Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Sadies: Hope For A New "Season"

If you didn't spend November through March in Michigan, you didn't miss much. Unless of course, you consider a ridiculous amount of cold, white snow something worth being around for. This winter brought brought 85 inches of snow to the "Mitten", the most since the '04-'05 season. I'm not really a "winter sports" person, so when I wasn't traveling, I mostly listened to music that reminded me that summer is ahead.

For some reason, alt country was what got me through the tundra-like winter. Not the beer guzzling, American flag waving, pick-up truck love filled country music that I love at tailgates and boat rides in Pinckney. I'm talking about the story-filled, folk flavored country rock, where banjos and fiddles are required and their usually aren't happy endings. And this is where I lose most of you....but its honestly worth a listen.

I blame Neko Case for her turning me onto the genre with the masterpiece, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Her haunting voice, amid the twang and blues inspired narratives, is hard to ignore. When I looked for more of her music, I ran across her frequent collaborators, The Sadies. The Sadies are also natives of Canada (Toronto, ON) recorded with Case on a few tracks ("Make Your Bed", "My '63) and co-wrote some of Case's aforementioned album.

Their newest album, New Seasons, was released in fall 2007 and is the perfect soundtrack for a backwoods summer. According to their website, the band wanted to focus more on lyrics on this 13 song compilation. Considering that many of the songs deal with leaving or moving on from something, its fitting that many of the tracks ("Anna Leigh", "The Land Between") sound tailored for a long drive, with the windows down.

Most of the songs have elements of country, bluegrass, and '60s folk rock resulting in the feel of a backyard bonfire ("Never Again", "Sunset to Dawn"). Standout "Whats Left Behind" profiles a relationship that can't get away from the past. The song's pace seems to echo the subject matter in that things are moving too fast, but going nowhere at the same time. The Sadies even manage to sound epic on the instrumental track, "The Last Inquisition Pt 4". The eerie strings at the start lead to a finish full of sweeping guitars and drums that sound like an old western standoff.

The Sadies' New Seasons could be the most overlooked alt country album of 2007, but shouldn't be missed. The dark and thoughtful narratives embedded in the layered, instrumentation throughout the album make for easy, but engaged listening.

The Sadies - Never Again

The Sadies - Anna Leigh

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Narkworthy 4/22: Paranoid Nark

Well it took me 2 months to compile a worthwhile mixtape, but here it is. There are some club/radio tracks (Stat Quo, Ying Yang Twins), storytelling (Atmosphere, Wale), throwbacks (The Cool Kids, Pacific Division) and comebacks (AZ, The Game). Hopefully, there is something for everyone. Comments and criticism are greatly appreciated.

Paranoid Nark
1. Jay-Z - I Know (Irn Mnky remix)
2. The Game - Big Dreams (produced by Cool & Dre)
3. The Cool Kids - Oscar
4. Wale - Back In the Go Go ft Bun B & Pusha T
5. Wyclef Jean - Fast Car remix ft Lupe Fiasco
6. Stat Quo - Double Bubble
7. AZ - Dead End
8. Pacific Division - F.A.T. Boys '08
9. Big Boi - Royal Flush ft Raekwon & Andre 3000
10. DJ Green Lantern - I'm So Fly ft Akon, Fabolous & Fat Joe
11. FloRida - My Money Right ft Rick Ross & Brisco
12. The Procussions - Little People
13. The Roots - Rising Down ft Wale & Chrisette Michelle
14. PRGz - 'Bama Gettin' Money (Diplo Remix)
15. Jay-Z - Ain't I (produced by Timbaland)
16. Atmosphere - Yesterday
17. Danny Swain - Guess Who's Back ft Naledge
18. Ying Yang Twins - Drop
19. JNan - Rapperman
20. Snoop Dogg - My Medicine ft Everlast
21. Wale - Conclusion
22. Rich Boy - Haters Wish

Paranoid Nark

If you need WinRar, download it here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Narkworthy: April 15th - The Game, Jay-Z

The Game "Big Dreams"
Fresh off an 8 day bid from a weapons charge, Jayceon Taylor aka The Game dropped this menacing street single off of his last album (yeah right), L.A.X. in mid-March. Hoping to rekindle the fire that Cool & Dre laced on "Hate It Or Love It", "Big Dreams" features another classic soul sample, amid big bass and epic horns. The Game mostly spits bravado-filled lyrics peppered with subliminal disses and name-dropping galore, but he at least sounds hungry. I was a big fan of The Documentary and The Doctor's Advocate, but his sophomore set sounded a little deflated at times (see "Scream On'Em" and "Da Sh**"). Glad to hear one of the best in the West is back at it.

