Month: November 2014

The New British Invasion

In the 60’s there was a pretty big deal band that came out of England, but in the 00’s there was another one. Maybe not as big as the first, but they still matter to me. This blog post is about them, not The Beatles.

I first found out about The Kooks in  early summer 2011 when my friend Caylee told me to listen to their song “Naive”. I loved it. It was so catchy. That same year in September they released their album Junk of the Heart. I bought it shortly after the release. I also ended up getting their first album Inside In/Inside Out which was released in 2006 a few months later.

The band is made up of members, Luke Pritchard, Hugh Harris, Alexis Nunez, and Peter Denton, although Nunez and Denton were not part of the original lineup. Paul Garred and Max Rafferty were with the band from their early days until 2012 and 2008, respectively. The Kooks are a British rock band whose sound almost reminds me of something you’d hear out of a 1960’s British Invasion band. At the same time, they fit into that modern indie sound that’s comparable to The Arctic Monkeys.

I haven’t heard much about them since then. No tours. No new albums. Maybe there was something and I just wasn’t paying attention, but about 2 months ago I heard a brand new single called “Down”. I didn’t fall in love immediately, but it was a song that I found good enough to download. Then, about a week and a half ago I was looking at iTunes for some new music (first time I ever did that I may add) in their recent alternative popular download search list type thing (I don’t know how to describe it). To be honest I’m not sure what I did to get where I did to find the new music, and I don’t feel like looking up the exact steps in the iTunes store. Anyway, I found a recent Kooks song called “Bad Habit”. It was super catchy. I downloaded it and after finally getting it on to my iPod yesterday, I can’t stop listening to it. It’s on repeat. As I just found out the song is on their new album Listen which was released in September (where have I been?!) along with the song “Down”. I’m currently hooked on it. I plan on getting this new album sometime in the near future as well. If that song is any indication of what the album is like then I’m sure it’s a worthy buy. Of course I could be wrong. There have been albums that weren’t that good aside from one or two songs. If I know the Kooks though, I’m sure they put together a quality record.

So if you’re sitting there reading this, take the time to listen to “Bad Habit”. I put the Youtube video below for your convenience (you’re welcome!) and then check out some other stuff by The Kooks. If you need some help, as always, the song list:

1. “Naive”

2. “Junk of the Heart (Happy)”

3. “Seaside”

4. “She Moves in Her Own Way”

5. “One Last Time”

 

 

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Whiplash

Yesterday, I was able to take advantage of $5 Tuesday’s and see the movie Whiplash starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. I saw the preview for it a month prior and was interested because of the focus on drumming in the film (I played the drums for a while and they were my first instrument). Not only that but I sort of have a connection to Miles Teller. I don’t know him personally nor have I met him, but his father was childhood friends with my uncle. I guess my mom also knew his dad from the times he used to hang around their home growing up. So because of that little connection, my interest in a film goes up when he’s in it.

Whiplash is about a young aspiring musician, Andrew Neyman (Teller), in his first year of school at the Shaffer Conservatory of Music based in Manhattan (according to the film this fictional school is one of the most prestigious music schools in the country) and his relationship with his feared, hard-nosed instructor, Terence Fletcher (Simmons). Fletcher recruits Andrew to join his elite studio jazz band shortly into the movie where he learns of Fletcher’s highly demanding teaching methods. Throughout the film Fletcher shows Andrew just what it takes to be one of the greats using his not-so-kind approach.

As a musician and especially as a drummer, I loved this film. The particular style of music played in it (jazz) isn’t one I’m familiar with as far as playing goes, but I know enough to know that jazz is one of, if not the most difficult style of music to play as a drummer. This film is more than just music. It shows a person’s drive, passion, and desire to become the best at what he loves even when faced with someone who is willing to challenge him in the most difficult ways. The mental and physical struggle to prove Andrew’s desire to be the greatest drummer of all time is exhibited beautifully in the movie. It’s hard to not be inspired by it. It’s also hard to believe that this film will not be considered as part of the Oscar buzz. Just like it’s main character, it’s worthy of high achievement. So if you get a chance to see this, I recommend you do.

