Category Archives: Music

Evan Hamilton’s Top 5 Songs of the Year

Yes, I’ve fallen prey to list-mania.  I can’t resist it.  Here’s the new music I loved in 2009 (in no particular order).

A disclaimer: I don’t listen to a lot of new popular music because I’m weird and picky.  I’m sure there’s stuff that is better that I haven’t heard (or at least you think it’s better). These are my top songs, so take that as you will.

Them Crooked Vultures – No One Loves Me & Neither Do I

Choosing the best track off of Them Crooked Vultures was difficult.  If I were going for best groove I’d call out Gunman.  Most intruiging might be Bandoliers.  But No One Loves Me & Neither Do I is such a brilliant combination of pop, rock, and HEAVY that you can’t help but rock the hell out to it.  Just try.

Golden Shoulders – Little Nixon

Fantastic band from my hometown of Grass Valley.  Every song this guy writes is great, but this one stands out as one of the best on “Get Reasonable.”  Great digs at George Bush without being heavyhanded (like 95% of Bush songs).  Fantastic music that is hard to define from one moment to the next.  Makes me want to flail about.  Win, all the way.

(track can be heard at http://goldenshoulders.com/music.php)

Heartless Bastards – Could Be So Happy

There’s something so happy and beautiful about this song. It’s got a dark side, but the acceptance of one’s own issues is an important part of getting past them. Erika Wennerstrom’s vocals are not the most beautiful, but they strike me as completely honest and I can groove to that.  The Mountain was possibly the best surprise of the year.

Wilco – Wilco (the song)

Deny it all you want, but this song is great.  Wilco (The Album) is certainly not my favorite Wilco album, but “Wilco (the song)” is great.  For anyone who’s ever hid from the world in their headphones, this song proclaims “tired of being exposed to the cold/the stare of your stereo/put on your headphones/before you explode/Wilco’ll love you, baby”.  Amen.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Soft Shock (acoustic)

I was not a fan of the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album.  I love the YYYs intensely, but I wasn’t a fan of their transition from raw and original to a ripoff of every hipster electronica band. However, the acoustic bonus tracks on the special edition of It’s Blitz! are strikingly beautiful in comparison to the fuzzy robotic tunes on the record proper.  “Soft Shock” has an incredibly unique set of instrumentation that suggests folks but then goes somewhere completely different with the melody.  I could listen to this song for a long time.

(acoustic version not available for streaming)

Monters are not Myths Song I’m Most Proud Of – Netcat

It’s impossible for me to objectively rate my own songs, but I’m extremely proud of how “Netcat” turned out on our new album, Corporate Grown.  Most of this is thanks to the brilliant band behind me, including the awesome banjo of Clide Lynne of The Paper Crocodiles.  Call me a shameless promoter, but I want everyone to hear it.

Hope you all a happy new year with lots of great music!

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Rawk – Them Crooked Vultures and Nirvana – Live at Reading

This has been a great month for my ears.  Not only did a new live Nirvana album drop, but the much-anticipated supergroup Them Crooked Vultures released their self-titled album.  Here’s what you need to know.

Them Crooked Vultures is a musician’s album. And it rocks.

I use the term “musician’s album” loosely, but it’s essentially true: Them Crooked Vultures is for those who trip out on insane musicianship, originality, and balls. Big balls. But it’s not necessarily as mainstream-friendly as even a band like Nirvana (who sacrificed very little of their heaviness for the masses).

For the uninformed, Them Crooked Vultures is the culmination of members from 4 unparalleled groups: Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, and John-Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. If you dislike any of the aforementioned bands, you may not like this album. If you like any of them, you will probably appreciate it. If you like all four, you need this album.

First and foremost: every single note that John-Paul Jones and Dave Grohl play are gold. I’m not trying to diminish Josh Homme’s contribution – I just think that the rhythm section of this band is the best currently out there, and possibly the best ever. These two know how to groove and rock harder than any band I’ve heard or seen, and if you want to challenge that just listen to the funk of “Gunman”.

The epicness of this album is felt inexorably in the music, but also in the lyrics. Josh Homme seems unleashed by the power of his bandmates, and offers an amazing range of lyrics. Puns intermingle with the most epic of phrases, and the only thing you can do is smile when he croons:

    • “don’t hold it against me unless it gets hard”

 

  • “you get what you give, I give good bye”

 

 

  • “well if sex is a weapon then smash bang pow, how you like me now?”

 

 

  • “hold me real close/then do it again/I ache for the touch of my dead-end friends”

 

 

  • “she said I have a beautiful place to put your face and she was right”

 

 

  • “know that I wanna be your dangerous side effect”

 

You can’t argue with that.

I have very much love for Josh Homme, and this album is one of the highlights of his career.  This album explores largely new space for Homme. Most of the songs were written in the studio (unusual for him) and the melodies are both insanely epic and unforgettably original. A few tracks on the album retread some of the same (but not bad) ground as Queens of the Stone Age. I don’t hold it against Homme, but it certainly makes songs like “Interludes with Ludes” and “Warsaw Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up” less engaging.

I’m happy to blame Alain Johannes for a lot of the familiar territory here; he’s been a frequent contributor on Queens of the Stone Age albums, and his presence as the invisible member of Them Crooked Vultures suggests that Homme was more inclined to stay true to his roots. Again, I’m not complaining – but I’d be interested to hear what a Them Crooked Vultures album would sound like without Johannes.

Regardless of my gripes, this is an album I can’t stop playing, and the live show was just as intense. The joy of seeing Dave Grohl smash the drums with reckless, happy abandon while Josh Homme belted and riffed and John-Paul Jones kept a relentless bassline rolling was enough to make me want to chug Ketel One out of the bottle while playing epic rock’n’roll (as Josh Homme did during the show).

Nirvana – Live at Reading is a concert goer’s album. And it rocks.

My other purchase this week also included Dave Grohl, which is a testament to his rockness. If you don’t like Nirvana, go home now (and don’t talk to me). If you are a hardcord Nirvanaphile and have a bunch of bootleg recordings, this isn’t going to do anything for you. But if you haven’t heard Nirvana live and want a peek into their greatness onstage, Live at Reading is perfect for you. How can you not love the out-of-tune singing, laugh, and “screw it” affectation at the start of “Sliver”?

With any deceased artist it’s hard not to see things in their art that might not be there. I found it impossible not to feel a twinge when the audience is singing along to “today I found my friends/they’re in my head” during “Lithium”. Perhaps it’s just a well-produced piece of concert mastery, but for a moment you feel like Cobain had the friends he had been searching for.

The setlist is great, hitting all of the major songs but also some less-popular gems like the “Blew”, “Aneurysm”, and “Lounge Act”. But what fascinated me most were the changes to the singles. There’s the intentional or subconscious middle-finger of screwing up the two-note signature riff of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, an anthem that Cobain thought had jumped the shark (before the phrase existed). There’s the change of the “All Apologies” lyric from “everyone is gay” to “all my birds are gray”…perhaps out of guilt for the negative connotations?

Regardless of on what level(s) you enjoy this record, Live at Reading is just plain fun. After an hour of screaming, cracking snare drums and thumping bass, the set ends with a totally destroyed rendition of the national anthem, which seems to wrap up the vibe of the show: “welcome to our united states of insanity”.

Photo #1:http://www.flickr.com/photos/iamdb/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Song Review: Wilco’s "Company In My Back”

I was driving into work at Flock today, listening to Wilco’s album A Ghost is Born, and “Company In My Back” came on. I’ve listened to this album several times, but I received it from a friend along with three other Wilco albums, so I haven’t truly absorbed it yet. “Company In My Back” felt so right this morning that I had to give it a review of it’s own.

At the start of this song you can hear what was likely the folky riff that the song originated from. In true form, Wilco has taken this to a totally different place, using rhythmic breaks to make this intro as poppy as it is folky. It’s totally familiar and different at the same time.

Instead of committing to one of these styles, the verse launches with bass as the primary instrument. Acoustic guitar strumming and riffs compliment this bassline, but float between styles successfully, making the focus of the verse the vocals. Which is appropriate, considering the ugly, lustful lyrics that somehow also border on beautiful with Tweedy’s soft, unconcerned voice.

I attack with you, pure bug beauty
I curl my lips and crawl up to you
And your afternoon
And I’ve been puking

The chorus, rather than continuing to be subversively vague, hits full force with a confident drumbeat and the revelatory (but not really) lyric of “Holy shit there’s a company in my back”. We barely get a sense of the fantastic chorus melody before we’re dropped back into the verse, this time with a more solid rhythm and some sustained chords on the piano. The melody varies a bit here, which keeps us from getting bored.

The second chorus hits with even more force, and the full beauty of the melody becomes more apparent, backed by an orchestra of what I think are mandolins. The beauty of the melody should clash with the dark wording of the chorus, but it doesn’t. Instead, I hear the beauty of how screwed up life can be.

The third verse continues to play with our perceptions of what this song is, throwing in a synth riff that could just as well be in a Madonna song.

The final chorus leaves us with one last taste of that brilliant chorus melody and then dissolves into genre-crossing instrumentation that ends with that incredibly unique and compelling intro riff. I’m happy at the end of this song, but not satisfied. I want that chorus melody to go on and on, backed by a million clinking mandolins. And in a way, it does…you walk through the rest of your day with that orchestra right behind you, making the sorry state of the world something to appreciate just as much as the good things in life.

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NEW Monsters are not Myths song

Hey folks,

In case you missed our podcast (for which I wouldn’t blame you), check out the new Monsters are not Myths demo, “She”.  It’s available on our MySpace page, thanks to a rather clever marketing move (you get 5 songs on MySpace if you add what is, essentially, an advertising platform as a friend).

It’s a bit rough but I’m rather excited about the new direction.

Also, don’t miss us at The Catalyst Atrium for the 2007 Battle of the Bands in Santa Cruz, CA on April 6th at 9pm.  Show us your ticket with a vote for us and get a free, recently re-designed bumper sticker.  Nifty!

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Money and music

I guess I thought I was a smart marketer/musician, but (as always) I still have more to learn.

From this point on I vow never to take money to support my music unless it is officially a gift (which means no-strings-attached) or a loan with a contract.  It’s impossible to deal with ambiguities amongst friends, fans, or even companies.  Until your band becomes incredibly successful, bartering, haggling and negotiating every dollar at the merch table (or at your office, or at the record store) is the name of the game.  Without it, your merch sales will plummet (not that ours are very high).

The guy at your show who only loved the last song but only has $4 isn’t going to go down the street to the ATM for the extra dollar, but if you give it to him for $4 he will wear that shirt everywhere and talk about how cool the guys in your band were.  He will evangelize you and generate more fans/sales than the $5 you would have charged for the shirt.

Bottom line is, when I’m dealing with merch and money I either need to know that I answer only to myself/my band or that I have a specific dollar amount I need to reach to not get my knees broken.

If that means I have to write “Monsters are not Myths” in sharpie on a thrift-shore shirt, so be it.

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MANMcast

I spent last Saturday at Nick’s house recording vocals for our demos and jamming on new music.  Additionally, in an attempt to catch up to the internet zeitgeist, Monsters are not Myths has recorded a podcast.

I have to warn you: it’s completely ridiculous.  We’re pretty ridiculous.  And mildly offensive..  Please keep this in mind.

If you’d just like to hear the new track we were working on, skip to the last fourth of the podcast.  I’m really excited about where the song is going and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

As mentioned in the podcast, we’ll be playing in the Your Music Magazine Battle of the Bands on April 6th at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz, CA.  Doors open at 8, the show starts at 9pm.  Admission is $7 and the show is open to those 21 and older.

Please come out and support us: we promise a thoroughly rocking show with Nate Brown of Windham Flat and some new songs.  And if you tell me that you read about the show on my blog, I will buy you a Pabst Blue Ribbon.

If you haven’t heard Monsters are not Myths and would like to give us a chance you can hear some of our songs on our MySpace page.  If you really like them, they’re available at the iTunes store or at a discounted price at our shows.


 

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Review: Sean Hayes @ The Independent 2.22.07

A bit of a belated blog entry about the Sean Hayes show last thursday.  I’ve been digging the Sean Hayes tracks my girlfriend plays (at a volume that is usually preferred by dogs) in the background at home, and so I figured $15 was a small price to see him before he explodes into American conciousness (which he will).

We arrived at The Independent early, and got in with relatively little hassle (I suppose two ID checks were neccessary).  The place was empty.  Two hipsters and three old folk (35) sat around the large space, bathed in red light.  We got some drinks (excellently mixed by the friendly bartender) and sat down to wait.  Hipster by hippie, the place filled.  By the time the fun, bouncy country-rock openers Sensations finished, the place was packed.  I guess fashionably late is still in style.

Sean Hayes took the stage after his band, bright eyed and booze-hoisting.  He looked typically indie: old fashioned hat, rolled up shirt sleeves, tight jeans.  His small guitar looked like the type that parents give their 8-year-old when they expect him to give up lessons after a week.  I was beginning to lower my expectations.
He began to strum a single chord slowly and powerfully, in a method that seemed like absentminded tuning.  Gradually, as would become a theme throughout the night, the chord transformed into a song.  Hayes’ voice, the true star of the evening, suddenly lit up the room with it’s wavering sustains and folky tones.  I brightened up; this was what I had caught a glimpse of on his record.  It was even more powerful in person.

Hayes ran through many of his album tracks as well as a bevy of new songs (indistinguishable in quality), dancing, muttering, and gesturing at the audience like a bunch of old friends.  Like his music, The Independent became a weird combination of Mass and a dance club.  Compelling rhythms (“All Things”) and morose blues/worship/folk songs (“Fucked Me Right Up”) somehow fit together, pushing the audience to dance, bounce, cuddle and grind.  Somewhat bizarre but fun and different that most concert experiences .

Much credit should go to Hayes’ band, who propelled his songs into the air and often kept them going with surprise reprises that Sean would ruefully smile at.  The drummer, tremendously, actually played for the opener, Sensations, as well as filling in for Hayes’ 2+ hours of music.  Yes, 2+ hours.  We arrived in SF at 7:30 and left at midnight.  And it was totally worth it.  If you get a chance, scope out Sean Hayes while you can still afford to.  He’ll soon be more than a Little Baby Star.

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Recording demos

Monsters are not Myths headed into a pint-sized practice space to record some demos this weekend.  We could barely move, but we got some good stuff I think. 3 songs in 5 hours is pretty impressive considering we’ve played with this drummer (Nate Brown) about 8 times total.

It’s always a bit weird for me to go through the first round of recording; aside from some keyboard work, I basically just give the rest of the band signals when we hit the chorus (choruses?  chorii?).  I didn’t do any singing…the bulk of my work lies before me. I don’t look forward to trying to recreate the energy of a live experience while listening to the tracks on headphones.

For those who’ve been to shows lately, you’ve heard the songs we committed to tape: Sunday Morning Nightmare, Stop (Singing Those Songs), Bits of Sins, and Addiction (which still needs to be renamed, if anyone has any ideas…perhaps I’ll post the lyrics later).  We miced the amps, put one mic above the drums, and then set up this cheap mic we got at a garage sale in the middle of the room.  We didn’t expect much of it (when we’ve recorded vocals into it before they come out scratchy and quiet), but it actually gave us a great ambient room sound.  When we took it out of the mix everything became a lot duller.  Who knew?

As vocals still need to be recorded, these tracks probably won’t surface for a few weeks.  In the meantime, check out the photos on my flickr.

-Evan

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Amie Street

Amie Street, as reported on techcrunch, seems to be taking the high road in mp3 sales.  This is an amazing system designed to help independent bands sell their mp3’s.  Here’s how it works:

-Upload your songs
-Encourage people to download them for free
-As your tracks (hopefully) gain in popularity your prices are driven higher (with a 99cent cap).
-You get featured with other popular indie bands as your popularity grows even more.
-You keep 70% of revenues after the first $5, which is more than even the most popular bands get via record sales OR iTunes (though I think as an indie band, my band makes more like 60% from iTunes).

The greatest part about all this is that these are DRM-free mp3’s, which means you can upload to and play them on anything (unlike those pesky iTunes mp3’s, which only work on your iPod and start at 99cents).  I’m a firm believer in this, and so are most indie bands (we want that whole “viral” thing to work for our music…it’s not worth 99cents to deny someone that).

This isn’t to say that I don’t love my iPod nano. My band has it’s songs on iTunes; it’s where the business is. Do we get many purchases that way? No. This system definetly has potential. Will I put Monsters are not Myths‘ tracks on Amie Street? Not yet.
I think this is a great system, but for a very small and independent band like mine, I’m worried that our tracks never reach a popularity/price where we can make a profit. And with that alternative, we’ll get 0 downloads on iTunes. The alternative is selling mp3s on MySpace, which kind of makes me feel dirty inside (considering that MySpace is notoriously unstable and unsafe).

I’m not happy with our current situation, but I’m not convinced Amie Street is right for me (though I think it’ll be great for a bunch of indie musicians). I will be keeping a close eye on Amie Street and MySpace and returning to this debate in time.

-Evan

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