Okay everyone, I’m going on a hiatus until I get through bus training and all of these new kids are out on the road.

Here’s a funny video:

Here’s a video that combines two things I love and am inspired by: John Williams and Star Wars. Actually, this video might embody me. It’s super nerdy, the dude is blonde, it’s a cappella music, I have that same shirt he’s wearing in the bottom left (mine is green though), etc. Just watch it:


We Are the Tide

One of my favorite releases in recent memory is most definitely the latest album to be released by Blind Pilot. You’ve probably noticed me referencing them a lot, as they make my top five most weeks. They’re an indie-folk band based out of Portland. Originally, there were only two members, Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski. They went on a bike tour in 2008 carrying their instruments down the west coast on custom-made bike trailers and made around a dozen stops. A year later, they released their first album, 3 Rounds and a Sound and then added four members to fill out their sound.

Their music is filled with a wide array of instruments, such as acoustic guitar piano, organ, horns, dulcimer vibraphone, and various others.  I got their first album back in summer of 2009 and I loved it.  That following Fall during my first year at UVa, I went to see them when they came through Charlottesville at The Southern downtown. It was an awesome concert and I remember particularly enjoying a song that they played after telling us that it was a new one and wasn’t on their album.  I had not heard it before and I loved it, especially when Israel (the lead singer) turned around and began playing percussion along with the drummer.  Afterward, they said that the name of the song was “We Are the Tide.”  This past September 13th, almost two years after that concert, they released their second studio album named after that song.

Now eight member strong, Blind Pilot’s sound is much more full.  Sure, some of that can be attributed to the heightened production value of We Are the Tide with comparison to 3 Rounds and a Sound, but the quality of the writing as well as the quality of the lead singer’s voice has vastly improved and come to allow a fantastic album.  It immediately jumped up to the top of my list, which is amazing because I hardly ever enjoy something on the first listen like that.  Every song is great.

We Are the Tide

1. Half Moon

2. Always

3. Keep You Right

4. We Are the Tide

5. The Colored Night

6. I Know

7. White Apple

8. Just One

9. Get it Out

10. New York

I can’t even really pick out one or two as my favorites.  I would say, however, that they started off the album perfectly by putting Half Moon first.  It’s a perfect first song.

The studio recording of the song that I so much enjoyed at the concert two years ago also did not fail to impress.  It’s really cool imagining the performance as I listen to it.  I love the way that the percussion drive this one.

The Colored Night might be the biggest accomplishment of the album for Blind Pilot.  It is a perfect blend of so many styles and instruments and is all executed to perfection.  The harmonies are beautiful, and the way that they are interwoven into the remainder of the song is fantastic.  Also, the overall build of White Apple is really well orchestrated.

Alright so I could literally sit here and type praise word after praise word about everything having to do with this album and could post each song and tell you why I love it, but I think I’ll spare you.  My life advice: get this album!  No matter what music I listen to throughout a day, I always comes back to We Are the Tide.  It’s just so good and easy to listen to at literally any point of the day and in any situation.  They are easily my favorite current artist, and this is easily my favorite album.  Here is a gem from their first album.


Upcoming Projects

So far so good on the resolutions! Five days into 2012 and this is my third post, I’ve eaten breakfast two of the last three mornings, and I’ve scheduled my piano lessons for Tuesday evenings. I’m really excited about taking piano so I can finally learn some technique.

Anyway, I have a few projects that I’m hoping to start on here pretty soon.

The first is one I referenced in a previous post. A little under a year ago, I started recording AVP’s a cappella rendition of Cake’s The Distance, which was my first solo arrangement for the group. I took this one after working with Mark Williams on an arrangement of Jesusland by Ben Folds (which oddly enough we literally only performed once). I have all of the background parts recorded minus the whistle in the chorus, although I need to redo the bass because it sounds pretty crappy.  All I’ll need to do after that is add percussion and solo and finish the mix.  For some reason lately when I try to use Ableton, my computer goes crazy and the usage spikes up and the playback is either really choppy or it won’t play at all.  I think I need to go through my computer and delete a whole bunch of stuff to clear up memory and make it work better.  I also might just upgrade the RAM or something.  In any case, here’s a video of us performing this song two years ago (the quality isn’t that great).

I was pointed in the direction of this video the other day by my friend Jenny and I think it’s pretty cool.  Someone wrote a fugue using a couple themes from Lady Gaga songs and it sounds awesome.  I have a bit of experience writing fugues, so I think this would be a fun idea to mess with!

My sister Mindy called me yesterday and asked if I would write an arrangement of a song for violin and piano so her and my niece could play it in church.  My nine year old niece started playing violin last year and has been coming along nicely, which I’m really excited about!  She told me that it would have to be fairly simple so that she could play it, and that she’d need it by February 1st.  I instantly agreed because it was an exciting project for me to take on!  Also, the fact that I have a deadline will get me going on it.  The song is from the LDS Children’s Songbook and is called “I Am a Child of God.”

There are a few other things on my mind too.  Now to just find some time to do them!

Favorite Final Project Ever

This past semester, I took Music Theory III with Professor Michael Puri.  For our final project, we had the option of either choosing a piece and writing an analysis paper or writing a fairly substantial model composition.  I didn’t even think about it, as my choice was obvious.  I elected to write a composition, and I chose to do my best at writing the exposition section of a piano sonata.  We spent a lot of the semester working with this format, mostly using Mozart’s work as examples, so I felt fairly comfortable with it.  Here’s a break down of sorts.  It will be slightly technical and explained in theory language, so try to get past that.


Sonata Exposition in D Major

The first four measures hold a sort of fanfare with both hands in unison.  This serves the purpose of literally just getting the piece going and propelling it into the next section, which is the primary tonal and thematic section of the exposition (P section).  This section does not last long, as it only spans across one eight measure phrase.  Immediately afterward, I began experimenting with some modal mixture to start the transition section (TR) by transitioning into the parallel minor (D minor) whilst keeping similar thematic texture.  This phrase only lasts  half as long as the P phrase, as it leads to a cadence on the dominant chord and launches into a harmonic sequence characterized by a descending circle of fifths with diatonic sevenths.  The left hand begins playing sixteenth notes, giving the TR section the increased texture that it is supposed to have.  Everything eventually leads to a very big cadence (the medial caesura) on the dominant chord, tonicizing it and preparing the following section, in which the piece finds itself in the key of A major.

The secondary tonal and thematic area (S) begins at this point and proceeds forward in A.  The texture is noticeably different, as it is quieter and utilizes more dotted rhythms.  The section begins with a sentence phrase, the second of half which is an ascending stepwise harmonic sequence leading to an avoided cadence.  The biggest part of the piece follows.  It is a long, drawn out descending circle of fifths sequence ending in a big perfect authentic cadence (I would classify this as the essential expositional closure – EEC).  What follows is some repetition of sections with things like avoided cadences and deceptive cadences thrown in until the repetition of the EEC phrase.  We then come to the coda and the end of the exposition!

Sorry for that long, technical explanation.  Don’t feel obligated to read it.  Just listen :).

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year!  2011 was a great year, but I’m feeling that 2012 just may end up being the best  year yet!  I have a handful of New Year’s Resolutions that I am pretty darn motivated on keeping, so I’m hoping that I can keep them up and really make this a great year!  I have a bunch pertaining directly to this blog, and then some that are unrelated but still important!

1. First and foremost, I really hope to start eating breakfast this year.  This is something that I have never really been in the habit of doing, but recent visits to the doctor have brought me to the conclusion that I really need to start.  I have this thing where I fall asleep literally all the time, most often right after I eat, and I went to the doctor and found out that I’m completely healthy.  He recommended eating more regularly, more balanced, and in smaller amounts, so I really want to start eating breakfast to keep up with that!

2. Directly related to number #1 is my goal to get a regular gym schedule going once the semester starts.  That same doctor suggested a regular exercise routine.  This past semester was insanely hectic and I barely even got over there to play basketball and I’m a bit out of shape!  I’m hoping to maybe alternate days going to gym to  lift and play basketball with days on which I go for a run or something like that.  The last time I tried this in college was first semester of first year and it lasted roughly 1.5 weeks, so let’s hope I do better this time around.

3. PRACTICE PIANO MORE AND GET BETTER.  This might be the most important one.  I tried to take lessons last semester, but it didn’t work out as far as lesson timing with the instructor I was talking to and my class/work schedule.  This time around, I’ve contacted him before I have submitted my sheet for my work availability, and I’m calling him tonight to set a time in stone so I should be good to go!  I’ll finally be putting my beautiful keyboard to the use that she deserves.

4. Compose more and work with my recording equipment more.  I really want to get going so I’m writing something fairly substantial every few days, and I also want to make sure I’m being varied in what I’m working on so that I can develop my skills in many areas and keep myself versatile.  I plan on getting my Soundcloud account back up and on its feet, as I haven’t posted anything in a few months.  I let myself get too busy!  I’ve also gotten infinitely better at singing over the last six months, so I feel like the overall quality of everything in that respect will be much better.

5. Directly related is that I would like to go back and revisit a few projects that I started quite long ago and finish them.  After I did Dancing Crazy, I set the goal to record all of the songs that I arrange for AVP that don’t end up on a studio album myself.  I got about halfway through Cake’s The Distance (my first arrangement for the group) and then got busy with other things and never finished it.  I probably won’t go back and do all of them, but definitely at least that one and maybe a few others.  I also have a few chord progressions or licks that have gone unused as well as beginnings and frames of choral settings.  I also wouldn’t mind going back and finishing a piano sonata that I wrote for Music Theory III class this past semester (post coming soon).  We were just supposed to write the exposition section, so I may go back and finish it out.

6. Hand in hand with the last three is that I want to post in this blog at least once every two days!  I think that will keep me spurred in my efforts to continue writing and discovering great music.

7. I would like to keep better in touch with my friends, most specifically my friends from back in Northern Virginia.  I barely ever see them, but still cherish our relationships and don’t want to see them fade.

8. Balance my life better in general and not let some things overtake the others.  I have a fairly light course load, but am still involved in a lot of other things and I don’t want to let up on these goals.

There are more, but they’re smaller and less important, so I don’t really need to share them.  Yay!  Anyway, here is a Top 5 for the past week as well as a list of artists I’m looking into at the moment thanks to a Pandora playlist based off of Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos.

Top 5 for Week #5 (we’ll go with that):

1) Blind Pilot

2) Muse

3) Maroon 5

4) Lord of the Rings soundtracks (and movies.  also awesome)

5) The Civil Wars

Artists that I’m looking into:

City and Colour, The Civil Wars (thanks Nichy), Iron and Wine, Coconut Records, Arcade Fire

Merry Christmas

In the spirit of Christmas, I thought I’d post a list of my favorite Christmas songs.  I haven’t written or arranged anything yet because I’ve been out and about with family throughout the past week, although I have had a few random inspirations for some sort of men’s quartet arrangement of O Holy Night.  I don’t foresee jumping back into composing until the new year, but maybe at that point I’ll feel like backtracking on the season and trying to work on that haha.  I have a couple other projects in mind for the new year too, so I’m excited to get started.  For now though, I’ll just have to stick to the listening.  Here are a few of my favorite Christmas songs.

The Coventry Carol

In the Bleak Midwinter

Ding Dong Merrily on High

O Holy Night

Hahahaha all jokes aside, I really love this song.  It’s so beautiful.  I would also like to take some time to express my disdain for Joy to the World, unless it’s a really cool arrangement.  It’s just so overdone and I’m frankly just kind of tired of it.  Anyway, Merry Christmas all!  I hope your days were wonderful and you were able to enjoy time with your families.

Also, happy fifth day of Hanukkah to all you Jewish folk.  Here’s something for you.

Oops. Long Time, no Post.

Things got a little busy for me this past semester and I let this blog fall by the wayside, which is unfortunate because it was really motivating me to keep doing what I love doing on the side of everything.  So four months, an entire semester, a few emotional impasses, and a lot of bus driving later, my goal and new year’s resolution is to get back into the swing of things and start this back up.  This is sort of just a catch up post.  In the interest of getting blogging again, I’m not going to post full reviews of the artists that I was previously looking into, but I will say a bit so I can then start fresh.  Beginning Sunday (Christmas!  WooHOO!), I’ll get back into finding new artists/albums each week, as well as write a few reviews on a few new things I’ve discovered over the past month, most notably Blind Pilot’s new album We are the Tide.  I love it so much.

A Change of Pace

These guys are alright.  Long story short, I probably would have loved them had I listened to them when I was back in high school,  as they are close enough to your traditional pop-punk style band, which was my jam back then.  My favorite song would most likely be “The First Time We Ever Met.”  Their one album, “Just No Better Way,” interestingly enough has five songs followed by acoustic versions of the same five songs.  In a lot of cases, I ended up liking the acoustic versions more, as one would expect with my current tastes in music.  The acoustic version of “I Found Myself Today” is excellent.   For the most part, I don’t see myself listening to A Change of Pace much going forward with the exception of a few songs.

Cold War Kids

This group is great.  They’re an indie band that seems to have influences from various other genres, and the lead singer has a voice very much typically attributed to a traditional punk band, which adds a whole other dimension to their music, as nothing else has the punk feel to it.  I don’t really have a favorite song at this point.  I like most of their stuff, so when I listen, I just go straight through.  Some highlights are “Hang Me Up to Dry” and “I’ve Seen Enough.”

Super Retroactive Top 5:

These are the artists that I’ve seemed to always come back to listen to the most over the past four months.

1. Blind Pilot

2. Muse

3. Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos

4. The Format

5. Of Montreal