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Posts Tagged ‘mark lanegan’

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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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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A lot of great music has come and gone recently. In between writing those darn movie reviews and dealing with my Attention Deficit Disorder kicking into top gear, I have been finding it hard to pick out one track or one artist to showcase. So, here goes…a medley of tunes that I have accidentally stumbled upon for the past two weeks.

the-rootsThe Roots (featuring Jack Davey) – Atonement

Few rap outfits can make music with such polished elegance and yet remain comfortably perched outside the vicious wasteland of drunken stupour that is the mainstream hip hop scene. Backed by a lovely Radiohead sample (You And Whose Army), the Philadelphia-based crew drop a great beat that bring back placid memories of cloudy summers. The immensely talented Black Thought spits, “feelin the steam from the cauldron, with tension runnin deep as the ocean. many are called, but so few are chosen, as I go through the motions, of medication uppin my dosage,” as Jack Davey’s ethereal vocals leads the chorus into one of those battles that musicians wage to lull the listener into quiet slumber.

Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse and David Lynch – Dark Night Of The Soul

Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse is just one of those albums that dares you to seduce the night with sadness. The plodding title track sung by David Lynch caresses her in a way that might make the stars blush. It’s simple enough; a single piano-driven melody backed by ghostly vocals that mumble, “shadows of the dark night, daaaark night of the soulllll”. I expected Lynch to sound like a subdued C-grade Brett Michaels (don’t ask me why), but I’m glad he sounds like a poor man’s Cee Lo on sedatives.

the decemberistsThe Decemberists – The Wanting Comes In Waves

I have been wanting (self hi-fi in progress) to write about these indie blokes from Portland for quite some time now. In case you didn’t already know, The Decemberists have been tearing it up in the underground scene for a few years. They have been so critically-acclaimed that some say that their drummer craps star ratings after Sunday lunch. I think they sort of deserve it; I mean, very few indie rock bands can indulge in such stylistic grandeur without sounding pretentious. In the magnificently titled “The Wanting Comes In Waves”, they grab the natural progression of a folk song and throttle it until the choruses swear that Indie rock is their daddy. Suffocating and wondrous.

Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell – Come On Over

Kobayashi’s Shasta is no longer the greatest James Bond theme song that never was; this is! With the sound of violins gently crashing them, Mark Lanegan’s whiskey-coated vocals writhe all over Isobel Campbell’s totally sexy whisper as they sing in unison, “like a thief crawling through the night, like a drunk brawling in a fight…come on over, turn me on” If that wasn’t alluring enough, Come On Over frantically ups the pace by the end of the second verse by threatening to blossom into a full-blown Seventies psychedelic freak-out. Hell, Mark Lanegan would make for a groovy James Bond. He’ll save all those pretty women, their guitars and their souls.

dengue feverDengue Fever – Ethanopium

Los Angeles-based Dengue Fever have been known to fuse psychedelic rock with Cambodian pop and Khmer folk. Hmpf go figure. Organist extraordinaire Ethan Holtzman and his guitarist brother Zac Holtzman pay tribute to legendary Cambodian rock scene of the Seventies that briefly flourished before falling prey to Pol Pot’s infamous slaughtering of people and culture. The track Ethanopium is a fantastic cover of Ethiopian jazz guru Mulatu Astatke’s Yegelle Tezeta that reaches a glorious level once Ethan’s Farfisa organ starts to seductively growl. Turn off the air-conditioning please, you need to sweat while listening to this.

The Roots (featuring Jack Davey) – Atonement

Few rap outfits can make music with such polished elegance and yet remain comfortably perched outside the vicious wasteland of drunken stupour that is the mainstream hip hop scene. Backed by a lovely Radiohead sample (You And Whose Army), the Philadelphia-based crew drop a great beat that bring back placid memories of cloudy summers. The immensely talented Black Thought spits, “feelin the steam from the cauldron, with tension runnin deep as the ocean. many are called, but so few are chosen, as I go through the motions, of medication uppin my dosage,” as Jack Davey’s ethereal vocals leads the chorus into one of those battles that musicians wage to lull the listener into quiet slumber. Thank you, The Roots.

Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse and David Lynch – Dark Night Of The Soul

Dark Night of the Soul by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse is just one of those albums that dares you to seduce the night with sadness. The plodding title track sung by David Lynch caresses her in a way that might make the stars blush. It’s simple enough; a single piano-driven melody backed by ghostly vocals that mumble, “shadows of the dark night, daaaark night of the soulllll”. I expected Lynch to sound like a subdued C-grade Brett Michaels (don’t ask me why), but I’m glad he sounds like a poor man’s Cee Lo on sedatives.

The Decemberists – The Wanting Comes In Waves

I have been wanting (self hi-fi in progress) to write about these indie blokes from Portland for quite some time now. In case you didn’t already know, The Decemberists have been tearing it up in the underground scene for a few years. They have been so critically-acclaimed that some say that their drummer craps star ratings after Sunday lunch. I think they sort of deserve it; I mean, very few indie rock bands can indulge in such stylistic grandeur without sounding pretentious. In the magnificently titled “The Wanting Comes In Waves”, they grab the natural progression of a folk song and throttle it until the choruses swear that Indie rock is their daddy. Suffocating and wondrous.

Mark Lanegan & Isobel Campbell – Come On Over

Kobayashi’s Shasta is no longer the greatest James Bond theme song that never was; this is! With the sound of violins gently crashing them, Mark Lanegan’s whiskey-coated vocals writhe all over Isobel Campbell’s totally sexy whisper as they sing in unison, “like a thief crawling through the night, like a drunk brawling in a fight…come on over, turn me on” If that wasn’t alluring enough, Come On Over frantically ups the pace by the end of the second verse by threatening to blossom into a full-blown Seventies psychedelic freak-out. Hell, Mark Lanegan would make for a groovy James Bond. He’ll save all those pretty women, their guitars and their souls.

Dengue Fever – Ethanopium

Los Angeles-based Dengue Fever have been known to fuse psychedelic rock with Cambodian pop and Khmer folk. Hmpf go figure. Organist extraordinaire Ethan Holtzman and his guitarist brother Zac Holtzman pay tribute to legendary Cambodian rock scene of the Seventies that briefly flourished before falling prey to Pol Pot’s infamous slaughtering of people and culture. The track Ethanopium is a fantastic cover of Ethiopian jazz guru Mulatu Astatke’s Yegelle Tezeta that reaches a glorious level once Ethan’s Farfisa organ starts to seductively growl. Turn off the air-conditioning please, you need to sweat while listening to this.

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I think Nirvana was one of the most overrated bands ever. While I can’t deny the catchy harmonies that drove their songs into the minds of a million flannel-clad minions, I can safely say that they weren’t even close to being one of best bands of the Nineties. Hell, they weren’t even the forefathers of Grunge. Redd Kross, along with Neil Young’s Crazy Horse band were the overlords of the Seattle Sound with Mudhoney and Green River as its rightful knights in rusty armour. But like I said, they did conceptualize good rhythms for their music. And there’s no stronger evidence of this than their widely-salivated 1993 album “Unplugged In New York”. The real gem of that album, I felt, was “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” – at first glance, a seemingly distraught lover’s lament. Cobain’s patented sandpaper vocals screech out the first few lines with repressed angst, “My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me, tell me where did you sleep last night?” and then he goes on, as the lyrics slowly paint a picture of one of those creepy Southern backwoods’ stories.

Until a decade ago, I didn’t know that this was a cover song. Apparently, this song has its roots dating back to as early as 1870s. Originally titled as “In The Pines”, this haunting folk piece is “believed to be Southern Appalachian in origin” and its author nothing but a daunting mystery. In 1917, folk revivalist Cecil James Sharp was credited with the first printed version of the song; by then, it was titled “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”. Early 1920s witnessed a curious music enthusiast recording a version of this song onto a phonograph cylinder and interestingly enough, the lyrics were twisted and turned a bit to include a stanza about a decapitation and a reference about “the longest train”.

In fact, American folklore author Judith McCulloh (in a dissertation she wrote in 1970) claimed that there were nearly 160 permutations of the song. The common thread that runs through most of its incarnations was that lyrics always spoke of a woman being confronted. In some cases, we get the impression that the woman was “caught doing something wrong” and in others, it seems that she is being unfairly looked at as being guilty. Ora Ellison’s version of the song during the dawn of the twentieth century is probably the darkest, as it tells a tale of an African-American girl from Georgia getting raped by a male soldier, who later is decapitated.

Popularly known as Leadbelly, folk and blues guru William Ledbetter recorded many brilliant variants of this song between 1944 and 1948, which by then was titled “Black Girl (In The Pines)”. It sounds like one of those traditional blues tracks played during the Depression era…sort of like Ralph Stanley at a bluegrass concert. British singer/actress Marianne Faithful’s 1965 version was just as eerie with a dose of sweetness thrown in for good measure.

My favourite version of this legendary folk number is the one sung by Screaming Trees’ vocalist Mark Lanegan. His whiskey-soaked, nicotine-drenched vocals do justice to the song’s gritty roots. And oh, Cobain makes a smart move by restricting his vocals to the chorus section. Probably the best cover of a traditional song ever….yeah, even better than Pink Floyd psychedelic, spaced-out jamming on “House Of The Rising Sun”.

Download

Leadbelly – Black Girl (In The Pines)

Marianne Faithful – Black Girl

Mark Lanegan – Where Did You Sleep Last Night

Buy

Leadbelly’s Legacy Collection

Marianne Faithful’s Broken English

Mark Lanegan’s Whiskey For The Holy Ghost

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During Maggot Brain’s brief intro, we get to listen to a strange voice telling us “Mother Earth is pregnant again”. Thankfully, the Al Gorisms stop right there. For the next 9 minutes, Funkadelic leads us on a hazy trip with the cleanest sounding guitar solos this side of Jeff Beck. While the band boasts of funky luminaries like George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, the song is quite the different shade of gray with tenderness and melancholy sliding off the guitar scales.

It’s only fitting that Leonard Cohen covered Paul Simon’s Sound Of Silence. His spoken-word version of this song back by sparse instrumentation gives it the tragically hip vibe that neither Simon nor Garfunkel could ever have conjured up. This is beyond haunting; this is Cohen, uncut, raw and let free to wander the aural skies.

Mark Lanegan gives whiskey a good enough reason to be brewed. His nicotine-tarred, whiskey-soaked and love forlorn vocals are why Screaming Trees were better than any other grunge act you have heard, maybe with the exception of Alice In Chains. His solo albums were arguably better with inspired moments of jagged poetry. “Nothing In This World” is a folk-inspired bluesy track, and a very, very pretty one at that.

San Antonio funksters Mojoe play strange bedfellows with Hip-Hop. It’s quite impossible to classify them without using more than three syllables. Urban Rhythm and Funk? Southern Groove Rap? Post-Classical Neo R&B? Too hell with that. I will tell you this much…”Funky Lac” has the most insanely catchy vibe I have heard ever since some sonofabitch stole my Wild Cherry album.

Download

Maggot Brain by Funkadelic

Sound Of Silence by Leonard Cohen

Nothin’ In This World by Mark Lanegan

Funky Lac by Mojoe

Buy

Mojoe’s Classic Ghetto Soul

Funkadelic’s One Nation Under A Groove

Leonard Cohen’s Essential Collection

Mark Lanegan’s Whiskey For The Holy Ghost

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