Saturday, May 21, 2011

Future Islands - In Evening Air

So I've been meaning to write about this album for a while and finally got around to it. For the last couple months I have been listening to this album like a Christian rocker listens to Creed.

As classified by the all-knowing Wikipedia machine, Future Islands is a Post-Wave band. I think Post-Wave is pretty spot on, but if I were to describe them in a little more depth I would say that Future Islands reminds me of the Postal Service's "Give Up" without Ben Gibbard's whining vocals and replacing them with Tom Waits. The trio is led by front-man Sam Herring, with J. Gerrit Welmers and William Cashion behind him.

The album is all about breaking-up and that is what helps make this an amazing album. In many of the songs Herring starts of in a soft tone, letting the rhythm of the base and drum kit and the melody of the synthesizer build the song until his vocals suddenly explode with emotion. The first song I ever heard from Future Islands was "Tin Man", and it was certainly one of those moments where I wonder what the hell is wrong with the music industry. While "Boom Boom Pow" is everywhere to be heard, I had to navigate through the deep catacombs of blog tombs to find this treasure.

After listening to "Tin Man" 20 times I decided to try there other songs and was not disappointed. "In Evening Air" holds three more gems in the opening track "Walking Through That Door", "Long Flight", and my favorite "Vireo's Eye". Enjoy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Oddisee - Traveling Man

Much of the new music I come across is is thanks to online streaming sites such as MOG and Pandora. Finding Oddisee via MOG was no exception. Hailing from Washington D.C. Oddisee already has quite a few albums and mixes under his belt and is starting to work with artists all over the world to expand his production capabilities. Needless to say that he is a fresh take on hip-hop production bringing in a new era of hip-hop similar to how J-Dilla did last decade.

His album Traveling Man is a collection of instrumental tracks that stand alone as being incredible to listen to. Sounds weird having an instrumental hip-hop album that would be fun to listen to since lyrics are and integral part of hip-hop music, but Oddisee does an incredible job of keeping the listener occupied and entertained throughout the 24 track album. Most of the tracks are short coming in at less than 2 minutes, but this doesn't matter because the album flows together quite nicely and is meant to be listened to from start to finish.

Interesting interview to see how Oddisee views the music industry and where he is going from here.

I would almost consider it blasphemy to give only a few tracks from the album since the entire thing is spectacular, but I'm going to choose a few of my favorites to show examples of how varied and different the songs are.

Just do yourself a favor and get it.


Miami - Oddisee - Traveling Man by ak27

Oddisee: Inglewood by rufus_k

San Fran - Oddisee - Traveling Man by ak27

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thecontrollersphere - of Montreal

Usually seen as being ultra progressive and avant-guarde of Montreal takes it to another level on their recent EP Thecontrollersphere. Made up of songs that were written and recorded for False Priest, but eventually left out Thecontrollersphere fits easily in place with its predecessor. Chiming in at only five tracks it still is a force, with tracks ranging from classic of Montreal dance tunes such as "L'age D'or" to straight eerie dark tunes as the opening track "Black Lion Massacre."

My absolute favorite track on the entire EP though is the lengthy tune "Holiday Call." Religious and sexual metaphors lace the entire song as is usual for many of of Montreal's tracks. Thumping bass and highly sampled dance drum machines are ever present driving the song from start to finish. Some of the other bizarre parts throughout the song would include the strange bridge occurring about halfway through, which contains a riveting Middle Eastern breakdown complete with a vibrant string section and psychedelic lyrics. "Holiday Call" ends with a very soothing piano coda, which ends the stress and brings closure to the entire song.

I've always loved of Montreal for their ability to push the limits of what is considered Pop music. Having commercial success it would be easy for of Montreal to put out conservative records that could appeal to larger audiences, but as most of Montreal fans know this isn't their style. Instead they choose to go the Frank Zappa and David Bowie route in pushing the envelope for what is tasteful and appropriate in music, where in a modern day auto-tune and simplicity rule. 

of Montreal - "L'age D'or" from "thecontrollersphere" by YiN Magazine

Of Montreal - Holiday Call by miojoindie

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Addition to SFDownbeat: The Bear

Okay. I am the new member of the SFDownbeat and hereby making this blog a team effort. This being my first post I just want to share a few songs that I am currently listening to. For our two followers, and anyone else who stumbles onto this page, I hope you enjoy.

The first track is by a band that I am very fond of at the moment, Future Islands. I will probably write a post about their album, In Evening Air in my next post.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tuesday Night Boogaloo at Madrone's Art Bar

Seriously, this is the best thing on Tuesday nights. Only $2 for hours of high level entertainment. All the players are top notch and it's a dance party all night! Be there!


Julian Casablancas or better known as the mastermind behind the ultra hit band "The Strokes" has finally decided to loosen his grip on the creative design of their new album "Angles." Casablancas has been known as a perfectionist and for this reason their first three albums sound more or less similar, this is not the same for Angles.

Their first three albums were critically acclaimed for defining a sound to a new generation of indie artists, though their third album "First Impressions of Earth" was not so popular amongst critics. Casablancas was known for writing and insisting on certain ways passages were played ala Prince. Casablancas deciding to let the musicians assist in writing the parts the album gives the album a different feel though it still sounds like The Strokes. Drum machines and synthesizers gives Angles a more produced and tight feel as opposed to the pure raw garage sound of their earlier albums.

Fans of The Strokes might not see it as a pure Strokes album, but non-the-less will still enjoy the songs and feel a sense of satisfaction. For people who have been under a rock for the last 10 years this is a great introduction to the band.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Instant Vintage

Much can already be said about Raphael Saadiq even before he decided to release his first solo record in 2004. Principle songwriter and musician of Tony! Toni! Toné! Saadiq already enjoyed mainstream success in the popular new jack swing genre of the early 90's, which combined elements of pop, funk, swing and soul. After the parting of Tony! Toni! Toné! Saadiq wrote for different artists such as D'Angelo, John Legend, TLC and Joss Stone. Paving the way for up and coming genre of Neo-Soul.

Instant Vintage hits on a more gospel dance sound, featuring heavy hits where he uses over emphasized bass lines along with heavy drum beats. A couple of the stand out tracks include "Body Parts" and "Doing What I can" featuring Angie Stone.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Brothers Johnson - Look Out For #1

It's hard to imagine pop funk music without Quincy Jones. For all who do not know the man he was responsible for launching Michael Jackson into the stratosphere. Quincy's knowledge of producing music is unmatched. Being nominated for 79 Grammy's and winning 27 it is hard to argue. Quincy was familiar with the jazz scene of the 1970's and realized that Louis Johnson had massive potential for bridging the gap between jazz and pop music. Louis played with such legends as Herbie Hancock on his "Man Child" album along with Grover Washington Jr. Louis along with Larry Graham of San Francisco's own Sly and the Family Stone were pioneers with the now popular slap bass technique. Louis took what Larry started and built on it becoming the front man for the new technique giving him the nickname "Thunder Thumbs".

Quincy realized the potential to turn The Brothers Johnson into a huge success and quickly put them into the recording studio to record their first album, which would be come to be "Look Out For #1." It contains both hard funk groove tracks in songs like "Thunder Thumbs and Lightning Licks" and "Get the Funk out Ma Face" along with more soothing ballads such as my personal favorite track on the album "I'll Be Good to You," which is a slower tempo than the other tracks but still keeps the groove fresh and funky.

Another great track on the album is an intense dark cover of "Come Together" by The Beatles. So many artists have covered Beatles songs in their career, but The Brothers Johnson managed to take a classic song such as Come Together and totally revamp every element of the song to make it an soulful track. Check out the song near the end to notice some greatly timed hits over the verse.

All in all though this album remains The Brothers Johnson most consistent work. From start to finish it doesn't slow down once and aside from the dud track "Land of Ladies," which is almost comical in nature Look Out For #1 is arguably their finest work. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Soulive at the Independent

One of my most beloved bands Soulive is playing at the Independent in San Francisco this Friday and Saturday. Accompanying them will be Karl Denson, best known for being the band leader of the Greyboy Allstars. Be there or be square. Soulive will be promoting their newest album "Rubber Soulive," which is a Beatles tribute album.

Word around the campfire is that they might be hitting Boom Boom Room after hours for a jam session. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

The Independent is at 628 Divisadero, between Grove and Hayes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Engine No. 9, Wilson Pickett's In Philadelphia

When trying to comprehend how expansive and influential Wilson Pickett's career has been one usually thinks of such classic hits as "Midnight Hour," or "634-5789". As much as we all love those classic songs Wilson also had an amazing career post Stax/Fame (1965-1967) that many enthusiasts have never heard. I could go on for a while about Stax recording studio, so let's just say they were responsible for such artists as Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MGs (house band), Sam and Dave and Issac Hayes. I should point out though that Pickett also recorded at Muscle Shoals along with Stax during those years.

Stax had an interesting relationship with Atlantic before 1965. Atlantic pretty much gave Stax unlimited artistic freedom over recordings during their golden era, since Stax produced so many #1 hits Atlantic could not disagree. A major shakeup was about to happen at Stax, after 1965 Stax's owner Jim Stewart banned all artists not signed with Stax from using their facilities in an attempt to jump start his own record label. After this Pickett left for Fame studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. During this time he would go on to record "Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances" and "Mustang Sally," which would prove to be huge hits and become the most famous of Pickett's career. My intentions for this post were to reintroduce some of my favorite Pickett recordings that came after Pickett's explosion onto the soul circuit with Stax and Fame.

Moving on to what I was originally posting about is the album "In Philadelphia." Co-Writing and producing much of the album is the famed songwriting duo Gamble and Huff, who were responsible for most of the O'Jay's hits throughout their career along with other prominent artists during much of the 1970's. Vastly different than the laid back vibe of Stax and Muscle Shoals Gable and Huff's studio in Philadelphia created a more funky energetic atmosphere, which is apparent on this album since it is so different than his other records.

Gamble and Huff were responsible for the track "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You," which is an upbeat song with a great swing tempo. It's apparent that Gamble and Huff were trying to feature Pickett's vocal range in this short (2:49), but sweet song about a Man trying to convince his lover not to leave him for another Man. Typical in the fashion of soul songs from the 1960's and 70's the guitar remains in the back, while the bass drives the song along with a catchy horn hook that most listeners will remember.

Pickett does a does a complete reversal with the first track on side two in "Get Me Back On Time Engine No. 9," which is a pure funk drop sticking to the formula the James Brown made famous by using limited repetitive vocals, hard driving rhythm with few chord changes and a bridge. Sticking out around halfway through the song is a bizarre guitar solo that sounds like it should be in a Jefferson Airplane song as opposed to something featured in a Pickett song before. Coming in at over six minutes this song is quite the anomaly on the album, but also my favorite. "Engine No. 9" is a recording that stands up even today as being a hot funk track with an excellent groove that should be sampled in a modern hip-hop beat.

Some of the not so memorable tracks on the album include "Days Go By", which is an uninspiring love song and "Help The Needy." In all though "In Philadelphia" is a classic gem that is often overlooked in terms of Pickett's overall catalogue, featuring several excellent tracks that transcend time including "International Playboy," "Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You," "Engine No. 9," and "Run Joey Run." (sampled by Jurassic 5 on the track "J-Resume" off the album "Feedback") If you are a fan of 1960's soul music and don't already have this album do yourself a favor and give it a try, you will be surprised how different and diverse it is from Pickett's earlier recordings.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Old School Vibes From Teen Inc.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that has heard Teen Inc.'s current single "Fountains" that this group is destined for greatness. The two tracks on the current single are raw and lo-fi, but the ideas are there and the light at the end of the tunnel for this Los Angeles based band is starting to get brighter.

Teen Inc. manages to keep the old school genre alive with their two current throwback tracks. "Fountains" screams classic Prince, while also throwing in a mix of classic 70's jazz-fusion. Rhythmically the studio tracks leave something to be desired. Drum and Bass tracks seem a little watered down compared to their live set. Not a criticism by any means of their ability, because the drum and bass tracks work well for what they are trying to accomplish, which is bridging the gap between rock and R&B.

"Friend Of The Night" is the B-side off their 7" and it distances itself from "Fountains" as being a slower more rock-orientated track. Vocals have heavy delay, which reminds me of some classic Flaming Lipps. Also heavy in the mix are bass and synth giving me the impression that they were still striving towards that old school fusion vibe, which they nail perfectly in "Fountains."

What really shine though for Teen Inc. are their live shows. Plenty of energy with vibrant guitar solos is a trademark for this band. Live songs scream jam feel, but don't take away from the catchy hooks that entices the listener in the first place. Teen Inc. does a fantastic job of taking the original song off the recording and throws it on its head making a unique experience for the listener every time. This is the sign of a great live band and gives Teen Inc. lasting appeal and a music world full of one hit wonders and narcissistic goofballs.

It seems that Los Angeles talent agencies have taken note and feel that Teen Inc. has earning potential, expect to see more from them in the near future. If so inclined you can check out their single's on iTunes or order the 7" straight from their website.