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Another month has come and gone and somehow we are now in August. This last month was a blur for me between balancing out my semi-creative professional life with my semi-professional creative life as two creative projects came to fruition. The first being the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles which brought together many hard-working creative rockin’ chicks from all over LA (and even neighboring states and cities) to help teach little girls the right way to rock your face off, all the while building self-esteem and self-empowerment over the course of a super inspiring week. The second was the launch (currently in test mode) of TRAffIK Radio, which brought (and will continue to bring) together many talented individuals involved in various areas of the LA Arts scene. You can currently listen to the live stream at www.intraffikradio.com as well as check out the schedule for the dj hosted shows, which will begin/resume as early as this Saturday August 7th at noon. Once we go live, we’ll introduce all of those djs and shows to you.
Music is always a big part of my life, and from those fore-mentioned two projects and since July almost felt like two months put together (at least for me), I’m sure you can guess that this past month I once again listened to much more than my fair share of music to get an idea just add several thousand more songs on to this July playlist (no not kidding, seriously). On with my July Playlist:
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – “Home”
I’m currently somewhere between still loving this song (I can still listen to and enjoy the whole album) and starting to get over it. It seems like it’s been playing in every single place I go, by every single person I know. It’s been over a year since this was released right? You’d think it just got put out last month. I am glad that Alex Ebert (formerly of Ima Robot) brought us this project, though and that he’s continuing to make music, especially such good music. This is one of my only real motivations to make it to Sunset Junction this year after having skipped the past couple of festival installments, as it’s always fun to watch them live.
Altered Images – “Dead Pop Stars”
There are many, many, many bands I wish I could’ve seen at all or back when they were first starting out. This band is one of those. I would’ve loved to see them play with somebody like Suburban Lawns (no idea if they ever shared a bill). So long as I’m wishful thinking, maybe we could add Talking Heads to that same line-up.
Non Ultra Joy - “Another Day”
I got this track and “Pushing the Brand” hot off the press…err uhm fresh from mastering, just in time to include in our test run live stream of www.intraffikradio.com (thank you John Girgus), this is a very new local LA band full of super nice talented guys that you should check out live. I also just saw that Notes from Vivace also has them on his playlist! So they made it on both of ours with only two songs released thus far. (more…)
Moby hasn’t been relevant for quite some time so i figured why not talk about his most recent album. “Wait for Me” came out at the end of 2009, a full ten years after his breakthrough shining moment, 1999’s “Play.” After “Play“, Moby released three other albums that, according to Pitchfork, wouldn’t have added up to a 10. They can be quite harsh at times. Sadly their scoring does change the way the music loving population looks at an artist. Because of these failures, ”Wait For me” went largely ignored. Present company included. Truth be told “Wait For Me” would still be unnoticed on my iTunes if I hadn’t gotten tired of my sleep play list. You see i suffer, like most people I’m sure, from the inability to sleep in a silent space. Some people uses fans for ambient noise, other people use the gentle caress of a TV. Those wouldn’t work for me. I get cold and distracted easily. (Goodfellasis on AMC! Hmm, I own it on bluray..and this is edited and full of commercials, but what the hell! Why not?!) Me? I use a specially crafted iTunes play list. My rules are simple: It has to be seven and 1/2 hours long (as that is how much I’d like to sleep) and it has to contain full albums. No singles. The jarring changes would throw off my REMS (not of the Michael Stipe variety). After growing tired of Sleep Mix #1 (Antlers – “Hospice,” Beck – “Sea Change,” Bon Iver – “For Emma,” Pink Floyd – “Animals,” Cass McCombs – “Catcacombs,” etc) I created Sleep Mix #2, highlighted by JJ, Jonsi, Beach House, and Johnny Cash. When I needed to flesh it out to the appropriate length I blindly threw Moby’s “Wait For Me” in for filler. After doing that I found myself stirring from my sleep every morning while the play list was was playing at almost exactly the same spot. My subconscious was hearing something and responding to it favorably. I’d get up to check my iTunes to see what was causing this reaction and every time it was Moby. I hated myself for it. What can I say? There is no Pitchfork in dreamland. I’ve since gone out of my way to listen to the album while I’ve been wide awake and it holds up! Strings wail like tortured souls on “Shot In The Back Of The Head” and I’m reminded that I’ve been told I’m a fan of downer music. Perhaps that’s what resonates with me on this album because it is an epic downer ride full of soul and heartache cut to the most beautiful ambient soundscapes. This album deserved my attention and my subconscious knew it. Now I’m letting you know it. Let us not forget this is the same guy that created ” God Moving Over the Face of Waters” so you owe him a second chance.
