Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Infanta

This past week I found out that the Decemberists are coming to town in November, no word yet on when tickets go on sale. If that wasn't enough, Dave Chappelle is coming to town in August for a one-night only show. Tickets for Chappelle go on sale Monday. Judging by the various people who emailed me about the show, interest for Dave is extremely high.

Random Song 1: Tom Scott - Today

Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds


A few weeks ago I received a copy of Final Fantasy's new album He Poos Clouds (thanks again, Min). After listening to the album a few times two things instantly came to mind: 1) awful title for an album, and 2) what a difference a year makes. Last year Owen Pallett's Final Fantasy project merely consisted of himself, a violin, and a looping machine. The result of those three elements was his debut album ...Has A Good Home. Recorded in just six days, it was a minimalist indie pop album with several classical elements. The album gave Final Fantasy is own distinct musical identity. He was no longer viewed as that guy who plays violin on other peoples albums (e.g. The Hidden Camera's, Arcade Fire, etc...). Fast-forward a year and things have changed for the better for Mr. Pallett. Every aspect of the production has improved greatly from the first album. The new album sounds like he finally acquired a full backing band when recording. Everything is much bigger on this record. Just listening to tracks like This Lamb Sells Condos and Song Song Song you immediately see how much he has grown as an artist. The inaudible scream that were used in the background of a few tracks on the first album, are back again on this album. Yet there is more force behind them and they are better used this time around. Despite the awful album title, Final Fantasy has avoided the sophomore jinx with this solid follow-up.

Let it be known that Little Red Riding Hood is easily the worst waitress ever. Judging by the flying unicorn, I think she may also be smoking that wacky tabacky. Anyways, keep an eye out for Owen Pallett's cameo as the dishwasher in "This is The Dream of Win and Regine" from ...Has A Good Home.

When I saw Final Fantasy a few years back he covered Mariah Carey's "Fantasy" with the help of some friends. He flies solo in this clip:

Random Song 2: Sufjan Stevens - The Henney Buggy Band

Black Sheep - A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing


Nostalgia is a tricky thing as our minds often make memories seem greater then they really were. Such is the case with Black Sheep's 1991 debut album A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing. I came across this album at the mall the other day; and immediately started reminiscing about how great this group was "back in the day". I was even shocked how well several of the tracks held up today. The one thing I seemed to have forgotten though was how one-dimensional this group actually was. Besides a few poignant tracks about the state of society, half of the album focuses on sex. At the time, they probably thought they were being edgy. Yet 15 years later these tracks come off as rather juvenile. The exceptions to this include standout tracks like "Flavor of the Month" and "Strobelite Honey". While you may not remember the group’s brief moment in the spotlight, you have surely heard their material. If you have been to any bar and/or club in the past 10 years, odds are you have unknowingly danced to part of their song. The simple verse that starts "engine engine number 9/ on the New York transit line/ if my train goes off the track..." from Black Sheep's massive hit "The Choice Is Yours" is frequently sampled by most DJs today.

Why the air trumpet wasn't as successful as the air guitar beats me. "Flavor of the Month from the A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing LP:

Random Song 3: Ice T - I'm Your Pusher

The Decemberists

Can a band be too smart for their own good? That always seems to be the question when it comes to The Decemberists. All three of their previous albums (Castaways and Cutouts, Her Majesty the Decemberists, and 2005's Picaresque) have received enormous critical praise. Yet the one negative comment I often hear is that their music is too literary. Which is funny considering that those same people constantly complain about the lack of intelligence in music nowadays. The beauty of The Decemberists is that their songs are narrative driven. They have fully realized characters, and plots that cover: forbidden love, struggling actors, cursed orphans (the somber "Leslie Ann Levine"), lost love, sea shanties, 18th century chimbly sweeps, the absence of testosterone (the amusing "The Sporting Life"), the lure of Los Angeles, etc.… Although I have seen The Decemberists perform twice already, I am really looking forward to the November show. I cannot wait to hear the new material live. The groups first major label release, The Crane Wife, is set to hit store in October. Tour dates are listed on the bands myspace page.

Worried that The Decemberists only talk about centuries past? Trust me, they know their current events as well. Here is "16 Military Wives" from Picaresque:

Keeping with the war theme, sort of, here is the "The Soldiering Life" from Her Majesty:

Ipod Workout Plan: Black Eyed Peas - Pump it from the Monkey Business album. Not a fan of B.E.P but this song is a guilty pleasure. Plus this fan made video is more entertaining than the official video for the song:

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sometimes I Rhyme Slow, Sometimes I Rhyme Quick

Picked up a bunch of CDs recently, I will try to get to them all over the next two posts.

Random Song 1: Camera Obscura - Come Back Margaret (KCRW Session)

Rhymefest - Blue Collar


Southern hip-hop has been dominating the rap market in the last two years. Yet with the commercial and critical success that both Kanye West and Common received for their respective 2005 albums, people are starting to take notice of Chicago's rap scene once again. Now with the release of Rhymefest's debut album Blue Collar, Chicago is quickly becoming the hip-hop hot spot. Blue Collar has been in heavy rotation on my cd player lately. Not only is Rhymefest a ridiculously talented rapper, but he also brings a sense of fun back into hip-hop. He is able to incorporate sharp humor into his songs without ever fallen into cartoon-like territory (the exception being "Build Me Up" which is just a good way). The album is designed to appeal to a wide range of people. Even if you do not normally listen to rap, there will still be a few songs that should win you over. There is a nice balance of between the tracks aimed for commercial radio (such as Brand New featuring Kanye West); and songs that display Rhymfest's lyrical talents. For an example of the latter just listen to Dynomite (Going Postal). I hope Blue Collar becomes a mainstream hit because Rhymefest is far better than half the rappers out today.

The best part of Rhymefest's "Fever" performance on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show comes around two minute mark. Rhymefest decides to freestyle for a bit and provides a gem of a line: "Jimmy Kimmel next time let me sit on the couch." Click here to see the official video for the song.

Did I mention that Rhymefest already has a Grammy? No. Well Rhymefest and his buddy Kanye West co-wrote a little song about walking that turned into a massive hit. Here is the Grammy winning song "Jesus Walks" from The College Dropout album:

Random Song 2: Animal Collective - Turn Into Something

Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche


A few weeks back a friend sent me a very interesting article entitled "A Case Against Sufjan Stevens" that was posted on All Music's website. Although the article's intent was to point out the flaws in Sufjan Stevens music, it actually made me want to listen to him even more. The first time I encountered Stevens' material was when I received a copy of his acclaimed album, Illinois, for Christmas last year (oddly enough from the same person who sent the article). Illinois was the second concept album in Sufjan's 50-States project. Each song told unique story about the people and places that made up Illinois history. I know some people who found the album too slow, while others thought it was too depressing. Personally, I loved every minute of it. I thought the writing and instrumentation on the album was fantastic. Needless to say, it ended up topping my "Best of 2005" list. Which brings us to The Avalanche, a disc full of outtakes and extras from Illinois recording sessions. Originally Illinois was supposed to be a double album, hence why there are 21 tracks on The Avalanche. Overall, this is a good album but your level of enjoyment will depend on how you view it. As a B-side album, it far superior than any other B-side record out there. As a regular album, it is not as strong as Illnois but still solid nonetheless. My main complaint with the album is the three alternate versions of the Illinois hit song "Chicago" (Illnois version linked). I find they constantly disrupt the flow of the album. Still, thanks to songs like No Man's Land and The Perpetual Self, Or "What Would Saul Alinsky Do?", I am willing to let the Chicago thing slide. Now I need to start catching up on Sufjan's pre-Illinois albums.

Here is a live performance of "Casmir Pulaski Day" found on the Illinois album:

Random Song 3: Girl Talk - Hold Up

Corinne Bailey Rae - Corrine Bailey Rae


Sometimes the best purchases are the ones that you did not plan on buying in the first place. Such is the case with Corinne Bailey Rae self-titled debut album. I stumbled across her album at the record store, and had a vague recollection of hearing one of her songs. While I wasn't sure if it was the same artist, I figured the price of the disc was low enough to take a gamble. Luckily three tracks into the CD, I heard the song that confirmed my guess was correct. Overall the album has a nice jazzy vibe running underneath its soulful exterior. This is evident when listen to songs like I'd Like To and Trouble Sleeping (KCRW Session linked). Many critics have tried valiantly to compare Corinne Bailey Rae to every female artist from Billie Holiday to Macy Gray. I will not attempt to make such comparisons, as I think she has her own unique sound. She has enough talent to make her own mark on the music industry. I just hope she can produce a solid follow-up album, and avoid going the Macy Gray route (aka. forgotten after one album).

As for that song I "vaguely recalled" hearing, it was her single "Put Your Records On":

Ipod Workout Plan: A Tribe Called Quest - Find A Way. A friend recently informed me that a reunited Tribe is coming to Toronto in September. Since A Tribe Called Quest found a way to tour, I found a way to get tickets. Let the countdown begin...:

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Burn Baby Burn

As Toronto is in the middle of a heat wave, it is only fitting that I look at a few artists I have discovered via the Summer Burn disc I received. Since 14 of the 17 songs listed were by artist I had never heard of before, it will take a while for me to cover them all.

Random Song 1: Lauren Hill - To Zion

Lily Allen

Lily Allen was actually on the mix that I sent out. I came across her song "LDN" (linked in a previous post) online a few months back and just loved it. At 21 years-old, to say Lily is poised for big things would be an understatement. Her debut album Alright, Still is hitting stores in the UK this week (July 20 in Canada, and August 1 in the US), and the leadoff single "Smile" has already hit number one on the UK charts. She is often compared to The Streets, which I do not think is accurate at all. Lily Allen reminds me more of early Nelly Furtado, in the sense that she is a musical sponge. She takes aspects from many different genres and creates her own unique brand of pop. Just by listening to songs like "LDN", Little Things" and "Alfie" (who knew interventions could be so catchy), it becomes clear that Lily will not be heading the Britney Spears route anytime soon.

