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Showing posts from March, 2014

Come Back Home - 2NE1

from the album Crush (2014)

Earlier this week, I was in Los Angeles and was the recipient of some Korean delight.  Now I'm not going to go into details, but lets just say it was very satisfying and left me grinning from ear to ear.

It is amazing how this type of experience can lift your spirits and leave you bouncing off the walls, singing silly songs, and finding new joy in being alive.  There is no better time to listen to songs by Korean pop superstars 2NE1.  This girl band released another fine album last month that includes hopelessly catchy songs, like Come Back Home.

This song is total pop, complete with autotune, a little reggae vibe, and all the glossy style you can handle.

But who cares?  I am happy and nothing else matters.

Click Here to watch the music video for Come Back Home.

Monument Park - The Baseball Project

from the album 3rd (2014)

Bernie Williams played center field for the New York Yankees.  Here he stood on perhaps the most hallowed ground in the sport.  He was outstanding, winning championship after championship.  However, standing in that spotlight there are also the looming shadows of those who came before him.  Men like Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.  As great as he was, he would never be that great.

The song Monument Park is a tribute to Bernie Williams, released just in time for Opening Day by the alternative supergroup The Baseball Project.  With Steve Wynn of Dream Syndicate standing at the center microphone, this album's lineup includes such rock luminaries as Peter Buck and Mike Mills of REM.

The song has a great flare, reminiscent of The Byrds playing My Back Pages.  Here is the chorus:

As I glide between the statues
Slide between the stones
I'm standing in the field
But I'm standing here alone
Whistling past the graveyard
Long after dark
Singing la-la-la-la-la
Out in Mo…

Let Me In - Habibi

from the album Habibi (2014)

Habibi are a four piece "girl" band from Brooklyn USA.  Their music stands at a fascinating intersection of retro-Iranian and American 60's music.  Dig this quote from Habibi's Rahill Jamalifard in V Magazine:

"My influences are directly related to my ancestry: Iran, gypsies, nomads, the inspiration of poets like Hafiz, Saadi, and Rumi, my travels within the country, its people, the culture, and the music I grew up listening to.  Unlike so many of my friends, my parents didn't have record collections of classic rock, blues, and jazz.  They instead had countless cassettes of sad songs sung by old Iranian singers, and VHS tapes of music shows filmed pre-1979 Revolution."

Had I known that, I would have paid more attention when they were laying down the vibe at the Burger Records fest at SXSW.  Instead, I was slamming tequila and Red Bull, doing the Air Tuba, and acting like an idiot.  In other words, being myself.

One of their s…

Salvajes - AJ Davila

from the album Terror Amor (2014)

One of the great travesties in music today is the stereotyping of latin bands.  Enrique Iglesias.  Shakira.  Ricky Martin.  These are the faces of latin music to much of the world.  Too bad.  There is so more music out there to dig.

AJ Davila is an artist from Puerto Rico, whose new album Terror Amor lays down a punk-garage vibe that taps into my inner rock star.  This is actually a solo album, recorded during a break from his band Davila 666.  If you are not familiar with them, check them out.  You won't be disappointed.

The song Salvajes begins with a nice beat on the floor toms joined by overdriven guitars.  The vocals are sung in spanish with a call and response verse and soaring chorus.  As the song progresses, it hits a groove that will absorb you.  By the time he yells "quiero, quiero, quiero" you just might be pumping your fist in the air.

This is another of the bands I caught at SXSW.  They stood out.

Click Here to listen to Salv…

Morning High - La Luz

from the album It's Alive (2013)

I dig the nuance of words and their translation.  La Luz is a band from Seattle whose name means "light" when translated from Spanish to English.  But when you go a little deeper, it often means "light" in an inspirational sense.

I saw this band perform live at the Burger Records extravaganza at SXSW last week.  They were inspirational, playing a brand of "dream surf" that I found completely captivating.

My favorite La Luz song is Morning High.  The song initially grabs me with its latin surf inspired bass and drums with a mystical guitar track.  Then enter the main body of the song with long, sustained keyboard chords and a dream pop groove.  The vocals are a delight with harmonies reminiscent of some of my favorite girl bands (I hate that term).

I also dig how the song segues back into the intro groove for a brief interlude later in the song before returning back into the dreamy finish.  The combination of the two su…

I'll Follow You - Dead Moon

from the EP Too Many People (2012)

Dead Moon was a punk rock band from Portland, Oregon.  Their career spanned from the mid 80's until the mid 00's.  They never gained as large a US following as in Europe, but they were a favorite of many influential American musicians, like Eddie Vedder, who recorded their songs both with Pearl Jam and solo.

I have long been a fan of their bass player, Toody Cole.  Aside from being an excellent bassist, she had an incredible stage presence with her vintage Vox "teardrop" bass.  This is one of the coolest basses ever made, but is often ignored by male players because - at 3/4 scale - it simply looks too small for their looming images.  But on Toody, it looked great.

I recently came across their posthumous EP Too Many People containing some previously unreleased gems, including I'll Follow You.  This country-tinged punk ballad has an authenticity and sincerity that I cannot get enough of.  In fact, I dig it so much that it might j…

Primitive - Real Estate

from the album Atlas (2014)

Yesterday, I flew home from an 11-day installment of my never ending tour that took my thru places like NYC, Austin, and Minnesota.  I was exhausted.  These are the times when I strap on the noise-cancelling coconut shells, close my eyes, and try to find some zen.

My most frequent playlist for these times is called Carefree Highway (from the Gordon Lightfoot song).  It is largely a mix of tunes from the 70's that were once considered "soft rock".  However, due to a recent change in mobile devices, that playlist was not handy so I listened to the album Atlas by the band Real Estate.  I am so glad I did.

This album provides a solid experience from start to finish.  However, the one song I kept returning to was Track 7: Primitive.  Had this song been recorded thirty five years ago, it may have made my misplaced playlist.  It has that fluid, rambling vibe that one really enjoys on that long, hard ride.  Yet it is updated for modern chill seekers.

Evil Eye - Daddy Long Legs

from the album Evil Eye On You (2012)

Three siblings of the Mason family - John, Michael, and Melissa - gathered in Austin from places like Los Angeles and Atlanta to hang out together and check out bands at SXSW.  I was lucky to hang out with them.  In fact, of all the cool things I got to do this week, nothing can compare to hanging out with them.

Today, we hooked up at the Hotel Vegas for an afternoon of great music.  Mike became enthralled with the NYC band Daddy Long Legs and rallied us to hop to their evening show at the Palm Door on 6th Street.  I am so glad we did.

This band captivated the audience with a three piece ensemble consisting of harmonica, guitar, and drums.  Their music is a brand of harmonica driven blues that oozes John Lee Hooker with every psychotic beat.

We were at the front of the stage, in total euphoria, listening to their hard party jam.  I think we were even playing Air Tuba on occasion.  It was everything that seeing a live band is all about.  This band …

Psychological Thriller - Holy Wave

from the album Relax (2014)

My favorite time at SXSW was hanging out at Burgerama 3 at the Hotel Vegas yesterday. It was organized by Burger Records from Fullerton, California.  And when I think of Burger Records, I think of Beach Goth … aah, Beach Goth.

When I arrived and stepped into the venue the band Holy Wave was on stage playing the song Psychological Thriller.  I instantly got caught up in the bass line and how the crowd was charging along with it.  It is amazing when a great bass line connects with a welcoming audience.

Then there was the frenzied guitar work that was lost somewhere between surf and psychedelia.  Also included were long sustained vintage keyboard tones and trippy vocals.  But mostly it was about being with friends, drinking Shiner Bock and tequila shots, surrounded by people who dig the music as me.

The day and night was packed with surf inspired music from bands all over the US and Puerto Rico.  People dancing, partying, and having an altogether great time.  …

Saturday Bride - Quilt

from the album Held In Splendor (2014)

The best part of being at SXSW is stumbling across a great band you had never heard of before.  This happened for me last night when I caught the Boston-based band Quilt at the Swan Dive.

Their sound was pure psychedelia that reminded me most of Revolver era Beatles with shades of Jefferson Airplane.  Guitarist Shane Butler - with his mouth agape - laying down his handy riff work while achieving beautifully lush tones was a highlight of the festival.  I also really dug the drummer - John Andrews - who remained incredible disciplined in his beat selection, giving the guitars and vocals a chance to soar.

The song I most enjoyed from their set was Saturday Bride.  On this song you can hear the drumming and guitar work, but also the incredible male / female vocal harmonies between Butler and multi-instrumentalist Anna Fox Rochinski.

Listening to this band gives you a good feel for the band's sound and why they were so impressive to catch live.

Cl…

Wanderlust - Wild Beasts

from the album Present Tense (2014)

My last blog post discussed how you can hear threads of Vince Clarke in today's music.  Well that is certainly the case with the song Wanderlust by Wild Beasts.  This song reminds me of Yaz or Erasure.  And how.

Whenever I think of Erasure, a recall a time I went on a double date to one of their shows that was in an arena setting, many moons ago.  The other guy was somewhat homophobic and was unaware of Erasure's sexual orientation.  When the first song began, Andy Bell descended to the stage on a wire.  He was wearing a silver sequined astronaut suit with no rear end.  This horrified my friend.  Watching his facial expressions for the next 90 minutes remains one of my favorite concert experiences.

But I digress.  Wild Beasts new album is fantastic, with my favorite song being Wanderlust.  Not much to say except enjoy the nostalgic tones and try not to think about the sequined space suit.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Wande…

Heaven, How Long - East India Youth

from the album Total Strife Forever (2014)

Sometimes I think of music in terms of threads that span generations of likeminded artists.  The musical spectrum is loaded with these threads.  They are fun to uncover.

Lately, I have traced several of these threads back to one man:  Vince Clarke.  For those unfamiliar, Vince was the creative genius who created Depeche Mode.  Their early songs like Just Can't Get Enough are his handiwork.  As that band reached a larger audience, he quit to remain in the clubs with bands like Yaz and Erasure.  A "Best of Vince Clarke" compilation could easily include fifty great songs.

I hear shades of Vince Clarke in the synthesizer stylings of East India Youth, which is actually the stage name of the British electronic musician, William Boyle.  Of the songs on his debut album, my favorite is Heaven, How Long.

The patterns of the synthesizer, the Andy Bell inspired vocal stylings, the way the song slowly builds to a mighty crescendo.  This wil…

Black Me Out - Against Me!

from the album Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014)

South by Southwest kicks into music gear this week.  I will be there.  Yippie.

One of the bands that I am most looking forward towards seeing is Against Me!.  They will be playing Thursday Night at the Red 7 Patio.  This venue will be great with artists like Chance The Rapper, Dum Dum Girls, and beach goth superstars Tijuana Panthers all taking the stage.   Looks like a good place to camp out.

Against Me! are an indie rock outfit currently based in Brooklyn, New York.  Their latest album is appropriately titled Transgender Dysphoria Blues, a nod to their frontwoman Laura Jane Grace (formerly Tom Gabel) who is currently in the midst of a gender transformation.  The record is a concept album about the experience.

To that backdrop, Black Me Out takes on special meaning with every lyrical statement.  Consider the first verse:

I don't ever want to talk that way again
I don't want to know people like that any more
As if there was an obl…

Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes - Sun Kil Moon

from the album Benji (2014)

I have recently become obsessed with dark songs.  Songs about arson.  Songs about going to the chair.  The darker the better.

Richard Ramirez was one of the most horrific serial killers of the 20th century.  He was the Night Stalker who killed thirteen people in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the mid-80's.  His killing spree was noted for its brutality.  He wouldn't just slit your throat, he'd just about cut your whole fucking head off.  He was that kind of dark.

Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes is a very well crafted dark song.  First the topic is a serial killer.  Second, there is minimal instrumentation.  Just a simple guitar with the strings plucked in a most effective manner, with every third note (or so) plucked very hard to add a tension to the song.  Third are the vocals that ramble in an almost maniacal manner across a wide range of topics including the death of James Gandolfini.  And finally the production that uses an ove…

Kong - The Notwist

from the album Close To The Glass (2014)

The Notwist are a well established German indie rock band with strong pop and electronic sensibilities.

Writing for National Public Radio, Stephen Thomas said: "Throughout Close To The Glass, The Notwist lets many sides of its sound peek out, as straightforward pop-rock melts together with the pulse of Krautrock until they become indistinguishable."

Krautrock.  I dig that term.  It always make me think of shiny stuff.  People with hard bodies, wearing shiny black leather boots.  Even their houseplants in their minimalistic apartments are shiny.   It is all so hard and shiny.  Sehr gut.

The song Kong fascinates me.  It strikes me as something you might come up with if you were trying to write the perfect indie rock song.

In my mind, I would start with a tempo that was just a little quick.  Then I would add some rough - but not too rough - guitar work, followed by a warm and inviting vocal with layers of dreamy backing vocals.  There wo…

When Your Loving Comes Around - Will Kimbrough

from the album Sideshow Love (2014)

My education in the great songwriters of the 20th century is the result of years spent staring at the labels on vinyl records.  Names like Willie Dixon, Carole King, and the team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, & Eddie Holland intrigued me, lured me in, and never let me go.

During those years, I spent a lot of time staring at the labels of Lynyrd Skynyrd records.  I first came across J.J. Cale when his name appeared under Call Me The Breeze.  Next I found his name listed as the songwriter of Eric Clapton songs like Cocaine and After Midnight.  By the time I heard his own recording of these songs, and others like Crazy Mama, I was hopelessly in awe of his talent.

The song When Your Loving Comes Around by Will Kimbrough is a tribute to J.J. Cale, who passed away last July.  The song honors him with a laid-back vibe, shuffle beat, slightly biting guitar tone, and the soft ramble to the vocals.  I dig the chorus with its call-response female backin…

Who Will Save The Blues…

Image
Lil 'G recording a guitar track for a Jack Yoder session at Esplanade Studios in New Orleans.