Oct 082010

In case you’re new to this here blog (or to my other blog, The Developing Aritist)…you might be wondering about the occasional “LOCALS ON SHUFFLE” updates that appear in my Twitter feed on the sidebar.

Simply put, I’m a fan of local music.  When I get hold of a recording made by a band or artist from Denver or the surrounding area, I typically like to put it on my ipod.  Most of the time when I get the chance to listen to my ipod, it’s on shuffle–so when a local act comes up on my shuffle, I tweet about it.  And because all my stuff is linked together, those tweets show up on Twitter, on both blogs, and on my Facebook.  So basically, if you’re a local band or artist, and I get some of your music on my ipod, you get some free shout-outs across my local network.  Not bad, huh?

By the way, the same holds true if you’re an indie artist from somewhere besides Denver.  If I put your stuff on my ipod and it comes up on shuffle, I send out a similar Tweet: “INDIES ON MY IPOD”.

Of course, the way to get on this highly-coveted ipod shuffle rotation is to make sure I have your music.  It’s at my discretion–after all, it IS my ipod–but as I said, I’m a fan, so most of what I get eventually shows up on the shuffle. Instructions for music submissions, either by download link or by mail, can be found by clicking here or using the “Submissions” tab above.

Mar 072010

Regret Night EP

This post is supplementary to my article on Examiner.com.

When you first start writing about a local music scene, you are, in a sense, late to the party. You find yourself running to catch up becuase all you have to go on is what you see in front of you, and you have to try and make sense of it without the advantage of previous history.

The first time I saw local powerpop band Regret Night do a show, I wrote a less-than-flattering review of them based entirely on their performance, with a peek at their MySpace page for a frame of reference. That show was a fundraiser to help them fund the recording of their new EP. I could tell from that first show that Regret Night had a fairly solid fan base, which told me there must be something to them–but that night there just wasn’t a lot of substance behind the hype.  So I wrote what I saw, trying to give the band the benefit of the doubt for what I hadn’t seen, and throwing in some suggestions for how they could step it up. 

A few weeks later, I received a gracious email from Regret Night (whom I’d not told about my review), thanking me for my candor and telling me they were taking my suggestions to heart–and inviting me to review their new EP when it came out.  Just the fact that they took the time to respond (instead of react) and invited me to give my opinion again said a lot to me about them.  After all, for all I knew, they’d just had one bad night.

It would be presumptuous to think they were acting on my advice alone (or at all), but since that email conversation I’ve watched from a distance while Regret Night has seemingly been doing several of the things I had put on my list of suggestions.  When I found out that they were finally releasing their EP, Living the Night Life, at a concert at the Marquis Theater last Friday, I felt I owed it to them to see them again and to give their new project a spin.

I’m happy to say that Regret Night did step it up, both with the EP and their concert.  The recording has catchy tunes and great production value, and their live performance (though riddled with technical difficulties which must have been frustrating) was definitely an improvement over the last time I saw them.  And the bands they had with them on the ticket did them proud as well–which was one of the things I really harped on in my previous review.  Best of all, I was able to see some of the elements of their appeal that has won them their fan base, the things I knew must be there but couldn’t see the first time I saw them.

It would be dishonest to say Regret Night doesn’t still have some growing to do. But kudos are definitely in order for these guys, for several reasons.  First of all, behind their carefree party persona, it’s apparent the band hasn’t always had an easy time of it, especially in getting this EP done.  The fact that they pressed through their obstacles to get it done–and did it so well–says they are serious.  Second–simply put, they have grown, likely as a result of their perseverance.  And third, and possibly most important–Regret Night accepted with grace the criticism of a newcomer-upstart and took it seriously.  And that is why I know they will continue to grow–because for bands with that attitude, growth is inevitable.

Way to go, guys.

Hey Stupid
Build Me Up

Living The Night Life EP on Amazon

Dec 152009

Yeah, it’s an end-of-year thing, and lots of people are doing it. Naming their favorite this or that. Naming their favorite albums of 2009. All that stuff.

The problem is, this blog is new. Too new to have gone through a whole year. And since we’re still getting to know each other, I thought I’d just generalize and try to nail down my top five albums…ever. These aren’t just my personal faves, or the ones I listen to the most. I’d say it’s more like looking over time, these are five records that have influenced me most.

I like too much music, so it’s hard enough to pick five records; so that’s as far as it goes. I’m not ranking them 1 to 5–they are in random order here:

The Joshua Tree by U2

You know something is a classic when the songs still seem current over 20 years later. This was where U2 hit the top of their game, and they’ve pretty much stayed there. (Yes…even after No Line on the Horizon.) It’s more than just the sound; it’s the passion. And as far as frontmen go…stage presence, audience connection, all that…I measure all frontmen against Bono. He’s the ultimate.

At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash

I cut my teeth on this record. (Well, actually, I already had my teeth by then–but you get the idea.) When I was three, I earned a free beer for my Mom by singing Johnny Cash songs to the jukebox in the pizza joint. I would tell people I was Johnny Cash. Even then, this record represented to me the ultimate of who Johnny Cash was. I didn’t know about the drugs; I didn’t know what drugs were–and anyway, he was on the upswing when he made this record. Years later, watching Walk the Line (one of my Top Five Movies), the significance of Johnny Cash making a live recording in a prison was driven home to me, and it revived my respect for this record.

For Him Who Has Ears to Hear by Keith Green

This is one I don’t expect everyone to know–because it was a Christian record made at the heart of the Jesus Movement. But for me, as a kid, it was the first time I’d heard Christian music that wasn’t an organ in a church–and not only that, but this long-haired, beared hippie-looking guy pounded the piano like it was the drums–and it was so cool. I was just learning piano, and Keith Green forever affected my playing style–much to the chagrin of every piano teacher I ever had.

The Beautiful Letdown by Switchfoot

A more recent one, but there’s an honesty and passion in this record that just hit at a key moment in my life. I just related…especially to the ballads.

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2/ Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini by Earl Wild, pianist

All right, so I’m a geek. Actually…I was trained classically on piano and was a composition major in college. As a “tween” I got to see pianist Earl Wild play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 live, and it was a “forever” moment for me. Not only to see someone play something so complex and make it look so easy…but to this day I think Rachmaninoff’s melodies are among the most beautiful in history. I got the record shortly after seeing the concert, and wore. it. out. I don’t think that version is in print anymore, but the link above is for a different recording of it.

So…what are your Top Five?

Oct 132009

So if you’ve read any of my posts so far…particularly the reviews…I could easily understand if you were to say, “So who the heck is THIS guy? Some kind of armchair quarterback?”

Maybe you haven’t said that. But you could. I mean, I’m still new here. Who am I, really? What credentials do I have to critique these people, anyway? Especially when I have something negative to say?

When you’re new, that’s not exactly the best way to make friends, now, is it?

Well, first of all, I’m not going to try and defend my right to have an opinion. I have one, and so do you. None of us needs credentials to have an opinion, or to offer one. What I can do, though, is share just a little background behind what forms my opinion. So if you can bear with a few moments of pure narcissism (shared with the utmost humility, of course)…here are just a few of the details of my musical background and history:

  • I am a songwriter, with a degree in Music Composition.
  • I am a keyboardist, classically trained in piano. I’ve been playing since age nine–over 30 years.
  • I have perfect pitch, a good ear, and a natural understanding of music theory. I can usually play a song after hearing it once.
  • I am a lifelong music enthusiast, and a lifetime student of music. I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t want you talking over the car radio. :) When I listen to music, dang it…I’m listening to it. Studying it.
  • I have played in numerous bands, directed fine arts teams in churches, and trained up and mentored multiple musicians. I’ve lived a life around music, and I have a natural instinct for what makes music good. (Remember this one–I’ll bring it up again momentarily.)

You’ll notice the following things weren’t on the list: producer, music mogul, national recording artist, or industry insider. Those things aren’t on my resume–although some of what I’ve done in churches could qualify as “producing”.

So no, I’m not a guy with connections. I’m not a music industry veteran. They didn’t call me when Paula quit American Idol (although I’m not exactly sure why they called Ellen). And when I critique a band or artist, I don’t have the ability to connect them with the big guys or groom them for the “industry.”

And for that matter–opinions are subjective. I can get it wrong. Even industry experts get it wrong. A major label once passed on the Beatles, saying they’d never make it. NBC cancelled Star Trek for the same reason.

So of what value is my critique, then–from a new guy with no real connections and few credentials?

Well, as I said (but can’t yet prove)…I have a natural instinct for what makes music good. That’s why I named this blog The Oomph–it’s a fun name for the intangible “it” factor in music. I don’t have connections, but I do know music. I know what makes it good, and how to make it better. And I know The Oomph when I see/hear it, and I know when someone has it. Even if I don’t have the pedigree to prove it.

I’m still new here. All I have to offer at the moment is an opinion, and some advice, much of which no one is currently asking for. I get that; I don’t have any delusions about my own self-importance. I’m not really a narcissist. Honest. :)

But I’ll say this much…if you’re an artist or band, and you accept my criticism and advice, and act on it…I believe time will bear out that I’m right.

At least most of the time. :)

Sep 232009

Three things you should know about me:

  1. Music is my passion.
  2. I am a lifelong student of music (particularly what makes a good song, a good performance, and a good act).
  3. I am a bit of a teacher.

What this all means is that even if you aren’t as into music as I am–and even if you’re not from Denver–you’ll probably learn a little something here and there by reading this blog. Maybe, at the very least, you’ll get an idea of why I’m such a nut when it comes to music.

I am the Denver Local Music Examiner for Examiner.com, and this blog sort of supplements my articles there. So yeah, there will be some coverage of local music here, because here I can share more specific opinions than I can on Examiner. A lot of what I’ll be doing is analyzing bands and performances–the things that make them shine, the things that hold them back.

But this blog won’t limit itself to the Denver music scene; there’s just too much good stuff out there. Lots of potential. I’ll share where I’m finding the good stuff, and what I like about it. You might agree, you might not. I’ll probably spend a lot of time on indie bands and artists, and up-and-coming acts (since you can read about Britney, Kanye and Taylor just about anywhere). But anytime the words “good” and “music” can appear in the same sentence–it’s fair game. :)

I guess what I hope for is not just to entertain the people who are already jazzed about music. (Oh, one other thing you should know–I’m heavy into puns. Get it? Jazzed? Anyhow.) I don’t want to just tell you about what’s good in music; I want to tell you why it’s good–what makes it good. To make you a fan of it, if you aren’t already.

And to any other musicians who come across this blog…I hope it encourages you, shows you what to work on. If you’re a musician and you get critiqued on this blog (yes, I will probably do some negative reviews)…I’ll tell you up front that I’m on your side, that the things I say are to help rather than hurt. (If I really thought you had no potential, I wouldn’t bother mentioning you at all.)

So…that’s what you can expect. Looking forward to the ride…