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.




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.


The Vault: The Resurrection of Lost Highway

7 03 2011

It was one of those days when the ol’ A.D.D was acting up.

Impatient and indecisive, I had no idea what music I was in the mood for. With a sigh and a little hope,  I set the iPod to shuffle and waited for IT, the music that would act as my Ritalin.

After rejecting several songs that just weren’t cutting it, there it was, the album that soothed my bored and sunny soul, the Lost Highway soundtrack. It was pure fate that a “shuffle ferver” brought me right back to 1997, a time when I was pretending I was a lot of things: a skater, a guitar player, and yes, a 13 year-old that understood David Lynch movies. Almost 15 years after Lost Highway’s release, does anyone actually understand it? Come on. Admit it.  You STILL don’t. Only David Lynch knows what’s going in a David Lynch movie.

I honestly remember very little of what goes in the film beyond the fact that it’s starring Bill Pullman(of all people) and features a delightful cameo from Marilyn Manson; but let it be known, the soundtrack is the clear star of this film. How can you not be immediately drawn into a soundtrack that begins with David Bowie eerily wailing about secrets and  being deranged. Man, this soundtrack is so loaded with gems! Gems, I tell you!The brain child of Trent Reznor, this soundtrack is a far and dark cry from his most recent soundtrack work, The Social Network. Lost Highway is so very 1990’s Trent Reznor; heavy handed, menacing, laiden with rough guitars, and well, strange.

Back in the mid-90’s Reznor was every industrial/goth/angsty/rocker kid’s wet dream for afterall, he had good hair and talent.  Stopping at nothing, Reznor even enlisted the help of another love child of the 90’s, Billy Corgan and his  Smashing Pumpkins, getting them to include a rare track, Eye, a steely lover’s lament. Perhaps the most random inclusion is the rockabilly/super-distortion infused version of Lou Reed’s This Magic Moment. Simply beautiful. Never to be repeated again. Just when my memory thought it couldn’t get any better…with every track, more icons rise up from the depths, cloaking me in the comfort of the mid-90’s. Towards the close of the soundtrack we have none other than Germany’s Rammstein. The track Heirate Mich, which, meticulously translated into  english means, “heartbreak”… and perhaps in guitar-speak, “Fuck you”…? I haven’t been UP on my Rammstein research as of late, but listening to it here makes me hope for a 2011 world tour. No?

In reprise, the siren wails of  David Bowie close the album as deep thoughts of reflection come to me…I’m probably not ever going to understand what the hell’s going on in a David Lynch film, but I sure can appreciate the art of The Soundtrack.


Trent Reznor discusses being tardy to Nine Inch Nails shows due to weekly viewings of Twin Peaks http://www.lynchnet.com/lh/lhrs3.html

Revel in 90’s glory with Eye, the rare Smashing Pumpkins’ track  

Fresh Fish: Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers – Teenage and Torture

24 01 2011

Hello world!  Let me introduce you to the sultry, the rockin’, the messy, the soulful….
Let’s hear a round of applause for Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers!

Knitting Factory Records presents her second album, Teenage and Torture, on a tarnished silver platter complete with empty Wild Turkey shot glasses, hole-y stockings, and maybe an angsty tear or two.  God, how I instantly loved Miss Shilpa Ray. Makes me want to dress-up. Where are my fishnets?

This album is complete with the hurried and raw energy of her first release, Fish Hooks and an Open Eye (2008) but hmmm let’s see… aged to near perfection.  I’m really not a girl-band girl.  Yes, yes…I did go through a Hole phase, but that was more for the humor and spectacle that was Courtney Love.  But let’s be honest, who can identify with Courtney Love?

I relate to Shilpa Ray. I was captivated by her honesty after reading a brief Myspace bio where she admitted that the Happy Hookers project was the first thing she’d ever finished in her life and how good she felt about getting herself out there. I feel like she and I could swap stories over late-night Miller High Lifes or something.  These Happy Hookers are not only the band down the street here in Brooklyn, but they tear it up too.


Pick up Teenage and Torture over at Knitting Factory Records
Or check our Shilpa Ray’s MySpace for more.

