29 May, 2007

Taming the Dark and Capricious Sea

Today I'm on a bit of a Pirates kick having watched the last movie late last night. Excellent in my opinion, and it's definitely one of those series that leaves you wishing for more, and scrambling to read the mythology it cites. Last year it was the Kraken, this year the nymph Calypso, and in honor of the movie I've created a playlist of music that would tame even the wildest sea.

Beautiful stuff, music!

"He's a Pirate" by Klaus Badelt. You've got to start off the playlist with a little movie tie-in. This song is awesome, immediately capturing the adventure, intrigue, and freedom of piracy. Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum!

"Skeleton Key" by the Coral. The closest you'll get to rock 'n' roll pirate music, even the lyrics are nautical. This song is loud and messy, with plenty of shouted chorus-style lyrics.

"The Ocean" by Led Zeppelin. Nice, nautical rock song. ...And really bad eggs!

"The Squid" by Zox. We can't forget the Kraken! Plus, the guitar is altogether reminescent of Jamaican music, with a maelstrom of a violin solo thrown in for good measure.

"Four Winds" by Bright Eyes. I love the sound on Cassadaga, especially when the instrumentals are highlighted. In this song, Conor Oberst plays second fiddle to, well, a fiddle! Very nice twangy sound, that's also very free-spirited.

"Catch the Wind" by Donovan. Oh yeah, he sounds just like Bob Dylan. His lyrics bring to mind cool sea breezes and days spent rambling across the beach. Pirate folk.

"Within Your Reach" by the Replacements. These boys were pirates, and I love every minute of this song. It's really just perfection in musical form, capturing the essence of a love separated for eternity.

"Drink Up Me Hearties Yo Ho" by Hans Zimmer. A finale is not a finale without an epic soundtrack. This song finishes off the Pirates 3 with the slogan of rebellion and freedom; drink up me hearties, yo ho!

27 May, 2007

Mixing Politics and Music Everyday!

So, I took this quiz thing almost two years ago when I first started this blog. My views have changed slightly (I'm now 0% Republican rather than 8%, and I'm way more Green Party than Democrat, which seems about right.) Check it out, this stuff is always fun!!

You scored as Anarchism,

















What Political Party Do Your Beliefs Put You In?
created with QuizFarm.com

23 May, 2007

Deep Reggae

Everyone knows of Bob Marley, reggae superstar, and rasta rebel whose music marks the protests and dance parties of generations. If you haven't listened to Legend, then you're in for a real musical treat, and even then you've only touched the surface of Marley's music. He had a bunch of kids, by the way, and many of them also choose to make music. His great backing band, the Wailers, still play. Because, in this country, much of reggae is overlooked (even in Marley's catalogue) I think it's high time that we hear a little more from this amazing genre of music. Here's a mix to get you through the spring storms and out into the summer sun.

"Concrete Jungle" by Bob Marley and the Wailers. This track from the 1970s chronicles the hard life of a city-dweller who can't find love, light, or true freedom in his home. The music is sweet and sad, and you can listen for a guitar solo and horns when the lyrics get difficult. This is really a beautiful song; poetic and imperfect, and absolutely one of my favorite Marley tracks.

"Westbound Train" by Dennis Brown. The late child-star of Jamaican reggae, and a man who had a truly beautiful voice, Dennis Brown sings this song with passion. The lyrics are fairly straightforward broken-heart material, but reggae lyrics are consistantly malleable to different situations. To paraphrase a quote from Adam Levine of Maroon 5 (no he's not a reggae star) you can apply the relationships of two people to larger ideas of the relationships between people and their communities, or people and their government. So the lyrics in "Westbound Train" that feel so personal with broken-hearted wisdom, can be applie to any situation. It's really quite wonderful!

"The Harder They Come" by Jimmy Cliff. From the influential movie also titled The Harder They Come, this song is really just awesome. It stays upbeat even when speaking of oppresion, and religion, which is something I cannot achieve in most of my conversations on the subject. I've personally never heard a singer-songwriter who can keep such deep topics upbeat, and in my opinion it's much more of a musical fete to write a happy song that's also intelligent than to write a sad and intelligent song. Jimmy Cliff has accomplished that balance of deep thought and upbeat attitude on this song.

"Armagideon Time" by Willie Williams. Woah, isn't that a Clash song? Well, yes and no. The Clash did an amazing cover of this song which is by Willie Williams. The original is much more laid-back and smooth, while the Clash make basically everything sound harsh (isn't that the point?) Just another instance where politics can be beautiful.

"I Can't Stand the Pressure" by Linval Thompson. Although known most for his song "I Love Marijuana", Linval Thompson wrote and sang many political songs throughout his career. This song has excellent lyrics, and although the production is a little shaky, I wouldn't want the song "cleaned up" for the world. The bass overwhelms the vocals, so Linval sounds like he's singing from somewhere far away.

"Gunmen Coming to Town" by the Heptones. It's gorgeous, a mix between reggae lyrics and rhythm and the feel of old-time doo-wop and soul. Very nice track from the Heptones even though the recording's a little fuzzy. As a side note, while listening to deep reggae and really any older recording, I've come to appreciate the imperfections of the recording process. I'd rather not have my music sound plastic-wrapped, but really capture the intonations and the depth of the human voice.

"Woman's Ghetto" by Phyllis Dillon. An angry song from a soulful female artist singing in a male-dominated genre. This song is intense and required. In any true discussion of politics you cannot overlook the people affected, and the people who are affected most by socio-economic issues are usually women and children. Phyllis Dillon raised the question, "How do you raise your kids in the ghetto? Feed one child and starve another?". She's right to question and I hope her music started a discussion. Enlightenment is all fine and good, but if you don't have food, then what's the point?

"Rescue Me" by Julian Judy Mowatt. Moving away from grand political statements, reggae is also just powefully joyful music. Like motown, the right reggae song can put a smile on anyone's face, and "Rescue Me" happens to be one of those songs. Appropriately enough, it's a cover of a motown song, and a cover that conveys the urgancy of the lyrics with the smooth rhythm of Jamaica.

Throw the reggae in the cd player and jam in the sunshine, but don't forget that there's a depth to reggae music that makes it a truly revolutionary genre, in all senses of the word.

08 May, 2007

Long Overdue Reciprocation

I pride myself upon my ability to wade through the crap in the current music scene and find the "diamonds in the rough", but I must admit that even music snobs need a kick in the ass once in awhile to really make us open our ears.

Take for example the Reciprocations EP by the Novel Citizen. This little album is filled with anything but little sounds, and is exactly the kick in the ass that I needed to realize what a talented band The Novel Citizen is. Below I'll go through a play-by-play of the tracks you'll find on Reciprocations, but before I move forward, I want to make it perfectly clear that the Novel Citizen is a Michigan quintet that everyone wants on their radar. They balance a sound that is both reminescent of post-punk, but with more originality and spunk than can be found in the sounds of the Interpol copy-cats that currently pollute the airwaves. Without further ado, let's get to the music:

"A Matter of Choice" is the kind of song that's a bit of a surprise. It's layered in a way that makes it perfect for radio-play, but also gives it some nice surprises, like the harmonies on the chorus, and the strong and steady bass-line. The horns at the end of the song, and the playful guitar sounds culminate near the end of the song in a pre-finale blast that reminds me of the Beatles. Not to say that the Novel Citizen really sounds the like the Fab Four, but the band's ability to combine pop music with the cutting edge definitely brings the Beatles to mind.

"False Front" starts off sounding so different from "A Matter of Choice" that I was a little confused, but the more I listen to "False Front" the more I start to hear the Novel Citizen's little idiosyncrasies. First, I have to address that bass again, sometimes it sounds really straight-ahead and other times really funky, like a slap/funk hybrid. The horns make a second appearance, which I find just awesome (I mean how often do you hear real horns in a rock band?). "False Front" combines all of these eccentric little elements to create a song full of originality. With all of these funky elements thrown together I can't help but hear the Talking Heads. The song is just so interesting, it's definitely musical brain-food, and that's probably why it reminds me of New York art-rock.

"Is A Vibe" really throws out that post-punk sound for the first time on Reciprocations. Although on the first run-through this song sounds kind of musically bland, when I really started to listen to the lyrics, I realized that the band is doing something really clever. On "Is A Vibe", the Novel Citizen seems to be poking fun at that robotic sound that's currently so popular. It's really pretty amusing and fun, the complete opposite of bland.

"Only" is such a cool sounding song, that I almost feel as if I'm in a room with the Novel Citizen (or maybe more like they're playing the personal soundtrack to my life). Again, the band keeps it's unique sound without becoming inaccessible and obtuse. It's anytime music that paints a pretty picture in your subconscious, but with a depth that you can plunge to when you're ready to start thinking.

"Warmlight" is a nice sound transition from "Only", because they're probably the two songs that sound most alike on the whole album. "Warmlight" takes that twinge of otherworldliness that you feel when listening to "Only" and blows it up to anthemic proportions. A nice finale, pulling all of the funky and fresh elements of the rest of the EP into a musical tapestry (it even has some of those freaky Pink Floyd whisper-mutters; quiet enough that you can't really understand what the speakers are saying, but loud enough that you can hear outlines of the words.) It's a really nice finish, and it leaves the listener with a sense of satisfaction, but not of sickness from over-listening.

Luckily more music should be on the way soon. I've heard some demos that the Novel Citizen have put together recently, and they're all as varied, interesting, and most importantly, enjoyable as the Reciprocations EP. In all honesty, I've been mulling over this music for longer than a week, just enjoying the landscapes that this band takes the listener through. The sound is excellent, and I would recommend it to any fan of good music.