I’ve been in an old school kick, spinning some favorites from the formative, late middle school/early high school years. I say formative because a lot of my eternal favorites (and subsequent discoveries) are a direct result of mixCDs my cousins left lying around their house while they were off at college. I’d surreptitiously listen to the albums, log onto AOL, go to Altavista, type up some of the lyrics, and try to figure out the song and artist. SoundHound or Shazam would have been pretty rad, come to think of it. Unless my memory is completely failing me, the Anniversary was one of those bands I discovered after I listened to their jam “All Things Ordinary” on one of those mix albums. Other notables discovered the same way (mostly prior to the Anniversary) included Mirah, the Get Up Kids, Reggie and the Full Effect, Saves the Day, etc.
I didn’t really go much beyond that one song until early high school when I picked up their debut album (three years old at that point), Designing a Nervous Breakdown. It’s a cliché, but I’m never over how evocative music is – when I spin The Anniversary’s synth-heavy pop rock album, every memory I have from around that time when I got super into them seems to be more vivid. So remember to score your life with a cool soundtrack — it might make a difference, retrospectively speaking. I’m not proud of it, but Akon dominated the Summer of 2009. Hah, on second thought, I’m totally okay with that.
I should point out the Anniversary came onto the scene during an era where pretty much anything that wasn’t Creed or Three Doors Down-esque cock-rock was mislabeled emo. This debut album is pop rock at its late 90s/early aughts finest. Like a number of Vagrant artists (not named Dashboard Confessional, Get Up Kids or Alkaline Trio), the Anniversary peaked relatively early — their follow up effort, Your Majesty, had some cool tunes, but was not a particularly great album overall. They did not release anything else before breaking up in 2004.
An incidental side note – The Get Up Kids’ fourth studio album, Guilt Show, was pretty much written entirely about bassist Rob Pope’s divorce from Adrianne Verhoeven, who rocked the back up vocals and keyboards for the Anniversary.
It’s true. I crave you. This is on re-p-p-p-p-peat.
Books – I’m reading Great Sky River by Greg Benford. I’m about 60 pages in, and I’m not sure how hooked I am. But at the very least, I’m intrigued.
The Galactic Center Saga by Greg Benford consists of six volumes. I happened to stumble upon all six volumes at a second-hand bookstore in DC a few years ago and, since they looked promising, bought them all. That was about four years ago — I hadn’t gotten around to them until last year. So far, I’ve gotten through In the Ocean of Night and Across the Sea of Suns. The former depicts humanity’s first encounter with an inorganic alien intelligence that enters Earth space and the subsequent fallout. The latter jumps forward two decades to humanity’s discovery of inorganic life systematically destroying organic lifeforms throughout the galaxy and the invasion of Earth itself. Great Sky River, flashes forward in time and space to an apparently (very) distant future on a planet where humanity is being hunted to extinction by inorganic lifeforms. The story follows one of the last bands of humanity (if not the last band, it’s not clear to me at this point, and I don’t want to spoil anything by looking it up!).
The premise is intriguing, but it hardly feels like I am reading the same series, which is probably a contributing factor to this being difficult to dive into. But I’ll soldier on, I have heard good stuff and it will likely be worth it.
Comics – I’ve gone through Batman’s Contagion story arc which expanded across the Catwoman, Robin, and Azrael series in the late mid-90s. I’ve also gone through the Cataclysm story line and am currently smack in the No Man’s Land arc. In Contagion, the Bat family have to deal with the effects and fallout of a biological agent released in Gotham City. Cataclysm deals with a massive earthquake that more or less demolishes Gotham City and allows Arkham inmates to escape. No Man’s Land is the subsequent arc that finds Gotham City cut off from the rest of America as an ancillary result of the earthquake, developing its own feudal(ish) system, with former members of the Gotham City Police Department and the Bat crew trying to maintain some form of order while villains like the Joker and Scarecrow try to cause their brand of trouble in what is essentially a new world. The dynamic shifts this story introduced in the late 90s is absolutely fascinating.
Music – I’ve been listening to Kaskade’s Strobelite Seduction almost non-stop since I purchased it. I’m in a distinct electro kick lately. Tiesto, Kaskade, Calvin Harris, Porter Robinson, Deadmau5, and a smattering of Skrillex songs have been racking up the play counts.
This has been stuck in my head for the past month. For that reason, I think it should be stuck in your head too. Sucka.
Ellie Goulding — the rising British folktronic pop star is going to be huge in America fairly soon. This is not an original thought of mine; it’s pretty obvious as the buzz about this woman increases. Mostly via my Facebook feed.
My first experience with Goulding was her track, “Lights” — a synthed out pop jam that happens to be FIRE. After listening to this song an inordinate amount of times on repeat via Spotify, I decided to grab her album Bright Lights.
And this is where the British product outshines her American counterparts handily. The talent, depth, and bounciness crosses through a spectrum of electronic genres and does so without overshadowing Goulding’s vocal talents. It’s all done with a balance that is unparalleled by any domestic artist. For comparison, this album reminded me a lot of Details by Frou Frou.
I’ve been listening to Ordinary Riches by Company of Thieves quite a bit lately. There are a number of things that stick out about this album:
- Genevieve Schatz’s sexy voice. I tried to think of a more creative adjective, but everything I came up with would be qualities that comprise sexy. So sexy it is. She puts a lot into it and it shows in the final product.
- Style and sound — distinct and sticks out from the typical crowd of similar music by elegantly combining all the elements of pop rock. The style elements capitalize on Genevieve’s aforementioned voice so well that you’re not sure if it’s the music that’s perfect for the voice or if it’s the voice that’s perfect for the music. “Oscar Wilde” is a pretty solid example — you’ve got your crunchy rhythm guitar, subtle organ, bouncy/driving bass, clean picks, and a number of beautifully timed lead fills.
- Marc Walloch’s impressive guitar playing is what makes a lot of the aforementioned sonic awesomeness. There’s a truly dynamic quality to the way this guy plays guitar that takes a serious amount of talent, knowledge, and timing. His transition from chords to leads to fills back to chords is just so smooth and subtle. It’s appreciated the most as a guitarist, but the finished work should really be able to impress anybody just on sound.
Favorite track: “Pressure”
Definitive track: “Oscar Wilde”
Cool feature: Acoustic bonus tracks.
Also, check this band out on Youtube. They put up some very cool acoustic footage that puts on display the kind of energy Genevieve puts into the music, while Marc’s guitar play is showcased.