Bass-music maestro Bassnectar has recorded a new mix for the UKs BBC Radio1 and uploaded it for our listening pleasure. As usual the North American dubstep and bass-infused hip hop king not only hits the nail on the head but knocks a hole right through the wall, leaving the listener in a dancing/headbanging stupor.
Do yourself a favour and download this. Now.
Back in the early days of The Music Blogs I wrote about the brave choices artists often make, in particular when they leave one band to start another. Ben Drew aka Plan B, though a solo artist, has effectively just done the same thing.
Anyone who picked up his startling debut, the 2006 grime-fest Who Need Actions When You’ve Got Words, may well ponder what has happened in these ensuing three years. For you see, the forthcoming The Defamation of Strickland Banks has Drew performing the old switcheroo and my guess is that some of the bruvvas ain’t going to like it. Where the first album was wall to wall rap with some tasty vocal hooks thrown in every few songs (Drew’s own secret weapon), on Defamation you will mostly find a Smokey Robinson album with rap taking a quite noticeable back seat.
I kid you not.
But I am not surprised at this and neither should you. His voice is too good to have played second fiddle for much longer and above all, Drew is a talented artist smart enough not to be pigeon-holed.
Back in 2006 I had the privilege of interviewing Plan B for a magazine I was working for at the time. In that interview he said:
“I tell stories in hip-hop because I’m not gangster and I am not anyone special, I’m just a regular guy. The only way I know how to rap and make it interesting is talking about other people’s stories and other people’s lives.”
Just as he used the genre of hip-hop to convey his stories back then, now he uses R&B to tell his tales. R&B is where Drew first started out before becoming disillusioned with it. I’d like to think all he needed was the right songs to make it happen. From what I have heard so far – he has them.
The Defamation Of Strickland Banks is released on April 12.
Well, this is the Mariah Carey diss/”Obsessed” response that everyone’s been waiting for from the notoriously maladjusted Eminem. That is, if everyone has been continually stooped over the computer monitors, waiting for pop stars to dive into the miasma of their lives.
It’s been three days and the post-blues blues are sort of beginning to fade. The 2009 East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival was my first Bluesfest, and proved to be a superb way to pop the cherry and chill out in Byron Bay for a few days.
What was awesome?
1. Blue King Brown – I’ve never seen BKB live before but the energy and mood of their whole set was simply joyous. Natalie Pa’apa’a was smoking in some short-shorts and a leetle black singlet. I chugged two Smirnoff Ice’s and danced the whole way through.
2. Seasick Steve – what a fascinating man. The 68 year old guitarist still looks like the hobo he used to be (and took frequent swigs of whisky from a bottle under his chair in between songs) but his sound is superb and his stories are humbling. Easily the crowd favourite among the smaller Bluesfest acts. Read the full story
“But what we will miss, when our entire culture is sold through one big chain-store shopping mall called Borderstones, is the stuff that floats to the surface on a bubble of personal enthusiasm.” – Nick Hornby
Sometime in the late 90s my good friend Bill had this crazy notion about wanting to open a record store. I say crazy for a few reasons. By the end of the century, the music retail landscape (in Australia) was dominated by HMV, Sanity and JB Hi-Fi, big companies with more buying power than some Pacific Nations. Also, a pesky little thing called Napster was just about to hit the Internet, forever changing the way we would consume music. To top it off, Bill was a Deputy Principal of a High School and in his mid-forties. His entire retail experience consisted of a part time job as a supermarket cashier before he went to teacher’s college.
Despite all this, his notion (nay his dream) became a reality and on the 1st of March 1999, Atlantis Music opened. I know this because before I became a corporate fat cat I worked in the store with Bill. The two of us along with my flatmate and great friend Chad (to complete the triumvirate) worked tirelessly for weeks on end in those first months of 1999 to get the store ready for opening day. To say we winged a lot of it is understating the gravity of the situation.
The aim of the store was simple: give the customer more than what any other music retail business could offer – outstanding customer service. No I know that is part and parcel of anyone trying to sell you something but we could never compete on the same playing field financially. Money can buy you as many CDs to stock the shelves as you desire, it could not buy you the personalised service we were offering. Any album in the world? We were prepared to track the ends of the earth to find it. Our slogan was simple: Your search is over…You’ve found Atlantis Music.
