Posts

Showing posts from 2018

I Am Here (I Am Alive) - Bonny Doon

from the album Longview (2018)

If you ever read an interview with a graffiti artist, they are inevitably asked a variation of the question, "What drives you to spray paint a subway car?"

Ten times out of ten, the answer is, "I want the world to know that I exist."

I believe we all have the desire to be recognized for who we are, for what we believe.  We all want to be counted.  It is what drives Facebook and this blog.

The song I Am Here (I Am Alive) by the Detroit group, Bonny Doon,   It touches on this desire:

Moon
Are you half empty, or half full
Is something missing, I can't tell
Is there more I can't see

Me
Yeah, I'm a track with no train
I'm a cat with no name
Sleeping through my dreams

Time
Feel like I'm wastin' time
Just want to be where I'm goin'
Just want to be where I'm goin'

As much as I dig the song's theme, I dig how it is delivered.  Soft and tender.  Pure and poetic.

As much as we are recognized for what we say, this …

Frontier Man - Gruff Rhys

from the album Babelsberg (2018)

Perhaps a dozen years ago, I spend about a month outside Lusk, Wyoming building a giant monstrosity in the middle of nowhere.

To get to work each day, I needed to drive off the road for forty minutes, or so.  Along the way, I would need to navigate a variety of hills and rock formations, always staying on the path.

Every evening, on the commute back to Lusk, I would encounter a rancher who was driving a herd of goats home for the night.  He was a tall, thin thirty-something who always wore jeans, a sleeveless flannel shirt, and a moderately brimmed black hat.  He drove am open-topped, weathered Land Rover from the late 1960s.

On either side, he was flanked by three border collies.  Upon his whistle commands, they herded the goats and kept them moving in the desired direction, usually by nipping at their Achilles tendons.

I always parked my ride a safe distance from them and watched this spectacle for as long as I could.  It was my great memory of my ti…

Album 1 Track 1 - Episode 2

Episode 2 is a rocking mix that includes great guitarists - like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Chuck Berry, and Dick Dale - coupled with iconic first tracks by The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and The Replacements.

Exercise for your speakers !!!


Here is the playlist:

Love Struck Baby by Stevie Ray Vaughan

School Days by Chuck Berry

Cherry Bomb - The Runaways

10:15 Saturday Night by The Cure

1969 by The Stooges

Moanin' At Midnight by Howlin' Wolf

Re-Hash by Gorillaz

Surf Beat by Dick Dale & His Del-Tones

Blitzkrieg Bop by The Ramones

One More Time by Joe Jackson

Mirror In The Bathroom by The English Beat

Holidays In The Sun by The Sex Pistols

Takin' A Ride by The Replacements

The Sound Of Confusion by Spacemen 3


In case you missed Episode 1:




... and you can always find all of my mixtape on my MixCloud page.

Album 1 Track 1 - Episode 1

In many cases, the first track on the first album represents that magical moment when an artist stands beneath the spotlight for the first time.  It is the moment when they unleash their talents on the world; when they say "This is who I am.  This is my art.  I matter and I will not be denied."

These songs are vital.  They are full of energy and promise.  They are the essence of rock 'n roll.  Of the punks.

This mixtape series captures two hundred, or so, of my favorite opening statements spanning the past sixty plus years of popular music.

Episode One features some of the greatest "track ones" ever recorded, by artists from Little Richard to Smashing Pumpkins.


Here is the playlist:

Uncontrollable Urge - Devo

Oh Boy! - The Crickets

Harlem - Bill Withers

I Feel Free - Cream

Janie Jones - The Clash

Hero Takes A Fall - The Bangles

I Saw Her Standing There - The Beatles

Break On Through - The Doors

Gloria - The Patti Smith Group

I Am One - Smashing Pumpkins

Train - The Buddy…

Dreamcatcher - Dario D'Attis & Definition featuring Jinadu

from the single Dreamcatcher (2018)

Diego peaked through the kitchen door at the ordinarily-dressed man seated at the counter.

"Amelia, it is him," he whispered.  "It is him."
"How can you tell?  You have never even seen his picture."
"Look at him, Amelia.  He has the dignity of a great chef.  I know it is him."
Diego rushed to his workstation and began preparing the greatest dish of his life, convinced that the man at the counter was The Peruvian - the mystical chef - who, for a few days in January 2000, served The Millennium Taco.
Word of The Peruvian's creation had first spread locally, through the streets of Veracruz.  Soon after, lines circled the blocks around his tiny restaurant.  Many who tasted The Millennium Taco weeped.  A poet shook as though it were the rapture, while burning his notebook.  Even the bishop knelt before The Peruvian and asked for a blessing.
Then one morning, The Peruvian was gone.  The restaurant closed.  He was…

Heat Wave - Snail Mail

from the album Lush (2018)

Summer is a magical season.  When I think back to all those past summers, music often helps define it; whether on the ferry to Atlantique - listening to With A Little Luck - or rockin' poolside to Rancid's Time Bomb.

Heat Wave by Snail Mail is a perfect song for the season.  A tale of troubled summer romance, the song is set to hazy, sun-drenched tones with a pop sensibility.  Its hooks and melody lines stay with you as the tension between the jangling rhythm guitar and shredding lead add a layer of depth and purpose.

You can easily imagine yourself driving in the convertible along 27A, picking up your friends, hitting the Southward Deli, and making a day of it.

I love summer singles.

Click Here to watch the official video for Heat Wave by Snail Mail.

Heaven's Only Wishful - MorMor

from the single Heaven's Only Wishful (2018)

MorMor is the stage name of Seth Nyquist, a singer and producer based out of the Toronto area.

I really enjoy his song Heaven's Only Wishful.  It not only finds the perfect intersection of indie rock and synth pop, it also finds the perfect pocket to deliver pop success in both.

There is no doubt that MorMor can sing, but, to properly appreciate his talents, you need to take a close listen to the song's arrangement.  I dig how the guitars of the opening verse seamlessly give way to synthesizers, only to return - a little more ruffed up - for the final verse.  I also dig how the steady and precise beat is sometimes removed. building anticipation for its return.

