Sunday, February 21, 2016

Music in Spanish

I want to talk a bit more about music because this is sort of fun to do. Now, I want to introduce music that you might like.

I've been listening to a lot of music in Spanish lately and it has been such a breath of fresh air. Like, it's made me consider getting back into music again only to realize that I've only gone further into listening to music that hardly anyone knows or wants to play. Even if I don't understand the lyrics(which is something that happens a lot in English anyway), there's a lot of great music that I've just been loving. What's especially great is that there are so many groups from so many different countries that you'll get some variety out of the thing. This might be a reason why I can't get into K-pop. There's the odd song that I'll enjoy, but they're a really big exception. Even the rock acts feel safe and boring while the pop acts will occasionally borrow musical styles to be a little more interesting. Maybe if Korean was spoken in more than mainly just one country, we could have more interesting songs.

But I think rock might just be a big genre in Latin America. The reason why The Ramones got popular is because they became really famous in Argentina. They actually spawned a whole new rock act in the country. So, coming to listen to all of the rock acts in Latin America feels a bit more like home to me.

So, let me do a top ten....egh, let's do 11. My favorite songs in the Spanish language.

11. La Flaca - Jarabe de Palo

This band gets points for being the gateway into the kind of music I like in Spanish and...honestly, that's kind of about it. These guys were great when I first heard of them, but after listening to other groups, these guys came out to be a bit generic and safe sounding, though they can still be a pleasant listen. And it doesn't make La Flaca kick any less ass than it does, though it doesn't help that Juanes and Santana got a hold of the song and made it kick even more ass. I've actually gone out of my way to listen to the rest of this album and it's pretty decent, though, unfortunately, their best songs are pretty much their more famous ones which honestly isn't a very good sign. But, either way, it's a good song to start with before finding other bands.

Notable mentions: Bonito, Bosque de Palo, El Lado Oscuro

10. Afuera - Caifanes

No matter how good the guitar player is, it's not really common to hear a guitar part that plays a counter melody this complex to complement the main melody from the vocals. What makes it cool is that the guitar work and the vocal work go well enough on their own, but having them put together is something that I wish more songs would do, especially in the rock genre. It's more than just improvising guitar licks; this is a composition. Doing something more than just laying down chords is something I want to see more of in songs(this is a big reason why I like Franz Ferdinand).

Notable Mentions: La Célula que Explota

9. De La Noche a La Mañana

A band probably only really known to Mexico as far as native Spanish speakers go, but these guys are quite great. This song gets a special notice because I kept on hearing "Recuerdas los ojos por la ventana" which means "you remember your eyes through the window." Well that don't make no sense. What do the actual lyrics say? "Y cuelgas los ojos por la ventana." You hang your eyes through the window? That almost makes less sense.

I will say that they do sound a bit like a band that classic rock radio would play to death and you'll never want to hear another fucking song by these guys. I think it's due to how epic sounding they seem to keep sounding. It's almost in that respect of Free Bird where you think "Wow! So epic! A song that's, like, deep and meaningful and then they breakdown into that 500 minute long guitar solo!" Luckily, Elefante has a lot more restraint than that, but I do kind of feel like they'd lose a lot if I listen to them over and over again. Luckily, I have control over how much I listen to them and don't have to hear some shitty DJ play their same songs over and over again.

Notable Mentions: Así es la Vida, Mentirosa

8. Eres Para Mi - Julieta Venegas

This kind of feels like a song I should hate. In fact, I'm not sure how much I can really get into the rest of this artist's work. It's a little more cultured towards Mexico and not really in the way that I like. But this one is a lot more Pop sounding, but sort of in a good way. Yeah, the music video is honestly pretty lame and there's even an awful rap in the middle that you can tell is awful even if you don't speak Spanish, but, somehow, this song manages to pull together. I think it has a lot to do with how the song is constructed. Along with the pretty awesome main melody going on, there are some counter melodies going on and it just sounds really unique. I'd call it a guilty pleasure, but...I honestly just like it a lot because it's constructed well. I wish more pop songs could take note to this. 

Also, Julieta is fucking hot!

Notable mention: Te Voy a Mostrar

7. Oye, Mi Amor - Maná

There's honestly another song by these guys that I think is a little better, but there's something strangely familiar to me about this song that I really like. Perhaps it's because they remind me of The Police and even someone pointed out that the singer sounds a bit like Sting. But even the drum style is a bit like Message in a Bottle. This song happens to be featured in Rock Band 3, something which my reaction was more like "What the fuck is this Mariachi shit? A spanish song? What?" I actually didn't even play this song on Rock Band until I discovered them on my own through Pandora and realized that, really, this song is featured on Rock Band and it's great! Another song by another artist is also featured on Rock Band that I may or may not get to later.

Notable Mentions: Tu Tienes Lo Que Quiero(the song that might be better, but I can't decide), Clavado en un Bar(a little more generic sounding, but it's still alright)

6. La Cordillera - Enanitos Verdes

I was talking to a Spanish speaker about these guys and he was amused by their group name. They're essentially called the Green Dwarves or The Little Green Men, which is hilarious. Also, I made Police comparisons in my last entry, but these guys honestly have a lot of songs that get pretty close to sounding like The Police. So, here's the one song where they don't, though I have to admit that, out of all the bands in this list, these guys might be the most familiar sounding to American audiences. And I'm picking the live version here because the recorded one is honestly not that great. A little too noisy and the guitar player can't seem to show restraint on most of the tracks. But the live performance really comes together to something a bit more unique sounding where even the guitarist comes up with great work. He's got the technical prowess of Peter Frampton with the whatever you call Eddie Van Halen doing's sort of thing and he plays in a way that I wish I could.

Even if they don't bring anything new to American audiences, these guys are honestly pretty great!

Notable Mentions: Tequila, A Las Tres, La Muralla Verde(live version is best), Francés Limón, Mejor no Hablemos de Amor(yeah, I know, a lot of songs this time, but these guys are honestly that good)

5. La Camisa Negra - Juanes

(I can't post the music video here, sorry!)

And here's the other guy from Rock Band, though I didn't choose the song from Rock Band even though I do really like the one they picked. Most of the Spanish speakers I talk to really like this artist and I can say there's a good reason for it. Because he's fucking good!

His songs bring a bit more of Latin American culture sounding styles to his music while still maintaining a more pop or rock focus and he comes out pretty unique. He also worked with Santana on La Flaca to make it more awesome than it already was. It's kind of weird that I don't have much more to say about him other than that, yeah, he kind of is that good!

Notable Mentions: Juntos, Me Enamora, Mala Gente, A Dios le Pido

4. Tu Boca lo Quita - Alex Cuba

Unfortunately, I haven't really heard anything else by this guy that was worth listening to. But this song is honestly really, really good. Everything feels constructed to perfection from the guitar part to the countering bass with a more talky melody rather than singing that still works really well. It's short and simple, yet, good enough that I kind of have to wonder why there aren't more songs like this.

3. Bailando Solo - Los Bunkers

(another music video I can't post, but find it because it's great!)

My brother went away to Chile for a bit and discovered these guys. After hearing it, that was kind of it for me in the fact that I guess I'm from the wrong part of the world in terms of music. Everything that you'd find in songs I like can be found here. A dance-like, disco drum beat with a a sort of funky guitar rhythm, an awesome bass part, and a synthesizer part that just kills. This kind of destroys everything about me liking the songs that are a bit more cultured, but how can I ignore a song like this? My point of comparison with this song is Franz Ferdinand and, if I haven't made it clear in the past, I LOVE Franz Ferdinand. To finally find out that there's another group that makes more music like Franz Ferdinand does is a real find.

Of course, they just broke up last year, those bastards...

I've listen to their album Vida de Perros and it honestly has better songs than Bailando Solo, but 
could I put a whole album instead of a song on my top ten? Well, actually...

The Real Number 3. Vida de Perros (Album) - Los Bunkers

I love this album so much! I don't know where to begin. They are sort of punk and angry while also being musically inclined enough to make actual good music. Considering this is honestly the only album I've listened to by them so far, I'm a little nervous listening to their others because it might not be that good. But considering that this album is over ten years old and Bailando Solo is a little over a year old, perhaps they have more great stuff just hiding around around the corner.

I have a hard time describing why I like this album so much, but it's honestly something really special.

Notable Mentions: Ven Aquí, Llueve Sobre La Ciudad, Tú, Te Vistes y Te Vas(honestly, everything from the album, but these songs in particular)

other songs not from the album: No!, La Velocidad de la Luz, La Estación Final

These guys might be my favorite band from this list and I'm realizing that there are still more songs I should talk about but won't be able to with just having ten.

2. La Primavera/Me Gustás Tu - Manu Chao

(can't find the two together for this blog, just look it up on youtube)

This might be cheating a bit since this guy is actually French, but I'll be damned if I'm not putting this on the list because this is honestly something really special.

This song is weird as fuck! I'm not sure if I really knew what I was listening to when I first heard this, especially since I could actually understand the lyrics for the most part. I like airplanes? I like to travel? I like the morning? What the hell is this song about? Also, he breaks down into "What am I going to do? Je ne se pas" Yep! Random French phrases in a song that's mostly in Spanish. Also, the main lyrics to this song only makes this more cryptic. "Que horas son, mi corazón?" What time is it, my love? A phrase I'm pretty sure was only put together because it rhymes and it sounds cool, especially within the context of the song.

It's also really hard to explain why I like this song too. Maybe because it's really weird yet really well put together to create this unique feeling sound just from the instruments alone. That's how real music works for me, by the way. It's not really about the lyrics, it's about the music itself and I'm about to show why with the next song.

Notable Mentions:...honestly, this guy is pretty hard to listen to. This song is from Próxima Estación: Esperanza, which has even more weird songs that you won't understand. He also likes to sing in different languages, so people who like to listen to lyrics aren't going to get much when he suddenly sings in Arabic and Galician(yes, he does that) But, because of all that, yeah, you should probably give him more of a listen, though it's hard to point in the right direction. You'll just have to find out if you like him on your own terms.

But, it's worth it, honestly!

REDACTION: I just remembered another song from another album. I think Clandestino is a little more accessible as an album and the song Clandestino is pretty good too.

If it's one thing I can say about this artist is that he's really unique, and I really like that.

1. Mal Bicho - Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

These guys speak way to quickly for me to understand and, according to a friend, this song is about a corrupt politician. When I read the lyrics, I realize that it feels like something John Lennon could have written if Imagine was more than just a simple pipe dream song(seriously, he's had better songs than this and that's the one people want to remember?)

But, who cares what the song is about? It's great just on it's own! What's great is that it changes styles almost seemingly at random, yet, it manages to work as a song on it's own. It's got a cool bass line with some great horn work while being easy to dance to(if dancing is your thing. I can't dance to save my own life). It also features Mick Jones from The Clash. He has some vocal work apparently...I'm not sure where, but that's really cool, isn't it?

It's another one of those songs that is honestly a bit weird but it feels right for it. The fact that the song changes styles for brief moments keeps the song from being too repetitive. They have a sort of similar sounding song called Matador and it isn't that good because the primary parts are kind of boring to begin with while also kind of droning on with a repetitive sound until the end. I love it because it's different than what I usually listen to but is also something I like to listen more of. And the album from where this song comes from is really good too! Let me show you some more songs!

Notable Mentions: Strawberry Fields Forever (Featuring Deborah Harry)

I'm not making this up. This is one of the very few times where a cover changes styles on a song while still making it sound like a good song. And the fact that they got the singer from Blondie to help with this song is really quite something. I mean, how did they get a member from The Clash and a member from Blondie to help a Argentine Ska band? This is just all sorts of cool!

And the other songs on the album are really good too, but The Beatles cover deserves a special mention

In Conclusion

Just type one of these artists in your Pandora and let the magic work. There are still artists that I haven't mentioned that still deserve mentioning. But you don't need me to tell you about them. Just go out and listen to songs that may not have lyrics you'll understand but still make great music. In fact, the sort of musicality to the Spanish language seems to give these songs a more musical quality that I like. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

That Time I was into Music: Episode 2

Warning: The following blog post will be filled with nothing but wankery since it's about musical tastes. Seeing as you can't talk about musical tastes without the discussion turning into a self-righteous wank fest, this still needs to be brought up.

One of the weirdest things about getting into learning languages and having Korean as one of your first languages to learn is that I was thrown into this weird world known as K-pop. My Korean teacher would enthusiastically show us all of the crazy music videos with the hard hitting beats and the hard hitting layover synth tracks. "Whoa! Look at how out there Korean music is! It's so different, so better!" I can only imagine the American K-pop fans would be saying.

But, then there was me who could only look at the videos and hear the music just to say "Hold on...this is just like the pop here in the US." Apparently that's not something to say in front of Koreaboos because they will defend how much different and better K-pop is until they're dead. Even my Korean teacher tried to justify that "No. Look, they're different. Look how skinny they are." Well, if your point of reference is on how skinny the stars on the videos are...well, it's not a very convincing argument. For one thing, that's really just a visual fashion key point. And another thing...well, a lot of pop stars in the US are then. Sure, now we have this movement towards stars that are heavier, but they're the exceptions that prove the rule. As in, the reason they exist is to comment on how most stars in the US are stupidly thin.

Anyway, here's an post describing on how K-Pop and Western Pop are basically the same thing, and he does it in a way where you learn a lot about music history and a little about music theory. It's a seriously awesome piece of work.

So, what's the point of this digression? Well, it seems like I'm one of the few people who not only has the audacity to point out how K-pop really isn't all that strange and unusual, especially compared to the US, and that I seem to be one of the few who's able to notice.

But, this even happened with my first exposure to K-pop. Remember when Gangnam Style was a thing? When I first heard that song, I just thought it was Party Rock Anthem all over again, and I'm not the only one to point that out!!!

So, my point here is that my ears seemed to be trained differently in that I can usually pick up on stuff like that where others can't. This may or may not be a reason why I like to listen to different kinds of songs that seem to put off others. If there's an artist that you and I would like, we probably like them for different reasons. I might actually like some of their songs that they're not exactly famous for. Most of my favorite Beatles' songs weren't exactly singles. Candy-O is my favorite album by The Cars, but the only song I don't like on it is the only one they play on the radio from that album. But I'll be damned if I know anyone else who wants to hear anything else from that album.

Does this make me better than anyone? "Oh, look at me! I'm the hipster who likes songs that you don't know."

No, not really. My life got a lot more relaxing when I wasn't in an environment where I had to talk about music constantly. Though, I'm constantly questioning why most of the songs that get popular seem to get popular. It seems really bad when you realize that a lot of songs that people consider to be really bad were really popular at one point. Todd in the Shadows goes back in time to tell you which songs were really popular only to tell you why nobody likes those songs anymore or why anyone cares. And it depresses me that seems to be a repeating cycle.

It's not all bad, I guess. Some of the songs eventually do get to be considered good, it's just too bad that it's hard to tell when you're in the middle of it all.

Hell, it seems that some people get mad at the artists who seem to actually matter. Let's go back to 2004, which just so happens to be the year that was reviewed by Todd in the Shadows. One fascinating album came out by a group called Franz Ferdinand(a band that I absolutely adore) and here's a user review from Metacritic during the time of when that album came out.

"Why is it that all these no name bands get great reviews. All these indie/art rock bands are nothing 
and will never be remembered for anything."
Some Impressive Wanker

It's honestly quite funny. I still know people who listen and talk about Franz Ferdinand. I hardly know anyone who talks about the pieces of shit songs that were featured in Todd's video. Yet, those songs were the most popular at the time apparently.

Anyways, the point of this really long, pretentious post is that I seem to like music in a different way than others do. Sure, that's the same with everybody, but I find that people who play instruments tend to listen to songs as a whole more than just hearing the singer or the important melodies. Though, I do seem to have unusual tastes even among other instrumentalists.

For instance. As a guitar player, what would be my favorite guitar solo ever written? Something fast, right? Maybe it's Eruption by Van Halen? So fast, so much tapping. Or maybe it's something by Steve Vai? Joe Satriani?

Nope! I'm honestly kind of tired of guitar players being praised for how fast they can play. That kind of playing is really just guitar players being masturbatory. Yep! It takes a really mastered, technical skill, but I rarely hear anything that's worth listening to when it comes to guitar players trying to play as fast as possible.

No, my favorite solo is the one done by Paul McCartney in Taxman. A twelve second guitar solo that comes out of nowhere and really defines the song. It's really quirky but in that sort of good way. There aren't a lot of guitar solos like it.

A close second for me would be from a Franz Ferdinand song. A band where throughout 4 of their albums, they've only really had two guitar solos in their songs. You're The Reason I'm Leaving has a solo that's so well implemented and composed that you don't really even realize that you're listening to a guitar solo. It feels more like a composition rather than just the the band deciding to stop to have a short jam session.

But the one that really sticks out with me is the guitar solo in this song.

It's already a great song, but then the guitar solo comes in that just defines the whole things. Then, suddenly, another guitar is added for harmony and it sounds incredible!

I could go on, but I don't want to and I get the sense that nobody really cares anyway. Music has always been something that has felt more personal and private to me. It's never really been a shared experience I've had with others. There were a couple of times when it felt more shared though. Like when Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action was brand new and I sang the songs with a couple of other people when we were driving. Granted, one of the guys was the guy who introduced me to this band but it was still cool. Another time was my time in Korea where I met a friend and we seemed to be really, really similar in music tastes and when we did Noraebangs(singing rooms) we liked singing a lot of the same songs together. It was honestly something truly special.

So, there we go. The two times in my life where it actually did feel like something special.

I read somewhere that most people's favorite songs are based on the memory of they had while hearing that song. That's not really true with me. Most of the time, when I discover my favorite songs I think "Wow! This is awesome!" and I'm the only person in the room listening to it. I will say that two really silly songs known as Uptown Girl and Wham!'s Last Christmas will now forever be attached to a bittersweet memory of my final moments in Korea. I'm not sure if I really like those songs, but those are songs that I have memories attached to.

But, other than that, music isn't really something I'm able to make friends with. And it's a big reason why I don't like talking about music.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Time I was into Music

Every time I tried to start writing, I would always go back to whining about my life. But, I guess there are only so many ways I can complain about the same thing. But, I guess if there's anything worse than being a whiny little douche who doesn't do anything about anything is being seen as a whiny little douche who doesn't do anything about anything.

So, here's an attempt to talk about something more fun.

Or at least, it should be more fun, but I always end up wanting to punch somebody in the middle of this kind of discussion.

The discussion of music.

This is something that I usually don't like to talk about because I'm never on the same page with anyone...ever! I think one of the many reasons why I was alienated in high school(aside from being weird and annoying) is that I did have a pretty condescending attitude towards people who didn't really "get" music.

An irony is that a lot of the music I used to like is now music that I just...kind of don't. There was a time when I thought Guns'n'Roses was a good band...oh, dear, Sean, if only I could go back and tell you how wrong you were.

But, it went a little further than that. If you need a general idea of what kind of music I was into, yes, it was mostly classic rock but there was also a point where I was really into Peter Frampton. Yes, the guy with the talk box. Yes, a guy in his teens really started to like Peter Frampton when the 2010s started. Five years later, I would find out that someone my age was also really into Peter Frampton, but I never got to meet the guy. But, I learned it wasn't an isolated incident. I learned that there are people who share my musical tastes, if that means anything anymore.

Well, maybe a lot, actually. I heard about this guy during my time in Korea. But, the guy who told me this was someone who was a really good friend for the month I was in Korea. Maybe we didn't see eye to eye on everything, but we did have very similar music tastes. We both really like David Bowie and we don't like Guns'n'Roses. That's a pretty good match. I have to wonder where someone like that guy was from during my time at ACM.

But, to be fair, I guess there were more people like that at ACM than I realize. I just wasn't very good at networking or being able to make friends and work on projects together that didn't require a grade. But, I'm not sure if I could have played things differently. Maybe it was just a weird time, maybe I was playing things off well.

Oh, I also play guitar and I did have my own dysfunctional band during my time in high school. There aren't a lot of videos that really show off how good we were, I mean, we had some downright terrible performances. But, here's the only existing video where we were actually pretty good.

I think it was after this where everything just went slowly downhill. Maybe we should have broken up after seeing things not go well after this performance. Hell, there wasn't really even official break up. We just slowly deteriorated where members decided to suddenly be to busy for the performances I wanted to do because they were getting sick of me.

Sadly, this was the pique of anything related to music for me. When I went to ACM, things were somehow just a little worse. The first band I was assigned to started not to like me because I was jerk about how people should play their parts. But, I didn't feel like I was in the wrong because I tried to grow familiar with each song we were assigned. I had to learn the bass parts to the song so I knew which chords to play, even if I didn't play bass in the band. It was good to know. Also, I had a basic understanding of music theory that others didn't seem to grasp, which made communicating what parts I wanted people to play to be pretty hard. But, with all of that, yes, I do feel like I have something to say when I can hear someone isn't playing their part correctly.

But, people thought I was being a jerk, so I had to back off a bit. They told me I was getting better, but it felt like the whole thing would set the stage for the rest of my time at ACM.

But, this wasn't an isolated incident only with me.

In the next group, I decided to keep my mouth shut, but it was a little easier to do because the people in the next group were more competent at what they did. Or they were better at preparing for their parts. But what made it hard was that we had three different singers who all wanted to do their own thing with little regard to any of the instrumentalists who maybe wanted to try something of their own as well. In the end, it was always the most popular song at the time that we would always play. It marked the first and only time I would play a god...damn...Maroon 5 song. Yuck...

But, one thing that was interesting was that it was the first time I performed an original song that I helped write with one of the singers. A song that I find to be perfectly okay but everyone else seems to really like for some reason, so there's that I guess.

So yeah...there's the song that "me and the guitarist wrote"


thanks for the credit

But, one of the things that happened that made me decide not to want to be a part of anything anymore was when we practiced one song and a couple of the singers were clearly not practicing so the third singer called them out on that.


Who knew that suggesting performers to actually try their best would be a little too...much. And she wasn't being mean about it either, but that didn't stop the two singers from calling her a "bitch" and a "cunt" and...yeah, I don't really miss that time.

I don't know what it is, but I kind of regret learning how to play the guitar. Like, if there was ever an instance of dreams being completely ruined, I think this was it. I've never really had anything where I was so sure about what I wanted to do with my life only to have it gradually be the thing that I just sort of dread. But it's hard to explain why. Obviously, if it was something I truly wanted, nothing would stop me, right?

I don't really know what happened inside of me. Maybe it was because I never really had the personality or communication skills to really get what I want. I was always playing for other people but I never got to play for myself. And, maybe I'd play acoustically and play a couple of songs I like for myself, but nobody really wants to hear that. They just want to hear the same few mediocre songs that they hear on the radio every day for the rest of their life.

But, on a lighter note, maybe it's not over yet. One of the members from my original band wants to try something new again. And we'd probably try something if it wasn't for the fact that he's in the military and I'm probably going to be spending more time in Korea in the near future. But I also met someone who I felt like I could form a band with if I didn't meet him somewhere where it'd be hard to really see each other again. But, I guess there's still something at least. One time, a few years after writing Fix My Heartache, I was introduced by someone as the guy who wrote that song. This happened when I didn't even know if people still cared about that song. The fact that some locals are performing that song is really weird to me.

So, where is all of this going? Is everything finally done? Is the writing on the wall? I don't know.

Next time, I get to bore you with my tastes in music, so stay tuned if you honestly care, you weird bastard.