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Showing posts from April, 2017

Call 32075! - Shed

from the album The Final Experiment (2017)

My recent experimentation with mixtapes has caused me to reconsider my viewpoint on lyrics in music.

Historically, I am a person who obsesses on great lyrics.  From Cole Porter to Bob Dylan, Patti Smith to Conor Oberst, impactful lyrics have been central to my definition of quality music.  However, when creating a mixtape, I am finding that too many lyrics detract from the impact of mixtape as a whole.

Instead, the mixtape requires you to think in terms of a soundscape of texture and tone, with lyrics used sparingly to reinforce the vibe.  This technique allows the selected lyrics to resonate clearer, producing a superior overall product.  Less is more.

As such, a song like Call 32075! by Shed is something that I may have previously under appreciated, but revel in today.  The dirty noise floor and rhythm couple with the rolling toms and high hat to give an industrial feel to the electronica.  This is juxtaposed by delicate keyboard riffing co…

Love You To The Sky - Erasure

from the album World Be Gone (2017)

The origin of the term "comfort food" has been traced back to an article that appeared in the Palm Beach Post in 1966.  It has been defined as "food - often associated with the security of childhood - that offers a coping mechanism against emotional stress, rapidly soothing negative feelings.

Subsequent studies have shown that virtually all humans - regardless of geography or culture - rely on comfort foods.  In general, men prefer savory meals while women prefer sweeter snacks.  Millennials, regardless of gender, are often attracted to fast food and junk food.  Didn't their mothers cook for them?

In this same vein, there must be "comfort music," songs - or artists - we turn to when times get tough.  Songs that take us back and pick us up.  Of course, there are.

Lately, it has been a new song by Erasure - Love You To The Sky - that serves as my comfort music.  Despite its newness, the song is filled with a nostalgic vibe…

Sugar For The Pill - Slowdive

from the album Slowdive (2017)

I quite fancy the names that are given to many music genres.  Bluegrass suggests Kentucky.  Folk the common man.  Garage.  Ambient.  Grindcore.  What evocative names !!!

But of the scores of genres and sub-genres, my favorite name has to be Shoegaze.  The visual image of an introspective musician staring at his, or her, shoes is simply the best.

Slowdive is perhaps the most acclaimed band in the history of the genre.  In their first release of the millennium, these 90s icons have matured their sound with stunning effect.  The result is Sugar For The Pill, a straightforward bit of shoegaze that evolves from their earlier work in its restraint, its lush soundscape, and its impeccable bass and guitar work.  I cannot stop listening.

After such an extended hiatus, too many bands impulsively charge back, intent on reasserting the vigor of youth, while Slowdive elects to stare downward, be themselves, and let their music flow.

I dig that.

Click Here to watch the…

Raymond And the Wires - Robyn Hitchcock

from the album Robyn Hitchcock (2017)

When you think of psychedelic music, what images come to mind?  If you are like me, your head fills with imagery of 1960's poster art, filled with phosphorescent and iridescent colors, surreal objects, and other assorted tripped-out stylings.  And the music you hear likely borrows from the tools of the time: fuzzed-out effects, space echo, early synthesizers.

I wonder if we do ourselves a disservice thinking of psychedelic music this way?  Are we cheapening the art form, making it a caricature of itself?

When I think of The Beatles, and their pursuits in creating this genre, it was an intellectual pursuit that manipulated the tools of the era - multi-track recording tape - and eclectic global instruments to create new sounds that conveyed truths not attainable through traditional techniques.  It was high art.  It was abstract.  Not too dissimilar from the art of Willem Do Kooning and Jackson Pollack.

The Beatles - primarily John Lennon - then …

Gigolo A Go Go - Episode 2

Episode 2 of Gigolo A Go Go is all about funk.  Deep, muscular, funk.

The opening songs set the stage, each building in intensity.  We then take a turn into the world of latin funk, which includes an early track - Cuchi Cuchi - by the great Venezuelan band Los Amigos Invisibles.

