Thao Nguyen is a versatile lady. Nearly two years on from her blissful, tUnE-yArDs-produced collaboration with indie songwriter Mirah, this third album with her own band the Get Down Stay Down brings her back to her exuberant, experimental roots. From the title track’s bouncy rallying cry to the softly-spoken duet with Joanna Newsom at the album’s mid-point, We The Common would be a boundary-pusher for most acts. For Nguyen, it’s just another day at the office.
Inspired by her first visit to Valley State Prison through her involvement with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, “We The Common (For Valerie Boden)” is political discourse masquerading as a jaunty, communal folk song. The eponymous prisoner, sentenced to life without parole on the “county line”, contemplates life, God and family as part of a new community, voices raised in a curiously uplifting “wooh-ooh-ooh” chorus. “All they wanted was a villain, a villain, and all they had was me,” she muses, her words tripping off Nguyen’s tongue.
The singer-songwriter’s third album, “Idiot Heart,” is funny. It’s tender. It’s cute. It’s edgy. It’s fresh. It’s folksy without crossing into the realm of kitsch. The songs are clean, most with basic instrumentation and succinct arrangements, but each track bursts with its own pithy,
poignant commentary on that ficklest of organs for which the album is named.
Blanton’s voice is lovely in its earnestness, but the album is more a vehicle for story and songwriting. The singer, now based in Philadelphia, has an uncanny sense for lyric. Her style is conversational and direct — even gleefully sarcastic at times — but it’s also poetic and never overly loquacious. When paired with her understated vocals, it’s a winning combination.
Delana | The Web Urbanist
Stringed instruments have been played since time immemorial, and naturally as technology improves plenty of people are trying to recreate that kind of sound digitally. Of course, nothing compares to the rich, warm, sensual sound of an actual stringed instrument, and this is something that artist and artisan Jon Jones understands better than most people. That is why he created the Wheelharp, an incredible stringed instrument that manages to sound like the entire string section of an orchestra all on its own.
The beautiful instrument was inspired in 2001 by Jones’ hurdy-gurdy, an ancient stringed instrument that produces tones via a hand-cranked rosined wheel rubbing against strings. As much as Jones enjoyed the hurdy-gurdy, he wanted to know if he could create a full-scale chromatic instrument in which each string could produce a different sound when individually bowed on the rosined wheel. He set out to produce the first Wheelharp.
Steven Hyden | Pitchfork | amazon
Broadway is fun and boisterous and consciously difficult to discern, like the sugary fuzz stuck between oldies stations. Band members Jonathan Rado and Sam France have been honing this sound for seven years, starting off as L.A. high school kids obsessed with the Brian Jonestown Massacre. (They’re also big admirers of singer-songwriter-producer Richard Swift, who gets a shout-out in Broadway’s closer, “Middle School Dance”.) The guys in Foxygen made 10 records together before unofficially splitting off to attend college, but they remained on the same musical page as they entered their 20s. Finally, they returned to the Foxygen fold to make a series of independently released EPs, including Broadway, which originally came out last year.
France and Rado beg, borrow, and steal from 20th-century legends in uniquely 21st-century ways, deconstructing their favorite Stones, Bowie, and Lou Reed records and brazenly re-assembling those elements into free-wheeling songs that melt old sounds into weird, wild shapes. Why reference Their Satanic Majesties Request when you can touch on every 1960s Stones album, plus every other classic record you’ve just downloaded, in the space of a single song? On Broadway, Foxygen’s music sounds like a stack of eight-tracks that’s been left out in the sun too long.
Embling | Tiny Mix Tapes | amazon
The previous two Moonface records were, to varying degrees, half-hearted, cryptic, and jammy, whereas Heartbreaking Bravery is nothing if not lucid and bulging with heart. “Yesterday’s Fire” is a prime example of this emotionality, opening with a glam Heroes chug before going full Meatloaf one and a half minutes in. There’s a sophistication to the way it plays big and dumb. Close your eyes and you can probably imagine this playing on some other Earth’s VH1 80s programming block, Spencer Krug, black suit, white shirt, sunglasses, the Robert Palmer girls beating along behind him.
The slick professionalism of Krug’s collaboration with Siinai, a Finnish band on absolutely nobody’s radar, does little to dispel this feeling of anonymous backing support. This is unmistakably Krug’s project, but for once, he not only composes, but also conducts. Even “Headed for the Door,” the longest song on Heartbreaking Bravery, fills its seven and a half minutes with a surplus of ideas, building in intensity, New Romantic percussion beating the song forward, until it breaks into a spoken-word climax that is as goofy as it is spectacular.
Samuel Chell | All About Jazz
What’s with the producers at Blue Note/EMI? Or is it engineer Rudy Van Gelder who decides what gets reissued? Silver’s Serenade is vintage, nicely representative music by the pianist-composer’s best known ensemble, but it was never out of print. By contrast, one of the few Silver sessions for which the term “inspired” might apply—Further Explorations by the Horace Silver Quintet (1958)—languishes in the archives, currently available only as a pricey Japanese import.
Recorded in 1963, Silver’s Serenade was the last complete recording by a cast of players first assembled in 1959. It’s hard to argue against the leader’s choice of personnel—selected as much to execute the composer’s tight ensemble passages with accessible directness and clarity as to lay down economical, groove-tight solos.
The title tune, a loping, laid-back two-beat enticer that sits on whole notes like a serenade should, is another immediate attention-grabber by the gifted songwriter. Blue Mitchell’s trumpet solo sustains the song’s silky seductive allure before Junior Cook’s turn on tenor leaves just enough space between phrases to set the stage for the leader’s somewhat disjointed collection of funky riffs and catchy quotes, along with the trademark left-hand “bombs,” or low-register chord clusters, which the pianist employs like a second bass drum.
Michael Alexander Chin | michaelisawriter.com
Evan Van Kouwenberg’s sound rests on a needle-width divide between two deeply unalike tones: that of his instrument — a ukulele strum as frail as the bones of a baby bird, and his voice — a soul that resonates with the sweeping weight of a forming hurricane.
It’s an odd combination, ukulele and soul covers, but the notes harmonize for Evan. “I can’t play guitar,” he says, chuckling. “I feel like you can play any song on an ukulele. It doesn’t matter. It’s all just chords, y’know?”
Tonight, he rocks back and forth in white denim and flannel, never quite keeping still as his shaggy hair flops around Union Square’s NQR stop to the beat Procol Harum’s “Boredom” and the White Stripes’ “Hotel Yerba.” He occasionally switches to older tunes and Beatles covers. He gets good response, several people approaching him within a few minutes to talk to him — it’s tough to corner him in a silent moment though, since his covers slur together into strings up to six, seven songs through. Sometimes travelers wait, some even skipping trains, but nonetheless more than a few have to settle for a passing “You sound great!” as they slip into a train’s closing doors. But he doesn’t always get positive response.
Reuters | The Guardian
David Bowie’s latest music video featuring him as a Christ-like figure surrounded by women in skimpy outfits and priests in a bar was pulled from YouTube on Wednesday, before being returned with an adult-only rating.
The video for the single The Next Day was temporarily removed from the video-sharing website with a screenshot saying it had been taken down because its content violated YouTube’s terms of service, the singer’s publicist said.
The video also stars Oscar-winning French actor Marion Cotillard as a woman with blood spurting from stigma-like wounds, as well as Oscar nominee Gary Oldman as a priest condemning Bowie.
‘Blown Minded’ is from the album SHAPESHIFTING by YOUNG GALAXY on Paper Bag Records!
Produced, directed, animated and editited by Carine Khalife.
Montreal-based visual artist Carine Khalife produced, directed, animated this music video for the 2011 track Blown Minded, off the album Shapeshifting by Young Galaxy. The entire clip is comprised of oil paint on glass photographed above from a camera. Khalife explains her process a bit more on her site:
Basically, my technique was to paint on a piece of glass fixed to a light box. I would paint on the glass with oil so that it wouldn’t dry, and I could play with it for hours. A camera, fixed overhead above the animation table and plugged in my computer, would capture my paintings frame by frame and create the animation using the software Stop Motion Pro (the aardman studio software). This process took place inside a dark room so that there wouldn’t be interference or changing lights on the paint. The single light source came from beneath the glass, revealing the textures and details of brushes movements.
I worked a lot with transparency. The more paint, the darker the image, and therefore the animation becomes about gesture, and the texture of brushstrokes; it’s a very physical, organic process. I based the number of frames per second (sometimes 8 sometimes 12) on the rhythm of the music. Everything is based on the rhythm. It was important for me, especially for the abstract parts, that I was responding to the song conversationally; like a running dialogue. I think I’ve listened to the song more than a thousand times. And because i would often listen to it and focus solely on drums, voice, lyrics, or melody – I was still able to hear new things each time.
The film has screened in festivals around the world and Khalife won a Director of Photography award at the Salon International de la Luz.