Month: November 2015

The Film Playlist: School of Rock

When I was a freshman in high school, I had a solid 7th period Algebra class. My teacher was in his 20’s and an alumni of my high school, so he made at least one class in our transition to a new school pretty relaxed. I learned a few things in his class, all unrelated to math. I found out what it was like to live in NYC and work on Wall Street (his former profession before he became our Algebra teacher), that Pat’s makes the best cheesesteak in Philly (this was a lie because they don’t), and that School of Rock was a great movie (based on his and a fellow classmate’s recommendation). Out of those few things the most useful to me was that School of Rock was indeed a great movie and a must-see for any music lover.

Directed by Richard Linklater (Boyhood and Dazed and Confused), School of Rock was released October 3, 2003. It was the highest grossing musical comedy of all time until recently when Pitch Perfect 2 surpassed it this year. The movie stars Jack Black as rock singer/guitarist Dewey Finn, who gets kicked out of his band, No Vacancy. With no job and no way to afford rent for the apartment he shares with his friend and former band mate, Ned Schneebly (Mike White, also writer of the film), and Ned’s girlfriend, Patty (Sarah Silverman), Dewey poses as a 4th grade substitute teacher at a prep school to make some money. The school’s principal, Rosaline Mullins, who Dewey befriends to earn the job, is played by Joan Cusack. After Dewey hears his class during their music lesson, he concocts a plan to transform the class into a band to compete at Battle of the Bands and win against No Vacancy, who is also competing. He assigns the class (starring a young Miranda Cosgrove as one of the students) various roles either in the band or as stylists, roadies, groupies, production team members, security, or managers, and preparation for the event takes over normal class time. Obviously his plan is destined for struggles along the way, but through everything, he teaches the students some important life lessons.

The film features a stellar classic rock soundtrack with an original song and AC/DC cover (“It’s A Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock N’ Roll)”) played by the cast. Linklater actually searched for and cast young, talented musicians to play the roles of the kids in the band. The soundtrack also features songs by Led Zeppelin (who rarely distribute the rights to their songs for use in film or television), Stevie Nicks, The Who, The Doors, Cream, The Black Keys, and The Ramones. Many other classic rock songs by bands like AC/DC, Deep Purple, and The Clash are featured in the film as well.

After seeing School of Rock, I purchased the movie to add to my collection, since I enjoyed it so much. It became a movie night film I would turn to time after time (whether that be by myself or with friends). I even downloaded the original song “School of Rock” or “Zach’s Song” as they say in the movie. It’s still on my iTunes to this day. The film was a great ode to music, specifically rock n’ roll, and taught us all how to “stick it to the man”. The Film Playlist series wouldn’t be complete without it, despite it being just an average, funny, music oriented film. For any music fan, it’s worth checking out though, even if you only want to learn Dewey’s rock n’ roll handshake. Let’s rock, let’s rock. Today.

(** If you have seen the film, check out this amazing 10 year reunion performance of “School of Rock” from the cast.**)

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19, 21, 25

No the title of this post does not refer to lottery numbers. Nor are they the “lucky numbers” I received on the back of a fortune cookie. If you’re in tune to the music world, no pun intended, you’ll know those numbers are more than just numbers. They’re the album titles of three records made by one of the most popular musical artists in recent time.

Almost five years ago, right before I became a hipster in style and music taste, I bought an album from the local record store. I don’t even remember what album it was. Along with the album though, I received a free compilation CD of newly released music. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. From time to time, the store gave out these compilation CD’s when you made a music purchase. I would always listen to them to see if I was missing out on any new music. On this particular occasion, there were a few songs that caught my ears, but there was one that really stood out. It was a song called “Rolling in the Deep” by a singer named Adele.

Pop singer/songwriter, Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, from Tottenham, London, England grew up with a strong affinity for music. She attended the BRIT School for Performing Arts & Technology and graduated in 2006 (Jessie J. and Leona Lewis were among her classmates). The same year she was given her first recording contract from XL Recordings after a friend posted her demo on Myspace. By 2008, she released her debut album, 19. It went seven times platinum in the UK and double platinum in America. She received the Grammy Awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2009 for her work on it. Her second album, 21, was released on January 24, 2011. The following year she swept the Grammy’s winning a record-tying six awards including Album of the Year. 21 reached number 1 on the charts in more than 26 countries, has been certified 16 times platinum and is the fourth best selling album of all time in the UK, certified Diamond in the U.S., and has sold over 30 million copies world wide. It’s safe to say 21 surpassed the success of her debut record.

However, for the last four years, Adele has been on hiatus. The only music she released was the song “Skyfall” for the James Bond movie of the same name in 2012. She received a Grammy, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe for the song. A few weeks ago, on October 23rd, Adele dropped the first single from her third studio album entitled “Hello”. In its debut week, the single sold over one million digital copies. The music video for “Hello” surpassed Taylor Swift’s video for “Bad Blood” by 7 million views on Vevo in the first 24 hours after its release. Finally, today, after almost 5 years, Adele released her new album, 25. If the success of “Hello” is any indication, this album is bound to go far in the music world.

To put it bluntly, Adele is a big fucking deal. The woman has the voice of an angel. Her music is incredibly full of soul and power. It’s been known to make entire civilizations weep. Between her singing, the music, and the lyrics, the whole message she sends with her songs can deeply touch the toughest of souls. It’s truly beautiful. She is one of the greatest singers of this generation.

When I first heard her single “Rolling in the Deep”, I had no idea who Adele was. I just liked her song. I even purchased 21 a few months later because of that sole reason (and I guess because I thought she was a good singer). At the time I was a senior in college on the verge of graduation and since high school, I was a self-proclaimed pop music hater. I guess Adele sort of changed that, but if you ask me I don’t think she creates and sings the same kind of pop music that singers like, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, or Lady Gaga do. It’s a different kind of pop music. It’s not something you really rock out to on the radio or dance to in a club, but more so music you sing along to at the top of your lungs on a long drive (or listen to in your bed with a tub of ice cream, box of chocolate, and tissues after a bad day), which is kind of how my love grew for Adele in the first place.

I purchased 21 right around the time of my college graduation. Three weeks after I graduated I went on vacation with my mother and our very close family friends. It took six hours to reach our destination and the whole trip I alternated between listening to 21 and Foster the People’s Torches. That’s when I truly fell in love with Adele. When we were about 15-20 minutes from our hotel, I blasted “Rolling in the Deep” and “Rumor Has It” on repeat partly because I loved those songs and partly because they were upbeat, it was around midnight, and I was trying not to fall asleep. For those reasons, 21 (and Torches) will always remind me of that trip.

As for 25, I picked up my copy earlier today. Like the rest of the world, I’ve been anticipating it for weeks. I’ve actually been listening to it on my boombox (cause yes I still buy CD’s) on repeat while I wrote this entire blog. I can’t say I have any complaints either. Much like Adele’s singing, the album is flawless. The message in 25 is much different than her previous works though. 19 and 21 were break-up albums, full of angsty, heart-breaking tunes. Just like a lot of us out there, Adele was once an emo kid and now she’s in her 20’s, she has child, and she’s done some maturing since her last album. 25 is about growing up. Being in the same generation as Adele, this album is so relate-able. When you’re in your 20’s, you’re caught between youth and adulthood, and that’s really the whole theme of the album. The songs are filled with nostalgia. “Hello” is a heartbreak apology. “When We Were Young”, “I Miss You”, and “Remedy” reminisce an old love. “Water Under the Bridge”, “Love in the Dark”, “All I Ask”, and “Sweetest Devotion” show maturity and understanding of what being in an adult relationship is about, and “Million Years Ago” is a reminder of youth. As much as I love all of Adele’s music, my favorites are the more upbeat songs. One of my favorites on the new album, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”, has this pop/folk feel to it, and I fell in love the first time I heard it. The same is true for “River Lea”. It’s an upbeat track full of memories. Target also released an exclusive version of the album containing three extra tracks, “Can’t Let Go”, “Lay Me Down”, and “Why Do You Love Me?”. Since I didn’t buy the album from Target, I’ve yet to hear these songs. Don’t worry though, I plan on hearing them and loving them soon enough.

In reference to the string of numbers for album titles, each title obviously reflects the singer’s age when she wrote the music. It’s a pretty clever way of categorizing your work, if you ask me. 19 launched Adele’s career and who knows if she will ever release an album as successful as 21. I’m sure 25 is on its way to put up a good fight and earn Adele a few more accolades in the process. If you don’t feel like missing out on this completely relate-able musical journey of Adele’s life, I would recommend listening to her music and buying/downloading a copy of 25. To get you started though, here are some other songs to check out:

  1. “Rolling in the Deep”
  2. “Rumor Has It”
  3. “Someone Like You”
  4. “Set Fire to Rain”
  5. “Chasing Pavements”
  6. “Hiding My Heart”
  7. “Hometown Glory”
  8. “Make You Feel My Love”

 

The NBHD

Last weekend, I was at Best Buy looking for an item that I could spend my Best Buy Rewards mystery prize coupon on. I checked out the movies. Nothing interested me, so I figured I’d check the music. Best Buy isn’t really the best option for music. They don’t have a large selection, but they do usually have the latest releases. As I glanced over the new releases, I saw a brand new album from The Neighbourhood. My eyes lit up. I love those guys. Their first major single “Sweater Weather” was basically the anthem of my spring 2013. I didn’t even know they had new album coming out. I was definitely spending my mystery coupon on something (got the album for $5.29…WIN).

Formed in 2011, The Neighbourhood (The NBHD) hails from Newbury Park, California. The alternative, indie rock group comprised of members Jesse Rutherford (vocals), Jeremy Freedman (guitar), Zach Abels (guitar), Mikey Margott (bass), and Brandon Fried (drums) (original drummer Bryan Sammis left the group in early 2014) decided to spell their band name using the British spelling of “neighborhood” as to not be confused with another band of the same name who used the American spelling. They released two EPs in 2012, I’m Sorry… (May) and Thank You, (December) followed by the release of their first full length in April of 2013, I Love You. It debuted at number 39 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. The band played dates at SXSW and Coachella that spring and toured the U.S. throughout the summer. Their single “Sweater Weather” reached number 1 on Billboard’s Alternative chart by early June 2013. The group spent 2014 touring in Europe and released a mixtape album titled #000000 & #FFFFFF (the color codes for black and white) on November 28, 2014. It wasn’t until August of 2015 that the group announced their second full length album Wiped Out! would be released on October 30th.

The Neighbourhood surely fits the bill of alternative rock, indie rock. You might even say they’re a little experimental, but to me they always sounded a bit more than those categories. Maybe it’s just lead singer Jesse Rutherford’s voice, but I feel like they have an R&B sound to the vocals mixed with a rock background. I mean listen to some of their songs and tell me it doesn’t sound like baby-making music. They basically play baby-making music for hipsters.

I first heard of The Neighbourhood in March 2013. I saw a friend tweet about the song “Sweater Weather” so, of course, since I’m always looking for new music, I looked up the song. I fell in love. It was my jam for a couple weeks straight. The first week I listened to it on repeat constantly. I remember playing it for my friends when I picked them up for our weekly hang out of watching the TV show Pretty Little Liars. If I had a soundtrack for my life, that song would definitely be a part of it because it became synonymous with that incredibly inspirational time period (for other reasons unrelated to The NBHD). After that, I eventually heard other songs by The Neighbourhood and took a liking to them as well (not quite as much as “Sweater Weather”, but they were still pretty good). My friend bought me the album for Christmas that year and I had it on replay in my car for a while. That’s why finding their newest release at Best Buy last weekend was such a pleasant surprise, especially since the new record is awesome.

The new album has that same groove featured most of their songs (*cough cough* baby-making music). Their latest single “R.I.P. to My Youth” is the final track. Rutherford almost seems to sing-rap the verses while coming in with his signature smooth vocals on the chorus. Songs like “The Beach”, “Daddy Issues”, and “Baby Came Home 2/Valentines” are almost pushing into the rock ballad category, while other songs like “Prey” and “Cry Baby” lead into the record with that signature Neighbourhood sound. I even got the impression of some folk undertones in the song “Single”. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the new album is the first track “A Moment of Silence”. It actually is a moment of silence, or 30 seconds, if you want to get technical. Popping the record in my car’s CD player without looking at the names of the track-listing, I was confused by it at first. I waited for the album to start, only to hear dead air. Then, when a song started playing, it was already on the second track. It was seriously about 15 minutes ago while researching these guys that I understood my confusion. If you’re already a fan of The Neighbourhood, I recommend picking up this album. It features hints of other music styles while still sticking to their sound roots. I also recommend the album if you have a date scheduled with your significant other and you really want to get into their pants. In fact, I have other songs I can recommend for that too:

  1. Sweater Weather
  2. Afraid
  3. Flawless
  4. Female Robbery
  5. W.D.Y.W.F.M.?
  6. West Coast
  7. #icanteven
  8. No Grey
  9. Wires
  10. The entirety of Wiped Out!

The Early November

I know I’ve only had this blog for a little over a year now, but I’m still not sure why I didn’t make a post about this band at this time last year. Yesterday it occurred to me when I was trying to think of a blog topic for the week that it would be the perfect time to write about the band The Early November because ironically it is early November (obviously intentional). I used to listen them back in high school. I wouldn’t say they were one of my favorite bands, but I had quite a few of their songs downloaded.

I first heard of The Early November sometime between mid 2004-late 2005. I can’t exactly pinpoint the moment like I often times do with many of the bands I write about. I’m guessing it was some time after I purchased the 2003 Vans Warped Tour Compilation, which was in the summer of 2004 (“Every Night’s Another Story” is listed on my iTunes as being from that album). They came into existence a few years before I first listened to them though.

The Hammonton, New Jersey band was founded in 1999 by guitarist and front man Arthur “Ace” Enders, along with former member Jim Sacco (later replaced by Joseph Marro), Sergio Anello, and Jeff Kummer. The band signed with Drive-Thru records in 2002 releasing two EP’s that year, For All of This and The Acoustic EP (acoustic versions of all the songs on For All of This), with the label. The Early November played dates on the Vans Warped Tour and the Skate and Surf Fest the same year. While still touring, the band debuted their first full length album, The Room’s Too Cold, in the fall of 2003.

In 2006 the band released their sophomore record, a triple disc album, The Mother, The Mechanic, The Path. The album debuted at #31 on the Billboard Top 200, which was their highest charting album to date. It was around the release of the second album that guitarist Bill Lugg was added to the ensemble. In 2007 the band announced an indefinite hiatus and played their final show at Bamboozle on May 6th. At the time, the future of the group was uncertain, but they did not rule out a possible reformation, which is exactly what happened four years later.

The band reunited in the fall of 2011 to play several shows on the east coast. At one of the shows (Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ), it was confirmed that Ace was working on a new album for the group. The Early November’s third album and first album in 6 years, In Currents, was released in July of 2012. Since then, the band has toured and released a fourth album, Imbue,  which came out in May of this past year.

When I was in high school and college, I never had the opportunity to see The Early November live. I did see Ace Enders perform an acoustic show once though in early 2012 along with Anthony Raneri of Bayside, Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids, Chris Conley of Saves the Day, and Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. on the Where’s The Band? Tour. I’m pretty sure I remember Ace playing a few Early November songs along with songs from his side project band I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business. It was a fantastic acoustic show. I highly recommend seeing any of your favorite bands play acoustic if you ever have the opportunity.

Truth be told though, I haven’t listened to The Early November in a very long time. It’s been so long that I haven’t even heard any of the music they released post-hiatus. The last time might have been at that acoustic show almost 4 years ago and even then I wasn’t listening to them like I had in the past. Even now as I played their songs while writing this post, it occurred to me that things are so much different for me than they were back in high school. Their music falls under the emo, alternative, indie, punk rock genres. I can’t listen to their music and relate to it in the same way. I’m a much different person. I have more confidence, more hope, and an overall more positive outlook than I did as a teenager. Although my life is currently nowhere near where I’d like it to be and I’m still trying to achieve my goals, it does get better. For nostalgia’s sake though here are some of my former favorite songs by The Early November:

  1. Ever So Sweet
  2. Come Back
  3. All We Ever Needed
  4. Hair
  5. Sesame, Smeshame
  6. I Want To Hear You Sad
  7. Sunday Drive
  8. For All of This