Weekly Favorites #3

I finally finished my alphabetical trip through my iPod on Tuesday afternoon!  It was a magical moment.  I learned a lot about what I want to clear off of it, and what I want to maybe add to it.  The last song was 1901 by Phoenix.

So now begins the reorganization of my iPod!  So much to change.

New Artist: Matt Wertz (More to come)

Upcoming New Artist: Pendulum

Top 5 for this Week:

1) Muse

2) Matt Wertz

3) The Format

4) Frank Ocean

5) The Beatles

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Good Things from Odd Future’s

The artist I looked into last week was an R&B singer named Frank Ocean.  Ocean is a member of the Los Angeles based hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) along with eleven other members, including rapper/producer Tyler the Creator, rappers Hodgy Beats, Earl Sweatshirt, Domo Genesis, and Mike G, producers Left Brain, Syd the Kid, Matt Martians and Hal Williams, as well as non-musical members Jasper Dolphin and Taco.  Each member can contribute to any of the other member’s writing or production efforts and the resultant tracks are released and listed under the name of the main artist involved with the project.  Many of the members of Odd Future release their own solo tracks, often featuring others in the group.  There are also a few groups within the collective: MellowHype (Hodgy Beats and Left Brain), The Jet Age of Tomorrow or The Super 3 (Matt Martians and Hal Williams), and EarlWolf (Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler the Creator).  Odd Future evenly promotes all of its members’ efforts on its website here.

Frank Ocean is the only listed as a singer in OFWGKTA.  His style is noticeably different from those of many of the others.  Breaking away from the more traditional underground rap efforts of the others, his music brings a smooth, easy-listening R&B variety to the collective.  He came to Odd Future after he was evacuated to Los Angeles from University of New Orleans just before it was hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2006.  In the group, he was featured as a vocalist in a number of songs released by Tyler the Creator and MellowHype.  He has also written songs for Justin Bieber, John Legend, Brandy, and Beyonce.  He has also worked with Nas and Pharrell Williams.

His first release was initially put out as the Nostalgia, Ultra Mixtape, but was later slated by Def Jam Records to be have seven of its tracks released on iTunes as an EP on July 26, 2011 (Tomorrow!) under the name Nostalgia, Lite.  Obviously, since the EP is not available yet, what I listened to this past week was the mixtape.

Nostalgia, Ultra Mixtape

1. Streetfighter

2. Strawberry Swing

3. Novacane

4. We All Try

5. Bitches Talkin’ (Also known as Metal Gear Solid)

6. Songs 4 Women

7. Love Crimes

8. GoldenEye

9. There Will Be Tears

10. Swim Good

11. Dust

12. American Wedding

13. Soul Calibur

14. Nature Feels

As a whole, I was very satisfied with the whole mixtape.  Ocean has a very distinct, smooth R&B voice, and his songs are all very interesting both melodically and based on subject matter.  When listening to the whole thing straight through, one comes across recordings of the sounds of changing a tape deck every couple of tracks, which really gives it the mixtape feel (This happens on Streetfighter, Bitches Talkin’, GoldenEye, and Soul Calibur.)  When asked, Ocean said that he called the tape “Nostalgia” because it is just that: a nostalgic account of past heartbreak and interpersonal relationships.  “I wasn’t trying to make a record that people could relate to. I was just trying to make a record with the shit that I wanted to express. The shit that I wanted to get off my chest.  A lot of this record is influenced by one relationship, but I don’t owe that whole project to one situation. It doesn’t matter what the details of it are.”  Many of the songs deal with heavy subjects, most notably in track 12, American Wedding, which deals with the sometimes flawed image of marriage in the US and the issues involved (Read the lyrics to this song here).

Novacane was released as the EP’s first single on May 31, 2011.  It climbed to number 65 on the US R&B charts its first week, and later rose to number 48.

Four of his tracks on this tape are either covers of songs by other artists, or songs in which he simply penned over the lyrics, rewriting them to suit his own songwriting ideals.  Track 2, Strawberry Swing is a song in which he penned over the song Strawberry Swing, released by Coldplay on their album Viva la Vida.  In American Wedding, he penned over Hotel California, by the Eagles, and in Nature Feels, he penned over Electric Feel from MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular album.  There will be tears is a cover of a Mr. Hudson song.  Being a longtime Coldplay fan, I was instantly interested when I heard the instrumental from Strawberry Swing on this tape, and Ocean definitely did it justice.  I enjoyed it, just as I enjoy the original.  He added these really cool vocal harmonies to several parts that really pop out of the song.  As far as American Wedding goes, I think I might venture to say that I like it more than Hotel California.  I’m not saying that the Eagles are bad (I love the Eagles!), but Hotel California is just so cliché and overplayed on classic rock stations.  It’s also just such a long song, and it gets kind of old.  American Wedding brings out an emotion that allows one to not get tired of the song as it draws on for the full seven minutes.

I would say my favorite song on it would have to be We All Try.  The runs that Ocean employs in this song seem so effortless and his overall pleading tone along the simplicity of the background instrumental do a perfect job expressing the lyrics that he wrote for it.  It’s also very catchy, and just a pretty song altogether.  Read the lyrics here and watch the video below.

All in all, I give the Nostalgia, Ultra Mixtape two thumbs up and will be looking forward to the release of the EP tomorrow!  Also, look for him on the upcoming collaborative studio album between Kanye West and Jay-Z that will feature Frank Ocean on two tracks!  It’s slated to be released on August 8, 2011.

Weekly Favorites #2

My alphabetical trip through the music on my iPod is almost through.  This week while driving, I made it from New Slang by the Shins through Under Pressure by Queen.  Looks like I’ll be finishing pretty soon!  Also, I did check out Frank Ocean this week, so more will come on that later today.  As for this coming week, I think I’ll be looking into this guy I heard about a while back named Matt Wertz.

New Music: Frank  Ocean – Nostalgia Ultra Mixtape

 

Upcoming New Music: Matt Wertz

Top 5 of This Week:

1. Frank Ocean

2. Muse

3. The Book of Mormon Musical Soundtrack

4. The Shins

5. Sara Bareilles

Back in the Saddle

After a brief hiatus to North Carolina for my sister’s wedding, it’s back to Charlottesville and back to work!  (The wedding was beautiful by the way.  It was held at Pilot Mountain in NC just a couple hours north of Chapel Hill area.)Anyway, my return to songwriting has brought what I consider maybe the best one that I’ve written thus far.  It’s not super filled with synthesizers or anything like that, but I did use software instruments for it.  The main one is a synthetic orchestra sound that almost just sounds like a muted guitar.  Along with that, the normal percussion comes along, as well as do some other random instruments.  The thing that I think sets this one apart is the use of voices as instruments that I employed (you’ll see when you get to the little breakdown) and I’m a little obsessed with it.  I really like how it turned out.  Oddly enough, my voice sounds really bright in this recording.  I’m not sure what I did differently in recording, but oh well!  It doesn’t sound bad, just different.  Anyway, have at it!  Leave feedback in the form of comments pleeaaasseeeeeee.  Thanks :).

http://soundcloud.com/claysapher109/come-what-may

Come What May (Lyrics)

Verse 1

So is this how it starts?

I hope that we haven’t gone too far

Come what may

Is what they say

So many friendships lost

And how?  What’s the cost?

Maybe someday we’ll learn to say

Chorus

Time moves on, but we can’t lose hold of what we know.

Verse 2

We lost touch in a heartbeat

New horizons brighten young minds

Old relationships took the backseat

How’ve you been since we’ve been undone?

Tell me now, do you remember?

We used talk days away.

But now it’s been a summer

How fast the fragile can fray

I tell myself move forward.

Keep them in your memories because

Chorus

Chorus

Different Styles

This brand new song that I just finished this afternoon is a bit different in style from the last couple.  It’s written for just a piano and is more like a ballad in nature.  I’m not entirely sure if I like the way it turned out or not.  For some reason, the audio in the vocals sounds a bit choppy in parts, but I really like the chord progression in the piano.  I used my favorite chord in this one (which will probably pop up in a lot of future songs), the minor seven chord with the seventh in the bass (in this case, a Dm7 spelled CDFA).  I wrote this one for one of my final songs for my songwriting class this past semester with Steve Kemper.  I really like the song on paper, but I’m not sure it really fits my voice very well, but oh well!  I recorded it this afternoon and just put it up on Soundcloud not too long ago.  Hope you like it!  Comments and criticisms are appreciated!

http://soundcloud.com/claysapher109/all-my-life

I want to try to put more pictures in my posts, but today I don’t have any pictures that apply to this song, so here’s a LolCat.

All My Life (Lyrics)

Verse 1

You can’t say I’m alright without you.

I can say I’m all ready to come to

Just admit that it seemed we should never be as one,

but I can’t do this on my own

Chorus

Oh

All my life I’ve been searching,

All my life it’s been hurting

Then I found what I’ve been looking for,

A feeling that I can’t ignore.

Verse 2

You know I would never do anything but

Say goodbye if I thought that this was nothing

More than fun.  There’s more to it this time

So please don’t go.  Stay long enough to let me show

Chorus

Bridge

You know where to find me.

I know there’s still time.

The hope’s not gone.

Please give me one more chance

And you’ll see that you’re good for me

Chorus

Having Fun with a Bad Song

No, I’m not talking about Friday by Rebecca Black, although I know that Glee did do a cover of that one and almost made it seem like a real song… I’m talking about a little ditty by Miranda Cosgrove.  We all remember her as the obnoxious know-it-all girl in School of Rock (seen above) and now people watch her on her own show iCarly (I’ve never watched it.  Something tells me that I wouldn’t like it…).  Anyway, like all young Disney and Disney Channel stars, she began pursuing a small career in music around a year ago and came out with a song called Dancing Crazy.  Now, this song is a bit of an enigma to me.  I wouldn’t call it good, but I wouldn’t call it bad either.  It has no substance, but the chorus is kind of catchy.  I don’t really know, it was fun to blast at college parties and see people say “What?” while a few friends and I just enjoyed it.  Here’s the YouTube video for her song.

Anyway, on to the purpose of this post.  I didn’t write this just so I could show you all how great (or not so great) Miranda Cosgrove’s song is.  A few months ago, in order to get people excited about our a cappella group’s upcoming concert, my friend Blair Phillips and I had the idea to take this song and write and record an a cappella arrangement of this song and make a video to go along with it.  He wrote the arrangement and we recorded everything in my room.  All of the sounds on the recording are sounds made by either Me, Blair, Logan Spencer, or Witt Nicholson, and that includes all of the percussion and such.  I sang the top two tenor lines, Blair the two baritone lines, Logan the bass, and Witt helped with some of the yelling effects in the background.  The solo and harmonies are all me and I recorded and mixed everything using my own software.  I’m actually pretty proud of the quality given my resources.  Enjoy!

http://soundcloud.com/claysapher109/dancing-crazy

Weekly Favorites #1

This marks the first of the posts that I will make every Sunday involving the music that I’ve been listening to for the past week.  If anyone feels inclined to suggest artists or albums for me to check out, feel free to comment and I’ll do my best to get my hands on their music and listen!  Most of the time that I spend listening to my iPod is while driving my bus (yes, I’m a bus driver).  It’s actually a great time to listen, as there is nothing else to focus on (besides the road obviously) and when nobody is on the bus, you can sing along as loud as you want.

About a week and a half ago, I started a trip through all of the songs on my iPod starting with the first song that starts with A (A-Punk by Vampire Weekend).  Now, what I use as an iPod is my 8 gigabyte iPhone, so I can really only fit about 6 gigabytes of music on it.  There are still over 1100 songs on it right now though, so it’s still taking a while.  I was hoping that this complete listen through would clue me in on what I should take off my iPod in favor of new stuff since I have 24.34 gigabytes of music in my iTunes.  On my last shift (late night driving on Friday), I made it all the way through the M’s and into the N’s, ending on New Slang by the Shins.  Maybe I’ll finish up the alphabet this week so I can try new things?  My goal will be to try at least one new artist a week, as a week I feel is a good amount of time to get enough listening in to really appreciate or depreciate a musician.  I’d like to couple my discovery of a new artist with a small review in a second post that I will make on Sunday.

So as it stands this week:

New Artist: (None)

Upcoming New Artist: Frank Ocean

Top Five of this week (When not listening alphabetically):

1. The Shins

2. Muse

3. Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s

4. Blind Pilot

5. Death Cab for Cutie