When it was announced a couple months back that Jim James would be playing the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on May 14th, I immediately bought a set of tickets, presuming that the gig would sell out in a heartbeat. But here we are now, less than two weeks away, and it seems that there’s still plenty of tickets available. Sure it’s on a Tuesday night, but after seeing My Morning Jacket play to 5,000 people last year at Edgefield, I figured there would be a huge draw for the show. I suppose that when it comes down to it, MMJ is simply another one of those bands that the collective outfit far outweighs any popularity that a solo member of the band may hold. It’s the same reason that Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman is playing shows for 200 people these days. Honestly, I’m not gonna gripe about being able to see Jimmy James in a room with apt breathing space, but it’s a drag for both him and fans of the Jacket – because his solo album is fucking fantastic. Here’s a quick rundown if you’ve missed it…
Quite frankly, Regions of Light and Sound of God is a far better album than either of the last two MMJ records. There’s a looser, pressure-free vibe to it and it hopefully serves as a beacon for what direction the bigger band should be taking with their music. The single, “Know Til Now,” gives a fairly accurate preview of the whole – a sort of electronic leaning soul groove. But the lean is far more towards the soul than towards the electronic. In fact, the majority of these tunes would feel completely natural coming off a MMJ stage if it weren’t for the stark lack of guitar riffery. “A New Life” starts off with the slow, acoustic nature that has found its way onto several of the band’s newer tracks, but the hook on the chorus is ten times catchier and more gut-wrenching than anything you’d hear in similar sonic tracks like “Librarian” or “Wonderful.” If you found yourself bored or discouraged with what MMJ has done after trying to follow up on Z, then this solo record will renew your confidence in James’ songwriting capabilities. And in actuality, “Of the Mother Again” has one of the dreamier guitar hooks I’ve heard in quite some time. Don’t think of this as being connected to that Yim Yames’ George Harrison tribute, or even anything near what The Monsters of Folk tried to do – this is stripped down MMJ in a beautiful, raw form. Just as James ends his solo gigs with MMj songs, I would definitely expect upcoming MMJ shows to include a few tracks off this solo record. Don’t let it pass you by.
The first weekend of Coachella just happened, and it’s really a massive blessing that there’s 3 different Youtube channels streaming video from the fest all weekend long. It’s really a testament to the physical of-the-moment power of live music that it gives you such a different sensation when you’re watching it live. I don’t really have any desire to watch recorded footage of any new Red Hot Chili Peppers concert, but I had a blast watching it stream live from the comfort of my home last night. Likewise, anybody who watched the live stream of Phoenix‘s set Saturday night felt the same holy-shit rush that the crowd there did when R. Kelly came out for the mash-up encore of “1901″ and “Ignition Remix.” Unfortunately Coachella has removed the video footage so you can’t watch the awesome smirk on lead singer Thomas Mars‘ face when he’s getting ready to sing along the chorus to “Ignition.” Shit was pretty flippin’ dope though, and you can listen to a great clear version HERE.
Regardless of all the great performances over the weekend though, the biggest new of the weekend was the 90 second video preview of the new Daft Punk single that aired on the jumbo-trons before the Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ set. This morning fan-shot video of the clip is nearing a combined 2 million views, with one shot nearly at a million all by itself. Yep, that’s right… a low quality iPhone recording of a video screen playing a 90 second snippet, and people have watched it nearly 2 million times. You think people are excited about the new record coming out or what? But here’s the thing I’m not afraid to admit – that 90 second clip is probably the freshest shit I’ve heard in a year. The French robots have made a record composed of all their own instrumentation, highlighted by Nile Rodgers from Chic on guitar and a range of guest vocalists including Panda Bear and Pharrell. What’s ironic is that there is this whole massive EDM craze happening right now, where pilled-up kids sweat their asses off to fairly soulless and incredibly redundant beats, and many people consider Daft Punk the fathers of this new craze. But this new track sounds about as far away from Deadmau5 as Beethoven does from N.W.A. This is a return to the power of the groove, and it portends to be a phenomenal blessing to the world of current music. The life-force of the their new record, Random Access Memories, due out in a month, has the potential to completely flip the game. Even Pretty Lights is about to release an album composed of new in-studio instrumentation, and it feels like we’re on the tip of people demanding more humanity from their dance-beats. And of course that demand should be spear-headed by two dudes who play in robot masks. These motherfuckers just raised the bar with a 90 second video, and that is some tuned-to-the-beat power that possibly no other artist could produce right now. I predict the record to be so breathtaking that it makes James Murphy reunite LCD Soundsystem by the end of the year. Watch the clip below, and go HERE to listen to what could potentially be the full track – either that or somebody made an amazingly tight home-mix of the song. It does seem like it only contains parts from the 90 seconds, but it’s hard to tell – either way, get ready to hear this groove coming from everywhere throughout 2013.
For years, songwriters have created a multitude of beautiful tunes discussing the wonders of making love. Let’s see… there’s Bad Company‘s “Feel Like Making Love” and then there’s… hmm I know there’s a couple more. Anyway, the art of writing a song about fucking is a whole other enterprise, and to successfully do it without sounding like a total douche is a truly arduous task. In 2001, when Tenacious D released “Fuck Her Gently,” most artists threw in the towel. The song is a masterpiece, and encapsulates both the beauty and mystery of fucking in a sensitive and timeless melody. Any attempts at revisiting the topic have only resulted in failure, and most people (myself included) presumed that with Sonny Bono’s death on the hills of Lake Tahoe in 1998, the only potential candidate to create a worthy competitor in the category of Greatest Fucking Song of all time had long since passed. But some great things have happened in the free market of open expression over the past few years. Most notably there was Sarah Silverman‘s great tune about fucking Matt Damon, and of course Jimmy Kimmel’s follow-up about fucking Ben Affleck. But those were both so person-specific – they really lacked the universal fucking message that we could all unite with. Thus enter the incomparable Reggie Watts. Watts first showed the potential for championing the task a few years ago with the release of “Fuck Shit Stack” – a great tune about fuck, but not about fucking. But everything changed today, when Watts uploaded a new video to the awesome Youtube Channel, JASH. Entitled “If You’re Fucking, You’re Fucking,” Watts’ tune brings the topic to its only logical conclusion. By answering the mystery of sensual passion in such a direct form, he has uncrowned the D after their solid 12 year run atop the fucking song master’s throne. Love it and embrace it, for it will surely be at least another dozen years until we see such lyrical brilliance again.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this video lately. I first recall watching it several years ago, and it’s gone rather viral since, but it’s still easily one of the greatest things of all time. I recommend it to people constantly, and decided I needed to formalize my love for it a little more. So…it’s 1973 and Stevie Wonder is in the heyday of his soul-funk era. Frank Oz and the genius folks over at Sesame Street decide that they should have Stevie on the show and that they should just let the motherfucker go off. And that he does. He has a little interview with Grover, plays a little ditty about counting, and then busts this massive “Superstition.” Have you ever paid attention to the lyrics of that song? They’re pretty friggin’ dark, and I always thought they served as kind of a jab against formalized religion. Heavy pick for the show. But anyway, long story short, with some fresh-ass Orange Amps in tow, and a ridiculously raw in-the-pocket band behind him, the soul-brother #2 busts out a 7 minute long take on the song. And as dope and killer as it sounds, the video is really highlighted by one defining factor – there’s a bunch of kids sitting on the steps having a good time, but up on the top fire escape there is a little dude who is straight up losing his shit. He looks to be about 6 years old, but he seems to be very aware that being on the set of Sesame Street for Stevie Wonder will essentially be the golden moment of his entire life. At times, it looks like he’s honestly trying to rip the guardrail off. I often wonder who and where this kid is now. He’s gotta be in his late 40′s, and hopefully the rest of his life has been just as epic as these 7 recorded minutes. I’d love to find him – I’m sure he still rants and raves about this. If you want to see his golden moments, they look at the top center 20 seconds in. 38 seconds in is when you realize he’s the freshest mother-fucker of all fucking time. At 2:12 you can find him in the upper right corner dropping some nasty knee lock moves. 4:08 is when you realize you’d probably be doing the exact same thing. Shit is magical. At 5:17 he’s stomping the metal like it’s his job. And then the capper is at 6:04 - the band has reprised the song, Stevie’s vamping some Sesame Street lyrics, and that little dude is getting low. Way low. Owning that shit. He’s one of my biggest heroes and inspirations in life. Seriously. That little 6 year old crushing the fuck out of Sesame Street in 1973.
I always feel like a complete douche when it’s somebody’s passing that makes me aware of their life, but such is the case with the late, astonishingly great pianist, Austin Peralta. And as shitty as it sounds, I’m thankful that anything happened to allow his music to enter my life. Son of the legendary Z-Boy Skater Stacy Peralta, Austin died 4 days ago at the absurdly young age of 22. No cause of death has been given yet, and that makes one assume it was something really shitty. Regardless, the kid played the piano like a young Dave Brubeck if there was a gun being held to the head of his first-born child. His attack was merciless, his flow was seamless, and his joy and passion for his art was undeniably bombastic. I watched about 20 videos last night of his performances, and in each one he gives his band-mates that smile like they just won the Little League World Series.
This shit is really fucking sad people. Austin was beyond talented – he was magical. And we as Earthlings can’t handle losing any more fucking magic these days. It’s really one of those things that makes you question the nature of destiny, and wonder if his fire burned so bright so young because it wasn’t bound to be held for long. He was pushing the frontiers of music forward – above and beyond. The fact that he was on Flying Lotus‘ Brainfeeder Label, and that he collaborated with modern production wizards like Lotus and Thundercat was a sign that boundaries truly were non-existent anymore. So for humanity’s sake, raise your glass to this kid, feel some sorrow for the Peralta family, and put your children in front of a musical instrument.
Here’s my 2 favorite videos I stumbled upon – The first is Austin at the Tokyo Jazz Festival when he’s only 15 years old. 15 fucking years old! Sweet mercy, it’s incredible. The 2nd is from last year of him going ridiculously deep on a cover of the Flying Lotus track he played on forCosmogramma.
Sometimes these jazz/R&B crossovers just don’t work, but surprisingly the 80′s hip-hop/pop star completely reinvents herself on this album and things fall right into place. Odd choices of covers somehow seem ideal, and Cherry’s voice with a saxophone on top of it just makes you want to melt into the couch cushions. Read the full review HERE at MV Remix.
The last time you listened to Neneh Cherry, probably both you and she had at least one piece of neon spandex in your wardrobe. If you do remember when “Buffalo Stance” was on the radio though, you’ll probably be relieved to hear that The Cherry Thing features none of the euro-pop grooves that Cherry so embraced in the late 80’s. Her voice however, is still as sultry as ever and it finds ideal bunk-mates with the modern jazz masters of re-definition, The Thing. With dark-souled covers of tunes by everyone from MF Doom to The Stooges, the Nordic trio locks so perfectly into an eerie pocket with Cherry on The Cherry Thing that it makes their previous releases sound half-empty…
So for the past 10 years or so, nearly every time I’ve seen the Beastie Boys, they have played the same dope outro track after every concert. They usually have just thrown down a massive “Sabotage,” the entire building will be on Cloud-11, and this smooth mother-fucking jam comes on and just makes you so pumped to figure out where you and your crew are gonna go get some post-show cocktails. If you’ve seen the MSG Awesome, I Fucking Shot That DVD, it’s the music playing over the credits. However, the listed credits on there have the correct band, The Jazz Crusaders - a sly as all hell jazz-pop outfit from the early 70′s, but they had the wrong song listed. So I initially had given up on figuring out what it actually was til I woke up the other day with this song on loop in my head. Had to find it, did a little more sloothing, and here it is – “Way Back Home.” If you’re at home on a Saturday night – get up, make yourself a cocktail, twist up a fat one, sit your ass back down, and listen to this tune a good 7 or 8 times – it’s guaranteed to make you feel that everything is OK in the world.