Sunday, September 19, 2010

Embrace the Martian

I've had an itch to write a new album review since I started this blog. I've recently listened to numerous new albums but unfortunately, the last 'worthy of a review' new album I have listened to was Blue Sky Noise, Circa Survive's fourth album, released in April. I feel that I would be slightly biased on that review since they're my favorite band and they could probably put out something less than stellar and I would still love it (you catch my drift). So, rather than being negative about an artist's work, I want to review an album that I feel is worthy of listening to.

There are a few new albums slated to release in October and November that I am highly anticipating. One of them is Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager, Kid CuDi's second album and follow-up to Man on the Moon: The End of Day. Since I still listen to songs from that album on a daily basis, this release cannot come soon enough. According to Kid CuDi, "Man On The Moon II is dark by nature and instead of bringing you into my dreams like my first album, I'm bringing you into my reality, good and bad. It will explain more of who I am as well as pushing the envelope musically." He, or rather YouTube, has released a few songs thus far to get fans excited and create some buzz about the new release. I have listened to "Mr. Rager", "REVOFEV", "Erase Me" featuring Kanye West (this song makes me semi-respect Kanye again after his douchey reign), "I Do My Thing" featuring Snoop Dogg, and "Mojo So Dope." Thankfully, his "alternative hip-hop" style and flow have emerged but remains as fresh and psychedelic as his first release.

I want to take you back to Kid CuDi's roots. Back to before he was truly Kid CuDi and more Scott Mescudi, a kid from Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. He moved to Brooklyn to pursue a career in music and before the Man on the Moon era, there was one mixtape, A Kid Named Cudi, that started it all for the young rapper. Little did he know, this mixtape would be discovered by Kanye West, who instantly signed Mescudi to GOOD Music in 2008.

When I think of a mixtape, what immediately comes to mind is an annoying DJ talking for the first thirty seconds of each track and shouting out random labels and groups that no one really understands (yeah, I mean you DJ Khaled!). But, A Kid Named Cudi broke the mold of mediocre mixtapes and gave us a new sound. It signified that Kid CuDi was ready to go mainstream from the start of his career.

The difference between Kid CuDi's music and other alternative-style rappers is that his albums tell a story. From the intro to the last song, each song is step along his journey and the music takes us along with him. The mixtape starts with an intro, much like Man on the Moon I, that begins his story. The intro is noise in a movie theater, with the movie starting at the end of the intro, to signify the start of the "show". From the very first song, "Down and Out", Cudi spits "hot fiya", in the words of Dylan from MTV's "The Band" (had to throw that in there). There is not a single song on the CD that I don't enjoy. Some of my favorites include: "Embrace the Martian", a song about him feeling like an outsider, the ever-so self explanatory, "Maui Wowie", "T.G.I.F." (Thank God I'm Fresh), not to be confused with everyone's favorite Friday statement, "Cudi Spazzin'", which houses one of my favorite lyrics, "Fall into the music and let yourself go", "The Prayer", which samples one of my favorite songs, "The Funeral", by Band of Horses, and "Cleveland is the Reason", a tribute to his hometown. This mixtape also includes "Day 'n' Nite", the song that put CuDi on the map and led him to instant fame. On this mixtape, he digs deep into his soul when writing, exposing himself in every lyric.

Up until a few years ago, I used to listed to hip-hop on a daily basis. I think back to the days of 'Lil Wayne in his prime after releasing The Carter II, and it takes me back to a time where I thoroughly enjoyed that type of music. Now, I think of it as almost a dead genre. Every time I turn on the local hip-hop station or hear of a new popular song, I think it is another song I've heard before because everything blends together and sounds the same. Originality is dead in hip-hop. There will never be another Tupac, Notorious B.I.G., Mobb Deep, or even Nas in his prime, but Kid CuDi is the closest artist I've listened to that brings me back to those same feelings I got when I first heard these legendary hip-hop artists blare through my stereo for the first time. I can only hope that his flow remains as fresh as his slim-cut skinny jeans and black rimmed glasses and his "alternative hip-hop" style never remains anything but that.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Socially responsible

As I sit here after a long day, catching up on the daily happenings of my Facebook News Feed, I can't help but wonder where music would be if it weren't for social media. How else would I be able to find out instantly that my favorite band just announced a U.S. headlining tour, what restaurant they are eating at in their current tour stop, or get to look at photos they post throughout their days on tour? Most musicians have fully embraced social media and have started integrating it in their everyday lives. While many artists have an assembled web crew that posts generic information about tours, merch, or articles about the band, others actually post the updates themselves, exposing fans to information they never would have known possible. From The Beatles to your local dive bars' cover band, everyone is embracing social media as a tool to build and connect with their fan bases.

Some of my favorite artists like Anthony Green of Circa Survive, Craig Owens (formerly of Chiodos), Minus the Bear and Good Old War have opened up virtually and allowed their fans to peek in to their personal lives through the use of social media. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or traditional or video blogs, fans can follow their favorite artists closer than ever before. Not only do these musicians post updates about their daily happenings, they also even respond to fans. A few months ago, I became a Facebook "friend" of Anthony Green. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he not only responds to fans posts on his wall, but he also comments on photos people post of him or when they tag him in art they created. I even saw him post encouraging words on a girl's status update about her going through a hard time in her life. I instantly thought it was amazing how someone who is a "minor" celebrity could take the time out of a demanding tour schedule to reach out to fans and show that he is not just some guy who sings and does acrobatic moves on stage. He actually cares about his fans and is one of "us".

After seeing his quick responses, I decided to write something on his wall to see if he would respond. I knew I had to post something that would get his attention rather than the usual "OMG Anthony, I love you and want to have your babies!" that was scattered throughout his wall. My boyfriend, Mark, helped me think of a random question that would grab his attention immediately. I posted a question that Mark and his twenty something year old co-workers were debating about earlier in the day. "Who is faster, Speedy Gonzalez or Road Runner?" While I thought it was one of the most embarrassing things I have ever done due to it's immature nature, Anthony Green actually responded within 10 minutes of me posting it. "Speedy", he wrote. I screamed as loud as pre-teen girl at a Jonas Brothers concert. Not only did he make my night (ok, maybe my week), he settled a very intense debate between my boyfriend and his co-workers (sad, I know). Something that took a few seconds for him to do impacted me greatly since he took the time to read and respond to what I wrote, no matter how silly it was.

Besides interacting with fans, there are many different ways that artists are using the Internet to their advantage. 30 Seconds to Mars reached out to their fans on MySpace and Twitter to solicit backup singers for the latest album, This Is War. This not only benefits the artist but also fans who dream of singing on their favorite band's tracks. 

Artists are also profiting from social media websites by using it as a medium to increase sales of albums, merch, fan club memberships and tickets. Fans can also benefit from this because the many musicians not only sell hard copies of albums on their websites, Facebook and MySpace pages but they are embracing digital albums sales as a much more cost efficient (and legal) way to purchase music online.

Social media is becoming a necessity for established artists; not just up and coming musicians. A creative social media campaign can either make or break a career. If an artist fails to successfully engage the technology savvy demographic, they will lose the opportunity to inexpensively engage a large portion of music lovers. Over the last five years, social media sites have exploded in popularity and everyone, including your parents, has given into the phenomenon. This has made it that much easier for artists to become discovered on both the local and national levels without the backing of a major record label. If you haven't already, I encourage you to add your favorite musicians on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or any other social media site you use and reap the benefits of being "in the know". Perks can include the ability to purchase tour tickets before the general public, and free iTunes downloads.The real benefit is being able to engage and connect with your favorite band or artist on a more "personal" level.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A piece of you for a piece of me

Hailing from Seattle, home of grunge rock, Minus the Bear is an indie-rock band with an electric, indescribable sound. They produce such feel good music that it would make you want to get up and dance in the middle of a quiet library during finals week. Their funky, catchy, eclectic sound has taken the band to new heights with the release of their latest critically acclaimed fourth album, OMNI.

