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Christmas iPhone Ad: A Socially Anxious Extrovert’s Perspective

Earlier today, my good friend Brian Otte shared Apple’s new iPhone Christmas ad, entitled “Misunderstood.”

The ad depicts a family Christmas gathering. In each scene we see a teenage boy focused on his phone, seemingly withdrawn from the activities going on around him. In the final scene of the commercial, he gathers the family together and shares the video he’d be secretly shooting throughout the day, on his phone.

Brian shared the video with the comment, “I really don’t know how I feel about the sentiment here. On the one hand it demonstrates that technology can be used to capture moments instead of avoid them, but on the other hand I feel like too often we are concerned with capturing moments instead of participating in them.”

In the discussion that followed, an NPR article about the same ad was shared, which discussed those same two interpretations of the ad – the one which (negatively) feels that it’s saying our phones should be infused into every aspect of our lives, and the other which (positively) feels the ad is pointing out that a seemingly-disconnected teenager may in fact be engaged in the events around him or her.

I have a feeling that the two basic reactions stem from two different general views of technology, and what effect it has on children, or people in general. For those who feel that technology can enrich our lives, and can help those who have difficulty connecting find a way to reach out to others, it does a wonderful job of pointing out that the kid who spends his time on his phone might not be shutting out what’s happening around him, but connecting in his own way. It’s not just about capturing moments as opposed to participating; creating something that can be experienced by others IS participating.

For those who believe that technology separates us from one another, the reaction is opposite. What I think those people forget is the kids that sit around on their phones, but are still with family, without those phones would either be looking miserable and saying nothing, or have gone off by themselves. Remember how parents used to complain that kids were always off in their rooms talking on the phone? Well, they’re not in their rooms anymore, and they’re not tying up the phone lines.

I fall squarely into the first group. I’m an extrovert with social anxiety – I crave human interaction, but am terrified of making first contact with strangers, or even those I don’t know well (and that includes extended family). Sharing things that I’d created – much like the kid in this video – was a way for me to break through that initial awkwardness and jumpstart interactions with people.

That’s one of the big reasons I’m a musician. Getting on stage and playing my songs is a way to connect with people I’d be otherwise terrified to go up and speak to.

Happy holidays, everyone… however you choose to participate in them!

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Artist Profile: Kristen Ford

Kristen FordArtist:
Kristen Ford

Sounds like:
A genre-bending songstress [ed. note: The term “songstress” always makes me want to ask people to refer to me as a “songster”] who deftly weaves her way though rock, reggae, soul and pop without breaking a sweat.

How I discovered:
in November of 2011, shortly after I moved to Asheville, Kristen came through town on tour with her friend Kara Kulpa. She played at the One Stop as part of the Brown Bag Songwriting competition, and I was immediately taken by her stage presence, great songs, casual confidence and occasional mid-song beatboxing. She was one of the finalists in the competition that night, you can check out video of part of that performance here:

I got a chance to chat with her afterwards, talking about how she put her whole tour together, and what it was like out on the road. I was so inspired that I went home that night and started planning my first tour!

Favorite tracks:
Bag of Bones
Ember Autumn
Love You Madly

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Influential Albums: The Dear Hunter – The Lake South, The River North

Influential Albums: The Dear Hunter – The Lake South, The River North – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

InfluentialAlbumsI already wrote about Casey Crescenzo’s previous band, The Receiving End Of Sirens, on one of my previous “Top 20 Albums” posts, and how the band went downhill after Crescenzo’s departure to focus on The Dear Hunter. While losing Casey may have spelled the end for TREOS, for him it was not the end of him creating fantastic, and for me, influential albums. In fact, Casey’s first full-length release with The Dear Hunter is an amazing, sweeping piece of work; a concept album from a concept band that manages to be high-minded, creative, and completely listenable.

From the opening track Battesimo del Fuoco (“Baptism of Fire”), it’s immediately obvious that you’re not going to be listening to your average “here’s a whole bunch of songs we wrote, in an order that sounded nice together” kind of album. It gives the impression of an overture, the prelude to a story, which indeed it is.

