Rock and Roll Roundup: Episode 1

The past few weeks have seen a number of cool videos, songs, and releases from great artists.  This is where I’m going to attempt to share the music that is catching my ears currently.

This will not necessarily be NEW releases, in fact, some will be quite old.  Consider this a Blog version of a radio show hosted by yours truly.  A way to share music that I find enjoyable, with all my friends online.

So, here goes:

1) Vampire Weekend-Ruby Soho (Rancid cover)

I love me a good cover, and to me, part of a good cover means taking a song, and making it your own.  Vampire Weekend, with their catchy east-coast prep/Paul Simon sound, have done just that, with one of the most well known punk anthems of the 90’s.

This is DEFINITELY not the typical punk sound of a Rancid song, however, if you get past that, I find it to be a really enjoyable cover.

2) Alkaline Trio-This Addiction
Kind of a bummer that this album leaked so far in advance, can’t wait to get my copy on vinyl.  In the mean time, here is the first single off the album of the same title.  I get to see Alkaline Trio and Cursive live two days after the new Alkaline Trio album is released, so I will definitely report back on how the new songs sound live.  Pretty stoked.

3) Owen-Good Friends, Bad Habits

This comes from Owen’s (Mike Kinsella) late 2009 release New Leaves.  This is one of my best friend’s favorite artists, and I fell in love with Owen’s lyrics and music through doing a really rad radio show with said best friend.  I was a little late snagging this album, but it has taken up a good majority of spins in the first month or so of 2010.

4) Brand New- Jesus Christ
I finally got the pleasure of seeing these guys a few weeks ago here in Denver.  It was a make-up show for one they were scheduled to play back in November, and boy did they make it up.  Playing nearly a 2 hour set, (roughly 1 hour 45 min).  Seeing them live has reawakened my love for their 2 latest albums.  They are one of the rare bands from my high school days that has grown and changed their directions quite drastically, and it sounds darn good in my opinion.

5) SNL- Dave Grohl, Bill Heder, Ashton Kutcher, Fred Armison: Middle Aged Punks

This sketch from SNL is brilliant.  Trust me, you just have to watch it.

http://www.punknews.org/article/36971

Thanks all, I’m going to try to post this type of stuff regularly.  I really miss doing a radio show every week and this seems like a good alternative.  Thanks for tuning in!

(Some of) My favorite Android OS Apps

A few months back my wife and I headed into our local Verizon store.  The plan was to get off of our respective parents plans, and, like real grown-ups, have a cell phone plan of our own (complete with outrageous bill).

Being the tech nerd, or geek if you prefer, I was aware of the release of Droid phones on Verizon…in fact, I had been drooling over them in online blogs, videos, and TV ads for several months leading up to the release.  It must have been a mixture of an insane load of Grad School work, coupled with my unhealthy yearning to be at home playing XBox, but I had completely spaced that the day we were going to get new phones was ALSO the release of these phones.

Verizon store was insane, and we immediately realized why.  I walked towards the MOTO Droid on display and could hardly control the salivary glands leaking from the sides of my mouth…that thing was awesome…and with a $400 price tag, it better be.  We “settled” for the HTC Eris…with its $99 price tag, this phone was well within our budget, and Verizon really made it worth it, giving us free upgrades.  So far I love the Eris, and am a completely smitten Droid user.

Okay, enough rambling and backstory, time to talk about the best part of Android…the open source applications

Twitter Users

1. Seesmic (Free)

I gave up on the Twidroid app after less than an hour of having my phone…too simple, and the lack of conversation threading was a HUGE turnoff (not sure if that has since been added).  Seesmic has a solid reputation for their desktop Twitter program, and although I use Hootsuite on my Mac, I have been (sort of) patiently waiting for one of the Twitter powerhouses to step into the Android realm.  Seesmic’s Droid app offers a solid design, easy to navigate, but with enough features to still thrill me.  I love the way it easily handles replies giving me the option to reply to multiple people from one tweet.

If you are a Twitter user looking for some solid features and a fairly in depth approach to its build, then Seesmic comes as my top choice.  If you are a bit less Twitter obsessed, then my other choice may be right up your alley.

2. Swift (Free)

Swift was my jumping off point.  After ditching Twidroid, Swift was my favorite Twitter app.  Good conversation streamlining, VERY simple layout, and easy navigation made this my go to app for a long time, until I switched to Seesmic for the increased features.  If you’re new to Twitter, or just don’t need so much depth, Swift is still a great, clutter free alternative.

Honorable Mention: Twitterride

Music Lovers

1. Last.fm App (Free)

This app is actually still fairly glitchy…in any given week you may actually see multiple updates.  However, when it works, it’s great.  Same idea as Pandora, but keeps WAY better track of your music interests and play counts.  If your a music-o-phile like me, Last.fm integration belongs on everything from your computer, to your phone, ipod, and playlists.

2. Shazam (Free)

This is one of those apps that is a life saver for music lovers.  It listens to a short clip of a song…on the radio, at a restaurant, or basically anywhere you go and need to know what song is about to get stuck in your head.  This is the first song identification application that I have seen ACTUALLY work…and if you know me, you know that it was thoroughly tested.  I threw what I consider to be some of the most obscure, un-mainstream music at it, and within ten seconds it had title, artist, album art, and a ton more info…this thing is a blast.

Honorable Mention: Pandora (Free)

Fun Stuff/Miscelaneous

1) GMote (Free/$2.00)

I just got this app and am already obsessed.  By downloading this app for your phone and a program for you computer (works with Mac/PC/Linux) you have now made your Android phone into a remote…it syncs files, changes volume, mutes, pauses, skips tracks, etc.  And, arguably the best part: this is not limited to music or video files…you can use your phone as a remote for powerpoint presentations!  There is so much possibility for use with this that I will most likely spend months playing with it.  I am already jazzed to use this next semester in classes.

2. Zombie, RUN! (Free)

This app makes even the most mundane trip to the grocery store a fight for survival.  It is fully integrated with Google Maps, and uses the phones strong GPS to follow your location, and add in zombies on the map who are closing in on your location.  You have the ability to choose the speed/type of zombie, game-type, and even choose an end destination.  The goal is to drive/walk/run/hide your way out of risk of zombie attack.  The best way to really explain it is to just have you try this app out…after all, it’s free, and may provide just the training you need for the zombie apocalypse.

This is nowhere near all the cool apps available to explore on Android.  I hope you find this list fun and useful, and I hope people use the comment section of this post to share more of the newest/coolest Android apps on the market.  Enjoy!

Top 10 Albums of 2009 (list by yours truly)

The end of the year is officially upon us.  With less than two weeks till the end of the year, there is no better time to review 2009’s musical offerings.  These are ranked, as best as possible, however, on any given day, I suppose one album could jump ahead of another.  So, here we go:

1. Gallows-Grey Britain (Epitaph)

Gallows released what was, to me, the most solid attempt to recapture the essence of the 80’s hardcore scene, while at the same time, adding a flair and a touch of solid metalcore and current hardcore ala Every Time I Die, Maylene, and even some Motorhead.

2. Thursday-Common Existence (Epitaph)

To those of you that know me, this album pick should be no surprise.  Although released in the second week of the year, this is still an album that I find myself coming back to.  More than any album before, Common Existence is heavily influenced by many different authors, and this is reflected both in the lyrics and the instrumentation. Standouts songs include “Friends in the Armed Forces” as well as “Circuits of Fever”.

3. Frank Turner-Poetry of the Deed (Epitaph)

I first saw, and hear Frank in September, a week after moving to Denver.  Angela and I were in dire need of a good show and some familiar faces, so we made plans to see Murder By Death and the Gaslight Anthem.  Frank Turner opened, however after his short set, I was left wanting more.  His brash take on folk music, tinged with elements of punk, hardcore, and irish bar tunes was just the sound to get me through my first quarter of grad school.  With lyrics like:

“Ever since my childhood I’ve been scared I’ve been afraid
Of being trapped by circumstance and staying in one place
So I always keep a small bag full of clothes carefully stored
Somewhere secret somewhere safe
And somewhere close to the door”

It’s hard not to eagerly await the next adventure life throws at you.  If you have not heard Frank Turner, you are missing out.  Trust me on this one, i’m still making up for lost time.

4. Cursive-Mama, I’m Swollen (Saddle Creek)

Let’s clear the air here.  This album is NOT Domestica, or the Ugly Organ…with that said, “Mama, I’m Swollen” is one hell of an album.  After accepting that Cursive had moved on, changed their sound a bit, and matured as song writers, this album quickly found itself constantly on the turntable.

Songs like “What Have I Done?” and “I Couldn’t Love You” make this album for me.  They contain the same harsh self criticism, drunken frantic-ness, and deep introspection that drew my to Cursive back in High School.

5. Every Time I Die-New Junk Aesthetic (Epitaph)

ETID is back, and they shred!  I had high hopes for this album, and trust me it did not disappoint.  The grindcore intro found on “Roman Holiday” sets the dark, yet frantic tone of the album.  With hints and whispers of their early work albums like “Hot Damn!” and “Last Night in Town”, this album is sure to bring back a lot of ETID believers.  Do yourself a favor and grab the deluxe edition, as “Buffalo 666” as a bonus track makes it well worth it.

6. Buddy Wakefield-Live from the Typer Cannon Grand (Righteous Babe Records)

Most of the poems contained on this album are not new.  However, this mixture of live, and previously unrecorded slam poetry by my favorite poet, is no small collection.  With over 20 tracks, “Live from Typer…” is one of the most solid examples of Buddy’s passion, humor, rage, and discomfort.  With several tracks containing backing from Ani DiFranco herself, this collection of poetry, music, and freestyle finds its way onto my iPod many a night, when the deep introspection of Buddy’s poems seem the most haunting.

The best way to experience Buddy is to see him, please watch the video below, I get chills every time I watch it.

7. Brand New-Daisy (Interscope)

I’ve been a huge Brand New fan since their first album.  They have grown from a group of pop-punk/emo purveyors into the powerhouse of dark, brooding rock found on both “Daisy” and “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me”.  Even on their first album you could tell that Brand New were too intelligent and wise to correctly fit into the pop-punk moniker.  With albums like “Daisy” they capitalize on their older fanbase, and their growth as artists to give us wonderful tracks like “At the Bottom”.  This album is full of unique sounds which punctuate the now infamous words of frontman Jesse Lacey.

8. The Decemberists-Hazards of Love (Capitol)

I must admit, I have not always been that big of a Decemberists fan.  Possibly just a backlash to their indie stardom, however, all that changed with the release of ‘Hazards’.  The strength of the electric guitars, as well as the darker mood set by the more driving bass lines on this album are what had me sold.  I love hearing the trademark Decemberists sound in a far more bold and dark sound.  Track 3, ‘A Bower Scene’ does a great job of showcasing this sound…check it out below:

9. Converge-Axe to Fall (Epitaph)

I can guarantee you that this album is appearing on nearly all Best Of lists this year.  It really is that good.  It would also probably be higher on the list had I spent a bit more time with it.  The album released late in the year, but was immediately met with talk about ‘best metal album of the decade’, certainly an impressive feat.  I look forward to diving deeper into this album in the next few months, and there is definitely plenty to dive into.  At times this album becomes as thick as sludge, with multiple layers of guitar, bass, and vocals creating massive depth, which is a lot of the fun in listening to metal-core, trying to dissect those layers, and rebuild them in your head.

10. The Thermals-Now We Can See (Kill Rock Stars Records)

Not only are these guys hilarious to follow on Twitter (@thethermals), but they also put out one hell of a record!  ‘Now We Can See’ is by far my favorite release from the band.  The step up in studio production did nothing to hurt the bands garage-punk sound, and in a way, added a more solid rock n’ roll vibe to the record.

The title track brings to mind the best aspects of The Pixies, early Weezer, and even Cake.  Definitely a record for anyone who thinks that good ol’ rock ‘n roll has disappeared.