April 13, 2008

Contest updates: U2/Africa winner, and a new one for the ladies with Tristan Prettyman

Thanks to everyone who submitted a story about Africa, U2 –or even Bonalmost– for the contest to win the In The Name of Love CD of U2 covers by African musicians.

Boyhowdy’s story was an early favorite (make your wife read that, boyhowdy!) and so many of you shared great tales of the ways U2 has been present at different memorable moments in your life. However the winner is Russell, because of the way I loved this paragraph he wrote about seeing U2 in 1980:

“There was real glory in an Edge solo – a dazzling scattering of light and energy that detonated dreams. Exhilaration. Running from that concert in the rain to catch a late night train remains vivid and gleaming: music mattered, life mattered. Everything was potentially magical.”

Russell, thanks, and let me know where to send the winnings. Enjoy.

NEW CONTEST: Tristan Prettyman is a musician from the San Diego area with a lovely sunrise homespun voice, and an approachable acoustic sound that I dig.

She’s designed a cool music-oriented tank top for the ladies, picturing the chord breakdown of her song “Hello” (the title track of her album, out this week). Stream the tune on her MySpace, and please leave me a comment if you’d like to win the shirt (via Elwood Clothing). The folks running the contest would like entrants to leave an email address to opt-in for Tristan Prettyman news in the future, but it’s up to you.

LISTEN: Here’s a cover Tristan did of French-Israeli artist Yael Naim‘s “New Soul” – that catchy ditty from the MacBook Air ad.

You’ll be “la la la“ing all day long.

New Soul (Yael Naim cover) – Tristan Prettyman

Also, you can stream the full album here, and her single “Madly” is the free iTunes download of the week.

March 31, 2008

Bono gives props to Africa; Africa returns the favor

I was fascinated with this concept album when I first read about it: Twelve artists and musical groups from all parts of Africa gather together to cover U2 songs with traditional African instrumentation, percussion, and even languages. In many cases, the songs are completely restructured into something you can feel rising from the ground up, the beats thumping into your deepest hollows.

In The Name of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 features artists like Angelique Kidjo (previous post), Les Nubians, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, and an oddly affecting cover of “Love Is Blindness” by Angola’s Waldemar Bastos. Mali bluesman Ali Farka Touré‘s son Vieux contributes a rich cover of “Bullet The Blue Sky” with the spoken bridge segment done in his native language. The songs are really different than how you’re used to hearing them. If you love U2 as I do, sometimes it takes a minute to get past the shock. But there’s a beautiful spirit and soul shining through this amazing collection.

The album is released tomorrow through the good folks at Shout! Factory, and all proceeds will benefit the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Stream samples of all the songs here.

And you know — I think that this is how the type of love that Bono originally sings about is supposed to sound; like a well rising, voices joining together.

Pride (In The Name of Love)Soweto Gospel Choir

NEW CONTEST! One winner will get a copy of In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates U2 just by leaving me a comment with either a good U2 story, a good Africa story, or both. I’ll pick a winner and send the booty on its merry way.

PS – I checked, and I ain’t got a Monday Music Roundup in me.
Not today.

July 4, 2007

Guest post: My little brother defends his musical honor, schools us on Japanese music

Last weekend I posted something that my little brother out in San Diego had recommended to me, and I made a tiny dig at his past musical interests (who am I to talk, I liked NKOTB). Brian graciously called me on it, told me he actually still likes Japanese music, and suggested he write a little something about it to school all of us. An excellent idea, fitting in with the World Music Wednesday feature that I can’t seem to find enough time to maintain these days, but am still very interested in.

In addition to trying to teach me the fine points of guitar playing (pictured above, harder than it looks), he also loves to talk music just like his big sis. So it’s a pleasure: take it away, dude.

I am Brian, and you are Heather’s friends. My whole family, it seems, has this deep love for music in one form or another, and I could probably fill Heather’s entire daily blog with music of my own tastes, because like her, music is my life. I love studying music, learning new types of music, spending hours listening to it, and constantly growing my library from which I can draw the beautiful sensations which music always delivers. Music is my fuel, which would, in some strange reorganization of words, making my sister my drive in life – but I guarantee you that is not the case. Since I breathe, eat, sleep, and drink music day in and day out, I thought I would share some of my tastes with you, Heather’s faithful readers.

I have learned something as I’ve aged [editor’s note: he’s all of 25, folks], and that is that if someone who claims to love music cannot listen to music they don’t understand, or music belonging to a culture with which they do not associate, they are lacking in something. I want to open the doors to what is in my opinion wonderful music, that like a fine wine may take time getting used to and learning, but will grow on you if you give it time. Sit back, relax, and take a second to try to enjoy music that you might not normally listen to.

A note about Japanese music before we start: One thing that you should remember is that English is very popular in Japan – having song titles in English, using English in the chorus line, or as the background vocals – is very popular, widely accepted, and almost standard across the Japanese music industry. I understand that (to the best of my knowledge,) there is no English-speaking country where another language is so prevalent in its music as it is in Japan, but try to keep that in mind as you listen. It is not out of the norm – rather, it is the norm.

Pizzicato Five
Busting onto the scene in 1985, and calling it quits later in 2001, Pizzicato Five have been one of the longer running bands to have fame in Japan. They are one of the most individualistic, non-conforming, “we’re going to play whatever the hell we want to play” bands I have ever heard. Their poppy, sometimes odd music is something that takes a little getting used to. The band’s two members, Yasuharu Konishi and K-Taro Takanami, take turns singing and playing the instruments in the songs, so each song is a good reflection of both of them. Their best CD in my opinion is Playboy & Playgirl (on Matador in the U.S., 1998).

La Depression – Pizzicato 5
I Hear a Symphony – Pizzicato 5
Such A Beautiful Girl Like You – Pizzicato 5

[Heather's addition:]
Twiggy Twiggy – Pizzicato 5 (I never get tired of this one)

Utada Hikaru

Well shoot. How do I even write about Utada Hikaru and NOT take up like fifteen pages? Ahhh, bullet points. So – tell me, how many of these things have you accomplished in your life:

  • Released 7 studio albums totaling over 40,000,000 in sales
  • Become pretty much THE most popular musical icon in all of Japan, following the release of your first CD, at age 16 (and if you’re thinking, “oh, it’s the Japanese Britney Spears…. no. No no no.)
  • Had the most number one songs of any artist ever in Japan, including 12 Golden Disk awards (like our Grammy award)
  • Released full albums in both English and Japanese
  • Fricken. Rock.
  • Be born in New York, have a massive international audience, be popular all over the world, and…. still have no one in America know who you are, save Asian people.

That pretty much sums it up. I got into Utada Hikaru during my junior year in high school, 1999, when her first album, First Love, came out. She was 16, pretty much the same as all the girls putting out poppy little bubblegum CDs here in America, like Britney Spears, Mandy Moore, Christina Aguilera, and all the other crap that was popular at the time, but my high school, being around 65-70% Asian, had a slightly different tilt to it, and so naturally, I was sucked in.

I believe Hikaru is one of the only artists in the world who can claim the number 1 spot on the charts for seven straight albums. Hit after hit after hit – and they never stop coming. She has diversified herself from electronic-y late ’90s music to beautiful ballads, albums in full English, and almost every type of music you can think of. She is more than just an icon to Japanese listeners, she carries with her so much talent, with such a great voice, creative sounds and lyrics, and it will be so hard to give you just four songs of hers. You really need to check her out. Now.

Automatic – Utada Hikaru (off her first CD)
First Love- Utada Hikaru (title track to first CD, at age 16)
Simple and Clean – Utada Hikaru (all in English)
Colors – Utada Hikaru (off her latest CD)

Kiss Destination
To be honest – I don’t know a lot about this artist. To my knowledge, she only has one real album (and a host of singles) but her one disc, released in 1999, didn’t really go anywhere, and she’s not around anymore. If I were so lucky to have someone reading this that actually owns this CD, I will buy it off you. I can’t find it anywhere, but the five or six tracks I have from the CD are all amazing.

Kiss Destination was the project of a band we’re going to cover later, Globe –one of the biggest Japanese rock/electronica bands in the last 20 years– and singer Asami Yoshida (featured to the left). Asami’s voice is melodic, and she mixes her flavor of pop in with a little bit of rap and very memorable melodies.

Over and Over – Kiss Destination
Long and Winding Road – Kiss Destination

Finally! I’ve been waiting to write about Ketsumeishi since I started this post last night, because they are absolutely amazing. Ketsumeishi is an awesome blend of pop music, amazingly talented rappers, great voices, and awesome beats. I don’t want to lay down some blanket statement about an entire genre of music, but when most people think of rap, it has the impression of American popular rap. “oh. that.” This is NOT what you’re thinking. Japanese rappers are incredible — the way that Ketsumeishi can flow is unlike anything I’ve ever hear out of American rap, so I highly encourage you to listen to these two tracks of theirs.

This is where I REALLY need you to put on your culture hat, and try to get past the fact that you do not understand this, and that the style of rap is totally not what you’re used to. Please, do it for yourself. You will be a better person for liking Ketsumeishi. They consist of four members, Ryo, Ryoji, 大蔵, and DJ Kohno, they have released 4 albums and are working on a new release for 2007. To date, they have sold more than 4,000,000 copies. Call me crazy, but try to watch the Sakura music video without crying… I’m just a sucker for love stories.

Yorukaze – Ketsumeishi
Sakura – Ketsumeishi


m-flo is a Japanese hip-hop group consisting of two guys that I would just love to go out and drink with, DJ Taku Takahashi and VERBAL. Apparently the original name for the group was meteorite flow, but their producer said that it was too long, so they shortened it to the now famous m-flo. Formed also in 1999, (seems like a popular year in Japan musical history!) with their third member, Lisa, they released 5 albums and had amazing success before she decided to leave the group in 2002, citing artistic differences.

For the first several years, m-flo put out several awesome CDs and singles, and were more the type of group to have a killer CD over a ton of number one hits, but for the last few years m-flo has made their largest impact on the music scene by working with other famous artists to produce “m-flo” remixes of popular songs. Produced under the name “m-flo loves [artist] – [title]” their work has become internationally known and recognized as some of the best hiphop and remixing work in the world. I love m-flo, so again, it’s going to be hard to just choose a few tracks for you to listen to, especially since both members speak perfect English and often-times interweave English and Japanese in the same sentence, or have English in the left channel and Japanese in the right – it’s pretty awesome to listen to. I wonder if it would give you a headache if you were fluent in both…

m-flo loves yoshika – Let Go
m-flo loves chemistry – Astrosexy
m-flo loves ketsumeishi & Lisa – Tegami

Every Little Thing
Last, but definitely not least, is the band that is probably most responsible for my love of Japanese music, other than Utada Hikaru. I learned about Every Little Thing around 2000 – 2001, and instantly fell in love with them. They sound a lot like an ’80s rock band full of power chords, distorted guitars, synthesizers, and killer guitar solos. Some of their music has a softer quality to it, like many of the late ’80s bands who would put crazy soft ballads in the middle of two hard songs.

There isn’t anything that I can say that would explain why I love ELT so much — they don’t do anything better than any other group in this list, they don’t have the best vocals, the most catchy sounds, or the most difficult guitar parts, but something about the sound just . . . captivates me. They have released so many CDs over the years that they were able to release 4 CDs of greatest hits, entitled Every Best Single, Every Best Single 2, Every Best Single 3, and Every Best Ballad.

So needless to say, they have a huge history of fame on the island to the west. They are semi-impervious to time, it seems, as they have not been caught up in much of Japanese pop culture (much like Pizzicato 5) and have really just done their own things, sticking to their deep rock roots regardless of what time period it is now.

Every Little Thing – Dear My Friend
Every Little Thing – Shapes of Love
Every Little Thing – Jump
Every Little Thing – Futari De Jidai Wo Kaetemitai

So . . . I hope this was a nice venture into the land of Japan for all of you who read Heather’s blog. I might just come back and do more international music sometime in the future. Feel free to email me about any of the bands listed here, if you just have any questions in general, or if you just want to be my friend and talk about music. I’m way cooler than Heather. You can reach me at powel033@csusm.edu

April 2, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

Spring is finally on the verge of … springing here in Colorado. There are new layers of green outside my front door everytime I look, and I think my tulips (which I didn’t plant myself, but remain an annual treat from the previous green-thumbed owner) are poised to bloom any day. There’s also a gorgeous bush covered in breathtaking yellow flowers right outside my kitchen window, so I don’t even mind doing the dishes lately. Hooray for Spring, I’ve been color-starved and sunshine-starved, even though I try to make the best of it.

Side note: there is a fantastic/rotten new entry over at ThingsMyBoyfriendSays.com that I ain’t gonna post here but just made laugh for a solid minute or so…

But let’s just move it along, people. Here’s the music, with an appropriate first track for the revelling in the Spring sunshine.

Laissez Briller Le Soleil (“Let the sun shine”?)
Les Boots
Every once in a while on the music blogs that I regularly read, someone throws out a curveball that just catches you offgaurd in the most marvelous way. Aquarium Drunkard has a “French Freakbeat” series up now (parts one and two) of fuzzy, garage harmonies from Gallic groups of the Sixties. Info is scant, but apparently this is “a rare bootleg collection that explores mid 1960s mod-influenced psychedelia of French bands that were paying strict attention to their British brethren, most notably The Small Faces.” I love the way this sounds — it’s as if your little transistor radio suddenly picks up a station across the Atlantic with sounds that are vaguely familiar but altogether fresh. Grab the whole set. Soooo good, right up my alley.

No Pussy Blues
Following my post referencing the great Nick Cave tune (and the Pearl Jam cover of) “The Ship Song,” reader Joe recommended that I check out Cave’s new band with 3 of his Bad Seeds — Grinderman, saying it was “raw, dirty, superb!” Any song titled No Pussy Blues definitely tends towards the raw and fairly dirty; it’s also humorous as he details his efforts in vain to get the unnamed female to acquiesce in his growling, pointed storytelling. This is off their forthcoming 2007 self-titled release on Anti Records (US). Blistering.

The National

Speaking of Nick Cave, the voice of Matt Berninger always reminds me a bit of Cave in its deep and dramatic resonation. The forthcoming 4th album from Brooklyn’s The National, Boxer (May 22, Beggars Banquet label) leaked its way onto the interwebby this weekend and I’ve been truly enjoying feeling my way through it. It’s a rich, melodic, gorgeous album with lyrics aching of romantic disillusionment and raw desire — I had a hard time picking just one track to share. This is an album that I really look forward to delving into and relishing on repeat; first impressions are very solid.

Never Learn Not To Love
Beach Boys/Charles Manson
So you all know that I enjoy enriching my brain with backstories and random little snippets of musical history that fall through the cracks. The Spinner blog has a fascinating little story on how the Golden State’s finest exports ended up recording the music of a psychotic murderer. Although the original writing credits of this song, which was first released as a b-side to cheery “Bluebirds Over The Mountain,” list only Dennis Wilson as the author, the truth would include a credit for the wild-eyed Chuck Manson as well for his earlier version — creepily entitled “Cease To Resist.” Who knew that underneath all that sunshine and chiming harmonies there was a secret more sinister.

Strawberry Street
Jeff Buckley
Oooh, and finally how about a b-side from my beloved Jeff Buckley? This is one that I’d never heard before, unearthed by the superb Sweet Oblivion blog and ripped directly from the vinyl single of the great song “Forget Her.” It was also a hidden track on the Australian edition of Grace. This song was written by Jeff before he moved to NYC in 1993, and it is Jeff at his most waily, electric, Led-Zeppelin-loving best.

