Thursday, June 14, 2018

ASMR Spotlight: Christen Noel ASMR

Not everyone with a decent microphone possesses the voice for quality ASMR. What I like about Christen is that she doesn't come off as trying so hard. A lot of ladies in the female dominated ASMR world push their image on the audience. Some try to come off as seductive, and there are infamous examples of sexual videos out there. Anything for subscribers, I guess. Christen is herself. Her voice alone is soothing and she never affects herself other than whispering.

Apart from speaking videos, Christen experiments with different sounds like the one I posted above. When she squishes the microphone, I always get a downpour of tingles. She also rubs the latex 3DIO ears with gloves. Though she certainly talks about her life at times, I appreciate that its relatable everyday stuff rather than a whispered vlog. I have yet to watch a video from her channel that let me down.

Please check out her channel if you enjoy ASMR or want to try a new experience, and if you want specific recommendations check out my own ASMR playlist.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

ASMR Spotlight: Massage ASMR

I wrote about ASMR several times on Nostalgia is Evil, and I want to support the community because their content does so much for my mental health. I credit meditation and ASMR with helping lower my blood pressure, promoting calmness and relaxation in my life, and contributing to my laid back demeanor. The first ASMR content creator I subscribed to and still listen to more than any other in the genre is MassageASMR, also known as Dmitri ASMR.

What differentiates Dmitri from other channels is his knowledge of audio production. A lot of early ASMR was low quality, and Dmitri set a new bar for production quality in the community. He also focuses most of his videos on actual ASMR. As you may note in my past posts, I do not support ASMR content creators who use the community as a means of self-promotion. Many Youtubers jumped on the bandwagon to promote their vlog channels, and they often try to focus on their personal lives and agendas in their ASMR videos. Dmitri never does this. His vlogs revolve around audio or entertainment interests. He doesn't try to promote a personal brand.

Other than a focus on actual meditation techniques through singing bowls and reiki, Dmitri's voice has a satisfying quality. Even in his non-whispering videos, the bass in his voice hits a frequency that facilitates supreme relation and actually activates my ASMR. Most ASMR content creators are women, and sometimes the higher frequencies in a female's voice don't hit you in the spine like a male voice. I must emphasize that Dmitri is the only male ASMR channel in my subscriptions feed, so that is not a statement on women in the community.

If you want specific Massage ASMR videos I enjoy, or are interested in trying ASMR, here is a link to my ASMR playlist.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Alan Jackson - Everything I Love

Hey Alan, you know how your last album started with a cover song? Well, why don't we pull a really obscure Tom T Hall track out of the vault and put it out as a single? It went to number one, guys. Lightening literally struck twice for Alan Jackson.

I have nothing again "Little Bitty," and my mother and I always grew giddy when it came on the radio. Its not my go-to Alan Jackson song, though. "Everything I Love" matches the same ebb-and-flow of Who I Am starting with an upbeat song and then going for the gut puncher. I cannot honestly say Alan excels at ballads versus upbeat songs, because this is the guy behind many dance hall Country tracks of the nineties. One of them is on this album: "Who's Cheatin' Who," another damned cover song made into a hit. No wonder he made a cover album.

"Buicks to the Moon" has pretty shoddy production. Sounds like it was recorded inside a Electro Harmonix Small Stone. "Between the Devil" has a very interesting direction with a mandolin chiming in. I find the mix could use some breathing room, though. This entire album sounds really compressed. "There Goes" finally gives us some classic Alan, and I rate this as my favorite of the record. A mid-tempo vibe treats the band right with a uplifting chorus.

Then the producer seems to be in love with the equalizer and volume boost. I'd be interested to know if this was recorded on a Mac. "Must've Had a Ball" gives us a neat little Jackson tune, but I wish we heard it sooner rather than as the next to last track. Brent Mason shows up in rare form on "It's Time You Learned About Good-Bye." Why the hell wasn't this a single?

I already covered High Mileage, but I think this is a transitional record for Alan. When you consider how Country music was changing at the time, I imagine Alan was scratching his head. Garth Brooks bailed out when he could. Brooks and Dunn were running strong. George Strait still scored some hits. But you had new comers like Toby Keith on the horizon, and only a few years later we had Blake Shelton and Keith Urban making appearances. Seriously, what the fuck is up with Blake Shelton? Does he even record music anymore? I know two of his songs.

I do not want to review Under the Influence, so I guess that leaves me with When Somebody Loves You.

Alan Jackson - Who I Am

I cannot recall when I decided that Alan Jackson and other Country music artists I grew up with were no longer cool. I want to say some time around 2003 when I started listening to R.E.M. and Led Zeppelin. Other than my annoyance with Pop Country at the time, which continues to this day, I guess my interest in Rock and Punk music distracted me. In high school, I got into Hank, Willie, Waylon, Patsy, Roy Orbison, Marty Robbins, a little Bluegrass, but I distinctly remember what triggered my Alan memories. In my senior Statistics class, a young gentleman ironically liked to sing "She gone cuntry." I had not listened to that song since I was a young child, but when I took the time to hear it again, I was surprised. Alan, or rather Bob McDill, was pointing his finger at the rising popularity of Country music inviting people of many cultures and financial pursuits to try their hand at the genre.

As a Beach Boys fan who grew used to their oblique version of "Summertime Blues," I find Jackson's version fairly reminiscent of the same ideal. Back then, this song would come on the radio when I got out of school or when my mother got off work, and it just fit. However, this album has several tracks written by other artists. Jim McBride, Alan's early collaborator, only has two credits. Ole AJ wrote several of these songs without collaborators, including "Living on Love." I like how he matured in perspective and scope here. It directly clashes with "Summertime Blues," but the sincerity present shows us a wiser side in Alan.

I find "Hole in the Wall" peculiar due to the hook of "a hole in the wall big enough to drive a truck through," almost ruins the song. We were doing so good until you brought up that truck. The title track has a good hook, but I find the verses a little weak. Jackson's own "You Can't Give Up on Love," is not the hit single of his career, though I like the progress in his songwriting. You hear every element of an Alan Jackson song here slowed down as if the band took speed.

"I Don't Even Know Your Name" has one of the funniest music videos of all time, and I struggle to hear it without actually watching Jeff Foxworthy marry an ugly woman. His drummer is wearing a Pulp Fiction shirt too. After this song the album doesn't get stronger, though. "Song For the Life" is a too heavy handed. "Thank God For the Radio" screams filler. "All American Country Boy" feels more at home with Trace Adkins. I kind of yawn with "Job Description." You get the picture.

This album is a little longer than Jackson's previous albums, and I wonder why when the filler tracks are unnecessary and you could lose the last six songs and I wouldn't miss them. The first seven are strong, but times change and Alan needed to evolve. Everything I Love returns to the ten song format, but features five songs written by other artists. Is it a more fulfilling album, though?

Friday, May 25, 2018

5 Things You Have to Do to Sound Like Robert Fripp

I have only done one post like this before. My most popular entry is 2013's Five Things You Have to Do to Sound Like Peter Buck, and he's not even the guitarist I rip off the most. That's obviously Robert Fripp.

What attracted me to Fripp was how he made the guitar sound unlike any other player: Evil, obscure, and enough sustain to make a note last for hours. I rate him above Hendrix, Page, Beck, and Clapton because he relied less on the Blues and more on evolving the instrument. If Peter Buck is the reason I picked up the guitar, Fripp is the reason I still play. Imitating his style and incorporating my own vibe gave me a distinct lead style.

Do not haul out your Hiwatt stack and Les Paul so quickly, though. We have some ground to cover. Firstly, I want to point out this is an opinion piece based on my experience. I only say that because Progressive Rock fans are the Paul Giamatti of music. Hell, even Fripp can be a Salty Sally about these posts. I love the guy and his music, but you guys need to calm down.

Shall we start?

Number One: Learn Your Scales So You Can Play Between the Lines

Some players rely on pentatonic scales, and that fits in many different genres. There is no better way to emulate Asian music and croon the Blues than with those basic shapes. However, learning the modes will further your range. Practice and memorize them so well you see them on the fretboard. Then learn the wholetone scale. That's when I started to pick up Fripp's sound. Once you get a feel for it, you insert those chromatic notes into the modes, and often the most dissonant note is right.

Number Two: You Can Use Any Fuzz, Guitar, or Amp

When I recorded my seventh album, Aerial Coil, I was playing a Fender Jazzmaster with a Danelectro French Toast fuzz through whatever amp I had. Keep in mind, Fripp achieved his classic violin tone in many different configurations. He played a three pickup Les Paul with the covers torn off, a Burns Buzzaround fuzz, and Hiwatt for years. The Jazzmaster has a rhythm circuit that instantly cuts the tone down, and that is exactly what Fripp did. Like Clapton, he played a neck pickup with the tone rolled to zero.What matters in the pedal and amp department is saturation and sustain. I prefer a Marshall and Big Muff.

Number Three: Listen to Other Instruments

If you check out the early Giles, Giles, Fripp material, particularly The Brondesbury Tapes, Fripp shines as a Jazz guitarist. However, Fripp considers the guitar an inferior and fickle instrument. He took more influence from saxophonists and violinists, which is why the early Crimson material features so many horns and strings. He felt more comfortable playing along with them than the typical Rock configuration of guitar, bass, and drums. Even on Red, when the band was a three piece, Cross, Collins, and McDonald make appearances. When Fripp discovered a Roland guitar synth in the late seventies, everything changed.

Number Four: Experiment in Sound and Texture More Than Tone

Most good guitarists I know do not walk into a guitar shop and crank an amp when they try out instruments. That's pretty obnoxious even if you're great. Fripp never struck me as a guy who obsessed over his tone like Eric Johnson. Even today, he tries to emulate that old Hiwatt and fuzz tone from the seventies. With that basic setup, he was able to make the guitar sound like a monster. As for his eighties material, I do not suggest buying a Roland guitar synth. Most of those tones are achievable with a Digitech Whammy, a pedal both Fripp and Adrian Belew adopted in the nineties. Try mixing fifth and seventh pitch shifts with some chorus, and you get pretty close to those Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair tones.

Number Five: Forget the Blues

Try to rely less on Blues Lick #6 and more on your ear. Slide through octaves: Start on G on the third fret of the low E string and move up to the fifteenth fret. Focus on your alternative picking and string skipping. Mix octave shapes with non-traditional chords. Embrace dissonance where it may not traditionally belong. If you get going into some improv, try to consciously avoid those Clapton licks you learned from replaying Fresh Cream over and over. Let the notes sustain and feedback and interweave your fast licks with trills and pull offs.

This list is meant to get you started in the right direction. Remember that Fripp is a seasoned player with a very unique style. The best way to emulate him is to listen and take note of what he does and chooses not to do. After listening to The League of Gentlemen, a friend commented how you never predict what note Fripp plays next. Indeed, never fear making a mistake but rather making the wrong notes sound right.

Alan Jackson - A Lot About Livin' (And a Little 'Bout Love)

Nothing screams masculinity like a blue Harley Davidson. Maybe it's surf green? Either way, I consider this Alan Jackson's breakthrough album. It has "Chattahoochee." The first three tracks are hits. Unfortunately, there is a little filler here as well.

Alan grew up in Newnan, Georgia. Fifteen minutes down the road is the speed trap known as Whitesburg. There are still KKK meetings there. Separating Whitesupremacyburg from the rest of the world is the Chattahoochee river. I have never heard of kids going there to have fun, especially with pollution levels being so high. Despite this, people in my area loved this song.

"She's Got the Rhythm" is better complimented with the video of the hot lady dancing around. I think the song is about seeing an ex looking good in a bar, so that makes Alan the Country Drake. In fact, "Tonight I Climbed the Wall" has a mellow vibe akin to recent Drake material. I could not hear Drake singing this song by any means, but Alan is humbling himself to be with the woman he sings about. He also shaved his mustache for the video, which was a little concerning for me as a child. Maybe he got tired of the Jeff Foxworthy comparisons?

"I Don't Need the Booze" is not a good song, though. Especially considering his Jimmy Buffet rip off "Tropical Depression." Alan has several songs about abusing alcohol and refusing alcohol. What is this roller coaster, Alan? Pick a side! The more George Strait influenced "Up to My Ears in Tears" doesn't work for me either. In fact, I'd go as far to suggest half of this album is filler.

My theory is that Alan got burnt out. There are three tracks written by other performers. Jim McBride, Alan's usual collaborator, must've been sick or something, because the other co-writers (save for Randy Travis) kinda suck. Maybe that's a little harsh, because even mediocre Alan Jackson is better than most artists' mediocre moments. Alan's reign as a hit artist was a solid two to three year period, and his first two albums are really strong. Surely he took the opportunity to fix this on the next album, Who I Am?


Alan Jackson - Don't Rock the Jukebox

November feels like forever ago. I reviewed three Alan Jackson albums and never came back to his discography. Lately, I focused more on editorial posts, but I felt nostalgic last night and pulled up some AJ only to realize I should finish what I started.

Alan was significant to my childhood. I cannot listen to this early stuff without thinking about the places I grew up, especially car rides with my parents when the radio was on. My mother had a VHS collection of his music videos that I played all the time, and that's how I got to know most of his hits. If you pay attention to those early videos, Alan had both a sense of humor and serious side. He never took himself too seriously, though. For instance, the video to "Don't Rock the Jukebox" started with Alan in a semi-serious frame retelling a story about being at a bar which segues into the song and a music video that makes George Jones look like a mafia hitman. Brent Mason's guitar really brings the music to life.

When I returned to Alan's music in high school, I listened to "That's All I Need to Know" so much that I tried to get my girlfriend into it. I still think it's a well written song. There is a sincere New Traditionalist feel here, because while the song still feels fresh, I could hear George Jones or Loretta Lynn sing this. That steel guitar is killer. Of course, "Dallas" is my favorite track on the album. I tried to cover it at one point, but my voice is not in the same range as Jackson. I enjoy the story and play on words. A girl named Dallas leaves Tennessee to return home to Texas, so the line, "I wish Dallas was in Tennessee" is kinda literal. I doubt a girl leaving in a brand new car you bought her would want you around simply because you moved Texas east, though.

While I do not dislike "Midnight in Montgomery," the subject of Hank Williams is pretty well covered. We all like Hank. Let's stop awkwardly fitting him into songs. "Someday" is the real head scratcher for me. The chorus goes, "Someday I'll get my life straight. She says it's too late what's done is done. She said I can't wait cause sometimes someday just never comes." When I was a kid, I thought she couldn't wait for someday like she was highly anticipating him getting his shit together. The video even has them getting back together in the end because he does get his shit together. Realistically, she's probably saying she doesn't have time because she knows he won't get it together. Either way, she leaves.

"Just Playin' Possum" includes one of the coolest Brent Mason riffs and a brief George Jones cameo. To laud Jones at the time was kinda brave for Alan. Despite that he was a legend, George Jones had a terrible reputation. He had some interesting songs in the nineties too, but he wasn't the same man who sang "White Lightening" with girls screaming at him. While "Midnight in Montgomery" is following a well trodden path, "Possum" is Alan pointing his finger directly at someone people considered a has-been and saying, "That dude is my dude." Truly admirable.

We have a Randy Travis writing credit on "From a Distance," and I cannot imagine what it was like for Alan and Randy to be in the same room. Randy was kind of like a young Conway Twitty. He was handsome and sang songs about being faithful despite all the poon thrown his way. If all of your hair fell out, you got kidnapped by a tribe of wild men who tattooed dicks all over you, and you have happy faces for nipples, Randy Travis will still love you. What I like about this song is that its not a feel good love track. Its kind of a creepy stalker song.

The last two tracks on the album, "Walkin' the Floor Over Me," and "Working Class Hero" are pretty forgettable. I generally move on to A Lot About Livin' at this point. Speaking of which...