Tag Archives: Music


2 Feb

Time to tackle the last 14 songs in Spintunes 4, Round 1. So far only Hazen Nester & Gold Lion have dazzled me, but there are some heavy hitters in the back of the pack. I’m hoping for a fun afternoon of listening.

KSR-1  (Kevin Savino Riker) is up first. I would love to hear him do some Coheed & Cambria. He’s got a voice for it. Good vocals but the song drags on. There’s not enough of variety in it. Some bigger highs and low or emotional punch would do this some good. Robert Borden started me off on the wrong foot by 1- mentioning Carrot Top and 2- confusing me because he was a girl, especially with such well done high notes. It’s kind of like the first time I listened to Brian Molko. Goodness, there are some odd references in here. Furby. Really? I haven’t thought about that in eons. I kinda dig this song but where’s the nightmare in this? Liner notes say that this is about the “tickle monster”. Well then. Menage a Tune is third at bat. Much better than her past tunes. She hasn’t found her place vocally. It sounds like she would love to go full on Nightwish-style opera over the rock, big sweeping vocals but it never pushs that envelope and the music is thin, it’s just the canvas. It didn’t come together but it could someday. Marlon Barnes does the g^2 thing (guy & guitar) which is fine with me. It’s my thing. The idea of losing teeth is a scary concept so I get the child’s nightmare aspect. It’s not a bad song. There’s some charm here. If he’s not a New Yorker and a part of the anti-folk scene, he needs to be. He gets extra points because I found myself singing the song as I walked through the office.

Caleb Hines is #25 of 34. Caleb needs to work on his vocals. He gets points for using the word Escheresque. That would be a great band name. I’m putting that on the list. The lyrics are okay. Music isn’t thrilling. “Eh” just about covers the song as a whole. Chris Cogott comes in at #26. Backup vocals/ double tracking is such a nice touch. Very 60’s-70’s feel and it’s got a wonder of a guitar solo. The song is lyrically very simple but effective. I’m not going to give it a spotlight here on the blog but I’ll say it’s one of the better songs in the round. Chris Tallman brings a song called “Fear The Reaper” with no cowbell in sight. WTF?! G^2 stuff. The lyrics have a nice ominous tone to them in their brief exploration of life and death. Not a standout song but not the worse in the bunch. Steve Durand wins for best imagery. The visual of Jesus looking down at the poor naked kid in class is a good one. It’s a cute song. It’s got little kid nightmare all over it plus it’s got a little underlying thread that catholic guilt can mess you up sometimes. Good job. Luke Brekke, Esq. has a song that’s very low in the mix and clips in the choruses. This song is more tragedy and regret than nightmare. I’m not a fan of the choruses at all. I like the storytelling even if it missed the nightmare challenge. Wait What? hit the mark on the kiddie nightmare challenge. Toilet demons is a goofy nightmare choice but that’s how kids are sometimes. I used to worry that creatures could crawl up the drain in the sink when I was little (never feared the pot though). Some good musicianship especially on the bridge. The hook is weak. I’m 50/50 on this one.

We are in the final stretch! It’s Boffo Yux Dudes time. Party. Party. Party. etc. The concept that monsters are partying in the kids room is good. It reminds me of the old Sesame Street cartoon with the dancing “alligator”.


Can’t say that I dig this BYD song. So much more could be done with the chorus other than just repeating “party”. Jon Eric is at #32. This is a good song with a nice chorus. Would’ve liked the last verse to be something more. It’s 3 very similar verses, except that he caterwauls a bit in the last verse. I would’ve liked that last verse to build up the story’s intensity. Instead it only builds at the end and quite suddenly. If this song had more of building tension to it, it would rock. Instead it’s okay. David Ritter is in the penultimate slot. Am I seeing that right? 7+ minutes? Oh, okay. Glitch. It’s only about 2:40. I was wondering he was going to stretch a song about the Easter Bunny for all that time. Good choice of childhood nightmare. There is always something ominous about the childhood legends that somehow sneak into your house: Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny. Did my parents not have a security system?! Decent little tune. Lastly, Ross Durand with guitars that make me wanna sing “I’m a cowboy, on a steel horse I ride!”. I don’t get the story. I’m trying to get it straight. There’s a kid who dreams of being chased but then something flies over them and escapes while the kid gets mauled, so the kid is always left to wonder why the something or another was able to fly away. Tough story to get over especially when its kept a bit intentionally vague. If it was that the kid and his sibling were running in the dream and the sibling could always get away while the kid got eaten (or a similar tale that’s a bit more concrete in the details) then I think it would work better.

