DUST IT OFF: What’s to come in 2013

2013. A new year like previous years, but for me it feels different. When it comes to music, looking back at specific anniversaries allows me to look back at my life, what I’ve achieved (and haven’t achieved) since I first heard something. Even if it’s music I did not listen to upon its initial release, I can look back and see how that music affected me.

2013 marks 25 years that I ended my time in high school, and I look at that ending of one chapter of my life with the beginning of another with the release of an album by Public Enemy. In five years, I had felt that hip-hop was going through a few changes, some good, some not so good. Then a certain album was released in November 1993 which lead me to say “everything I ever wanted in hip-hop, I found in the Wu”. Public Enemy allowed me to look forward, while the Wu-Tang Clan allowed me to look back with its barrage of pop culture references and kung fu metaphors.

2013 will mark the 30 year anniversary of a collection of sounds from England that would move me to want to become a music producer. Initially I had viewed these sounds as the creation of one spectacled man, but in truth it was his production team, or “theam”, that would help create a dominant style of production for the remainder of the 1980’s. While my production work has not been as prosperous or as influential, I found that what he and his production team were doing is what I wanted to hear in this music that would be called hip-hop, but also opened my interests in electronic and synthesized music.

2013 marks the 40th anniversary of two albums that were and are not only hugely influential in electronic and synthesized music, but on pop music in its entirety. One begins and ends with a heartbeat, while the other could morph itself into a chameleon.

2013 also marks a significant time in my life. On the positive side, some of my earliest memories happened 40 years ago. Ten years later, my father died. My parents’ love of music are essential to me, as my curiosity of their sounds lead to my interests in music, which was the seeds of a much greater curiosity which continues today. On my dad’s musical tastes, I’m left with a few voids but I realize he passed along some information in the time I got to know him.

In 2013, I will honor many of the albums that made me the music numb nut I am today, and I hope you will come with me for the ride, as I feel it is an important part of my life’s journey so far.

COVERED: Bob Dylan vs. ?uestlove

Bob Dylan/?uestlove
When artist Milton Glaser was asked to put together a drawing of Bob Dylan for a then-forthcoming biography, he came up with a concept that involved him having psychedelic hair, as it was 1966. The publisher wasn’t able to present the full color drawing in “full color”, so it was scaled down to blue and tan lines. Upon presenting it to Dylan, he rejected it immediately. The drawing would eventually be used as a poster found in copies of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits on Columbia. If you went to someone’s home or apartment and they had the poster, then you’d know they had a copy of the album. The trippiness of the drawing started to take on a life of its own and became iconic in its own right, with people discovering the word “ELVIS” spelled out in Dylan’s hair.

Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson is the drummer for the Philadelphia hip-hop band The Roots, and he is about to release his first book in 2013, done with author Ben Greenman, called Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove (Grand Central Publishing). If you have ever read his liner notes, his online posts, or Tweets, you’ll know that he is a walking and breathing version of album/CD liner notes. We’re not talking mere production credits and acknowledgments, but full on liner notes. After all of that accumulation, he has put all of that down (or as much as he can up to a point) so the public can consume it at will. The cover of the book is homage to Glaser’s Dylan drawing, but instead of having psychedelic hair with “ELVIS” spelled within, it’s a number of question marks and his trademark Afro-pick. As I’m looking at ?uest’s book, I notice a few curls in his mustache and beard. Is there secret code found within? Uncertain at this time, but I’m sure the code that everyone will want to discover will be located within its pages.


BEST OF 2012: My Favorite Things

Best Of 2012: Favorite Things
If you’ve browsed through this site in the last week, you may have seen lists of what I felt were the best things of the year. I put together five lists, or in truth: three lists, as two of them featured one item only. Below, I have compiled all five lists in one place so you can browse through them:

My Favorite Albums Of The Year
My Favorite EP’s Of The Year
My Favorite Music Videos Of The Year
My Favorite Song Of The Year
My Favorite Album/EP Cover Of The Year

AUDIO: Dillon’s “Come To My Crib”

Atlanta’s Dillon has a request for you: he asks “Come To My Crib”. Will you make that possible? Well, don’t go rushing over just yet, but what you can do is listen to his new track which has him doing a bit of that “skip and a jump” laid back style, but doing it in a way that’s much more than a hop and a slap. I love the way the music is coordinated with the vocals and vice versa, it works brilliantly. Let me know if you agree.


FREE DOWNLOAD: Us Natives’ “Used Vinyl Review II”

Us Natives
New music from Us Natives? Indeed it is, and this one is called Used Vinyl Review II, with production assistance from Haj/Raj of Dumhi, Meks Uno and Just Plain Ant. John E. Cab mixed and mastered this one for Us Natives, and at 12 tracks, there’s no shortage on finding something here, from Philadelphia to you. (The first installment of Used Vinyl Review was my Bandcamp Suggestion on April 29th of this year.)


REVIEW: Renny Wilson’s “Sugarglider”

Renny Wilson The two people on the cover of Sugarglider (Mint) are faceless, but Renny Wilson’s music is not, or at least should not be. His style of music is reminiscent of what was popular 30 to 35 years ago, handling a nice balanced mixture of soul, disco, and pop with much success. The entire album is mixed in a way where songs segue into the next, and when you’re in a nice dance groove, you (or at least I) tend to want to feel a bit more of that feeling. Then it turns into something else that might sound like good ol’ soft pop or yacht rock with the kind of charming verses and haunting choruses that make you want to remember every word in it and around it. The title track sounds like early 80’s synth pop, where it could be Thomas Dolby or Gary Numan but without some of the weirdness that their songs may have created the first time out. Then again, maybe their sounds aren’t so weird because it’s now part of the norm, and it has taken a few decades for people to catch up on the innovative techniques these two musicians provided. If so, Renny Wilson is someone who enjoys taking listeners (and himself) for a ride.

(Sugarglider is scheduled for release on January 22, 2013.)


REVIEW: Saul Conrad’s “Poison Packets” (EP)

Saul Conrad In terms of closeness and intimacy in music, there’s nothing like getting an acoustic guitar and just play and sing. This is exactly what Saul Conrad does on his new EP, Poison Packets (Cavity Search/Mountain of Leopards), but it involves a little more than being acoustic.

While he is said to be in the vein of Townes Van Zandt and Elliott Smith, I would add the likes of Jeff Tweedy and even Chris Robinson into the equation, as Conrad’s songs are tales that are personal, reflective of his experiences and/or what he wants to have from life. The listener may want to go along that route, or at least to experience life and its experiences in the same way that Conrad conveys it in his music. He balances things between playing rootsy modern folk with doing things country style, as he does in “Whiskey Eggs”, which may make you hoot and hollar until you realize he may be telling you your own life story (or at least a page from your life thus far). What also makes this EP work is the complimentary vocals of Katie Schecter, who catches a lead vocal here and there but it tends to represent (metaphorically) the sensitive side of Conrad’s lyrics while also sharing a love of the daring and the unknown.

It’s an outside experience, or at least Poison Packets will make you want to feel the air of the great outdoors and live life. Period. One of the great things about this EP is that some of these tracks consist of one sole verse, and before it dwells in itself for too long, you’re off into the next story. It’s an experience period, an EP of ten tracks that could easily be the loose change in your pocket that looks to be useful, and each coin is ready to be deposited in the machine of your choice. You just have to choose wisely to get from point A to point B, and these songs could lead the way towards the promised land. Or the preferred vending machine.


FREE DOWNLOAD: Kick Coltrane’s “Space Race”

Kick Coltrane
The Freedom Hall collective have been quite busy this week, and this song is proof of this. It comes in the form of “Space Race” by Kick Coltrane. The track sounds a bit like some progressive synth jazz on the soulful side of things, where things may sound out of place at first but you realize how well organized every element is towards creating this track, which will appear on a forthcoming project of his called Extra-Tellectual


VIDEO: Thavius Beck’s “Joy”

What did the end of the world look like? Well my friend, it looked like this video by Thavius Beck called “Joy”, and the imagery you see is nothing but joyful, but triumphant? I would say so. The apocalypse never looked so welcoming. The song is from Beck’s album The Most Beautiful Ugly (Plug Research).