Tasty (Yucky) Tracks

Went to see these guys several months ago with a friend at the Independent where I had zero expectations. I had never heard of Yuck but my friend said the three magic words that will prompt me to check out any band… “wall of sound”.

For lovers of nineties shoe-gazers like Ride, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine (“Loveless” is one massively influential record, see below for the amazing “Only Shallow” – had to include it here), Yuck will definitely satisfy.

The show was compact non-stop wave of music – with a mix of driving yet melodic layered gems like “Holing Out” (my fav) and “Rubber” (of which the latter half is beautiful slow thick whirlpool of feedback, layered guitars, vocals that mesmerizes) and the Sonic Youth-tinged slow downs “Suck” and “Suicide Policeman”.  A young crew – one American and three Brits – the leader Daniel Blumberg wears his love for Nineties lush-rock on his rolled-up sleeve. If they swing by your neck of the woods – definitely make the effort to check them out.

Yuck: Holing Out

Yuck: Suck

My Bloody Valentine: Only Shallow

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A Yearly Burning Sensation

Although there’s plenty of press on Burning Man during the event, there still seems to be a lack of understanding of what the event – which takes place for the week prior to Labor Day in Nevada’s Black   Rock Desert, is really all about. People I know and work with think it’s a:

– music festival
– art show
– extreme camping challenge
– hippie crystal exchange
– nudie love fest

So, it’s none of those, all of those and so much much more. What I CAN say is that it’s one week out of the year that the normal constructs of life, the context in which we typically live our lives is no longer in place, relevant or valid. It’s 55K people all contributing in their own little (or sometimes massive) way that produces an unimaginable feast for all the senses. This year was my 11th time out on the Playa and I put together a little slide show/video that captures some of the flavor of what it’s like – although no amount of photos/videos (no matter how beautifully shot) simply cannot capture a fraction of the scale of the event. That being said – here’s a taste:

Finally some truth about Radiohead’s albums

For Radiohead fans… perhaps some unspeakable truth?

A must see from the BBC.

Fav line – “Somebody please give Jonny Greenwood his bloomin’ guitar back!”

Personally, The Bends rocked my world much more than any other of their albums. OK Computer is sacrosanct among fans and it’s awesome but – well just watch:

Who Is Esperanza Spalding?

If your young daughter has recently been acting despondent or unexpectedly displaying  flashes of primal rage it most likely is related to her favorite singer losing the new artist of the year Grammy to a mostly unknown 22 year old jazz cellist and vocalist from Portland.  

 Yes, Justin Bieber got trumped by Esperanza Spadling who took the new artist award on Sunday to the disbelief of the millions of “Bielibers” who were certain that their 16 year old American idol would take the prize. 

Occasionally, the Grammys can get it right – sometimes. Choosing a true artist over arguably a manufactured pop sensation (whose CDs will be in the bargain bin in a few years no doubt).  Picking Bieber would have been consistent with other notable winners such as Milli Vanilli ’90, Hootie & the Blowfish ’96 and Starland Vocal Band ’77. But in this case Ms. Spalding is better accompanied by The Beatles ’65, CSN&Y ’70, and Natalie Cole ’76.

If you’re like most dads out there – you probably have  heard of lil’ Justin and, god forbid – perhaps even attended, unwillingly of course, a concert – but most likely have no idea who Esperanza Spalding is.

Ms. Spalding has been quietly producing a few luciously groovy jazz and Brazilian-influenced vocal compositions since 2006. Her New Artist win is notable not only because of the upset over Mr. Bieber (can I even call him Mr.?) – but also because she is the first jazz artist to win the award in the 53 year history of the Grammys.

Having discovered the cello at 14 after seeing and listening to Yo-Yo Ma on Mr. Rogers, she became a concertmaster at 15 and earned a full scholarship at the prestigious Berkelee School of Music where, after some struggle, considered giving up music and following her passion for political science. Thankfully, for all of us, she was discouraged to do so by none other than world renowned  jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny who told Spalding she had what it took and that if she applied herself she would certainly succeed.

Her compositions from both her “first” U.S. release and the most recent album Chamber Music Societyblends classical jazz orchestrations with samba and bossa nova. She’s played with Pat Metheny, Stanley Clarke, Patti Austin, Joe Lavano and many others. Here’s a little taste:

Ponta De Areia (from “Esperanza”)

Winter Sun (from “Chamber Music Society”)

Christina Aguilera: Star Spangled Style Over Substance

I’m aware that I’m not the only one commenting on the vocal fireworks display put on by Ms. Aguilera at the Super Bowl that ultimately was an equally shining example of style over substance.

Known for her supernatural singing talent and incredible feats of vocal ability, she has perfected melismatic singing (which is the style of singing that so many R&B singers employ – and almost every American Idol wanna be, which is the singing of multiple notes over one syllable). Most people would consider it just “runs” but in fact the style is called melisma  – or what I call it – oversinging.

Not a huge fan of the technique – especially when it’s sooooo overused in pop and R&B – think Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, etc. The trend of  employing melisma by mostly R&B singers emerged with the 1990 release of Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love” – which was resplendent in multi-octave runs that dazzled listeners and critics both. I’ve always liked the song – here it is for those who don’t know:

Mariah Carey – Vision of Love

But getting back to the point of this post. Although Ms. Aquilera has sung the anthem countless numbers of times over her career and despite the fact that the Star Spangled Banner is considered one of the hardest songs to sing (lyrically, sonically and performance-wise – which is typically in a large echo-ey stadium/arena) – she so over-delivered on the style while flubbing the essence of the song’s meaning – which is predicated on the lyrics. Had she been trying out during Hollywood Week on Idol (where the standing rule is “don’t forget the words)  – Christina Aguilera move have been kicked-off.

I’m not a die-hard patriot who holds the anthem sacred but it irks me that she’s being paid to deliver the song and what she provided was a wrenchingly over-sung version that transformed the song into a melodically unrecognizable series of vocal runs stitched together into one auditory splurge of sound that was – in the end – sung incorrectly.

A teachable moment… get the basics down first before you try to impress and add your own flourishes. I’m all for originality and bringing one’s own style to anything/everything one does but not at the cost of f**king-up the words.

Tasty Tracks – Ray LaMontagne and Teenage Fanclub

From the Better-Late-Than-Never files, here are two tracks from artists (who have been around quite a while) that I’ve recently come across that are seemingly in constant rotation in the back of my head – and I’m all the better for it.

The first one, from Ray LaMontagne – is from last year’s God Willin’ and The Creek Don’t Rise, his fifth album. The track “Beg Steal or Borrow” is a rolling country song that has special significance as I can’t hear it without thinking of my son and the inevitable trials and challenges he’ll have to face as he grows into an adult. It’s a heartbreakingly beautiful song with a delectable use of the pedal steel guitar and melodies so strong it burns into your head. Think Joni Mitchell and Neil Young and you’re good to go:

Beg Steal or Borrow

Scotland’s Teenage Fanclub’s first album was released in 1990 and since then have issued nine albums with the most recent “Shadows” launching last year in 2010. I’ve always been aware of them but for some inexplicable reason, never really listened to their music. “I Need Direction” is off of Howdy! and hit only 48 on the UK Singles Chart and never got traction on the US charts. It’s a piece of pure pop perfection with a 60’s sensibility and verses conjuring The Byrds or The Mama and the Papas.

I Need Direction

Tasty Track: Lovesick by Lindstrom and Christabelle

They’re a Norwegian collaboration laying down some pretty groovy electro disco that I “discovered” after finally Shazam’ing the track from the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V commercial. I had seen it a few times and the music totally hooked me. The vocals are lazy/hazy female sing/talk pacing that “resembles the half-awake sister of Kim Carnes” – that’s a quote from Andy Kellman’s review on eMusic – which is dead on. Anyway – the album Real Life is No Cool is great if you’re into “mixing Balearic beat, space disco, house and new wave”. Enjoy…

Lovesick