Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jorge Ben Jor-País Tropical

The World Cup recently closed its door on arguably the greatest month of football that the world has ever seen. Germany took home the trophy after probably playing the most consistently good footie and are world champions for the next four years; not that most Germans needed any more reason to be smug :).

Although the Die Mannschaft took the hardware and the glory, Brazil as a country was the true champ of the tourney. Despite FIFA inefficiencies, broken promises by their government, and a pretty nasty media wave before the Cup, Brazilians were incredibly hospitable and warm to my buddy Kai and I in our two weeks there. We got to see four great games and crisscrossed the north in an incredibly memorable trip with my only real regret being that we weren't able to see more live music. When I do think back I realize that although we didn't see any shows we were constantly surrounded by music-live forró on the way to games in Fortaleza, the drum rhythms of impromptu capoeira sessions on the beach, samba blasting from cars... Brazilians are famous for having a joie de vivre and a song that captures this is "País Tropical" by Jorge Ben Jor. Today's jamandahalf moves to the beat of Brazil-fast, energetic, and alive-and has me nostalgic and shaking my butt within seconds of putting it on every time.

Thanks for reading, more jams are coming!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Choice Nugs: Juan Cirerol

Although I am tempted to describe Juan Cirerol as a Mexican Johnny Cash stirred up with some Bob Dylanesque harmonica, Juan is his own man. He hails from Mexicali and plays Musica Norteña, which is traditional ranch music from the Mexican American border.  Nevertheless, Juan does not sing about cows.  He prefers songs about love, loneliness, and drugs. A complete singer/songwriter, Juan boasts a great voice, provocative lyrics, amazing skill on the guitar, and talent with a harmonica.  

On Saturday, I drove to Tijuana, with my friend Samalama, to see his show at the Black Box.  Before leaving, we checked Juan’s Facebook, and Twitter pages to confirm that he was going to play the show.  The day before, he posted multiple comments about having already arrived in Tijuana and his upcoming performance at the Black Box.  Upon arrival, we were greeted by bewildered concertgoers.  Why were the doors shut and ticket office closed?  A handwritten note on the venue door said that the concert was cancelled due to reasons out of the venue’s hands.  I got the feeling that this was not the first time Juan had been a no-show for his own party.  Over the past few years, he has earned quite the reputation for being a wild character

Like countless musicians before him (and despite or perhaps because of his brilliance), Juan seems to be on a path of self destruction.  I fear that he will not live to be very old. Next time he says that he is going to be in town I will be there even though I will not expect him to do the same.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Joris Voorn-Ringo

Electronic music continues to grow and artists and promoters seem to be locked into the sisyphian task of summiting higher and higher peaks-bigger shows, festivals, and sounds. Within this spectacular growth, however, seems to be an almost disdain for the understated. Cruise through the Beatport Top 100 list and there's nary room for any emotion other than raging. Commercial electronic music, the type that sustains gigantic music festivals, seems to be going through its teenage years and has grown to love flashy sounds and the same bass drop. I was surprised then to hear "Ringo" by Joris Voorn, a Dutchman in a long and illustrious lineage of them, on the same Top 100 list. "Ringo" flirts with being the perfect soundtrack to your life song, a jamandahalf that combines a mellowness with a repetitive precision to it that helps frame your thoughts. It keeps your mind busy while never getting in the way and is best heard on repeat. "Ringo" harks back to the some of the more subdued Deadmau5 and Aphex Twins tracks and is a welcome breather from the last gasps of summer's largest anthems. Check it out below!

Download Here

Download Joris Voorn Ringo (Original Mix)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Benjamin Clementine-Cornerstone

Cornerstone, the debut single of Benjamin Clementine, is raw. It's pure emotion. Cornerstone is one of my favorite songs of 2013 for this very reason. In an era of factory produced artists, bands, and singles, today's jamandahalf shines because it comes straight from the heart. Born from the life and story of a young Ghanaian immigrant who was discovered singing in the metro of Paris, Cornerstone is a bold statement and a fearless yet poignant"hello world". Showing that there is incredible musical talent all around us, Benjamin reminds us that sometimes true greatness is often easy to miss in a rush to your next destination. Luckily Benjamin was discovered and his face and the tears in his eyes at the end of his live performance in the video below seem to be a sweet, sweet combination of relief and joy. I feel like we're going to be hearing a lot of Benjamin in the next year. Keep an ear out and don't forget to throw a eurodollar or two in the bucket of the next busker you see singing his/her heart out.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Thom, Spotify, and Balmorhea

Thom Yorke continues to go off on Spotify. Positioning himself as the (extremely well-off) David to Spotify's Goliath, Thom has repeatedly attacked the Spotify/streaming model of music consumption as the death of the music industry saying recently:

          "This isn't the mainstream, this is like the last fart, last desperate fart of a dying corpse." 

The interview was given to a Mexican site and they translated it into the "last breath," but whether the air comes from above or below is insignificant; Thom doesn't like what he's seeing. While this multimillionaire superstar, who got rich and incredibly successful off the "old" the model of the music industry, does always make some good points, I feel like we'll look back on his fart quote in 50 years and laugh, just as we do with other quotes from old rich white people, for example from an executive at Deccan Records who said, while describing his reason not the sign the Beatles:

          "Groups of guitars were on the way out."

While I do agree with Thom that the music industry is in many ways broken, I don't see Spotify as a symptom of the disease but rather as a potential solution to the problem. I believe that instead of being the great devil, the decentralized model of Spotify should be further embraced and artists should break free of the major record labels (whose business models I see as the primary player in the industry's "decline") and instead use every method available to take their music to the masses, whether it be Spotify, Rdio, Bandcamp, etc. The supply of music available at my fingertips has increased immensely in the past few years and unless an artist is harnessing every method of showcasing their music to potentials fans, they're playing a losing game. This model, of course, doesn't work as well with the big names like Kanye whose records and shows will always sell. But it does with bands like Balmorhea.

The other day I saw a post from a friend recommending that everyone she knows in Madrid should go to see the Austin, Texas based group Balmorhea when they came to town this past Sunday. I had never heard of them but was enticed by the recommendation, the concert hall, and the cheap ticket. I was immediately able to find them on Spotify and had their entire discography at my fingertips, legally. Each time I played their music I supported them financially (although a miniscule amount I know) but the main appeal was the instantaneous nature of me "finding" them. Fifteen years ago I would have had to go to a record store and hoped they had a Balmorhea album; ten, I would have probably scoured the murky hallways of Kazaa; five, I likely would have torrented a song or two and if I really really liked them, bought a song of theirs or their album. On Friday I browsed through a couple of their top songs on Spotify, realized instantly that man these guys are good, bought the tickets, and went to the show. 

And you know what? They're shockingly good live. Playing minimalistic progressive rock while engaged in an almost literal game of musical chairs, the six ultra talented musicians of Balmorhea constantly astonished the crowd with layers of lush sounds, at times switching instruments multiple times a song. Until recently the decision process would have been much much harder for me to go see them; with Spotify it was instant and effortless. I left the show with a great music buzz last night and  Balmorhea got two extra fans at the show and free press now. While perhaps Spotify doesn't make sense for the Thoms or the Kanyes, there is a world of musicians who, using Spotify and other such platforms correctly, can forge a sustainable path for themselves, adapting and embracing changing technology rather than fighting it. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Woodkid-Ghost Lights

"Ghost Lights" could sound right at home on a rainy day or as the marching song for an army of Lannisters. Both gloomy yet inspiring, "Ghost Lights" is cinematic above all. Created by Woodkid, a former music video director who decided to try his luck on the other side of the camera, this jamandahalf is immense yet extremely personal. Speaking of lost love, these ghost lights seems to mean memories of someone, someone who he lost yet promises to never forget saying "no matter what it takes, I'll try to save the ghost lights". Check this jam below and the rest of his great debut album The Golden Age

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Rapper Far Ahead of His Time: Deltron 3030

Rapper Del the Funky Homosapien, Kid Koala, and Dan the Automator form the mythical hip-hop group Deltron 3030. I thought that their career together was a one hit wonder and I rejoiced when I heard their interview on NPR. They have returned to the rap scene and I started fistpumping on the freeway.

Deltron 3030 was the self titled concept album released in 2000 about life in the year 3030. One of my favorite albums of all time, it is a creative masterpiece that changed the focus of hip-hop at a time when the majority of rappers only spoke about trifling materialism. The beats on 3030 were great (many were taken from contemporary French composer William Sheller) and its sci-fi lyrics touched on a new frontier of hip-hop. Deltron Zero, the album’s main character and Del’s alter ego, exists marauding through a dystopian universe.

Deltron 3030 Event II, the group's second album, has been about 9 years in the making. It takes place in the year 3040 and is a continuation of our protagonist’s commentary on life in the next millenium. Not much good has happened since the year 3030. Our hero faces a more disillusioned world than ever but manages to keep the listener engaged by weaving his engaging futuristic stories together.

The gems on the album are Talent Supercedes, Pay the Price, and Do You Remember. Both albums are on the playlist below.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Haiku Salut-Watanbe

I was looking for the perfect words to describe Haiku Salut's music and was coming up blank, blank for days. After a quick Google search to learn more about this band who seem to play to different sonical rules, I found that they describe their music as "Baroque-Pop-Folktronic-Neo-Classical-Something-Or-Other". In some ways this seems just right. Haiku Salut's music is the perfect playlist to put on when you need to work/study/focus on whatever it may be that you're doing. They layer melodies on top of one another until you have a skyscraper of hodge podge sounds, but every note seems to have its exact role. The songs never linger, and often race along furiously, but at the same time they let your mind breath, giving you enough audio stimulus to be able to think while never getting in the way of what you need to be doing. Check out my favorite song from their debut album Tricolore below and buy their album here.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Vieux Farka Touré-Mon Pays

In many West African cultures, the griot plays an important role at many different levels. Holders of histories, griots are storytellers, poets, and journalists, possessing both the ability to recount generations of history while immediately adding current events to that lineage as well.

Vieux Farka Touré's latest album Mon Pays effortlessly fits into Mali's rich music history while also presenting itself as a musical newsflash contrasting the turmoil that plagued the country in the last 18 months. In the griot tradition, histories and stories were passed down the generations through families; each griot passed his knowledge to his son, preserving cultural history. Vieux's father Ali Farka Touré has done just that. Although apparently he pushed Vieux towards a career in something else rather than music, Vieux is truly his father's son and rather seamlessly continues his father's musical legacy while also making a bold embrace of his country, his pays. Vieux links up with Sidiki Diabáte, son of Toumani Diabáte (who collaborated with Ali Farka Touré on the incredible In The Heart of the Moon album) and creates another stunning release which musically seems to acknowledge Mali's rich musical history while continuing to blaze ahead.

Buy Mon Pays here and listen to a sampler below:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Crystal Fighters-Live in Madrid (Concert Review)

Music sounds best live, a simple concept that Griff and I not only push on these pages but also are trying to use as the seed to build something even bigger. Live shows are defined by moments, sparks of inspiration by the band, chats with fans, moments that make the crowd go nuts, or touch you in a meaningful way. Crystal Fighters' show last Tuesday in Madrid had all of these and more, making them a must see act while having me convinced that they're on the very brink of blowing up globally.

Crystal Fighters' lead singer Sebastian Pringle entered the venue dressed in a jacket that seemed like it was designed by a kindergarten aged girl: all glitter and flash. Singing the intro "Solar System" with his face covered an even more glittery shawl, he first appeared to be toeing the line between properly lubricated and out of control. Sebastian soon rallied and his combination of strong vocals, funky dance moves, and love of rocking out on the ukulele quickly won my girlfriend and I over.

After his raucous entrance Sebastian and the rest of the band (Gilbert on the piano, Graham on the guitar, Eleanor on backup vocals) both brought energy and fed off of the crowd, both sides playing off of each other to create an almost perfect buzz in the sala. Memorable moments abound: the Txalaparta (the Basque instrument that the band is fond of) falling off the stage and hitting a fan in the head (he was fine); a fan sneaking on stage (twice!), the second time staying and singing along with Graham; the band trying their best Spanglish out...

Their unique brand of music reminded me of a more electronic Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and like Edward and his merry crew, Crystal Fighters are full of good vibes. While sometimes bordering cheesy, their two albums are hitting an incredibly high percentage of hits to filler, and combine that with a killer live shows makes the band one to watch from now on.