Many say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Personally I think an argument can be made for revenge. The chart topping "Smile" from Alright, Still:

Random Song 2: Outkast - Idlewild Blues

BC Camplight

The first couple of times I listened to the track Blood and Peanut Butter, I thought that I was listening to a British artist. Not because the Summer Burn disc was sent from the UK, but due to the fact that it reminded me a lot of Badly Drawn Boy's work. This is not a knock against B.C. Camplight; on the contrary, it should be taken as a compliment (even if slightly backhanded). After two weak albums, I hope Badly Drawn Boy will finally get back to his earlier form and craft songs like Camplight's Couldn't You Tell. Hailing from Philadelphia, Brain Christinzio's B.C. Camplight focuses on piano driven pop tunes. His debut album Hide, Run Away was released in the summer of 2005. While B.C. Camplight's material is far from groundbreaking it is good easy listening for a Sunday afternoon.

This clip was taken from one of B.C. Camplight's live performances:

Random Song 3: The Fugees - No Woman No Cry

Akira The Don

The insert that came with the Summer Burn disc stated that Akira The Don "is one of the most exciting voices in British hip-hop...bringing intelligence and political outrage back into a genre that has been overrun with guns, pimps, and drugs." Currently making a name for himself in the British underground scene, yet if he keeps making track similar to "Oh! (What A Wonderful Thing)" he may become a fixture in the mainstream. Akira The Don clearly was a fan of the 90's cartoon The Maxx (an underrated classic). Similar to The Maxx, Akira the Don uses both dark subject matter and humorous moments as a vessel for his social commentary. Akira's song Living In The Future looks at our reliance on technology. While tracks like Gitmo (ft/ Narstie) and Boom (ft/ Why Lout?) use popular samples to help convey his political views. For more on Akira The Don visit his website.

When it comes to global politics are we just listening and giving in? Akira The Don seems to think so, here is his video for "Clones" (Ft/ Bashy):

Ipod Workout Plan: Cassius - Feeling For You from the album entitled 1999. Not everyone can achieve the fame that Superman, Spider, and Batman have obtained. Some superheroes need to work from the ground up:

Monday, July 10, 2006

Video Is The Radio Star (part 2)

Still recovering from a rather busy weekend, so it will be a short post today. Here is the latest installment of Video Is The Radio Star.

Random Song 1: Aimee Mann - 4th of July

The Beastie Boys

Whether you love them or hate them, The Beastie Boys have been a staple in rap music for over 20 years. They are the only hip-hop group to have their video catalogue receive the Criterion treatment. The Beastie Boys spent the majority of last year editing their concert film, entitled Awsome, I Shot That, before premiering it at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film is an innovated approach to the tradition concert film format. The Beastie Boys provided 50 fans, scattered throughout the venue, with digital cameras so that they could document the whole event. This provided the film with an authentic feel that is often lacking from other films in the genre. Still no concert film can be a success without the music. Hence why all to the Boys hit tracks (including Body Moving, Sure Shot, etc...) are featured in the film. Awesome, I Shot That is essentially a movie for the fans made by the fans. After a brief run in theatres, the film hits DVD on July 15th.

In my opinion, "Sabotage" is one of the best videos Spike Jonze has ever made (and he has made many great videos). The song can be found on their Ill Communication album:

And here is "Intergalatic" from the Hello Nasty album:

Random Song 2: Mates of State - Proofs

Peter Gabriel

A video list without reference to 80’s artist like Michael Jackson (who will be featured in a future post) or Peter Gabriel is not a list at all. Similar to Jackson, Peter Gabriel was an artist well ahead of his time when it came to the small screen. Early in his solo career Peter saw the artistic freedom that the relatively new video format offered artist. He crafted many videos that were not only eye-popping for their time, but are still considered relevant many years later. Record companies spend millions of dollars on videos nowadays. Yet Gabriel’s stuff is still more entertaining and creative than most of the videos produced today. This is partly due to the fact that Peter had great songs to back up the images. Songs like Shock The Monkey and In Your Eyes (my personal favorite of his work) still sound great 20 years later.

You cannot talk about Gabriel without a mentioning "Slegdehammer", which can be found on So:

After a six year hiatus, Peter came back with "Steam" found on the Us album:

Just because I absolutely love this song, "In Your Eyes" from So:

Random Song 3: Lady Sovereign - The Broom

Ipod Workout Plan: D'Angelo - Brown Sugar mainly because I had one of those "where are they now?" discussion over the weekend. For the female readers, you can find his more famous video here: