Thursday, January 5, 2017

Video spotlight: Still Alive by VoicePlay

2017 is off to quite a start, I must say. There's good news and not-so-great news. The good news is that if you're a male who sings in the baritone/tenor 2 range and have dreamed about being in VoicePlay, well, you just might be in luck.

I imagine that most of the people who come across this have already heard and those of you who haven't can probably guess. The not-so-great news is that that means that someone has left. If you've been paying attention over the last year, it shouldn't be too hard to guess who. Here's their announcement.


Yeah.

Tony is no longer with VoicePlay. It's funny because this was obviously coming and yet the news still managed to hit like a ton of bricks. I was going to write this a couple of days ago, but decided to wait until I got myself in a better frame of mind. This more or less cause a tidal wave of feels. I've cried. I've been upset. I've cussed. I've prayed. I've said goodbye, shook my fist and asked God why. I've...launched into a Lee Brice song.

Get it together, Alexander.

Okay, so maybe I didn't actually do all of those things. There's been no fist shaking involved, for instance. There have been tears. A lot of them. What can I say? I'm an emotional person. I cry every time I watch Tangled, for heaven's sake. But that's okay. I have a habit of getting attached to groups as evidenced by many of the posts on this blog. I've had groups I loved break up and I've seen members come and go. It happened with Home Free last year and now it's happened with VoicePlay. I will say that if there was one group I hoped that this wouldn't happen with, it was VoicePlay. But it is what it is.

Does this mean I've given up on VoicePlay? Um, no. I don't mean a regular ole no either. It's a big, fat, resounding heck no! Give up on my guys? Never! If anything, this has renewed my commitment to the group. Am I still sad that Tony left? Yes. But I know that it'll be okay. The important thing is that Geoff, Eli, Layne and Earl are still together and looking for a "new Tony".  I have a lot of love for these four men and am not about to abandon them now. I'll miss Tony's voice and what he brought to the group. I'm so grateful for all of the music and videos he helped create. It's definitely not going to be the same, but you know what? That's okay. It's still going to be wonderful. It'll just be wonderful in a different way.

We already know that Geoff, Eli, Layne and Earl are crazy super talented. Today's video is just one example of that. I don't think it's possible for these four men to get together and not come up with something great. I have so much faith in these guys. I have no doubt that I will end up loving "new Tony", whoever he turns out to be. I'm looking forward to meeting him and I'm so excited to see what VoicePlay does in 2017.

Still feeling unsure about all of this? Maybe today's video will help.

Monday, January 2, 2017

My Favorite Musical Discoveries of 2016

In a perfect world, I would have gotten this up while it was still 2016. Alas, the world is not perfect and neither am I. But you know what? That's okay. I still wanted to do this because I wanted to give these acts some love. There are four total and they're all acts that I wrote about in 2016 to surprising success. You never really know how something will be received, especially when writing about someone new. And especially when it's someone you're really excited about. So the fact that the posts about these four did well makes me very happy. 

As the title states, these are my four favorite musical discoveries of 2016. If you know me, you know that one of my favorite things is coming across more acts to love. As if I don't love enough already. Honestly, it's never enough. Not with all the time I spend listening to music. How about we get to it?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Favorite VoicePlay Videos from 2016

Once again I've gone and saved the best, i.e. my absolute favorites, for last. If I were to make a royal court out of my favorite artists, VoicePlay would be King. Given the way that they have catapulted themselves into that position this year, it seemed only right to end 2016 with them. After all, I did write about them 22 times this year - this post included. Granted, some of those weren't exclusively VoicePlay, but still. I think it's safe to say that my love for this group is pretty well documented!

One of my favorite parts of 2016, aside from the guys themselves, has been the friendships that I've gotten to make because of them. I'm slowly getting to know more VoicePlayas and I know I've said it before, but this is a wonderful group to be a part of. We might be different in many ways, but we can bond over a love for a group. This love is always supportive and fun and it doesn't just extend to the guys, but also to anyone who considers themselves a fan.

That's one of the reasons why VoicePlay became my favorites. In a perfect world, it would only be about the content, but there's other things that play a part. Likeability is one. I've said it many times, but liking a singer (or group) as a person (or people) makes it all so much better. If you like your fellow fans too? That's the best. I'm sad to say that there's some acts that I've been put off from due to the ridiculous drama that exists within the fandom. It shouldn't play a factor, but it does. This is not a problem I have with VoicePlayas. Not at all.

You know, earlier this year I decided that I wanted to write about how VoicePlay helps me deal with my rheumatoid arthritis. Only to come thisclose to not actually posting it because it ended up being super personal. The most personal thing I've ever shared publicly. You know what? As of this moment, it is my most viewed VoicePlay post to date. I even got a few really sweet comments from a few of my fellow VoicePlayas that took me completely by surprise and touched my heart. This is the kind of group that you want to be in. You can find that post here, if you're interested.

Suffice to say, while 2016 was a really hard year in some ways, these guys helped make it better. They, and their fans, were a bright light even when things seemed pretty dark. Especially then. So, it shouldn't surprise anyone that I would save them for last.

Not only that, but being VoicePlay, I decided to change things up a bit. See, with my lists of my favorite Hollens Family videos (found here) and my favorite Home Free videos (found here) from 2016, I picked a few of their videos from the year and listed them in the order in which they were released. But with VoicePlay? All of their videos are represented in some fashion. Well, assuming that I didn't miss any by accident. What's more? I decided to rank them. You could argue that this is kind of like my take on an ACA-top 10. Sort of. In a way. Although, some got lumped together. You'll see what I mean. Okay...so I might have cheated a little.

Before we start, let me make something clear: I really like all of these videos. I definitely have my favorites, but that's because I just love them more. Not because I don't like the others. We'll start at #10 and work our way down. If it was one of the videos I wrote about this year, the link to the write-up will be included (with the video in question in it). Let's do this.

Friday, December 30, 2016

My Favorite Home Free Videos from 2016

Continuing my little series on my favorite music videos of the year, we have Home Free. It was a good year for Home Free, albeit one that came with a brief period of uncertainity as we adjusted to the revelation that Chris would be leaving and Adam Chance would be coming in. But as I've said on here more than once, this worked out about as perfectly as it could have. Chris is doing great things and Chance fits in seamlessly. I say this with absolutely no disrespect intended towards Chris, but in a way it feels like Chance has always been there. That's how well he fits in.

The men of Home Free definitely gave their Home Fries a lot to be happy about. All of the videos they released were wonderful. So much so that trying to narrow it down to five felt pretty impossible. So, what did I end up doing you ask? Narrow it down to seven. Which is almost half of the videos they put out in 2016, but no matter.

How about we get started?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Favorite Hollens Family Videos from 2016

After deciding that I did not want to do a best albums of 2016 post after all, I knew that I still wanted to do something to commemorate the year. I first came up with the idea to highlight my favorite music related events from the year and you can find that post right here. While working on that, I realized that I wanted to do something else. But what?

Finally, it hit me. 2016 was a terrible years in some respects, but a great one in others. For instance, it was a great year for me musically speaking. I learned about some new acts that I've come to love. What's more, I ended up becoming a bigger fan of some acts that I loved coming in. So, why not find a way to honor those acts? And why not do so by highlighting some of my favorite videos of theirs from the year? After all, 2016 was the year that I decided to launch my video spotlight series. In fact, it was my love for the music video that first inspired me to start this blog in the first place.

The decision was made. Aside from my new music related loves, there were four acts in particular that really stood out to me this year. If you've been hanging out on my blog this year, you can probably guess who they are. I don't think it'll be much a surprise to any of you. But if you're new here (and if so, welcome!) or didn't pay that much attention (and if so, that's okay), let me tell you. The four acts that really stood out to me this year? VoicePlay, Home Free, Evynne Hollens and Peter Hollens. Between the four of them, they released a crazy amount of videos this year. 85 total on their combined channels, assuming I counted correctly. 87, if you add in videos that live on other people's channels. Yes, I actually went through and counted. I think I got everything, but it's possible that I didn't.

Actual number aside, it's still a lot of music videos. Not just that, but they're all good. Great, even. That made trying to narrow it down to a select few quite difficult. Hey, there's worse problems to have. Ultimately, I ended up just going with my gut because I figured I could drag this out forever if I didn't. I decided to break this up into multiple posts to make it simpler. That and considering that I'm including all the videos, that felt like the best choice.

Considering that the first two videos I featured in my video spotlight series were by Evynne and Peter Hollens, it felt appropriate to kick this off with them. Keep reading if you'd like to know what my top five favorite Hollens Family videos were from 2016.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My Top 10 Live Music Experiences of 2016

This year I decided against picking my favorite albums from 2016. The truth is that I have way too many albums left to listen to and didn't feel like trying to do a mass listening of them all like I did last year. Instead, I've decided to pick some of my favorite music related things - starting with this. My top 10 favorite live music experiences from 2016. Some of these are regular concerts and some aren't. I will say that while there were a few other great shows I went to this year, it was actually very easy to narrow it down to my ten favorite experiences. These were all shows that just stood out to me. I went through and made some photo collages of some of the pictures I took at most of these events. Six, to be exact. Out of the remaining four, two of them were musicals I saw. One was a show where I only got a few pictures that were, frankly, terrible. The last was a show where I could have taken pictures, but was too caught up in the show. Although looking back, I wish I would've gotten a few.

No matter. Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite live music experiences from 2016.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Video spotlight: O Little Town of Bethlehem by VoicePlay

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful day, whether you celebrate or not. 

I am now more convinced than ever that the men of VoicePlay do in fact possess some sort of magical powers. Today's video is their most recent. Part of their Partwork series, this video features everyone but the Tony. One of the best perks of being a VoicePlay patron is that we get to see their videos a day or two sooner than everyone else. On the day that this video was released, I was chatting with a fellow VoicePlaya and friend about how ballads aren't really their thing. Then, later that day, an email arrived from their Patreon. Sidenote: their messages to their patrons are the greatest. They have a way of giving me the feels. Warm and fuzzy feels, to be specific. The one that accompanied this email legitimately made me "aw". 

A new video - this video - was posted. I couldn't tell you what song I may have been anticipating, but seeing that it was "O Little Town of Bethlehem" came as a surprise. Leave it to them to release a slow Christmas carol on the same day we would be talking about them not doing slower songs. Their timing is quite impeccable, I must say.

As is always the case when they do a song that I'm already familar with, I was curious about what they did with it. Because if you've paid them any attention at all, you know that they're ones to reinvent a song to make it their own. I talked about this in my video spotlight on their version of "The First Noel", if you missed it. So I knew that they would do the same with this song. 

What I didn't know was that this was going to be quite the departure for them as well. It's funny. Usually it seems like artists go the other direction when they try something new. As in, doing something that's more out there. Not always. Not with VoicePlay. In this case, a departure for them meant going back to the basics, in a sense. No vocal percussion; just some beautiful four part harmony. It means doing something more classic and understated and beautiful. We've never seen this side of VoicePlay and I love it.

This is my third VoicePlay post in 8 days. All three of them were Christmas related video spotlights. I linked the last one above and you can find the first one here. I decided instead to start with the silliest. From there, it was their upbeat take on a classic with almost no silliness - the little silliness that was there was at the very end. Now we have this. They have traded silliness for solemnity and they wear it well. Versatility, thy name is VoicePlay. Every time I think I finally know how incredibly talented they are, I'm wrong. And you know what? In this case? It's great to be wrong.

I want to paraphrase something my dad said when he shared this video with his friends. All of the men of VoicePlay are great lead singers who are also great at harmonizing and who sing great arrangements. That's it. That's them in a nutshell. 

"O Little Town of Bethlehem" is another Geoff arrangement and  I think it might just be his prettiest. The perfect thing to listen to on what is hopefully a terrific Christmas day for all of you.

Watch. Listen. Enjoy.