The Game - Big Dreams

Jay-Z "I Know" Irn Mnky remix
When Shawn Carter released the accapella version of American Gangster, it didn't generate the fanfare that came with the The Black Album (see The Brown Album and The Grey Album). However, some creative individuals were able to rework Jay-Z's lyrical wizardry into their own concept albums. Newcomer Irn Mnky was crafted A Very British American Gangster filled with the Jay's tracks built from British rock samples. Not all of it works, but "Hello Brooklyn" (Oasis), "Pray" (The Verve) and "I Know" are definite standouts. Somehow, Irn Mnky makes Jay-Z's lyrics sound even more poignant than on Pharell's addictive beat.

Jay-Z - I Know (Irn Mnky remix)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Chris Walla: "Manual" for Indie Rock

The past few Spring seasons, there has been an onslaught of new releases to keep music fans happy and this year has been no different. My iTunes queue and Best Buy visits have increased greatly since the Ides of March. This also results in fits of panic in trying to keep up with the latest hits.

Field Manual, was one album I had been anticipating since a post last November on NPR's superb site, All Songs Considered. The single, "Everybody On", immediately caught my ear with its sway-worthy hook, breezy instrumentation and a unique voice. Until I read the post, I had no idea the familiar voice I heard was Death Cab For Cutie member, Chris Walla. Other than some recent promotion from a co-worker, I really hadn't given Death Cab many listens. I mostly wrote them off as "emo" and didn't give them many spins.

After a few delays and an unexplained incident with customs, Field Manual was released in January. While I wasn't able to give it a thorough listening until March, it was well worth the wait. Walla played all instruments (except drums) on the album and crafted catchy indie pop similar to his production work on Tegan and Sara's The Con. Songs like "The Score" (a political discussion disguised as a pop song) and "Everyone Needs A Home" (an ode to the hardships of Katrina) showcase Walla's ability to make bouncy and listen-able gems with an underlying message.

Field Manual
outlays how to make an smart, indie rock album that performs well after multiple listens and allows Chris Walla to shine on his own. Though it probably won't reach the masses like Death Cab For Cutie's next album, hopefully it will get the props it deserves on year end album lists.

Chris Walla - Sing Again

Chris Walla - Geometry & C

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Million $ Mano: Who? Mano!

"Who? Mano!". When you hear that announcement at the beginning of a song, you know something good is coming. Not to be confused with this guy, Mano aka Million $ Mano straight out of Chi-town has been burning out my i pod with catchy remixes left and right. After noticing he DJ'd at a recent Cool Kids show and insistent promotion from my favorite Chicago blog, Fake Shore Drive, I decided to check him out. The results were more than priceless.

Not to be pigeon-holed in one genre, Million $ Mano's seamlessly brings together sounds of hip-hop with elements of house, and drum & bass. His penchant for speeding up the tempo on popular hits and sparkling some drum flair and house flavors makes his works more than catchy. Mano's interpretation for Mr. West's "Flashing Lights" easily made me forget the melodrama of Kanye's much hyped video. With the help of rapper, Hollywood Holt, he managed to make indie darlings, Matt & Kim, danceable.

Aside from remixes, Mano also has produced for G.O.O.D. Music artist GLC and has a side project, He Say, She Say, with singer Drea. After recently catching the ear of Kanye West, let's hope Million $ Mano soon gets the respect across the globe, he's already getting from Chicago artists.

Look for Million $ Mano on tour with M.I.A. at the Fillmore on May 8th with special guest Holy F***.

Kanye West - Flashing Lights (Million $ Mano Remix)

Million $ Mano - Lady

Shawty Lo - Dey Know (Million $ Mano Remix)

Matt and Kim - Its A Fact ft Hollywood Holt (Million $ Mano Remix)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Narkworthy: April 8th edition

I have mostly complained about the rap/hip-hop game (or the lack there of) for the past year. Some of my peers have even claimed I have given up on what I used to be known for: Pushing new bass-thumping rap onto anyone who will listen in the form of "Nark" mixtapes.

To give a brief history, the "Nark" mixtape was originated by my friend Gutter and he aptly titled it, "The Nark Out Remix: Vol. 1". This blockbuster disc featured the latest and greatest in the Spring of 2006 (Drama, Big Tymers to name a few). As for the name "Nark" (not to be confused with the DEA-affiliated "Narc"), I'm pretty sure it simply sounded funny at the time and made no sense, so why not? I inherited the franchise with the next installment on my newly purchased Roxio, external CD drive and tried to drop hits every 4-6 weeks. I pretty much scoured any file sharing avenue possible (Napster, Limewire, mIRC, etc.), in search of the newest and most exclusive songs rap had to offer.

As of April 2008, there have been over 40 "Narks", many "classics" ("Narked Out Reloaded", at least in my eyes), and plenty of ridiculous titles ("Raiders of the Lost Nark", "Jurassic Nark"). Since I don't make those mixtapes that often, I'm going to try to post a few songs per week that I would deem "Narkworthy". Eventually, when I have enough tracks, I'll then turn these into traditional "Narks", but this should satisfy those that need a rap "fix" instantly. I'll also post "Narked Up", my most recent collection.

1. Paper Route Gangstaz "'Bama Gettin' Money" (Diplo Remix)
Their name is pretty laughable, but I'm not sure I have heard anything like them in awhile. Hailing from Hunstville, Alabama, this crew has a hungry sound that is reminiscent of Three Six Mafia's early days. With the help of producer Diplo, they manage to make a George Michael sample drenched in swampy bass and southern drawl, sound very eerie.

Paper Route Gangstaz - 'Bama Gettin' Money (Diplo Remix)

2. Jay-Z "Ain't I"
After Young Hov got his artistic angst out of his system (last year's amazing, American Gangster), he decided to show youngn's how to flow on any beat. DJ Clue released it and originally claimed it was from S. Carter's next opus. Later, Jay-Z said "Ain't I" was supposed to be on Timbaland's Shock Value, but just missed deadline.

Jay-Z - Ain't I

3. Wyclef Jean ft Lupe Fiasco "Fast Car" remix
Though I haven't checked out Clef's new album, Carnival II: Memoirs of an Immigrant, I probably should if his 1st two singles ("Sweetest Girl", "Slow Down") are any indication. The former leader of The Fugees seems to paint pictures with troubled characters over catchy beats with ease consistently and the remix to "Fast Car" is no exception. Substituting Paul Simon for Lupe Fiasco brings another great storyteller to the table on a solid remix.

Wyclef Jean ft Lupe Fiasco - Fast Car remix

Narked Up - featuring Jay Rock, Lil' Wayne, Lupe Fiasco, 9th Wonder, Kanye West, and more.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Lollapalooza 2008: Initial Lineup

It has been waaaaaay to long since I have added anything to this site. I was really hoping to not have one of those blogs that gets updated once a month. Hopefully, I will return to form immediately.

Whether it was a clever ploy by Perry Farrell and organizers to drum up more early ticket sales or just an innocent leak, I love it. When the "potential" early line-up for Lollapalooza 2008 leaked Friday via the Chicago Sun-Times, it only validated my recent ticket purchase. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be amped and ready to roast in Grant Park, Chicago August 1st - 3rd. Not only were most of my hopes answered for most of the artists attending. But my recent task of scouring band websites and tour itineraries to see who had the 1st weekend of August free, made many of my guesses correct.

Here is my take on who will be joining me at Lollapalooza:

-Radiohead: I know the basics of their catalog, but I'm excited to have another reason to check out their catalog in preparation. In Colours seemed to be the "it" album of 2007, so no surprise here.

-Nine Inch Nails: I can't lie, I don't know the band's work. Their video for "Closer" creeped me out beyond believe in 7th grade, so we'll see about these cats.

-Rage Against the Machine: I may not be in the middle of the most pit, but I have been looking forward to a Rage reunion. My friends who saw them at Vegoose and Rock the Bells said it was insane. Count me in.

-Wilco & The Raconteurs: I know an equal amount about both bands, very little. I have been impressed with both albums by Jack White's boys and look forward to hear more from Wilco.

-Kanye West: Chicago's son comes home to rock the biggest party in the city. I expect a lot of "Flashing Lights", emotion and specials guests (could we see a CRS performance?). Cannot wait!

The rest:
-Gnarls Barkley: "The Odd Couple" may have turned away mainstreamers without a pop record like "Crazy", but it was still solid. I'm hoping to see some interesting costumes while Cee-Lo spits the Gospel.

-The Black Keys: Yes, yes and yes. These guys have been in heavy rotation in my eardrums since I heard "Your Touch" this winter. Although I'll have to skip their show in Royal Oak, it will only further my anticipation of their throwback, garage rock sound.

-The Cool Kids: Another Windy City act poise to explode from the hype that has already been bubbling. Their '80s inspired rhymes should keep the crowd in a head-nodding frenzy.

-Mates of State, Bloc Party, Office, the Go! Team: All constants on my playlists and will all be part of my plans for that weekend.

-Cat Power, G. Love, Broken Social Scene, Jamie Lidell: Research for the next few months.

-Blues Traveler: What?

-Girl Talk: Do you really have to ask? I'll be there.

Would you like a sample?

Wilco - What A Light

Gnarls Barkley - Going On

The Cool Kids - Action Figures

Mates of State - Goods (All In Your Head)

Bloc Party - Hunting For Witches

Office - Oh My

The Go! Team - Grips Like A Vice

Girl Talk - Pure Magic