Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Minnie Ripperton - Perfect Angel (1974)

Guys, it's a lot harder to regularly update my blog when I have tons of work to do and when I've been trying to spend way less time fucking off on the internet and way more time becoming good at guitar again. Metronomes, flash cards, forearm stretches...

One of the main points of this Minnie Ripperton album is that Stevie Wonder played a lot of instruments and also wrote a few of the songs. I'm not going to tell you which ones though, because this isn't One of the main points is not Minnie Ripperton's Mariah Carey style party-trick vocal abilities, although those do kind of rock.

As always, the important thing here is song-writing ideas that fuel my thirst for unadulterated life. Relevant motion in phrases means a lot to me. Everyone knows how to cut out for a beat before the chorus and then everything comes in super-strong, but one of my favorite things is when there is significant motion and resolution within a verse or chorus. Not only does Take a Little Trip have a really great jazz chord progression, but the verse has a catchy little "take a little trip through your mind" which leads into the next line "and explore it" which leaves things unresolved and floating around. Then "take a little trip on a magic carpet ride" is a slight variation on the first part of the verse, but it resolves the whole section nicely into a pit of pink pillows and melting breastmilk ice cream. This sort of internal motion and relevance in parts is what is missing from the majority of pop songs that bore my ears.

Also, you know Lovin' You, whether you realize it or not. Every time we oooooh!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Smif-N-Wessun - Dah Shinin' (1995)

How upsetting to parents is a rap group that misspells their gun-manufacturer referencing moniker? Shit I was hiding my Wu-Tang and Busta Rhymes cds, and my poor mother had a hard enough time with punk that sounded like "being electrocuted." Although I was allowed to own classic violent video game Doom after writing an impassioned fifth grade (?) letter detailing my maturity and desire to overstimulate my understimulated suburban senses.

Anyway, this is a record that, although heavy on the jazz samples favored by A Tribe Called Quest, et al, is fucking hard. Also, there's some great patois for all of the Erik and Dans of the world.

The minimalism of Da Beatminerz production on this record feels like being carbonized in a street while dust and debris starts to cake up on your lips. And the crackle of Hellucination evokes weed dreams of swimming in New York sewers discovering new forms of life. Dick ridahs endure a relentless tongue-lashing while I dive into manholes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Four Tops - Reach Out (1967)

This is what I think about when I write songs. If you ever hear one of my songs and think "man this is totally a Funk Brothers idea," that's because it is. Joaquin posted a cool video the other day of Ne-Yo, Smokey Robinson & Jamie Foxx doing a Four Tops medley at the Grammys, which gave me goosebumps and inspired me to make this post.

Please pay special attention to Reach Out, which should be very easy to do since it is a fucking behemoth of a song. Laying waste to urban centers, enslaving the strong and massacring the weak. Resolving the end of the chorus with one of my favorite runs from the major third to the fourth to the fifth of the chord.

Build up huge for the chorus, then drop the beat for a subtle bassline, HAH! Right when the verse kicks in, HAH! Now if only Tom G Warrior was in the Motown studio the day they tracked this song...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ash Ra Tempel - Inventions for Electric Guitar (1974)

Hey, Manuel Göttsching has good taste in scarves bad taste in facial expressions. He also put together some hypnotic minimalism for us. This is where the Krebs cycle, traffic patterns in London, orbiting galaxies, and the schooling behavior of fish all become one. Speed up or slow down any of these behaviors appropriately, assign a musical note to a specific pattern, and this is the music that you will get.

Echo Waves at 12:30 melts into a nightmare of free radicals, attacking every chemical bond within reach. But, if you're not paying super close attention, you don't even notice until the cancer has spread to your bones. It's the development of a ring species condensed into a few moments of music.

Bathe in stars as your mitochondria hum these tunes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 5 (1937)

I usually do a nice write-up highlighting specific parts and some more technical explanations of why I like parts and why they work for me and what your dad ate for dinner last night.

However, people who are smarter than me at music do this all of the time for European Art Music. Check out this wiki article on Shostakovich's fifth symphony. Well what am I supposed to say after that?

The opening motif in this waltz-like scherzo is a variation of the second theme of the first movement; other variations can be detected throughout the movement. The music remains a witty, biting satire—gay, raucous while also nervous, its energies playfully discharged in an episode of comic relief with its roots in Prokofiev and especially Mahler.

Doesn't that seem exactly like something that I would write or what? What fun is it blogging about music when wikipedia is better at it than you? I'll just say that:

The end of the first movement is fucking creepy and tells tales of ghost trains cruising through the woods. The main theme of the second movement rules. Right at fifty seconds. Court jesters battling to the death.