“We Cool?” Side A | review

Simple but effective album art

Those of you that follow me on social media may have noticed by now that over the past weeks, I have fallen in love with the music, and the ethic toward music of Jeff Rosenstock. I admit, he was a recent discovery of mine, oddly through the AV Club: Undercover series on YouTube, but through that one video of a sweaty yet incredibly enthusiastic performance I discovered the entire “DIY Music” scene. Oh boy, oh the music I will hear, I cannot wait. After devouring the back catalogue of Bomb the Music Industry! I moved on to Jeff’s solo work, firstly to his newest album, “We Cool?”.

SIDE A:

Get Old Forever

The album sets off with a frantic acoustic verse, accompanied by Rosenstock’s distinctive voice, then joined by an old school drum machine, which almost feels like a callback to earlier BTMI! Albums, but as the music swells the song kicks in with a full and heavy sounding band, a real band, drums, bass, and later, synthesiser. The rest of the song remains just as frantic and loud, ending accompanied by wind instruments and well deserved applause.

The song follows the theme of, well Getting Old Rosenstock laments that he still feels “childish” as he is “drinking at a house show”, while his friends are “buying homes” and having children. This is an ongoing theme throughout the album, which I think is interesting as most punk albums are about the young.

You, In Weird Cities

The second song begins suddenly and loudly in a classic punk-rock way, Rosenstock’s lyrics are separated by the guitar hits in much the same way he feels separated from his friends. The song is driven by a droning, distorted bass guitar, giving it a very simple, yet powerful feel. The song really kicks in during the main chorus, and it seems like the music will never slow or wait for you as Rosenstock spits lines apparently without taking breath; but suddenly it does. This song’s “middle eight” is calm a drum lead crowd sing-a-long, which quickly kicks into a face melting solo to scream over.

This song seems, once again to be about how Jeff feels about being an adult. All his friends have moved away to be “good Americans”, but he still longs for the crazy times when he got “Lost in Weird Cities”. He remarks that listening to his friends songs makes him feel like they’re there, which is a cute sentiment. However, it leads to pity, as they are not there, leaving Jeff “getting high when no-one is around”.

Novelty Sweater

They say every album has a dud, and for me, Novelty Sweater is exactly that. There is nothing wrong with it, per-se, but I would happily have cut this song from the record. It is very easy to compare this song to those of Weezer, hell, they even have a song about sweaters! The bass lead and heavy fuzz in the chorus evokes much of the same feelings Buddy Holly or the more recent Memories, which isn’t really a bad thing. These are all great songs by a great band, but because it just feels like a Weezer song, it doesn’t feel like a Jeff Rosenstock song, and thus feels slightly out of place on this album.

Nausea

And now for something completely different: Fuck I love this song. For me, Nausea is the perfect song, a good balance of piano, band and wind instruments, fantastic lyrics and one hell of a sing-a-long. It starts off with Rosenstock on the piano, who is then joined by drums, then bass and a choir of voices chanting the chorus. This builds to a fantastic wind section solo, immediately followed by a heartfelt final solo chorus. What this song nails is contrast, changing dynamics throughout to be a fun singing and dancing number to an almost tragic ending with just Rosenstock and his piano. Who cares if Rosenstock can’t reach some of the notes? It’s part of this song, and in fact, his own charm.

The cheerful beginning could be seen as reflecting the lyrics, feeling “amazing” while taking drugs alone, but devolves into a bitter end. This is what he is talking about in You, In Weird Cities hiding from his adult responsibilities, being “tired of discussing” his future and “getting high, when no-one is around.” This can also be seen in the song’s strange, but fun music video, in which he ends up lying on stage as the crowd literally rip his insides out (although, these insides are tacos).

Beers Again Alone

The silence after Nausea is filled by Rosenstock’s “acoustic” anthem for the lonely, beginning with Acoustic guitar and harmonica, it almost feels like a slow, Bob Dylan song… That is, until the rest of the band kicks in, pounding their instruments and belting the tune. The verses quiet down to a slow paced acoustic ballad, but every chorus the band kicks in, to a loud and proud guitar solo before one last screaming of the chorus.

Once again here, Rosenstock has written a perfect sing along, loud chorus, quiet verse, it’s the DIY punk scene’s Don’t Look Back In Anger. He writes about his solitary life, mostly drinking alone, but sometimes waiting “a few hours for someone I love to come home”, but yet still mostly “drinking beers again alone”. I know that feeling, Jeff.

I’m Serious, I’m Sorry

This last track from Side A is probably my favourite of the album, maybe my favourite song Jeff Rosenstock has written, including his BTMI! Stuff. It begins, again with just Jeff with his guitar (electric this time), it’s all pretty tame until the chorus; this is where all hell breaks loose. A very distorted band kicks in, with driving drums, Rosenstock, no longer quietly crooning, he’s yelling, he’s frustrated and angry and then the quiet returns for the next verse. Top that off with a shout-tastic middle eight and screaming guitar solo, this song is perfectly crafted.

However, the music is only one half of this song’s brilliance. The lyrics tell a story of regret, of Rosenstock regretting not offering his help to someone who is crying at a party, just because Jeff “ingested too much poison”. The crying girl at the party is mourning for probably a boyfriend who is either dead, or almost there, and it’s tragic. The anger and sadness of the chorus and verses fit perfectly with the themes of loss and regret, and makes this an excellent track.

Keep your eyes peeled for my review of Side B, coming soon to a blog near you!

~Josh x

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Paper Towns Month #1

Excellent Foppery

paper

In this change of format, Josh and Bronwyn take a look at John Green’s “Paper Towns”, which has a film adaptation soon to come out in cinemas.

The opening and closing music is “Cockpit” by Silent Partner, used with permission from the YouTube audio Library. I also use a clip from the Hank Green song “the List”, which I don’t have permission to use. As well as that, this podcast features clips from films, which I really don’t wanna be sued over.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/excellent-foppery/id965585854?mt=2

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Music Update

Today I’ve had a very productive day in that I have written two, yes two new songs today. I’m very proud of myself because I think one of them is one of the best and most honest songs I’ve ever written. You can listen to a demo of it here, on soundcloud.

The problem is this, the other song I’ve written I’m very unsure about. It’s a different kind of song to the other two I’ve written so far, in an attempt to do something a little more punk (yet I’d argue that 4am is the most punk song I have). It resulted in this song about University worries called “Drinking Alone”. Here’s the first demo I made.

The song uses a riff I’ve been throwing around for ages and haven’t found a song for, until now. But the thing is, I don’t know if I like it. I thought maybe that’s because the demo I did was very, very rough. So I tried making a different version, still rough, but a little less chaotic. I came up with this:

And I still have no idea if I like it. I might have a go at making the song acoustic, and if that works I’ll probably keep it, if not it may be the album’s first casualty.

Please feel free to criticise and tell me what you think about the songs, because I really need some help here.

Thanks

Josh x

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Summer Plans

So school is over. Forever. For me anyway, I have no exams left and now, I don’t have anything “on my plate” until around mid September, which leaves me thinking “what do I want to do this summer?”

Maybe I’ll write on this blog more often? I’ve said that several times, I know, but you might be surprised this time.

Things that are definitely happening

  • The collab channel that I was part of back in 2012/13, the Vlogger Alliance is making a triumphant return to the internet on July 6th! The original members, Elena, Jules, Alexis, Molly and I will be making videos every week and trying to keep the channel going a little better than last time. Molly even made an epic teaser trailer for it, check it out here:

  • I will also be attending a performance of American Idiot making its West End debut this summer. I saw this show when it toured the UK a few years ago, and I can’t wait to see it again, bigger, better and louder than before. If you haven’t seen the show (like my friend Bronwyn, who I’m taking with me) you should so check it out.

Things that I want to do, but might not because I’m a bum

  • ALBUM! This summer I am going to be writing and recording as much music as possible and then hopefully putting them into a full length album or EP under the band name “Overnight Arcade”. I have begun writing, and I hope to take a more serious approach to songwriting and such. I want this album to sound half way between They Might be Giants and Bomb the Music Industry! I also hopefully want to record it with an actual band, with real drums and shit, but if that doesn’t fall through, I am going to drum machine the fuck out of my songs. I have one song demo up right now on soundcloud, you can check it out here!
  • I also plan to completely reboot my book podcast, Excellent Foppery. Instead of a book club format, I want to change it to a more in depth thing, similar to the format of one of my favourite podcasts, The Chapter Titles were so Good. If I get around to it, I will hopefully have regular guests reading one chapter of a book every week and then talking and riffing in general about that one chapter only every week.

So that’s my plans for this summer before I go to Uni in September, though it is important to note that much of this stuff can continue throughout Uni, so just because I don’t do it, doesn’t mean I won’t.

~Josh x

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All Good Things Must Come to an End

Wikimedia

An empty classroom. (Not one of mine… obviously) As the summer approaches, these are becoming more and more common across the world. (at least the Northern Hemisphere) Only this year is the first time that I will not return to school in September to fill that classroom.

