Posts Tagged 'music'

RIP Les Paul

Les Paul

A sad day in music today as one of the older trailblazers, Lester “Les Paul” William Polfuss passed away. He was 94. Born only a few short years after the sinking of the Titanic, Paul lived through two World Wars, numerous armed skirmishes, the Depression, three “first” Supreme Court Justices as well as the first African-American president. But in a life that spanned all of those historic events, his contributions to music, the recording industry and the guitar dramatically changed the way it was created, played and recorded on a level unparalleled elsewhere.

Not only was Paul an accomplished musician, but his DIY tendencies and desire to see how things worked lead him to develop technology that shaped the future of the music industry and huge developments within genres. The standard of multitrack recording was pioneered by Paul, and the practices of overdubbing and delays were advanced by him as well. Dissatisfied with the acoustic guitars available, Paul created his own electric guitar. This would go on to be manufactured and sold by Gibson, becoming one of the iconic guitars for rock musicians from multiple generations. Certainly we may not have had the Steve Miller Band were it not for Paul being Miller’s Godfather and giving him his first guitar lesson. I’ve also read that when he broke his arm he asked the doctor to reset it in a permanent guitar playing position. I can neither confirm nor deny that.

When it comes to instrumentation and studio techniques, few people in the recording industry have had as much of an impact as Les Paul. His influence and love for music was so great that he continued playing guitar into the last year of his life, and created continued inspiration for premier guitarists worldwide. In a musical climate where “innovation” comes in the form of auto-tune and artists rarely have more than monetary attachments to the instruments they play, Paul’s truly significant leaps of technology and his subsequent engineering attachment to the instruments he created will remain singular and unique for some time to come.

Sharing Mp3s in Twitter

While Evolving Music and MixMatchMusic have been Twitter devotees for several months now (check out why one of our writers thinks that musicians should jump on the Twitter bandwagon), I’ve only recently picked up the site. And I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t seen the iPhone app Gavroche has been rocking, I probably never would have. I put up an account several months ago, but the idea of just text messages coming in, or needing to look at a browser window seemed ridiculous to me. I’m not sitting at home checking my computer to see what other people are up to. But when Gavroche introduced me to Tweetie where you can post automatically, get a nice streamlined list of responses and other peoples’ status messages, I was intrigued. When he showed me how easy it was to post photos to the site from the phone, I was sold. And now, with even more features, I’m beginning to feel like Twitter culture is slowly infiltrating everything (and now to see if they can come up with a workable business model to actually stay in business.)

But up until now, the shortened URLs, the pictures, the @replies… these are fun things that have kept me busy, but haven’t yet broken into the main area of interest that I have… namely, big shocker here, music. So when I read about Songly, I was of course intrigued. The service allows you to use ANY URL that is hosting an Mp3 and post it as a Tweet. Here’s the kicker though… it doesn’t just shorten the URL and make it tweetable… it wraps it up in a flash player so anyone can listen.

To try out Songly, click here, and to read my first tweet attempt at such a thing, click here. I’ve used the new Souls of Mischief song, “Tour Stories” (click here for Souls of Mischief interview.) And for those of you rocking FireFox, Songly has an integrated tool for it. Talk about musical connectivity. A fantastic way to share music that will surely evolve with Twitter, forming the future of content sharing. Only drawback? Since the player they use is Flash, your iPhone friends won’t be able to listen until they get to a computer.

Christmas Music

I’m incredibly fed up. No, it’s not Bush’s pardons that are irking me… as long as he doesn’t hand one over to Scooter Libby I’m ok. I’m pretty sick of seeing red and green everywhere, but it’s Christmas time, so what can you expect, you just have to deal with it. No, what I’m sick of today is Christmas music. I’m not sure what it is (cough*money*) but every artist out there feels it’s not only their right but their absolute duty to remix the holiday classics in order to put out a Christmas album with a 93,000th rendition of “Jingle Bells.”

I’m not sure when we decided that the classic “Jingle Bells” wasn’t enough, nor for that matter when artists figured out the cash cow that is Christmas music. Every year, a different pop artist attempts to cash in on the act. Over the years, I’ve seen the travesty of Christmas albums put out by country artists and vocal crooners. I’m confused as to just how many versions of the same 11 songs these artists think is logically necessary.

Do I sound “bah humbug” here? Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for mixing and matching, and certainly in favor of a remix industry that allows artists of various genres to expand the musical universe, but there’s a difference between the creative re-working of music and the canned grab for money that the industry orchestrates in the Christmas music album rush every December.

The problem is that none of it is actually very good. I could go into a studio, put down a faux drum beat and carol for the microphone and it would probably come out in the general vicinity of skill displayed by other Christmas albums. Often the background music is just cheesy tones and chimes to provide the melody while an uninspired, already multi-millionaire artist sings the same lyrics sung by 100s of other artists because, hell, when you can clear a couple thousand dollars just by re-singing Christmas, you’d have to be stupid not to, right?

I think the worst would have to be Paul McCartney. As a former Beatle, the man has more money than several third world countries combined. There is absolutely no reason for him to be putting out a Christmas album, and yet he did. And since he did, I’ve contemplated suicide every Christmas morning when my Mom faithfully puts on his album with the song “Wonderful Christmas Time.” Now, McCartney’s transgression is worst than most… other artists settle for a CD of Christmas covers. You can’t really screw up a Christmas cover unless you try. But being the creative force that he believes himself to be, McCartney instead writes a new Christmas song that is so hideously bad that it sounds like a 4th grader in England could have written it. It not only tarnishes McCartney, but it tarnishes Christmas.

Steven Colbert jumped on the bandwagon this year, although, his foray into the Christmas album world is with a grain of salt as I believe he’s donating the proceeds, and the only real reason he did it was to create an album that could knock Kanye West’s 808 and Heartbreaks from the top spot on the charts. It worked. So on a humorous note, I don’t have a problem with this kind of album… it’s just the albums that are canned re-workings of holiday songs that I have a problem with.

But I wouldn’t rant like this if I wasn’t going to offer you a solution. The other night while watching Conan O’Brien, a longtime favorite group of mine was the musical act. Bela Fleck and the Flecktones came on at the end of the show to do a song off of their new album, a Christmas affair titled Jingle All the Way, and the track smoked. While other artists want to give you the same 4:30 version you’ve heard before, only with their voice and slightly different backings, the Flecktones bring their signature free-wheelin’ jazz style to create beautiful new takes on worn-out classics. As Gavroche stated last night after watching the segment, “It’s like acid jazz Christmas music.”

Fleck’s mastery of the banjo, Jeff Coffin’s breathless and frenetic horn playing, Vic Wooten’s blistering bass work and Futureman’s percussion work that always strays outside the boundaries make this Christmas album unlike any you’ve heard before. The instruments breathe the words into these instrumentals, and the songs never fear to bring out the creative musical flair that the group brings to all of its endeavors. Furthermore, the track selection and depth of musicianship here help eliminate any idea that the group did the album for the Christmas cash… artistically, they have always only done what they’ve wanted to do, so the organic composition of this album and its release speaks to their current desire to make Christmas music. And with all of the garbage Christmas covers floating around out there, who can blame them?

So if you’re tired of hearing the same songs every December, but the family insists on Christmas music, give Jingle All the Way a shot… it’s the musical brandy for your usually dull egg nog stereo.

A Holiday Present For You

Tired of the same old holiday music? Have a party to throw and don’t really want to have to put on that tired holiday compilation again? How bout you impress your family and friends this year with some holiday remixes! Below are some free downloads for you that will knock the stockings off your fireplace. Thanks to Solcofn for hooking everyone up with 4 albums of remixed holiday music. Enjoy and happy holidays from MixMatchMusic!

11 Songs to Be Thankful For, Vol. 2

For last year’s 11 Songs to Be Thankful For, click here.

I know you’re in pain. The music industry, no less than last year, is inundated with made for radio pop songs meant to burn brightly in the minds of middle schoolers, sell millions of copies and then fade quickly into the one hit wonder used CD bins. Some will make club playlists and stay relevant for another year or two, but most will be either forgotten or turned into the butt of some future musical joke. But these simplifications overlook a large cross section of musicians from all genres that are producing quality music that not only can get stuck in your head, but won’t make you want to put a loaded revolver to your temple to get them out. In fact, months later, these songs are still gripping and enjoyable.

