Monday, November 28, 2011

CFW Predicts The 2012 Grammies (or tries to...)

This Wednesday night, the focus will yet again be on CBS as the 4th annual Grammy Nominations Concert will be on and we'll find out the big nominees for this upcoming year. This year is going to be particularly interesting as the awards have contracted from the previous year, eliminating 31 categories. While I think that plays a bit of a role, I don't believe that it will completely change who dominates nominations on Wednesday night.

Record of the Year:
Adele-Rolling in the Deep - If Adele is not a shoe in to sweep nominations in the Big Four (apart from Best New Artist which she's not eligible for), I don't know what to think about NARAS.
The Civil Wars-Barton Hollow - The "Lady Antebellum" of this year. If you don't know them yet, you will know them on February 12, 2012. Interestingly enough, the duo toured with Adele earlier this year.
Bruno Mars-Grenade - Bruno Mars was largely ineligible as an artist last year, but managed to get nominated SEVEN times, more than any male artist last year. He's going to be another major nominee this year.
Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga-The Lady is a Tramp - Tony Bennett is going to get recognized in the Big Four this year and I think that NARAS is still trying to make up for Gaga not being nominated for Best New Artist a few years back.
Gym Class Heroes & Adam Levine-Stereo Hearts - I think this gets in because it's current and is inescapable right now. It's fresh in Grammy voters minds.

Alternate Pick:
Black Eyed Peas-Just Can't Get Enough - As the group gets ready to undergo a hiatus, don't count Black Eyed Peas out for a nomination for Record of the Year. Their formula is a hit with NARAS.

Best New Artist:
The Band Perry - Had a pretty sizable crossover hit with "If I Die Young" that will probably lead them into this category.
The Civil Wars - I think they're going to have a big Grammy night and may surprise a lot of people in this category.
Jessie J. - I hear a lot of artists tweeting about her and that damned "Price Tag" song. Best way to tell if someone's worth nominating is to listen to artists first.
Nicki Minaj - I don't see how she doesn't get nominated here. She's on everyone's songs and visibility goes a long way.
Tyler, The Creator - The Grammies are never a group to shy away from controversial figures. Tyler and his OFWGKTA gang were easily the most talked about artists on music sites this year. Many people that don't have Twitter will wonder who this guy is.

Alternate Pick:
Jackie Evancho - The Esperanza Spalding of this category for those that don't follow talent reality competitions. The girl is only 8 days older than my sister, but has amassed amazing sales with Dream With Me, an album that debuted at #2 this past year with over 160,000 copies sold.

Song of the Year:
Taylor Swift - Back to December - She won the Album of the Year category just two years back, she's going to get recognized in the Big Four at some point.
Bruno Mars - Grenade - The only male artist that has any potential at competing with the ladies that dominate this category.
Katy Perry - Firework - This song is going to get recognized. It just has to. Katy had too big of a year not to get recognized in the Big Four.
Adele - Rolling in the Deep - I believe that Adele is a shoe-in in this category. If she doesn't get nominated for Record, she gets Song or vice versa.
Lady Gaga - You And I - Gaga again gets recognized, but this time for her own work.

Alternate Pick:
Mumford & Sons - The Cave - They'll get the Arcade Fire treatment as the little indie rock darlings that could.

Album of the Year:
Adele - 21 - If this doesn't somehow get nominated, I will eat my blog post.
Tony Bennett - Duets II - What a way to go out on top. Finally got a #1 album and may have a chance to win AOTY.
Beyonce - 4 - May not be her best effort, but NARAS LOVES Beyonce and will recognize her in a major category.
Bruno Mars - Doo Wops and Hooligans - Again, Bruno's album had not been eligible the year prior, but the singles off of it have made it a clear candidate for AOTY.
Taylor Swift - Speak Now - Three albums with two nominated for Album of the Year? Never has an artist so young received the accolade of Album of the Year, let alone get nominated twice by the age of 21, but if anyone can do it, it's Taylor Swift.

Alternate Pick:
The Band Perry - The Band Perry - Country always represents a big chunk of voters, so don't be surprised if you see The Band Perry getting recognized in yet another Big Four category.

I think Rihanna gets snubbed in the Big Four as many felt she had been the year before. I think Gaga not making the Album of the Year wouldn't be entirely shocking. I don't think Born This Way had as massive an appeal as they would have wanted it to.

Google Plus: Another Social Networking Failure?

Before I begin, I just want to say that I like Google's company overall. They own Youtube and have the most recognizable search engine available. Having said all of that, it seems as if Google Plus, their latest social network is not very far away from becoming the next Google Buzz.

The problem has nothing to do with the functionality of the actual site. That's always fixable. What is not is the time that it has taken them to implement something as simple as business pages. Google Plus debuted in June, but they didn't start business pages until earlier this month. In the world of social networking where instant gratification is key, 5 months is a long time to wait.

In the meantime, Facebook took some of the qualities that made Google Plus unique (such as posting for certain circles) and made them their own. They now have their own "hangout" feature collaborating with Skype for video chatting.

Google's Music Store is even having its own issues. Facebook is trying to get their own music store off the ground and once it does that, even though Google was first in launching, Google can't even say they're a legitimate competitor with Facebook...merely an alternative.

I really would like to see Google be competitive with Facebook because I think that feature wise, they could potentially outperform Facebook. However, if Google Buzz was any indication to how they intend to handle Google Plus, there's nothing that would get Google out of the doldrums at that point and they will have failed yet again.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A band a day...We As Human

After a successful independent full-length and EP, We As Human, originally from Idaho, have been given an opportunity from their mentors Skillet (more specifically lead singer John Cooper) for major label success.

We As Human is:
Justin Cordle-Vocals
Jake Jones-Guitar
Justin Forshaw - Guitar
Dave Draggoo-Bass
Adam Osborne-Drums

We As Human just released a major self-titled EP that is buzzing and ready to explode onto the active rock scene. The EP was produced by mega-producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Evanescence, Deftones). Most hard rock bands on a major label would their edge. We As Human takes their message to a new level.

If you like Red, you'd probably like the song Double Life, but there's a little bit of something for everyone on their major debut EP. If you do a bit of snooping around Youtube, you ought to check some of their earlier stuff as well. They'll also be doing quite a bit of touring with Skillet as well, so look out for dates!

Mark my words, 2012 will be the year We As Human rules rock radio, Christian or otherwise.

The Social Music Experiment

About a year and a half ago, I was "working" and when there wasn't much to be done I was writing down ideas for a website that I was thinking about during the doldrums of the music industry. I didn't finish it, but I wanted to post the ideas that I had in the hope that someone would get where I'm going with the idea.

I didn't even come up with a name for it, so I just simply called it the Social Music Experiment.

Goal: To connect fans to artists and labels as never before, creating the greatest social networking site that caters to music fans. In a time where people download music for free, we need to reward the people that purchase music and promote discovery.

A point system would:
1. Reward people that buy music online either digitally or physically through SME.
2. Reward people that successfully promote unsigned artists through referrals.
3. Reward gift cards for digital music, electronic stores, band merch, and concert tickets (depending on, of course, how many points you earn).

Goal #2: To connect artists to other artists and labels in ways not previously connected before.

1. Artists would post videos of auditions either for labels or for bands if they would like to be recruited. Of course, Youtube exists, but it would make it a lot easier for labels to sort through the B.S.

2. There would also be a Band Aids portion of the site where bands post classifieds to find their missing pieces.

3. Bands can also post blogs, vlogs, performances, and whatever they see fit on their page.

The difference between the SME and other social networking sites would be the intimacy and less junk to have to go through to find your favorite bands and artists of the present and future.

Perhaps the site would grow to eventually host major music festivals...even an online exclusive festival to the website where bands of different genres play music live for all who listen.


I seriously can't be the only one bummed about the Christmas season. Why, you ask? It's because Christmas music is back in season. It's the most marketable time of the year when seemingly everyone and their mother decides to release a Christmas record and/or song. Hell, even Jim Jones of the Dipset squad put out a Christmas EP.

Even worse is when radio stations attempt to one up each other by playing Christmas music earlier and earlier in the season. Instead of going the traditional route of starting the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday for you pepper-spraying, gun toting shoppers out there), radio stations have been starting as early as Halloween. The Monster Mash has been replaced by Justin Bieber, truly making this the Nightmare Before Christmas.

Is NOTHING sacred anymore? Is Korn going to turn Jingle Bells into a Dubstep Christmas?

Is Lou Reed going to read the lines of Carol of the Bells as James Hetfield randomly screams I Am The Santa?!?

As a little kid, I used to love when my family broke out the Salsoul. But it's overkill now. Over overkill.

I can't be the only one. Please tell me I'm not the only one.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Reflections on Thrice's Hiatus

After 13 years as a band, Thrice's Dustin Kensrue announced on the Thrice main site that they would be taking a break as a full-time band so that members of Thrice can focus on family life.

The news is not entirely surprising, but nonetheless unfortunate for many fans.

This past year Thrice put out Major/Minor, an album that many critics are saying is amongst the best in their vast catalog.

In a bit of an homage to drummer Riley Breckenridge's Three Things blog for the OC Weekly, I'll post the three things to remember Thrice by (in the case they don't ever release any new music).

1. Versatility: Thrice's eight albums show how much Thrice has evolved. They started out as a post-hardcore band and then seamlessly transitioned through many different genres of music including indie rock, electronica, metal, and even the blues. For that very reason, Dustin Kensrue is arguably the most versatile vocalist I've ever listened to.

2. Consistency: As diverse as Thrice's albums have been, the result has always been positive. I think their influence on other and future bands has not yet been fully realized, but give that another 5 years.

3. Humanitarianism: One of the positives of Thrice's consistency is the fact that a portion of the proceeds of all of their albums has gone to a charity to help others in need. That humility started when they were at Sub City/Hopeless and has continued at their current home at Vagrant Records.

If Major/Minor is the last work that Thrice ever puts out, then it was a proper curtain call to one of the best bands out there.

Three Songs To Remember Thrice By:

1. Deadbolt: The highlight of Thrice's early catalog and the one word everyone yells out at a Thrice concert that hasn't heard that song yet. Think of it as their "Freebird".

2. Image of the Invisible: This was the lead single off of my favorite Thrice album Vheissu. Perfect lead single that had not only style, but substance as well. It serves as the battle cry for Invisible Children, a charity dedicated to ending the use of child soldiers out in central Africa.

3. The Whaler: A seemingly obscure choice in comparison with the other two, but a song that I personally feel best shows off the lighter side of Thrice. Beautiful harmonies and such a contrast to some of their heaviest works.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Music Is Not A Competition...

J. Loren of Hurt said something that struck me during the Hurt/Dead Fish Handshake show last Saturday.

Paraphrased from his rant, he said that "Music is not a competition." J. Loren meant it as a way to say that musicians are all in this together and I thought that was the one thing, aside from their amazing performance, that I took home with me.

Hearing stories about some bands that have argued, fought and pulled off of tours because of such competition, it really means a lot for a musician to come out and say that.

In today's industry, musicians of any genre need each other now more than ever...a union of sorts, not just to protect themselves from label greed, but to protect their intellectual rights as an artist and to sell as many albums as possible by promoting each other. I think the greatest complement an artist can get is the recommendation from another artist.

Matthew Paul, lead singer of Dead Fish Handshake, reinforced the statement by saying that scenes barely exist anymore because bands are mostly into themselves instead of uplifting the scene they're involved in. This fragmentation of music scenes is not good for the artists that are forced to go it alone or for the music scene its self.

Sure, bands can compete for airplay and sales, but ultimately bands need to bolster each other to survive and to succeed. There needs to be camaraderie within a town or city so that bands can continue to support each other and support themselves.

United, scenes stand. Divided, they fall.

Live Review: Hurt/Dead Fish Handshake (Acoustic) 11/19/11 @ Architekt Music in Butler, NJ

"If you don't mind, we're gonna rock the fuck out."-J. Loren (Hurt)

And that they did. And that they did. Hurt took their "Acoustic Experience" tour to the middle of nowhere New Jersey on Saturday evening for an unforgettable set.

Hurt, who is planning a release of their fourth album in March (The Crux), proved that you don't need the chug-chugging of guitars to rock a crowd.

Openers Matthew Paul (lead singer) and Rob Ferreira (guitarist) of the band Dead Fish Handshake (a band name that will likely go into the Rainbow Butt Monkeys Hall of Fame) started the night off with a great acoustic set that featured songs off of their March 2011 debut Across State Lines, a song off of the upcoming album that they're recording this winter and a great cover of Mad Season's River of Deceit, one of the greatest songs of the 90s. As odd as their name is, their set was great and managed to hold their own considering they were opening for a nationally renowned band.

And then there was Hurt. For those of you who've never listened to Hurt, they're a hard rock band that has elements of country and classical music rolled in with a singer/songwriter sensability. It's rare for a hard rock band's strength to be in their songwriting. J. Loren, in my opinion, is the most talented songwriter in the entire genre and the performance on Saturday night reinforced that.

Hurt played an expansive 18-song, two hour set that spanned the entire band catalogue, including their debut self-titled album from 2000. You can tell that the band really puts a lot into their work whether it comes to studio work or live performances. Each performance had such intricacy that I felt like I was watching Hurt record an acoustic album live (which they should clearly do after the release of The Crux). J. Loren's vocals were incredible to the point that even his whistling was on key. The fans themselves sang the end of Assurance on key as well.

As good as some of the other shows I've been to this year were, Hurt's acoustic performance at Architekt will go down as my hands down favorite. Hurt is an example of a band that could be on a major label, independent, or self-released that can put out the same spectacular result no matter the obstacles thrown their way. I'm so glad that they haven't folded under the weight of the crumbling music industry.