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Back in the late 90’s / early 2000’s, the odds were stacked in your favor if you were searching for traces of real people playing actual instruments. With the post-grunge, alternative craze you were likely to be hearing Jimmy Eat World, Third Eye Blind, Matchbox 20, Alien Ant Farm, and a host of other archetypical bands. Even in rap and hip hop, people were sticking to sampling real instruments (Eminem’s “My Name Is” has samples of real drum / guitar / bass backing, even into the mid 90’s Tribe Called Quest was sticking to jazz and motown samples, B.I.G. and Tupac were using legit tracks, etc etc).
Gone are those days. Yet, in a world gone completely nuts over everything being computer generated, hyper compressed and filled with a barrage of fat synth leads and pads, there has been a recent trend of minimalism. It conforms to but one rule: a single real instrument being played over a sequenced beat.
Case in point was 2007’s Crank That (Soulja Boy Tell’em)
This track single-handedly changed what was accepted in terms of production effort. The producers on this track made a hit with virtually no music present – just a single steel drum over simple drums and orchestral hits. There are legitimately three or four things going on – drums, steel drum line, orchestral hits, vocals. That’s it, that’s all. And it doesn’t change for the whole song. But it’s deadly in how catchy it is.
This concept has been (consciously?) noted by execs and used for good and for evil.
A relatively catchy, silly, well produced recent release: Thrift Shop by Mackelmore has a single alto sax line that repeats ad infinitum:
And finally, a total piece of shit – so bad it practically demands the listener to laugh (either out of wonder, horror, or just general uncomfortableness) every time. I present Michelle Obama by Lil’ Debbie feat. Riff Raf with a stupid fucking french horn line over a shitty skeleton of a beat.
Honorary mention to Yolanda Be Cool’s hit remix of We No Speak Americano for it’s digitally manipulated aggravating sax line!
Wow, it’s been a while. I got back from 5 weeks singing opera in Italy last week, with a layover in London. On my flight home from London, I sat next to a philosophy professor from UMass Boston. We spent quite a few of our 9 hours on the plane (lots of delays) trading music, and she showed me a bunch of really wonderful singer-songwriters.
The first one who really peaked my interest was a girl named Vienna Teng. I seem to have a predilection for female singer-songwriters. Her voice is beautiful, without the cutesy-ness of Regina Spektor (and all her sound-alikes). Her songs make me want to take a bubble bath with scented candles and let the sound wash over me. At the same time, they make me want to drive with all the windows down on Martha’s Vineyard at the end of summer when the leaves are starting to not be so green anymore.
My plane buddy recommended Teng’s album Inland Territory. It’s a perfectly crafted album about so many things that form a totally coherent whole. There’s “Grandmother Song,” a song from her judgmental grandmother’s point of view sung without any instruments behind her, “No Gringo,” a song about if the racism issues in Arizona were the other way around, and white Americans were the targeted group, and countless other excellent tracks (actually only 12).
My favorite of the moment is called Antebellum. I hope you like it. If you do, support her and get one of her many albums on Amazon, or iTunes, or from her website. She has to pay for grad school somehow. Her grandmother will be very happy.
Vienna Teng – Antebellum
Kinda last minute, seeing as it starts in like 3 hours, but looks like it will be a cool show! Magic Man, jamesDUNK, Michael Parallax tonight at 346 Putnam ave, Cambridge. 8:00 on tha dot. and it’s free! Check it out! byob, son. free shows in the summmmmmmmmer
I work with the L Magazine and we are currently gearing up to put on another Northside Festival here in NYC at the end of the month. This year they have some pretty great bands, but they are also sweetening the pot by giving out a bunch of free passes, and a brand new iPad to a lucky winner. It’s a pretty cool prize and I was thinking that maybe some of The Illin’ Music Thread readers might be interested in checking out the competition and the festival. It would be great if you can give it a shout on the blog, it’s a cool festival for NY and we are really excited about getting the word out about it this year.
You can check out all the info on the festival and the giveaways at this link.
All the best,
Got this email yesterday. I don’t know what I think of the iPad, but the band line-up looks wicked sweet–Gracious Calamity is playing!! Wavves is also super sweet! To my New York friends–I’d check this out, even if it is in Williamsburg. June 24th-27th.
First of all, hey everyone and I sincerely apologize for it being so long since I’ve posted. Pretty ridiculous actually. First, some self promotion: come see my jazz combo play in the Montreal Jazz Festival! July 2nd at 4pm. Kickass. Now for some cool music:
It’s always really cool to hear a band who has a wide variety of sounds. Australia has a lot of cool groups to offer musically (Operator Please would be one that comes to mind), and The Parking Lot Experiments are definitely reppin’ their country/continent well! They’re at points casual, catchy indie rock, yet au contraire (oh no… french), they can be minimalistic and haunting. Just when you thought that wasn’t enough, enter a sweet electro-pop groove tune. Whether it’s electro, acoustic, or somewhere in between, they pull off something wonderful.
A personal favorite of mine would be Flying Colours. The song begins with a Sigur-Rós ish melancholy, spacey keyboard intro, but quickly switches into a happy bass and trombone groove. Cool! Need more of that. When the lyrics come in, we realize that this band isn’t just making music that’s great to listen to – they’re having fun doing it! You can’t help but smile when they begin their “trumpets, trumpets, magic trumpets” bit. This is really music that makes me feel warm and summery inside, even if it’s snowing on May 8th in Montreal (which it is).
My other favorite would have to be Forest Fire, a song that really highlights their other, minimalist side. Using a thumb piano gives it a simple, childlike sound, and you instantly feel a connection with the song due to its simplicity. When the guitar finally comes in, there’s a huge release as we feel the song moving somewhere, and then back to the original theme with guitar instead of the thumb piano to end.
That connection with the music is what totally unites their different styles: it’s always super relatable and has this wonderfully… human feel. It’s not complicated, it’s not convoluted… there’s nothing here but a plush welcome mat, a bunch of smiling people, and a delicious meal for your ears that’s hot, delicious, and ready for your pleasure.
All the fucking hipsters or whatever you call them in your respective country will be bumming this band pretty soon.
Well, with Grant getting the blog going again, I figured I might as well post again too! I’ve missed it – it’s been quite the hectic semester and it’s nice to take a break from all of this madness and post here for you guys.
So a few weeks back, I was asked by a friend from back home if I was interested in joining a band in Montreal, and I said “heck, why not?” seeing as I definitely miss the days of playing crazy music with Tracy Strangelove. A few days later I get an email with the link to the myspace, and man is it some fun music. It’s different this time around going into a band that’s pre-formed, but really cool because I get to kind of try to fit into a mold, yet still influence the overall sound of the group.
The music has elicited comparisons to neutral milk hotel and a whole host of other bands, but I’m proud to say that it’s a super unique group.
Download the EP for free off of the myspace and try to catch us live once we start touring…!