Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yeasayer-Madder Red (Live)

Christmas was yesterday, but here's a nice little late present for everyone. Yeasayer, one of my favorite new groups, has recently released a live album with the always nice price of pay-what-you-want. Odd Blood, their second album, is among my Top 10 of 2010 (check back this week for the top album lists from the JamandaHalf fam), and hearing their songs lives is a great testament to their ability as a band. With a band like Yeasayer which relies heavily on layered production, stitching various musical fabrics into their funky musical tapestry, sometimes their live shows can lack in complexity, missing the fullness that is present in their recorded albums. However, this live album is just as rich as their two albums, perhaps even exhibiting an added vibrancy which is always welcome to hear.

Tracks 2-5 off of Odd Blood always amaze me. Back to back to back to back hits, each one conquers a sound and emotion, each one shows off a different side of the band. The track that opens up their new live album, "Madder Red" is the gorilla glue that reins in the other three, allowing them to be three different panels on Yeasayer's funky tapestry rather than a incoherent group of individual panels. Super dope its in own right, this song is a bright stroke of indie pop that is a clear standout, especially on this new live album. Enjoy.

Download Song Here

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kanye West-Family Business

More than presents, more than the snow outside the window in Itakoski, Finland (my mother’s hometown, a stone’s throw away from the Arctic Circle), Christmas has always been most about family for me. Especially after I went to college and my family moved back to Ghana, I typically have seen my family only twice a year-Christmas and summer break. Christmas was usually a blur of jetlag and the Finnish traditions that we still keep, but mainly it was a time to catch up and just kick it.

Kanye’s latest is getting accolades from all over the place, and the blogosphere has pretty unanimously named it the best album of the year. It probably deserves it, but I would still much rather listen to The College Dropout over MBDTF any day of the week. While Kanye has become much more polished and intricate with his production, and his flow has come a long way, his first album still holds a special place for me, and I think marked a significant transition in rap history. On this jamandahalf, Kanye brings the entire family along. Over a perfectly lazy beat, Kanye talks about the ups-and-downs of all families, the good times and the times when you wish you were anywhere but with your kin. His stories are instantly relatable, because I know we all have enough tales to write a song about each of our families, but then again, that is your family business. You can always choose your friends but you can’t choose your family, and that’s the best part. Merry Christmas everyone. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nina Simone-Feeling Good

Nina Simone's songs feel like they never have a dishonest moment in them. All of her words appear backed by real feelings, all of her stories seem like they are autobiographical. With her powerful voice capable of a wide spectrum of emotions, there are few topics where Nina does not sound completely natural and in charge. In this 1965 great off of her album I Put A Spell On You, Simone shows off both her incredible humanity with music that is instantly relatable to, but with timeless vocals that never let you forget who the singer is.

Backed by a simple horn and strings section, Simone's voice is let loose over a swinging beat. Starting over nothing but silence, she is soon joined by the instruments, both playing off of one another till the end. The song is about grasping freedom from whatever is holding you back, whether it be something monumental (Simone is likely talking about the Civil Rights movement) or something that just affects you personally. Whatever it is, she's feeling really really good with herself, freedom is hers. Like she does in our first jamandahalf, "Sinnerman," Simone lets loose at the end of this jam, busting out into a primal scat solo worthy of the eternal Louis Armstrong. Words just can't do justice to her satisfaction in this uplifting jam.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Habib Koite & Bamada-Kanawa

Few things are as immediately recognizable as a jam. A book you have to read before you know whether it’s good or not, a movie usually has to finish before you can make any judgments, but a jam just feels right, the whole way through. There are few better examples of this than this jamandahalf by the outrageously talented Malian artist Habib Koite, who along with his dope band Bamada, are among the brightest stars of the vibrant Malian music scene.

The first fifteen seconds set this song up perfectly. Instruments join the song in by ones and two, harmoniously blending together to create a musical fruit smoothie, the sum much tastier than any of the individual parts. The best part of this song is how quickly it changes, its mercurial dips and dives. Each instrument is given a chance to shine, and each makes the best of their opportunity, especially Koite’s voice. Strong yet melodic, it fits seamlessly with the other instruments. Anchored by the chorus, the rest incorporates a live atmosphere, with significant instrumental breaks peppered in, ones that never drop the listener’s attention. Overall this jam is a great showcase of Malian music, a music that finds a way to create harmony between its myriad instruments without losing any of their individual shine. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Aphex Twin-Avril 14th

Let's slow it down just a bit. Got a lot of great feedback about the Foals cover and I'm glad that yall liked it as much as I did. It's the perfect pick up song. This one is the perfect mellow out jam. Clocking in at a second less than two minutes, "Avril 14th" by Aphex Twin will be instantly recognizable if you've listened at all to the new Kanye album (if you still don't have it, get it here for only $5). The sample used as the piano melody to the most complex, and possibly best, song on Kanye's album-"Blame Game," this short track fits a lot into it's 119 seconds while alternating between a cool confidence and deep nostalgia. It also makes you wonder how Kanye finds his samples. Drawing from an incredibly diverse range of artists and genres (you can find them all here) Kanye either has a fat crew listening to relatively obscure music, or has an insatiable thirst to listen to all that there is to listen to. While this jam isn't quite at the level of this song which Kanye sampled on Graduation, it still manages to immediately evoke the feelings of "Blame Game," while distancing itself from the turbulent emotions of that track. I've had it on repeat now for about 15 minutes, and each time I hear something new, each time something different catches my ear. Try it and tell me what you think.

 Aphex Twin - Avril 14th (Blame Game) by Hypetrak

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Jamito-y-Medio #3: Foals-One (Cover)

This is the third "jamito-y-medio," Spanish for "little jamandahalf." This deserves to be up here like all other jamandahalfs, but due to time, it gets a shorter post and a cheesy Spanish name. 

The British invasion continues. After dropping a moody moving folk song yesterday from the British singer Fink, today we bring you a jamito-y-medio from the Foals, a five piece band from Oxford. The British indie rock group switches up their usual flow and takes on of the biggest club records of the summer (One by the Swedish House Mafia) giving it some spice, adding a little something Caribbean to it. They give the certified club banger a few Mojitos, maybe a "Cuba Libre," or three, while pulling out the bongos and other live instruments. With these instruments largely taking the place of the the original's purely computer generated sound, this track goes a little harder, feels a little more unleashed than the og, while not losing any of the first's undeniable catchiness. I love when band's go out of their comfort zone to tackle new styles of music, and the Foals definitely conquer this track.

 Foals-One (Swedish House Mafia Cover) ( by jammininthenameof

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fink-This Is The Thing

The JamandaHalf family continues to grow-a fellow assistant also living here in our rural Spanish town of Don Benito comes by with a folk song that has undeniable intensity to it which I love. Thanks Courtney, and keep the posts coming. 

I've been starting off my mornings for the past few weeks with this jamandahalf. The smooth sound of his voice goes down as easily as my morning coffee and helps me to slip into my day. Fink (aka Fin Greenall) is an English singer, songwriter, guitarist and DJ. His music was only just introduced to me by my favorite Danish friend but my trusty music guru was a bit behind on this one. "This is the Thing" is a song off Fink's third album, Distance and Time, released back in 2007. He's truly a brilliant songwriter and his lyrics entwine perfectly with his consistently bluesy, folksy, indie sound. His latest album, Sort of Revolution, was released last year and includes songwriting collaborations with John Legend. In addition to all of Finks previously listed talents, he's also produced major label artists including Amy Winehouse, Michael Pitt and Robert Belfour. He's currently in hiding working on his fifth album which will be released in the spring of 2011 but if you look hard enough you might find him bouncing around England DJ'ing under the name Sideshow. But for now, press play and let him pluck at your heart strings.

Download Here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lil' Wayne feat. Cory Gunz-6 Foot 7 Foot

Change of plans tonight. Was going to drop a dope electro jam, but that'll wait. Lil' Wayne's new single off Tha Carter IV leaked today.

Wayne has an elephant sized presence in my iTunes and I've been a Lil' Wayne fan since way back in the day when me and my buddy Quon would ride around on our bikes listening to his debut Tha Block Is Hot. Probably the best album ever put out by a 16-17 year old, his debut set the tone for years of hard hitting albums and mixtapes. While his albums seemed to sometimes put constraints on Wayne, his zaniness always found its way onto his countless mixtapes (I still think Tha Drought III is the best mixtape of all time). With his Tha Carter series, Wayne solidified himself as a serious artist, and his Tha Carter III album was one of the most successful  albums of this past decade.

Wayne's combination of punch lines, raw energy, word play, and the undeniable "it" factor have made him one of the most popular rap artists in the world. A recent jail stint though had people wondering what was the next step with Wayne, especially after his last two eh releases (Rebirth and I Am Not A Human Being). This street single seems to answer every question and doubt. Picking up right where "A Milli" left off, Weezy comes out throwing JaMarcus Russell fastballs. Wayne started writing his rhymes for the first time in jail, and although far from the lyrical precision of Rakim in our last jamandahalf, he makes up for it with a swag that seems to be at an all time high. With lines like: "real G's move in silence like lasagna," and "I got through that sentence like a subject and a predicate" Weezy seems like he's fully back, having fun, and out to prove that the jail sentence was nothing but a hiccup in his over 13 year old career. Welcome home.

 Lil' Wayne-6 Foot 7 Foot (feat Cory Gunz) ( by jammininthenameof

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eric B & Rakim-My Melody

This jamandahalf drops with an instantly recognizable keyboard jingle, sampled in at least thirty songs. Rakim quickly follows up after some scratching by Eric B: there isn't time to waste in this song for anything other than hard hitting rhymes, dope wordplay, and lyricism like Rap had never seen before. Just starting to reach the early stages of its "Golden Era" in mid 1987, Rap got an incredible boost with the release of Eric B and Rakim's classic debut album Paid in Full in July 1987 (which was incredibly only recorded in one week). While early rap was fun music meant for block parties (it's impossible to forget the famous "I said a hip, hop, hip...." of "Rapper's Delight"), 1987 saw albums which really were poetry put to music, with rappers focusing on storytelling and a newfound emphasis on the relationship of the words-borrowing literary tools previously owned by Frost and Shakespeare.

Clocking in at almost seven minutes, the nineteen year old Rakim's verses are a study in rhyme structure. Moving past simple end rhymes, Rakim instead was one of the first rappers, if not the first, who adopted complexity in his schemes-mixing in multisyllabic rhymes in all parts of the line. A lyrical genius, Rakim really shines in the forth (of five!) verses. Like a young gorilla announcing that he's the next silver-back, Rakim's forth verse is him beating his chest and telling the world that he's the best that there is.  Wrapping each elongated syllable around drops of the snare, the end effect is hypnotic-its impossible not to want to keep listening to see what his next punch line, impossible not to want to hear his next three syllable rhyme. An early classic that has never lost its uniqueness, this is a song that will keep surprising listeners for years to come.


 Eric B & Rakim - My Melody ( by jamand1/2

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cee Lo Green-No One's Gonna Love You

Cee Lo Green is the Soul Machine. That's not just the name of his second album; there are fewer truer statements about the modern music industry. Whatever Cee Lo touches, he infuses his unique fusion of oldschool motown flavor and a down south grittiness that finds success no matter what genre he decides to funkify. Starting off with one of the original (and one of the best) rap groups of all time, Goodie Mobb (who coined the phrase "Dirty South") Cee Lo decided to pursue a solo track, making two of the most eclectic "hip hop" albums of the decade. With his two later albums with the producer Danger Mouse as the group Gnarls Barkley, Cee Lo took his eclectic nature to a new level, dabbling in a rainbow of various styles and influences, allowing them to cross pollinate, and in the end creating pretty extraordinary music.

In his newest project, The Lady Killer, Cee Lo draws from his love of motown to create his most impassioned project to date. Filled with standouts,one my favorites is found at the tail end of the album. The album in itself is like a giant theatrical play about relationships, with different songs taking places of different acts, documenting the kaleidoscopic nature of the ups-and-downs of every relationship. On this jamandahalf, a cover of a Band of Horses song, Cee Lo takes the original by the Seatle indie band, and gives it a motown makeover-enrinching it with a soul smoothie, taking the slightly emo tint to the original, and flipping it into a full blown outburst of passion. Cee Lo Green does what Cee Lo Green does best: makes the song it into a Cee Lo Green track. And that's something we can all be thankful for.

Buy Here

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Buju Banton-Magic City

We don't feature nearly enough reggae on this blog. Although other genres of music may be more popular worldwide, I would bet that reggae is the least disliked genre. There is simply no way to hate on its feel-good rhythms; it's impossible to not like the involuntary body sway that a reggae record seems to bring out in each of us. What I love is that some of the biggest reggae heads I've met are the least "reggae looking" (if such a thing exists) people you can imagine. They have just fallen in love with the genre, just like an incredibly wide variety of people across the world have.

An all time favorite is "Magic City" by Buju Banton. Carrying the banner of optimism like only a reggae jam can, "Magic City" is about a place where things are bright, things are alive, life is good. Buju says in an interview that this magic city is the place where you are right now. That there is no reason trying to find the mythical El Dorado when it doesn't exist, that each and every one of our situations is, in its own way, magic. First released in 2004 as a single, but most recently included in Buju's latest record, Rasta Got Soul, "Magic City" sounds just as fresh now as it did six years ago. And the message never fades. My favorite lines of the song go:

"Ay, yeah I was depressed, frustrated and lonely
Then a voice from nowhere came and consoled me
Now do the best you can, you stand up and be a man"

because in some ways, reggae is like a good friend. Always there to make ya feel good, but when we most need it, not afraid to give you a little push, telling you to keep going, to not give up, to always find the beauty in our day to day lives. And that's something I can dig.

