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Archive for the ‘sound’ Category

The Maid Freed From The Gallows Pole is another one of those relentlessly morbid tales in folklore. The legend of the accursed maid has translated into some of the most harrowing cases any musician has pleaded for on behalf of a lady in distress. The story has been sung with different twists and turns, and often with a catatonic, fucked-up precision, sort of like the many versions of In The Pines or House Of The Rising Sun. Wikipedia tells us that it is about “a condemned maiden pleading for someone to buy her freedom from the executioner” and the smug bastard is right for a change. The more famous interpretations are by Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and Peter Paul and Mary. But they aren’t that great (no offence to Robert Plant or that Mr. Middle-aged, Long-haired, Vagrantly Gay, Seventies Rocker Dude in Peecos).

Lead Belly’s Gallis Pole is an obvious choice since his awesomeness knew no bounds back then, but certainly knew how to scrape every dried, crusty patch of blood from blackened hearts. Then there was American folk composer and an enthused nut for Appalachian music, John Jacob Niles, who recorded Hangman, a fantastically potent interpretation for Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely. He sounds like the Blair Witch on a severe guilt trip, mopping the floor with her tears and blood trickling from the cellar, and it sounds mesmerizing. Der Galgen is an interesting twist of the original by German Folk Metal outfit In Extremo; sounds catchy as hell with something in there for industrial metal aficionados.

The year 1963 saw a young Judy Collins performing Anathea, a mesmerizing Grecian version of the song, at the Newport Folk Festival; check out Judy putting June Carter and the entire cast of Glee to shame with her delicate harmonies. A bunch of YouTubbers have done the legend of the cursed maid proud too; especially 11-year-old Sorcha rocking the violin like a sullen feign and her grandpa who’s obviously a bit self-captivated. Good stuff though.

Through the decades, the song sometimes metamorphosed into a variant called Prickly Bush, but it wasn’t very haunting at all and therefore ripped the tune of its soulfulness.

Brrrr…

Damn I didn’t realize the weather was different up here.

Anyway, move along horsey, nothing to see here but a fairly decent cover by Nic Jones.

I said, move along!

Download

Jacob John Miles – Maid Freed From The Gallows

Watch

Leadbelly – Gallis Pole

Judy Collins – Anathea

Peter, Paul and Mary – Hangman

Led Zeppelin- Gallows Pole

In Extremo – Der Galgen

Insanely intense grandpa & his granddaughter – Maid Freed From The Gallows

Over expressive dude with the guitar – Maid Freed From The Gallows

Extremely weird dude who makes insane grandpa look normal – Maid Freed From The Gallows

The kickass clip from Mister Lonely

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Your guy/girl/mom/dad/boss/pet something nice and win some favours

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5. Queens of the Stone Age – Mosquito Song

The Queens of the Stone Age can make spectacular rock music when they put their minds to it. Most of the time, they take the easy route by sticking meaty hooks over a few desert grooves, giving us tracks like No One Knows and Make It Witchu that sound too convenient, with their stuttering rhythms and pansy percussion lacking the proper venom that their brand of rock and roll truly deserves. Some of their other tracks, (Hanging Tree, Burn The Witch, In The Fade) make me want to believe that the Palm Beach rock scene didn’t die a horrid death when the almighty Kyuss disbanded. Mosquito Song is a tranquil moment for Josh Homme and the boys; a mellow acoustic trip that couldn’t have gotten lovelier if Mark Lanegan had joined him for the final chorus. Thankfully, the searing violins did.

4. Natalie Imbruglia & Sneaker Pimps – Cold Air (Download)

The music industry hated everything about Natalie Imbruglia except her Torn video and pre-emo emo haircut so that we, the quasi badass nerds and fantasy music critics with our beady eyes, could enjoy her music without feeling brainwashed by MTV. Naaaah they probably didn’t like her because she was too far away from what they perceived as the future template of mainstream pop music – Lady ‘mother loving’ Gaga. Not that the poor thing was either a very good singer or a talented songwriter. In fact I wish Cold Air, a B-side remix from her White Lilies Island album, was originally written by someone else, let’s say, Isobel Campbell or Shara Worden. I can’t though. So here goes, a scrumptious pop tart from someone the collective consciousness previously rejected as a flash-in-the-pan. Surely that gives her some sort of reverse pop psychology credibility. Yay for Sneaker Pimps too.

