Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fig In Leather - Devendra Banhart

from the album Ape In Pink Marble (2016)

It is a very funky morning in the Gigolo domicile.

I am grooving to an eclectic mix that has a very special new member, Fig In Leather by Devendra Banhart.  Give it a spin, it will brighten your day.

While you are listening, try to pick out all the diverse tones.  I dig the Japanese vibe, the disco orchestration, the Falco meet Pet Shop Boys spoken segments, that funky guitar and bass, the rhythm sticks, and the stylistic harmonies.

Time to turn up the volume and hit "repeat."

Click Here to listen to Fig In Leather.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Heard It From A Friend - LOLO

from the album In Loving Memory Of When I Gave A Shit (2016)

There are some up and coming artists who I really pull for.  LOLA is one of those artists.

At sixteen, she left her home in Jackson, Tennessee to moved to Los Angeles, where she joined a reggae band and lived with Lisa Marie Presley.  From there, she found her way into musical theatre, followed by stints living in London and NYC.  At the end of 2014, she left NYC to return to Jackson and "hit the reset button."

She is now 29 years old and has released the glorious album In Loving Memory Of When I Gave A Shit, a record that is even better than its title.

I really dig the opening track Heard It From A Friend.  Although this is not an REO Speedwagon cover, it shares the same sentiment: hearing of a lover's betrayal through the grapevine.

The songs vibe and underlying groove conjure elements of Adele and Carol King, but it the raw honesty in how she tells her story that drives her individuality and authenticity.  From the chorus:

Heard it from a friend
Who heard it from a friend
So when you gonna tell me
You fucked me over

I also like the way she shares her story in social media.  When posting the video to this song, she writes: "You can only bury the truth for so long.  And when the truth surfaces and you're outed, what do you do?  Do you run and hide or do you own up?  When you run and hide it still exists.  And I can still write about you.  Thanks for the fuel."

Good luck with the record LOLO.  I am rooting for you.

Click Here to watch the official video for Heard It From A Friend.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

St. Anne's Parade - Shovels & Rope

from the album Little Seeds (2016)

Shovels & Rope (Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent) are one of my favorite Americana duos.  Having seen them perform in many small venues, I get a strong sense for who they are and am confident they would make a great addition to my collection of funky friends.

I think of one night after a show at The Earl in ATL.  I was hanging out with some friends in the parking lot and watched Michael quietly load his equipment in their camper while Cary Anne sat in the passenger seat with her eyes shut.  Something about that moment captured my heart.

I also find something in their songs that rings of honesty, hard work, and faded american truths that endear them to me all the more.

On their forthcoming record - Little Seeds - I have been digging the song St. Anne's Parade.  This sweet folk tune shares many of their familiar themes of the vagabond life told with tenderness and outstanding visual imagery.  One of my favorite couplets is:

And it never feels like we're getting any older
But the memories build up around the eyes

Next time you see a camper trekking down the Interstate, give them a smile, they might represent the great american tradition of the rambling troubadour.

Click Here to watch the official video to St. Anne's Parade.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sing Me Your Love Song - Sean Hayes

from the album Low Light (2016)

Many restaurants promote pairings of wine and food.  However, what if we paired music with alcohol and drugs?  Last weekend, I saw The Specials in NYC and it offered a perfect pairing of classic Ska with Red Bull & Vodka.  If you play around with this idea a bit, you can have some fun...

As summer turns to fall, my inclination to unwind with a bottle of fine red wine intensifies and tends not to subside until sometime around Kentucky Derby Day.  This protracted season is ambrosia for my aural palate.

I am particularly fond of pairing Sean Hayes with a bottle of Cote du Rhone.  The typical Southern Rhone blend of 80% grenache and 20% syrah creates a vivid fruit taste that is best enjoyed over a slower, downtempo, more-melodic vibe.  If possible, find a 2012 vintage that is aged in oak.  You will find that this brings out the expressiveness in the vocals and highlights the delightfully warm tones of the guitar's rosewood neck.

Sean Hayes' latest album - Low Light - finishes very well.  The closing track - Sing Me Your Love Song - contains hints of smoke, a misty bouquet, and a lead guitar track that blends fatty bass with acidy trebles.  Such subtle balance is the perfect way to end a quiet evening.

I know it is uncommon to pair a Sonoma County singer/songwriter with a French red, but do yourself a favor and imbibe with this titillating twosome.  I am certain you will find it most satisfying.

Click Here to listen to Sing Me Your Love Song.

Monday, September 19, 2016

We Aren't The World (Safety Girl) - Wilco

from the album Schmilco (2016)

Once upon a time, my never-ending road show had taken me to Saint Louis where I decided to stop in on some old friends from my Milwaukee days.  The visit turned into a lost weekend.

They rented a house with some musicians who were playing Americana, although I knew it as Alternative Country at the time.  They smoked reefer and listened to Johnny Cash records.  When they learned I could play bass, they handed my Fender Jazz and let me sit in their ring of fire.  I saw no reason to ever leave.

On Friday (or was it Saturday) night, we went to a basement bar to see a band named Uncle Tupelo.  Earlier that day, the roommates were playing the Anodyne album.  It was love at first sound.  And after seeing that - now legendary - band in that tiny venue, I was changed in a way that had only happened twice before (after first seeing The Ramones and Billy Bragg) and never again.

Aside from the magnificent voices Jay Faraar and Jeff Tweedy, whether singing solo or in harmony, the rest of the band simply sounded incredible.  Despite the small, crowded room, I was able to differentiate and appreciate each of the other three musicians (bass, keyboards, and drums) in a way that was uncommon, particularly compared with the NYC music scene I was accustomed to.

This greatly influenced my musical journey over the next twenty-plus years; a journey that has included Wilco every step along the way.

I am most drawn to their lower-volume songs because they afford a greater opportunity to appreciate the musicianship of the individual band members and the fidelity in their studio craftsmanship.  It is for this reason that the I dig their latest album, Shmilco.

Of these songs, I am drawn to We Aren't The World (Safety Girl).  Soft and melodic, every musician can be appreciated.  The bass lines of John Stirratt and the drumming of Glenn Kotche shine on this record.  Listening to this song, you realize how important this rhythm sections to the sound of the band.

It takes me back to that night in Saint Louis, when I discovered a new way to listen to music.

Click Here to listen to We Aren't The World (Safety Girl).

Click Here to stream the entire Schmilco album.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

What Would You Give (In Exchange For Your Soul) - The Devil Makes Three

from the album Redemption & Ruin (2016)

The Devil Makes Three are a revivalist group from Santa Clara, California.  They are - as their name implies - a three piece band, consisting of guitar, upright bass, and banjo.  Their voices intertwine with great effect, evoking some of the great bluegrass and folk-blues groups of the depression era.

As a side note, it is a shame that more modern bands do not leverage the harmonies of men and women, as was done in earlier times.  When you think of how powerful it was for bands like X, why have others not integrated it into their sound?

On their latest album - Redemption & Ruin - they create stirring covers of songs by such greats as Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, Muddy Water, and Townes Van Zandt while employing the talents of guests that include Emmylou Harris, Duane Eddy, and Jerry Douglas.  The songs share a fire and brimstone theme.

My favorite track is What Would You Give (In Exchange For Your Soul), in which they keep it simple and stick true to Bill Monroe's original version.

I dig how the slide guitar and banjo work together to create a hard-floor waltz feel.  Couple with it the  vocals - sometimes in harmony, other times in call-and response - with a subliminal bass laying down grounding the endeavor.  There are a thousand lessons to be learned in their playing.

I also dig the central question being asked in the lyric.  What would you give in exchange for your soul?

It is worth checking out this entire album.

Click Here to listen to What Would You Give (In Exchange For Your Soul).

Saturday, September 17, 2016

For Good - Remi.

from the album Divas And Demons (2016)

Yesterday, I wrote about the African poet-songstress Sampa The Great and hollow-cost recording and streaming technology allows voices like hers to be heard by gigolos like myself.

Today, I am focused on how this democratization of music allows for collaboration between artists who may not have otherwise found each other and how the intersection of their varied styles creates new possibilities.

Case in point, the song For Good by Australian hip-hop artist Remi.  This song features Sampa The Great and introduces elements of African layering - particularly in the funky rhythm guitar - to create a freshness in the vibe.  It also adds a slightly different, non-typical feel when Sampa grows down her own rap.

This slight pull in of Remi towards African rhythms is refreshing, as is the westernness of Sampa The Great's background harmonies.

In a world with 7 Billion people, there are mind bending possibilities for diverse people come together and create something new.  I find this inspirational.

Click Here to watch the official film clip for For Good.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Blue Boss - Sampa The Great

from the single Blue Boss (2016)

The democratization of music, made possible by technology, gives voice to those who might not otherwise be heard.

Case in point, Sampa The Great, a Zambian-born, Botswanan-raised woman now making her home in Sydney, Australia and recording for Melbourne's Wondercore Island label.  She is a poet and a singer, whose music stands at a unique intersection of hip-hop, R&B, and indie spectrums.

Her emerging body of work is certainly impressive, but for me it is all about her voice, both technically and in the message she delivers.  Lyrically, I can't stop digging her song Blue Boss.  This is the voice of a modern African woman expanding her horizons in the connected world.

The song's chorus speaks of a leaving home to make a better world, while leaving your ancestral home behind:

Mama said "Use Your Head
Cause you're stuck up in the clouds"
Well I think we fly high
Cause we stuck up in them clouds
We no longer in this world
Cause we stuck up in them clouds
All we do is blow trees
When you stuck in them clouds
Damm, see that
Damm, Freedom
Damm, Damm, Freedom, Freedom
Damm, Damm, Freedom, you see that

And the verses are even better, casting visual images of hunger, pain, shit, and blood.  One of my favorite lines from the second verse:

It's time for you to see
That this is democracy
If the rich are getting richer
Boy, how poor you gonna be
Oh, how dumb we gonna be
Freedom is a lullaby

Despite all the huger, pain, shit, and blood, we are blessed to live in a technological world where Sampa The Great's voice can be heard.

Click Here to listen to Blue Boss.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

La Luna - Little Jesus

from the album Río Salvaje (2016)

I recently took on a major project - writing a book - and have found that managing my environment is critical.  Regardless of whether I am researching, outlining, writing, or editing, distractions are the enemy and must be avoided at all costs.

Simple things like closing the door, turning off the phone, and staying of email are a great start, but the environment is so much more.  Sound is important element in two ways: first, it drowns out outside noise, and second, it creates a mood and tempo to facilitate productivity.

A major challenge that for me are lyrics.  I am obsessed with lyrics and their visual imagery.  I must steer clear of them.  This often leads to me playing instrumental music, from jazz to electronica to surf.  However, it also allows me to explore another category, music with non-english vocals, where the voice becomes simply another instrument to enjoy.  This opens up the spectrum to virtually any genre.

I have been digging lots of Mexican bands lately (don't tell The Donald), including Little Jesus, a Mexico City band that plays a wide range of melodic rock.

La Luna is a deep cut off their latest record.  At nearly nine and a half minutes, it provides a great opportunity to get lost in the funky guitar, tight drums, and subliminal bass groove.  The driving tempo and pulsing beat help channel me to a groovy place where my work output is optimized.  The closing chill out helps takes me down a few notches and keeps me from breaking into some kind of rapturous episode.

Jam this one out the next time you are working.

Click Here to listen to La Luna.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Three Packs A Day - Courtney Barnett

from the single Three Packs A Day (2016)

I am simply mad about Courtney Barnett.

I find her loose, jangling vibe and verbal gymnastics to be the most satisfying sound for my sunburnt soul.

I just stumbled across the song Three Packs A Day, a single she released back in mid-January.  I was planning to blog about her cover of the Grateful Dead's New Speedway Boogie, but I'm so smitten with this song that I just have to write about it.

Cleverly, Three Packs A Day is not about cigarettes, but ramen noodles instead.  She is "down to three packs a day," I wonder how bad a habit she actually had.

Musically, the bass groove and harmonica solo stand out.

This is a happy song for a hump day.  Eat ramen.

Click Here to listen to Three Packs A Day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Murdered Out - Kim Gordon

from the single Murdered Out (2016)

After a 35 year music career, former Sonic Youth bassist Kim Gordon has released her first song under her own name.

Murdered Out is loud, noisy, and delicious.  The groove lover in me digs the big fat bass line that serves as the song's central hook.

"Murdered Out" is an expression used to describe the black-on-black matte finish of spray paint that has is used in certain do-it-yourself paint jobs on cars, and such.  As Kim Gordon describes on her labels YouTube channel:

"When I moved back to LA, I noticed more and more cars painted with black matte spray, tinted windows, blackened logos, and black wheels.  This was something I had occasionally seen in the past, part of the lowrider car culture.  A reclaiming of a corporate symbol of American success.  The Car, from an outsider's point of view.  A statement-making rejection of the shiny brand new look, the idea of a new start, the promise of power, and the freedom on the open road.  Like an option on a voting ballot, "none of the above."

