It fell like judgment, but it was only rain

I’m kind of a sucker for acoustic covers of Bad Religion songs. I finally tried my hand at doing one of my own.

Eventually I want to record a good one of “The Pride and the Pallor”, but I think right now the lyrics to Only Rain are my favorites.


And I Know a Hero Will Come…

helmetIf you’ve never heard of The Protomen, you’re doing it wrong.

In a nutshell, they’re a progressive rock band who writes concept albums based on a darker, more dystopian interpretation of the story of Mega Man.

I had the opportunity to see them in concert last  night for the first time, and they completely blew me away. Their first album, The Protomen, was released in 2005, and they followed it up with a prequel, Act II: The Father of Death in 2009.  Act 3 has no release date yet, but will presumably release in 2013.

Their appeal is questionable at first. Songs based on a video game? A story about a robot apocalypse? Silly, right?

But the magic of fiction is in universal truths. When I listen to The Stand (Man or Machine?), it’s not about Proto Man telling Mega Man why he turned evil… it’s about a person being relegated to a symbol and tossed under the bus. When I listen to Light Up the Night, it’s not about a scientist blowing up a robotic control tower, it’s about the power of the people to fight back against a corrupt system.

Music like this is simultaneously inspiring and rage-inducing. I appreciate the anger and the beauty.

Like I said earlier, Act 3 is coming soon. Well, last  night, they played a new track from the upcoming release. It was only the second time they’ve performed it… the first time was at PAX.  And lucky for all of us, that show was professionally recorded. So here it is:

Watch live video from PAX East 2012 on TwitchTV

And to everyone out there… Light up the night. Light. Up. The fucking. Night.

Some Novel Music 2: Playlist Links

So, like I wrote the other day, I’m trying to listen to music that captures the emotions of the characters I’m writing. For that, I put together 4 Spotify playlists.

Josh’s List: Emotional High Energy
Scott’s List: Angry
Cara’s List: Wistful
Kurt’s List: Inspirational Religious Music

Word count is over 13.6K, so I guess I’m doing well.

I ended up changing Scott’s occupation from architect to journalist, but that doesn’t require rewriting more than a sentence, as his job has only been a setting so far and not a plot point. It will be a plot point later, though, which is why I changed it.

Kurt is increasingly both hard and easy to write, as I can very easily use the kind of religious lingo that would dominate his inner monologue, but I also have to resist the urge to define the logical rebuttals to his thought process.

Some Novel Music

Let’s talk about what kind of music to listen to while writing a novel.

The first three days, I listened to Explosions in the Sky while writing. Mellow instrumentals seemed like the best idea… not loud enough to grate my nerves, and no lyrics to distract me. Today I decided to change it up. Since I’m writing from three different perspectives (Four if you count… well never mind, you’ll find out) I tried listening to the kind of music that would be on the iPod of the character I’m writing at the time. I needed something angry to finish off Scott’s chapter. I started with Greydon Square, but rap is to lyrically focused and that’s distracting, so I switched to Megadeth.

Kurt’s chapter is a bit easier, though. He’s deeply religious, so I needed some inspirational Christian music. Unfortunately, I fucking HATE Christian music. I dug into my childhood via Spotify and ended  up listening to a Rich Mullins album that I grew up enjoying.

Cara’s are going to be tough. I got through the initial Cara chapter already, but when I re-explore her, I need to have figured the character out enough to have a playlist for her. I feel like Silversun Pickups would be appropriate, but that’s something I listen to pretty regularly anyway, so I don’t know if it would aid in putting me in someone else’s mind.

As for the Josh pseudo-chapters, I’ll probably stick with stuff I listen to anyway, or go back to the Explosions in the Sky tracks. The pseudo-chapters won’t be incredibly long anyway.

Didn’t get as high a word count as I intended today, but I’m still ahead of the goal, even if behind on my personal one.

Song Recommendation: Chasing the Wild Goose

I’m a huge fan of Bad Religion. The punk rock band headed by Greg Gaffin has some of the best lyrics, even after 33 years of playing. As implied by the name, a lot of these lyrics involve religion. But instead of being direct, the lyrics are more poetic, not hesitating to use allegory and emotional appeal that can come from, and apply to, more than just an anti-religious message.

Another unique thing about Bad Religion, for me at least, is that I like covers of their songs as much as the originals, sometimes more. I discovered this one day after having heard their acoustic version of the song “Sorrow”, I searched to find some other acoustic versions. I stumbled upon some YouTube musicians playing their own Bad Religion covers on webcams. I tend to shy away from covers done that way, because they can go very bad, but these were actually really good. And that leads us to this recommendation.

Emily Davis covers Bad Religion’s “Chasing the Wild Goose

There was a man who banged his head against a wall
he banged for 20 years, the damn thing wouldn’t fall
he left an honest life he left a broken wife
he left it all behind, just to see what he could find

millions and millions chase the wild goose tonight
to conquer loneliness they’ll chase it all their lives
and when they find it they can just lay down and die
it seems the game is mostly pointless in the presence of the prize.

there was a woman who had a man as cold as ice
he built four walls so strong and he kept her locked inside
she harbored loneliness her husband couldn’t guess
that she’d take off her dress and kill herself without a mess.

millions and millions chase the wild goose tonight
to conquer loneliness they’ll chase it all their lives
and when they find it they can just lay down and die
it seems the game is mostly pointless in the presence of the prize.

In Gaffin’s greatest lyrical style, he begins with a story, and then turns around in the chorus to proclaim a more universal truth. And while Bad Religion is stellar on most of their songs, I feel that Davis’s voice, acoustic style, and emotion really capture the feeling of this song better than the original ever did. So give it a listen. Even though it’s a webcam, I would rather listen to this than many studio recordings I’ve heard in my day.

Your College A Capella Group Sucks

Sam here.

Let’s talk about a disturbing trend on college campuses that has made its way across the Tube de la You in the past couple of years: college a capella groups.

Now don’t get me wrong: a capella music is often some of the most beautiful music you can find, and when sung live, the power of voices blending in harmony can move even the stoniest heart to tears. Even a capella covers of popular music can have this effect… but only if done right.

What I’m talking about is the plethora of groups springing up on campus after campus, writing cheap knockoffs of pop songs. And in the cheapest way possible. Across the country they appear, with pseudo-clever names like “All-Night Yahtzee” or “Pitch Slapped”, acting as free entertainment at events where the university doesn’t want to pay a real band, and directly knocking off whatever Katy Perry tune happens to be playing on the radio that particular week.

The most telling aspect of a crappy college a capella group  is the direct knockoff. Repeat with me: Good a capella music does not have a star. It’s about harmonies and voice blending. Shitty a capella, on the other hand, involves converting the instrumental portions of the song into “doo doo da da”, and arranging in a semi-circle around whichever member has been chosen to sing lead this time. And then they recreate the song exactly how we already know it. (See figure A)

“I’m holding a microphone and standing out front so everyone knows to look at me!”

I’m sorry, but that’s not a capella. That’s karaoke with a less interesting track. If I wanted to hear a soloist singing “Two Points for Honesty”, I would listen to Guster’s original version… I searched for an a capella version because I wanted to see what harmonies people came up with.

And then there’s this guy:

Reason #4924 why foreigners hate Americans.

Without fail, the SAGs (Shitty Acapella Groups) feel the need to spice up their acts by including someone with no musical talent, probably the brother of one of the organizers, to provide beat-boxing. He is generally the whitest, douchiest male they could find, and tries to disguise this by wearing a baseball cap in the inevitable backwards/sideways variation. You know the backwards hat: It’s the universal sign that you were unequivocally street smart in 1974.

Oh, and he gets a microphone too. It’s not because he really needs one (his contribution to the piece is only harmful to all that is sacred), but it’s because he threw a temper tantrum and wanted people to look at him.

Now, like I’ve said, good a capella music does exist, and good a capella covers of pop songs are even out there. Some of them even involve the occasional soloist. There have been some great arrangements of Ben Folds songs, and I participated in a six-part rendition of a Billy Joel piece back in high school all-state choir. Unfortunately, the market is inundated with so many SAGs that these are all most searches will yield. Looking for good a capella music on YouTube is like looking for a Weird Al song on Napster 12 years ago that was actually a Weird Al song and not someone’s homemade parody.

The SAGs, you see, have failed in the same way bar bands have failed. To cover a song well, you have to reinvent it, not just recreate it.

Otherwise, you’re just unoriginal.

Sam out.