Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Consolação - Herbie Mann and João Gilberto

This track is some very smooth bossa nova.

Just flute guitar and a little percussion, this is as smooth as smooth gets. The flute, (to my continuing shame I cannot work out if it is bass or alto flute) is desperately smooth and silky and slinky and sexy and the guitar is light and beautiful. The percussion is unpredictably syncopated and very minimal.

Herbie Mann is a great great jazz flautist and this is off an album I have of his called 'Do the bossa nova' and it is just divine.

The tune here is so unhurried. It just floats along. The solos are also modal, in the dorian mode with a strong emphasis on the major chord IV occurs in that mode and this makes it so beautifully elegant.

Pay Attention to:
The graceful guitar solo at the beginning; it is elegance.
The smoky flute sound. When the flute finally floats upward to the top of its range, it is just the most gorgeous moment.
The subtlety of the percussion. No bar is accented the same as any other bar. Genius.

Why you should be listening to this right now:
It is the loveliest background music for a sleep afternoon or quiet/intimate evening and I love how raw this is. It is unassuming and not at all overproduced.

The youtube vid is not amazing quality, but it is still beautiful.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

No Such Thing - John Mayer

It is Friday afternoon and it is sunny and memory lane is just around the corner. Today had a smell that tugged on my memory; more specifically it dredged up recollections of the final days of the year at my first high school. I remember a smell that was a combination of dust and cut grass and sweat and excitement that came with the beginning of summer and the end of school and today I got a whiff of that exact smell.

The first time that I heard this song was when it was the soundtrack for a silly catwalk thing that a design student had organised, but the song stuck in my head as the soundtrack to a summer afternoon, or more specifically the Friday afternoon when school has finished, (which for me it just has...)

Ok - So I know a few of you might say...'But.. John Mayer?' with a tone of voice that would imply that he is not worthy of my attention. Ladies and Gentlemen this could not be further from the truth.

Mayer is first and foremost a quite dazzlingly good guitarist. You cannot deny this. He plays his parts and writes the songs and they are sexy..(listen to 'Neon' on the Room for Squares).
He also has that lovely smoky voice which really hits the spot, and unlike many guitarist pop song writers, his songs are interesting.

Mayer borrows a lot from jazz and blues and (I read in a recent interview) that his favourite guitarist is Stevie-Ray Vaughan, can't go wrong there.

I recommend listening to the whole of this album - each song is different and interesting.


Why you should be listening to this right now:
It is not so indie that it is too cool for daggy people like me (and you..)

It is not so poppy and over produced that all it is good for is taking your shirt off in a club to it

It is unassuming and easy to listen to and yet rewarding to listen to... there are layers of sound that reveal themselves with further listening.

Pay Attention to:
That cute little major 7 riff at the beginning
John Mayer's sexy voice
The lyrics... which actually have a somewhat impressionistic flow which I always like.

In the music video.. make sure to notice how Mayer does not look like he belongs to his own voice...


Friday, September 10, 2010

El Mañana - Gorillaz

Hey Blog buddies,

Today we are listening to Gorillaz. You probably all know this song, or at least one of the songs of this album.

This song is sad. The music is sad and the song has a certain poignant hopelessness. El Mañana means 'tomorrow' in Spanish, and this song seems to project a dystopic tomorrow where beauty is destroyed to make way for progress.

This is part of the Album 'Demon Days' which is quite inspired as poppy albums go. Instead of being a series of disconnected singles that are mass produced for quick sale, this album is a concept album. Almost a continuous track, the songs of the album lead into each other and seem to paint a portrait of a futuristic and possibly post apocalyptic world.

The band are well known for their habit of never appearing in their video-clips, but using their
invented cartoon personas. The video-clips for the whole album make use of common themes and characters; the floating windmill among others.

This whole idea seems to borrow from the Japanese anime tradition; it reminds me rather of a combination of say Nausica - Valley of the Winds and maybe one of the animated Highlander videos.

Anyways, El Mañana is one of the more depressing songs but the juxtaposition between the layers of syncopated and un-syncopated rhythms really give this song some groove.

Why you should be listening to this right now?
Gorillaz move within a very conventional music medium; namely electronic pop, and yet they make it interesting and really do approach the music from a very conceptual-artistic perspective - how many other pop bands create a fantastic world like this and then integrate it all into a concept album.

Pay attention to:
- The descending chord progression which contributes to the hopelessness.
- The beauty within this song. The contrasts of sounds and the male vocals really create a sort of delicate beauty; I have a mental image of something like; a bird flying over the carnage of a deserted muddy battlefield.

This goes well with:
Other Gorillaz. Japanese anime.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Telephone Song - The Vaughan Brothers

Many people say that the greatest electric guitarist of all time was Hendrix. These people are tripping balls.

The greatest guitarist who has ever lived was Stevie Ray Vaughan and while this is not my favourite track (that honour is taken by 'Long Way Home') the funk inspired blues groove just suits my mood right now, when by all means I should be feeling like Mozart's requiem.

Anyways! This song is so groovy and with the, at least, 3 guitars floating all across each other this should by all means be a confusing mangled mess yet the brothers manage to slinkify it into a place of clarity.

Now: this is basically your standard 12 bar blues... however they get all sneaky...

Verses: I____________IV__ I____V (all the same).. then! II7 (ie V7 of V) which goes to V!!! then back to I

Then the chorus:


Then there is a beautifully constructed guitar solo (read: Goes over 1 head and builds to a very effective climax, restrained virtuosity - no showing off)

Pay attention to:
The various layers of guitar sound
Stevie's awesome texas-accented voice
The cool chords at the end of the solo

Why you should be listening to this right now:
Best cure for Sundaynitis that I know of is funk-blues.

Goes Well with:
any other funk blues.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Golden Brown - The Stranglers

Woo. I am being evicted. Or ' we' are being evicted rather.

In a classic share-house moment I am sitting in my old man dressing gown, in the sun, on the kitchen floor, drinking wine and cackling at the world, while burlesquely hungover from last night. My housemates are 'keeping up appearances' and putting on a feast for a visiting relatives, after having received our (rather unjust) eviction notice via an email this morning. We of course will contest this as the grounds are ridiculous in the least....

But whne I am having such a moment, I think of 'He died with a felafel in his hand' the seminal work on Australian share-house culture. The song that comes to mind ('this is sydney, you gotta lighten up Fyodor..') is Golden Brown by the Stranglers.

Basically an ode to heroin, this song is way cool with it's neo-baroque use of harpsichord and epic time signature changes.

So let us cut to the chase, since I may not last much longer:

Pay Attention to:
-The cool time signature changes - 3/4 - 3/4 4/4 wooo
-The lovely guitar solo
- The lyrics, simple yet evocative. Never overt, they can be read as an espousal of heroin, or just as a sort of obscure dialogue on nothing

Why you should be listening to this right now:
Life sucks. Then you die. If you are lucky you will get to live in a share house in between. This is the soundtrack to share-house living, fun yet obscure. Arcane yet approachable. Any more babble from me and you may stop listening..!

This goes well with:
Centrelink 'on hold' music, Nick Cave and 4am. White wine and fish-fingers. Badly played guitar at 4 in the arvo.

Here is the youtube link

Ciao chickadees.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Shiksa Goddess - from 'The last 5 years'

Ok. Let me just get out that I do not like musicals.

I also do not like cats. Sometimes, however, an individual cat manages to win some affection from me. I still detest cats (plural) but I am prepared to engage with cat (singular and specific).

This goes for musicals as well.

The last 5 years is really just quite brilliant, and sadly it premiered unexceptional critical acclaim.

The musical is about a couple, Jamie and Kathy, who are a writer and an actress. They meet. They fall in love. They get married. They fight. They break up. This process takes 5 years.
What makes this musical stand out is the way that this is approached. Jamie and Kathy are the only 2 characters in the musical and they are only on stage together for one sequence; their wedding.

Jamie moves through the musical in a chronological fashion, but Kathy's experiences begin at the end of the relationship and move backwards (so the musical begins with Kathy 'still hurting' as Jamie leaves her and ends with Jamie saying 'goodbye forever' while Kathy sings 'Goodbye until tomorrow'.

The music is exceptional. Set for piano, guitar, bass, two cellos and violin, Jason Robert Brown does a fantastic job of making this ensemble stand out. He uses all different styles ranging through jazz and klezmer, folk and pop and everything else he can integrate skillfully.

This particular song is Jamie's first in the musical and runs directly out of the end of Kathy's wistful and heartfelt opening number. 'Shiksa Goddess' is Jamie saying how glad he is to have met a girl who 'is not from Hebrew school'. Originally titled 'someone like you' Robert Brown had to change this song after being sued by his ex wife Theresa O'Neill for basing the musical too closely on their relationship.

It is a sort of salsa inspired latin song which has everything a cheerful number should have. It is not musical 'cheesy' and has some genuinely funny lyrics. The music is great (particularly the piano part). This song is sort of the equivalent for Jamies character that 'Summer in Ohio' is for Kathy. It's a chance to really belt it out and also let loose a bit.

This musical is really quite tragic... but I love the way Jason Robert Brown sets this concept.

Pay Attention to :
The lyrics! 'if you came from spain or japan or the back of a van, just as long as you're not from hebrew school...'
The music - The chords are really great and give real momentum to this piece
The instrumentation - With minimal instruments the piece is still very strong. The strings are used superbly.

Why you should listen to this:
If like me you are being continually left high and dry by musicals then this is a chance to find something wonderful in this very very very overdone genre.
If you adore musicals then I shouldn't really have to sell this to you, right?

This goes well with:
Any thing else from this musical. I do not have any other jason Robert Brown stuff, but I am chasing it up!
Check out 'climbing uphill for

AS always here is a link to a youtube video:


Monday, July 19, 2010

Cubanb-Texas by Les doigts de l'homme

Ok. Now this track is quite impossible to watch on youtube, but it is amazing!

This band is a 4 piece from France: 3 guitars and a double bass and they are intense! - In this song one guitarist is playing banjo and it is the sort of banjo that would make Bela Fleck commit suicide.
It begins with a funky gypsy samba line and then the other instruments come in. Basically this is just a simple chord progression repeated over and over with a banjo soloing, but it is so unusual i Just had to share it with my blog buddies.
It is the soundtrack to my triumphant return to the internet, having just set it up over the space of 2 hours and 2 phonecalls to iinet (who were quick to answer and lovely..) it is done!
Groovy manouche-samba seemed the only alternative.

As this isn't on youtube I am also going to talk about another song by Les doigts de l'homme which is their cover of ol' man river.
It is in 14/8. Enough said!

Pay Attention To:
Cuba-Texas - The sneaky 7 bar phrases in the B part
- That awesome banjo
-The contrast between the guitar and the banjo sounds during the guitar solo
-The awesome banjo break where the banjo player sings his line

Ol' Man River
-The incredible lines played in thirds by the two different guitarists
-The cool way that Ol man rivers works in 14/8

Why you should be listening to this right now:
I have not encountered a band this skilled in a while. I bet you haven't either. This is where it is at and everyone doing anything even similar in Australia should lift their game. It is eminently listenable and it works as both background music and under intense focus.

This goes well with:
Cute gypsy jazz like Django.
However it is really more in the vein of Lulo Rheinhardt or Woohoo Revue. Maybe even taraf de haidouks?

here is the link to ol man river:


Friday, July 9, 2010

Shostakovich String Quartet Number 8 - 1st and 2nd Movements

This music is Dark. Angry, and jagged. I am going to say outright that you should listen to the whole quartet - from beginning to end, sitting in the dark with the music playing loudly over your speaker system, as even though there are separate movements, this is really one large piece broken into segments.

If, however you do not have the attention span to sit through 40 odd minutes of Shostakovich, then PLEASE do yourself a huge favor and listen to the first two movements.

This piece is angst-ridden, and is a fantastic example of the power that can be drawn from a string quartet. I believe that the power available from a string quartet is greater than that that one can obtain from an entire symphony orchestra. Today I am sitting in Melbourne, just about to go out and do some street performance and the weather is windy and dark. This piece seems perfectly appropriate.

Pay Attention to:
- The snap into the second movement. The first movement is gentle and reflective and it is truly shocking when the angular fast second movement begins.
-The introduction of the soaring melody half way through the second movement. The violin sails across the sea of the other instruments and transcends the tension of the other instruments.
-The incredible cello lines. Just WOW

Why you should be listening to this right now:
I have two separate versions of this string quartet on my laptop, a Famous Kronos Quartet version that is paired with Black Angels (and I think the Kronos recordning of Black angels is the Definitive Recording), and also a lovely recording by the Brodsky Quartet.
The Brodsky version is a much more sensitive recording, however today I am listening to the Kronos version as it is harsher and suits the mood I am in.

Listen to this piece because it is wonderfully dark, without being hedonistically so.

This piece goes well with:
Black Angels, (the cd is good fun to listen right through), Also some of the other Shostakovich string quartets, like the 7th. Also maybe some Prokofiev piano pieces, the toccata for example.

I have attached the Kronos version, however a few different versions are worth listening to.


до свидания


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ragged Wood - The Fleet Foxes

I first heard this song on the final episode of season 3 of skins. There is a montage as Cook is being contemplative, or something similar, I dont really remember. Anyway, what really struck me about this song was the beautiful opening chord progression.
There is a lovely sort of Dixieland groove (very similar to Jesusland by Ben Folds) and then the voice starts. The chord is E and then suddenly we get a chord change and the chord change is, rather unexpectedly to Bm., that is minor chord 5! Very pretty.

Like many Fleet Foxes songs, Ragged Wood departs from the normal pop song Verse-Chorus structure and instead is a sort of through composed binary form:

Verse - Chorus - Verse-Chorus then Bridge and then a time signature change into a lovely 3/4 waltz feel for the second half.

Pay Attention to:
- The vocal harmonies. The Fleet Foxes are influenced by Appalachian folk music styles as well as some bluegrass, and this comes through particularly in the vocals. They almost always sing in parallel harmonies and make use of their very high vocal registers.
- That beautiful B minor chord. The lyrics go : 'Come down from the mountain, you have been gone too long. The spring is upon us follow my only (i think..) song' and the word song is when the chord changes. It is just lovely.
-The organ in the waltz section. It is very subtle but the organ sits underneath the rest of the band and really adds to the fullness of the whole sound.

Why you should be listening to this right now:
The Fleet Foxes write songs that have a very strong American Folk element, and they hark to a sort of utopic rural lifestyle in America when everyone wandered around in the snow singing songs and watching as the woman of the woods goes by. They do the vocal harmony thing excellently and the other elements of the musical language are very gracefully done.

This goes well with:
Nice music where the voice is an element and the music is simply put together. Something like Paul Simon's Graceland or the groovier out put of Ani DiFranco would go down a treat.


Also here is the link to the Jesusland, very similar groove.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Cravo e canela - Fiorella Mannoia

Ok, So who doesn't love Brazilian everything? The people are all beautiful, the music is rhythmic and sensual and even the flag is brightly coloured.
Brazil gave us mojitos and cane toads and also really got into the whole idea of having giant parades i bad taste with feathers - just fantastic.

This song is a cover of an old song by the Brazilian songwriter Milton Nascimento and it is one of my favourite of all the Brazilian songs I have encountered. Unusually for Brazilian music this song is in 3/2 - reminiscent of the Qeuebecois 'brandy' dance-tune type. The cover by Italian singer Fiorella Mannoia is really quite a good cover. Fiorella, who had a wonderfully colourful upbringing as the child of a stuntman, has added just a touch of tasteful pop to this song, but also retained some of the elements of Brazilian street music that made the original so good.

Pay Attention to:
-The simple bassline which occasionally breaks out into a crazy african-funk style solo
-The awesome Brazilian percussion. The 3/2 groove really rocks along and the samba style percussion works really well in the framework of 3/2 - 1 and 2 and wooo |1 and 2 and wooo |
-The auto-tuned but still interesting vocal harmonies
-The sexy chords in the chorus. Such a samba thing to move into the relative minor and then move in parallel chords so we end up in a very arcane place in what feels like a quite natural movement.

Why should you listen to this?
This woman is no Ella Fitzgerald, no Celia Cruz, but as she is pushing 70 (a tad younger in the video I attached) she is really going for it. Her voice is quite interesting sounding and there is a bit of Milton being used in the newer version as well. I think that we should not be afraid to like the new poppy versions of old classics, (sometimes). This song while still a poppy cover retains a lot of the elements that make classic Brazilian music unique and appealing.

This goes well with:
Some modern poppy Brazilian music. Something by Rosalina De Souza (see in my links) or even the poppier Ze Ramalho tunes or Edu Lobo tunes such as ponteio (see in the links) will really get your Samba bum going.

As always here is a youtube video to watch, and as this is a cover I have included a Milton Nascimento video as well:





Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dance with you - Willie and Lobo

Good morning Monday!
Just the sort of thing for starting a week. The day is a bit rainy around the edges but I don't mind. Today is a 'doing-things' sort of day and this tune is exactly the sort of thing that is good to listen to when you are doing things.

Willie and Lobo is a duo made up of Willie Royal (violin) and Lobo Fink (guitar) and they play a sort of watered-down new-flamenco. Nice groovy songs with simple grooves and some beautiful violin solo's.

This particular song I have off a 'best of 1997 nu-music' sample cd that I think my parents used to play in the car when we went on our family holidays. It really is quite nice, a sort of easy-dreamy feel that comes from the slow moving bass with all the jingly percussion and the very slow lazy vocals that are almost obscured by the effect placed on them.

Pay Attention to:
-The muted trumpet solo. This solo is so simple, yet it really works because the chords move outside of those used in the other parts of the song
-The vocal tack. Doubled by the violin it is really a case of the voice being used as an instrument.
-The percussion! The opening groove is for cajon (spanish for 'box') and the introduction of an effected percussive line over the top that is made out of 'drip-sounds' and also some metallic sounds is really a very beautiful touch.

Why you should listen to this:
Listening to this song might bring out the gypsy within you. Ever feel that life is tawdry and droll? Ever wish you could snuggle up to a hairy gypsy man named Alejandro and make love under the Andalusian stars? Ever wish that your mother could read tea leaves and your father scammed people out of donkeys for a living?
This is the song for you. Put on your best red dress and a big scarf and dance the .... afternoon... away. Also good for cleaning. Be sure to consult your doctor if symptoms persist.

This song goes well with:
Red wine and friends. House cleaning. Bands such as Rodrigo y Gabriella and The Counterfeit Gypsies.

As may often be the case I could not find this song online, so here is a link to another Willie and Lobo song that is in a similar vein:


Saturday, June 19, 2010

The barefoot bride set - Jigzag

It is Sunday afternoon and the sun is-a-shining and I have a gig tonight and this is just the perfect cheerful music for right now.

Jigzag, (for those of you who don't know) is a trio made up of Bass-player Liz Frencham, Violinist Caroline Trengove and Guitarist Greg Bryce), play a wonderful combination of (mostly) original songs and tunes. Very bouncy and fun with vocal harmonies and some jazz influenced celtic folk tunes.

This particular song is off their 'live' album and is a three-tune set made up of a little wistful major jig, then a groovy minor gig followed by a happy reel that really rattles along. The reel breaks down into a groovy funk-influenced guitar and violin solo before capitulating in a return of the tune.

Pay attention to:
-The lovely use of voices to give body to the harmonies
-That sexy-as bass playing! Liz is just so wonderful to watch play, always so smiley and the bass here is simple but very effective.
-The effects pedal on the guitar. Jigzag really shake things up here, taking a quite conventional Irish tune-set and going to some really interesting places.

Why you should listen to this:
Because it is fun! Listening to these three great musicians really working their chops off in the breakdown is really really fun. Liz does some sneaky fast walking bass lines and Greg and Caroline really show off what they can do and while this is all happening one can't help but share the fun that these guys are obviously having performing on stage.

What goes nicely with this:
Some groovy folk music like Flook or maybe the string contingent.

Unfortunately I could not find this song on youtube but here is a link to another Jigzag number that is in a similar vein:




Faust arp. - Radiohead

It is Saturday night and I am sitting alone in my relatively new house listening to Radiohead on my newly set up sound-system. Tres tragique.

Radiohead perfectly suits the reflective state of mind that I am in. Faust arp. is one of the more subtle Radiohead songs, with its somewhat unusual phrasing and curious time changes, as well as the surprisingly chromatic movement of the guitar part. Over this music we get a rambling impressionist discourse from singer Thom Yorkethat blends beautifully with the music.

Pay Attention to:
- The quiet simplicity of the String lines. They are just octave doublings yet they word to great effect.
- The thoughtful use of two guitars.
- The nice stereo-effect of recording Thom Yorke's voice twice.

This Song is on Radiohead's most recent album: 'In Rainbows'.
This song is on my playlist 'Audition-Day', made on the evening of a grueling yet enjoyable day spent on the audition panel for a play.

Why you should listen to this song:
In a genre as mercenary and one-dimensional as pop music, Radiohead take pop-song compositional technique and elevate it to an art-form. We hear unconventional rhythms and harmonies as well as unusual instrumentations, not to mention Thom Yorke's wonderful and distinctive voice. This song is an example of Radiohead's aesthetic where a focus has been placed on sensitivity. Like a Webern miniature this song is concise and yet within the short time period there is a subtle use of instrumentation which combines with the poetic lyrics to great effect.

What goes nicely with this song:
Good as a just before bed song, this song goes nicely with the quiter output of artists such as:
The fleet foxes and Nick Drake.

As always here is an attached youtube.com link to the song.




Hello all my reader(s?).

My name is Owen and I listen to music almost 24-7. I think that I can put a great case forward for being one of the most eclectic of all listeners: in my i-tunes library I have music ranging from Bach to Scelsi, Lunasa to Susana Baca, Whitest Boy Alive to Stevie-Ray Vaughan.

I am a big fan of giving people 'listening guided-tours' of the music as they hear it, so I thought I might share these mini-lectures with the world.

Basically as often as I feel like I will give a little guided tour of some music I am listening to at a given moment and hopefully this will encourage all of YOU to listen to some music that you might not normally encounter.

Please feel free to leave me comments feed-back and suggestions, as well as linking me to some music that you think I should be listening to right now.