Saturday, August 29, 2015


Don't remember the rules? Okay. I'll set my iTunes to play random and then blog somewhat stream-of-consciousness for whatever plays next. I'm supposed to go until the song ends, but I usually end up staying on topic for two songs at once because I don't stream-of-conscious blog very quickly. Neither the stream nor the conscious are particularly on point most nights.

What will happen next? I have no idea! Nobody does! It's so exciting! And here we go...

 #1: Mile Markers by Codename Rocky

I have never heard this song. I've never heard of this band. It's from an indie Christian ska compilation I downloaded a few years ago. Yeah, it was free. I was so huge into the whole Christian ska thing (and, to a lesser extent, the mainstream ska thing) back in the high school and college years. Recent years have led me to conclude that so much of it was actually not good music. Like, at all. I still enjoy, obviously, pulling out FIF, even the old stuff, as well as the Supertones, Insyderz, and the swingy sounds of the W's, though I'll acknowledge those last two don't generally stand the test of time very well. And then there were all the fairly awful bands that I loved that only got minor-label deals because it was the flavor of the day. I own a lot of those. Anyway, this song actually doesn't sound that bad. Most of these songs on these compilations start out all right, and then the "singer" starts and either the voice or the lyrics pretty much kill the whole thing, and I despair for the future of the genre. Niche as it was to begin with.

Incidentally, I recommend checking out the band "October Light." You can get some of their music on Bandcamp, I believe.

Hey, does anybody remember that I once played drums for the (mostly) theatre major ska band Astor Place Riot for one night? That ruled. I wish that had become an actual thing, instead of just a one-night thing. I still use that in my bio sometimes.

Thanks, Codename Rocky, for reminding me of that.

#2: The Economy of Mercy, by Switchfoot

I love that I still have Switchfoot music from before they were, well, Switchfoot. That said, there aren't a lot of tracks from this particular album I still listen to. My sister once had the biggest crush on these guys. Wonder what would have become of this band if that Mandy Moore movie had never happened. A Walk to Remember, I believe. I actually watched that movie once in college, not because one of my female friends wanted to watch it, but because one of the Manly Movie Night guys had a pretty hardcore crush on Mandy Moore, if I remember correctly. I don't remember much about it but I don't think I liked it. I also think I was working on a Scene Painting class assignment while it was on, so I had an excuse to not pay much attention without being rude.

Looking back, I wish I'd found more opportunities to stay active in scenic design and painting. I took to it fairly well, but there were just no opportunities in our tiny program at undergrad. I would always get some great experience in learning new skills in summer stock, but by the time I moved on full-tie professional work there was always something else for me to do, and people who were hired specifically for scene work, that opportunities for learning and growth pretty much dried up. It'd be very hard to go back to it now, especially with new tech's role in the process (my professor taught us to do everything by hand and was surprisingly uninterested in my independent study Scene Design II class, but then we never really clicked, I don't think, and that wasn't her fault). Still, when I'm reading a script, there are times when I'll get a vision for a set and there's a part of me that'll always wish I'd found a way to give that side of my creativity more of a chance before leaving it behind.

#3: Programmed to Fight (Acoustic) by The Megas

I love The Megas. If you've ridden in my car in the past five years you probably know this. Mega Man was my favorite video game franchise (NES) growing up. This is a band that's taken the theme from each level of the first three games and turned them into rock anthems for each character. And I know that sounds incredibly geeky and very "Time to move out of Mom's basement," but what I love about this band above the many others that have done similar things is the way they've managed to weave character and storytelling into their work. It's gotten better from album to album, to the point where their last two releases (History Repeating Red & Blue) actually play out like a pretty epic rock opera. Some of these tracks can pack a surprisingly heartfelt punch, and they also know how to structure the album as a whole to maximize the emotional impact. For example, I hate Quick Man. I hate his stage, I hate the boss fight, I hate everything about him. But the Megas track on his theme (The Quick and the Blue) casts the villainous bot as a self-appointed sheriff prepping for his eventual demise in a Wild West vein, and it's surprisingly effective. (And one of my favorite video game cover tracks in existence)

Anyway, while it obviously helps to be well-versed in the lore ahead of time, and while it can take some getting used to due to the fact that the same voice sings every song, I still recommend checking out the History Repeating albums (again, Bandcamp) and enjoying them for the stories they tell. (Have I dreamed about what a theatrical production of the music with a massive budget might one day look like? .....maybe. Again, my old scene design enthusiast is pretty stoked about the idea)

#4: Jesusita En Chihuahua by the 101 Strings Orchestra

Our first year of marriage, we didn't have a lot of money. (Not at all like today, of course) We had a tiny one-bedroom apartment, some hand-me-down furniture--you know, newlywed just-out-of-undergrad life. It was pretty grand, really.

Anyway, I remember when we went down to Wal-Mart to buy our first Christmas tree. We got the least expensive one that we could still put wrapped packages under. We also didn't have much in the way of holiday music at that point, either, so when I found a three-disc set of instrumental Christmas music for five bucks, we decided, "Hey, why not?" We also talked about buying one new Christmas album each year. I don't know that we've stuck with that.

BUT! Man, was that ever an amazing buy! This collection is still one of our favorite holiday albums. It's all not only instrumental, but orchestral. It's pretty high quality stuff, and we can listen to it in the car with the kids, as background music at home, pretty much wherever. We're pretty old-school, we like classic stuff, and this collection absolutely nails the nostalgic, traditional Christmas sweet spot.

I have been contemplating doing a Top Seven blog of the best bang-for-our-buck purchases Kim and I have made in our life together. This 3 CD set is definitely on that list.

#5: Dream of Two Cities by the O.C. Supertones

Remember back when the Supertones broke up? This was a bizarre song to have closed their canon. It's slower in tempo, it draws heavily from a lot of the imagery out of Revelation, it's a very mysterious and prophetic sort of song. It's kind of intense. It was so very different from everything they'd done in their entire career. And of course, when it came out, none of us realized it was the last song they'd release. So when the announcement came sometime the next year (I think?) it just felt this was a strange stamp to have on the end of their career. I like looking back on the Supertones' original run (not to exclude their excellent reboot a few years ago, but I'm just talking "Adventures" through "Revenge"). You could tell the songwriter was basically a brand-new believer and the band was still learning how to write music together, as all of the songs are incredibly simple, peppy, and repetitive, and the songs don't go much deeper than "I love God and God loves me" or "Don't let me fall down, never wanna fall, never wanna fall, fall down." I still love these songs, they're so infectious and joyful, but you can tell as the albums went along (and the band started to lose some of its followers) that the musicians were maturing and thus expanding upon the basic ska sound--most of the bands that lasted a while did this--and Matt Morginsky (primary lyricist) was really reading and studying up on theology, church history, etc. A lot of the material on this last album got quite a bit deeper than the older stuff, and some of it may have even been a stretch to grasp to newer believers. And then there was this song.

Anyway, sometimes I'd be driving around Houston while this song plays, looking at our skyscrapers and our highways full of cars and our megachurches and all the modern marvels and wealth and technological advances that are a part of my everyday life here, and I think about how much power and influence this nation has on the entire world, and it just sort of blows my mind how no world power has ever stayed on top indefinitely. I get a mental image of all our mighty buildings laid waste and our overpasses crumbling, our metropolises abandoned. And I don't know that I expect anything that dramatic to ever come, even when the U.S. is eventually ousted from its spot as Nation Numero Uno, but I also think it's a definite possibility. For the sake of my generations of descendants, I hope that there's a peaceful transition out of dominance. But it's fascinating how the world is constantly changing. We always have a sense that the way it is is at least similar to the way it will be for centuries to come. But God only knows, right?

*clears throat* Right, anyway. Shuffleblog. Not a good medium at attempting to dissect deep topics. But it's almost an eight minute song, so at some point during it my brain usually starts wandering down that path.

Okay, last one:

#6:Behold Behold by the St John's Kids Choir

I have so much kids' music on my iTunes, y'all. Some of it's pretty god. Some of it is terrible. I get that there are lots of companies that try to fast-track cheap entertainment options for kids and sell them for practically nothing, hard would it have been to find someone who can actually sing "The Wheels on the Bus." Did you just pick the guy in the office down the hall and say, "Hey, try a goofy voice. One take. I want to go get a burger." Even if you're not going to try, it shouldn't be too much to find a decent voice actor to narrate your picture book. I know a ton of actors who'd do it for free, believing that it would be a stepping stone to bigger and better things, because we creative types desperately want to believe that some random job is going to one day open the door to that tantalizing Big Break which very few ever truly get but SOMETIMES PEOPLE DO!

Where did this start? Oh, St John's Kids Choir. This one's okay. But I don't think I've ever heard this song, so clearly not one of my kids' favorites. Like I said, I have a lot of toddler music. I'm surprised more didn't come up on this Shuffleblog. Also a little disappointed none of my Broadway stuff came up. Because, you know, Broadway musical popping up on your Shuffleblog lends a bit of instant theatre/artist street cred. Or something.

Sorry for any typos. I'm not the biggest fan in the world of this keyboard.