Go check out Battles. This band is doing what a lot of bands can only pretend they’re doing. Battles is creating new sounds. The band’s last single “Atlas,” which was released earlier this year, is remarkably original. All music listeners have the natural tendency to try to compare new music with something they already know. But, frankly, I don’t know where to put these guys. They just don’t sound like anything that could be a noticable influence. And really the “rock” genre is not big enough to hold Battles, though I’m sure many would box them into that category. (((The great thing about this band is that they raise the question of genre. Too many artists give into the conformities controlled by big record labels. The labels want everything neatly packaged into identifiable genres so they can spawn the necessary buzz about a particular genre in order to make the most money. It’s all about control.)))

Battles is living up to their name. You just cannot categorize this band without a fight.



This single released in 2007 really seems to have that necessary “staying-power” for which so many artists strive. “Mistaken for Strangers” teems with dark guitar sounds and vocals resonating with empathetically lonely lyrics. But the interesting aspect of the track is that I still wanted to listen to it over and over, despite the dark overtones. The song is really adicting. The vocals might be compared to other monotone-like singers, such as Interpol’s singer or She Wants Revenge’s singer. But I don’t embelish when I say that The National does it better. Yes Interpol has their fair share of great songs with haunting, monotone vocals. But The National seems to have the elements that are lacking for other similar bands.

“Mistaken for Strangers” is dancable, fun, and self-loathing all in one. Who could want more? If you’re feeling in the mood for some straightforward, catchy indie rock, check these fellas out.

Bjork is beauty

December 15, 2007

ashleywilliamson_09.jpgI had the rare opportunity to see Bjork live in Atlanta back in September. While I’ve seen musical names like Coldplay, Kansas, The Who, and others live over the years I have never before witnessed anything like Bjork’s concert. It really didn’t even feel like a concert. It felt more like an emotion…or, rather, multiple emotions tugging at my core. Her soaring vocals, ethereal music, and quirky stage antics were combined into a show of complete beauty and originality.

At one particular point in the show (I believe during the song “Unison” or “The Anchor Song”) I found myself so entranced in the beauty of the music that I zoned out completely. I was sitting with my elbows on my knees and my head in my hands. My mouth was open slightly. After a few moments of child-like wonder, my mind came back to reality, and I looked around to see if anyone had noticed my foolish awe. As I glanced around, I realized that everyone…and I do mean everyone…was sitting completely still, all just as dumb-struck as I was at this Icelandic dream.

Bjork left an imprint of beauty on my soul.

I wanted to post this video of k-os performing his song “Emcee Murdah” live.

Few artists over the last 20 years are as haunting as the late Jeff Buckley. With a voice that could not be dupicated despite numerous attempts over the years, Jeff Buckley stands out as an inspiring icon in music. This song “Forget Her” was not released during his short lifetime but was later released 2004 on “So Real: Songs from Jeff Buckley.” Emotion spills from the song as Jeff Buckley’s last contribution to the world resounds. Please enjoy.

Emcees of Note

December 7, 2007

saul_williams_1.gifIt seems like emcees are a popping up everywhere these days. Everybody and their brother is picking up the mic and trying their hand at writing. And frankly, the industry is being flooded by new “artists” who do old things. Creativity is being overshadowed by hopeful money-makers who would rather follow an overused pattern than step out on a limb and actually try something unique.

Fortunately for frustrated music listeners like myself, there are some emcees out there doing their own thing. And I think it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. So without further ado, here are the some of the sickest, up-and-coming emcees you need to know:

P.O.S (www.myspace.com/posisruiningmylife)
When mentioning the words “unique” and “emcee” in the same sentence, P.O.S is one of the first names that come to mind. His style contains elements of both hip-hop and rock, but the combination is done very tastefully. His beats range from interesting acoustic guitar riffs over organic beats to much more electronic beats with synths. But his vocals are the most impressive part of this emcee. His style is original and aggressive. Put plainly, this guy has charisma.

k-the-i??? (www.myspace.com/kthei)
This emcee embodies the spirit of art. If it’s possible to have avant-garde hip-hop, k-the-i would be the frontrunner of the genre. His beats are artful. His poetry is complex and more spoken than rapped. And he’s introducing his own sound to the hip-hop industry.

k-os (www.myspace.com/kos)
If you haven’t heard this Canadian artist, you have yet to have truly conquered creative hip-hop. His sound is diverse. One of the nice things about k-os is that he moves from rhyming to singing effortlessly. Honestly he could stick with either singing or emceeing and be as legit as anyone out there. Please…if you don’t check out any other artist on this list, you NEED to hear k-os. His music might just change the way you see hip-hop.

Saul Williams (www.myspace.com/saulwilliams)
With some of the most aggressive poetry to grace the hip-hop genre (if you can call it that), Saul Williams’ music resonates with charisma. His lyrics contain social, political, and philosophical themes that are delivered by one of the most unique voices to attempt spoken poetry. Mr. Williams is almost too diverse in his style to categorize him as simply “hip-hop,” and yet he has the skill to bring thoughtless emcees to their knees. Saul Williams is a necessity for the aesthetic of art in music.

(This list will be added to eventually.)

This video of Lauryn Hill’s song “Adam Lives in Theory” is phenominal. Unfortunately, this version is much better than the more accessible MTV Unplugged version (Lauryn sang the unplugged version in a higher key, and her voice was giving out during the performance). But thank goodness someone added this rare performance to Youtube.

Oumou Sangare

December 6, 2007

oumou_sangare_l.jpgDuring a random film in my African Cinema class one rainy Monday evening, I was introduced to the name Oumou Sangare. Her voice faintly echoed in the background of one of the scenes of the rather unmemorable film and revived my otherwise waning interest. I wrote her name down in a notebook, and shortly after the conclusion of the movie, I found myself in a coffee shop with Sangare’s Myspace page pulled up on the laptop screen in front of me. As I clicked play for the first time on Oumou Sangare’s “Saa Magni,” I was immediately entranced in the song’s urgent beauty. The traditional Wassoulou sound this Malian siren is known for broke the emotional walls of my being as her voice resonated across the surface of my eardrums. Each lyrical line coming from the singer resounded with a sense of sorrow. But this sorrow was not singular. Rather it was coupled with a sort of strength and pride in the traditional roots of Mali. I was sucked in; held captive by words I did not understand. And yet I tried desperately to empathize with them at the same time.

Under the entrancement of such an addictive and powerful sound, I pulled up my iTunes music store and purchased “Saa Magni” and three additional songs. I was even more pleased to find that her sound didn’t become monotonous as I ingested the purchased repertoire. Dreams of Africa, a continent I have never visited, flooded over me like a wave break at sea. From the danceable, tribal vibes of “Baba” to the all too haunting trip-hop flavor of “Djorolen (Remix),” Sangare mystically seduced me into a state of removal. And there I sat helplessly hanging onto the words of this enchantress, oblivious to the bustling coffee shop around me.

Hi-Tek: Hi-Teknology 3

December 6, 2007

hi_tek_3.jpgTony Cottrell is deadly…and he’s only getting better with time.

This latest album from Cottrell, better known as Hi-Tek, features his ever-progressing sound at a whole new level of maturity.   I knew about Hi-Tek from his work with Mos Def and Talib Kweli in Blackstar, but I really became intrigued with his work after hearing “Where It Started At” from his Hi-Teknology 2 album.  The song is amazing.  It combined unique melodies and dated samples in a way that only a truly gifted producer could mix them.  The result was a haunting track with hooks that are as catchy as they are original. 

As for his new work, Hi-Tek has further increased his legitimacy.  The album is full of creative tracks, but his track “My Piano” separates itself from the rest.  The song is magic.  Not only does it have support from Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and Dion, but the hooks in the track exhibit Hi-Tek’s most effective creativity.  The sound is just haunting…there are no two ways about it.  Unfortunately for Hi-Tek, some of the tracks feature verses of fairly insignificant content.  To be honest, some of the lyricists have sacrificed content for an image.  But overall, the beats overshadow most of the weaker lyrical content of some of the songs.  [Two other songs of note are “God’s Plan” (featuring  Young Buck and Outlawz) and “Life To Me” (featuring Estelle).]