Monday, January 31, 2011

Lupe Fiasco-Words I Never Said

Lupe's first two albums are some of the best hip-hop of the last two decades. Thoughtful, hard-hitting, with amazing lyrical dexterity to backup great storytelling, Lupe quickly became a mainstream artist whose music begged being listened to over and over again, each listening uncovering another dope metaphor or allusion. It's almost impossible to give a Lupe song one listen-through and make a judgement, and I'm not going to do that today. A good Lupe song is like a big Christmas dinner, you gotta give it time to digest. But here's a new Lupe song for all of you, which for some reason just sounds really really good to my ears right now. And is a lot to digest.  As a good Lupe song should be. Welcome back Lupe.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jon Hopkins-Light Through The Veins

First off just wanted to welcome AMitch back to the blog. An incredible writer, Mitch also has a treasure trove of jams which he keeps hidden from most of the world. Keep checking back for dope write-ups from the Mitch master. 

My iTunes playlists rotate all the time, but other than a few playlists for this blog, the one that gets the most love is my sleepy playlist. Full of the mellowest of melodies, I rock the playlist something serious every time it's either time to go to bed, or when my brain needs a breather. I listen to songs for all occasions: sometimes to get me going, other times to make my walk to work fly by, but the sleepy playlist is full of jams that are my sonic siesta.

This jamandahalf is the perfect mental breather. Like pushing the snooze button, putting on this jam lets you place life on hold for a few minutes. This song moves in waves, each one building on each other until you have the musical equivalent of the supertubes at J-Bay in South Africa-the perfect ride. My favorite part of this jam comes at 6:48. After building up for a few minutes, the energy disappears, replaced by a piano that is threateningly chill, teasing you with the dream of snoozing for days. Put it on and see where it takes you. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shout Out Louds - Candle Burned Out

Every time I find a band or song I like I go to Pitchfork Media to see if my novice opinion on the artist's quality is up to the pretentious level of excellence Pitchfork recites daily. If Faulkner referenced electronica it would sound exactly like a review on the acclaimed music blog. The New Yorker of cutting edge tunes. Of course, I reference Pitchfork to find good music. It is somewhat of a dictionary. Although I am often annoyed while sifting through the density of literature that is written by writers with egos for the musically conscious individual. If my little sister tried to punch through the meaning of rich Pitchfork lines she'd be caught in the crossfire of far reaching analogies and over defined genres. I don't know. Maybe I just loathe the disappointment of finding a song I like, only to be told differently by the professional perspective of some Brooklyn Hipster. Or maybe I would rather read clever Groupon write ups that actually impress me. Pitchfork writers, please start sounding like human beings.

In tribute to all the songs I have loved in which Pitchfork has shat on, I give you Candle Burned Out by the Shout Out Louds. I don't know why this song affects me so much. I don't even think it is the best on the album. But when I was writing a letter to my professor who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer I kept it on repeat (surely a Pitchfork faux paux). Not for the lyrics; "candle burned out" might be a tad macabre for an uplifting letter to a cancer patient. Maybe it is the soft voice of Adam Olenius that makes me feel comfortable, or inspired, or deeper than usual. Whatever it is I poured my heart out to the steady strumming of Carl von Arbin. It's music that makes you feel something. Not a science broken into synths and meticulous fragments of cynical metaphors.

I am going to be writing for JamandaHalf more consistently in the future. I hope you'll enjoy my less critical evaluation of songs. I like to use the words good, great, awesome, cool, sweet - generic terms. Read what you want, but base your opinions on the way music affects you.

Shout Out Louds - Candle Burned Out by Cardboard Smile

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Damu the Fudgemunk-Prosper

People got dope musical knowledge all over, and a reader and friend of Moose's from Switzerland comes through with some underground hip-hop from the Chocolate City, Washington DC itself. Thanks a lot Sina, and keep the jams coming!

As Moose knows, I'm from Switzerland and although I wish I could present you an unbelievably fresh and innovative Swiss band, I’m afraid I’m not doing this just right now (although my brother is working hard on building one himself). So instead I’m writing to you about an American musician that has become one of the most often played artists on my iPod ever since my brother introduced me to his music.

Damu the Fudgemunk is a hip hop music artist and producer from Washington DC. So far I think he’s been mostly working in the underground and is not that big yet, but I might be mistaken. He’s made some projects with MC Insight under the name of "Y Society," produced a few free singles and albums to download online, and recently released his new LP with the slightly provocative and ironical title “How It Should Sound." He’s made a lot of good jams. But my favorite song by him so far is “Prosper” from the Kilawatt EP series, which is a set of EPs that will be released with one producer handling the production duties for each volume.

