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!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Songs I Never Get Tired Of #21

By Foo Fighters

Well, I could talk about how I never get tired of listening to post-grunge rock because I grew up with it, or I could talk about just how influential Dave Grohl was (and still is, I suppose) to modern rock, or I could do what everybody on all those lyric interpretation websites do and pick the song apart, but the fact of the matter is that Everlong is just a really great love song. Not my favourite music video, but a fantastic song nevertheless.

What sets it apart from many other love songs is that although the lyrics are sappy, the music is quick and driving, building in intensity as the song goes along, giving the whole piece a more urgent, sexual feel.

Everlong may be about finding harmony in love, but when I close my eyes and listen, it always makes me think of a chase.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Songs I Never Get Tired Of #22

Beg, Steal or Borrow
By Ray LaMontagne

I have my friend Kyria to thank for introducing me to this incredibly talented alt-country (y'allternative) artist. It's often difficult for me to explain to people who don't like country music why he's so good, and how exactly he's different from the kind of pop-country you hear on country music radio stations. Suffice it to say that the lyrics are less about trucks/boy-meets-girl/getting cheated on...and often about subject matter that requires a bit of introspection after you listen to it.

Like 'Beg, Steal or Borrow', for example. Never has a song so perfectly captured the restless feeling of growing up in a small town and wanting, pining desperately for an escape.

Other good examples include 'Are We Really Through', which got me through a depressing and lonely winter (yes, depressing songs help when I'm depressed) and 'Empty', which has brutally honest lyrics and a driving, haunting sound.

If you think you don't like country music, give Ray LaMontagne a listen just to make sure.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Songs I Never Get Tired Of #23

by Norah Jones

I'll be the first person to admit that I don't listen to enough jazz. However, ever since hearing 'Don't Know Why' as a part of the mix CD we listened to when warming up in university drama, I knew that I loved Norah Jones. When an artist is easy on the eyes and easy on the ears, you're pretty much helpless, I find.

The cool melancholy of Jones is a part of what I like about her so much. 'Shoot the Moon' is a fairly wistful song. As she sings of a lost love, she wonders if the passing of the seasons had something to do with it. I think many of us have been there at least once, where a summer fling dies as we head into autumn, and with the cooling of the fall season, our passions cool along with it.

Universal themes are an easy way to sell records, of course...but if you've never really listened to jazz, Norah Jones is a pretty easy transition for an ear unaccustomed to the style.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Songs I Never Get Tired Of #24

Gnossienne #1
By: Erik Satie

In a bizarre childhood twist, I was first introduced to the music of Erik Satie via a video game: Challenge of the Ancient Empires.

My sisters and I devoured games by The Learning Company when we were kids. There were games that taught reading comprehension, basic math, and even ancient history (see above). I'm not sure what the children's educational software market is like nowadays because I don't have any children, except to tell you that Mavis Beacon is probably still kicking around somewhere.

But enough about childhood educational video game nostalgia. The point is that The Learning Company had this great idea. If you don't have somebody on your programming team who can compose music, what's the easiest way to include it without infringing upon copyright laws? That's right, kids. Classical composers. Bushbuck was the same way. You could fly across the globe on a geography learning adventure/scavenger hunt, whilst enjoying Rossini as you watched your plane travel from airport to airport.

Whoops, I promised no more childhood video game nostalgia. Ok, on to Erik Satie.

Like I was saying, I was introduced to the music via 'Challenge of the Ancient Empires', but when I was a kid I thought it was just music composed for the game. Years later, I was listening to CBC Radio in the car, and the Gnossiennes came on...all six of them, in fact. Needless to say, I flipped a little bit when I realized the connection. I'm weird like that.

I went home and immediately did what anybody of my generation would do: I went on Wikipedia and looked up Erik Satie. Then I looked up Challenge of the Ancient Empires, and smacked myself on the forehead. The game played 'Marche Slave' in the Egypt rooms, which should have tipped me off because I've always been a huge Tchaikovsky fan. I should have known the music was all borrowed from classical composers!

I got over it, though, and downloaded an entire album of Satie's music. The best part about the Gnossiennes is that no two pianists are going to play them the same way. Satie composed the music without traditional time signatures or bar lines, leaving a lot up to the interpretation of the performer.

No matter how it's played, however, Gnossienne #1 is a haunting piece; I'm sure you'll agree if you have a listen. It's pretty popular too, and has been played in at least a dozen films. It's a great introduction to a style of classical music that you might not normally approach...and it's one of those great pieces to put on your playlist when you're outside underneath the stars.

Classical has that great ability to inspire because it merely sets the mood - it doesn't demand anything extra by adding words. I think every artist should have a good classical playlist ready when they need some inspiration. I probably couldn't have written Crystal Promise without some help from Vivaldi!

This has been another rambling James Funfer essay. Enjoy the music!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The State of the Blog & Songs I Never Get Tired Of

Good morning, loyal readers!


Well, hopefully that'll change. I wanted to talk about a couple of things quickly. I'm taking some time away from home and doing a self-directed writing residency with the hopes of churning out a lot of work on the sequel to Crystal Promise. I'm also hoping to finish my website with some of that time, which means that the entire blog will be moving to That being said, I didn't want the blog to fall silent in the meantime. Chapters of Chasing Lucifer will still be posted on Mondays (or sometimes Tuesdays, or Wednesdays) until the story is finished. There are probably about three or four chapters to go.

However, in the interest of practicing some non-stressful writing that doesn't involve novels, and because I want to keep the blog active, and because I think it would be fun, I'm going to post a little thing every day (except Mondays) that I like to call:

Songs That I Never Get Tired Of

Every day I plan on posting a song from my playlist that I never get tired of listening to. I will disseminate the song slightly, and explain what I love about the music (and often the artist) so much. Feel free to comment and share some of your favourite songs as I go along! I love picking up new music.

Yes, I know the song is twenty minutes long. Yes, I know it's based loosely on an Ayn Rand novel. The point is, it's an awesome twenty minutes.

How many times does a piece of music tell a complete story, complete with ups and downs? The beauty of the song is that it has time to go through several sections, and the music will *change* completely, as well as return to previous themes in sort of a leitmotif-esque fashion.

Driving drum beats on the snare and toms and incredible guitar solos are a staple of Rush. I could talk about the band's talents all day long, and I still haven't figured out how Geddy Lee can belt out some of those notes. What makes '2112' special is that it tells a story, a story about music. Seriously, if you've never listened to 2112, you're missing out. Concept song/albums like this are hard to find these days, perhaps because the heyday of prog rock has completely come and gone.

As a writer, I love a song that tells a story...and the longer the story, the better. There's no hook, no banal chorus...Rush has always been about the art rather than the industry, and it shows in their style. If you haven't discovered Rush yet, you're missing an important part of music history. At the very least, take twenty minutes aside and listen to '2112'.

I like to picture the entire song being told as a story animated in the style of 'Heavy Metal'

-James Funfer