Paperhouse: On remixes

January 21, 2013

Over winter break, one of my friends downloaded a bunch of one-hit wonders. It did not take long, however, to find that someone decided that gems such as “Who Let the Dogs Out?” and “Cotton-Eyed Joe” needed remixes.

These remixes were not just bad — there was also no new perspective gained from listening to them. There was barely anything about the songs that was altered; hi-hats, bass, and synths were simply added on top of the songs with some minor equalizer manipulation. It was the musical equivalent of using Microsoft Paint to do photo manipulation.

Good remixes have a lot in common with good song covers: They maintain the most essential aspects of the song, provide a new perspective, and show an appreciation of the source material. For example, I was never a fan of Lady Gaga’s “Yoü and I.” However, after hearing Wild Beasts’ remix of it, I changed my opinion.

Wild Beasts’ remix stripped away almost every element of the song, leaving a vocal loop of Lady Gaga singing, “This time we made love / This time baby you and I,” over sampled loops taken directly from the song. The only addition the band makes is singer Hayden Thorpe moaning over parts of the song. The two layers of the song could not sound any more different. Wild Beasts stripped away the theatricality, the radio-pop polish, and the schmaltzy country-rock ballad feel. They left listeners with the soul of the song: sexual longing and the torture of being separated from a loved one.

It’s easy to discredit remixes as a legitimate art form because it’s not terribly difficult to make one. But artistic vision is necessary to make a remix worth listening to. Although there are enough mediocre dubstep remixes of pop songs to make one lose faith in remix culture, it’s important to remember that if you just keep looking hard enough, you’ll probably find a remix that will remind you why you started looking for them in the first place.

(Originally published in The Tartan)

Paperhouse: On you, me, and rainbows

December 3, 2012

As I sit down to write this week’s Paperhouse, I am a little saddened. While looking through my past rants in this column, it became shockingly clear to me that I have a very decisive opinion regarding music. In columns past, I’ve endorsed this album or that subgenre, or belittled some artist or criticized a musical trend. While I typically encourage you to believe every word I write, today I want to make it perfectly clear that your music taste is your own. Do not let a magazine, blog, or other individual dictate it.

The music you listen to should be entirely up to you and is truly one of the few choices you have in life. With the wide variety of ways to be exposed to new artists and genres, it makes little sense to rely on the opinions of others. Granted, there are probably too many musicians releasing music today, but that is not a sufficient reason to take someone else’s advice instead of sorting through what is available on your own. As consumers we have become inundated with musical output, with blogs advocating one album this hour and then posting on Twitter about an entirely different one minutes later. It’s important to remember to breathe.

Over the upcoming winter break, after you listen to your finals study playlist several hundred times — I recommend filling it with as much deep house as possible — spend some time figuring out what type of music you actually like and, more importantly, why you like it. What is it about a song that strikes resonance with you? Is it that catchy lyric, that garbled bass line, or that wonderful dissonance? Whatever it is, take note and then go out and find more music that fills that need. In the end, it doesn’t matter what music you like, as long you know why you like it independently of anyone else’s opinion.

(Originally published in The Tartan)

Paperhouse: On Foals

November 12, 2012

There comes a time in every boy’s life when he becomes a man. For some, it is when they lose their virginity. For others, it is their first drink or their first fight. For others still (hint: Carnegie Mellon students), it is running their first program. For me, however, it was when I first heard Foals.

Foals is an indie rock band from England. The core members of the band started their musical careers in a small math rock group based in Oxford, but they disbanded and created the band Foals in 2005. Moving away from hard math rock, a very rhythmically complex genre, and into a more math-inspired indie rock feel, the band released its first album in 2008, titled Antidotes. It was this album that turned me into a man.

I don’t remember exactly how I came upon the album, but it was good enough that I actually went out and bought a physical copy. Never before had I found something that challenged me musically and intrigued me as much as Foals did. So when its second album, Total Life Forever, was announced in 2010, I had to preorder it. Total Life Forevercontinued with the band’s departure from math rock into a much more indie (some would say accessible) sound, but it remained uniquely identifiable as Foals.

The band’s new single, “Inhaler,” dropped last Monday. Once again, Foals moves even further away from math rock and Antidotes. Put simply, “Inhaler” is less math, more muscle. The album, called Holy Fire, comes out in February, and you can bet your plaid pantaloons that I’ll be preordering it as well. Foals isn’t just the funkiest, most fun-loving band out there. Foals has the musical genius that bands strive for years to emulate, and it does something that very few other bands can do: hange its sound, and remain just as good as it was in the first place — if not better.

(Originally published in The Tartan)

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