And holy goodness (!!), I’ve been waiting for this news for a long time: The critically-acclaimed film festival favorite Jeff Buckley documentary Amazing Grace will finally be released by Columbia/Legacy on May 22 for purchase. I’ve heard nothing but revelatory raves about it but missed all screenings ever near me; add your name here to be updated on purchase information. I cannot wait to settle in to watch that one.

August 30, 2006

World Music Wednesday

A recent exciting discovery for me for those days when I am feeling global and exotic is the National Geographic World Music site. A very cool foray from the grandaddies of all things international, and a logical extension for them, this site features a FREE weekly download of a world music track (this week’s is an upbeat calypso “punta rock” track from Belize’s Andy Palacio).

In addition to the free weekly download, you can search by region, by artist, by genre, and more. There are video features, guest DJs from around the world, and free World Music podcasts. It really does the job so well that I could just completely surrender the effort of finding stuff on my own and just let that be my hookup from now on.

So whether you studied abroad and long to return, spent a fabulous vacation on some alluring isle, or have a heritage to explore, you should take a gander – http://worldmusic.nationalgeographic.com

National Geographic: It’s not just pictures of women with really, really long breasts anymore.

Tagged with .
July 19, 2006

World Music Wednesday: Nil Lara

Nil Lara is a Cuban-American songwriter with Venezuelan roots who has just blown me away. I read about him recently on Matt Nathanson’s celebrity playlist (of all places), sought him out, and immediately loved what I heard. Lara is soulful and passionate and sings like his heart is burning. Add in heavy doses of warm & layered Latin percussion, traditional Cuban and Venezuelan string instruments, and his soaring chants and vocals (in a combination of Spanish and English) – and I was hooked.

It’s been named by some “Number 2 on my list of Best Albums By People That 99.5% of the World Has Never Heard Of.”

His 1996 self-titled album was critically acclaimed, but never received the popular attention it deserves. As such it is kind of hard to find: It is on iTunes (but not eMusic), and you can find used copies on Amazon. I would completely go see him live, and surely dance myself sore, but he seems to be on indefinite hiatus. Download these, and buy the album, though – sheer fabulousness.

I Will Be Free – Nil Lara
(I love the Spanish ululating — which almost sounds African at times — and furious guitar strumming on this one)

Mama’s Chant – Nil Lara
(standout traditional drum & chant piece, builds slowly and you feel it from your toes on up)

Tagged with .
July 6, 2006

Bombay the Hard Way

So, tonight I am going to get me a little culture.

My friend (of the past 15+ years) Saira, who posesses THE BEST LAUGH/CACKLE in the known universe, is getting married tomorrow night. Tonight, in the Indian tradition, she is celebrating her mehndi, the girls-only henna painting fest. My white-girl self can barely contain the excitement at the exotic prospects.

Now, for all I know this may be a rather serious occasion, but if I were the DJ tonight, we would be listening to Bombay The Hard Way. Aside from having the best name of any CD ever recorded (I was meant to write about this from the moment a friend first slipped “Ganges A GoGo” onto a driving mix CD for me), it is fun fun music with a colorful edge.

It sounds like a rather bizzare concept: DJ Shadow and Dan The Automator (of Handsome Boy Modeling School fame) decided to take selections from early ’70s Indian/”Bollywood” b-movie crime thrillers, intersperse them with random dialogue from the films, dub in some updated trip-hop beats, additional sitars, and come up with something altogether fresh and –if I do say so myself– party ready. The new titles assigned to the songs (originally written and orchestrated by noted soundtrack composers Anandji and Kalyanji Shah) are a riot.

There’s a warning that easily angered purists should steer clear, but I am obviously not one of those so for me this is just grand. Take a listen and you might be surprised how much fun those Bollywood folks are having.

Ganges A GoGo (surprisingly retro-surf sound)

Punjabis, Pimps, and Players (low-key atmospheric music)

Inspector Jay from Delhi (oh, just quirky enough to be cool)

Buy the CD on Amazon
(there’s also a Volume II with even better song titles like “Sexy Mother Fakir”)

I’m ready to be painted!

Tagged with .
May 17, 2006

World Music Wednesday

So I had said that when I have some interesting world music to post, Wednesday will be the day for that business. Today “something good” comes in the form of Juana Molina:

If you read other blogs, you may have heard of Juana Molina – and for good reason. Molina is an Argentinian folk chanteuse who sings very muted, intimate guitar songs with a fascinating underpinning of gentle electronica layers. Everyone compares her to Swede folkster José González (check out his cover of The Knife’s Heartbeats), again for good reason.

Her new album Son will be released June 6 in the States (on Domino Records) and sounds very promising from what I have heard. Mellow, hypnotic goodness that will also allow you to brush up on your Español whilst you listen.

No Seas Antipática – Juana Molina

Micael – Juana Molina

If you visit her website and click on the tall red flower (I know, tricky) there is a section with 6 free downloads, 2 off each of her previous releases.

She is also on tour with José González in the coming months, check her out!

Tagged with .
March 29, 2006

World Music Wednesday

Aaaah, coffee. The beverage of the gods and the required kickstart for my days.

A nice atmospheric soundtrack to your morning java respite is the lovely Putumayo compilation entitled Music From The Coffee Lands: an aromatic blend representing Peru, Kenya, Hawaii, Uganda, Mexico, Colombia, Zimbabwe, and more. Sounds like . . .

Below The Bassline – by Jamaican jazzmaster Ernest Ranglin

Kothbiro – by Kenyan lyre (nyatiti) player Ayub Ogada. Haunting.

Soltarlo – jazzy acapella scatting and layered vocal “percussion” from Colombian singer/songwriter Claudia Gómez

The slack-key Hawaiian guitar piece by James “Bla” Pahinui and the feisty “Guajira Bonita” track by Julian Avalos & Afro-Andes that opens the CD are both also favorites of mine. Check this one out.

To learn more about where your favorite drink comes from, and to buy fair trade blends, check out Cafédirect.

Tagged with .
March 15, 2006

World Music Wednesday

A million thanks to my Mexico City reader Mario for sending me some interesting stuff that is going on south of the border (where I wish I was heading for Spring Break like all you wild young’uns still in college). I was surprised at the depth and variety of the stuff he sent me, I will freely admit to having incorrect and one-dimensional mariachi stereotypes of Mexican music. I am now enlightened and am so enjoying this look at the music of the modern Mexican scene.

Mario writes to me:

I would like to recommend some music from our local Rock Scene (well, I have to confess, they are from all Mexico, but our “scene” is still wearing diapers)!

Zoe. These guys are from Guadalajara – Jalisco, a state full of beautiful women and the cradle of all the “charro” culture, but this guys are have more influence from Blur, Placebo or The Pixies!

Peace and Love – Zoe (song links removed)

Austin TV. Originally they were a rock-punk band, but they’ve changed their musical style, becoming an instrumental band. As they say, “We try to create a different style of music, taking as influence all the beautiful music we have the opportunity to listen to.” Nowadays they sound more like a “dream-pop” band.

Ella No Me Conoce – Austin TV
Olvide Decir Adios – Austin TV

Goma. A guy from Culiacán-Sinaloa, he is the spearhead of the lo-fi movement in Mexico. He says, “Goma’s my nick name. In Spanish it means gum or gel or eraser. I’ve been called Goma by my friends since kindergarten. My parents never call me Goma, they don’t like it. They like my name José Gabriel…”

Still I Wake Up In The Morning Thinking of You – Goma
(highly recommended!)

La Live Band. They are noisy, they are nasty, and one of the most energetic live bands I had ever seen!

Baby Baby Baby – La Live Band
(what a great, fun song, slightly retro feel)

Los General Electrics.
Yes, I know — they sound like Massive Attack. I like them and they are very easy going guys, as is their music.

Un Minuto Para Evacuar – Los General Electrics
(makes me feel like I am floating)

Muchas gracias, Mario. It’s all eminently listenable, hip stuff. I appreciate hearing something new.

Tagged with .
« Newer PostsOlder Posts »
Subscribe to this tasty feed.
I tweet things. It's amazing.

Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

View all Interviews → View all Shows I've Seen →