Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Red River

With an album filled with some songs big enough to fill a large concert hall and others that have the feeling of a campfire jam session, The Red River bring a sound that, above all, feels authentic. Sporting a revolving cast of up to ten members, anchored by lead Bill Roberts (the least rockstar name out there), each song on their terrific Little Songs About The Big Picture album is about things which are beautiful in their simplicity. I had the hardest time choosing standouts from it because so many are unique. Two favorites now include the forth song on the album, "I Will Give Thanks," which starts with a simple drum loop but immediately livens up with a rambunctious horn section that punctuates the song at various points and ends in the best sax solo this side of Slick Willy Clinton. The jam would sound right at home in a Baptist church with the brash brass reaching the farthest recesses of the steeple. "Grand Fasse" on the other hand has a sublimely raw feeling. Whether an actual live recording or not, it sways its way through life with a melancholy two-step. Both a look back on "those nights when everything felt right," and a reminder to enjoy those nights while you can, "Grand Fasse" seems almost prematurely nostalgic, which is a feeling that we all have had. While the two jams may give you a taste of the band, it's impossible to capture the entire feeling of the album through any partial number of songs I talk about. The best thing, like always, is to pick it up and give it a chance. I think the motley band from Long Beach will treat you just right. 

The Red River I Will Give Thanks

The Red River Grand Fasse

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mumford and Sons-England (Cover)

Super tech difficulties today, but wanted to leave some mark on the blogosphere.

As I wrote about here before, Mumford and Sons love their covers, and they almost always make you think for that half second, "is this cover better than the original?" thereby passing the one question cover test. They do the same with their cover of "England" by The National. While waiting for a follow up to their incredible debut, I guess we'll have to do with these covers. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Alex Kenji, Starkillers, Nadia Ali-Pressure (Alesso Remix)

Back from the Camino de Santiago and it was a truly unique travel experience. Each day settled into a comfortable schedule-wake up before dawn, walk 25-30 kilometers, get to the hostel, wash dirty clothes, buy groceries, eat, chill, eat, sleep, repeat. The daily schedule was the only thing that remained constant throughout the trip as each day brought completely new and gorgeous landscapes, surprises, challenges, and memories. After 16 days we made it to Finisterre (Roman for end of the world) and watched the sun meander into the sea on a rocky point with two bottles of wine, big bocadillos, the company of our new Belgian buddy, Rick, a wild lizard, and a herd of nearby goats. Perfect way to end the trip.

Been yearning to write again and to keep this blog moving. Although music was not as much part of the Camino as I thought, as the soundtrack to the walks were mostly birds, long conversations with my girlfriend and my sister, and the constant "Buen Camino" to passing walkers and bikers, sometimes music was the perfect thing to help me get through those last few uphill kilometers on a tough day. The track that was my sonical Red Bull was this remix by Alesso, a seriously up and coming Swedish artist. The perfect summer jam, I kept coming back to this when I needed a personal dance party to forget the sore muscles in my shoulders and the blisters on my feet.

Really happy to be back. Come back every day this weeks for great new jamandahalfs.

Click here to download

Alex Kenji, Starkillers, Nadia Ali Pressure (Alesso Remix)

Friday, June 10, 2011

2 Week Hiatus

Hey guys. Starting tomorrow I'll be walking with my girlfriend and sister (for part of the way) from Leon, Spain to Fisterra along the famous old Camino de Santiago (along roughly this route). Though it should be full of beautiful scenery and lots of history, I don't think there will much internet along the way; 18th century hostels aren't usually outfitted with many amenities. So, I'll be taking a little two week break from the jampages, but will hopefully pick up lots of sweet tunes along the way.

In the mean time, here are some of my favorite sites for jams that I've found across the web. Will leave out some obvious ones (HypeMachine, Pitchfork, NPR First Listen, etc) and hope that you guys find at least one or two new favorites.
Shuffler is a blog's best friend. On its site you click the type of music you want, and it takes you to a blog featuring a song from the genre. Rather than just listening to a random song you know nothing about, most of the time you get a little background info along with a download link. Along with that you give the blog a little love, and perhaps find yourself a new favorite in the blogosphere.
Stereomood tries to match your mood with a jam. Unlike the more famous Pandora, which links music up sonically, this matches up jams by their mood, across all type of genres. Featuring music for all types of sentiments, this is the equivalent of a personal life coach DJ, attempting to play the perfect song for whatever you need.
TheSixtyOne is a great tool for finding out new music. Although a little too cutesy sometimes, it has all types of options for both listening to both popular jams (as popular as indie jams can admit themselves to be) or music from more obscure bands. You can win points and "hearts" for completing objectives (hence the cutesy), but overall it's a great way to discover new bands, many of who submit their own music on the site.

Metacritic Reviews
Metacritic acts like a RottenTomatoes for music, aggregating scores for albums from music websites to give an overall score to new albums. Both a great way to keep track of new music as well as finding hidden gems, Metacritic has been indispensable to me since I found out about it a few months back. Also, for rap specific albums, has incredibly intelligent write ups every week for both mainstream and underground albums.

I hope these keep everyone busy until I get back. Much love to everyone for continuing to support the site.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yellow Ostrich-Whale

Every other song that every other blog puts up is tagged as "different." Most end up sounding pretty formulaic. This song, written fearing retribution from the blogosphere, is, well, different. Having no clear rhyme or rhythm apart from its taiko drums, this jam mixes in far ranging sound effects and influences to create a confluence about as mysterious as the deep blue. A song, about a guy and a whale, it ends up sounds strangely triumphant in the end. With lyrics simple enough to let you add your own meaning, but with a sound which lets you get lost in its journey, "Whale" seems to not make any sense while also seemingly making all the sense in the world at the same time. While its value probably lays in between the two, its this struggle between the nonsensical and the all-knowing which makes this song both so fun, and well, different. 

Yellow Ostrich WHALE

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Album Review: Ben Harper-Give Till It's Gone

My good buddy and eternal Mr. Stag, the wiseman himself, Zach Weismann comes through with a review of Ben Harper's latest album. I first heard about Ben Harper from Zacho a few years back and asked him to write about his thoughts on Harper's new one. He came through in a major way. Thanks chief. 

Give Till It’s Gone is Ben Harper’s twelfth album and it doesn’t disappoint. Over the last couple of decades, Ben has graced us with music that covers a myriad of genres and music that has included an endless supply of jams. Ben’s music has something for everyone and something for every mood. Whether you are about to burn one down, going through a tough time personally, recently lost a loved one, getting fired up for your next game, cruising the neighborhood, trying to sleep at night, or smooching with a loved one, Ben has the right jam for you.

Since teaming up with Relentless 7, a bunch of random dudes from Austin, Texas who literally begged Ben to demo their tape, Ben has been heading in a slightly different direction. While in years and albums past, he has brought the raucous with reggae, funk, blues, and R&B, he has definitely been finding his way along a bit rockier, alternative sound, albeit not a bad thing. This is not like the old Blind Boys of Alabama days. Yet, this is his second album with a Relentless 7 backing and this time he dropped their name from the album title (probably a smart move).  Give Till It’s Gone definitely has a similar sound to his previous White Lies for Dark Times album, and certainly has some full rock tunes such as Rock N’ Roll is Free and Clearly Severely.

While the music is a bit different, you have to remember this is also a different Ben. In the past 2 years he went through a very difficult divorce, this album being his first production since. And you can tell. Lines such as: “I don’t even know myself, what it would take to know myself, I need to change I don’t know how, don’t give up me now” and “I will not be broken, I will not be turned away, when it’s too cold to breathe and too dark to pray” and “I’m tired of being sick, sick of being tired” clearly show us some of the pain he has experienced lately.

If you are missing “classic” Ben, I encourage you to give this album more than one listen. You get plenty of classic slide guitar solos in “I Will Not Be Broken” and “Get There From Here.”  We also get a splash of funk in “Spilling Faith”, and if the “I Will Not Be Broken” jam doesn’t either give you the chills or motivate you to absolutely give till it’s gone, I don’t know what will.  

Buy Give Till It's Gone here

Ben Harper I Will Not Be Broken

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rodrigo y Gabriela-Pirates of the Caribbean End Credits

My biggest movie guilty pleasure is probably Pirates of the Caribbean. I'll admit to seeing all four in theaters, including two weeks ago taking my girlfriend to see a somewhat bored Johnny Depp and a visibly pregnant Penelope Cruz battle their way through another story which invariably had no true end and will just lead to yet another sequel. The franchise will soon have more films than some TV seasons have episodes. But for some reason I can't get enough of them, and will no doubt shell out another 10€ to see the future quintuple reincarnation.

One of my non-guilty musical pleasures is Rodrigo and Gabriela. Despite a recent lack of new material, their old stuff never gets old. Whenever I listen to their Live in Japan album, I still get goosebumps every time I hear Rodrigo scream "Are You F*CKING READY" before they launch into Tamacun, one of my all-time personal favorites. Combined with the memory of getting so funky at their concert in LA that both of them came over to show some love to Moodawg and myself, the duo will forever hold a special place in my musical heart. So it was a big surprise to me that, while watching the credits after the last flick, I heard the unmistakable picking of R&G intertwined with the best part of the series: the theme song. While blasphemously short, the reworking of eternally fire theme song with just a little flavor from the duo was enough to make spending my hard earned euros well worth it. The two collaborated with Hans Zimmer on a few tracks off of the new soundtrack, and while it's definitely far from their best work, it's enough to keep me going.

Click here to download

Hans Zimmer End Credits

Friday, June 3, 2011

Penny and The Quarters-You and Me

If you haven't seen the movie Blue Valentine, you should. Definitely not a first date type of movie but it's a raw look at a real couple. Along with some great acting and nice cinematography, it's very relatable, and perfectly captures the ups and downs of a relationship (may your lows never be as low as their lows). But other than the above, the best thing about the movie is its soundtrack, and especially, this jamandhalf. "You and Me" is really the heartbeat of the movie, popping up from time to time, providing the viewer with a regular pulse on where the movie is and where its come from.

With a classic doo-wop feel invigorated by the clarity of Penny's enchanting voice, "You and Me" is a obscure Motown classic with its simplicity being its true hallmark. With only a guitar and the back up band, the band eschews loud in favor of clean. With nothing to get in the way, the feelings of the jam are amplified that much louder and come out untarnished, only emboldened by the creaky sound quality. The song itself is a mystery, as SunsetintheRearview puts it:

          "It has been estimated that when Penny & The Quarters recorded their previously unreleased demo,        “You and Me,” the singers were all teenagers. Little more is known about the band other than the fact that they were invited to audition by Harmonic Sounds Studio in Columbus, Ohio, to record three of their demos sometime between 1970 and 1975. Whether they actually recorded the songs in the studio or in the home of the studio’s owner, Clem Price, is unknown. After Price died in 2006, the songs were discovered in one of his storage units and thereafter given to an archival record company called The Numero Group. In 2011 Numero Group publicized their efforts to track down members of Penny & The Quarters or their surviving family members to share the monetary profits from “You and Me.” One member of Numero Group has stated, “we have played this recording to over 100 movers and shakers from the time and no one has a clue.”

Whatever it is, wherever it came from, its just beautiful music that I hope all of you love. Check it out below.

Penny and The Quarters You and Me

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ben Harper-Don't Give Up On Me Now

Ben Harper has always had two main sounds: ones where he turns into a hard rocker, and the other, my personal favorite, his smooth jams. On his new album, Give Till It's Gone, Harper wears both hats and puts out some of his best work in years. "Don't Give Up On Me Now" is vintage Ben, a folky track driven by introspective lyrics and a sing along quality that has lacked in some of his newer music. Claremont, California's finest, Ben Harper has made a career out of exploring different styles, which for a fan is both incredibly rewarding but can also be somewhat frustrating, especially if an artist goes a direction which may not be your favorite. As the first track on the album, "Don't Give Up On Me Now" marks a return to his earlier work and after a few years pursuing a more aggressive sound with The Relentless 7, this jamandahalf is the perfect welcome back. Check out this jam and buy the album here.

Click here to download

Ben Harper Don't Give Up On Me Now