Category Archives: Music

Punk Rock and How it Influenced My Entry into Public Health…And How it Continues to Influence Me

Everybody has influences in their life.  Their parents, their friends, pop culture.

For me, it was–and continues to be–punk rock.

I currently work in health communication.  Working in health communication is all about focusing on how to make health messages more impactful.  Many studies have shown that there is a dearth of research that gets into practice.  In other words, many resources are spent and used to create impactful things…Without an impact being created.

Communication is a large reason for this.  Many ideas are brilliant in their creation and potential use, but are simply never used or maybe not even known about.  Effective communications and branding can also make an ineffective program get a better reputation from outsiders (i.e. DARE).

I grew to enjoy punk rock as an adolescent.  As a teenager (and even when I got older) it represented an outlet.  There are more than a few reasons why.

Accessible and Immediate

In my opinion, punk rock is rock in its simplest form, undistilled and raw.  Punk is also incredibly accessible and immediate.  Anyone with a guitar can play a punk rock guitar riff.  And in many ways, that’s what has made it attractive to me.

The only main musical rules of punk are loud, fast, and accessible.

Familiar

Punk often appropriates previously used musical tropes into a new package.  The Jam is a perfect example of this.

The Jam is one of my favorite punk acts, often using mod fashion from the British Invasion (think The Kinks, The Beatles, The Who) and soul to new ends.  Peter Weller and the rest of the band were huge mod fans, all it takes is a look at their third album title All Mod Cons.

Concise

Punk rock, quite plain and simply gets to the point.  Quick.  It’s even better when it uses humor.  Just like The Rezillos.  One of the greatest debuts of all time.

Impactful and Powerful (visceral)

Historical points of view/Storytelling

Punk rock is often unpleasant, intentionally so.  It often pushes truth to the forefront and doesn’t sugarcoat.  Rather than ignore, punk rock often brings injustice into the light.

I also truly believe the only way we can move forward is often when looking towards the past.  Punk rock has some amazing songs focused on a point of view unlike any other, that of the disenfranchised or misunderstood.

One of my personal favorites is “Little Boy Soldiers” off of The Jam’s Setting Sons. It tells a heartbreaking, harrowing story of British youths who go off to war with noble intentions and leave forever changed.  Absolutely amazing lyrics.  Pure angry poetry.

Righteous Anger

Speaking of anger, much punk rock is focused on righteous anger, fighting for those without a voice.

An extremely formative band during my youth was The Clash.  My pick for greatest punk band of all time, The Clash is a perfect amalgam of straightforward rock, catchy hooks, excellent lyrics, and a belief in the potential for something better.

This wasn’t summed up in a better fashion than The Clash’s song “The Magnificent Seven”, detailing various forms of corruption and injustice, including but not limited to police corruption, alcoholism and overall ignorance.

In my humble opinion, we should all use punk rock as a compass.  It has many virtuous values that have guided where I have gone and continue to go.

Punk rock: Not just for punks.


The Disc Jockey Promo – Memorial Day Eve 2012

A little late, but this is a promo my friend and I put together for my DJ gig last month the day before Memorial Day. And, no, I cannot wear the horsehead at all times. It simply isn’t sustainable.

Tons of fun to make…And on an awesomely small budget. Peeps for more info — http://www.facebook.com/discjockeyatl


My Foray Into DJing

All art, in a way, builds off previous art.  DJing literally reinterprets and reappropriates previously recorded material.  As the superb film 24 Hour Party People attests, this is one of the few times in music the *medium* was first praised (skip to 1:11).

This past Sunday, I DJ’ed in the city of Atlanta for the first time outside of friends’ houses or my own bedroom.  I became interested in doing so based on both the support of my friends as well as the pursuit of my passions.  Being a DJ combines many things that intrigue me — how to best connect people, utilizing emotional intelligence, and the art of improvisation.

It also is just plain fun, both through promotion and the actual DJing.

Due to some awesome friends and a pretty great turnout, I will be performing last Sundays of every month, starting 3/25/12 as The Disc Jockey.  The only equestrian DJ with improv experience in the major Atlanta metropolitan area.

