Archive for September, 2008

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 6

For a taste of what I was hearing last month, click here.

September’s iPod update featured some fantastic new music from the month, including a number of debut albums from upcoming artists. R&B, Soul, Hip-Hop, Rock, Electronica and Pop music all make their appearances over 91 new tracks ushering us into Fall.

eLZhi, The Preface: Most rappers who have been recording material since 1997 have a large body of work to show for it. While this is the case for eLZhi, the majority of this work is unreleased or in featuring format on other artists’ work over the past 7 years or so. 2008 marks the debut full length album from this Detroit native, and while quite a few hip-hop fans may not have heard of eLZhi yet, the strength of this album should help make his second effort eagerly awaited. With production from fellow up and comer Black Milk, eLZhi uses a mixture of darker beats and old-school sounding fresh production to leave himself with a diverse group of songs which he raps over with ease. Whether he’s rapping about love, poverty and socioeconomic divisions or his experiences growing up in the streets, elZHi’s lyrics are complex yet effortless, coming out the polished product of a rapper with an extreme amount of comfort in his delivery. With a fantastic string and vocal sample and his laidback flow, “Transitional Joint” is the kind of song that’s an instant classic on the first listen. Don’t Sleep On: “The Science,” “Transitional Joint,” and “Save Ya.”

Lykke Li, Youth Novels: I covered Lykke Li’s US EP release here back in June. The full album finally made its way stateside, and the result of Li’s command over an entire album is impressive. While most songs retain the soft-spoken and delicate feeling of the EP, Li uses the full album to spread her wings into esoteric melody pieces (“This Trumpet In My Head”) as well as emotionally semi-detached pieces with simple backings (“Hanging High”). However, what is more enjoyable is when the album delves further into the dance and pop ideals that her voice and musical judgments help to raise above the standard radio fare. Even while being forceful, Li’s voice manages to be light and airy without disappearing against the background of the heavier songs. With guest remixes by The Black Kids (WIH,V.5) CSS and DiskJokke, a few of the EP songs get a new feeling. The range of tracks on this album speaks of a promising and diverse future body of work from this young singer out of Sweden. Don’t Sleep On: “Breaking It Up,” “Complaint Department,” and “I’m Good, I’m Gone (Black Kids Remix)”

Raphael Saadiq, The Way I See It: When I picked up this album, I had to make sure that the published date of it was correct. Saadiq, formerly of Tony! Toni! Toné!, has reinvented his music on this album that feels at times like it could have and should have been released in various portions of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Soul, R&B, Funk and sounds of Doo-Wop all permeate this album, and some of the production makes you think you’re listening to an old classic that you’ve never heard before…It feels like a vintage Sunday afternoon. The musicianship behind him allows Saadiq’s voice to soar through tracks both melancholy and joyful. Fans of The Four Tops, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder (who makes an appearance on the album), Dusty Springfield and their contemporaries will all find reason to smile here. “Just One Kiss” features Joss Stone, and the remix of another album song “Oh Girl” features Jay-Z. Don’t Sleep On: “Love That Girl,” “Big Easy (feat. The Infamous Young Spodie & The Rebirth Brass Band)” and “Kelly Ray.

Rumble Strips, Girls and Weather: In case you weren’t aware, the perforations on the freeway shoulders that rattle you if you stray too far outside the lines are called rumble strips. I certainly didn’t know that before sitting down to review the band I’ve been listening to for two weeks. While most bands hopping the pond are taking up the power punk and alt-rock sounds of Bloc Party and the Young Knives (WIH, V.3), the Rumble Strips infuse it with at times Bosstones-like frenetic horns and ska sensibilities on their debut album, without losing a strong rock value. The arrangements are tight and Charlie Waller on lead vocals, while sometimes a bit reckless in his reach, provides the emotion necessary to keep up with the pace and energy of the sound. While they made their breakthrough with the rollicking and enormously fun “Motorcycle,” there are a variety of enjoyable sounds to be found on Girls and Weather. Don’t Sleep On: “Cowboy,” “Time,” and my personal favorite, “Girls and Boys in Love.”

Stacy Epps, The Awakening: Multi-faceted (I’ve been told she attended law school at USC) Stacy Epps brings her life experiences and spiritual vision to the table in an album that exudes passion that is sometimes overwhelming and unreachable in its scope. Using trip-hop beats and spacey melodies with jazz influences Epps at various times flows, speaks, sings and fades away on an album that exhibits a vocal talent sometimes lost in the more convoluted soundscapes. If there’s a drawback to this album, it’s that a few too many songs have “The Awakening, 2008, Stacy Epps” or some combination of these in the background, almost in an attempt to subconsciously advertise in the aural space of the listener. It gets frustrating at times, like endless self-promotion polluting the music. Fans of Bjork and Alice Coltrane will have a field-day here, but it might be too dense for casual listeners. Don’t Sleep On: “Floatin’,” “Heaven” feat. Bilal Salaam, and “Who Knows.”

Throw Me the Statue, Purpleface EP: One of the most promising signs of a relatively young band is the sign of continual tinkering with the sound and style, and a refusal to be tied too tightly to any one genre, while making music that all sounds somehow, on a fundamental level, right for them. This four track EP that fell in my hands last week courtesy of Gavroche exhibits this growth while retaining the emotional ambiguity and lyrical earnestness necessary to make them work. One of the original Moonbeams tracks, “Written in Heart Signs, Faintly” gets a studio makeover of its concert alter-ego here. “Honeybee” is a simple and direct piano backed and reverb laced track with glimpses of clarinet. “That’s How You Win” uses plaintive guitars and a kick and run drum roll to back Reitherman’s echo-like and airy vocals. “Ship,” however, is the standout track of this set both musically and lyrically. The drums combine with a drum machine to back a building piano that crashes into the main melody of the song, an incredibly beautiful piece of music that contentedly fades out at the end, free to repeat in the space between your ears. Don’t Sleep On: It’s a 4 track EP people, what’s to sleep on?

Tough Alliance, The New School: Taking pop and electronic music and blending it is the outcome of this album from the duo of Henning Fürst and Eric Berglund. At times repetitive and even slightly annoying, at its best, The New School offers video game blip electronic music that is mindlessly catchy. Not my normal cup of tea in its entirety, but Don’t Sleep On: “Take No Heroes,” “Tough II,” and “Koka-Kola Veins.”

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Remix the Bayliens with the Remix Wizard

Remix season has begun folks! In the next few weeks, be on the look out for the unleashing of several Remix Wizards that will give you the chance to (legally) remix some great bands.  To kick it off, we have a catchy little number by the Bayliens called “Bubble Gum”, which some of you may have heard on Wild 94.9. They released a video for the song last week (see below),  and now they want you to get your remix on!

Enzyme Dynamite (left) & Jay Three (right)

The Bayliens: Enzyme Dynamite (left) & Jay Three (right)

For those of you who haven’t been around the Bay Area hip hop scene recently, it’s safe to say the Bayliens have landed. Since dropping their debut release “Crop Circles” over a year ago, their incessant touring and energy on stage have made them one of the bay’s most loved artists. Now they’re following the footsteps of bands like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails by releasing stems for others to remix. Click here to download the stems for free, or to make a remix in the web-based MixMaker.

Produced by Dublin Beats, Crop Circles is an accessible mosaic of hiphop sounds fused with an electronic and often futuristic twist. The song features vocalist Cait La Dee, who teams up with Enzyme Dynamite and Jay Three to deliver an instant west coast classic! Get a feel for who the Bayliens are by tuning in to their “Zany 360” radio show on Fuzic.

To check out, vote on, and grab submitted remixes of Bubble Gum, go here. While you’re there, try making your own mix using the online MixMaker.

Slot Music

The record labels, and of course those standing to make a lot of money, are apparently unwilling to give up on the physical album sale. SanDisk, who has been making huge strides lately in the world of mini memory cards and cell phone integration has announced that with the backing of four major labels, EMI, Sony, BMG, and Universal, they will be selling albums in mini-SD card format. While not quite the trend we’re seeing in terms of more and more people switching to the mp3 format on players as opposed to hard copies of albums, the format here is an interesting step for the labels as they will be embracing non-DRM mp3 files on these mini-albums. You’ll buy the album in a Target or Wal-Mart, slide it into the micro-SD card on your cell phone and listen. It will be interesting to see how much this gains traction in a market place continually being re-invented to create more purchasing power at home as opposed to in-store physical sales.

Upcoming: SanFran MusicTech Summit 10.20.08

The SanFran MusicTech Summit is making yet another appearance next month (Oct 20th). If you missed the first two summits (which we covered here and here) and are anywhere near the bay area, I highly suggest you get yourself a ticket. (Or at least follow the live Twitter stream if you can’t be there in person).

Photo by Samantha Murphy

In their own words, the summit strives to “bring together the best and brightest developers in the Music/Technology Space, along with the musicians, entrepreneurial business people, and organizations who work with them at the convergence of culture and commerce.” Whether you want to learn about the evolving music industry from the people who are most entrenched in it, introduce your product or business to the audience that most needs it, or just be a part of the (r)evolution that is taking place, it’s a great experience.

Between the intense panels (some of which involve heated discussions analyzing complex issues and some of which simply celebrate the exciting innovations at the intersection of music and technology), the relaxed and stimulating networking opportunities, and the insane amount of intellectual and creative juices that are flowing, there is much to look forward to. Brian Zisk continues to impress with his increasingly popular and well-run event that is more relevant now than ever before.

So, what are you waiting for? Go buy your tickets here.

Delhi 2 Dublin: Indian and Irish Fusion

This past weekend while at NonStop Banghra, a monthly dance party in San Francisco, I was introduced to a fusion of genres that left me positively breathless. I’ve always enjoyed various kinds of Indian dance music – everything from the cheesy but catchy sound of Bollywood musicals and the traditional cultural tunes to the more beat-driven hip hop and dub influenced club songs, and I was pretty sure I’d be a big fan of Banghra. And that I was. But, the highlight of the night was a performance by a group called Delhi 2 Dublin.

D2D “fuses the traditional sounds of tabla, dhol, fiddle, and sitar with cutting edge DJ aesthetics, to create a highly charged multi-cultural dance celebration.” Imagine the energy and cultural fervor of a huge Indian wedding party colliding with a bunch of drunken Irishmen dancing on a wooden table with fiddles! For a good overview of their sound and feel, check out their promo video below:

The most notable band member has to be Kytami. The little firecracker of a violinist not only fiddles faster than hell, but practically performs her own one-woman Stomp-esque sideshow. She is all over the place and her edgy vibe adds an interesting dimension to the makeup of the group.

I spoke to the band leader, Tarun, briefly at the end of the night. He was wearing a lion bandana and beaming with exhilaration. This guy really lives his life out loud. Tarun was born to a Punjabi father and a mother of Irish descent – hence, his fascination with fusing Irish and Indian sounds. He is a classically trained tabla player, a DJ, and a producer, and handles the tabla and electronics on stage.

Delhi 2 Dublin has created their own niche at the intersection of gritty hip hop and electronic beats, traditional Indian influences, and that raw Celtic sound that packs a punch – all of which make you want to get up and dance.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day – The Soundtrack

At Peet’s Coffee this morning, the barista was wearing a shirt on his head like a bandana and was talking like a pirate. His co-workers did not seem amused. I thought it was quirky. But awesome! While the Pirates of the Caribbean movies brought pirate culture back into the mainstream, pirates have always been inherently cool. Who doesn’t love the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, I mean come on.

A few hours later it hit me that today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! In honor of this very significant holiday, I’ve gathered some remixes for you. (Btw, if you are into remixing, you should click here.)

And finally…some bloopers:

Yo ho yo ho a pirate’s life for me! Arrr.

Spooonful: Hand Delivered and Easy to Swallow Music Discovery

You love discovering new music. You love social networking and social media. Everything that ends with 2.0 gets your attention. Out of sheer enthusiasm for emerging technologies and your obsession with music, you sign up for every new service you find.

When it comes to music discovery, maybe you’ve tooled around with the likes of Last.fm, Grooveshark, Fuzz, iLike, Pandora, imeem, or one of the many others out there. If so, you may have experienced a sense of disorientation, information overload, or maybe you became paralyzed by indecision. Or maybe you’re simply too busy to spend time looking for new music and you’d rather that new music could just come looking for you for once.

A nice little service called Spooonful has a solution to that problem. In their own words: “Our mission is simple. A free weekly email newsletter delivered right to your inbox introducing you to one great new artist or band at a time. You’ll get a preview of what they sound like as well as links to buy a track, a whole album, even get out to a show.” Your weekly spoonful of new music! Check it out.


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