Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Run-Off Groove #211

Aloha, and welcome to the 211th edition of The Run-Off Groove. Solid state, solid taste, solid waste. You get rid of some, you keep others. What's the equation? Circle your answer. A lot of music here, so without trying to sound too artsy fartsy, we begin.

Download 25 FREE songs at eMusic.com!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic The Menahan Street Band had become a minor footnote recently when one of their songs was sampled by Jay-Z. For fans of the funk that you can find on 7 inch 45 rpm singles, the band have been eagerly awaited by fans who wanted to hear more than the songs they had released on the Dunham via Daptone label. Members of the band came from other bands: Antibalas, The Budos Band, The Dap-Kings, and El Michels Affair. If you are familiar with any of them, you know how close knit they are, so perhaps it was inevitable that guitarist Thomas Brenneck would gain Daptone's attention. One thing lead to another, and now The Menahan Street Band offer some prime hard soul with Make The Road By Walking (Dunham/Daptone).

The 10 songs here remind me of the kind of music one would find on a custom/private press album, maybe a slight variation of a variation but it's what they do with it that works. Some of it would sound perfect on any late 60's/early 70's soul album, close to what happened when Motown was overshadowed by Sly & The Family Stone and Curtis Mayfield. In fact, a lot of these songs would have fit perfectly on any soundtrack of the era, including "Tired Of Fighting" (A Mayfield-flavored tune which could also become the backdrop for an Amy Winehouse when she gets her act together) and "Karina". The music is sweet and each pack a groove not unlike The Meters or anything released on the Phil-L.A. Of Soul label. "Home Again!" sounds like a mixture of Young-Holt Unlimited's "Soulful Strut" and Tommy James & The Shondells' "Crystal Blue Persuasion", complete with a tight horn section that just will not quit.

The combination of musicians within The Menahan Street Band (Brenneck, Dave Guy, Nick Movshon, Aaron Johnson, Mike Deller, Daniel Foder, Dave Guy, Homer Steinweiss, Fernando Velez, and the one and only Bosco Mann help make this into anything but ordinary, it's not just a bit of retro-soul and funk put on automatic, the arrangements here are clever and you get a sense that everyone is in the same room, locked into a groove for a common cause. The 3/4 of "Karina", the trobbing bassline and the blaring horn section makes this sound like David Axelrod meet Osibisa, and those African-flavored horns are definitely the Antibalas components at play. "Birds" sounds like something one would find on an obscure exotica/lounge album, complete with trippy Farfisa. Each of these songs could easily become pop masterpieces, but they hold up extremely well in their current state, enough to where you don't want to hear anyone sing at all (all of the songs are instrumental). It's ready made for the dance floor, for lounging in the basement with your favorite hi-fi system, and simply listening to good soul music with all of the classic touches that made the era they're honoring a great one. The reason those old songs still feel great is because of the arrangements involved, and by creating their own take on a classic sound, they continue on with the traditions of a sound that is the core of everything heard on the radio today.

(Make The Road By Walking will be released on October 14th on Dunham, via Daptone.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Imagine this if you will: harmonica and tuba jazz. Sounds kinda trippy, but the album by Ron Kalina & Jim Self brings these two instruments together to create some moving jazz that is more effective than one might think. They call it The Odd Couple (Basset Hound), and together they fit in perfectly with each other. They begin with a Kalina original, "No More Mr. Nice Guy" before the incorporate the theme song to the television show that inspired the album's title. It is here that they show that these two instruments with accompaniment (Joe La Barbera on drums, Tom Warrington on string bass, and Larry Koonse on guitars) can blow away anyone who attempts to step up to their musicianship. Their versions of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Someone To Light Up My Life", Charlie Parker's "Confirmation", and Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" are true to the compositions but each of them allow themselves to explain what these songs mean to them through their playing. Kalina's harmonica playing is intense while Self's tuba work (he also plays something called a fluba goes beyond what anyone would expect from the instrument. Virtuoso? He may not admit it but he's doing something that will make fellow tuba and Flugelhorn players step back and rethink their approach to the instruments. The album will make listeners and musicians alike step back and rethink their approach to the what jazz should be.

(The Odd Couple is available from CDBaby.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Khia's one-hit wonder status could have changed for the better after her appearance on VH-1's Miss Rap Supreme, and while she was eliminated for performing a song that had been recorded before (when the rule was that each contestant had to create a song from scratch), it may have been possible for her to let people know she could do a bit more than "My Neck, My Back". Unfortunately, Nasti Musik (Big Cat) shows that in terms of pulling tricks, she has one technique that will probably be her saving grace until she does songs about gum jobs.

I love a good sex rhyme, and on this album she continues to pace herself between doing raps and singing, and her singing voice is good enough to where she could be a hook vocalist. Instead, the songs here fall flat when you realize the formula is nothing but a hook that grabs you, and then a variation of that hook as a verse, and then the hook again. "Put That Pussy On His Ass" is possibly the best song on the album, and she basically tells her lady friends to use their pussy power to get what they want. That's understandable, power to the pussy indeed, but it almost seems as if she's stating that if you use your body to get what you want and need, you don't need to do anything else. "Be Your Lady", "Best Pussy He Ever Had", "Fuck You And Suck You", "Bitch I Been The Shit", I'm all about women who are confident about their sexuality enough to express themselves in this manner, but at times it comes off as if they're coming from a male perspective, or what a young guy would love to hear a woman say to them.

Khia is aggressive and she rhymes from the street, this isn't dainty, but it gets old very fast. She has the voice and flow, but the lyrics don't pull anything but puds.

(Nasti Musik will be released on August 19th, and can be pre-ordered through CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us What's better than Khia? In truth, anything, and surprisingly the album I forced myself to listen to after that was Breakout. Not the Scorpions classic, but the CD by trendy teen sensation Miley Cyrus.

All of the songs (many of which were written by her father, Billy Ray Cyrus) are targeted to teens so you hear about school, waiting for the bell to ring, waking up and greeting the brand new day, and she even attempts to get eco-friendly in "Wake Up America" by telling everyone that we are all together and that everything we do matters in some way. Cyrus, in all honesty, has a decent voice and it's the kind of songs that her fans will love because they're filled with hooks, they're catchy, and it's positive. It would be too easy to jump on her success but the kind of songs she sings are the type that were made successful by adults in the 80's and 90's. She does do a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", but she also does songs that some might mistake for a smarter (and less tarty) Avril Lavigne, the aforementioned "Wake Up America" or an all out country singer, "These Four Walls". In fact, it is that country twang mixed in with these pop songs that are probably a big draw for her young fans and the parents who buy her music. Some of the song choices may surprise her adult fans, but again this is the first album she has recorded solely under her own name and not under the Hannah Montana character. Whereas her TV character sings about a young girl who loves the idea of flirting with stardom, Cyrus comes off as a young woman looking forward to the good and positive things about being a grown-up, and at a time when music like that is in limited supply, perhaps an album like Breakout is needed. Her music is not assed out like The Jonas Brothers, let's put it that way. Like T-Pain, there's use of pitch correctors here but it's used in a subtle way not unlike a number of country singers today. She's no Kim Shattuck, but hey.

Cyrus has the potential to become this generation's favorite singer. She has her country roots, she already flirts with pop, she has the potential to rock (Southern rock at that), and with the Disney machine behind her she can coast on her career with ease unless Cyrus the person truly wants to Breakout and become her own woman without the aid of her parents, managers, and yes-men. Disney is her insurance, so perhaps there is no need to go out of the box, but if it's a way for her to also pave the way for other Disney stars such as Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez to continue to save the music industry in some fashion, bring the teens and tweens on. Just keep them away from Khia.

