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Showing posts from November, 2013

Bodybabe - Spleen

from the album Voices (2013)

Bodybabe is a sexy, R&B tune perfectly suited for late night listening.  It is one of many excellent songs on Voices, the latest album by Parisian singer Spleen.

Vibe and groove are magnificently constructed on this record.  It is done by layering instrumental and vocal tracks to create an avalanche of sound that keeps coming at you.  The foundation is created by a simple snare beat that transverses the entire song coupled with a six-note bass line that is equally simple.  Together, they comprise a bouncing groove that hooks me.

The vocal layering is inspired.  Spleen has the ability to sing in multiple formats, alternating from a rap-styled delivery to an R&B falsetto.  Beneath this are a combination of male and female vocals delivering runs, siren calls, and yelps of "sexy, sexy."  My favorite part is when Spleen delivers a Prince-inspired spoken word breakdown of:

She wants me
But only for my body
She's crazy
But sexy like nobody

In the…

Crazy Bitches - The Dirty Heads

from the album Home Phantoms Of Summer: The Acoustic Sessions (2013)

Crazy Bitches represent an important demographic for the music industry.  Not only do they serve as the inspiration for countless songs - from the "woman goin' crazy down Caroline Street" to "sweet, sweet, little Ramona" - they also buy a lot of records; particularly when they are convinced that the song is about them.

Well there is no mistaking who The Dirty Heads wrote Crazy Bitches for.  Rejoice girls, this song is for you.

I'm sure you will dig the style of acoustic guitar playing.  It is cool when an acoustic player can create a reggae-ska-alternative-punk vibe.  And the meter to the vocals is certainly inspired.

The lyrics, on the other hand, are not very nice.  After all you've done for these fellas from Huntington Beach, California, you would think they could be a little sweeter.  But that's what you love about them.   They are thinking about you, writing songs about you.  …

Drop The Game - Flume & Chet Faker

from the EP Lockjaw (2013)

Australia continues to produce some of the best new music on the planet.  So, it is exciting to have two of their top rising artists come together and record a collection of songs.  It is even more exciting that the results are dazzling.

Flume is an electronic musician, producer and DJ who - at the age of 22 - has achieved wide notoriety and praise.  His 2012 self titled album reached the top of the Australian charts and earned him over a dozen awards and nominations.  Do yourself a favor and check out his song Holdin' On.

Chet Faker is also an electronic artist who specializes in downtempo.  He is differentiated from other artists by the quality of his vocals.   I became a fan of his music in 2012, when I first heard his album Thinking In Textures, including cover version of  Blackstreet's No Diggity.

Having these two fine artists come together is a very special treat.  I am particularly smitten with the song Drop The Game.  I like how the song uses…

Seven Wheels - MC Yogi

from the single Seven Wheels (2013)

Several years ago, I began getting into electronic and hip/hop music from India.  It was a new world of vibes and grooves.  Of all the artists I uncovered, MC Yogi was my clear favorite.

The cool thing about MC Yogi is that beyond the trippy, hippy vibe were a set of positive lyrics that always taught me something new.  My favorite song was Be The Change which chronicled the life of Gandhi.  Its chorus was like a mantra "You've got to be the change that you want to see in this world, just like Gandhi."  Then there was his fantastic album Elephant Power, where I learned enough about the Hindu religion and culture that I seemed enlightened to the locals during a month in Mumbai.

During that trip, I shot lots of video riding thru the crazy, crowded streets in my tiny taxi cab.  The video of these rides put to MC Yogi and other Indian hip/hop artists is incredible.

His new single is Seven Wheels, from a forthcoming album titled Mantras Bea…

If You're Looking For A Way Out - Tindersticks

from the album Across Six Leap Years (2013)

The band Odyssey struck disco gold in 1977 with their classic, Native New Yorker.  However, the rest of their catalogue contains some of the finest - and most underrated - soul and R&B of that era.  I discovered this back around the turn of the millennium when the British indie rock band Tindersticks released a righteous cover version of Odyssey's If You're Looking for A Way Out.

Fast forward to 2013 and Tindersticks has released an album of re-recorded versions of their greater hits, including an updated version of their Odyssey cover.  It is one off the best late night downtempo soul grooves of the year.

Rather than dissect all the greatness in the guitar, keyboard, and orchestration tracks, or fawn over the vocals, production, and vibe; simply open a bottle of wine, get your chill on, and listen to this fine song.  It is really good.

