RSS

Category Archives: Music

Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a Brutal and Relatable Look at a Hard Subject

Art by Steak Mtn. [wikipedia.org]

Art by Steak Mtn. [wikipedia.org]

There are just some things in life not everyone is going to understand completely. You can study the subject all day, but there are things about that subject that you won’t understand unless you’re going through it yourself. The best you can do in those situations though is have empathy for those who experience it.

In this case, it’s being trans.

I’m not trans. Being a cis bisexual white girl from North Georgia, I didn’t meet someone who identified as and was out as trans until I got to college. Since then, it’s been a lot of re-education about the subject. I know I will never understand the subject completely, but I’ve tried my best to have empathy and understand when I screw up.

This is a bit of a weird way to lead into a review of a punk album, but trust me, it’s very related.

I’ve talked about Against Me! before on my blog way back when I first started listening to the band after lead singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender. I fell in love with Grace’s emotional and honest lyrics that dealt with depression, growing older, falling in love, and drug use, among other things. One of those things being gender dsyphoria. Minus the very obvious hit-you-over-the-head-why-did-no-one-get-this-in-2007 reference in ‘The Ocean,’ it’s rather subtle and hidden away in the lyrics. White Crosses as an album is a lot about growing older and becoming a parent, but I think on my 100th listen, it started to click that White Crosses was very subtly about Laura considering coming out and transitioning.

On Transgender Dysphoria Blues, she’s not being subtle about it anymore.

The band's current lineup. [npr.org]

The band’s current lineup. [npr.org]

Initially billed as a concept album about a transgender prostitute, Grace has since admitted that the record is completely autobiographical and she talked about the album as such to deal with the anxiety she had about releasing a record like this. While the album definitely tells a story, I’m kind of glad it’s not actually a concept album. For some reason, the album hits more knowing that it isn’t a fictional turn at events.

“Your tells are so obvious/Shoulders too broad for a girl,” growls Grace on the opening line of the album. From that moment, you know that Transgender Dysphoria Blues isn’t your average story. It’s about everything that crossed Grace’s mind as she started her transition. How sad she and afraid she felt. How she hid in plain sight for years in the straight male-heavy punk scene. There’s a lot about death and change here, especially in the song ‘Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ,’ where Grace evokes the violent images of the public hanging of Benito Mussolini and Clara Petacci, expecting her fate and public perception to be the same.

This makes it all sound like an inaccessible record, but it’s really not. There are things on there not everyone can relate to, but there is plenty that evokes empathy on the record. I don’t understand personally what it’s like to have gender dysphoria, but I understand depression. I understand anxiety and nervously trying to hide parts of yourself. I understand fear, not feeling wanted, and wanting to rise above what’s made you feel the weakest. I know Grace wrote this record for no one but herself, but the way she contextualizes her experiences in the music to the outside just makes the thoughts that were running in her mind that much more raw.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews saying that Transgender Dysphoria Blues is one of the most honest albums they’ve heard and I really do agree with that. Grace has nothing to hide anymore and mixed with the more stripped down production on her part, she lays herself out there more than she ever has before. And considering her past work, that’s no small feat.

Transgender Dysphoria Blues can be a rough record if you’re not ready for it, but it’s also an extremely rewarding listen if you are. It’s not here to be a teachable moment, but an honest story of one woman’s experiences and personal struggles. It’s still all Grace’s at the end of the day, but with how much she opened her heart to the world, it’s hard not to connect with it on some level and begin to sing along.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Music

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ashley’s Favorite Music of 2013

Well, here it is. The grand finale of my favorites of 2013. It took me two weeks to compose my thoughts on this topic… Or rather, I’ve been stupidly busy with work that I haven’t had a chance to write it. I like the first excuse better though.

Last year was a pretty damn good year. Favorites returned, new people surprised me, and there were some great indie stuff that popped up in my personal circle. I talked about some of it in the middle of last year, but what made it to the end? Well, let’s start with

Favorite Singles

Honorable Mention: ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry

I hate that I like this song. I hate that Katy Perry songs keep getting in my head and every time I say I don’t like it, it beats me into submission until I do. It happened again with ‘Roar’ to the point I would turn it up and belt Katy’s turn at an empowerment anthem after her divorce from Russell Brand. Though, due to Katy’s writing style, I still think she’s writing about Travis McCoy.

6.) TIE: ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk and ‘Holy Grail’ by Jay-Z feat. Justin Timberlake

Lots of people got sick of these songs rather quickly, but strangely, I never did. Even though I couldn’t get into Magna Carta Holy Grail the way I did Watch The Throne, there were several tracks on the album that completely stood out to me like ‘BBC,’ ‘Picasso Baby,’ and ‘Jay Z Blue.’ The lead single of ‘Holy Grail’ was completely entrancing. I think I might have ended up liking Justin on this track more than on most of his singles from The 20/20 Experience. Well… most…

As for ‘Get Lucky,’ it really was everyone’s song of the year. It was a fun disco track that felt more genuine than any other track on the radio this summer. It also probably sealed the deal for the awesome year Pharrell had. Well, maybe it was that OTHER song, but I refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Canadian Creep.

5.) ‘This Is Gospel’ by Panic! at the Disco

I really only liked about half of Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die. The half I really liked was sexy, catchy and weirdly emotional. The half I didn’t was boring to the point it began to run together. Thankfully, the second single ‘This Is Gospel’ was on the half I liked. It’s a stand out song on the record even without single status due to the sung in a church like feeling of the song and the pure brutal emotion. I’ve cried to this song, and I’m not afraid to admit that. Even if the rest of the album is dull, I’m glad that this is the song that shines.

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

It’s been a year and a day since this song roared into my life and it hasn’t gotten old yet in the million times I’ve listened, screamed, drove and rocked out to this song. The band came back with a vengeance and this song did a great job of staking their claim in the year of music. Not to mention the Butch Walker handclaps certainly help.

3.) ‘Problem’ by Natalia Kills

This was the year I discovered Natalia Kills and I feel like it improved my life in so many ways. The album Trouble is full of gems, but the lead single ‘Problem’ was blowing cigarette smoke in my face with a smile and I was loving it. ‘Problem’ is an anthem for bad girls everywhere who love their vices and don’t give two fucks about who judges them. As I slipped into that side of me throughout the year, that song played in my head and guided my steps.

2.) ‘Closer’ by Tegan and Sara

I feel like a bad queer girl when I admit that I haven’t really listened to Tegan and Sara seriously. I know I would like them and I love the song ‘Hell,’ I just keep forgetting to listen to them. Still, even with my constant forgetfulness to listen to Tegan and Sara, I fell in love with the song ‘Closer.’ Never has a song so accurately reflected what it’s like to be so completely smitten with someone that all you want to do with them is get them to sit a bit closer to you. You bet I turned this up when I finally heard it on the radio.

1.) ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ by Janelle Monae featuring Erykah Badu

In an alternate universe, this song became a massive hit, Janelle Monae gets the fame she so rightly deserves, and everyone recognized ‘Blurred Lines’ for the date rape song it is and lets Robin Thicke wallow in obscurity forever. Unfortunately, my physical body does not reside in that universe. However, I still have ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ and I still have Monae rising, showing the world what she’s made of.

EPs

I should note that I usually never cover EPs, but this year had three that definitely stood out to me that are worth noting.

Who's gonna take you home tonight? [wikipedia.org]

Who’s gonna take you home tonight? [wikipedia.org]

3.) True Trans by Against Me!

This EP was more of a two-sided single to tide people over as they waited on Transgender Dysphoria Blues (that review is coming, by the way), but splitting hairs doesn’t take away from the fact that this EP is fantastic. It features acoustic versions of the song ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’ and ‘Fuckmylife666,’ which are probably two of my favorite songs on the record. On the record, the songs are plenty emotional, but there’s a personal vulnerability in the EP versions that pack more punch than their electric counterparts.

Must Hear Track: The entire thing. It’s two songs.

2.) Pax-AM Days by Fall Out Boy

This eight song EP that the band recorded over a drunken weekend in Ryan Adams’ studio only clocks in at 13 minutes. It’s the very definition of loud and fast with the band only taking one or two takes for each songs. It was an interesting experiment considering how perfectionist they can be. It was loud, fast, and rage filled like the early days, but with skills that don’t make the record too painful to listen to for long. I’m sad I didn’t get to run around a field blasting this album like I originally planned. THIS SPRING IN THE MOUNTAINS…

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Hot to the Touch, Cold on the Inside,’ ‘Caffeine Cold,’ ‘Love, Sex, Death’

1.) Peachtree Battle by Butch Walker

Wherever you are, that's my home. [butchwalker.com]

Wherever you are, that’s my home. [butchwalker.com]

I cried like a baby listening to this EP. I’ve cried even harder hearing these songs live. Butch has always been an emotional songwriter, but Peachtree Battle drives right to the heart. When Butch began writing the songs, his father had been on a slow decline in health and Butch began writing the five song EP to come to terms with his father’s mortality. Before the EP released, Big Butch Walker passed away, which ends up magnifying the emotional impact of the songs even more. It’s a personal reflection on the effect one person can have on our lives, especially one as big as a parent. Still, it’s not all about death. There are plenty of life lessons that Big Butch taught Butch in these songs too. Ones that we can all learn from.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘I’ve Been Waiting For This,’ ‘Let It Go Where It’s Supposed To,’ ‘Peachtree Battle’

Favorite Albums

Well, here they are. The cream of the crop. What albums prevailed to be my favorites in 2013?

I’m up all night to get lucky.

5.) Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

I think I ended up liking this album less as the year went on, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think it gets ragged on way too much. Daft Punk has always been about bringing art to electronic music and this album was very much about exploring their roots in several ways. Some of it was disco like ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ and ‘Get Lucky.’ Some of it was more experimental. A lot of it really, but it works because there really isn’t anyone out there that gets it like Daft Punk. Just because I can get down to ‘Get Lucky’ doesn’t mean I can’t chill to ‘Touch’ or appreciate/rock out to the reverse engineering of ‘Giorgio by Moroder.’ It isn’t Discovery, but we need to stop expecting Daft Punk to make that album again.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Touch,’ ‘Get Lucky,’ ‘Doin’ It Right’

4.) ARTPOP by Lady Gaga

I was worried about this album, but it ended up pleasantly surprising me in the end. It’s not flaw free, but ARTPOP is definitely one of the best albums Gaga has released. It was an honest and beautiful look at the life of an artist trying to balance her life and art. With some catchy dance numbers and lots of modern art, of course.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Sexxx Dreams,’ ‘Do What U Want,’ ‘Artpop’

3.) Rated Heart by Professor Shyguy

I'll attack you once, you attack me back!

I’ll attack you once, you attack me back!

Meanwhile, I ended up liking this album more. Maybe I’m a little biased towards my friends, but Professor Shyguy can write a damn good chiptune pop song. Even if I don’t always get what he’s singing about, I can get down without hesitation. I feel like I should have a deeper reason of liking this record so much, but I don’t. It’s geeky, catchy, and fun, which is all I need sometimes. As I said before, “the Poor Nerd’s Justin Timberlake” mixes geekdom and pop music with ease.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Keywords and Dubstep,’ ‘Weak,’ ‘Destroy Metroid’

2.) Trouble by Natalia Kills

I must confess, when one of my online friends asked me if I had heard the new Natalia Kills record, I had no earthly idea who the hell she was talking about. The album took forever to get on Spotify, but I ended up blasting ‘Problem’ for weeks until it did. Where I started to scream “I PUT MY HIGH HEELS ON SO I’M CLOSER TO GOD” at random points up until I finally bought the album and long since after. Much like ‘Problem,’ Trouble is an album about girls with their middle fingers in the air as they party, but it also shows the motivation and sadness that fuels it. Trouble isn’t just a party record, but a record about broken people putting on their best faces.

Must Hear Tracks: ‘Problem,’ ‘Stop Me,’ ‘Devils Don’t Fly’

1.) TIE: Save Rock and Roll by Fall Out Boy and The Electric Lady by Janelle Monae

I don't know where you're going, but do you have room for one more troubled soul?

I don’t know where you’re going, but do you have room for one more troubled soul?

I debated this for WEEKS. I’ve talked at length about these two albums online and in person to anyone who will listen. I’ve listened to them over and over again that I sing along with instrumentals. I’ve cried and rocked out to both of these artists live. And in the end, I could not decide which album I really wanted to put as my #1 of the year: Janelle Monae’s genre bending entry of love, heartache, and standing up for what you believe in her Metropolis epic or Fall Out Boy rediscovering themselves and setting out to make a record to inspire the next generation of garage bands. Both records meant a lot me last year while being simultaneously fantastic. What else can be said?

Must Hear Tracks:

Save Rock and Roll: ‘The Phoenix,’ ‘Rat a Tat,’ ‘Save Rock and Roll’

The Electric Lady: ‘Q.U.E.E.N,’ ‘Givin Em What They Love,’ ‘Victorious’

janelle-monae-album-cover-electric-lady-homepage

Well, that finishes up my favorites of last year. What were your favorites of last year? What did you disagree with me on? And don’t worry, we’ll stop dwelling on last year soon enough. My review of Transgender Dysphoria Blues is next.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Music

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I Resolve

tumblr_mbw49lMP0z1qb0qmuo1_r1_400

Art by Jamie McKelvie

This year has been the very definition of “growing pains.”

When it was good, it was good. I have the most amazing friends and I did the coolest things. There was a lot of new fiction and music that filled my life and it feels nice to say I’m employed and volunteering my time and writing to an online publication I love.

However, when it was rough, I could feel it. I can pretty much pinpoint exactly where my feelings about myself began to turn from “majestic women worthy of praise and love” to “world’s biggest loser.” It didn’t help that I was still working out stuff with my mother and trying my best to get off the couch I was sleeping on to not a whole lot of success for a few months. Feeling like I wasn’t spectacular and special dug that hole further.

In 2014, I say that’s no more.

I expect there to be growing pains. I’m 23 years old. I nearly kicked out my car radio every time I heard ’22’ by Taylor Swift because it sounded like what a sixteen-year-old thinks being 22 is like. I seriously can’t believe I bought into the high school lie that I would have it figured out by now because I really, really don’t. I expect some serious desk-flipping frustration.

However, I’m going to face them head on. Because that’s what Cindi and Carol would do.

Last year, I resolved to bring more color into my wardrobe and my life and it has worked out spectacularly so far. I’m not turning back now.

This year though, I had two things that inspired me to go to another level: The Electric Lady by Janelle Monae and Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel.

janelle-monae-album-cover-electric-lady-homepage

Art by Sam Spratt

The Electric Lady is my favorite album of this year along with Save Rock and Roll by Fall Out Boy. Continuing the story of Electric Lady #1 Cindi Mayweather, The Electric Lady is an album about growing pains, but also putting on the brave face and transcending beyond that. It’s standing up for your beliefs and being electric and unreal in the face of people that are determined to knock you down. And nothing drove that home further than seeing Janelle Monae perform a sold out show to the Tabernacle in her hometown of Atlanta. I had seen her perform three songs live before, but not on the level of that show. She was everything I expected Cindi to be and more, blurring that line between fiction and reality and electrifying everyone into a frenzy. I wanted to be that. I want to be an Electric Lady. I want everything that comes with it and everything that means, even if it’s just a fraction of it.

Captain Marvel was late in the game. I had only read In Pursuit of Flight earlier this month, but I unexpectedly fell for Carol Danvers in a way I hadn’t with any female superhero since Kate Kane when I read the first issue of Batwoman: Elegy in 2009. Much like Greg Rucka’s writing for the tenacious Kate, so much of my feelings for Carol come from Kelly Sue Deconnick’s writing of the character. Carol is not the one to lay down and die. She doesn’t give in, and she goes out fighting. I mean, she stubbornly refuses to stop fighting even in the face of her brain exploding. (Though, I haven’t read The Enemy Within yet. I’m getting it in the mail today. No spoilers!) She strives for more and encourages others to do the same. I’ve found myself multiple times in the past few weeks muttering “higher, faster, futher, more” to myself and vowing to punch holes in the sky and dinosaurs in the face. Matt Fraction’s Kate Bishop and Suzie may speak to my sarcastic sides, but Deconnick’s Captain Marvel has given me something to strive for. Flying high and not backing down.

So this is what I resolve for 2014.

I resolve to be electric and unreal. To catch eyes and ears and make people not forget me. To make them wonder if I actually exist.

I resolve to not give in. That even in the face of sadness and adversity, I’ll keep going instead of laying down arms. I will love where it is appropriate, and punch it in the face when it isn’t.

I resolve to raise antennas and fly high and soldier on.

I resolve to do this concurrently with being magic, and to remember that loving and punching goes well with being a magical girl too.

I resolve to remember that it’s okay to be sad and angry, but that it can always be worked out somehow.

I resolve to punch holes in the sky and dance until the end.

But above all things, I resolve not to forget how wonderful and worthy I am. I will always remember that I am electric, magic, unreal, and spectacular, even if no one else does.

I’ll post my year ends this week. Happy New Year to you all and hope that you all have a fantastic and safe night.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Comics, Music, Personal

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This ARTPOP Could Be Anything

I swear, I didn’t mean to neglect the Diary. Between writing for Nerdophiles and my

Album cover by Jeff Koons.

Album cover by Jeff Koons.

personal life, I’ve just been at a loss for what to write here. More personal stuff? Things I don’t get to write about for Nerdophiles? Perhaps more of the latter, which brings us back to Lady Gaga.

I had some fears for ARTPOP as an album when ‘Applause’ came out and was refusing to stick in my head. If this was the lead single, what would that mean for the rest of the album? Was this the end of Lady Gaga?

Well, I’ve had a few months to sit on it and I did end up warming up some to ‘Applause.’ Plus, the iTunes Festival performance she did alleviated some of my fears, but I was still curious as to what the album as a whole would be like. Yeah, I ended up liking Born This Way as a whole, but I rarely ever listen to it all the way through.

Lucky for me, ARTPOP is probably one of the best albums Lady Gaga has released.

I think one of the problems with Born This Way was that it was continuing from the dark lyrical and musical themes from The Fame Monster, but not in the same tight way that existed on the The Fame Monster. There are some amazing songs on the album that I consider some of Lady Gaga’s best songs, such as ‘The Edge of Glory,’ ‘Yoü and I,’ and ‘Marry The Night,’ but the album didn’t feel consistent. Cohesive, yes, but not consistent. ARTPOP manages to be both to the point I constantly find myself accidentally listening to the album when I only mean to listen to a song or two. It doesn’t hit as hard as The Fame Monster, but there’s a similar vibe and strength in ARTPOP. In fact, the only song I really don’t like is ‘Jewels n’ Drugs,’ but mostly because it feels out of place and doesn’t really have a whole lot of Gaga.

Despite listening to this album for a week, I haven’t really settled on a favorite song yet. ‘MANiCURE’ gets a lot of repeats, I have kept up three song loops of ‘Venus,’ ‘G.U.Y,’ and ‘Sexxx Dreams’ for an hour at one point, and I have really warmed up to ‘Do What U Want’ after seeing her performance of it on The X Factor UK. The one line in the whole album that stands out to me though has to be from the title track ‘ARTPOP,’ a song mixing meanings about love and art and how similar they can be. In the pre-chorus, Lady Gaga declares that her “Artpop could mean anything.” Which really is what drives the point of the album being a mix of pop music, art, and real life. We choose to express ourselves through creative means, but what we mean can be interpreted differently to those who listen/watch/read what we create.

Gaga performing 'ARTPOP' at the iTunes Festival.

Gaga performing ‘ARTPOP’ at the iTunes Festival.

So while the album could be about art and the relationship between Gaga and her fans, I think I purposefully read it as an album about love, sex and wanting to be desired.

I kind of got that feeling from ‘Applause’ after listening to Gaga explain it when she said it was less about living for the attention and more about living to make others happy, but it was really driven home at the iTunes Festival with ‘ARTPOP,’ ‘MANiCURE’ and ‘I Wanna Be With You’ (which later became ‘Dope,’ which I will talk about in a bit). However, I kept going back to ‘Sexxx Dreams,’ which I think really drives home the aspect of wanting to be desired from this album. It’s a great pop song on its own and a sexy one to boot. Like… “I probably need a cold shower after this” sexy. However, on a more personal level, I could relate to having a person populate your thoughts (especially when you’re trying to sleep) and wanting to know if they think about you the same way. ‘G.U.Y,’ ‘Venus’ and ‘Do What U Want’ drive this point home even harder. ‘Venus’ and ‘G.U.Y’ especially for invoking the gods and bringing it back to a long time artistic theme.

On the flip side, ‘MANiCURE’ becomes a song about needing to make yourself look good when needing that love drives you to a point of insanity. ‘Mary Jane Holland,’ ‘Fashion!’ and ‘Donatella’ have similar themes.

I think it’s fair to say this album makes me extremely sexually frustrated, but in the best way possible. Maybe that was Gaga’s intention. Maybe it is a metaphor for her relationship with her fans. Maybe it’s a retelling of some mythos I don’t even know about that. That’s the magic of ARTPOP. It could mean anything.

lady-gaga-nude-art-pop-coverThe most straightforward song on this album though is ‘Dope.’ Initially a song titled ‘I Wanna Be With You’ that could have easily been about her fans or a guy, it was rewritten and became a song about Gaga’s struggles with alcohol and drugs. It’s essentially a step nine, with Gaga asking for forgiveness and trying to make amends. From her lover. From her family. From her Monsters. From God. It was jarring at first to hear the song like this, but it’s probably her most personal and emotional song since ‘Speechless’ from The Fame Monster.

While ‘Applause’ is a good album closer, it feels more like an epilogue. ‘Gypsy’ gives me much more closure on the album. In an album that opens with the question ‘Do you wanna see the girl behind the aura,’ ‘Gypsy’ feels like a satisfying ending for this part of the story where Gaga finds someone who accepts that in her. Again, friend, lover, fellow artist, or fan, but it gives a feeling of love. It’s no ‘The Edge of Glory,’ but it gives that sort of feeling to close out ARTPOP. Grand and full of love. Plus, I love the callback to ‘Schieße’ from Born This Way.

The most constant thing I’ve seen in reviews of this album is that this album is uniquely Lady Gaga, and that is so very true. Other pop stars will try their best impression of this album for the next two years, but it can’t be duplicated. Love her, hate her, or mostly indifferent, you can’t deny Lady Gaga is definitely the most unique pop star out there in the current mainstream. She gives herself 1,000% to her art and it shows on ARTPOP. It’s catchy, unique, and crafted around the past while sure to shape the near future. I just wish the app had a bit more to give right now, but there seems to be future plans for that and I look forward to seeing them.

Petga from the ARTPOP app creating the user aura.

Petga from the ARTPOP app creating the user aura.

Is it about love and sex? Is it just about art and being an artist? Whether yes or no, that’s the beauty of this album. ARTPOP could be anything, and Gaga leaves it in our hands to interpret it as such.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Music

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Out of Focus: A documentary I can’t be unbiased about

Ever since I started writing blogs and reviews online, I’ve had to learn to seem unbiased when writing. Well, maybe unbiased isn’t the right word. Reviews and editorials are a form of writing that ultimately boil down to bias and personal perspective, but it has made me learn to communicate my opinions in a way that isn’t capslocking my way through it, even if I want to. I definitely wanted to after I saw Pacific Rim.

But last night, I saw a film that I realized I could never talk about it in a fair way or communicate how people who aren’t as familiar with the source material might enjoy the film.

I still wanted to talk about it though.

This blog is about Butch Walker: Out of Focus.

MV5BMjI1NzQ3NzA4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDA5NTc3Nw@@._V1_I’ve talked about Butch Walker on this blog before. I’m sure I’m going to talk about him more after this post as well. It’s hard for me not to talk about him, really. He’s been a major influence on my life since I was 16 years old, confused, angry, and tired of living in Cartersville. His music got me through questioning my sexuality, endless crushes, my parents divorce, the death of my great-grandmother and grandpa, depression, and a whole host of other things that I’ve experienced in the last seven years. Several friendships I have were built on a mutual love of Butch Walker and his music. He was a driving force in my decision to move to Atlanta for college and I haven’t looked back since. I even have a tattoo of his lyrics on my leg.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s recognizes me now from all the shows I’ve been to and is happy to see me when I go to say hi to him afterwards. He’s not just a great musician, but he’s a sweetheart to boot.

When I heard that this documentary was happening (in fact, I was right behind the camera guy on the front row when Butch played The Variety Playhouse two years ago), I was pretty excited about it. Butch is kind of a private person about certain parts of his life that don’t involve music, so getting a documentary was exciting. Especially one directed by one of my favorite music video directors Shane Valdes.

It wasn’t until I was sobbing somewhat loudly in the Plaza Theater halfway through the film that I realized there’s no way I could ever talk about this film except from my perspective as a fan.

Some of the stuff in the film, I had seen before or known about from reading Drinking With Strangers. Some of it I had even seen in person. But the film itself really was a bit of a pull back of the curtain to a side of Butch rarely seen by fans. Focused around the recording of The Spade and a gig Butch played solo in England later that summer, Valdes and Peter Harding let us see the man at some of his most personal moments. From the in between moments that made up the recording sessions of The Spade to a strangely transposed rehearsal of ‘Passed Your Place, Saw Your Car, Thought of You’ in his hotel room to moments of him being a father to his son Jamie, it was parts of Butch I always knew were there, but had never gotten a chance to see. There are also very personal moments with just him and the camera that really assured me of how genuine Butch is as a person. He’s not in this industry for fame, money, or to even to try and change the world. He does it because he loves it, and he struggles with family and day to day like the rest of us, success or no.

Then there was the part with his dad.

OB-YV321_butchw_E_20130909102014

There’s a part in the film where the crew goes to speak with Big Butch and Melissa Walker, Butch’s parents. This was done two years ago when Big Butch’s health was failing, but he passed away at the end of August before the release of the film. I’ve heard stories about Big Butch through the years. I even have one myself from when I briefly met him after the release of I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart. It was always easy to see where Butch got it from and the stories I’ve heard of his parents’ support made me extremely happy to hear. It made it heartbreaking when Butch announced that his dad had passed away.

It was going in with that knowledge that made the ‘Day Drunk’ scene in the film harder to watch.

There’s a song on The Spade called ‘Day Drunk’. It’s essentially about Butch coming to terms with his dad’s condition and having to be away from Georgia because of work and family. He talks about it more in the film and reveals parts of the story I had not known about. I always knew it was about his dad. It’s right there in the song. When it came out though, my grandfather had passed away two months earlier after his struggle with lung cancer. That always made it hard for me to listen to ‘Day Drunk.’ My emotions about the time I didn’t get to spend with my grandfather or the fact I never really got to say goodbye to him would get conflated in the song. At best, I’d feel kind of sad before going into ‘Synthesizers.’ At worst, it would be actual crying. When I listen to The Spade casually, I sometimes skip over ‘Day Drunk’ depending on how I’m feeling.

In Out Of Focus though, it’s something I couldn’t skip. It’s Butch talking about the song overlaid with the recording of it, then overlaid with Big Butch talking about his own relationship with his father, hoping that Butch knows how much he loves him, and that he’ll always be there for him and Jamie. It’s the words of a man who knows his time is limited, but he still takes time to tell his family that he loves them more than anything else.

So when I cried, it wasn’t just for Butch and his father. It was for our shared hometowns. It was for the fact I miss my grandpa and wishing I had gotten to say my goodbyes before I left for Alaska that summer.

There were things I wish had been in the film. Maybe interviews of other past band members like the one with Darren Dodd. An introduction to Shovels and Rope instead of their brief cameo recording ‘Are You Getting All The Love You Need’ without saying who the hell Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst are to Butch. More concert footage, especially since the Atlanta show they recorded ended up relegated to the credits. Perhaps even interviews of people Butch has worked with.

In the end though, I realize that as much as I want those, the film was exactly what it needed to be. It was a portrait of a man I admire and getting to better understand who he is as a person and not just as an artist or producer. How his life fuels his passion and how he affects the people in his life and how they affect him. I know I’ll definitely watch it again, especially since it comes out tomorrow on iTunes and on VOD.

I don’t know how to recommend the film though because I’m so thoroughly invested in Butch that of course it was something I was going to watch. If you’re a fan, it’s definitely worth seeing. If you’ve heard of Butch through other artists like Pink, Panic! at the Disco or Fall Out Boy, but don’t really know who he is, it’s a good introduction to his life outside of that. If you have no idea who he is at all, then I really don’t know how you’ll view the film. Maybe it’ll bore you or pique your interest to look more into his music.

Which I kind of hope it will.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Film, Music, Personal

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A couple of announcements and some ‘Applause’

Hello readers! Long time, no see.

Well, I guess I should be honest outright about why I haven’t been writing here lately. Recently, I was picked up as a writer at the collaborative blog Nerdophiles. I’ve written three pieces for them so far, including a Dragon Con Survival Guide that has gotten a lot of traction since it went up yesterday. The experience of writing there has been delightful so far and I can’t wait to progress into the future with them!

Speaking of Dragon Con, I will be there! I’m not attending as press or as a performer, but I’ll be hanging around for sure. It’s likely that you’ll see me at the Pacific Rim fan meetup on Saturday and the Airship Races representing Steampunk Chronicle. Probably the Comic Book Pageant as well, knowing my dearest Lady Swales. At least I’m prepared!

Okay, onto the review.

Last week, Lady Gaga released her newest single ‘Applause’ into the world a week early to combat hackers who leaked the track. She followed this quickly with the official lyric video (which reminded me of how long its been since I’ve been to a drag show) and the gorgeously shot, but very bizarre official video.

Now, I was a little worried about sharing my thoughts on the song after Gaga posted this:

Ruh Roh...It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence about writing in your blog about your thoughts on the song when you opinion is regarded as not relevant.

Then I remembered a very stupid detail: I’m a blogger, but I’m also a fan. Sure, I haven’t been able to see her live, but since the days of ‘Just Dance’ and ‘Poker Face,’ I’ve considered Lady Gaga one of my favorite pop stars. I was deliriously excited when the ‘Telephone’ video came out. I still cry about her ‘Speechless’ performance at the AMAs. I wrote a whole blog about how Born This Way grew on me as an album. I’ve cosplayed her. TWICE. I even bought and regularly wear her perfume.

It smells like fame, poisoning your boyfriend, and a little like apricots.

So, I think I can say the following with confidence:

‘Applause’ is one of the most boring pop songs I’ve heard in the past year. It seriously sounds like an unmemorable song from a 90s Europop band.

And I hate saying that! I’ve tried to like the song, but it’s like The Silence. As soon as it’s off, I forget I’ve heard it.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I can remember the chorus pretty well, but the song doesn’t make me want to go and listen to it on repeat. It doesn’t make me want actively avoid it the way I avoid ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke either. It just… exists.

The thing for me though is that Lady Gaga isn’t suppose to just exist. She’s loud and memorable. Even if you don’t understand her, she’s making you talk about her. She’s digging your way into your head, even if it’s a song that offends multiple ethnic groups at once. I shouldn’t have to say I remember and like a Katy Perry song full of Dr. Luke’s lazy songwriting better than a Lady Gaga song, but that’s what’s been happening.

Of course, this isn’t me pitting one artist against another. It just makes me a bit concerned about ARTPOP if I’m not gelling to the first single. Then again, I wasn’t the biggest fan of ‘Born This Way’ and I ended up enjoying the album for the most part. Plus, it seems like Gaga is going a similar route that Bjork did with Biophilia and is including an app that goes along with the album. I’d like to see if it takes off and popularizes that approach.

Still, I’m not feeling the ‘Applause’. I know Gaga can do better and I hope she will do better with ARTPOP. Since I won’t know until November, I think I’ll just put The Fame Monster and ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ and ‘Dance Apocalyptic’ by Janelle Monae on repeat in the meantime.

lady-gaga-applause-cover

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Music

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

You Keep Eternity: What The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys means to me

Today, I want to talk about the Killjoys.

I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes, expecting this to be another blog post about My Chemical Romance breaking up.

No, it’s not just that. The Killjoys were never just My Chemical Romance to me. They were so much more than that.

When Danger Days was announced in 2010, I had fallen out with pop punk a bit. I still listened to my old standbys, but I was so bored with it. I hadn’t even listened to My Chemical Romance in ages at that point. Not out of not being a fan anymore. The darkness of their previous records just wasn’t appealing to me at the time.

