Tag Archives: 30 days of music

Day 30: Your Favorite Song at this Time Last Year

When you’ve spent a decade singing (ahem) the praises of your favorite band, it’s actually somewhat stressful when they drop a new album.  Will you end up basking in the musical equivalent of Godfather II glory, or will you have to stumble to explain Matrix Revolutions?

With this track as proof, I’m proud to report that the Roots still rock.  Essential listening for your holiday weekend, but be forewarned: this is one of the most thought-provoking hip-hop tracks I’ve heard in months.  Mindless BBQ booty shakers, look elsewhere.

08 The Day (Feat. Blu, Phonte, Patty Crash), The Roots

Going on 20 years in the game, these guys still make the most interesting, innovative, musical hip-hop you’re going to find.  Bravo, fellas.

And as an extra treat, here’s a track I was hooked on a year ago this weekend.  A DJ doing a remix of my favorite band seems a fitting denouement to my 30 days of music.

The seed 3.0, Don Diablo and The Roots

So, the 30 days of music are a wrap.  What now?

I’m still working out the details, but you can expect more music.  Frequent posts.  And even a bit of participation from all of you.

Stay tuned.  Sorry for the extended absence.

Day 29: A Song from Your Childhood

On the awkward path to adulthood, every adolescent boy seems to walk through the same musical doorway: the Led Zeppelin phase.  You may hail from hip hop, been trapped under a sibling’s regime of pop pablum, or had only ever known the sounds of Peter Cetera.  But, no matter your starting place, we all ended up sitting on our bedroom floor, headphones on, trying to figure out what those four signs meant.

I wasn’t an obvious candidate.  Without older brothers or sisters from whom I could steal a back catalog, the musical tastes of my youth developed in real time.  Every week or so, I had a new collection of songs choppily-recorded off of live radio, and from these a new favorite song that immediately outpaced anything that had come before.  Amidst this constant churn of newness, I for the life of me cannot remember how I tumbled back a decade or so into 70’s hard rock.  But, before I knew it, the first 5 CDs to grace my family’s new Sony platter changer were all from Led Zeppelin: the four cd box set, and the fourth album for good measure.

Suddenly, every chord they played rocked.  Every word in their entirely indecipherable lyrics was profound.  And, for months, I listened to nothing else.  If iTunes’ “times played” could track the past, songs like these would be in the hundreds.

Over The Hills And Far Away, Led Zeppelin Continue reading

Day 28: A Song that Makes You Feel Guilty

The trouble the music industry is in right now is nothing compared to the hurt they will be feeling in ten years.  But over the past few weeks, I’ve seen the future of the music industry glimmer in the form of a new trend: the music gallery.

For the week ending May 30, the U.S. music industry sold a total of 4,984,000 albums, according to Nielsen Soundscan (via Billboard). This figure, which includes new and catalog releases, represents the fewest number of albums sold in one week since Soundscan began compiling this data in 1994.  By comparison, album sales for the week ending May 31, 2009, totaled 5.76 million. The highest one-week tally recorded during the Soundscan era is 45.4 million albums, in late December, 2000.  And that’s not all: While there’s no exact way to compare last week’s total against imprecise, pre-Soundscan tallies, Billboard estimates that weekly album sales volume could, in fact, be at its lowest point since the early 1970s.

“But that’s okay” music executives nervously counter.  They claim that the revenue is just shifting to other sources: that pre-recorded music these days is, in effect, an ad for other revenue streams.  Though folks will download music for free, these downloads will lure them to go to concerts and buy t-shirts and whatnot.

Everyone in the music industry has been so freaked out by the present that they haven’t bothered to fast-forward the tape ten years or so.  When the twenty year olds of today are thirty, with things like jobs and spouses and kids, the simple fact is that they won’t go to as many concerts.  However, their somewhat advanced age will not slow them from side-stepping iTunes and downloading the music they want.  I know, I can’t predict what technology will be a decade hence, but I think a safe bet is that the downloaders will stay a step or two ahead of the protective labels.

This decade of decline makes me feel a little guilty.  Not because I feel bad for an industry that tried to sell content like boxes of cereal for as long as they could manage (ship out the boxes, take price up every year, and enjoy!).  No, I feel guilty because if there’s anyone who should be propping up the bonuses of record label execs, it should be me.   Continue reading

Day 27: A Song You Wish You Could Play

I find few musical experiences more compelling than someone performing alone with only a mic and an instrument at their disposal.  No studio, no svengali, no auto tune.  I suppose it’s the musical equivalent of an omelet or spaghetti marinara: with nowhere to hide, you get to see someone’s true mettle.

Yesterday morning, as I was waking up from a crazy work week (that was largely post-less, sorry), I saw this clip that reminded me how much I liked this Bright Eyes album from some years back.  The most remarkable thing about the record is how much he accomplishes with such a few number of *ingredients*.  A story told with very few words, emotion stirred with very few notes.  And, though there are many freshman year discussion group sand traps that surround songs like this, Bright Eyes manages to navigate through and create something that is heartfelt but not cloying.  Okay, well maybe a little cloying– but as you find yourself singing along, I guess you don’t mind.

Lua, Bright Eyes (the studio version of the song above)

We’re nearing the end of the 30 days of music, but worry not– there’s a follow-up concept waiting in the wings.  I’ll explain more later, but take a read of this post to get a sense of what to expect (and prepare to participate!).

Day 26: A Song that You Can Play on an Instrument

With the digitally driven democratization of music creation, what can we call an instrument these days?  Who qualifies as a musician?

As it often is, the purist’s argument is tempting.  It’s easy to clear one’s throat, gather the right gravitas of righteous indignation, and proclaim that instruments are what instruments have been: the presence of a demo version of Garage Band on your Mac doesn’t create music any more than does Guitar Hero.

As a music fanatic, I almost feel compelled to take a stand on this side of exclusivity.  The respect I have for live musicians borders on reverence, and its rarity elevates the impact of this talent.

But here’s the thing: I have (almost) enough respect for what people can create through the re-mix.  The ability to take create an entire song around a sample is the background of hip-hop music.  With that fact, the turntable became an instrument.  And the more recent technology that enables us to create music from a hyper-kinetic tableau of pop culture (think Girl Talk) has turned the laptop into an instrument.  Yes, it has.

Now just because you know how to loop a beat doesn’t mean that you have musical talent.  Trust me, I know this from experience.  Aside from spectacularly futile short-term jaunts with the clarinet and the guitar, I’ve had no success whatsoever with traditional instruments.  I guess that’s one of the reasons that I’ve been drawn to dj-ing: considering my creation as the selection and sequencing of music.  Using ideas and juxtapositions and builds to create and bend moods and atmospheres.  I’m still somewhat amateurish at it, but it’s quite fun and quite the creative challenge.  Here’s an old mix that I hadn’t shared digitally prior to now.  Enjoy this mix from 2003, I’d imagine for some of you it will be a nice bit of nostalgia and for others perhaps a bit of a musical discovery.  If all goes well, you should be able to click here and download the zip file with the music.  If that link doesn’t cooperate, try this one: http://www.mediafire.com/file/ujvy1tnzydo/Holiday%20Mix%202003.zip

And here’s the track list.  Do hope you enjoy it, holler if there’s anything that you’re particularly liking.  Am I a musician?  Probably not.  But an improving dj?  Perhaps.

Day 25: A Song that Makes You Laugh

When Kanye samples “21st Century Schizo” in this brand-new single, you can’t help but laugh.  Between his songs, his blog, his R rated blog, and his  infamous media appearances, this guy makes Paris Hilton look like a private person.

At first, you’re tempted to try to look past the antics and focus on the music.  And then you realize that his antics are the entire point.

Much like this new Nike commercial (below) is about our collective media obsession as much as it’s about football, Kanye’s art is his ability to tweak every nook and cranny of pop culture.

And the good news is that he’s back in the rap game.  No auto-tune, no crooning, just a great sample and a big beat.  And when he’s self-aware (?) enough to sing “Now I embody every characteristic of the egotistic,” well you kind of just need to love that.

Power (feat. Dwele), Kanye West

Day 24: A Song that You Want to Play at Your Funeral

For someone who frets over the song best suited for breakfast, choosing one’s final tracks is a high-stakes business.    But here I am, on day 24 of the 30 days of music, charged with choosing a song that I’d want to play at my funeral.  So I’ve narrowed it down to four, each its own strategy for the big event.

I might try to crack a joke.

Try Not To Breathe, R.E.M.

Or collect a few final frequent flier miles.

Airline to Heaven, Wilco

Attempt one last act of “betcha haven’t heard this song before” musical one-upsmanship.

Been Too Long, Coldplay

Or just give in to the maudlin.

The Trapeze Swinger, Iron and Wine

None quite fit the bill.  Good thing this was just an exercise.