Friday Music

Another week, another edition of your mixtape of the internet, Friday Music! Maybe someday soon I’ll be able to create some non-FM content for this blog, but as busy as I’ve been, that probably won’t be for another few weeks.

The image at left is the cover to our first track, from the Los Angeles based group BRÅVES. To quote their website: “Take three musicians. Conceal their countenances from the general public. Create pop music without an image. Roll it out through a series of beautiful, albeit unnerving videos. Circumvent the political, pandering bullshit associated with most record labels. Shock the system. Rinse. Repeat.” The video for this track features actor Matthew Lillard and disability rights activist Dr. Victor S. Pineda, dancing with each other on a featureless soundstage, challenging the social mores of how we interact with disabled people. Even before I saw the video, though, something in the sound of the song brought tears to my eyes, no joke. BRÅVES – “Catch Me.”

Speaking of “groups that alter the spelling of their commonly-occurring name so it’s more easily searchable”, Scottish synthpop band CHVRCHES have a new album coming out in May, and this is the first single, with guest vocals by Matt Berninger of The National. A group I love, with guest vocals from another group I love? Yes, please. CHVRCHES – “My Enemy.”

Been listening a lot recently to the late Japanese downtempo/low-fi producer Nujabes (pronounced new-ja-bess, by the by). He died in a car accident in 2010, and I absolutely adore his work, combinations of boom-bap hip-hop beats riding forward in the mix, over washed-out low-fi jazz and RnB samples, all hisses & pops. He’s probably best known over here for scoring the 2004-2005 anime series SAMURAI CHAMPLOO (the follow-up to COWBOY BEBOP from director Shinichirō Watanabe) . This is the closing credits track from the show, featuring Japanese reggae & RnB vocalist MINMI. The title means “Song of the Seasons.” Nujabes – “Shiki No Uta (feat. MINMI).”

Sticking with the downtempo vibe for a moment, Clearside is the nom de guerre of L.A. producer and mixer Bryan Dych, who uses big retro analog synths over downtempo beats, producing a sound inspired by 90s Big Beat electronica, which is right up my alley. Clearside – “Cop Drama.”

I have to admit that I’m loving the fact that a lot of my favorite musical genres are experiencing retro revivals. For example, this L.A. based group (hmm… I’m detecting a theme here), Kitten, produces absolutely spot-on late-70s/early-80s post-punk New Wave. The vocals of the lead singer, Chloe Chaidez, really makes me think of Patty Smyth from Scandal. Good stuff: Kitten – “I Did It.”

Of course, with retro revivals come new releases from older groups. I helped to crowdfund this one, from Dave Wakeling (from The Beat and General Public), who is recording under the “English Beat” name the band used in the US. The album, Here We Go Love, will be out in a couple of months, but the first single is now getting radio play in the UK. It’s a slice of socially-conscious ska, but I have to admit that I miss the interplay of Wakeling’s voice with Ranking Roger (who has his own version of The Beat, touring the UK & Europe) — The English Beat’s new toaster, King Schascha, isn’t really used to much effect on this single, though, so we’ll see. The English Beat – “How Can You Stand There?!”

Stewart Copeland has put together a group of friends into a “hey, let’s record some shit” effort which some media are trying pin “Supergroup” onto, but really just sounds like some friends having fun. The group, Gizmodrome, is comprised of Copeland (The Police), Level 42 bassist Mark King, Italian keyboardist Vittorio Cosma, and guitarist Adrian Belew (King Crimson, Talking Heads, Frank Zappa, etc.). The album is fun, and definitely has the sound of the tracks that Copeland wrote and sang for the Police (On Any Other Day, for example). Gizmodrome – “Zombies In The Mall.”

So there you go, kids. Hope you’ve enjoyed this! See ya in 7.


Friday Music

Welcome back to Friday Music!

It looked for a while there that there weren’t going to be any more — hell, that the blog itself was a goner, but victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat, so here we are!

The picture over there on the left is the Japanese cover for ELO’s 1981 single, Twilight. Part of their album, Time, a full-on concept album that they released at the tail end of their huge popularity in the US (immediately following their work on the soundtrack to Xanadu), it didn’t get anywhere near the response of their peak albums, Out of the Blue or Discovery. In fact, I didn’t hear this track at all until it was used by a group of Japanese college students as the unauthorized soundtrack to an animated introduction to the anime convention, Daicon IV. That fan group turned into the anime studio Gainax, and, for me, this track joins the pantheon of songs that make me think of 70s-80s space opera. I really want this to be featured in the third GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY film. Electric Light Orchestra – “Twilight.”

A lot of music from the late 70s and early 80s makes me think of space opera, which is one of the reasons why the soundtracks to the GUARDIANS films resonated with me so much. These were the soundtrack to playing with spaceships and action figures, reading comics and drawing space battles. But it makes for some odd juxtaposition. Like this track for example. I don’t think that “Bob Seger” comes to mind when people think “science fiction,” and yet I do. This was so omnipresent on the radio in the late 70s, I can close my eyes and see the Star Wars posters on my wall. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “Still The Same.”

A 70s genre of music, progressive rock, has its modern adherents still — including this three-piece group of women from Japan. Today, the melding of odd time signatures, progressive rock and jazz goes by the buzzwordy name “math rock.” I’m not a fan of that terminology, but I dug this the minute I heard it on my Spotify Discover Weekly: Paranoid Void – “カルマの犬 (Karma Dog).”

Another discovery from Spotify — this is part of the soundtrack to a storytelling video game called Where The Water Tastes Like Wine, about hobos, American folk culture, and telling tales. Apparently, different versions of this composition play depending on what part of the country you’re moving through in the game. This track immediately went into my FAR WEST playlist. Ryan Ike – “Vagrant Song (Deep South).”

Robert Plant has been operating in that folk-y space (especially in recent work with Alison Krauss), and he has a new solo album out. This track has a touch of that, but goes more heavily back into the blues-y rock that is Plant’s bread and butter. Robert Plant – “Bones of Saints.”

And speaking of new albums from old acts, this song popped up in my Spotify Discover Weekly, and before I looked at the info, I thought to myself “Wow, this really has a Simple Minds kinda vibe to it. I like it.” Then I looked… and sure enough, it WAS Simple Minds, who have released a new album! It’s got that anthemic “Alive and Kicking” sound to it, which I really like. Simple Minds – “Summer.”

There you go, folks. I hope you enjoy.

See you back here next week!


Saved From My Own Personal Hell…

No Friday Music this week, kids — in fact, there was nearly no website!

I’ve just emerged from two solid days of beating my head against the esoterica of web technology. I will try to make this short.

Basically, I’ve set up a new hosting account, and I’m consolidating a couple of the sites I own, including this one, over to that account, rather than running them separately. This will save me a couple of hundred bucks a year.

Except the migration of this site doesn’t work.

I mean, it looks like it works, but it keeps spitting back database errors. I spend two days going through with a fine-tooth comb, with three separate tech support guys (two official, from my hosting company, and one very kind Twitter follower who works in I.T.)– and nobody can figure out what’s wrong. The database is good. The files look fine. The wp-config has all the right info. Hell, I even go through and check the permissions on Every. Single. Folder. And File.

Everything is fine. Yet still no site. I hit my “fuck it” stage. Ready to put up a new site, and lose blog entries going back to 2002.

My friend Jeremiah Tolbert, SF/F writer and owner of web design house Clockpunk Studios says “hang on, let me have a look.”

He solves the problem in 15 minutes.


Basically, I’m saying he’s a god, and you should hire him.

Normal service will resume next week.

(Oh, and the hellish image up there is from the current miniseries, DEMON: HELL IS EARTH, from DC comics, which is written by a colleague of mine, Andrew Constant. You should go buy it now, because it’s neato.)