Little Boots — “New In Town”

Can’t get over the funky electro-organ-synth backing track to this. It’s amazing. I feel like this song is a squandered opportunity.

Also, note how the gang-warfare turns into dancing at 1:40.

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erik hassle

I like watching covers of “A Change Is Gonna Come” on YouTube. This is one of the best I’ve seen in a while:

The song is hard — really hard. It doesn’t have much structure, so the artist has to have a clear vision for interpreting it. They also need serious chops to make those high notes not sound like yawping. You can tell if someone is good if they can tackle this song.

As for Erik Hassle — he’s starting to blow up. His debut album just came out in the UK after hitting #2 on the charts in Sweden, where he also won a Swedish Grammy for best newcomer. I liked that he injected the same soulfulness into his cover of S.O.S., a song that I just cannot take seriously:

And, oh heck, here’s his cover of La Roux’s In For The Kill:

He has an above average electropop single out called “Hurtful.” It’s tragic how the music production makes his voice sound so ordinary:

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Good Hip Hop vs. Everything Else

The other day when I was lounging about, my winamp playlist on random shuffle, I came across Drake’s recent hit “Over”.  It made me smile — I dug Drake’s signature droning monotone, which fit oddly well with the light orchestral sample booming in the background.

But something bothered me.  Even with all the fancy electronic supplements and colossal record company polish, it didn’t feel like a song I could move to. I checked up the lyrics:

I know way too many people here right now
That I didn’t know last year, who the f**k are y’all?
I swear it feels like the last few nights
We been everywhere and back but
I just can’t remember it all
What am I doin’? What am I doin’?
Oh, yeah, that’s right, I’m doin’ me, I’m doin me
I’m livin’ life right now, mayne
And this what I’ma do ’til it’s over, ‘til it’s over
But it’s far from over…..

They were just kind of… stupid.  Catchy, sure.  But… stupid.

Which potentially leads me to a ceaseless rant about the degradation of modern hip hop and a reminiscence “the good ol’ days” that would bore your WWII veteran grandfather, but I won’t.  What I would like to do is show you what I feel the difference between “good hip hop” and “everything else” is.

People will often say, “music is subjective.”  or “different people have different tastes.”  True, to a point.  But the Grammys aren’t awarded to the “most subjective” artist.  Likewise, there is such thing as good hip hop, and likewise there is such a thing as everything else.

As a disclaimer, I’m judging the quality of hip hop solely by its lyrical content and flow, not by any effort through mixing and post-process effects. We’ll ignore the rappers and fans whose music is designed for clubs and dancing, or any other purposes other than pure auditory enjoyment.

“Everything else” hip hop, unfortunately, permeates all areas of the industry today.  Record producers, DJs and rappers now have millions of ways to mask “everything else” hip hop under a caked layer of heavy bass, synth, scratches, cuts, chops, screws, drops, and autotune. People don’t notice “everything else” hip hop because they ignore the lyrics and the flow in favor of the extra toppings. “That song is phat!”, someone will enthusiastically tell you. “It had such a mad beat!”  But the lyrics are simple, nonsensical, or downright embarrassing.  Here’s an example, from Lil’ Wayne’s Mr. Carter:

man I got summer hating on me cause I’m hotter than the sun
spring hating on me cause I ain’t never sprung
winter hating on me cause I’m colder than ya’ll
and I would never I would never I would never fall

Elementary school vocabulary, infantile repetition, and idiotic similes? check, check and check.

Even an otherwise good song can be foiled by a particularly stupid verse.  Take Too Much by The Game, for example.  A great hype song, crippled by this:

N***a I can’t be fucked, like a lesbian
I’m to hip-hop what Cartoon is to Mexicans

Gangsta rap tenet #346: if you use the word “lesbian” in a song, it better not refer to yourself.

Good hip hop, on the other hand, should send a cold shiver up your spine.  Good hip hop paralyzes, it makes you sit in stupor, it forces you to soak in the masterful and painstaking craft of the lyricist. Good hip hop makes you forget everything around you but itself, and afterward, gives you an immense feeling of satisfaction. It inspires, energizes.  Take this verse from one of my favorite Jay-Z tracks of all time, Justify My Thug:

They say an eye for an eye, we both lose our sight
And two wrongs don’t make a right
But when you been wronged and you know all along that it’s just one life
At what point does one fight? (Good question right!)
Before you knock the war, try to put your dogs in it
Ten-and-a-halfs, for a minute-and-a-half
Bet that stops all the grinnin and the laughs
When you play the game of life and the win ain’t in the bag
When your options is none and the pen is all you have
or the block, n****s standin tight, there’s limits on the ave
Tryin to cop or shot-call theyself cleansin in the cash
But can’t put they name on paper cause, then you on blast
Mr. President, there’s drugs in our residence
Tell me what you want me to do, come break bread with us
Mr. Governor, I swear there’s a cover up
Every other corner there’s a liquor store – f**k is up?

There is an overall structure to his rhymes, not just a meaningless collection of hyperboles. It reasons, it tells a story, all by itself. And it’s got a damn good beat.

Lupe Fiasco is one of my favorite artists in any genre; put simply, it is nearly impossible not to like him.  Critics laud him as the most creative, innovative, mindblowing lyricist who has ever lived, and as such, I’ll let the great Wasalu Jaco end this article:

So through the grim reaper sickle sharpening, macintosh marketing,
oil field augering, Brazilian adolescent disarmament, Israeli occupation,
Islamic martyrdom, precise
Yeah, laser guided targeting oil for food bartering,
terrorist organization harboring
sand camouflage army men CCF sponsoring, world conquering, telephone monitoring
Louis Vuitton modeling, pornographic actress honoring string theory pondering, bulimic vomiting
catholic priest fondling, pre-emptive bombing and Osama and no bombing them
they breaking in my car again, deforestation and overlogging and
hennessy and hypnotic swallowing, hydroponic coughing and
All the world’s ills, sitting on chrome 24-inch wheels, like that.

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Came across this again the other day.

Otis Redding’s epic Monterey Pop Festival performance. Good God, the man can sing.

Part 1 (Shake and Respect):

Part 2 (I’ve been loving you for too long and Satisfaction):

Part 3 (Try a little tenderness):

Who needs new music and praise be to the intertubes.

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Rest In Peace, Lena Horne

Lena Horne, famous singer and actress, often denigrated in the states because of her race, passed away Sunday evening at the age of 92. New York Times coverage here, wikipedia article here. Of course, members of our (my?) generation will remember her best from her work on Sesame Street.

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My very first Baroque opera, and the one that sealed the deal with the nasty stuff for life.

To be sure: Handel’s opera is weird. Like: Shakespeare in Twelfth Night weird awesome–Armindo (a female alto, usually, dressed as a man) and Arsace (a castrato, a neutered male, singing in the range of a woman) seeking the love of queen Partenope (a female soprano). Only that Arsace is also being pursued by his old love, Rosmira (a female contralto) disguised as a male soldier in Partenope’s army (and named Eurimene).

Yes, the gender-fuck issue is and was one of the delights in the eighteenth century when Handel composed it. And it still is today. Consider, for instance, the Royal Danish Opera’s 2008 performance, all of which is conveniently available on YouTube.

Like: Act I (and yes, that’s Andreas Scholl as Arsace)

And remember, of course, the opera buffa aspect of all this. Like, the notoriously difficult-to-stage battle scene:

But the reason Partenope‘s important, the reason it’s worth coming back to, of course, is its intensely beautiful music.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ch’io parta:

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iPod Playlist of the Week #2

1. Kina Grannis- Together

2. Broken Social Scene- Texico Bitches

3. B.o.B. – Airplanes (feat. Hayley Williams)

4. La Roux- In for the Kill

5. Justin Bieber & Sean Kingston- Eenie Meenie

(please don’t kill me, guys, for #5…)

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Born Ruffians and my love of oscilloscopes

Fun Facts! Born Ruffians is

  1. A good band from Toronto and
  2. Not affiliated with Broken Social Scene!

How are these statements reconcilable? Who knows! But considering the strength of their work to date, expect Kevin Drew to call up wanting to, “collaborate” — or whatever the kids call it these days. (I mean smoke pot and jam)

Their 2008 debut Red, Yellow & Blue had the same loping furniture throwing charm of the earlier Bishop Allen albums. A new album, Say It, is slated for a June 1st release and the lead music video, “What To Say”, is shot through the perspective of an old oscilloscope — a device used to visualize sound waves in two dimensions.

I’ve always loved visualizing sound. I spent most of physics lab in college making noises into an oscilloscope. In middle school, my after school special time consisted of spacing out to Radiohead with the first generation visualizers on Winamp. Anybody remember G-Force? Actually eff that, this kid effectively summarizes my childhood, only with 100% less Nickelback.

View at own risk:

Now back to the Born Ruffians video. I love the first few seconds slowly zooming in on an old workshop while the bass plays a few recognizable notes from Bach’s Ouverture No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068, that’s right Sudeep you are not the only one here with a classical background. Two can play this game. Bitch.

The rest of the video is a delightful swirl of sound and a loving homage to analog spiced up with some very cool digital effects. I hope the rest of the new album is just as good.

View or else:

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The xx has the best videos

it just repeats

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Canon(s) on the 9th

Or, at least, that’s what I’ve just realized.

Ladies and gentlemen, Johannes Brahms’s Geistliches Lied, Op. 30, which is a pretty remarkable piece of music for many reasons, one of which being the double choral canon on the ninth.

This entire YouTube video genre of showing the score while piping in recording in the background is pretty remarkable, especially for those of us without the necessary music reading skills.

I present to you, the Choir of St. Brides, London:

Notable points include:
a. 0.40, the choral entrances and the double canon on the ninth
b. 1.46, a new re-working of the structure of the double canon (new material–a development? I don’t know: I haven’t really thought about it…)
c. 3.05, the original canon(s)–so yes, a recapitulation section
d. 3.58, the “Amen”, yet a third way of working in a double canon on the 9th (here, a Coda?), which no matter how many times I sing or hear it, still manages to sound somehow new and unusual.

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