If you are a songwriter or producer, there is a lot to think about in this delightful little tune.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Heaven's Only Wishful by MorMor.

Reprise De Fonk - Art Of Tones

from the EP Where The One Is (2018)

Art Of Tones is the stage name of Ludovich Llorca, an amazingly talented DJ and producer specializing in House.  He is a Parisian, currently based in NYC.  I have recently been digging his tune Reprise De Fonk.

In the wee hours of this morning, I decided to take a four-mile walk along the Las Vegas Strip.  Headphones on, Art Of Tones made the perfect companion for the walk.  The groove put a bounce in my step and the vibe was perfectly suited for all the bright lights, as they waned in the pre-dawn indigo.

My mind was focused on the future.  In particular, I wondered if I had finally returned to that proverbial fork in the road; that exact spot where I've stood twice before.  That moment of truth where I needed to decide whether to follow my head or follow my heart.

The last two times, I chose my head.  However, this time, experience tells me that following my head will lead me right back to where I currently stand and that to, once again, deny …

Let's Get Together - Jonny Benavidez and Cold Diamond & Mink

from the single Let's Get Together (2018)

One of my favorite nights in recent memory was following a wedding in York, England.  A dozen, or so, of us were looking to continue the revelry and stepped into a bar called The Spread Eagle.

In the back room were some older chaps spinning sweet old records and dancing with beautiful women.  Their dance steps were fairly intricate and everybody participated.

It was like a time warp.  The music, the people, and the vibe gave a sense that somebody turned the clock back to the late 1960s.  It was Northern Soul night!

Northern Soul is an upbeat dance movement started by British Mods and features American black soul music from artists including Jackie Wilson and Little Anthony.  Had my Shazam app been loaded, I'd have captured the names of every unfamiliar tune.

Ultimately, the dancers amongst us had the time of their lives; while the dinners amongst us staggered  to our lodging.

Timmion Records is a great independent label based in Helsin…

Sugar & Spice - Hatchie

from the EP Sugar & Spice (2018)

Big, lush dream pop from Brisbane, Australia.

Hatchie, whose real name is Hariette Pilbeam, breaks thru on her debut EP with an incredible mixture of talent, pop sensibility, and the ability to overlay tracks to create a massive vibe.  Move over Phil Spector, this is a really big sound.

I am enamored with the way each layer adds to the overall vibe.  Adding this many vocal and instrumental layers without having everything turn to mud is a very tricky proposition.

I also enjoy two of the central lyrics of the song: "no, you don't call me baby anymore" and "we could outlast it all."  Hopeful.  Positive.  Upbeat.  I am smitten.

As a guilty pleasure, play this super loud on your car stereo, while speeding along the highway and singing your heart out.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Sugar & Space by Hatchie.

Love Of Mine - Bardo Martinez

from the single Love Of Mine (2018)

If you are looking for a mindless summer vibe to lose yourself in - and who isn't? - then check out Love Of Mine by Bardo Martinez.

This song by the Chicano Batman frontman is something of a lo-fi masterpiece.  I dig the jangling guitars, simplistic use of a vintage electric piano, and the catchy groove.  I also enjoy the twists and turns in the arrangement, as well as the generous splashes of echo.

This song isn't going to change the world, except by making you a hipper, groovier human being.

Click Here to listen to Love Of Mine by Bardo Martinez.

Click Here to read my March 2017 blog post for Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm) by Chicano Batman.

Got Me Coming Back Rite Now - Moodymann

from the single Pitch Black City Reunion (2018)

One of my favorite albums of all time is The In Crowd by the Ramsey Lewis Trio.  This 1965 release featured a collection of the trio's live recordings captured at the Bohemian Caverns in Washington D.C.

Aside from it representing an incredible fusion of bebop, funk, and afro-jazz, what makes the record "real" for me is its warmth.  I feel as though I am in the room.  I can smell the cigarette smoke.  I know just how that cocktail glass feels in my hand.  I know that the rest room is over by the blue neon light.

Ultimately, that warmth is a sense of organic.  The piano, bass, and drums are so vibrant, so real; causing it to connect with me unlike almost any other record I know.

In the world of electronic music, Detroit House legend - Moodymann - has stood above all others for roughly thirty years in his ability to create warm and organic vibes in the typically cold electronic genre.  He creates this vibe in the roundness and…

Blue Rose - Amen Dunes

from the album Freedom (2018)

In the spheres of art and literature, the color of a rose carries much symbolism.  A red rose for passion, a white rose for spirituality, a black rose for rebirth; but a blue rose?

The blue rose does not naturally exist in nature.  As such, it often symbolizes the quest for the unattainable; in many instances associated with love.

A futile quest for love.  Is there a more holy grail?

In his song Blue Rose, Damon McMahon yearns for a more satisfying relationship with his father; delivering a lyrical account of reality, while his music speaks to the connection he desires.  It is one of the most beautiful songs of 2018.  The closing lines nearly break my heart:

Said you weren't much a man to me
But you're the only one I ever had

To all those seeking a blue rose, I love you.

Click Here to watch the official video for Blue Rose by Amen Dunes.

Butter Fried - Tower Of Power

from the album Soul Side Of Town (2018)

Playing music with other dedicated musicians is one of the most joyous experiences imaginable.  I believe that, when playing, you become totally emerged in the moment.  Playing, listening, anticipating.  It is all absorbing and total pleasure.

I think of this while listening to the instrumental Butter Fried on the new Tower Of Power album.  These incredible musicians are completely locked in to each other; making their music cohesive by interlocking at every step.

Every musician is fully in the moment.  Nobody is thinking about getting the tires rotated on their car or about ho they are going to cover medical expenses.  They are simply having a moment of ecstasy with their fellow music makers.

Tower of Power have been doing this for fifty years.

Dig it.

Click Here to listen to Butter Fried by Tower of Power.

