Instagram ads are alright

I dislike ads. I’m sure most of you know that. I recommend uBlock Origin to everyone I know, I purposely purchased a domain name and rented server space so I could have an ad-free blog, and use a third-party YouTube app on my mobile devices so I don’t have to deal with them interrupting my videos.

Sometimes, ads can’t be avoided – like in the Instagram app. These advertisements show up in your feed after scrolling through a few posts, and other times they insert themselves in between stories of people you’re browsing. Most of the time I’ve received bullshit ads that I swipe away immediately, but recently I think the algorithm has me figured out (yay).

These days I don’t get any more adverts for strange sex toys, rubbish manga or cash-grabbing mobile games. Instead, I get music video ads that I watch and swipe up to. I like the fact that I can instantly load their YouTube video or Spotify page to continue listening to the whole song. While I haven’t found my next favorite band yet, I have discovered quite a lot of songs that I would have missed if it wasn’t for the intrusion.

Thank you for the encroaching commercials, Instagram (Facebook). For once, I can wholly support them, and I hope this trend keeps up.

In the meantime, do check out some of the bands I’ve discovered through the power of advertising:

Properties of Nature – You Didn’t Start a Fire in My Heart, You Started it in My House!

East of June – Rebel

PNKR – Olivia

LØE – People Have The Power (Official)

Anti-Modern-Radio Me

When I was young, I remember being bored to death whenever my parents switched radio channels to listen to oldies. Songs they listened to growing up. They would tell me that they don’t make songs like they used to anymore. I would fervently disagree with them, defending my tastes in Limp Bizkit and Eminem. I assumed they didn’t know better.

Now that I’m older, I don’t listen to the radio anymore – mostly because they mostly play songs I dislike, have terrible DJs and too many advertisements. When I have to (because I’m driving someone else’s car), I tune into Light and Easy – a channel that mostly plays oldies because I can enjoy them, unironically. I enjoy listening to songs that I heard growing up even though I wasn’t a big fan of them back in the day because, amongst the cesspool of modern radio, they sound euphonious.

It can’t be that music has gotten worse – there must be a reason why these artists on modern radio are getting airtime and making new records. There is a demand for them even though I might not like their music. It’s just not for me.

But why do I not enjoy a lot of current music? I think it comes down to a few factors:

  • I’m listening to the wrong stations – maybe, but I can’t be bothered to give other radio stations a shot. It’s not worth the time, so I stick with what I know and enjoy.
  • My tastes have already developed and I’m rejecting what’s new and unfamiliar. I have noticed that it doesn’t apply to a lot of new music I discover that’s not on the radio, so probably not the case.
  • Mainstream radio has always been trash and the only reason I enjoy old pop hits now is that I grew up listening to them – the nostalgia and singalong factor is what draws me to them. This seems like the most likely reason.

Is this what my parents were experiencing when I was growing up? As kids did they face the same chagrin for their music tastes from their parents? I’ll have to ask them to find out.

On the other hand, if you think I’m just some whiney old boomer who is wrong about modern music, feel free to share some songs to change my mind. I’m open to listening to new songs and artists. I know there’s a lot of good stuff out there I have yet to discover.

You Had Me at Merlot

If you’re like me, someone who is always on the hunt for new music, you end up listening to a lot of mediocre artists. But once in a while, you’ll encounter an artist that blows your socks off, and makes the hunt all worth it. You sit up and question yourself, how many bands out there are this fucking good and just waiting to be discovered? For me, this happened last week with the band Mike Mains & The Branches.

I was listening to Matt Carter’s podcast, Labeled: “The Stories, Rumors, & Legends of Tooth & Nail Records” when during one of the ad rolls, there was a song by Mike Mains being promoted – Breathing Underwater. I instantly fell in love with the hook of the song, looked it up on Youtube and listened to the song in full, many times.

Mike Mains & The Branches – Breathing Underwater

Coincidentally, the next episode was a feature with the lead singer/writer of the band, so I listened to him talk about songs that inspired him, and how he went about his songwriting process. Towards the end, they shared a bit of the song called Swamp and holy shit, I was blown away. From the poignant opening line sung over the somber piano chords, the build up, to the way Mike (the vocalist) belted out “Everyday feels like waking up in a swamp”. I knew this band was special.

Mike Mains & The Branches – Swamp

After the episode ended, I immediately listened to their latest album and grew enamored with each track. I kid you not when I say every song on When We Were In Love is fantastic. I continued checking out their discography (which stretches all the way back to 2010) and was not disappointed.

While, in my opinion, the band isn’t artistically ground breaking like Dance Gavin Dance (also – completely different genre), they remind me a lot of California Wives, Walk The Moon, and a hint of later Taking Back Sunday. If you’re looking for some chill, indie pop rock, you can’t go wrong with these guys.

Mike Mains & The Branches – Live Forever

Here are some of my favorite songs from the band.

Mike Mains & The Branches – Pouring Rain

Mike Mains & The Branches – Stereo

Mike Mains & The Branches – Stop The Car

Mike Mains & The Branches – Around The Corner

Mike Mains & The Branches – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright

Mike Mains & The Branches – Drifter

Call me in the morning, tell me how last night went

I first discovered Post Malone when he was mentioned on a H3H3 video a while ago. At that time I had no idea who he was and he looked like a chill guy so I thought I’d check him out on YouTube. Based on his appearance, his music was definitely not what I was expecting. He had the look of an aggressive gangsta rapper or a metalcore band’s frontman (he wanted to play guitar for Crown The Empire in the past). Turns out, he had some of the chillest soundcloud raps on the internet.

I wasn’t blown away initially, but his music slowly grew on me and I found myself singing along to his catchy choruses and imitating the background noises in his songs (skrrt pop yuh ey). Like a lot of music I discovered randomly, it was something I never knew I would like. I think 2003 George would have rejected this music outright. While he writes songs about money and bitches and sings with autotune, he does it well enough to stand out from the crowd. The fact that he has such a soothing voice complemented by a laid back vibe and clever lyrics (how can I make sense when I’ve got millions on my mind?) puts this guy up there as one of my all-time favorite singers.

I’m genuinely surprised he’s not huge globally (or maybe he is and I’m just unaware). His explicit lyrics might possibly stop him from being a mainstream wonder in this side of the world. He recently released his sophomore album which also took awhile to grow on me (I love it now) that has some of his best work IMO. Here’s a bunch of my favorite Post Malone tracks:

Post Malone ft. Quavo – Congratulations

Post Malone – White Iverson

Post Malone – Go Flex

Post Malone – Leave

Post Malone ft. 2 Chainz – Money Made Me Do It

Post Malone – Patient

Post Malone ft. Khelani – Feel

Post Malone ft. 21 Savage – Rockstar

Post Malone – Better Now

Post Malone – Stay

Post Malone – Candy Paint

Music and Memories

Today, I was wondering about how why music can evoke such vivid and powerful memories, so I did a quick search and found this article that I found very interesting. TL;DR: our brains are better at recalling memories when we have something to guide it with i.e. music. It is why we learn through songs as children (remember A-B-C-D?).

One of my most vivid music-related memories – even though it happened so many years ago – was my first dance with a girl. It was way back when I was in GIS, at a school dance. Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On was playing while I was standing by the side of the hall, like a chump, working up the balls to ask my crush for a dance. I managed to do it halfway through the song, after the first chorus, so I only got to dance with her for the remaining half. I was elated that night. Probably the happiest I had ever been up to that point in my life. And now, whenever I hear that song, memories of that night come rushing back, and I can’t help but smile to myself like an idiot.

Another song would be Aaron Kwok’s Dui Ni Ai Bu Wan. I remembered loving the song as a kid. I sang along to the chorus (because I didn’t know any of the other words) every time I heard it on the radio or TV. But that’s not all. There was one time, we had some relatives over, and for some reason I had agreed to put on a show for them. I remember before the performance, I spent a few minutes in the bathroom styling my hair with a comb and some gel. I don’t know why I did it – I wasn’t even dressed nicely. I probably had on some home clothes or pajamas but it didn’t matter. My mom put the song on and I danced my heart out. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t good, but I received applause for trying.

Where’s your mama gone? Where’s your papa gone? Middle of the Road’s Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep evokes memories of a time when my late uncle was still around. He used to take me and my elder sister out all the time and we’d always be listening to songs on the radio. That song was one of the few songs we could sing along to. One of our favorite pastimes would be sitting through those drive-thru car washes. There was just something magical about high pressured water being blasted at you while you were protected behind glass. And then all the washers spinning around wiping the car dry. I also fondly remember watching those little orange balls spinning around at pump stations whenever he had to fill up his car with gas.

Isn’t it interesting how music and memories is an alliteration as well?

But then you said, “Stay Beautiful”

Today, as I was looking for a Moose Blood song on YouTube to share, I noticed there wasn’t a video available so I had to look it up on Spotify instead. It was then I realized that the song must have meant something to me to actually launch Spotify just to share it. I won’t lie, these guys weren’t on my radar since their last release, but when their new album dropped I was blown away and went back to relisten to their whole discography.

