Grab Your Air Guitars and Let’s Jam

26 Aug


Ah, the dog days of summer are upon us. Need a way to fight the end-of-summer blues? How about jamming on an air guitar. Yes, you heard me right. The air guitar, which has become a performance staple in places like the car, shower, or karaoke bar, is celebrated every year with the Air Guitar World Championship, which begin today in Oulu, Finland and run through August 28th.

Air Guitar is not all about performance. According to the World Championship, it is judged by a panel using four categories: technical merit (how close to an actual guitar does it look), mimesmanship (how can the performer effectively create the illusion of a guitar), stage presence (how much you can ROCK), and Airness (how much the performance was art … not just moving your hands around an invisible instrument). Yeah, they don’t joke around at the World Championship; you need to have a combination of guitar knowledge and pretend playing skills mixed with the innate ability to bedazzle the stage with moves aplenty.

You can track the proceedings of the 20th annual tournament (yes, this has been a thing on the competitive level for 20 years) on the website.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking. I play air guitar all the time. Just play me some Slash and I’ll be effortlessly and apoplectically moving my fingers up and down an imaginary fret board while miming the best guitarist facial contortions. Do you want to see a professional?

That was almost like a hardcore dance routine, which air guitar pretty much is, as you have to entertain the crowd while wielding an invisible instrument. She employed the outstretched windmill, though, and that’s impressive.

This whole air guitar thing got me thinking. What is the most classic Air Guitar song. In order to come up with a list, I considered some of the most important categories to an Air Guitar song: guitar riff/solo and quick beats. That didn’t help narrow it down. Heck, I’ve seen people air guitar to “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas; you can break out the imperceptible instrument anytime. That said, I’ve narrowed it down to one song, which, in my mind, will always be the perfect air guitar song. I’m eager to hear your opinion, though, so share what your thinking in the comments.

Without further ado, here it is, the perfect Air Guitar song!

A Little St. Lucia before St. Lucia

14 Aug


I cannot wait to hear the soothing sounds of St. Lucia tomorrow night. No, not St. Lucia but St. Lucia; well, maybe I’ll be listening to St. Lucia. Confused? I think I am too. Let me try to explain with the pictures (above). Tomorrow, I will be vacationing with my lovely wife to the island of St. Lucia. St Lucia, though, is also the name of South African-born, New York-based musician Jean-Philip Grobler, who, since 2012, has been releasing music through Neon Gold Records. So, to announce my week-long sojourn from the blog, I will keep with the theme and talk a little about St. Lucia’s electric sound.

St. Lucia, the artist, has been known to experiment with music, remixing tracks for bands like Passion Pit and Foster the People. He grew up on a steady diet of 80s tunes, and this effervescent 80s sound influences his music. In October of 2013, St. Lucia released his debut album When the Night, and he found success to the tune of the 191 on the US album charts and 6 on the US Heat chart; this success was due to several solid tracks, one being “Elevate.”

“Elevate” immediately features a bouncy drum beat with staggered, reverbed guitar. Grobler’s voice certainly has an 80s flair and the percussion helps the song take on more of that 80s feel. Though, while it does have that almost Indies/80s blend, it is such a mature track, so concise in its production, that it eliminates the choppy feel that some 80s tracks have; I credit his Phil Simon inspiration. The mix of horns at the end of the track is also sweet, and, almost tropical. That fits well! Sweet harmonies, beach beats, and an awesome sound. A little St. Lucia to get me in the mood for St. Lucia. Enjoy!

Josh Ritter is Ready to Get Down

5 Aug


When I saw Josh Ritter several months ago (just after he finished recording his new album Sermon on the Rocks, which will be released on Oct. 16.) he introduced his newest ditty off the upcoming release, “Getting Ready to Get Down.” It was a crowd mover, a bubbly track much in the style of “To the Dogs or Whoever” with rapid lyric spitting and a funky bass riff mixed with a hip drum beat. Ritter recently released it to the public (July 31), and it has shot up the iTunes ranks, so much so that it appeared on the front page of Hot Tracks today.

So, of course I need to share the track. Josh Ritter is one of my favorite artists creating music today. He blends several styles of folk/rock with intelligent lyrics. It’s easy to sing-a-long to most of his songs, and he carries the title of almost universally creating highly listenable tracks. “Getting Ready to Get Down” is that type of song.

I particularly enjoy the country guitar stylings featured in the middle of the song; it’s a bit different, and it may signal an intriguing dynamic on the new album. But, like always, Ritter’s most endearing quality is his lyric, and this song has a killer verse that I need to share.

“They said your soul needed savin’ so they sent you off to bible school
But you know a little more than they were sure was in the golden rule
Be good to everybody, be a strength to the weak
A joy to the joyful, the laughter in the grief
And give your love freely to whoever that you please
Don’t let nobody tell you ’bout who you oughta be
And when you get damned in the popular opinion
It’s just another damn of the damns you’re not giving”

Talk about bible puns and satirical paradoxes. Ritter tells a message with a punch, a socially liberal sermon from his own personal mount, and I am an eager myrmidon to Ritter’s church of great music.

Highly Fascinated with Motorama

31 Jul


Readers of the Music Court might remember me writing about a young band named High Fascination a few years ago. Well, I like keeping track of the young bands I write about a few years after their incipient posts, and this is a good time to update you a bit on the maturation of a band I called “crisp” and “perspicacious” a few years back. Has High Fascination maintained its perspicaciousness? Oh yeah. If anything, the last two years has made the band’s musical adroitness even more defined, and I am happy to present High Fascination’s new album – released today – called Miss Motorama.

Just a little review, for those who have not heard of this NYC Indie/Rock band. The band was founded as a solo project from Andrew Weiss, a Long Islander with a penchant for melodic tunes and inspiration from all the right bands. Since its inception, the band has now released five albums: Objections To Reality (April 2011), Sudden Movements (September 2011), A Time And Place (June 2013), How Do You Do? (February 2014), and now Miss Motorama. In 2012 the solo project developed into a band; Weiss added bassist Dan Hemerlein and drummer/vocalist Noah Rauchwerk to his coterie, and since then the band has combined to create a sound that is both mellifluous and adept.

“Queen Anne” features a staccato guitar and rhythms that remind me so much of the British Pop/Rock that was engendered by the Beatles and perpetuated by bands like Oasis. The song has a wonderful chorus with horns and catchy vocals. It is blithe and bright, a good summer track that sounds like it should be listened to at a park with a summer shandy near by. It’s an album staple, for sure.

“Change My Mind” takes a different approach, trading bubbly pop for a more reserved piano approach. The song reminds me a bit of Augustana. It features elegant call and response melodies with a nice lead vocal. The song’s calm melody is not so much mournful; it rather powers through with a soft strength that is quite refreshing.

All in all, great release by High Fascination. The band has matured over two years, and it is so exciting to track its progress; keep an eye out for even more great releases in the future!

Check out more information about High Fascination on its Facebook andTwitter.

Lisztomania Tuesday – A Taste of the Classical

28 Jul


A good century before Beatlemania took over the world and saw scores of individuals rip and tear at the four British boys as they travelled throughout England, the states, and beyond, Franz Liszt, the Hungarian-born pulchritudinous (to many) composer, engendered a mania of his own, one that rivaled (perhaps even beat out) the Beatlemania of the mid 20th century.

Yes, Franz Liszt, a musical prodigy, who, after receiving musical lessons from his father (a talented musician in his own right) at 7, went on to start composing and playing music at 11 and honing his skill on piano, sparked a frenzy that is still commemorated today (Remember that Phoenix song “Lisztomania”?). Liszt, who shares a birthday with my brother (thought I’d tell you), was born in 1811, and, when he was 28, he embarked on an extensive European tour, where he demonstrated his tremendous talents to listeners; by 1842 many of the listeners went full on insane.

How bad could mid 19th century folk be, right? Come on, right? Right? Well … Liszt admirers would crowd around him and fight over any detritus that fell from his body, tearing at gloves and handkerchiefs. Have you ever seen crazed teens wearing buttons on their clothing of their favorite musician; fans would wear his portrait on brooches. That’s dedication. Fighting over a guitar pick was replaced by skirmishes over broken piano strings (for bracelets of course). Heck, fans went so far as capturing his coffee dregs in glass containers. Why the spell? What caused this infatuation? The answer has two parts. First, he was good-looking, and this generally helps musicians of any kind. Secondly, he was just so unbelievably talented that a mystical ecstatic aura formed over his performances and fans were entranced by his music. And, you know, I can’t blame them.

Here is the Cologne New Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Volker Hartung performing an orchestral version of my favorite Liszt piece (in my opinion his best work), “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.” The piece, which is often considered for piano, is performed even better by an orchestra (also my opinion), and the potency of its sound is intoxicating. Everything from the lassan (the rousing, short introduction to the piece) to the friska, the piece’s second part, which bounces with an effervescent playfulness captures a jubilance that reflects Liszt’s Hungarian folk music inspiration. The piece, which features nationalistic fervor, is breathtaking and remarkable in its power. If I had to pick any classical piece as my favorite, this would be it. It just has that draw, and although it was composed after the Lisztomania craze, it can surely spark those feelings in any listener!

For those more unfamiliar with the piece who know you have heard it somewhere before, let me quench your consternation.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers

%d bloggers like this: