Wednesday, January 28, 2009

photos: Portfolio Update!

Hi all — just updated my photography portfolio slideshow HERE.

Feedback is always welcome. Be well.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

review: Matt & Kim - "Grand"


When Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino met in 2002, they hit it off and started dating. Two years later, the skinny art-school couple from New York decided to start making beautiful music together — literally. Forget that they didn’t know how to play their instruments at the time, or that they don’t really know why they decided to do it. It was a fantastic choice, and Grand is the proof.

The sophomore album, recorded in Johnson’s parents’ home in an isolated stretch of Vermont countryside, is a testament to the duo’s dedication. The fact that the whole record was recorded by the duo over a nine-month span — from laying the tracks to mixing and producing — speaks wonders for both their dedication and the absolute realization of their vision.

Lyrically, the songwriting process is one that sounds utterly insane but somehow manages to create brilliance: Kim writes random lines of text, and Matt sifts through them until he can assemble something meaningful. The compilations always feel perfect, even if seeming to border on nonsensical.

But that’s not to say they’re not trying to say anything; the metaphor-rich album hosts more than a couple of gems, like, “Pull out all the stops/We’re coming home tonight/A pair of old boxing gloves in a new fight/Where every single scar/Well it means something to me.”

Poppy treble notes and metered bass notes drop into Johnson’s vocals and Schifino’s catchy drums on “Daylight,” Grand’s first track and it’s catchiest. Throughout the album he handles keys and vocals, alternately substituting a heavy left hand for an active right hand, and she drums and chips in with background vocals and harmonies.

While Johnson creates some addicting candy-coated indie melodies, it’s just as easy to be struck by Schifino’s drum work. The rhythms are often seemingly simple but expertly placed, and the organic clap-and-snap recordings underscored with hi-hat clang sound far more expert than amateur.

Third track “Good Old Fashioned Nightmare” is another genius work of pop music, with keyboard melodies that flow over a thumping bass drum. “I Wanna” appears just two songs later, a hard and fast powerpop contrast to some of the less aggressive tracks on the album.

And though Grand clocks in at a hair less than 30 minutes, the short span doesn’t reflect a lack in substance; instead, the album’s 11 tracks just get played twice as often.

Want to hear those 11, plus a whole slew of others from their debut album? Drop by Chop Suey on Dec. 29 for one of the best shows $10 can get you into.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

photos: "Back in the Game" at Key Arena

After a less-than-impressive first half, the Seattle Universtiy Redhawks snatched a 49-39 victory in a defensive game against the Loyola-Marymount Lions at Key Arena. The game was a milestone for a "rebuilding" program that recently re-entered the Division I league, and led the way to negotiations for a long-term lease of the arena for the 2009-2010 season.

It was fascinating for me to shoot court side at the Key; it wasn't a Sonics game, and the stadium was holding less than 5,000 fans, but I was shooting on professional hardwood and that in itself was exciting. I also had the chance to experiment with telephoto lenses — though I relied mostly on my trusty f/2.8 70-200mm — which provided me with some important knowledge.

Monday, January 19, 2009

photos: Behind the Scenes with SU Cheer

When Seattle University scheduled their basketball game with Loyola-Marymount on January 1, the venue was as symbolic as the date: Key Arena. As exciting as the milestone game was for the team and alumni, it was equally as exciting for the cheerleaders; the television cameras and large crowd alone were a source of constant giddiness. These photos focus on their preparation and makeup, for which the team brought in MAC makeup artists.

Though it was a long, tiring day — 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. shortly following New Year's Eve festivities — it was extremely fun to be a feature photographer roaming freely behind the scenes. I was able to capture moments and experiment with angles and lighting and subjects that I hadn't previously had the opportunity or ability to do.

Monday, January 12, 2009

review: The Whore Moans - "Welcome to Radio Wasteland!"


A band name as blatantly punk-rawk as this seems as though it should’ve been captured a decade or two prior, but local favorite The Whore Moans have it, and they’re not letting go.

Though the band even goes so far to bill themselves as “dirty smut-rock” and “aggressive-trashy,” thinking of the Whore Moans as just a punk band would be unfair, as sophomore album Hello from Radio Wasteland! demonstrates. Though they clearly come from a skuzzy foundation, the new record builds on the grit of 2006 debut Watch Out For This Thing and manages to capture most of the band’s copious amounts of energy.

Drawing on old-school punk, 80s metal and 90s post-hardcore, the Whore Moans thrive on stripped-rough vocals and driving bass overlaid with powerfully-picked guitar riffs. Second track “The Holy Fucking Moment” is a prime example, swelling and ebbing with sound waves and lyrics that threaten (literally and figuratively) to tear you apart.

Opening track “Nerve Tonic!” kicks off the LP systematically adding in each element — first Nikki O. and Jonny Henningson’s guitars, then Ryan Devlin’s bass, then Jason Kilgore’s drums — then base-jumping into an ecstasy of punk.