No spotlights in the last 14. My favorite of this round was Gold Lion, followed closely by Hazen Nester & Chris Cogott.

So, what song do I pick for 1129. Well, since this is a Spintunes round all about nightmares:

Song 1129: “All Nightmare Long” by Metallica

Gotta love this video.



1 Feb

Before I go diving back into the world of Spintunes, I want to talk about something very exciting. It’s February which means it’s time for the February Album Writing Month. Every year, I team up with the members of the Berkeley Social Scene (as Zinkline) to make a new album. This year is no different and I have already begun work on a very cool concept.

“But Niv, what about last year’s FAWM?”

I’m glad you asked. Yesterday was the official release of “Suntory Time” by Zinkline. I’m very proud of this album. It’s based on the works of Bill Murray and has a bunch of great songs on it. Please check it out at http://berkeleysocialscene.bandcamp.com . Here’s a taste:

Song 1126: “This Dirty Cage” by Zinkline

Now onto the Spintunes. Brian Gray is up first. He went in a different direction with the idea of the childhood nightmare. he went with a nightmare of being grown up and working at an office. That misses the mark for me. I appreciate a song with a guitar solo and it’s a pretty decent composition but I feel like he took a wrong turn on the nightmare challenge. Edric Haleen went with a lullaby and then askewed it. It’s supposed to be eerie and nightmarish but it never got there. Moody and a little weird but it never got truly chilling. I can see that he was focused on the rubato and trying to use that to create the scary atmosphere. Good experiment but experiments sometimes fail. Rosalind channels Spintunes veteran (and my bandmate in Mr. Nakazawa’s Book of Surprises) DJ Ranger Den with a girl and piano tune but it doesn’t make for much of a nightmare. I guess the song is about mosquitos (I’m not reading liner notes today)  which are more annoying than scary. Gold Lion started with some nifty (yes I say nifty) guitar sounds and she has quite a voice. The double tracking on the chorus is a good touch. The lyrics are thin but it all works. I dug that one. Gonna shine a spotlight on that one.

Song 1127: “Lady in Blue” by Gold Lion

Fate puts another female singer in line. Jess Scherer‘s voice reminds me a little of Erin of Zinkline which is a good thing (Erin’s got a little more old soul in her voice). Hey, you remember that old song “Don’t Close Your Eyes” by Kix? You can totally sing it over the piano here. Try it. “Pray the lord your soul to take”? Take, not keep. Interesting. The song’s okay but I’m not racing to download it or anything. Jim Holmquist  has a sing-song little tune about the old man next door and the dreams he’s had since he was little. It’s got such a Hawaiian feel to it. At the end, he tries to rock it out some but the punch is missing in the song. I feel like the playful feel of the song takes the strength away from the nightmare visuals. I understand trying to create this clash but there’s nothing wrong with just going with the darkness. 🙂 Drei Vietrel Drei does the same thing as Jim but does it in a Syd Barrett Pink Floyd way but then breaks into some more sinister styles. The woke with a scream line was weak. No delivery. It’s all together odd. I’d rather enjoyable odd over bland, so you get a thumbs up. Hey, Emperor Gum is back. I appreciate his experimental leanings. He went with a ballad with some very familiar rhythms. I was sleep inducing at the start but turned around towards the end. It got more interesting but it may have been too little too late. The Orion Sound has song #19 and it’s about Nazis. Again, it’s another artist who decides to take the nightmare and go with it more playfully. And then it gets self referential with the rubato remark at the end. It’s catchy but emotionally threadbare which is amazing to me when you’re singing about a nazi nightmare. Last song for today, Trader Jack. He’s like 90’s 4 Track Tapes PJ Harvey as a guy. I dig guy and guitar songs and this has potential. I think i’ll give this song a few more spins.

Still a bunch more to go including some powerhouses like Jon Eric, Steve Durand, Chris Cogott and KSR-1 (That’s Kevin Savino Riker, I’m gonna try to get that to catch on). Until then, I leave off with Kix!


31 Jan

Each year is met with various musical challenges. For instance, tomorrow is February and thus starts FAWM: February Album Writing Month. Each year, I team up with the members of the Berkeley Social Scene to create a new album. I’ll talk more about that in a later post. There’s also the wonderous Songfight which goes on year round (and I’ve got a huge Songfight project on the horizon) and its sibling contest The Nur Ein (which I organize). There’s also a competition called Spintunes. I was a judge during the first Spintunes contest and if you read my previous blog, Audioshards, then you know that my stint as judge was not without its share of controversy. Spintunes revolves around a very strong community of musicians and you gotta love that. Well, Spintunes 4 has just begun and since I’m without my home computer (aka my usual jukebox), this is a perfect time to do some listening and a little reviewing.

Round 1 of Spintunes 4 is a double whammy. Each song has to be about a childhood nightmare and each has to utilize rubato which is kind of hard to explain. Basically it’s freely playing with the tempo. It’s not your run of the mill musical term so I was surprised to see it at the beginning of a competition. No warm up round here. Let’s see what we’ve got. Here are the first ten. (I won’t be criticizing the rubato. I personally struggle with defining rubato so I’m not gonna criticize anyone’s interpretations.)

Governing Dynamics has this dark sound to him that I enjoy. I also like his choice to go for his higher register in the song. The bass ready plods along. It’s not a well done bass line at all but got some charm to it. I guess that goes for the whole song. It feels very long and this comes from someone who listens to 10 minute Nadja songs full of drones. Still, a decent tune out of Travis Norris. Faux put up a song that’s a little all over the place. I know it’s intentional but I found myself struggling to get something to grasp onto in the song. I fear that I won’t remember this song by the time I’m done listening to the round. Looking at the Dex01 lyrics, I was excited to here this one because it’s my kinda nightmare lyric. I was surprised that after about 1:30, it started sounding like Mission of Burma’s “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver” just with very high, kinda nasally vocals. I dig the punk. I think Dex01 with a lower octave on the vocal could get a cool Iggy Pop and the Stooges thing going. Too bad, it doesn’t work as well for a song about a nightmare. Hazen Nester brought the odd but it brought some dark too. The sound effects and the fake newscast were a bit distracting but there is a great disturbing sound to this. There is so much to be said for ambiance and then coupling it with the sweet lullaby sounds. This is a pretty fine piece of work. He gets a spotlight:

Song 1125: “An Indellible Mark” by Hazen Nester

Rebecca Angel  also went for the creepy lullaby. It was a good intentions. The delivery left something to be desired on occasion. Like the piano had these odd staccato bits (at least I’m calling them staccato and not stumbles). There’s some decent imagery and some strong vocals towards the end but it didn’t pull together for me. Still, not the worst thing I ever heard by a longshot. David DeLuc has a very clean sound that reminds me a bit of Jonathan Mann. It’s a fun song but at just over 2 minutes, when I got into the groove of the song, the song was already done. That was a shame because I was enjoying it, despite it being an almost uplifting sopund to a nightmare song. Now, I exactly what to expect out of my x-tokyo bandmate Noah McLaughlin. He has a certain rock style that is driven by his very unique vocals. The lyrics on this song are a mixed bag. Some are great like “You are always someone’s monster”. Some are not as great like “my family tree of twisted branches”. All in all, a decent tune but I didn’t get the emotion of the delivery. Felix Frost brought some crazy experimental stuff like screamed out Nightmare Before Christmas so I guess it worked as a nightmare tune. It was a chiptune 8bit nightmare. But does the music match the lyrical content? I guess it doesn’t have to necessarily but when the music is so wild, the lyrical disconnect becomes distracting. Jacob Haller, now that’s a voice for a nightmare song. It’s built for gritty blues and hell yeah, it’s got an accordian in there too. Wish it was played better but a great idea. Beside the accordian mess, it’s a good song. I wish he’d go that next step. If he would’ve gone Screamin’ Jay Hawkins forceful or Kirk Windstein gruff, I would’ve been hooked. The last of the first ten songs is Common Lisp. Before he got to the poetry part, I was already thinking “this is more like poetry than song”. I think he got really wrapped up in the rubato challenge and its almost to the songs detriment. By the time the last act came around, I was done with it all. Great examples of rubato, but not a great song.

Okay, more tomorrow.



30 Jan

I haven’t posted in about a week. There have been a myriad of reasons. It started off with one of the toughest weeks of work that I have ever dealt with. The stress was astounding. Then I reinjured my knee. I had hurt it last year while doing some painting jobs around the house. I strained the ligament. I don’t know how I reinjured it but in the middle of the week, I was having trouble walking on it. A few days later, I’m feeling better but I was a little worried there. So, I just tweaked it. Then there’s the big issue of my week- my computer stopped working! Looks like either my battery or my AC adaptor has gone bad, which sucks since both of them are fairly new. I hate being without my computer. Sigh. Last week was pretty tough. There were many times I wanted to post but just couldn’t/didn’t.  But now I’m back with tons to talk about like The Oscars, the upcoming FAWM, Metal Evolution and all sorts of other things. Let’s start off with my bad week playlist. With all the stuff going on in my day, I needed something to keep my mood up. I did that with an insane set of songs. Here are 3 of those songs:

Song 1122: “II- Keep My Addresse To Yourself Because We Need Keep Secrets” by Fucking Werewolf Asso

There’s this wacky indie video game called Keyboard Drumset Fucking Werewolf which is essentially a playable music video for this song. The game makes little to no sense. You start off as a pantsless man collecting orbs of some sort which leads you to turn into a purple werewolf that flips you the bird. That werewolf goes on a killing spree for a few seconds before getting hunted in a “kill or be killed” section. Success there will allow the werewolf to collect the bones of his victims and make them into a missile launcher so that the werewolf can take on a giant Unicorn beast. And… scene. Yes, that makes no sense but the song is incredibly catchy and the visuals are so wild that it made for a great way to keep me happy during the bad week. Score one for insanity.


Song 1123: “Polygon Tiger” by Pumpkin Buzzard

One of my favorite bands to ever appear in Songfight is Pumpkin Buzzard. They can claim a spot in many different genres but the blanket of “experimental” would be fair. They do anything and everything they want as musicians. Whether it’s an album in which each song’s speed increases by 10 beats per minute (starting at 70 and ending somewhere in the 200 range) or covering the entire NIN Pretty Hate Machine album, you can find no other band like them. They have a new album called Neuron Beast which I’m slowly checking out, dissecting each tune in my head. It’s pop thrown for a loop. It’s got catchy hooks but the soundscape is so extreme. It can go from gutteral growls to 50’s sweet girl group sounds and back again in seconds. I am constantly amazed by the things that these guys put together.



Song 1124: “No Cure For The Lonely” by Nadja

This song does a lot for me. On one hand there is the original from the band Swans. That song sounds a lot like the stuff that I usually do as a musician. It’s a minimalist acoustic tune that grinds its way through with some gruffness in the lyrics. I love that kind of stuff. The Nadja version is more like the other stuff I’ve been doing musically. It takes a 3 minute Swans song and turns it into a 7 minute monster with droning bass and a sonic atmosphere that just sits on your chest. I love bands that can add that kind of ambience into their songs. It takes a kind of punkish acoustic song and turns it into something harsh, metallic and (in my opinion) beautiful.


Songs like these three helped me get through a tough tough week.


19 Jan

Let’s talk SOPA. I know that most people out there have been inundated with information about SOPA and PIPA over the last few days, especially with the web blackout protest. There has been a lot of talk from scholars, politicos and many other people who are a bit more knowledgable on the topic. But I have read up quite a bit on the bills ever since I first heard about them last year and formulated an opinion. If you are here at 10kdays, you are probably interested in my opinion on things (and wondering how am I gonna pull a song out at the end. Don’t worry, it won’t be “The Day the LOLcats died”).

First up, am I an advocate of piracy? No. But I’ll admit I’m no saint in that regard either. I’ve never set cyber-foot on the Pirate Bay website nor do I use any torrent software. But I also grew up listening to the radio with blank cassette tapes at the ready in my tape deck, waiting for my favorite song to come on so that I can hit the play & record buttons; and some things you just don’t grow out of. Now that you know that factoid, let me move on.

I’m a musician. I spend a lot of time creating things. I run a music contest called the Nur Ein. I participate in the FAWM every year. I did the Nanowrimo in 2009. I’m a proud member of Songfight. I was a judge in the first SpinTunes contest. I also run a yearly event called the Gift of Music. Add all those things together (and I don’t just mean my contributions but the contributions of all the participants) and you have thousands upon thousands of creative works. And SOPA gives companies the abilities to get rid of that. Gift of Music is bands making cover songs as part of a holiday/charity event. That would get blacklisted. Songfight could disappear if a band used a sample that wasn’t cleared or a piece of art didn’t have the right clearance. Same goes for SpinTunes & FAWM. And heaven forbid, a writer not clear a quotation while speeding to write 50,000 words in 30 days time. SOPA snuffs all that creativity. Even  this blog would get sucked up in it’s black hole because of all the musical choices. Forget that I spread knowledge of all these bands and they get heard by new ears which lead to their brands growing. I played a video that wasn’t cleared on youtube. So, 10kdays vanishes from the web as does youtube. A creative void gets created in order to stop pirates. Remember what I said before, I made mixtapes long before the days of the internet. People will still pirate things but they just won’t have as many outlets to create things.

SOPA paints piracy with a very broad brush. I understand the desire to stop websites whose sole goal is to pirate things. Then why not just go after them? You wanna shut down the Pirate Bay. Go after the Pirate Bay. Things like Napster, Kazaa, Limewire… they were very effectively killed off. Piracy is only a part of what this is all about. I watched an interview with one of the heads of NBC Universal about SOPA/PIPA. He said (note, I’m paraphrasing) that the internet is an important part of the world and we can’t have it lawless. And I think that’s the issue in a nutshell. SOPA is all about giving the government more control over the internet, not just shutting down sites like the Pirate Bay. DMCA is already a very effective piece of legislature. I’ve seen sites get blocked on Google with notes that the link is in violation. The government wants a greater hand in the internet (especially after controversial things like wikileaks and the grassroots organization of Occupy) not realizing that it’s at the cost of creation, innovation, what makes the web great. And the worst part of it all is, pirates will still pirate.

Let’s end off this rant with a song. The song I’m choosing is “Smash Your Head” by Girl Talk. SOPA comes and mashup goes even further underground.

Song 1121: “Smash Your Head” by Girl Talk

Update:  No sooner said than done. I wrote this blog early in the afternoon. By the evening, news has spread that they have actually targeted a site and took it down. There’s no more Megaupload & Megavideo. That’s how this should be handled, not with SOPA.


19 Jan

There are so many things that I want to post about. I think this will be the first of several posts for today. There are things in my life that I want to talk about. There are things in the world of music that are worth a mention. So much stuff and so many songs to relate them all to, as 10kdays is the soundtrack of my life.

And what’s going on in my life. I have a cat. This is a pretty big step for me. How is having a cat a big step for someone who has had cats before and has already done big life things like have kids? The thing is I haven’t had a cat in a few years. When my marriage fell apart, I had to make a decision about the pets. We had two cats and I had could’ve laid my claim on one of them. But I felt terrible about the idea of splitting up a pair. So, I let my ex keep both cats. And prior to all that, I had lost my cat Caleb to a brain tumor. So, I was ready to give up on the idea of having pets. And went a few years without one. But life changes and I got a wonderful girlfriend, Jill, and eventually I would meet her family. That would lead me to meeting the family pets. And I slowly began to realize that you can’t really stop being an animal person. Either you like having pets or you don’t. I’m a person who likes pets. I would go to Jill’s parents and take the dogs out to go play ball for an hour. I couldn’t deny that I missed having a pet around. And so did Jill…alot.

So, this Christmas, i did some wheeling and dealing and got our landlord to allow us to get a cat. I surprised Jill with the news on Xmas day. And now a few weeks later, we have a new addition to our household- Edie! Edie is an black and white American shorthair but with a twist. She had ear mites and as a result, her ears collapsed. So, she looks like a Scottish fold in a way. Despite some neglect in her past, she’s a sweetheart of a cat. We’ve had her for mere hours and she’s already begun warming up to us and I think she’ll make a nice addition to the fam.

In honor of Edie’s arrival. I figure a good Edie related song will do nicely. My first thought was the great Cult ballad “Edie (ciao baby)”. But I want something more fun, since this is a moment of celebration. Instead I’m choosing a song from the band Edie Sedgwick. I first heard of them (actually it’s really just one guy, Justin Moyer,  under the persona of a band named after the famous model) a few years back in one of my random record company hunts for free mp3’s. It’s a little punk, a little disco, with a lot of pop culture. It’s like Semi Precious Weapons without the swagger but still just as fun.

Song 1120: “Sigourney Weaver” by Edie Segdwick


17 Jan

Have you ever had a single lyric that you just couldn’t get enough of?

That’s what I’ve been feeling over the last few days. The other day, I started digging around my music collection looking for music that I felt would make good wrestling themes. There are two reasons for this search. One is because I have been playing the game WWE ’12 and the game is endless customizable. I decided to forego all the characters in the game and play with a whole set of my own creation with rings, logos and all sorts of other bits of user created content. And since you can put in your own musical choices, I started searching.

The other part is that a good wrestling theme has something to it that many songs need in general: a sound that catches you immediately. There can’t be a slow build. A wrestling theme is a song that you only get to hear briefly before a match so it should be instantly recognizable, energetic and catchy. Here’s a great example:

 “Cult of Personality” by Living Colour (previously on 10kdays at #748)

Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality” is the theme song of WWE champion CM Punk. It opens with a powerful Vernon Reid guitar riff that goes right into Will Calhoun’s drums followed by Muzz Skillings’ bass. When Corey Glover makes his first appearance, it’s with a howling “Look in my eyes”. Within seconds, you are onboard and ready to go. So, I thought it was fun to go through my music collection looking for songs with that great energetic start.

I found a lot of very good examples in various genres like “I Get Money” by 50 Cent, “Aenema” by Tool (my friend Mike figured that one out), “Dead Girls are Easy” by the 69 Eyes… I could go on and on with this list. As I was searching, I stumbled across the song “100%” by Big Pun. It’s a song that has a great opening. The song samples Lalo Schifrin’s song “Anita”, so you get this latin jazz flute riff while Tony Sunshine sings “Oooo… Puerto Rico” before Pun breaks in just to say “Toma!” (take that!) before the song hits the chorus. Great start to a song. Then I found it. Probably my favorite rap lyric ever. So simple but it’s such a great tough guy line:

The night is young and I’m already fighting, hiding my gun/ Promoter bugging,  screaming “Who the fuck invited Pun!”

Everytime I hear that line, I smile. It’s a great visual in the lyric and ending the verse on that line with a punchy delivery was great. So, all together the song ends up taking you in with a smart start, a great sample as the foundation, a chorus early, strong verses. Such a good song. If I was a Puerto Rican wrestler/ boxer/ Mixed Martial artist, I would have to come out to this. How can you not get the engines revved up by this?

Song 1119: “100%” by Big Pun