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Summer in Review Part 3: Soundtrack of the Summer

Last night I said that the three top activities of my summer were working, sleeping, and reading, but I neglected one important detail: through almost all of those activities (even sometimes during sleeping), I was listening to some kind of music.  From the boombox at work to worship in the chapel to my own MP3 library on breaks, music was a constant part of my life, and I loved it.  The variety was huge, but there were a few songs in particular that formed the soundtrack of my summer.  Some were silly, some were sweet, some were just plain awesome, but they all played a big part in making this summer the great time that it was.

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Song(s) of the Week: “Re: Your Brains” and “Chiron Beta Prime” by Jonathan Coulton

I’m bumping this week’s musical post to Tuesday for kicks and giggles, and in keeping with that theme the two songs of the week are goofy comedy songs by nerdy musical funny-man Jonathan Coulton.  You may know him as the man who wrote “Still Alive”, the ending song from Portal, or you may be sadly unacquainted with one of the greatest games (and game ending songs) in history.  Either way, if there’s even an ounce of nerd in you I guarantee that you’ll get a kick out of one of these two songs.  The first, “Re: Your Brains”, is a carefully worded email from a zombie to his former coworker explaining his logical case for why he should just let the undead hordes come in and eat his brains already.  The second, “Chiron Beta Prime”, is the family Christmas letter from the Andersons, a family who had a spot of trouble with the robot council last year, it seems, and is now living on a mining asteroid.  Both are clever, hilarious, and catchy as all get out.  Just as a heads up, there is one minor misuse of the word “hell” in “Re: Your Brains”, but other than that these songs are pretty clean (albeit a bit on the dark humor side).  Enjoy, and don’t forget to suggest a favorite song of yours in the comments below so I can use it in a future song of the week post.

Lyrics – “Re: Your Brains”

Heya Tom, it’s Bob, from the office down the hall.
Good to see you buddy, how’ve you been?
Things have been O.K. for me except that I’m a zombie now.
I really wish you’d let us in.
I think I speak for all of us when I say I understand
Why you folks might hesitate to submit to our demand.
But here’s an FYI: you’re all gonna die screaming.

All we wanna do is eat your brains.
We’re not unreasonable, I mean, no one’s gonna eat your eyes
All we wanna do is eat your brains.
We’re at an impasse here, maybe we should compromise:
If you open up the doors
We’ll all come inside and eat your brains.

I don’t want to nitpick, Tom, but is this really your plan?
Spend your whole life locked inside a mall?
Maybe that’s OK for now but someday you’ll be out of food and guns,
Then you’ll have to make the call.
I’m not surprised to see you haven’t thought it through enough.
You never had the head for all that bigger picture stuff.
But Tom, that’s what I do, and I plan on eating you slowly.

CHORUS

I’d like to help you Tom, in any way I can.
I sure appreciate the way you’re working with me.
I’m not a monster Tom, well, technically I am.
I guess I am…

Got another meeting Tom, maybe we could wrap it up?
I know we’ll get to common ground somehow.
Meanwhile I’ll report back to my colleagues who are chewing on the doors
I guess we’ll table this for now
I’m glad to see you take constructive criticism well
Thank you for your time I know we’re all busy as hell
And we’ll put this thing to bed
When I bash your head open

CHORUS

Lyrics – “Chiron Beta Prime”

This year has been a little crazy for the Andersons.
You may recall we had some trouble last year.
The robot council had us banished to an asteroid.
That hasn’t undermined our holiday cheer.
And we know it’s almost Christmas from the marks we make on the wall.
And that’s our favorite time of year.

Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime,
Where we’re working in a mine for our robot overlords.
Did I say overlords? I meant protectors.
Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime.

On every corner there’s a giant metal Santa Claus who watches over us with glowing red eyes.
They carry weapons and they know if you’ve been bad or good.
Not everybody’s good but everyone tries.
And the rocks outside the airlock exude ammonia-scented snow.
It’s like a Winter wonderland.

CHORUS

That’s all the family news that we’re allowed to talk about.
We really hope you’ll come and visit us soon.
I mean we’re literally begging you to visit us.
And make it quick before they [MESSAGE REDACTED].
Now it’s time for Christmas dinner – I think the robots sent us a pie!
You know I love my soylent green.

CHORUS

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Friendship is Music

Yesterday was Friday, which means that today is (in my best WheezyWaiter impression) Saturday, Saturday, Pony Saturday!  If you didn’t get that reference, do yourself a favor and swing by WheezyWaiter’s channel to experience such wonders as the alligator pit, Quiet Clone, and, of course, Explosion Wednesdays (which may or may not be a thing).

Now that I’ve fulfilled my daily quota of shameless endorsements, on to the actual post.  This week, the spotlight is on Friendship is Magic’s two staff musicians, songwriter Daniel Ingram and composer William Anderson.  Both of these guys put a great amount of talent and effort into their work, and it shows.  Ingram’s delightful songs, from quick and cheerful ditties to full-blown musical numbers, are so catchy that they’ll latch onto your brain after just one listen, not to mention the lyrics in the two musical-style pieces, and Anderson’s background music blends with (and adds to) the action and atmosphere on screen perfectly every time.  Seriously, some of his stuff sounds like it could be straight from a movie soundtrack.  And while it might seem that only fans of the show would have the opportunity to enjoy this music, that’s not true at all.  There are instrumental and original versions of most of Ingram’s songs and several clips of Anderson’s music without the sounds from the show available on YouTube, and I can almost guarantee that you will like them no matter who you are.  Go on, give it a try!

Here are a few samples of Daniel Ingram’s work:

“Winter Wrap Up (With Voices)”
(This is easily Ingram’s catchiest piece.  I’ve never met a person who’s heard this song and not had it stuck in their head for days afterwards – and I’ve never heard them complain about that fact, either.)

“Winter Wrap Up (Instrumental)”

“Art of the Dress”
(This song has one of my favorite lines of all Daniel Ingram’s tunes: “All we ever want is indecision/ all we really like is what we know.”  It’s not often you hear thoughtful lines like that in a song from a cartoon.)

“Cutie Mark Crusader Theme Instrumental”
(Don’t let the name fool you, this is the most hardcore tune in the show to date – and by hardcore I do mean electric guitars and drums and the like.  Trust me, just listen to it.)

If you liked those, click here to read an interview that my friend Tekaramity conducted with Daniel Ingram.  It’s good stuff.

Also, here are three versions of various Daniel Ingram pieces that fans covered/remixed.  The original music is still Ingram’s work, these guys just added their own twist to it and made a whole new kind of awesome.

“Pinkie Pie’s No Fear Song (Giggle at the Ghostly) Piano Cover”
(Super-mellow, very pretty piano cover)

“Giggle at the Ghostly (Saltlakrit’s 20% Cooler Remix)”
(Super-pumped-up, very perky dance remix)

“Friendship is Magic Piano Medley”
(Super-every-positive-adjective-you-can-think-of, very talented piano medley)

And here’s some music by William Anderson:

“Photo Finish Theme”

“Rarity’s Fashion Show”
(This is one of my favorite Anderson pieces right here.  As Tek put it (in TV Tropes terms), it’s a real Crowning Music of Awesome.)

“The CMC Go Questing”

“Sonic Rainboom”
(This one feels like the score from a movie, the orchestra and rock band mixture is just fantastic)

“Final Encounter (Battle with Nightmare Moon)”
(I’ve saved the best for last.  The music from the climax of the two-part pilot is a perfect example of how William Anderson goes the extra proverbial mile to make the music for this show sound great.  Those iconic notes at 3:04 don’t sound so girlie when played by a full orchestra now, do they?)

Enjoy the musical goodness, and I’ll see you tomorrow with (hopefully) a new Work in Progress video from myself and Dan.

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Trailer Tunes

When my brother came up for a visit on Friday, he brought an iTunes gift card with him, so yesterday we picked out some new music together.  My favorite of these new additions to my musical library is the album “Invincible” by Two Steps from Hell.  Now before you write me off as a metal-head I have to explain to you that Two Steps from Hell is not, in fact, a band of loud, screaming guitars and louder, screaming-er people.  Two Steps from Hell is a group of musicians that writes music specifically for use in movie and video game trailers.  Their music is sweeping, orchestral, and extremely exhilirating, and I’ve already listened to most of it several times in the 24 hours since I bought it.  My brain works kind of strangely, in case you hadn’t already noticed, and listening to all of this inspiring trailer music has reminded me of several of my favorite songs that I’ve always thought would make for fitting trailer tunes as well.  Every time I listen to these songs I can’t help but envision a preview for a specific type of movie playing in my head.  I even have the seed of a story idea floating around in my head for one or two of them, and sometimes I mouth the words that the characters would be saying in the trailer or change the speed of my walk to fit the mood and tempo of the music.  This has probably caused more than one person to get more than a little weirded out, but I bet if they were listening to the same music they’d be making strange faces and throwing their hands up in the air at odd intervals, too.  Either that or I’m hopelessly bizarre.  Or both.  Anyway, here’s a list of four songs that I think would make great movie trailers:

1. “RSL 1984” by Newsboys – This dramatic, quasi-autobiographical song from Peter Fuhrler may not seem like trailer music at first, but if you listen through to the chorus you’ll hear what I’m talking about.  When the music slows to a hush and Peter intones, “We rolled out the barrels, boys/and sang with a single voice”, you feel it coming like a tingle in the back of your neck, then the violins and guitars shoot straight through the roof and you’re instantly transported into the preview for a moving, nostalgic drama complete with a coming-of-age vibe and glowing critical reviews in literally glowing letters showing up at regular intervals and a top-down shot of the protagonist beaming and spinning around in the rain, hands outstretched to the sky.  Or maybe you’re just thinking “Weren’t the Newsboys from the 90’s or something?”  If that’s the case, I can’t do anything for you.

2. “The Fatal Wound” by Switchfoot – This song has been on my mind a lot lately.  It’s got a unique sound and feel to it, and it’s quite a haunting blend of minor and major, weary and hopeful.  I can imagine this one being in a trailer for some kind of edgy, serious, and heavily stylized movie that speaks of revenge and redemption and is set in a desert with two chiseled tough guys in the main roles.  For some reason I think the trailer wouldn’t have very much talking in it, it would mostly be grim and artistic shots like a bus driving down a dusty road with the antagonist the lone and brooding passenger or a panning shot from the top of a steeple down through a stained-glass window to focus on the rugged protagonist praying in a pew.  The only reasonable explanation I can think of for this idea is that I thought of it while on spring tour with the men’s choir, so we were pretty much always on a bus or in a church.  Either way, I definitely sized up most of the churches that I walked into while listening to this song with an eye for whether or not they’d look good in the trailer.  Don’t ask me why, I don’t know.

3. “Life in Technicolor ii” by Coldplay – I really shouldn’t have to explain this one.  This song screams “I BELONG IN THE TRAILER TO A CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED, TRAGIC-BUT-HEARTWARMING LOVE STORY THAT MAY OR MAY NOT WIN AN OSCAR!”  And yes, it uses all caps.  This particular tune is kind of my baby, because I actually have a bit of a story idea to go with it.  I won’t give everything away here, but it’s very touching and it involves magnets and a parking garage.  That all-caps screaming may or may not have been wishful thinking on my part, my subconscious refuses to confirm or deny that possibility.

4. “Needle and Haystack Life” by Switchfoot – Apparently Switchfoot is good at writing movie trailer music, because the chorus to this song would fit a light-hearted romantic comedy like a glove.  It’s upbeat and perky and uplifting and the lyrics are about as adorable as they come.  I mean really, read this: “In this needle and haystack life/ I’ve found miracles there in your eyes/ It’s no accident we’re here tonight/ We are once in a lifetime alive/ We are once in a lifetime.”  Are you feeling all mushy inside yet?  And if so, have you consulted a doctor about that?  That doesn’t sound good.

So there you have it, four songs that are just begging to be made into movie trailers.  If you work with a movie studio, I’d recommend getting the rights to one or more of these (also, I’m available to discuss the whole “Oscar-winning love story” thing).  If not, just leave a comment with a song that you think would make for a good movie trailer in the comments below, and DFTBA.

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Confound These Remixes!

One of my favorite things about “Friendship is Magic” is how many fun creations have arisen from some talented and creative fans.  While these are generally funnier if you’ve seen the show I think you’ll get a kick out of some of them even if you’ve only got a passing knowledge of the characters.  So here, for this Saturday’s pony post, I’ve collected some of my favorite “Friendship is Magic” fan creations.

Eurobeat Remixes

“Friendship is Magic” features songs every once in a while.  While a few of them have been full-blown, musical-style numbers, most are just Pinkie Pie breaking into twenty-second snippets of song for no apparent reason other than that she’s Pinkie Pie.  A guy who goes by the name of Eurobeat Brony, however, has taken nearly all of the songs on the show and turned them into amazingly good, full-length (3-4 minutes) Eurobeat tunes.  This is one of those things that you definitely don’t need to like the show to enjoy, you just need to like a good Eurobeat and you’ll have a blast (thanks to Tek for pointing out that Eurobeat and techno are not the same thing).   I’ll embed my personal favorite and provide links to the rest:

“Cutie Mark Crusaders Theme (BlankFlank Mix)”

“Winter Wrap-Up (EuroSpring Mix)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0ZyTzgoLGA
“Art of the Dress (EuroFashion Mix)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MunCk4b6ofM
“Evil Enchantress (EuroSpell Mix)”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atnSTtiWU5E
“Cupcakes (Extended)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39ofvrQJj2I
“Fluttershy’s Lullaby (Stay Up Late Mix)”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa6_ZMBFUpQ
“Giggle at the Ghostly (ParaParasprite Mix)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SY9t81sVsE&feature=related
“You Gotta Share (Spaghetti Western Remix)”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FGmgVu9Nz0
“So Many Wonders  (EuroSky Mix)”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnTPsNAutKY&feature=feedu

8-Bit Remixes:

The musical fun doesn’t stop yet.  For retro-lovers, there are also 8-bit versions for a few of these songs.  These are only as long as the source material from the show, and they’re more fun if you’ve heard the original song, but they’re still pretty darned good.  Again, the embedded one is my personal favorite and the rest are just links.

“Art of the Dress”

“Winter Wrap-Up”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPLsQJJUTmE&feature=related
“Giggle at the Ghostly”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yA_nxysSA5c&feature=related
“Evil Enchantress”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAoZVGicsvw
“Cutie Mark Crusaders Theme”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PNDwH2xQ-w
“Hush Now, Quiet Now”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07zf7n2dHaw
“Cupcakes”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9G0g3GfHQY

Trailer Mashups:

The idea is simple: take the sound from a well-known and totally non-pony-related trailer and sync it up with video clips from episodes of “Friendship is Magic”.  These people took that simple idea and made it fantastic with their wizard-like editing skills and fun sense of humor.  Watch Fluttershy scream “This.  Is.  SPARTA!”, or see Twilight play the part of Colonel Jim Raynor… and Gandalf (in two different trailers, of course).  It’s all here, and it’s all too spectacular not to like.  Go on, try.  See, I told you.  I’m going to embed all of these because they’re just that good.  We’ll start with the undisputed champion… EDIT: Ponycraft 2 used to occupy this spot, but seriously – Pinkie Pie as The Joker, Appleboom as Alfred, and Rainbow Dash as Batman?  You can’t top that.

The Dark Knight = The Rainbow Knight

Starcraft 2 = Ponycraft 2

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim = The Elder Scrolls VI: Equestria

Mass Effect 2 = Pony Effect 2

300 = 300 Ponies

The Lord of the Rings = The Lord of the Ponies (EDIT: New and improved edition featuring Spike as Frodo.)

Also, anyone who’s ever played The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion deserves to see this:

Funny Pictures:

Lastly, there are some great image mashups of “Friendship is Magic” characters and things from real life (like movie and video game posters, car logos, and even a certain game show).  Most of them are clever, many of them are pun-tastic, and all of them are good for a laugh (or at least a chuckle).

Whoever came up with this is a pun master. This gets me every time.

Everybodys favorite background character (after Derpy, of course). With an hourglass for a cutie mark, who else could he be but that time-traveling Brit?

Move over, Will Smith. Theres a new post-apocalyptic hero in town. Lets hope the zombies are vulnerable to cake and/or being poked with party hats. Also, when you see the release date...

Nuff said...

This one is devoid of puns, but I had to include it because Portal is my favorite game ever, and the sequel is coming out in less than a month. I wonder if Pinkie Pie realizes that the cake is a lie...

Just in case that other Portal picture wasnt good enough, theres this one, too. Now youre thinking with ponies...

Assassins Creed x Ponies. Ah, the irony. I tip my hat to the artist on this one - nicely done (their deviantArt profile is in the bottom right corner of the picture).

As if the poster wasnt great enough, someone else made a "screenshot". Why Rainbow Dash became an assassin well never know...

More post-apocalyptic action! But how does Applejack pull the trigger on that pistol?

