Wednesday, December 30, 2009

“Tap into the future!”

If you know where that quote’s from, you get 10 points. But I digress. The subject is Carlos Vamos, whom I discovered while surfing the net. I really don’t know a thing about him, I just know he’s an astonishing guitarist from the tapping school. I posted another tap style guitarist, Erik Mongrain a while back, who’s equally talented. I’d have to say Erik is the McCoy Tyner of guitar, while Carlos would have to be the Bill Evans of said instrument. His playing is precise yet delicate. My one question is, why is this guy not a household name?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

K’Naan is O’Kay

I normally don’t listen to much hiphop, but in the case of K’Naan, I’ll make an exception. He was born in war-torn Somalia but moved with his family to Harlem when he was 13. He eventually settled in Ontario. K’Naan performed at the 50th anniversary celebration of the UN in Geneva, where he chastised the world community for not doing more to stop the violence in his homeland. It was at this performance where he was discovered by Youssou N’Dour. His music is very melodic and he has a distinctive voice. Most of his songs have a strong African tinge to them, and include an appeal for peace.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Old Vic

I wasn’t familiar with Vic Chesnutt before I heard he was to perform here in the Detroit area. So I got on line to sample some of his music and was totally blown away. He’s a singer/songwriter from that hotbed of new music, Athens, Georgia. Vic was in a serious car accident 18 years ago, which rendered him partially paralyzed from the neck down. He’s a wonderful guitarist, but it takes a great deal of effort for him to play. His current group consists of Guy Picciotto, Fugazi’s guitarist along with members of A Silver Mt. Zion and Godspeed You Black Emperor. If you’re familiar with these groups you might not think they’d blend well with Vic’s style. But they compliment him perfectly. His music is dark at times and full of joy at others—and his lyrics are quirky and offbeat. He’s got quite an interesting voice and attending one of his shows is almost like a religious experience. I’ve included a clip with a group that’s close to his current band as well as a 26 minute solo performance that’s part of the “Tiny Desk Concert” series on NPR. Over the years, Vic has recorded with everyone from Lambchop to Bill Frisell to Elf Power.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It’s a Bear!

It’s a real bear finding any information on the group(?) Pandatone. After searching the net, about all I could find is that Pandatone is a project of Trevor Sias and that he lives in New York. His music mixes found sounds, electronica, acoustic guitar and occasionally, voice. The singer Julianna Barwick has a soft, understated voice and adds to the relaxing, quiet atmosphere of the CD “Happy Together, Pandatone’s latest release. The music is perfect for a late-night conversation over a glass of wine. Everything I’ve heard from Pandatone is gentle, smart, and lush. If you could describe it in one word, I guess I’d call it folktronica. While it's slow triphop, it’s also very organic.

P.S. If anyone has more information on Pandatone, please let me know.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Magical Experience

The group Here We Go Magic is the concept of Luke Temple and is definitely hard to describe. Musically, the New York based quartet is all over the map—from Afro-Pop to Trance to Psychedelia to Indie-Rock. Despite the wide-ranging influences, all the songs on their self-titled debut album have one thing in common—they all have a hypnotic edge to them. The vocals are superb and uniformly beautiful. The guitars are repetitive which adds to the hypnotic effect. I must say, these songs are very addictive. On first hearing, you might find them boring. But give them a couple listens and I think they’ll make their way into your current play list.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Attention Nick Drake Fans

Did you ever wish he were still alive? Or at the very least, someone would discover a huge cache of his unreleased music? Well, I recently made a great discovery. I was watching the film “Away We Go” and noticed a blurb on the DVD box that read something to the effect of, you’ll enjoy the beautiful, original soundtrack. As I listened I thought to myself, hey, all they did was lift a bunch of Nick Drake tunes. How the heck is that original? Well, lo and behold, after doing some research, I found out the soundtrack was actually by a newcomer, Alexi Murdoch. The Scottish folky has a soft, tender voice and his songwriting reminds me of where Nick Drake would be if he were still around. He only has two releases, “Time Without Consequence” and “Away We Go.” They’re both excellent.

Friday, October 23, 2009

These Guys Are Nuts!

I discovered the Canadian indie group, The Acorn, about a year ago and I just love their sound. Their music sounds like what the Talking Heads would be producing, if they were still around. The Acorn is very percussive and features excellent, slightly off-beat vocals. The title of their first full-length recording, “Glory Hope Mountain” is an approximate translation of the singer Rolf Klausener’s mom’s name--Gloria Esperanza Montoya. Several of the tunes including “Flood” have a definite Honduran influence. But, uniformly, the whole album is outstanding. I’d have to give it a five out of five star rating. If The Acorn was an American group, I’m sure they’d be riding the charts.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Genre Bender?

When I first listened to The Antlers, I thought they sounded like Noise Rock. Then as I got further into the recording, they sounded more folky. So I guess they'd have to be called Noise Folk (have I coined a new term?). The lead singer, Peter Silberman, has a sweet falsetto voice, which reminds me of Jeff Buckley. And the songs are frequently quiet and gentle, with the occasional infusion of blistering layers of guitar and various noises. But overall, the music is very contemplative and peaceful, and is usually fairly stripped down with a minimal amount of instrumentation. The Brooklyn-based singer started recording solo in his bedroom, but has expanded to include a full group. (He actually made a recording “The February Tape”, in a bathtub in just an hour.) I haven’t heard it, but I do enjoy his more recent music.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Little Jackie=Big Fun

I’m not into rap. Okay. That said, I’m a huge fan of Little Jackie. I’d classify them as a combo of rap, R&B, and dance. They’ve got great vocals, excellent back-up musicians, and nice sense of humor. Listen to “The World Should Revolve Around Me”, and I think you’ll hop on the proverbial bandwagon. Here is a sample of their lyrics: "This kind of knowledge can cause a depression_So I bide my time with philosophical questions_Not for nothing, but what came first?_The chicken nugget or the Egg McMuffin?" I'd just like to know, when are they coming into town. They'd be great to see live!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Got stories?

James McMurtry has, that’s for sure. The Texas singer/songwriter is the son of novelist Larry McMurtry and an English professor mom. While that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good singer, it does lend him some songwriting skills. At first blush, he sounds pretty country. But if you’re not a huge fan of the genre, like me, you have to look beyond the southern twang of his voice. His songs are like finely-crafted short stories. They range from kids bragging about leaving their small town, to depictions of a visit to his grandparents on Memorial Day. All imbued with a wry sense of humor. Think of him as sort of a Texas version of Bruce Cockburn. And his voice has a homey, old pair of boots sound to it. It does grow on you.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Call of the Wild

Tanya Tagaq is a singer that defies description. She’s categorized as an Inuit throat singer from Nunavut, Canada but she’s much more that that. While she sings in a traditional, aboriginal style, she also blends contemporary sound with her voice. You can find her on a couple Bjork cds including the soundtrack to Drawing Restrain and has toured with her as well. Her voice takes a bit of getting used to and could be listed under the challenging listening category. The first brief video has her vocalizing a seal hunt—hard to imagine, but check it out. It’s absolutely riveting. The second is a short documentary of Tanya working with the Kronos Quartet. Explore more of her music on Youtube. Her voice is pretty amazing, and yes, it’s pretty wild as well.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Before there was New Age music…

A friend introduced me to the music of Stephan Micus in the late 1970s, well before the term “New Age” was around. At the time we dubbed this type of music, ethereal. Stephan was a pioneer, and continues to be one today. He has spent his life traveling the world collecting rare and unusual ethnic/folk instruments from various cultures. Through the miracle of multi-tracking, his recordings sound like they’re produced by a small ensemble. Even though some of the music he produces sounds electronic, Stephan is a stickler for all things acoustic. His music is relaxing and meditative and often features subtle chanting, without being boring. And since his music is on Manfred Eicher’s ECM label, they’re virtually flawless. I hadn’t listened to him in years for whatever reason. But a couple days ago, I heard mention of his name and had another go at his music. Once again I was thoroughly captivated by him. I’ve posted two examples of his studio recordings (since his live music doesn’t feature overdubbing). I think you'll enjoy him.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ya Gotta Like Mike!

If you like energetic folkies like Howie Day, Niell Finn, Newton Falkner, and Justin Nezuka, then you'll like Mike Doughty. His music has plenty of soul, catchy hooks, and best of all, irreverent lyrics. And I really enjoy his sound. They've used his songs for "Grey's Anatomy," so he does have some street cred! Heck, I may be late to the Mike Doughty party, but I'll bet you're later! Just saying. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I’ve Got Fever

As in Fever Ray. It’s not actually a group, but a side project of Knife's Karin Dreijer. It shares some of the musical flair of Knife, but seems to be a bit warmer and inviting—if that’s possible from a pretty cold, science-fictiony sounding group. I remember the first time I saw Peter Gabriel with Genesis on TV and though, well this is sort of creepy. Same with Weather Report live.

Fever Ray could easily fit into the stable of 4 A.D. groups from the early 80s. They have a dark, quiet, and haunting sound like Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil. And Dreijer has a lovely voice. The instrumentation is pretty sparse, and seems to be there just to accent the vocals. As with many of the groups I enjoy, they have a sound that’s hard to describe, and are unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.

Sorry about the dupe on the song. Fever Ray is too new to have a lot of songs on Youtube.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Need more?

If you enjoy any of the music I like, here are a few places where you can discover some incredible tuneage on your own. One is the excellent music show on the CBC called “The Signal” hosted by Laurie Brown. The second is SOMA-FM--a website that streams several channels of great music, from electronica to chill, to spy music. Here are the links: (Click on The Signal with Laurie Brown)


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let’s Talk Soul

Alana Davis. I really don’t know why she hasn’t caught on. She’s got a wonderful voice. I saw her briefly in concert, where she had issues and left the stage after two songs. But she was great and I hope to see her again. However, whatever her issues were, she was great. Alana proved to me in a few minutes that she can belt out a tune. You really can’t compare her with anyone else that I can think of. Her voice compels you to want to get up, grab someone, and and dance. One thing I must say, Alana has a lot more poise, maturity, and soul than a lot of the pretty young things that are trying to pass themselves as the next Aretha. This chick’s got it. Sorry kids--give it a couple of years or so. In the mean time, I suggest you listen to Alana for some lessons. This woman can sing.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

It Came From Hollywood!

I feel that original soundtracks feature some of the most innovative modern music being written today. I’m not talking about a producer who slaps together a bunch of pop tunes and calls it a soundtrack. I think that’s just being lazy, cheap, or a combination of the two. I’m talking about music that’s scored for a movie. And some of the most effective soundtracks go pretty much unnoticed. They enhance the mood of the movie without getting in the way of the plot. That said, here’s a list of some of my favorite soundtrack, not in any particular order. Feel free to post some of your favorites.
• Field of Dreams
• The Natural
• Amaracord
• Batman
• Mrs. Soffel
• Local Hero
• The Mission
• Lord of the Rings
• 2001: A Space Odyssey
• Gladiator

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

NOT Difficult Listening.

I’ve heard a rumor that there’s a music store in Cincinnati that has a room designated as the “Difficult Listening Room”. I have a good idea of the music that’s routinely played in this room. As you know, I occasionally post music that could be classified as “difficult listening”. Well, I’d like to post some music that’s the opposite of that. Okay, just don’t call it “easy listening”, just easy to relate to. If you don’t know the band Guster, you should. They’re huge on the college circuit. They started out sounding a lot like an updated version of the Beach Boys, but they’ve matured into an excellent group worthy of more serious consideration. Nice vocals and harmonies, good songwriting, great percussion including hand beaten drums, and they're a lot of fun to see live. Warning: be prepared to be surrounded by a bunch of college-aged kids dancing and singing along for the whole evening.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Forty Years Old and Still Relevant

I recently watched an old Werner Herzog film and was captivated once again by the music of Popol Vuh. The group was formed in 1969 by keyboardist Florian Fricke, along with Frank Fiedler and Holger Trulzsch, The pioneering group made what I termed at the time, ethereal music, which would later be called ambient and New Age. Popol Vuh teamed up with Herzog and made several soundtracks for him. Their music is dreamy and subtly layered and they were early users of synthesizers. Popol Vuh’s later music incorporates elements of world music and explores the ambient use of ethnic instruments. All their recordings are great, but any of their soundtrack cds are a good place to start—especially “Aguirre, Wrath of God”. I think they sound as fresh and cutting edge today as they did 40 years ago. And it's obvious they had a huge impact on many of today's groups.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Cure for the Summertime Blues

Looking for some fun tunes to take to the beach or for toolin’ around with the top down? Give Passion Pit a listen. They produce energetic, catchy music that will liven up your summer. It all started a couple years ago when Michael Angelakos produced a Valentine’s Day EP for his girlfriend. It eventually got into the hands of his friends, began making the rounds, created a lot of buzz, and ultimately got him a record contract. Passion Pit’s first full length album, Manners, was released in the spring of 2009. The music is joyous, dancy, electronic indie pop. Angelakos often sings in falsetto with layers of high-pitched backup vocals and the songs feature plenty of production value—almost to the point of overproduction. But, I sense that’s the whole point of the music. Perfect for the dog days of summer.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Taste of India, the Middle East, and Beyond

I'm pretty sure no one here has heard of DJ Cheb I Sabbah. He's a composer and performer who was born in Algeria but has lived in San Francisco since the mid-1980s. Since 1988, Sabbah has presented a series, Africa/India/Arabia, weekly at Nickie's, a popular San Francisco nightclub. His music is an interesting blend of cross-cultural music that is a great introduction to world music for the novice. I've known about DJ Cheb for quite a while and really enjoy this kind of music. I hope you do too. I love fusiony type of music. Especially Indian-jazz blends like Shakti. Enjoy. Once again--feel free to leave comments.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

"Dude, I can out-obscure you any day."

I was in a restaurant a couple months ago, and i started talking to the waiter about music. We traded obscure band after obscure band until he made the statement, "Dude, I can out-obscure you any day!" So on that note, I'd like to present the group Anathallo.

The seven-piece chamber pop group hails from Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. They were formed in 2000 by Matt Joynt and you'll find their music pretty complex and, as usual, hard to describe. They're definitely indie-rock, but have influences from all over the place. Jazz, classical, 60s rock, Traditional Japanese, and they blend it with lots of percussion to create a sound that's all their own. Very intricate vocal arrangements, excellent musicianship, and well-crafted tunes. Some of their songs have a dark edge to them, but most are quite uplifting. Some even sound like they could be part of a mass.

Apparently the band has spent a lot of time on the road but have recently found a home in a church in Chicago. I wish them luck, however it's unfortunate to see a good group leave my home state of Michigan.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Jonatha Brooke is a singer/songwriter I’d definitely put in the category Talent Deserving Wider Recognition. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her perform at the Ark, a small venue in Ann Arbor, Michigan several times, and I have to admit, she’s is one of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever seen in concert. She’s witty, charming, and a great storyteller. Her rapport with the audience is incredible. If you ever get a chance to se her perform live, jump at the opportunity. I can guarantee you, you won’t be disappointed. For some reason, fame has eluded her, which is okay with me—if she was more famous, I’d have a harder time getting tickets to her shows. I’d have a difficult time recommending her best recording since they’re all great. But I guess a good place to start would be either of her live cds. They’re both excellent and give you a sense of what it’s like to see her in person. Although, for some reason the producers decided to leave our her between the songs banter—which is 50 percent of her charm. Her latest disc is a recording of Woody Guthrie poems and unfinished songs he wrote, which Jonatha set to music. One listen and it becomes obvious, the two of them are truly kindred spirits.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Post Rock Anyone?

Both of the bands I’m reviewing have been described as “Post Rock.” Hmm. What the heck is that supposed to mean? After listening to them a lot, I sort of know what the term means. It means, not only is it hard to put a label on the group, but the music is largely without structure. Here’s how Wikipedia defines it: Post-rock is a genre of alternative rock characterized by the use of musical instruments commonly associated with rock music, but using rhythms, harmonies, melodies, timbre, and chord progressions that are not usually found in rock tradition. It is the use of 'rock instrumentation' for non-rock purposes. Practitioners of the genre's style typically produce instrumental music.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way, I’d like to present two groups—Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You. Both bands are guitar focused and produce beautiful layers of sound. Explosions has a harder edge at times and many of their tunes run 10 to 12 minutes. They’ve also done the soundtrack to “Friday Night Lights” which is subtle and very pretty; some of their best work in my opinion. They’ve been compared to both Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor! This Will Destroy You is similar to Explosions. While their music is all instrumental as well, they have a softer edge to them. Most of their songs start out as a mere whisper and build to a majestic, blistering crescendo—a semi-cacophonous sonic plateau. Then the music retreats and lets you down with a gentle, quiet landing. In some ways, I’d rather classify these groups as “noise rock”. While this term has negative connotations to some, I think of it as a genre you can either have on as background music, or listen to it for its complexities. If you enjoy these two groups, a couple others I would recommend are Four Tet and Japancakes.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Just listen to the song Gabriel by Lamb and you know you’re in for something special. This group makes some extraordinary music. The lead singer has an exceptional voice. However, it’s manipulated in ways at times that I’m not totally enamored with. Some times, I enjoy what she does with it, like the song Darkness: near the end it’s distorted to a very cool psychedelic finish. At other tines, she uses her voice to achieve a child-like echoey sound that, quite frankly, becomes rather annoying at times. Overall, the group is heavily into drum & bass with a lot of psychedelic additions to make their sound fairly unique. Why haven’t I heard of this marvelous group earlier?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What's in a name?

They're called West Indian Girl. I figured they'd have a Caribbean sound to them. It turns out they're sort of a dreamy, spacey rock group. And they're not from the tropics at all. The founding members are actually from Detroit. They moved out to California and started releasing CDs in 2004. Their name comes from a legendary early street LSD. And it seems to have an influence on their music. They write catchy, dancey stuff that you can't help but snap your fingers to. The only downside to them is I think their name will keep some folks from listening to them. Another good group with a mediocre name.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A National Treasure

Okay. I’ll admit it, this isn’t a new band. Just new to me. The group called "The National" originated in Ohio and then moved to New York in the late 1990s. They’re very down-tempo and their lead singer is a cross between Leonard Cohen and Mark Kozalek (of Red House Painters fame). Add a bit of Van Morrison’s bizarre mysticism and you’ve pretty much wrapped up The National. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Cat Power Redux

I have a theory—there are two kinds of writers, musicians, and artists. Those who have one great work pent up in them and let it flow and then they’re done. They try to follow it up with a series of weaker efforts, which only disappoints their fans and detracts from their magnum opus. And then there are those who produce a masterpiece and follow it up with hit after hit.

Then there’s Cat Power. I have to admit; I thought her earlier music was better than her latest releases. But upon listening to her oeuvre again, I now feel this woman has definitely improved over the years. Her maturity has resulted in better singing, and much more accessible music. I can’t think of another singer (with the exception of Bjork) who has matured this much. I can’t wait for her next album to come out. Rumor is, it’s a Dylan cover album. I’m sure it’s going to be exceptional!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Cat’s out of the Bag

Say the name “Cat Power” to most people and they’ll probably think you’re referring to a DC Comic heroine. But mention it to indie rock enthusiasts and they’ll know you’re referring to a singer who also goes by the name of Chan Marshall. I feel she’s an artist who deserves far more attention than she receives. She has a quiet, husky voice, a down-tempo delivery, and has produced some outstanding work.