 

Nick Jr. and Childhood TV

Last weekend I visited my cousin, Chris, his wife, and young son in Maryland. It was an extremely fun trip. My cousin’s son Hudson is almost 3 years old so he’s full of energy and loves to play. He’s talking pretty well now too so you can hold conversations with him. When I first arrived, my cousin’s wife, Marci, updated me on some new happenings in Hudson’s life, one of which was the brand new Nickelodeon TV show Blaze and the Monster Machines. It’s Hudson’s new favorite show and while I was there I caught an episode, or two, or three (we watched it a few times).

That show got me thinking this past week about all the TV shows I used to watch on Nick Jr. and even some on Playhouse Disney. When you’re really small these channels are the first ones you become exposed to. You get your first favorite TV shows from them. Of course when I was younger we had shows like Barney, Lambchop’s Play Along, Sesame Street, and Reading Rainbow, which were on other channels. It seems like since the 90’s Disney and Nickelodeon have made a market for early childhood TV. Usually the shows on these networks have some form of learning involved and engage children into solving puzzles or problems. When Marci first mentioned Blaze and the Monster Machines, she told me the show is about a monster truck named Blaze, his driver AJ, and his fellow monster truck friends who have adventures and use physics to solve the problems they encounter along the way. I was initially kind of shocked by this because from the shows I knew, many, if not any, use physics. Marci speculated it might be because of math and science scores being down in the U.S. which makes sense. Nonetheless, it’s still pretty cool for a show to go outside the norm on what they’re teaching kids.

Back in the 90’s when I started watching Nick Jr. my favorites were Eureeka’s Castle, Allegra’s Window, Rupert, Little Bear, The Muppet ShowMuppet Babies, The Busy World of Richard Scary, and my all time favorite Gullah Gullah Island (I could easily still sing the theme song). I also watched my fair share of Cartoon Network at the time and Nickelodeon cartoons for older kids, but those shows were my morning programs, especially in the summer when I was home from school. I can’t remember well enough if the shows had the type of learning puzzles that modern early childhood shows have, but I do remember enjoying them regardless (they probably did have learning, but I was just too young to remember).

I do remember learning a life lesson from Allegra’s Window when I was about 5 or 6 years old. One of my best friends had broken his arm and around the time I found out, there was an episode of Allegra’s Window on TV where a character from the show had also broken his or her arm. All the other characters on the show felt bad for this particular character so they wrapped up their arms with bandages too so the character who broke his or her arm wouldn’t feel as bad. I believe it was either the day that episode aired or the day after that I was going to see my friend because we were going to check out this Dinosaur exhibit in our area. I decided after watching the episode that I was going to do what they did on the show and put bandages on my arm for my friend (pretty sure it was only one bandage but I thought it was a genius idea). I really don’t think it affected my friend either way since he was 3 at the time, but I felt like I did something right and a TV show taught me that.

From the shows that I watched to shows like Blue’s Clues, Little Bill, Franklin, Bob the Builder, Dora the Explorer and now to shows like Hudson watches like Paw Patrol and Blaze and the Monster Machines, Nick Jr. has been an influence on all of us (unless of course you were just a Disney kid…but seriously you had to flip channels). Maybe someday Hudson will reminisce from time to time with his friends about how great all these shows were. I know I do. I was just talking about Gullah Gullah Island about 2 weeks ago. Even though we go on to enjoy plenty of other television shows we can’t forget where we got our start and what we learned from it. I’m sure most of us don’t. Oh and I forgot to mention Blaze is a pretty great show. Hudson’s watching some good stuff. But on that note, we’ll end this properly like they do on Hud’s new favorite show when they’re ready to roll. Let’s blaze!

Musical Enlightenment Part 2: A Hipster Story

So last week I talked about how I went through a whole “musical enlightenment” as a freshman in high school. To me the whole concept is rare because it’s only happened twice in my life. The first of which was under the influence of Dashboard Confessional. The second I’ll tell you about now.

Right before I graduated from college was a super weird time. I was sad and scared and way less happier than I was about getting out of high school. I’m sure so many people have felt that, but as a result I found some new outlets to become immersed in. One of those was a TV show that I’ll save for another time. The other was indie music.

Ok I know what you’re thinking. Wasn’t Dashboard Confessional an indie band too? Didn’t I already listen to that stuff? Yes and no. Sure Dashboard was an indie/emo style that was big in the early 2000’s but it was 2011 and this was the stuff that hipsters liked not emo kids. Plus in the years since Dashboard I explored so many musical genres that I really fell out of the indie scene (I liked ska, pop punk, late 80’s hardcore, etc.). It was like a rediscovery of indie. The style had also seemed to progress from the Dashboard time period. Some bands had a more electronic indie thing going on, while others didn’t. The emo vibe was definitely phased out though.

Anyway, at the time, my friend and I used to text each other music to listen to (I’m convinced everyone should have a friend like this). She knew of and listened to plenty of indie bands/songs. Most of what she recommended was that style, which sort of encouraged me to try to find similar music to send to her because that’s what I knew she liked, not the pop-punk/punk/alternative stuff I was currently into. I ended up liking a lot of songs she recommended which made it easier and motivated me to find more just like them too. My friend and those recommendations were a huge part of my second “musical enlightenment” and I’m forever grateful, but there’s more to the story. There had to be one specific band that was a game changer for me right? Right and here’s who they are and how it happened.

Another friend of mine made me a mixed tape (mixed CD) at the time. There were a few catchy songs on it and I uploaded the ones I liked to my iTunes. During the same time period I used to watch Dancing with the Stars with my mom (I still watch it on occasion). That season one of the “stars” on the show was Chelsea Kane (formerly known as Chelsea Staub from the Disney Channel…yeah I know..judge me) and I was rooting for her to win because 1. I knew who she was and 2. I followed her on twitter. Around then she started a website that she was pretty active on. She talked about fashion, travel, food, and music to name a few. Because I followed her on twitter she used to post when she’d update and because we had some similar interests I used to check out her posts. So one day she made a post about a band she was into at the time whose first album was soon to be released. She also posted a youtube/music clip link to their most popular song. So I naturally started listening to it and I was hooked immediately. The funny thing was though I felt that I heard the song before. Lo and behold, I had heard it. It was the first song on my friend’s mixed tape and it was one of the songs I already put on my iTunes. I immediately texted my friend who made the mixed tape and told him about how good the song was and how I heard about the band on this famous girl’s website. That band was Foster the People and the song was “Pumped Up Kicks”.

Within the next month of my Foster the People discovery, I bought their album Torches and listened to it nonstop on the drive to Williamsburg, VA (my vacation destination of the year). I planned and bought tickets to see them in Philly in June (never ended up making it to the show…worst night…still bummed about it). I stayed up late to watch them perform on Jimmy Kimmel. I also texted my friend who I shared music recommendations with shortly after the discovery and recommended the song to her. She hadn’t heard it yet and loved it too.

Foster the People’s music is considered to be indie pop and that’s just what it is. It’s upbeat indie with a bit of that electronic/synth style I mentioned. It was much different than what I was listening to 2 months prior, but I loved it. They were the first band that sparked a dramatic change in what I listened to since Dashboard Confessional did this 7 years earlier. Although my interest in that type of music started a little before I discovered Foster the People, they were the band that really put the change in full swing.

Their first album Torches is on the list of my favorite albums of all time. Even though “Pumped Up Kicks” was the song that reeled me in, “Helena Beat” was the song that kept me wanting more. I fell in love with “I Would Do Anything For You”. I had dance parties to “Don’t Stop” and “Houdini”. I sang at the top of my lungs to “Call it What You Want”. It’s just a great album. Their second album Supermodel which came out this past year can’t compare to Torches in my mind. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but Torches was way too catchy and will always be highly regarded by me. When I finally did get to see Foster the People live the following summer, I knew the words to almost every song (I was so mad about the ones I didn’t so I downloaded those songs the next day). It was all thanks to falling in love with a band from a different music scene.

So that’s the story of my second musical enlightenment and I guess how I became a hipster. Shoutouts to all the people mentioned above for making it happen and here’s the Foster the People song recommendations:

1. Pumped Up Kicks (you should know this song by now as it got pretty big in the months following my discovery)

2. Helena Beat

3. Broken Jaw

4. Coming of Age

5. Don’t Stop

But really, just listen to all their music, especially that first album. It’s love, love, love and if you have it, it’s amazing.