Friday, August 28, 2009

Album Review--The Voidist by Imaad Wasif

Have you heard of Imaad Wasif yet? If you haven't, listen up, because odds are you'll be hearing his name plenty pretty quickly. It's possible you've heard either of his two previous albums, Imaad Wasif or Strange Hexes, or more likely still you know him as the touring guitarist for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Well, Imaad has teamed up with Karen O. of the YYYs, Bradford Cox of Deerhunter and "Little" Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs and Dead Weather to score the upcoming "Where the Wild Things Are" directed by Spike Jonze, pretty much the wet dream movie of the year for Gen X and Y indie kids everywhere. Apparently not one to rest on his duff, he's also got a new CD coming out in a couple of months in October called "The Voidist."

The CD covers the gambit from anthemic rock number a la U2 or Radiohead to slow ballads and then veering off into quirky tunes like Sufjan Stevens. Throughout it all, though, Wasif's guitar is there to help fill out the margins, from soaring, fuzzed out licks to lightly strummed, heartfelt acoustic plucking. "Daughter of Fire" is a particularly strong track, bringing a fully fleshed out sound that wavers between hard rocking and some kind of freakish indie rockabilly and a passionate intensity befitting its title. Closer "Razorlike" is another winner, starting off slow and ominous before roaring into a tidal wave of noise and back again.
Remember, that's Imaad Wasif. It's a name you're bound to hear a lot more of in the days to come.
(OK, the song in this clip is from the Arcade Fire, not the aforementioned WTWTA super group, but damnation, I love this trailer)

mp3: Daughter of Fire (from upcoming The Voidist)

mp3: Oceanic (from Strange Hexes)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Old Skool Review: The Roxanne Rap Battles

Have you seen Beef: The MC Battle? It's a damn tight documentary on the history of various arguments between such artists as KRS-One and Nas, East Coast and West Coast rappers and dozens of others I'm too lazy to google and can't seem to recall off the top of my head. In the spirit of Old Skool Reviews, however, I'm going to take a brief moment to highlight my personal favorite, lovingly titled The Roxanne Rap Battles.

Picture if you will a time when MCs actually used words to settle differences, as opposed to guns, violence and assorted other ass-crackery in play today. UTFO had just dropped a new single, "Hanging Out," to very little fanfare. The B-Side, however, "Roxanne, Roxanne," became somewhat of a hit. It's a simple song over a then standard drum beat, with lyrics about the various members of the group trying, and failing, to woo a fictional Roxanne. Enter one Lolita Shanté Gooden, who overheard local promoters Marley Marl, DJ MR. Magic and Tyrone Williams griping on the radio about how UTFO had failed to make an appearance at a concert they had just held. Shante approaced the trio and thus was born "Roxanne Shante" and the beginning of this illustrious battle. Lest I forget to mention, Shante was 14 at the time.

From there, somewhere between 30 and 100 (depending on your source) different "response" tracks were recorded. Many claimed to be the Roxanne in the song, some played her siblings, some her parents, some haters, some on her side. UTFO even threw out a couple more tracks of their own on the subject, introducing The Real Roxanne to the mix. Keep in mind, THIS ALL WAS IN RESPONSE TO A FICTITIOUS CHARACTER ON A B-SIDE! Ah, the good old days of rap.

For a much, much, MUCH deeper delving into the situation, check out the numerous posts on the subject over at Fat Lace Magazine.

*Interesting side note--Roxanne Shante put out a couple of resulting albums, but never made any real money. She found a seldom used clause in her Warner Bros. contract, though, and they ended up paying for her entire education. She just got her PhD.

*Slightly less interesting side note--For roughly 20 years, I mistakenly believed The Real Roxanne was actually Roxanne Shante. You learn something new every day, I suppose.

mp3: Roxanne's Revenge (Roxanne Shante)

mp3: The Real Roxanne (The Real Roxanne)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

At The Cinema: Joy Division

I saw a preview for “Joy Division” while watching my DVD copy of Control for the first time. Naturally, I felt compelled to watch the documentary version of the dramatic version of the true story of Ian Curtis and Joy Division. Finally, it arrived in my Netflix queue. And it was so good, I kept it two nights, instead of my usual “watch it and return it” process.

Where the drama starring pretty young things was pretty bloody great, so too is the doc featuring the genuine articles.

