Archive for the ‘music’ Category

The Lost Art of Creating a Mix Tape

Posted by matt on August 12, 2009

mixtape3.jpgIn the land of multi-terrabyte hard drives, iPods, MP3’s and ‘infinite playlists’, the art of actually using some restrain and editing to create a cohesive, interesting representation of your musical self is an art form long lost.

On my continual quest for quality and fresh music, about twice a year I create an 80-minute mix CD of my ‘favorites’ that I’m rocking at the moment.

While I haven’t made a ‘mix tape’ since college (yes, that is an actual one of mine above), I still have a CD player in my car which is where 90% of the mix is consumed.  Some rules I follow when creating my mix:

  1. A majority of the music must be < 1 year old – While I might create a ‘best of grunge’ mix or something like that, for the most part, I want to hear new music.  The life of the CD is usually around 3-6 months until I am ready to make a new one.
  2. Genre variety – I want to hit 2-3 genres at least, but no hard and fast rules.  Just not 80 minutes of metal–the mix needs some contrast (not so true of “Ultra Mosh II” above…)
  3. No more than 3 songs from the same artist/album – If you really like an album, it forces you to pick your favorite 3.  Also, mix them up throughout the mix
  4. Fill the 80 minutes as best you can – For my mix below, it clocks in at 79:59.11.  Yes, less than 1 second to spare! (with 0 second breaks between tracks as well)
  5. Try to make the tracks ‘flow’ – This can be tough… I don’t spend hours doing this, but you typically want some contrast without abruptness
  6. Don’t repeat a song from one mix CD to the next – Yeah, that song may be your favorite, but if that’s true, try and find a re-mix.  I did that below w/ the 2 Bloc Party tracks.

While you could, of course, do this exercise with an MP3 playlist, often you wouldn’t use any harsh editing because you usually don’t have constraints (after all, an 80 min. mix encoded at 256K is only about 160MB, which most every MP3 player has at least 10-100 times that much room…)

So without further ado, here is my Summer 2009 Mix.  The first thing you might notice when reading the below is that YOU HAVEN’T HEARD OF ANY OF THESE SONGS OR BANDS.  Well, the mix is mine, so that’s your problem…  I typically try to put some indie, punk, alternative, electronica, so while you may not know them, the songs work for me (and they are good, trust me).  Own your mix, it is something that is probably truly unique to you.

Matt’s 80-minute 2009 Summer Mix: (with links to either the video or a streamable version of the song)

  1. Bloc Party – Ares (Villains Remix)
  2. Julian Plenti  – Games For Days (Paul Banks of Interpol, solo album)
  3. Röyksopp ft Robyn – The Girl & The Robot
  4. Future Of The Left – Stand By Your Manatee
  5. Flight of the Conchords – Sugalumps
  6. Does It Offend You, Yeah? – With a Heavy Heart(I Regret to Inform You)
  7. Silversun Pickups – Growing Old is Getting Old
  8. Late of The Pier – Space and The Woods
  9. The Bird and the Bee – Diamond Dave
  10. Flight of the Conchords – You don’t have to be a Prostitute
  11. The Mars Volta – Cotopaxi
  12. Sunspot – Grand Guignol
  13. Bloc Party – One Month Off (Filthy Dukes Remix)
  14. The Bird and the Bee – My Love
  15. Future of the Left – Arming Eritrea
  16. Does it Offend you, Yeah? – Attack of the 60ft Lesbian Octopus
  17. Silversun Pickups – Panic Switch
  18. Flight of the Conchords – Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor
  19. The Bird and the Bee – Polite Dance Song (this video is soooo David Lynch)
  20. Sunspot – Sweet Relief
  21. Silversun Pickups – Catch and Release

That clocks 79:59.11.  Do you still make mixes?  Favorite ones you’ve made?  Comments, baby.

Posted under how to, music, reviews

10 years of Sunspot Pictures (the band, not the sun)

Posted by matt on June 11, 2009

SunspotIt’s hard to believe, but I’ve been friends with Madison, WI rock band Sunspot for over 10 years!  Since tomorrow they are releasing their 5th full-length album, Singularity, I thought I would post some of my favorite pictures I’ve taken of Mike, Ben and Wendy over the last decade.  Out of over 8000 (!) that I’ve taken, here are 130 ordered chronologically that are my favorites.  Check it.

