AU Musical Events: New Student Showcase, 9/19 & 9/20

It’s still only September and already we have ourselves a great AU Musical Event! I get really excited about these events because they give me good stuff to write about while supporting AU’s music culture. Anyways…

A very special musical event is coming to the Greenberg Theatre this weekend. This event, formally titled OVERTURE, is a showcase of the new DPA talents in the freshman class of 2018 (2018? Oh god, I’m old)!

In what the event page calls an “unforgettable rite of passage,” a collection of AU freshmen will perform songs, scenes and monologues, introducing themselves to the AU arts community in all of their freshness. It’s a move that takes a lot of chutzpah, and I believe that anybody willing to herald their arrival in a new environment in such a bold manner will have a great future at AU.

Join this exciting event on Friday, 9/19 and Saturday 9/20 at Greenberg Theatre, from 8-10pm. Tickets are $5. For more information and a link to buy tickets, follow this link: http://www.american.edu/cas/auarts/calendar/index.cfm?id=5706392

And here’s the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/800741236616072/

 

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Filed under Diversions, Events, Links, Live Performaces, Musical Theater, Vocal

A Salute to Our Favorite Drummers

Give the drummer some! We at the AU Music Library have a special place in our heart for the percussionally-inclined (I don’t care if that’s not a real word in there). As a matter of fact, both of my bosses are drummers, and they’re pretty cool! Sam ripped the skins back when he was a young punk, and Nobue is the bee’s knees at classical percussion. And guess what? I too am a drummer! What a suprise!

Anyways, in honor of Nobue’s upcoming gig in Texas (more on that soon), we’ve decided to treat you to some of our favorite drummer videos. Now these drummers may not be the most traditionally talented out there (maybe that post will come another day), but they’ve all got more than enough personality to bring them to the top in our eyes. After all, we should all agree that your drummer face is just as important as how fast you can paradiddle.

Until today I thought that everybody had seen this first one, but then I found out that Sam hadn’t and realized that there may be more poor souls out there who hadn’t yet witnessed the famous Drummer at the Wrong Gig. So here he is, in all his flailing, ecstatic, caring too much to be in a wedding band glory.

Here’s a rarer gem in a similar vein, although still pretty popular, it seems. This guy really takes the cake for over-emoting/stealing the spotlight. While the singer indeed sings beautifully and the song is a nice Korean torch song, the whole vibe is thrown off by the drummer’s ridiculous enthusiasm, playing sensitively but in an insensitive manner. The results are hilarious. My favorite moment is early on, when the camera is on the singer but you can see the drummer’s face on the edge of the frame, contorting in musical glee. His stick twirls, while less deranged than our gold-jacketed hero from above, are hilarious nonetheless simply due to their ubiquity.

And then, in contrast with these two showboaters, there’s the meek but mighty Garth Algar (played by Dana Carvey) from Wayne’s World. When Wayne, Garth and Cassandra visit the guitar store, Wayne fawns over a white Strat, but Garth slips off to the drum section (as drummers are wont to do) and plays an epic solo on his own. When complimented afterwards by an admirer, he simply responds: “I like to play”. Garth Algar is a true hero of a drummer, one who plays because he likes to, and this is one of my favorite scenes (in a music-related film, at least). The crucial scene is at 0:40-1:58.

Hope this inspires you to pick up the sticks, or at least gives you a good laugh that’ll last you till hump day.

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Filed under Percussion, Video

The U Sell Out

Open up iTunes (if you’re not a streamer already at this point), click on your “Purchased” folder, and what do you have? Songs of Innocence, A brand-spankin’-new U2 album, just waiting to be listened to! That’s right, U2 and Apple have joined forces to deliver you a U2 album. Essentially, Apple has paid U2 to release their album for free by dropping it into every single iTunes user’s library.

Whether you can hardly suppress your excitement, or if none exists (in this blogger’s case), you have to admit that it’s a pretty great idea in terms of marketing; giving iTunes the jump on streaming services that won’t have the album until mid-October, as well as giving U2 a chance to spam 500 million iTunes users in the hopes of gaining a larger audience than their already very large one.

But does that make it right? Several online philosophers have opined on sites such as Vulture and our very own Washington Post that this move is a bit unsettling and creepy. It’s a move that plainly shows that the line between popular music and business is all but gone. Also, according to these authors, the music itself is pretty bland and unexciting, a by-the-numbers U2 album without any value to make it stand out as a worthy vessel for Apple’s patronage. Thus it seems that the entire purpose of this album was not to be an album but rather to be a marketing device, for U2 and for Apple, and while it was indeed a shrewd move for both parties’ marketing, it ultimately seems as if it were just that.

