Saturday, July 26, 2014

Jasper Song Bio

I decided to write a shadow song for SpinTunes for once! Because I had an idea for a song that fit the challenge perfectly.

It's called Jasper, and it's about a hotel concierge who falls in love with a prize fighter who's on the run from bookies.

You can listen to it here:

It's pretty a typical Felix Frost-style song. It's super noisy, full of whimsy, and has a LOT of counter melodies. Since I'm not competing this round, I decided I would just do the type of song I like to do. I have no patience for simple, quiet songs with one or fewer instruments accompanying the vocals; and inversely I have an obsession with exciting songs full of complexity and colorful sonic goodness. Like Moonjock by Animal Collective! (especially the second half)

That said, Jasper isn't meant to be strange or experimental in any way (unlike Moonjock). I have done that in the past of course, but any arty-ness or experimental sounds you think you hear are just me trying to make my song sound interesting. :P

Anyway, Jasper is from the perspective of an amorous hotel concierge (I wrote it as a gay man who falls madly in love with an uber-masculine boxer but I suppose you could imagine the narrator as anyone you want). Jasper, the prize fighter, is being accused of throwing a fight he was absolutely supposed to win, so he seeks refuge at a fancy hotel where the narrator takes him in, cleans him up and protects him. The narrator thinks Jasper simply lost the fight because he's at the end of a long career (I didn't really decide if Jasper was paid off to throw the fight; it doesn't matter to the narrator). While feeding and pampering Jasper and nursing him back to health, the narrator starts to find the boxer irresistible--regardless of whether or not Jasper feels the same way--or is even gay--OR even remotely cares about the narrator. It's obvious Jasper's just a toolbox meat head after his own interests.

I hope you enjoy the song!

-Felix Frost (Ben)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cat's Eye Song Bio

The song I submitted for the Spintunes songwriting contest is a little different than my past entries. Usually, I write through-composed songs that don't repeat and generally have some experimental/avant garde qualities. Cat's Eye definitely has some strange sounds and some subtle experimentation, but for the most part it's a much more standard song than I usually write.

The challenge was to write a song about someone you miss who you can't be with anymore. As usual, I made up a fictional story. I've only written one non-fiction song for my wife, and although I'm proud of the song, I didn't really enjoy writing something sincere. I'm an aspiring novelist and fiction is all I'm really interested in :)

The song is sung from the point of view of a guy who meets a new age girl at a nutrition store called the "Spirit Vitamin Shop." She's one of those eerie gals with bizarre tattoos and a fake fur scarf. Immediately, the narrator falls in love with her (as narrators often do), but that's before he learns an even stranger detail about her. She has a cat's eye hiding behind her bangs. Like, her eye looks like it belongs on a cat.

You can choose to take that literally, or metaphorically (for the sort of feline cunning that the woman has). But my impulse is to think of it as a literal and supernatural anomaly. The song features a lot of occultism and mysterious magic anyway, as the narrator learns that the girl with the cat's eye dabbles in some dark rituals. This is the reason why he can't be with her anymore, he's afraid of the "hexes" she claims to put on people and the possibly sinister supernatural forces she tries to contact. That's where the line in the bridge comes in, "Can't see her again, can't risk the hitch of witchcraft." He doesn't want to get sucked into whatever she's gotten herself into, despite how much he misses her.

Again, you don't have to take this magic stuff literally. Maybe he just suspects she's an evil person. I wanted it to be open to interpretation, wherein the listener can take the words "hexes" and "witchcraft" more, you know, poetically or whatever and assume the narrator is referring to her as an enchanting temptress who puts men under her spell.

The lyrics can be vague, I know, but my inclination is always to write poetry before lyrics--so the images are skewed and strange to make for interesting sounds and images that might not be initially easy to understand. Namely the line "we touched tips to knuckles" which just means they sat in a tent hand-in-hand, fingertips fitted inside the dips in each other's knuckles. It fit the line rhythmically and I liked the way it sounded so I went with it. :P

I put a lot of work into making the music itself express the mood of missing someone--and writing melodies that suit the overall theme is not something I'm good at. I scrapped a few ideas and started the song over about twice, because I wanted it to sound just right: mournful and dreamy--but I also wanted the chorus to be upbeat and catchy. I'm decently happy with the final result. The instruments ARE a bit quiet and buried in spots because I know how much people like the hear the vocal part over anything else. :)

Anyway, I hope that shed some light on the song. I wouldn't have written a song bio if the lyrics weren't so peculiar in spots. But I don't think it's right to spoon feed the listener and write a straightforward love song where the metaphors are obvious and the stories don't have concrete nouns and specific details. I was taught not to write "I went to the store" but rather "I went to Jimmy's Grocery," and not to write "she was a girl" but rather "she was a girl with mint leaf tattoos." Not EXACTLY those, but you get what I mean. Details make the story come alive, and actually make it MORE relate-able than writing about two blank, colorless characters who could be ANYbody on earth. I don't know, I'm still an amateur :P

Either way, I hope you like the song. Listen here:

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Internet Calls to Me

There are so many things I want to do on the internet.

So many things I want to get BACK into doing.

I used to design SO many websites. Terrible, cheesy, middle-school websites, to be clear. But still... websites. Here are some links to some:

My fantasy fiction site:

My really old (really bad) personal site:

My old site about my cartoon character, Poodey:

A site about a children's mystery series I wrote:

It's obvious that all these sites were made by a tween, but still, I once knew how to make them. That's the point. I used to know html like a boss. The Poodey site is especially savvy in terms of sharp html skills (or at least it's better than the others). I need to rekindle that skill, even if it was never very developed.

I want to make a new personal website for myself and all the stuff I do. I mean, I make a LOT of digital content. Music, pinball tables, art, videos, fiction, poetry--etc. And it all needs a home. But I also want to make a wordpress site--and I may meld the two.

But I also have another idea for a fancy, professional blog. I'm not 100% sure what it will be about, but I want it to be a clean, serious blog like My impulse is to make it about the holy trinity: art, science, philosophy. But to cover all those topics intelligently and regularly would require help. My wife is a brilliant writer and a genius, so her help may be enough. But any time I'm on my computer, I feel like I should be just writing or working on music or something else. And that brings me to my main point for this blog:

I don't have time for all the cool internet stuff I want to do!!!

I also want to make a LinkedIn profile, because let's face it, I should have done that by now.

And I want to learn how to make GIFs. I used to know how, but the method has changed since middle school. It's much much different now and I think much easier.

I also want to make a website for my musician self--Felix Frost, though I take that less seriously.

So that leaves me with one question: where do I start?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Favorite Songs Part 2

Okay so it's finally time to finish off the list of my top ten favorite songs. Let's get right into it shall we?

5. Avenue of Trees - Parenthetical Girls

This song is least like the others and my most recent addition to the list. Parenthetical Girls put together an immensely ambitious and ear floodingly complex orchestra album called Entanglements about four years ago. Every song is artfully experimental but also full of the same soaring beauty you'd expect from any team of string instrumentalists. This song, Avenue of Trees, is actually one of the prettiest of the bunch--meaning it isn't as strange and jarring as some of the others. It's got a drifing non-repetitive structure that takes you from one section to the next, guided so gently by swelling violins and thumping concert percussion that you don't even realize by the end that you've ended up somewhere completely different from where you began. Listen to the track using Spotify, if you can:

4. Sound it Off - Mates of State

Another through-composed masterpiece packed into the standard radio-cut duration of a song. This organ blaring gem is so full of life and energy that you might find yourself getting dizzy. There are about 4-5 distinct sections in this tiny song, all full of keyboard punch and belted vocals. The opening verse has a really memorable chant to it as well that I think is pretty catchy. This band has lost a little of their edge over their years to more pop-friendly structures and instrumentation, but almost all of their old songs from this era have the same vitality as Sound it Off. I guess as we get higher on the list, the songs get less widely popular, because I couldn't find this one online either. Listen on Spotify if you have the program!

3. Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse - Of Montreal

This one I know I can find a video too, because it's one of the most popular songs from the most popular band on my list. This track is the one that made me fall in love with art/funk/avant-garde band of Montreal, especially for the infectious sound of the chorus "Come on chemica-a-a-als. Come on chemica-oh oh oh oh oh oh als." An amazing blend of dark psyche subject matter with screaming electric melodies. If you haven't heard this song yet, you owe it to yourself.

2. Water Curses - Animal Collective

Animal Collective can be a little hit and miss, because so many of their songs drone on like dance tracks and others are just stretched out noise. But lately they've been on fire. Their last release Centipede Hz was one of the best albums I've ever heard, ever. And Water Curses is along the same line. It's like a carnival ride, this song. Split into two stunning sections, giving you double the music for the price of one! Water Curses is full of bouncy, slippery synth sounds, bubbling, slurping sound effects (which AC are kind of famous four) and irrestistibly catchy vocal lines. The vocals are also mixed delightfully low to a breathy, happy hum so that you can enjoy the winding majesty of the distorted atmosphere and anonymous instrumentation. Listening to this song is like eating a piece of flavor-changing candy. Laced with some kind of hallucinogen.

1. Chris Michaels - The Fiery Furnaces

Okay, here it is. The rock opera-style epic we've been waiting for. Fiery Furnaces hit their peak on their second record with their impossibly long masterwork Blueberry Boat. This is easily the best track on the album. It's got rock and roll kick thanks to the electric guitar that rolls throughout the seven minute song, but it's also filled out with quirky keyboard blips and xylophones. I can't even count how many movements this song has because they're too many and they're all stuck together with some kind of super-adhesive, invisible music glue. The shifts happen suddenly enough to give you shivers but not so quickly that they throttle you. The song, I think, is about deliquint children or otherwise basic criminal credit card theft--but it sounds like the grand anthem to the life of a sci-fi hero. If you're a fan of schizophrenic rock opuses and can take the over-stimulation, give Chris Michaels a listen.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Favorite Songs Part 1

My wife recently revived her blog and gave it a makeover. See it here:

And whilst reviewing it, I saw a post she made titled "My Favorite Songs." That post was actually a poem or some other artistic musing, but it inspired me to make my own post taking that title literally. And that's what you're reading now!

I take the music I like VERY seriously. And the music I like, I REALLY like. And I take my favorites very seriously as well. I've always been very choosy; eager to pick a favorite out of any set of things. Colors, food, animals (like everyone) but also strange things, like vegetables, video games, pinball tables, cat breed, smell, element, etc. I work at a library and I decided to pick my favorite rolling book cart (it's the one named Felix). I even pick favorites of things I admittedly dislike. Like American football. It's my favorite sport, and I don't especially like sports. :P Well, my favorite sports are croquet and badminton--but I meant in terms of big watchy-crotchy sports that I never watch.

Anyway, so these favorite songs are very carefully selected and ordered, and selected for very specific purposes. Here is the list!

10: Kenya Dig It? - The Ruby Suns

Most of the songs on this list are chosen because they follow a through-composed structure--meaning they aren't just verse chorus verse chorus bridge chorus. They don't repeat. This song sets the foundation of this list perfectly. It's a beautiful and arty song with lots of synth and dreamy instruments like bells and flutes. It starts out in one dimension and ends in a completely different one--giving you the feeling you've teleported from a candy-coma hallucination to a drug trip. You can listen to it by watching the video embedded here, if it's still up on YouTube at the time you're reading this. I especially like the beginning of this song with the impulsive snare pounds and the "bum bum bums" that bounce through the ear channels. And the flute solo that bridges the two distinct halves of this song is sugar for the ears. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. The Suns just came out with a new album, Christopher, so check that out if you like the synth-aspect of their music.

9: Marvee Miusov Goes to Pieces - The Color Bars

There's not much I can say about this song that isn't entirely true about Kenya Dig It? It's ambitious, it's glossy and upbeat, everything a lover of complexity and melody like me can sink his teeth into. This song has three different sections, all of which tell the fictional story about a mentally unstable guy named Marvee who considers suicide. It's a lot happier than it sounds. The final movement is an uplifting anthem for health and happiness with a little bit of a celebration of the meaningless of life. "So what if the universe is one big accident? It's beautiful, and you're a part of it." The instrumentation of this song, especially, is excellent. With flaring keyboard runs and subtle gurgling synths... but there's plenty to like for fans of rock too. Listen here, straight from the band's YouTube.

8: You Might Be Caught in Tarantella - Bryan Scary

I know, we're getting a lot more obscure as we go, and we started out pretty who-the-hell-is-that from the start. But give this song is a chance. It will blow your mind. It's manic, energetic, interesting, and completely original. It's part of a concept album about the wild west called Daffy's Elixir by the unbelievably gifted Bryan Scary. You should see this guy play piano. He's like Frank Zappa blended with Franz Liszt. Anyway, this song is a semi-supernatural story about a gent being caught in a town where time stops or moves forward super fast (I'm not entirely sure). Basically he's stuck in a house with an old woman named Miss Lotus, and she traps him there. The art for this song has her grown to the size of a mountain, reaching for the poor guy as he flees. She's also causing a lightning storm, which may be metaphorical but it is in the lyrics "She's got her fingers in the lightning." The style is start and stop with excessive chunks of music crammed together in a tiny, dizzying sonic space. The bridge of this song has an amazing western shoot em' up feel, too, that I'm sure we can all appreciate. You can listen to the song here for free here at Bryan Scary's bandcamp page:

His other albums are great too. He's done a sci-fi fantasy epic and a gothic-dark-humor album as well.

7: Mingusings - of Montreal

This is an addictive song from of Montreal's masterpiece Skeletal Lamping album. The whole LP is full of through-composed songs and schizophrenic glimpses of frontman Kevin Barnes' psychotic and melancholy mind. The first half is an electric dance jam with a delicious initial hook and wonderfully dark lyrics about Barnes debating the abandonment of everything he knows. "Wanting to fire all my friends and just start over again." I also love the line "No motion dancing. Feel like we're an impossibility." After a brief toned-down interlude the second half of the song kicks in, which is a gutsy rock-out mess I think everyone can enjoy. Give it a listen at the band's official YouTube page.

6: Blueberry Boat - The Fiery Furnaces

Close to being my favorite song of all time, but since a Fiery Furnaces song is already number one, this one gets bumped to number 6. That's how it works apparently. Now, we've talked about epic rock-opera style songs of super ambitious proportion, but this one (almost) takes the cake. It's a nine minute story about a ship captain exporting blueberries who runs into pirates on the open ocean. It's an amazing, sad and hilarious tale with unforgettable keyboard melodies that sound so perfectly like what you'd think a fruit-packed pirate ship would sound like. There are so many parts to this song that listening to it is like enjoying a whole album--and it's only one of 13 off the album of the same title, "Blueberry Boat." Give it a listen. I'm particularly fond of the loudest section after the quirky beginning with roaring organs and twinkling xylophone sounds. You feel like you've stepped into a garage band practice run by toy robots.

I hope you enjoy the list! I'll see you soon for the top five.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Epilogue of the Drench

I'm sitting here in a coffee shop putting off writing the last chapter of my book, The Drench.

I've written it all before, but this is the biggest revision I've ever done, so it feels like I haven't come close to finishing the book--even after getting through five other complete drafts.

When they say that writing IS revision they aren't kidding. I didn't really believe it at first because, like most writers, I assumed my first drafts were pretty close to complete. And while this current book may not have changed as much from first draft to sixth draft as some books do, I would be mortified if anyone read the first draft. The current revision is, by most accounts, a totally different book. And a much better one.

For one thing it's about half as long. I tend to write endlessly and make things overly complicated. You can probably figure out via the other projects I've mentioned on this blog that I like to make things complex. Simplicity is too easy. Maybe I'll make a separate post about why I like complexity so much.

Anyway, I've cut so much of the book out. Basically any thing I didn't absolutely need was hacked, and anything that you can get through subtle implications (like small details about character or relationships) I took out. My grad school mentor gave a lecture this winter and stressed the importance of "trusting your reader," so that's what I've been trying to do. I'm doing less spoon feeding and leaving the heavy lifting to the reader him or herself.

The epilogue used to be 12 pages and I want to get it down to about 4. I completely changed the end of the book. Part of it is a murder mystery and I totally changed who the "killer" was at the end. So things have to be a lot different. That's why I have to legitimately WRITE the last chapter now, not just edit it. It's freaking me out a little. And I only have 30 minutes of internet until 2:00, so I'm using it while I can. Plus talking about the book is helping me to get back in the mood and the mindset.

I'll leave you with the opening of the book as it currently stands (it will be changed eventually). Enjoy! Thanks for reading!

"My mother named me Petrichor Plumeria—but I try to go by Petra.

I'm the best-smelling homeless woman you'll ever encounter. That's something to brag about when you live in a century of unrelenting toxic storms. I have a bit of an advantage over the other poor wretches that wander the ragged streets, because I live in the stock room of the soap shop. Those who sleep in the gutters can't help but stink of gasoline and ammonia. I, at least, can cover up my foul odors with potent lotions and fragrant herbs. Best-smelling homeless girl, sure, but probably the worst-smelling woman who makes soap. I have a rare skin condition that makes me smell like rotting fish. I've had it since birth, and no measure of scrubbing or soaking will ever excavate the stink from my body. It's in my genes. Trimethylaminuria, they call it.

My business is soap. Not coincidentally.

I make and sell specialized bars, shaped, sculpted, dyed and scented. And, thanks to frequent sponge baths, I do manage to keep my stench covered up most of the time. But when I get nervous or sweat or even so much as blush, I permeate. Like a stagnant cesspool of decomposing seafood."  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Finishing Up Creative Projects

I take pride in being a person who follows through with the projects I start. Not just some of them but all of them. So this week I've been driving myself to complete a bunch of personal creative projects I've been working on for a long time. And some of them I've been working on them for a loooong time.

Project List:

- My third Felix Frost music album: Phineas Flux
- Cutting up the full length film I made in college and uploading it to YouTube
- Uploading my updated pinball table, Rocket Derby

Those are the main side projects I've been doing. But I'm also right on the brink of finishing my novel, The Drench, which I've been working on for the past two semesters of grad school. I finished revising the second to last chapter today and I plan to do the final one tomorrow. Hooray!

But that's actually not what I'm most excited about. I'm eager to be done with the music album, because it's been in the works for... what is it? Three to four years now? I always make fun of bands and musicians who can't put out albums frequently, and now I'm one of them. But this isn't my job folks. In fact, I don't even take it that seriously. It's just a passion project. But that said, this album is excessively ambitious. It's 18 tracks long.

Phineas Flux is a half-way conceptual album wherein each pair of songs tells a story. So tracks one and two are about the same subject, three and four, five and six, and so on. There are stories about pirates, airplane battles, the wild west, you name it. And every song is written in a through-composed style, which means they all have fragmented parts that don't repeat. Listening to it is probably as exhausting as making it was. But I hope that it's fun and exciting anyway. I like to push the envelope and go all out with complex sounds and melodies. Not sure I nailed it, but you can be the judge when it's done.

You can listen to it here at my bandcamp page when it's up: There are some demos of songs on that page already.

Here's the prototype of the album cover. I'm going to replace the background image with one I took myself and put the title on it later.

And the pinball table I've already talked about. Just releasing an updated version with bug fixes and what not. I'll provide more details on the rest of the projects later. For now, it's back to work! Oh, I also have a blog now specifically for the pinball table:

Thanks for reading!

Don't forget to stop by my YouTube page and watch some videos!