Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Scavenger Hunt

See you at Storyzilla tonight at Rachael's Cafe!  There's a $10 admission price, but I'm sure it will be worth it.  Here's a story about the first one - see if you can spot the bass player sporting the white man's overbite.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Soliciting Ideas And Performers For Christmas Posts

Longtime readers know that starting in December, I like to post (or repost if no new recordings have been made) performances of Christmas-related audio here for all to enjoy.  Regardless of the audio quality of the end result, I've found it is something I've really enjoyed listening to and/or participating in as the case may be.  I always appreciate what people make because often it involves leaving their comfort zone to make the work.  And I feel grateful - it definitely gets me in the holiday spirit.

This year, I'd like for readers to suggest ideas for content.  What holiday related performances would you like to see posted here, and who would you like to hear performing it?  Would you,  humble reader, like to submit something?  Let's talk!

In the past, we've had:
 - original poems read by the author
 - covers of holiday songs
 - accounts of Christ's birth from scripture (read by my mom and dad - it gets me every time to listen to it)
 - selected readings from popular Christmas programs

What do you have?  Wanna do a radio play?  Sing a song?  Write and read a poem or story?  Start suggesting ideas below.  I'll follow up with whoever might be interested - I have ways of recording performances even if you live far from me, so don't be shy!

Past holiday performances:
 - A cover of Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas From the Family" by the Creekdogs
 - A Creekdogs cover of "Spotlight On Christmas"
 - The Cosby Sweaters' cover of "Blue Christmas"
 - Christmas wishes from some very precocious youths from Ohio
 - I posted a prank call from a person I may or may not know
 - Yet another Creekdogs cover - this one is "Roving On A Winter's Night"
 - Leslie Donovan does a great version of "Silent Night"
 - Here's a Cosby Sweaters original entitled "Peppermint Stick Shiv"
 - My mom and dad read the story of Christ's birth - one of my favorites of the holiday contributions
 - And holy shit:  Santa (and Prancer!) left my son a voicemail!

Why limit it to just audio this year?  Got a cool movie or photo?  (Vintage shit always plays well at the holidays, right?)  Let's talk!  The tone and content of your works don't matter so much; they just have to be entertaining and related to the holidays.  Submit your ideas in the comments section.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Here's Your Seasonal Mix Of Trashcan Sinatras Tunes

Everyone has seasonal tunes.  They might go by different names - "beach jamz!1!!!" or whatever, but we all have certain artists or genres we go for when the weather changes.  As the year enters the homestretch towards Thanksgiving and Christmas, for example, I will move towards a musical diet that is rich in bebop.  I don't know why for sure - I think because there's an intimacy and warmth to the sound of drums, upright bass and piano that I crave as the days get short, cold and gray.  The move towards jazz is never really a conscious decision; it's really something that just gradually happens.  When I get my first longings for spring, I start to listen to twangy, surf-tinged songs.  Same thing:  it just sort of happens.

But we are at the height of fall, and fall has been exceptionally beautiful around here this year.  Fall is clubbing over the head with its, uh, "fallness".  For me, fall means listening to songs with a higher concentration of jangly guitars, layered harmonies and effects that give the songs a sense of spaciousness.  For years, the Smiths satisfied this urge; the past 15 years or so it has been the Trashcan Sinatras.

There's a lot going on in Trashcan Sinatras' tunes.  I tend to seize upon the complex, always interesting harmonies. But at any given time, there are three or more guitars layered into the tune.  You can hear a different guitar almost every time you listen to the same song, and I love this.  In some nonspecific way, their tunes conjure up their homeland of Scotland quite nicely.  I tend to think of foggy forests, greener than life peat bogs, and northern industrial mining towns.  They're reliance on word play and puns in songs can be a bit annoying, but it doesn't dampen my love for these tunes too much.  It's just something I notice from time to time.  Otherwise, the songs are sparkly pop gems, and since I'm shitty at describing them, let's listen to a few that will help you enjoy your autumn, shall we?

Use headphones for maximum satisfaction.

"Earlies" - hadn't heard this one until yesterday, and I love the laid back feeling it gives me.  Listen for the unexpected banjo (possibly a bantar?) towards the middle.
"Send For Henny" - another mellow vibe
"How Can I Apply?" - are you chillaxed yet?
"Oranges And Apples" - a nice "Penny Lane"-type song
"Blood Rush" - picks up the pace a bit.
"Hayfever" - trippy video, a little bit more urgency than the previous tunes
"Twisted And Bent" - this tune is riddled with wordplay and puns, but don't let that stop you from enjoying the solo and the fade out.  Wait for the funny Scottish guy at the end of the video.
"Only Tongue Can Tell" - this was the song that started it all off for me.  I never forgot how much I loved this song after seeing it on "120 Minutes" in high school.  Memorable because it sounded great, but also because the singer played a guitar with a Gibson SG body, but a Fender neck.  Trippy.
"I'm Immortal" - this one seems stripped down, but it's just as layered as any of the previous songs
"Snow" - oddly, the shitty falsetto singing towards the middle makes this song even better.  This song always draws me in without fail.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Audio Scratch Pad: "Redneck Riviera" - Birth Of A Hit?

Months ago, I sent to my friend Tyler a "talking blues" song about nearby Lake Monroe which I called "Redneck Riviera".  It was mean to affectionately poke fun at those salt-of-the-Earth types who hang out on the lake.  She liked the lyrics, but we never really did anything beyond taking a quick stab at throwing chords to it.  We were never quite please with it, so we shelved it and moved on.

I was at Tyler's house last night practicing for the next Storyzilla show.  You see, Tyler and I played music between the stories at the inaugural show last month, and both the music and the stories were raging successes.*   Usually our practices go pretty well.  We often enter them with apprehension - will we be ready in time for the next show?  will song x make the grade?  will we sound okay? - and leave pleasantly surprised at how the set has come along as well as completely re-energized at the potential for fun at such shows.  Last night, we were both just tired.  Don't get me wrong:  we weren't grumpy, we didn't suck, we just weren't firing on all cylinders.  As practice was waning, Tyler suggested we revisit "Redneck Riviera".  I figured what the hell.  She threw out a random chord progression on the spot and hummed a melody.  Next thing I knew we were doing harmonies and figuring out a chorus (my original version had no chorus).  We were both saucer-eyed:  this thing was coming together.  Holy cow.  It is nothing fancy, but it is coming together.

Embedded below is only our second attempt ever at singing it.  You'll hear lots of little imperfections, but I think you'll also hear why we are so attracted to it.  It's a fun, original tune that's perfect for this little coffee shop gig that features original stories (and music!) all night.  It's interesting to note that we also sing a song that Tyler wrote the words and music for called "M-22", which is about Leelanau County, Michigan.  It's sort of the anti-Lake Monroe.  Totally unintentional, but a nice contrast.

Anyway, as rough as this tune is, I kinda like it.

*-If our music wasn't a raging success, it was at a minimum good enough to be asked back.

"Redneck Riviera (Lake Monroe)"
Words by Matt Zink
Music by Tyler Ferguson

john boat
bait shop
outboard repair
breathing in Coronas
and drinking smoky air
life vest
Polar Pop
fuel mix
basement crop
Nerf ball
hot dogs
2 piece suit
jet ski
Everclear fruit
tackle box
fishin’ lure
propane grill
dance party
salsa spill
hook up
Mountain Dew
sunburned back
pickup truck
rifle rack
filet knife
slalom ski
gas station
pit stop
cricket chirp
golden sky
mud water high

Monday, October 6, 2014

Polyphonic Singing = Brain Fucking

My friend Pete tipped me off to something that is truly trippy:  polyphonic singing.  Polyphonic singing is essentially one person singing two notes/lines simultaneously.   It's really pretty neat.  Will the wonders of this world (and this woman) ever cease?  Stay with the whole video - she starts with basic examples of polyphonic singing, then gets more complex as the video goes along.  Truly cool stuff.

I have to admit to chuckling a bit upon hearing her singing.  Her voice reminded me a little of a Bloogle, which is this really cool toy my mom bought for us when we were younger.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Yesterday was a very unusual day - I literally left my Uncle Jim's funeral to go straight to a wedding.  I couldn't stop thinking about the Jam's "Just Who Is The 5 O'Clock Hero?"

It also got me thinking about the music of the respective events; about how they served different functions.  This is hardly an original observation, I know.  But it is one that clubbed me over the head yesterday.