The Disc Jockey - The only human/horse hybrid DJ in Atlanta

The Disc Jockey - The only human/horse hybrid DJ in Atlanta

DJing at Noni’s was truly a one of a kind experience, allowing me to live on a tightrope, judging the feeling of the crowd in determining my next actions.  With the exception of some minor preliminary planning, the entire set was improvisational in nature, playing upon my previous experience taking improv classes at Dad’s Garage.  It even played upon my previous experience in Japan, having to communicate largely through nonverbals (horses can’t really talk…much).

In the future, I will be publishing my playlists on spotify both under my username thisisthemodernworld and the site ShareMyPlaylists.

For this past Sunday’s playlist (Spotify needed): 

The Disc Jockey rides again on 3/25/12.  8pm-12am @Noni’s http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/316777651714369/


My Favorite Albums of 2011

As I think back to 2011, I realize it was a true life-changing year for me.   For one thing, I gained a job with additional responsibilities, working in a field–radiation–I had never had experience in before.  I also went to Japan.

Domo arigato, Japan.  Domo Arigato.

The world also experienced drastic change with the Arab Spring, the death of Osama Bin Laden and the unfortunate nuclear disaster in the beautiful country of Japan a few months before I arrived.

Along with these tumultuous changes, music had a pretty good year and electronic music continued a renaissance.

For a long time, electronic has been trivialized as mere pop.  Since Daft Punk’s landmark album “Discovery” that all began to change and electronic began to be taken seriously as a legitimate artform, not just dancefloor fodder.

That trend continued in 2011…

Best albums of 2011

10. Drive Soundtrack – Various Artists

I’ll admit, this is a bit of a copout.  Especially considering many of the tracks on this album are not from 2011.  However, in the context of the 2011 film Drive, this is one of the greatest soundtracks in recent memory.  I have kept my eye on the French electronic act–and their electronic label, Valerie–for about a year now and College doesn’t disappoint with “A Real Hero”.  Once you see the film–also one of the best of 2011–you won’t soon forget these songs.  Cliff Martinez also deserves credit in constructing a score Tangerine Dream would be proud of.

Fun Fact: Drive is the best crime film in years.  Seriously.

Key Tracks: “A Real Hero” (College Feat. Electric Youth), “Under Your Spell” (Desire)

9. Cape Dory – Tennis

I was first referred to Tennis through a friend.  He demanded I listen to their debut single, “Marathon”.  I didn’t give much of a thought to the song, but was blown away by their debut LP, “Cape Dory”.

What’s great about “Cape Dory” and the band Tennis in general is that they care so much about their music, with nary a smirk.  There is no irony or tongue in cheek, despite the old-fashioned and, at times, hokey nature of surf rock.

That’s partly what makes it so appealing — it’s so amiable.

Fun Fact: The husband and wife duo behind Tennis lived on a boat for around a year.  This experience informed “Cape Dory”.

Key Tracks: “Cape Dory”, “South Carolina”, “Seafarer”

8. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Coming off the heels of his highly acclaimed debut, this is merely a very good album.  It’s got some amazing songs, but doesn’t quite meet the astronomical expectations set by Justin Vernon’s debut.   I am happy to see Vernon’s progression into new sounds, experimenting with synths.

Fun Fact: Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon thinks the Grammys suck and are about selling out.  Oh really?

Key Tracks: “Holocene”, “Perth”

7. Era Extraña – Neon Indian

Let’s get this out of the way: “Psychic Chasms” is one of the greatest electronic albums of the past decade.  Just like “Bon Iver”, this album had no way to reach the expectations set by the debut.  Despite this, “Era Extraña” is a solid, solid album.  Alan Palomo–the lead of Neon Indian–constructs an album that is much more polished, but doesn’t lose the abstract pop heights met by “Psychic Chasms”.  It’s just that unlike “Psychic Chasms”, not every song on this album is excellent.  Only like 80% are.

Huge props to “The Blindside Kiss” and the obvious My Bloody Valentine influence though.  Some really great guitars on this album throughout.

Fun Fact: Palomo guested on much of Miami Horror’s great debut Illumination.  In particular, “Holidays”.

Key Tracks: “The Blindside Kiss”, “Hex Girlfriend”, “Fallout”

6. Camp – Childish Gambino

Months ago, Donald Glover came to the Variety Playhouse and played a sold out show in his home state of Georgia under the moniker Childish Gambino.  When I had seen a description of the show–and his unfortunate moniker–I declined to go.

