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Showing posts from July, 2018

On The Beach - Boz Scaggs

from the album Out Of The Blues (2018)

Willie Dixon famously said, "The blues are the roots, the rest are the fruits."

Over the years, I have found myself coming back to the blues periodically.  I find it offers a sense of renewal for my spirit.  The only other force that has a similar effect, for me, is sitting on the beach.

Staring at the sea cures many ills.  It also replenishes my inner strength.

In his song, On The Beach, Boz Scaggs lays down six-and-a-half minutes of slow burning blues cover of a Neil Young tune that is the next best thing to being there.

The band sounds incredible.  I can lose myself for hours listening to Jim Keltner's drums and Willie Week's bass creating a backdrop for the magnificent tone of Boz Scagg's voice.

I suppose the complimentary quote to Willie Dixon's is that "all life comes from the sea."  Don't tell Darwin.

Click Here to listen to Boz Scaggs cover Neil Young's On The Beach.

Click Here to read my April 20…

Nightclub Love - Matt Maltese

from the album Bad Contestant (2018)

Whew.  Last night was a blur...

It started with friends drinking a tequila and rosé champagne concoction I dreamed up (the agave nectar made all the difference), shifted to a restaurant for the best meal in recent memory, and ended (at least in my conscience) with me playing the bass line White Lines by Grandmaster Flash with a group of wasted people singing along.

Now, the morning.  Cleaning up the mess, putting the pieces together of various conversations.  Even people stopping back by with questions like, "Did I leave my vape here?"

I put on a mix of new music.  A few minutes later, the song Nightclub Lover by Matt Maltese comes on.  Funny thing is, I have no idea how it got into the playlist.  I do not recall ever hearing the song before.

Either way. it is perfect for this morning.  The cheesy 70's keyboard riff makes for the perfect opening, as do the throwback kitch of the melancholy vocals.  The backing vocals put this song ove…

Gimme Some More - Art Of Tones

from the single Gimme Some Love (2018)

There once was an expert pasta maker, named Al Bente, who had a passion for elbow macaroni.  He loved its size and shape, the way it could be readily managed with a fork, the way that meat and cheese would cling to its corner.  For Al Bente, there was no other noodle.

Needless to say, his family ate very well.  However, his children endlessly bellyached for burgers, and such, while his wife berated him over the family's modest income.  "Why can't you make linguine or penne," she would screech.  "That is what people eat!  How are we supposed to survive?"

"But honey," he would reply, "I make many types of pasta.  Some noodles are longer, others thicker, and some are gluten-free."

As the years wore on, his wife became ever-more estranged.  His children grew up, and, despite his desire for the family business to endure, showed no interest in learning the art of pasta making.

Then one day Al Bente died.

Make 'em Like You - Tom Grennan

from the album Lighting Matches (2018)

It takes a whole bunch of craft to write a catchy pop song.

First, you need to come up with the various parts of the song - intro, verse, chorus, bridge, breakdown, ending - and stitch them together in a way fits cohesively and resolves itself musically.  In addition, each of those elements needs to sound good and be optimized.

Next, you need to think about the beat and the groove; followed by the various hooks and melody lines.

From a distance, it all sounds so simple and easy.  However, those who have tried know just how elusive a well-written song can be.

Make 'em Like You by Tom Grennan successfully brings all those things together, while adding one more bit of creative genius: it doesn't sound quite like any other musical artist.

Take a close listen.  It sounds so simple...

Click Here to listen to Make 'em Like You by Tom Grennan.

Like Sugar - Chaka Kahn

from the single Like Sugar (2018)

Today was a strange day.

The strangeness actually started the evening before.  I was up on a newly opened rooftop bar, scouting locations for my birthday bash, when I made the grave mistake of checking my work email.

Stupid, I know...

Much to my surprise, my credentials failed and I could not receive email.  I then checked the various other corporate systems.  None worked.

Before too long, paranoia got the best of me and I reached the conclusion that I would be fired the next morning.  I texted my boss with no reply.  My night was ruined.

In the morning, I dreaded going into the office.  I drank espressos and got showered, all the while role-playing a series of imaginary conversations.  By the time I began my 90-minute commute, i was a teenage zombie.

I put on a playlist of songs I'm considering writing about.  First song up: Like Sugar by Chaka Kahn. Sweet perfection.  Loose yourself in the groove, the beat.

Once traffic cleared, I sped towards B…

Keeping Time - Angie McMahon

from the single Keeping Time (2018)

Angie McMahon is a singer-songwriter from Melbourne, Australia.  As such, you might expect her to be cut from the same cloth as all the other Aussie chicks I have written about over the past six years.  However, she is different.

Angie McMahon has a rock sensibility that most longer-songwriters I come across lack.

Her latest single - Keeping Time - has the low-fi feel of a demo cut.  You hear it in the dull thud of the drum beat and the muted boom of the bass.  Yet, when her vocals enter, you can't help but lean forward and listen.

The same is true for her arrangements.  A rock sensibility: yes; but also a craftsmanship in the songwriting that is quite appealing.  Every progression resolves itself in a way that makes you go "hmm".

I do not know what lies in store for this 23 year old (maybe 24?), but two things are for certain:  I will be rooting for her and I will be keeping an eye out for her next record.

Click Here to listen to Keepi…

Sloane Ranger - The Essex Green

from the album Hardly Electronic (2018)

The Essex Green are a Brooklyn band who released a series of little known - but wildly tasty - albums back in the early 00s.  In 2006, they decided to take a break from music to pursue other interests.

Twelve years later, they are back with Hardly Electronic, one of the absolute best records of 2018.

The lead track on the album, Sloane Ranger, offers a beat, lyrics, and horn arrangement reminiscent of early 70s British folk-pop juxtaposed against a "summer single" vibe of early 80s new music keyboards and call-response vocals arrangements.  The result is vintage, fresh, and fun - all at the same time.

This is the perfect tune for driving on the Robert Moses Causeway or dancing in your underpants!

Click Here to watch the official music video for Sloane Ranger by The Essex Green.

Album 1 Track 1 - Episode 6

Sometimes it is interesting how a mixtape will take on a life of it's own.

The original intent of this episode was to highlight the reimagining of socially-aware, black music over the decades.  Artists like Odetta and The Staple Singers were envisioned to be cornerstones of the mix.  Neither are included.

After becoming enraptured with the song Compared To What by Roberta Flack, I narrowed the span of the mix to the line that connects the R&B of 1970 to the Rap of 1980.

I failed to realize that this line would need to pass through some mighty funk and disco gems.  Before to long, a dance party was busting out in the middle of the mix.  I mean, who knew that Play That Funky Music was the first track on Wild Cherry's debut album?  Not me.

I imagine Wild Cherry - virtually unknown - laying down that track in the studio.  I imagine them standing behind the mixing board and hearing their ultimate funk classic for the first time.  It gives me chills.

Anyhow, I hope you dig the …

Album 1 Track 1 - Episode 5

One of my favorite eras in music is the moment just before punk rock exploded.  Here, bands inspired by the Velvet Underground created music that was simple, creative, and energetic.  Their influence is still felt today.

Included here are some of the most important bands of that time, such as New York Dolls, Television, and The Modern Lovers.  Also included are the bands that were inspired by them, including R.E.M., Beck, and Violent Femmes.

Some songs are iconic, others lesser known; but they are all goodies.


Here is the playlist:

Roadrunner by The Modern Lovers

Wicked Gravity by The Jim Carroll Band

X Offender by Blondie

Modern Music by Black Mountain

Loser by Beck

Give It To The Soft Boys by The Soft Boys

See No Evil by Television

Blister In The Sun by Violent Femmes

The Step by !!!

The Creeps by Social Distortion

Personality Crisis by New York Dolls

Radio Free Europe by R.E.M.

Tell Me When It's Over by The Dream Syndicate

Venus Of Avenue D by Mink DeVille


And, in case you missed them, here…

May Your Kindness Remain - Courtney Marie Andrews

from the album May Your Kindness Remain (2018)

If not for the racial gap in its listeners, the natural intersection between country and gospel music would be more deeply explored.  Elvis, of course, managed to create magic in this realm, but not everyone can be The King.

In that sense, I applaud the song May Your Kindness Remain by Courtney Marie Andrews.

It all starts so simply, with a gospel organ over what is essentially a country tune.  Then the sense of church is deepened by the backup singers.  This is followed by an inspired guitar solo, with a tone that comes from a country rock space but is transformed with a magnificent tone to imply gospel.  The song then hits a crescendo and ends, leaving you wanting more.

Over it all, Courtney Marie Andrews delivers a beautiful vocal performance.  Not bad for a country girl.

Click Here to listen to May Your Kindness Remain by Courtney Marie Andrews.

Don't Ever Forget - Lauren Balthrop

from the single Don't Ever Forget (2018)

Lauren Balthrop is an Alabama girl who moved to NYC to hone her musical talents.  The results will be revealed in her debut album, This Time Around, set for release this September.

Don't Ever Forget is a single released ahead of the album.  I really dig the subtle groove that propels the song; bass, drums, and guitar locked together flawlessly.  Atop this pulse are ethereal vocal stylings that shoot for the upper registers while remaining grounded by the groove.

It leaves me wanting more.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Don't Ever Forget by Lauren Balthrop.

Violent - Grapetooth

from the single Violent (2018)

With its uptempo meter, driving synths, and loose vocal melodies, Violent is a tune that will almost certainly remind you of The Cure or New Order.

The song is a collaboration between Twin Peak's frontman Clay Frankel and producer Chris Bailoni, both from Chicago.  What they have come up with is not complex, but sensible and pleasing.  It is full of hooks and familiar tones.

It is a winner.

Click Here to watch the official music video for Violent by Grapetooth.

Album 1 Track 1 - Episode 4

Happy Fourth of July to all my friends, everywhere!

Episode Four of this mixtape series intertwines threads of classic country - Hank, George, Wanda, & Roy - with British acts, such as The Animals, Van Morrison, and Joe Cocker.  From this foundation, you can really hear both genres captured in both the rock music of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, and Tom Petty and the country music of The Flying Burrito Brothers (featuring the incomparable Gram Parsons) and Emmylou Harris.

You then hear it in like-minded eighties artists, including Tracy Chapman and The BoDeans.

It reminds me that as "American" as it might seem, some British elements are ever present.

Hope you dig it !!!


Here is the playlist:

Only The Lonely by Roy Orbison

House Of The Rising Sun by The Animals

She's A Runaway by The BoDeans

Rockin' Around (With You) by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Bluebird Wine by Emmylou Harris

Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison

Why Baby Why by George Jones

Feeling Alright by Joe Coc…

The Supremacy Of Pure Artistic Feeling - Self Defense Family

from the album Have You Considered Punk Music (2018)

Last night, I started listening to the latest album by Self Defense Family, Have You Considered Punk Music.  What initially drew me in was that the album's title did not have a question mark at the end.  Was this an oversight, or intentional.

Once listening, I then became captivated by the first track, The Supremacy Of Pure Artistic Feeling.  Again, I was initially captivated by the title.

I found myself completely absorbed by this tune.  It has the vibe of a post-punk campfire song, if there is such a thing.  One where a singer waxes poetically over a chord progression that is slowly played on guitar, one note at a time, king of like the music of Sun Kil Moon.  I envision myself burnt out in a small, dimly lit room with the musicians as they drone out the sound.

Then I began to listen to the lyrics.  Listening to the flawed point of view of the narrative.  It is fascinating.

My girl and I started fostering dogs
Shit's a hassl…

Leap Of Faith - The Interrupters

from the album Fight The Good Fight (2018)

There once was a baby eagle named Devin.  Of all the hatchlings in the nest, he was the strongest, most stubborn, and most determined.

When his mother would return to the top of the towering pine tree with food, he would squawk the loudest; sometimes, even stepping on the throats of his siblings in order to secure an ample share of the masticated fish parts.

This made Devin bigger and even more strong.

Then came a morning when his mother returned to the nest without any food.  His father perched himself on an adjacent branch, keenly surveying the surrounding environment for predators. A moment later, his mother stuck her beak beneath a sister and flipped her out of the nest.  The horror!

As this continued with other siblings, Devin burrowed into the sticks and branches.  Ultimately, it was just he and his mother.  As she tried to pry him loose, he tightened his talons and would not let go.  His mother continued to try, but Devin was too stron…