Video: Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope”

I don’t know much about this Janelle Monáe chicka, but I’m definitely into this song. Another young and talented musician that’s gone over my head, Monáe has been on the scene, more or less, since 2007.

There’s a fashionable futuristic theme shoved in your face, which you’ll have to subscribe to instantly if you are to enjoy the video. But I found myself forgetting about the visuals and plot simply because I was caught up bobbing to the beat. While listening to this song my body and is a prisoner to the music — I couldn’t handle paying attention to anything else. That’s a good thing.

Either way, this video is at least mildly interesting. Big Boi from Outkast is waddling through there, if that’s your thing.

The Disco Biscuits: Planet Anthem


RIYL: Sound Tribe Sector 9, Umphreys McGee, String Cheese Incident

Planet Anthem is The Disco Biscuits’ first studio album since 2002, which inherently highlights how this is a band more known for their live prowess. The overdue album finds the band exploring a wider array of sonic directions, but the track selection seems to indicate that the band has fallen victim to Ryan Adams Disease – being such prolific songwriters as to lose the ability to distinguish which of your own songs are the best ones.

It’s hard to believe that anthemic live winners like “Rivers” and “Mirrors” didn’t make the cut here. “Mirrors,” introduced in the spring of 2009, is one of the most infectious tunes the band has come up with in years, and would have seemed the best chance for crossover appeal. But then, mainstream appeal has never really been a concern of these counterculture jam rockers. They’ve made a living by earning a diehard core following that will travel great distances to see multiple shows, and who aren’t particularly concerned about albums or singles.

2010 finds the livetronica stalwarts dabbling in hip-hop, dance and even disco flavors, somewhat ironic since that is not where the band’s name is derived from. Opening track “Loose Change” is one of the more intriguing songs on the album, with a big bouncy groove and some socially conscious lyrics about how “money is the root of all evil.” “On Time” and “You and I” have a dance pop flavor that may catch some fans off guard, as this is not the trance-fusion that fans have come to know and love. But the funky beat is still there. “Konkrete” has a trippy, dreamy sort of vibe mixed with a dark heavy groove. “Uber Glue” also starts out trippy, but then moves into a techno direction that is probably going to have some fans scratching their heads.

Rain Song” is one of the more unique tracks, mixing an atmospheric PJ Harvey/Morcheeba sort of vibe from guest female vocalist Ryat with the band’s psychedelic exploration. “Fish Out of Water” could well have been the name of the album, for the way the band is experimenting outside of its comfort zone. The song is more of a straight-ahead, mid-tempo rocker about a girl who’s “gonna make a rebel out of me,” with guitarist Jon Gutwillig finally taking a short solo. “Sweatbox” moves back into techno territory, but builds into a party vibe where “the room is getting hotter” with Gutwillig doing a little wailing behind his vocals.

The last three songs on the album return to the melodic jam rock sound the band is known for, showing they haven’t gone totally off the deep end. “The City” has a big beat and melodic motif with bassist Marc Brownstein getting philosophical about “sitting on a mountain top.” “Big Wrecking Ball” is even catchier, with melodic riffs and vocals from Gutwillig on a tune that seems primed to open up for live exploration. “Vacation” closes it out with an epic track that opens with some ambient ascension before shifting into space rock.

The band gets credit for taking creative risks instead of playing it safe, but some fans are likely to feel a bit puzzled about the overall output. Some of these tunes may grow on stage though, so it’s always hard to grade a jamband album when you know an incomplete is the most appropriate grade until the songs become more seasoned. (Diamond Riggs 2010)

Disco Biscuits MySpace page

Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez: The Deep End


RIYL: Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, Kim Lembo

She’s been appearing on albums since the early ‘70s, but if you know Christine Ohlman at all, it’s because of her long (and supremely beehived) stint as a member of the Saturday Night Live Band. Ohlman’s a tenured member of the New York City session crew that produced fellow TV vets like Paul Shaffer and G.E. Smith; it’s a group stocked to the brim with incredible musical talent, but – as Shaffer and Smith’s sporadic recordings attest – not the first place you look if you want to hear inspired songwriting.

Happily, Ohlman’s an exception to this rule, which might have something to do with why her sixth solo release, The Deep End, is crowded with an eyebrow-raising list of guest stars that includes Ian Hunter, Al Anderson, Dion, Marshall Crenshaw, and Levon Helm. Fifteen songs and nearly an hour in length, The Deep End has its perfunctory moments, but it’s as expertly played as you’d expect, and it hits its targets more often than not. In fact, it’s one of the few modern blues records that cops a convincing ‘tude and remembers to bring some real songs to the table. It might be tempting to look at Ohlman in her shades and towering hair, read hackneyed song titles like “The Cradle Did Rock” and “Everybody Got a Heartache,” and wave off the whole thing as just another wine cooler blues record, but don’t judge too quickly – The Deep End lives up to its title. Dive in. (Horizon Records 2010)

Christine Ohlman MySpace page

A reunited Libertines to stumble into Reading and Leeds Festivals

Predictable? Maybe. Kind of awesome? Certainly. For the first time in six years, the Libertines are about to perform as a complete band. And where do they plan on gracing audiences? The UK’s Reading and Leeds Festivals, which are fine choices, really. Guns ‘n Roses, Arcade Fire, Weezer and Modest Mouse will also join the fray.

From The Independent:

The Libertines released two albums, 2002′s Up the Bracket and 2004′s The Libertines, before breaking up in 2004 due to disagreements between guitarist Pete Doherty and co-frontman Carl Barat. Last May, three of four group members performed together during a concert by Doherty’s band Babyshambles, suggesting that a reunion might be near.

Tickets are now on sale for both festivals, which take place simultaneously in the two UK cities and feature the same lineup. The capacity is about 80,000 at the Reading site and about 70,000 at Leeds.

The Libertines were one of those “in” bands I took a chance on a few years ago. They were getting so much publicity at the time that I couldn’t help but be discouraged. But the praise was nonstop, so I took the bait.

They blew me away. It’s a shame really, that they were/are lumped in the “garage band” genre. They offer so much more than the Strokes, Hives, Vines, whatever. The Libertines were just of the same time period, and leaps and bounds more interesting. The songs actually go places, and your body submits willingly, wrapped in the beat and all those slurring hooks. Listen to their self-titled album and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Try me: “Can’t Stand Me Now,” “Music When the Lights Go Out,” “What Became of the Likely Lads.”

The band just wanted to play rock music, in the vein of the The Who and the Rolling Stones more than anything. The Clash? Please. I dig the Clash, but they had a focus and agenda from their formation, despite the childish “punk” tag. With the Libertines, it never felt like they were going anywhere since they didn’t have interest in dealing with fame. Helplessly diverted by their self-destructive nature, coupled with their sheer talent, is what made them so enticing. How could a band be so obtrusively pretentious, yet inherently genuine and endearing? In a strange way, the Libertines were out to eliminate themselves and embarrass your tastes. Of course, this is in large part to Pete Doherty, who, despite his shortcomings as a human being, is more reminiscent of a classic (not classy) rock star than any other current musician. Now the band is getting back together to play some shows. There you go.

I know I strayed from the topic at hand, but none of us were going to make it to England, anyway.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

Codeine Velvet Club: Codeine Velvet Club


RIYL: The New Pornographers, Nancy Sinatra, John Barry

Here’s the awful truth about life as a musician: when they’re not recording, touring, shooting a video, or doing press – in other words, when they’re not acting like a musician – they get bored, really quickly. It only took Jon Fratelli, lead singer and guitarist from Scottish trio the Fratellis, a couple days of down time after a lengthy tour commitment to get the itch, and before he knew it, we was recording an entire album of ’60s-styled boy/girl pop with a friend of his wife.

Codeiene_Velvet_Club_01

All people should be so productive at the brink of exhaustion; the resulting collaboration, Codeine Velvet Club, is a swinging collection of soundtrack music for an imaginary film. (Think Madonna’s I’m Breathless, only cooler, and ballsier.) Fratelli’s partner, chanteuse-in-the-making Lou Hickey, is like a poor man’s Neko Case, but the imperfections of her voice work in her favor more often than not. (Contrary to what the suits would have you believe, personality matters just as much as technique, if not more.) The vampy “Vanity Kills” slinks like a film noir femme fatale, and the charging “I Would Send You Roses” has an unforgettable, if breathless, chorus. Two showstopping ballads anchor the album’s middle, as “Nevada” and “Reste Avec Moi” could both pass for lost Bacharach compositions. The cheeky bastards even did a period-piece cover of the Stone Roses’ “I Am the Resurrection”; amazingly, that works, too.

Codeine Velvet Club is a most pleasant surprise, especially considering it comes hot on the heels of Fratelli’s underwhelming sophomore effort. There’s a statement in here somewhere about how it took a couple Scots to make a good old-fashioned American pop record, but we’re not really in the mood to point fingers – we’re just glad someone still remembers how it’s done. (Dangerbird 2010)

Codeine Celvet Club MySpace page
Click to buy Codeine Velvet Club from Amazon

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