Archive for October, 2006

Nightmare Before Christmas Special Edition – Danny Elfman et al

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Nightmare Before Christmas – Four and a Half Stars
Bonus Material – One and a Half Stars

I was eagerly awaiting this record, because The Nightmare Before Christmas is my favorite animated movie, and its soundtrack is one of my favorites, too. I’m a big fan of both Danny Elfman and Tim Burton. Plus its release date seemed perfect: a week before Halloween, a week to get me psyched.

What a letdown. Now don’t get me wrong — I absolutely love the first disc, which is just the soundtrack from the original movie (which I already own). I’m talking about the special material. Another reason I was anticipating this album so fervently was that it had rock bands doing covers of some of its songs, as well as demo versions of songs sung by Danny Elfman. The demos are illuminating and entertaining. Most of the songs from the rock bands, however, are not. With the exception of Marilyn Manson’s and Fiona Apple’s contributions, those are the worst songs on the disc. Since there are so few of them, I’ll go over them one-by-one.

Marilyn Manson – “This is Halloween”
Manson’s cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop” on the We’re a Happy Family Ramones compilation totally mangled the song. He doesn’t do that here, although I think his touch would have been more appropriate on this song, as opposed to the Ramones classic. Basically, manson took his horrortronica and wrapped it around the movie’s opening song. It works, although Manson’s attempts to ‘do the voices’ kind of sucks.

Fiona Apple – “Sally’s Song”
This is definately the song for Fiona Apple to cover, and not because it’s the only female lead vocal in the musical. The reason she’s perfect for it is that it fits her stage personality — brooding, lonely, and longing. It’s a simple piano, drums, bass, and vocals numbers, and it works. I think I even like this version better than Catherine O’Hara’s. Definately the best of the covers.

Fall Out Boy – “What’s This”
Fall Out Boy deserves credit for trying. This version is probably the most altered of all the covers. There are actual electric guitars here, and they do fit into Fall Out Boy’s usual style of music. But it’s not altered enough. I foresaw this version of the song to be, well, a romp, with more energy than the film’s. It comes close. I think I hear a synthesizer in the background — whatsamatter, Fall Out Boy, jealous of Panic! At the Disco?

She Wants Revenge – “Kidnap the Sandy Claws”
What a piece of shit. Elfman’s boistrous melody and tempo are transformed into this steaming, staggering electronic afterbirth of a song. I’m fairly certain the singer hits the same note throughout the whole song. And it goes on for five minutes. I think they may have been trying to convey the ominous danger that Lock, Shock, and Barrel will present to Santa, but that’s not the point of the song. It’s funny because they’re singing so merrily about beating Santa Claus to death. When it’s performed as a psycho techno death jam, it just sucks. This is either the fault of the composer or the interpreter, and I’m pretty certain I know which one it is. Way to ruin my favorite song from the movie, assholes.

Panic! At the Disco – “This is Halloween”
This version is too much like the film’s, down to the voices and instrumentation. These songs are supposed to be covers from rock bands, right? I’d love to hear either a synthesizer, ‘phat beat’, or electric guitar, guys.

The demos, on the other hand, are some of the best material on the bonus disc. They’re not simple voice-and-piano demos (like on the Little Shop of Horrors revival soundtrack), they’re fully fleshed out. There are alternate verses and extra bits that didn’t make it to the film. Some of the songs (like “Making Christmas”) go on a bit too long, but the point of a demo is to find out what works and what doesn’t, and to cut where appropriate.

To add insult to injury, I had to buy the entire record off of iTunes; I couldn’t get just the new material. I wouldn’t feel so slighted if I had only paid for the new stuff. So I can’t even recommend just getting the demos and the covers from Apple and Manson. I guess you can always rip or BitTorrent, however…


Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

In case you were wondering, like Doctor Girlfriend, whether Klaus Nomi was from the future or what, here he is in his plastic tuxedo (“All but ze bow-tie!”).

Working on New Album… again

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

I have been mixing/remixing inside. Two tracks had vocals I recorded back in January, so I got those mixed. So I have nine songs with vocals recorded that have been mixed. That leaves five songs that still need to have vocals recorded. This probably will not be until Christmas break, because I really don’t have an opportunity to record vocals in my dorm room.

I found this really neat program called Synthfont that allows you to play a MIDI file with various SoundFonts or VSTis, which is something I’ve been searching for for years. I just downloaded it today, but it looks like I may need to re-render my tracks with it. In the past I’ve used QuickTime, but it throws in reverb that basically bugs me and, as far as I can tell, one cannot deactivate. Synthfont seems a little bit buggy, but it has a neat ‘Render to File’ option that does exactly what I want.

I’m going to install Windows XP on my iMac to dual-boot. I feel kind of dirty doing it, but I need a lean, mean copy of XP for recording and mixing, and it seems like it’ll be easier to dual boot on my Mac, with Boot Camp and all. Apparently, my year-old PC is too slow to play my mixes smoothly, with all the software I run on it. I would use GarageBand on the iMac for mixing, but it’s just not ‘there’ enough to do what I want. If there was no limit on the number of AudioUnit effects you can use with it, I might try it. I’ve mixed stuff with GarageBand in the past, but it’s been a real pain.

I’ve been working on the album art for inside. It’s going to be the same type of packaging as Pick Your Poison was. There will be a color, eight-page booklet (probably from CDPrintExpress) with lyrics and art. Without giving too much away, I’ll reveal that I’ve been browsing the Morgue File for some of the art that will be in the booklet. It should be pretty thematic and cohesive, if all goes well. I’ve been using Scribus for the layout, since for the past decade or so I’ve been using Adobe PageMaker 6 for Mac OS 9.

I think that inside will be available freely online, with PDF files for the artwork. I’ve used so many free tools, artwork, SoundFonts, and programs that I feel I should give something back to the world of free software/media. The album will also be available for purchase (those CDs will cost me money, after all), although I doubt anyone will buy it. 😉

Battlestar Galactica – “Exodus, Part 2”

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Holy cow. Part of me expected the Vichy France-like state of affairs of BSG to continue the entire third season. I had a sneaking suspicion that it would end with this episode — after all, it is called “Exodus.” And it’s not really over, either: there are collaborators to deal with, flashbacks to see, and Cylon acts of retribution to withstand.

I wish I had put it up last week (so you’d know I’m not lying), but I totally called the destruction of the Pegasus. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, they say, so I figured that the ship would go. It was either that or the Galactica, but that would require renaming the series, wouldn’t it? The destruction of the two Cylon Basestars was another added bonus, and made me almost as happy as the destruction of the Ori and Wraith ships in the Stargate SG-1 episode “The Pegasus Project.” Adama’s tactic of jumping into the atmosphere, launching vipers, and jumping away was neat, but it was fairly reckless. The best ‘sci fi’ shot of the episode was definately the Basestars pounding the holy hell out of Galactica. I expected a commercial before we got to see Pegasus give the Cylons what for. And Lee totally went all Worf on ’em when he gave the order for ramming speed.

Speaking of changes, Ellen Tigh’s death (at the hands of Saul, no less) opens up a world of dramatic possibilities. I think her poisoning/death scene with Saul was one of the best moments of the show. But what happens now? Will he shave the beard in remorse (I hope not; I like Pirate Tigh)? Will Colonel Tigh descend deeper into his alcoholism? Will we see Ellen again, confirming the wide rumor that she is a Cylon? I personally doubt she is, because why would theBrother Cavill model have traded sex with another Cylon for Saul’s freedom? The drive of the skinjobs on the show is to frak humans, not each other. This is also why I believe that Baltar is not a Cylon — that theory’s just crazy.

I (as I’m sure almost everyone else did) also called it that Kacey wasn’t really a Cylon-human hybrid. Why the hell would Hera have been so important to them if Kacey was allowed to fall down the stairs (or more likely was pushed down the stairs by Leoben)? But wouldn’t it have been more interesting if we hadn’t found out that Kacey was someone else’s daughter? Imagine the overwhelming tension Starbuck would feel on each Viper run, with her daughter waiting for her to retrn? That would have been good storytelling.

Tom Zarek is apparently a Laura Roslin fanboi now. Will she become President again? Will there be a few episodes about some sort of Interstellar Constitutional Convention? Will Zarek become the new Vice President? If RDM and company can get the politics into the show without being preachy and boring, I think they should go for it. It’s dangerous ground, however — remember the Next Generation episodes about the Klingon High Council? I found those shows to be awful.

Finally, I wish more had happened with Baltar. I read in Entertainment Weekly that a regular on the show stabs him in the neck with a pencil. I’m so disappointed that didn’t happen! Clearly, he’s stuck with the Cylons. That element of the story, the cowardly traitor dreading being discovered, is gone. Unless Baltar becomes a super-scientist double agent! It looked like the preview for next week’s episode showed Gaeta as one of the colonials on trial for collaboration. I bet he is cleared of charges when it is revealed that he was the informant for the Resistence.

