Here’s a pick-me-up quick mix for your first Monday after the famous Thanksgiving of 2011. You’ve set aside the turkeys stuffed with ham stuffed with chicken strips; it’s time to get back to work, school, school work or work school.
Get ready to get ready!
Not a lot of time to write today, so this week’s TT is gonna by live. WE’LL DO IT LIVE. Well, sort of. Actually, not really, but as close as I can get.
If you’ve ever been to a concert, you know that no live recording can ever capture the experience of actually being there, in the thick of it. The crowds, the screaming, the picnics, the weather, the little jokes by the band. Not to mention the glorious sound and thunderous acoustics. Just like no picture can truly ever capture everything about a moment, neither can a live recording at a concert. But pictures are awesome, and so are live recordings. QED.
But really. There are some bands out there that are no longer, and it makes me sad to think that they’ll never make another song. And that’s where live music comes in. Even if they’re singing a song you know, live recordings always have-a-somethin shiny and new about them. They’re never quite like the original, and sometimes I’ll find myself playing the live version over the mastered version. It’s nice hearing the applause, the foot thumping, and the occasional (one-sided) conversation between the artist and the audience. Check out some of my favorite live recordings:
ZIP or individually below:
MP3: “Welcome (#7)” – Wynton Marsalis Septet
MP3: “In The Sweet Embrace of Life” – Wynton Marsalis Septet (62 mb, 54:43)
[^^These two go together, the first is the introduction to the song that follows. Listen for the coughs and tinkling of wine glasses.]
MP3: “The Dangling Conversation (live)” – Simon & Garfunkel
MP3: “Desperado (live)” – Eagles
MP3: “Knife (live)” – Grizzly Bear
MP3: “No Woman No Cry (live) – Bob Marley
MP3: “Dark Matter (live)” – Andrew Bird
MP3: “Love of My Life (live)” – Queen [listen for the audience singing a verse]
MP3: “”39 (live)” – Queen [fun fact: this song is about time dilation]
MP3: “Familiar Terrain (live)” – Bobby Birdman
Also, check out this awesome NPR recording of Chris Thile and Michael Daves that one of my friends showed me. Be warned, it’s bluegrass, and it’s awesome. Chris Daves (with glasses) looks the part of a bluegrass fella, but he can wail on guitar. And I have it on good word that Chris Thile is the greatest mandolin player ever:
We’ve all been there before — on Facebook, Google+, or maybe (god forbid) even myspace. We’re there, staring at the “favorite music” section, scheming about what artists we should write in to portray our true musical identity. Or perhaps our not-so-true musical identity. Pshh, no one needs to know about that Christina Aguilera album I listen to everyday when I work out. Or maybe Pshh, so what if I only have one Dr. Dre song, I swear he’s one of my favorite artists. Yeah, I’m talking to you.
I can’t lie, I’ve been there done that. Topping my guilty pleasure top three list is probably 1. True Blood, 2. Girl Scout Thin Mints, and 3. Akon. Love me some good Akon. Still, even if it’s true, I probably wouldn’t tell people that on any sort of social media (wait…fuck). Anyways, to be honest, I’ve always found it too treacherous to fill those “favorite music” sections out, and anytime I do end up writing something, I delete it eventually. It never seems to quite convey the musical identity I want it to…or maybe it’s that it makes me feel toolish. I don’t know. But what if Facebook automatically plugged in the favorite music section by connecting to your iTunes/iPod and adding the top 10 played artists/songs? What would it show? For me, Andrew Bird would sit at number one, by a disgusting and beautifully vast lead. Yet mingled in there, though, are songs I would never dare admit I listen to (*cough* Justin Bieber *cough*). C’mon, judge me. Fuck you.
MP3: “Sunny Day” – Akon
I’m squirming at the idea of posting this on Sunset. But it could’ve been JB, so count your blessings. Listen for Wyclef’s mediocre verse, but awesome voice somewhere around 1:45.
MP3: “The Happy Birthday Song” – Andrew Bird
But back on track, a question this poses is what is one’s true musical identity? Is it what one listens to the most? Or is it something else, like artists one listens to less frequently but finds more meaningful? Maybe artists or songs that have influenced your life in some way. It’s hard to say what it is, but one thing I’m convinced is true is that one’s musical identity is strongly intertwined with one’s identity identity. You’re sitting there filling in your favorite music section, and whether consciously or not, you’re filling it in not to let people know what music you listen to, but to let them know what type of person you are. I’m a gourmet blend of Andrew Bird and Jack Johnson, with some Outkast swirls and a heavy dusting of the finest Jay Z and Eminem. And some after notes of Coconut Records. And I get better with age.
MP3: “Microphone” – Coconut Records.
Coconut Records is Jason Schwartzmann. You know, Darjeeling Limited, Rushmore. Jason Schwartzmann. Check out the wacky but great music video to the song:
And also this amazingly ridiculous iPad advertisement:
Sorry, that must’ve been distracting. Again, anyways, perhaps more indicative of the type of person you are isn’t actually the music you listen to, but the music you want people to think you listen to. I think that might be why I feel uncomfortable filling out “favorites” sections…a part of my brain knows that I’m trying to give off a certain vibe, and another part of my brain is calling that first part a douche. I guess I don’t feel genuine. Does that make sense?
But nevertheless, in terms of accurately portraying the type of person one is, I think that musical identities really are like vibes; they aren’t always accurate, but sometimes they hit the nail on the goddamned head. I remember reading a FML a while back that went something like this: “I’ve been crushing hard on this girl for months, and last night we finally became friends on Facebook. When I went to her page, I saw she was a republican and liked Nickleback. FML.”
My freshman year of college, we all had to fill out a roommate selection form that had fill-in-the-bubble scales of things like how late you stay up, how early you get up, socialness, cleanliness, and a bunch of other things. There was one place to write in your favorite music. Finally, you could choose one of the items on the form to give the most weight to when it came to assigning you a roommate, and I obviously chose music. Not because I cared so much about what he listened to, but because I thought I’d get along best with someone who shared the same musical tastes as I did. Our music tastes weren’t so similar, but he was an awesome roommate nonetheless. I know amazing people who love terrible music. And I also know people who hate my music but don’t think I’m so bad either (I hope).
MP3: “It’s the Chemicals (feat. Scarub)” – Inspired Flight . This song is amazing.
Well, that’s it for another edition Not-So-Throwback Thursday, see you guys next week!
PS: This made me laugh so hard: Every time I smell old milk to see if it’s still ok:
It’s another Thursday, so I hope y’all are thirsty for a little throwback. Today’s TT is continuation of the story I posted last week — how music forever entangled itself within my life, how my music tastes evolved, and I how I ended up listening to what I do. We left off somewhere around the end my high school years, when I left Texas for bigger and badder adventures in the wild wild west…
When I think of the summer after my first year in college, in terms of music, I think of the Cambrian Explosion — when out of the blue, like, 600 million years ago, life decided to diversify like crazy and start being badass. I was working in Beijing and studying Chinese (long story), and I was living with some friends from other California colleges. One of them, my friend Supallav, was a total hip hop snob and connoisseur. I was not. I didn’t know shit about hip hop, top 40 or otherwise. I never thought poorly of hip hop, and I certainly wasn’t one of those guys to ignorantly bag on it — I just didn’t know where to start, and I knew it.
So I asked my friend to give me some of his albums for me to listen to, and he basically sat me down, laughing, and told me he was going to do it the right way. He began introducing me to all the greats and legends one by one, an album a day, and at the same time he’d let me in on their stories, histories, philosophies, controversies and the works. I had an hour commute to and from work everyday. I spent the entire summer walking and riding the Beijing subways to Jay-Z, B.I.G, Nas, Wu-Tang, Lil-Wayne, Eminem, 2pac, Dr. Dre, and on and on. I couldn’t get enough of it. He’d make me listen to all the old school records, something I don’t think I ever would have listened to without him pushing me. I remember standing in crowded ass subways listening to 2pac’s All Eyez on Me or GZA’s Liquid Swords. The first Jay-Z album I heard was Reasonable Doubt. I remember exactly where I was walking the first time Juicy came on when I first listened to Ready to Die. I had no idea how famous that song was, and when I came back to the apartment that night telling my friend how awesome it was, he just sighed and shook his head. Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def, Common, The Roots, Dead Prez, Blu. It was SO good. Kanye and Lupe Fiasco. Every once in a while I’d come back to our apartment, complaining that some of the old school music sounded dated — he’d then play the song on his computer, and break it down for me line by line until I was forced to admit that these guys were clever as hell.
The first song I want to share is D’Evils, from Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt. Another one of those songs were I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it. A super powerful song about friendship and competition between two friends who grew up together — how life hustling on the streets can infect, corrupt, and poison the mind. Look up the lyrics to this song and take your time.
We used to fight for building blocks/now we fight for blocks with buildings that make a killin/The closest friends when we first started/But grew apart as the money grew, and soon grew black-hearted/Thinkin’ back when we first learned to use rubbers/He never learned so in turn I’m kidnappin’ his baby’s mother
MP3: “D’evils” – Jay-z
Hidden Bonus Track on Johnson&Jonson’s self titled album (Blu and producer Mainframe). If you’ve never heard of Blu, get on it. There’s something so real and honest and youthful about him, something that very few hip hop artists seem to touch. It’s hard to put a finger on, but I think this song does him justice. That John Lennon sample…so good!
Old School, from 2pac’s Me Against the World. Ok so I admit it, I threw this one in because it is, after all, throwback thursday. But a great song nonetheless.
MP3: “Old School” – 2Pac
The year after I discovered hip hop, I became a music blog addict. Like friends and the outdoors, music can reinvigorate life like nothing else can, and especially new music. I discovered Blind Pilot and Bon Iver around this time…oh my. Those two guys helped me through one of the toughest times of my life. And Andrew Bird. Don’t get me started on Andrew Bird.
A little while later, I heard Chiddy Bang’s Swelly Express for the first time. A couple weeks later they came to play at my school. I was front row, fist-bumping Chiddy:
I was still happily discovering all the amazing hip-hop in my iTunes that my boy Supallav had introduced me to, but for the first time I was also stumbling on mashups. Do you guys remember when the Notorious XX album came out, the mashup between The XX and the Notorious B.I.G.? Amazing. I was coming across so many DJs, so many mixes… I was in heaven. Some of my favorite indie-rock songs fused with hip hop raps and beats, or with dubstep lines or electronic melodies. I found Big Z Remixes on Sunset maybe a little less than a year ago. All I could think was, holy shit, this guy is so young but his music is SO good.
Here I am a year later, still uncovering incredible music…some new and some that’s been out for ages. And as I move forward with my life, musically and otherwise, I’m just trying to take it all in and shut nothing out. You never know what you’re missing.
I’m resisting the urge to post Bon Iver’s re: Stacks. I’m sure you’ve all heard it before, and if not, it’s on Sunset’s Flying Through Summer mixtape. But..of course, of course I’m posting an Andrew Bird song. Actually, to be embarrassingly honest, I’m actually wearing an Andrew Bird shirt as I write this…I swear I’m not creepy. He’s an amazing artist, and he does everything by himself (even live!) using looped tracks he makes on the spot. It’s nuts. Here’s Plasticities, from Armchair Apocrypha.
My favorite Big Z Remix song, Slow Down (feat. Lupe Fiasco and Mos Def), with a beautiful sample of Nico’s These Days. The song is soft and melodic and wise and powerful, with great verses from Lupe and Mos Def. Mos Def’s verse comes his song Priority, from The Ecstatic. It’s a one verse song, but with a totally different feel.
Save Me Concubine (Ghostface Killah vs. Beirut), TheHoodInternet remix. I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times. Ghostface is a hard dude, but this story is surprisingly touching and sentimental. It was on repeat during another tough time for me.
Finally, here’s an Arcade Fire cover I stumbled across some weeks back, by Mr. Little Jeans. One of the best covers I’ve ever heard. This girl’s voice is gorgeous, and it fits perfectly over the dreamlike dubstep coatings.
If you had to pick 5 or 10 songs to represent the history of your musical discovery, what would you choose? Treacherous, huh?