Archive | August, 2011

Mind The Gap While Shopping for Groceries

31 Aug
Mind the Gap; Downtown Los Angeles, CA (Chinatown)
Quick update on my power situation…there is still no power in my house! We are going three days strong and the playful novelty of living like those during the pre-electricity days has started to wear thin. It is rapidly being replaced by vexation and anger. Okay, maybe not. I think everyone in my house is taking it well, but, there comes a point when enough is enough. This is that point. Anyway, before I do not have access to power or cable for the rest of the night, I must bring you needed content. And boy do I have a good post for you today folks. Not good because of my witty writing, but instead good because of the artist being featured. But, the writing, it isn’t too bad. Just kidding. Do not let my fake arrogance get in the way of the extreme humbleness and talent of Mind the Gap.
Mind the Gap may sound familiar to some readers. Back in July, I profiled the Los Angeles foursome and concluded that, “Mind The Gap stands true to their band objective. They are skillful mashers of acoustic instrumentation and electronic sounds. They are definitely a band to follow.” Click here if you want to read the original post.
On August 20, I put Mind the Gap up against the ultimate band test…a live show. This is where some bands shine and some fall off as uninspired imitators. Yes, you can learn a lot about a band through their studio releases, but true character can only be encountered in person. Think of it this way. Imagine you meet a guy/girl on The person seems to be exactly your type. He/she shines with pulchritude. They like dogs. They listen to that music that you love. He/she is the one. Well, then you meet for dinner and he/she shares these interests, but is a total snob or bore. It happens. But I can assure you, Mind the Gap aced the test.
On the 20th, Rebecca, my girlfriend, and I journeyed to Arlene’s Grocery on the lower east side of Manhattan (Stanton Street), a funky, variegated former Puerto Rican bodega, turned bar in 1995. Since then, bands like Guster and R.E.M. have played at the venue. Mind The Gap took the stage at nine to a strong crowd of buzzed NYC hipsters, thirsty noctivagants and Mind the Gap fans (myself included). The 10-song set-list flew by so quickly it almost seemed that one could have missed the concert. And, I don’t mean this as a bad thing. This only happens if the band’s performance envelops listeners in such unbridled enjoyment.
The tight performance was fun for both the crowd and the performers. The band performed with an emotional urgency juxtaposed with, however seemingly contradictory, a laid-back Los Angeles summer afternoon at the beach coolness. The sultry vocals of Greg Cahn were spot on all night and it was refreshing to hear that his exciting album vocal range equalled his live chops. Ozzy Doniz effectively kept  rhythm with keeness. Ruwanga Samath infused modern beats into the band’s indie/pop melodies, something I enjoyed a lot in my initial review. And, Alex Yang’s lead guitar was spot-on throughout the night.
As for best performances, I was swayed by my favorites.
“Smile Back at You” can be an indie hit on mainstream radio stations today. I say this because it combines the popular lazy day rhythm with an exceptional catchy chorus, infectious harmonies and intriguing key work.
Though, I believe my favorite song was the concert’s sober conclusion “Remember When.” There is an innate beauty in this song’s picked rhythm and lyric. Cahn nailed the vocals. He sang the song like it was his last ever. And, this is so exceptionally important for any singer to do. Such passion can be emitted from one’s voice and Cahn is knowledgable of this information and he takes advantage of his voice. The song can be heard here:
Interested in seeing Mind the Gap? Check out their concert schedule by following this link. Currently, they have a show planned in Los Angeles in September and one back in NYC for CMJ in October.

The Power is Out

30 Aug

I woke up Sunday morning and the power was out. Today is Tuesday morning and the power…is still out. Hurricane Irene provided all the goodies that a hurricane/tropical storm could provide. Downed trees, flooding, and widespread power outages. My family is currently in the dark. So, it goes without saying that I have not had ample opportunities to post. I wanted, though, to provide you all with a quick update on my condition so you understand why I have not posted in a few days. But I promise posts when the power returns.

The Music Court will soon be adding a new writer into its court. Yes, we are opening to drawbridge. Also, upcoming posts this week include two new artist profiles and a concert review. This is a great time to stay tuned for more coverage. My brief access to internet has passed. Be well and don’t let the lights go out!

Until then. Check this power outage out

Clark – Totem Crackerjack

28 Aug

Well I am back at school for my senior year and I have no clue what I’m doing. I am looking for jobs and throwing myself at people (literally). I need money. You don’t realize how much of a motivator money is until you have none of it.

As for general back to schoolness, I have a great song that will get you right into the doing stuff mood. I posted a Chris Clark song around the same time last year and I felt that it would be appropriate to post another one now.

This song, Totem Crackerjack, is from his latest album, Totems Flare. Not quite dance and not quite anything for that matter, this song takes you on a wild electronica ride.

The entire beginning of the song can only be described as the feeling of kicking ass. Listening to this makes any task seem like an epic adventure. It takes something as menial as job searching and turns it into something out of an action movie. A series of jaw-dropping transitions give it essentially a plot better than most films.

Right around two minutes the song rises into a sped up version of Pink Floyd’s On the Run. After the this brief homage the song goes into another quick instrumental sequence. The ending, the first one anyway with the light bell sounding thing, serves as sort of the aftermath of this frantic rush of sequences.

The final ending with the eerie piano is absolutely gorgeous, and I like to think of it as the credits. Also, the music video is really cool and confirmed my movie plot idea sort of. I definitely recommend watching it for some fun trippyness.

A brilliant display of British electronic music and an all around great song. I’ll be listening to it a lot as I drive to classes… starting tomorrow. I love it and hate it already. I do it for the money. Time to jump on the bandwagon of life. A moneyless world only exists in magic hippie fantasies. lol



P.S. Mail me some money please and or hire me please.

What is the Best Song about a Storm?

26 Aug
It’s raining sideways!

I live on Long Island, a little finger jutting out of New York City into the Atlantic Ocean. This weekend, Hurricane Irene will menacingly attack New York and wind gusts on Long Island may shoot up to 90 m.p.h. I have never even driven my car 90 m.p.h. I cannot comprehend these wind speeds. Next time you see us world, Long Island will be embarking on a new mission in northern Canada after Irene picks us up and tosses us over the Canadian border like a wet towel. Okay, hyperbole aside, this seems that it will be the worst hurricane to hit NYC in perhaps a century. The supermarkets are flooded with individuals preparing for the apocalypse. We’re New Yorkers. We overexaggerate like crazy.

Anyway, the hurricane got me thinking. What are some good songs to melodize this damage-inducing event. And then I thought, hey, why not ask you, the reader, to help me pick the greatest song about a storm. Yeah, you know what it is. Poll time. Get out your ballots. Here we go. What is the best song about a storm? I really tried putting this list together with songs only about actual storms, but the metaphorical storm, rain, and hurricane got the best of me. Please, provide your own feelings on best storm songs as well!

American Idol Top 11 Concert – In Retrospect

25 Aug

Usually, after the conclusion of an American Idol season, I gradually allow the top contestants to slip off into  obscurity, putting aside the possibility that they may become popular musicians. I have never spent money on an ex-Idol musician because the large stock of releases has never interested me.

 Season 10 was a little different. The Jazzy voice and Indie potential of contestant Casey Abrams stood out with “when he releases an album, I might purchase it” flavor. He is not a pop star and will never be one. I liked his honesty. The rest of the contestants, from the iconic country croon of winner Scotty McCreery to the forgettable voices of the runner-ups, were only television entertainment. Well, they did come off the screen last night and perform a 2-hour show at Nassau Colisseum on Long Island. So, yes, they did transcend the pixelated screen and some performers stood out.

For every screaming 13-year-old girl (a massive generalization, I know), there was a person like me, who watched the show and was simply curious. My mom and my sister, also avid Idol watchers, joined me for our first post-Idol Top 11 show.

Before I analyze each performer, I would like to say that the concert was actually entertaining. I say actually because this is not a show I went to with tremendous expectations. I was trying to be realistic. With each introduction, the young crowd yelled flattering comments at their favorites and kept up their shrilly screams the entire show. This was great, though. It made me smile. They were excited, many probably attending their first “big” show. It seemed that lines of cheery-eyed kids were dressed in their American Idol Season 10 shirts and their infectious excitement was humorous and invigorating.

As for the music, the band was malleable and the performers varied. The group performances were significantly better than they were months ago. This is understandable for they have had much more time to practice. The concert did reveal improved and surprising talent. The most expected thing was the in-your-face Coca-Cola and Ford advertisements, the two main show sponsors. All three judges and Ryan Seacrest made cameo appearances on the big screens adjacent to the stage and the concert producers played with Steven Tyler‘s propensity of imprecation by bleeping him twice during the recording after he accidently said that this was Season 11. The bleeps have become part of his persona and his act. The show was wholly energetic and, despite almost falling asleep during uninspiring ballads and Lauren Alaina’s awkward, subpar country performance, I was up and smiling. Let’s get to each performer. If I am a little cruel to your favorite, I apologize. This is only my own opinion!

I am not going to go in any particular order, but at the end I will rank the performers from 1-11 in a mock standing of how I think the show would’ve, could’ve, and maybe should’ve turned out if it started with the top 11 today. Now, do keep one thing in mine. Each individual performance (every member of the top 11 had an individual song – or multiple) was geared towards the performer’s comfort zone. So, I am judging them on what they do best, not what the show makes them do.

Thia Megia – She is 16. And, I don’t say that as an excuse, but as a fact. Her individual performance was average. She has a good voice, though. It is quiet and was drowned out during the group performances she sang in (most of the low-standing runner-ups were delegated to back-up duty for a lot of the night). She will get better as she gets older.

Paul McDonald – Oh, Paul. He had one good performance on Idol that kept him in the show for an extended period of time. “Maggie May” fit his quirky voice like a glove. We thought he could go far. Then, one flaw, he could not sing any other song well. So, what song does he sing? “Maggie May.” And, he sang it well. But he fell up short on everything else, even having trouble keeping in tune in the groups.

Pia Toscano – This was a homecoming for her, so she had a chance to showcase herself a little bit, performing a new single for her New York fans. But, unsurprisingly, she fell up short like she did on the show. Yes, despite a loyal following in New York, she was extremely forgettable to most of the country during the Idol season and during the show last night. You see, she has an insurmountable problem. She is a ballad singer, through and through. When you are a female ballad singer you have to be in the level of “great” to be remembered (I.e. Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand). Is Pia great? No. She has a “good” voice and that will unfortunately leave her in the wake of the vocal giants, destined to be forgotten.

Stefano Langone – Another performer with a Pia problem. Stefano can stake his claim as a Bruno Mars-like performer. He just doesn’t have as strong of a voice. His voice strains to easily. And despite for randomly taking off his shirt during one of the performances, an act that confused most of the crowd and acted more as a laugh than sensual act, he was also forgettable.

Naima Adedapo– Here was a nice surprise. I liked her during the show, but she was booted quickly because her voice lacked intensity and her eclectic dance moves tired her out during her performances. But on stage last night, was an endurance-freak with a significantly better voice. Yes, backing vocal tracks help everyone, but hey, as the type of performer that Naimi seems to be leaning towards (mainstream pop) you would never get caught away from home without the assisted amplification. Her lively performance of J-Lo’s “On The Floor,” where she broke out in a mid-song African dance, was electric. I actually think she can make it. And, if they did the show again, she would finish closer to the top.

