The Black Keys | Brothers

8 06 2010

A week or two ago I picked up the latest Black Keys album Brothers. For those not familiar with the band, they’re a blues-rock duo consisting of vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer/producer Patrick Carney. Formed in 2001, they have 7 full length albums to their credit plus some EPs and collaborations. At this stage in their career I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. In recent years they have become wildly popular, receiving accolades as one of a hand full of true rock bands on the scene. In the last 5 years their music has even been used in movie soundtracks, on TV and in video games. Such success can often be a double-edged sword. On one hand, this means access to some better industry resources, including studio collaborators like high profile producers or guest artists. But on the other hand, such widespread acclaim and reverence can also heavily dilute the music.

After numerous listens (I always give it the proper due diligence), I’m a afraid I must give Brothers mixed reviews. I’m really glad to see the guys have moved on from the same old sound of their first few albums. I really appreciate that raw, simplicity-is-key, blues-based aesthetic but have thought that most of their past material sounds very much the same. So much so that if you were to put all their songs on a playlist and hit shuffle, it would be hard for anyone who’s not a fan to tell if they’ve heard a song twice. However, Brothers is a venture that showcases their ability to create something a little different. There is no absence of the root of their sound but it is now developed just a bit further. Some songs are simply embellished with bigger multi-track arrangements while others feature a more complex structure at the core. Not all are winners but it’s refreshing to hear a more distinct progression in their music. On all of their albums The Black Keys always seem to produce at least one standout that shines a bit brighter than the rest. Brothers is no exception. “Tighten Up”, which is the albums single, is without a doubt the best song. It’s a fantastic tune that is still very rough around the edges and yet is very catchy featuring a great hook and syncopated beat. The B Side to the “Tighten Up” single is “Howlin’ For You”, which is also very catchy but I have a hard time really getting in to it. If I had to pick a few other songs that rise to the top, I would definitely select “I’m Not The One”. It’s a very cool tune that sounds a bit like an updated Traffic song. Digging deeper into the cuts, I would go with “Ten Cent Pistol” and “Never Gonna Give You Up”. The former is a blues soaked beauty, while the latter takes it’s musical cues from the world of late 60’s soul. Both are refreshing takes on the status quo.

Below is the video for “Tighten Up”. It will likely be on every playlist I create this summer… and perhaps beyond. They did a great job with this video too. The music is very fitting for what transpires…

Here is “Ten Cent Pistol”. It’s no fancy high quality/high priced, studio produced video like “Tighten Up” but at least you can get a taste of the song.

References:

The Black Keys Official Site

The Black Keys YouTube Channel

More info on The Black Keys

More info on Dan Auerbach

More info on Patrick Carney

Purchase Online:

Buy Brothers on Amazon

Buy Brothers on iTunes

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Home

15 05 2010

It didn’t take much to find our new home. Although we don’t move in until this summer, it’s a done deal. To honor the occasion here’s Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ “Home”. It’s from their 2009 release Up From Below. This LA based band has their own brand of indie power pop and a pretty weird (and cool) back story of how they formed. To give you a clue, there is no Edward Sharpe. He’s a fictional figure in the same vain as Steely Dan, acting solely as a frontman persona. The band itself is comprised of any where from 10-15 guys and girls depending on the situation. This is the official music video for “Home”. It’s a really great song that has a wild west shuffle feel to it and some really endearing lyrics. The video is one of the coolest I’ve seen in a long time. Not only do I like the vintage filter they used but the subject matter is so fun. I wish I was out there with them just have an good ol’ time. Overall it gets an A+ for the music, aesthetic and attitude.

References:

More info on Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

More info on the album Up From Below

Purchase Up From Below on Amazon





Electric Junkyard Gamelan

12 05 2010

This Brooklyn based homemade musical menagerie is the brain child of composer Terry Dame. The name is very much descriptive of what this group strives for artistically. Terry and company are part of a growing movement of musicians who only utilize self-made, found and/or modified objects from ordinary life in their performances. The premise is that not only are you reusing, reducing and recycling but each instrument is absolutely unique. Which means that the player must learn to play on that specific instrument because the particular item may not be “tuned” perfectly or it may require some special technique to get a certain timbre out of it. The other element of their name that is very fitting is the fact that they specialize in Gamelan music from Indonesia. It’s an interesting style that utilizes overtones from resonating notes to create ambient harmonies. While it’s not the poppiest of music, these guys are not to be missed. Between their stage presence and the trance like effect of the Gamelan music, it’s a hell of a performance. This clip below will help you learn a bit more about who they are and what they do. Plus, it delves deeper into what the instruments are made of, how difficult they are to master and the resulting music that’s part chaos, part composition and 100% cool.

If you haven’t had enough, here’s some nice live footage of the band in action. It’s an interesting sound and the performance is truly an unique experience.

References:

Electric Junkyard Gamelan live on NPR

Learn more about Electric Junkyard Gamelan

Visit Electric Junkyard Gamelan on MySpace

More info on Handmade music

More info on Gamelan music





Yo La Tengo | Mr Tough

29 04 2010

This is a great song from Yo La Tengo. If you’re not already familiar with this band, Yo La Tengo is a trio made up of Ira Kaplan (guitars, vocals), Georgia Hubley (drums, vocals), and James McNew (bass, vocals). They first formed in Hoboken, NJ in 1984. They never quite achieved mainstream success but are hugely popular among their cult following and beyond. They have even been called “the quintessential critics’ band”. Not only do they write catchy little gems like this one but, they have an enormous catalog of material that includes both covers and originals in a multitude of styles. I was first turned on to them from a film scoring project they did called “The Sounds of the Sounds of Science”. It was music created to accompany 8 shorts films of underwater sea life  that were made in the 1920’s by surrealist filmmaker Jean Painlevé. The films were originally scored with classical music so to have them set in a new context, like instrumental indie rock, makes for a really cool presentation. They even perform it live with projections of the shorts… very cool stuff. Anyway, this may not be the most exciting video, but it’s a great song. Enjoy!

*Click HEREHERE for examples of the Jean Painleve films (w/ Original Score)

*Click HERE to sample an edited portion of some of the music from Yo La Tengo’s score

Purchase the album online HERE

Visit YoLaTengo.com

More info on Yo La Tengo





AIR

8 04 2010

AIR is the French duo consisting of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel. They play downtempo electro pop that is really laid-back and despite being mostly electronic it’s very organic sounding with real appeal to the analog snob. One thing that I particularly like about them is that they have both instrumental and vocals tunes, with the instrumentals usually being the standouts… well, in my mind. However, there are numerous exceptions to that. Some of the vocal stuff is really good like “The Vagabond” which features Beck on lead vocals. The duo is a very interesting format with a unique dynamic and these guys are no exception. Nicolas plays guitars, including bass and provides vocals too. While Jean-Benoît plays all the keyboard instruments and contributes vocals. Another thing I really like about these guys is that they are quite fond of music from the 70’s and are also very particular about using only vintage gear. Because they are just a duo, essentially everything they do is  an overdubbed studio project. It’s a lot like Walter Becker and Donald Fagan with Steely Dan. It’s that same principal but with a new electric groove and modern attitude. Their first release was a very cool little EP called Premiers Symptoms in 1997. Then the following year they released a full length album called Moon Safari that was phenomenal. They have made six other albums since then, all with a few excellent songs among them but the first two releases remain to be their best work. In addition to their own albums, they have done music for films. Director Sofia Coppola must really like them because not only did she ask them to do all the music for The Virgin Suicides, she used a song from one of their albums in Lost In Translation.

I really like this simple video for the opening track of Moon Safari, called “La Femme D’Argent”. This is probably the best song on this album and perhaps one of the best from their entire catalog.The album version is like 7 minutes long but this version is slightly abbreviated.

Below is an official video produced for a live performance. The song is “Talisman” also off Moon Safari.   Despite being just a duo, they bring around a small band for live gigs. The performances are extremely well replicated versions of the album material with some extra (but not overdone) improvisation and perhaps some fresh dynamics.

This next song is the tune used in Lost In Translation. It’s originally from their 2004 release Talkie Walkie. The song is called “Alone In Kyoto”. This is a great live video that is also of very high quality. It’s cool to see how they recreate songs like this live.

More info on AIR

AIR’s Official Site

All their music on Amazon

More on Steely Dan

A few more AIR songs to check out:

The Vagabond (featuring Beck)

Alpha Beta Gaga

Playground Love

Kelly Watch the Stars

Radian

J’ai Dormi Sous L’eau

Le Soleil Est Près De Moi





She & Him | Vol. II

26 03 2010

I just picked up the new She & Him album, Volume II, which came out earlier this week. For those that are not familiar, “She” is actress/musician extraordinaire Zooey Deschanel and “Him” is indie rock impresario M. Ward. She is not just an actress but also a gifted vocalist as seen in a few of her films. What most people don’t realize is that She also knows her way around the piano and banjo. M. Ward has made a name for himself with his own work but decided to partner with Deschanel after a chance meeting on set. She told him that She has been writing and recording demos for years but never thought much of doing anything with them. Soon after, She sent those recordings to Him and with a little tinkering they had Volume I. I have to be honest, I prefer M. Ward’s solo material to this… but only slightly. I think it’s because She & Him is a bit more alt country/indie folk than indie rock but it’s great nonetheless. I particularly like Vol. II. Below is the first single from the new album, “In The Sun”.

This is “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here” from last year’s Volume I.

*She & Him doing “I Put A Spell On You” live at LA’s Disney Concert Hall… great version of this classic song but, the recording is abbreviated as the taper was interrupted by a pesky usher and forced to stop filming.

* Zooey doing the War tune “Why Can’t We Be Friends” from the movie, The Bridge To Teribithia.

Fun Bio from the She & Him site

Find more on the official She & Him website

Volume II on iTunes

Vol I & Vol II on Amazon.com

PS- See the comments section of this post for a more comprehensive review… I guess I wasn’t feeling it until prompted by a really well informed peer and good friend PBeat & J.  ~GG





Princeton, CA (?)

3 03 2010

Princeton is an indie band out of LA. It started with twin brothers Jesse & Matt Kivel and childhood friend Ben Usen on Princeton St in Santa Monica. Although it began in 90’s, they officially formed after a prolonged stay in London back in 2005 after adding drummer, David Kitz. Currently, the band is  based out of the Eagle Rock (CA) area where they just recorded they’re first full length album, Cocoon of Love. When I first heard these guys, I assumed they were from the East coast given the name and their indie sound but once I figured out it’s an LA thing, it made a little more sense. Upon listening to the music, you can hear it’s a bit lighter than some of the stuff coming out of Brooklyn but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Much of their themes are centered around love but they have an interesting and creative approach to the subject, which I particularly like… the Lady GG is a big fan as well.  In fact she is the one who turned me on to it with their initial 2008 EP release, Bloomsbury. They sight some of their influences as The Kinks, Sam & Dave and Yo La Tengo, so you know they are on to something. It’s all good stuff… check it out.

I don’t know who these guy’s use as their visual artist but it’s good stuff. The videos and album covers look great and they have some pretty cool swag too.

Princeton performing “Clamoring For Your Heart” live in the KCRW studio

Another Song: “Show Some Love, When Your Man Gets Home”

Official Princeton site

Princeton on MySpace

Princeton Online Store… check out the cool Virginia Woolf T Shirt








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