idk.

music.

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: June 27th, 2008

leave a comment »

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Pick

1. Crystal Antlers – A Thousand Eye

Fun psych rock straight out of Long Beach, CA. Produced by Ikey Owens-keyboardist of the Mars Volta, this song is the 3rd song off their 3rd but self-titled EP- Crystal Antlers. Ikey seemed to be able to harness CA’s balance of rocking grooves and psych tangents in an edible song size, in such way The Mars Volta have rarely been able [surely consciously though] to do. I first started hearing these guys on the local hours on indie 103.1, but seems like the press has spread.The Crystal Antlers seemed to just have blown up all over the place in the past few months. Now Pitchfork can have a love affair with a new Crystal [Castles]. You can very well catch them in a city near you too, while they travel their butts off: http://www.myspace.com/crystalantlers

2. Monotonix – Body Language

I never really heard much of these Israeli rockers until I became re-obsessed with videothing.com and their daily documentation of the Fuck Yeah Fest Tour (including the Crystal Antlers) as they travel around the country in a vintage school bus fed on vegetable oil. These guys seem to rock harder then anybody live (you must go to videothing.com and see Monotonix destroy North Carolina), frequently pouring garbage on each other, throwing the nearest garbage can on the drummer, pouring beer all over band members while performing, and the lead singer’s propensity for spreading his ass cheeks to both the audience and his microphone. Performance aside though, these guys rock-blending 70’s Zeppelin-like fuzz with noise rock and a punk outlook. It’s pronounced HUMMUS.

3. The Mae Shi vs. Miley Cyrus – See U Again

I wrote about these guys recently-but this really deserves it. I dare you to listen to this song, and not listen to it again. I dare you. This song is thoroughly stuck in my head. That’s the contagious factor of a good pop song. These spazz-punk-pop rockers one-upped Miley Cyrus, perfecting her own pop ballad (she didn’t write it right, it was totally some 40 year old ghost writer?). The arpegiating keyboard loop in the background – the perfect amount of auto-tune. The digital unwinding in the middle is the perfect reminder that this actually the Mae Shi. Brilliant. Now if only I could keep a lid on me singing “I’m just being Miley” in public….

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Colby O’Donis – She Didn’t Go, She Did Leave

I promise you this song is not nearly as awkward as its title. In fact, it’s actually quite good thanks to a slightly syrupy, dark, synth-heavy beat contributed by Timbaland. While O’Donis’ debut single “What You Got” certainly grabbed the attention of many in the pop and R&B communities, it also managed to garner the attention of Billboard’s Hot 100 and U.S. Pop charts, peaking at numbers 14 and 15 respectively. “She Didn’t Go, She Did Leave” seems less likely to do so: though the Internets were filled with rumors that the awkwardly titled track would be O’Donis’ follow-up single off his forthcoming album, Colby O, this week the infinitely more pop-friendly “Don’t Turn Back” was released as O’Donis’ newest single, leaving “She Didn’t Go, She Did Leave” to remain merely an Internet and record pool release. Whether or not it will appear on the album is unknown. Now, I have to admit I don’t really like the idea of O’Donis — he looks like a fourth Gotti brother (he is from Queens, after all) and could easily have played a starring role in the YouTube sensation “My New Haircut” — but his non-threatening sound and baby-faced look have helped the 19-year-old land a deal with Akon’s Konvict Muzik imprint, and an impressive first single. Although it may not be released, “She Didn’t Go, She Did Leave” is actually a better song in that it relies less on pop appeal and more on its own unique sound. Oh, and it doesn’t have Akon on it. So that’s always a plus.

2. Fabolous – A Milli Freestyle

So I guess this pick is a little bit unorthodox since it’s really not an official track of any kind. Regardless it’s good, and that’s what matters. Fabolous jacks the beat from Lil Wayne’s second single, “A Milli,” off Weezy’s new album, Tha Carter III, and pretty much just goes to town on it. It’s worth mentioning that right now most people are probably hearin’ and feelin’ Jay-Z’s subtle, yet clearly big boss-like, spin on “A Milli” with his one-upping (actually, make that his one thousand-upping) “A Billi” freestyle. And I’m feelin’ that too in a big way. But getting much less attention is Fabolous’ take on the original track. I’m not really a big Fabolous fan when when it comes to actually rhymin’ — he’s often a little soft in terms of any real lyricism — but I gotta give him his due on this freestyle. So I don’t really know what happened with him, but for some reason he just kinda blacks out on this one. (Maybe he actually did black out?) In any case, it’s as if the “F-A-B-O…” character died and came back to life as a serious rapper with some serious verbal chops. So leave the preconceived notions at the door and give the improved Fabolous a chance. Cuz I’m impressed.

3. Fabolous Feat. Jay-Z and Uncle Murda – Brooklyn

I’ll be honest, I was gonna choose something else new for my third pick, but listening to, and then writing about, that Fabolous freestlye got me thinking about one of my favorite (and somehow largely unappreciated outside of perhaps a single borough of New York City) hip hop tracks from the last few years: Fab’s “Brooklyn” off his highly-anticipated, but follow-though lacking, 2007 album, From Nothin’ To Somethin’. With an intro by NYC’s legendary Funkmaster Flex (whose website is like a visual representation of his voice) and an absolutely FILTHY beat from producer Versatile (wait, who?) that brilliantly incorporates a sample from Biggie’s infamous MSG freestyle, the song just can do no wrong. I’m not saying any of the verses are flat-out slayers, but that’s about as good as you’re gonna get from Fab, and Jay-Z spittin’ about Brooklyn…..well, let’s just say you can’t go wrong with that either. I’d never heard of Uncle Murda until this track, and I’m not exactly overwhelmed by his wits or skillz, but it’s no shock he’d be the weakest of the three. Be sure to catch the outro on “Brooklyn,” where Fab breezily name-checks each Brooklyn neighborhood (Bed Stuy, Bushwick, Fort Green, Red Hook, etc) by rhyming each individually. This song deserves recognition, dammit.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Advertisements

Do TV Commercials Ruin Good Songs? (Yeah, Pretty Much)

with one comment

This week I was planning to write about Chicago pop-experimentalists, Walter Meego (the cool guys in the glasses), whose first studio album, Voyager (Sony 2008), was released last month. (Yes, Walter Meego is actually two people. No, neither one is named Walter or Meego). Unfortunately, an unexpected monkey wrench was thrown smack into the middle of my best laid plans.

Here’s what happened: I was watching some soccer on TV over the weekend when a new Heineken commercial promoting their idiotic “Beertender” home mini-kegerator came on. I guess it might not be so idiotic if Heineken didn’t taste like unfiltered Dutch canal water. But it does. So as far as I’m concerned it’s idiotic. Anyway, the song featured prominently in the “Home Bars” ad spot in question (watch the ad here) brought an instant scowl to my face. “Those Heineken beer-Nazi sonofabitches,” I said to no one but the television, “they jacked my fucking song — already.” The song was Walter Meego’s “Forever,” which just happens to be my favorite Walter Meego song. (Listen to it here).

Sonofabitches.

Now, it was ruined. Forever. “Forever” was ruined forever. Or so I felt. My favorite song from a relatively new and largely unknown experimental pop group (what the hell is experimental pop anyway?) had been reduced to nothing more than another cheap cog in the beer world’s mega-marketing wheel of death and societal detriment. Weren’t alternative/indie musicians like Walter Meego supposed to tell advertisers to fuck off when asked to use their songs anyway? What gives?

At first I wished that I had just never seen the commercial. That would’ve made everything okay. Unfortunately my Men In Black “Flashy Thing” has been broken for years. (Except when it comes to finding my keys). So that option was out.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: June 20th, 2008

leave a comment »

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. Liars – Plastic Casts of Everything

This is the opening track off the the noisey New York rockers Liars’ latest and self titled album. This album terrificly just drudges along, with robust smears of melody and rhythm. Even though I’ve heard comparisons to newer noise rockers Health (who I admit share some styles  occasionally [less so in this album]), this album reminds me more of SF punkers Flipper, in their sludgy sounds. Plaster Casts of Everything is a great opener, setting up momentum that carries through the whole album.

