Category Archives: Music

Introducing The Magnetic Fields

Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields

If you follow me on any of the social networks in current existence, you’ll know that my favorite band of all time is The Magnetic Fields, putting Stephin Merritt as perhaps my favorite musician of all time. I came across this band while listening to a particularly sad and mopey episode of This American Life. The episode was called Break-Up and it featured contributor Starlee Kine as she dealt with a particularly bad break-up. She talked about how sad songs somehow were able to express how she felt when she could not, citing “I Don’t Want To Get Over You” as an example.

That was when I fell in love with The Magnetic Fields. Immediately I got ahold of every album I could of theirs and listened to them on repeat for days, finding little bits here and there that I could relate to with each new listen. And now I’m sharing this love with you. I’ve made what I consider to be an essential introduction to The Magnetic Fields that encapsulates what I love about the band and what make them click for me.

You can listen to the songs here, but I URGE you to go buy the albums, which I’ve linked below.

Enjoy.

Postscript:

I recently had a chance to stand about 5 feet away from Stephin Merritt while waiting in line at the concession stand at a local theater. Given my superb acting training, I was able to restrain myself and not go completely apeshit-fanboy. But manic Daffy Duck was alive in the back of my mind, bouncing around and screaming “WAAOOOO! WAAOOOO! IT’S HIM!!!!!!!!”

EDIT (6/16/2012):

There’s a Magnetic Fields music video? HELL YES! It’s one of the songs that I’ve added to the Spotify playlist above.

On the Past Year

Last year I wrote up a list of what I thought were reasonable resolutions for 2010. They were to be the type of goals I could actually accomplish as opposed to the type of resolutions I had made (and failed) before. The only rule I had set for myself was that these resolutions had to be specific and that they had to be something I could feasibly do within 12 months. The thought was that I could check on my progress each month to see how far I had come.

I pulled up last year’s resolutions today for the first time since I wrote them.

Heh. Oops.

From said post:

-Finish a final draft of Year of the Con, my nerdy road-trip comedy. Acquire an Agent and a Manager to help sell my script and future ones I write.
-Complete writing of two web series I want to produce.
-Get at least one of the web series produced.
-Write a third screenplay.
-Get Photoshop CS2 and Flash 8 back on my compruter. Srsly, the newer ones blow.
-Write every day.
-Find either a better-paying job or a second job.
-Start up my old webcomic.
-Go to more shows.
-Go to a rave.
-Go to 2 nerdy conventions. Dress up for both of them. – C2E2 Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3
-Go to comic con.
-Write a sci fi novel.
-Complete Script-Frenzy this year and do NaNoWriMo again!
-Write a spec script for a sitcom, hour-long drama, procedural, and whatever you call the ooey gooey goodness that’s on HBO and SHOWTIME these days.
-More dates. Some blind dates perhaps.
-Do one of those speed dating things and have at least as awkward a time as Steve Carrell did in The 40 Year Old Virgin.
-Drink more cranberry juice. So delicious.
-Get a suit. I’ve got the pants. Just need to get the rest.
-Co-write a film script with someone.
-Hang out more with friends and be less of an anti-social bitch. God, srsly.
-Do two things I would never otherwise do.
-Get my toon to level 80. God, srsly. I’m such a terrible nerd.
-Visit at least 2 Friendfeed people. ROAD TRIP!
-Take Killer (my cat) to the groomer. Be able to afford that.

I suppose I could complain that I didn’t complete nearly the amount of resolutions that I had set out to do last year or that none of my resolutions really did much in the way of bettering myself, but the truth of the matter is that I actually did things on this list and was able to have new experiences I hadn’t even thought of when I composed said list.

Extra things I did this past year:

-Blogged more.
-Took swing classes, did alright at them.
-Moved to LA.
-Went to AFI Film Fest, saw a ridiculous amount of films. FridaySaturdaySundayMondayTuesdayWednesday
-Ate at In-n-Out.
-Was in the same room as Seth MacFarlane and Alex Borstein.
-Started dating my girlfriend.
-Made an idea excel sheet and ported it over to Evernote.
-Kept up with way more television this year, starting a series of blog posts to capsule review the episodes.
-Went to more music shows than I’ve been to in awhile.
-Met Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice, shook his hand.

New Years Resolutions are very hit or miss with people. A lot of people aren’t really all that enthused about seeing where they’ve failed in the year, and that’s understandable. However, I’ve started to think of these lists as a way to document a little bit of myself each year, almost like a photo album, in list format. Last year I was kind of in a rough place, as you can see by some of the self-deprecating notes in each item on my list. And yet I still had some hope for the year, as evidenced by all the things I thought I could do. I had SOME inkling that I would be moving to LA, but I didn’t really think I could pull off another large move.

I think I will make resolutions a bigger part of my New Year’s traditions from here on out. I would love to be able to look back on these posts ten to twenty years down the road and simply remember.

Okay, I’m done with this sentimental crap. WELCOME TO 2011, you sluts.

Ten Things In 2010: Songs

2010 was an interesting year for me. To say there were a lot of highs and lows would be kind of an understatement. There were a lot of issues I needed to work through and a lot of closure that I needed to experience before moving on with my life. I moved to a new state to pursue my career, and I started dating a wonderful person. All these ups and downs needed some kind of expression and I figured making a mixtape would be my best bet.

I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I have. They mean a lot to me.

You Must Be Out of Your Mind

The Magnetic Fields, Realism

[audio:http://www.jonathan-hardesty.com/audio/teninten/m-01%20Must%20Be%20Out%20Of%20Your%20Mind.mp3]

Wasted Daylight

Stars, The Five Ghosts

[audio:http://www.jonathan-hardesty.com/audio/teninten/m-02%20Wasted%20Daylight.mp3]

Straight Edge of the Blade

Jenny & Johnny, I’m Having Fun Now

[audio:http://www.jonathan-hardesty.com/audio/teninten/m-03%20Straight%20Edge%20Of%20The%20Blade.mp3]

Crash Years

The New Pornographers, Together

[audio:http://www.jonathan-hardesty.com/audio/teninten/m-04%20Crash%20Years.mp3]

We Don’t Have Normal Lives

Freezepop, Imaginary Friends

[audio:http://www.jonathan-hardesty.com/audio/teninten/m-05%20We%20Don%27t%20Have%20Normal%20Lives.mp3]

Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

[audio:http://www.jonathan-hardesty.com/audio/teninten/m-06%20Sprawl%20II.mp3]

The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future

Los Campesinos!, Romance is Boring

[audio:http://www.jonathan-hardesty.com/audio/teninten/m-07%20Sea%20Is%20A%20Good%20Place%20To%20Think.mp3]

Write About Love

Belle & Sebastian, Write About Love

[audio:http://www.jonathan-hardesty.com/audio/teninten/m-08%20Write%20About%20Love.mp3]

True Love Will Find You in the End

Mates of State, Crushes (The Mixtape)

[audio:http://www.jonathan-hardesty.com/audio/teninten/m-09%20True%20Love%20Will%20Find%20You.mp3]

I Heart California

Admiral Radley, I Heart California

[audio:http://www.jonathan-hardesty.com/audio/teninten/m-10%20I%20Heart%20California.mp3]

Ten Things In 2010: Music Videos

There’s a picture in a family album somewhere of me as a diaper-clad youngster dancing around the TV whilst in cowboy boots. That’s probably the earliest memory I have of MTV. Growing up, music videos were always something I would turn to whenever I had the chance. These days I turn to the internet for my music video needs and I thought I would share my top ten with you.

HERE WE GO!

10. I Want The World To Stop from Belle & Sebastian on Vimeo.

Whether or not this is technically a music video is up for debate. Frankly, the song is good enough to where I don’t really care. It’s cut from a larger video which features at least two performances from Belle & Sebastian’s album Write About Love. I like seeing the visuals of the band playing and the song is way too distracting to do much in the way of nitpicking. This is just a great song!

9. She & Him In The Sun from rhivanz on Vimeo.

If you hadn’t heard, or were maybe just living under a rock, Zooey Deschanel is in a band. She sings and dances around while her cohort, M. Ward looks cool and plays his guitar. That’s essentially the plot to this music video and I’m quite fine with that. While the album itself has fallen some from my interest, this song remains a favorite and this video complements it nicely!

8. Warpaint “Undertow” from maudegone on Vimeo.

I never gave the new Warpaint album enough of a chance to give it a place in my top album list, but their music video for Undertow is top notch. Directed by Shannyn Sossamon, the video elicits a kind of whimsical dreamy state that’s fitting for the music. Definitely a favorite. Plan for 2011: Get acquainted with Warpaint!

7. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs from Merge Records on Vimeo.

A good video for a good song. Directed by Spike Jonze. I have a feeling you’ll like this one too.

6. Los Campesinos “Romance Is Boring” from Alanedit on Vimeo.

I’m not entirely sure if this is the “official” video for the song, but I’m going to assume it is and continue watching. You should too. It’s Los Campesinos!

5. The New Pornographers: Crash Years from Rockonlelkek Staff on Vimeo.

While this won’t go down as my favorite New Pornographers music video ever, it’s a nice complement to the Neko-fronted song and features a bunch of cool umbrella choreography! Don’t know about you, but I imagine that the entire band is down there twirling the umbrellas around. WAVE TO DAN BEJAR!!!

4. Broken Bells “The Ghost Inside” from Jacob Gentry on Vimeo.

What’s better than a Broken Bells music video? How about a Broken Bells music video featuring Christina Hendricks in a sci-fi setting, selling her body parts to make her way across the galaxy?

3. Gorillaz – Stylo from Mario Ucci on Vimeo.

This music video from Gorillaz is a rather striking departure in that it ditches the 2D animation from the band’s previous outings in favor of creepy-CGI. Bruce Willis joins the fun as an antagonist with a great car and a huge gun. The result is a really fun and engaging music video.

2. Vampire Weekend – Cousins (Official MV) by. Garth Jennings from JOOONAE LEE on Vimeo.

This is perhaps my favorite song off of Contra, and as such is my favorite music video thus far for this band. There’s a low-fi quality to the video that’s endearing and the editing is smart. I much prefer this video to “Giving Up The Gun,” which relied WAY too heavily on slow-mo and a slew of cameos.

1. Mates of State: True Love Will Find You In The End from Amplified on Vimeo.

I love love love Mates of State, which makes having their music video at the #1 spot on my music video list a bit of a given. The idea behind the video is fun and the husband and wife team can’t help but exude adorableness as they prance around the city projecting themselves onto other people, places and things.

Ten Things In 2010: Albums

This is it. The year is winding down. Everyone is declaring their most favorite things of the year and preparing their new year’s resolutions, knowing full well that they won’t keep them past January. I’ve had this blog for a few years and each year I’ve tried to do something along the lines of a best of or a list of some kind. This year I thought I would up the ante a bit and give you a couple days’ worth of posts about the top ten things I really really liked in 2010. Let’s start with the top ten albums of the year.

HERE WE GO!

10. Contra – Vampire Weekend

The sophomore effort to Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut. Very peppy music set to great guitars. There were many a day spent singing along to “Cousins” or “Holiday.”


9. Imaginary Friends – Freezepop

I found Freezepop kind of by accident. I had played their game Amplify way back in college, but didn’t really pay them much mind. Fast forward to my time in Chicago. I was in a bit of a dark place and not in much of a music-enjoying mood. But at the behest of a co-worker, I went to The Subterranean to see his band open. They were special. Anyway, I stuck around after and decided to see what this headliner Freezepop was all about. I’ve been a fan ever since. Their newest album sees them with new bandmates and a mature sound. I quite like it.


8. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

I’m sure a lot of people started liking Arcade Fire after hearing that one song of theirs on the Where The Wild Things Are trailer. I say this because I admittedly fall in that category. Their latest is perhaps my favorite entry in their discography and I like the theme they stick with in each of their songs.


7. Broken Bells – Broken Bells

I love The Shins. I’ve been jonesing for a new album from them for quite some time. Broken Bells came at just the right time and gave me the Mercer fix I needed. While it lacks much of what made The Shins so great, it’s a great direction for Mercer and his lyrics really fit the stylings of Danger Mouse.


6. Crushes (The Covers Mixtape) – Mates of State

A cover album made my top ten list. I generally wouldn’t consider an album of covers or even a mashup album (*cough*girl talk*cough*) but Mates of State bring such a love and warmth to these songs it’s hard not to find yourself at the end of the album before you get a chance to say “Hey I liked that!”


5. Romance is Boring – Los Campesinos!

Los Campesinos! deserve their place on my list for A) their awesome music stylings, B) their gloomy lyrics set to poppy music and C) the fact that they work so FUCKING hard at what they do. I barely had time to breathe with their last album and suddenly Romance is Boring hit. Granted, it could just be that I’m really not much for paying attention to music news, but having this album come out was like finding a $20 bill in a wallet you had packed away. SCORE! Missed out on seeing these guys this year, but I have hopes for the next.


4. Together – The New Pornographers

Wasn’t a huge fan of Challengers when it first came out, and then each song kind of found it’s place in my psyche, especially Myriad Harbour. When I heard that they were coming out with a new album, I got super excited. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed in the least by this latest outing. It’s a much more subdued and mature sound than Twin Cinema and the other albums before it, but it still has the energy of them and this time everything worked in perfect harmony.


3. The Five Ghosts – Stars

Stars was kind of an accidental find for me. NPR had a “First Listen” segment with them and I gave it a try just to see what all the jazz was about. I became quite hooked and instantly messaged my girlfriend about this GREAT NEW BAND I’VE DISCOVERED, only to find that she’d heard of them before and that this band was an off-shoot from Broken Social Scene. Let’s just say that my mind was blown. This album is great, and it’s a really focused effort on the band’s part.


2. I’m Having Fun Now – Jenny And Johnny

Jenny and Johnny are number two on my list, but they were number one a few weeks back. I’ve been undecided until recently and you can hear why when you sample the music below. This new effort from Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice is addictive. You finish listening to the album and you want more. The lyrics are strong and the music is memorable. It’s hard not to crush on either Jenny or Johnny after hearing this album. Still haven’t washed the hand that Johnny shook, either.


1. Write About Love – Belle & Sebastian

I’ve had a relationship with Belle & Sebastian for as long as I can remember, which is right around the early college years. Their new album is amazing and it was just good enough to usurp Jenny and Johnny for the number one spot for me. I wish I could just beam to you over this hear internets the way in which this album makes me feel. This is the album to define the year for me.


HONORABLE MENTION

There were a bunch of albums that vied for a spot on my top ten list, and these were the ones that deserve a shout out for being better than the rest. In no particular order:

Realism – The Magnetic Fields

Out Of Our Minds – Auf Der Maur

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – Various Artists

Plastic Beach – Gorillaz

The Fakeout, The Tease and the Breather – Canasta

Junior – Kaki King

I Heart California – Admiral Radley

On Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I’d like to get a couple of important details squared away with you first before I start rambling about why I think Scott Pilgrim is one of the top mainstream films this year. First of all, I’m a writer. As such, I believe in the story and characters above all else. Things like “who directed it” or “who produced it” or “how it was made” sit on the shelf below. Finally–and this is the most important detail–I’m a video game nerd from 8-bit yesteryear and I digest non-mainstream comics like fifty-nine cent, name-brand mac ‘n cheese; which is to say, I really dig comics. I’m the dorky, indifferent kid that wants “to think about death and get sad and stuff.”

There. I feel like we can proceed.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is awesome, and the hyperbole is well-founded. The film, from beginning to end, is an experience. Every moment oozes with style and is tailored to the “and stuff” generation I subscribe to; 8-bit sound effects run rampant, sound effects are written out comic book style, and characters pull huge fucking hammers out of their satchels.

This is all fine and good, as long as it’s not at the expense of the characters or the story. There have been too many adaptations that have opted for the “look right” option and have totally flubbed on the story front. With Pilgrim, the main characters all have story threads that wrap up nicely by the end credits and title character himself grows from being a kind of “twenty-something asshole” to “not that bad of a guy.” To quote him, “I think I just learned something.” The romantic triangle between him, Ramona and Knives is also very believable and the awkwardness and crushing blow of getting dumped is played out in a way that’s borders on uncomfortably accurate. It’s nice to see the filmmakers keep a good balance between silly romantic cliche and heartfelt character stuff.

The casting for the film didn’t feel wrong, and everyone was able to do their own thing with the characters. Michael Cera, despite his tendency for sameness across his roles, embodies Scott Pilgrim and does the role good. After seeing the film, I’m not sure anyone else could have played that role. One reviewer I read suggested that all his other roles are just training for this, and I can definitely agree with the sentiment.

Perhaps the most memorable role of the film is that of Scott’s roommate Wallace, played by Kieran Culkin. Every scene he is in is gold and I found myself wishing he had had more screen time. Brandon Routh also shines through as Todd Ingram and revels in the delightfully ridiculous role. When I say that I can’t complain about any of the casting choices, I’m being super-vegan serious.

That’s not to say that this film is perfect. It’s not. It’s a niche film tailored to a specific demographic. It’s paced like a video game and it winks at it’s viewers like an epileptic seizure. The characters could be deeper and could have more heart, but that’s not necessarily the point of the story. What you see on the screen is as faithful an adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work as anyone could hope to achieve. It’s not going to be Criterion Collection Masterpiece of Nerddom, but it’s most definitely in the top mainstream films of this year and is pretty much THE film of the “and stuff” generation.

I lesbians this film so hard.

On That MGMT Album

Let’s get this out of the way immediately. I don’t like MGMT. They’re bland psychedelia with an extra helping of bland for good measure. Their initial charm for me was in their EP with “indie rokkers.” I was able to get behind the workings of that song and the musical directions present therein. With Oracular Spectacular, they went in the direction of their song “Kids,” and lost my interest completely. Did their new album Congratulations change anything for me?

Absolutely not. The new album is a bust, with every song bleeding into each other without anything to distinguish them apart from each other. The first track shows promise in much of the same way as “indie rokkers” did, but the interesting sound pretty much ceases after that and the whole affair becomes the familiar psychedelic whining that we were given in the first album. The band has stated that this was a “no singles” album, and it shows. Here’s hoping they grow and mature some in their next outing. You can check out the “Oracular Spectacular B-Sides” over at NPR, where they have an advanced preview. The album goes on sale on April 13.

If you want something along these lines that has a more of a unique sound, you might consider the Islands’ Vapours.

On That She and Him Album; It’s New

You may or may not have heard about a little musical pairing called She & Him. It’s a folk band by M. Ward and my super-crush Zooey Deschanel. This is a band that’s always maintained a place just under my radar. Volume 1 was a solid album, but I found it slow and dragging in more than a few parts. Even the album’s single “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here” kind of moseyed its way into my heart with the speed of a teenager asked to wash dishes…by hand. That’s not to say that I didn’t like the album, because I did. It just didn’t appeal to my more “pop” sensibilities.

Enter Volume 2, which dropped on the 23rd. Having seen the music video for “In the Sun” I was anxious to hear how the rest of the album played out. NPR once again had a play-through of the entire album, and I finally gave it a listen. From the get-go, I was drawn in thanks to the livelier tunes and the tighter songs. Instead of wondering when a song would end, I found myself wishing songs would go on just a little bit longer.

I realize that complaining about the pacing in a folk album is somewhat akin to bitching about Pizza Hut pizzas having too much grease, but for me it’s truly the difference between a “good” album and a “REALLY GOOD” album. And folks, it IS a REALLY GOOD album. Even if you’re not that big of a Deschanel fan, I suggest you give the band a second chance with this album. Who knows, you might even tap your toes a bit.

On Plastic Beach; It’s Some Kind Of Nature

Today marks the release of Plastic Beach, the third album by virtual band Gorillaz. If you’re up to date on your music news, you’ll know that NPR has had a preview of the entire album up on it’s site to give fans an early listen. After about a dozen or so listens, I thought I would share some kind of review for you. Short version: It’s good and you need to go buy it right away.

Slightly less short version: If you’re expecting the same kind of album as Demon Days or their self-titled debut, you might be a little disappointed. There are less standalone singles here than in previous albums. The trade off, though, is that the album feels more connected and flows way better. From first to the last track, it’s an entire experience. Granted, nothing quite to the extent of Girl Talk’s Feed The Animals, but it gets close and you will find yourself going through the entire album more than once without realizing how many tracks have passed.

I have a little bias in this review as I’ve enjoyed Damon Albarn’s band since the beginning and could tell I would enjoy this new album immediately after listening to Stylo when it was leaked awhile back. And the singles on this track are difficult to get out of your head, from the frenetic “Superfast Jellyfish” to the somber “On Melancholy Hill.” It’s a finely crafted album and I heartily recommend you get it at your earliest convenience.

On Broken Bells

I’m going to admit off the bat that I don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse. The closest I’ve come to anything with his mark on it would have to be Gnarls Barkley and the second Gorillaz album, which still holds up for me all these years later. Well, today is the release date for his collaboration with The Shins’ James Mercer, titled Broken Bells. As with the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach, NPR had a preview up all of last week for fans to sample. I gave this one a rather ridiculous amount of play since I’m a rabid fan of The Shins.

My thoughts? It’s solid.

I read through a few early reviews and the general consensus on them is that the album is “meh” or just for the Zach Braff brand of hipster. Their problems with the album, however, are what I like about it. The album is simple, and Mercer proves that he can still work his vocal wonders while evolving his musical styling at the same time. There are moments here and there where the album gets a little slow, and that’s really the only place where I agree with most of the reviewers out there.

If you like either of these two artists and what they do, you’ll want to pick up this album. Like I said, it’s solid and enjoyable.