Tag Archives: music

Tonight the Streets Are Ours: Recent Musical Obsession

Creativity’s Spirit Romanticized via Street Art

This track has been haunting me the past several months. Like most people, I first heard it behind the closing credits of Exit Through the Gift Shop, the Academy Award-nominated documentary of sorts by British artist Banksy.

Not only do I love the wall of sound timber of production; I’m just as struck by the yearning, rich tone of Richard Hawley‘s voice conveying the lyrics, which, in the context of this film (as I prefer to interpret them), celebrate individuality, creativity, vision, and belief in oneself – particularly from an outsiders’ perspective. Though the third verse suggests a romantic theme, hearing the track at the end of a film about renegade expression adds a powerful new dimension for interpretation.

Do you know why you’ve got feelings in your heart
Don’t let fear of feeling fool you
What you see sets you apart
And there’s nothing here to bind you,
It’s no way for life to start

But do you know that
Tonight – the streets are ours
Tonight – the streets are ours
And these lights in our hearts they tell no lies

Those people, they got nothing in their souls
And they make our TVs blind us
From our vision and our goals
Oh the trigger of time it tricks you
So you have no way to grow

But do you know that
Tonight – the streets are ours
Tonight – the streets are ours
These lights in our hearts, they tell no lies

And no one else can haunt me
The way that you can haunt me
I need to know you want me
I couldn’t be without you
And the light that shines around you
No, nothing ever mattered more than not doubting
But tonight the streets are ours

Do you know how to kill loneliness at last
Oh there’s so much there to heal dear
And make tears things of the past
But do you know that
Tonight – the streets are ours

Full version here:

Bonus: Impressive Film Accolades:

From Exit Through The Gift Shop’s official website:

Best Picture of Leaves On a Poster
What do you think? What’s a recent music obsession you’ve had on repeat lately? Did you see this film? Let us hear from you in the comments.

In The Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran – Audiobook Review

I just completed the audio version of In The Pleasure Groove: Love Death and Duran Duran, narrated by John Taylor, bassist and co-founder of Duran Duran.

In The Pleasure GrooveThe band have long been one of my favorites. In fact, the very first record I ever bought with my own money was Seven And The Ragged Tiger. On cassette, of course.

Duran Duran Rocks

I’ve been into Duran Duran’s music since I was 10 years old, because I like the sound: exotic, upbeat, futuristic, yet with an undeniable groove. It was an older female cousin who turned me onto them and I noticed that girls really liked the band – “those guys must be doing something right,” I thought, and I’ve been following their career and enjoying their music ever since the early ’80s.

John Taylor of Duran Duran

John Taylor of Duran Duran in the ’80s, living the dream. Photo: New York Times

Of course I’m biased as a fan and music lover, but I’ll still say this book was great overall. The initial description of Taylor’s upbringing and childhood seemed long at first, but it’s a relevant setting of context for the ensuing fame story, as we watch this lad from Birmingham navigate punk and disco into new wave and rock, all as a bassist and band member with artistic vision, along with those of his band mates who soon become heartthrobs, almost to their detriment.

Duran Duran Still Rocking

The guys are still at it, recording and touring to this day. Here they are at Coachella in 2011 performing their very first single, “Planet Earth,” and obviously enjoying the thrill. Taylor ends the book with a description of this very moment:

It’s an outdoor festival, so tour manager Craig will not get to give his usual cue to take the house lights down. Tonight, that’s one of God’s jobs. And what a job of it he’s doing. A glittering bauble of sunlight fights to stay above the horizon. A full moon appears – a late-coming VIP that takes a seat above the lighting gantry at 11 o’clock high. Nature presents for us a better light show than any human could ever have created.

My heart is pounding. There’s no better time than this, when I’m about to take stage and the future belongs to me. This is what the moment feels like as I walk out onto the stage one more time. Roger’s drums kick in. An eight-bar count and I’m in with him, the galloping groove that started it all for me. Thirty thousand California kids, eyes and teeth smiling, cameras and cell phones popping, a million tiny seductions all at once. And the music never sounded better.

I would recommend the book to anyone with a passing interest in what it’s like to be a working-class kid who falls in love with music, reaches the height of fame because of it, and handles the aftermath (good and bad) with grace.

What do you think? Ever read a book by a rock star? What were your impressions? Is there any music favorites from your youth the carryover to today? Let us hear from you in the comments.

This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin: A Review

Note: The folks from Grammarly graciously offered to sponsor this post. I use Grammarly for proofreading online because it can free up more brain power for enjoying music.

Music is everywhere, especially when it has to do with our emotions. Music has the power to move us, physically and spiritually. It is familiarity and exploration simultaneously drawing from experience, atmosphere and energy… spatial points of reference blending in sound.

This is Your Brain on MusicI discovered this book while browsing Audible randomly for something interesting a few weeks back, and I’m glad I did. I found it to be entertaining, well-articulated and just technical enough to make solid points but not so much that I became lost in scientific mumbo jumbo. The author, Daniel J. Levitin states:

“This book is about the science of music from the perspective of cognitive neuroscience – the field that is at the intersection of psychology and neurology.”

Levitin is an experienced producer and studio engineer, who came by his musical appreciation honestly – his father offered to finance a set of headphones as long as the young author promised to use them whenever his dad was home. Sounds like good parenting to me.

Levitin later went on to become a bona-fide brain researcher and Ph.D., incorporating his musical background. This qualifies him to explore what’s happening with the brain in relation to music.

Consider how something as instinctive as “groove” works. Levitin notes: “when we talk about a ‘great groove’ in music… we’re talking about the way in which beat divisions create a strong momentum. ‘Groove’ is that quality that moves the song forward. When the song has a good groove, it invites us into a sonic world we don’t want to leave.”

That’s a pretty darned good description of groove, right there.

Beats and melodies, grooves and lyrics, disconnected ideas forging a shared energy… what happens with music is happening in our brains. So many areas of our consciousness activate together in a musical experience – like performance and interpretation happening at once. I’ve long believed music is the most powerful art form.

The book explores some of the author’s own, and other recent studies conducted on music, musical meaning, and musical pleasure, along with what’s happening in the brain in relation to music, from many perspectives – biological, physical, anthropological, and others.

“Music listening, performance and composition engage nearly every area of the brain that we have identified, and involve nearly every neural subsystem.”

This makes a ton of sense to me, since so many, many hours of my youth were spent listening intently to music closely, over and over, concentrating on untangling its secrets into something I could tap into and impart to others through a shared experience. It’s a beautiful thing, and this book illustrates some of the biological mechanisms that enable such magic. As a self-taught musician, I found it fascinating to consider all this from a physiological and evolutionary point of view.

Above: interview w/ Daniel Levitin on The Agenda with Steve Paikin

Levitin notes that “music is unusual among all human activities, for both its ubiquity and its antiquity.” I agree that there’s something primal about music, something as elemental as the air we breathe, as visceral as any vibration. Like the rhythms of a wind rustling leaves, hoofbeats on a plain, or a brook cascading among the echoes of a forest. It makes sense of the world through organization of energy, with the power to send us elsewhere and take us back home in our minds, something that has been happening since humans first started drumming on logs around a fire, continuing to this day in new and exciting forms.

“As our brains have evolved, so has the music we make with them, and the music we want to hear.”

Just think of a song you know, one that makes you tap your foot to the beat or sing along – maybe just the first melody that pops into your mind, maybe something you heard on the radio on the way to work… in a commercial… in college… last weekend at a friend’s house… years ago when you were just beginning to understand the world, or maybe love — what is that sound? It’s living in your brain right now and likely will be for a long time to come. This book can offer a new appreciation for that kind of art.

Update: author comments & recommendation!

What do you think? Have you ever considered how music affects the brain? What do you consider an example of a song that takes you to a certain place? Let us hear from you in the comments.

What Do You Do When A Song Is Stuck In Your Head?

MusicOnTheBrainI experience music looping in my head on a regular basis, and I’m sure you can think of several times this has happened to you. I’m also a self-taught musician, having learned to play guitar by ear from an early age through careful listening, so, I have a hunch my brain is more active in the “melody-analysis” area, and that I’m prone to experiencing this more often (or at a higher volume) than others. This doesn’t affect my life in any huge external way — I carry on productively and engaged in most any situation. But in a moment of relative quiet, the internal soundtrack often cranks right up.

But Isn’t That What Vocal Hooks Are For?

I’ve found it’s usually key phrases from songs that stand out — like dramatic flourishes or expressive riffs. It’s not always the “pop hook” or vocal element that grabs me, and it can be any obscure track from any time in history, of any genre, not just so-called “popular” music specifically music designed to lodge itself in the brain. Though I’d bet a quantitative analysis of the last 50 years would reveal more bias toward, say, The Andrews Sisters than Metallica.

And then, after a few hours… it’s gone. Maybe I’ve made an effort to listen to the track somehow and exorcise its hold on my spirit. Or, what was there before just gets replaced by another track.

Rick Neilsen of Cheap Trick

Rick Neilsen of Cheap Trick – Power Pop Hook Maker Extraordinaire

Why Does This Happen?

Perhaps as early human cave dwellers, the ability to memorize sound served an evolutionary purpose. Hearing a growl in the distance might have prevented being eaten by a bear, so that would have been a good sound to repeat into memory for an advance warning next time. Or maybe hoofbeats in the distance signaled a tasty herd of beasts just over the ridge. I’m totally guessing, but it’s not implausible given what we understand about the fight-or-flight response.

What Do You Do?

I really wonder if there’s a course of action here. Is there some type of “resolution” or lesson to be learned — or does there even need to be? What purpose does having a song stuck in your head actually serve?

What do you think? Do you find that actually playing the song works to “release” the melody from your brain? Or do you find that songs usually dissipate on their own? Any guesses as to why this happens? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Telecaster Transmissions

Telecaster Transmissions 02

Street Guitarist With Aura, Venice Beach, CA. To listen, click below or visit my Soundcloud page. To see more images like this, check out My Creations at Pinterest.

I noticed this gentleman in Venice Beach making sound shapes with his beat up Telecaster, battery-powered amp, effects pedal with a looping drum beat, and a mop of tangled dreadlocks dangling from his hunched frame. It was absolutely compelling. I took a couple of photos and recorded 40 seconds of audio to document the moment, seeking to make something more elemental than just a video. I respect and support street musicians, and this guy sure had some kind of aura happening that day, too. Enjoy.

Telecaster Transmissions

Photos by me via iPhone, edited in Photoforge2 & TTV PS.
What do you think? Ever dropped change in an open guitar case? Have you ever performed as a street artist? Do you know anyone who has, or what their experience was like? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Musical Poetry: Begin the Beguine

16th note

I especially like 16th notes. Particularly in power pop via tambourine.

I’m an aficionado of many types of music. From edgy alternative, to world beat, to electronica, and so on, I appreciate it in many forms.

One example would be The Andrews Sisters. It might not be immediately obvious that a Deftones and Keith Richards fan would be into each of these artists, but hey. A particular track of theirs I’ve come to love is “Begin the Beguine,” a standard from the wildly gifted Cole Porter. The poetry of the lyrics and the imagery they suggest, along with the snappy beat, brass/woodwind riffs – and of course the boisterous harmonies of the sisters – comes together so very well in this recording. See if you agree:

When they begin the beguine,
It brings back the sound of music so tender.
It brings back a night of tropical splendor.
It brings back a memory evergreen.

I’m with you once more; I’m with you under the stars.
And down by the shore an orchestra’s playing.
And even the palms seem to be swaying
When they begin the beguine.

To live it again is past all endeavor,
Except that tune clutches my heart
And there we are swearing to love forever,
And promising never, never to part.

What moments divine, what rapture serene
‘Til clouds came along to disperse the joys we had tasted.
And now when I hear people curse the chance that was wasted
I know but too well what they mean.

So let them begin the beguine.
Let the love that was once a fire remain an ember.
Let it sleep like the dead desire I only remember
When they begin the beguine.

Oh yes let them begin the beguine – make them play!
‘Til the stars that were there before return above you.
‘Till you whisper to me once more, “Darling, I love you,”
And we suddenly know what heaven we’re in,
When they begin the beguine.

What do you think? Is there a particular genre of music that you find surprisingly appealing? What about music moves, inspires, or captivates you? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Apple Knows Music, but Pandora’s Box is Already Open

Pandora Radio

A photo of my Pandora stations. I shot this with Hipstamatic and added ambience with the LensFlare app.

When it comes to streaming music, Pandora just works.

It appears Apple may be unveiling a “Pandora killer” music product in the near future. I, personally am unfazed. I enjoy Apple products, and I’m a loyal and satisfied Pandora customer. I’ve tried Spotify, Rhapsody, Last.fm, Rdio, 8Tracks… and while they all have their advantages, none to me match the basic, straightforward appeal of good ol’ Pandora.

Here’s a quote from a recent Business Insider article on what Apple may have in the works:

We’ve dubbed it iRadio and from what we’ve heard so far, it sounds like it will be very similar to Pandora. For instance, Apple plans to offer it as a free service, supported by ads, and it will let users create their own radio stations based on a favorite song or artist,

Pandora Passé? Meh.

I realize some may consider Pandora passé, but for me it just works, whether on a computer or mobile. I’m glad there are other trending options these days because competition is what drives free market growth, but I was an early adopter of Pandora and am religious about thumbs-upping or -downing tracks to get my stations the way I like them. And if I want to buy a song through iTunes (or Amazon), the link is always right there with the track.

Why on Earth would I put the effort into rebuilding the experience through iTunes or whatever Apple calls it? I also like sharing my tracks with comments on Twitter or Pinterest, and running an rss of what I’ve liked at my blog – I seriously doubt Apple’s “walled garden” would allow such flexibility. But hey, I’d love to be proven wrong.

Oh, and does anyone miss Ping? Didn’t think so.

What do you think? Would you be interested in a streaming music product from Apple? Are you a user of Pandora or any other streaming products? What do you like about them and why? Let us hear from you in the comments.