Good Music / Bad Music

Archive for November, 2009

Lavoisier – Fake Rappers

by on Nov.29, 2009, under Bad Music, Good Music, Video

I haven’t been updating during this holiday weekend, obviously. However, I can’t leave people hanging, either. And so, please enjoy this insightful lecture from Lavoisier regarding fake rappers.

It gets the rare categorization of both good music and bad music. Good for Lavoisier…bad for radio rap. Enjoy!

25,846 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , more...

The Ott Band – Love Me

by on Nov.21, 2009, under Good Music

ottbandlovemeSo. The OTT Band. I was weary. Much like freesoulJAH, this one, too, underwent an evolving perception with me. The difference is that freesoulJAH is freesoulJAH. He is what he is, and it’s unexpected, but in the end, it really kind of works in some weird way. The OTT Band, on the other hand, has taken a very dire marketing misstep here.

I open up this London band’s CD and holy shit. This album art is terrible. It appears to be the equivalent of those over-the-hill American singer/songwriter guys who play in shit ass cover bands full time while pushing out the occasional disc of basement recordings that might have been good fifteen years ago before their ideas were so outdated. You know, cynical bastards that have nowhere to go but the sports bar? The OTT Band’s CD cover has a group of people, who I presume to be said band, in a cheap, candid, pulled back snapsot. The whole thing is soaked in the color orange, and stamped with fonts that apparently were included in Microsoft Publisher 98. How the fuck was I going to review this? If this band truly is comprised of those sports bar frequenting, cover band playing, old wankers, I can’t point all this out to them. I have sympathy for those guys, after all. Is the destruction of their rock star dreams not enough? Now they’ve got to take a verbal ass kicking from some punk ass snot shit American sitting comfortably behind his computer?

I’m happy to report that no…they do not. Hence it is confirmed that one truly cannot tell a book by it’s cover.

The vocals on the opening track, “Don’t Know,” are the last difficult hurdle to get over, but once you make it past, this is a very rewarding listen. It’s not any kind of style that is considered new. However, it is a style that is so difficult to properly execute, there are only a small handful of bands out there that have ever been able to pull it off…and nowadays no one even tries. I’m talking about the music of the 80’s. But not the 80’s you’re familiar with. Not that kitschy, coked out radio discomfort that you know in such forms as Dead or Alive, Thompson Twins or fucking Madonna. The Ott Band is tapped into something far more creative, pure and interesting. It’s that part of the 80’s that the cool kids were into. The early part that bled with the end of the 70’s and was more focused on an innovative, worldly and artistic sound. Music for music and change…not music for money and drugs. The OTT Band resonates loudly with the sounds of The Specials, The English Beat or Sandinista! era Clash.

Those are all UK bands. Maybe this is just a difference in form between the United Kingdom and America, where I was stuck. Maybe they take for granted this kind of sound over there. I just don’t hear anyone doing it anymore. Fortunately, The OTT Band relishes in it. They touch on that blessed sound that is not quite reggae, not quite rock, a little bit closer to dancehall, and strangely uplifting. There is a good use of what sounds like full choirs of people here. There are watery electronics, very notably applied on “Six Million Miles,” that serves as a testament to the detail put into these songs. The range of what they do with the music is also nicely expansive. On one end we have the head bobbing, ska-before-ska-was-ska, “Sending in the Lions,” mixed with odd modern notions of “getting bling.” It’s a playful antithesis to “Special,” a dubby, introspective gem of night music. Everything in between is a carefully laid landscape of pianos, guitars, horns and whatever else was needed to make these songs complete.

The only other complaint I can voice about this band is their website where they have a section called, “Who the **** are The OTT Band?” To this, guys, I gotta recommend that you just type out the “fuck” word. I mean, it’s 2009. Everyone knows what four asterisks mean and most people really enjoy the word “fuck” anyway.

As for the album cover, just ask me next time. I’ll work you up something more fitting…free of charge.

24,947 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Charlotte Gainsbourg & Beck – “Heaven Can Wait” video etc.

by on Nov.19, 2009, under Good Music, Video

Just in time to combat the soul depleting evils of Beyonce and Lady Caca, Beck and Charlotte Gainbourg have released this stunning video on Beck.com:

The song is called “Heaven Can Wait” and it’s the first single from Gainsbourg’s upcoming release, IRM, which was written and produced by Beck. Judging from this track, there are some very good things around the bend. January 26th, specifically…in the states, that is. December 8th everywhere else, damn it.

Also in Beck news, later today Beck will also release a new track entitled, “Harry Partch,” a tribute to the late composer of the same name. The song will apparently employ Partch‘s 43 tone scale. That, too, will be delivered on Beck.com.

Lastly, in Beck news, and again on Beck.com, they are releasing videos and goodies to commemorate the ten year anniversary of his Midnite Vultures.

And you thought the Record Club was it? Pshaw. (Though it’s about time he started releasing the Skip Spence stuff he did with Wilco!)

31,094 Comments :, , , , , , , , , more...

The Black Eyed Peas on SNL – Seriously…What the Fuck?

by on Nov.16, 2009, under Bad Music, Video

“Must get boring for the other two guys in Black Eyed Peas. How many hours a day can one spend thinking up awkward dance moves?”
                                                —Christian Finnegan

Back in college, I used to get together with my friend, Conan, for no other reason than sharing hip hop and rap music. To be honest, he would do the majority of the sharing, and as we smoked and talked in front of a computer, I learned a lot. Most of what he shared with me has since risen to higher heights. Perhaps none as much as the Black Eyed Peas.

I bought their 1998 release, Behind the Front, within days of my introduction to them. I was drawn to them for the same reasons as Conan. They were conscious, positive and completely against materialism and hype. They were real. They were part of the good side in the balance on which rap and hip hop teetered at that time. Would it end up there, embracing something earthy, unifying and mentally evolved? Or would the whole thing collapse into a racially degenerative, socially destructive, new age Amos and Andy dressed up as a fashion show?

I think we all know what the outcome of that was. In case you are fortunate enough not to keep up with such things, I present to you exhibit A: The Black Eyed Peas on last week’s Saturday Night Live.

Okay. Maybe I’m being too much of a hater. The Black Eyed Peas are fun, right? Sure! And so is Hannah Montana. So is Britney Spears. I’m not hating on the fun. I’m pointing out the absurdity. I mean, what the fuck is this? It looks like a bunch of kids singing karaoke.

Of course, it’s not just karaoke…it’s backwards karaoke! Where in karaoke, the vocals are real and the musical accompaniment is canned, with the Black Eyed Peas, the opposite is true! There are musicians actually playing their instruments (presumably), but the vocals, if not lipsynched, are certainly autotuned. Either way, it’s completely brainless.

Why is this cool to anyone? Shouldn’t the band be in the spotlight since they are the only ones actually doing anything creative? Who are these four jackasses jumping around and blocking them from the cameras? Is this really what entertainment has devolved to? Better ask a 12 year old, I guess. I’m sure that’s what a Black Eyed Peas focus group would tell you to do.

And look at those stunning and pricey fashions. So much for being real. I guess they are the kind of “rappers” that are only against luxury, so long as they are unable to afford it. Obviously, these worries have gone away from them now…and taken with them all sense of purpose, depth and imagination. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s call a spade a spade. This is pure pop…brought to you by Dr. Pepper. Just try to find a casual snapshot of the Black Eyed Peas anywhere online. You can’t. All that exists out there is glossy, air brushed and tightly controlled PrOPaganda.

Don’t get me wrong. Music and money can be a beautiful thing together. Look at all that this combination has allowed acts like The Flaming Lips, Beck and of Montreal to throw down over the years. A part of me even wants to believe that the Black Eyed Peas really do want to be tuned into that ultracreative wavelength. But you know, it’s pretty fucking difficult to have an interest in their confetti without some kind of parade or circus to back it up.

Here is their third and final song from SNL:

Deep shit, huh?! Not at all. Not even interesting shit.

There was another song they did between these two, but I can’t find it online anywhere. This is most likely because, as hard as this may be to believe, it was even more embarrassing than the other two. “Frontman,” will.i.am, even picked up a keytar (yes a fucking keytar) and pretended to play it. Thank God he had on his big, douchebag sunglasses so we didn’t have to look him in the eyes. Now that would be awkward.

33,539 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Nellie McKay – Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day

by on Nov.12, 2009, under Good Music, Video

The evolution of Nellie McKay has been one of the more intriguing stories to follow in the world of music. Her first record, Get Away from Me, is a critically lauded classic, considered the antithesis of Norah Jones’ release at that time, Come Away with Me. Initially, Get Away from Me was to be a single LP but became the first double disc debut ever released by a female after McKay charmingly, but forcefully, schmoozed Columbia record execs into seeing it her way. She tried the same thing with the follow up, Pretty Little Head, but with far less success. This lead to a long delayed self release of what also ended up being a double disc, and then a subsequent reissue of the discs back on Columbia where she started. The on-again/off-again relationship produced a final product that had some definite gems, and more good songs than bad, but also a few tracks that really maybe should have been left on the cutting room floor. She took these lessons well for the release of her third and finest album, Obligatory Villagers. It was concise, raw, and very in touch with her jazz roots. Alongside of Montreal’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? and Rufus Wainwright’s Release the Stars, it was easily one of the three best albums of 2007. Musically, she was exactly where she needed to be. So what now?

Well, now is the release of her fourth studio venture, Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day. As the title implies, the disc is comprised primarily of songs once sang by Doris Day (with one original). As to be expected for something like this, McKay’s volcano has cooled since Obligatory Villagers. Everything is nice and minimal, laid back and soft. While this may be off putting for the Nellie fans among us who were hoping she would grow her balls bigger and bigger, rather than chopping them off completely, it’s still an intricately touched, beautiful collection of songs.

Let’s be clear. This is technically a jazz album. From the album art to the actual content of the disc, it smacks of Susannah McCorkle or…well…Doris Day. At its heart, however, McKay makes these songs her own and wears them well. She is, after all, not just a vocalist, but a musician as well. This gives her an additional connectivity to the music that a vocalist alone might not always have at her disposal. The result is a collection of pointed arrangements that accomplish a lot within a small amount of space. Yes, this is technically a jazz album…but it sounds like something just slightly beyond the genre.

The two more upbeat tracks, “Crazy Rhythm” and “Dig It,” are infectiously swingin’. She visits Sioux musical interpretations on “Black Hills of Dakota.” She seems to border on surrealistic dreamscapes of sound on “Meditation” and the quaint “Send Me No Flowers” while tapping into something darker, but more awake on “Close Your Eyes.” The sole original, “If I Ever Had a Dream,” fits seamlessly among these classics. The whole meal is peppered with ukulele, brass, violin, mostly light percussion and some masterfully dizzying guitar by Jay Berliner.

From here, I’m hard pressed to wonder if McKay will continue in this vein, or move back toward more irreverent and monumental musings. While I have always hoped for the latter in the past, I can now delight in the knowledge that, really, either direction would be just fine. It seems that young McKay’s golden touch gets a bit stronger with each passing year, anyway. Of course, it’s doubtful that she would follow an album of covers with another album of covers next time around. (But wasn’t it doubtful that she would follow a double disc with another double disc, too?) So while her take on more classic notions of music is so very welcome and so wonderfully executed, no matter where she ventures next with music, I definitely look forward to hearing her rattle off a few swear words.

Here is some video of her being all cute and talking about the new album…

42,403 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Chicros – Radio Transmission

by on Nov.08, 2009, under Good Music

chicrosradiotransmission3I was very excited to receive a disc from French band, Chicros, as the French are quite often ahead of the curve when it comes to smooth music production. Plus they apparently had a track on a Record Makers (Air, Sebastien Tellier) compilation, which is instant credibility in my book. I camped out beside my mailbox for a week and then it finally arrived, a disc called Radio Transmission.

Despite being French,  every aspect of their album is in English. Through Wikipedia, their press release, their myspace page and Chicrodelic.com, I was able to draw a few conclusions about them. Apparently, they have been compared to every band that has ever existed. (Seriously. Music reviewers can’t ever make up their mind on this.) I also learned that the only way you can actually get your hands on this album (aside from their personal website) is by agreeing to review it or by traveling to France, Switzerland, Belgium or Japan. Lastly, they seem to be pretty no-frills, laid back and humorous guys, one who resembles a French counterpart of David Davis. (Their website bares the warning: “IF YOU DOWNLOAD ILLEGALLY THESE RECORDS, WE WON’T PROSECUTE YOU, BUT WHEN YOU DIE YOU WILL GO TO HELL.” Heh.)

Okay. So… The music. Listening to Radio Transmission one learns quite quickly why anyone who reviews this band tends to pull out so many disjunctive comparative names. It’s especially fitting here, considering that this is a concept album and the diversity of styles and genres is central to the gimmick. The concept, as should be obviously derived from the title, is that of radio, itself. Throughout its duration, there is not much of a song-to-song play through. Instead, we hear static bursts and fading in-betweens as an invisible hand switches the dial from station to station. Sometimes the fictional radio stays put for a bit, as in the case of “Radio Depressed,” which features the lonely ramblings of a Steven Wright sound-alike. He introduces the next song, a cover of the Dead Kennedys’ “Straight A’s,” which ultimately begins skipping, causing our down-and-out jock to stop the fictional disc and apologize.

These moments of silliness are listenable, but generally much weaker than the more seriously crafted and executed gems. Of particular note among those gems is the steady paced breakup song, “Without You,” featuring vocals by Brisa Roché. A piano base complimented by punchy Beatlesesque guitar work and dueling male-female vocals makes this an unconventionally accessible sing-along song. A few tracks later, we are graced with “New Orleans,” a macabre observation of said city immediately after (and maybe during) Hurricane Katrina. The lyrics point to evidence that Chicros apparently believes New Orleans is in Mississippi. This is easily overlookable, however, when surrounded by talk of death, destruction, zombies and lyrics as pointed and cutting as, “The white evacuees are far from New Orleans.” By the time they sing that famous George W. Bush line, “Doin’ a heck of a job,” the listener really does come to revisit something of a disturbed fear deep inside.

Chicros also conjures up other musical ghosts, most more welcome than Katrina. They channel The Specials on “Radio Drugs,” Belle & Sebastian on “What’s New On TV Today?” and Pink Floyd (or is it Explosions in the Sky?) on “If You Leave Me, Leave Me Running.” They also visit 1950’s era prom rock with “Why,” gospel on “Winos for Jesus” and even rap music on “Big Daddy Pimp Jr.” where they get away with saying the “N word” far more times than any group of white guys could get away with in America.

Despite the naive, unauthentic racism, Radio Transmissions is a thoroughly enjoyable listen. It’s playful and dark, at once. Having acquired distribution in four countries, and filling their disc up with English language songs while soliciting American review sites, I imagine their current goal is to take on The States. I wish them the best in this regards.

MP3:“What’s New Today on TV?” by Chicros

32,045 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

freesoulJAH – Light Headed

by on Nov.03, 2009, under Bad Music, Good Music, mp3

light-headed_coverSo I get this email from this dude called freesoulJAH. He’s encouraging me to check out his 2007 release, Light Headed. Now I also put an album out in 2007, myself, and as far as the music reviewing business goes, that shit is dead. However, I can’t really resist mentioning this release for a couple reasons. First of all, you can download the whole thing, which is always a treat, no matter what it is. Second, I’m so conflicted on this release that it earns this strange categorization of being in both “Bad Music” and “Good Music.”

freesoulJAH signed his email to me, “with peace.” He doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy that seeks conflict, and maybe he’s trying to get on my good side in advance. I don’t know, but he doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy that deserves to have his feelings hurt either (unlike Buckcherry or Asher Roth). So though my case about this album could perhaps be more effectively made by presenting the evidence of “good music” before that of “bad music,” I’m going to cover the bad of it first. All in all, it’s because I’d rather freesoulJAH smoked his dope, read this review and came away saying, “Okay..that’s cool…that’s fair.” You know…instead of saying, “Those be some negative vibes, mon!”

I’ve got to poke a little fun at the guy though.

So okay. Bad news first. freesoulJAH initially comes across as a ridiculous stereotype and I cannot, in good conscious, argue otherwise. A visit to his website reveals a dread headed white Rastafarian looking dude. (“What does being white have to do with it, mon? Why you be such a racist? Jah’s love is for everyone!” Right?) His site decor is apparently fashioned in the colors of Ghana or the Congo, most likely. Maybe Bolivia, but I doubt it because Bolivia isn’t a very cool place to most enlightened Rasta homies.

“It takes a lot for me to really like modern reggae music,” I think to myself as I shake my head in a complete lack of faith in freesoulJAH. Then I read the titles to his music. Suddenly, a thought hits me…

“What is this crap?”

Here are but a small sample of song titles that make me sigh, roll my eyes and swear off weed forever so that I don’t ever act like this: “Peace to the People,” “Can You Feel My Love,” “Love Your Brother,” “Singing to the Birds” and the list goes on and on. (Those are just my favorite…to make fun of.) Alright! Peace and happiness and love and blah blah blah. That’s all fine and well, but can’t it be a little more poetic? A little more obscured? Of course love your brother. Of course peace to the people. Anyone that gives this album half a chance after looking at the album cover sure as shit isn’t hoping to meditate on Slayer.

What the fuck, freesoulJAH?

Okay. Then I gave this heaping pile of Jamaican wannabe shit a listen and was amazed to learn that it’s not actually a heaping pile of Jamaican wannabe shit! It’s just immensely misrepresented. Hence we move into that which makes this good music.

freesoulJAH is not another fly by night dumbass Rasta wanker and this is not a reggae album. Though everything this guy advertises is contradictory to what he actually does, he deserves some credit for throwing it back to a movement that everyone respects but few people attempt (or attempt well), the beat generation. On closer inspection, there is evidence that freesoulJAH may even be aware that this is his true niche, as he does have a song called “Next Beat Generation” tucked away among those other, more sterile titles.

Granted, his lyrics are still not all that prolific. Some of them are pretty much just the song titles repeated over and over again. Yet, I can forgive this because freesoulJAH is getting high and making shit. It’s minimal. It’s rough. It’s beat poetry…for better or for worse. That I can respect.

You listen to all this shit on the radio and you hear cookie cutter bullshit, formed to spec for the purposes of making more money and feeding more cocaine to superficial music executives. Focus groups and demographics testing can tell you that the beat in the new Miley Cyrus “song” should include a different kind of snare because children under the age of 14 will like it better. Then some guy gets in there with a computer and makes the change to make Billy Ray’s daughter a corporately constructed, achy breaky star.

Fuck all that.

I imagine freesoulJAH’s process to be something like this: He plugs his guitar and a mic in his 8 track, hits his bong a few times, then lays it the fuck down. It’s great to him because he’s stoned and his overdubs make it better. Then other people also like it because they are stoned, which is a much better reason than liking something because everyone else likes it, or because the sound is like everything else you listen to.

As for me, I’m not stoned, and I can still hang with this. Not repeatedly, mind you. Not at a party. Not in my car with a girl. But late at night, as the evening winds down and the politics of the day resonate around, it’s listenable because it’s real.

You’re a quirky dude, freesoulJAH (and “State of the Union 2007” is, like, uhhh yeah…) but as far as I’m concerned, you’re still in the cool club. Sorry for the negative vibes, mon.

Download freesoulJAH’s beatnik bullshit here. (Then burn it to a CD-R, write “New Unreleased Hannah Montana Album” on the front with a Sharpie, and give it to the nearest 12 year old girl.)

21,409 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!