Monthly Archives: June 2011

A Formal Introduction to Mashups

You know, listening to a mash-up is like taking a turn at the buffet line. Where else but a buffet can one have some greasy Chinese chow mein with greasy American fries right next to it? The same can be said of a mash-up, where two completely different genres and styles converge onto one track. When it’s done right, I can’t ever think of the original tracks without referring to the mash-up. Here’s an example of an utterly fantastic mix by one of the top mash up artists in the industry today, The White Panda.

The flow of T.I works so well with Passion Pit’s instrumental. It’s a party starter and it’s soooooooo sickkkkkkkkkkkkk (excuse me for my stereotypical teenage vernacular)

If you love it, follow the link here to go to their website and download it!

When I listen to a great mash-up, it quickly enters my playlist for the next week and a half, and I’ll return to it as often as possible (repeat status!). Naturally, enjoying such an experience makes me want to seek out more mash-ups. Here’s the tricky part though, like a buffet, I may consume too much content at one time. In my search more another quality mash up, I begin to accept decent mash ups to temporary satisfy my needs, which leads to the slippery slope that eventually ends with me going on youtube and listening to really awful mashups featuring Nirvana (never again).

So what entails a good mash-up then? Well according to Dylan, a great mash up MUST retain the “soul” of both tracks while creating a new sound. Sounds contradictory in nature, but I think it has to deal with the fact that a good track needs to pay respect to the roots on the songs while combining both of tracks to form a distinctive sound. In most cases, mash-ups usually involve the formula of laying a rap over an indie beat ( a trend that is really fleshed out in frat rap), but the classiest mash up I know of bucks this trend.

Introducing The Reborn Identity’s “American Days Are Over”

Here’s a winning combo: Mix together one of the American classics Don Mclean’s “American Pie” with 2010’s surprise band hit Florence the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over”. I got chills when listening to the last 30 seconds of the song with Don Mclean singing the chorus of “Bye bye Miss American Pie” while Florence echoing the chorus “Dog Days Are Over”. Da da da damnnnnnnnn.

The best part of about mash-ups? Everything’s a free, legal download!

Oh what the hell, one more guilty pleasure, the go to high school hipster track “Kids” mashed with 2010’s simplistic party anthem “Like a G6”

So there you have it, a brief introduction to mash-ups, my favorite kind of music. Some folks don’t enjoy it too much (Chris has been vocal about the lack of authentic creativity in mash ups, which is true) while others absolutely adore it (this guy). If you’re in the latter half, here are some good places to start checking out for more possibilities.

The White Panda

The Hood Internet (Although their recent stuff has declined in quality)

Earmilk’s Mashup Mondays

Mashuptown (Careful, I saw a Nirvana mash up here once. Be careful)

Canada, cont.

Vincent’s post has me thinking about some of my favorite Canadian bands. I will touch on 4.

First, a new favorite. Said the Whale is an indie band from Vancouver (home of Stanley Park, Granville Island, the Vancouver Canucks, and tear gas). This song is bright, cheery, summer (but with some kind of melancholy timbres as well)!! Sounds like a typical Pacific Northwest offering.

Next, an old favorite. Death From Above 1979. The best bass/drum duo the world has ever seen. After releasing  just one album, they called it quits. This year they have reunited to play some festivals, hopefully that turns into their first release since 2004’s You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine.

Third, Toronto punk group Fucked Up. They just released an epic concept album entitled David Comes to Life. It has received rave reviews from many critics. Nothing more needs to be said than what is covered in this video.

Last, but definitely not least, one of my favorite bands: Japandroids. The Vancouver duo consisting of guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse write energetic noise rock. Their 2009 album Post Nothing is a startling, emotional take on post-adolescence. King and Prowse struggle with the transition between having no responsibilities to becoming full fledged adults. A key lyric from the track “Young Hearts Spark Fire” reflects on this idea: “I don’t wanna worry about dying/I just wanna worry about those sunshine girls”.

Imaginary Cities

So I’m in Canada to visit some family friends one last time before college starts ( I’ll touch on that subject in the future), and I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of music is here up North. Of course, I am using this justification to cater to my indie needs here, and I found just the right band to accomplish this. Introducing Imaginary Cities, whose debut album, Temporary Resident, was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize.  According to Wikipedia, “The Polaris Music Prize is a music award annually given to the best full-length Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label. However, methinks that Arcade Fire has that wrapped up already. Back to Imaginary Cities though, here’s an old feature about the band’s rise to prominence.

Now more importantly, check out the music from this fantastic Canadian band! I throughly recommend “Where’d All The Living Go” for its banjo like sound that carries throughout the song and the beautiful Motown vocals of singer Marti Sarbit.

Imaginary Cities – “Say You”
Imaginary Cities – “Hummingbird”
Imaginary Cities – “Temporary Resident”
Imaginary Cities – “Calm Before The Storm”
Imaginary Cities – “Where’d All The Living Go”

The Artist Known as Ellie Goulding

I’ll be frank about my music relationship with UK’s biggest artist at the moment. I don’t really see her as a stand-alone artist, but rather an assortment of samples ready for some heavy remixes. I can’t think of her title track “Lights” without thinking about the Bassnectar remix. It is nearly impossible for me to listen to her song “Starry Eyed” without anticipating the deep bass drop in the Jakwob remix (which I think is absolutely the best song to introduce someone to dubstep).

Here’s the title track “Lights”

Now check out Bassnectar’s version: Ellie Goulding – “Lights” (Bassnectar Remix)

So what’s the difference between the two? I think it has to deal with the intensity of the versions. In the original version, the song’s tempo just can kind of meanders on a bit, never really picking it up. Meanwhile in the remix there’s  a big bass introduction around the one minute mark, thereby adding a little more punch to the song.

Next up is my favorite track by Miss Goulding (with a remix of course) “Starry Eyed” remixed by Jakwob


I had been meaning to cover this segment for awhile, but the music blog Earmilk  basically posted a bonanza of Ellie Goulding mixes, with over 20 different versions! Check it out here 

Of Light, Shabazz Palaces – The Shabazz EPs

Palaceer Lazaro - Ishmael Butler

“That’s how we start the show”, Ishmael Butler confidently says as the shakers, bass, and kick drum crackle around him on “Gunbeat Falls”, the opening track of Shabazz Palaces’ 2009 EP Of Light. His beat has a distinct Afro-centric flare, reflecting his past, present and future, his roots, upbringing, and a vision that he portrays using the symbolism of light, stars, and sparkles. His vision is one of black empowerment. He is a political realist but also an idealist in that he realizes where his people are and is sure of where he wants them to go. He strives for something better, clinging to his music as he knows that his music is a means to convey his message of empowerment but also a lifesaver of sorts. “The beat will always save us” is a phrase echoed by Butler and two other voices, repeated as the bass reverberates and swells. The bass drops, and only African drums sound under Butler’s verse.

Hip hop has long been a way for African Americans to escape, be it psychologically or literally. It has been a medium that has provided financial security and a refuge from the ghettos and it has been a means to reflect the torment felt by generations of people. Ironically, it has become a means of exploitation, and some rappers such as the group Dead Prez have compared record labels to modern slave ships. Butler’s  expression is one free from pressures and containment of labels, a true example of the potential powers that hip hop holds. He flew under the radar until quite recently; for several months after the release of the Shabazz EPs (which contained no liner notes), many were left to speculate who the MCs of Shabazz Palaces were. Butler claims that his secrecy is not intentional, he states that he just puts his music out there and doesn’t seek the spotlight. The spotlight has found him, however, as it did in the early 90’s when he was the frontman for Grammy nominees Digable Planets. The work done on the Shabazz EPs and the upcoming Sup Pop release Black Up are simply too remarkable to ignore. His lyrics are mysterious, filled with metaphor and raw imagery. The beats behind his words are fragmented, pulsing, a combination of African percussion and post-modern ambience.  His samples are nods towards classic tribal song and chant, jazz, and sound that is too natural and too human, too universal to be categorized succinctly.Through these sounds come a distinct encompassing artistic vision for the future of hip hop. The future of hip hop, and the future of an entire race.

Certain phrases stand out. Words of advice. Calls. Words begging for action. He asks, on “100 SPH”, “Don’t you feel that it’s time for the bomb?” “Let them know you holler black and far”. Interspersed jazz horn lines. A beat that sways like waves against the African shores. A meditation on fake rappers “posin’ in white boy suits”. He wants his fellow MCs to be real, to recognize their roots. The next track begins with a siren, a distinctly African beat, agogo bells and percussion carrying the bass. A muffled news report. More lines decrying pop stars. That he’s been there make Butler’s words all the more meaningful. “Money make them fools”. An almost Middle Eastern horn line ends the song, a transition to “Chuch” which begins with a repeated playground call and response, a tribal call. More agogo, triangle. Big resounding bass on beat one. “Heat up the grease”. “We call that survival/with style”, the repeated chorus. “Everytime we move we do it straight up”. “Straight up” is repeated. Messages of self and cultural improvement. “I live out loud I’m proud”. “Nah really what’s up with that bullshit that they be tryin’ to sell us/what the fuck we look like? Corny ass niggas eatin jello in the crowd at an open mic?/Hell to the nah, we intelligent relevant/life survivors that wanna hear somethin elegant/you reheated your beats and rhymes so many times nigga that’s why I dine hella quick”. “Sparkles” is jazz straight out of North Africa. Breezy. A distinct vibe that is not easily categorized. It has to be heard. “We steppin out”, Butler and co. repeat. “I know we always strugglin to make somethin out of nothin”. “We live life in this rythm/they always take and don’t be given”. “We steppin’ out/to put the stars up”. The next two tracks, closing the EP, go together. The beat is understated, head bobs. Mysterious. A woman’s voice emerges, singing softly. It sings about “love”. Butler sprinkles his verse around it. His phrases and the repeated love are intertwined. Part two begins with “a lesson to the weak”. The bass is deep, a light flute goes on top. “I guess you really can lead a nigga to a well and make him drink it”. “I’m a product and a victim to perpetuate the sickness”. “My love is left on empty”. “I ordered too much food and wine, the bill is here, it’s time to pay”. “Find out who you are/and see it/find out what you are/and free it/find out who you love/and need it/find out what you can/and be it/that’s what’s up, that’s what’s up”. The flute solos, joined by saxophone. “Find out”. Of Light is in the books.

Shabazz Palaces, the EP, begins with a tale of a man playing 21, “taking hella chance under the moonlit sun”. Another metaphor. Metaphors are mixed in, straying from the extended metaphor that is the individual song. A phrase separates itself: “just like spinners look like we’re goin but we’re really stopped”. A modern symbol of black affluence is a real symbol of a lack of progress even though progress is implied. The next track, shortened as “4 leaves”, talks about “breakin bread”, redistributing wealth to the community. “To be an MC is a pact, not an act, in fact it’s an honor we act to”. The subsonic bass rattles subs. Butler talks about the assumption that MCs give back to those who made them, to the place where they came from. It’s really a cautionary tale about black reliance on others. “It’d just be easier, my nigga to break bread”. In the next track, Butler repeats the phrase “do it for my people so you know y’all can have it”, a continuation of the ideas expressed in “4 leaves”. This is a slightly different meditation, as Butler is stating that he raps in order to empower his people but not to provide for them explicitly and literally. He provides in terms of thought and provocation, but not in terms of funds. The EP continues with “Blastit”, a track that begins with a kalimba solo. The themes of light and the night sky are continued: “underneath the starlight, underneath the moonlight, streetlight, club lights, specially candle lights”. It is a celebration, a song about taking chance. On “Capital 5”, Butler promises to be “a bright light on the dark side of town”. He strives to be an example. The beat is minimal, uneasy. The bass, the samples, blips and high pitched ambient background. Repeated voices. Electro noise. Butler’s soundscapes are of neon-lit streets. One AM. “And they say that times have changed/times they always change the same”. “Slow down/for what? Slow down”. The beat skitters to a stop, shakers and voices reverberate. “The street poets philosophize”. Butler is a street poet, but that undersells his abilities. He is a poet that reflects the streets, but reaches farther than his target audience. He speaks to everyone who has the pleasure of hearing him. He brings his scope back down for the EP’s closer, starting off by saying “yeah I’m just like you, I know I’m a mess”. He is a universal poet, speaking about and to his people, while reaching a universal audience. An audience that may be ready, or may not be. His music is futuristic, his lyrics visionary.

Tuesday, June 28th, marks the release of Shabazz Palaces’ full length debut. Black Up, the first hip hop release by Seattle’s famed Sup Pop records, has already received rave reviews from such sources as Pitchfork, the Los Angeles Times and, of course, from local outlets such as The Stranger and the Seattle Times. For Butler, one can only imagine that high critical acclaim is not what he is aiming for. He is not that simple, not that predictable. His vision appears to be grander. Time will tell if his high degree of musical accomplishment parlays itself into something deeper. That it seems to have the power to do so is an accomplishment in and of itself.

The Smiles- “Swimming”

I have always been a sucker for those upbeat indie songs that evoke a strong feel for summer. So it’s been no surprise that the California beach quartet that is the Smiles has been in heavy rotation the past few months. I touched on this band a few months ago, as you can see here, and the sound gets only better as the Washington weather (finally!) starts to hit the 70 degree mark during the day. Now let’s talk about the subject at hand, namely the Smiles’ latest song “Swimming”. Previously in the other songs, the band has alternating vocals between two of their guitar players, with one singing the bridge and the other sings the chorus. However, in “Swimming” the band pulls off a nice touch here, with one singer taking the first verse and the other vocalist singing the small bridge to the chorus, which is then reversed during the latter half of the song. Near the end of the song there’s a small guitar break that just screams of the 60s beach rock sound, bringing a satisfactory close.


Once more check out their bandcamp (and download their music for free) here

Candysound – Amadeus EP

Candysound is a rad band from Bellingham, WA. They were finalists in the EMP’s Sound Off competition but stupidly did not win. With that said, they have a new EP out and it’s pretty good. Pre-tay, pre-tay good. The band was formerly a two-piece, just guitar and drums. They’ve since added a bassist, I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m a sucker for two-pieces. Regardless, they have a powerful sound and a real ear for catchy hooks. “Turned In” roars in the swinging 6/8 choruses. “August” waxes poetic about summer nights. “We Don’t Try” is the highlight of the EP, as the guitar is fuzzy, ambient, a wash of sound that evokes a revitalized Pixies or Sunny Day Real Estate with some Slowdive thrown in. “Summary” is a more straight forward rocker. These guys have serious chops. They are probably the best Washington band you haven’t heard of. They spent their formative years listening to some sick bands. “Forward” is actually probably the highlight here. They eschew traditional strong structure. They make you think, make your head nod. Why the hell are they still playing Teen Centers?