Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Climbing the Tower of Power

"Throughout my first 10 years in the band, I collected reel-to-reel tapes and cassettes of our rehearsals and shows. These recordings document our evolution as a group, and are a historical record of the development of the Tower of Power sound. Over the years, I would occasionally listen to some of these tapes, and marvel at how we were always trying to reach beyond ourselves into that creative space where the great music lives."

-David Garibaldi, liner notes for The East Bay Archives Volume 1

Tower of Power fans have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season! First off, to help celebrate the band's 40th anniversary August saw the release of The East Bay Archives Volume 1, a live double disc release originally recorded April 23rd, 1973. As suggested by the quote above, the original source is on cassette tape recorded by David Garibaldi, the drummer for the band. That being said, don't expect crystal clear sound quality here. Not only is it from a cassette, but it's non-soundboard (which effects are probably most noticeable with the vocals), but don't let that scare you away. There is some classic material here from early in the group's formative years that will make fans' heads spin.

If you're not already familiar with the band, they originally formed around saxophonist Emilio Castillo in 1968 and have since grown to a ten member organization. Since the beginning though they've always been a horn driven, well oiled, soul and funk machine that delivered tight numbers and polished musicianship. A better introduction to their goods might be What Is Hip? The Tower of Power Anthology, but if you're already up on their catalog, this live release will fill in your collection nicely.

In addition, the group will be releasing a soul covers CD sometime in January, which will include duets with lead singer Larry Braggs and Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave), Joss Stone, Tom Jones, and Huey Lewis. I'll let you know more about it when I know more. In the meantime, here are a few live cuts.

Visit their website.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I Got Sarah Hethcoat

i got you
i'm hanging over your head
i got you
i'm hanging over your head
i'd be wary
i'd think twice
that was my mama's advice
with choice comes consequence
full circle
full price
for the main event

The above lyrics come from Sarah Hethcoat, a LA based singer songwriter who dropped her latest EP Nobody Likes a Bully a few months ago. She fronts a lot of spunk, which you might guess when you see the first of the five tracks here is titled I Hate You. Thankfully though, this isn't a complete male bashing bitch session a la Meredith Brooks or Alanis Morissette. It is thoroughly about relationships though, both the good and the bad, and about her standing up for herself. She gets softer as the EP goes on, eventually going piano and acoustic. Try out the following:

Visit her website and become her friend on MySpace.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fall Horsie for the Winter

Devil (e) Durge been hanging around my periphery for a while now. I'll listen to it, tell myself I need to write about it, and then it will slip away, only to have the process repeat itself a few weeks later. It's an odd album that's not easily categorizable. There are so many disparate elements at work here that seem at odds with each other, but when assembled together, create something that actually works, and works well.

The album is the second full length from Fall Horsie, and was put released through Halifax label Youth Club Records (who also are responsible for Ghost Bees - an equally singular band I wrote about back here). The quartet brings together piano and strings to make music that feels like a hybrid offspring of waltz, ragtime, orchestral chamber music, and Americana that leaves you wondering where your emotions should be heading while listening. It results in music that feels intellectually stimulating, that you should be reclining in a study contemplating the moral implications of whether there is in fact a devil and what size shoe he might wear.

Visit their label Youth Club Records and become their friend on MySpace.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday Soul - Good Guys Only Win In the Movies

i had a girl
and i treated her tenderly
(oh yea)
she pretended that she cared
while she only laughed at me
oh, my life she deserted
i never knew how she flirted
now it's me that's hurtin'
for the lesson i've learned
good guys only win in the movies
(yes they do now)
they ride white horses girls
and they're friends to everyone

good guys only make it in the movies
because in life they turn out the sad and lonely ones

Mel and Tim - Good Guys Only Win In the Movies : Good Guys Only Win In the Movies 7"

Mel and Tim - I Found That I Was Wrong : Good Guys Only Win In the Movies 7" B-side

Get them both on the album Good Guys Only Win In the Movies.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I Am...Novel

Although having done some work behind the scenes writing and producing for other artists (including Alicia Keys, Kelis, India.Arie, and Joss Stone), Novel has yet to give his own voice a chance to be heard, until now that is. Last month he released I Am... (Future Black President), and EP that will prep listeners for his debut album The Audiobiography, which is due out in March. Although his name might not be familiar to you, his family has a musical tradition for certin; he's grandson to the underrated soul singer Solomon Burke.

Even though limited to five tracks, the EP shows off a wide range of flavors. The title track,which features Ben Folds, Talib Kweli, and Spree Wilson, has got a Wyclef Jean / Fugees feel to it which continues on into the next cut as well, Wild West. Novel gets a little funky on the third song Damn, sounding a lot like the artist who goes by a lot of different names and symbols, Prince. Somehow he gets a little twangy on Sista (even adding some harmonica for good measure - probably my least favorite of the five), and then closes up shop with Fly Away, which features KnivezOut., which turns heavenward, with a gospel chorus feel to it that makes me think of Moby's song Hymn (This Is My Dream).

The EP shows a lot of promise, and I'll be looking forward to the full length next year. Here's the title cut for you to check out on your own.

(watch the video)

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

Friday, December 26, 2008

Alice Russell's CD of Gold

Pot of Gold opens up with Turn an Run, a track that instantly made me think of The Weather Girls' hit It's Raining Men. It's got that funky late 70's / turn of the 80's disco exuberance to it that makes it irresistibly playful (and in this case I genuinely mean it). As enjoyable as it is, thankfully the rest of the album doesn't follow down the same path, dooming it to the 80's tribute album bargain bin. Instead Alice Russell (the newest, latest, most current British soul songstress whose voice has crossed the Atlantic) blends in equal measures of 70's funk and soul to make it an appetizing combination.

Alice just didn't appear out of thin air though. She's been honing her style and vocals for a while now, including collaborations with acts such as Massive Attack, The Roots, Lonnie Liston Smith, Femi Kuti, De La Soul, Quantic, and The Quantic Soul Orchestra. She also appears on Mr. Scuff's recently released album, Ninja Tuna on the track Music Takes Me Up (listen to it below, and then use that as a springboard to check out the entire album and Mr. Scruff's skills). As you might guess from that list, she's got a full, strong, and soulful voice that proves she's for real.

Her album features upbeat drivers that the opening track I mentioned above, to slow burners like Let Us Be Loving, to the guitar driven funk of Got the Hunger?, to the bluesy Lights Went Out (with its exotic stringed opening), to her Gospelish cover of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy.

The album is already available digitally, but if you prefer to get your hands on a physical copy, they'll be available here in the States on January 6th. In the meantime, enjoy the following:

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


The Weather Girls - It's Raining Men : Super Hits

Mr. Scruff - Music Takes Me Up (Feat. Alice Russell) : Ninja Tuna

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Get Your Funk On with Kutiman

Listening to Tel Aviv musician Ophir Kutiel (AKA Kutiman) and his self titled album is bound to take you on a trip of time transport right back to the 70's. It's got all the right pieces when you get there, too: the funk right out of a blaxplotation flick, the horn section right from a Fela Kuti album, Jazz fusion a la Herbie Hancock's Headhunters band, and a few modern elements of hip hop and electronic music added in in tiny dashes to keep it original.

Somehow Kutiman brings all of these related elements together creating an authentic sound which holds tight together. Most of the instrumention on the album he plays himself, with the exception of some guest vocalists and that tight horn section I mentioned above. Try out No Reason For You to get a handle on the funk that Kutiman lays down here (along with the more modern electro-touches percalating underneath). Then listen to Trumpet Woman, a track that blurs the line between vocals and instruments. Along the lines of Ella Fitzgerald's skat singing, guest vocalist Karolina uses her voice not only to sing, but also imitates a trumpet at points, drawing one into the other and then back again.

Interspersed amongst the album's thirteen are several instrumentals that add as much flavor to the album as the rest. I can definitely imagine much of the material here spinning in a club and helping people get their groove on. See if they work for you.

Visit his label Groove Attack and become his friend on MySpace.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The BPA Video contest!

A few weeks ago I posted on a remix contest that Fatboy Slim and the BPA were running in conjunction with the release of the first single from the album, the David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal track Toe Jam. Well, if you don't have mad remix skillz, but are a video whiz (and no, I'm not talking about home movies in your bedroom), you've got another chance to score some even more impressive prizes (including the entire Fatboy Slim discography on VINYL!).

The BPA have teamed up with Dailymotion and put together a challenge: Take that same track Toe Jam and cook up your own video for it (check out the steamy "official" video here - with far too many black boxes moving about like syncronized swimmers). Submit it by February 1st, 2009 and you'll be in the running for that hunk o' vinyl I mentioned above along with some other prizes that aren't nearly as impressive but are still freakin' sweeter than tater tots.

And here's something else that's sweeter than tater tots: a track off a teenie tiny 3" BPA promo disc that found it's way into my grubby hands that you won't find on the full length album that will hit shelves on January 6th (pre-order it here).

Visit their website and become the BPA's friend on MySpace.

The Kuti Tradition

I've been sitting on this disc way to long and wanted to share it with you all before the turn of the New Year. While the name Fela Kuti is most likely familiar to you, you might not realize that since his unfortunate passing in 1997, his sons Seun and Femi have taken the torch and continued with the family's involvement in music and political statement.

I completely dropped the ball with Seun's self titled debut earlier this year. He's Fela's youngest son and has taken the reins of Egypt 80, the last band that his father lead before his death. He's been playing in his father's bands since he was nine, so taking up the family tradition is no big leap for him. His self professed mission: "I want to make Afrobeat for my generation. Instead of 'get up and fight,' it's going to be 'get up and think.' " Just like his father's, his music overtly criticizes the excesses and abuses of his country's government. I'll share a song from the seven track album here and strongly suggest that you check out the rest when you get a chance.

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 - Think Africa : Seun Kuti & Egypt 80

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

But onto the album that I started this post about, Day By Day. It's by Femi Kuti, Fela's oldest son. Unlike Seun, Femi has been releasing music of his own for some time now, and this album only adds to his catalog. As you might expect for either of these men, growing up in the shadow of someone like Fela Kuti has its benefits and drawbacks. Femi also played in Fela's bands, and while continuing with the development of Afrobeat, Femi has added his own touch to the sound through his work with hip hop artists such as Common and Mos Def.

He's also paired down his compositions to match listeners' attention spans in the 21st century. Pick up a Fela album and it's got only a couple marathon length songs, especially on vinyl where each side will spin one track. Femi continues with the same feel, but instead of the long instrumental developments, his songs for the most part come in under the five minute mark (Seun's also run less, but still clock in about the seven minute mark on average). That isn't to say the album as a whole is less cohesive. You'll mind musical threads and riffs winding their way from beginning to end here. Alongside the musical accompaniment of some talented musicians (he and his horn section are incredible) are vocals that preach the same messages his father did.

Femi will be on tour in January, and you'll find the dates listed below. I'm hoping to make the first show of the tour in Boston. Based on what I've heard and his live DVD/album Live at the Shrine, I'm sure it will be a show not to miss.

and a pair of older ones:

Visit his label Downtown Music and become his friend on MySpace.

2009 Tour Dates

January 7 Boston, MA Paradise Rock Club
January 8 New York, NY Webster Hall
January 9 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
January 10 Philadelphia, PA World Café Live
January 11 New York, NY GlobalFEST @ Webster Hall
January 14 Montreal, QC Club Soda
January 15 Toronto, ON The Opera House
January 16 Detroit, MI Majestic Theatre

January 17 Chicago, IL Metro
January 19 Boulder, CO The Boulder Theatre
January 22 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore

January 23 West Hollywood, CA House of Blues
January 24 San Diego, CA House of Blues

Monday, December 22, 2008

Catch Easy Fever

There's a good chance that you've never heard of the Easybeats, but you should have. The band formed in Sydney, Australia in 1964 and almost immediately rose to the top of the Australian music scene (although ironically, none of them were from Australia). They were the face of the British rock invasion for those listeners down under and while their flame burned bright, it didn't burn for long, with the group drifting apart to pursue their own projects in 1969. While they were around though, they had hit after hit, and actually were one of the first Australian rock bands to have an international hit with Friday On My Mind.

