Friday, August 28, 2015

Band Review Catchup: Christopher Serafini and Dan Green

These both represent cases where a traditional review did not really fit, but I wanted to do something.

Dan Green/Dan Tanglewood

Dan Green did follow me on Twitter, and he still has a great Soundcloud page. However, as it got close to the time to review him, his profile was changing. I asked, and he was sort of leaving the business, at least for a while.

Dan referred me to Lock Up Laura, because he had once played with one of the musicians in there, so I did write them up, but I have left Dan on the list because I always hoped he would come back. That was May 2014.

Right now the Soundcloud page is still up, and it is really good. Most of the songs are instrumental, and if you love guitar you should love them. He puts me in mind of the listening I did based on the Greatest Guitar Songs list and comments. The music is so alive, and so complete without any vocal accompaniment. It is amazing.

And it is all that is left. Dan deactivated his Twitter and Facebook profiles.

A music career can be really hard, no matter how talented you are. I don't know what he's doing now, but his music matters. It should be checked out.

I still hope he comes back.

Christopher Serafini

Technically Christopher should have been on the recommended list instead of the review list, because he never followed me on Twitter. I just became aware of him because the Gin Blossoms like him - which is not a bad recommendation.

Still, this happened when I had just started tracking the bands I was going to check out, before I was even sure that I would be writing about them.

The first music link I found was a MySpace page. No one who is currently working too hard on self-promotion uses MySpace. These are mainly songs from Let Go, which is an older project. When I say "mainly" it looks like everything is from Let Go, but not everything is a song, exactly. There is also a recording of someone narrating a Star Trek video game where Ferengi are defending against Borg, which is interesting but it goes on too long.

Other projects have followed, with Serafini at least touring if not actually being a member of Pollen, Black Sunshine, and The Stereo. Then it became kind of hard to know which project would make the most sense to review. I lean toward The Stereo, because it seems more current, and he plays guitar and sings there, which seems like more of an active role, but his profile and biographies seem to focus more on bass. Generally when I listen to something where he is playing bass, I like it.

Again, the ambiguity there may indicate that he is not focused on self-promotion, but if he is getting the work he wants anyway, it probably doesn't matter. There are a lot of advantages to having a good reputation.

That makes my review boil down to "If you listen to music where Christopher Serafini is playing you will probably hear good stuff." That seems so tepid, but it's not faint praise. You can't say that about a lot of professional musician out there.

And I like the mix on the MySpace page.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Band Review Catchup: Into Colour, Second Nature, Daniel Ray, Antonio S Galica

I suspect it comes through sometimes that I can be kind of neurotic about the music reviews. I agonize over giving a bad review, and whether my reviews are helpful in matching bands up with prospective fans. I also worry about how long a band has been waiting for coverage, even if the reasons for putting off the review are well-intended.

Just for the record, I am also leaving on vacation next Saturday, and Wednesday I am going to a concert where I don't know if I will be ready to start reviewing them on Thursday, and certainly listening will be disrupted while I am gone. That probably doesn't require this much stress, but here we are.

So today and tomorrow will be going over some names that have been in the spreadsheet for a while, but where there are factors preventing a standard review. I believe this will be soothing, and I can at least move them over to the Song of the Day waiting list if applicable.

Bands without very much material

A band with a huge catalog is its own type of stress, but it gives you a chance to see what they are doing. While it is less to work with, a 4 or 5 track EP can still give a great impression of a band and their direction.

These bands didn't give me a lot to go on. I waited for more to come, but it's been a while.

Into Colour

This is actually pretty interesting in that the song, "Half A Battle", starts out sounding very ambient, then turns harder, but is done in such a way that it sounds like a completely natural progression. I can appreciate that, even though neither ambient nor hard rock are really my thing.

Second Nature

It has been almost a year since their one minute demo went up. When it is outside of my preferred genres, it is even more important for me to have multiple tracks to listen to. This is metalcore, and not my strong suit. I don't think they are doing badly at all, and I will always give bands from New Jersey a chance, but it's just not enough for me to go on.

The weirdest thing for me is that apparently both of those bands have merch available. I am guessing that maybe they play live dates, and just haven't put a lot of material online, but I feel like getting tracks recorded is really important.

I also have a strong preference for original material. That leads us to...

Bands that only show covers

Daniel Ray

I saw that he was working on an album, and I have been waiting for that. It still says that will happen, but it's been a long time.

There is enough material here to at least have an idea of Daniel's range. He should be great for people who like Bruce Springsteen but would prefer him more mellow and acoustic. There is a really nice team-up with another band, The Aroostercrats, on "Two Hearts".


Sometimes people follow me that appear to be musicians, but maybe there's not a link to music, or they are promoting something else instead.