Trackrunners: Everybody Plays the Fool

20 12 2010

Damn there’s alot of heartache out there…

Your boyfriend told you your glasses were “ugly”. The girl you have a crush on didn’t check the “yes” box. You got The Herp from that okCupid lover who “didn’t seem like that kind of girl”. The dude reading The Giving Tree on the subway didn’t fall in-love with you by your stop.

Day after day our cruel world throws it at us and sometimes we just need a little soul for to ease our souls…Relief is on its way. The music understands.

itschewbac’s Heartache Mix: Everybody Plays the Fool

1. The Thin Line Between Love and Hate x The Persauders

2. I Could Never Love Another After Loving You(After Loving You) x The Temptations

3. What Becomes of the Broken Hearted x Jimmy Ruffin

4. Don’t Play that Song x Aretha Franklin

5. You’re No Good x Betty Everett

6. So You’re Leaving x Al Green

7. What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am x The Tams

8. Slip Away x Clarence Carter

9. Everybody Plays the Fool x The Main Ingredients

TOKiMONSTA and a cheese smoothie anyone?

16 12 2010

Why does Bob Boilen of NPR have to be so much cooler than me and a generation(give or take a few) too old for me?With little exception, I respect every single piece of music he and his cronies at the All Songs Considered podcast recommend.  Bob, will you marry me? I know, I know…you’re married to the music. Sigh.

So yes. I’m giving away one of my sources for finding out about cutting edge or at least new music worth listening to. I guess everyone has sources, mine just don’t happen to be hip friends in underground bands or acquired via a low-paying job at a bad ass record label. No, it’s several hours a day listening to music, some good old fashioned word-of-mouth, and sleuthing the internet with zeal.

So again, thanks to an amazing show of All Songs Considered, I’ve been turned on to a lady dj, TOKiMONSTA from Los Angeles. She almost makes me want to give up my dreams of saving school children in The ‘Hood. I was bustling through her last.fm page online just now and read this comment a fellow fan typed,

“I want to drink a cheese smoothie after that eargasm”

Cheese+Smoothie=eargasm? Apparently because it’s the title of a track off her album featured below. Oh Jennifer Lee(that’s her real name), what kind of cheese exactly? Does it contain deep vibing electro beats, some soul, and touch of feminine class? Mmmmm.

Midnight Menu 2010

This isn’t the best electonic-hip hop-groove-trance-idm music I’ve ever heard, but that’s not the point. It’s interesting and damn, I think I am having a so-called eargasm. Especially when it melts into one ear and then the other. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

TOKiMONSTA official website

TOKiMONSTA on Myspace

Whispers from an Enchantress

13 12 2010

It’s important to me to remember the story behind something. Like the story of my scarf that went on an adventure around a friend’s neck, how I got a broken pair of plastic red handcuffs, and the history of my subway token necklace. Music, although intangible, is no different.
I hadn’t seen an old friend in probably over a year and we got together a month ago to catch up over wine in the dark den of his mom’s house. Of course there was talk of music and as always, I wrote down some musical artists that he was inspired by. This list grew to about ten artists only one of which I’ve researched and instantly felt connected to, a Miss Mariee Sioux. The other nine artists I’ll get to, just after I’m done being captivated by Mariee, which I hope continues for years to come. You know, I think I’m in the throws of a crush.

Faces in the Rocks 2007

This, her first record-label release, instantly invaded my psyche. She has the voice of an enchantress the likes I haven’t heard since Joni Mitchell. Seriously, I’m in-love.  I mean, look at the mystical album cover art. It’s totally something I would fall in-love with.
Although her last name Sioux and distinct use of the Native American flute denote a tie to that culture, from what I’ve researched, she probably wasn’t  eligible for a Native American college scholarship. After hearing this Native American-inspired/folk/Fairy Tale journey I wish more artists would draw upon the sounds of our country’s much-suppressed culture. Her delicate acoustic guitar picking style and breathy vocals always transport me to some mystic foggy netherworld. This post is a plea for Miss Sioux to continue weaving her own stories, at least for this lover of tales.

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