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Showing posts from September, 2016

Beautiful Birds - Passenger

from the album Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea (2016)

A common thread running through my 500+ blog entries is that there are the two essential elements to most great records:  high-quality songwriting and an outstanding vocal performance.

On the "deluxe edition" of his latest album - Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea - Mike Rosenberg (aka Passenger) includes acoustic versions of many of the songs contained on the album.  This offers us a chance to hear the these two key elements in their purest sense.

The rendition I dig the most is the acoustic version of Beautiful Birds.  I will let the songwriting and vocals speak for themselves.

Click Here to listen to the acoustic version of Beautiful Birds.

Healer - Resonators

from the album Imaginary People (2016)

When determining the merits of a dub/reggae song, my process is remarkably similar to that of a sound engineer in a club.

It starts with the drum kit.  The thud of the bass drum, the crack of the snare, getting the equalization right by adding some echo and reverb.  Once set, it is all about the bass.  The big, fat heavy groove that is going to carry the show.  From there you move to the rhythm guitar, making sure the accents on 2 & 4 cut through the rhythm section adding just the right counterbalance and buoyancy.

Keyboards and horns follow.  Then come the vocals.  They need to be clean and crisp, sailing above the band and lifting the listener's spirit.  Finally, it is playing with the overall tone and levels, locking in the band's "sound."

If you ever listen to a band like UB40, it is amazing how that sound is always so pure, so perfect, so unmistakably their own.  That is the mark of a great dub/reggae band.

When I liste…

Blue Inside - On Dead Waves

from the album On Dead Waves (2016)

I have surrendered to my musical distractions today.  To hell with work.  To hell with poverty.  I am losing myself in a playlist of songs that mix well with New Order and daydreaming of cruising the beach towns of Southern California.

One perfect song for both the playlist and my imaginary drive is Blue Inside.  It is lush, dark, poetic Dream Pop.  A little bit London, a little bit Encinitas.

Fish Tacos and Patron, please.

Click Here to listen to Blue Inside.

Gentle On My Mind - Billy Bragg & Joe Henry

from the album Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad (2016)

John Hartford was a Nashville singer/songwriter who started his music career in the mid-1960's.  Although he may seem obscure to many, his impact on American music was profound.  In particular, his 1971 album Aereo-Plain infused a new generational vibe into bluegrass music (they called it new-grass), seeding the soil in which today's Americana music scene flourishes.

However, John Hartford is best known for writing and recording the song Gentle On My Mind, which soon after was covered by Glen Campbell and won him two 1968 Grammy Awards for his songwriting.  That same year, he played alongside Gram Parsons on The Byrds classic album Sweethearts Of The Rodeo.

I dig how some songs live on long after their writers are dead and gone.  Thank you to Billy Bragg and Joe Henry for shining a light and helping to preserve the memory of the great John Hartford.

Click Here to listen to Billy Bragg and Joe…

Punks In A Disco Bar - Beach Slang

from the album A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings (2016)

Just as the world spins on an axis around a star in the revolving Milky Way, and how that galaxy - like all others - expands from - and circles around - the center of our universe, as a music listener, I sometimes need to reacquaint myself with my musical core to better understand this wild, remarkable journey.

At my core is a two-and-a-half minute song that probably starts with Dee Dee Ramone yelling "1-2-3-4."

When I listen to the song Punks In A Disco Bar, I am taken on a trip back towards the center of my universe.  A place where music is loud, raunchy, and fast but also has a melodic sensibility.  It has rage, angst, and virtue.  It offers promise and possibility.

So, if your core has three chords and an attitude - if you ever thrashed around a room to REM playing Pretty Persuasion or driven to work singing The Replacements' Alex Chilton, or cracked a beer to Add It Up by the Violent Femmes - then you will probab…

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.

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 its the raw honesty in how she tells her story that drives her individuality and authenticity.  …

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 l…

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' late…

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…

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 an…

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 crea…

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 s…

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 …

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.

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 ro…

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 Easte…

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 s…

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.

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…

Summer's Gone - The Stargazer Lilies

from the album Door To The Sun (2016)

Happy Day After Labor Day !!!  The unofficial end of summer.

What better way to mourn the turning of the season than with Summer's Gone, an excellent shoegaze number by The Stargazer Lilies of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Spin Magazine describes their sound as a "reverb-washed slo-mo assault of Slowdive with the sparkling ambiance of Air channeled into a lush, guitar-swollen whole.  Psych-fuzz epic."  I prefer to think of it as dreamsicles for your ears rather than a psycho-babble explosion in your mouth.

