Monday, August 30, 2010

The Emmys - It looks like I might be enjoying TV again

Jimmie Falon sings goodbye to Lost, Law & Order and 24.

Just in case you missed the Emmy's last night, it was actually pretty fun.

I used to watch entirely too much TV. Ask my parents and my brother. And then sometime in my 20s, I stopped watching. But now (mostly likely because I've been through phases of free cable, roommates that like TV, netflix and hulu) I find myself knowing more about TV that I have in a long time.

I've recently been turned onto the Lefsetz Letter, a (now) blog by Bob Lefsetz, a former entertainment business attorney. This "letter" has been in existence for over 25 years. This is some what he had to say about the Emmys. (read more here)

This entry seems to sum up why TV seems to be more and more "movie-star" studded every year, why even I think there's good stuff to watch on TV and why I don't seem to end up at the movies very often anymore.
I no longer go to the movies. There’s nothing there for me.

If you want truth, you turn on TV. All the big stars are working on the small screen. And the small screen tackles subjects deemed too tiny for the big screen. If it involves human emotions, if it’s complicated drama, it’s on the small screen. The big screen is reserved for special effects. Oh, of course they trot out drama in the theatres, but the focus is on production values, the story is secondary to the presentation. That’s like thinking a record’s production is more important than the songs, than the playing. Just like recording stars of yore spend a fortune to buff their product to a sheen that is impenetrable, using auto-tune and effects to achieve perfection, which no one can relate to. We’re attracted to humanity. And that’s gone from the big screen and major label music. In search of all the profits, with the goal of making a ton of money, the core audience has been turned off.
Please enjoy the musical stylings of Jimmie Fallon, the cast of Glee, Tina Fey, Betty White, Jon Hamm and more as they mimic Bruce Springsteen. Jimmie ain't bad!

Jimmie Falon sings goodbye to Lost, Law & Order and 24 to the tune of Elton John, Boys II Bem and Green Day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The anatomy of a mashup - with guest blogger Christine Boone

My friend and former classmate from the University of Texas at Austin Christine Boone is writing her dissertation on mash-ups. I asked her to write up a little something for Always More to Hear sharing her vast knowledge about the different types of mashups.


There are several different types of mashups. The most basic kind is vocals from one song, instrumentals from another. Of that basic type of mashup, I think the most impressive examples are the ones in which the vocals are sung, not rapped. I love rap, but since there is no pitch material involved, it's much easier to work with than singing. You can put a rap on top of most any musical background, and it will generally work as long as the meter is the same in both songs. Therefore, I think the best kind of basic mashups using rap are ones where the instrumental background is totally unexpected and extremely far removed from anything related to hip hop.

A personal favorite is a really early mashup from 1993: Public Enemy "Rebel Without a Pause" + Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass "Bittersweet Samba" by the Evolution Control Committee. This was 1993, the ECC was clearly way ahead of their time! The innocence and total uncool-ness of Herb Alpert is so completely foreign to Public Enemy, and it's really funny to hear the two of them together.

The play between unrelated genres makes a great mashup, regardless of whether the vocals are sung or rapped. However this next example contrasts a prefabricated studio band with a squeaky-clean image of the The Monkees with Iron Maiden, a heavy metal band that sings about Satan.

"I'm a Believer" + "The Trooper": This might actually be my favorite mashup - dare I say - ever?

Besides the wildly contrasting genres, other great parts about this one include the relatively unaltered status of each source track. Sometimes would-be great mashups end up sounding weird, because one song has to be sped up or slowed down a little too much in order to get it to work with the other song. If either song has been changed in this case (in either pitch or tempo) it's not noticeable.

It's also great because its sung vocals fit perfectly over instrumental accompaniment. This is particularly difficult to do, because you need to worry about the notes in the melody line fitting with the harmonies in the accompaniment. Sometimes you can find two songs that use the same chord progression. (Or a million songs? See the Axis of Awesome: ) When this is the case, the songs can be easily put together. But in the case of "Trooper Believer", the harmonies are completely different to begin with, which makes it even more awesome that they fit together.

Another type of mashup is one in which some of the source material is very heavily manipulated, sometimes to the point of becoming unrecognizable. This happens quite artfully in DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album, which famously combines Jay-Z's Black Album with the Beatles' so-called White Album. One of my favorite tracks is "Dirt Off Your Shoulder," because of what Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) has done in order to create a musical accompaniment for Jay-Z's rap vocals.

Rather than simply placing two songs on top of one another, Burton has completely cut up the Beatles' "Julia" and composed an entirely new accompaniment using individual notes from the guitar and vocal lines.

And then there's the crazy jumble, how-many-songs-can-you-name? technique of Girl Talk. Perhaps the most famous mashup artist, Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis) makes a living creating manic mashups that seamlessly incorporate as many as 30 songs per track. "Play Your Part (Pt.1)" is a great example.

This type of mashup is extremely appealing to listeners because of the sheer number of songs involved. It becomes sort of a game to see how many songs you can recognize in each track. Gillis' DJ'ing/mashup skills amaze me, because not only does he combine songs of different genres like any successful mashup artist, but he does it with so many songs. He keeps a constant beat and weaves samples in and out, keeping crowds at his live shows dancing the entire time.

Mashups are mostly an amateur art, which is great, because it gives everyone a chance to be creative and make music. However, it does mean that there are a lot of really bad tracks out there. But that means you get to have more fun digging, so enjoy!


Christine Boone received her Bachelor's degree in vocal performance at Indiana University, her Master's degree in music theory at the University of Texas, and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in music theory, also at the University of Texas. She has presented papers on The Beatles in both the United States and the United Kingdom and given guest lectures on the music of Richard Wagner. Christine is currently writing a dissertation on mashups.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bay Area music mix and the Hear it Local launch party

Please feel free to upload this mix cover into your itunes

As promised, here is the Bay Area Mix that I made for the Hear it Local launch party this evening. It was a fun gathering and it was great to see so many familiar faces, meet knew ones and finally meet other folks that I had been in touch with. I think there's a lot of love for Hear it Local!

It was really exciting for me to hear this music blasted overhead. I know, I'm a dork.

Please check out these amazing local artists and support them! (I have permission to post most of these tracks. If you would like me to remove your music, please let me know and I will do so immediately)

Always More to Hear's Bay Area Music Mix
(Click here to download)

1) B and not B - Traffic Jam of Stars
2) Bang Data - El Pacino
3) Owen Roberts - Around My Thoughts
4) Brass Menažeri - Opa Cupa Fly
5) The Dodos - Red and Purple
6) Built for the Sea - Hypnotist
7) My First Earthquake - Meat Pies
8) Kirk Hamilton - No Crow, Scarecrow
9) OONA - Tore My Heart
10) Sambada - Sangue Africano
11) Blisses B - Juxtaposed
12) Kacey Johansing - Many Seasons
13) Grass Widow - To Where
14) Guitar Mac & His Blues Explosion - T-Bone Shuffle
15) Janam - Vitori, T'u Befte Nena
16) Pomplamoose - Centrifuge
17) The California Honeydrops - Broke Down
18) Ziva - Can't Do Pretend
19) Up Against the Glass - The Botticellis
20) Steve Taylor - Nothing Left
21) Meklit Hadero - Leaving Soon
22) The Dina Maccabee Band - California
23) Oakland Faders - Soul Techniques

SoCal powerhouse singer/songwriter Tim Matson stops at Hotel Utah and my living room

Tim Matson in my living room. photo by Shelli Owens

It's one of those romantic things to have a touring musician stay in your house on their way through. And it's even better when you actually enjoy their music and they happen to record a video in your living room. This is Tim Matson, my roommate's cousin. She sent me a link to his music a few weeks ago and his cover of U2's "40" (or "Psalm 40") blew me away. I'm happy to be a new fan.

With his unique brand of spirituality (à la U2), Tim's thick, gravely voice seems to come from somewhere beyond his throat. He's touring without a band right now, so the focus is on his voice and the simple accompaniment.

Tim has just made his first tour stop in San Francisco and is onto Salt Lake City, Denver, Austin, Tennessee, Florida and then back to the Bay before he returns to Los Angeles.

For more touring info, visit Tim's facebook page and tumblr blog.

Check out my article covering his show at Hotel Utah on Sunday night.

This is Tim's cover of "Wagon Wheel." The song was suggested by a fan a couple days ago, Tim learned it and recorded this video in my living room. Wagon Wheel was originally performed by Bob Dylan and Old Crow Medicine Show.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

In honor of my 420 facebook followers

I noticed today that I have 420 facebook followers on Networked Blogs. I have no idea who most of these people are, but thank you for your support!

Even though my Dad will read this (hi Dad!) I couldn't resist the urge to post some music to go along with this momentous occasion.

Enjoy! Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Relentlessly Cheerful Art - Pop Art icon pairings

'Bein' Green'

Kirk Hamilton posted a link on facebook today for James Hance's "Relentlessly Cheerful Art." Had to share. You can buy prints for $10 (or originals for around $250 which is actually pretty reasonable, if you can swing it). See more at his website. The titles are really cute too.

'The Flower Of The Force II'

'The Dark Starry Knight'

'These Are The Droids We're Looking For'

Monday, August 9, 2010

Launch Party for local music website Hear it Local: Come celebrate local music!

You're probably very aware of this Hear it Local thing I've been blathering on about. (If it's news to you, I just posted a article about it and the launch party on

But here are the vitals if you are able to come:

Wednesday August 18th at the 111 Minna Gallery featuring performances by Porto Franco Records artist The Nice Guy Trio, Quinn Deveaux and Kelly McFarling.

Chasing the Moon will screen its latest videocast of Tartufi. There will be music photography exhibits by Niall David and Audra Marie Dewitt and snacks by BrokeAss Gourmet. Truly a community effort and I'm VERY excited about it.

Always More to Hear is an official partner of the launch party and I've been asked to put together a playlist of local music for in between live sets and I've been having the best time rummaging through my sampler CDs and mp3 library looking for suitable music. Some you've heard before, some is brand-spanking-new (likes this fabulous Oakland band Bang Data) I'm going to post the playlist here for downloading! Stay tuned!

More info and RSVP on facebook here

I'm super excited to be part of making the Bay Area less overwhelming for live music lovers and I'm honored to be part of such a vital community of smart, creative and passionate people who can make something like this happen.

This is Chasing the Moon's Quinn Deveaux podcast: both will be in attendance on the 18th.

Quinn Deveaux @ Chasing The Moon 9.04.09 from Scott McDowell on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Music blog love: Unbounded Song

Last week I randomly came across the music blog Unbounded Song and I'm really excited about it. The premise is that the blog will eventually feature one song from each country in the world, roughly 196 of them.

The details on who is publishing this blog are non-existent other than his name is Dylan. But one thing is for sure, I trust Dylan's taste in music. That sentiment really boils down any music blog: with all the music blogs out there, what keeps you coming back? What keeps you coming back to mine? I hope it's because you trust me and my taste in music!

Each song on Unbounded Song as been fan-fricken-tastic so far.

The actual text posts are short and to the point, which I appreciate.

The song I'm in love with right now is the Polish entry: "At My Mothers" by Warsaw Village Band. This is the kind of music I want to crawl up inside. You know that feeling? When you just want to get up in it? I have no other way of describing it.

Check out this blog if you like music from around the world. There's some good stuff coming at you.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Always More to Hear featured in the GrassRoutes Travel Guides and at the Hear it Local launch party!

Things are getting exciting over here at Always More to Hear!

Serena Bartlett's GrassRoutes Travel guide's to Portland and Seattle feature my mix tapes exploring a taste of music that has come out from those cities. Here I am on the new GrassRoutes website!

The GrassRoutes guides (also including Olympia, San Francisco, Oakland & Berkeley and the Northern California Wine Country) are basically all about "green travel" and how to either be a tourist in your own city or learning where the locals go when you are in a new city. The guides feature businesses and organizations that contribute to the sustainability of local economies.

Learn more about the GrassRoutes Guides here.

Also, Hear it Local in the Bay Area is up and running (it is also in the Twin Cities and Boston)! On August 18th at the 111 Minna Gallery is the official launch party (join us if you're in the area!) and Always More to Hear is an official event partner. I am providing the playlist between performances by Nice Guy Trio, Quinn Deveaux and Kelly McFarling with Jonathan Kirchner. Chasing the Moon will screen the newest podcast and there will be exhibits by photographers Niall David and Audra Marie Dewitt. Tasty treats will be provided by Brokeass Gourmet. It's going to be so much fun!

My playlist will feature a variety of some of my favorite local Bay Area music.

Respond to the facebook invite here.

It's been really fun working with my friends to help make our cities more enjoyable! I can't wait to do more.