Friday, April 9, 2010

5 Rock songs that are ruling my world right now

Record Store Day is a mere 6 days away... let the listmania continue!

Lest you think I'm only about R&B and House music, here's a list of 5 rock songs that I'm loving... not all new by any stretch, but new is overrated.

Spoon - Trouble Comes Running

Spoon's been around for a good while, but I confess I didn't know them until Jaguar used "I turn my camera on" for a commercial. There's some consensus that they might be the best rock group in America, they're certainly consistent, and this song certainly rocks. (I'm particularly into the drumming... great vocals too) From the album "Transference"

Bat For Lashes - Good Love

I'd been reading/hearing the hipster buzz about her for a while, but a trusted source got me to actually listen to her (thanks Tonya!) This particular cut is moody, dreamy, and somewhat creepy. From the album "Two Suns". Love it.

Taken by Trees - Watch the Waves

Got hipped to this by WBEZ's world music show, Radio M. I'm somewhat cheating and calling this rock because of the vocalist Victoria Bergsman, who was lead singer of The Concretes and has done stuff with Peter, Bjorn & John. But in actuality, this cut is a great slice of downtempo with a noticeably funky feel, courtesy in large part of the Pakistani musicians she worked with in creating her latest album "East of Eden", from which this track is taken.

Tunng - Hustle

Great little ditty that came to my attention courtesy of Will over at Deadwax Records (thanks Will!) Love the video also. From the album, "And Then We Saw Land"

Dixie Chicks - Landslide

I guess I'm cheating again, as the Dixie Chicks are a country group... I claim an exemption given that they're covering a Fleetwood Mac tune. Lead singer Natalie Maines can sing, period... and this group's vocal harmonies stop me in my tracks. From the album, "Home".

I'd also highly recommend Shut up and Sing a documentary about the backlash against the group after Natalie Maines spoke out against George Bush and the Iraq War.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Top 5 Rap Songs with Piano in 'em

Record Store Day 2010 is approaching soon ( Saturday, April 17th in case you were wondering ) so I pick up my traditon of "Top 5" lists in honor of the occasion.

My first list for this year is Top 5 rap songs with dope piano riffs

I cannot do a rap list without paying homage to the the definitive reference on the subject, Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists if you're a fan of hip-hop and great writing, this is a great book.

Ok, let's get into it:

Top 5 Rap Songs with Piano in 'em (in no particular order):

Common Sense - Resurrection
Producer: No ID
Album: Resurrection

This is just a classic track anyway and probably my favorite of the tunes in this list. Leaving aside Com's lyrics and flow, which were head and shoulders above the pack then and remain so now, No ID's production is the definition of jazzy hip-hop. The piano sample is from Ahmad Jamal's Dolphin Dance

Gang Starr - F.A.L.A
Producer: DJ Premier
Album: Hard to Earn

Guru really says it all in one of his lyrics on the track: "Suckas we wet to the sound of the dope piano..."

The basis of the sample is actually pretty brief, but it's flipped as only Primo can do it... the loop is chopped at an odd point in the phrase, and as it plays alone in the song's intro, it imparts a sense of being off-balance... and then of course the beat kicks in and the neck snapping commences. I'm reminded that Hard to Earn came out around the same time as the first Wu-Tang album... they have a similar sonic palette. I can't ID the sample, and I'm sure Primo would have it no other way!

Marley Marl - The Symphony
Producer: Marley Marl
Album: In Control Vol 1

Features rappers Masta Ace, Craig G, Kool G Rap, & Big Daddy Kane. Not sure if this meets the technical definition of a posse-cut, but it's definitely a classic. Marley Marl conducts a clinic on how to make space in the mix... dropping out the piano riff strategically to give each rapper room on the track. Definitely a classic.

BDP - The Bridge is Over
Producer: Scott LaRock
Album: Criminal Minded

Actually a diss-track directed at Marley Marl and his Juice Crew, this is prototypical boom bap from BDP. Consisting of a beat machine, piano, and KRS-One's rhymes... you can't get any simpler. And in the lingo of the day, you couldn't get any more dope.

Jay Z feat. Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind
Producer: Shux
Album: The Blueprint 3

Interesting to listen to this one right after BDP, you can hear the growth of hip-hop from a raw style into capital-P pop (although some might argue whether this represents "growth"... let's just call it "development" and avoid the aesthetic argument, aight?) For my part, I think this is an awesome cut.

Honorable Mentions

Elliot Lipp feat Jasia 10 - I Don't Know
Producer: Elliot Lipp
Album: City Synthesis

The intro to this one is just awesome. Although not as well known as some the other producers in this post, Elliott Lipp is pretty badass. I love how the piano comes in and out of the track as other instruments pickup the melody. Jasia 10's direct and impeccable flow is a great counterpoint to the track's otherwise airy feel.

Talib Kweli - Get By
Producer: Kanye West
Album: Quality

Must admit I slept on this when it first came out... love it now. Talib's liner notes indicate he was in competion for with Pharoahe Monch and Mariah Carey for this track. I'm trying to imagine what Mariah would have done with this track. I'm glad brother Kweli got it first!

Gucci Mane - Lemonade
Producer: Bangladesh
Album: The State vs. Radric Davis

I think producer Bangladesh might be one of my favorites of the last few years (he also produced the beat for Mario's Break Up, which is just sick). He kills it again with this beat for Gucci Mane. This is a chopsticks interpolation that I'm sure would have Liberace bobbing his head. (note: the link is to the instrumental... not trying to diss Gucci Mane, but the lyrics and flow really don't deserve the beat)