3. Pantera & Kerry King – Goddamn Electric

Heavy metal is like that stepdad who beats the living daylights out of little Johnny. Yet Johnny keeps coming back for more; not because he likes it, but rather out of the flimsy hope that someday his stepdad just might show him some love. See, Johnny is a lot like us, haggard metal fans. Tired of the abuse handed down to us; and just not enough love going around. I say, enough with the shrieking drama kings and queens clad in black designer wear, posing as the prima donnas of popular heavy metal. Whenever I listen to Bad Brains, Pantera or Zakk Wylde, I can understand why little Johnny still gets excited whenever the drunken oaf puts the belt away and makes him a paper airplane to play with. “Goddamit man, you’re not the best daddy that little Johnny could hope for, but screw it, paper planes are awesome and so was this moment…for little Johnny”. So Pantera jams with Slayer’s guitarist and pays a fearsome ode to Black Sabbath and whiskey? How could this not be inspiring? Solos like this are meant to be used as a case against civil decency.

2. Saul Williams – Twice Upon A Time (Download)

Saul Stacey Williams is to alternative hip hop what Lou Reed once was to punk music. We can’t always see the connection, but we can only be sure that they somehow revolutionized it. Saul’s not just an incredible rhyme slayer; he’s an open mic beat poet, a very competent writer and a decent enough actor. That’s already 3,456 things that Ice Cube is not. Over the years his albums have sonically pushed all sides of spectrum and much like his enviably retro afro have grown more captivating. So much so that his 2007 album NiggyTardust was sometimes unlistenable from a pop perspective, but was intensely captivating in its own right, as dense collages of sound that challenge listeners to break down barriers. Twice Upon A Time is an amazing track that can be found on Disc 3 of Xen Cuts – a Ninja Tune compilation. This track is so poorly misrepresented on the Web that this blog shows up when you Google it. It starts off with a chilly broken blues lament that leads to Saul Williams coercing poetry and hip hop to writhe in imperfect harmony, the kind that sounds really good. “As if a heartbeat wasn’t enough…” Also read the Scholar wax lyrical about this track, as always.

  1. John Martyn – Glory Box

These lists that bloggers make are so absurd. Top 25 this, top 3 that.  Someone should make a top 100 list of things to do that are more worthwhile than sitting in front of the laptop, hoping that strange (and possibly lonelier) people think we’re cool because we assume that great and obscure music is drawn to us.  Aren’t we just precious? Let’s all approach Gollum and just bend over. More importantly, let’s just pretend that I’m above such judgment and move along. Singer-songwriter John Martyn sounds like the child that Frank Sinatra and Tom Waits could have never had.  Give him a Vogon poem and he’ll make that sound mesmerizing. Arundhati Roy’s articles too. His 1998 album – The Church With One Bell – has one of the most jaw-dropping covers ever made. His raspy tone segues with the seductively lounge-y instrumentation to turn Portishead’s Glory Box into a gorgeous jazz number that you can kick back and smell the nicotine stains to. Get the entire album, minions…there are promises of Billie Holiday and Dead Can Dance too. (PS: Yes I’m aware that the list says 1999-2009).

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10. Zero 7 – In The Waiting Line

Zero 7’s Simple Things released in 2001 is sometimes too saccharine for my taste. It blurred the line between trip hop and straight up pop music, and while it gave rose to many superfluous moments, it also had a few hummable gems in there. Tracks like this one, with its seductively sad vocals, bursts of soft elecronica and ridiculously simple song structures, make me want to call up Nick Hornby. “You can’t be miserable listening to great pop music, my man.”

9. Patrick Williams – Tears Of Julian Po (Download)

Don’t “hey, this isn’t a song” me now. This gorgeous arrangement of strings accompanies the climax of Alan Wade’s Julian Po in which Christian Slater puts the ocean in his pipe and smokes it. Branimir Scepanovic’s pensive words, as spoken by the protagonist, collide with fragments of dreamy gospel laments to great effect. One of those rare opportunities for us to rekindle love affair with our headphones and make movie scenes out of our lives. You have a nice day too, Mr. Patrick Williams.

8. Paul Cantelon – River Of Collections

Contemporary classicist Paul Cantelon must have had a field day composing Everything Is Illuminated’s soundtrack because his tunes sound like they’ve stretched themselves on a sunflower patch, chewing stems and dreaming about stolen nectar. A tantalizing mix of melancholy, beauty and penance. Yup, penance. A lot of characters come to terms with difficult parts of their lives in Live Schrieber’s film to find solace. Cantelon’s music pays tribute to such eventualities and sort of drifts away into ethereal heights.