We begin with a Marshall Berman quote (from All That Is Solid Melts Into Air), stark white text on a black screen: “To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world – and at the same time that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are.” These words ring true of so many, undoubtedly, but for our purposes, they certainly apply to Ian Curtis. But this film, unlike Control, is not just about Ian Curtis.

It’s as much about the city of Manchester as it is about the musicians she spawned: a “story of a city” as they say in the opening seconds. Vintage photos and news footage shape the impression of Manchester in the 70s as a grim, grimy, desolate modern wilderness, caked with the soot of industry and left to ruin, with giant apartment blocks going up one after the next adding to the soulless feel. It’s no wonder one of the greatest post-punk bands (and so many great, yet moody bands) emerged from the crumbling city.

Interspersed with tales of Manchester are the threads of the Joy Division story. The Sex Pistols gig did indeed inspire Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner to start a band, which they called Warsaw. Ian was next to join, followed by drummer Stephen Morris. The band was renamed Joy Division after something Sumner read in World War II-related book House of Dolls. Hearing these stories come from the mouths of those who were there really gives life to the legend, and additional testimony is added from Very Important Persons in the saga of Joy Division like Tony Wilson and Ian’s Belgian gal pal Annik Honoree. There’s tons of vintage footage from Joy Division gigs and TV appearances to hit home just how good a band this was. All in all, “Joy Division” is a touching, visually-stunning, important film about the doomed pioneers of post-punk, and a valentine to the musical legacy of Manchester.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Album Review: Kearney Barton by Wheedle's Groove

I've had this not-fully-formed theory that a musician/band's talent is inversely proportionate to their age, i.e., the older a cat gets, the worse his/her music begins to sound. One need look no further than one of my favorite artists of all time to prove my point. His Royal Badness tore up the 80s and most of the 90s, but his last half dozen or so CDs have been lackluster at best. I'm not sure if it's a matter of the talent well drying up, not having the same fire in the belly as when the performer was younger or what, but Eric Clapton through Madonna seem to further my point rather nicely. Well, since hearing Kearney Baton by Wheedle's Groove, I see I'm going to have to re-think my entire argument.

The always strong folks over at Light in the Attic, known for uncovering excellent gems from yesteryear and today, are getting ready to re-release Wheedle’s Groove: Seattle’s Finest In Funk & Soul 1965-75 on September 8. When first released in 2004, KEXP DJ Johnny Horn, along with some friends, decided to get the original artists together for a one-night-only concert that apparently tore the roof off the mutha. So much so, in fact, that LITA, Horn, DJ Mr. Supreme, and lead-producer Dynomite D (of Beastie Boys fame) decided to cut a new CD featuring the original artists, many of whom are now easily into their 60s. The result is Kearney Barton, a funk fest so groovey it's going to put Funkateers of all ages to shame. The album boasts tracks by such local artists as Seattle soul legends Patrinell (Pastor Pat Wright) Staten, Robbie Hill, Ron Buford, Ural Thomas, members of Black On White Affair, Cookin' Bag, and Cold Bold & Together. Add production by studio wiz Kearney Barton (The Sonics, The Wailers, Black On White Affair), and it's easy to see that this is the bag Papa needs.

mp3: Jesus Christ Pose (Patrinell "Pastor Pat Wright Staten" and the Total Experience Gospel Choir covering Soundgarden)

Album Review: Love Tattoo by Imelda May

(Just because we're having some issues with older posts doesn't mean the fine team at LET is going to stop moving forward. We're a lot like losing pageant girls in that way.)

Don't tell my wife or her husband, but I think I might have found my new crush in Imelda May. The Dublin-born songstress has a thing for the blues and rockabilly and showcases her powerful mastery of both those and other styles on her debut, Love Tattoo.
With the eventual letdown of such acts as Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone (I'm still REALLY holding out for Joss, though), I know what you're thinking. Wait, another white chick who cites Billie Holiday as an influence and dresses like a 50s greaser? C'mon, been there, done that, got the tee shirt. I'm telling you, though, Ms. May has the goods.

With a voice at times gin soaked and cracking and at others hauntingly pure, May covers a whole range of American musical styles on Love Tattoo. We've got nasty boogie woogie (Johnny Got A Boom Boom), jump jivin' swing (Feel Me), sultry torch (Knock 1, 2, 3) and lush ballads (Fallin' In Love with You Again). Equally important, she's surrounded herself with a damn tight band, comprised of axe man (and aforementioned hubby) Darrell Higham, Dave Priseman on the trumpet (and flügelhorn and percussion), keys man Danny McCormack, bassist Al Glare, and Dean Beresford on the skins. Oh, and Ms. May rocks the bodhran like no one you've ever heard. Granted, you may never have even heard of the bodhran before, but there's no need to quibble, you culturally insensitive bastard.

This is the CD you're going to want to put on come the weekend, between cigs and working on your second or third drink. Just make sure you have on your dancing shoes and that your pompadour is slicked back when you do because it's bound to get your booty shaking.

mp3: Johnny Got a Boom Boom (Imelda May)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Zut Alors!: LET Now Tweeting!

Aww. Who doesn't love that adorable Fail Whale?! It's so cute I almost don't mind that it signifies one of the occasional "over capacity" freezes that Twitter experiences every now and again.

Anyway, I digress.

We've both been tweeting individually for quite some time now, but the day has finally come when LET as an entity unto itself has joined the realms of the Tweeters. We're officially tweeting. You can follow us, RT us, Follow Friday us, or whatever your Twittering little heart desires. So come on, feel the LET twitter. We love you.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Technical Difficulties

Um, so yeah, it appears you cats have exceeded our bandwidth, which is cool by us, but not so much for all the other folks hoping to cop some tunes themselves.

We're trying to fix the issue even now, but if you've got any suggestions on where we SHOULD be hosting tracks, that would be wonderful, too.

We thank you for your fine support.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Live Review: De La Soul, 9:30 Club, 8-11-09

The ultimate trio of the most pseudonymed act in hip hop today just blew through DC to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their seminal debut, Three Feet High and Rising. I didn't realize this when I bought the ticket, I simply have loved their music since I first heard the trippy "Me, Myself and I" and knew I had to go. In today's era of everything from hardcore gangsta to underground acts like The Living Legends, this might not sound like that big a deal, but De La truly was one of the first rap acts that went against the conventional sound of the day. Sure, they were sampling bands like Parliament/Funkadelic, but here were three kids preaching peace and potholes over the Turtles and a French language instructional loop. They eschewed gold medallions for black leather necklaces. Oh yeah, and they were instrumental in the Native Tongues, which you might have heard of, seeing as it helped launch a little band called A Tribe Called Quest. And while this is all excellent, it still came as a shock to me when I realized I first caught De La live when they were originally promoting 3 Feet. While one might go to shows to feel nostalgic, one does not go simply to feel old.

Fortunately, this issue quickly dissipated once DLS took the stage and fucking rocked the place out. The show opened when P.A. Pasemaster Mase (aka Maseo aka Plug Three aka Baby Huey) took the stage and introduced the crowd to his latest protegee, Billy Ray. While it may have taken two of his four or so songs to get the crowd on his side, I'd say he did eventually win them over. Of course, then Posdnuos (Mercenary aka Plug Wonder Why aka Plug One and Trugoy the Dove aka Dave aka Plug Two (see what I mean?) took the stage and the crowd went wild. Backed by the Rhythm Roots All-Stars, this honestly was the best damn hip hop show I've seen in quite a while. The boys were loose, funky and obviously having a blast. While the show ran heavily on Three Feet tracks (Eye Know, Jenifa Taught Me, Buddy, and others), they also dropped knowledge from Buhloone Mindstate (I Am I Be), The Grind Date (Rock Co.Kane Flow) and Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (Oooh). While the lyrics remained largely the same as the originals, I was impressed that certain lines had been altered and updated to reflect the times. While the RRAS were great, it wasn't until the final encore when each member was introduced and given a solo that the crowd found out just how scary talented those cats are. (Note to self: See them again. Quickly and often). Also during the encore, Plug Two gave a little history of hip-hop lesson and the band launched into some Run DMC to the room's delight. Plug One also received a little ribbing and a lot of love as the band had two attractive young ladies bring out two birthday cakes to celebrate the MC's 40th birthday.

