Category Archives: Music

Songs That Should Be TV Themes

Even though it’s an unrealistic, even absurd, notion, sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I had my own TV show. I have no idea what it would be like–whether it would be a comedy or drama–but the dream remains. Naturally, I started thinking about what the theme song would be to my hypothetical show.

You see, the theme is an important, but often overlooked, component of a show. It sets the tone and gives the audience a taste of what they’re in for. Some shows opt for a wholly original theme like New Girl, and countless other sitcoms from the 70s, 80s and 90s, while others, like 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and The Americans, opt for entirely instrumental themes.

I, however, would prefer an honest-to-goodness track from an artist.

Comedies 

“Stupid Kid” – Alkaline Trio

“Stupid Kid” would be perfect for a show kind of like Freaks and Geeks, a comedy with a strong point of view and value on reminiscence. It’s short, fast and almost everyone can relate to it.

“Trouble in River City” – The Ergs 

I want this to be a theme song strictly because its brevity will allow it to be heard in full.

“Fix My Brain” – The Marked Men

Whadya know? Another punk song! Anyway, I see this as an update to Weird Science, well,  a better update

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My Favorite EPs

In music, albums and singles are praised all the time–whether it be at the Grammys or by an arts and entertainment magazine or just some dude’s blog.

However, EPs (extended plays for you those of you not with it), the no man’s land between singles and albums, often go unrecognized. After thinking about it, I confirmed that I did, in fact, listen to enough of them to put together a little list.

These are the ones that have stuck with me.

Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988)

I imagine when all the hair metal bands in LA heard this, they just collectively shit their pantaloons.

Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden are the bands that get credit for starting the grunge movement, but Mudhoney was really the heart and soul of that scene. Before the success of Nevermind, this is the record that put Sub Pop on the map.

Mission of Burma – Signals, Calls and Marches (1981)

I remember hearing “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” for the first time and thinking this is one of the best things I’ve ever heard.

Mission of Burma were all trained musicians (in a scene where that wasn’t necessarily positive) and thus knew where to bend the rules. The complex compositions (relative to contemporaries) and strategic use of noise and feed back created a one-of-a-kind sound you’re not likely to forget.

Minor Threat – Minor Threat (1981)

When you get into punk music there are a few bands you’re required to listen to, Minor Threat is one of them.

It only clocks in at about 9 and a half minutes, but Minor Threat’s first EP is a powder keg of aggression and exuberance.

At this age, it’s hard to get behind some of the youthful righteousness of the EP. But, when I have a rough day at work, “I Donna Wanna Hear It” is the perfect form of catharsis.

Fugazi – Furniture (2001)

Fugazi is another Ian Mackaye band that seems to be required listening. The band was rooted in punk but moved away from the brevity and bluntness of the hardcore scene.

I think most Fugazi fans might be inclined to favor the band’s first self-titled EP or Margin Walker, but it’s always been Furniture for me.

It’s only three songs, but it’s 8:51 of brilliance. “Number 5” is one of my favorite instrumental songs because it’s so unrelenting.

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My Favorite Albums of 2013

Honestly, I could have done a better job with the music listening in 2013. However, I still got around to listening to a decent amount of albums. Most of them were from bands I already liked, so I guess I’ll have to expand my horizon in 2014.

*Also, it should be noted these were my favorites of 2013, not necessarily the objectively best albums of everything released last year.

British Sea Power – Machineries of Joy

I’m a sucker for this stuff. British Sea Power is one of many bands that picked up where post-punk bands from the 80s left off. Machineries is a little mellower than their earlier stuff, but “Machineries of Joy” and “Loving Animals” prove that’s a good thing.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Fly by Wire

I don’t know why it took me so long to get into SSLYBY. They’re from Springfield, Mo., and I probably missed lots of awesome shows while I was at Mizzou. Anyway, they’re catchy as ever on this album.

Local Natives – Hummingbird

Local Natives are one of the bands I think of when I hear “indie band.” I had a chance to see them in Asheville at the start of 2013 but didn’t go, and I’ve been kicking myself since.

Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

Here’s the thing about Scotland: If it produces a rock band, I’m going to like it. Orange Juice? Yup. Teenage Fan Club? Sure. Franz Ferdinand? Of course. We Were Promised Jetpacks? Naturally. Frightened Rabbit? You’re goddamn right.

This is another band that I had a chance to see but didn’t. Man, I am a stupid idiot.

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My Favorite Albums of 2012

It seems like everyone else is doing this list, so I figured I might as well.

*Also, this a subjective list of my favorite albums and not an objective list of the best albums of 2012.

