Required Viewing: Fred Eaglesmith

I experienced my first Fred Eaglesmith show Wednesday night as Fred’s ‘Traveling Steam Show” rolled through Arizona.

How to even begin? The great music, the between-song monologues that are a show unto itself, the kickass backing band (including the talented and quite lovely Tif Ginn). My face hurt from laughing so hard, and I am still riding a high from that great night of music.

Fred and the band are inside their vintage tour buses rolling into Texas now as I write this, with a good number of dates left on this tour (up through the midwest and into Canada).

I can’t put the experience into words and do  it justice.  A good start is this full show from the 2007 at the Paradiso in Amsterdam:

Folks, if Fred Eaglesmith and his Traveling Steam Show stops through your town, drop what you’re doing and GO.

The Stone: The Return of André Cymone

andrecymone-1

If you were ever sucked into the Prince vortex, as I was in 1984, you quickly found yourself seeking out every last morsel of musical goodness from anything Prince-related. In the mid-80′s, that meant marching into your local record store and snapping up albums by The Time, Apollonia 6, Vanity 6, The Family, and Sheila E. There were also those who had bid the Prince camp farewell, most notably at that point: Time members Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Morris Day, and Jesse Johnson. And once you went digging back into Prince’s earliest years, you discovered his original bass player and childhood friend André Cymone.

André left the band in 1981 after the Dirty Mind tour had wrapped, and Prince was moving on to his next album, Controversy. André signed with Columbia and released three albums over the next four years: Livin’ In The New Wave (1982), Survivin’ In The 80′s (1983), and A.C. (1985). His biggest hit came from A.C., the Prince penned and co-produced “The Dance Electric.”

André then moved on to producing artists like Jermaine Stewart, Adam Ant, and Jody Watley, to whom he was briefly married (Jody’s “Still a Thrill” is one of my favorite 80’s R&B tracks).

And then, André dropped off the grid, leaving the business and focusing instead on raising his children. The music bug never left him (how could it?), and after some poking and prodding by his kids over the last several years, it was time to hit the studio again. He popped up in 2012, releasing a tune called “America,” with all proceeds going to Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. He followed that up with “Trayvon” in 2013, in tribute to Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

Now, 29 years after his last album, it’s great to say that André Cymone is truly back. The Stone, Andre’s independently funded and distributed album (via PledgeMusic), was officially released on February 18th.

ac-thestone

My first impression on hearing “Rock and Roll,” the album’s opening track, was the swagger and confidence it carries. You’d never guess that this was an artist who just returned from a nearly three decade hiatus – that is unless André addressed it right off the bat, which he does: “You waited long enough / now it’s time to play my game / Before you leave here baby / you gonna know my name.”

In the early 80’s, André’s solo albums were steeped in a funk-pop-new wave hybrid. The 21st century André, with the help of some quality backing players, has a more straight ahead rock and pop feel. There are strong uptempo rock numbers, from “Rock and Roll,” “Let Your Sunshine,” and “Radio,” to “Naked,” the 60’s brit-pop of “If Not For You,” and one of the strongest tracks, the album closer “Live Life,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Lenny Kravitz album.

Things get interesting when André unplugs midway through the album with the folk/pop of “It’s Alright” and the introspective acoustic “One Day.”

“It’s Alright” has an upbeat, summery feel – a catchy melody with a folky brush-shuffle tempo.

“One Day” is, to these ears, a thinly veiled letter to his old friend Prince. With lines like “We were close like a hand in glove / shared the bond of a brother’s love / Now we don’t have a word to say,” “Struck it rich, we were on our way,” “Had to leave I could not stay”… it’s pretty clear that André is reconciling this long standing broken relationship. I don’t know André personally, but I feel his humanity and his genuine compassion in this song and throughout the album.

I also don’t know Prince personally, but I’ll offer an outsider’s opinion: Prince seems to concern himself with two things: the here and the now. Those in Prince’s circle are valued and worked to the core. But when the expiration date comes, and his interests have moved on to other things (and people), he seems to cast them aside with a clinical and unemotional ease, and he never looks back. Talented and much admired musicians – even old friends like André – are left in his wake. Perhaps I’m reading too much into “One Day,” but that’s what I get out of it.

What thrills me as a long time fan of Prince, and all of the associated artists that spun off from him in those early years, is seeing someone like André Cymone reemerge all these years later and display that same badass quality, that same swagger, showing that he hasn’t missed a step. But it’s also great to bear witness to the music of a caring, down to earth human being who shares in the same life struggles, joys and adventures that we all do – all in a very grass roots and organic way.

The Stone is a solid and impressive return to the game, and yes – a treat to all of us sucked into that Prince vortex so many years ago. Welcome back, André. A lot of us were waiting and wondering, and we’re glad you’re back.

♠ Buy The Stone on Amazon.

Buy The Stone on iTunes.

♣ Check out André on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

♥ André will be heading out on tour soon. If you’re in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, check him out at First Avenue on March 16th.

Check out “Live Life”:

World Boogie is Here – North Mississippi Allstars Unleash

nma-boogie

Swampy, dirty, badass rock n’ blues. I’ve listened to the North Mississippi Allstars here and there over the years, but nothing they’ve done has taken a hold of me like their latest release, World Boogie Is Coming.

NMA are essentially Luther Dickinson (guitar), his brother Cody Dickinson (drums), and their friend Chris Chew on bass. Their dad, the late James Dickinson,  was a sought after producer and session player, involved with artists like the Stones, Ry Cooder, Big Star, the Replacements, Mudhoney, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and on and on…

So growing up in Memphis and yeah, north Mississippi, Jim’s kids were as mainlined into the roots/blues music scene as any kid could possibly be. Luther and Cody were especially enthralled with the juke-joint boogie style of southern Blues artists R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. It was modern artists like NMA that helped spark a career revival for Burnside late in his life (he passed in 2005).

The album mixes familiar Blues tunes like “Rollin and Tumblin” and “Boogie,” covers of R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough (including my favorite of R.L.’s: “Snake Drive“), and originals written by Luther, Cody and friends. Robert Plant even appears on harmonica on the first two tunes, “JR” and “Goat Meat” (speaking of supercharging the Blues).

At its core, World Boogie is down home n’ dirty blues of the Deep South. But there’s also the infusion of youthful, 21st century, soulful rock. Unique flairs, effects and ambiance. It lifts me right up and makes me smile. It gives me that bad-ass, lip-biting, head-nodding buzz you get from the riff in ZZ Top’s “La Grange.” It makes me grab the virtual sticks and air drum along (see “Boogie”).

World Boogie is Coming is no holds barred stomp rock & blues. This album is the sound I’m looking for when I dip into artists like the Black Keys and Jack White. Great stuff, no doubt, but there is always just something missing.

World Boogie is that something.

♥ Buy World Boogie Is Coming on Amazon for $5.00.

Janelle Monáe: Electrifying [Tempe Marquee Theater Recap]

This woman is one of a kind. The Electric Lady, the title of Janelle Monáe’s latest album, is no joke. Electricity surges through her on stage: in the manic dance moves that channel James Brown, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Elvis; in the instant, interactive connection she makes with her audience; in her powerful, silky smooth singing; in that smile… in that Stage Presence. Wow!

Yeah, Janelle owned the stage last night for a good hour and 45 minutes at the Marquee Theater in Tempe – my first, and definitely not my last time, seeing her live. A truly great performer is backed by a top notch, talented backing band, and Janelle brought one along: a powerful nine piece pop/soul/rock/funk outfit consisting of two backup singers, two horns, a drummer, a percussionist, guitarist, bassist, and keyboardist. Janelle and her band had the crowd, a couple thousand strong, buzzing from the start. It was the kind of eclectic crowd you’d see at a Prince show – black, white, young, old, gay, straight (“black, white, Puerto Rican everybody just a freakin’ good time..”as Prince once sang).

You just can’t pigeonhole Janelle into a category. It’s not straight R&B, soul (or neosoul) or pop/rock. It’s a grab bag of all of these styles and influences. The supercharged pop of  “Dance Apocalyptic,” one of my favorites, made an early appearance, along with the down tempo R&B of  “Give Em What They Love” and the straight ahead funk of “Q.U.E.E.N”.  She ripped through “Tightrope” (from her great debut full-length, The ArchAndroid), along with a cover of the Jackson 5′s “I Want You Back.”

The real magic, the full-circle realization that you’re seeing someone truly special, came during the four song encore. After coming back out to smooth out the crowd with “Primetime” (a ballad she sings with Miguel on Electric Lady), she launched into Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” which I first saw her perform during the 2010 BET Awards tribute to Prince (which you should watch here). If there’s any performer who’s fully qualified to cover the tune, it’s Janelle Monáe, with her manic intensity.