Boy was I wrong.

I later caught Childish Gambino’s powerful live show at Moogfest 2011 in Asheville.  Showcasing much of “Camp”, I knew then and there they had something.  Glover takes the huge risk of eschewing much of the rap fallbacks–flaunting machismo, wealth, overblown confidence–to produce an album that is amazingly frank, vulnerable and hilarious.

Fun Fact: Donald Glover is from Stone Mountain, GA…And manages to largely talk about how much it sucked in “Camp”.

Key Tracks: “All the Shine”, “Heartbeat”

5. Rapprocher – Class Actress

As a pure pop album, “Rapprocher” is brilliant.  Even more impressive, this is only Class Actress’ first LP.  After their debut EP, “Journal of Ardency”, I was greatly anticipating this album and it did not disappoint.  “Weekend” is one of the greatest tracks of the year.  Pure pop perfection.

This album is my rookie of the year.  Really excited to hear what’s next for Class Actress.  I just wish they would tour in the South.  Now.

Fun Fact: Class Actress still hasn’t toured the South.

Key Tracks: “Weekend”, “Keep You”, “Let Me In”

4. Civilian – Wye Oak

Such a powerful album.  So much emotion on this album and definitely, atmospherically, the darkest of the list,  Wye Oak hits one out of the park here.  It’s even more impressive considering it’s a two person band.  Bands with five members often can’t even pull off this sound.  Really looking forward to seeing what else is up Wye Oak’s sleeve in the future.

Fun Fact: Earlier this fall, I planned to see this band on a whim and a recommendation from a friend of mine.  They canceled due to illness, with the replacement band being Deerhunter Music Band.  Not believing it was Bradford Cox’s Deerhunter, I didn’t go.  Later turns out it was.  Had a hard time sleeping that night.

Key Tracks: “The Altar”, “Holy Holy”, “Civilian”

3. Belong – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Long my pick for best album of the year, “Belong” is fantastic.  A perfect mixture of Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine, this is where The Pains truly spread their wings.  Almost every song is superb, a shimmering masterpiece any shoegaze act would be proud of.  “Anne With an E” was one of my favorite songs of early 2011.  It still is brilliant.

Fun Fact: I met much of the band.  They are truly awesome in person as well.

Key Tracks: “The Body”, “Anne With an E”, “Even in Dreams”

2. Father, Son, Holy Ghost – Girls

Leading with the upbeat surf rock tribute “Honey Bunny”, Father, Son, Holy Ghost later segues into probably the most stripped-down and raw of the albums I listened to in 2011, largely in terms of sheer emotion.  The young leader of Girls expresses so much honest, raw emotion it initially becomes highly uncomfortable listening to the album.

It’s also gorgeous and extremely emotionally affecting.

Fun Fact: Christopher Owens was a part of the Children of God cult.  He escaped at age 16 and has used this experience in informing his music.

Key Tracks: “Honey Bunny”, “Vomit”, “My Ma”

1. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – M83

After “Saturdays=Youth” became an instant classic for me personally, I was initially let down by M83’s latest.  However, I gave it another listen.  And another.  And another.  I have since come to the realization that this is M83’s greatest album and the best album of 2011.  The way Anthony Gonzalez is able to merge synths with instrumentation and heightened emotion brings to mind a mixture of French Eurodisco, hair metal, and New Wave.  This potent combination with sweeping choruses and harmonies reminds me of Meat Loaf…In a good way.

Fun Fact: M83 is one of the best electronic acts live.  Seriously catch them on their summer tour.

Key Tracks: “Intro”, “Midnight City”, “Reunion”, “Steve McQueen”

Honorable Mention

Within and Without – Washed Out

Days – Real Estate

Probably the two best chill albums of 2011, both are really impressive, but never managed to hook me.

In particular, I prefer Washed Out’s less polished older work, but it is a potentially important next step in Ernest Greene and co.’s sound.

“Days” is an extremely well-made album, but it didn’t hook me entirely.  I still appreciate the craft.

Biggest Disappointment (Tie)

Watch The Throne – Watch The Throne

This is more a disappointment in terms of talent than anything.  With Kanye West and Jay-Z at the helm, the album was hyped into oblivion as the Next Big Thing.  Instead, it rattled off a few hit songs and wasn’t spoken of again.  History will probably judge it along the lines of a Velvet Revolver-type collaboration (this isn’t a compliment).