I’d classify her early recordings as singer/songwriter. Then she stretched out a bit and recorded The Greatest, backed up by a group of soul musicians from Memphis, TN. It’s an R&B outing that’s her most uplifting and accessible release to date. Her most recent recording is a cover CD and the rumor is her next one will be one as well. Her latest work is well worth listening to, however I must admit, I’m partial to her earlier recordings.

If you ever have the opportunity to see her live, jump at the chance. It is one unique experience. When I saw her I couldn’t tell if she was really high, shy, or slow in the head. Or a combination of all three! She came out and performed with her Memphis group, and then did an extended solo set, accompanying herself on guitar and piano. In between songs she babbled incoherently, a bit like Grace Slick used to do on stage. I got the sense that she’s most comfortable in a solo setting. She finished the set somewhat awkwardly with the full band. But in the end, she was still Cat Power.

One of her vids:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Goofy Name. Fun Music

If you enjoy offbeat bands like Gogol Bordello, Devotchka, and Beruit, add Balkan Beat Box to your play list. This group combines music of the Mid-East, hip-hop, dance, Reggae, Gypsy, Greece, and even a smattering of Le Mystere de Voix Bulgares and Pink Martini. Yep, this group has it all. It’s an extremely fun group to listen to. They’re actually from New York City, but have their roots grounded in Israel. If you think they sound a bit like Gogol Bordello, that’s because both principals of the group, Ori Kaplan and Tamir Muskat have worked with that group. Expect to hear heavy percussion; lots of singing, and a rhythm that makes you wanna dance. Hey, if I was getting married today, this is the group I’d want to play for my wedding. What an exciting band—with a great future ahead of it. So get up and dance already!

Here's a taste of the joy of their music:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Goddess

The brilliant Icelandic singer also know as Björk. Let me just start off by saying; I’m a huge and loyal fan. I think she’s one of the great musical geniuses of the last 25 years. At least in the world of rock. Not only is she an amazing songwriter, her voice has the ability to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I could write a ten-page essay on her, however I’ll keep it a bit shorter here. One thing that I find that she’s know around the world as “The chick who wore that swan outfit” by people who’ve never hear a note of her music. I’m also amazed by how popular she is, when I’d categorize her music as ‘challenging listening”. Especially her last couple of cds. This is not your father’s rock. I really admire her for all the chances she takes—every release is different than the one before it. Her music is constantly evolving and turning in new directions. She’s constantly exploring new sounds and pushes the envelope. And her voice is truly a marvel—she has incredible range, and her high-pitched scream is unique. I defy you to show me another singer with a sexier growl.

Björk gained her initial fame with the group Sugarcubes—a semi-punkish band that put out a string of catchy, infectious bunch of songs. Listening to them it was quite obvious that she would become a star and the rest of the band members would fade into obscurity. Her solo career began with the release of Gling-Glo, an album of Icelandic folk tunes performed by Björk with a jazz trio. It’s a refreshing recording with some outstanding music on it. In fact, even though it’s sung in Icelandic, her voice is so expressive, you can almost tell what she’s singing about. Then she released Debut, which is almost a greatest hits cd—every song on it is a gem. If you only buy one Björk cd, I would highly recommend it. My personal favorite is Vespertine. A dreamy, atmospheric recording that features a female choir from Greenland. It’s a heavenly, peaceful album that could have been composed and performed by angels. Listen to the song “Aurora” through headphones—it sounds like you’re standing in the middle of the choir. The engineering is so remarkable that there are a few times where it sound like voiced are coming from above you!

I won’t review all her recordings at this time, but I must say that each one gets more challenging to listen to. It took me three or four listens to “Volta” before I realized what a brilliant work it was. Listening to Björk around my house isn’t easy. I have to wait until I’m alone to put her music on. My wife tolerates her, and my two daughters can’t stand her. My wife’s observation is that all her songs sound like Björk. Is that a problem? I think it’s funny that list a number of “similar artists” under their biography of her when, in my opinion, there isn’t anybody that sounds like her. All I can say is there are two kinds of people in the world: those who get Björk and those who don’t. I sort of feel sorry for those who don’t.

Two examples of her brilliance:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Great Soundtrack to a Great Movie

I’m talking about the soundtrack to Slumdog Millionaire. It always bugs me when some producer’s idea of a soundtrack is to slap a dozen popular pop tunes together and try to fit them into the movie. I suspect it’s done largely to sell CDs. That’s not the case with Slumdog. It features an original score by A. R. Rahman and it really complements the movie perfectly. Actually I was pretty familiar with the music before seeing the movie. So it was interesting to see how the songs would tie in with the movie. The music is an interesting blend of hip-hop, traditional and popular Indian music, and Bollywood. The opening track sets the stage for the rest of the disc/movie. It almost sounds like a call to prayer with an army of percussion in the background. My favorite songs are “Planes” by M.I.A., which is a fun dancy number, and the absolutely gorgeous “Latika’s Theme”—it’s a wordless vocal song that’s heard every time the starring couple meets. It’s one of the most beautiful and moving love themes I’ve ever heard. I also enjoyed the catchy “Aaj Ki Raat”, one of the songs that are really hard to get out of your head. It’s a drum heavy dance tune with the incredible vocals of Alisha Chinoy—someone worth looking into. I’ve heard many other songs by her and they all quite good. The dance routine at the end of the movie also features an excellent up-tempo song, Lai Ho” that has proven to be another earworm for me. I’m not going to do a review of the movie, but lets just say I felt it deserved every Oscar it got. If you’re not familiar with popular Indian music, this CD is a good place to start. Two thumbs up!

Here's the dance routine at the end of the movie:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Montreal Strikes Again!

• These days, unbeknownst to many Americans, Montreal is a hotbed of progressive musical activity. This city is just pumping out great band after great band. Unfortunately, not a lot of them get any airplay here in the States. One more reason to stream CBC on your computers. HELLO! Get with the 00s already! You’re missing out on some great music. Especially Laurie Brown’s show “The Signal” which runs from 10:00 P.M. Eastern Time until 1 A.M. Anyway, I digress. The Montreal Scene was already pretty rich with new groups, and then here comes The High Dials. I really like this band. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the late 60s and early 70s musically. The High Dials are a sort of blend of the Byrds, Beatles, and the whole British Invasion. Plus a small smattering of psychedelic. The glorious 3Bs. If you enjoy pretty (guilty, caught me using that word again) harmonies, well crafted tunes and excellent musicianship, you will definitely like the High Dials. Peace!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Beautiful and free—hard to beat that combination

Some of you may be familiar with the music of Sigur Ros. (Sorry if I can’t figure out how to do the requisite Icelandic accent marks.) If you don’t like them, then you don’t need to read any further. This won’t interest you in the least. But do come back again. I’ve recently found a group that makes music on a similar plane as Sigur Ros—Azeda Booth. I guess the only word to describe their music is just “pretty”. I know, it’s a fairly pedestrian term, but I tend to use it a lot in judging a fair amount of music. This obscure group from Canada has a distinct sound. Layers upon layers of guitar and luscious vocals. The result is almost symphonic at times. And the best part for initiates is that you can hear a bunch of their tunes on their web site. What’s even better is you can download their EP from there as well. What’s to lose—especially for cheapskates like me? Visit:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Earworm of the Week

Lykke Li
“Little Bit”. Okay. I dare you. You listen to this tune and don’t have it stuck in your head for a week. Or two. It’s a totally stupid tune that hasn’t got a lot going for it. A singer, with a childish voice, a little bit of percussion behind it. And it’s become one of the biggest hits in Europe. What’s with those folks? Don’t they know any better? And her whole CD is great. I highly recommend it. It’s quirky, but it works. Have at it. I really like this woman/girl (I think she’s all of 19?) and I think she’s got an incredible career ahead of her. Lykke Li from Sweden. You’re gonna hear from this girl!

