May 13, 2005

Adolf Noise- We Are The World

This is the hidden track on Adolf Noise’s newest album. Adolf is DJ Koze’s weird ambient project. This is “We Are The World.” Another one for the WTF files.

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Team Sleep- 11^11

Everyone and their brother has been looking forward to Team Sleep’s album, understanding the possibility that the Deftones + subtlety might be just the thing that the doctor ordered. Sadly, the album is sometimes pretty aimless, I imagine the result of how long it took for the thing to come out. This track is one of the best and it’s the collab with Rob Crow of Pinback. Crucially, it sounds exactly like a Pinback song (maybe a bit simpler). Which, you know, makes it good.

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Woodbine- The Woods

Can’t quite put my finger on it, but this song reminds me of something so overwhelmingly so that it’s been plaguing me for a few weeks now. It has the same feel as the vastly underrated folk group George, but with a more straightforward bent. And while the album veers off the rails near its conclusion, the first-half is some of the finest folk that you’ll hear all year. This particular song is a winning combination of bells, acoustic guitar, and Susan Dillane’s vocals.

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Todd Burns | 8:00 am | Comments (2)

May 12, 2005

Park Lane- Kumama Sima

After months of knowing neither the artist nor the actual track name (it was part of a blank mix CD given to a friend), my team of experts finally concluded this was Park Lane, a popular bongo group named after a street in Dar-Es-Salaam. The lyrics aren’t Kiswahili (it’s something else, maybe of Ugandan origin), but that’s not exactly a problem. Bongo’s arabesque influences come out strong in the instrumentation and melodies, but the framework is a particularly holy matrimony of dancehall structure and African production style, and once again, I prefer it to almost every Jamaican dancehall track I’ve heard.

Mr. II (AKA Sugu) feat. Justin Kalikawe- Haki

One of the first bongo tracks I downloaded was from the “Run-DMC” of Tanzania, Mr. II. Armed with a bevy of aliases, a booming voice, and at eight albums to his name, Sugu has set his sights for the big time, releasing his latest album internationally. This track from 2001 has him paired with late Tanzanian singer Justin Kalikawe for what may be the definitive bongoflava anthem (although Sugu’s “Dar-Es-Salaam” is the more obvious choice). The song’s secret weapon is having two contiguous hooks, each in a different key. “Haki” means something along the lines of “freedom” and “justice” in Kiswahili, and ranks chief among the desires of Tanzanians according to Sugu.

Phat Family- Tucheze

When production values are low, technique has to make up for lagging technology. Bongoflava artists can’t rely on expensive bass sounds or the latest bhangra samples. The standout tracks are the ones with well-written components, and “Tucheze” boasts perhaps the best bassline in bongoflava, a sneaky, playful rope-a-dope punctuated with hand claps, kicks, and string hits. Put this on your summer jam mixtape before it’s too late.

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (2)

May 11, 2005

Victor- Go On Do It (Radio Version)

Morgan Geist’s Unclassics was one of 2004’s best DJ mixes, and “Go On Do It,” despite veering from the minimal Italodisco that serves as the template for much of the album, is the clear highlight. Victor, who according to Geist is gay, narrates the raunchy tale of a female conquest of his in a seethingly precise growl reminiscent of Blowfly’s raps; having never laid eyes on either performer, I keep imagining a cartoon pimp, with a fedora and glittering teeth, like a character from Grand Theft Auto. Of course, the track’s sleek 1980s electro-funk, all 808 hits and crawling synth-bass, does little to alter this impression. But I’m also drawn to the interplay between Victor and his female backup singers, who blithely coo “we all need love” in ironic counterpoint to Victor’s graphic exploits, and then engage in a grammatically dizzying call-and-response (you’ll see what I mean). (NB: Because it’s from a continuous mix, the song does end rather abruptly.)

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Teedra Moses- Be Your Girl

From the slinky sophistication she shows off on her album cover and in this song’s video, I suppose Teedra Moses can be classified as neo-soul-although unlike someone like Alicia Keys (whose “You Don’t Know My Name” mines similar swooning-from-afar terrain), she seems less interested in Aretha-style diva acrobatics and more in casual come-ons. Which suits me better. Plus, maybe I’m just nostalgic for my R&B youth, but I like that her sense of retro isn’t limited to some “golden age” of soul; production-wise, “Be Your Girl” feels like it could slip into an early ’90s radio playlist. (I get the same feeling from Natalie’s coolly understated “Goin’ Crazy.”) Or at least as long as nobody made a big deal out of the “sometimes I even touch myself” line: as is, it retains a really nice balance of nonchalance and, when the bottom falls out, a “yeah, I said it” coyness. None of that campy Divinyls business.

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Life Without Buildings- PS Exclusive

Before I ever heard this now-defunct Scottish indie outfit, a friend had described their sound as Pavement crossed with the Sugarcubes. Usually I’m skeptical of goofy X-meets-Y comparisons, but within the first few bars of this song, which opens their lone full-length, Any Other City, I could kinda see it. There were angular yet shambling guitar riffs, and then there was a female singer who took center stage, shouting like a hyperactive kid. But that connection only goes so far in describing Sue Tompkins’ vocals, which are unlike almost anyone’s. Typically she focuses on a single phrase (here, “the right stuff”) and repeats it several times, sometimes eagerly, sometimes stretching it out, until the words become just words. Against the song’s jumpy rhythm, it sounds playful and spontaneous: she’s both in sync with her bandmates and irresistibly sliding around them wherever she can.

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The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

May 10, 2005

Ted Leo- Since U Been Gone / Maps

Kelly Clarkson’s dirtied up her sound a little, and somehow that makes it perfect for Ted Leo to do a solo acoustic version of her new single. He sticks some of “Maps” (by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) in the middle, adding a smooth musical and interesting narrative bridge to the track. Leo’s pretty much infallible with Chisel, the Pharmacists, or on his own, and this performance demonstrates why: even with a bit of his tongue in his cheek, he’s still an affecting vocalist, and a talented musician.

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Russian Futurists- Paul Simon

The first track on the Russian Futurists’ new album, “Paul Simon” will, without a doubt, improve your mood for the day (even if it apparently has nothing to do with the singer it’s named for. Matthew Adam Hart uses the kitchen-sink bedroom orchestration (meaning a multi-tracked keyboard) to great effect, creating catchy hooks and fun lyrics that bounce and tumble oh so fluidly.

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Tiger Bear Wolf- Input, Output

Their self-titled debut could be one of the best hard rock albums of the year. This track demands that you “turn it all the way up,” and usually lyrics-about-music tend to turn me off, but this is a band that’s out to save rock ‘n’ roll, and (leaving aside the question of whether or not it needs saving), TBW could do it. The guitar lingers and the drums vie for attention like a middle child off her medication. It’s Ted Leo on a roid rage; It’s the pack that eats Russian Futurists (maybe literally).

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The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

May 9, 2005

Sonny Boy Williamson I- You Can Lead Me

I can’t stand Chicago blues. Large-band, made-man blues. The focus of the blues should be the man, the lyrics, the naked showmanship. Otherwise, the hallowed 12-bar structure of the blues is made monotonous; just another exercise along the lines of Chuck Berry rips or black metal ballads. A key becomes a battering ram, even though they’re set against the same door. This is the original Sonny Boy, whose alchemy helped alter the harmonica from poor child’s toy to poor man’s weapon. Here he’s begging for some loving, enlisting his brother T.W. and mentor Walter Davis to scour the schoolrooms for just the right woman. The lyric is all over the place, Yank Rachell’s mandolin keeps things swinging, and Sonny sends it all home with sheer force of personality.

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Blind Alfred Reed- Why Do You Bob Your Hair, Girls?

Absolutely classic. Due a revival in these personae-by-theft times. This tune, released in 1927, proved so popular that Mr. Reed cut a sequel. And I can see why. Still funny, still potent.

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The Mountain Goats- Two Thousand Seasons

As a guy who got into this rap game thanks to the presence of industry heavy John Darnielle, I have to acknowledge that The Sunset Tree isn’t doing it for me. The only recourse is to pick up a past release and get to know that aching eager heartland voice again. This week’s release is Protein Source of the Future… Now!, and the song, which I swear I must have skipped every time before as I cannot recall it, is “Two Thousand Seasons”. For a minute forty, Mr. Darnielle waxes calumnic over nothing more than controlled feedback or angry radio wavelengths. It’s like Jeremiah writing Lamentations from a bus stop with his Red Krayola in the Walkman. Something good is coming.

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The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (5)

May 6, 2005

Laptop- Let Yourself Go

Probably the most over-the-top entry on this list, and that is saying something. This isn’t strictly a duet either, since only one of the involved parties actually sings, but the spoken interplay that comes before each verse is so pitch-perfect and hilarious that I had to include it. “I just wanted to tell you how I feel about some stuff,” Jesse mutters just before he starts over-emoting like a syrupy ’80s heartthrob, about giving in to passion and all that. Jenny, meanwhile, remains resolutely dispassionate, like she’s unaware or uninterested that she happens to be in a pop song; she’s just trying to have a normal conversation (albeit a relationship-ending one) and he’s trying her patience with all this oblivious singing. It’s the “Nothing Better” melodrama writ even larger, and more self-aware. Numerous brilliant ironic and meta-referential touches—like when Jenny’s voice becomes literally robotic in her emotionless exasperation: “You’re really not taking this in.” Cracks me up.

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The Jazz Passengers featuring Elvis Costello and Deborah Harry- Doncha Go ‘Way Mad

This time things end more happily. A fairly faithful rendition of an old Illinois Jacquet tune (also rended by the likes of Ella and Frankie, though not together), this is a lovely chance to hear two of new wave’s foremost attitudes coo so cooly they almost seem to be mocking their tougher younger personas. It’s also got to be the most amiable lover’s tiff imaginable, with lines like “well you understand that I feel upset”/”what do you say that we forgive and forget?” But really, who could hold a grudge with that deliciously slinky vibraphone softshoe in the background. It shouldn’t be much more than a novelty, but playfully inflected, winking performances from both all involved make it nearly irresistible. Dig, for instance how El blandishes “Deborah darling” in his final round of peace entreaties over the fade-out.

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Ute Lemper with Neil Hannon- Split

It shouldn’t surprise many to hear the Divine Comedy frontman and the latter-day cabaret diva turn in a three-minute pocket-opera, replete with delectably caustic and pithy repartee worthy of Woody Allen at his most sarcastic: “I was there for you”/”You were there for me…and him…and half of the western world it seems.” It gets a little hard to follow the convoluted shared past they so vindictively thrust in each other’s faces here, especially when they launch into the unison chorus that suggests the betrayals and forgivenesses took place (repeatedly) on both sides. Essentially, this is another elegy to a dead-on-its-feet relationship, whose dissolution is imminent, apparently, because on reflection there isn’t much holding it together after all. That notwithstanding, they both still sound plenty damn passionate about it.

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The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (1)

May 5, 2005

I get a little shifty when people talk about things being sexy; it never quite feels right. It will take years of therapy to get across exactly what I mean, but it has something to do with the music here. It’s the naked awkwardness of our intents, our attempts to appease our id but keep it tamed. The confusions manifest themselves in a kind of glorious shame, with these intense erotic charges bubbling underneath and seeping out in the weirdest ways. It’s a loose thread, a less-is-more feeling of uncertainty and ambiguity. I’m not going to get all psycho-sexual on you; after all, this is an MP3 blog. These songs represent a little of what I am trying to articulate, this semi-creepy faux-unassuming/naïve sexuality that masks our enormously interesting repressions. Plus, they’re great songs.

Beat Happening- Bewitched

Calvin Johnson (in all his projects) gets labeled as a bellowing hunk/cutesy naïf hybrid, which is probably pretty close, but people often overlook the weirdness of the intersection: “Bewitched” is a great example of fake ‘50’s youth overdosing on hormones, phone books between their hips at school dances, all raw passion and jitters. Great, especially the huge toms at the end—beating heart, throbbing hips. Screw the garage-rock revival as “sexy,” this is ten times more awkward and ten times better.

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Elvis- Blue Moon

A few years before his gyration TV scandal that set American skirts ablaze, Elvis Aaron cut a meditative cover of this instantly recognizable pop classic for Sun Records. For all the pelvic action he pioneered, there’s something infinitely more understated, creepy, and generally sexy about the chilling falsetto break in his song; it’s like all the energy goes straight to his head because he’s afraid to let it out, and it’s thrilling.

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Sonic Youth- Shadow of a Doubt

From 1986’s towering Evol, a kind of darkly camp role-playing of the same vibe; Kim Gordon’s delivery puts a gorgeous dreamy-noir spin on the breathy ‘50’s starlet in a moment of weakness, an indie Marilyn unbridled. One of my favorite songs, maybe ever.

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Shangri La’s- Past, Present, and Future

A slightly morose, but nevertheless really nice rip of Beethoven’s ubiquitous-for-a-reason “Moonlight Sonata.” This starts out fairly innocently, but I get goosebumps thinking about the girl leading the boy along the beach murmuring the condition “don’t try to touch me, ‘cause that will never…happen…again,” only to ask, “shall we dance?” Love—totally self-indulgent, totally messy and confusing. There’s something almost surreal about the string break’s grandeur, a feeling that runs through much of the Shangri La’s music. (Fun fact: Sonic Youth’s “Little Trouble Girl” is blatantly girl-group derivative, aided by the blasé eroticism of the Breeders/Pixies leading lady Kim Deal; the song pinches its great closing “we were close… very… very… close” section from the Shangri La’s “Give Him a Great Big Kiss”: “Is he a good dancer?” “What do you mean is he a good dancer?’” “Well, how does he dance?” “Close… very… very… close.”)

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The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (3)

May 4, 2005

Luminfire- The Velcro Party Favour: Installment #1

01. Michael Jackson as Captain EO – “We Are Here to Change the World” (Disney, 1986)
02. Dannii Minogue vs. Dead or Alive – “Begin to Spin Me ‘Round” (London, 2003)
03. Depeche Mode – “Just Can’t Get Enough (Schizo Mix)” (Mute, 1981)
04. Annie – “Chewing Gum (Headman Vocal Remix)” (679, 2004)
05. The B-52’s – “Love Shack (Tiefschwarz Mash by Luminfire)” (Reprise, 1989; Yellow Productions, 2004)*
06. Tiga – “Pleasure From the Bass” (Different, 2004)
07. Yes – “Owner of a Lonely Heart (Extended Remix)” (Elektra/Rhino, 1983)
08. Blondie – “Good Boys (Scissor Sisters Mix)” (Sanctuary, 2004)
09. Rick James – “Cold Blooded” (Motown, 1983)
10. Cut Copy – “Future (Chromeo Remix)” (Modular, 2004)
11. Madonna & Otto Von Wernherr – “Cosmic Climb” (Mindfield, 1986)
12. Chaka Khan – “My Love Is Alive” (Warner Bros., 1984)
13. Herbie Hancock – “Metal Beat” (Columbia, 1984)
14. Luminfire – “Jitter” (Cartoon Special, 1999)
15. Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean (Yellow Magic Orchestra Mash by Luminfire)” (Epic, 1982; EMI, 1979)**
16. Mysterymen – “It Feels Nice” (Disko B, 2004)
17. Cyndi Lauper – “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” (Epic, 1985)

Instrumental Sources:
* - DJ Tal - “Digital World (Tiefschwarz Vocal)”
** - Yellow Magic Orchestra - “Technopolis”

Will Simmons | 8:00 am | Comments (3)

May 3, 2005

Brutal Juice- Burpgun

Today, I offer you some measure of aesthetic coherence, at the cost of using the vaguest of vague musical descriptors: rock. The first track is the old-school track: courtesy of Brutal Juice, the clerisy of Texas rock mayhem in the 1990s. Interscope picked them up in the post-Seattle freakfest; they responded lovingly with the issue (I use this in the medical sense) of Mutilation Makes Identification Difficult, the best modern rock album of the 90s, if not the best rock album alone. Alternately terrifying and gleeful, manic and messianic, the Juice concocted a miscible mash out of prog rock, psychpunk, hardcore, and thrash metal. Which earned them their Interscope walking papers. Amazingly, the label hasn’t been devoured by eldritch fiery horrors in the interim. In any event, the Juice broke up, only to reform triumphantly last year, playing a clutch of shows around Dallas (one of which I was lucky enough to attend). The band’s still in grim lockstep; frontman Craig Welch and guitarist Ted Wood still scream in harmony. Welch in particular is a live revelation, doing headstands, mixing it up with pit fighters, and tucking his exposed genitalia between his legs like a three-year-old. Be thrilled. Be terrified. Seek this album out. It’s the real deal.

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Oneida- You’re Drifting

Always had a soft spot for Oneida and their motorik sloppy glory. For
The Wedding, their latest album, the band assembled a gigantic music box out of warped cylinders rotating against sawblades, then translated the results into a pop quantum leap. It’s weird, really, all those violins. And it’s definitely odd to feel woozy from an Oneida melody instead of an Oneida garage groove assault. While I cautiously give this album a thumbs up and hope for a disc of the original music box loops, listen to this sweet little track that feints toward krautrock, veers into sunny psychedelia, and bursts into stringed transcendence.

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Impaled- Preservation of Death

I feel a little suspect yielding up a metal track to the discerning readers of Stylus; while I’m no Slipknot apologist, I have to give it up to the cream of the thrash/death crop plying their trade today. That includes Impaled, who just released the concept album Death After Life. The theme isn’t exactly Dante’s Inferno; the band imagines themselves as wayward medical students who reanimate corpses to gain a perspective on mortality. Yet the band carries the theme to its logical conclusions with humor (Impaled is the kind of band who gives titles to their solos - the final solo, AKA “These Lips Are Sealed,” is the nastiest), impishness, and plenty of howling atmosphere spiraling around squealing riffs. A closer glance at their lyrics show the Impaled boys matching Carcass at the game of Obscure Vocabulary. The baroque closing passage ratchets the track into brooding ambiguity, refusing to play the theme for either straight laughs or abject gore. While I’m still waiting for that fabled MBV-meets-true-metal mix, I’d be crippling myself if I didn’t give stuff like this its due.

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The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

May 2, 2005

They Walk In Line recently released its debut album, Medical Necessities on Rock Ridge Music. The band shows a skill for blending its indie influences with more traditional guitar-pop leanings. Each member of the band selected a song for us, revealing disparate but compatible tastes.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre– Evergreen

Paul Bayze (Bass Guitar): The guitar draws me in, it sounds so hypnotic in the way of My Bloody Valentine or Ride. This song stands out from the rest of the BJM’s repertoire, with the haunting-breathy vocal style that Anton Newcombe only displays on this one song. This sounds completely different from the retro-60’s ish style the band is known for. Yes this song “Evergreen” makes me want to smoke some Evergreen for breakfast!

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The Comas– Hologram

Kevin Kolpien (Guitar): I’m usually more into noisy bands like The Warlocks or Dead Meadow, but part of me has always loved catchy pop tunes. The Comas are one of my recent favorites as they blend great songwriting, tasteful vocal harmonies, and interesting song structures. “Hologram” starts off with acoustic guitar and vocals and slowly builds throughout the song. The keyboards are well-placed and in the foreground just enough to make the listener think there are strings in the recording. I like the dark subject matter of the lyrics as well - “Every time I think about a zero, it’s me with my eyes exed out”. Guitar-wise, there’s nothing fancy going on which is a plus in this case. Simple and to-the-point leads, rhythmic acoustic guitar, some distortion when things build enough… that’s what good guitar playing is all about in my opinion.

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Dead Meadow– Heaven

Michael Romero (Guitar/Vocals): This tune’s got the elements. I’m totally digging the new record by Dead Meadow and the 4th track, Heaven, is prolly my fave at the moment. The song’s got that dreamy Pink Floyd/Sabbath feel with that total laziness from a vocal standpoint that sucks you in and breathes with total space and psychedelics. The guitar licks hop across and back between a driving rock sound and the delay-layered accents reminding me of what The Verve did on A Storm In Heaven. The record’s overall darkness and moodiness translates best on this cut.

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Cornelius– Chapter 8 - Seashore And Horizon

Niaz Chakravarty (Drums/Percussion): A beautiful acoustic thought provoker from an amazing talent that sounds like it was recorded in the sixties. This style in its retro haze brings the listener closer to realizing that the song is a meditation: We get what we want because we take chances. Success and failure has little significance here because the true meaning is in the fact that you gave yourself a chance.

“Now I’ve seen a blue beginning (now I go)
And I’ve seen a blue ‘the end’ (now I know)
Set the scene for seaward swimming (now I go)
Dim the stage again
If I don’t guess then I won’t know”

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The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

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