Uncle Jim's funeral was at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Bedford, IN.  The church itself is one I like a great deal.  It is modest in scale and ornament, but it is built of (what I assume is) locally quarried stone.  The heavy stone and mostly Gothic architecture gives a sense of ageless stability and comfort.  It's also the church in which my parents were married, so immediately grim events like funerals become a bit more endurable because on some level, life for me began there.  So in a way, the table was set for the music.

Then the small church choir kicks in with some hymns*.  It's what you'd expect:  mistake free but dull, stoic, unemotional, and static. But it struck me that there is safety in such staid music.  Wandering minds (like mine) found the music and stayed there for a bit.  There is no proverbial teeth gnashing and hair pulling to be found anywhere in those hymns, and I came to see that for at least me, that was the point.  The routine of the ceremony and hymns manages to acknowledge the grief without letting it take over.  Besides being a statement of faith, I believe that is why those songs are so measured, so calming.  I was thankful for it.

Flash forward to the wedding reception:  there also the music was a known entity - safe songs on a playlist that was pretty much the opposite of ambitious.  I have to admit to rolling my eyes when I heard songs like "Shout", "Respect", and "Sweet Caroline".  Like the liturgical music, these are old ass songs that everyone knows; they are familiar as a very, very, very old pair of jeans.  Jeans that are ready for the museum, jeans that would need to be carbon dated to learn their age.  However, in this case, it was meant to lube the crowd and get them out on the dance floor.  Granted, I left early so they could've totally busted out the smutty, "grind your partner" tunes later, but when I was there, the newest, most "cutting edge" song was "MMM Bop".

Whatever/it's fine.  It's their big day, not mine.  They should play whatever the hell they want.  Anyways, you could've had a live performance from Vulfpeck and I probably still wouldn't've danced.  I just think it's interesting how what is familiar is supposed to achieve two different results.

* - I want to be abundantly clear that this is in no way a criticism of the choir.  I can't tell you how how grateful I am that there are folks who are willing to give up time on their weekends to get dressed up and come into church for events like this.  It is clear that this is a ministry for them, and I offer them much respect.  Thank you to all of those that sang at Uncle Jim's funeral.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fat Friday Feature: Vulfpeck's Joe Dart On "Beastly"

Awwww yeah:  after such a long gap, it's so nice to be doing another Fat Friday Feature!  Long time readers (if there are any) know that Friday is the day we showcase a bad ass bass player and/or smokin' bass part.  Today we have Vulfpeck's Joe Dart melting the fingerboard of his beautiful Fender Precision bass on "Beastly".

Long about last week, I was thanking my brother Paul for hipping me to, which, seriously, is the dopest funk, soul and hip hop programming I've ever heard.  He mentioned if I liked We Funk, I should check into Vulfpeck.  I've literally been listening to Vulfpeck exclusively since we had this conversation last week.

Although I didn't make the connection until right before I started working on this entry, I was reminded through some light Googling that Vulfpeck released an album of silence on Spotify in order to raise funds to record an actual album.  Of course, Spotify yanked it because they didn't like getting played like that.  I remember thinking it was a pretty clever little gaming of the system, but I didn't really think anything of Vulfpeck until Paul told me to check them out.

Vulfpeck is funk, but don't let that scare you. They're not the same as the stuff that gets passed off as funk these days - stuff like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. For starters, their sound is stripped down to the essentials.  You get the sense from watching their videos that they might not even do overdubs.  They take what is great about 70s funk - the fucked up times, the slinky bass lines with fat tone, the Fender Rhodes piano - and drop it square into 1982.  There's an undeniable hint of 80s synth madness to what the do.  But never, ever do they come off as schlocky or novel.  They know what their doing, and it all sounds great.

Then there's Joe Dart.  He's pretty much everything you could want from a bassist, all in the same song.  Does he lay a groove?  Check.  Does he have great tone? Check.  Are his lines and fills totally unique?  Yep - check.  Can he solo?  Hell yes/check.  As I've stated before, I don't even really like bass solos that much, but he is definitely an exception.  Check out "Beastly" but for God's sake, don't stop there.  Vulfpeck has a truck load of kick ass to dump on you.