Archive for the Music Category

A Passionate Music Director

Posted in Music, Personal with tags , on November 19, 2008 by Joe

His hands waved around frantically as he sang vociferously at us. Most of us laughed, but I kept a solid, straight face. ‘This ardent little man truly loves what he does’, I remember thinking. ‘He is a man who found what made him happy in life — a passion — and he stuck with it.’

And I remember envying him, because he knew what he was good at, whereas I don’t. As high school graduation creeps closer into view, I fear not knowing what I want to do for the rest of my life. What will I be? What will I do? Will I be happy? They are all questions that consume my mind routinely.

So I watched him fine tune our music; and I watched our band’s sound grow brighter, deeper, and more beautiful. ‘Not only is he happy,’ I thought, ‘but he is good at what he does. And that is what makes a man great.’

Afterward, I criticized a friend who I saw laughing. I told him, “I want to be just like him.” He continued to laughed. So I pushed further, “I want to enjoy what I do for a living. I want to be great at what I do. I want to do something that has depth and meaning. I want to help the world through my work. I want to be great.”

My friend laughed some more.

What makes a man great is not necessarily his accomplishments or achievements or the size of the mark he leaves behind in the world. People who believe so are petty and arrogant. No, I believe there is something more to life than mere contribution. And that is passion — to be passionate about one’s work; to love doing it every second you are doing it; to have fun, laugh, and enjoy — that is what I want.

Because the future scares me. I take comfort in the presence of my parents, and in the knowledge that they will take care of me if I falter. I look ahead and realize that they will be gone in three years. I realize I must very quickly find what I am simultaneously good at and passionate about. And what haunts me is the knowledge that I don’t know.

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Magic Moments Manifested in Music

Posted in Music, Personal with tags , , , on October 11, 2008 by Joe

[Drawing of a Bear Playing a Trumpet]

“I wanna be the very best / Like no one ever was / To catch them is my real test / To train them is my cause / I will travel across the land / Searching far and wide / Teach Pokémon to understand / The power that’s inside / Pokémon! / Gotta catch ’em all / It’s you and me / I know it’s my destiny / Pokémon!” – Original Pokémon Theme Song

The precedent ameliorated our joy. Our football team sucks, and the band, having to watch defeat after defeat, began to detect a pattern. As we sat in the stands trying to amuse the crowd with our music, we felt a bit shamed in our hearts. They just didn’t win, and after a devastating three-loss-streak, we feared becoming apathetic.

As could be imagined, when we finally won, even against a pansy private school, we were content. We desperately needed an excuse to be proud, and this win was the very catalyst we needed. It didn’t matter, really; we needed something, and in hindsight, I can see no difference between any other happiness, contrived as it may be.

On the ride back home, Jay brought out his iPod-speaker set, and played, very loudly, “We Are the Champions” by Queen. The entire bus fumed with glee. We sang vociferously, “We are the champions. No time for losers, ‘cuz we are the champions of the world,” and it made us proud. Some of us sang out of tune, and most did not know the lyrics to the verses, but it did not matter.

And that is the reason that makes band the best drug. It is social, but it is accepting. We understand that we all love music, and we avoid judging each other because of it. So we sang, proudly, without any worry at all.

“Hey There Delilah”, “I’m Yours”, “Yellow Submarine”, and a few other pop standards continued the sing-along. What culminated our excitement, though, was the final song of the day: The Original Pokémon Theme Song. The band’s strong bond was exemplified in our knowing of the song, in our complete knowledge of all the lyrics.

There are moments of magic. It is when the world stops, and fixation on the joy of life overwhelms. It is when existence conveys pure color and blind happiness. It is when everything is perfect, and perfect encompasses all that is perceptible. It is when the daunting struggles of life fade, and the ecstasy of excitement illuminates the air. It is the momentary stopping of the world when pure happiness becomes the solitary perspective, and when joy and existence fuse.

These were magic moments — moments I will forever remember band for.

Review of Simple Plan

Posted in Music, Reviews with tags , , , on September 28, 2008 by Joe

Rating: A+

[Cover of Simple Plan's third studio self-titled album.]

I’ve often been criticized for liking Simple Plan’s music, perhaps even rightly so. Why not? Their fan base is largely comprised of female teenagers; they sing songs with titles such as “The Worst Day Ever”, “Me Against the World”, and “No Love”; they’re a mainstream band; and they get heavy airplay on MTV. Simple Plan’s third studio self-titled album, Simple Plan, is no different; it’s the plan I love.

Or maybe it’s not. “It’s something totally different that we’re trying out. You know we figured this is our third album now and we needed to try stuff, just for ourselves. To keep it fresh and fun,” lead singer Pierre Bouvier explains. “Honestly I don’t really know how it is going to turn out but I have a really good feeling.”

The album’s opening song, “When I’m Gone” exemplifies this change in direction; an R’n’B-ish synthesizer loop begins the song, and a hip-hop beat follows the band through the song’s verses. The essence of Simple Plan is still there—its big choruses, catchy melodies, and powerful beat remain, but it’s different, and very noticeably so.

And this change doesn’t exclusively lie within producer Danja Hill’s R’n’B contributions either; there is something more. No longer are the band members merely expressing their discomfort with the world, they are now filled with genuine hope. For example, in its first verse, Bouvier boldly sings, “It’s like we’re going through the motions, of a scripted destiny / Tell me where’s our inspiration / If life won’t wait, I guess it’s up to me.” In other words, they are maturing.

There are throwbacks to their previous works though. “Take My Hand”, for instance, could have fit easily on the band’s second studio album Still Not Getting Any…. And “Time to Say Goodbye” reminds the listener of the fun, bratty pop-punk of their first effort No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls. Both are excellent tracks, and they both reaffirm the band’s wide range of writing styles.

At this point in the review, I fear listing any further standout tracks, because they are all great. (Seriously, this album has very few blemishes, and is quite possibly the best album this year.) I will, however, note the closing track “What If”.

As a friend of mine, Gary, once told me, closing tracks are tracks that a band really puts everything they’ve got into. “What If” is a perfect example of this. A string orchestra opens the song, then followed by Bouvier’s mystically layered vocals, before the band kicks into full modern-rock force. I say this sincerely: You must listen to the track to get a feel for how awesome this song really is.

But back to my point, if indeed I had one. I don’t think I should be criticized for my liking of Simple Plan’s music. Beyond the fact that everyone has different tastes, the music, I believe, is universally good. What surrounds a band does not dictate the quality of its music. Indeed, it is the music that makes a band’s music good.

As just another know-nothing reviewer, I cannot force, nor can I rationally expect anyone to be affected by my opinion of this work. All I can write is that I highly recommend it. That said, I urge you to ignore the “easy guitar parts” and the band’s “image”, and to legitimately give the music a chance. You might like it.