Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content marketer, bestselling author

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Tagged music

Green Day’s “Basket Case” is the greatest punk song of all-time

While driving home recently, Basket Case started playing on the radio. Within seconds, my wife, oldest daughter, and I all started singing in unison and rocking out to this remarkable, upbeat, and absolutely perfect punk song.

Written by a 21-year old Billy Joe Armstrong, the three minute track sounds like it’s on speed. It has six breakdowns, numerous chord changes, and amazing melodies. I adore it.

In fact, this was the song that inspired me to learn guitar. Although I had picked up a few open chords before, I was determined to learn this song in its entirety. And with the help of barre chords, I quickly did and never looked back.

So there you have it: the greatest punk song ever that inspired a 15-year old me to learn guitar and eventually write songs for myself. Thank you, Green Day.

SAVE THE DATE: My band is playing a free outdoor music fest on June 12

My band Super Cover is playing a free, live outdoor music fest on June 12, 5:00 PM, at the Cranberry Farms Clubhouse in Lehi. There will be food trucks, free prizes, games for kids, and three rocking bands. Show starts at 5:00. We go on at 6:00. See our last concert here

Please bring your family and friends. It’s gonna be an awesome night. 🤘

PS—If you can’t make this performance, please join us for our 80’s only show on June 26, 7:30 at Platinum Music in Provo. 

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Musicians are in peril, at the mercy of giant monopolies that profit off their work

This is a great read by American Prospect on the decline of middle-class musicians who can no longer make a living.

From the article: “Spotify also pays out absurdly low per-stream rates, though not as bad as YouTube. ‘Last year, the COVID year, Galaxie 500 had 8.5 million streams on Spotify,’ Damon Krukowski explained. ‘We also released a 2,000-copy, limited-edition LP. They raised the same amount of money. Neither is enough to live on.’ Krukowski calculated that to earn the equivalent of a $15-an-hour living wage, a band would have to get 650,000 streams per month per band member.”

This is sad news without a clear remedy.

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Here’s why I’m over the moon for my band

Courtesy Lindsey Snow

I’m about to try eyeliner for the first time in my entire life this week. Let that sink in for a moment.

Me, a middle-aged, married, father of five, and full-time writer from in suburbia is about to apply smokey, rock star, “guy liner” in an effort to boost my stage presence this Friday, which by the way, I don’t get paid for.

Why am I doing this? Because I love music. I love listening to it, creating it, playing it, and performing it. More specifically, I love Super Cover, the “new wave, dance rock” cover band I co-founded in quarantine, and which I’ve sung in almost every week for the last year.

Because of this band, I’ve thought more about what makes a song dance or strut than I ever thought possible. I’ve agonized over setlists. I bought a sequin shirt on Amazon. I’ve invested more in musical gear than ever before. I borderline obsess over it.

Last week, I woke up in the middle of the night with the following thought: “We’ve never played a show outside before like we will next week. What are we going to do to make sure it sounds good?” I couldn’t go back to sleep until researching outdoor sound tips for two hours.

While I’ve played in a half dozen bands before, all of which were in high school and college, Super Cover is different. Here’s why: Continue reading…

I permanently damaged my ears making music, but the reason they ring is beautiful.

Last year while recording Mr. Mustache, my debut album produced in quarantine, I permanently damaged both of my inner ears. While making the record, I listened to my headphones at volume 8-9 for four straight months. Every day. My ears have been ringing ever since.

Near the end of the recording process, the high pitched “tinging” started. I had also started playing in a live band then but wore ear plugs without realizing that I was letting the problem in the backdoor at the same time.

I read up on the ringing, and after speaking with two permanent “patients,” it was obvious I was suffering from either temporary or permanent tinnitus (pronounced tin-uh-tis). Time was the only way to tell which version I had. All the medical literature says if the ringing stops after 2-4 weeks, the ear cells were able to heal themselves and you’re good to go. If they don’t, the ringing will never go away, according to the latest research. Mine never did.

Obviously, permanent tinnitus, especially in both ears, is an incessant annoyance. But I’ve adapted well. And I’m grateful my ears alerted me to the issue before I was made deaf by music, as the tragic but still hopeful Sound of Metal movie so beautiful demonstrates.

What’s more, I haven’t suffered any noticeable hearing loss beyond maybe 5% clarity. Over my ringing ears, I can still hear the soft breathing of my wife lying in bed next to me or even distant sounds. Although the ringing hasn’t gone away in nearly a year, my hearing remains largely intact.

