Thursday, May 10, 2018

Rx

Call it a deeper conscious view, blame it the time of the year, or just how the feelings seem to it, but there is a song that has been regularly on my rotation these past few months.  It's been some time since I made a post, and this one I feel goes a little deeper than others.  So hopefully this can paint a picture of yours truly, and maybe can even shed some light into your own life.

Most of you are likely familiar with Theory of a Deadman with the various hits they have made over the years.  They have been pretty consistent with music and chart toppers over their discography. The original album resonated with me mostly due to its sound and hard rock nature.  But I will be the first to admit they started to drop off my playlists as I started to discover other music.  As music tastes progress, so do the bands you listen to as well, no?

So I was sitting in my work vehicle one day in early 2018 listening to the radio.  The subtle and mellow [almost depressive] sounds of an acoustic guitar, drum, and whistling take over the speakers.  The calm factor of the song (which ties into it's theme) has me feeling collective, and attentive.  I honestly cannot remember when lyrics resonated with me so much.  It's probably been years and years since a song instantly gave me goosebumps like "Rx" did.  I went home and probably listened to it a good dozen or two dozen times that evening.  And it's still in rotation today.

Why oh why can't you just fix me?
When all I want's to feel numb
But the medication's all done
Why oh why does God hate me?
When all I want's to get high
And forget this so-called life

It speaks of culture, personal issues, mental health, and many other faux-pas we do not talk about on a regular basis.  People need escape, and this is how some of them find it.  It may not be the reality that many of us want to find ourselves in life, but it's also a reality that can/should be treated and given the light of day.  We as a culture have assumed that kids can be given medication like Ritalin.  Got a pain in your neck?  Take a pain med.  Had a tough day at work?  Cool off with a couple beers.  It's an accepted culture that TOAD has tried to outline in their anthem track for the addicted.

Your friends are high right now
Your parents are high right now
That hot chick's high right now
That cop is high right now
The president's high right now
Your priest is high right now
Everyone's high as fuck right now
And no one's ever coming down

The song revolves around the theme of drug and alcohol addiction.  Being that the addiction culture has been increasingly prevalent in our society, this was truly a song that made me look both at the world around me, and look at myself.  One drink turns into six.  Six drinks turns into a rough night.  A rough night turns into a rough year.  You see where I am going with this.  Most of us have the ability to show tolerance and restraint when it comes to these vices.  But what happens when someone close to you (or yourself) can't help but be consumed by it?  What happens when someone close to you (or yourself) uses these vices exactly as the song says..."I guess I'll sit around and medicate"?

(NOTE: I am very aware that some people require medication in order to balance out their life/brain/thoughts/feelings, so let's try and not pool these people into the same boat as what this article is about, and what the meaning of the song presents.)

"When I got divorced, I went and saw a therapist and the first thing she said was, 'I want to put you on some Beta blockers or some sort of anti-depressant stuff' and I'm like, 'No! No Way! What? How is that the first thing you want to do?' I just feel like something's wrong and I felt like the song needed to be written and people needed to hear it. 

It seems like every week something terrible is happening. I mean, Chris Cornell...and when we shot the video for it all these directors we talked to were like, 'Oh yeah, I had a huge prescription drug problem, so this hits home' and all that stuff. So it's a really important song and I'm so happy we get to release it first." -Tyler Connolly

There are a million different reasons why we medicate.  Loss of a loved one, bad breakup, boredom, depression, peer pressure, anxiety, school, anger, work, finances, and 999990 other reasons.  The point I think this song was trying to make was that we use these 'medications' because it's the path of least resistance.  Actually trying to get to root of problems, or just simply listening to reasons this person feels this way is too hard, so let's prescribe or recommend something to take the edge off and mask the problem.

Crushin' candy crushin' pills
Got no job, mom pays my bills
Textin' ex's get my fill
Sweatin' bullets, Netflix-chills

Much like "Rx", let's talk about Superman.  Superheroes have a special place in my heart.  Call them my motivation, courage, and positive vibes when life throws you problem after problem.  We always see Superman as this all powerful being that could wipe out most of the Earth and there would be nothing we could do about.  We are forever grateful that someone such as him uses his power for good and helps humans.  But one thing we don't normally see is Superman in the shadows.  What does he feel when he is alone? What are his battles? Does he get scared? Is he afraid of anything? So many questions this song gave me and changed my perspective.  It broke me if you will.  It made me realize that they could have their own issues just like we do everyday.  It made them feel more...human.  I am still not sure if that comforted me, or made me feel more bleak.  Superheroes likely need help just as much as we do when it comes to our own problems.  The world can beat you down time and time again, and there's always that reliance that someone like Superman will come and save us.

Superman is a hero
But only when his mind is clear though
He needs that fix like the rest of us
So he's got no fear when he saves that bus



What happens when Superman can't help others because he can't help himself?  How does he cope with his life like others do?  Does he pop pills?  Drink?  This part of the song really hit home for me.  It forced me to reflect on many choices, decisions, and reasons why I am the way I am, and what I resort to (still no regrets and not wanting to change the past). For many years, I felt like I have to emulate my superheroes and just be the bigger person in this world.  Don't talk about your personal issues and just do what you can to focus on others, and cope with medication if you need to so you can help the next person.  It's funny how simple lyrics such as "Rx" can make you rethink something like that.

To me, this song painted a much bigger picture than just addiction.  It made me question motives, reasons, chemical brain balances, emotional well beings, outside pressures, cultural norms, and so many other personal/non-personal variables.  It forced me to empathize with that dark hole that people feel they cannot get out of, and feel the false sense of relief through addictions.  Let's get to the root of these problems and help people versus treating them like a number and pushing them down the line with 'pretty yellow, happy pills'.











































PS - If you feel you (or someone close to you) might have an addiction to unhealthy life choices such as alcohol, drugs (legal and illegal), or using it to cope with mental health issues, then go talk to someone professional about it.  There is help out there for you.  I can tell you first hand that music is a vice that helps me through some rough times, and helps me avoid making bad life choices.  Maybe it does for you as well.  Maybe that is why you are here reading this...

Monday, January 22, 2018

Full Album Stream: Conquer Divide - Conquer Divide

The "Full Album Streams" section of this blog not only gave folks something to listen to when they are cruising the site (being that the original intention of this site was to act as a hub to explore), but also a chance for you all to explore new artists, new genres, and new albums before deciding to purchase them (also from links on AFGM's site).

Full album streams seem to be a fad that a lot of internet savvy people are jumping on.  It can be in the form of a Soundcloud widget, a YouTube playlist, or even a single YouTube video.  This often gives record labels a chance to promote new artists and for people to subscribe to their social media pages.  So hopefully this provides you access to some new music, bands, and/or artists.  Cheers!

PS - Feel free to send us an email if you have any albums you think you should be on this list or a new one coming out we missed.  We're always listening!

(Artwork by AFGM.  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Hailing from three countries (UK, USA, and Serbia), this six-piece all female group rose to the ranks in 2015 with the release of their debut self-titled album, which put them on various supporting tours across the US.  Although the debut was not released until 2015, the group has maintained consistency since 2005, when the initial ladies (Kristen Woutersz and Suzie Reagan) started creating their original tracks.  This caught the attention of producer Joey Sturgis, who also produced their debut album.

After a few changes, the lineup has consistently been:


Kiarely "Kia" Castillo - Vocals | Janel Duarte - Vocals | Kristen Woutersz - Guitar

Isabel "Izzy" Johnson - Guitar | Tamara Tadic - Drums

Conquer Divide's debut self-titled album was released on July 24th, 2015 via Artery Recordings.  As mentioned before, it was produced by Joey Sturgis, who has also worked with bands such as We Came As Romans, Asking Alexandria, The Devil Wears Prada, and more.

(Album artwork is courtesy of Conquer Divide and Artery Recordings)

1. Sink Your Teeth Into This (feat. Denis Stoff)*
2. Self Destruct
3. Eyes Wide Shut*
4. Nightmares
5. Lost
6. What's Left Inside*
7. At War
8. Despicable You
9. Heavy Lies the Crown*
10. Broken

(* = AFGM Recommendations)

Lyrically and musically this album is full of things to love. If you enjoy fast-paced metal with killer female vocalists (such as Kittie) you will definitely find this enjoyable. What’s more is that these gals bring these songs to life in a way you wouldn’t imagine live! Such charisma and energy… go catch them at a show. More importantly, Conquer Divide, is out now on Artery Recordings and you should get out there and pick it up! -New Transcendence



The songs that comprise Conquer Divide are solid musical works, however the beautiful vocal pairings (“Heavy Lies The Crown”) alongside melodic choruses and heavy leads (“Despicable You”)just feel dated. The technical skill and production quality make Conquer Divide a truly fine record, but a record without any remarkable innovation. Now that Conquer Divide have their feet planted in the music scene, though, they may have more room to branch out and create something spectacular next time around. - New Noise Magazine

Friday, November 24, 2017

Things I Miss - Fugees

Now this may seem a little obscure for the genre and since I have never made a blog post about a hip-hop group I miss.

I was sifting through an old article from MTV, ranking some of the greatest hip-hop acts of all time.  There were so many groups to name that could have all been evenly worthy of taking top spot(s).  From Wu-Tang to Outkast.  Public Enemy, Salt 'N Pepa, and of course A Tribe Called West.  However, it was when I hit The Fugees did I decide to turn on the Spotify and start streaming some of that amazing 90's hip-hop.

While the group only lasted for two full albums, their impact on the music industry as a whole echoes even today.  If you don't believe me, simply type their name in a YouTube search bar, and read the comments of any video.  Scrolling through them, one phrase kept coming up again and again.  The words "real music" was apparent through both comments and many reviews of either Blunted on Reality, or the multi-platinum The Score.

"We'll show you how the refugees do."

I remember being introduced to "Fu-Gee-La", "Ready or Not", and "Killing Me Softly" thanks to the golden era of Much Music/MTV, and with the help of some older cousins (much love Jennifer).  With becoming one of the biggest albums of 1996, if not the one of the biggest hip-hop albums of the decade, this was one of the groups who reached many household across the world.  It was one of my earliest introductions to hip-hop as a young kid.  While the ability to understand concepts of their lyrics at the time, the music had great hooks, amazing vocals, and seemed to be a widely accepted group.



Taking home 2 Grammy Awards in 1997 (Best Rap Album, Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group), The Score definitely set themselves among some of the greatest hip-hop groups of all time.

"Me without a mic is like a beat without a snare."

With Wyclef Jean and Lauren Hill's careers taking off quite well in the late 90's, it was a shame to see them call it quits in 1997.  Thankfully, the world would get another chance to see them in 2004 when they performed together on Dave Chapelle's Block Party, the BET Awards in 2005, and a handful of charity events.

While it doesn't seem likely that the group is soon to reunite and tour again, one can only hope that the trio can set aside any differences, and realize the inspiration they have given both future hip-hop artists, but the global community as a whole.  The group spoke of subjects such as refugees, fame, greed, hard times, good times, and many other areas that people can relate to.



Here's to the hope that we may see the group come together, or have the world produce something of equal ferocity, and natural poetry.

"Of course, Lauryn Hill was one of a trio, aided and abetted by the patois-spitting Wyclef Jean and the bullish Pras. Each of them brought some serious bars to the table, and the dynamic between still gives The Score an elastic unpredictability that wouldn't have worked if it was any of the rappers' solo projects. But Lauryn Hill runs an absolute lyrical clinic on the album, dropping at a time when hip-hop needed it the most." -Tom Barnes, Mic.com