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Sunday, July 5th, 2009
12:48 am - Good Dog Argus & Agents of Marque
So... it's been over a year since I've posted here and, looking back on it, I'm vaguely embarrassed by a lot of the musical stuff I've posted previously on this blog, but I wanted to share a couple things that are actually good.

The first one is a demo track I wrote for my puppydog, which is probably the best demo I've ever recorded. It's based on Chapter 17 of Homer's Odyssey, of all things.

Good Dog Argus (mp3)

The other thing is that my band finally has a MySpace site with tracks and stuff.

Agents of Marque on MySpace

Yeah, we're getting our act together just as I'm preparing to leave for Seattle, but we have some vague plans of continuing our musical collaboration long-distance, so we'll see how that goes.

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Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
9:18 am - Track Attack
So a bunch of musical tidbits to post.

First, this little snippit just came to me yesterday. Look Alex up on wikipedia. Pirate-fighting governor of Virginia when it was a crown colony.

Alexander Spotswood (mp3)

I'm back, so you best be leaving, son
pirate, Robert Louis Stevenson
beard black, doing things nobody should
blockade running, dodging Alexander Spotswood


[EDIT: New verses to be added later]

watch out, governor's come to hang ya
so he can retire out to Spotslyvania, danger
Will Robinson Crusoe, mighty glad I knew you
better stop drinking and shake off the stupor

I run rum from Charleston to Virginia Beach
take notes 'cause I'm about to Edward Teach
Queens's Revenge struck Beaufort Inlet, I was in it
'fore I split the scene in the sloop John B.


Then an updated version of the last track I posted:

Resurrection of the Dead 2 (mp3)

Then a Jay Clifford / Jump Little Children song that I recorded to congratulate Mel and John on getting engaged:

By the Way They Dance (mp3)

Then a vocal demo of my Mega Man operetta:

200X demo (mp3)

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Monday, March 3rd, 2008
12:31 pm - The Resurrection of the Dead
We went to Guitar Center yesterday, looking at equipment to use with the Zendrum when it arrives (drum machines and drum midi software) and amplification equipment. It sounds like we may just plug the Zendrum into a laptop, which could cut down costs (no drum hardware) and put everything through a PA system. We also went to this sweet bubble tea + sandwich shop next to BU. Exciting stuff, in general.

This song came to me in the shower this morning. Whereas "Lights Out" is kinda Squirrel Nut Zippers + Dave Matthews + Jump Little Children (NC & VA music represent!), this one is more Sufjan Stevens + Iron Maiden gallop + talking blues. It's also about the end of the world, making it about as melancholy as "Lights Out."

The Resurrection of the Dead (mp3)

If Mel and John like it, I might see about arranging it for the band. The first thing you hear is the lead, which Mel could do on keyboard, but it needs to be expanded to cover the rest of the track.

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Monday, February 4th, 2008
3:52 pm - Band Update
Had a good band meeting on Friday. Looks like we're going to be working over two songs from the Minusworld catalogue (the previous band that Mel + John did), but focusing mostly on new stuff. It also looks like Mel's going to playing a lot more accordion that we originally planned, since we really, really dig the sound. I dig the song concepts that John and Mel came up with and they gave me good feedback on "Lights Out," so we're gonna plan on moving forward on all of those.

I ordered my Zendrum, which is going to be custom made in Nintendo grey to look like ye old schoole video game machine. Should be here in about 30 days. The entire band is going to go drum machine shopping soon, hopefully looking at vintage machines or new machines that mimic older machines. We want that retro, low-fi drum sound, like an NES, old Casio keyboard, or Roland TR-808.

In the meantime, I redid the recording of "Lights Out," adding better drums, a second verse, and trading in the trance keyboard sound for an organ, which sounds a bit more accordion-like. Check it out.

Lights Out 2 (mp3)

We still don't have a band name. Apparently coming up with the name for Minusworld was a royal pain in the ass and Mel and John are kinda hesitant about going through that again. I told them I didn't care, so hopefully it won't be as big of a pain this time.

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Friday, February 1st, 2008
1:02 pm - New Band Project
First post in a while. I've been mostly focusing on my game-related stuff over at One Thousand One and being busy with work.

Mel D-C, John Fraley, and I have been fiddling around with a possible new band project. The basic idea is to do John on bass, Mel on keys, vocals, and (possibly) accordion, and me backing them up with some beats, possible on a Zendrum controller. We haven't really got a style nailed down (because we don't have any songs yet), but we're thinking about slower-but-danceably-funky trip-hop as a starting point, and Mel wants to make sure we can still rock out occasionally. All in all, should be fun.

