Tag Archives: Music

Fuck you, shipping and handling! (a review of Hello Fascination)

I feel like a real album reviewer right now. Whether it was done due to error or as a reward to those of us who went for the fanciest pre-order package for Hello Fascination, the new Breathe Carolina album, I know not, but the fact of the matter is that while the album hits shelves today, I’ve had my copy since Friday. I suspect it was through error though, since when I stuck the CD in my computer on Friday, eagerly ripping it to my itunes library, itunes had no idea what I’d put in to my computer and I had to add all the album information by hand.

four days in advance! wicked!

four days in advance! wicked!

Excuse me while I open up wikipedia. Now search keywords “Breathe Carolina”. Ah, there we go.

Breathe Carolina, who hail from Denver, Colorado, started as a myspace band in 2007, which is to say, they made music with no intention of playing it live, purely existing on myspace and through digital release. The music that the at the time two-piece (Kyle Even and David Schmitt, not exactly “rock star” names) was a sort of electro-pop club sound with a hardcore influence. Yes. A hardcore influence. Much like the bizarre “cybergrind” genre, Breathe Carolina ambitiously attempted to put to fuse electronica and screamo (which is a definite improvement over cybergrind’s attempts to fuse electronica and grindcore) in a way that would be equally appealing to a raver or a hardcore fan. This somewhat unique sound was not what grabbed my attention, though. What made me turn my head was the fact that Breathe Carolina’s widely praised debut album It’s Classy, Not Classic (no, I don’t get the title) was recorded entirely in a bedroom with Apple’s standard package music software, Garage Band, which is more than a little impressive

Seriously, change your names to like, Kyle Awesome and David Schwing or something, I dont know

Seriously, change your names to like, Kyle Awesome and David Schwing or something, I don't know

It’s Classy, Not Classic was truly a breath of fresh air in a scene grown far too stale. While somewhat similar artists such as the dreadful BrokeNCyde (fuck those guys, seriously), only manage to make the genres they fuse more cliched, Breathe Carolina was able to take the cliche and make it interesting again. The melodic, swirling synths, largely vocoded vocals, and pounding beats, combined with the the occasional burst of screaming made for an album that had no trouble getting your attention. The album felt poppy and familiar in a good way, like listening to your a playlist of nostalgiac dance tracks. While the screaming isn’t for everyone it takes the album from a level where it might be easily forgotten to a place where it stays stuck in your mind. While at first I wasn’t terribly impressed, the album was infectious (especially “The Bird and The Bees” as well as “Diamonds” and after a while it became hard to listen to anything else. Simply put, it was an album of parties and one night stands, an album of dancing all night and living with no regrets, an album of pouring your heart out, from your tenderist moments to your most frustrated. Okay, that wasn’t simply put at all, but I can’t help myself, it was a good album.

While far from my favourite album from last year (maybe a top # albums of ’08 is n order while there’s still some ’09 left?) it was good enough that I decided to pre-order Breathe Carolina’s second album. The price was right, the pre-order package came with t-shirt, sticker, signed poster and CD for 24 dollars, which I would honestly pay for just a t-shirt. Of course, once you add in the absurd 10 dollar shipping and handling (WHAT THE FUCK?) it’s not quite so attractive, but still, it was worth it to me. Seriously, fuck you, shipping and handling, ten dollars is absurd. Even with all the stuff if in this package it still wasn’t any larger than a fucking vhs tape. RAAAAAGE. AND THAT WAS THE CHEAPEST S&H AVAILABLE. RAAAAAAAAAGE.

Sorry.

