Monday, May 30, 2011

Dirty Gold-California Sunrise

The looping guitar in this jamandahalf has a way of sticking with you. It rolls throughout this jam doing its Pacific Ocean impression, coming and going as it pleases.With its slightly melancholic mood and lyrics, it feels just like the coming of summer: full of expectations, but also injected with nostalgia of memories from summers past. Perfectly capturing not necessarily a sound but a vibe, this jam is ideal to welcome in a summer, not one whose sound is this, but one full of lazy days along the beach, kicking it with homies and a soundtrack brought to you by songs like this and the restless ocean. Dirty Gold, three high-school aged guys from San Diego, have really created a magical little song, and whether or not you've ever lived in Cali, I hope this one takes you to a place that's as irie as the beaches of sunny SD.

Click here to download

Dirty Gold California Sunrise

Friday, May 27, 2011

Blu & Exile-Cold Hearted feat. Miguel

On a classic Exile beat: perfect use of a sample, complex, but simple enough to give Blu a free canvas to paint his picture, Blu takes 99% of rappers out there to school. Consistently making top notch jams, Blu and his musical muse Exile have been a beautiful combination for years now, the rap ying and ying interlocking seamlessly.  This song borders the line between hip hop and poetry, as the best ones do. If you break this song into two levels-with and without the beat-you start to unravel the DNA of the best hip hop-the forever interwining nature of the beat and the lyrics.

Telling a story about being a young, dumb, kid, and eventually killing a man, the song is also the story of how Blu found hip-hop. The soulful beat and Blu's effotless flow at first mask the dark story at the heart of the song, but after repeated listens the story itself becomes the proverbial diamond in the rough. Above all, this song is a study in hip hop poetics, about bringing the defining characterisitcs of poetry and applying them to rap. Blu's structure repetition throughout is pure Hip Hop 101. Repeating the "dumb kid with a gun" line over and over until the last few lines of the track where he completely flips it and says "Dumb kid with a tongue, that I got from Hip Hop," Blu has transformed that previous one line narrator into something finally positive, ending his, up to that point, bleak history with a bright brushstroke. Forever bridging the literary and the vocal, this is a prime example of a rap workout brought to you by Blu.

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Blu & Exile Cold Hearted f. Miguel

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Everyone should listen to more...

Rick James.  Period.   No joke.  Mocked by the young, misunderstood by the old, the late Rick James has left a legacy that is more his image than his music.  Thanks to some key guidance from my man MC Bob I had a chance to reevaluate my previously shallow misconceptions about a man who should be recognized for nothing but his truly funky music.  I dont care who you are, where youre from, or what genre of sounds you like to groove by, this is transcendent music.  It may not be positive, and it might not be philosophical, but it is definitely genuine, and certainly upbeat, and somehow that combination of energy and honesty meld into a jam of triumphant proportions.  And this holds true for all his jams (except that one with eddie murphy).

Weve seen that there are an infinite amount of ways to appreciate music, and what makes you like a song can be different for every person.  So do yourself a favor and revel in a little bit of Rick James, for whatever reason you choose.  There is something we can all learn from such a unique spirit, whether you take it seriously or not, anything that genuine and unceremoniously honest is a beautiful thing.  So do yourselves a favor and listen to more Rick James.  And watch this..

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bon Iver-Towers

Most music fans have a funny relationship with the music industry. Bloggers too. While I know it's "bad" to download music illegally and yadayada, it's hard to compete against a product which comes out earlier and costs nothing. To find a middle ground though I have decided to do two things: see as many live shows, and if I really like an album, I'll buy it. Just like I try on a pair of jeans before I buy them, I also will almost always "try out" an album before I spend my hard earned euros/dollas on it, you know, just to see how it fits.

Bon Iver's newest album, also titled Bon Iver, is definitely a must-buy. Above all, the album is masterly crafted. Listening to it through is an experience and the only way to get a feel for all its complexity. Seemingly taking cues from his new buddy Kanye, Bon Iver has created something that can, and should, be listened to on many different levels. Following up an album like For Emma, Forever Ago, a classic that meant so many different things to so many different people, is always tough, but with this new one Bon Iver both managed to exceed all my expectations while continuing to push their sound forward. A track that shows this off is "Towers." While not nearly the most intricate or dense song on the album, it immediately places a Macho Man Randy Savage headlock on your attention, and doesn't release it until three minutes eight seconds later. The entire album is a seamless fusion of folk and electronica and that's noticeable here, where he plays the two off each other to create something that has its roots in old-timey jams but also is unmistakably modern. Buy Bon Iver

Download here

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Takeifa-Get Free

The lead singer of the Senegalese band Tafeifa said something about music that I won't soon forget. Near the end of their high-energy show, he thanked WOMAD for having the festival, then said that it's not a world music festival, it's an our music festival. And it's true. There seems to be a quasi-stigma over"world music;" of exotic sounds played by obscure bands. But each country, each region, does have their own sound, and sharing these sounds is what music is partially all about-being able to communicate and convey emotions in a medium that doesn't necessitate being able to speak the same language.

Takeifa is a band that really tries to make "our" music. Singing in their native Wolof, along with English, French, and also a little Spanish, and drawing from influences from Afropop to Jazz, reggae to more Hispanic flavors, Takeifa has a unique sound, one that is filtered through a very African prism. "Get Free" showcases their unique flavors. While it always comes back to its original groove, the song flirts with a little Andean flute here, a little rap there, all sounds of a young band finding their sound while pushing their own creativity. Takeifa was definitely a weekend favorite, and I for one am really looking forward to hearing more from them.

Download here

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble -War

There are a few songs that you know are going to be jams the moment they come on. This is one of them. The last show we caught on Saturday night was the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble from Chicago. The nine member band right away has a mindblowing fact-eight of the nine are brothers. What? Yea. But other than quickly pondering how that was possible, I spent the rest of the concert just spent moving. Right away they let the know the crowd what they were in for, and came out the gates trying to make sure that everyone spent their last reservoirs of energy grooving the last night away. Framed by a beautiful old church tucked away among the back alleys of Caceres, the walls did their best to echo the beautiful, energetic symphony created by the Chicago crew. While a brass band obviously poses its own sonical limitations, their sound never lost its freshness throughout the concert, and mixing in crowd checks, rapping, and solos, the band kept the audience ready to hear what was next. With recent features with Mos Def and the Gorillaz, this band has been recently getting the love they deserve. And with shows as alive as the one on Saturday, and with jamandahalfs like "War" they will be making more fans like myself the world over.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Jam Behind The Jam Behind The Jam: Candi Staton-You've Got The Love

We gotta start off with the biggest surprise of the weekend. With her artist bio comparing her to the greats Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight, I thought Candi Staton was hype, plain and simple. But I was still intrigued, and my buddies and I ended up slithering through the crowd to see her play at a prime spot in the Plaza Mayor of Caceres.

Immediately we knew we were in for a treat. With a full band (including a swimsuit-wearing guitar player) keeping it tight and funky and three backup singers taking their turns both supplementing Candi while also soaking up the love of the crowd themselves, Staton turned her diva on full and powered through a catalog of soul tinged Motown with heavy heaps of gospel and funk. While many of her songs were religious, she kept the preaching largely at home, instead moving the crowd with her spirit, still too strong even after 71. The whoa moment came late in her show, after the audience was good and warmed up. She dropped a 80s stylized beat and started singing the now ubiquitous lines, "Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air..." I immediately thought to myself, why would this 71 year old soul singer sing a Florence and the Machine jam when she dropped a knowledge bomb, saying that it was her original song, recorded over 25 years ago.

It's funny how little we can know about the music we love, but her dropping that was like having churros unexpectedly at the end of a long night-it just kept getting better. Her original (heavy disco-soul) was later released in 1986 with The Source (which sounds like an 80s Deadmau5 track) which was then later released by Florence and the Machine which was then remixed by XX. The track clearly has something magical about it, something that let it emerge like it did and remain relevant for so many decades. Whatever it is, the crowd on Friday definitely felt that magic, and while I felt like momentarily like a fool, the music was too good for me to second guess myself.