Prettiest music ever

Scala. One of the prettiest musical groups I've ever heard. Wow. This is a group of 16 year old female singers who do their versions of American rock tunes. It's amusing, and at times embarrassing, to hear them doing songs with filthy lyrics. However, their voices are incredible. I'm listening to their singing as I type and I must say that their music is some of the prettiest I've ever heard. Their music is breathtakingly beautiful. Just download their version of "Someone New". What an incredible feat. It's twice as emotional as the original by Heather Nova--which is a pretty cool tune.

They have a deal right now if you go to their website, you can download their latest cd for free. Here's the link:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Delectable Duo

The music of Angus and Julia Stone reminds me a bit of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the stars of the brilliant film about the magic of songwriting, “Once”. Except this duo is a brother and sister team. That’s right…brother and sister. Now I don’t know about you, but I can just barely imagine playing on the same hockey team with my siblings, let alone write and perform songs with them. Yet these two talented musicians from Sydney, Australia create something special when they collaborate. Listening to their music is a languid stroll through a beautiful garden full of nuanced and pretty music. Okay, that’s perhaps laying it on a bit think. Lets just say their music has a quiet elegance to it. Is that better? Julia’s voice goes from twangy drawl to a warbling and child-like while Angus’s is soft and pure and almost Nick Drake-ish, if I may be so bold as to make the comparison. Their music is folky without really being folk music and is rich in storytelling. I dare you to NOT like the sounds of Angus and Julia.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Two of the best bands no one's ever hear of

Blue Merle and Bark Psychosis. I'll bet there are only a handful of folks out there who have ever heard of either one of these groups. And it's a shame. Let's start with Blue Merle. I like to describe them as Coldplay meets Mike Marshall & Darol Anger. The Coldplay comes from Luke Reynolds's voice, which sounds quite a bit like Chris Martin. Hey, I'm sure he didn't try to imitate him, it's just a fortunate coincidence for him. The music has a folksy, bluegrassy sound to it--reminiscent of Darol Anger's cd "Chiaroscuro". What's not to like? They write catchy songs and really swing at times. Unfortunately, the group put out just one studio recording "Burning in the Sun" in 2005 and a somewhat obscure live recording, and then broke up. The music world's loss.

The second group is Bark Psychosis. The grouo was formed in 1986 in England and and has a very modest discography. However they were so innovative and ahead of their time, one rock critic felt the need to invent a new term to describe them--"post rock". One listen to their music and you can see why. It could loosely be categorized as electronica, but that would be selling their music short. It's pretty and unlike anything I've ever heard. As close as I can get is to compare them with the best of Cinematic Orchestra and Yo La Tengo. They've put out a few discs over the years, the best being "Hex". Their music is engaging, sophisticated, and at times, romantic. I could easily envision any number of their tunes being utilized to great effect, in a soundtrack for a film. I've done some investigating, yet it remains unclear whether the group is still together or not. If anyone has an answer to this, please drop me a line.

To give you an example of the music of these two groups, I've posted a couple youtube videos. Their music is available from the iTune store and Amazon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Latest discoveries

I've been listening to a lot of Andrew Bird lately. This guy is incredible. He sings, plays violin, and whistles. Yes, whistles. Although he's classically trained, his music is all over the map. From Celtic, to folk, to bluegrass. There's a charming little clip of him improvising with Yo Yo Ma on youtube. Just enter their names and do a search.  A couple other singer/songwriters that are getting lots of airplay around here are: Daniel Lanois, Jeremy Fisher, Devotchka,  and The Submarines. All worth looking into. Happy Saint Valentine's Day! 

Monday, February 9, 2009

Launching off point

Okay, I started a music blog. The main point of the blog is to share my musical discoveries. I'm so into music, you can't believe it. Just stop by the ol' manse and take a look at my collection of CDs. It's totally out of control, as my wife will point out. Anyway, here's what I'm into: electronica. world, celtic, jazz, indie. singer/songwriter, and just about everything except country and rap. So I'll be posting, for the dozen folks who give a damn, what my latest discoveries are. Stay tuned folks!  Right now, I'm listening to "I am Robot and Proud." Haven't heard of them? Not surprised. Download some of their stuff. Enjoy!