(Breakout is available from CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us It's the new sound champion bound
Respect the O.G.'s, they're handing it down
We won't bow down, lower our standards
For these adolescent idiots with no manners
That's what it is, 'cous; that's what it be, blood
You see the future o' this music when you see us

So says MURS on his collaborative album with 9th Wonder, Sweet Lord, and the union is perfect between these two. You all heard 9th's beats, with his carefully selected samples and his secret gold snare, and he continues to offer the goods here so no need to boost his ego or bring him down, he's good people. MURS is one of those MC's you want to listen to because you put faith in someone who continues in extending and surpassing the traditions of lyricism in hip-hop, and he does that in each of the ten songs on this album. With the help of 9th, they reach those soulful and gospel touches that he (9th) is effective with, and takes MURS on to new levels. The album is just under 35 minutes, which is the perfect length because it will leave fans of both artists hungry for more. If another collaboration between the two isn't in the making, then I'm glad they were able to pull this off in the way that they did. Looking forward to the MURS For President album when it drops.

(Sweet Lord is available as a free download from MursAnd9thWonder.com.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us While C-Bo's name is first, I was more impressed by the rap skills of Big-O, who some may know and recognize as actor Omar Gooding, younger brother of Cuba Jr.. Trading War Stories (West Coast Mafia) has Omar/Big-O proving himself to be an incredibly capable rapper, and here it's a twist since he's an actor making the move to rapping (the tradition in hip-hop has been the reverse). What is it that makes his rhymes and flow work? The attitude, the charisma, and just the vibe that he provides. That's not to say that C-Bo doesn't offer anything, because his tracks (the album is split between contributions from both rappers in various incarnations) are very good, such as "Get What's Mines" but every Big-O song sounds like a banger and I'll be honest, the guy sounds a bit more hungry. The guy is ruthless, and if he can promote himself even more, he may become the next rapper to pay attention to. Nah, be ahead of the game and listen to him now.

(Trading War Stories will be released on August 19th and can be pre-ordered from CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us In order to hear C-Bo stand out on his own, you have to pick up West Side Ryders IV - World Wide Mob (West Coast Mafia). While this album does have its share of collaborators as well, this album sounds a bit more balanced not only for C-Bo, but for everyone who helps him out on the album. He can be a party rapper if he wants, but there are no parties without hard work and paying bills, so while he gets into detail what happens when he's "Looking For A Time" (where he sounds like a West Coast version of Lord Finesse), he's also calling out fools in "Lair", complete with an instrumental that may or may not give you the lemon chillies. "It's My Life" is on some heavy G-Funk, and while it may sound like something you'll want to groove to, he speaks about his daughter and how he's thankful to live another day. The best way to describe C-Bo is that he's a gangsta with a heart, the attitude is definitely there and the stories will be the kind that many will salute from now until the end of time. The guy has been in the game for years and this album proves once again why he's not to be messed with.

(West Side Ryders IV - World Wide Mob will be released on August 5th.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Sha Stimuli's idea of doing a tribute to Stevie Wonder is not exactly an original one, as DJ Spinna and Bobbito created the infamous compilation The Wonder Of Stevie, which was followed by Madlib's instrumental tribute to the man. However, this is Stevie we're talking about here, and in Sha's case, he is rapping over various Stevie Wonder samples, chops, and manipulations, as if to say "if Stevie Wonder had been down with rap music all these years, this is what it would sound like.

Hotter Than July '08 (self-released) is presented with the help of DJ Victorious, their initial projects have lead to future collaborations and this one is definitely one of the best. Sha and DJ Victorious do not go for the obvious, "Free!" sounds like it could turn into an Outkast track but then you hear Stevie's voice coming through and while new, it still feels familiar. Sha has been getting a lot of attention for his skills and has been on the top of a number of different critic polls, which in a way brings the attention back to New York. By collaborating with a Cali DJ, it proves the need to get rid of limits in this music. As for that music, all one has to do is listen to his freestyle track "The Flows" to know what he does and why he loves doing it, and "Redemption" could have easily been the summer jam of 2008 with its addicting chorus and solid booming beats that will keep all heads nodding. The Stevie factor is what will bring this album attention, but it's not just an album of Stevie-influenced beats but an album that stands out in its own right. Fortunately, this CD will probably be followed up very soon (maybe even next week) by another solid album. Buy, download, steal, do whatever, but you have to hear what this is about.

(Hotter Than July '08 can be purchased directly from Sha Stimuli or DJ Victorious.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Dancehall artist Anthony B has returned with a brand new one. True Rastaman (Penitentiary) has him speaking about the proud people of Jamaica and not being afraid to speak out about the injustices of his people. Even songs that sound upbeat, such as "Make It", cut deep and leave no space to clean up the wounds. "Miss Fandangle" speaks about a woman who demands a lot but isn't getting any respect from the men who want to love her.

The album is a nice balance between current dancehall and rootsy tracks, with him doing well on both sides. A definite killer.

(True Rastaman is available from CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Richie Spice sounds a bit like Sizzla Kalonji but without the aggressiveness. Imagine Sizzla's romantic tracks fine tuned to become more radio friendly, and you have Gideon Boot(VP). The title track has some nice nyabingi rhythms while "The World Is A Cycle" is smooth enough to be mistaken for Maxi Priest, to the point where it sounds like it came from a smooth jazz track. In Richie Spice's case, he balances his songs between the heartfelt and the rootsy, and I tend to prefer the rootsier stuff as he sounds more inspired and not someone who can create the heartfelt stuff just to sell albums. Again, the background vocals could lead to him being accessible to a wider/whiter audience, but those instrumentals could be borrowed and used for any singer as a riddim. It's decent enough.

(Gideon Boot is available from CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Skillz is the kind of MC that needs no introduction, so I'm not going to give him one. What I will give you is a review of his new album, The Million Dollar Backpack (Koch), and this is a guy who is deserving of that cherished backpack but he's doing it Chinese style, meaning he's going to suffer and take the long path.

For one, it's hard to come up with something that hasn't been said about Skillz, but if you have been with him since he was Mad Skillz and have followed him since then, then you know what he has to offer. He makes club tracks, but not club as most people would take it these days, but rather nice dance tracks for the ladies, to romance and dance with them. "Where I Been" sounds like the Skillz of the past while "(For Real) He Don't Know Me" has him trying to take a slice of that Kanye West pie in order to come up with his own bakery chain. "Crazy World" is arguably the artsiest song on the album and perhaps one that should've been on there. It makes for a nice diversion but it almost ruins the pace of things. The saving grace is of course lyrics, and by following it up with "I'm Gon' Make It" (produced Bink it shows Skillz knows how to boost the energy from the dip in the album.

For the diehards, there's a lot to chew on. ?uestlove and James Poyser back him and Black Thoughts up for "Hold Tight", and Kwame Holland turns "Sick" into one of the album's finer moments. Usef Dinero gives the album a soulful vibe with "So Far So Good" (which features Common), and Freeway makes his presence known in the awesome "Don't Act Like You Don't Know", produced by Orthodox. The mood and vibe change throughout and yet still manages to be solid and cohesive, and that is one reason why Skillz has always been on top of his game even though he doesn't have the same kind of glory or fame that Jay-Z or Nas have. With this album he shows once again why he needs to be, with or without that golden backpack.

(The Million Dollar Backpack is available through CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Growing up with classic rock before it was called classic rock, it's the kind of music that I loved not because it had a name to it. it was just music my dad or relatives loved, the stuff my dad's friends had collections of in their living rooms. I knew that a visit to my uncle's apartment meant putting on big headphones and listening to Led Zeppelin. Classic rock, of course, is not just a blanket statement about rock'n'roll before us but now a genre that sells everything from beer to erectile dysfunction pills. Like any other genre that becomes popular, classic rock has been molded into a small selection of songs that are meant to signify what it means to people. Now That's What I Call Classic Rock (Capitol) is a part of the infamous compilation CD series and their focus is on the rock from the 1970's and 1980's

This isn't Freedom Rock, but rather a major label's wet dream of classic rock hits that you are guaranteed to hear on your classic rock radio station right now, in two hours, and on your way to and from work. In truth, these songs are good and are the soundtrack of youth, and if for some reason you don't have any of these songs, by all means buy this disc. It features George Thorogood's "Bad To The Bone", Steve Miller Band's "The Joker", Styx's "Renegade", Grand Funk Railroad's "We're An American Band", Heart's "Barracuda", Mountain's "Bad Moon Rising", and cherished live versions of Peter Frampton's "Show Me The Way" and Kiss' "Rock'N'Roll All Nite", among others. It's probably no surprise that a lot of these songs have also been used in video games in recent years, so there's a younger generation whose perception of these songs are different from mine, yours, or your parents. Maybe it's not a surprise, but there are a lot of omissions: Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers Band, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, Van Halen, AC/DC, and many others. Maybe part of that has to do with not obtaining permission from the original artist, label, or publisher, or maybe this is just the primer for more titles in the series.

If there's one thing to complain about, it's that all of these were either singles or are radio staples. Some of the best classic rock tracks are the album tracks, specifically songs that do not get as much airplay as others. However, the placement of Aerosmith's "Combination" in a series like this might lead to the material becoming watered down so as long as this series opens up the world of classic rock for new listeners, I'm all for it.

(Now That's What I Call Classic Rock is available from CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us This is my life/welcome to my life.

Anyone who uses a pseudonym or nickname as their artist name always ponders on using their government name for a possible release. While most of you know of me and my name from my writing and music, I choose to be heard as an artist as Crut. In time, it would be cool to present myself under my own name. Supastition has released a lot of great music over the years and gaining a lot of underground attention. For his new project, Supastition decided to present himself as himself for the first time, at least musically, and while it's not a different Supastition, it does show the growth of an artist. Therefore when you see the name Kam Moye, it means you're about to listen to Supastition.

Listening to The Self Centered EP (Reform School Music), one can tell that something is different. It's an older, more mature, more sophisticated rapper, someone who is "grown". "Where & Why" has him questioning himself and his path in life, and how he fits in with the current state of hip-hop. He touches on why he's releasing music under his own name, but in truth I'm still the same cool ass cat/I've been Kam Moye every day of my life, you can't grasp that/When fans say the other name, it better suited them/It's funny how a pseudonym would seem more true to 'em, right? He speaks about childhood, relationships, his upbringing, and the world today, and yet it doesn't seem forced or weak in any shape or form. If anything, it redefines his mission and will hopefully move people to listen to him and his words from a different perspective. In fact, if you liked him as Supastition then this is just an addition to the equation that is him. Top notch lyrics done by someone who knows what the defintion of "rap music" is. As far as what other people think of him and the creators of the music, he addresses everyone in "Black Enough" and states that by condemning the unwritten rule book on blackness, someone might as well put a target on him. There's no reason to go down that path, not from someone who comes off as genuine and a realist. Self-centered? Perhaps it's a way of saying he's more sure of himself. Either that, or it's the revelation of something he's always known.

(The Self-Centered EP can be downloaded for free directly from Supastition.com.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The songs on this 16 song compilation are all great, but the reason for its existence is unknown. It's called Ziggy Marley In Jamaica (Tuff Gong) and the title may suggest that it's a live recording, but there's only one Ziggy Marley track on here.

The rest of the songs are classics from the golden era of reggae: Desmond Dekker's "Poor Me Israelites", The Maytals' "54-46 That's My Number", Peter Tosh's "You Can Get It If You Really Want", The Abyssinians' "Satta Massagana", Horace Andy's "Skylarking", Peter Tosh's "Legalize It", and only one song from his father's catalog, The Wailers' "Mr. Chatterbox", which came from an era when Bob Marley was more of a crooner than one celebrating Jah love. For a generation of fans who weren't around when Bob Marley was alive and only know of his legacy through Ziggy, this is a decent introduction of a genre of music that is too deep to limit to just 16 songs. Some of the songs selections are a bit peculiar, but if it was any different, it might as well be The Harder They Come soundtrack.

(Ziggy Marley In Jamaica is available from CD Universe.)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us When it comes to "otherworldly" hip-hop, you might have a small handful of names that immediately come to mind. Otherworldly can mean everything from "next level" to "advanced" to "forward thinking", and if there's anyone who is all of these things and more, it would be Kongcrete.

Kongcrete, a/k/a Kong, offers Shackles Off (Classified), an album where each destination is definitely unknown. Tracks may begin in a traditional manner, but Kongcrete and some of the other MC's on the album take off to new and unexpected places. He can be direct, other times he is abstract and off the beaten path, as if Anti-Pop Consortium were the Kings of Rock and not Run-DMC. Even when things get a bit crunk in "It's Official", one realizes that the song features Gabarah, MF GRIMM, dub-L, Ikon, and Spiega Monsta and it's as if Divine Styler came down to Earth after touring on Sun Ra's recent Saturn's Revenge tour. In other words, it has that crunk feel but it's a few elements left of center with synthesized string samples layered over a filtered violin. The topics? It's hard to pin down, because on the surface it sounds like it's going all over the place, but pay attention and Kong is on a mission that isn't easy to understand at first, but will be after repeated listens.

(Shackles Off is available from Dusty Groove.)

  • That's it for this week's Run-Off Groove. If you have music, DVD's, books, or hot sauce you'd like for me to review, contact me through my MySpace page and I'll pass along my contact information.
  • Monday, July 28, 2008

    SOME STUFFS: Deerhoof prepare for upcoming U.S. fall tour

    Deerhoof? Yes, the folks at Kill Rock Stars just announced tourdates for the band, here they are:

    10-03 Los Angeles - Avalon *
    10-04 San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall *
    10-06 Portland, OR - Wonder Ballroom ^!
    10-07 Seattle, WA - Neumo's ^!
    10-09 Salt Lake City, UT - Urban Lounge ^!
    10-11 Denver, CO - Bluebird ^!
    10-13 Omaha, NE - The Slowdown ^%
    10-14 Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue ^%
    10-15 Milwaukee, WI - Turner Hall ^%
    10-16 Bloomington, IN - Buskirk Chumley Theater ^%
    10-17 Chicago, IL - Metro ^#
    10-18 Pontiac, MI - Crofoot Ballroom ^#
    10-21 New York, NY- Spiegeltent
    10-22 New York, NY - Irving Plaza ^#
    10-23 Cambridge, MA - Middle East ^#
    10-24 Northampton, MA - Pearl Street ^#
    10-25 Philadelphia, PA - Starlight Ballroom ^#
    10-26 Washington, DC - 9:30 Club ^#
    10-28 Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle ^#
    10-29 Asheville, NC - Grey Eagle ^#
    10-30 Nashville, TN - Mercy Lounge ^#
    10-31 Athens, GA - 40 Watt Club ^#
    11-01 Orlando, FL - The Social ^#
    11-02 Tampa, FL - Crowbar ^#
    11-05 New Orleans, LA - House of Blues ^#
    11-06 Houston, TX - Numbers ^#
    11-07 Dallas, TX - Granada ^@
    11-08 Austin, TX - Fun Fun Fun Fest
    11-10 El Paso, TX - Club 101 ^+
    11-12 Tucson, AZ - Club Congress ^+
    11-13 Tempe, AZ - The Clubhouse ^+

    * with Okay, Happy Hollows
    ^ with Experimental Dental School
    ! with Coconut
    % with Au
    # with Flying
    @ with Hawnay Troof
    + with KIT (07/28/08)

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    The Run-Off Groove #210

    Aloha, and welcome to the 210th edition of The Run-Off Groove, my column starring me. In truth, the stars are the music and the musicians involved, I'm just the middle man.

    Before I start this, I would like to recommend a new website that I'm a part of, called FudgeFM. The website is a community of like-minded musicians, producers, DJ's, and fans getting into the discussion and celebration of music through forums, videos, streaming music, and more. I have a blog there and I plan to expand on it very soon with videos (my first ventures into doing online video). If you've been looking for healthy, unbiased discussion about hip-hop, funk, soul, jazz, electronic music, and whatever your muse leads you, FudgeFM is the place you can call home. This week you can read up on the current Rick Ro$$ controversy and what would happen if Miley Cyrus got funky. Membership is growing on a daily basis, so if you want to become a part of this new and growing community, head on over. I'll see you there.

    Now, we begin.

    Download 25 FREE songs at eMusic.com!

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Shawn Livingston Moseley is a Hawai'i-based musician and producer who has done some incredible stuff through his label, 'Aumakua Records, and it allows him to make the kind of music he wants to hear. For this project, Moseley has created what he calls a "neo-classical" album of nothing but pieces done on the piano. Storm Before The Calm may be neo-classical but it doesn't sound like your stereotypical classical album you might hear on NPR, in fact Moseley plays with the kind of intensity one expects to hear on a solo piano album by Keith Jarrett. I'm not versed in classical so I can't tell you about how well these pieces measure up to respected compositions by the greats, but what I do hear is someone who plays with a passion and does it with a lot of power, even the delicate moments draw you in to wait (perhaps impatiently) for the next movement in the songs. The "neo" aspect to me is perhaps a way of saying that this isn't "traditional" classical, but it's not avant-garde or experimental, so don't expect Andrew Poppy or Satoko Fujii here.

    I've heard some of his previous work so I'm a bit familiar with what he can do, and this is just a continuation of his musicianship. What I also liked was the sound he was able to get in these recordings, there's no technical information here so I don't know how it was mic'd, what types of mics he used or if it was one of those piano pickups you attach to the piano itself, but to me it's very audiophile worthy (as is the other albums Moseley has recorded and produced) and anyone who is into the sound of the piano and excellent playing will eat this up big time. I wish I understood classical music more than something on the surface, but as an outsider looking in, it sounds like something that everyone should listen to.

    (The Storm Before The Calm is available from Mele.com.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Live jazz is what it's all about, and to hear an incredible set of musicians, look no further than Love, Peace & Jazz! (Jazz Eyes), the most essential elements in life as performed by the Al Foster Quartet.

    When I first pressed play on this, I thought it was a bit of smooth jazz, locked in a corner with nowhere to go. Not wanting to bother with the bio, I just let it go and see where the music would take me, and about half way through "The Chief", things start to get interesting. Foster (drums, Eli Degibri (saxophones), Douglas Weiss (double bass), and Kevin Hays (piano) start to play as if they were a militia ready to go in, and it's like any other jazz album where you can sense that everyone is locked with each other, ready to move forward and beyond. Hearing these guys play Blue Mitchell's "Fungii Mama", Wayne Shorter's "ESP", and Miles Davis' "Blue In Green" is very much like meeting with an old family friend for the first time, but realizing that this kid has a new wardrobe and he wants to show how dapper he is. Wilson's drumming is top notch, I could compare him to countless people but hearing him will be all the proof one needs to know this guy can play, and more often than not the best bands are those lead by drummers.

    Maybe all we need in life is love, peace, and jazz, and perhaps one day we can all live off of that fantastic diet. Until then, Foster and friends prove that in the end, love, peace, and jazz is all you need.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Off the top, let me tell you what Nostomania (Balanced) isn't. This album by DJ Brace, under the name of The Electric Nosehair Orchestra, is not a concept album. It's more like a beat or resume tape, where Brace shows off his skills and production techniques in a way that will hopefully lead to more projects from him.

    I say this because the moment someone casually says "instrumental hip-hop", people want to say that it's the next DJ Shadow or RJD2. It's instrumental, it's very much hip-hop, but it's not trying to be too heady either. The music here shows his influences while showing off the skills he has to matter to today's audiences. Lots of beats and beat manipulation mixed in with the sample pool makes this an album for those who like to explore the borrowed sound way of life. Brace definitely has DJ skills too, which is nice since some DJ's like to make music but don't have the skills (good or bad) to back it up. He doesn't have to fear this. With all of the Dilla or 9th Wonder beat tapes that have circulated, people will (or at least should) find a liking to the Electric Nosehair Orchestra, as Brace follows a similar path. He is more than capable of creating something heady and anthemic, and perhaps that's in the cards for him.

    (The Electric Nosehair Orchestra In Nostomania is available through Phonographique.com.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Scrapomatic are the kind of bluesy, rootsy, rocking, Americana band that should be bringing on throngs of fans to their feet. Put together elements of The Black Crowes, John Mayer, and Ben Harper and you have a slight picture of what Scrapomatic sound like. Sidewalk Caesars (Landslide) sounds like good ol' down home music, the type of music that sounds like home, the stuff you can always return to after long musical adventures. Vocalist Mike Mattison is known for his work with The Derek Trucks Band and in this setting he continues the kind of growls he is known for, and when he digs deep into the soul, you'll feel it as he does in "I Want The Truth" and the rocking "I Just Want To Hang Around". Guitarist Paul Olsen is, as they say, the truth, and he will be able to become the hero Richie Sambora never was.

    What I love about Sidewalk Caesars is that it sounds like an album, not a random collection of 13 songs that are there just to be there. In other words, it's formatted brilliantly with a first song to welcome you in, moving to different places throughout the album, blessing you with a bit of the blues and solid rockers to get your adrenalin going, and closing with the sound of longing that makes you wish the album was a little longer. "Good Luck With Your Impossible Dream" is a bittersweet song that I could easily see John Mellencamp or Willie Nelson sing, the kind of song that will lead you to the bar in order to drink your miseries away, and I am certain that crowds will fall to their feet begging for more. That is also what will happen to anyone who has been hungry for a thirst quenching album. People, the drought is over.

    (Sidewalk Caesars is available from HittinTheNote.com. and directly from Landslide Records.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Sometimes I look at a CD and go "oh no, not another fricken vocal jazz album" because sometimes it can be complete drek. I don't know what's worse, smooth jazz or awful vocal jazz. Yet for some reason I had a good feeling about this, or maybe it was just wishful thinking. Cynthia Felton is her name with a bright smile, cool blue dress riding up right there, and gloves that looks like she's going to go mountain biking, while standing on the shore. What would pull it off? Having a good voice. Verdict? Miss Felton has a great voice.

    Afro Blue: The Music of Oscar Brown Jr. (Felton Entertainment) is an album by someone who could literally be in any musical genre, because upon listening to these songs, it's obvious she not only listens to a lot of music, but knows about different genres. In terms of jazz, she has a swing that can't be denied but she is very soulful so that she doesn't completely find herself locked in a box, making it possible for her to do anything and everything with her music. Normally I'm someone who doesn't like vocalized interpretations of well known instrumentals, I'm a picky elitist in that sense but hearing her do Coltrane's "Afro Blue" and Miles Davis' "All Blues" made me listen to these songs in a different way. She doesn't sound as if she's in a rush to finish, she's there for the duration and metaphorically caresses the lyrics and the music behind her (ooh!) and it just sounds nice. She can be subtle and when she belts it, she still doesn't go overboard. As I'm listening to her, she reminds me of what I'm not hearing in a lot of today's soul and R&B, and I mention this only because she has the kind of voice that was once common in soul music, to where someone had to come up with a new term to describe it. A younger generation listens to Jill Scott and thinks she's jazz, and yet Felton sings (at least on this album) jazz and could easily outdo anyone on the charts today. I'm sure if she did Rihanna's "Umbrella" people would be floored. At least that's the kind of grace I hear in Felton's voice, and there's not one song on this album I didn't like.

    I'm not sure if she plans on doing more than jazz, and yet hearing her reminds me too of Natalie Cole, when all you need to know is the name and you could bank on something of quality. I'm sure for some the selling point for this album could be the musicianship of Patrice Rushen, Terri Lynn Carrington, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and Cyrus Chestnut, but I like the fact that Felton is a vocalist that has the potential to be a vocalist in her own right without the need to hype up great musicians. Sure, let that be the reason you want to hear, but listen and discover someone who could become one of the best vocalists of this generation, regardless of genre.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Musician Chris Schlarb released one of my favorite albums of 2007, Twilight and Ghost Stories (Asthmatic Kitty), a lengthy collage of various sounds that made him become someone I had to be on the lookout for. I received a CD by I Heart Lung called Interoceans, featuring a photo of water splashing on the shore of a beach (perhaps the beach Miss Felton was on in the review above {it's called journalistic continuity}). Opening the disc, I saw Schlarb's name on it and immediately I had to look at the song titles. Four songs? Yes, I'm into the endurance test when it comes to music, because it meant these songs were 5+ minutes in length:
    Interoceans I (Upwelling)
    Interoceans II (Overturning)
    Interoceans III (Undercurrent)
    Interoceans IV (Outspreading)

    I was ready.

