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Showing posts from May, 2017

Gigolo A Go Go - Episode 4

Picture yourself riding in the backseat of your daddy's '71 Catalina, headed up Atlantic Avenue to Uncle Frank's place.  Or, stuck in traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway, staring out the window at decimated projects and the remnants of burned-out cars.  If you can, you are ready for Episode 4 of Gigolo A Go Go, a mix that started out as an exploration into 1970s funk, but quickly morphed into something titillatingly more delicious.

Aside from childhood memories, so much of my connection with 70s New York comes from film.  Countless times, I've watched those NYC police flicks - French Connection, Serpico, The Seven-Ups - the black films - starting with Shaft and Superfly - and all those other classic movies - like Mean Streets and Saturday Night Fever - losing myself in the city and its vibe.  I also recall it being a time when, all over the city, theatre marquees would proudly proclaim the latest Bruce Lee film.  This led me to dive deep into all the great movie sou…

Shine On Me - Dan Auerbach

from the album Waiting On The Song (2017)

Once upon a time, I was playing bass for a cover band called The Electric Montalto.  We had a standing Friday night gig at an Irish Pub where we would play a wildly eclectic range of rock songs.  At some point, we started playing Pop Song 89 by REM.

This song fascinated me.  It was so damn simple and formulaic, yet everyone loved it.  People pogo-dancing around the room, bouncing off the tables, aggravating the L7 folk.  It was incredible.

The next song in the set was usually Why Don't We Do It In The Road, where we would let anyone in the crowd join us on stage and sing a verse.  It was total mayhem, often lasting over 20 minutes.  Aah, The Electric Montalto.  It was too good to last.

The point is that people love simple, hook-laden pop songs.  They can't help it.

Shine On Me is simple pop song cut from this cloth.  The handy work of Dan Auerbach - guitarist and vocalist for The Black Keys - this song is a study in catchy, pop hooks.  …

Midnight Surf - The Velveteins

from the album Slow Wave (2017)

Edmonton is a city in Alberta, Canada about 200 miles north of Calgary.  It is so far north, that the city north of it does not exist.  It is also home to The Velveteins, an indie rock band that has just issued their first full-length release, Slow Wave.

The track I'm digging most is Midnight Surf.  It is a kind of mash up between garage rock and a psychedelic dream.  At their core, The Velveteins are a thrashing three-piece line-up consisting of bass, guitar, and drums.  Their key differentiators are the smoky rasp of Spencer Morphy's vocals coupled with excellent songwriting and inspired arrangements.

However, they manage to build from this formidable foundation by infusing heavy synths and percussion to create an other-worldliness in their music.  Midnight Surf almost feels like a swirl of several distinct songs combining to form a hallucinogenic dream.

I also dig the song's visual imagery of dancing in slow motion, floating above the oce…

Woo Sé Mama - Paul Weller

from the album A Kind Revolution (2017)

For me, listening to Paul Weller records - through all his incarnations - is always about the groove.  It is the common thread that underpins nearly 40 years of stellar recordings.  It makes him special.

His latest album - A Kind Revolution - opens with a song titled Woo Sé Mama.  It is a rockin' song with an R&B swagger and Soul-laden chorus.  Its swirl of textures and tones layer atop the groove leaving the listen unsure exactly of what genre they are listening to.  They only know they like it.

In a recent interview, Paul Weller says, "There are only two types of music, there is good music and there is shit."  This is really good music.

Click Here to listen to Woo Sé Mama.

Click Here to watch an interesting "behind the scenes" video on the making of A Kind Revolution.

Where I'll Find You - Joan Shelley

from the album Joan Shelley (2017)

According to Joan Shelley, in his role as producer of her new, self-titled album, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy assumed a posture of "protecting the songs, stopping us before we went to far."  This "less is more" approach produces a stirring result, with one of the best records I've encountered in 2017.

The song I'm particularly smitten with is Where I'll Find You.  Here, the soft production and focus on the beauty of the composition - coupled with the sentiment of the lyrics - create a song that is tender, warm, and touching.

I dig the opening guitar riffing over a subtly brushed snare, tuba bass line, and organ. In only a few bars, the listener is transported to that quiet place.  I also dig how the bass occasionally leaves the tuba line to bounce and - at times - help carry the melody.  It is quite tasty.

But the focal point of this tune are the vocals.  Joan Shelley's voice is deeper and richer than many of the ot…

Any Given Day - Georgia Mulligan

from the single Any Given Day (2017)

In recent years, Australia's ability to produce such an endless string of great singer-songwriters is mesmerizing.  Artists like Julia Stone, Julia Jacklin, and Courtney Barnett have left indelible impressions on me, becoming mainstays in my musical rotations.  How I would love to return to Australia and spend some extended time in the bars and clubs that produce such delicious music.

Another Australian artist I've grown fond of is Georgia Mulligan.

On her new single, Any Given Day, I really dig the simple intro of hazy guitar, bass, and drums.  I also dig how, almost subliminally, the soundscape evolves into something dramatic and all consuming.  This is only surpassed by her vocals.  They blow me away.

Georgia Mulligan is destined for great things.  Mark my words.

Click Here to listen to Any Given Day on SoundCloud.

Click Here to read my July 2016 post on Georgia Mulligan's song White Lies.

Lies I Chose To Believe - John Moreland

from the album Big Bad Luv (2017)

I have long been a believer in the mantra, "The worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves."  I find this to be true in our personal lives, business, society, faith, you get the point...

So, when I came across a song titled Lies I Chose To Believe, I couldn't help but give it a spin.  So glad I did.

John Moreland is a top-tier singer/songwriter from Tulsa, Oklahoma.  His music is rooted in an American vibe that speaks from the red dirt of the south-central United States and the working man ethic of artists like Bruce Springsteen.  I'm a bit hesitant to say this too loud out of respect for his integrity as an artist.

I first came to know him when three of his tunes tuned up on the TV series, Sons Of Anarchy.  I'd be laying in bed, immersed in a full-on binge-a-thon, Shazaming the TV, and exclaiming, "Holy shit, it's another John Moreland song!"

I tend to dig four things about this song, in ascending order they are: th…

Love Soldiers On - Tift Merritt

from the album Stitch Of The World (2017)

As I look back over five years of music blogging, I get sad, feeling that I have failed as a writer to articulate the central premise that has driven this absurd obsession.  You see, I don't necessarily write this blog out of a love for the songs, but instead out of love for the artists who write and perform them.

That is what attracts me to the wearisome troubadour, rambling along back roads to that next show, that next dive.  It is why I write about lesser known acts.  It is why you will rarely find me at a large venue.  Instead, I'm that guy asking the roadie-less singer if she needs a hand loading-in her amplifier across a meteor-ridden parking lot.

The troubadour is a metaphor for the person I have become.  A man of passion in a couldn't-care-less world, looking for a stage to showcase my talent, hoping someone might clap.

Yesterday, I read an essay written by Tift Merritt, for The Oxford American, about her current tour, this…

Gigolo A Go Go - Episode 3

In the late 1970s, No Wave - a funky and free, avant-garde music movement - started in NYCs East Village and Lower East Side as a counterpoint to the neighborhood's punk rock scene.  These bands embraced free-form dance, jazz, and funk rather than the recycled Rock 'n Roll that they dismissed punk bands, like The Ramones and The Voidoids, for playing.

No Wave forms the foundation of this mix, highlighting some of the finest bands of that time and place.

The mix also follows many of the musical arcs influenced by this movement.  A personal favorite is Cavern by Liquid Liquid, a No Wave song that would later be sampled into the iconic hip-hop classic, White Lines.

I dig how the dance elements of No Wave crossed racial divides, morphed in the South Bronx and Harlem, and then circled back to light up downtown's club scene.  This, in turn, paved the way for future dance artists, like Madonna.  I hope you can pick up on that thread.

The mix also includes some rock bands from th…

Fun - Blondie

from the album Pollinator (2017)

I am fascinated with the NYC music scene of the late 1970s.  The Punk, Hip-Hop, Rap, and Club music we've been listening to for nearly 40 years is the result of what went down in Lower Manhattan and the South Bronx in those few short years.

It also amazes me how this all ties together.  I think about the diversity of bands that played at CBGBs, how dissimilar The Ramones and Talking Heads really are.  Still, they played in the same dumpy bar.  So did everyone else.  Listening.  Synthesizing.  Creating.  Amplifying.  What I wouldn't give to have been a part...

Blondie was one of the most incredible bands from the downtown scene.  They also did more that anyone to cross genres.  Think if how Heart Of Glass became an international dance sensation, how Rapture became the first Rap song to hit #1 on the charts, and how different those songs are from the sass of Rip Her To Shreds.

So, here we are in 2017, listening to the new Blondie album - Pollinat…

Me Verás - La Santa Cecilia

from the single Me Verás (2017)

Early last year, a group of funky friends and I travelled to the Baja Peninsula of Mexico for the Todos Santos Music Festival.  For the final night, a large stage was erected in the courtyard of the town's Mission for a free concert, open to all.

For the Americans in the audience, the long list of alluring artists included John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, Peter Buck & Mike Mills of REM, Drive By Truckers,  Death Cab For Cutie, The Jayhawks, Chuck Prophet, and Steve Wynn.  They played individually and in varied line-ups.  It was fantastic.

But for the local Mexican audience (and myself), the main attraction was La Santa Cecilia, a Los Angeles-based band comprised of 1st and 2nd generation Mexican immigrants.  I liken their vibe to a cross between Los Lobos and Alabama Shakes, with an ability to seamlessly transition between traditional Mexican and rock arrangements, led by the incredible La Marisoul, a vocalist who comes as close as anyone I'…

Live Your Fantasy - José James

from the album Love In A Time Of Madness (2017)

I dig José James.  He always seems to be pushing himself - and pushing his boundaries - to be a more versatile and essential artist.  Originally gaining notoriety for his ability to fuse jazz and hip-hop, he has since expanded his musical envelope to include dance, soul, R&B, funk, and more.  His work is always well considered and well executed.

One of his latest songs - Live Your Fantasy - has spent the past few months in my new music rotation.  The song is slick and polished R&B.  It has a modern vibe and vibrant bounce, with all its elements fitting right in the groove.  As Stevie Wonder might say, "It's got the A."

But what I like most about the song is its execution.  The musicianship, the vocals, the production.  All flawless.

Click Here for a very cool video of people dancing to an edited version of Live Your Fantasy.

Tripped Out Slim - Trombone Shorty

from the album Parking Lot Symphony (2017)

Virtually every article or review I read about Trombone Shorty marvels at his genre-crossing virtuosity.  No doubt this is true.  However, for me, this diminishes the crux of what makes him an essential artist.

Trombone Shorty is a bad-ass trombone player who can lay down New Orleans street funk like nobody else on the planet.  For that reason, I have immersed myself in his new song, Tripped Out Slim, one of the deeper cuts on his latest album.

This tune is hard, muscular, and funky.  From the opening trombone groove, you know it is going to be hot.  Within seconds - BAM - you are hit by funky guitar, snapping drum beats, horn riffing, and deep bass picking up on the groove.  By the time the bone solo comes, your mind is spinning to the ferocious mayhem.

Trombone Shorty will be closing out the final night of New Orleans JazzFest this weekend.  I wish I could be there, dancing my cajun little ass off.  In my dreams, he will be playing this son…

The Same Love That Made Me Laugh - Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm

from the album Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm (2017)

Back in the mid-1980s, their were two bluesman who were grabbing the baton from the prior generation, recording great music, and introducing the blues to new listeners.  They were Buddy Guy and Robert Cray.

At the time, Buddy Guy had a greater appeal to me.  His take on Chicago Blues was filled with grit.  His legacy as a Chess Records sideman (and later star) put him in the room with Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, and Little Walter.  He was my guy.

Robert Cray, on the other hand, didn't share that same connection with my blues sensibilities of the time.  When I listened to Strong Persuader - and its monster hit Smoking Gun - I clearly recognized it as exceptional music, but still did not bond with it.  His music had a "velvet sheen" in its bass groove, drumming, and vocals.  I wanted grit.

Today, I have a completely different appreciation for the music of Robert Cray.  I have come to realize that his "…