2013 – Nick Maynard – Electronic Music

At the end of a long work day, I began my first listen through of an album sent to me. This, sirs, is not an April Fool’s joke. It starts out with a track titled WHAT KIND OF DAY HAS IT BEEN. Well, thanks for asking. And thanks for greeting me at the door like this, because I feel quite rejuvenated. The album is Electronic Music by Nick Maynard.

Sure, most of you are asking who? But I’ve mentioned him before, at least another band he is in. Continue reading “2013 – Nick Maynard – Electronic Music”

2001 – Undergrads

During my freshman year of college, I stumbled on to a show that was about life… in college. Undergrads only lasted for a season, after originally airing on MTV. It was MTV’s era of trying several new animated shows, but because nobody ever knew what time something was going to be aired on MTV, every single show flopped after just a season. But many of them, like this one, gained cult followings.

Undergrads‘ protagonist is Nitz – we’re never given his real name… even Nitz forgets what his real time is from time to time, never spitting it out. Nitz is the prototypical un-cool kid. He has his clique of friends, likes things the way they are, doesn’t really want to go out and do the things that college kids do. He’s content.

The rest of the ensemble includes Cal, the lady-killer, Rocko, the jock, and Gimpy, the geek. Nitz meets a few new friends at college, and repeatedly bumps in to his high-school crush, Kimmy. As we take the Undergrads crew through their freshman year of college, you can see it laying out plans for at least a 4-year series as the youngsters grow up, learning about life in college, before life on their own.

The show actually does a decent job of portraying life on campus – you can see Nitz struggle with finding a club or organization he wants to belong to, the trouble with the dreaded “freshman 15” weight gain, student loan problems, deciding whether or not to drink alcohol, and the infamous “walk of shame.” And with a great cast of characters, you get to see nearly every side of every argument and make up your mind what works best for you!

Overall, Undergrads isn’t the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, but it has so many great moments I still love to go back and watch an episode every now and then. If you find every ounce of the show completely unrelatable, then you are probably too cool to be watching cartoons at your age!

2012 – Flatfoot 56 – Toil

So yesterday was St. Paddy’s day. The jukebox at your local bar cant hold another dollar, you’ve played every Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys song at least three times each. You’ve gone far enough to play a bunch of House of Pain songs. Enter Flatfoot 56.

Flatfoot 56 exists in a similar genre as our favorite Irish rockers. A hint of punk, and a dash of bagpipes makes for an enjoyable sound. They are also a Christian Rock band – which, I know, will imemediately turn some people off. But when 90% of people say “I don’t listen to the lyrics,” I don’t know why they suddenly do when it’s Christian music?? The complaint never made sense to me.

Anyway, the good news is the Flatfoot 56 isn’t one of those bands who wanted to jump on the bandwagon. The band formed in 2003. The first note of the first track of their first album begins with bagpipes. They knew what they wanted to be and went straight for it. The downside? After listening to Rumble Of 56, The Sounds of the Midway EP, and Toil, I haven’t found tracks that jumped out at me. The music is good… but none of it is great. Nothing made me go back and listen to that one song again, right away. With a lot of albums, I like to listen all the way through before hearing any song a second time. And that’s okay – but when a song really grabs your attention so much that you immediately want to hear it again? That’s a good sign. Nothing from Flatfoot 56 really had that.

So today’s recommendation comes with, honestly, a little bit of a “it might not wow you” warning, but that’s okay. The point is it’s something different, and still enjoyable. Give Flatfoot 56 a listen! You can start with their latest release, Toil.

2003 – Trigun (boxed series)

I don’t remember when I first saw Trigun, but I remember it was one of the most serious episodes in the series. Vash The Stampede is the main character, who tries to be hero, but is often followed be enough trouble that he is referred to as the Human Typhoon. Johnny Yong Bosch does the English dubbed voice, but he is the person who drew me in. The episode I saw drew deeper emotion out of him than I was used to seeing in most animated series. I was already well versed in anime, and even emotional heavyweights lime Akira and My Neighbor Totoro, but Boch’s voice made me care for this character. After catching several episodes the way most Americans had back then, on Cartoon Network, I went ahead and bought a boxed set of DVDs on eBay so I could finally watch the story unfold.

It has been a few years since I sat down and watched the whole series, but the DVDs sit on my shelf, constantly beckoning me back. Eventually I will, but it’s almost the kind of thing you need to be in the right mindset for, because although there is ample action and comedy, the series can be draining at times, as you get wrapped up in the mystery of this sci-fi western. Go ahead and pick up the Trigun – The Complete Boxed Set.

1998 – The Dingees – Armageddon Massive

The Dingees are a band that I find not many people know, because they were relegated to “Christian Music” for a very long time. Evidently all that means is that they didn’t swear in their music, because apart from one reference to David and Goliath, most of the alum is your boilerplate punk and ska album.

I think that is what I like most about Armageddon Massive. It doesn’t pretend to be much more than a first album from a band who was influenced by everything that was popular at the time. As soon as you play the CD, you are greeted by a punk music riff, and vocals clearly inspired by Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day).

The album the winds down a path of ska and reggae, taking a brief stop to hint at jazz and swing styles. What’s great is that the hooks may be simple, but they are so widely varied that you have to argue that the band has a range of talents. I haven’t heard it in years, and when I found my CD in my parents’ attic, it had been scratched to unfixable ends. So I recently bought another copy and have been enjoying it lately. I have never heard any albums from The Dingees other than Armageddon Massive, but I also bought their others. Maybe I’ll have an update for you all once I listen to more, but from what I hear, this album was not their most popular – it just happens to be one I remember from years back!

2008 – Wristcutters – A Love Story

A few years ago, longer now than I had even realized, I saw a small indie film. Then one day, at a friend’s house, we were flipping through the guide on his cable box, looking for something to watch ‘on demand’ – and there it was: Wristcutters – A Love Story.

I told him to press play. By the end, I remembered why I loved that movie, and my friend had a new favorite that he was going to add to his collection as well. Wristcutters is a movie about the afterlife. An afterlife where you can’t smile, even if you want to, where everything is a constant dull, blue tint. A purgatory, of sorts, where you still have to find a job, pay rent, and if you think that you’re in the wrong place, you need to bring it up with the People In Charge. Unfortunately for all involved, the “PIC” is an endless bureaucracy. So you deal with life, as it is. Eternally. At least, you’re supposed to.

The protagonist of the movie hears a rumor that somebody he knew when he was alive may be a new arrival. On his journey, he meets someone who wants to take their case to the “People In Charge” and find a way out. A cast of interesting characters, events, and a beautifully entertaining story all unfold through a story told in a unique setting and perspective. Interesting discussions of what the afterlife might be like often evolve after viewing this movie in the right company. Enjoy Wristcutters – A Love Story.

1999 – Run Lola Run

Run Lola Run is a cult classic. I was introduced to it in a film-study class I took in college. I wanted to know why I hadn’t heard of it sooner. It’s genre is simply defined as action, while some consider it Sci-Fi. Imagine a movie that’s almost as minute-by-minute action packed as something like The Transporter, but exploits a Groundhog Day like universe in an Inception-like way. I know, you’re interested. The soundtrack is going to keep your pulse up throughout the whole film, it’s going to keep you so alert of every little detail, it’s going to make you question why that thing looks different than it did just a few minutes ago, it’s going to provide clarity in a time where you’re so confused and you want to give up. The music marries on the on screen images and completes this wonderful package.

Filmed in Berlin, Germany in 1998, this film doesn’t look like your typical high budget American action flick. But what they may have lacked in budget, they absolutely made up for with creative story-telling. A girl just wants the right outcome, but every action or inaction has its consequence in this thrilling journey through time. This is genuinely one of my most favorite movies, and I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’m literally staying vague. Just rust me. You need to see it. Now, go get Run Lola Run!

Indie Music You Haven't Heard, yet: Younger Me, Slim & Red

Today: Indie Music. I’ve met some talented people in my lifetime, and today I wanted to share a few more of them with you. First out, I met two of the three members of this band back in 2008, long before the band ever formed the trio known as Younger Me, from Red Lion, Pennsylvania. Great vocals and keyboard playing that gets in your ear and doesn’t want to leave. If you admitted to yourself that you actually enjoyed Vampire Weekend, then listen to the track Sleepwalk Home on their Bandcamp site and try to resist the urge to tap your foot. I dare you.

Next up, a local duo from my hometown, going by the name Slim and Red. Mike and Laura might cover songs here and there, but their originals bring out their fans. I can honestly remember being in high school chorus class with Laura, and I feel like my home town is lucky to have someone of her talent still spending time there. Her vocals can haunt you with their force, and the honesty in their lyrics is so very refreshing. If you don’t believe me, you can listen to their samples, and I would suggest listening to This Skin and seeing if her voice doesn’t get stuck in your head.

1976-2006 – Rocky movie saga

I pounced on an Amazon Goldbox deal… about 3 years ago… and never watched the box set I bought. So, recently, I sat down and watched a crapload of Rocky movies! You can, too, with Rocky: The Undisputed Collection.

Sure, everybody knows Rocky. The Stallone movies about a boxer. They introduced the world to Mr. T, they got Hulk Hogan do a role as Thunder Lips, and, in my opinion, put an end to the Cold War.

Ready for some spoilers? Did you know that Rocky doesn’t win every fight he’s in? Did you know Adrian, his wife, died? Did you know Rocky owned a restaurant? Did you know there was a time when his trainer, Mick, didn’t have a hearing aid? Each movie has a great story – even the newest, Rocky Balboa. The final chapter in the Rocky saga, Rocky (and Sly Stallone) shows he’s still got something left, even though it ends similarly to the first movie. Become a Rocky trivia master. If you’re looking to collect them in hi def, Rocky: The Undisputed Collection is your best bet.

2009 – Fake Problems – It's Great to be Alive

When an album opens with the phrase: “you are the one, two, three, four / you are the single notes, in every chord…” you know you’re about to go on a ride that is musically meta. Fake Problems, and their 2009 album It’s Great To Be Alive are going to take you there.

The lead singer’s voice is unique and enjoyable. A little raspy and rough around the edges, but not unapologetic. I can imagine him saying “yeah, I could have a better singing voice, but you’re still listening, aren’t you?” The music the influences of the earlier part of last decade – the driving drum beats set forth by Modest Mouse, Jet, and Franz Ferdinand, with deep, grunge guitars. At times the album goes above and beyond the calls of indie rock, as in the third track, You’re a Serpent, You’re a She-Snake, which ends with near operatic grandiose. The album is at times influenced by everything from polka, to ska, to songs that remind me of Irish folk singing.

The album never gets dull in the middle, each song is different enough from the last that I always enjoy hearing what’s going to unfold next. Although a lot of people may be turned off by the vocalist, I really enjoy It’s Great To Be Alive and think you should at least listen to a couple of tracks before you judge it!