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Posts Tagged ‘New York City

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: June 20th, 2008

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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

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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