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Showing posts from May, 2016

Ain't Who I Was - Bonnie Bishop

from the album Ain't Who I Was (2016)

I am drawn to the songwriting of Bonnie Bishop for the space between her notes.  Space that lets the moodiness of a minor chord envelop the listener.  Space that lets a tender lyric pull on your heart.  It is no wonder that Bonnie Raitt - who regularly records Ms. Bishop's songs - calls her talent "incredible."

Bonnie Bishop is also a gifted vocalist, whose tone can effortlessly slide from tender to grit.

Her new album Ain't Who I Was is full of fabulous songs and vocals.  The record is produced by David Cobb, who has create some of my favorite records by artists like Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson.

I am most drawn to the flawless and timeless title track.  A song that would have been a radio hit in the 1970s for Rita Collidge.  I particularly dig the smooth vocals and redemptive lyrics:

I stay out late
Every night
In a different state
Getting high as a kite
Until I come down
I don't realize that I've been flying

I suppos…

Your Hard Work Is About To Pay Off. Keep On Keeping On - Bitchin' Baja & Bonnie Price Billy

from the album Epic Jammers And Fortunate Little Ditties (2016)

I am fortunate to run with a bunch of amazing people who bust their asses every day.  Sometimes it gets to be a tough slough.  Still they keep on keeping on.

As we head into this holiday weekend, I hope they get some well deserved rest.  We all need to take care of the goose from time to time.

Anyhow.  This song is for you, my friends.  I am very fortunate to share this journey with you.

Click Here to watch the official video to Your Hard Work Is About To Pay Off.  Keep On Keeping On.

Drag - Cat's Eyes

from the forthcoming album Treasure House (2016)

The things we do when we're together
If they ever knew
They would keep us apart

Aah, a song about a secret lover.  Actually, it is a song about an abusive relationship.  Uuh.

Cat's Eyes have a sound that I totally dig.  The duo of indie rocker Farris Badwan and classical soprano-composer Rachel Zeffira create a dazzling vibe that evokes the great girl bands of the Wall of Sound era while delivering a crisp, modern sheen.  The music is so good that I like to listen to them with my studio headphones on to maximize definition and clarity.

The intro to the song Drag is full of richly textured strings and piano set to drum rolls.  The song then kicks into a Phil Spector soundscape.  From there, it sways back and forth between the two.  The result is beautiful and catchy.

This song will hook you.  You will find it nearly impossible not to singing along.

Click Here to watch the official music video to Drag.

First World Problem - Unknown Mortal Orchestra

from the single First World Problem (2016)

Ruban Neilson is a master of creating magnificent vibes. Once based in New Zealand as a member of The Mint Chicks, the group created the 2009 album - Screens -an unsung pop masterpiece.

After departing the band and moving back to his hometown of Portland, Oregon he started messing around in his home studio and the resulting tapes caught the attention of various record companies.  Unknown Mortal Orchestra was the result.

Evolving into a full band, they continued to lay down incredible vibes.  The first song that caught my ear was 2013's So Good At Being In Trouble.  It remains a staple of my late night sultry mix to this day.

Their new song - First World Problem - is the latest in a line of wonderful tunes.  The opening horns followed by delicate orchestration set a diversionary tone.  But if you listen closely, a funky guitar lurks below ready to strike.  And when the jam kicks in that guitar comes to life.

This is a laid back kind of fu…

Lost Dreamers - Mutual Benefit

from the album Skip A Sinking Stone (2016)

And if we get lost in a dream
Wasn't it worth all we've seen

It has been a long time since I enjoyed a record for being gentle and beautiful, however, Skip A Sinking Stone is just that.  A collection of well-written, magnificently arranged songs that takes you back to something a little bit innocent and a little bit ideological.

The song Lost Dreamers is the one I enjoy most on this record.  These lost dreamers are people who have had to suspend their natural impulses for the practicalities of life, but always keep a tinge of whimsical just below the surface.  I dig it.

Mutual Benefits music is described as Orchestral Folk, a lovely image with endless possibilities but I tend to think of it a classic singer-songwriter music from the 60s and 70s.  Either way, it is a joy to listen to.

After listening to this album last night, I found myself spinning Massachusetts by The Bee Gees and If You're Going To San Francisco by Scott McKenzie.…

Fill In The Blank - Car Seat Headrest

from the album Teen Denial (2016)

In the garage music scene, very few of the "do it yourself indie bands" actually are.  Car Seat Headrest is an exception.

The band name comes from founder Will Toledo recording the vocals for his first record in the backseat of his car in order to have privacy.  That spirit, coupled with excellent song-writing chops and an appealing jangle in his tunes, has led him to his first big-time label release (and possibly one of the best albums of the year).

Although the music is always original, the bands I am reminded of when listening to Car Seat Headrest are The Replacements and The Modern Lovers (fine company).

The new album leads of with a song titled Fill In The Blank.  Dig the lyrics:

I'm so sick of FILL IN THE BLANK
Accomplish more.  Accomplish nothing
If I were split in two, I would just clinch my fist
So I could beat up the rest of me

The clever thing is that these lyrics are presented as:

I'm so sick of __________________
Accomplish __…

Polka Dots And Moonbeams - Bob Dylan

from the album Fallen Angels (2016)

I woke up this morning and read social media comments on the new Bob Dylan album of Frank Sinatra covers.  Too many haters.  "Bob can't sing."  "Why doesn't he stick to originals?"  "Blah, blah, blah."

What they seem to miss is that these songs are love letters to the songwriters.  On this record, Dylan strips down these American Songbook classics to their core.  Unencumbered of glossy productions and ornamentation, we are left to appreciate the craftwork of these compositions in their raw and beautiful splendor.

Listen to the introduction of Polka Dots And Moonbeans.  The soft brushes scratching the snare.  The beautiful tone of the lead guitar.  The steel guitar's dreamy lift.  All of these alluring sounds set to a relaxed tempo that makes you feel like you are on a Hawaiian beach, late in the night, surrounded by polka dots and moonbeams.

Thanks for honoring these songs, Bob.  We get it.

Click Here to list…

Noam Chomsky Is A Soft Revolution - Foy Vance

from the album The Wild Swan (2016)

Last month, I was at a festival where a friend's teenage daughter was wearing a Vance Joy concert t-shirt.  "Wow" I said, "Vance Joy is great.  I write about him on my blog."  The girl beamed while her mother gave a quizzical look.

I later realized that Vance Joy is an Australian heartthrob and that I was thinking about Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance.  Embarrassingly, I must have looked like a child predator rather than a dyslexic ologig.

Foy Vance is an incredible singer and songwriter, the two essentials for a great song.  I first came across him in 2013 and was blown away with You and I, a duet with Bonnie Raitt.  His new album has splendidly soaring ballads, however it is the uptempo lead-off track that I dig most.

Noam Chomsky Is A Soft Revolution is kind of like Bob Seger's Betty Lou's Getting' Out Tonight for intellectuals.  Rapid fire lyrics and blaring saxophone.  Makes you want to grab a telecaster and…

All For One - The Stone Roses

from the single All For One (2016)

Gareth and Sid are two of my funky friends in London.  They are both musicians with excellent taste in tunes.  During my recent visit, they created quite a hubbub with their excitement over All For One, the new single from The Stone Roses.  It is their first studio effort of the millennium.

My friends were gaga over the guitar part, talking about how awesome it must have been to recreate that sound in the studio, about how you could listen to it in a loop endlessly.

Now that I have listened to it endlessly, I must agree.  Listen to the tone of that guitar.  It is the core to their sound.  Also, dig how the drummer works the kit.

It is good to have these guys back.

Click Here to listen to All for One.

Soul Almighty - Bulby York

from the album Epic & Ting (2016)

Spending a few days in Brixton, checking out bands and generally laying low.  This is one of my favorite spots, a place where starting a band and finding a venue to showcase is a way of life.  When you exit the tube and hit the street, you are around the corner from Electric Avenue (of Eddie Grant fame).  Reggae, Dub, AfroBeat, and Ska abound here.

As serendipity has it, the new Bulby York release coincides with my arrival.  For those not familiar with this Jamaican producer and DJ, the roster of talent he has worked with is breathtaking.  Jimmy Cliff, Madonna, Chaka Khan, Rhianna, Sly & Robbie.  The list goes on...

The new record is the ultimate party mix, featuring reggae greats past and present.  I dig the closing track, Soul Almighty, which features the legendary Lee "Scratch" Perry and relative newcomer Jesse Royal.  It is a feel-good reggae jam at its best.  Perfect for bopping around with a Red Stripe.

Click Here to listen to S…

The Blackbird - The Brandy Thieves

from the single The Blackbird (2016)

One of my favorite things to do in England is listen to the radio.  Stations here are much more engaged with their local music scenes than I typically find back home.  The story line is more likely about "the local band done good" than "the big show coming to town."

The other day I was driving from London to York and heard a Leicester station playing the first single by a hometown band named The Brandy Thieves.  It was the highlight of the drive.

The song was titled The Blackbird.  It is an uptempo folk song set to a great drum track, with brushes galloping on a tight snare, coupled with an excellent tuba bass line and overarching accordion.  Above this, soaring female vocals proclaim the song's central mantra:

Everywhere I go
There's a blackbird following me
Everywhere I go
There's a blackbird following me

What a great debut !!!  And how excellent is it to have local radio promoting it?

Click Here to listen to The Blackb…

Tom Waits For No Man - Ol' Hickory

from the album Scarecrow (2016)

Around two years ago, I first saw Ol' Hickory play at a pig roast in the high mountains west of Denver.  I started off at a distance, anxious to see if they would measure up to the hype.  I had heard much of the songwriting abilities of their frontman, Scooter James, and raves about the rhythm section of Rusty Byrd and Cody Hull.  I already knew that their lead guitarist, Jack Yoder, was a monster.

As the songs unfurled, I fell into the hard twang of their Outlaw Country vibe.  It rocked in a way that was both familiar and original, with a driving uptempo energy.  By the time they got to "It Ain't Friday Night (If You Got To Work Saturday Morning)", I was popping PBRs like a fiend and pacing around the yard.  These guys are great.

This past Sunday, their debut album hit the digital streets.  It is an amazing record.  Simple, honest, and true; the way music ought to be.

My favorite track is Tom Waits For No Man.  It is a well-written so…

Champa - Kate Simko & London Electronic Orchestra

from the album Kate Simko & London Electronic Orchestra (2016)

Kate Simko & London Electronic Orchestra are my favorite act of 2016, thus far.

Their music stands at the intersection of classical and electronica.  The band consists of Kate Simko playing keyboards and overseeing the loops.  Behind her is an incredible all-female band consisting of an upright bass, two violins, two cellos, and a harp.

Champa is my favorite song on the record due to its bright tempo and infectious beat.  This song was originally performed by German Electronic Producer and DJ - Parra for Cuva.  Kate Simko did the definitive remix of his recording previous to this version.

The mixing of classical and electronica produces some of the greatest possibilities in music today.  I figure there are two driving reasons: 1) the songs are composed, arranged, and performed by classically trained musicians, and 2) the addition of beats to classical instrumentation resonates with simple, drum-crazed minds (like mi…

One Vicious Disco - A Love Electric

from the album Psychmonde (2016)

A Love Electric consists of three jazz musicians:  Aaron Cruz, Hernan Hecht, and Todd Clouser.  They hail from Mexico, Argentina, and the United States, respectively.  Their music relies heavily on the groove, making it both accessible and contagious for the listener.

I really dig their song One Vicious Disco.  The drum beat has a laid-back marching cadence.  The keyboards are filled with rich tones and rhythms.  The sublime bass groove drives the song.  All of this splendid instrumentation is topped with an infectious, mantra-like melody line.  Great stuff.

The record is mixed by the Meridian Brothers, a Columbian group that creates wonderfully eclectic soundscapes.

This record is a must for your party mix.

Click Here to listen to One Vicious Disco (Meridian Brothers mix).

4 Degrees - Anohni

from the album Hopelessness (2016)

A few weeks ago, some funky friends were over for a late night dance party.  I put on my Paradise Garage mix that features the best of all things Larry Levan - coupled with other great underground NYC dance tunes.  Somewhere in the blur, Levan's 12" version of Situation by Yaz dropped.  It was our zenith.

In the days that followed, my Yaz fuse reignited.  Upstairs At Eric's bounced in my headphones as I worked to make ends meet.  How I miss this band.  Why can't we live in a world where Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet produce magical songs every day?

Then, through some odd serendipity, I was grabbing an espresso at the Dancing Goat when a song with a Yaz-esque vibe started playing.  A couple of Shazam spins later and presto: 4 Degrees by Anohni.

When I got home that night I gave it a closer listen.  The operatic vocals were counterpointed by an incredible arrangement.  For example, about a minute into the record the strings play a quic…

French African Queen - Gregory Porter

from the album Take Me To The Alley (2016)

When I think of music lovers - say fifty years from now - listening back to the tunes of our time, I like to think that they will choose the absolute best artists regardless of their popularity today.  Should this wish come true, one of those artists will be Gregory Porter.

There is no male jazz vocalist today who can match the talent and technique of Gregory Porter.  His orotund voice has the ability to both soar above kinetic, free-form cacophony and give you goose-bumps when delivering a ballad.  The latter is the case on his new album's title track, a song that would make Pope Francis sob.

But for me, it is the uptempo stuff that offers the biggest turn on.  That is why I dig the French African Queen.  The blaring horns and crescendo of the piano over hard-plucked upright bass and exquisite drumming create a chaotic backdrop for a full-throated performance by a master.

Click Here to listen to my favorite Gregory Porter track, 1960 What…

A Little Help - John Doe

from the album The Westerner (2016)

Once upon a time, a pack of young drunks went to The Starship - a legendary music dive in Milwaukee - to support their friend Susan, who was playing bass guitar on a punk rock bill.   It was a sweaty, slam dancing exult.

The headliner was X.  John Doe, Billy Zoom, DJ Bonebrake, and the enchanting Exene Cervenka - founders of the LA punk scene.  They blew the joint apart.  I've been hooked ever since.

Although I still regularly crank More Fun In The New World with my funky friends on warm southern nights, I have also developed an affinity for John Doe's downtempo solo tunes.  Well-written songs that cut me open with their honesty.  Vocals that bathe me in sonic warmth.

A Little Help is one of these songs.  It is a simple tune about something we all need from time to time:

Help me
Help me
Everybody needs a little help
Help me
Won't you help me
Not all the time
Or every day
Just need a little help today

Honest and pure.  Road worn and weary.

When I…

The Wheel - PJ Harvey

from the album The Hope Six Demolition Project (2016)

Inspired by her travels to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington DC with Irish Photographer / Filmmaker Seamus Murphy, The Hope Six Demolition Project is a collection of stories on how the lingering consequences of past events shape modern suffering.

The climax of the album is The Wheel, a song about war-torn Kosovo set to a collage of visual imagery of children on an amusement park ride, dismembered body parts, and the faded photographs of missing family members hanging from a fence.

I dig the thoughtfulness of the album concept.  We should always beware of the long-term implications of our actions.  It is fascinating and frightening how they define the world we live in today.

I also dig the music.  Particularly the horn arrangements, the beat, and how the vibe channels Patti Smith and Siouxsie.

Hats off to Polly Jean !!!

Click Here to watch the official music video for The Wheel.

Leaving The Monsters Behind - The Jayhawks

from the album Paging Mr. Proust (2016)

Back in January, a gaggle of funky friends and I travelled to the Todos Santos Music Festival on Mexico's Baja Peninsula, about an hour north of Cabo San Lucas.  This festival has a different format than most festivals in that same bands play nightly over a four day period, while collaborating on cover versions of great tunes and the hits of the varied artists.

The festival extended a chance to see artists like Death Cab For Cutie, The Drive-By Truckers, and La Santa Cecilia sharing the stage with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and REMers Peter Buck and Mike Mills.  It was magical.

The Jayhawks were the one band that consistently captivated me.  Whether it was in a small courtyard or the town square, their music resonated.  I credit this to the quality of their songwriting and vocal superiority.  It amazes me how Gary Louris' voice gets better with age.

Throughout their sets, The Jayhawks played songs off their forthcoming album, Paging…

Nautilus - Anna Meredith

from the album Varmints (2016)

Anna Meredith is an avant-garde musical artist best known for her work in electronica and avant-pop. However, to classify her this way does a disservice to her extraordinary musical and songwriting talents.

Anna Meredith is also a classically trained composer, having produced works for the BBC's Scottish Symphony Orchestra.  Her ability to add these elements to her keenly original compositions creates a world of opportunity and wonder.

Her latest album - Varmints - opens with a classical composition titled Nautilus.  Listen to this song and remember that this is the opening of an avant-garde pop record.  It is refreshing and potent in possibilities.

The world needs more artists like Anna Meredith to push the boundaries and create new possibilities in our musical lexicon.  Hats off to Anna !!!

Click Here to watch the official video to Nautilus.