7. White Zombie – Blood, Milk And Sky (Download)

Named after a Béla Lugosi classic, White Zombie, fronted by the one they call Rob, has the exact opposite effect on people as a breath of fresh air, which is overrated anyway considering that it isn’t too different from mild flatulence. Blood-curdling industrial metal this also isn’t. Their music is far more graceful in its intent towards brutality. Behind every slab of thundering riffing there is a unicorn winking back at us…no wait, I meant, a gushing of warm melody. This track from their Astro-Creep 2000 album sounds like Pink Floyd jamming with Toni Iommi and Peter Steele on a song written by Prince in a very, very bad mood.

6. Elysian Fields – Black Acres (Download)

NYC dream poppers/rockers Elysian Fields create music that moves from sensuality to disturbance. They call to mind the spookiest moments of Tori Amos, with richly-textured modern folk arrangements to wash it all down with. UK music critic Nick Kent once described their sound being “as sensual as a sleepwalker’s wet dream” and most of the tracks on their Queen of the Meadow album song testify to this. Black Acres has a harmony section so wistfully fragile that you almost fear for the mp3’s safety from malware threats. Singer / chanteuse Jennifer Charles sounds like exactly how a depressed 14-year-old shouldn’t. Of course, she isn’t, so it’s all very exciting and velveteen.

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19. The Tallest Man On Earth –Troubles Will Be Gone

Singer Kristian Matsson’s folksy laments sound like they have been filtered through Bob Dylan’s wounded larynx. Either the Swede has had too much lighter fluid go down his throat or the honeyed sandpaper-grating vocals come naturally to him. I can picture flower children huddling up and wailing about stuff that Papa Roach would base their music upon several cultures later, as The Tallest Man On Earth’s The Wild Hunt album plays in the background. Being free-spirited and lonesome at the same time would have been too much of an effort for those goddam hippies.

18. Feist & Ben Gibbard – The Train Song

Ben Gibbard, vocalist for Death Cab For A Cutie, and Canadian singer Leslie Feist, came together to create this featherweight alt ballad for Dark Was the Night – a compilation release supporting the Red Hot Organization. Their dueling vocals create the sort of chill that bites through our cheeks during those cold nights, backed by lovely mellow acoustic breeze. Highly recommended for corporate cabin-dwellers to help daydream about lonesome trains whistling through dusky meadows.

17. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Suddenly

Bands like these, I tell you, they come, do their thing and bow out. No one pimps their ride, we don’t see their cribs, and we haven’t a clue what happens backstage at their concerts. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club play spaced-out garage rock. And how. On the 2003 album Take Them On, On Your Own, their music felt darker and more strung out than ever before, as evidenced by this sweaty mantra that drips of some serious psychedelia.

16. Mudville – Hero Of The World

Marilyn Carino and Benny Cha Cha comprise the Manhattan-based Mudville. They make a delicious cocktail of neo soul, jazz rock, minimalist pop and lucid trip hop. Their 2005 The Glory of Man is Not in Vogue album is chockfull of enchanting electronica. Carino’s impressive vocals that harkens back to the glory days of Memphis soul is a perfect bedmate to Benny’s brooding instrumentation, especially on drawling moments such as this one.

15. Orphans and Vandals – Metropes

“It’s been quite a while since indie music has drawn me with such allure. Imagine ‘American Pie’ explosively rewritten by Liam Gallagher and sung by a younger, fitter Lou Reed piss drunk on malt whiskey. If you prefer not to, then you should know that Metropes is a fantastic piece of rock n’ roll storytelling.” Orphans and Vandals, ladies and germs.

14. Blu and Exile – Soul Amazing

MC Blu’s silky smooth flow sticks to DJ Exile’s über-swank production like a George Bush glance towards something shiny and useless. Nearly every track in their debut Below The Heavens is a great example of how much hip hop has evolved and turned from a form of social protest into a channel of cultural communication. This is, as some audiophiles refer to, all killer no filler.

13. Gnarls Barkley – Smiley Faces

The insane popularity of Gnarls Barkley’s debut St. Elsewhere was one of those rare instances where the masses took kindly to clever pop music as the industry credited its musicians for defying categorization. Fittingly, the music video for this track has Danger Mouse and Cee Lo randomly popping in during pivotal moments in the history of pop culture. The song too is a collage of sounds that could have made waves during different periods of time. Heck, in all of them, probably.

12. Moneybrother – Born Under A Broken Sign

Former Monster vocalist Anders Wendin is the brains behind Moneybrother, a band that blurs the line between Sixties garage pop and Nineties’ indie punk. The glorious lalalaaas that greet us during the first 15 seconds quickly settle down and burst into a soulful funky groove as Wendin sighs, “I’ve been born under a badly broken sign. He’s also a Grammy award winner…in Sweden that is. Great song to drive your car into a lamppost and sheepishly crawl out with a smile on your face. Yes, that happened.

