Week 103: Otis Redding (Otis Blue)
Happy Mother’s Day to everyone though I’m guessing most of you only have mothers and aren’t mothers yourselves…right? Well either way, I hope you’re all having a great day! I’ve been home in Georgia for the past two days celebrating my sister’s graduation so this post had to be postponed but I think it’ll be worth the wait.
Today’s artist is Otis Redding, one of the most famous soul musicians in American history and a man who helped define the genre. Redding was born in Georgia in 1941 and from an early age began playing music as well as singing it. Much of his early experience came from singing in church but at age 15 he left school and worked in one of his idols, Little Richard’s, backing band. In the early 1960s he finally kicked off his solo career and began widely touring the South. Eventually, his fame grew and Redding played to bigger national audiences. In 1965, he released his most famous album to date, Otis Blue, and it’s high time you all heard it!
Redding specialized in Southern soul music and on Otis Blue (which consists almost entirely of cover songs) he puts a funky or more sorrowful spin on many popular songs. These songs are constructed around the blaring horns of a brass section and blues-driven guitar playing from the many studio musicians Redding employed to record the album. None of these elements are particularly unique but the voice that drives them was unlike any others at the time. Otis Redding was an extremely gifted singer with a wide range but what most appealing about his voice is the shockingly gravelly quality that radiates through it. His voice was rough around the edges which made his ability to express emotion through vocals-only possible. The songs are good, the rhythms are good, the singing is sublime.
In true 1960s style, Redding went on to record three more albums in the two years left in his life. He died in a plane crashed in December 1967 at the age of 26. He was gone too soon like his idol Sam Cooke and his most famous song, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” was released soon after Redding died only emphasizing the tragedy of his loss but he did so much good with what time he did have. We can always honor him by continuing to listen to him. Give Otis Blue a try and have a great day. Enjoy!
THE SOUND: soul music, R&B, use of brass instruments, use of organs, use of guitar, use of percussion, elements of funk music, rhythmic music, some cover songs, influenced by Little Richard and Sam Cooke, some elements of rock, Southern soul, use of piano, use of organ, use of bass guitar, covers of Temptations songs, cover of The Rolling Stones, cover of Sam Cooke, male vocalist with an expressive voice, mixture of upbeat and downbeat songs. Album lasts 32 minutes.
- Ole Man Trouble
- Change Gonna Come
- Down In The Valley
- I’ve Been Loving You Too Long - To Stop Now
- My Girl
- Wonderful World
- Rock Me Baby
- You Don’t Miss Your Water
“Cancer” by I Break Horses
I’ll post an mp3 later. For now, I’m stuck at work!
Week 103: I Break Horses (Hearts)
Hi everyone! I hope you’re all doing well because all that good weather we were having in New York has finally caught up with us in the form of buckets of rain (and for me, a pair of soaked shoes). Luckily, I’ll be leaving soon to go home and visit my family and Georgia is sure to be sun-soaked. It’s practically summer there! So since I’m feeling so optimistic I thought I’d feature some uplifting music today.
I Break Horses is the stage name of a Swedish duo consisting of Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck. The Stockholm-based, hypochondriac pair came together in 2008 after exchanging messages on an online medical forum and discovering that they shared more interests than perceived medical maladies. After three years of writing and developing a relationship with the Bella Union record label, I Break Horses, released their debut album in 2011. That album is known as Hearts.
There’s some kind of emerging theme this week because this is the third expansive, electronic act I’ve featured. I’ll be sure to go in a completely different direction tomorrow. Anyways, that’s the kind of music I Break Horses makes. Their music builds on melodically droning beats, steady barely-there guitar rhythms, glowing/growing synths, Lindén’s breathy vocals and some wonderful wholesale sound manipulation courtesy of Balck. The band’s songs seem to be less about individual notes or lyrics and more about how the song actually moves as a whole and any change whatsoever reverberates throughout the song in a very significant and noticeable way (see: “Wired”). This is the kind of electronic music that lives and breathes. And it’s quite lovely.
As of April 12th, the band is mixing their new album and it’ll probably see a release late this year or very early next year (I’m banking on this year). The bottom line is that if you like gauzy electronica with impressive beats then I Break Horses is right up your alley. Give Hearts a listen on Spotify. The link is right there. Enjoy!
THE SOUND: electronic, shoegaze, ambient music, Swedish band, subtle elements of drone music, expansive music, female vocalist with a mid-to-high range, use of distortion, use of guitar, use of synths, use of keyboards, use of vocal harmony, rhythmic music, delicacy as a theme. Album lasts 42 minutes.
- Winter Beats
- I Kill Your Love, Baby!
- Load Your Eyes
- Empty Bottles
- No Way Outro
Week 103: Still Corners (Strange Pleasures)
Happy New Music Tuesday, everyone! It’s another great day for music in what will frankly be a great month for music between new records from She & Him/Deerhunter (today), Vampire Weekend (next week), Daft Punk (two weeks) and Laura Marling (three weeks)! Action-packed! However, today Still Corners made the cut because after hearing the flawless first single from this album, “Berlin Lovers,” it was high time we gave them another listen.
We first discussed Still Corners and their debut album, Creatures of an Hour, in Week 51 of the blog. The four-piece English band, which celebrates six years together this year, started out as a brooding collective and I even described their music as “decidedly nightmarish.” While the line up hasn’t changed since then, they’ve made amazing progress and changes with their sound. The result is the fantastic Strange Pleasures, which hit U.S. shelves today.
When Still Corners first hit the scene, their sound was so dark, which is fine, you’re allowed to do that but it didn’t come from any kind of joy at all it seemed and that made it difficult to connect with their music completely. The band has changed that with Strange Pleasures, an aptly-named sophomore effort. Here we see the band employing expansive electronic elements like synths and keyboards, upping the energy and taking inspiration from the more epic aspects of 1980s pop music without mimicking the era to create what can only be described as startlingly gorgeous outtakes from the Drive soundtrack. They’ve added more light to their sound (though it’s still angst-filled) but it’s absolutely transformed them as a band and they’ve entered the annals of high-quality, beat-driven dream pop. Strange Pleasures is going to take Still Corners to the top.
So it’s no secret: Strange Pleasures gets an official Music for the Musically Challenged Stamp of Approval. We want nothing more than for you to form your own opinion but sometimes there are albums that just can’t go unnoticed and this is one of them. They kick off the English leg of their tour tomorrow and hop the pond at the end of May to tour alongside CHVRCHES. This album will play great live but for now, enjoy it via a great pair of headphones. Enjoy!
p.s. They’re on Tumblr.
THE SOUND: dreampop, indie pop, English music, elements of electronica, similar to Beach House, similar to Goldfrapp, elements of psychedelia, some upbeat songs, inspired by music of the 1980s, use of synths, use of keyboards, use of vocal layering, female vocalist with a mid-to-high range, ethereal music, ambient, use of guitar, use of bass. Album lasts 45 minutes.
- The Trip
- Beginning to Blue
- I Can’t Sleep
- All I Know
- Berlin Lovers
- Future Age
- Going Back To Strange
- Midnight Drive
- We Killed The Moonlight
- Strange Pleasures
Week 103: IO Echo (Ministry of Love)
Hi everyone! I’m back and it’s the last week of school! Yes! I actually had a fantastic weekend. On Friday I found out I was accepted as a PAID summer intern at New York Magazine! I’ve been obsessing over that magazine all year and now I get to work there! I think I’m in for a challenging but fanastic summer. But before I can embark on that adventure, I have to finish this week of school, go home for a week (my sister is graduating) and keep up the blog! Let’s start the week with IO Echo.
IO Echo is an L.A.-based duo consisting of Ioanna Giko and Leopold Ross and featuring guitarist Michael Edelstein and drummer Paul Rinnis. Ross had been a part of the music industry for a while when he met Giko, having his first band signed at age 14 and as a bassist for English rockers, The Big Pink. In 2009, the two officially became a band with Giko providing vocals and Ross moving up the musical scale from bass to guitar. Since forming they’ve not only written music for themselves but some done soundtrack work as well, which fits well with their atmospheric sound. They released their first EP, IO Echo, in October 2012 before finally releasing their debut LP, Ministry of Love, in April 2013.
If anything, Ministry of Love, is very California. It’s got that hazy, glowing feel to it and is built on reverberating guitar lines and long, forlorn notes in Giko’s beautiful soprano. Many of the write-ups on this band highlight their Asian influences and use of instruments native to the Far East but I think they’re using these instruments more in a “Hong Kong Garden” way than in an authentically Asian way. Without a doubt, these instruments lend a certain delicacy to the band’s music but otherwise, their sound is more influenced by indie rock and dreampop. Each song plays very brightly without being tinny, creating the kinds of cautiously sunny tunes that then to soundtrack summer.
This pair is well on their way up the fame ladder, securing a coveted spot at this year’s Coachella music festival and opening for the likes of Nine Inch Nails and The Drums. Oh, and they’re on Tumblr. If you’re in the mood for something light in music and heavy in tone, then Ministry of Love will do. Enjoy!
THE SOUND: rock music, dreampop, inspired by 1980s music, elements of pop music, inspired by classical Asian music and instrumentation, female vocalist with a mid-to-high range, atmospheric music, inspired by classical music, inspired by Nirvana and The Velvet Underground, upbeat music. Album lasts 55 minutes.
- Shanghai Girls
- When the Lillies Die
- Ministry of Love
- Tiananmen Square
- Ecstasy Ghost
- Berlin It’s A Mess
- Forget Me Not
- Eye Father
As The Dodos Said, “It’s That Time Again…”
Hi everyone! I hope you’re not letting the Monday blues get you down. For some of you it’s time to study for finals. I’m on the same page…kinda. See in journalism school we simply have long final articles due. I’m writing two in-depth stories at the moment (both beer-related!) and so I’m going to take a break this week.
Don’t worry, I’ll be back next Monday and nearly finished with my second semester of grad school.
I hope you all understand and will use the time to catch up on the music you might have missed! Enjoy!
Week 102: Lilacs & Champagne (Danish & Blue)
Well, as The Last Shadow Puppets once said, “The time has come again.” We’ve reached the end of another great week at MFTMC and I’d say it a strong one. Today, I’ve decided to tie things off with an album from a peculiar but talented pair.
Lilacs & Champagne was formed in 2011 by Alex Hall and Emil Amos. The group is based out of Portland, OR where the two first performed as members of the experimental rock outfit, Grails. Hall and Amos played guitar and drums, respectively, but the last two years have found them experimenting with production and sampling. Last year they released their debut LP, Lilacs & Champagne, revealing that they had a gift for production. This week they followed that album up with their spaced out sophomore effort, Danish & Blue.
Hall and Amos are quick to admit that they draw their inspiration from the likes of Madlib and J Dilla and as a result, their music shares that same high-brow hip-hop sound that those two acts cultivated. However, they’re just as quick to differentiate themselves from their idols and Danish & Blue reflects that. According to All Music, this album was inspired by “Scandanavian porn films and late-’60s cult films.” I suppose that’s true though I don’t know enough about either of those things to completely agree!
What I can say is that this album is incredibly experimental and is heavily influenced by the esoteric. It opens with a monologue from a phantom voice, one of many found throughout the album, before slipping into the album’s sultry sophomore track, “Sour/Sweet.” From there, listeners are taken on a sonic journey, guided by everything from strings to overdriven guitars to soul music to synths and beyond. Though the duo sample heavily, they’ve managed to reassemble all these sometimes discordant pieces into a cohesively heady and psychedelic collection of fazed out bliss.
These guys are unusually quiet for a band that just released a new album but that’s their prerogative. Every band is different. Even so, they will be playing a show in Portland on April 29th and then we don’t know what they’ll be up to. No matter. They’ve created an album that is almost as good as a live show. Give it a listen and have a great weekend! Enjoy!
THE SOUND: experimental, instrumental music, elements of funk, elements of hip-hop/rap, psychedelic music, use of a wide variety of instruments, extensive use of sampling, influenced by Madlib, inspired by 1970s film music, inspired by 1960s film music, extensive use of sampling vocals from films, inspired by JDilla, high production value. Album lasts 40 minutes.
- Metaphysical Transitions
- Sour / Sweet
- Le Grand
- Better Beware
- Alone Again and…
- Police Story
- Hamburgers & Tangerines
- Honest Man
- Refractory Period
- Danish & Blue
- Metaphysical Transitions II
Week 102: The Whitest Boy Alive (Rules)
You’re likely to discover music in the strangest places. I heard Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead” for the first time at a Metric concert and I was introduced to Rubblebucket at a Forever 21 in New Jersey. Like any respectable music lover I have both Soundhound and Shazam on my phone and ready to use at a moment’s notice. You never know when you’ll hear your new favorite band. I was introduced to The Whitest Boy Alive while getting my hair done a few weeks ago. I’d heard of them but I’d never listened to them until then so I made it my goal to change that. Now, I’m in love.
The Whitest Boy Alive is a four-piece German/Norwegian band that operates out of Berlin and consists of guitarist/vocalist Erlend Øye, bassist Marcin Oz, drummer Sebastian Maschat and Daniel Nentwig on piano and synths. The concept for the band originated as a music project about a complacent European boy making his way in the world and became a full-fleshed band with the 2006 release of their debut album, Dreams. This year marks The Whitest Boy Alive’s ten-year anniversary but they only have two albums to show for it. The last we heard of them was 2009’s Rules, which is frustrating but at least their “last word” was a good one.
It’d be easy to label the music on Rules as bare-bones electronica but there is so much more going on. The album is electronic at its core but it carries a distinct rock element to it as well and Whitest Boy’s music is perpetuated almost entirely on bouncing basslines and Øye’s breathy, soulful tenor. The result is music that radiates with funk, groove and more than a touch of romance and regret. At the same time there is a playfulness to their sound and occasionally the band will sneak, and I’m not kidding, Muzak elements (a flourish on Nentwig’s Rhodes piano or a brace of maracas) into the midst of the frankly sultry rhythms that dominate Rules. It’s a dancer’s (amateur or otherwise) dream and this LP is everything intelligent dance music should be.
As I said, we haven’t heard from The Whitest Boy Alive in four years. I’m inclined to believe that it’s due to Øye’s involvement with other acts as both a musician and a producer. However, Rules still holds its own four years later and to me, it’s as fresh now as I’m sure it was then. The link is right there! Enjoy!
THE SOUND: electronic music, use of guitar, heavy emphasis on basslines, elements of funk, elements of disco, elements of dream pop, use of backup vocalists, downbeat music, grooving music, use of piano, German/Norwegian music, inspired by slow jams, use of synths, intelligent dance music. Album lasts 44 minutes.
- Keep A Secret
- Rollercoaster Ride
- High On The Heels
- Promise Less or Do More
- Dead End