Monday, June 30, 2008

Esperanza Spalding

This album will unequivocally be on my best of list for 2008. No question about it. I've been listening to it for the last week or so at least twice a day. In the morning, during the day, in bed at night, you name it and this album has been hitting the sweet spot. It's simply titled Esperanza (Spanish for "hope"), and it's the sophomore release from jazz sensation Esperanza Spalding. She composes, she sings, and she plays bass for the album, which came out at the end of May.

There's two things that I love about this album: Esperanza, and all of the musicians behind her. In other words, everything. Esperanza's voice has a soaring precision to it that is gracefully elegant, and you can tell that she nails each note the exact way she wants to. I have next to no music training, but even my ear can tell how dead on she is when her voice glides through the register. While performing such beautiful vocal duties (equally well in three different languages I might add - English, Spanish, and Portuguese), she also plays bass on the album, and has been prestigiously recognized for her ability with the instrument. Although having only picked up the bass at 15, she was invited to be the youngest instructor ever to work at Berklee College of Music at age 20, a scant five years after having first began with it. Five years!?!?

Behind Esperanza is a talented group of jazz musicians in their own right with some swinging chops, and are the other reason I enjoy this album so much. If you were to strip away all of the lovely vocals, you'd still have an incredible collection of instrumentals. In fact, two of the tracks are instrumentals. Try If That's True below for a taste of some Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers inspired hard-bop. At other points in the album you'll also hear some trumpet work that reminds me of the great Dizzy Gillespie, some Latin-tinged jazz such as the fourth track I Adore You, as well as some scat singing by Esperanza which will make you miss Ella Fitzgerald. And while the album will bring you back to recall the cats who played it the first time around, it's got a modern day luster that makes it its own.

But these two elements together, her vocals and the musicians' instruments, and you get an album that's just right from beginning to end. Check out these two tracks and I'm sure you'll be convinced to get the entire album. If there's one album that I convince you to pick up this month, make this album it.




Visit her website, her label Heads Up International, and become her friend on MySpace.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers - Moanin' : Jazz In Paris: 1958 Paris Olympia

Dizzy Gillespie & Roy Eldridge - Trumpet Blues : Roy & Diz

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Soul - We're Losing It Baby


we're losing it baby
we're losing the sweet sweet love we had
we're losing it baby
we're losing the sweet sweet love we had

home don't seem like a home
we don't never talk no more
you got me wondering babe
where did our love go

i don't know what went wrong
and it's hard for me to see
but we're losing what we used to have
it's getting the best of me

oh tell me
cuz i don't know
losing it baby
losing the sweet sweet love we had



Roscoe Robinson - We're Losing It Baby : We're Losing It Baby 7"

Roscoe Robinson - We Got a Good Thing Going : We're Losing It Baby 7" B-side

Saturday, June 28, 2008

e.s.l.

No, English isn't their second language, but e.s.l.'s style of music certainly strikes a eastern European gypsyish chord. Granted, it's via Vancouver, Canada, but quite vagabondesque never the less. Imagine a feminine version of Beirut to get in the right caravan. It's quirky in its exotic flair, and even tackles some time honored tunes like Neil Young's Like A Hurricane, The Velvet Underground's Venus In Furs, and even more peculiarly The Beastie Boys' Girls. (which my verdict is still out on - I think it would have tipped the scales in the songs favor if the girls had substituted their own names in instead of religiously sticking to the original lyrics and the Beasties' names).

Eye Contact, the debut release from this female foursome, rollicks along at a nice clip, and while the covers provide interesting takes on familiar songs, the originals suggest that the girl have plenty of spirit and skill to stick around after the gypsy fad fades away.




Visit their website, their label Jericho Beach Music, and become their friend on MySpace.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The Beastie Boys - Girls : Licensed To Ill

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thomas Dolby, the Sole Inhabitant

"In the late 1970's, synthesizers were not shiny and sleek. They were salvaged from dumpsters outside university music departments, and soldered together from mail-order kits. When the startling new sounds they produced were sprung upon audiences, they upset punks and rock purists alike. Previously the exclusive province of superstars, academics, and seasoned studio pros, electronic music was now seized upon by a generation of young rebels. And leading the charge was Thomas Dolby."

-Kurt B. Reighley in the liner notes for The Sole Inhabitant


Although the name Thomas Dolby might not ring any bells, the name of his uber-mega-gigantasaurous hit She Blinded Me With Science probably does. Unfortunately, that's about all the majority of listeners remember about Dolby. During the late 70's and early 80's, he was one of the leading innovators of synth-pop, and performed as a supporting session musician and song writer for many acts (check out below for some surprises) as well as forming his own bands.

It was in 1983 that Dolby was to release the fateful track (She Blinded Me With Science) that would bring him fame while concurrently damning him with the one-hit-wonder status which he would forever try to sneak out from under. After this point, he would produce several albums of his own that failed to attract the same amount of attention, but also become in demand as a collaborator for big name acts such as Herbie Hancock, Howard Jones, Stevie Wonder, George Clinton, and Dusty Springfield. He dabbled in the music industry for the rest of the 80's and 90's, mostly under the radar.

It would have seemed that Dolby's name would be forever branded as am 80's phenomenon, until 2006, when he decided to throw his hat back in the ring and launched a solo tour under the name of The Sole Inhabitant tour. The tour proved surprisingly successful, leading to the release of a live album sharing the tour's name which up to earlier this month had only been available in the UK.

Listening to tracks originally written over twenty years ago is like stepping into a time machine. Modern day listeners will be able to tell that these songs were not written recently, and the electronic elements present here will seem dated (and rightly so), but by no means do these facts relegate this album to the bargain bin. These songs represent the roots of synth-pop and all its glory and its influences on the modern day, but at the same time Dolby has integrated musical developments between then and now into their performance as well. Many would argue that synth-anything music feels cold and inhuman, but I'd challenge them to listen to these songs. Let's put it this way: without the synth-pop pioneers like Dolby, would we have modern day releases like The Postal Service?

It's rumored that Dolby is working on an album of new material (possibly including Your Karma Hit My Dogma which is below). In the meantime, check out this live album recorded in Chicago in 2006 showcasing his artistic vision. The package also included a DVD filmed in Boston in September of the same year with the same setlist as well as a very interesting interview where Dolby talks about the development of music and the associated technology.

Check out two tracks from the album below. The first, Leipzip Is Calling, is the opening track in the show. The other, The Flat Earth, incorporates parts of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" Speech.




Visit his website, his label Invisible Hands Music, and become his friend on MySpace.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

a song he appeared on:
Foreigner - Waiting For A Girl Like You : Totally 80's (Disc 2)

a song he co-wrote:
Whodini - Magic's Wand : The Kings Of Electro (Disc 1 Playgroup)

an album he appeared on
Def Leppard - Photograph : Pyromania

and a new one (possibly for an upcoming album?):
Thomas Dolby and the Jazz Mafia Horns - Your Karma Hit My Dogma : Live At SXSW

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer fun with Katy Perry

Yesterday I succeeded in scoring my first sunburn, so as far as I'm concerned it's officially summertime. And with summertime comes smash pop songs that burn up the charts and become the tune that you hear everywhere from TV to ring tones to next year's Muzikized elevator soundtracks. And what do you know? I have such a song today from today's latest and greatest female pop sensation Katy Perry: I Kissed A Girl (not to be confused with the Jill Sobule song of the same title).

It's peppy, it's poppy. It sparkles with studio polish. It has catchy hooks you can sing along with. She's perky in a cheerleader sort of way and yet able to break out witty, ironic cuts in the middle of apparently bubblegum songs. In summation, the song and the album are a perfect summertime disc to play at the beach.





Find them both (and so much more) on One Of The Boys



Visit her website, her label Capitol Records, and become her friend on MySpace.


Jessie Baylin

Fans of Brandi Carlile take note and listen up. Nashville songstress Jessie Baylin is an artist that you'll want to check out. Her major label debut Firesight was released earlier this week and its twelve tracks will absolutely positively remind you of Brandi's music. It's got that slight streak of country running through it that adds flavor without overpowering some great tunes, all of which were written by her and several co-writers (including one of my favorite discoveries from the past year, Jesse Harris, who also coincidentally produced her first iTunes only album, You). Also helping out with background vocals on the second track, Leave Your Mark (listen to it below), is another under appreciated artist, Brett Dennen.

Jessie's vocals, the instrumentation, and the album in general just exudes a genuine warmth to it that feels very inviting. Experience the following pair of cuts and let them invite you into the entire album.



Visit her website, her label Verve Forecast, and become her friend on MySpace.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Brandi Carlile - Downpour (live) : Live at WXPN All About The Music Festival 7-23-06 (studio version on The Story)


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jon Foreman completes the cycle

Back in December I told you a little about Jon Foreman, lead singer from Switchfoot, and his plans to release a set of 4 EPs, one for each season. At the time, I had only had a chance to listen to the Fall EP, as the other four hadn't been released yet. Well, time has passed (as it tends to do), seasons have come and gone (as they tend to do), and the last of the EPs, the Summer EP, has been released digitally. In between, of course, he released Winter and Spring, and now you can piece the four together to listen to a year in the course of a couple of hours. Here are a few tracks from the last two to wet your appetite. You can order the EPs in digital format separately or you can now get Spring and Summer together in CD version as well.




Visit his website, his label Credential Recordings, and become his friend on MySpace.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The fire of Solomon Burke

“I’m on a journey, and that journey is music. I want to give all I can to as many people as I can for as long as I can.”
-Solomon Burke

In terms of pure gumption, you have to give Solomon Burke a lot of credit. The man was around for the birth of soul, and having begun his adult life as a preacher and hosting a gospel radio show, you'd think he'd be a shoe in as a soul superstar. Unfortunately, Burke never met the mainstream reception that many of his contemporaries met, and as a result, his name isn't known like those of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and others.

It's really unfortunate because he's an incredibly personable entertainer and works a crowd better than many of the musicians whose fame exceeded his. Want an example of his crowd rapport? Try listening to Candy / Candy Rap, the song at the bottom from his album Live at the House of Blues (indeed, I would recommend the entire album, as it's a wonderful showcase of his classic sound and personality).

Earlier this month, Burke released a new album titled Like A Fire that's full of songs written specifically for him by artists including Eric Clapton, Ben Harper, Jesse Harris, and Keb’ Mo’. For those expecting an album of classic soul tracks, the kind that Burke is best known for holding onto even after forty years, you might be a little disappointed. Although all the songs were penned for this album by artists that I enjoy in their own right, they're not exactly in the same vein that Solomon's strength is. I'd say the closest song that pulls in some blues / gospel influences and allows Burke to get emotional would be the second track on the album, We Don't Need It (listen below). Much of the other material are good songs, and I'd think they'd be perfect on a Clapton, Harper, Harris, of Keb' Mo' album.

Don't get me wrong, even with the restrained adult contemporary pop songs to work with, Burke does a good job working in his fire as best as he can within their parameters. Approach the album with an open mind, and it will certainly be more enjoyable than if you come with preconceptions. Just be ready for a more modern sound than you'd probably expect.




Visit his website, his label Shout! Factory, and become his friend on MySpace.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Solomon Burke - Candy / Candy Rap : Live At The House Of Blues

Solomon Burke - Everybody Needs Somebody To Love : Atlantic Gold: 75 Soul Classics From The Atlantic Vaults (Disc 2)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Soul - Drowning In the Sea of Love


I've been down one time
I've been down two times
But now I'm drowning, drowning in the sea of love
Let me tell you all about it


Joe Simon - Drowning In the Sea of Love : Drowning In the Sea of Love 7"

Joe Simon - Let Me Be the One (The One Who Loves You) : Drowning In the Sea of Love 7" B-side



Sunday Spotlight - Ndidi Onukwulu

Today's spotlight shines north of the border on Canadian musician Ndidi Onukwulu. Although born in Canada, Ndidi has Nigerian heritage as well, which peeks through every so often by contributing some funky rhythms here and there, although she'll quite clearly state that her devotion lies with the blues. Her sophomore album, The Contradictor, came out earlier this week, and she was kind enough to take some time to tell me about the fifth track from it, Goodnight JF. As always, text in red is hers, question in black are mine.


-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
The back story:

This is the only love song I have ever written. For some reason I feel as though I should point that out. The sounds first came to me when standing on a bridge in Dawson City in the Yukon last summer. There was no night out there and I remember looking out at the mountains and watching the sky turn from twilight to daylight , sharing that moment with another human. Hearing the sound of the wind rustling through the pines... that created the guitar melody. I sang the melody into my phone because I didn't have a guitar with me that night. That happens to me often.. I get a song idea and have no instrument aside from my voice to craft with. I digress sorry...soo....

The writing process:

The next day as soon as I woke.....I grabbed my book and started writing the song...words tend to come quickly for me as does melody...I was recalling every single moment of that interaction, the smell, the sounds, the sight. It really was so beautiful and delicate.. that all I could do was write as directly as possible.. so often the sounds of the world busy our mind however during the twilight or right at dawn there is just a brief moment of silence. It's as if the world just takes a break.. As soon as I got near a guitar, I started playing the tune, and it took me a little while to decide what key I wanted and what sort of feel. I started off with an acoustic plucking style which is how I play it live however on the recording it's a bit different.

The recording process:

I wanted to add upright bass and violin so the guitar line needed more of steady flow. I wanted to give the bass line a jazz feel and time... to contrast the roots tones of both the guitar and violin which appears later in the track. Recording the song was pretty straight forward; we were all facing each other in the room. I said one two three and away we went... Almost all my cues are vocally signaled so there was a fair amount of hand gestures and large face movements happening.

The Lyrics:

There is a pretty unique shift lyrically; the start of the song is all about the beauty of the time, the love not wanting to part, not wanting to go to work... just wanting to lie in each others arms, throughout that quiet time, however at the end of the song the tempo shifts and I started to write about longing to get to that moment but having to wait for it, wait for them because complications (such is generally the case in affairs of the heart) make the situation painful and sad. The end note is a wee bit dismal... literally the last word is "you're so hard." I wanted to make a point of including the exhaustion that is ever present in relationships... hence the shift in tone and tempo to go along with the lyrical shift.

And a few questions for Ndidi:

1.) You make it very clear that your one and only love is the blues. Thinking back, when were you truly aware of your attraction to them? What is the earliest experience you can remember?

Well I fell in love with the blues when I heard a John Lee Hooker cassette (do you remember those..I used to love them)..it was a real bare bones recording. I think it may have taken place in his house, anyhow.. the guitar sounded so deep and distant and his voice was dark and slurred and there was something about the tone.. yes the tone of the sounds that were being created that hit something..

I think it made sense to me.. I could identify with the sorrow because.. that is something I experienced throughout most of my life.

John Lee Hooker - Grinder Man : The Complete Stax-Volt Soul Singles 1968-1971 (Disc 4)

2.) If you could pick any one blues player (living or dead) to work on an album with, who would it be and why?

John Lee Hooker or Little Walter to play and Screamin' Jay Hawkins to sing back ups..
they are all wild and hilarious - that's why I would want to work with them. I like to find the humour in life.

Little Walter - Muskadine Blues : The Road to Robert Johnson and Beyond

Screamin' Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell On You : Cow Fingers and Mosquito Pie

3.) Many of your song titles have what I assume are initials in them. Can you explain why and / or what they mean?

I enjoy walking through graveyards.. particularly hidden ones.

The initials belong to names I saw on tombstones. These were my favorite names.

I thought writing the whole name would be weird so I abbreviated.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Although enmeshed in the blues, the album doesn't stick with what one would normally associate with a stripped down classic or traditional blues sound. I think for Ndidi the blues is an inspiration, a starting point, that she takes into the present with her own touch. She ventures off with some other flavors as well. Another track, which is one of my favorites on the album, is Move Together, which has got a gospel call and response feel to it coupled with a bluesy guitar crying out and punctuating that makes me just want to clap my hands and sing along. Then you have No Everybody, which begins with a reggae groove that then picks up a bit. Enjoy the following tracks, and then check out the album (you can stream the entire album here).




Visit her website, her label Jericho Beach Music, and become her friend on MySpace.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Dub

For me, it's officially summer, and what better way to celebrate than some cool reggae dub courtesy of Prince Fatty. Although Survival of the Fattest has been out for almost a year now, I just came across it recently myself.

The term dub is thrown around a lot now a days, but its origins run deep, and as a genre, it's been highly influential. Dub as a distinctive musical form started taking shape in Jamaica in the late 60's, and really began to hit its stride in the 70's with men like Lee "Scratch" Perry and King Tubby experimenting and really exploring what could be done with it. Taking it forward from there, the whole idea of remixing a song comes from what these men were doing with the reggae cuts they were cutting apart, piecing together, and augmenting with various sonic slight of hands. Some would even suggest that the early roots of hip-hop rapping link back to the vocals that were laid over these dub tracks being produced. Considering Jamaican DJ Kool Herc was on the forefront of hip-hop in the 70's, it seems like a highly plausible theory.

Enough with the history lesson. Fast forward to now. British producer Mike Pelanconi put together Prince Fatty by assembling some musicians who were at ground zero when dub was first stretching its wings. Also of note, present and providing vocals on one track is Hollie Cook, the new vocalist for recently re-formed group The Slits. Put this mix together, and you have a return to the playful and go-easy feel of Jamaican Dub that's the perfect soundtrack for summer.




Visit their website, their label raSa Music, and become their friend on MySpace.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

King Tubby - Ethiopian Version : Freedom Sounds In Dub

Lee Scratch Perry and Jimmy Riley - Rasta Train : Voodooism

Friday, June 20, 2008

Poetry and Mix Cassettes

You might remember me talking about the EP from the Denver quartet Fiance last month (here). Well one of their members, Michael James, has released a new EP of his own titled To Raise An Army For Love. He's actually put out several solo releases of his own, but this latest focuses, as you might guess from the title, on love and war. "I have always been intrigued by the fact that those ideas can be so opposite and contrary to one another, but still have a common thread at their core...they almost need to coexist to exist at all. I think where you find love, many times you will also find a fight going on just to keep that love from dying." The EP's five tracks alternate between saying farewell to love and celebrating it's power when it's just so right. The opening track, Poetry and Mix Cassettes, just hits home with its title, if nothing else. Check it out below and then check out his MySpace page for some more tracks.





Visit his website and become his friend on MySpace.


Meet Gina & Tony

Take one part of Dimitri From Paris, another part Bitter: Sweet, put them together and you're likely to end up with someone like Gina & Tony. The pair hails from Geneva, Switzerland and they've just released their debut full length, Moonbow. As my initial musical equation suggests, it's got a down tempo, retro, electronic pop feel to it that sometimes urges the slow grind on the dance floor, and at other times the slow grind between the sheets. For an example of the latter, try my absolute favorite track from the album, La Ballade De Gina Et Tony, below. Although I haven't a clue what they're singing about, it's got a Marvin Gaye smoothness to it that makes it ideal for the bedroom "get it on and make love mix." Too bad it's only six minutes long - maybe they can work on a longer ultra-mix.

The pair also likes to go retro with some covers of some instantly recognizable tracks which are given an electro/techno make-over. For example, Judy Garland's famous Somewhere Over the Rainbow, from The Wizard of Oz. Another is Mr. Sandman, a song original done by The Chordettes which you can listen to below. While the covers are enjoyable to listen to, the original work on the album ultimately is what will draw you back to the album. Enjoy the following tracks and then head over to their MySpace page to check out more of the album.




Visit their label Poor Records and become their friend on MySpace.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-



Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bum Kon

"Bum Kon embraced subculture and laughed it off at the same time; they were above pop culture and they loved pop culture. They were punk and they were not punk. And in the end it really didn't matter. Their legacy was simply to rock as hard as they possible could every time out."

-Johnny Maggot, from the liner note for Drunken Sex Sucks


Forget the sublime. Forget polished. Forget produced. You'll get none of that because Drunken Sex Sucks. As the above quote makes indubitably clear, Bum Kon were all about rocking out hard with every song they played, and that is most evident on this album. The album is named after the one and only single the band put out in 1983. It was released by Local Anesthetic Records (and appears on a compilation of the labels bands which I wrote about back here) and sold through two pressings. Five songs appeared on the single, but the band also recorded another twenty at the same time which have been, up to this point, unavailable. Now you can get every one of the tracks on this release.

Listen to the two tracks below and you'll get a hefty dose of what the band's intentions are. Looking for a loud dose of pick-me-up? The thirty-two minutes and twenty five tracks will scream by faster than you can name all of the members of the Sex Pistols.





Visit the album's label Smooch Records.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Music for Mad Men

I'm not a big TV watcher, but even I know who the Sopranos were. The Sopranos might be gone, but Matthew Weiner, Emmy Award-winning executive producer and writer for the show, returned last year with a new series called Mad Men. I haven't personally seen it, but from what I've heard about it, it takes place in NYC in the 60's and focuses on a group of Madison Avenue ad executives and their high society adventures. The show won two Golden Globe awards in 2007 for Best Television Series-Drama, and Best Actor in a Television Series-Drama. Anyway, I'm not here to get you to watch the show (although it sounds fairly entertaining), I'm here to talk about the soundtrack which comes out on the 24th.

Being set in the 60's, the soundtrack pulls together some original classic cuts from the 50's and 60's (some by more well known artists - Bobby Vinton, Gordon Jenkins, Ella Fitzgerald, and some that the cobwebs of time have obscured - Vic Damone, Robert Maxwell, The McGuire Sisters) as well as some new instrumentals (very convincingly written to sound period) composed by David Carbonara and the show's theme song A Beautiful Mine by Aceyalone & RJD2. If you enjoy classic tunes that your grandparents probably sang along with, this soundtrack is the mother lode.



Order episodes of the show from Amazon.com or get the entire season.


Visit the show's official site and the soundtrack's label Manhattan Records.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sunday Soul - Father's Day: House of Blues Style

I know, I know, today isn't Father's Day or Sunday, so what's Sunday Soul doing up here. Well, the truth is I was gone for the weekend, down to Disney World, and didn't have a chance to put this up. So for this week, Sunday Soul is coming to you on Tuesday. I spent my Father's Day / Sunday at the House of Blues at Disney World eating an excellent buffet brunch and listening to some even better live soul-stirring Gospel music. Since I celebrated at the House of Blues, I figured this week's Sunday Soul should have a touch of the Blues. Enter Buster Benton. To all you fathers out there, hope your day was as good as mine.


Buster Benton - Sweet 94 : Sweet 94 7"

Buster Benton - Do It In the Rain
: Sweet 94 7" B-side

Get them both on Spider In My Stew


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Explore The Orb

Ambient house inventors The Orb (now amazingly almost twenty years old - the band that is, not the musicians!) are back, and their latest creation, The Dream, is finally getting a U.S. release. The album sees the reunion of Alex Paterson (who's been with the group since the beginning) and Youth (who's traveled his own path), and is an electronic, dub happy, groove that's heavy on soundbites sprinkled liberally to add an additional layer of texture to an already melodious affair.

While you might find a lot of ambient work full of dreamy instrumentals that drift and drone on and on like one long track, with an occasional whale call here and there, The Dream's fifteen tracks fell like fifteen distinct elements, each with their own identity. Even if you don't normally open your ears to the genre, The Orb might pleasantly surprise you.





Visit their website, their label Six Degrees Records, and become their friend on MySpace.


-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Next month also see the re-release of the more Earthly centered Orbus Terrarum in a 2 CD edition, with the second disc containing six remixes (five of this album's tracks and the sixth, an unreleased track Peace Pudding)

The Orb - Oxbow Lakes : Orbus Terrarum

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ben Sollee

Ben Sollee is billed as a cello player, but his album Learning to Bend is anything but the stuffy music one might associate with the instrument. Ben was born and raised in Kentucky, and his style of playing the cello reflects the roots music one would normally associate with the geographic area. He fiddles, he plucks, he uses it as a percussive instrument. He makes it come alive in ways it wouldn't in its classical context.

That being said, the album really draws upon some classical forms of Americana; slow, thinking man's political folk (A Few Honest Words); quick, bluegrass energy (Buy Me With My Car); quite, delicate Irish tinged dirges (Bend); acoustic guitar strumming (Prettiest Tree on the Mountain), even a hint here and there of the classical influence the instrument originates with (Panning For Gold). Ben even tackles the classic Sam Cooke Civil Rights song A Change Is Gonna Come, adding a completely different tone to it.

Although Ben is young, his lyrics convey a well of wisdom, very similar to Brett Dennan (if you're familiar with him - if not, read here). Give the following two tracks a chance to show you what he can do with a cello.




Visit his website, his label Sona Blast! Records, and become his friend on MySpace.



Thursday, June 12, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull Soundtrack

Once again, I'll date myself by admitting to remembering seeing the original Indiana Jones movie in the theaters. I can also remember the TV show named Young Indy or something like that that didn't quite live up to the caliber that Harrison Ford set for the role. And I'm sure just like every other boy who watched Indy crack his whip, get the girl, and get away with some sweet lute, I had dreams of becoming an archaeologist. Of course I didn't (I am a teacher though - somewhat close to Jones' mild-mannered university alter-ego gig).

Rumors have been circulating for years about a new film, so when The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull finally became a reality, I was happier than a Kali priest getting ready to rip out a virgin's heart.

Film scorer extraordinare John Williams returns to compose and conduct the music for the film. If you're not familiar with his name, I'm sure you can hum some of his stuff. He's responsible for the soundtrack for close to one hundred films, including Star Wars, Jaws, E.T., the previous Jones movies, and many, many others.

There's nothing to sing along with here, but if you enjoy humming along with a good orchestral soundtrack, you just really can't go wrong with anything John Williams does.





-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

John Williams - Star Wars Main Theme : Star Wars Trilogy

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Anti Atlas

Sometimes it's nice to spin a disc that you can just chill to. I'm not talking a quiet, introspective, depressing album; I mean a disc that's just drenched in subtleties from beginning to end. One that flows smoothly, allowing you to passively recline in the sounds or lift your head up and cock your ear to the side. That being said, Anti Atlas brings a lot to the table. The core of the group is comprised of a duo: classically trained composer Ned Bigham and producer/artist manager Chris Hufford. Earlier this year, they put out a double CD package which includes their two previous releases which complement each other quite nicely.

The first is titled Between Two, and includes ten instrumental tracks that feel both electronic and natural at the various points, although not always mutually exclusive of each other. It's got an orchestral sweeping flow to it that is minimized to make it feel very intimate. Elements weave in and out, around each other, through each other, and then disappear. There's a lot going on, even without vocals laid down on top. Some of the elements feel very natural and organic, while others are very unnatural and electronic, but the way they are fused together feels in no way forced.

The second album is Between Voices, and as the title suggests, in not only includes the instrumental aspects apparent on the first disc, but adds vocals as well. There are eight tracks here, each with a different vocalist, all from different countries. Some of the stand outs are Gemma Hayes, Yuki Chikudate (of Asobi Seksu), and Kristin Fjellseth (listen to On The Bottom Of The Sea below).

The two discs together work beautifully, and a choice of a favorite would depend on your mood. Order both together and double your pleasure!





Visit their website, their label One Little Indian, and become their friend on MySpace.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Gemma Hayes - Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper cover) : Live radio performance

Asobi Seksu - Then He Kissed Me (The Crystals cover) : Stay Awake 7"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Win an iPod Shuffle with The Bridges

Exactly one month ago today I wrote about family band The Bridges. Their album Limits of the Sky came out today, and was produced by longtime rocker Matthew Sweet. To celebrate the occasion, I have a fab-tacular contest to share with you. I've got a specially engraved iPod Shuffle to give away with the album already loaded on it to give away to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment (or e-mail me) with you name and e-mail address and you'll be in the running. Next Tuesdayish I'll choose a winner at random and notify them via e-mail. In the meantime, enjoy the following:

Watch this video of them covering The Mamas & the Papas' California Dreaming live

The Bridges - All the Words : Limits of the Sky

The Bridges - Echo : Limits of the Sky


Matthew Sweet - This Moment : Sweet Relief

Visit their label Verve Forecast and become their friend on MySpace.



The Renaissance Musician

You want to talk about a Renaissance Musician? Elvis Costello is your man. During his 30+ years on the scene, he's spanned the genres of punk, rock, pop and new wave, and dabbled in blues, jazz, country, soul, classical, and ballet. And out of the blue, he's back with a new album.

The story behind the album is an interesting one. Costello was invited to help Jenny Lewis out with the creation of Rabbit Fur Coat, and upon finding a good portion of the members of his band in the studio helping her out, decided to cut some tracks of his own. Over a short span of a couple of weeks, the twelve tracks of Momofuku were hammered out, and an album was born. You can even hear Jenny's voice on the album if you listen closely (try Go Away below). The album's not a conceptual one like much of his later albums are. It's simply good, old-fashioned, Elvis Costello music.




Visit his website, his label Lost Highway Records, and become his friend on MySpace.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - High Fidelity (Live at Geleen, June-4-1979)
: Get Happy!! (Bonus Disc)

Elvis Costello - All This Useless Beauty : Live from 6A

Elvis Costello With Burt Bacharach - God Give Me Strength : Live On Letterman: Music From The Late Show

Monday, June 09, 2008

Time Travelling with Plantlife

Plantlife's new album Time Traveller opens up with the title track (which you can hear below). The first time I spun the album, I listened to the track three times in a row before continuing on with the other eighteen tracks. Yeah, it's that good. In it, lead singer Jack Splash runs through a virtual litany of who's who of old skool rap and funk, and sets up the listener (in this case, me) for a trip back through some good times. Listen to the song, and watch the video at least once for some classic flashbacks.

And now for those other eighteen tracks. To be fair, they deliver well on half of what's promised. You'll be get a healthy does (over an hour) of some electron-funk sounds a la Funkadelic and Sly & The Family Stone, although the hip-hop connection just isn't so plain, especially if you're thinking mid 80's, turn of the 90's. You'll find glimpses of it here and there (try Don't Go Around Looking For A Broken Heart) that will remind a discerning listener of hip-hop in its infancy and tunes like Afrika Bambaataa use to drop.

If you're not all that familiar with Splash, his voice is a falsetto that will instantly remind you of another funk-product: Prince (or whatever symbol or name he's going by now a days). Love Toy is a perfect example to show the parallels. Depending on your mood, the voice might get to you after an hour, but if 70's funk is your thing, give the album a try.




Visit their website and become their friend on MySpace.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Funkadelic - Freak of the Week : Uncle Jam Wants You

Sly & The Family Stone - Luv N' Haight : Family Affair 7" B-side

Prince - Uptown : The Hits/The B-Sides (Disc 1)