Tag Archive: music recommendations

  1. Musical Pairings: Sean Hayes – Before We Turn To Dust

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    Sean Hayes isn’t a new face in the music industry. His latest release, Before We Turn To Dust, will be his sixth full length. Indeed, Hayes has been a beloved staple of the local music scene in San Francisco for many years now. He’s worked with a who’s who of other local musicians and he’s been a highlight for many festival goers at two separate Outside Lands Festivals including the most recent one. And despite having arguably reached veteran status as a musician, it also feels as it Hayes is just getting started. Indeed, Before We Turn To Dust is almost certain to bring Hayes a host of new fans.

    Hayes blends smooth r&b melodies with shuffling folk instrumentation supporting his woodsy, vibrato-accented vocals. As you’d imagine from that combination, there is a little sexiness to the grooves, yet there is nothing prurient about Hayes’ lyrics. For example, on opening track “Before We Turn To Dust” Hayes crows: “You may spend all of your money before you turn to dust / you’ll never spend all your love” and then “My little boy’s smilin’ / soon he’ll be sitting up / holding his own weight / grabbin’ for ya.”

    Indeed, much of Before We Turn To Dust hinges on sentiments of mortality, fatherhood, and love. If that all sounds a little, well, boring… it isn’t. Hayes clearly writes personal lyrics inspired from his own life and experiences, and yet they are universal enough to offer broad appeal. For example, the album’s second track “Miss Her When I’m Gone” is an ode to the loneliness and struggle of a career spent on the road, away from the people you love, working hard to support those same loved ones. Even if you aren’t a touring musician, if you’re a working stiff you probably relate to the sense of working hard, sometimes struggling, to support the people you love.

    Yet, it should be noted that Before We Turn To Dust isn’t all death, fatherhood, and work. The album’s third track “Bam Bam” for example features a loose, piano-led groove to accompany Hayes’ croon: “Damn, the way you walk that thing / all locked in a pocket make a grown man sing.” But, unlike a lot of contemporary r&b, Hayes can be sexy without being lacivious: “I want to do you… right. I want to be with you.”

    Before We Turn To Dust makes a great soundtrack for the recipe Kasey is featuring in the Kitchen today: Soba Bowls with Tea-Poached Salmon. The recipe is exotic, yet surprisingly straight forward. It’s flavorful and unique. And so smooth and crowd pleasing.

    Sean Hayes – Miss Her When I’m Gone

    Watch Sean’s site to pick up a copy of Before We Turn To Dust. It’s scheduled for a September 11 release. Then head back to the Kitchen to read Kasey’s recipe for Soba Bowls with Tea-Poached Salmon.

  2. Musical Pairings: Aesop Rock – Skelethon

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    Dead cats being mummified. Dog’s saving babies from pools. Bob’s Donuts in San Francisco. Racing stripe haircuts. Vegetable hating teenagers. These are the things that Aesop Rock had on his mind when he recorded his latest triumphantly dense LP of occasionally near-indecipherable strange-rap mind-melters. Titled Skelethon, the record is another win for the San Francisco-by-way-of-New York emcee.

    It’s immediately clear that Rock’s remains at the pinnacle of his game. As usual, his lyrics again alternate between cryptic, impressionistic, and abstract to narrative, colorful, and entertaining (oh, and quite often very funny). But what struck me on my first listen wasn’t just that Rock was as “on” as usual, but rather just how instrumentally organic Skelethon sounds compared to his prior albums. More than ever before Rock’s tunes blend samples, scratching (via long-time collaborator DJ Big Wiz) and live instrumentation. Rock’s wife Allyson Baker (of Dirty Ghosts) returns providing either bass or guitar on at least five of the album’s cuts. Hanni El Khatib provides guitar on three tracks and El Khatib’s long-time ally Nicky Fleming-Yaryan provides crisp percussion on four jams. Kimya Dawson and Rob Sonic provide additional vocals on several tracks. Finally, Grimace Federation, a Philadelphia-based band known for making an ungodly messy groove out of samples upon samples swirled into a multi-percussionist rhythm, provide additional instrumentation on a pair of cuts.

    The result is that the beats and accompanying instrumentation sound fuller, more lush, and livelier than they’ve ever before. It proves to be an ideal stage for Rock to showcase his lyricism and songwriting. It’s entirely unsurprising considering the fact that Rock’s wife provides the track’s grungy guitar riff, but the track “ZZZ Top” instrumentally sounds like Rock rapping over a Dirty Ghosts’ album highlight. Baker does her work atop clattering, break-beat percussion as Rock lyrically explores the minds of three individuals as they, in order, carve a word into a desk, write on a pair of chucks with a magic marker, and scrawl a band name onto the wall in a bathroom stall.

    The album’s first single “Zero Dark Thirty” is the album’s most immediately catchy groove and also the track most able to bridge the gap between Rock’s latest and None Shall Pass. It’s one of the least lyrically straight-forward jams on the album as well. But, despite the puzzle-like nature of the lyrics, Rock manages to evoke the vision of an unpopular kid rising up through the rap scene to become the last man standing as he spits about a “minotaur-fugly stepchild” with “zero friends” that “nevermind straw to gold [can] spin hearts on sleeves into heads on poles.” In the end, it’s “down from a huntable surplus to one.”

    Meanwhile, on “Ruby ’81” Aesop paints the tale of two year-old baby Ruby who escapes from the house when her parents aren’t looking and falls into their pool. Only the family’s beagle notices what’s happening and is able to save the small child. Later in the album, things don’t end nearly as merrily for Aesop’s feline friend on “Homemade Mummy” which (as the title implies) provides instructions for making your own D.I.Y. mummified kitten.

    A personal favorite, is the hilarious “Grace” in which Rock narrates the story of a stand-off between himself and his father when he refused to eat his vegetables. A few key lyrics for me: “Chris and Graham hate ’em too but advocate a braver chew invented for the code red, cola chaser, nose held, gulp moments. Later two have been released, leaving me the legroom and the legume police” and later “a single portion canned, frozen or fresh, defies the glory of the Poultry or fish.”

    Kasey’s featuring a recipe for Chanterelle Tacos today in the Kitchen. For me, chanterelles are an unusual and pretty non-traditional ingredient for tacos (or in any other traditional street food). But although the main ingredient is relatively unorthodox in this context, it’s a beautifully flavorful recipe. Similarly, rap is often regarded as street music, and within the context of the genre, Aesop Rock is wildly untraditional both lyrically and instrumentally. Considering those similarities, (and despite Aesop’s childhood aversion to vegetables) I think today’s recipe makes a great musical pairing for Skelethon.

    Aesop Rock – Zero Dark Thirty

    You can order Skelethon from Insound. Then head back to the Kitchen to read Kasey’s recipe for Chanterelle Tacos.