Musically, the album steps in to new territory, with a much more full and diverse instrumental section. This is due to, in large part, the addition of three new bandmates. Kyle Even and David Schmidtt (names guys, I’m gonna say it again), still do all the primary song writing according to the liner notes, but clearly these musicians are contributing to the writing process at some stage, since this album, unlike its predecessor, features guitar work. The instrumentation is probably the biggest improvement over the last album it’s fun and dancy, but also holds up to close listening. The album opens strongly with the title track, “Hello Fascination”, a which follows up perfectly on the sound of It’s Classy… but builds upon it at the same time with the addition of guitar. It doesn’t take long to notice how much more polished the music is. The instrumental parts are more distinct, the vocals sound really well-produced, and the beats sound infinitely cripser, but besides that and the guitar the song doesn’t tread a lot of new territory. The lyrics are a little more ambiguous and less party-oriented, but still fun lyrics about the confusion of romance. The whole song sounds vaguely Family Force 5-esque, which you couldn’t say as much about the old songs, but even this doesn’t significantly set it apart from the first album.

The second song, however, definitely crosses in to new territory, even just witht he length of its title. “I’m The Type of Person to Take it Personal” has more words in the title than any song on their previous outing, not sure what this means, but it’s a good song title none-the-less. And it’s a great song, the sound is somewhat reminisicent of Innerpartysystem, which is an awesome thing to be compared to. This song sets the tone for the album, int hat it explores a much darker harder sound, and sets a standard of covering new ground that the album will continue to follow.

From total dance hits like “Take Me To Infinity” and “Welcome to Savannah”, to genre pushers like “I Have To Return Some Videotapes” (probably the album’s best song), the album rarely misses a beat. One thing I have mixed feelings about, however, are the vocals. There are a lot more clean vocals (no vocoding/auto-tuning or screaming) than on the previous effort, which is a definite improvement, but some of the unique vocal flares of the previous album such as harmonic backing vocals that featured so prominently on tracks like “No Vacancy” on It’s Classy, Not Classic. While these unique features aren’t gone entirely, they are less present and are definitely missed. The problem comes down to the fact that, in polishing their sound they’ve managed to over-produce in places, which is a an understandable problem for a band that went through the transition that they went through. In going from having nothing at their fingertips, to having a pretty amazing array of resources they’ve managed to go a bit too crazy in places, losing some of the features that made their first album so remarkable. I imagine that as they continue to put out music they will probably realize this and get in to a comfortable groove with their music where it’s neither overproduced nor underproduced. A good example of this starting to happen is the song “Can I Take You Home?” which is a real return to form for the band and stands out as being one of the highlights of the album.

Not every song on the album lives up to the overall progress, either. “Tripped And Fell In Portland” could have easily been the best track on the album with it’s anthemic guitar and hardcore vocals juxtaposed next to off kilter electronic sections that serve to perfectly break things up and keep it from being a straight rock song, but is ruined by the terrible hyper-typical pop-punk chorus. The only thing the chorus has done right is to include some swirling snyths that don’t fit the pop-punk style, but aside from that it sounds like any other song out there and completely fails to be interesting. The last song on the album, “Rescue” also fails to deliver anything interesting, and as soon as I reach it, try as I might to make it through the song, I usually end up going back to the beginning without listening to it all the way through.

Pop is a funny word. For some reason there is a prejudice against pop, and I’m not exactly sure where this prejudice comes from. It seems as though as soon as music becomes fun it stops being cool in a lot of circles. While I can understand a certain amount of the pop hate that goes on out there, there is certainly a place for pop in this world, and in my heart for that matter. While older reviews that I’ve done tended to be more focused on reviewing obscure acts, often highly experimental in nature, lately I find that I enjoy listening to and reviewing pop music. Not all pop is worthy of my listening (most isn’t) but I do try to give it more of a chance now than I did in the past. While your average pop album has less musical complexity than just one song by, say, Tool, there’s something to be said for music that can make people want to dance. There’s something magical in dancing, in letting a song move you and just being a part of the moment. Breathe Carolina have not released anything near a perfect album, but they have released something that makes you want to dance, and maybe that’s good enough for a sophomore album. Perfect or no, I would recommend this album to anyone, and have no regrets with my purchase of the album.

That said, I think I’m going to review something weirder next just to shake things up lest these pop reviews become too much of a habit.

HelloLion some how got a hold of access to the project groupthink dashboard and he refuses to relinquish control! You can follow us on twitter @pgtblog (which he also has the ability to update, sneaky devil).

