Kickstart My Heart – The Influence of the Music in Our Lives

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I’ve had a realisation last year. A realisation that I keep having lately. It’s about the music, and media in general, we consume and how it influences our mood. I have already written a blog post about my experience, but it felt necessary to revisit.

Over the past few months I have almost exclusively been listening to music that makes me feel good. As much as I love my angst-ridden metalcore, nihilistic doom metal and gloomy goth music, I know that it’s not particularly helpful to listen to on a daily basis. Continually listening to negative music inevitably leads to dwelling on things that make me unhappy. There is a time and place for it and that time and place is not every day.

Instead of Bring Me the Horizon I’ve been listening to Four Year Strong, instead of Cult of Luna I’ve been listening to Mötley Crüe, instead of Lana del Rey I’ve been listening to Elvis, all the pop punk, and so on. Of course I’ve still been listening to Every Time I Die, but more their newer, more positive music, rather than say, Ex-Lives.

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These little tweaks have made a huge difference in my life. It’s so simple and so effective. The simplicity and the effectiveness still baffle me. I’ve been singing and dancing through my apartment all day. I’ve been a lot more motivated to do things. I’ve been more creative. I’ve been more social. I’ve gradually been watching less series that don’t directly add to my sense of wellbeing; instead of horror or drama series I’ve been drawn more to stand-up comedy, documentaries about nature or inspiring people, and magical girl anime shows (of which singing along to the theme songs is an absolute necessity). I’ve also been reading more non-fiction books about spirituality and people who fascinate me. These other media have been enriching my life in turn.

This is just scratching the surface. So many positive experiences stem from putting on upbeat music as early as possible in the day. Once you’re in that positive place, so many more positive things will start happening. And then I think of my mom and how she turns on her radio first thing in the morning and cheerfully sings along. She’s been doing this for as long as I can remember. I used to find it insufferable, but now it’s like Mom! All along you knew this secret to happiness and you didn’t tell me!*

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Well, my friend, I’m here to let you in on this secret. There are a lot of things that I’ve been doing over the past few months to consciously get into a positive mindset (or into THE VORTEX as Gala Darling and Abraham-Hicks call it) and listening to uplifting music as much as possible is unquestionably one of the most powerful. And unlike I used to think, uplifting music doesn’t have to mean only modern radio pop. There is so much uplifting music in alternative genres: pop punk, punk rock, horror punk, glam metal, glam rock, ebm,  synthpop, 50s rock and roll. You just have to weed it out.

If you’re interested in the sort of music that makes me feel really good, I’ve made a playlist on Youtube (NSFW). It starts with Avril Lavigne, naturally. I’ve tried to keep it somewhat cohesive, but hey, I listen to a lot of different music.

 

I don’t know if all this is obvious to anyone else, but it was mind-blowing to me. Once you become conscious of the media you consume on a daily basis and how much it informs your experience, you can change your world.

*Then again, I probably wouldn’t have been in such a receptive mode as I am now. It’s something that I’ve had to grow towards.

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Music Review – Stray From the Path’s Only Death is Real

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Say what you will about the current political situation, it does make for some damn fine music.

Stray From the Path’s Only Death is Real is a relentless attack against the present U.S. administration, and its supporters, from start to finish. SFTP have made brutal, confrontational political music before, but not to this degree.

Only Death wastes no time in engaging the listener and demanding them to pick a side. “You with us or the enemy?” in ‘The Opening Move’. This polarisation is characteristic of the album as a whole. Every song shoves SFTP’s political views down your throat, leaving you no room to breathe. It sounds great if you agree with them. If you don’t… Well, you probably won’t listen to this album for long.

Musically, SFTP have not changed much. Rage Against the Machine influenced riffs, punishing breakdowns that make you yearn for a moshpit, vocals that are more rapped than sung. The first couple of songs on Only Death sound very exciting. But then they tend to bleed into each other. The only standout tracks are ‘Goodnight Alt-Right’, ‘The House Always Wins’ and ‘Only Death is Real’.

There are some gems in the long-running stream of vitriol though. The opening of ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ for one: “Everything has its price, but the price is wrong bitch.” SFTP do have a knack for creating killer opening lines. Lines that you can’t help but belt out as loud as you can wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. I also love the breakdown in ‘Plead the Fifth’, with the lyrics “Welcome to the melting pot motherfucker. If you don’t like it, then get the fuck out.” And, of course, Keith Buckley kills it in ‘Strange Fiction’.

Only Death is a good album overall. However, it doesn’t have the same replay value as SFTP’s previous couple of albums. It’s too specifically political and has too little innovation.

Rating: 7/10

Recommended for fans of Rage Against the Machine, Hatebreed, Stick To Your Guns etc.

New Converge EP – ‘I Can Tell You About Pain’

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Yesterday I got a casual little e-mail from Spotify: “New single from Converge now available.”

WHAT?

It’s been five years since their last release (excluding live albums and re-workings) and with no warning this bomb gets dropped on us.

The single is called ‘I Can Tell You About Pain’ and along with another track, ‘Eve’, it was released on an EP. The beginning of ‘I Can Tell You About Pain’ is pretty standard Converge, in so far as there is anything standard about Converge: fast, brutal and angry. Then it lurches into another direction with “I just need to leave, just need to find my way out”. Oh, these lyrics. They hit deep.

When you’re already convinced that this is another great Converge song, it ends with an epic, annihilating breakdown. The second half of this song is really what takes it to the next level.

I have been listening to it over and over and over this afternoon. ‘About Pain’ has a rawness reminiscent of You Fail Me, one of my favourite Converge albums. The rawness is what makes it so disturbingly relatable.

As for ‘Eve’… I have no words.

Just listen to it. With decent headphones.

It’s a fairly long song at 7 ½ minutes, but keeps you captivated throughout. When I was listening to ‘Eve’, with my headphones on and eyes closed, I drifted off to another world. Especially at the beginning, I felt like I was in The North in Westeros or some post-apocalyptic wasteland or something. I have also been listening to ‘Eve’ repeatedly this afternoon, after I recovered from ‘About Pain’.

This EP only has the two songs, but strangely it’s all you need from Converge. Both of the songs showcase the best of them. ‘About Pain’ features their fast-paced, angry side and ‘Eve’ their more contemplative, experimental side. While they’re very different songs, they’re equally intense. No punches are pulled.

I do hope this means that they have a new album coming up though…

My #1 tool to instantly get myself into a good mood

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Lately I’ve been having a lot of bad days. Days when I feel completely unmotivated to do any of the things I have to do. From the moment my alarm goes off at the absurd hour of 4:30, I’ll be cranky. I won’t want to shower, dress in my boring jeans and shirt uniform, cycle the half hour to my shit job with the wind against me, and especially not spend the great majority of the day doing intense physical labour that does nothing to help me achieve my personal work goals.

I’ll get so frustrated before I even get out of bed. I’ll hate having obligations and so little time or energy to spend on the things I actually enjoy. I’ll hate being a slave to money and hate the whole capitalist system and hate my life in general.

When this happens, I know that I have a choice. I can choose to stay miserable and hate everything, or I can actively cheer myself up and transform my day into a nice one.

I tend to choose the latter. How I do this when it seems like there is no good in sight?

Pop punk.

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Yes, pop punk.

Specifically, the good old pop punk spawned in the 90s and early 2000s: Good Charlotte, Blink-182, Green Day, Avril Lavigne and so forth.

It sounds ridiculously easy, but for me it makes a world of difference. It’s impossible to stay in a sour mood when I hear something as fun and familiar like ‘The Anthem’ or ‘All the Small Things’. And I don’t ever wanna, I don’t ever wanna be you…

So in the morning I’ll put on my pop punk playlist at too loud a volume and inevitably sing along louder. (Both at home and while I cycle the long way. Singing while cycling makes the road infinitely more fun) Before long I’ll be happy to be alive again. Able to laugh at my misery. Completely capable of handling whatever the day will throw at me. With pop punk at my side, I’ll show up at my shit job grinning like an idiot.

Of course, I won’t want to listen to such cheerful music at first. When I’m in a sour mood I only want angry music to justify my anger. It’s always an effort to put on something that will make me happy instead. And always worth that effort a thousand times over.

Some of my favourites:

Long live pop punk!

‘Core Classics – ‘Shadow Moses’ by Bring Me The Horizon

I was at my mom’s house the other week and listened to some old cd’s, as I usually do. One of the cd’s that I listened to was Bring Me The Horizon’s Sempiternal. It floored me all over again, particularly the song ‘Shadow Moses’. I had to write about its greatness somewhere, so here we are.

Is it really four years ago that ‘Shadow Moses’ was released? It seems like just yesterday that it popped up in my Youtube feed and blew my mind. I thought it was one of the most epic, relatable songs I had ever heard. From the slow beginning with the group vocals to the fantastic breakdowns and the nihilistic lyrics; I was in love. I played this video so much when it just came out. I still think it’s an unrivalled song within the genre, like a lot of BMTH’s work.

All together now: THIS IS SEMPITERNAL.

Music Review – Motionless In White’s Graveyard Shift

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I have a love/hate relationship with Motionless In White. I adore a lot of what they do, but there is also a lot in which they just miss the mark. It also irks me how often they cover the same sort of subjects in the same sort of language. Always people making them fucking sick, fuck this and fuck that. Gets boring. I hadn’t been following their new music for this reason.

Then I watched Black Friday’s interview with Chris Motionless and my interest was piqued again. I followed the link she gave for MIW’s newest video, for a song called ‘LOUD (Fuck It)’, despite the same boring, over-used word in the title.

I was blown away. It was so fun, catchy and intelligent. Also confrontational, but in a subtle, interesting way. It reminded me of ‘Everybody Sells Cocaine’, a lovely little gem from their previous album, and made me excited about their music again.

Last Friday they released a new album, Graveyard Shift. With Graveyard Shift they further refined the spooky industrial metal sound they developed on Reincarnate. At the same time, they took the best of their early metalcore sound, mixed in some more Manson influences and lightened up a bit. They generally sound more melodic, though they can’t resist a good breakdown. The transitions between the melodic and heavier parts are super smooth too. Such an improvement over their earlier music.

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The same sort of subjects I mentioned in the beginning? Those are either gone or packaged in a more interesting way. Lyrically, and musically as well, Graveyard Shift is a lot more diverse than their previous work. There is a cringey line or two, but those are well compensated musically. I’ve already mentioned the fantastic ‘LOUD (Fuck It)’, which is by far my favourite song on the album. Other highlights are ‘Rats’, ‘Eternally Yours’, ‘Voices’ and ‘Untouchable’.

‘Eternally Yours’ is their best song about love until now. The songwriting is great and the imagery Gothic and lovely. Is there anything more darkly romantic than “I’m more than willing to rot in hell with you”? In ‘570’ there is the old defiance, though there is also pride of how far one has come and the recognition of flaws in oneself. ‘570’ has really been growing on me. It’s reminiscent of Parkway Drive’s ‘Dedicated’, which I love. Like Parkway, MIW seem to be moving more towards the ‘metal’ side of metalcore. On the unapologetically heavy ‘The Ladder’ MIW sound more metal than ever before. Then there’s the ridiculous horrorpunky fun of ‘Not My Type: Dead As Fuck 2’, which is a lot more experimental and risky than the original ‘Dead as Fuck’. A lot on this album is more experimental and risky than their previous work.

Graveyard Shift is definitely MIW’s best effort so far. It’s the first album of theirs that I can listen to all the way through, without skipping (or wanting to skip) songs. Not to say that all the songs are flawless; just that the weaker ones have something good to compensate for those flaws.

Love them or hate them, you can’t deny that MIW are good at what they do.

Rating: 7.5/10

Recommended for fans of Marilyn Manson, Bleeding Through, Parkway Drive, Murderdolls, Deathstars etc.

Every Time I Die’s new video for ‘Map Change’

A couple of days ago Every Time I Die, one of my favourite bands ever, released a new video for their song ‘Map Change’. They described it as a “love letter” to their hometown, Buffalo. ETID tend to make either very random or party-heavy videos, so I was not sure what to expect.

It is a breathtakingly beautiful video. Bleak and brutally honest, but beautiful. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it brought tears to my eyes. It’s extraordinary how, despite the very specific setting and inspiration for the song, relatable this is.

I’ll just add this to my mental list of why ETID are so great.

Lyrics:
Am I the only one that saw the sun burn out? The locusts keep their rhythm. My watch has broken down. I wake up and take on water, sink to the peak of despair. What I need is a cigarette. No more prayers. The planets unaligned. We have saints without a shrine. A storm comes and the city’s abandoned. The ship is going down with the captain. I am the man that sank atlantis. The bottom is not the lowest we get. Further down still the dark’s absolute. Further down than that its only me and you. I assure you that hell is not a myth. We both vacation there. Hell is not a myth. We spend each winter there. No one can prepare. A storm comes and the city’s abandoned. The ship is going down with the captain. I am the man that sank Atlantis. The bottom is not the lowest we get. I thought I knew the best part of the secret: the truth is the thing we forget. The glory I had witnessed was just a sleight of hand. These hearts cannot be salvaged, these bones cannot withstand. I have either been forgotten or I was never seen. Now I’m in the negative space between. I weighed down the earth, through the stars to the pavement. I’ve weighed down the earth. No use trying to save it. I’ve weighed down the earth, through the stars to the pavement. I’ve weighed down the earth. Not sure I can take it. I’ve fallen out of frame. A strangled, distant flame. Clenched in the jaws of anguish are only godless men. Chaos is drawn to silence like life is drawn to death. The dusk is so much clearer than the dawn had ever been. I’m a ghost, and yet I’ve weighed down the earth. Through the stars to the pavement. I’ve weighed down the earth. No use trying to save it.

If you liked/loved this too, be sure to check out the other work of the director, Kyle Trash. It’s more great, beautiful stuff. I especially liked the video he did for Four Year Strong.

Music Review – Creeper’s Eternity, In Your Arms

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Last year I heard Creeper’s ‘Black Mass’ and fell in love. Their sound, subject matter, aesthetic; everything about them excited me. Not since AFI (1999-2003) has there been a band that merged punk rock and goth themes quite like this. I have anxiously been awaiting a full length album by Creeper since. And last month, they delivered. Oh, how did they deliver.

Eternity, In Your Arms is everything a spooky punk rocker could ever want. I have continuously been playing it for the past couple of weeks.

There is such a variety in the music, from the ridiculously catchy ‘Suzanne’, to the slow, minimalistic ‘Crickets’, to the theatrical ‘I Choose To Live’. This keeps it interesting through many listens. No two songs sound the same, though some lyrics can be a little repetitive. They deal with themes such as longing, heartbreak and lost youth. There is an overall sense of 90s goth nostalgia: sometimes subtly in a description like “skirts of velvet”, sometimes more explicit like the song titled ‘Winona Forever’. It also reminds me of my own teen years and all the superficial drama that went on, in the most endearing way. At the same time it reminds me that those years are not lost; they will forever be a part of me.

Their subject matter is a breath of fresh air in the current scene. So many heavy bands with a goth or horror aesthetic waste their potential churning out the same rebellious drivel over and over (Motionless In White, I’m looking at you). Creeper goes for something more vulnerable and interesting.

Some of my favourite lyrics are: “We’re going through this phase where we feel nothing / Making out with ‘loneliness’, cheating on each other with ‘regret’ / We’re so forgettable and miserable”, “When all I wanted was a hand to hold to watch the world explode / I was all of the things that you always dreamt and then never did / All of the lives that you could have led but then never lived / The midnight kids” (‘Black Rain’), “And it’s breaking  me to see you so happy / I just want the worst for you / So selfish and typical of me / To sail and sink with you” (‘Winona Forever’), and basically all of ‘Misery’.

Rating: 9/10

If you like bands like AFI, Misfits, My Chemical Romance or Alkaline Trio, you should definitely give Eternity, In Your Arms a listen.

Live Review – The Dillinger Escape Plan

Review of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s show in 013 (Tilburg) on January 27th 2017. Support: Bong-Ra.

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One-man electronic performances have always gone over my head. I really liked Bong-Ra’s music, but as a live performance it fell short. Especially as the support act for a band such as The Dillinger Escape Plan. It did nothing to warm one up. Most of the other people in the venue seemed to agree with me. They did not let the musician performing on stage deter their conversations. A lot of people also seemed to prefer to stay downstairs in the parlour. Later in the show, with more fast-paced songs, the small crowd started getting into it more. Two or three people were happily bouncing around, seemingly having the time of their life. Many more were bobbing their heads along to the beat. I think I would have enjoyed Bong-Ra’s music a lot more at a festival or dance party. As the support for Dillinger, it was strange.

The mathcore kings launched into their set with the fantastic ‘Limerent Death’. It took the crowd a little while to get into it. The thing about mathcore is that it’s hard to move to. I have been to several mathcore shows where people plainly did not seem to know what to do with themselves. At Dillinger’s show however, there was almost constantly a moshpit.
Their show was calmer than the last time I saw them (no swinging from lamps or crawling on speakers), but that didn’t matter. The band was as passionate as ever. It was a tight and professional show, with a good mix of new and old songs. The old songs remained the most popular with the crowd. The first stage dives took place during the old ‘Sugar Coated Sour’. The poppier songs ‘Black Bubblegum’ and ‘Milk Lizard’ got the whole crowd singing along.

Personally, I would have liked to hear more from Option Paralysis. They did play ‘Farewell, Mona Lisa’, which was easily the highlight of the show for me. It is one of my all-time favourite songs. The intensity of that song live was magical; it gave me goosebumps all over. The rest of the crowd also went wild during that song. After that, only a couple of songs were left. The band gave everything they could give and left the crowd dazed.

It’s hard to believe this was one of Dillinger’s final shows. They will be sorely missed in this kingdom they have built.

book review – the art of asking by amanda palmer

this week amanda palmer’s the art of asking was released in paperback. like when it first came out last year, she asked her fans to spread the word about it. i was already meaning to do a review on it, so here it is.

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i have been following amanda palmer & her work for years & years now. from the dresden dolls, to her solo album, evelyn evelyn, the grand theft orchestra, ukelele madness, ted talk… she has done so many wonderful things. i don’t love everything that she’s done, but this book is definitely one of the many things that i do.

the art of asking is basically about amanda’s experiences with asking & what she has learned from those experiences. it could be categorised as a self-help book, but it is so much more. it is also a meditation on human relationships, vulnerability, trust & art & all its facets. then it is partially a memoir of one of the greatest artists of our time.

in the art of asking amanda questions a lot of notions that most of us in the western world probably grew up with. like how we are supposed to be independent & never need help & distrust everyone else. how we think artists are supposed to earn money. fundamentally, how we are supposed to be embarrassed by asking for help. she shows that there is another way. she shows a glimpse of a better, more open & loving world.

the whole book filled me with such inspiration. it made me want to be better to other people, allow myself to be vulnerable, create more art. it changed my views on certain things, for the better. i would recommend everyone to read this.

some of the passages that i highlighted while reading the book:

Everybody struggles with asking.
From what I’ve seen, it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyzes us–it’s what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one.
It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another.
American culture in particular has instilled in us the bizarre notion that to ask for help amounts to an admission of failure. But some of the most powerful, successful, admired people in the world seem, to me, to have something in common: they ask constantly, creatively, compassionately, and gracefully.”

“Those who can ask without shame are viewing themselves in collaboration with-rather than in competition with–the world.
Asking for help with shame says:
You have the power over me.
Asking with condescension says:
I have the power over you.
But asking for help with gratitude says:
We have the power to help each other.”

“Seeing each other is hard.
But I think when we truly see each other, we want to help each other.
I think human beings are fundamentally generous, but our instinct to be generous gets broken down.”

“I think the real risk is the choice to disconnect. To be afraid of one another.
We make countless choices every day whether to ask or to turn away from one another. Wondering whether it’s too much to ask the neighbor to feed the cat. The decision to turn away from a partner, to turn off the light instead of asking what’s wrong.
Asking for help requires authenticity, and vulnerability.
Those who ask without fear learn to say two things, with or without words, to those they are facing:
I deserve to ask
and
You are welcome to say no.
Because the ask that is conditional cannot be a gift.”

i think i need to go re-read this…

if you want to read it too, you can buy the paperback at amazon, barnes & noble, books-a-million, indiebound or porter square books. you can find a bunch of links for the hardcover, audiobook & ebook here.