Moose Blood is a pop punk/emo band in similar vein to bands like Neck Deep and LYU. Despite their metal sounding name (what the fuck does Moose Blood even mean?) Anyway, this band has been around since 2012 though I only discovered them when they signed to Hopeless Records, where they put out an amazing album called Blush. Songs about love, loss, heartbreak, death – all sorts of tear-jerking anthems can be found on the album. Think – a grittier Dashboard Confessional with an English accent. A more mature-sounding You Me At Six.

There are no blazing solos or pick sweeps to be found in their brand of music, but that’s not the point of music anyway. It’s all about what it makes you feel when you listen to them, and songs by these guys are full of feels. The fact that their albums feel very diverse, while retaining their core sound, shows that Moose Blood aren’t afraid to turn it up when they want to. The occasional guitar delays peppered throughout their riffs remind me a lot of The Dangerous Summer and The Graduate, which I love. I don’t have a long history of listening to Moose Blood, but falling in love with their discography again this year has pushed them up to one of my all time favorite bands.

Their latest album is available for streaming on Spotify now. Here are some of my favorite songs from the band:

Moose Blood – Talk In Your Sleep

Moose Blood – Gum

Moose Blood – Knuckles

Moose Blood – Bukowski

Moose Blood – Cheek

Moose Blood – I Hope You’re Missing Me

Moose Blood – Shimmer

Moose Blood – Cherry

Music & Me

When I was young, I used to listen to my dad strum the guitar while singing his favorite Lobo songs. He had gigantic chord books filled with all his favorite songs. I never appreciated it when I was younger, but it probably planted the seeds of music in me. These seeds were watered by my buddy Seng Yip back in school when we decided to make some music together. It was a two man show – Fuzzbeaterz. Seng Yip, his guitar and pedal and me, with my tape recorder. He played some riffs over drum beats from his pedal, while I sang and rapped terrible lyrics over it. It was far from good, but it was a start.

In college, we decided to enter the Battle of the Bands, so we learned some songs that I liked (in hindsight, they were probably the wrong choice for the competition, but whatever – I got to jam songs I enjoyed haha) and auditioned. We didn’t qualify, but it was a fun experience. We continued jamming and went through some lineup changes. We even changed got new band names (from Hostile Takeover to dreamingtosleep). Again, we didn’t get anywhere, but at least we landed a few gigs. After recording a demo, the band split up due to the guitarists leaving the country.

I wanted to continue making music – I had so many lyrics left lying around that I didn’t have any music for. So what did I do? I picked up the guitar and decided to make music of my own. Since I had no experience making solo music, I started from square one again. But it was a good learning experience. I applied what I knew from learning songs by other people. I churned out a bunch of bedroom demos and was content. Back then I had no idea that the singer/songwriter scene in Malaysia existed so that was pretty much it.

Until one day, a colleague at my first job told me about open mics. She encouraged me to attend my first open mic and that night changed my life. I played my first show in front of a sizable audience, and they enjoyed my set. Whether it was genuine or out of politeness, it didn’t really matter. It gave me the confidence to go out and play more shows. I was spurred on by the feeling I got being on stage. There’s something about the audience applauding and cheering for you that can’t be replicated anywhere else.

I continued performing at every opportunity I got and wrote more songs. Eventually, I wrote enough music for an EP and recorded it. That was my first time getting songs recorded properly in a studio (dreamingtosleep’s EP was done live with no click track). I learned a lot during my sessions in the studio. Looking back, there were so many things I could have improved on, but hey – that’s always the case. The main thing is I managed to put the record out. Because I can always play better during live shows or on newer songs. Whatever I had recorded is a moment frozen in time. Something I can look back on and laugh at.

After that, I formed another band with Jason and had the time of my life. Playing music with a band is so fulfilling. Sure, solo can be fun, but when you’re playing music with a bunch of guys – the combination of drums, bass and guitar takes the activity to a whole new level. I can’t explain. Is this what an orgy feels like? Side note: doing things with friends is almost more fun every time (i.e. gaming, checking out restaurants, drinking).

These days I still play music, but on a less consistent basis. I haven’t written a new song in ages, but that’s okay. It’s not something I should force. Besides, I should channel my energy into my other hobbies (like working on my game) and catching up on cartoons and movies that I’ve missed over the past couple of years.

Initially, I wanted to write something about reports of Gibson going bankrupt but then I realized I had no idea how to contribute to the topic and it devolved into a story about my music. Kids, playing guitar is fun. Go pick one up and start learning now if you have any inkling of an interest. It’s not going to be easy, but it’ll be worth it in the end. It’s definitely up there as one of my favorite hobbies of all time. I assure you, it’s as fun as wanking.

Erase Me

Remember the days when internet marketing wasn’t so prevalent? Marketing campaigns made use of word of mouth or print and television to spread the word. I remember when The Sixth Sense was showing in the cinemas. Everywhere I saw advertisements for the movie with the message plastered “Don’t tell anybody the ending.” I thought that was a pretty cool way to market the movie. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t manage to catch it in the cinema. I only saw it many years later when it was showing on Astro. By then I had already known about the ending so it wasn’t impactful to me. However I appreciated what it did.

Other movies that received similar buzz with its marketing tactics were far and few in between. The most prominent ones I can remember – Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Paranormal Activity. I never got sucked into the hype that these movies generated, but for the latter two, I enjoyed seeing how people reacted to all the marketing campaign activities thanks to the internet. It was a lot harder to keep track of those things pre-social media. These days, everything gets hyped up on social media, and it’s hard to tell whether something is worth your time or not *cough*Black Panther*cough*. Anyway, thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to spread the news to everybody you know.

Recently I noticed it being used in music (it might have been done a long time ago, but not for bands I cared about). Brand New did something crazy by just pushing their album out online, ahead of their release dates. Fans and critics lapped it up. They debuted at number 1 on the Billboard charts. Today, I saw on Reddit, a thread where a Redditor received a mysterious CD in the mail. The CD contained a sample of a song and written on it was a URL for a website, where a countdown is going on right now. Based on the font on the website and the font on Underoath’s Twitter banner, people have come to the conclusion that it was a teaser for the band’s next record.

As of this time of writing, the countdown still has 1 day and 7 hours to go. It’s been a while since the last Underoath record, so I’d be stoked if they announced their next one. Here’s to hoping they pull off a Brand New and push it out on the same day instead of just announcing it. It’s been too long! Also, I guess this is me playing my part in putting the word out about a possible new Underoath record. Funny how nobody asked me to do it, yet here I am typing away. Woot.

I’m a wreck when I’m alone, I’m the boy who lost his home

I don’t have much to say except this band except that they rock.

The Dangerous Summer are one of my favorite bands of all time. I was surprised to learn today that they had released a new album this year. I thought the band was done when they lost one of their members a while ago. Turns out they’re still alive and kicking and making kick-ass music. Having listened to their latest release, the self-titled ‘The Dangerous Summer’, it’s safe to say that they still have it in them. All the trappings of a standard TDS song are present: layered guitars, emotional lyrics and raw vocals – everything a TDS fan would be looking for in an album from the band.

I can’t recall how I got into the band – it was probably a recommendation from a list or article I read. However, I remember when I first heard – Permanent Rain. It made me a fan of the band instantly. I immediately proceeded to consume all their music, and even learned how to play the acoustic version of the song. With each new release, which were remarkable by the way, I found myself always returning to their debut album ‘Reach for the Sun’. Something about the music on that album which made them so magical to me. It’s not like they changed their sound or anything after the album – I guess it’s just hard to recreate the feeling of discovering something for the first time again.

I was immensely pleased when they released an acoustic version of the album. I guess they really liked it as well if they thought it should be rearranged and re-recorded! They should totally release an EDM version of the album, I don’t think they can do any wrong with the material.

Over the years I’ve been impressed with the consistency of their releases. I don’t think they’ve ever released a single bad song. Hopefully AJ and the boys can make it over to this side of the world before they breakup (again). As usual, here are a list of some of my favorite tracks from these guys.

The Dangerous Summer – Ghosts

The Dangerous Summer – Fire

The Dangerous Summer – Permanent Rain

The Dangerous Summer – Catholic Girls

The Dangerous Summer – Knives

Section cut short: for some reason, Hopeless has blocked a lot of their YouTube videos in Malaysia, which is a shame, but they’re on Spotify, so head there to check them out.

September Never Stays This Cold Where I Come From And You Know

So while going through bands I wanted to share about, I realized that I had yet to write a post about one of my favorite bands of all time. Taking Back Sunday – one of the first few bands that molded my music tastes to what it is right now. Without any hesitation, I can name my favorite song off each album and probably recite the lyrics to half of their discography. These guys have been monumental in influencing my music. Sure, I’m not as creative as Fred/John/Matt/Eddie when it comes to guitar but I try (haha). Their heart on sleeve lyrics were what sold me to this band, as well as their signature dual-vocals. Think Les Miserables with electric guitars. They’ve also inspired countless handles and blog titles worldwide. Teenage poetry for sure.

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