The Cuban jazz master Bebo Valdés offers a little bit of a chill down before the hard stuff returns with classic funk and soul artists like Booker T. Jones, Tower Of Power, and Bootsy Collins.  Next is a segue into some of the best newer funk artists.

We then close with the great Larry Levan's mix of Bodyshine by Instant Funk.  It will take you back to the gritty days of NYC and Paradise Garage.

You can find all episodes of Gigolo A Go Go, plus lots of other great mixes, on Mixcloud.


Here is the playlist:

Attica Blues by Archie Shepp & The Attica Blues Orchestra

Am I Black Enough For You? by Billy Paul

Come To My Party by Black Joe Lewis

Fuego by Bomba Estéreo

Cuchi Cuchi by Los Amigos Invisibles

Chicas Kam…

In The Midst - sir Was

from the album Digging A Tunnel (2017)

I have really been digging the song In The Midst by sir Was.  Unlike most bits of electronica that I come across, this song plucks tones and textures from the past and interlaces them in a modern framework to create something that is both timeless and current.

Deconstructing it, I suppose it all starts with a slightly downtempo vibe built off of simple, 808-styled beats coupled with a bass groove with long, ringing notes and tasty, triplet hooks.  The result is a soulful foundation that has plenty of space to breathe.

Within that space, a soundscape is created with a noise floor of radio static and vocal chatter layered with synths, guitar, and hip-hop metered vocals.  Other ornamentation is selectively infused.

In its totality, this is the perfect background jam for your late night chill.  The perfect song to help you wind down, relax, and resync your groove for whatever comes next.

Click Here to watch the official music video for In The Midst.

These Foolish Things - Bob Dylan

from the album Triplicate (2017)

When I was a boy, I had a tendency to sit back in a chair and lose myself in thought, oblivious to my surroundings.  My mom would often be the one to break the spell, singing "How Deep Is The Ocean?"  I suppose this was my introduction to the great American songbook.

So, since picking up a CD version of Bob Dylan's new album, Triplicate, a few weeks ago, I've been looking forward towards listening to the record with my mom.  She has always been my musical compass, pointing me towards great songs and encouraging me to emerge myself in a world of music.

I knew she would love it.  She was raised on standards, like Stardust, Stormy Weather, and The Best Is Yet To Come.  As we drove and listened, she came alive with stories from her childhood.  About her Uncle Buddy putting these records on the victrola and playing along on the piano, as she sat on the floor with her dolls.  When How Deep Is The Ocean came on, she squeezed my hand.

However…

Gigolo A Go Go - Episode 1

Since too many of my funky friends are scattered about the planet, I have decided to make it a little bit easier to groove with the Gigolo by publishing mixtapes of songs I dig on Mixcloud, a cool DJ site based in the UK.

This mix is all about funky grooves and vibes.  Six of the songs have been featured in previous blog posts.  Please take a listen, shoot me a note with any thoughts or suggestions, and most importantly... DIG IT !!!

Here is the playlist:


Me And Guiliani Down By The School Yard - A True Story by !!!

Ethanopium by Dengue Fever

Kissin' Antonio by Tom Tom Club

Classic Lover by Livy Ekemezie

Boogie No More (Reverso 68 Remix) by Dorfmeister vs. Madrid De Los Austrias

Balanca (No Pode Parar!) by Bossacucanova

1960 What? (Opolopo Kick & Bass Rerub) by Gregory Porter

Be My Monster Love by David Murray

Colette (Subie Subie) by The Low Frequency In Stereo

One Vicious Disco (Meridian Brothers Mix) by A Love Electric

Makelloser Mann - by Michael Doughty

Why Why Why by The Meow Meows

Cry Cry Darlin' - Leslie Mendelson

from the album Love & Murder (2017)

I tend to pay considerable attention to the cover songs that dedicated singer-songwriters choose to record.  Aside from being students of their craft, songwriters are often musicologists of the first order.  As such, their selections not only highlight excellence and artistry in writing, but also offer a divining rod for listeners looking to unearth the roots of great modern music.