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Sorry Satan! The internet has already consumed my soul!

I always figured that if there was a hell I would be dueling Satan on a fiddle for the rights to my soul. In the age of technology there will be no souls left for Satan to devour once we all parish. The internet has already consumed my soul and likely yours too.

I just went 36 straight hours of straight internet outage, and I almost pulled my hair out. I could not do my school work, browse various free streaming porn sites, or even check the good ole’ time consuming facebook.

Without the internet I felt out of place. I felt awkward if you will. I had no clue what to do. Sure, I can take Ethan to the park, read a book, do some cleaning, but for 36 hours (7 ½ which I was asleep)? I could not plow my facebook Farmville fields and plant fresh virtual plants. Honestly, the world could have ended, and I would have been left here clueless because I could not do my daily browse of various news sites.

Honestly, how the hell did we ever make it through life without the web?

The internet is our passport for anything we want in life. Read anything you want. Need friends? Join some social-networking sites.  Want to hear your favorite music? Screw music stores and paying for music. Download them illegally, and for free. Buy yourself some airline, concert, or sporting event tickets. Do anything you want, or find anything you want because it is the internet.

I honestly have no clue how life would be without the web. I was 14 when the internet made it’s debut in my household, and I haven’t looked back since. Most of us hardly remember a world without Myspace, Amazon, AIM, eBay, and facebook.

What hell did people do prior to 1994? I was a kid, so I remember running around outside playing football and baseball. What are kids doing these days? Are they sitting on their asses becoming mob bosses on facebook’s Mafia Wars like me? What did our parents do? What did college students do without facebook? How the hell did you contact your dealer without facebook, or even a cell phone?

The world would be a strange place without the internet. Would we live in a better place?

ElTigreTom is a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.

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Seven Bands That Redeem Christian Music

There are a lot of Christians out there, and there are a lot of musicians out there, and like any good Venn Diagram these two groups must, at some point, overlap. And they do; many, many musicians admit to Christianity being their faith of choice. This is not a problem, in general most people who find a band they like, like that band regardless of who’s producing the music what whether they worship Jesus or Allah. However, while it is okay for individual artists to admit to being Christian, when a whole band declares themselves Christian people get uneasy. Tell someone you want them to listen to this new band you discovered, and they’ll be glad to sit down and listen, but ask them to sit down and listen to this new Christian band you discovered and they start to act uncomfortable, regardless of their faith. This is not necessarily due to the content of the lyrics (read as: Jesus), but is due to the fact that, quite simply a lot of Christian bands…well…suck.

Below: what most people think of when they think of Christian music (more or less).

For one of the groups most responsible for the evolution of music into a form of high art, the Christians sure have managed to take music to new lows in the past fifty years or so. It’s no wonder so many people have a bad view of Christian music; what was once meant to inspire now just panders to a mass of people who will buy anything that says “I love Jesus” enough times in the lyrics. Somewhere along the way someone figured out that there was an easy profit to be made in Christian music and ran with it, leaving artists with musical and spiritual integrity in the dust.

To prove that all is not lost, I have searched high and low through Christian music and assembled a slate of seven bands that prove that not every band that calls themselves Christian deserves your scorn. Many of these bands have struggled to make names for themselves, equally being bashed for being “too Christian” by some and “not Christian enough” by others, but one thing that can’t be argued is that  these bands are making some damn good music.

1. The Devil Wears Prada


The Devil Wears Prada is a Christian metalcore band hailing from Dayton, Ohio, who gets more “Christian or not” arguing than most of the bands on this list, in spite of having a music video that centers on someone giving their life to Jesus. While the music may not be for everyone (as I said, metalcore), it’s hard to deny that these guys are indeed, quite talented. They are far from the only Christian metal band out there, but they are, in my opinion, the best and most listenable one I’ve ever heard. The Christian undertones of the lyrics are actually quite refreshing and, in some instances, truly insiring and thought provoking. In spite of (or perhaps caused by) all the controversy regarding their status as a Christian band, they’ve come a long ways, even going so far as to be featured on Warped Tour’s main stage this year. Plus, their strong anti-materialistic values are pretty awesome, as you don’t see a lot of that in modern music.

