This was supposed to be the first single off of 8 Diagrams, but it didn't make the grade. So I'm including it here for those who need to hear every melodious tone from U-God and those other guys. Watch Your Mouth
Now that I'm in school I'm afraid I won't have as much time to do as much posting as I'd like, so I'm gonna keep things brief for a while. I'm listening to a lot of Wu-Tang stuff right now (really digging 8 diagrams) and lucky me that I found this at a record store a few weeks back for 4 bucks: Wu-Tang family Sunz of Man's first impressive lp. The following track is the most infectious of the bunch. After the obligatory skit that opens it, the song blows up like a classic Wu-Tang track should; with a heavy, sludgy, repetitive loop, and a lot of yelling. I especially dig the incomprehensible bellowing that takes up the last minute and a half or so of the song. Great classic Wu material.
I was shopping for a helmet and a bike lock today at Fred Meyer (school starts tomorrow, and since school is only a few miles from my house I thought I'd be a good carbon-conscious citizen and bike it, but I didn't have a bike until just a couple weeks ago when I bought my friend's bike -- thanks Dee! -- so I needed a helmet and a lock) when I happened to overhear a conversation between two hipster-looking kids who were easily half my age, about this band: Les Fleur de Lys. I was very impressed that they had even heard about this band, let alone could have a conversation about them. After all, when I was fifteen I didn't know shit about anything. Les Fleur de Lys were a mid-to-late sixties English freakbeat band with zero hits and an ever-changing lineup, who still managed to make some awesome mod/psychedelia. I still wouldn't know anything about them if I hadn't been introduced to their music by a friend at work a few years back who was an ex-record store clerk, and who was deep into the English sixties scene. Through him I learned about Les Fleur and other bands like them; like the Smoke, the Downliner's Sect, the Sorrows, and many more. To me, this seems like some pretty obscure stuff, and it was great to see someone into it besides an old fogey like myself. So, good job, random kids! Don't spend all your allowance at Zumiez. The following track was recorded while Les Fleur were operating under the name "Rupert's People", but a fleur by any other name and all that...
Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin, aka AFX, aka Polygon Window etc, is an insane acid-munching musical genius, and his Caustic Window project is just another testament to that. This unparalleled collection came out in the salad days of electronica (1992!), and to this day it's still more visionary and creative than most of what the genre has to offer. It's half mental and half crazy. I'll eventually write more in-depth commentary on Richard and his hundred or so aliases, but for now just get blissfully weirded out by these two tunes.
I can't figure out why "Down To the Wire" was ever left off of an official Buffalo Springfield release, but it was. It's such a driving, economical and powerful song, and Stephen Stills delivered one of his very best vocal performances singing it. An alternate version to this appeared in the seventies (with Neil Young singing lead) on his Decade retrospective, but this version (from the Buffalo Springfield Box Set) delivers more punch. It's one of the best songs from a band that literally overflowed with talent and creativity. Dig it. Down To the Wire
In the years between "Baby Got Back" and Blue Scholars, Seattle was less than a speck of dust on the hip hop radar. I hate to say it but this is due in part because a lot of hip hop music out of the Northwest just straight-up sucked. I should know: I was a loyal patriot and bought every 12", tape and home-made cd from Northwest hip hop artists that I came across. Don't get me wrong, there was a treasure trove of great stuff (Ghetto Chilldren, Vitamin D, Sharpshooters, Silent Lambs Project). But for every good release I found, I had to wade through seemingly endless amounts of crap (I'm not here to talk smack about anyone, but never buy anything by the High Children). Luckily for me, Doublevision didn't fall into the crap category. I know next to nothing about Doublevision. And as far as I know The Year Two Gee... was their only release. This early production effort from young up-and-comer Bean One featured X.Troydinare and Page3 on vocals, and it dropped in 1999. I came across it in the dearly departed Orpheum Records shop on Broadway one night after work, and was immediately unimpressed by the cheesy packaging. But being the loyal local arts supporter that I was I shelled out the cash and listened to it with an open mind and an open bottle while walking home. And what I heard surprised me: It wasn't the best ever, but for being an obviously home-made Seattle production it sounded pretty damn good. It was a warm summer night, the walk was pleasant, and the tunes sounded fine, so now whenever I hear this record I always think of this first impression while journeying home. It definitely has a nocturnal, lo-fi, distinctly Northwest sound to it, so I recommend listening to the following tracks like I did: Late at night, on headphones, walking down a quiet shaded street (and don't forget the 211!).
Depending on how you feel, the Stone Roses might be one of the best rock bands ever, or they might have a lot to answer for. They're definitely influential; you can hear their mark in British music from the Charlatans U.K, to the Verve, to Oasis, and even Radiohead. Although they only lasted for a couple albums and a handful of singles, their sound and attitude have been left on rock'n'roll for nearly two decades. Emerging out of the late-eighties Manchester rave scene, the Stone Roses quickly rose to prominence with early singles like "Sally Cinnamon" and "Here It Comes", before releasing their debut self-titled full-length, and hatching a score of immitaters. What marked the band from their lesser counterparts was their sense of beyond-cocky self-assurance and arrogance. It was as if they were aware of the legacy they would create, and felt completely as if it was their birthright to be placed between Elvis and Mick Jagger in the rock bad-boy history books. That egotistical attitude fits perfectly within Ian Brown's hushed vocals and John Squire's guitar heroics, and it's even endearing. Certainly that sense of superhuman entitlement helped the Roses achieve the rock stardom they strove for. It's a formula that fits, as seemingly everyone in British rock royalty has adopted this attitude, from the Gallagher brothers to Pete Doherty. And it definitely left an impression me. For a brief while in the early nineties (before I heard Nirvana) I thought they were the coolest band - hands down. I've included two of their most memorable tracks, the aptly named "I Wanna Be Adored" and "I Am the Resurrection". See any consistencies?
P.E.A.C.E. is insane, and he has stupid-amazing skills! All Deadly Jizzm High Definition has the coolest name in hiphop! Dank P. doesn't even have a name as cool as that! P.E.A.C.E. rapped on this track, and Jizzm produced it! They work really well together, and they should do it more often! Click on the link below to hear "Vehicular Manslaughter," and become a shameless fan like me!!! Vehicular Manslaughter
This is one of my first "favorite songs." I remember being really into it in 2nd grade. I loved the eeriness of it. It has that inhuman, robotic percussion and that evil-sounding keyboard melody. And then there's Phil Collin's dirty-old-man cackle, which just takes the song over the top. I've always been a fan of spooky stuff, and at the time the song made me think of Halloween and all the spooky things that go with it. It wasn't until much later that I noticed how disturbing and Oedipal the lyrics are, but hey, I guess that just makes it even creepier. Click the title of this post to hear "Mama."
This is Jamaican superstar Bob Andy's rocksteady version of the Joe South song "Games People Play," and he performs it like it was made for him. He cut this infectious track back in early 1969, shortly before achieving international star status with his duet with Marcia Griffiths of "Young, Gifted and Black," but in my opinion "Games" is a superior performance. I love his voice and his delivery; he really belts it out on this song. And at only three minutes I can't ever listen to it just once (I'm on my third listen as I write this). The link is below, so enjoy.
Fairport's sound improved considerably from their first album to their next, 1969's What We Did On Our Holidays. One reason was that Judy Dyble's replacement, Sandy Denny, was a much more full-bodied and charismatic singer. Another reason is that the band members were more confident in their rolls as songwriters. Stylistically the album is all over the place, but it isn't lacking because of this. Instead it gives it a sense of vitality and enthusiasm, as the members of Fairport were all still very young and eager to explore where the music could go. Their sound would become much more cohesive on their next outing, so What We Did remains a brief snapshot of a band still coming into their own.
I'm not articulate enough, nor do I want to spend all day trying in vain to express to you just how amazed I am at this record, so I'm including a link to Amazon where Mike Newmark's review of Portishead's Third sums it all up, right here. Also, I'm not including a track for dl as I usually do, because I feel like Third can't be represented by just one of its songs. So check it out here at last.fm, or better yet, go buy the album. Really, I don't know the last time I geeked out so hard over a record. Yay.
This was my favorite album of 2007. When I heard "2080" on the radio it was catchy enough to hook me on first listen, but it's also that rare breed of song that offers more each time I hear it. That's one of the great things about all of the tunes on Yeasayer's impressive and sophisticated debut album, All Hour Cymbals: Each time I listen to it I hear something new. I'm always catching instruments and studio effects I hadn't heard before, and songs which seemed weaker in comparison to others suddenly stand out on their own. Although they know how to craft songs with instantly memorable hooks, Yeasayer's music can also be ethereal and mysterious, and the songs constantly veer off from their expected paths to take off elsewhere. The album in an instrumental sense is all over the place, incorporating sequencers and studio effects with eclectic folk and world music instrumentation. But under the gauzy atmospherics and meandering song structures they keep a deep and heavy beat, at times even approaching Timbaland's stuttering, percussive territory. This is truly a compelling and awe-inspiring album. For a debut record to be this consistent and strong, I'm really excited to hear what they'll offer us in the future. Click the title of the post to hear "2080".
I know a lot of people don't like to hear about it, but for a while back in the mid-to-late nineties trip hop was alive and well as a legitimate genre. borrowing heavily from hiphop, soul and techno, the largely-English form of stoner dance music gained a brief but monstrous amount of popularity before an even bigger backlash fractionalized and ghettoized it to various subgenres of electronica such as downbeat, lounge, chillout, etc. So it gets talked a lot of smack now, but back in the day I thought it was the end-all and be-all of modern music, and the pinnacle of urban pop. And this album is where I heard it first. The Rebirth of Cool gave me my initial exposure to artists such as Tricky, Massive Attack, Portishead, the Prodigy, Kruder & Dorfmeister, and a host of others. For a high-school kid in the rural northwest, where everything was still really grunged-out, these artists made music that sounded alien, futuristic and ominous, but also groovy and rough-edged enough to have street cred. It was truly exciting music and to me it seemed like something completely new. Apparently trip hop had that effect on a lot of people, because by 1997 Tricky and the Prodigy were MTV darlings, and second-wavers like the Sneaker Pimps and Hooverphonic were making a very brief but spectacular rise. Of course, overexposure killed the scene off, but in the brief years prior to that I was a shameless fanboy, and I still count the Rebirth of Cool as one of my favorite and influential collections of music.
The same friend who introduced me to Download also exposed me to this twisted work: Milk Cult. Essentially a Steel Pole Bathtub side project, dj C.C. Nova and guitarist Bumblebee created aural experiments with samples, found sounds and a host of other bay-area guest-musicians. I have a vivid memory of listening to this one night years ago on my car's crappy tape deck while driving around aimlessly through the Northwest woods. The night was pitch-black, and the music should have been from a David Lynch film. So I got the willies, turned my car around and went home. Yep, Milk Cult. I included two tracks here, the understated "Blue Godzilla" (with guitar and vocal contribution from Jawbreaker's Blake Schwartzenbach) and the song that creeped me out so good, "Son of Obituary".
I remember the first time I heard this song. I had stayed over at a friends house, making music and partying until the wee hours. The morning after I sat bleary and stupid in his parents dining room, eating Cracklin' Oat Bran, while I listened to this loud, obnoxious, noisy record. "Who is this?", I mumbled. "Download," was the reply, and I was all set to dismiss it as another one of my friends' little brothers' abrasive industrial death records, (which is great and all but at that moment,was not really my thing) when Base Metal came on. Surprisingly consistent and cohesive (especially for Download), the driving percussion and circular synth line was hypnotic and captivating (and captivating me before noon is quite a feat, since I'm the most non-morning person on the planet). The mood of the song was dark and desolate (I have a soft, gooey spot for dark and desolate things), with treated dialogue floating in and out of the mix, which included heavilly reverbed percussion and the constant sound of running water. It was such a lean and direct sound, that at four and a half minutes I felt like the song could have easily gone on for twice as long. It's an example of industrial music at its grooviest and finest, from some of the originators of the genre. Click on the title of the post or click the link below to hear the track. base metal
In the same year as Fairport's debut record, the Strawbs were shopping their brand-new demo around the English labels. The folk trio had recently acquired a brand-new singer, as well - a young woman by the name of Sandy Denny. Guitarist Dave Cousins had seen her playing one night at the Troubadour in Earl's Court, and was instantly taken with her breathtaking voice. He asked her to join that very night, and to his surprise she agreed. However, in the ages it took to find a suitable label, Sandy was wooed away by the Fairport Convention, who were a more established group, who and had recently lost the vocal talents of Judy Dyble. Together, Sandy and the Fairport Convention would make four memorable albums, reach their highest achievements, and eventually create the genre known as English folk-rock. Click on the title of this post to hear "Sail Away To the Sea" by Sandy and the Strawbs.
This song from Mr. Pop's first solo album ('77) is vintage Iggy at his best. The groove is instantly memorable. It's one of his most poetical songs. Every off-key note he hits is purposeful and perfect and spot-on. Bowie's production is sympathetic, creating a sound that matches the lyrical content like nobody else could. And, most effectively, it oozes like a weeping sore. Nothing portrays sickness and wasted life like "Dum Dum Boys". God, why can't I write songs this cool? Click the title of the post to hear the song.
I came across Pipher wilst surfing on the world-wide web! Myspace, to be exact! See, it's not all bad! Check out umor-rex.net and http://www.myspace.com/umor to hear more of Pipher and other like-minded artists. Download their albums for free (that's how they like it) and give them props, since they're the most innovative collective of musical artists on the planet, for sure. I can't praise them enough, and they all seem like nice people to boot. Click the title of this post to hear "Chanson des Astres" from his album Vendetta Lullaby.
Fairport Convention has been one of my favorite bands over the last several years, partly because their music was so varied and compelling, partly because their history is so interesting, and partly because of the amazing outgrowth of solo artists, side projects, and groups that have ties to them. With over 40 years of playing under their belts, Fairport has a huge family tree, and chronicling that alone could fill an entire book. I promise I won't go into that much detail, and I won't cover their entire history, but I will start at the beginning: Their debut album from '68. Although it is a competent release from a talented group of young people (who wanted really badly to be the Jefferson Airplane), I enjoy the album not because of the music (don't get me wrong, the music is fine) but because it offers a glimpse of the greater musical heights of creativity this band would soon achieve. Here are guitarists Richard Thompson and Simon Nicole, Bassist Ashley Hutchings, drummer Martin Lamble, and singers Ian Matthews and Judy Dyble taking their first tentative steps together. Click on the title of the post to hear "Time Will Show the Wiser".
Only an English ballad could be so morbid and beautiful at the same time. And nobody can sing such a ballad like Shirley Collins. One of the great grand dammes of the English folk scene, Shirley collins has had a wide and varied career. In the 50's, she lived and traveled with Alan Lomax, and was there when he "discovered" Fred McDowell. Later on she created a folk-blues hybrid with guitar visionary Davey Graham, and in the sixties pioneered a kind of baroque-folk using only period instruments with sister Dolly Collins, as well as with members of the Early Music Consort. And in the seventies she helped create the first folk-rock super group, the Albion Country Band, with now ex-husband Ashley Hutchings. What Shirley is best known for is her voice, which is thick and dusky and old. Whether the song she's singing is acapella, or with a full electrified accompaniment, her voice is always the obvious focus. And although her voice can't always be considered beautiful in the usual sense of the word, it is never the less unique and captivating, and she always chooses the right songs to showcase her talent. Of her immense body of work, "The Cruel Mother" is to me her finest example of the emotive quality she can project. Using a spare arrangement consisting of a backing male chorus and her own minimal banjo playing, this song is heartbreaking and perfect. Click on the title of the post to hear the track.
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