Leslie Mendelson is a wondrously talented, Grammy-nominated, singer-songwriter from Long Island.  On her new album, Love & Murder, she decided to augment her own compositions with renditions of three classic song's: Bob Dylan's Just Like A Woman, Roy Orbison's Blue Bayou, and Jimmy C. Newman's Cry Cry Darlin'.

Of these, Cry Cry Darlin' has captured my fascination.  The song is wonderfully written in a style that might remind you of one of Jimmy C. Newman's contemporaries, Hank Williams, in the way it employs 7th chords along with a slow…

The Balance - Vex Ruffin

from the album Conveyor (2017)

OK, it is time for reader participation.  Please recite a line from the Blondie song Rapture.

Did you say "Fab 5 Freddy told me everyone is fly"?  Come on.  I know you did.  Unless, of course, you are one of those Subaru-loving weirdos.  Anyhow, I would bet that more people know of Fab 5 Freddy through that single line than through all the other publicity and acclaim he has received in his magnificent lifetime.

On the surface, this doesn't seem fair.  Just ask any of the other four guys in the Fabulous 5.

But at the core, this result is all about connections.  All about expanding your network into other worlds and then amplifying those connections.

The Fabulous 5 were master graffiti artists - known as Subway Writers - who specialized in spray painting their art across entire subway cars.  In The Bronx, they became legendary and stood at the nexus of graffiti art and the emerging rap and hip-hop scene.  Both were about self-expression.  Abo…

Stop (And Start Again) - ADULT.

from the album Detroit House Guests (2017)

Once upon a time, I had a job where I wore an old fashioned sandwich board and handed out coupons along Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee.  One day, it began to pour rain and I retreated into a department store to keep dry.  A young bohemian girl came out from behind a cosmetics counter to offer me a towel.  By the time the rain cleared, she had handed me her phone number.

For our first date, she took me to an old bar in the city's south-side factory district, near the big clock.  As we approached, I expected to find a bunch of blue collar guys on barstools, slugging PBRs, and showing off their plumber butts.  To my surprise, I found the place packed with uber-skinny, pale, goth-types, drinking mixed drinks and trying to hear each other over the loud, abrasive music.

This was my introduction to the Industrial Music scene.

In the months that followed, I became fluent in her favorite bands, Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, and SPK.  I dug t…

Andromeda - Gorillaz

from the album Humanz (2017)

When circumstances in your little corner of the world grow grim, do you have a "safe room" to retreat to?  Is there a special place, or activity, where you can shut out despair and envelop yourself in happiness (or simply be numb)?  My guess is that you do.

Once upon a time, I used to head to the beach, walk past the lighthouse and the naked people, and find a secluded spot along the dunes where I could sit, stare at the sea, and escape.  Nowadays, I tend to lose myself in writing, listening to music, or noodling on a guitar.  Regardless of the activity, a glass of wine is never too far from reach.

This is the general theme of Andromeda, a new song by Gorillaz.  Although the title suggests skedaddling over to the next galaxy, the Andromeda of this song is a dance club that existed in back in the 80s, in the British town of Colchester.  The club played vintage soul music.

A dance floor is the perfect place to escape.  The groove, the beat, the vib…

Gravediggin' - The Buttertones

from the album Gravedigging (2017)

Everybody that I know likes music that is fun.  It is the lowest common denominator.  Sure there are those who look down their noses at it, but they are status-seeking elitists who have other problems.

Dance music has always stood for fun.  From the Jitterbug to Swing, the Bobby Soxers to Disco, Raves, Ska, AfroBeat, you name it.  All fun.

