Musical Reviewsday – Alternative vs Comedy

(First off, a quick apology – there was no Reviewsday last week. I have no excuse other than that I went out Tuesday night to see The Princess Bride as it was being shown at the cinema in a super special one-off viewing, so I couldn’t miss it, and I didn’t get my stuff together and write anything in advance. I failed… sorry!!! Will try better in future! In an attempt to make amends, this entry is ridiculously long!)

I have always struggled to tell people what sort of music I’m into, usually resorting to a generic ‘a bit of everything…’ This is exacerbated by the fact that my new music intake seems to happen in waves; every so often, usually months and months apart I’ll look for new songs/artists, but generally, thanks to my iPod, I’m listening to a big mix of old stuff.

There are four main times in life I listen to music;

  • In the car. This needs to be fairly up tempo music; something I can crank up loud and warble along to.
  • In the office. This would be played through headphones. Again, up tempo is good, but I’m not averse to a ballad. It sort of depends on how the day is going; sometimes happy music, sometimes moody music.
  • When writing. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this, but I’m a writer. Charli is too. I write fantasy fiction, when I’m not writing for the blog or wasting my life wandering around Skyrim! My writing music of choice is something a bit background music-y. Sometimes I make playlists based on theme, but generally something wordless and almost bland to act like white noise works.
  • Going to sleep. I have neighbours, the heating makes funny noises, people walk past the house, so I like to put some very quiet music on when I’m going to sleep. This is where the sad songs and the love songs come to play – anything soothing or mellow fits here.

So I’ve set myself a challenge – to regularly expose myself to modern music, and I reckon the best way to do that will be to check out the different genre charts from the iTunes site. Probably once a month I’ll delve into the charts, pick a genre or two which I think I’ll like and review the songs I already know, and investigate the ones I don’t know.

Today I’m going to talk about Alternative and Comedy. I’ve taken the charts from the evening of Sunday 17th March in an attempt to appear like I’ve done some research ahead of writing! All links are to youTube videos, which will be what I base my reviews on.

Alternative Chart

1. ‘Pompeii’ – Bastille

2. ‘Ho Hey’ – The Lumineers

3. ‘Chocolate’ – The 1975

4. ‘My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up)’ – Fall Out Boy

5. ‘Still Into You’ – Paramore

6. ‘Radioactive’ – Imagine Dragons

7. ‘Indian Summer’ – Stereophonics

8. ‘Pompeii’ – Bastille

9. ‘People Help the People’ – Birdy

10. ‘High Hopes’ – Kodaline

I picked Alternative because I think I’ll like the most of these, and I think I’ll know the least. That said, however, I’ve just noticed Pompeii, by Bastille, is on the list twice. Investigation has shown that the number 1 entry is the single version and the number 8 entry is the album version. They’re both the same length, so I don’t think there’s a difference…

Let’s start with Bastille, then. I think I’ve heard this song maybe once, twice at an absolute push. I love the low ‘eh oh’ vocal work, and in fact I really like the whole song. It’s got a nice up beat sound going on, even if the video’s a bit creepy in places. It’s definitely something I can imagine listening to in the car, or on my headphones in the office and I’m very tempted to look further into Bastille’s album and see if it’s something I might part with money for.

Next up is ‘Ho Hey’ by the Lumineers. I think I’ve heard this a few times. It’s very similar to ‘Pompeii’ – a male vocal over a deep vocal rhythm. It has a catchy chorus and a very alternative video. It makes me think of a summer evening, and related happy thoughts. I’m not quite as enamoured with it as I am with Bastille, but again I’d probably check the group out further with a possibility of investment.

‘Chocolate’ by The 1975 starts with a really nice beat, over a moody black and white video. The vocals are almost a disappointment – not quite big enough to battle the poppy music. It’s telling a story, but I’m not really drawn in enough to pay attention; rather wondering whether there would be an instrumental version as I do like the tune.

The next song on the list I know I’m going to love. I’ve heard the recently revived Fall Out Boy’s new offering a couple of times, but as a long time FOB fan, I’m so happy with the familiar tones and Patrick Stump’s wonderful voice. This is perfect car music, and also rather good for a more attitudey afternoon in the office. I could imagine writing epic battle scenes to this, my head filled with 300-esque imagery. The video is beautiful; very phoenix-y; a burning of FOB’s back catalogue heralding their rebirth now they’re back together. This song is definitely on the ‘to buy’ list.

I’ve never been a huge Paramore fan. Not because I don’t like them, but because I’ve just never really listened to them. I’ve found a lyrics video instead of an official vid, but it’s cute so I’m leaving that link in! It’s a cute boppy song, what I would call pop-punk, but I don’t know if that’s even remotely the right term… It’s not an awful song, but I’m not really enthused by it – there’s nothing incredibly catchy about it, and the message doesn’t hugely appeal. I think because I’d heard of the band I was expecting something more…

On a youTube video I watched earlier this very evening I heard iJustine reference ‘Radioactive’ by Imagine Dragons. That was the first I’d heard of them. The opening to the song and the opening to the video are really nice; building up to a Something. I like the tone of the music once the vocals kick in; grimy and emotional, and it has some awesome apocalyptic lyrics. The video’s insane, but I kinda love that too. This is going straight to the top of the aforementioned ‘to buy’ list. It’s got the catchiness the Paramore song lacked, and it’s perfectly epic.

I have most definitely heard of the Stereophonics, although I couldn’t tell you anything they’d done recently… ‘Indian Summer’ opens on a strong beat. Good openings, apparently, play a big part in my song reception! The song itself appears to tell a story about a romance, as backed up by a video set in a very strange train. I do like Kelly Jones’ very recognisable voice and the big chorus – this would do nicely on a long car journey.

‘People Help The People’ wins points for its intro – it’s bee-yootiful! Music and video. I think I’ve heard this a few times before; the chorus is definitely very familiar. I really like it; Birdy’s voice is a treat to listen to, ranging nicely from soft to strong, and I’m such a fan of the simple piano music she starts off singing to. Not a lot to say about this track except that I like it! The one Birdy song I know which isn’t this one is from the Brave soundtrack and features Mumford & Sons, so she’d already got a good standing in my opinion!

My foray into the Alternative chart is rounded off with ‘High Hopes’. Both the song and the band, Kodaline, are brand shiny new to me. The video starts with the saddest of scenes. The music accompanying it is also slow, sad, tentative. The video is achingly sweet as the song grows, making me feel actually rather hopeful. And then 3/4s of the way through I stop typing, my mouth hanging open. It’s a mini film, and one I can’t stop watching. The song has the same epic, film-like qualities as its video; a story is being told, and it’s inspiring and emotional and really quite beautiful.

I’ve really rather enjoyed my taster of current Alternative music. It was certainly the right genre to start off with; there’s so much room for variety (as opposed to the country chart for this week which is 70% Taylor Swift. I like TaySwif, but I don’t think I could have talked about 7 of her songs all at once!)

Comedy Chart

1. ‘Yolo’ – The Lonely Island (feat. Adam Levine & Kendrick Lamar)

2. ‘After Ever After’ – Jon Cozart

3. ‘Mine It Out’ – GameChap

4. ‘Screw the Nether’ – Inthelittlewood (feat. The Yogscast & Sparkles*)

5. ‘Always Look On the Bright Side of Life’ – Monty Python

6. ‘Form This Way’ (Born This Way Minecraft Parody) – Inthelittlewood [feat. The Yogscast]

7. ‘Harry Potter In 99 Seconds’ – Jon Cozart

8. ‘I Can Swing My Sword!’ – Toby Turner (feat. Terabrite)

9. ‘Threw It On the Ground’ – The Lonely Island

10. ‘Nikola Tesla vs Thomas Edison’ – Epic Rap Battles of History

In a very intentional change of tone I really wanted to look into the Comedy songs. I’ve heard two of them fairly recently, and am incredibly familiar with another two, so I have no doubts that I’ll like the category, but the main reason was the massive cross over with youTube. The majority of these songs are side-releases based on popular videos made for youTube. One of them may even be familiar to those of you who read my reviewsday entry from a fortnight ago and went exploring the channels I recommended! I won’t be looking at these songs in the same way as the previous set; they’re not upbeat enough for screeching in the car, and it’s not appropriate to be smirking through the work day. They’re too distracting for sleep or writing, so they’re not likely to hit my iTunes library.

Kicking us off are an American comedy trio known as The Lonely Island. They come from Saturday Night Live, which is fairly huge in the big ol’ US, but I’ve never seen it, despite having heard of it. I had, however, heard of The Lonely Island through the youTube series ‘Teens React’. YOLO is a particularly humorous dissection of the latest phrase which is hip with the kids (Oh gawd, I’m so old!) It stands for ‘You Only Live Once’ and is supposed to imply that you should live life because you only do it once, but this song has twisted the meaning rather amusingly.

I only heard After Ever After recently and it made me smile; appealling to my inner Disney child. Jon Cozart seems to be one of the many solo singers popping up on youTube. It’s the new My Space! The concept of this musical masterpiece is ‘what happened to the Disney princesses after they got their happily ever after?’ and it features Ariel, Belle, Jasmine and Pocahontas and is remarkably well sung. Not to mention the backing vocals!

‘Mine It Out’ is new to me, and to be honest I don’t really know the will.i.am song it’s a parody of! I know what Minecraft is though; an open world foraging and crafting game I really want to play but am afrraid I’d lose hours of my life playing it, and Skyrim’s already taken a good amount of my time!!! This track isn’t my sort of thing; I’m missing the humour by not knowing the original track (although it is quite catchy!), but the animation and editing is very impressive! Pay attention to the Diamond Sword, you just might be seeing that again soon…

But not this soon! Next up is ‘Screw the Nether’, another parody – this time of Moves Like Jagger. Oh – and it is a Minecraft themed parody! Minecraft seems the geekiest game ever, yet it’s all over youTube. I’ll confess I’ve spent hours (actual hours) just watching Toby Turner’s game play videos of Minecraft. Why? I really couldn’t tell you. The vocals on this track aren’t quite as polished/authentic as the previous one, but the animation is, as before, really good, and if I knew what the ‘Nether’ was… I’d probably appreciate it a bit more!

The odd one out of this chart is a true classic comedy song; ‘Always Look On The Bright Side of Life’, from the Monty Python movie ‘Life of Brian’. It closes the movie, depicting Brian (Graham Chapman – not the Messiah, just a very naughty boy) on the cross, alongside a number of other condemned folk. Eric Idle’s on the next cross, and he offers some wonderful musical advice. There’s not much I can say other than that you should go watch it now, especially if you’ve never heard of it!

In at 6 is another Minecraft parody song by the same creators as ‘Screw the Nether’. I’m guessing there’s some money in becoming an internet personality and releasing parody songs, combining pop music with cult video games… I might have to add it to my ‘to do’ list! In this case, instead of Maroon 5; they’re spoofing Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’. The video’s the story of a boy’s discovery of Minecraft, and shows some of the more epic creations from the Minecraft world, as well as some more great animation. If you’re good at animation, get thee to youTube!!! It’s so beautifully geeky!

Next up we have another entry from Jon Cozart (who appears now to be two people); this time singing us through the Harry Potter books in 99 seconds to the tunes of the sountracks. What more is there to say? I’m rather fond of Harry Potter, and am very partial to a cleverly written and well performed humorous song. This song wins on both counts!

Remember that Diamond Sword from earlier? Here’s another Minecraft song, but this time it’s an original one, not a parody… and it’s sung by one of my absolute favourite youTube personalities – Toby Turner. I love this song, and what’s more so does my 3 year old almost-niece (you may recognise her from Sunday’s Cookery Corner, making sticky toffee pudding! I could listen to this song on repeat (oh yeah… another popular thing on youTube seems to be the making of 10-hour repeating loops of things. I have not watched any of those because I simply don’t have 10 hours to spend watching the same thing… I have watched this one a fair few times though.

You’ll be glad to know entries 9 and 10 are nothing to do with Minecraft; giving it only a 40% hold over the chart at this instance! Number 9 is a return of the Lonely Island guys, with a very strange track named ‘Threw It On The Ground’ which seems to be a man’s tale of refusing to accept things handed to him because he doesn’t want to be a part of the system. It’s… bizarre… but the dubstep beat is quite cool, and the shots of things hitting the ground are oddly watchable. Not to mention the surprise cameo appearances from two Hollywood stars, committing a rather serious offence on the main character… Amusing for teenage boys, maybe (yes, that’s a sweeping generalisation, but it might be true…)

Closing out this Reviewsday is something I’d heard of but never watched – Epic Rap Battles of History. Featuring Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. There’s education in the lyrics if you look for it. I don’t really know what to say about it except again I think it’s more suited to the 13-16 year old audience… But then this is coming from a Toby Turner fan, and his demographic is also the young teen, so I’m perhaps not best to judge!!!

And that’s the current state of affairs in the UK Singles charts in the genres of Alternative and Comedy. I’ll do two more genres next month (or sooner if people like this/recommend which genres I pick next…

In the spirit of Epic Rap Battles of History, I think there needs to be a winner, and it’s an easy one to call. As much as I love Toby Turner and three other songs about Minecraft, the winner has to be the Alternative genre. Gavel!

Discuss…

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