La Sera - Break My Heart

Sic Alps - Glyphs

This is Pop Download-o-rama

Friday, August 31, 2007

REVIEW M.I.A. - Kala

The first time I listened to Maya Arulpragasam’s (M.I.A’s) sophomore release, Kala, I did not like it. Quite simply, I was bothered by its often disjointed and harsh production sensibilities. It was brash and loud and didn’t fit the neat expectations I had derived from minor internet leaks earlier this year. But a strange thing happened by the third and fourth listens; I was really starting to like it. Repeated listening allowed me to make sense of its true sonic heart. A grower if you will. From the day-glo MS paintbox, fractal cover art to the sampled beats and oblique sounds M.I.A. perfectly weaves disparate materials to craft a fabric that characterizes the frenzied pace of twenty first century global life. A mouthful for certain, but that’s what this record is all about. A travelogue for our times this is what makes Kala entirely unique. That is not to say the hurried pace was part of the recording process. Far from it; Kala was recorded in India, Jamaica, Japan, Australia and Baltimore (her original plan to record in the US with big name producers was thwarted when visa problems kept her out of the country for an extended period), and not surprisingly has a tangible world feel. Go to her Myspace page and part of M.I.A.’s new direction is dubbed “World Town”; In all likelihood stemming from her time spent in Liberia, and partial producer Diplo’s work with the Australian Aboriginal kids for his Heaps Decent project. I’ll leave the Baltimore contingents for you to discover.

Cohesive beyond reproach M.I.A.’s frenzied theme suits her lyrics. As well her distinctive vocalization is in top form; three of the album's standout tracks lay bare her creative intent. Songs like "Bird Flu"
“Jimmy” and "Boyz”, are also the most aggressive and sonically distinct cuts on the album, and best represent both the album's true soul. These tracks, recorded in studios in the heart of India. "Bird Flu" is a melodic barrage of avian squawks, Pixies sampling and a chaotic ensemble of folk drums. “Jimmy” is straight from Bollywood soundtrack territory, albeit with a more energetic rhythm.

On her previous release Arular various press exploited M.I.A. familial ties as the daughter of a Tamil Tiger rebel. That certainly helped with the badass label, but in the end perhaps it rang a little hollow as an attempt to gain notoriety. Kala achieves this same end without the guns and violence. M.I.A. is the real deal.


File under: Badass and Bollywood

Recommended if you like: Bollywood Soundtracks, Dr. Dre, Diplo

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

R.E.M. to Release LIVE CD/DVD

2007 has been a good year for R.E.M. A much deserved induction into the Rock n’ roll Hall of Fame, a successful rarities compilation and now, on October 16th the band will release its first live CD/ DVD combination. Titled R.E.M. LIVE CD/DVD the band’s previous live documents include Tourfilm, Road Movie and Perfect Square. Filmed by director Blue Leach, R.E.M. LIVE documents the band's exceptional performance at Dublin's Point Theatre on February 27, 2005 as part of a successful 116-date world tour that year.

The expansive 22-song set features some of R.E.M.'s best songs, including "The One I Love", "Man on the Moon", "Everybody Hurts", "Cuyahoga", "Orange Crush", and "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville". Also included is a previously unreleased cut called "I'm Gonna DJ". (Full set is included below.)

R.E.M. is currently recording a new album with producer Jacknife Lee (U2, Snow Patrol) in Dublin, Ireland. Their recently relaunched chronicles their time in the city.


01 I Took Your Name
02 So Fast, So Numb
03 Boy in the Well
04 Cuyahoga
05 Everybody Hurts
06 Electron Blue
07 Bad Day
08 Ascent of Man
09 Great Beyond
10 Leaving New York
11 Orange Crush
12 I Wanted to Be Wrong
13 Final Straw
14 Imitation of Life
15 The One I Love
16 Walk Unafraid
17 Losing My Religion
18 What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
19 Drive
20 (Don't Go Back to) Rockville
21 I'm Gonna DJ [previously unreleased]
22 Man on the Moon

Monday, August 20, 2007

PLAYLIST 4 - Can't Ignore the Train

Holidays are a great thing. Until they come to an end. After an incredible two weeks exploring the east coast of Canada the true normal is back. It feels all too real.

We took the train to Halifax and experienced things we have never seen and done before. It’s all a big blur for now. I’ll leave it to my digital camera to remind me of the details. But for now, a small comfort. In honour of that 40 hour rail experience a new playlist.

