Posts Tagged ‘Shuffle’

You Call That A Shuffle

January 9, 2017

First shuffle of 2017:

  1. Pearl Jam, Off He Goes from Rearviewmirror.  Four Stars.  Of the first wave of grunge bands, I’ll say I wasn’t a huge fan of Pearl Jam. Vedder’s vocals were annoying to me as opposed to the pipes of a Chris Cornell.  They didn’t seem to have the same raw energy as Nirvana. Time, though, has been kind to Pearl Jam, at least in my eyes.  This song appeared on their fourth album, No Code.  This is a subdued PJ song with an acoustic guitar anchoring a song about something pretty universal, a friend who comes in and out of your life.  Apparently, Vedder said this song was about himself.  I can see it, but he can be somewhat forgiven because at least he turned that negative trait into a very pretty song.
  2. Toshinori Kondo & DJ Krush, Tobira-3 from Ki-Oku.  Four Stars.  The last track on the album, this is the third of three interlude tracks between longer songs.  At only :44 seconds, usually I wouldn’t give such a short track four stars but damn, this is a good beat.  DJ Krush is a Japanese DJ that has made a series of very good albums that often remind me of DJ Shadow’s early works.  Toshinoro Kondo is an avant garde trumpeter.  The bass in this beat lands with a thud and Kondo’s trumpet notes sound like they being pricked with a pin and the sound is rushing out.  I would have liked to see this extended to a more proper song, but I’ll take it.
  3. Betty Harris, There’s A Break In The Road from Soul Diva Sessions.  Four Stars.  This song was put out as a single in 1969, and while Harris had quite a few soul ballads put out during the early 60s, I’d say this song is more of a funk piece.  Makes sense as this was part of her work produced by Allen Touissant.  This has got a raw drum break, plenty of trumpets, some squealing guitar, a funky bass line and Harris almost fools you into thinking  you’re hearing vintage Aretha belting out the chorus.

Since that last one is probably the hardest to find, here you go:

You Call That a Shuffle?

August 2, 2016

New day, dif shuffle:

  1. The Exciters, Bring It Home To Me from Bring It Home To Me 7″. Three Stars.  A LatinAmerican soul band’s cover of the 1962 Sam Cooke song.  The keyboards and strings of the original get replaced with horns and the pace is slightly slowed down, but otherwise a pretty faithful cover.  Including the fact that both the original and this version are a B-side.  The problem is the Exciters don’t have Sam Cooke, and they don’t have Lou Rawls singing backup.  Given the song is really about the voices, it’s better to just stick with the original.
  2. Black Star, Respiration from Black Star. Five Stars.  Take two NYC MCs, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, at the top of their game, joining forces to create a hell of a late 90s NY hip hop album that features several great songs, including this one all the way at the back end of the album.  Producer Hi Tek takes a tiny snippet of Don Randi’s “The Fox” and transforms it into a beat that really captures the beautiful quiet melancholy of a late night in NYC as the city takes a short breath to recover from another bustling day.  Both Mos Def and Talib Kweli show their reverence for their city as well as frustration with some of the aspects of the city. The line “the shiny Apple is bruised but sweet” that Mos Def delivers is a good encapsulation of that duality. The two rappers have similar styles though Kweli delivers a faster staccato verse than Def here. Common, not a household name at the time, guests for the third verse and spits similar thoughts on his hometown of Chicago.  As the title implies, the MCs see their cities as a living organism and the poetic chorus nails it: “I can’t take it, y’all, I can feel the city breathing/Chest heaving, against the flesh of the evening/Sigh before we die like the last train leaving.”This is such a better NYC-banner rap song than that trash Empire State of Mind.  The Flying High remix by Pete Rock is almost as good as the original, check it out too.
  3. Can, I Want More, from Flow Motion. Three Stars. Can was always a band I read about as influencing a lot of modern music, but until recently I had not taken the time to listen to them. They are definitely an interesting band and I like a lot of what I’ve heard but this song just doesn’t do much for me. It ditches some of their heavier grooves for a more light synth driven beat. The breakdown that ditches (most of) the synth/piano for a funky guitar and bass redeems the song a little but then we get back to the main theme which veers too close to cheese for my taste.  Maybe due to that sound, it was their highest charting single in the UK.

Breathin’ in deep city breaths, sitting’ on shitty steps:

You Call That A Shuffle?

July 19, 2016

The shuffler was getting a little dusty from neglect and apparently it was also a little rusty as this one is a little lackluster, but you can’t win ’em all:

  1. Pop Will Eat Itself, Shortwave Transmission On “Up To The Minuteman Nine, from This Is The Day…This Is The Hour…This is This! Three stars. A filler track at just over a minute long, there’s not much to this track.  The dubby drum fills are nice, but otherwise this is mainly some sampled voice tracks spliced together over a basic beat.  PWEI hasn’t particularly aged well (this album is from 1989), but I still have a soft spot for them as they were an early introduction to sample-based/industrial electronic music.
  2. Guns N’ Roses, Sympathy For The Devil, from Greatest Hits.  Three stars.  I’m usually a sucker for covers, especially when an artist takes something familiar and puts a twist on the original or takes a song and reconstructs it to make it their own.  This is neither, it’s a by-the-numbers rote recitation.  Compared to the original, it’s flat and boring.  And, it’s over a minute longer!  There’s certainly much more you could do to butcher an original, so it’s not offensive, but based on some other covers they’ve released this is disappointing.
  3. Cults, TV Dream, from Static.  Three stars. Another track at just over a minute long.  For a band that relies somewhat regularly on a slow buildup and/or guitar grooves, a minute long song doesn’t give much time for either of those and this song just meanders for a minute.  It doesn’t act as a great transition piece between the songs before and after it so not sure what the band was thinking what purpose this track would serve.  Singer Madeline Follin has a sweet voice though, so the track is not unlistenably bad.  They, like GNR, are just capable of so much more.

You Call That A Shuffle?

April 18, 2016

220px-TearsRollDown 220px-St_Elsewhere_Cover_Art-2 220px-TheEssentialClash-2

 

Straight to the shuffle:

Tears for Fears, Sowing The Seeds of Love, from Tears Roll Down (Greatest Hits 82-92). Four stars.  This is the full version of the song, which more than the radio edit, shows how this is a full-on tribute to Sgt. Pepper’s era-Beatles.  The middle section of the song has orchestral swells and layered horns that is totally reminiscent of parts of several Sgt. Pepper songs.  A so-obvious tribute (Lennon would have been proud of the number of times the word “love” is uttered) could have backfired, but it works and stands on its own as a catchy pop song.

Gnarls Barkley, The Boogie Monster, from St. Elsewhere.  Three stars.  Yes, I have the entire album that has the Crazy song on it.  It’s actually a decent album, but there’s some misses and this is one of them.  There’s a decent organ line running through the song, but it’s just kinda of a flat song that doesn’t go anywhere and has ho-hum lyrics.  Given the title and lyrics, they were obviously going for a “scary” vibe, but it’s about as scary as The Wicker Man reboot (not scary).  And it throws in a dumb fellatio joke at the last second that has no discernible connection to the rest of the song.

The Clash, Police on My Back, from The Essential Clash (Disc 2). Four stars.  This song was originally written by Guyanese artist Eddy Grant and appeared on the sprawling and ambitious Clash album Sandinista!  The opening guitar riff sounds like a whirring police siren and propels the song forward throughout.  For the international influence of a lot of songs on this album and the origins of this song in particular, the Clash’s version come across as pretty straight-forward rock.  Bonus points for the train whistle sound effect to go with the lyrics about “running down the railway tracks.”

You Call That A Shuffle?

February 8, 2016

Quick thought on last weekend’s Super Bowl halftime show before getting to the Shuffle.  They should have just skipped Coldplay and gone straight to Beyonce and Bruno Mars.  Chris Martin seemed like he was genuinely trying but Coldplay’s music doesn’t have the oomph or charisma needed for this particular event.  My favorite part of the whole thing was the montage of acts that have played previous Super Bowls.  My second favorite was when Bruno Mars was singing  “Got Chucks on” in Uptown Funk just as he and his dancers did a choreographed spin that highlighted their Nike sneakers.  Oops, missed opportunity for Converse.

New Order, World in Motion from (The Best Of) New Order.  Three Stars. Oh boy this is not New Order’s finest hour. This song was written for England’s 1990 World Cup campaign. They ended up in fourth place so I guess the song worked?  This song veers into cheesy territory immediately and then dives headfirst like an Argentenian striker into full-on bad taste with a rap by English national teamer John Barnes. Fun fact: Barnes beat out several other teammates to get the honor of “rapping” his verse. I would love to hear those audition tapes. Second fun fact: this is the only New Order song to hit number 1 on the UK singles chart. Blue Monday is in my top 10 favorite songs of all time and this treacly mess is their only number 1. We live in an unfair world. I should probably reclassify this as a two star song; it really doesn’t have much redeeming qualities.

Pixies, U-Mass from Death To The Pixies (Disc 1).  Five Stars. I’d argue this song is in some ways just as dumb as the New Order song above.  About half the song is Black Francis shouting “it’s educational” and the lyrical content is more literal than some of his other songs (my take is he’s smirking at the twin pillars of college life, idealism and hedonism).  But unlike the by the numbers approach of the song above, this track actually builds to something other than a terribly corny rap. It has a great guitar riff, some sneaky fun bass work (check around the 1 minute mark), the usual shrieks and surly emotion of Black Francis singing, and a frenetic guitar breakdown that’s over before you know it to end the song.

Leroy Hutson, All Because of You from All Because of You 7″.  Four Stars.  I also have the full 7 minute version from his Hutson album, so not entirely sure how I came across this version.  Hutson was lead singer of the great Impressions (post Curtis Mayfield).  This song is a good representation of 70s soul/R&B.  An appropriately funky drum break introduces the song, then a piano jumps on top, and you’re soon in the middle of a jam.  Hutson’s voice is made for this type of song and the strings in the middle work well as an extension of his vocals.  Put this in your Valentine’s mix this Sunday.  You’ll thank me later.

You Call That A Shuffle?

January 18, 2016

GorillazAlbum 220px-Bjork_Greatest_Hits-2 220px-Imnewhere-2I’m back to give this another go!  See this post for the ground rules.  Here’s what came up this week:

  1. Gorillaz, Slow Country from Gorillaz.  Three stars.  What struck me in hearing this song now, after not really listening to the Gorillaz debut for quite awhile, was how much this particular song’s melancholy, piano, and horns seems an obvious seed for songs that would be all over Damon Albarn’s own solo album 13 years later.  I think this song just doesn’t fit into the flow of the Gorillaz album and is part of a final third of the album that doesn’t quite live up to the first 10 songs.
  2. Bjork, Isobel, from Greatest Hits. Three stars. Originally appearing on her third album, Post, this song has an interesting, almost galloping beat and Bjork’s voice is always a thing of beauty.  What I sometimes don’t like with her music is the orchestral flourishes of some of her songs; it just distracts from the other elements of her music that I personally like better.  Probably why I only gave this three stars. Interestingly, this song is part of a trio of songs about the character Isobel and one of those other songs is Human Behavior, which is one of my favorite Bjork songs.
  3. Gil Scott Heron, Running, from I’m New Here.  Three stars.  From the blues/jazz/soul singer’s last album, this song is definitely a spoken word piece accompanied by a spare bass beat hearkening 90s trip hop.  Heron’s voice is gruff, weighted down by his years and his lyrics deftly playing with various meanings of “running”.  A quick song at just over 2 minutes, this just doesn’t have the staying power of some of his other songs on this album.

You Call That A Shuffle?

January 8, 2016

220px-Beat-konducta-vol-3-4-beat-konducta-in-india 220px-ExperimentalRemixes Massive_Attack_-_Mezzanine

To try and make this blog a little more regular in 2016, I hope this will be at least a weekly post.  The idea is to fire up iTunes, hit shuffle, see what comes up in the first three songs and share it here.  I’ll write a little bit about each song and give my rating I’ve given the song on iTunes.  Here’s my ranking rationale:

1 star = Why haven’t I deleted this song from my library?  The answer, in many cases, is because they are skits on hip hop albums.

2 star = Skippable.

3 star = Background music.

4 star = This will perk my ears up; crank the volume.

5 star = Stop what you’re doing and give your undivided attention to this song.

Without further ado…

  1. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Flavor Part 2 (Beck/Mike Diamond/Mario Caldato Jr. Remix) from Experimental Remixes.  4 Stars.  Look at the names associated with this remix and you have a good idea what this is going to sound like.  Taking the unadorned bluesy punk of JSBX and adding several  layers, this easily could have been a cut that didn’t quite make it onto Mellow Gold, with the slightly echoed vocals, electronic flourishes, straightforward drum beat, and the hip hop vocal sample.  A funky baseline gets added in during the last minute of the song.
  2. Madlib, Dark Alley Incidental Music, from Beat Konducta Vol. 3-4 Beat Conduct in India.  Madlib likes to take on themes with his Beat Konducta series and here, it’s Indian culture.  4 stars. This song starts with thirty seconds of dialogue from an Indian movie (TV show?) and then takes what seems to be a clipped sample of James Brown yelping to introduce a beat buoyed by bass drum and rattling tambourine.  Add in a tingling sitar line that Madlib lifted from a Bollywood movie and you have a very good hip hop beat.  I’d love to hear Missy Elliott rhyme over this.
  3. Massive Attack, Risingson, from Mezzanine.  4 Stars. If Massive Attack tried to do space rock, this is what I’d expect to be the output.  Echoing beats and vocals that swirl among atmospheric sighs (exhortations to “dream on” meld into those sighs) and skittering cymbal hits.  Brings both menace and soaring euphoria.