All posts by Phillip

Your Snow Shoveling Playlist

With today’s blizzard-like snow here in the arctic, here’s my snow shoveling playlist.  It helps plow through the snow and stay positive that spring is almost here (hopefully):

  1. Closer” – Tegan & Sara
  2. Where Is My Mind?” – Pixies
  3. 10538 Overture” – Electric Light Orchestra
  4. Just Dance” – Lady Gaga
  5. Bad Romance [the Skrillex Remix]” – Lady Gaga
  6. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together  – Taylor Swift
  7. The Monster [feat. Rihanna]” – Eminem
  8. Viva la Vida” – Coldplay
  9. Bass Down Low” – Dev
  10. My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” – Fall Out Boy

 

Just Don’t Over Think It

I want to change my bio on Twitter (follow: @phillipjspencer), but I just don’t have the balls to do it.  Currently it reads, “Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve – J. K. Rowling,” a quote from a Harry Potter book, and one that I hold dearly because it gives me hope that I may possibly achieve something someday.  But then I was thinking how a quote, while important, does not stand out or grab a potential follower’s attention (which may be the reason I only have fifty-seven followers).  I once read a bio of a Twitter page of a friend of a friend that read “I’m an eighty-year-old woman in a twenty-something-year-old body” and I just thought it was hilarious.  Why can’t I do that?

While in this process of trying to create a new, fantastic bio, I finally thought up “All you have to do is sit back and be amazed.”  I was impressed and inclined to make the big change, but then I started to think about how it may actually be received by audience members.  While I thought it was intriguing and witty, it could potentially come across as conceited or arrogant. I intended it with humor, in an almost sarcastic way.  In a way, the bio was meant as an indicator that my subsequent tweets would be both hilarious and serious (which they are, in my opinion).

However, I did have the fortune of taking a positive psychology class last semester and found that people who are more optimistic in life (and in their writing) tend to be more well liked and more successful.  Since taking that class, I’ve realized how cynical and negative I tend to be – like complaining to acquaintances about school instead of championing a common interest.  So remembering this got me thinking, is my new bio snarky/sarcastic?  Would that win over potential followers?  In a reading for a class I’m taking this semester, I learned that it’s better to be gracious and humble so that people will respect you more and relate to you better.  Again, am I doing this in my new bio?

The answer would honestly be “no,” because while the new bio would represent my wonderful humorous side, it also does hold that deeper, darker passive aggressive side that would deter people, I fear.  So it would appear that the hunt is once again on to create a fantastic new bio.  In the mean time, I could always test out this new bio and see if my fears are actually right.  If they are, then a change is always just a click away.

“White Lies” by Stacy Clark – #PhillipsSongOfTheDay

I have this professor who prides himself on being a musician as well as being a business professor.  Overall he’s a pretty cool guy and great teacher (this is the second class I’m taking with him).  He usually gives us these class activities to do at the beginning of class to use during our discussion, and he will play a random Pandora station to create a “mood.”  Today, a Lady Gaga song came on, and he shook his head and made a crack about “music today.”  Basically, in his opinion (and other kids in the class, who I’m pretty sure where just sucking up to him), music today is a bunch of crap.
I don’t like when people are negative or cut down music without giving it a chance.  I had a friend in high school who literally would hate any music/song that was played on the radio because it was “mainstream.”  He was the kind of guy that would only listen to obscure jazz or blues songs.  I recommended him to listen to Adele’s album 19 because it features that jazzy-blusy sounds he enjoyed.  Just as I did so, Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” blew up on the radio, and he refused to listen to her songs.  Like, I don’t get that at all.  I think the level of musicality or whether a song is “good” or not should not be established by who listens to it.  You just need to sit back, relax, and just listen.

Anyway, because my professor made this crack about Lady Gaga and the rest of today’s terrible music, I decided to name a Lady Gaga song #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.  I was going to pick “Just Dance” because I was listening it as I was shoveling snow in this lovely weather we’re having (by the way, I pretty much hate the cold, snow, and will probably blog about that…I’ve written songs about my hatred of winter here in the arctic).  However, I started to listen to Stacy Clark’s song “White Lies” while writing this post, and well, that kind of got stuck in my head/started playing on repeat, and it reminded how much I’m blown away but that song.

There’s something about this song that should not work, like you hear it and think “that’s not a radio single,” which I guess it’s not considering I don’t think it got radio traction (at least, I haven’t heard it on the radio), but the song really works.  I’m not saying that for it to be good it needs to be on the radio, I’m not a hypocrite, it’s just the song has a weird rhythm/beat to it…a weird rhythm/beat I enjoy.  The lyric that stands out for me is “Do you think I’m a fool? Shame on you and shame on me twice, for trusting, trusting you.”

If you haven’t heard this song, you need to.  It’s great.

“The Love Club” by Lorde

The Love Club” by Lorde is #PhillipsSongOfTheDay 

It’s been on repeat for the past hour.  Why?  Because Lorde is an incredible musician/artist, and I’ve been kind of obsessed with her music for the past month.  My sister and I were going to splurge and see her in concert, even though I’m a #brokecollegestudent, but we couldn’t get tickets!  It sold out too fast!

Seriously, though, “The Love Club” has this incredible pulsating/swelling background vocals (I don’t really know how to explain it…you just got to listen to it) that really makes the song.  The producer, I’m assuming Joel Little (he produced/co-produced all or Lorde’s music…I believe), did this thing where he added a crescendo to the fourth beat (I think) when Lorde’s background vocal goes up that makes the note change stand out….pure genius.  This will make more sense if you just listen to the song:

I also want to commend Lorde for the way she sings the chorus, especially the line “Be a part of the love club;” her phrasing is perfect.  The way a person sings just one word really can change my opinion of a song (e.g. the way Lorde sings the word “ruins” in her song “Team” is perfection…part of the reason it’s one of my favorite songs…not kidding).

I read an interpretation of “The Love Club” that said the song is about how if you want to be cool and to be “in the club,” by society’s/the media’s standards, you have to be dating someone or be in a relationship.  Basically, this is Lorde being her usual self of denouncing the media for telling people, particularly youths, how to live their lives.  I kind of admire that about Lorde and her music.  I generally don’t like songs that preach to people and tell people how to run their lives, but I think Lorde knows how to straddle that line.  Her songs stop right before telling people how they should live; she’s telling us how she chooses to live.  I find “The Love Club” to be refreshing, and, at this moment, relatable.

 

Cut Your Teeth

I’m ten years old.  My violin teacher has just approved me to start playing a more advanced book of songs.  I am over the freakin’ moon.  I can’t quite contain myself as I say to her, “I’ve actually taught myself some songs from that book.”

She gives me a skeptical, slightly mortified look and says “Have you?  Which song?”  I open the book to the second song and start playing it.  I get really into it, playing it exactly the way it should, in my opinion, be played, and finish beaming.  “So, we can skip that one, right?” I ask, thinking I know the answer.

“Well, actually, you learned that all wrong,” my teacher says as my heart sinks, “I mean, you made up all these rhythms that are wrong, you made up fingerings, you hit none of the notes right.”  I’m now looking at my feet, feeling embarrassed and rather stupid.

***

“So, it goes G, C, E minor, D,” says my friend Dat, the kid that can play pretty much any instrument you want him to (except banjo, although I suspect it’s because I always tell him to learn it), “You only need to learn those four chords, keep to the beat, and we’ll be fine.”

It was May, and my band and I, all sixteen years old, were rehearsing for my brother’s graduation party, which was taking place the following month.  Our “band” basically consisted of Dat playing guitar, our friend Nicole singing, and me playing cello.  But, when you’re going to play for a celebratory event, like a graduation party, there are not a whole lot of “happy” or upbeat songs you can play with just voice, cello, and guitar.  We needed to add drums (which Dat could play) because most of those “happy” songs all required the use of drums.  Either I was going to learn to play drums, or I was going to have to learn to play guitar (I don’t think it ever occurred to us that Nicole could learn to play guitar, something she did a year later).  I chose the latter, knowing I could never get the hang of the drums in time.

“It’s really not that bad, Phil,” Dat continued exasperatedly, pointing to the many charts and diagrams he drew to teach me the chords, “you can handle this.  After this, you never have to play the guitar ever again.”

“I know,” I said with an edge in my voice.  When people tell me that I don’t have to do something, I tend to do it anyway just to prove them wrong.  So I started practicing those four chords so much that I actually broke a couple guitar strings that week.

But I didn’t stop there; I looked up other chords, and found sheet music for my favorite songs and figured how to play those chords.  Over time, I eventually figured out many different chord progressions, strumming patterns, and how to create different sounds.  I never took any formal guitar lessons, unlike my previous eleven years of being trained classically to play violin and cello.  But once I started playing guitar without any professional guidance, I was not going to stop.

I remember at the beginning of my guitar-playing career thinking “I’m probably doing this all wrong.”  Whenever I practice any of my instruments, I always think back to being ten and feeling the way I did when my teacher berated me for daring not to follow her methods (she actually was not as mean as she sounds).  But I like the fact that I may be holding my guitar the wrong way, that I may not have the right fingers on the right frets, and that my rhythms or strumming patterns could be totally made up.  I like that freedom.  Without any formal guidance, there are no limits to what I can do with my music, which I think has made me more passionate about playing music.  What it comes down to for me is that the music sounds good, and if it does, who cares how you got there.