Almost as crazy as attending one of their live shows is the number of digital cameras I’ve owned over this same time frame…it’s pretty nuts:

  • 1999-2001 Largan Lmini 350 – 0.6 MegaPixel – this thing was terrible in most every way, but it was digital, which is what a digital guy needs.  Yeah, 0.6MP.
  • 2001-2003 Sony FD-90 – 1.6MP – Great optics, but sloooow camera.  Made you slow down, but almost too much.  I still have some pictures I really like from this camera.  If it only had 10x the sensor quality.
  • 2003-2005 Olympus 5050z – 5.0MP – My first prosumer camera, this taught me the photo basics, mainly aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
  • 2005-2006 Canon Digital Rebel –  6.3MP – The first in a crazy-upgrade cycle of Rebels.
  • 2006-2007 Canon Digital Rebel XT – 8.0MP – I started selling stock photos and the upgrades in both lenses and cameras now were ‘funded’.  It’s nice when your hobbies pay for themselves.
  • 2007-2008 Canon Digital Rebel XTi – 10.1MP – Sensor cleaning = good!  A great camera, I only really upgraded because in stock photography it helps to have higher MegaPixel for increased size for increased $$.
  • 2008-2009 Canon Digital Rebel XSi – 12.2MP – While still a very capable camera, I’ve vowed this is the last Rebel I’d buy… the 50D (or 60D) or 5D MarkII product line is next for me, but I’ve been investing in lenses lately.
  • I had a Casio Exilm EX-Z57 which I used only for a couple of shots at shows (since I had the Rebel then).  What’s most interesting about this camera, is it is what Wendy uses for her “Drummercam” photos!

Finally, I also have a video of Sunspot from their March 2009 show at the Frequency. They are playing their song “Neanderthal” and they segue into some Megadeth.

It’s shot with my Canon Vixia HF100 HD video camera.  It’s flash based, small with a great quality picture, even in low light.

Be sure to check out Sunspot live if you get a chance–they don’t disappoint!  Pick up their new album too!

Posted under music, photos, reviews, shows

Album Review: Silversun Pickups, Swoon

Posted by matt on April 8, 2009

Silversun Pickups - SwoonArtist: Silversun Pickups
Album: Swoon
Wikipedia Genre(s): Indie rock, Dream pop, Shoegaze
Matt’s Fav Tracks: Panic Switch, Growing Old is Getting Old, Sort Of
# times listened: Moderate (10 – 25 times)
Matt’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Album: Amazon
MP3’s: Amazon non-DRM

I was introduced to Silversun Pickups a few years ago listening to XM radio, of all places and really dug their album “Carnavas“.  With the 2 obvious hits on that album, it was a little more inconsistent than I would have hoped, and I ended up putting the 2 tracks on playlists rather than listen to the entire album.

Enter Swoon.

I’m going out on a limb saying that Swoon will be one of the best alternative albums of 2009.  You listen to it and you instantly know it’s Silversun Pickups, but it still has a great newness to it.  The songs are more solid, yet explore the familiar, dreamy territory that is all their own (with a sound that Smashing Pumpkins wish they could have morphed into).

800px-silversun_pickups_01.jpgI was afraid that after the success of Carnavas that SP would mellow out, but am quite glad they didn’t go that route.  While some quieter moments exist on the album, other parts sound good REALLY LOUD.  They rock out with the best of them, and even with ‘indie’ as one of their genre labels, they don’t wuss out like too many other indie bands do on their sophomore album.

Lead singer singer Brian Aubert still has that off-beat, androgynous voice that works well with their sound.  Many of the melodies and guitar solos are quite simple, but unbelievably catchy (like the main riff and baseline in “Panic Switch”).  They’ll be running through your head all day after just a few listens.  SP is really good at the distortion-noise stuff too, if you are into that.

Check out the video for “Panic Switch”:

If you are bored with much of the music out today (who isn’t) grab this album (it comes out April 14th, 2009) for a fresh look at a genre nearing it’s 20th birthday.  It’s close to 5 stars for me, but giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars until it grows on me a little more.

Posted under music, reviews

Top 10 Rock Albums of 2008

Posted by matt on December 31, 2008

I’ve been blog-slacking for awhile, so thought I’d put out my picks for top 10 rock albums from 2008.  While primarily indie bands, there are a few big-boys on here as well.  I reviewed some of these earlier, but many are ones I’ve only had for a short while.  My picks for 2008 (in alphabetical order):bloc_party.jpg

  1. Bloc Party –  Intimacy – A varied album, it reminds me of Chuck Mosely era Faith No More with a post-9/11 twist (whatever that means).  I listened to this album a lot in NYC, so that might have something to do with it.  It could be the soundtrack for your life, depending on how your day is going.
  2. Flight of the Conchords – Self Titled – The TV show is great, and the songs are solid.  Combine the two and listening to these songs always put a smile on my face.  Season 2 starts in a few weeks!
  3. F**ed Up – The Chemistry of Common Life – Back in college, I went to many punk shows featuring bands that wished they sounded like this.  You know what I mean?  The sweaty club with the worst sounding PA, college kids moshing, skinheads doing that scary half-pogo, half I-want-to-kill-you dance.  Then the show is over, you buy the CD and it’s terrible, but reminds you of the night.   What if that CD wasn’t terrible? Put good production and catchy songs with the crazy, screaming, sweaty-fat-guy atmosphere and you are Fucked Up.
  4. Guns and Roses – Chinese Democracy – Really, this is on the list? Before you run off, there is enough here worth a few listens.  Pretend you never heard of them and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
  5. The Mars Volta – The Bedlam in Goliath – It’s weird and features songs written while under the influence of Ouija boards.  You either like this type of music or hate it.  I like it.
  6. Metallica – Death Magnetic – Another comeback album, this reestablished Metallica with at least the ability to play for 9 minutes straight.  They do it so well, too.
  7. Portishead – Third – listening to this album a lot = looming depression.   Such is Portishead, but Third (their 3rd studio album, clever!) takes the creepy movie soundtrack stuff to another level.  Turn off all the lights and listen to this if you dare!
  8. Protest the Hero – Fortress – Kapow! I’m noticing the bands on this list are either weird or punch you in the face.  This does the later, much like a hawkey slap-shot, or a case of Molson Ice.  These Canadians know their metal, eh?!
  9. Toadies – No Deliverance – Toadies sound mad on this album–much like they’ve blown all their royalties from Possum Kingdom!  They are on track though, with songs like “So Long Lovey Eyes” that if you listen while driving, will make you drive quite fast.
  10. TV on the Radio – Dear Science – Friends have been recommending TV on the Radio for a couple of years now, but I had trouble getting into them, until Dear Science came along.  It’s now accessible enough for me (or my tastes have changed) that this album is a must from 2008.  Some of the most interesting chord progressions and beats in modern rock.

There you have it, my top 10 rock albums from 2008.  Ones I missed?  Ones that shouldn’t be on here?  Someone will probably throttle me for putting GNR on here with no Narrow Stairs – Death Cab for Cutie, but hey, that’s what comments are for.  :)

Posted under music, reviews, top 10 lists

Mini-Album Review: Guns N’ Roses, Chinese Democracy

Posted by matt on November 24, 2008

chinese-democracy.jpgArtist: Guns N’ Roses
Album: Chinese Democracy
Wikipedia Genre(s): Hard rock
Matt’s Fav Tracks: Chinese Democracy, Shackler’s Revenge
# times listened: Not many (< 10 times)
Matt’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Buy CD: Amazon

Over 15 years ago, I remember watching the 9-minute video for November Rain with Nemolian.  After the video, they interviewed Axl in the back of a limo while he was trying to remember if the video cost $1.6 or $2 million…

Fast-forward to today and not much has happened with Guns, but a lot has happened to the music industry.  Entire music genres launched and already fizzled (i.e. Ska, nu-metal), music is delivered completely differently, and this type of music is not supposed to be popular anymore unless you are seeing it performed by <insert washed-up hair-band> at your local county fair.  During this time, Axl Rose was busy kicking people in and out of his band while working on the banned in China, Chinese Democracy.

Being 15 years in the making, there is no way this album (or any album) could possibly live up to hype and pressure similar to the last Indiana Jones movie or Duke Nuke ’em Forever, but this album really surprised me.

The title track opens with a growley scream that you’d expect if Axl had been cooped up spending tons of time and over $15 million in cash (about a million a year I guess).  Though Slash is not present, the guitar parts are brilliant (I’m assuming they are mostly the Buckethead ones) and the heavily layered tracks have a nice groove.  The songs do vary quite a bit and the tone has an epic feel–almost like Zepplin, mixed with Floyd, mixed with Steve Vai’s solo stuff.  There are a few clunkers on here, but at over 70 minutes, you get your money’s worth.  I currently dig the title track most of all so far, but some of the later tracks are growing on me.dr-pepper-logo-2.jpg

If you hurry, the free Dr. Pepper to everyone is still available to everyone in the United States, (EXCEPT Slash) until 6PM EST on 11/24/08!  I tried to get mine, but the website is still getting killed.  Check the story if you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

Posted under music, reviews