Tag Archive: Musical Pairing

  1. Single Servings: Lands & Peoples, Tanlines, Field Mouse, & Mountain Range

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    It feels good to get back into the old routine. After SXSW it felt like it’d be awhile since we had a normal week (not that this has been an entirely normal week). Still, there was no way I’d let the week pass without either a Single Serving or a Served Three Ways (Served Three Ways will return next week). This week we have a lot of great new tunes including music recommended to me by Andrianna from Gluttony Is The New Black and discovered courtesy of a showcase hosted by Connor of Small Plates Recs & I Guess I’m Floating – good folks I met at SXSW. In fact, this could generally be thought of as a SXSW edition of Single Servings since three of the four artists featured here were in one way or another related to my SXSW experience.

    Lands & Peoples – Ghosts
    The debut LP of Baltimore-based Lands & Peoples is a dream come true for fans of catchy, melodically experimental pop music. The album’s first single, “Ghosts,” is slightly more conventional than some of the album’s most deliciously quirky moments. The album is available through are friends at Analog Edition and the hand-numbered (I hope I get a low number!), limited-edition (300 copies!) vinyl is available for pre-order.

    Lands & Peoples – Ghosts

    Tanlines – All of Me
    Brooklyn-duo Tanlines churn out hand-clap happy synth jams that don’t suck. In fact, their debut LP, Mixed Emotions, is simply infectious. Imagine taking the best parts of MGMT and blending that with the maturity of M83. Tanlines are what you’d end up with. The track “All of Me” is one of the album’s first singles and it’s sure to bring a smile to your face with its upbeat, bouncy groove.  Mixed Emotions is available for preorder from Insound.

    Tanlines – All of Me

    Field Mouse – Happy
    Field Mouse first came to my attention during the Small Plates Recs showcase at SXSW. Their set was a perfectly dreamy, warmly-fuzzy reverb-bath. Shoegaze shouldn’t feature vocals this feather-light, honey-sweet and melodic. The results are just too dangerous: you might float through the ceiling with music this warm and feel good. “Happy” is the b-side to the You Guys Are Gonna Wake Up My Mom 7″ which you can treat yourself to via Small Plates Recs. Go ahead – you deserve it.

    Field Mouse – Happy

    Mountain Range – Evelyn(e)
    This is lush. This is textured. This is freaking-headphone-orgy-awesome-sauce. I could fall asleep with this song on repeat and have the most beautiful dreams. The guilty party behind this vividly painted sonic-landscape is Stuart Thomas of Leeds over in the UK. “Evelyn(e)” is a beautifully shimmering, swirling tapestry of gently clattering percussion and twinkling tones. You can download his EP, A Heart Upon, over at Bandcamp.

    Mountain Range – Evelyn(e)

  2. Turntable Kitchen :: March 2012 Mix

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    I think you’ll notice right away that our March mix is a very different beast from the February mix. For example, we open this one with the sultry, shimmering new single from Beach House, whereas last month’s mix opened with an upbeat, tropical-island inspired B.I.G. remix. It’s indicative of the overall mood of this mix which I’d describe as cozier, more laid back, more introspective, and even a little sexier than it’s predecessor. You could float through the clouds on the back of Lemonade’s single. The Evy Jane single, like everything else I’ve heard from the duo, is irresistible. And that sexy, bassy Oscar Key Sung track will leave you asking: “Where did you get those Darth Vader powers?” What hasn’t changed is the quality and breadth of the new music you’ll discover on this mix. It’ll help you work. It’ll help you relax. And it’ll go with dinner as well as any bottle of red wine.

    Turntable Kitchen :: March 2012 Mix (.zip file)

    01. Beach House – Myth
    02. Here We Go Magic – Make Up Your Mind
    03. Vacationer – Gone
    04. Bondax – Only You Know (Feat. Dee)
    05. Lemonade – Neptune
    06. Oscar Key Sung – All I Think About (Part 1)
    07. Oliver Tank – Help You Breathe
    08. Evy Jane – Ohso (Max Ulis Remix)
    09. Dorsh – Je t’aime
    10. Bobby Womack – Please Forgive My Heart
    11. Gabriel Bruce – Cupid
    12. Dive – Geist
    13. Field of Wolves – Don’t Explain
    14. Tashaki Miyaki – If Not For You (Bob Dylan Cover)
    15. FIDLAR – Common People (Pulp Cover)
    16. Lizard Kisses – Water Tap
    17. My Friend Wallis – The Colour of Water
    18. Bear in Heaven – Sinful Nature
    19. Beach Fossils – Shallow
    20. Sufjan Stevens – Futile Devices (Shigeto Remix)

    We’re now accepting new subscriptions to begin with the April Pairings Box. We’ve got some great stuff lined up in the next few months that you are going to want to get it on before they are sold out. Oh, and those tracks by Lizard Kisses and My Friend Wallis? They are available on one of the most collectible vinyl record I’ve ever seen: only 35 copies were made. You can get one here if you act fast.

  3. Single Serving: Rhye, Algiers, Polarsets, & Django Django

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    I think you are going to find yourself falling head first for the tracks in today’s Single Servings. I did. That smokey, smooth groove by Rhye is irresistible. If that doesn’t do it, you may find yourself lovestruck by the visceral, hand-clap heavy soul of Algiers. Polarsets have a lock on the eclectic, yet tropical vibe that always feels so good running free across your the wilds of your headphones. Meanwhile, Django Django promise to satisfy your craving for some delicious future’s past -styled pop. Resistance is futile.

    Rhye – Open
    This may be the sexiest song I’ve ever heard. Seriously. It’s a really, really smooth, reedy groove and with come-ons for lyrics like “I’m a fool for your belly / I’m a fool for your love.” Right from the start it’s clear that this band is trying to seduce you. My advice: just give in to it. Big thanks to yvynyl for posting this one first.

    Algiers – Blood
    This is one of those haunting, floor-board stomping soul jams that’s so full of voodoo and dark mojo it’ll give you shivers. Rattling tambourines, deliberate handclaps, and some syrupy bass make for one nasty-sounding spiritual. You can get this one on vinyl from Double Phantom (and you really should too).

    Polarsets – Sunset
    Polarsets blend elaborately textured, tropical rhythms with punchy, nearly euphoric grooves for some serious good times. They’ve released singles with Neon Gold, Kitsune and Moda and are aiming their sites on SXSW this year. Definitely a band to watch.

    Django Django – Default
    When I listen to “Default” by East London’s Django Django I’m reminded of a long lost love: Beta Band. That’s a damn nice feeling. Shuffling melodies swirl alongside some electro-psych flourishes in this fully-satisfying indie pop jam. Thanks to our reader Jeremy Stein who recommended this one.

  4. Musical Pairings: Blu & Exile – Below The Heavens

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    Blu & Exile’s 2007 debut Below The Heaven was unquestionably one of the best underground hip hop albums released in the past decade. But, like a lot of great underground music, it’s taken time to discover it’s audience. Sure, the album brought them a loyal audience nearly immediately upon it’s release, but it took other fans a little longer to discover the magic (including, in all honesty, myself). For example, I discovered Blu last year thanks to his single for the track “Amnesia.” Afterwards, I sought out anything I could find by the duo (including their tracks as Johnson & Jonson). It was the pairing of Blu’s thoughtful, conscious lyrics and smooth flow balanced alongside Exile’s upbeat and catchy rhythms that caught my attention. It’s a demonstration of just how smart, uplifting and straight-forward good rap can be. Fittingly, in light of their growing statute, Below The Heaven has been recently rereleased on limited edition vinyl.

    Before the release of Below The Heavens Exile had already begun to make a name for himself working with artists like Jurassic Five and Mobb Deep, and as 1/2 of the duo Emanon alongside Aloe Blacc. In fact, it was Blacc who introduced Blu and Exile. At first, Blu lent some verses to Exile’s solo album, which ultimately led to the recording of Below The Heavens.

