Sunday, December 30, 2007

Weekend Update: Hip Hop is Still Dead

...Or at least its previous form is. NYTimes' Kelefa Sanneh weighs hip hop's career options in the 21st Century:

"Sales are down all over, but hip-hop has been hit particularly hard. Rap sales fell 21 percent from 2005 to 2006, and that trend seems to be continuing. It’s the inevitable aftermath, perhaps, of the genre’s vertiginous rise in the 1990s, during which a series of breakout stars — Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G. — figured out that they could sell millions without shaving off their rough edges. By 1997 the ubiquity of Puff Daddy helped cement hip-hop’s new image: the rapper as tycoon. Like all pop-music trends, like all economic booms, this one couldn’t last."

With "Big Money Music" no longer en vogue, accessibility is a draw, and DIY acts like Kid Sister, The Cool Kids [pictured], and songs with dance instructions in them (cringe) might just be where the genre is headed. What a great time for creativity and reinvention, when the Formula 1 is no longer a guaranteed hit. And better sooner than later, it's about time for a comeback.

The Cool Kids - Black Mags

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My Life is a Top Ten List

The -ist asked everyone to submit their top ten albums of the year, and I thought I'd make a blog post about mine. Now this is a completely subjective list, irrespective of album sales or radio airplay. These are just the albums I found myself listening to excessively this year. Read and discuss.

1. Feist – The Reminder

In 1967, it was the Summer of Love. In 2007, it was the Summer of Leslie Feist. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Feist’s wistful voice in a TV commercial or on the radio, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. The talented chanteuse and multi-instrumentalist struck gold with her third full-length album “The Reminder,” reminding us of the sheer power of perfect hooks and solid pop songs. The record’s wide appeal landed Feist prized commercial deals and a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. But the laurels haven’t damaged Feist’s indie cred; Feist still finds the time to jam with the Canadian sound collective Broken Social Scene and to perform with her old musical homies on occasion. Don't worry, she’s still Leslie from the block.

2. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black

3. White Rabbits – Fort Nightly

4. Ra Ra Riot - Ra Ra Riot EP

mp3: Ra Ra Riot - Each Year

5. Blonde Redhead – 23

6. “Once” original movie soundtrack

7. Nicole Atkins – Neptune City

mp3: Nicole Atkins - Party's Over

8. Radiohead – In Rainbows

mp3: Radiohead - Nude

9. Richard Hawley – Lady’s Bridge

10. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Shake A Hand Now

Enjoy this re-imagining of Donny Hathaway's versatile classic sung by Chris Brown. And have a good one, y'all.

Chris Brown - This Christmas

Thursday, December 20, 2007

David Gregory Wants to Move

Mary J. Blige is ‘Fine’
Mary J. Blige is ‘Fine’

So this video brings me joy, not only because Mary J. Blige kills in this performance, but also because NBC Washington DC correspondent David Gregory shows us what's really good about morning TV. And I'm not even going to hate, because homeboy can move! I wonder if he learned a thing or two from disco queen Sylvester. Seriously, don't you think so too?

He learned it from the best

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lupe Is The Coolest

I can't get enough of Lupe Fiasco's new album, The Cool. I think Lupe has negotiated a fine position for himself with this record, one that lies between his comic-book skater nerd ambitions that landed him on the map and his very intellectual attempts to deal with grave issues like Hurricane Katrina and urban fallout.

This song and its accompanying video are killer

and this track is overwhelming goodness

Lupe Fiasco feat. Matthew Santos - Streets on Fire

It's a kind of dark and sultry walk down an empty street at an obscene hour, where you're waiting for something major to happen, not necessarily bad, but something. The song simmers long enough for you to realize that the four minutes and forty seconds were the main event. It was there all along.

Lupe explains the song a bit in an awesome interview with that any music lover will approve of

How about ''Streets on Fire,'' where you bring in the character of The Streets?
At the beginning of the song, [singer] Matthew Santos lists all these tragedies, and then it says, ''She's out there smiling.'' It comes from 1984, the book, where there was so much double-talk and double-think in the first few chapters. That's my favorite book. I tried to put that in a record. So it's like, ''Believe/So say the neon signs by the loudspeakers/Repeating that everything is fine.'' You know? ''A subtle silence/To demolish the troubled conscience/Of a populace with no knowledge/And every freedom denied.'' It comes directly influenced by 1984 — using it as a vehicle to introduce one of the characters very abstractly, very subtly.

You get to know Matthew Santos quite a bit on The Cool. You might recognize his slight falsetto from The Cool's first single, "Superstar." I checked out Santos' Myspace page, and he's recently released a solo album called Matters of the Bittersweet. Santos in his own right is actually very folk and jazz, choosing to complement his lovely musings with the clarinet and acoustic guitar instead of a drum track machine. It's amazing how musicians are able to collaborate and produce different tones and sounds for different projects.

I think we'll be hearing a lot more from Santos, and soon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Girl in a Coma

I first heard about Girl in a Coma when Morrissey asked the San Antonio band to go on tour with him this fall. The Smiths connection might be the ladies' claim to fame; their adoration for all things Morrissey has inspired the band’s name (a play on the Smiths’ song “Girlfriend in a Coma”) and even lead singer Nina Diaz's lyrical sensibility, which tends to occupy the morose anti-love song territory that Moz enjoyed so much. But the Girl(s) also have a sound to call their own; think a female Morrissey (stay with me now) fronting Sleater Kinney and you'll get a sense of how much these ladies rock.

Girl in a Coma - Their Cell

You can catch Girl in a Coma tomorrow night with another awesome band, the Cliks, at Fitzgerald's.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Out of Town

When I like a record, it kind of stays with me for awhile. I listen to it all the time, mulling over the artist's words or choice of song order. A superb debut album by local musician Katie Stuckey has managed to consume my listening time at present.

Katie Stuckey - Gone Gone Gone

Some years ago, Stuckey moved to Los Angeles, to find her music career. But for a reason or two, it didn't work out. She got herself out of LA, and back home to Texas. Maybe that is what she needed to do in order to make the incredible record she was meant to. Since moving back, Stuckey and her band The Swagger have caught the Houston music scene by storm, and she recently won Best Female Vocalist and Best Folk/Acoustic honors at the 2007 Houston Press Music Awards. Going back to square one doesn't necessarily have to be the end. I see that now.

You can buy Katie's album at CDBaby or on iTunes. Katie recently did a podcast with the Chronicle, and a wonderful interview with Houstonist.

Katie Stuckey and the Swagger are playing at Rudyard's tonight. But then there's also the free Dimes show at SoundExchange. It's going to be a tough call...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

"What Kind of Music Do You Like?"

In his latest Esquire Magazine column, Chuck Klosterman manages to over-analyze this question in his deliciously neurotic way.

"When people at cocktail parties ask me what kind of music I like, I generally assume they don't care what my answer is. I assume we're both just killing time. But let's assume they do care: Even then, our conversation is doomed. I have been actively thinking about this question for nine consecutive days, and I've probably thought about it unconsciously for the last twenty years. I can isolate and answer this question more specifically than anyone I've ever met. Yet not only does my answer fail to reflect anything meaningful about my personality, it doesn't even reflect what I fundamentally like about music. Because I can't answer that question. Nobody can."

I disagree with Chuck on that one. I ask people what kind of music they listen to, because well, I'm listening to music all the time and that's often how bond with people. To find out what moves a person creatively. That matters.

Songs in the Key of Life, the cello, The Bends, Cameo, bass guitar, and Weezer's Blue Album are a few of my favorite sounds. To get to the why, I realize, there's no explaining the hodge-podge of musical discordant clutter in my head. But I do now how it makes me feel. And it makes me feel good.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Fast Car

There aren't too many big album releases left for 2007 (I can't think of any besides the new Mary J. record and Lupe Fiasco's sophomore release.) But Wyclef Jean's new CD, Carnival II: Memoirs of an Immigrant, deserves some attention, even if it's only for this track. The former Fugee recorded a ready radio classic with Paul Simon.

Wyclef Jean feat. Paul Simon - Fast Car

Monday, December 3, 2007

Fingernails Matching

Now there's a video to match Kid Sister's awesome track, Pro Nails.

Kid Sister feat. Kanye West - Pro Nails Remix

Kanye's hand dance with sneakers on his fingers is a money shot. And I love every outfit Kid Sister wears. I think it's only a matter of time before KS leaps from the indie festival circuit and into MTV terrain.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

One Cup of Coffee

Today, I had the perfect cup of coffee. It was after a meal at a restaurant with Little Italy in its name. The waitress didn't even offer me cream, not that I would have taken it. A pinch of sugar is all I need. Maybe she knew. It was coffee to be enjoyed for coffee's sake.

I think I've become too accustomed to burnt stale coffee beans and watered down office concoctions.

I was looking for a song to commemorate my flavorful experience, and I found this in my iTunes.

Bob Marley - One Cup of Coffee

This is one of Marley's first singles in his pre-Jah enlightenment, even pre-Wailers days. He released it as a solo artist in 1962.

Disc One of the incredible Songs of Freedom Box Set contains many more songs from Marley's early career. The set as a whole is fantastic, you really get to see Marley's progression as an artist.