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

A photo posted by Dot (@tee_mockingbird) on

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!

 

Dear 2015, I Already Love You

This year looks like it’s going to be the year of my favourite music releases. Pretty much every morning when I wake up and scroll some news feed or other there’s always a little teaser, or even better, a whole new single that gets me right in the gut – a tear was shed for Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and I screamed a little when I saw the headline NEW FLORENCE + THE MACHINE.

So, here are some singles (and/or a teaser video) from my Top Six Most Anticipated Albums of the Year: Why I Think 2015 is Going to Musically Rule. It’s particularly exciting because a few of these artists (like Passion Pit and Florence) are releasing their third albums, which is when I think bands (and TV shows on their third seasons) really hit the sweet spot.  By the third record, musicians tend to be more comfortable in their skins and they’re past the pressure of the sophomore album that has to be as good as the debut. My ears can’t wait.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – I have ‘Multi Love’ on heavy rotation while I impatiently wait for the new album. 

 

Passion Pit – I JUST WANT THE NEW MUSIC (in the meantime I’ll just listen to Sleepyhead over and over and over) 

 

Florence + The Machine – I want more of Florence’s voice in my life. Not want. Probably need. 

 

Alabama Shakes – I missed you (lead singer) Brittany! 

 

Donnie Trumpet + The Social Experiment – There’s enough Chance the Rapper and co. to hold me over on Soundcloud…for now. 

 

Courtney Barnett – She’s one of my favourite Australians and has some killer quirky songwriting skills. She also once said I could join her Anonymous Club

Sam Smith vs Tom Petty & My Favourite Copyright Cases

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So, if you ever listened to Sam Smith’s über-ballad ‘Stay With Me’ and thought that it sounded kind of familiar, you were right. The male Adele just quietly settled a charge of copyright infringement by Tom Petty, whose people said that ‘Stay With Me’ sounded too much like the 1989 track ‘Won’t Back Down’. When I first read the news I kept singing both choruses over trying to find the link, and they definitely do sound alike. But the tune is kind of generic in that it’s melodically logical (for easy-on-the-ears listening) so it’s kind of a forgivable mistake to make.

Tom Petty actually acknowledged that this sort of unintended imitation happens all the time, and usually, any noticeable links between songs are caught before a track leaves the studio. I admire his coolness about the situation, because what is modern music if not a bunch of borrowings and inspiration? (It’s still a little shitty for Sam Smith as the little guy who has to split his mega-earnings and songwriting credit with legends who probably need the credit and cash a lot less, though.)

This mash-up highlights the undeniable similarities (and sounds pretty sweet): Continue reading