Friday, July 29, 2011


Song: Borderline
Artist: Michael Gray
Album: Borderline

Here's something a little fun and upbeat to start your weekend.  My friend and reader Nick introduced me to this track a couple months ago.  I liked it, but as the summer has been on for some time, I'm finding myself listening to it more and more.  It's a fun disco-house track that can get you moving, or perfect for cocktails at sunset next to some fab pool bar.  Cheers!

Nick told me the track was on a compilation of pretty standard gay-centric dance tunes but that it was by far the standout.  The disco influence is nice, and possibly what pricked Nick's ear... though it's not dated at all, very current.  Well... for a track from 2006, but you know what I mean.  There is a lot of dance music of this ilk out there that doesn't get much play, at least here in the States, outside of gay bars... though this is just the type of track that's big in Europe, and doesn't have a chance of being heard here on the radio.  But truth be told... much of it is very by-the-numbers and doesn't thrill me.  This song does.

I thought I had never heard of Michael Gray, but it turns out that he was part of the Remix/Production duo known as Full Intention. (with Jon Pearn.)  Full Intention was pretty huge back at the start of the millenium doing remixes for the likes of Jennifer Lopez, George Michael, Whitney Houston, Ultra Nate, and Duran Duran to name a few. I really loved their rework of George's killer single "Amazing" back in 2004.  According to Wikipedia, he's working on some new solo singles, as well as new music under Full Intention.

It should be noted, this is NOT a cover of the Madonna classic, but for fun, have you ever heard this?  It came up two tracks after Michael Gray while I listened to "Borderline" and it gave me a chuckle. (Just after Pepper Island's "Borderline.")

Enjoy and Happy Friday.

Somewhere Beyond
Amazing (Full Intention Remix) - George Michael

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Banana Ripple

Song: Banana Ripple
Artist: Junior Boys
Album: It's All True

As longtime readers know, I'm a huge fan of Canadian electro duo Junior Boys, and have been since their debut album "Last Exit" from 2004.  It was their sophomore set "So This is Goodbye" that cemented it for me, but I also dug the less attention grabbing "Begone Dull Care" from 2009.  That album was a return to the more moody vibe of their debut and this continues with their latest, "It's All True" released last month.

In truth, I've been listening to the album since mid-May and it really just wasn't grabbing me.  (In general not much new has... but that's anther story)  But I was recently putting together a sexy downtempo playlist, where the Boys are ALWAYS invited, and got re-listening to the album again.  Maybe it's because, in retrospect, "So This is Goodbye" was kind of upbeat... that I keep wanting a bit more punch from the Boys, but that certainly isn't their M.O. with "It's All True."  It's a quiet but slow-burning moody piece of minimalism that's built for early early mornings or late late nights.  (As an aside, they've always been good at making amazing have-sex-to-this music.)

During the re-listen though a couple songs did take hold as standouts as they did on "Goodbye."  "A Truly Happy Ending" has stuttered beats and swirling synths as it begins, but really comes together at the chorus, which brings the vocals up front and center.  It might not get you up to dance, but you'll be swaying and really feeling it.  First track "Itchy Fingers" sounds like classic Junior Boys, with a hint of Asian influence, most likely spurred on by an extended visit to Shanghai which they recently returned from before the recording of the record.  It doesn't overpower the music at all, just a new layer.  I do take issue with following that promising track with "Playtime" which really slows things down.  A little too much.  It really probably should have been the closing track.

While interesting, these breaks in style mar the record a bit.  "Kick the Can," towards the end of the record focuses on quiet house beats and ignores vocals completely, going for moody experimentation.  Blah.  They vocals are missed, and it doesn't quite work.  But then things return with "ep," which returns to the classic Junior Boys sound.  Then in the end they give us "Banana Ripple," a nine-minute-plus odyssey of Junior Boys-ness that's as epic as these guys have ever done.  For a closing track, it's an odd choice as it's probably the most upbeat on the album.  Instead of a feeling of closure, it makes you feel like you're about to hit a second wave.  It's kind of amazing.

Not sure why this album took s long to click with me.  It's not my favorite of theirs, but if you're a fan it's required listening of course.  And if your unfamiliar it's actually a fine way to start.


Banana Ripple
Itchy Fingers
A Truly Happy Ending

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Means I Love You)

Song: Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Means I Love You)
Artist: Violent Femmes
Album: Saturday Morning: Cartoon's Greatest Hits

Back in the 90's, when Alternative rock was becoming a viable marketing gimmick, tribute albums became very popular using "quirky" rock bands doing their take on classic tracks by established artists, or a specific genre.  My favorite by far is probably "If I Were a Carpenter" the tribute to the Carpenters.  That had a great balance of wink-wink isn't-it-funny that this alt rock band is singing this goofy song, with honestly emotional takes on the Carpenters sunny-sounding, but heartbreaking lyrically songs.  Amazing.  I also really loved, at the time, the Jimi Hendrix tribute "Stone Free," as well as the Grateful Dead Tribute "Deadicated."

My ex-stepfather introduced me to "Deadicated," which was put together by record producer Ralph Sall.    Sall has had quite the career doing music for films as well as writing and recording his own music.  I didn't realize he was the one that wrote the songs for "Hamlet 2," (Sexy Jesus!) as well as being music supervisor on a slew of top Hollywood films.  But after "Deadicated," he expanded the idea of the tribute and came up with another favorite compilation of mine; "Saturday Morning: Cartoon's Greatest Hits."  He got some of the days biggest acts (Collective Soul, Butthole Surfers, Sublime, Matthew Sweet, to name a few) to cover the opening songs from classic cartoons of the 70's.

It's a bit of nostalgia, a bit of irony, but a whole lot of fun.  From Sponge ripping through "Go Speed Racer Go," the Ramones Ramone-a-fying "Spider-Man," to Frente! doing an impossibly cute rendition of "Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sun Shine In" from The Flintstones.  Along the lines of that song, where the song was featured in an episode of the show but wasn't the theme, is the Violent Femmes absolutely gonzo take on the Jetson's classic song "Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Means I Love You)."  It's crazy... as the song itself is, and the Femmes jump into it with manic energy and yet an obvious love for the song.

Re-listening to this compilation that I all but wore out in college gave me a different nostalgia trip, though admittedly... the concept seems to wear out it's welcome a bit toward the end.  But may of these songs on their own are super fun and great to slip into a playlist for the off-kilter recognition factor.

Another similar compilation that I was sure Ralph Sall was involved with, but can't find his credit at least on the Internet, is "Schoolhouse Rock Rocks!," which takes all the classic Schoolhouse Rock songs sung by popular rock acts of the time.  (Blind Melon's "Three is a Magic Number" is amazing.)

Do you have a favorite tribute album?


Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (Means I Love You) - Violent Femmes

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? - Matthew Sweet

Josie and the Pussycats - Juliana Hatfield & Tanya Donelly

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie

Song: The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Album: I'm With You

It's been quite a while since we've heard new music form the Chili Peppers, not since 2006's double album "Stadium Arcadium."  Since then the band has once again lost guitarist John Frusciante, who many point to as the glue to the Peppers artistic success... first appearing on "Mother's Milk," and then their seminal album "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," which elevated them to one of the most popular bands in the world.  Frusciante first left after the exhausting tour and promotion for that album and unfortunately developed a pretty intense heroin addiction.  The Peppers got Dave Navarro to replace him, and released the terrible "One Hot Minute."  Navarro soon left, and after completing rehab, Frusciante returned at the band's request and they went into the studio and recorded "Californication," their most successful album to date, which was critically lauded.  After two more albums and the extended hiatus the band is back with a new album, "I'm With You," and have added Josh Klinghoffer to replace Fruciante, whom has worked as a sideman on both Chili Peppers and Frusciante solo records.

I've always been a Chilli Peppers fan and have delighted in seeing them continue to grow as musicians and a band.  As much as I loved "Californication," I thought the follow up, "By the Way," is actually their best complete album, but found the double "Arcadium" to be a bit bloated.  (though I am listening to it as I write this and am actually quite enjoying it.)  I am concerned by Fruciante's departure, but the Peppers are a different band than they were when he initially left in 1992.  I think they are stronger, wiser, better writers and musicians, and have truly found their groove as a band.  Producer Rick Rubin returns once again for "I'm With You," so the cards, despite no Fruciante, are in their favor.

It's hard not to judge every initial Peppers single to "Californication's" "Scar Tissue," which might ultimately be their seminal song... and the oddly titled first single off the new record, "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie," doesn't grab you like that initially.  But I've been listening to it for about a week now and it's really grown on me.  The good news is that it still sounds like the Chili Peppers, unlike the Navarro-heavy "One Hot Minute" singles.  And I like Klinghoffer's guitar work.  It's not Fruciante... but it fits within their sound, doesn't fight with it, and just sounds great.  Different, but pretty great.  Exciting.

Thankfully, despite having enough material for another double album, they have boiled it down to 14 tracks for one album. (Apparently they thought about releasing a triple album for "Arcadium" as they had the tracks... which would have been an even bigger mess.)  I'm not sure I hear a huge hit in "Rain Dance Maggie," but I also felt that way about "By the Way" as an initial single... which did well but was also followed up by several great singles and was on an album chock full of varied and amazing songs.  So I'm still quite excited about "I'm With You" and hope it's the perfect soundtrack to the end of summer.

What do you think?  Can they survive without Fruciante?


The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie

Monday, July 25, 2011


Song: Home
Artist: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Album: Up From Below

My friend and reader Chris came to the city several weeks back, we had dinner, and like we tend to do... talked music for hours and hours.  We have very similar tastes and similar passion for music so when he has a recommendation for me, I always make sure to pay attention.  We talked, as usual, about a lot of dance-pop from the past and present, and yet our convo turned to this song which I was unfamiliar, "Home" by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.  It reminded him of The White Stripes song "It's True That We Love One Another," which I completely heard once listening.  I really enjoyed it, and was surprised that I had never heard of it or the band since it was released in 2009.

Two weeks ago I met a friend from Sydney for the first time whom I've known for three years, and he invited me to a great little restaurant in Brooklyn called Roman's (amazing food) where one of the chef's was a friend of his ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriend... whom I also met.  Anyhow, great food, laughs, etc. etc. but I was reminded once again of this quirky little song as they played it twice while I was dining.  It was a very nice and unexpected evening and like I seem to do... this song is now officially stamped to that moment in time for me.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes are an American band fronted by Ima Robot singer Alex Ebert. They formed in 2007 and released their only full-length album, "Up From Below" in July of 2009.  "Home" is a country-ish call-and-response type song that grabs you immediately with its uniqueness (despite it's similarity to the White Stripes track) and has a road movie cinematic quality to it.  It was no surprise to me that it's been used in a couple movies, TV shows, and even an internet viral video.  From the whistling to the old time style juxtaposed with some off kilter lyrics... it's a real winner.

I only recently got the entire album, which reminded me of a more Americana-influenced I'm From Barcelona with it's male and female vocals and jangly roots-rock sound.  I really liked the track "Janglia" as well... which was a bit familiar to me though I have no idea when I heard it.  It's an interesting, experimental record, that has many charms... though "Home" shines the brightest by far.

"Edward Sharpe" is a fictional messianic character created by Ebert after he went through a twelve-step program for addiction.




Desert Song