Sunday, September 19, 2010

Better Late Than Never



I'm going to theorize that one of the traits of really good music is its ability to transcend the time at which it's originally released. This may seem fairly obvious, but what I'm referring to is specifically an album that you may be apathetic to or even dislike after a first listen, but then revisit a few years later and love it. Maybe the mood or the message doesn't speak to you at that point in your life. I've noticed several albums getting consistent play by me in 2010 and have been contemplating why I didn't take to them earlier

For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)
Bon Iver

I specifically remember being annoyed by this album when it first came out because I couldn't figure out why people liked it so much. What a depressingly slow and whining set! I've probably listened to this album more in 2010 than any other.

Boxer (2007)
The National
I imagine I was put off at first by the lazy, mumbling tone in the vocals. It's taken me three years to really appreciate the craft and musicality present here.

Moondance (1970)
Van Morrison

Not sure how this one slipped by, but the vocal performance on this album is astounding.

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II (2009)
Raekwon
I returned to this album because I was curious about all of the critical acclaim, a rarity in recent years for a non-mainstream hip hop effort. The stories and subject matter of these songs couldn't be further away from my life and experience, yet it's hard not to get sucked in. It's a relentless and grungy return to the storytelling that has separated the great hip hop albums of the last three decades stand above all.

Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)
Animal Collective
The complexity of what seems like dozens of instruments and vocals present on so many tracks gives this album an epic cinematic quality that just took time for me to warm up to.

_Michael

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What's Your Price?

Amoeba Music

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who's music buying habits have not been affected by the "napster revolution". Personally, I've slowly migrated from the CD to Napster to torrent to digital stores with no shortage of frustration and mixed emotions. At this stage of the game, I am finding myself more and more willing to pay for music just to have some control over the reliability of the tracks and their bitrate. Here are just a few of the issues effectively muddying up the industry:

1. The corporate music industry is easy to villainize. High album prices, minimal percentages to the artist, pushing mainstream trends, the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger, the Payola scandal.

2. Itunes is an Apple product. In a lot of areas, Apple just doesn't feel the need to compete. Consequently, you get painfully subpar products catered to a general audience. Not only is Itunes highly limited in its customization, selection and pricing, but has been one of the last providers to release DRM-free, high bitrate songs. For ages, Itunes felt it was fine to offer 128 bit, copy-protected music. This meant that if you weren't using a product starting with "i" you were going to be frustrated.

3. Pirated music is illegal. Although readily available, it's kind of like buying a watch from a crackhead on the street. There's about an equal chance of it being fake as it is a Rolex. Plus, he'll most likely try and slip in some porn with the deal. Such is the case with downloading music online. It's a seedy world. Try and download an album and you'll being tossing the dice as to what bitrate you'll end up with, how complete the album art is and how reliable the tracklist is. Plus, most likely the embedded mp3 data is full of some eastern European websites and promos.

With all that said, there are interesting trends developing. The onset of legitimate streaming services (i.e. Pandora, Hype Machine, Grooveshark, Mog) coupled with an explosion of online MP3 sales have slowly paved the way for a purely digital music industry. The consumer will see benefits as the industry evolves. One sign of life is Amazon's recent introduction of $5 Albums, which change on a monthly basis. A few standouts in August include:

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
Rick Ross - Teflon Don
Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster
The Roots - How I Got Over
Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Ray Lamontagne - Trouble
Radiohead - OK Computer
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1
Outkast - Stankonia
Grizzly Bear - Beckatimest
Boston - Boston
Coconut Records - Nighttiming
Miles Davis - Birth Of The Cool
Blu & Exile - Below The Heavens
Basement Jaxx - Rooty
The Bug - London Zoo

How much would you pay for legality?

_Michael

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Drake Vs. Art Of Noise

Well, we're about a week out from Drake's "Thank Me Later". It'll be interesting come June 15th to see how the album is received. Although a lot of singles have been released over the past few months and the full album being leaked about a week ago, I'm gonna hold out till that Tuesday to give it a proper listen.

I was sorting through a number of tracks in preparation for a new mix and keep coming back to this Caspa remix of an old Art Of Noise song, Moments In Love. I only recently found out that this track was originally released in the early 80's and that blew my mind. The synthpop group from London has elements of hip-hop and industrial electronic that had me assuming that this was a current group when I first heard it. Unbelievable.


The Caspa remix only very subtly changes from the original and shortens the 10 minute opus a bit; however it's still repetitive and over 5 minutes long. I love the duality of the quiet droning reflective half interrupted throughout by the epic industrial thumping sections. This was really a perfect backdrop for Drake's single, Over, where his loud rhythmic braggadocio verses are tempered with a reflective, sloppy chorus inside of his head. Hope you enjoy!

Drake - Art Of Over (Thriller Phil Remix)
Warning: Explicit Lyrics


_Michael

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Distant Relatives



Queens rap legend Nas teams up with the youngest son of Bob Marley, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley for the cultural mashup album, Distant Relatives. Envisioned as tribute of sorts to Africa and its threads in music, arts and education, the tracks are rooted in Caribbean, jazz and hip-hop with samples from traditional African beats. Marley's dubstep/dancehall/roots production and raspy melodies lay the framework for Nas' introspective rhymes.


My two favorite songs bookend the album, tracks 1 and 13. High energy to start, reflective ballad to end. Go check out the full album as part of the proceeds go to charity programs in Africa.

Nas & Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley - As We Enter


Nas & Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley - Africa Must Wake Up (ft. K'naan)

_Michael

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Next Episode Remix



Wow, what a stressful/busy past few days (see above).

Spent some time on planes and in a quiet beach house and subsequently got the chance to play with a few new beats. Pull out your boombox or headphones with the most bass and enjoy this mellow re-imagining of a Dre classic. Peace from VA & NC

Dr. Dre - The Next Episode (DJBN Remix)


_Michael

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Find Your Love



Drake's second single is out from his upcoming June 15th debut, "Thank Me Later". Produced by Kanye West, the track showcases the R&B half of Drake roaming around the industrial thumping we've come to know from West ala "808's & Heartbreaks". The two were reportedly working together in Hawaii recently and Drake then went on to Jamaica to shoot the video. Reactions?

Drake - Find Your Love


As a bonus, I've included an obscure Drake track from a few years ago that features Dwele and Little Brother... can't really lose with a lineup like that.

Drake - Don't You Have a Man ft. Dwele & Little Brother

_Michael

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

B.o.B



As previously written, I've been looking forward to
B.o.B's major-label debut for most of the last year. At only 21, this rapper/producer/singer/instrumentalist out of ATL has been releasing mixtapes and building buzz since 2006. For the past two years he has been consistently labeled as one of hip-hop's promising young talents, but what has been fascinating for me is the clinic he and Grand Hustle / Atlantic Records have been putting on in patience and timing with his exposure.


After six mixtapes, there is little doubt that Bobby Ray has talent. Working up to major-label, his 4th and 5th mixtapes established his credential in the underground community while his 6th served to promote his upcoming LP (similar to J. Cole). What we start to see is a few singles helping to break the ice into the hip-hop charts and a calculated new single to expand exposure. Apparently, the single "Nothin' on You" was originally written for Lupe Fiasco but turned down. B.o.B. and his label jumped on it and built a track that has exploded. Not only is it a purposeful cross-over track, most likely building off of the huge recent success of genre-blending acts like Drake, but it was released at the perfect time a number of months before the LP release. This blend of pop, rap, rock, etc. is a picture of the array of genres found on the LP and peaked a few days before the release at #1 on billboard.


B.o.B - The Kids (feat. Janelle MonĂ¡e)


After a few listens, the album "B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray" is a lot of fun. The prime complaints are that the eclectic mix of styles may be a bit off-putting for some, and none of the styles are done in a particularly innovative or ground-breaking way. That said, there are some really great tracks including the opening "Don't Let Me Fall" where Bobby spaces out about the dangers of a rise to fame. "Bet I" is no-nonsense braggadocio about the ability to flow on a beat with an overall great homage to the ATL and cameos from T.I. and Playboy Tre. "Kids" is probably the most interesting track on the album where he teams up with Janelle Monae to reinvent the Vampire Weekend track and "Airplanes" tracks bookend the album with an Eminem feature where, in typical fashion on his features, he goes hard on the verse.

It's a bit of fresh air for the hip-hop community and a mainstream release that is something that I put my money behind. Look for him in San Francisco May 4th and 5th touring with Lupe Fiasco.

_Michael

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

91.9



I've loved hip hop ever since I can remember having enough money to buy my own music. I think my first CD was Hootie and the Blowfish... but my second CD was definitely Blackstreet - Another Level. That album is crazy cheesy and I'm still blown away by the fact that an unedited version of No Diggity actually does not exist. Still, I may have all of the lyrics memorized to all of those songs and I will always keep that album on my ipod.


During the late 90's, I went through middle school and high school with a pretty solid routine. My first major life purchase was a big Sony stereo system that had about 3 foot high speakers and a gangsta five disc changer. I had a bedroom in the basement and I ended almost every night laying in bed listening to the local college radio station, 91.9 FM. Starting at 9pm, they played solely hip hop and, amazingly, starting at 11pm it was uncensored. Growing up in small-town Kansas doesn't afford much exposure, so I owe most of my early hip hop education to that station. Along with the mainstream, there was a huge amount of underground and local playtime. Minus the seriously painful airing of Tech Nine, I was hooked.