We've been fiddling with some stuff individually and tonight's the first time we're going meet to bring stuff together. So far, this is my entry:

Lights Out (mp3)

It's an old school jazz vocal line paired with a trip-hoppy bass and Hong Kong dance-pop keyboard riff. In the background there's some hambone leg-slapping that I put through an 8bit filter. The lyrics, which I made up on the spot when I recorded it, are some over-the-top metaphors about night falling. All in all, kinda fun, I thought. I sent it to John and Mel, but haven't heard anything back, so maybe they hate it. Anyway, I'm sure we'll pick it apart tonight and come up with some better stuff. Can't wait to see what they've been cooking.

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Wednesday, September 5th, 2007
12:14 pm - Communist Punk on the Banjo
Because, why not?

Bad Religion cover: The Fall of Man (Live Again) (mp3)

The ending is a bit rough, but this is the best vocal recording I've ever done, I think. Eventually I will master GarageBand!

P.S.

When the beat drops...
Pick it up, pick it up!

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Monday, August 27th, 2007
11:44 pm - Emo on the Banjo
In yet another of my band-projects-that-may-never-get-off-the-ground, Dev and I may be forming a Coheed & Cambria bluegrass cover band: The Good-Eyed Snipers.

Here's a demo I made of A Favor House Atlantic (mp3) transposed to G, the most country of all keys.

Oh, and here's a more kickass version of the Counting Crows' Angels of the Silences (mp3), also in a kind of alt-country style, with me playing the banjo like a guit-fiddle.

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Tuesday, July 31st, 2007
12:33 am - The Other Jon Edwards
Before John Edwards, the man born to be Vice President, there was Jonathan Edwards, a crucial part of the California Country Rock sound that included folks like Loggins & Messina and the Eagles. And iTunes finally got his catalog and $4 of my money instantly. I highly recommend:

- Everybody Knows Her
- Athens County
- Sunshine (the one you've probably heard before)
- Stop and Start It All Again (mislabled on iTunes, it's the first track on his second album)

These songs are as good as any alt country ever written. Classics.

Speaking of, if you don't already own Loggins & Messina's Sittin' In, it's never too late. It's busier and less "pure" than Edwards' stuff, but every track is gold.

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Thursday, July 19th, 2007
1:46 pm - Bayreuth B-Boy #1
This is the first GarageBand track of my life. I'll try to record some lyrics later.

Backwoodz Bayreuth - Bayreuth B-Boy #1 (MP3)

like a Spalding, lungs be so compressed we bounce
ya may be from Shaolin, we're from the festspielhaus

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Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007
4:19 pm - Um, Yes Please
The Gorillaz have written an opera, sung in Mandarin, based on Journey to the West.

"Pop reviewers aren't normally called upon to assess operas sung in Mandarin. But this is no ordinary piece of classical Chinese theatre. For Monkey: Journey to the West is a tumbling, cross-genre, French-German-produced circus show-cum-quest caper designed by Tank Girl creator Jamie 'Gorillaz' Hewlett and scored by Damon Albarn, occasionally of Blur (who, incidentally, are rumoured to be reforming, having coaxed Graham Coxon back on board), more successfully of Gorillaz, and most recently of the Good, the Bad & the Queen. So it's a pop job."

"Indeed, in interviews, Albarn has said he wants people to think of this as Gorillaz's latest project, not least because he wants their fans to see it. Everyone involved in this project - Albarn, Hewlett, director Chen Shi-Zheng, conductor André de Ridder, the actors, the Theatre Du Chatelet, the Manchester International Festival - is fishing for kudos outside their comfort zone."

OH MY GOD!

Read the rest of the review.

(Thanks to GMS for the link.)

Edit: Youtube Video clip.

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Tuesday, June 12th, 2007
9:43 pm - Sad News
I'm back home in NC right now, even though I wasn't planning to be. I took the train to Richmond this weekend and then went to Charlottesville and South Boston VA to see grandparents. I was planning to pick up my car and head back from there, but came home to Raleigh with my parents instead (which is apparently what they had planned).

Just heard that my grandfather, who I just saw two days ago, died a few hours ago. He was an amazing man. His mother died soon after he was born. His father drank too much and my grandfather remembers driving him home when he was less than 14. He was basically raised by his aunt and uncle. He used to tell stories of his childhood. The Day He Wore Red Suspenders And Everyone Told Him He Looked Like Jiggs From The Funny Papers (he was called "Jiggs" his whole life). The Day Jiggs Brought a Squirrel to Church (you can guess the rest of this story). He was the first member of his family to go to college, because he was a left-handed baseball pitcher for the Richmond Spiders before the war. During the war, he served in Europe with the medics. When he came back, he worked in the bank and raised a family with my grandmother. He owned a woodshop and a huge garden in the backyard. He made us swings and tree houses and helped us make cool wooden toy weapons when we were kids. He grew the best tomatoes, black-eyed peas, and corn I've eaten in my life, maybe the best I'll ever eat. He was always gentle and supportive of me, though he made it clear what he thought. He was sad that my brother and I never "joined the church." He warned me about professors who might try to promote Islam. He said that he hoped I could stay away from drugs and alcohol. He was wise and practical. He liked watching Virginia play football and basketball. He loved to eat bread of all kids. He used to ask if we wanted "a little Co-Cola." He loved grilling outside. He loved pushing us on our swings. He was regularly trying to trap groundhogs who would dig up his yard. He used to let us cut his grass with a riding lawnmover, the first I'd ever seen (which probably taught me how to drive, really). He used to pay us to clean his gutters when we were over, holding the step ladder while we climbed all over the roof. He used to take us into town to this baseball card shop. We used to play catch back when I had a glove and a ball. No one else in the family really played baseball, and I don't know how he felt about that. He played the fiddle some and used to play the banjo. Dad says he probably dressed in blackface some, because that's what banjo players did back then. He hoped that someday one of us would learn to play his daddy's fiddle, which currently hangs on the wall in my aunt's house.

He was very important to me and my life, and I will miss him greatly.

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Thursday, June 7th, 2007
11:32 am - More Chicken Fried Chicken
Just so you can get a sense of what I'm thinking of.

Chicken Fried Chicken (vocal demo) - MP3

You'll probably have to listen to it twice, since you can't really get a sense of the chord structure until the chorus and second verse, since the first verse isn't super melodic.

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Wednesday, June 6th, 2007
11:50 am - Honky-Hop
So I've had this idea for a California Country Rock / Honky-Hop song for the past few months, but haven't gotten around to working it all out. It's gonna be a twinkling piano keys, Loggins & Messina style thing, I think. Maybe I'll try to sketch out the keyboard part and see if Mel will record it for me. In any case, here are the first two verses:

Chicken Fried Chicken

VERSE 1:
Well, I got a gal who's nine feet tall
Sleeps in the kitchen with her feet in the hall
She got a foot-long jaw and a 10-inch maw
She likes her chicken fried chicken with potatoes and slaw
She do the banjo tango to Cotton-Eyed Joe
Be the sweetest damn thing you ever seen before
Play some Lay Down Sally, play some Shady Grove
She likes her chicken fried chicken with some chicken fried pickin'

CHORUS:
That girl can sure eat some chicken fried chicken
All the chicken fried chicken you can make
Chicken fried chicken make the people go "yeah!"
With a side of chicken fried steak

That girl can sure eat some chicken fried chicken
All the chicken fried chicken you can make
Chicken fried chicken bumpa-bumpa-bow-bow
With a chicken fried side of chicken fried steak
With a side of chicken fried chicken fried steak

VERSE 2:
Well, I know a girl, her name is Brown
Moved from North Kakalacky to New York Town
Smokes burly tabaccy in her ball gown now
Ev'ry evening dreams of chicken fried chicken by the pound
She do the banjo tango to Tupelo Honey
Lord, ain't got no money but come lay some of that on me, honey
Ya ain't the only one who likes a bit of pickin'
So come on with me and get some of that chicken fried chicken

CHORUS!

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Sunday, May 27th, 2007
11:45 pm - If there was China Dork rap, it would start like...
Y'all can't stand it
If I step up now
Cuz when I represent
There's more than san ge daibiao

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Friday, May 25th, 2007
10:10 am - Yaogun
I just posted some Chinese rock for GMS, inspiration for a project he's writing. If you don't have all of these tracks yet, now's your chance. They are all great.

Zi Yue (Master Says) - Meng (Dreams)
http://plays-well.com/meng.mp3

Xu Wei - He Cha Qu (Off to Drink Tea)
http://plays-well.com/hechaqu.mp3

F.I.R. - Revolution
http://plays-well.com/revolution.mp3

Muma (Trojan Horse) - ...Xian Gei Hu Hu (...Given to Hu Lake)
http://plays-well.com/huhu.mp3

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Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
1:48 am - The World is a Vampire
Sometimes the real world can be just as frustrating as online forums. Here are two paraphrased conversations I've had in the past two days:

SUNDAY!

Jonathan: So... I know I've only been to 5 improv shows, but I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the reinforcement of limited gender roles that goes on there. Is it just me? Am I imagining all the sexism?

Improv Friend: It's not just you.

Jonathan: That sucks.

Improv Friend: Yes. Yes, it does.

MONDAY!

Friend: So... I'm thinking about doing a pregnancy test because I've had unprotected, birth-control-less sex with my new boyfriend a half dozen times.

Jonathan: [FREAKS OUT!] What the fuck were you thinking?

Friend: It just happened.

Also, I just found out today that my friend Alexis got hit by a car on Friday, while crossing the street near her house. Luckily, she only broke a femur, but the doctors stuck a metal rod in it and she was in the hospital all weekend.

Let's hope the rest of the week goes better. So far, it's been pretty shitty.

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Sunday, May 20th, 2007
10:44 pm - Mindless Self Indulgence
So today, I was checking out the webpage for the Projekt Revolution Tour and was really struck by the video clip from Shut Me Up by the band Mindless Self Indulgence.

By the end of the day, I'd downloaded every one of the band's songs that's available on iTunes. They are, I have decided, geniuses. I realize I'm learning this at least 2 years too late and long after most Hot Topic goth kids, but, honestly, it's probably better that way. I came to Cake late too, because all the preppy kids in my high school liked Cake, which means I never gave them the fair chance. Stumbling on Mindless Self Indulgence outside of Hot Topic can only be a good thing.

The interesting thing is I knew them earlier, back in 2000 when they covered Method Man's Bring the Pain (that's the original, the cover is here). It's interesting to suddenly rediscover them now. Recently they covered both Rush's Tom Sawyer (shown here against a crappy FFX fan video) and the Notorious B.I.G.'s Big Poppa (against the original video), which shows their range and breadth of interest.

Thing is, Mindless have been doing rap-metalcore as long as just about anybody in that initial wave (the group that came along Korn, Limp, LP, etc) and, honestly, have been doing it better, I think. They mix in a ton of electronica (including some chiptunes on their last album) and apparently consider themselves to be a punk-rock band (according to the first video linked above), which is interesting. Also, what makes their work really buzz is that, unlike LP say, their lyrical content is awesome, not adolescent reminiscing but social commentary and irony (well, at least ridiculing messed up social and pop culture things).

Their vocalist has also figured out a way to mix rap and singing in a way that doesn't sound like crap and isn't the back-and-forth stuff of LP or many other rap-rock groups, where you have a singer just to do the hook.

Honestly, this is the kind of music I could get inspired to really commit to creating:

- crunchy guitars
- hot danceable beats, with some chiptunes thrown in
- complex rap-rock lyrics that are about real-world social issues

Now it just needs complex vocal harmony, sing-a-long choruses, and revolutionary ardor and I'm so there. Bad Religion (of the recent Empire Strikes First era) and Mindless Self Indulgence need to have a baby who, like, plays the banjo. That would be my musical nirvana.

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Thursday, May 17th, 2007
11:48 am - Land Redistribution in Venezuela
NYTimes today had an okay article about Hugo Chavez's current efforts towards land redistribution in Venezuela. China dorks who remember how this went down in China in the 40's and 50's will realize what a violent and emotional time period this must be.

As in China, it looks like the Venezuelan land reform efforts may partially succeed at resolving some long-standing social equalities (5% of the population owning most of the land), but that doesn't mean it's not going to be really, really messy.

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Wednesday, May 16th, 2007
12:28 pm - I Love My Job
Ming Dynasty special ops, you say? Don't mind if I do.

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Tuesday, May 15th, 2007
10:09 pm - The New Album
So, I like all the tracks that Mike has vocals on (despite the fact that his rhymes are still kinda awkward), but the rest... I could take it or leave it. The Chester songs are either too nu-metal or trying to be, like, wacky Incubus-y electronica, I guess.

Favorite track? In Between, I think, where Mike sings. I also really dig the bonus track No Roads Left, but I can't tell who's singing. It's weird.

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