Posts Tagged 'Seu Jorge'

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.

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What I’m Hearing, Vol. 11

For February’s music update, click here.

March has brought me some fantastic new cuts, and several blasts from the past that I hadn’t heard before, making them new to me. I will say that I downloaded The Jackson’s “Blame it On the Boogie” which is simply sublime. But through 56 new songs, including an album that won’t be released until next month, March was good for music. I’m almost sad to see it end, until I remember that once it does, I get to start all over again with April…

Dessa, False Hopes: Released in 2005, False Hopes is a 5 song EP from Dessa (@dessadarling) of Doomtree. Why write about a 2005 release as “new music?” Well, have you given this EP a listen yet? While short in length, this EP is huge on style and poignant, introspective lyrics against musically gripping backdrops. “551” looks at an addictive and damaging relationship over a dark beat laced with piano. Throughout the album, Dessa mixes her vocal talent with her rapping and slam poetry background to great effect. “Mineshaft” utilizes an urgent string backing and heavy drum beat to accentuate the sense of loss in the song. Many of the lyrics focus on a central theme of personal loss (“The list of things I used to be is longer than the list of things I am,” “I lost an octave to the Camel Lights”) and they’re delivered with such intensity that her personal experiences become visceral for the listener. “Kites” delivers an eerie underwater feeling that brings to mind the melancholy feeling I first heard on listening to Atmosphere’s “God’s Bathroom Floor.” Through just 5 solo songs and her contributions to Doomtree, Dessa rivals P.O.S. in her passion and creativity on this album, and one can only hope that her poetry, lyrics and music gain the public recognition that they deserve. Don’t Sleep On: “Mineshaft,” “551,” “Kites.”

Kero One, Early Believers: This man does it all out of his self-run label, Plug, in the Bay Area. DIY in every sense of the word, Kero One plays his own instruments, makes his own beats, writes his own lyrics, produces and mixes his own songs and then created a label to self-distribute. For the full review of his sophomore release, Early Believers, set to drop April 7th, click here. Don’t Sleep On: “This Life Ain’t Mine,” “Welcome to the Bay,” and “On and On.”

N.A.S.A., The Spirit of Apollo: The idea behind this collaboration album is bringing North American hip-hop together with South American beats and influences to create a cultural mash-up album with global appeal. And for the most part, the odd pairings of guest artists along with the sample heavy and culturally defiant music does the trick. As hip-hop laced with world music continues to gain traction on radio airwaves and popularity among listeners, it comes as no surprise that artists with a broad fan base such as Kanye West, Tom Waits and George Clinton were willing to contribute. Other international artists got in on the act too, with Santogold, Lykke Li and Seu Jorge joining the fray.

If there’s one drawback to this album, it’s that some of the songs come off as too packaged, relying more on the featured names than on the music itself. “Spacious Thoughts” featuring Tom Waits and Kool Keith is interesting, but forces too much of a juxtaposition between the rapper and the singer, leaving the transition from verse to chorus feeling fractured. If you’re into heavy, crunchy dance tracks, “Whachadoin?” feat. Spank Rock, M.I.A., Santogold and Nick Zinner is dense with bass and electronic flourishes, but a bit repetitive. Of course, where the songs are on, they’re on. DJ Qbert and Del tha Funkee Homosapien rip “Samba Soul,” the beat perfectly capturing Del’s sense of pace and timing, and “Gifted,” the track with Kanye, Lykke Li and Santogold has almost instant club appeal with grimy effects offset by a starry and airy video game tone sequence in the background. For the most part, N.A.S.A. plays like a who’s who of guest stars where the sum total of the music falls short of the artists involved, but on a handful of songs, the desire for North to meet South in interesting ways comes through. Don’t Sleep On: “Samba Soul” featuring Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and DJ Qbert, “Money” featuring David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge and Z-Trip, and “Gifted” featuring Kanye West, Lykke Li and Santogold.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart: After a 2007 EP release, PoBP@H released this debut self-titled effort in February on Slumberland records. The initial offering finds the group exploring the various genres of Indie Rock, Shoegaze and Sugar Punk and the spaces between them. The band utilizes a variety of sounds to evoke different moods, not shying away from using both electric and acoustic guitars depending on the song, and descending into lo-fi static where necessary. The lyrics seem less important to the songs than the contribution the singing melody lends the tunes and the drums remain consistent throughout to lend the backbone to a group that alternates between sulking and exulting. In some places, 80’s influences sneak through, “The Tenure Itch” being a song that could have easily made the Donnie Darko soundtrack. But whether they’re soft or hard, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart remain effusive in their energy, bringing a sense of urgency and drive to every song that keeps the album moving. Don’t Sleep On: “Stay Alive,” “This Love is F*****g Right!” and “A Teenager in Love.”

Indiefeed Hip-Hop: Dirt E. Dutch from Indiefeed (@dutchman) brought out some more stellar cuts this month, but one of my favorite, Dutch’s “Welcome to the World Kayla Vivien!” is a smooth and mellow instrumental affair to celebrate the birth of his daughter that was actually put out in February. Finale’s Black Milk remixed track “One Man Show” moves with low-end bass touches and high-end electronic agility while B Real’s “Don’t You Dare Laugh” uses an interesting interpolation of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.” All in all, a positive showing this month.

The next few months are looking solid for new music releases, so keep it tuned.

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

Review: Thievery Corporation’s Radio Retaliation

Metromix Louiseville hit the nail on the head when they described Thievery Corporation‘s new album, Radio Retaliation, as “a quietly funky soundtrack for the MoveOn.org generation”.

The album, which was released early on iLike and Facebook, is fairly true to the classic Thievery sound – loungey, organic, multicultural. This time around, however, they deliver a decidedly more overt political message. Properly Chilled posits that they deliver their message “through a swirling, smoky kaleidoscope that will leave most people who listen to it largely unaware of, yet affected (if only subconsciously) by its social and political text”. I couldn’t agree more. After a few listens, here is my breakdown of the album.

First up is Sound the Alarm (feat. Sleepy Wonder) which kicks off with a hair-raising siren. A solid reggae beat, guitar riff and bass line set the stage for the minimalistic but passionate lyrics. Not a whole lot happens in this song, but all throughout it’s an enjoyable dub track.

Mandala features Anoushka Shankar, daughter of legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar. If you are a sucker for sitar, you will like this track. A playful twangy melody glides over the layers of deep driving bass, heavy brass and percussion. Some clubby turntable scratching and electronic beats punctuate the song, giving it a timeless feel.

Radio Retaliation again features Sleepy Wonder. As the title track of the album, this is a good example of classic Thievery reggae. Background instrumentals don’t vary much, so your attention is drawn to the lyrics, which have plenty to say.

Vampires has a funky upbeat feel. As musicOMH points out, “the swaying horns and polyrhythmic drums of Vampires do a commendable job of disguising the song’s clunky political metaphors“. The song very appropriately features Femi Kuti, eldest son of Fela Kuti, the Nigerian “pioneer of Afrobeat music, human rights activist, and political maverick.” (And yes, if you are still playing the Sarah Palin drinking game, you can count that use of “maverick” and have a drink.)

In Hare Krsna, the recognizable voice of Seu Jorge, Brazilian pop samba icon (possibly better known to his American fans as the David-Bowie-covers-in-Portuguese soundtrack guy for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) adds a scratchy rawness to what would otherwise be a little too smooth of a trip hop track. The title might lead you to expect an overtly Indian sound but instead you get classic Thievery muted basslines, looped guitars, brass sections… Only after listening closely do you catch what sounds like a dhol in the background. That, and of course, Seu is singing “Hare Krsna” over and over…

El Pueblo Unido, featuring Verny Varela, is probably one of the best songs on the album. The juxtaposition of jazzy Latin sounds and loungey dub gives it sort of a Buena Vista Social Club meets Morcheeba vibe.

(The Forgotten People) starts off with a sad clarinet intro and quickly picks up the pace with forceful sitar, dhol, and some electronic beats. The bass line gives this track a much darker sound than the rest of the album. A perfect song to listen to when you’re feeling a little dark yourself. Intense, worldly, and pleasing to the ear.

33 Degree features the soft haunting vocals of Zee over mellow trip hop style instrumentals. Part space age synth, part loungey beats, this track utilizes minimal percussion and a smooth blend of sounds to send you on a quiet thoughtful journey.

For Beautiful Drug, think AIR. Heavily reminiscent of the Virgin Suicides soundtrack, this one. The smoky vocals of Jana Andevska, who sounds a bit like Cat Power, gives the track a lazy, melancholy texture. You can almost picture an emaciated bored French socialite lounging in an opium den somewhere unimpressed by her glamorous yet soulless life and yearning for a different reality or perhaps a lost love…

La Femme Parallel is super mellow. LouLou‘s gentle vocals calmly drive this ambient track forward. Suitable background music for a loungey nightclub in any cosmopolitan city. You can imagine hearing this song playing softly while well dressed city types sip their martinis and steal sultry glances at strangers in the dim smoky room.

Retaliation Suite launches into a brassy funky groove with lots of triangle, some smooth sax, and provocative vocal samples. The political rhetoric contrasts nicely with the relaxed head-nodding qualities of the instrumentals. A great listen whether you play it in the background or listen to the words.

The Numbers Game is more of a departure from Thievery’s typical chill sound. Funky percussion, lots of soul and brass accompany the “Godfather of Go Go”, Chuck Brown, as he sings about the “same old game” and tells you to “shake out your mind”. Definitely a toe-tapping number.

The Shining Path is bass-heavy throughout and laced with haunting synths patterns. In the second half of the song, a tabla beat drops giving the song a more organic element, sort of a drum-circle vibe.

Blasting Through the City features Notch, whose earnest lyrics implore you to: “feel the struggle, but don’t give up the fight”. This reggae-infused downtempo track simultaneously makes you want to kick back on an island somewhere and join the a revolution.

Sweet Tides (feat. LouLou) A downtempo groove with a positive and uplifting feel to it. When LouLou sings in English, somehow she loses a bit of her charm, but the vocals are still very pretty. Seemingly uniform at first, a more triumphant hi-hat beat drops about halfway in to pick up the energy. The muted trumpets that fade out at the end of the song give it a nice polish.

In conclusion, we have another great accomplishment by the DJ duo. Some may say they went a little overboard with the number of guest artists, but it certainly adds diversity to the overall sound. The album is unique in that it preserves enough of the elements of Thievery Corporation’s core sound and feel and yet adds some new dynamics including the ramped up political undertones. I say two thumbs up and go buy/download/steal/burn (or do whatever it is you do to get new music) Radio Retaliation. If nothing else, spread the word. It’s worth hearing.

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 2

Alright, it’s time for the May update and the second installment of What I’m Hearing. For those that missed last month, this will be a monthly post centered around the new music I’ve put on my iPod. The May update, for those interested in numbers and stats, contains 135 new songs, and they are excellent! Here’s what I’m hearing now…

Atmosphere, When Life Gives You Lemons, Paint That Shit Gold: After two releases viewed largely as disappointing in musical content, Atmosphere has returned with an excellent set of hip-hop that finds the duo of Ant and Slug returning to the stylistic methods that created their success originally. The beats on this album are tight, with many melancholy tracks for Slug’s introspective and multi-tiered delivery to lilt over. Ant produces an album that ranges from sad slow hip-hop to upbeat party movers, with songs based in undulating bass rhythms as well as melodic piano rifts. Slug, rapping about various people’s personal perspective on life, finds new inspiration for his rhymes by rapping from both a first person and omniscient angle and creating rhymes that could be interpreted multiple ways. Don’t Sleep On: “Yesterday,” “Me,” and “Your Glass House.”

Blue Scholars, The Long March EP: While I have been talking consistently about their self-titled debut and sophomore release Bayani, I just discovered this EP full of previously unreleased tracks. They continue the smooth music and laid back lyricism of the two studio albums and deliver a number of excellent tracks. This may be an EP, but it listens like a full effort album. Don’t Sleep On: “Sagaba (Remix),” “La Botella,” and “27” (technically off the Butter and Gun$ release)

Chicha Libre, Sonido Amazonico: When you pick up this album for the first time, your initial thought is that you’re listening to some 70s music out of South America. The style hails from Peru and in its heyday was an amalgamation of pop, reggae and Latin music. Here, this North American band has picked up the style, dusted it off and infused it with a natural and unforced feeling that also includes some surf music vibes among others. The instrumentation is exquisite, with hand drums and an organ being used to great effect throughout the album. This music is perfect for summer weather and boat trips. Dig it. Don’t Sleep On: “La Cumbia del Zapatero,” “Sonido Amazonico,” and “Popcorn Andino.” Here’s a quote from the group’s website…”CHICHA is the name of a corn-based liquor favored by the Incas in pre-colombian days. Chicha is also the name of a South American music craze which started out in the late 70’s in the Peruvian Amazon. Cumbias amazonicas, as they were first called, were loosely inspired by Colombian accordion-driven cumbias but soon incorporated the distinctive sounds of Andean melodies, some Cuban son, and the psychedelic sounds of surf guitars, farfisa organs and moog synthesizers. The group draws its personnel from barbes regulars Bebe Eiffel, One Ring Zero and Las Rubias del norte.”

Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs: The indie scene has been good to Death Cab, and the release of their new album, written in California, exemplifies the standard sounds we’ve come to expect from the group while also integrating a few new ones. Light piano and guitar, easy melodies and Gibbard’s heartfelt and sometimes falsetto voice form the basis of the album, but the band branches out here with a few more intense segments, heavy drums and wall of sound concepts. Death Cab remains their strongest on the shorter melancholy songs and the ones where the music is just enough to keep Gibbard from sounding miserable, but their radio single of this one, “I Will Possess Your Heart,” is a bit self-indulgent in its 8 minute running time and the long intro seems to go almost nowhere for minutes. “Your New Twin Sized Bed” demonstrates the group’s ability to turn a very sad song into an enjoyable tune. All in all though, another solid installment from the group. Don’t Sleep On: “Bixby Canyon Bridge,” “Your New Twin Sized Bed,” and “Grapevine Fires.”

Immortal Technique, The 3rd World: I can’t say much more about the 3 full tracks and 4 clips I’ve heard in from this album other than what I said late last week in this post. What I will say is that these three tracks (“Reverse Pimpology,” “The 3rd World,” and “The Payback) are all stellar, showcasing familiar Tech topics over a very different set of beats that forces him to find diversity in his delivery. He succeeds and makes June 24th’s release date seem just too far off.

Nine Inch Nails, The Slip: Reznor’s come a long way since Pretty Hate Machine, and the journey has allowed us to watch an angst-ridden young artist develop a genre, spawn numerous imitators, become an incredible global success and then use that success to work independently against the record industry that gave him his start. While Reznor’s success has changed the way the music is approached and distributed, it hasn’t changed what is an obvious hunger within to continue to create. The Slip is the album follow up to the esoteric and instrumental Ghosts I-IV released a few weeks ago, and finds Reznor returning to songs with lyrics and savage musical intensity that were missing on the largely landscape tracks of Ghosts. While I personally feel that the honesty, intensity and pure force of will in albums like Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral will no longer be matched, Reznor doesn’t try to duplicate the formula or make apologies here. The songs are a logical progression of his growth as a musician, and still deliver some satisfying NIN. Distortion, a combination of live and machine drums and heavy guitar saturate this album. Don’t Sleep On: “Lights in the Sky,” “Echoplex,” and “Demon Seed”

Portishead, Third: Following over a decade without a new studio album, Portishead’s Third was widely anticipated, and it was largely feared that they may have remained in limbo for those 11 years, coming back with a 90’s-esque trip-hop sound that would be dated and sedated. So it came as a surprise when the new album came out and, while retaining the haunting vocals of Beth Gibbons, sounded almost nothing like its predecessors. And that’s a very good thing. Here, the trio explores new ground, venturing into the electronic and glitch landscapes that were just starting to exist at the beginning of their hibernation. Don’t Sleep On: “Silence,” “Machine Gun,” and “The Rip”

Seu Jorge, Carolina and The Life Aquatic Studio Sessions: Singer? Sure. Soundtrack writer? Absolutely. Movie star? You bet. Brazilian Seu Jorge does it all, and he does it with flair. You can’t get more MixMatch than that! He appeared as crew member Pelé in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, as well as playing Knockout Ned in the amazing slum epic City of God. Not only acting in Life Aquatic, Jorge also provided a bulk of the soundtrack when he tackled David Bowie covers in Portugese on his guitar. Here we have two very different albums from the man. The first is a rollicking expression of Brazilian samba pop music that occasionally infuses hints of reggae and soul, and the second is a studio version of songs that were originally packaged directly from the film (and most often in outdoor spaces). While the tracks from the movie are spectacular because they really make you feel like Jorge is on a boat next to you playing them, the sound quality could be better. Here, they get the full studio treatment and come out sounding polished. Jorge’s music is fun, light-hearted and extremely listenable. Don’t Sleep On: “Starman,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Hagua”

Various Singles: These songs didn’t get their full albums downloaded, but they’re sweet singles. Check out “Mathematics,” and “Letters From the Ambulance” by The Fashion, “In a Cave” and “Your English Is Good” by Tokyo Police Club, and the studio version of “Business Time” off of Flight of the Conchords‘ freshman release.


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