Thanksgiving is over, but while you’re eating some leftovers, there’s still much to be thankful for in the way of music. For each month, a main song that stood out above the others with the album you can find it on, and a second song that I give honorable mention to for being generally kick ass. But since life isn’t a one man affair, I invited my roommate, who receives the same monthly iPod updates (see the “What I’m Hearing” posts… the links in the month names will get you there), to give her input on what songs grabbed her focus this year. 11 months, 1 main song, 1 honorable mention and 2 recommendations from the roommate will give you about 44 fantastic songs you haven’t listened to yet. I say about because in some cases you may have heard a song, and in others, we picked the same one. Enjoy!

Jan: “Breathe Me (Mylo Remix)” (Breathe Me EP) by Sia. Most people had their first introduction to Sia’s heartbreaking song through the final 5 minutes of the HBO series Six Feet Under. The song, steeped in lament and longing, is nostalgic and only further inundated with emotion from Sia’s haunting voice that at times seems to whisper. On this EP version, Mylo remixes the song by fleshing out a lush electronic sound with bass and digital flourishes around the vocals and speeding up the main melody. The result is a moving and dance-able, yet still emotional track. Honorable Mention: “Way Down in the Hole” (The Wire Soundtrack) by The Blind Boys of Alabama

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Nudez” (Rainydayz Remixes) by AmpLive. “Mushaboom (Postal Service Remix)” (Open Season) by Feist.

Feb: “Campus” (Vampire Weekend) by Vampire Weekend. When this album came out, I positively reviewed the whole thing, and now, many months later, it hasn’t lost its luster for me. With “Campus” the group uses simplicity in the vocals and instrumentation to evoke the feeling of days at college and crushes (if your college crush happened to be a professor.) The staccato lead up to the frenetic chorus is an instantly attainable indie pop that also brings to mind a Killers tune on Xanax. With the line, “In the afternoon you’re out on the stone and grass/and I’m sleeping on the balcony after class” the song takes me back to my own college balcony naps. Honorable Mention: “Weightless” (Lucky) by Nada Surf

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (Vampire Weekend) by Vampire Weekend. 2) “The Chills” (Writer’s Block) by Peter Bjorn and John

March: “Front Steps, Pt. 2 (Tough Love)” (Absolute Value) by Akrobatik. This song is haunting both lyrically and musically. The solid production includes a piano sample and string overtone that sound like they’ve been submerged in water. The murkiness is then combined with scratches and a bass and drum line that provide it with a depth that comes off simultaneously polished and street rough. All of this is so that Akrobatik can provide an incredible song about the economic and social plight within the project communities, the current state of hip-hop and the need for change within the criminal justice system. He exhorts the youth to avoid the drugs and black on black violence that help oppress them, and strive for something better by offering them his honest take in the form of “tough love.” His lyrics come from a seriously educated perspective as he recognizes that the format of the ghettos allows the upper middle class to ignore riots and financial losses inflicted by them (“And when we riot they won’t care about the dollars lost/they’re sipping cocktails while we’re throwing Molotovs“) and sees the difference between a middle class white education and the education provided in inner city schools. The entire song is filled with lines that are both mentally stimulating and potent in rhyme scheme (full lyrics here). One of the best hip-hop lines of the year comes from this song, “This ain’t a war on drugs, it’s a war on thugs/they supply the guns, we supply the bodies with slugs.” Easily in the contention for my top 5 songs of the year. Honorable Mention: “Live 4 Today” (Break A Dawn) by Zion I

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Opening Act” (Garbage Pail Kids) by Sene and Chief 2) “Muddy Water Stomp” (Garbage Pail Kids) by Sene and Chief

April: “The Things That We Could Share” (Soundboy Rock) by Groove Armada. Here’s one the roommate and I agreed on. In an age of Craigslist Missed Connections and the disconnect between people, this joyous song about the potential connections is a love song for the person you haven’t met yet. Starting with a groove bass, handclaps and “SB” chant, the electronically strained vocals through the verse beg for a balance with another person (“I need a warm hand to cool me down/I need a soft voice to drown me out”) moves into the chorus about a boy on a bus watching a girl, who is simultaneously telling her friend that he doesn’t care. When the bass line undulates and crashes into the triumphant refrain of “the things that we could share,” if you’re not dancing, you’re not breathing. Honorable Mention: “Far Away” (In Ghost Colours) by Cut Copy.

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “The Things That We Could Share” Groove Armada, Soundboy Rock. 2) “Watch As They Go” (Other People) by American Princes

May: “Winds of Change” (The Show) by EMC. Leave it to a super-group of hip-hop mainstays to write a love song to hip-hop that can surely stand as a classic. With an old static laden and sped sample singing, “Winds of change, that blow forever” EMC rips off a masterpiece devoted to the past, present and future of hip-hop, while never forgetting the overall perspective of fleeting life and inevitable change. Subjects like evolving music (MJ to Usher), technology (Beta to DVD), and clothes (Osh-Kosh to Phat Farm) are all well and good, but the highlight of this track is the last verse that takes a sad hindsight view of a hip-hop career from an old age perspective (“Holding the picture frame wishing that we didn’t age”) and the unfortunate decay that it can bring (“At 55 started forgetting lines, mumbling rhymes.”) As the rap moves to talking about freestyling with his grandchild, the song becomes both melancholy in its reminiscence and happy in the remembrance of the experiences. Honorable Mention: “Mathematics” (The Fashion) by The Fashion

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “27” (Butter and Gun$ EP) by Blue Scholars 2) “O Samba Tai” (Carolina) by Seu Jorge

June: “Watch Out (Remix)” (The 3rd World) by Immortal Technique (click here for exclusive interview). Sounding incredibly sharp over a beat that samples from the Apocalypse sounding symphony from the central battle scene in Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith and polished Green Lantern production, Immortal Technique barks through this track that cements his status as one of the most lyrically intelligent and delivery potent rappers around. Starting with his album sales off just a Source magazine quotable and moving onto direct attacks on the music industry (“they push pop music like a religion/anorexic celebrity driven, financial fantasy fiction”) and American government, Tech doesn’t take pause for a chorus here, but why bother when you can deliver like that for two and a half minutes straight? When he ends the song with, “I need more than advancements and a rented mansion,” you know that he means it, and doesn’t care who he pisses off in the process. Honorable Mention: “Let the Beat Build” (The Carter III) by Lil Wayne

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Reverse Pimpology” (The Third World) by Immortal Technique 2) “Dance Dance Dance” (Youth Novels) by Lykke Li

July: “Sittin’ On Chrome (Mr. Flash Sittin on Cr02 Remix)” (Delicious Vinyl: Rmxxology) by Masta Ace. This revamped version of the old school Masta Ace song is given all sorts of synths and electronic overtone. The verses get a video game-like sound backdrop with a fast dance beat. When the hook drops, the whole song slows down and the sample carries it. Honorable Mention: “Built to Last” (Coup de Theatre) by Haiku D’Etat

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Desperada” (Jeanius) by Jean Grae. 2) “GFC” (Como Te Llama?) by Albert Hammond Jr.

August: “Zhaoderen Nana” (Introducing Hanggai) by Hanggai. Another point of agreement with the roommate, Hanggai’s mixture of traditional Mongolian folk music and Western influences gripped us at the end of the summer and made for great lake music. The use of a an upbeat throat singer here and a rollicking strumming are contrasted with moments of full percussion. You’ll have to listen to get it. Honorable Mention: “Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You (The Twelves Remix)” (Partie Traumatic) by The Black Kids

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Zhaoderen Nana” (Introducing Hanggai) by Hanggai 2) “Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You (The Twelves Remix)” (Partie Traumatic) by The Black Kids

September: “Transitional Joint” (The Preface) by eLZhi. (full interview here) Beautiful production and a perfectly placed “just because of love” sample back Detroit’s eLZhi as he dissects relationships and the process of moving on from a failed one. Without ever losing a positive outlook, the lyrics don’t dwell on the past, but always look forward to that next glow. eLZhi acknowledges the sour experience of “rolling snake eyes” without losing sight of the feeling of “missing her like when the summer’s gone.” The delivery from verse to chorus are sensational and the beat is addictive. Honorable Mention: “Ship” (Purpleface EP) by Throw Me the Statue (interview)

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Girls and Boys In Love” (Girls and Weather) by Rumble Strips 2) “Honeybee” (Purpleface EP) by Throw Me the Statue

October: “Please Believe” (unknown) by Longshot. I’d give you a breakdown of this very solid hip-hop track, but you can click on this link and go listen to it yourself! Huzzah! Honorable Mention: “Electric Feel” (Oracular Spectacular) by MGMT

Jessie’s Picks: 1) “Sadie Hawkins” (Doomtree) by Doomtree, (interview) 2) “Electric Feel” (Oracular Spectacular) by MGMT

November: “Trail of Lies” (A History of Violence) by Jedi Mind Tricks. With a South American melody and lo-fi beat, this offering from JMT’s sixth studio album examines lies perpetuated by the government and mass media, among others. The gruff voice of Vinnie Paz and the lyrics about a system in severe trouble make for a socially conscious song steeped in conspiracy theories. Honorable Mention: “Signs” (Intimacy) by Bloc Party

Jessie’s Picks: “Don Julio” (Vulture’s Wisdom, Vol. 1) by Opio 2) “Trail of Lies” (A History of Violence) by Jedi Mind Tricks

John McCain: Music Thief pt. 2

Several weeks ago at the height of the election race, I posted concerning McCain and Palin’s unauthorized campaign use of songs by several different artists. Well, the campaign is over, McCain has lost, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to throw in the towel on the lawsuit brought against him by Jackson Browne. McCain (or, as McCain claims, the Ohio Republican Party) used a 30 second clip of the Browne song “Running on Empty” in a commercial televised in Ohio. While a majority of McCain’s usage of music by groups that are Democrats and in other ways don’t support this aging war-hawk isn’t eligible for trial as it was broadcast live and publicly at venues that traditionally have rights to use songs, Browne’s lawsuit is the exception because it did it in a nationally televised with without asking for rights to use the song.

But who would for a second think that McCain, despite making campaign promises based around honesty and integrity, would actually be honest and have integrity? That’s why, rather than admitting he did wrong and seeing to compensate Browne for it, he’s counter-suing claiming that these are frivolous lawsuits. McCain claims that, “Given the political, non-commercial, public interest and transformative nature of the use of a long-ago published song, the minuscule amount used and the lack of any effect on the market for the song (other than perhaps to increase sales of the song), these claims are barred by the fair use doctrine.”

That defense is contrasted by Browne’s claim that the use was a violation of his publicity rights, copyright infringment and a false endorsement. My question is how can McCain claim that his use was public interest? It certainly wasn’t in the interest of the person who made the song, a longtime Democrat. The use of the song didn’t help the public in any way. You can say that there was a minuscule amount of the song used, but 30 seconds of a 2 minute spot, or 25% of the commercial, doesn’t seem minuscule to me. But to me, the greatest threat here is the unauthorized use of a song to give the appearance of promotion on the part of the artist. If an artist is clearly against what a politician stands for, then the “political” fair use argument shouldn’t stand. Of course, this counter suit and the failure on McCain’s part to take responsibility for what he and his party did simply makes me more certain that the country picked the right President. But where do you stand on “fair use” and politicians using musicians’ songs without their knowledge?

Sex and Music

The Naughtibod

The Naughtibod

We all know how nice it is to mix and match music when we’re getting saucy in the sack. Whether it’s goth lovers tearing each other apart to the noise of death metal, or the college co-eds carefully copulating to Dave Matthews, music and getting it on have gone hand in hand since bagpipes blared over the Scottish plains and the first kilt went flying, and really, probably much longer than that. But up until now, that was really only good when you had a partner. But what if you’re on a plane? Or alone in your car? Or trapped in an elevator?

That’s why iPod owners everywhere should be thanking the creators of the new Naughtibod. Measuring 5.5″ long (with 4″ of that “insertable”), the Naughtibod is bigger than your ex and moves in ways that were probably beyond his imagination. You hook it up to your iPod, play some music and enjoy. Is your iPod in color and you’re an accessory fiend? Fear not, Ms. Bradshaw, this handy musically charged vibrator comes in Bubblegum, Licorice, Blueberry, and Green Apple.

Feeling the urge on the Muni heading across town? Put on your favorite John Mayer song, close your eyes, and ignore that bum gawking at you from across the aisle. On your way to that 3 AM drunk dial that you know you should probably avoid for your own mental health? Tell the cab driver to turn around as you turn up Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes,” and by the time you get back home you’ll wonder why you would even bother going to see that lousy bastard in the first place.

Of course, Ohmibod (the company that makes these) wouldn’t want you to be unable to de-stress if your iPod runs out of batteries, so they’ve made it detachable from the Pod and battery powered for those nights when your iPod’s libido isn’t running or you just can’t pick a genre. Intrigued? Go check it out here, and the next time you see someone seriously getting down to their music, before you go ask them what they’re listening to so you can download it from iTunes when you get home, make sure it’s not just the Naughtibod that they’re enjoying. And if anyone at Ohmibod is reading this, we have some staff members who might like to give it a try… contact me for a mailing address.


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