Friday Music

Busy today, but I had to get to this eventually:

OK…first things first, before I get to my selections this week. If, like me, you didn’t get to watch the Live8 performances last weekend, you’re going to like this site, which features links to Quicktime movies of every song performed at every venue. There’s some good stuff there, and here’s your chance to see it before the inevitable DVD release.

Now, on to my selections:

Fiona Apple does some great stuff, which often gets overshadowed by the media’s fascination with her celebrity-loony factor. It’s more fun to talk about her PETA-backed stance against Thanksgiving turkey, for example, than talking about her music. Case in point: when her second album was released, the music media (perhaps bristling from her awards-show rant about how the audience shouldn’t be taken in, since “this is all bullshit”), concentrated more on the fact that her album title was the longest in record industry history than on the music itself (the album was called When The Pawn Hits The Conflicts He Thinks Like A King What He Knows Throws The Blows When He Goes To The Fight And He’ll Win The Whole Thing ‘Fore He Enters The Ring There’s No Body To Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand And Remember That Depth Is The Greatest Of Heights And If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where To Land And If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right.). Which is a shame, because the album included some absolutely brilliant stuff, like this: Fiona Apple – “Fast As You Can.”

It’s no surprise that technophiliac Japan produces some great electronic musicians. One of my favorites is turntablist and electronica producer DJ Krush. His albums are a chilly trip-hop experience, with grindy, low-tempo beats, a mix of western and eastern musical styles, and each featuring a mix of instrumentals and guest vocals from singers and rappers from all over the globe. Here’s one of the better tracks from his 2001 album Zen, featuring vocals by Afro-Belgian singer Zap Mama (who I featured way back towards the beginning of Friday Music, for those of you who remember): DJ Krush – “Danger of Love (feat. Zap Mama)”

Sticking with Japan for a moment: I picked up the second soundtrack collection for Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which is called Be Human. This album is more score-oriented than the first, which had concentrated more on the singles used in the show. Subsequently, this album is a much better showcase of Yoko Kanno’s talent as a composer, who mixes traditional instrumentation and electronica into a perfect sound for the setting of the show. I love this track especially, which features a classical-style string quartet mixed with the sounds of a Fax machine: Yoko Kanno – “Fax Me.”

I like these Ghost in the Shell soundtracks so much, I’ll give you another great single from the first one: Yoko Kanno – “Stamina Rose (featuring Gabriela Robin)”. This one is another electronics + vocal piece which is more reminiscent of the theme song that I had posted a while back.

I have to admit that I’m kinda lovin’ the whole New Wave revival. Some are obviously better than others, but no matter how you look at it, a wave of synth-heavy pop from dandies with strange hair beats the living hell out of the last big trend we had (pre-fab boy and girl groups). Here’s a great track from Ladytron – “Destroy Everything You Touch.”

Here’s another fun bit of electronica that mixes beats with a cheesy, 60s-ish groove. This is Ursula1000, a NY-area DJ (real name Alex Gimeno). I can think of several readers who are gonna love this track, and I’m interested to see if they comment. Ursula1000 – “Kinda Kinky.”

I have clear memories of this song when it was first released in 1978, and realizing that I was…a bit odd, when compared to other 9 year old boys. This was not a 9 year old boy kinda song. I loved it, because I found myself in awe of the control and talent displayed by two vocalists at the top of their games. Yes, it’s disco. Yes, it’s “Bah-bra”. I don’t care….when the tempo kicks up about 1:45 in, and Streisand holds that note for-friggin’-EVER, and then, just when you think she’s done, she pops it up an octave at the end? CHILLS. No shit. Barbara Streisand and Donna Summer – “Enough is Enough (No More Tears)”

…and there you have it. More next week.

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