August 30, 2009
In a well-hidden, acoustically suited room on the Lower East Side, the sweet and dissonant sounds of Jim Campilongo fill the ears of attentive listeners. He’s a marble among the chards of glass.
Campilongo’s longtime Monday night residency at The Living Room showcases his versatility. Sometimes he goes solo, shredding a combination of classical and jazz guitar, speaking the language of sweet beauty. But when accompanied by his electric trio, Campilongo comes hard. Last Monday, alongside bassist Jeff Hill and drummer Tony Mason, the trio crossed the board with infectious blues, hard jazz, and a little bossa nova.
The electric trio started off with what one might expect to hear, minding the name, acid jazz. It was funk, it was raw, and it never shied away from a tight groove. It would have been acceptable to assume the whole night would be filled with similar tunes, but growing from rapturous harmonies, the set was counterbalanced with cross-genres of jazz. Transitions may not have been placed with the most grace, yet it all seemed so genius.
The song “Chelsea Bridge” followed the funk. Its quiet arrangement was filled with passionate chords and represented Campilongo’s respect as a musician, demonstrating that one doesn’t have to play a bunch of useless, fast notes to be heard. Refinement is key. This is also the case for “Maceo,” a tune off his upcoming album, Orange. From the venom of jazz, to the slight swing of it all, the trio went directly into the country twang of dixieland. Campilongo proves time and time again that there isn’t anything he can’t attack with style and elite composition.
Orange is set to be released in February 2010. Campilongo is prolonging the release because he doesn’t want to compete with everyone on the planet during the holiday rush. Good news, though, he will have CDs on hand within the next few weeks.
Campilongo doesn’t play every Monday, but often enough. I highly suggest taking a late night trek to the LES to check him out.
by Genette Nowak
August 16, 2009
Upon learning of Michael Jackson’s death, unfortunate as it may be, many vendors quickly went into the production of printing MJ t-shirts and framed photographs, attempting to cash-in on the tragedy. But who would’ve thought the has-been hip-hop artist LL Cool J would take part in these shenanigans, albeit in the most ridiculous of ways?
On August, 10, LL (not so?) Cool J dubbed over “Billie Jean” with a bunch of recycled lyrics, referencing the unflattering legacies of Jackson’s life. It’s not uncommon for musicians to pay homage to the deceased, and that has been happening for Jacko, but Cool J’s off-the-mark song is horrible.
The first of many issues with “Billie Jean Dream” is the motive. Cool J says that Jackson visited him in a dream, and delivered these lyrics; they are Jackson’s own words. He woke up and scribbled them down. I call bullshit. He woke up with dollar signs in his pupils. If Cool was trying to properly honor the King of Pop, he should’ve taken the extra time – compose some fresh beats, pinpoint his glory days, or even write an original chorus.
“Billie Jean Dream” opens with lyrics referencing Jackson’s iced-out Bentley and his purchase of the Beatles’ music catalogue, “Tell Paul to chill.” Really?! Doesn’t Cool J realize this was not a glory moment for Jackson? He goes onto to rap about all the millions “he’s” made, drinking merlot, and “There’s no sons on my lap/ the king wears a crown not a Santa Claus hat.” What does that even mean? The chorus is a regurgitated line from LL, “Something like a phenomenon,” repeated way too many times, then something about “Boom dizzle,” followed by, “Take a look at my sounds and fix your face/ I’ll do what I want, I’m the king/ I’ll put my nose on my chest if I want to.”
“Michael Jackson wrote that for me in a dream,” he claims. Yup, that really sounds like something the ever-passive Jackson would’ve said.
I think LL is either on too many drugs, completely delusional, and/or most definitely full of it. Not once does the song adhere to Jackson’s legacy outside of his copious amounts of money. Wow, LL, I guess the only thing you got going for you are your looks.
