The Case Against the Star-Spangled Banner

Why do singers mess up these words so frequently?
Why do singers mess up these words so frequently?

It’s Olympics time, and that means patriotism is at a relative high here in America.  So is the potential to wile away the hours in front of non-stop sports coverage.  It’s taking all my willpower to keep my eyes on my laptop as the American hockey team plays the Czechs on the television in front of me.

But there’s one thing about seeing the United States in international competition that bothers the hell out of me: our national anthem, when compared to those of other countries, just doesn’t cut it.

[Read more...]

Super Duped: The Decline of the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Flea, your bass is unplugged...and since when did Chad Smith look like Bruno Mars instead of Will Ferrell?
Flea, your bass is unplugged…and since when did Chad Smith look like Bruno Mars instead of Will Ferrell?

If you grew up a rock music fan in the first decade of the 2000s, as I did, the Red Hot Chili Peppers likely provide much of the soundtrack of your formative years.  Songs like “Can’t Stop” and “Dani California” populated your early-generation iPods, and you familiarized yourself with the oldies that stood the test of time: “Give it Away,” “Under the Bridge,” etc.  Listening to these songs probably invokes a good deal of nostalgia.  They stand the test of time, too; listen through Californication again today, and relish in the tight, emotionally thick beauty of its fifteen tracks.

Given these assumptions, you were probably just as pumped as I was to hear that the Chili Peppers would be joining Bruno Mars for the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime performance.  By the time the teams headed to the locker rooms and Seattle had ensured that the game would be akin to watching a monster truck run over the same poor car for three hours, you were probably relieved that some good music would interrupt the tedium.  Bruno Mars, sure, cool, but the CHILI PEPPERS!!!  I was so excited, I had even set up a betting pool with my family, trying to pick the three songs they would play.

[Read more...]

Crafting the Contemporary Music Taste

A world without musical taste is chaos.
A world without musical taste is chaos.

Music is an inescapable fact of life.  It streams from our computers like a waterfall; it fills the empty space in our bars and restaurants; it augments the visual impact of television shows, movies, and advertisements.  On top of this universal presence of music, the democratization of the recording and distribution process has ensured that the variety of music available to the general public is vaster than ever before.  Yet it is precisely because of this deep and pervasive connection between music and human culture that it is necessary for you to make sense of this cacophony.  The person without a distinct musical taste risks being lost in the sonic forest, unable to converse about music with other people and unable to discern their own character.  In short, having a defined sense of what music you like is vital to becoming a contemporary man.  So, how do you develop a musical taste that keeps you both interested and interesting?  Read on to find out!

[Read more...]

Campy Music (and some other stuff)

None of the songs on this cover were written after 1971.
None of the songs on this cover were written after 1971.

Hey everybody,

It’s been one of those weekends that wasn’t any sort of break from the action of the week, but definitely in a good way.  Things got started with a bang when I scored free tickets to see Fitz and the Tantrums, Capital Cities, and Beat Club at Marathon Music Works on Thursday night.  All three bands started in Los Angeles, but each has a distinct sound within the broader category of indie pop-rock.  Beat Club has a very retro feel and their sound is very influenced by The Strokes, which makes sense because they are connected with Julian Casablancas.  Capital Cities is straightforward synth-pop and put on a very energetic show, closing with a fifteen minute rendition of “Safe and Sound” that turned into an electro-dance party.  Other than the last song, however, I didn’t find their music terribly engaging; all the songs sounded very similar but lacked the catchy hook of “Safe and Sound.”  This is only natural, though, since they have released just one LP.  The fact that they already have a Top 10 single at this point in their existence is very promising.  Unfortunately for Capital Cities, their performance was totally upstaged by that of Fitz and the Tantrums, whose neo-soul had a perfect dancing groove but didn’t feel superficial.  “Moneygrabber” was a highlight, leading off the encore and featuring a confetti explosion in the middle of the song.  Overall, the night of music was supremely satisfying, and there should be a lot of buzz about these three bands. Here’s some of the better songs that were played.

The real highlight of the weekend, however, was going home for a weekend of summer camp-related festivites: a bar mitzvah, an official camp reunion, and lots of running around to see as many friends as possible before heading back to school this morning.

[Read more...]

Between the Buried and Me at Cannery Ballroom: Out of this World

Between the Buried and Me, probably the best progressive metal band around today.
Between the Buried and Me, probably the best progressive metal band around today.

I have a fairly eclectic taste in music, and it shows when I think about my five favorite artists.  Four of those are Rush, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Beatles and (the most recent addition) Kanye West.  All revered throughout their community of contemporaries and listeners, all well-known to the general public.

The fifth artist?  Between the Buried and Me.  Never heard of them?  Not surprising, seeing as their genre is progressive death metal.

[Read more...]

A Closer Look at Why We Hate Nickelback

But why?  ...Okay, that soul patch is pretty bad.
But why? …Okay, that soul patch is pretty bad.

This past weekend, I was having a GroupMe conversation with a few of my fraternity brothers and, somehow or other, Nicolas Cage popped up.  He always seems to do that in the strangest of places.  We threw around the idea of having Cage be the entertainment for our next party–”he probably needs the money,” quipped our social chair–when I brought up the possibility of a Nick-themed rager: Nicolas Cage PLUS Nickelback.  So bad it would be legendary.  “Cagelback: Because we hate you.”

We all had our laughs but then I remembered something: I used to like Nickelback.

[Read more...]

Lockwood Barr and a Cloud Control Review

I "discovered" Cloud Control this week.  According to Christopher Columbus, I can claim them for Spain and force them to mine my gold and farm my crops.
I “discovered” Cloud Control this week. According to Christopher Columbus, I can claim them for Spain and force them to mine my gold and farm my crops.

Hey everybody,

One of the benefits of hosting The VU Backstage for a year is that you develop friendships and solid connections with the artists you invite on the show.  This is especially nice when you are scrambling for a guest for the show on the day of.  You call up a friend–in this case Lockwood Barr–and you do the show.  And the interview is easy because there’s already an established rapport there, making conversation a delight and bringing more personality out of both you and the guest.

That was what happened last night.  Lockwood and I had fun discussing everything from her new band and extensive tour plans to The Catcher in the Rye and gourmet cooking.  It was fittingly awkward when I whiffed on two straight Napoleon Dynamite references, but there was also substantive insight into Lockwood’s songwriting and attitude towards music.  Of course, there was also the music itself, which was fantastic.  You can catch the full show here.

In other news, I discovered a new band (for me, at least; you’ve probably heard of them for a few years).  Generally, I look to the past for my music; Rush, the Beatles, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers with John Frusciante are my three favorite bands.  Any current music I consume has to be introduced to me by someone else, either because a recommendation is a sure sign that a band is worth my time or because I am too lazy to seek out the music myself.  Luckily, I work at WRVU and cannot avoid being introduced to new and unfamiliar music. [Read more...]

Jillian Stein and a New Project

I have a second music child to look after now--RVU Records, Vanderbilt's student-run recording company.
I have a second music child to look after now–RVU Records, Vanderbilt’s student-run recording company.

Hi everybody,

Thanks for your continued support of The VU Backstage!  Jillian Stein was a phenomenal guest last night.  Her music gives off a very retro, late 60s-early 70s folk vibe, and you can easily draw comparisons to Joni Mitchell (who, as it turns out, is her chief influence).  Catch the full episode right here.

This next bit of news is extremely exciting and relevant both to the show and to WRVU.  It has taken weeks of development on my part and involved a litany of other people, both students and fully grown adults.  It required a fairly large investment by the Vanderbilt Student Communications board.  It has the potential to change the music scene at Vanderbilt FOREVER.

Jillian Stein played a great show on The VU Backstage last night.  Also, building suspense for the "bit of news" I'm about to drop.
Jillian Stein played a great show on The VU Backstage last night. Also, building suspense for the “bit of news” I’m about to drop.

Have I built you up sufficiently?

HAVE I???
Irrelevant picture of a cat, to further build suspense.

HAVE I????????

[Read more...]