2. As Cities Burn


As I mentioned previously, The Devil Wears Prada is far from the only Christian metal band out there, and as I alluded to, a lot of them suck. Before the release of 2008’s Hell or High Water, I would have simply lumped As Cities Burn into the “suck” category of Christian metal, but in 2008  As Cities Burn release a much more progressive album that, while being far from the best album of 2008, was also quite a long stretch away from the worst. Once again, the music isn’t for everone, but most people would have to admit that it’s pretty damn listenable. The Christian overtones of the album slide nicely into place without feeling obtrusive, and I’ve found the album to be very easily enjoyed by non-Christians and Christians alike in this regard.

3. MuteMath


MuteMath is a particularly sneaky Christian band. Somewhere along the way, MuteMath soaked up enough indie-cred to find their way onto a lot of people’s ipods (my own included), without anyone figuring out that they were listening to what is, all in all, a pretty Christian band. I greatly enjoy MuteMath (who have a  new album out in just four days), and their Christian-overtones have never once put me off. The only thing bad I have to say about this band is that one of their songs was featured in Twilight, but I’ll overlook it because the music video for the song I just posted is totally killer.

4. mewithoutYou

mewithoutYou is another Christian band that managed to pick up a lot of indie-cred with their music, even going so far as to share a stage with The Dear Hunter this year at several shows. mewithoutYou’s lyrics are intimidating works of art, that are Christian in the same sense that the Lord of the Rings is about World War II; if you don’t know what you’re looking for you’re going to miss most of it. The lyrics, purely as works of poetry, are quite lovely, even to someone who isn’t exactly a biblical scholar, and the music is pretty intriguing. You have to give them this; they’ve really brought indie style to Christianity in a much stronger way than any other band to date.

5. Kaddisfly

Sounding more like J-pop than Christian rock from the Pacific Northwest, Kaddisfly is an impressive band indeed. While many argue that they aren’t a Christian band, I would argue that they are, the overtones of their lyrics are quite spiritual, and with an obvious flavor of Christianity at that. The main reason against calling this band “Christian Music” is that they don’t fall into the stereotypes of what is commonly perceived as “Christian Music”, proving that the bitter taste left in people’s mouths by all that “praise Jesus, play powerchords” garbage makes it so that if a good band comes along with Christian themes in their music we don’t even want to call them Christian just so others will take them seriously.

While I didn’t feel like I could make a seperate space for this, the members of Kaddisfly minus the member who left last year started a new band in the wake of losing their fifth member to take their music in a new direction. Check it out; it’s good stuff.

6. Family Force 5

Other bands on this list have had their status as “Christian” called into question from time to time, but Family Force 5’s electro-crunk-rock-metal-pop-dance music has managed to offend the sensibilities of so many Christians that they don’t want to claim this band as one of their own, no matter how much they plug Jesus. Or maybe the issue is that, although at shows and in their materials Family Force 5 claim a strong Christian morale, their music is mostly about dancing and love and parties and other stuff that’s awesome. The tragedy here it that there’s a belief in a lot of right wing Christianity that dancing and having fun aren’t spiritually healthy things to do. Family Force 5 is out to turn that on its head. To quote Soul Glow Activatur (Famly Force 5’s lead singer), “To me, and pretty much anybody that’s under my age, most Christian music is a turnoff. I don’t want to be affiliated with that. I want to be affiliated with something that is great music.”

7. Sufjan Stevens

Of everyone on this list, this is the artist you’re most like to have heard or have heard of. Everyone saw Little Miss Sunshine, everyone has heard the song Chicago by Sufjan Stevens, but nobody knows the guy is actually pretty damn Christian. In case you honestly don’t know who he is Sufjan Stevens is an indie/folk musician from Illinois who makes music that is quite near divine even without the Christian overtones. While not all of his songs are about God the ones that are don’t make any attempt to hide it. Like his many friends on this list, his music has been attacked for not being Christian enough, to which he has responded that his music is about all aspects of his life, his Christianity being just one of the many things he might choose to write about. He has written quite a few songs related to his faith, some of them (including Casimir Pulaski Day, the song I’ve posted here), being quite interesting from a spiritual perspective. Sufjan Stevens is particularly unusual in that he makes music that doesn’t just praise God, but also questions God, and sounds totally awesome while doing so. Maybe if more artists took the example of Sufjan Stevens in this regard, Christian music would be seen as a valid art form by the outside world instead of the laughing stock it is now.