Antonio S Galica

When there is a link to Soundclould you are usually safe, but in this case, while some of the tracks do have musical accompaniment it is primarily spoken word. I do sometimes like spoken word, if it's vibrant and funny, and possibly live, but this is not working for me. It may work for you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

About that hopeless one

Sam Simon (television producer, among other things) died in March, but even before he was gone there was quite a bit written about his philanthropy. One thing that made me sad was reading that he had pulled back from some of his environmental support because it didn't have any results.

That may have been somewhat misconstrued. I have read other quotes about how with animal charities you can often see immediate results unlike some other good causes. However, the real reason that it made me sad was that he seemed to be right.

We keep doing worse things to the environment and we do it for worse reasons. It doesn't matter that the fire seasons keep getting worse, or that hurricane seasons get worse, or that currents shift and sea life dies, we don't change anything.

I have said that Black Lives Matter is my priority this year because of the immediate threat to life. The environment would be the one thing that could compare. It affects more people, but the death toll isn't always obvious, plus said death toll is not nearly as high now as it will be. Of course, waiting until the death toll gets too big to ignore will mean that it will be much harder to do anything.

For something unrelated, one of my Twitter friends was complaining about how people only care about the protests here, and they are ignoring the ones in Lebanon. (She is half-Lebanese.)

I actually had seen those protests, and I do care. I am not focusing on it. That is partly because I believe I can have a bigger impact on the issues in my own country. It is also because a lot more black people have died at the hands of police than anyone has died because of the trash not getting picked up in Lebanon. Obviously it is a more complex issue than that, and it certainly could get bloodier, but for now it is not going to be my main issue.

If we had everyone putting energy into making the world a better place, we could accomplish a lot. Since that is not the case, we have to pick and choose. I don't turn off my caring, but I don't take on everything. Sometimes the extent of my involvement is signing a petition. It's almost never giving money since I never have money. I am finding places to give my time, but there's a limit to how much of that I have too.

I don't have much hope for us reversing global warming. I wish I did. It's still not a reason to give up.

Maybe you can't reverse all of the trends, but if you can keep fracking from happening in your area, that is beneficial to the health of your area. Maybe the hole in Detroit can be cleaned up, or maybe all that can happen is that the residents still there can be relocated, but for them it would matter. Cleaning up the output from coal plants would matter to the people who live around there.

It's important to look at the big picture, and often things connect. The racial makeup of Detroit was something that made it easier to get such heavy pollution in the area. That is a thing that happens. Having that background knowledge can be useful when you are taking on the local issue. It can be okay to specialize, and it is often kind of necessary.

My family recycles. When we vacation, we find places that we can take our bottles and papers as much as we can, and often we cart things home with us. Recycling is good, but reusing and reducing are better. I try to do that. I hope at some point to be able to afford solar cells.

Those are minor things, and they will not help much. I don't like that, but I'm not despairing over it either.

However, one thing that is quite clear is that the reason we collectively keep making bad choices is that some people are making high profits on them, and we have gotten too used to thinking it is necessary because of high cost, when if we calculated the real cost, we would be making big changes.

So let's keep corporate greed in mind for next week.

Related posts:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sorting out ways to help

One of the things that came up in yesterday's post is that you can address things from different directions. Let's look at the ways to help I have posted so far:

  • Read "The Case For Reparations"
  • Pass bill HR40
  • Read about diverse characters, written by diverse authors
  • End the War on Drugs
  • End For-Profit policing
  • Make cities friendly to the mentally ill
  • De-privatize government contracts, creating more government jobs

Reading "The Case For Reparations" and reading different authors and types of characters is about changing individual hearts and rooting out individual racism. You certainly could see movements in schools, educational associations, and libraries to do it, and you might also see programs at publishing houses to work on that, but it wouldn't be a legal issue.

Passing HR40, ending the War on Drugs, and ending For-Profit policing are very much legislative. They would be geared towards removing institutionalized racism, but their effects could go beyond that as well.

De-privatization is more economic, and it would not be specifically about racism at all, but as it led to more living wage jobs one would hope that the improvements could reach many segments of society.

Making cities that are friendly to the mentally ill is kind of a mix. You wouldn't necessarily need legislation for it, but you would need buy-in from local governments. However, as more people got training, that should change their hearts as well, and it should have a profound effect on policing.

As we go over some of the other things that can be done, it's still going to be like that.

For example, if I write about rape culture and consent (which is totally possible, but I might save it for the next phase), that would appear to be more about sexism than racism. However, we have seen ways in which women of color are more likely to be sexually harassed and assaulted than white women. You might hope that efforts in that direction would be especially helpful to women of color, or you might see that they are less likely to see the benefits.

If part of the way you fight rape culture is affirming that every individual is human and has a right to sovereignty over their body, that may work to affirm the humanity of all people, reducing rapes across the board, or racism could win out and there will still be segments not viewed as fully human.

The point of that is that it's a big thing trying to solve all of these problems - even if you take away the people who don't want them solved. If at times different things are prioritized, that can be okay, as long as it is happening based on actual importance, i.e. people dying is more important than people feeling uncomfortable.