1986 Remix

XX Remix

Monday, May 16, 2011


Coachella, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury. The biggest festivals in the world each year draw tens of thousands of fans to watch the biggest names and hottest newcomers in the music industry perform on sprawling polo fields and farms across the world, while countless others stay at home and stew in envy. Everyone knows that these shows are going to impress. There is a reason that people pay $300+ for three days of music, they expect to get their money worth. It's when the smaller festivals blow you away, that's where the surprise comes in.

WOMAD (World of Music, Arts, and Dance) Caceres impressed beyond belief this past week with a combination of amazing music, an infectious atmosphere of smiles caused by sun and many tinto de veranos, and a picture-perfect backdrop of the monumental old part of a true gem of a city. With a diverse group of artists from the world over playing on three days, and all for the very reasonable price of free, WOMAD Caceres is something that will put a smile on my face for a long time. So each day this week I will be highlighting a different artist who stood out over the weekend. It's technically all world music, but like one of the lead singers of a group said, "It's not 'World Music," it's 'Our Music.'" Come back tomorrow for the biggest surprise of the weekend.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blitz the Ambassador-Accra City Blues

For years now rappers of West-African descent have been making it big in their new countries, especially in England where rappers Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah have blown up in a major way. The descendants of immigrants who left their homes to pursue a better life, they truly are the epitome of the immigrant dream: making a better life for your children than you had for yourself.

Today's jamandahalf comes from an artist that is from a place that is close to my heart, Accra, Ghana. I lived in Accra with my family for my first two years of high school and my family soon moved back after I graduated high school in the States, and have lived there since. Accra has become a second home to me, and when I found out about Blitz the Ambassador's story, I had to show some love. This jam is about this sweltering labyrinth of a city, about a city which grows and changes each time I visit, but the city which still remains Accra. Starting off rapping in the local language twi, Blitz fills the song with both visual lyrics and heavy instrumentals, with a horn section that impresses in its intensity, burning bright like the dry season sun. Whether talking about losing a woman or the city that raised him, Blitz's lyrics reflect a loss of something that he will never get back. Moving to the US to study at Kent State, Blitz found his true home as a rapper, and recently released his latest album, Native Son. This track shows Blitz looking back while still moving forward, not forgetting where he is from, but moving on to continue to make unique, quality music like this track.

 06 Accra City Blues 2 by jamand1/2

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Common-Follow Me

Sometimes the best way to stop a bully is to ignore them. Sometimes it's best to call them out. This bully has already been called out time and time again, but it's the biggest bully on the block. I probably need a bigger megaphone, but this will do.

The rapper Common has found his name stirred in the constantly simmering pot of misinformation and hype served daily by Fox News. The Obamas are hosting a poetry night to celebrate American poets, and one of the invitees is the Chicago rapper Common. Immediately, talking heads like Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, and Karl Rove hopped in, using their vast knowledge of hip hop and deep readings into the lyrics of the discography of Common, called him fan of cop-killers, accused him of making threats on George W's life, and called him out on supposedly supporting carrying uzis around and on top for being bad for the kids. And Fox News love the kids.

If the Obamas had invited Tyler, The Creator over for tea, I see how that could cause a stir. But Common? The same Common that has built a career on introspection? Common is one of the shining examples that good hiphop can combine both dope lyricism and great beats, that the two aren't mutually exclusive, and the combination can still be really commercially successful. Reading the lyrics to many of his songs highlights the poetry at heart of the best hiphop, and listening to him perform lets you hear the intrinsic symbiosis between the words and the beat. Common is a rapper's rapper. And all that can be found in this unreleased track that's been chilling in my computer for a little bit. The lyrics are the same ones that are causing all the ruckus now, the sames ones from the Def Poetry Jam from 2007. On top of a easygoing beat by Kanye, Common adopts the voice of an inner-youth, writing a letter to the government about police brutality. The message is there, the lyrics are there, the flow is there, the poetry is there. And that is all Common is. A poet, an artist, and every artist deserves their fair share of free-rein.

Fox News charges Common with being a bad influence on the kids. I'd say that Fox News holds way more influence than the Chicago rapper ever will, and unlike Common, uses that influence very, very poorly. That's where the real danger is, not with a rapper whose most offense recent act was releasing his atrocious last album.

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 Common-Follow Me by jamand1/2

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears-Booty City

Gotta give it to some songs. They know what they're about. This song knows what it's about. This song should teach a class to other songs about knowing what they're about. And this song is about Booty City. A place you gotta see for yourself.

Clocking in at way less than three minutes, "Booty City" still manages to pack it in. With the same relentless spirit that Ainsley talked about way back when, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears pack as much energy as they can into the song's 160 seconds, and everyone (Joe Lewis, the singing band) and everything (the guitar riffs, the funky bass) seem excited about this mythical Booty City. While not a particularly deep song, it knows what it is, and it does that well. So next time you're headed to your Shangri-La, your El Dorado, your Booty City, put this song on and let Black Joe Lewis and his Honeybears ride with ya.

Download Here

Monday, May 9, 2011

Loch Lomond-Wax and Wire

This song moves to its own drummer. The Portland based band (named after the largest lake in Great Britain) always seems to hold a musical surprise for you. With lyrics possibly conveying messages ranging from death to a bad breakup, "Wax and Wire" juxtaposes its at times dark lyrics with playful harmonies and sound-effects. Harmonies run rampant throughout this jam, both vocal and musical, and it moves in ebbs and flows, flirting with normality until something different comes in to keep you on your toes. With intricately orchestrated jams that come as close to modern symphonies as anything you'll find out there, each ten seconds seems to try and impress you, while bringing the next surprise before you have time to even think about getting bored.

 05 Wax and Wire by jamand1/2

Friday, May 6, 2011

Calvin Harris-Bounce (feat. Kelis)

Unlike the Republican primaries, artists and DJs across the world have been quickly getting in the race to make the top Summer Jam of 2011. With summer and its festivals/parties right around the corner, a clear winner hasn't emerged to become that song, the ubiquitous track, that no matter where or when it is played, everyone immediately starts dancing. Last year's undisputed champ was of course "We No Speak Americano," and you, your mom, your distant cousin, all will know soon enough who's going to win this year.

Calvin Harris has been a personal favorite for a few years now, and makes fun, catchy, house that doesn't aim to please at the lowest common denominator level. His newest single is no different. Enlisting the oddly entrancing vocals of Kelis, Harris does what he does best-throws some funky synths in there and makes an absolute banger. With lyrics that may allude to Kelis's public divorce with Nas (which caused this video), the song doesn't let itself get too caught up in it, it's too busy having a helluva time. In a crowd that gets deeper by the day, "Bounce" is so far the clear front runner.

Click here to download

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Party Supplies-We Used To Wait (Remix)

Every dope party needs only two essential ingredients: good people, and great music. That's it, everything else is just superfluous. Without either one of those two, your party can only go so far.

Enter Justin Nealis aka Party Supplies. The one man artist from New York is currently continuing to build a buzz across the blogosphere with his takes on some of the best songs from the last year or two. Each of his remixes is stripped down to the bare necessities of the song, the identifying elements which make that song unique. Party Supplies takes those aspects and flips them, undeniably creating one of the two necessary ingredients of a great party. With a name like his, it's no surprise what he's after, and his name tells no lie. While immediately identifiable, the remixes of Party Supply have a different feel from others that seem to only change a thing or two about the original. Party Supplies take the originals and breaks them into fragments, eventually creating a stained glass reconstruction, bits and pieces here and there coming together to create something new and wholly awesome. Enjoy the three song sampler below and  two brand videos of Party Supplies making his tracks live.

 Party Supplies by jamand1/2

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Washed Out-Eyes Be Closed

Jam packed with sounds and musical movements, Washed Out's new single is expansive. While lacking the simple elegance of the his last jamandahalf that was on here, "Eyes Be Closed" is clearly not looking to go that route. One thing that carries over though is the feeling of taking a step back from the bustle of our day-to-days, the feeling of cloudtravelling-the momentary sensation that you are floating along high somewhere without a care in the world. "Eyes Be Closed" is a song that almost begs to be felt, rather than heard (if that makes sense). With his voice being virtually used as another instrument in this jam's mellow lushness, it's hard not to feel at ease among the cascading pianos and warm synths.

Click here to download