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Happiness and Schizophrenia

April 9, 2009

I have officially begun working. This is working as in “being trained to start working”… but nevertheless, it is work. Soon I’ll be helping people with all sorts of mental and physical disabilities. The majority of these will fall into the personality disorder group. So, in regards to this, I thought about how I could incorporate that into my thought catalog. What I came up with is Wesley Willis. That link is a bio about the man, and this link is a sample of his work. There’s a lot of good advice in his song. 

But really, Wesley is as far as I got in my research. I’m sure there’s more, but I grew tired of looking. And really, after finding Wesley, it’s hard to think that there could be any better out there. 

Putting aside music by schizophrenics, music therapy is a technique that is commonly used to help with this illness. Music Therapy is a fairly new form of actual therapy, so the research behind it is newer than the practices. But, there is research to show that music therapy has positive effects on those with schizophrenia. At least twice a day I perform music therapy on myself, which I’m sure most people do. How many moods do we all have that just require a certain song, or sound even, to accompany them? Lately, I’ve been finding a lot of comfort from instrumentals such as, The String Quartet Tribute to Radiohead, the track “I Love NYE” from the About A Boy soundtrack, and this song: “Happiness”, by Riceboy Sleeps (which is the track below). This phase may fade soon, but for the time being I’m really enjoying it. Perhaps some of these soothing sounds will come in handy during some rough moments on the job. 

Why I sing…

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roadtrips and corresponding soundtracks

April 6, 2009

The roadtrip is infamous for the music that it requires. Any mood can be set by just a handful of songs and an open highway. In most cases, I prepare a playlist for such occasions, but there are a few times when I just play whatever I feel like. The performed the latter of those two this past weekend as I took a trip to Philly. The night before I left I received a DVD from my brother that was packed full of new albums that I did not have. I wanted to listen to all of it, but thought that there was no way that I would be able to absorb all of those sounds without a break. So, I took it in stride and carefully chose what I would hear. Because I was listening to new music and because I had not made a mix for myself in advance, the drive seemed less enjoyable to me. There will not be many memorable songs that I will associate with this trip. The trip itself was excellent, and I really enjoyed seeing my friends but it won’t be a trip that I come away with a great song.

So, for a question and answer, what has been a song for you that seemed to define a trip for you musically? Your experiences of your trip may have nothing to do with the lyrics, but you listened to this song enough times that when it comes on your mind jumps straight to that one particular place. An example of my own, the first time I went to Philly was with a group of ten other people. I had recently come across Bon Iver and we played “Skinny Love” about forty times in the van. So, what are some of your roadtrip songs and where were you traveling when you fell in love with them?

Why I sing…

Adem — Love and Other Planets

April 1, 2009

9408-love-other-planetsMaybe Mozart’s “A Little Night Music” was the first concept album about space, but as we all know… David Bowie perfected it. Thank you, Mr. Bowie, for coming along and taking the world to space when everyone wanted to go. Now for clarification, I was not alive during Bowie’s debut and his early influence of the musical genre of “space rock”. I actually do not know if there is such a genre as “space rock”, but that is how I would describe good ole’ David. Mozart wore make-up and wigs… Bowie was in the movie Labyrinth—enough said, they’re one in the same. Although, by being in a movie with muppets, I think that David may have trumped our famous classical composer for the limelight of pure “space freakiness”. Flight of the Conchords have realized the greatness of Bowie and paid a pretty swell homage to him with their song “Bowie’s In Space“. Excellent tune. 

Another space concept album that has not had so much attention is one by Adem. Adem is one third of the British ambient-trance band Fridge. I do not know their music very well, it’s only my research of Adem that I have learned about Fridge. Adem’s style of song writing incorporates lots of acoustic instruments while still pulling drum loops and effect loops to fill in the gaps. There’s never an imbalance of sound. His voice shines nicely as his musical backdrop layers compliment his scratchy, raw, yet defined vocal quality. For his first solo debut, Adem put together an album full of folk driven songs entitled Homesongs. His freshman album is wonderful and there are plenty of gems that ring out. For his second album, Adem looked to the stars to tell his story. From beginning to end, he tells the story of a love that slipped away. Each song contains some cosmic element to it and no song is quite alike. 

It was in the fall of 2007 when this album came out. I cannot listen to it without remembering hours of driving through the turning leaves and inside the cool Arkansas weather while listening to this album. It is one of my favorites. Here is “You and Moon” from this album. The only other song comparable to it is “Launch Yourself”, which might be more popular if you were to search for it. That’s why I’m posting “You and Moon”… sometimes it’s the lesser known ones that are the best. 

Why I sing…

Dananananaykroyd… my new favorite band

March 29, 2009

2715328114_c911a7a3f9Yes, the name is pronounced just how you might read it. I have not decided yet if this is an homage to the actor or if it is just the coolest name for a band that anyone could have thought up, regardless if they have an appreciation for the famed comedy actor or not. Dananananaykroyd (which is very difficult to spell correctly more than twice in succession) describes their music as “fight pop”. Highly appropriate. The band features two drummers, which for a band with this style is almost necessary to have. Without knowing this fact though, you might not pick out the two synced percussionists. During the second or third listen, try to make out the separate toms that are pounding during the Forth-of-July-style drum rolls.

These six musicians come from Glasgow, Scotland. All have been members of previous bands, and most still perform with other musical groups. Their live shows are a bit notorious for explosive, ADHD hyped up on enough caffeine to get the Jolly Green Giant restless momentum. It is not uncommon to see one of the drummers leave his throne and join the audience for short spurts at a time before jumping back behind his hedge of percussion and carry on with aerobics that could be only produced through a gravity-free atmosphere. They are releasing their first album in April. From that album, and a single already produced, this is “Pink Sabbath”.

Why I sing…

Breathe Owl Breathe Live Review

March 29, 2009

There is not going to be a way to describe the amount of fun and energy behind Breathe Owl Breathe. The energy is bottled well and they choose to poor it out slowly and carefully so as to not overflow one’s cup. Several bands may be able to attempt this feat, but none that I have seen to do with such surprise and gracefulness as Breathe Owl Breathe uses. To understand this dynamic show, the setting needs to be established.

The concert was held in a church in East Lansing by a group who call themselves Ten Pound Fiddle. From what I gathered, this is a membership group and one that hosts shows of all sorts around the East Lansing area. From what I can also tell, it is largely and mostly just folk, acoustic, celtic, strings of some kind and almost anything that the members would want to see. As far as number of members go… well, that was hard to tell. Two bands performed. The opener was a girl-duo who called themselves “Nervous, but Excited”. I like the name. A good third of the crowd was only there for them and after they played their set, that part of the audience left. The other third were students in full indie garb coming to watch BOB. The other third were (are you ready??) a crowd consisting of forty-five and older… mostly older. It was an old feeling and I felt as though I were at church. By the time BOB played, imagine a crowd of sixty to seventy people with forty percent being old enough to remember watching Elvis being shot only from the waist-up on Ed Sullivan.

Breathe Owl Breathe walked to the stage donning capes—each with its own animal sewn onto the back of them. They consist of three members: Micah, who sings, plays guitar and other odd instruments; Trevor, who is the drummer, plays other odd instruments and sings back-up; and Andrea, who mainly plays the cello and sings, but also played the banjo on a couple of songs. The song subjects range from a lost saber-tooth tiger to playing dead on the playground. Before each song, Micah would try to prep the up-coming event with a story to set the mood. From listening to their album, one could tell that these stories were rehearsed, but only by subject matter alone—the presentation was entirely ad-lib. We were all taught a “dance” to perform during the saber-tooth tiger song. We were also taught a melody to sing in response during another song and we helped sing their final number “Home”. No matter what the age, the audience was captivated and engaged with each tune that was produced. It was not a recital, it was an invitation to be a part of the band for just a little while and experience making music altogether.

One highlight of the show that cannot be overlooked was the solo song that Andrea played on her cello. Trevor played a light percussive piece in the background that gave room for Andrea to go wherever she wanted. Micah helped by sitting on the stage and watching with the rest of the audience and occasionally holding her bow. The solo lasted for at least four minutes of intense playing and in her face was a sense of joy that any musician has felt and can relate to at some point. Her classically trained hands were quick and precise and the sounds that came from God’s instrument were ethereal. By the end, the crowd was almost begging for more and her fellow band-mates joined the audience in a long applause. It was marvelous.

Most of you do not live in Michigan, which is a shame for the sole reason of not being able to see this band perform without one long drive. I sincerely hope that this trio is able to accomplish what they want—whether that is being known on a major scale or just always being able to make music together. One thing is for sure, they make music for themselves but willingly allow anyone to join to them because they all know that music is not something to be kept to oneself.

Why I sing…

Headlights — Get Yer Head Around It

March 27, 2009

headlights-06-bigThis song is almost too cool to pass up. The best part to me is the opening line, and I love the electric guitar and its deliberate picking. The guitar pulls you in and then the lyrics take off in a direction that is straight up. The first few lines are just cool, there’s nothing else about it. Harmonies start to come in around the second verse and it adds to the song, but I really just enjoy the solo voice. The song picks up about half way through with the drums, bass, and what else but indie rock bells. What is it really with indie bands and using bells? At first, it was a neat trick that was only used sparingly, but now it seems that there is always a song on the album that has bells. I don’t have anything against it… I’m just curious to know what the next surprise instrument will be. My friend Molly has been campaigning for kuzoos for almost as long as we’ve been friends. There are several bands out there that could really benefit by adding an upbeat kazoo to their line up.

The rest of the songs on Headlights’ album, “Some Racing, Some Stopping”, fail to live up to the first track. The songs are decent, but they do not have much that is new or different than anything else you’ve already heard. But, after listening to the first track, I played the album all the way through expecting to hear another gem. Some songs came close, but none quite made it. So, I listened through it again—thinking that perhaps I had missed something along the way. Sadly, I was right the first time. But what a clever trick to make the first track the one song to turn your ear? If “Get Yer Head Around It” was not on the cd, it would be a fine album. Headlights has just set the bar at a level that they didn’t reach but once. I’m sure that future albums will touch that bar again if not just go ahead and set up camp there.

Why I sing…

Get Yer Head Around It

Breathe Owl Breathe

March 26, 2009

Tomorrow night will be the first show that I have seen since New Year’s. I am very excited about this for a couple of reasons. The first, I really dig the music that this trio makes. It’s fun. The music has sophistication to it, but at the same time a child may prefer to listen to the dancing sounds that come from the guitar, drums, and cello. The second reason is this: I have met the band.

I like to spend my extra time at a music store here in Lansing. The store is called Elderly Music and it may be the best guitar shop that I have ever seen. It is certainly my favorite. One afternoon I went by to play the guitars and dream a bit and in walk two guys and a girl that looked completely set apart from the regular fret-thrashers that come in to lay down their most serious licks. I believe they could tell that I was a bit unlike the others as well. A conversation started and I came to find out that they were indeed in a band.

I have no idea what to expect from the show tomorrow evening, but I’m highly anticipating it. The reviews of their live performances have been greatly applauded and pictures and videos probably do not do them justice. Here’s a song from their latest album. The album title is “Ghost Glacier” and the song is titled “Boat”. Please enjoy.

Why I sing…