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Music Review: Weird Al ‘Alpocalypse’

Weird Al Yankovic - Alpocalypse

Photo | CryHavok.org

Weird Al’s latest album… Is it just as weird as his previous works? Is there enough accordion? Yes and Yes, my friend. Weird Al keeps doin’ what he’s always done with ‘Alpocalypse’.

Due to my Dad and Uncle’s influence, I’ve been a fan of “Weird Al” Yankovic since I can remember. I remember listening to ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Harvey The Wonder Hamster’ in the car when I was like six years old… and not understanding why the songs were funny, yet still was laughing. Jump fifteen years into the future and I’m still sort of doing the same thing. I know I like Weird Al… but, I can’t exactly put my finger on why. I think it may be due to my appreciation for talented musicians that don’t take themselves to seriously. Al is an extremely smart guy. He graduated Valedictorian from his High School and actually earned a degree in Architecture from California Polytechnic State University. Yet it seems like people don’t realize how much talent it takes to do what he does. Maintaining a career in music is difficult enough… but a career in parody? That ability to make someone laugh is incredible… and he’s been doing it for 30 years!

‘Alpocalypse’ is the Weird Al I’ve always known. Obviously a few tracks are better than others, but overall it’s a great effort on his part. There are a few stand outs: ‘Polka Face’, his classic polka collaboration of current hit music is terrific. I’ve always loved his choice of songs, and he doesn’t disappoint this time either. Somehow, he makes Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed a Girl’ feel like it always should’ve been a polka standard. I also enjoyed ‘Ringtone’, an original track based around an annoying ringtone. It’s filled with great background harmonies throughout, as well as guitars that remind me of late 70’s Boston/Queen. My last stand out pick is ‘Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me’, an epic ballad about junk email. This track now makes me want to see Weird Al in concert just so I can watch how an amazing ballad (filled with driving guitars and a huge choir) is performed by the parody king himself. Overall, ‘Alpocalypse’ doesn’t disappoint. It’s weird, it has an overabundance of accordion, some yodeling is involved… all in all, it’s a classic Weird Al album. Below are videos and quick reviews of many of the songs on the album.

Perform This Way – A tribute to Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’. It’s clever, but comes off more as mockery than parody.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss_BmTGv43M[/youtube]

 

CNR – A White Stripes-esque track based around actor-comedian Charles Nelson Reilly. Unless you’re a huge fan of Charles Nelson Reilly…feel free to skip it.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLnapb-30hA[/youtube]

 

TMZ – A parody of Taylor Swift’s ‘You Belong With Me’ based around TMZ’s celebrity obsessions. It’s also clever, but somehow already seems dated. More videos after the break.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwqFgnl4rMs[/youtube]

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Music Review: Heidecker & Wood ‘Starting From Nowhere’

Heidecker & Wood

Photo | UnderTheRadar

Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! may possibly be my favorite comedy TV show of all time. Absurdity at its finest is the only way I can sum it up. Tim Heidecker (one half of Tim and Eric) is actually quite an accomplished musician. Throughout the course of Tim and Eric, Tim has helped create some extremely bizarre songs to accompany their even more absurd sketches. Recently, Tim has teamed up with a Tim and Eric composer Davin Wood to create Heidecker and Wood, a musical side project that was born while messing around in his home studio. They’ve recently finished recording a full-length album of 70’s soft rock, Loggins and Messina/Steely Dan/Neil Young-esque originals, Starting From Nowhere. The entire idea for this duo was formed due to Davin’s ability to create such authentic sounding 70’s tracks combined with Tim’s ability to write absolutely puzzling (yet still somehow dry and entertaining) lyrics. I’ve listened to the entire album and I actually had to sit and collect my thoughts for a week before I could figure out what to write. (It took me a week to figure out what I thought of a glorified Tim and Eric album?!) I came up with this:

Tim and Davin have managed to create this odd area between absolutely bizarre humor and sincere musicianship. It’s such a fine line that literally forces the listener to draw their own conclusions as to whether or not the album was meant as comedy or was actually an honest attempt by musicians who just happen to also be comedians. Most comedians who infuse music into their acts tend to ultimately take the ‘funny way out’. By that I mean, audiences expect only a certain quality of music from comedians. For example, with Stephen Lynch, Jimmy Fallon, Bo Burnham, etc., it seems as if audiences are willing to let a musical comedian’s dialogue completely overshadow the music itself. This in itself has bred such an incredibly lazy disposition amongst stand-up comedians. Realistically, as long as you’re funny, then audiences don’t particularly care if you can actually play your instrument or not. Well, then why try? That attitude is the reason I like this record.

In twelve songs, Tim and Davin managed to prove that comedians are able to create music that isn’t just slapstick and parody. The reason for this? They’re real musicians! They understand how to craft a melody, plain and simple. Tim’s shaky vocals give each song this puzzling, yet somehow oddly enjoyable feeling. I’ll put it this way: It’s like Halls and Oates teamed up with the Doobie Brothers for a huge sold out concert. In the middle of the gig, they both start jamming together. Suddenly, Michael McDonald appears on stage and starts singing brand new lyrics over this sweet yacht rock jam. No one in the audience has ever heard this song before yet it somehow feels so comfortably familiar.

After a description like that, my real question is: why wouldn’t you listen to this record? Instead of spending so much time questioning the intent of the artists, just sit back and accept their sweet, sweet music.