A couple of songs that I specifically recall are by Canibus and Big Pun. I remember not being able to get the "It's been a long time..." line out of my head from the 2000-BC song. I also went digging through my old CDs tonight looking for Big Pun's - Capital Punishment but came up empty. Such a hard album. On the Superlyrical track is Black Thought of the Roots, which reminded me of Slum Village: Probably one of the early groups that introduced me to a heavy jazz-infused hip hop sound that I now give preference to. At the time, I had no idea that the J Dilla sound would so heavily influence me towards groups such as A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, The Pharcyde and De La Soul.

Warning: Explicit Lyrics
Canibus - 2000 BC


Big Punisher - Super Lyrical (ft. Black Thought)


Slum Village - Fall In Love

Monday, March 29, 2010

Phantom Kicks Remix

I've played around with basic remixing in the past. Nothing too invasive or serious, mostly pairing an instrumental of a popular song with the vocals of another. Usually open up my mixes with track like this (RJD2 + Outkast, DJ Mujava + Amanda Blank, Kanye West + Nas).


This past weekend, I took a track from a friend's new band Phantom Kicks and played with it a bit. I enjoy the original, but thought it would be a good challenge to introduce some new elements to shift the tone a bit. Check out these photos I took of the band this last year and don't miss them at Hotel Utah on April 22.

Phantom Kicks - Cut From A Different Clay


Phantom Kicks - Cut From A Different Clay (DJBN Remix)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Phantogram

Went to a show last night with Tanner and Phil of Phantom Kicks and had a great time. Tanner was looking to guest contribute to a local concert blog and asked that I attempt some concert photos for him. It was a new challenge and stretched the limits of my entry level dSLR and lenses but I'm happy with a handful of the photos that I got.


The headliner, Phantogram, is a duo out of Saratoga Springs, New York and has a great blend of a dreamy pop/electronic/dance. It was a lot of fun and they were sharp in their instrumentation and producing a full sound with various looping, synthesizing, sampling techniques. Sarah was also a visual arts major, so they've incorporated some artsy video backdrops which help to accentuate the "dreamy" aspects of their rhythmic pulse. They just released a new album and I took a quick listen today. Although it was enjoyable, I think I'm still a bit in the concert hangover, because I think the energy of the live show took the music to a significantly different level than the album did for me. Have a listen for yourself though


_Michael

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Up N Coming

A few artists that have struck a chord with me in some way amidst the vast number of indie/underground hip hop mixtapes that are released. I really feel that any of these sing/songwriter/producer/rappers could get a big breakthrough in 2010.


Bobby Ray aka B.o.B. is well on his way to mainstream success at the age of 22. Releasing several successful mixtapes is building hype for his debut under T.I.'s Grand Hustle label. He has a fantastic flow and a voice that's easily recognizable and memorable. Check out his last couple of mixtapes and get excited for the potential of this Atlanta rapper/producer's April 27th release.





Novel is a proven talent in songwriting/producing/singing. Although having written for multiple stars including Talib Kweli, he's not attained much solo success. I've really enjoyed listens of his recent mixtapes "Suspended Animation" and collaboration with Joell Ortiz, "Defying the Predictable". Look out for his upcoming release, "The Audiobiography".





"Soon You'll Understand" is a mixtape by L.A. hip hop artist, Diz Gibran. This is a solid, under the radar release that caught me by surprise and has stayed in my itunes library while other mixtapes have faded to the trash. I love the production work by Moonshine and Diz has a passion for the music that is obvious in the tracks.



Chiddy Bang is a duo of college friends from Philadelphia with a pretty entertaining mixtape that has samples from all sorts of wild places such as Sufjan Stevens and Mary Poppins. Check out their recently released video for "Opposite of Adults". Love it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Midlake



Let's try something different. I heard a song today by the Denton, Texas band, Midlake and was really struck by it. I have high hopes for their new album, Courage of Others so I thought I'd share the album with everyone and listen simultaneous to you. What do you think? If we like it, it looks like they'll be in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall on March 4th.

_Michael

Thursday, February 4, 2010

February 2010 Mix



It's the first mix of 2010. I've never been one to make resolutions, but I am not afraid of new years optimism. Each year seems to get better and brings new experiences and opportunities. Just good old-fashioned happy. For this blog, a new year goes hand in hand with new music and the opportunity for me to share what's blasting on my headphones at all hours of the day as I roam around this city.

Not all new, but still tracks I was not afraid to spend a bit of time with in this compilation. Plus, a short ode to the late MJ to start us off on the ridiculous.




Setlist:
Mr. Flash - Dirty Bossa Nova
Private - My Secret Lover (Diplo Remix)
RJD2 - All For U (DJBN Atliens Remix)
Breakbot - Baby I'm Yours (ft. Irfane)
Miike Snow - Animal
Yelle - Ce' Jeu (The Twelves Remix)
Dangerous Muse - I Want It All
Boys Noize - Oh! (A-Trak Remix)
Leno Lovecraft - Space Fighter
Mika - We Are Golden (Calvin Harris Remix)
Calvin Harris - Merrymaking at My Place (Deadmau5 Remix)
Groove Armada - Paper Romance (Urchins Remix)
Rihanna - Hard (Chew Fu Remix)
The XX - Shelter (Death To The Throne Remix)
Dada Life - Let's Get Bleeped Tonight
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll (A-Trak Remix)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nick Drake



This is a comfort album to me; one that I've heard for many years now and enjoy when I stumble upon it now and again. You know there's that music that never really leaves you. For whatever reason it doesn't get old, you just may get excited about something shiny and new, but it waits patiently for your return. Nick Drake will be happy to sit with you in all sorts of situations; I'd recommend a long scenic road trip with this album, Way to Blue.

_Michael

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pains of Being Pure at Heart



Although maybe one of the most cringe-worthy band names I've ever encountered, I can't help but enjoy this album. It's poppy, trebly, and something I imagine skinny kids working in record stores in the 90s would be all over. Can't you imagine a scene in a movie like Empire Records or High Fidelity where one of the nerdy workers puts this on the store sound system and explains, while looking through his bangs at the ground that "Pains of Being Pure at Heart" changed his life?

I love it. Enjoy!
_Michael

Friday, January 1, 2010

Tops

2009 was a really great music year for me. Amidst recording a handful of DJ mixes, I discovered a lot of great new music representing all genres. I haven't been this in love with my headphones and great albums since high school bus trips on the soccer team where I spent a lot of long hours on school nights traveling with my Sony Discman.

I've compiled a synopsis of my favorite albums that were released this last year and hope that you'll take time to enjoy them as well. I love perusing people's "album-of-the-year" lists and discovering new music and am excited to sit with band such as Animal Collective, Bat For Lashes, DJ /rupture, Jason Lytle, Neko Case, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Raekwon, The Swell Season, Thieves Like Us, and Volcano Choir. All have released great albums in 2009 which I've either overlooked, need to give a second listen or are completely new to me.


Freelance Whales - Weathervanes

This band out of Queens has really excited me this last year. I was fortunate enough to get to see them live at the Rickshaw Stop and I'm so thankful. I don't know that I've ever seen a band so joyful, humble and thankful. At only ten bucks, I felt like I was almost stealing from them. Glad to report that they've just been signed with Frenchkiss/Mom & Pop Records.



Fanfarlo - Reservoir

I went to the ten buck concert to see the Freelance Whales and stumbled upon Fanfarlo! Really great surprise and I've been listening to their new album on repeat ever since. Although on the border of too "tortured, hipster" band, at least they're from London, so they dress different than the hipsters here.



Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

2009 was the year of Phoenix for me. I got to catch them live at the Warfield, which although I was stuck in the rafters, was loud, flashy and full of aisle dancing. There new album is close to perfect and has also helped shoot this French band into the mainstream spotlight. Rock on, rock on.



Drake - So Far Gone

I've written in depth about Drake in the past and shared some of my excitement. I probably listened to this mixtape more than any other album this past year and am curious to see if he can capture that magic again in 2010 with his debut with Cash Money Records.



The Antlers - Hospice

I stumbled upon the Hospice album during my weekly NPR podcast listen and was haunted by it. This is a headphones album and I've enjoyed getting lost in this ode to the passing of a close friend. Downside: always come away a bit solemn.



Passion Pit - Manners

I've previously written about Passion Pit in my ode to painful vocalists. Manners ended up carrying through the months for me and It's a really comfortable blend of pop/rock/electronic that I tend to gravitate toward.



Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels
I thought no one had heard of the Great Lake Swimmers until I tried to go to a small show her in the city at a very low-key venue and got turned away by a sold out show. This album is beautiful in a spacey, folky sort of way. I wouldn't be surprised to see these guys show up at events like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in coming years.


Wilco - Wilco (the album)
I've spent a lot of time with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot over the years, as have every college student, and this new album has got me re-excited about Wilco. Every time one of these songs plays I feel like Jeff Tweedy is sitting on my sofa singing, maybe even with his family as backup vocals.