Song after the jump.
by Genette Nowak
More on Rolling In The Grave: “Billie Jean Dream”
August 2, 2009
Oh, Avalanches, you are so 2000. It’s been almost ten years since Since I Left You, the Australian electronic group’s debut, dropped all 3,500 of it’s samples on our heads (and simultaneously got many of us to dust off and shake our proverbial rear ends). And you’re coming back now? This could prove problematic…
Since I Left You was a DJ masterpiece the likes of which had probably not been heard since DJ Shadow’s 1996 debut Endtroducing…... The album was an aural party: from the opening tropical guitar lick on “Since I Left You,” to the swirling sampled vocals of jazz singer Marlena Shaw on “Two Hearts in ¾ Time,” to the robotic African drums on “Etoh” – it was a massive, inclusive 60 minutes of pure fun. For a relatively small release, Since I Left You managed to garner a fair amount of attention well before it came out, because the group had to clear such a massive amount of licensed music with the original owners (the album samples Madonna, for example, and she’s not exactly the easiest to steal from; though, considering Madonna’s latest work, she should probably be giving it away). Since I Left You delivered on this buzz, and the group seemed ready to take over the dance world.
And then they didn’t. After Since I Left You, The Avalanches went into some kind of DJ hibernation (I imagine this to be much like a bear’s hibernation, but with a lot more bass), and the buzz around the follow-up has been going ever since. The group would remix a track here or there, but even those slowed, and it’s now been three years since The Avalanches released anything at all. Reports that the follow-up would be purely ambient, or hip-hop, or world music all circulated around the Internet as the years went by, and now we’re up to date, nearly a decade past their debut.
A couple weeks ago in Time Out Sydney, Steve Pavlovic, president of The Avalanches’ label, Modular Recordings, insisted that the new album will be released before the end of this year, and that it is “really, really good” (it’s been a fucking decade, Steve, could we maybe get a better descriptor than that?). So, it’s confirmed: the Avalanches are still around. But is that a good thing? Maybe Since I Left You should remain The Avalanches’ one album, albeit a nearly perfect one. Because there is no possible way this thing won’t be disappointing.
More on The Avalanches: Since We Left You
July 26, 2009
Over a year ago soul singer Erykah Badu released her fifth studio album New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) on Universal Motown; it went straight to the top of the charts. Unlike many of her previous recordings that orbited personal struggle and intense soul searches communicated through esoteric sounds, New Amerykah is embedded with social commentary. It raises issues of drugs, racism, revolution, poverty, urban violence, and encourages all Americans to stand up to the corrupt. The question remains, when and where will part two take us?
Her next LP, tentatively named New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), has no official release date, though it’s rumored to surface within the next month. Badu hasn’t disclosed information of what to expect from the sequel, but the title leaves a little room for speculation. The ankh represents “eternal life” and is said to be the key to life, although its precise origins remain a mystery to Egyptologists. It is also speculated that the ankh was the belt-buckle of the Egyptian mother goddess, Isis. One can only conjecture the theories of the ankh must somehow play directly into of what’s to come from the “Queen of Neo-Soul.”
More on Erykah Badu | Badu’s Sequel
July 12, 2009
For the past twelve years, head-banging, hardcore metal heads have looked to Ozzfest as the great summer voyage. The festival where insane facial piercings, razor blade mohawks, and getting tattooed at dirty vendors in the thick summer heat are standards. To the disappointment of many, Ozzfest 2009 has been cancelled so Ozzy can work on the follow-up to the poorly received Black Rain. But don’t fret folks, Pedal To The Metal is looking pretty good.
The inaugural Pedal To The Metal festival began with a collaboration and the desire to produce a kick-ass summer tour. Chad Gray of Mudvayne and Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society are about to hit the road for a fast, extreme, and riveting show. After much discussion, and considering the cancellation of Ozzfest, they decided that the tour would pack more punch if they were joined by some friends. Gray told AntiMusic, “We’re really excited because this package is a merging of great bands, good people, and fucking amazing fans. It’ll be great to bring them all together.”
Joining them are Bury Your Dead, Suicide Silence, Static-X, and Dope. The nice thing about not having 20-something bands, like at Ozzfest, is that fans are going to get more of what they came to see – not half hour stints of brilliance. I’ll never forget what a shame it was when Wylde was cut off after five songs on the second, smaller stage in 2007. It was bullshit.
Mudvayne and Black Label Society are the perfect marriage of metal composition, a kind of blissful angst. Mudvayne more often belts from the top of their lungs, backed by super swift riffs. And Black Label Society, not that they come without great power, incorporates more of a classical element with their sixteenth notes – subdued hardcore.
I say bye-bye Ozzfest, you may be replaced.
The tour begins in Portland on July 24 and will be making its way east. For tour dates and tickets go here.
by Genette Nowak
June 28, 2009
A lot of the hip-hop that gets heavy radio play is nothing more than profanity and violence geared towards a mature audience. But it often lands in the heads of little children. Every time I hear my first grade students singing the explicit lyrics of Snoop Dogg, my jaw drops. I can finally understand why my mom declared, “No more MTV!” after watching Madonna spread eagle in white lace. So it was refreshing to learn of a talented hip-hop artist with a kid-friendly spin.
Intrigued by illusion and disillusion, The Great Ragidy Supreme began doing magic in 1982; just five years later, he went professional. And after becoming more comfortable with his other artistic passions, it was only natural for the two to merge. Ragidy Supreme has a knack for showing the complimentary elements of music and magic: “My magic show is family orientated, consisting of theatrical music, audience participation, comedy, and, of course, amazing magical effects,” he says. Fire becomes roses and ropes run through bodies. Most of his shows are catered toward children and he’s performed for over a hundred schools and birthday parties, yet he’s anything but Romper Room.
More on Hip-Hop Magic: The Great Ragidy Supreme
June 21, 2009
Listen up, I’m about to get dope. It ain’t nothing but some shit I wrote: You didn’t have to be hyped about rap to be cool at my high school, but you had to own a few rap albums, you smell me? Rap was what you rocked in the car or at the barbeque, and always what you played at the house party. In my room I listened to Pulp and Bob Dylan, but I was cool in high school, so in public my soundtrack was a little heavier on the bass.
I’ve never been a diehard hip-hop head, so choosing the CD to play in a friend’s car always felt like some social test. You can only ask, “Well, what does everyone else want to hear?” so many times before people start getting suspicious. But I had a fallback. I knew I couldn’t fail when I slid in somebody’s burned mix CD, invariably scratched, of classic tracks by our hometown martyr, Mac Muthafuckin’ Dre.
It was only after Andre Hicks, aka Mac Dre, was murdered in 2004 that I started to listen on my own to the local rap that had scored my youth. Mac Dre birthed the Hyphy Movement, a San Francisco Bay Area rap fad that, like Crunk rap from the South, was mostly goofy party anthems over simple, heavy beats. A heap of local artists caught the Hyphy wave, hoping to ride it all the way to national acclaim, but it soon broke, before The Bay could get more than two major crossover Hyphy hits. (Which makes these artists all the more precious to me – because they’re part of my culture and probably not yours). I clung to these Hyphy boys, these rowdy-ass rappers, when I graduated from high school and moved to LA, where suddenly my peers didn’t share my values, or my soundtrack. Enough other Bay transplants did the same until the craze caught on and folks were playing Hyphy tracks all over the dorms and frats of UCLA, but we Bay folk were sure that no one else really got it like we did.
More on Mac Dre: 2 Hard 4 The Fucking Radio
June 14, 2009
Not Rock, bad rock, how about you can’t rock. There is no way I can pass up this opportunity to make fun of the weave-wearing, past his prime, self-proclaimed “rocker” Bret Michaels. Broadway took him down. Actually, they almost beheaded him!
For the opening number of the 2009 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall, Poison took the stage – that already sounds silly – to perform with the cast of Rock of Ages. They sang the 1988 classic, “Nothin’ But A Good Time” while chicks in corsets and stripper heels twirled. As their bit was coming to an end Michaels sang, “It don’t get better than this,” and a massive marquee that read Broadway came crashing down on his head – his feet flew up from underneath him, knocking him flat on his ass and his cowboy hat to the floor. Not that I find pleasure in other people’s pain and embarrassment, but it was just too funny! Even funnier – the moment Michaels was guillotined, a sophisticated Stockard Channing for Pal Joey came out singing, “Oh, wow. Again.” It couldn’t have been planned.
Not sure if it was bad karma or a sign that it’s time for Michaels to retire – after three seasons of a grade D reality TV dating show which brought extreme attention to the fact that it is no longer 1988 and hair bands are not chicly retro. What’s up with the Tony’s thinking it’s okay to sandwich Poison between Elton John and Liza Minnelli? Cheesy, bad rock does not mix with classic, elegant show tunes.
by Genette Nowak
This video is sort of cruel, but just in case you missed it: