Friday Music

The-Presets-Pacifica-608x602Hey there. Another Friday, another installment of your weekly internet mixtape. Got a bunch of good stuff this week, so let’s get right to it.

First off, we have a track that I discovered via EA Sports FIFA 13. The FIFA series always features great music, and as they go out of their way to pick tracks representative of the sport’s global appeal, I’m always guaranteed to be introduced to acts that I’ve never heard before. Such was the case with The Presets (pictured above), an Australian electronic music duo. This track immediately struck me in its tonal and format similarity to old English sea shanties, but filtered through a modern electronic lens. The Presets – “Ghosts.”

The soundtrack album to Baz Luhrmann’s 3D version of The Great Gatsby is getting some notice, as it features new music from Florence and the Machine, Jay-Z and other big acts. I stumbled across this track via a music blog, and fell in love instantly. It’s from Sia, a vocalist best known on these shores for singing on “Destiny”, the debut single of the electronic music act Zero 7 in the early 2000s. I’ve loved her voice ever since — and this track, which closes out the Gatsby soundtrack has got “give this woman a James Bond theme” written all over it. Sia – “Kill and Run.”

Willy Moon is a London-based New Zealand-born musician who does sample-based music but with a 50s rockabilly edge to the vocals. He was named as “One to Watch” by the Guardian, and has been profiled in GQ, Elle and Vogue. This track was released as a single on Jack White’s record label, Third Man Records: Willy Moon – “Railroad Track.”

Long-time readers will remember that I fell in love very quickly with Janelle Monae, with the release of her first single, Tightrope. Her full-length debut, a sci-fi concept album called The ArchAndroid continued the story begun in her initial EP release Metropolis Suite 1 (The Chase, telling through her mix of neo-soul, funk and art-electronica the tale of Cindi Mayweather, a messianic android sent back in time to free the citizens of Metropolis from The Great Divide, a secret society that uses time-travel to suppress freedom and love. Her second album, The Electric Lady is due soon, and the first single, a duet with neo-soul superstar Erikah Badu, has been released: Janelle Monae – “Q.U.E.E.N. (feat. Erikah Badu).”

A quick jaunt back to the 80s. I always loved Quarterflash — Rindy Ross was responsible for both of the things that stood out for me, providing both the vocals and the sax riffs. Rather than hit you with the usual tracks that nostalgia-radio focuses on (1981’s “Harden My Heart” and “Find Another Fool”), I figured I’d go instead with their last top-20 single, from their sophomore release in 1983. Quarterflash – “Take Me To Heart.”

I was introduced this week to this group from South Africa. SKIP&DIE started as a collaboration between the South African vocalist/visual artist Catarina Aimée Dahms (aka Cata.Pirata) and Dutch producer Jori Collignon (aka Crypto.Jori), collaborating with musicians from Soweto, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Guguletu. This stuff is phenomenal, mixing hip-hop, electronic, various traditional African forms, Indian and more, with vocals in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Spanish and Portuguese, into a style which has been described as “Township Bass.” They’re so good, I’m giving you two examples:

The first, SKIP&DIE – “Jungle Riot.”, and another, SKIP&DIE – “Lihlwempu Lomlungu (with Driemanskap).”

Will close out with a bit of smooth. My favorite track from the solo years of Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry, from his 1985 album, Boys and Girls: Bryan Ferry – “Sensation.”

There ya go, kids. Enjoy, and see you back here with more next week.

Friday Music

ettabondWas up until 4:00am via a combination of watching the events unfold in Boston and working on fixing a major glitching of the FAR WEST forums thanks to spammers, but here we are again with another weekly installment of the Mixtape of Teh Interwebz.

The lovely young lady at left is Etta Bond, a UK singer/performer who describes her style as “soul, with a bit of weird.” This track, which she recently posted to her Soundcloud page, is described as “posh rap”, and is a jazzy spoken-word piece over glitchy electronica. Very cool, with some great lines: Etta Bond – “Inside My Head.”

Another bit of weird: A poppy, summery tune about the murdered girl in Twin Peaks. This is a track from UK alternative band Bastille — but I’m posting a remix by RAC (the Remix Artist Collective, a group of three DJs spread between Portugal, NYC and Portland, Oregon) which I like much, much more. RAC took the song, pitch-shifting the vocals and adding a much more 80s-pop sound replacing the original track’s Coldplay-esque bombast. I played it for my wife Laura, and she described it as sounding like a “tribute to Laura Palmer’s last great summer.” Bastille – “Laura Palmer (RAC Mix).”

