Top 5 Songwriting Albums

I have begun college this fall, and over the past few months my roommate and I have played guitar together and shared our musical tastes. Thankfully the Lord blessed me with a roommate that shares similar musical inclinations as I do, and we have started to write some of our own material. That, combined with the amount of music I have been diving into during homework sessions, has made me want to write a blog post about the top 5 albums that have influenced me as a songwriter/lyricist/artist. I did not think too long about these because I knew if I did I would not be able to decide, so these are five off the top of my head which have always been go-to listens for writing inspiration.

Of course, when composing a list like this you have to include some sort of restrictions so that the album selection does not get too broad. (Picking too broad of a topic is the only thing I learned NOT to do in senior composition class.) Here are the limits I chose for myself:

  1. No two albums from the same band can be on this list. If I allowed myself to do that, all the albums here might be from The Beatles … might.
  2. No “Greatest Hits” albums are allowed either. In my opinion that would be cheating. I would then be picking the top 5 artists that have influenced my musical taste and songwriting, and I would not be keeping to the spirit of picking albums.
  3. Lastly, they had to be albums I had listened to before coming to Truman State. (Go Dawgs) If I had let myself pick albums I have discovered too recently then I would have impulse included them. (e.g. An album by Falling In Reverse)

Now for the list, and –as a disclaimer– no one can argue this list, because I said at the start it is top 5 that influenced ME as a musical artist. If you have a top 5 that influenced you then feel free to start your own blog and you can comment a link to it below, thanks.

Number 5.

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Unwind : Oleander

Top Tracks:

  1. Benign
  2. Tightrope

So there is this game I like to play. It is called “Go-to-the-local-CD-store-and-buy-a-random-album-out-of-the-bargain-bin” and then I sometimes am pleasantly surprised by what I get. This was one of those times. (Other times I do not get a winner. Such as a few days ago, when I picked How Bizarre by omc)  I had to survive through the first track but after that it was a decent listen. Definitely worth the 2 bucks I spent on it. I think it is an accomplishment that one of these songs actually uses the word “benign”. That is a win in my book.

My favorite track is Tightrope. The instruments are used perfectly and I love the lyrics/metaphors used. This song really holds the whole album together and is why it made it on my list. If you play guitar I recommend learning the tab because I find it super fun to play.

 

Number 4.

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American Idiot : Green Day

Top Tracks:

  1. Holiday
  2. Give Me Novacaine
  3. Wake Me Up When September Ends
  4. Whatsername

 

Brilliant album. I always think it is cool when a band is not the normal four instruments, and Green Day does a fantastic job with just three members. This album was basically all I listened to this past summer. I do not approve of all the language used on this album, there are definitely some rough spots I avoid, but the some of the songs just have very strong lyrics. Probably the best one lyrically, for me, is “Wake Me Up When September Ends”. I’m a sucker for songs that show the passing of time. Probably the best example of this is “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin. Green Day encompasses this with the lyrics saying, “seven years has gone so fast,” in the beginning, and in the end saying, “twenty years has gone so fast,” as well as, “Like my father’s come to pass.” This album can give you a wide variety of feelings from start to finish, and I think with different lyrics it would not have been near the substantial accomplishment it has become.

 

Number 3.

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Five Score and Seven Years Ago : Relient K

Top Tracks:

  1. Deathbed
  2. Up and Up
  3. Must Have Done Something Right
  4. The Best Thing

 

This album is included on Buzzfeed’s list of Pop Punk Albums you should hear before you die. As you can see I think it deserves it. The story of how I discovered this album is funny. A close relative left their case holding multiple CDs at the house when they left for college. One of them was this album burnt onto a disc and labeled in sharpie. As soon as I put it in I knew I had found something special, and the more I hear the first song the more I wish they had made it longer. All the lyrics reflect feelings I have often, and Relient K was the first example of a band that plays Christian based music, without being cheesy, that I had heard.

Once again one of my top songs is one that demonstrates time passing. Deathbed, although being super long, is my favorite on the album and it is comprised of a man reflecting on his life choices and how God has forgiven him.

 

Number 2.

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Fourth From the Last : The W’s

Top Tracks:

  1. Alarm Clock
  2. Flower Tattoo
  3. The Devil Is Bad
  4. Open Minded

 

In terms of lyric writing, this album is a treasure chest. This is the first album I ever opened up and actually read the lyrics off of the cover pamphlet. That was because I had trouble at first understanding what all was being said. I couldn’t keep up, and Andrew Schar does a fantastic job with his rhyme placement. I loved their semi big band sound and how they would swing most songs. They were my introduction to ska and I have since become a major fan of the genre. The W’s make me wish I had been the age I am now, except two decades earlier.

No one song stands out exactly but all of them have gained my admiration due to the fact they are not extremely deep, just about everyday things, and yet they sound like so much more.

Number 1.

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Please Please Me : The Beatles

Top Tracks:

  1. All of the tracks… basically

 

Since I had trouble picking just one Beatles album, I decided to pick the one with the most songs I knew. Please Please Me won because I knew 11 out of the 14 songs. (Sgt. Pepper’s almost got the win with 10 out of 13) Lennon-McCartney is probably the best songwriting duo that I have ever heard. This whole album encapsulates The Beatles that everyone remembers. Yes, some people remember the rooftop concert, but most people just think of the young boy Beatles when they imagine the band. The scream evoking mop-tops. I also really like this album because they truly poured themselves into it. I read the book Dreaming The Beatles by Rob Sheffield and he made a good point about how much the recording session meant to them. I believe that they spent something like 12 straight hours in the studio recording this record and you can tell, because by “Twist and Shout” Lennon’s voice is about to be gone. Such an album serves as inspiration to more than just me. It is for anyone that wants a quick education on how to write catchy songs.

Honorable Mention:

Herman’s Hermits : Herman’s Hermits

Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band : The Beatles

Every Second Counts : Plain White T’s

 

Thanks for reading, and I would love to hear your opinions on what albums have influenced your musical taste! Also, I know these are all rock-ish albums, and I mean no disrespect to the other musical genres, they all have great lyricists too!

 

-Hugh

None of these pictures are mine.

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Frisbee Literature

Sometimes frisbee crosses over into my hobbies. This week it filled up my reading time.

I have spent a lot of time over the past two years searching the local libraries for literature about frisbee, with disc golf/ultimate in particular. The findings have been scarce. There was one book: Ultimate Techniques and Tactics. It was written by James Parinella and Eric Zaslow, two great players. It is almost written for an advanced level of ultimate players, because it goes straight into how to make your game better and doesn’t bother too much with the simple concepts. I did gain information from this book, but the point is that I needed something else to help me understand frisbee and its history first. The search continued.

My mother works at a school library, and I get the opportunity to sort through the deleted books occasionally. That is where I obtained a book that seemed, by appearance to be from the beginning of ultimate’s creation. It is titled: Frisbee. No surprise there! This book by Stancil E. Johnson looks to have been released in 1975, only nine years after the creation of ultimate! This is a very interesting read because it has a lot of out to date drawings and information since this amazing sport has evolved so much. Even so, it helped me to learn a lot more about the history of ultimate and the creation of its organizations as well as about the origins of Folf, which is now known to us all as disc golf.

I still was missing a piece of literature that almost every established sport has. A memoir or an autobiography from a former/present frisbee player, whether it be ultimate or disc golf. There seemed to none in sight… until a few weeks ago, when I once again typed in “frisbee” in the library catalog search. The first book to pop up was titled Ultimate Glory and written by David Gessner. I opened the webpage and placed a hold. While doing so, I noticed the status of the book was “on order” so I wondered how recent the book was written. It turns out it was published in 2017! So not only was I getting the content I had been searching for, I was also getting a book written in the here and now!

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I would give Ultimate Glory, which I just finished last night, a 5/5 stars considering it is the only book of its kind so far. There are no other frisbee memoirs to compare it to so it deserves the best possible rating. It is suitable for young adults on up. Parents might want to monitor if their children read it because the language is not always appropriate and there are frequent drug references. Although this is to be expected since the book is written by an apparently somewhat atheistic man about his unwise college/twenties behavior that took place during a decade of drug experimentation. I would recommend the book to anyone who is a fan of flatball and wants to learn more about the gritty beginnings and the past decades of elite frisbee competition. This book can serve as an inspiration to play more or just throw more plastic than you do now.

Even if you are a skeptic of the sport, give it a chance. There are plenty of books out there that can help you decide if you should take it seriously. I’m biased obviously, but I feel that you should at least hear me out. Ultimate is in contention to be an Olympic sport, you should at least know how it works.

EMG Installation: Firsthand Experience

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This is right after we opened the case for the first time.

My father recently purchased me a used guitar. It was in “okay” condition. It made noise, and when it was in tune it sounded like a guitar. It was apparent from the start that all three pickups were different. We could not tell from the outside or from our googling which pickup was the original or if any of them were stock. On top of this, the switch only worked in certain positions and the tone/volume control knobs were worn and grimy.

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There were little Saturns on the fret board instead of dots!

 

It needed some work and some TLC. My father and I opened it up and found that the neck pickup’s left screw hole was broken and the previous owner had just taped it the screw to the pickup. The other two pickups appeared to be in fine condition, but they took up so much space inside the body that the pick guard was sort of hunched up around the middle pickup. They were forcing the pick guard to bend.

My dad and I discussed the next step. I mentioned how I loved the guitar in its current state but I would like to get a pickup to replace the broken/taped one at the neck. After some online browsing my father decided that he would just buy a set of three new pickups. I was excited by his decision and when he said that he had bought a set of EMG’s I readily agreed. That being said, this was the first custom guitar my father and I had attempted, so we did not realize until the day afterward that the pickups he had ordered were active instead of passive.

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You can see how the hole for the screw on this pickup has been taped and not very well.

Up until this point we had no idea there were different types of pickups, we just thought there were different brands. After more googling on our part we discovered active pickups require a battery to be included in the inside of the guitar. Passive pickups do not have to be charged by a battery. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise though, because the active pickups allowed for easier setup and less soldering. Also, they just give a guitar such a slicker appearance.

 

After completion of installation I still have some static I have to deal with and the pick guard is still a little hunched. The switch didn’t fit in the original slot because it was too long, so we ended up drilling two new holes but they don’t stand out because the pick guard is black. I am proud of the job my father and I did and I hope this post encourages other guitar players to try their hand at customization. It makes the guitar much more valuable to the player if they have worked on it personally.

lastlook
This was after the pickup replacement and the addition of fresh control knobs. I wanted red ones but have not come across any yet.

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