Sunday, November 23, 2008

entertainment overload.

Another day, another update. Last week, I finally finished mixing and mastering the demo tracks for Evie Ladin's solo work, Evil Diane. The tracks are up on her myspace, as well as mine, if anyone would like to hear the brilliantly compressed and streaming masterpieces.

I am very pleased with the acoustic tones that I got from the tracking sessions, acoustic banjo and guitar. I have reached a conclusion that I enjoy the way ribbon microphones sound with acoustic guitars, and have even found myself trying to hear similarities, or differences, in other recorded works. I used the Royer 121 ribbon mic for all the acoustic guitar work, as well as a Neumann KM184 on the neck, just to get some of that string sound. The banjo neck also had a Neumann KM184, and the always classic U87 on the body. (Apparently, I just can't get away from all things Neumann.) The vocal performance was trickier. On the first track we recorded, "Precious Days," I used a Neumann M 147. My usual vocal mic is the popular TLM 49, but it seemed that the tubeless aspect of that mic left her voice sounding thin. However, for the next sessions, the M 147 was unavailable, so I went with the Mojave Audio MA-200, another tube mic, which also proved to warm up her vocals, giving them a very natural sound. All the tracks were recorded directly into Pro Tools, using the API Lunchbox pre-amp, as well as the Portico Pre-Amp 5012, and a Control|24 control surface at Ex'pression College for Digital Arts.

In other, much less technical news, I will be heading back up to the Bay Area during the first week of December for a few days. Illgenetics is having a showcase of artists on the label, and I have a tracking session with one of my former classmates on Saturday, the 6th, I believe. Other than that, and maybe a meeting with my favorite people in the Career Development Department, I will simply be in town to see friends and hang out for a bit. It seems a little strange of me to decide to make this trip in December, seeing as how much I hate the cold, but I guess I'll just have to pack warm. (Texas weather is glorious this time of year.)

And of course, as it is becoming tradition, here are three records currently in my musical rotation.

"The Glass Passenger" Jack's Mannequin
The highly-anticipated (by not just me) sophomore effort from frontman Andrew McMahon. I should start off this review by informing those of you that are unaware, I have been following McMahon's career since his first band, Something Corporate. But I will try to be as objective as possible. I promise.
After the release of Jack's Mannequin's debut album, "Everything in Transit," McMahon was diagnosed with Leukemia. This second record is the answer to his experiences with that struggle. The lyrics will take you on a roller-coaster of survival, of nearly painful attempts to be optimistic, promises to keep going, and the inevitable emotional breakdowns. Musically, it's as diverse as the lyrical tones. Heavy drum sounds, big guitars mostly, with the occasion exception, such as the track "Annie Use Your Telescope" which goes with a much more acoustic sound. Piano-heavy, naturally, and an oddly distinct, but cohesive collection of music. McMahon's vocal performance is slightly more daring than his first record, sounding almost strained at times, a product of a deep, emotional connection to the lyrics, no doubt. Suggested Tracks: "Swim," "American Love," and "Hammers and Strings (A Lullaby)," for starters.

"On A Clear Night" Missy Higgins
I can't take credit for discovering this one. My friend, Marina, sent me the first track off the record, and through the wonderful world of Myspace streaming music, I listened to a few others. Higgins hails from Australia, and her endearing accent comes through in hints throughout the record. Warm, delightful vocal work, great acoustic guitar tones, and a full band for most of the tracks. If I had to classify her musical style, it would be somewhere between a generalized "Indie" sound and folk rock. Great lyrics, and this record provides a good balance between the ballads and more faster paced songs. Suggested tracks: "Where I Stood," "Steer," and "Going North" to get started. This is Higgin's sophomore album, but her debut record did fairly well on the Australian and UK charts. As of mid-2008, she was touring with Ben Folds around the United States.

"Twilight" Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
I will start off by saying that I have not seen this movie. I do plan to, because I read the books and my curiosity has gotten the best of me, but I plan to wait for the crowd's to die down (or off, for that matter) before I try to watch it. However, I had heard a couple track's off this record, and decided to go ahead and get it. Paramore has two songs on the record, their popular "Decode" and also a track entitled "I Caught Myself." The group does not disappoint. "Decode" fits perfectly with the tone of the film (I've watched a lot of trailers) and musically, the tune stays true to Paramore's sound. Rob Pattinson (the guy wearing too much make up on the cover of the s/t) has a track on the record as well, and musically, it's a brilliant song. However, I am not a fan of Pattinson's lack of vocal enunciation, and would strongly recommend he stop trying to sound like Bob Dylan. Good musician, but the singing part needs work. Suggested Tracks: Iron and Wine's "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" and Mute Math's "Spotlight." And, for those who have read the book, Carter Burwell's "Bella's Lullaby." While I, personally, feel that it is too short, it's a beautiful composition none-the-less.

I am pretty excited about the winter theatrical film line up. The new movie with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, "Australia" looks promising, as does "Milk" and "Doubt." Being a huge Will Smith fan, I will of course want to see "Seven Pounds" which comes out on 12/19/2008. I won't take time to explain the plots of any of these, but I assume that if you are reading this blog, you are familiar with the concept of IMDB. Check it out.

I feel like maybe I'm the only one who is less than excited about the movie "Frost/Nixon" that comes out the day after Christmas. Maybe because I never really was interested in Nixon in the first place, but it just doesn't look very good to me. I guess I will wait and read reviews on Rotten Tomatoes to make the final judgement. However, Spring/Summer of 2009 is going to be pretty big for the box offices. The first trailer for Pixar's next release, "Up!" is online, and while it's short, it's beautiful and I'm already excited. And then, of course, the sixth installment in the Harry Potter series is set for a July release. So there is hope on the cinematic horizon, and I am definitely ready.

I guess that will be all for now. Check out the music, go watch a movie, and stay entertained!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

starting fresh.

I have been writing. Nothing really monumental, not like I usually try to write. Lately, I've just been writing stories. Things that have happened to me. People I've known. Funny, life-changing, horrific. Even the mundane day-to-day occurrences that, for some reason, have merit in my memory as worthwhile. And it's been really a fantastic experience. Because while I've been writing about these events - I've been reliving them. And reliving them now, years after the fact, has allowed me to see a perspective that I couldn't before. I can see how much I have changed. Maybe more importantly, I can see how I am still exactly the same. That even though I might be physically twenty-one years old, I still think in the same voice as I did when I was fifteen. And because it's still the same voice, I can recall exactly why I felt all the things I did. And my writing, for the first time in a while, can be honest. I value that.

In my quest for peace of mind (it sounds cliche, but it has been a bit of a turbulent life for me recently), I have found solace in new music. Some of the new bands I've discovered, and their respective albums that have spoken quite honestly to me are, as follows:

Charlotte Sometimes - Waves & The Both of Us - I read an article that described this band as "Nu-Jazz Pop" which I didn't really understand, well, at all, until after I heard it. The production of the music is rather pop-oriented. Big drums, electronically enhanced (aka sound replacer baby!), airy guitars with only hints at acoustic instruments. But Charlotte (lead vocals, songwriter) has a jazzy style vocal delivery, and the changing tempos and key signatures hints at the great Jazz era. Good lyrics, nice harmonies (always a must for me), and relaxing music.
Paramore - Riot! - This is a band that, for a long time, I flat out refused to listen to. I did not like their fanbase, and therefore, could not allow myself to enjoy the same music. However, a recent track of their caught my attention. (Yes, it was "Decode" off of the Twilight Soundtrack. Shut up.) and so I went out about bought their sophomore album. And I have not stopped listening to it since I first put it in my CD player. BIG drums tones, and tight. But what caught my attention the most was Hayley Williams lyrics. They're raw, but rather eloquent at the same time. If I was a lyricist, I feel like I would write similarly to Williams.
Lenka - Lenka - If you are looking for a feel good album that doesn't allow you to frown for a moment, this is it. Her voice is so sweet, it almost sounds like sugar. Upbeat rhythms, piano driven, and really great lyric structure. This album plays like a girls-day-out. Shopping, manicures and pedicures, laughter and gossip. Best friends doing stupid girly things because life is too short not to waste all your money on clothes and shoes you don't need, but inevitably want. Thanks for being you / Thanks for being all the things / I had to say goodbye to / I'm over being lied to / I'm over being pushed into the person / that you want me to become.

So other than my creative ventures, the only other news would be that I have moved back into my old room in my parent's house. I had forgotten how vibrant the colors are in my bedroom, as you can see from the picture, they really make any photo stand out. It feels good to be back around my family, as things have been a little trying for them recently, it's nice to be around to help in any way I can. I finished the mixes on an EP that I have been working on for a little bit, and will get to mastering them, hopefully sometime today, and I will put the tracks up on my professional myspace (can anyone say oxymoron?) as soon as possible. The artist's name is Evie Ladin, and she's quite wonderful. She's been playing shows around the Bay Area recently, and I fully encourage anyone who enjoys folk music to get out and watch her play.

I guess that's it for now. Thanks for reading, if you made it this far!