Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

The weekend mix: Some gentler highlights and recent acquisitions

Last week’s mix wound up being mostly rocking music so I’ve had some mellower stuff piling up. This week I want to catch up on that. This isn’t sleepy stuff or even all ballads, but these have a consistent relaxed feel. This would actually make a pretty nice mix in your living room, which some of my themed mixes would not.

Relax

  1. I Don’t Know What to Do – Pete Yorn and Scarlet Johansson
    I will be writing this entire album up next week, I think. It is surprisingly good. Johansson has a sweet voice and this track has an appealing organic pop vibe.
  2. Cosmic Rays – Helium
    This is a beautiful and contemplative song with passages of pretty harmony vocals and passages of heavy chords and strings.
  3. Free Until They Cut Me Down – Iron & Wine
    The ominously quiet acoustic groove persists for about half the song before the percussion kicks in. It never really builds much, though. The vocals stay almost whispered while banjo and acoustic guitar see us to the dwindling end.
  4. Birthday – The Sugar Cubes
    Before Bjork struck out on her own, she was with The Sugar Cubes. I like exactly two songs by that band and this is one of them. It might be my favorite song Bjork ever did, too.
  5. Ain’t It So – Pigeonhed
    Shawn Smith is the voice behind Pigeonhed, Satchel, and Brad. He’s a great songwriter and a singularly talented vocalist. His voice works particularly with this funk/soul vibe.
  6. Letters from the Sky – Civil Twilight
    This track has gotten a lot of run in TV soundtracks lately, which is how it came to my attention. It has kind of a Coldplay meets old U2 thing going on. I like it.
  7. Go Get Some – David Lynch & John Neff
    The David Lynch movie Mulholland Drive really stuck with me. There were a couple songs from the soundtrack that did the same. This instrumental is over 7 minutes long and it gets weird at times, but it’s a great vibe.
  8. Failure – Kings of Convenience
    The Kings remind me of Simon and Garfunkel in that many of their songs are pretty, mellow, and feature guitar and two-part harmony. This one actually has a bit more of an arrangement with some strings and horns joining in by the end. They are my favorite group that fits into the indie category.
  9. Why Did You Call? – The Magic Numbers
    I just wrote up the Numbers’ debut album a few weeks ago, but this is from their new album. Their sound on this one is much more produced, though not overly so, and the songs are as appealing as ever. This is a minute-long sample on YouTube.
  10. Wilted Daisies – Joshua James
    My ex turned me onto this guy last week. He’s got the most interesting and expressive new voice I’ve heard since Ray LaMontagne and this track comes in pretty and small before becoming a big, country-influenced jam.
  11. Sugar Never Tasted So Good – The White Stripes
    My girlfriend recently turned me onto this track, which had somehow flown under my radar even though I’m a big Jack White fan. It’s simple but catchy and sparkles with lyrical genius.
  12. On and On and On – Wilco
    Jeff Tweedy used to write a lot of cute and goofy songs, but as he has matured and seen greater success, his songs have deepened and now Wilco routinely puts out songs that are daring or complex or moving, like this one.
  13. Inside and Out – Feist
    The album version of this song sounds like disco-era Abba or something, but when she plays this unaccompanied on her guitar you hear what a beautiful melody this is.
  14. Machines – Mason Jennings
    Jennings grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and dropped out of school to pursue his musical career… in Minneapolis, MN. I didn’t realize MN had such a hot music scene but it seems to have been a good move. Or maybe that tells us this guy would have succeeded no matter where he went.

Enjoy this mix with a mimosa, because mimosas are yummy and not too hard. Have a great weekend.

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January 29, 2011 Posted by | Alt Country, Chillout, Indie, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

Sparse but evocative chillout music from Portishead

I got a twofer out of my iPod the other day that reminded me of a really enjoyable album, “Dummy,” by Portishead. Portishead is a 3-piece that released 2 albums in 3 years in the nineties, took 6 years off, and then got back at it in 2008. An engineer who works with the band is sometimes mentioned as a 4th member, which makes sense, since the production figures prominently in their sound.

I bet a Portishead is something really cool...

Most of the songs have guitar and laid back percussion. There is also a lot of keyboard – often synthesizer – and pretty and emotional vocals proviced by their female singer, Beth Gibbons. There is a fair amount of post-production gimmickry, but they don’t get too heavy-handed with it. In fact, they strike a nice balance of sparse songs and atmosphere. I have had “Dummy” in the mix behind a few parties and it’s pretty good late night music for when some of the guests have gone but the die-hards are sitting down for some funny conversation. It might even inspire a hook-up. Who knows?

In any event, listen to my 4 favorite tracks off this, their debut album.

  • Mysterons – A sparse guitar riff and percussion that is snare and kick drum only back an oozy and heartfelt vocal performance. A little synth and scratching give it some color. Cool track.
  • Sour Times – More laid back percussion, clean guitar, and some jangling stringed instrument back another smoky groove. They added some gentle horns at the chorus so I would like it more.
  • Wandering Star – Gibbons uses her expressive voice to good advantage in this song that features their signature simple percussion and sparse mix of instruments to create a soothing groove.
  • Pedestal – Gibbons’ voice has an effect on it that makes it sound like it’s coming through an old radio, the percussion rides the cymbal, and they scratch through the bridges, creating a great chillout vibe. I love the jazzy muted trumpet solo.
  • Glory Box – This track reminds me of a Zero 7 song. It oozes through the verses but the choruses are big and dirty.

I often wondered what a Portishead was. I figured it was something clever or psychedelic. Turns out it’s just the town near Bristol in Somerset, England where the band is from. No more clever than “Boston” or “Kansas,” though perhaps cooler.

December 7, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Electronica | 1 Comment

The Friday mix: Winter is here and I’m pretty happy about it

I was driving around today and was treated to the first snow of the year here in the Land of Cleve. I know it’s not for everyone, but since I was a little kid, the sight of snow in the air invariably lifts my mood. It put me in a mind to pull some songs related to winter, snow, and cold for the mix today.

Here it comes.

  1. Snowblind – Minus 8
    This is a very pleasant chill out tune with some electric piano, rave percussion, and wailing vocals.
  2. Snowman – XTC
    This is from one of their early albums, “English Settlement,” and it’s typically catchy and clever.
  3. Snowball – Devo
    Mark Mothersbaugh went to my high school, but years before me so I never met him. This is one of my favorite songs from their best album, “Freedom of Choice.” Oddly, this studio version is not from the album, so I don’t know where it came from. It’s close to the one I grew up with, though.
  4. Lost in the Snow – Bruce Hornsby
    This is a touching and seemingly true song about an 8 year-old Bruce getting lost in a snowy woods. The song is kind of scary but the piano work in this is joyfully brilliant.
  5. Stone Cold Crazy – Queen
    This is the sick original version of this song. The Metallica version is not nearly this good. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails did a great remix of this song using Freddy’s vocals and Brian’s guitar and I wanted to post it, but I can’t find it anywhere. If you can find it, buy it.
  6. Shiver – Coldplay
    Something about Coldplay bothers me sometimes, but I really like this song. It’s a beautiful and inventive vocal melody with cool lyrics and the band does a nice job backing Chris Martin.
  7. Cold Brains – Beck
    I only ripped two tracks off this follow-up to “Odelay” and this is one of them. The mellow vibe reminds me of the melancholy and beautiful work he did on “Sea Change.”
  8. Cold Hearted Old Times – (Smog)
    John Cusack is a brilliant appreciator of music like I aspire to be. He put this on the High Fidelity soundtrack, which is a brilliant romantic comedy about a professional musical appreciator.
  9. Cold Hard Bitch – Jet
    This is a great rocker by Jet. I was frankly disappointed by most of their follow-up work, but ‘Cold Hard Bitch’ has a great classic rock feel.
  10. Chilly at the Crib – Ugly Americans
    Honestly, I can’t understand how Bob Schneider’s great, funky work has mostly flown below America’s radar. It’s hard to get a taste from this sample, but I’ve been a fan for almost 20 years. You should check him out.
  11. Walking in the Wind – Traffic
    I haven’t collected a lot of vintage Traffic discs and the retrospective collection “Smiling Phases” is probably the main reson why. I feel like I already have most of the really great tracks, like this one.
  12. The Hounds of Winter – Sting
    Well, this is one of Sting’s more self-indulgent, melodramatic songs but, God help me,  I really like it.
  13. White Winter Hymnal – Fleet Foxes
    This is the first song I ever hear from Fleet Foxes when NPR’s All Songs Considered spun it for me. It’s beautiful. One of the things that impresses me about these guys is when they do it live it sounds exactly like this.
  14. Time of the Season – Big Blue Missile & Scott Weiland
    The original of this song is cool, but I was knocked out by the arrangement in this remake from the The Spy Who Shagged Me Soundtrack.
  15. It’s Ice – Phish
    This is a clever non-Trey song about a guy battling his own reflection in the ice on a pond.
  16. White Mystery – Minus the Bear
    OK, so ‘White Mystery’ isn’t necessarily wintry. It IS from their “Planet of Ice” album, though, so I went with it. Plus it’s cool.

Enjoy this mix with a hot toddy or, I suppose, any straight booze sipped from a hip flask on a cold day. Have a great weekend.

November 6, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Classic Rock, Jam Bands, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | 2 Comments

The Friday mix: celebrating the written word

In my house we accumulate books. After decades of collecting them, today we packed my trunk and back seat with 7 boxes of books and carted them off to Half Price Books to sell or trade them. While we waited for the woman to total up an offer for the books, I got to wander around and shop for what I would be reading next. I love bookstores. I worked in one of Cleveland’s last great independent bookstores in 1991 and 1992. To this day it remains the best job I ever had. Anyway, I left with a handful of books and a fistful of money. Nice haul.

Books and music: two great tastes that taste great together.

For the mix this week, I want to celebrate the written word. And while I’m at it, I want to champion a personal cause of mine. It’s very simple. Parents, read to your kids. That’s all. I teach sometimes and I know a lot of parents just don’t do it. It’s good bonding time; they love your attention. They learn new words and new ideas. They travel to places and times they could never go in real life. They hear how inflection works and how sentences are constructed. It makes book lovers of kids. I am convinced that short of inoculation, it is the best thing a parent can do for his or her kid.

So today, enjoy music that celebrates enjoying books.

  • This Red Book – Pinback
    Pinback’s album, “Summer in Abaddon,” has many songs in it with a measured, mathematical feel but it still has soul for all its precision. This has a patient, plodding pace and appealing guitar and vocal work.
  • Every Day I Write the Book – Elvis Costello
    What a great songwriter he was. I put that in past tense because I haven’t been knocked out by a lot of the stuff he has released in the last decade or so. This is a typically wonderful song by Costello from the mid-1980s.
  • I Can’t Read – Tin Machine
    By way of contrast, David Bowie is a guy who never stopped writing great songs. I think if you comb through his 25 studio albums for dogs you MIGHT be able to put together 1 album that was merely good.
  • Reading My Mind – John Cale
    I am a fan of The Velvet Underground, but I don’t have a lot of solo John Cale. This is a cool track, built around a neat little descending piano riff.
  • Paperback Writer – The Beatles
    This was released as an A-side single with ‘Rain’ as the B-side, which makes this my favorite duo of songs released by the early Beatles.
  • Just Read the Poems – Don Was
    This is from the Backbeat soundtrack. Not the one with all the Beatles covers, but the incidental jazz score by Don Was. This is some really hip, smooth jazz. I highly recommend this album.
  • Trick in the Book – Cornell Campbell
    I can’t listen to a lot of reggae all at once, but, man, I love it when some reggae pops up on my iPod and I always like it in a mix.
  • Did You See the Words – Animal Collective
    Animal Collective is often not very accessible. Still, the more I hear them the more I like them. I love that so many of Panda Bear’s melodies have this backwards tracked Brian Wilson feel. The rotating personnel in the group nearly always bring interesting instrumentation and fat harmony vocals.
  • I Write Sins, Not Tragedies – Panic! At the Disco
    The music is good, but this one is all about the great lyrics. What a brilliant if sad song.
  • Same Page – Virginia Coalition
    Virginia Coalition writes bright, poppy songs that remind me of some of Blues Traveler’s cuddlier material. This song will make you happier when it comes on.
  • Books Are Burning – XTC
    I’ve been an enormous fan of XTC since about 1983 (after they had stopped touring, dammit). The seeming ease with which they tossed off brilliant pop melodies makes their breakup very sad. I like this anthem.
  • Empty Pages – Traffic
    Homer Simpson hates traffic – the phenomenon and the band. I love the band, particularly this track off of “John Barleycorn Must Die.”
  • All Your Words – Bleeding Heart Narrative
    OK, so this song isn’t as wonderful as ‘Colours Turn Colours‘ from the same album, but it has the same feel, a pretty melody, and a big, layered sound.
  • Here’s Where the Story Ends – The Sundays
    I love Harriett Wheeler’s voice. And not just the clear, breathy tone. I also like her diction, the way she pronounces the words. This is probably my favorite song by them.

Enjoy this mix with some Shakespeare Vodka and grapefruit juice. In fact, make it a double. Enjoy your weekend.

October 15, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Classic Rock, Indie, Jazz, Mix CD, Popular, reggae, Rock | 1 Comment

The Friday mix: The last travel of the summer

Labor Day marks the end of summer for a lot of people, though not for you purists who pay attention to the “calendar.” That would mark the end of the summer vacation travel season as well, so it is fitting that this looks like the last travel-themed mix I have in my collection. In case you were wondering, I didn’t already pick my favorite stuff and this is the leftovers. I pulled them at random each week from my pool of songs that would fit the theme so there is still some fantastic music in the mix this week.

One more? Alright, if you insist.

  1. Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory – …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
    To be honest, I don’t know to what place they are referring, but if they need a directory, I’m assuming it’s a place. This song was originally released by Guided by Voices, but the orignal is nowhere near as beautiful as this version.
  2. Haiti – The Arcade Fire
    The Arcade Fire doesn’t break a lot of new ground, but they are a strong pop band. I can’t quite put my finger on who they remind me of. There are elements of U2, certainly, though not in the vocals. If you can place it, let me know.
  3. Funky Nassau, Pt. 1 – The Beginning of the End
    Fantastic vintage funk/ska. I guess it really IS better in the Bahamas.
  4. California Stars– Billy Bragg & Wilco
    I am a huge Wilco fan. This is from the “Mermaid Avenue” project, in which they took lyrics by Woody Guthrie and set them to original music. This is one of the best tracks to come out of those sessions.
  5. Wyoming – Brand New Sin
    Not southern rock, but grungy southern metal. It’s actually a really good sound. They have seen some lineup changes, but they are still at it.
  6. Dracula from Houston – Butthole Surfers
    I wouldn’t expect such a sunny, happy song from Gibby Haynes, but this is a really accessible track with kind of funny lyrics.
  7. Tokyo Storm Warning – Elvis Costello
    “Blood & Chocolate” is the first Elvis Costello album I ever really got into so of course I love it. This great track was #3 on the album.
  8. Last Tango in Paris – Gotan Project
    I have this one on my Chillout mix. Like most of the songs on that mix, it’s relaxing, doesn’t go through a lot of changes, and I like it.
  9. St. Louis Blues – Herbie Hancock (featuring Stevie Wonder)
    So Herbie is on keys and Stevie plays harmonica and sings. It’s as good as you think. Better, in fact. Stevie won one of his legion of Grammys for his vocal performance on this song.
  10. Hollywood – Los Lonely Boys
    My brother, who lives near Austin, where Los Lonely Boys’ came up, sent me a disc of theirs before they hit the national scene. I could already tell they were brothers just by the way they harmonize. Even their vibrato is synchronized. They have spent many, many years singing together. This is a sweet song.
  11. Speedway at Nazareth – Mark Knopfler
    This is a fictional tale about racing, though it has the feel of one of Knopfler’s historical pieces (I know it is fictional because the album was released in 2000, one year before the first season mentioned in this song). It sports a folk feel with violins and gentle harmony vocals until the songs really starts to move, with Knopflers inimitable pocket soloing. Great song.
  12. When in Rome – Nickel Creek
    This is the first track and the single from Nickel Creek’s 2005 release, “Why Should the Fire Die?” Chris Thile (mandolin, vocals) said by this time the band was comfortable playing to their strengths and they do this kind of song very well indeed.
  13. Lake Michigan – Rogue Wave
    Acoustic guitar and handclaps set up this fat, appealing pop hook.
  14. Jacksonville – Sufjan Stevens
    I almost posted Decatur by Stevens, but I like this track just a little bit more. This is such a mellow and interesting track.
  15. Warsaw, Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up – Them Crooked Vultures
    I wrote up this entire album not long ago. It’s all killer, no filler and this is a fine example of the great, dark rock that populates the whole disc.
  16. Summertime in England – Van Morrison
    Van Morrison is simply my very favorite. This is from his 1990 release, “Common One,” long after the peak of his popularity, but he has lost nothing as a singer, songwriter, or bandleader. This is a live version, but they do a fantastic job with it.
  17. Impossible Germany – Wilco
    You get two songs by Wilco this week because one was with Billy Bragg and because Wilco is just cool as hell. Impossible Germany, unlikely Japan. I have read these lyrics over and over but I still don’t understand them. I get more meaning from the way the song makes me feel, I think.

Enjoy this mix with a mojito. You won’t be able to pick fresh mint out of your herb garden for much longer. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

September 3, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Classic Rock, Folk, Hard Rock, Jazz, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: my latest finds from around the world

It’s been some time now since I put together a mix of world music and I collect it all the time so I have some real gems for you today. In my endless quest for music that sounds fresh or breaks new ground, I can always count on world music. The collision of traditions and cultures is always rich with great new ideas, and even if it is some traditional, indigenous music it is often new to me.

Now, somebody get this guy a drum machine.

  1. Jijy – Big Blue Ball (feat. Arona N’Diaye, Rossy, Jah Wobble)
    This is one of Peter Gabriel’s many interesting projects. Artists from all over the world contributed, including Sinead O’Conor, Karl Wallinger,  Gabriel himself, and many others that I didn’t know (but Gabriel did). It was in production literally 18 years before being launched in the U.S. in 2004. This is a relentless groove that will make you dance like magic shoes.
  2. Mala Suerta con el 13 – Calle 13/Mala Rodríguez
    I speak a smattering of Spanish, but these guys are rapping too fast for me. I believe, though, that these are some explicit lyrics, so you may want to watch out blasting this one. Either way, great track.
  3. Bethe Bethe Kese Kese – Gaudi & Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
    A beautiful song, modern production, and the best Qawwali singer ever make this a relaxing and uplifting groove.
  4. Eh Mustapha – Hamsa Lila
    This sample is only 82 seconds of this 7-minute song. After a few minutes of this chillout groove, the percussion picks up and we get a frantic and beautiful flute solo in an entirely different, high-energy vibe.
  5. Ayyu-Ha S-Saqi – Oren Bloedow and Jennifer Charles
    I’m not sure what Jennifer Charles brings to the table here. There is nothing western about this track at all. It’s a rich and gorgeous interpretation of a traditional Middle Eastern song.
  6. Morro Não Tem Vez (Favela) – Karrin Allyson
    This has a jazzy, French lounge feel, complete with a crazy vibes solo, and Allyson gives it a spirited, airy delivery.
  7. Maria Jose – Kinky
    Sometimes this Mexican techno 5-piece loses me, but not on this one. They keep the rhythm danceable and don’t do anything too weird. Other than this trippy video.
  8. Salla – Makale
    We get some full on Turkish hip-hop from this Turkish/Swiss/Italian act out of Sweden. I absolutely love to hear this western music form completely retrofitted to pull samples from an entirely different tradition.
  9. Jind Mahi – Malkit Singh
    The folks who assembled the Bend It Like Beckham soundtrack found this one for me. Singh’s Bhangra singing is backed with western percussion and accompanied throughout the song by soprano sax. The energy is uplifting and the hook is compelling.
  10. Ya Habibi – Malouma Mint Maideh
    I found this one on a compilation called “Holding Up Half the Sky: Voices of African Women.” It’s a slow and lovely song where Maideh and saxophone take turns. The whole 6-minute song sounds like this and it couldn’t be more soothing.
  11. Guayaquil City – Mano Negra
    This track brings the energy back up a little bit. I love the harmonizing horns and the whole ska-in-Africa feel of the song.
  12. Pikrodafni – Mode Plagal
    Mode Plagal play a funky fusion of traditional Greek music and jazz. I once again offer my thanks to the folks at Rough Guides, this time for turning me onto these guys.
  13. Ana Baashaq el Bahr – Nagat El Saghira
    El Saghira sings a traditional-sounding Egyptian melody, but the violins, keyboard, and what sound simply like guitars update it a little without losing its national identity.
  14. Oriental Wind – Wax Poetic
    They take several minutes setting up this quiet, speedy groove, but eventually we get some really cool klezmer clarinet and trumpet solos. It never becomes full on klezmer, though. It stays cool and jazzy, if a little ominous. The song is only 4:13, but this video’s poster looped it to show more footage of his vacation in Venice.

I hope you enjoy these and that you go out and find a few of these discs. If, by the way, you have a favorite world music album, please please leave me a comment so I can enjoy it too. Thanks in advance. Enjoy this mix with a cosmopolitan. Have a great weekend.

July 23, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Hip Hop, Jazz, Mix CD, World Music | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: refreshing chillout and electronica

As I listen to music in my car, I occasionally tag songs on my iPod as something I want to share with readers. Then, the next time I synch with iTunes I have all these songs with a 5-star rating to put in mixes. Lately, I’ve been getting into a lot of chillout and electronica and that is what I found today when I synched and started looking for a mix theme. If you usually just read on Fridays, try following some links today. I love this stuff.

Nothing but the very finest.

  • Misunderstood – Common
    Great use of a Nina Simone sample. Common’s flow is outstanding and whoever mixed this one for him has a gift. It’s tough to know for sure because no less than 8 guys got a producer credit on this album, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this one was mixed by Kanye West.
  • In a Silent Way (DJ Cam Remix) – Miles Davis
    Miles Davis was a pioneer throughout his life. He continued stretching himself and staying relevant until his death in 1991. This remix reminds me of the music from his last release, the hip-hop-oriented “Doo Bop.”
  • 9×9 – Marco Benevento
    This dreamy chillout piece is in 5/4 time and features some cool percussion as a result. Check out the sample above, or this live performance to hear the whole thing (the song starts about a 90 seconds in).
  • Big Calm – Morcheeba
    It takes a minute for this song to get rolling, but when it does the whining synthesizers, jangling guitar, and shuffling percussion come together behind a smooth but pretty profane rap.
  • 3 Libras (All Main Courses Remix by 3D of Massive Attack) – A Perfect Circle
    Remixing this song was inspired. 3D did a great job of it too, taking away the mathematical structure of the original and making it eerier and more challenging to the ear.
  • Slip Inside This House – Primal Scream
    The percussion and piano combine in this song to create a nearly irresistible dance groove. I’m reminded a little bit of the Stone Roses.
  • You Make Life So Good – Rashaan Patterson
    You may wonder what such a poppy R&B track is doing on this mix. I don’t have an answer for you beyond it seems to fit. This hook caught my ear and I just love it.
  • Poetry – The RH Factor
    I have written this disc up
    in the past, but if you missed it, check out this smooth, jazzy tune on which Roy Hargrove gets some help from Erykah Badu AND Q-Tip. I would like to have been in the studio that day.
  • About Her – Malcolm McLaren
    This one comes from the Kill Bill soundtrack. The original was cool, but I like this update much better.
  • Tinsagu Nu Hana Dub – Ryukyu Underground
    Here’s a little world music vibe for you. This is from the “Rough Guide to Music of Okinawa,” which has some strange stuff on it. This, though, is very Western-accessible chillout dub.
  • Chica Bonita – Shaggy
    Sometimes Shaggy lays it on a little too thick for me, but the muted trumpet and Caribbean vibe is fantastic on this track.
  • Puppy Toy – Tricky
    The piano riff is great and Tricky’s trademark throaty whisper is cool, but neither can hold a candle to the dirty guitar and Alex Mills hollering at the chorus .
  • UNKLE (Main Title Theme) – UNKLE
    This might be the coolest song on this mix. This is from UNKLE’s first album, when DJ Shadow was in the band. Check out the crazy list of samples used in this song.
  • The Margretville Dance – The Prize Fighter Inferno
    You don’t get to hear the chorus in this sample, but you do get a sense of the quiet, keyboard-centered groove.
  • Regiment – Brian Eno & David Byrne
    When these two met to collaborate, I’m surprised they didn’t collapse into some singularity of weirdness. There IS some weird stuff on this collaboration, but they managed to keep it together for this song at least with just some Qawwali wailing and cool rhythmic work on bass.

Enjoy with an ice-cold dirty martini or something else refreshing but a little edgy. Have a great weekend.

July 16, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Electronica, Mix CD, Popular, R&B, World Music | Leave a comment

Richly produced house music from Basement Jaxx

I’m a fan of the bands that have a couple of DJs / producers as regular members and they work with a wide variety of artists in one-off collaborations. I’m talking about bands like Zero 7 and Theivery Corporation.  It often makes for inconsistent albums, but you usually get a few gems on every one.

The music is like the character on the cover: there's a lot going on.

Today, I’m turning my attention to Basement Jaxx. The band is Felix Buxton and Simon Ratcliffe, a duo out of London that has played and spun house music in a variety of clubs there since 1994. They released their first album, “Remedy,” in 1999 and since that time have had a lot of success, getting tracks included in some movie soundtracks (Bend It Like Beckham, Tomb Raiders) and commercials (Coca Cola, Nickelodeon) and winning the very first Best Electronic/Dance Album Grammy for “Kish Kash” in 2005.

In 2009, they released their 5th studio album, “Scars.” I have listened to other releases by Basement Jaxx and ripped a track or at most 2 off of them, but I found 4 winners on this album. The first half of this album was full of tracks that were weird, too frantic, or felt like bland Europop to me. I was disappointed. But then the second half of the album came on strong.

  • A Possibility (feat Amp Fiddler) – The haunting guitar riff at the heart of this song may have been sampled from some 60s R&B love song and the vocal performance is just right for that. The complicated production around the key elements keeps it interesting to the ear.
  • Stay Close (feat Lisa Kekuala) – The minimalist percussion and instrumentation in this song is a little strange, but Kekuala’s vocal performance anchors the track and the overall effect is beautiful.
  • D.I.S.tractionz (feat Jose Hendrix) – Vibes, strings, synth, and gentle percussion back Hendrix’s quiet vocals (sung in Spanish?) and this track is gorgeous.
  • Gimme Somethin True (feat Jose James) – I had to listen to this one several times before I was sure I liked it, particularly because there is a repeating tone that sounds like my cell phone vibrating. I do like it, though. There is sort of a complex bossa nova / Europop / hip hop thing going on that ultimately won me over.

“Scars” was originally intended to be half of a double album. Instead, they released “Zephyr” as an EP immediately after “Scars.” Together, they were supposed to be one disc of mellow, ambient music and one disc of more house oriented dance music. Presumably, “Zephyr” is the mellower, ambient music. I’m going to lay my hands on a copy and I’ll let you know what I find.

http://www.basementjaxx.net/

June 28, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Electronica, House, Popular | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: gibberish

I got a twofer out of my iPod the other day that inspired me to make this mix. Sometimes I’m sure the words just flow off the pen for musicians. I’ve read interviews with musicians who say certain songs were just a gift from their muse and appeared fully formed in their heads. In other cases, I think the music is there, but they may not have much to say. Or perhaps they’re in a goofy mood and the song concept involves nonsense lyrics. Either way the songs today all involve titles – and sometimes entire songs – that are gibberish. I’m not sure how well this will hold together as a mix, but the individual tracks are all on my iPod and I like ‘em.

De do do do, de da da da is all I want to say to you.

  1. Gotta Jibboo – Phish
    This is from one of my favorite Phish albums, “Farmhouse.” The whole disc is full of fun, accessible songs with great grooves. I love it when the guys work in some horns.
  2. Hoodoo Voodoo – Billy Bragg & Wilco
    Crazy honky tonk music and lyrics that barely make sense. I think Woody Guthrie wrote these lyrics for his kids.
  3. Itche Koutche – Angelique Kidjo
    OK, so I’m sure Itche Koutche means something in Kidjo’s native tongue – I’m assuming not “itchy coochie” – but I don’t know what it means and it’s a cool song with great horn and vocal work.
  4. A Minha Menina – Band of Bees
    I’m not sure what language he’s singing in, but it sounds cohesive enough to be actual words, not scat. Still, it sounds a little silly and I love the Bees.
  5. Boo-Wah Boo-Wah – Cab Calloway
    The great Hi De Ho Man himself. What a brilliant bandleader. This one is as much fun as any of his songs with some great big band jazz.
  6. Mahna Mahna – Cake
    Maybe this version isn’t as funny as Jim Henson’s original, but it’s a brilliant choice for a cover and they have a lot of fun with it.
  7. Chamchu – Cornershop
    I’m pretty sure this means something in Hindi or Punjabi, but the way it is used in the song makes it seem a little nonsensical, so here it is. I was tickled that Cornershop came back with another album and particularly that it was this good.
  8. Ya Ya Ya (Looking for My Baby) – The Detroit Cobras
    She’s going to find her man and drag him back to town by the balls. I have to say I hope she doesn’t find the poor sap.
  9. Oo La La – Edie Brickell
    Yes, Brickell continued writing music after 1988 and she’s still a talented songwriter and musician.
  10. Bow Wow – The Fiery Furnaces
    The Furnaces’ music is hard to describe. It’s catchy and it grows on you.
  11. Doo Uap, Doo Uap, Doo Uap  – Gabin
    What a great choice for an old jazz standard to regroove. They do a nice job with it too, layering the vocals and samples.
  12. Wah-Wah – George Harrison
    George wrote this while the Beatles were still together, but didn’t release it until “All Things Must Pass.” 4 out of 5 Internet commenters agree that this song is about fighting with Paul.
  13. Fa Fa – Guster
    I just realized I’ve never written up this great album, but I’m going to next week. “You’re always saying something you swear you’ll never say again. Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa. Never be the same again.”
  14. Izzy Izzy Ahh – Missy Elliott
    Misdemeanor and Timbaland are like peanut butter and jelly: they’re both good doing their own thing, but together they are more than the sum of their parts.
  15. Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz – Mr. Bungle
    This is the weirdest song on this mix. Maybe the weirdest song on my iPod. I can’t even explain why I have it. Something this strange and creative just reaches me. This sample barely scratches the surface of this song’s many distinct parts. You can hear a somewhat different demo version here, but be aware of the profanity in this version.
  16. Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song) – Otis Redding
    The King of Soul died in a plane crash at just 26 years of age. You hear the expressiveness of his voice in a track like this one and you realize what a loss it was.
  17. Uh, Zoom Zip – Soul Coughing
    I freaking LOVE Soul Coughing, so even though this isn’t my favorite of theirs, it gives me another chance to spread the word.
  18. Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day – Stevie Wonder
    No longer Little Stevie Wonder, we get a little Motown from Stevie Wonder, the man, in 1968.
  19. Zwing Ting – The Streamers
    Bending strings and horns, heavily sampled vocals, and a cool beat make this chillout track interesting to the ear.

Enjoy with a Tim’s Ridiculous Concoction (beer, ice cream, vanilla, and tomato juice), or something else that makes no sense whatsoever. Have a great weekend.

June 4, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Jam Bands, Jazz, Mix CD, Motown, Popular, Rock, Soul, World Music | Leave a comment

Mesmerizing East meets West fusion from Putamayo World Music

You have to love the folks at Putamayo World Music.  If you’re not familiar with them, they scour the globe looking for outstanding music in every part of the world from any tradition you can imagine. Then they publish collections of the very best. I would give a finger to get a job with those folks. I’m sure that sometimes it would mean listening to some stuff that doesn’t do much for you, however well done it is. But it would also mean getting paid not only to explore the finest music Earth’s many cultures have to offer, but also to select music that you think the rest of the world might enjoy. Dream job.

Chillout in the desert.

I’ve listened to a lot of Putamayo releases, and it seems they approach this with a lot of integrity. They don’t seem to just look for music that will strike the Western ear comfortably and sell a lot of discs in the States. I have consistently found music that challenges my ear and sometimes stretches my definition of music. They also occasionally put out collections that fuse the best of some indigenous tradition with modern percussion and production values. Today, I’m recommending you check out just such a collection: “Sahara Lounge.”

Putamayo describes this disc as, “a mesmerizing album of laid-back fusions of traditional Middle Eastern melodies, rhythms and instrumentation with cutting edge electronica, hip-hop beats and remixes.” I have to hand it to them; it captures the disc very well. Of course, mixing Middle Eastern sounds with Western rhythms is not new, but I still love it and this is a collection full of well-executed songs in this vein. The disc has 12 songs and I ripped these 5.

  • Sharif – Shiraz
    This track kicks off the album. The percussion and backing synth are oozy but the plucked instrument (I must confess I’m ignorant about what it is called) is busy and beautiful. Great track.
  • Arhil – Bahia El Idrissi
    This is Qawwali music (think Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) with a simple 4/4 beat and some electronica effects sprinkled in. It reminds me of the great Khan/Brook collaborations, if you’re familiar with them. Sadly, this isn’t on YouTube, but you can go check out a sample on Putamayo’s site, where you can also buy the disc, if you’re interested.
  • Dub 4 Me – Soap Kills
    Soap Kills drops a reggae beat behind what could be snake charmer music and makes a pretty good chill out groove.
  • Elama – Yasser Habeeb
    This is more Qawwali music, but the track is bigger and more active than ‘Arhil.’ Traditional Middle Eastern instruments and Western synthesizer trade solos late in the track.
  • Hanina (Jamson Mix) – Jamson featuring Mohammed Mounir
    The vocal melody is pretty and the keyboards set a nice backdrop, but the percussion is mixed right up front. Some swelling synth completes the sound.

If you like these, consider buying the disc from Putamayo themselves. They deserve it.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Chillout, World Music | 2 Comments