    Straight off the bat, in true hip hop fashion, Blu blazes into fiery, cocksure introductions: “I don’t pack stadiums yet / I still rock ’em. / They still spell my name f*cked up on their flyers / it’s B-L-U / and if you see the E drop ’em. / It’s like they dropping E from the beats E is dropping.” They mellow the tone for the laid-back, but pensive “The Narrow Path” and “So(ul) Amazin’ (Steel Blazin’).” Repeatedly, throughout the album, Blu demonstrates a talent for spinning compelling narratives that balance his darker impulses against his better tendencies including on personal favorites like “Blu Colla Workers,” “Dancing In The Rain,” and “First Things First.” In all, I’d consider this a true underground hip hop classic.

    This is the type of hip hop you can groove to first thing in the morning. Yeah, this is that rare, laid-back and feel good hip hop that you can start your day to (I’m a grown-ass man. I prefer to finish my morning coffee before I go H.A.M.). Indeed, Below The Heavens is complex and totally satisfying. As a result, I’m pairing this one with Kasey’s Bluberry…, er, Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins.

    Blu & Exile – My World Is…

    Check out the recipe for Kasey’s Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins. Buy Below The Heavens from Insound (follow this link and use coupon code ‘febstorewide15’ for 15% off your entire purchase).

  5. 5 Questions With… Breathe Owl Breathe

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    I caught up with Micah, Andrea and Trevor from Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Breathe Owl Breathe before their set at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill. Their live show is upbeat and whimsical. In fact, I’d venture as far as to say I’d never seen a band appear to have so much fun on stage (The Decemberists probably come in a close 2nd though). Whether Micah was performing barrel rolls, play acting as if he were swimming, or creating giraffe hand puppets to accompany a song’s lyrics; it was often enough to elicit uncontrollable giggling and knowing, amused smiles from Andrea and Trevor. Thankfully, although the trio know how to have a good time, they also never missed a note – even when Andrea unleashed operatic vocals in the midst of “Parrots In The Tropical Trees.” We talked about – what else – food and music.  Read on.

    Breathe Owl Breathe – The Listeners
    Breathe Owl Breathe – Own Stunts

    1. What is the tastiest treat you’ve had on the last tour/back home?

    Trevor: We like to get Indian food, it is our weakness. It makes us feel like we are at home. That’s because back home in Ann Arbor, Michigan there is a really good Indian restaurant called Raja Rani. It is like the best Indian buffet and it is close to home. So it isn’t really on tour. Andrea would probably have a different answer though.

    Andrea: I love Indian food a lot. On the last tour we did about two and a half weeks only in Michigan. So we toured the Upper Peninsula and stayed with Micah’s Aunt and Uncle who live way in the woods. They are amazing. They have these amazing permaculture gardens that put up a huge amount of the food that they eat year round. His Uncle Ray makes this amazing hot sauce called Ray’s Polish Fire that we’re addicted to and put on almost everything. Ray made this amazing chili. Usually I don’t like chili, but it has wild turkey from up there and all of this kale, it was kale heavy, and I’m obsessed with kale. It also had tomatoes that they had grown and beans. That was my favorite treat from our last tour. It was a really special treat.

    2. Is there one album that has dominated the stereo in the tour van?

    Micah:  Today we listened to different soundtracks.  It was almost like a game where we played Last of the Mohicans, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones. There was some Bone Thugs & Harmony – Tha Crossroads, we did a little M.C. Hammer – Have You Seen Her.

    Trevor: Not really an album, but a mix and mash.

    3. What is your favorite music discovery of 2012?

    Micah: I think I’m always rediscovering Arthur Russell’s recordings. I’m just amazed of everywhere he has been in his songs.

    Trevor: Something that sticks out is this Philip Glass three tape set that Micah got. The packaging is the size of a vinyl record.  You open it and there are three tapes in it.

    Micah: It was minimal with the concept but not with the packaging. You can play these cassettes at the same time or individually.

    Andrea: It is hard to pick just one. I’ll be specific in a way you didn’t ask for.  The first discovery of a band from a live show, that I didn’t know, that really blew me away was this band called Future Islands. I had definitely never heard of.  They really blew me away live.

    4. What is one food or beverage you can’t live without (Trevor stepped away to help with sound setup)

    Andrea: Number one would be sweet potatoes, and number two dinosaur kale, and number three would have to be fair trade, organic dark chocolate.

    Micah:  There is this sandwich that I really enjoy making.  You toast the bread and you put peanut butter and bread and butter pickles and a little bit of hot sauce and you serve it with a side of rice.  It’s just a really good gourmet.  There will become a time in your life when you’ll be like: “I’m going to try the peanut butter and pickles sandwich, and you are either ready for it or you are not.”

    Andrea: If I were to guess Trevor’s top 3 they would be: Cookies, which can encompass any all very sweet baked goods; beans – like black beans; and coffee.  Oh, and one more food that I have to add is coconut butter. It is not oil, but just like cashew butter or almond butter.  Just the coconut flesh but it is totally creamy.  I’ll eat it by the spoonful.

    5. Any resolutions for 2012?

    Trevor: Putting things out there that are on my mind, when they happen, rather than later, including inspirations. It pretty much applies to anything in the world.

    Andrea: My resolution is to be more active.  To go for more hikes and runs and walks and swims.

    TK: I bet that is tough when you are on the road.

    Andrea: It is.  You have to be really determined.  Micah is incredible at it.  He’ll wake up before everyone else on the tour and just run for miles and come back, and everyone else is just getting up.

    TK: That is pretty determined.  Especially because you’ll be in new cities and not really know where you might be running.

    Micah: Yeah, but that moment, the first thing of the day, is so precious because you are passing through areas so quickly, and you are able to see that little moment in time. My short term goal is that I’ve never been good at documenting things, or logging things. Sometimes when we record music it just gets lost on cassette tapes, and there will be something that you completely forget about.  On this tour I’m trying to log what I do everyday, active-wise and collaborating-wise.

  6. Musical Pairings: M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

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    Having named his band M83 after the spiral galaxy Messier 83 (a.k.a. the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy), it is clear that Anthony Gonzalez is attracted to things that are grand, luminous and stunning in their scope. At the same time, Gonzalez’s music has always demonstrated his desire to grasp and recreate a nostalgic, child-like sense of wonderment in his listeners. In fact, he’s suggested repeatedly in interviews that it is his obsession with his own childhood and teenage years that inspires much of his music. Neither theme is particularly unique in the world of indie music, yet what is unique is the way that Gonzalez marries these seemingly unrelated concepts so that they appear to be indistinguishable from one another in the context of his music. In other words, there is a recurring theme in Gonzalez’s songwriting in which he tries to capture through the lens of nostalgia that childhood is grand, epic and awe-inspiring.

    Viewed in that context, last year’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming can be thought of as Gonzalez’s musical dissertation. It was envisioned and recorded as a “epic” double album, inspired conceptually by his own teenage obsession with Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (which was, interestingly, itself conceptually about Pumpkins’ songwriter Billy Corgan’s youth). In fact, it’s immediately clear that Gonzalez’s goal was to write songs that were more atmosphere than pop. Indeed, Gonzalez has stated that the album was “written like a soundtrack to an imaginary movie with different ambiences, different atmospheres, different tempos, different orchestrations and different instrumentation.”

    Of course, that isn’t to say that Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is without infectious, memorable jams. For example, early standout “Midnight City” is a synth-heavy anthem with pulsing, driving digital percussion and bleacher-reaching melodies. It’s absolutely dripping with exhilarating cinematic urban-neon glow. But these big groove moments are out-numbered by the more emotionally rich spaciousness of the album’s more atmospheric moments. In lesser hands this could be a recipe for trouble, yet Gonzalez proves to be more than competent enough to handle the challenge of crafting an album of this grandeur. While we’ve always known that M83 can write a memorable synth-pop hit, this album demonstrates that he can create equally compelling ballads. For example, the gently building track “Wait” reflects the peacefulness of an empty city street at night during a light snowfall and is definitely another album standout.

    The second disc follows the same blueprint that Gonzalez used to construct the album’s first half. Following the tender and somewhat pastoral “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea,” M83 bursts forth the second disc with the frantic and twinkling anthem “New Map.” The sprawling “Steve McQueen” is another similarly thrilling percussive jam. In the end, it’s clear that Gonzalez was able to achieve his vision for this album. It’s an album you can wrap around yourself and get lost in, but it’s also an album that would lend itself well to the communal vibe of an arena setting.

    The album pairs well with Kasey’s Lemongrass Shrimp and Miso Udon Soup. Like the album, the recipe is clean and contemporary. It’s also delicious, warming and boasts strong, memorable flavors. It’s a meal you can get lost in.

    Head back to the Kitchen to read the recipe for Kasey’s Lemongrass Shrimp and Miso Udon Soup. Then head to Insound to buy Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming on vinyl.

  7. Diary of a Music Blogger: Various Artists – The Roots of Chicha

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    I only first knowingly experienced cumbia last year when Kasey and I visited Colombia. It was everywhere we went. In the tropical wall-ringed Cartagena, for example, rhythmic, Caribbean-inspired cumbias spilled out of small clubs packed full of late night revelers into the early hours of morning. But Cumbia wasn’t limited to the coast. In Bogota, when I dragged Kasey to a dusty, local record store slightly off the beaten path and asked the owner what traditional Colombian music he recommended, he produced a foot and a half tall pile of cumbia records. He’d play the records one by one while I tried to relate to him with my poor, broken Spanish what I liked and disliked about some of the records he’d play. Of course, I’d loved most of what I’d heard, and, as a result I’ve added a number of cumbia records to my collection including The Original Sound of Cumbia and Coastal Cumbias From Colombia’s Discos Fuentes to my record collection.

    Anyone who has read these pages before knows that indie rock, hip hop, electronica, and R&B are the bread and butter of my musical diet, but much like with food, sometimes I want something a little more exotic for my ears. And one of my favorite games when researching music on the Internet is to combine seemingly unrelated genres to see if anyone has been bold enough to give the mutant genre a shot. I should mention that I’ve never been disappointed: someone has already been there first. Cumbiastep (Cumbia + Dubstep)? It’s been done. I’d even found a few tracks of Cumbiawave (Cumbia + Chillwave).

    As part of this search I looked into Cumbia + Psychedelica, and discovered that not only had this been done, but it had been a popular Peruvian genre that began in the late 1960s and continues through to the present day. Psychedelic Peruvian cumbia is often referred to as “Chicha.” The term is also commonly associated with a fermented drink popular in Peru, but also is  descriptive term applied to things with an “informal, popular, cheap and transient arrangement.” Thus, Peruvian cumbia is known for being informal, popular and somewhat cheap.

    I was pretty set on seeking out some Chicha records for my collection, but finding a good place to start can be tricky when you are in the United States. Chicha records, as with most any form of cumbia, is surprisingly (or not) hard to find at most record stores. Add that to the fact that it can be difficult to even know where to start, and compilations records start to look pretty attractive. That was where The Roots of Chicha comes in.

    The 2 LP set was thoughtfully compiled by Barbes Records and includes a through 12×12 booklet explaining the history of cumbia in Peru. The collection includes four tracks by Enrique Delgado’s group Los Destellos, who are cited as having created Peruvian cumbia (as opposed to bands who performed traditional Colombian-styled cumbias). Delgado’s version of cumbia was unique in that it relied primarily upon the use of electric guitar blended with traditional cumbia rhythms, folkloric Andean huayno, American psych, plus hints of surk, rock and other genres. Aside from that melting-pop-like eclecticism Chicha can be hard to pin down as the genre’s top artists are often sonically quite different from one another. The Roots of Chicha does an excellent job of demonstrating that diversity. For example, the trio of tracks by Juaneco y Su Combo offer the most natural blend of Caribbean-rhythms with psychedlic keyboards underpinnings, whereas the track by Grupo Celeste demonstrates a funk flair; and other tracks are grooving instrumental jams.

    In the end, it’s a fun collection that really sets the tone for those days when you just need something that sounds different. If you’re looking for a culturally appropriate recipe to pair this one with, you might want to check out one of our ceviche recipes (subscribers have one in the January Pairings Box).

    Los Wembler’s de Iquitos – La Danza del Petrolero

    You can buy The Roots of Chicha from Insound.

  8. Musical Pairings: The Walkmen – You & Me

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    I’ve always thought it was cool that The Walkmen were one of those bands that earned their chops as musicians by playing together, having played in bands alongside each other since the 5th grade or earlier. For example, Bassist/organist Walter Martin and vocalist/guitarist Hamilton Leithauser are cousins and grew up across the street from one another. Like Leithauser and Martin, the rest of the band also grew up in Washington, D.C., and even attended the same school with the sole exception of bassist/organist Peter Bauer. As a result, it probably wasn’t surprising that they formed together the way they did. Before forming The Walkmen, Leithauser and Bauer performed together in The Recoys; while Martin, drummer Matt Barrick, and guitarist/pianist Paul Maroon, performed in the band Jonathan Fire*Eater. When both Jonathan Fire*Eater and The Recoys disbanded around the same time, it just made sense for these guys to start a new band together.

    At this point, their back story is almost ancient history. After all, The Walkmen have been performing together for approximately twelve years and have released six full length records together (including one track by track cover album of Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats). Their debut record, Everyone Who Pretended To Be Like Me Is Gone celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary with a limited edition (and now sold out) repress just last month. In fact, today’s Musical Pairing, their 2008 released LP You & Me, is their fourth album of original material (5th LP if you count the Nilsson cover album). At this point they sound like pros. And that’s a good thing. You & Me is a thoughtful album that bares witness to a band that is comfortable in their own skins and have learned the value of subtlety. Track after track it’s clear they know exactly when to hold a little back to build tension, and when to blast forth for dramatic effect. Thankfully, it also demonstrates a band hasn’t lost the fire in their belly. This passion for what may have even become routine is summed up with the album’s opening lyrics, as Leithauser sings; “Well, it’s back to the battle today / But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

    That opener, “Dónde está la Playa,” is moody and barely constrained with a rumbling intensity created by burying Barrick’s drumming in the mix. It also quickly reveals the common motif played out through the course of the album of the lovelorn and road-weary traveler, “There is still sand in my suitcase / There is still salt in my teeth,” Leithauser sings. “On The Water” is filled with the tense melancholy of a lost love with a melody that builds slowly, holding back until the very last moments before reaching a full boil. The following track, “In The New Year,” takes a different tack rolling through pounding, almost (but not quite) triumphant rhythms that rise and rise and then cycle down.

    It’s a strong album from start to finish, but I’ve always really enjoyed the album’s seven, eight and nine spots as a exceptionally strong trio of consecutive cuts. The trio begins with the shuffling, brass-toned, and melodic “Red Moon,” before launching into the twinkling, horn swell-infused and swaying “Canadian Girl.” Meanwhile, “Four Provinces” may be one of the strongest tracks on the entire album with periodic tempo shifts, clattering percussion and a meandering melody that rumbles like a barely contained fire before being splashed out at the very end.

    In Kasey’s post today for her Frozen Banana-Chocolate and Peanut Butter Loaf she mentions how I didn’t really believe in the concept of a soul mate – I’m skeptical of anything that can’t be proven – whereas she believed. That said, I do believe in intuition. I believe you can get a gut sense that things just belong together. Although I’d normally list out the reasons I think our Pairings go together, for this one I’d rather just say that it feels like an intuitive pairing to me. What do you think?

    The Walkmen – Dónde está la Playa

    Head to the Kitchen to read the recipe for Kasey’s Frozen Banana-Chocolate and Peanut Butter Loaf. Then head to Insound to buy You & Me on vinyl before it, like most of their other albums, is sold out.

  9. Served Three Ways: Three Covers of Neil Young’s “On The Beach”

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    Neil Young’s On The Beach was originally released in 1974 as the follow up to the commercially and critically successful Harvest. It was raw and loose, and from the lyrics and sparse production, it’s clear that Young was in an emotionally dark place at the time. For a modern equivalent, you could compare it’s emotional bleakness to Kanye West’s 808 & Heartbreaks, except that where 808s was overproduced with autotune, On The Beach was underproduced (also: On The Beach is just a better record). We find Young here grappling with frustration, despair and, on the title track, with the pitfalls of fame. As an interesting aside: the album went out of print in vinyl format in 1980 and Young declined to release it on CD until 2003 when it was released as an HDCD. As a result it developed a cult following. Anyways, here are my three favorite covers of the title track. Reo offers the most original take on the track, but Radiohead and Golden Smog pretty much nail it.

    Radiohead – On The Beach (Neil Young Cover)
    Golden Smog – On The Beach (Neil Young Cover)
    Emily Reo – On The Beach (Neil Young Cover)

    So what do you like about these covers?  What don’t you like about ’em?

  10. Served Three Ways: Three Covers of Elliott Smith’s “Between The Bars”

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    Three Covers of Elliott Smith's "Between The Bars"Elliott Smith wrote some of the prettiest pop songs ever written. Of course, writing a pretty pop song isn’t the same thing as writing an upbeat pop song. “Between the Bars” is a perfect example. The melody is touchingly beautiful and unthreateningly gentle. The lyrics, however, are undeniably troubled. Although the song could double as an unorthodox love song (a popular interpretation of the track), the most likely read is that it’s about the threat of impending alcoholism. As the track opens, Smith sings ruefully about “the potential you’ll be, but you’ll never see / the promises you’ll only make.” As it progresses it’s clear that Smith’s protagonist is being lured by alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with his self-disappointment: “people you’ve been before, that you don’t want around anymore / they push and shove, but won’t bend to your will / I’ll keep them still.” The three takes here never stray far from the simplicity and beauty of the original.

    Metric – Between The Bars (Elliott Smith Cover)
    Madeleine Peyroux – Between The Bars (Elliott Smith Cover)
    Agnes Obel – Between The Bars (Elliott Smith Cover)

    I’m going to let Elliott have the final word on this one:

    Elliott Smith – Between The Bars (Live in Stockholm)

    Which is your favorite take on the track (aside from Elliott’s)?

  11. Musical Pairings: Shigeto – Lineage

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    In a way, Zach Saginaw became an electronic producer by accident. As a self-taught drummer with a love for jazz and hip hop, Saginaw hadn’t begun composing electronic music until around 2003. Although his drumming was excellent, his self-taught technique was hard on his body, eventually resulting in chronic tendonitus in both arms. He had to quit playing. When he related to his brother that he missed creating music, his brother installed Reason 2.5 on his computer and suggested he give it a try. Saginaw soon discovered that he loved the freedom that creating music electronically offered, so he stuck with it. Blending together his love of jazz, hip hop and IDM, Saginaw has since adopted the moniker Shigeto (his middle name) for his work as a producer. His headphones-friendly music demonstrates the subtle rhythmic sensibilities of a jazz drummer, the beats of a hip hop aficionado, and the crisp textures of a producer.

    Lineage, Shigeto’s sophomore album, demonstrates his continued maturity as a producer. It’s sensibly sparse and reflects a brigthly-lit kaleidoscope of sonic textures. The opening cut, “Lineage (Prologue),” opens the album with ambient crackling, a breezy and shuffling rhythm and crystalline, sparkling wind chimes. The title track maintains a hazy groove, but folds in hip hop influenced rhythms and tinny, tactile percussive flourishes. If you closed your eyes, you’d swear you could reach out and touch the sounds with your hands. Meanwhile, “Ann Arbor Part 3 & 4,” begins with a foundation of looping keys and a hip hop groove before mixing in hints of understated dub and a fresh, shimmering melody. Kinetic and shuffling, “A Child’s Mind” is a lively and atmospheric standout.

    Almost like a jazz band reinventing Moon Safari-era Air, “Huron River Dance” is a jazzy balance of smooth keyboard tones and flinty cymbals and tight snare drum. “Field Trip” is another clean, percussion heavy composition fleshed out with xylophone-like tones and warbly sounds effects. Lineage ultimately comes to a close with analog synth and steady, stop-and-go drumming on the echo-y, hand-clap studded “Please Stay.” In all, the mini-album breezes by for a very satisfying 30 minutes.

    The album pairs well with Kasey’s recipe for Sesame Salt Kale Chips.  The album and the recipe are both crisp, clean and demonstrate the value of simplicity. There is plenty of complexity to savor in the taste of the kale chips, but the recipe doesn’t rely on many ingredients to succeed. The same is true for Shigeto’s Lineage.

    Shigeto – Huron River Drive

    Head back to the Kitchen to read Kasey’s Sesame Salt Kale Chips recipe.  You can preorder the screen-printed vinyl version of Shigeto’s album from Ghostly on January 31 (tomorrow).