Monthly Archives: January 2014

Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis

I’m hunkering down to get a bunch of non-bloggy writing done this week, but I wanted to tell you about the A+ album I’ll be listening to while I’m working — Lights From the Chemical Plant by Robert Ellis. NPR’s doing a First Listen right now, which is how I heard about it, and I’d recommend checking it out.

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MIttenfields

Mrs. YHT and I are Amtrakin’ it up to New York City for the weekend, snow accumulation be damned. (If we see Jay Z, we’ll tell him you said hello.) I’d like to leave y’all with a musical away message that doubles as a show recommendation:

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The Low Branches

The Low Branches

I can remember the first time I got a recording of a show I’d just witnessed. It was while I was in college — Soulive at the Canal Club. I almost didn’t go — I wasn’t the biggest fan and agreed to go at the last minute, but I loved it. Looking back, as jammy as Soulive may be, that show represented a significant step in my quest to access jazz. I couldn’t believe the dexterity of keys player Neal Evans, who was pulling double-duty by playing synth bass with his left hand. I’ve since learned that this is typical for Soulive, but it seemed incredible to me. I stared at Evans for large chunks of each song, totally awestruck. Focusing on a single player like that has become one of my main techniques for appreciating genres I’m less familiar with, and it worked wonders at that show.

They had CD burners at the merch table, and you could buy a two-disc recording on your way out. $15 bucks, I think. Easy as that. I know (and knew then) that people have been taping shows and trading recordings for ages, but it felt like the future to me. You heard something, then you had it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that night was the dividing line between two worlds — the world in which I watched and listened to live music without worrying whether I’d see or hear it again, and the world I live in now, wherein I consciously ask myself whether I’m seeing/hearing this concert for the first time or for the last time. I process performances differently if it’s the latter. I try to be more present.

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Isaac Hayes

Isaac Hayes

A quick epilogue to last week’s J. Clyde post:

I got to see his beat-making operation up close just before Christmas, including his killer record collection. Dude has a lot of records. Thousands. I was especially jealous of his soul collection, despite the fact that I hadn’t heard of half the groups represented. The more obscure something was, the more fun it was to see him walk over, put it on the turntable and drop the needle on the tiny snippet that was sampled in a rap song I’ve heard dozens of times.

He has these relationships tucked away in his brain, but while we listened he told me about an iPhone app that helps neophytes like me make those types of connections. It’s called WhoSampled, and it’s about as much fun as you can have for $2.99 (you can access the same database from your browser for free, FYI). I’ve been using the app more and more lately, and I thought I’d share a quick (unsolicited and unpaid) illustration.

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Karen O

Karen O

I hadn’t heard Karen O’s “The Moon Song” until news broke that it’d been nominated for a best original song Oscar. I don’t usually get worked up about the Oscars’ music categories, aside from being a bit peeved about Jonny Greenwood getting screwed out of a best original score Oscar back in 2008, so I’m not sure why I was so eager to give “The Moon Song” a listen. But eager I was, and I wasn’t disappointed. What a wonderfully articulated song. It’s small, like a kind gesture or a moment of contentment, yet I don’t doubt that its emotional impact could be huge (can’t really judge that part until I see Her).

As much as I’m enjoying the song, though, I absolutely love this Rolling Stone article on Karen O’s reaction to her nomination. I’d like to take a quick moment to point out my two favorite parts:

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Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen

I tend to avoid assigning genres to songs and albums. In fact, I almost always enjoy people crapping on the concept of genres. I reveled in the sizable chunk of Doug Nunnally’s interview with The 1975 that dealt with the obsolescence of genre taxonomy, and I got a kick out of Bob Boilen’s recent Question of the Week: “Can you imagine a world without music genres?” NPR’s been on a roll, come to think of it — Ann Powers’ marathon interview with Bruce Springsteen included a nod to the Boss’ 2012 SXSW keynote, which, if you didn’t catch it, was punctuated by the longest and funniest list of genre names you’ll ever hear. (That speech is just plain good for you, I think. I’d recommend watching it at least once a year.)

But I’d like to play devil’s advocate for a second here, because genre-based thinking is key to why I’ve been enjoying Angel Olsen’s new tune “Hi-Five” so much.

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J. Clyde

J. Clyde

I usually keep my New Year’s resolutions private. That’s partly because they’re usually pretty embarrassing, like “Stop being so awkward when talking to strangers” and “Wear your fun sunglasses more often.” It’s also because saying resolutions out loud (or worse — putting them on the Internet), makes them real. It raises the stakes. You become accountable to someone other than yourself, and that’s risky.

Well there’s one dude I know who doesn’t give a flying fuck.

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