Tuesday, March 31, 2009


¡Ya se fue!

I've decided to dedicate this weeks post to my mom, Dayna, who just celebrated her birthday on Sunday. I have no reservations saying Ozomatli
is her favorite band on the planet right now and she was lucky enough to see them on Friday night (with a rare appearance by longtime collaborator Chali 2na) at the House of Blues in Chicago.

Ozomatli has been around since their formation in Los Angeles in 1995 and still retain a core of six original members: Asdru Sierra (lead vocals, trumpet), Raul Pacheco (lead vocals, guitar, tres, jarana), Justin Poree (rap vocals, percussion), Wil-dog Abers (bass, backing vocals), Jiro Yamaguchi (tabla, percussion, backing vocals) and Ulises Bella (sax, clarinet, requinto jaracho, keyboards, backing vocals).

Their first album, the self titled Ozomatli, was released in 1998 and was my first exposure to their music. Many of the songs on the album feature the vocals of rapper Chali 2na as well as Cut Chemist's turntables, both of which I was familiar with from their work with Jurassic 5. The album is full of energy from front to back and, while retaining an overall Latin sound, draws from a host of musical genres.

One of my favorites from Ozomatli is "Cut Chemist Suite" which features, you guessed it, Cut Chemist and Chali 2na.

Another highlight and a great example of Ozo's blend of Latin and Hip-Hop is O Le Le, performed live with Chali 2na in this video.

Their live performances are rowdy to say the least. It would be difficult for even the most self conscious concertgoer not to move their feet at a show as Ozomatli love to get the crowd into it as much as possible. They are even know to enter the audience on occasion and roam the venue forming drum circles/conga lines.

Since their first album, Ozomatli have released four other LPs, Embrace the Chaos (2001), Street Signs (2004), and Don't Mess with the Dragon (2007), all of which are solid but never hit me the same way as their debut effort.

Here are a couple of favorites from those releases.

Who's To Blame? ~ Ozomatli

For more from Ozomatli check out these links:
Ozomatli's Homepage
Ozo on Myspace Music
Ozo on Facebook

Happy Birthday Mom!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday Blues


Until it's proven to me otherwise, Memphis is good for only two things: music and ribs. Coincidentally, those who know me well know that these happen to be two of my absolute favorite things in life. Memphis is lacking with some of the basic quality of life measurements, such as murder rate, but a city that's built on solid cooking and revolutionary music will always be OK with me.

A few weeks back, I ventured to Memphis in search of these two staples. Thanks to a recommendation from fellow blogger, Keefe Miller, I was steered in the direction of Charles Vergos' Rendezvous . It certainly is on the tourist track, but everything's an adventure in Memphis, including ducking into Rendezvous' back alley entrance past the panhandlers looking to 'help' tourists gone astray. The ribs were as advertised, with the classic dry-rub style that differs from the style of ribs that most of us are used to. The ribs are smoked and seasoned, but are not cooked with abundant liquids so the smoky seasoned flavor of the rub shows through in the ribs. The brisket, chicken, pulled pork and slaw were all solid as well, while the sweet tea was only average although I've been spoiled by South Carolina sweet tea for all these years. All in all, make a stop at the Rendezvous if you ever make it to Memphis. Everyone in town can point you in the right direction.

With a full belly of a variety of different animals, we descended upon Beale Street in search of music. Beale Street is the most famous area for music, drinking, and general debauchery, and has been since the rise of Memphis-style blues. After a few disappointing stops at your more-standard watering holes, I was able to tap in to some Mississippi Delta blues before the night closed.

Memphis Blues has a long tradition on Beale Street going back to artists in the early 1900's such as WC Handy, Howlin Wolf, Ike Turner, and BB King. This musical style originated from the fields, evolved to meidicine shows and vaudeville performances, got plugged in along with other musical styles with the rise of the electrical musical instrument (electronica??), and continues to flourish to this day.

Two selections for your review:

Howlin' Wolf discussing his take on the blues and a performance from the 1960's.

BB King teaching the world about Tennessee and the blues overseas.

Finally, a brief video about WC Handy about being the 'Father of the Blues'

If you ever get down this way, make sure to make a stop at Rendezvous for the ribs and enjoy a Jack on the rocks out in the street with the blues coming through the window. That's what Memphis is all about ...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Songs for the Unemployed

Before I get started, I'd like to congratulate myself and my teammates on winning the Stamford Twin Rinks Men's League Tier 3 Hockey Championship. I am now in possession of an extremely dope commemorative baseball cap.

I'll begin by saying that my father has never really liked Atmosphere. He prefers the lighthearted antics of Nelly or Ludacris. For him, hip-hop has always been more about kids clowning around than anything else. He's not really interested in any of Slug's introspection. He's also not interested in hearing complaints of any kind from famous musicians not named Otis Redding or Bob Dylan.

For these reasons, I was surprised when he expressed his appreciation for a couple of Atmosphere tunes on a recent road trip. Perhaps he's broadening his horizons. Perhaps the horizons of hip-hop have broadened to meet him halfway. All I know is that like millions of Americans, he's concerned that everything is going to shit. He can also appreciate music that speaks to his concerns without sounding whiny or placing blame.

In this vein, here are some songs for when your ass gets laid off. They'll also work if you enjoy chill music and don't mind being reminded that there's always folks out there strugglin'. Now more than ever.

Quote of the Week: "Living in turbulent times, the blind leading the blind, some say it's evolution, some say intelligent design" -Roots

Animal Collective

by Guest Poster Cole Hardy

Photo by J Caldwell http://www.flickr.com/-drj

The Baltimore-based collective that is composed of Dave Portner (Avey Tare), Noah Lennox (Panda Bear), Brian Weitz (Geologist) and Josh Dibb (Deakin) are extremely prolific. They formed in 2000 with the release of Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished and have since put out eight other L.P.s (seven if you do not count the live album Hollinndagain), three E.P.s and have tirelessly toured internationally.

Their music is often hard to describe, depending on when in their career you listen to them, as they often change genres or combine many to create their own. The first half of their catalogue can best be explained as the coming together of the Collective. Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished was written entirely by Avey Tare, while Panda Bear was asked to come on to do the drums. For their next album, Danse Manatee, Avey and Panda added Geologist. Both of these albums were a lot of the band trying to find out what sort of sound they wanted to achieve. Danse involved a lot of high/low frequencies that can best be described as ambient noise. It was not until their fourth album, Campfire Songs, that Deakin became a member of the group.

It was with their fifth release, Sung Tongs, that Animal Collective began to hone in on its sound. The album was received well by critics and made the New York Times Top Ten List of 2004. The Times described it as, “trippy, loaded with vocals, tightly composed, it didn't sound much like a rock album, didn't have conventional drum sounds and hinted at folk and ritual music.” The following year they released Feels, a concept album about, well, feelings. With this album they transitioned from the more folk-inspired sound heard prominently on Sung Tongs to a more rock based song structure. They go back and forth between tight, straightforward rock songs (“Grass” and “The Purple Bottle”) and lengthier, softer, layered songs (“Banshee Beat” and “Bees”).

Again the band decided to transcend genres adding more electronic samples on their seventh full-length album Strawberry Jam. On this album they continued their trend of writing rock songs, but added more elements of pop that made this their most accessible album at the time. For their most recent release, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Deakin decided to take a break from the band. Responding to Deakin’s absence they furthered their experimentation with electronic samples and nearly abandoned all live instrumentation. The album has been very well received and debuted at #13 on the Billboard Top 200.

As mentioned above, the band has toured relentlessly over the years. Their live experience is unlike any other current band. They will first debut songs live anywhere from one to two years in advance of them appearing on an album in order to perfect them. Upon releasing studio recorded versions of the songs they will rarely play them again live. If they do play previously released songs they will most likely be remixed or reworked versions (see the difference between the studio version of “Who Could Win a Rabbit” and the live version). This provides fans or casual listeners with something special at the show: a chance to join Animal Collective in the song writing process.

Editor’s note: I hated the band the first time I saw/heard them. It took me and several of my friends many months to come around and see the light. I suggest you start with their most recent music, as it is their most accessible, and work your way back. The reward is worth the patience.

“My Girls” from Merriweather Post Pavilion

“Fireworks” from Strawberry Jam

“Grass” from Feels

“Leaf House” from Sung Tongs

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fatboy Slim

A good music video with a good song

Push the tempo

Sometimes music will do this to you if it hits you just right.

Another impressive music video pairing the extensive skill of Fatboy Slim with a juggler.

That old pair of jeans

I spent a lot of time with headphones on with a Fatboy Slim disc in my walkman.
It is a great experience.

The myspace playlist is some newer stuff.

Friday, March 27, 2009

RATATAT 3/23/2009

Metro Theater, Chicago-

Ratatat's audio/visual buzzsaw came through here Monday night, and it was excellent. For those who don't know, Ratatat is an instrumental band that blends electronic sounds and beats with truly incredible guitar work. Guitarist Mike Stroud has a unique, unmistakeable sound, and together with bassist and programmer Evan Mast the duo has crafted three incredible original albums and two albums of rap remixes. Their second release, Classics, is one of my top 10 favorite albums, and their track Loud Pipes may be my favorite song of all time.

To truly appreciate a Ratatat show, you have to understand what happens on stage during the set. These guys don't just stand up there and play their instruments. For starters, they use a wide array of keys, percussion, and guitars to create their sound, and will switch between instruments mid-song. In addition, Stroud plays his guitar with the kind of passion and exubrance that you don't often see from bands, especially when making complicated music. He rocks out.

But that's only half the story. Ratatat also has created videos to accompany their songs and projects them on a large screen at the back of the stage. The videos are, in a word, crazy. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here are two examples:

In case you're wondering, the video above is comprised entirely of clips from Predator.

To top everything off, the band also has an impressive light display that includes progammable lasers creating images on the ceiling of the venue. Truly an experience for both the eyes and ears.

The boys managed to play more than half of the songs on each of their two most recent albums, Classics and LP3. They also played two songs off their self titled debut album, closing the show with Seventeen Years, the first track on the debut. Two of the songs they played do not appear on any of the three albums and I'm not sure where they came from. Here's a general set list, not in exact order:

Schiller, Crips, Gettysburg, Lex, Brulee, Mi Viejo, Mirando, Loud Pipes, Lex, Flynn, Kennedy, Shempi, Falcon Jab, Wildcat, Seventeen Years

Overall the set was amazing, Stroud is my hero, and the crowd ate it up. A five star show for sure.

The concert also featured two opening acts: Think About Life and Despot. Think About Life was a somewhat avant garde pyscadelic pop act that involved a very talented guitarist/programmer, a drummer, and a fairly insane lead singer. They were pretty good although the singer was very difficult to understand. Despot is a rapper on Def Jux, Aesop Rock's label. He really didn't do it for me. An ipod and a mic were not enough. His studio stuff isn't bad though. Here are links to each band's myspace page (make sure you listen to Loud Pipes):

Think About Life

Go see live music!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In Loving Memory

Monica Kathleen Geroski (1953-2009)

I find that music means the most when you need it to mean the most. For me, this is one of those times.

And even though the title below seems fitting for how I’m feeling at the moment, the music contained therein seems fitting of an incredibly beautiful life.


Dark Was The Night
Various Artists

Gabe’s excellent post this past Sunday on high-quality soundtracks is the perfect segue to a similar musical realm – The Compilation.

Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane…How about a quick shout-out to Jock Jams? Or an acknowledgement that the infamously low brow Now, That’s What I Call Music series (29 volumes deep) has sold 61 million copies in the U.S. alone?

But enough reminiscing (although be on the lookout for a post about Jock Jams). Dark Was The Night is the 20th compilation from The Red Hot Organization. Now I can’t speak for any of their other 19 releases, so I wont – and I don’t want to anyway.

Many compilations suffer from issues like a lack of recognizable artists, an overly obvious use of B-grade tracks, and a choppy patchwork of tracks seemingly placed one after another for no real good reason.

With these deficiencies in mind, Dark Was The Night is a truly remarkable 2-disc effort. The compilation includes artists such as The National, Feist, My Morning Jacket, Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, The New Pornographers and The Books, just to name a few.

And as with any compilation you will experience varied levels of commitment/inspiration, but Dark Was The Night is surprisingly consistent. Aside from what seems like a complete lack of effort from one of my favorite bands Iron & Wine and a somewhat disappointing track from Spoon, many well-known artists have gone above and beyond for their previously unreleased tracks.

Some (of the many) highlights:
“Bon Iver - Brackett, WI”
“Sufjan Stevens - You Are the Blood”
"The Books (feat. Jose Gonzalez) - Cello Song"
"Fiest & Ben Gibbard - Train Song"
"Riceboy Sleeps - Happiness"

Etc., etc., etc…

And on top of all of that, the discs flow – seamlessly in fact. A feat in the world of compilations, and deserved of a big kudos to Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National for putting it together.

Now, to be honest, I don’t know why I’ve written this much. It’s a 33-song, 2-disc set filled with phenomenal artists front to back, and on iTunes it’s only $15.99 (and apparently even cheaper in the Amazon Mp3 store). This compilation sells itself.

So give it a listen, and let me know what you think.
Enjoy, and catch you next Thursday.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth

This week’s band is one of my all-time favorites. I chose to write about them this week because they are playing a show at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison, WI this Friday night. I debated whether to wait and write about them next week so I could talk about the show, but decided against it for two reasons:
1)There shows are always great.
2)I wanted to give anyone in the area a chance to check them out
while they are in town.

Heres some mood music before you continue reading....

I have seen Railroad Earth many times and they always put on an outstanding show. In fact they put on one of my favorite concerts of all time. It was about six years ago, they played the Memorial Union Terrace on a beautiful summer night, they really put on a top notch performance. In the end, it was a combination of their song "Seven Story Mountain" along with a little help from mother nature that really made this show a cut above the rest. During Seven Story Mountain (their encore), the northern lights lit up over Lake Mendota and provided the perfect backdrop to a perfect encore. For those of you that don’t know, the Memorial Union Terrace is set on the shore of Lake Mendota, right at the intersection of UW Madison campus and State St., and is one of my favorite places to hang out or listen to live music.

Railroad Earth falls into the “progressive bluegrass” or “jam-grass” category, and in general I’d say that there music makes you feel good about life. All the guys in the band are friendly, humble people. They will always take the time to hang out with the crowd after a show is done, and I think that these personalities really shine through in the down-home, friendly tone of their music.

RRE just put out a recent album, Amen Corner, which is a great one. But my favorite of their albums is the two disc live album “Elko”. If you get a chance, check them out! And if you’re in town and want to go, let me know.

Be advised though, If you listen to “long way to go” a few times, it will be stuck in your head.

- ben

check out free live music from RRE here!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Bays

"Performance is the Product"

is the motto of The Bays, a UK improvisational dance music outfit who have neither a record label or commercially released music. It basically means that they are defined solely by the music they present on stage each night and nothing else. The Bays do not rehearse before shows nor do they even have "songs" much less a set-list. What comes from this group on a nightly basis is always new and purely a result of their interaction with the crowd and each other.

You could argue that this is a dangerous way to approach a live performance where a paying audience is expecting success. Even bands that only "jam" for parts of their shows can disappoint listeners who are expecting more from their improvisation. To do so for an entire set is asking for trouble. But that's the way The Bays like it. For them, every show is a challenge to be met and they do it well.

Former member Simon Smugg explains The Bays' performance strategy best when he says “If you do like 70 gigs of a set that you’re just doing every night, I would imagine that you were not actually giving value for money near the end. You’d just be sort of pissed off and know it back to front. But every gig, we’re basically shitting ourselves a lot of the time because we have no idea what’s gonna happen. Not only do I not know what they’re gonna do, I don’t know what I’m gonna do, and that applies for all of us, so it’s very edgy all the time. That tension comes across and that’s why people get into it.”

This attitude was taken to the extreme in 2008 when The Bays decided to perform a live improvised set with The Heritage Orchestra during Liverpool's Fresh Festival. Not only were they taking the usual risks of an off the cuff performance but they were also adding to that mix an entire orchestra that was wholly unfamiliar with their style. The results, however, were outstanding and reaction from the band, orchestra and audience were overwhelmingly positive.

Check out a short video about the performance here:

The Bays are Andy Gangadeen (drums), Chris Taylor (bass), Jamie Odell (keyboards), and Simon Richmond (effects and samples). Their style is influenced by many different forms of electronica (a term that is as frustrating to me as it is to Steve P) which manifest themselves in a different way each set. Some nights will showcase their grasp of washy, synthed out ambience while others will be a straight up drum and bass throwdown. Their sets are seamless and sections blend in and out of each other on the whims of the members.

Though there isn't much quality video of their sets online, there are plenty of places to get live audio. Here are a few links to get you started on listening to The Bays:

TheBays.com (featuring mp3 downloads and videos)
Spoida's Web: Set a Day (download links seem to be broken, I'll re-upload and link these sets later tonight)

EDIT: Here is the audio I promised. 6 different recordings, 2 per download.
Part One
2001.06.09 - Drum Rhythm - Amsterdam, 2002.08.24 - Hotaka Festival - Japan
Part Two
2002.10.30 - Boat Club - Nottingham, 2005.01.08 - Jazz Cafe - London
Part Three
2006.03.04 - Rhythm Factory - London, Jockeyslut Presents

The Bays gained some notoriety amongst American jamband fans after their performance prior to the 2006 Jam in the Dam festival in Amsterdam. After befriending the members of Umphrey's McGee and The Disco Biscuits, The Bays were invited to Camp Bisco 6 in the summer of 2007. This was their first performance on American soil and, as far as I can tell, their last. They don't make their way accross the pond very often but keep an eye out just in case.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Friday Night Market Research


Friday night in Nashville, Kraak and Smaak came to town visiting the US from the Netherlands for SXSW in Austin. They stopped through Nashville as so many do and graced us with a DJ set. Thanks to Steve 2004 for the referral via Nate and Stew ... thats the way the system works, right? I was planning to write a show review, but the video below is sufficient.

They ran through a set of electronic tracks of all varieties and seamless linked them all into one. As I was moving my feet and drinking my salutory Heinkens, I was actually deep in thought about the depth and variety of the different layers of 'electronica.' I got to thinking ...

- First of all, what is 'electronica?'
- Where did it come from?
- Is it music that is produced electronically?
- Does there need to be an artificially produced beat produced from an electronic machine for it be electronica?
- Does it need to make you dance?

I could find conflicting arguments to all of the questions I could come up with, so I gave up. I consulted the definition on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronica), but that wasn't any help either. After creating trying to find answers about 'electronica', I just came up with more questions about the genre. How would you define 'electronica?'

Further investigation upon my return home led me to a convenient guide to one person's interpretation: http://techno.org/electronic-music-guide/
This is a good way to waste a couple hours learning about the development of 'electronic music' over the course of time. Check out the 'Neurofunk' and 'Ibiza' cells for two of my favorites as well as a preview of future posts. Review different segments of the electronic music world, can you really lump House, Trance, Garage, Jungle, Breakbeat, and Downtempo all into one 'electronica' classification? With the variety of electronic styles, I think it would be unwise to use the term 'electronica' to classify any type of music. I will personally declare 'electronica' dead to me as of this moment ... you won't hear that classification from me in any future posts!

Scary enough to note as well, check out the roots of the entire galaxy of electronic music: Disco! House music basically developed from disco because people finally realized they couldn't take it anymore. Like a phoenix from the ashes, here comes Chicago House music to rescue us! Hilariously, disco died on one summer night in Chicago, as you can see in the following video. Riots, explosions, and arrests ... what a day it was!

More articles will certainly follow in future posts about electronic music, but you can be certain that I won't be using the 'electronica' terminology. With music I feel that it is important to consider the end result more than the label it is given. How does the music make you feel? What does it make you do? Lose the label and just make sure you feel it, baby!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Great Soundtracks

Our issue this Sunday: What are your favorite movie soundtracks? I'll list my top 5 because I am into "the whole brevity thing". In all honesty, it's no coincidence that these happen to be 5 of my favorite movies. The soundtrack can make or break a film. But ya'll know that...My top pick is The Godfather OST. Probably the most memorable original score of all time. It easily edged out the Kornfeldian brilliance of Office Space. (I've always really, really wanted to use the word Kornfeldian. Maybe I can own that on urbandictionary.com)

1. The Godfather - Nino Rota & Carmine Coppola
2. Office Space - Various Artists
3. The Big Lebowski - Various Artists
4. Pulp Fiction - Various Artists
5. The Shawshank Redemption - Thomas Newman

On that note, our musical selection comes from the Matresses Montage in The Godfather. This happens to be an original score by Carmine Coppola, not available on the original Godfather soundtrack. Titled "This Loneliness", this song is my favorite tune for the piano. I'm no aficionado of musical styles, but I love the old time feel. It is at once grandiose and sad. Even murderous mobsters could make beautiful music back in the day.

If you like that, you can listen again while watching this amusing combination of my favorite soundtrack, one of my favorite movies, and my absolute-all-time favorite toy.

Saturday, March 21, 2009



download the album straight from their website. it's some good stuff. great music. features an allstar dj and guitar player, who is the son of Keith Godchaux from Grateful Dead. they tour the nation and are great live. don't miss em. it is very impressive what the two of them can do to audio.
scroll down to the bottom of their web page and click play on the right side for instant audio.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Greetings from the Caribbean!

Hi everyone-

I'm coming at you from the Green House restaurant and bar on the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. It's the last day of my vacation, and it's been an excellent trip on all fronts. However, I've been in the market for two items that have eluded me: Cohiba cigarettes and reggae. While Cohiba cigars are everywhere, their smaller brethren are nowhere to be found. The same can be said for reggae; while tons of shops have reggae emanating from their storefronts, none of them sell any music worth writing about. I found one record store and it's closed until March 25. Bummer.

But don't despair! I've got some classic stuff for you, the Easy Star All Stars. This collection of New York City reggae stars specializes in taking all-time great rock albums and making reggae recreations of them. Their first effort was "Dub Side of the Moon," a dubbed out cover of Pink Floyd's classic "The Dark Side of the Moon." Check out their version of Money below (dig the bong rips instead of cash register noises at the beginning. niiiiiice.)

The band followed up Dub Side with "Radiodread," a cover of Radiohead's equally amazing "OK Computer." The band brought in numerous guest singers to lend some additional variety to the vocals on the album. They got some help from Citizen Cope on Karma Police, which you can check out on their myspace page along with some other tracks from the album (link below).

The All Stars' new album drops April 14. It's called "Easy Star's Lonely Hearts Dub Band," and naturally it's a reggae version of The Beatles' seminal "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Say what you will about the albums, but these guys sure can pick their source material. The new album will feature guest vocals from reggae stars like Steel Pulse and Matisyahu. You can listen to the single "With a Little Help From My Friends" from the new album on the band's myspace page:

Easy Star All Stars on myspace

I highly recommend checking out the entire "Dub Side of the Moon" album. It's worth the listen and you'll be feeling like you're on the beach in no time. With the exceptional weather, beautiful scenery, and crystal clear water down here, I'll be thinking of the beach more often than I should. And when I do, I'll throw on The Easy Star All Stars.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

That Right Aint Shit

I’ve come to realize the perils of trying to write a blog piece about my favorite artist. After literally writing my face off about The Books, an experimental duet, I took the paper right out of my typewriter, crumpled it up, and tossed it in my old-fashioned wastebasket.

Because you see, what I love most about The Books and their music is the indescribable nature of their compositions. It seemed unfair and frivolous to try to write a set up as to what you can expect to hear, what they sound like, blah di fucking blah blah. Instead, I’d rather those of you who are unfamiliar with The Books, to be introduced to them the same way I was a few years back:

03 Tokyo.mp3

Their first release was Thought for Food in 2002 and is a prime example of a ‘finding their sound’ record. Among several solid tracks on the disc are Read, Eat, Sleep (which you might recognize from a Hummer commercial a year ago), Motherless Bastard, and All Our Base Are Belong to Them.

One year later The Books released The Lemon of Pink, and had officially found their sound. Each song is a beautiful collage of acoustic guitar/banjo, cello/bass, electronic percussion and ambient sounds. Take for example the opening and title track on the disc:

01 The Lemon of Pink.mp3

In 2005 The Books released Lost and Safe, a phenomenal follow-up to The Lemon of Pink. The songs on this disc cover more genre ground, touching blues and breaks, all with the same orchestral composition that creates the unique, rich, organic sound of The Books. Here are a few tracks off of this disc (sorry about the mp4 format):

04 Smells Like Content.m4a

05 It Never Changes To Stop.m4a

10 An Owl With Knees.m4a

And although The Books released an EP in 2008 called Music for a French Elevator that featured this wonderful short song:

01 Frailté.m4a

It was a tease of a release, leaving fans still waiting for another full-length disc.

Now I’m sure over the course of this blog there will be many mentions of the phrase ‘must buy.’ And I’m sure I’ll be responsible for more than a few of those. However, never will I be as adamant as I am about both The Lemon of Pink and Lost and Safe. If you are a fan of ambient, electronic, acoustic or beautiful music in general, these records are essential.

The Books’ music plays with your brain, and to this date, I’ve never been able to better articulate it than by saying it is the most visual music I have ever heard.

The Books aren’t for everyone, but then again, no music should be for everyone.
Take a listen (headphones help). Hope you dig.

oh, and check their website

Next week: a compilation that one blogger called “an indie rocker’s wet dream.” Sounds promising, I know...Here’s a sample:

1-04 Brackett, WI.m4a

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dan Auerbach: Keep it Hid

Congrats everybody! You all successfully made it through your workday after St. Patrick’s Day; how bout a little rock n’ roll for your reward….

Many of you are probably familiar with Dan Auerbach’s work through “The Black Keys” (If you’re not, your first order of business should be to go out and pick up a couple of their albums). His soulful vocals and rootsy guitar work distinguish the two man group. A few weeks ago Auerbach released a solo album, “Keep it Hid”. The album features not only Auerbach’s vocals and guitar work but also his drumming and bass guitar.

In interviews regarding the album, Auerbach states that it was a somewhat spontaneous effort and that he was going for a live, organic sound; not unlike that of The Black Key’s. He also explains that he wanted to let many of his own musical influences shine through.
This spontaneity is clear in listening to the album, and as a complete album it is perhaps a little thrown together. However I think that overall “Keep it Hid” is a rock solid effort and something that any Black Keys fan should certainly pick up.

Auerbach has a Ph.D. in the blues, but also draws heavy influence from 60’s acid rock, soul, and bluegrass music. “Keep it Hid” sheds light on all of these musical genres. For me, the album achieved exactly what Auerbach was going for. To draw kind of a goofy analogy, I think it can be thought of as a sort of sampler pack of delicious songs rather than your typical twelve pack. All in all, the musical flavors do blend.

- ben.

**Thanks to Czar Nicolas for the heads up on this disc.

Dan Auerbach: Keep it Hid

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Ally - "Action"

"If you're free to choose which model you employ / might as well pick the one that brings you joy" -The Ally, "Amop"-

These days it's easy to take for granted the music that we are lucky enough to hear on a daily basis. It is available to us nearly everywhere; from established mediums like radio and music stores to the newest and most accessible venue, the internet. Practically any music imaginable is available right at your fingertips every minute of every hour of every day.

Gone are the days of going to the record store on the day an album dropped or seeing your favorite bands new video on television for the first time. These traditions have been replaced by the “convenience” of iTunes and YouTube. Every once in a while, however, you stumble across something meaningful in such an unpredictable and capricious manner that it reminds you of how fortunate we all are to be able to enjoy the music we listen to.

It started with The Disco Biscuits. When you delve into the catalog of a band with such a massive base of live recordings to choose from you will inevitably come across that group’s side projects which, for the Biscuits, are many. One of those uncovered side projects was JM2, a group that existed briefly toward the end of 2003 and beginning of 2004. JM2 consisted of Marc Brownstein (bass) and John Gutwillig (guitar) of the Disco Biscuits along with Jamie Shields (keys) of The New Deal and Mike Greenfield (drums) from a band I had never heard of called The Ally.

Already familiar with the work of the first three members I decided to see what I could find out about this new group The Ally but was met with brick walls in every direction. Nothing on Wikipedia, no MySpace page, no listing on All Music, not even Google could help. Jambase offered a hint of an album called “Action” but the link to buy it was long dead. More confused than angry I gave up the search and called it a day. They must not have been that good anyway.

Not long later, however, I was reading a music blog not too dissimilar from this one and the writer was describing his admiration for a “hidden gem” of an album called “Action” from a now defunct Philly band called The Ally. I couldn’t help but ask for a copy and he thankfully obliged. It took one listen for me to be hooked by The Ally’s self described “roots fusion” sound. Having emerged from the Philadelphia jam band scene at the same time as The Disco Biscuits, their lone release is fittingly tinged with multiple musical influences ranging from funk and reggae to electronica and drum and bass.

For me, the highlight of this album are the vocals of lead singer John Yohan Kim (Kimbo) and bass player Ira Wolf Tuton. While the style of their songs range from one genre to the next, Kimbo and Ira’s voices have no problem keeping up. Their smooth harmonies create an extremely infectious, chilled out vibe and gives the songs an ambiguous familiarity like you’ve been grooving on them for years. In addition to Kimbo’s singing he also displays his chops on violin and sax. The album also features the drumming of the aforementioned Greenfield, as well as Eric Zeiler’s guitar.

Since no decent recording of the albums songs exist on the web I've uploaded a few tracks from "Action" for you to check out. Once you click the links you have the choice to either stream the track or download it.

"Wooden Boat" is the first track on the album and does a great job of setting up the rest of the album. Tight harmonies and rhythm section and a flowing upbeat groove throughout.

On the fourth song on the album, "Options", The Ally shows their affinity for reggae and Kimbo's voice really shines with a little added edge to his delivery.

The biggest grin inducer of "Action" comes with the fifth track, "Amop". Unabashedly poppy but equally as optimistic this song has the most infectious chorus of the entire album.

As we get deeper into the album things get a bit heavier and a lot more experimental. Tracks 6 through 9 all flow seamlessly into one another creating a 21 plus minute block of eclectic groove. It starts of with the blues/funk of "Inner Pilot" which then, without warning, drops into the thumping beats of "Dear Mr. Gold". Next is the more subdued and cerebral electric groove of "Touching" which gradually climaxes into the Latin and hip-hop infused "2CE".

I hope you enjoyed my first post on Top Shelf Audio Daily. Be sure to share our blog with your friends along with your own music and experiences. See you next Tuesday.

Steve K

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Monday's post

I have destroyed the order and sanctity of this blog! I accidentally posted earlier than I was supposed to, but I couldn't contain my excitement any longer to share some Mocean Worker.

For Monday's post see below Gabe's post.

Since I had to correct this error, why not use this chance to throw in another track??

I believe this track is from the newer Mocean Worker album ... a lot heavier with some BIG BEATS. Maybe not for office jamming so save this one for after hours or if you want to make a spy movie.

Mos Def vs. Aretha Franklin

Welcome to the much anticipated Sunday edition of TSAD. I’d like to give a shout out to Nate, Stew and Keefe for some high quality selections. On a personal note, Happy Birthday to my gal Michelle.

Our issue this Sunday is sampling in hip-hop production. Yeah, that’s right, prepare for widespread controversy. Sampling is both a gift and a curse. If overused, it can preclude originality, allowing a lazy beat-maker to loop another person's art and pass it off as creation. Legal issues aside, cannibalizing the body and soul of another artist’s music can be upsetting to music purists. That being said, let’s face it, not just anybody can compose organically like Hi-Tek. At it’s best, sampling brings to hip-hop a soulfulness and melody that cannot be created by sound effects on a computer. An understanding of what samples go into a tune will enhance your appreciation, enjoyment, and possibly even make you sound intelligent when discussing "hot trakz" with your "boyz". Hell, it will probably turn you on to some old-school funkiness that you were enjoying before you even knew what it was.

For an example of what I’m talking about, check out this classic track by Mos Def.

Lyrically, mighty Mos has a story to tell and the skills to deliver. The atmosphere and emotional resonance of the song flow from the considerable vocal skills of one Aretha Franklin (no link necessary). Applause goes to producer Ayatollah, who demonstrates a high level of both mixing prowess and appreciation for the fine R&B of his father's generation. I didn’t know the origin of the sample until I stumbled upon TheBreaks.com, a rough-around-the-edges but content rich site detailing origins of some truly underappreciated music. A nice YouTube series on the subject is posted by the corny-yet-knowledgeable DJ Funktual.

Now check out the original by Aretha...

So now you've seen some of the good. What about the bad?
This is an example of what NOT to do. Good Lord.

Mocean Worker - Enter the Mowo!

So I'm the Monday man. What a great responsibilty. Its my job to make sure the worst day of the week is just a little bit better. You'll hear a smattering of music from me from different corners of the world. I'll probably always reference a place when I write about music because to me, it helps the listener understand the context of the music.

GREENVILLE, SC -- A big hit from back in Greenville, SC days ... I figured it would be best to start with a classic. If you ever get to Greenville, a stop in Addy's bar is a requirement. Its a hole in the wall with dim lighting and various forms of house projecting from Addy the Dutchmen's stereo. Mocean Worker could possibly be described as acid jazz in most cases with some breaks, funk, and lounge on some of the more spaced out tracks. Sounds even better in a smoky dutch bar after 5 or 6 jack and gingers ...

The album that I know and love is called 'Enter The MoWo!' He has gone on to make some newer albums but I have not sufficiently explored those yet. Enter the Mowo! is a great album start to finish and the torrent file can be found here:

Keep in mind that you will need to download the torrent file first, and then run it through a program like utorrent.com or vuze.com.

If you are interested in exploring more, check out the artist page on last.fm here:

Cheers, until next week. I should have a hot show review from a Nashville Friday nite gig. Representing the music city ...

- SP

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Michael Cleveland

I don't know much about Michael Cleveland. I do know that he makes me laugh when he plays fiddle though. His band is called the Flamekeepers. I noticed their making a couple stops in Nashville during their 09 tour. http://www.flamekeeperband.com/ I'm sure Steve already has tix. Well I hope you have enjoyed my Saturday post. Next time I will have something you might actually want to hear more than once.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Gaslight Anthem

They're called New Jersey's favorite sons, and I can't argue with that. This is The Gaslight Anthem, a band that's been together for a little over two years and recently released "The '59 Sound," an album that shows these guys know their way around the studio as well as the club. Their songs tell stories like The Hold Steady, and their sound is reminiscent of the first two Kings of Leon albums. Some songs definitely have a punk-like structure, but this is not a punk band. This is rock and roll. Straight ahead, with great hooks, excellent lyrics, and passionate singing.

The band is not afraid to pay homage to their musical roots with references to Tom Petty and Miles Davis appearing on the new album. But these guys are from Jersey, where the Boss is always on people's minds. Lead singer Brian Fallon isn't afraid to give Springsteen his due with lines like "At night I wake up with the sheets soakin' wet/that's a pretty good song maybe you know the rest." I think they are doing Bruce proud, and my biggest concern is that the rest of my posts won't live up to the standard I'm setting today.

There is a pretty excellent collection of youtube videos for The Gaslight Anthem. The clip above is their music video for "Great Expectations". Below are links to two other clips: a great live performance of "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" and the video for "I'da called you Woody, Joe."

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues live
I'da Called You Woody, Joe video

Finally, here's a link to their myspace page:
The Gaslight Anthem on Myspace


Thanks to Neelu for this one.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The 87 Stick Up Kids

The 87 Stickup Kids - Born to Role from Dia Creative on Vimeo.

So…it might seem strange that the first post on Top Shelf Audio Daily is about an artist with literally 3 released songs under their belt. Hell, they aren’t even on iTunes yet. But who cares? If you haven’t heard of them, these are The 87 Stick Up Kids. And if you have heard of them, then you’d probably agree the only word to describe them is ‘FRESH.’

They remind me of the Beastie Boys on License to Ill, if instead of Brooklyn, they called LA home. And they seem, to me at least, to be further proof that a lot of music is turning increasingly retro. The reemergence of dance music (which I’m sure will be blogged about here aplenty) is undeniable, so a sound like The 87 Stick Up Kids could be a sign of things to come for hip-hop – and I’d be cool with that.

Keep a look out for more tracks from these guys. For now, give them a listen - 2 tracks are above and a solid third track is located on their myspace page (here).

Enjoy, and turn up those computer speakers.

Thanks to Joe/Neil

Top Shelf Audio Daily

Welcome to TSAD. That's Top Shelf Audio Daily folks.

We started this blog because the best music we hear tends to come from the recommendations of our friends and coworkers. And we have always been all too happy to give out some choice recommendations of our own to whoever will listen.

With that in mind we gathered seven friends from all over these United States of America (and Connecticut) to write about their favorite music; one person for every day of the week; one post per day. Each of us will write a post once a week about a new band, new album, recent show, or any other musical thing that interests us at that moment. Whenever possible, we will include a link or an embedded video that will get the music we're discussing to your ear.

We welcome and encourage your comments, so please tell us if you like what you read and hear or if you think we're a bunch of pretentious jackasses with no taste. Besides, "you know what you might like?" is what started this blog in the first place.

We recommend you become a follower of the blog, and feel free to pass the good word on to your friends.

Oh, and bookmark the name, it's easier to click than type anyway. We hope you enjoy.

We kick off this endeavor TOMORROW - let's get those ears smiling.