If you're not familiar with them, Albert Music has put together a two CD collection that will rock your socks off. The first disc includes a who's who of contemporary Australian musicians paying tribute to the band, including Dappled Cities, Skybombers, The Veronicas, Ben Lee, and many others. The second disc collects nineteen of the Easybeats' essential songs, many of which are covered on the first disc.

As a notable side note, George Young, one of the group's members, was the older brother to Malcolm and Angus Young. If those names don't ring a bell, do I need to start singing You Shook Me All Night Long? Yea, you know who I'm talking about now - AC/DC. In fact, he produced the band's first six albums.

Visit the release's labal Albert Music and become the Easybeats' friend on MySpace.


AC/DC - You Shook Me All Night Long (live)
: AC/DC Live

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

"Even if he wasn’t related to me, this album is so damn good, that I’d want to make him my brother" -Sacha Baron Cohen

Just so my Jewish readership doesn't feel neglected this holiday season, for the beginning of the Festival of Lights I give you Songs in the Key of Hanukkah, a collection of songs destined to become Hanukkah classics. There are five reinterpretations of traditional favorites as well as five original tunes here put together by Erran Baron Cohen, brother of Borat creator Sacha Baron Cohen. The ten tracks take a wide variety of approaches, and combine klezmer, reggae, electronica, hip hop, tango, pop and other genres.

Check out Dreidel below, and then send all your friends a Hanukkah e-card via this link and share it with them so they can rock out while lighting their Menorah.

(watch the video)

Visit the album's official website.

Sunday Soul - White Christmas

I'm, I’m dreaming, dreaming of a white, white Christmas
Just like the ones that I used to know
Honey, it's where the treetops, treetops glisten
Little bitty little bitty little bitty children they'll try to listen
To hear if all the sleigh bells that are ringing in the snow

I want to tell you one more time what I am thinking about

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas there
With there, for every Christmas card that I’ll write you
I want you to know
May your days, may your days be so merry, merry and bright
Oh darling, I wish all of them,
One more thing
And may all, all of your Christmases, and may all,
and may all of your Christmases
Baby may your days, may your days be merry, merry, so merry and bright
Lord have mercy I wish all of them honey
And may all of your Christmases be so white

I must say of a white, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

Dreaming, dreaming of a white, white Christmas
Baby, baby, all I'm dreaming, dreaming of a Christmas
Yea, I love you, white Christmas
one with the snow

Otis Redding - White Christmas
: White Christmas 7"

Otis Redding - Merry Christmas, Baby : White Christmas 7" B-side

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss)

Scottish four piece Glasvegas has plans to release their debut full length on January 6th, just on the other side of New Years. To stoke the fires and build some excitement they've also put together a six track EP titled A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss). If you pre-order the album at qualified retailers you'll get a free copy of the EP, or if you want to go the iTunes route you can the two of them as a bundle for $10.99. The EP contains five tracks not available on the album and their version of Silent Night:
Careful What You Wish For
Fuck You, It's Over
Cruel Moon
Please Come Back Home
A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss)
Silent Night / Noapte de vis
Here's the romantic piano and sleigh bell ballad title track that will warm your insides like spiked eggnog.

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

Glasvegas US Tour Dates

1/4/09 Great Scott Boston, MA
1/5/09 Late Show with David Letterman
1/6/09 Bowery Ballroom New York , NY (Sold Out)
1/8/09 Popscene San Francisco , CA
1/10/09 Chop Suey Seattle , WA
1/11/09 Richards on Richards Vancouver , ON
1/12/09 Doug Fir Lounge Portland , OR
1/14/09 Troubador Los Angeles , CA (Sold Out)
1/15/09 Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
3/30/09 Webster Hall New York, NY

Visit The British Columbians

Trick question of the day: Where do you think The British Columbians are from? If you went with the obvious answer, then you were spot on. If you tried to out-think the question and guess Copenhagen, then you must be from Denmark or perhaps watch Jeopardy too much.

