Musical “drops” + some great tracks!

The “drop” is an interesting term in music. Often associated with dubstep + EDM, Billboard describes it as the “…moment of instrumental build[-up] when the bass and rhythm hit hardest. It’s why arenas full of people suddenly start jumping up and down.” Some songs even dedicate their entire runtime to building up towards a satisfying, climactic drop, where the careful layering of instrumentation is integral to the timeline and direction our song leads us in, just like the flow of a well-written novel. Personally, I love how a great drop culminates the entire song into its absolute acme; all the carefully layered instrumentation is playing at once and any musical restraint is lifted. Here are some of my own favorite drops (and moments as a whole) in music that I’m dying to talk about. I hope you listen with a nice pair of headphones!

 

Easily the most incredible, mind-bending, ridiculous section of music I’ve ever heard. To those turned off, I promise you it’s music. If you don’t already have an affinity to noise in general, the climax of “A Little God In My Hands” is most definitely going to sound like total shrill, inarticulate, painful bullshit that you’ll definitely not want to hear again. But after you get used to the seemingly impenetrable wall of pure sound, it really breaks down into a kind of gorgeous chaos – like two supermassive stars have collided and the entire universe is being dismantled, as crushing flare and holy fury fills what used to be a placid space. The entire song is pretty insane, and you really have to listen through the whole thing to get the best experience.

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum is a moment of utterly honest passion and warmth, in a piece that’s icy cold and technical. I’ve talked about Sibelius’ Violin Concerto before, but I’ve been listening to it again recently, checking out Christian Ferras’ interpretation of the piece. His performance is incredibly heartwrenching – it’s apparent that he had a lot of personal resonance with the composition, having battled depression throughout his life. He also nails that double stop at 3:37 with such a perfect portamento afterwards that it’s like the purest form of love condensed itself into a string of major sixths. As for the section of music itself, the phrase really differs from other romantic sections in its total frankness – it’s a profession of love and beauty, but without the frills and the artifice of sentimentality that might come from something like some of Rachmaninoff’s more indulgent works. The difference is that nothing in real life is ever as flowery and romantic as the schmaltz of a Symphony No. 2 or a Rhapsody On Paganini. And don’t get me wrong, I loooove Rachmaninoff. But you can’t deny that Sibelius has baked an incredible maturity and complexity of the human experience into this piece. Just listen to how the phrases battle between major and minor in a bittersweet tango, as if every joyous thought is marred by sadness, and vice versa. C’est la vie.

 

Celeste! “Scattered and Lost” is the one of the most functional works of music I’ve listened to – as you progress through Celeste‘s spooky mansion level, the soundtrack progresses along with you, adding additional instrumental layers to signify the increase in difficulty until the final boss fight has the track culminate in a super catchy drum solo. It functions well as a soundtrack to communicate the level’s enigmatic tone, the game’s thematic focus on anxiety and self-hatred, and the intensity of the boss fight that helps drag the player into a state of flow. It’s difficult enough to compose for just one of these things, but the track manages to do all of it!

 

Yeah, it’s hyper-cynical. Yeah, it’s pretentious. Despite what you might think about FJM, you can’t deny how gorgeous his instrumentation is in “Pure Comedy.” The breakdown in this track is sorrowful, with brass wailing and choral lamentation filling the soundscape – what kind of comic reality are we in!?! It’s an indictment of us, and of God, and as such, the instrumentation is going to be huge, deeply melancholic, and tinged with a sad dose of existentialism and regret. Let’s not argue about the lyrics, haha.

Nathan for You – the funniest show I’ve ever watched

Nathan for You is the funniest show I’ve ever watched. To describe it, it’s kind of like a mix of The Office and The Eric Andre Show, drawing on absurdist cringe humor from the most laughably inconceivable plotlines you could possibly come up with. Every single person I’ve watched this show with has loved it (which I suppose might say a bit more about my friend group than the show) – it’s got a kind of initial holy shit how is this real? bit of shock that nothing else I’ve seen has managed to do, and besides being absolutely hilarious, it illustrates just how crazy humans really are, us and Nathan Fielder included.

The show is a docu-reality TV series that follows Nathan Fielder, a business consultant who attempts to help small businesses by providing them with innovative ideas. For a liquor store, he’s helped increase profits by allowing the sale of alcohol to minors, but the minors can’t take home the alcohol they’ve purchased until they’re 21. For a struggling electronics store, he’s tried to exploit Best Buy’s price match policy by having the electronics store offer a television for $1, enforcing heavily restrictive measures like placing an alligator in a room in between the store and the television for sale, and purchasing all the televisions from Best Buy for $1 for resale. For himself, he’s created an entire fake dating show called “The Hunk” where he recruits 10 women to be on the show in order to become more comfortable around women. It’s not scripted, and only Nathan himself is in on the joke when he’s filming.

What’s really incredible about the show is the absurd efforts that Nathan and his team are willing to go to for a skit. Every idea, no matter how ridiculous, is treated with utmost seriousness and ingenuity, pushing even the most outlandishly out-there concepts to reality. If Nathan can’t manage to make an idea work initially, he searches for workarounds, taking seemingly huge diversions in order to achieve a goal. The show is genius. And it’s only complemented by Nathan’s excellent acting and comedic timing. Nathan’s “character” is utterly oblivious, a representation of the most awkward and naïve human being ever. It’s his deadpan delivery and extreme resolve to staying in character that makes scenes in this show just so uncomfortably hilarious. If anything, Nathan for You should teach you that you shouldn’t ever be self-conscious or worried about an awkward conversation you might have had, because nothing could compare to the level of awkwardness that some of these episodes entails. Scott’s Tots is baby food compared to the Bachelor episode of Nathan for You, but it’s not so cringe-inducing that the show is unwatchable, because those real people featured on the show are just as insane and willing to buy into Nathan’s crazy world as Nathan himself. At its core, the show is an impressive display of human nature’s compulsion for absurdity, a homage to those why not? moments in your life where reason and restraint become secondary to having ridiculous fun, and even the worst ideas end up becoming hilarious and memorable experiences. I’d highly recommend this show.

How do you get excellent conversations?

No really, I’m genuinely asking. Everyone’s been through the “formality” conversations that go something like this:

“Hey, (name you hopefully haven’t forgotten), how’s it going?

“I’m good. How are you?”

“Not well haha. (Annoying class) is really tough. How far are you on the homework/project?”

“Oh yeah it’s rough. I haven’t gotten much of it done.”

…and really stilted conversation about school (your only common factor) continues. This usually happens with someone you’re only tangentially close with – acquaintances that you’ve seen around a lot but don’t really know well. Great conversations with close friends are candid, free of pressure, and it feels like you could be talking back and forth forever – neither party is just “waiting for their turn to speak,” but instead conversation flows naturally and both people are attentive and interested.

It seems obvious that the differentiating factor is just familiarity and common interest, but I know charismatic people who can have genuine conversations very early into meeting someone new. Thus the question I have is “how can you pull excellent conversations out of people you might not know well?” Or perhaps the core question is “How can you get people excited to talk about something, even if it’s not a shared interest?” – because it’s passions that are the interesting windows of character that lead to friendship.

The last great conversation I had with a total stranger was on Dostoevsky and Russian literature. They were studying philosophy, and it’s not really too often that someone in EECS gets to talk about their love of the humanities. But conversations like this are pretty sparse. I find that most of the time, even if the two of you have some shared interest, it’s still not easy to get people off their guard. Of course, there’s the FORD acronym – Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams, that acts as a good topic list for generating deeper-level conversation, but in general, people still seem a bit wary when it comes to sharing too much about their lives, unless their personality is to be naturally open.

I’m interested to hear how others approach having good conversations with strangers, and how to circumvent the “formality” of a not-close relationship. Is familiarity and shared experience really a necessity before you can have more candid conversations? How can you get people to feel comfortable enough to talk about their passions? I’d like to know!

It Follows (2014) – it’s bad and this movie makes me sad

I had the displeasure to watch this movie with a friend after seeing its raving reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (an absolutely mind-boggling 96% Fresh, how so many people can enjoy this unappealing shlock for almost 2 hours is beyond me). It is easily one of the worst movies I’ve seen, and while on this blog I usually love to talk about all the great music and movies I’ve come across, I can’t help myself with It Follows. It makes me physically upset, and its high rating is a hard slap in the face to horror movies (and art in general) with ambition, talent, and effort. Spoilers ahead but honestly who cares it’s not worth your time and it’s been like 5 years.

these ratings are the real horror

I’ve never really liked horror movies – not because they’re scary, but because so many of them are so unapologetically bad. Apparently, It Follows is actually a cut above the rest, and if this is true, then I’m disgusted with Hollywood horror. It Follows is bland, cliché, devoid of character, negatively reactionary, and boring as hell. The characterization of this film is the easiest to pick apart – there is none. Every character is a painfully generic cardboard cutout that’s been forced to robotically recite melodramatic teenage bullshit as if they’re lifeless husks being dangled by some puppeteer to move around and flap their gums for a few seconds before turning off and going silent again. I can’t name a single interesting trait about any of the characters – there’s Main Girl, who’s about as flat and insipid as a blank sheet of paper, Long-Haired Dude, whose stupidity is frustratingly predictable (and not like in a relatable or realistic teenager way; he’s just… dumb…), Nice Guy, whom the film grossly decides to reward for being so nice and respectable and kind and ugh, just lets him get the girl through no actual effort of his own, and then the rest of them, who are also about as flat and insipid as a blank sheet of paper and have no meaning on the plot whatsoever. Every single character is like a cliché culmination of the worst traits of their archetype. I challenge you to watch this film and point out a single interesting trait about any of the main cast. The biggest problem with characterization like this is that it’s inhuman, that no teenager on this earth is as genuinely bland and unappealing as the characters in It Follows. It’s a cautionary tale made for teenagers but features an offensively bad representation of the most stereotypical dumb shit that adults think teenagers are like. I didn’t like It either, but at least it has a raw and candid look at the lives of its young children placed in a scary world.

I’ll talk about the worst part of this movie now, which is that its storytelling is tastelessly boring and its horror so laughably lacking that the film cannot possibly hold your attention for its runtime. The movie’s horror aspect is flawed by design – its metaphor for STDs/AIDS is presented as a slow-moving zombie-like creature that doesn’t pose enough of a threat that the main character can’t drive a few miles away and take a nap for the night. It’s accurate in metaphor; STDs and AIDS kill slowly, and its horror is in the ever-present fear of its grasp creeping up, one night claiming your life. But the monster is just… laughable. Its only kill in the movie comes from Long-Haired Dude’s arrogance, and it isn’t provided in enough of a horrifying context that the movie’s canned message of “don’t hoe around” makes any impact. It’s an eternal, immortal follower that will always come after you, but is just such a dull vehicle in the movie that it’s a lot scarier in concept than its execution, and that can’t keep interest during runtime.

The story is a broken mishmash of the most uninteresting melodrama possible and filler. There’s a lot of filler. The worst of it is in the movement of its characters – the film loves to waste time by filming dimly lit walking or driving shots. There’s (somewhat) filler in Main Girl’s Sister’s monologues, which are really just melodramatic readings of cryptic loosely-tied thematic statements and wink wink nudge nudge these readings aren’t just randomly chosen dear audience! And yet they aren’t going to make any sense whatsoever to our target audience of impressionable teenagers so why put them in at all, except to try to make your film seem more heady and cool than it is? There’s hilariously bad portrayals of teen interaction, the most cringeworthy in the opening of the film, where two friends(?) share lifeless quips about their obvious personality flaws or something in the most unnatural, stilted dialogue possible.

So this post is getting a bit long and I haven’t really talked about the story, but the truth is I had to come back to writing this a week later and can’t really remember what happened in the movie… I think the pacing was done decently in the first half, but it’s still pretty much a dull grayscale ride all the way through, with some pinpoints of mild overdramatic tension that we’ve seen done a billion times better in It. That’s not to say there aren’t good parts of this movie though. There’s an excellent beach shot in the opening, where a young woman is placed right at the intersect of pitch-black water and the bright white sand at the shore, ominously lit by the blinding headlights of her car. The soundtrack is also pretty great, with spooky atmospheric synths really punctuating a sense of portent and uneasiness. But none of this come even close to making up for the mess that is the rest of the film. Don’t watch it.

tampopo!!!

hello! these are the 3am thoughts of a man who’s been coding his eecs 482 project for pretty much three days straight and is on 3ish hours of sleep! enjoy my rambling, incoherent, stream-of-consciousness thoughts about

(spins the wheel of popular indie/classic album or movie)

tampopo!

Image result for tampopo

tampopo is a film about the unifying power of ramen noodles. i watched it with a group of friends around three years ago, so my memory might be a bit hazy! it’s a funny frisky family-affirming fantastic foodie film for you and me and everyone on this planet that enjoys eating great food! tampopo tells a series of vignettes (with one overarching main story) that illustrates the connective and very human element of food – something so intrinsically a part of the human experience that it’s used as a potent symbol for familial love, class distinction, and sex. not to mention, the main story is a heartwarming glow-up for our main character Tampopo, who learns how to make noodles like the legends. a whole bunch of strange men show up in her life, but they all teach her the secret techniques of ramen – which includes crafty ways to obtain your competitor’s recipes.

i am very tired and the film is also very unironically funny! it’s even been described as a “ramen western,” or a parody of the classic western cowboy tale. tampopo exudes a very unique charm to it – stylistically, all of the “cool retro japan” feel is present, but it’s really how genuine and unpretentious the tone of the movie is that makes it such an entertaining watch. at its core, tampopo is about the simplistic joys, and sometimes sorrows, of life! a dying mother gets up one final time to do what she’s always done for her beloved family – cook them a great meal. a storeowner stalks a pesky “fly” as a swatter, but is made absurd by metaphorizing the fly as a full grown woman who can’t help but touch all the fruit. a gang member purchases a raw oyster from a woman on the beach, cuts his lip, and they kiss – a stand-in for sex. all of these vignettes seem a bit random and jarring when you’re first watching tampopo, but it ends up painting a really endearing message about humanity’s interpersonal relationships and how they can all pertain with food.

 

watch it!!!! im going to bed!

noise rock and your poor bleeding ears

last week I wrote about Prokofiev’s 2nd Piano Concerto, this weeks is on noise rock band Lightning Bolt – which I really don’t think is too dissimilar to Prok at all. Prok 2 at times has that same grotesque loudness as Lightning Bolt that makes both of them so fun and energizing to listen to.

 

Ride The Skies

 

noise rock’s appeal is easily lost on people – they hear the ripping, crunchy, raw abrasiveness of the music and peace out before really giving it a chance. “i don’t understand how anyone can possibly think this is good” is a common phrase I’ve heard from friends when I show them something like Lightning Bolt. but of course you’re not going to like the music at first! music takes work to like! the listening experience isn’t really something you can tune out – actually taking the time to listen closely for nuance, lyricism, layering of the track, etc is how to begin to like music you usually wouldn’t like before. radio pop being manufactured for listenability is a science they’ve got perfected – it’s music you don’t have to work for and music people can like right away. whether or not this makes them bad is debatable, but I really don’t think it does.

back to Lightning Bolt – these guys are nutty. this shit is over-the-top cocaine-hit hyperactivity where a drum beat is battered into your skull. the bass guitar is incredibly crunchy and distorted; the drumming sounds like a rabid animal was let loose. mix these together with a 300BPM track, repetitive yet energetic bass melody, and you’ve got an eardrum-blasting ADHD rock banger. it’s also great at the gym. this is music that hypes you up – it’s got a kind of primitive allure where you just can’t help but let go of social nuance and the facades of daily life and just really candidly jam to loud disorderly shit. this “primitive allure” is completely unpretentious and raw; it draws on that same aspect of smashing office supplies with a sledgehammer. and in the middle of our structured, university-bound lives, we need some of that release from time to time. 13 Monsters is my favorite track from Lightning Bolt. it’s rhythmic as hell, the bass guitar absolutely shreds through the air with crackly stentorian timbre and commands the soundscape along with our monstrous energy from Dave Chippendale. there’s not really much else I have to say about this album besides that it’s some fun stuff.