Wednesday, October 30, 2013

To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade? That is the Question

Reason 7's Rack Effects and Virtual Instrument Modules

I use Logic Pro for almost all of my recording. I like the interface way more that Pro Tools, and I know all of the key commands, and I love the virtual instruments and plug-ins. I'm currently running Logic Pro 9.1.8, which is, most likely, one of the very last updates to their version 9 software. A while back, I raised a stink about certain features not being in Logic Pro, the lack of updates, and how Propellerhead's Reason software was constantly being improved, where Apple's Logic seemed to be stuck inside a major corporation unwilling to innovate for their pro audio users. Enter Logic Pro X. Finally, an update. A big one. But is it worth it?

When Reason 7 came out, I vowed to leave Logic Pro behind, but that hasn't panned out—at least not yet. I was in the middle of several really big projects (and still am) and had started them in Logic, so it's difficult to migrate them over—especially to Reason. It's just such a different kind of animal. Much more analog-like, and definitely in the baby stages of development when it comes to key commands and back end features. Of course, Propheads would say they've stripped out the junk that is rarely used and left what is musically useful.

Also know that I exclusively use Reason 7 to create electronic music for Argo the Ship, and I love it for that platform.

But I'm thinking about testing out Logic Pro X to see if the updates are useful enough to make the switch up to version 10. Why? Probably because I'm familiar with Logic and by sticking with it, I don't have to waste precious minutes learning a new interface. I can spend more time creating instead of fiddling, figuratively speaking. Pro Tools is out. It's down to Reason 7 and Logic X, both of which I know, use regularly, and love.

Taking the plunge with a trial in mid-November...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Life After Kickstarter

This past Saturday (well, very early Sunday, actually), I completed my very first Kickstarter campaign. And, I am happy to say that our project was successfully funded! One of the "bands" I'm heavily involved in, Restoration Project, needed to raise funds–$10,000, actually–to cover recording and production costs for a new EP series. Firm Foundation will be a collection of remade Sunday School songs, featuring familiar melodies but with additional lyrics and new music. We are so, so happy with how our campaign did, and we'd consider it a success on every level.

Last plug before I get to the meat of this post: Even if you missed our Kickstarter campaign, you can still pre-order our Firm Foundation series in the web store. The first EP drops in November; the second in summer 2014.

So what's it like to complete a successful Kickstarter campaign?

Three things come to mind when I think about our work and what it means:

1. It's Just Beginning. Maybe you'd think that there would be a respite for project creators after a successful campaign; but the truth is, instead of getting easier, the work gets harder. I expect the next 60 days to include a plethora of sleepless nights as I work to complete these recordings well before Christmas.

2. Obligation. I have to tell you, I was blind-sided by this: the feeling of obligation I have towards all those who have pledged towards our campaign. I don't want to let anybody down. I want these to be great recordings, great songs, and I want to finish them on a really, really tight time table. I want these songs to be as good as I seem to make them out to be.

3. Gratitude. So many people gave so generously. I am grateful to them, and I am grateful to God for placing his hand over our campaign and bringing in the necessary funding. It makes me hopeful for the future, too, that we could, potentially, successfully do this again in a year. On that, we'll see...

Thank you all for your continuous support of my music. I do hope these new recordings will make you proud to be a part of this work.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Review: John Mayer's Paradise Valley

People have been hating on Mayer in recent months. Including me. But let's take a step back and think about what we are really doing when we criticize his work: we are assessing it based on what he has already released and what we've come to expect and like—a poppy, rock sound with good hooks, but most importantly, solid lyrics from the heart. Nothing too witty, just true.

Musically, Paradise Valley must be judged on its own merit. It's different—as different as Born and Raised. Stylistically, I'd call it easy listening. Closer to Rod Stewart than Ed Sheeran. It's not my first choice in style, but I could see myself chilling to this record, if the mood warranted it.

Lyrically, on first listen, I dare day this is a return to the thoughtful Mayer we all once loved. No repeating a single phrase for an entire chorus. He sounds genuine again. Not over-worked and striving to please.

When I listen to this, and John's last album, I can't help but think of the song Stop This Train and how it was really a foretelling of his emerging sound.

I suspect I'll be streaming this album a lot when it drops. Thank you, Mr. Mayer, for coming back to us, even if your label's marketing department failed you on designing your album cover.

Stream Paradise Valley for free this week on iTunes:

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Donate Now! Restoration Project Kickstarter Campaign

I'm in a songwriting collective. We write, record, and sing new and old hymns. We're called Restoration Project. Less than 48 hours ago, we launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to record and produce our next EP series. You should donate. Here's the link to our project:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New Albums Out (Last Week)

This past week featured some pretty terrible new releases. If you're looking for bad metal, you could listen to the new Black Sabbath. If you want late–to–the–party pop rock, you could listen to Goo Goo Dolls. But it wasn't all bad. My favorite record of the week was easily Jason Isbell's Southeastern.

Check it out here:

Another album for the week is Eleanor-approved Jimmy Eat World's Damage. Nothing new, but fun summer music. I'm sure some high schooler who just got his license will deem this the best record of the summer. Check out the song Byebyelove:

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Music Review: Phoenix's Bankrupt!

You've gotta know something.

This week, I'm really diggin' Phoenix's new album, Bankrupt!

And who ever said that nothing good comes from France anymore? Well thanks to this group, you can't say their music isn't any good. Next observation: these Frenchman sing in English. Again, what kind of French dudes are these? Well, I'll tell you: darn cool ones.

Their new album is exploding with synths.  The vocals and harmonizations remind me a lot of psychedelic Beatles era stuff, and the synths bring me back to early 90's pop. Catchy, in-your-face. Michael Jackson-esque, at times.

But strap yourself in because this album is *loud*. Probably too loud. Wait... I'm listening to "S.O.S" right now... This album is definitely too loud. Yeah, ear fatigue, as they call it. Check it out. But be warned: it's best played quietly, cuz this stuff will smash your brains in from both ears.

Take a deep breath when track six comes (Bankrupt!). It's a much-needed ear break. And sounds pretty dang cool, too. It also helps that one of these guys knows music theory.

Here's a link to the album on iTunes:!-deluxe/id602320012

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What I'm Listening To, Song Sketches Online

A couple weeks ago, there was a terribly large number of really great albums that were released. I'd like to introduce you to a few of those artists here... Before I go there, though, I'd like to mention two things:

Brad Paisley's new album, Wheelhouse, came out a couple days ago. My first impressions of the record match my impressions of nearly every other he has done: he's a fantastic guitarist who's not afraid to rip. And some of his songwriting is very good. But I'm not talking about the poppy stuff or the pop culture-laden songs. Those are fun and catchy in there own right, but it's dumb writing, if you ask me. The point is, anything Mr. Paisley releases is worth checking out. I say that about few other artists. (John Mayer is another one.)

Next: I'm going to start posting my song sketches to my SoundCloud profile. Follow me there and you'll get to hear a lot of the stuff I'm working on - sections of new songs or full, new songs - recorded on my phone. Here's that direct link:

Okay, so here's what I've been listening to lately:

Stornoway - Tales from Terra Firma
Phosphorescent - Muchacho
Low - The Invisible Way

I'm loving all three of these albums. And, sadly, I'm still having a hard time remembering which songs belong to which band. That's what happens when you listen to a LOT of good, new music in a really short time-span. Go check all these guys out.

And check out my stuff, too.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

New Music... Thursday? Pick of the Week

I can't believe it's Thursday! Yeah, a week and a day since my *last* music post (which was already a day after the Tuesday's new releases dropped).

I've only had a chance this week to listen to a small number of new releases. When you consider each new album probably has a 45 minute-plus runtime, it's easy to see the difficulty of the task. This is why newspapers and magazines have full-time staff members dedicated exclusively to reviewing new albums.

So this week, I'd like to draw your attention to the latest album from one of my favorite artists today: Josh Ritter. His new album is entitled The Beast in its Tracks and you can...

Get it on iTunes here:

Or consider buying the exclusive B&N edition with a special lyrics journal insert:

Track one is classic Ritter: "night" is in the lyrics and the vocals are doused in reverb. But 55 seconds later, we really get cooking. It's obvious from the start that Josh has heartbreak on his mind, but it's not the kind of turn-off that we've come to know in break-up songs.

As a whole, lyrically, the album comes off in a similar way as Andrew Osenga's Leonard, the Lonely Astronaut (although each artist approaches their subject from different vantage points and ultimately draw different conclusions). Both Ritter and Osenga leave listeners - me - longing to recapture a relational emotion or state of being that has long since begun to wane.

I hate when songwriters are marketed as "thought-provoking" or "honest" or any other cliche about possessing a higher level of poetic- or song-craft. Though they tend to be true, these cliches dumb down the really good songwriters into some sort of quantifiable, understandable category. As a songwriter myself, I don't find the adjectives helpful because they tend not to be unique to music.

But Josh Ritter comes off to me as human - and relatable. Reading his own history makes it easy to see why his songs resonate this way with me and many others. He's a pretty normal guy from... Idaho?

So go check out his new record, and if you find yourself listening to the lyrics more than your average Bruno Mars pop song, consider checking out his other records, too. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Music Tuesday: Pick of the Week

Perhaps I have been a little over-zealous in my endeavor to review a bunch of albums each week, released every Tuesday. We'll see how this goes in the future, but for this week, I just have a single album recommendation: Ivan & Alyosha's All the Time We Had.

Buy it on iTunes:

I first heard about Ivan & Alyosha through Noisetrade, back in May of 2011. I downloaded their EP Father's Be Kind and have really liked it. eI&A's sound is folk/alt-country, and their newest album reminds me of an interesting combination of Simon and Garfunkel, Elvis, The Beach Boys, Chicago, and some other classic country-twanger, whose name eludes me at the moment.

I haven't had a chance to really dig into the lyrics. I've focused more on the music and melodies. The album features several gems, in my opinion: "Running for Cover" and "Easy to Love". Even better, these two songs are featured on iTunes and at Starbucks. "RFC" is iTunes' Single of the Week *now* and "ETL" was Starbucks' most recent Pick of the Week. Whoever is doing marketing for these fellows seems to know what he's doing.

So go check it out.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Top 25 Albums of All Time - #8

Relient K - Five Score and Seven Years Ago

I just can't get enough of it. Packaged pop-punk? Yes. But is it well done? Absolutely. Maybe the best. Certainly in the best-in-class category. Lyrically, this stuff packs a serious punch, too. Don't believe me on the lyrics? Listen to the *epic* "Deathbed" and decide for yourself. It's awesome. It's a songwriter's song - a story-song. Love it.

Spotify link here:

Buy it on iTunes:

FYI: The album cover image I've used is from the original album release cardboard sleeve. It's fairly rare and unknown, but I prefer it to the "updated" cover.