That's right, the four piece group does in fact hail from up north in Canada, and on their self-titled debut album they bring forth some bluesy rock & roll that would make Jack White proud. It's Americana tinged heaviness that leaves little breathing room once Girard Knox, their lead singer, slips in his White inspired vocals. For the majority of its duration, the album rocks hard, like the second track Hoodoo, which you can hear below. At a couple points, they quartet slows things down a little and brings it a little softer. The second to last track, By And By, would be a perfect example.

The album's taken shape over the last two years, and its nine tracks fit together surprisingly nicely as a result. If roots music is your thing, you could do much worse then check out this album. Here are a few tracks you can take home, and listen to a few more on their MySpace page.

Visit their website and become their friend on MySpace.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Grandmaster Flash speaks Hip Hop

"So it's not necessarily an old skool album but it's not totally a new skool album's a kaleidoscope of both worlds."

- Grandmaster Flash on his upcoming album The Bridge

This album was supposed to drop over the summer. I'm telling ya'...I'm ready for it. February 09...keep your eyes open. Here's the line-up:

1. "Welcome"
2. "Shine All Day" (Feat. Q-Tip, Jumz, & Kel Spencer)
3. "We Speak Hip Hop" (Feat. KRS-One, Afasi, Kase-O, Maccho, Abass)
4. "Here Comes My DJ" (Feat. DJ Kool & DJ Demo)
5. "Bounce Back" (Feat. Busta Rhymes)
6. "Swagger" (Feat. Red Café, Snoop Dogg & Lynn Carter)
7. "What If" (Feat. KRS-One)
8. "Unanswered (Interlude)"
9. "Tribute To The Breakdancer" (Feat. MC Supernatural)
10. "Grown & Sexy" (Feat. Mr. Cheeks)
11. "When I Get There" (feat. Big Daddy Kane & Hedonis Da Amazon)
12. Connection (Interlude)
13. "I Got Sumthin' To Say" (Feat. Lordikim, J-Flo & Almighty Thor)
14. "Can I Take You Higher" (Feat. Mr. Cheeks, Granmaster Caz & Tito)
15. "Unpredictable" (Feat. Syndee & Big Daddy Kane)
16. "Those Chix" (Feat. Byata, Princess Superstar & Hedonis Da Amazon)
17. "Bronx Bombers" (Feat. Lordikim, Almighty Thor & Mann Child)
18. "Zuka The Sound" (Interlude)
19. "Oh Man" (Feat. Syndee & Natacha Atlas)

And an old one to keep it real:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dreaming with Beth Rowley

Little Dreamer is only Beth Rowley's debut album, but it's one heck of a debut, let me tell you. Unlike many of the ladies coming across the pond from England, Beth avoids the neo-soul track that seems to be popular lately (although other people claim to hear soul here...I miss it though) and instead hits a couple other genres, all almost equally well.

The album opens with Nobody's Fault But Mine, a oft-adopted traditional blues song that Beth takes as her own, turning into a slow burner whose smokiness makes it feel like she's lying across a piano (although there's no piano being played here) in a dark nightclub in a slinky number. Piano does make an appearance in the second number, Sweet Hours, a poppy upbeat track that reminds me of another female singer, Sia. A few tracks later she covers another well visited number, Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released, and sticks with that same upbeat sound, adding almost a tropical island vibe to it.

Beth turns back to blues with Only One Cloud, but doesn't stay there long, switching to a hybrid of country and gospel with When the Rains Come. She returns to country and cover territory with a duet version with Duke Special of Willie Nelson's Angel Flying Close To The Ground that's very un-country and another cover of Almost Persuaded, where she comes closest to soul in my ears (although the piano accompanyment and back-up vocals make it more gospelish).

The album comes to a close with another Rowley original, the alluring You Never Called Me Tonight, and then another gospel number, the traditional Beautiful Tomorrow, which starts with a bluesy fassion that Beth seems to return to throughout the album and then soars with an accompanying backing chorus.

Although I've made it sound like a hodge podge of material, all of these songs taken together actually work really well and add up to a satisying debut package.

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


Blind Willie Johnson - Nobody's Fault But Mine : Praise God I'm Satisfied

Ben Harper - Nobody's Fault But Mine
: Please Bleed Single

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Song Sung Blue

I've been working on my favorites of 2008 list and as I predicted back in May, Neil Diamond's Home Before Dark made the cut. With that in mind, it got me in the mood to pay some attention to Song Sung Blue, a documentary film by Greg Kohs named after Diamond's classic song of the same name. The documentary isn't about Neil, at least not directly that is. Instead it's the love story of Lightning & Thunder, a Milwaukee husband and wife duo who play music that pays tribute to Neil, and all the the trials and tribulations that life throws at them.

The soundtrack EP includes a cover version of the title track performed by Tony Dekker (of Great Lake Swimmers) as well as eight instrumental cuts written specifically for the film. Unfortunately, screenings on it are INCREDIBLY limited, so this might be one that you have to wait for release on DVD to check out. Regardless, enjoy the following cut and keep your eyes open for my favorites list coming near the end of the month.

Visit the movie's official website.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Do the Jingle Jump

Here's a little bit of Wisconsin rockabilly to spice up your Christmas playlist. I don't know much about Danny Peil and the Tigers (except where they were from and that they released this single in the mid-60's), and to be honest I don't even remember where I picked up this 7", but it's a fun tune never the less.

Danny Peil and the Tigers - Jingle Jump : Jingle Jump 7"

The Tigers - Flip Side : Jingle Jump 7" B-side

Get them both (along with 28 other oldies from Wisconsin groups) on Rockin' in Wisconsin: The Cuca Records Story, Vol. 3.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Smashing Pumpkins DVD Giveaway

Last week it was the Parliament Funkadelic DVD, this week I've got a copy of If All Goes Wrong, the latest offering from the Smashing Pumpkins. It's a double disc DVD release that came out last month and would make the perfect gift for you or that special someone you know who's a SP fan.

The first disc is a documentary that was filmed during the bands recent (semi-) reunion tour last year. It's hard to believe that Billy Corgan and crew first served up music twenty years ago and released their first Gish back in 1991. I say semi-reunion because of the original members, it's just Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin from the original crew. The documentary collects clips of the band, fans, journalists, and other musicians talking about the tour and band in general. Also included is an interview with Pete Townsend of the Who.

The second disc is where the good stuff is. It's a recording of the band playing live at San Francisco’s famed Fillmore Auditorium that runs 115 minutes and includes five previously unreleased songs (including Peace+Love, which you can listen to below) as well as other rarities.

All this could be yours, too! Just leave a comment (or e-mail me) with your name and e-mail address and you'll be in the running. I'll pick a winner at random this Friday, contact them pronto, and try to get it to you before St. Nick comes down your chimney.

Visit the DVD's label Coming Home Studios, the band's website, and become their friends on MySpace.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Soul - I Can Be Cool

you say that i'm too slow
to go the way you go
but you don't understand
(you don't understand)
that i'm the kind of guy that's really really shy
but i'll take my stand
cuz i know you dig the kind of dude
that changes his clothes with his every move
and spends more time doing you wrong
than keeping your love true and strong
but if that's what it takes to get you baby

i can be cool

Bob & Gene - I Can Be Cool
: I Can Be Cool 7"

Bob & Gene - You Don't Need Me : I Can Be Cool 7" B-side

Get both of them (along with 10 other tracks from the duo) on Daptones Records' If This World Were Mine.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On the Q-Tip

Last night I was talking with some friends and one of them brought up The Renaissance, the latest release from Q-Tip, and suggested that it was the best hip hop release of the year. If his name sounds familiar but not immediately recognizable, it might be because this is his first solo release in nine years. Or, it might be that you remember him as a member of A Tribe Called Quest, probably the most intellectual alternative to the posturing of gangta rap in the 90's. Either way, he's back after rumors of numerous albums over the years have proved false.

