40 years ago Marvin Gaye Asked, “What’s Goin’ On?”

21 05 2011

It was 1971 when Motown released Marvin Gaye’s groundbreaking album, What’s Going On? the first of the label to ask that very real question of the Vietnam War, drug use, poverty. Even 40 years later it continues to induce goose bumps through Gaye’s pained, velveteen vocals, its brave message, and sultry bass. Released during a divisive time for many Americans, Gaye had the audacity to speak for a society fed up with sugar-coated pop and politics.

So here we are, all of us in this thing called life in 2011- another century which seems at first glance so far removed from the early 1970’s; however we can ask ourselves, “What’s going on?”  Our country is still fighting a confusing war on several fronts, the gap between the rich and…everyone else is widening, and our education system continues to keep minorities marginalized.

This anniversary serves as a reminder to us, for it’s easy to forget, that we are each blessed with talents to serve a larger purpose. Sure, Marvin Gaye had his share of infamous troubles, but in making What’s Going On? he used his talents to remind us all to be bold and ask questions-yes, even us non-famous people can act boldly.




RubbleBucket – Omega Lala

27 04 2011

In spite of the lack of income for artists, everyone loves free music. For budding stars eager to increase their listenership, releasing music for free download is an excellent way to get their sound out there, but when artists drop an entire album, us poor fans nearly weep with joy. Finally, a chance to get something legally without paying!

Unfortunately, all too often musicians release music for free because, well, the music itself is nothing more than mediocre. So when Brooklyn-based Rubblebucket released their sophomore album Omega La La in just such a fashion a few weeks ago, I was understandably apprehensive at first.

To my great surprise, however, from the very first track, Rubblebucket’s clever rhythms, simple yet catchy hooks, beautifully layered vocals and instrumental harmonics hit my ears causing bubbly audial excitement deep within my inner ear.

An epic, 10 person motley crew headed up by the vocal/saxophonic musings of Kalmia Traver and excited trumpeteer Alex Toth, Rubblebucket brings jiggly, giddy boppiness with every track on this album, whose physical release date is slated for June 7th, yet they still avoid the common pitfall in this genre of sounding just “too cute.”

Omega La La plays like a soundtrack to a warm Spring day in Prospect Park. Listening to “Came Out of a Lady” I can just envision Traver and Toth leading their rag tag marching band through the park, with streamer-girls and tambourine-accompanists following in their wake, lightening the moods of all those Park Slope moms and their unruly kids on a breezy Sunday afternoon.

But then there are the slower songs of the album, however few they are, which come out hit or miss. “Raining” tells a pensive story of distant attraction and curiosity over some very clever instrumentation, complete with arpeggios and melodic breaks. Similarly, “Breatherz (Young as Clouds)” soars through the sonic sky like a digilectric albatross, even despite the nearly nonsensical lyrics.

But then we come to the lengthy “Lifted/Weak Arms,” and Rubblebucket’s heretofore hiptastic groove bottoms out into a cacaphonic disarray of strange, sleepy monotony and uncomfortable dissonance. I’m really not too sure what the purpose of this song is, even the masterful production from Eric Broucek (LCD Soundsystem, !!!, Holy Ghost) can’t seem to save this track from the pit of failed experimentation. It just doesn’t fit right with the theme of the album. Thankfully, it only takes up six minutes of the listening experience, so it could be worse.

Overall, I am thoroughly impressed by this little “pre-“release.  It is fresh, creative, uplifting and just plain fun to listen to.  Great work, Rubblebucket, I hope this album gets you paper, even though you’re giving it away for free. 92%, A-

Download Rubblebucket – Omega La La Here

Appointment #1: Charlene Kaye & Matt Jones @ Caponegro Urological Associates [RECAP]

11 04 2011

urology |yoŏˈräləjē|


the branch of medicine and physiology concerned with the function and disorders of the urinary system.


When I caught wind of this show, a small acoustic set in a quiet little Polish-dominated neighborhood in Queens known as Ridgewood, I had no idea what to expect.  All I knew was that the show featured vegetarian chili, mulled bourbon cider and two of my favorite up-and-coming Michigan-bred singer-songwriters, Charlene Kaye and Matt Jones.  The venue, billed as the Caponegro Urological Associates, gave me nothing beyond a simple wordpress site billing the show to go by, and so my expectations were correspondingly vague.  Was this actually a doctor’s office?  How does the smell of hipsters mingle with that of formaldehyde and ether?  Would they be able to help me with this uncomfortable burning sensation while I was there?

Surprisingly, at first to my chagrin but quickly dissolving into ecstatic jubilation, when we walked in to the Caponegro offices they turned out to be no doctors’ offices at all, but rather the aforementioned converted into a lovely little apartment.  Arriving a little late, we encountered many a 20-something sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor, sipping on cider and enjoying an amplification-less acoustic performance from Charlene.  The walls were adorned with a mixture of Ridgewood history and Michigan imagery, and I suddenly realized that I had walked into a good old-fashioned house show, just the performers, the audience, libations and food.

Upon further investigation, we soon realized that much of the furnishings were left-over from the actual Urology offices; old, white, metal cabinets filled with old-timey, Queens-centric trinkets, black-and-white illustrations of vistas and buildings from days of yore, complete with a couple boxes of unused catheters.  Venturing into the kitchen, Urology and Queens quickly gave way to Michigan-centric adornments: historical maps, license plates, catch phrases (“Ypsilanti, a cool city!”) and the like.  Bubbling on the stove were pots filled with cider and chili, and on the counters lay the whiskey, a growler full of Carlo Rossi sangria, a couple cans of PBR and, the crowning surprise, a beautiful pastel blue and white ice cream cake.  All of a sudden I felt like I was back in the Mitten, hanging out at some friend’s house with other friends listening to more friends’ music.  But all we had to do was hop on the M train!  How fantastic!

Charlene’s performance was a wonderful little slice of beauty.  As she strummed through many songs both old and new, covered and original, Charlene’s angelic voice soared over the small room, through the ears of all the youngsters who managed to find their way here, infecting them all with a sense of peace, love and tranquility that one can only find in such an intimate setting.  At one point, Charlene remarked at how great it is to play shows like this, as compared to the bigger venues that have come along with her rising status in the music world, and I couldn’t agree more.  Accompanying Charlene was the lovely Megan Cox on violin and melodica, effortlessly producing beautiful harmonies and counter-melodies to support Charlene’s songs.  Even though I missed the first part of her performance, hearing Charlene after such a long personal hiatus (How long as it been?  Four years?) in such an intimate setting caused my skin to tingle and my heart to soar.  How wonderful!

After a short break to refill glasses, grab some grub and take advantage of the aptly-labeled “lavatory,” Ypsilanti’s own Matt Jones took the stage, flanked by the amazingly-talented Colette Alexander on cello and the gifted Misty Lyn, providing stunning vocal harmonies.  Off the heels of Charlene’s set, Matt’s performance brought a surprising amount of energy into the room for an acoustic performance, largely thanks to Colette’s highly-emotive chopping motions on her instrument.  After only a couple songs, Matt and his crew got the audience clapping, stomping and humming along.  Maybe the cider and sangria had kicked in, but when shows are this intimate, the energy of the performer and that of the audience basically become one, and Matt’s energy was obviously exciting.  We were getting into it so much that, after a fair but unsatisfying number of songs there came a loud banging on the pipes… apparently the neighbors were not amused.  The decision was made to cut the performance short, but apparently not short enough for the folks upstairs, because as we were leaving the 5-0 had pulled up and were questioning our lovely hosts at Caponegro.  I didn’t stay to see the outcome, but the small party—little more than 20 people were in attendance—was basically over anyways, so I’m sure those cops were lenient enough.

In the end, I was extremely glad to have made the trek up to Ridgewood for this little show.  The chance to catch up with old friends and listen to some heartfelt and sincere music from some seriously talented musicians was enough to satisfy my craving, but the unexpected meeting of fellow Michiganders and the familiar decor on the walls provided an amazing sense of comfort and belonging, and even if it was just for a couple of hours, my longing for the Mitten was gone and I felt like I had come home.  Thank you, Caponegro, I look forward to any more chances you may be able to offer to hang in your humble abode.

Charlene Kaye Official Website
Matt Jones on Myspace

Gold Panda- Companion (2011)

6 04 2011

A Collection of EPs and singles that were released before his amazing LP, Last Years Lucky Shiner.I admit I’m cheating a bit on this review,  I’ve had the majority of this compilation on their respective EPs Before, Miyamae, etc. for some time as he’s one of my favorite new artists.  But now that it’s combined into one solid package, I have to express its greatness. It displays that Gold Panda had made great techno right from the start. There is a wide range of electronic styles Gold panda dabbled in before settling on his characteristic form of hazy glitch-hop and house.  tracks like Quitter’s raga shows he can dice and warp a sample like a mad scientist.  Back Home – a pulsing four tet-esque track that almost beats him as his own game, The Before EP shows off calm, contemplative, side – bustling with hip hop drum breaks and tranquil grooves.

The only issue I have with Companion is not the songs, but the track order. It’s like the guy at the record label just dragged and dropped all the EPs from iTunes and just pressed “burn”.  The Singles front load this album, with the b sides of these often being a much calmer, ambient sound following after. If this were an LP,  Going back and forth from glitch to calm every track would make for a perplexing listen. My humble suggestion would be to reorder it with Before first and the singles After. that way all the singles are still in order and it has a more balanced flow to the listening experience. But hey, what do I know? I’m no Mastering Engineer. Taking this album for what it is, which is a very convenient collection of Great Singles from Electronic music’s Rising Greats – There is nothing to complain about.


Quitter’s Raga “Experimental” Video. I like this more than the “Official” which was the cliché  slice of life video of people enjoying themselves. yawn… I love this guy’s music but one thing he does NOT have is exciting/ interesting videos.



David Bowie-Low(1977) also…notes on fighting Pretentiousness

5 04 2011

It seems my arch nemesis of a music website, Pitchfork has, like 6 years ago, declared the little-mentioned David Bowie album, Low the number one album of the 1970’s. It’s funny that I just found this out while I was in the middle of an enjoyable Brian Eno phase, but found myself  wanting something a little more concrete. Thus, after a little sluething, found out that he and David B had teamed up, no surprise, to work on Low, Bowie’s 1977 release. But really, number one album of the 1970’s…? Do you know what a BOLD claim that is? Sure you do.

Saying that Low is the best album of the 70’s is a Grand Canyon-Spruce Goose-Sir Mix a Lot Big Butt Lovin’-sized bold claim, man.

Even within Pitchfork’s best of the 70’s countdown, their own contributor wrote about Led Zeppelin IV coming in at number 7 and that there was NO WAY(yes in all caps) that Led Zeppelin IV wasn’t the number one album of the 1970’s. Sure, this is totally predictable and non-pretentious, but seriously. Shouldn’t Led Zeppelin IV roll in at least  a shabby 3rd?

I was already into my second listen of Low, when I’d discovered Pitchfork’s bold claim and became even more impassioned to find out for myself why they declared it so. Is this a Bowie album worthy of such an illustrious title as number one album of the 1970’s?

According to research, this is David Bowie’s coke-recovery album. Frankly I cannot picture David Bowie as any kind of drug addict. He just seems too other-worldly  to have “normal” problems.  The title of this album is indicative of his low mood and perhaps he enlisted the help of Brian Eno to be his new upper ‘cuz it’s not much of a downer album. The album begins with a sort of late-70’s punch in the face with the track, Speed of Life. Coke reference perhaps? There’s some amazing stuff here and it’s physically impossible for me to be impartial, it’s David Bowie and I owe him for a fair portion of my happiness, but some of the tracks are just kind of silly. The track Warszawa reminds me of the Twin Peaks soundtrack. A feeling of being downtrodden and like I could sleep for days…is this what coming off of coke feels like set to music? If so, count me out.  Then there’s also these ridiculous chanting voices that fade in and out, dating this album incredibly. Perhaps the greatest contributing factor for why I can’t say agree with Pitchfork. Throughout the album there’s also a sense of this sounding like the early planning stages for the Labyrinth or Never Ending Story soundtrack. Just makes me laugh, I guess.

So folks, although I love this album in all its Eno-Bowie greatness, I have to give the finger to Pitchfork and say that they’re wrong. It’s an album that defintely grows on you, and I do have a fondness for albums like that. I am just not entirely sure this album aged so well unlike its competition, Led Zeppelin IV and oh I don’t know…(sorry to bust out all the regulars, I’m just not going to go down the much-trodden in the music-commentary pretentious road)…Dark Side of the Moon. Come on, we all know that album’s amazing.

I realize that I am not so much reviewing this Bowie album, but conciously trashing Pitchfork for being so damn pretentious. There’s room in decade countdowns for some lesser-knowns or surprises, sure; but to pick an album that’s relatively unheard as The Best is flat out pretentious. It’s so easy in the music world to bow down to the all powerful, The Great Pretentor. Not here, friends. The Great Prententor shall not conquer yet another music commentary blog. Not here in our brains at Balafonic dot com.


Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues (2011)

5 04 2011

Mountainous Folk Giants Fleet Foxes step up to the plate trying to follow their wildly popular and Album of the year accolades by Pitchfork debut can be a crippling task. so what do they do? from the sound of this album, decided to loosen up and jam more on Helplessness Blues. rather than the carefully sculpted folk hymns of last time, the Foxes bust out the instruments and noodle around – resulting in sounding more far-ranging and livelier than before. Evoking images like a bonfire improv session in the woods and the looming nature. Think less Nick Drake (Bad example, I Know – I don’t know enough folkies) and more Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

Do the Songs suffer? Good question. while they do have a great sound on this album and some melodies are marvelous, Helplessness Blues suffers from the good-but-not-great feel of some rather stagnant songs and it doesn’t really offer anything too new from the debut album or the Sun giant EP. I guess I was hoping for something to be a little more ambitious – having a Sound to their songs that equals the gorgeous vocals harmonies and really make their songs swell up and for lack of a better term, “Bloom” I’ll have to listen to this more and maybe it’ll warm up to me – since it took me awhile to be sold on Fleet Foxes in the first place.


What do you think? Comments? Am I Frontin’?

LCD SoundSystem’s NY Farewell Show

5 04 2011

In one word: Legendary. So bittersweet it’s almost unbearable.I feel regret that LCD is done and never got the chance to experience them live. Sigh, this is as close as I’ll get: One final Party it was with some band members groovin’ almost as much as the audience and James Murphy leaving at his Zenith. When people look back on this era of music, LCD will definitely be remembered and celebrated as one of the most important and fun groups we’ve had the fortune to hear

LCD Soundsystem’s NYC Farwell Show in its entirety.

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