On Prosper he features the lyrics of MC Raw Poetic from the group Panacea. The song shows Damu’s strength as a sampler and his love for old school elements, while Raw Poetic eases into the track, sits back on the beat, and just lets the lyrics ride on the music. Too bad that as a non-native speaker I don’t really get all the lyrics, but I do like the ones I do understand, like: "Prosper, hopefully you live long like Spok does." All in all, it’s just become one of these songs that I keep on playing over and over again, whether I’m on my way to school, driving to soccer practice, or just hanging around, and I’ve never gotten bored with it so far.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers-Why Do Fools Fall in Love

Fourteen years olds and a number one hit: this eternal jamandahalf. Over the course of a year, five more top-ten hits. An appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. He was a young lead singer who had all the makings of becoming the next big thing-a pop star who had the potential to remain relevant for decades. Unfortunately, his career and universe came crashing down on him, and he would be dead in eleven years from a heroin overdose.

This story, crazy enough for a modern Shakespearean tragedy (or mediocre movie), is the life tale of Frankie Lymon, the lead singer of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, a group of young teenagers who got together for one year, made one of my favorite songs of all time (this classic track) and then disappeared into a musical black hole. Frankie's life story seems altogether too crazy to have actually happened to a real person. Growing up pimping prostitutes before he was even a teen, Frankie got a lucky break and got signed as the Teenagers with four other young cats. After making number one with this jam, and hitting the top 10 with five other songs, it seemed like the band was destined for stardom. But the band quickly broke up, and combined with a maturing voice, a growing heroin habit, and epic bad luck, Frankie bounced around from small gig to small gig. Throw in a complex love-square (he was at one time married to three different woman-at the same time), a miscarriage by his first wife, time spent in the army, and his eventual death by overdose, and you have a true rock and roll story, one that sadly ended in tragedy.

What will always live on though is his jams. Just a few seconds into this song you get a sense of the incredible voice of Frankie. Singing with a passion far beyond his fourteen years, Lymon nails every note. It's hard not to hear a young man who is singing like there is no tomorrow, over a doo-wop beat which still has fingers snapping across the world. Like the triumphant trumpet solo in this jam, Frankie's career (and life) was too short, but with the Teenagers he reached a peak that most artists only dream about. Frankie and his boys paved the way for many young Motown groups, including a group of brothers with another incredible young lead singer, and the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. But I say the real way to honor his career is to sing along to this one as loud as possible.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jorge & Alexa Narvaez-Home (Cover)

Anyone who has read this blog knows our love for Ed Sharpe and his merry band, and we have written about the original, a remix, and as a bonus, a great track off of their newer iTunes sessions. Well add another cover to that list.

This father/daughter combo is too cute. The original went viral overnight, and now has almost 4 million hits leading to an invite to the Ellen DeGeneres show where they performed/melted icy hearts in the audience and worldwide. What I loved was that the little girl was way more interested in hugging and saying hi to the audience rather than the Barbie car. For such a young kid, she can also belt it, and the dad clearly has a black belt in whistling. The two sound great but most importantly look like they're having fun. The original jam is so touching and warm that I'm glad its gotten the recognition it deserves leading to more exposure and people around the world whistling (and singing) away.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Slick Rick feat. Big Boi-Street Talkin'

Slick Rick’s flow is undoubtedly one of the smoothest in rap history. He strings together words effortlessly; sliding from one to another like he is playing on a jungle gym. With his unique British accent, eyepatch, and gold chains, Slick Rick’s persona is one of a kind, but luckily he backs up the flash with a career that has been as long and as bright as almost anyone out there, with a focus on storytelling and imparting wisdom like only of the originators can. On this jamandahalf he raps over a baby butt smooth beat with Big Boi stopping by, the two creating a helluva jamandahalf.

Two of the best ever on the same track deliver their raps with night and day flows. Slick Rick sounds like he’s  rapping with one eye closed, and on his second verse he has the ultimate lazy-river flow. Throwing in adlibs left and right, his combination of subtle humor wrapped in a layer of wordplay makes a lot of Top-40 rappers sound elementary by comparison. Big Boi comes guns blazing. Not pausing for a breath, Big Boi’s Usain Bolt verse comes and goes before you know it. The paced beat gives both the canvas for their very different styles of painting, but at the end of the day the two combine to create one of the smoothest jams around.

Download Here

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wintersleep-Weighty Ghost

There are some songs that make you immediately want to email everyone you know. This is one of them. Originally released over three years ago (a lifetime on the blogosphere), this is a song that I've either slept on something serious or one that hasn't gotten nearly enough due shine.

