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.

Sing Along

Do you ever find lyrics that you just want to share with someone?

I have been listening to New Design and Kennedy on loop. They both create the same affliction to me: I want to sing with someone. I know very few people who have heard of these bands, let alone know them well enough to belt along with someone.

When I say “sing along”, I am only half meaning that on a literal level. I just want to be able to type the lyrics in a window and have someone respond with the next line. I want someone to appreciate the deft use of language as much as I do.

I was having a fantastic conversation with my friend Corey, and we both came to the conclusion that we’re the same with lyrics usually. They play little rolls in our appreciation for music, which can be detrimental when we enjoy something degrading or offensive. I, myself, only realized recently how important the lyrics of the band I was in during high school were. So, Kev: you deserve more credit for being a poetic genius.

I understand the cognitive dissonance in me saying how I do not comprehend lyrics right after talking about how two albums have some of the best lyrics ever. If anything, it should illustrate how impressive the words are. They permeated the barrier that I didn’t mean to install. All said: I think only 10% of my music I actually get what they are trying to say. I hear the words, I just cannot always connect what is being said with actual messages.

Thus, the me realizing how misogyny some of the words that bands I am affiliated with have been.

For that, I am very sorry. Especially if you gave me a heads-up at the time and I blew you off.

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!

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.

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

Music Review :: FbcFabric & Reindeer — It’s not who you know, it’s WHOM you know

Yes, I am doing a music review anyway. Why? Because I’m listening to this album for the first time in a while and I cannot fathom NOT knowing this album. Plus, I am remembering just how important some of the lyrics are in regards to capitalism and consumerism.

This is my perfect hip-hop album. The tracks are all minimalist beat tracks. It adds to the lasefare tone of the vocalist in ways that I cannot articulate. His lyrics are cutting, sharp, and almost vindictive. There is no swearing, which adds weight behind his message.

I saw Reindeer by accident in Guelph with my friend Joel. We went to a hip hop show, to which I have only been to one. Independent hip hop is actually more intimate than any independent metal or punk show that I have been to. There was an admittedly small crowd of only 25 or so people, and the stage was just an idea mic’d up at one end of a bar (cafe?).

The performers were all over the map. There was one gentleman who was clearly just apart of the scene because of the poetry of the lyrics, there was a duo who loved the idea of mainstream hip hop, then there was Reindeer. He stumbled his way on stage, in a way that I cannot discern if it was showmanship or if he was strung out on something or REALLY drunk.

Regardless of what he was, the show he put on was magical. He didn’t miss a beat. I couldn’t imagine being the only one on stage. Even if the crowd was small, to recall lyrics with meaning, even if the meaning is explicitly personal, is unfathomable to me.

It was more than a show, and more than a concert. It was a performance.

I remember not having money for any merchandise, so I borrowed Joel’s CD for probably way too long. Think Massive Attack mixed with Gorillaz, and that an okay comparison. I have not found something so original or pure my entire life.

Classic Album Review :: Kill The Lights — Buffalo [of] Love

I have wanted to share this album with as many people as I could, and FINALLY someone put it on YouTube, so now I get my chance!

I saw this band back around the release of this album. They were awkward and it was amazing! Not only is the drummer one of the fastest drummers I have ever seen, the nuance and intricacies of the music blew me away. As I mentioned, I saw this band back when this album had been out for not a year, but they made playing these songs seem effortless! I was floored.

Okay, I need to make my amazement seem a bit more warranted. I had never heard of this band before. Like most independent bands in Canada, they were over shadowed by the bands that got huge around that time, whether it was deserved or not. Since this band was from Montreal, the French part of Canada, they got little to no attention from even the circles they belonged to. This is a fact that KILLS ME, but it hurts me even more because I understand it.

What this band did that few other did was combine disco, indi-pop-rock, and jazz. It sounds like an unpleasant mess, but a few notes in, one awakes to the fact that it works in the most inappropriate way.

Did I mention the part about the drummer and how I rate his one of the fastest I have ever seen? If I had not have seen them live, I would swear the drums on the album were sped up or manipulated. To add insult to injury, he is the least impressive looking man. Not that musicians have a look, but you would pass him on the street minutes after seeing them play. I only bring that up because it was actually STRANGE to see someone who looks so… well… plain!

I digress, love this band. I mean, LISTEN. Well, and love. There is something endearing about them that makes you fall in love with the almost-off-key squeals and almost-not harmonies.

Little side note: there seems to be some conflicting reports on if the album is Buffalo of Love or just Buffalo Love. That’s why I put the square brackets in the title.

Album Review :: Samaris — Samaris

I know that I have talked about this album before. It has been a while, though: so I will take this opportunity to talk about it some more!

I think even if I was to limit myself by genre, I would find a way to shoe-horn this release into that list somehow!

Think hip-hop with a live clarinet. Confused? GOOD!

This album was a literal random buy on my trip to Iceland that I enjoyed with my brother. We missed seeing them by a matter of days, which bothered me when I finally got to listen to this album in all its splendor.

This album is both incredibly beautiful, and incredibly haunting. Very synth and vocal based, which makes the clarinet stand out even more. The voices (though in Icelandic) lull the listener into a trance. The harmonies are perfect. This album is perfect. If you haven’t listened to it in its entirety yet, DO IT!