#Writing #Music Monday: Pen by Jeffrey Philip Nelson

Pen CoverJeffrey Philip Nelson is a singer-songwriter in the ’70s mold, and I basically mean that as a compliment.

This album of folk-ish songs is quiet, evocative, and entirely appealing. And they’re the product of an interesting life. Nelson didn’t put everything down on “making it” as a musician. He owns a construction business in southern California and has a family. His songs are the result of living life, and his life supports his art.

Isn’t that refreshing?

But back to the actual music. I’m going to say something about it that will be too easily misconstrued, so I’ll try to make clear what I am and am not saying.

The quietness of the songs, the spareness of the arrangements, and the focus on the carefully crafted lyrics put me in mind of Townes Van Zandt.

But I am not suggesting his lyrics and songs are as brilliant as Townes’s work. Nobody’s is, honestly. But Nelson has a bit of the same feel as Van Zandt’s recordings, and some of the soulfulness as well.

This is another treasure trove of lyrics that you can quote freely in your books, with the only requirement being that you give proper attribution for them (Credit and copyright on your copyright page, along with a link to Nelson’s site, and a direct link to the song’s download page would, I think, be appropriate.)

Listen to and download Pen by Jeffrey Philip Nelson free, from Jamendo, from NoiseTrade, or pay for it on Bandcamp (and still get the same license!).

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Pen by Jeffrey Philip Nelson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Music Monday: Bring Me Down by Fresh Body Shop

[cover] Fresh Body Shop - Bring Me DownFresh Body Shop is a French band that does songs almost exclusively in English. They are incredibly prolific, putting out thirteen full albums or EPs since 2007. Some of their work doesn’t appeal to me, but some is amazing.

And Bring Me Down is the best of the best.

It’s a very odd melange of hard pop, ’90s alternative, and early 80s New Wave (mostly due to the brilliant way most of the tracks incorporate a synthesizer).

If you don’t want to give the whole album a listen, do this: listen to “Wawawawa”, “Spaceship”, and “Mr. Sunday”. If you don’t run away screaming, then download it and listen to the whole thing.

My only problem with Fresh Body Shop is that they choose the most restrictive Creative Commons license available. Their choice, of course, but keeping people from even making Youtube videos? That doesn’t strike me as the smartest way to go, especially when you have such a rich catalog to work through.

That said, it’s totally worth downloading. (And as a guide, none of the tracks in this album are among FBS’s top ten on Jamendo. I happen not to agree with that, but do keep it in mind.)

Bring Me Down by Fresh Body Shop is available for free download via Jamendo.

Alternatively, you can get higher-quality files of the same album from Bandcamp, at the same time giving some well-deserved cash to this French band, but without the Creative Commons license.

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Bring Me Down by Fresh Body Shop is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.

Music Monday: Elijah Drop Your Gun and From The Mouth Of Paris EP by Mieka Pauley

Elijah album coverYes, I am cheating enormously by giving you two this week, even if one is a four-track EP. And while both are Creative Commons-licensed, you have to pay for them. But the money goes directly to the artist, and she kicks ass, so quit yer complainin’.

Mieka Pauley has been an indie performer for more than a decade, winning a number of contests, and supporting herself solely through her music for all that time.

And if you give her work half a chance, it’s not hard to see how she’s able to do so.

Her lyrics are intelligent, thoughtful, often quite wickedly clever, and always satisfying. Her melodies are pleasing, engage the listener directly, and often anticipate and trump the listener’s expectations by doubling back and doing something much better than expected.

I’m also biased toward her because she has done quite a number of songs that make me feel she’s spent time spelunking in my subconscious and writing out what she found there.

Elijah Drop Your Gun is her first full-length album, yet it’s completely mature work. The third song, “Secret”, is just one example of how her lyrics work at multiple levels, setting up your expectations and then pulling the rug out from under you:

Can you keep a secret and guard it with your life
Can you keep a secret, cross your heart, hope to die
Would it stay between us, just simple words between us
Can you keep a secret this time

Those last two words come out of nowhere and turn the entire verse from an expression of cautious trust into a knife in the back, with a good solid twist added in.

I have many theme songs, and Mieka sings several of them. The one on this album is the kick-ass rocker “Be Like The Man”:

Be like the Man, be like the Mob
Be like the State, be like a God

Get mad, get mad, dress yourself in black
This cannot wait, you gotta take it back
Get mad, get mad, dress yourself in black
And prove it, do you want it back

What’s interesting about this song beyond the adrenaline-pumping tune is, again, the complexity. It is an anthem, but it’s also a challenge and an expression of preemptive contempt. (She tells the story of writing the song in live shows — the chorus is what it is because those are the four things “you do not fuck with”.)

albumThe EP From The Mouth Of Paris was originally done as a release for a band, The Mieka Canon, but that project seems to have fallen by the wayside, and it is now listed as a solo. In any case, it is a group of four great songs and no bad ones.

“Colossal” might well be titled “The Sociopath’s Song”:

Be honest, be straight:
Do you wanna make a colossal mistake
As much as I do?

“We’re All Gonna Die” is blackly funny when you know that it’s written from her own life. Her husband is (or was) a stand-up comedian, and she “got” to hear him work up his material from inspiration onward, which meant that he kept telling her about awful news stories as he was sifting through them, things that most people shrug off, but which left her, as she put it one time, curled up on her bed sobbing.

“Faster”, my favorite song on the release, is simply a brilliant piece of songwriting. It captures perfectly the yearning to be healed when you know you’re broken, the “if I could just have x, things would be better”, and each verse demonstrates how “x” is never what you thought it would be once you get it.

Finally, “That Golden Room” is a piece of quiet beauty, a different take on yearning, this time for that moment in your life when everything was Right, but you didn’t realize it until after it had already changed.

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Elijah Drop Your Gun by Mieka Pauley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Creative Commons License
From The Mouth Of Paris by Mieka Pauley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License.

Music Monday: Colossus by The Monster Brothers

[cover] The Monster Brothers - ColossusChange of pace this month: Lyrics are now required, rather than frowned upon. I figure not everyone is distracted like me, and I’ve got lots of good CC albums that have English lyrics on them, and and and I’m thinking about putting together a monthly podcast where I will finally enact my initials and DJ various CC music for one and all. (Have not made a final decision on that last, though.) Call it Lyrical April.

I don’t remember what first brought this album to my attention, but I know I downloaded it then didn’t listen right away (which happens quite a lot, in fact). Then I demonstrated my (lack of) character. I went to the band’s Facebook page, was smitten by the super-cute bassist, and made sure to listen to this album a lot.

Yeah. I’m easy.

But it turned out to be a really good thing, because The Monster Brothers are actually very, very good. (With the added bonus that, if you download the album from Jamendo, it’s under a Free Culture license so you can use any of the music and/or lyrics with very little trouble at all.)

It’s mostly hard-rocking, upbeat, fun, and very melodic. Past that, I can’t really say much other than: listen to it. It’s good, and its quality should be evident right off the bat.

From what the band themselves say about it:

Everything started from the need to make music again and perform live.

Some great and original songs were already there from previous experience….

The sound is well crafted, the influences are multiple, perhaps more rock and pop, with some jazz, jungle and reggae on it – surely very original and finally with lyrics to listen to.

The leader is from Austin, Texas, the other members are all originally from Switzerland/Ticino.

Jason sings and plays keyboards, Gionata plays the drums, Alex and Paolo play the guitars, and Nicole plays the bass. Enjoy.

You can download Colossus by The Monster Brothers from Jamendo under a CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported License.

You can also buy it through BandCamp (thus giving money to the band and encouraging them to keep on playing) under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 Unported License.

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Colossus by The Monster Brothers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://twitter.com/MonsterBrothers.

Writing Music Monday: Flow by Zell

[cover] Zell - FlowHere is an album I downloaded more than a year ago, don’t recall listening to, and just listened to today because I thought I had queued up something else.

It’s not perfect, but it appears to be Christian Zell’s first release. And the one track I had issues with (repetitive) can be skipped.

The rest is perfectly inoffensive, and even pleasing, background music with a dose of ’80s–style synth for flavor. It worked for me today.

As for the artist, there is nothing of him beyond his works on Jamendo, and the fact that his name appears to be common in Germany, as well as being a musical name — there was an instrument maker with the same name in Deutschland a few hundred years ago. So, perhaps it is his real name, or perhaps it is a pseudonym. Either way, by using a Free Culture license, he might just achieve immortality through his work. 🙂

Flow is available for download through Jamendo, and possibly via many torrent sites (quite legally, via the Creative Commons license).

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Flow by Zell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Music Monday: Cracker LIVE

Changing things up this week, because what the world needs now is a new kind of tension, ’cause the old one just bores me to death. Also, I needed to rock out, and you get the benefit.

Cracker was one of the very best things to come out of the ’90s, and David Lowery and company are still together, doing gigs and kicking ass.

Like a lot of bands, they’ve given permission to post recordings of their live shows to the Internet Archive. Lots and lots and lots of those shows have been posted, going back twenty years, and this is one of the most recently posted, although the performance is a couple of years old.

Cracker Live at Body English @ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on 2011-09-12 is fairly typical of their live gigs. The sound is a bit more rough than their studio sessions, and there’s a good mix of their work, from the first album up through their most recent releases, with a couple of Camper van Beethoven songs thrown in near the end. (Front man David Lowery was also one of the founders of CvB.)

(Though there is no explicit licensing, I believe treating it as a CC BY-NC-ND would be appropriate.)

Writing Music Monday: Dune by Jahzzar

Jahzzar (Javier Suarez) makes a return appearance here for Writing Music Monday with a very different album than previously. The man is diversely talented!

Dune is, again, all instrumental, this time around being his take on psychedelic rock and roll, a la Jimi Hendrix. Being Jahzzar, it never wanders off into aural mush the way some of the influences of this album do (on his website, he throws in Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew at the end of the list of influences). Everything is easy to follow, and rather bright and happy (again, typical for Jahzzar), and melodic.

It’s another of those albums that you may have to be in the right mood to write to it, but if you are in that mood, it’s perfect.

“[S]omething I learned from psychedelia: music as feelings, as a journey. Not only rhythm. Not just melody.” — Suarez on this album.

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Dune by Jahzzar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.