Thursday, 11 October 2012

A Month of Musical Discovery

I think in recent weeks I have been exposed to more new music than I have ever before. These last few weeks in fact have been the most musical I have had in awhile! So lets jet into it!

Now, I have never mentioned this on my blog before, but I am a hardcore gamer. Besides music and writing, it's what takes over most of my free time. So I have been playing Guild Wars 2, and this has, oddly enough, brought a lot of music to my attention. The music score for Guild Wars 2 was written by, Jeremy Soule who has produced some of the greatest video game scores of all time. From Icewind Dale to most of the Elder Scrolls series including Skyrim and of course the original Guild Wars sound track.

This sound track is possibly the best I have ever heard with an epic and beautiful sound, it's no surprise he's called, "the John Williams of Video Games." You should definitely check out the Sylvari theme, Fear not this Night featuring vocals by Asja. The piano melody in this song carries her voice beautifully.

Now as this is an MMORPG, (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) you play with thousands, even millions of people around the world and form groups called "Guilds". Now I fell into a group of Thieves and Guardians from Iceland, and my new friends introduced me to some Icelandic grown musos! (No. Not Bjork. Never Bjork.)

Among this list is an indie band called, Jeff Who? They. Are. Awesome. With an 80's sound mixed with modern day badassery, they caught my attention and were all I could listen to for a week straight! I recommend checking out the song Barfly. The song is catchy as hell and its definitely the highlight of the album.

Moving right along, I came across Iron and Wine's album The Shepherd's Dog. They aren't that unknown, but if you haven't heard them, I suggest checking them out! Their harmonies are rivaled only by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. This bluesy, country-esque band are sure to lull you to a blissful state. (They have made me very unproductive due to this.)

A friend from college introduced me to Folk duo, The Civil Wars and they are by far the most interesting group on the list. As male and female vocal duo from Nashville, Tennessee, one would assume they would have strong country influence. One would be right, and whilst I generally have very little interest in country, this month I have been surprised by them and I&W. By threat of a kick it the shins I have been ordered to note that my good friend Faith Honey first introduced me to this band and so, I thank you! She is an amazing writer, producing fantastic short stories. Her blog is down at the moment unfortunately, but I will be sure to link to it when it's up, because she is extremely talented.

Check out The Civil Wars' cover of Billie Jean by Micheal Jackson. I do believe the rhinestone glove has been passed onto another, so to speak. This version can only really be described as sexy. Very very sexy! As are the members of this band! Joy Williams being absolutely stunning, and John Paul White looking like Johnny Depp. Their harmonies in this song are astounding and it blows my mind that they can get it THAT RIGHT, live and without in ear monitors!

So besides my iPod being pick-pocketed, this past month has been an awesome one for music and I hope you all enjoy my huge recommended list. I do hope to review them all in more depth at a later stage. I'm also planning on reviewing Billy Talent's new album, Dead Silence. New Offspring and Blink 182's November 2011 album, Neighborhoods.

That project I've been working on will be coming to fruition soon so stay tuned for that!

But until then, thanks for reading and Plug in Your Head.
Xtian Zzyzx.

(Guild Wars 2) Jeremy Soule and Asja- Fear not this Night
Jeff Who?-Barfly
Iron and Wine- Boy with a Coin (Bad quality, sorry)
The Civil Wars- Billie Jean

Thursday, 27 September 2012


So as many of you all may know, I am a hardcore Green Day fan. I have practically everything they've ever done... Ever. So as one would assume, that when I heard that the iconic Pop Punk where coming out with not only 1 but 3 new albums all in quick succession I would freak out! I did not... And here's why.

This is a gimick! It's supposed to get people talking, and it will get the record company SHITLOADS of money. Ontop of that, how can a band record 3 albums worth of good material all at once? Well to be honest, they didn't. Uno, the first installment of the 3 is pretty fucking bad! Well... No... But Yes!... Um... Let me explain.

This album contains some of the greatest material they have ever written! Nuclear Family, the fist song on the album is one hell of a way to start of an album! With fast riffs and a very upbeat and happy tone to it. Same goes for track 2, Stay the Night and well... every song on the album... It's all kinda the same... And between all the great songs that all sound the same, there is some absolute shit that all sounds the same!

The third track Carpe Diem was possibly the most disappointing song on the album in my opinion because it starts as a huge blast to the past, this could fit perfectly on Shenanigans! But then the chorus comes in, and it is so sloppy and lazy! It's like they wanted to get the writing process over and done with as quickly as they could with a half-assed chord progression that just doesn't gel well with the lyrics. I really feel that they could have put a little more effort into this song particularly, it could have been great!

Onto Track 4, Let Yourself Go this is where I start seeing a bad trend in this album. Now I want to make it clear that I love the song, but there is something wrong with the lyrics, the word fuck. There is such a thing as way too much swearing and between this song and Track 5, Kill the DJ there is way too much use of the word fuck! What are they trying to prove? That they have a poor vocabulary? Well we all know they don't, but if these were the two songs I'd heard from them first I wouldn't have been so sure. Kill The DJ goes for a very interesting disco sound and while I like the song musically, the lyrics are bad. There is very little to no use of poetic imagery and it is just crude and violent.

The next 3 songs, Fell for You, Loss of Control and Troublemaker, are the reasons I find it hard to like this album, Fell for You has some of the most cheesy lyrics I have ever heard,
"I had a dream that I kissed your lips and it felt so true
Then I woke up as a nervous wreck and I fell for you."
I know they can do better.

While Loss of Control isn't BAD, it doesn't work with the flow of the album, I think it should have been put somewhere else in the album. I actually kinda like the song itself, it has a very retro 60's/70's Power Pop sound which seems to be a theme in this album as it can be heard again most prominently in Sweet 16 and Kill the DJ.

The lyrics in Troublemaker are just awful and I feel that song along with the first single off the album, Oh Love have no place in this album. The lyrics in Troublemaker make no sense and are really just sloppy.

Sweet 16 is quite an interesting song, I read somewhere that it was influenced by The Beach Boys, which is a very obvious sound. The song reminds me a lot of their old music and yet there is something different about it. It... Sounds like Summer, much like The Beach Boys.

Finally Oh Love, now many of you should have heard this song as it was the single. I personally hate this song but I understand why it's there. Oh Love is made to be played live, with the muted guitar in the intro for the audience to clap along to and the overly long intro is used to psych up the crowd. All I can say is that I can't wait for the live version.

Now when I said in the beginning that this album is pretty fucking bad, I meant that this album is pretty fucking bad FOR A GREEN DAY ALBUM. If it was any other band I would forgive the things they did wrong. Much like Blink 182's Neighborhoods released last November. I think the band should've put more into the writing process and should have taken all the crap out of the albums, (As I assume there will be more crap to come) and made a 2 CD album with all the good stuff.

But for now all we can do is sit and wait for Dos and Tre.

Thanks so much for reading and until next time, Turn up the Volume and Plug in Your Head

Xtian Zzyzx

Monday, 10 September 2012

A Return to the Blogosphere

Hey all, I'm back and yes this time it's for real. I have taken an 8 month hiatus from Plug in Your Head and for that I am desperately sorry, but my personal life took a dive and then I sort of just forgot about Plug in Your Head in general. But I am here to make amends.

I'd like to talk rather about MY music life and what's going on in it for a little while, but I can't say for sure how often I will be doing Plug in Your Head at the moment, but there is a new very exciting project I will be working on soon that I will let you all in on as soon as it all gets finalized.

So many of my friends at college are writing exams, which means that a lot of the time I am alone now, but that's alright because the weather here in the Southern Hemisphere is is finally turning right. After the first snow seen in the greater Johannesburg area in the last 20 years blanketed the CBD last month, it is finally warming up! So with this new found spare time and warm weather, I have found myself sitting in the sun and listening to music fairly often. This happened today for instance when I put my head phones on, (Plugged in my Head if you will) closed my eyes and got lost in Bob Dylan's, Highway 61 Revisited. 

This truly is a masterpiece of music. Dylan sure as hell can write fantastic lyrics! This is one of the very rare albums that make me completely devote my attention to the lyrics all the way through. Yes the lyrics aren't sung particularly well, as Dylan's voice sounds like something in a lot of pain, but if Desolation Row doesn't make your top 20 best songs of all time, I don't know what will.

For those fans of more recent rock, My Chemical Romance released their cover of Desolation Row in 2009 for the soundtrack of The Watchmen. This movie is fantastic by the way and is very true to the Comic Book. This song is much shorter and VERY different to the original, but it's still pretty good.

But I digress. As my eyes were closed for well on 30 minutes I didn't realise what was going on around me, so when I finally did open my eyes after the 11:22 Minute EPIC that is Desolation Row, I found that I had been joined by a large group of my friends who were seated next to me and all in deep conversation!

So the sun, Bob Dylan and Neil Young's After the Goldrush (Which I failed to mention) made for a pretty good early afternoon!

I'd definitely  recommend both of these albums, they are classics for a reason. Links to some of the music mentioned are at the bottom.

This has been another Plug In Your Head, after way too long.
So until next time, turn up the volume and Plug in Your Head!

Xtian Zzyzx

tl;dr- Bob Dylan, Neil Young, My Chemical Romance and The Weather. And I'm back!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Massive Attack - Heligoland

Article first published as Music Review: Massive Attack - Heligoland on Blogcritics.
Massive Attack are widely referred to as the founders of the early '90s U.K. wave of music known as Trip-Hop. They seem to fuse together different aspects of several genres of music, including House, Electronic, Dance, Hip-Hop and even Progressive and Experimental Rock. The truly unique aspect of Massive Attack is that they are able to gel all these aspects into a fusion in which these become one without the loss of any listening pleasure due to extreme experimentation.
The efforts of Heligoland are shared between the duo who make up Massive Attack and six other artists who are featured throughout the album. And whilst so many contributing artists can often lead to several challenges, Heligoland never seems to stray too far from the original tone and at the same time doesn't become repetitive.
Heligoland lends itself to the eerier side of music which comes across especially in songs like "Rush Minute," "Atlas Air" and "Paradise Circus," which featured in the soundtracks of the TV series Misfits, Luther, True Blood and Gossip Girl. The album also relies on the heavy presence of a main melody specifically in "Psyche," in which a sampled picked guitar sound is heard throughout the entire song. However, several changes are made to the melody throughout the song, ranging from volume change to an increase of a reverb effect which results in different atmospheres being introduced throughout the song without changing the notes played. This is a very creative and yet simple production element which allows the music to create a climax or even suspense without relying on lyrics or other instruments.
As with most electronic music, the bass and drum sounds are very important and act as the foundation of the song. Heligoland is no exception to the rule, even in the track "Paradise Circus," where these aspects are very simple. But it's the simplicity of the bass and drum sounds that makes the song so noticeably unique. The effect of the music, topped with vocals done by Hope Sandoval make this song haunting and is possibly the most memorable track on the album.
Where this style of music could easily turn to a self-indulgent tangent of the artists, it is still captivating and enjoyable throughout. I'd advise listening to this album not expecting a fusion of multiple genres and especially not expecting one genre to dominate because this album simply cannot be classified as any genre other than Trip-Hop and that is what I feel makes this album so unique.
This album has introduced creativity and complete originality into a music industry where both are lacking. And saying that I would highly recommend giving Heligoland a listen.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Happy New Year

I am back! And I hope I've come back in time to stop Plug in Your Head from drifting out into the huge sea of blogs.I have just come back from a holiday to England and now that the new year is in full swing, Plug in Your Head will be too.

I went to England believing that I could see a major band every weekend and an indie band everyday. And with this hope I had put some money aside for my brief stay in London where I expected to see my hero's in action. I was disappointed however, as I apparently came at the wrong time of year and that my hero's were back home, celebrating Christmas. After searching the internet, luckily I was able to find a band who I was quite keen too see.

On the 18th of December me, my friend Josh and roughly 100 other people all packed into the small and sweaty Scala Theater in London to see Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Hawthorn Hights. I have never been a big fan of either band and so I went in expecting very little and that is precisely what Hawthorn Hights and the opening band (Who I cannot remember the name of) gave me. However when RJA took the stage the entire room went crazy! The entire dance floor became a mosh pit and I became entranced by the Pop-Metal band. It was undoubtedly, the best live performance I have ever seen and I took the tube home, sweaty, in pain and smiling my head off.

Once back in Salford where I was staying, me and my hosts debated music and music journalism until the early hours of the morning. These debates rekindled my passion for writing and thus started reading every music publication I could find. They were all shit. I was gutted as the publications I had hoped to someday work for gave uninteresting reviews and boring segments. This really made me sad as I then thought that my future career in Music Journalism was a wasted effort.
However when I returned home, I found that Rolling Stone South Africa had finally been launched and thus my aspirations are back on track. I hope I can write for Rolling Stone one day and pursue my Journalistic Career.

In the meantime however, Plug in Your Head will return every week and I hope you all will support me in the year ahead.

Happy New Year.

Xtian Zzyzx
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