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Big K.R.I.T.-As Small As A Giant

Almost every article I’ve ever read about Big K.R.I.T. compares him to other rappers like Pimp C and David Banner. Comparisons are easy, especially when talking about artists that most people don’t recognize. Familiarity breeds interest; we want to hear music that sounds like other music we know, we want to hear artists that we can compare to others. That is the entire premise of and the Genius playlists on iTunes: giving us music we can identify with, even though we may not know the specific artist or song. Especially with rappers, southern rappers in particular, people try and identify other rappers they sound like, boxing them in before they have the chance to make an identity for themselves. Everyone is the next Andre 3000 or Big Boi. Typecasted. This can sometimes help listeners find new artists that they might like, but in other ways it clips the wings of up and coming rappers, limits their individual shine and almost always sets them up to fail under the weight of too-heavy expectations.

Big K.R.I.T. earned the above categorizations with just one mixtape, Big K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, which generated huge buzz and resulted in a major record label deal. But hopefully the same comparisons don't also put shutters on him. On songs like “As Small As A Giant,” off the mixtape, K.R.I.T. mixes up a healthy dose of honest soul searching with clear confidence, over a flow that sounds aged but sharp. Starting off with his best Big Rube impression and a great spoken word intro, he goes right into his verse sounding much older than his 24 years. Completely self-produced, KRIT is a shining light of Southern Rap, keeping strong the introspective streak that the South has always had, and one that is more needed now than ever.

And oh yea, if ya ask me, I say he kinda sounds like a young TI mixed with a little Trick Daddy ;-).

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Friday, December 3, 2010

ConcertandaHalf #1-The Tallest Man On Earth (Madrid, Spain)

On a chilly Madridleno night, the Tallest Man on Earth proved that he is more than ready to shed the knockoff Dylan monikers, that he is an incredible artist in his own right whose young catalog and stage presence far exceed most veteran artists. His small stage, spartanly decorated by only a rack of specially tuned guitars, amps, a piano, and a few chairs, seemed to fit a little too tightly for the TMOE, who appeared determined to sit in every flat space and pace every open square foot of stage. The gorgeous old theater he played in, built straight up and decked in gold trim and red velvet, seemed to be both barely big enough for his at-times booming voice yet not small enough for his most intimate jams. What a show. 

After a few piano ballads by a women with a gorgeous understated voice and a great afro named Idiot Wind (taken from a Dylan song-strangely catchy name though), the TMOE was ready to begin (Idiot Wind later came out to sing a duet on one mic with the TMOE, with the Swede looking like he wanted to steal a kiss the entire time). Playing to a sold-out crowd, the TMOE immediately made everyone feel very appreciated. He started off by saying that this was his first time in Madrid in 27 years, that the last time he had been in the great city was as a baby in his mother's womb. He promised us a great show to show respect, and he definitely did. Playing a mix of songs from the Wild Hunt, Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird EP, and Shallow Grave, and seemingly changing guitars which each song, the TMOE aced both his slower ("Love is All") and more upbeat jams ("The Gardner"). What really impressed me most was his voice in person. At risk of at times sounding nasally on record, live his voice often roared with confidence, and he threw in enough ad libs during his songs that even his most often repeated songs on my itunes sounded fresh and vigorous. As a solo artist as well, who did have to change guitars which led to some down time between songs, I thought that the silence during the breaks might become stiflingly awkward. He made sure this didn't happen, telling some dry yet funny jokes and making sure to keep the audience involved at every stop. 

After teaching the song during my classes to rural Spanish students and private lessons, I was most excited to hear "King of Spain." He set the song up with a funny apology to anyone in the audience who was offended, and most importantly, to the actual King of Spain. Ripping into the fast paced strums of the jam, he didn't hold anything back as he went through the images of Spain, and received a big cheer with his "I'm not even from Madrid" shoutout. Afterwards, he humbly told the crowd that he never imagined he would have sung the song in Spain, that he always thought he was going to be stuck in Sweden singing it. Luckily for us, the diminutive Swede with a great voice and even better guitar skills has become international, while still maintaining a humbleness that he is still surprised to be playing in front of audiences like the one in Madrid. With shows as great as the one on Wednesday night, the crowds and venues will only get bigger and bigger. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tallest Man on Earth-Love is All

To celebrate going to see The Tallest Man on Earth tonight with my girlfriend, I'm putting up a jamito #2 (little jam-not taking anything away from the quality of this awesome song).

The Tallest Man on Earth is currently on a long tour, taking him through most of the US and now Europe. Earning incredible reviews for his live show, I couldn't be more excited to see him tonight (full concert review coming). Heard about him first this summer during long trips in the car in South Africa, and what amazed me, like the music of Rodrigo y Gabriela, is the incredible depth to his sound despite there being only one, maybe two instruments playing. "Love is All" is a sad tale, a haunting one, but is a great showcase of the lyrical precision and immense guitar playing ability that the TMOE is now known for. A song about the sacrifices of love, this song is perfect for a rainy Fall day. Can't wait for tonight.