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Archive for May 2008

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: May 30th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Wyclef Jean Feat. Lupe Fiasco – Fast Car (Fugee Remix)

Unlike last week’s picks, I’m really not going with any particular theme here — these songs are about as unrelated as you can get (one new, one old, one classic). First up is somethin’ new, former Fugees bassist and Wyclef Jean cousin Jerry Wonder’s remix of Wyclef’s “Fast Car,” the second single off Clef’s much-anticipated album, Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant. Personally, I had been looking forward to the album’s release for months, as I grew up bumpin’ great tracks like “Guantanamera,” “We Trying to Stay Alive,” and “Gone Till November” off Wyclef’s first album, The Carnival, which I thought was amazing. Unfortunately, the newest album failed miserably to meet my already high expectations, and that disappointment extended to the original version of “Fast Car” as well, which features Paul Simon. I remember thinking upon first listen that the song had potential but stopped short of being really good. Needed more bump. Thus, I’m glad to say that Jerry Wonder’s remix has done just that: elevated “Fast Car” to another, greater level. Not only is the remix a good one, but it stands strong as its own entity, with producer Wonder giving the track three different layers of beats and building the chorus into an infectious sing along. Even though the Carnival Vol. II album isn’t as good as I’d envisioned, the “Fast Car” remix is going a long way towards making me feel like Wyclef’s still got it.

2. Clipse Feat. Sean Paul, Elephant Man, Kardinal Offishall – Grindin’ (Reggae Remix)

So this is the old(er) pick, and admittedly the logic that brought me to choosing this track is somewhat convoluted, so bear with me here. I think it’s safe to say that Kardinal Offishall is among the top three Canadian rappers of all time (not that I can name the other two), and I was sad to see that he had somewhat fallen off the face of the musical earth over the last few years. But recently, he signed with Akon’s Konvict Muzik, reinvigorating his career, and just released a hot first single with Akon called “Dangerous,” instantly inserting himself back into the game. Hearing Kardinal spit on “Dangerous” (yes, I admit it’s almost a pop song, but who cares?) immediately brought me back to 2002, and the release of what was the hottest beat I had ever heard at that point in my life and DJ career: “Grindin’” by Clipse (beat by the then en fuego Neptunes). Frankly it might still be the hottest beat today, I don’t know. Regardless, the only thing better than “Grindin'” itself was the reggae remix, which featured Sean Paul, Elephant Man, and of couse, Kardinal Offishall, who absolutely SLAYS the track with his closing (third) verse, and steals the song altogether, despite tight verses from both Sean Paul and Elephant Man. See, “Dangerous” you can find anywhere now. But the “Grindin'” reggae remix?? I don’t know if it even left the decks of New York’s DJs! (Who loved it, by the way). Therefore, I give you what you might not ordinarily be able to find. Behold.

3. Cherrelle & Alexander O’Neal – Saturday Love

Now this one is definitely a classic: 1985, baby. Back in the day, old school R&B style. A duet between Cherrelle and Alexander O’Neal, “Saturday Love” hit number two on the U.S. R&B charts (and number 25 overall) in 1985-86 thanks to Cherrelle’s addictive chorus and O’Neal’s signature silky smooth 80s vocals. What could be better? It’s a classic example 1980s R&B pre-New Jack Swing era, which began to dominate R&B at the tail end of the 80s and into the early nineties. And though Cherrelle may draw top billing on this track (it’s from her album, High Priority) it’s O’Neal who has experienced a bit of an unintentional resurgence as of late. His verse from “Saturday Love” was (very obviously) sampled in 1999 by Italian DJ and house producer Junior Jack for his hit single, “My Feeling.” More recently, however, and perhaps more pertinently, Alexander O’Neal’s equally amazing R&B hit (I could easily have picked it instead of “Saturday Love” for today’s playlist), “If You Were Here Tonight,” — video HIGHLY recommended — was sampled by none other than up-and-coming Swedish rapper and old IDK favorite, Adam Tensta. His track “80s Baby,” which I chose for IDK’s very first edition of The Friday Writers’ Bloc, prominently features both the melody and the chorus from “If You Were Here Tonight” to great effect. So embrace the throwbacks, young people, embrace ’em. And right here’s a good place to start.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Corb Lund – The Horse I Rode in On

I don’t know a whole lot about this guy. He’s comes from a long line of Alberta cowboys and he likes to use civil war cavalry images on his albums and website. He writes beautifully simple songs that seem to emanate from a time out of mind and yet feel oddly familiar. If you don’t think you like country music, try coming to this song with an open mind because it exhibits an honesty and genuineness that has been lost in the glitz of modern country music.

2. Andru Bemis – Huck Finn

Another strange character from the West, Andru Bemis has spent time traveling the country on the rails with his instrument on his back, working odd jobs to support his odd music, which is quiet, solitary, strange, and out of place. This particular song has an irresistible childishness while expressing a very grown-up sense of sadness at feeling out of place in time.

3. Avett Brothers – Salina

Like Lund and Bemis, these guys came somewhere from the fringes of the American musical landscape and create strange and soulful tunes. While in the last couple of years, they’ve moved more towards the center of Americana music the brothers haven’t lost much of their weirdness. This tune, off their most recent album Emotionalism (2007), showcases the Avetts’ superb songwriting talents as well as the catchiness that has propelled them into a growing spotlight.

Carman’s Picks

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Y Control

Somebody once said to me, “I don’t get why people think Nick Zinner is such a great guitarist. All he does is just play the same two notes over and over again.” Obviously the person who said that simply didn’t get it. Not only was Zinner great because of the harsh and sonorous buzz of his guitar, but for his economy. He played those two notes over and over again, sure, but he did it with the driving force of a Wagnerian symphony. We all remember the surprise hit that was the beautiful “Maps,” but the highlight of their debut album was the incredible “Y Control” that immediately followed “Maps” in the track sequence. Following the dripping guitar lines that concluded “Maps,” this song immediately slams you down with Zinner in control. When we look back on this decade, I can only hope that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are remembered with more fondness than they are now. At least before they wrote “Gold Lion.”

2. The Police – “King Of Pain”

OK, so I realize I’m not digging very far into the record collection with my picks today. Last night I saw The Police (with Elvis Costello & The Impostors as the opening act) at the Hollywood Bowl so I’ve been in a Sting mood. The Police are an interesting band because they’re far better than we ever really give them credit for. Yes they had all those hits and are beloved by classic rock fans everywhere so they get credit where credit is due, but they’re far better than just being another flavor-of-the-month borrowed nostalgia trip to the unremembered Eighties for the 20something crowd. They released 5 excellent albums in their brief career as a unit, and made quite an interesting progression from new wave popsters to essentially creating the world music soundscapes that Paul Simon’s Graceland helped to popularize amongst the yuppies. While the concert was good, it was sad to see The Police essentially Synchronicitize many of their early hits (“Next To You,” “So Lonely,” “Message In A Bottle” to name a few) into Sting solo material by sapping all of the energy that was present in those songs. The transformation was imminent as far back as the second Police album, but Sting fully metamorphosed from rock star into scented candle with the band’s 1983 swan song of Synchronicity. It sounds like I’m slagging the album, but I actually truly love it. It’s easily the greatest adult contemporary album ever recorded.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

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I Believe the Expression I’m Looking for is…..Ho, Sit Down!

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I guess it was only a matter of time, right?

Sadly the wondrous glory of a blissfully long Memorial Day weekend was darkened almost immediately as Tuesday, May 27th marked the digital release of no-talent-ass-clown for-hire, Lindsay Lohan’s first single off her forthcoming album called…..oh wait, she hasn’t been able to think of a name yet.

That’s okay, Linds, thinking’s hard.

But judging by the sounds coming from the new single, unoriginally entitled, “Bossy,” singing’s even harder.

After listening to “Bossy” a few times and doing some light poking around (and by that I mean research, not the other thing) I realized several things. First, Lindsay’s record company, Motown Records, spent what can only have been a shit-ton (to borrow an expression from Roswell) of money on the making of this track. “Bossy” is written by none other than Shaffer Smith (aka Ne-Yo), who is among the most in-demand songwriters for pop/R&B crossover records, and whose words don’t come cheap — they seem to virtually guarantee a hit record. (Evidence: Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable,” Rihanna’s “Unfaithful,” “Take a Bow,” and “Hate That I Love You,” Mario’s “Let Me Love You,” and his own “So Sick” and “Sexy Love.)”

Motown spared no expense on the production of “Bossy’s” synth-heavy pop/R&B crossover beat (a formula that’s been working well lately), luring fellow hit-guarantors (and frequent Ne-Yo collaborators) Stargate to do the heavy lifting. The Norwegian duo (no, seriously, they’re two dorky white boys) headed up the production end of nearly all the above-listed singles, along with 2007’s Beyonce/Shakira duet “Beautiful Liar,” Jordin Sparks’ “Tattoo” and Mariah Carey’s most recent single, “Bye Bye.” Fresh off successful productions from Ne-Yo’s Year of the Gentleman, Mary J. Blige’s Growing Pains and Usher’s Here I Stand, Stargate are commanding nearly top-dollar for their radio-friendly, pop/R&B sound.

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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: May 23rd, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. Health- Perfect Skin

These LA Noise rockers have been doing it for a while, and I’m happy for them they’re getting some press. When I finished listening to this album (their newest and first- self titled LP) I felt nothing but pure jealousy. I wish I made this record! Congrats dudes on making a terrific album, beautifully blending noise with some enjoyable grooves. This song is sort of like their slow single, but I think when loud can sound pretty epic.

2. Tera Melos- Last Smile For Jaron

I wrote about these guys early on, but I never uploaded a song. I saw them perform again two nights ago while opening for the Fall of Troy. These guys freakin’ shred and I wished everybody knew it. They smash around between math rock melody, and more experimental sounds. This is off their Split with By The End of Tonight, title Complex Full of Phantoms. Primarily an instrumental band, this album was their introduction of vocals. I think that typically can be dangerous for an instrumental band, but like Battles did with Atlas, they seemed to have found a tactful way of doing it without drowning the music with lyrics. Instead the vocals are just used as another instrument. This song melts me down in a few places, I’d tell you where, but you should just listen to it through and figure it out!

3. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum-Ambugaton

This song has amazing lyrics. Here it is :

“Ambugaton!”

Yea, that’s it. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is a terrific folk metal band that goes through lots of different and very unique/ bizarre sounds. You should try them out, so if nothing else you can say you’ve heard Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. I really have more trouble describing these guys more than most bands. But take the ride that is Ambugaton. It seems to go from edgy classical music, to metal. The whole song is a giant build up to the one lyric, AMBUGATON! Liner notes point to Hank Williams as author of the lyric…….

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Cam’ron – Weekend Girl/Weekend Love

So as far as I’m concerned Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of summer. Forget June 20th. At least in New York it is — offices are vacant by noon, restaurants are empty at the usual dinner rush, and perhaps most importantly, tank tops and mini skirts return. A close second, however, is that inevitable — and often indomitable — summer anthem, the one song that signifies an entire summer in your life. Three months boiled down to three minutes. And you never forget ’em. This Friday I’ve chosen three songs that hold memories for me of recent New York summers past. First, summer 2006: Cam’ron samples/jacks The S.O.S. Band‘s 1985 single, “Weekend Girl,” with great success despite the fact that the track remained largely underground, and was never released on any official album (thus the uncertainty over its actual name). Although sped up slightly from the original “Weekend Girl,” Cam’s song maintains a summery, breezy feel from the first bars, which is further reinforced by his playful, almost lazy, flow. While I refuse to buy into Pitchfork’s identity as the sole arbiter of musical excellence, it’s worth noting that the notoriously tough critics rather remarkably named Cam’ron’s highly unofficial summer anthem to the web site’s Top 100 Tracks of 2006. And for once, I definitely agree with them. This track has flown under the radar for far too long.

2. Kevin Lyttle Feat. Alison Hinds – Turn Me On (Mad Hatters Ball Mix)

Summer 2004: What started out as a laid-back soca ballad featuring well-known reggae artist Spragga Benz back in 2001 was eventually remixed three years later into the summer club banger “Turn Me On.” With a much more uptempo, dance floor-ready beat that plays musical Twister — one foot on reggae, one hand on soca; other foot on reggaeton, other hand on dancehall — by straddling those multiple genre’s, Kevin Lyttle’s introduction to flat out bum-rushing of the U.S. market (the song reached number four on Billboard’s Hot 100) spawned many a drunken hook up in the sweat-soaked bars and clubs of NYC, with some patrons (libidos racing) trying just a little too hard to emulate the moves they saw in the music video for “Turn Me On.” I remember being incredibly amused by this on numerous occasions, as some people actually fell. Like, a lot of people, actually. Unfortunately, 2004 was a hot and sticky summer in New York, and this song only served to make things worse.

3. Lumidee Feat. Busta Rhymes & Fabolous – Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh) (Remix)

Summer 2003: My god this song was hot back then. That’s all I remember. (Busta Rhymes even warns of its power in the opening line…”Ayo Tedsmooth it looks like it’s gonna be another one of them hot summers…”). Of all three tracks, “Never Leave You” was probably the most ubiquitous during its spectacular summer run. You just couldn’t get away from it no matter where you went: TVs, radios, cars, bars, and house parties bumped Lumidee aka The Queen of Spanish Harlem for three straight months. It swept New York. And the video — ohh man the video was so good too — was really the perfect reflection of the record’s street roots; basically just a huge Spanish Harlem block party up on 2nd Avenue and 119th street with corner boys posted up, Puerto Rican chicas dancin’ up a storm, Busta Rhymes shadily lurking in a bodega, Fabolous rappin’ in front of a corrugated steel garage door, 5-0 on hand (as always), and little kids all crowded around the DJ. (Side bar: I just realized upon rewatching the video that Lumidee’s love interest — a corner boy — is played by none other than corner boy extraordinaire Bodie Broadus — played by J.D. Williams — from HBO’s The Wire, aka the Greatest Show of All Time. Small world). Now I say “street roots” because the great thing about this song is that it had no business being a hit record, let alone an athemic one. It was produced by no-name neighborhood DJ and producer Tedsmooth, who blatantly hijacked the already known Diwali Riddim (you’ll remember it from Sean Paul’s hit, “Get Busy,” as well as one of my old favorites, “No Letting Go” by Wayne Wonder) and sung by a no-name local teenager who could sort more or less carry a tune, named Lumiana DeRosa. (What, you thought she just pulled that name out of thin air?) And yet, a street anthem was born. Busta was right too, it was a hot summer.

JustJake’s Picks

1. John Prine- Angel From Montgomery

This week’s picks honor one of my favorite songwriters, John Prine. Another one of those so-called “songwriters’ songwriters,” Prine has written some of the saddest, funniest, and most poignant songs in the Americana songbook. Along with most songwriters in this category, Prine has been covered time and again, often with his songs reaching a broader audience in the hands of better-known artists. You might recognize this first song as a Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, Susan Tedeschi, or Tanya Tucker tune; it’s actually Prine writing from the unique perspective of a broken down housewife.

2. Jim & Jesse and the Virginia Boys- Paradise

All three of these songs were first recorded by Prine on his tremendous, eponymous first album (1971). Shortly thereafter this track became somewhat of a standard in the newgrass movement and this is a cut done by Jim and Jesse McReynolds, one of the sibling super groups that helped shape bluegrass music. You can also watch Prine perform the song here.

3. John Prine- Illegal Smile

More than just a stoner anthem, this song is one of the more cleverly written tunes out there, and my personal Prine favorite. The whimsical melody and playful lyrics help cover up the pain and sadness that lurk just below the song’s surface.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

This is the Remix!: When the Remix is Better than the Original

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Okay so P. Diddy didn’t actually invent the remix.

No shit.

He was probably not even born yet when Tom Moulton began doing dance remixes in the late 1960s, and wasn’t even ten years old by the time pioneering DJs and producers like Walter Gibbons, Tee Scott, Larry Levan, Shep Pettibone, and François Kevorkian were already deeply ensconced in remixing disco records. So, sorry, Diddy.

But it’s true that over the next fifteen to twenty years, particularly in the 1990s, Diddy and his Bad Boy Records production crew (aka The Hitmen) would have a hand in some truly great remixes, many of which were major improvements upon already popular songs from artists like 112, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Total, Usher, and Jennifer Lopez.

And it’s not just Diddy either — far from it. The remix has been prevalent in hip hop music since the genre’s inception, as DJs would essentially “re-mix” tracks (sometimes without even knowing what they were doing) by extending the breaks or most danceable portions of the records in order to satisfy the breakdancers and b-boys of the day. And the tradition of remixes in hip hop has stayed strong to this day — only growing stronger and more common with the advent of the mixtape (thanks DJ Clue, Green Lantern, Whoo Kid et al.) — as almost every track released seems to be followed by an “official” remix, along with a few other “unofficial” remixes (often just the same beat with a different rapper spittin’ on it) from various mixtapes and websites.

But what I’m most interested in is when the remix clearly becomes better and more popular than the original track itself, and not solely in the world of hip hop. Sometimes this means a complete overhaul of the track, as with Usher’s “Love In This Club (Part 2 Remix)” or “Everyone Nose” by CRS & Pusha T., and sometimes it just means adding some guest verses, as in Day26’s “Got Me Going” remix, which simply adds verses from Fat Joe and Rick Ross. (Note: the song is still lame, but not as lame).

So even though we’re not gonna hit them all — and they definitely won’t all come from the Bad Boy camp — I’d like to throw out some of the best examples of what I’m referring to, some classic, some current. Hopefully y’all can add some more to this list. Now this is not to say that the originals were bad in any way, most were already hot, just that they were eventually eclipsed by their respective remixes.

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Everything Went Black

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Black Flag is surely the pinnacle of the first American Hardcore movement the late 70’s and early 80’s. Their first LP, Damaged [1981], is frequently looked at as their most defining work of theirs as well as the entire movement. But in a lot of ways, Damaged was a major shift in direction for a band that had already spent 4 years establishing and defining a new punk. Damaged was the introduction of the young and angry lead singer of DC Hardcore band S.O.A., Henry Rollins. Though plenty enthusiasts-myself included find Rollins work to be great (but very different), many Hardcore originals/purists think Rollins was the start of the end of Black Flag, founder Gregg Ginn included. His brutal singing quality, his super serious tone, and his interest in spoken word were all a very new direction for the Black Flag of the 78-81 years.

In reality though, I think Rollins was thrown into a terrible situation in which he couldn’t win. He came in as the new singer, at the peak Black Flag’s success. Many of the songs that were recorded for the Damaged LP had already become favorites with former singers. His new style was abrasive to the fans that were comfortable with the old Black Flag. Most importantly though, Black Flag founder and sole writer of music and lyrics (at that time), had a new direction for the band. He didn’t want to make another Damaged or Nervous Breakdown even. He was getting more and more into slow, heavy metal, citing late Sabbath as a major influence. The B side to their follow up LP, My War, was full on slow metal punk fusion(Scream Live). From then on, the band’s sound would change forever. Though he was fully in possession of the direction of the band, he left Henry out in front as the guy to take the blame for everything. Ginn was not the guy who got beat up, have shit thrown at, and spat on at every show. It was Rollins. Rollins documented many of his disenchanted tour stories (check this out) in his book “Get in the Van” (Ginn claims it’s mostly lies). Rollins seemed to get beat up at nearly every show.

After that Rollins back story, let’s step back again. The release of Damaged led Black Flag to a long legal battle that prevented them from properly releasing another album for several years. Originally it was intended to be distributed by Unicorn Records, a subset of MCA. After the first pressing of the album was pressed, MCA decided they wanted no part of the record. As a result members of Black Flag had to go to the pressing plant, and place a sticker on top of the MCA Distribution logo. First pressings can be be differentiated easily, as they are the only records to have this sticker [my record and thumb shown to the right]. Black Flag’s own label SST took up distribution immediately after. As a result of SST’s new distribution plan, Unicorn sued for breach of contract. Under a court order, Black Flag was then not able to release another album for nearly three years until the claim was settled (81-83). Unable to release anything, the band continued to practice and tour fervently. Of course though, and as you could imagine, they still released an album. They decided to release a compilation album compiling nearly all of their songs before Rollins’ introduction (78-81), in chronological order, starting with singer Keith Morris, briefly Ron Reyes, and then Dez Cadena. So as to dodge the issue, they pained white over the Black Flag logo, and only displayed their names in text on the front cover. Only the first pressing includes this format. Following pressings came after the lawsuit was settled, and had a new cover with the logo unmarked, as well as big Black Flag text. I just won this baby on an ebay auction recently in near mint condition! In another article (my first here), I talked about the importance of first pressings. But this is a particularly cool instance, where it is a real document of a very specific time in history(pretty sweet Pettibon cover too!).

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Written by RocksRocksRocks

May 19, 2008 at 11:35 pm

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: May 16th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. Television – Elevation

Television is band that I’ve heard of for a long time, and never found the time to get into. Bu after hearing Henry Rollins’ feature Television’s debut album Marquee Moon(1977) in its entirety, on his weekly radio show on Indie 103- Harmony in My Head, I realized it was time. I can’t believe I hadn’t even heard these songs before. This album is terrific from top to bottom. A ,mix of a lot of sounds, this album proved to be super influential in all punk, no wave and post punk. I feel like Carman could talk a lot better about these guys than I can (cause I’m just learning), so lets hope he sheds some light on these guys eventually. When I hear this album, I just think oh, that’s what Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were thinking.

2. Joy Division – Disorder

Much like Television did with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, my introduction to Joy Division through their first full length album -Unknown Pleasures (1979) dissolved any interest I had in Interpol. I thought Interpol’s sound was actually unique, thin reverb on the guitar, lead singer’s low pitch humming, i dont know- just about everything they do, had been done TWENTY YEARS AGO. This is probably not a surprise to anybody more than a few years older than me, but shit. Totally disappointing. If anything Interpol is a bit quicker at times, and a bit bassier. But what I thought was their best release, Turn on The Bright Lights is really just Unknown Pleasures [btw,amazing album cover] through the eyes of 2002. And they fooled an entire generation to think they’re doing something special. HA. Well give Unknown Pleasures a spin and see if you can listen to Interpol. I’m trying right now, and it’s not working. Of course, like too many great acts, Joy Divion’s story ended too soon- only a year after this release lead singer Ian Curtis hanged himself.

3. Metallica – Fade to Black

KROQ has been playing a lot of old Metallica to get ready for a show they’re doing for them. Last week, I made a friend sit in the car with me for 5 minutes while all the solo’s of Master of Puppets played out, so i could sing along note for note. Metallica was probably the first time I really went off the deep end in my music taste,that also involved getting into it beyond radio plays. Sure I was listening to NIN and Nirvana, but this seemed a lot darker. Their older albums were never even near the radio in NY. I collected their entire discography of cd’s, going backwards starting from their most recent release at the time (Load?). I became totally obsessed with them. The musicianship, the heavy riffs, and at times the speed. It felt so right! And the deeper I went into their older stuff, the more I fell in love. This is probably the 2nd complete discography I made, after Nirvana. But I was even more proud of this one for it’s lack of commonality with my schoolmates. This song, Fade to Black, was off Ride the Lightning (1984)-their 2nd full length release. This song is one of their greatest early songs. Like so many of my early favs, it starts with the acoustic guitar, and builds speed throughout the song, while just getting heavier and heavier. Truly epic song. Life it seems will fade away.
BTW, Lars Ulrich (drummer) is a fucking douchebag who got me kicked off of napster for downloading all the fucking metallica songs I ALREADY OWNED JACKASS. THANK YOU LARS, for setting up a sue fans first mentality in the record industry, instead of examining why this problem is happening. You’re a rich bitch, and I will never buy anything of yours again. I probably wont even try to listen to your new material either, even though KROQ will jam it down my throats after you pay them off. In fact, I will probably burn your entire discography in mass bulk at my place, and leave them for free at venues. Trace that on the internetz.

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble Feat. Freeway, Jay-Z, and Beanie Sigel – War (Nick Catchdubs Remix)

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is NOT your average brass band. First of all, they draw almost as much influence from hip hop and Latin music as they do jazz. But secondly, of the band’s nine members, eight are related. And not only are they related, but all eight (all on horns) are actually blood brothers — the sons of 1950s jazz trumpet player Phil Cohran, who played predominantly with the Sun Ra Arkestra. Only Hypnotic’s drummer, “360,” has a different father. And though the band has been recording for just a few years — they started as street performers in Chicago — the chemistry and energy are clearly there since they grew up with jazz in the blood, and a sense of performance in heart. This track is one of my favorites: Brooklyn-based DJ and remixer, Nick Catchdubs, combines one of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s best songs, “War,” a trumpet-heavy record with a sneaky-good bass line, with one of my favorite hip hop songs of the last ten years, hood anthem “What We do,” by Roc-A-Fella Records member Freeway, and featuring Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel. The horns seem to weep while trying their best to hold their heads up high, as if they’re listening to the Free, Jay, and Beans rhyme about drugs, guns, prison, squalor, and growin’ up in the hood. It’s a gritty yet beautiful conversion. (Watch an excellent short NY Times video profile of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble here).

2. Usher Feat. Beyonce & Lil Wayne – Love In This Club (Part 2 Remix)

So no doubt the original version of “Love In This Club” was a huge hit. And while I thought it was an above average R&B track, on the whole it was hardly special. But I admit I definitely dug the shimmering synthy beat from Polow da Don aka King of the White Girls (sorry, but I just have to write that nickname every chance I get), and the catchy chorus certainly didn’t hurt for Usher’s upcoming album’s first single. Small problem though: the Internets are ablaze with rumors that Polow da Don made the beat using basic, pre-loaded samples and loops from Apple’s DIY music program, GarageBand — not a good look for a supposedly top-flight music producer. In any case, the remix, or “Part 2” as it’s being called, has a whole new downtempo beat from producer Soundz, and all new lyrics from Usher to go with it. Usher engages in a spirited and earnest back-and-forth vocal debate with a surprisingly excellent sounding Beyonce, about whether or not they should indeed make love in the club. Kind of awkward since they both recently married other people, but still, it actually makes for quite a good song. Lil Wayne delivers, as always, with a hoarse-voiced, syrup-slurred rap, in which he once again (note the developing trend here) took to using Auto-Tune for the second half of his verse. “Love In This Club (Part 2 Remix)” is really like listening to a whole new track, and maybe even a better one, so give it a shot.

3. Colin Munroe – (I Want Those) Flashing Lights

Colin Munroe is a new artist out of Toronto who recently signed with Grammy-winning record producer, Dallas Austin, and is in the process of releasing his first album. Boom. (Got that out of the way). Frankly, I can’t and won’t even try to vouch for any of his other music, because there simply isn’t much out there yet, and what I’ve heard isn’t moving me much. But that really has nothing to do with why chose this track. One could say this is just a remix of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights,” and to some extent that’s true. But this is a new breed, and different brand of remix than hip hop or pop music are used to. Much like the “Love In This Club” remix above, “(I Want Those) Flashing Lights” is really a complete reinvention of the song it’s supposedly just remixing, and giving it brand new lyrics (save for a bit of each chorus) and a reworked, if not entirely reinvented, beat. One major difference of course is that Usher’s remix was done by a professional producer, Colin Munroe is more like, well, just a Canadian guy. Nonetheless, I love Munroe’s honest lyrics and obviously rough rehashing of West’s beat. And while his voice isn’t nearly the same quality, Munroe already reminds me a little bit of a more raw, less developed Sam Sparro. One other thing: Munroe even upstages Usher’s remix in one sense — he actually made an accompanying video, which, while admittedly a little on the “Fisher-Price My First Music Video” side, is actually great looking a fun to watch.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Merle Travis & Joe Maphis – White House Blues

This song is an old tune that has survived in many incarnations over the last hundred years or so. Around the turn of the century many people, especially those in the rural areas where bluegrass and country music were born, had no way of receiving news other than by word of mouth and song. This particular tune about the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley is probably an instance of this early form of newscasting. Other than the words, which today seem almost comical, take note of Merle Travis’ signature strolling guitar style

2. John Hartford – In Tall Buildings

John Hartford penned some of bluegrass and country music’s greatest songs, but none is sadder or more troubling than this waltzing eulogy for the workingman. If you live in a city or have ever found yourself working in a office be warned, this song will hit home and might even cause you to re-evaluate your priorities.

3. Lyle Lovett – I’ve Been to Memphis

If you’re like me, you’ve spent a fair amount of time wondering how in the hell Lyle Lovett ever got near Julia Roberts, let alone near enough to marry her. Well after listening to this song it’s not so hard to understand. Lovett, is a great songwriter and this pick, from the NPR’s Live at the World Café, is one of his more soulful tunes. Just straight-up fun.

Carman’s Picks

1. ESG – Moody

Every time I listen to LCD Soundsystem I think to myself, “Man, James Murphy really, really wants his band to be the modern day ESG.” And I don’t mean that in a negative way; I’m a huge LCD Soundsystem fan. But hell, I don’t blame him for that anyways. In my eyes, ESG were the perfect band: catchy, danceable, grooves from a trio of sisters (and a friend on bass) from the South Bronx that was honest in its simplicity and no-holds-barred approach. Unsurprisingly, they would catch the attention of early pioneering hip-hop DJs for use in beats (a reunion in 1992 saw the release of the Sample Credits Don’t Pay Our Bills EP) before the post-punk revival of the new century instilled a generation of middle-class kids to appreciate not only an endearing D.I.Y. ethic, but a rhythm that made you move. Enjoy this classic cut off their first release.


2. Cecil Taylor – Tales (8 Whisps)

Cecil Taylor was unique among free jazz pioneers in that not only did he play the piano (an unusual instrument in the early days of free jazz), but he also embraced the theatrical aspect of the medium. Along with The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Cecil Taylor made jazz not only an art form to be listened to, but also to be watched. While the AEOC did it with a large ensemble of junk used for rhythm instruments and masks and makeup, Cecil Taylor was able to do it not only in a solo act, but while sitting behind a piano. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Ron Mann’s superb 1981 documentary Imagine The Sound. Taylor is one of the subjects featured in the film, and you will be blown away by his performances (and his eccentric personality). The man is an acrobat behind the keys, and you can tell by just listening to his work.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Quick Hits: SO. HOT. RIGHT. NOW.

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After yesterday’s depressingly negative “Quick Hits” piece about Day26 (sorry, but someone had to say something about that foolishness), I bring you a truly quick “Quick Hit:”

It doesn’t happen very often. But every now and then a song comes along that single-handedly makes me wish I was still still DJing regularly. It’s not always the “best” song of the year, or even one I think most people will like. It’s not based on iTunes sales, chart peformance, or TRL countdowns.

It’s based solely on the fact that I’m dying to play this track at sickeningly high volume on a bumpin’ sound system for of a ton of drunk and/or high people that are dancing furiously together in a packed room. You’d think I would be able to remember the last time this happened, but I can’t. Anyway, enough of that already. This song is making me crazy. I can’t even wait until Friday’s Picks to post it.

So what’s the fucking song??

The song that’s absolutely slaying me right now is a remix of N.E.R.D.’s newest single, the cocaine anthem “Everyone Nose.” This is funny considering my utter disdain for the original version of this song, which I find to be relatively boring, ripped off too directly from reggaeton’s “At Chu,” and blatantly pandering to the “drugs are cool and so am I” Hollywood set. I mean, Lindsay Lohan makes a cameo in the freakin’ video!

Ugh.

But the remix…..probably a Pharrell/Kanye job, is drastically different. First of all it’s hardly even an N.E.R.D. song anymore. It has really become a CRS track, with an unbelievable beat that switches effortlessly between hip hop and techno. Haven’t heard of CRS yet? It usually stands for Child Rebel Soldier, but in this case, CRS is the self proclaimed “super-group” made up of Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and Lupe Fiasco — appearing on the T-shirt you see above swathed in BAPE gear and Kalashnikovs. And on top of that, the remix features one of hip hop’s top lyricists — not to mention top cocaine experts — Pusha T from the Clipse. And everyone kills it on their respective turns. (Yes, even Pharrell).

Okay I’ve already said too much. This track is such heat! People are gonna go crazy for it in the clubs. It’s just absolute fire, pure gas, a ridiculous banger — off the hook, off the chain, off the meat rack, as we used to say. Just to give credit where credit is due, special thanks to DJ M.O.S., one of New York’s most highly-regarded and universally admired DJs, for making this track available. I’m about to blackout now.

Without further blabbering…..GET IT:

Everyone Nose (Remix)

Just play it loud.

– Jonathan