Sure, we stocked the pop princesses, but we aimed to cover much more ground than the current play lists of the Austereo Network. A decent range of back catalogue? Yes. Second hand? We had it. Vinyl? 7, 12, even 10 inch? Sure thing. 78’s? We had so many we could have sold them by the pound. Old sheet music? Enough to wallpaper a studio apartment.
And that was just the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t even discussed memorabilia, original movie posters or our specially made record cleaner (otherwise known as the blue goo).
The range of stock was one thing but to establish a long lasting relationship was the key. We wanted a regular customer to enter the store, be greeted by their first name and engage in robust discussion about the affairs of the world. When they enquired about the new one by ‘so and so’ we wanted to have it on the new release shelf or, better still, to produce a copy from behind the counter and say, “we ordered one specifically for you”. Did this always occur? Of course not, but you bet your ass we kept aiming for that perfect customer experience.
I clocked out after 8 and a half years (Chad not long after), ready for new challenges that would lay ahead. Yet I can honestly say I enjoyed waking up every day and going to work in the store. Who wouldn’t enjoy listening and discussing music for 8 hours a day? My time there is full of so many great stories and larks but the one I always remember, which occurred in the first few months there, was when a middle aged man got a bit shouty at me over the song “Cat’s In The Cradle”. He swore black and blue it was on the album Tea For The Tillerman by Cat Stevens and was a little more than agitated that a 20 year old kid was telling him that Cat Stevens never sang it and if the man was so sure then to prove it.
I even offered him a copy of Verities & Balderdash by Harry Chapin (which contains the song he was after) to purchase.
I guess there was no pleasing some people.
I am proud to say that last month, Atlantis Music celebrated a decade in the business. Pretty phenomenal you must admit in this current state of not only music retail but global economic misery as well. It is a testament to Bill’s vision that the store is still a success whilst many of his contemporaries are sadly shutting their doors for good.
In a few days time we celebrate Record Store Day, a recent creation designed to highlight the unique culture of the independently owned record store. Whilst I understand the push for a lot of the music business to go digital, I hope deep down that there is always a place for the record store in our lives.
Now that I am the customer and no longer the retailer, a customer continually searching for new music, I mean that more than ever.
It’s hard not to be a little overcome in the presence of afrobeat originator Tony Allen.
After all, Brian Eno has described him as “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived.” Since the early sixties he’s been a pioneering force in contemporary African music, and his influence can be heard across a broad spectrum of musical styles. I asked Tony what first inspired him to pick up the drum sticks.
“I wanted to create my own style of music. God gave me a gift, and I followed my own path.”
He pauses to reflect for a moment, and adds “I always wanted to be different than other drummers, that’s why I’ve never tried to do anything else than afrobeat.”
Afrobeat was borne of an aim to provide social commentary on the inequalities inherent in African society. As a part of Fela Kuti’s Africa ’70, Allen was a foundational force in its development. He is quick to note that the problems afrobeat confronts are not exclusive to the continent, and in fact much of the drive behind the movement was motivated by struggles overseas.
“The social problems are not concentrated in Africa. Don’t forget that Fela had to go to the USA in 1969, meeting with the US black people to start to realize his Africanism.. As soon as we came back from the states, he started his fight against the governments and the dictature.”
A thoughtful expression crosses his faces as he muses “One sometimes has to move away from his own country to be completely aware of his home.”
Rather than adopt the same style of protest that his American contemporaries were developing, Allen states that he was always drawn to create something unique.
“I always wanted to sound different than U.S. jazz or hip hop artists. I hoped that maybe this alternative music vision would be able to effect someting in our society.”
With such a long history, I ask Tony whether he feels afrobeat might have lost some of its political urgency. I wonder whether it is still as politically charged.
“As long as African people will suffer of many diseases, there will always be artists fighting for them.”
His influence on popular music cannot be understated. The past twenty years have seen him collaborate with many big name artists. It would seem he has a soft spot for Blur and Gorillaz front man Damon Albarn.
(As Albarn does for him. The 2000 Blur single ‘Music Is My Radar’ is a tribute to Allen, the song ending with Albarn repeating the phrase “Tony Allen got me dancing.”)
“My aim has always been to fuse afrobeat with other styles of music and to spread it all over the world. I love to experience my drumming with others, like my different collaborations with Damon Albarn.”
His work with Albarn has included drumming on The Good, The Bad and The Queen album released in 2007, and he assures me there will be more to come from the pair, among other works.
“I am currently working with Damon Albarn on a new album project with other guests. I am also involved in Africa Express, a series of events promoting African music. We’ve had some hectic shows at Glastonbury, Liverpool, Lagos and Kinshasa, and there’s more to come in 2009.”
The world of music has changed a lot since Allen first taught himself to drum, but he remains optimistic about the industry as a whole. Whatever some might say about music losing some of its soul, it remains essential to him.
“It is vital for me. I don’t care what people may say about it.”
Allen shows no signs of retiring as time goes on, with his many collaborations in the works as well as a new album ready for release.
“My new album “Secret agent” will be released next June under World Circuit Records. But I won’t play my new album in this Australian tour.. next time for sure!”
Allen tours Australia in March. For info, head over here.
Musicfeeds - Tighter than a nun’s schedule!
- Love them or hate them, U2 are the only band to have lasted so long and with the same lineup while still managing to release big selling albums and hit singles.
3 things to note for their upcoming album No Line On The Horizon:
1. ‘Get On Your Boots’ is the lead single. While it is early days for me to form a decent opinion, the best description I have heard is the song is a mix of Elvis Costello’s ‘Pump It Up’ and The Temptation’s ‘Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)’. I will say that this is the most relaxed and playful they have sounded since ‘Discotheque’ dropped, subsequently confusing all and sundry.
2. It is reported that Will.I.Am is involved in some way with the track ‘I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight’. I am an open minded individual so I will reserve judgement until I hear the tune. Suffice to say I am always weary of people who have a co-writing credit on a song called ‘My Humps’. Grammy or no Grammy.
and 3. Trent Reznor deserves a credit in the liner notes. U2 have clearly pinched his style for the album cover.
For all the guff, including a stream of ‘Get On Your Boots’, go to: http://goyb.u2.com/
Part canny marketing idea and part musical goodwill (surprising considering Liam Gallagher is involved), last September Oasis decided to preview four songs from their then upcoming album ‘Dig Out Your Soul’.
How did they do it? Liam, Andy and Gem went to New York, recruited a wide variety of subway musicians, taught them the songs and had them play the new material in their own unique way to the public.
Chronicled in HD by video makers The Malloys, Dig Out Your Soul In The Streets is a great mini-documentary showing the universal passion for music, radical interpretations of rock tunes and a humbled bunch of lads from Manchester.
Check it out: Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul In The Streets
As I have stated once before: I am a material guy in a digital world. Buying a full album online still does not wash with me and no amount of exclusive bonus tracks or digital booklets can sway my opinion. I do however purchase a lot of new singles to the point that I need to set up some sort of tab arrangement with iTunes like Norm had with Sam Malone.
Free albums on the other hand I’ll happily download anytime. Of course by ‘free albums’ I don’t mean using a P2P service to grab the latest Metallica album for nix. This year especially there have been some solid free releases by artists and I thought I would share with you my four favourites as well as the best free music related podcast in the world.
The Charlatans – You Cross My Path
Back in March this year, UK stalwarts The Charlatans partnered up with radio station Xfm to drop their 10th album online for nothing. Sounding more like New Order as the years go by, fourth single ‘Mis-Takes’ is one of my favourite songs of 2008. No longer available through Xfm but an album worth seeking out regardless (it was released on CD in May).
Nine Inch Nails – The Slip
With the simple message from Trent Reznor: “thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years – this one’s on me”, The Slip was made available with no prior announcement on May 5th. All of a sudden, NIN has become prolific and we are all better for it.
Girl Talk – Feed The Animals
I remember back in 2006 a guy coming into the record store that I worked in and asking for Girl Talk. After politely showing him ‘The Best of Dave Edmunds’ album he shook his head and explained the ‘Night Ripper’ album and its concept. 2008s Feed The Animals is another brilliant collection of samples blending into and on top of one another. The album’s only fault is that it doesn’t contain ‘Girls Talk’ by Dave Edmunds. Perhaps next time.
Mick Boogie & Terry Urban – Viva La Hova
Whilst Coldplay purists weep on message boards around the interweb, the rest of us can’t get enough of this brilliant mash up album with Jay-Z and the second biggest band in the world. Inspired by the remix of ‘Lost!’, some great underground producers have put together some fantastic tunes, my favourites being ‘Never Changing’ and ‘Public Speeding’. Both acts have given it the thumbs up as well, that’s praise you can’t buy.
Sound Opionions – Weekly Podcast
A great weekly radio program originating from Chicago, Sound Opinions is the self proclaimed “world’s only Rock N Roll talk show”. While that boast can’t be confirmed, its hosts Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot are well respected music critics with a wealth of knowledge. You won’t always agree with them but you will enjoy their insights and fantastic guests. Worth an hour of your time each week.
Fuck me, this man is brilliant. Scott Matthews hails from Wolverhampton in England and burst onto the UK charts back in 2006 with his debut album, Passing Stranger. You might have heard the mournful single, Elusive, on Triple J and thought you were listening to some previously undiscovered Jeff Buckley. But Elusive is just the tip of the iceberg and barely begins to showcase Matthews’ talent.
Passing Stranger is a collection of beautifully crafted urban folk-rock gems. From crunchy blues riffs to sliding guitars to delicately picked melodies, Matthews has perfected his acoustic sound. Woven into his songs is an entire medley of unexpected instruments to keep you on your toes, including tablas and a French accordian – each track is a magical experiment. Read the full story
Last Sunday evening as I sat in a bar in Elwood, a pint of beer in hand, listening to a good friend of mine sing the weekend away I noticed a woman at the table next to me. Gillespie’s music often has that effect.
Yet it was another band that attracted me to her.
Many years ago (sometime after O.J. got off but before the towers came down) I was a journalism student at Griffith University when I became friends with a girl named Emma. Hello to Emma if she’s watching at home.
Emma, like me, also worked in a Record Store and we both shared a fondness for the music of Jeff Buckley. It was Emma who would put me on to the then unknown Ballarat band Epicure.
I say ‘then unknown’ but, short of one semi-hit single (‘Armies Against Me’ from 2002), Epicure are still not a household act in this country and I am at a loss to know why. I am hoping their latest record changes all that.
Postcards From A Ghost is the band’s fourth long player (not counting the 2001 B-Side collection Airmail - yes I own that as well) and it is certainly their most well rounded release, comprising the various styles they have dabbled in over the years. Whilst they continue to trade in the sort of bluesy piano numbers that typified 2005s Main Street like the gorgeous ‘Landslide’, the lads also show an urgency not heard in their songs for some time.
‘Snakes & Foxes’ is hands down one of the best opening salvos you’ll hear this year and certainly contains one of my favourite first lines: “When we first met you were dancing in some guys lap peering out beneath your cowboy hat going by another name.” Tell me you don’t have the visual in your head.
‘Blood On My Hands’, ‘Loves Me Not’ and first single ‘Cobra Kisses’ also bristle with the same energy and fervour. Vocalist Juan Alban sounds at home on these heavier tracks as he also does on songs like the introspective album closer ‘How This Will End’. I’m sure Juan is sick of the Ed Kowalczyk/Michael Stipe comparisons by now but it is worth noting this: I gave up buying Live and R.E.M. albums a while ago, I still wait in anticipation for Epicure releases.
Finally, an alt.country flourish (see: ‘One Last Chance To Reach You’ and ‘Soft Place To Fall’) courtesy of new guitarist Mick Hubbard (ex Jen Cloher And The Endless Sea – another great act) adds another dimension to the band’s overall sound.
Epicure are primed for the success they so richly deserve with the release of Postcards From A Ghost. I can only hope it comes their way.
Postscript: As it turned out, the woman in the bar looked a lot like Emma but it wasn’t her. I thankfully worked that out for myself without having to embarrassingly ask. Besides, if she had said no what was my reply to be without it sounding like I was trying to pick her up? I guess: “Buy the new Epicure album” would’ve worked.
I can’t begin to tell you how much the Sneaker Pimps kick arse. This British trip-hop outfit formed back in 1995 and have released three stellar smooth albums since. After the grooving Becoming X (1996), the group booted out vocalist Kelli Ali and guitarist Chris Corner took the lead. I think that’s awesome. Read the full story
City and Colour is an acoustic side-project fronted by Dallas Green, rhythm guitarist and singer for the Canadian post-hardcore band Alexisonfire. The current line-up also consists of Spencer Burton, Daniel Tavis Romano and Matt Sullivan.
Its clarity, brilliance and rich sound of the acoustic guitars you’ll notice only before being completely drawn into Green’s delicate yet powerful vocal tones.