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tracks to listen to – Meet Me Under Neon (Pluto Jonze)

In current listenings, tracks to listen to on June 29, 2011 at 10:00 am

I love this song and I love this video. If you haven’t checked out this tune from Pluto Jonze, check it out now. In fact, stop reading, go watch the video below, and then come back and finish this paragraph. (pause) Did you do it? If not, DO IT! If so, great.

This track is actually courtesy of triple j radio in Australia. I am subscribed to their podcast (New Free Music, check it out on iTunes or from their website) and it updates me with a few new tracks every few days. Rad! Anyway, this is a great track by an artist who uses his laptop and is usually backed by a small set of musicians in live performances. Lots of synths/loops/beats all from his computer, and then mixed with other instruments as well. Very cool. And a very cool video!

I have NO idea whether Pluto is related to Spike (as in Spike Jonze) and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I did some searching. His official website on myspace doesn’t have a complete profile and he doesn’t have a wikipedia page. But I guess really, its irrelevant whether the two are connected or not (in fact, maybe that’s what he wants anyway – no connection, even if there actually is one).

Check out this track and share it around. Enjoy it. It’s pretty rad!

#126 – Remain in Light (Talking Heads)

In 150-125, Top 150 on June 28, 2011 at 10:00 am

Album Art (October 8, 1980)

I instantly loved this unique, funk and Afrobeat-inspired album. Talking Heads worked with renowned producer Brian Eno and wanted to get rid of the idea of a single frontman for this album. They wanted to explore new rhythms and beats for this record and from what I’ve read it was an incredibly experimental process. Working with Eno, the Talking Heads used looping when it wasn’t really available, and record loops for their recording sessions and jamming. One of the members of the band would forget lyrics, and was inspired by African singers, who just make up new ones when they forget the lyrics, which sometimes turned into more of a scat. Either way, this process was unique for the band and rid of most of their own recording conventions.

Track Listing

Side One

  1. Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
  2. Crosseyed and Painless
  3. The Great Curve
Side Two
  1. Once in a Lifetime
  2. Houses in Motion
  3. Seen and Not Seen
  4. Listening Wind
  5. The Overload
This album has great diversity in the tracks, and I love the blending of genres in different tracks. The first track, “Born Under Punches” has a peppy, funk-rock groove to it which starts the record with energy, and is contrasted with lyrics that have a bit of a haunting sound to them. Its funny, when I was younger the first thing that I really listened to in a song was the instrumentation, as opposed to the lyrics. I had a good friend who only really listened to the lyrics and didn’t notice the subtleties in the music. She thought I was nuts for not noticing lyrics. But there is so much to be heard besides the lyrics in a song, and especially when the lyrics of the song are kind of stream of consciousness, without a really clear meaning to them. The lyrics for Remain in Light create an overall feeling, and I know there is some meaning to the lyrics, but I think the overall priority for this album was not necessarily writing lyrics for the sake of lyrics, but creating a soundscape of different energies and different feelings. As a result, its a very exploratory sound and very inquisitive. Its fun to listen to.
There is a real driving force behind the entire album, which might be the drums and percussion in the background, but also the repetitive (possibly looped?) electric guitar riffs that are hammered out almost non-stop on many of the tracks.  What I love about this album is that there is this positive energy to it. Even the tracks that have a bit of a haunting sound still are overcome with the sound of really free-spirited, discovery-filled joy. And I think that’s a great example of how it probably felt recording such a unique album, and stripping down a standard recording process to start something new.
My favourite track is “Once in a Lifetime”. I think I’ve heard it before. Maybe on the radio or something. But its got a really upbeat sound, and the lyrics talk about realizing, all of a sudden, where you are in life and wondering how you got there. Its just got a cool sound.
Check this album out. I really, really dig it. Its different than any other album I’ve listened to on the top 150 so far, but its one of my new favourites. Thanks, Talking Heads!

Mines (Menomena)

In albums, current listenings on June 27, 2011 at 10:00 am

Mines (Menomena, July 17, 2010)

I hope you enjoy this album as much as I do. Mines is a really unique and interesting rock album that combines some really fantastic instrumentation with some Kings of Leon-esque vocals, and the result is something a bit more underground and grungy sounding, with enough of a smooth edge to really catch your interest. I was introduced to Menomena and this album by Jack Quin (thanks Jack) one night at the pottery studio – he came down from his painting studio upstairs (possibly a bit tipsy, I’m not quite sure) and started raving about this incredible song he wanted to play. That song is “TAOS”, which, as Jack recommended, is pretty epic. I think you’ll like it.

Track Listing

  1. Queen Black Acid
  2. TAOS
  3. Killemall
  4. Dirty Cartoons
  5. Tithe
  6. BOTE
  7. Lunchmeat
  8. Oh Pretty Boy, You’re Such A Big Boy
  9. Five Little Rooms
  10. Sleeping Beauty
  11. INTIL
As I mentioned “TAOS” is a beautifully epic song with some grungy, garage-style vocals and some great orchestration to match it. The seamless integration of repetitive, energetic, driving piano arpeggios with the ringing and screaming electric guitars is incredibly cohesive, especially considering how much is going on in the orchestration of this song. But the result isn’t chaotic, its an energy-driven, exciting track and its a blast to listen to.
“TAOS” leads into an even more epic opening of “Killemall”. There is no consistent lead vocalist on every track of the album. Instead, all of the band members sing lead vocals and all of the band members switch off instruments in the recording phase, which I think probably contributes to the unique togetherness of the sound created by this band. They are very much about working together. In fact, I read that their recording process using a looping machine and they pass a mic around the studio, taking turns playing instruments into the mike and adding on to each layer, resulting in a very “democratic” creative process. Very cool!
My first listen to “TAOS” definitely reminded me of Kings of Leon, but its cool that the lead vocalist changes, not only because it distinguishes Menomena from the Followill brothers, but it also matches the distinct differences in the sound from track to track on the album. “TAOS”,  “Killemall” and “Tithe” all have very different sounds that evoke different emotions.
Menomena is fresh, its exciting, and its got a bit more of an edge than other bands out there right now. Unfortunately, one of the band members just decided to leave the band in January, but they do have a replacement (phew)!
Check it out and let me know what you think! I really do think you’ll enjoy it!

tracks to listen to – 11th Dimension (Julian Casablancas)

In current listenings, tracks to listen to on June 26, 2011 at 11:08 am
Phrazes for the Young

Album Art for Phrazes for the Young (November 2, 2009)

In the spirit of Summertime tunes, this is a track from another Strokes band member, Julian Casablancas. I have no clue where I heard this song first, I don’t know why its on my computer, and I don’t know if I ever listened to it until about 4 weeks ago (when I put Little Joy on a genius playlist in iTunes, and WHAMMY – Julian Casablancas popped up too).

I haven’t heard all of Casablancas’ solo album, Phrazes for the Young, but this track is rad. “11th Dimension” is a fantastic fusion of different elements. There are synths in the heart of the sound (especially the anthem-like chords that are hammered out through the entire song, except the chorus), combined with electro beats and some wave synths. The verses have a busy but clean sound to them, which explodes into a symphony of slightly chaotic sounds during the chorus that are filled with energy and an upbeat, positive message.

At the end of the day, this is just a really fun, kick ass track. If you are looking for another track to add to your Summer playlist, then this is it. Strange video aside, this song rocks. Enjoy.

Pink Strat (Bahamas)

In albums, current listenings on June 24, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Pink Strat (Album Art)

Pink Strat is the relaxed, chill-out album by Afie Jurvanen, based in Toronto. But its not quite a solo project. I mean it is, but he is also supported by a number of prominent Canadian musicians, including Haydne, Leslie Feist, and more! Jurvanen is often backed by a different Toronto percussionist for his solo shows, so it seems like he enjoys mixing it up a bit.

The entire album is pretty much love-themed, and its got this interesting contrast between a warm sound (potentially from his infamous pink strat guitar, which I’m assuming the album was named after), and this odd, start chill to the album. The album isn’t spectacular by any means, but his music is relaxing to me. It has a bit of a lull (and I mean that in a good way) to it that just makes me want to slow down and kick up my feet.

The album starts with a more peppy song, “Lonely Loves” (even if the lyrics are really peppy…the music has energy to it). And it continues on to “Hockey Teeth”, a great track that just has a perfect amount of playfulness to it and pays great homage to the Canadian sport we all know and love. (Yes, I said hockey is a Canadian sport. I know its not JUST Canadian…) There are also some even slower, beautiful tracks, such as “For Good Reason”, with a nice open and honest sound. Afi has a bit of a growl to his voice that can be interpreted as any emotion you think it could be, and he is backed by beautiful vocal harmonies that are subtle but fill out the sound perfectly.

This is a great track to put on while you are relaxing around the house – it creates an atmosphere of inward-thinking and as you listen, you feel connected to the music, and as a result, feel just a little bit more exposed than you did before you put it on. And that isn’t a bad thing.

I love to support Toronto musicians and other Canadian musicians. I think we have a fantastic folk-rock and indie scene, and I’m so happy to see another great artist like Bahamas. Check this album out and give it a full listen. Its not on my own personal list of top albums, but I still really enjoy it and I think you will too.  (Oh, and I really like “Already Yours”, too. In fact, the second half of the album is better, in my opinion!)

Track Listing

  1. Lonely Loves
  2. Hockey Teeth
  3. Southern Drawl
  4. For Good Reason
  5. You’re Bored, I’m Old
  6. Sunshine Blues
  7. Already Yours
  8. What’s Worse
  9. Let The Good Times Roll
  10. Try, Tried, Trying
  11. Till The Morning
  12. Whole, Wide, World

tracks to listen to – zee avi

In current listenings on June 23, 2011 at 1:08 pm

If you are looking for simple and honest recordings that have a beautifully warm and light feeling to them, check out the Malaysian-born Zee Avi. Her single, “Bitter Heart” somehow makes her relationship/love struggles sound sweet and loving instead of angry and frustrated. She’s got a great sound that just makes you smile and want to hear a little bit more. Check her out!

Avi is signed to Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records label, and you can check out her music on the Brushfire website.

#128 – Marquee Moon (Television)

In 150-125, Top 150 on June 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Marquee Moon (February 8, 1977)

Yeah, I dig this album. Marquee Moon has a fantastic clarity from start to finish, despite the more complex and mingling guitars, comparing them to other pioneer punk rockers like Blondie. I’m realizing that something I love about albums is when they sound complete. When a recording has an unfinished sound to it, I don’t like it. But sometimes that’s done on purpose, and I do like that! But when it all doesn’t quite fit together, that sucks.

Track Listing

  1. See No Evil
  2. Venus
  3. Friction
  4. Marquee Moon
  5. Elevation
  6. Guiding Light
  7. Prove It
  8. Torn Curtain
This album has lots of that “underground” music-scene energy. Its got a bit of a wild, rugged, hard edge to it, but its all executed with fantastic precision and skill. I picture a bunch of really talented friends playing together in their garage with the door open. No?
Oddly enough, the members of the band had a lot of problems as they continued recording past their debut (which was Marquee Moon) and then eventually had members come and go as a result. So the fact that they sound like a group of good friends playing together is funny.
The title track is epic. Its a 10 minute and 40 second anthem with a wicked instrumental break. Then it continues with “Elevation”, another great tune that actually reminds me of The Cardigans’ “Lovefool”. That syncopated guitar really fools me!
Anyway, this is a great album with a fantastically clean sound that is still diverse and has many instrumental complexities, especially between the two guitars.
I wouldn’t say this is my favourite album, but I did enjoy it. And maybe it will grow on me more. Who knows. But I’d love to hear your thoughts. I know some of you out there are really passionate about this album!
Enjoy!

#130 – Paranoid (Black Sabbath)

In 150-125, Top 150 on June 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Paranoid by Black Sabbath (1970)

Okay, yet another embarrassing fact: I didn’t know that Ozzy Osbourne used to be the lead singer of Black Sabbath. And I call myself a MUSIC FAN? Okay, okay, enough self-hate. The fact that I didn’t know that Ozzy was part of Black Sabbath is exactly why I’m listening to these albums.

Black Sabbath is considered one of the most influential metal bands of all time. I love listening to music older music that used to be so crazy intense, because now it doesn’t seem nearly as intense as I’m sure it did! That’s just like Paranoid. It’s definitely the most grungy rock album I’ve listened to so far on the list, but I don’t think its intense heavy metal.

Track Listing

  1. War Pigs
  2. Paranoid
  3. Planet Caravan
  4. Iron Man
  5. Electric Funeral
  6. Hand Of Doom
  7. Rat Salat
  8. Faires Wear Boots
This album is totally different than anything I’ve heard on the RS150 so far, and even though its metal, it is so much more particular and for lack of a better expression, “together”, cohesive. I wouldn’t say that this is my favourite album in the world just because its not really a style of music I love, but it’s a really good, distinct, clear sound and I understand that amongst the Led Zeppelin, Santana, Beatles rock scene, Black Sabbath was totally different with a darker, heavier sound.
And yet all I can think about is (the practically-stunned) Ozzy Osbourne on his infamous reality show, trying to picture him speaking fast and clear enough to perform the vocals on this album. Is it even possible?
Enjoy the album. And if you don’t, no worries. At least appreciate it.

 

Little Joy (Little Joy)

In albums, current listenings on June 14, 2011 at 10:00 am

Little Joy (2008)

The self-titled 2008 album from American-Brazilian band, Little Joy, is a fantastic album that rings with warmth, playfulness and (of course), joy. This is a beautiful album which seems to capture the joys of love and Summer into 11 tracks (mostly under 3 minutes).

Little Joy is the collaboration of three artists you may or may not now.  Rodrigo Amarante of the Brazilian band Los Hermanos, and drummer from The Strokes, Fabrizio Moretti at a concert while they were touring just two years prior to forming the band. They were introduced to Binki Shapiro through mutual friends and then in 2008, officially formed Little Joy, supposedly naming the band after a cocktail bar down the road from one band member’s house.

Track Listing

  1. Brand New Start
  2. Play the Part
  3. No One’s Better Sake
  4. Unattainable
  5. Shoulder to Shoulder
  6. With Strangers
  7. Keep Me In Mind
  8. How to Hang a Warhol
  9. Don’t Watch Me Dancing
  10. Evaporar
  11. The Next Time Around
I love this album from start to finish. The band recorded this album with a vintage sound which captures the warmth of their voices, harmonies, and instrumentation, and also reflects the warmth of the Summer sunlight. And I think that’s what characterizes this album the best. It feels like a Summer album that you should play while you’re at the cottage, enjoying the sunshine, jumping off docks and enjoying barbecues and drinks on the deck. The album is playful, its sweet. And there are also tracks like “Unattainable” and “With Strangers” which touch on the not-so-happy parts of love – aka loving someone and not being loved back.
The album has a great structure overall – it flows from track to track with beautiful rhythm, and when such a beautiful complation is combined with the warm background-noise-hum, it feels just like you’ve popped on one of your favourite long-lost, but often-played vinyls. What’s better than that?
To top off all that fantastic, cozy, comforting, soothing, enjoyable warmth, the second last track on the album is a beautiful ballad in spanish – simple, clean, crisp, and unobstrusive. All I can think about is the wind in the trees when I hear this song (although I know that’s not what the song is about).
My favourite two tracks start and finish the album. “Brand New Start” has a fantastically catchy chorus: “There ain’t no lover like the one I got”. And “The Next Time Around”, which ends the album, is a really nice classic-sounding guitar-vocal combination that has beautiful backup harmonies and reminds me the most of the golden age of radio, with wood and gold radio sets playing music you might hear at the sock hop. The best. It’s got a beautiful Brazilian influence combined with some peppy drums and beautiful opposing, yet complimentary guitars.
I think this might just go down in my books as one of my favourite albums of all time. Its one of the most pleasing, relaxing, and fun records to listen to. Enjoy it, and share it with others.
Thanks to Taylor Scaggs for this recommendation.

#131 – Saturday Night Fever (Soundtrack)

In 150-125, Top 150 on June 13, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Saturday Night Fever (1977)

This is embarrassing: I’ve never seen Saturday Night Fever. I’m sorry to those of you who feel terribly offended by this, I really am. (I just added it to the list of movies I’d like to watch)

But I do know the music – and really, who doesn’t? I remember my parents putting their SNF vinyl on sometimes at home, and listening to the warm, imperfect purr of the album as it was amplified over our stereo. There really is nothing like a vinyl.

Track Listing

  1. Stayin’ Alive (The Bee Gees)
  2. How Deep Is Your Love (The Bee Gees)
  3. Night Fever (The Bee Gees)
  4. More Than A Woman (The Bee Gees)
  5. If I Can’t Have You (Yvonne Elliman)
  6. A Fifth Of Beethoven (Walter Murphy)
  7. More Than a Woman (Tavares)
  8. Manhattan Skyline (David Shire)
  9. Calypso Breakdown (Ralph MacDonald)
  10. Night on Disco Mountain (David Shire)
  11. Open Sesame (Kool & the Gang)
  12. Jive Talkin’ (The Bee Gees)
  13. You Should Be Dancing (The Bee Gees)
  14. Boogie Shoes (K.C. & Sunshine Band)
  15. Salsation (David Shire)
  16. K-Jee (MFSB)
  17. Disco Inferno (The Trammps)
So come on, how can you not love this album? It’s got the nice, synth-disco bass and the great vocal harmonies of the Bee Gees mixed with a nice electric piano and some string synths filling in the mid-section…all combined with the nostalgic feeling that any disco music creates, and you can’t help but think of the dancing that goes with it! It’s great, good fun to listen to this album.
I will say though, that when I hear ballads by The Bee Gees it makes me think of Q97.5 FM, London’s Easy Rock…aka the easy rock, adult-contemporary radio station in my hometown. Which is hilarious. And then, in turn, I think about Saturday car rides when I was younger. Again with the nostalgia.
The Bee Gees have such a distinct sound. As soon as you hear anything by the Bee Gees, you instantly recognize their harmonized, groovy falsettos. I think its cool when bands have characteristic sounds (although, it really can be repetitive to listen to an entire album when that happens, but still).
This album starts off with 4 Bee Gees tracks, and has a few later in the album as well, but they include a few more bands into the mix as the album progresses. And again, I just love the nostalgia that every track brings up. “If I Can’t Have You”, Yvonne Elliman’s sweet disco ballad is familiar and recognizable, not only from the fact that its a classic tune, but also from the fact that it was in The Jetsons Movie (yep, its true).
Then we rock out with “A Fifth of Beethoven”, Walter Murphy’s infamous disco tune that pulls the main theme of Beethoven’s fifth and mixes it into a great disco track that makes you want to dance (like most disco, I guess). And I think that’s my favourite part about disco, but especially this album: it makes you want to move! Isn’t that what music is suppose to do? Make you move, whether its physically, emotionally, or mentally? I sure think so.
Great music makes you dance. Great music makes you feel an overwhelming emotion. Great music can raise your awareness on so many levels.  So although this album is a disco album filled with tunes about dancing and love, it still makes you want to move, and I classify that as great music.
I really think every track on this album is great. Maybe its the fact that Saturday Night Fever has been so popular over the years that I can’t help but love this! This album also did well on numerous music charts in ’77 and ’78, which meant that the music of SNF and The Bee Gees spread across the U.S. and was incredibly popular and contributed to the uprising of disco in pop culture. It was  part of the dance and club scene, and in many ways, contributed to large growth of the disco/dance club scene.
In the ’70s, disco was embraced by various groups such as African Americans, the LGBTQ community, and other communities as a movement against the uprising of rock and roll, and apparently, according to Wikipedia, against the idea that dance music and dance culture was not acceptable. Interesting!
Okay, so I love the album for a while, and then it gets a bit old. It doesn’t mean its not fun, it just means that this disco album is so dramatic and has got several different styles in it (especially when you start hitting “Calypso Breakdown”, “Night on Disco Mountain” and “Open Sesame”) that it can be a bit much. Still really interesting to listen to, and fun to listen to!!
Check it out.
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