Video of the Day: Tank and the Bangas

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From the literal second that this video performance by Tank and the Bangas starts, you’ll feel a smile creep onto your face and an emotion I can most definitely name as pure delight. Aside from the fact that the song itself is a certifiable banger, watching this band do something that they so visibly enjoy down to their very cores with each other should feel like it’s exclusionary to the viewer, but somehow the entire 3 minutes and 56 seconds feels like the complete opposite of that.

Just watching their faces as they rhyme and sing and play bass and saxophone feels like a connection, because it’s like we all share the feeling that music is happy potion. And also, the main singer looks like the type of girl you’d like to befriend because you know there’d be a lot of laughter and hilarious in-jokes (who doesn’t love in-jokes right?!).

The band are winners of NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest, which is a competition where amateurs send in their videos for a chance to perform at the Tiny Desk Concert. And if you have no idea what that is, I suggest you look it up, but be prepared to get lost in an internet wormhole of awesome performances (some of my favorites include Aanderson .Paak (HOW CAN YOU RAP AND PLAY DRUMS AT THE SAME TIME?!), Sylvan Esso, T-Pain (because it’s so surprising) and tUnE-yArDs). [And if you have favorites of your own, tell me what they are!]

Before you do  that though, put aside some time right now to watch Tank and the Bangas and repeat as necessary.

 

 

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A Playlist for Friday

I know, I know, I’m consistently inconsistent, but I’m trying to do better mainly because I feel like sharing music is all I have to keep me relatively sane. And if I consider all the pleasure I get from my daily listening and the possibility that I could spread that joy even just a little bit, then I’m basically punking myself when I don’t share posts because it’s something that I know is important to me.

So even though after all this time I feel like you are owed some sort of coherent wrap-up of all the music that has been filling my soul, I have to start here with this ultra-chill playlist that I made a while ago, which perfectly suited the Friday-after-work-vibes-with-a-strong-cocktail I was feeling when I put it on today. It’s got some songs from 2016, which for everything that it was in terms of borderline apocalyptic, has to go down as one of my favorite musical years along with 2013, 2009 and 1998 – and yes, there is a playlist dedicated to 2016: A Shit Year for the World but a Dope One for Music that will come.

The song on this playlist with the coolest background story has to be Ariel Pink’s “Baby”, which is a cover of an original by Donnie and Joe Emerson – two brothers from a tiny town in Washington state who cut a record in their home studio in the ‘70s after their father took out a loan on his farm to support his sons’ talents.

Dreamin’ Wild was pretty much unheard of until a crate-digger found it in a record shop in 2012, and eventually Ariel Pink’s cover of opening track“Baby” blew the lid on the long-forgotten passion project. The album was re-released shortly after the cover was, and the Emerson brothers got acclaim for the amazing album they made when they were just teenagers on a farm. So with that bit of optimism and reminder of good in the world, here’s a sit-back-and-chill playlist with a little old and a little new, which I mainly hope can briefly remove you from the craziness of the world right now, even if it’s just for the amount of time it takes to listen to twelve songs.

Tracklist:
Ariel Pink – Baby
Night Moves – Colored Emotions
The Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows
Japanese Breakfast – The Woman That Loves You
Bon Iver – For Emma
Dumbo Gets Mad – Indian Food
The Flaming Lips – The Castle
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being in Trouble
Pond – Sweep Me Off My Feet
Soft Hair – Lying Has To Stop
Good Morning – Warned You
Khruangbin – Dern Kala

 

Video of the Day: The Avalanches “Because I’m Me”

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One of my Official Favorite Albums Of 2016 (So Far) is The Avalanches’ Wallflower, released this July and a whole sixteen years (read: musical lifetime) after the Australian genre-mashing outfit’s critically acclaimed first, Since I Left You. The new album is a rich scrapbook mosaic of samples from all kinds music cut and pasted together to make a pretty dope journey through bouncy hip-hop, shimmery sheeny disco, Beatlesy textures and smile-inducing pop references – like the distinct ‘na na na na na na na’ of ‘Getting Jiggy with It’, and a schoolyard chant rendition of ‘Come Together‘ by the Beatles in a song that reminds me of Gorillaz’ ‘Superfast Jellyfish‘.

My favorite sample though, is from ‘Because I’m Me’, the video for which was just released. The track opens with the ever-so-slightly distorted voice of a young boy singing what sounds like an old blues song, accompanied by a sampled snippet of the Honey Cones’ ‘Want Ads‘ which loops throughout. The kid’s voice is from this amazing collection of recordings called Street and Gangland Rhythms, Beats and Improvisations by Six Boys in Trouble: six black children aged 11 and 12 in a room with an audio recorder playing bongos, singing songs they’ve heard or made up in a sad, beautiful, funny and poignant snapshot of their lives living in a group home as future black men in New York City in the 1950s. The “song” in ‘Because I’m Me’ is actually a patchwork of words from a number of songs on the recordings, stuck together to make a tune about unrequited love. 

I think one of my favorite things about hip-hop music  is the use of samples because of the way those snippets can introduce you to a whole other world of music. Their use also shows the actual depth that goes into true hip-hop production- the work it takes to pick out an undercover piece of a song and make it “the get down” – the groovy baseline, the just-right beat, the thing that makes it fire, as the kids would say. (Related: if this is in any way interests you, you *need* to watch Baz Lurhman’s The Get Down.). 

Wallflower contains so many great references you could make a whole other, pretty great diverse mixtape, and I also just love this record because the tracks melt into each other so one song’s ending is another song’s beginning. It’s just so beautifully crafted that I pretty much can’t stop listening to it. And luckily, the videos for the singles have turned out to be just as charming, like this totally appropriate one for ‘Because I’m Me’ with a kid with an afro dancing in the subway backed up by horn players. How could you resist that?  

Dear Continuum, I Love You

I remember being at a show in L.A. in 2013 where Flying Lotus was the not-so-secret surprise guest, and the warm-up acts were asking the audience who they thought would be coming out to entertain us. Someone sarcastically said John Mayer, and the crowd laughed and jeered while in my heart I thought it wouldn’t have been such a bad thing had it been John Mayer circa Continuum. It’s still probably not that cool to say that you listened to and loved John Mayer (and also secretly hoped that he could have made a guest appearance that night), but on this, the tenth anniversary of what is unquestionably his best album, I say Fuck That.

Continuum came out on this day in 2006, but I honestly came to make it a part of my life as a 21-year old in 2009. When it came out, it was the soundtrack to my own dread of “Dreaming with a Broken Heart”, and I felt like I could relate hard core to that sad guitar wail of “Slow Dancing in A Burning Room”. I loved that it could take me all the way down to there and still keep me hopeful with songs like “In Repair” and “Waiting on the World to Change”. As a young person in university, I also felt strongly about the message in that song and “Belief”, since I still had that special brand of optimism before you have to start paying *real* bills. A good writer can put into words things you didn’t even know could be expressed until you heard or read them that way, and I’m not ashamed to say I think John Mayer is often that kind of writer. 

Sure, we can’t overlook the fact that he was a joke to people like the crowd in L.A., because after this album, he kind of spiraled into silly tabloid fodder, went down a more country road than the promising cool bluesy direction of Continuum (“I Don’t Trust Myself” is such a cool song), and there was the stupid shit he said about black women. But, not to condone that staggering ignorance at all,one of the truths of fandom is that good musicians aren’t always good people, and art can both illuminate and omit things about a single person (see: a lot of artists). NPR’s All Songs Considered just did a podcast about artists you’ve had to break up with for whatever reason, and I think John Mayer would be mine because of every album after Battle Studies.

Everything else aside, it’s been ten years since this album was born, and seven since I played it to death, and there’s no denying that every song on Continuum still holds up beyond just the meaning it had to me back then. I love that I can re-appreciate all the things that make it Just Great Music now, knowing that heartbreak is not unconquerable and despite some signs to the contrary, the heart of life is indeed good.

My Seven Favourite Things About Eaux Claires Fest

Dear #EauxClaires, I miss you

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One of my favourite things about being alive is music festivals.  Those crazy, sacred places where you get a sense of a different kind of world void of normal society’s rules, and where you know that all the glow-sticked, muddy-footed fellow revellers are there for a common purpose: for the love of music and fun. At festivals, the new norms include smiling and saying hi when you make eye contact with someone, and if this happens during a show, you have to have a mini boogie together. And if you’re me, you whip out your stash of glitter and shiny stars to stick on friends you make while waiting in line for the loo. The first ever Eaux Claires fest in Eau Claire, Wisconsin was one of my favourites of all time, maybe because there was something extra special about all of us taking a chance on an inaugural affair, or perhaps because most of the acts hadn’t been featured on the big festival circuit like Coachella and Bonnaroo. It was like one big campout with 22, 000 of your mates who are mates with all the coolest bands. And that may be what I liked the most – the chance to hear good music live and fall in love with something new. It’s hard to narrow down the highest highlights after two days filled with jam after jam, but these are the ones that will forever be imprinted in my festival heart.

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Some Music For Spring

So they days have finally gone from being about white tundra, grey skies and air so cold it hurts to breath, to late sunsets, skin prickling with warmth and the fantasies of festival season. It’s only right that the music mood changes too, and this playlist is my own version of a summer roadtrip that covers all the outdoor revelry plus a tinge of the nostalgia that’s as inevitable as the turning of Earth.

Be warned that this is a Passion Pit peppered playlist, and listening to ‘Whole Life Story’ (from the new album, Kindred) especially makes me so desperately want to geek out to Michael Angelakos and the gang live. Perhaps at the same festival that I’m imagining where I’m swaying to Courtney Barnett’s dreamy steel guitar in ‘Depreston’ in the late afternoon, and then that night being warm and sticky, jumping up and down, hands clapping high overhead scream singing “I HAVE NEVER REACHED SUCH HIGHS!!” during Jamie xx’s DJ set. And of course Kendrick Lamar would have to be there performing the album that is most likely to be named one of the most important of our times (because if you’re not listening to To Pimp A Butterfly, you’re not listening) and the song with the most DEElicious bassline of the decade so far (that’s ‘King Kunta’).

There are also older songs from my ‘50s/’60s girl group obsession phase (Cults falls into this category because they are like a modern incarnation of that sound and style), which was inspired by a documentary called 50 Feet From Stardom about backup singers. Hence the significance of Lou Reed singing “and the coloured girls go…” in ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ and why I will always mentally see a young Luther Vandross giving it his all behind David Bowie in this video for ‘Young Americans’.

Lastly, there’s Michelle Branch’s ‘All You Wanted’ thrown in simply because it is one of my favourite songs to sing out loud, and it specifically reminds of a Monday orthodontist appointment when I officially decided I liked this song after seeing this video on MTV. So listen and enjoy, and most importantly, ask yourself why I am not an actual festival line-up co-coordinator person because this playlist is nothing but a darn good jam.

Five Song Playlist for A

This is a birthday post for one of my favourite music lovers, with whom I spent a few glorious years making memories soundtracked by these, and many other, tunes. She definitely deserves credit for introducing me to so much music that I now can’t live without, and consider myself lucky to be able to consult her wikipedic mind for pretty much anything music-related. I can’t forget how much she obsessed about the brilliance of ‘St John’ and how she reinforced her super coolness by introducing me to the Brazilian Girls. And I love that she is someone that I can genre hop with so we can have KRS-One and the B-52’s on the same playlist. Here’s to the roadtrips, music festivals, parties and jams and our (obviously) exceptional taste in music. Happy Birthday A!