I’m eighteen years old and in my second year of sixth form, which means that I and most of my peers will be leaving school in just under two weeks. That’s it! No more school! I am never coming back for classes again! And it’s weird…. not just weird; terrifying. Since the age of three I have been used to going to the same place every week day, seeing the same people, knowing where I should be at all times and just generally having a direction in my life. I had school, which is where I did work and where I had friends. Now it’s going away.

In essence, from now on I’m on my own. Not literally, not yet anyway. It’s still a few months until I start University, but the clock is ticking. In three months I will be travelling to the other side of the country (Britain, not just Wales) to go live with five total strangers that I won’t know until the day I move in. I will be responsible for my own rent, my own food and my own washing.

I know what you’re thinking: wow, spoilt brat doesn’t do anything is now expected to do something, boohoo! But even those who do things at home, which I do, by the way, never have to do it all. I have never shopped for my own food. I have never been into a supermarket on my own, (not for a weekly shop anyway). It’s not long until I will have to buy all my own food and drink, cook it myself, clean up the inevitable mess I make in that effort, look down at the stains I have left of my clothes from messy eating, putting coins in a washing machine and using it to wash my own clothes, then more money in a dryer and jeez I am not ready to adult.Hands up who’s ever bought fabric conditioner for themselves? I thought not.

This might sound pretty whiny, but my safety net of school is gone, and I don’t quite feel ready to walk that tightrope alone yet. But I guess I’ll have to.

Josh x

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Josh’s Top Five Albums

The following albums are in no particular order, so yeah….

The Near Future” by I Fight Dragons

The cover, it’s so pretty

A kickstarted album, The Near Future or Project Atma as it was known in pre-production is I Fight Dragons’ second full length album after their début “KABOOM!” in 2011. Released in December of 2014 on limited edition vinyl and digital formats, The Near Future is split into two sides:

  • Side A is a 20 minute long, epic, Rush-style rock opera following the story of a young man who encounters a strange alien girl and is roped into an adventure to save her grandfather.
  • Side B is a further five songs in the same chiptune and pop-rock style we’ve come to expect from I Fight Dragons.

This is a great example of how an album should be. This is not just “some songs that the band wrote”, this is a carefully planned, well executed, well made and well good album. This record takes their signature Nintendo-inspired sound and polishes away the rough edges and in their place puts infectious guitar solos from guitarist Packy Lundholm. (I maintain that his screaming guitar sound in “No Strings” is possibly one of the most face-melting solos of all-time.) in addition to Chad Van Dahm’s driving rhythm on the drums (see “The Near Future III. Battle”), Hari Rao’s grooving bass-lines (see “Pretend”) and Brian Mazzaferri’s outstanding vocals and lyrics make this one of the greatest rock albums of this century.

If you want to fall in love with an album this year, The Near Future is the album for you.

American Idiot” by Green Day

The album that brought us the now iconic heart-grenade

After a successful career in the 1990’s built up to a lackluster 2000 release in Warning, a “Best-of” album in International Superhits and a subsequent rarities collection, Shenanigans; everyone thought that they had heard the last of Green Day. That was until they released their 7th studio album, American Idiot.

This is an album that anyone who listens to rock music is aware of, an album that captured a generation of misfits and disillusioned teens in a post-9/11 world, just in the same way that Dookie captured the hearts of the deadbeat schoolboys back in 1994. But this was not the Green Day that wrote songs about masturbation and girls, this is the new, political and angry Billie Joe, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool.

It was their greatest commercial success to date, and brought the band back into the public eye, and cemented them as one of the most culturally relevant bands of the early 2000’s. Which isn’t surprising considering the extremely high caliber song-writing and performance on American Idiot. This is album that spawned “Holiday”, “Letterbomb”, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and of course the now-iconic, “American Idiot”. No other record has captivated and inspired so many in the same way that American Idiot, a high-concept ROCK OPERA, has done. Well done Green Day, you changed my 10-year-old life, and you continue to inspire me to this day.

The Resistance” by Muse

Okay. this album art is pretty damn pretty too

What bands do you think of when you think of the best of British music? The Beatles? The Stones? Queen? The Sex Pistols? All of which are valid and good answers, but might I give you this album to muse on? The Resistance is a perfect example of a well executed, high-brow, progressive-rock brilliance. Matthew Bellamy’s razor-sharp guitar and flawless falsetto, combined with the rhythm delights of Christopher Wolstenholme (bass) and Dominic Howard (drums) and in addition to that a full symphonic orchestra, you arrive at a Muse album where some tracks wouldn’t feel out of place in a very respectable opera, while others rock harder than Andrew WK at Spring Break. Think Queen, but Brian May’s guitar is chrome and running through approximately 400 foot-pedals. Beginning with the brilliant anti-establishment anthem “Uprising” and ending with a symphony in three parts, there is something for everyone on The Resistance, but especially something for people who like music. Change your evening, lie down and listen to this album, you’ll emerge chanting on the streets chanting against our new Orwellian government: THEY WILL NOT CONTROL US!

Permission to Land” by The Darkness

Cheeky

Aren’t the Darkness a joke band?” I hear you ask. And I’m not surprised, they are in many ways one of the more flamboyant bands to come out of Britain in the 2000s, I mean just look at Justin Hawkins, however one mustn’t let their out-there, glam rock image put you off, the Darkness are one of the most underrated bands, in terms of music, ever in rock. This is the album that made the world want to grow out their hair and run onto stage, Les Paul in hand, and play solo after solo through a wall of Marshall amps once again.

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Justin Hawkins

The obvious comparison to great riff and solo-lead classic rock bands such as AC/DC or Thin Lizzy goes without saying, this is a revival I can get behind. Permission to Land however, is far from a “tribute to classic rock” album, it is a powerhouse of great songs, heavy riffs and face-melting solos. In fact, this album has in itself created the odd classic of its own, this album’s breakout single, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” is arguably just as recognisable to the general public as “Back in Black” or “Crazy Crazy Nights”, if not more recognisable.

Much of this instantly recognisable comes from lead singer Justin Hawkins’s insane head voice and his brother, and lead guitarist’s infectious solos that have you dancing around your room, air-guitar in hand, for hours upon end.

Permission to Land may be the most fun album I own, but also one of the most brilliant. If you haven’t heard this album, I highly suggest you correct that.

Artificial Heart” by Jonathan Coulton

So yellow

This is the part of the list where I have to admit I’m a huge nerd, and part of being a nerd is of course loving the music of Jonathan Coulton. As much as I adore his previous work on “Thing a Week” etc. Artificial Heart is Coulton’s first proper studio album, and my god does it show! The production value on this album is perhaps ten times that of his other works and the music is fantastic. Every song is masterfully put together, sang and performed. Though taking a slightly more serious tone than his other work, each song still retains that classic Coulton flare.

He uses emotions like he never has before, songs like “Nemeses (with John Roderick)” and “Today with your Wife” are both genuinely touching, and his new versions of his Portal songs are excellent: A brilliantly arranged version of “Want You Gone” add depth and more instrumentation but remains very faithful to the original. And a wonderfully sung version of “Still Alive”, again with a new arrangement and brilliant instrumentation. In addition to this, his song “Je Suis Rick Springfield” is excellently whimsical, and pointlessly French and is very hard not to love. Artificial Heart is Coulton’s most mature, and technically great album yet. His playing, as well as his vocals are outstanding throughout. He shows particular skill in the ukulele in songs like “Down Today” and “The World Belongs to You” and shows his vocal talents in “Nobody Loves You Like Me”.

I’ll be honest, if you want to find out what Jonathan Coulton is all about, don’t listen to Artificial Heart, listen to his earlier work and then move on to it. This 1) allows you to listen to the brilliance that is “Thing a Week” but also then 2) see the great progression from that to this album.

Those were my five favourite albums: what are yours? Tell me in the comments, on twitter @24hoursayear or email me “contact.24hoursayear@gmail.com”

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Steven Spielberg To Direct Sci-Fi Cult Favorite ‘Ready Player One’; Back At Warner Bros

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

Deadline

ready-player-one-featuredEXCLUSIVE: Steven Spielberg is set to direct Ready Player One, the highly anticipated project based on the popular sci-fi book by Ernest Cline that takes place in a virtual world. What a coup for Warner Bros, which will bring it to the screen along with Village Roadshow. This is expected to be Spielberg’s next movie after The BFG.

Ready Player One also marks the director’s return to Warner Bros after a 14-year absence. The last picture he directed there was A.I. Artificial Intelligence in 2001, which the grandmaster Stanley Kubrick had developed there. Before that, it was Empire Of The Sun (1987) and the critically acclaimed The Color Purple (1985). He also produced Gremlins and Goonies in the mid-1980s for the studio. “We are thrilled to welcome Steven back to Warner Bros,” said Greg Silverman, the studio’s President of Creative Development and Worldwide Production. “We had an historic series of…

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