Or they could at least take a tip from modern Quaker music; we long ago perfect the art of awesome music.

HelloLion is a dedicated wordsmith, spending his time of manditory indentured blogging here at ProjectGroupThink. You WILL follow us on twitter @pgtblog. OBEY!

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How to Justify the Music You Like – A Guide

We’ve all been there, your token hipster buddy’s got his new ipod dock out and asks you to hand your pod over so you can jam some Radiohead (or TV on the Radio, ‘Drum’s Not Dead’ era Liars, The National, Kasabian, or other suitably hip band) and when they’re scrolling through your artists to get to their intended choice of music they suddenly stop because they’ve just noticed that you have Lady GaGa on your ipod.

Kiss your indie-cred goodbye!
Kiss your indie-cred goodbye!

But wait! Before you panic, remember that it’s still possible to save some face. As someone who has both force others to justify their music taste, and had to justify my own on many occasions, I have a sort of expertise in the field of music others will make you feel ashamed of for listening to, and believe me when I say there is hope. Presented here is a list of ways in which you can salvage your social trainwreck and get away with just a few scratches.

The “Just One Song” Defense

The “Just One Song” Defense is one of the most common defense tactics used to justify an out of place item of music. This defense is simple and is based on the idea of just one artist/song/album/whatever, being a minor offense. “Look,” this defense says, “Clearly my taste in music is acceptable, so what if I have one All-American Rejects album? I like their first album, so sue me.” (Fun fact: I do like AAR’s first album…a lot. It’s good, really!) This defense can usually take the heat off of you, but it relies on one very important thing: that you only have ONE embarrassing song/artist/album on said ipod/playlist/whatever. It’s one thing to write off having “Get Low” as your one mainstream song on a dance music playlist, it’s another thing if you’ve got “Get Low”, “Buy U A Drank”, “Hips Don’t Lie”, and “In Da Club” all needing justification.

The Friend Defense

The Friend Defense is another common defense tactic that is useful in a variety of situations, but hard to make convincing. In spite of the name, it doesn’t necessarily require a specific friend; it works on the principal of it not being your fault because somebody else put it there, or asked you to put it there, for whatever reason. “Oh, James downloaded that!” or “Kelly said I just had to hear this one song by them” or “I was just going to delete this after I burned Tim a copy,” are all examples of the Friend Defense. As I’ve said before, the Friend Defense does not, necessarily, require a specific friend; as an amatuer DJ I’ve often used the defense of, “It was a requested song,” to justify the occasional embarrassing mainstream hip-hop/pop tune. This defense can work quite well, but generally falls apart around the time they notice that the song is on your top rated playlist and has two hundred plays in your library.

The Redemption Defense

The Redemption Defense is a tactic commonly employed by people who feel that all of the bands that they like are bands worthy of gaining one hipster cred, even if they don’t already. The main strength of this defense is that appeals to the logic of others, by giving a reasonable explanation for why a band isn’t as bad as a person thinks they are. The main weakness to this defense is that the band you want to defend has to have some redeeming value. A good example of the Redemption Defense put into action is the justification of listening to U2 (particularly the last few albums, no one questions Joshua Tree) by pointing out all of Bono’s philanthropic work.

Then again, maybe Bono is beyond redemption...

Then again, maybe Bono is beyond redemption...

The “I Knew Them Before They Were Popular” Defense

While the IKTBTWP Defense might not have a particularly catchy name, or acronym, it is a very effective defense, given that you can prove that what you’re saying is true. The logic behind it is this: if you knew a band when they were still “indie” than for you to listen to them is still somewhat “indie” even if they are now popular. When formerly “indie” bands like Modest Mouse and The Shins start to become somewhat mainstream, diehard hipsters will start to turn up their noses, but if you can prove that you got into Modest Mouse back when “Building Nothing out of Something” came out, you can justify your love for the band. Even bands that never had indie cred can be justified this way, just as long as you can prove you were listening to them before anyone else. If this wasn’t true and you can’t lie about it, then this defense becomes problematic.

The Nostalgia Defense

The Nostalgia Defense is truly a fabulous one, and one that can be used to justify almost anything you listen to. All you have to do is claim some memories are associated with the music, and people will generally leave you alone for it. If you put on Backstreet Boys in front of a group of 90’s kids, everyone will laugh and poke fun, but on the inside they’ll all be reliving some of their best (and worst) pre-teen moments. I often use this defense to justify my love of Snow Patrol, who is one of my favourite bands, but who lost all the indie cred they once had when Eyes Open came out. Considering that I started listening to Snow Patrol about six years ago though, I have a wealth of memories associated with the band, and as such they will always have a place in my heart. The best part about this defense is that they don’t have to know that, in many cases, you would like the band in question even without nostalgiac value. The main issue with this defense is that not every band you might try to justify has even been around for six years, and even if they have when you started listening to them is definitely a factor. Claiming that the band is nostalgiac ’cause you heard them at a sweet party last week will not save you from the ridicule of others.

Fuck you hipsters, this album is and always will be one of the greatest albums ever made!

Fuck you hipsters, this album is and always will be one of the greatest albums ever made!

The Blackmail Defense

When you’re desperate to hang out to your indie cred and running out of options The Blackmail Defense can be your friend. It is not a pretty tactic, but one does what one has to in these situations. Even your most “hipper-than-thou” friends have musical skeletons in their closet, and if you can find one, you can use it against them. “So what if I like, 3oh!3,” you say, “You listen to Shakira!” or “Who cares if I like Thursday? You own Korn’s entire discography on vinyl!” While it’s a dirty tactic and it certianly won’t win you any points, it can still save you some face. The only real issue with this tactic is that you have to know of a terrible band that the person pointing out your embarrassing taste likes.

Youa re unlikely to ever find yourself in a situation where one of these defenses won’t be good enough to cover your ass, but if you are, or even if you aren’t, you could, always just tell them to fuck off and that you don’t care what they think. You could tell them off for judging you and walk out, head held high, leaving them in a more confused state than they were after hearing Morrissey’s recent re-release of Maladjusted (ziiiiiing!), but who is really going to do that? So much of life is about keeping up appearances, and we all do it, whether we admit it or not. So remember this article the next time you get caught with something embarrassing on your ipod, and for now, here’s a little song that I thought was an appropriate closer to this article.

HelloLion is a contributing author here at projectgroupthink’s fantabulous blog of wonderous knowledge. You can spend less time anxiously hitting the refresh button on this page every ten minutes by following our tweets @pgtblog.

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I don’t care if you feel fat, now I’m self-conscious!

Did you know that clothing manufacturers have been slowly increasing the sizes of t-shirts, following the growing trend of obesity in America? Yes? No? Well, we’ll get to that later. In the mean time, let me tell you a story.

Almost two years ago my friend who lives in Colorado sends me a song called “Holler Til You Pass Out” by a, then, little known white rap group. He’d been seeing this group all over the place playing shows around the Boulder area relentlessly. At this point they hadn’t released anything and this one demo was the only song he had, but I listened to it several times and laughed at the ironic lyrics and bizarre whiteboy rap style, then misplaced the file and forgot the whole thing. This group was called 3oh!3, sound familiar to anyone?

A few years later, I stumble across the band by accident in a ipod touch application where one of their songs, “Don’t Trust Me” is featured and I go, “Whaaaaa?” Apparently this little Colorado based rap/electronica group has some recognition now. A lot of the bands in this particular app were sort of lesser known groups, though, so it didn’t strike me as being too weird, just a bit odd.

Later that day I was playing a game of naming song lyrics with some friends, where one person would say or sing a lyric and the others would try to say/sing the next line in response before anyone else (it’s a lot more fun than it sounds) when something strange happened. I decided to test my friend’s memory by singing a line from “Don’t Trust Me” as he and I had been listening to it earlier. So, I sang the line “Shush girl, shut your lips,” but, to my shock and surprise, before my friend could even start to respond another friend who had not been playing (and who was mildly inebriated) jumped in with “Do the Helen Keller, and talk with your hips!”

I’m not kidding, that’s actually a line from the song:

The only thing to do at that point was to download the album and give it a spin, so I did, and while at first I was puzzled and unsure of what I was listening to, I was soon entranced by by the knowingly over the top lyrics, catchy synth-hooks, and pounding beats. As someone who dabbles in dance music (both as a DJ and an artist), I was soon sold to it. Before long my friends started seeing me pull up to their houses blasting 3oh!3 and singing/rapping along. The amazing thing was, once I put it out there that I knew them and liked them, fans started crawling out of the woodwork. A friend who is well on her way to becomming a professional flamenco dancer insisted I play the song “Don’t Trust Me” again and again as we drove around town, another friend had me burn him a copy of the CD with overjoyed squeals of, “I heard this song but I didn’t know where to find it, thank you!”

So, the little white rap group I’d written off back then had some recognition, but I wouldn’t know just how much recognition they had until I ventured into the cesspit of angsty teenage culture that is Hot Topic. Before you judge, keep in mind that for someone who is reasonably tall (just over six feet) and rail thin, it’s hard to find clothing that fits me well, but the clothing carried by Hot Topic happens to be perfectly suited for people of my particular size. Besides, I like band tees and skinny jeans, so sue me.

One of my greatest weaknesses in this world is band tees. I think it comes from a guilt brought on by music piracy, the only cure for which seems to be to support the band by spending money to then advertise them on my body regularly (seems odd, doesn’t it?) and after a while it became clear to me that 3oh!3 definitely deserved the privledge of using my body as a billboard. Finding their shirt in Hot Topic, while only a small addition to the overall surrealness of the situation, was the icing on the cake for me.

Standing in the store with some friends, I picked up a 3oh!3 t-shirt (a black and white astronaut with colorful lettering and a pink lightning bolt overtop) and held it up to my body. “What do you think?” I asked. My friends responded that it looked good, but that I’d picked up an extra small tee.  We laughed about it and I grabbed a small, but as I checked out I wondered if I could have worn the extra small.

In the past I could remember buying medium, or even large shirts and having them fit comfortably, but as the size of t-shirts had gone up, I’d moved down, which is a pretty weird thing to do growing up since traditionally one does the opposite. Trying on the t-shirt later, I knew I was right. I could have bought that extra small.

Like many of you ephemeral readers I’m sure were I was brought up on the five paragraph system of writing, and thus and the end of this rambling blog I feel the need to come back to some kind of thesis, but I’m not sure what my thesis is. Am I writing about obseity, 3oh!3, the mysterious ways of popular culture, or my own self-consciousness. Damned if I know, but I’m going to go stuff my face with junk food and crank up the stereo with some 3oh!3. Then maybe I can wear a medium tee, if I don’t dance off the pounds too fast!

HelloLion is a regular contributor to projectgroupthink. You can follow our tweets @PGTblog if you’re cool like that.

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Music For The Revolution?

The other day, I was fortunate enough to find myself in a car that was filled entirely with philosophers. Admittedly, this is not so rare as it might seem, when one is at grad school to study philosophy, but I nonetheless jumped at the chance to over-intellectualize the mundane with like-minded colleagues. The topic du jour, as it happened, was music. I had off-handedly mentioned to a friend that an artist he endorsed (Neko Case) had made it onto the college rock Top 10. We began musing wistfully about the musical styling of our youths, lamenting the post-nineties Death of Rock (fuck you very much, Clear Channel and friends.) On a lark, we surfed the radio, looking for music that was both new and aesthetically gratifying.

This was, predictably, a failed endeavor.

As the evening continued, we found ourselves at the Launchpad, Central Avenue’s place-to-be for rock music. For those of you not aquainted with ‘Burque, Central is in actuality the oft-mythologized Route 66, yet it seems to attract predominantly a crowd full of “ballas” and “popped collas;” which in this author’s less than humble opinion are never indicators of a quality establishment. I would like to take a moment here to thank the Launchpad and similar institutions for their efforts in keeping rock alive, despite the fact that Lennon is long dead, and Jagger seems to have mastered the arcane knowledge requisite for lichdom.

Having bitched marginally about the state of contemporary music, I would like to follow the Launchpad’s example by actually conttributing something positive to the scene. To that end, I have contrived a “Recommended Listening” sort of endeavor, that I might use my energies to promote art instead of bantering ad nauseam about its perceived absence.

GHOST:
One of the better headliners I’ve seen at the Launchpad, Ghost is soft enough for the non-metal types, but possesed nonetheless of virtuosity, dynamics, and diversity of instrumentation. The typical rock line-up is still present (guitar, drums, bass, keys), but is augmented by chimes, gongs, woodwinds (sax, clarinet, wierd oriental pan-pipe thingy) and an electric cello. Also, I believe I may have spotted a theremin at one point.

In addition to having more instruments than a small marching band, Ghost plays each of them well and many intricately, easily hurdling the “melody barrier” that bars many modern schlock-rockers from serious musical consideration. Inspired and dynamic song structures combine with these elements to give Ghsot a sound that is recognizably rock and roll, but happily post-modern.

ISIS:
While I will attempt not to inundate readers with selections of metal bands, something must be said for a sound that is heavy enough for the Scandinavian crowd, yet ambient enough for the perpetually stoned. To boot, their lyrical content is far and away more mature than most of their peers’ (for example, their album “Panopticon” deals with the thought of Continetal heavyweight Michel Foucault.)

While the band’s sound could, in this author’s humble opinion, embrace more melody on the whole, they invoke a heavy ambience reminsicient of Tool’s later sound. If you’re intriigued by thematic depth and enjoy minor-key groove (the keboardist is very probably a hippie), this band may just be your panacea.

MARC DAVIS:
Hailing from Cleveland, Marc is a Berkleee musician with a visionary approach to softer rock. Combining layers of string-driven polyphony (guitar, piano) with Berklee-caliber singing, Marc’s band Plight of Pious grabs the listener afresh with each new heartbeat, playing with their dreams and their fears in ways both subtle and engaging. The instrumentation is far from static, as timpanis and what I believe to be a bizouki (?) leap unexpectedly into and out of the song structre. Also, the inner socialist in all of us will be delighted by the album’s free-ness at plightofpious.com.

Marc also recently released a solo effort, entitled “Eye.Sea.Land;” a trippier, more acoustic venture in a similar though not identical aesthetic vein. For fans of less abrasive stylings, either (read: both) of these offerings should prove revolutionary.

OPETH:
OK, so I’m 2-2 for metal and ~metal. I bring these musicians into a “secular” list, however, because out of seven songs on their recent album “Watershed,” only twice do they venture into the realm of truly brutaliscious metallizing. For the rest of the piece, they flow easily and effectively between prog, jazz, and a classic rock sound a la Pink Floyd.

While many metal bands are content with the crunching rhythm/indulgent solo appraoch to twin guitar music, Opeth departs from the norm by adopting a classical guitar style, over which the lead melody soars as much as shreds. Keys are also present, leavign the band with a well-rounded wealth of sounds, any of which might be invoked at a moment’s notice as the album flows seemlessly between genres and above the status quo.

SOULJA BOY:
Is totally not on this list. I secretly believe that he began his career as a gaoler for the soviet Gulag, and that “Kiss Me Thru The Phone” was relegated to American radio when the Party deemed it too cruel for punitive use.

Redpillneo is a contributing writer for Project Group Think. Get regular updates via Twitter @ username: PGTblog.

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