The FX TV show The Americans is really quite good, telling the story of deep-cover Soviet agents in early 80s America. It’s somewhat disconcerting to see an era that I clearly remember being handled as a “period piece.” Makes me feel old — but one of the things that the show has gotten very right is the music. This track (from one of my favorite bands) was featured in a nightclub scene in this week’s episode: Squeeze – “Slap and Tickle.”

While I’m on the subject of feeling old, nothing perhaps makes me feel older than realizing that the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is twenty goddamn years old. Yikes. Hip-hop with soul samples and dialog cuts from old kung fu movies? It was almost like it was genetically engineered specifically to make me a fan. So here’s a bit of NSFW lyrical madness that’s almost old enough to drink: Wu-Tang Clan – “Bring Da Ruckus.”

Sample-based music, turntablism — I love all of that stuff. Caught a show on VH1 late night this week called “Master of the Mix”, which is a competition show for DJs, which is cool for folks like me who dig that. One of the guest judges was Cut Chemist (aka Lucas MacFadden, who has DJed for Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli in addition to solo stuff), which reminded me of this track, one of my favorite bits of turntablism: Nat King Cole – “Day In, Day Out (Cut Chemist Mix).”

Lastly, all of the news out of Boston has had this song going through my head — a mocking paean to the city by a California garage band, which the city took and said “Nah, fuck you. We’re keeping this.” — and turned it into an actual anthem. That’s pretty much Boston in a nutshell. The Standells – “Dirty Water.”

There ya go, kids. Enjoy.


Wanted: 21st Century Free-Staters

Bleeding_Kansas_PosterIn the mid-19th century, Abolitionists from New England settled in Kansas in a bid to oppose the extension of slavery into the state. My town, Lawrence, KS was settled by these Free-Staters, and today, residents are surrounded by constant reminders of this past — in the names of schools, local businesses, and in the very symbol of the town itself: a phoenix rising from the ashes (pro-slavery guerillas led by William Quantrill burned Lawrence to the ground 150 years ago this August). The Free-Staters organized and moved across the country, in an effort to influence the political future of the country.

As I watch the news today, where despite overwhelming majority support from the American people, the Senate failed to pass the watered-down bill for background check on gun sales — even though it had 54 votes, a majority in a 100-seat chamber — I realize that our country is almost irreparably broken: perhaps more so than at any time since the prelude to the Civil War.

What we need are 21st century Free-Staters.

Part of this inspiration comes from witnessing the unhinged rhetoric of the Right, especially on the issue of gun control legislation: They are quick to phrase things in apocalyptic, violent wish-fulfilment: There is instantly talk of “taking up arms” to “defend against Tyranny” and such. It reminds me that, for a large percentage of the American Right, “Culture War” is not a metaphor. They firmly believe that Progressives are coming for their guns, to outlaw their religion, to place them under the yoke of tyranny.

Progressives, by and large, are not prepared to fight a war. We dismiss the rhetoric with sarcastic snark, and look down upon what we see as ignorant hayseeds who seem to revel in violence, anti-intellectualism, and blind adherence to political or religious dogma. While we insult and demean, it only reinforces the divide — a divide which is already as intractable as it was 150 years ago. Meanwhile, the other side acts — and through manipulation of a hopelessly out-of-date electoral system that encourages disproportional representation and gerry-mandering, and a legislative system that requires that all sides operate in good faith or it breaks down completely — they hold our entire country hostage to their minority extremism.

Progressives need to stop snarking and start DOING. Unlike the Right, however, we’re not going to advocate armed insurrection to get what we want. So instead, I argue that we should take a page from the tactics of the Free-Staters.

Progressives should move, en mass, to the deepest of Red States, in an effort to change the political demographics on the ground. In short, if you’re tired of people like Lindsay Graham and Rand Paul holding the entire country hostage to their agenda, the only solution is to flood into places like South Carolina and Kentucky until we tip the scales.

It’s not a quick fix — and it certainly isn’t an attractive option for many, since we all prefer to live in cultural surroundings that reflect our own. But if we’re serious about changing the country, about altering the course of our culture in the long run, then we Progressives will have to abandon our propensity for aggregating in a small selection of high-population cultural centers, because the electoral reality is that low-population areas are given disproportional representation.

So we need to game the system.