Over the past 15 years, I probably contemplate the potentiality of a Talking Heads reunion about every 4 months or so. And I’m not saying I have one of those What If/Wouldn’t That Be Cool moments, I’m saying I literally imagine myself at such an event and try to visualize what exactly is happening. I’m in one of those 4 month moments right now, spurred on by watching disastrous footage of recent Rolling Stones gigs, contemplating the cycle of events that could lead to a Ween show in 2013, and by reading a recent quote from Robert Plant where he actually hints about wanting to do a 2014 Led Zeppelin tour. So here’s my really shitty vision of being at a T-Heads reunion show: I’m in Madison Square Garden and I’ve somehow landed tickets at face value even though face is like $135… half the crowd is over 50, and 2 songs in I realize that 25% of the crowd knows nothing except for “Burning Down the House” and “Once in a Lifetime.” The band is essentially just running through the motions, and David Byrne has a look on his face like he just traded his soul for a ham sandwich. The guy sitting behind me then taps me on the shoulder and asks me both to sit down and if I can stop smoking that joint. I’m bummed – I feel hollow – I think back to when I wrote a blog about imagining this moment and realize I should have accepted fate as it was… Am I right? Can’t we all see that situation? So here’s my really awesome vision:
I’m in NYC’s Roseland Ballroom. The Heads have announced a 23 night run there dubbed All or Nothing. Tickets were hard, but I managed to land some $70 ones at face for 2 consecutive nights in the middle of the run. The stage set-up is minimal – very little lighting – and the full lineup is there. Alex Weir and Adrian Belew are both on guitar – Belew in amazing form after his stint in the Nine Inch Nails reunion. Tina Weymouth is thumping the bass with all the pent-up passion she’s been waiting to unleash for the past 30 years. It feels like it’s not even the same woman I’ve seen play with Tom Tom Club. It’s hot in there. It’s smoky. It’s sweaty. Each show of the run has followed a fairly similar setlist, but there have been divine moments that make each night stand out. This is a Tuesday, and currently the band is 8 minutes deep into “The Great Curve.” I am getting down harder than I ever have in my life, but still not as hard as the 70 year old woman sweating bullets to my left. To my right, a 21 year old EDM kid stands still staring at the stage with his mouth on the floor and a slight tear coming down his face. During “Houses in Motion” I glance to my left and notice James Murphy dancing anonymously amongst a circle of friends. At several times during the gig I check my pulse to make sure I’m still on planet Earth… And am I right on this one too? Couldn’t we all see this?
Sigh… dreams and fantasies can really mess with your head sometimes, but that’s what makes our weird human brains so amazing. God bless you David Byrne, and God bless whatever decision you ever make to reconstruct my reality. A few months back a friend of mine turned me onto the Bonus Tracks that were released on a Remain in Light reissue. I had never heard them. They crushed me. I cried when I first heard this jam called “Right Start” – it’s kind of like a mash-up of “Lifetime” and “Electric Guitar.” I imagine it as the soundtrack that the great creator had playing in his head when he was manufacturing the universe, and I kind of imagine the after-life as a world where this thing is just playing on loop for eternity. Dig in…
“Trying to keep up with all the rotating members of Snarky Puppy is a lot like trying to keep up with all the new flavors of Pringles — there’s too many to keep track of, and no matter what variety you get you’re guaranteed to have a rumble in your ass.”
“Justin Stanton would flip between the keys and the trumpet like a stoner jumps between nachos and a Snickers bar — bringing a unique flavor to each but acting like either one was the defining piece of his existence.”
Read the full review HERE at State of Mind Music, and definitely jump on seeing these cats the first chance you get. Here’s footage of them a week prior at the BK Bowl.
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.
Ever since Yacht Rock rekindled all of ours’ fascination with the smooth jams of the late 70′s and 80′s, a multitude of bands have tried to make a modernized version of the sound. Side-note: if you haven’t yet watched the Yacht Rock 12-part Mocumentary Series, then stop what you’re doing and go watch it right now. They just re-released it in Hi-Def even. Anyway, I’d say a solid 99.2% of the bands that try to embody this sound in the modern era just all-out totally fail. There’s a reason all those Hall & Oates grooves and Kenny Loggins hits are so amazing, and the key factor is that there’s no sense of irony in them. Thirty years ago, the musical world was a different place, and you were able to completely lose yourself in your own absurdity. It was a time when critical reaction was not on your mind – you could just make music that felt fucking great. Side-note #2: Steely Dan has, still does, and will always blow massive doo-doo rod. But moving on… today’s artists think that there’s something funny and ironic about making smooth music. They’re like the kids born in the 90′s who go see Chromeo, and they show up in day-glo leggings and headbands because they think it’s some kind of 80′s mockery music. They can’t just accept that the tunes are good, and that they should just dance like normal people – instead of pretending they’re doing a skit at their 3rd grade variety show. There is one modern artist however, that is able to fully realize the simpler moments of the smooth groove – Benny Sings.
The main reason Benny Sings is able to abandon all sense of irony is that he is Dutch. Plain and simple. If you’re from the Netherlands, then you’re born with an inherent sense of comical naivety – which sucks if you want to be a stand-up comic, but which is amazing if you want to kick out some smooth-ass jams. I’ve only recently stumbled upon the majesty of Benny Sings, and now I’m basking in all his glory. He;s still bigger in Asia and Europe than he is over here, but the dude is a fucking gem. I really can’ t believe this video for “For Your Love” has under 2,000 views! Dig in…
If you missed the boat 2 years ago when Ariel Pink finally blew up and dropped many a critics’ Album of the Year with Before Today, don’t be too hard on yourself. At the time, it almost seemed too hip for its own good, and those smooth retro jams seemed slightly insincere at first listen to some folk. But now’s the time to go back and catch up, because if not, you’re falling behind on his latest release Mature Themes. Summing up his vibe perfectly in the latest Spin, Ariel claims that “I knew that I was doing something that sounded like the trace of a memory you can’t place.” To me it sounds like music from some parallel universe where 70′s yacht rock made a perfect transition into 80′s pop music – like if Michael McDonald had managed to still stay relevant.
Despite the jumbled ego that he can’t help but emit constantly, Pink really is crafting genius smooth-pop that transcends any and all genre-era constraints. Try to hate it, but the shit is just fucking fly as all hell. This new video for “Only in My Dreams” isn’t ground-breaking by any means, but it continues the low-fi dreamscape which he so embodies. Presumably shot on VHS, and not really following any interesting plot-line, the video is as relaxed and casual as his music – as it should be. He wants some girl, but it’s not really working out – that’s it. Track is great though, so is the album, and the video makes you want to go dig out your too-tight Vaurnet t-shirt and short-shorts, grab a 4-pack of Bartles and James and head for the community pool. Dig it.
I first heard of St. Vincent a few years ago when she was opening for Death Cab For Cutie. At the time, the pairing seemed ideal as Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) was embracing a fairly mellow vibe, all be it strikingly off-kilter. I totally flaked on the girl until last Fall’s Strange Mercy dropped though , and now it’s become one of my go-to albums of 2012. The girl is sexy, writes amazingly modern and freshly progressive rock and roll, has a killer voice, great legs, and she fucking shreds a fuzzed out guitar in one of those “Holy Sweet Fuck” kind of ways. Here’s a live taping of “Cruel” from a couple months back – my favorite track on the album as well as the most technically impressive. Dig it -
So when word began to circulate that David “T-Head” Byrne was working on a new album with her, my initial reaction was rather skeptical. I envisioned Byrne turning up her freak flag a little and letting her rock creds droop to the side – I mean the guy’s always looking for somebody new to just be a complete weirdo with. Luckily, rather than the dusted remains of an art-house chop-shop, their album Love This Giant seems to be leaning in the direction of completely bad-ass poppish rock. The album’s not due to be released for another 2 months, but they have released the first track “Who.” Supposedly in the same vein throughout the album, the track centers along a brass-driven pop-funk train. I was reminded of Byrne’s 1997 solo release Feelings, which has remained his funkiest work since the Talking Heads disbanded – that is up until now. “Who” is like watching a NOLA marching band go by in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Tangents of obsure pop melodies grab the hands of deep-trench soul-crank – easily some of the weirdest shit that you want to dance your ass off too. Get into it below. And download it free HERE.
Portland, Oregon – shitty 80′s long-sleeves – funky Beck falsettos… So I’m not sure when all 3 of these things began to coexist as the hip new trend, but I have realized that I’ve begun to harness a preparatory disdain for the formula. And the thing is I really like shitty clothes from the 80′s and music that sounds like mid-90′s Beck – I really do. Perhaps that’s why I’m overly critical – I just want the best. Anyway, I’m not sure what level of sarcastic angst I was carrying the first time I heard Unknown Mortal Orchestra, but I do know I was a jackass that day. Luckily, since I’m 8 months late to the game, their self-titled debut is my new jam of the summer.
Basically you take 3 cats who have an obvious love for the Flaming Lips and modernized back-beats, throw them into the technicolor explosion of London circa 1966, light up a monster spliff, and wham – you are now pulsing in the heart of UMO. This album has also made me realize that making shit sound intentionally low-fi will never go out of style. 50 years from now, when we’re just shooting lasers into our heads to hear tunes, there’s still gonna be new kids on the scene who will figure out how to connect a busted 4-track to their cerebellum.
It’s about an hour’s drive to the beach from Portland, and these guys have made the perfect album to listen to on that drive with the windows down. It’s the kind of album that makes you want to eat mushrooms, swim in the ocean, then lie on the beach and listen to it all over again. Dig it.
Time to once again readjust you collaboration flow-charts people. What happens when you take 3 of the most prolific musicians of the past few decades and throw em’ in a room together? Well, you get a shit load of new music, that’s what. So Damon Albarn of Gorillaz and Blur had another supergroup a few years back called The Good, The Bad, and The Queen – composed of Paul Simonon from The Clash on bass, the guitarist from The Verve, and the legendary Tony Allen on drums of Fela Kuti fame. That band only lasted one album and did little to utilize the power of Allen. It did lead to Simonon becoming an actual member of Gorillaz though, and left Albarn probably thinking, “Fuck, now what cool shit can I do with Tony Allen?” Well the answer to what cool shit you can do with anybody can always be answered by, “Throw Flea on bass.” And thus was created Rocket Juice and the Moon, a name apparently taken after a Nigerian artist did the album artwork and labeled it as such.
To briefly tangent, I do still believe that Damon Albarn is completely haunted every day by the fact that he will never have the dark admiration of his fellow Brits in the same way that Thom Yorke does, and thus is constantly trying to do something to impress or at least match him. Thus, after Yorke formed his side project Atoms for Peace with Flea on bass, Albarn probably felt a need to steal the thunder and make his own British side-act with the same L.A. bassist.
Anyway, Tony Allen and Flea play like they have been waiting for each other their whole lives. I’m sure the two of them could close their eyes and play a funky afro-beat groove for a solid week and a half straight. The group has only played live once, which was last October at the Cork Jazz Festival in Ireland – I didn’t know the Emerald Isle was such a bustling beacon for the world of modern funk frontiers, but I’m just a stupid Yank. You can stream most of the cuts from that set at their site www.rocketjuiceandthemoon.com. Like most Albarn works, the music has both its’ gentler sides and raw attack-funk moments – but all pre-listens point to the March 27th official album release as being a must-hear beast for 2012. Chicago’s Hypnotic Brass Ensemble provide the quasi-Sun-Ra psychedelic power lines, and listening to a few cuts, one can only imagine what a dance party this could and should be. The first album leak streaming above “Hey, Shooter” features Erykah Badu and is a friggin’ banger. Below is live video for “Poison” – the other end of the spectrum of what this band is – a delicate, drifting Gorillaz-esque tune. It’s great, and so are a lot of these other tunes featuring guest MC’s, but I’m hoping the album focuses on the afro-funk thunder. Unfortunately, Red hot Chili Peppers have just set a 17-month long tour or something, so it’s highly unlikely that anybody will be seeing this band anytime soon. But rest assured, if you get the chance – jump on it.