Jumping Someone Else's Train - The Cure
Blame It On The Trains - Art Brut
Death Train - A Frames
Soul Train College Policeman - Robert Pollard and Doug Gillard
Trainwreck - The Dirtbombs
The Memphis Train - Rufus Thomas
Can't Ignore the Train - 10,000 Maniacs (For Beth) *Thank you for the suggestion
Down There By The Train - Tom Waits
Happy-Go-Lucky Local (Night Train) - Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery
Blue Train - John Coltrane
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry - Paul Westerberg
Slow Train - Bob Dylan
On The Evening Train - Johnny Cash
Train in Vain (Stand by Me) - The Clash
The Last Steam Engine Train - John Fahey
Train Song (from Basket of Light) - Pentangle
The Train Song - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Trainspotting - Primal Scream
Moving Like a Train - Herbert
Trains On Top Of The Game (Interlude) - Prefuse 73
I'm Taking The Train Home - The Twilight Sad
Individual Trains - Glenn Kotche
Trains and Boats and Planes - Dan Kibler
Last Of The Steam Powered Trains - The Kinks
Train Kept A Rollin' - Brave New World
Train On The Island - J. P. Nestor
Train Round The Bend - The Velvet Underground

File Under: The Ubiquitous Train Mixtape

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Just What Do You Buy for a 25 Year Old?

Has it really been a quarter century since the first compact disc was pressed; finally freeing us from the tyranny of rewinding our 90 minute, CR02 Maxell mix tapes? An obsolete form of optical media known as the "Compact Disc", the cd celebrated its 25th birthday this week. Now with some 200 billion discs having been sold worldwide it would seem that the original shiny five inch platter is unquestionably in its golden years, with more convenient or capacious formats replacing it on almost every front.

"The first CD to be manufactured at the Philips plant was “The Visitors” by ABBA. 1 By the time CDs were introduced on the market in November 1982, a catalogue of around 150 titles – mainly classical music – had been produced. The first CDs and CD players – including Philips’ CD100 – were introduced in Japan in November, followed by a US and European market introduction in March of 1983."

Though the CD is well past its prime, the form factor and basic technology saw renewal in the DVD and, later, next generation formats such as HD-DVD and Blu-Ray Disc. Anyone remember the guy spreading peanut butter on a disc marketed as being indestructible? And remember too those green pens that audiophiles would pay $19.99 for under the belief it would make the data sound better?

I swear, the zeros sounded crisper.

1 "The first CD to be manufactured at the plant was “The Visitors” by ABBA. By the time CDs were introduced on the market in November 1982, a catalogue of around 150 titles – mainly classical music – had been produced. The first CDs and CD players – including Philips’ CD100 – were introduced in Japan in November, followed by a US and European market introduction in March of 1983."

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

REVIEW St. Vincent - Marry Me

Over the past year and a half, a number of established “indie” rock acts have released critically acclaimed recordings. Aside from that slightly oxymoronic label, artists like the Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, and Great Lakes Swimmers have all traversed competent, albeit familiar thematic territory. Post-plunk? Heartcore? Acoustiemo? (Hey I can invent them with the best, it’s entirely up to you to make them stick.) Yes people, its time to sell those passe Dashboard Confessional and Tori Amos cd’s, emotional resonance is back and St. Vincent has done it right. Annie Clark’s, (known professionally as St. Vincent) debut release, Marry Me is an engaging work that has exceeded all of my expectations. Clark, a former member of both the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens's band, seems to have developed a unique ear for pop and the better parts of both those groups feature prominently on her debut.

Marry Me, is a record I have listened to many times in the past couple of weeks. With every subsequent listen it slowly reveals itself and I like it a little more. Heartfelt without being overwrought this recording is special. Songs are well structured and Clark's vocals and instrumentation are stellar. Her artistic vision is a unique one and she manages to blend a very real sense of romance and drama with sardonic wit. Where some of the aforementioned bands come across as cloyingly earnest Clark uses humour to achieve her end. One listen to “Jesus Saves, I Spend” and the lyrically harsh “Your Lips Are Red” and you will get an idea of what I mean. (Download Now, Now by St. Vincent here. Right Click, Save Target As.)

Marry Me is a refreshing release and a truly excellent debut. Even better, as wonderful as this release is the promise of what lies ahead musically for St. Vincent is equally exciting. There is no doubt Annie Clark will become a significant force in music in the coming years. It will be thrilling to follow her every step of the way.

Watch for St. Vincent opening for the National at select dates this Fall.

Recommended if you like: Sufjan Stevens