Dreamsicles.  Frozen Snickers.  Fudgy-wudgy-wudgy bars.  Is this Parking Field Two or Parking Field Five?  Kismet or Atlantique?  Dune Road or Lido Boulevard?

Anyway, this song creates a lush soundscape that allows my mind to drift and recall all those wonderful summers.  I wish they could all last forever.

Click Here to watch the official video to Summer's Gone.

Click Here to listen to We Are The Dreamers, if you can't get enou…

You Just Want - King Creosote

from the album Astronaut Meets Appleman (2016)

Is the three-minute pop song dead?

Was it killed by the changes is how we consume music?  When was the last time you put a dime in the jukebox?  When was the last time you really listened to the radio for something other than oldies?   Has the mainstream moved to a post-pop format?  Now what?

Mozart never wrote a three minute pop song.  Neither did John Coltrane.

Is the future of music a return to its pre-radio past?  Should I start printing t-shirts that say Fuck Marconi?  Fuck Edison?

Over this holiday weekend, I have been digging the song You Just Want by Scottish singer-songwriter King Creosote (his real name is Kenny Anderson).  After grooving on this tune for the twentieth time, I began asking questions.

Is this a song or a soundscape?  If this is a song, what is its structure?  Would this song be played on traditional (non-Internet) radio?  Where and how would I most likely consume this song?  Is the three-minute pop song dead?

I …

Follow Me Home - The Mystery Lights

from the album The Mystery Lights (2016)

It has been fascinating to experience the psychedelic revival of the past few years.  What started with a relatively small number of harder-rocking bands morphing towards 70s-styled, "big arena" psychedelia has now become more a global awakening of garage bands drifting towards a mid-60s-styled psychedelia better suited for a house party or small club.  Think 13th Floor Elevators.

I did not see this coming, but am ecstatic that it is here.

I now come across great, independent, psychedelia bands every two or three days.  They come from unexpected places like Madrid, Nashville, Melbourne, Tijuana.  You name the city and there are people making great psychedelic music that is original and pure.

The Mystery Lights are one such band from Brooklyn.  This is a hard, menacing psychedelia. Their latest album features an incredible song called "Follow Me Home."  The vibe is loaded with deep guitar riffs, long sustained keyboards, punk…

Chill Town - Hinds

from the album Leave Me Alone (2016)

I believe that the future of rock and roll lies in girl bands.

Over the past 60 years, rock and roll has provided us with just about every male persona I can think of.  But not so much with women.

So today, we celebrate Hinds, a girl band from Spain (I believe Madrid).  They play a garage sound that is fun, boisterous, and smells of alcohol.  There songs are catchy and the musicianship is fun and full of great tones.

I also dig that these girls are apparently friends with the boys in The Parrots.  This kind of reminds me of the Bananarama - Fun Boy Three relationship.

Go Madrid - Home of great new garage bands !!!

Click Here to watch the official video to Chill Town.

Click Here to watch the dual video they released with The Parrots featuring the songs All My Loving (Parrots) and Davy Crocket (Hinds).  Fun stuff.

Snoopies - De La Soul

from the album and the Anonymous Nobody... (2016)

On their latest album, hip-hop perennials De La Soul offer up a collection on catchy, bouncing tunes that feature a stirring collection of special guests, including Snoop Dogg, Usher, and Jill Scott.

But for me the most amazing of these guests is David Byrne, who appears on the song Snoopies.  His vocal stylings meld perfectly with the bounce, creating a most natural pairing that leaves me wanting more.

Perhaps the reason I dig this song is that De La Soul and David Byrne share a common thread: when I listen to them, I smile.

All grins here...

Click Here to listen to Snoopies by De La Soul.

The Greatest Song I Ever Saw Performed Live In Concert

Once upon a time, I was playing DJ at a beach house on the Fire Island town of Kismet.  As the evening wore on, girls got drunker and wanted to dance.  I shifted the mix from party rock to disco.  They loved it.

Around that time, a disgruntled hard-rocker named Joe came up to me and said "Hey, 40 Watt, you know the expression Disco Sucks?  There is a reason for it."

To this day, such peer pressure keeps my appreciation for the perpetual dance groove below the radar.  There is nothing worse than being ridiculed as a disco lover.  I would rather be called a pussy or a faggot.

A few weeks ago, I was listening to the latest records by Black Mountain and Thee Oh Sees with one of my funky friends.  He posed the question "What is the greatest song you ever saw performed live in concert?"

Although I immediately knew the answer, I decided to reply with a few rocker-friendly alternatives: Bob Dylan covering Alabama Getaway at the Fox Theater in Atlanta a few days after Jerry…