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.
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 recordbecause 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?
There are sometimes moments in songs that turn a pretty decent song into a “I always have to listen to this two times” kind of track – moments like in Broken Bells’ “The High Road” when it changes to “it’s too late to change your mind”; moments that take you from idle listening to hearing – “Do You Think You’re Enough” has that. It’s kind of The Strokes-ey with the guitar distortion and a thick rope of bass running through it until “the moment” and the song emerges in the nude.
PYYRAMIDS is a super-group (I found thanks to Pigeons and Planes) consisting of Tim Nordwind from OK GO and Drea Smith from He Say/She Say (who I’ll admit I am not familiar with – a situation I will rectify immediately because I really dig the lady’s voice). They have an album coming out in April and from what I’ve heard so far, it’s going to be some refreshing listening.