Click Here to listen to Tindersticks performing If You're Looking For A Way Out from their …

Texas & Tennessee - Lucero

from the EP Texas & Tennessee (2013)

I caught Lucero live tonight for opening show of a three night stint at Terminal West in Atlanta.  These shows are being recorded for a future live album.

"Live Recording" gigs are often tricky as band members often play for the tape rather than the audience.  In addition, newer songs in the set often sound "obligatory" mixed in with the proven numbers.  Fortunately, neither of these realities was true tonight.

In fact, the two best songs of the set were from their latest EP Texas & Tennessee.  The title track from this releases the song I most enjoyed.

First of all, Texas & Tennessee is very well written with a catchy melody line and sharp lyrics.  The lead vocals by Ben Nichols.  His whiskey-soaked voice carries an authenticity that attracts my discerning ear.  Also noteworthy is the country piano track, that carries lifts the song with a quality that I equate with Bob Seger.  A two-piece brass section is also used…

Fight To Keep - Run River North

from the forthcoming album Run River North (2013)

I am in Los Angeles for a few days, which always means catching some great live music.  In advance of my trip, I bought tickets to a Howe Gelb show at the Hotel Cafe, a great Hollywood venue.  It was an early show.

Feeling somewhat knackered, I decided to take a late afternoon "disco nap."  Unfortunately, I did not set an alarm and woke up 40 minutes before showtime.  I channeled my inner fireman to get dressed and out the door in about 4 minutes.  Two minutes later I speeding down the entrance ramp to the 405 and BAM a wall of traffic.  This resulted in me getting to the show an hour late.

The "will call dude" shared my pain but advised that the rest of the bill was strong.  I grabbed a Stella and settled in for the next band.  They were more than good and sounded familiar, but I couldn't place them.  Their third song turned out to be Wishing You The Best.  It was Campfire OK, playing one of my favorite songs o…

Integratron - Dengue Fever

from the album Venus On Earth (2013)

Dengue Fever is a band with that rare ability of laying down unique vibes that sound great.  I recently gave a copy of their 2009 album Sleepwalking Through The Mekon to a close friend who was "lost in the 80's".  He tells me that the album is the only thing he listens to these days, particularly the song One Thousand Tears Of A Tarantula.  I am glad to help, because 80's habits are hard to break.

On their new album, Venus On Earth, the magical vibes continue.  I am hooked on the tune Integratron.  This song sounds like an acid-laced 60's spy movie soundtrack with a woman singing lead vocals in Cambodian.  Another writer described their sound as "Pre-Pol Pot cheesy psychedelic-cum-lounge-surf-garage pop."  What could be better than that !!!

The heroine of Dengue Fever is their enchanting singer, Chhom Nimol.  Her conviction and glorious intonation are evident on every song she sings.  The rest of the band is equally …

Atomic Bomb - William Onyeabor

from the album World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor? (2013)

Back in the 1980's, western musicians such as Paul Simon and David Byrne began collaborating with African musicians and introduced the sounds of that continent's music to a more global audience with wild commercial success.  However, I find a dark lining to this silver cloud.

As musicians, these westerners became enthralled with the polyrhythms and layering associated largely with South African music.  Of course they would be, as it provided a new foundation for their creativity to blossom from.  However, the mass market came to associate this as "the" sound of Africa.  In reality, there are many styles and sounds of African music and the spotlight on South African genres marginalized the fantastic music of countries like Nigeria and Ethiopia.  This is an unfortunate result.

In the decade preceding Graceland, artists like Fela Kuti were infusing western jazz and soul with African music to pr…

Half About Being A Woman - Caroline Smith

from the album Half About Being A Woman (2013)

One of the life lessons that nobody ever taught me was knowing when to pivot.

In each phase of life, I have considered my path, charted my course, and worked hard to reach my goals.  Inevitably, each phase has taken me further - but never far enough - and in order to advance I've had to pivot.  In virtually every case, I've waited too long, determined to make the current path work.  This has cost me valuable time and made the realization of these goals more remote.  Still I try, supremely confident that I will succeed.

I have the utmost respect for Caroline Smith for pivoting with her new album, Half About Being A Woman.  Until now, this Minnesota musician has attempted to make her way in the world of indie rock.  Despite her valiant efforts the results have been lukewarm.  So with her latest release, she has elected to chart a new course with an R&B record.

