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Archive for June, 2007

3 random songs

June 8th, 2007 No comments

Well, not quite random; these songs were posted on AMDWHAH’s sister blog in South Africa.

My second favourite song of my first favourite Beatles album:
The Beatles – I”ve Just Seen A Face.mp3

An anti-apartheid song apartheid radio forgot to ban in 1980. It’s about inter-racial sex…er…love (a crime that could see you jailed in Apartheid SA). And it was nine weeks at No1 in SA. In your face, PW Botha!
Joy – Paradise Road.mp3

This song, in a different and inferior recording, found fame after being featured in a South African Volkswagen ad a few years ago which won international ads (and which was indeed quite lovely. Link here).
Andre de Villiers – Memories.mp3

More Pandora discoveries

June 7th, 2007 2 comments

More artists I discovered through pandora.com. Being on a deadline, I”ll have to add to this post in drips and drabs. Check this blog periodically to get more MP3 downloads. There should be six download links by the end of the afternoon.

Kevin Devine – Haircut.mp3
One of my favourite Pandora discoveries. Devine is hard to classify: Indie, alt.country, singer-songwriter. He is just fantastic. This is the superior acoustic version of the album version, which appeared on the rare Travelling Through The EU… EP

The Gabe Dixon Band – All Will Be Well.mp3
This is a bit like Billy Joel, before he turned to shit. I must confess that I really, really like only two Gabe Dixon songs, but those two are fantastic. This one has a great chorus and a nice piano hook.

The Weepies- Gotta Have You.mp3
An early Pandora discovery, and the best of the lot. I love the Weepies, despite their silly name. This is one of the cutest songs I”ve ever heard.

Kacy Crowley – Kind Of Perfect.mp3
A lovely song. Crowley”s music is exceedingly difficult to find, which I find mystifying.

Joshua Radin – These Photographs
From my pick for Album of 2006. Radin“s music is gentle, melodic and intimate, recalling the great Nick Drake. You have to admire a love song that namechecks Sylvia Plath, Mary Cassat, Simone de Beauvoir, and Nina Simone (“You”re Nina Simone, when you talk on the phone. You sing to me, and I”m truly no longer alone”. Lovely),

Brandi Carlile – Throw It All Away.mp3
Beautiful, catchy and touching song from Brandi Carlile“s self-titled 2005 debut. Her name suggests an airhead pop princess, but she is actually a hugely talented singer-songwriter with a hell of a voice.

Internet Radio R.I.P.

June 6th, 2007 2 comments

And so it has to come pass that my old friend Pandora.com has died on my doorstep. Perhaps not yours, if you live in the US. But where I live, Pandora is gone. Thanks to those idiots who run the recording industry and the judge of the Copyright Royalty Board. It isn’t the Internet that has resulted in dropping sales, but the stupidity of the recording industry which sees an opportunity, and kills it because it doesn’t know what better to do with it.

One attribute of Internet radio which the industry should have loved is that you don’t download the music from that source. You like what you hear, you go on to buy it (or download it, depending on your ethics and access to non-top 80 material where you live). It was free advertising, and a great way to introduce listeners to acts they might otherwise never have heard. I discovered loads of such artists through Internet radio (MP3 blogs likewise are a great source of discovering new material, but you knew that). Perhaps the recording industry wants to kill Internet radio for just that reason: why have independent outfits, hairy armpitted lesbians, ugly guys, clever wordsmiths, and raspy voiced poets detract attention from those mega acts we are supposed to spend our money on: Justin, Christina, Tim, Eminem, Carrie, Fiddy, and so on.

So, to commemorate the happiness Internet radio brought me, here are songs by some acts I do remember having been introduced to by Pandora.com. (more to come)

Ben Kweller – In Other Words.mp3
The original and superior EP recording (on Freak Out…It’s Ben Kweller), with the banjo.

Mindy Smith – Falling.mp3
Wonderful song from 2004’s wonderful One Moment More.

Catie Curtis – Troubled Mind.mp3
Curtis has been around since he ’90s. Never heard of her till Pandora. My point is made.

The Crimea – Lottery Winners On Acid.mp3
Again, the original, not the inferior Top 20 version

Matt Nathanson – Curve Of The Earth.mp3
With Kweller and Kevin Devine, he was the first “new favourite” artist I found on Pandora.

MoZella – Light Years Away.mp3
This became an office favourite when KP’s GF started to dig it. Not too long before that, KP’s GF had been a Bryan Adams (yes, Bryan) fan. Her taste of music, acquired at the feet of the master, is now nearly flawless.

South Africa rocks…

June 4th, 2007 No comments

In an earlier post, I flagged the genius of South Africa’s Springbok Nude Girls (or just Nude Girls, as they call themselves internationally) and Harris Tweed. The download stats suggest that the uploads were quite popular. So, here’s some more music from South Africa, with a mixed bag of genres.

In case you missed them, the SNG and Harris Tweed links:
Springbok Nude Girls – Blue Eyes.mp3
Harris Tweed – Le Musketeer est Brave.mp3

Besides Harris Tweed, Durban’s Farryl Purkiss produced the other classic South African album of 2006. His self-titled sophomore album is utterly brilliant over the first four songs, and consistently excellent for the remainder. Purkiss has toured internationally with the wonderful Missy Higgins (whose new album I love) and Donavon Frankenreiter (whose CD last year was very good, too). The comparisons to boring Jack Johnson, with whom he has collaborated, do Purkiss no justice “” the guy from Durban is much better. Here’s the album’s second track:
Farryl Purkiss – Escalator.mp3


In
the 1990s, a group called Henry Ate were big on the South African scene. Singer Karma-Ann Swanepoel went to find fame and fortune in LA (dropping the non-superstar surname). Sadly, Karma has not hit the big time. This incredibly beautiful song, one of my all-time favourites by any artist, is from her 1998 album One Day Soon. I have no idea what the lyrics have to do with Johann Pachelbel, or whether the melody borrows from the composer who wrote the Canon in D Minor (if you know, please leave a comment).
Karma – Pachelbel.mp3

Cassette, currently hyped big in SA, are certainly innovative, drawing their influences from all over the place. In isolation their songs are almost uniformly fine, but I find it all just a little to eclectic as a whole. This opener, with its Death Cab For Cutie vibe, is the stand-out track for me.
Cassette – A.I.mp3


Spratch
are a Cape Town emo/punk outfit that self-released their debut, On The Rise, last year. In the way of South African CD stores, only one retail chain bothered to stock the album: one copy in two Cape Town shops only. If the retail herberts have no faith in local artists, it is a reflection on them, not on the quality of the music made by these artists.
Spratch – Two Lives Lost.mp3
Go here to download two songs for free and help the band get some money

One of SA’s biggest rock acts, The Parlotones are a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. When they’re good, they are very good, but when they are bad, ugh! If you’re in England, see them live in June. Here’s one of their songs that is so good, they recoreded it twice:
The Parlotones – Beautiful.mp3


Mandoza is arguably South Africa’s biggest star, and “Nkalakatha” his biggest hit. A musician in the kwaito genre, which combines township pop with house and hip hop. This is the ultimate pump-up number:
Mandoza – Nkalakatha.mp3


And
still on a kwaito trip, Bongo Maffin made some of the most accessible and innovative music in the genre. It helped that the three members came from different ethnic backgrounds (Shona, Xhosa and Tswana), thus fusing distinct musical influences in their music. This year, Bongo Maffin are up for the BBC World Music Awards. Feel the energy on this 2000 track:
Bongo Maffin – Mari Ye Phepha.mp3

Vusi Mahlasela is one of South Africa’s finest jazz guitarist. In the South African context, that is a good genre to belong to. Internationally, it might be misleading. Even Afro-Jazz would be imprecise, though it is not inaccurate either. It’s mellow, it’s jazzy, it’s African. Try it.

Vusi Mahlasela – Silang Mabele.mp3


Between
1988 and 1992, Mango Groove were the biggest name on the South African scene. Combining pop, kwela and the pennywhistles of the mines, the multi-racial ensemble provided the soundtrack to the death of apartheid. Mango Groove deserved a much bigger international audience. Alas…
Mango Groove – Special Star.mp3

Agoraphobia…

June 4th, 2007 No comments


Due to popular demand (at least in my fertile imagination), here’s another song by ’80s sensations Stawberry Switchblade. This one goes out to all you agoraphobics out there…

Strawberry Switchblade – Trees And Flowers.mp3

Review: Maroon 5

June 2nd, 2007 No comments

Maroon 5 – It Won’t Be Soon Before Long (2007)

Take equal portions of ’80s funk, pop, New Wave, ska and a dash of soul, chuck it all into your favourite synthethizer, and you too can become Maroon 5.

Those familiar with the genres can have virtually minutes of fun playing spot the hook, riff and bassline. For one thing, Maroon 5 have clearly listened to too many Police records (blatantly and without much imagination ripping off on three songs, from “Roxanne” to “Every Breath You Take”), and reference liberally the likes of Prince, Michael Jackson and, er, the Steve Miller Band. It seems as though in their plagiaristic endeavours, Maroon 5 couldn’t even bother to go beyond volumes 1 and 2 of their 40 Super Duper Hits Of The Fantastically Brilliant 1980s double CDs. But, hey, at least Maroon 5 don’t rip off Toni Basil’s “Mickey”, as their spiritual cousin Avril Lavigne has done.

Happy then are those who need not suffer such distraction, for at times Maroon 5’s second album sounds really good — in the way KFC smells quite good before you get to eat the Colonel’s rancid battery-chicken pieces that had seemed so inviting.

The production of this album is so polished, so calculated, that invariably the album is utterly bereft of soul. Frequently It Won”t Be Soon Before Too Long just drowns in its own pretentious ambition to condense 30 years of popular music into 12 presumably cool and funky songs.

Lead single “Makes Me Wonder” (Michael Jackson ahoy!) will be one of this year’s biggest hits, but it is not in any way a memorable classic (which is ironic, since it rips off so many classics). You will have heard it not very long ago playing on radio or on TV. Try whistling the tune. I bet you can still remember the melody of “This Love” though.

Lyrically Adam Levine does not cut a sympathetic figure, relishing rather too much in his playa image (when he isn’t fucking the pillow, the idiot). Levine doesn’t seem to like women much, such is his (not quite Snoopesque) contempt for them.

Maroon 5 certainly have nothing profound to say, and this is not the sort of album one listens to for messages. Pity then that the music isn“t more engaging.

Here is the albums highlight, make of it what you will:
Maroon 5 – Back At Your Door.mp3

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C'mon, get happy…

June 1st, 2007 2 comments

Everybody has a set of songs that cheer them up. Sometimes these songs have a happy message, or a happy sound; sometimes they trigger happy memories. Here are some of my happy songs.

Chuck Mangione – Feels So Good.mp3
Rarely has a jazz-fusion song been so appropriately titled. On a forum I frequent, somebody described Mangione as the Kenny G of the flugelhorn. Slander. If you want to be scathing about Mangione’s descent into smooth jazz, then compare him to David Sanborn — another one who traded credibility for Quiet Storm commercialism. But listen to Mangione’s 1975 album Chase The Clouds Away, especially “Can’t We Do This All Night”, and you have something much closer to the mighty Crusaders than Kenny bloody G.

Earth, Wind & Fire – In The Stone.mp3
A companion piece to “Feels So Good”. Anything by EWF can make me happy, but none more so than “In The Stone”, with its happy melody, soaring horns, jaunty bassline, funky guitar, and Latin percussion. And the “Never…” outro is pure singalong magic.

Bill Withers – Lovely Day (Sunshine Mix).mp3
An obvious choice on any happy-song list, and with good reason. This is the 1988 Sunshine Mix, which is nit as good as the original, but more difficult to find. I concede, it sounds a little aged now (the female “hey hey”s!), but — unlike the original — this remix can get a party going. And, let’s face it, you can’t fuck up that great a song.

Bill LaBountyLivin‘ It Up.mp3
Bill LaBounty should be a legend in the Guilty Pleasures department which includes the likes of Boz Scaggs, Ambrosia, Linda Ronstadt etc. Somehow, fame eluded the dude, despite at least one quite excellent album which included this wonderful track. It’s a song of denying the pain of a love lost, set to a happy melody. Magnificent.

Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday.mp3
In 1984 I somehow got to see Howard Jones and his mime sidekick at the Hammersmith Odeon. But it was the support act that blew me away. A couple months later, Strawberry Switchblade’s “Since Yesterday” was a Top 10 hit in Britain. It remains of one of the finest moments of pop in the 1980s.

Fifth Dimension – Stoned Soul Picnic.mp3
The happy association is obviously in the title.