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Archive for March, 2006

Crazy
Gnarles Barkley
12″ Promo, 2006

Putting a (relatively) brand new track up is always a risk because you never really know if the track is going to “age well” but I’m inspired to take that risk. I’ve played this track about 20 times in the 6 days I’ve had it. If you haven’t already read on blogs or in the mainstream press, Gnarles Barkley is the collaboration of Cee-Lo formerly of Goodie MoB (not to mention countless duets and hooks sung with everyone from Santana to Esthero and two solo albums) and Dangermouse (who’s big breakthrough was 2005′s Grey Album; he went on to produce the excellent second Gorillaz album among other things).

Gnarles Barkley seem to be quickly turning into one of the most hyped projects of the year. Their myspace page has had 113,300 visits since it was created in January and they haven’t officially released a single in the US yet. Not to mention, they’re apparently “huge in Europe,” no, really though. And while there is bound to be some let down after the hype, this track really delivers on the promise.

It’s obligatorily”genre-defying” but more importantly its cinematic (check the background vocals in the chorus), there’s a nice little take-home message and Cee-Lo actually sounds…a little crazy. Listen to the changes in his tone in the second verse. He goes from pleasant to cautionary to questioning to scoffing (“ha ha ha!”) to fond to concerned to flat (“well?”) to manic in about 33 seconds.

i remember when
i remember, i remember when i lost my mind
there was something so special about that place
even your emotions have an echo in so much space
and when you’re out there, without care
yeah i was out of touch
but it wasn’t because i didn’t know enough
i just knew too much

does that make me crazy?
does that make me crazy?
does that make me crazy?
possibly

and i hope that you are having the time of your life
but think twice, that’s my only advice
come on now, who do you
who do you, who do you, who do you think you are?
ha ha ha
bless your soul
you really think you’re in control?
well

i think you’re crazy
i think you’re crazy
i think you’re crazy
just like me

my heroes had the heart to live their life out on the limb
and all i remember is thinking
i want to be like them
ever since i was little,
ever since i was little it looked like fun
and its no coincidence i’ve come
and i can die when i’m done

but maybe i’m crazy
maybe you’re crazy
maybe we’re crazy
probably

Don’t miss the exquisite way in which Cee-Lo highlights the chord change at :57 (under the word “life”) and 1:49 (under “limb”) with unconventional melodies. And give it a few listens, it will reward them.

>> songs are available for two weeks [4.2 MB]

Love Comes In All Colors
Staple Singers
Be What You Are, 1973

I was over at my musical-partner-in-crime’s apartment a few weeks ago and came across this record in her collection. I pulled it out and we both looked at each other and, at the same time, said “Love Comes In All Colors!” This track is every bit as good as “Respect Yourself” or any other known staple singers track but due to reasons unknown to me, it remained an album cut and never came to prominence.

This uses somewhat unique instrumentation for soul music in 1973 in that it has both acoustic and electric guitar as well as the more customary organ and horns. The strength of the vocal harmonies in the chorus is what makes this song great instead of good but those vocals become chill-inducing when all the instruments drop out at 2:32. I also love how the horns maintain a subtle call and response pattern through the choruses until the song starts to taper down (3:18) at which point they break out and announce their presence. Surprisingly it’s not jarring. It’s just another thing that makes this song unique and noteworthy. The strings similarly hit there most intense moment even further into the denouement (3:33).

The lyrics of also provide an interesting time capsule. The third verse starts with, “If somebody told you you had one more week to live, you’d run over each other trying to help your brother but today you turn you back on him.” When I first heard “you’d run over each other trying to help your brother” I was confused. I thought, did I miss the part where they mentioned what the brother needed help with? But as the verse continued and I heard “Act like you got one week left and your trying to save your soul,” I understood. I guess helping others to save your soul is its own version of selfishness and maybe I’ve spent too much time in this godless city but I do think people’s outlooks have fundamentally shifted in the last 30+ years. Doing good in the greater community ain’t what it used to be and everything, including people reckoning with mortality, seems much more solitary. Well, at least enough that this lyric, which resonated in 1973, doesn’t really resonate anymore.

Play this with some volume…

>> songs are available for two weeks [6.4 MB]

Flashback (Jazzanova’s Breathe Easy Mix)
Fat Freddy’s Drop
The Remixes 2002-2005, 2005

Jazzanova, overground in the dance underground, are pretty much invisible in the American mainstream – so I’ll start with the basics (not that I know that much about them). Jazzanova are six DJ/Producers based in Berlin that have been consistently producing intricate, ‘hope inspiring‘ remixes and original productions that resist categorization for ten years. The Remixes 2002-2005 is the companion piece to their stellar double CD (and 5 LP!) The Remixes 1997-2000. Their single studio album masterpiece In Between came out in 2002.

Fat Freddy’s Drop are a soul/reggae/dub band from New Zealand. If the voice on this track sounds familar its because Joe Dukie, (F.F.D.’s lead singer) is the featured vocalist on Recloose’s 2005 international club hit “Dust.” The Remixes 2002-2005 is the first place that this remix of “Flashback” is available. In fact, it’s so new that it actually wasn’t finished in time to be included on the advance copies of the album. Among the many highlights of the song, look out for the chord change that starts at 1:13 and becomes a beautiful overlay to the simple but perfect off-beat repeated-note pattern that they develop beneath it between 4:44 and 5:49 .

Almost as exciting as their music are the scant references (like the one in the linked article above) to the workings of Sonar Kollektiv, which Jazzanova founded in 1998. Sentences that seem to belong to another era creep up and get me all exited, such as “with our structure, the DJs earn money, put it into one pot, and share it with the other producers.” Seeing people acting in ways truly consistent with putting their art first is genuinely inspiring and the musical results speak for themselves.

If this track moves you, I strongly suggest picking the three albums mentioned above. You will not be disappointed!

>> songs are available for two weeks [8.7 MB]

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