Predictions for next week:

  1. Jammer is put to death.
  2. Gaeta is put on trial, sentenced to death, and awaiting execution when he receives a repreive because it can be proved that he gave the Resistence their intelligence.
  3. We’ll learn something ominous about Hera.
  4. Baltar is taken captive by the Cylons, who bring him to their homeworld (this might be a few episodes in the future).

Oh Boy… Election

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

Is there anything more cowardly than the politician running for re-election? He’ll say anything, lie about anything, and not do anything in order to get re-elected. The challengers running against them are little better. I wish that just once, someone with scruples, principles, and morals would run for office.

Missoula Sold Its Soul (For Adult Contemporary)

Friday, October 6th, 2006

Well, the Rolling Stones are finally gone, having sucked the life out of our great city Wednesday night. They turned our quiet little campus into a madhouse of 40-somethings looking to recapture that ineffable feeling of youth and 18-somethings screaming “I can’t get no sa-tis-fac-shun!” out of their dorm rooms and reminding those 40-somethings that, hey, it’s okay to be old. Everybody was grabbing for a piece of the pie, and nobody’s hands were greedier than our very own University. It’s not enough to wash our credibility down the drain by signing an exclusive contract with ‘Killer’ Coke, they now sell our campus down the drain, too, just so some geriatric old fucks can waltz in here, play a few songs they penned 40 years ago, and make off with all our money and most of our pride, to boot.

From what I can tell from the reviews I’ve read, the Stones managed to do what everyone expected — they played a lot of hits, one or two new songs to remind us that yes, they’re still making records, and fire off a lot of fireworks to distract us. From what? From the maddening realization that the Stones hadn’t written a song that was actually relevent in two score years. It was all part of the show, the six story stage, the roaring spotlights, the old chestnuts, not new to anybody’s ears in decades, and we all suspended disbelief. Where the hell was the emotion? Somehow, these dangerous boys, who had the gall to declare their Sympathy for the Devil, were nothing short of… familiar. It’s hard to seem dangerous when half your audience is made up of people who have to be up at 7:30 A.M. so they can drop their kids off at school.

The emotion died a long time ago, along with the danger. It’s been replaced with glitz, with 70 tractor trailers and a six-story stage. It’s been replaced with 20,000 screaming fans, not screaming because they might share a moment with Mick or Keef, but screaming for the sake of… screaming. Real rock ‘n roll died a long time ago, certainly before I was born, and even the fringes — punk rock and death metal, for example — are gasping for air. It’s not rebellious anymore. It’s packaged. It’s merchandised. It’s $80 tickets. It’s 70 tractor trailers. It’s withered old farts, appealing to something they helped create, but not letting sleeping dogs lie, making a joke of the very thing they helped to create.

Why iTunes 7 (7.0.1, too) SUCKS

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

When I heard that iTunes 7 was out, I was excited. Then I found a massive list of bugs that made it next to worthless. iTunes 7.0.1 came out, and I was hoping it would fix the following problems, but it didn’t. From what I read on the Series of Tubes, other people are having similar problems.

  1. I can’t listen to music on my PC while I play UT2004. I could with 6. If I try, the music starts stuttering more than Bob Newhart.
  2. When I listen to my shared playlist streamed from my PC to my laptop, it frequently stutters. Occasionally, when Song A ends, iTunes will say it’s playing Song B but I will hear Song A again.
  3. Randomly when I’m listening to a shared playlist, one song will end and, despite the fact that it’s not the last song on the playlist, playback will stop. Then, I will not be able to play anything from that playlist unless I eject it (eating one of my 5 per day connections, by the way) and reconnect.
  4. For no apparent reason, I’ll get this really washed-out, overdriven sound when listening to a shared playlist.
  5. Grats, iTunes: You now use 40% of my CPU all the time.
  6. I cannot view iTunes Store movies on my laptop anymore. I downloaded a few pre-7.0 Mythbusters episodes that ran fine, but I tried to watch the first episode of Heroes and all I could get was A) stuttering audio and B) my laptop locked up. Also, iTunes was eating 99% of my CPU.

I should point out that with the exception of the last one (maybe Apple’s using a fancier codec than my 2.4-gHz, 1GB RAM P4 can handle), all of these things were not a problem with iTunes 6.

It seems that the transition from iTunes 6 to 7 is going much worse than the transition from (Mac OS) System 6 to 7.

Not everything about 7 is bad. I like the CoverFlow feature, and gapless playback, but neither alone is worth the constant slowness, stuttering, distortion, and strange behavior that iTunes 7 brings to the game. I don’t want 6 back, I want 7.0.2, and I want it to work this time.