Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Architecture in Helsinki - The Austinst Interview

Austinist posted an interview with Architecture in Helsinki today, to generate some sxsw buzz.

D is a fan of the band, so I am looking forward to seeing them.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Life in the Studio - egotrip's The White Rapper Show

The groups recording in the studios on tonight's episode was very real. There is a lot of writing and then a lot of sitting around.

But, they did miss a few key details:

1. Clouds of smoke permeating everything.

2. The entourage sitting in a lounge playing video games and/or watching porn.

3. Hours and hours of the track on repeat.

4. A loud argument in the hallway outside the studio.

5. Styrofoam cups.

thingsmyboyfriendsays.com

I am fuel, you are friends linked to a funny site this evening: thingsmyboyfriendsays.com.

I asked A tonight if he has anything to tell me, because some of the nonsense sounds like things he would/has said.

For example:

Birthday:

me: It's my birthday soon. You'd better get me something pretty.
e: I'll get ME something pretty, and you can play with it.


A: That guy has some right ideas.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Kool Keith on egotrip's The White Rapper Show

Kool Keith aka Black Elvis aka Dr. Octagon made an appearance on the White Rapper Show tonight.

In his honor, here a few of my favorite Kool Keith tracks.

Dr. Octagon, Earth People.

Try to resist singing along with the chorus:

Earth People, New York and California.
Earth People, I was born on Jupiter.


Buy the album here.

Dan the Automator featuring Kool Keith, Better Tomorrow

A classic Dan the Automator track. Buy the album here.

Kool Keith, Sex Style.

I have been begging Alon to put this into his I Need More Cowbell performances for years, to no avail. He never takes any of my suggestions.

Buy the album here.

Q-Tip, Kamaal the Abstract

When we heard in 2001 that Q-Tip was recording a new album, we waited with breathless anticipation for its 2002 release.

And waited.

And waited.

Arista, apparently, held it back as unmarketable and refused to release it.

For two years, I searched for it. Finally, in March, 2004, I found 7 of the 9 tracks.

It's hard to believe that Arista thought it would be hard to market. Other artists of Q-Tip's caliber, and arguably less fame, had been recording and releasing albums that stretched beyond their role as MCs at that time, notably Cee-Lo with his Cee-Lo and His Perfect Imperfections (released in 2002 on the date scheduled for the Kamaal the Abstract release) and Mos Def with his work as a singer on Charlie Hunter's Songs from the Analog Playground (released in 2001).

Regardless, record companies do as they wish. It's their marketing money.

Here are two of the tracks from Kamaal the Abstract. I do hope that they are soon released so that we can buy the album and support an artist we have enjoyed for almost two decades.

The market has certainly demonstrated that we will buy albums by artists we love, even if they experiment outside their genre. (Like those little songs "Hey Ya" and "Crazy." I heard they sold a few copies.)

Q-Tip, Blue Girl.

Q-Tip, Feelin.

So Much Silence posted about Q-Tip this morning. Hopefully, he wil have success with new projects and this old one will see the light of day.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Suddenly I'm Down in Harold's Square

I just downloaded a great Death Cab cover of Freedy Johnston's Bad Reputation from Another Form of Relief.

I was looking for info on the original song and came across the lyrics.

I suppose the person who submitted these has never given his regards to Broadway.

New Soul Music - Aloe Blacc

When I hear I really great new song, I have to hit replay and then I need silence. Then I email all of you to say "you have to buy this now!"

It happens rarely.

The last time I can remember doing it was John Legend's first album, which I bought because I read a review that compared him favorably to the Titans of Soul (Smokey, Stevie, and Marvin). Before that, it was D'Angelo's Voodoo and Charlie Hunter's Songs from an Analog Playground, which are in my top-10 albums of all time. (I ended up buying at least 5 albums of each from Amazon and shipping them to [some of] you.)

Ian on Notes from a Different Kitchen posted a few new soul tracks this morning.

I downloaded Aloe Blacc's Gente Ordinaria, which hits all of the things I love: it's a cover of Ordinary People in Spanish, but where the original is a spare piano track, this is a lush tropical arrangement with horns and drums. Because it couldn't get better, he also throws in the "la las" of My Cherie Amour.

Check it out here (Gente Ordinaria, Aloe Blacc) and then buy the album here.

In case my exhortation is not enough to convince you, here is part of the review from The In Crowd:

It's hard to really do this album proper justice in a review: dude basically takes sounds from the entire spectrum of the black musical disapora from jazz, blues, black folk field music to R&B, afro-latin jazz and hip hop and distills it down to a single, thoroughly modern yet unique sounding album.
So, buy it. Now.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Busdriver - Whiteboy Hipster Rap

For a couple of months, I have been reading post after post about Busdriver on great indie music blogs (Marathonpacks, fluxblog, and so much silence). I have listened to five tracks from his new album Roadkill Overcoat and read many reviews.

After reading this review in Radar this morning, I decided to give the songs another shot to see whether I was missing something:

He doesn't preach, like fellow do-good underground MC's, he seems to cut a little deeper with anger and irony, and to actually paint a picture of urban dissatisfaction. With "I got people to disappoint, I got mistakes to make, how can you believe that I'm not a waste of space?" Busdriver shows he is existential and prolific in his use of vocabulary words without losing the humor, the self-deprecation, and the absurdity (even rhyming about "taxidermy for the newly chic"). He grabs samples and sound and call-backs, weaving them together in his own audio roadkillovercoat.
This passage is actually insulting on many, many levels and betrays a shocking lack of knowledge about underground hip hop. Hell, even the subtext is insulting.

Setting that aside, I relistened to Busdriver and now I totally get it. He's the ultimate whiteboy hipster rapper. He's like one of them . . . he's clever and ironic!

The problem is that it is really awful hip hop. His flow is awful, his tracks are worse, and the lyrics are just there for the sake of being clever, there is very little rhyme or reason. Also, the mixes are so muddy as to make them nearly unlistenable.

Frankly, it's bad hip hop.

I know the blogosphere is all about finding the next big thing and being first, but here are some examples of excellent "underground" hip hop (though I am defining underground as non-mainstream, rather than how we define it here):

Deltron 3030 - a post-apocalyptic concept album by Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala. The tracks are excellent, Del's flow is always on point, and the lyrics are both clever and reinforce the concept.

Devin the Dude. I am always amazed that Devin is not more famous. His lyrics are clever and paint a portrait of his world so clearly, I can see, hear, and smell him rolling around Houston. Seriously, the aroma of wafting weed permeates all of his lyrics. It's not club music, it's rolling music.

Z-Ro. Okay, another Houston rapper, but Z-Ro has been getting more love lately because of the deal Rap-A-Lot has with Warner Bros. His undergrounds are amazing, and I have the ones he's done with Street Figgaz. Kelefa Sennah wrote in December that:
Z-Ro begins his new album by rapping about the streets. But ''City Streets,'' is an indictment, not a tribute. ''Damn these city streets,'' he declares, and instead of boasting that he has what it takes to survive them, he worries that he doesn't: ''I used to keep a pistol by my side/But it don't matter if I'm strapped, I'm still gonna die.''
He has a new album coming out this year and I hope that this year starts to turn things around for him. Once he's back out of prison, again.

The last artist I would recommend is probably not underground, even using the hipster argot. Still, Dead Prez is far from mainstream. Any music this angry and militant can never be mainstream. The group has gone to great lengths to maintain their separation from the cd-buying, iTunes downloading, LimeWire stealing white audiences that embrace most of hip hop. My favorite song is still "Hip Hop" and it's one of the only two ringtones I have ever had on my phone. (The other: Miles Davis, So What.)

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. - Tracing Roots

I love Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s documentaries, books, etc.

Late Friday nights, PBS has been running his documentary series African-American Lives. Tonight they aired the program "Tracing Oprah's Roots" where they did the dna and historical searches to determine from where in Africa her matrilineal line originated.

It's fascinating stuff and you should definitely dvr it if you get a chance.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Week That Was

I have had better weeks.

My stress level is reaching new, unimagined highs. F is ill, and it's negatively affecting pretty much everything on my schedule now and for next couple of weeks. Add in A's extremely stressful week and we're enjoying spending the last couple of hours apart. (He's killing werewolves or something with the help of the furball in the other room.)

Onto the music . . .

These are a few of my favorite new songs of the week:

  1. Heretics, Andrew Bird. This is a surprisingly peppy and upbeat track for the torture references. "Thank God, it's fatal!" It's already tagged as a favorite. (Originally from gorilla vs bear.)
  2. You! Me! Dancing!, Los Campesinos!. This song reminds me a bit of Driver F. (From Pitchfork.)
  3. Pâte Filo, Malajube. I am really loving the Trompe L'oeil album. (Originally from I am fuel, you are friends.)

Shuffle Discovery - Jazz - The Brian Melvin Trio




This afternoon, I heard a band I had never heard before, from an album we've owned for years.

After hearing , Out of the Night, I interrupted A to ask him who the Brian Melvin Trio was, and why had he been keeping them from me.

The Brian Melvin Trio produced a single album in 1986 entitled Standards Zone, with performances by drummer Brian Melvin, pianist Jon Davis, and the incomparable bassist Jaco Pastorius, who is considered by many the greatest bassist who ever lived.

The album, which is available for $60(!) on Amazon, is filled with standards and it is really lovely. Look for it in a used cd bin near you.

Rich or Famous?

When I meet with potential music clients, I have a threshold question:

Do you want to be rich or do you want to be famous?

How they answer tells me volumes about what they really want to achieve and which route they want to take.

There are many right answers and a few wrong ones.

A rapper who tells me all he wants is a major deal has pretty much ended the conversation. I will give him advice and tell him the horror stories (who doesn't remember the TLC "Behind the Music" where they showed on-screen how 10 million records netted them each $150k? or the regional tale of Lil Flip). Often, he'll stare at me blankly and think I don't know what the hell I am talking about when I tell him getting signed as an unknown individual artist to a major is unlikely at best and, if he is able to do it, it will be for 1/20 of the amount he thinks.

Few people understand the struggle of making it in the industry. The concept of "making it" differs depending on your goals. I have one client who just wants to buy a van and tour with his band. To him, that is success -- enough money to have his bandmates quit their crappy day-jobs and spend 4 months on the road building their audience. For another, the goal is selling platinum in the first week and expanding his career into movies.

I remember meeting with an artist a couple of years ago . . . it was a favor for a friend, a VC who was bored and looking to dabble, after meeting a rapper who talked a good game. The artist brought his producer and some other guy to the meeting. I knew about 5 minutes into the meeting that this would be an unmitigated disaster: they hired a publicist in LA (we were in Texas) before they finished their album. They had no other steps done. No booking agent. No management. No marketing. No plan. But, they were so excited that they hired and paid this publicist $15,000 who said she could help them get on the radio. The naïveté still astounds me! (I think I assigned him reading The Musician's Legal and Business Guide before he talked to anyone else.)

I only try to take on one or two new music artists a year. I have learned, over time, that I prefer entrepreneurial artists who are willing to invest in their own careers. If you think that signing with me means your future is guaranteed, then we are not right for each other.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Good, The Bad and The Queen - Free iTunes Download

The iTunes Music Store is offering a free download of The Good, The Bad and The Queen's single Herculean.

GBQ is the new Damon Albarn "supergroup" featuring bassist Paul Simonon from the Clash, guitarist Simon Tong from the Verve, and "Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen." The album is produced by Dangermouse.

Click here for the download: Herculean
.

EMI is offering a special Dangermouse remix here, but the download is not working for me.

I have been following Albarn's career from Blur through Gorillaz and his Mali Music album, so I am excited to hear more.

I Love New York - The Importance of Being Nice

My rumination on niceness (really, it's the post-traumatic stress from people singing "at" me over the years) reminded me of the only piece of reality tv gossip I know:

New York, from Flavor of Love and I Love New York, is nice.

Like really nice, especially to people to whom she doesn't have to be nice.

# worked with her on promos for her show and described her as "sweet" to the models and the crew.

We would have watched her show anyway (I know, I know, embarassing, but true), but it's so much easier to tolerate knowing that our suspicisions were correct.

American Idol - A Reminder of Bad Work Days

I just watched a contestant sing a song he wrote, which was terrible, demonstrating his complete lack of singing ability.

I cringed watching it. Not for him, for me.

I have spent many hours listening to R&B singers trying to impress me. Some of them could sing well, but appeared to be difficult to work with (an absolute kiss of death). Some could sing really well, but had image issues. Some were hot and completely terrible. Some had nice voices, but no sense of rhythm.

For the most part, none could sing as well as they thought they could. Worse yet, most could not hear (at all!), so they had no idea they were as bad as they actually were.

Where AI is most accurate: with music, it's never just about singing. It's about performance. It's about image. It's about picking the right material. It's about being easy to work with.

Really, never underestimate being nice. If you want someone to invest in you and give you a shot, be nice.

Unless you are actually Mariah or Whitney, you are completely replaceable.

Pissing off the producers and the label and the publicists and the recording engineers means you will not work. (Plus, if you make us really, really, really mad, you will not work and you will not be released from your contract. )

It is easier if you are in a band. Good material and good perfomance can outweigh those "I am a golden god" moments, but only to a point. If you are a jerk, I will still pass because if you are a jerk to the people who you want to work for you, how will you be on tour or with press?

There are a lot of talented people in the world, so I prefer to put my energy, knowledge, and reputation on the line for people I would like to see succeed.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Link Roundup - Today's Best of the Music Blogs

I was extremely busy today and this evening with work and a social obligation, so here are some sites you might want to check for some great (and/or interesting) music:

Idolator is my favorite music site. It has the right blend of snark and sincerity and I find more new music to love there more often than any other place. Today, they posted a "Please Release Me" feature about the Sugababes greatest hits Overloaded: The Singles Collection.

I am have been a fan of Sugababes since I heard their Live Lounge cover of I Bet You Look Good on the DanceFloor by the Arctic Monkeys.

I Am Fuel, You Are Friends has a post about Malajube, an indie band from Montréal.

Cover Freak posted a collection of Ring of Fire covers.

American Idol - Authenticity

I regularly read an interesting site called Dial "M" For Musicology, of which I understand maybe a third.

Today, he posted an article about "the rhetoric of authenticity", whereby a singer creates a performance that is not based on authentic feeling but the communication of an authenticity:

In my classes I often like to point out that the artistry of singers like Bob Dylan is largely directed at fashioning a rhetoric of authenticity. . . .What's particularly impressive about Dylan's sixties albums is how he was coming up with a whole new vocal-performative code for each album. It's a remarkable acheivement: between 1963 (Freewheelin' Bob Dylan) and 1967 (John Wesley Harding) he invented half a dozen ways of being authentic.

Fascinating stuff, as always.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

New Music - Field Music

Field Music released their second album on iTunes this week in the US.

I have been reading posts about them this month on Music For Kids Who Can't Read Good, Covert Curiousity, and Fluxblog.

Field Music is buoyant Britpop (and British Pop), while being more than the sum of its parts. The songs are catchy and I have a sneaking suspicion that this album will be one of my favorites for this year.

I particularly enjoy Give It Lose It Take It, which reminds me of early Beatles and early Oasis, and A House Is Not A Home, which Fluxblog says "seems effortless in the way that only the best songs can, and has a way of sneaking into the back of your mind and setting up residence like a welcome, yet uninvited guest."

Buy it on iTunes.

Mixtape Drama

Analog Giant has a great take on the the RIAA's raid on DJ Drama and Don Cannon.

As I commented on Idolator this week, I am surprised by the lack of outrage about this case.

I'll Take Manhattan

I have a favorite version of the Rodgers & Hart standard "Manhattan."

Blossom Dearie's interpretation of the song sounds like strolling around New York while falling in love. It's a soft, reflective song that feels like an intimate conversation, rather than an upbeat, blaring showtune.

You know the song:

I'll take Manhattan
the Bronx and Staten Island too.
It's lovely going through the zoo.

It's very fancy
on old Delancey Street you know.
The subway charms us so
when balmy breezes blow
to and fro.

And tell me what street
compares with Mott Street in July?
Sweet pushcarts gently gliding by.

The great big city's a wonderous toy
made for a girl and boy.
We'll turn Manhattan
into an isle of joy.

You can hear the song here and buy it here on iTunes and on Amazon.

Random Music From a Cold, Rainy Stroll

I spent yesterday afternoon strolling around Town Lake with M. It was very cold, rainy, and gray.

The trail was often muddy and we also had to negotiate our way around a huge fallen
tree near Barton Springs Pool. I climbed through the mud around the roots while M jumped up onto the trunk and hit his head on low twigs.

We saw only a dozen people along the 4+ mile loop. Almost all of them runners. Some with dogs, who wanted to be anywhere but in the cold, wet mud.

For the most part, we chatted about his (former?) relationship and his (ex?) girlfriend, as I offered advice (and hectored, where appropriate).

Two songs were stuck in my head as we walked:

Ghostwriter, RJD2.

I tried to describe the mostly instrumental track Ghostwriter: "you know, the percussion is like ba bump bump bump bump bump, and then the horn comes in." Just as annoying as you would imagine.

Mp3.
You can buy the album on Amazon
or a remix of the track on iTunes.
Note: the album Deadringer on iTunes is a partial album, so buy it on Amazon.

Postcards from Italy, Beirut.

Mp3.
You can buy the album on iTunes.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Departed - New Deletions From My Collection

I have 4435 songs in iTunes and there is a lot of chaff. I really hate deleting songs, so I revisit my 1 and 2 star lists from time to time. Some songs have escaped into regular circulation, but these are escaping only into the ether:

Vessels - Too much dissonance and the mix irritated me. I know that's the point, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

The Black Lips.

Lovedrug.

Rappers Delight Club - I prefer my child rappers of the "jump, jump" or "pass de dutchie pon de left-hand side" variety. Thanks Pitchfork!

Simple Plan - I can feel the sacchrine of power-punk through my phones. Originally from an iTunes sampler.

Rock N Roll Soldiers - See above.

Scenes from a Movie - Why do I hate this college boy music so much? From PureVolume, now gone.

The Electric Pop Group.

A cover of Wonderwall mis-attributed to Radiohead.

Covers of Creep misattributed to Pearl Jam and Muse.

A live recording of Lightning Crashes with a woman shrieking every 15 seconds.

Albums I cannot yet bring myself to delete:

Mos Def, The New Danger. First, I bought it from iTunes because, well, that's what I do for someone who gave us "Black on Both Sides" and Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Blackstar." It's not in rotation, though.

Q Tip, Kamal the Abstract. This is an unreleased album by a favorite artist, so I cannot delete it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

iTunes Software Plugin - iConcertCal

iConcertCal is an iTunes plug-in that integrates a concert calendar into your iTunes, so you will know when and where artists in your iTunes are playing in your town.

It works in the visualizer menu, so it is there when you want it and disappears when you don't.

See Lifehacker for more information.

Mashups

I read recently on a music blog that mashups are so 2004 . . . that they were over after Dangermouse released the Grey Album.

Of course, this is absolutely absurd.

A great mashup is like a great cover - revealing more about the original music and about the dj than you would have thought possible.

Not all mashups are created equally. The worst I've heard is the Wonderwall/Boulevard of Broken Dreams mashup called Wonderwall Boulevard because it sounds like two completely different songs smushed together into something less than either song is separately. I would put the Dre Skull mashup of ODB's Got Your Money with Louie, Louie into this category.

Far, far more clever and well-executed is "Work It Out" by Lenlow, which combines songs by Beyoncé, Dave Matthews Band, Jurassic 5, and Dee-Lite into a great new song. Unlike some mashups, the intensity doesn't drop as the song transistions.

Into this category, I would add Hung Up On Soul (Death Cab For Cutie vs. Madonna) by Party Ben, Always With You (Willie Nelson vs. U2 vs. MARRS) by Divide & Kreate, and Real Back Poppin' (Cheryl Lynn vs. Fat Joe & Nelly) by DJ Axel.

All of these songs can be found on this (free) collection, along with other exceptionally produced mashups at Bootie USA.

Girl Talk made many Best of 2006 lists for his mashup "Bounce That." Combining unexpected elements, Girl Talk captures a virtuoso dj performance with an integration of sample after sample into a cohesive sonic journey. Also contributing to the success of "Bounce That" is the use of a screwed mix of Kryptonite by Big Boi & the Purple Ribbon All-Stars at the start of the song.

You can download "Bounce That" and "Hold Up" from Girl Talk's website.

The Week That Was

It's been a crazy week around Ca'd'Musette:

  • Ice and snow shut down the city of Austin for three days and kept us house-bound and reflective.
  • Two huge proposals are demanding enormous amounts of my attention.
  • One of my best friends is going through a bad, bad break-up, so we have been seeing lots of him.
These are a few favorite new editions to my collection this week from the music sites:
  1. Yo No Sé, Los Amigos Invisibles. It's frothy disco, and it's impossible to frown when this is playing. (Originally heard on The Rich Girls Are Weeping.)
  2. Goodbye, The Postman. It's an interesting Indie Pop song - jaunty instrumentation, but the whispery vocal feels slightly behind the beat (though it isn't). It's a happy song, as long as you ignore the lyrics. I look forward to hearing it more and more. (Originally heard on: my notes say stereogum, but I cannot confirm.)
  3. Elephant Gun, Beirut. My current favorite song in my collection is still Postcards from Italy (a song which S also loves, proving I am not completely alone on this one). This one is growing on me quickly. (Originally heard on: Pitchfork)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Neo-Soul Music ( or New (ish) Soul (ish) Music)

B, my favorite DJ/realtor, called today for recommendations for neo-soul music.

Here are some artists to check out. You may already have them, but, if not, buy this stuff quick!

I am taking more of a Pandora approach, so not everything is necessarily categorized as "Soul," but it fits together musically.

Amp Fiddler

A first heard this at a listening station at Borders a few years ago.

His album Waltz of a Ghetto Fly is well-worth buying.

Mp3: You Played Me, Amp Fiddler.

Lemar

This Lemar track "50 50" comes from the Live Lounge.

You can find his music at Amazon.

Mp3: 50 50, Lemar

The Brand New Heavies

With N'Dea Davenport back in the mix, it sounds like vintage BNH.

You can find their new album on iTunes.

Mp3: I Don't Know Why (I Love You), The Brand New Heavies

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

I was introduced to this band by Idolator.

They are just amazing.

Mp3: How Long Do I Have To Wait For You?, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings.

Amos Lee

Amos Lee is an artist on Blue Note. I bought his new album though I am not 100% sold. You can find it here on
Amazon
.

He's in my rotation, though, and I am keeping an open mind to see how he develops.

Mp3: Sympathize, Amos Lee.

Esthero

Her latest album is filled with Lounge-y goodness. I listened to her a lot at the end of last year and the album really held up. You can find it on iTunes and
>Amazon
.

Mp3: Everyday is a Holiday, Esthero

Vietnam - The Daytrotter Sessions

Since I posted about Vietnam yesterday, I want to direct any fans of the band (or anyone who is willing to give the band a shot) to Daytrotter.

Daytrotter continues to impress with their great live recordings.

An Irreplaceable Controversy

There has been a bit of controversy raging about Beyoncé's single "Irreplaceable," which is the only decent single on that awful B-Day album.

Beyoncé had been vocal in performances that she "wrote the song." However, it's been pretty clear that it was Ne-Yo's song. Media Take Out has video and audio here.

Today, Beauty N the Beat has Ne-Yo singing the song. It sounds unmastered, but it clearly demonstrates the excellent bones of this catchy tune.

Amy Winehouse - Free iTunes Download

Click here to download Amy Winehouse's You Know I'm No Good from the iTunes Music Store: You Know I'm No Good.

SX Updated List from Austinist

As we get closer to SXSW, Austinist posted another update to its confirmed bands list.

At this point, I am looking forward to seeing:

Architecture In Helsinki
Bonde Do Role
Devin The Dude
Girl Talk
Lily Allen
Prototypes
RJD2
Rocky Votolato
Scissor Sisters
The Walkmen
Voxtrot

Of course, I say this every year, and then I actively avoid all formal SX activity. As with any industry thing, there's so much BS and I hate it.

Brit Awards Nominations

I was reading on Stereogum this morning that the Brit Awards nominations are out.

Stereogum and its commenters had the expected snarky comments about the awards and the status of British music "the performers list is a vertitable who's whom of acts you love to be indifferent about, like Corrine Bailey Rae, Snow Patrol, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Take That, The Killers, Amy Winehouse ..."

My favorite comment was "You're bound to be indifferent, and rightly so. The British music scene is currently plagued by Indie bands with their knowing winks and 'realism' in their lyrics. Hell, I still haven't been involved with any of the stuff most of these bands talk about, nor do I know anyone who has. Realism, my arse."

Oh, horrors! Indie bands with their knowing winks! That separates them from US bands how exactly?

Here I am, once again, beating the drum for the British pop music, but it is enormously entertaining. I adore Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, and many of the nominated bands. Corinne Bailey Rae is very talented and, though I am not crazy about her album, I love her cover of Munich. I hope she can become a British Alicia Keys, who also had crappy over-produced first album and then used her live shows and her covers to demonstrate the depth of her artistry before releasing a great second album and using her power for good.

I am actually looking forward to seeing the Brit Awards - they put together unexpected pairings and performances and something interesting usually happens.

I have a couple of songs from past Brit Awards below. Frankly, they are not great covers, but I am glad to have them because they fill out my covers collection.

Mp3: From Brit Awards 2004: LoveCats (The Cure cover) by Jamie Cullum and Katie Melua.

Mp3: From the Brit Awards 2005: Ain't Nobody (Rufus and Chaka Khan cover) by Daniel Bedingfield and Natasha Bedingfield. (It's an especially icky cover since they are siblings.)

American Idol - First Thoughts

I am fascinated by American Idol -- some people who have only performed in school or in church or at their local karaoke bar being suddenly thrust onto an enormous stage. The backstories are often complelling, as are the hows and whys of what they choose to sing and how they present themselves to the world.

Then, you have fans who really root for their favorite singers and I am always interested to know who they love and why.

It's excellent television.

That said, last night's show was extremely disappointing. I loved the self-described "crack baby" who sang "And I am telling you." But everything else was "meh" to "OMG, her parents/friends/therapist should have prevented her from doing this!"

The numbers of truly delusional people is astounding.

I meet delusional folks regularly. They really believe their script, their short film, their band are just one meeting away from fame, fortune, and adulation. (The non-delusional ones know that a meeting is the start of the journey, not the end.)

If you are in a band or you are making a movie, you have to convince other people that your project is worthy and your talent is there. If you are just showing up to an audition, you can be deluded in your own special way.

Seeing deluded people on television having their dreams crushed is not the way I enjoy spending a couple of hours. Even with the snow/ice day and the magic of the dvr, it was still painful to watch as the ratio of awful to good was so off-kilter.

We will keep monitoring it, but I do hope the editing improves the ratio a bit so we can hear better performances along with all of the sad, deluded.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Covers Only I Could Love - BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge

Last year, I rediscovered my love of British Pop and British Rock and all the music in between (really, that's like all the music from A to B).

In rediscovering this music, I found songs from the BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge, which are actually wonderful.

Just in case there is anyone in the world who wants to hear how Pharrell's Frontin' sounds being performed by Jamie Cullum, this is the post for you.

Frontin', Jamie Cullum.

Originally written and performed by Pharrell, Jamie Cullum transforms a catchy hip-hop track into a catchier jazzy pop song. I listen to it way more than I should.

As a direct result of hearing this song, I bought Jamie Cullum's 2004 album. Nothing on it capitvated me as much as this song.

Mp3: Frontin' by Jamie Cullum

Naive, Lily Allen.

This is the song that introduced me to Lily Allen, who became beloved and then reviled by music bloggers in a few short months (and before her album was ever released in the US.

It was written and performed by The Kooks, another British band I adore. (Alone, apparently.) As I have mentioned in my Best of 2006, I love this song in all its versions and this is the first version I had heard.

Mp3: Naive, Lily Allen

Vietnam - New Videos Coming

Vietnam is getting some heavy buzz for their upcoming album, which is being released on Kemado Records on January 23.

I spoke to # last night and he told me he is working on two new videos this week.

"I Used to Love H.E.R." - So Much Silence . com

I recently found the site So Much Silence.

I really love the series of interviews entitled "I Used to Love H.E.R." in which indie artists and writers talk about their favorite or most essential hip-hop album.

I highly recommend checking it out.

Snow/Ice Day

The entire city of Austin (and the whole Central Texas region) has been shut down because of ice.

It's snowing outside for real -- huge flakes are falling.

We lost power a bit during the night, but we're good so far. They have said lines may begin to snap with the extra .5" of accumulation they are expecting.

A and I went for a little stroll to the corner market for Gerolsteiner. By the time we left, the snow had become ice and the walk back was more treacherous.

We still have power, but there is a rumor that a water main broke in the neighborhood and the water will be shut off for about 6 hours. We have plenty of water on hand, so we're fine.

They just announced heavy accumulation in our park, which we can definitely see.

It's crazy, since it was in the 70s just last week.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Favorite Covers 2

What's Going On, Donny Hathaway.

The Marvin Gaye original is considered sacrosanct, which is why Hathaway's cover is so excellent. It's a live version, and it's a completely different soulful arrangement - completely Donny Hathaway style.

It's obviously a fairly contemporaneaouly version. It's not a "tribute," it's a peer performing a song he likes.

Love You Inside Out, Feist.

A studio version of a Bee Gees classic disco song. It sounds lounge-y and, well, Quebecois to my untrained ears.

This was among my most played songs in 2006.

Mad World, Gary Jules.

Jules absolutely owns this version of the Tears for Fears song. Known originally for its use on the Donnie Darko soundtrack, it regained popularity in 2006 for its use in commercials for the Gears of War video game.

It's haunting and oddly compelling.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Smart Playlists

I currently have 4,340 songs in my iTunes. That means, I build a lot of playlists, primarily smart playlists.

The playlists range from the simple 4 star and 5 star lists to songs I have tagged in groupings (like live, cover, night, mellow, best of 2006, etc.) and in comments (from whom I received the music, like a cd from my dad or a colleague, a promo from a label or distributor, or from which blog I was introduced to the band or the song).

I sort things by genre a little more specifically than I should. I have 154 genres listed because I sort songs by genres and sub genres. For example, I have 10 different acoustic genres because I found that dumping everything into the same acoustic catergory meant that I missed hearing the song in the original category (like Acoustic/Britpop or Acoustic/Soul).

I learned a new technique from Merlin Mann, the hipster pda inventor and productivity guru (and old school chum). In his article on Music Only playlists, Merlin suggests building all of your smart playlists off of a defined Music only playlist. I also use this strategy but I expanded "Music Only" to remove music I do not want to hear randomly shuffled as I walk around the lake: if the genre contains "demo" or "client," it's kicked out. (All of my clients are also tagged in grouping as "client" so some make it into regular rotation.)

My most often played playlist is "Night." This is a list that we listen to nearly every night either through the stereo in the bedroom or through our own headphones. The list starts with "Ruler of My Heart" by Dirty Dozen Brass Band and then plays jazz and soul: D'Angelo, Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, etc. My top 12 most played songs all appear on this list.

Wonderwall

I was working at my first job when Wonderwall was released in October, 1995.

I don't remember hearing it at the time. I was aware of it and the band, but I was heavily engaged in work and the move to Austin, and it wasn't among the genres of music to which I was listening then.

LIke a great pop song, it has a lovely melody and an interesting lyric that is slightly deeper than, for example, "Freak me baby," and it's very singable.

Around Thanksgiving this year, I came across the great Ryan Adams acoustic cover. (There are two, and one is FAR superior to the more common one.) That got me searching for additional covers. Now I have covers by:

Cat Power
Robbie Williams (live in concert)
Ryan Adams (2)
Weezer
Paul Anka
Anges Carlsson
Howie Day

and many live versions by Oasis. In all, I have 14 versions of the song, including 3 mashups.

It is a truly great pop song. It holds up well no matter who is singing it.

My favorite is the the Ryan Adams cover that ends with an impromptu Oasis impression. The Cat Power version is haunting, and, like Ben Harper's cover of In Your Eyes, it shows her to better advantage than her own music.

The worst is the Weezer cover because it's a send-up rather than a cover.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Favorite Covers 1

For me, a perfect cover song takes a song you've dismissed and an artist you've dismissed and combines them in a way that deepens your appreciation for one or both. Or that convinces you that maybe there are tons of kick-ass pop songs and pop singers floating around in the ether.

Here is a list of some of my favorite covers.

In Your Eyes, Ben Harper.

This live acoustic cover of the Peter Gabriel song combines the best elements of a perfect cover:
- it's live
- the artist is taking the source material seriously
- the audience sings part of the song the artist does not. Around the 4:14 mark, the audience starts to sing "in your eyes" during the chorus and it's powerful. He pauses and says "thanks" to the crowd.

I am not a Ben Harper fan. He has a great voice and great delivery, but unfortunately he's not as great a songwriter as he is an artist. The Bob Marley covers he does and "In Your Eyes" are great showcases of his talent. His own songs never rise to the

More Than This, Charlie Hunter Quartet featuring Norah Jones.

We fell in love with Norah Jones because of this song. We even went to see her at her first non-SX show in Austin when she was completely unheard of and opening for an unheralded indie John Mayer at the Austin Music Hall in 2002, I suppose.

Charlie Hunter is one of my favorite artists and performers. He plays an 8 stringed instrument that is both guitar and bass, and we love bringing friends to see him for the first time when they try to figure out where the other musician is.

The beat is slower than the Roxy Music original and the instrumentation is tropical. Jones's voice is soft and rounded. Her delivery makes the song an incredibly romantic love song.

It's really lovely.

Let Me Love You, Charlotte Church.

This song, originally performed by Mario, was an R&B throw-away. Charlotte Church performed it on BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge, and made me appreciate her matured sound and this song. It's among my most played of the Fall.

Munich, Corinne Bailey Rae

I have already written about this song, and I have sent it to just about everyone.

The original song by the Editors is on my best of 2006 list. When they perform the song, it sounds slightly menacing. Rae's delivery makes the song deeply intimate.

Standards - Rodgers & Hart

My favorite music collection is The Complete Rodger & Hart Songbook. It's a 3 cd set I bought in probably 1996.

The first two cds are a collection of Rodgers & Hart songs sung by the best singers of Standards, among them Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, Blossom Dearie, and even Cassandra Wilson.

The third cd is a collection of the same songs performed by the best jazz performers, including Miles Davis, Charley Parker, Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz, and Bill Evans.

Rodgers & Hart wrote for Broadway and wrote some of the most famous songs in "The Great American Songbook" including:

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered
My Romance
I'll Take Manhattan
Blue Moon
My Funny Valentine
The Lady is a Tramp

My favorite song of the collection is probably Ella Fitzgerald performing Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.

The song appears in the score for "Pal Joey," which debuted on Broadway in 1940. It's a standard you have heard dozens of times. It's a wistful, melancholy song:

Lost my heart, but what of it
He is cold I agree
He can laugh, but I love it
Although the laugh's on me

I'll sing to him, each spring to him
And long, for the day when I'll cling to him
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - am I

The song often ends with this lyric.

The Ella Fitzgerald version, however, combines the reprise with the original song, which changes the song from melancholy to strong and hopeful as the singer moves past the bad relationship to a new strength:

Couldn't eat, was dispeptic
Life was so hard to bear
Now my heart's antiseptic
Since you moved out of there

Romance, finis. Your chance, finis.
Those ants that invaded my pants, finis.
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered - no more

My Chemical Romance = 80s Hair Metal

I have heard Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance, though the play count is zero.

Now, I am not really down with My Chemical Romance. I remembered them coming on the scene around the same time as the Killers and I was bemused.

Welcome to the Black Parade is very Queen -- it's theatrical and completely over-the-top, while remaining entertaining. I imagine that they love being in the studio.

That they are beloved by indie bloggers is funny, because I can just as easily see Poison or Skid Row performing their songs. It's so 80s Hair Metal.

The Start to an Interesting Day - Flood, with Ice to Come

We've gotten inches and inches of rain this morning and we're flooded in. The main intersection for our neighborhood is underwater.

I thought the storm was going to hit this afternoon, so I spent time with M yesterday evening listening to his tale of woe instead of at the grocery store.

Now, we have a relatively empty larder and an ice storm is on the way.

We live in the Hills, so I am not concerned about actual flooding but we have to cross Town Lake to get into town and we have to cross Zilker Park and the Barton Springs to get to the store where our allergy medicine is. Awesome.

I am supposed to be on a conference call about our new project, but I am much more concerned with spending tomorrow sans Allegra.

Random Music Memory: Erykah Badu, Miles Davis, and the Rapper

In light of the last two posts, I have to share a music memory:

Last decade, I was working on a strategic plan for a rap label. The CEO had inherited a box of classic reel to reel jazz albums from a relative and we spent hours listening to them while we worked. Kind of Blue was a particular favorite. Of course.

One evening, he put Erykah Badu's Live cd on as we worked. And then got mad.

He recognized So What in Rimshot.

While I would think a rapper would appreciate an homage, it lowered Badu in his estimation.

That was the last time we listened to Badu while we worked.

Best Jazz Albums

I have been to some interesting jazz shows with A over the years:
McCoy Tyner
Ahmad Jamal
Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter together.
Brad Mehldau, who made my head hurt. I sat in One World Theater for an hour before I could get a handle on anything he was doing . . . until I heard the melody from "It Might As Well Be Spring."

We have a lot of jazz. At least half of our cds are jazz, and 575 songs on my iTunes. We've converted only a small portion over so far. (We're waiting until we buy a mini with a huge hard drive to rip the remainder in lossless.)

You would think that the ranking of Best Jazz Albums, therefore, would be a matter of controversy. Not so, for the top 2, at least.

1. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. 1959

Absolutely no one could disagree with this. Not only is it the best jazz album ever, it has been rated many times by many, many critics as the best album of the 20th century. Period.

The musicians were at the top of their respective games - Miles Davis, Bill Evans, John Coltrane. Cannonball Adderly,Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb. Miles handed out the music as they began to record, so with no rehersals, they launched in and magic happened. The entire album is vibrant and alive.

Geeky Musette Fact: "So What" has been my ringtone for 2 years. (It replaced "Hip Hop" by Dead Prez.)

2. The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out. 1959

This album is extremely technical and "tricky" in a way that would normally be inaccessible. Each song is written in a different and often unusual time signature: 9/8, etc.

The beauty of the album is that for all of its technical prowess, it's a remarkably listenable album. It was wildly popular when it was released, and it still feels as fresh today. Paul Desmond on saxophone is superb. Each song, on its own, is excellent, and as a whole, the album is breathtaking.

My favorite songs are the classic "Time Out" and "Blue Rondo A La Turk." A's favorite is Kathy's Waltz.

3. Stan Getz, Getz/Gilberto. 1964

The Brazilian samba album created an international sensation and won grammys for Album of the year and Song of the year.

It features "Girl from Ipanema" and "Desafinado," among other classics.

Underrated - Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun

Erykah Badu is an extraordinary talent, but she is constantly overlooked.

Her album Mama's Gun is absolutely brilliant. Among the great songs is Green Eyes, which captivates me each time I hear it.

Green Eyes is a little over ten minutes long. Each verse is sung in a different musical style, progressing through the history of 20th century music. Yet, the song itself hangs together beautifully. It's not gimmicky.

The first time I remember hearing it, A and I were driving to Houston or Beaumont (which is neither beau nor mont), and i played the first verse and the chorus and then made him pay attention. We listened to it a few times in the car that night, marveling at her artistry and her risk-taking.

A told me tonight that he thinks it's 2nd best album by a female artist in the last 30 years, second only to Whitney Houston's debut.

New to Me - Beirut

Beirut is the best artist I discovered in perusing the blogospere's Best of 2006 lists.

Both I Guess I'm Floating and Music for Kids Who Don't Read Good gave it year-end treatment.

The song Postcards from Italy sounds like Eastern European brass band-y folk music. Kinda.

Though I am incapable of accurately describing it, I do know it sounds like all kinds of awesome.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Recovering My Collection

I have been ripping and downloading a ton of music over the past month, in an attempt to recreate some of my lost collection after the final crash of my lemony MBP.

There are two categories of music I had not backed up on my old iBook or on A's MacBook:
-- Music from my brother's iPod at Thanksgiving (lots of !!!, Os Mutantes, 60s Reggae, and Detroit Rockabilly, if I remember correctly)
-- Acoustic covers from the Radio 1's Live Lounge

(All of my iTunes music was replaced by Apple [although I had all of it backed up on the MacBook]. Still, it was very nice of them, especially since they sold me a lemon and then tortured me for 10 days of delays waiting for the advance replacement.)

I have been able to recover all of the Live Lounge covers, but I have no way of replacing my brother's music. I meant to do it at Christmas, but we just never found the time.

Dance - Los Amigos Invisibles

Living in Austin, the concept of "dance music" depends on which clubs you frequent.

For the most part, our dance music is hip hop.

I just heard Yo No Sé by Los Amigos Invisibles
from the most excellent (former Austin) blog The Rich Girls Are Weeping.

It is a frothy disco song that feels as easy as a summer afternoon. I can easily imagine my family dancing to this at the next impromptu party.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Stress and Bonde do Role

Today has been a stressful day. I needed to pound out a letter and focus on a bunch of different little tasks, while dealing with a crushing deadline and all the pressure therefrom.

Inspired by an Idolator debate, I put on my 2006 playlist, sorted by ranking, so I heard a lot of great stuff that I have loved from this year:

Amy Winehouse
Beirut
The Brand New Heavies
Clipse
Both versions of Munich
Driver F
Feist
Girl Talk
Graham Coxon
JC Chsez
Keane
The Kooks
Lemar
OutKast
The Rifles
Rocky Votolato
Snow Patrol
Suburban Kids with Biblical Names (which is the best band name ever)

All-in-all, an excellent playlist.

But the best moment came on a 4 song stretch of Bonde do Role.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

New UPS Ad Featuring The Postal Service

We've been watching the NFL Playoffs, while reading the Times (online) and playing the most addictive game ever.

UPS is airing a new ad that plays the instrumental track for "Such Great Heights."

Interesting choice, UPS, to play a song by The Postal Service.

No iMix for You

I have been looking for a quick and dirty way to share my current mixes here.

Lifehacker has some great information about it.

The downside is, most of the stuff I am listening to right now is not yet available on iTunes and therefore, not available as an iMix.

So, I will still have to email you all the songs I think you should hear.

Sweet Home Alabama

I was just browsing around looking for any rare or live or interesting covers and I saw this:

Kid Rock, Sweet Home Alabama.

First: duh. Of course he covered it.

Second: anyone who covers Sweet Home Alabama is, de facto, an asshole.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Children of Men

A and I went to see Children of Men today.

It's one of the best movies I've ever seen.

It's a beautiful piece of art. Unrelenting, brutal, dystopic.

There are brilliant touches throughout. The cinematography is remarkable.

There was a moment toward the end of the movie that created an immediacy reminiscent of the opening of Saving Private Ryan. I swear I watched the last 45 minutes covering my head and ducking.

A and I have very different takes on the movie. I viewed it is great art, and he is ruminating about our dystopic future.

Plus ca change . . .

Music on Which I Have Slept - Amy Winehouse

Whenever anyone asks me what music I listen to, I always tell them "really crappy British music, with a preference for covers of crappy British music by crappy British artists." (It's a minor lie, but a reasonably cute one.)

Then they ask for examples and I end up telling them of my love of The Kooks and the Lily Allen cover thereof. Then they look at me like I am slightly insane . . . mostly because they've heard of neither. I think. Or it might be because I am.

So it's a shock I completely slept on Amy Winehouse.

Really, I blame Perez Hilton. Like the rest of America, I do not know why I keep him in my rss reader, but I do. I feel unclean every time I glance at his stuff, but I guess I find his Paris Hilton tongue baths amusing.

I know he wasn't first or probably even early, but his estatic embrace of Amy Winehouse meant I would absolutely skip it.

I was so very very wrong.

It's an amazing album and she has an amazing voice. It's very 60s Soul. (While I have been typing, I had a short playlist running in the background. I had searched something and it was playing in order. I did not even notice when it jumped from Winehouse to a Mary J Blige/Nina Simone collaboration.)

Best tracks:

Rehab is the killer track.
You Know That I'm No Good
Me and Mr. Jones

A Dream of "You Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will."

I am not the world's best sleeper (unlike my two bed-mates). From time to time, I sleep with my ipod on. Thanks to the human bed-mate, I read a sleep article that advised training yourself to sleep with audiobooks. Riiight.

At night, if I am really having trouble, I plug the Sennheiser ginormous phones into the ipod and I am usually asleep in about a song and a half.

This morning, I had an extremely vivid dream about a trip to Paris on a train on like a school trip, but I was grown, I think, because I was looking forward to having A join me. Lots of oddness, and at one point, everyone on the train started singing "You Will. You? Will. You? Will. You? Will." The live Snow Patrol cover, not the original Bright Eyes. So, that's weird, When I awoke, I checked the playlist to which I had fallen asleep and no Snow Patrol.

That absence struck me far more than the dream scenes of the collapse of a china display in a museum or chasing lost toddlers through the Grand Trianon.

LIke I said, vivid.