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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: May 9th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. Minutemen – Corona

Sound familiar? Welcome to the Minutemen. My generation probably knows them better for this intro riff – the Jackass theme song. I still have trouble not hearing after the first few seconds, Hi I’m Johnny Knoxville and I’m about to….[do something stupid]. Associations with Jackass aside though, the Minutemen were really a magnificent band. Straight out of San Pedro they quickly caught the eyes of local LA hardcore punk acts like Black Flag. Even though their sound was totally different and unique, their politics really fell in line with the more politically aware people in hardcore. Greg Ginn of Black Flag signed them to their first album to his Label SST. This would be only the 2nd SST release, following Black Flag’s first release, the Nervous Breakdown EP. They toured rigorously with Black Flag and other punk bands, frequently being misunderstood by stubborn punks. Even though these guys weren’t thrash, they had just as much fire as any other punks out there. Their leftist politics, and sincere push for D.I.Y. left a fine mark on the punk scene. This song, Corona, off their 2nd to last LP, Double Nickels on the Dime- iswhere I think they really hit their groove. Singer and guitarist D. Boon died in a car crash a year after this seminal release, abruptly ending this truly amazing band. (Anyone remotely interested in this band should see the documentary “We Jam Econo”)

2. Fugazi – Shut the Door

Speaking of D.I.Y……Here’s Fugazi. Ian MacKaye’s [Lead man of DC Hardcore band Minor Threat] post-hardcore band. Formed in 1987, Hardcore had dwindled away for the past 3 or so years. Fugazi also were really known for their politics. Their ethics were punk to the core. They never sold Merch, and never played any shows for more than $10. They strived for $5 though. They were also strongly opposed to violent behavior at shows. Hardcore was dead, and slam-dancing had to be phased out. They were also known for their Straight Edge way of life (MacKeye inventing it with Minor Threat’s song Straight Edge). An interesting note about Fugazi is that they are looked at as one of the creators of Emo. But this was before Emo was what it is today. There was no eyeliner, and wrist cutting. Emo was simply a term for Emotional Hardcore. This is clearly that. How somehow Emo has become recontextualized into Cure fans with a love for pop melodrama and a crying fetish is beyond me. I don’t see how it happened. Shut the door on that!

3. Rage Against the Machine – Settle For Nothing

Always spending so much time looking for politically inspired music in the past, I sometimes forget that one of the most intensely political bands played during my time! These guys were amazing. It’s even more amazing to think how angry they were during a seemingly benign political time considering the times that surrounded their two most important releases in ’92 and ’96. To think of these guys playing new material now, a riot would surely break out. But a lot of their lyrics dealt with socio-economic problems that haven’t changed all that much. Though I can’t relate to these lyrics to my life directly, I understand the story and it is motivating enough to enrage anyone: “A jail cell is freedom from the pain in my home—Hatred passed on, passed on and passed on—A world of violent rage—But its one that I can recognize—Having never seen the color of my fathers eyes—……..To escape from the pain in an existence mundane—I gotta 9, a sign, a set and now I gotta name—Read my writing on the wall—No-ones here to catch me when I fall.”

Jonathan’s Picks

1. I Got My – Lil Wayne Feat. Static Major

This song is both totally straightforward and intensely complicated at the same time. It’s straightforward because, simply put, “I Got My” has been able to hold the top spot on my current list of favorite songs for a few months now. And that’s a seriously long time for me — I’m generally much more of a slut when it comes to finding and playing new favorite songs. I fall in love with a new one every day. But for some reason “I Got My” has just stuck with me and won’t let go. I think you’ll understand when you hear the way the beat fluidly hops around and how Lil Wayne deftly stays with it, and the way the song just escalates into the amazingly catchy and simple synth-driven chorus. Unfortunately, however, “I Got My” is complicated for two rather big reasons: after being one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2007 (it was set to release in December), the release date of Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III was pushed back to June of 2008 following a massive song leak last year that included many tracks that had been recorded as part of his new album. “I Got My” may have been one of those songs, and it is uncertain whether or not it will make the final cut on Tha Carter III. The second reason is far more grave. Static Major (né Stephen Garrett), a highly regarded singer, songwriter (with multiple number one hits), and producer, died in February under tragic and suspicious circumstances — of either a brain aneurysm or the loss of blood during a medical procedure gone wrong (depending on whom you talk to). Though the extent of Static’s role in “I Got My” remains unclear (writer, producer, vocalist?), it’s certainly one of the last tracks he worked on. I hope to see it on Lil Wayne’s album this June, though it’s far from confirmed. Enjoy this one.

2. Lollipop (Remix) – Lil Wayne Feat. Gabriel Antonio

Speaking of Static Major, he is also featured prominently on the original release of “Lollipop,” the first single of Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III. Sadly, Static died just weeks before the song’s official release. “Lollipop” would eventually top the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and Static Major can be still be seen in the song’s accompanying music video. This sentimentality, however, is not why I chose the remix of “Lollipop,” which basically substitutes Static Major for Gabriel Antonio, a rising R&B/Hip Hop artist out of Florida. Frankly, I don’t love the original version of the song, nor do I love the remix — as Lil Wayne said, “Dudes are gonna hate this one…..ugly dudes, that is.” Now, I love Lil Wayne, and it’s certainly not that I’m calling myself ugly — far too vain for that — but this just ain’t exactly a record for the fellas. This is the song that’s supposed to be radio and club-friendly, in order to drum up excitement and sales for Tha Carter III album as a whole. But what I find interesting about the “Lollipop” remix, and the reason I selected it for today’s picks, is that Lil Wayne utilizes Auto-Tune vocal processor (you its sound know first from Cher’s “Believe,” then from every T-Pain song ever, and most recently Snoop Dogg’s “Sexual Eruption”) throughout his vocals on entire song — not just in the chorus. So, in other words, he actually raps using Auto-Tune to distort and digitize his voice, something not yet done by rappers. And now, the trend is starting to catch on: just a few days ago I got a copy of Young Jeezy’s new single “Put On,” which features an extremely tight verse from Kanye West, with Kanye doing his entire verse using Auto-Tune. So now you know it’s officially happening, and we’ll have to keep an eye out to see if other rappers start following the trend set by industry leaders like Lil Wayne and Kanye.

3. Santogold – You’ll Find a Way (Switch vs. Sinden Remix)

It’s not hard to see why Santogold has been hailed as “the next M.I.A.” for the last…..well, I don’t even know how long it’s been. But a long-ass time. Santogold, aka Santi White, is different. Like M.I.A. she’s brown-skinned, sure, but also eschews making anything close to conventional hip hip or R&B music purposely, instead keeping things genre-eclectic and influence-global. Her much-awaited, eponymous first album was released on April 29th, 2008, and it does not disappoint, with an excellent mix of rock, electro, punk, dub reggae, and 80s influences on display throughout the twelve track album. My favorite track, the album’s finale, is a remix of one of her more dub punk efforts, “You’ll Find a Way.” The remix is kind of a minimalist — or maybe sparse is a better word — electro-reggae banger (it would absolutely kill on the dance floor in the right club with the right clientèle) that showcases Santogold’s incredibly unique and powerful voice, switching back and forth from her near-screaming to a sensual and almost casual stage whisper. It’s an extra-unique track from already unique and talented artist. And check out the hot album cover too. Keep your eyes on this one, she’s musically frisky.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Bill Monroe – Rawhide

Ok, it’s been long enough; time for an all-bluegrass picks. At the heart of bluegrass music lies the fiddle tune, they are the lifeblood and the soul of the music. Most of them are real old-timey songs whose origins lie beyond common memory. Nonetheless, everyone knows them and everyone plays them. Fiddle tunes don’t always feature the fiddle but rather the group of instruments as they trade solos. This one features Monroe’s mandolin and his superior skills come in clear as day.

2. Chris Thile – Salt Creek

Chris Thile is possibly the top mandolin player in the country at the moment. Not yet thirty, he has found acclaim since he was in elementary school. Best known for his work with the band Nickel Creek (which broke up recently), Thile has been doing solo work for some time now. This song is a traditional fiddle tune and, compared to either of the previous tunes, it’s plain to see how Thile stretches the bluegrass genre. You can still hear the song’s celtic roots and driving force but it quickly turns into something much jazzier and bluesy. This is about the best that newgrass (the more modern/less traditional bluegrass) has to offer. Enjoy.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: April 4th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. FEAR – Let’s Have A War

2. FEAR – New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones

I’ve really been in a FEAR mode lately. After seeing the live footage of them performing in the Hardcore film “The Decline Of Western Civlization”, I’ve been pretty enamored with them. They had such a Fuck You attitude, it’s hard to not like these guys. Before the show even started they almost had a riot break out by exchanging insults with the crowd. A must watch.

The two FEAR songs I picked are fav’s of mine. I just love how the early Hardcore Punk bands could switch between such silly topics and politically charged songs fearlessly, and successfully. Though they are frequently lumped with Hardcore bands, I think FEAR’s style was a bit different from the typical hardcore band: They have a singer who can actually sing!? AND they have guitar solos? So they were a bit off the track, but their attitude proves them guilty.

3. The Adolescents – Amoeba

Amoeba by the Adolescents (Punkers from the OC) must be the most anthemic punk song ever. I really don’t have any idea what they’re singing about in that song, yet I find myself singing AMOEBA, AMOEBA, all the time. It’s just too cool. So, enjoy.

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Adam Tensta – 80s Baby

This is one of my favorite tracks off Tensta’s album because I too am an 80s baby — played the same video games, wore the same clothes, listened to the same music. The beat’s uptempo, yet maintains a smooth, even, wavy quality throughout, with a classic vocal sample in the chorus that really makes the song. And makes me want to put on my headphones and close my eyes.

2. Snoop Dogg Feat. Robyn – Sexual Eruption (Fyre Dept. Remix)

This is the newest — and best — remix of Snoop’s hit single, “Sexual Eruption,” featuring guest choruses and verses from Robyn, the Swedish electro-pop sensation whose self-titled album was easily one of the highlights of 2007. Producer Shawty Redd’s beat got an synthy electro upgrade on this remix, making an already bona fide club jam into certified banger. This is what a remix should be and rarely is.

3. Fantasia Feat. Polow da Don & Young Jeezy – When I See U (Remix)

I referenced this track at the end of my piece on Adam Tensta and the changing production styles of some American super-producers like Kanye West and Timbaland. While producer Polow da Don hasn’t quite reached “super” status just yet, his recent synth-driven success with Usher’s “Love In This Club” is certainly helping his case. On this, the official (though hard to find) remix of Fantasia’s “When I See U,” I generally try to ignore her mediocre singing, and focus Polow’s bold use of synth sounds that rarely make it out of European studios, let alone onto an American R&B record.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Gillian Welch – Wichita

“Wichita” is a fun song from a songwriter who doesn’t usually write fun songs. Gillian Welch is contemporary artist whose songs invariably sound old as the hills. This goes for her voice too. But, don’t let the catchy tune fool you, the lyrics are beautifully written and serious, yet simple, a Welch trademark. This version is from a 1999 performance with long-time partner (and excellent guitar player/singer in his own right) David Rawlings at California’s Strawberry Music Festival.

2. The Band – Rockin’ Chair

Vocals, musical talent, lyrics, The Band had it all. Oddly enough, four out of five members of what is arguably the greatest American band ever were Canadians. While “Rockin’ Chair” comes toward the end of The Band’s 1969 eponymous album and often gets overshadowed by songs like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Rag Mama Rag,” and “Up on Cripple Creek,” it is really one of the group’s best. Richard Manuel’s vocals are rich and haunting and Levon Helm’s mandolin carries the song off to a faraway, wonderous place.

3. Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band – Harlan Man

Steve Earle is a renowned songwriter and hard-edged country singer. Del McCoury and his band are straight off the Bill Monroe bluegrass family tree; meaning that they play bluegrass the way it should be played, hard, fast, and with soul. Put the two together and you get the awesome 1998 album The Mountain. “Harlan Man” showcases Earle’s songwriting prowess and gruff, no nonsense attitude. McCoury & co. provide the drive, and you’ve got yourself a great American song, off a great American album.

Ignatius’ Picks

1. Animal Collective – Fireworks

I once watched a friend of mine rip his headphones out of his ears when an Animal Collective song came up during shuffle play on his iPod. His facial expression lingered somewhere between somebody who has just finished eating an economy-sized jar of mayonnaise, and somebody who realizes too late that they’ve set their house on fire. He looked offended, as though his mp3 player had purposefully tried to attack his sensibilities and good taste. Enjoy the song.

2. Johnny Greenwood – Open Spaces

I was a huge fan of Johnny Greenwood’s solo output before his work on There Will Be Blood, and this soundtrack reaffirmed my ‘fan status’ tenfold. Open Spaces is the perfect bookend on this menacing hulk of a film score. What I think is truly remarkable is how his arrangements still hold so much weight outside the context of the film.

3. Ween – Ocean Man

I picked this track simply because it’s a fun song of an amazing record. Ween is often dismissed a novelty act, an accusation that I will no doubt refute in a later posting. Whether you worship at the feet of Boognish (the demon that inspired Gene and Dean Ween to begin their songwriting careers) or have written off the Ween brothers as a bunch of hacks, I would imagine it difficult not to enjoy this song.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc playlist HERE

Introducing…Adam Tensta (and his genre-bending sound) to America

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See there’s this album I’ve been listening to for a while now. I seriously enjoy it. It’s got a new and unique sound. The album’s called It’s A Tensta Thing (2007). The only problem is that when I tell people about it, they get turned off before they even turn it on. Why? Probably because the artist, an up-and-cummer (to use porn vernacular), called Adam Tensta, is a Swedish rapper. And evidently, those two words just don’t play well together.

But before you get all freaked out, don’t fret, he spits only in proper (big-A) American (little-g) gangster English. And frankly, he spits very well — somehow seeming to have been born without a Swedish accent. Tensta, whose real name is Adam Momodou Eriksson Taal, (Gambian father, Swedish mother) takes his surname from his ‘hood, a largely immigrant-filled suburb near Stockholm, rather than from his absentee father who he refers to as “Mr. Invisible” on the now-requisite “ode to mama” track, “Incredible,” which features a chorus from Isay, whoever the hell that is.

In interviews, Tensta, 24, has claimed mid-90s Nas and Mobb Deep as early influences (Ed. note: Well done, young Adam!), along with another famed grassroots struggler, Bob Marley. These influences are evident in Tensta’s lyrics, which, while running the marathon from heartfelt and vulnerable to brash and boastful, never let him stray too far from his two main topics: his tough, but clearly cherished, 80s/90s upbringing, and the current racial and political climate of Sweden.

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Written by Jonathan

March 29, 2008 at 12:32 am