Check out Heidecker and Wood’s (almost 8 minute) Christmas epic, ‘Christmas Suite’

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MutVf_F0Hjo[/youtube]

 

Heidecker and Wood ‘Cross Country Skiing’

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQedg_VkB98&playnext=1&list=PL983B275EFCBE6CCF[/youtube]

Staying Power: Kanye West

Kanye West

Photo | angelonfire

Who has that “it” factor… that certain something that separates the fads from the truly talented? Who are those certain celebrities today that will be just as relevant in 20 years? ‘Staying Power’ is a column that delves into the past to reveal the immortal artists of the future.

Kanye West is my next choice for an artist with ‘Staying Power‘. It’s not just his solo career that impresses me; It’s his incredible talent as a producer. Over the past decade, Kanye has produced tracks for some of the biggest names in hip hop music.

From 1996 to 2000, Kanye produced tracks for Jermaine Dupri and Foxy Brown (to name a few). He gained great commercial success from his work on Jay-Z’s ‘The Blueprint’. After this, he became one of the most sought-after producers in the industry. Within the next year, Kanye ended up producing tracks for T.I, Ludacris, DMX and Monica. From 2004 to today, Kanye has managed to release 22 solo singles as well as continuing to serve as a producer.

His history as an artist isn’t what impresses me. It’s his constant push to stay relevant. He was producing when Diddy was still “Puff Daddy”… when Snoop and Dre dominated hip hop music… and listeners were still trying to figure out what hip hop music really was. Few rap artists manage to maintain their celebrity status for longer than a few years due to a music industry that’s constantly changing. In fifteen years, Kanye has managed to stay extremely relevant by learning to adjust to these changes. Not only has he adjusted to these new industry standards, he’s actually ended up creating a completely new industry himself. His obsession for the highest production standards in his own studio has actually forced his competition to produce a new level of quality, which then created a “new sound” that listeners crave.

Kanye’s success at not only staying relevant, but also becoming the “industry standard” is what gives him ‘Staying Power’. He’s managed to adjust to the industry over the past 15 years, and I can see him adjusting to the next 20 without any trouble.

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWDr0f2k2kc&feature=related[/youtube]

Who Wrote It? – The Messengers and Justin Bieber, ‘Never Say Never’

Justin Bieber

Photo | Our-Style

‘Who Wrote It?’ is a Hungry Cliff column dedicated to seeking out and giving credit to the original creators of our favorite content.

Justin Bieber’s track ‘Never Say Never’ is such a textbook pop hit. I still believe that it could have (and should have) been as big of a hit as ‘Baby‘ or ‘One Time‘, but I’ll let bygones be bygones. Did you know that it was originally performed by another artist? No? Well, sit back and relax while I explain the creative process behind yet another hit!

The Messengers, a group of songwriters based out of L.A., wrote a track called ‘Sexy Together‘ a few years ago. Up-and-coming artist Travis Garland demoed the single. Justin’s producer had been working with The Messengers in the recording process of ‘My World 2.0‘, heard the track ‘Sexy Together’, bought it, tweaked the lyrics to be a little more age appropriate and ‘Never Say Never’ was officially birthed.

Wow, I wish this story was more complex, but in reality a good majority of hit singles are created this way. There are teams of songwriters all around the country that dedicate their lives to writing “hits” and selling them to artists and producers looking for “that song”. Check out Travis’ and Justin’s versions below!

Videos after the break.

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Who Wrote It? – Chris Sligh and Rascal Flatts, “Here Comes Goodbye”

Chris Sligh and Rascal Flatts

Photo | GospelMusicUpdate

In season 6 of American Idol, a guy named Chris Sligh became a top ten finalist before he was eliminated. His choice of songs during the competition always stuck out to me as being so insanely unique. Covers of dc Talk, MuteMath and Ray LaMontagne? Who else has the guts to sing dc Talk on American Idol!? To this day, no other American Idol contestant has stuck in my head as much as this guy.

Chris Sligh covers dc Talk‘s ‘Wanna Be Loved’

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MRMWo4bMis[/youtube]

Shortly after his stint with American Idol, Chris signed a solo deal with an independent record label based out of Atlanta. He released the album ‘Running Back to You‘ in 2008 which managed to reach #6 on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs Charts. For the next year, he toured around the country with over 115 shows!

This is where it gets interesting. In April 2009, Chris sat down with songwriter Clint Lagersberg and wrote the track “Here Comes Goodbye”. The country band Rascal Flatts heard the song, put it “on hold” and chose to record it for their upcoming album. Twelve weeks after their album’s release, “Here Comes Goodbye” went #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Charts!

I love this success story so much because it proves that you don’t have to buy into the hype of American Idol to achieve your dreams. He sang what he wanted, he wasn’t ashamed of his faith and he never gave up. I would attempt to explain Chris’ entire songwriting process for “Here Comes Goodbye”, but his blog explains it perfectly. I remember sitting in my friend’s house in 2007 watching the American Idol auditions and saying “This dude is gonna win!”. Well, I wasn’t quite right BUT, if he would’ve won would he ever have been able to write such an incredible track like “Here Comes Goodbye”? OR would he have been so caught up in contract fine print that he would’ve just put out another rushed and overproduced American Idol winner album? We’ll never know. Does it even matter? This guy proved that you don’t need huge record labels and teams of songwriters and producers to pump out a hit. Instead, he relied on his faith and his talent.

Chris Sligh “Here Comes Goodbye”
[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVt7QulnR3k[/youtube]

 

Rascal Flatts “Here Comes Goodbye”

[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17VudJ6lr4k[/youtube]