2. Sebadoh – Not a Friend

This may not be the best song to be singing by a friend. But i can’t help myself right now, so I apologize in advance….. Sebadoh is a wonderful band from the 90’s with a sort of post-punk sensibility, that are really important for the development of lo fi and indie music.  Their soft analog distortion used on the guitar is part of that patented Sebadoh sound that had me hooked early on.  Bakesale is I think their finest album, where I think their style really came into it’s own- mixing between real rocking songs, to quieter jams like Not A Friend.  The open writing style of Sebadoh’s lyrics are really refreshing.  Sometimes it’s nice to have a singer talk to you in the way you would to them. The final track off this album, Together or Alone can just melt me down.

3. Suffocate For Fuck Sake – Blue Lights and Sunshine

Woah, right? Either you’re incredibly interested, or you’ve already moved on.  Suffocate For Fuck Sake is a really great band I just discovered from Sweden. This clearly won’t be for most, but I suggest giving the song a whole play through, cause you’re not going to find stuff like this on the radio.  They go from quiet and beautiful post-rock pieces with clips of Swedish talking sound bites (anybody want to translate), to some really heavy stuff! Post-Rock has been a genre that always bothered me. Bands like Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai always just frustrated me. Maybe I could just not appreciate their minimalism, but I found them totally boring. Their music never went anywhere. I always thought Post-Rock would be amazing if you use it in parts, while not being afraid to blast through others. I started finding a few bands like *Shels [sic] [http://www.myspace.com/shels], who did that, but was never satisfied with the results. UNTIL, i heard SFFS, and their brief titled first album “Blazing fires and helicopters on the frontpage of the newspaper. There’s a war going on and I’m maching in heavy boots.” They’ve found the perfect match of Post-Rock and heavy-[something] for me!  Don’t be afraid of the scream.This album is mind blowing. Interesting fact is that they are the poster child of music globalization. Swedish band, with a label and publisher in Mexico? Pretty cool.

Jonathan’s Picks

1. John Legend Feat. Andre 3000 – Green Light

I like John Legend. I’ve liked him since I first heard “Used to Love U” back in 2004. And I continued to like the man and his music through his first two albums, Get Lifted and Once Again. In fact, the first time I heard “Ordinary People” and “Again,” I think I was ready to add them to the pantheon of all-time great love songs. (Or at least all-time great lovers quarreling songs). I never minded the fact that Legend seemed basically stuck in one gear all the time, never venturing far from his R&B/Soul sound, even when it meant some of his material sounded borderline repetitive. But the man is a crooner. He’s old-school like that. And I like that about him. So when I heard the first single off Legend’s upcoming third studio album, “Green Light,” I was confused. Something like: “Wait, this is John Legend? Really? Wow, dude’s really going in a different direction on this one, huh?” And that he is. “Green Light” is a catchy uptempo synth-fest, which still allows Legend to get on his love story tip, yet sounds unlike anything he’s ever done before. And this new, loosened up John Legend is brought out of his shell by a jocular (and literally laughing at times) Andre 3000, whose guest verse appears to slip away from him towards the end, only for him suddenly reveal he’s been freestyling the whole time. Jokester. But Andre’s “throwaway” line directed at Legend as the track rides out really says it all: “Sometimes you gotta step from behind that piano!” He definitely did.

2. Lady GaGa Feat. Colby O’Donis – Just Dance

There’s something I want to say that applies to both my second and third picks: there was a time when “pop” music (aka “popular” music) meant that the music itself was easily accessible and enjoyable to the average listener. But it absolutely did NOT mean that the music had to simplistic, dumbed-down, or mediocre, and it did NOT mean that it was to be made largely by talentless artists with no skills or ideas of their own. The Beach Boys and The Beatles were a far cry from the modern-day no-talent-ass-clownery of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Thus, I want to highlight two new “pop” singers who bring a little more to the table. First, Lady GaGa. Horrible name aside, this 22 year old New York City lifer and downtown scenester actually possesses far greater talent than our average pop singers of today. The girl went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts at age 17 and Tisch isn’t like a record company — they don’t just let anybody in and hand ’em a mic. You gotta have more talent than 99 percent of the population, and Lady GaGa (sorry, but my god I hate that name) certainly has talent — the girl’s got a powerful and clear voice built for tearing down arenas and stadiums (in a good way). Her lyrics are fun, playful, and poppy to be sure, but they’re also slightly wacky and even a little edgy (gasp!) at times. “Just Dance” is the first single off her debut album, and it features rising male pop star Colby O’Donis. It’s just funny because I’ve never noticed that O’Donis had a weak or lousy voice before –and he doesn’t, really — but he is COMPLETELY outgunned and gets COMPLETELY shown up by the overly talented newcomer, Lady GaGa. So just try to forget about the clothes, the hair, and the makeup. That isn’t the point of pop music. Instead just remember the voice.

3. Keke Palmer – Bottoms Up

An even more interesting case of a new pop singer with a little too much actual talent is Keke Palmer, who’s still known mostly for her roles as a child actor in films like Akeelah and the Bee and Jump In!, though now seems to be transitioning into the music world. Now I haven’t seen either of those movies, so I have no idea if she can act. (I bet she can). But damn can she grab hold of song and take it for a ride under her control. And it’s not just that Palmer can actually sing well, it’s that she easily flits back and forth between her singing and some shockingly convincing rapping, which somehow (I have no idea how, seriously) manages to avoid sounding the least bit awkward or forced. “Bottoms Up” is clearly just a fun party track with a better-than-it-has-to-be beat before anything else — the title says it all –regardless of how you interpret the type of “bottoms” Palmer is encouraging us to raise. But here’s the thing: Palmer’s still young. How young, you ask? Very young. So now I ask that you take a good listen or two to “Bottoms Up” before running over to “the Google” to find out just how old the lovely and talented Ms. Palmer actually is. After hearing the song for the first time months ago and doing that very thing, my jaw practically hit the floor. Her self-confidence on the mic and her natural command of the song is utterly incredible for anyone Palmer’s age, so if this girl doesn’t become a star now, she damn well should be one someday.  

JustJake’s Picks

1. Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine

This weeks picks are from my two favorite females in pop (I guess that’s what it’s called). This first one is the title track off Fiona Apple’s extraordinary 2005 album, Extraordinary Machine. Time and again, I keep coming back to this album which has proven that it deserves every bit of credit that it got when it was released. Under the tutelage of superproducer Jon Brion, Apple broke new ground on this record, not only for her but for female pop stars in general. This song, by far my favorite of hers, is just one example of the album’s quirky-beautiful arrangements and Apple’s subtly-perfect timing.

2. Joanna Newsom – Bridges and Balloons

Another opening track to a strange, sensory, and groundbreaking album, “Bridges and Balloons” is a fantasy and a journey. I haven’t really figured out where Newsom and her nymph-like voice is taking us, but it’s somewhere quiet, fluid, and pretty. Her harp is a flurry of beautifully constructed melodies and is the true star of Newsom’s music, although many don’t get beyond her voice. Her style can seem queer or even creepy, but after watching her captivate an entire opera house, with standing ovations to boot, I will defend her magic and its power, however odd they may appear.

roswellmueller’s Picks

1. Vampire Weekend – Oxford Comma

I’ll start off by saying that I do not like Vampire Weekend. While I can sort of understand their appeal, I just really am not impressed in any way by this album – the exception being Oxford Comma. For the life of me I can’t decide why I like this song, I just know that I can’t get it out of my head and have kept it on my commuting playlist for weeks now. It might be the irritatingly catchy lick at the center of the song, or the simplistic drumming reminiscent of Ringo at his most unimaginative, I’m not sure. I just hope I either get sick of the song, or it stops getting stuck in my head sometime soon.

2. Maps & Atlases – The Ongoing Horrible

A month or so ago, Mr. Michael-Bradley put up Maps & Atlases – Trees, Swallows, Houses on Quick Hits. Now, I’ve never listened seriously to math rock but this record completely sold me, unbelievable musicianship. An early favorite (probably because it’s the most accessible from an outsider’s perspective) is “The Ongoing Horrible.” Lacking the frenetic pacing of the albums other tracks, the song highlights Maps uncanny ability to create intricate harmonic landscapes through crisp, meticulous technique and complex rhythmic structures.

3. Peter Gabriel – That Voice Again

I’m currently in the midst of a nostalgia binge, reverting back to some of the old chestnuts from my childhood. Specifically, the period where my parents’ music was still the only stuff I was listening to (I’ll spare everyone the Kenny Loggins and Gordon Lightfoot my dad was partial to around this time period). But, it should come as no surprise that Peter Gabriel was in heavy rotation for as long as I can remember being able to recognize the music that was playing around me. Either by osmosis or on its musical merits, which are considerable, “So” remains one of my favorite touchstone albums to return to every now and again.

Carman’s Picks

1. Lizzy Mercier Descloux – Sports Spootnick

The story of Lizzy is pretty cool actually: hot French chick comes to New York in the ’70s, befriends Patti Smith and Richard Hell, and records cool mutant disco. Mambo Nassau, her second album, was a departure from the sparse sounds of post-punk disco (like the ESG and Bush Tetras I posted before) that she helped establish with her debut album Press Color. Instead it was a globetrotting pastiche of world music that sounded like the Talking Heads on acid. Interestingly enough, it was recorded at the same studio in the Bahamas where Tom Tom Club recorded their debut album and Wally Badarou contributes synths to both Mambo Nassau and the Heads’ Speaking in Tongues.

2. Alice Coltrane – Sita Ram

Alice Coltrane is an unusual and incredibly influential figure in the jazz world whose impact cannot be minimized by the enormous shadow cast by her husband. Not only was one of her main instruments of choice rather unusual (harp), she was one of the primary figures in developing fusion by introducing Eastern spirituality to the music and also emphasised the organ (much like Larry Young and Jimmy Smith, but in a different way) as a lead instrument. On top of all that, her free jazz leanings not only continued to the idea of spotaneous spirituality and expression that John showcased, but also made emphasized the peaceful and meditative qualities of the style with her gorgeous string arrangements. Universal Consciousness, the album from which this cut appears, is her finest of these early records.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

The Early Favorite for “Mixtape of the Year” Has Arrived

leave a comment »

If the album art at left seems vaguely familiar to you, that’s because you’ve seen it before. 

The newest mixtape from D.C. native Wale (probably the best rapper the general public somehow still doesn’t yet know about) is indeed an homage to his favorite TV show, Seinfeld — the original show about nothing.

The only thing wrong with Wale’s logic is that his mixtape is actually about something. A lot of somethings, even. He tackles one tough topic after the next on The Mixtape About Nothing, (racism, the music industry, love, growing up, artistic integrity to name a few) which should come as no surprise considering that before turning his attention to music full-time Wale played football at Virginia State. So just don’t call him a backpack rapper — cuz he ain’t one. But don’t call him a thug either, cuz Wale is about as far from a brainless thug as you’ll ever find in the rap game.

And that’s part of what’s great about Wale. You can’t pin him down as a “type,” paint him into a single-genre corner, or put him in a record company box. He’s too smart for that shit, and far too versatile (both lyrically and stylistically) to ever be defined as just one type of MC. Yeah he wears tight jeans and neon Nikes, but he’s still a street struggler who fought his way to record deals with Mark Ronson and Interscope. And sure he may call a girl “bitch” and his boys “nigga,” but that doesn’t mean he thinks “Obama” is some country in Africa either.

In a musical era where marketing and branding seem to come before beats and rhymes, most rappers are turned into virtual caricatures of themselves by providing (and encouraging) a specific self-image for their audience to hold on to…..

Read the rest of this entry »

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: June 13th, 2008

with one comment

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Wale – W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E

If you aren’t yet familiar with Wale, you will be soon — not least because I’ll be writing about him next week — because he’s been primed to blow up for two years now, inching closer and closer to stardom. Having revealed that I’ll be bringing you a piece on Wale next week, I won’t reveal too much about the Washington D.C.-born, ex-college football playing MC in today’s picks. But what I am revealing is the year-old gem, “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.,” which first appeared on Wale’s 2007 mixtape 100 Miles & Running, and says a lot about the artist by itself. For one, it shows Wale’s a lyricist, not just a rapper — his intelligent wordplay covers a wide array of subjects from music and sports to pop culture and fashion. But perhaps equally important is that this track displays Wale’s musically courageous and adventurous nature: he chose to rap over the French electro-pop group Justice‘s international dance hit, “D.A.N.C.E.,” rather than a typical Hip Hop beat. That takes some balls. S for now, enjoy the song, and look forward to hearing more next week.

2. Nas Feat. Keri Hilson – Hero

Look, there isn’t much to say about this song. It’s too damn good. “Hero” is the second single off Nas’ (highly-anticipated would be an understatement) upcoming, though still untitled, album set to drop a month from now. Produced by hitmaker of the moment, my man Polow da Don (aka King of the White Girls — sorry still love that nickname), “Hero” just bangs so hard despite it’s “softer” style R&B chorus sung by the up and coming Keri Hilson (see pick three). I expect this will actually be among the most radio-friendly of the cuts off the upcoming album, even though Nas spits his usual fire and Polow’s beat knocks harder than most (and I don’t care if he made it with GarageBand), it’s got mass appeal and is not as inflammatory as several other Nas tracks off the untitled album I’ve heard recently. But Nas’ flow is flawless and Polow came and “did his muhfuckin’ job,” as Jay-Z might say…..so just, damn.

3. Keri Hilson – Energy

Keri Hilson is someone in the music industry you can actually root for. She’s legitimately multi-talented (a real singer and real songwriter) and has spent years paying her dues by working “behind the scenes” in the industry. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s, um, rather attractive…..you know, physically. (She recently played Usher’s love interest in his “Love In This Club” music video). After seven years of writing songs for other artists such as Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Ciara, Chris Brown, Usher, and Timbaland, as well as singing background vocals on some of them, Hilson has started to get out in front more and more, as a featured guest on Timbaland’s smash singles, “The Way I Are” and “Scream.” Now it’s her time to shine, with a debut solo album, entitled, In a Perfect World, slated for release later this year. And it looks as if all that dues-paying will pay off, as the album is executive-produced by Timbaland himself, has cameos by Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, and Ludacris, and will feature tracks produced by Polow da Don, Danja, and The Runawayz, who produced Hilson’s first single, “Energy” an honest R&B-Pop crossover track with plenty of substance to go with its style. It will be interesting to see if Hilson can carve out her own place on the music scene when In a Perfect World drops since she’s a product of hard work and patience rather than yet another manufactured record company mannequin. If her prior work and first solo single are any indication, I’d say she’s got a great chance.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Roll Another Number (2003)

Well, it’s that time of year again. As I write this, more than a hundred thousand music lovers are gathering on a farm in rural Tennessee for a long weekend of live music, drug use, and more live music. In honor of Bonnaroo 2008, the mother of all modern music festivals, this week’s picks are taken from live performances from festivals past. The first track is one of my favorite Neil Young songs and even though in 2003 he clearly was not in his prime, this song still roars with rust. Young headlined that year and played in front of about eighty-thousand strong. Many were underwhelmed by his set but I thought it kicked ass. If you ever wondered why they called him the godfather of grunge, this song should pretty much answer that question.

2. Yonder Mountain String Band – Holding (2004)

YMSB, the Colorado-based bluegrass jam band, is almost synonymous with Bonnaroo in my mind. The freedom and happy-go-lucky spirit in their music embodies what the festival is all about. This tune, closing the band’s 2004 set is a cover of the great John Hartford’s awesome tune “Holding.” The song also happens to about trying to find pot, a perfect topic to close a Bonnaroo set with since that’s what a lot of the fans would be doing afterwards. Just a fun song and you can get a good sense of the love that abounds.

3. James Brown – I Go Crazy (2003)

Yes, James Brown played Bonnaroo. He even brought along about a thirty piece ensemble with everything from four guitars, to two bass players, to four backup dancers, to the obligatory dude-who-covers-him-with-a-cape. And what a show it was. Brown, into is seventies, showed that he could still conduct the tightest of bands, dance like only he and Michael Jackson can, and sing with as much soul as ever. It’s tough to hear in the live recording but his horn section was tremendous, all wearing matching rhinestone suits. Needless to say the crowd of music lovers was ecstatic. And that’s what Bonnaroo’s all about: great, eclectic music in a great, eclectic environment.

Carman’s Picks

1. Bush Tetras – No More Creeps

This pick isn’t too far removed from my ESG pick from last time. Just more bare and simple post-funk from the late-70s New York art scene that doesn’t get a lot of attention given how influential and prevalent its style is now. If ESG is what LCD Soundsystem could be, just think of the Bush Tetras as what The Rapture aspire to be.

2. Carsick Cars – Zhong Nan Hai

I had this band described to me as “the Chinese Sonic Youth,” so I’m sure you could picture how skeptical I was at first when I downloaded the album. Amazingly, it was about as spot-on as you could be. Hailing from that great hub of culture that is Beijing, Carsick Cars deliver a brand of indie rock that is the Yoof at their Geffen-era peak. A little bit of Sister-era SY and a good heaping of what were the better parts of Rather Ripped, and you have catchy and noisy indie rock that is great in any language. Naturally, they’ve opened up for Sonic Youth both at home and abroad, and lead-singer Zhang Shouwang is already a veteran of Glenn Branca’s multi-guitar symphonies. Look them up on MySpace.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss at The Theater at Madison Square Garden

leave a comment »

Last week Robert Plant was quoted in the Village Voice as saying that America “needs to hear its music.” Leave it to a Brit to tell us what we need. Plant’s condescension aside, he is right. The former Led Zeppelin singer’s recent album and tour with Alison Krauss, which stopped at the Theater at Madison Square Garden last night, prove that he is doing more than just talking the talk. About halfway through the show, Plant, humble and gracious throughout, paid homage to those American musicians who came before, telling the crowd “If it weren’t for Chicago and Mississippi, I wouldn’t even be here right now.”

Plant gets it. All the amazing musicians who shared the stage with him get it. He is right though – more Americans need to get it.

It’s hard to claim that popular music today has largely forgotten its roots. How can any music become untied from its history when, consciously or not, it is a product, a direct descendent of that history? Take rap music for example. Where would rap music be without James Brown, Bo Diddley (think “Who do You Love?”), Muddy Waters, and even Elvis and his televised gyrations? But, is rap conscious of its ties to history? Despite heavy use of samples, the answer is largely, no. Popular music across the board has lost its ties to the deep past. This would be okay (after all innovation is a good thing) if it weren’t for the fact that American music’s original soul, the soul that makes it exceptional in the truest sense of the word, has been largely flushed out as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Quick Hits: Mudcrutch – Mudcrutch

leave a comment »

When Tom Petty decided to put the band back together he really decided to put the band back together. After a thirty-two year hiatus, Petty recently re-assembled his old college group, Mudcrutch for an album and tour. The tour ended last month. The album is a gem.

Regardless of what you think about Tom Petty or his performance at this year’s Super Bowl, this album proves that Petty has gotten better with age. Mudcrutch combines songs from all walks of the American musical landscape, ending as a record that is refreshing while maintaining a welcomed amount of familiarity. Nowhere on the record is this more evident than in its first song, a cover of the classic mountain tune “Shady Grove.” By opening with this older-than-the-hills tune, Mudcrutch sends two immediate messages: first, this is not a Tom Petty record; second, the band knows its roots, cares about ‘em, and ain’t afraid to use ‘em. The same can be said about “Six Days on the Road,” the classic rocker that has been covered by the likes of Steve Earle, George Thorogood, and Taj Mahal (whose version tops them all). Mudcrutch, like Mahal, plows through the song like a tour bus flying down an open highway.

As for the band’s other material, there is little disappointment to be found. Songs like “Orphan of the Storm” resemble the best of pioneering country-rock bands like the Byrds. The instrumental track “June Apple” harkens back to the soul of early Stax artists like Booker T. and the M.G.’s mixed in with some driving seventies-country twang. “Lover of the Bayou,” an early single (“Scare Easy” is another standout), sounds like the great Petty hit “Last Dance with Mary Jane” only Mary Jane is being drowned in a dark, muddy, Louisiana swamp (which, it turns out, makes for one hell of a song). My favorite track is the finale “House of Stone,” which has the soul of a Monroe or Louvin Brothers gospel song, and a mandolin solo to boot.

On a whole, Mudcrutch is a tour through the last sixty years of American soul music. While the album is not without its faults, the few throwaway tracks are outnumbered by the wealth of well-written and soulful tunes that look back and pay homage without losing sight of the road ahead.

For more on the re-assembled band check out this NYTimes article.