Great indie rock is coming from all over and this band is no exception, hailing from Nova Scotia of all places. A ghost story pollinated with a bit of a southern Baptist church service, "Weighty Ghost" is defined by its absurdity, but somehow works incredibly well. The song exudes a warmth perfect for the January chill, with the layers of sounds providing a wholesome richness. I picture this song being sung equally well around a small camp fire in the desert or with a full choir clapping and swaying behind the band; I don't know which image is more perfect. The jam really starts to let loose at around the 2:30 mark, amping up the hand-claps and the choir to hit a peak where it turns to a big, goofy singalong, all about the strange story of a lost ghost.

 04 Weighty Ghost ( by jammininthenameof

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hot Chip-Slush

When I first started listening to this song I thought it was a joke-a guy breathily going through some scales over a piano melody. The scales continue, the piano keeps playing, but after a minute or so, the song slapped me in the face, immediately waking me up and making me realize: this is the jam.

A complex and beautiful song, "Slush" is hauntingly nostalgic. Mixing a realization of past wrongs with a hope to make them right in the future, Hot Chip nail a complete sound with this song. Over six and a half minutes it progresses through different movements, slowly putting the emotion of longing (with all its confusion) to music. "Slush" is vague enough that it allows us to fill in the blanks ourselves, while having enough meaning to not be just words. It plays the line tight sometimes, but that just adds to its appeal as we listen to it teetering precariously on an edge of a cliff. This is the Kinder Egg of jams, each time it holds something new to surprise you, from the very first second to its 389th.

Download Here

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Magic System-1er Gaou

As soon as the beat drops, you know you're in for a good time. Even if you can't speak a word of French, or if you do but are confused by the Abidjan (Cote d'Ivoire, the home of this great band) slang, it isn't hard to understand that this song is undeniably a jamandahalf. With a beat typical of the Ivorian capital, one that reflects the city's beating energy, "1er Gaou" was a huge song in Cote d'Ivoire and West Africa, and much later became a surprise hit in France and Belgium.

Telling the true tale of Magic System's lead singer (Salif Traore), who as a starving up-and-coming artist was dumped by his girlfriend, the song has a message mixed in with its pulsing rhythm. After Salif and the rest of Magic System reached stardom, Salif's ex tried to get back together with him. The chorus is his answer to her, saying "They say that the first fool is not a fool / It is the second fool who is a fool," meaning her dumping him was not a foolish thing, but him taking her back would make him the fool.

Familiar to anyone who has spent time in West Africa, this jam is part of the incredible Africa: 50 Years of Music collection (review on the way). The song really manages to capture both a story and the feeling of the bustling Ivorian metropolis, while having the mind control over me: forcing my body to start grooving no matter where I am. Check out the jam and the great video below. by jammininthenameof 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ghostface Killah-Purified Thoughts feat. GZA & Killah Priest

Ghostface Killah is like a wily old guy playing pickup bball at your nearest gym. He rarely strays away from the same few moves, but for some reason they always seem to work. After his lackluster r&b attempt with Ghostdini, Ghost comes back and continues in the hard-hitting lineage of Big Doe Rehab, Fishscale, and the Pretty Toney Album. A showman like few others in the rap game, Ghostface has an eternal flame hunger, it never goes out. After decades of putting out albums with Wu, and a solo career which has been arguably stronger than any other Wu member, Ghost brings his friends along for this newest album, Apollo Kids, and this jamandahalf.

Ghost's verse is all over the place: Benin, Coachella, licorice, and an imam are all thrown into his minestrone soup of a verse. Each line is delivered like its his last on earth, with one running into another to not give the Grim Reaper a chance to keep up. Long time contributers GZA and Killah Priest finish the song off, each dropping knowledge, and all three master the beat in three unique ways. The beat in itself is a monster: part motown, part chant, it's the perfect introduction song to an album full of hard hitting rhymes and great storytelling.

Download Here

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bob Marley-One Cup of Coffee

The greatest are almost never late bloomers. From modern artists like Nas, to historical greats like Mozart, the true best always seem to not want to wait for the older generation to get out of the way, but begin exploring their prodigious talents as soon as they can. And although most of his defining music came over a decade after this jamandahalf, this song is a young Bob giving a glimpse of later greatness.

"One Cup of Coffee" is not polished nor very intricate; the beat is simple and plodding, the instruments sound a little dull. But there's something about this song that has made it a clear favorite on the great Songs of Freedom collection. Only 17 when this song came out, Bob sings a story well beyond his years about breaking up with the mother of his children, but staying around for one more cup of coffee before he leaves forever. That last cup could have been drank while reminiscing about the good times, or maybe it was drank in awkward silence, Bob never tells us. Tinted with regret, and a melancholy song if there ever was one, Bob's young talent shines, grappling convincingly with such an adult topic. Before there was the Bob Marley that the entire world knows, there was a young man under the pseudonym Bobby Martell trying to make it in a big world. This song was just a sweet taste of things to come. 

Download Here

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fitz and the Tantrums-Pickin' Up The Pieces

My good buddy Matt replied the other day to an email I sent him asking if he could guest write a post for this little blog. An email I sent in August. Some friends are like that, perpetually late, but always perfectly on time. Matt, although he didn't write a post, did come through with some Fitz and the Tantrums, a band which has been, in the last week, on a Marshawn Lynch run through unworthy contenders to become a shouldabeen top 5 album of 2010.

The music of Fitz and the Tantrums feels to me like seeing a really good old friend after a while. It's immediately comfortable. Listening to it just feels right, like you've been listening to them for years, just how kicking it with your best buddies never changes. But their music also surprises you, like an old buddy who picked up a new language, maybe grew a funky mustache. Songs like this jamandahalf immediately take you back to the feel good music of the motown era. Everything is there: the warmth, the richness, the backup singers, the duet (with the staggering Noelle Scaggs). Like motown, Fitz and the Tantrums take common stories and make beautiful music from it. They express things which we all feel inside, and even in their darkest songs have a forever uplifting view on life. However, they're not just going back to an era, but taking the best of an era to create something that sounds new and undeniably alive. Check this jam out, and buy the album as soon as you can. The world needs more music from this awesome new band.

Buy Here by jammininthenameof

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Leks's Top 5 of 2010

2010 has been a helluva year, simple as that. From great times with amazing people, to travels around the world, to getting my feet wet with life after college, it's been a year of changes, but ones that have always seemed to leed to new adventures. No matter where I've been or what I've been doing, I'm always looking for jams, and these albums have been the soundtrack to this past year. Here are my top 5 of 2010.

#5 Yeasayer-Odd Blood

Odd Blood makes me really really happy every time I listen to it. It's an exuberant album, one that sounds just as good on a road trip as it does at a bumping party. Spurred by a relentless energy that seems to manifest itself into a choir of strange noises and beats, the album often sounds like it's about to explode, held together with undeniable catchiness and an ear for the exotic.

Download "I Remember"

#4 FreshlyGround-Radio Africa

The soundtrack to an amazing World Cup experience, FreshlyGround's (a great South African band) newest album is a wild medley of life. Listening to the album feels like walking through a vibrant neighborhood where life is played out on the streets. Everything from Mugabe to parties to prostitution is talked about, and the multiethnic band provides grooves which soar. Great stuff.

 . by jammininthenameof 

#3 Kanye West-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

The top of nearly every list in the blogosphere, Kanye put out a masterpiece with this one, a showcase of technical precision, vibrant beats, and dope lyricism. Probably the most important album of the year, it loses some points because of how often I listened to the tracks which dropped on GOOD Fridays, and appeared almost identical on the album. That doesn't take away from this showcase of a master at work, and Kanye finishes up a turbulent year for himself that people will be talking about for a long long time.

Download "Lost in the World"

#2 The Tallest Man on Earth-The Wild Hunt

The Wild Hunt is an album that never fails to surprise. Only ten songs and thirty five minutes deep, with nothing but the TMOE, his guitars, and a piano, the album is a young artist truly finding his voice. Facing a lifetime's worth of emotions and situations head-on, this is an album that will have you constantly changing your favorite; luckily each of the ten tracks are rich in honesty, poetry, and are complex yet instantly relatable. Better live, the TMOE is a master storyteller, with lifetimes of wisdom is his tracks.

Download "The Wild Hunt"

#1 Big Boi-Sir Luscious Left Foot...The Son of Chico Dusty

The best album of the year goes to Big Boi, hands down. This album came out in little parts, with songs randomly (or purposefully) leaking bit by bit, almost as if we saw a painting coming together in small sections When it finally came out this summer, Big Boi's often delayed vision came together beautifully. Keeping the Outkast sound alive while managing to inject freshness with a retro tinge, Big Boi's album is hard, funny, funky, classic, soulful, and shines brighter than any on a year full of great albums. Big Boi is an old dog who can learn new tricks, bringing in many of his friends who push him to even higher heights. While each does a great job on their individual tracks, no one outshines Big Boi on this album, his uppercut to a music industry that has doubted his individual skills for too long.

Download "Be Still"