Her performance unleashes an inner R&B spirit that is genuine and…

Do What You Got To - Afrolicious

from the album California Dreaming (2013)

I am back in my little corner of the world for a day, after a week of rambling from city to city.  But rather than collapsing across the finish line and recharging for the next round, I am all juiced up, jamming to the funk and groove.

Reminds me of a James Brown story.  When JB was a young boy, he was sitting in a Georgia movie theatre with his mother, who was growing aggravated with his moving around.  "Stop your fidgeting" his mother said, to which young James replied "How can I do that, I'm all molecules".

Afrolicious is playing on my back deck this morning and I'm out there drinking espresso and dancing in the drizzle.  It feels good to unleash my molecules.  The song I'm digging most is Do What You Got To Do.  This is a five-and-a-half minute funk instrumental, played brilliantly by these fine Bay Area jam masters.  You can hear a little James Brown, a little Fela, and a whole lot of Afrolicious in this tu…

Five Hundred Miles - Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, Stark Sands

from the original soundtrack recording Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Most songs never make it far from the place they were written.  However, a rare few travel the world and span generations.  One such song is Five Hundred Miles.

When Hedy West was a little girl living in the north Georgia mountains, her grandmother used to play banjo and sing her folk songs from the region.  Years later, as a young folk singer in Greenwich Village she patched together recollections and fragments of these songs to create this beloved folk classic.

Remembered best by the versions recorded by The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, & Mary, this song has been covered by dozens of other artists ranging from Elvis to Nick Cave.  Even Jim Nabors sang it on an episode of Gomer Pyle.

Today, this song has been resurrected by T-Bone Burnett for the Coen Brothers forthcoming film Inside Llewyn Davis.  Here it is performed by cast members Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, and Stark Sands.  Classic Folk is not exactl…

We Got A Love - Shit Robot

from the single We Got A Love (2013)

I get excited hearing the words Shit Robot, knowing that I'm about to get my groove on.

Shit Robot is the pseudonym of Irish DJ and Musician Marcus Lambkin.  I first stumbled onto his album From The Cradle To The Rave in 2010 and felt that he was an artist worth tracking.  On that album, he presented an encyclopedic knowledge of dance vibes and a propensity to combine them with superior results.

This fall, Shit Robot returns with the song We Got A Love.  This is a big beat, club track complete with high-octane keyboard playing, lots of echo, and a deep bass groove.  I really dig that the synthesizer riff that enters during the fifth measure reminds me of a classical number by Richard Strauss.  I also dig the vocals by Reggie Watts, one of the few people who can belt out a disco tune and do stand-up comedy.  Cool dude.

Click Here for the official music video.

Click Here to watch Shit Robot spin some tunes.

No Stranger - Small Black

from the album Limits Of Desire (2013)

Small Black is an indie band from Brooklyn.  Their song No Stranger has been a staple of my playlists for the past six months.

The song is a modern uplift of an 80's new wave vibe.  Led by synthesizer tracks, great guitar technique, and falsetto vocals, this song could have found its way straight onto the Pretty In Pink soundtrack, back in the days when "Tommy was tubular and Jimmy was just tripendicular".

What I dig most about this song is its arrangement and choice of tones.  When listening to No Stranger on a good set of headphones, the craftsmanship of the arrangement really stands out.  Laid out with an orchestral flair, the oscillating keyboard tracks interwind and serpentine with the guitar and vocal tracks, lifting the listener and softly laying them back down.

The choices of tone further enhance the arrangement.  The lush reverb on the vocals, the echo on the drums, and the equalization of the bass groove all stand out.  Th…

The Man Who Wants You - Amos Lee

from the album Mountains Of Sorrow, Rivers Of Song (2013)

It has been a while since I've heard a song that combines Country Funk and Southern Soul as well as The Man Who Wants You by Amos Lee.

This song sets a vibe that comes straight from the 70's.  It is a strong piece of songwriting that contains several great hooks and a memorable melody line.  The musicianship is also excellent.  I am drawn to the rhythm section, with the beat and groove capturing that odd balance between loose and tight that the other musicians trigger off of.  This is particularly true of the country piano track, a stand out on this record.

I also dig how the lead guitar track by Amos Lee is roughed up in a more modern way than the rest of the song.  This gives it an air of relevance than helps make this song connect with the listener.  His vocals are spot-on, with tone and inflection that match the vibe.  The backing vocals are equally well-suited and provide several of the hooks that draw me into this…

Bigger Than War - Boy George

from the album This Is What I Do (2013)

It begins with the low-volume click of a simple beat and evolves into a full drum roll.  It is followed by vocals and electric keys.  The vocals are crisp and clear, with a rich texture and confident delivery.  Enter backing vocalists and muscular horns that add big soul to the R&B vibe.  All the while, the band is inching towards that sweet celebration.  The crescendo arrives with the chorus:

Bigger than you
Bigger than me
Love is bigger than war

The melody line created by the vocals and horns is stellar.  The horn add punch.  The background singers throw a little church to the mix.  The result is irresistible.  Downshift to the verse, and the lead vocal stylings become reminiscent of Michael Hutchence-era INXS.  The longer this song goes on, the deeper I lose myself in the groove.

This is the new Boy George song.  I really dig it.  It is modern and on-point, while still having a retro club goodness that makes me smile.  Check it out.  I hope …

Bissao - Francis Bebey

from the album Francis Bebey (2013)

I woke up way too early, turned on the tube, and watched this crazy world.  Mayors smoking crack.  Girl avatars luring pedophiles.  A faster, more lethal, spy plane.  Did I drink too much tequila last night?  Naaa, but maybe too much sour mix.  How does one cope?  African House Music, that's how !!!

Bissao by Francis Bebey is the perfect tune.  Although Francis died in 2001, electronic producers have been rediscovering his 20+ albums,  along with those of others he worked with, including the great Manu Dibango (if you are unfamiliar, check out Soul Makossa).  I dig Francis Bebey.  He was not only a great musician and composer, he was also a sculptor and a celebrated author.  He makes Cameroon proud.

The Pilooski Edit of this song turns me on.  The African vibes and a big dance beat have me dancing around my hotel room like a trippin' dead head.  The bass groove is deep and infectious.  And the myriad of hooks has my head spinning like a wobbl…

Try Again - Resonators

from the album The Constant (2013)

I am in Florida this week but nowhere near a beach.  I have been dreaming of having my toes in the sand and an icy liquor bomb in my hand.  When these fancies hit me, I find myself listening to reggae tunes.

Resonators play a brand of reggae that is more London than Kingstown.  The UK Reggae Guide has this to say:

"… true understanding and passion of roots music.  Resonators undoubtably have a real ear for taking original roots reggae and imprinting their own modern, innovative stamp which is both unique and extremely refreshing in modern roots music."

The first thing that hits me about this song is its classic roots reggae vibe.  The meter and tone are spot on, with horns adding extra delight.  Then enter the soulful vocals of their two female vocalists, Faye Houston and Kassia Zermon.  As I listen to this song - over and over - I am in awe of their singing.  It is as good as reggae vocals get.  I also dig the light touch of the guitarist.

Shame On Me - The Cocktail Slippers

from the single Shame On Me (2013)
The Cocktail Slippers are a girl rock band hailing from Oslo, Norway.  David Fricke of Rolling Stone Magazine had this to say: "In full hosanna, The Slippers sound a lot like The Go-Go's but with gats instead of L.A. Cheer, and a mule kick in their high heels."  That works for me.
Their new single is titled Shame On Me.  It will be included on a new album set for January 2014 release.  I dig this tune right from the opening guitar riff with its roughed up tone.  It is no wonder the guitarist calls herself Rocket Queen.  Playing alongside her is strong drumming, a pulsing bass groove, and sustained keyboard accents.  This is a driving rock song with the right amount of attitude.
Hope is the vocalist for The Cocktail Singers.  I like the lower tones in her voice.  They add muscle to the vibe and give the song a dark seductiveness.  I also like how she can raise her dynamics and climb over the music for full-throated glory, when necessary.…

Retrograde - James Blake

from the album Overgrown (2013)

It is mind-boggling how awesome some human voices sound.  James Blake has one of those voices, as witnessed on the song Retrograde.

Throughout the song's introduction, he sings wordless falsetto runs over a simple beat and sustained piano chords.  It is chillingly good.  I've been racking my brain trying to equate it with some other male vocalist.  Perhaps D'Angelo on Brown Sugar, but that is not quite right.

I am also fascinated with the music on this song.  It is fairly minimalistic - just beats, electric piano, and keyboards - but manages to create a full soundscape and vibe that serves as the perfect backdrop for the soaring vocals.

I believe that when people look back on 2013, this song will be one of the year's highlights.

Click Here to watch Retrograde performed on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Click Here to watch Retrograde performed live in the studios of KEXP.