Saturday, June 30, 2012

GROOVIN ON A SUMMER AFTERNOON (Music for your summertime blues)

Summer is in full swing and, like my other Las Vegas compatriots, I am struggling  in vain to stay cool. Every year we dread it and every year we complain when it arrives...ahhhhh SUMMMER! In order to survive I have compiled a list of great jams from my music grab bag. Goes great with lemonade(or stronger beverage of your choice), ice, air conditioning, and pool parties.

Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital: Immediately upon hearing Sound Kapital by Canadian two-piece Handsome Furs I was sonically transplanted to CBGBS in it's old school New York hay-day. I heard experimental, guttural, unhinged rock - unusual for a synth pop band! I heard the smooth depth of electronic heroes Depeche Mode combined with the guitar crunch of The Jesus and Mary Chain's William Reid. Handsome Furs, made up of Husband and wife team Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry, were among the many bands going back to the eighties and nineties for inspiration in 2011, but they stand out as the most original. They have successfully taken the electronic genre and reinvented it with heart and attitude. Key tracks; "When I get Back" and "Memories of the Future".

Wild Flag - Wild Flag:  Wild Flag's four fearsome females are comprised of former indie rock/punk bands Sleeter-Kinney and Helium. They had been jamming together for over ten years as friends before recording their debut as Wild Flag, and the experience is evident. Wild Flag sounds familiar but not overdone, new and refreshing and instantly accessible. There's a lot of hand-claps and sing along chorus moments - sort of Blondie and The Go Go's if they had come of age in the nineties. Also the live recording makes great use of fuzzy rhythm guitars, retro keyboards, deep bass, razor sharp leads and machine gun drums. Key tracks; "Racehorse" and "Romance".

R.E.M. - Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011It's hard to believe that R.E.M. has been around for twenty nine years. It's also hard to believe that last year's Collapse Into Now was their final album before retirement. What makes this double cd stand above most greatest hits compilations is that it covers all of this time period in chronological order, giving listeners a coherent overview of early and most recent singles. Part Lies... is a great introduction as well as a companion piece for those already familiar with R.E.M's catalog. From early eighties college rock("Driver 8") to early nineties acoustic( "Losing My Religion"), to mid nineties alternative ("What's The Frequency Kenneth","E-Bow The Letter"), R.E.M.'s evolving sound has woven a rich tapestry and helped defined modern music.

 Panda Bear- Tomboy:  Noah Lennox( also known as Panda Bear) is cited as pioneering the genre of electronic music known as "chillwave" with his 2007 album Person Pitch. The New York Times defines "chillwave" as "solo acts or minimal bands with a laptop at their core. 80's inspired, recession era music low budget and danceable."  My definition of Tomboy is choir-like harmonies layered with experimental electronic landscapes, a melding of mellow Beach Boy tunes with trippy house/ techno meditative surf music. Yes I am aware of how convoluted that sounds, but this album is a summer treat! With song titles like "Surfers Hymn" and "Last Night at the Jetty" can't you feel the waves at your feet already? Lennox also masterfully handles the multiple roles of a full band as a strong vocalist and multi instrumentalist.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What's On My Playlist( Kicking off the month of June)

"Some days I feel like I might go berserk, throw the Country A-K rack out onto the street and go to work for a Virgin Mega Store." - (John Cusak from "High Fidelity")

I have been all over the place with music lately, and although I have heard some great new stuff I keep going back to my pics from last year. What can I say, 2011 was just that good! So this is sort of a part four of my continuing 2011 series.

BAD MEETS EVIL - HELL THE SEQUEL: Back in Eminem's trailer park days he used to rap with a cat named Royce Da 5'9. Now some many years later, Eminem being the cool dude he is, has brought his old partner into the spotlight and together they made a killer album as Bad Meets Evil.This cd is so tough it has shank marks, and the blood is fresh. Eminem continues to amaze me. How can anyone rap that fast and still be decipherable? Royce Da' 5'9 does more than hold his own in his solo numbers as well as his duos with Em. He also delivers my favorite line from the CD; "She said 'I'm feelin your whole swagger and flow, can we hook up? I said ' Mmmm you just used the word swagger so NO!' " Hell The Sequel delivers in all areas - beats, hooks, lyrics, and insanity in FULL DOSES. It's a great work out companion also!

BIG K.R.I.T. - RETURN OF 4 EVA: Since I'm talking Hip Hop, gotta mention Mississippi's Big K.R.I.T. Positive rap with a message that isn't over produced, can you dig it? Sounding like a combination of Outkast, Scarface, Dr. Dre and seventies icons Marvin Gay and Curtis Mayfield, K.R.I.T. arrives at a distinct mix of old school and contemporary Southern Hip Hop. However, he makes sure to distinguish his place among contemporary gansta rap; "I didn't smoke dope, nor did I sell it. I guess the story of a country boy just aint compellin". And it's not just great rhymes and songwriting, the production value is top class. Return of 4 Eva was self produced by Big K.R.I.T. as a  mixtape and posted digitally for fans to download for free. He has gone on to achieve enormous success, with Pitchfork magazine giving Return of 4 Eva their prestigious "best new music" tag for 2011.

GOTYE - MAKING MIRRORS: I had no idea when I discovered Gotye, that he was already burning up The Billboard record charts with his single Somebody That I Used to Know(Oddly enough I don't listen to the radio when looking for new music).  Born in Belgium and raised in Australia,  Gotye has released three independent albums. I am tempted to make a Peter Gabriel comparison because his music has that late eighties early nineties art/pop feel, and his voice is certainly a dead ringer. But I think enough comparisons have been made to Gabriel and Sting. Gotye is his own man and fills a slot that was begging to be filled. Artsy pop rock with introspective lyrics and catchy melodies.  If that sounds simple, how come it is so hard to find? And as a side note, if you haven't already, spend a little time checking out his videos.

CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG - IRM: 2009's IRM has found a special place in my play list heart. This album was produced and largely written by Beck Hansen. So it's like Beck as a French female. Sound intriguing? It is indeed! And I really see why he chose Gainsbourg as his female alter ego. Her voice has the eloquent poise of a trained songstress paired with the psychedelic charisma that gave Velvet Underground's Nico her trademark sound. Gainsbourg and Beck chose the mysterious album title late in the recording process, she says the letters I R M mean something in French that reflects a dreamlike state of introspection. Beck says that he reads the letters as M R I, representing the strange state of mind one is in while getting a brain scan.  Either definition fits the concept perfectly. What we get is a trippy folk/rock/pop journey through night visions and dream-like creativity.