Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Da Capo and Jazz

I'm trying to make it through every volume of Da Capo's Best Music Writing, which has been coming out as a yearly trade paperback since at least 2000. It's part of my new kick to actually read music criticism, since I'm, you know, a music critic. The Da Capo series are my favorite reads, because they offer some amazing writing on artists and genres I didn't know much about.

For example, Matthew Duersten's "The Moon Look Down and Laughs," originally published in Flaunt. It's about jazz singer Anita O'Day, and what a crazy, fucked up life she's had. He describes in detail her amazing performance at Newport '58, documented in Bert Stern's Jazz On A Summer's Day, which, with the magic of the internet, I was able to find and post here:

I had never heard Anita O'Day, but now I'm eager to stroll through her back catalog and see what she has to offer. She's not quite as clean and pure as Ella Fitzgerald, but isn't quite as sultry and damaged as Billie Holiday, either. (Although I still contend that once you've heard Ms. Holiday do a song, you can't ever really accept someone else doing it.)

Incidentally, another blogger had the same reaction to the article. Here.

This all coincides with me listening to a lot more jazz lately, partially because I moved into a space with a record player. I've been going to Recycled Records on Haight and finding old bargains. My favorite new acquisition is a copy of the record that John Coltrane did with vocalist Johnny Hartman. I love this album, all thirty minutes of it. I'm on a bit of a Coltrane kick, and have been listening to Giant Steps, his greatest hits, and the record he did with Duke Ellington which is also good. I just picked up a bio of him that Ben Ratliff of the New York Times wrote, but it may be over my head. Here's "The Very Thought of You," with Johnny Hartman singing. It's the perfect fall music, and makes you want to curl up in a warm bed.

My One And Only Love - John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Friends Are Getting Famous

If you go to the Bay Bridged and listen to episodes 135 and 136, you'll hear songs and interviews by two of my friends' bands, Loquat and Winter's Fall. Well, Loquat are really friends of friends, but I've been following them since their inception about eight years ago, when my friend Ben was their keyboardist. They do mellow alt-pop that is a little Stereolab, a little Bjork, and a little their own thing. They are just about to release a new album, and are touring the U.S. in an RV as we speak.

Winter's Fall play folky alt country. They are not touring the country, but they are playing the Hotel Utah tonight, and the Hemlock tomorrow.

Everybody Nose

One of the videos that gets heavy rotation at the gym I go to is N.E.R.D.'s "Everybody Nose," an ode to girls getting coked up at the club. I love the jazzy, drum n' bass beat, but the subject matter and video are effin' obnoxious. I much perfer the version that Tanya Morgan did, which I need to post here. It's also about getting fucked up in a club, but in a less icky, date-rapey way.

The whole thing with the wasted chick looking like she's about to throw up/wake up in a strange man's bed is really awful, and the two women making out with gum is just wrong. There's also the fact that cocaine and speed are kind of the devil.

It's still a good song, though. They should tour with Spank Rock as the Asshole Drug Rap tour.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

B.G. and Chopper City Boyz review

I reviewed B.G. and Chopper City Boyz Life In the Concrete Jungle for RapReviews this week. Here.

It's ok for what it is, but not my thing.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fucked Up

Fucked Up
The Chemistry of Common Life
Matador, 2008

Black Flag + MBV?

I spend most of my time listening to hip hop, but I still love a lot of non-hip hop stuff. I don't have time to investigate much of it, however, so I just end up listening to whatever Pitchfork says is good. Half the time the bands they like are too weird or obscure for me, but sometimes they hit the nail on the head. Take Fucked Up. Pitchfork just gave the Toronto-based hardcore band's second disc an 8.8, and I have to agree with them. The Chemistry of Common Life has the anger and pure rrrrrwwwwwaaahahhhrrghghg-ness of great hardcore, but with the added benefits of melody and well-crafted songs. The whole affair is washed in a layer of My Bloody Valentine-esque sonics, using multiple guitar tracks to create a thick wall of sound. Listeners might be put off by the lead singer's glass-gargling vocals, but I think they make Fucked Up's sound. With a more palatable and effete singer, Fucked Up would be in danger of being just another indie band. As it stands, they add a healthy dose of aggro to the tight-jeans post punk landscape.

Some people may find this album to noisy or negative, and that's their opinion. Me, I find it incredibly joyous and celebratory. There is something incredibly positive and uplifting about the whole album. Like all great hardcore, it also completely fills the soundscape, drowning out any other sounds, something which I've always found soothing. Plus they look like they do a wicked live show (and they just did a 12 hour live show in NY). They even add some pretty instrumentals to the mix. In short, if you can get past the vocals, this is an album to own.

Abe Vigoda

Abe Vigoda
Post Present Medium/Bella Union, 2008

That's Abe Vigoda the band, not Abe Vigoda the actor (remember "Fish" and "Barney Miller?"). When I first heard of them I thought that they were a hardcore band like Charles Bronson. You know, like all the bands were gonna start naming themselves after 70s actors.

Instead, Abe Vigoda sound like Vampire Weekend if they slept with Gang of Four. What I mean by that is that they have the same fondness for African rhythms shared by Vampire Weekend (borrowed in turn from Paul Simon, who borrowed from real Africans). But AV also have a fondness for angular, rhythmic post punk, much like Gang of Four. The result is something catchier and more exciting than your average post punk or indie rock release, but less preppy and bougie than Vampire Weekend's debut. I'm a fan. My girlfriend says they are too noisy. You be the judge.

As further proof that they are art punks to the core, check out their blog, which is full of artsy fartsy photos.

Cranes - Abe Vigoda

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Loyalists - Redemption

My review of the Loyalists self-released third album Redemption is up now on RapReviews. Here.

They are from SF and do solid, old-school style hip hop. Plus, they did a great job on the design and packaging of their disc. I'm all for good hip hop design.

Machine Gun Alley - The Loyalists

Cecil Otter - Rebel Yellow.

I reviewed Cecil Otter's "Rebel Yellow" at Rapreviews this week. You can check it out here.

Apologies to Mr. Otter for going on about how he was a white guy - I don't normally go into that but, well, he is, and I was trying out a more stream of conscious style of writing.

I was resistant to the whole MN sound for a while, but I think I can officially say that I'm buying into what Minnesota is offering. Beats that are original, lyrics that are insightful...a guy could learn to live with that.

Match Book Diaries (Remix) - Cecil Otter

Sunday, October 12, 2008

DMX - "Party Up"

In the late 90s I worked as an after school tutor at a middle school in San Francisco's Excelsior district. The kids there loved pop punk, N*Synch, and hip hop, and one of their favorite songs was DMX's "Party Up." I remember at the time googling the lyrics and being really horrified by how hateful and homophobic they are. The whole song is basically X saying how hard he is, and how he'll either kill haters or make them perform fellatio on him.

Flash forward five years, and I'm in Kyustendil, Bulgaria walking through the Kvartal Zapad (that means Westside in Bulgarian). I was living in this ghettro-ass neighborhood filled with dirt roads and communist style bloc apartment complexes that looked tore up and menacing. It was a bitterly cold fall day. The smell of burning trash was in the air, and as I walked by one of the blocs near me, what do I hear but "Party Up," blaring out of one of the apartment windows. I knew my kids were obsessed with American hip hop, but it was really odd to hear the song in the context of Bulgaria. Although, given the surroundings I was in, it kind of made sense.

I recently caved and downloaded this song from Itunes. I guess I've gotten numb and/or come to accept the homophobia and hatefulness in rap lyrics, and even I have to admit that X is pretty clever with his disses.

"Y'all niggaz is characters, not even good actors
What's gon' be the outcome? Hmm, let's add up all the factors
You wack, you're twisted, your girl's a hoe
You're broke, the kid ain't yours, and e'rybody know"

And my favorite line:

"Listen, yo' ass is about to be missin
You know who gon' find you? (Who?) Some old man fishin
Grandma wishin your soul's at rest
but it's hard to digest with the size of the hole in your chest"

Y'all gonna make me act the fool.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bon Iver

For Emma, Forever Ago
Self-released 2007
Re-released on Jagjaguwar, 2008

I'm late on this one, I know. Pitchfork reviewed it when it was a self-released title in '07, and everyone else raved about it earlier this year. But you know what? I work full time. I don't have the time or inclination to keep up with the newest and hottest. I listen to what I listen to and I like what I like. So there.

(This photo, by the way, is from the self-released version. The picture of the album cover of the re-released version that I was trying to steal from an Irish blog ended up being a picture of some guy's [shaved] junk covered in leeches when you clicked on the thumbnail. I know, eww, right?)

Anyways, Bon Iver. Now a band, originally a sad dude recovering from various sorts of trauma recording sad lonely songs in a sad lonely cabin in wintry Wisconsin. It is a quiet, delicate record, a lot like early Iron and Wine. And I dig it. It's perfect early morning waking up music, and perfect late afternoon chilling out music. He's got a nice falsetto, and the production is toned down and intimate.

I say go check it out.

Interestingly enough, on my Itunes, the song that directly follows Bon Iver is the Bongo Band's "Apache," which is basically the anti-Bon Iver.

Flume - Bon Iver

Friday, October 10, 2008


I was a big fan of the Misfits in my late teens and early twenties. They are pretty much a punk rock Kiss - their songs are goofy and about b-horror movies from the fifties, they have a cool kitchy, comic-bookey look, and their music is catchy and simple. Danzig also has a pretty awesome voice, which he has chosen to use to make crappy cock rock since the late eighties. Well, maybe that first Danzig album is ok.

If you are a virgin to the Misfits, please steer clear of their later, Danzig-free incarnation. Buy "Walk Among Us," or their self-titled comp "Misfits." "Legacy of Brutality" is also worth owning, and "Misfits II" has a few good songs, and is worth burning from a friend.

I recently bought the Wal-fit shirt from Upper Playground that combines the walrus and Misfits fiend. Fucking awesome. They also have one that riffs off of Iron Maiden's Piece of Mind, and Judas Priest's "Screaming for Vengeance." I knew my special ladyfriend wouldn't put up with me in either of those, so i stuck with the Misfits one.

Metallica covered "Last Caress" on their Garage Days EP. You know why? Because it's fucking awesome.

That's not me in the picture btw.
Last Caress - Misfits

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

GaKnew Roxwel

I reviewed GaKnew Roxwel's Mannequin People this week for RapReviews. It can be found here.

GaKnew has done a lot of work with at-risk youth, and has been a program director for a non-profit, so he has a different perspective on the problems facing inner city kids. He also uses a live band, and produced almost the entire album himself. Pretty impressive, and worth checking out. Also, check out his label's website,


"Apache" has been around for a while. The first version was the Shadow's, in the sixties, and I know the Ventures did a version, and it's been a staple of other instrumental surf rock artists like Dick Dale. It's most famous version is the Incredible Bongo Band's version from the 70s. This was THE record to sample for early hip hop artists. More recent artists to sample it include Norman "Fat Boy Slim" Cook, Wale, and Nas, who used it in "Hip Hop Is Dead." See the wikipedia entry here.

Almost as awesome as "Apache" the song is "Apache" the music video. This is a different version of the song attributed to Tommy Seebach on YouTube. He's Danish, which explains a lot.

Soul Sides has an awesome entry on the song here, with a lot of mp3 downloads.
I love all the different versions of the song. I especially love the funky breakdown in the Bongo Band version. it's one of those tracks that puts a smile on your face.
Go get your B-boying on.

Apache - Incredible Bongo Band

Wale's "Work" also samples "Apache," juxtaposing it with the Beatles' "Hey Bulldog." It's one of my favorite songs of 2007.

Work - Wale

And of course the best music video ever:

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