A Little Bit About the Album I Put Out Yesterday..

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(Here’s a link to where you can download, or just listen to the album: http://www.noisetrade.com/jeffgrant/notebook-rock )

I ended up “dropping” my new album, Notebook Rock yesterday. It wasn’t exactly planned. What happened is I had a few songs left that needed some mixing attention and I was able to finish those in the morning and then I had the realization that this thing I’d been working on for most of this year was finally done. I thought it might have to wait until 2015, but was glad to go ahead and put it out.

There’s an odd relief in finally releasing music. I’ve been writing and recording and rerecording and mixing and remixing and rewriting and.. I’ve been working on it since at least April. Some of the songs have gone through a few different versions, but my goal was to keep working on them until I felt like they were about as good as I could get them.

I’ve been writing songs for a while, and my old method was to write them once and record them in any way available, and then throw them out to whoever cared, whichever way I could. These days I guess I’m okay working slower, and I have more recording opportunities (meaning I can do them myself at any time, pretty much), so I wanted to try to get each song to the best place I could. Also, I think I’m down to only, like, 3 fans these days, so they’ll be fine—I think I’m kidding(?). 

One thing I enjoy about writing songs is it gives me endless opportunities to learn how to record better. If one song sounds like total crap, there’s always a new one coming to try to do better. I have made MANY awful-sounding songs in my life, but at least it hasn’t been a waste for me personally—I can’t speak for the listeners though (polite laughter).

One thing I like about this group of songs is I got my first ever bass guitar a few months ago, so I was able to add that to a good portion of them. It’s just exciting to hear the difference it makes, it really thickens the sounds and just makes them seem more substantial and what not (yeah, bass stuff). I’m not a drummer, and I have the rhythm of a duck, but I was able to add some slight beats low in the mixes as well, which helps fill the songs out a little more than usual.

One thing I kept being reminded of when I was listening back to all the songs yesterday is that I am a STRANGE songwriter. I mean, I dig what I do, but I am very firmly in the “not for everybody” category. Sometimes when I’m listening to my songs all I can think about is how certain people I know would flat out hate them, or just be bored out of their minds. I have to push past that though, and keep in mind that somewhere, even if I don’t know them, there are people who will treasure this music. It’s such a strange headspace to be in, but at a certain point you just have to let go of the songs and let them be what they’re gonna be and do what they’re gonna do. People will have every kind of response under the sun, but in the end it just is what it is.

I can’t think of anything else to say, though I wanted to let you know that I included a PDF of the lyrics with the songs, so that should be included if you download the songs. If you don’t get it and want one, let me know and I can email it to you or whatever. Also, I’m hoping to add this to my bandcamp site one day soon, whenever I have some extra time. 

Thanks for listening, hope you had a great year!

Jeff

Albums I’ve Listened to and Enjoyed the Most in 2014

I was thinking of ranking these, but I just can’t figure out which one’s I like the most. This is really hard, y’all. Still, I’ve gotten into some albums this year that have been memorable. Here we go:

Beck – Morning Phase

So begins my short list of new music from familiar artists. This just seemed to be a good year for bands from the 90s coming out with better than average music. This was one of the earlier albums that came out this year but it was good stuff. Very laid back Beck. Good for naps (seriously, not a knock!).

St. Vincent – St. Vincent

I’m a new fan of St. Vincent but I feel like I’ve listened to this album more than any other this year. It’s so weird but has such a strong pulse. Annie Clarke is a hero of mine and it’s just awesome to see a brilliant woman who shreds the guitar better than all the bro dudes. I hope that isn’t sexist to say, it’s just very refreshing. She’s also a great songwriter and the production makes it a very fun listen.

Tune-Yards – Nikki Nack

I was a big fan of this band’s previous album w h o k i l l and this seemed to take what Merril Garbus did there and crank it up a few notches. She is such an inspiring musician! She makes her own rules and her music just plain rocks. If you haven’t listened to this band but you really like the sound of a strong drum and bass this is stuff you need to listen to. She’s different, but not in a bad way. Unique and original, which are my favorite qualities in music, man.

Tweedy – Sukierae

I love Jeff Tweedy. He is one of my favorite modern songwriters. I can’t say I love all 20 songs on this very long album, but there are at least 10 that I think rank with the best Wilco songs. Still, the grab bag approach is interesting and worthwhile to listen to, as it shows all the different sides of his music. “Nobody Dies Anymore” is one of my all time favorite Jeff Tweedy songs. Great headphones album. 

Counting Crows – Somewhere Under Wonderland

I’ve been a gigantic Counting Crows fan in my life but I can’t say their last one blew my hair back or anything. This one was a nice surprise. It’s just good to listen to a great band doing what they do best. “Palisades Park” is “Round Here”-level stuff. Actually, the whole album stacks up well against their best music.

Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In the End

I’ve been a Weezer fan ever since I heard “The Sweater Song” on MTV when I was making Pop Tarts one day after my Freshman year of high school. I have DEEP love of this band. Sometimes it’s been worth it, but not always. This was a thrill to hear, so much thought and heart and melody. The band put so much into this album and even though it’s probably not as good as Pinkerton or the blue album, it’s an easy 3rd best, I think. And a 3rd best Weezer album is better than most music any year.

Damien Rice – My Favorite Faded Fantasy

This is one the most recent albums I’ve gotten into. I still need to spend some time with it, but Damien Rice is a heart destroyer, man. This is hard core good music. “The Greatest Bastard” is a brilliant, crushing song. That’s one that’s really stood out so far, though the rest is good too.

I know there are probably a thousand other amazing albums that came out this year that I missed because they just weren’t on my radar, but this is the music that will remind me the most of 2014, personally. Bye.

Further Self-centered Musings From a Random Internet Connection

Monday, April 1, 2013  12:30 PM

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I’d decided to pursue something more conventional with it. I wonder what it would’ve been like to become some sort of business man or to have finished college (instead of dropping out those 3 times). Aiming for creative goals has made me have low expectations for what I can hope to happen. I enjoy the simple lifestyle of trying to write and create things. It feels meaningful in ways that probably wouldn’t exist in my life if I just had a nice job that paid well. Yes I’m almost 33 years old and the idea of having my own house or even a car is kind of a laughable thought, but I’m free enough at least to be able to buy food for myself and devote a couple of hours each day to my writing, which is something I value very highly. That’s nice.

I ABSOLUTELY don’t recommend this lifestyle but there are some of us who can’t really control the need to be creative. I’m kind of designed to be average at every other pursuit, because my head is usually on some page somewhere else. Oh well, so is thangs.

It’s funny to me how when I was young I thought I’d somehow make some hit record and tour around. Part of that is realistic (the touring around part) but making hit music seems like a shot in the dark. It seems you do your best and cross your fingers. I believed too much in the myth that to have a career in music all you have to do is write good songs. That’s not entirely true. You have to play those songs sometimes (definitely more than the 3 times I usually play mine!). Writing good songs is important but you have to do something with them, and that’s a part of the puzzle I never really prepared for. I have total interest in sitting alone in a quiet room and thinking of words and chords that work together and zero interest in memorizing and repeating those songs for strangers in other cities. It’s a weakness but it’s good to at least know this.

I’m just struck by how this has all affected my point of view on everything. I went from thinking I’d make some huge hit that would take care of me for life, to accepting that it’s a lot of work with not very consistent payoff, to now feeling like the expectation should be closer to impressing 5 people a year or something and hoping those people aren’t just being nice out of pity for the choices you’ve made (just an example). That’s just WAY different from where I started and it’s wild to think about.