Portamento – The Drums

The Drums’ self-titled debut LP was a new wave-infused sugar rush.  It reminded me of a more upbeat version of The Cure.  Basically all the sound with none of the sulking (or pretention) that often came from that band.  That’s what disappointmented me so much about “Portamento”.  There are a few good tracks on the album, but it doesn’t come close to meeting the heights of the debut and indulges in loads of pretention, as evidenced by their Spotify commentary.

Not a Fan

Dubstep

Yeah, I went there.  Sorry folks, Dubstep sucks.  Even worse, it’s becoming appropriated by brahs and growing like kudzu.  Bolt your doors, and hammer those windows tight, Skrillex is coming for your kids.

 

Update

So I realize I totally forgot Cut Copy’s “Zonoscope”.  It is one heck of an album and one of the best dance albums of the year.  It also definitely has a place in the top ten…It just had an awful release date in early Winter.

Yes, John is still alive after writing this super-long blog postIf you wish,  follow him at @jododojo10 on Twitter.


I Sure Do Miss The Good Old Days…

In case you didn’t notice, there is a tinge of facetiousness in the title of this post.  People always seem to speak about how much better the old days are.  We as people tend to view memories through rose-tinted glasses, exercising revisionist history on a repeated basis.

A couple months ago, I saw the film Super 8.  I was not a huge fan of the film (I would probably give it 2 1/2 stars for the record), definitely not as much as many other critics attested.  That being said, the crowd I saw the film with ate it up.  I also noticed much of the audience was older, averaging my parent’s age.  It is no coincidence that the film is set in the 70s, painstakingly taking turns expressing the period of the film.  This includes musical cues (“My Sharona”), fashion, and references to films at the time (Dawn of the Dead, for one).  It also owes a large debt to Spielberg’s fetishization of the suburbs.

The film is a crowd-pleaser, but is it because of the quality or the ability to tap into the powerful phenomenon nostalgia?

When you think about it, nostalgia has a huge influence on American culture. Movies such as Super 8 use the feel of the era to create familiarity and financial security for studios.  The endless reboots, remakes, and sequels coming out of Hollywood these days also attests to this (as do the record box office grosses).

Recently, Nickelodeon came to the realization that 90s programming could be lucrative, cashing in on the nostalgia of generation x (and y).  Based on the suggestion of a few interns at the company, Nickelodeon’s TeenNick channel has begun to re-air many of these shows in a block of programming called Nick ’90s Are All That.  As a result, the channel has experienced record ratings.

Further, politics are guided by nostalgia, looking back at the strong family of the Leave It To Beaver era as a reference point (never mind part of the reason families were so “strong” was an ignorance of racial and gender-based issues).   Ronald Reagan did a brilliant job eschewing a back to basics approach, using the nostalgic tone of his “Morning in America” ads to a landslide victories in 1980 and 1984.

The interesting thing about nostalgia is its sheer strength.  Watching a film or listening to a song without the proper context can completely alter one’s opinion.

I’ll admit I never saw The Goonies as a kid.  Watching it in my twenties made me realize it’s a sheer chore to get through.  It’s somewhat akin to being locked in a room with a bunch of yelling, screaming kids.  For 1 1/2 hours.  Torture.

Nostalgia is such a strong tool.  Just look at some youtube comments for an older song.

Quality often doesn’t change.  People do…well, unless they’re handcuffed by nostalgia.

 

John is hoping that you don’t think he’s a grouch for thinking nostalgia is lame.  He also hopes you don’t think him saying lame is lame.  John can be reached via Twitter or watch him wax nostalgic on last.fm.


Music That Is Owning Me: “Setting Sons” by The Jam

I used to really think war was cool.  As a child of the 80s, I was raised on video games, sugary cereals, and ubiquitous product placement.  On a constant sugar high, I thought explosions were the bee’s knees, as were action/adventure movies.  War movies were a natural extension of the action/adventure genre and films like “Top Gun” and “Red Dawn” further infused me with jingoistic thoughts.  USA! USA! USA!!!

Where were we?  Oh yeah, anyway, when I got older I decided to move further into films and one of the first war movies I saw as a teenager was “Platoon”.  “Platoon” may be a bit overwrought and a little over-the-top (as is Oliver Stone’s wont), but it affected me tremendously as a fourteen year old.  I never thought war was cool again and found violent conflicts incredibly disturbing.

Combining an anti-war attitude with teenage rebellion is always an interesting mixture.  And with that, I present “Setting Sons” by British punk/mod outfit The Jam.

The Jam is a band I originally got into when furthering my interest in punk.  Specifically, 70s british punk.  To me, the Clash will always be the best punk band of all time, but The Jam is most likely a close second.  The Jam is the brain child of one Paul Weller, basically an angry (angrier?) version of Ray Davies, the lead songwriter of The Kinks.  Just like The Kinks, The Jam paints a very vivid image with its lyrics.  Some of his songs are simply gorgeous or uplifting, with the song “English Rose” a particular standout.  However, most are incredibly pessimistic and full of anguish. 

As a disappointed and angry youth–no doubt aided and abetted by my then-current displeasure with the government in representing what young people wanted or needed–The Jam resonated with me on a deep level.  Despite his high use of British slang and mention of many exclusively British phenomena (what is a tubestation, exactly?), Paul Weller and the rest of the band spoke to me on a very personal level.

“Setting Sons” is a further refined vision of The Jam’s debut “In The City”.  Many of the same angry ideals are present in the album, but the songwriting and production values are of a higher standard.  The album is also the closest The Jam came to making a concept album.  The concept here being that war is hell.

“Little Boy Soldiers” is a particularly haunting song focused on a young man from recruitment to his ultimate death on the front lines.  Much of the song is focused on the youth’s troubled soul and his disillusion with not being heard.

“Burning Sky” is another standout track with some of Bruce Foxton’s best bass playing during his time with the band.

One heck of an album

“Setting Sons” is one of my favorite albums of 1979 and quite simply a masterwork of punk.  One of the best things about the album is that the anger on display is for a reason, not just to provide controversy.  Unlike many punk bands at the time, The Jam is not there to merely shock.  Paul Weller and The Jam have some very sobering things to say and do so in an effective way, one that works on both cerebral and visceral levels.

The Jam and “Setting Sons” will always provide a bookmark reminding me of a time in my life when I was truly angry about the injustices that took place all around me. Without the tools to address those injustices, I was incredibly frustrated.  The messages The Jam present in their music still resonate with me today and I still view the incredible challenges of injustice and inequity winnable battles.  Hopefully battles that won’t be violent in nature.

John still loves punk music…And long walks on the beach.  He can be tweeted at @jododojo10 or emailed at jodonovan1984@gmail.com


Music that is Owning Me: “Belong” by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The creation of this blog was meant to provide a forum for my many interests. My original blog–Film and Health–is still active, but I felt my criteria were too narrow to sustain and I didn’t want that frustration to affect my ability to write for pleasure.

In that vein, music and film (and art in general) have always had a huge place in my life, providing both an immense amount of entertainment and something more to say about the human condition.  This series–Music that is Owning Me–is in reference to music past or present that has had a pivotal place in my life.

I first heard of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart through a friend (thanks, Naeem!).  The name seemed hackneyed and I was skeptical of the band after looking at the somewhat bland cover art to their debut.  The ticket price was also quite substantial for a band I hadn’t heard a track of yet.

Despite all of this, I gave a listen to Belong, their second album.  After a listen to their first single off the album, “Heart in Your Heartbreak”, I was drawn in by the catchiness of the music and the painful honesty of the lyrics.  With a hard-driving rhythm, the band drives an frank, openly romantic message home.  Other songs on the album merely cemented my strong feelings for the album.  “Anne with an E”, in particular, is an absolutely heartwrenchingly beautiful song reminding me of shoegaze masters Slowdive at their best.

Very few times do I listen to an album and it elicits such an emotional reaction.  Belong is an album made for lovers.  It reminds me of the film Lost in Translation.  Many people hated that film, but I never understood the sentiment.  Both pieces of art are love and romance personified. Breathless, dreamlike and gorgeous, Belong paints a world that you want to bathe in and it spoke to me at a time I needed it.

I forgot to mention I met the lead singer and the rest of the band.  They rock.

Give the whole album a listen for free at their site.

Twin Shadow opened for Pains when I saw them…Give their debut album Forget a listen.  Seriously.  It’s also super great.


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