Monthly Archives: December 2010

My Favorite Music of 2010 List

This year I ended up listening to a lot of older music. I mean really old, as in blues renaissance music, acappella gospel spirituals, and The Strokes back catalogue. In between the classics though, some new releases found their way to my playlist. The following are my personal favorite albums of the past year, and yes I did listen to Kanye’s album. Several times through. Thought it was brilliant, decided I never need to hear it again, didn’t make the list.

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Unpublished and Opinionated Vol. 2

Once again I was commissioned to write a review for The Chimes, and once again, it didn’t get published. So I’m throwing it up here for anyone who wishes to read, this time for Hellogoodbye’s newest CD Would It Kill You? which likely will be a better album than you think.

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Local outfit Hellogoodbye of Huntington Beach launched their career with humble origins, making music for just their friends alone until they found themselves a sudden myspace sensation. Their Drive-Thru Records debut Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! was released in 2006 and lead single “Oh It Is Love” spread across the airwaves like a powerpop plague. They could have been able to crank out a few quick albums with equally catchy melodies and ridiculous lyrics and watch the money roll in, but instead Forrest Kline and company decided to take their fame seriously and write songs worth being heard. Thus, they ditched the lucrative commercial route handed to them and instead worked for five years on Would It Kill You? which is easily the best effort they’ve ever released.

The album features the same upbeat energetic sound that characterized their earlier work, and Kline with his boyish voice still sings about mostly girls, but fans will notice an obvious maturity. The vocals are vastly improved, and from the opener “Finding Something To Do,” we see that Kline’s range, personality, and willingness to take risks have shot through the roof. Sidewinding between smooth pitch perfect clean vocals to Strokes-esque screaming that frays under the lo-fi recording style, each song drives home the point that Kline is now a completely different vocalist, reborn to multi-layered improvements. The lyrics are no longer impersonal, simple minded and overly comical, but they now reflect some serious thought Kline has taken toward relationships and life in general, possibly on account of getting married since Zombies!. The lead single “When We First Met” is a reflection on his history with the girl who would become his wife, and while still retaining a fun hand-clapping bounce, it treats her as a three dimensional person instead of some faceless character existing only to provide a subject. Kline has found increasingly creative ways of expressing himself which are not just odd, but now well penned, “I tried to shake it/But it shook me down completely/ There’s no telling right now/ But I tried spelling it out.” Musically, the songs are no less infectious, but fans will notice that the band enlisted horns, a full orchestral sound and layered vocals to their sunny brand of pop. This may sound overwhelming, especially considering that Hellogoodbye previously had a tendency to produce tunes sounding like either too little or too much is going on, but somehow this record subtly channels it all so that the focus is always on the song’s honest core.

The classic instruments are also vastly improved, from the playful bass lines in “You Sleep Alone” to the peppy atmospheric guitars in “When We First Kissed” that make it sound like a track M. Ward recorded on brighter days. Their new production certainly has taken more of a vintage flavor in stark contrast to the chrome-slick glitz that characterized their Drive-Thru major label debut. The sound suits them well, and does wonders to songs similar to their earliest style of simple voice and ukulele ballads such as “The Thought Gives Me The Creeps.” Accompanied by sweeping orchestral strings that again somehow get by slightly unnoticed, the songs have become much more than demos thrown on myspace. The band matches their fun-loving personalities with creative ideas like falsetto vocals on “I Never Can Relax” serving as the main instrument, and the dancing strings driving “Coppertone,” which, melodically, is perhaps one of the band’s most memorable songs. The title track manages to be honest, upbeat, yearning and visceral all at once, “Would it kill you just to let it all work out?/ Trying so hard just to break it down…” and “Something You Misplaced” is ten times the album closer that “Two Weeks In Hawaii” was. If there is one thing we can hear from this release, it’s that Kline and the guys have decided to work hard.

The timing of this record was a bit odd for the band seeing as it’s definitely a summer record, and hopefully the old fans who found them in middle school have matured in music taste enough to catch up to this album. Once in a while we all need to blast some fast, happy, saccharine music on the freeway and instead of some billboard top 100 guilty pleasure we now have a rebooted Hellogoodbye to fill that criterion. They’ve released not only by far the best record of their career, but also perhaps one of the best pop albums of 2010.

Violin starlight

Bathe in the ether of winter.
Edge choral strings to time so it may sit awhile
pursed in places, overstretched in spots
laces flopped, metal at ends clinking upon stones
pinched, splayed on tile, irregular gasps
from so much running.
No leaves fall to measure the days gone
A white dream flies:
Soft mimicry of breaking glass.
I imagine them as childhood wishes being revised.
I imagine them as the frayings of the rope of
old affection.

Bread and bells from little women
Rhymed verse on yellowed pages slip
past memory, though a cadence lingers
like the vision of two black swans
lost in the candle brook,
blowing flecks of oily light
as they depart from the tiger lilies.
The blue air exposes our tiny breaths.
Exhalations of the man
and the man himself:
One Jewish couplet. Mystic equation.
The visage proves in the mind
what quiet, Rembrandt brushed souls already know.
My world is real
I imagine it as the silhouette of orphans walking dogs in the street.
I imagine it as my blood brother, sleeping on clouds of his own faith.
Hometown wishes
Are like wishes at the end of the world.

They have described snow, and talked of it and themselves
like bedtime stories,
and I have not seen it fall
but their eyes make me believe.

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Book Fund from and for the Common People, Against the Tyranny and Reality of Dislocation

Hello internet personas.

I have recently lost a book I just bought called “Walking on Water” by Madeleine L’Engle, and I’m supposed to read it with a friend soon, meaning regularly starting several weeks ago. You know the story: looked everywhere* for it, couldn’t find it. Because of the timely nature of this, and the broke financial nature of myself, I am officially accepting donations (.25 cents minimum) to help me buy it again. Because this is America, I will list the entitled rewards for doing something selfless.

 

Rewards:

Package A. Any donation will get you a tag in my next status.

Package 2. If you donate 5 or more dollars, I will write you a poem or draw you a picture.

Package 3. Fund the entire book, and I will do all of the above, and put as my profile picture any image you send me with restrictions that I will instigate if that bridge is determined to be necessary of crossing, or write something awesome about anything you want (except for that I can’t lie) on this website, and you will be named executive producer somewhere public.

 

Please don’t talk about kickstarter here, there is nothing new under the sun anyway(s).

 

Donation runs until December 12. Goal is the price of the book, which is 15 dollars.

 

 

 

 

*a lot of places that would make sense to look. Not including Antarctica, or Ryan Gosling’s guitar case, etc.

 

Deleted Scenes about the meaning of life

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of lectures, debates, and other clips having to deal with truth, art, theology, and just general education. iTunes U might become a large part of my life now that I’ve discovered through my housemate that a lot of colleges (namely Yale) offer course selection streams of virtually all their classes and lectures and you can basically pick and choose interesting topics of top schools to hear for free. Learning as a whole is costly, but not all of it has to be.

This is from a video Richard Dawkins was making and this fantastic interview “didn’t make the cut.” It’s raw, completely uncut footage of the interaction featuring Alister McGrath, a former staunch atheist who studied mathematics, chemistry, molecular biophysics, and taught at schools like Oxford, Cambridge, Regent College, and King’s College London. He’s now an Evangelical Christian Theologian and apologist and has written well over 30 books and seems to show no signs of slowing down, with three having been released in this year alone. This interview is a great conversation between two brilliant minds who don’t dance around the issues.

Neon Vernacular

Hey don’t look at me, you just said take the two most intense words I could think of and put them together to make it sound cool.