Jacob Lusk – The gospel singer. Lusk has a magnificent voice. It is smooth and his vocal runs are effortless. His problem was simply that gospel is a small market now, unless, of course, you can transform it into a R&B, Gospel, Soul, Pop combination and become a performer like John Legend. Lusk drove through Luther’s “Never Too Much” and then performed a touching tribute to Nick Ashford, who unfortunately passed away this week. He sang the Ashford and Simpson written, “You’re All I Need to Get By,” which was most notably performed by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. The youthful crowd couldn’t really understand these references, so they remained quiet during Jacob’s performance for the parents.

Haley Reinhart – Haley is a good, not great, female vocalist whose eccentric indie-like voice is raspy (a little too raspy), but still jazzy. She performed “House of the Rising Sun,” which is widely considered among the top American Idol performances of all time, and she performed it well. I’m not going to say that she is a one-trick pony, but her voice doesn’t diversify well, and therefore, since she was often a displaced performer, it was easy to tire of the performances. Now, let me explain this a little better to the passionate negators of this view. By saying she lacks diversity, I am not insulting her abilities. Many artists lack diversity. They, if they are good, become ensconced in their own genre and then master it. I see Haley performing in the genre of blues/jazz. She may do a great job attempting to restore this genre to popularity. Heck, she can do it with Casey. But, and this is a big flaw in my mind, she has limited range. When she pushes into the upper register her voice naturally goes to a grunt (or rasp).  She is simply exploring the limits of her voice. In judging ability, this is a flaw. Many people think its cool. I guess it is a matter of preference. So, to sum this little analysis up, she was a good contestant who had a flaw in her voice and she still does.

James Durbin – Durbin is the closest thing Idol has gotten to a hard rocker. Daughtry is alternative. Adam Lambert is theatrical (and is now performing mainstream pop). Durbin has an above-average rock voice, and if it wasn’t for a weak spot in his voice, he would have possibly won the show. Durbin can hit high notes and his regular level notes, but in the middle of this range is a weak spot in his voice that is a minor, but noticeable blemish. He is still awesome. He put on the best show of the night, performing “Uprising” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” The crowd was rocking with him and Durbin bounced around the stage like a professional. Stick him in a rock band and they will do well.

Casey Abrams – We are nearing the end. Casey is probably the most talented musician they have ever had on American Idol. His flawless bass playing gives him this cool element that pairs excellently with his jazzy voice, the best of the competition this year in my opinion. Last night, he proved it. Casey has one of those voices everyone wishes they had. It is sultry, almost playfully lascivious. His range is impecable. His runs are spot on. He didn’t hit a bad note. If  Casey released an album, I would buy it (supposing he stuck to what he was good at – jazz-fusion). He performed a slowed-down version of “Smooth” that was tremendous. It is one that I will remember. Watch for this guy. He knows what he is doing.

Lauren Alaina – Alaina opened after the intermission and sang three songs. Now I wont give her too much flack because I believe she is just getting over bronchitis. She also sprained her ankle backstage during one show. The tour has beaten her up. Alaina, though, has the same problems that she had during the show. She performs with little energy and confidence. She seems awkard on stage and this is easily recognizable through her consistent tugging on her dress and rigid movements. She is a country singer with Carrie Underwood aspirations, but only time and age will tell if she can really reach that level.

Scotty McCreery: As the winner, McCreery was saved for last. He performed five songs. He looked like a consumnate professional on stage; someone who is been performing for years. He has an innate vocal gift. His deep croon is country perfection. He deserved to win based on pure voice and can last in the music world for 50 years with such a voice.

So, there you have it. Now, if I had to rank them from 1-11, here is how I would do it (I will include their actual rankings in parentheses):

1.) Scotty McCreery (1)

2.) Casey Abrams (6)

3.) James Durbin (4)

4.) Naima Adedapo (10/11)

5.) Jacob Lusk (5)

6.) Haley Reinhart (3)

7.) Lauren Alaina (2)

8.) Stefano Langone (7)

9.) Thia Megia (10/11)

10.) Pia Toscano (9)

11.) Paul McDonald (8)

How do you think it should have turned out?

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