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Picture of the week - Fun with flash

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I was in my friends place near Blönduós and we were having fancy drinks. It was quite dark inside and I had no tripod and only my built in flash without diffuser, so I held the palm of my hand in front of the flash instead and used tungsten setting for white balance and viola:

So after I went home I tried several settings with my glasses on the nightstand. First without flash:

Then with flash (and set white balance to flash, too):

Then I used my hand and still flash light balance, as you see the white balance is totally off:

So I set white balance to tungsten:

Then I took a picture of my hand (with flash and flash white balance) and used that to do custom light balance:

Lastly I remembered I have a phone (which is silver), so I just used this as a diffuser (with flash white balance):

My REM the Warner Bros era with Bill Berry playlist

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This is a bit of a different playlist. It includes Green, Monster and New Adventures in HiFi. There is no way I can only choose 4 or 5 songs from Out of Time of Automatic for the People. Just get both albums and listen to them both
(except Radio Song ).

Even without Out of Time and Automatic for the People this playlist is quite a journey, from very poppy songs, over screaming guitars to mandolins and accordions, it's sweet, angry, bitter, sad and ironic. So much for REM always sounds the same.
I also did not put all the singles this time, some are here, some are not, I chose the songs I thought were the best / most representative of each album.

  1. Pop song '89 (a single, it's delightfully weird in lyrics and music "Hi, hi, hi")
  2. Get Up (a pop song about wanting to sleep your life away, also proof that REM can be cute)
  3. You are the Everything (the way the lyrics flow remind me of the Cure. Best song of Green)
  4. Orange crush (the best example of the rock sound of REM in the Green era. Also cool call and response in the chorus)

  5. Monster
  6. What's the Frequency Kenneth? (Here they succeeded with their plan to write proper rock songs for touring)
  7. Crush with Eyeliner (The Remix version, because I actually really like it, even if I do not agree with most of the other remix decisions, very glam)
  8. Star 69 (THE REVERB!!!)
  9. Let Me In (no words)

  10. New Adventures in HiFi
  11. Undertow (after I listened to the album again, this song became one of my favourites, like the impressionistic guitar, the religion inspired lyrics and the chilling background vocals)
  12. E-Bow The Letter (was my favourite song from this album since I first saw it on MTV)
  13. Leave (I actually like the siren effect on this song)
  14. So Fast, So Numb (it is a good representation of the many great rock songs on this album and the bitter tone in many of the lyrics)
  15. Electrolite (the violin solo is amazing as is the piano part and I really wanted this playlist to end with "I'm outta here")

Picture of the week - Double exposed gate

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This time I just played with the opacity of the upper layer (the writing). This is the last one, I swear.

I spent the last month listening to every REM studio album in chronological order - New Adventures in HiFi

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This album wins worst title. Also we have to talk about REM selling out again, not because of the album, but because of the record deal following it and the departure of the best member of the band.

With New Adventures in HiFi the 5 album record deal with Warner Bros ran out and they negotiated a ridiculous lucrative new record deal of a rumoured 80 million dollars with Warner Bros. REM had long ceased to be the small band from a small town in Georgia that could and had become an institution over the last 5 years . Music snobs (some music journalists included) resented that "their" cool secret cult band were internationally successful stars now. Pricey concert tickets during the Monster tour were held against them (fair) as well as playing stadiums after having said in the 80s that they dislike the idea of playing in front of an audience of more than 5000. It also did not help that they had stopped inviting music journalists to hang out with them in Athens (2 of the 4 members had moved away) and that they parted ways with their long term manager and college friend Jefferson Holt (most probably because he was harassing an employee, but I guess REM were expected to follow bro-code here? Instead they removed him, changed the lyrics of the song where he was mentioned and never spoke of him again). Claims from REM that they have maintained their creative freedom with the new contract were outright rejected, Up would very much prove them right there, but the whole discussion eclipsed New Adventures in HiFi.

One year after New Adventure in HiFi was released Bill Berry left the band to be a farmer. First of all, how cool is Bill Berry? He got offered a multi million dollar contract and went "Nah, I'd rather be farmer instead". Hands down the coolest member (the correct order is Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Michael Stipe, Mike Mills. Fight me). The others decided to continue. For years REM had maintained that each member is essential (reflected by sharing song writing credits) and that the band would cease to exist if any member left. For the "REM is selling out" crowd, continuing after Bill Berry left was just another example of them abandoning their principals. The departure was amicable. Berry wanted to leave, because he did not like being a rock star anymore, he hated travelling, hated giving interviews and (as he said recently) did not actually like playing drums that much. He also did not want to be the reason his friends had to give up something they love. They continued with his blessing, he returned once, when they were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and otherwise plays with Buck and Mills in some of their side projects every now and then. Whether they should have broken up or not, his departure was the end of an era and for many New Adventures in HiFi was the last great REM album.

New Adventures in HiFi
The album is great. Most of it was recorded during the Monster tour and it has a lot of energy because of it. It is more of a rock album than Monster was, which had in a way only two fast tempo rock songs (What's the Frequency Kenneth? and Star 69), New Adventures in HiFi has 5 (The Wake-Up Bomb, Leave, Departure, Binky the Doormat and So Fast, So Numb). Instead of overloading his guitar with effects Buck combines the rockier guitar sound with his melodic playing style. He also is exploring some more playing styles, with a more impressionistic style on Undertow and the e-bow on E-Bow the Letter. The more melodic, folkier sound from Automatic for the People is back as well, on songs like Electrolite. The mixing is back to the clean production sound that started with Lifes Rich Pageant. Which is really good, as they are all really on the top of their game, with something musically interesting going on in each part, be it an interesting bass line or guitar riff, piano part or lyric.

Shout outs:

  • I sat in front of MTV for hours, waiting for E-Bow the Letter to come on. Warner Bros has blamed choosing this song as single for the album not selling well (I explained in the Monster review and above why I think it sold less than its predecessors). I still really love the song, I love the e-bow on it (yay Peter Buck!) and I'm a fan of melancholic songs anyway.

  • The bass line in New Test Leper is a 3 minute long bass solo.

  • I like the siren sound in Leave. Also Leave was written by Bill Berry.

  • On Binky the Doormat you can hear Berry sing "yeah, yeah, yeah" over the chorus. Which made me make this meme:

  • I forgot about the violin in Electrolite. I forgot what a pleasent song Electrolite was in general, I remember liking the piano part. I also think it is cool that the album ends with "I'm outta here"

  • Closing thoughts: There are two kind of REM records, the more concept records, with a thought out musical style, like Automatic for the People or Monster and the once like this one, where they have lot of different musical ideas in one album. Sometimes it creates a whiplash effect, like Green, here it really made a very varied and interesting album. I somehow never connected to it as much as I have with other albums, but I understand why fans rank it very high. If you like REM, this is a good album to have. Next is the first album without Bill Berry, the very inaccurately named "Up".

    Picture of the week - Double exposed Pagoda - how to

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    I did not save the picture of the pagoda, so this guide is text only. First I opened up the picture of the pagoda and the courtyard as layers in gimp, with the courtyard on top. Then I set the courtyard layer to "screen" in blending options and viola. There are more intrinsic ways to this, using masks and what not, but this worked well enough for me.

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