11. Jo Yeong-Wook – The Last Waltz (Download)

South Korean composer Jo Yeong-Wook, a longtime collaborator with director Park Chan-Wook, strings together pieces of passing beauty and gets them high on classical jazz and film noir tunes. The final scene in Park Chan’s Oldboy with its protagonist Dae-su Oh vacantly smiling at the screen, with snow falling like a famous portrait beckoned it to, is made even more memorable through this exquisite composition.

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29. Zwan – The Number Of The Beast

Some days you wake up wondering how many straight punches to the face you can unflinchingly take before your instinct kicks in and you crumble to the floor like a sack of anemic tomatoes. Then you get all confused trying to figure out which option hurts a whole lot less and you’d probably sink in the armchair, desperately holding on to a cigarette. At that time you’d be well advised to play this track; the fact that it is a cover of an Iron Maiden classic only adds to the cruelty of life that Zwan’s version briefly soothes.

28. Super Furry Animals – The Man Don’t Give A Fuck

I sometimes wonder if I scourge the web for bands with ridiculous monikers and force myself to appreciate their music. Rhys, Bunford, Pryce, Ciaran and Ieuan (Super Furry Animals) laugh uproariously at such contrived pop psychology with this amazing track released on Out Spaced, a collection of their B-sides and rarities. It even boasts of a grand chorus that samples Steely Dan’s Showbiz Kids. One of those precious moments during the Nineties when quasi-juvenility lent itself to a mean artistic streak. Isn’t it remarkable how everybody takes any side but that of the censorship board? Makes me want to have faith in humanity and stuff.

27. Belleruche – It’ll Come

Belleruche lovingly evolves Nineties blue-eyed soul into something funkier and far more soulful. In 2007 Kathrin deBoer, Ricky Fabulous and DJ Modest put out possibly the best album in their label Tru Thoughts’ brief history. You should go out of way to pick up their album – Turntable Soul Music. Matter of fact send them an email or give them a shout-out on Facebook and tell them how awesome they are. I bet they’d be all “ah shucks, thanks…do you want a free CD?” but you should refuse and pay for it anyway.

26. Tricky & Martina Topley Bird – Hell Is Around The Corner

The coolness of Tricky’s deeply breathed poetry has found an irresistible bedmate in Martina Bird’s sweaty and sultry cooing. Go back to when Don Henley paired up with Patty Smyth in 1992 to sing about how sometimes love just isn’t enough. Remember how unholy and irritating that was? This has the exact opposite effect. Great video too.

25. Solace – Mother Godzilla (Download)

Just so you know, New Mexico-based MeteorCity Records is home to plenty of great stoner rock bands. Now, Solace comprises a bunch of unruly guys from Jersey Shore who pay proper respect to the almighty riff. Their sound is gargantuan with downtuned rhythm sections exploding like heavy metal shrapnel over fiery solos. Mother Godzilla, from the ultra cool Destroysall (A Tribute To Godzilla) album, wakes from its fuzzy slumber around the 1:15 min mark and launches itself into a superlative free metal jam that haunts as much as it rocks.

24. Broken Bells – Mall and Misery

Broken Bells is all that and then some. The talents of Brian J. Burton a.k.a Danger Mouse and James Mercer (The Shins) mix like green candles and decent sex. Dueling vocals effortlessly, one sulky and the other cherubic, drip through a bubbling canvas of warm snares and quirky electronics on this track; and once again, my minions, we stand a good chance of getting our ears wetted by sticky sweet pop goodness.

23. Dead Can Dance – Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove (Live in Hague)

Singer/composer Lisa Gerrard and multi-instrumentalist Brendan Perry were the purveyors of neo-classical medieval pop exotica that caused the wind chill to bite through a large chunk of underground goth clubs during the Nineties. In this 2005 live version of a Dead Can Dance classic, Brendan and Lisa revisit those incredible double reed instruments, tripped-out percussion arrangements and ethereal vocals that reach such heights it’s a wonder how Enya could sleep at night knowing she was making more money than these guys.

22. Soulfly & Tom Araya – Terrorist

If I was a super villain with access to thousands of vicious flying monkeys, I’d watch them wreak havoc on the general populace while listening to this. Max Cavalera and Tom Araya were once Ares and Hephaestus of the thrash metal scene and they have proudly shown it off in Soulfly’s Primitive album. They shred their throats dry over Roy Mayorga’s apocalyptic percussion blasts and frenzied four-stringed riffing to create an atmosphere so brutal that the least you should do after the track ends is watch a Kim Ki-Duk film. Fly, my monkeys, fly.

21. Air – Playground Love

Air’s possibly one of the underrated electronic duos out there; problem being when they’re ordinary, they sound truly horrendous, but when in form they sound like a distant male cousin of Cocteau Twins with a voracious appetite for trespassing uncommon grounds in the electronica genre. They were in spectacular form during the recording for the Virgin Suicides’ soundtrack and it shows in this moody gem with its sleepy-eyed saxophone licks coaxing us to beg for more. You can move on to Cherry Blossom Girl and Alone In Kyoto after this.

20. The Deftones & Maynard James Keenan – Passenger

Barring the ferocity of My Own Summer, The Deftones never sounded as compelling as they did on the 2001 album – White Pony. This had so many fantastic tunes that picking just of the lot should rightfully be both insidious and misleading…if it weren’t for Maynard James Keenan absolutely tearing the goddam roof off with a jaw dropping vocal performance on this , of course. “Ahhhhhhhh I’m your passsssengerrrrr”.

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39. Down – Ghosts Along The Mississippi

Phil Anselmo’s a beast. The uncrowned prince of southern-tinged thrash metal and whatnot. Along with his merry band of traveling badasses (Pepper Keenan, Jimmy Bower and Rex Brown), he belts out one of the best metal ballads I’ve heard since forever. Yes it’s a ballad. Just that Anselmo’s narrative skills are really really scary. Just so you know, Down’s Bustle In Your Hedgegrow is a keeper.

38. Pharoahe Monch, Common & Talib Kweli – The Truth

Some folks sleep better at night, knowing that Hip Hop is only about silly braggadocio and profane limericks. Yeah sure, man. Metal’s all about “Fred Durst and his nookie”, Blues is nothing but an erstwhile John Mayer solo stuck in transit and hey, what is Jazz but a fleeting moment encapsulated inside those reverb-laden Buddha’s Bar albums, right? Wankers. Rappers Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli and Common turn their spittle into laidback conscious rhymes as ethereal strings dive bomb all around them.

37. Weezer – Brain Stew (Live at AOL Sessions)

The anthemic pop punk explosion of Green Day’s original is given a shock treatment by the underrated LA hipsters Weezer. They sedate the track into sounding like therapeutic murmurs that burst into full-blow argument in favour of insanity, thanks to a fantastic piano breakdown. Fun fact: Rivers Cuomo eats cookie-cutter punks like Billie Joe for breakfast.

36. Corrosion Of Conformity – Rise River Rise

I bet James Hetfield secretly wishes that Metallica had made America’s Volume Dealer instead of Corrosion Of Conformity. Soul-stirring, bone-crunching and flat-out amazing. Senor badass Pepper J. Keenan on vocal duties and rhythm guitar plays us like a fiddle, especially on this track.  Fun fact: Pepper Keenan burps out hags like Hetfield after a diet coke.

35. Mark Lanegan – Bombed

Mark Lanegan’s sandpaper-grated, whiskey-soaked vocals surface above the sparse acoustic strumming, along with PJ Harvey’s velveteen whispering, to create the sort of experience that a measly minute truly doesn’t deserve. Like QOTSA’s Lullaby but a million times better.

34. Jon Brion – Theme from ESOTSM

Jon Brion just happens to be one of the most talented multi-instrumentalists out there. His compositions for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind work wonders with Charlie Kaufman’s fantastic dialogues. Existentialism has never sounded lovelier.

33. Crowbar – To Touch the Hand of God / Odd Fellows Rest

I have wussied out and chosen Louisiana’s sludge kings Crowbar’s tamest and most palpable tracsk. Matter of fact, these could be the most fragile ballads to have ever emerged from the NOLA metal scene (along with COC’s Shelter). Not many completely fathom the unbridled intensity of their slow-paced, downtuned brooding, but it would take nothing short of busted eardrums to circumvent the breathtaking artistry of these two.

32. Aceyalone and Goapele – Moonlit Skies

As a founding member of the Freestyle Fellowship, LA rapper Aceyalone was one of the forerunners of jazz rap. Goapele is one of those neo soul musicians who playfully messes around with downtempo and trip hop. Together they…yes, I do believe the word I’m looking for is magic.

31. The Eels – Hospital Food

In case you’re new around here, Mark Oliver Everett has my vote for any King of Pop list. I don’t know any other singer-songwriter since Lennon and probably Elliot Smith to a lesser extent who has been this consistently good. The 1998 album Electro Shock Blues has some of the most gloriously twisted pop music there ever was, with this track’s erstwhile saxophone meltdown providing its most cathartic moment. “He’s always got a problem, he’s a very bitter dude, and now he’s complaining ’bout his hospital food”.

30. Portishead – Only You (Live In Roseland)

Let it be known that Portishead’s Live In Roseland, NYC, is one of the best live albums of the Nineties. With the New York Philharmonic Orchestra backing her up, singer Beth Gibbons lovingly embraces her smoky bar-room mystique and launches into a bone-chilling version of this track.

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50. Eagles of Death Metal – Anything ‘Cept The Truth

Palm Beach-based Eagles of Death Metal, despite what Axl Rose might say, have paid proper respect to the almighty desert rock groove. Sometimes light-headed, mindlessly rhythmic rock music is what the soul craves. This track from NHL 10’s soundtrack is just that.

49. Gypsy Soul – Wicked Game

I have felt guilty about liking Chris Isaac’s original version as much as I used to. California-based Celtic pop band Gypsy Soul, with their singer Cilette Swann coaxing the melody to travel to a far more ethereal place, makes me feel cool again.

48. Iggy Pop – King Of The Dogs

Iggy Pop has reinvented himself in a sensibly drunken way. The Godfather of Punk went eclectic jazz and lounge pop in his latest album Préliminaires, shining like a mad friggin diamond on this track. I can’t help but wonder if the meeting with Tom Waits in Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes had something to do with this.

47. Aimee Mann – One Is The Loneliest Number

Not since Bjork’s All Is Full of Love has a woman’s voice had me feeling this giddy and diffident at once. You might have heard her during one of those wonderfully screwed up sequences in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. I heart Aimee Mann.

46. Colin Meloy – Summertime

I have a very high regard for the music of The Decemberists; Colin Meloy’s their singer and songwriter, and a very fine one at that. A million artists have covered George Gershwin’s Summertime but a nay a musician in recent years has done it with such style and restrained grace.

45. KlaxonsNo Diggity

It’s scary how good Klaxons were in conducting this experiment in weirdness. Blackstreet & Dr Dre dare not complain; these London-based new wave poppers have done them proud, with an insanely catchy cover that has no business sounding as good as it does.

44. Mos Dub – Ms Vampire Booty

Max Tannone’s remix project lets Mos Def’s badass verbosity loose on the dancefloor with some funky reggae sampling to keep it company. The killer snares behind acapella vocals dare you to sit still.

43. Circa Survive – Spirit Of The Stairwell

Pennsylvania-based Circa Survive makes common music with uncommon talent. Their brand of lo-fi acoustic music isn’t going to win you over with originality, but the altruistically dreamy psychedelia of tracks like this one will whip your ears into soulful frenzy. Check out their 2010 album Blue Sky Noise.

42. Cold War Kids – Electioneering

This isn’t if for everyone, kiddies. Amongst all the tracks on the OKX album, Stereogum’s tribute to Radiohead’s 1997 masterpiece, the Cold War Kids’ cover is probably the boldest. The militant thumping of percussions, along with Nathan Willett’s dry-throated call for political compromises, takes me back to the first time I heard APC’s Counting Bodies Like Sheep.

41. Josh Homme & PJ Harvey – Powdered Wig Machine

Josh Homme’s decade-long pet project – Desert Sessions – has him collaborating with the coolest musicians from the vastly underrated Palm Desert Scene. PJ Harvey brings sultriness back with the ferocity of a she-wolf in heat, seducing, howling, “Come on, come to me”; very, very sexy.

40. The Constellations – A Perfect Day

I get misty-eyed whenever heavy slabs of soul are injected into the veins of straight-up rock music. Little Richard spawned it. The Beatles stole it. The Rolling Stones lost it. Coldplay and Maroon 5 almost screwed it all up. Now The Constellations have resurrected it on their Southern Gothic album. If only their songwriting improved, they’d be a force to reckon with.

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Good music that defies any sort of categorization is hard to find. Most times we know what to expect the moment the first track of the album starts playing. Whatever comfort there is in familiarity is overshadowed by the thrill of unpredictability. However few bands out there now can risk this level of experimentation given how touchy popular audiences can be when their silly expectations have been compromised. Detroit’s progressive newcomers – Neon Escape – thankfully just make great music without fretting about the genre of their sound.

Their debut album We Won’t Wait Any Longer blazes through the general vicinity of progressive rock, with suitable explosiveness. Dan Rose and Randy Roberts on guitars, Alex Drazin on bass, and Mario Perry on drums don’t just stop there; they grab indie rock by the throat and shake it until it bleeds a rawer, more garage sound. They even bring back memories of Freddie Mercury’s theatrical balladry in their title track and the whimsically more poppish Skyscraper. Night Lights, with its Korn’s Blind-like intro fed on amphetamines, and Ivan with decidedly warm indie vibes are my other favourites.

