Sunday, June 16, 2013

Miracle of Sound - Dream of the Sky



Miracle of Sound is a one man band on the Internet. This one man, Gavin Dunne, started Miracle of Sound as a side project during a lull in his music career. He decided to write songs about his favorite video games and such. Geek Culture has been on the rise for the past decade (or more) so by writing songs about this subject matter Gavin has tapped into a large growing niche market, and hey, good for him.

You can listen to all of Gavin’s work on http://www.escapistmagazine.com/ or http://miracleofsound.bandcamp.com/

If you are gamer there are probably multiple songs in Gavin’s catalogue that will appeal to you. Though I frequent Escapist Magazine I had not noticed Miracle of Sound until my good friend Tyler, who unlike me, qualifies as a gamer, told me to listen to a few of Gavin’s songs. At first I thought the music was good, but not great, but I did find it very charming that one dude was doing as good as a job as he was with this sort of hobby. Miracle of Sound is not the first musical endeavour I have heard attempting to write original music for stories and characters in “Geek Culture” but it was the first effort that had any real quality of production even if I did feel it was somewhat amateurish at first.

Notable songs I liked were “Wasteland Soul” a song about Fallout 3, which I have never played, and “Sovngarde Song” which is about Skyrim, which thanks to Tyler I have played. More fun than both of those tracks is “Nord Mead” a drinking song inspired by Skyrim. “Nord Mead” inspired Tyler and me to drink three bottles of mead on New Years, good times.


I have never written any music or recorded anything in my life, so I always try to be fair when judging struggling musicians. Most musicians never write a great song; hell most successful musical groups never even accomplish the feat of writing one great song, or often even one decent song. So when some guy hanging out in his house is throwing songs together I try to be fair and appreciate what is being accomplished given their resources and the challenge sitting before them. I appreciate Gavin is primarily just one man goofing off, so the fact we are getting mediocre to good songs from him is very impressive. I never would think much more of Gavin Dunne other than just a cool nerd who was better than most at writing songs about cool stuff that is until his last track “Dream of the Sky.”

“Dream of the Sky” is about Bioshock Infinite. I have never played Bioshock Infinite but after watching videos like “Dream of the Sky” I kind of want too.

One of the things that really impresses with me with the visuals of Bioshock Infinite is this girl,
Elizabeth.  I don't know anything about Elizabeth and I don't know the plot to Bioshock Infinite
but I really want to help this person.  The character emotes so brilliantly in every image I've seen
of her.  They did a really, really good job of facial expressions in this game.
I really like the second image, she looks so determined.
There are two things Gavin has done that I think are very wise in creating “Dream of the Sky.” He brought in a violinist Gwen Boyle and the addition of the violin is not only very affective at adding something of an Irish feel to the song but also with that an atmosphere of romantic revolution which the starving fighting Irish spirit always spurs in our hearts and minds. Also Gavin brought in vocalist Lorna Dollery, and I do not know who Lorna is but she is the secret to this song.

The first half of “Dream of the Sky” qualifies as a good song. As stated earlier there is an Irish feel to the mood and theme and the chords are jumpy and fun. But at the half way mark the song slows, the violin goes silent and some great acoustics slowly play, and then Larna’s voice hits;

“Songbird, take me home.
I’m lonely wherever I go.
Sanctuary is all that I know.”

These long words are very emotional in delivery and Lorna’s voice is just majestic. The song picks up once more for a dramatic conclusion with all three Gavin, Gwen and Lorna singing to the accompaniment of drums and Gwen’s violin.

“And I dream of the sky.”

And then, most wisely, the song fades with the acoustic guitar playing and Lorna repeating the most haunting line;

“I am lonely wherever I go....”

Beautiful.

Perfect.

Fantastic.

Great job Gavin, it’s your best song yet and I will never use words like amateurish to describe your hobby ever again.

I am always eager to encourage support to not so famous musicians. You can buy digital versions of all Gavin’s songs at his website: http://miracleofsound.bandcamp.com/. Do so.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - Same Love


I am not a hip hop guy so I am a little out of my element here, but people like it when you’re topical so here we go.

Macklemore, if that is his real name (it isn’t, Ben Haggerty), has been enjoying a fine time on the international Top 40 recently with his song “Thrift Store.” In “Thrift Store” Macklemore raps about the joy of finding good deals and wearing truly unique articles of clothing, which is a nice contrast to a lot of rap songs celebrating material success and frivolous spending. This life style described to us is more charming compared to the soulless life style of penis compensating materialism, mostly because there is personality, actual personality. I do love how Macklemore takes the piss out of brainless consumer culture and I nearly always laugh when he announces his fur coat “shit it was ninety-nine cents.” So all in all “Thrift Store” is a decent song, but “Thrift Store” is not the song music critics are talking about; we are all talking about “Same Love.”

I can’t believe I need to say this, but I do, it is okay to be gay.

It is a rare thing for a hip hop/rap song to have any kind of positive message and I strongly suspect “Same Love” is the first rap song celebrating love and rejecting homophobia. If you haven’t heard it, “Same Love” is a song about same sex relationships and how it is in fact the “same love” shared by straight couples. My brain almost exploded when I first heard “Same Love” because it is possible Macklemore might be the first non-homophobic rapper, other than of course P Diddy, but even P Diddy never sang a song in defence of his gay uncle or if I did I am not aware of it. In fact strangely, and I don’t know why this is but homophobia appears to be quite common in African American culture, it doesn’t help their case that a white dude had to be the first rapper saying it is okay to be gay in song. So basically overnight, with one song, Macklemore became the greatest force for social change and awareness in all of hip hop, and that alone warrants a review.

If I have one grievance with the genre of rap it would be that rapping is not constructive to creating proper song structure. What I mean by this is that the melody of a song, typically the vocals, is broken when spoken instead of being sung. It was never a mystery to me that 2 Pac was considered one of the best of his era, he gave himself a huge advantage over other musician in hip hop by simply singing his choruses, you know almost it was like a fucking song. Granted there are exceptions, rappers like Eminem have a talent for making their voices blend into a melody, and that fact that anyone can earn that accolade at all puts my whole theory about rapping being the antagonistic opposite of singing in serious doubt. Suddenly you see my one grievance is about quality not style. I have also noticed that a lot of the more agreeable hip hop songs have female vocals, like actual vocals, and this goes a long way. I never talk about hip hop so this whole paragraph seems necessary just to establish my generally negative feelings towards the genre while also establishing the fact that I am not completely divorced to it either.

Anyway,

After listening to “Same Love” you might have picked up on all the positives I could attribute to a rap song are in fact present. Macklemore does not break melody with his rapping, the chorus is completely sung and by a woman with a fantastic voice, plus you add in a piano and my undying love of string instruments is struck and I am satisfied. Quality of sound, this second attributed I believe was needed to for this song to have success both as song and as a message. Music critics like me care a lot more about quality music than we do about a casual declaration of good will, but an intelligent/poetic message does go a long way, and people fighting for equality have a much more powerful voice when things of beauty accompany their pleas for love and understanding. When art and philosophy are combined it is always more helpful to both if both aspects are well presented.

I am surprise “Same Love” hasn’t climbed the charts like “Thrift Store” but that might have something to do homophobia still being a problem, but at least there are signs of improvement, at least a song like “Same Love” exists.

- Colin Kelly