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Last week we enjoyed the worldly wisdom of Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell, so this week I thought we could move on to the underworld by balling out with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads,” one of my favorite songs of all time.

“Tha Crossroads” is about losing a homie (in this case Eazy-E) and how sometimes the only way to honor your fallen brother is turn gangster rap into a barbershop quartet performed four times as fast. The Thugs – Bizzy Bone, Krayzie Bone, Wish Bone, Layzie Bone, and Flesh-n-Bone – deserve exceptional respect for their work on “Tha Crossroads.” Not only is it an epic meditation on youth, death, and the violent realities of thug life set to stellar production, but they go the entire song without using the phrase “gotta smoke that hydro whoa,” something they were unable to do to date in their career.

The video itself is an audiovisual experience like none other. Bone Thugs start the video at a funeral where a diegetic gospel choir sings a hymn, introducing the main character of the music video, the grim reaper. In case you didn’t know the grim reaper wears a trenchcoat, leather hat, shades, and has a pair of white, feathery angel wings hidden beneath all of this. As the song proceeds we get various shots of the reaper haunting the Thugs. He takes out a homie early on, then Uncle Charles (“oh ya I miss my Uncle Charles, y’all” at 2:31),…

ClaudioWhen most people (as in people who don’t play Dungeons and Dragons) first hear Coheed and Cambria, they think something along the lines of, “well, those dudes are pretty good at their instruments, but I hate that chick’s voice.” That “chick,” the androgynous, interstellar-creation-myth-spawning, graphic-novel and guitar wizard known as Claudio Sanchez has few vocal peers, the closest being Geddy Lee or Alvin of Chipmunks fame.

So when presented with a MASHUP (because this is the internet after all) of Tupac’s “Dear Mama” & Coheed and Cambria’s “Welcome Home,” we’d all expect Claudio’s falsetto to be replaced by sensitive Tupac verses. Instead, we, the listeners, are treated to Claudio soloing over soulful guitar licks and a chill beat. If I had to sum up my feelings about this MASHUP I’d have to cite both of these lyrical geniuses.

Tupac – “Changes”

“I made a G today” But you made it in a sleazy way
sellin’ crack to the kid. ” I gotta get paid,”
Well hey, well that’s the way it is

Coheed and Cambria – “The Crowing” and “2113″

Dear Ambellina, the Prise wishes you to watch over me
Dear Ambellina, the Prise wishes you to watch over me

But IRO-Bot will never die.
IRO-Bot will never die.
But IRO-Bot will never die.
But IRO-Bot will never die…

Tupac & Coheed and Cambria – “Welcome Home Mama”

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My first individual explorations into the world of music took the form of surreptitious MTV viewings in the attic of my house in third grade. Aside from the pretty amazing collection of animated shows (Beavis and Butthead, Aeon Flux, The Oddities, etc.), MTV was most memorable for offering me the titillating medium of the music video, a form of experiencing music I only used from the years 1993-1999. In retrospect, music videos of the era (and any era really) were half-baked visualizations of the already half-baked lyrics or tone of the song. The results of these concoctions can be amazing, so I’ve decided to create a weekly dedication to my favorite hamhanded creations of the mid-nineties.

Beavis and Butthead

It’s hard to go on a hunger strike when you have the munchies.

Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike” is the quintessential 90s music video. Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder moan about sociopolitical concerns on a beach (presumably on the Pacific Northwest coast). This performance is interspersed with stock footage of a lighthouse flashing its cautionary light and a foreboding (yet hopeful!) cloudy sky. Is this song protesting American excess? Is it a confessional about conceding to said excess? Do Cornell and Vedder know if “farming babies” is metaphor or literal? Such are the mysteries of a classic third grade throwback.

I don’t mind stealing bread
From the mouths of decadence
But I can’t feed on the powerless
When my cup’s already overfilled,
But it’s on the

Deftones - Diamond Eyes album artDeftones have always had a sound that is broader than the metal tag they received thanks to their nu-metal roots and continued grip on the genre. Two genres in particular that have helped their music be both melodic and hypnotic are dream pop and shoegaze. It’s fitting then that M83 would decide to remix Deftones’ first single, “Rocket Skates,” from their new album Diamond Eyes. The remix does a great job of setting Chino’s vocals to buzzy synth lines, but this remix isn’t just a club banger. Somewhere along the way, the song takes off and becomes an intense, electronic march, employing an array of characteristic M83 organ tones and vocal samples. Though a bit ridiculous to be my Track of the Day I figured it’d be a nice way to commemorate the May 4 release of Diamond Eyes.

Deftones – “Rocket Skates (M83 Remix)”

In Evening Air Album ArtYesterday Future Islands released their second LP, In Evening Air on Thrill Jockey Records. Our track of the day is the first single from that album, “Tin Man,” a track that has an upbeat but moribund energy. Future Islands combines sparse guitar lines with a steel drum and gruff but sensitive vocals that sound somewhere between Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan and PixiesFrank Blank. “Little Dreamer” is the final track of their first LP Wave Like Home which was released on vinyl earlier this year. “Little Dreamer” is a sweet ballad cast in the same lo-fi, bristly electronics of “Tin Man.” Future Islands are strange in that on paper they seems like a combination of common sounds – new wave, punk, indie, folk – but somehow they are leagues above all the other bands dabbling in similar genres.

Future Islands – “Tin Man”

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Future Islands – “Little Dreamer”

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Gold PandaJeremy Ferwerda stole my thunder last week by posting Gold Panda’s newest track “You” so I’m resorting to Gold Panda’s best track, “Quitter’s Raga.” This song pairs a simple, organic beat with detailed sampling work that taps into a set of Indian vocals and instruments with an IDM/glitch level of precision and volatility. Despite the technical wizardry in operation, the true pull of this song is its sticky sweet catchiness.

Gold Panda – “Quitter’s Raga”

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Starkey is a Philadelphia producer who is releasing his second full-length LP, Ear Drums and Black Holes, on April 19 with Planet Mu Records. Starkey’s bouncy, major-key sound is a bit out of place on the usually abstract Planet Mu, but the convoluted details in his production and the active, heavy beats fit in nicely. The two tracks below represent the two distant poles of Starkey’s sound. “OK Luv” is ever-changing and throbbing like any good club banger, whereas “Stars” is introspective and sidereal, which works well with Anneka’s guest vocals. Make sure you also check out the Lala sidebar because I’ve uploaded an alternate version of “OK Luv.”

Starkey – “OK Luv”

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Starkey – “Stars”

Stars (feat. Anneka) by Starkey from Ben Curzon on Vimeo.

Today is the 13 year anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.’s landmark album, Life After Death. To celebrate, Sputnikmusic is offering an exclusive stream and download link for an album by producer wait what, who pairs Biggie verses with backing tracks from indie artist The xx. The album, the notorious xx, is surprise union where “the extrovert meets the introvert.” Biggie’s ambitious and fluent rhymes flow over The xx’s pensive and melodic instrumentals, creating a combination that is sublime.

wait what – the notorious xx [Download]

Official Press Release

Active Child is a songwriter from Los Angeles who creates haunting contrasts on his recent cassette release Sunrooms. Like many of his songs, “Wilderness” and “She Was a Vision” are sparse and moody, populated by brittle echoing drums patterns, lonely synth swells, and a kind of hipster castrati vocals popularized by Bon Iver. However, underneath these overly melancholic concepts are humming bass tones and shimmering echo pedals that undo Active Child’s calculated frigidity. These songs are seemingly about loneliness and isolation but are built from a tender warmth captured beautifully by the chorus of “Wilderness”…

It’s so cold but you know we belong here
to the sky and fire to keep us warm here

“Wilderness”

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“She Was a Vision”

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