Posts Tagged 'Bjork'

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 12

For the new music recommended in March, click here.

Hard to believe it, but this is the 1 year anniversary of the “What I’m Hearing” posts. Last April, I embarked on a mission to bring quality music, both mainstream and not, to readers looking to expand their musical vocabulary beyond the monosyllabic songs pumped ad nauseum from radio towers across the nation. As has been the trend, this month is no exception to the rule as I found a good number of fantastic new artists. As always, all of these artists can be found on iTunes for purchase. This month’s iPod update consisted of 63 songs spanning hip-hop, DIY and electronic. Enjoy!

Brother Ali, The Truth is Here: Originally introduced to the underground hip-hop scene by Slug of Atmosphere, Brother Ali has worked with producer Ant and had his albums released by hip-hop stalwart Rhymesayers. A converted Muslim and Caucasian albino, Ali frequently faced questions of his race early on due to voice, delivery and moniker. On The Truth is Here, his fourth studio album, Ali uses alternatively jazzy and bumping Ant produced beats to explore issues of race, social and economic divides and his adjustments to life in light of his growing success. While 9 full length tracks, this album is billed as an EP preceeding a full album release to come this fall. One thing is certain, the disc doesn’t listen like an EP. Thoughtful, introspective and lyrically deft lyrics keep the listener entertained while Ant’s production of top-notch songs outshines the cookie-cutter beats saturating mainstream hip-hop. Ali’s style varies from aggressive spitting on tracks like “Philistine David ” to laid back delivery on the album’s opener, “Real As Can Be.” Beyond all of this, Ali’s scope encompasses a variety of questions with universal significance. When he asks, “Can you tell me, what language do you laugh in?/The human reaction of smiles and cries/what language are the tears when they’re falling from your eyes?” it is not a question intended to divide in the style of Babel, but rather to point out the similarities we share as humans. An intelligent, varied and musical foray into hip-hop. Don’t Sleep On: “As Real As Can Be,” “The Believers” (feat. Slug) and “Good Lord.”

Filastine, Dirty Bomb: Formerly a member of ¡Tchkung! out of Seattle, Grey Filastine, upon the break-up of the group, has gone on to explore global sounds in experimental electronica. On his February release, Dirty Bomb, Filastine mashes glitch, hip-hop and industrial with sounds from Asia, Europe and the Middle East, including cameos from overseas musicians. The textures are dense and layered, sheets of sound that have no one city of origin, making this album a true global citizen. Hand drums, zithers and traditional chants find themselves side by side with throbbing bass lines and electric blips, all finding their places here in the hands of a producer adept at finding harmony between cross-cultural sounds. While some of the tracks can become repetitive, the majority are well fleshed out and driving. In “Singularities,” the beat is built up, deconstructed and then slammed back down in grimy fashion, an example of excellent production that runs throughout the album. Don’t Sleep On: “Singularities,” “Strategy of Tension,” and “Bitrate Sneers.”

Harmonic 313, When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence: Under the pseudonym Harmonic 313, producer Mark Pritchard has released an album of spacey and electronic music. Interesting about the tracks here is that they range greatly from straight ahead ambient electronica to tracks that sound like J Dilla beats blended with Kraftwerk’s Trans-Atlantic Express on acid. Using sonic pulses, computer blips and beeps and thick bass, Pritchard crafts an album that sounds almost entirely machine created, as if a hard drive rather than a human is behind the composition. Even vocals go hardwired on “Word Problems,” where a children’s spelling computer game serves as the spoken medium. Don’t Sleep On: “Call to Arms,” “Falling Away” (feat. Steve Spacek) and “Köln”

Peter Björn and John, Living Thing: Following a two year hiatus after 2005’s Writer’s Block, punctuated only by a digital only release limited to 5,000 US copies in 2006 (Seaside Rock), PB&J have returned with the March release of their 5th full length album. It has been a busy 4 years for the group as they climbed the ladder of musical notoriety through the ubiquitous hit “Young Folks.” They’ve gone on to be featured on hip-hop mixtapes and make all sorts of late night talk show rounds. While there are no comparable tracks on this album, it nonetheless provides more of the same feel. Tracks range from optimistic up-tempo to slow and melancholy utilizing various levels of production quality. The positive is that the success of “Young Folks” hasn’t spawned an album of copycats. These are original and show the trio expanding their sound, bringing in slightly more electronic drum programming at points. The album’s clear winner, “Nothing to Worry About,” is an about-face from “Young Folks,” female vocalist replaced with a chorus of distorted children at full volume and a funky bass line complimented by drums echoing off the inside walls of the song. A solid outing without going stale. Don’t Sleep On: “Nothing to Worry About,” “Just the Past,” and “It Don’t Move Me.”

Röyksopp, Junior: Big since their debut album in 2001, the fittingly titled Junior is only the 3rd release from Röyksopp in 8 years. And, given the shift in style between Melody A.M. and The Understanding, what happened next was of a great deal of interest. Turns out, the duo has managed to find a middle ground between the two, with various tracks exemplifying the more mellow and sugary aspects of Melody (“Happy Up Here”) and the more polished and electro-heavy Understanding (“Röyksopp Forever.”) The album retains the precision and vision of the duo’s work, bringing in female vocalists, chill melodies at times and electric tweaks that made “Eple” so popular. Don’t Sleep On: “Happy Up Here,” “Vision One,” and “Silver Cruiser.”

The tUnE-YaRds, Bird Brains: DIY. A term that, in an age of bloggers, home studios, and rising costs in all sectors has come to be a badge of honor and distinction. But there’s DIY music, and then there’s the unreal, experimental and phenomenal Bird Brains from The Tune-Yards (capitalization varies depending on site), aka Merrill Garbus. If what I’ve heard is true, Garbus crafted this entire album using small recorders and computer programs available through shareware. The result is a gritty, honest and surprising album that takes lo-fi to a new level. With a distinct and quirky voice, Garbus backs herself with drums and percussion sounds like something being slammed against a hard surface, ukulele and an entire arsenal of found sounds like kids playing in a park, birds chirping outside a window and conversations with a child. At times, the recording equipment’s range is tested as you can hear it clip, but this only adds to the allure of the tracks. Take Björk, mix her with Seu Jorge’s acoustic live recordings for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and then juice the entire blend with a sense of creativity large enough to view the world around it as an instrument and you have the Tune-Yards. Nothing is out of bounds here. Spoons on glasses, discussions of blueberries, and steps on wooden stairs are just some of the interesting sounds turned music. One can only hope that follow up efforts will be equally beautiful in their range and direction. Don’t Sleep On: “For You,” “News,” and “Little Tiger.”

So that’s it for April. Chubb Rock and Wordsmith, new Del the Funky Homosapien and a ton of other new music is coming in May, so stay tuned, and keep your listening intelligent.

Advertisements

Why Musicians Should Jump on the Twitter Bandwagon

Twitter is not just for tech geek bloggers anymore. (Yes, that was a Scobleizer shout out.) Oh no, my friends. Twitter is for everyone. Especially DIY musicians.

Before you read the rest of this post, open another tab and listen to “You’re no one if you’re not on Twitter” in the background. It’s in the little music player at the top of this page. Just a little soundtrack for ya.

And, while you’re distracted, go ahead and follow evolvingmusic on Twitter.

Now, not everyone agrees with the merits of twittering as a part of an overall marketing strategy for musicians. I, however, would not only include Twitter in my strategy, I would make it one of the main features.

I know, Twitter can be mildly reminiscent of a 90s chat room sometimes. (I never really understood the appeal there). But instead of creepy old men posing as teenage girls and lonely housewives looking for excitement, it’s an entirely different crowd. Twitter is full of intelligent, resourceful, witty people who are passionate about new technology, endlessly curious about a wide range of topics, and more than happy to share helpful information. Twitter has become a great resource for all kinds of things, and perhaps surprisingly, for as-it-happens news as well.

But it seems to me that not very many musicians are taking advantage of this brilliantly simple tool. Yet.

As most of us know by now, the music industry has dug itself into a deeper hole than it can get itself out of for the time being and musicians are pretty much on their own when it comes to creating their own success. Obviously, you need a MySpace Music page. (I hate MySpace. I really do. But it IS necessary for musicians.) Obviously, you need a website, where you post your photos, tour dates, bio, etc. The next steps are also important: your blog (let your fans get to know you), your Facebook page, a Last.fm account, a YouTube channel for your music videos. These are all part of a multi-pronged approach to creating your musical identity online. Let your fans find you in the places where they are already spending their time. Give them the content they are already looking for.

Ok, so if I do all this, do I still need Twitter? Who cares what I had for lunch? Isn’t it a waste of my time??

Absolutely not! And here’s why.

First, it’s another way to broadcast the key things that you already have on your MySpace, Facebook, website etc, like tour dates, album release dates, and what not.

Second, and more importantly, it’s a way – similar to blogging – to get more personal. To let your fans get to know you, the person, in addition to you, the musician. Whereas blogging allows you to rant and rave and express your opinions in a very personal way, Twittering (which is technically microblogging), allows for the same thing. Just, you know….in 140 characters or less.

Those who follow you (presumably your fans) are interested in what you have to say, what you are doing, what you are feeling and thinking. They care. Whether you tweet about what city you’re in for your tour tomorrow or how much you hate the president today or what color underwear you have on, they care. (And if they decide they don’t care, they’ll just unfollow you.)

Say important things, say meaningless things, say witty things, ask questions. It’s all relevant if it’s on your mind.

Next, as a way of rewarding your loyal followers, give them stuff. Much like Obama sent his VIP pick out by text message first, you could announce a small show or party only on Twitter, or include a link to a free download in a tweet so your followers get it first.

Lastly, it’s a way to interact with your fans. Ask them for suggestions, like song requests for a set list at an upcoming show. Ask them which songs they like best on your last CD. Let them show their adulation with their @ replies.

One mistake to avoid: Don’t let someone else produce your Twitter content for you. Letting a PR manager or college intern or your unemployed roommate write your updates for you will defeat the purpose. Only you can mold your online identity and make it actually you.

Another tip: Share music with your fans on Twitter! You can do this by using Tra.kz, which will shorten your long audio links into cute, little links that point fans to a player page for the song; the song’s Tra.kz page  displays all the tweets about the song and makes it easy for people to share.

Which artists are currently on Twitter? Only a few have caught on so far. Here is a sampling: Snoop Dogg, MC Hammer, Jimmy Eat World, Sara Bareilles, Bjork, Brett Gurewitz (of Bad Religion), A Fine Frenzy, and Patrick Wilson (of Weezer).


Copyright © 2007-2009 MixMatchMusic, Ltd. All Rights Reserved
Advertisements