Friday, December 30, 2005

Funky Friday - Hiatus On The Horizon

Matt Chicoine, AKA Recloose has finally released a new LP called Hiatus On The Horizon. It's the long awaited follow up to 2002's Cardiology. Originally from Detroit, famously discovered by Carl Craig (Matt worked in the deli where Carl got lunch and slipped his demo into his lunch bag) he is now living and working in New Zealand. His music is electronica - techy, house-y, leftfield, all of it infused with some major jazz chops - sampled horns and piano and bass lines everywhere. The new album picks up that thread, and spins it into some deep, soulful music. It's also largely vocal - songs with real singers, not instrumentals with samples. There's a lush feel to everything, a combination of smooth Detroit house, Philly soul vibes and even some of that old school Sly & Robbie & Gwen Guthrie disco vibe from the early '80s. Some of the more leftfield electronics have been dropped in favor of a smoother flow, but I don't mind. The jazz factor has been amped up too. There are boatloads of snazzy, snappy horn charts, all live and not sampled, including sax as played by Coleman Squakinz - great name. It's a beauty of a record. Still Beyond Me reminds me a lot of Padlock, the '80s disco project put together by Sly & Robbie & Gwen Guthrie. An uptempo disco jam, it's got a tight beat, smooth vocals by Hollie Smith. warm Rhodes awash in reverb and some smokin' horn riffs, not to mention the jangly guitar. Mana's Bounce is the tune that made me run to the stereo when this was in the 5 disc shuffler. It's a fantastically skanking jazz-ska-house hybrid - reminds me a bit of some old Lionrock tunes - that also features some cool, wiggy scratching. I love it. The album is out now as an import on Peacefrog Records, and it's totally worth dropping import dollars on if you're a fan of good, inventive, modern dance music. A sweet choice for the final Funky Friday of 2005!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Say Hello To My Little Remix

Back in March Beck released Guero, an album pitched somewhere between the party vibes of Odelay and the more adult themes of Sea Change. Reviews were mixed but I found myself liking it quite a bit. A couple weeks ago a remix album appeared, entitled Guerolito. Remixes are done by a broad palette of electro-stylists - Air, Adrock from the Beasties, 8Bit, Diplo and Subtle are just a few. Air bring their laid back vibe to Missing, retitled Heaven Hammer, and Diplo lifts a big chunk of The Beat's Twist & Crawl to use a backdrop for his remix of Go It Alone, retitled Wish Coin. Both are great versions. As a fan of the remix, I'm very happy with this set - some of these could even be seen as an improvement on the originals, which is so often not the case with remix albums. Ghost Range (E-Pro Remix By Homelife) is all over the place - there's twangy banjo plucking over jazzy vibraphone fighting the fuzzed out bass with swoony orchestral strings, and then fiddles come in and it's like a hoedown in the barn, except with some hip hop beats. Scarecrow (Remix By El P) is one I think is better in remixed form - El P brings his dark crunk to the song, with big clattery beats, key stabs and lots of fuzzed out guitars. Much head nodding goodness.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Dimanche A Bamako

I'm a big fan of Manu Chao. I loved his band Mano Negra - "the French Clash". They sang songs in French, Spanish and English, and their multi-culti rock music was a captivating mix of folk, punk, reggae and pop. After they split up in the '90s, Manu put out a couple of solo albums and a live set. Their spirit was the same, but it was stripped down and more acoustic. He has now taken his unique style and applied it to the new album from Malian duo Amadou & Mariam, called Dimanche A Bamako. They are a blind couple who have been recording together for over 20 years in west Africa, creating a tasty blend of Afro-pop and folk rock. This is their 10th album. Manu co-writes, sings and produces (a sticker on the CD cover has his name on it - it made me take notice of the CD and start paying attention to the reviews, mostly positive) and his imprint is unmistakable. The mix is full of sound - lilting, strummy reggae with street noises and voices punctuating everything. The duo sing beautifully of love and politics and their homeland, and Amadou plays some glorious guitar, ranging from surf rock to folk to scratchy and funky. It's a sunny set of songs that really benefit from Manu's collaboration, and I'm hooked. Here are a couple of tasty tracks for you to enjoy -
Beaux Dimanches
Senegal Fast Food

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Days Of Mars

The DFA label has been home to some of the coolest music being made these last few years - records by The Rapture, LCD Soundsystem, The Juan MacLean and Black Dice have fused punk-funk and electro with a hefty dose of experimentalism and "artiness". Back in October saw the label release The Days Of Mars, the debut album from Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom. The duo are New York based artists who work a lot with visual media as well as music. They also collaborate as Black Leotard Front - their 15 minute dance opus Casual Friday from earlier in the year (and also on last year's DFA Compilation #2) is still getting played at my house. Those of you looking for "DFA-beats-as-usual" will probably be sadly disappointed with the album. It is four tracks, each about 15 minutes long, all of it ambient electronics. Taking the spirit of Vangelis, Steve Reich, film maker John Carpenter's eerie synth scores, and the numerous '70s Italian electro-proggers like Goblin as the blueprint, the duo construct gently pulsing grooves that meander through the speakers. There is not a beat to be found. Some of you will find it very tedious, I'm sure. I have always enjoyed a bit of meandering aimlessness, and it abounds here. Rise has been previously heard in DFA remixed form on the afore mentioned Compilation#2, with beats added. It is a lovely bit of spacing out music. The rest of the record is more of the same - variations on this theme. Not for everyone, but a few of you might like it.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Funky Friday & I'm Feelin' Festive

I'd like to take a moment to thank all of you for making this such a good year for my little corner of the blogosphere. Traffic has grown by leaps and bounds, and it's been great hearing what you have to say about the tunes. You make it worthwhile for me to keep doing this little music geek thing here, and I thank you for your kind patronage. I hope this eclectic little four pack of holiday songs brings some joy to your day. Thank you...

Thornetta Davis - Funky Drummer Boy
The Waitresses - Xmas Wrapping
Miles Davis & Bob Dorough - Blue Xmas
Los Straitjackets - Here Comes Santa Claus

Merry Christmas - Happy Hannukah - Happy Kwanzaa - Happy Winter Solstice - Happy Whatever-it-is-you-do-or-do-not-celebrate!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Walking With A Ghost

The White Stripes have a new 6 track EP out called Walking With A Ghost. It's one new recording, the title track Walking With A Ghost (which is a cover of a Tegan and Sara tune) and then 5 live cuts - all songs from previous records. I don't know the original (I think I've only ever heard one Tegan and Sara song and it didn't move me), but several reviews have said that it's a pretty faithful rendition. It seems to me that it fits what the White Stripes do well - big riff, big drums, catchy chorus, trippy guitars. it's all there. The live tracks are also what you'd expect - stripped down and raw. Not an essential recording, but still kind of interesting.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


It only took 12 years but it finally happened - Kate Bush released a new album last month, a 2CD set called Aerial. I have always had a bit of a "hit and miss" thing with prog queen Kate, loving some things and not feeling others. Reviews of Aerial have been pretty positive, and the bloggers seem to like it too, so last weekend I took the plunge. It's only been played a couple of times this week, and that is nowhere near enough time to have an accurate review/opinion. That having been said, right away I knew I would like it. One of the first songs to "jump out at me" (does a Kate Bush record ever really "jump"?) is from disc one (subtitled A Sea Of Honey), and is called π (Pi). Yes, infinity has been transformed into a gently undulating pop song, full of burbling beats, a snaky bass line, blippy keys, gently strummed acoustic guitars and Kate actually sings the string of numbers. I get a real kick out of that leftfield approach, and here it's couched in such a beautiful piece of music that it transcends it's artiness. I look forward to getting to know the rest of this record.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


About a month ago I was in the car pulling into the driveway when a song started to play on the radio. I sit through the whole thing. It starts with a gigantically thick and chunky bass riff over pounding drums, playing an almost "Peter Gunn" like spy theme. Then some furious guitar kicks in. I'm thinking "is this the new Fever track? Or maybe the Moving Units?" Then the singer starts. It's clear that it's Julian Casablancas - this must be the new Strokes single. It is - there's no mistaking their style. It rocks. It's produced by David Kahne, and it sounds harder and meaner than they ever have. I like it. I buy the CD single this week. I like the b-side too - it's a tune called Hawaii. The single also contains the video for Juicebox but I haven't watched it yet. Anyway, here is your daily recommended dose of music to rock out to - enjoy The Strokes' Juicebox, a taster from their new album out the first week in January.

Monday, December 19, 2005

My '80s Remastered - Beauty Stab

The year was 1983. Martin Fry and his band ABC have conquered the world with their debut album, 1982's The Lexicon Of Love. A magnificent set of eminently hummable tunes as produced by Trevor Horn, critics loved it and so did pop fans. Poison Arrow & The Look Of Love were on radios all over the world, even making a splash across the pond in the US. When the time came to record it's follow up the band had slimmed to a three piece - drummer David Palmer was gone, on his way to becoming a premier session player and member of the '90s version of The The. The resulting album was called Beauty Stab, and it was a sharp shocker for their fan base to hear. Instead of Lexicon Part 2 with big, danceable faux soul hits, they had made a ROCK record. Big guitars, loads and loads of them, spinning off mighty riffs all over the place. The spirit of Roxy Music's late '70s/early '80s art rock is alive here, even down to the tasty sax breaks. The songs are still very ABC - the sharp lyricism, the occasionally goofy rhyme, and the great, hooky melodies. I remember being taken aback the first few times I played it, but I stuck with it and have always enjoyed it's one-off craziness. My bro and I used to rock this sucker back in the day. It has just recieved the expanded remastered treatment, so I knew I had to get me one. It's sound has held up pretty well. Produced by the band and Trevor Horn's studio doppleganger Gary Langan, it largely eschews the bad, '80s gated snare thing and instead is a fairly tough set of well produced rock music. There are a couple of bonus tracks, including an odd medley of songs from the LP that was originally released on a flexi disc. As for the Roxy Music comparisons - Roxy's drummer Andy Newmark and bassist Alan Spenner are the rhythm section on this. I've always thought that this record was better than what it got - bad reviews and largely ignored. I had a hard time choosing one or two songs so I'm going with three. Title track Beauty Stab is an instrumental - very Roxy with it's dance-y yet rocking sound and sax riffing. A big tune. King Money is equally big in the riff department. This tune kind of makes me think of David Bowie's China Girl - some of the guitars are very Nile Rodgers in that chikka-chikka way. I especially like the big, hard rocking break and find myself playing the air guitar. One of the big hits was S.O.S., and this is the tune that is closest to resembling anything from Lexicon. It's a gorgeous ballad with sweet Fairlight keys, some nice basic drum programming and lots of orchestration - strings, brass and voices combine and lead to a swelling, big finale. A forgotten classic.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

5ive Style

10 years ago various members of Chicago's post rock scene got together to record as 5ive Style. Tortoise drummer John Herndon and bassist LeRoy Bach (Wilco) were augmented by guitarist Bill Dolan (Heroic Doses) and keyboardist Jeremy Jacobsen (Lonesome Organist), and the resulting self-titled mini album was produced by John McEntire and Casey Rice. That's some serious Chi-town music mojo at work. The music is a bit more light hearted and funky than you might expect, and even touches on a bit of jam band spirit in places. I've always loved it's vibe - low key, lots of cool guitars and a hefty helping of quirk. Deep Marsh is rifftastic, with loads of noodly guitars and the sound of a tea kettle whistle blowing through the whole thing. I like how it goes all blues-y at the end. Outta Space Canoe Race is spongy space funk - an almost reggae vibe permeates, with a fat beat, fuzzy bass, jammy guitars and big rock organ. I hadn't played this in a while and had forgotten how much I dug it. They followed this up with another record, 2000's Miniature Portraits, but it failed to live up to my expectations.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Baroque Social Scene

Broken Social Scene have been blogged a lot this year, but not too many people have mentioned the bonus disc of music that comes with their latest self-titled release. Called The E.P. To Be You And Me, it's seven tracks of the more experimental side of what they do. It appeals to me because much of it is electronic in nature. They have always used electronics to embellish their mostly indie rock sound, but some of these tracks reverse that logic. Baroque Social Scene has a clattery, rickety rhythm over which the band throws glitchy keys, a bit of guitar, lots of trippy effects and little shards of noise. It ambles instrumentally to nowhere in particular, but I like it. No Smiling Darkness is also instrumental, but more of a low key ballad. It is driven by guitar, and slowly builds into a mellow, shuffle-y groove. Lots of pretty noises going nowhere in particular again, but that's the kind of mood I'm in today.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Capture / Release

The Rakes are another sharp and angular British four piece that are making a bit of a splash with their debut LP Capture / Release. I had heard the Retreat EP back in October, and knew right away I would like the album. Unfortunately it is only available as an import in the US, and I haven't seen a release date yet. Unwilling to wait, I picked up a copy of the import. I dig it. They fall squarely into the Bloc/Franz/Maximo/Kaisers realm of music - fast and jittery tunes with lots of post punk flavor and big shouty choruses abound. I'm a big fan of British singers who sound like they're British, and Alan Donohoe fits the bill. I know some of you will find this stuff to be "too late to the party" - you haters can move along. I still get a kick out of this stuff. I did back when it was fresh and new in the late '70s and early '80s, and I still do today. These London lads tell amusing, true to life stories, sort of like The Streets, but obviously much harder rocking. One of their earliest singles was 22 Grand Job, a 1:46 burst of snarky satire of the 9-to-5-working-in-the-city routine. I find the guitars on this to be completely addictive, and I love Alan's sneer-y tone. Short, sharp and brilliant. A more low key approach is taken on Binary Love. It's still a propulsive, snaky, riff driven tune, but it's embellished with some nice shimmering new wave-y synths, and has a lovely melancholic feel to it's love story lyrics.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Bevy Of Beauties

Madonna's Get Together is very popular at my house. My daughters, ages soon-to-be 2 and soon-to-be 6, are in love with the first 4 or 5 songs from Madge's new record, and spin and dance around the living room - much to my amusement of course. I like about half of the record myself, and am happy that she decided to work with her live band leader Stuart Price (AKA Les Rythmes Digitales) this time around.

Metric's recent album Live It Out has been blogged about a lot. It's been a couple of months now, and I want to get my 2¢ in. It is a much harder rocking affair with less emphasis on the new wave synths. Normally I'd be lamenting that, and at first I wasn't convinced, but I stuck with it and have warmed up to the album. Glass Ceiling is a good example of the harder sound, with it's big, meaty guitar riff intro. It's also got wierd honky tonk piano, cool rat-a-tat drums in the chorus, and Emily Haines' vocals are always pleasing to my ears.

British indie art rockers Broadcast also got blogged a fair amount earlier in the year. They slimmed to a two piece and released Tiny Buttons. It didn't get the greatest reviews, but I really like it. It sounds less fascinated with Stereolab and a bit more electronically inclined. These are both good things. I particularly like Black Cat with it's glitched out beats and distortion. The song has a lovely, almost nursery rhyme like melody. It never really builds up to anything bigger, but I enjoy it's spaced out buzz.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Funky Friday's Coming On Strong

British duo Hot Chip's debut LP Coming On Strong was released in May of 2004 in the UK. The NME desribed the album as "genre-hopping future-funk held together with elastic bands" & "as witty and inventive as the finest pop songs." Last week saw Astralwerks give it a proper US release, and they've added three bonus tunes to it. It's a fun and funky album. My first reaction to it was that it reminded me of the Beta Band - lo-fi, indie slacker stuff. But Hot Chip take that foundation and add a hefty dose of black American funk. Where Beta Band did the kind of British Beck-meets-Floyd-thing, this is music enamored of Prince and G-funk and Sly & the Family Stone, all mixed up with the oddball quirk of Ween, a dash of classic '70s 10cc and then slathered in that lovely, warm and litling spaciness of the same era's reggae. Alexis Taylor's voice is wistfully indie in that distinctly British way, and it's a real blast hearing "gangsta" lyrics crooned in such a way - he sings about blasting Yo La Tengo with the top down. I am really loving it a lot. It's both groovy and humorous, and always leaves me with a smile. Enjoy one of their first singles, Down With Prince, which is a song so full of Prince-ly sounds that it's pretty much a tribute. Keep Fallin' bumps on an old school beat that mixes hip hop with mellow reggae vibes and some crazy ass lyrics about Stevie Wonder seeing stuff. The tune is super catchy - hear it twice and you're humming along. The breakdown is blissfully cool, and the tune fades out on a wickedly funky chorus of kazoos. Yeah, kazoos bringing the funk. Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Leaders Of The Free World

Elbow are, I've found, a band whose music never jumps out at you on the first or even second listen. Their first two albums were sonically similar, the product of a mellow, somewhat proggy indie rock band prone to moments of sweeping beauty. I think about them this way - they are making the Peter Gabriel records that Peter Gabriel doesn't make anymore - you know, the classic '80s records. Guy Garvey's voice even has it's Gabriel-esque moments. The songs are things full of melodrama and emotion, with growling, low key riffs that soar into pretty choruses, and with only a few songs "rocking" in the traditional style. The music touches on the rock of Radiohead, The Doves and The Super Furries. Their songs tend to be epic and slow to unfold.
As usual it's taken a while for their latest album Leaders Of The Free World to sink in. It is a great album. They take all they've done so far and distill it into a more concise yet still musically powerful set of tunes. And they appear to have found a bit of funky rhythm - their songs have often had a wee bit of groove, but several tracks here are downright funky. The emotion and drama are still intact, it's just easier to get at. Picky Bugger is ALL about the groove - it rides a big, swampy, Tom Waits riff, and Guy gets his falsetto on. It's a lovely bit of spartan, melancholic funkiness. Mexican Standoff is also surprisingly uptempo, kicking of with latin handclaps before a twangy guitar zooms into the mix. A swoony, slinky rocker with one hell of a guitar solo. This tune rocks harder that anything they've done, I reckon.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My '80s Remastered - Vienna

In 1980 the British art rock band Ultravox had begun a new phase in their career. Lead singer and song writer John Foxx had recently left the band to pursue a solo career and the remaining members tapped former Rich Kids guitarist Midge Ure to be the band's new singer. The first fruit of this new union was the album Vienna. The title track was a moody power ballad that mixed spartan electronics, a rocking break and huge dollops of popmpous moodiness. It captured the hearts of the public, dominated the charts, and sent the band on it's way to stardom in the UK - the next few years were very good for the band. Of all the Midge Ure led albums, Vienna is my favorite - things get a bit too grandiose and swelling as the years go by. I recently got my hands on the 2000 remaster of it. I have to say that after 25 years it still sounds pretty damn good. It has four bonus tracks and the black and white video for the title track. The album kicks off with a strong one two punch - Astradyne is a muscular, prog/art rock meets new wave track - loads of synths, big chunky bass, loads of atmosphere and a deliciously squiggly solo. It leads straight into New Europeans - another big rocking track that makes good use of a giant "London Calling"-ish guitar riff. It also features some funny, cheesy lyrics - one of Midge's strengths as a songwriter, and a nice, rolling piano solo. This song for me is all about the guitar - it kicks.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Romance Bloody Romance

Last week I picked up the new collection of remixes and b-sides from Canadian indie rocker duo Death From Above 1979 called Romance Bloody Romance. The original tracks are from the You're A Woman, I'm A Machine album that came out at the beginning the year. I do not own that record. I have heard a couple of tracks from it. I also really like the track they did on the Bloc Party Remixed set that came out a few months back. I am a sucker for the remix so I took the plunge. You get mixes by Justice, Erol Alkan, Masterkraft (AKA Sebastien Grainger, one half of DFA'79), Phones, Jesper Dahlback and a few others. I really am enjoying these mixes, so much so that I think I will be picking up the original album. I particularly dig these two mixes of the same song, Black History Month, with it's quirky lyrics and memorable refrain. Black History Month (Alan Braxe & Fred Falke Remix) has the French disco factor dialed up to 11 - crisp beats, a gloriously chunky bass riff and fantastically tight, '80s metal guitar riffs paired with a shimmering chorus that will take you back to the glory days of Daft Punk and Bob Sinclar. Black History Month (Josh Homme Remix) is not disco in the least. The first couple of minutes are about spooky ambience, then a rudimentary beat kicks in and you get some blasts of riffage before it all spaces out again. A couple of cool and varied takes that really carry the stamp of the remixers! And what a marvellously creepy cover.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables

The seminal Dead Kennedys album Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables turned 25 this year. A couple of weeks back saw the release of the 25th anniversary edition, remastered with the help of guitarist East Bay Ray. It's packaged in a slipcase cover and features a replica of the 2 sided poster that came with the original. It sounds as inflammatory as ever, and thanks to the digital remastering it's nice and clean and LOUD. It's a seething mix of acerbic ranting courtesy of Jello Biafra, and some crazy surf punk music. It's unrelenting. From the opening salvo of Kill The Poor - raging punk with an insanely catchy chorus as well as lyrics that are so confrontational and anti "The Man" - it goes on to call for lynching the landlord, rails on chemical warfare, and delivers a couple of stone cold punk classics in California Über Alles and Holiday In Cambodia before closing out the album with a unique and glorious take on Viva Las Vegas that has Jello's glorious quiver on full throttle. Great stuff.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Funky Friday - It's Like That

Run DMC's first four albums got the expanded remastered treatment back in September. Anybody who knows will tell you how influential they were for their genre. They brought hip hop to the masses, pioneered the mixing of product placement (My Adidas) and style, and kick started a whole new kind of music - the rap rock hybrid. Each disc features extra tracks - remixes, demos, live stuff and radio spots, much of it previoulsy unreleased. It's rap in it's most primitive form - beats and MC's. That changes over the years, but the basic blueprint always remained. Fresh rhymes, dope beats and lots of good memories. Enjoy three selections, including a demo version of a Beastie Boys tune. And no Walk This Way, although the demo version of it is a fascinating look at the early stages of the song, and features some great guitar riffing by Joe Perry. Put on your shelltoes and Kangols and take a ride down memory lane...

It's Like That

Slow And Low (Demo)

It's Tricky

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Skalpel are Marcin Cichy and Igor Pudlo. The Polish duo are DJ/producers who have spent the last few years digging in the crates, building a slick (and pretty much unheard) collection of samples from Polish jazz records. They then contruct their own tunes from the bits and pieces, adding beats and keys and scratches. The end result is Konfusion, their second LP for the venerable NinjaTune label. It's a smokey, crackly bunch of tunes that move from spy theme cinematics to blacksploitation riffs with a nod to hip hop and a bit of dance stuff. And lots of jazziness - '60s and '70s style abstract. It is a smokin' set of modern jazz tunes that comes with an equally smokin' bonus disc of remixes. Deep Breath is from the album disc - sci-fi keys melt into one hell of a bass line, speckled with organ, some gorgeous horn snippets, and a lovely bit of female vocals. This gets my head nodding every time. 1958 (Quantic Remix) is from disc 2. As implied in the title, it's a Quantic remix and it's aimed squarely at the dancefloor. It's a burbling bit of jazzy, leftfield house thats got great drum programming, a wicked bit of clavinet in the break and a nice spaced out feel to it.