Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Hot Chip, "Hold On (Switch LDN remix)" (YSI link)
Hot Chip, "Hold On (Mock N Toof remix)" (YSI link)
Hot Chip, "Touch Too Much (Ewan Pearson remix)" (YSI link)
While we're going to be doing less and less of the current stuff, I wanted to make everyone knew that I'm just losing my edge. I haven't lost it yet. Here's a few new remixes from the recent Hot Chip 12" Hold On/Touch Too Much Remixes, another single from the Made In The Dark album.
They've brought in everyone's favorite producer/remixer, Dave Taylor a.k.a. Switch, the house music dude who has been dropping some of the most interesting music of the past few years. He dropped 2 remixes for this, LDN and LA versions that showcase that Switch unpredictability. I don't know of any other artist now who is able to keep you on the edge of your seat in dance music like he does. He's able to draw on various styles, from house to dancehall to bassline to minimal, all in the space of a single track. The LDN remix above is a great example of how he fucks with the dancefloor, stuttering and stopping his way along, making you feel like a huge bassline is coming in which never does. He
The other two remixes are even better. Mock N Toof deserve a much bigger audience and hopefully a few more big-name remixes will do the trick. Their remix is so much more where my head is at, a nice, long extended mix that takes its time on the disco-y house track. You get some great percussion, cool keys, It's a subtle boogie, but it's a good one. Ewan Pearson has been doing this shit for a long time and he still has it. He takes on another song from the album, "Touch Too Much," keeping it much more of a song than the other ones. You get all of the vocals, Pearson has just stripped the song down (until the last few minutes, when it turns into laser tag) and added some beautiful keys and slinky drums that slowly build and build over 9 minutes to a great ending. Really nice stuff
If you haven't already done so, make sure to grab a copy of Made In The Dark, another solid release by one of my favorite bands around. Turntable Lab has the Deluxe Edition, which gets you a live DVD for your money.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Metal Urbain, "Ghetto" (YSI link)
Metal Urbain, "Anarchie Au Palace" (YSI link)
Metal Urbain, "Tango Sudiste" (YSI link)
Paris and punk? No joke, it wasn't all berets and crepes over there in the late 70s. Okay, there wasn't much of a punk scene, nothing close to what happened in the UK and US. Metal Urbain was the big fish in that small pond, a group that had a profound impact on the ensuing So Young But So Cold bands we discussed last week and who deserve a bigger place in the history of post-punk and bringing electronics to that genre.
Anarchy In Paris! is a compilation from Acute Records that covers most of their releases and a handful of unreleased numbers too. Released in 2003, it gives a great overview of the band's small recorded output and shows how far ahead of the curve they were than all of the other punk bands with their use of drum machines and synthesizers. Long-time readers will know that I have never really gotten into punk, but these guys have just enough of a skewed approach to make it work. I'm not totally certain why I don't like punk; the best guess I have is that I just don't like music that has an explicit political message. It's ironic, as I consider myself a political and engaged person, but there's something that leaves me cold when I hear angry, political music. Or maybe it's just the predictability of the punk I've heard, that same, loud and fast aesthetic that does nothing for me. Actually, I guess I do know why. Yeah!
The songs above should give everyone a chance to hear how Metal Urbain took the punk template and put their own spin on it. First off, there's the drums, which give the music an immediately cold and clinical sound that fights with the passionate vocals and guitars. There's also a willingness to experiment with duration and tempo, as you will hear 4+ minute songs, guitar drones and noise. "Ghetto" is my personal favorite, a jagged electronic punk freakout. Good stuff.
Grab your copy here, if you like the sound of the tracks above. I recommend it highly, a really unique sound that sits at the precipice of the punk and all that followed. Politics, drum machines, synths, loud guitars! Yeah! Fuck influence, this is just good music.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Ed Banger (DJ Mehdi, Feadz and Pedro Winter, Menage a Trois Mixmag mix (YSI link) tracklisting in comments
Let's make it a Ed Banger vs Kitsune day here. The other big-name Paris label, Ed Banger Records, put together a mix for Mixmag magazine called Menage-a-Trois, a guide to 2008 according to the cover. When I think of menage-a-trois, the names Pedro Winter, DJ Mehdi and Feadz are no Christy Marks, Karina Hart and Merilyn, i.e. they're not at the top of the list. Ah, but my dude fear was easily overcome with the notion of those three combining to put out a mix.
It's a nice mix that should comes a surprise for those expecting nothing but choppy, massive electro-ed bangers; in fact, there's definite hip-hop and house elements throughout, which is what I've always heard when I've had a chance to catch Medhi, Busy and Feadz spin. For me, it makes the mix immensely more enjoyable to hear a mix of styles and sounds; it takes three excellent DJs to make that melange work seamlessly and the Ed Banger bols do that here. I should make clear that you aren't going to be hearing any Project Pat or Too $hort on here, as it's very much got its feet in the current electro/dance scene; It's a fun listen and will give you a much better sense of what's happening currently than you will get here, as I feel like my mind is stuck in the late 70s more and more.
Who doesn't love free mixes? Republicans, that's who. Are you a Republican? I didn't think, so get to downloadin'! Yeah!
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Pin Me Down, "Cryptic" (YSI link)
On Board, "Friendly Fires" (YSI link)
Before you even say it, yes, I know that this has been out for way more than a minute and that this sort of belated posting may get my mp3 blog card revoked. I am defying the system tonight, consequences be damned.
I mentioned that Ed Banger has been at the forefront of the Paris dance music rebirth over the past few years. That shortchanges another pivotal label that has made the rock kids dance and the dance kids rock, Kitsune. The fashion house has been slowly but surely releasing some of the best music of the past few years, introducing us to bands like Digitalism and Simian Mobile Disco. Their Kitsune Maison compilations are essential documents of the dance music scene, bringing together a mix of the best 12" releases and unreleased tracks.
The fifth edition is out, the Golden Edition; sadly this one doesn't reach the levels of the earlier editions, as it lacks the standout, killer tracks, little filler vibe of the first three editions. The album's highlights for me surprisingly come from the indie side of the ledger, which have a lean, dance-y feel that works perfectly. Pin Me Down's "Cryptic" reminds me of a female-fronted Bloc Party, which is a compliment for the record. It's got a great, simple refrain that The highlight for me is Friendly Fires "On Board" which I love love love. It's got the rare quality for this genre of not rushing things, slowing down even for an awesome, handclap breakdown. I had no idea who this band was, which is why compilations like this are so rad and so necessary. Other highlights come from the Fairy Lights mix of Late of the Pier, the Gentlemen Drivers Rave mix for The Teenagers' "Homecoming" and Autokratz's "Pardon Garcon."
Like I said, this one isn't on par with the best of the series. I love the mix of indie and dance music and their hybrids, this one just didn't have the same quality of songs. However, your mileage could easily vary, so grab a copy and support one of the best labels extant. If you don't already own the first four volumes, I'd recommend putting those on the top of the list.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Metal Urbain, "Paris Maquis" (YSI link)
Metal Urbain, "Clé de Contact" (YSI link)
Let's stay in Paris (oh, if only that were literal) for the rest of this week. Cool? Good. I wanted to turn to another one of those bands that has the dreaded label of 'influential,' Metal Urbain. Paris isn't exactly known as a punk epicenter, but there was a tiny scene there during that punk period of the late 70s. The big fish in that small pond was Metal Urbain, a band that didn't get a whole lot of attention but was way ahead of the curve in terms of predicting the electro punk sound with synths and electronics that would start to happen in the 80s.
We're going to do a little retrospective over the next few days of the band's small output (what I have of it), I want to start out short and sweet. Paris Maquis is their second release and it was a landmark at that, the first 7" on Rough Trade Records, released in 1977. It's not as interesting as their later ones, when the electronic element comes to the forefront more. This is punk music, loud, fast and pissed off. However, you'll also notice the drum machine in use, giving it a nice mechanical vibe that works against the furious vocals of Clode Panik. I will talk a lot more about the music and band in future posts, just want to get the ball rolling.
Also, in honor of that "Fasciste!," I wanted to get the word out about the latest atrocity and attack on women's rights in the form of a new proposal by the Health and Human Services that allows any health care employee to refuse to provide a treatment they object to, from abortion to contraception to anything else. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Cecile Rodgers have a nice op-ed today in the Times about this (thanks JH-B!) that spells it all out. This amazing post at Daily Kos by Elise goes into much greater detail and explains the ways that you can voice your protest on this proposal. If that's too much reading, just go and sign the petitions at Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and NARAL. Let's do this people! Pro-choice! Yeah! All you fascists bound to lose!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Mr Oizo, "Minuteman's Pulse" (YSI link)
DJ Mehdi, "Pocket Piano" (YSI link)
Let's stay in Paris but turn our attention to the present in the City Of Lights. The one label that's synonymous with all the rebirth of electronic music there is Ed Banger, a label that has consistently put out some of the best music over the past few years. I've been on the bandwagon since early on (shout out to Project Matt and Lauren Flax for bringing the label to NYC a long time ago before everyone and their mother got into these guys) and it's been exciting to watch them assume global dominance in such a short time.
They are back again in a big way with the release of the Ed Rec Volume 3 compilation, featuring new and unreleased tracks from the label's stable of producers. You know the big names - Justice, Busy P, Uffie - they're all represented here. But, it's that second level, imo, that makes the label so special, those unassuming names that consistently put out interesting tracks. Guys like Mr Oizo and DJ Mehdi don't get the recognition that the others get, mainly because they haven't dropped an anthem like the more famous indie dance acts have. I don't think the two tracks above are going to change that, but they are still rad as hell and show subtle tweaks to the Ed Banger sound. Mr Oizo drops a chopped-up tune, "Minuteman's Palace," with awesome horn melody, a female computer voice, lasers and stuterring drums. He's bringing back that futuristic vision for electro, I do say. Mehdi goes in the complete opposite direction on "Pocket Piano" with a nice, disco-y track that lets things develop. The congos and pianos are not what you expect on this compilation, which is a good thing; even better, it doesn't have a "look at me, I'm doing something different" vibe either. There's also big tracks by Justice, a heavy metal banger by SebastiAn, a great Uffie song that doesn't sound like what you'd expect and a lot more.
Grab your copy today at Turntable Lab, a great chance for everyone who doesn't buy vinyl to show some support to a great label. We'll come back to France soon, but next up we go back to the old New York. Tune in and turn out.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
J.J. Burnel, "Euroman" (YSI link)
Kas Product, "So Young But So Cold" (YSI link)
I believe that Volga Select and Tigersushi presented this CD, So Young But So Cold: French Underground Music 1979-1982, solely for me. First, the title is B-A-N-A-N-A-S. It's not just that the title, minus the French underground part, is going to be the name of Chapter 7 of my autobiography, chronicling my 20-28 years. [Incidentally, Chapter 8 is called The Best of Times and chronicles my marriage to Christy Marks, ascension to the role of today's Jane Jacobs and jut general radness of my thirties.] It's also that it's about being cold and detached and distant, which is so me. It's also the fact that it's about the French, my national obsession (shout outs to Eric Cantona, Emanuel Levinas and of course, my father). Plus it focuses on that Pound for Pound golden period, the late 70s, early 80s, when new wave, no wave, disco, electro and hip-hop all came together and melded and reformed and melted faces.
Seriously though, this is one of the best compilations I've heard in a long time. It's everything a compilation should be, a chronicle of an forgotten period of music that deserves to be remembered. It's not surprising that Volga Select was behind this, as it features the amazing death disco man, Ivan Smagghe, as one-half of the duo; the dude has an ear for the dark side of the underground (cf. Death Disco). He was joined by Volga Select partner, a.k.a. Mark Collin, in compiling the music on the disc, This one takes a look at the underground of French music for a three-year stretch that isn't associated as much of a golden period in that country's musical history. The music here covers varied ground, from more new-wave-y stuff to disco-not-disco tracks to experimental stuff; the common theme is the coldness of the music, dominated by machines like the synth and drum machines; one wonders if the government gave out drum machines and synthesizers to every child in the country. Better health care and free Rolands, people! Vive la France! Anyway, the title of the album fits perfectly, as these young groups all seem to have sucked the joy out of the disco that came before (and I mean that as the highest compliment). They've turned in machine music and complimented with detached vocals sung with no divaness at all.
I've chosen a couple of my favorites that should give you a sense of the music on So Young But So Cold. "Euroman" by JJ Bernel is probably my favorite, a minimal, slow-building track that would have fit well with the whole NYC scene of this same period. There's static-y drums, strummed guitar chords, a deep, dubby bass and the whisper-y French vocals of Bernel (I assume). It sounds like the thing could explode at any moment, but it never does. It stays nice and calm, never getting carried away. Awesome. I also went with the title song by Kas Product, "So Young But So Cold." This one's got a electro punk vibe, with some wicked synths, drum machine devastation and intensity. Mona and Spatz Soyoc ironically may have the least cold song on here, as the vocals get belted out with punk abandon. I really could have chosen any of the 16 tracks, as they all work for me, not a letdown on the whole disc. My only disappointment with the CD is the lack of quality liner notes; it would have been nice to have a little more historical information about this period in France, the story on these bands, whether there was a scene or if these bands worked in isolation, what happened to them, etc.
As you can tell, I recommend this as highly as possible, an essential purchase for anyone who likes the music and attitude that lies behind this blog. Grab your copy at Forced Exposure of the repressed version before it goes out of print again and you have to scour ebay or beg your friend for a copy. So Young! So Cold! Yeah!
Thursday, September 11, 2008
DJ Assault, MrMuthaFukka excerpt (YSI link)
I realize that this week has been a nice chance to establish what this blog's all about, what sort of music everyone can expect down the road. Pound for Pound For Dummies, what have you. For the perfect follow-up to our look at Chicago ghettohouse, we head to Detroit (shout out to JH-B and my bol Hank Greenberg) and the world of ghettotech. While he's not the only dude working in this genre (and his tracks probably aren't even the best), DJ Assault has to be one of the main people responsible for bringing it out of Detroit to the rest of the world.
MrMuthaFukka is the perfect intro, a CD devoted to the best of the Assault Rifle Records label that Assault and Mr. 'De founded. It's a decent mix, covers lots of the most famous tracks to come out. The ending is a disappointment, as Assault turns things over to a new female vocalist signing who she sings over jungle beats (No, I'm not kidding). From there, it only gets worse, as there's another breakbeat-y speed rap track, nearly 4 minutes of Assault talking dirty in a whisper-y voice that will have you cringing or vomiting and some terrible rap songs. The rest of the CD is a nice intro to the Assault mixtape, with lots of stark, filthy funk tunes, classics like "Ass N Titties," "Asses Jigglin" and "Hoez Get Naked," pointless interludes and Assault's g-d awful rapping.
I've taken a good stretch from an otherwise average mix to give everyone a taste of ghettotech and its mix sound, which have surprisingly varied sounds. Check out Assault's own site to buy more of his stuff, including the 12" singles that everyone needs in their life.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
DJ Milton, "Scream" (YSI link)
DJ Milton, "House Clap" (YSI link)
DJ Milton, "Saturn" (YSI link)
I kinda like this first week of resumed posts being a overall look at what we do here and the music you can expect, i.e. Pound for Pound music. Long-time readers will know that there might be no important stuff than the Dance Mania label for me here. Dance Mania is one of the labels that helped shape house music since the mid 1980s, started right in the genre's birthplace, Chicago, Illinois by Jesse Saunders. It is responsible for lots of seminal tracks, including Housemaster Boyz and the Rude Boyz of House's "House Nation" and Lil Louis' "Video Clash."
These tracks are not on that level, but they are nice examples of that mid90s DM sound. Here's some standard DM stuff from the mid-90s, as the acid washed away and the ghetto sound emerged. DJ Milton fits the anonymous dance music producer profile to a tee, releasing more than 25 records in a 4 year period and then disappearing (as far as I am aware). Most of them were on Dance Mania, this Scream EP was the first, in 1994. It's what you expect: raw, dirty and jacked." These three tracks are the A-side, the lesser of the two imo. "Scream" is furious as fuck, a raging drum machine track complete with porno screams that give it that nastiness one associates with ghettohouse. The other two are strictly instrumentals, drums galore that might work great with an acapella over them. Just sayin'. Check "House Clap" for a nice acid moment around the 2 minute mark.
Yeah! Dance Mania! House music! Yeah!
Monday, September 08, 2008
Broken Edge, "No Shelter" (YSI link)
Commuter, "Young Hearts" (YSI link)
Joe Esposito, "You're The Best" (YSI link)
While I'm talking videos, I got to put a few tracks from the soundtrack to what I believe is arguably the greatest movie ever made, The Karate Kid. While films like Citizen Kane or Breathless or Some Like It Hot can make a claim for revolutionizing cinema, there has never two hours of pure, inspiring magic like the story of Daniel Larusso and his improbable rise to karate stardom. I honestly could discuss this movie for hours, as its images are branded into my brain - the beach scene (including the bizarre part where Ali with an i randomly kicks the soccer ball away right before the Cobra Kais show up), Daniel punching the shit out of the kid during soccer practice, the Halloween dance, the training, catching the fly with chopsticks, the crane kick and most of all, the worst mother in the history of movies (she moves across the country to become a manager at a shitty restaurant and lets her son hang out with a 60 year old janitor all the time. I mean, seriously? WTF?).
What takes it to even greater heights is that the soundtrack, which features truly rad, new wave-y tunes that add to each scene. It's an awesome collection of tunes, just the right amount of synths and cheese and emotional lyrics, 11 tracks total. Do you know how amazing this CD is? They left out one of the greatest 80s tunes, Banarama's "Cruel Summer," and this thing still kills. I've put up my three favorites from the soundtrack, classic songs that you need in your life right now. In particular, I want to call attention to Commuter's "Young Hearts," which blows me away. The first person who comments and names the scenes where these 3 songs feature will win a free copy of this CD.
Mang, if that picture doesn't give you goosebumps, then there ain't no reason to keep on livin'. When Miyagi gives him that little quick double nod when he sees Daniel-San go into the crane, that's what cinema is all about.
For those of you who haven't seen this movie due to being raised by wolves, head over to Hulu right now and catch it in its entirety. Or buy your own copy, as I have done, to put a little extra gelt in the pockets of Billy Zabka, the great Martin Kove and Ralph Macchio. To go a little deeper, I recommend this site that bills itself as the #1 site for The Karate Kid Movies (which is technically true, as there are no other ones dedicated to the movie). Here's a picture of Ralph Macchio from this summer, looking almost exactly the same. Here's a video directed by the one and only William Zabka for No More Kings' "Sweep The Leg" (check the guys at the table in the trailer - it's the fucking Cobra Kais! So gully!) I believe there's only person in the world who loves this movie more and that's Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy; he has brilliantly summed up "the greatest sports trilogy" for your entertainment.
Here's a new feature at Pound for Pound, as we're gonna get all visual on your asses. During my hiatus, when I was studying for the GRE, I spent much of the time scouring Youtube for cool music videos (and videos on cysts, big boobs and Flyers fights). I'm gonna try to give you the results of those searches once a week from here on out, hopefully everyone enjoys the videos.
Here's one of my favorites that I encountered, a part of the 1992 Channel 4 TV documentary On The Edge: Improvisation In Music. This segment looks at John Zorn and his game pieces. I can't say that I am an expert on these, but having had the fortune to finally see a live performance of the most famous game piece, Cobra, conducted by Zorn at the Music Under the (Brooklyn) Bridge series a month or so back with that hyphenated girl JH-B, I wanted to talk a little about it.
It was amazing to watch it live, as Zorn conducts the ensemble through note cards that indicate specific rules which denotes what a performer can do, in essence a set of rules that the performers must work with. The music almost becomes secondary, as the real thrill is watching people communicate with each other in order to create the small groups they want. There's a lot of pointing and eye contact, sometimes subtle, occasionally over-the-top. Zorn explains it much better in the video: "It becomes kind of a scary, frightening thing, to be in front of that band, to see these people, kind of, blossom and become the assholes that they really are." Check this wikipedia page for more info on Cobra and the game pieces. Most definitely watch the video, as it gives great insight to what the pieces are all about, what Zorn is trying to do with them, plus it's a great interview with the reclusive Zorn.
Most of all, the video will remind you of just how exciting it is to hear from someone who lives and breathes music, whose . I'll have a lot more to say about Zorn down the road, as he is a key figure for my own musical development and a big part of that early 80s downtown NYC scene that is at the heart of this blog.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Okkervil River, "Red" (YSI link)
Okkervil River, "Westfall" (YSI link)
Okay, I lied. I don't only want to hear songs about love, I got caught up in the moment and exaggerated. In fact, I'm kinda bummed right now, as technology has failed me big time. First, my phone broke again over the weekend, then I learned that my HD is broken and I lost a huge chunk of my music. Ugh. Viva la Luddites! Add in the fact that my Ark isn't quite done yet for the coming rains and I'm not in the best of spirits.
Whenever I feel sad, I like to turn to that select group of troubadours who sing with melancholy and anger, brokenhearted yet passionate. It is a small but quality list, and Okkervil River holds a special place on it. Will Sheff and his band have put out two of my all-time favorites, Black Sheep Boy and The Stage Names, perfect rock albums that make me think of lost love, heartbreak, love found, etcetera, etcetera, which is pretty much all I want from that music.
For some reason, I never really gave much of a listen to their earliest albums on Jagjaguwar. For any even less discernible reason, I returned to them in the past weeks and realized that they are quite good n their own right. Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See isn't just an awesomely named album, it all contains some of my favorite songs by the band - "Red", "Kansas City", "Lady Liberty" and "Westfall". They are all perfect examples of that type of music that Okkervil excels at, rock music that seems comfortable pressing up against folk. He is the master of giving the music a silence that; check out "Westfall" for a great example of pacing, as things start with Sheff's gentle vocals, some guitar and banjo strumming and basic drums and slowly pick up intensity over the next 6 minutes. Awesome.
This is the first LP the band released, back in 2002, and it shows that they came out nicely formed, as the formula for their later works is there. There are a few false steps, like the too-slow bluesy number "My Bad Days" and the distorted vocals of "Dead Dog Song," but all in all, it's a solid record, recommended for fans and those looking for something new. For the record, this post isn't out of the blue; it's a chance to remind everyone that the new Okkervil River LP, comes out this Tuesday, September 9th. I'm sure that I'll pick up a copy next week, hope that you will too. In the meantime, grab a copy Don't Fall In Love... and see where it all began.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Donald Byrd and 125th Street, N.Y.C., "Love Has Come Around" (YSI link)
It's Friday afternoon, the weekend is upon us, time to take things up a notch. Did you think I was joking about only wanting to hear songs about love and happiness? Oh, my friends, we don't joke about these things. We are deadly serious about those things right now.
I'm also deadly serious about this song, Donald Byrd and 125th Street, N.Y.C.'s "Love Has Come Around." Another masterpiece from that magical period that most refer to as the disco period and we call heaven, that period from the mid70s to early80s when soul and dance and funk came together and changed the world. This one dropped in 1981 on the Elektra label, produced by soul legend Issac Hayes. Byrd is probably best known for his jazz work over, having played in Art Blakely's Jazz Messengers and with notables like Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. By the time the 70s rolled in, he began to move a long way from hard bop, bringing his trumpet to bear on soul, funk and fusion.
"Love Has Come Around" is nearly eight minutes of pure, unadulterated joy. This song alone should make all the wars around the world come to an end, as those bright horns, jubilant keys and awesome vocals are sure to put a smile on your face, even if you have been trying to kill your enemy for years. It's got that nice warm, lush sound that disco specialized in, built over a steady beat and swirling organs. For me, the vocals are what take it to the next level, as I just want to hear people singing in falsettos about love and its sudden, unexpected arrival.
Wow, listening to it now makes me 100 times happier than I was in the preceding 5 seconds before cueing up the iTunes. I've said it before, I'll say it again. Disco saved my life, let it save yours. This is the first step on the road to recovery.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Stevie Wonder, "Love's In Need Of Love Today" (YSI link)
Stevie Wonder, "Village Ghetto Land" (YSI link)
Stevie Wonder, "As" (YSI link)
Okay, things are almost back to normal. In the past few weeks, we have had our computer stolen, our phone broke and our wireless went out for a few days. Despite all of that, I feel pretty damn great and ready to get back into the thick of things here. We've got a new sick computer, we're rocking an iPod and listening to more music than we have in months and John McCain made the worst VP pick in history. Not bad, not bad at all. We aren't going to ease our way back in either; we're going right into the deep end this week, reminding everyone of what this blog is all about and why it's the best around.
We're starting with one of those Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 albums, stone-cold essentials, a "you need this in your life or your life is unfufilled" jawns. Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key Of Life. I've spent the past week listening to this one on repeat, feel like I've kinda lost Stevie in the waves of singles and new shit and digging. I forgot how utterly perfect this entire LP is, more than three decades later. Normally I save this for the end, but you need to buy this album ASAP. You just bought it? Good. Let's continue.
I've been trying to put my finger on what makes this one so great, beyond the fact that there's lots of great songs. The best I've come up with is that this is as human a work as there's ever been, timeless stuff that deals with life in all of its glory and hardship. He sings of love, sadness, politics, anger, you name it. I'm not the type to drone on about how they don't do it like they used to, but I'm not sure there are any popular artists today who would be willing to be this open and honest with their audience. Or maybe it's the fact that Wonder, even at his most exuberant, doesn't seem far away from remembering the dark places, the parts of the world and himself that hurt. One of his song titles sums it up perfectly: Joy Inside My Tears. I guess that's always been the key for me with non-dance music, that darkness-tinged perspective. Or maybe I just love the fact that the man talks about love and happiness so openly and unabashedly, as this is all I want to hear right now.
It's a sprawling, a 21-song, two-disc masterpiece and I cannot recommend it more highly. It was hard to choose songs to put up, as they are all good. This should be a good taste of what you can expect, including the bonus CD track "Saturn" that is totally cosmic. I truly believe that Stevie can make your life better and there's absolutely no reason to delay these changes. Buy the album now, thank me later. If you already have it, you know what to do. Spend today listening to this one and let the magic fill you all over again. Yeah!