"Murdered Out," as a look, is creeping into mainstream culture as a design trend.  A coffee brand.  A clothing line.  A nail polish color.

Black-on-black matte is the ultimate expression of digging out, getting rid of, purging the soul.  Like a black hole, the supreme inward look, a culture collapsing in on itself, the outsider as an unwilling participant as the "It" look."

Get your rock on and turn this one up.

Click Here to listen to Murdered Out.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Girl In Amber - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

from the album Skeleton Tree (2016)

Inspired, atmospheric, and poetic, Skeleton Tree is one of the top albums of 2016, if not the decade.

Although it is an album best appreciated as a complete work, there are a few songs that particularly stand out for me, like Girl In Amber.

The song offers a lament on relationships that have passed.  Although nobody can be quite certain, the lyrics imply that these relationships include the death of his son, his divorce, and the breakup of his original band, The Birthday Party.  Around this, mournful piano chords, bells, guitar feedback, and strings create the backdrop for the beautifully graveled vocal.  A choir of background vocalists join in for the chorus:

And if you want to bleed, just bleed
And if you want to bleed, just bleed
And if you want to bleed, don't breathe a word
Just step away and let the world spin

But for me, I get consumed the visual imagery of a "girl in amber."

Back in the days when communism was falling across Eastern Europe, I spent three months working in Poland.  On Warsaw streets, you could regularly find enterprising women and men selling their heirlooms to the newly arrived Westerners who were upgrading the nation's infrastructure and facilitating an economic renaissance/invasion.

Among the most common heirlooms were pieces of amber, the most sought after of which had mosquitos - or other insects - suspended inside them.  These mosquitos had been trapped there for thousands of years and looked like they would simply fly away if broken free.

In the context of this song, it is easy to imagine girls from my past suspended in amber.  Whether it is a companion or a grandmother, they remain as they were then, suspended in my mind's amber, ready to fly away if broken free.

It is uncommon for a song to evoke such thoughts.

Click Here to listen to Girl In Amber.

Click Here to listen to Skeleton Key in its entirety.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Down Down - Coathangers

from the album Nosebleed Weekend (2016)

The Coathangers are a garage punk band from Atlanta.  They are a band of girls, rather than a girl band.

On their latest album - Nosebleed Weekend - I am digging the song Down Down.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the structure of songs and wondering if structure matters - so long as each element can stand on its own and come together in a somewhat cohesive way.  This song effectively has two distinct parts, the "verse" and the the "chorus".

The "verse" lays down a cool vibe.  I particularly like the guitar riff and the backing vocals.  The "chorus" is driven by power chords power chords that offer the perfect counterpoint to the verse.

But what is really cool is this interlude.  Could this be "bridge"?  This is a hard driving moment that makes me want to slam dance.  The coolest thing is that the tempo changes slightly during this part.

Whatever on the technical stuff.  This is a good song.

Click Here to listen to Down Down.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Freeway - Lost Beach

from the single Freeway (2106)

Just because all you see is the dust
Doesn't mean your the only one around

I've been digging this line to the song Freeway by the Los Angeles based band Lost Beach.  This song is introspective, with plenty of space to allow you to absorb the meaning in the lyrics.

The simple guitar strum over long, sustained piano chords is stirring.  Perfect for nights like this, sitting in a field with a drink in my hand, staring at the stars, and listening to great tunes.

Click Here to listen to Freeway on SoundCloud.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Drinkee - Sofi Tukker

from the EP Soft Animals (2016)

Sofi Tukker are a duo of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, two NYC musicians who create great electro-pop vibes.

On Drinkee, a cool guitar riff creates the foundation for a tripped out dance vibe.  Over this, they sing in Portuguese to a lyric inspired by the Brazilian poet, Chacal.

I really dig the poems of Chacal.  Rising from the streets in the early 1970's, Chacal was a voice against the political persecution of Brazil's military dictatorship.  His style is almost manic and is laced with the rhythms of Brazilian music.  Poems and lyrics meld.

If you are ever so inclined, get yourself into an altered state, play Chacal's poetry loud and begin noodling on the instrument of your choice.  You will be better for it.

In the meantime, dig the vibe.  Sofi Tukker offer some of the best indie dance music I have heard this year.

Click Here to watch the official video for Drinkee.

Click Here to see a teaser for an upcoming film on Chacal.  Watch him recite his poetry, it comes from somewhere deep inside him.