Who Am I?

My photo
A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

07 August 2008

Ice Mac Sea?

My friends, Hal and David and I often talk about music in our blogs. I guess when you're passionate about one thing - aviation, in our case - you are often passionate about other things as well. Sometimes we three suggest particular songs or artists to each other. But everyone's taste in music is different, and I'm content in knowing that the other two may not find the same fascination in the things I like.

Hal has written a couple of times about an artist known as Ice Mac Sea, real name: Michael McCrickard. So enthralled was Hal with one of McCrickard's songs upon hearing it on the radio while driving that he actually pulled over to note the title and artist. (Heh- I've done that too.) He ended up buying the complete CD, which as it turns out was released back in 2002. Hal gives it a big two-thumbs-up, and you can read his review here. Please do.

On the strength of Hal's thumbs, I downloaded McCrickard's CD, "Measure For Measure" and gave it a listen ($7.92 on iTunes!). It is...well...odd. Hal described McCrickard's voice as a cross between Ronnie Milsap and Junior Brown, and he's absolutely right. It's hard to tell how old Ice Mac Sea is. While McCrickard cites the Beatles as a strong influence, you can plainly hear echoes of the Dave Matthews Band, and other relatively younger bands. He admits to have been playing in various "obscure garage bands" for fifteen years, so that would put him in his 30's.

We Americans like music that fits into neat, narrow categories that fit into the neat, narrow radio station formats. McCrickard's does not do either. Don't expect to hear any of his songs on any "Q100" or "Hot97" stations or the like. It's sort of country, sort of rock, sort of electronica, sort of hip-hop. Like Donna The Buffalo, or my buddy Goat (Andrew Scott Rosen, who's not really my buddy), Citizen Cope, and Widespread Panic, it's very hard to nail down just exactly which category McCrickard falls into. iTunes lumps him in "Alternative" and I suppose that's as good a place as any.

Me, I happen to like music that doesn't fit into one specific category...music that crosses lines and expands boundaries. Which is exactly what Ice Mac Sea does.

The songs are great, but having said that, the music itself is strange, with beeps and other sound effects randomly thrown in. But McCrickard's vocals are often altered...modulated in a "hiccupping" style that is popular now but that I personally find to be distracting. Thankfully, his strong songwriting and singing transcend the wierd production of an obvious computer nerd. But jeez, he was ahead of his time in that regard. Ah well, it'd probably be a big hit with the college-age crowd. Or could have been. Or could be again. Sometimes it takes a while for musical tastes to catch up with certain artists.

Minor gripes out of the way, I quite enjoy the "Measure For Measure" album. It's one of a very few albums that I can put on and listen to all the way through. Then again, there are only eight songs with a total running time of about 35 minutes. I won't go so far as to say there's "something for everybody" on this record but there are few if any "tune-outs." (Ironically, I like more of the songs on Ice Mac Sea's CD than I do the new Coldplay CD. And I love Coldplay!)

"Chop Chop Chop" is probably my favorite song, as it's the most catchy and up-tempo of the bunch - and you know how I am about catchy and uptempo. But the others are good too. "Some Kind Of Funny Religion" hits home with me because of what I've been going through personally lately. All of the songs are clever, some are quite funny, and they all resonate, which I think is the key to good songwriting, no?

So Hal made that big post about Ice Mac Sea on his blog. I was going to just respond to it there, but then I figured - hey, why not get one of these viral marketing things going? If someone else hears one of McCrickard's songs on the radio, maybe they'll Google him, and up will pop both Hal and my posts! And then maybe they'll blog about him...

It seems as though McCrickard only put out this one album and hasn't been recording much lately. Too bad. I'd like to hear more from him. I think you would too.

Michael McCrickard's website: ICE MAC SEA


Hal Johnson said...

"We Americans like music that fits into neat, narrow categories that fit into the neat, narrow radio station formats."

Remember the days when you could tune up an "Album Rock" station and actually expand your musical horizons? Huh. Not any more. You're right: we Americans seem to want to find what we're looking for contained within neat little musical boundaries.

You're right that Ice Mac Sea will never be found on the "Hot 97"sort of stations, but I think that he he should get more exposure. There are a few of us left who appreciate music that doesn't obey the Law of Genre.

Hey, thanks for mentioning the strength of my thumbs!

Michael McCrickard said...

Awwww, you blogging-helicopter pilots are spoiling me! I think I may have finally found my niche here. Are there a lot you guys out there? Are all helicopter guys so eclectic, musically speaking?

Getting unsolicited reviews of my music is still big deal for me. And it's especially nice, since I agree with everything you say here. I'll be the first to admit that much of this record sounds odd. Doing music on a computer is much easier than recording a full band in a studio, but it rarely gives you exactly what you were hearing in your head. Sometimes it gives you something way better than your original vision, but most of the time it compromises your ideas and takes them in unexpected directions. And it makes it so easy to try different versions and ideas and directions that you nearly drive yourself nuts trying to declare a song finished.

I do feel like the genre-confusion that the record engenders is one of it's strengths. This is partly unavoidable because I love a bunch of different styles of music from so many different eras. And partly it's deliberate, because, like you, I'm drawn to stuff that seems to cross over from one genre to another. The "sorta this, sorta that, sorta something else, sorta yet another thing" description made me smile because I know exactly what you mean. One of my favorite groups from the 70s was Little Feat. I felt like they embodied so many different styles simultaneously, that they were like genre unto themselves. In the 90s, I think the Dave Matthews Band did much the same thing. Those guys have spawned so many imitators (many of whom are great in their own right) that they oughta name a genre after the band.

It's so interesting that you concur with Hal on the Milsap / Junior Brown comparison, because I had never noticed it before. Now that y'all have pointed it out, I DO kind of sound like Ronnie Milsap! How freaky is that. And I'm less familiar with Junior Brown, but I can hear what you're talking about. Other people have compared my voice to Ian Anderson, which makes me blush.

OK, now, you two blogging pilots have officially revived my once-fading musical career and I'm heading down to the basement to finish mixing my new CD. I'm not too quick in the production department, as you've noticed, but I'm inspired enough to try and pick up the pace now. Thanks again, so much, Bob, and go downtown and check out my sister's gallery, The Pink Picasso, which is there in Pensacola, when you get a chance. Tell her the Iceman sent you!

Bob Barbanes said...

Michael, first of all, thank you for contributing to this blog.

Yes, in a way we helicopter pilots *are* all a little eccentric, and our tastes eclectic. You have to be a little off-center to do this wacky job.

You know, the concept of doing an album with musicians who are not even in the same state is intriguing. Kind of like those Frank Sinatra duets from a while back, or that horrible Bing & Bowie Christmas thing. I've worried that computerization would replace real instruments since almost anything can be synthesized nowadays. Glad to see you combining the best of both worlds. But doesn't everyone playing by themself and sending you the track take away a little bit of the studio spontaneity or symbiosis of musicians in the same room? If that is the case however, it's hard to tell from your record.

I agree with you about the DMB. Quite a unique style there. And yeah, I *loved* Lowell George/Little Feat too. But isn't Widespread Panic in the same uncategorizable category? Kind of like Zappa or Canned Heat. Dave Matthews was just able to break through and gain, um, widespread popularity where the others could not.

When I was a kid in NYC, our main Top-40 radio station played everything from the Beatles and Stones to Louis Armstrong to the Kingston Trio to Frank Sinatra and back to Led Zeppelin. We were exposed to all types of music. I worry that "kids today" don't have that broad an exposure. All they get is the same narrow niche crap over and over and won't really be able to appreciate different types of good music unless it's "as interpreted by Britney Spears." So please do make more! I'll be eager to hear the new CD when you get it done.

By the way, I clicked on your sister's website - nice stuff! Very location-appropriate. I will make a point of visiting the gallery in person.

David said...

Bob, Hal, and I don't always see 'needle to groove' on music but now I'm intrigued.

Can't wait to see the kid at the record stores face when I go lookin' for this one.

Michael McCrickard said...

Yeah, the whole "collaborate over the internet" thing in music is pretty fascinating. I got my start in the online music world at a site called AcidPlanet (named after the Acid Pro software by Sony). A bunch of people stumbled onto the whole idea at more or less the same time. Since we were all using the same software and most of us had broadband connections, it was very easy to exchange multi-track files, and the symbiosis that resulted from THAT, got a lot of folks really excited. Suddenly you could collaborate with people around the country or around the world.

But truly, there's no musical experience as fun as playing live with other people, whether you've got an audience or not. That spontaneity and the unexpected interplay that sometimes happens can be totally exhilirating. But of course, the older you get, the more responsibilities everybody has and the harder it is to pull off even a basement jam session. With the online thing, not only does it open up tremendously your possible world of "bandmates", but the convenience thing pays off big-time. Anybody who contributes to an online track can do so in their own home studio, whenever the inspiration strikes and can put as much time into it as they feel like. I think that's what offsets the lack of live interplay -- the fact that each musician can wait until the "vibes" are right and then go for it. Of course, this does mean that a single track can take months to complete, even years sometimes! But that's another story.

And yes, I thought of Widespread Panic, too, after I wrote that post. I feel like they sharpened and focused the vision that the Grateful Dead originally put out there and took it to some astounding heights. In some ways, the Dead was like the original simultaneous pan-genre band -- in a single song, you could hear echoes of country, swing, rock, blues, folk, old-timey hillbilly music, etc. etc. And the Panic took all that and brought in even more influences.

My friends and I have often lamented what's happened to radio, too. Like you, we grew up with a radio station that would play soft rock, hard rock, folk, country, the latest Motown and soul records, smooth easy listening and popular jazz tunes, all in the same hour! The most exciting developments in radio now seem to be in satellite radio and the internet. The sheer volume of artists and tracks and genres and sub-genres and sub-sub-genres is almost overwhelming, but the opportunities to sample and discover new music has never been greater. Even Ice Mac Sea made it onto satellite radio! It almost restores my faith in the whole music biz.

Hal Johnson said...

Checking out Ice Mac Sea on iTunes, I think it's kind of telling that the "Listeners Also Bought" box lists "A Tribute to NRBQ," "Not Fade Away," a Buddy Holly tribute, "In Spite of Ourselves," by John Prine, and "A Rush of Blood to the Head," by Coldplay.

Bob Barbanes said...

It won't be long, I suppose, until musicians can collaborate over the internet in real time, playing "together" although they are miles apart. With a big-screen monitor showing the other guys, at least "some" of the spontaneity might be returned.

I was thinking about this on a long road trip just this week. Paul McCartney's "Every Night" came on my iPod...from his first solo album on which he played virtually every instrument. And you can hear...something (no pun intended) in the drumming...something a little "off." The music is great, yeah, but once you know the secret, it's easy to hear that it's all just one guy multi-tracking himself.

Or maybe it was my imagination. But I listened to that song over and over, and every time I thought to myself, "The drumming's wrong" - like it was added later, unlike today where a drum machine lays down the beat first. (I mean, I guess that's how it's done. I wish I knew more about the recording process.)

In any event, it is fascinating to see the directions that technology is taking music. Gotta love it!