The Lake South, The River North is is the first “act” in the the story of the group’s titular character (The Dear Hunter) – his birth to a prostitute, his formative years, and his eventual departure from his hometown. The whole thing sounds on paper like it should reek of pretension, but the listening experience negates that impression; it’s a joy to listen to, even disregarding the storyline that ties it all together, and the unusual arrangements and subject matter still yield songs that can stand alone on their own merit.

The Dear Hunter’s use of unexpected rhythmical patterns, swung beats and unusual instrumentations have certainly had an influence on how I write songs, and the conceptual themes that run through this, and the rest of The Dear Hunter’s albums have reminded me that’s it’s possible to have put out records with strong concepts that don’t feel overworked and overblown. And I hadn’t realized it until now, but I think a little of “The Pimp & The Priest”s rhythm may have crept into the title track of my latest record, “A Failed Breakup“.

-MMcF
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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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Clan McFarland Profile: Mark Smith

Mark Smith1. What’s your name?
Mark Smith

2. Where do you live?
Akron, Ohio

3. When/where/how did you first hear Michael McFarland’s music?
Working on the film “How to Change the World” [Michael’s music is heavily featured in the film, which will be released soon!] / through Neil Weakland and Ian Kline

4. What’s your favorite Michael McFarland song and why?
Valentine” –  ’cause I’ve always been a better man, a better man than you think I am!

5. Have you ever seen Michael perform live? If so, when/where? 
3 times: Thursday’s in Akron May 2012, that coffee bar [Nervous Dog] in Stow August 2013, and Thursday’s 11/08/2013

6. What toppings would you like on your pizza? 
Pepperoni, anchovies, onions and green olives.

7. How many fingers am I holding up? 
13 [Impressive! 13 is my lucky number of fingers!]

8. Apart from Michael McFarland, who’s your favorite musician? 
Joe Jackson.

9. Rock, paper, or scissors? 
Paper!

Michael chose rock, and Mark is the victor! Michael needs to re-think his strategy…

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Tour Soundtracks: Music and Memory

Tour Soundtracks: Music and Memory – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

TourSoundtracksOne thing I love about music is how it can anchor memories. Just a few seconds of a song can trigger vivid memories for me, conjuring up images, places, and even scents. The beginning of the opening track to Summercamp Nightmare by 3 immediately takes me back to the summer after my sophomore year in college, sitting on the curb outside the Country Kitchen back in Kent, Ohio, the smell of clove smoke in the air. One of the greatest compliments I’ve had paid to my music is being told that one of my records was “the soundtrack to our road trip”.

The last two tours I’ve gone on had very distinct soundtracks for me. I did these tours on my motorcycle, with a bluetooth headset feeding GPS directions and Spotify playlists into my left ear. I started out with just a few albums on the playlist at the beginning of the first tour, and added to that playlist as I received suggestions or as the whim struck me.

You can check out the playlists for my Lighthouse tour and A Failed Breakup tour here:
#AFailedBreakupTour Playlist
#LighthouseTour Playlist

In about a week, I’ll be hitting the road for the third tour of this year – just a short one this time, five dates across Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio, and West Virginia, and I’m super excited to be joined by my good friend Salt (Check out his stuff here, as Skeleton In You) this time around.

Of course, this tour will need to have a soundtrack as well, and I’d like you to help me build it! So please, if you have any recommendations for music – new, old, whatever – that you think should be the soundtrack to this next tour, please let me know. Drop a comment below, or on my Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ pages, and help me create a new batch of memories!

-MMcF
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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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Top Alternative Albums: The Decemberists – The Crane Wife

Top Alternative Albums: The Decemberists – The Crane Wife – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

top alternative albums, the decemberists, the crane wifeThere are some groups that, on the whole, I’m a little underwhelmed with, but they have one album, usually right smack dab in the middle of their catalog, that’s absolutely fantastic. That’s the case, for me at least, with The Decemberists. I’m not over enamored with their early work – Castaways and Cutouts, Her Majesty The Decemberists, and Picaresque – and neither am I particularly fond of their more recent releases – The Hazards of Love, and The King is Dead – but The Crane Wife is a shining gem in the midst of their discography.

The Decemberists are a group that can easily come across as the smartest dude in the room who wants to be absolutely sure that everyone else knows exactly how intelligent he is; in other words, the person at the party I avoid at all costs. Lead singer/songwriter Colin Meloy (at various points) majored in English, Theatre, and Creative writing, and boy can you hear it in his songs. Either he has the most astounding vocabulary of any writer I know, or spends an overabundance of time with his thesaurus. I’ve often joked that I wish I were a member of The Decemberists so I could get away with rhyming “Peloponnesus” and “Telekinesis”.

On The Crane Wife, none of that verbal peacocking is at all diminished, nor is the melodramatic tone of the music at all tempered – I mean, Nikolai Vavilov, and the words “asteraceae” (that’s the family of flowers that includes the Daisy and Sunflower, in case you were wondering) and “solanum” (the genus of plants containing the Potato and Tomato) are used in successive lines in a song about storing food in preparation for war – but somehow, in this case, it just works. The musical underpinnings and melodies are so good, it makes it easy to forgive any pretensions, and Meloy’s voice, which on earlier releases was a bit harsh on the ears, here sounds fuller and less forced.

One thing I took from this album was the fact that acoustic recordings don’t have to sound mellow or restrained – and I think that definitely comes through on “Sit & Wait“, the opening track of my new CD. Jason Rubal, the producer I worked with on the new CD, also mentioned that the second verse of “Lighthouse“, the closing track of the EP, reminded him of the Decemberists. Check it out for yourself and let me know if you hear it too!

-MMcF
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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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Artist Profile: Sydney Sprague

Sydney Sprague, Singer-Songwriter, Austin TexasArtist:
Sydney Sprague

Sounds like:
A precise, bell-clear voice delivering catchy-yet-heartfelt lyrics without a shred of pretension.

How I discovered:
I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with her and Shane Hunt (who together now comprise 2/3 of The Skeleton Keys) in Austin, Texas. I loved her music and picked up a copy of her “Paper Crane” EP. While the whole record is fantastic, I was so taken by her song “Home”, it was on repeat for my next several days on the road, and just yesterday my beautiful bride walked down the aisle to this song. It also inspired me to write “‘Til I Get Back Home“, the bonus track to my latest record.

Favorite tracks:
Oh, My Aching Bones
Home

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Favorite Records: AFI – Sing the Sorrow

Favorite Records: AFI – Sing the Sorrow – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

favorite records, sing the sorrowIt may seem odd for someone whose primary instrument is an acoustic guitar, but I love big sounds. Massive percussion, huge group vocals, epic musical overtures, I’m a sucker for all of them. And when it comes to big sounds, AFI’s Sing the Sorrow album has them in spades, and that combined with amazing energy (which anyone whose spent time in a studio knows is difficult to capture in a recording) and some fantastic songwriting makes Sing the Sorrow easily one of my favorite records.

The goth-rockers had been around for a while before Sing the Sorrow (a good friend of mine had a mild obsession with their song “Morningstar” off of The Art of Drowning) at one point, but that was about all I knew of them. Then I recall hearing a DJ on a now-defunct Ohio alternative radio station mention that AFI had won some award for the song Girl’s Not Grey. I can’t for the life of me recall what the award was, and I’ve had absolutely no luck tracking that information down, but regardless, it gave me the push to check out their music a bit more. I picked up the CD at a now-defunct Ohio record store, and halfway through track one I was sold. “Miseria Cantare – The Beginning” is a huge, epic, shout-along track that sets the tone for the whole album.

One interesting point to note is that throughout Sing the Sorrow, even though I consider it to be one of my favorite records, I probably couldn’t tell you what the lyrics are to any song. I could give you a phonetic approximation, but Davey Havok’s occasionally mushmouthed delivery has led to a million misheard lyrics. In the parts where I’m left completely clueless, my mind usually concocts incredibly childish alternative words. I swear there are lyrics about “bags of pee and poo”, as well as one song were Davey repeatedly shouts, “I’m an asshole! I’m an asshole!”

Even though I make my music primarily with an acoustic guitar, I still try to work some of those “big” sounds I mentioned loving into my music. You can hear that in the percussion sounds of the opening track “Sit & Wait” off my latest record, and the layered vocals in the closing track “Lighthouse”.

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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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Clan McFarland Profile: Jenna Kizer

Jenna_Kizer1. What’s your name? Jenna Kizer

2. Where do you live? Tiffin, Oh

3. When/where/how did you first hear Michael McFarland’s music?
It was the winter of 2009, and I was visiting my best friend in Bowling Green. Her boyfriend at the time was playing at Howard’s Club. Michael was in a band called Aviatik then and his band was in the line up that night. I loved his style of music from the get-go and he’s been my friend ever since.

4. What’s your favorite Michael McFarland song and why?
At this moment, my favorite song is Bottle Rocket. Everyone has gone through something difficult in their life at some point and this song reminds me that none of us are alone and never will be. The past is the past and let’s live for the future.

5. Have you ever seen Michael perform live? If so, when/where? 
I’ve seen him twice. Once was the winter of 09 in Bowling Green, Ohio and the last time was 2012 I believe. Bowling Green again.

6. What toppings would you like on your pizza? 
Pineapple and pepperoni. Hands down.

7. What’s your favorite movie? 
I have many. But my favorite of all time is Boondock Saints.

8. How many fingers am I holding up? 
2 [Correct! But was it a peace sign or devil horns?]

9. Apart from Michael McFarland, who’s your favorite musician? 
Ron Pope.

10. Rock, paper, or scissors? 
Rock, baby, rock!

Michael also chose rock. RE-MATCH!

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Best Rock Albums: Foo Fighters – The Colour & The Shape

Best Rock Albums: Foo Fighters – The Colour & The Shape – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

"best rock albums" "foo fighters" "the colour and the shape"

From the fact that I’m writing a series blogs about my favorite albums, you can guess that I’m a fan of the concept of an “album” – a collection of songs that are put together in a specific way, that flow from song to song and take you on a journey. The Colour & The Shape by the Foo Fighters, which I consider to be one of the best rock albums of all time, is an example of how overplaying single songs on the radio can detract from a flawless album.

A few months after The Colour & The Shape was released, “My Hero”, which I believe was the third single, after “Monkeywrench” and “Everlong”, went into heavy rotation on 107.9 The End, the still-lamented Cleveland alternative radio station. When I say heavy rotation, understand that I’m referring to the “that song was cool the first 200 times I heard it, but now I want to rip out my car stereo every time it comes on” type of heavy rotation.

I didn’t pick up The Colour & The Shape until a few years after the overplaying (and 107.9 The End’s existence) had ceased, but even now, over a decade later, I still sigh a little bit when “My Hero” starts up, halfway through this forty-six minutes of rock & roll perfection. And that’s a damn shame.

Fortunately, even that can’t overcome how great this record is.

One thing that I took away from The Colour & The Shape, when it comes to my own music, is the way it rises and falls, but never loses its cohesion. I frequently have to remind myself that just because I like loud songs, doesn’t mean that I should be loud all the time. Dave Grohl’s written some of the greatest loud songs of all time (the end of the bridge of Monkey Wrench comes to mind), but the loud tracks are given breathing room by songs like Walking After You, which I would contend is one of the greatest love songs ever written.

That kind of rise and fall is something I feel like I’ve managed to capture, albeit in about half the time, on my latest EP “A Failed Breakup“. And I’m pretty happy about that.

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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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Favorite CDs: Receiving End of Sirens–Between The Heart & The Synapse

Favorite CDs: Receiving End of Sirens–Between The Heart & The Synapse – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

favorite cds, the receiving end of sirens, between the heart and the synapseThe Receiving End of Sirens are one of those groups that were amazing for one album, mediocre for the next, and then went away. I was first introduced to The Receiving End of Sirens through MTVU my senior – or perhaps more appropriately fourth – year of design school. The single “Planning A Prison Break” didn’t actually make a big impression on me at first, but I had a tendency to let the music videos roll in the background while I was working; I’ve discovered that having a narrative visual distraction while I’m working is actually helpful, as it disconnects that portion of my brain and stops my mind from wandering overmuch. After the 30th time around, I found myself singing “Warden’s calling for a lockdown, baby…” as I walked across campus, and soon discovered I had other friends doing the same. So I picked up the record.

This is one of those albums where the songs all blur together into one, big ongoing composition, and I believe that was intentional – there are melodic threads that wind their way through the entire record, reappearing multiple times, binding the whole thing into one big hour-long composition. While the progressive post-punk compositions can seem a little samey, in this case it doesn’t bother me at all. The three vocalists provide intricate interwoven melodies, counter-melodies and harmonies, with Casey Crescenzo’s earthy bellows and screams stealing the show.

For my money, it was Casey’s departure from the group to focus on his project The Dear Hunter that led to the downturn in the quality of TREOS’s music, an their eventual breakup. But Between The Heart And The Synapse still stands as easily one of my favorite CDs, and one that’s well worth taking an hour to listen to.

One way you can see The Receiving End Of Sirens’ influence on my music is that I always try to make my records to be cohesive whole – in the case of my most recent release, “A Failed Breakup“, I chose the set of songs based on the story they told – that of my loneliness upon moving to Asheville, North Carolina, and how that led to reconnecting with the girl I’d left behind in Ohio.

-MMcF
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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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Favorite Albums: Jimmy Eat World – Clarity

Favorite Albums: Jimmy Eat World – Clarity – From The Mind of McFarland music blog.

Jimmy Eat World, ClarityThere have been a few times where I’ve happened across a record that has some element that affects me so profoundly, I find myself attempting over and over to emulate it. The ending of Clarity by Jimmy Eat World, easily one of my favorite albums, is a perfect example of this.

The final track of Clarity, an album which is widely considered a landmark in the post-punk (call it “emo” if you’d like) genre, is called Goodbye Sky Harbor, a title whose meaning I only understood while driving into Phoenix, AZ on tour last year, and seeing the signs for Sky Harbor airport. Jimmy Eat World are from Mesa, AZ, which, from an outsider’s perspective, is the same city as Phoenix, Glendale, Scottsdale, Gilbert, or Chandler… which I’m sure is heresy to a local! Regardless, the realization that “Goodbye Sky Harbor” meant getting on a plane and leaving your hometown was one of those “aha!” moments. But I digress.

Goodbye Sky Harbor is sixteen minutes and twelve second long – a track length which, unless you’re Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or another group that makes habits of painting extended musical pictures, sounds absurdly self-indulgent, but here it works, because of the structure: Two minutes of tightly arranged, emo-pop songwriting – par for Jimmy Eat World’s course – followed by a long, flowing, slowly shifting set of looping parts. It eventually meanders its way into a spacey techno beat, which I swear is the inspiration for every Postal Service song.

I first heard this record when I was 17, and from that point onward, I tried to make sure that every release I put out had a sense of finality in its closing.

On my latest record, “A Failed Breakup“, you can see that same desire for a sense of closure, and even a little bit of that first movement/extended second movement structure in the closing track “Lighthouse”.

-MMcF

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Unleaded rhythmic alt-pop fuels singer/songwriter and two-wheel troubadour Michael McFarland’s engine. Michael McFarland in the simplest summary? Writer, Rocker, Biker, Geek.

For Michael’s Music, Cd’s, Downloads, Merchandise, live show schedule, music blogs, music videos, and everything else you want to know about McFarland, visit the Michael McFarland Website at http://michaelmcfmusic.com/

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