Wednesday, 29 April 2015

IC2S Playlist Update 29/04/2015

Wow, we're at the next addition to the I Choose to Stand playlist already... I wanted to have another post up before this one, but I have been busy and it has been just running away on me (over 2000 words so far...), so that one will have to wait for a couple more days. In the meantime though, rock out to these two songs which have been added to our Spotify playlist (you can access it on the sidebar to the right).


First up is "Radio Girl" by Volbeat, from their album Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil. I really got into Volbeat about a year and a half ago when I heard "The Hangman's Bodycount" on the radio, and I really dig their hard rock/rockabilly style. I liked basically everything of theirs, but considered Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil their weakest album for sure. However, I gave it another try lately and found that I like it far more than I remember - it drags a little bit at times, but I'd now say that all of their albums are close to being on par with each other. "Radio Girl" isn't my favourite track from the album, but it is definitely the one I am enjoying the most at the moment, so if I didn't include it on the playlist very soon then I'm afraid I wouldn't show it its due.

Part of the reason I got into hard rock/metal music in the first place was because it was just so different than what I had grown up on, for one key reason: their music tended to have some actual lyrical variety. My parents basically just listened to old-school pop/rock and modern soft rock, so you can imagine how that sounded: basically 24-hours of "love songs", non-stop. It was so sickening that I consider it a prime reason why I jumped ship to hard rock/metal in the first place. I do listen to the occasional love song still obviously, but I prefer there to be a bit of a twist in it. "Radio Girl" succeeds in that regard, while still being rather sweet and (dare I say) cute, and not diluting their sound for additional radio exposure. Basically, the song is about a man who is down on his luck, but becomes enraptured by a woman whose singing he hears on the radio. I think we can all sympathize with this song to some degree, and there is a deceptively diverse amount of emotional contrast throughout.


Our second addition of the week is "The Czar" by Mastodon, from their album Crack the Skye. I wanted to put in this song last week, but ended up deferring to "(*Fin)" instead. I need to put this up front though: Mastodon is insane in the best way possible. Their music also tends to be ridiculously deep. Their first four albums were intentionally written to represent the four classical elements: Remission is fire, Leviathan is water, Blood Mountain is earth and Crack the Skye is air. Not just that though, but Leviathan, Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye are also fully-fledged concept albums in their own right: Leviathan is an adaptation of Moby Dick, Blood Mountain is about searching for a crystal skull to place on top of the titular mountain to achieve human transcendence, and then Crack the Skye goes even further: "the record would tell a story dealing variously with the art aesthetics of Tsarist Russia, astral travel, out of body experiences and Stephen Hawking's theories on wormholes". And yet, Crack the Skye manages to go even deeper than that. Brann Dailor's sister, Skye, committed suicide at 15, and the album's themes revolve with dealing with loss, making it a tribute towards this lost soul (in fact, I have also read that the album's themes and progression correspond to the K├╝bler-Ross model). Oh, and did I mention that they make some killer music in general and are popularly considered the best metal band in the world at the moment?

Anyway, regarding "The Czar" in particular, it's a sprawling epic, and easily my favourite song off Crack the Skye. The verses get a little repetitive, but I find that this creates a hypnotic vibe, and the musicianship on display is top-notch all around. The solo that kicks off the third part, "Martyr", is particularly orgasmic, it must be said. I also really like the Russian influences, it makes the song sound very unique and fits into the bonkers concept of the album. There aren't a lot of albums I'd describe as being "perfect", but Crack the Skye would have to be one of them (The Dark Side of the Moon would be another, for the record).

Anyway, that's it for this week - be sure to check out the playlist and try to enjoy the music. Hopefully I'll expand your tastes a little bit!

EDIT: Turns out that I accidentally added the title track from Crack the Skye instead of "The Czar" initially. It's still a good song obviously, so check it out, but that mistake has been rectified now.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

I Choose To Stand Playlist

Hey readers, you might have noticed that I have added a new feature to the blog: a dedicated Spotify playlist!* My last post about music sort of inspired me to do this (that, and I listen to way too much of the Cracked podcast). I'm planning on adding 1 or 2 new songs per week, depending on what I'm listening to at the time... or, if I'm in a bit of a dry spell, I'll throw in some long-time favourites. Hopefully it'll act as a good catalyst to at least make a post on a fairly regular basis, if only to explain my newest additions.

With that said, I think I'll definitely make it a custom to explain my choices. For my first song, I wanted to do "Run" by Project 86... but unfortunately, their self-titled album it was the only one not on Spotify, much to my irritation. If you have read the blog before, you might know that the blog's name comes from the lyrics to that song (even though the line itself is never even uttered in the actual recording, oddly enough). With Spotify dropping the ball though (or, more likely, BEC Recordings), I figured I'd just go with another favourite P86 song instead to make up for it. I ended up going with my current favourite, "P.S." It's an extremely dark and somewhat experimental song that exemplifies their sound on Drawing Black Lines (IMHO, easily their best album). I'm kind of sad that P86 have moved further away from this sort of dark content with each successive album, but that's more of a personal gripe. Rumour has it that the title stand for "Porn Song" or "Porn Sucks", and deals with pornography addiction and/or abuse (the Japanese section apparently is largely made up of the girl begging someone to stop hurting her). Anyway... I don't know what else to say about it. It's an awesomely dark song, I love it.

Song number two is one that I have been really getting into recently, "Escape from Midwich Valley" by Carpenter Brut. I heard it through the Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number soundtrack, but it apparently also appears on the Carpenter Brut EP I and Trilogy albums. In any case, this is the sort of electronic music that I'm really digging at the moment: slow and steady build-up before it just lets loose. I haven't finished Hotline Miami 2 yet, but for some reason this is really striking me as a fantastic end credits track for that sort of screwed up story, and am hoping that I end up predicting this one correctly. I'll have to check out Trilogy on Spotify sometime soon to see if Carpenter Brut's stuff is all this enjoyable.

And finally, for my third song I felt like I was basically honour-bound to include my favourite song in the initial batch for the playlist. As a result, we close out with Anberlin's "(*Fin)". Ever since I first heard this song, about 7 or 8 years ago now, this song has been a top 3 contender for all-time favourite. For a while there I would have put "November Rain" ahead of it, but in the last couple years, "(*Fin)" has come ahead as the clear favourite for me. The song is just fantastic from top to bottom, building and building upon itself until you don't think it can get any more epic. Children's choirs are hit-or-miss in rock songs, but they really help here. The stand-out section of the song though is the last few verses where Stephen Christian just belts out full of emotion. As if this section wasn't amazing enough, it gets even more impressive when you discover that he freaking improvised that whole section on the spot. Holy crap.

Lyrically, the song really resonates with me as well. There's a few different, but related ways you can take it, but in a nutshell it is dealing with people of faith who think they're doing good but are actually causing harm and turning people away with their actions (eloquently expressed as being "the patron saints of lost causes"). It's just such an incredible song from top to bottom that I just had to get it out there as soon as I could.

I'm also extremely bummed that I'm never going to get to hear this song live now. Anberlin went on a farewell tour last summer to end their career on a high note. I was going to see Anberlin's last Canadian show with my brother in November, but that was the day that the snowpocalyse hit. We were worried that the weather was going to keep us from making it to Toronto, but we succeeded despite the odds... and then discovered that the band was trapped under 2 meters of snow in Buffalo. Sad times all-round...

Anyway, thanks for reading. I'm already trying to figure out how to narrow down the songs I want to post next, so hopefully this will get me posting more!

*On the off chance that you didn't notice, it's on the right sidebar below the post archive.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Back From the Dead 2: Electric Boogaloo

I'd like to mention a couple other rather major changes that have happened over the last year that I neglected to mention in the previous post, but that I feel are worth mentioning. I was originally going to make this a small post, but it kind of ran away on me so I guess this is what you get for now. Enjoy it.


First of all, my music tastes have been refined a bit more. Work has allowed me to truly discover the joys of internet radio - no longer am I stuck choosing to listen to 3 classic rock stations, 5 pop stations or 1 country station. Now, I can finally listen to my actual interests, namely metal. I really should have sought out internet radio long before now, but... well, eh, whatever. Some of the bands this has introduced me to include A Feast for Kings (I really hope they can recover after the tragic death of their lead singer, because their debut EP was incredible), Impending Doom (if you have a single brutal bone in your body, you owe it to yourself to check out There Will Be Violence, Baptized in Filth and Death Will Reign), Sleeping Romance (kind of like Evanescence, but with more metal and far less angst) and My Heart to Fear (I'm only starting to get into them, but if nothing else then check out "The Sneaking Chair").

My tastes have also started to shift slightly towards electronic music. This is largely thanks to the Hotline Miami games and John Wick, which have showed me that shooting people looks really freaking cool when you do it to a backdrop of electronic music. It's not a genre that I'm a huge fan of still, but I can see that potentially changing in the future as I dabble with it. I have already used some of this influence for a Stormrunners compilation video - normally I'd do a straight-up hard rock or metal song to back it, but this time I decided to use an electronic-metal remix of Love & Death's "Paralyzed" that I realized would be awesome for the task. I'm pretty impressed with the result, so we'll see where this goes in the future. I was also working on an electronic album a couple years ago that I shelved, but I was actually listening to it again the other day and quite liked what I heard still. This new-found interest might make that album see the light of day after all... ;)


Oh, and on the subject of music, I'd feel awful if I forgot to mention P.O.D.'s The SoCal Sessions. I first saw them advertising this thing as a crowdfunded effort on PledgeMusic. As I have said before, they have been one of my favourite bands for more than a decade now, but I was hesitant about this one: an all-acoustic album where they cover some of their older songs. I'll be honest, I wasn't entirely on-board with this when I heard about it. For one thing, they already kind of did this with a live album called the Rhapsody Sessions, which was one of their more boring efforts IMHO. Furthermore, they had already tried a more acoustic sound on When Angels & Serpents Dance, which was a decent album, but felt like they completely ditched their heavy sound to the album's detriment. The fact that Murdered Love went back to their heavy sound suggested to me that the band was trying to get back to their roots rather than following deviations. So basically, these potential issues were making me hesitant, but I pledged and more or less forgot about the album for months. However, I got a package in the mail a few weeks ago which surprised me, until I opened it and saw some really evocative album art with P.O.D.: The SoCal Sessions emblazoned upon it. I threw it in my computer and my worries about it being a lazy cash grab were blown away from the first song. This album is actually, to my great surprise, really good. Sonny nails it on the vocals, the song selection is excellent and very diverse, and some songs are actually improved by the acoustic transition. In particular, "Panic & Run" has to be one of my least favourite P.O.D. songs, but the acoustic transition takes it from an unfocused, too-fast hard rock song to an apocalyptic reggae track. The band's reggae influences get played up even more, which is awesome as far as I'm concerned. In fact, the only track I'm not keen on is "Will You", but that's mainly because it is the only one that sounds like a "generic" acoustic version of a heavier song. Luckily, the other tracks are adapted far more interestingly.

Anyway, enough about music that probably only I care about, and onto something else that only I care about: theology (I'll keep this one brief, I swear... if you can't stand religious talk though, then skip ahead two paragraphs)! I think I have mentioned on the blog before that I am a Christian and grew up in a rather conservative, Evangelical family. However, around 6 or 7 years ago I began to feel paralyzed in my faith and was having trouble reconciling what I believed, what I had been taught, and the increasingly apparent politics of the Evangelical church. Things got worse when I went off to university as the Christian group I was with was pushing on me hard to evangelize to anyone I got a chance to. There was one particular question they were also pushing hard on me to answer their "spiritual conversation starter", but I could not come up with an adequate answer: "what is it that you crave?" Hell, I still can't come up with the sort of fundamental answer they're looking for... knowledge? Certainty maybe? Ugh, thinking about that again is really bugging me.

In any case, the Evangelical monopoly on what it is to be "Christian" has been really bothering me, someone who is rather liberal and who strives to be an intellectual. However, one of my best friends (who happens to be studying for military chaplaincy) introduced me to Progressivism through Benjamin L. Corey's blog, Formerly Fundie. I have to say, this has really helped turn me around and I feel like I'm actually growing and maturing thanks to my faith once again. I promised to keep this brief, so I'll just summarize this really quickly: if you grew up in the church, then chances are that you're going to start to question and start to fall away before you hit twenty. If your teachings were anything like mine, then Evangelicalism will make you feel like you either have to believe the way that they want you to believe or you're a heretic. They'll drill their ideology in you and make you feel ashamed (not necessarily for malicious reasons either, but just because religion has been designed this way to be self-perpetuating). If nothing else, just know that there are other understandings which still hold onto the core beliefs and which have just as much (if not more) theological basis than the mainstream church.

Anyway, thanks to Benjamin L. Corey, I have also discovered the joy of podcasts. As much as I'm loving internet radio, it can get a bit stale when they play the same songs on rotation every day. So I started listening to Corey's That God Show while I worked, and it got me hooked. Listening to podcasts basically feels like learning at work, and keeps it from getting too repetitive. In addition to That God Show, I have been listening to The Cracked Podcast, Unpopular Opinion, Dead Things, Quality Control and Hello Internet. If you get the opportunity to listen at work, have long drives, or just have a fair bit of downtime, I'd recommend checking them out. :)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Back from the Dead

So... obviously it's been more than a couple weeks. Working 8 to 4 every weekday and only getting weekends off leaves me with surprisingly less time than I was expecting, especially when I have to juggle blogging with novel writing, gaming, painting and social life.

Blogging on a schedule (when it is basically being done for free) was becoming a bit of a chore - especially when I worked on retrospectives. You're looking at setting aside a few hours a week to write, which obviously cuts into other hobbies significantly (I was basically setting aside my novel in order to update the blog on a weekly basis, while juggling all my other interests). Initially, I started this blog as something I could throw on a resume, in hopes of landing some job in a writing field. However, when I landed a job that wasn't Tim fething Hortons, the priority suddenly fell off. I'd prefer for blogging to be a fun hobby rather than an obligation. I know I'm making excuses here, but I figure that the record should be set straight on why I went on hiatus for so long.

So what has been going on in the last year? Well, for starters, my the novel is progressing fairly well (over 65k words so far, so probably around half way through the first draft), although my writing speed makes George R.R. Martin look like Sonic the Hedgehog. I got a PS4 and a new computer, which has opened up lots of new opportunities in regards to video and photo editing (not to mention it's the first time I've really been able to take PC gaming seriously). I also started a small Sisters of Battle army which is pretty awesome, I'll see about posting pictures at some point. Oh and I placed 6th and 2nd in two local Warhammer 40k tournaments, which was great, and actually ended up winning best sportsman at one of them as well! I have also done some paintballing as the season has started, but I will probably get in less this year for a number of reasons. First of all, I'm saving up for a car for my 25th birthday. Secondly, it seems like everyone is getting married, so my time (and money) is already being spoken for this summer in regards to that.

As for the blog though... I probably won't be posting all that often still... sorry to get anyone's hopes up. I've been super-tempted to make a post for the past few months, but never actually got around to doing so. I imagine I will continue to make infrequent updates, but I can't see myself doing weekly posts like I used to. We'll see if that means that the retrospectives series' are totally dead in the water now, but I'd at least like to finish the Shreks someday. In any case though, I'd like to post on occasion when I have something on my mind and then see where we go from there. In any case, I've got a couple topics I'd like to discuss in the future so hopefully that gets us started again. :)