There are other epic moments, like the shrieking verses of “Wall of a Song” and the moving acoustic ballad “Before the Frost” that appear unexpectedly in an exciting way. Pop elements, “oohs and ahhs,” hand claps and harmonies appear intermittently, only adding to the diversity that the band can incorporate under the punk moniker.

“Here Comes America,” like most of the other tracks, opens with a blast of distorted guitar and carries into power chords and lyrics like “Here comes America/boys what do you say/And the old man preaching/on the corner/got a sign that say the end is/coming soon.” It’s old school form punk, modded and prodded into gritty rock ‘n’ roll at it’s finest.

Hello From Radio Wasteland, though not officially released until January 27, is currently available at Capitol Hill’s Sonic Boom Records and Queen Anne/West Seattle’s Easy Street Records. Repeat: you can buy it now. And you should.

And, for the fortunate 21+ crowd, you can catch the album release show on Jan. 22 at Neumos (with Cute Lepers, The Hands and The Ironclads). As Jonny wrote on the band’s MySpace: “This show will go down in Whore Moans history. Someone might die, a baby might be born, a dragon may very well penetrate the fragile membrane separating fantasy from reality [and] lay an egg with a shell made of gold and a beautiful angel burning with lust might just be born from said egg.”

Needless to say, you want to be there.

Monday, January 5, 2009

feature and photos: Horizontally Integrated

UW senior unites one person at a time
Veiw a slideshow of the studio session with Jack Newman and Andrew Vait.

From the sidewalk, this particular Brooklyn Avenue two-story doesn't look particularly special. It's indistinguishable in most ways from the houses to its right and left, just another University District home in a youth inhabited area.

But the treasures concealed in its basement set this particular home apart from its neighbors: a collection of turntables, mixing boards and musical instruments lie on tables in the studio of Jack Newman and home of his Unite-One Productions.

Newman spent his early teen years spitting rhymes and sitting in on hip-hop recording sessions with the likes of Hieroglyphics and Living Legends. From those sessions, he took away an important lesson: It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, or what type of music you make, as long as your skills are sharp and your movement’s fresh. The young white boy with an interest in hip-hop and a background in jazz would eventually morph his interests into a love affair with reggae. The potential was endless.

Now, Newman plays guitar and trumpet, sings and produces across multiple genres. Last year, he released the Evergreen Organics LP, a first attempt to “test the waters” and learn exactly what it takes to put out an album. And everything on the album carries the message: Unite one.

“This production, in the name itself, embodies a theme of horizontal integration where the next person counts as much as the entire world,” he said. “I’m just uniting one person at a time, pairing conscious thought with method. I want people to feel the opposite of apathy.”

In reality, it’s all a big project in fusion: the blend of his Bay Area upbringing and college experience in Seattle, the meshing of multicultural genres, and the progression of socially relevant ideas across boundaries of race, income and education.

“Music is a great outlet,” Newman said. “It breaks down barriers. Through music you can love me, and yourself, and everything in your life. This is just my attempt to bridge society’s gaps through music.”

The influence of Seattle and a university community played heavily into Newman’s creations; in fact, he credits UW Professor Joel Migdal with inspiring his consciousness. While in Migdal’s International Studies 201 course titled “The Making of the 21st Century” about the shaping of our interdependent, fragmented, and fractious world. The class instigated an awakening within Newman that led to the song “INT. Related” and went on to shape the development of Unite-One.

“I felt the love from this university environment, this instantaneous love,” he said. “That lives on in eternity. We have so many resources — how could you not do anything and everything you could ever want to?” Newman said. “There’s nothing holding you back. There’s just no stopping.”

Newman is all about collaboration and innovation, and in keeping with his mission almost all of his connections come from within the university community. Those connections are widespread and exciting for both Newman and Unite-One, combining to create a diverse portfolio of work. He's teamed up for projects with cinematographer Harrison Shoff, graphic designer Jeremy Juel, vocalist Maddy Shaw, DJ Aerel Rankin and skateboarder Jordan Roper.

One of his most exciting collaborations has come while producing multi-instrumentalist Andrew Vait. Currently, Vait is working on an EP to be touted to successful Northwest record labels like Barsuk and Sub Pop.

Most recently, Newman has continued to experiment, “taking the best part of every sound,” including a stint as lead trumpet and backup vocalist with free-flowing funk outfit Pink Carpet and collaboration with hip-hop artist and poet Jeffon aka The Essence.

Newman’s social consciousness has even expanded outside of music and artistic production. In 2008, he formed the group “Students for Green Development and Sustainable Practices,” combining his awareness with his Construction Management studies to create a forum for UW students who want to be successful in their focus on environmentally friendly development.

Though there’s a lot on his plate, Newman recognizes that he has to achieve his goals as a student first. He might take a break after he graduates to travel — his eyes are set on Norway, Portugal, Brazil and Thailand — but in the artist’s own words, “you can’t just end the music.”