    I Heart Lung is a collaborative effort between Schlarb and Tom Steck, who handles drums and percussion, and for this project they collaborated with Nels Cline, Lynn Johnston, Andrew Pompey, Kris Tiner, Aaron Ximm, Dave Easley, and Anthony Shadduck for something that is a very different animal than Schlarb's Twilight and Ghost Stories. This is more straightforward musically, although to say this is straightforward music would be a bit misleading, as the album is a great combination of jazz, progressive rock, and psychedelia, and the psychedelic aspsect merely comes from the musicians adding different sounds and textures at the most unpredictable moments. The initial listen is mindblowing, because while the album is divided into four distinct movements (making it easy to consume), you can listen to it as a whole. The arrangements, different time signatures, the addition of found sound from Ximm: it's great to hear an album that sounds like they had a plan when putting this together, yet has the kind of openneess that comes from musicians like them. It's safe to say that even if these musicians were to perform this live, it would lead to a world of completely different sounds. Interoceans captures a moment in time that will never be repeated, and while that sounds like a high mucky muck way to say "this is unique and special, a once in a lifetime event captured forever on CD", it's also a way to say that I really like this album and I hope people will listen to it for its originality and willingness to challenge themselves and potential listeners.

    (Interoceans will be released in September through Asthmatic Kitty Records.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Reviewing and listening to as much music as I do, one can become easily jaded and forget that there's some good within the muck. Then there's an album like this. Jeff Hanson is a crafty pop singer/songwriter in the vein of Randy Newman and Dave Grohl and... yeah I know, I just compared Newman and Grohl, the former drummer of Scream. If you haven't paid attention to the Foo Fighters since their inception, perhaps you are missing on some incredible compositions from the man who almost killed Jack Black in The Pick Of Destiny.

    But I'm moving way beyond my description of this album, and the album I speak of is Madam Owl, coming from the great folks at Kill Rock Stars. Hanson plays some wonderful songs that tell tells of wonderment, curiosity, and the human condition. "Your Only Son" could be about that Jesus Christ kid if he smoked weed and did luudes, while "Maryann" is about love lost and seeking to found her (and himself) again. These songs aren't just him, a guitar, and a thrift store picnic table, these songs are sometimes filled with a string section, Flugelhorn, and with the kind of little intricate things that made me realize that this guy is very serious about the craft of pop music, it's not just wasteful thinking. Then there's the voice. Imagine Green Gartside of Scritti Politti singing some Americana. When the CD first started playing, I felt it was unique that the album began with the voice of a woman and I was ready to look at the credits to see who it was. I was waiting for Hanson to begin until I realized that the voice I was hearing was Hanson. I had to reconfigure my mind (read "my mind"), stop the CD, and play it again. Repositioned, there's a hidden innocence that comes from hearing this with that voice, but within that innocence comes someone with a truly sweet voice that works in the most unusual way. It's not strange by any means, at least once you know the voice is coming from him, and it's one of those personal diary albums that you are always curious about when digging through a book store, and upon reading it you feel as if someone was reading your mind or you were comforted that someone felt as you do. It's an emotional album, one that delivers in a way an adventurous pop album only could. Hanson is the kind of artist Elton John would be praising if he knew about him. Hey guys, send Elton a CD.

    (Madam Owl will be released on August 19th and can be pre-ordered through Kill Rock Stars).

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Seattle's Head Like A Kite combine electronic wizardry and alterna-rock to sound like a cross between the best elements of nine inch nails and Rise Robots Rise. There Is Loud Laughter Everywhere (Mush) could sound like every other electronic hybrid that's out there, but fortunately it doesn't, and outside of the great sounds they're able to create, they have songs that hold up beyond the audio surfaces heard.

    In truth, Head Like A Kite is less of a "they" and more of a "he", in this case Dave Einmo, who utilizes a wide range of collaborators in the studio and onstage (not unlike Trent Reznor) to create these sonic hurricanes. I always hated when someone would say "I wish there was electronic music with balls", but it's to say that they enjoy the limitless creativity of electronic-based music but wish it had the grit of guitars, and that can be heard throughout the entire album. "Daydream Vacation"'s feminine presence could easily bring Head Like A Kite to a wider audience as it's perfect for massive radio airplay or television placement, while the twisted musical chops of "Six Bags Of Confetti" (going back and forth between modern rock and nice electronic bursts of funk) will challenge anyone who thinks they can just nod their head eternally in a repetitive manner. The title track would easily become a nice down-tempo or hip-hop track in the right hands, almost in the vein of RJD2 or Nobody, while "Keano's Couch" takes the vocoder back and makes robot rock rise again.

    Head Like A Kite cannot be pinned down after hearing one, three, or even five songs, and the fact that the music goes everywhere shows me that Einmo is willing to do a lot of exploring, and I hope he continues moving in any and all directions, including those that are unknown.

  • My friends, this column is over, at least for this week. There's a growing pile of discs waiting to be heard, and I venture forward with more listening and analyzing on the way.

  • If you have music, DVD's, or books that you'd like for me to review, contact me through my MySpace page and I'll pass along my contact information. I also have a food blog so if you make any hot sauce or BBQ sauce and you want me to try it, send it along.

  • On another self-promotional note, don't forget to take a listen to my weekly podcast, called Book's Music, now up to #77:

  • Until then, go ride a bike. For real.
  • Friday, July 18, 2008

    SOME STUFFS: Mac Lethal releases brand new mix CD

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    Mac Lethal is about to release a brand new mix CD, in truth a non-album album. It's called the Crown Prime Rib Mixtape, and it's a collaboration with DJ Sku, who produced the entire album.

    The CD will be released on August 5th and will be available through Mac Lethal's website, Lethalville.com. Elements of the CD can be heard on his MySpace page.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    The Run-Off Groove #209

  • Aloha and welcome to the return of The Run-Off Groove #209. I am John Book, welcome. We as individuals want to accomplish things in our live, whether it's for personal or social reasons. One shouldn't have to explain themselves on why they do what they do, even though some want to show concern because they feel you're not doing the right thing. To them, what I do will never be of concern unless I'm a success. What success means to them is only a part of what success may mean to be, because they have no idea of the goals, hopes, and dreams that I have. What does matter are the goals, because that's something anyone can understand. Hopes and dreams may be viewed as lofty, because everyone has them but most will never achieve them. I struggle to achieve, and yet at times I feel like I put a bit of value in the powers that be, because what I do is being analyzed. I care enough to give and do enough, and I do what I do. Yet if I'm not doing enough, it leads to praise or ridicule. If I'm doing too little, same thing. A part of me wants to say "leave me the fuck alone" but a big part wants to thank everyone for any level of support they have thrown my way, even though it seems my goals are out of reach right now. The part of me that wants to give up is hanging out with the other part that kicks my ass each morning to say "do it". Do it until I'm satisfied, whatever it is, do it, do it until I'm satisfied. It might take some time, but as long as it pleases me, I can do it, do it...

    Let's begin, or maybe that should be, "and we continue..."

    Download 25 FREE songs at eMusic.com!

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The buzz for this album was strong long before it was finished, partly because Nas stated that the title would be Nigger. Boom, that's going to irk the shit out of people and rightfully so, but this is Nas, someone who has generally been on a mission. Nonetheless, after a bit of debate, Nas decided to claim that there was no title for it, however with the original title in mind, that becomes the backbone for one of the more lyrically impressive albums he has done in his career.

    What Nas does on this album is create a running thread through each of the songs. It's not a concept album, and most of the writers who are claiming it is a concept obviously have no idea what a concept album is. It's a running theme, and from song to song he passes through but not without lyrically assassinating everyone and every negative concept in sight. He still wants to rock it and prove he's the best Queens has ever offered, but while the bravado and swagger is very much in his voice and flows, he's not an elitist on this one. In "Breathe" he speaks about where he came from, where he's been, where he's headed, and acknowledges those who have been a part of the battle to survive. One can't survive without watchful eyes, and Nas proudly says Middle fingers up, fuck the police/light up my trees and I just breathe. In "Black President" he looks to the reality that the United States may have its first black president, but also knows about the risks that it entails. Nas questions on whether or not anything will change, but compared to the presidents of the past, he knows that change is definitely going to come, and a lot of people aren't ready for that:

    New-improved JFK on the way
    It ain't the 60's again
    N!ggas ain't hippies again
    We ain't falling for the same traps
    Standing on the balconies
    Where they shot the King at
    McCain got apologies
    Ain't nobody hearing that
    People need honesty

    The verse takes a peak at people who offered hopes and dreams and perhaps those dreams will rise to the surface if people are seriously looking for change. With the original title of the album in mind again, Nas is holding the light in front of people and asking "look at where we're at now, and where we might be headed. Plan on insulting my intelligence anytime soon?"

    Nas recently stated on 106 & Park that a lot of people will forever demand another Illmatic but he said that was 1994, and it's time to look forward and move on. He knows the importance of that album and what made people get in touch with that sense of ill-ness, but Nas has proved once again that he's still ill. It would take someone like him to admit that hip-hop is dead, and if that was the case, this album can be considered someone going head first, without fear, into the apocalypse.

    (Nas (Untitled) is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Seattle. Yes, Wizdom is from there. Epidemmik? He's from the other Washington, and I mean D.C. Together they decided to do a project together and it has lead to an album that will hopefully put them on the "essential" list as they create Music: Soul Of The Man (Gemini).

    There was no need for Wizdom to up his game, I liked his style the way it is. But for his new album with Epidemmik, his game is something a lot of people should be afraid of on an album where he speaks about what hip-hop, music, and Seattle means to him, and how all of these things give him the outlook and passion he has. While older Seattle fans might question the need for Wizdom to do an album with someone 3000 miles away, he addresses that in "Hollywood", which he describes as the current state of hip-hop negotiations:

    I got a e-mail just the other day
    From this dude who does beats locally right around the way
    Said he been on the grind now for nine months
    And this guy was different than them other cookie cutter chumps
    Each beat'll cost you only 3-hundo spots
    I'll send you the files when you ready to cop
    I replied that I'm good, I got this cat from D.C.
    He said "nevermind, if you don't want heat, G
    I make better beats than fuckin' Vitamin D, see?
    I use Fruity Loops, the rest is garbage to me
    Fuck Epidemmik and his wack ASR-10
    His style is outdated, I was really happenin'"
    I told him, dude you put in work
    It takes years to make it, jerk,don't get ass hurt
    I told him stay on your grind, no hate
    This is Hollywood, where everyone pretends that they great

    If there's an underlying theme, it's that Wizdom is telling it like it is without fear, the stories and struggles of being an artist and being a fan of music in 2008 has turned hip-hop into a Hollywood-like fantasy world for some, and by the time he gets to "Keep On Moving" and "Bring It Back" one realizes how far we've moved from the great days of '88, when gas was a dollar, clothes didn't quite fit, no one had the internet, and the Chicago Bulls were the only team that mattered. Wizdom speaks on everything we've accumulated since then and suggest what we can do in order to return to those days of innocence.

    Like Danger Mouse, Epidemmik is an "appropriate" producer in that he knows how to gear the beats for the lyrics and what samples will fit in perfectly for the occasion. The two of them make a tight combo and he definitely adds to Wizdom's great storytelling here (along with cameos from Thig Natural, Grynch, and Ike James). On his own, the guy has an ear for putting things together, and I could just listen to any of his instrumentals and be happy. I hope both of them continue to work together, which will result in Epidemmik getting more work to put on his resume as well.

    Wizdom is the voice, and being from Seattle, one can say that Music: Soul Of The Man represents Seattle hip-hop at its finest. Epidemmik is the producer, and being from D.C., one can say that the album represents D.C. at its finest. As a unit, the album represents rap music at its best. The soul of hip-hop is dead? Not if Wizdom and Epidemmik have a say in things.

    (Music: Soul Of The Man can be ordered directly from Wizdom.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Last year I had reviewed Aranos Tax, an album that explored what we as citizens of the world have to deal with alongside living. We are told we have to pay this or that, payment of which is more than monetary. That album consisted of 12 songs. For his new project, Aranos explores sound to its fullest potential by offering a CD consisting of one, 65-minute piece. It's an endurance test but I'm all for it.

    Koryak Mistress Stakes Golden Sky is the name of the album and the piece that's on the CD, and it takes awhile for things to bloom. The great thing about this piece is that there are no shortcuts, every sound, texture, and movement takes time to be heard and fully understood, it's a bit like sitting on top of Haleakala crater and watching the sun rise slowly but surely. You want to take it all in, for anything missed may be an elimination of elements within the full experience. It's meditative, it might be considered new age, even progressive, but in time you hear a collection of different sounds played by Aranos himself. If you've ever been into an ocean, whether it's at a beach or by boat, there is always a bit of uncertainty even though you know "it's just water" or "it's just a beach", but sitting and listening to this is like that, especially upon first listen. Every sound leads to something new, and it isn't until the middle of the piece that one can hear the music at its assumed peak. It stays there for awhile, being abstract when it wants to but also knowing where it needs to go and what it must do, and eventually it seems to go back to where it came from. Is the album moving forwards or backwards? Is it beginning or the end? Are we listening to birth, life, and death? Is this the sound of someone looking up at the sky while lying on the ground, with nowhere to go but in?

    Again, it's an endurance test but I'm a fan of lengthy pieces (10 minutes or more!!!) and this one was a trip to listen to, and I enjoyed it with various synths and real instruments uniting for the cause of the album. One may not know where the piece will go or where it's coming from, but once it reaches its last 10 minutes, all of the pieces are understood

    (Koryak Mistress Stakes Golden Sky is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Those who love their vocal jazz low and smooth will enjoy the richness of Vibe Over Perfection, the new album from Jamie Davis. Davis has been a singer for years and will appeal to fans of Joe Williams and Lou Rawls. While many have been compared to those two, it's another thing to take jazz standards and truly make them sound new. This is exactly what he does with new versions of Lionel Richie's "Hello", Rawls' "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine", and the classic "The Look Of Love". Even "Nature Boy", which has been covered countless times over the years, gets a bit of a new awakening here.

    The album was beautifully produced by Greg Errico, the name of which should be familiar to Sly & The Family Stone fans. He has done a number of productions in the past and his work here shows the kind of ear he has to make these recordings sound fantastic.

    (Vibe Over Perfection will be released on July 15th through Unity Music.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The Numero Group are back with another morsel of good ol' soul, and in this case it's the long lost soundtrack to a blaxploitation film project that was canceled before it was started. Brotherman features the music by The Final Solution, and in typical 70's soundtrack fashion, the music is meant to be a description of some of the things going on in the film. Like some of the best soundtracks of the 70's, it's a mixture of stories about ther struggle, hustling, and finding that one and only true love to romance all day and night.

    I received a promo CD for this, so I did not get a chance to read the liner notes for more in-depth information or see some of the photos that may be in there, so I can only do this review on the merits of the music. Being meant for 1975, you can hear that looseness of the music and the vocals where things weren't ready to be full-on disco, but some of it was getting ready to crossover. The liner notes on the promo seems to indicate that these songs were not mixed until recently, and maybe it's all in my mind, but what is lost in these recordings is some of the production techniques that were part of the norm, so it's somewhat difficult to tell what the group and the producer had in mind, had these recordings been mixed in full. Instead, they sound like polished demos that occasionally left me hanging and wanting more. I like how some songs end abruptly without a fade, and I do like the fact that this was an album unearthed 33 years later after the fact, but for some reason it just feels incomplete. That's not saying that the songs are bad, because they aren't, but one can hear this and only imagine what could have been had the soundtrack been finished as it may have been intended.

    (The Brotherman soundtrack will be released on August 18th through The Numero Group.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The one thing people have been saying about the new Negativland album is that it's different, unlike anything they have done before. Truth of the matter is: it's true. Outside of side projects, Thigmotactic (Seeland) is an album featuring fully developed songs with proper singing, but this is Negativland, so nothing is really "proper" and as for the "singing"...

    It's very much in the Negativland way of thinking. Consider these songs filk scriptures, where the music is created with synthesizers, real instruments, and a lot of sound collage. You'll hear reference to anything and everything, as before, but this time their approach is arguably more consumable. The humor of course is very much present, and for this album they take a look at the world we live in circa 2008 and examine it from all perspectives. It is done by vocals mixed in with soundbytes of various origins, so the samples speak and help guide the listener along to the story. That is, if some of the stories can be figured out. "Your Skin Is Gelatin" could be about Jell-O or it could be about the fetishism of celebrities who look and act like gelatin, I have absolutely no idea what's going on. Is the album about food? There are many references to them: "Jack Pastrami (Flower Bum)", "Steak On A Whim", "Pork In The Store", "Perfect Little Cookies", and the aforementioned gelatin song. "By Truck" is an educational sound about milk, and why that truck sucks. Speaking of sucking, is "Lying On The Grass" a ballad about analingus?

    It takes a number of listens for everything to sink in and be somewhat understood, but even after that you'll find yourself wanting to leave songs open to interpretation. From afar, one can easily play this alongside The Residents, Primus, King Missile, Reaching Quiet, cLOUDDEAD, and Why?. The worlds contained within Thigmotactic are sponsored and brought to you by something, and the point is to figure out how to get the organisms out of the system to live and breathe free.

    Or is it?

    (Thigmotactic is available directly from Negativland.com, where you are able to download samples from the album.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The Mood play the kind of jingly jangly power pop that gets the best of us and sweeps us off of our feet, and these guys and a lady do it effectively with their Synaesthesia EP (Outright Rock). One can say that their music is infectious, and that's exactly what the best pop music provides, a need for you to hear it over and over because there's a hint of familiarity and yet you want to hear these stories because they are new tales by a new band. "Masquerade" could become the anthem for the youth this coming fall, with the power riffs and the delicate verses and chorus that makes you want to pull up the fingers and rock in a Satanic fashion.

    It's non-threatening, their music will not make you do luudes (maybe), but it's not as sugar sweet as The Apples In Stereo. Hearing this makes you wish radio would play music like this a lot more. That is, if radio was worth listening to.

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us My Milky Way Arms, what kind of a name is that? I like it because it's straight up goofy. Milkman and Tim2K are the two men behind My Milky Way Arms and their self-titled EP (Milky Syndication) shows they have a love for quirky, distorted pop that will take you to the upper worlds and nether regions at the same time.

    They describe their music in a symphonic manner, but it's a symphony of the pop and rock sense, with falsettos and compressed drums coming out of the vaults of The Flaming Lips and Dokoloats. Is it really "romantic, space-rock and electronic pop"? It's definitely a mind trip, acidic to the taste and yet fun at the same time. These two do accessible things in (somewhat) unusual ways, it seems they are going to find an audience by taking the long route, in that time being able to accumulate fans who will understand what they themselves may not understand. I can see My Milky Way Arms becoming the next it band within the next few years, it may take them awhile but the long road is paved with goodness. I'll be there on the other side.

    (The My Milky Way Arms EP is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Karen Johns is a swingin' jazz singer who does it without all of the extravagance some singers try to push, or if it's there, it's fairly subtle. Star And Season (Ptarmigan Music) is an album for those who want their jazz standards to be sung and played with respect, and this album (credited as Karen Johns & Company is full of respect, class, and dignity.

    Much of that comes from the way Johns sings, very smooth and with a lot of elegance. In her version of "Night & Day" I almost sensed a folk influence but that may be simply her pulling a quick vocal trick or two. Bread's "If" gets a beautiful treatment here, even a song like this which has been played to death for the last 35 years, Johns sings this and makes it her own song, as if it was meant for her to sing. She also introduces a few originals in a suite of songs that seem to bring together the seasons of the year, with her "Southland Summer" and "Angels In The Snow" becoming the bread to Johnny Mercer's meat in the name of "Autumn Leaves". "Angels In The Snow" is a song that I can easily see becoming a part of many holiday movies, and with luck it too will become a standard for jazz singers of the future. For now, Karen Johns is someone fans of vocal jazz should keep an eye and ear on.

    (Star And Season is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us I tend to get picky when it comes to hearing vocal jazz, because when it's good I want to let everyone know. Then there's stuff that isn't pleasing to my ears. Sadly, Ballet Time (Conawago) is not an album that I would want to hear again. Anne Phillips has an okay voice, but as much as I wanted to sit and take it for the duration of the CD, her style is just too shrill and irritable for me to take in. The album is great as far as the people she collaborates with, for the album features Dave Brubeck, Marian McPartland, Bob Dorough, and Joe Locke, and the music throughout is great. If it was an instrumental album, I would be praising this left and right. I just can't get past the voice.

    As far as musical merits are concerned, this is well played and recorded, and hearing Brubeck play on "In Your Own Sweet Way" (a song composed with his wife Iola) is just... it's Brubeck, what can be said that hasn't been said? Perhaps you may enjoy the album as a whole, but this just wasn't for me.

    (Ballet Time is available from CDBaby.)

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    Rita Edmond's Sketches Of A Dream (T.O.T.I. Music) fared a little better, her voice reminded me of a cross between the silky tones of Roberta Flack with the Broadway tendencies of Cheryl Lynn. The entire album holds up quite well, with a powerful 16 songs to prove that she is more than capable of doing, my favorites were "You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To", "On The Street Where You Live", and "Here's That Rainy Day". Edmond has the kind of voice that I think could embrace any song in any songbook and make it into something that would become identified with her, and I would have liked to have heard a few songs that weren't part of the jazz fabric. But that's more of a personal gripe than an actual one.

    If there is one thing I found fault in, it's the vocal tracks, which at points sound like she wasn't in the room with the musicians. In those moments it sounds like she's in an isolated booth with her voice bouncing off the sides, giving a very cold feeling that isn't fitting for her. She produced her own vocal tracks, but with the music as big and bold as it is, I would have preferred for her voice to sound just as bold, rather than it being trapped in a room the size of a small closet. It's a flaw that I can look past, but in the future I hope to hear the boldness of her voice opened up with the band.

    (Sketches Of A Dream is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The first song on Her Space Holiday's new EP, Sleepy Tigers (Mush), for some reason, reminds me of a cross between Flaming Lips, Amy Winehouse, and The Band. While it might be impossible for Winehouse to sit in with these two bands, the acoustic folk pop stylings of Her Space Holiday is perfect for the playground of the alterna- kids who understand the purity of pop. It can be quirky but it's so good that you don't realize that it's a little left of center. In other words, Celine Dion isn't going to beat box to this anytime soon.

    What you do hear is a band who create mini-pop masterpieces because they love the form of the music, in fact "Same Song Sing Along" has a hint of Beatlemania with a slight sprinkle of Kink-dom. The EP is a small dose consisting of four hits, but it's a primer for what the group can do in long form. There's courage in their innocent ways, and one day it will be released without a warning. Watch it, dukes.

    (Sleepy Tigers will be released on July 29th and will be available directly from Mush Records.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Never judge a book by a cover, the old cliche goes, and this album is definitely fitting. The cover photo of Georg Brienschmid features him superimposed over what looks like a stand-up bass or cello, as he's holding, inquisitively, a flute. Looking at the stand-up bass, I assumed it was jazz, but upon hearing the music on Wien bleibt Krk (Zappel Music), one discovers that things are a bit more open and quirky than that.

    This Austrian musician has played both jazz and classical, but for most of this album, Brienschmid takes to his ethnic roots and travels along the country side to present himself and his friends through music. It almost comes off as a folk album but there's a audio thread running through that shows it's much more than that, coming from melodies and arrangements that aren't in just 4/4 or 3/4. "Interlude: Klanes Wiener Basssolo" is more on the jazzy side of things, but then it leads to a sweet melody in the name of "Stammersdorger Ausdruckstänze" that reminds me of the music my Omama adored. It is this exploration of his roots through jazz and folk that makes hearing this a voyage to a homeland you never visited, but would like to someday. Breinschmid and the musicians that join him know what they're doing, and it shows how much he is in love with his country and its inhabitants. What he does with the music is bridges the old and the new, to let listeners know that he and his people will never forget waht came before, and to look towards the future for innovation and hope.

    (Wien bleibt Krk is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The style of jazz Mark Prince plays borders on the fine line between smooth and ECM-smoothness. With Prince anchoring the ship as a drummer, Fraction Of Infinity (Contour) is a blazing voyage through well played jazz and arrangements that, as cliche as it sounds it applies here, will keep you on the edge of your seat.

    I know, you're probably thinking "smoothed out jazz that's edgy?" I'd have to reply with a yes. As I've said many times in the past, I like "smoothed out" when it's not "too smooth", the whole "soprano sax over a pre-programmed track" was stale 15 years ago, it's still stale now. Each of the eleven songs on Prince's album hold up because all of the musicians (Greg Boyer on trombone, David Merlin-Jones on soprano sax, David J. White on tenor sax and flute, Federico Gonzalez Pena on piano and keyboards, Michael Bowie on acoustic and electric bass, Deandre Shaifer on trumpet and Flugelhorn, Alvin White on guitar, along with Geno Young who handles vocals on "August (For Karen)") play like a well trained army ready for the attack. In this case, the battle is a harmonious one amongst one another and what caught my ear the most was how tight Prince and bassist Bowie are together, noticeable throughout the entire album but check out "Quiet Thoroughfire (For Dad)" and the opening track "Rite Of Passage" for proof. Bowie's opening bass riff in "Abena's Last Stand" is bold and strong and when Merlin-Jones comes in with his soprano sax, it doesn't sound like weiner water. It's on the level of a John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman, it has the kind of attitude that makes you want to catch every move in the musical strut and just keep on going until it's unfortunate conclusion (unfortunate only because each of these songs could easily go on for another five or ten minutes without becoming stale). Prince's drumming goes around the grooves and within the music that's played, he knows how to fill the right moments and also how to step back and let the others do their thing. Even with a sax, flute, Flugelhorn, trumpet, and sax in the mix, one might think throwing a guitar would disrupt the vibe of the recording but White's playing is most welcome, reminds me a bit of Steve Lukather or Neal Schon and never moves into theAl DiMeola fierce category. Subtle and smooth.

    The themes throughout the album are family and life, the link between things personal and musical, and the fine balance between them both. Fraction Of Infinity is to me the definition of quality jazz of the highest order, and one wishes they had infinity to hear Prince and his fellow musicians over and over, this is an incredible jazz album that deserves all of the attention it fully deserves.

    (Fraction Of Infinity is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Colourmusic has come up with one of the more original album titles I've heard in quite some time: f, monday, orange, february, venus, lunatic, 1 or 13 (Great Society). Nice huh? The music is not as twisted as the title, but what you will hear is eclectic pop/rock with a genuine push to be edgy because they feel it's good, not because it's the latest fad of the week.

    Colourmusic have a few psychedelic touches to their gritty pop, and while some songs are straightforward, there are a few lines and verses that will keep you guessing, and that's a good thing. I don't know what's in the water in Oklahoma, but it must be something wickedly good because these guys are the kind of band one would like to hear throughout all phases of ones life. The last band on your death bed? Hell yeah! Combine The Flaming Lips with Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins and you get a slight sliver of Colourmusic's capabilities.

    FREE MP3:
    Colourmusic-Put In A Little Gas (3.71mb)

    (f, monday, orange, february, venus, lunatic, 1 or 13 will be released on vinyl and digital form on August 19th, the compact disc will be released on September 9th.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Mike & The Ravens go back to the days when rock'n'roll truly ruled the world, and on Noisy Boys! The Saxony Sessions (Zoho Roots) they show they still have the spirit they had when they first started way back in 1960.

    Yes, you read that right, 1960.

    The reason this album exists is because a writer was putting together a series of articles on early rock'n'roll and garage bands, and when it comes to doing your research in those genres, one discovers that sometimes the more obscure, the better the story. Eventually the members of this band were tracked down and they didn't realize that there was a small but devoted cult following to their music. What they decided to do was get back in the studio and this is the result. Most of the music reminds me of the kind of rock Bruce Springsteen would talk about at a live show before bringing these musicians on stage to jam in a mini-set. It's the kind of spirit one could hear locally, regionally, and nationally, and these guys are just as rough and frisky as they were years ago. "I Be Rockin' With Mrs. Benoit" sounds like something that The Reverend Horton Heat, Brian Setzer or The Blasters could easily cover. It's raw and primitive, but with a modern touch, so don't expect the lo-fi pleasures of The Mummies or The Phantom Surfers. Expect to hear rockabilly played with the same freedoms of 16 year olds discovering the wonders of "three chords and the truth". Young rock bands need to stop what they're doing and take lessons from Mike & The Ravens.

    (Noisy Boys! The Saxony Sessions will be released on August 12th.)

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Kalae Miles has been making music for a few years, but with luck this one will bring a wider audience to him. Ho'opono ('Aumakua) begins with a Hawaiian rendition of Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World" and the 'ukulele and vocals will bring a chill to those who can feel it, but "instant homesick" happens as soon as "Oh Lovely Lanikai" begins as soon as the slide guitar comes in, bringing to mind the old days of Waikiki and a very different Hawai'i than it is today.

    The album combines brand new compositions from Miles with a number of Hawaiian classics, including "Nani Wai'anae", "Pua Lililehua", "Hi'ilawe", and a non-falsetto rendition of "Kalena Kai". I state non-falsetto because I grew up listening to Hui Ohana's version and to me that has always been THE version. But hearing Miles' rendition shows how much more meaningful the song has become over the years. If one knows about the areas the song describes, one can imagine what it must have been like to experience the things talked about, and of course the song also offers a very beautiful hula.

    What new fans will find amazing are the new compositions, a continuance of what people like Keali'i Reichel has demanded from a younger generation of Hawaiian musicians and songwriters. Reichel once said something to the effect that the classic Hawaiian songs will continue to live on as long as the music continues to be played, performed, and heard, but one also needs to continue the process by adding new material, as if to say that our story is not over, and we will continue to tell those stories until we are no longer able to. Miles sings and plays with the kind of force that shows why Hawaiian music is the most beautiful in the world, and one doesn't have to know the language or "the ways" in order tounderstand this. It's happiness, compassion, sorrow, truth, hopes, and dreams in the music, and Kalae Miles is proof that quality Hawaiian music still exists today.

    It is also one of the best sounding Hawaiian albums I have heard, engineered by John Vierra, produced, mixed, and mastered by Shawn Livingston Moseley. One could easily find this album alongside No Kristo, Young Hawai'i Plays Old Hawai'i, and Cane Fire, and in time it will be considered one of the best Hawaiian albums ever made.

    (Ho'opono is available through Mele.com.)

  • On a self-promotional note, please check out the latest edition of my Book's Music podcast, I'm now up to #76, so have some spirit and listen:

  • That is it for this week's installment of The Run-Off Groove. Coming up very soon, I'll have reviews of new music by Scrapomatic, Shawn Livingston Moseley, Al Foster Quartet, d-sisive, I Heart Lung, Dumhi, and more. I always stretch the deadline of this column to suit my own needs, and now I'm saying okay, I'm done, let's put the column up, so here it is. Again, I'm still hunting down a few CD's that were meant for review before I moved a few weeks ago, fortunately they were a small handful but when they are found, they will be reviewed.

  • If you have music you'd like to have reviewed, please send me a message through my my MySpace page. Vinyl, CD's, DVD's, books, I'll review it. Contact me and I'll pass along my contact information to you.