17 Delta Spirit- Delta Spirit

I’m compelled to put this on the list because I’m such a big Delta Spirit fan, but I’ll be honest it disappointed me slightly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very good album. It’s just different.

If you were expecting something similar to Ode to Sunshine or History From Below, like me, you were in for a surprise. The band moved away from the roots rock approach on its previous albums. Delta Spirit is more polished and obviously more produced.

That being said, “California” is a great song, even if it’s no “Golden State.” (See what I did there? Jokes!)

16 Dr. Dog- Be The Void 

I love Dr. Dog because they have a knack for creating catchy, layered songs that keep you humming. Up until Be The Void came out, Shame, Shame, their last album, was my favorite. However, I think Be The Void has replaced it.

Despite being very catchy, sometimes their songs, and therefore their albums, can feel a bit drawn out. But this one didn’t feel like that at all. It felt intimate, and maybe  a little darker, but fun nonetheless.

The baselines and hooks in “That Old Black Hole,” “These Days” and “How Long Must I wait” will grab you immediately.

15 Zeus- Busting Visions 

Pretty much everything I just said about Dr. Dog applies to Zeus as well. They’re like the Canadian Dr. Dog. Actually, they might be catchier.

14 Nada Surf- The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy

Wait, the guys that sang “Popular” are still around? I’m sure that’s what you’re saying, and, yes, they are.

Currently, there seems to be a disturbing lack of rock bands doing the power-pop thing. Since Teenage Fanclub stopped making albums, and since this whole scene seemingly died with the 90s, I had to find my fix elsewhere. I had to look no further than Nada Surf.

I dare you not to feel good listening to “Teenage Dreams.”

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Top 6 Indie Record Labels

Okay, everyone get your hipster jokes out of the way now. I’ll wait. Good? Good.

Music history often notes the successes and failures of large record companies such as Columbia Records, Atlantic Records, Capitol Records, etc… However, as the 70s ended, independent labels played an increasingly significant part in the music history. These are my favorite labels, the ones that made a difference.

Vagrant Records 

Vagrant began in 1996, rooted in pop-punk and emo. This is the label that carried many of the bands I, and other white suburban kids, listened to in high school such as Alkaline Trio, The Get Up Kids, Saves The Day and Hey Mercedes.

They’ve continued to do good work, signing bands such as The Hold Steady and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.

Lookout! Records

Before Vagrant, there was Lookout! a bastion of pop-punk in  sea grunge. The label started in 1987 but really picked up in the early 90s thanks in part to the Gilman Street scene.

Green Day famously started on Lookout! but the label also produced a number of other talented punk bands such as The Mr. T Experience, Screeching Weasel and The Groovie Ghoulies.

The label also scores points for working with Alkaline Trio, Samiam and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.

Epitaph Records 

Epitaph Records, founded in the 80s by Bad Religion’s Brett Gurewitz, was the other main player in punk rock during the 90s. Several bands who came to have limited to enormous commercial success started on Epitaph. The most obvious examples are Rancid, the Dropkick Murphys and the Offspring.

Its roster also included NOFX and the Weakerthans as well as personal favorites the Bouncing Souls, Hot Water Music and the Descendents.

Matador Records

Matador was founded in 1989, and at one point Capitol Records owned a 49 percent stake in the label. However, founders Chris Lombardi and Gerard Cosloy bought it back.

Despite that relationship (and a short partnership with Atlantic), Matador has always been the label for indie bands. It the past, its roster included many indie darlings with cult followings such as Teenage Fan Club, Guided By Voices, Superchunk and Spoon.

The label still maintains a strong lineup consisting of bands such as Pavement, Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, the New Pornographers and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks.

Sub Pop Records

Sub Pop, founded in 1986, was home to the “Seattle sound,” which eventually led to grunge’s breakthrough in the early 90s.

The most famous alumna of Sub Pop is Nirvana, of course, but they had a strong regional presence signing bands such as Mudhoney, Sleater-Kinney and L7.

The label wasn’t limited to the Pacific Northwest or its particular band of rock, though. Sub Pop also worked with diverse bands like Built to Spill, the Afghan Whigs and the Reverend Horton Heat.

Now it is home to the Shins and the Postal Service.

SST Records

SST was the label that started indie labels as we think of them. Gregg Ginn started SST  in 1978 as means to release Black Flag (his band) records. The first release was Black Flag’s classic “Nervous Breakdown EP.”

The label quickly started signing like-minded bands, building an impressive roster that included The Minute Men, The Meat Puppets, The Descendents and Husker Du.

Later, the label started to diversify, signing Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and the Screaming Trees. SST still exists today, but it is not what it once was. Now it mainly releases projects directly related to Ginn.

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