I used to think there was some sort of promise for success in pursuing music. These days it feels like the opposite, like complete failure is the real guarantee. It’s not working forever to get to some distant, definite light at the end of an extremely long tunnel, it’s more just going and going for whatever reason you can conjure up in the moment of creating each day. It sounds so hopeless I’m sure, but it’s so freeing to just come to a sure conclusion of what I can expect from this way of life. I’m more bothered by the herky-jerkiness of it than anything. Waiting for a mythic payoff that probably won’t ever come is a waste of energy, even if that payoff did eventually come. I can’t put faith in that junk anymore. I’m the type where I just want to know what I can realistically expect so I can prepare for that. I think a lot of people hope for insane, sudden improvements but there’s something to say for solid, sane steps in positive directions. Get a few of those behind you and you’ll forget about winning lotteries and being able to devote your life to being rich without working.

All I’m really saying is it’s been good for me to figure this stuff out. These aren’t conclusions I would’ve let myself come to in my 20s. They aren’t cool conclusions. It’s comforting to find hope in real, tangible things that are right in front of you TODAY, not in some dreamed up tomorrow. That’s a lot of weight to put on the future. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t dream, just that even when dreams come true they still have to exist in the same reality we live in right now.

My current dream is microwaved soup. If you’ll excuse me..

Hobbit Thoughts

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I don’t want to disrespect the awful day the world went through yesterday, but personally my day started in a pretty great place and I want to talk about it. Maybe it’s my way of rebelling against tragedy, though I probably would’ve blogged about it anyway.

Normally, the first thing I do every morning is watch The Today Show and check twitter but on Friday morning I was asleep on the hard wood floor of my friend James’s apartment in Grapevine. The plan was to wake up early and drive to Dallas to watch the movie, and beat the rush that we thought might be there, which wasn’t.

My mom called me at about 5:30 in the afternoon, when I was decompressing later at a coffee shop, to ask what I thought about the news and tell me she loved me. I had no idea what she was talking about. I remembered that I’d noticed many flags at half staff when I was driving around but I thought it was for some other sad story I’d glazed over. It was odd for me to miss something this huge, since I’m an avid twitter user, where you usually get your news about 3 minutes after the news does. My first thought was that another shooting was just so redundant. After my mom told me how young the victims were I , like many, felt a new depth of shock. Words don’t mean much in a situation like that. My prayers are with the victims and their families and the community up there.

But I’m going to back up to that hard wood floor, because that’s a better story..    

I got to be one of the lucky ones to watch The Hobbit in 3D IMAX at the high frame rate. It required some serious nerd work to make it happen, involving buying tickets 3 weeks in advance on Fandango and sleeping on the floor of another guy’s apartment at 32 years of age, but all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us, or something.

I went with my friends James and Larry. We left James’s apartment around 8, stopped by Chick-fil-A for breakfast, and drove out to Dallas. The movie is only playing at 48 frames per second at 2 theaters in Texas, and this was one of them.

We got there about 8:45 or 9 and went in, expecting a line and there was no one there. In fact, the people at the theater seemed surprised that we got there so early (I think they felt sorry for us). We walked around the mall for a little while to pass time (the theater was at a mall) and decided to get to our seats about 2 hours before the show started.

We waited and whatever, a lot of this isn’t very interesting. The movie started at about 11:45 after the previews.

First impressions: Personally, the high frame rate didn’t stick out to me. I’d been reading scary things about it but I just thought the movie was incredibly clear. It looked fantastic, and a fantastic-looking movie is not something I would complain about. It didn’t take me out of the story or anything. It enhanced the experience. James and Larry said they noticed the difference and loved it, but I’m going to have to wait to see it in 2D or at the regular frame rate to have a real opinion. It didn’t make me feel sick or anything like that. I don’t see a ton of 3D movies, so I think I was already distracted from that whole part of the movie.

I would say that IF you live close to a theater that’s playing the movie in HFR, then it’s worth it, but it’s probably not an extremely different experience in a different format. I’m not going to go an hour out of my way to see it again, but I probably will try to see it in 3D again. Some 3D seems unnecessary in movies but I thought it added a lot here. There are scenes where a bug or butterfly or bird is flying through huge, beautiful vistas and the dimension puts the bird right in front of you. I don’t know, I like stuff like that.

As far as just the movie goes, listen I’m an incredibly biased person with these Middle-earth movies. I saw all the Lord of the Rings films a few times in the theaters, read the big book, owned the extended edition DVDs, and recently re watched the extended edition trilogy on Blu ray, so I’m pretty deep into the target audience. The Hobbit book is right around 300 pages and the L.O.T.R. book is near 1,000, so the pacing of the adaptations isn’t the same.

Last night I was reading the book of The Hobbit and noticing that they seemed to include just about every moment from every page, PLUS material from the Lord of the Rings appendices. I don’t know if I’ve seen a movie adaptation of a book with this much story detail. The thing is, if you like the book I think you HAVE to like the movie. And this first movie covers only the first 6 or so chapters of the book, out 19 total. Peter Jackson spread the story about as thin as he could. Some will be bothered by that and feel it’s slow, and the beginning IS a little slow, but also it’s just cool to be “back in Middle-earth”.

The stakes aren’t as high in this movie as the previous trilogy but this is no Phantom Menace situation. The acting is excellent, the casting all seems right on to me, the tone is lighter than the other movies but you already know that if you’re familiar with the book.

Bottom line: This is a fun movie that’s worth watching in 3D, ESPECIALLY if you’re already a fan of these Middle-earth movies. There’s a lot to enjoy and talk about afterwards. The drama isn’t as high as the other movies but that takes nothing away from the enjoyable storytelling. It’s great to look at, in any format I would assume. I guess I should just say that I liked it. 

Weekend out.

The Current State of My Own Music, For the Curious

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Most applicable picture I could find on short notice

Okay, I’m trying to think of a way to talk about this without sounding too vague or cryptic. Hmm.. I don’t know. This isn’t meant to be mysterious, just an update on what is happening with my music. I think the last music I put out was about a year ago on Noisetrade. It might still be there if you’re dogged enough to find it. 

Short answer: I have between 15 and 20 new songs that I’ve demoed. My original plan was to try to produce them with more ambition and sound than I normally do. I’ve made attempts, but I’m at a point where my musical limitations are embarrassingly obvious to me. I can write a song with words and chords on an acoustic guitar and record it with a couple microphones, but I can’t play drums or interesting bass. I have ideas for how I want things to sound but not enough technical ability to realize them. And even if I could get the raw tracks down, my mixing and mastering skills leave a lot to be desired. I could always pay other people to do this stuff but I’m way too cheap to take chances like that.

What am I trying to say here? I’m saying that my plans with these songs are evolving and I wish they were ready but they just ain’t. I’ve been putting my creative energy towards some nonmusical projects that have more of my focus for when I have time to actually work on them. Mostly, I’ve been working a lot and it’s tricky to find writing time. I guess that’s just something that happens. Sad stuff.

I don’t know why but music has always been categorized as a hobby in my life and not really a career. The few times when I’ve pursued it more seriously were fun and all but still left me hungry and carless. I think some musicians are better at sticking with it during that “baren times” but I just don’t have a ton of drive in that department. I think I’m a results kind of person and making $20 bucks a year makes me think I need to find a better use for my time (that’s kind of a joke but kind of not). Saying “If I build it they will come” to yourself sure is romantic but when you’ve built and built and you look around and nobody’s there you start to kind of feel like an idiot.

I’m probably overly pessimistic about this but dang, writing songs and putting them out there is a ridiculously high thing to invest yourself in. I probably expect too much from the whole thing so I’ve often found myself flat out unsatisfied. It’s wacky. I get angry at the pursuit because it feels like it’s designed to jerk you around until you have no feeling in you left to express melodically with cute phrases.

There’s a chance I could get into a particular mood over the next few weeks and listen to my newest demos and decide they’re fine as they are and upload them to the internet as a Christmas present to people. I don’t know though. I do get in those moods. I was in one last week. But then I listened to them again and thought they sucked ___.   

Okay, need to run. More later… If you’re lucky.

Ha ha

Thoughts on the Breaking Bad “Mid-season Finale” or whatever it’s called

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Wow, that picture is a lot bigger than I thought it would be. Hmm.. I should shrink that down. Gotta get into the setting stuff on wordpress.. hmm.. i’ll do it later. Maybe.. Probably not..

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. DON’T READ THIS if you haven’t seen the 8th episode of Breaking Bad‘s fifth season, “Gliding Over All” (which is from a Walt Whitman poem, btw).

First off, I was satisfied by this episode and this half season thing. Yes, it felt a little rushed. I think that was bound to happen since we’re all used to those 13 episode seasons (which are still pretty short, right?). The episodes felt bigger. No filler. The alternative would’ve been 8 slow and boring buildup episodes this year to prepare for the final batch next summer. Yes, it felt like a lot of big things happened but I think it’s okay. That’s how I feel.

I watched the episode with 2 fellow Breaking Bad fan friends and we made a list of predictions beforehand (I tried to find some blue Pop Rocks candy at Target but no dice). Everyone I’ve talked to this last week predicted that the BIG cliffhanger would be Hank finding out that Walt was Heisenberg. Honestly, I LOVED how they did that. Hank finding out while sitting on the crapper seemed like the perfect way to get to a moment the series has been building to since the pilot. I loved the flashback cut to that great scene from season 4 in the Schrader’s bedroom. I loved the scene right before when everyone is having their “happy” ending. Probably everyone in the audience was thinking somehow something awful was going to happen. Holly was going to fall in the pool or what not. That’s what I thought. This is not a show where happiness lasts for very long or is presented without some underlying irony.

The episode left some lingering questions:

Is Walt really out?

What is Hank going to do?

What’s going to happen with Jesse?

Is the cancer back?

How in the world is Walt going to make it to Denny’s with his hair and all?

And what’s he gonna do with that giant gun?

We got 2 excellent montage scenes. The prison one was gruesome but well made. The final cooking/making money/succeeding one was funny just in how long it was. That song (“Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells [thanks, internet]) seemed to end and start back up at least 3 times.

The scene when Skyler showed Walt the huge stack of money was effective. Good visual. It seems like Mike’s death, that, whatever happened at his doctor’s visit and losing Jesse was finally pushing Walt towards some much needed soul searching. That’s why I bought him deciding to get out of the business so quick. I know some had issues with the immediacy of it.

I liked how this half built to what would seem like Walt’s happiest ending. He has the money, his family is all together and happy, he’s out of the business..

But if you watch this show you know that it’s all about the consequences of bad decisions. And what Hank’s putting together in the bathroom is going to upend everything.

Cannot wait.

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If you’re reading this and this is your first time to be caught up and the thought of having to wait for next summer is making you nauseous, here are some recommendations to sooth the entertainment laceration:

– Read Alan Sepinwall’s reviews.

– Listen to the Breaking Bad Insider Podcast where editor Kelly Dixon breaks down each episode with Vince Gilligan. These have been going on since season 2 and they’re all in iTunes and easy to find.

– Watch old, amazing episodes on Netflix or buy them in disc form.

– Get on twitter and tweet nonstop about Breaking Bad. It feels awesome.

And now back to average television..

I got an iPad

I got an iPad on Saturday and I feel like a new, better version of myself. I’m even typing this blog ON the thing. Doesn’t that excite you? I think it must. Typing on this thing is an interestinexperience. I haven’t figured out how to connect my Apple keyboard yet. Maybe that’s how I’ll spend the holidayweekend!

A part of me feels like a real dweeb but I like it. This thing seems to be able to do anything (other than spell words right).  I’m learning more and more every day how to experience a fuller life with this thing. Wow. I just went into iTunes and started playing some music through the headphones for background AS I’m blogging. Amazing.

Maybe I’ll include a picture of an iPad in this blog to make people like the blog more. People like blogs more with pictures, see? I guess I’ll have to lookan theInternet for a good photo.

Whoa, that was too difficult for me. Maybe I’ll try again next week.

This thing is fun. Before I bought it I had to tell myself that though I would be able to do some work on it the main reason I’d be getting it was for fun. I’ll have to save up for a couple of years to get anothcommuter thing later.

I. Wish this thing typed right instead of makingme look like a dumb person oh we’ll iPads are aweso me.