three is very subdued compared to track two, and this album continues this tug-and-pull between being calm and chaotic.

The lyrics are this strange combination of being incredibly important and highschool poetry by that guy who thinks he’s deep. It works beautifully. The reflective nature brings to mind someone who has finally identified the last parts of their sexuallity.

Standout track has to be “Looks Just Like the Sun” simply because it’s the sore-thumb track: it doesn’t quite belong in the mix, but dares you to not pay attention. It relies on almost jazz chord progressions and a very laid-back drum track. Again, not a great example for the album as a whole, but easily my favourite track in the mix.

I usually drop hints on my person FaceBook as to what album I am going to write about next, so I posted KC Accidental on my wall. My friend pointed out how “Cause = Time” is his favourite, so as I write this, I am listening to that song over and over again. The song is kind of great at accentuating the overall message of Kevin Drew’s collection of lyrics which are sexual exploration and a dower look at law enforcement. Far from police bashing (unfortunate choice of words, but I’m going to leave it there), but does belittle the institution while expressing the potential for an abuse of power.

In summary: just listen to it because.
It’s amazing,

They uploaded the whole album, so you don’t have to spend the money. Do so anyway.

Music Comparison :: Pretty Girls Make Gaves v. Mars Volta

I am not saying these two albums are one-for-one. In fact, I am not even saying that they are remotely the same. I am claiming that fans of one can find something to appreciate about the other.

The Mars Volta seemed to come out of nowhere. Unless you were a fan of Sparta, these two seemed that they came from a cave and released probably one of the most original albums of that time. De-Loused in the Comatorium was a force to be reckoned with from the ambient track one right through until the end of track ten. It is kinetic with how involved every instrument is placed. Nothing feels like an accident. The mix is beautifully orchestrated. It’s hard to discuss this album without diving headfirst into individual tracks and dissecting the music theory knowledge involved. I mean, the ending of track one (bleeding into track two) changes time signature nine times on top of simple standard time time. The album then launches into a chaotic 3/8 and then does not let up until track nine.

Pretty Girls Make Graves (hearbye known as PGMG because I’m lazy) evolved out of the emo scene in the early 2000’s. They take elements of punk and mix it with almost art-house/ambient rock. This album stays pretty well in the same energy level through most of it. None of the instrumentation sticks out, particularly. What makes this album so incredibly important is how much it impacts the listener. I know very few people who have heard this album that have not loved some part of it. The vocalist sings over a calamity of orchestrated noise that has a purpose to lull the listener into a sense of pure bliss. Though Èlan Vital is not their first, or last, album, it remains one of my favourite albums of all time.

De Louced in the Comatorium is the Mars Vota’s first full length, though they had a very decent EP prior to that. There is not a lacking member on the record. Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers is on bass and he is (arguably) the weakest member of the crew. This album feels like you are listening to a performance instead of listening to an album.

Èlan Vital is, in comparison, very simple. They share aspects of the same ethereal plain, but they do not have much more in common where instrumentation comes into play, except for their use of onenote progression used several times in both recordings.

Now, I am positive there is a music theory reason for this progression. It probably dates all the way back to songs of olde. Back when the progression was far from news and, instead, was used by every minstral from here to Eden.

However, this is not the time of olde. This progression is not used often any longer, and I hate that I don’t know enough to give a name to it. It’s a huge part of Bullet Charm (which is the PGMG song I am going to link below) and is very prominent in the song “Eria Tarka” from The Mars Volta. This note progression, plus the emphasis on ethereal soundscapes, makes the comparison between the two bands more apt.

I made a big deal about track nine on De Loused in the Comatorium then dropped it! The song is Televators, and was the first song I had heard from the band. It is also acoustic and has little to do with the rest of the album. Even though it has little to do with the rest of the album, it will still be the track I place for Mars Volta below.

I’m not going to lie, a big part of why I wrote this is just to have an excuse to listen to these two albums over and over again for “research”. Also, I feel like PGMG have vanished from the collective consciousness, and any excuse I can find to talk about them feels important.

I’m posting this being well aware that I am going to get a bunch of shit from people saying how I’m wrong.

Song Review :: Yeah Yeah Yeahs — Maps

I have this song in my head. It just loops over and over and I have never been happier to have such a beautiful melody stuck in the recesses of my mind than I am right now. So, instead of reviewing the gem of an album, I thought I would just focus on this song.

Why? This album is amazing all the way through, but this song stands out. Not because it is the best song, that is arguable. No, it stands alone as almost a lullaby on an almost-punk album. It’s peaceful, it’s beautiful, it’s haunting. It stands as a kind of slap-in-the-face transition from the rest of the mix.

I have a slight tendency to prefer music from the early 2000’s. A large part of it is because I came to my auditory maturity in that time, a lot of it is because there was such a revolution in sounds not seen since the ’60s. Sure, it could be argued that most of it actually started in the ’90s, and I cannot argue that. Regardless of when the experimentation started, it got popular around the turn of the century, and we were all better for it.

Anyway, back to the song. It opens with a simple tremolo on one note, then thunderous drums kick in. After a swell, Karen O adds her voice to the ensemble as a type of whisper. The tones all mix together in an almost ethereal medley until the end of the first verse.

At just shy of 2 min. in, a Pixies like blast resonates from the guitar. This song is the perfect example of the quiet-loud-quiet formula invented by the Pixies back in the ’80s. The formula is simple, but the almost juvenile writing adds to how beautiful the song is. There is nothing to cloud the almost dream like state that this song creates.

Again, this song stands completely alone in it’s execution. The album is stuck somewhere between punk and almost dance pop. Songs like “Date With the Night” are incredibly violent (but still fun) compared to Maps.

Do I recommend this album? Whole heartedly.
Do I acknowledge that it came be disarming in how skattared the tone can be? Absolutely.
Is Maps a good example of the overall feel for the album? Fuck no. I will say that if you are intrigued, I recommend this album with every fiber of my being.

Sorry for the inevitable ads.

Classic Album Review :: The Breeders — Last Splash

There are two different ways to describe this album:
that fantastic first jam session you have with a new band that just seems to work perfectly.
OR
The embodiment of the pre-Nirvana ’90s.

For the first definition, this album always illicents that feeling for me. It’s just loose enough to give it that improvisational feel, but just tight enough to know that it isn’t the case. Everything is very simple in the best way possible.

The second description is a little more in depth, and shares being easier and harder to define.

When you find out that it’s Kim Deal from The Pixies, it all starts to make sense. They have the same sort of “quiet-loud-quiet” song structure that The Pixies made famous. The biggest difference is that The Pixies always felt like they were trying to revolutionize music and change the pop landscape. The Breeders feel like the accept the way music is going and is just trying to produce a perfect album.

I almost feel as if this band would have been absolutely huge if not for the existence of Nirvana. This album has little to do with that bordering on metal sound that came from the Nirvana camp. Again, when you know that it’s Kim Deal on guitar, the comparison is easy.

The Breeders focus a little more on the pop angle of the music, and that’s far from a bad thing in this case. Really bass focused, and non-intrusive drum patterns; the emphasis becomes more vocal-centric as opposed to Nirvana’s and their contemporaries “lyrics are important but listen to how cool this riff is” style of doing things.

I know I just went on a rant about how this band puts more emphasis on lyrics, but songs like Roi are very easy to get lost in. The effects on the strings and the dreamy definition of the vocals almost lull the listener into a trance.

I am reviewing this album because it’s the only one by this band that I know. The Breeders have eight studio albums, and this album (though I love it very much) doesn’t inspire me to check out the rest. It’s a perfect encapsle of the time, but I’m afraid to spoil the perfect image in my head of this band. Seriously, listen to this album. It should be easy to find at your local second-hand music store, if nowhere else. The band is touring again, at least as of 2018.

Music Review :: The Light in the Ocean — The Pseudo​-​Scientific Study of Oceanic Neo​-​Cryptid Zoology

So, it appears that this week is the week of silly long names for albums. I like it! It’s a fun way to explore the many facets of english.

TLITO is a band that I know very little about. My friend Jacob is the drummer, and they are experimenting with Djent and Jazz in a new way.

Well, I say new, but I promise that someone somewhere has done this kind of combination before. The question arises, however: is it as good?

This album is a beautiful combination of everything that you can do with music. It is complicated, but not unattainable. It is silly, but not cringe worthy. Parts are the ’80s power metal progression without the cheese.

Okay, what do I mean by “silly but not cringe worthy” you may be asking? There is a song that the lyrics are using He-Man and The Masters of The Universe as the bases. I pointed out how silly that was to Jacob, and he replied with an explanation of how the video will have 4 unicorn costumes.

AM ALOUD TO EXCLAIM HOW AWESOME THAT IS?

I think my favourite part of the instumentation is that the drums feel “floaty” but never off. It’s a weird thing to point out, but I feel it is important to point out.

What do I mean by Floaty? Everything is on beat, don’t worry about that. Where you would find very exact drums in such elaborate compositions, the drums sit at the back of the “pocket.” Thus, they are not (even remotely) off, but they give this very relaxed feel. Thus, my descriptor as floaty.

I will try not to gush too much. This is quite the expression of musical exploration. I am so happy that this exists.

Bandcamp || Spotify

Classic Music Review :: Vex Red — Start With a Strong Persistent Desire

The biggest plus of working at the music store I did was finding albums that were never anything, but that really should have been. Whether it was because of poor marketing, a small label folding, the band breaking up, or all of the above.

Vex Red is a band that I found purely by accident. I always looked into the bands that we no longer carried to find something that tickles my fancy, and this one day; I hit the motherload.

They remind me of a mix between Stabbing Westward and Flaw (another band that I have to highlight one day). They would have joined right in with the early ’90s pseudo-goth scene. In fact, saying that they would have worked on the Blade soundtrack would not be too far fetched a statement.

They combine electronica with metal beautifully. Pre-programed drums mixed with synthesizers and a love for the low end. This is complimented by the singer, whose voice sounds strained on purpose to convey the bleakest of emotions.

Lyrical content is a bit more mature, even if they rarely swear on this album (with exception with the track “Can’t Smile” where it feels mandatory for the narrative.). It is the kind of pointing fingers and blaming everyone else for your misfortune, but it never sounds pathetic or unnecessarily angsty. Instead, it comes off as a plea from someone who has been tortured for a majority of their formative years.

SPEAKING OF THE SONG CAN’T SMILE!
I did not know until I got to this point of the review that there was a music video produced for the song. It is NOT GREAT. Unfortunately, that song is one of the better examples of the album. So ignore the poor censorship and awkward vacant gaze. and just enjoy the everything else.