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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

If you enjoyed our post on the Love Language, then Edward Sharpe (front-man of Ima Robot) and his new gang, The Magnetic Zeros are right up your alley. Their debut album, Up From Below, has similarly been compared to the folk side of the Beatles, merging in the primordial soup of Laurel Canyon's hippy-dippy heyday. But it's the large size of the band (approx. 11 musicians) that gives it both a cheerful and heartfelt sing-along feel, with the edgy bite of low-fi soundtracking. Makes you feel like you were there - even though you can't quite put your finger on what was 'there' to begin with.

My brother turned me on to this group. Their lyrics have really grown on me while traveling. Perhaps it's all too aplicable: I'm posting one track called "Home," and another called "40 Day Dream." Perhaps if you're on the move, you'll find your head here as well. Enjoy.

Fanfarlo at the Troubabdor

This past week I was fortunate enough to catch London, England's Fanfarlo at the Hollywood Troubadour on their brief US tour with indie darlings, the Love Language. Fanfarlo was formed in 2006 by Swedish musician Simon Balthazar and consists of Amos Memon, Cathy Lucas, Justin Finch, and Leon Beckenham. Their debut album, Reservoir, was recorded in October/November 2008 at Tarquin Studios, in Connecticut, so you can imagine the impressive meshing of sounds and influences that make this band.

To really understand Fanfarlo, it's important to note that Reservoir was produced by Peter Katis, who maybe better known for producing the latest albums from The National, Interpol, and Tokyo Police Club. The album was released in February 2009. In March 2009, Fanfarlo began touring with Snow Patrol to promote their debut. They've got a great sound that lends itself to easy listening especially as Fall creeps upon us. If you can imagine an English blend of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! and the National with a more wholesome feel.

Their live show was inspiring. The intimacy of the Troubadour lent itself perfectly to the personal and down-homey feel this band produces. I have to admit that I have huge crush on the band's violin, keys, mandolin, glock, and saw player, Cathy Lucas, which probably skews my perspective on the show, but as I looked around the venue it was plan to see that Simon Balthazar had every chicken in the room drooling with his shoegaze style and youthful innocence as well. In short, they played a great set with a solid encore and I can't wait to see them again on their UK tour later next month. If you're interested, I highly recommend checking out their Live Set on Black Cab Sessions.

Fanfarlo - I'm a Pilot (YSI)

Fanfarlo - The Walls are Coming Down (YSI)

Fanfarlo - Harold T. Wilkins or How To Wait For A Very Long Time (YSI)

Sunday, September 20, 2009


The time has finally come for the mau5 to finally deliver his much-anticipated 2nd (or 3rd) official release. Set to come out October 5th, For Lack of a Better Name includes many tracks that have already been leaked in one form or another online. Many were already selling on Beatport. After a first listen, this CD completely differs from Random Album Title. To begin with, RAT (whether intentional or not, this is very clever) is a nearly perfect electronic album. The listener follows carefully crafted ups and downs that span through progressive, deep, and electro house genres. This album spans genres, but rather abruptly. Honestly, this is more convenient to the listener, but is not quite as rewarding. The first half is for partying, the second for headphones. While I don't love "bot" or "word problems," the end of the album is simply beautiful. "Strobe" comes out of nowhere to close the album in a simple and ethereal way. I think the exposure to many of these tracks before they came out ruined the excitement for me a bit. In all fairness, when I first heard each song, the same joy swept over my face knowing that the mau5 had done it again. The three that I hadn't heard have had the same effect. For any fan of electronic music, this album is a must, must get. Mr. Zimmerman is so technically proficient that almost any music he makes will at least sound good. Each track on each song is so perfectly interlaced that if all else fails, he can at least have a future in production. I'm posting the first and last songs on the album to give an idea of how far-reaching it is. They are also two of the more interesting Deadmau5 releases, with live drums on the former and a 4 minute plus build up on the on latter.

Deadmau5 - FML (YSI)

Deadmau5 - Strobe (YSI)

First Post From Spain

For the following semester, I will be living abroad in Madrid. I have only been here for a few days, and already have gotten myself sick from the crazy lifestyle. I started off in Ibiza, where we saw, among others, Steve Angello. The man has talent and loves what he does, occasionally more into the music than the crowd. Although we saw Angello at Pacha, our favorite club was Space and the most impressive was definitely Privilege. With a 10,000 person capacity, it is truly the largest club in the world. The DJ is suspended over a swimming pool while dozens of dancers strip onstage in front of a giant navy ship. Here is a classic disco-era house hit featuring one-time Swedish House Mafia member Eric Prydz.

Eric Prydz and Steve Angello - Woz Not Woz (Club Mix) (YSI)

Although he was missing in action on this certain night at Pacha Ibiza, Sebastian Ingrosso is firmly a member of the clan. Regardless, Angello ended up playing this, his remix of the overly-remixed "Kids," that somehow manages to bring out yet another entirely new side to the song.

Sebastian Ingrosso - Kidsos

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fela Kuti

After the success of Bob Marley, Island Records went looking for the next great import. They settled their sights on the not so settled, radical superhuman named Fela Kuti. The word maverick is in the first sentence of his wikipedia page, which doesn't even do him justice because there isn't a picture.

His funeral was the largest public congregation in Nigeria. Ever. He spent his life in and out of jail, openly fighting the corruption of the Nigerian military government. He married 27 women on the same day. He makes his rock and roll contemporaries look like the Brady Bunch. But most important to this particular discussion, his music kills.

He wails on the sax and sings and plays all kinds of traditional instruments. Funky Afro-beat guitar shreds through like a drum riff. I'm posting the A-side of his 1975 album, Expensive Shit.

Of course, it was the Professor who turned us on to him. He wrote a book on Fela, which is really more of a journal he wrote over a couple months while staying with the musician. He went over to Nigeria to film a movie and jam with Fela, but the government raided while he was there and took his passport. Issued beatings. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Highlife: Part II

The fusion of the electric guitar into Highlife bred a whole new beast of short, funky riffs that support the poly-rhythms of the music. The poly-rhythmic structure is a natural result of incorporating so many individual drums. One drum line will start with a simple 4/4 rhythm, then the next is layered over, except in 3/4 time -- a waltz. The product is a revolving 6/8 you can recognize in each of these songs.

This particular picture is of a band run by John Collins, guitarist, producer, and chair of the Music Department at the University of Ghana. He shreds. Many of these short samples that I am posting were originally recorded by the Professor or his contemporaries. For the past 40 years, he's been collecting indigenous and popular music from all over West Africa; it is impossible to tell the story of modern music in Ghana without including John Collins.

He is also my music teacher. 

Here are a couple examples of more modern Highlife. Some are rather low-fi, considering a number of these tracks were recorded with a traveling studio van. There is a shockingly soulful tribal jam, from the Ashanti region. The opening sounds like train tracks, but they're just sticks on wood blocks. Enjoy:


Friday, September 11, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

African Highlife

The fusion of traditional African rhythms with Westernized brass and melodies is the core of Highlife music. Its capital is Ghana. It originated on the coast and spread through West Africa, via the vehicle of colonialism. It uses the poly-rhythmic tribal beats, which just roll like a wheel (as opposed to the more punctuated phrasing of western rhythms). The music has been around and evolved for the better part of a century - through the jazz age, and electronification, and war. 

This is the first of a series of posts relating to Highlife music. Unfortunately, due to very funny restrictions here (in Ghana), a lot of the following tracks are abbreviated. However, I hope they still give you an idea of the spirit out here. Enjoy.

First, I'm posting a couple catchy examples of the early Highlife. For anybody looking for good hooks or vocal samples - this is an absolute gold mine. These are the pioneers of the music, laying the foundations:

Monday, September 7, 2009

FYF Fest

September 5th, 2009 Los Angeles, CA was graced with FYF Fest or more colorfully refered to as Fuck Yeah Fest Fest, and it was just that. This year was the festival's fifth run and its first attempt at turning a three-day festival into a one-day three staged outdoor fest. This year the festival was dedicated to saving California's State Parks, which face almost complete closures due to the Golden State's enormous budget deficit. At 20 dollars a ticket into No-Fi Heaven; its a pretty sweet deal. Groups of note included: the Black Lips, No Age, Wavves, Dan Deacon, Times New Viking, Tim and Eric, the Thermals, Fucked Up, Mika Miko, Japanther and others.
To be honest, I was really disappointed with No Age live. The problem with no-fi live is that its near impossible to replicate the amount of production and layering that goes into their albums. That being said they played mostly off their newest album, Nouns. I've seen them earlier this summer at the Hollywood Palladium to similar disappointment and was really hoping the festival atmosphere would be enough to really bring out their live act. FYF was no different. Best example: No Age ended their set with Eraser (their biggest single), which at face value sounds awesome but not when it was performed solo by drummer Dean Spunt playing over a recording of his bandmate who had just left the stage earlier. For a band that tries to play the whole post-punk, "We're from the Smell" they sure do a lot of complaining (most notably about the lack of vegan options while on tour in Japan). Don't get me wrong they produce good stuff, I'm just reeling from a strong dose of reality.
No Age - Eraser (YSI)

The Black Lips on the other hand, killed it. They're known for their live shows and
I can see why. Their stage antics have gotten them kicked out of venues around the world, including one case where they had to flee India to avoid arrest after having too much nudity on Indian national television. FYF was no different. The show was highlighted by rhythm guitarist Cole Alexander making-out with fellow band mates then proceeding to vomit throughout the show only to cover it up with cardboard and finish singing the chorus. The band played mostly from their most recent album, 200 Million Thousand but hit all the needed highlights from their older albums.

Dr. Dog

Dr. Dog is a psychedelic rock band from Philadelphia. The current lineup consists of Toby Leaman (bass), Scott McMicken (lead guitar), Frank McElroy (rhythm guitar), Zach Miller (keyboard), and Juston Stens (drums). Their earlier recordings show influence of the lo-fi sound and pop sensibilities of indie rock bands of the 1990s, such as Guided By Voices and Pavement. Recent albums have featured more polished production, which is nice if that's your thing.

Ain't It Strange comes off their third full length album entitled "We All Belong." Dr. Dog has this meandering style of song composition that leads the listener to never quite know what will come next. A song that starts up with pure doowop could finish with Beatles-Let It Be-esque rock. A great combination if that's what you love, which I do. Oh No is a solid track off "Easy Beat" that I would highly recommend. Also a must to check out is their new single, which is an Amazing cover of Architecture in Helsinki's Heart it Races. In this day in age its refreshing to see a band like Dr. Dog come along. Enjoy.

Dr. Dog - Ain't It Strange (YSI)

Dr. Dog - Oh No (YSI)

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Whether to work out or to get pumped up before going out, electro music is very useful to have in your library. In anticipation of my going to the beautiful beaches of Ibiza, I am posting a few tracks sure to prepare you for a great night out. These are a bit intense, so they are more for headphone listening or car stereos. Grab a good sound system (think subwoofer) and enjoy.

John Roman - Martyr (YSI)

Spencer & Hill - Trespasser (Club Mix) (YSI)

Steve Angello, Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso - Leave the World Behind (Barletta Edit) (YSI)

Fragma - Toca's Miracle 2008 (Vandalism Remix)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Amazing Mashup

The new XX album has been gaining traction and winning over naysayers who think their music is too simple. Well, this mashup, shown to me by a friend, brings out every part of their music. This is one of the better songs that I have heard recently. Thanks to Quix v. Elliot for making this amazing mix. Enjoy.

Biggie vs. Tupac vs. the XX - Runnin' with the XX (YSI)