Resistance Mixtape: Veterans Day


Veteran’s Day is the time we honor people who served in the military.  These are people who often have seen the horror of war and try to express this to those of use divorced from its reality, and even today are among those most opposed to war. My hope for this and every Veteran’s Day is that our military is used wisely and that there we don’t end up with more people to remember on future Memorial Days.

Bruce Springsteen :: “Born in the U.S.A” – The bombastic chorus is often misinterpreted as blind patriotism, but the verses tell of the long lasting effects on a veteran of the Vietnam War.

Creedence Clearwater Revival :: “Fortunate Son” – Who goes to war often has less to do with patriotism and more to do with one’s position in society.

Eric Bogle :: “The Green Fields of France” – November 11th commemorates the end of The Great War which was supposed to be “The War to End All Wars” but still young people are sent off to fight.

Phil Ochs :: “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” – Tells the story of a veteran of all the United States’ wars who decides to refuse to fight any loner.

Bill Withers :: “I Can’t Write Left-Handed” – Another view of the lasting damage on a veteran of war.

 

The Clancy Brothers :: “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” – The families and friends of veterans also suffer the iniquities of war.

 

Previous Mixtapes:

Advertisements

Album Review: Revelations by Shamir


AlbumRevelations
Artist: Shamir
Release Date: 3 November 27
Favorite Tracks: “90’s Kids,” “Blooming,” and “Straight Boy”
Thoughts:  Shamir Bailey’s debut album Ratchet was built on electronic beats and dance rhythms, making it club ready. His latest album is stunning stripped-down, pure pop melodies that draw on rock genres from 60’s girl groups to grunge.  The music doesn’t impress me much, but I do love Shamir’s soulful voice and how it emphasizes the striking lyrics of tracks like “90’s Kids” and “Straight Boy.”  It’s a short album (31 minutes), so give it a second listen if it doesn’t move you the first time.
Rating: ***

Song of the Week: “Powerwalk” by The Nunnery


The Nunnery of Minneapolis makes loops of vocal sound live to create the mesmerizing “Powerwalk.”  And that’s about all I can tell you about The Nunnery because they seem vague about their identity online.

 

 

Album Reviews: Fever Ray, Blitzen Trapper, The Barr Brothers


This week, quick thoughts on three new albums I listened to today.

AlbumPlunge
Artist: Fever Ray
Release Date: 2017 October 27
Favorite Tracks: “Wanna Sip” and “IDK About You”
Thoughts: Fever Ray is the solo project of Swedish electronic musician Karin Dreijer, also of the duo The Knife. The album has some sick beats and synths, but Dreijer’s voice is unpleasant and the frequent profanity seems to be juvenile attempt to be shocking.
Rating: **1/2


Album: Wild and Reckless
Artist: Blitzen Trapper
Release Date: 2017 November 3
Favorite Tracks: “Joanna” and “Stolen Hearts”
Thoughts: A twangier, pure country outing from Blitzen Trapper grew out of a “rock opera” staged in their native Portland, OR that tells a sci-fi love story of two kids on the run.
Rating: **1/2


Album: Queens of the Breakers
Artist: The Barr Brothers
Release Date: 2017 October 13
Favorite Tracks: “You Would Have to Lose Your Mind” and “It Came To Me”
Thoughts: The Montreal-based Americana jam band with a harp received good reviews for their innovative sound, but the album sounds kind of like generic folk-pop to me.  Not my thing.
Rating: **

Song of the Week: “Matter of Time” by Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings


On November 18, 2016, Sharon Jones died leaving behind a musical legacy and broken hearts everywhere. A year later, the final Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings album Soul of a Woman will be released on November 17, 2017.  The first single, a peace anthem called “Matter of Time” reminds us of what we lost and what we’ll always have from Miss Sharon Jones’ musical gift.

 

 

 

Album Review: Colors by Beck


Album: Colors
Artist: Beck
Release Date: October 13, 2017
Favorite Tracks: Nothing stands out
Thoughts: I’ve been a Beck fan since he emerged on the scene in the 1990s and even once performed in a Beck choral performance, so I had to check out this new album.  And it is rather dull.  Nothing offensive about it, it features upbeat pop tunes that may sound good in the background at a party, but nothing you’d want to come back to.  So it’s ok, but disappointing for Beck who has done better.
Rating: **

Song of the Week: “All Rolled Up” by F Ingers


“All Rolled Up” is an atmospheric, electronic track from an Australian trio with a name that defies Google, F Ingers. It’s on their new album Awkwardly Blissing Out.

 

 

 

Song of the Week: “Deadly Valentine” by Charlotte Gainsbourg


“Deadly Valentine” is the lastest single from British-French actor and musician Charlotte Gainsbourg.  It’s a dancable track with lyrics that make wedding vows sound really creepy.  But this song is nowhere as creepy as “Lemon Incest.”  The song is featured on Gainsbourg’s newest Album Rest, due out on November 17.

 

Album Review: MASSEDUCTION by St. Vincent


AlbumMASSEDUCTION
ArtistSt. Vincent
Release Date: October 13, 2017
Favorite Tracks: none
Thoughts: I’m a longtime St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) fan and have written about her on this blog many times, so I was eager to hear her fifth album.  Sadly, it’s a disappointment.  Supposedly this album is her attempt to move to a more pop-oriented sound, so naturally that would be alienating to a long-time fan.  But I don’t think it even succeeds as a pop album as there are no catchy hooks and the grim lyrics sound maudlin over the kitschy sound. St. Vincent’s music may be inaccessible to many, but this is the first time that I find it to be dull.  I can’t help but feel that there’s a message in the cover of the album where St. Vincent is mooning her audience.
Rating: **

Music Discoveries: Tom Waits


Tom Waits is a veteran singer-songwriter whose voice is a combination of sidewalk preacher, carnival barker, beat poet, and barstool philosopher. I first heard of Waits in the 80s when he was known as the guy with the crazy, gravely voice.  But then I heard the track “Innocent When You Dream” on a compilation album and fell in love with the heartfelt beauty underneath what sounded like a drunk guy crooning at a bar.  I got the album Franks Wild Years and it remains one of my all time favorites, and I’ve checked in and out on Waits’ career over the years.  This is the first time I’ve listened to all of Waits’ catalog from beginning to most current, and let me tell you it’s not easy to listen to all that Waits’ music back-to-back-to-back, although it is a worthwhile exercise.

Tom Waits’ career can be summed up into three basic eras:

  • 1970s – Waits was a little more eccentric than his contemporaries, but listening to his early recordings and he seems to fit in with the singer-songwriters of the era. You might even imagine an alternate universe where his career followed the paths of the likes of James Taylor, Elton John, or Randy Newman.  His trademark gravely voice didn’t even make its debut until the third album, and in the seventies it was more of an homage to Louis Armstrong or Doctor John as Waits recorded jazz and blues tinged tunes.
  • 1980s – This decade marked the emergence of the iconic Waits’ style, verging between lost recordings of American and avant guarde music with unusual instrumentation and tunings.  The decade is marked by the trilogy of albums he’s most remembered for: Swordfishtrombones (1983), Rain Dogs (1985), and Franks Wild Years (1987).
  • 1992 to present – While Waits’ music in this period remains experimental by the standards of contemporary popular music, and inspiration for “alternative music,”  it doesn’t vary much from the template he established in the 1980s.  Similarly, while 1990s and 2000s recordings include numerous gems and good albums overall, Waits is own worst enemy as a producer in that he allows the albums to be bloated with excess tracks that should be judiciously trimmed.  In short, don’t do what I did and listen to everything, but definitely seek out the good stuff.

Tom Waits hasn’t released anything new since 2011 or toured since 2008, but hopefully he has some songs left in him and there will be another Tom Waits era to look back on in the future.

Five Favorite Albums

  • Closing Time (1973) – definitely one of the great all-time debut albums, and the first three tracks are a strong start to any album.
  • Rain Dogs (1985) – Waits’ masterpiece and one of the great albums of the 1980s.
  • Franks Wild Years (1987) – the soundtrack to a play I’ve never seen, it remains a sentimental favorite
  • Bone Machine (1992) – Waits charges into the 1990s showing the alt-rockers how things are done with haunting lyrics and aural soundscape
  • Blood Money (2002) – these are songs from another play, but also reflect the misanthropy and pessimism of the post-Sept. 11th world under George W. Bush

Twenty-Five Favorite Songs

 

1. “Ol’ 55”

2. “I Hope I Don’t Fall in Love With You”

3. “Virginia Avenue”

4. “The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me) (An Evening with Pete King)”

5. “Jersey Girl”

6. “16 Shells from A Thirty-Ought-Six”

7. “In the Neighbourhood”

8. “Jockey Full of Bourbon”

9. “Hang Down Your Head”

10. “Downtown Train”

11. “Hang on St. Christopher”

12. “Innocent When You Dream (Barroom)”

13. “Yesterday is Here”

14. “Way Down in the Hole”

15. “Cold Cold Ground”

16. “Jesus Gonna Be Here”

17. “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”

18. “T’ Ain’t No Sin”

19. “Hold On”

20. “House Where Nobody Lives”

21. “Misery is the River of the World”

22. “God’s Away on Business”

23. “Flowers Grave”

24. “Hoist That Rag”

25. “Chicago”

Song of the Week: “Almost Like Praying” by Lin-Manuel Miranda


“Almost Like Praying” is a benefit song by composer and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda to raise funds for relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.  The title of the song is a lyric from “Maria” a song in the musical West Side Story about the female lead character from Puerto Rico.  In addition to the recognition that the name Maria will never be seen the same in Puerto Rico after this disaster, the song lists the name of every town in Puerto Rico.  A team of all-star singers perform the song to a reggaeton beat.  Visit the Almost Like Praying website to get the song and/or make a donation to the Hispanic Federation. Learn more about the song in this interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda on NPR’s All Songs Considered.

 

Resistance Mixtape: Indigenous Peoples’ Day


Today is Indigenous Peoples’ Day so the mixtape celebrates the native people of North America and their continuing struggle against discrimination and elimination by European colonizers.

Buffy Sainte-Marie:: “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone”

Indigo Girls :: “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”

A Tribe Called Red x Prolific The Rapper :: “Black Snakes (Remix)”

Peter Gabriel :: “San Jacinto” the culture clash between Native America and present-day America

Neil Young :: “Cortez the Killer”

 

Grant-Lee Phillips :: “Buffalo Hearts”

Robbie Robertson :: “Showdown at Big Sky”

 

I’m sure there are some knowledgeable people who can add to this mixtape with some terrific music, especially by Native American artists.  If so, post them in the comments.

Album Review: Harmony of Difference by Kamasi Washington


Album:Harmony of Difference
ArtistKamasi Washington
Release Date: September 29, 2017
Thoughts:

I don’t listen much to jazz, especially contemporary jazz, but a streaming music account means there’s no excuse to not try new things.  The new EP by the hot saxophonist and composer Kamasi Washington brings together 6 pieces in about 30 minutes of running time.  There’s a lot of retro feeling to this music, with nods to Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” 60’s Brazilian bossanova, and 70s funk fusion.  The EP culminates with the 15-minute piece “Truth” which brings back and mixes together themes from the other five pieces.  Washington’s music has a sound that would be suited to scoring films although it’s also a bit too “smooth jazz” for my taste.
Rating: **1/2

Album Review: The Wild by Kris Delmhorst


AlbumThe Wild
Artist: Kris Delmhorst
Release Date: September 22, 2017
Favorite Tracks:
Thoughts: I’ve been following Delmhort’s career for years (decades, actually!) and while she’s no stranger to the ballad, her albums usually have a fair share of raucous, upbeat tunes as well.  The Wild finds her in a more contemplative mood as every track slow, emphasizing her voice and introspective lyrics, with a touch of a country twang.  It may not be up there with my favorite Delmhorst recordings, but it’s still pretty darn good.
Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: Cost of Living by Downtown Boys


AlbumCost of Living
Artist: Downtown Boys
Release Date: August 11, 2017
Favorite Tracks: “A Wall,” “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas), “Lips that Bite” and “Clara Rancia.”

Thoughts: The Providence-based, bilingual punk band is back with an energetic new album filled with hard riffs and pointed lyrics.  I particularly like it when the horns kick in.  This is the music for our fraught political times, filled with anger but leavened with hope.
Rating: ****

Album Review: Prophets of Rage


AlbumProphets of Rage
Artist: Prophets of Rage
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Unfuck the World”
Thoughts: Back in the 80s, Public Enemy’s Chuck D said “rap is CNN for black people,” reflecting on the urgency of rap music to spread the word through the community.  The idea of message spreading is central to the new album from Prophets of Rage, the rock rap supergroup Chuck D formed with Rage Against the Machine’s Tim Commerford, Tom Morello, and Brad Wilk, Cypress Hill’s B-Real, and DJ Lord of Public Enemy. And yet message seems to be all they’ve got, while the nearly 30-year-old It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back still stands up musically.  At it’s best, Prophets of Rage reminds me of great collaborations of rap and hard rock like Public Enemy with Anthrax or Rage Against the Machine at their best, but unfortunately most of the album reminds me of the dreck that was late-90s rap-metal, and not worthy of the talent involved in its creation.
Rating: **

Album Review: The Underside of Power by Algiers


AlbumThe Underside of Power
Artist: Algiers
Release Date: June 23, 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Walk Like a Panther,”  “Cry of the Martyrs,” “The Underside of Power,”  “Death March,” and “Cleveland”
Thoughts:

This may be the most important album of 2017, and one that will certainly be on my year end best of ’17 list.  The politically-charged lyrics of the Atlanta-based band offer hope in times of chaos and despair.  Algiers sound is remarkable as it is indescribable, kind of a mix of gospel, with psychedelic soul (such as late-60s Temptations or Funkadelic at their most political), and punk rock all echoed in a wall of sound.  This is definitely an album you should put on your list to check out.
Rating: ****1/2

 

Resistance Mixtape: Immigrant Songs


We are a nation of immigrants, although some like to act like we’re not, but our musical heritage is rich in songs of the travails and contributions of immigrants.
“Thousands Are Sailing” by The Pogues tells the first person stories of generations of Irish arrivals on American shores.
“America” by Neil Diamond is a cheerful ode to the ideal that’s not always realized.
“Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)” by Shad is a Canadian hip-hop exploration of the same theme.
“Paper Planes” by M.I.A documents the red tape and paperwork needed to cross borders today.
“Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” by Cisco Houston reminds us that not everyone who makes it here is allowed to stay, and often human live are treated as disposable
“Esta Tierra Es Tuya” by Sones de Mexico Ensemble. But, all the same, “This Land is Your Land,” no matter what language you sing it in.
There are hundreds of songs I could share here, so please let me know some good ones I left out in the comments.
Previous mixtapes

Resistance Mixtape: Labor Songs


This is a week late, but every day is Labor Day as far as I’m concerned. So here are some songs celebrating the working people.

Bread and Roses” by Judy Collins

“Gonna Be An Engineer” by Peggy Seeger

“Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes

“I Guess I Planted” by Billy Bragg & Wilco

“Joe Hill” by Paul Robeson

“More Than a Paycheck” by Sweet Honey in the Rock

“9 to 5” by Dolly Parton

“Talking Union” by The Almanac Singers

“Working Class Hero” by John Lennon

I’m trying to make this a more regular feature, but until that time, enjoy some earlier Resistance Mixtapes: