As a self-professed anglophile and fiancee to one very cheeky Brit, I certainly appreciate the many aspects of our wry, Founding Fathers. From stodgy meals, statuesque cathedrals and sublime music, England is a nation enriched in all aspects: cuisine, culture and most importantly, creativity.
My most recent English example? Indie/blues/rock/soul/funk mash-up musicians known as The Heavy.
Hailing from Britain’s rain-sopped turf are The Heavy; four very talented lads who emerged onto the music scene circa early 2000s. Their most notable song, “How You Like Me Now?” has been featured in countless adverts, movies and video game trailers (and was the first tune that sparked my fan frenzy).
The Heavy reeks of rawness. They’re uncut and unparalleled artists who perform as well at gigs as they do on VEVO. I would know; I’ve frequented three of their concerts within the past two years, and have yet to be disappointed.
While The Heavy is relatively under-the-radar, their undeniable talent is worthy of high accolade. Take a peek at the ghoulish video for their new single, “Can’t Play Dead,” and let us know your take on this British, bass-heavy/bad-ass band.
While most kids ran around the park, scrapping elbows and playing Pirates, I sprawled out on my bed and copied the lyrics of my favorite Petula Clark song. My name is Melanie, and I am the oldest 25-year old that ever lived.
I was born with the heart of a 1960s hippie, twenty years too late. I blame my folks for this. My parents spent their youth as bell-bottomed teens with a penchant for the classics, particularly music birthed from Great Britain. In turn, they passed their “peace and love, man” ideals to yours truly. In middle school, I was the musically misplaced ‘oldies fanatic’ during ‘NSYNC mania. I hummed doo-wop songs before I even knew what ‘hip-hop’ was, and Justin Timberlake had nothing on a young Paul McCartney, bowl-cut and all. (To this day, I’m pretty sure I can belt out any Beatles tune if you ask nicely.)
What’s the point of this pretentious anecdote? To showcase the moment I nearly lost faith in contemporary music, upon stumbling across Justin Bieber’s “Baby” video on MTV. Once I had processed the mind-numbing chorus of: “Baby, baby, baby, oh // Like baby, baby, baby, no // Like baby, baby, baby, oh // I thought you’d always be mine, mine,” I could only sit on the sofa, absolutely dumbfounded. I felt as if I had just witnessed the decline of all human effort, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I was the only person in the world who would actively campaign to get his songwriter fired.
To my relief, Bieber soon went bye-bye and a new video emerged like a musical Godsend. A solo artist named Gary Clark, Jr. swooped in to restore my optimism in the modern music industry. For the next five minutes, I was in guitar-riff heaven; captivated by this musician who shredded his way into my heart with a classic Gibson ES335.
Brazenly referred to as the modern-day Jimi Hendrix, Gary Clark, Jr. is the Texas-based crooner making waves with his commanding “cool cat” persona and fuzzy guitar rhythms. Though he has gained some notoriety on the indie-blues rock scene, Gary Clark, Jr. is relatively under wraps. For someone who has harnessed old-school influences to produce a modern blues vibe, this is one artist truly deserving of global recognition.
Listen to his first single, “Bright Lights,” a song chronicling his journey of self-exploration in the unforgiven metropolis of NYC. What’s your take on this up-and-coming artist? Is Gary Clark, Jr. the reincarnation of old-school rock?
For a country smaller than the state of Florida, England incessantly burgeons with musical talent. A modern “British Invasion” has emerged on this year’s music front, with radio charts offering an English mash-up of thumping bass and the thrum of banjos. From Alex Clare’s experimental drum-and-bass to Ellie Goulding’s indie pop melodies, the eclectic range of British influence has made an influential mark on the contemporary music scene.
Another innovative artist climbing the UK charts is twenty-two year old Delilah; a London-based songstress gaining notable praise with her debut album, “From the Roots Up.” The freshman LP skillfully combines ambient, electro-bass beats with sultry, R&B vocals; successfully achieving a bold range of genre-bending tracks.
Delilah’s first single “Go” samples lyrics from the 1983 Chaka Khan hit, “Ain’t Nobody,” while flawlessly incorporating her own edgy, carnal-driven undertones. The provocative track peaked at #21 on the UK Singles Chart, and amassed heavy radio rotation.
“From the Roots Up” is a candid showcase of Delilah’s lyrical versatility, offering realistic – at times haunting – accounts of love and lust. Physical expression is glorified throughout the album, highlighting her frank and unapologetic approach to sexuality.
Delilah is certainly an artist on the rise, presenting a fresh culmination of innovation and talent, but what’s your opinion? Take a peek at the creative video for her single, “Love You So,” and see if this English artist tickles your fancy….
Underground Rapper of the Week is a new feature designed to raise awareness of rappers from all over the world who, if that world were a perfect place, would be more famous than they are. It will be updated every Tuesday before the sun goes down. Feel free to email suggestions of slept-on rappers from your city or wherever to: email@example.com
Photo credit: Jon Behm
Sitting down to write a few hundred words about one of Minneapolis’s best and most important rappers, I was unexpectedly led down an hour-long rabbit hole of procrastination, or “research.” That is because Guante (aka Kyle Tran Myhre), in addition to being a stellar emcee and spoken-word poet, is also a prolific and essential writer on the state of Hip-Hop and many other aspects of pop culture, and I was overdue for a perusal of his latest blogposts. Just to give you a good starting point on those, and some good talking points with which to pick apart this very article you’re reading now, check out his satirical, insightful and very funny looks at “How to Write About Hip-Hop,” “How to Read About Hip-Hop” and the exceptionally hilarious “Hip-Hop: A Panel Discussion.”
Done? Good. Let’s get on to the man and his music. Guante originally hailed from Madison, Wisconsin, where he was a formidable figure in their poetry and Hip-Hop scene, spitting fierce, politically charged poems and raps with uncommon artistry and humor. It was upon moving to the Twin Cities of Minnesota in 2007, however, that he really started to make his presence known. After signing to Tru Ruts/Speakeasy Records, he dropped his debut album, El Guante’s Haunted Studio Apartment, a massive, 27-track manifesto that showcased his talents both over beats and a capella, including the wildly original love poem, “Love in the Time of Zombies” (in my opinion, he actually topped this one for creative brilliance with “The Last Words of a Roach, Underfoot”). That same year, he helped lead the St. Paul National Poetry Slam Team to 13th place, out of approximately 75 teams; teams from St. Paul, both also including Guante, then proceeded to take the #1 slot the next two years in a row.
Lest you think Guante some kind of coffeehouse, hipster, “conscious” rapper, though, witness the ferocity of his free mixtape, Conscious Is Not Enough 2011. On this record, which served as my introduction to his music, Guante takes aim at “music writers [who] love political emcees, conspiracy theories, pandering and rhetoric that’s empty,” while retaining the dry, satirical humor of tracks like “Your Boyfriend’s a Republican,” which first appeared in a different form on Studio Apartment, but appears here over the wonderfully buoyant instrumental from Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.” Even on self-professed “super-serious” work like 2010′s collaboration with producer Big Cats!, An Unwelcome Guest, Guante’s deadpan humor can be found, especially in his frequent employment of superhero imagery and references to the cult sci-fi series Firefly. Some of this might not be caught on a single listen, but that’s fine because Guest, a dense and complex concept album about no less ambitious a topic than the end of the world, demands repeat listens. A free companion mixtape to that album, Don’t Be Nice, is also highly recommended. Until next time, I’ll leave you with this, a live performance of “Dragons,” which is quite possibly my favorite love song ever written.
It’s nice to see that ’60s lounge cool has yet to go out of style. Heck, if anything, it’s making a big of a comeback in the indie community. Jon Fratelli put his “Chelsea Dagger” day job on hiatus in order to make a boy/girl ’60s pop record with his wife’s best friend (they’re called Codeine Velvet Club, and they’re super cool), and let us not forget the ultimate hipster, slightly retro boy/girl duo the Bird and the Bee, whom the blogosphere keeps trumpeting, even though their tribute album to Daryl Hall and John Oates left us cold. More than cold, really. Frozen.
Enter the Moor, boldly going where, well, no one has made money in decades. This is to our immense gain, of course, not to mention some up and coming filmmaker who wants to use a Nancy Sinatra song without paying for a Nancy Sinatra song. “Warm Winter,” the leadoff track to their self-titled album, actually brings to mind a couple of bands from across the pond, with an extra jump over a fjord – Club 8 and the Acid House Kings. Those bands, like the Moor, are boy/girl duos, and all three are suckers for the mellow ’60s vibe, not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Oh man, is this easy on the ears. Just when we’re tempted to concede that new bands just don’t know how to construct a song the way they had been built for, oh, 35 or 40 years, along come the Wandas, an east coast quartet (Boston, if you can believe it) with a serious West Coast fixation. And we don’t say ‘if you can believe that’ in a derogatory manner; in fact, we lived in Boston for a couple of years, so we speak from experience when we say that the bands that made a name for themselves there, well, don’t sound like this. The only person who comes close is Aimee Mann, and she’s been gone for so long that she hardly counts as a Bostonian anymore.
The Wandas recorded their self-titled album in Montreal, and that makes perfect sense, since their sensibilities are similar to the bands who call Montreal home. In fact, several locals (Stars, the Stills, the Dears) play on the album, and while the Wandas don’t sound exactly like any of those bands, they’re in the same ballpark. Surrender to the mellow vibe. Everything will work out, we swear.
Big words, to be sure, but hot damn, listen to the title track from Matt Lowell’s Swan Lake EP. It’s four notes, the same four notes, carried across several different chords, but in an interesting twist, the song is largely bass-free, with those four notes hitting at an unlikely spot. Musically, it travels this strange land between Joseph Arthur and Guided by Voices, but doesn’t really sound like either. Give it a listen, and see if you’re as enthralled as we are.
We’d just like to clear up something, if you don’t mind. Despite the fact that this column is called “Steal This Song,” rest assured that everything we post comes with the band’s permission. The title of the column is a reference to an Abbie Hoffman book from 1971, something that we’re guessing was lost on the nasty commenter who thought we were stealing from some poor little indie band. No one is actually stealing anything, all right? Now let’s move on.
A surefire way to get us to delete a press release is to use the word ‘gypsy.’ (Double negative score if the word ‘psych’ is used in conjunction with ‘gypsy.’) On the other hand, a surefire way to get us to beg for more is to compare your band to Elvis Costello, the Jam and the Police, and it’s a triple word score if you compare one band to all three.
It’s clear from the onset that the Five O’Clock Heroes are fans of the Jam, as their name comes from one of their song titles, but is the Jam an apt comparison? To be honest, not really. This is not to say that the band’s album Different Times isn’t good – just that it doesn’t really sound like the Jam. There is a strong Anglo-pop vibe to it, to be sure, and it’s reminiscent of the time in which the Jam were active (and most popular), but a better comparison might be a UK power pop artist like Bram Tchaikovsky or the Members. Now, that is a trend we wouldn’t mind seeing catch on.
It’s been admittedly quiet on the ESD front, and we’re sorry about that. Other projects got in the way, shame on us. But hopefully this cover of an ’80s smash will make things right.
Yep, it’s that “Don’t You Want Me,” from the forthcoming comedy “Take Me Home Tonight,” starring Topher Grace, Anna Faris and Dan Fogler. If Grace seems a little old to be playing a 20-something kid in the late ’80s, well, you’re right. (He turns 33 this year.) But keep in mind that this movie was shot four years ago, but has been repeatedly delayed because the studio didn’t know how to promote a comedy involving coke use. Funny, that wasn’t a problem in the ’80s. Hell, look at “Bachelor Party.”
As for the cover, it’s actually pretty faithful. It’s a rock version of the song, but they didn’t tear it apart at the seams, either. And man, oh man, is the video great. The band plays the tune while Grace, Faris, Fogler, the lovely Teresa Palmer and Demitri Martin act out iconic scenes from ’80s movies. Bonus points to Faris for the “Norma Rae” reference.
There are few slopes that are as slippery as music that could fairly be described as precious. A wrong move in any direction, and that ‘c’ becomes a ‘tent’, if you know what we mean. It was therefore with great trepidation that we clicked Play on the song from Little Tybee, a group of Georgians whose press release was quick to mention Fleet Foxes. And don’t get us wrong, we like Fleet Foxes…but do we need a dozen of them?
As it turns out, “Nero,” the first song from the band’s upcoming album Humorous to Bees, is probably being done a disservice by being compared to anyone, but you know how press releases work – they need to mention a couple of successful bands to give the reader a reference point (and truthfully, that’s exactly how we like it). If anything, the song reminds us of a less amped version of the Noisettes’ song “Wild Young Hearts,” perhaps refitted for play in a jazz club. Trade out drum sticks for brushes, throw in some fiddle, and groove, man. Good stuff. The record drops in April. Hopefully this will tide you over until then.