Love Having You Around (Late Nite Tuff Guy Rework) - First Choice

from the single The Late Nite Tuff Guy Salsoul Reworks (2018)

Love Having You Around is a song written by Stevie Wonder.  It is the first track on Music Of My Mind, the 1972 album where Stevie pivoted away from his teenage and Motown era to become a mature master of rhythm & blues, soul, funk, and pop.  That this record was made by a twenty-one year old is nothing short of phenomenal.

Although the song most people remember from that album in Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You), it is Love Having You Around that kicked off the record and introduced the world to grown-up Stevie.  With the scores of iconic songs to follow, Love Having You Around became related to deep cut status.

In 1977, the female vocal trio First Choice released a dance rendition of the song.  This brought the tune back to life, filling early disco dance floors with the mighty groove.  Despite being a cover, you can hear Stevie dripping from every measure.

Fast forward forty-one years, and a remixed versi…

Fake Bitch - gobbinjr

from the album Ocala Wick (2018)

Gobbinjr is the synth-pop project of Emma Witmer, a budding Wisconsin musician who moved to NYC, enrolled in NYU, and began making her musical dreams come true.  I find her songwriting to be top-rate and her attention to detail impeccable.

When I first came across her new song, Fake Bitch, I smiled and gave it a spin.  To my delight, the opening visual image (as well as the remaining lyrics) touched my heart:

I felt you press your dick against my thigh
When we hugged
I didn't ask for it
You're not the one I want
'Cause you're a fake bitch and you know it
Even when you try not to show it
You're a fake bitch and I know it

Weren't you expecting the song to be about a chick?  I sure was; but - bam - the subject's dick gets mentioned in the first line.  It is clever, ironic, and worthy of our respect.  The fake bitch is a dude!

Once you get past the lyrics, check out the chord structure and the arrangement.  They are fantastic.  I dig h…

Simme Meridionali - Gianni Santoro & Gianni Vezzosi

from the album Emozionando (2018)

Sharply dressed in black, I step inside the chapel a moment after the ceremony begins.  Sure-footedly, I march down the aisle, passing a handful of attendees on either side, and stop immediately behind the bride and would-be groom.

I face those assembled.  In a deep and official tone, I announce, "Ladies and gentleman, please pardon the interruption.  This should only take a moment"  Next, I advise the best man, "Sir, I need you to take this gentleman into the atrium and await my further instruction."  He complies.

I then turn to the bride, nod my head, and ask, "May I have a word?"

We solemnly approach the side entrance, her back towards the wide-eyed congregation.  We lock eyes.  She smiles.

"I've got two tickets to."

"This is really happening," she amusedly interrupts.

"Yes.  It is."

Roughly seventy hours later, we check out of the Antica Locanda Dei Mercanti, grab the keys, put the to…

Like It Is - COEO

from the EP Disco Volante (2018)

COEO is an electronic and dance duo from Munich consisting of Florian Vietz and Andreas Höpfl.  Their name comes from a latin term, loosely meaning "to unite."  I find it very much in sync with their musical style, which is approachable and consumable.

I've been hooked on their club single, Like It Is, for a few weeks now.  I dig how the beat builds for the first minute of the tune, segments of the rhythm systematically attaching themselves, like a giant, sonic molecule forming right before your ears.

Then the bass enters.  My lord!  The groove is so simple and round.  A repeating pentatonic scale.  Five notes bouncing back and forth.  It is impossible not to be infected.

From there, the synthesized horns, vocals, and other embellishments seamlessly fuse into this ever expanding object of beauty.

But it is really all about that mighty bass groove.  Wow.

Click Here to listen to Like It Is by COEO.

Memorial Day - a poem by 40 Watt Gigolo

Many moons ago, I travelled with a group of college friends to witness the Indianapolis 500.  It was a drunken blur with little sleep and lots of fun.  Somewhere along the way, I laid down on the infield grass and jotted down a poem.

When I returned back to NYC, I found the poem crumpled in a pocket.  I thought it was good enough not to throw out and slid in in my desk drawer.  A few months later, I submitted it in a contest for unpublished poets.  It won first prize in the "under 30" category.

So, here it is.  A little different than the typical songs I write about, but - hey - add some music and you never know...

MEMORIAL DAY

Lawn chair on a makeshift scaffold
On the back of a flatbed Ford
Someone lights a cherry bomb
And we all applaud
Because the sun's in the sky
It's a beautiful day
There's a feeling in the air
T-shirt off, Ray Bans on
I cannot stand the glare

Gasoline Alley is all abuzz
'Cause Mario's sitting on the pole
Chuck Yeager is driving the pace car
Jim M…

Pink Squirrel - Episode 4

Welcome to Episode 4 of Pink Squirrel!

This is a fairly eclectic mix of songs.  I really like how it weaves through genres while never losing its cohesiveness.

My favorite moments in the mix begin with the manic, instrumental release of the opening track  - Dance Scandal at the Gymnasium by The Claudettes - and end with the jazz noir of Kamasi Washington's Fists of Fury.  In between are a dozen gems from a wide range of artists, from Leon Bridges to John Prine

Enjoy!!!


Here is the playlist:

Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium by The Claudettes

Middle America by Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

The Mess Inside by Amanda Palmer

Bad Bad News by Leon Bridges

Hunnybee by Unknown Mortal Orchestra

C.O.O.L. Party by Confidence Man

The Real Thing (Our Shit!) by Rhemi

City Looks Pretty by Courtney Barnett

I Love Kangaroos by Guided By Voices

Knockin' OnYour Screen Door by John Prine

Don't Move Back To L.A. by Okkervil River

What's Chasing You by Marlon Williams

Mambo Egipcio by Sonido Gallo Negro

Love In Vain - Honeyfeet

from the album Orange Whip (2018)

For a songwriter, each composition is like a child; you give it life, socialize it a bit, and set it out in the world.  Most survive only briefly, never making it too far from home.  Other long endure, traveling the world, meeting exciting people, and maybe even making a difference in people's lives.

Robert Leroy Johnson was born on May 11, 1911 in Hazelhurst, Mississippi.  A gifted musician, he travelled along the Mississippi Delta playing gigs, drinking whiskey, and womanizing.

In 1937, he had the opportunity to record some of his songs in San Antonio.  The following year, he recorded again in Dallas.  In those two sessions, he recorded 29 songs that are today recognized as the Rosetta Stone of American Blues.  These songs included Come On In My Kitchen, Sweet Home Chicago, and Crossroad Blues.

He died a few months after the second recording session.  He was twenty seven years old.

Love In Vain is, perhaps, my favorite of these songs.  It is a te…

The Day The Music Dies - Iceage

from the album Beyondless (2018)

This morning began with my recurring ritual of fixing an espresso, turning on the computer, and checking out what's new in the world.  By the third espresso, I was skimming my Facebook feed when, suddenly, I felt the urge to strum my Stratocaster.

Without any conscious thought, I began playing a song I wrote with my songwriting partner, Fred, decades ago.  This was a common occurrence after his premature death last fall, but in recent months I have not found myself playing our songs at all.

As I strummed, I glanced over at my computer and saw the little red circle at the top of the screen indicating that I had some Facebook activity.

It turned out to be a friend request from Fred's mother, Mimi.

Coincidence?  Anyhow, it got me thinking of Fred, the agony his mom must still be going through, and all the great songs we'll never write.

I proceeded to spend the next two-and-a-half hours listening to the tunes we once recorded.  It was good for …

Sex Crystals - Fascinator

from the album Water Signs (2018)

One of my favorite episodes in popular music was a brief moment in the early 1990s, when bands like The Farm, EMF, and Jesus Jones dominated alternative clubs and radio.

Their music approach took popular "new music" and added elements of electronica and dance together in a way that truly was unbelievable.  If you trace it back, there are hints of this style in the music of Thompson Twins and Echo & The Bunnymen; probably in New Order, as well.

Well, if you continued this line to the present day, it would run straight through the music of Fascinator.  A frontman in the Australian alternative band Children Collide, Johnny Mackay left it behind to move to NYC and embrace a life of electronica as Lord Fascinator.  As bold a move as it is to relocate to the other side of the planet, abandoning alternative music for electronica is seemingly bolder.

Check out his new song, Sex Crystals.  If you liked the aforementioned songs, you will love this…

Just Relax 2018 - Baby Beef

from the single Just Relax 2018 (2018)

Baby Beef are a groovy duo from Sydney consisting of Christian Valuez and Baby Beef.  On their Triple J Unearthed site, they list their influences as Talking Heads, Depression, Anxiety, Valium, Friendship, and Love.  Doesn't that sound like a formula for good music?

I recently started listening to their single Just Relax 2018, which is about the middle-aged doldrums, love, and the need for valium.  The more I listen, the more I realize that this might be a new anthem for winding down.

I dig the lounge-act campiness to the vocals.  I also dig how the vocals remind me of Philip Oakey songs, from way back when, particularly the opening verse:

Everything is wholesome
Everything is strange
Everything is amplified
In this middle age
Yes, I know I'm good looking
Just a little bit overweight
If its health that matters baby
We could focus on my mental state

But in the big picture, this song is all about the groove and vibe.  It keeps me coming back.

Click …

Pick Up - DJ Koze

from the album Knock Knock (2018)

As a Georgia boy, there is nothing I love more than Gladys Knight, her chicken, and her waffles.

So, of course I am going to dig Pick Up, a new piece of electronic house music by Germany's DJ Koze.  The song features a sampled vocal performance from Ms. Knight's 1972 deeper cut Neither One Of Us.

Listen to how simple the beat and groove are and how the touch of strings and guitar are the only real embellishments.  Hypnotically simple.  Tripping' at the disco.

Add the texture of Gladys Knight's voice and you have perfection.

Click Here to watch the official video for Pick Up by DJ Koze.

Everyman (Late Nite Tuff Guy Rework) - Double Exposure

from the EP The Late Nite Tuff Guy Reworks (2018)

For the past few months, I have had a smoldering debate between the virtues of professional ambition and personal happiness.  Well, it has finally caught fire and the results have Kerouacian implications.

I am taking today off of work in order to learn the bass lines for a few Velvet Underground songs.  The day started with two hours of perfecting the Sunday Morning line.  Next up, Stephanie Says.

There is something wildly liberating about letting your creative genie out of the bottle.

Join me in celebration by dancing to the triumphant disco stylings of Everyman (Late Nite Tuff Guy Rework) by Double Exposure.

Click Here to listen to Everyman (Late Nite Tuff Guy Rework) by Double Exposure.

Understand What Black Is - The Last Poets

from the album Understand What Black Is (2018)

It is a shame that more people do not know, and appreciate The Last Poets.

The group rose in the 1960s Harlem as part of the Black Nationalist movement, where their message and posture were aligned with leaders like Malcolm X.  Their style was a form of urban beat poetry that lent itself to both the Beat writers and African cadences.  And although they never achieved the notoriety they deserve, their influence is profound.

You can draw a direct line between Gil Scott Heron's classic The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and The Last Poets' When The Revolution Comes.  You also hear their influence in the early rap of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Kurtis Blow, and The Fat Boys.  I would argue that you also hear their influence in the music of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley.

Fifty years after their first performances, The Last Poets are back with an album produced by London dub master, Prince Fatty.  I really dig the title track…

Middle America - Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

from the album Sparkle Hard (2018)

At this stage in my life, I have honed my professional craft to a level of mastery that I could not have imagined twenty, or thirty,  years ago.  All of the hard work has paid off.  I am at my most potent, my most valuable.  I am at the pinnacle of my capability.

Yet the world does not recognize it.  It sees me as a middle aged sod, the type who needs to be shed as we transform from the Industrial Age to the Information Age.  People refer to you as overqualified, tell you that you are not "the right fit."  What they are telling you is that you are too old, that you are no longer relevant, that you are out of the picture.

You want to say "fuck off" and kick their asses.  You want to show them just how superior you are.  Yet you hold yourself back.  You fear the ticking clock, the fear that if you take risk - and fail - you will not have the time to financially recover and that the people who count on you will suffer.

So instead, yo…

Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium - The Claudettes

from the album Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium! (2018)

My funky friend, Richie Beans, and I occasionally go into the local record store and buy a CD for the other guy.  It is very fun and I always get turned onto something I dig.

Well, if Mr. Beans and I went into Decatur CD tonight, I would by him Dance Scandal At The Gymnasium! by The Claudettes.  It is my favorite record of the year.

The Claudettes' sound is driven by a rollicking Chicago blues piano sound, the type that Memphis Slim is famous for, coupled with a punk and rockabilly rhythm session, groin' female vocals, and some daring arrangements.

Sometimes, I listen through the entire album focusing on the drumming of Matthew Torre.  It is some of the finest drumming that I have heard in years.

My favorite tune is the title track, Dance Scandal At Th Gymnasium.  The pounding piano, swirling beat, and vocal stylings create vibe reminiscent of a runaway mystery train.  It is great American music.

Get ready to dig it, Mr. Be…

Make It Rain - Shoshana Bean

from the album Spectrum (2018)

For the past few months, my late night groove mix has featured Make It Rain by Shoshana Bean.  The song is a bluesy jazz composition featuring a high-wire vocal performance from the incredibly gifted Ms. Bean.

The song was originally written and recorded by Foy Vance in 2014.  It was subsequently covered by Ed Sheeran.

It is perfect for contemplative time spent alone.  The song is timeless in a way that frees your mind to wander.  I also find it to be uplifting; offering strength through blues.

I offer this song to you for times when clarity of thought is desired (or if you just want to hear a good tune).

Click Here to listen to the album version of Shoshana Bean's cover of Make It Rain.

Click Here to watch a live "acoustic" version of Make It Rain by Shoshana Bean performed at Past Studios in NYC earlier this year.  This rendition allows you to fully appreciate the beauty of the songwriting and the magnificence of the vocalist.

Me & My (To Bury Your Parents) - André 3000

from the social media release Me & My (To Bury Your Parents) (2018)

In the nearly seven years since my dad died, I have made it a priority to visit my mom almost every Sunday.  At first, the goal was to keep her from getting lonely.  Now, it is more about keeping an eye on her health and general well being.

So, for this Mother's Day, I decided to but all the annoying "stuff" behind and simply focus on having fun.  It worked.  We laughed and had a non-stop good time.  I will never forget it.

Driving home, I thought about the relationships I've had with each of my parents and just how fortunate I have been.

Once home, I began reading about - and subsequently listening to - an unexpected Mother's Day release from Outkast's André 3000.  It is a loving song about both his parents, titled Me & My (To Bury Your Parents).  The song features a truly beautiful piano track coupled with great woodwind and vocal performances. It has all the warmth and magic of a S…

Coolin' Out - Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

from the album Tearing At The Seams (2018)

A funky friend shot me note from the Milwaukee airport a few days ago.  This thru me into a cavalcade of precious memories of my MKE days, rambling around the fashionable east side, listening to great music up and down Brady Street.

That great place on a great lake was the first stop on my dirty gondola's magical tour.  From there it has been zig zag wandering like a coked-up armadillo  From Moscow to Manila.  Sydney to SoHo.

All of those places are dear to my heart, but few more so than Denver.  From my graduation road trip to that last glass of red wine, I have some beautiful memories of that city.

I think of them as I listen to Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats play Coolin' Out.  They are a Mile High City band with a kicking horn section and a strong sense of blue-eyed soul.  Their music makes me want to grab that girl with the sweetest smile, hold her tight, and dance 'till the end of time.

Click Here to listen to Cooli…

This Is America - Childish Gambino

from the single This Is America (2018)

If somebody held a gun to my head and asked me to name the most important song of the past fifty years, I would say The Message by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five.

The reason is that the song not only depicted the state of things-as-they-are, it also provoked a meaningful conversation.  I believe that so much of my resistance to future hip-hop and rap songs is that they largely fail to provoke the conversation quite the same way.

This is America is the most consequential conversation starter that I can think of since The Message, particularly in the context of its music video.

Click Here to watch the music video to This Is America.  It will prepare you for the discussion that is surely to come.

City Looks Pretty - Courtney Barnett

from the album Tell Me How You Really Feel (2018)

I have been spending a lot of time listening to 70s and 80s rock bands with female singers.  Bands like The Pretenders, Blondie, and The Patti Smith Group.  It is amazing how much great material they put out, record after record.  Amazing.

When I look at current female artists, the one who continually impresses me is Courtney Barnett.  The hits just keep coming...

City Looks Pretty is the lead single on forthcoming album.  It rocks, it has her trademark vocals, and also closes with a cool downtempo breakdown.

For many artists, this would represent a high-water mark.  But for Courtney Barnett, it s just another day at the office.

She deserves to be in the same conversation as Chrissie, Deborah, and Patti.

Click Here to watch the official video for City Looks Pretty by Courtney Barnett.


Click Here to read my December 2013 blog post on History Erasure by Courtney Barnett.

Click Here to read my March 2015 blog post on Depreston by Courtney Bar…

Bad Dreams - Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson

from the EP Apart (2018)

I dig it when movie stars sing with rock bands.  Bridget Bardot, Catherine Denueve, even Gwyneth Paltrow.

On Bad Dreams, Pete Yorn sings with Scarlett Johansson.  This is not the actress' first foray into song.  In 2012, she sang a duet on the the delightful cover Bonnie & Clyde with Lulu Gainsbourg.

Bad Dreams is a cool tune with a 90's indie-alternative vibe.  I really like the way the vocals fit together.  Good stuff.

Click Here to watch the music video for Bad Dreams by Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson.

Click Here to read my November 2012 blog post on Bonnie & Clyde by Lulu Gainsbourg, featuring Scarlett Johansson.

Fists Of Fury - Kamasi Washington

from the album Heaven and Earth (2018)

My friend Brett is an accomplished DJ on a streaming music station.  The other night, we were riding Uber to a Brian Jonestown Massacre show in East Atlanta, talking about playlists.  I asked him how he managed to produce three-hour show after three-hour show.  My mixes sometimes take months to produce.

He said that his secret is not thinking about it.  His method involves picking a song, listening to it, and then picking a song that sounds real good following it.  He always plays one of the first two - or three - to come to mind; that way it feels more real.

Ultimately, Brett is dismissing structure.  His eyes are wide open. He scoffs at predisposition.  He simply kicks back, listens to his jam, and asks "What sounds good next?"  Then he plays it.  And it works every time.

Can you apply that same approach to a song's structure?  Lay down a groove and a vibe, noodle it out a little bit, then switch to whatever new groove and vibe yo…

Mo Light - 47Soul

from the album Balfron Promise (2018)

The iPhone has rendered a lot of things obsolete.  One of those things is the anthropologist.

With our massive digital footprints, future generations will know all about us by simply exploring our record.  Every element off our lives is being captured.  Nobody will need to guess.

Funny thing is that we are the first generation to be recorded this way.  From the perspective of a curious person - say four hundred years from now - we are as far back as you can go, digitally.

Think of the power we have.  And responsibility.  We get to frame how future people view earlier civilization and culture,  They will know our tendencies and sounds in a way that we cannot "know" previous cultures and people.

So, our digital legacy truly matters.  What will it be?

Nature and art form a good foundation.  Music and dance makes it even better.

Let's shine.

Click Here to listen to Mo Light by 47Soul.

Get To Know - Cosmo's Midnight

from the single Get To Know (2018)

So much of what is interesting in music relates to the intersections of diverse genres and subgenres.  This is where new possibilities are born.

The greatest catalyst for this today is electronic music.  It seems as though every type of music becomes more interesting when it is combined with electronica.  Dance, jazz, hip-hop, alternative, and even classical.  You name it.

Get To Know by Cosmo's Midnight sits at the intersection of electronica and R&B.   I dig the song's tempo, which is slower than the song sounds.  This gives the two musical styles a real chance to meld.  You feel it in the buoyancy of the beat.  Doesn't it sound round?

I also dig how the R&B vibe of the breakdowns set the stage for the beat's return.  This is such a simple and binary song, that works because of how good the two parts sound together.  This is also due, in no small part, to the guest vocals of Winston Surfshirt.

Take a close listen to this song…

Max Lush Carlos - Godriguez

from the album Vol. 1 '14-'18 (2018)

I am most attracted to talented people with strong work ethics.  They grind it out, day after day, believing in both themselves and a brighter tomorrow.

My friend Gerry lives in NYC.  At 50, he decided to enroll in law school, full-time.  This week, he is taking his final exams ahead of graduation.  Go, Gerry.  You took a giant chance, gave it your all, and are watching it pay off.  Woo-hoo.

Other friends are still navigating obstacles, bearing burdens, and sometimes struggling to stay true to themselves.  Still, they never quit.

I am inspired by each of them.

Click Here to listen to Max Lush Carlos by Godriguez

Incidental Boogie - U.S. Girls

from the album In A Poem Unlimited (2018)

I was recently approached by a tribute band asking if I would be interested in playing bass.  Although tribute bands are not my thing, this group consists of some funky friends and they are playing tunes by The Pretenders.  I dig that.

So, this weekend I spent some time learning the bass part for My City Is Gone.  It reminded me of the power of groove and tone.

Groove is a mighty force.  It creates a foundation for a song.  Other instruments play off the groove.  The groove is also unforgiving.  There are two objectives of playing the bass: establishing the groove and maintaining the groove.  Maintaining a groove is a challenge.  It requires chops and stamina.  It the groove falls apart - even for a single note - the entire song falls apart.

Tone also matters, particularly when playing a popular song.  Everyone familiar with the bass line to My City Is Gone not only knows every note, but how that note is supposed to sound.  Getting it perfect …

Weird Thought Thinker - Joshua Hedley

from the album Mr. Jukebox (2018)

At some level, every artist is playing a character.  I mean, Johnny Cash never "shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die," did he?

But at some other level, every song must have some kind of autobiographical tie.  Every good song, at least?

Weird Thought Thinker is a not just a bit autobiographical, it is a self-portrait.  This is Joshua Hedley singing into the mirror.  I really like where he takes this song, but what I really dig is that he is playing a western waltz.  Of all the genres and subgenres of music, he chose a western waltz.  What does this say about the person at his core?

Is he a man out of time?  Is he a cornball romantic?  Or is he a dusty troubadour, rambling about, singing his tune?

What style of music would you chose for your self-portrait?   New Wave?  Folk?  Rap?  It is interesting to think about.  Hmmm.

Click Here to watch Joshua Hedley perform Weird Thought Thinker.

Gigolo A Go Go - The First 10 Episodes

Time flies when your mixing tunes.

Just about a year ago, I began creating mixtapes - starting with my Gigolo A Go Go series.  My Mixcloud site now consists of roughly 30 hours of great mixes that have been enjoyed by over a thousand people.  Pretty cool.

The Gigolo A Go Go series represents my deepest hopes in blogging and mixing; to create a positive community of music-minded people who share experiences and socialize.  All of the mixes in this series are party mixes.  Many are played at small get-togethers of my funky friends; others are created for imaginary parties, attended by a hip assortments of rogues, rascals, and shady women.

In the end, my greatest dream is to host an endless party for all my absolutely favorite people.  Although that is not physically possible, virtually, we are doing it.

So, thanks for coming to the party.  I hope you stick around and have a good time.

If you are having your own party, I hope you play some of these mixes.  They are proven to provoke fun.


Gigolo A Go Go - Episode 10

Some folks love collards and cornbread, others dig gravy and grits; but this mix - my dear friends - is the tastiest biscuit you'll find this side of your mama's oven.  And the jam...

This is some funky ass shit.  I have been working and reworking this mix for over two months; punching up the groove, muscle-building the bass lines, and framing the absolute best musical performances.

I dare you not to dance.

Most of these songs are from the 70's, starting with some classic funk, then shifting through the New Orleans stylings of The Meters into some deep, funky jazz from Billy Cobham and Eddie Henderson.  The arrangements and the musical performances on these jazz tunes boggles my brain.  They almost have a psychedelic quality.

Next, it's downtempo for Leon Haywood's sultry I Want'a Do Something Freaky To You ahead of a rump-shakin' finale of Willie Hutch, Barry White, and The Bar-Kays.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the classic tunes by Earth, Wind, & Fir…

Hunnybee - Unknown Mortal Orchestra

from the album Sex & Food (2018)

The thing that I really dig about Unknown Mortal Orchestra is their ability to create exceptional vibes that precisely hit the mark.  If this Brooklyn outfit wants to create a Delphonics vibe, they head into the studio and - poof - there it is!

This requires a mastery of understanding structure, tone, and space.  It also requires the instrumental and studio craftsmanship necessary to pull it off.  The adeptness of Unknown Mortal Orchestra in executing these skills record-after-record amazes me.

On Hunnybee, the band chooses to lay down a Prince vibe.  Structurally, it is all laid down with perfection, with the drums and bass leading the way; however, it is also present in the choices of chords, the vocal line, and the synthesized horns.  Each instrument's tone is perfection and the production has the perfect sheen.

But the thing that really amazes me is the bounce.  Prince songs have a bounce to them.  You hear it in the roundness of the bass a…

Name Of The Game - A.J. Croce

from the album Just Like Medicine (2017)

Jim Croce was one of the greatest American songwriters of the 1970s.  His songs were tender and witty; telling stories, creating characters, and forming a musical lexicon that anyone could enjoy. It is crowded on the Mount Rushmore of great American songwriters, but Jim Croce was amongst the very best.

So how amazing is it to hear a song of Jim's that has never previously been recorded?

Name Of The Game is a delightful song on A.J. Croce's 2017 album, Just Like Medicine.  Sung as a duet with Vince Gill, A.J. Croce pays homage to his father through vibe and tones.  Listen to the guitar and piano, the background singers, and the drumming.  It almost gives me chills.

But, for this gigolo, it is all about songwriting.  The unmistakable structure.  The balance of melody and space.  The trademark vocal line.  Jim Croce's music lives at that mystical intersection of black magic and mathematics.  There is voodoo in the vibe.

If you are serio…

Salton Sea - Josh Rouse

from the album Love In The Modern Age (2018)

About a decade ago, I found myself in a weird state; ecstatic to be regularly uncovering scores of great songs by dozens of new artists, yet glooming over the lack of close musical friends to share these songs with.

Throughout high school, college, and my band days, I was perpetually surrounded by fellow music lovers.  It was through these friends that I was introduced to many records that have enriched my life.  And then there were the concerts: Uncle Tupelo in a basement bar in St. Louis, Whiskeytown in an Athens, GA dive, and Lucinda Williams in the north Florida swamps.  So many memories.  Yet, somehow, all those friends had scattered in search of 40 acres and a mule.

Ultimately, I rectified the gloom by starting this blog.  It has reconnected me with some of my dearest music friends, along with many other kindred spirits.

Josh Rouse is one of those artists I began listening to in the late 2000s.  Quiet Town was one of my favorite songs…

Pink Squirrel - Episode 3

Welcome to Episode 3 of Pink Squirrel, a mixtape series exploring sone of the best songs of 2018.

This episode is full of great alternative songs from bands including Mint Field, Ought, and The Breeders.  One song of particular note is Soul No. 5 by Caroline Rose which seems to always strike a chord with my funky friends.

I hope you dig it...


Here is the playlist:

Quiero Otoño De Nuevo by Mint Field

Black Moon by Screaming Females

The Man by Goat Girl

After Hours by The Sufis

YO! MY SAINT [Film Version] by Karen O

When You Die by MGMT

These 3 Things by Ought

In Between Stars by Eleanor Friedberger

Soul No. 5 by Caroline Rose

Can't Live Here Anymore by Katy Guillen & The Girls

Walking With A Killer by The Breeders

How To Socialize & Make Friends by Camp Cope

Go Out Fighting by Dr. Dog

Negative Space by Hookworms


Here are the previous episodes of Pink Squirrel:






And please checkout my Mixcloud page to check out all of my mixtapes.

C.O.O.L. Party - Confidence Man

from the album Confident Music For Confident People (2018)

Confidence Man are a dance pop duo from Melbourne, Australia whose debut album - Confident Music For Confident People - is one of the most eclectically fun records of the year.

My favorite track is C.O.O.L. Party, which features bratty girl chatter over a wicked bass groove.  The singer's name is Janet Planet, which - for sure - begs a reference to Moon Unit Zappa.  The lyrics detail all the fun people and stuff you might find at the party of the year.  It is light and fun fare.

But the bass groove is serious stuff.  It is hard and crisp, easy to dance to, and infectious.  I can't wait to bust my bass out and learn it!

I also dig the guitar playing and synthesizers, particularly when they remind me of Groove Is In The Heart.

This is a fun one...

Click Here to listen to C.O.O.L. Party by Confidence Man.

The Man - Goat Girl

from the album Goat Girl (2018)

Goat Girl are a new band from London.  They combine Siouxee & The Banshees styled vocals with rolling, kinetic sound that has made them one of favorite debut bands of 2018 (so far).

The song I am digging most is The Man.  The galloping beat and jangling guitars are tasty fare, counterposed by slightly mumbled, withdrawn vocal stylings leading towards the central lyric:

You're the man
You're the man
You're the man for me

This is followed by an inspired guitar solo that exudes freedom and rebellion.

This is the essence of new rock and roll in 2018.

Click Here to watch the official music video for The Man by Goat Girl.

California Finally - La Luz

from the album Floating Features (2018)

Picture yourself in a imported convertible at 4AM, driving away from that evening's decadent scene and towards your modern unit that overlooks the Southern California beach.  The traffic lights seen to shine extra bright as the sky turns indigo.

You light up the roach that has been living in your ashtray and breathe the smoke deep inside.  California.  Your mind and spirit become one.

You turn on the stereo and hear the girls in La Luz singing California Finally.  The vibe is a dusty version of light '60s psychedelia.  The subtle gallop of the beat propels you down the street.  The reverb in the guitar speaks to you in the moment.  The hazy dreaminess of the backing vocals are a lush pillow for your wandering mind to float upon.

Let's all move to Redondo Beach...

Click Here to listen to California Finally by La Luz.

Mambo Egypcio - Sonido Gallo Negro

from the album Mambo Cósmico (2018)

Are you prepared to mambo like an Egyptian?

Surf's up.  It's mambo beat with Mesopotamian synthesizers.  Nothing much else to do but dance to the instrumental stylings of Sonido Gallo Negro.

Mexican surf is a very appealing subgenre of music.

Click Here to listen to Mambo Egypcio by Sonido Gallo Negro.

A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega - Ashley McBryde

from the album Girl Going Nowhere (2018)

Once upon a time, I played bass in an alternative country band whose sound flirted around the edges of rockabilly, surf, and psychedelia.  We were hot shit in Atlanta.  Creative Loafing called us "the darlings of the redneck underground" and included us in that year's "Best of" issue.  It was a fine time.

One Friday night, we were playing at The Star Bar, ground zero for the redneck underground.  A subgenre of a subgenre.  A scene onto itself.  After our set, I was talking to some guys who regularly drove down from a small town in the North Georgia mountains.  Some people speculated that they grew weed, but I knew nothing about that.

They offered us a gig playing at their Fourth of July party at a place in the woods, outside of Dahlongega.  It was a bit of a hike, but a paying gig is a paying gig.  We took the job.

We set up our gear and took the stage (actually a front porch) mid-afternoon.  It was brutally hot; nearly …

Knockin' On Your Screen Door - John Prine

from the album The Tree Of Forgiveness (2018)

When I lived in Milwaukee, my best friend was a guy from Detroit who liked to be called Hollywood.

On day, Hollywood got all excited because his brother - an environmental attorney living in Boulder, Colorado - was passing through town with his new girlfriend.  They were en route to Detroit for a "meet the parents" kind of thing.

In preparation of the visit, Hollywood planned a big outdoor grilling event behind our apartment.  Burgers, brats, and drumsticks.  A keg of Stroh's.  Cleaning on a level never previously witnessed.  And, perhaps most importantly,  the stereo speakers were firmly planted in the window.

When the Colorado folks arrived, it was exactly what you might expect: a custom van, a bearded mountain man, and a pretty brunette in a suede vest.  Before too long, Hollywood's brother pulled a melon crate full of LPs from the van and headed to the stereo,

Over the next eighteen hours, he spun folky music I had ne…

Tokyo Bay - Nick Lowe

from the EP Tokyo Bay / Crying Inside (2018)

Once upon a time, my musical trinity consisted of Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Squeeze; all clever songwriters with an affinity for a refreshing brand of power pop that deeply resonated with me.  Their music formed the soundtrack of my budding adulthood.

And as the decades have worn on, it is Nick Lowe who continues to serve as my guiding light.  Hip, slightly reserved, and professional.  A songwriter's songwriter.  Always applying his craft.  Seamlessly gliding from pub rock to country to rockabilly to surf.  Always maintaining his signature sound.  My idol.

Last night, I heard Tokyo Bay; the first track off of a four song EP he is releasing this June.  It is a rambling, rockabilly affair about a "long gone daddy" who writes a note, jumps a steamer, and ships off to find a little geisha.

As I listen to Nick Lowe describe his far east journey, my musical and spiritual compass rediscovers true north.

Click Here to listen to Tok…

What Was It You Wanted - Bettye LaVette

from the album Things Have Changed (2018)

When most people think of Bob Dylan, they recall all the great songs he wrote and recorded in the 1960's and '70's; up until the time period when he began to record religious tunes.  They are some of the greatest songs ever written, ultimately earning him the Nobel Prize in Literature.  These songs were famously recorded by artists like Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds, and Johnny Cash.

Unfortuantely, the masses do not give much consideration to Dylan's music from the '80's and beyond.  It is a mesmerizing body of work.  Artists who have recorded these songs - like Sufjan Steven, Garth Brooks, and Sinead O'Connor - have all been rewarded with great success.

On her new album - Things Have Changed - blues and soul icon Bettye LaVette releases a collection of Dylan covers, with all (but two) coming from his post-Street Legal songbook.

Who better to pay tribute to the latter gems in Bob Dylan's vast catalogue than Bettye LaV…

Can't Live Here Anymore - Katy Guillen & The Girls

from the album Remember What You Knew Before (2018)

Can't Live Here Anymore is a new song by the Kansas City trio, Katy Guillen & The Girls.  I dig the song for its sensible pop-rock hooks and vocals, which combine to remind me of songs released by The Bangles a few decades ago.

The band has paid their dues, touring the United States as an opening act for larger, better-known bands.  You get a sense of how this permeates their music in the song's opening measures.  It is a straight-four beat, with the lead guitar joining in with a crunchy distorted hook that becomes central to the song.  You can easily imagine this being played in a large venue.

This tune is also notable for the quality of the lead and backing vocals.  Every syllable is delivered purposefully.  You can understand the lyrics and want to sing along with the call and response of the backing vocalists by the end of the tune.

The song also includes an inspired guitar solo.

Nothing like listening to a fresh power…

Egyptian Luvr - Rejjie Snow

from the album Dear Annie (2018)

I have had the song Egyptian Luvr by Rejjie Snow in my new music rotation for a while now, listening to it nearly every day for the past six weeks.  I dig the tune.

While the song is playing, I find myself exploring just what makes me like one hip hop or rap song over another.  I think it comes down to the groove and vibe.

In any genre, I tend to connect better with songs that have a well defined groove.  In hip hop or rap, I prefer slower, more deliberate grooves; something tasty, with a bit of space.  I also prefer a vibe that is a bit laid back.  Harder edged rap is too aggressive for me.

Egyptian Luvr checks both boxes.  I also dig how the rappers step in, hit their verse, and exit; with the female vocalist carrying a silky melody line throughout.  It allows for a consistency while also exploring different vantage points of the musical polygon.

Click Here to watch a video for Egyptian Luvr by Rejjie Snow.