If you can get at root causes, that may be more beneficial. It doesn't mean the symptoms aren't important, and sometimes treating the symptoms triggers a correction at the cause level (which is great, because it can then permeate other symptoms.)

Which is rambling on more and more, I know, but as I write my blog I am taking the things that I have been reading and thinking about and organizing my thoughts around them. Looking at my notes for other ways to help, I have to figure out which order makes sense, and if some seem hopeless, should I still write about them, and hey, that issue seems to require black market solutions.

(Also, I do think about cognition quite a bit, so writing posts like today's makes sense to me.)

I want to try and wrap up this segment next week, and then I will work on something else. Maybe. This is the third post I have started for today.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Black Lives Matter - the Policy Push

I may not be capable of writing about things on the same days that I think I will, but we have a fascinating developing situation, and it does relate.

You probably know that Hillary Clinton met with people from Black Lives Matter. Video footage was released, but there was a general feeling that the meeting was unpleasant and tense.

I saw that, and I didn't think it was awful. The activists pointed out that stopping the violence is something for white people to solve, as the primary perpetrators of the state-sponsored violence. There is a need to change hearts. Clinton could see their point, but wanted concrete policy proposals. That is what she can work with.

It sounded like an impasse, but Campaign Zero is up, it has concrete policy proposals, and it gives examples of similar city and state legislation so there are models in place.

I know I've already made this point about the interactions between Black Lives Matter and the Sanders campaign, but look, encounters can be productive without being pleasant. Maybe you come out angry, but you think about it and then you try again. There may be a certain level of maturity necessary for this type of progress, but I am pro-maturity.

Campaign Zero is focused specifically on police violence. That may be more narrow in some ways than what is wanted, but it is the police violence that has been escalating most, and because the violence committed by the police is essentially state-sponsored, it is an important area of focus. Other things may be easier to deal with after that.

The site is definitely worth checking out. Some of the line items are things I have written about already.

These are more about legislation than changing hearts. When I wrote about promoting diverse characters and authors, that is one for changing hearts. Those are things that are worth pursuing, and where politicians can be helpful, but then people can get weird about them too. Michelle Obama encouraged people to drink more water and it offended people, so you have some people drinking less water out of spite. Maybe it's better to have the political figures focus on the laws.

I think Campaign Zero is a great step. I don't want to hear about any more unarmed people being shot, or subjected to forcible searches by the side of the road for minor offenses, or arrested for resisting arrest when there was no reason to arrest them. Those things need to change.

And these feel like concrete steps for change. It's not a huge change in direction for Black Lives Matter, because some of these things have already been said. It does accommodate what legislators need, and does a good job of that.

That ability to talk, and be frustrated, and keep talking anyway, to take time away to clear your head and then listen again, these are things we need. Those are the traits that can allow us to actually solve problems, and come together instead of falling apart.

It is thrilling to watch.

If anyone can find some positive stories on the GOP side, please send them along.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Band Review: Third Place

There was a point in listening to Third Place where they kind of reminded me of the Misfits. They aren't anywhere near as Gothic, but one of the tracks (I believe it was "I Can't Remember") felt like it was bringing some doo-wop into a modern setting. That impression seemed confirmed when Lifeland's final track was a cover of "You Can't Hurry Love".

(Actually, after "You Can't Hurry Love" there was a long pause, followed by surprise French track, which did remind me a little of the gap between "Don't Open 'Til Doomsday" and "Hell Night" on American Psycho.)

Third Place is a pop rock band from Montreal. While most of their tracks are more contemporary, there is often a sense of fun that works with the nostalgia that older musical styles brings.

That is not always the case. "Forever Together" and "Pride So Long" are more agonizing, and not fun at all. They were also my least favorite tracks. "Nightmare" starts out with almost a military cadence, growing into rock, and I liked it better. Other tracks tend more toward traditional pop rock, and maybe even pop punk, and are very enjoyable. "Look At Me Now" and "Feel the Beat" are good examples.

I think fans of Green Day, and especially Foxboro Hottubs could enjoy Third Place. They also have a wide variety of covers on their Youtube page to give an idea of other musical interests.

Videos for their own songs have a sense of fun that is not surprising, but execution of the point could have been more carefully considered. Just call them cheeky and don't hold it against them.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Band Review: Traditions

Traditions is a rock band from Westfield, Massachusetts.

They list one of their influences as Taking Back Sunday. I can hear that, though I would say that the guitars have a harder edge.

The emotional sentiment actually reminds me of a slightly earlier era of emo, like the late '90s era (when the word was being used differently). A lot of those bands weren't very skilled musically. Traditions works better on a professional level while still retaining the emotion.

Current videos only include the sound tracks, but this is a relatively young band, with time to create more content.

They are worth checking out, certainly for fans of Taking Back Sunday, but I think also for fans of Christie Front Drive, and other earnest music, where it feels like everything depends on being understood.