/*Google*/ /*Hosting*/ 2008 | SFCritic Music Blog



Here at SFCritic, we'd like to wish you a Happy New Years, and thank you for reading!



The Path Walked

"So what are you doing with this blog?" Just over two months ago, this blog was conceived on a trip while riding in a cab. Now writing for two magazines my postings have decreased, but I hope your interest hasn't.

The New Year is near, and I'm thinking resolutions?, life changes?, and should I reflect? So many music websites are stating their favorite bands/albums/songs in the past--thus, I've got to be more creative. When this blog was conceived, I wrote:

I think music defines us. I think music can help one understand people by what they do, don't or claim to listen to. Call it judging. Call it tastes. Call it knowledge. We all assess life based on different mediums, beliefs, systems or structures--why not music?

Some people asked to know the purpose of SFCritic, implying I'd lost my course, or that my new posts seemed like tangents. Consider this posting a reconstruction of what has been stated, and an ushering of what is to come. Oh New Years, let us say there is something NEW this year.

In these posts I've references artists I like, discussed behavioral associations, symbolic references, and intertwined them in discussions of culture, life, and music.

I began this playlist of posts with direct cultural critique. Ne-Yo and the notion of an "independent woman," eliciting social paradigms in music concerning gender and also suggesting a viewpoint for analyzing popular music through a historical lens.

The next track intended to show how music and associations can change one's listening perspective. Whether discussing "fighting music," or "coffee house music," the topics were meant to assert that music is not just something you listen to, but can describe events, activities, or environments through manifested associations.

Finally, in a narcissistic, "this is my playlist" fashion, I added my own flare offering music suggestions. This wasn't merely to add posts when I was consumed with other deadlines, but also to provide an outlet to continue the exchange of music. Hopefully in the new year, this exchange can go both ways, with readers recommendations and discussion of the music proposed.

This blog will continue to highlight artists, critique society's cultural discourse through music, and poke fun at the stupid things we do (Aka "The Macarena").

For those of you reading this blog, thanks. Now, as I try begin a writing career, I can use your help. Sustain freelance writing by clicking on the Ad--it doesn't bite.

Happy New Years All!

David Johnson-Igra

Vampire Weekend and Cold War Kids at Live 105 NSSN

It’s a Wednesday night, but The Mezzanine is sold-out for Live 105’s Pre-Party to Not So Silent Night. The warehouse looking club is decorated in holiday spirit with dim yellow lights illuminating large hanging snowflakes and white flowered poinsettias, creating a mellow and warm atmosphere: a perfect mood for a night of indie rock.

With record sales plummeting, and the illegal sharing of MP3s continuing to rise, the future of albums and compilations are bleak, scaring not only record labels, but artists. Now the pressure for a band’s survival rests on their ability to perform live.

If every show were perfect, the opening band would invigorate the crowd, and be followed by an even more engaging and exciting performance, eventually leading to the headlining band who’d have the crowd hot ‘n sweaty screaming for an encore. Nearing perfection, Wednesday’s performances by Audrye Sessions, Chairlift, Cold War Kids and Vampire Weekend, played like a crescendo ending in a large dance party.

San Francisco’s Audrye Sessions who began the nights’ festivities, played with a gentle sound that eased the crowd into the night. Following Sessions was Chairlift, a three piece band, lead by singer Caroline Polachek. Still relatively unknown to the crowd, Chairlift received cheers of excitement and applause as they played, “Bruises,” the group’s first hit, and featured on Itune’s 4th generation Nano ad campaign. During “Bruises,” drummer Patrick Wimberly put down his sticks and picked up the bass guitar, helping generate the most energy during the band’s set. My friend accompanying me, a casual bass player, suggested that the band lacked freedom in their music because they didn’t have a bass player to accompany the drums—a point I thought worthy to highlight.

There is a certain breath and confidence that distinguishes good bands, from great, something that was evident once Cold War Kids took the stage. The four piece band sounds more complete and dynamic than the preceding bands, as they raised the level of performance just a notch higher. Lead singer Nathan Willet’s voice is strong, and piercing with high pitch notes on tracks like “Something is Not Right With Me,” “Mexican Dogs,” and “Hang Me Up To Dry.” The band has stage presence, which was highlighted when Willet on the guitar and Matt Maus on bass faced each other, each strumming away, bending their knees with each new chord. Their performance was a show, entertaining, as well as invigorating, not just a listening session.

Vampire Weekend’s first album, released early in 2008, has created quite the stir, being labeled by Spin as “The Year’s Best New Band,” and their song “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” ranked 67th on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Best songs of the year.

I had high expectations for Vampire Weekend, a new and growing success story, immersed in a growing fan buzz. Dressed casually, the band played stiffly, hardly moving, impressing upon me that the band seems caught up in more success than they know what to do with. Even so, their performance was sharp, with vocalist Ezra Koenig hitting every note, and the backing maintaining the levity and grace that makes listening to their entire album through and through so easy. Playing all their notable tracks, from “A-Punk,” to “Oxford Comma,” the band had the crowd jumping, twisting, head bobbing in a way the previous bands were unable to achieve. Towards the end of their set, Ezra acknowledged the dance party by stating “This is the hottest it’s been, thanks for generating the body heat,” a nerdy comment reaffirming the group’s humility and Columbia background. By the end of the show, I was left wanting more, but too much of good thing is never good—yet with several tour dates sold-out (like this show), I’m clearly not the only one.


A Message from Jay Z

This article is a reprinting of a feature of Jay Z as one of the top artists of the last ten years, originally posted on betterpropaganda.com. SFCritic liked the style, and thought I'd highlight/share it with you. Enjoy:

Nobody knows Jay Z better than Jay Z. So why should I try explaining his legacy, skills, impact, and story—when he can? This piece is a montage of Jay Z’s lyrics throughout all his albums. With a little narration, I’ll let him explain why we should consider him one of top 100 artists of the last 10 years.

Jay Z, you’ve sold millions of hip hop records. From hustlin’ streets to MTV Unplugged, how would you describe your impact in hip hop?

(Jay Z)
I'm, young H.O., rap's Grateful Dead
I keep it realer than most, I know you’re feelin it
I can't see 'em comin down my eyes
So I gotta make the song cry

(D) Your music is pretty well known—no?

(J) Then run and tell them ducks you heard Hovi new shit
He and the boy Phar-real make beautiful music
He is to the East coast what Snoop is
To the West, what 'Face is to Houston

(D) What about your lyrical content? Every rapper raps about the hood. Every rapper seems to talk about sex, drugs and booty, what makes you a top artist?

(J) Radio's gotta play me though I cuss too much
Magazine said I'm shallow, I never learned to swim
Just read a magazine that fucked up my day
How you rate music that thugs with nothin relate to it?
I help them see they way through it - not you
Can't step in my pants, can't walk in my shoes
Bet everything you worth; you lose your tie and your shirt
Can't deny me, why would you want to
You need me, why don't you try me

(D) So I can’t critique you because I haven’t walked a day in your shoes. So if you’re content is not much different than other, what can critics point to say, “this is one of the greatest hip hop artists?”

(J) I stretched the game out, X'ed your name out
I’m a business man, not a business man
Demandin y'all respect, hand over a check
And while y'all at it, hand over the jet
We the reason they ain't hand over Def Jam so quick
They knew every year I was droppin new product
I was raisin the stock up, while buildin the Roc up
I'm a hustler homey, you a customer crony

(D) So where does that leave you Jay? In the greats of hip hop, where do you stand with your comeback?

(J) Can't call this a comeback, I run rap, the fuck is y'all sayin?
Five million I done that, and I come back, to do it again (uh-huh)
Ex-sinner, Grammy award winner
I came, I saw and I conquered, from record sales to sold out concerts
Maybe you'll love me when I fade to black
If you can't respect that, your whole perspective is whack

(D) You heard the man, if you can't respect that, your whole perspective is whack!

Do you like this? Then check out:

Dilla One Of The Best

Bitch Pop: The Story of Pubescent Teens And Bitching


MMM...Smells Like Meat

I couldn't resist: This is a direct cut and past of an article published at BBC. Look out women, the SFCritic is scented with a new form of seduction: grilled meat.

American fast food chain Burger King is marketing a men's fragrance with the scent of meat.

Called Flame, the company says the spray is "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat".

The scent is on sale in New York for $3.99 (£2.65) and through a website that features a variety of romantic images - but no actual burgers.

Its character the Burger King is also seen reclining almost naked in front of a log fire with whipped cream.


London Times

This blog is overwhelmed with soul, hip hop and funk--don't you think? As SFCritic, I wanted to diversify, so lets taste some pop punk.

While Jamie T cannot be considered wholly punk, in these times, no artist is truly character of one style. His voice has a thick London twang (no he's not from Liver-POOL)that stumbles drunkenly over tracks with beats and rhythms that can range from fast punk, to alternative indie. Take a listen to this track, as he's my recommendation of the week:

Also, see: "Sheila," and "So Lonely Was the Ballad"

Jamie T, "Salvador"


Ideas in Practice

The SFCritic is here today with a class assignment. Just follow the instructions, don't jump to conclusions--you're older now and should be more patient ("should" being key). Yes, you're schedule is busy, but give at least a minute to both clips. Enjoy.

1. Play this track at this website, and then close your eyes and let your imagination wonder with the music

2. So now you've disobeyed step two by reading this--so go to step three.

3. Either write down, or try and remember what the music brought out in you.

At this moment you're supposedly drawing. Are you drawing? Are you?

4. Below is a link to the same song, entitled: Talkdemonics, "Duality of Deathening."

5. Compare your original image to that of the music video, not the same is it?

6. Class dismissed.

In truth, this isn't any big "WOW," because of course placing an image to something will change your original interpretation. This is a very clear example: hearing a song without an image, and hearing the same song with an image. In everyday life, the examples and distinctions aren't as clear. In regards to the previous post, when listening to the song "So Nice," by Sergio Mendez and Brazil 66, I had a new "
"understanding" or interpretation of the song in the context of the coffee shop. In this case I'm comparing the song without an image, with the song in a different environmental surroundings.

So what if you heard 50 Cent's "In da Club," at a wake--would you still jam to it in the same way? This is simply a discussion of the notions of conditioning, but most importantly they should make you more conscious of the factors which condition your tastes and conceptions.


You Remind Me of a Song I Once Knew

We've all heard terms such as, coffee house music, garage rock, chill house, smooth jazz. With these terms we've created our own associations, whether with ideas, places, feelings, or people. In past articles I've written--particularly, "Music and the Moment" (Oct 23rd, 08) and in "It began" (Oct 19th), I've extrapolated to some extent how music can describe an individual and can reflect feelings in a moment. In further exploration, this article is meant to question the labeling of music and how we then perceive it.

Once upon a time, I listened to smooth jazz. Yes--I admit I listened, though unaware, to Kenny G. The music is described as "easy listening," which if you've ever listened to a station which might play Kenny G, you probably forgot because you weren't actually paying attention to the music. What does "easy listening" mean: not intended to be analyzed, played at clubs or even relished, unless you're painting your house or washing the dishes. It's not substantial or anything difficult/special.

The thing is, when I first heard smooth jazz, with a name like that, I felt sophisticated. I thought, this is enjoyable and not challenging to the ear. Later, when I divulged my secret favoritism, someone asked me bluntly, "Are you a carpenter, why would you listen to that?"

When and where did this association with easy listening and housework manifest?

Today, I was in a coffee shop, with the plan to write my concert review of the night before, and to enjoy a cup of coffee. I put my headphones over my ears, put the Ipod on shuffle, turned on the computer, and began. Then I heard it: Brazil 66 and Sergio Mendez's "So Nice." This song might be described as as Bossa Nova or Brazil's smooth jazz, except, a lot cooler.

Listen Here to: Brazil 66 and Sergio Mendez's "So Nice."

As I listened to this song, sitting in a small coffee shop, facing the sunny street, I smiled because in that moment, the song fit. By fit, it made sense to me. Here in this moment, my mind had created a new association of how to hear this song: coffee shop music. It's subtle, not overwhelming my task at hand, but it's gentle rhythm encouraged me to continue writing like a cat's monotonous pur serves as a positive reinforcement. Okay, yes--this description is overdone, but nonetheless, I can assure you that System of a Down would not have aroused the same feelings, or even Miles Davis's "Kind of Blue."

Coffee shop music became a "thing," during the mid 90s with chains like Starbucks selling their mixes. Artists like Sarah MClaughlin and Rufus Wainwright became poster boys/girls of this phase. Then airplanes started to do the same thing. It became a phenomenon--or at least, a worthy rant on my blog.

It might be argued that these associations with "coffeehouse music," were superimposed. As I wrote in "The Music and The Moment," the associations of fighting/anger might be a result of connecting images with music in the form of movies. Past conditioning, what movies one has seen, encourages future deductions of time and place.

The question I ask: why does something just "fit?" Why does that "one jam" just make you want to boogy? How does that one song remind you of something else? Can the SFCritic be taken serious after admitting to listening to Kenny G?


Never Saw it Coming

The Macarena is back. Yes--you heard me correctly: The Macarena is back. The lovable and hated song by Los Del Rios, which many of us as kids practiced dance routines to, has returned. This time adding a new dance flare, with a soca/reggaton rhythm, who knows what peaks it may reach to or lows it might dive to. Vamped with more sex, the song still is reminds me of that summer day at camp where myself along with fifty other campers danced in rows to the infamous routine which we all know. Take a look for yourself. The SFCritics applaud those that admit to dancing to Macarena.


Vampire Weekend Has Taken Over

Vampire Weekend is one of the best groups of 2008. With their mixture of indie rock with African rhythms, the band explores a sound yet to be discovered. The group formed during their days at Columbia University. With witty lyrics, and catchy riffs, the album can be played through, and through and one still will want more. Check out this video

Vampire Weekend's, "A-Punk"


Make me Feel Brand New

So I'm feeling brand new. Writing and not serving. Thinking and not ordering. So it's no surprise to me that as SFCritic, during my first concert review of Zion I, experiencing this new world, I came across a tight new song. "What should I do/when can I/Talk to you through my antenna," the hook for Zion I's track, "Antenna," off their upcoming album The Takeover coming out in January 2009. The harmony of the synthesizer reminds me of Kanye West's "Flashing Lights," but "Antenna" has more heartfelt lyrics of love and politics. Check it out:


Feedback--Let's you know how the music SOUNDS

I got some feedback from a reader, who commented she liked me recommending music. Here at SFCritic I'm going to do just that.

Recently, in any discussion I've had on hip hop today, most critics, followers, or whomever state they miss the "golden era." Who wouldn't? With names like Nas, Snoop Dogg, Tupac, B.I.G., and so on, all being the main contributors of this time--how can you not miss this music? But too quickly does one accept this realization, and then forgets anything current else that is pushing hip hop further.

So where better to start in hip hop, but the core--the beats. This may sound just like background music, but pay attention to the rhythms, the structure of how the sample is manipulated...it's solid.

Prefuse 73 sounds like a clash of Aphilas and Pretty Lights. A track is like a journey through music and colliding into hip hop.

MF Doom, the villain and the rapper whose flow is unique like the his onstage outfit. His beats are nothing to scoff at, and are my personal doses of hip hop in these days of scarce options. Check it out, this a track from his box set called Special Herbs and Spices:


I'm a Bitch

"I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a sinner, I'm a saint," sounds like a confused adolescent, or maybe just like a forty year old Merideth Brooks' singing "Bitch." At this point SFcritic may be as meaningless as Merideth Brooks' career, but still for bitching sake--a worthy topic of discussion. When I was in high school, along with issues of puberty I also dealt with a new challenge of maturation: how do I deal with my female peers who were infatuated with female pop groups like the Spice Girls and Meredith Brooks? No big deal right?--Wrong. Sure, as a guy, I worried about the occasional and unavoidable public hard-on, but scarier than that was the potential "bitch session" I might receive from annoying a female student who was immersed in her bitch pop phase. Whoa, I know--I'm throwing around the "b-word" like Bush used the term "secret weapons," but the "b-word" has been redefined by contemporary feminists and then packaged by the media and solicited as trash. What the media created has been coined as "bitch pop."

Let me take a step back and explain bitch pop. Bitch pop was the genre of popular music, which was sung typically by a female singer who'd gripe about something, and often refer to herself as a bitch. Merideth Brooks, "Bitch," with its witty title, and catchy lyrics, exemplifies the typical bitch pop song:

Brooks' first line "I hate the world today," is just a little melodramatic. I mean really, thanks to marketers targeting helpless pubescent girls who couldn't quite explain what was happening to their bodies, ultimately young, handsome, and nice guys like myself were doomed to piss off a girl and receive a royal bitching. It was no longer safe to pull on the girls pigtails in front of you and expect a playful "tsk tsk." Shit got out of hand, just look at this kid below.

Girls and the bitch movement escalated to proportions unknown. This helpless girl above is completely unaware of the message she is sending about her mother! Suddently, to "express yourself" as a woman it meant throwing around the word bitch, and using it as an excuse to vent whenever and wherever. Not cool.

In the late 90s, the Spice Girls claimed their message of "Girl Power" was a more contemporary form of feminism. Their hit single, "Wannabe" was all about doing what you want, and when you want it. Sounds a lot like a spoiled brat. Couple girl power, with bitch power and now you have teenage girl on a potential rampage--lookout dads everywhere.

Granted the "b" word has been taken on by feminists in the same manner as "n" word for African Americans. Bitch magazine states that their title is a form of self-empowerment by redefining women as public activists:

The writer Rebecca West, back in the day, said, "People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat." We'd argue that the word "bitch" is usually deployed for the same purpose. When it's being used as an insult, "bitch" is an epithet hurled at women who speak their minds, who have opinions and don't shy away from expressing them, and who don't sit by and smile uncomfortably if they're bothered or offended. If being an outspoken woman means being a bitch, we'll take that as a compliment, thanks.

I doubt most bitch pop enthusiasts have this same interpretation, mind you any real good defense for the music. In truth the bitch pop movement seems to have been merely a marketing strategy, no different than the gangsta movement in hip hop. Find something that's easily marketable, exploit it, and sell it until consumers finally refuse it. Thankfully at least bitch pop is just that, pop music, heard today, gone tomorrow.


Obama-Rama on the Dance Floor

While Mccain supporters flee to their ark, several musicians are releasing tracks and showing their support for Obama. From the likes of Nas, Jay-z, Thom Yorke, Will.i.Am, and even Jeezy, there isn't enough space to fit it all on a mixtape. It's amazing. Granted, Bono has been using his celebrity status to make political change for ages, but really--did you ever think you'd hear the "Dope Man" (Young Jeezy if you didn't know) talking politics?

Everyone talks about the "hey day" of music, back in the 60s when art and politics collided like the battles being fought at home and abroad. Sure, artists came out in support after 9/11 (see Oct 19th, "It Began"), but you definitely didn't see musicians rallying behind Bush in 2004.

There seems to be hope. Maybe it's the "ready for change," but SFCritic respects, and is impressed by the artists who performed or created music to support their political beliefs (whether or not it was for Obama--though, clearly I have my bias). There is a great article at pitchfork, which further lists all the tracks and artists who voiced their opinions.

Meanwhile, enjoy this new track by Jay-Z and Kanye West entitled, "We Made History."


Listening to Soul

This is a track I got via Madlib on Myspace. It's just a real soulful tune. As you know, almost all hip hop is sample driven, but it was Dilla that really began the movement of soul samples. It's no wonder Madlib and Dilla joined forces, because they both have an ear for soul. SFCritic recommends you check it out:


Dilla, One of the Best Artists of the Decade

On May 18th, 2006 the lineup at New York's Radio City Music Hall read: The Roots, Nas, Common and Talib Kweli. The concert was a tribute to the death of James Dewitt Yancey, better known as J Dilla, and easily one of the most influential hip hop producers ever. Just look at that lineup and you can tell the impression Dilla left on some of the best in hip hop.

A competent rapper, Dilla became famous for his soulful beats with hitting bass lines. If Eminem put Detroit on the map for his lyrics, Dilla was the first to make Detroit known in the mid 90s for his production for artists such as Janet Jackson, 2Pac, Pharcyde, Busta Rhymes, A Tribe Called Quest and the list goes on. Early in his career he was overshadowed because of his involvement with the production group Ummah, which included Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad.

Then Dilla went solo and put himself up for critique, and he was applauded. With underground classics, Welcome 2 Detroit and Donuts, he flexed his skills as a producer and a rapper. Even as solely an instrumental album, Donuts is an album that is timeless. His drum patterns are just that intricate, funky and soulful. Not to mention his album Champion Sound, a collaboration album with LA producer guru, Madlib under the alias Jaylib, which is arguably one of the top hip hop albums of the last decade.

Sadly, James Yancey never got to fully embrace his fame as he died prematurely at the age of 32 in 2006 from a rare blood disease, TTP, and possibly Lupus. Posthumous, his legacy remains, a producer only matched by a limit few, who all would applaud his contributions.

Listen to SFCritic's selection of Dilla's music below:

Link three songs:
Produced b J Dilla, Janet Jackson-Gone TIll its Gone
Got Till Its Gone - Janet Jackson

Produced b J Dilla, 2Pac - Do For Love
Do For Love - Tupac

Jaylib - The Red
The Red - Jaylib


She's Got Her Own Thing: Ne-Yo 'Miss Indepent'

If you haven't heard, Ne-Yo wants an "independent" woman. I was driving tonight when Ne-Yo's new hit "Miss Independent," came on the radio. At first the song sounded like just another producer trying to use synthesizers like Timbaland, and some other singer replacing Chris Brown, who replaced Omarian. On second thought, as I listen to the chorus and Ne-Yo exclaims " she got her own thing/thats why i love her /miss independent," I'm starting to think--sensitive love song that embraces female feminist values? No, couldn't be because then you start hearing what Ne-Yo likes:

1. "cause she walk like a boss/talk like a boss/manicured nails to set the pedicure off shes fly effortlessly"

Now Ne-Yo seems kind of shallow. I mean she's independent because she manicure and pedicures--is that a pick line? Okay, so it's becoming clear this is a typical R&B song, but wait:

2. "ooh there's somethin about/ kinda woman that can do for herself/ i look at her and it makes me proud/ theres somethin about her"

Well he's proud about her for something--that much is clear. The problem is it doesn't seem he knows why he's proud of her independence, because he proceeds by singing:

3. "theres somethin oh so sexy about/ kinda woman that dont even need my help/
she said she got it she got it no doubt/ there's something about her"

Damn! He got this boss lady to take on fixing the sink, and she didn't even ask for his help! I mean, am I wrong--couldn't we hear something a little less ambiguous.

Ok, I'll quit there. The thing is at first I was impressed, a male R&B singer calling out his affection for an independent woman is a big step in hip hop and R&B. No really-no joke, women have been fighting for respect in hip hop for ages. So calling out for an independent woman, not just a ho, is a big step in a different direction. It's just unfortunate that the song lacks any content. The word "something" and "thing" are repeated more times than "Miss Independent." Sadly, this song will be gobbled up by hungry teenage girls who think that Ne-Yo will love their independent side. Check out the video below--no doubt the "Miss Indepedent" dancers strip out of their work outfits.

Breakfast at Sulimays: Common Raps Common

Live Show Review of Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

There are No Boundaries for Alice Russel, Live Review


Yo Gabba Gabba

Believe it or not--that's the name of a kids TV show on Nick Jr. The show has positive messages for kids but is engaging for mature audiences with absurd over exaggerations. Here is the intro to the show:

YO GAbba GAbba! Remember, this is a kids show. But like Sesame Street that SFCritic grew up on, Yo Gabba Gabba has popular musicians perform on the show. If you hadn't noticed in the introduction clip, Biz Markie stars on Yo Gabba Gabba, and has his own sequence
called "The Beat of the Day."

I feel actually kind of bad for Biz Markie. He looks ridiculous. Sure, he's probably making bank, but really? Just a note--this might explain why some skeptics say hip hop has been sold out.

For further enjoyment take a look at Feist performing on Sesame Street. Amazing. I mean her music of course.


Music and the Moment

The right song can make any moment perfect. This notion is so accepted that it's cliche to point out that Marvin Gaye is great music for moments of romance. If you've ever been to a professional sporting event in the US, it's likely you've heard in some form Queen's song, "We Will Rock You." At some point, society seems to accept the usage of songs with certain activities.

Unfortunately, music is critiqued in this regard in a very limited manner. All music is reviewed in some context as either danceable or listening music. An album might be referred to as good "car music" or great "club music." This post is about music that can be heard for other uses, particularly, fighting.

I recently got in an argument with someone, which in turn lead me to want to fight the gentlemen. If you know me, obviously that didn't occur; however, to my chagrin--I did imagine myself victoriously standing over my defeated opponent after fearlessly winning the battle. The problem was I lacked a soundtrack to my truimph.

In Hollywood, there are two motifs I've found in "battle" music. If the movie is like Braveheart, it's likely one will hear a orchestra compostion full of heavy drumming and clashing wind instruments. On the other hand, if the movie is like Fast and the Furious or Transformers, it's more likely to hear some fast paced popular rock music or a trash talking rap song in some light of DMX.

Neither of these motifs seemed to fit my need for a soundtrack, so I began digging through my library and these are some of the songs I've choosen to woop ass to:

1. N.W.A. - Fuck the Police
2. Ghetto Boys - Damn it Feels Good to Be a Gangsta
3. Method Man - Bring Da Pain
4. Screaming Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell on You
5. Sizzla - Solid as a Rock

While maybe the songs I've chosen are not as frequently used, I can't deny that there remains parallels in my choices and Hollywood. To begin--the music must be coarse. Putting on D'Angelo or Marvin Gaye (as mentioned earlier), would seem laughable because it's soothing and warm--lacking the "edge" needed to get rough. The songs can't be slow. A battle is fast, and just like a DJ, you got to match your rhythm.

That's the interesting part, when DJing, the DJ has to think about the moment. How will people react to the music? Will it make them want to dance, or sit down? Or in films, is the soundtrack representing the emotions shown through the film?

So, again this is just another way to think about how music reflects moments in life. What songs would you fight to?

For Listening:

D'Angelo, How Does It Feel

Method Man,


Kanye's "Auto-tune" Album..Can't Wait Right?

Recently West had a listening party of 700 invited guests for his new album 808s & Heartbreaks, and unfortunately, the SFCritic was not invited. As host, West offered guests his tunes for their ears and nude girls for the eyes. Kanye contracted artist Vanessa Beecroft to direct a live nude woman dance set behind silhouette. Sounds like a good party.

The new album is supposed to "deliver ideas in the most naked form" as Kanye stated to Rolling Stone. One of the tracks West pointed out was about his mother's recent death last year, after complications with cosmetic surgery.

The album might sound fantastic, and it's might be breaking walls for West, but I don't buy this hype. Don't get me wrong, his new single, "Heartless" is a worthy radio play. It's encouraging to see an accomplished artist step outsides their comfort zone, but West is simply taken a proven tool for success and trying to add it to his library. West's new album is all in "Auto-tune,"--there is no rapping, that's right no rapping. If you don't know what Auto-tune is, see: T-Payne and Akon. Everyone is making money using Auto-tune, what's new about Kanye jumping on board? I'm not trying to hate on Kanye. He's put out several tracks that continued to circle through my Ipod playlists.

The Rolling Stone article covering the release party ended in this manner:

Among the guests was Jimmy Kimmel, who arrived after West performed two songs on his show earlier that afternoon. “I’m sure it’s beautiful art, and many people can appreciate it on a much deeper level than I can,” Kimmel said of Beecroft’s work. “But I look out there and see a lot of good-looking naked girls and it makes me happy.”

Maybe Kanye is not rapping. Maybe Kanye is rapping about about Benz, girls, and Louis, or rapping at all for that matter, but until I hear the album, I'm not going to believe this naked composition is anything more than what it looks like, a ploy to sell two millions copies.

Below is an example of two recent popular hits which use Auto-Tune, and Kayne's new track "Heartless."

Lil Wayne featuring T-Payne, Lollipop

T-Payne featuring Akon, Bartender

Kanye West, Heartless


The Music Times

This clip is intended to accompany the post "It began," but I'm computerly inept and challenged

It began

It was approximately midnight when the SFCritic was conceived. I was in the back of a taxi cab, the window rolled down, with my hands tracing the air as I listened to the driver's tunes. Van Morrison was playing. It wasn't Dancing in the Moonlight, or Brown Eyed Girl, truthfully--I didn't recognize it was Van Morrison until I asked.

I inquired further. Where are you from? The driver responded he had been living in San Francisco for thirty-five years. Originally from Denver as I later learned, the man wore a leather riding hat, had a full white beard that left plenty of room for grooming techniques, and was completely content with just listening to his music and not chatting.

While I sat in this cab, I couldn't think of a better description of Van Morrison's target audience: a fifty something year old, white cab driver, from Denver wearing a rancher's hat, self-identifying as San Franciscan. Perfect. Hippy. Check. Old-timer. Check. Chilled out, potentially stoned. Probably, check.

I think music defines us. I think music can help one understand people by what they do, don't or claim to listen to. Call it judging. Call it tastes. Call it knowledge. We all assess life based on different mediums, beliefs, systems or structures--why not music?

This blog is an intertwining of music critique, and life. Where my everyday life and interactions, what I see or hear, are translated through music. I mean, who wouldn't want to be self-absorbed in talking about their own music soundtrack. Consider my posts the tracks, and the compilation of posts as my playlist. Now of course this is narcissistic, but so is Larry David, and if this blog can't be humorous and interesting, in the end I'm still Jewish.

Don't fret. This is not a diary, but a critique at how music can be used to explain and talk about everyday issues. A simple way to see this is through music with political undertone. For example, "What's Going on" by Marvin Gaye had a strong political message during the Vietnam war, which when reissed in the "All Star Tribute" took on a totally different tone, and context. Seriously! What's going on by throwing P. Diddy (*name at that time or was it Diddy?) Timberlake, Bono, Alicia Keys, and Gwen Stefani on the same track? Looking at the video now, was this patriotism or progandana or both? Check out the total American flag count in the video. I think the song might have been more appropriate if it was released after it was clear that Iraq had no nuclear weapons, but then..."what's going on?" would have a different meaning.

My tags for this blog: music, critique, criticism, popular culture, and life.
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