Friday, February 25, 2005

Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star

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It's funky Friday, and to help you start your weekend right here is a delicious slab of warmth and postivity from Black Star, AKA Mos Def and Talib Kweli. Taken from their 1998 LP, K.O.S. (Determination) is a stand-out track on an album full of them. It's a slow-jam built around some simple beats, bass and splashes of smooth Rhodes keys, and also features the prominent vocals of Vinia Mojica, whose smooth-like-butter voice is the perfect counterpoint to Mos Def and Talib's raps about self determination. I would love to hear another Black Star record someday...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

DJ Shadow vs. Keane

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I was at the record store yesterday and stumbled across this odd little 10" single - Keane as remixed by DJ Shadow. I have Keane's Hopes And Fears record, and enjoy it's blend of moody melodrama and oddly configured instrumentation - a trio of singer, pianist and drummer. It's slightly derivative melodic rock - think Coldplay with a touch of U2, so the fact Shadow was the remixer intrigued me. In it's original form We Might As Well Be Strangers is a big, swoony epic ballad. Shadow totally converts it into a very pretty, glitchy electro pop song that reminds me musically of something The Postal Service might do - but with more piano. Another fine example of a remixer making a song into something new, and IMO, a lot more exciting than the original. A very pleasant surprise.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Kraftwerk's Technological Love Songs

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Inspired by the Kraftwerk-ian synth riffs on Friday's LCD Soundsystem tune I felt the need to listen to the originators. I pulled out 1981's Computer World - of all of their records it's the one I love the most, the one I always want to listen to when I need a good fix of Teutonic machine music. I've always been amazed at how a record made by machines could be so warm and funky, but somehow they pulled it off. The record is chock full of memorable tunes about technology, from Pocket Calculator to Home Computer, all full of those great blippy synth line runs - and remarkable in the way they predicted the future that we all inhabit, with home computers everywhere. Now if only some US label would get around to releasing the remastered back catalog so I can finally get decent recordings on CD!

Friday, February 18, 2005

New School/Old School Funky Friday

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The New School

This week brought the long awaited US release of the self titled debut LP from LCD Soundsystem. It's a two disc set, the first disc made up of all new music and the second disc is all of the singles that they've put out over the last couple of years. If you know their output you'll know that disc 2 is a guaranteed smash - "Losing My Edge" and "Give It Up" are worth the price of admission alone. The disc of new stuff is also pretty damn good. It ranges from the typical electro dance tracks to straight up punk riffage to piano balladry - yes, there is a slow jam tune, but in a '70s Lennon kind of way. Disco Infiltrator is definitely a party jam - a great big beat, the Kraftwerk synths and a chorus melody that owes a great deal to the Talking Heads' "Born Under Punches", this tune had me grooving from the get-go. It's fantastic.

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The Old School

I was listening to the soundtrack from Boogie Nights this week and was reminded of what a incredibly BIG song The Commodores' Machine Gun is. It's classic funk (yes, they were actually funky at one time, even with Lionel Richie in tow) with great '70s synthesizer action, killer clavinet, and a cool, oft sampled break. Guaranteed to get you to shake your ass - everything you need on a funky Friday...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I gaze, you gaze, let's all shoegaze

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Autolux are an LA trio of musicians who have all done time in other bands. Guitarist Greg Edwards was in Failure, drummer Carla Azar was in Ednaswap and singer Eugene Goreshter was in Maids Of Gravity. Their debut LP Future Perfect, produced by T Bone Burnett, came out last fall. It is a blazing set of indie rock, with My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth being the two obvious touchstones. While it doesn't really break any new musical ground, it rocks. The production is super clean, so you hear everything perfectly. Carla's drumming is a mighty, mighty thing, and the guitar riffs are loud and crusty. I was a fan of the original bunch of shoegazing acts in the late '80s and early '90s, so I still enjoy this kind of music. Subzero Fun has the perfect quite-loud-quiet-loud thing going, a nice dreamy melody and a catchy chorus. These guys are currently on the road in the US with Secret Machines, and next month will be opening for Ambulance LTD - a great, double shoegazer act lineup. I think I might have to check that out...

Friday, February 11, 2005

Brigitte Bardot's Love For The Great American Motorcycle

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It's 1967, France. Take one blond bombshell actress. Add two incredibly hip tunes by the grand master of French perviness, Serge Gainsbourg. Mix well under the direction of Michel Colombier and his orchestra, et voila! Harley Davidson and Contact are a couple of very groovy go-go tunes. The first is a very silly ode to the famous motorcycle and the lifestyle attached to it -

"I do not need person
In Harley Davidson
I do not recognize any more person
In Harley Davidson
I go to more than one hundred,
And I feel with fire and blood,
That is essential to me to die
The hair in the wind!
That is essential to me to die
The hair in the wind!"

As a child in the mid '70s I have vivid memories of seeing the video for Harley Davidson in a cafe in Saigon (my dad worked for the State Dept. there at the time) on some old school video jukebox. Then a couple of years ago my folks (who retired to France) found a CD single reissue of these tunes and gave it to me. The second song is better known, having been covered by quite a few others. It's a space age love song. Brigitte isn't the best singer in the world, but manages pretty well on these tunes. Chalk another one up for Serge and his starlets...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A Handful Of Covers v3.0 / Alternative Nation Style

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Replicants was a one off project from Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards of early '90s alterna-rockers Failure. Released in 1995, the self titled LP was entirely made up of cover tunes, presumably songs that had inspired the duo. The selection of tunes is pretty interesting, kicking off with The Cars' Just What I Needed, then into Wings' Silly Love Songs. They also do Neil Young, John Lennon, Missing Persons, Syd Barrett, David Bowie and Pink Floyd. The collection is interesting because of their choice of songs - not always the most obvious ones. The three tunes I share with you here are also pretty damn cool. First up is a nice and laid back version of the T. Rex tune Life's A Gas. Gone is the glam, replaced by fuzzed out bliss. Love the great chorus on this tune. Next up is their cover of a tune by one of my all time favorite bands, Steely Dan. Dirty Work is a great track from their first LP, Countdown To Ecstacy, and it too receives a harder rocking, scuzzier sounding treatment. Remarkably few bands cover the Dan - always a mystery to me, because they've got such a great catalog to choose from. Finally is their version of the Gary Numan's Are Friends Electric?. Everybody knows this song, so I won't bore you with a description - it rocks.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Get On Up And Do It Again

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It's funky Friday and today's selection is taken from the excellent Soul Jazz Records compilation Mantronix - That's My Beat. It was released in 2002, and is twelve tracks of late '70s and early '80s disco and dance music, compiled by electro pioneer Mantronix. It's essentially his faves of the era, most of them presented in their 12" mixes. You get tunes from Machine, Yello, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Art Of Noise and the Funky 4 Plus 1 and a bunch more, including the fab undeground disco hit Get On Up And Do It Again from disco singer Suzy Q. I don't really know anything about her - googling didn't help, but it's apparent from her Discogs page that she recorded quite a few tunes. This song has one of the chunkiest, funkiest bass lines you'll hear, your usual disco calls to get down and get groovy, some great wacka-wacka guitars, a killer breakdown that builds back up with a sharp rock guitar solo, and some seriously soulful vocals. Everything you need to get your groove on.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I was talking tunes with a co-worker the other day and the subject of Kate Bush came up. We reminisced about how great she was - I say was because it's been like 12 years since we've had a new album from her. Her unique voice, her tremendous songs with their odd titles and subject matter, and her fearlessness when it came to experimenting with pop music all made her stand out. Breathing is no exception. Taken from 1980's Never For Ever album, the track is a stunner. It's a post-nuclear story, told from the perspective of a baby in it's mother's womb. The baby is aware of what has happened and yet can't help but continue to breathe.

"We’ve lost our chance.
We’re the first and the last, ooh,
After the blast.
Chips of plutonium
Are twinkling in every lung.
I love my
Beloved, ooh,
All and everywhere,
Only the fools blew it.
You and me
Knew life itself is.

It's all conveyed over a dreamy, atmospeheric tune that puts you in the womb with her, slowly building to a big, angry climax with massed voices yelling "what are we going to do without breathing?". A reflection of it's time - the Cold War, fears of a nuclear holocaust, it still sends shivers down my spine twenty five years later.

Lyrics from Lyrics, where you can read along while you listen.