And then came the highlight of the night for me and I’m sure most of the crowd: “Come Alive (War of the Roses).” The song, about 3 and a half minutes long on the ArchAndroid album, turned into a 10-15 minute clapping & dancing & shaking interactive workout. At one point as the band broke it down, Janelle motioned everyone to get down low, and damned if she didn’t have almost the whole crowd in the room crouching down low for a good three minutes (give or take a few too-cool-for-school audience members, who received jokingly glaring looks from her). There was the interactive call and response between Janelle and the crowd. There were the high energy band solos, as each of them got a chance to showcase their talents for 20 seconds or so… and then there was Janelle, finally jumping out into the crowd, surfing her way a good twenty feet in (see the pic above)…

It was one of those live music moments every fan hopes for: when you say goodbye to reality for a few minutes and lose yourself in the moment. A deep connection with a performer that, when it’s all over, you realize you’re standing there with a huge smile plastered across your face.

There are very few live performers who can channel into that space and establish that core connection with the audience. I’m lucky to say I’ve returned to see Prince and Springsteen do that to me more than two dozen times…

Janelle Monáe has that magic too. I saw it last night.

Goodbye Phil Everly

The Everly Brothers Posed In Amsterdam

Phil (left) and Don Everly (right) – from the LA Times website

When I think back on the first five days in 2014 music wise, I think immediately of Phil Everly. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been drawn to the big hits of the Everly Brothers: “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” “Let It Be Me,” and especially “Devoted To You.” I was still a good dozen years away from being born when these songs hit it big on the charts, but as you all know, great music is timeless. That amazing era of early rock n’ roll will live on forever. But unfortunately, the pioneers and legends of the era are living, breathing folks just like the rest of us. Last Friday, January 3rd, we lost a giant, as Phil succumbed to COPD after a lifetime of cigarette smoking.

I am not a smoker, but I get the addiction, and know it ain’t easy to just hang it up. It just seems that there’s a GIANT beneficial incentive to quitting (that whole living longer thing). But easier said than done, and God knows the rest of us ain’t perfect, shoveling in food we shouldn’t be eating, drinking alcohol, etc. Anyhow, my mother in law smokes, and my wife, daughters and I will continue the good fight to push her toward quitting.

Did you make any new year’s resolutions? I’m one of those who puts together a short (and often predictable) list every year. This year, they include:

  • No Crap Food Mon-Sat (desserts, ice cream, cookies, other sugar-filled things). One indulgence on Sundays. You see, I have no will power in the kitchen. If there’s a box of Krispy Kreme donuts, I’ll devour two of them in the span of a minute and not think twice. Cookies? Chips? And God forbid – chocolate, in any form? I’m all over that shit.  All this running I do doesn’t do much good in the weight loss department if all I’m doing is replacing every calorie I burn.  So I’m happy to report that it’s so far, so good in 2014. And yes, today was Sunday, and I did indeed do a little bit of damage to a tin of Costco European Belgian Chocolate Cookies (and yum).
  • Lose some belly. I topped out around 270 a few years ago. I made it all the way down to 230 in 2012 with the help of the Lose It app on iPhone (where you have an allotted amount of calories every day and you track everything you eat). I weighed in at 247 last week and decided to kick start the Lose It routine again.  I’m going to shoot for 220 this time around. By the way, the eight cookies I ate today? 340 cals. Little bastards.
  • Be credit card debt free.  In early 2012, after a lifetime of pitiful money management, I listened to Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover audio book and started following his plan. This year should will be the year I’m debt free except for my house. I’ve been in debt my whole adult life, folks, and I can see the finish line. Just right over there.
  • Calm Down. I am not the zen master I appear to be. Ask my wife and kids. Often times I simply just need to calm the hell down.

So those are my big four for the year. I’ll keep you posted.

In tribute to Phil Everly, I’ll leave you with the entire Everly Brothers 1983 reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It had been ten years since their last performance at Knotts Berry Farm, where Phil infamously smashed his guitar and walked off. The highlight of this concert for me is “Let It Be Me,” simply for the priceless looks on Phil’s face as he watched his brother Don sing those beautiful solo parts. Knots Berry Farm was a distant memory.

RIP Phil. You’re missed already.

Pete’s Top 10 in Music – 2013

One of my new year’s resolutions for 2014 will be to spend more time banging out some thoughts on this blog (which will turn 10 in December). It mystifies me how fast time flies between my posts here (and time in general).  I want to come here more often and blurt out my reactions to all the good tunes swirling around out there. So what holds me back? It’s things like growing older, deepening responsibilities, two children growing up, work, stress, obligations, laziness, Netflix, bourbon…

Still, it’s important for me to continue to have this outlet. Although attention spans on the internet are fleeting and fragmented, and not many eyes gaze upon this site anymore, I still like having my own little virtual nook. So continue on I shall, and hopefully more frequently.

So what of my musical interests in 2013? As usual, not so much time was spent jumping voraciously into newly released material (although there are a few that rattled my core). I still love jumping back in time (often with the help of Rdio and Spotify) to discover and re-discover the myriad tunes I’ve missed and/or neglected all these years.  It’s overwhelming, but it sure is exciting to know that so much music exists with the potential to have that profound impact that makes it so special.

So here’s my top 10 in music this year. These are the albums, songs, shows and moments that moved me in 2013…

10. [Album] Billie Joe + Norah – ‘Foreverly

Photo credit: Marina Chavez

Photo credit: Marina Chavez

This album came out in November and absolutely floored me. I had no expectations, and frankly wasn’t even aware of it until the week it came out. I took a listen, and I was hooked a minute into the album opener, “Roving Gambler.” The voices of Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day fame) and Norah Jones mesh perfectly in this sublime song for song cover of the Everly Brothers’ 1958 album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. The whole album soothes my laid back, old folkie soul.

9. [Song] Kings of Leon – “Temple

Saturday Night Live still has some great moments. Besides the regular appearances of my favorite cast members Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, and Taran Killam, the music guests can deliver and surprise. I enjoyed Haim this year, and I really enjoyed the Kings of Leon appearance, particularly “Temple,” the best straight ahead rock tune I’ve heard all year.
Here is KoL’s performance of the song from Live on Letterman:

8. [Song] Alice Smith – “Loyalty

Photo credit: http://www.alicesmith.com

Photo credit: http://www.alicesmith.com

Deep. Stunning. What a flawless voice. This slow burning, soulful track from Alice’s album, She, was an early year highlight. I saw her open for Citizen Cope several years back, and here’s hoping she makes it back to AZ soon, ’cause Alice, I Want You Just For Me.

7. [Song] Guy Clark – “My Favorite Picture Of You

Photo credit: Nashvilleportraits.com

Photo credit: Nashvilleportraits.com

Want your heart ripped right out of your chest, tossed around like a hot potato, and shoved back in? In a good way? Then this tune is for you. This is Guy’s tribute to his late wife, Susanna, who passed away in 2012. Here’s an intimate intro and performance from Guy’s home:

6. [Show] Steve Earle & the Dukes – Scottsdale Center of the Performing Arts – October 14th

steveearle2013

It had been 10 plus years since I last saw Steve perform with his band the Dukes. This year’s incarnation included long time members Kelly Looney on bass and Will Rigby on drums, and husband and wife-duo the Mastersons (Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore) on guitars, violin and background vocals. Seeing them in the hoity-toity confines of Scottsdale among the older set (okay, blue hairs) was entertaining in and of itself, but the main event was clear as could be: the bad-ass Steve Earle front and center, ripping through songs new and old, including his great new record The Low Highway. Highlights for me came from my favorite Steve album, I Feel Alright, with rip-roaring performances of “Hard Core Troubadour” and “Billy & Bonnie.”

5. [Album] John Grant – ‘Pale Green Ghosts

john_grant

Thanks to Later with Jools Holland, a British music show which started airing stateside this year on the Palladia HD channel, I was introduced to the talented John Grant. ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ is electronic, melodic, grandiose, and beautiful. One of its best songs, “GMF,” will have you singing along loud & proud: “I am the greatest motherfuckerrr that you’re ever gonna meet / from the top of my head down to the tips of the toes on my feeet.” I’m telling you.

4. [Show] Prince & 3rd Eye Girl – Marquee Theater, Tempe, AZ – May 1st

Photo Credit: The Influence of Prince Facebook page

Photo Credit: The Influence of Prince Facebook page

It was a really long drought for me between Prince shows. I hadn’t seen him since his One Night Alone tour in 2002, when he was touring behind The Rainbow Children album. This time, it was Prince (full on ‘fro in effect) and his new all-female backing trio 3rd Eye Girl, in the intimate setting of the 1000-capacity Marquee Theater in Tempe. I wasn’t further than 50 feet from him, and as you could guess, the experience was unforgettable. There were the impressive new cuts like “Screwdriver” and “Fixurlifeup,” but the true magic for me came with tunes like “Forever In My Life” (with P on bass), “Joy In Repetition” (with Larry Graham on bass), and “Purple Rain” performed at the piano. Ain’t no party like a purple party.

3. [Album] Phosphorescent – ‘Muchacho

phosphorescent-muchacho

Matthew Houck released a hell of an album this year with ‘Muchacho.’ Its lead single, “Song for Zula” was a gorgeous introduction, an honest look at love and the frailty of the human condition. The album is rich with poignant, beautiful moments. Take for instance one of my favorites, “Down to Go”:

You say, Oh, you’ll spin your heartache into gold
And I suppose but it rips my heart out don’t you know
But if I’m waking each morning babe
All aching and ornery babe
All vacant and thorny, hey I’m down to go

Seeing Matthew and his band sing these songs live back in October at their Crescent Ballroom show – magnified the beauty and brilliance of this album, and showed how great music lives and breathes.

2. [Show] The Who – Jobing.com Arena, Glendale, AZ – February 6th

petetownshend1

This may go down as the best last minute decision I’ve ever made. I had just wrapped up Pete Townshend’s great autobiography Who I Am early in the year, and was fully immersed in The Who and Pete’s solo work. It turned out that The Who were stopping through Phoenix in February, performing Quadrophenia in its entirety, followed by a greatest hits set. They are definitely  a Bucket List-caliber band to me, so I recruited a friend and got a couple of tickets. I’m so glad I made that decision. Watching Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey live (yes, even in 2013) is a must for any fan of rock & roll. Seeing them blast through hits like “Baba O’Riley,” “Who Are You,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and the full epic performance of Pete’s rock opera, Quadrophenia, was a once in a lifetime thrill. I soaked it all in, and walked out with a Who-induced buzz that lasted weeks. Fantastic show.

1. [Artist] Neil Young

neil young2501

I’ll finish with Neil.

Once again, a book was the catalyst in inspiring me to jump into a catalog of work. I found Neil’s bio, Waging Heavy Peace,  a very entertaining read. It jumps from past to present and back, and you just never know what topic he’ll cover from chapter to chapter – whether it’s his Buffalo Springfield days in the 60′s, his adventures in Topanga Canyon in the 70′s, his passions in this century of developing a superior quality audio file or his alternate-fueled LincVolt car project… he’s all over the place (sort of how my brain behaves most of the time), and that appealed to me in the book.  So to accompany the book, I jumped head first into Neil’s catalog later this year – his vast collection of solo albums (wow, still a long way to go), the Springfield stuff, his Crazy Horse records, etc. Now, I’ve always loved Neil’s stuff – the stuff I’ve been familiar with over the years, that is. Albums like Harvest, Harvest Moon, and Rust Never Sleeps.  But for some reason, I hadn’t tracked down other gems – the biggest miss being his second album, 1969′s Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Yes, I know “Cinnamon Girl” and “Down By The River,” but damned if I didn’t discover that I had never – not once – listened to this 44 year old record in my entire 43 years on this planet! Over the past couple months, as I’ve listened repeatedly to masterpieces like “The Losing End (When You’re On)” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” – and I realize that this record would have been right up there with some of my landmark “life” albums (like ‘Sticky Fingers,’ ‘Hard Promises,’ and ‘Purple Rain’)… well, I feel like a dope.

But such is life. Better late than never. And speaking of Bucket Lists – Neil Young, you are right up there near the top. Cheers to a legend.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year.

Mark’s Top Five of 2013

Time to once again tap into my inner Cusack and reveal my Top Five Albums of 2013.

5. Antiphon by Midlake

After the departure of lead vocalist and founding member Tim Smith, Midlake has been born again with a much more powerful sound reminiscent of Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips. I saw them when they came through town and they were amazing. Here is the title track.

4. State-by Todd Rundgren

The wizard returns to original material with a true gem that works nicely as a companion piece to his 2004 release, Liars. Vintage Todd!

3. The Next Day by David Bowie

Seriously, WTF happened to David Bowie? He vanishes for 10 years and then makes one of the best albums of his career. With the January release, I truly got to enjoy it all year. There isn’t a bad track on the whole LP. Here is one of my favorite tracks

2. AM by Arctic Monkeys

The lads from Sheffield can’t seem to make a bad record. NME made it their album of the year and graced it with a rare 10 out of 10. AM is more laid back than their previous records but still packs a wallop lyrically. Alex and his stories…

Here is a live version of the first single, “Do I Wanna Know?”

1. San Cisco by San Cisco

The best album of 2013 belongs to Fremantle, Western Australia’s San Cisco. Much of their music was released late last year but they didn’t secure a record deal here until early this year. I have played this disc so much that it is nearly worn out. My 14 year old daughter loves it and can’t get enough of all the catchy pop hooks and down under bliss. Parts of it remind me of the 80s but yet it still sounds very fresh. I’d urge you to check out all their EPs as they have many tracks not on the album.

Here is the track that helped them get a US record deal.

Happy 2013 everyone!

“Drunk Girl” – New from Fred Eaglesmith’s ‘Tambourine’

tamb400

A nice surprise awaited me this morning on Rdio (and Spotify) when I was greeted with ‘Tambourine’ – a brand new release from great Canadian songwriter Fred Eaglesmith.

“Drunk Girl” is easily my early favorite – and what a surprise, it’s a ballad! Sorry, always a sucker for one. Funny name for a ballad, I know. But the gist of it is that Fred’s had his heart right ripped out of his chest by a lost lover, and tonight – dammit all – he’s looking for a drunk girl to come “sail away” with him – to “weave on down Revelation Hill, down to the old mill street”. I picture a man sitting at the far corner of a dimly lit tavern bar. He’s a couple of whiskeys in, a slight sad smile on his face, as he resigns himself to his fate for the night. You know that smile, the one Bruce Springsteen nails about 2 minutes into his “One Step Up” video.

Reverb-drenched guitar chord strikes and arpeggios, Fred’s unmistakeable vocals, all delivered in an early rock n’ roll era sweetness.

Fred Eaglesmith – “Drunk Girl

Buy Tambourine on Fred’s Online Store.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

LIGHTS… new from M.I.A.

MIA

I’ve said it before – a large part of the allure of M.I.A.‘s music for me lies in the physical realm. If she resembled a Sri Lankan Mugsy Bogues, I may not have become enamored with her back in the Arular days. But indeed she does not resemble Mugsy Bogues. She’s an exotic, caramel-skinned south Asian beauty with a fuck you attitude, who puts together some of the most unique beats and sounds around.

On Tuesday, she released Matangi, only her fourth studio release in the last 8 years. Her last album, Maya (2010) didn’t do too much for me, but after a couple of listens to Matangi, she’s got me back the same way Arular and Kala had me.

It’s the creativity I love – having no idea what she’s going to bring you from song to song. The layered tracks are exotic, odd, surprising, sexy, disturbing, and completely original. A couple of tunes from Matangi have already risen to the top (for now – that’s sure to change). “Y.A.L.A.”, and this one: “Lights”… The booming bass, the tribal percussion, and the way her vocals fluctuate throughout the song – high to low, raps morphing into melodies, all winding its way through the changing rhythms.

I know if I approached 10 of my friends with this album (or any M.I.A. album, for that matter), 9 and a half of them would turn and look me in the eyes with a confused look. That’s okay. I’m not seeking validation. I gravitate to some artists just for the odd, the creative, and the adventurous. M.I.A.’s got her own thing going, and I love it.

Check out Matangi on Amazon.

Right Hand On My Heart

TheWhigs

“Pete FM” is my new personalized station on Rdio. You can choose among five different settings – from one end of the spectrum, “Familiar”, to the other end, “Adventurous.” It takes the songs in your collection and the songs you’ve been listening to, and formulates a playlist based on your choice between the two ends of that spectrum.  This Pandora-like music discovery feature is nothing new, but it is another great way to get out of your musical rut and discover something new.

And wow, did Pete FM spring a great new (to me) one on me yesterday: a six year old tune by Athens, GA band The Whigs.

The song is “Right Hand On My Heart,” and it smokes! Nothing manufactured or synthetic about this one – it starts with a pounding bass drum and snare, and quickly launches into a rocking guitar/bass riff. Singer/guitarist Parker Gispert’s vocals hit the cool spot for me – especially during the verses, as the last word in each line extends just a bit and trails off. That badass vocal delivery on top of the get-in-your-car-and-crank-this-shit-up power trio groove makes “Right Hand On My Heart” one of the best tunes I’ve heard in some time.

The tune is from their 2008 album Mission Control. Listen & watch: