Thursday, December 23, 2010

Songs of The Moment 12/23/10 - Christmas, Anyone?

I know it's almost too late to be sharing Christmas tunes, but who cares? I've stumbled upon some super excellent ones this year, most of which actually came out this year (all original!), and I just can't let you miss them! I'll get right to it!!!

1. Snow by Sleeping At Last
Sleeping At Last is quickly becoming my favorite band. I've never been more passionate about something involving music than I am about the project Sleeping At Last is pursuing. They are releasing a series of EPs called "Yearbook". 3 songs every month for a year. So far they've released October, November, and December (December's cover is the image on the top right). Each EP fits with its month and all nine songs so far have been drop-dead gorgeous. You'll see what I mean with Snow, which is hands down THE BEST Christmas song I've ever found, original or classic. The lyrics honestly blow my mind and uber fitting for the holidays. The vocals and instrumentation are spectacular. Don't miss this one! I'll definitely be keeping you updated on January-September.
PS - Sleeping At Last is doing a ton of other cool things with this project. They're letting people submit all sorts of drawing and samples of their handwriting to be used in the artwork for the EPs. Another thing they did was ask for Christmas/winter-related video footage and then they put together this community-generated music video for Snow. I think it's beautiful. Enjoy.

2. Dream of Christmas by This Century
This Century! One of the fantastic bands I not only discovered this year, but saw live! It's awesome they've got these fabulous songs, but it's too bad the concert wasn't late enough in the year for them to play these two cause that would have been fabulous! This use to be my favorite Christmas song until Snow snuck in only about a week ago. It works super sweet as a Christmas love song, the very best type of Christmas song if I do say so myself. Check it out!

3. Kiss Me Like It's Christmas by This Century
Another one from This Century. I honestly thought this one was pretty lame when I first heard it, but then the catchiness of it hit me. I love it! You'll never have more fun tapping your foot to a Christmas tune!

4. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by Death Cab for Cutie
This song's a couple of years old, but I just found it this year and Death Cab's amazing so I've just gotta stick it in here. There's lots of fantastic piano/drums dueting going on here; unique, to say the least.

5. Joy To The World by Seabird
Seabird released a couple of its own renditions of classic Christmas tunes last year. This year they added five more and released it in their stunning Christmas EP, the best I've ever heard. Unfortunately, I can't find free, full versions of any of their tunes for you to listen to except one: Joy To The World. It's not my favorite on the EP, but it's dang awesome. Seabird doesn't just make the tunes their own, they transform them entirely. You'll see what I mean. Most of the people I've shown these songs to don't like how much they change songs, but I think it's refreshing. Tell me what you think and check out the whole EP if you like what you hear!

6. When I Get Home For Christmas by Snow Patrol
I honestly didn't foresee a Christmas song coming out of Snow Patrol, but it turns out they had one all along and can pull it off quite nicely. This is another older one (ten years old, it turns out), but I also just barely discovered it and I have no reason to keep it a secret. Nothing extremely wonderful here, but this is a great song.

7. So Much More by Poema
Poema surprised me with a 2010 Christmas EP of their own, which is actually pretty cool because Poema now has a total of 11 songs on iTunes and about half are for Christmas, haha! This one here has a very nice feel to it, not so much Christmasy, but definitely fitting. The lyrics are really cool as well. A real pleasure to listen to.

8. Santa Will Find You by Poema w/ Aaron Marsh

Poema's EP is so good that I have to share one more from it. A couple of the songs on the EP are remakes of the classic Christmas hits, but I'm personally more a fan of the original stuff like this one. This one's just as charming as any Christmas tune out there and Aaron's added vocals wondefully complement everything else that's going on. Fantastic lyrics boost this song even further. I was skeptical when listening to the samples of this EP for the first time, but Poema has really won me over with these awesome songs.

9. Christmas Lights by Coldplay
A couple of well-known artists pleased their fans with brand new Christmas tunes this year. The first was Coldplay. If anyone had the potential to pull off an amazing original Christmas song, it was these guys and they did not disappoint. Most of these songs have just been nice to listen to, but this tune, along with Snow and the two This Century tunes, have really made this Christmas something extra special for me. What can I say? Brilliant vocals and piano here, did you expect less from Coldplay? Just go and listen to it already!

10. Boots by The Killers
The second band to release a new original was The Killers. The mood of it goes right along with what they tried on their last album, and initially reminded me a lot of Human and some of their other previous songs. The Killers, whom I also didn't expect to release a Christmas song, have shocked me with this one. It seems every Christmas original has something special about it. I just wish they'd play this sort of Christmas on the radio instead of the same old songs over and over and over and over. I think you guys will really like the new, Christmas side of The Killers.

11. Wish List by Neon Trees

The Neon Trees are another fairly big band who decided to show off how amazingly they can pull off the Christmas vibe this year. This is one of those songs that screams "Christmas!" with it's first few seconds. It's so groovy! I'm truly sorry if you missed its week as the free single on iTunes. I'm super glad I picked it up. The lyrics have got everything Christmas covered...good stuff.

12. Winter White by A Fine Frenzy
This song was the free single of the week just before last Christmas, but back then I hated it. It has grown on me this year, enough to have a part in my daily Christmas listening. It's not your typical A Fine Frenzy stuff, but it's got a great upbeat feel to it. See what you think.

There it is, Christmas 2010 in a musical nutshell! I hope you guys like these tunes and keep them in your Christmas thoughts! A more-than-ginormous thanks to Sleeping At Last, This Century, and Coldplay for making this Christmas season the best I've ever had!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Insight - Art

So I've decided I'm going to take my blog in a a slightly new direction. I decided it needs more than just poetry and music and I've been encouraged lately to share some of the thoughts that go on in my mind. I'm going to start up a new regular spiel called "Insight". I figured it might a little something to make my page here more interesting, varied, and personalized. I'd appreciate it if you guys would comment below or even talk to me face to face if you want to talk about any of this stuff. For my first shot at this, I'm going to share my final Theory of Knowledge paper. Now I know this paper is a beast; read the first and last paragraphs if anything. We were given ten topics to choose from. Here was the prompt I chose:

"Art is a lie that brings us nearer to the truth" -Pablo Picasso. Evaluate this claim in relation to a specific art form.

Art is an unbridled force, backed by endless creativity and unmatched passion, that is continually growing more powerful in terms of the amount of people it reaches, the amount of people endeavoring to further it, and the more-than-ever variations of it that people are now pursuing. The incredibly, sometimes incomprehensibly, compelling nature of art has an undeniable presence in the world today, but the basis of its existence as a prevalent part of nearly every individual’s life is more difficult to understand. An actor shrouds himself with a false identity. An artist portrays impossible scenes. A musician manipulates unnatural sounds. A writer creates outlandish worlds and scenarios. All of these examples serve to persuade the mind that art, even with any efforts artists might make to follow reality, is ultimately fake and, as some would suppose, useless. The fact that the word ‘art’ shares the letters of and the ideas behind the word ‘artificial’, which means ‘lacking naturalness’ and is synonymous with terms such as counterfeit, false, and unreal, seems the simplest and most inarguable evidence available to support the first half of Picasso’s statement that art is a lie. This point seems to have the majority of individuals in concurrence. Art, in essence, is all that is not real or, if one would venture to say so, not true.

Picasso’s second opinion, that art brings us nearer to the truth, is generally a more difficult concept to understand and feel comfortable about. Many philosophical thinkers argue that with the introduction of a greater amount of artwork, along with a growing variety of forms, comes a more cluttered, doubt-filled reality. These are the people that advocate the ideas that counter Picasso’s aforementioned viewpoint. These people that say art is pulling humanity further from the truth. These people say that the imagination behind the art is distracting us from the important things in life. These people say that the pursuit of art is entirely vain. Through much experience with viewing, analyzing, and creating art, I, along with much of the people close to me as well as those from across the globe, firmly stand against these people. The extreme passion, deep thought, and insatiable wonder that art is often capable of inciting both within the creator and the witness are indescribable. Though art is often heavily reliant upon language and emotion as conduits of the expression of ideas, or knowledge, it seems to go above and beyond these methods when finding its way to the observer. Art, in a mysterious way that perhaps nothing but a human could ever understand, is a convincing force that can be impossible to discount. What it is that art attempts to convince the viewer of, however, is open for interpretation. Someone in an art museum might recognize the immense beauty of a rose for the first time when looking at a painted, perhaps unrealistic, depiction of the flower. The flower has, of course, always existed, but we can assume that without the artist’s emphasis and glorification of the simple rose, which is, in essence, a lie, changed the way this individual views flowers. The antagonists would argue that the artist’s unreal rendition of the flower has tricked the person into believing something that isn’t true. This perspective usually stems from pessimists or from those who are overly reliant on logic, or, in other words, poor knowers. Therefore, it is both safer and more reasonable to conclude that the artist’s painting of the rose has brought its beholder “nearer to the truth”, not further from it. Upon analyzing this scenario and many other similar cases, it becomes clear that art, which is a lie because of the way in which it veers away from or alters reality, does, in fact, bring one nearer to the truth.

Drawing from my experiences as an avid music maker and an aspiring novelist, I’ve seen the influence that art can have both upon my fellow artists and upon my onlookers. Most artists consider themselves more knowledgeable individuals than they were before they embraced and succeeded to practice and excel in the field of art. There is, of course, much logic behind music. There is a mathematical system to the arrangement of musical notes. There is a science to how well certain colors appear when placed together. There is a structure of vocabulary and grammar in place for writers to follow. This definitive, undeniably truthful information is beneficial as part of one’s mental arsenal and can be reasonably considered at equal with any mathematical equation, scientific theory, or historical account, but it is rarely the most prevalent part of art from the perspective of the artist. Art, by its own nature, permits the creator to break these logical rules. Logic doesn’t always have a place in artwork, and even when it does, it is rarely the root of an artist’s inspiration. It is not why artists consider themselves more learned or more sophisticated after experimenting with art. It is not necessarily what “brings [them] nearer to the truth”.

Creativity and passion are the primary driving forces behind this supposed acquisition of knowledge. The vast majority of artists would insist that imagination, fascination, and emotion are the powers that cause them to do what they do, that make them what they are, that have them constantly clinging to the false, which most of them would actually consider the truth. Rarely does one write a song mainly to learn the patterns that guide musical composition. People write songs to incite feelings within themselves or the listeners, to learn about their capabilities, or sometimes just to discover something new or lay claim to something that has never been done before. Visual artists, computer animators, sculptors, actors, dancers, film creators, clothes designers, and beauticians all tend to follow these approaches. Imagination, it seems, will forever be endless. Scientists tend to believe that there is a definite number of laws that dictate every aspect of the universe and they are devoted to discovering each and every one of these rules until all truth has been documented. It is easy to understand that artists, though their intangible, but comparable universe of images, ideas, and feelings is seen by most as infinite, are similarly searching their world for truths. The spherical nature of the Earth wasn’t considered truth until it was proven. Likewise, “The Messiah” wasn’t a part of reality until Handel created, or perhaps ‘found’ or ‘discovered’ it. The difference between the sphere and the choral/orchestral masterpiece is that the Earth has always been a sphere and the “The Messiah” hasn’t always been a musical piece – or perhaps it has. Perhaps all pieces of art have always existed. Perhaps those not yet created are just waiting to be discovered. Perhaps there is only a slight difference between scientific truths and artistic “truths”. This case would imply that art and science are more closely related than believed by most individuals, who tend to place science and art on opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum, and is, therefore, contrary to reality and tradition. Still, neither argument can be thoroughly proven.

To further prospect the relation between art and truth, I’ll turn to my personal experiences. I have established myself as a skilled player, experienced creator, and devout listener of music. The viola and the bass guitar, two extremely different instruments from two time periods separated by centuries of musical development, are my two specialties. Their existence relative to one another, with the viola representing classical music and the bass guitar symbolizing the more modern rock and roll, illustrates an interesting truth behind music and art in general. Classical music became popular around five centuries ago. At the time, is was a new endeavor, exalted as divine by some and heavily criticized as blasphemous by others. It created sounds and rhythms that could never exist naturally and was, in a way, bending reality. In the world today, classical music is simply there. It plays a large part in society. It is in our concert halls, in our theatres, in our homes. Though it is a lie, it has established a new truth. Only about fifty years ago, a new type of music emerged: rock and roll. This form of music took art’s nature as a lie to the next level. It not only created sounds more unnatural than any heard before, it blasted them to volumes previously unimaginable. This ‘lie’ gave people a further understanding of the impressive variety of sounds our ears and minds could register, many of which must have seemed impossible. Even more recently, electronic sounds have gained a foothold in the world of music. It makes art seem like even more of a lie by creating sounds not only unnatural, but unplayable by any physical object. Still, all three of these types of music, which almost seem unrelated, coexist. Together, they constitute the lie that is music. At the same time, they allow listeners, performers, and composers to better comprehend the possibility of sound, the truth of sound.

The more information scientists discover, the closer they are to knowing the truths behind the existence of the universe. An artist likewise explores and discovers within the world of creativity and passion in order to more fully understand the scope and power of what is possible. Because this information doesn’t seem to exist prior to ‘discovery’, it can be considered a lie. It does, however, serve as a vessel to the destination that is truth simply by existing, by grasping an undeniable presence. After analyzing the purpose and achievements of art, Picasso’s viewpoint becomes clearly well justified.