In some ways, Rock and Roll took the blues and made them fun.  Think about the rock and roll shows of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Elvis.  It continued with the early Beatles and the Beach Boys. However, when rock lost its roll it also lost much of its fun.  The Ramones fixed that.

The Buttertones are a garage rock band from Southern California.  Their music ofttimes sounds like the soundtrack to retro-film genres, like  Film Noir, Western, and Horror.  Their point of view comes off as that of a bunch of slackers, sitting on the couch, absorbing too much television.  Much like The Ramones.

I really dig the clos…

This Cities Undone - The Moonlandingz

from the album Interplanetary Class Classics (2017)

The Moonlandingz are a wildly creative group whose debut album - Interplanetary Class Classics - is funky, fresh, and fun.  With a "Bootsy Collins meets the B-52s wrapped in Glam Rock" vibe, they further infuse an Andy Warhol-styled sense of artistic chaos together with a John Waters-inspired cast of supporting characters to create the perfect antidote for modern society's maladies.

The album even includes a guest vocal by Randy Jones - the cowboy from The Village People - on a song titled Glory Hole.

This band is a mash-up of members of Fat White Family and Eccentric Research Council, both from Britain.  The record is produced by Sean Lennon, whose mom, Yoko, figures prominently in the mix.

I've been digging the album's final track This Cities Undone.  A cacophony of drums, groove, and synths couple with the topsy-turvy vocals to create a perfect closing number.  It not only features Yoko Ono - at her best - de…

Lacking in Your Love - Desperate Journalist

from the album Grow Up (2017)

As certain great rock bands - such as The Who, Led Zeppelin, & U2 - blossomed, you could hear their confidence build with each subsequent release.  Not only was this evident in their collective sound, but also in the individual efforts of each musician.  Keith Moon.  Robert Plant.  The Edge.  Each systematically ascending to iconospheric heights.

As this happens across an entire band, it creates a tension and space between the discrete performances where something magical lives.

On their sophomore release, Grow Up, London-based indie rockers Desperate Journalist have begun this transformation.  The self-confidence of front-woman Jo Bevan is in full display on this album.  On each song, she know exactly how the vocal needs to be sung and she delivers exactly that vocal performance.  She is in total command. You also hear it in the guitar work of Rob Hardy, his riffs and leads stepping into the forefront to create memorable moments within the songs.

Of …

French Press - Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

from the EP The French Press (2017)

A good friend of mine is the brother of a famous guitarist for a rock and roll super group.  One day, he said something that really stuck, "A bunch of bands were basically as talented as my brother's band, but none of them practiced as hard.  That's all they did. All the time.  Always trying to make it sound better."  And it sure paid off.

We've all had those moments when we say, "that band sounds great" or "that band is tight," and now I realize that what we are really saying is "that band is hard working and dedicated to their craft."  Practice pays off.

I've spent considerable time listening to these "really tight" bands, trying to understand what makes them tick.  My conclusion is that it is a thousand little things.  Nuances on how a drummer strikes the snare in a certain part of a song, or how the bass player "pops" a note on a fret just before a chorus kicks in.  It i…

Can't Hold On - Black Lips

from the album Satan's Graffiti Or God's Art? (2017)

Perhaps the most important decision a band encounters when planning a record is the choice of producer.  This decision often determines the sound and success of the project.  Many top-tier acts repeatedly team with the same producer - The Beatles & George Martin, David Bowie & Tony Visconti, Elvis Costello & Nick Lowe - to achieve sustained excellence.  Others, like Bob Dylan, will work with a producer for three - or four - records and then move on.  This approach allows the artist to nurture and craft high-quality product over several records before moving on to new, ever-evolving iterations.

Atlanta-based garage darlings Black Lips tend to change producers with each record.  In their approach, the producer is a one-off collaborator, carefully chosen for their potential to morph the band's trademark sound in a desired direction.  For this reason, they included Patrick Carney - drummer for The Black Keys - on…