Posts

Showing posts from March, 2018

Bad Bad News - Leon Bridges

from the album Good Thing (2018)

I am really digging Bad Bad News by Leon Bridges.  It is a vintage soul tune with a silky, big city sheen, combining jazzy tones with a funked up bass groove that makes you want to get out of your chair and dance.

As I listen, I revel in just how tasty the sounds from each instrument are.  Listen to the drummer hitting the cymbal's bell; it sounds as though you are in the room.  Also, listen to how true the bass notes ring at low frequency; their "roundness" gives me tingles.  The George Benson-inspired guitar licks, the pop of the horns, and the touch of the keys.  All are magnificent.

But the star attraction is Leon Bridges.   His vocals are more mature than on his debut album; his voice sliding right in with all the other instrumentation.  Listen to the control.  He can make his voice do exactly what he wants, whether gritting up a line or offering his best approximation of a James Brown roar.

It is a joy to listen to such a fine song.

I've Been Loving You Too Long - Michelle Malone

from the album Slings & Arrows (2018)

I had the great fortune of being a part of the ATL music scene in the 1990s.  It was thriving with incredible artists, crossing every imaginable genre.

Over time, I became very disciplined in studying everyone's career arcs and noting common elements shared by the most successful artists.  As regular readers might guess, it always came down to vocal and songwriting ability.

Two of the very best Atlanta artists of that era were Shawn Mullins and Michelle Malone.  They each could sing and write.

On the new Michelle Malone album, they come together to perform a duet on I've Been Loving You Too Long; a cover of the classic ballad of another great Georgia artist, Otis Redding.  Their voices are as remarkable today as they were back then; perhaps even better.

As I sit back in my dark studio, listening to this song at high volume, I am also reminded of two other traits that they, and other successful artists, share:  dedication and perseveran…

I Love Kangaroos - Guided By Voices

from the album Space Gun (2018)

Once upon a time, a  business acquaintance - Ronnie - and I were partying way too hard in Sydney.  Our ten weeks were coming to a fast end and Ronnie was hellbent on wild days, wilder nights, and squeezing every possible memory out of his adventure.

We started off day drinking in the courtyard behind some local pub.  I was two-fisting Bloody Mary's and VBs.  Intermittently, we were getting high off a bag of weed we had scored from a security guard a couple of nights prior.  Ronnie said, "Hey, let's go that titty bar; you know, the one with the Big Samoan bouncer." I reminded him that they all had Big Samoan bouncers and suggested that we have lunch first.

Fast forward to 6:45AM.  We are sitting on barstools, drinking Irish coffee, and smoking harsh cigarettes.  Daylight is beaming through the windows, revealing just how rough the night had been on us stragglers.  Ronnie says, "Let's go check out the place with the kangaroos.  …

Shine - SILENT POETS

from the album Dawn (2018)

One of the great joys of writing this blog is stumbling across recording artists that I have never heard of previously.  Most often, they are some hot, new band or singer.  However, occasionally the artist has been around for a long time but simply missed my radar.

This is the case with SILENT POETS, an electronic duo from Tokyo who specialize in Acid Jazz, Downtempo, Dub, and Trip Hop who have been releasing music since 1991.  Currently, the duo is flying solo with the musical stylings of Michiharu Shimoda.

Their latest single - Shine - caught my attention by featuring a guest vocal by Hollie Cook.  Hollie is a darling of this blog - and the London scene - lending her sweet vocals to some tremendous reggae and dub tunes over the past five years.

Such is the case with Shine.  It is classic dub tune with a laid back tempo, fantastic piano and horn segments, and Hollie Cook's delightful vocals.  It sounds like something you might hear in a Brixton roti sho…

Walking With A Killer - The Breeders

from the album All Nerve (2018)

I really dig murder ballads.  These form of music expression has been kicking around since the 17th century, usually in the form of folk music.  It represents a form of storytelling and allows us to connect with our darker demons.

In my mind, Johnny Cash could deliver a murder ballad better than anyone.  Think of songs like Delia's Gone, I Hung My Head, and Long Black Veil; their darkness pulls you in and captivates you.  They are spellbinding.

I also really dig when more alternative bands take on the murder ballad.  Nirvana, Nick Cave, Violent Femmes, and countess Americana bands have all contributed elegantly to the subgenre.

Add The Breeders to that list.  Walking With A Killer is a magnificent example of the modern murder ballad.  The dead pulse of the bass, the element of funeral procession in the drum beat, the mix of clean and distorted guitar tones, the quavering vibrato in Kim Deal's vocals.  The space in the music creates a psychotic v…

The Real Thing (Our Shit) - Rhemi

from the single The Real Thing (Our Shit) (2018)

I dream of us lying in a king-sized bed
You, curled in my arms
Infinity in your eyes
The sweet smell of your skin
The soft touch of your hand
I feel your beating heart and pull it next to mine
They beat together

I imagine us passing on the street
We kiss
Your lips lightly touching mine
It is heaven

Click Here to listen to The Real Thing (Our Shit) by Rhemi.

In Between Stars - Eleanor Friedberger

from the album Rebound (2018)

On first listen to the song In Between Stars by Eleanor Friedberger, I immediately knew that this would be one of my favorite songs of the year.  It just has "it."  I dig the vibe created by the mix of electronic and organic instruments.  I also dig how the song has warmth and space.  Moreover, the song also has a timeless feel where, despite sounding fresh and modern, I could hear Carly Simon singing it.

However, it has taken me a few months to write about this song, primarily because the meaning of the lyrics elude me.  They are abstruse.

In between moons, I was the sea
I was the sea
In between stars, I was the salt
I was the salt
Wild and vulgar were the ones that you could see
The ugly idols not cherished by me

I have tried to figure these lyrics out, and the exercise has taught me a valuable lesson: Not everything is meant to be taken literally and that in order to truly understand obtuse circumstances, you need to look a layer, or two, deeper; …

12:51AM - Self Tape

from the single 12:51AM (2018)

I am up late, thinking through the various permutations of some pressing puzzles.  Big stuff with little room for error.  I've likely had music playing for five or six hours, but have barely heard a song.  My rabbit holes have become wormholes.

I am not finding myself particularly stressed, but rather detached; with an assassin-like focus on executing the task at hand.  Still my mind cannot break free.

Then the opening bars of 12:51AM by Self Tape starts playing.  The vibe is bouncing and bright.  The groove enters, sweeping me away.  I'm in a different head now.  I turn up the volume to listen to the guitar, yet the beat and groove consume me.  This song has unlocked the wormhole.  Freed my mind. The kingdom of heaven is within.

Soon, I'm googling around for some information about this song.  I come across the passage, "Recorded in his small and dark London flat in the depths of Winter, his sound alludes to a much warmer and brighter ti…

My Queen Is Harriet Tubman - Sons Of Kemet

from the album Your Queen Is A Reptile (2018)

Last year, for my birthday, my good friend Jaba B. gave me a book titled The Best Minds Of My Generation - A Literary History Of The Beats by Allen Ginsberg.  It is a fascinating collection of curated professorial lectures that Ginsberg delivered over several decades.

In one of these lectures, Ginsberg talks about Jack Kerouac and his love of jazz; in particular, bebop. He spoke about how Kerouac would mimic the riffs of horn players with his words, forming a unique street poetry.  He also spoke of how the musicians would mimic the sounds they heard in the street with their horns.  Think of Dizzy Gillespie trumpeting the central line to Salt Peanuts.  Everything comes full circle: the street to the horn, the horn to the poet, the poet to the street.

The book also discusses the musicians who were most influential on The Beats; which causes me to ask, "What musical artists would The Beats listen to today?"

Shabaka Hutchings is cert…

Pink Squirrel - Episode 2

Welcome to Episode 2 of Pink Squirrel, a mixtape series intended to enrapture listeners with the best new music of 2018.  This episode is all about the groove.  It bounces from alternative to punky-funky to hip-hop to dance before settling into an extended jam of Soulful House.

With the exception of Parliament, not many of these artists are household names; unless, of course, you live in a very groovy abode.  That said, artists like Shopping, Khruangbin, Babert, and Husky lay down some incredible music on this mix.

I really find myself digging the Soulful House tracks.  Listen to the saxophone on Natasha Kitty Katt's Windy City or the trumpet on Husky's Can't Shake It Off; it brings jazz instrumentation into the modern club scene in a way that really turns me on.

I hope you dig it !!!


Here is the playlist:

Jukebox Babe by Moon Duo

The Hype by Shopping

Love & Sacrifice by Sylvan LaCue

It Makes You Forget (Itgehane) by Peggy Gou

Psycho Star by King Tuff

I'm Gon Make U Sic…

Can't Get Enough - Serge Funk

from the single Can't Get Enough (2018)

Last night, I drove down to a lake house on the Georgia-Alabama line.  It was a beautiful evening.  The air held a tinge of winter, yet spring was proceeding in full motion.  Through the tall pines the setting sun created a blood-orange ball that melted into the lake.  In the distance, you could hear bass fisherman increasing their speeds, in order to make the marina before sunset.

I considered this a moment to celebrate.  I opened a bottle of Crozes-Hermitage that I've been saving for such an occasion.  I turned on my new Pink Squirrel mix, cranked up the incredible outdoor speakers, stepped outside, and enjoyed being alone with my thoughts, drinking great wine, and digging on some most pleasing grooves.

As the mix reached its finale, I was bopping around to Can't Get Enough by Italian producer Serge Funk.  The songs drips of hard 70s groove baked into a tasty Soulful House biscuit served with disco jelly.  The music is infectious …

Can't Shake It Off - Husky

from the EP Can't Shake It Off (2018)

Chops.
Air.
Tone.
Tongue.
Fingers.

Not only is the trumpet amongst the most difficult instruments to play, but it is also one of the loudest.  Trumpeters can not hide.  They show and blow, letting the notes fall where they may.

I really dig listening to well played trumpet; particularly when it is in an unanticipated context.

This is the case with Can't Shake It Off by Husky, a top-notch DJ and producer from Sydney, Australia.  This is a silky, Soulful House number with a disco beat that I cannot get enough of.  Long sustained piano chords over a bouncing groove set the tone for the trumpet.

This is further embellished by fine orchestration and a sultry vocal by the always seductive Nat Conway.  I also dig the synth seizure solo that offers a modern equivalent to the trumpet track.

Particularly when I listen to the Mark Di Meo Souldub mix of this song, I am transported to a world of rainy car rides on the Harlem River Drive and sexy women …

Psycho Star - King Tuff

from the album The Other (2018)

Good things happen when you layer melodic psychedelia over a funky beat and a deep groove.  Such is the case with Psycho Star by King Tuff.

I just can't get enough of the beat.  It is the kind of thing you might hear on Frenchman Street in New Orleans.  Subtle little high hat rhythms playing off the gallop of the beat.  It then switches to something more rocking without ever losing the essentials of the beat.  Back and forth.  Effortless.  Amazing.

The bass groove is equally impressive.  It is locked in with the drums without fully melding.  When it drops out, you miss it.  When it kicks back in, you rejoice.  It is a mighty groove.

Atop the bass and drums are a spectrum of psychedelic tones that recall 70s FM radio, complete with wah-wah pedals, an opening synth right out a Steve Miller hit, flangers, phasers, chorus effects, and a radio friendly melody.

I also dig the songs overarching message that this earth is too good for us humans.  The backin…

Everybody's Coming To My House - David Byrne

from the album American Utopia (2018)

Do you spend too much time thinking about how rapidly our world is changing and agonizing over how to stay relevant on other people's terms.

What if we flipped it?  What if we changed our posture to "If you can't join them, beat them?"  Wouldn't they be surprised?

What if we imagined our own world and filled it with all our creative friends and the people we choose to spend our time with?  What if we made art and time for us, rather for the acceptance of those who ultimately matter less to us?

There are enough of us.  We could sustain it.  We just might find ourselves happier and more fulfilled.

It is about us.  It is about our community.  It is about people with beautiful spirits finding peace together; living their lives, strutting their talents, surrounded by warm, decent, like-minded humans.  Our house is for us.  We are a groove tribe.

Sulcus Tribus.

Click Here to watch a music video to Everybody's Coming To My House

Spectacular - Shinya Fukumori Trio

from the album For 2 Akis (2018)

IN THE BEGINNING, God created the heaven and the earth; and, soon after, God created all sorts of other stuff.  By any estimation, God was an accomplished architect, creating a universe that is still going strong after four and a half billion years.

Yet beyond its structural integrity and choice of materials, God's grand design offers a masterclass in understanding the user experience.  Everything relates to everything else.  Everything is interconnected with precision and elegance.

To achieve this on such a grand scale, God recognized the need for balance.  So, when it was time to deploy, God proclaimed "Let there be light," and there was light; whose countervailing kin - night - is equally sacred.  Just ask Louis Armstrong.

This segmentation of day and night creates a mechanism for all of the "users" to synchronize; ensuring that they function and operate it concert with one another.  This brilliant symphony is realized every …

Don't Move Back To LA - Okkervil River

from the album In The Rainbow Rain (2018)

Late last night, I was driving home from a Billy Strings concert with the stereo cranked up.  I find it amazingly fun to drive on the ATL highways at that time of night; you can go so fast and the streetlights blur with a midnight blue hue.  Try it sometime.

I was listening to a playlist of twenty - or so - new songs, many of which will find their way into this blog in the coming weeks.  As often happens, one song jumps from the playlist, screaming "pick me, pick me." as if it were the petit basset griffon vying for Best of Show at Westminster.  That song was Don't Move Back To LA by Okkervil River, a folk rock / alternative country band from Austin who take their name from a Russian short story set on a St. Petersburg river.

I dig the song for its laid back vibe, which perfectly juxtaposes my racing around the Grady Curve.  I also dig Will Sheff's vocal delivery; reminding me of Jonathan Richmond with his hoarse tone and mil…

Go Out Fighting - Dr. Dog

from the album Critical Equation (2018)

I currently find myself in a professional situation where I have lost confidence in the leadership of the team I am working for but strongly believe in the value and importance of the work I am doing.

My advice to someone in my situation would be to hedge your bets; to begin searching for a new organization while continuing to execute on the work at hand.

However prudent that advise may be, I cannot do it.  I am not programmed that way.  I am either in or I am out.  Perhaps it is some kind of perverse manifestation of my Heide Klum syndrome?

So, after much consternation, I have decided to go all in.  Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.

Go Out Fighting by Dr. Dog is the perfect anthem for the path I chose.  The song's title is my mantra. The psychedelic vibe and expansive bass groove speak to my sense of individuality.  The hint of John Lennon in the vocal line speaks to my righteous indignation.  The loose and swirling beat speaks to the tu…

Sister - Tracey Thorn

from the album Record (2018)

Through my twenties, the music that I listened to was largely written and performed by men.  Thing is, at the time, I wasn't self-aware enough to realize it.  Had you told me, I'd have told you that you were nuts and started rattling off names like Deborah Harry, Chrissie Hynde, and Alison Moyet.

Then, in my early thirties, I moved from NYC to ATL and formed new circles of friends.  One group became very influential and introduced me to an entirely new sphere of artists which opened me to a world of great female vocalists.  These included artists like Morcheeba, Everything But The Girl, and Cowboy Junkies.  Around the same time, a harder-edged circle of friends was listening to Hole.

I became entranced with female vocalists, with their point of view, the variations in their styles and techniques, and the roll that the church played in forming many of their voices.

I began to travel back in time, discovering the magnificence of all those women who c…

These 3 Things - Ought

from the album Room Inside The World (2018)

I find myself repeatedly listening to the song These 3 Things by Ought, a four-piece post-punk band from Montreal.  It is dense and danceable, in a manner reminiscent of some Roxy Music tunes from the late 70's or The Cure of the 80's.

Although the vibe and the groove provide the initial attraction, it is the juxtaposing of fragile vocals with confident instrumentation that keeps me coming back.

Tim Darcy's vocals are captivating, offering a quavering balance of theatrics, poetics, and melancholy.  Counterbalanced by an industrially steady beat, pulsing bass, and retro-electronics, one gets a sense on being suspended in an anxious limbo.

It is fascinating.

Click Here to watch the official music video to These 3 Things by Ought.

Negative Space - Hookworms

from the album Microshift (2018)

On Thursday night, a couple of my funky friends were out drinking at The Yacht Club, a locals bar with big glass windows on a busy street in ATL's Little Five Points neighborhood, when a gun battle broke out a few hundred feet down the street.

Instinctively, everybody got down on the floor and began to belly-crawl, away from the windows, towards the back of the bar and the kitchen.  After laying there a while, before the ambulances carted off the wounded or the police arrived to secure the area, people started crawling back to their original spots to gather their cigarettes and drinks.  They then crawled back, laying on the floor, smoking and drinking, acting as though it was an ordinary night.

I dig this scene.  It speaks to these surreal times and to the resilience of people like my funky friends.  They keep on keeping it real.

Click Here to listen to Negative Space by Hookworms.

Click Here to read my April 2016 blog post on I Have Some Business Ou…

Do You Dance - Men Without A Clue

from the single Do You Dance (2018)

Jacco wants to get down
Jack-Bob wants to drink
Jazz girls in the kitchen
Washing Stan Getz in the sink
Ginsberg's in the hallway
Spouting perverted rhymes
Aquinas on the front porch
Confessing all his crimes
St. Catherine's got her game on
Chatting up young boys
Nancy's mixing vodka
With apricot La Croix
Don Johnson rides a lion
Fred Gwynne's blowing smoke
N13 heads over
Just to have a toke
Outside on the sidewalk
Meadowlark can dribble
Hey, that's Richie Beans
Sucking down a Fribble
Aunt Wendy's slicing onions
In the name of anarchy
Look, its Don Cornielius
Dancing with Righteous T.
Someone turns the lights out
Someone calls the feds
Someone with a smart phone
Is playing Talking Heads

Click Here to listen to Do You Dance by Men Without A Clue.

Listen to Do You Dance by Men Without A Clue on Pink Squirrel - Episode 2:

We Got To Celebrate - Babert

from the single We Got To Celebrate (2018)

For the luckiest amongst us, we will get to spend about 25,000 days living on this planet.  Some of those days will be happy, others will be sad, and a whole bunch will fall someplace in between.

Fortunately, we humans are blessed with an incredible gift of memory; allowing us to vividly recall good moments so that they can sustain us when times get tough.

When I consider "the happiest days of my life," they largely consist of joyous moments with family, friends, lovers, and strangers.  What makes these moments special is the magic of sharing emotions and experiences together.

So, if we want to make the most of our 25,000 days, we need to create as many of these happy moments as possible.  We can do this by spending more time with those kindred souls in our lives.

We got to celebrate.

Click Here to listen to We Got To Celebrate by Babert.

Listen to We Got To Celebrate by Babert on Pink Squirrel - Episode 2:


Black Moon - Screaming Females

from the album All At Once (2018)

Many moons ago, I frequented suburban rock clubs.  These places were typically located in strip malls, with big, burly bouncers checking your identification and being very specific about where they stamped your hand.

A few of the bands, like Zebra and Twisted Sister, would one day find commercial success; while the overwhelming majority now consider their strip mall gigs as "the glory days."

Although it might sound odd, one of my most vivid remembrances of these clubs was how my shoes would stick to the floor.  It happened everywhere back then; yet, today, I go out to hear live music nearly as often and my shoes never stick.

What's up with that?  Is it the shoes?  Is it the floor?  Do fewer people spill their drinks today verses yesterday?  Is their some new technology that keeps floors cleaner?   Seriously, if any of my dear readers can shed a bit of enlightenment, I would be much obliged.

I am reminded of this when I listen to Black Mo…