And then, Art is the Weapon came out.

This was unlike anything I had seen from MCR before. It was bright and colorful. It was a punk rock apocalypse inspired by cheesy 80s movies and cartoons. It was a future where the primary weapon was a modified NES light gun.

It was also the quickest I’ve ever started planning for a Dragon*Con costume.

166146_10150364031195434_4921136_n

DSC_0128

For a year, Envy Green was my baby. It was more than a costume to me. It was creating a character in a universe where creativity was the ultimate form of rebellion. It was the reason I started learning how to sew. It resulted in hot glue burns, needle stabs, and a constant feeling that it wasn’t really done until the night before the convention.

Y’know… like an actual costumer.

I poured my soul into creating Envy. If the costume hadn’t been so freaking hot, I would have slipped into her more, but Georgia humidity doesn’t lend itself to creative costumes with lots of heaviness. Still, it kills me that the jacket has been MIA for about a year. I have an idea of where it is, but that’s truly where her soul resides.

The Girl in question...But for nearly three years, the story wasn’t complete. We had Danger Days, there was the Mad Gear and the Missile Kid EP, and there were the videos. But the knowledge of the comic of a similar name had been around since summer of 2009. Meaning that it was all a part of a greater universe. So the fandom waited… and waited… and waited…

Finally, at New York Comic Con 2012, Gerard gave us the information that we were waiting for. That four years after the initial announcement and nearly three after Danger Days had released, The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys comic was coming out. The idea had changed since its original inception, with the story becoming more about The Girl than anything else.

Then, five months later, MCR announced their break up.

Suddenly, that comic wasn’t just closure for Danger Days. It was going to be closure for fans as well.

And really, it has been that so far.

Only two issues have been released at the time of this blog, but the theme of the two issues has definitely been learning to live without. The Girl from the videos is 18 years old now. She’s been living and running by herself in the desert after her protectors died trying to save her. Now she’s learning how to adapt now that she’s been thrown back into the world that she ran from.

I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.

It’s very much Way’s letter to his daughter Bandit. A lot of Danger Days was. There are so many themes of survival and fighting back between the two that it does feel like he’s telling her that she’s strong enough to live without him.

And to some extent, it seems like that’s what he’s telling the fans too. A lot of MCR fans are young women. I was either 14 or 15 when I heard ‘I’m Not Okay’ for the first time. Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge was one of the soundtracks of my early teenage angst along with a bunch of Green Day albums and Bleed Like Me by Garbage. I later switched them out for Letters by Butch Walker, but it doesn’t mean that they stopped being important to me. I was sad when MCR broke up. I was sad for my friends who were devastated by it.

But The Girl’s story is a story that could be ours as well. Way has stated that before. The Girl, 12 years later.She’s special, she’s smart, and she’s stronger than she knows. It’s a great message for the fans who cite MCR as life savers, but also for girls in general. Young women are rarely allowed comic book heroes written for them. The only other one I can think of that is currently running is Princeless by Jeremy Whitley (which is an amazing series and Jeremy and his wife Alicia are super nice). (Also, if there are more comics that are female centric that actually feel female centric, feel free to let me know.) While the Girl is currently nameless, there’s a story building there that looks like it could be an amazing story of a girl finding her own strength.

It’s also worth mentioning the character of Blue. Blue’s a porno droid, which is Battery City’s fancy phrase for “robot prostitute.” Much of the time, sex worker characters are shunted to the side for jokes or cautionary tales, but Blue is given a lot of sympathy. She’s working twice as hard to try and help her fellow droid (sister? lover? bff?) Red and even went through of ton of bureaucracy to do so. And it looks like as of issue #3, she’s going to be fighting back as well.

YEAH BLUE!I’m cosplaying Blue at Dragon Con this year. While it has been nowhere near as much work as Envy, this is the most excited I’ve been about a costume since Envy. I guess that’s appropriate to how the Killjoys initially made me feel. It was about art, creativity, and radical self-expression. Where I am in my life now makes me feel empowered to dress as her and I look forward to doing so, whether anyone else is or not. I’m powerful, and no one else will be allowed to tell me otherwise as soon as I put on those boots and slide my new ray gun into my stocking.

I mean, wasn’t that what being a Killjoy was all about?

When all six issues are out in November, I’m going to have a more coherent review of the story. I just wanted my readers to better understand my connection to the world of the Killjoys.

Why I nearly cried when I received the FCBD story “Dead Satellites” though? Well, maybe that’s a story worth keeping a secret from the internet at large for the time being. Maybe some other time, Dust Angels…

Okay, I laughed at this when I read issue 2...

 
2 Comments

Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Comics, Music, Personal

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: