Saturday, June 30, 2012

Disk Union Journey

Disk Union is a multi-level record store in the heart of Tokyo's Shinjuku district. But don't think Tower Records (even though Tower Records seems to be quite prominent here). Each level is a cramped little room lined with bins labeled in Japanese and English. My colleagues and I managed to only find the room devoted to hard core, punk, and ska. However, my guide books says there are at least seven more rooms to find, each devoted to jazz, soul, rock, Latin, etc. With any luck, I'll follow up with another post.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Brain Cells"/#10Day

Fresh from her interview on 848 about the overuse of suspensions and arrests in Chicago Public Schools, Emma Chung-Ming sent me a link to Chance the Rapper's #10Day mixtape, which he recorded while on a ten-day suspension. First off, how awesome is that? I'm the kind of person who is always trying to complete music projects when I have a break from work/school, but I usually lose steam after a few hours. Chance dropped a whole album. And it's really good.

The verses on "Brain Cells" prove this is high-caliber writing and flow. Chance raps inane tongue-twisters precisely and effortlessly. His delivery is cheeky and there's a shade of nerdiness to his swagger, even when he segues from druggie vocab to gang politics. Check the DOOM-like way Chance's rhymes evolve over the course of one verse. Then watch the video for "Brain Cells".

Here's a tab of acid for your ear
You're the plastic, I'm the passion and the magic in the air
The flabbergasted avalanche of ambulances near
The labyrinth of Pan's Lab is adamantly here
No assignments, book of rhyming and I'm drawing doodles
I should rhyme "rhyme" with Ramen Noodles
Ramadan, I'm the don of the diamond jewels
Fond of finding a way to kindly tell these toddlers toodles
I'm a kamikaze and I'm kinda cuckoo
I could write a fucking book, non kamasutral
You n****s goofies, it's a conflict that is kinda crucial
Caught you on the nine in all blue yelling I'ma neutral
But I'ma let the bull pass like matadors
Versus a minotaur
Verse is a metaphor

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Heartless Bastards

I went to see the Heartless Bastards' perform as headlining act of Ribfest last week in Chicago and I really enjoyed their set. The fuzzy drone and drive of this song reminds me of what the Velvet Underground were doing on White Light/White Heat, although the VUs were "in the red" much more on that album than anything I've ever heard this band do. Anyway, I've gone back and listened to all of the Heartless Bastards albums multiple times, something I highly recommend.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Song For You

Driving to work Friday morning, I heard Carmen McRae singing "A Song For You" and I was mesmerized. It was 6:30, I was just turning onto Ashland from 47th, and there was a ferris wheel in the middle of the road that must have been three stories tall. Turns out one of Chicago's many street festivals was about to begin.

Just like the scene outside my car window that morning, this song is eerily beautiful. It's narrated by a famous singer who has spent a lifetime singing to audiences around the world. This time, the narrator is singing to her partner. The thing is, it's from the perspective of after the singer has died. She says, of all the songs she has ever sung, when her life is over, the one performance she'll remember is when she was singing to her lover, just the two of them alone in a room.

This song has also been done by Donnie Hathaway, Ray Charles, and Whitney Houston. It's one of those tunes that has become part of a modern jazz songbook. Needless to say, I was thrilled to find out that it was written by none other than Leon Russell in 1971. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bitty McLean/David Ruffin

There are so many excellent reggae covers of soul and R&B songs from the 60s and 70s. Yesterday I heard Bitty McLean's "Walk Away from Love" on the Bad Education summer songs mixtape from 2010. I learned today that it's a cover of the David Ruffin original from 1975. It's great how often reggae covers really cut to the essence of the original song. Both of these tracks feature great vocal performances in totally different styles.