Two Door Cinema LOVE

At some point a little over a month ago, I was in the midst of a revelation that I really need to do a better job acknowledging the non-American music of today, when I came across this band from Northern Ireland called Two Door Cinema Club. If you’re already deeply immersed into the hipster music scene, then you might be thinking that I’m a little behind on this personal discovery, but better late than never, right? I’ve been listening to their two albums non-stop ever since, and I just think they’re so rad. Their songs are incredibly catchy without being cliche — with quote-worthy lyrics, and guitar riffs that stick with you all day (in a good way), combined with their general quirky adorableness, Bask in the Music gives these guys two thumbs up. When you get a second, I suggest you check out their 2010 album, Tourist History, and their 2012 album, Beacon (both available on iTunes and Spotify).

 

Their newest single, “Sun”:

Also, don’t forget to watch them tonight on Conan O’Brien at 11:00 PM EST! YAY!

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The SHIIIIIIIIINS!

So, as I’m sure you might assume, I am so FREAKING PUMPED for The Shins’ new album, Port of Morrow, which drops tomorrow (or I guess today, depending on when I finish writing this post.)

I have loved The Shins ever since the first time I saw Garden State – which is one of my favorite movies and, in my opinion, has one of the top 10 greatest soundtracks of all time.  The Shins are a major contributor to that soundtrack, in which their songs “New Slang” and “Caring is Creepy” are featured.

Just a little background for those of you who aren’t fans (yet…)

 The Shins were formed in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1996.  They are fronted by vocalist and guitarist James Mercer, who, at the time of fruition, was actually the singer/songwriter of a band called Flake Music.  Their first major album, entitled Oh, Inverted World (which featured the songs mentioned above) lined them up for nationwide success.  After touring with Modest Mouse in 2000, they were recognized by Sub Pop’s Jonathan Poneman, who also famously helped raise acts like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Dinosaur Jr., and the Postal Service (among others) to stardom.  In 2008, after three records (Oh, Inverted World, Chutes Too Narrow, and Wincing the Night Away), they finally decided to part ways with Sub Pop and announced that their next album would be released on Mercer’s new label, Aural Apothecary. After 4 years, several delays, and a few changes in band mates, a date was finally set – March 20, 2012 – TODAY!

Their first single off of Port of Morrow is “Simple Song“, which was officially released on February 21, and performed on Saturday Night Live.  Check out the performance here.

A Guitar Named “Grohl”

Yes, I named my brand new Mitchell acoustic “Grohl”.  And yes, I’m sure that his reaction to that would be something along the lines of “Shut the fuck up.”

But you can’t deny…  they do kind of look alike.

Let me start at the beginning…

So last Monday (you know, Kurt Cobain Day – or, to the rest of the United States, “President’s Day” – Oh gosh, how unpatriotic am I?) I had off from work.  I figured I’d take advantage of my day, hopped on the 6 train, and traveled down to 14th Street.  I have to admit, I had never been to Guitar Center before.  Since I’ve been attempting to learn rock songs on a nylon string Kiso-Suzuki classical from the late 1960s, that had been passed down to me from my sister, who’s father (yes, different fathers, same mother) had passed it down to her when she was in high school, I figured it was time to get my ass to a guitar store and get an acoustic that fit me and my goals a little better.  Don’t get me wrong, the classical was a great learning tool, and unless anyone asks for it back, I plan on hanging on to that puppy for as long as possible. But I digress…

So I walked into this place, and if you’ve never been, I suggest you go.  There are guitars freaking everywhere- all over the walls, on display all over the floor, and people just hanging out all over the place playing them, like one giant, unsynchronized jam session.  I walked into the clearly labeled “Acoustic Room”, that somewhat resembled a log cabin that James Taylor would rent for a weekend, and this guy walked up to me and asked me if I needed any help.  At first I said “No thank you,” acting like I actually knew what I was doing and what I was looking for (Ha!) But after about 10 minutes of walking around and bashfully picking up random guitars amongst some clearly accomplished musicians, I finally sought the help I clearly needed.  The salesman, David, who turned out to be incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, pointed me towards a very traditional, spruce top, acoustic Mitchell guitar. I immediately liked the feel of it, but, if you know me at all, you know I’m not going to go for anything “basic” or “traditional”.  So he pointed me towards another Mitchell, but this one had a vintage Sunburst finish, which I thought was both beautiful and kind of bad ass at the same time. I knew that was my guitar when I saw it, but my decision was confirmed even more so when he told me that the one on display was the last one.

We then made our way into the adjacent “Vintage Room” where he showed me how to restring it.  He also set me up with a humidifier, a gig case, and a hand full of free picks.  While he was ringing me up, I took a look around and snapped a couple of shots of some of the guitars that were on the walls.  Some of them were really freakin sweet… and all of them were very expensive.

  

My favorite was that seafoam green Fender Telecaster (right).  If I were a lefty with an extra $14,000 kicking around, that guitar would be in my apartment right now.

As for the naming my new toy “Grohl”…

I have been a huge Dave Grohl fan ever since his days as Nirvana’s drummer (baby Grohl), and I’ve always been a fan of the Foo Fighters. But aside from the fact that he’s a very well-known, accomplished and talented musician, my favorite thing about him is his general aura.  I know that sounds weird, since I’ve never met the guy, but any interview I’ve read or seen, he just seems like such a chill dude.  He’s not remotely arrogant.  He’s charismatic, funny, down-to-earth, and just totally real. Below are a couple videos that prove my point.

“Life’s a Bitch” – Yeah, good luck getting that out of your head for at least the next 48 hours…

I love everything he says in the Nylon interview about the rise of the Internet and blogging and the ability to have an opinion and a voice no matter who you are. That genuinely inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing – writing, playing, learning. I also love that the Foo Fighters just won 5 Grammys for an album that they recorded in his garage. And these are the reasons why I named my guitar Grohl.

Dave, you’re the man.

Man on the Moon (Celebrating the Life of Kurt Cobain)

   

When Kurt Cobain was a kid, he could make his entire family and all of his friends laugh until they cried with his Latka impersonation. If you didn’t grow up in the 70’s, then you might not be particularly familiar with the T.V. show, “Taxi”, in which comedian Andy Kaufman played the part of a foreigner with a questionable multiple personality disorder, among other things.  It was a goofy, ridiculous character, and Kurt nailed it. Kurt was extremely funny, artistic, creative, outgoing, and always putting on a show – at least for his first ten years, which he and others have described as the happiest time of his life.

Reportedly, before Kurt ended his own life on April 5, 1994, he listened to one last song- R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon“.  If you were around in the 90’s, then you definitely know this song.  After they recovered his body a couple days later, his wife, Courtney Love (who later played Lynne Margulies – Andy Kaufman’s girlfriend in the movie “Man on the Moon”, staring Jim Carrey) found the disc, Automatic for the People, still in the CD player.

This poetic symmetry is one of many poetic things Kurt Cobain left with the world.  He was a brilliant lyricist.  In fact, in any pole or list I’ve ever seen regarding the top lyricists in music history, Kurt almost always falls somewhere within the top 20. He was also a very gifted artist, even from a very early age.  There is a Cobain family story about when Kurt was six years old, and he drew a picture of Donald Duck for his grandfather.  Leland Cobain couldn’t believe that this picture was not traced, due to it’s accuracy and near perfection.  Kurt sat down and drew a picture of Goofy right in front of his grandfather.  It was a defining moment in everyone else’s recognition that this boy was not just your average kid.

His parents’ nasty divorce and the baggage that came with it ultimately lead Kurt into a downward spiral.  Since there was a significant history of depression within his family, this sense of loss and confusion hit Kurt harder than most.  Growing up in Aberdeen, Washington, a somewhat “down-on-its-luck” timber mill town, there wasn’t a ton to do.  Even after discovering some of his artistic and musical talents, Kurt got caught up in the party, drug and alcohol scene. But most significantly, he refused to conform.

In a weird way, his numerous experiences as a teenager rebelling against the norm ultimately transformed him into the voice of an entire generation. When Nirvana was formed, grunge was born. He didn’t know it then, but the music he created and left behind changed everything people knew about rock’n’roll. Is Nirvana’s music sad? Angry? Sarcastic? Funny? Truthful? All of the above. It was the early nineties.  Teenagers were wearing Converse sneakers, ripped jeans, vintage concert t-shirts and old-man cardigans. He was an icon, a star, a legend.

I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt says it best in this video (see 1:55 mark):

So today, Kurt, I dedicate my blog to you.  I am so sad that you’re not around to see your influence on music, but I thank you for what you left behind.

Happy Birthday.

Del Rey – Yay or Nay?

So let’s start with the obvious points.  She’s beautiful, has great personal style, and makes (in my opinion) really cool music videos.  Her song titles are… uhh… interesting, I suppose? Over the past 5 months, she has graced the covers of several magazines, including Billboard, Time, and Vogue (just to name some of the less relevant ones…) And many would say that, if you saw her on Saturday Night Live a few weeks back, it’s clear that she hasn’t exactly gotten her live performance skills down quite yet.  There’s no arguing that she’s a bit different from what we media sheep have become accustomed to over the past three decades or so. And it seems, at least to the untrained eye (and ear), like she sort of came out of nowhere.

But what do we really know about this chick, Lana Del Rey?

Elizabeth (Lizzy) Grant was born in New York City on June 21, 1986. She grew up in Lake Placid, New York, and ultimately attended Fordham University. In several recent interviews she has stated that her father, Rob Grant, a well-to-do New York investor, really supported her early career.  When she was 19, she performed at an open mic night at Williamsburg’s Lilo Lounge with her acoustic guitar.  Apparently she caught the attention of numerous patrons that evening, and was asked to come back.

In 2010, she recorded her first album, Lana Del Rey A.K.A. Lizzy Grant under an indie label, 5 Points, with producer David Kahne – who has produced records for big names like Paul McCartney, Sublime, Stevie Nicks and The Strokes.  Despite this seemingly slam-dunk combo, it actually did not pick up a ton of mainstream media attention.  The album was even available for purchase on iTunes for a brief period of time, thanks to marketing assistance she received from her father – but it wasn’t selling, and was ultimately withdrawn.  Lizzy ended up buying the rights to her music from the label, as to avoid future distribution by anyone but herself.

By June 2011, Lizzy Grant had changed her name to Lana Del Rey,  had a somewhat new look physically, and signed with Stranger Records.  In October she released her single “Video Games“.  And the rest is history.

She is one of the hottest names in the music industry right now.  However, many critics are disagreeing with her seemingly “overnight” success.  In fact, she received a ton of criticism after her performance on Saturday Night Live last month – with critiques saying that she “wasn’t ready”, and some describing the performance as “one of the worst SNL musical guests of all time.” You can check out Kristen Wiig’s portrayal of Lana Del Rey on SNL’s “Weekend Update” three weeks after her musical appearance on the late night comedy show here: Kristen Wiig as Lana Del Rey (SNL)

However, on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, some fans and supporters have gone so far as to dub her “the modern-day Nancy Sinatra.”

What do you think?