There’s a very specific reason for that. The ringing is by design! The way it was explained to me, ringing ears are like the hissing you hear on a radio while changing the station in search of something new. Similarly, ear cells change their frequencies, if you will, to make up for the loss of damaged cells. The living cells actually re-tune themselves (or ring) in an effort to listen more acutely with the remaining cells at their disposal. Magic I tell ya!

While I wish I never harmed my ears like I did, I often feel gratitude whenever I notice the ringing. It’s proof that my body and maker (be that God or evolutionary biology) care for me more than I car for myself sometimes. Isn’t that comforting?

TL;DR: Don’t blow out your ears, wear protection, and be grateful for how the human body adapts to survive.

I should have been a Daft Punk

blake-snow-daft-punk

Hac Tran

While working onsite with a client last week, I met an Englishman that shared my love of music. At some point we diverged into a discussion on the merits of Daft Punk — his favorite band — and where their latest album went wrong. We both agreed that Random Access Memories was better produced than it was written; Discovery was “bloody brilliant;” and their soundtrack to Tron: Legacy was their second best work to date.

As I was about to leave, my new friend excitedly announced, “I have something to show you!” He left the room, then returned with a custom, LED-lit Thomas Bangalter mask. “May I?” said I, giddy at the prospect. “Of course,” he replied. I put it on, struck a pose, then took several snapshots for posterity’s sake before bidding him farewell.

What’s funny is this Englishman had just traveled 6,000 miles from his office in Munich for weeklong meetings with “corporate” in Los Angeles. While most people scramble for chargers and underwear the night before travel, I laughed at the thought of this kindly bloke deciding to bring his shiny keepsake along for the journey. “Ah, yes! Mustn’t forget my smashing mask.”

That’s a fan. Thanks for the memories, Daft Punk.

First published on November 6, 2013

The Mad Genius of Eddie Van Halen

The Atlantic on the death of Eddie Van Halen: “How do we categorize his music? Soft hard rock. Light heavy metal… In the end, they were crossover artists. Beloved of girls, beloved of boys, with Eddie always, always taking it beyond. The far brought near. Excess without vulgarity. America, don’t forget how beautiful you are; you created the conditions for Eddie Van Halen.”

NEW MUSIC: My favorite albums of the year

Like 2020 in general, music this year has been both good and bad. It hasn’t been the best since both releases and events are at all-time lows. But there’s been some really good stuff from the little that has been released. Pending any surprise release this winter, these are my favorite albums so far this year:

  1. The Killers, Imploding the Mirage. From front to back, this is a really well written, produced, and performed batch of 10 brilliant songs. Favorite song: Dying Breed
  2. Weeknd, After Hours (Clean). Because I listen to music with my kids and already have enough explicit content in my life, I really like the clean version of Weeknd’s latest album. I think it might be his best yet, even though it’s a slight departure from his previous EDM like production. Favorite song: Scared to Live
  3. Tame Impala, The Slow Rush. Is an okay Tame Impala album better than the best of the rest? If you’re a musical genius like Kevin Parker, the answer is yes. While not as masterful as his previous albums, especially currents, it’s still a good listen with a handful of really strong songs. Favorite song: On Track
  4. The Academic, Acting My Age. I cheated on this because it’s really an EP instead of full-length album, but the included six songs are deliciously fun, catchy, and unabashedly youthful. Favorite Song: Anything Could Happen
  5. Haim, Women in Music Pt. III. This is Haim’s best album to date, in my opinion. Delightful, poppy, foot-tappingly good production. Favorite song: Another Try

HONORABLE MENTION: Mr. Mustache by yours truly. I think it’s the best album by an unsigned artist this year, and not far off from sounding, acting, and producing something you’d expect from a professional team of musicians and producers. Now streaming on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube Music, Amazon and more. Favorite song: Shrug. I hope you enjoy it.

Surplus of time, lack of distractions lead to record guitar sales this year

Two weeks after lockdown began this spring, I went to Guitar Center to pickup some gear for my new album. The place was packed. “It’s been Black Friday every day for the past two weeks,” one clerk told me.

Turns out, the sudden spike in homemade music has remained ever since. Gibson, Fender, and others have already broken record sales this year. One guitar maker sold in June and July what they expected to sell for the entire year!

According to the New York Times, “In a narrow sense, the surge made sense. Prospective players who had never quite found the time to take up an instrument suddenly had little excuse not to. As James Curleigh, the chief executive of Gibson Brands, put it: “In a world of digital acceleration, time is always your enemy. All of a sudden time became your friend.””

That was certainly the case for me. My work slowed, and I didn’t watch any Netflix or read any books during the first five months of quarantine. Instead, I spent all of my spare time making music, which resulted in my debut record and forming my first band since college.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when time slows, whether by design or by pandemic.

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Recording artist profile: Blake Snow

When a friend recently asked Blake Snow if he was quitting his day job to become a full-time musician, he answered “No.” But that doesn’t mean his debut album, Mr. Mustache, is a joke or something not worth supporting (or even touring). “It’s a synth-laden rock record that I take very seriously,” Snow says.

Written, recorded, and produced entirely in quarantine, Mr. Mustache is the public culmination of more than 25 years of homegrown songwriting, recording, and performing. “I wouldn’t say this record saved my life, but it definitely saved my sanity during lockdown,” Snow says. “I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I had making it.”

Standout tracks include the lead single, Turn A Corner, the moody Control What You Can, the playful Mr. Mustache, and Snow’s personal favorite, Shrug, which also happens to be his go-to coping mechanism for the current madness.

Listen to the full-length album now on:

Top 10 facts about my debut record

Photo by my son, Max Snow

My first album, Mr. Mustache, was released on all major music stores today. I’m proud and excited to share recording with the world. Here are 10 things you should know:

  1. It’s streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music and more. Additionally you can purchase the album for download from iTunes or Amazon. I get like .00000001 of a penny every time you do.
  2. With exception to one song (“Show Me,” co-written by friend Chris Morell), the entire album was written, recorded, produced, mixed, and mastered by me in my home office. I even did the cover art.
  3. I wrote and recorded 18 songs for the album, but shelved five and will re-record the sixth for a later release. The album was recorded in Garage Band on my Mac mini and distributed by Amuse.
  4. The record is 41 minutes long, which is the age I turned while finishing the record.
  5. It was produced entirely in quarantine. Although unwanted, “The Great Shutdown” proved to be the most musically inspiring event of my life so far.
  6. It took four months to complete, from pre-production songwriting and arranging, to recording and performing, and ultimately mixing and mastering.
  7. Not since college have I played this much music. Never in my life have I written this much music. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to make noise while the world sorts itself out.
  8. There are six synth pop songs on the 12 track record, plus two rock songs, two pop punk songs, and two ballads.
  9. My friend recently asked if I was quitting writing to become a full-time musician. I replied, “No,” but I plan to release several more albums in my spare time now as an unsigned artist.
  10. You can ask Alexa, OK Google, or Siri to “Play the latest Album by Blake Snow” and they will. Neat!

After my family played the record for this first time this morning, my wife asked in earnest, “Will you cut your mustache now?” I said, “Yes.” But only after my album release party tomorrow!

Thanks for listening and sharing with anyone who might like it.

PS—If you would review the album on your favorite music service, it would really help it reach more people. Thank you.

My new song was recording magic. I hope you like it.

I was a mess the first two weeks of quarantine. My wife of 17 years said she had never seen me so stressed.

What did I do to cope?

I started writing music at a frantic pace and recorded 18 original songs in the first three months of shutdown. Twelve of those songs made it on my debut album that’s available for streaming and download on August 20.

One of the songs that really help me move from stress to at least some kind of clarity was called “Control What You Can.” With exception to the bridge, it ‘s only two chords and it has an uneasy feeling, the same feeling most of us felt when the world changed.

But in spite of the uneasy sound, I wrote the encouraging lyrics for myself, pleading to “control what I could” when there was so much I couldn’t control. It was a wonderful realization that help me turn a corner; from stress into action.

When I went to record the song, it was late at night. With my floor lamp and headphones on, I spent several hours on the production and immediately knew I had captured a special sound, arguably the most professional track on the the entire album. By the end, I recorded a simple but righteous guitar solo and sung my heart out during an extended outro.

This is that song. It’s pretty moody. And although the music doesn’t sound very uplifting, the lyrics completely are, which is a juxtaposition that I really like and hope you do to.

CANCELLED: My cover band is playing a free outdoor show in Provo on Sep. 12

SHOW CANCELLED: Due to drummer issues 😔, our band won’t be playing this weekend. I hope to announce a rescheduled date later this fall. Thanks for your support. 💪

Music has been good to me in quarantine.

In addition to recording an album, I started a cover band with three local musicians.

We call ourselves “Super Cover” and play energetic, dance rock songs that’ll make you want to sing. As you can see, Ashton Bennet rips on guitar. Caleb Browning destroys the bass and backing vocals. Jayce Ward keeps perfect time on drums. And I sing while playing a mean tambourine sometimes.

Our first all-ages show is Saturday, September 12 on the outdoor stage at the Provo Riverwoods Mall. We plan on playing from 7:30–9:00 pm. Our setlist includes bangers from The Black Keys, Fitz & The Tantrums, Muse, MGMT, Phoenix, Tame Impala, Grouplove, and Awolnation among others, not to mention a couple of ’80s surprises.

Hope to see you there. 🤘

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My first album will release August 20 on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and more!

I’m incredibly proud of the album and what it did for me during quarantine. I hope you mark your calendars and enjoy as many songs as possible. Here is the track listing:

  1. Under Quarantine
  2. Turn A Corner
  3. Shrug
  4. Show Me
  5. Control What You Can
  6. Mr. Mustache
  7. No Longer The Same
  8. Victim
  9. Bad Friends
  10. Time Isn’t Money
  11. Going Up
  12. Minuteman

Thanks for giving it a chance. I know it seems weird to have a writer release an album, but I hope you take it as serious as I have. I think you’ll find there are some redeeming, heartfelt songs inside.

I’m releasing my first album this summer—here is the cover and lead single

Like many of you reading this, the last four months have been the most eventful, strangest, and unsettling spring of my life. But it’s also been one of the best (i.e. bonding with family, completing my second book, starting a band).

In that time, I also wrote, produced, sung, and recorded 16 original songs. I just finished the last one this week and just need to make some finishing touches and final mastering before independently releasing the album to Spotify, Apple, and Amazon Music in the coming weeks.

I’m incredibly proud of the result and grateful for it helping me to cope with this fearful new, but still incredibly beautiful world. I can’t wait for you to hear the whole thing.

Until then, here is the “lead single” entitled Turn A Corner.

Surprising news: Tambourines are in 50% of popular music (including punk rock)

With little else to do in quarantine, I’ve been making a lot of music over the last four months. I’ve recorded an album’s worth of original material, which I hope to release this summer, and started rehearsing with a live cover band—a rock quartet comprised of me singing, Ashton Bennett melting faces on guitar, Caleb Browning rocking a ridiculous amount of bass and backing vocals, and Jayce Ward not missing a beat on drums. (video evidence here)

Though both experiences, I’ve learned two important lessons:

  1. I love making music. I learned guitar and started singing in middle school and played in several bands through college. But with notable exception to listening to lots of new music, I largely quit making it after marrying, having children, and taking up writing. Quarantine changed all of that for the better. It’s a wonderful feeling to make harmonious noise while the world slowly sorts itself out.
  2. Tambourines are in over 50% of popular music. While recording, studying, and performing more live music than ever before, I’ve been immediately struck by the amount of tambourines used in recorded music (at least the kind of pop and rock that I mostly listen to), and how much better they make live music sound. I realize tambourines are the ugly stepchild of music, but let me explain why they’re used more than even synthesizers when it comes to making popular music.

Continue reading…

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The first music I bought as a 10 year old

I was raised on Beach Boys, Beatles, ABBA, Led Zeppelin, and ’80s soft rock hits in that order. My father largely exposed me to the first three. My older sister Cami to Zeppelin. And my mother to the latter.

But it wasn’t until the spring of 1990, at the ripe age of 10, that I thought to myself, “I love this song, and I need to spend money on it to start my own music collection.”

The song was Technotronic’s “Pump Up The Jam,” which is a tasty mix of both hip-hop and house music. So on a visit to an Oklahoman Walmart with my mother, I forked over what I remember being around $8 for the album on cassette. I listened to that thing constantly while pretending to be Michael Jordan with my over the door basketball hoop.

Later that year, I was mesmerized by Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” so I bought and devoured that album on cassette too. I don’t remember the third album I bought, but I remember borrowing and adoring my sister Summer’s Nirvana Nevermind CD on the regular.

From there my musical tastes traveled far and wide. With exception to select Nine In Nails songs, there are only two genres that I actively dislike: industrial and death metal. Everything else is fair game.

Readers: What was the first piece of music you bought for yourself?

Why you should listen to Charley Pride, even if you don’t like country music

During the Great Depression, a man named Charley Pride was born in Mississippi as one of 11 children to his sharecropping parents. The year he was born, The Dust Bowl would ravage 300 million American acres, forcing hundreds of thousands of migrants to California in search of income.

As a boy, Pride was introduced to country music by his father and later learned guitar. Though he loved music, he dreamed of playing professional baseball, which he successfully did for much of his 20s in both Negro and minor leagues. After being cut by the Cincinnati Reds farm team in Missoula, Montana, Pride worked in construction and a metal factory for many years. He also played semi-pro ball on the side and made double his salary by singing to the crowd before games. Years later he cut a demo at the famous Sun Studio in Memphis, the same recording studio that put Elvis on the map. Sometime later, country superstar Chet Atkins heard the demo and signed him to a contract. With over 30 number one hits, he would become the second most successful RCA musician in history (after Elvis).

But fame quickly forced him to confront his outsider status. This is how he confronted it, according to Wikipedia. “In the late summer of 1966, on the strength of his early releases, Pride was booked for his first large show, in Detroit’s Olympia Stadium. Since no biographical information had been included with his songs, few of the 10,000 country fans who came to the show knew Pride was black, and only discovered the fact when he walked onto the stage, at which point the applause trickled off to silence. “I knew I’d have to get it over with sooner or later,” Pride later remembered. “I told the audience: ‘Friends, I realize it’s a little unique, me coming out here—with a permanent suntan—to sing country and western to you. But that’s the way it is.’ ”

I love that quote as much as I love Pride’s music and character. This is my favorite song of his.

No going back? 5 ways I like “new normal”

There are a lot of things I miss since coronavirus scared, scarred, and upended the world.

I miss the large number of people I used to freely associate with. I miss seeing the bottom half of people’s faces. I miss the wonderful customer service we used to receive from restaurants and other stores. I miss a normal workload.

I miss live events, especially sports, music, and movie theaters. I miss roaming about my city, country, and world in what was surely the heyday of global travel. I miss knowing that I could shake hands or high-five anyone I encountered. I miss the trust we used to have in immune systems, the ones that largely kept our species alive for hundreds of thousands of years.

But mostly, I miss being treated like a trustworthy human instead of a disease-carrying leper that should be avoided. That’s a gross feeling to confront on a near daily basis.

That said, I couldn’t have stomached and mostly thrived over the last three months had it not been for the following: Continue reading…

What I learned after re-listening to The Beatles entire catalog this weekend

Courtesy Shutterstock

Because I have a lot of extra free time in a partially paused world, I decided to re-listen to the entire Beatles catalog this weekend (well over 10 hours worth!) to determine my favorite albums.

Although I regularly feasted on The Fab Four in high school, college, and into my late twenties, I haven’t listened to their music much in the last decade. Not that I no longer like or respect it. Only that I probably overplayed it to the point of boredom.

After my weekend binge, however, I reconfirmed my belief that The Beatles are the greatest pop band ever—ahead of only Elvis and Michael Jackson in terms of the shear number of songs I enjoy. Either way, this is what I learned from my quarantine experiment: Continue reading…

No joke: 5 ways coronavirus changed my life for the better

I wish coronavirus never happened. Given its uncertainty, I also wish society would have partially distanced like Sweden did instead of hitting the giant “off” switch on social life or “save hospital capacities at all costs” approach the rest of us took.

It’s a fearful world we live in.

That said, I’ve been able to take the lemons, if you will, to make some sweet lemonade recently. Although I was an angry, stressed-out wreck the first two weeks of quarantine, I’ve been able to transition to first coping and eventually thriving over the last month.

Here’s how the unwelcome outbreak and draconian quarantine have actually changed my life for the better: Continue reading…

Music I’ve recorded for friends

With a lot fewer distractions in quarantine, I’ve recorded more music in the last two weeks than I have in years. I even started playing with a local guitarist in the hopes of starting a band. 🤘

Until then, I wanted to share some of the things I’ve recorded recently, in addition to some of my all-time favorite recordings. They are as follows (click to play):

  1. “Girlfriends” (The Academic cover). I love this pop song and just had to record it. I sang and played the guitars and tambourine.
  2. “Another One” (Mac DeMarco cover). I ripped the piano chords from YouTube and sung the lyrics to one of my favorite songs written by my new favorite artist.
  3. “Internet” (Post Malone cover). I played guitar and sang a mostly clean version of this song, with exception to one emotional outburst that I just had to sing in this crazy world right now.
  4. “The Promise” (When in Rome cover). I played piano, guitar, and sang both harmonies. This is one of my all-time favorite ’80s songs. I don’t love the piano tone, but I’m proud of the result.
  5. “Different” (original). A song I wrote, sung, and played while living in Brazil. It’s about changing for the better.
  6. The God of Abraham Praise. If you’re looking for a spiritual track, try this one. I sang the choir parts over a radical organ I found on YouTube. This is one of my favorite hymns, which was converted from an old Jewish song in the 1700s.
  7. “1901” (Phoenix cover). I played guitar and sung one of my favorite upbeat alternative songs.
  8. “Last Time” (original song). An early aught pop song I wrote with my friend Dylan Denny. I sung, played drums, and lead guitar.
  9. “Best Foot Forward” (original song). Another upbeat song I produced and sung with my friend Dylan.
  10. “The Deepest Sleep Ever” (original instrumental). I’ve written and produced a lot of instrumental music over the years, and this is one of my absolute favorites.
  11. “Abstract Consensus” (original instrumental). Recorded in 2002 with over 75 samples, this is probably the best dance song I’ve ever written.
  12. “System Sound” (original song). Ever wanted to hear me rap, albeit not very good? Well now’s your chance! I wrote, produced, and rapped this song in the summer of 2001.
  13. “Stay” (U2 cover). Probably one of the best recordings I’ve ever made. I played guitar and sang.
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Long reads: Big money pop songs, Silicon Slopes, Spirit Airlines, and 50 years of losing

These are the best long-form articles I’ve read recently:

Long reads: Cozy up and learn something new with one of these

Courtesy Outside Magazine

In defense of Post Malone, a self-destructive and “culture vulture” musician from Texas

Courtesy Post Malone

I like Post Malone. A lot. Even though I can’t relate.

He’s a young twenty-something rapper with face tattoos that openly indulges in substance abuse and destructive relationships.

I, on the other hand, am a middle-age, clean-cut, ink-free family man who wants to live to 100 over burning the candle on both ends. Continue reading…

In search of greatness: How structured specialization hinders our children

I recently watched In Search of Greatness and learned a lot.

The documentary makes a convincing argument that structured specialization prevents our children from achieving greatness, especially in athletics, but also in other disciplines.

After interviewing and examining the upbringing and work ethic of over a dozen all-star athletes and musicians, the movie concludes that if you want your child to be great, raise them on a well-rounded diet of interests and physical activities. Do this until at least late high school or even college in some cases. Only then should children focus and devote the majority of their time to one pursuit.

Although it seems counter-intuitive, the filmmakers argue that this strategy allows our youth to play by different rules and see things differently. And there’s strong evidence suggesting this cannot be done if aspiring athletics, musicians, and others are strictly raised on only speciality from a young age, which is increasingly the norm now. That’s bad because youth specialization stifles their creativity and innovation and prevents them from developing other muscles and talents that can have a positive crossover effect on their primary passion.

I buy it. Four stars out of five.

See also: How children succeed: 5 things to know

How “rocking too hard” can sometimes be a good thing

Courtesy Michael Buckner/Getty

Prior to graduating from college, I played drums in a trio band. We mostly played Killers, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, and Led Zeppelin covers in our bassist’s basement. We maybe played once a week for a month or so and didn’t even have a proper name. But we still wanted to rock.

Anxious to play a live set, we caught wind of an “Acoustic Battle of the Bands” to be played at BYU’s 22,000 seat capacity Marriott Center. I remember thinking, “Who says we can’t rock that? It says ‘acoustic,’ not low energy or slow tempo.” So we traded our electric guitar for an acoustic/electric and proceeded to tryouts that were being held in some small theater room in the English building.

Upon arrival, we were clearly out of place. As we lugged our full drum kit, half stack bass rig, and guitar amp down the hall, dozens of Dave Mathew wannabes practiced three chord love songs in squeaky voices to admiring girlfriends. My opinion of humanity worsened a little that day. But I digress. Our name was called, we entered the room and setup stage.

Continue reading…

Listen up! Best new music so far this year

Music has remained an everyday part of my life since first being exposed to the Beach Boys, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Abba, and Technotronic as a young boy and later Metallica, Nirvana, Green Day, Snoop Dog, and The Prodigy as an adolescent. In my late teens, I took a liking to classical, jazz, country, Elvis and much in between.

To this day, I enjoy listening to pop with my kids and dance music by myself, even dabbling as an amateur recording artist, cover artist, “battle of the bands” reject, and bedroom DJ (both house and dubstep) at times. Next to cinema, I consider music the greatest form of art.

Usually I’m too busy enjoying music both new and old that I fail to promote the best of it beyond those within immediate earshot. Today I hope to remedy that, at least according to the many airwaves that have reverberated in my home, eardrums, and car recently. They are as follows: Continue reading…

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John Williams is the world’s last great classical composer

My wife recently commanded Alexa to “Play John Williams.” For the next several hours, our household was treated to harmonious hit after hit after hit.

I’ve always considered Williams a genius composer since I was first exposed to his music as a boy. But I’m still in awe of the dozens, if not hundreds, of moving themes he wrote and even continues to write, such as this one: https://youtu.be/65As1V0vQDM

Like nearly everything else Williams touches, the above is remarkably regal. And like all of his contemporaries imply in the excellent Score documentary, Williams is the most prolific classical composer still alive.

Recently discovered: 7 terrific longreads that I think you should… um, read.

Shutterstock

As seen on Long Reads, Digg, and my own web browsing:

  • Is more democracy always better democracy? Yes, argues The New Yorker, especially since party primaries determine the leading candidates.
  • What happens when notoriety kills something? Here’s your answer in a terrific story titled I found the best burger in the country, then I killed it.
  • Missing the story. Rebuilding public trust starts by including more voices in the media and diversifying (or at least offering empathy training) to mostly white newsrooms, argues The Columbia Journalism Review.
  • Believing without evidence is always morally wrong. Or so convincingly argues Aeon.
  • Inside the booming business of background music. Why retailers and sports teams are spending big money on music design, according to The Guardian.
  • Why saving the world is crazy hard. According to a hard-to-read personal account of third-world atrocities by The Walrus.
  • How $3000 elite teams are killing youth sports in America. Expensive travel leagues siphon off talented young athletes and leave everyone else behind, reports The Atlantic. (Which is partly why my wife is starting a non-profit competitive league next year—go Lindsey!)

Best road trip songs: Fall 2018 edition (with links to streaming audio)

Courtesy Over The Edge

My family and I just returned from an unexpectedly awesome and relaxing road trip to Fruita, Colorado. With weather in the low 70s, we swam the Great Divide Villa, hiked Colorado National Monument, and mountain biked Kessel Run while the kids were on fall break.

But that’s a story for another day. Today I wanted to share my favorite songs while making the seven hour roundtrip drive. From most righteous to least righteous, with links to streaming audio, they are as follows:  Continue reading…

Blast from the past: Remember when “mixtapes” were cool?

Courtesy Disney

Music is easy now. Except when I’m forced to download songs ahead of time before venturing Off The Grid, I can instantly play any track, genre, album or compilation of recorded music with a spoken command.

“Alexa, play the new Taylor Swift!” I bark. (Spoiler, it’s better than her last single.) “Alexa, play ‘All Night’ by Big Boi.” (It’s bumping.) “Alexa, play ‘Feel it Still’ by Portugal The Man.” (It’s choice.) “Alexa, play Waiting On A SongGone Now… or The Click”—all front-runners for album of the year.

Whatever I ask—even amorphous requests for “dinner music” or “relaxing classical”—this inanimate robot gets things right 90% of the time. And when I don’t feel like talking, I can play what I want with a few taps of my finger on the portable jukebox I carry in my pocket. We’ve come a long way.

But while I’m grateful for the limitless amount of audible convenience we now enjoy, I often wonder about the price we paid to get here.  Continue reading…

“I’m in love with this band”—My top 10 Timber Timbre songs

When it comes to listening to music, I’m a skip-mastering control freak. I’m willing to let some records play, especially the greats. But if a band starts to bore me, I skip and/or eventually abandon their carefully curated playlist (aka “album”) with haste.

Recently, however, I discovered a band that I have never skipped—not once. They may be the coolest band you’ve never heard of. Only four of their six albums are commercially available, and I think they’re downright groovy, if not borderline inaccessible.

Hailing from french-speaking Quebec, the band is called Timber Timbre (pronounced “tamber”). The singer sings in english, rocks a “skullet,” and the entire acts sounds a little like Ennio Morricone, Johnny Cash, Magnet, a mellow Killers, Roy Orbison, Talking Heads, slow songs, The Doors, crooning songs, Late Night Tales, creepy songs, and Portishead. I only learned of them after visiting their home province earlier this month and am glad I did.

To spread the good word, I hope you’ll consider and enjoy their albums and soulful live performances as much as I have. These are my favorite songs:

Continue reading…

Good new music: 9 remarkable albums your ears must hear

It’s been a superb year for new music so far. Along with a strong finish of releases last year, these are the albums worth writing home about—and ones I hope you’ll consider in your search for new, inspiring songs from new or rejuvenated blood.

Gone Now by Bleachers

Behold: this is art. From front to back, singer/songwriter Jack Antonoff (aka Bleachers) channels brilliant beats, catchy choruses, and melodic instrumentation in classic stereo. If this masterpiece doesn’t finish as album of the year, I’ll be delightfully surprised.  Continue reading…

The Struts: Sober performances and the return of stage presence

courtesy photo

courtesy photo

“Who does this guy thinks he is?”

I asked myself that upon seeing Luke Spiller perform with The Struts for the first time. He had just finished ripping through the opening four songs of their recent set in Salt Lake City. Two singles. Two of his debut album’s most anthemic tracks. No stops or pauses in between songs. All in the first 15 minutes of a performance that would eventually double the running time of their only album plus one new song.

But unlike a punk act that similarly keeps the punches rolling, Spiller was wholly uninhibited on stage. He wore glittered capes and spandex. Shimmied his shoulders like Freddie Mercury. Calculated dramatic toe steps and emphatic kicks in every direction. Choreographed his carefully rehearsed movements to the music.

While observing all of this, I couldn’t decide if Spiller wanted to imitate Michael Jackson, Robert Plant, Prince, or Mick Jagger. On top of that, the size of his mouth suggests his mother may have slept with Steven Tyler during the British leg of Aerosmith’s Pump tour.

In a later interview after the show, he brushed off a facetious question about his outrageous showmanship. “That’s just what I am,” he told me. “It’s just what I enjoy.”

For lovers of live performances that make you forget the troubles at home, Spiller’s dramatic charisma is all for your gain.  Continue reading…

Best songs I heard driving “The loneliest road in America”

My family and I recently returned from a weeklong road trip along U.S. Route 50 through Nevada. Famously dubbed “the loneliest road in America” by an unnamed AAA agent, the highway is as beautiful as it is devoid of life.

My column on the experience will publish next week. But one of the highlights was undoubtedly listening to rural country radio through much of it. And by rural I mean no more than four FM stations at any time; two of which were gospel, one talk radio, and one country.

Because our rental car’s auxiliary music jack didn’t work, these are the best songs we listened to while cruising through the beautiful Great Basin of Nevada:  Continue reading…

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Like #music? Wanna win a $200 wireless speaker? Tell me your favorite underrated artist and it’s yours.

ue boom 2 main

I’ve spoken highly about bluetooth speakers before, including the original UE Boom, Mega Boom, and Cambridge Audio. Like 21st century boomboxes, they bring music to life because they’re easy to pair with your phone and go anywhere.

This month, Ultimate Ears sent me a UE Boom 2 in the hopes I’d publicize it, which I’m doing now. Not because they asked me to. But because it maintains the full and deep sound of the original (although not as bumping as the Mega or as rich as the Cambridge) with twice the wireless range, a little more battery life, and pause and skip functions right on the speaker. That alone makes it a no-brainer consideration for budgets between $100-200.

That said, UE are giving away a limited edition Boom 2 (pictured) to blakesnow.com readers. Here are the official rules:

  1. You must reside in the U.S. (sorry international readers)
  2. You must share your favorite underrated or under-appreciated artist of all time in the below comments and convincingly explain why they deserve more airplay.

That’s it. I’ll announce and publish my favorite entry on May 15 and the speaker will ship shortly thereafter.

Thanks for playing. May the best entry win.

I’m so glad Beethoven wrote this music

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbWrJWWn9nU[/youtube]

I’ve been an avid listener of classical music for twenty years. I’ve listened to greatest hits, lesser-known recommendations, countless composers, all three periods, one-hit wonders, atonal crap, catchy melodies, and everything in between.

While I wouldn’t call my exposure exhaustive, I will say it has been thorough. And while other composers achieved greatness in their own way, none of them come close to the prolific genius of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. It’s not even close.

This is one of those pieces that separates the cliche-but-deserving trifecta from their contemporaries. I absolutely adore it, because it sounds like two people discussing a serious issue without ever fully arguing it.

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With no electricity, my contributions cease to exist

Photo: Lindsey Snow

Photo: Lindsey Snow

I get paid to publish online stories. I love my job. But the harsh reality is my contributions cease to exist in the absence of power. Save for only a few printed artifacts, I don’t keep hardcopies of the hundreds of feature stories and thousands of blog posts I’ve written over the last decade.

I was humbled by that realization earlier this spring. The first two publications that ever paid me to write—Engadget’s gaming blog (Joystiq) and GigaOM—both shuttered within 30 days of each other. Their closures reminded me how impermanent life (and work) is. For now, my archives live on (here and here), but there’s no guarantee they’ll remain. They’ll be totally wiped out in a post-apocalyptic world like Mad Max: Fury Road (which you should run, not walk, to see right now).

Admittedly, I don’t sell life-altering work. I mostly help tech companies and media publications sell more widgets (i.e. products, services, or advertising) with believable stories that interest wide audiences. In any case, grasping your own insignificance is never easy. Big wheel keep on turning…

10 things I’m thankful for this instant

pointerTo help my brain stay wired for happiness, here are 10 random things I’m grateful for:
  1. Full head of hair. To all my bros (and any women) out there with thinning, balding, receding, or otherwise missing hair, I sympathize with you. I don’t know what it would be like without follicles. I imagine it’s drafty and uncomfortable. I’m grateful for a full coiffure.
  2. A titanium back. Six months ago, I had my lower back fused. Although my participation in high-impact activities involving running, jumping, and extreme bending have been cut short by two thirds a lifetime, I’m grateful for the $26,000 titanium rods, screws, and spacer that keep me upright and mobile now. With a new lease on life, I feel great. Continue reading…