The fact that Apple allowed this album to become a part of everybody’s iTunes library without anybody’s permission also feels a bit weird. I have no intention of listening to this album, and had they released it in a typical way, I would have been able to simply ignore it without having to remove it from my own hard drive.

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I can only hope that this does not lead to some kind of future  in which every few days a new, mediocre release from some popular artist needs to be deleted from my library to keep my disc space free for music I actually want to listen to. If so, I might just have to switch to streaming.

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Filed under Links, News, Pop/Rock, Recordings

Sweet New Arrivals – Three Awesome Albums

Sometime during this summer, unbeknownst to me, the music library picked up some really good new CDs. One day, feeling nostalgic for my spring part-timer days, I chanced to look at the music library homepage and boy did I get a nice surprise! We just added not one but three albums that I think are great, albums I’ve listened to dozens of times without wearing out. Each represents a very different style of music, but if you’re into music that pushes the limits of its genre (while still remaining very enjoyable) you’ll probably like these three!

 

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My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (1991)

The first of our summer’s sweet arrivals is one of indie rock’s defining albums: My Bloody Valentine’s titanic sophomore release Loveless blew £250,000 of record company money and inspired entire genres of devotees and imitators. It is a triumph of atmosphere, the source of the idea that guitars could swirl, filling their sonic space up with thick, creamy clouds of distortion and pretty drone. MBV mastermind Kevin Shields was behind this orchestration, using such tricks as strumming his guitar while holding its tremolo bar and pointing amps at each other with a microphone between them to create this sonic palette. Meanwhile, he and co-vocalist Billinda Butcher sailed over the hazy atmosphere with even hazier vocals, smooth and soft and sensuous. The sound of Loveless is so unique and creative that, although its sonic signature has been influential to countless bands from Smashing Pumpkins to Nine Inch Nails to U2 to Radiohead to a whole congregation in the shoegaze genre it helped define, it remains the crowning achievement of its style.

 

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St. Vincent – St. Vincent (2014)

Annie Clark aka St. Vincent’s self-titled fourth album is one of 2014’s coolest. This album finds her turning the tight, musically rich avant-pop sound of her previous two albums into a militaristic mission statement. Her persona has shifted from the quirky, subtly demented lover of Marry Me and the incredible Strange Mercy into an empress of a technocratic dictatorship, complete with a new robe and a shock of chrome-white curls. Her lyrics address and embody the strange warping effect that technology has on the mind, delivered over twitchy funk rhythms and strange, slippery synths. And of course, now and then, Clark’s ridiculous guitar talent makes itself known with slashing, dirty leads. Produced by John Congleton, producer du jour in 2014, it sounds great and feels better.

 

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Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993)

If I had to pick one artwork that truly embodied the concept of postmodern art, it would likely be this, the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album. Where else but in the heart of urbanity in New York City could you find a crew of nine rappers, some of whom were felons and one who recorded his verses from a prison phone, who used their first album to deliver brutal tales of street violence hand in hand with obsessive references to old kung fu movies? Each rapper here has his own unique style but all spit with a gritty intensity that nobody could ever equal, not even themselves on subsequent releases, a mix of youthful bluster and premature adulthood. Threats of decapitation and grisly torture are commonplace here, often delivered in choruses of aggressive shouts. Among all the rage hides an off-kilter sense of humor that, in fact, only seems to increase the insanity. And beneath it all, sonic architect and group figurehead the RZA fuses warped old jazz samples and kung fu film soundtracks into creepy, cavernous, lurching beats, some of the hardest in hip hop.

 

Well, that’s them, now come get them! (but wait until after my shift so I can listen some more)

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Filed under Guitar, Hip Hop, New Arrivals, Pop/Rock, Recordings

Cool DC Events: Free Ken Russell Movies @ Library of Congress, 9/12, 19, 26

Thanks for this article go to one of our new part-timers, Haley, who in the words of big boss Sam “hipped me” to this series of Cool DC Events happening every week for the rest of September. DC-based film critic Pat Padua is hosting four of idiosyncratic director Ken Russell’s music films at the Library of Congress, one on each Friday of the month (sorry ladies, I’m too late to write about the Liszt one last Friday). And the best part is, they’re free!

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This week’s showing will be Russell’s 1970 film The Music Lovers, a biopic about the dark and twisted life of Tchaikovsky. Typical of Russell, it is a dramatic and flamboyant interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s life, from his disturbing and scarring childhood to his troubled marriage and hidden homosexual urges to his eventual suicide (not an 100% certain fact, but Russell takes the creative license). The LoC website reveals that the dream and fantasy sequences are set to Tchaikovsky’s music, adding an interesting commentary on his psyche and inspiration, possibly.

The film will be shown on Friday at 7pm in the Mary Pickford Theatre on Floor 3 of the LoC James Madison Building. It’s free but you need to reserve a space. And hurry, you never know if they’ll run out of room! Here’s the event page for information and the reservation link: http://www.loc.gov/concerts/filmscreenings-padua.html

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The Best Day of My Life AKA the Modest Mouse Reissues

It’s a sad truth that to the casual music fan of today, if anything, the name Modest Mouse conjures up an image of a washed-up band that had some big hits in the mid-2000s. Indeed, their singles “Float On” and “Dashboard” had a massive cultural impact, fostering a musical maturation in many members of a generation (myself and several friends included), knocking on our brains’ door in the name of music a bit more complex than the usual radio fare. Sadly, these songs now are a source of the thousands of shirtless Modest Mouse concert attendees shouting for two songs and ignoring the rest.

Which is an enormous shame, because before their run of albums in the 2000s Modest Mouse were a wellspring of some of the most intense, otherworldly, and unique indie rock ever made. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, this trio (and eventual four-piece) of late teenagers and early twenty-somethings struck musical gold for about five years, gold that no band preceding or since has seemed to reach. Influenced by Built To Spill, Unwound, Bob Dylan and beyond that who knows, they pounded out music that was simple but intelligent, proggy but punky, dissonant but beautiful.

Drummer Jeremiah Green’s pounding tom rolls and ringing snare hits drove rhythms that marched on like passing highway markers, allowing Eric Judy’s bass lines to travel along them, melting into chords like molasses. Over this landscape, Isaac Brock and Dann Galucci’s guitar lines vacillated from folky, meandering lines of harsh beauty to bracing shreds of primitive distortion. Brock also provided vocals: his dejected melodies and pained shouts, sopping with pathos, revealed preternaturally talented, Dylan-inspired lyrics worthy of their forefather, with twisted lines of logic linking the despair of interpersonal struggles to the decay of American society to the larger movements of mankind and the universe.

Their first two full length albums, 1996’s This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About and 1997’s The Lonesome Crowded West (two of my favorite album titles as well) have this musical and lyrical chemistry on full display, containing enough musical treasures to keep you enraptured for years. Truly, since first listening to these albums almost five years ago, they have continued to enthrall and surprise me to this day, and I suspect they will continue doing so for a good while longer.

Modest Mouse "This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About" (1996/2014)Modest Mouse "The Lonesome Crowded West" (1997/2014)

And Brock’s record label, Glacial Pace, is making it that much easier with today’s announcement of the 180-gram vinyl reissues of both of these albums. For years, you could only find a vinyl copy of one of these bad boys on ebay for hundreds of dollars. Today they’re available for pre-order at $22 each. Imagine being able to buy these pinnacles of indie rock for the price of any layman’s rock record. I already did it! Find them here and here. And here’s Pitchfork’s documentary on the making of The Lonesome Crowded West, widely considered a landmark album in indie rock in general. Let Modest Mouse into your life, I swear, you won’t be sorry!

 

 

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Filed under Guitar, Links, News, Pop/Rock, Recordings

Cool DC Events: Inti & The Confused at The Garden Open Mic, 9/8

Remember these features? In case not, they’re where I attempt to enlighten you all as to the cool musical goings-on in our greater metropolitan area; hence Cool DC Events. The first Cool DC Event of the semester is close to the heart- two of our very own Music Library employees will be performing at an open mic night next week!

When they’re not busy checking scores in & out, Inti & Ella, two classic M. Lib faces, form a musical duo called Inti & the Confused. The two play a goodly amount of string instruments and each can sing. They play a blend of folk, bluegrass and acoustic singer-songwriter pop. From their bandcamp page: “part-singer songwriter, part-perplexed bluegrass project, 100% weird…bringing mellow mandolin, fierce fiddle, and some sweet vocal cords to a location near you.”

The location in question, this time around, is a nonprofit performance art spot called Bloombars, located in Columbia Heights. They hold a weekly open mic night called the Garden Open Mic, with a variety of performers, musical or otherwise. This week’s open mic is being hosted by Tamil poet Gowri K. and Inti & the Confused are the featured artist!  While I’ll be covering Inti’s shift and unable to make it, you all should check it out- it’s a good chance to support the Music Library by supporting its employees and the larger music community, too!

The show is on Monday, 9/8. It starts at 9, with a sign-up opening time of 8:30 if you, too, would like to perform. Here’s the event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1476189955986579/

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