Friday, February 27, 2009

#18 (Beyond Lovely Edition)

Some singers share unfairly beautiful voices. Neko Case (of solo and New Pornographers fame) is one of those chanteuses. I thought when I heard her song "Vengeance is Sleeping" from her new album "Middle Cyclone"--out this Tuesday--that it was beautiful...and then I heard a live recording of her performing the song...and she was even more transcendent than on the album. Neko carries unbridled emotion in her voice and a sharp, at times caustic wit in her lyrics. With lines like "I didn't know what a brute I was" and "I'm not the man you thought I was," Case takes on the guise of a solemn and self-conscious, if guilty, lover. For a woman who once said she could never write love songs, her new album is chock full o' them. That's OK with me though, particularly if she is going to continue to use vocal harmony half-step hammer-ons (1:19 and end of song). For that moment alone (and for a heavy dose of lovely fingerpicking), this song gets the full Friday showcase.


Neko Case, "Vengeance is Sleeping"

Friday, February 20, 2009

#17 (Maximalist Minimalist Edition)

Relatively few people talk about minimalism when they talk about rock n' roll. This is particularly curious given that in many ways, rock is as bare bones as music gets. Songs are usually built off one or two repetitive riffs and arrangements are sparse. Nevertheless, there are rare occasions when bands get categorized with the redundant name "minimalist rock." Television, Talking Heads, and the Velvet Underground all had that name bandied (pun intended) about in talking about their music. So a.) what makes those bands minimalist, b.)who's running with the minimalism thing these days in pop music, and c.) are we really talking about Steve Reich here?

Answers: a.)some combination of hypnotically repetitive melodic patterns beautiful in their simplicity, MARKEDLY sparse arrangements, and oftentimes repeated lyrics b.) Takka Takka and c.)not really.

Takka Takka hone their hypnotix in Brooklyn, making lovely """"""minimalist""""" music that delights with whispered vocals, rhythms and sounds inspired by Balinese gamelan, and guitar that isn't so much strummed as it is carressed. When listening to these tracks, I highly recommend nice headphones so that you can get at the timbre of each instrument: the crispity crisp of the snare drum, the robustness of the bass, the featheriness of the organ, the snappy hiss of the hi-hat. Please enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

Takka Takka, "Silence"

Takka Takka, "Everybody Say"

Maximally Yours,

Friday, February 13, 2009

#16 (Blog Launch Edition)

The Harlem Shakes formed when a couple of Yale kids and a couple of NYU kids boarded a sonic Amtrak headed to Jollyville and didn't bother purchasing a return trip. Exceedingly singable (not the Singability to match Bud Light's "drinkability"--that would be gross), frequently foot-tappable, and bouncingly bouncy, the band leads the league in "oooohs" and "ahhhs" choruses and jingly jangles. The Shakes's 5 track EP Burning Birthdays was a great palette-whetter, but also led to years of near signings and delayed record releases. For fans of the band, their March 2009 release of their first full-length "Technicolor Health" marks a long-awaited return. The first single off the album "strictly game" lights a fuse just like previous material, mixing pianos, synths, heavy bass, bachata rhythms and cowbell. The song also places hope at the forefront, singing for a better year in the face of a recession.

Put a little bit of bitter in your pink lemonade:

The Harlem Shakes, "Strictly Game"

Blind Pilot is a two-piece acoustic band from Portland that make you think: "hey, I could have written that song" and "hey I could have played that song on guitar AND on drums" only you've never played guitar before and you've definitely never played the drums. That may seem like an insult but I love the simple nature of their songs. When you have beautiful melodies and evocative songwriting, you really don't need much more. In retrospect, I suppose it's more like "man, I wish I had written that song, because I could have."

Blind Pilot, "The Story I Heard"

"The devil you know is better than the devil you don't" someone once said,

Friday, February 6, 2009

#15 (Attitudes Fortitudes Platitudes Edition)

This morning I woke up feeling lovely, so I had that going for me. We've all spent many days worrying, or anxious, or uncomfortable but on those rare occasions when we wake up uninhibited and unhindered, everything looks fresh all over. I like to think that the following two artists felt the very same way when they wrote the following songs (uninhbited, unhindered, and imbued with spirit-gusto). These songs are also companions in production style.

Portugal. The Man are not only one of the few bands that include punctuation in their band name (!!! also comes to mind), but also the only band on the national scene that I know of with ties to Sarah Palin's hometown. The band is four-piece, experimental grime-soul band--just listen--that hails from Wasilla, Alaska--or at least two of its members do. They've been around for a while currently touring to support their fifth full-length album, Censored Colors. Different from many experimental bands who use varied instruments to create eclectic sounds, PTM use very standard rock instruments (drums, bass, keys, guitars), but make those instruments sound all kinds of weird. In the song "Lay Me Back Down" the band uses heavily distorted bass to lead off with the opening riff, then transitions to unaltered twinkly pianos, then layers in guitar pedals that manipulate a traditional six-string into sitar sounds. Then they bring in sonically offered drum rimshots to sound like dried out hand claps, then end with some grizzly bear guitar and twinklepiano together. The results is a monstruous and new sound altoghether.

Hope you enjoy:

Portugal. The Man "Lay Me Back Down"

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson could use some punctuation in his name. The singer-songwriter from Brooklyn used to be homeless and drug-addicted and now chums around with Grizzly Bear and Kyp Malone of TVOTR, both of whom helped produce his debut album. While I don't have the feeling that Robinson was unbridled while writing this song, I like to think that it was a bright spot on a day in which he woke up feeling relatively free. It has to be the twinklepiano. It's back, you see. I know, I know, he has a lamentation about growing old and yelps "I'm not sure that I want to stay alive/it's so expensive, but you can die," but still, you're nitpicking there. This has the feeling of catharsis, and it has the feeling of anthem, and it has the feeling of hope in despair. Tell me I'm wrong.

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson "The Debtor"

Aurally Yours,