It’s NASCAR weekend in Richmond, and that’s got me thinking about Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr. I heard their (fantastic) name at SXSW, but didn’t check out their music until I heard them on Wednesdays Become Eclectic, a weekly feature where the folks at NPR’s Morning Becomes Eclectic showcase up-and-coming artists. I had to hear more, so picked up their Horse Power EP. It’s a powerful example of something I absolutely love: electronic music with a soul. These songs are built on a foundation of drum machines and sampling, but the lyrics and their delivery are charged with emotion, and what results is a beautiful type of art that is simultaneously old and new, organic and synthetic. As if to drive this home, the band even includes a creative, yet faithful, cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” Check out their song “Vocal Chords” below, and if you dig it, head to their website to download a free song called “Morning Thought” from their upcoming full-length debut.
Monthly Archives: April 2011
This might be the coolest picture ever taken. I came across this album cover while flipping through records at Plan 9. My first thought: “Whatever these dudes are selling, $10 is a bargain!” What they’re selling is The Indestructible Beat of Soweto – a snapshot of the diverse urban pop music scene of early 1980’s Johannesburg. This record is totally infectious. Modern influences like jazz and blues combine with a number of African styles, and the result is a 45-minute head-bobbing, day-brightening, spontaneous-dance-inducing party, with a Ladysmith Black Mambazo cherry on top. Should I have expected anything less from an album with such a great cover? The “Unity” visor? Amazing. The red fedora? Home run. The pointing? On point. Take a listen.
I’ve been rooting for Ben Kweller for 14 years. In 1997, my dad showed me a New Yorker article featuring Radish, a band Kweller fronted as a teenager. He was just 15 then. Radish’s success didn’t last, but I never forgot the picture from that article. Nor did I forget the feeling, as a 13-year-old learning to play guitar, that my own rock stardom could be right around the corner. I kept checking in on Kweller, enjoying solo albums Sha Sha and On My Way, but was blown away when I saw him perform at the National on November 12, 2008. It was a new Ben Kweller, reborn as an alt-country act, getting ready to release the aptly titled Changing Horses. It was spectacular. “Fight” and “Sawdust Man” became instant favorites that night, and I was filled with satisfaction seeing a musician I’d been rooting for sound so great.
Important Two Day Coverage, Part II … The Artist: Pretty & Nice.
Last night, I got to see Pretty & Nice at the Southern, a cool venue that’s nestled in a pleasantly dank basement, just steps off Charlottesville’s downtown mall. With some in the crowd sitting campfire-style at co-frontman Holden’s request, the band tore through a magnificently manic-yet-precise performance. Familiar songs like “Tora Tora Tora” and “Piranha” sounded sharp, and we got to hear a number of new ones (see above for “Yonkers”), all oozing the same mastery of melody, pace, dissonance and dynamics that made me such a fan of their last full-length, Get Young. After the set, co-frontman Jeremy shared that they’ve tracked these new tunes, and plan to mix at John Vanderslice’s new B studio, Minitel, eying a late summer or fall release. I’m super excited to hear the result.