Monthly Archives: December 2013

New (Holiday) Music: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” – Rory Partin

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If you more traditional sounding fare for your holiday song selection, take a listen to Rory Partin give his take on “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.  The song is a duet with his wife, singer Alexa James.  It’s a big band rendition sure to warm up even the Grinch.

Check it out here.

New (Holiday) Music: “Santa You Owe Me” – Antigone Rising

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Christmas songs tend to be overly sentimental. For those who get tired of that, Antigone Rising offer a holiday original entitled “Santa You Owe Me”.  If you think working for jolly old Saint Nick is easy, give a listen to this country-fried rock song.  Hey, even Elves need some whiskey every now and then.

Check “Santa You Owe Me” here.

Album of the Year: “Yeezus” – Kanye West

 

It seems only fitting that one of the last pieces that Lou Reed wrote was a raving review of Kanye West’s Yeezus. Reed was known for his un-comprimising rock and roll; songs with topics that the mainstream wasn’t ready to hear.  Yeezus does that too. Instead of songs detailing kinky sex and drugs, West’s album is filled with his thoughts on race, classicism and riffs on why he’s not taken seriously as artist.  And of course, the music is very Reed-like: abrasive, dark and uncomfortable.

West is no stranger to pushing buttons. It seems at least one a month there’s a headline from something “outrageous” he says. But with the exception of 808s and Heartbreak, his music was aimed for the masses. It’s easy for people to dismiss him as a person, but it’s hard to deny his impact on music. Daft Punk pretty much owe their comeback this year to him. Gansta rap became passe when he dropped The College Drop-Out. Even hip-pop artists like Flo-Rida have stolen his signature soul-sample inspired sound.

Yeezus on the other hand, is the exact opposite of that. It’s his In Utero, Plastic Ono Band and White Light/White Heat. This isn’t an album designed to pack in the most numbers of fans. It’s a strike in the heart of America. Just take a look at the title of the songs: “New Slaves”, “I Am God” and “Black Skinhead”.  Right away the listener knows that West is not fucking around this time around.

I have to admit, that even I was taken aback by Yeezus on my first listen. It’s minimalistic beats and jarring electronic noises were at first off-putting.  The first track “On Sight” is full of scattershot synths and noises.  “How much do I not give a fuck?” West asks on the track. With this music behind him, he almost makes it seem like a rhetorical question.

Almost.  The irony is of course, that West very much gives a fuck about his music.  So much in fact, that it has gotten him in trouble every so often for saying so.  You don’t have to listen to one of his “rants” to understand it. Another bit of irony found in Yeezus: almost all of his rants this year are encapsulated within “New Slaves”: a song that has been lauded as one of the top songs of the year, while his “rants” are constant headlines at celebrity news-sites and even more “legitimate” ones like the Huffington Post.

Yeezus is Kanye to the extreme. If you don’t like him, the album isn’t going to convince you that he is. If you think he’s an asshole, there are plenty of rhymes within the album to back your thoughts on that. That’s basically the theme of the chilled out “Hold My Liquor”. Over a psychedelic beat with spaced out guitars (that’s what it sounds like at least), West wrestles with himself, wondering why: “you love me when I’m hung-over, you love me when I’m not sober”.

But everything you love or hate about West is best represented in “Blood on the Leaves”. By the time you get to this song, you’re thinking he can’t go any further.  But he does by sampling Nina Simone’s version of “Strange Fruit”. Other minds might have used that sample as the backing for “New Slaves”.  But somehow, West uses that sample about one of America’s worst moments, to tell a cautionary tale of scorned love and gold diggers (yes he revisits that theme).  On paper it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.  But somehow it works because West is a master at mixing the sacred and the profane.

It’s this reason that “I Am a God” is hilarious.  I always thought if you take that seriously, you’re missing the point. It’s supposed to be over the top.  How can it not be when West demands his “damn croissants” and then chills with Jesus as he stacks his millions?

The whole album ends with the glorious “Bound 2”.  After an album that is filled with musical mind-fucks, West ends it by being fairly straightforward with the now-classic  “uh huh honey” sample, courtesy of Brenda Lee.  “Bound 2” is the only time throughout the album that West steps back for a moment and muses whether he and his love will make it to Christmas. With the Ponderosa Twins Plus One singing “bound to fall in love” in the background, West finally lets his guard down and declares that “admitting is the first step”.

No other album that came out this year matches the scope and riskiness of Yeezus.  Not even close. I could care less about his ranting and raving.  It’s his personality that fuels music like this.  Brian Wilson has often declared himself to be a genius and nobody argues. And of course, he’s right.  And so is Kanye.

New (Holiday) Music: “Christmas Light” – Marco Argiro

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Earlier this year, Marco Argiro released his latest album, Love.  He wraps up the year with an original mid-tempo holiday tune entitled “Christmas Light”.  The song perfectly captures the feeling that lies somewhere between melancholia and content.

Checkout “Christmas Light” here.

New (Holiday) Music: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Charlotte Sometimes

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At this point, it seems like a requirement for artists to cover “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” during the holidays. Indie singer, Charlotte Sometimes wisely decides to deliver her own vocal stylings of the song, rather than try and replicate Darlene Love’s version.  Over a simple piano, Sometimes gives the song her own spin which is worth checking out here.

New Music: “Festival” – The Backyard Committee

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The Backyard Committee is known for their improvisation and country-tinged brand of rock and roll.  But “Festival” is a song that shouldn’t be ignored. It’s laid-back without drifting into a sleepy territory.  With tasteful guitars and a chorus that sneaks its way into your brain, “Festival” somehow manages to capture the feeling of a crossroads of time: anticipation and melancholy.

Check out “Festival” here.  The song can be found on the group’s sophomore album, Festival.  For more info check out the band’s web-site.

 

 

New Music: “Bear” – Slim Wray

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In an era when killer riffs aren’t exactly commonplace, Slim Wray have offered up plenty on their debut Sack Lunch. The group excels in dirty blues-rock: the kind that makes you feel their sweat.  “Bear” is the perfect example of the group’s no-nonsense approach: banging drums, buzzing guitars and a sing-along chorus.

Check out “Bear” below:

Sack Lunch is available now.  For more information on Slim Wray check out their web-site here.

 

New Music: “Tip Top Shape” (EP) – Seasick Mama

 

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According to Seasick Mama, rules are meant to be broken. That attitude is all over her latest EP, Tip Top Shape. There’s even a song titled “Rules Don’t Apply”.  But Seasick Mama isn’t just another rebellious woman spouting off.  The boldness and rebelliousness comes from the genre-busting set.

Like M.I.A.’s Kayla, Tip Top Shape is an explosion of musical ideas. But where M.I.A looked to dance-halls and world music from inspiration, Seasick Mama’s pop comes from the world of indie-rock and beyond. The EP’s first cut “Gimme Some More To Work With” with its chilling rhythms and sparse drums seems a sped up version of Joy Division. After that opening, I was expecting the rest of the EP to have a similar feel, but I should have known better.  “Man Overboard” opens with a rockabilly style guitar, before shifting gears into a piano-driven reggae groove.  “Tees & Jeans” is a straight-up dance song – completely with the catchy “breaking the rules” chorus – but is still slightly off kilter.  “Holy Smokes” is the set’s most erratic and best song.  It’s fueled by bongo drums, blaring trumpets and weird synthesizers.

Tip Top Shape is out now.

www.seasickmama.com