Red Cortez - Hands to the Wall EP
Red Cortez is an unsigned band from SoCal currently on a big national tour with the Airborn Toxic Event. They have also apparently joined such high profile acts as Stephen Malkmus, Morrissey, and Little Joy recently. Seems like a pretty good start for an act that has yet to release a full album. The band has a strong lead singer in Harley Prechtel - Cortez and they let him loose on songs where he either simmers or screams. They are all fairly serious, and the guitar-heavy rock largess of the EP might scare off a more traditional "indie" audience. That said, they seem like both a great summer festival band and someone to see in dingy rock club. That type of flexibility is always a good sign.
Sounds Like: State Radio, Kings of Leon every once in a while.
Listen To: Fell on the Floor, World at Rest
Sliimy - Paint Your Face
In case you hadn't heard, Perez Hilton is starting his own "record label" that may or may not actually just be a funny little side project of Warner Music Group (hint: it is). The first artist signed to this new media venture is Sliimy, an adorable French hipster who will almost certainly be performing at San Francisco Pride 2010. His first single from his debut album Paint Your Face is called "Wake Up" and has a cute live action/claymation video to match. It's a fun and energetic pop song that is addictive and slightly annoying at the same time. There's a whole lot of range on this album, but nothing quite stands up to "Wake Up" in terms of energy and originality as a single. The tracks that might hint to a future career are the ones that show how easily a cute boy can fill in for a girl, say, Lily Allen for example. "My God" is a little bluesy, as though it was written for a soulful lady lounge singer. Other tracks on the album don't quite capitalize on the appeal of Sliimy's androgynous sound and wind up sounding a little flat and forgettable. Hopefully, the attention he gets through Perez will allow him to stretch those skinny little legs more in the future.
Sounds like: Lily Allen, Mika. A lot.
Listen to: Wake Up, My God, Tic Tac
Their debut album is now out in the US, featuring artists M.I.A., Vampire Weekend, Architecture in Helsinki, BLK JKS, Santigold and the Ruby Suns. The songs are sung in Chichewa, the national language of Malawi. Take a listen, and definitely download the mixtape while it still available for free.
The Very Best: "Kamaphopo"
The Very Best ft. M.I.A.: "Rain Dance"
How’s your heath? You were sick at Outside Lands.
Thank you for asking. I don’t get sick very often, but when I do it seems like I’ve never been sick before. That was honestly one of the most humbling shows of my whole career. I literally knew in the dressing room that I had no voice to work with.
You told the crowd you were advised to drink wine to kill sickness, would you recommend it?
No, not all the time. I was not leading by example that afternoon. [laughs] My recommendation is to not get sick, especially with the health care system in the US.
Did you see Sicko recently? Is that why you are harping on the issue?
No. It just a situation that continues to boggle my mind, and I’m not that savvy in terms of the politics of everything, but I just know from a very human standpoint that it seems very strange that people have to afford to stay healthy. It seems very off to me on a very spiritual level.
Can you talk about your spirituality a little bit?
I’ve never considered myself to be a religious person in any way, shape, or form. I have definite thoughts and opinions on things. I consider myself positively agnostic, if you can buy that.
What made you want to go back to school?
The worlds of science and hip hop rarely collide outside of a few teachers making their best effort to find a way to connect to their students. Thankfully, Murs has stepped up to the challenge. On his most recent solo album, Murs for President, he puts on his lab coat and drops a science lesson.
Murs: "The Science"
Brother Ali's new album Us might be the realest album I've heard in years. The new video "Us" isn't close to the best song on the album, which is incredible. Most this album is not for party bumping, as Ali disects topics about crack, rape, and slavery. True to his character, one of the best storytellers in hip hop today, Ali also retains his rapping flare on tracks like "The Preacher," and "Bad Mufucker Pt. II." If you like hip hop, and I mean real hip hop, then YOU MUST get this album, and I don't say that lightly. Check back soon for an interview with the man himself, until then get the album--seriously, go now.
On his debut album Leaves in the River, Sea Wolf was more a cub than a wolf. Generally, his music is soft and calming. When I first heard Sea Wolf it was the end of winter in Minnesota. The weather was still and cold, with gloomy clouds presiding over most mornings. His music fit the scenery, warmly filling the emptiness of the Minneapolis streets. It was therefore strange, almost a year later, listening to his album again, now in the lively urban streets of San Francisco. The music and place felt so different, so unfamiliar all of a sudden.
Sea Wolf is Alex Brown Church’s solo venture, formerly a member of Irving. With his first album, Church’s dark and folksy sound was compared to the Shins and Death Cab for Cutie. On his second album, White Water, White Bloom, Church remains self-reflective singing about love and time over string instrumentation, but has responded to critics with a fuller and more layered sound, suggesting his wolf canines.
On this Friday night, Sea Wolf took the stage for a full crowd at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco. Bimbo’s was an excellent choice for the show with its dimly lit walls, velvet curtains, and ample seating. The old venue has a type of serenity with its preservation that coupled well with Sea Wolf’s sagely songwriting. He focused on songs from Leaves in the River with tracks like “Middle Distance Runner,” “You’re A Wolf,” and “Black Dirt,” while giving tastes of his new album with “O Maria,” “Turn the Dirt Over,” and “White Water, White Bloom.”