Perhaps the most "interesting" thing of all I noticed during the concert was the fact that it was the most diverse crowd I've seen at any show at the 9:30 Club (or maybe anywhere). You had some middle aged Old Skoolers getting funky alongside of white suburban teenagers, with pretty much any and every shade of the spectrum in between bobbing their heads along to the rhymes. This is not only testament to the band's wide ranging fan base, but also a sign that if you're a great band that can rock the mic, people will clamor to hear you play.

Clearly, De La Soul is not dead.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Old Skool Review--Big Daddy Kane

The Smooth Operator. King Asiatic Nobody's Equal. Antonio Hardy to his mother. Oh yeah, you know I'm just talking 'bout Big Daddy Kane. Originally a member of the Juice Crew along with other such notables as Biz Markie, Marly Marl, Roxanne Shante, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, Kane ain't no half stepper. His smooth lyrical flow is all the more impressive when you factor in the guy's lightning fast capabilities. Going beyond the music, though, this is the cat that helped popularize the high top fade and obscenely fat gold chains. And, truth be told, he had some of the tightest dancers and moves in the game at the time. I'll go you one further, even--His debut, Long Live the Kane, is one of the top 10 rap albums of the 1980s, no question.

Back in the day, I saw two major rap tours when rap was just starting to seep into the national consciousness (mid-80s, son). Both were group tours, and between the two, had damn near everybody that was anybody. This is where I saw Tupac as a back-up dancer for Digital Underground, Slick Rick before he was arrested and Heavy D when he still had the Boyz. BDK was the second bill at one of these shows, and the crowd, particularly the ladies, went buck wild when he took the stage. I probably don't need the image of him kicking it shirtless and in spandex in my brain like I do, but suffice to say, the guy certainly made an impression.
I've since seen the Kane perform once since then at a small club along the DC waterfront. Even though he literally showed up three and a half hours late and only played for maybe 45 minutes, the guy still tore up the stage. In recent years, he's popped up here and there in cameo roles, including stints with DJ Jazzy Jeff and showing up on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Now is the time for to get your learn on, children. And Big Daddy Kane will take you there.

mp3: I Get The Job Done (Big Daddy Kane)

mp3: Set It Off (Big Daddy Kane)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Live Review: My Bloody Valentine @ The National, July 30, 2009

I first listened to Loveless, the seminal My Bloody Valentine record (and shoegaze record, for that matter; not to mention one of the albums that changed my life) years and years after the initial release. At the time, I often lamented the notion that I took to be fact: That I would never, ever get to experience the blistering, scrambling fuzz of wanderlust that was the MBV live show. Heck, I considered myself beyond lucky to have seen MBV's own version of Brian Wilson, Kevin Shields, play with Primal Scream, back in 2000.

But last year, this formerly iron-clad idea about never seeing MBV live was gloriously proven false, as I was privvy to what I can only describe as an awe-inspiring performance to close 2008's edition of All Tomorrow's Parties. I'm fairly certain I spent most of their set with jaw agape and eyes glazed, wondering how such an unholy noise could sound so perfectly beautiful. When it was all over, I counted my lucky stars, happy beyond belief that I could cross "see My Bloody Valentine live" off my "do this before you're dead" list. I never would have imagined that I would see them again live, and in my own backyard no less. My Bloody Valentine in Richmond? Nonsense.

Turns out, it wasn't such a nonsensical thought.

Eschewing all the traditional stops for a band of their legendary stature, Shields and co. opted to play The National, a superb venue in its own right, but hardly of the standing of any number of venues up and down the East Coast (and, for that matter, the whole of the U.S.).

I don't know that I've ever seen The National so packed, nor a Richmond audience rendered so enraptured. Walking into the place to the strains of "When You Sleep" was one of the most surreal experiences I've ever had, and as I collected my purple earplugs and read the signs cautioning me about the decibel levels and seizure-inducing strobes I felt like I was floating on a sea of splendid noise. Fairly early on, it was pretty obvious that there was something amiss with the sound of the vocals - despite the typical, mostly unintelligble muddle of MBV vocals, on this night they were at times flat-out inaudible. It wasn't enough to negate the performance by any means, but was noticeable all the same. Vocals aside, the band was glorious.

It was like being stuck in a time warp with no particular destination in sight, a lunatic whirl of feedback and distortion hell-bent on self-destruction but incapable of complete combustion. The best thing about My Bloody Valentine, in my humble opinion, is the effect they have: I feel, moreso than with just about any other band, that they can make time stop. I lost all concept of time, of space, of everything. When you're seeing MBV live, it's as though nothing else in the entire world matters. Their music is beyond hypnotic. Wave after wave of the crushing din crashes over you. It glows, it pulsates, it pulls you into places nothing else can. With MBV, I constantly think of the title of a Spacemen 3 album: Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To. Except, in this case, the music is the drug.

I kept mentally pinching myself to make sure I was awake, make sure this was all really happening. Who among the crowd didn't get a kick out of the false starts of "Only Shallow", and I think I might have even spied a smile on the face of Kevin Shields (though, to be fair, I was about as far from the stage as you can get). And there's just something indescribably wonderful about hearing songs like "To Here Knows When" in a place where you wouldn't have ever guessed you would.

I'll be a little controversial here and say that a) I felt like the set I saw at All Tomorrow's Parties was a smidgeon more impressive, and b) will agree with Laura, who said she felt like The Black Angels set we saw at SXSW was louder. Never before have I so strongly felt as though the sound of a band would literally knock me down the way The Black Angels nearly did. But it was quite probably the best show Richmond will see in 2009, and to paraphrase my friend Mark, it's My Bloody Valentine in Richmond. Be grateful. And grateful I am.

Zut Alors!: Free Rural Alberta Advantage Show in Brooklyn!

From what I understand, there is ALWAYS something going on in New York. New Yorkers might just be the most spoiled for choice folks in the US of A, given how much is going on there at any given moment.

Well, Brooklynites, this one's for you. Blog darlings The Rural Alberta Advantage are going to be playing the Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight...for FREE. That's right, gratis, free of charge, no dinero required. They're currently on tour, but to my knowledge, this is their only free date. Soooooo I'd advise you partake of this free goodness. Because really, who doesn't love a free show?!

Monday, August 3, 2009

It's Covered--Puttin' On the Ritz

It being Monday morning and all, I thought it would be appropriate to ease ourselves into the work week with a little cover song action. Considering some of you might be wishing it was anything but Monday morning, I've decided to give us all a little bit of a jazzy swing to get the blood flowing.

Depending on what age bracket you find yourself in, "Puttin' on the Ritz" will strike a different resonance with you. The song was written by Irving Berlin in 1929, originally for the musical film of the same name. Since then, it's been covered by everyone from Clark Gable to an all-metal take by Leningrad Cowboys.

For me, there were two defining versions of the track. First was Taco's synth-pop version from the early 80s. They were a one hit wonder band, sure, but there was something breezy about their version. And, of course, there was the Young Frankenstein version. When Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks were going strong, they put out some of the funniest movies of all times, and this scene ranks among their finest.

To get back to the Monday morning vibe, however, I've also included a couple of nice and mellow versions by the Velvet Fog and the First Lady of Song.


mp3: Puttin' on the Ritz (Mel Torme)

mp3: Puttin' on the Ritz (Ella Fitzgerald)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

LP Lust: Heatwave Edition

I don't know about where you are, but here in Richmond it's been hotter than a five-alarm fire lately. I have found that one of the best ways to beat the icky gross disgusting heat is buying records. No kidding, go ahead and try it.

This latest grouping of records comes from two different shopping sprees. The first was last Tuesday at Plan 9, during the Balkans/Carnivores instore (which, if you missed, shame on you). Thanks to that little trip, I am two records closer to my goal of having every Rolling Stones LP on vinyl. The grand total now sits at 11. The next group was purchased Friday, on my day off, at one of my favorite local thrift stores. Somehow I lucked out, finding quite a few gems after patiently rummaging through the racks and racks of show tunes and Chicago.

Here's the list of the latest entrants into my collection.

*Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble: Texas Flood
*The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones, Now!
*Martha & The Vandellas: Greatest Hits
*The Rolling Stones: England's Newest Hit Makers
*Carnivores: All Night Dead USA
*Laura Nyro: Laura Nyro
*Dionne Warwick: Valley of The Dolls
*Todd Rundgren: Todd
*The Wonder Stuff: It's Your Money I'm After Baby
*Tammy Wynette: D-I-V-O-R-C-E
*Rod Stewart: Smiler
*Deep Purple: Made In Japan
*The Swingle Sisters: Going Baroque