The album is pretty damn good, too. While I'm not entirely convinced it's the best hip hop album of the year (The Roots and Madlib come to mind off the top of my head as contenders), it certainly is neck and neck in the race. I'll drop Won't Trade, the second track from the line-up below, a soulful number that samples the classic grooves of Ruby Andrews and her song You Made a Believer Out Of Me as exhibit a in the argument.

Visit his website, his label Universal Motown Records, and become his friend on MySpace.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Johnny Cash Christmas

A little over a year ago I wrote about two DVDs that Shout! Factory was putting out for the holidays: the Johnny Cash Christmas specials from 1976 and 1977. This year, they've come back strong and have released Johnny's Christmas specials from 1978 and 1979. As with the previous years, Johnny has an all-star support cast of musicians and comedians to help him bring the holiday cheer.

The 1978 special was taped in Los Angeles (as opposed to Tennessee as the first two were), and definitely takes on a Hollywood sparkle to it. His special guests including singers Kris Kristofferon and Rita Coolidge, and comedian Steve Martin. Of course June makes appearances as well as their six daughters for a family finale of Silent Night (listen to it below).

In 1979, Johnny thankfully returns to Nashville, and returns to his home town of Dyess, Arkansas. His father Ray and his older brother Roy make appearances during the show, and his musical guests this year included Anne Murray and Tom T. Hall. Andy Kaufman (who appears as his character Latka Gravis from the TV show Taxi) plays the part of the comic relief, though personally I don't find his sketches all that enjoyable.

If you didn't get the first two from last year, and you (or that special person you're getting them for) is a real Cash fan, you can get all four of them in one specially priced box set. That's four hours less that you have to watch all those horrendous made for TV Christmas movies.

Johnny Cash & Anne Murray - That Christmasy Feeling : The Johnny Cash Christmas Special 1979

Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash - If I Were A Carpenter : The Johnny Cash Christmas Special 1979

Visit the Shout! Factory website.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nitrogen Pink

Just a quick track for you this evening...a fuzzy dense mass of electronic eccentricities underneath / overneath / among the vocals of newcomer Polly Scattergood, who carries through the five minutes in everything from a strained hush to a snarling insistance. She'll be releasing her debut album early next yearish and popped this out to pull in some attention. So...listen up and pay some attention!

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

Madi Diaz - Mixtape material

Ten Gun Salute, the new EP from Madi Diaz has gone from being a pleasurable EP with one or two great songs on it to one that I truly enjoy from beginning to end as a solid half hour of music. It's her second release (the first was 2006's Skin and Bone), but the first that I've experienced of her music. It carries subtle traces which remind me of a handful of artists that I enjoy, when put together, really floats my boat. As this post's title suggests, there's some really good mixtape material here: melodic, melancholic, lyrically comprehensible music that carries a lot of emotional weight. Here's the track line-up and suggested uses:

1.) Let's Go - perfect for that mixtape you're giving that quasi-significant other who you want to take to the next level

let's go / to a place i know / we'd be so / oh-oh-oh / oh, let's go

2.) Nothing At All - perfect for the break-up mixtape

if you're wondering, no / i haven't thought of you since this afternoon / if you're just stopping by, go / i've got so many interesting things to do / but not with you

3.) Heavy Heart - perfect for the post-break-up mixtape when you've gotten over them but still feel like loneliness incarnate

unpacking boxes / lighter things went on top / down at the bottom / all of the things i forgot / my heavy heart

4.) Love You Now - perfect for the mixtape you make to try and slap some sense into that significant other

i leave my porch light on / unlock my front door / 'til you decide to keep me waiting / what you waiting for / wasting time on you / more than i like / spent picking up the pieces that you leave behind

5.) I Know I Know - originally my favorite song on the EP , bumped to #2 by the next song - perfect for the mixtape you make after the one you included track four in to slap sense into them fails and they're still an idiot

there was a time we / grew steady and slowly / but i'm picking up / i know i know / i gotta let you go / i know

6.) Ten Gun Salute - one of the most beautifully melancholic songs I've heard in a long while. EXTREMELY reminiscent of Guyville era Liz Phair (think Explain It To Me) about remembering someone who's passed away and wishing to just be able to watch them fall asleep again. the simple pleasures we take for granted. ironically, the song i love best, and least suited for a mixtape - i suppose you could take it metaphorically and include it on a mixtape of depression for someone you can't be with in general. i can listen to this track on repeat

i don't have to placate / celebrate for name sake / i'm celebrating ways / to make you fumble in your grave / i won't wear my black suit / or watch the ten gun salute / or sit upon my knees waiting silent in the breeze for you to wake up / i just want to watch you / want to watch you fall asleep

7.) Just Be Quiet - this one I haven't quite pegged yet. it's hard to tell whether Madi would rather have the dream over the real "you" in this song

i told you where i lived / so jump over the back fence / stand beneath my window / quiet, i am dreaming over you / just quiet, i am dreaming over you


All in all, a solid seven songs of music well worth the price of admission. Incidentally, I explored Madi's first album to see how her sound has evolved. Compared to this EP, her older material has a much stronger alt-country feel to it (think Sarah Borges, and try Canvas below, one of the less twangy songs from it) while the EP has a much more alt-pop taste (the Liz Phair connection I made earlier as well as a newer band, KaiserCartel - although a little more openly emotive).

Visit her website and become her friend on MySpace.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The BPA Remix contest

A few weeks ago I mentioned Emmy the Great's involvement with the newly formed Brighton Port Authority Project. If you haven't checked the BPA out yet, it's a collaboration of sorts thunk up by Norman Cook (a.k.a. Fatboy Slim), and involves all sorts of artists from across the boards.

Their latest thing going is a contest for all you aspiring DJs out there. Here's the skinny straight from Slim's mouth:
Remix the song "Toe Jam" featuring Dizzee Rascal and David Byrne from The BPA's upcoming album I Think We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat and enter your remix for a chance to win a pair of Technics RP-DH1200 Headphones, Fatboy Slim's catalog on vinyl and the chance to have your remix released as a digital EP along with an official remix of "Toe Jam." You can remix the song in any way you like, either by adding your own beats and instrumentation, or just remixing the original parts.
You download all of the individual components of the track, work your remix magic, and send it into them before the turn of 2009. Here's a primo example delivered to you straight from the Golden State's own DJ Hoff:

The BPA - Toe Jam (HOFF & SEEDY Remix)

and the original:

David Byrne w Dizzee Rascal - Toe Jam : I Think We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Visit their website and become the BPA's friend on MySpace.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday Soul - A Tribute to a King

Listen people listen
i'm gonna sing you a song
about a man who lived good
but didn't live too long
he was born in macon, georgia
a poor boy without a dime
he found his way to memphis
singing "these arms of mine"

otis redding was his name
without his soulful singing
this ol' world won't be the same

On December 10th, 1967, Otis Redding and four members of the Bar-Kays died in a plane crash. Label mates Booker T. Jones and William Bell penned this song a few days after as a tribute to a friend and brilliant musician who hadn't even hit his stride yet. Originally Bell only intended to give the recording to Redding's wife, but she insisted that the label release it and it was issued as the B-side to Every Man Oughta Have A Woman (Bell didn't want to cash in on his friend's death) in March of 1968.

William Bell - Every Man Oughta Have A Woman : Every Man Oughta Have A Woman 7"

William Bell - A Tribute to a King : Every Man Oughta Have A Woman 7" B-side

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Anjulie goes Boom

This evening's song comes from a three track teaser promo for an artist by the name of Anjulie who'll be releasing a proper full length debut sometime in the spring of next year. It's got a retro-pop space-lounge feel to it that is reminiscent of one of my favorite discoveries of 2006, Bitter:Sweet. The other two shift towards the Little Jackie / Lily Allen (who's also releasing her next album at the beginning of next year) end of the musical spectrum. Amazingly, all three are actually good cuts. I'll be looking forward to find out which way the full length trends towards.

Visit her label Hear Music and become her friend on MySpace.