Initially, I worried Sea Wolf’s music would be too calm for a live show, but was pleasantly surprised by the intensity of the five piece backing band. With Church playing the guitar, the band’s other instruments consisted of the Korg organ, drums, cello, and bass. The group walked onto the stage, as fog billowed across their path illuminated by overhead blue lights—oh the drama! Brown’s voice was clear and his hit’s like “You’re A Wolf,” sounded almost better than on the album. One of his new songs, “O Maria,” with its hammering guitar progression, and aching hook, struck me as Brown’s answer to critics, pushing himself outside his comfort. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a single from the album. My only complaint from the night, where was the song, “The Cold, The Dark, The Silent,”— please the fans Sea Wolf, or maybe just me, because we can also bite!
Sea Wolf:"O Maria"
His charming smile, and good looks will you fool, Raphael Saadiq is forty-two years old, and has been making music since the late 80s when he started with Tony! Toni! Toné! Almost thirty years later, eight Grammy nominations, and a list of production credits from the likes of Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, D’Angelo, Q-Tip, Ludacris, The Bee Gees, Joss Stone, Earth, Wind & Fire and many others--many people still don't know his name. That's okay with him, because the way he sees it, he's just running the marathon at his own pace.
Where in the Bay Area are you from?
I grew up in east Oakland, not too far from the coliseum.
What is your favorite type of food?
If you had to choose one, Mexican food or soul music, what would it be?
I’d choose soul music, rather than listen to mariachi music and eat soul food.
You have had a long career as an artist, and producer, where do you feel like you are now with completing your goals and your future?
It’s looking like I wanted it to, a natural progression for me. The saying goes, “It doesn’t happen in a sprint, it’s a marathon,” and I always looked at it like that. I’m at that stretch where I’m speeding up on everybody. In front, I have created myself over and over again as an artist, which really helped me prepare where I am right now in my career.
Over the years your sound has changed a lot from Toni Tone Toné to Lucy Pearl, to now. Are you in a different place now, are you listening to different music, or have different influences?
I have more freedom to be me and define myself by not being in a group. It’s different thinking for yourself and not having to answer to anybody. I had great times with the groups that I was in, but you still have to alter your thinking to the group. Now, I don’t really have to that.
Even your work from Instant Vintage to The Way I See It is very different, as solo work, where were you going with The Way I See It?
Yeah. It takes a while for you to get to know who you are. After Instant Vintage, I was coming off of Lucy Pearl. I titled the album [The Way I See It] because I finally can see where I need to go. If you listen to Instant Vintage I have songs like “Charlie Ray,” which makes a statement “I see you / and you see me / how serious can this be” and what that was saying was at that point I started seeing my full potential as an artist. At the time I was really talking to myself, telling myself where I need to go to the next level.
I’ve heard you describe The Way I See It as the way I see it “downtown,” would you explain?
Downtown is my vision of Motown. Like being a little boy you want to hang out downtown with the grown folks who are claiming nice things and good clothes. All the things I probably meant or want living at twenty-four or twenty-five in Detroit or Memphis or Harlem. That is my downtown, that’s why I call it downtown sound.
You reference Motown a lot, but what about Stax?
I have always had a lot of Stax records. This album reflects more Motown for most people. When making this album I was reflecting on a lot of things that a lot of black bands really forgot about with the soul of Stax and Motown. They might listen to them, but they don’t use it in their production. A lot of rock bands, a lot of white bands, pay attention to Motown and Stax and I didn’t see myself doing that. So I wanted to make myself a part of it in my own way, and bring it to the future. If you want to be like the greats, you got to borrow from the greats.
In your press release, a lot of your tracks are compared to old 60s Motown groups, do you want to be compared to that?
No, I can’t say I want to be compared to them, though it’s great company to be in. I just want to make music. Most rappers, bass players, guitarists, and drummers love that rhythm section of Motown and Stax records. To be compared is an honor, but I’m just doing me and the best that I can.
How do you feel about contemporary artists that are called “neo-soul?”
[He laughs] I don’t think any of the artists would have anything to do with. I think it was a corporate label to sell records to fans. It's just a name that should probably die and people should make music.
If you get rid of “neo-soul,” would you have a different term you’d prefer?
[He laughs] “Music,” man. Neo-soul means new soul, and I don’t want to have a different soul than Al Green. Call it music. R&B was rock and roll at first, so call it rock and roll. What I’m playing is not neo-soul, it’s more than that. Neo-soul is a sinful word.
The Afro-pop ensemble is not to be confused with A-Trak's new label (I was confused). Their new video, "Surprise Hotel," was released today in support of their tour, which is starting after their self-titled debut release (9/29). Led by Luke Top on bass and vocals and Lewis Pesacov (Foreign Born) on guitar, the Fool’s Gold live ensemble could be anywhere from eight to twelve members, or possibly even more! No matter the size, this charming, inviting and all out celebratory band is sure to get rooms from coast-to-coast moving with their infectious and rhythmic art pop. Here are some of the tour dates below:
Sat. 10/3/09 -- Joshua Tree, CA @ Manimal Festival w/ Devendra Banhart
Thu. 10/8/09 -- La Jolla, CA @ The Loft - UC San Diego ^^^
Fri. 10/9/09 -- Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy Theatre ^^^
Sat. 10/10/09 -- San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill ^^^
Sun. 10/11/09 --Portland, OR @ Holocene ^^^
Mon. 10/12/09 -- Seattle, WA @ Nectar Lounge ^^^
Tue. 10/13/09 -- Vancouver, BC @ The Red Room ^^^
Fri. 10/16/09 -- Brooklyn, NY @ Cameo
Sat. 10/17/09 -- New York, NY @ Cake Shop w/ Lemonade
Sun. 10/18/09 -- Brooklyn, NY @ Sycamore
Mon. 10/19/09 -- Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory w/ Ocote Soul Sound
Wed. 10/21/09 -- New York, NY @ Bowery Poetry Club - IAMSOUND CMJ Showcase
Thu. 10/29/09 -- Los Angeles, CA @ Westfield Century City - KCRW's World Music on the Terrace
:kinema:is a three piece pop band from England who released their breezy, stylish, and slightly forgettable self-titled album in July. In their own words, they make their music by "combining elements of Yacht Rock, Soul and Contemporary Pop and Dance music into something sounding like Off The Wall-era Micheal Jackson being re-imagined by a 21st Century Indie band." Despite the fact that nothing about their music comes close to disco greatness, it isn't an unpleasant listen. The songs do recall other dance and R&B hits, such as The Real McCoy and Robin Thicke's debut (back when he just went by Thicke). It is retro in a 90s way. There is clearly a knowledge and respect for what makes good dance music, and all the elements are there. It fails, however, to come accross as fresh or exciting enough to leave much of an impression. And yes, it seems that they are indeed serious about those colons.
Sounds Like: Soundtrack from "A Night at the Roxbury", unfortunately.
Listen To: Circles, Let's Get To It
Reservoir, the debut album from London based group, Fanfarlo, is full of good things. Horns! Bells! Harmonies! Handclaps! The five piece band manages to pay homage to early 60s rock (think The Byrds), particularly on songs like "I'm a Pilot," while keeping things fresh. If the single "The Walls are Coming Down" sounds a bit familiar, it's probably because the combination of vocals and an extensive instrumental backing is quite reminiscent of "Postcards from Italy" by Beirut. If one listened to only that song, it would be tempting to dismiss them as a sub-par knock off. However, the album is a cheerful and almost cozy listen. It's cute music, like flannel shirts in Autumn. This is not the groundbreaking pop album of the year, but one you should have.
The band just wrapped up their US tour (unfortunately) with a stop in San Francisco (at 330 Ritch).
Sounds Like: If Sufjan Stevens' label released a British act
Listen To: The Walls are Coming Down, Harold T Wilkins
Women in hip hop remain a minority, pit fallen by sexism and hetero-normative beliefs of female roles. Like reverse racism in hip hop, where races other than African American are considered less legitimate, women are separated and disregarded as lesser equivalents to males. Though the Beastie Boys were the first celebrated white rappers, it wasn't until Eminem that unanimous praise and respect was given to a white emcee. The same can be said about Latin rappers until Big Pun and Fat Joe. Though we've entered a new millennium with an African American president, we still have yet to see a male supported, empowered and ubiquitous female emcee. Here are some thoughts from Melly Mel, Murs and MC Lyte on the topic of women in hip hop:
Melle Mel was one of the leading pioneers of hip hop as a member of Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. In this interview he states: "They [women] need to come across as women. They should write a song about having a kid...In my opinion, women try emulate dudes. I barely want to hear dudes rap...[people] are going to respect it cause everyone has mothers."
Murs is an LA emcee who became popular first as a member of the Living Legends. He is always been more underground. In this interview he states: "You can't expect women to feel comfortable in an art form that is so degrading...If every song you heard growing up is about 'bitches ain't shit..' it's hard for a woman to grow up and want to take part."
MC Lyte is one of the few female emcees to ever receive general respect. Other emcees include Queen Latifah and Lauryn Hill. In this interview she talks about being a female emcee: "I think women bring the sweeter side of life. Men are driven by testerone..Although you have some women, like myself, who can bring it hardcore."
By Eve Marcellus
"We know our name sucks...so here is YOUR chance to help us pick a new one...And the truth is, we never thought we'd make it this far with Starfucker. It started as just a fun little house-show project, but now that we have the opportunity to do this full-time, travel and continue making music, we don't feel like the name makes sense anymore..." - Starfucker
Starfucker, the fun four-piece electro-pop band out of Portland, is changing it's name. My personal response was far from surprise: I've always thought "you can't get famous with a name like that." Apparently, they feel the same way. The band put out a Myspace bulletin on September 8th announcing it's intention to change their name and inviting their fans to get in on the action. If your name is selected, you will get tons of cool shit... tons! Deadline for ideas is October 1st-ish.
So, at least they're honest. The name doesn't actually suck but rather unfairly limits them. Things for the band have shaping up in recent months and haven't showed any signs of slowing down. They're on a national headlining tour and have licensed their songs to Target, IBM, and Weeds. Pretty serious stuff. Since the music is not nearly as potty-mouthed as their name would suggest, a new identity, at least in name, will more than likely open even more doors. We have seen other major artists switch it up with little-to-no fanfair (ehem, Santigold) so while the comments on their Myspace and Facebook accounts would suggest otherwise, this probably won't rock the boat too much. This is good news, especially if you have a long list of great potential band names but no band. And who doesn't?
Bay Area folks can catch them live (do it, it's ridiculously fun) on October 7th at Bottom of the Hill. Make sure to pick up some vinyl or other merch if you go, it might be worth something some day.
Check back soon, as SFCritic interviews Starfucker about their name, and what's next.
To be involved with their name change:
*Email your ideas to:
*tell in person at the merch table at a show
Green Day won two Grammys for its multi-platinum album American Idiot, which sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. Now those searing songs seize the stage with the director behind Spring Awakening, the groundbreaking musical that earned eight Tony Awards and enthralled audiences around the world. American Idiot follows working-class characters from the suburbs to the city to the Middle East, as they seek redemption in a world filled with frustration. This high-octane show features every track from the album, plus several new tunes from Green Day’s newest release, 21st Century Breakdown. With an on-stage band and a cast of 19, American Idiot will take you on an exhilarating journey borne along by Green Day’s electrifying songs.
The performance sounds extremely interesting, so definitely take a look if you can.
My friends over at Kata Rokkar are putting together a show this week (Sept. 25th) over at Flux 53 in Oakland with Santa Barbara math rock/folk act Oso, Benjamin Henderson of Good Hustle/ex-Delta Activity, and Picture Atlantic. For those in the Bay Area, it will definitely be worth your time to check it out and support the local scene. If you're interested, you can purchase tickets here.
Here is some info about the groups playing:
With roots in Americana, containing deep intertwining layers of melody, rhythm and time reminiscent of Eastern Europe, oso is creating rock music that’s moving beyond the boundaries of genre. Described as ‘technical folk’ and ‘math-rock world music’, oso makes music that blends the intensity of sweeping compositions with the intimacy of heart-felt vocals.
With ‘a circus-like sense of theater’, oso’s performances connect with people due to the sheer energy and emotion of the experience, reaching music lovers of all cultures and ages.
Benjamin Henderson -
Benjamin has kept the folk rock spirit alive, singing and writing for local bands such as Delta Activity and Good Hustle. He recently released this solo EP, Dirty Birdies, a montage of mellow folk/indie songs that hold true to his rebellious roots.
Socke Merde! If only I could have been at this performance. Fortunately, Andrew Bird and St. Vincent will be touring together in the US, but alas! they won't be coming to the west coast. Those on the east coast will get a chance to see them (their dates are below), and I strongly recommend their show.
JP's Blog posted the video from Soiree de Poche, which you should definitely take a look. Andrew Bird adds the violin to St. Vincent's guitar strumming, creating a mystically wonderful moment.
09/29 Indianapolis, IN - The Murat Theatre
09/30 Columbia, MO - The Blue Note
10/03 New Orleans, LA - Tipitina's Uptown
10/05 Birmingham, AL - Workplay Soundstage
10/07 Carrboro, NC - The Cat's Cradle
10/08 Carrboro, NC - The Cat's Cradle
10/09 Asheville, NC - The Orange Peel
10/10 Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium
10/12 Charleston, SC - The Music Farm
10/13 Knoxville, TN - The Bijou Theater
10/14 Cincinnati, OH - Bogart's
10/17 Milwaukee, WI - Pabst Theater
10/18 Kalamazoo, MI - State Theatre
10/19 Columbus, OH - The Southern Theatre
10/21 Buffalo, NY - Asbury Hall at Babeville
10/24 South Portland, ME - S. Portland High School Auditorium
10/25 Philadelphia, PA - The Electric Factory
10/26 South Burlington, VT - Higher Ground
10/27 Providence, RI - Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel
10/28 Washington, DC - The 9:30 Club
If you enjoyed this post, check out these:
Listen to What You're Missin': Portugal. The Man, Akron/Family, Bat for Lashes, and The Raveonettes
Saredren Wells - Memories are Hunting Horns
Not only is it rare to have someone hand you a CD for free, but it actually feels a bit like a nuisance. When Drew from Saredren Wells gave me a copy of "Memories are Hunting Horns," I felt compelled to listen and share.
Drew is from Louisville and everything about this charming nine-track album is charming, from the square "cover" hand-printed at the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland, Oregon, to the simple guitar-plucking-punctuated-by-violins sound. There's just a little discord between the the music's pretty arrangements, and the whiny, nasally (but never offensively so) vocals. Similarly, on a track dedicated to Wes Anderson, there are horns accentuated by strange samples from what sound like a tragedy at an Eastern European circus.
Saredren Wells seems to set out to make a mood with each songs, and the album as a whole has all the tools to do so successfully. "Memories are Hunting Horns" is at once sad, strange, happy, ambivalent and great to listen to.
Saredren Wells has also been featured on at least one "Louisville is for Lovers'" album. A cool compilation project featuring, as expected, a variety of independent Louisville musicians recording original love songs for a Valentine's Day release. You can check it out here.
Sounds Like: A less complex, less refined Beirut.
Listen To: "In Advance of a Broken Arm"
The Antlers -Hospice
Unlike some of the artists normally featured on A&R, Brooklyn's The Antlers, have been receiving a whole lot of stellar press surrounding their 2009 self-release of Hospice. One listen and it is completely clear why they are creating such a buzz. It's a satisfying album from start to finish, with songs that are restrained and quiet ("Wake" and "Atrophy") to the all-out catchy ones you will inevitably sing all day ("Two" and "Bear").
It is rare that an album can present a concept through the album's entirety (in this case, sickness and death), while creating individual tracks that sound independently strong. The Antlers have done just that. The lyrics are of unflinchingly raw emotion while the music itself is pretty and simple. "Hospice" is exciting in the way Fleet Foxes' self-titled debut or Grizzly Bear's "Yellow House" were upon first listen, and will no doubt be a favorite at CMJ next month.
The Antlers are going on tour of the West and South with Minus the Bear this late fall, but Bay Area folks will have to road trip to Orangeville or San Luis Obispo to catch them.
Sounds Like: The next big indie rock thing, maybe.
Listen To: Do yourself a favor and buy the whole thing.
If you enjoyed this post, check out these:
A&R: The Music Submissions ft. Fredericks Brown and The Touques
"Miss me, miss me, now she want to kiss me," with the cow bell jerking, back and forth, this podcast by Matthew Africa is off the chain of course (Thanks Dan!). The podcast is a mix of jerk music. If you don't know what jerkin' is, then you probably haven't been squirtin' over these videos neither. Ha. The jerk dance isn't anything new, not according to Wikipedia.
The dance steps are like this:
Step One :Stand in a fighter's stance facing partner with feet apart and knees bent to begin the Jerk dance. Hold hands so that they are out on either side of the body, with hands about level with the face.
Step Two :Bend the body forward toward partner and turn to the left. As the body turns, cross hands in front at the wrists. The hands should still be held up at the same level. Bob the head forward also as the body is bent.
Step Three :Straighten the body and spread the hands wide again.
Step Four :Lean forward again toward partner, turn to the center, and cross hands in front. Bow head as body is bent forward.
Step Five :Raise body up straight again, spread arms wide, then repeat the above steps to the right.
Step Six: Vary the steps by snapping fingers as the hands are thrown out in front.
Step Seven: The dancer should check out the dance in a mirror. The dancer should look like a jerky monkey conducting a band. The dance is actually a combination of the popular dance, The Monkey, and sweeping arm gestures.
Now that you know the dance, if you want to know a little about the musical structure take a look at this LA Times article. The style began to be popularized again with the surge of krumping, and clowning (see Rize). Matthew Africa's podcast suggest that The Pack (Oakland baby) and other Bay Area hip hop,were also responsible for the growing sound. As the movement hits mainstream, The New Boyz will start the trend with their song called, "You're a Jerk," that's creating a buzz around the dance.
If you liked this post, check out these:
Gangs in Hip Hop Today
"You only want to be with her because she is mine, you will lose me as a friend if you cross that line," is an example of the honest lyrics found on The Whitest Boy Alive's new album, Rules (released in March, 2009). Wikipedia defines their music as "minimalist pop," which is fitting since they have a bare Phoenix sound. The Berlin based group developed into a band and released their first album Dreams in 2006, after the band started as dance group project in Jakarta in 2003.
If you enjoyed this post, check out these:
Featured Artist: Mayer Hawthorne
This group should be called "Eleven," and not Blakroc. Eleven artists, eleven days in the studio, and probably +1 better than 10/10 rating. Just when you thought that Ohio had solidified itself as a source of good music with The Black Keys and Kid Cudi--out comes Blakroc the newest super group album since N.A.S.A.
TwentyFourBitNews gave me the heads up on the album planned to be released the day after Thanksgiving, aka Black Friday--fitting, no? There is one track available at XXL, thanks to Consequence of Sounds.
Here is a list of the artists featured on the album, drum roll please:
1. Mos Def
4. Ol' Dirty Bastard
7. Pharoah Monch
8. Billy Danze (of M.O.P.)
9. Jim Jones
11. Nicole Wray
Worthy Note: Patrick Carney (Drummer of Black Keys) started the buzz for the group on his twitter page by tweeting "blakroc."
If there is any auto-tune on this album, I will officially declare hip hop dead.
Liked this post, check out these?
Upcoming Releases from The Roots and Epik
"Still Water Runs Deep," was The Four Top's song that is going to make my hip hop production career. There is so much good stuff to sample in that first minute. Right, you know what I'm saying? Yeah, you do. 4Shades get at it, I'll post it? As cited on Wikipedia, The Four Tops:
The Four Tops are an American vocal quartet, whose repertoire has included doo-wop, jazz, soul music, R&B, disco, adult contemporary, and showtunes. Founded in Detroit, Michigan. as The Four Aims, lead singer Levi Stubbs (born Levi Stubbles, a cousin of Jackie Wilson and brother of The Falcons' Joe Stubbs), and groupmates Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton remained together for over four decades, having gone from 1953 until 1997 without a single change in personnel.
For other "Diggin' in the Crates" posts, check out these:
Inside and Out: From the Bee Gees to Feist
All Photos by Victoria Smith
Leonard Cohen said, “In dreams the truth is learned that all good works are done in the absence of a caress,” and in this absence, Natasha Khan became Bat for Lashes, and then her foil in Pearl. Channeling through a world where things “are not always real, more mystical and magical,” on her new album, Two Suns, we follow Bat for Lashes as she wisps us away to the highest point on a crystal castle, and down to the darkest low of a sea. On this journey she finds a knight and lover in Daniel, and confronts a blonde femme fatale in Pearl. “Two” must be emphasized in describing Two Suns, a story that explores the duality of life, love, and meaning.
After her performance at Outside Lands, Natasha Khan is dressed in a white t-shirt that has an image of a big black cat—fitting (and ironic) for someone consumed in mysticism and symbolism. Underneath her right eye are gold sparkles, which accentuate the golden pin that holds together her white feathered head dress. Home for Khan is near the beach of Briton, which she describes as similar to San Francisco. It was in San Francisco that Khan met “people that mirrored my own desires,” and helped inspired the self-proclaimed hippy to become a musician. For Two Suns her inspiration came from the “whole mythology developed from real life. Going to New York, trying to find my knight, and being pulled across the cosmos and landscapes, and meeting a lot of strange characters along the way.” Even within our casual conversation, she is able to comfortably embed metaphors.
“Two,” is important, because many of the metaphors and relationships can be interpreted two ways. The first track on Two Suns “Glass,” quotes the book of Song of Solomon, a move which suggests the album’s existentialism. Initially this quote can appears to be a reference to the developing love story between Bat For Lashes and Daniel, but there is also the biblical implications of a relationship between human beings and god. As the story of unfolds, Bat For Lashes falls in love on “Daniel,” and struggles with Pearl on “Siren Song.” Even as individual tracks these songs are best understood as compliments. Daniel is the knight in shining armor and Pearl is the proclaimed “femme fatale” who wants closeness, while also being self-destructive. Together the two songs suggest the underlying relationships of Daniel and Pearl, Bat For Lashes and Daniel, and Pearl and Bat For Lashes, highlighting the issues of love, betrayal, uncertainty and struggle.
As we search for answers to questions we can’t understand, some scour books, others choose to explore, or devote themselves to religion. Natasha Khan finds understanding in fables. “I really like the idea of how storytelling tells things about people through the use of metaphors,” Khan says to me. Khan has always been a dreamer. When she was young, she would sometimes get in trouble for dreaming. Both her albums, Furs and Gold and Two Suns are complete stories, a relic amongst popularized albums weighted with singles and filler.
Khan tells me that the ability for listeners to download only singles these days puts pressure on artists’ creativity. As record companies continue to push for singles, and ringtones, because that’s what garners attention, artists like Khan are forced to produce radio friendly tracks. She says she’s won most of the battles over creativity, but the pressure to produce timely is the hardest. “Fans need to support their artists,” Khan says, “I’m not completely rich, I just want to carry on making music.” If CD sales continue to dwindle, she says she might make individual tracks with a film that accompany it, which listeners would “have to see” she says with a smile.
Her smile is warm, and as she ponders her responses it’s evident that nothing she says is meaningless. Asked if she believes in reincarnation, she responds, “Through your DNA, it’s not just your DNA, you don’t just get born with features from your parents, but if cell’s have memory, then these are actual memories. I felt like we are sometimes born with memories that go from generation to generation.” Let it be known that in my past DNA, I was the knight, and she was my queen.
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If you're interested in marketing your new electronic software, just team up with a group with a buzzing following like Aviary did with Major Lazer. Talk about getting the word out!
Aviary is basically this free, web-based, user-friendly Pro Tools, right? It's supposed to be the death-knell of $600-dollar desktop software made by bespectacled germans in labcoats. They're launching this thing with a partnership with a musical act so futuristic they have the word "lazer" in their name -- Major Lazer. You'll be able to remix the stems from "Pon De Floor" "Keep it Going Louder" and "Hold the Line" with this free, next-level, software. There are also some sick contest prizes.
With this past week's release of Jay-Z's new album, The Blueprint 3, we've entered into a great period of upcoming releases. First, I have been eagerly waiting for the newest album from Epik High, one of the biggest Korean hip hop groups. Their 6th album features thirty tracks, with an appearance by Rakaa of Dilated Peoples. Here is a sample teaser they recently released:
Epik High [e] Album Trailer
The second release I am anxiously awaiting is the newest album from the Legendary Roots Crew. On the Jimmy Fallon show, where they are the house band, they recently played their newest single off their upcoming album, How I Got Over. Hopefully, the album is filled with more of the same.
The Roots: "How I Got Over"
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The name sounds like a person, but this is actually a group comprised of vocalist Deva Mahal (daughter of blues musician Taj Mahal) and keyboard player Steph Brown. The two met while performing separately in New Zealand before settling in Brooklyn, where they joined as a duo and are currently based. Their resume includes collaborations with some of music's big wigs, ahem, Kanye.
For the most part, Fredericks Brown has a very agreeable bluesy soul sound. The group's debut single is called "Betrayal" and showcases a more uptempo version of these ladies' sound than the other tracks featured on their MySpace Music page (they did not provide digital music files). The "organic Pacific sound" that they tout comes across stronger in this song than the others but detracts from Mahal's vocal strength. Hopefully, in the future they will be able to blend the uniqueness of that international sound with the smart songwriting and pleasant melodies that can be heard throughout the rest of the work they have posted.
Sounds like: Something you would thoroughly enjoy at your local jazz club.
Listen to: What Lies Within, All the Days
The Touques (pronounced "two-ks") are a three piece rock outfit from Reno. They have been playing shows (from the looks of their website, a lot of shows) and plan on recording a full-length album in Montreal in 2010. Their current release is a fun five-song EP entitled, The Touques EP. The band is clearly influenced by a British pop and post-punk sound, but also has a touch of the classic surf sound. As could be expected from those comparisons, lyrics and songwriting take a backseat on all the tracks, particularly on "White Elephant (Settling)," where they are completely absent. While at first this seems distracting, this track helps to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the others. The EP clearly showcases that the group has some real instrumental skill, however, the weak vocals makes them sound rather unpolished, particularly on "Goodbye Monsieur". It's not a stretch to expect their live shows are fun and elicit what these guys are all about. Going forward, they need to get a singer with real chops or one that can pull off the "so weird it's great" sound they've already got down pat in instrumentals and arrangements.
Sounds like: Anyone remember Ash?
Listen to: Roy Stampler, HRPM
Miri Ben-Ari was supposed to be the next big classical hip hop violinist, too bad Emily Wells is showing her up. Before judging a book by its cover, hip hop and classical music can sound amazing together. After being featured in Spin's "Breaking Out," I Googled her, listened to her music, and my jaw dropped (all in this order). The music sent shivers down my back. Her voice is hauntingly dramatic like Bjork. The track is chilled with layered violin loops, in what can only be described as gangsta hip hop (I'm not claiming she is gangsta, but I definitely could see Andre Nickatina on this track). Unfortunately, there are few HQ recordings of her work. She has an EP out called Dirty, which features this track, "Symphony 1: In the Barrel of a Gun":
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Featured Artist: S&M "Losing My Religion"
5. Jason Schwartzman with Coconut Records
Schwartzman is known for his roles in Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited and my favorite, I <3 Huckabees. While many of Coconut Record's songs can fit tightly in the same box, some of the songs like "It's Not You It's Me," are infectiously indie catchy.
4. Zooey Deschanel with She & Him
When Zooey Deschanel got together with indie folksinger M Ward, they created an infectiously country and bubbly album called Volume One. "Why Don't You Let Me Stay Here," was a repeated single on NPR after it's release, and Deschanel enchantingly unique voice is definitely a reason why.
3. Jason Schwartzmen with Phantom Planet
It seems unfair to have the same actor twice, but with two different bands; however, to omit Phantom Planets ubiquitous hit, "California," would be a sin. Granted, Schwartzmen is the drummer, not the singer as is in the case with Coconut Records.
2. Kylie Monigue
Kylie Monigue began her pop career as a child actor on Neighbors (1986), as Charlene. Her success came from her dazzling pop dance numbers like "Can't Get You Out of My Head."
1. Jack Black with Tenacious D
The affable, ridiculous Jack Black, makes equally ridiculous and enjoyable music with the band Tenacious D. Reaching all types of audience for its pure fun, Tenacious D tops the chart.
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All photos by Victoria Smith
Why should you read about Portugal. The Man--because they're bad ass. Their music combines aspects of psychedelic rock, with folk music, African rhythms, and much more, or as lead singer John Gourley tells me "I like to ask people what their favorite band is, and say it [their music] sounds like that." Originally formed in Alaska by Gourley and bassist Zachary Carothers, the group later moved to Oregon, added pianist Ryan Neighbors and drummer Jason Sechrist. Besides rocking shows, getting high praise from the likes of Spin and NME, they have a "sound guy who can dunk," and John wants to be Spock.
John do you want to talk a little about the artwork for the album The Satanic Satanist?
John: I had the idea for quite a while, but I just didn’t know how to make it work. Austin was really the guy who executed it and made it work. He is really good at pushing me.
Where did the idea come from for this elaborate design?
John: The record, The Satanic Satanist, is about the years I moved around quite bit with my family. I used to watch these animated films like Fire and Ice, Fantastic Planet and Light Years, just these really heavy movies for a kid. I think that combined with the isolation and everything just made me think about playing in the stars, or the trees. The whole thing is based on those films, it was just something I wanted to do that I had in my head.
So what is your process like when you go into the studios? You guys have been putting out an EP and a LP each year for the last three years.
Zachary: We really like recording and playing music so it makes sense. As far as the writing process goes, John pretty much writes all the songs. He will sit down write the back bone. He will start writing chord progressions and coming up with melodies. Then we all just kind of follow his lead on it. Chip in with anything we got, and eventually, it all comes together.
The other thing I noticed on the website is you put the art for the album up so that people could change and elaborate on it. Is art or music a communal process or an individual project for you?
John: I think it’s all relative to be good at anything. There are people that do this very well. Quentin Tarantino is the reason this band started in a way, just because he had this really great way of putting the right music to the visual, bringing in the right characters, having the right dialogue, having the right reference points. He is somebody that is so hands on in everything he does. It’s obvious in all his movies. He has people that work on casting, but there is a consistency to everything he does. He’s about all of it. I don’t know why I am going around circles on all of this. I like having the option to do that. It’s great to work on videos, the CD package, work on t-shirts, and make the music.
How do you go around sharing ideas? How do you collaborate?
Ryan: In practice we just jam for like an hour. We just dink around [laughs]--dink around. We try to get something cool out of it. Then in the studio John will have structured songs, we’ll just see what we can do over the top and interject. That’s it, there’s nothing else.
I heard you're a big fan of Star Trek. How did you feel about the new movie?
John: It was amazing. It was so good, I watched it three times. You know it’s so funny I absolutely hated that dude they got to play Captain Kirk. He just came off as the type of dude who was like, “I never watched Star Trek before, but they asked me to do it, so I am going do it.” He nailed it.
Who would you be in Star Trek?
John: I would want to be Spak. I don’t think I could play it properly though. Spak is just so cool. He’s always cool, and he knows everything.
Zachary: You’re way funnier than he is though.
John: You should say that in the microphone.
Zachary: No, I’m cool.
Do you guys spend a lot of time together outside of the band together?
Ryan: Yeah, pretty much all the time.
What other stuff do you guys usually do when you’re not playing music?
Ryan: Eating, playing basketball. We probably did that for two weeks, it was fun.
What happened with basketball--did your ball pop?
Ryan: [laughs] No, we just went on tour. It’s hard to play on tour.
Well if you guys want to play, I play basketball.
Ryan: Alright. It’s on.
Jason: We actually got a decent team of ballers.
How many of you usually play?
Jason: There is usually five or six. Our sound guy can dunk. Ryan can rebound.
John: [Grabs the microphone] Our sound guy can dunk. How cool is that? Who has that sound guy? I don’t know what he knows about sound, but he can dunk.
Ryan: We just saw him on the court, dunking, and we were like, “Hey--do you do sound?” [laughs]
Are you like a Rolling Stone?
What metaphor are you like?
Ryan: It’s a good question. I don’t know.
Zachary: Do you even know what a metaphor is?
Ryan: I know what a metaphor is. I’m not like any metaphor. I’m a wear a nuance will take place.
So if you could describe why people should listen to your music within one sentence or less, what would you say?
Ryan: Because it’s bad ass. [laughs]
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Portugal. The Man: "People Say"
Described as the best band you probably still don't know, Portugal. The Man is a band you should, and soon will know. After receiving high praise from Spin and NME, the band has created quite a buzz for their new album, The Satanic Satanists, from their performance during this years Lollapolooza. Their sound is difficult to describe, and I hate to generalize, but it reminds me of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine. Lead singer John Gourley is not only a talented musician, but also an artist (he and his friend Austin designed the album cover).
To describe one song of Akron/Family would totally limit the scope of their sound. On "Crickets," you can hear sounds of lo-fi distortion on the vocals, coupled with a banjo, electric guitars, and well the list goes on. Originally a six piece band, the group is now comprised of three members, each multi-instrumentalists whose versatility enables the band to change it's arrangement based on songs. On the band's Myspace page, they describe their sound as "Villiage People meet Carlos Castaneda on a Vision Quest...." Do I need to say anymore? For a great interview with Akron/Family, check out Aquarium Drunkard.
Bat For Lashes: "Daniel"
Natasha Khan, aka Bat For Lashes, is a beautiful dreamer that is offering her world of love and stories for those willing to explore. Both of her albums have been nominated for UK/Ireland's prestigious Mercury prize. When I sat and chatted with her at Outside Lands, she was wearing a t-shirt, her eyes surrounded by glitter, wearing a white feathered headdress that I assume she made. Her album Two Suns is a story of star crossed lovers (maybe alluding to her love for the Karate Kid). Her sound is rich, with intricate drum patterns, and a voice that calls with longing. She reminds me of Madonna's song "Power of Goodbye" from The Neverending Story.
The Raveonettes: "Last Dance"
If this is the last dance, than I'll save this for The Raveonettes. With a lo-fi sound that is not washed clean, "Last Dance" is bright and enticing. There is an element of 60s psychedelic rock that is coupled with a pop techno beat production, making an excitingly new and old sound. The Raveonettes are my new favorite discovery.
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Listen to What You're Missin': Modest Mouse, Speech Debelle, 88-Keys, and Discovery
Remember when discovering the next big hit meant sitting in smokey jazz clubs or punk dive bars, drinking cheap well drinks? Well the internet has changed the game! SFCritic receives lots of new music from emerging artists, and we're here to share. If you have something you’d like us to hear, send it over. We’ll be listening, reviewing, and posting new music from the inbox regularly.
Here’s what we’ve got this week:
The Three Potato
The Three Potato 4 is the solo project of Hayes Valley-based musician, Ryan Kittleman. Recorded over nine months in his apartment, Album Savant is a successfully airy and listenable record. According to his record label, “the lush cello arrangements of George Chavez provide a bed for the Casio keyboards, dollar store toys, and found instruments to accompany the more conventional instruments: guitar, vocals, and drum machines.”
That level of dedication to an eclectic sound can come off sounding a bit messy, but Kittleman keeps the arrangements neat throughout. The vocals are soft and sleepy, making the songs sound almost vintage. It is the type of album you want to listen to during a candlelit dinner.
Kittleman needs to take his obvious instrumental skill and keyboard-heavy aesthetic in a more upbeat, pop direction. For someone who self-reportedly “cut my teeth on the margins of the New York punk scene”, pushing the envelope could lead to some interesting things to come.
Sounds Like: Pet Sounds, a little. Beirut, a little. But both are a stretch.
Listen To: Heather’s Feather, Sometimes She Said, Victory
Early And Often
Early and Often is a band from Sacramento, fronted by Jeff Wright. Wright personally recorded all the tracks on the album (due for an October 2009 12” vinyl release) as part of an ambitious project to record 19 songs before his 19th birthday. While Wright didn’t make it to 19 (just 11), the results of his labor of love are compiled on the band’s debut “Golden Arms”.
Upon listening to these tracks, my first reaction--“how very Dashboard of them!” The album is personal, and the majority of the tracks focus on Wright crooning lyrics that seem to be intentionally murky. Instrumentally the album is fairly strong. Wright experiments with some different sounds and interesting arrangements, but fails to marry these with his somber lyrics. If Wright can refine his songwriting skills and continue to progress technically, he’ll definitely be worth a second listen.
Sounds Like: The Plain White T’s with a dark side.
Listen to: The Darkened Grave, Run With The Horses
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