After releasing a series of EP's and full-length albums, Minus the Bear's evolution of sound helped them gain new levels of fame and a growing fan base. As I was listening to the Circa Survive station on my Pandora (add this to your mix if you haven't already), I heard the calming yet funky sound of "Drilling" pour through my headphones. I was instantly intrigued at how an indie/experimental rock band could make me start dancing as I was running on the treadmill (a rather funny sight to see). As soon as I was done working out, I went right to my computer to research the band and listen to their other tunes. After hearing that the rest of their songs had a similar effect on me, I was instantly a fan.

Planet of Ice, the quintet's third full-length album, is my disc of choice. Released in 2007, the album incorporates a slightly new sound yet still maintains the infectious grooves that turned me on to Minus the Bear from the beginning. "Knights", "When We Escape", and "Ice Monster" were instant favorites, but the remaining tracks were equally vibrant.

Through the years, Minus the Bear has gained popularity and a large, loyal following. Last week they played a two song set on Jimmy Kimmel Live, not a bad gig for an indie band. This is just an example of how once unknown indie bands have emerged to become almost household names. I believe this is partally due to the power of the Internet (no surprise here) and the hefty tour schedule that many bands endure. Numerous indie bands embark on both domestic and European date-intensive tours to not only increase awareness but because they truly love performing on stage (okay, the last part is very biased, as I would like to think this is why they do it). Regardless the reason for it, fans embrace it because their favorite bands are always making a stop through their towns.

Next time you are studying the night away in a quiet library, running, driving, bored at work, or you just want some feel good, energetic tunes to listen to, check out the exuberant sounds of Minus the Bear.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Allow me to (re) introduce myself...

The radio made me do it.

After listening to the same 6 CD's in my car for the past few months (iPod broke and I'm lucky to have a 6 disc CD player), I decided to turn on the radio to see if anything had changed since the last time I resorted to my CD collection. Afterall, I am a media buyer so I probably should know what has been happening on the air waves. I first tuned into the local Top 40 station to hear the pre-pubescent voice of "The Bieber". Next, please. I then tuned into the local hip-hop station to hear someone bragging about "supermaning a hoe". What? "Alright, there has to be some good music on the radio", I mumbled to myself. My last hope was the local alternative rock station. "Anything but Nickelback!", I exclaimed. The next sound I hear is Chad Kroger's annoyingly raspy voice. Looks like it's back to my CD collection.

What has "Popular" music become? It seems like anyone with half a voice who can do a little two-step (i.e. ke$ha) can get a record deal and instant fame nowadays. Nevermind artists with actual talent who can hold a tune and jam on an instrument.

Here is where I come in. My purpose for this blog is to showcase real artists with real talent on both a local and national level. I will accomplish this by posting weekly artist spotlights, new album reviews every Tuesday, music video reviews, my perspective on trending topics in music and interesting articles that (I hope) you would enjoy.

Music has had such an impact on my life and I want my followers to feel that same impact. There is nothing greater than getting lost in music that eases your mind and calms your soul.

I encourage you to stick around, open your ears and let the music take you away.

Stay tuned...

About me

My photo
I'm 24, despite the fact that I still tell people I'm 21 because I can't remember my age (that's what I like to tell myself but I think I'm just afraid of aging). College graduate. Work in advertising. Trying to find my "dream job" where I enjoy waking up everyday to go to work (one can dream). Living life to the fullest with no regrets. I love music-I listen to it about 18 hours a day (the other 6, if I'm lucky, are spent sleeping). I'm a health nut and recently discovered the joy of bikram yoga. I enjoy working out, traveling, going to concerts and sporting events, running in races for charities, and bargain shopping. I hope one day I'm around to witness world peace.