28 December 2008

Artist of the Week - 28 December 2008

This week, I'm keeping my AOTW pretty stripped down: I'm only doing one.

And on that note, here she is - Inga Liljestrom!

Let me break this down into organic levels:

Dusky/Sultry (for Dusky see fourth entry, third definition): There is a melancholy-desire inducing quality to Inga's voice. It is injected with enough smokiness to make you picture a jazz diva peeling the rind of your mind to reveal the innermost workings of your soul. Line by line, word by word is shared with inspiration and desperation (not to sound too cliche, but to hear Phoenix for the first time will beckon an inward force toward the surface you haven't felt in a while). 

Basic: The naked essence of her music, choice of instruments and temperaments, and use of range keeps her sound fresh. Example: 29 Poisons. The use of the Spanish guitar as a background for her voice rings with haunting simplicity. The beauty of this song is the LACK of beat. Anything more would be near blasphemy!

Power without Force: In a recent Yahoo! Music blog entry, a list was composed of "Singers who Can't Sing" bullet pointing artists who really can't and those who can but go toooooo far (i.e. Celine Dion). She uses her voice to reward, not punish, your ears. 

You can purchase here music here

h/t: Shawn Amos at Get Back

21 December 2008

Artists of the week - 21 December 2008

Here I am, back with a few more artists for you to check out.

Kate Havnevik

*For "Grey's Anatomy" fans, you already know of Kate's work.

I was tooling around Amazon looking for music to buy when I first discovered Ms. Havnevik . Almost every time I'd venture to a trip-hop/downtempo artist page, one link I'd find popping up was this Norwegian songstress's album "Melankton". I gave in and finally ventured to YouTube to see what I could find. The first video appeared after my initial search was "Unlike Me." My first impression was the video is well done and beautiful. All of it is shot underwater with the cinematography telling the story of an inner struggle with a relationship. I have to admit I expected a bigger "bang" after the various build-ups during the track's timespan, but after a few listens I figured the song was "pert-near" perfect in and of itself. It didn't need anything else.

My curiosity was piqued and I had to find more of her music. In my continued search I kept finding wonderful song after song: from "Kaliedoscope" to "Nowhere Warm" to "New Day." "New Day" filled my need for a big musical buildup with a hypnotic synthline attached to it that led me to push replay time and time again at her Myspace page. "Nowhere Warm" has a special place in my heart when my then-fiancee had to leave for the summer and we didn't get to see each other until we married. Needless to say - good stuff! I was hooked and an online vendor had another CD sold.

If you want me to give you specific tracks to check out from her Melankton album... I'd have to say all of them. Don't worry, you will not be disappointed.

Guy Sigsworth (you may know him from frou frou) is currently working with her on her next album due out sometime next year.

Imogen Heap

This isn't a call to arms just because I mentioned Sigsworth and frou frou to next pick Imogen Heap. I'm doing this because I enjoy her music. And I'm dedicating this little blurb to one song: "Hide and Seek." There aren't many songs out there which give me chills everytime I hear it , and this is one of them (another one is "Phoenix" by Inga Liljestrom).

It is now time to not keep this song a "secret" any longer. SNL fans may remember snippets of this song from a Shia LeBouf skit entitled "Dear Sisiter." Funny, funny stuff!

There is just SOMETHING about THIS SONG. The lyrics - haunting. The musical soundscapes - haunting. The imagery - haunting. I think you get the picture. While searching for this song's meaning, I found a breakdown of the intricacies of it here. The more I read about it, the legend grows mores.

Imogen used to have on one of her sites different versions of this song created by fans. There was a Kazoo chorus, a marching band, an a capella group and I believe a few others.

This song seems to have a life of its own.

I'm willing to go the route of the Cryptozoologists and keep the "myth" alive.

Keep the myth alive and listen to this song!

18 December 2008

Just cuz you listen to music...

Here's a confession... one that I freely make. It doesn't come at the cost of an investigative report to expose my dealings in some shady business deal or from a Senate inquiry into my past.

Here it is: I'm not a music expert.

You heard that right, I'm not a music expert.

Do I love music? Greatly! Do I know something about music? Enough to get me into trouble.

Just because I have created a music blog and I like to share with you my personal insights an expert that doth not make!

Will this stop me sharing my opinions? No. There are quite a few people out there who have tastes that are contrary to mine, and that's wonderful! One of the best "musical relationships" I've had in a long time has come over the past two years. We were co-workers and he taught a class called "Music in Society." He encouraged me to take it and because of him I gained a respect for Brandon at Properly Chilled and Chris from Beauty's Confusion. (Who both helped me tremendously on a project about downtempo, triphop and chillout music. Chris is now in a group called and then static since Beauty's Confusion is no more). This guy I would put into an expert position! He has books and books on the subject, his iPod is bulging and his knowledge, combined with the ways he juxtaposes it upon the topic, are immense. We would get into conversations about protest music of today versus the 60s. We would share great bands together and he'd teach me about others that I should listen to. There were times in his class where I'd be the only one to contribute because others would be stumped. All in all: it was great!

Did we agree all the time? No! Especially about Johnny Cash.

Here's what I'm saying, he wasn't willing to belittle you because you clashed with his ideas (unless you are far off the mark, he wouldn't belittle you. He would just say, "Awww, c'mon" and laugh). He would tell you they were not a favorite of his, and I can handle that (No, this isn't a hagiography! Just giving credit where credit is due).

This brings me to another story from my past. After swim class, this one individual was talking about music and I mentioned some bands I like (Cowboy Mouth and Old 97s... cowpunk music). Well, he didn't know about those groups (he's a post-punk, emo fan) and after I informed him of their unique style of music thinking he might be interested, he almost came unglued towards me. "Those two styles of music shouldn't be put together," he insisted. Boy, was I sorry I mentioned it (REGRET ALERT: I've done this a couple of times... more in a passive agressive way, hence me not calling myself an expert... for sake of argument - just becaue you do belittle a person doesn't mean you're NOT an expert. Here it seemed (yes, judgement statement) he was trying to promote his grasp of the subject when he wasn't willing to see other pastures. If he said, "I'm not sure about that," I can handle that!).

He shared with us one day his feelings about a certain post-punk group (which I can't remember today) and how they wrote great music. (OPINION ALERT) In my mind I couldn't help but smirk/laugh. I'm sure they write good music, at least to him. To me, how can you compare this group to people such as Johnny Cash (sorry, Bryce), Kris Kristofferson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson ("Tears of a Clown"), etc., etc., etc.? My list may not go very far, but we are comparing two leagues: Single A and Hall of Famers.

I mentioned earlier that I was a product of the early 90s rock scene. Let me add in that I also grew up on oldies. I was asked in High School who my favorite group was, and at that time it was Simon and Garfunkel. (It later became the Hollies - "Bus Stop" is such a catchy tune, and eventually landed on Our Lady Peace). My parents would listen to an Oldies station every time we were in the car which led me to know Elvis Presley, the Royal Guardsman, the Byrds, the Guess Who, and other great bands. Some days I can give you the names of these groups in seconds. Others, I have to wait and see.

So, I do know a little bit... as I said earlier - enough to get me into trouble.

Here's the point I'm getting at: there's a difference between being knowledgeable and just listening to music; being a child of fads and a fan of the art. I could be wrong about the second individual. I'm willing to admit that. When you laugh at someone for their points, and your tone is one of condescention... it tends to speak volumes. It also speaks volumes when you are willing to listen to others and their opinions and just go "right on" and let that be.

I guess I need to listen to Malcolm Gladwell more and stop making unrealistic quick moment judgements that will get me into trouble.

With all of this said: I'm no expert. If you disagree with me, wonderful! Through this blog, I hope you get a taste of some of the musical genres I enjoy. You never know, you may find something you like.

14 December 2008

This weeks artists to check out 14 December 2008

Being heavily influenced by 90s music, I have fond memories of bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Our Lady Peace, and Hootie and the Blowfish.

Yes, Hootie and the Blowfish.

No, this isn't a joke!

I remember when I first heard them on the radio and I thought Pearl Jam had a new single out. I was excited, but taken back a bit. Then I cleaned my ears out and realized it was not the beloved grunge band. Despite this fact, I was hooked by this "new" band's sing-songy tunes and southern-fried pop which led me to go out and by their tape. I came close to wearing it out.

The radio started to overplay HATB, and I became jaded (see definitions one and two). I lost my love for the South Carolinian band which led me to change to dial everytime their music came on. I had to give them credit (and still do today), though, for selling gobs and gobs of records! Unfortunately, their follow-ups never matched the success of "Cracked Rear View."

Now, let's fastforward about 13 years to the present. I was listening to the radio at work (it's a country store that plays Country music non-stop) and I happened to hear a familiar voice... Darius Rucker! (The lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish, just in case you didn't know.)

(Here's another secret that I am willing to share - I like Country music as well.)

Since then, I've heard a couple of singles on XM radio, and it sounds like he's back to form. Hearing him again brings back memories of singing along to "Hold My Hand" and "Let Her Cry," not to mention the good ole days when one of my biggest accomplishments was being able to add pins to my letter jacket. He's also found a way to transcend genres.... Well, you can make the argument that the move is a lateral one. If we're speaking in terms of where you'd be able to find him on the radio dial, then he's made a shift. Darius has made his way back to being relevant in the music world. It seems that he is not making a big deal about it (from what I understand) by allowing his music to make headlines. You can list him among fellow musicians making the jump, such as Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, and dare I say, Jessica Simpson (Can you really say she was relevant in the first place?).

After so long, it's good to have a familiar voice back on the radio.

On another note - let's dive back into my supposed field of interest: the downtempo life! Here are a couple of acts to check out!

This week, we're heading down under to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia!

First up: Velure

They describe themselves as "Downbeat Dubby Glitchy Smoothness." I place them in the lines of Abraham (UK) and Zero 7 for their 60s/70s feel (with a touch of Chris Joss and his "blacksploitation" inspired mixes), Natalie Walker/bitter:sweet-esque vocals (with some sugar to sweeten the spice), and enough dub blended to keep them unique. Velure is one of my pleasant discoveries whilst browsing through the Trip-hop/Downtempo files over at Myspace. In a moment I'll never regret, I downloaded their album, Care for Fading Embers, from amazon.com!

Tracks to check out: 2, 3.

Second in line: Spoonbill

Have you ever wanted to laugh at music? Well, yes, you probably have. For the most part it was due to the fact the music was pretty bad and the only way to to get out what you felt was by chuckling. I admit... the wording of the question is bad.

Here's what I mean: not only laugh because the music is just that good, but has good humor mixed in as well?

I can only describe my first aural experience with Spoonbill in this way.

This DJ from Australia just has a knack of throwing in light-hearted samples while tantalizing your senses with his turntable wizardry. With tracks named "bouncing stones" and "Half a Lamington," I personally couldn't take myself serious (in a healthy type of way). Outside of the good humor, he's got some great stuff! Regretfully, I have yet to buy any of his albums.

one of these days when I make more than 7 bucks an hour...

On a final note: Here's my record store pick: http://www.vitamin.net.au/. Get great Australian music here!

09 December 2008

Properly Chilled and Below Zero Beats

Here come two endorsements from yours truly:

First, I'm going to tip my hat in respect to a cool place to find chilled out beats: Properly Chilled! To the folks over there, I thank them for helping me out for a school project and in return I'll place a link to send all of you over to the wonderful confines of their home on the interlubes. I have found a few tidbits (such as Mr. Chop - fun, funky 70s trip hop) from their vast musical resources which have tickled my fance and encourage you to visit their URL.

This leads me to another website that I found with thanks to P.C. That site is below zero beats. Below Zero is a downtempo/chillout show sent out over the airwaves every Sunday on Energy 92.7 out of San Francisco. As Mason Rothert reminds you every week, he's gonna "take you there!" They have streaming audio of that weeks show, courtesy of Live365, and a link to download their podcast from the friendly folks of Netmusique.

UPDATE: I just want to thank the guys over at BZB for all of their help and their generosity. They've been great to work with and quick in responding to questions. Here's a big ole country "YEEEHOO" to y'all!

08 December 2008

Let's get this ball rolling!

Greetings, one and all, to my little hotspot of pretensiousness. This is my futile attempt at a musical blog where I bring you the music I like (and the stuff that I don't) and give you my opinions on it. Will most of you like it... that is yet to be decided. Here's one thing that I can tell you; I'll be writing it. That should be a warning and a relief to a few of you out there.

What types of music will I talk about in my inane ramblings? Trip-hop, downtempo, chillout - the works. Does that mean I'll be limited to just these subgenres? HECK NO! Just, at this moment in my life, I've become a fan of these types of music.

Here's a quick list of groups/artists I've become enamoured with:

Royksopp (Norway)
Kate Havnevik (Norway)
Beauty's Confusion (Philadelphia, PA)
Natalie Walker/Daughter Darling (Philadelphia, PA)
Inga Liljestrom (Australia)
Velure (Australia)
Frost (Norway)
Edison Gem (Los Angeles)

...and the list keeps growing!

Thanks for dropping by, and if you have any music you'd like me to know about or even listen to - hook me up!

Pepsistuff/Amazon music download reviews

I will admit right here, right now, that I fell subject to the whole PepsiStuff promotion! Here's the thing, I didn't pay a dime for the points. It was all legal, don't worry, don't worry. I'm cheap, but not THAT cheap. In my fury of collecting these priceless nuggets of digital musical tidbits, I found some good tracks, and some that I wish I would have left out. There were quite a few that I knew I wanted before I pressed "Save" to the computer and others that were just a complete stab in the dark. SO, in keeping with the spirit of this blog - here goes a few reviews of the tracks I downloaded.

1. The Hop - by Radio Citizen (album: Berlin Serengeti): This bouncy little morsel hit my audio canals from the great website called Pandora. Not to get too bogged down in hyperbole, but this is just a fun song. The jazzy vocals give a smoky, R&B vibe with the distorted, dropping organ melody driving the tune with turntable beats riding shotgun. I am always excited when I hear a song that grabs my attention, gets my head bobbing, and keeps me pushing replay just to hear the different nuances over and over again. Of all the downloads I scored from Amazon.com, I'd have to places this one square on top.

Rating: 5 out of 5

2. Love Song - Lily Cushman Culhane (album: One): Here is one of those songs that sounds like it has a lot of possibility. It starts out with some cool minimalistic jazz piano loops formulating a nice experimental sound. It flows into a cool chorus section and then morphs into a sweet dub guitar pushing the melody along. All of this flows well until a minute and a half is left and the song seems to lose its focus. "Yes, this is my love song" gets stuck on repeat which leads to a pretentious ending. I can handle the song, but my wife on the other hand just despises it. Would I recommend it? If it was just the first half, then Yes. But here is what I'll say - if you like cool experimental trip-hop, then take this little tune for a spin. If overbearing repetition chafes your hide, then don't even bother.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

3. Hayling - FC Kahuna: I know some of you are probably chuckling at me for speaking about how repetition and techno do not go together... well, in the previous review I'm speaking about one song.

The point (IMHO) of techno is simplicity and repetition!!! Hayling, from FC Kahuna, is an example of great use of "theme and variation" in techno music; especially downtempo/chillout/trip-hop. Let me head off into Tangentland (TM) for a few about how I feel repetition is wonderful in techno! Caveat: this isn't based off of anyone else's recollections, scholarly intrigue, or from something logical. This is just me merely bloviating about a topic, and hopefully I'll salvage some sort of credibility while doing so. When I think of great repetition in techno, the first couple of songs that pop into my head are "Sandstorm" by Darude and "Revenge of the Black Regent" by Add N to X. Here, both examples take a basic melody that makes you move, i.e. like the plot of a good book. Then they build on it, make it viable, and call it their own. Add in some catchy keyboards, wonderful vocals, or even some snappy breaks (another great trip-hop example of this would HAVE to be Wax Taylor (see "To Dry Up," "Our Dance")), and Frankenstein's baby boy is born! The melody is life to the song. The add-ons are the experiences. The choruses, lyrics, etc, make it all the more fulfilling. I love repetition. I even like Lily Cushman's song, but I have to be in the mood for it.

Okay, back to the task at hand. The lyrics to this song are so simple, yet so penetrating.

Don't think about all those things you
Just be glad to be here.

So simple, and yet almost misplaced. Definitely words for a motivational poster, I'd say! The melody makes a few subtle changes, yet stays true to form. All in all, a great pick from the Pandora box!

h/t: auralgasms for the lyrics.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5