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A Move Afoot
As you can see, it has been a long while since I updated this blog. It has been a busy period for me with little energy left over for the music side of things - my apologies. I have written a couple of pieces for my wife's music blog in the meantime, however, and, for various reasons, I have decided to transfer my efforts in this area over to that blog. The blog is Rhythms & Riffs and the two most recent posts are mine. Have a look if you're interested.
Strangely enough, it was Matisyahu that was instrumental in forming my decision to transfer (it's a long story) and I may write another piece on his latest music. The guy just gets better and better!
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The Ting Tings
Occasionally agents send us news and samples of the artists they're working for; we listen and, if we feel there's something to say, might post an article on them. As you can tell, we have had little to say for a while (mostly through busy-ness in other places) and, when Andrea passed across a URL with the advice that I'd like it, it was hard to raise some enthusiasm.
The Ting Tings
But I listened, as I always do, and was captured immediately. Jangly guitar, interesting chords, you know I can't resist. Drums and a peep-peep inserted and things were looking great. Then they started singing.
My first reaction was indignation - where did my guitar go? How dare they ruin such a promising beginning? But I carried on listening and slowly the guitar came back, they hit me with a catchy, rather electronic chorus and I forgave them. Have a listen to the Ting Tings and their first recorded song, Great DJ.
Okay, it's pop but I'm no snob. Let's face it, it's new, different and very catchy. And there's only two of them!
Did my homework and discovered that they're from Manchester, England, and they really do work with just drums and voice - a tiny bit of help from synthesizer but that's fair enough. I found an earlier song of theirs, the video taken from Jules Holland's show, and this was even better - earthy and punkish, clearly displaying the Blondie influence. And who doesn't like early Blondie?
Altogether, I would have to say that they deserve success. Although they may not make a huge splash in the charts in the States, I think enough listeners will cotton to them to make the release worthwhile. And, if they can mix more of that ragged, energetic appeal into the pop recipe, they could go beyond that.
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Free Radiohead Album Download
There's no doubt that the Internet has changed the music industry and in some ways that the big record labels don't like very much. In much the same way that Hollywood once "owned" their stars under contracts that gave the studios complete control over their actors' careers and even publicity, so the record labels for decades dictated what albums would be produced, what songs could appear and how they were distributed. Finally, recording artists can take their own product directly to the public and one of the industries biggest bands is doing so.
Thom York of Radiohead
Radiohead's new album In Rainbows is being distributed via the Internet exclusively. They are not currently under contract to any label and so are producing the album themselves and distributing it via their website. Pre-orders are being taken now but the download won't be available until October 10th.
What makes this sale slightly different is that Radiohead has set no price and asks fans to pay what they want to pay. You decide how much to pay for the album download, the price is blank for the customer to fill in. Radiohead may not be the first band to give away their music on the internet, but they are the biggest band to date that has done this.
There may be some who will take advantage of the offer and decide to pay nothing (although there could be some nominal fees) but it is also as likely that true fans will cough up a decent price for the band's seventh release.
There is a premium product, the Discbox, which costs £40. The Discbox includes the additional digital download. Don't worry, a currency converter will help you sort it out if you aren't in the UK.
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Matisyahu - Unexpected Revelation
Okay, I'm a sucker for anything new and interesting and unusual mixtures of cultures are my meat and drink. But Matisyahu is really so unexpected that it was inevitable that I would be caught immediately. I mean hip hop reggae by a Hasidic Jew, can there be anything more unlikely?
And the real surprise is that Matisyahu is much more than a gimmick - he is very, very good, in many more ways than one. I am not easy to convince in the area of rap and hip hop, only grudgingly admitting that eminem has his moments, and reggae I consider to have reached its high point in the Brummie band UB40 back in the eighties. So Matisyahu starts with a disadvantage; yet very quickly he has convinced me - this is great music delivered with style and soul.
Take a listen to Jerusalem and feel the depth and passion in the ancient words "Jerusalem, if I forget you..." Yes, Matisyahu is inevitably about the words, his songs full of a spirituality and peace so lacking in others of his chosen genre; this is what undergirds the appeal of his songs so that they become a celebration rather than a shout of anger and denial.
But I promised myself not to speak too much of the words. The music is good enough to stand on its own and has more unexpected echoes, as in King Without a Crown. Solidly reggae in foundation, the song has the wonderful yearning of the Jew in Matisyahu's initial keening, the machinegun rattle of rap's lyric delivery and even a suggestion of Zimbabwean pop music in the counterpoint of the lead guitar. Truly wonderful stuff and easily my favorite of Matisyahu's songs.
The African element is repeated, probably accidentally, in this video to Close My Eyes, another reggae anthem of astounding quality. And the quality goes on in song after song. Try Time of Your Song and Youth. The last has a litle more of the rage we are so accustomed to in rap yet still offers answers rather than despair.
Matisyahu redefines the genre and sets it at the forefront of musical development, showing a new and more extensive view of the future. He deserves the success that has come to him, at first through novelty, but now through genuine talent and creativity.
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