Highlights: “Shot In The Back Of The Head,” “Mistake,” “Division,” “Study War”
It’s a well known fact that I’m a cover song whore. I might be the only person in LA that has all of the Johnny Cash American Recordings, all of the Me First and The Gimme CDs, and this week insisted on purchasing Scratch My Back, the new Peter Gabriel CD. Yes it is true that I haven’t listened to a Peter Gabriel CD since Lloyd Dobler lifted a moderately sized boombox with cartoonish supersonic range to win back the love of Diane Court, but if he’s putting out an album’s worth of covers then I’m putty in his hands. Digging into the tracks I have to say it is a bit lacking. That’s not to say that the choices are uninspired because that couldn’t be further from the case. Gabriel chose some amazing songs from such favorites as Bon Iver (“Flume”), The Arcade Fire (“My Body is a Cage”), and The Magnetic Fields (“The Book of Love”). It’s the approach that was taken that bothers me. In stripping away the drums and the guitars, Gabriel turned these songs into self serving flat whisperfests with nothing behind them. There’s no heart. No soul. What Gabriel must not have understood is that the science of a good cover is to take the opportunity to honor the source material while completely re-inventing it, making it your own in a way that people will recognize its source but, if done properly, they’ll appreciate it more than the original. It is a tough feat, but a goal that one should aspire to. This approach has worked in the past as a launching pad for people like Gary Jules (“Mad World”), Jeff Buckley (“Hallelujah”), and Cat Power (“I Found a Reason”). By leaving the heart of these tracks in place and giving them a makeover these artists forever took ownership of the songs. Trent Reznor himself will tell you that “Hurt” now belongs to Johnny Cash forever. I doubt Thom Yorke will be saying that about Peter Gabriel’s spin on “Street Spirit”.
Clearly I’m bitter for wasting the money.
Worry not my loyal readers. My sad feelings quickly subsided when I was sent an advance copy of LA’s own Robotanists’ forthcoming EP Shapes and Variations. Where Peter Gabriel failed, the Robotanists succeed. Like I said earlier it is very rare when a cover song surpasses the original. Amazingly enough on their upcoming EP the Robotanists manage to pull off this trick seven times. Seven times they reinvent a popular song. Seven times they take ownership of the covered material. I hate to give someone overflowing credit, but not only do they take ownership but they do it with songs that are part of the popular zeitgeist. It’s as if they shouted out “Hey Gabriel, it’s one thing to cover Bon Iver’s “Flume” but try covering Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” It takes balls to do that..and balls are what the Roboantists have. Balls and beautiful lead vocals. Judging from the songs selected (“Empire State,” “Are You Really Going Out With Him,” “Dance Dance Dance,” “Heaven”) one would think that the band was challenged to make the most overplayed songs listen-able again. They rose to the challenge and then some. (more…)
Way back in the stone age that was 1994, people had to borrow cds from each other if they wanted to sample new music. If something really struck you then you’d grab a cassette and make a copy. Taping off the radio was just too annoying and none of the deeper cuts ever got played. It all seems weird to me now but that was the world we lived in. CD exchanges were the precursor to Napster, Limewire and bit torrents. The only problem was you’d run the risk of a never getting your CD back. Sure there was a code of honor with these deals but if the other person fell hard for your album they’d use classic snail tactics to keep the cd in their possession a bit longer. I did this with U2’s Zooropa. I know I know it sound’s crazy. I’m not one to give U2 too much credit around these parts but if not for them I’d never have learned of Johnny Cash. You see back then when U2 was sucking on a completely different level then they are now (ex: Numb, Lemon, their PopMart tour) they closed out their Zooropa album with a synth bass driven song about a man’s search for God in the post-apocalyptic future that shook me to my core. In place of of Bono’s preachy falsetto there was a vocalist with a death welcoming bass baritone who kind of scared me. I’d never heard anything like it. Thanks to that one guest spot on The Wanderer I held on to that CD and never asked for my copy of Urge Overkill’s Saturation back.
Shortly after Zooropa Cash was dropped by his record label and was reborn under the guiding hand of super producer Rick Rubin. Together they released the American Recordings series – a series of cover albums (peppered with some original Cash tracks – stand out “”When the Man Comes Around“) that would vault him into the mainstream and establish a whole new generation of followers who would eventually refer to him as “That guy from that Joaquin Phoenix movie.”
Looking to reclaim his legacy seven years after his death the “Man in Black” has pulled a 2Pac and released his second posthumous album. This collection of covers doesn’t have the star wattage of previous American Recordings…but it doesn’t need it. Recorded on his death bed, Cash managed to squeeze all sorts of otherworldly vibes out of the selected offerings. He even manages to make Sheryl Crow sound down right biblical. The tone of the album is very “un-man in black,” and is a nice contrast to the lasting image everyone has of him– the painful death soaked cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”. Compared to that track, this album is downright joyful. Speaking of “Hurt,” many a person will tell you that it is the best cover track from the American Recordings. I disagree. As a lover of both lists and covers, I give you the top 5 Johnny Cash covers to have appeared on the American Recordings.
Click to play.
Highlights: “Redemption Day,” “Ain’t No Grave,” “Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound,” “Cool Water”