Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sneaky sideblog post

Check out my hastily-written highlights for 2009 over at Popwreckoning

Another agreeable article

Ok, so I might be cheating by simply pointing to articles written by other people here. But if someone else has nicely articulated what I've been thinking then why should I make the effort to re-write it myself? This article is from a Canadian weekly called the Eye (or Eye Weekly?) and goes into the phenomenon of too much music -- something that I've been pondering about recently too. Was I better off when the only music I could really focus on was what I could afford? When I was forced to make choices rather just download anything I was interested in? Most of the music I get now barely gets listened to, and it is hard to keep up with all the latest it bands, before the next ones come along. Something has changed. The author also touches upon the lack of a culture to attach on to when everything is so fragmented and all you know about a band is... nothing really. Music becomes background noise. I've also been getting into buying vinyl records of albums I really like, and those become the songs and records I really listen to. Not sure how things will evolve from here, though I recently read another article about the next decade in music which basically focused on streaming as the next big thing -- we won't even own music any more, we'll just listen to our self selected radio-like streams -- sounds a bit crap if you ask me. But that was written by some tech nerd so who knows.

Too much music?

PS I will not miss big stadium acts

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Return of Massive Attack

I posted a new Portishead track a few weeks ago and now it's time to post the next single from Massive Attack featuring Hope Sandoval formerly of Mazzy Star. Portishead and Massive Attack basically invented "trip hop" music with their debut albums back in the early nineties. Until recently, Portishead stayed true to their low tempo, spy music sound, whereas Massive Attack always innovated and changed their sound with every album, using guest vocalists, and morphing into a live band with their third album, Mezzanine.

After that, things went decidedly downhill. So much so that Massive Attack's last album, 2003's 100th Window, was released by 3D by himself and was, well...not that great. Thankfully, Daddy G's back for LP5 and judging by this track, and the list of collaborators for the new album (Damon Albarn, Guy Garvey, Martina Topley-Bird, and others), it should be a good one. Heligoland should be out around February 8/9 2010. This track's called Paradise Circus:

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holistic goodness

Here's my review of Holistic's album Technicolor

Can the retro sound from popular TV shows and pop music of the 60s’ fuse with hip-hop? A range of artists have tried to answer that question and this is what the group Holistic has done with their latest album Technicolor.

Holistic is comprised of three young men who originally hail from Indiana, but have been based in NYC for several years. The Iron Sheik, Iz Inferno, and Rad Nice are all emcees, and the Iron Sheik and Iz Inferno double up as the producers of the group.

The three members each bring something unique to the emceeing table: Iz Inferno has a deep, addictive, voice; Rad Nice has catchiness and thump; while the Iron Sheik gives listeners lots of rhythm. Their verses cover a seemingly bizarre range of subjects, from watching NBC in the morning to the trauma of police brutality -- Holistic aren't afraid to rap about what they see around them.
Many songs on the album feature sounds reminiscent of the 60s’ era, hence the retro-sounding title Technicolor. In theory, one may think that sounds reflective of the Woodstock generation would not mesh well with hip hop rhythms and rhymes, but I found that Holistic make it work, and it works well.

Check out “NBC” for example, which appears early on in the album. The song features an intriguing loop that seems straight out of a classic TV show. With low, rolling bass, the boys of Holistic enter the tune with their verses, and show how hip hop can evolve by using the unlikeliest of sources from the past.

Another example from the album is “D’Accord”, where Holistic display their fondness for the French language. Here, the main layer of the song could be right in place on an album that’s over 40 years old. The group display a flair for coming up with a revitalizing sound for a hip hop track.

“Supercool” is another top track, and is their latest single (check out the link below for the stylish video, directed by Rad Nice.) The song is more conventional in its production than the other tracks with vintage elements, but still provides plenty of head-bopping and can be put on repeat.

The song from Technicolor that truly showcases the emcee skills of the trio is “Summertime Sky”. Listening to Holistic’s voices, heavy rhythms, and lyrics, on top of a relaxed beat, makes you think of, well, summertime. In my opinion, “Summertime Sky” deserves lots of airplay.

Holistic have an experimental style of hip hop, and don’t limit themselves to targeting Muslim-only audiences or topics, which is a refreshing change from some other Muslim acts. Give them a listen and you will also be hooked - and might find yourself repeating, “The world looks mighty good to me, I start my days with NBC! Whatever it is, I think I see, I think I see!”

Go here to see Holistic’s website.

Check out their latest single "Supercool" which has a pretty groovy video.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Simian Mobile Disco

I hear this song all over the radio in the UK. The first time I heard it the reviewers trashed it, but since then I've only heard good things about it. It's a typical uplifting trance/house/whateveryouwannacallit number. It should get you in the mood to party though, which is almost never a bad thing. If you like what you hear below, make sure you check out their MySpace page.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Soap Kills

I first heard of the band Soap Kills a few months ago when I got word of Y.A.S., which comprises of Yasmine Hamdan, the former singer of Soap Kills, and Mirwais, the famed electronic producer who produced Madonna's Music album.

I have been reading Pity the Nation by Robert Fisk which is an account of Lebanon's 15-year civil war. The band Soap Kills pops in my mind frequently because the band's name was meant to not let the Lebanese forget about the war, despite reconstruction's attempts to wash away the memories of war.

Here's an excerpt from this very insightful and intriguing interview that is about Y.A.S., which gives details on the origins of the now-defunct Soap Kills. The following is what got me very interested in the band:

"Zeid and Yasmine wrote a song together called Soap Kills, which was meant, at the time, as a scathing commentary on the reconstruction of Beirut after the civil war.

“With all the war being wiped clean,” recalls Zeid, “we thought, wow, it’s shiny and it’s awful.” More than just a song, they also thought Soap Kills would be a good name for a band. And so, one of the legendary stories of the Beiruti underground began.

For nearly a decade, Soap Kills was held up as the next big thing. It was a band that blended old-school Arabic music with trip-hop and downbeat techno, a band that served as an unprecedented artistic hothouse for live experimentation and studio innovation, a band that was always on the verge of a major record deal but never quite made it happen."

So far, I haven't been able to get my hands on many songs by Soap Kills, but here are a couple that I'm very fond of.

I like this one because it fuses classical Arabic singing with some good ol' drum and bass!

This song is cool and definitely threw me off with its reggae tones.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New Portishead

It looks like we might only have to wait until next year for a new Portishead album. That's a extra speedy turn around for Portishead, who spent three years making their second album, and made us wait a whole ten years for the aptly titled "Third" which came out in 2008. A new track has been donated to Amnesty International which you'll find below.

I don't want to spoil the song for you before you take a listen so just check it out. Sounds like familiar territory for Beth Gibbons et al and she doesn't look too happy in the video which is normal for this lot. I'd be interested to know what you think she's singing about.

Monday, December 7, 2009

An Agreeable Article on the Last Decade in Pop Music

Thought I'd share this, especially since it's from the Guardian, my main source for music news. The writer's saying pretty much what I would like to say if I were a better writer -- there are a lot of micro-scenes in music now that are perfectly happy to be micro-scenes, which is all well and good unless you're an obsessive like me who wants to hear everything that's good. What he says about the lack of musical progress during the decade is something I hadn't really thought about, but it makes total sense, especially when contrasted with other decades. There's been a lot of rehashing but nothing really really new that's captured the public's attention -- not sure if I see that changing in the future? If people have easy access to their preferred micro-scenes, and are happy with that, then what need is there for a big mainstream change? Another article on the site also mentioned how easy it is now to access old music, which ends up competing with our attention too. Add DVD box sets, Youtube, DVR's, free newspapers, blogs, etc etc, and it's enough to make you miss FM radio and four TV channels as your only access to pop culture! Or is that just me?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

who's afraid?

Here we go, a minimalist contribution from me. Don't know much about this track or artist, but I do rather like it, and the vid isn't bad either. Reppin' the adopted hometown:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Viva la house! via: Deep Dish

Sorry for the hiatus folks, us Ashrafs have been doing a fair bit of travelling, not together of course otherwise we'd hurt each other.

I figured its time for me to do another 'Viva la house!' post. Of course, any househeads who come across this blog will have heard of Deep Dish, a very famed Iranian-American duo based out of Washington D.C. They did used to have a record shop called Yoshitoshi in Georgetown which I went to once a few years ago, and was very geeked to see.

Here is one of my favourite tracks, their remix of "Rise" by Gabrielle. I used to play this in the car in high school and would drive more slowly on purpose so that I could enjoy the full 9 minutes. This song is I think, really beautiful. I love all the channels and valleys, the build-ups and break-downs, that the song navigates.
(Edit - the link disappeared, am working on finding another one!)

This here is "The Future of the Future" from their 1998 album Junk Science which I highly, highly recommend. This song is also very well-crafted in my opinion.