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Phil-Collins

No one can kick it quite like Collins can! 🙂

Phil Collins’ Face Value brings me back to the days when my mom took me along with her to complete some chores and such in our old electric blue Chevrolet Corsica LT, the car that I loved as a kid (for whatever reason – probably because it was blue) and wanted to drive when I was older. But my brother wrecked it, so there went that plan. ANYWAY, the car had a cassette player, as many a car had in the olden days of yore, and my mom kept quite a few cassettes in the car. One that never really went away was Face Value.

My mom was – and still to a very large degree is – super into Phil Collins and Collins-era Genesis (Me? I love it all.). She loved everything from Invisible Touch and We Can’t Dance and pretty much anything Phil himself did. She frequently blared Hello, I Must Be Going when she cleaned the house. Really, it’s probably safe to say she was more of a Phil fan than a Genesis fan. Anyway, she almost always had his cassettes in the car. And by Jove, if she wasn’t playing The Police, Foreigner, Journey, or Eddie Money, she was playing Phil Collins. I hate to even admit this, but for a little while, it sort of grated on my nerves. There was a brief period in my young life that Phil Collins annoyed me. Yet I was still called back to his music. He turned into a guilty pleasure for me and later became the driving force that got me to become a percussionist and later a trumpet player in my school bands.

As a kid, the mushy songs annoyed me, but the more powerful songs always stuck with me. They dug their little ways into my cranium and buried themselves deep into the folds of my brain. In Face Value‘s case, it was two tunes – “Droned” and “Hand In Hand.” Mostly “Hand In Hand.” Still to this day, it’s “Hand In Hand.” It’s been in my top-5 favorite songs since 3rd grade, and I sincerely doubt that will ever change.

To really appreciate “Hand In Hand,” you really have to listen to “Droned” first (unless you’re going strictly live, then by all means, listen to “Hand In Hand” as it stands alone). “Droned” is an instrumental piece that features a clever syncopated piano line in 5/4 time. It builds slowly amidst tiny clamors of percussion, whistling, and crickets (which are an extension of the previous song, “The Roof Is Leaking.”), as if personifying the warning signs of an impending stampede. Then the piano stops flitting around and locks into its rhythm. The song gains structural form, the percussion syncs up, and away we go, running, running, running gracefully yet forcefully from whatever is chasing us. Phil sings a lot of “ahhh”s in the background as another voice chants nonsense during the loudest portion of the song. The song begins to pull back and fade as it settles straight into “Hand In Hand.”

Here, you feel like you’ve escaped whatever was pursuing you, at least for the first full minute of “Hand In Hand.” For me, I always envisioned escaping into a dark and enchanted forest, breathing a sigh of relief as the marimba and drum machine cascaded everywhere. Free from anxiety, free from danger, just FREE. Phil quietly introduces the melody line, composed of nothing but black keys on the piano, singing “ohh”s so quietly that the hairs on the back of your neck start to rise very slowly.

Then it happens.

Drums explode, and full chanting from Phil and a children’s choir envelope you as something entirely new chases you through the woods. The only respite comes in the joyful horn arrangement from the Phoenix Horns as the piano dances in the background. Back and forth we go throughout the entire song, battling, drawing energy, battling, drawing energy, strength, resolve, and grit – the drums always pounding, making you advance and retreat until my favorite part kicks in – the double time. It’s the last time through the chorus of “na-na-na-na na-na-na-na-na’s.” The cymbals crash everywhere and the beat dances itself into an absolute frenzy as drums, bass, vocals, and horns all collide seamlessly to create a heart-racing dash to the end. At the last minute, the final measure of the chorus, you outsmart your hunter, and the music fades away until all that’s left is nothing but deep, soothing marimba and your heart’s numbered beats.

Well, that’s what went through my 3rd grade mind, anyway. 😛

“Hand In Hand” has always been one of my fight songs, as I call them. It helped me when I was a child to gear up and deal with the bullies who called me terrible names and whispered threats into my ears between classes, zero in on my studies, and face any challenge that came my way. Today, it encourages me to tackle new fears and  endure what I must. It helps me get in the zone and write copy. It pushes me to run toward the people I love, even when my legs feel heavier than a metric ton. If I see you and I’ve got that double-time section blaring in my ears, you can bet that I will run, run, run, even though I suck at running.

So if you can’t tell by now, I adore this song. Well, really, I’m kind of a nerd about it. I’ve even recently created a playlist on YouTube that includes various versions of “Hand In Hand,” because honestly, no two are the same. There’s always something different. An extra drum lick here. A different instrument chiming in there. And of course, there’s always something fun and unique to pick up from all the versions Phil has performed live. By far, my favorite version is his “No Ticket Required” rendition, live in Dallas, Texas, in May 1985. There’s just something so powerful in it, and it’s really amazing to watch Phil get into the groove with his kit and to see the other band members lock in and rock out their parts. I don’t think I could ever get tired of listening to this version, really!

Anyway, in case you’re curious, here’s what I’ve compiled so far! See if you can hear the differences in each one (and let me know if you have a favorite!). 🙂

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Walk the Moon band members

Walk the Moon! Photo credit: Brian Ziff and Billboard

I woke up today reluctantly, shaking the latest crazy dream from my head and snuggling deeper within my warm blankets. I had thought today would be another ordinary Tuesday. Oh, how wrong I would be!

After I got out of the shower this morning, I saw an email come through on my phone with the message “New concert for Walk The Moon” plastered across the front. I thought, “Surely they can’t be coming to St. Louis.” Well, they ARE! One of my favorite bands is coming to the Lou in February 2018, and I’m finally up-to-speed with the news enough to plan for it! Even though small spaces filled with lots of people usually isn’t my scene, I would definitely make an exception to go see this band. I would kick my anxiety to the curb and belt out the words to my favorite songs along with them (I’m looking at you, “Tightrope,” “Work This Body,” “Iscariot,” and “Sidekick“!), jumping up and down like an absolute maniac as their music pulses wildly through my body.

I was feeling pretty awesome knowing that one of my favorite bands is headed to the city in a few months. But then I did some perusing and found out that they’re releasing an all-new album, What If Nothing, THIS FRIDAY! I’ve loved both their self-titled album and their Talking Is Hard album, so I’m over the moon (haha) for this new compilation of songs! Luckily for us all, they’ve decided to give us a few new songs to chew on and appreciate, including “Headphones,” “One Foot,” “Kamikaze,” and “Surrender.”

I already heard “Headphones” on Spotify a week or so ago and was absolutely blown away by the hard-rocking jam the band had thrown down. Today, however, “One Foot” totally dominated. The positive vibes and lovely lyrics, all dressed up in a celestially stunning major key, infused my thoughts and helped me keep my head up. I am in absolute love with the chorus: “Cross my heart and hope to die/Taking this one step at a time/I’ve got your back if you’ve got mine/One foot in front of the other.” My mind was flooded with strong positive imagery: me standing strong hand-in-hand with my dearest friends as we all face our various challenges and obstacles together. The unknown stares us all down with hungry eyes, but with all of us banded together by faith, love, and loyalty, we take the steps we need to together in order to face our fears and come out victorious. We pick each other back up if one of us falls. We hug, give words of support and encouragement, and shoulder each other’s burdens every day. It’s a beautiful symbiosis that I personally treasure and do my best to nurture each day.

Anyway, one of the absolutely coolest parts of “One Foot” is the video. It was filmed during the August eclipse in the ever-beautiful Joshua Tree National State Park. While most of the time we get to watch the band members dance around and play their instruments in the video, we are treated to actual footage that was taken during the eclipse. It reminded me of my own experience on that day and how my body felt when the false sunset fell upon the earth for 2 minutes. Absolutely amazing!

I’m totally stoked for What If Nothing to come out this Friday, and I hope that I get to finally see Walk The Moon in February! AAAAAAHHH!! 😀

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Unnamed

This is Currently Unnamed Kitty. Don’t let that innocent look fool you – she’s a beguiling little feline!

So my writing buddy at work, a.k.a. my little brother, has been lost in the Great White North since last Friday, and one of the last things he did before he left work was put me in charge of his desk pal, Currently Unnamed Kitty, or Unnamed for short. He picked her up, casually walked over to my desk, and placed her atop my two thinking pals, Ryuji the Ninja and Persephone the Kitty. It was clear that I was to “cat-sit” for my little bro while he was gone for the week. And cat-sit I would (and did!).

Even though I was busy writing web copy, blogs, and press releases galore, Unnamed Kitty would occasionally get into a spot of mischief. Typically, she sat atop my inanimate pals, staring blankly yet happily in my general direction. Today, however, was a different day. Unnamed was becoming restless, and she was going to have some adventures, darn it, whether I liked it or not!

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sunshine

The sun before it got all eclipsed and stuff. 🙂

Unless you live under a rock, you probably have heard that today was the fabled, long-awaited total solar eclipse, which cut southwest from Oregon all the way to South Carolina. As luck would have it, I was very, very near the path of totality. And as luck would have it once more, I was able to go out and enjoy it on a little field trip with my coworkers.

After getting my happy butt to St. Louis via bus and MetroLink, I met up with my “little brother” (and practically glomping him to death, poor kid), said a quick hello to his two sweet cats (I really wanted to take one home with me!), and ventured off to our destination – New Melle, Missouri.

The trip over was really fun. I learned a lot about my little bro and his experiences growing up, where all he went to school, the place where he had his nasty bike accident when he was a little kid, all sorts of neat things, really. I could easily picture him growing up in the calm country surroundings away from the bustle of the city.

surroundings on eclipse day

Our surroundings on the day of the eclipse.

We finally arrived at our destination where our other coworkers were waiting, and we set up camp, as it were. That is, we sat on the south side of a building in the grass, hiding from the sunshine. If you weren’t outside near St. Louis today, let me tell you, it was HUMID. And hot. And I wore jeans like a doofus. So we were all sort of chatting around each other as we waited for the moon to begin its descent on the sun. I got kissed to death and sort of mauled by my coworker’s little Shiba Inu puppy (he’s going through that teething stage). I didn’t care. I was just sort of like, “PUPPYYYYYY!!!!!!!” We joked with a lot of other coworkers, made “Total Eclipse of the Heart” jokes and references, and my brother and I laughed at stupid videos he pulled up on his phone as we waited.

Then one of the girls yelled, “IT’S STARTING!”

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Ryou Bakura unconscious in hospital bed

Maybe I shouldn’t have cosplayed as Bakura since he’s always getting hurt or winding up in the hospital. *_*

When Halloween came around last year, I was pretty darn excited. I was going to work cosplaying as one of my very favorite anime characters, Ryou Bakura from Yu-Gi-Oh!, in the hopes of winning the costume contest. I had the perfect outfit, the hair, and a handmade Millennium Ring all with me, and I was ready for an amazing day, even if no one at work knew who I was.

I didn’t expect my life to turn itself on its head that day.

It started when I was driving to work. As I drove down a pretty large hill on the interstate, I started getting very dizzy and woozy out of nowhere, my ears buzzed, and my vision began to black out. The road was suddenly encompassed within a circle of black as my heart raced in panic. What the heck was happening to me? And why?

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Saturn and Titan

You’re also an album full of ear-worms. 😛

A few months ago, my “little brother” introduced me to a band called Brave Saint Saturn, which is a side project of former members of the band Five Iron Frenzy. My buddy Aaron is a HUGE Five Iron Frenzy fan, so I’m a little familiar with their songs (“Canada,” “You Can’t Handle This,” all that stuff). I figured it would be pretty similar stuff.

Anyway, my little brother told me that Brave Saint Saturn’s album The Light of Things Hoped For was one of the few albums that he could listen to from start to finish with no problem. I have a few like that myself: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis and Dimensionaut by Sound of Contact (I’ll be writing about that later!) are good examples. So I found the music on YouTube, popped in my earbuds, and listened as I typed away on some copy at work.

The first time through, I felt mildly interested. There were 2 or 3 songs that caught my attention, but I thought it was nothing to write home about (sorry, little bro). After all, Christian rock isn’t really my thing (even though I’m Catholic) – I’m more into rock, pop, progressive rock, that kind of thing.

Fast-forward to maybe, oh, I dunno, a week ago, and something got in me to listen to the album again. And again the next day. And maybe again the day after that.

Dang it, this album has dug itself under my skin and won’t stop bothering me. >_<

So I thought, well, why not go ahead and sort of give my own thoughts/interpretations and such on these songs? So here you have it: thoughts about Brave Saint Saturn’s The Light of Things Hoped For, an album that depicts a crew on the S.S. Gloria who have been surveying the moons around Saturn for 5 years and have run into a bit of life-threatening trouble.

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Sufjan's "Mercury" live

“All that I dream – where do you run? Where do you run to?”

I was a bit late to the party and didn’t know that this happened until this afternoon, but OH, MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS, Sufjan Stevens and his buddies, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and James McAlister, performed my very favorite track off their new album on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night. And it was glorious!

There was much squealing. Or at least, I was trying very, very, very hard not to squeal with delight at my desk when I saw it on Asthmatic Kitty’s Facebook page.

Promoting their new album, Planetarium, Sufjan and crew brought out the gentle yet powerful tune called “Mercury,” my absolute favorite off the entire album. It was a more abbreviated version than both the album version and other previous live renditions, but it was still just as beautiful. Sufjan sounded a little nervous, but the song can prove difficult to sing, and he still did such a wonderful job, especially on the last portion of the song: “All that I dream/Where do you run?/Where do you run to?”

Oh, my heart.

Hearing this song felt as if someone took all of my worries in their arms and wrapped a warm, fresh blanket around my shoulders. I particularly appreciated the harmonizing in the song and the reemergence of the brass in the 2nd half as the planet Mercury danced on the television screens behind the band.

Check out their latest rendition of “Mercury” here and see for yourself! 🙂 It’s, ahem, out of this world! (…I’ll be here all night… okay, I’ll show myself out.)

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