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Music, voice demos from fellow actors, or other audio media that's currently caught my ear ...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Osaka Popstar & the American Legends of Punk

I've had Osaka Popstar & the American Legends of Punk (w/Bonus DVD) for a looong time, and realized I've never talked about how pimpin' this album is in it's music, art, and brand model (yes, I said art and brand model). (Official site is here.)

I hate summaries, but I feel OK if I call it a Japanese anime-vibed punk take on OST themes and roots songs (like "Man of Constant Sorrow", popularized by Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?). Seriously.

And the band is comprised some of the (if not the) top punk purveyors -- John Cafiero & Jerry Only (The Misfits), Dez Cadena (Black Flag), Ivan Julian (Richard Hell & The VOIDOIDS; The Outsets), and freaking Marky Ramone (Um, The Ramones).

Their takes on Sailor Moon and Astro Boy are stellar (I so hope this latter track makes it into the upcoming CG animated film version), the Richard Hell covers ("Blank Generation" and "Love Comes in Spurts", the former being one of my favorites on the album) are tops, the aforementioned "Man of Constant Sorrow" (with contributing vocals from indie icon Daniel Johnston), and Johnston-written "Wicked World" is just ... so apropos.

And it's not just the band and the songs that are an amazing compilation -- its the art and packaging. Contributors include John Pound (Topps bubble-gum cards, Wacky Packs (a special sticker is included with the album), and creator of the Garbage Pail Kids), Dalek (aka at least one-time local-to-me James Marshall (Space Monkeys designer), Butch Lukic (Batman/ Justice League), and Nick Reid Tragnark (who's allegedly partnered with Cafiero to make a "Shaolin Monkeys" animated series, spawned by the album's song, and featuring a wicked slickly stylized look akin to a mashup between Dexter's Laboratory, Samurai Jack, or other Genndy Tartakovsky works). Every page of the liner notes is illustrated or photo composited in a playful, cohesive way. As a matter a fact, other than the forgivable divergence of the "Insects" liners, the disc is a great example of brand cohesion.

The album also comes with a DVD that includes animated videos for "Wicked World" (an "evil Kawaii"-esque 2D affair) and "Insects" a photo composited animation, a la early MTV days, and while the bugs are creepy, the flight-suited puppy band avatars are hilarious (as are their reactions to the bugs; every time).

All in all, a great album that scratches all the right spots for me musically, pop culturally, and in a brand-smart, business innovative way.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Brian Vander Ark

Last night, I went to see Brian Vander Ark (previously of The Verve Pipe) at the Cactus Cafe at the University of Texas.

It's a small venue, and there were just south of two dozen people there.

I'm amazed the place wasn't packed, but I'm selfishly glad to have had such an intimate experience watching and hearing one of my favorite artists.

Brian did two long sets, which netted out to around a couple of hours, and played a lot of stuff from his albums "Resurrection", "Within Reach", and "Angel, Put Your Face On" (the latter two I picked up after the show). He also did one (maybe two) songs that aren't on any albums as of yet. "Evangeline" is really neat.

Brian came across as fun, funny, easy-going, confident in his own skin, and thoughtful. It made for a full-flavored night, as I laughed at his wit, and was alternately lifted or stung by his songs. He's a really pleasant guy with whom to talk, too.

I really enjoy all of his stuff, and have been a fan for a long time. Recent favorite tracks include "Another good man" and "I don't want to be a bother" (both from "Angel, Put Your Face On") and "!229 Sheffield" (from "Within Reach").

Of course, my all-time favorite is still The Verve Pipe's "The Freshman". And Brian did an amazingly powerful, heart-wrenching a cappella version which I feel blessed to have experienced (there's a cool live a cappella version on "Within Reach", but for me it doesn't hold a candle to seeing it).

So, yeah, it was a great, great night.

As an aside, Brian did a lot of the music for the film Pineapple, and is a strong friend and supporter of The Bohemian creative troupe.

You can hear Brian's music on his Website, and buy albums. Why buy when you can hear the music online? Reasons vary from person to person, but for me, it's important to support contributing artists, and I firmly believe in the importance of the whole "Give the worker his wage".

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rainbow Quartz showcase (SXSW 2007)

I wanted to catch one showcase (Rainbow Quartz) and one band in particular (Youth Group) as part of the South by Southwest 2007 (SXSW).

I did catch Youth Group, but other than preceding band Gasoline Cowboy, I missed the other bands -- which sucks, because I really wanted to see them. Note to self: Find new music buddies.

But Gasoline Cowboy was good, and I liked them.

I liked Youth Group a lot, and their set was amazing. I dig passion and poetry in lyrics.

The venue was no-cover Latitude 30, which sounds good, until you realize at 1 a.m. most people at a no-cover venue are there to hang out and drink, and aren't there for the bands. So there were some seriously discourteous folks there. Which was too bad.

But the space is interesting, and the two bands I got to hear are great.

And I know the others, so you should check them out, too -- here's the full-showcase lineup:

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Everything in Transit (Jack's Mannequin)

Listening to this a lot lately. Check out my original post.


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Friday, January 26, 2007

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture (vol. 1 & 2)

I'm a big fan of this film, and think it represents Leonardo DiCaprio's most daring work to that point.

So when was doing a clearance on the 1996 versions of the William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture and William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture, Volume 2, I grabbed both of them.

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture:

The first album (a soundtrack, really), has got great stuff from Garbage ("#1 Crush"), early, dada-esque Everclear ("Local God"), solid track from The Cardigans (Lovefool), and the way under-rated Stina Nordenstam ("Little Star"). Oddly, only the love song theme from the movie from Des'ree ("Kissing You") leaves me a bit cold.

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture, Volume 2:

I hate this album. Freaking passionately.

Not because of the content -- that's actually amazing. We're talking phenomenal instrumentals intro'ed or outro'ed or overlayed with actual Shakespearean dialog from the film, which is a cool device.

The problem is this is one of the most poorly mixed professional albums I own. I have a lot of music, and this and another album have the same problem. I have to turn up the volume to catch some of the whispered, dialog, then have my eardrums virtually (literally) ruptured by the next track.

This forces me to work the volume nob constantly between tracks, rather than be able to sit back and enjoy the powerful, heady stuff. I've been trying to normalize the volume on my digital jukebox without ruining the songs, which is not going well. There's a decibel differential of 12 to 28dB (the biggest differential of any album I own), sometimes back-to-back, causing me aural pain and putting my speakers at risk. Normalizing the tracks as a batch is alternately muddying their sound or causing clipping problems.

I'm ticked that I have to spend so much time to make an album I bought listen-able. And I do a fair amount of sound work.

Again, the content is (for me) amazing, with (for me) only the "The Montague Boys" track feeling a little off.

But the technical side will keep from letting this disc live in my CD player for weeks on end, which I think it would have otherwise.


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Monday, January 01, 2007

Orphans (Tom Waits)

Tom Waits and Nick Cave are two of my favorite musical artists, and when the 3-disc Orphans compilation came out in December, I snagged a copy as part of my year-end shopping binge (I've been a good boy this year).

Each disc has a different flavor, with Brawlers being uptempo, non-Latin bragadocio; Bawlers has ballads; and Bastards is, uh, all over the place (the editorial review calls it "a funhouse of angular characters, spiky anecdotes, shaggy dogs ..." -- I'm good with that).

These songs are things that were done outside of core Tom Waits projects, or songs that didn't fit on targeted albums. While this could at best be a recipe for a vapid release (or at worst, a death knell for listability), this may be one of Waits's best albums.

The songs are soulful, moody, poetic, spoken word, quirky, playful, dark, dogmatic -- you name it, and you're likely to find the deep emotions thorughout the album. And even the fun surface stuff isn't superficial.

Great album. Listen to some clips on -- then buy the album somewhere once you're sold on how great it is.

Tom Waits should do music with Danny Elfman on a Tim Burton film. And I should be in the film. My head would probably explode. But it would be worth it.


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