Saturday, February 14, 2015

Don't Let It Go

Blackbird Chain


you can hear "Phase" HERE

Songs of the Day

Tracks 8-10 up for review today: "Don't Let It Go," "Blackbird Chain," and "Phase."
I'm glad that "Don't Let It Go" has given us a chance to hear Beck without the effects.  The vocal effects have been nice, but at this point they're a little overdone, so it's nice to hear that sonic break.  The layered, ambient vocals return in the chorus, but they a) do sound nice, and b) help tie into the record.  The build from guitar & vocals to the full band works really well and provides the track a lot of depth.  The vocal layering at the end with "don't let it go," and "don't you see how far it's gone away" is probably my favorite part, and end the track on a very full note.  Pretty cool track.
"Blackbird Chain" is another track that I enjoy.  Again, Beck's vocals don't have any effects on in the verse, which is appreciated.  The vocal harmonies on the hook "blackbird chain" are really nice, he definitely has that down.  The groove is almost a little too happy-go-lucky for me (particularly when the piano comes in), but it has a lot of depth to it, which I enjoy.  The introduction of steel guitar and strings is nice, gives the track a good build towards the end. 
"Phase" is a beautiful all string interlude.  All of the strings on this record have been phenomenal, and I always enjoy when they get featured as they had in the opening number, "Cycle."  Unlike "Cycle," "Phase" does not go right into the next song, it is its own entity.  Short and sweet. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Blue Moon



Songs of the Day

Got the next three tracks up for review: "Blue Moon," "Unforgiven," and "Wave."
So we continue on this reviewing journey with "Blue Moon," which certainly goes down the same musical road as its predecessors.  I like that this track has a bit of a heavier, not as simple feel as the previous.  There's much more dynamics to it, which help make it more memorable than some of the others.  It's still simple in its core, but still has plenty of depth to keep you interested.  I like the guitar breakdown, adds a nice little something extra.  Great vocal harmonies, but at this point that comes as no surprise.  This one definitely has the same kind of Flaming Lips vibe that I was feeling in previous tunes.  Solid build up to the end.  It's a nice track, nothing I find extraordinary, but it's relaxing and easy to listen to.
"Unforgiven" slightly switches up the feel in that it's slower, and the bass is much heavier (which I dig).  I like the hook "somewhere unforgiven, time will wait for you," it's got a darkness to it that I like.  This track has a bit more of a space-y vibe than the others, which is cool (who doesn't like space?), but at this point the simple groove with ambient vocals thing gets a little old.  Not that I don't like it, it's certainly got its place and time, but it would be nice by track 6 to have a bit more of a switch up.  String build up at the end is really nice, adding some more texture to a track that is almost too simple.  There's not much to really hold onto in this one, but the effects are cool and add a nice fullness to the song. Decent, not my favorite.
The strings on "Wave" are by far my favorite part of the track.  They provide a nice depth, and an eeriness that I find intriguing.  I also like that they're fuller on this track than previous ones, "Cycle" is the only time thus far that they'd been featured this heavily.   The repeated "isolation" lyric is kind creepy, but in a cool way.  Again, this is a super simple song, which is nice, but I'm ready for a switch up.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"Cycle" & "Morning"

Heart Is A Drum

Say Goodbye

Songs of the Day

Today's tracks up for review are numbers 1-4: "Cycle," "Morning," "Heart Is A Drum," and "Say Goodbye."
Morning Phase begins with a very sweet string intro, "Cycle."  There's a great depth to it that pulls you in.  It's only forty seconds, going right into the preceding song, but it does exactly what an intro is supposed to do and gets you excited for the record. 
The transition into "Morning" is seamless as they are part of one another, and it has a great effect.  What I think I like most about this track are the swells in dynamics, they have a wave-like quality to them that I find very relaxing.  I like that the track as a whole is very simple, while still having multiple parts to it.  The distance of the vocals add a cool, affective effect, particularly for this vibe.  His vocal harmonies are great as well.  The guitar and piano parts are sweet and simple, blending well with the strings and ambient feel of the groove.  This number reminds me of the Flaming Lips a little bit.  I dig it.
"Heart Is A Drum" goes right along with the same kind of simple, guitar-based groove.  The layering of the vocals is really nice, and it adds a depth to the track that would have otherwise felt bare if it were just one or two vocal parts.  I'm not a fan of the piano that comes in towards the latter half, I find it unnecessary and think it makes the groove sound a little cornier than it had prior.  While this is certainly a nice, simple song, I think it might be a little long for what it is, as I found myself losing interest towards the end. 
By "Say Goodbye," you get a sense of the vibe of this record.  I like the simplicity to it, but I wish that this track had more of the dynamics that I enjoyed in "Morning."  You can only have so much guitar with ambient vocals.  I wish the vocals were up in the mix the whole song and not just on "to say goodbye," but I do really like the harmonies that come in on that line.  The entrance of the banjo didn't do anything for me, and - like the piano in the previous track - I thought it made the song sound a little corny.  Otherwise, it's a nice song.  "Morning" is still my favorite of the day though.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Album Factoids

Morning Phase

Released: Feb 21, 2014
Genre: Alternative
Label: Capitol
Producer: Beck

Week 99: Beck

So, I actually got the suggestion to review this a couple months ago from my boy Charley, but I went with something else instead (don't remember what).  Now that all this "album of the year" drama went down at the Grammys, I obviously have to listen to the album that beat one of the most game-changing albums of all time, Beyoncé.  I'm also looking forward to reviewing this, because other than his song "Loser," I'm pretty unfamiliar with the majority of Beck's work.  I know that he's an amazing musician, and seeing as he's been around for 20 years, this seems to be an appropriate time to hear what all of the hoopla is about :)

This Week's Album...

Final Grade: A-

That's right, jazz heads, I didn't think Miles was perfect!  Damn near, but not quite.  Live - Evil is a phenomenal (as expected), game changing record.  Listening to this in 2015, it has a style that you can tell fits in the 70s, but once you realize it was released in 71 it's evident that this was forward thinking, envelope pushing, and ahead of its time.  This is not a record that I would recommend to any first-time jazzers - only the heavy hitters, or those more than familiar with jazz should attempt to dive into this one.  It is easy to gather from the multiple 20+ minute long songs that there is a lot of jamming going on, which can be deterring for some, but for those willing to listen this record is filled with gems.  There's no surprise that all of Miles' solos are borderline transcendent, as they crossed boundaries in improvisation, finding new ways to express one's self via their instrument, but he had plenty of help along with way with heavy hitters like Keith Jarret, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Jack DeJohnette to carry this album along.  "Little Church" is probably my favorite track off the record, as there's a subtlety to it that contrasts the sometimes overwhelming jams going on throughout.  The minus in this grade comes from "What I Say," as I felt that track to be repetitive, particularly for a song of its length.  While this was certainly a feet first, eyes closed jump into the music of Miles Davis, it was a needed leap into the world of a master that for me had been fairly unknown (I had obviously been aware of Miles' more popular music).  As stated before, this is not for the faint of heart, but should you like to be challenged and/or transcribe crazy scales, this record is for you.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Funky Tonk

Inamorata and Narration by Conrad Roberts

Songs of the Day

Got the final 2 tracks up for review today: "Funky Tonk," and "Inamorata and Narration by Conrad Roberts."  Both of these jams clock in at over 23 minutes, so I obviously won't be getting into serious detail, or else that would take me hours (and I still haven't had dinner).  Anyway...
Man, everyone is going in on "Funky Tonk," almost distractingly so.  There isn't much of a cohesive groove to the track (as has been the case with some of the previous tunes), so everyone is pretty much doing their own solo stuff for the majority of the track.  This can sound very cluttered when done with musicians who don't know what they're doing, but that is obviously not the case here.  The wah-wah on Miles' trumpet adds a cool effect to his solo, which is bananas.  I think Gary Bartz on soprano sax takes the best solo in this number, some of the scales that he has going on around the 7 minute mark are nothing short of insane.  Same with Jack DeJohnette on drums, but again, no surprise there.  Around 17 minutes, the groove slows down and makes way for Keith Jarret on keys, and it's pretty beautiful.  As soon as I listened to this section of the tune, I knew this was Keith and not Chick or Herbie on keys - he has such a distinctive style, particularly in the scales and chords he uses.  He gets a solid 4 minutes on his own to shine before the rest of the band really comes in, and I must say the last 2 minutes are probably my favorite of the song.  There's actually a groove to settle yourself with at the end, and it's nice to finally have something to anchor yourself to (even if it is still all over the place).  This is another one for the serious jazz heads.
"Funky Tonk" goes right into "Inamorata," which is cool.  I'm not sure if it's just spotify having a lack of transitions, but there was a pause between the two tracks even though it was clear that they went straight into one another.  The tracks probably connected seamlessly on vinyl, but that space in between was slightly off-putting.  This is another jam track with everyone going crazy doing their own thing.  So, the end of the record is essentially an hour-long jam.  There's a little more of a cohesive groove to this one, which is welcomed after the kind of hodge podge that was going on in the previous track.  Miles' solo at the beginning of this is phenomenal to say the least.  The things that man could do with a trumpet, goddamn.  Michael Henderson on bass finally has his time to really shine starting around 11 minutes, and the man surely knew how to solo.  I dig that the groove starts to slow down around the 17 minute mark, getting ready for Conrad Roberts' spoken word around 23 minutes.  I a) wish I could hear him better, and b) wish that the groove had stayed subtle behind him - the groove got crazy again and was kind of distracting, and I was looking forward to a bit of a breather.  The end of this track is pretty fucking rock n roll, and that's awesome coming from some jazz heads.  Those unfamiliar with jazz jams will most likely get lost in these two tracks, but the brave ones can surely take them on.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What I Say

Nem um Talvez


Songs of the Day

So, today it's three tracks up for review: "What I Say," "Nem um Talvez," and "Selim."
I'll be honest, "What I Say" isn't my favorite.  It's definitely a solid number, but my god is it repetitive.  I feel bad for Michael Henderson who essentially plays Bb the entire song, with the same rhythm the whole time.  Not to say that what's going on here isn't dope, there are definitely some shining moments among the solos, but it's a jam over the same groove for 20 minutes.  Twenty whole minutes of the same groove.  That being said, having the same groove allowed for drummer DeJohnette to go off for the majority of it, and his skills are nothing short of amazing.  I guess the simple groove also makes improvising over it that much easier, but I got the point after 5 minutes.  This is one for the serious jazz heads that want to analyze and transcribe the insane solos that go on throughout this number.
"Nem um Talvez" is another number written by Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal, but this one isn't as off-the-bat Brazilian sounding as "Little Church."  This track is very mellow, with an eeriness to it that's pretty cool.  I like that this is another track where Miles and the vocals (again, by Hermeto) are in unison on the melody - it adds a richness to a melody that would otherwise feel somewhat empty were either of those parts on their own.  The percussion (Airto Moreira) kind of makes the song feel like it's part of an evil seance, or something, which is pretty cool.  Dope tune. 
"Selim" is essentially the exact same song as "Nem um Talvez" except without the percussion, the bass line is slightly different, and it's half as long.  I actually became familiar with this song at a very early age, as my father did a cover of it with the Yellow Jackets on his record Bang!Zoom!, but had been unaware that it was a cover until recently.  Needless to say, this one has a soft spot en mi corazón :)