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Chicken: delicious, tender, dramatic . . . wait, what?

Maple Leaf’s “Dinnertime Is Prime Time” commercial shows that not only can chicken satisfy your hunger—it can move you. Depicting scenes of close relationships combined with a poetic voice-over and topped off with a poignant piano melody, they’ve created the most moving ad for chicken that you’ll ever see. Don’t believe me?
 


 

The clincher in this ad is really the music, so naturally, I went looking for the artist. First stop: YouTube. Apparently I’m not the only one enamored with the tune—something I realized after watching several videos of people performing their renditions of it on piano.

After finally locating Maple Leaf’s channel on YouTube (that’s right, Maple Leaf has its own YouTube channel) I read that the music was composed specifically for the ad. Kind of a bummer, as I would have liked to hear more of the same.

During my search, though, I had looked into someone’s claim that the music was a trance song called “Make a Miracle”, so I made another quick visit to YouTube. The arpeggios in “Make a Miracle” are played in a different order, but the melodies of the two songs sound oddly similar. And strangely enough, the artist is called Prime Time! Coincidence? Probably.
 


 

In fact, if you listen to a lot of trance, you’ll find similar arrangements all over the place. Most likely because the note pattern in question produces that familiar “moving” feeling.
 

First video: Maple Leaf Foods via the Maple Leaf Foods YouTube Channel
Second video: Primetime via YouTube
 

Apologies to any vegetarians who were offended by my description of chicken as delicious.

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“Do what you want,” sings Amy Lee in the new Evanescence single—advice that the band members themselves have clearly taken, as fans who are used to the typical Evanescence sound might be thrown off guard.  The single, What You Want, was made available early this August and can be heard on their official site.  The new album, self-titled Evanescence, is scheduled for release on the 11th of October.

The new single is fast for an Evanescence song (at just over 120 bpm).  A run-through of the previous two albums reveals that it’s their fastest song yet, with its brisk pulse heightening its intensity and making it more energetic.  Conversely, it becomes less dramatic—a quality which in the past has been a staple of the band’s music.

Evanescence at Le Zénith in Paris

Although some of the newest band members have been around for a while, this will be the first album to feature Troy McLawhorn (guitar), Tim McCord (bass), and Will Hunt (drums).  The lineup alterations were interspersed throughout the last few years, but the new guys seem to form a perfectly capable troupe.

Evanescence has definitely kept its roots in the obscure area between rock and metal sticking with a dark and somewhat heavy sound, but had it not been for Amy Lee’s distinctive voice I probably wouldn’t have been able to recognize the music on its own.  Remove her from the mix and it almost approaches industrial metal at some points (although industrial fans might get on my case for that comment).  The change is not a bad thing, though.  When a band releases new material that sounds different from everything else they’ve done, it shows that they can evolve and that they aren’t afraid to tread on new musical ground.  Instead of looking backward trying to imitate their previous successes, they’ve got their minds on the future and are trying out new ideas.  It’s a refreshing methodology and I can think of a few other bands that could benefit from it.

Some fans might not agree that the changes are all positive, complaining that “this is not Evanescence”, but those are probably the type of people who like listening to the same old tunes over and over—the type of people void of any thirst for new and creative music.  Granted, we’ve only heard one new song so far, but if What You Want is any indication of how the rest of the album is going to sound, I’m looking forward to hearing it.

 
Photo: Jacquelin Corrales via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 2.5

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If your car stereo accepts a USB flash drive, but never seems to play your MP3s in the proper order, this post may be of interest to you.

Sony Stereo Faceplate

When you plug a flash drive into your computer, the files on it only appear to be in order because the computer reads and sorts them before displaying them on the screen.  When files are written to the drive, they are not necessarily written in order or even from the beginning of the drive.  This is done to prolong the life of the drive.  As a result, if your car stereo isn’t programmed to sort, it will play the MP3s in the order in which they’re found.  (This is also the case with some MP3 players, though fancier ones like modern iPods probably sort.)

I use an application called DriveSort to correct this little annoyance.  It will sort the files on a FAT-formatted drive (most flash drives) so that they can be read in order.

DriveSort

Important:

Be aware that this application is to be used at your own risk.  It is recommended to back up any data on a drive before running DriveSort on it, especially if that data is sensitive or important.  I, nor the author of the application, take any responsibility for the loss of data or any other sort of damage.  I haven’t had any problems with DriveSort, but better safe than sorry, right?


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Finally, I get to follow up the post I wrote a few months ago in which I talked about Dream Theater’s lineup change. After auditioning seven of the top drummers in the industry, they finally chose Mike Mangini to take the place of Mike Portnoy who left the band in late 2010. The drummers who auditioned along with Mike Mangini were Derek Roddy, Thomas Lang, Virgil Donati, Marco Minnemann, Aquiles Priester, and Peter Wildoer.

In my previous post, I mentioned some rumors that had been circulating saying that Marco Minnemann was going to be the new drummer, so when I heard that Dream Theater was actually holding auditions, I wasn’t surprised that Marco had been invited to try out. The entire audition process was filmed and made into a sixty-minute special that was released in three parts on Roadrunner Records’ official YouTube channel.

Each audition consisted of three “phases”:

 
The Song Phase

Three songs were chosen from the DT repertoire that most accurately represented the wide range of the band’s music. Each drummer was given the list of songs beforehand to prepare for the audition. First was A Nightmare to Remember from the album “Black Clouds, Silver Linings”, followed by The Spirit Carries On from “Scenes from a Memory”, and finally The Dance of Eternity, also from “Scenes”. The Dance of Eternity is widely considered one of DT’s most complex and difficult songs because of all the wacky time changes.

Most of the drummers performed all the songs reasonably well, a few of them having some minor huccups during The Dance of Eternity. One thing that the band member’s noted multiple times was that several of the drummers had added some of their own flare to certain parts of the songs, something that ended up being viewed as a negative point, since when they play old songs live, their fans expect to hear what they’re familiar with. I agree, to a certain extent (it depends on how drastic the change), but the reality is that you’re working with a different person who has a different background and a different style. Things are going to change.

 
The Jam Phase

Basically, they just play together—nothing in particular—to get an idea of style, creativity, and musical comfort between band members. Pretty straightforward and often accompanied by a few laughs.

 
The Riff Phase

This phase was intended to show how quickly the drummers could grasp a technical riff. Jordan Rudess, DT’s keyboard player, had written a couple of short, tricky phrases prior to the auditions, which were then shown to each drummer on the spot to see if they could follow along and put a beat to them. Most of the candidates who had trouble seemed to have it in this phase. It was certainly a rare eye-opener, showing that many of these world-class musicians who are always seen playing with almost machine-like speed and accuracy are, in fact, human. Afterwards, the band said they were happy that they included the riff phase because a lot of their songwriting happens in a similar way—spontaneously and “in the moment”. If someone isn’t able to pick up a certain timing right away, it can hinder the writing process.

 

 

 

 
Before I watched the footage, I thought it was going to have a hokey reality TV angle to it with voting and eliminations and so forth, but it actually didn’t. It was kept quite lean and stripped of unnecessary material and felt more like a “behind the scenes” than anything else, but I thought they could have extednded each episode to thirty minutes and shown more of the actual playing. The auditions were all over by the half-way mark of the third episode, at which point they picked their three favourites—Mike, Marco, and Peter—and reviewed the tapes extensively, finally settling on Mike. They gave him the news over the phone.

It was fun to see guys like Derek Roddy and Marco Minnemann try out, but I think they might have been a little bored being bound to Dream Theater because it differs from their natural styles. I’ve seen Derek Roddy play some jazzy stuff before, but he’s mainly known for his speed and involvement in the death metal scene. And even though I was secretly rooting for Marco Minnemann, I think they made the right choice. The musician they chose had to have the skill, but also be able to, for lack of a better word, gel with the rest of the band, and Mike was definitely the best fit in that sense. He’s roughly the same age as the rest of DT, has a similar playing style, is American, and seems to be generally extroverted and friendly without being too “in your face”.

I’m excited to hear Dream Theater’s new material, which is supposed to be nearing completion. I bet Pearl and Zildjian are happy, since they’ve got endorsement deals with Mike Mangini, whereas Portnoy was predominantly with Tama and Sabian. And I’m sure the DT guys are glad that they don’t have to learn a new name.

 
Videos: Roadrunner Records via YouTube

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CAUTION!  This post contains a minor spoiler for the film Snatch.

Fifth time’s the charm.  That’s what I was thinking recently when I decided to try listening to Massive Attack . . . again.  I’ve tried and tried in the past but the music just doesn’t do it for me.  What’s bizarre is that they have two songs that I love and find incredibly moving, and it was always those tracks that made me think I needed to give the rest of their music another chance . . . and then another, and another.  Each time, it didn’t take long before I turned the music off.  “Not my style,” I’d say.  “Those two good songs must be a fluke.”

The two songs were made known to me not by regular casual listening, but in the form of soundtracks.  Angel, which kicks off the album Mezzanine, is featured in the film Snatch during the scene where Mickey’s mother’s caravan is set ablaze.  I discovered the song Teardrop (from the same album) years ago through an interesting YouTube video which promptly became my first YouTube favourite and the cause of my creating a user account there.  Many people may also know Teardrop from the intro to the TV series House.

Massive Attack isn’t the only band for which I’ve experienced this, either.  I also really like the song Comfort Eagle by Cake, but none of their other material.  The same goes for Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap, and Nena's 99 Luftballons.

I have no sound explanation as to why I like only one or two songs from certain artists’ entire repertoires, but I do find that the singled-out songs I enjoy are usually the ones that are slightly dissimilar to their fellow tracks.  Whether or not that’s the reason, this peculiarity still bugs me.  So, this time I borrowed Mezzanine from a friend and forced myself to listen to the entire album from start to finish, and the outcome was surprising.  I didn’t hate it.  I even found myself listening to it again a bit more voluntarily the next evening.  I can still hear the things in the music that had always prevented me from liking it, but I suppose some stuff needs to grow on you.

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In general, I find that it’s a waste of my time to go to YouTube without a specific need.  If there’s something in particular I want to see, or something I need to look up, I’ll go, but without a clear purpose, one can lose hours in what seems like minutes clicking aimlessly through the neverending labyrinth of “related videos”.  Although I don’t like to do it often, it does occasionally happen.

I just spent about an hour browsing around YouTube and ended up watching videos about music, musicians, and such things.  (Usually, if I don’t have a purpose on YouTube, those are the kinds of videos I get sucked into streaming).  In particular, I was watching a few clips featuring German drummer Marco Minnemann.  I’ve seen his videos before, and the guy is an incredible musician.  He actually plays a multitude of instruments, but is most well known for his drumming skills, which combine raw talent with finesse, originality, and blinding speed across a range of musical styles: rock, jazz, metal, progressive.  And the independence!  Sometimes it’s as if he’s got a separate brain controlling each limb.

 

A clip via YouTube of Marco Minnemann playing in the odd time signature of 13/16.


 

Not long after Dream Theater and their drummer/co-founder/co-composer/co-lyricist/co-producer Mike Portnoy went their separate ways last year, fans began to speculate as to who would be stepping into the incredibly big shoes that were left behind.  As we’ve all been kept in the dark for many months, it’s understandable how several fan-based predictions have emerged all over the web.  A popular suspicion is that Minnemann will be the replacement, despite there being a claim of another Dream Theater member refuting the theory.  I don’t know if there are grounds to the claim; so many fans say so many things, and without hearing it from either a reputable source or straight from the horse’s mouth, it’s tough to judge.

In my opinion, though, they probably won’t go with Minnemann.  I feel like they’re the kind of band that will bring someone a little less famous into the spotlight.  If they do happen to pick him, I’ll definitely be on board, because there’s no denying that he’s got the chops for the position, but something tells me it’s not going to happen.  I’ll have to follow up this post to let everyone know if I was right or wrong once the decision (which has already been made, by the way) finally goes public.

If you want to see a lengthier video of Marco, check out this YouTube clip.

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Young Raymond, Who Slew Seven Giants

Have you ever listened to a song in which the singer slurs a phrase to the point that the words either sound like something that doesn’t make sense, or become altogether unintelligible?  Think of the moment of revelation that comes when you finally discover what is really being said; the feeling you may have experienced upon learning that Jimi Hendrix wasn’t excusing himself to kiss guys.  Now, imagine that feeling multiplied many times over . . . an entire incomprehensible song.

I listen to a lot of music by European bands, so I frequently come across songs with lyrics that are composed in foreign languages—Norwegian, German, Gaelic, what have you.  It never used to bother me that I couldn’t understand the words because I could still enjoy the music.  One could argue that if I really cared about the music I would look up all the lyrics to find out what they mean in English.  I have done, actually, for a few songs that grace my speakers more often than others, but realistically, there are just far too many and I haven’t the time.  Lyrics can, however, add an important element to a song, and sometimes we may not realize it until we find out what we’re missing.

While going through my music collection recently, I found a text file that I had completely forgotten about, buried in the depths of countless hierarchical folders.  It contained all the lyrics for one particular album, as well as translations of the songs on that album that weren’t in English.  After reading through one of them, I was surprised to discover what it was actually about, and it was strange knowing that I would never again listen to that song the same way.  I have listened to it for years, but now, every time I hear it I’ll be thinking about the story of Young Raymond, who slew seven giants on a seashore and beheaded an emperor.  Much different from what the melody alone had me imagining.

Reading those lyrics reminded me of something similar that had happened not too long before.  A colleague had brought some of her favourite music to work for us to listen to.  It was a foreign band that I had heard only once or twice before, so it was relatively unfamiliar.  A few songs went by, and then midway through one track she turned to me and, knowing that I didn’t understand the words, proceeded to explain how although the song sounded happy and festive, the lyrics added a very sombre, depressing quality.  The story is sung from the point of view of a boy standing on a gallows.  He sings of his love for a girl who is married to a horrible man who verbally abuses her and threatens her with physical harm.  One night when the girl’s husband was stumbling home drunk, the boy crept up and killed him.  All the while, of course, the music is bouncing blissfully along as the boy, now awaiting his execution, is exclaiming that he doesn’t regret what he did and hopes that the girl will one day think of him as the boy who died for her.

That song is a great example of the point I’m trying to illustrate, simply due to the degree of contrast between the tones created by the music and the words.  The two elements of the song induce conflicting feelings, one shattering the other, making for a unique—but fitting—emotional contradiction.  Without comprehension of the lyrics, the effect that so well causes this song to stand out is lost.

So is it bad to listen to music when you don’t understand the language of the lyrics?  Absolutely not!  Just keep in mind that there might be an aspect to the song that you’re missing out on.

For those who are interested, the two songs I mentioned are the following (via YouTube):

“Ramund Hin Unge” by Týr


 

“Denk An Mich” by Schandmaul

On a side note, I believe that the reason the music of “Denk An Mich” is happy while the lyrics are sad is because of the point of view. The story is being told in first person, and the boy believes that he’s done a good thing freeing the girl from a life of unhappiness. If it were in third person the music would probably be cheerless as well, because from an onlooker’s point of view it is an entirely sorrowful situation.

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