Category music

Landfill Harmonic

I’m enough of a DIY fan that the concept has it’s own category on this blog… and yet I’ve seen few things as magical as the below concept.

It’s a trailer for the film Landfill Harmonic and features the Recycled Orchestra.

If you love music, watch this. Heck… even if you don’t love music check this trailer out.

The essence of musical innovation found floating in an ocean of garbage.

The perfectly imperfect Jens Lekman

In this age of pixel-perfect imagery it’s my belief that we yearn for something handmade. When everything’s exact we’re drawn to things with a slight imperfection.

The images on our browsers are heavily-processed… photoshopped to perfection. Much of the music we hear is similarly auto-tuned with nothing left to chance.

Perfect is the new boring.

Increasingly we’re drawn to things that are not as processed.

We want some patina, some age… something hand-crafted… real. This is why I think craft beers, boutique bakeries and sites like Etsy have been on the rise. They offer things that are not mass-produced and enable us to feel like the individuals our fingerprints suggest we are.

This brings me to Jens Lekman.

In a few words Jens Lekman is a Swedish Jonathon Richman / Bryan Wilson. He has the odd-shifting lyrics of the former and the love of arranging of the latter. Since I love those two musicians maybe that should be enough… but it’s not. I love Jim Noir because he is the incarnation of those two musicians but Jens Lekman is something else entirely… because he’s less perfect.

But what draws closer into Jens’ music is the slight imperfections. It feels more… real… than other music. The slight pitch tweaks or tiny rhythm changes in mid-stream. Jens fits perfectly into the this day and age and offers a glance at what music might become in the years ahead.

Congolese rumba mashup

The more one listens to sounds from other geographies the more they hear the threads that hold all musical forms together.

Below is a song from the late 1960s mixing African, ‘er Congolese approaches with a Cuban rumba beat.

Tabu Ley Rochereau and Dr. Nico Kasanda smash the Caribbean into the Congo.

40 years before Vampire Weekend was born the tap root to their sound was alive and well and living in Africa.


Cesária Évora, Cape Verdean Billie Holiday

Let me start by stating there is no singer I have ever heard that brings me to the place that Billie Holiday does.

Billie’s voice is what all other singers are measured against. She delivers the emotions of real life experience, the passion for the story and not just the lyrics…  she embodies the age of jazz.

The truth is that I spent years, maybe decades, listening to others and seeking something I felt was an equal. Ella, Nina, Louis, Dinah… no one compares to Billie in my opinion. Then… I heard Cesária Évora.

Just as Billie Holiday transports me to a different place… a different time… Cesária Évora does the same thing.

Hit play on the below track and close your eyes. She will take you to Cape Verde and it doesn’t even matter that you don’t know where that is. It’s far away. It’s foreign in the best sense of the word.

Her voice is a time machine. It’s a travel brochure. It’s the soundtrack to a cafe you wish you were at.

Behind the creative curtain with Kishi Bashi

I love it when artists show us their creative process. It’s amazing to see a painter create a visual metaphor of an idea and equally cool to watch a musician compose right in front of your eyes.

The ultimate related to “seeing” an artist create is The Mystery of Picasso as it enables us to see Picasso work from the point of view of the canvas itself. It’s almost hard to imagine what it would be like to watch artists of the caliper create and yet the Picasso film delivers that level of experience.

And so I point to this podcast with Kishi Bashi. It’s as much about peering behind the creative curtain as it is about hearing the sonic mess that comes out the other side. Oh… and I dig the sonic mess.

Listen to the podcast first and then check out the Kishi Bashi a tiny desk concert video.

Black boys on mopeds and the intentional voice of an activist

It was The Clash’s first record that helped me see the larger purpose music could have. Before I heard it music was to me more about entertainment and less about learning, more about self centeredness, vanity and aimless debauchery and less about understanding the world around us.

I came across Sinéad O’Connor’s Am I Not Your Girl the other night and was re-blown away at her take on standards like Rodgers and Hart’s Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. It’s hard to hear those songs by people other than Billie, Ella, Lena…. but Sinéad’s soft yet intense approach make those songs so… fresh.

Of course then I went back to her entire catalog and dove deep. Think of how hard it is to take on an artist like Prince and… take over their song… completely.

As I looked over her entire body of work the song below, Black Boys on Mopeds, feels like Sinéad at her peak.

Everyone on the planet as opinions; we all have beliefs and we all have emotions. The difference between most people and an activist is that an activist takes more risk, they push themselves into a more vulnerable spot, they take public stands that are by their very nature guaranteed to make enemies. It’s much, much easier to not speak out; it’s much easier to look the other way.

Regardless of our personal views on any given subject we should respect those who intentionally move an idea forward and push it into the public eye.

This song speaks to these themes…

The timeless sound of Patsy Cline

It was Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue that made me question my attitude towards country music.

It was considered cool to diss the genre until Elvis pushed that record out (in 1981, when punk was still strong). He embraced the tragic stories, steel guitar and created a literal bridge to country from punk with songs like Sweet Dreams.

Suddenly it all came together… the Sex Pistols were standing on the shoulders of Eddie Cochran and Woody Guthrie might as well have been the father of Billy Bragg, Johnathon Richman and Joe Strummer.

All of the sudden George Jones seemed important… same with the Louvin Brothers.

Then in 1994, at the the deft hand of Rick Rubin… Johnny Cash became cool… ‘er mainstream… again. Jack White did the same for Loretta Lynn in 2004 with cutting, raw Van Lear Rose (video below). It seemed like modern taste makers were successfully reintroducing us to the roots that had been below us for decades.

Meanwhile… Patsy Cline (1932 – 1963) floats off into the ether with nothing to suggest relevancy to modern culture.

This is why I point to her now. She’s a crucial tap-root of American music and should not be forgotten any more than Frank Lloyd Wright should be forgotten. Spend a few minutes listening to her sound. Patsy’s voice (which isn’t done justice on this video from 1957) is timeless Americana.

Everything that happens will happen today

David Byrne and Brian Eno represent ground zero to me when I think of people that constantly reinvent what we think of as “music.”

This video offers a fresh look into their minds and practices… it gives us a window into the collaborative nature of making music at their level. What I like even more about video is how casual and personal it feels. The whole thing doesn’t seem overly staged or rehearsed. It’s almost as if you’re there, as a friend would be, listening in on some tracks in the process of being mixed… hearing what they like and don’t like.

Listen to the David Bryne & Brian Eno album, Everything that happens will happen today here.

Fresh vignette by Hillman Curtis.

So bad it’s good

There is something to be said for something that is so bad that it becomes good.

I realize that’s not logical and doesn’t make sense… but its true.

In a way Napoleon Dynamite and Spinal Tap are like this… except that they built as a parody.

The cover to the left reaches the “so bad it’s good” threshold.

Sure, maybe the art director knew what he or she was doing… but I don’t think so.

So bad it’s good.

More “worst album covers” here.

Violins, Made in Brooklyn

I often think of the romantic, timeless elements connected to surfing. The sport has been around for centuries; it was the sport of kings in the early days. A surfer is literally immersed in nature when they practice it. Even in these modern times when nothing is handcrafted, most surfboards still are. I also love how accessible it is; you don’t have to pay $70 for a lift ticket to go surfing. You just go down to the edge of land and paddle into another world.

It’s because of all those reasons that the below film about Sam Zygmuntowicz resonate with me.

First of all, I love Brooklyn and miss it dearly. The idea that this gentleman is hand making violins in Brooklyn made my day… especially because of the way he talks about his craft. When Sam finishes a violin and hands it over to an artist… half of the story is done. Watching him speak reminds me of Chris Christensen, a deft master in the world of hand-shaped surfboards. That comparison went even further when the violin maker used the phrase “keeping the violins hot-rodded at all times.” Like Chris, Sam clearly has a deep connection with a very discerning clientele. The vignette below is a gem, like most things from A Continuous Lean.

In 2012 anything hand made is worth stopping, understanding and appreciating.