It always seems weird when artists make songs as parts of projects for large companies, but there seems to be a different edge whenever sneakers are involved. I guess people can just really get behind shit they put on their feet – regardless of what sweat-shops they may arise from. James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem made the brilliant album, 45:33 for Nike in 2007. There was that uber-dreamy ad/song that Karen O and Spike Jonze did for Adidas in 2006. And now Converse joins the cool-kids team by presenting this new 3 artists/1 song collaboration. James Murphy returns to a new sneaker squad here – providing vocals on this new Gorillaz track that also has Outkast’s Andre 3000 throwing in a verse or two. It’s a ridiculously impressive lineup actually – people are always waiting on the next Gorillaz track, people have been waiting years for the next Outkast album, and everybody’s clambering to get their hands on whatever Murphy is going to do post-LCD. Released today, “Do Ya Thing” is great but holds very litter surprises. There’s a weird off-kilter hip-funk that permeates all three of these artists and their collaboration feels incredibly natural – so natural in fact, that if you didn’t know who it was you’d probably describe it as a “Gorillaz-type song with a dude singing like James Murphy and a guy rapping like Andre 3000.” I mean, I guess that’s what you want right? It’s not like anybody expected the track to be an instrumental 3-piece on vibraphones or anything – I just wanted a little bit more. The highlight is definitely the outro, where the hilariously poignant line is repeated ad nauseam; “Can we get an Outkast album now?” Seriously though – maybe have Murphy or Damon Albarn produce it – shit would be hot! There is a video for this tune coming out next week as well as an extended 12 minute cut, so maybe the surprises are yet to come. And of course it is fantastic that Murphy’s alter ego in the Gorillaz universe seems to be a karate bamboon – I’m not sure why, but it makes complete sense. Check out a youtube of the song below or download it free HERE. And here’s that sweet Adidas ad if you forgot how fucking awesome it is.
UPDATE: 2.29.12 The official video has been released, and while it is epically cool, it’s still missing everything that makes the extended track so hot. But yeah, dig it – computer animation for raging party folk.
A couple weekends ago, the glorious Brooklyn Bowl played host to the two-night rock party thrown by the NYC Freaks known as Freaks Ball 12. The highly OVERRATED Portugal, The Man headlined on Friday, but Saturday was an expanded jam-night of sweat-staggering proportions. Featuring The Duo, Warren Haynes, and members of Soulive to name a handful – much of the evening consisted of instrumental versions of Beatles tunes. The post-words I heard about the show highlighted the epic 14 man take on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” but I’ve been digging this sweet gem below from early on in the evening.
At this opening portion of the night, the band was a four-piece consisting of Joe Russo on drums, Hagar Ben-Ari of the Dap-Kings on bass, Eric Deutsch on drums, and the oft-forgotten guitar shredder of the indie-jam scene, Scott Metzger on guitar. Now if you switched out Deutsch for Marco Benevento, I’d call this band a true force to be reckoned with. Eric is insanely talented, but Marco has that twist for the obscure that gives the needed flair to vocal-less rockers. Regardless, this line-up dwells in a slanky-as-all-hell pocket that they’ll be reprising at the Bowl tomorrow night (2/9). If you’re in the BK, I’d highly recommend it. But take a minute and scope one of the sliest cuts of “Day Tripper” anybody’s ever laid down – it must be really early in the evening because that crowd looks lame as spoiled-Peking.