Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Farewell to Blog

Well my loyal followers...that time has finally come. I've purchased myself a domain and web-hosting, and with the power of Wordpress I have blog capabilities on the new website. That being the case, for the sake of simplicity I'm going to retire my blogger site. In other words, The Funferblog is permanently moving to JAMESFUNFER DOT COM!!! (I did that to be deliberately obnoxious, as well as to compel you to click on the big letters). If you like what I put on this blog, please follow me there. If you use a reader of any kind (Google, etc.) this is the easiest way:

Thank you for following me so far...please feel free to leave a comment somewhere on the new website!

So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, goodnight

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Songs I Never Get Tired Of #15

Concerto for sopranino recorder in C Major, RV 443 (Largo)
By Antonio Vivaldi

This post is also a test to see if my blogger imports to my website properly. It's over here if you want to check it out...still under construction, obviously. Pay no mind to the shifty eyes at the top of the page, they're a placeholder until I decide what to put there.

Ok! On to the song. This one is a rather long story, but I'd like to open by saying that Vivaldi is one of my favourite classical composers. How did he become so? Well, it all started with a children's music series called 'Classical Kids'. Each album would feature a classical composer - there was 'Bach Comes to Call', 'Beethoven Lives Upstairs', 'Mozart's Magic Fantasy' and of course...

There's fire in his music, too
I've always appreciated my mother for instilling in me a love of classical music, and I'm fairly certain that Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery found its way into our CD music collection because of her, along with Rachmaninoff, Grieg, etc. I must have listened to this CD dozens of times, just like my old Treasure Island cassette tape/graphic novel combo.

Sadly, my version was not read by Alfred Molina.
The CD itself, like all of the titles in the Classical Kids series, was an ingenious melding of narration and music. Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery managed to interweave beautiful baroque music with a compelling, touching story. At the same time, the tale teaches the listener a great deal about Vivaldi, his work, and Venice during the renaissance. Is it strange that a young boy fantasized about being a member of the Pieta? Yes, I know the school was for orphaned girls, but dammit, I wanted to play a Stradivarius!

Vivaldi used to boast that he could compose a complete concerto in less time than it took to copy out the parts. If this particular sopranino recorder concerto (replaced by the piccolo in a modern orchestra) was written that quickly, then I imagine that Vivaldi's vanity was well-earned. The largo movement is haunting and compelling, and in the Ring of Mystery it's combined quite well with the story to create a sense of chilling urgency.

Most are familiar with Vivaldi through his most famous work, The Four Seasons, which is well-represented in Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery. However, to this day that recorder concerto has stuck with me. Give it a listen, or do yourself a favour and check out the Ring of Mystery. It's a great introduction to the importance of classical music.

Better yet, get your kids to listen to it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Songs I Never Get Tired Of #16

'When You Were Young'
by The Killers

I didn't get into The Killers as quickly as many others did. Hot Fuss came and went and I didn't really pay too much attention. Don't get me wrong, I liked their sound, but sometimes an album really has to grab me.

Sam's Town did just that.

It was the goat that grabbed me, officer

Sam's Town is one of those albums that I can listen to from beginning to end and enjoy it all. Damn the critics, I say -- I don't care if they tried to emulate The Boss and I don't mind that their biggest hit off of Day & Age sounds like something I would have danced to in a high school gymnasium. A well-put together album is just that, and if you've seen these guys live, you've got to admire Brandon Flowers' stage presence.

Sometimes what you need is a refreshing sound, and I'm a bit of a sucker for concept albums.

Besides, When You Were Young is a great karaoke tune.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Songs I Never Get Tired Of #17

By: VNV Nation (Icon of Coil version)

Well it's no secret to those who know me that I went through an extended electronica/industrial phase. Some of the bands that I listened to heavily during this time (which was probably from 2001-2005, if anyone's curious) have stuck with me over the years for various reasons. Yes, some of it is good to dance to, but I'm not much of a dancer.

It's not just the touching, wistful tone of songs like Beloved, or the thought-provoking angst-ridden tunes like Carbon or Saviour that set VNV Nation above other electronic music. The reason that I don't skip VNV Nation tunes when they come up on my random playlist is that they're catchy like a pop song, but instead of hooks and watered-down generic lyrics they make you think...repetitive lunar-landing sampling aside.

I mean, let's be honest. When's the last time a top-40 tune made you think about the nature of the cosmos? If you can think of one, please write it in the comments...despite evidence to the contrary, I enjoy being proven wrong from time to time.

Songs like this make me want to look at Hubble Telescope pictures for hours on end. Anyone else?

God is the ultimate voyeur...

Monday, April 30, 2012

Songs I Never Get Tired Of #18

'I Will Possess Your Heart'
by Death Cab for Cutie

The weekend was quiet here on the blog...I was at the Calgary Expo. I made a lot of great contacts, including a friendly and wonderful publishing company, Tyche Books, who hosted a couple of very informative panels regarding the publishing industry.

On to the music!

I fell in love with Death Cab right away, and I'm pretty certain this is the first song of theirs that I heard. What struck me the most, from the get-go, is just how honest the lyrics are, in all their songs.

However, honest lyrics aren't the only thing that I like about IWPYH (yes I'm going to abbreviate the song title). The song begins with a long instrumental intro that builds in intensity, and summons to mind the idea of a yearning that only grows stronger over time. It's a story that many of us can relate to, being in love when those feelings are not immediately reciprocated, and I think the early part of the song captures that sentiment beautifully, both with lyrics and music.

However, the more times I listen to the song, the more the lyrics speak of an almost stalker-ish obsession. There are days when outside your window, I see my reflection as I slowly pass. It's not directly stated whether the route that takes him past her house is simply coincidence, a chance way-point on his way to an important destination, or whether it's a deliberate detour. 

The obsession continues. You reject my advances and desperate pleas. So it's pretty clear that she's not interested. However, he then goes on to sing: I won't let you let me down so easily.

A while back I saw a really great play (and please forgive me but I can't remember the title for the life of me) about a career woman who decides to go on a blind date. Things go decently on the date, but she decides at the end that she isn't really interested in a relationship, and would prefer to focus on herself and her career. All seems fine until she starts getting strange phone calls and messages from the man she met on the date. She calls him and tells him to back off, and things only get worse from there. She returns home from work one evening to find inappropriate (and threatening) messages written in all of her photo albums and journals. In the end (spoiler alert!) she is forced to move cities and change her name to protect herself.

There is a fine line between love and obsession, and the fear of being stalked (or pursued after a clear rejection) is no laughing matter...and I think IWPYH creeps into you like that, and makes you think about where that line really is. As a male, and somebody who has never been stalked, I don't pretend to understand what it's like to be a victim from the same angle or depth as others, but I certainly like to believe that it's an issue I can be sensitive about.

Just like Foster the People's song Pumped Up Kicks, IWPYH puts us in the shoes of the antagonist in order to shed light on difficult issues. It's a clever device, one that has certainly made me think.

What else can I say? I deeply regretted not going to see Death Cab and Neil Young a couple of years back in Calgary.

Oh, and there should be a new chapter of Chasing Lucifer up tomorrow.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Songs I Never Get Tired Of #19

'Man's Road'
By: America

I'll start with a confession:

I never saw 'The Last Unicorn' until I was in my twenties. Whew! There, I said it. That's a load off my chest.

You might find that rather odd since I grew up with Rankin & Bass Christmas specials...and I was fairly obsessed with J.R.R. Tolkien thanks to my mother, who would read 'The Hobbit' to me and my sisters when we were very little.

The greatest little hobbit of them all  
For those of you unfamiliar with Rankin & Bass, they were the dudes responsible for bringing such beloved Christmas stories as 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' and 'Frosty the Snowman' to life, using a classic, animated style or occasionally stop-motion animation with little puppets made out of felt & cardboard, etc.

You put one foot in front of the other.

The neat part about these holiday specials is that, for the most part, original music was written to supplement the show:

I remember being blown away when I discovered that Rudolph was produced in 1964...meaning that it was a part of my parents' childhood as well as mine. Still, somehow as a child I'd managed to miss out on several of Rankin/Bass' feature films, including The Wind in the Willows and, most importantly, The Last Unicorn.

I was familiar with the Band America long before giving in and enjoying what was, in my mind at the time, essentially a little girls' movie. My mother used to add the album History to the old Sony 5-disc changer on shuffle, and thus America became a childhood staple along with Al Stewart's Year of the Cat and other (now somewhat obscure) baby-boomer music.

Since America's contributions to The Last Unicorn were not considered a part of their 'greatest hits', they were not included on the album History. Thus, similar to my brief love affair with Evanescence after watching Daredevil, I knew that I had to have the music after watching the movie.

Man's Road fits the movie perfectly. America's folky, clean-vocals style lends itself well to a song about the beginning of a difficult journey. For me, it became the theme song of one of my fantasy role-playing campaigns...and I'll be honest, I'll probably use it again for the exact same thing. Some bands, some songs are a little more timeless than others, and everybody can relate to what it's like, walking man's road.

...even if the lyrics aren't exactly gender-neutral.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Songs I Never Get Tired Of #20

'Tunnel of Love'
By Dire Straits

I find that most people are familiar with the Dire Straits through hits like 'Sultans of Swing' or 'Money for Nothing' (which is famous both for its music video, one of the first uses of computer animation

as well as its recent controversy in Canada surrounding offensive lyrics).

However, I find that where Mark Knopfler really shines (other than at his amazing guitar solos) is when he writes love songs (Romeo and Juliet being another amazing example that you should probably listen to at some point). Through clever use of lyrical devices, he tells us a love story, using the framework of a carnival. Even the title itself, 'Tunnel of Love', is a metaphor.

The principal theme shines through easily, telling us that love is a gamble, a game. Infatuation is full of flashing lights and excitement, but sometimes it ends abruptly, and sometimes all we're left with at the end of it all is a sense of yearning. Even Knopfler's guitar solo at the end of the song seems to be crying out with unfulfilled longing. I highly recommend listening to this incredible song and then 'Romeo and Juliet'.

Even if you don't like love songs, I think that anybody can find something to appreciate in the Dire Straits.

P.S. A new chapter of Chasing Lucifer should be up tomorrow. Thanks for reading!