26 September, 2006

Rock Me Amadeus!

I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t know the name Mozart. Mozart is to classical music what Elvis Presley is to rock n’ roll, and yet for the longest time I knew next to nothing about the man and his music. His music is practically inescapable in our pop-culture world and I wouldn’t have been able to name one of his symphonies a year ago if you’d asked me. It’s sad, but although I’m a huge music fan I’ve never taken a real interest in composers until just recently. I think this is probably true of a lot of people in my generation, we can tell you the high school nickname of Kurt Cobain, but our musical knowledge of the time before the late 1950’s is seriously lacking. This is why I’m going to introduce you readers to the great composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

To fill in a few blanks Mozart was born in December of 1755 in Salzburg, Austria to extremely devoted parents. His father, Leopold, was a musician who worked for the archbishop of Salzburg and encouraged his son from an extremely young age to pursue a musical career. Amadeus was a child prodigy, a genius if you will, who composed from the age of five. In his short life-time (he only lived to 35) Mozart composed an astounding number of works large and small, including the famous operas Le Nozze di Figaro (the Marriage of Figaro) and Don Giovanni.

Musicians at the time were not expected to write music to express themselves, they were expected to write entertaining pieces that captured the spirit of emotion. I don’t believe that Mozart always wrote music coldly, as a way to capture emotion instead of expressing it, especially since his pieces can soar happily or be completely heart-wrenching, yet he was not expected by his peers to express his own emotions. We can never truly know what Mozart felt while he was writing, but it is fun to speculate as you listen to his music.

A few of my favorite Mozart pieces are:

Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, KV 183 (173 dB): Allegro con Brio

Figaros Hochzeit KV 492 (The Marriage of Figaro): Overture

Serenade No. 13 in G Major, KV 525

Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, KV 550: I. Allegro molto

Sonata for Piano No. 11 in A Major, KV 331: Alla Turca, Allegretto

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 21 in C Major, KV 467

Sonata for Piano No. 16 KV 545: Allegro

These are all popular pieces and you might be surprised by how many you’ve heard before. If you’re really intrigued by Mozart’s music you should also watch the movie Amadeus. It’s a gorgeous movie and there is some truth to it, but much of the story told in the movie is unreliable as a biography. Just watch and listen for fun. Even if you aren’t a big classical music fan, I swear you’ll have fun listening to Mozart.

Brandi Carlile

With little originality in the singer-songwriter genre lately it is refreshing to hear Brandi Carlile, a musician who fits perfectly into the singer-songwriter category but has a raw sincerity that’s lacking in much of the genre.

On her self-titled debut, Brandi exhibits raw vocal talent, the product of self-training, and an emotional sincerity that lend truth to her music. Her songs are perfect for fall rides, full of country imagery of rolling prairies and tall green grass set to a soundtrack that would be welcome on any Prairie Home Companion. On standout songs like “Throw it All Away,” “Closer to You,” and “Tragedy,” Brandi’s voice brings to mind the late, great Johnny Cash, who seems to have influenced this beautiful collection of tracks. Though Brandi Carlile is a native of Washington state, her music lacks any hint of grunge influence, which bodes well for Brandi whose voice soars on the light sound of acoustic guitars and stringed instruments.

The 23 year old is finishing up a tour and may be in the studio now recording her follow-up album. Miss Carlile holds much promise as a new artist, and will hopefully continue to make great music for years to come. You can listen to tracks from Brandi Carlile’s debut and read more about Brandi here: Brandi Carlile.

19 September, 2006

Teenage Rock Gods

Listening to Gone By Daylight's 2005 record "Love Grooves" for the first time you can't help but think that Blink-182 influenced these boys in a big way. The pop-punk catchiness and the lyrics about love, lust, and broken hearts seem trite on the first listen, a pity because the true strength of the album lies in the band's ability to quilt songs from different types of rock including pop-punk. But behind the catchiness is a depth of songwriting that can only be found in a band that knows its music history. The seemingly simple blues guitar sound in a live set or the crackling riff that finishes off "Girl Without A Soul" are rock staples that harken back to the kings of blues (Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson) whose music influenced the guitar gods (Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page) whose influence, in turn, can be heard in the music of Gone By Daylight.

The most endearing thing about Gone By Daylight isn't their ability to craft these songs that are so comfortable (like your favorite jeans!) No, the thing that really makes you love these boys is their ability to carry this history lesson live, and make it incredibly fun to participate in. Live Gone By Daylight not only pays homage to rock gods, but also to all the kids who ever wanted (are wanting now) to be rock stars when they grow up. There's something about these guys that instantly makes you think of the 10 year old doing Pete Townshend windmills in his bedroom mirror and every 14 year old boy who ever said to himself 'what would Eddie Van Halen do?' These things make Gone By Daylight a fun band live and I'm sure an excellent party band. They have the humor and the class to match their stage antics and a knowledge of music history that adds depth to their songs, plus who doesn't like a little old-school rock charm mixed with their punk? It makes live shows that much more interesting.

Interactive Reviews

Just a little update for anyone who's noticed the recent changes in this blog!

I've been working on an idea for awhile to create more of a local online music community that doesn't revolve around Myspace. It will include interactive reviews which are comments on this blog, comments on my reviewing prowess, recommendations from peer readers, etc. It should make things more fun around here.

This blog has evolved so much in a year, from open pour-your-heart-out diary (most of those posts are deleted) to a music review/recommendation site, and now it will be more interactive.

Watch for updates in the future and thanks for reading!!

-Music Snob

12 September, 2006

Boss Volenti & my new LOVE

I was cruising Myspace and I found this Dublin band that sounds like it should come from Cali or Washington, but definitely not Dublin. They just sound like Dublin (I don't really know what that is, but I suspect Irish accents are involved.) Check 'em out! They have a cool sound, pretty straight-forward rock 'n' roll, but something you can shake your ass to. Listen Here: http://www.myspace.com/bossvolenti

I guess I'm slow on the uptake or something, because I finally found THE SHINS!!!

I've known about them forever (it seems), but I've been kind of slow to jump into that soft, creepy-like-a-ghost-town sound that they have going on. Now, I want all of their albums including the one they're releasing in January. "New Slang" is obviously an amazing song, and I've heard it for years, but it never really struck me until I watched "Garden State."

Zach Braff changes things I guess...so I have a little crush, so what? Let me get back to my Shins, and if you haven't REALLY listened yet, go out and buy the album (Oh, Inverted World.) Wicked awesome.

- Music Snob

02 September, 2006