Also, great artwork on the album, guys.

About Neon Escape:

Neon Escape is a Detroit band in their mid twenties, pooling together a vocalist with classic rock tastes, a gospel drummer, and a band with both progressive  / modern influences as well as a keen ear for musical past times. Even with hints of Queen, Electric Light Orchestra, and Led Zeppelin, Neon Escape gives you something fresh and contemporary, with a cultured sound you just can’t find anywhere else.

Listen

Previews of all their tracks

Buy

We Won’t Wait Any Longer

Read

About them on Earsucker, Effigymusic, Examiner and Music Reviews For Idiots

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The 'James Keenan Maynard' experience

Layne Staley, Mike Patton and James Keenan Maynard were the first batch of musicians I slavishly worshipped. I played their albums till my technologically-impaired Panasonic system bled with familiarity and sang praises in their names to anyone who bothered to listen. James Keenan Maynard in particular had a major influence in shaping my musical inclination. My Gmail ID even namedrops one of Tool albums, which just about makes me a bigger loser than that dude who sold his kid on eBay to buy Bruce Dickinson’s jockstraps (stop googling, that didn’t actually happen). Fronting bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer and Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty, he created a niche for himself as the reclusive enigma of alternative metal who could go from a whisper to blood-curdling scream, and make it sound like provocative manuscripts without which our lives would be emptier. At times he wore blue makeup and adorned prosthetic breasts on stage, but thankfully, through several incarnations, Maynard rose above such momentary lapses in irony through his music.

Tool

Tool sounded a lot like King Crimson would have if they had still been  relevant during the Nineties. While wussies like Eddie Vedder, Bono and James Hetfield were milking dead horses by singing about dead girlfriends and bad memories with their Xeroxed vocals, these guys came along and kidnapped the collective consciousness and fed it something substantial. Not that singing about Jungian psychology and Aristotelian concepts gives any sort of credibility to the music, but when it sounds as spectacular as it does on their albums (especially Ænima and Lateralus), who in their right mind would deny themselves of such an experience. Maynard’s vocal prowess on tracks like Reflections, Prison Sex, The Pot and Forty Six & Two are yet to be surpassed by any other, but it isn’t all about Maynard. Guitarist Adam Jones, bassist Justin Chancellor and drummer Danny Carey bring with them a wall of noise that creeps up from behind you and knocks your teeth down your throat, sometimes pausing to serenade you with somber moments. I’m not one for philosophizing through music so you can read this, this and that to know about Maynard’s exploration of the consciousness through heavy metal’s most progressive sons.

A Perfect Circle

People who were turned off by Tool’s vigorous experimentation fell in love with A Perfect Circle’s debut Mer De Norms. It was a lot like Tool’s melodic side, but about four minutes shorter. What they lacked in originality by following the “verse chorus verse chorus bridge louder verse” pattern was more than made up for by their tighter-than-a-duck’s-arse arrangements that made it impossible for us to resist drooling all over them. From the masterful guitar strokes in Judith to the gorgeous crescendos in Orestes, everything felt so perfectly timed, even peaking to reach Joy Division’s level of greatness. Their next album Thirteenth Step had them momentarily breaking free of the pattern on tracks like Noose, Blue and The Nurse Who Loved Me, drawing us closer to their music with spirited string arrangements and haunting atmospheric passages. APC’s third album – Emotive – had them playing neat covers, including classics by Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye and screaming punksters Crucifix. The original tracks – Passive and Counting Bodies Like Sheep – are undoubtedly the cream of the lot, intense as hell and furious as the fire burning in it. A Perfect Circle’s finest moment for me however is the brilliant Acoustica, an unplugged bootleg album recorded by one of their fans. It features six songs from their debut, two from their sophomore and a cover of Tool’s love letter to religious nihilism – Eulogy. The acoustic version of Three Libras is the stuff that would have had Wes Bentley clutching his knees in fetal position and weeping, unable to stomach the beauty of it all. Also, Troy Van Leeuwen and Paz Lenchantin should never stop creating music together.

Puscifer

Puscifer, previously known as Umlaut, finds James Keenan Maynard fiddling around with electronica and the very ambidextrous post-industrial genre. He claims to be the only permanent member of the band and has once said “it is simply a playground for the various voices in my head, a space with no clear or discernible goals”. Possible self-gimmickry besides, he crafted a couple of gems under this outfit. Revelations 22:20, first heard on Len Wiseman’s Underworld soundtrack compiled together by Danny Loher, has him taking to electronica as hungry eyes would to expensive thighs, pacing the verses at an unfamiliar tempo, sounding more like a lounge remix of an APC’s song. Their debut V For Vagina comes off as cheesy despite its apparent esotericism; thankfully, tracks like Indigo Children and The Undertaker pull the album back from the abyss.

Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty

Now on to some of his earlier and more obscure stuff. A long-haired blonde Maynard led the way for the lo-fi Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty (CAD) by handling vocals, bass, and the drum machine while some dude called Kevin Horning played guitar. They even released independent cassette tape in 1986 called Fingernails, with evidence of Maynard’s obsession with transcendence in tracks like the sparsely-woven dub track 25 Hours in which he asks, “Give me 25 hours a day, one more hour to ask why”. Vaguely interesting only for those who with official membership access to the cult of Maynard.

TexA.N.S.

A year later in 1987 CAD metamorphosed into a fully-fledged band called the TexA.N.S. when Chris Horning brought on-board his brother Todd Horning to handle rhythm guitar duties, Stan Henderson to slap some bass, and Tom Geluso to keep a steady beat going. Their Dog House EP sounds more polished than the Fingernails tape, with the perversely entertaining Suburban Death Trip and premonitory tribute to Queens of the Stone Age in the form of Social Declination. Weirdly though, Maynard sounds like Lemmy Kilmister without the badass growl, but the Horning brothers pack enough punch in their rhythm sections to make this sort of work.

Shandi’s Addiction

Shandi’s Addiction was formed to contribute to Mercury Records’ Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved album, a collection of songs, in my opinion, better than any of the originals. Check it out if fancy bands Nineties’ lost rockers like Dinosaur Jr, The Lemonheads and Gin Blossoms. Anyway the band comprised Maynard, Tom Morello and Brad Wilk from RATM and uber-bass guru Billy Gould from Faith No More. Their contribution to the album, a solid version of Calling Dr. Love, is not the highlight of the lot but certainly not the worst, thanks to Lenny Kravitz and Garth Brookes doing what they do best – sing with the intensity of Dalai Lama on Ritalin.

Axis Of Justice Concert Series

Axis Of Justice, a non-profit organization co-founded by musicians Serj Tankian and Tom Morello, ran a concert series, hoping more people would listen to their cause and make this world a better place or whatever. Maynard opened the show with a rousing version of U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name. Not fantastic or anything, but considering Bono sang the original, even David Hasselhoff could have done a better job.

(with) The Deftones

The Deftones’ White Pony album featured them in their most expansive mood. On the track Changes (In The House Of Flies), Chino Moreno’s dueling vocals with Maynard gives shoegazing a well-deserved spot in alternative metal. The track also features guitarist Stephen Carpenter showing both technical mastery and passion, something that cannot be taken for granted, considering musicians like Satriani and Malmsteen have made a career out of being blind to one of them.

(with) Green Jelly

Heh. I didn’t know it was him singing the “not by the hair of my chinny chin chin” falsetto line in the hilariously metal anthem – Three Little Pigs. Kickass song by the Grammy-winning (gulp) Green Jelly too!

(with) Tori Amos

Apparently Tori Amos and James Keenan Maynard came up with the arrangement to their version of Muhammad My Friend an hour before performing it. Even more unfortunate is that the guys recording the video act like they snorted a wicked mix of coke and wood shavings before recording it. I cannot determine the extent of awesomeness with such poor clarity now, can I?

(with) David Bowie

Bring Me The Head Of The Disco King, undoubtedly the best song on the Underworld soundtrack, has Maynard collaborating with the artist previously known as Ziggy Stardust. A little theatrical at times, but immensely fun to listen to, with the two great vocalists trading lines of each other in style. Plus, John Frusciante shows up and dazzles during the bridge.

Download

A Perfect Circle – Three Libras (Acoustica version)

James Keenan Maynard – Where The Streets Have No Name

Watch

Tool – Prison Sex, 46 & 2, Reflections, Sober, Rosetta Stoned

A Perfect Circle – Orestes, Passive, Counting Bodies Like Sheep, Nurse Who Loved Me, Noose (DVD version)

Children of the Anachronistic Dynasty – 25 Hours

TexA.N.S. – Suburban Death Trip, Social Declination

Shandi’s Addiction – Calling Dr Love

The Deftones & Maynard – Changes (In The House Of Flies)

Green Jelly & Maynard – Three Little Pigs

Tori Amos & Maynard – Muhammad, My Friend

David Bowie, John Frusciante & Maynard – Bring Me The Head Of The Disco King

Buy

Tool’s discography

A Perfect Circle’s discography

Axis Of Justice Concert Series 1

The Deftones’ White Pony

Underworld Soundtrack

Green Jelly’s Cereal Killer Soundtrack

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