Especially the first record. Sadly, this Portland, Oregon band broke up a few years ago. Make no mistake— their first record “Centuries Before Love And War” could not be more perfect. Here it is (Spotify playlist).
SOTAF, we miss you.
Kinda forgot about these guys. Initially a side project of emo/punk band The Lawrence Arms. Great songwriting & arrangements. Dig in.
I met Brandi Ediss online through my pal Mary Lou Lord (also featured on this blog). I think Brandi is one of the most criminally underrated singer-songwriters out there. Her songs are literally… LITERALLY… perfect pop songs. She also makes absolutely charming and mesmerizing music videos for a lot of her songs (stop-motion animation, random slideshows, etc).
She also records with her boyfriend Frank as “Simple Friend”. Featured here are several of Brandi’s original songs, as well as the Simple Friend song “count to three”.
She is one of my all-time favorite songwriters. She should be as well-known as Laura Gibson, Frankie Cosmos, and other huge indie/bedroom pop artists. Hopefully this blog will get her music out there, much more.
She is freakin’ brilliant. I’d love to make bedroom pop/folk music like this with someone this talented and experienced (especially melodically). I love all the people I work with, but I feel like I haven’t yet found a singer/songwriter who writes brilliant shit like Brandi, and also makes such perfect videos to accompany such perfect songs.
Much love to Brandi and Frank!
There are bands. And then, there are bands, man.
Here’s the deal with Us3. Everyone knows their song “Cantaloop”. It’s a sampled flip of Herbie Hancock’s 1964 classic “Cantaloupe Island”. It’s a fun little 90s one-hit-wonder… right?
A couple years later (1997), Us3 recorded what I and many MANY people consider their magnum opus, Broadway & 52nd. You don’t know good, jazzy hip-hop until you’ve heard this in its entirety. And holy FUCK… the lyrics.
Us3 basically is the brainchild of England’s Geoff Wilkinson, and various rappers. After the success of Us3’s first record Hand On The Torch (1993), the president of Blue Note Records let Geoff dig into Blue Note’s entire back catalog, and sample whatever he wanted. And what resulted, was this fucking brilliant and extremely underrated hip-hop/jazz album! The Rhodes piano samples in “True To The Game” and “I’m Thinking About Your Body” are worth the price alone. God DAMN. And the track “Snakes”? A hip-hop masterpiece in 5/4 time. That’s a rarity, man. And the ending solo as it dips into the next track… the single “I’m Thinking About Your Body”… whoa. Does it get any better than this record? Not really.
This album made me OBSESSED with the sound of the Fender Rhodes electric piano, and Wurlitzer 200A electric piano (I’m still obsessed with that sound and playing style, 20 years later).
“Intro” (Geoff Wilkinson, Hawkins, Powell, De Moraes)
“Come on Everybody (Get down)” (Wilkinson, Hawkins, Armstead, McLean)
“Caught Up in a Struggle” (Wilkinson, Hawkins, Vialva)
“True to the Game” (Wilkinson, Hawkins, Armstead)
“Snakes” (Wilkinson, Hawkins, Armstead)
“I’m Thinking About Your Body” (Wilkinson, Hawkins, Vialva, McFerrin)
“Grand Groove” (Wilkinson, Hawkins, Armsteads)
“Nowadays” (Wilkinson, Hawkins, Armstead)
“Sheep” (Wilkinson, Hawkins, Vialva)
“Doin’ a Crime” (Wilkinson, Hawkins, Vialva)
“Recognise and Realise” (Wilkinson, Hawkins, Armstead, Vialva)
“Time and Space” (Wilkinson, Hawkins, Vialva, Jordan)
“Soul Brother” (Wilkinson, Hawkins, Armstead)
“Hymn for Her” (Wilkinson, Hawkins)
Us3 has released a handful of albums since their first…. and NOTHING… and I mean NOTHING tops this brilliance. Bask in the production and lyrical perfection. God DAMN this album still kills. 20 years later.
Here’s the spoken-word masterpiece “Sheep” (the record’s intermission):
The entire world can agree that A Tribe Called Quest cornered the market on jazzy hip-hop…. but…. this is a force to be reckoned with, by an extremely creative, and imaginative producer, and two great NYC rappers: KGB and Shabaam Sahdeeq.
Fucking MASTERPIECE!!! This album is all I listened to from 1997 to 1998, literally.
I needed something special to lift my spirits after five days of the USA’s new narcissist-in-chief, and all the horrible, horrible things that have already happened, and all the horrible things that I’m sure still will…
Folks, this is how it’s done, musically. This is how it’s done. You wanna be great? This is how it’s done vocally/melodically. This is just how it’s done. This is the sound. This is the shit. That is all that can be said.
Orla, you will go FAR.
Take a listen.
Youtube playlist of ten videos/songs:
7-song album from Spotify:
75-minute instrumental ambient record, inspired by the first Dogme95 film, Festen, from 1998:
I know hardly anything about this band. Probably the most underrated band, ever. Currently, they have 5,800 listeners on Spotify. That really isn’t much. Seven albums under their belt. Do not sleep on ANY of them.
I am so sick of stupid hipsters of 2016. I’m sick of the lo-fi, “bedroom pop” sound, even though I do love a lot of artists who are in that genre (truly). I’m just sick of the hipster bullshit (yeah, I’m starting this off on a very personal note but, I feel the need to get it off my chest)….. 2016 hipsters (aged 19-24, respectively) are some of the most elitist, too-cool-for-school assholes I have ever met. I see a lot of holier-than-thou bullshit daily, in my facebook feed, and it makes me feel nauseated. Young people…. you think you know good music? So far, the 10s (2010-present) hasn’t bred a lot of good music. I knew about true, good music 25 years ago, you attitude-riddled fuck-bags (phew! Do I feel better? No! I don’t! But thankfully, I’m about to talk about Liz Phair).
Twenty-three years ago (yes, that’s 1993 for the mathematically-challenged…. and yes, 23 years. That’s over two decades!)………. I bought Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville CD after reading a glowing review about it in Rolling Stone (remember when people used to take a chance on music, before being able to hear it?) It was the third CD I ever bought. It took me two weeks to get together the $15 for it, because I was poor as shit.
Liz Phair was the original DIY punk girl. Every song on Exile In Guyville is written entirely by her, and produced (with additional instrumentation) by Brad Wood, who also recorded Ben Lee’s brilliant solo debut Grandpaw Would, and Ben Lee’s second record (my favorite of his), Something To Remember Me By.
I am reminded of Liz Phair tonight, as I saw a facebook post by a former guitar student of mine, who I started teaching in 2008 (she’s now 18). She was absolutely raving about Liz’s music, and specifically Exile In Guyville. She said she wished she’d gotten into Liz Phair’s music sooner. I told her she got into it at the perfect age (I was 17 when I bought Exile and spun it to fucking death).
Liz hasn’t ever, and will never, top the brilliance of her debut record. The second album Whip-Smart is alright, but the lead single from the album “Supernova” is absolute shit. It’s her worst song, in my opinion. But the actual song “Whip-Smart” is super-good.
Liz’s 3rd record, the initially-rejected (by the major label who she went to) Whitechocolatespaceegg, is super good, and is reminiscent at times, of Exile. I have the initially-rejected version in my collection, and the commercial release that die-hard Liz fans know (her 3rd album was mostly ignored).
Fast-forward a few years, and Liz sold out, with “Why Can’t I?”. It’s a lovely little pop song, but co-written by professional songwriters, so it loses its credibility, and fast. I haven’t touched any of Liz’s music beyond that song, after one listen… as I don’t think any of it is worth listening to, more than once. It’s just over-produced pop garbage.
But man.. that first record. WHOA.
Enjoy it… and fuck this 2010-2016 hipster bullshit. A lot of it is entirely forgettable. But this record certainly isn’t. This record is everything RIGHT about the 90s, and female-fronted (and female-written) alternative rock/indie. PERFECTION. Don’t you ever forget it.
side note about the very first CDs I ever bought (all of which, I still own): The first, and second CDs I ever bought were The Smiths’ self-titled album, and Dinosaur Jr’s Bug. Other CDs I bought after Exile In Guyville include Juliana Hatfield’s Become What You Are, Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream, and Louder Than Bombs by the Smiths.
When I feel alienated (which I basically do, every day, with the things I like/love/am into, and the way I live my life)… it’s always music that saves me.
Archive is/was a trip-hop/electronic duo who collaborated with various people throughout the years. In my opinion, and the opinion of many other people who are familiar with their music, they made only one great record: their first. And it is truly magnificent. It’s called Londinium. It was released in 1996. Please listen to it, and enjoy thoroughly. This is my all-time favorite trip-hop album. The first two Portishead records can’t fucking touch this, and neither can all the other “classic” trip-hop groups. No. This is the king of them all.
This is music for loneliness, isolation, confusion, longing, nostalgia…. it combines the best of hip-hop, trip-hop, classical, jazz, soul, and the ambient glow of the best Pink Floyd.
Archive, please collaborate with this phenomenal (and completely underrated) rapper and female vocalist, again…. this is truly perfect music. Absolutely fucking superb.
(YouTube playlist of Londinium, in order)
Check out the ORIGINAL music video for the song “Londinium”, featuring the rapper AND vocalist! I never even knew what they looked like, for years. haha. So rad!
Oh, Seams. Dundee, Scotland’s own. Two tiny four-song EPs (absolutely flawless), then called it quits.
What a soaring voice… soaring instrumentals and arrangements. Young brilliance. Perfection. YouTube playlist of “Colours and Maps” EP:
This EP is everything perfect about indie rock/pop. Everything perfect. Enjoy.