Monday, August 29, 2016

On a lighter note... Man Crush Monday!

Have I seriously never done this before? Well, "late to the party" is my middle name. Really. It's quite cumbersome on my driver's license. Anyway. Here are, in my opinion, the three most beautiful men on the planet.

Jensen Ackles AKA Dean Winchester. My longest-standing crush! *applauds*

Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance looking adorably cheeky in a beanie. *insert heart eyes emoji*

And finally.. is it possible to sigh and drool at the same time?... Aaron Rodgers. He's not the only reason I'm a Packers fan, but he sure doesn't hurt.

Okay, now back to my regular stoic dignity.

Monday Musings ~ why does 2016 seem so damn sad?

With the news today that Gene Wilder, another wonderfully weird and unique talent, has passed away, 2016 weighed heavily on my mind again. Willy Wonka was as much a part of most of our childhoods as peanut butter and jelly and Saturday morning cartoons. RIP. :( So does 2016 seem especially sad because us 80s kids are losing some of our most beloved icons, and there ain't no angst like 80s kid angst? Maybe, partly, but I think it's more than that.

Let's get this out of the way: the general picture of the world right now isn't too swell. The blight on humanity that is Trump is somehow one step away from actual power, like we're living in some crazy dystopian novel. His opponent is so unlikeable and uninspiring, except to those who are more inspired by gender than actual character, that we can't even comfortably rally around her. It's like having to root for Dolores Umbridge over Voldemort.

I don't know if the world is more violent in terrible ways, like police brutality and terrorist attacks, or if it just seems that way because of the biggest blight of all, 24/7 "news." But by God, does it seem like we're constantly on the brink of disaster in the name of ratings. Congratulations assholes, you've officially warped the psyche of America. Doesn't living in a culture of fear and blame just make you giddy?

That brings me to my main point, "entertainment." On the brightside, I think the 2010s will be remembered as a golden age of tv, mostly because of Netflix, HBO, and networks like AMC and A&E. Meanwhile, the "big" networks keep spoonfeeding cheap reality crap and the same warmed-over formulas. They're becoming irrelevant, much in the way I hope big radio becomes irrelevant to more independent music. Because, oh yes, mainstream music in 2016 SUUUUUUCKS. And I know I say this every year, but this is the worst BY FAR... so far. Just one piece of disposable crap after another. Not even crap. At least crap smells like crap. This is like odorless gas; you don't even know you're inhaling it as it slowly kills your musical taste. Unless a whole slew of great songs comes out in the second half, I will not be able to fill out a top 10 best hit pop and country songs list this year. I WON'T EVEN REMEMBER ANY OF THEM COME DECEMBER!

Movies are becoming more and more tunnel vision, too. Reboots, remakes, sequels, whatever makes a buck. No one's willing to take a risk on original ideas anymore I guess, like Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Beetlejuice, etc. back in the day. Those things that became the things we look back fondly on now. They had to happen in the first place, you know? Someone had to take a chance. And hey, they all made money! Lots of lots of money. And more importantly, they made lasting impressions. Soon the world will be nothing but a small group of people with a ton of money and nothing to spend it on. And nostalgia will eat itself, because there won't be anything to look back on anymore. With the exception of tv, I've never felt the death of art so strongly as I have this year. And even one of our best tv shows was about... 80s nostalgia.

Going eerily along with this death of art is, of course, the deaths of actual artists who brought a unique voice to the world. While it's incredibly sad to lose people like Prince and Bowie and Merle, we've been losing icons since the dawn of celebrity. I'm sure it was sad to lose, say, Humphrey Bogart, or Frank Sinatra, or Patsy Cline, or John Lennon. What makes this year any different?

Well, basically... where's the good news? What's there to soothe our souls that doesn't end in "ale" or "pie?" The ratio of bad to good things happening this year is shockingly high. While we mourn the loss of one of a kind artists, we also live more and more in a cultural vacuum in which new unique artists cannot be heard. Oh, they're out there, there's absolutely no lack of talent and creativity in this huge world, and there never will be. But how do they get their voices heard in a Kardashian-based society? Perhaps more importantly, how do they get them heard without autotune? Every time we lose an icon, we lose more than just that person. We lose part of a rich culture that's swiftly disappearing and being replaced by... Vine, and "look at me! look at me!" people, instead of people who actually had something to say. The stakes have never felt higher.

There's a reason that not only people who were around in the 80s and before are mourning these icons. Younger people aren't going, "who?" They're mourning right along with us, because the work of these artists is TIMELESS. Kids of today's kids will probably know who Prince is, or Willy Wonka, because we'll keep passing them down. They leave an undeniable cultural mark.

What being made today, at least in the mainstream, will leave that kind of mark? What will still be talked about and remembered fondly, or at all, in 20, 30, 40+ years? At the rate we're going, I say not too damn much. And that's what makes this year seem so damn sad. It's not just the dizzying abyss of perspective that comes from being around all these years. It's not just an 80s kid problem. It's a cultural problem, and it's one we need to fix fast, or we'll be facing years with plenty to mourn, and little to celebrate.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Feel Good Whiskey Soaked Friday ~ The Pretty Reckless

Well, this is good. I just found these guys thanks to a youtuber I subscribed to because they like The Maine. I love when life happens that way! This is, I don't even know what to call it, just solid rock and roll. Music to drink to. So happy Friday, and rock on!

They even have a gorgeous rock ballad.

This song is from their new album coming out in November, so I'm pretty pumped for that!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

All kinds of music stuff! Part three

Rock and roll can still save your soul. I should get that tattooed someday. Actually, I should just put it on a t-shirt. That would be a lot less prickly.

So back in the day when "mainstream rock" meant Journey, not Nickelback, I wasn't really an "alternative" kind of gal. I liked my top 40, dammit. I liked Madonna and Michael Jackson. Everything was just fine, because it was the 80s.

Then, in the latter half of the decade, my impressionable pre-teen self heard R.E.M. for the first time. This was the same time I owned stuff by Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. And maybe it sounds dramatic, but I was forever changed. Not just my taste in music but me, who I was as a human. Oh I still listened to pop music for several years after, but suddenly the world felt bigger and I felt more... whole? Mature? It was exciting.

At this time MTV was not only still relevant, but aired what was probably one of the most important music shows ever, 120 Minutes. This was a two-hour block of alternative videos that aired every Sunday night. I found so many bands through that show, some I still listen to. The Smithereens were another favorite. And The Connells. Oh jangly guitar rock, how I miss you. R.E.M.'s early albums, from the amazing Chronic Town/Murmur era and really up through Monster, were extremely influential on my music taste. I still listen to their more jangly, grungy, melodic garage rock type stuff like "Don't Go Back to Rockville." But then they moved away from that sound and into more... how do I say it... VH-1-y territory, and I lost interest. But the damage - the wonderful, wonderful damage - was done. And my Debbie Gibson tapes were traded in for something awesome. Cause that's what we did back then, we traded in tapes for other tapes. Primitive!

My love for alt-rock waned a bit in the 90s when I got REALLY REALLY into country. I kinda missed a lot of the grunge era, and I never got super into those bands. I did eventually get back into alt-rock, alongside Alan Jackson and Brooks and Dunn. The bands that really pulled me in were Weezer, Green Day, Letters to Cleo, and Tiny Music- era STP. In 2001, when I dropped country for awhile post-9/11 for sanity purposes, I immersed myself in the alt-rock of the day, like Jimmy Eat World, White Stripes, Motion City Soundtrack, and MCR, the Killers, Paramore, etc. later on. This was pretty much my musical identity for a while, but then when I got back into country in the mid-2000s I kind of lost the thread.

This brings me to a point I want to make. You could say, maybe I "outgrew" that kind of music. Maybe that comes with getting into your 30s. Or maybe the country artists I got into were just killing it and I wanted to focus on that. Who knows? I can say, having gotten pretty hard back into some alt-rock this past year, I definitely haven't outgrown it just because I'm no longer in my teens or 20s. And that's the thing. Some music you will outgrow. Tiffany, for instance. Even Madonna, while I love her 80s material, I haven't listened to it in a long time. But that's pop. Rock, I think, is different.

When you grow up with rock music, it's part of your soul. You don't "outgrow" it. Maybe some bands here and there, maybe certain styles,* but this notion that modern rock is just for people under 25 is ridiculous. I'm from the MTV generation, I'm not gonna suddenly start listening to... polka or something just cause I'm over 30! I still want to keep up with new music, because I like some of it.

I've said this before, but I think the reason people are staying "younger" longer these days is because of rock music. Seriously, if you grow up a rock fan, how can you ever get old? You've got timeless cool built in. It's not like back in our grandparents' day. So yeah, that's my big science-y theory. Rock music keeps you young. Not kale or any of that shit. So eat a cheeseburger, and don't stop listening to rock and roll. #protip #lifehack

*I'm using the terms "rock" and "alt-rock" as a REALLY HUGE umbrella, encompassing indie, pop-rock, pop-punk, garage rock, emo, whatever. I don't even know all the genres. Too complicated. Also, what exactly is "emo?" Well I don't know either, but here's my take on it.

Not emo - MCR. Seriously, they're a rock and fucking roll band.
Good emo - Brand New
Decent emo - Dashboard Confessional
Whiny poser emo - Simple Plan
Bad stereotypical emo - Hawthorne Heights (ya know, the "cut my wrists and black my eyes" guys? *shudder*)

Anyway, it's not a genre I'm really into, but there's some crossover with pop-punk and other stuff I might mention. So yeah, I'm just calling it all "rock," even if a lot of it is a far cry from the classic rock of my previous post.

Speaking of MCR, while they are not reuniting *sniff*, there is this Black Parade tribute album coming out and... uggggh. Okay, there's one track I'm really excited about. My new-favorite-band Creeper is covering "How I Disappear," which I absolutely love, and wow are they perfect for covering MCR. I saw one person compare them to MCR and another to The Killers and yeah, that's pretty much right. They're like a cross between MCR and The Killers and also just themselves obviously, cause that would be boring to just rehash other bands.

But anyway, back to rehashing other bands. This "tribute" album, other than Creeper, features some utterly awful bands, some I haven't heard of, and some of these samey-sounding pop-punk bands. Look. First of all, MCR is NOT a pop punk band. I don't want to hear their songs done in that style. Second, I like some pop-punk. I like Green Day, Blink has some decent stuff, for the newer bands All Time Low is pretty good. But we don't need 50 of these bands that all sound the same! Seriously, I have no idea how fans even tell them apart. I guess I'm glad some kids are listening to this stuff rather than top 40, at least it's music with real instruments and songs actually written by the band. (So, music.) But I can only deal with it in small doses.

You know, pop punk is kind of the hair metal of the 2000s/2010s. Like, it's not terrible music, it is organic and made by actual musicians, but it's still kind of scoffed at. Maybe cause there's a sameyness, maybe cause it seems cheesy, maybe just cause it's "genre" stuff. Now I was never into hair metal, but I can see the appeal of a Bon Jovi or yes, even a Poison. But if you have those guys, do you really need, like, a Winger and a Skid Row too? Idk, I guess if you like the genre, less is not more. It's kind of like how some people look down on horror movies or any genre stuff, really. But it's a funny comparison to me. Green Day would be Bon Jovi, like the big guys that brought the music to the masses, Blink would be Poison, their goofy little brothers, and honestly now I just wanna hear Green Day cover "Wanted Dead or Alive" and Blink do "Nothing But a Good Time," and I've become distracted from my point.

Oh yeah, just like what you like. Don't let me tell you it's all the same. I've probably watched 147 80s slasher movies, what do I know? I can tell you I'd legit rather hear hair metal covers of MCR songs than pop punk ones though.

Okay, time to end this. So yeah, keep seeking out new music, no matter where you are in life. If you like a new band and you're in your 30s and all the other fans are 18, well maybe that just means you're cool. Nothing is "for" specific people, music is for everyone. If something speaks to you, there's a reason for that. (Unless you're a casual listener, and what speaks to you is whatever they play on the radio. *sigh*) So 2016 will forever be the year I got obsessed with Creeper and The Maine, and back into alt rock. I'm glad to be back. And this is only the beginning.

tbt, but new to me!

Before I delve into part 3 of music stuff, it's throwback time. Actually this fits right in with my other posts, because it's stuff I'm listening to right now. It's old, but it's new!

You know when they play a snippet of an old, half-remembered song on a great show, and you spend the next couple days down the rabbit hole of related music? If so, congrats, you're a music dork and probably never listen to Luke Bryan! You go, you. Such was the case when I heard the awesome classic rock tune "Raise a Little Hell" by Trooper on Stranger Things. This show is the gift that keeps on giving.

While I had heard the song before, I had no idea who performed it. Trooper, it turns out, is a Canadian band, which I guess means I have to update my Canadian bands list. While listening to more of their songs, another Canadian classic rock band came up. I had never heard of these guys or any of their music, but holy rock and roll spaceships, are they awesome! (Seriously, is there anything more wonderfully 70s than rock and roll spaceships?)

This is just everything that's good and pure and wonderful about music. It's funny, I was talking about how lacking modern production can be in my last post, and every time I listen to classic rock it strikes me how good the production is. They had that shit nailed down in the 70s, folks. But of course if it ain't broke, somebody's gotta fix it anyway. Just because they can.

Sadly, the original singer died tragically at a young age. I absolutely love his voice. RIP.

So I kept finding more previously unheard classics. It was like an archaeological dig. Or Christmas morning. or an archaeological dig on Christmas morning. (I would have enjoyed that as a kid. Kind of like an extreeeeeeme Easter egg hunt!) The next band was not Canadian, and one I was peripherally aware of as it was formed by Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple and Ronnie James Dio of well, Dio. I think I saw them on Metal Mania too. Anyway, they have some really good stuff.

Our last stop on this 70s/80s rock journey is an artist who is well known and well-loved by me, but for some reason I never heard much of her earlier work. I was a pretty big Pat Benatar fan, to probably no one's surprise, but this was in the We Belong/Invincible time. Her earlier albums are amazing. Just one good, straightforward rock song after another, with her gorgeous, crystal clear vocals. I can't recommend stuff like Crimes of Passion or Get Nervous enough. Any of those old albums, really.

My current heavy rotation playlist is a mix of this stuff and some more modern alt rock, which I will discuss next! BTW, Pat Benatar and Paramore jibe really well together. Hayley Williams has those same kind of hit-you-in-the-sweet-spot-of-the-ears vocals.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

All sorts of music stuff! Part two - the 2016 charts :(

2016 has been one of the best and worst music years for me.

I've gotten into some great stuff I think will stay with me for a long time, but mainstream pop and country have sunk to a staggering new low. This got me thinking. Maybe the severe decline in mainstream music in the past several years - hell, even between this year and last year! - is kind of a weird blessing. If I was just dooping along listening to country radio, would I have ever found Blackberry Smoke, Creeper, or The Maine? Or non-radio country artists like Brandy Clark and Margo Price? So thank you, radio, for sucking so hard you have set me free.

But since I'm still planning to do a top 10 best hit pop and country songs list, let's take a look at the charts!


Sooo if you want an overview of how terrible the pop and country charts have been this year, just listen to "Work" and "Work from Home" back to back, over and over. Kinda like a drill boring into your ear, isn't it? Then listen to some bland Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan shit and think about how that dirt road in all the bro-country songs just led to a big dead end. Because bro-country was bad, but by God, it was interesting bad, at least until Cole "Vanilla Wafers on Wonder Bread" Swindell came along. This current stuff is BORING. It's an absence of soul, of substance, of music. And that might be even worse. (But of course Cole "White-Out" Swindell fits right in. Damn it.)

Anyway. Remember last year, which was a pretty bad year overall, when I had like 20 honorable mentions I couldn't fit onto my top 10 best hit songs list? I agonized over not putting Jason Derulo's one good song ever on there. I couldn't even include "Burning House," and I really like that song!

This year, it would be number three.

I know, 2016 isn't over, and man typing that out made me feel depressed. I don't know how the hell a great song like Eric Church's "Record Year" became a hit in this climate, but I'm pretty sure it'll run away with my number one spot. It was a big hit, too. ...Okay? I don't know what to do with this information. I want to look down on you from my golden turntable-shaped throne, general music listening public, but you're making it hard here!

Oh right, there we go. *zots random Fifth Harmony fan with golden drumstick scepter* Eat real music, bitch!! Okay, that felt good. (Seriously, that is one of the worst "songs" I've ever heard in my life.) Why a drumstick scepter? Because synthetic drumbeats suck, and I want to beat people with a drumstick. k? k.

Okay okay, clearly the same people who buy Eric Church don't buy Fifth Harmony, but my confusion still stands. Who, among mainstream music fans, is buying Eric Church? Luke Bryan fans? If so, how do they not immediately become former Luke Bryan fans after hearing Eric Church? This feels like a song and album I would like, and like a handful of other music dorks. It's nichey, but somehow not. Maybe it's mostly name recognition. Or maybe I can dare to have a little hope in humanity?

Nope, hope in humanity has burned me before. NEXT!

So my number two song so far, and literally the only pop song I can see legit making my list, is one I'm so sick of I never want to hear it again. But it's still SO FAR above the rest of the pop charts you'd need a specialized instrument to measure it. Some kind of space instrument. Anyway, it's "Stressed Out" by twenty one pilots. This band is kind of hit or miss for me, but they write some damn good, hard-hitting emotional lyrics. Like they come at things from an angle you wouldn't have thought of, but it oddly hits. It's kind of a gift. "Car Radio" is the best song I've heard from them by far, but I like "Stressed Out" and again, I'm amazed this was a hit alongside all the robot shit. Seriously, the lyrics to every pop song this year might as well be "beep boop beep boop." And then you get this weirdly deep, poetic stuff from top. I don't know???

This top 10 list is gonna be a bitch, which is kind of amazing considering it's top 20 pop and country hits. It's looking like most of the list will be songs that would have been honorable mentions last year. Songs I like, but don't love. Like, I was happy to see ZBB's "Castaway" hit the top 20, even though it's standard beachy fare and not really BEST SONG OF THE YEAR material, at least it's something I listen to and enjoy. And I need stuff to fill out this damn list. Of course "Humble and Kind" will make it, and probably "My Church," and "When We Were Young" on the pop side. But those and "Castaway" are honorable mention level songs, to me.

So those are our standards this year, folks. Next year, will there be anything at all?

Oh, one more thing. I... kinda like that Justin Moore song, "You Look Like I Need a Drink." Too bad I don't like Justin Moore. Not just his dopey, pandering persona, I could look past that. It's his voice. It's like being hit over the head with sentient twang. "HE CAIN'T EVEN BAIT A HYOOOOOOOOK" ow ow ow stop hitting me! And I like twang, but come on. Decent song, though. If someone with a great voice like idk, the woefully underused Randy Houser sang it, it mighta been a contender.

Part three will be about my main passion this year - my glorious return to the alt rock scene. I'm splitting this into three parts because I'm trying to organize this thing I call my brain. yay!

All sorts of music stuff! Part One ~ new songs by artists I love

So I haven't done a big, sprawly music post in a while. Mostly because I've been too busy listening to music. Let's start out with NEEEEEEEW music! Ooh, ahh.

The BIG news: Blackberry Smoke, who of course earned my number one album of 2015, released a new song ahead of their upcoming album and it's amazing.

This rocks so hard I'm afraid it's gonna fly right off the page! I love the heavy, driving sound. If this is any indication of their new album, they might top my list two years in a row. (I know they've released another song, but I'm waiting to hear the album in full now.) I've literally marked October 14th on my calendar as "BBS Day." Seriously, bless the hell out of these guys. This is the band 2016 needs.

Speaking of bands we need, motherfucking GREEN DAY is back! I'm digging the new track, it's very... Green Day. Kind of a return to their harder, punkier sound. It's not quite up with the BBS song for me, but they're such different bands there's no point in comparing. I really like this and can't wait for the album. I've also marked October 7 on my calendar, though "Green Day Day" doesn't flow quite as well.

The third new song by an artist I love is Miranda Lambert's "Vice." It pains me to say, but I just can't get into it. And I've tried. Her contribution to the Southern Family album, "Sweet By and By" is just miles above this scattered, incomplete-feeling track. Don't get me wrong, Miranda's vocals are as on-point as... almost always (Bad "Somethin' Bad!" Bad! *hits song with rolled up newspaper*). Some of the lyrics do hit ("If you need me, I'll be where my reputation don't precede me, Maybe I'm addicted to goodbyes") I get she has something to say here, but was this really the best vehicle for it?

The main problem is the production. I'm sorry to be one of those people but guys, production is SO important! It won't necessarily make a song for me, but it can sure as hell break it. Production is what gives songs those so-important intangibles. Texture. Whether a song feels warm or cold or spacey or dense or whatever. I thought this song might be a slow burn for me, but the production feels shallow and leaves me cold. I'm not connecting with it. It also doesn't really have a hook that draws you in, which isn't necessarily an issue when you have killer vocals and production, but it hurts here. All in all, it feels half-baked to me. I'm still looking crazy forward to her new album... just pleeeease don't let the production be like "Vice" all the way through. And more like this, please.

And can I just reiterate how terrible I think her single choices have been lately? "Vice" is doing ok, climbing towards the top 10 on billboard, but I think that's more based on name recognition and the whole "juicy" Blake thing than the actual song. Except for "Automatic," I didn't care for any of her single choices off of Platinum. Instead, the title track, while not amazing, is certainly fun and catchy enough and could have caught on as a girly anthem like "Man I feel Like a Woman." "What doesn't kill you only makes you blonder" is a pretty good line. And COME ON, "Hard Staying Sober" was one of her best songs ever, and you don't even try releasing it? Maybe it wouldn't have hit on country radio, BUT - "Record Year" hit. "Humble and Kind" hit. There is still room for actual substance, just not much. At least put your best foot out there. It's not like "Little Red Wagon" and "Smokin and Drinkin" lit the world on fire either. ANYWAY... I hope her next single choices will be better so I'm not agonizing over her next album like I sort of did with Platinum. ("That song? Really??")

I'm gonna end this post here so it's just about new songs, and continue with some other stuff in part two.

Silly Yahoo Headline of the Day ~ is that a lighthouse in your pocket or just the strangest sexual metaphor ever?

"It's Like Having A Lighthouse In Your Pocket"

Is that what men fantasize about?? The ability to guide ships to shore with their giant, glowing *censored*???

(Okay this wasn't a headline, it was a "sponsored ad" for a flashlight. But it was funny. And possibly a niche fetish I am blissfully unaware of.)

Monday, August 08, 2016

Worthless Yahoo Headline of the Day

I'm back from vacation!... to this. Why did I come down off that mountain again?

"While some are obsessed with Derick Dillard's man bun, others speculate that Jill Dillard's pregnant"












*wistful sigh* I was like, so plaid, you guys. So happy and plaid. It was the plaidest vacation ever.