I’ve listened to a lot of mashups in my day. Normally they are party tracks that take a popular club beat and superimpose the vocals of a top 40 track of the moment ala Girl Talk or sometimes they tend to dig a little bit deeper to give us something like last year’s Kids and Explosions or the noted Jay Z/Linkin Park collaboration, but every once and a while I’ll stumble upon a mashup that truly leaves me floored. Four Tet’s mash up of Nas’ “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” with Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s “Sleep” is simply mesmerizing. The ebb and flow of Nas’ rhymes and the gentle swell of strings that build and build come together so flawlessly that it was almost as if they were made for each other.
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Having already broken out in his native England, Frank Turner is a rising star in the US punk community as of late. As if his signing to Epitaph for all his releases stateside wasn’t enough of a sign that the British singer-songwriter has been gaining his footing in the states, successful tour spots with The Offspring and Social D on top of a number of headlining runs all across the country have exposed Frank to thousands of new fans. Last night at the Troubadour, located in the west-side of Los Angeles, a sold out crowd sang their hearts out to a venerable folk-punk smorgasbord. Even California punk legends such as NOFX’s Fat Mike and Bad Religion guitarist/Epitaph Records head honcho Brett Gurewitz could be seen roaming the grounds among the fans.
The night began with Lansing, Michigan’s Cheap Girls. The only act of the night that didn’t feature acoustic guitars, Cheap Girls took control of the gathering crowd with their upbeat Texas is the Reason by way of The Replacements brand of crunchy, no-frills rock and roll. Given the context of the rest of the night, they were a wonderful appetizer to the main course of Andrew Jackson Jihad and Frank Turner. The only downside was that given the crowd’s unfamiliarity with their material and the incredibly low placement of singer and bassist’s Ian Graham’s vocals in the overall mix killed the potential audience participation factor during their performance.
Despite Frank Turner’s name being on top of…
Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers is a fucking genius idea for a mash-up album. I mean The Beatles and the Wu-Tang Clan, does it get any better than that? Yep. Not only are some of the best raps in hip-hop showcased, but the tracks they are put over aren’t just pulled from the Fab Four’s studio takes, they are culled from a range of Beatles covers that offer up a new and unique experience not only for Beatles fans, but for Wu fans as well. Case in point, “Forget Me Not”. Originally found on Inspectah Deck’s Uncontrolled Substance, the track is completely transformed when put up against Jamaican guitar legend Ernest Ranglin’s jazzed up cover of “You Won’t See Me”, making the original practically obsolete.
Wu-Tang vs. The Beatles – “Forget Me Not”
Narrows – “Recurring”
I’m not as familiar as I probably should be with Japanese Instrumental Hip-Hop. Nomak and the now deceased Nujabes always seemed like the two brightest stars to emerge from the Japanese archipelago, both combining smooth beats over an even smoother mix of jazz and traditional Japanese instrumentation and melodies. With his 4th album, Dynamic Meditation Instrumental Limited, Nomak still sticks with this sound, molding his country’s past with Hip-Hop’s future. On an album full of relaxed, chilled out cuts, “The Universe” just happens to be a little bit more cool, a little bit more relaxing than the rest. It is pure Nomak.
Nomak – “The Universe”
Out of all of my new musical finds this year, none have captivated me as much as Noumenon. The Chicago area math rockers just released their Big Scary Monsters debut Party Mathematics earlier this month and really there is no more fitting a name for the zany, technical bliss that is Noumenon. The flippantly titled “Algoresrhythm” is an off-kilter bundle of ever shifting melodies that’s tied together by what may be one of the catchiest god damn vocal hooks of 2010. By the way, did I mention that their EP can be downloaded here?
Noumenon – Algoresrhythm
There’s something so entrancing about the grimy heart of downtown Los Angeles. The old, art deco theaters converted into pawn shops and jewelry exchanges, the frames of the high-rises blocking out any of the remaining evening sunlight, and if you’re anywhere more than a two blocks away from the Staples Center and LA Live how even the fast food restaurants shut down early due to the city’s overall shadiness. In this run down and burnt out shell of a bustling metropolis lies the Mayan Theater. Despite lying in the heart of what is essentially a slum, the Mayan is Los Angeles’ most architecturally stunning venue, featuring hand carved walls and supports that make visitors feel like they’ve stepped into the Temple of Doom, not to mention it also houses the biggest god damn disco ball I have ever seen over its stage. Last night Minus the Bear owned it. Having sold out the 1500 seat venue, they were joined by indie-pop upstarts Young the Giant and bluesy alt-rockers Everest.
Young the Giant started things off. With the crowd still filling in, they played a rather entertaining set full of jangly tunes that came off sounding like a slightly less adventurous version of The Dodos. Once the crowd, an awkward and segregated mix of NPR types and teenage scenesters, warmed up to them they fed off of the audience’s applause, making the final half of their set more lively than the first. Everest on the other hand, while good…
I’ve always had a soft spot for The Killer’s Hot Fuss. That’s why I was excited to hear “Easy Answers”. Tapping into the same electro-pop vein as the Las Vegas quartet’s debut, Paul Bethers’ new single rides a towering wave of pulsating synths and anthemic vocals to create an infectious sing-a-long vibe. With summer right around the corner, “Easy Answers” is bound to get a good work out in your car stereo.
Paul Bethers – Easy Answers
The closing seven minutes of Mouth of the Architect’s new EP The Violence Beneath should sound freakishly familiar to anyone that remembers the best of 80’s rock music or has a parent that does. It takes a few minutes to realize that the post-metallers are covering Peter Gabriel’s 1986 pop-hit “In Your Eyes” because the massive hooks and gentle crooning have been replaced by sluggish volume swells and ghostly howls, but once you get it, it’s hard not to crack a smile.
Mouth of the Architect – In Your Eyes
Black Moth Super Rainbow’s Tobacco, aka Tom Fec, has always had a knack for quality hip-hop inspired beats. On his first solo outing away from BMSR, 2008’s Fucked up Friends, he took his analog wizardry over to Anticon records, the home of Sole and Why?, and went all out. Following in the vein of his solo debut, “Fresh Hex” is the second single from Tobacco’s upcoming album Maniac Meat. One of two songs on the album to feature a guest spot from Beck, “Fresh Hex” is Tobacco at his best, his nightmarishly twisted beat thumps along as Beck relives his Odelay glory days. It’s one hell of a ride, even if it only lasts a bit over a minute and a half.
Tobacco – Fresh Hex (feat. Beck)
Call me old fashioned, but there are few things in this world better than a quality punk show. The two hour dance-a-thon of a Girl Talk gig comes close, and even then, that’s more of a having a chill time fun, not the shit yourself kind of adrenaline rush fun that was on display at the El Rey theater on April 20th. Fresh off of a world-wide touring haul, The Bronx, and their mariachi alter-egos Mariachi El Bronx, were finally back home in Los Angeles, and from the looks of things, they couldn’t have been happier. Joining the LA natives were Aussie grunge-fanatics Violent Soho and the eccentric rootsy blues of Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss.
Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss kicked off the night. As they took the stage one couldn’t help but be intrigued. Wheeler’s sharp get-up and life-worn face made him seem like a visage of a younger Tom Waits at first glance, and with his guitarist Schloss armed with a beaten twelve-string and hiding behind a veil of Jerry Garcia-esque facial hair, they ripped through set of country tinged acoustic numbers filled with stories about hard women and hard drinking. Wheeler’s voice was well suited for his worldly tales, but it was Schloss that stole the show; his old guitar belting out emotive blues progressions and twangy pentatonic runs.
Mariachi El Bronx were up next. Dressed in full costume, the LA punks’ playful homage to the Mexican heritage of their hometown was…
“Sunnyside” is the kind of song that I’ve been waiting for from Kaki King.Stripped down and honest, it’s her first song that aims right for the heartstrings. She’s had material that has come close, but it has always missed the emotional mark due to a greater concern with showing off just how good a guitarist she is. Not only is “Sunnyside” an F-you to those that proclaimed her just another songwriter playing shallow background music, it may just have the best use of the word “wiener dog” in the history of music.