Youd have to see the show to understand a few of the jokes here, but Applebloom looking like a hardened war-hero is still funny.

Also, this. Apparently Scootaloo is a special agent.

Team Fortress 2 just got 20 percent cooler.

Then theres this classic Legend of Zelda reference... I can almost hear the plinking money-receiving music.

Last video game related picture. Expecting someone else, Mario?

Applejack, how did you get inside the Texas state flag?

Rainbow Dash is apparently very patriotic.

Ill take "Friendship" for $100, Alex.

I hope you enjoyed the music and got a chuckle or two out of the pictures and videos, and I leave you with this because it makes me laugh:

Have a good night, everyone!

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Why Men’s Choir is the Greatest

It’s been an intense weekend.  After clocking hours of bus travel, getting fewer hours of sleep than we probably should have, and cramming four performances into the past three days, the Moody Men’s Collegiate Choir is finally in the bus and on our way to our last stop: Andover, Minnesota.  We’ve crossed two state borders, sung in three churches, and picked up two fish at a Wal-Mart in Bemidji, and through it all I’ve noticed five things that make Men’s Choir one of the greatest things about my Moody experience so far:

1. The Bus.  I’ve always loved traveling, especially in charter buses, so traveling in a charter bus with the hilarious Men’s Choir men is a blast.  All of their wacky traditions and off-the-cuff joking make it more fun than sitting in a bus for five hours ought to be.

2. The Prayer Warriors.  This morning, after the service at Faith Baptist Church in Park Rapids, MN, the pastor encouraged the congregation to find one man from the Men’s Choir and find out how they could pray for them.  It was encouraging to meet people and know that they cared about what’s happening in my life, but the most inspiring people of all were the elderly ladies who would come by, pen and paper in hand, and gather prayer requests from nearly every member of the choir by name.  These women believe that prayer works, and they are willing to work at it for some hopeful young brothers in Christ whom they barely know.  My proverbial hat goes off to them.

3. The Little Kids.  As we were leaving Faith Baptist, a woman stopped me and told me that her son had something to tell me.  The blonde-haired little boy looked up and said, in his tiny, cheerful voice, “I really enjoyed your singing today.”  Plenty of people say similar things to me, but somehow coming from a child it’s a thousand times more heartwarming.  The woman informed me that her little daughter had enjoyed the concert, too, and that during the performance she’d said, “This is so beautiful I could cry.”  Can I get an “Awwwwww”…

4. The Songs.  The lyrics to the pieces that we perform are theologically sound and practically applicable to the way I live my life, so every time I sing them I’m hiding the truth of God in my heart and cementing it in my mind in a beautiful and  unforgettable way.  Lines like, “No merit of my own His anger to suppress, my only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness,” and “Be still, my soul, they God doth undertake to guide the future as He has the past.  Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake, all now mysterious shall be bright at last,” are exactly the sort of things that I want stuck in my head.  Then there’s the middle section, the portion of our concert which consists of four songs and a plethora of Scriptures that outline the beauty of the gospel.  One of my favorite verses that we recite is Ecclesiastes 3:15, “That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.”  We ask the audience to hold applause until the entire segment is done, so it’s a seamless ten to fifteen minutes of solid truth, like a kind of “Sermon: the Musical!”  No matter how many concerts we do, I never get sick of the middle section.

5. The Men.  This one may be the most obvious, but it is completely true.  The men of the Men’s Choir are fun, godly, supportive, encouraging, talented, friendly, and faithful students of the Word.  I love spending time with them in rehearsals every week, and it’s even more fun on tour as we travel all over the country together praising God and leading others in worship.  Speaking of leading, this post wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to our conductor, H.E. “Doc” Singley: Doc, you’re not only a great man and a great conductor, you’re a great example to anyone who wants to love God more.  And here’s a personal message to any MMCC men who are reading this: you guys are the greatest (yes, even the basses), and I’m glad that God gave me the opportunity to spend this year with all of you.  Keep it classy.

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Song of the Week (Part 1 of 2)

This week, before I post a new song, I wanted to let you guys know that I’ve added links to several songs in past posts that I referenced but didn’t provide links to. They are: “Thanks Isaac” (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross), “Two Hands”, “Life Means So Much”, “Grace Isn’t Fair” (Be My Escape), and “Adding to the Noise”.  So if you want to check out those posts and hear a few more of my favorite songs, the links will be underlined in green.  Enjoy!

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